Our Quick, yet Grand, Adventure
Long story short (believe me, it’s a long one), I won 2 free round-trip flights anywhere in the contiguous United States last year. We decided to go somewhere a good distance away to get the most out of our freebies:
We flew direct to Phoenix from Atlanta and arrived midday. We picked up our rental car and headed to the Hilton Squaw Peak Pointe Resort. They have a lazy river. It’s the only reason I picked them. We spent a nice relaxing afternoon by the pool, playing some miniature golf, and got ready for dinner.
We ate at the St. Francis. Guy Fieri has been there on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. We figured we couldn’t go wrong. We didn’t.
Adam got a burger. I got a pig dip. It was a French dip with a lot of pork: pork loin, prosciutto, cheese. It was delicious.
The next morning we woke up early since we were still on Eastern time and spent a few hours at the pool. Then we showered and packed the car to drive up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
On the way, we saw lots of cacti, climbed up mountains, saw the beautiful Verde Valley
and detoured up 89A, the Red Rock Scenic Highway, to see Sedona
and Oak Creek Canyon.
We stopped in Sedona for lunch.
It was another 2 hours or so up to the Grand Canyon. We stopped in Williams, AZ to use the facilities and it looked like the small town from Cars. It was so cute. We got on Route 66 for our bathroom break. That was exciting.
The Grand Canyon was predictably indescribable. It was my second visit to the canyon and Adam’s first, but our reactions were the same. We were awestruck.
We stayed inside the park at Yavapai Lodge. Here’s the sunset over the canyon our first night.
We also saw a ton of elk. Tons of them. They were more common than squirrels. It was crazy.
For our second day at the canyon, we hiked 1.5 miles down Bright Angel Trail to the rest house and back.
Our elevation changed by 1200 feet. It took us about 2 hours in total but we were booking it. It was pretty easy on the way there. Hiking back up out of the canyon was a work out! It was a really interesting hike because you get to see the layers of rock change as you descend as well as the climate and vegetation.
It was a great experience. As a public service announcement, we each packed 2 big water bottles, 2 bags of trail mix, and Adam brought beef jerky. We were pretty well prepared for a 3 mile hike in mid-July.
Despite this, we had to stop a few times on the way up to catch our breaths and my bearings. It was hot, our altitude had changed significantly and we were truckin’ it uphill.
The park rangers say it’s supposed to take you twice as long to come back up. Well, it took us an hour to get down to the rest house and an hour and 10 minutes to get to the canyon rim. We’re bosses.
We decided not to go any farther down than the rest house because there wasn’t much shade remaining on the trail below us, hardly any water available, and we had to think of the increasing heat of the day and the increasing heat as you get lower in the canyon. We would’ve loved to go all the way to the bottom, but the park service strongly recommends hiking one way on the first day, camping by the river, and hiking back out the next day during the summer. It’s just too hot to do it all in one day.
That afternoon, after showers and rest, we drove to the east end of the South Rim and climbed the Desert Watchtower. From the top you can see the Painted Desert to the east and there’s a great view of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.
Our last night at the Grand Canyon, we ate at the historic El Tovar Hotel. It was yummy. I think Adam had filet mignon and I had lamb chops. Yum.
And our stay at the Canyon was capped off by this beauty:
Too bad it wasn’t arcing over the Canyon… It was still gorgeous.
After the Grand Canyon, we headed south and back to Sedona. We decided to hike up Cathedral Rock with no idea what we were in for.
It was an amazing hike – extremely strenuous as you are literally climbing up steep rocks.
Once you reach the top – the saddle of Cathedral Rock – you feel like you’ve conquered something. If you’re in relatively good shape, you can definitely do this hike. It’s tough, but very rewarding.
What a view.
the Century Plant
After our hike, we were able to check-in to our hotel early for a shower and a change of clothes. We had a late lunch at a local pizza place and hit up downtown Sedona for some shopping.
We got a Christmas ornament for our tree. It’s a tradition of ours to get ornaments from the places we’ve been and some gifts for family, particularly for my parents since they had Mason while we were gone.
Our final dinner was at the L’Auberge Resort Restaurant.
Image courtesy of www.gogobot.com
I wish I had our own pictures to share but it was too dark. Our table was on a platform over Oak Creek. It was an amazing end to a whirlwind of a trip. We got to sip wine and eat great food while we listened to the water run over the rocks. We chose to have 3 courses – you can choose a 3 or 4 course meal. Adam had the pork belly with compressed pineapple, the corn chowder with lobster, and the halibut. I had a salad with cranberries, goat cheese and candied pecans, the corn chowder with lobster, and scallops with grilled Brussels, corn, chanterelles, and pork belly. It was delicious.
I’ve been a little discouraged by the slow progress on our bathroom and the fast pace of life in general. It was great to get away, recharge, see our beautiful country and spend time with one another without any distractions, no cell phones (I left mine at home accidentally), to-do’s, and renovations.
“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” – Rumi