In October 2017 I flew to Phoenix, Arizona for 10 days over the Halloween holiday with a final destination of the Grand Canyon National Park. For this trip, I flew out of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin airport. This bit of information is very important later. I also found out Arizona is not on daylight saving time, so there is actually a 2-hour difference from home. When I arrived in Phoenix, it was pretty late at night. But I was hungry and actually got something to eat at a fish place. A fish place? Yes, that's correct. In the desert? Yes, that's correct. And it was very good. Then I called it a night.

A drive of about 50 miles east of Phoenix places you in the Superstition Mountains range area. I went to the Goldfield Ghost Town and took their 'gold mine' tour. The whole surrounding area is part of the nearly 3 million-acre Tonto National Forest. A forest not so much filled with trees, but a lot of saguaro cactus. In the heart of the Superstition Mountains is scenic Canyon Lake, a nice surprise amongst all the barren desert land. It actually is a reservoir formed by the damming of the Salt River.

Just south on the edge of Phoenix is the aptly named South Mountain. It provides views over Phoenix at Dobbins Point, an elevation of 2,330 feet (710 metres). Sadly, a bicyclist was killed by a car on the road from/to the peak of South Mountain. One road up and the same road down. All of us were stranded at the top of the mountain or on the road because the police closed the road for the forensic investigation. It was approximately 3 hours. The Police literally airlifted (helicoptered) water and snacks for the people that were on the mountain top and road since we couldn't get down and there are no facilities there. I found out later that night on the news, the woman driving was on drugs. I eventually made it down, obviously. After going to get something to eat and a bathroom break (not necessarily in that order), I then went to historic and recently restored, Tovrea Castle and gardens. Nearby was Papago Park, a large city park where they have a Hole-in-the-Rock trail (pretty much what you would expect).

I left Phoenix to head about 115 miles (185 kilometres) north toward Sedona, to spend several days in that area of Arizona. This is a very scenic area. I stopped along the way at Montezuma Castle National Monument. These cliff dwellings are from around the 12th century and are built into the side of a limestone cliff. Most European 12th century buildings I have seen are castles, this is built into a mountain.

Happy Halloween! Today I drove to the town of Jerome. It's a bit hard to describe, it's a former copper mining town that is now a ghost town (appropriate on this day), but it's being lived in. In the twenties there were about 10,000 people living here, today there's about 500. So, most of the buildings are abandoned, run down, or just falling down. But then there are restaurants, gift shops, and stores, all open for business. I personally did not see any ghosts, but I assumed they were all busy that day. Part of the scenic wonder around Sedona are a lot of reddish orange sandstone mountains. I like to think they colored them orange just for Halloween so they looked like giant pumpkins. By the way, besides no ghosts, I didn't see the Great Pumpkin either.

While Sedona has both modern and old parts, the old Sedona town center has a lot of tourist shops and an appealing main street. Besides spending some time in the old town center, I decided to take an off-road Pink Jeep ride around Sedona. It was crazy! They actually drive you into the mountains on the back roads around Sedona (if you could call them roads, more like trails). Up, down, left, right, extremely rough. The driver did a couple 45-degree climbs, both up and down. Oh, and dusty! My hair and clothes were covered in the Sedona red dust (a cheap souvenir?). It was a real experience.

The next stop was only a short driving distance further north to Flagstaff, 30 miles (50 kilometres). Despite this, there were several national monuments in the area I saw. The Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument erupted about a thousand years ago (missed it). The area surrounding it still has a lava flow as well as a lot of black volcanic rock and ash. The Wupatki National Monument has several different Pueblo dwelling settlements that are all about 800 years old. The largest, Wupatki, was originally about 100 rooms. Talk about a room with a view.

