Well, we're back from Arizona. What an awesome trip! I didn't expect Arizona to be so mountainous and beautiful. I thought the Arizona desert would be dry, flat and sandy. I was pleasantly surprised!
We flew in Thursday morning (the 4th) to Phoenix and took a cab to my cousins' place just 5 miles south of the airport. We spent the afternoon lounging in the sun reading books on their patio and enjoyed some homemade Mac and Cheese and iced tea for lunch while we waited for Charity and Rick to get home from work.
Friday, Rick drove us up South Mountain overlooking Phoenix on one side and then up and around to the other side, which overlooks Ahwatukee. What a contrast! Then Charity took us to Papago Park, which had these really cool hills. We climbed one and enjoyed the view.
Saturday, Charity took us kayaking on Canyon Lake in the Tonto National Forest. That was really enjoyable. We found this little inlet and parked the kayak while we ate our lunch and hiked around. There was a rushing stream that we followed back quite a ways, and we were the only ones there. It was like we were discovering something no one else knew about (even though we knew that wasn't true). It was so nice to breathe in the crisp air and enjoy God's beautiful creation. Driving there and back was enjoyable as well -- the Tonto National Forest is gorgeous, especially the Superstition Mountains. That evening, we went out to eat at Rustler's Rooste, a cool cowboy style restaurant.We didn't leave hungry, that's for sure.
Sunday, we went to church with Charity -- Palm Valley Church -- and heard a great sermon about the End Times. Planning to listen to the full series online. Then Charity and I went shopping while Matt hung out at their place. We had Super Bowl apps for dinner and played some Uno. Good day.
Monday morning, we got up and left for Sedona in our rental car. We stopped for breakfast at Einstein Bros, one of Matt and my favorite things to do. Delicious, as usual. From there, we went to Cottonwood. Matt had agreed to stop and help a gift shop with some computer issues they were having, so we hung out there for a couple hours and then they took us out for lunch at a yummy Mexican restaurant. Great food. The shop owner also gave me a Woodwick candle. :)
From there, we took the scenic route to Sedona and drove along Oak Creek Canyon.. The red rocks of Sedona contrasted with the blue sky was so beautiful. We got out and parked and some nice women gave us their parking pass, good for the duration of our time there. What a blessing! We walked around the Oak Creek Canyon area and enjoyed the beautiful views and some moderate off-trail hiking. Glad I remembered to bring our tripod so we could get some nice pics of the two of us. After an hour or two in the Oak Creek Canyon area, we headed to our hotel. It was decent -- can't complain for $79. We went for dinner at a family-owned Italian Place just south of our hotel. We both had antipasto salad and meat & cheese ravioli with red sauce. Very good! At dinner, we were talking about our plans for the next day and decided to get up before sunrise (on vacation?!?) to hike up Cathedral Rock. What an experience. We both loved it -- this was the absolute highlight of our trip. It was the hardest hike I've ever done, with not much of a "trail" and a lot of hard spots to navigate. We were racing the sun to get to the top, so the first part of the hike was pretty exhausting. My heart was just pounding in my chest and I was out of breath. The first leg was the hardest terrain. It took about an hour to reach the top, and we made it in time to see the sun come over the top of the red rock in the distance. It was the most rewarding physical activity I've ever done -- simply amazing. The view was incredible, it was so serene, and we were completely alone. It was like we owned it. A memory I will cherish forever. The hike down was less intense from an aerobic perspective, but a little scarier because it was harder to grip the rocks going down. We made it though, with no injuries and a camera full of great memories.
We checked out of our hotel and headed toward the Grand Canyon. We were planning to go to Lava River Cave on the way up, but when we got to where the road was supposed to be, there was only a 3 foot tall snow bank! I guess they hadn't gotten around to plowing it, or maybe it's closed in the winter...so we continued on to the Grand Canyon. What an amazing sight! It was breathtaking. I teared up a bit when I first saw it. There are no words to describe its beauty. We spent about 2 1/2 hours there and toward the end, it got really hazy and actually began hailing! Thank goodness we got there when we did so we had a chance to see it before visibility became so low!
On the way back down to Phoenix, just southeast of the Grand Canyon about 10 miles, we stopped at a "scenic overlook" and saw another canyon. We don't know what the name of it is, but it was amazing too. It had a 1,000 ft sheer drop with only a guardrail. And we were along looking at it. To me, there is just something extra special about seeing something that isn't a typical "touristy" thing, but rather something you stumble upon yourself and experience alone. I love that!
We got back to Phoenix Tuesday evening in time for dinner with Charity and Rick, and we packed our things and headed to bed fairly early. Our flight was originally going to be at 4:30 in the afternoon the next day, but we were missing Evan so much we decided to try flying standby. It worked! We got home around 3:30 p.m. and Evan was waiting for us with my mom when we arrived. It was so good to see him -- it's crazy how much we missed him.
Matt and I had such a great time on this trip. The hike up Cathedral Rock inspired us to take up hiking as a regular hobby, so we'll be looking to do some hikes this year locally. If you have any suggestions, let me know!
Here is a link to the photos Matt uploaded to Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=157224&id=638686556&ref=mf.
Not sure if you have to be friends with Matt to see it...
Our retreat at Runamuk - [image: runamuk_featured] What I hope will become an annual trek to the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
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