Monday, May 25, 2015

Arizona Trip Recap: Horseback riding and the Grand Canyon

Hey everybody, happy Memorial Day weekend!  I hope that everyone is enjoying a day off, time with loved ones, and also remembering why we have this holiday in the first place.  For all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for my own personal freedom - thank you.  You are never forgotten and forever honored in my mind.  Thank you!

This past weekend since I last wrote was really fun for me as it was a really nice, long 5-day weekend as I actually took Thursday and Friday off of work and also had the Monday holiday.  Just a few weeks ago I last minute decided to book a trip away to Arizona for the holiday with my friend Brick and a few of her friends from home.  We had discussed it briefly and when I saw the full agenda of everything that was planned, I knew that I had to do whatever possible to try and make the vacation a possibility.

For those of you who have been following me on Instagram and Facebook, you may have seen a lot of these pictures and activities already, but let me recap for those who have not.  On Thursday morning, early, I met a couple friends at the airport and we boarded a plane to Phoenix, Arizona.

My friend Brickney had planned the trip with a few of her best friends from home for her birthday and when last minute some spots became available, I jumped in.  The agenda was pretty much all set and I, like when we went to Tampa, thought that it was pretty incredible to go on a vacation where I didn't need to plan a single thing.

When we arrived in Phoenix, we met up with the other members of our group, picked up our smoking "Swagger Wagon" minivan that we'd be driving for the weekend, and headed out for breakfast.  We randomly picked a place called Matt's Big Breakfast that we found off of Yelp, and it turned out to be amazing and actually a place that was once featured on the Food Network show "Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives!"  The food did not disappoint and the atmosphere and surrounding area around the restaurant all felt very cool and leisurely.  I had their breakfast sandwich and a side of their cherry bourbon sausage and it was all incredible!

From there we went to the house that had been rented off of AirBnB to drop off our things and also do some grocery shopping for the weekend.  We knew we wanted some essentials to have in the house and snacks and whatnot, and there was a grocery store just down the road which worked out perfectly.

We weren't there too long until it was time to head out again for our first "excursion" or "adventure" for the weekend, which was to go horseback riding.  Brick had titled her birthday weekend the "Great American Adventure" as it included some quintessential American southwest items and you cannot have a weekend like that without horseback riding!

I think I have only ridden horses once in my life which was when I went on vacation to Iceland years ago, so I wasn't entirely sure what to do.  However, I think that the men who ran the excursion had far more faith in our ability to manage the horses than we did.  They would shout and yell at us to control our horses better, but sometimes we were only doing the best that we could!  It made for an entertaining ride though, and even more laughs all throughout the rest of the weekend as we impersonated the instructions given to us and laughing about it until we cried.

It was a really fun experience and cool to see some of the natural wildlife in Arizona and learn more about that.  Apparently this specific type of cactus can only be found in the Senora desert and the first arm on each cactus takes 50 years to grow and then 10-15 years for each additional arm!  They were really cool and I was obsessed with taking pictures with them in the background.

From there we went out to dinner for some Mexican food and then called it a relatively early evening since we were all still on East Coast time and had an early morning planned.  Staying on East Coast time worked to our advantage since we were all up at around 4:00 a.m. to get started for the day and head north towards the Grand Canyon.

I volunteered to drive on Friday and I knew it would be a ton of hours in the car but I also don't mind driving and it allowed me the opportunity to take in all of the scenery around me.  The sky was beautiful, the landscape incredible, and I had my eyes out the windows the whole time.  I knew that if I was not in the drivers seat, I would probably be on my phone more, watching a movie (our car had a DVD player, etc.) so driving was meditative for me.

We stopped a few times on the way up to the Grand Canyon, but they were not your average pit stops.  We went through Sedona, which has the infamous Red Rocks State Park and it was truly breathtaking and an incredible drive!

After we got through Sedona, the drive felt long because there were portions where we had to drive really slow along winding cliffs.  It was pretty scary, not going to lie, to have the responsibility of driving through this area with everyone in the car.  It reminded me of the road that we drove through in Turkey that was one of the scariest drives of my life.  This at least had two lanes, but there was nothing but a tiny barrier between the car and a huge cliff.  The views were truly outstanding though.

