Mark and I woke up to the amazing Southern Arizona landscapes. Our rest area bordered one of the nearby national forests with rock formations that made me finally feel like I was at home. We filled our waters and made coffee before heading towards Tucson.
Saguaro National Park
Our first stop was Saguaro National Park! Which is the closest National Park to our house, yet in the two years we lived in Phoenix we never visited. We had no choice but to finally visit during our full time travels. We started at the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center or the East side of the park. We chatted with a very educated ranger about good hikes and bikes around the east side. We watched the park film and wandered the gift shop and educational exhibit.
Then we grabbed our bikes and biked a few miles of the Cactus Forest Loop Drive. After our ride we had a nice lunch and drove around the loop. We took a few amazing hikes, got stuck in a desert monsoon and had an all around amazing time.
After our day at the park concluded we headed to Anytime fitness for showers and yoga. Our evening was spent in a Cracker Barrel, which by now I think we are expert Crackerdockers (boondocking but at cracker barrels).
Our second day in Tucson we headed to the West Side and started with the Red Hills Visitor Center. I watched the amazing park film that ended with a reveal of huge windows overlooking an amazing amount of cacti. Then we chose to take a more strenuous hike starting at King Canyon Trailhead. It was just like I remember hiking in the desert, dry and rocky… but the cacti and desert biodiversity was amazing to see. On our way back to the trailhead we even had a Rattlesnake cross our path! And then in the parking lot we saw a coyote! Ares wasn’t a fan of his long lost relative. Our next stop was the easy Signal Hill Petroglyph hike to see the neat art left behind by the native people of the area. We always assume that things in history are done for a reason, but Mark pointed out that it’s very possible that these were done for fun! We finished the scenic drive before heading home to Phoenix!
Phoenix, Sedona & Flagstaff
Our van was parked right next to our old apartment building, where we had watched other van lifers while we sat in our apartment dreaming of this life for ourselves. Mark and I walked down to Roosevelt Row, our old favorite hang out. We grabbed dinner and enjoyed being home. Ares particularly enjoyed the park he was so familiar with.
The next day was filled with a ton of errands. We needed to go to my doctor appointment, early vote, check our PO box, stop by our storage unit and exchange our summer gear for our winter wardrobes, get Mark a new phone, give Ares a much needed bath and make sure we had enough time to work!
We got it all done and had a nice work evening at ASU polytech before heading to a local Harkins to see a movie. We spent another restful evening at a Cracker Barrel.
The next day we packed up and headed toward Sedona. The Sedona library is an amazing place to work filled with fellow nomads like ourselves. We worked and got on an amazing hike at Soldiers Pass. We had some trouble finding BLM as they have severely restricted what used to be open camping areas. We spent the night in a crowded campsite off a forest road before heading towards Flagstaff.
In Flagstaff we felt at home again. Mark and I spent the day at the local library working before I met up with a new friend, Caitlyn. She is part of the NPAD group that I will be going to Peru with. We had a great meal together before I headed back to the library and Mark and I drove to our favorite camping spot near Snowbowl.
We had an easy and slow morning before another day of library work and a meal out at Dark Sky Brewing.
Another night at our wonderful camp spot, though this time we ended up with a spot covered in trash that we had to pick up. Please remember to leave no trace- or every forest will be like Sedona or even closed down to camping.
Petrified Forest National Park
After another slow morning we worked a bit more and headed to Petrified Forest National Park.
The Visitors Center had noticed a poster with a dog on it that looked exactly like Ares! We headed in to grab our stamps and stickers and Mark chatted with a Ranger. He was kind of unhelpful… Mark asked him what the best way to drive to Moab, UT and things to do on the way. He simply pointed to every NPS run site in Arizona regardless of if they were on the way or not. Then he complained that we didn’t really do Arizona if we hadn’t gone to all of them. Not knowing if we had been to any, which we had done quite a few of them living in AZ for the past few years. The ranger was also the only white staff member we saw in the entire park, which is in a Native reservation, so maybe he was just the local asshole.
After our lousy Ranger interaction we checked in with our annual pass at the entrance gate and set off on the scenic drive. We stopped at a few amazing overlooks of the painted desert and the crystal forest. Mark got to touch a big slice of petrified wood and we had our “petrifiquestions” answered.
Then we headed back to the front of the park as the sun was setting. I watched the sun set behind us in the van mirrors and we pulled up to a Navajo Rest Stop for the evening. The Navajo’s still have COVID mask rules in effect and we happily followed the rules and watched many other travelers complain about them and get kicked out.
Our Arizona trip seemed like such a rush and I wish we could have spent longer in the state we have learned to call home. Next time…
Soon we will be off to a state none of us have ever been! In fact it is all going to be new experiences until we reach Portland.