Day 3: If you ever have the chance, always choose the scenic route.

Back at it again in the Coconio National Forest. We ventured south and slightly west from Flagstaff to Sedona today and then on to Mesa. Remember a couple days ago when I said I need to enhance my personal dictionary? Yeah, I’m having those same feels again today. I’m a rural Minnesota girl. I grew up surrounded by trees and summers fishing off the dock in my grandma’s back yard. I know pretty when I see it. Granted, it’s not difficult to impress me in that capacity but consider me overwhelmed in all the best ways today.

There are two main ways to get yourself from Flagstaff, which is basically a retirement community, to Sedona. You can be a Meh Mary by taking I-17 and then some crossroad highway like some kind of non-adventurer OR you can take the scenic route along 89A which is approximately 50 miles or for us, nearly 3 hours. #notevenbeingdramatic #wowafterwow #icannotbelievethis #notgoinghome

You guys. Not to take a single descriptive sentence away from the Grand Canyon’s glory that I witnessed yesterday but I can’t even begin to explain the trek to Sedona this morning. After yesterday, the rest of our trip was very loosely planned. We wanted to see the GC and we wanted to relax a bit poolside, back in Mesa. We expected to take our time today and see what Sedona had to offer but had very little info about what was up from here to there and all that lies in between.

We began our descent on SR 89A through Oak Creek Canyon right after checking out of our hotel. I’ve never ever been on a descent like this. The road was thin, I suspect semi-trucks aren’t allowed to travel this route. The pine tree forests were the skyscrapers of our day and jagged rocks hugged the not-actually-there shoulder of the road on both sides. Thankfully, there were pull-offs all along the road so I could get out, gaze up and then down, until my neck ached. As the driver, I was both white-knuckling my steering wheel and looking as far up as I possibly could to take in what we were seeing and what was to come below us. Thank you Jesus for our angels today guiding us along that road. There were more hairpin turns than I could count twisting us in circles and the tree lines were so dramatic, I wish you could have seen them.

While briefly scanning the wold wide web this morning, I came across a blog post that said you have to go up and then down SR 89-A so that each person can get a chance to see the drive and remain in awe the entire time. Now that I’m writing this, I can’t seem to track that post down but if I come back across it, I’ll be sure to share. From the natural springs to the wildlife and rock formations; there isn’t a single second you could possibly lose interest along this route. It’s simply incredible from top to bottom.

There were a handful of trails along today’s route that we could have, should have, stopped at. A walk to explore would have been nice. We didn’t realize it until after we passed, but within Coconio National Forest, along this road, lies Slide Rock State Park. By the time we realized the sign and entrance, we were just passed it and were in the lead of what seemed like a million cars. I wish there had been a secondary entrance or a sign 1/4 mile back for us to know what was coming up.

Along one of the places we pulled off on, was Midgley Bridge. I stopped there just to take in the sites. The closer we got to Sedona, the more and more red rocks we saw. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, this region of the United States is severely underrated. I’ve always thought of Arizona as a place that people head to when they are retired. That snow bird life and all. All of our grandparents have been hiding this sacred gem of a state from us. How dare they! Also, maybe AZ tourism needs to up their game. Holla at your girl and I’ll help you out!


We didn’t explore the city of Sedona much. We actually had planned to get pedicures but that fell through. I had wanted to visit the Holy Cross Church. This ended up just being a drive by for us. Everyone and their brother had the same idea I did. It would have been neat to find our way into the church built into the side of a rock but we’ll survive.

If the trip to Sedona wasn’t already a highlight to the day, our stop at the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park definitely was. Before the last couple of days, I’d never heard of a stupa. By definition, a stupa is: a monumental pile of earth or other material, in memory of Buddha or a Buddhist saint, and commemorating some event or marking a sacred spot. We parked in a small lot at the base of this area, there were only a couple of vehicles besides ours there. This peace park brought us up a twisty dirt path towards the stupa and a few other spiritual artifacts. Along the way were benches and prayer flags in trees lining the path.

This area has been marked holy by those native to Sedona and is thought to bring healing and transformation to those that visit. The stupa itself has a square sidewalk around the parameter. You’re encouraged to walk around it three times, silently and slowly, in meditation; focusing on your prayers or wishes for peace in the world and in your life. The stupa is filled with millions and millions of prayers and blessings.

