With Tessa recently turning six, we thought it finally time to hit some of our nation's majestic national parks and monuments. Taking into consideration Tessa'a age and interests, we chose to start with Arizona. All of our previous vacations had been to Florida and Disney World, or various cruises around the Caribbean. This was our first true driving vacation. And, drive we did...all across Arizona and up through a teeny bit of Colorado, and Utah. We saw so many amazing sites, it's difficult to pick a favorite. It's clear that Tessa enjoyed them all. We couldn't have asked for her response to our little field trip to the desert to have been anything more.
Friday, May 10 - St. Louis to Phoenix to Tucson
- Arrived in Phoenix by air.
- Ate dinner at The Fry Bread House.
- Drove to our hotel in Marana, just outside of Tucson.
Tessa tried the children's cheese fry bread meal, which is a lot like an open-face quesadilla, except on fry bread. The Fry Bread House serves authentic Native American food and is owned and operated by the Tohono O'odham Nation of southern Arizona. While we enjoyed our entire meal, we especially liked the chocolate fry bread dessert...fry bread with chocolate syrup drizzled all over the top. Mmm!
Saturday, May 11 - Tucson to Phoenix
- Ate breakfast at Bisbee Breakfast Club.
- Visited Saguaro National Park - West.
- Visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
- Ate dinner at Rawhide: Western Town and Steakhouse in Chandler.
- Drove the rest of the way back to Phoenix to our hotel.
|Tessa on the trail to Valley View Overlook at Saguaro National Park - West.|
|Saguaros start blooming in May and fruit mid-summer. Their large milky-white flowers open at night and then close by early afternoon the following day. Bats and doves are their primary pollinators.|
|We saw many petroglyphs as we traveled across Arizona, but this small grouping atop Signal Hill Trail at Saguaro National Park - West were the most accessible.|
|Before we left home, Tessa said she hoped to see a scorpion on our trip. She got her wish at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. One exhibit featured scorpions that glowed beneath black lights!|
Sunday, May 12 - Phoenix to Camp Verde to Clarksdale to Sedona to Flagstaff to Williams
|Southern Sinagua farmers built what is known today as Montezuma Castle during the 1100s CE. Built in a cliff recess, the dwelling is five stories tall and features twenty rooms.|
|Montezuma Castle stands one hundred feet above the valley. Although large in size and definitely worth seeing, we enjoyed the cliff dwellings at both Walnut Canyon and Navajo National Monument more.|
|A quick snapshot of Tessa at a roadside overlook in Sedona.|
|Tessa cabbaged onto a couple of Sedona "red rocks" for her rock collection.|
Monday, May 13 - Williams to Grand Canyon - South Rim to Williams to Flagstaff
- Ate breakfast at Pine Country Restaurant.
- Rode the Grand Canyon Railway to and from Grand Canyon - South Rim.
- Drove to our hotel in Flagstaff.
- Ate dinner at Oregano's Pizza Bistro.
|Tessa at Hopi Point, Grand Canyon - South Rim.|
|It's the Grand Canyon! Just as big and beautiful as I remembered it.|
Tuesday, May 14 - Flagstaff to Winslow to Holbrook to Chinle
- Visited Walnut Canyon National Monument.
- Visited Meteor Crater.
- Visited Petrified Forest National Park.
- Drove to our hotel in Chinle.
Tessa tested out a cliff recess at Walnut Canyon that was probably used by the Sinagua people for storage.
|Tessa at Meteor Crater, the best preserved crater on Earth. We arrived at just the right time to take a "free" guided tour along the rim given by the head guide. It was very enjoyable!|
|Tessa sat on one of the many giant petrified logs on the Giant Logs trail near the Rainbow Forest Museum entrance of Petrified Forest National Park.|
Wednesday, May 15 - Chinle to Teec Nos Pos to Bluff (Utah)
- Visited Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
- Toured lower Canyon de Chelly with De Chelly Tours.
- Visited Four Corners Monument.
- Drove to our hotel (Desert Rose Inn & Cabins) in Bluff, Utah.
- Ate dinner (and breakfast the following morning) at Twin Rocks Cafe.
|Tessa at Four Corners Monument...standing in four states at once!|
|We ended up staying in Bluff, Utah only because there are an extreme shortage of hotels around Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and the Navajo Nation, in general. We stumbled across Bluff Fort Historic Site while on the road to our hotel. It is brand new and well done. Tessa enjoyed perusing the many furnished log cabin replicas and covered wagons. The large gift shop offered some of the best prices around. Bluff, Utah was settled by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints during the late 1800s, so this was quite a unique stop for us, given the nature of the rest of our trip.|
Thursday, May 16 - Bluff (Utah) to Monument Valley to Tonalea to Page
- Visited Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
- Visited Navajo National Monument.
- Drove to our hotel in Page.
- Visited Glen Canyon Dam.
- Ate dinner at Fiesta Mexicana.
|Tessa at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The landscape looks a bit hazy in the background due to a whole lot of blowing dust!|
|Navajo National Monument...my favorite cliff dwelling! So beautiful and unique. The place I would have chosen had I lived in this region almost a thousand years ago.|
|Tessa worked a pair of binoculars to get a closer look at the Betatakin dwelling (see pic above) at Betatakin Overlook at Navajo National Monument.|
Friday, May 17 - Page to Cameron to Flagstaff to Phoenix
- Visited Antelope Canyon via Overland Canyon Tours.
- Visited Horseshoe Bend.
- Stopped by Cameron Trading Post.
- Drove through Flagstaff to our hotel in Phoenix.
|Tessa at Upper Antelope Canyon near Page, which may be accessed only by guided tour. You need a four-wheel drive vehicle and experienced driver to get there!|
|Tessa at Horseshoe Bend in Page. I wasn't about to set her closer to edge to get the better shot below.|
|It's quite the little hike to get to and from Horseshoe Bend. There's a lot of sand and uphills to traverse, but you are rewarded with a very nice view in the end.|
Saturday, May 18 - Phoenix to St. Louis
- Flew back to St. Louis.
- Drove home.