The Grand Canyon has always been a place that I’ve wanted to see. Just saying ‘The Grand Canyon’ gives me a warm-n-fuzzy feeling. And now I can finally say I’ve experienced The Grand Canyon, but in visiting Arizona I realized it’s a state of endless life experiences!
Okay, let’s start with Experience #1 and the catalyst of our visit. Eddie Vedder. We’re big Pearl Jam (and Eddie) fans, and it just so happened Mr. Vedder was headlining the Innings Festival in Tempe. There were some other amazing bands there too, though, and it was an experience worth every penny!
Innings Festival? Yup. Innings, as in baseball. Which made for Experience #2 of our visit. Baseball. If you know me, you know I love baseball. So with Cactus League action ramping up, we caught an Angels vs. A’s game. And wouldn’t you know it, former Toronto Blue Jay, Marco Estrada, pitched for the A’s, and in Marco Estrada fashion, he served up back-to-back meatballs to two future Hall Of Famers – Mike Trout and Albert Pujols (still giggle at that name).
But after a few days in the city, the canyon beckoned and we made our way out of Phoenix towards the mighty gorge, or Experience #3. We entered the park, found a spot for the Stang (oh, did I mention we got an upgrade to a Mustang – sweet!) and made our way to an overlook for our first view of the canyon.
It really is a breathtaking experience. To stand there and see miles upon miles of canyon, cliffs, and beautiful rock formations. I was speechless as I stood there soaking in the view for several minutes. And in that time, we were also lucky enough to see a California Condor soaring above us. The California Condor is listed as “Critically Endangered”, and while its population is increasing, they’re still apparently very uncommon to see. Guess I’m having a Big Year.
After a few days of the canyon it was off to Experience #4 – Monument Valley. If you haven’t heard of Monument Valley, it’s where The coyote chased after that roadrunner for years, only to end up with multiple ACME anvils land on his head. Okay, that’s a lie. Well, it might be the true setting of their wacky adventures, but I have no proof to back it up. This next one is true though; Monument Valley is where Forrest Gump ended his 3 year, 2 month, 14 day, and 16 hour run across America.
The rock formations in Monument Valley are truly unique. And we got to see a pretty decent sunset in Monument Valley, but enjoyed an even better sunrise. I’m typically a sunset guy, but this sunrise rivals many of the amazing sunsets I’ve seen. What an experience to start the day!
From Monument Valley it was off to Canyon de Chelly, but first, a quick detour for Experience #5 – the 4 corners.
And now a little back story on Canyon de Chelly…
When we lived in Panama, my wife would get asked her name by Panamians and she’d reply “Shelly” (because her name is Shelly, duh). The Panamanians would smile and say “Chelly”. Actually, it must have been a Latin American thing, because they even spelled it Cheli in Nicaragua. SO naturally when there’s a canyon named after you, you visit it!
Where was I…right, Experience #6, aka, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon de Chay though). We booked a canyon tour with a local Navajo dude, and it was probably the most unexpected highlight of our trip. He took us in a jeep down into the canyon, through the river, and provided the historic details all the way. It was super-fun. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend this tour.
As luck would have it, the sun was setting and we were in an ideal spot to watch. So here it is:
One night was all we needed in Canyon de Chelly though, so it was off to Sedona for our next leg…but first, Experience #7: a drive through the Petrified Forest to see rocks that were once trees, and trees that are now rocks…among other sights to see.
The landscape here was something else. If you’re in Arizona, or making some sort of cross country venture, the Petrified Forest should be on your list.
We didn’t give the forest as much time as we’d have liked. It was pretty windy, and cool, so our “outside time” was quick… as in “Quick, take a picture, it’s windy AF out here!”
Route 66 is a historic…uh…route…that one of the US President’s…umm…Invented? Created? Spearheaded – that’s the one. I don’t know which President – doesn’t really matter to me. What mattered to me was that we found ourselves Standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona…And Winslow made for Experience #8 🙂
Eagles experience checked, we were on our way to Sedona for the night where we had an amazing dinner that I’d like to say was to celebrate something…but sometimes…ya just gotta drop some coin on a nice diner with your Chelly.
Sedona is a hikers paradise, with rocks you can hike up, like Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and so many more. Each hike rewards you with scenic views of a picturesque landscape carved out over time. And just like that we checked off Experience #9.
We got in a nice morning hike, a midday hike, and an afternoon hike. So if someone told us to take a hike, we could reply “Hey, I took 3 already!”.
So we experienced a concert and ballgame in Phoenix (Tempe), The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the 4 corners, Canyon de Chelly, The Petrified Forest, Winslow, and Sedona. What more amazing experiences could the state of AZ possibly provide?
Well, I wish I was able to stop and take a picture of Experience #10 because on the drive from Sedona to PHX airport, we watched a unique sunset as the sun went down over Phoenix. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky – which usually makes for a less colorful and dare I say – basic – sunset. But this cloudless sunset lit up the entire sky. It was majestic. It was the kind of sunset that a picture doesn’t do justice. A sunset you just say, “Hey, remember that sunset over Phoenix?”
We experienced so much and have life-lasting memories visiting Arizona, yet it seems we barely scratched the surface!
Now go sell all your stuff and experience Arizona!