Saturday, October 15, 2005

Back from Arizona

We had a great time in Arizona and I just finished posting the photos from our trip to My Flickr Page. You can browse by tags or by sets (hint: the Arizona Vacation set contains all the trip pictures while the Sedona, Verde Valley Train and Grand Canyon sets contain a subset of the pictures).

Our trip began with a flight to Phoenix. We then drove to Flagstaff, stopping to see the Montezuma Castle along the way. In Flagstaff, we stayed for two nights at a bed & breakfast with a host that didn't seem to like us very much. (She was annoyed that we didn't want to eat red meat.) You can e-mail me for the name of the place, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Flagstaff served as a jumping off point for a hike near Sunset Crater and a visit to the Wupatki ruins. The lava flows at Sunset Crater were amazing and Kara really enjoyed the pueblo ruins.

After our stay in Flagstaff, Kara had a surprise for me. We drove down to the Verde Valley for a ride on the Verde Canyon railroad. The line used to be a regular Santa Fe line, but now it is exclusively a four-hour tour ride through the Verde Canyon and back. The scenery was beautiful and I even caught a quick glimpse of a bald eagle, up on top of a tree. (Unfortunately, it was too quick to catch on camera.)

After the tour, it was already dark, so we drove to Jerome, AZ to try to find a place to eat. We'd never been to Jerome, didn't know if there was anything there to eat, but it looked interesting on the map. The town of Jerome turned out be a town carved into the mountain wall on a switch-back road. After navigating a few very narrow roads up to dead ends, we finally found a little hole-in-the-wall bar and grill with the slowest waitress and had a late dinner. After dinner, we were treated to a quite spectacular desert lightning show for our drive to the hotel for the night.

In the morning, we drove to Sedona. Sedona had spectacular views, but it took us half the day to get our bearings and find a place to hike. After a bit more of a delay (due to the need to find and buy a parking pass), we had a wonderful three-plus-mile hike along a trail and up one of the red rock hills. Against the advice of our guide books, we went off the trail and hiked to the top of one of the red rock hills. We were rewarded with some spectacular views (and photos) of the Sedona mountains under partial clouds (click here for a larger version of the above photo.).

Kara had arranged a tour bus and guide for a 10-hour trip from Sedona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and back with Pink Jeep Tours. I had never been to the Grand Canyon before and I enjoyed taking pictures while Kara enjoyed reading about the sights we were seeing. Our only disappointment was in realizing that we could have saved money and time if we had just planned to visit the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff by driving ourselves; this would have allowed us some time for some nice hikes. We did have a nice lunch at El Tovar, though, and our tour guide was informative.

We didn't really have any time the next morning before our drive to Phoenix and flight home to San Diego to do much except to find a place to grab a bite to eat. The hotel we were staying at in Sedona offered a free "breakfast", but I was not impressed with the dry bagels and packaged cream cheese, so we skipped that and went on a drive to find a better place to eat. After a bit of a drive along Highway 89A, our decision to forgo the free breakfast was rewarded with a wonderful breakfast at the Coffee Pot Restaurant. My recommendation to find a good place to eat is to look for the place with the full parking lot and that's what led us there. The menu had something like 101 omelette options, but I chose the Egg Benedict with Smoked Salmon (instead of ham) and Kara chose the short stack with strawberries. We'd both go back in an instant and give the place a hearty two-thumbs up.

Despite a few less-than-stellar hotel experiences, we both had a wonderful anniversary vacation. I think we both would be willing to go back to Sedona and the Grand Canyon again.

We went back to work the next day, but that's another story that I'll get to later.

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