A Girls’ Weekend – Arizona

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With operation move to North Carolina underway I recognized I needed a healthy break from my life. No label or direct responsibility for littles or bigs. I needed an adventure that was just about me.

A BFF, a mutual clearing in our schedules, and a destination was all we needed for planning to commence.

Nicole and I figured on a Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Jerome, AZ trifecta with four days to get it all in.

March 6 we left Houston around 9:00a and arrived in Phoenix a little after 11a, picked up our rent car, some grub, and set our sites northward.

While still in Phoenix we yelped the restaurants in the area and ended up at Cheese N Stuff Deli. Family owned and operated since the 1940’s. The sandwiches were tasty and the space was cozy.

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Turkey and bacon on sourdough bread with a side of jalapeno kettle chips

With fuel in our bellies we got on the road for the 4 hour trip to the Grand Canyon.

IMG_1720Going in I had expectations that Arizona was going to be very deserty (hey…it’s not a word until someone says it and it sticks…), in my mind it was very flat with cacti everywhere and always mountains in the distance…almost exactly like this.

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I guess I can thank Hollywood for that one. Now I’m from Texas…talk to me about the many assumptions made about the scenery in our state when in reality…we have it all, depending on where you are…which I can now testify can be said for AZ.

About halfway into the road trip we stopped at Starbucks off I-17 in Camp Verde for a caffeine fix.

IMG_1722That’s our Jeep on the right.

Say hi to Kokopelli!

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IMG_1721A couple of hours later we arrived just outside of Grand Canyon National Park and checked into the Canyon Plaza Resort.

The hotel was clean…nothing fancy, on the cheaper side but clean. We didn’t stay there for more than 9 hours so I would say it served its purpose.

After we dropped our stuff and powdered our noses we were off to view sunset and have dinner at the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

IMG_1724We found a spot at Yavapai Point to watch the sunset. Words will not do it justice…so here are a few of the 109865 pictures we took.

IMG_1725IMG_1730IMG_1729Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon, AZ-Sunset PANOAfter sunset we drove over to Bright Angel Lodge and had dinner at the Arizona Room.

IMG_1764I have heard the view from the Arizona room was stunning but it was dark when we arrived so we missed out on that but the view of the décor was leisure suity to put it best. Very dated and the food followed suit. There was one highlight…dessert. The Peach Blackberry Streusel Pie was delightful.

Ever since we decided to go to the Grand Canyon I was extremely excited for the opportunity to see the night sky over the canyon; unfortunately A. it was windy and FREEZING and 2. the park had more lights than I expected and there was too much light pollution from where we were standing.  Did I mention the freezing part??  I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to look up.

We had an early start the next day so we called it a night.

THE HIKE

The next morning we were up early to see the sunrise from the same spot we viewed sunset the evening before (highly recommend). We checked out of our hotel so we would not have any time constraints if we decided to spend extra time hiking and site seeing (highly recommend).

We arrived at our spot and we were the only ones there for a bit.  Nic and I didn’t talk much, it wasn’t a place for talking.  It was a place for being in the moment and soaking in all the wonder and spirit the canyon had to offer.

Closer to sunrise we were eventually visited by a South African trio in their mid 20’s.  They were pretty friendly but I still kept on the lookout for any sudden movements as I was sure they planned to off us by pushing us over the edge of the canyon  to our deaths. (I watch too many movies.)

Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon, AZ-SunriseYavapai Point, Grand Canyon, AZ-Sunrise2

IMG_1774The way the colors changed was magnificently breathtaking.

Good news…we were not offed!

With our souls filled we made our way back to Bright Angel Lodge to do the same with our bellies before hitting the trail. It was crazy convenient that the lodge was at the trail head of the Bright Angel Trail.

IMG_1826After breakfast we set out for the trail.  At the trail head we filled our water bottles with spring water piped in from the canyon.

IMG_1819Then we began our mile and a half decent into the canyon.

IMG_1830 IMG_1848IMG_1856It took us 2.5 hours round trip and it was the perfect amount of adventure for us. Halfway down we found restrooms and a place to catch our breath.  We even ran into a couple of hard core hikers from Austin.  The world is so small.

IMG_1868After our hike it was time to say goodbye to The Grand Canyon. Originally I had preplanned our route to Sedona via the highway we came in on but Nic suggested we head out East of the National Park and take Desert View Drive to Sedona. Way to go Nic!

The Grand Canyon, AZ - PANOWe stopped at un-named pullouts and got to experience the changing moods of the Canyon with a popup rain storm. Our  tour concluded at The Watchtower where we enjoyed a 360 degree view of Grand Canyon National Park.

IMG_1883Time to head to Sedona (~2 hours south).

We stopped for lunch at the Desert View Deli in Cameron.

IMG_1900 IMG_1898The highlight of the trip to Sedona for me was Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive. It is about a 14 mile drive along Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona. Apparently it is one of the Top 5 Most Scenic Drives in America by Rand McNally. We experienced a 4500 ft decent into the canyon along the way.  Beautiful!

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We arrived at the Arroyo Pinion Hotel in Sedona. It was nice, much nicer than the place we stayed at the Grand Canyon. I was so looking forward to a hot tub soak after our day at the Canyon.  However, I was disappointed to find its location was right by the road. Not so relaxing.

