We celebrated our anniversary in Arizona. Although Arizona is mostly desert, it has many National Parks. We flew to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove to the south.
First stop was Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. We bought the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands "America the Beautiful" annual pass for $80, which gives free or discounted access to national parks throughout the US.
We joined a tour by one of the park rangers, and he told us the stories, i.e. How was the building made?
Then we went to the west Saguaro National Park - Tucson Mountain District. The presentation video is great, must watch!
We climbed the 0.3 mile Signal Hill Trail, it took us to see dozens of ancient petroglyphs (on the rocks) more than 800 years old.
We stayed overnight in Tucson. The next day, we went to the east Saguaro National Park - Rincon Mountain District.
A couple were setting up their tricycles, seemed fun.
The Saguaro are giant cacti that look human shaped.
This is the only one I found with a head different than others (most have round heads). Perhaps it is the leader.
A heart shape Prickly Pear cactus, I found several.
Then we went to Tumacacori National Historical Park. This was an old mission to spread Christianity to the native people, originally founded by the Jesuits, then eventually taken over by the Franciscans.
These cacti look like flowers.
We were on time to join a tour, outside and inside the ruin, a Frontier Church.
The guide told us the lady makes very good traditional, homemade tortillas for visitors, it is free.
After the tour, we tasted it - yummy. The filling is mesquite bean paste and salsa.
We drove on an unpaved scenic route to Sierra Vista, where we stayed the night.
We headed to Coronado National Memorial the next day. We climbed the 0.75 miles Cave Trail, those Agave cacti are dried but beautiful.
The elevation is 5700 feet at Coronado Cave. We decided not go inside the cave because there is no path go down, other than scrambling over the rocks, it is deep & steep going down. Also, there were no other visitors when we were there, if we had a problem.
We drove to Montezuma Pass Overlook. This is at the border between the US and Mexico. We tried to walk to Coronado Peak Trail but didn't make it to the end because it was too windy and cold.
We stopped in Bisbee, once known as "Queen of the Copper Camps". This is an abandoned open pit mine.
The malachite stone with heart shaped line on a heart shaped pendant in the visitor center's gift shop. It got to go home with me.
We headed to Chiricahua National Monument, but the scenic drive was closed for road repairs.
Unfortunately we can only see a few of the rock pinnacles, unless we took a long hike.
One hour drive from there to Fort Bowie National Historic Site. It's not far from Chiricahua, but the roads are "primitive". The trail-head is the most convenient access, but there is also a visitor center that can be driven to, behind the maintenance building.
It was dark when we arrived Globe. We stayed at hotel where the parking lots were filled some motorbikes, a group of motorists travelling. The hotel staff said they come every year from all over the US and Canada. Most of the bikes were very nice, expensive looking Harley's.
Globe is near the Tonto National Monument. A paved trail from the visitor center takes us to the Lower Cliff Dwelling.
The ancient people in this area built dwellings in the valley and on hillsides.
(FYI, reservation needed for Upper Cliff Dwelling, it is 3-4 hour guided hike, with no paved trail.)
We can see the Theodore Roosevelt Lake from top.
Originally, I thought that the above National parks would be good enough for our 5 days trip plan, but we still have 1.5 days! So, I looked at the map, and we decided to head northeast after Steve remembered visiting the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert when he was young.
We drove across the lake to Petrified Forest National Park. The first stop was Rainbow Forest Museum.
What is petrified tree? How did a tree become stone?
The 0.4 mile loop of Giant Logs Trail in front of the museum, the largest petrified log in the park.
The 26 miles scenic drive between Rainbow Forest Museum and Painted Desert Visitor Center is beautiful, we stopped at all the viewpoints.
Historic "Route 66" used to cut through the park.
Showcase spectacular views of Painted Desert.
Painted Desert Inn, a National Historic Landmark, offers exhibits on the building's rich 20th century history. This hotel was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.
Steve was chatting with the ladies inside and they forgot the time until I asked the uniform staff: What time do you close?
The ladies awoke suddenly: "Oh, it's already past 5! We have to take down the flag!"
After that, we drove about 1.5 hours to Flagstaff, and stayed the night there.
The last day of the trip, we went to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. It is prohibited to climb to the volcano crater, but we walked the trails around there.
We drove along the Scenic Loop Road, stopping at all the viewpoints along the way. The end is Wupatki National Monument.
The Ballcourt in Wupatki Pueblo Trail.
A unique, geologic blowhole, you can feel the air blowing up from the ground.
Then we went to Walnut Canyon. When we saw the stairs on the trail, we gave up. We were tired, and this park is 6690 feet elevation, so air is thin.
We drove through Sedona.
We saw the Montezuma's Well sign on the highway to Montezuma Castle National Monument, but didn't exit.
When we came to the Montezuma Castle (above) visitor center, the staff told us Montezuma's Well is part of it.
So, we drove back! There was still a half hour before it closed.
After that, we headed to Phoenix stayed a night, (about 1250 miles driven through the beautiful landscapes) and flew back home the next day.