Arizona exceeded our expectations. After spending more than a week in New Mexico, we thought we had experienced the most varying landscape of our trip. However, Arizona is not one to be upstaged by its neighbor.
We entered the State in dramatic fashion from southeast Utah, which upon entering you are immediately in the one of the most photographed western landscapes, Monument Valley. Monument Valley is a place of towering monoliths of weathered rock standing like sentinels in the rugged arid vast expanse. They are seen from at least 30 miles away and greet you with a strong, quite solitude, even when you get to the park and among the tourist bustle of the visitor center. This is a Navajo Monument, and this being the case all of the prices are inflated, but the views from the road are free and almost as good as inside the park itself. After leaving, the scenery calmed down a bit, perhaps in homage to the almost surreal visual experience awaiting us at the Grand Canyon.
Monument Valley – Left and Right Mitten
The Grand Canyon is one of the most famous and fabled National Parks, and it does not disappoint. The Grand Canyon is so wide and deep it was very difficult for my easterner eyes to gauge what I was looking out at times. The scale is unfamiliar to my visual scope. Not until we hiked down over 2000 feet and there were still thousands of feet of canyon below us was I able to put this immense 270 mile and over a mile deep monster of a gouge into some perspective. Views are a plenty at the Grand Canyon and we spent three days marveling at it in a state of awe.
The first view of the Grand Canyon
Central Arizona was a bit of a surprise, as I did not know what expect nor had any preconceived notions about the area. We stayed in Williams on Route 66, which was the last town to be bypassed by the Interstate and is extremely well preserved and still reveling in its glory years. We passed through Flagstaff which is at the bottom of the lone snow covered 12,700 foot Humphrey Peak. A few miles south of Flagstaff, the topography turns much more intimate, with shear rock walls and crystal clear bubbling streams so close that you can almost stick your hand out of the window and touch them.
Slide Rock State Park
Sedona, Arizona is the most picturesque little village I have seen. It is almost as if someone said, “Let’s build a town exactly in the most beautiful spot we can find in the area.” Not only was I taken by the natural scenery of red rock outcrops juxtaposed with a fair share of almost lush green desert foliage, but the whole town seems to exist on a higher vibration. The locals will tell you the town is in a vortex and that it is a spiritual place. Whatever is going on in Sedona it sure does feel good. The entire time I was there I felt at peace and was smiling.
Chapel of the Holy Cross – Sedona
Our journey to and through the Prescott Valley took us up and over two of the most harrowing mountain passes of our trip. Including up the narrow switch backs in the town of Jerome, which is a little artist/tourist town seemingly hanging on to the side of a mountain for dear life. Prescott is a charming “Pleasantville” sort of town with a still active center and bustling Main Street and its own happy-place feel. Over another mountain range we descended into the SonoranDesert.
We had become familiar desert landscapes over the past month, but the Sonoran desert is uniquely its own. This is place of the 20 foot Saguaro Cactus and Joshua Trees; nowhere else can these be seen. In early April the desert was starting bloom and surprisingly green, from some recent rainfall. The road way was lined by orange and yellow flowers, punctuated with the occasional red and neon pink of cactus blooms. The variety of cacti was a fun site to see for this east coast couple, but the Saguaro standing tall with arms bent upwards harkened me back to my childhood memories from the old Roadrunner cartoons. They are even more impressive in real life.
The last stop was LakeHavasu and it’s more laid back neighbor, Parker. Lake Havasu is a clear turquoise lake with craggily brown mountains jetting up along its shores. The area is a playground for flashy speed boats, ATVs and Ultra-light planes above. It is also home to the London Bridge which was disassembled piece by piece and reconstructed here and is at the heart of action; outdoor bars, beaches, promenade, and the ever present noisy speed boats cruising the channel. Parker is just a few miles down stream on the Colorado River and is much more peaceful and a lot less showy and, in our case, a welcomed change of pace with great views of California across the river.
To view more photos from our journey through Arizona, click HERE