In March 2017, the entire family traveled to Arizona to celebratory my wife Pat's 60th birthday and my oldest son Daniel's 30th birthday. We wanted a locale that was warm, sunny and had plenty of hiking opportunities, hence Sedona and Tucson. We arrived in Phoenix, met up with Daniel, rented a car and headed to Sedona. Sedona nestles among a geological wonderland. Multi-hued stone formations jut upwards from the high desert floor creating a vivid, mesmerizing setting that changes hourly with the light. Surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land, visitors have instant access to recreational activities. Sedona is equal parts rugged, equal parts resort. Regarded by Native Americans as sacred, Sedona continues to be recognized as a place of healing and spiritual renewal. Many come to experience the vortex energy centers of Sedona. Hmmm... Others want to prowl the 40-plus art galleries lining the streets, or to receive soothing treatments from the dozens of spa facilities.
We just wanted to hike, sightsee and eat some wonderful meals. We checked in at the Orchards Inn early evening, went to our room, walked out on our deck and saw the sight below. We immediately knew we had made the right decision.
Our first full day, we did a moderately difficult hike that culminated in a rocky climb to the Devil's Bridge. This hike was both beautiful and challenging. It is not easy to describe the breadth of the beauty but I hope the panorama below conveys a sense of the scale of the beauty.
The hike up to the Devil's Bridge is beautiful as the color of the rocks one climbs is surreal. Once on top, upon looking across to the other side, one immediately realizes why they call the culmination of the hike the Devil's Bridge. If you look carefully, you will indeed see the bridge.
Yes, we climbed it!
On our second full day, Sophia, Dan's wife, joined us for the Soldier's Pike and Brin's Mesa Hike. This was another strenuous hike with great vistas. In the pic below, we see the two birthday celebrants enjoying the amazing view.
That eve for Sophia's birthday, we went to the Mariposa Restaurant, seen above as the first pic in the blog and below. The restaurant has an almost 360 degree view of the mountains. It provided the backdrop to incredible food and a great visual experience. Don't the photos remind you of the HBO series Westworld?
A visit to the Sedona area would not be complete without a side-trip to Jerome, a ghost town alive and well. Over the years, it has ranged from wickedly wild to wildly artistic. Located high atop Cleopatra Hill between Sedona and Prescott, this historic copper and gold mining town was founded in 1876. When gold was discovered in Jerome, miners, gamblers and bad boys of the old west flocked here. Saloons and bawdy houses were the entertainment after a hard days work. At one time, Jerome was the fourth largest town in the Arizona Territory with a rowdy population that reached over 15,000.
When gold and copper deposits dwindled, Jerome became a veritable ghost town with about 50 residents that stayed behind. Although Jerome is now a treasured tourist magnet, comprised of artists, writers, unique boutique shops, wine bars, quaint dining spots and amazing views across the Verde Valley. Its appearance has not changed much in the last 100 years.
Many of the old buildings from the late 1890s still stand, like the one below of a coffee shop/bakery/delicacy shop. Other structures are fragments of relics from its very early days. Because Jerome was built on the side of a hill, gravity and erosion has caused buildings to slide down the 30 degree slope. We thoroughly enjoyed walking among the buildings of historical significance while sightseeing and shopping.
That is indeed the town of Jerome, with the J as viewed from a nearby closed down mine.
Enroute to Tucson, we stopped at the Montezuma Castle, built by the Sinagua Indians during the 1100s. It is one of the most well preserved ancient cliff dwellings in America. Gazing through windows of the past, the set of 20 room high-rise apartments carved into towering limestone cliffs illustrates a story of an Indian Tribe with ingenuity, survival, and tenacity that turned an unforgiving desert landscape into a comfortable home. For mysterious and unknown reasons, the Sinagua abandoned its habitat in the 1400s. Maybe they had over extended agricultural pressure on the land. Perhaps there was an unbearable prolonged drought. Historians believe that most Sinaguans likely were absorbed into other Tribes to the north. The Hopi Indians of today believe they are the descendants of the Sinagua. For the sake of preservation, visitors are no longer allowed to climb and peruse the dwelling.
Tucson, Arizona is home to the nation's largest cacti. The giant saguaro is the universal symbol of the American west. These majestic plants, found only in a small portion of the United States, are protected by Saguaro National Park, to the east and west of the modern city of Tucson.They were especially beautiful in Sabino Canyon. There, from the Visitor's Center, the forestry department offers a narrated, educational 45-minute, 3.8 mile tram tour into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The trams have nine stops along the tour with picnic grounds located near Sabino Creek. We disembarked at Stop #9 and walked back the 4-plus miles to our parking spot which was about a half mile from the Visitor's Center as the place was packed with visitors. Pat, Jay (who joined us in Tucson), and I noticed that there were a variety of trails available along the way for hiking that ranged from easy to challenging. We chose an easier trail that crossed Sabino Creek on 9 occasions over stone bridges. Check out the two photos that follow to get an idea of the variety of Sabino Canyon. The first is of the saguaros and the second is of one of the creek crossings.
Our last stop was at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. We fortunately visited them early as the Tucson weather was even warmer than usual while we were there. I had the fortune of capturing my family having a great time hanging and chatting in a shady spot at the gardens.
There is nothing like traveling with your adult children to make you feel dazzled and impressed that they are really all grown up and cognizant of what is happening in the world. Additionally, there is nothing like traveling with your adult children to remind you that they are still your children and sometimes you just need to put your priorities aside to focus on them. Pat and I felt blessed to be able to experience both during our last vacation. We look forward to many more adult vacations.