Friday, June 4, 2010

AZ Adventures

Hi everyone! I took a three-day 'detour' through Arizona and figured I'd share. My friend, Kim, is in town visiting from Alabama (though she lives in Shanghai, China, officially and has a house in AL on the coast. Yes, the oil has now moved into her turf and she's not happy about it!) I decided we'd do a mix of areas I've seen and some new ones.

First we drove up to Holbrook, AZ to visit the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. On the way, we took a short detour to Walnut Canyon State Park, and hiked around a cavern viewing over 20 cliff dwelling ruins in the area. The area was occupied for less than 100 years until around 1,250 AD. It was really beautiful and a nice break from the drive. We stopped at a native american shop on the way and looked at the Hopi Kachinas. The man working there is Navajo, and he told us about many of them. The Petrified Forest was much more interesting than I expected. We did three walks/hikes. The first was behind the museum and called the Giant Logs trail. It was short and went weaving through some really thick petrified logs that had split every foot or two in length. What amazed me was the colors, as the logs showed colors you'd expect in shades of brown, but also yellows and reds too. It was quite beautiful. Then we walked a trail called Long Logs and viewed the Agate house, made of petrified wood 'bricks'. It was really stunning, especially the array of colors. It was quite hot and the sun was really beating down, but the views were amazing. Then we went to the Blue Mesa trail and hiked through the 'badlands'. They were really gorgeous mounds in shades of pink, brown, cream and white. Last we went to the Puerco Pueblo, a 100 room pueblo that may have housed over 1,000 people. Near the pueblo were some petroglyphs as well.

Driving through the park was beautiful, and then we drove through the Painted Desert which showed mounds in colors and were extensive 'badlands.' As the sun started to set, the colors really became quite dramatic. We toured the old Painted Desert in, which is now a museum, then headed out. We went to dinner at the Turquoise Room at La Posada Hotel, which was amazing. I had tried some of their food at a food festival last year, and jumped on the opportunity to try it (Thanks Kim!!) The hotel was amazing and we took a quick tour. Right on the train tracks, it's a National Historic landmark built in 1929 by the Santa Fe Railroad. Many of the rooms are named after the 'golden era' movie stars like Cary Grant, Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe and others. The restaurant was amazing and we had a great meal. We were told the heirloom tomato salad was wonderful, including heirloom tomatoes just purchased from the farmer's market in Flagstaff. Kim got a 'deconstructed' meal including duck, elk sausage and lamb. I had a plate with lamb made three ways including a red chile posole. Both were quite amazing, and we split a prickly pear bread pudding for dessert so Kim could try the local flavor.

The next day we got up early and drove down to Sedona to take in the gorgeous red rock views and go hiking. The drive through the pine forest was gorgeous, and we drove by Oak Creek for a good ways down it. Every now and then we'd see the red rock views on the way in, and would also see views of the creek. We stopped for breakfast at the Orchard Restaurant on the main drag to take in the views, then headed to hike. We picked a trail by the Bell Rock called the Llama trail, though climbed some of Bell Rock first. We didn't find the Llama trail right away and started on the Courthouse Butte trail, though came across it after a bit. It was quite quiet and we only passed two bikers along our way. The hike was around two hours and really beautiful. We then got smoothie's and went to a couple of lookout points, and also toured a beautiful chapel that was built into a mountain. We then went into Flagstaff to walk around and grabbed a bite at a little wine bar. Flagstaff is very similar to where we went to school in Massachusetts (Amherst and Northampton) so it was a fun walk down memory lane.

We stayed in campgrounds during the trip, and first was in a cabin and in Flagstaff was in a teepee. It was really cute, though the opening was low so we laughed trying to get in and out! A really nice family from Phoenix was next door to us, so we talked a bit. We woke really early again and decided to hike some of the trails behind the campground. Then we went to Wupatki, a beautiful pueblo style ruin around 30 minutes north of Flagstaff. It's one of my favorites in the area. The nearby mountain, Sunset Crater Volcano, erupted, possibly driving the inhabitants from their home in the pueblo. It's over 100 rooms and made of striking red rock. There's a ball court, which was unusual in northern Arizona, a large room off the main structure which they believe served as a community gathering area. There was also a 'blowhole' which was a little vent that blew very cold air up from the ground.

We left and decided to visit Jerome, a cute little town on the side of a mountain. Jerome used to be a copper mining town that was almost deserted when the mine reduced production in the 1930s. It's been somewhat revitalized by a thriving artist community, though still maintains its flavor from over 100 years ago. Lots of buildings are run down but maintain their original look and architecture with sloping roofs and walls. Plaques are on the walls indicating the history of certain buildings, during a time when the community was thriving. It was once the 4th largest town in Arizona. The streets are quite steep and walking up them is an adventure!

We then made our way back to Phoenix. We saw the Desert Botanica Garden, which is a beautiful place that showcases the natural beauty and variety of plans available in the desert. We'll see the Heard Museum, a native american museum that provides lots of historical information of the southwestern indian tribes through their art. We're packing in lots to her trip, but she'll leave with a great view of all the wonderful, beautiful, historical and fun things in Arizona!