I lost count the number of times I walked around this stupa. It was so peaceful. Rarely do I allow myself the gift of meditating and taking the opportunity to disconnect completely from technology and the bustling world. As we spent time here, more people came but everyone was respectful and quiet; taking in the presence of peace and prayer as they walked around. This park and the area around is known for being a spiritual vortex; full of transformative and healing energy. If you find yourself in Sedona, which I hope you do, I urge you to stop at this remote and beautiful spot. There are nearly 14 acres to this park and we only explored a fraction of it. I hope to come back and spend more time here someday.

And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite (it was hard to narrow down) Buddhist quotes:

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. -Buddha


There is so much more I’d like to elaborate on in regards to Buddhism. I’ll try to make time for that in a later post. I named my cat Bodhi (age 2) which is a Buddhist term for the knowledge of wisdom or awakened intellect. I have many Buddha’s in my home and find myself drawn towards the wisdom and calm that they bring to me. Stay tuned.

Day 2: It’s as if we were all just trying to slow down, let nature in, and quiet our restless minds.

If any a day to accomplish a whole lot of everything, today was it. Now, I usually post photos at the very end of a post but I have to break that self-made rule because today’s 5:15 a.m. wake time was motivated by the view below. This is Mather Point at the Grand Canyon. It was freezing. Like, right at or around freezing for realz. BUT so. freaking. worth. it.

To say the Grand Canyon is beautiful is an understatement. I really need to freshen up on my personal dictionary. No wonder this place has been named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. I have to be honest, while Arizona and more specifically, the Grand Canyon were on my bucket list of places to see, I had loads and loads more places on that list ahead of this trip. After today, I don’t know why. I genuinely believe that Arizona is one of the most underrated and breathtaking places I’ve ever been to (literally and visually). Everywhere I’ve been blessed with having the opportunity to go to, has been gorgeous; I can find beauty nearly every place I’ve been but holy shit to the GC. I had no idea.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, who knows? Am I THAT naive or can I blame a handful of cruddy geography and history teachers along my path of brain growth? I’ll play it safe and sit in the middle on that debate.

I’m going to keep today’s post as short as I possibly can because we covered A LOT of ground today. With that being said, we all know this is going to be long AF because YA GORL cannot condense anything. #teamlongstorylong

So, along with tons of other official natural wonders or not, the tourist scene is wildly organized at the Grand Canyon. There are three shuttle lines within the park (orange blue, and red). There’s actually a fourth line (purple) but that goes to and from Tusayan. We didn’t opt to do that. The cool thing about the shuttles is that you can hop on and off any of them. They each have their specific routes but there are a few opportunities to jump off one bus and onto another. They run pretty frequently too; anywhere from 10-15 minutes.

We first took the shuttle from Yavapai Lodge to Mather Point (where we saw that bomb ass sunrise). Then we took the shuttle from there all the way up to Hermit’s Rest. That’s the furthest west point on the South Rim. BTW, we were in the South Rim the entire time. There is a North Rim portion but that would have been a couple more hours to drive last night. From my research, the southern rim is the more touristy of the two.

From Mather Point, there were so many stops. We tried to plan our day out strategically based on reviews I’d read about but there was no way we’d get through the entire rim in the day. We took the good ol’ trolley through Market Plaza and the Village without getting off. If there was time later, we would. We did stop at a handful of places along the route up to Hermits Rest though. Hopi Point, Mohave Point, and Pima Point were my favorites. A couple of stops are super close together so you can walk from one to the other. At the end of this post, I’ll likely share a stupid amount of photos that may all look the same to you but they definitely aren’t.

