We arrived to Phoenix and were greeted by Elliot’s family with pizza, beer and wine; can’t go wrong! After 21 straight days of camping through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California we felt lucky to have a bed to sleep in the next few nights. Our first night, after camping for so long I actually woke up in the middle of the night a bit freaked out thinking we didn’t set up our tent! After that little debacle I had a great night of sleep. The next morning we did a ton of laundry and re-grouped ourselves, which included cleaning our car out. Living out of your car for 80 days makes for a pretty messy vehicle… The rest of the day was spent running errands and we finished the day having dinner with his family.
The next day we visited the Musical Instrument Museum, we didn’t leave ourselves quite enough time to get through the entire museum. However, I think we spent more than 4 hours exploring what the museum had to offer. You get your own audio headset that you can listen samples from each exhibit. There are samples from each continent, exhibits featuring artists from all over and a room where you can play some of the instruments. The next day we did a small hike at North Mountain, it’s nice that even though Phoenix is such a big city they’ve still got somewhere they can spend time outside.
North of Phoenix is Sedona, an area in Arizona that absolutely everybody should visit. It’s definitely a tourist-y area, but we camped outside of Sedona and were still close enough to experience a bit of hiking. Doe Mountain Trail was our first hike, we headed out hoping that it wouldn’t start to rain but brought our rain jackets just in case. Thankfully we did because not long after we got to the top we heard thunder rolling in. The landscape was gorgeous, the red rocks and the dark clouds were contrasting beautifully. As we made our way back down the trail the sun started to set, then we made our way back to our campsite.
The next day we hiked the Cathedral Rock Trail, it wasn’t a very long trail but we ended up spending a ton of time hanging out at the top. It was extremely peaceful and very picturesque. The hike up involved a bunch of rock shuffling. We weren’t scaling rocks but we did climb up some, it was a ton of fun. The trail ends, but there’s an even better spot if you keep climbing to the other side. Only a few other groups wandered off the trail to where we were hanging out, it was so peaceful. Clouds rolled in again and we hiked back down to eat lunch before our drive down to Tucson.
Tucson is home to Saguaro National Park, named after the saguaro cactuses that grow like crazy in this area of Arizona. It takes 15 years for these cactuses to grow one foot. The cactuses in the park vary in size, but these cactuses are quite sizeable for sure! Right inside the park is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Most of the museum is outdoors and they actually supply sunscreen in the restrooms, a nice touch! They have several exhibits featuring animals that live within the desert and a beautiful cactus garden. We learned a lot about the desert and got to see cactuses that grow in different deserts throughout the world. After checking out the museum for a few hours we re-applied their free sunscreen and went off to the visitor center of the national park.
We knew that Saguaro National Park was split into two areas so it’d be a bit small, but since we had spent so much time at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum it worked out to our advantage that there weren’t really too many long hikes. The saguaro’s get bigger as you drive into the park and almost all other vegetation is within the cactus family. The trails are HOT during the daytime hours. Yes, I’m from Connecticut… but the Arizonan sun shouldn’t be taken lightly, and we knew hiking during the peak afternoon hours would be bad news so checking out the museum was well worth it for us rather than taking several long, dry hikes within the park.
The short hike we took was the Valley View Overlook Trail, a super easy and short hike, but the valley view gives you an idea of the specific area that they’re protecting. The edges of the park are really obvious considering the amount of businesses that border it. Visiting Saguaro left me wishing I could grow my own cactus, but I knew sending a plant back to Connecticut wouldn’t work out because of the cold weather and trying to grow it in my car wouldn’t go so well either! Especially because we crossed the country border into Mexico right after Tucson!