Back in March, Jim and I took a mini vacation to Arizona with my mom. She has an aunt, Gen, who lives down there, is getting on in years, and my mother wanted to go visit her in case she might not get another chance. It took some finagling, but I worked it out so I was working in Kanab the week before, and Jim and my mom drove down and met me there. From there, we embarked on a statewide tour of Arizona to see not only Gen, but also check Saguaro and Petrified Forest National Parks off our list. I also scheduled some photoshoots for work into the mix, so it was a jam-packed few days!
We headed for Flagstaff on a Friday afternoon, the three of us packed into the Xterra with two dogs… the newest member of our family, Watson (who I realize now that I have not formally introduced on this blog yet, but will soon) and my mom’s dog, Zoe. Jemma got to stay with Molly in Kanab for the week, and Haley with Jim’s mom (it’s nice to break the dogs up every now and again). We stayed in our usual Motel 6 for the night, and learned quickly that Watson, although adorable, is a terrible, terrible traveler. It was a rough night! However, a new day came quickly (but not quite quick enough) and we headed off to Sedona on Saturday morning for my first photoshoot. I won’t get into the details of work here, but the shoot went really well and I was quite happy. But, I had another one scheduled a few hours later, and a few hours away, so we got back right back in the car, and headed down to White Tank Regional Mountain Park outside Surprise (side note: I have family in Surprise that I usually go visit, but they weren’t available this weekend, so that was a bummer!). My second shoot went equally well, if not better. The folks were just so damn AWESOME that after the shoot, we couldn’t get ourselves to leave! We just wanted to hang out with them! So we did! We drank beers in the hot Arizona sun with stunning views of cacti and mountains. It was pretty rad.
Eventually, we HAD to get going. It was family time. We headed clear across the valley to stay with my mom’s cousin, Gary, who she had not seen in probably 35 years. We had no idea what to expect, but were greeted with extreme hospitality and kindness. However, Watson made his point yet again that he was a terrible traveler. We stayed at Gary’s that night, and in the morning, he took us to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, an awesome place full of cacti that makes my heart flutter. Did you know I am hopelessly in love with cacti? I was in heaven.
After the arboretum, we headed back to civilization and went to a birthday party for Gary’s dad that doubled as a sort of mini family reunion. I’d met my mother’s aunt, Gen, about 12 years ago, but I didn’t really remember her. I just remember cacti in her old yard in Tucson. Now, I will always remember her, because she is the most adorable old woman that may have ever existed. Seriously, that woman is the cutest. Here is a picture of her, in the middle, with her daughter (Gary’s mom) on the right, and my mom on the left.
After opting to spend another night at Gary’s, we headed to Saguaro National Park on Monday morning. Saguaro is divided into two sections that are completely apart from one another, divided by the city of Tucson and also an interstate. We went to the less-visited west side of the park, mostly because it provided us the best path to our other destinations for the day. Since we had the dogs, there was not a whole lot we could do other than drive the beautiful yet bumpy dirt road, but Jim and I were also able to squeeze in a quick “hike” while my mom babysat the dogs in the parking lot.
From Saguaro, we then headed to the San Xavier Mission, followed by the Titan Missile Museum so Jim could get his nerd on. While he did an hour-long tour of underground missile silos, my mom and I headed closer to the Mexican border to the town to Amado to see the cow skull bar, a bit of a roadside attraction that is awesomely tacky. It wasn’t much, but we got some cute pictures of Watson. We got back to the museum just in time for Jim to be done.
After Watson ruined our lunch plans, we hit up Trader Joe’s, and then decided to keep moving. We decided to go all the way north to Petrified Forest. It was a long, but totally beautiful drive through a sparsely visited section of the state. I kind of expected eastern Arizona to be a lot like eastern New Mexico (dusty and desolate), but instead it was rugged and wild. Driving through Salt Creek Canyon totally blew my mind. We figured we’d drive to Holbrook that night so we could get up and go straight to Petrified Forest in the morning, but before we hit Holbrook, we hit the surprising town of Show Low. Seeing it on the map ahead of time, we expected it to be a crappy run-down town, but it was actually a really nice little place, so we decided to stay there instead. And boy am I glad we did! We had wonderful beds, a room away from everyone else (so Watson slept like an angel), and we drank wine and made microwave food from Safeway. The next morning, we departed for Holbrook, and the beautiful alpine landscape quickly turned dusty and barren. Really glad we stayed in Show Low!
Petrified Forest may be the most “meh” national park I’ve come across. The petrified wood is cool and all, but apparently the most beautiful pieces have been stolen from the logs, so what was once a dusty barren landscape with some beautiful petrified wood, is now just a dusty barren landscape with some boring, brown logs. Perhaps the best part about the park was just that dogs are allowed, so we were able to take them hiking on the trails. That’s definitely a win in my book!
Since we had been blazing through the state at rapid speed, we had time to see a little more… and my mom wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. So, off we went (officially making it to every national park in Arizona within two days, for real). On the way there, we stopped in Winslow, Arizona. Yes, that sounds familiar to you. Can you recall why that is ringing a bell? We stood on the corner there. It was such a fine sight to see.
Back on track to the Grand Canyon, we went to the touristy South Rim, “camped” in the campground (which I vow that I will never do again), and drank more wine. It was Watson’s first camping trip, and he did AMAZING. For the first time on the trip, he was pretty much perfect. He crawled into my sleeping bag and slept at my feet all night long without making a peep!
Come morning, we packed up and headed back to Kanab to pick up Jemma, and then drove all the way back to Salt Lake. Vacation over. My mom stuck around another day before she headed back to the Hills… where we are heading in a month!