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Our Arizona Anniversary Trip

Jess and I have a hard time being around each other for our wedding anniversary. Last year, I was visiting my sister in Tennessee and wasn't with Jess. This year, we are each flying back to see our respective parents and won't see each other for the three days on either side of our anniversary.

With that in mind, last weekend we headed up to the north part of Arizona for an anniversary trip. We stopped first in Phoenix to visit a friend for all of Thursday and that night. Then on Friday, we headed out before sunrise towards the border of Arizona and Utah, to the little town of Page. Normally I wouldn't have even considered visiting the town, although having been there, it is a pretty interesting place. Most obvious as far as attractions go is that it sits on the shore of Lake Powell, which is a huge reservoir behind the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. If you had a boat, this is a paradise; otherwise it is pretty much a big lake that has little shoreline that you could actually do much on.

More interesting to me was the nearby Antelope Canyon. This is a little slot canyon that lies on the Navajo Nation land, where you can walk right into the canyon and enjoy the light as it penetrates down along the walls from above in a wide gradient of beautiful colors. It is especially nice for photographers, for although Jess seemed content to just look, she kept wanting to grab my camera and take shots. It was a beautiful place, well worth the four hour trip north from Phoenix. Here is the photo gallery from that shoot, and below is a small slideshow of those photos.

Of course, being on Indian land, one cannot just waltz into Antelope Canyon and hope to climb around on the walls. You have to join a guided tour, which for us meant our guide and a couple from France. Also, apparently back in 1997, 12 French tourists were swept away in a flash flood that no one had suspected, having come from a storm miles away. Hence, the tour groups. It wasn't bad, though. Our guide drove us in a 4W drive vehicle up the sandy gully three miles to the canyon, which I'm pretty sure would have been inaccessible to our Rav4. We also received a fairly dodgy history of the canyon. Really, I think that Googling the canyon pre-trip gave me more knowledge than our guide had, leading me to think that she didn't have Internet access. It was fun, though.

We drove that evening back to Flagstaff, two hours south. It was evening by the time we arrived at our B&B, our big splurge for the weekend. We ended up staying in the Abineau Lodge, previously known as the Sled Dog B&B. The latter name was more fitting, as they had about 10 Siberian huskies in kennels outside the building, which was really interesting. The place was great. We had planned on spending a night there, for our anniversary gift to ourselves, then heading to downtown Flagstaff to stay in a hostel there, but we enjoyed the place so much we were very tempted to stay another night. Only when we considered how much food and beer we'd be able to consume on what we'd save at the hostel did we decide against staying another night. Suffice to say, this B&B was above our normal standards.

At any rate, we drove down Saturday morning from Flagstaff to Sedona, which is an easy 45-minute drive through the backcountry. Our plan was to meet up with out friend Amna at some point in the day for lunch, and to hike and enjoy the area in the meantime. Upon arrival, we found that Sedona didn't really live up to our expectations, being very crowded, even at this time of year, with loads of tourists. Even worse, the town itself was like an Estes Park or Gatlinburg of Arizona, for those familiar with the infamous tourists towns respectively in Colorado and Tennessee. It had its proper mix of taffy shops, T-shirt joints, "art" galleries, and the like, all of which in combination with the atrocious traffic put us in terrible moods and made us want to get out of town, which we did. We headed out to a nearby hike, which conveniently took us out away from the touristy part of town into the beautiful red hills that surround the town. There are great spires of red rock, big mesas, and lots of other formations in a distinctive red stone that surround Sedona, which surely is the main attraction. We made a six-mile hike, which was really pleasant and beautiful. Being in a desert that features such differences from that around Tucson as pine forests is really interesting and refreshing. We finished the hike in time to meet our friend for a mid-afternoon lunch before heading back to Flagstaff.

Here is the photo gallery for Sedona.

Upon arriving back in Flagstaff, we checked into our hostel, the DuBeau Hostel, which is very conveniently located in the downtown area. Of course, after staying a night in a B&B, a hostel seems a little less, um, nice, but we weren't there to sit in the room and enjoy its ambience. We made our way around the Flagstaff, checking out the local breweries and even picking up a little sushi. The room didn't matter much once we came back, late that night.

We had breakfast in a ridiculously liberal vegetarian/vegan place called Macy's the next morning, which jointly served to provide very strong coffee and to reinforce the stereotype of the type of liberal that looks down upon the rest of the world as severely inferior. They did have pretty decent meatless biscuits and gravy, though. We then headed out towards Tucson, although we really took the scenic route.

Actually, we headed straight east along I-40 until we reached Holbrook, about an hour or so away. That is the town just outside the Petrified Forest National Park, which is a really fascinating place. It is the last park that we needed to visit to have gone to all of the national parks in Arizona, and while it didn't contain that majestic immensity of the Grand Canyon, it was still quite interesting. Essentially, it contains the petrified remains of logs that were covered up perhaps millions of years ago with a volcanic ash high in silica. Sealed up in that layer, over time those logs had their organic cells replaced by minerals and today are perfectly preserved in a stone form. You really have to get out and walk around in the park to get its effect. You have to see the logs where the bark is immediately evident from the wood fibers, or the logs that are surrounded by chips that in all appearances seem to be organic, and can only be noted as stone by picking them up. It was a great park to see. Here is the photo gallery from that park. We also visited the Painted Desert, which is the northern portion of the park.

Finally, we headed south through the mountains to get back to Tucson. This route takes you through some very interesting landscapes just north of Tucson. It is a long way to come to return from Flagstaff, but we managed to avoid Phoenix altogether, and the route was really interesting and different. Needless to say, we were pretty tired as we pulled into our apartment complex as darkness fell, but it was quite a trip. All of it seemed to encourage further exploration of Arizona, which is turning out to be quite the interesting state.

Until next time, be safe.


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