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With no hot tub love in our future, we showered, took a cat nap, and cleaned up for dinner.

Have you ever been on vacation and it is dinner time and the dialogue goes something like this…what do you want for dinner? I don’t know…what do you want? Back and forth.  I don’t know about you but frankly at the end of the day I am tired and on vacation and I just want the decision to be made already.  So… I researched restaurants before the trip and we agreed it sounded good.

Elote Café did not disappoint. (Thanks to Yelp).

IMG_1902There was a 45 minute wait when we arrived.  Nic and I looked at each other and the thought of leaving crossed our minds.  We were hangry! As if sensing our deliberation the hostess (who I believe was the owner) promptly told us it was a slow night, normally there would be a 2 hour wait on a Friday night. Lucky us so we stayed. Of course we had no way of know if that was true but we took her word and it turns out we made the right choice.

Elote has a very nice outside waiting area with complimentary popcorn, a fire pit, heaters, and blankets to keep you warm on the outside and potent drinks to keep you warm on the inside.

IMG_1903The food was spectacular, the best on the trip. We shared the Elote appetizer, Elote means corn in Spanish. It was a corn dip, for lack of a better description, eaten with tortilla chips. I ordered mahi fish tacos off of the appetizer menu and it was the perfect amount of food.

IMG_1904 IMG_1905 As amazing as the day was we had another full day tomorrow so we decided to call it an early night.  Not too early because on our way back to the hotel we decided to pull off on the side of the road, a little inlet I’m sure used to take pictures of the Sedona mountains during the day…at night it is the perfect spot to lay on the hood of the car, chat, and star gaze using the one of the constellation apps.

EXPLORERS

The next morning we woke up without any time constraints.  Sleeping in at least one day is a must for any vacation. We went out in search of breakfast.  Yelp lead us to Wildflower Bread Company.

IMG_1907It was very Panera-like but I liked the fact that they use local ingredients in their food.  If you go…order the rosemary roasted potatoes.  Just do it..

After breakfast we headed out to Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village for a bit of shopping. (Apparently I didn’t take any pictures…but these people did).

Tlaquepaque commercial center, Sedona, Arizona.
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The morning was cool, sunny, and breezy.  Perfect for a stroll through the shops.

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We headed back to the hotel to change and make ourselves ready for an afternoon of sightseeing.

Our first stop was Slide Rock Park.

IMG_1908The sky was the bluest I’ve ever seen and the red of the rock was so vibrant. We planned to slide down the rock but ended up only briefly sticking our feet in the water…it was freezing…but worth it.

IMG_1929 IMG_1943Next stop was Chapel of the Holy Cross.

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZThis was a 5 min stop to take pictures only…it was crowded and we really got what we came for…the picture.

We drove on to Montezuma’s Well.

Monteuzem's Well-AZI was not at all prepared for this one and was pleasantly surprised.  I thought it was going to be a small hole in the ground…you know…a well.

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That “graffiti” was written in 1818!

IMG_1958After hiking around the Well we traveled to Montezuma’s Castle, with 9 minutes to spare before the park closed (we may have gotten lost…do not rely on GPS…you will never find it.  Thankfully I had directions in my itinerary).

We literally ran in, took pictures, and ran out just as they were closing the gate. It was close but we were able to get these gems.

Montezuma's Castle, AZ
See those holes…that’s were people lived!

IMG_1960 It was 5p and we were a couple of hours from dinner and once again we were hungry.  What do you know…on the side of the road we happened on a fry bread stand…very much like a funnel cake. It hit the spot and held us over until dinner.

IMG_1966As we sat in the car with our fry bread marveling at what we accomplished this trip we spotted a casino at the top of the hill.

IMG_1968What a perfect opportunity to change our clothes and freshen up for din.  On our way out and we each threw a 20 in the slots..

$20 lighter for each of us we continued with our journey into the mountains of Jerome, Az.

Mountains, Jerome, AZ
From the mountains…

We had dinner at The Haunted Hamburger.

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The views were spectacular, the service was subpar, the burger was good, and I got a t-shirt.

As we were walking to our car we saw a group on a ghost tour touring the nearby asylum.  I would definitely add that to the itinerary next time.

It was cold as we headed to our hotel on a darkened two lane mountain road…(isn’t that how all horror movies begin…).

We were officially pooped and needed quality sleep ahead of our morning two hour drive back to Phoenix to catch our flight.

Can I just tell you how spectacular, amazing, uplifting, (insert all the adjectives here) this trip was!  It was everything I could have asked for and more I didn’t even know existed.

I will add if you had the time to add a 5th day I definitely would have scheduled a SPA day…after all of the “GO” a SPA day would have been divine.  But if you only have the four days…save the day for an adventure.  We originally discussed a spa day but decided to forgo in order to see all the things.

As for the time of year…PERFECT. It was chilly in the morning and at night (layers) but the day was comfortably warm.  I could not imagine this trip in the heat of the summer. It would be a completely different experience.

Here is our official itinerary.

CaptureAZItinAnd our route…colors indicate a different day of travel.


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Call up a friend and book this trip now! You will be transformed by the experience.  Make sure to let me know how it went.

Nic, I can’t thank you enough for coming along on the adventure.  We have many more in our future.

Back to real life.

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