June 27, 2015

AZ Tourguide

It had been a while since K and I had family visit us here in Arizona. We had talked about hosting our niece when she was old enough to fully appreciate a tour of the Grand Canyon state. The time had come and our niece, Sydney, had recently turned 11. She was eager to leave the humidity of Florida behind, but was she ready for temps over 110ยบ??

We had 6 full days to show her around. How do we keep things interesting enough for her? I've been known to overdue vacation itineraries, so I had to be mindful of that, but there's so much to see and do here!! We put together a rough plan of our week, half would be spent up north in more tolerable conditions this time of year.

Syd's plane was delayed a little, but otherwise a good flight. Let the vacation begin! At home our first task was to break out a black light and go on the prowl for scorpions. We found one glowing brightly next to our side garage door!

No alarm clock for the first day, just a scenic desert drive complete with ice cream, cliff dwellings and a stop at Los Hermanos.
Our first of many side stops.
Tortilla Flat = Ice Cream!!
Scenic overlook along AZ88.
Roosevelt Dam.
Aqua waters of Roosevelt Lake.
Tonto National Monument.
I think we all slept well after our desert drive.

Day 2 had us going north to Flagstaff. A stop at Montezuma's Castle broke the drive up and Sydney became a Junior Ranger in the process.
Almost as tall as Auntie K.
Very cool tree bark.
It's official.
It turned out to be a beautiful day in Flagstaff, so we drove up to the ski resort to take the scenic skyride to the top of Arizona. At the top, the wind was light and temps were in the upper 60's!!
Ready to rise another 2,000'.
Big difference from the flats of Florida.
Found enough snow for a snowball fight!!
Humphrey's Peak, highest point in AZ at 12,637'.
Alpine blooms.
Enjoying the ride down.
After dinner in Flagstaff we made the short drive up Mars Hill to the Lowell Observatory for some star gazing. It was our first time up there as well and what a cool experience. Plenty of telescopes were out all cast on different objects in the sky. We were able to see Jupiter + 2 moons, Saturn's rings + 2 moons, Venus and a fantastic closeup of our moon.
Only one of the many structures up there for viewing.
Cosmic cat.
A rather large meteorite.
Day 3 was all about the Grand Canyon. Our first stop was at the Imax in Tusayan to watch the film on the ultra big screen. Our next challenge was finding a parking place. Market Plaza ended up being a good choice since it was close to food and the shuttle stop.
Cool exhibit along the Rim trail.
Kolb Studio perched on the edge.
Glimpse of the Colorado River on our way to Hermit's Rest.
In all my visits, I hadn't made it out to Hermit's Rest before.
Grand Canyon from Hermit's Rest.
Golden hour at Mather Point.
We hit the road and arrived down in Sedona well after dark.

Day 4 was for playing on the red rocks at Slide Rock State Park. I hadn't been there in almost 20 years. It was a good decision to arrive early, even on a weekday, as the place fills up quick. We got in easily and found a nice rock overhang to call our own for a few hours.
Plenty of people out on a Wednesday morning.
Perfect day to be in the chilly water.
Took some coaxing, but she finally went for it...twice!
Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Our time up north came to a close as we heading back home. We needed a good nights rest as our next day would be an early rise to go feed the animals at the Phoenix Zoo.
First stop, Giraffe deck.
Photobombing giraffe.
Champing down on prickly pear.
Hard to see, but there's an elephant back there.
Orangutan chompers!! 
K feeding the anteater some avocado.
Cheetahs made a quick appearance.
Lunch at the ballpark, no game today.
With one day left, we headed south for cool temps underground at Kartchner Caverns. We went one time before, during the park's first year. If you haven't been to the caverns, put it on the list of things to do in the summer.
Escape the heat, go underground.
The caverns are in those hills.
Obligatory Saguaro photo at Saguaro Nat'l Park.
By the time we finished our meal, the storms were brewing.
Just like that, her trip came to a close. I think she enjoyed seeing what Arizona has to offer, it's a big state as we tallied up over 1200 miles of driving for our sightseeing itinerary. Hopefully she'll have some good stories for her friends and memories for a lifetime. Her mom relayed a funny quote upon her return: 'There are no lazy days at Uncle John's'. True.

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