As you can see from the pictures while we were on our way to the Grand Canyon, it was sunny and bright out.  The temperature was around 80 degrees and it was a gorgeous day out.  However, as we got closer and closer to our main destination of the day, the Grand Canyon, the sky began to get darker and the temperature began to drop.  I saw on the car's thermostat that the degrees kept going down and at one point someone looked up on their phone the weather for the Grand Canyon which said it was supposed to storm and be 50 degrees all afternoon.

We all got a bit nervous but also knew that there was nothing that we were going to do differently and that it was all out of our control, so we just kept driving.  When we finally arrived and got into the park, the sky was gray and there were rain drops starting to fall.  The guy taking money to get into the parking lot told me when I asked if it was still going to be worth it in the rain, "Ehh... I mean... it's better when it is nice out."  Okay, then!  Anyways, as we parked at the visitors center it started to DOWNPOUR.  It was terrible.  We opened the doors to the car to run inside and also realized that it was FREEZING.  None of us had really brought warm weather clothing, thinking that we were going to be in the desert and the temperatures in Phoenix had been so nice.  Things were not looking good and our high spirits from a fun car ride and the awesome views in Sedona was starting to drop.  We started to wonder if the sign inside was all that we'd actually get to see of the Grand Canyon.

We decided to make a first stop at the gift shop to buy some warmer clothing and get some snacks to kill time.  We spent about 20 minutes in the shop and Brick bought a fancy new outfit.

And miraculously, somehow, while we were inside the store, we walked back out to some bits of sunshine breaking through and the sky clearing up a little bit.  We raced as fast as we could over to the first outlook point of view to see what we could see.  We knew that hiking would be out of the picture because of the temperatures and gloomy weather so we just planned to drive to as many outlooks as we could.  The very first one we went to took my breath away.  It was outstanding.

That first lookout point energized us a bit and we had so much fun driving around, taking pictures, blasting music, singing in the car, twerking on the canyon, making friends, and just taking in the amazing scenery all around us.

At some points the weather did get the best of us and you really could not see A THING with the fog, which was really disappointing.  As well, the temperature dropped so much that it actually started to snow.  I am not sure if you can see it in this picture below but it was snowing and the temperature in the car dropped down to 37 degrees, which was so drastically different from the 80 degree temps we had been experiencing just an hour or so before!  I have never experienced such drastic changes in temperature in my life.

We missed some of the best lookout points due to the fog and the opportunity to hike, which was pretty disappointing.  But we made the best of it.  As you can see behind me, sometimes the fog was so think you could not see anything in the canyon.  There is also snow in my hair right here.

But then, the clouds would pull away and it would be amazing.

It was such an incredible experience and I am so glad to have been able to experience it.  I think it is somewhere I would definitely like to return to in the future and see what else I can experience.  It truly is something that makes you just totally amazed and awed about the world around us and natural beauty.

On the way out of the park we made some friends and took some pictures at the entrance sign.  There was a group of women who had been friends since they were in elementary school and they were doing a 60 year old birthday trip.  It really made me smile seeing them because it reminded me of my group of girlfriends and I could see us doing that together someday.  We actually became Facebook friends with a number of them and I loved seeing how much fun they were having on the rest of their trip!

We did as much of the Grand Canyon as we could until we were frozen and the fog got so bad that we really just couldn't see anything else and headed out.  The drive back was long but fully satisfying knowing what a great day we had just had.  It was also amazing to see the changes in weather.  The day had started hot and sunny, we had gone through chilly and downpouring rain, to cold and snowing, to then sleet, ice, freezing rain, and pretty much everything you could imagine.  As we drove home, the temperature steadily rose back up to 80 degrees.  So crazy to see!

The Grand Canyon is something I have always wanted to explore and although the weather was disappointing, it was such an incredible day.  Part of the experience was made by the group of people that I was with.  We refused to be disappointed, refused to be upset, we laughed through the entire day, told stories, played games, had some epic dance parties and sing-a-longs, made friends, ate sandwiches and trail mix in the car, took turns DJing and singing and dancing, and just had a really great time.  I think so many people could have been grumpy, disappointed, and not seen the beauty in the day, but we really had a great time.  Plus, I love people that understand the value of a good picture!!  We had so much fun on our photo shoots!!

With that, I will sign off for the day so that these posts aren't too long and finish recapping later this week.  I hope that your Memorial Day weekend was great and don't forget to remember what it is all about.  Happy Monday everyone!

No comments:

Post a Comment