What the photos don’t show or tell is how vast the GC really is. The day was a perfect 58 degrees. The skies, a sweet #5EADE5 blue. I’ve never been anywhere where there were so many people throughout but so little sound. It’s as if we were all just trying to slow down, let nature in, and quiet our restless minds. While it looked like an off-brown ball point pen line drawn into the canyons, it was so quiet that we could hear the Colorado River (can you spot it below?). My mom even dared to say that the Grand Canyon was more captivating than the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

One thing I haven’t mentioned but I did read about while researching, was the air to lung ratio, or lack there of. I had briefly read that those interested in hiking down and back up (those people are crazy and also my wanna-be spirit animals) should be warned of the altitude variations especially to those traveling from an altitude much different than here. And holy crap could we feel it. Even during the drive from Mesa north, we started to notice the change in altitude. The thinner air really did make it much harder to breathe. This effected my mom quite a bit more than me but we did make a point of taking our time and pacing ourselves throughout the day. I don’t know what kind of made-of-steal lungs hikers have but I want a sip of that medicine. The views we witnessed today were worth every single second of the 7000+ feet above sea level hikes we took today.

Once we picked up our jaws from the views along Hermits Rest, we hopped back aboard the red shuttle due east. We found ourselves a taco food truck in the Visitor Center Area and hung out enjoying the cool-to-everyone but warm-to-us weather. Did I mention our winter was brutal? 58 degrees felt like 90 but a good 90.

We finished up our day at Yaki Point and then decided to head back to the Yavapai Lodge area to make our way back south and over to Flagstaff. The only chunk of the South Rim that we didn’t get a chance to venture towards was Desert View. There is a watchtower up there that I would have loved to climb. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d have been able to because of the oxygen fun we were having but I’ll be making it a priority next time I visit.


I had no plans to see anything exciting once we left the Grand Canyon today. Really, can the GC be beat? We just needed to get to our hotel in Flagstaff but we managed to find some really REALLY cool pit-stops along the way. The trek from the south entrance area of the GC to Flagstaff is only about 90 minutes but it took us well over two hours. This seems to be a recurring theme for this trip. On our way, we found Yabba Dabba Doo Fintstones Bedrock City! Who would have thunk? It didn’t appear to be in working order anymore which really is a tragedy but a few cool photo ops were necessary.

Cue Williams, AZ. I’ve had so many “when I grow up” dreams, I could fill a book. Anywhere from a yellow brick road trail through the woods to secret garden as dreamy as the book I read until the pages were lose and watched in movie form back when VHS tapes were still cool. Today, I found another dream I didn’t even know I had and it currently resides in Williams. I hope my ‘somewhere in the future’ babies want a tipi in the backyard instead of a playhouse. The tipi below was a part of a little village touristy shop on the side of the road. I instantly thought of my niece Emma and how she’d love to have this all to herself in the back of my parents yard. I can’t wait to tell her all about it when I get home.

Lastly, before arriving in Flagstaff, we stumbled upon the sweetest little slanted church in the middle of the Coconino National Forest near the base of the San Francisco Peaks. At the enterance of this quaint and mostly deserted church, I had to duck to get in. As I walked around to the other side of the small building, I was greeted by an entire wall filled with glass. This place was remarkable. Could you imagine getting married here?! I would LOVE it! I couldn’t wait to read up more about this place once we arrived at the hotel tonight. Here’s an excerpt I found:

Chapel of the Holy Dove: In the summer of 1961, with the help of his sons and some hired hands, the 41 year-old Watson Lacy, with no experience as a builder, used explosives to create holes in the rock beneath the Chapel to secure and position the large Ponderosa Pine logs which comprised the original A-shaped structure framing the San Francisco Peaks. Local volcanic rock and petrified wood was used to build the supporting stone walls. The Chapel was completed in 1962. The beauty of the Peaks affirmed the goodness and majesty of God. They wanted to give travelers the opportunity to share it. –Ghost Town AZ

For anyone still with me, if time permits, I would definitely plan for a full two days at the Grand Canyon alone. I’ve shared more photos at the end of this post and I hope you love them as much as I cherish them. Our trip to AZ is a short one. Since we had such a ways to drive from start to finish, we wanted to make sure to see a few places on the way so we opted to cut our time at the GC short in order to enjoy the ride back to Flagstaff and tomorrow, Mesa. While it’s a bummer we didn’t get to spend more time further north, I’m glad we left when we did or we wouldn’t have been able to capture the awe these few stops along the way brought us. I don’t know where the Grand Canyon is on your bucket list, or Arizona for that matter but I would encourage you to move it up. Like way TF up. We have two more days in this lush state and I can’t hardly wait!