The Grand Canyon State
We're still in Arizona! We've stepped down our travel pace and have been biding our time in Arizona, taking in some sunshine, enjoying the desert, and planning our next moves.
The last post left off in Flagstaff, where we spent several days. We really enjoyed the area and felt like locals by the time we left.
We spent a day in Sedona, exploring the city and the surrounding vortexes. The drive south from Flagstaff to Sedona winds through a beautiful canyon. It was way too hot and sunny for hiking the day we were there, so we viewed the Bell Rock from the parking lot. The idea with the vortexes is that they are special rock formations from which the Earth's energy seeps. The evidence given are the twisted juniper trees nearby. While nearly every juniper we have seen on this trip has been twisted, there is a certain tingling you can feel, but perhaps that is psychosomatic.
After a hot and sweaty morning, we drove back north through the canyon, stopping at Slide Rock State Park. Amazing! We highly recommend it if you're in the area. It's a river that carved through the canyon, creating a natural rock slide. The water is brisk, but it is so refreshing on a hot and sunny day. We had a great time sliding and watching other people slide. Neither of us brought our cameras, so the picture below is leveraged from the internet. I have no idea who that kid is, but doesn't he look like he's having fun?
The next day was one of our favorite days of the trip. We started just northeast of Flagstaff at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. We had learned that the entire area is a volcanic field and it's so neat. Scientists aren't positive what's going on in the area but they think either the area is slowly moving over a hot spot or that the tectonic plate is slowly stretching. Either way, it makes for fascinating geology. We walked through pumice fields and climbed some cinder cones. The landscape is unreal!
The Wupatki National Monument is just north of Sunset Crater, so we headed there next. It's a beautiful drive and we had fun exploring the ancient pueblos. We saw a geologic feature called a blowhole that is basically nature's air conditioning. It's a small hole in the ground attached to a huge underground network of caverns that "breathe," forcing cool air out. It's incredible! If I was an ancient person, I would have built my home near that, too.
Acting on a tip from the Ranger at Sunset Crater we continued on to some Forest Service land west of Wupatki. After miles on an unimproved road, we finally found SP Crater (Shit Pot, because there is a huge lava field that leaked out of the base of the crater, causing a local man to compare its appearance to a terrible pit toilet disaster). We drove the car as close as we comfortably could and then climbed straight up the side. It was probably some of the hardest hiking we've done, but it was absolutely worth it. The views from the rim of the crater were spectacular. There was even a rainbow from a distant rain storm.
The climb down was so fun! Because it was so steep, we just had to kind of jump down the hill. I felt like I was a character in a video game with super jumping abilities.
The following day was relaxing and I managed to give myself lactic acidosis. Between the vigorous exercise the night before, the high elevation, and drinking two kombucha in as many days, it was just too much lactic acid. I had no idea kombucha could cause it, but after feeling panicky and dopey at the same time, plus all my muscles ached and I was nauseous, I did some internet research and self diagnosed. Be careful with your kombucha people!
It was a rainy day in Flagstaff for Ryan's birthday, but we made the best of it. We had the most delicious Thai food for brunch at Red Curry and then happened upon a street festival downtown. When the rain hit, we made our way to the Lowell Observatory, the place where Pluto was discovered! We checked out the museum and then took one of the tours and learned so much. We went home and watched the new Godzilla movie and then went out for Mexican food, complete with a salsa bar. It was a great day!
The next day was another work day. I'm actually working on a book, a book we wish we had before we started this trip. I'm hoping to assemble all the information about traveling full time and entering the RV world that would have been helpful up front. I've made some good headway, but still have a lot to go.
It was starting to cool off in Flagstaff, so we decided to descend 6,000 feet into Phoenix. It was our first time below 4,000 feet in several weeks and brought us to our current location at McDowell Mountain Regional Park just northeast of Phoenix. We are in love with this park and have been so lucky to practically have the place to ourselves.
We have been spending our time doing some life maintenance and hiking the park. I also spent a day driving to Flagstaff and back to retrieve a shade tent we had forgotten at our previous campsite. We won't be making that mistake again!
This is a different type of desert than the red dirt and pine forests of Flagstaff and holds a different set of flora and fauna, including the iconic saguaro cacti. It is also a significant change in demigraphics. Whereas Flagstaff is a hip college town, we now find ourselves the youngest people by decades everywhere we go. What's funny is that we overhear conversations from the retirees about their trips to Mesa Verde and Moab, and we can relate so well to their experiences. We're thinking about just cutting to the chase and retiring here now ;)
The most exciting thing about our new campground is all of the wildlife we have been up close and personal with. Our favorites are the coyotes. We hear them howling right outside our campsite and we even saw two walk right past our site! We've also seen jack rabbits, bunnies, a great horned owl, a buck, lizards, a tarantula, a snake carcass, desert tortoises, and all sorts of birds.
I was on a hike by myself and got stung in the bum through my skirt by a honey bee. I was searching for coyote dens and found a beehive instead. Because I've only been stung twice in my life and the second time I had a weird systemic reaction, I climbed to the mountain bike trail nearby until I was sure I wasn't going to keel over from an allergic reaction.
I also found what I thought was gold! For a fleeting moment I thought we were going to be filthy rich, but after further investigation I concluded it was only pyrite. Bummer. It was pretty, though.
The Ranger here at the park has been wonderful. Twice I have gone in and asked her a million questions about the wildlife in the area. She patiently answered all my questions, showed me all the animals they have at the Visitors Center, and humored me.
We are going to be heading west and north from here along the Pacific coast. We were going to leave today, but hurricane Simon was predicted to slam the area with rain, so we decided to wait it out one more day. It will be neat to see the desert in the rain! We'll see you on the flip side!