When we first visited Utah back in November, we only had time to scoot across the top of the state. This time around, we were about to embark on a month-long stay filled with national parks and boondocking for days. Little did we know, the first boondocking spot would be one for the ages.
Sometimes it’s hard to leave a place that you’ve loved like Bluewater State Park, but other times the signs are clear that it is time to move on. The Easter weekend crowds were a great sign that we had had our fun at Bluewater and now it was someone else’s turn to enjoy our site with a view. So we fired up the RV at 5am and hit the road; our destination was the surprisingly bustling city of Farmington, NM where we would ditch the RV at a park, grab a rental car, and start our Easter road trip through the mountains of Colorado.
As we’ve come to learn, certain national parks are all about the views, while others are all about the features. And when talking about Petrified Forest National Park, it definitely falls into the latter. I hadn’t heard much about this place before we left home, but once we started looking into the national parks of Arizona, it was obvious PFNP wasn’t one to miss. On top of the beauty of Petrified Forest, we got to experience another type of natural beauty later that week: wild horses.
Back towards the beginning of spring, we realized we would need to *slightly* plan our route for the coming seasons. In July and August, monsoon season takes hold in the southwest, allowing the skies to pour down on a daily basis. Instead of our normal go-with-the-flow directions, we decided to map out an S-curve around Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. This meant that after our visit from Sarah and Anthony, we were set to head northeast- directly towards the cluster of monuments and must-see’s of the Flagstaff area. Over the weekend, we managed to visit Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Meteor Crater, and the famous Route 66 in Winslow, AZ.
After a hectic weekend celebrating Cori’s birthday and watching some NASCAR, we needed to say our final goodbyes to the Sonoran Desert and start the climb into the mountains to the north. Being from the east we aren’t as accustomed to the effects of elevation on the ecology of an area, so you can imagine our excitement while driving north out of Phoenix. As the highway climbs higher and higher into the mountains you get to watch the slow progression of things changing - it starts with more shrubs and greenery, then the Saguaros disappear, then the junipers start to pop up, and before you know it… BAM! The Verde Valley and all of its lush beauty lay before you at an elevation many thousands of feet higher than where you started.
Before my birthday and our NASCAR adventure, we had a weekend to enjoy exploring the city of Phoenix. Admittedly, we had no idea (ignorant East-coasters, apparently) that a lot of the cities you hear about in Arizona are actually considered part of Phoenix. Tempe, Scottsdale, and Mesa all fall within the greater Phoenix metro area, so while it’s the 6th biggest city in the country, each area has a completely different feel… a la the boroughs of NYC, if you will. This time in the city was just the beginning of our week in the Valley of the Sun, culminating in one unique birthday experience!
Along the southern border of Arizona sits a national monument unlike anything else. This can be attributed to one thing, it's namesake, the organ pipe cactus. While I had wanted to go to Mexico, our timeline didn't allow it, so we decided to get about as close as we could. The following week would be filled with exploring some of the most beautiful desert, more green than I had ever imagined, and sunshine that warmed us to our core.
There are some cities that I know I’ve heard a lot about, and yet I don’t feel like I really know anything about them. Tucson is one of those cities for me, so you can imagine my surprise when the terrain opened up into a vast and beautiful desert city. Having not yet seen a Giant Saguaro in the flesh before, the site of them lining city streets was pretty unforgettable. Little did I know how intimately we would come to know these giant cacti over the next 5 weeks in the Sonoran Desert.