Arizona: More than a Desert
Updated: Mar 13
Growing up in the Midwest, never leaving and rarely ever thinking of anywhere else with enough depth to grasp what other places had to offer, I assumed Arizona was just a dry and dusty wasteland. At least that's what Trevor made it sound like in third grade when he went to visit his grandma. For some reason not even the Grand Canyon could make me believe that Arizona could be beautiful, however, that all changed after a drive. Eventually I found myself California bound on the 40 and cruising through a town known as Flagstaff. Yeah, I was deprived of worldly things and didn't even know it existed until I drove through. Imagine the amazement that filled my body when I was cruising through Arizona and realized that they had mountains! To make this long winded history of my my Arizona discovery shorter, I fell in love immediately and needed to come explore more of the beautiful landscapes of the area. This wouldn't happen for another eight years though.
After years of just passing through I finally got to live right in the heart of Flagstaff, as extremely brief as it was. I afforded myself the time and resources to go explore what this magnificent state had to offer. From the Canyons to the South in Sedona all the way up and over the San Francisco Mountains and North, to the mecca of canyons, Grand Canyon National Park. I learned about the different ecosystems that are intertwined as the landscapes change and with it, the weather. Arizona isn't just an oven turned on high everyday of the year. They do have seasons. It was an experience that opened my eyes to what we normally perceive about places before visiting. I guess I had found it easy to look at a topographic map and assume one area or another would be too boring to bother with. Lesson learned.
One of the first family trips I took when we arrived in Arizona was to Mather Point Lookout at the Grand Canyon. This is where all the famous photos and selfies are taken. It's also the starting point to the famous Rim-to-Rim hike that allows hikers to traverse the canyon from the South rim all the way down, through the canyon and up and out onto the North rim. All in all it is a 24 mile hike that you will need a backcountry permit if you intend on camping in the canyon and making it a multi-day hike. You can see the trail starting point and follow it a little ways before it is lost in the vastness of the canyon. This place truly makes everything else seem so incredibly small. Not just when standing on the edge, but looking out and not seeing an end. You feel as though you are standing beside a stone ocean with no end in sight, just more and more and more canyon.
This is definitely a theme in Arizona. Canyons. South of Flagstaff is the famous city of Sedona. Also renowned for its breathtaking canyons and landscapes, it is a place that is similar and different in beautiful ways. Sedona sees some major traffic too, with places like Boynton Canyon and the Subway Cave, it's become a very popular place to visit! Some people do happen to see the Grand Canyon and to them they indeed have seen all they needed in Arizona, however, for the adventurous it is almost necessary to explore the similarities in Sedona to find the beautiful differences.
Outside of the natural beauty, the city of Sedona is nestled into the canyon like they had a truce for the people to be cradled by the towering walls all around. Truly a spectacular place to see. The drive in from the North starts to reveal the hidden beauties like Easter eggs as you wind down from Flagstaff on a precarious two lane roads on the side of the cliffs. A micro adventure as a warmup for the fun you are about to embark on when you finally arrive!
Flagstaff was home base for me and therefore where I did a majority of my exploring. Whether testing out gear, climbing up some mountains or just looking to get out of the house for a bit. There was never a shortage of things to go do and see in Flagstaff. One of my first hikes was up Elden Mountain. Providing an amazing view of Flagstaff's entirety to the south and breathtaking views of the San Francisco range to the North it's still one of my favorite little hikes in the area. There are numerous trails in the area that climb up and around the mountains in the area. There is no shortage of hiking anywhere in the area.
One of my favorite places to go was Buffalo Park. Starting in city limits, this place is basically a mini central station of the network of trails in the area. Going straight north you'll leave the park and walk through Coconino National Forest for awhile before getting to these cool bouldering caves. I got to spend some time here in complete solitude some mornings and it was the reset I needed for the week. Buffalo Park in the morning, heading out to the boulders, it is very common to come across the Mule Deer bedded down from the night before getting ready to start their day as well.
More than just a desert, just this small area of Arizona that I explored in detail has told a completely different story than that of my childhood presumptions. A welcomed lesson that has propelled me into finding more gems to explore. Arizona was an amazing time for me personally, outside of all this. Photographing material wasn't a "job", I didn't have clear cut sessions for content, I just existed there. It was almost like that was the way it was intended to be. An aura of just being in nature and letting it decide where the journey goes. I look forward to going back and going after some new and even bigger adventures next time!!!