With a warm February behind us, I had begun to rebrand Christina Skis into an adventure and photography blog. Sunny and 65 meant no snow and mud skiing in the mountains of Southwestern PA (March is a different story). But, I will travel first and foremost, and with warm temps and no snow, I made my way back for another Arizona adventure. And I must say, Christina Skis absolutely LOVES Arizona.
I had a conference in Scottsdale, and when there’s a work thing, there’s an adventure attached, because there’s no way I can fly home from across the country on a Friday. No, I need to go see the world, on Saturday. You should try it sometime, if you should be so lucky.
Friday – Check Into Home Base: Sedona
The last time I was in Sedona, I arrived via I-17 to 179, the Red Rock Scenic Byway, I believe, and completely fell in love. The views were incredible, the pull-offs and trails were abundant, and I was hooked. This time, I drove in via 89A out of inexperience, straight into Uptown Sedona. It wasn’t as jaw-dropping but as always, beautiful. Go in via 179 in the afternoon and be prepared to have your breath taken away. Check out this map for a better viewing of what I mean: Vortex Map of Sedona
Speaking of “vortexes,” Sedona is a vibrant holistic town, with people who believe in vortexes and the spiritual energy of the earth. You will too, once you get there.
Saturday – Drive to an AZ Adventure Destination: Page
The Instagrammers trifecta: I drove 3 hours to see Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. I honestly regret taking more time off to drive further north into Utah’s National Parks. Two more hours, and I would have been there.
Driving north past Sedona into Flagstaff and continuing through 89N to Page is truly a delight. I went through red rocks to snow covered switchbacks to badlands to canyons and everything in between. It’s about an hour or less to Flagstaff and two more through to Page. Note – there’s no cactuses up this way.
I took a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon at 11:30 am. There are about 5 tour companies and they all come out to about $60 and we are all in there together. The guide was great, gave the group tips for taking images on our cellphones, showed me some camera settings and even took pictures of us. But even in the very beginning of their busy season, the place was pretty crowded with tourists and it felt like a frenzy – like, walk in, take all the pictures you can and don’t stop snapping. This isn’t the tours’ fault, it’s the tourist’s fault. I don’t even want to know what peak looks like. I had a second tour of the lower canyon scheduled for 2:30 pm, but given my bad planning thinking Page was only 2 hours away, I had to miss out on that one. The lower was recommended to me as it’s less crowded and cheaper, about $25. Photography tours are an option if you want the best times and longer time in the canyon. I doubt there’d be any less people.
I met a friendly solo tour-goer who recommended I take the quick drive to Lake Powell, about five minutes up the road. This lake in the middle of the desert is definitely a sight to see. Think, “if Mars had a lake.” Boat tours are available up the lake to Rainbow Bridge, which is a National Monument and one of the highest natural bridges in the US. Next time.
There’s also a waterfall near here, Grand Falls, with written directions on Trip Advisor. During recent rain, the dust gets pushed through and the falls are actually brown. But being by myself and on Navajo land, I didn’t know what to expect so I did not go. Next time, with a buddy.
Afterward, I parked at Horseshoe Bend and took the short trail to the canyon. It was pretty crowded with tourists and photographers, but I managed to army crawl my way to the edge for some beautiful views. I learned this at the Grand Canyon, but I’m totally afraid of heights… or maybe just standing at the edge of a cliff (hence the army crawl). Worth it.
I hit the road around 4 pm, determined to get back to Sedona before sunset to try and get some real shots with my camera, even though I was asking for a lot on that one. Unfortunately the drive back wasn’t as fast as the drive there, but I did manage to take a look at the Chapel of the Holy Cross by Frank Lloyd Wright before the sun went down, so I will chalk that one up as a win.
Sunday – Bright and Early Goodbye: Phoenix
The two-hour drive south from Sedona is no less beautiful than the drive north. At this time of year, there’s more green than expected on the way to PHX and the landscape is dotted with those big, classic Seguaro cactuses.
It was a fast trip, packed with a lot of driving and schedules, and although I wouldn’t consider it a vacation, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for experience and growth. Arizona is one amazing state, and I am sure this won’t be the last time I visit it.