Happy full Moon! A little late for Halloween, but it had to happen sooner or later (still no ghosts). I spent some time walking around the historic Flagstaff downtown district. It's located on historic and world-renowned Route 66. Many of the buildings in the historic downtown district are from around 1900. For example, the Weatherford Hotel from 1898, still in operation as a hotel. I think the dry desert heat does something to taste buds of Arizonans, but in a good way. Walking around the historic district I found a Hawaiian BBQ restaurant. A Hawaiian BBQ? Yes, that's correct. In the desert? Yes, that's correct. And it was very good. So, first fish and now Hawaiian. Were you expecting rattle snake diners everywhere?

It was bound to happen, I finally made it the last 80 miles (129 kilometres) to the Grand Canyon National Park, the south rim to be specific. Spectacular scenery! Since it's not that far of a drive from Flagstaff, I got there early and spend a whole day driving the 25 mile (40 kilometre) south rim Desert View Drive. Several places to stop and see the canyon (lots of pictures), with each one presenting its own special viewing angle. As long as you are looking in the direction of the canyon, beautiful, turn around, and not so much. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. As a side note, it's about 210 miles (338 kilometres) to the north rim from Flagstaff. Interesting fact, since I'm mentioning the north rim, even though the Grand Canyon is a giant hole in the ground, the north rim is actually 1,000 feet (305 metres) higher than the south rim. To quote Fred Flintstone - 'They expect it to be a big thing someday'.

I needed to drive back the 145 miles (233 kilometres) to Phoenix from Flagstaff to catch my flight home on the last day. But since it was a late evening flight, I still made a couple stops in some small, really nice towns. The highlight was the town of Cave Creek. The main street is set up like an old western town, but unfortunately no boardwalks and the cars were still allowed to drive down the main street. Still pretty nice.

I got to the Phoenix airport in plenty of time. Talk about strange, there's a 07:40 p.m. flight departing to both Chicago and Milwaukee. Obviously, different flight numbers. So, I was standing in line at the information desk to find out why my flight number and gate on my boarding pass are different than what was posted on the departure board. Only then did I realize I'm flying to Milwaukee, not Chicago...

See, full circle. I hope you paid attention at the beginning of my story. When I departed Phoenix, it was 75°F (24°C) and 50°F (10°C) in Chicago. The heat must have got to me. Anyway. Home.

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Tonto National Forest, Arizona - My first classic saguaro cactus on this trip, but definitely not the largest or the last.


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Apache Junction, Arizona - Goldfield Ghost Town (established 1893) on the foot of the Superstition Mountains. Notice, no people, but see the ghosts?


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Phoenix, Arizona - The Arizona Capitol Building stands at the end of the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, which includes many memorials honoring prominent figures, wars, and events in Arizona history.


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Phoenix, Arizona - From atop the highest point in Phoenix, Camelback Mountain rises to 2,706 feet (825 metres).


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Phoenix, Arizona - Papago Park, while located near the city centre, looks like an Oasis in the Desert.


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Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona - Built 90 feet (27 metres) up the cliff side, these dwellings from approximately 1100 AD are one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in North America. Next time, I'll go to Mesa Verde in Colorado for the best-preserved ones.


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Sedona, Arizona - Sedona is surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls, and pine forests. Did I mention a lot of tourists?


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Sedona, Arizona - Snoopy Rock, as he lays on his doghouse. There's also a Lucy Rock nearby.


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Sedona, Arizona - Me on the Pink Jeep back country off-road adventure. The ride was wild!


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Sedona, Arizona - The Chapel of the Holy Cross, completed in 1956, has heavenly views of the surrounding Sedona countryside. But parking is the devils.


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Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona - The 1,120-foot (340 metre) dome are the remains of the last eruption in 1085 AD.


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Wupatki National Monument, Arizona - One of the several ancient Pueblo ruins in the area. Looks like no one was home.


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Flagstaff, Arizona - Part of the old town, along the world-famous Route 66, still has many old buildings standing.


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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - The colorful outfit I wore blends right into the landscape.


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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - Wow! OK, I'm done.


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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - Soak it all in.


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Anywhere in Arizona - My last saguaro cactus on this trip, and definitely the largest. Pure coincidence I'm wearing the same clothes as my first encounter.