Recently we went on a road trip to Monument Valley located on the Arizona Utah border. We’ve lived in Arizona for over thirty years but this was our first time to to Monument Valley, considered one of the most photographed places on earth.
From Phoenix it’s about a five hour drive to Monument Valley. Monument Valley is located in the heart of the Navajo Nation Reservation. This rugged, remote landscape was both beautiful and familiar since Monument Valley is the backdrop of so many iconic Hollywood Westerns. Driving along we spy giant red sandstone buttes towering over the valley floor below. Just before the entrance to Valley Drive is the Visitor Center which offers handicrafts, souvenirs, rest rooms, a restaurant and a hotel.
We chose to drive the seventeen mile dirt road to enter this sacred land. We didn’t take a tour but instead paid the $20 to complete a self tour on the dusty but adequate 17 mile Valley Drive in a Toyota Corolla. The bumpy roads are open only to cars and trucks but closed to RVs and buses. I felt sorry for the bus riders who’s only choice to see more of the sights were open air Jeep tours. Temperatures were reaching nearly 100* and the path was extremely dusty for the captive tourists, sweating and choking on the dust in their attempt to see the iconic sights.
We took our time and Greg managed the road easily. There were plenty of opportunities to stop and take pictures and even purchase some handicrafts along the way. We took about two hours to visit. Bring plenty of water with you. Since it was in the height of the summer season hiking trails were closed.
This land is both spectacular and awe inspiring. It is an amazing place to visit and one I would like to return to again. It would be truly spectacular to see this landscape covered with snow.
Some days you just want to get out and get moving. Recently I had one of those days. I said to my husband, “Let’s take a road trip on the Apache Trail.”
He was silent for a few minutes, because he is a planner and a thinker but he asked me how quickly I could get ready and thirty minutes later we were on the road. My husband is the driver for two reasons:
He is the constant line leader.
I am a lousy driver.
Even though we’ve lived in Arizona for over thirty years we have never visited the Apache Trail. The scenic road is named after the Apache Indian tribe that originally used the trail. We begin our road trip catching AZ 88 in Apache Junction through Tonto National Forrest.
President Theodore Rosevelt compared the beauty of the Apache Trail to the Alps, The Grand Canyon and The Rockies. “To me it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.” He was right.
Slowly we drove along the steep, narrow and winding road, with saguaro covered hills that runs for roughly forty miles. Along the way we passed several single lane bridges. There is an aspect of trust you need to have to get on one of these bridges. You have to trust that the guy on the other side will wait for you to cross. Luckily for us the route was not busy
. This is not a drive for the timid motorist. Often the road was very narrow with hairpin curves and dropped steeply down to canyons. I’m not going to lie, when I get scared, imagining a fall down the rocky crevasses I simply close my eyes and think about being somewhere else. Yet another reason why I am not the driver.
An hour into our journey we happened upon Canyon Lake, a man made reservoir with stunning views of cliffs and bright green and yellow colored desert plants. So many boaters and campers were out enjoying the idyllic weather.
We drove for about five hours past the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town, Canyon Lake and the tiny tourist town of Tortilla Flat, but did not complete the trail. Towards the end of the drive the road turns to gravel. We stopped often along the way to take pictures and appreciate the beauty around us. In our hectic and busy lives we often ignore what is in our own backyard. I know we will return again to enjoy the splendor of the desert.
I live in Phoenix Arizona. People think of the desert as a hot, dry, brown place. That could not be further from the truth. This year during monsoon season Phoenix experienced heavier rainfall than is typical. Following those torrential rains comes the promise of spring wildflowers. Super bloom time has arrived in the Sonoran Desert.
The desert is bursting with wildflowers. It’s a beautiful time to see the colors of the Sonoran desert. Even though I can’t hike yet due to my injury, I did drive to a trailhead to experience that beauty firsthand.
Desert Marigold dot the landscape throughout the Sonoran desert.
For years I’ve driven along one particular road and never noticed the majestic ridge of Saguaro cactus, until the other day. This time it wasn’t about completing a hike, it was about taking time to notice and see the beauty around me. The old adage is apropos. Take time to smell the wildflowers.
Spending time with good friends and laughing all the time.
I love to spend time with my girlfriends. We don’t try to impress one another, we have long, honest conversations, laugh until we pee, and stay up half the night talking about our hopes and dreams.
I have recently enjoyed a couple of girl-time weekends without my husband. First I went with a great friend to Jerome, a quaint, artsy town in Northern Arizona. We signed up for an art class to make a kaleidoscope, we spent seven hours cutting glass, chipping plastic, and arranging polarized film to create absolutely beautiful works of art.
Spending time with my friend is always a pleasure. We know that we can do something creative together and laugh at ourselves while we do it. The following day we hiked in Sedona, a magical red rock paradise that I don’t get to visit often enough. My friend is very fit and hiking together is always a bit of a challlenge for me to try to keep up with her, but I did my best. We hiked about seven miles and I forgot to take water. That’s never a goood idea in the Arizona desert. She shared her water with me, because that’s what good friends do.
Capturing some fall colors in Sedona, Arizona
Another very good friend invited me to come to Los Angeles with her for a long weekend. The first night we walked around her neighborhood picking up magnolia pods. These were really interesting shaped pods, we were sure that we could create something beautiful with them. Our only mistake might have been picking them up at night, in strangers’ yards. Neighborhood dogs barked uncontrollably as we searched with flashlights for these pods. Luckily, no one called the police on us and we now have a large bag of pods that will undoubtedly be created into a piece of art.
The next day we shopped in the LA fashion district, and Santee Alley. We would be brutally honest as we tried on clothes. “No, forget that one it makes your ass look huge.” We love to bargain shop and took in all the ethnic flavor LA has to offer. We walked EVERYWHERE. On my last full day in California we made the decision to go back to the fashion district. We didn’t care that it was raining, so we headed out to take the train to Union Station. We didn’t expect the rain to continue, which is probably why didn’t bring an umbrella. It’s a little over two miles to the area we wanted to visit again. At one point the rain was coming down in sheets, couldn’t even see in front of ourselves. Surely a street vendor would be selling umbrellas. Nope, not on this day. We walked at a quick pace and were occasionally approached by the homeless. I would just yell “NO!” And we would keep walking. As we walked down one unfamiliar street after another we both realized Google Maps was not being helpful. Finally we found an open store and the shopkeeper sold us an umbrella. Standing on the street corner, as we looked around it was painfully obvious to us both that we needed to get the hell out. The streets were basically tent cities filled with homeless men. We called Uber and waited in the rain. He was only two minutes away, but we could see that he passed our block and would be a few more minutes. Perhaps it was the appearance of two lost, middle aged white ladies but yet another homeless man approached us. He asked for money, I told him we had none, our friends had our money, he said he was homeless and needed money to buy an umbrella. He was a large and intimidating fellow. I grabbed the umbrella out of my friend’s hand and said “Here’s an umbrella, go!” He walked away with our umbrella and the Uber driver pulled up. I was never so happy to get into an Uber in my life.
We were taken Santee Alley, aka Mecca for the shoppers. We found more bargains we could not live without and decided it would be best to take Uber back to Union Station. That evening we laughed about our adventure. When we stopped into a Starbucks for a late night cappuccino my friend noticed someone familiar sitting in the window, he had Dr Dre headphones, two Ipad screens and was noshing on a biscuit and a venti Americano. Could this be the “homeless guy” who hustled us? He sure did look like him. Parked outside the Starbucks was our answer.