Arizona Roadtrip

I've been slowly catching up on travel & personal photos.... hoping to share more as I finish them! I thought I would start with one of our more recent adventures. Warning: This is a long post so if you just want to skip to the photos- scroll on past!

There is something about roadtrips that feels nostalgically American. Hopping in the car, hitting the road, and discovering things along the way. In the age of social media and the internet it's far too easy to see all of a place before you've ever even been there. I am guilty of this often- overplanning, and google imaging our next adventure daily until we leave. You can't do that with roadtrips- of course you can with the stops - but not with all the interesting sites and people you discover along the way. It was something I hadn't experienced in a long time. Of all of the places we have travelled together, I think both Lyubo and I agree that this was one of our favorite trips to date.

Our trip started in Scottsdale where we had an editorial shoot in the desert, then rented a truck and drove north to Sedona. We had just a few hours in Sedona before needing to be on the road again to reach the Grand Canyon before dark. Deciding to make the most of our time there, we set out to hike Cathedral Rock. It was a beautiful hike and thanks to some surprisingly cold weather that week, not too hot. The views of the red rocks were just beautiful- it's a place I would love to visit again and spend more time (something that is true of all of the stops on this trip). 

After the hike, we made a quick stop for some sandwiches (very large sandwiches) and hit the road again. We managed to make it to our cabin at the Grand Canyon South Rim just before the sun set, with me bouncing in my seat as we drove into the park. I have to say... seeing it for the first time takes your breath away. You feel as if you are standing in front of a green screen. As Ron Swanson would say "Crying is acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon," and cry, I will admit, I did. There are many places you visit that don't quite live up the hype.... this will never be one of them. 

We stayed in a small cabin on the rim and spent the next morning there eating a giant breakfast and then hiking into the canyon and along the rim. The trails were a bit icy and slowed us down a bit but it was nice to avoid the crowds by visiting in the winter. We saw so many deer, nearly froze to death, I took a spill on the trail, and we enjoyed every second of it. We were exhausted by the time we got back to our cabin that evening... but so incredibly happy. Ending our night the right way, we ate our weight in dinner and dessert and passed out early. I'd love to visit again for a backpacking or rafting trip.

The next morning the plan was to hit the road early and head up to Page, Arizona. It was supposed to be a relatively quick drive - but mother nature had other plans. We woke up to a fresh blanket of snow covering the canyon and still coming down hard. It. Was. Beautiful. Although meant that some of the roads in the park were shut down- including our route north. We ended up taking quite a few detours, stopping when the snow got too heavy, and reaching our destination in about double the time expected. We almost skipped Page all together, thinking it might be worth it just to go straight to our next destination after seeing the roads, I am so glad we didn't.

Upon entering Page, we headed straight for the meeting point for our tour of Antelope Canyon. The Canyon is on Navajo land and you need a guide/permit to visit. After waiting a few minutes for the entire group to arrive - we hopped on the benches in the back of a pickup and prepared for a cold and bumpy ride. By the time we got there- I think I had icicles in my hair. You won't get those iconic light streams in the canyon in the winter - the sun isn't at quite the right position- but it is beautiful all the same. We had a lovely Navajo guide, Irene, who kept us laughing throughout the entire tour. 

After we arrived back at our car (after another freezing drive in the back of the truck) we again got sandwiches (we travel cheap) and headed to Horseshoe Bend. I wasn't sure what to expect here since I knew it had become a popular spot in recent years. Luckily, there weren't many people there. We wanted to stay longer but needed to get on the road to head to Monument Valley, our final stop. 

This leg of the trip was a last minute addition. We had planned to keep the driving very manageable since we only had a few days in Arizona.... but slowly added more and more to the plan. I am so glad we did - if only for the Navajo Fry Bread I ate way too much of. It took us between 2 and 3 hours to reach Monument Valley from Page and we drove into the valley just as the sun went down. I kept my camera packed away at this point choosing instead to just enjoy the view, it's one of the most incredible roads you will ever drive. 

Monument Valley is a strange and wonderful place - it almost feels like you're stuck in a different time. Photos of John Wayne cover the walls of almost every diner and hotel  - appealing to tourists looking to live out their cowboy western fantasies in the valley. I woke up early the next morning to watch the sunrise- watching the mittens slowly transform from silhouettes to red rock. There is a 17 mile dirt road loop we spent most of the day on that travels past all of the valleys iconic points. We made a few stops along the way- to take in the vastness of it - enjoying being the only ones in sight and playing with a few stray dogs that had been following our car. 

We ended our trip with a big dinner that night at the View Hotel - followed by (more than a few) Navajo fry breads and woke up around 4 the next morning to drive back to Phoenix. 

I am the first to admit that I often dream of what our next faraway destination will be - but have discovered very little right here in the states. This trip made me want to see ALL of it.