a cacti goodbye to Arizona

Arizona, what do we say?  We had an absolute blast.  Four months is just not enough time to really explore and get to know you.  

For our last Saturday in the desert, we drove out to Saguaro National Park to see the nation’s largest cacti.  Little known fact, they are actually called saguaros.  Will had the great idea to drive out to see them around golden hour and sunset, and then to have a farewell dinner in Tucson.  

We stamped our National Parks Passports at their visitor center, drove a dirt road loop, and took photos on the side of the road as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Instead of embellishing this experience with words, I think that I will allow our photos to do the talking this time around.  If you find yourself in Tucson at any point in the future, Saguaro National Park should be high on your list of things to experience.  

A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona // Saguaro National Park

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and let us know in the comments!  If you haven’t joined the family yet, hit that subscribe button and we’ll see you next time!

Until then,

Jamie out.

a very old castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Labor Day Weekend Part IV

Let’s be honest, Will and I had a very successful weekend trip.  We visited the site of a volcano, witnessed the sun rising over the Grand Canyon, and hiked almost thirteen miles along its rim.  Come Sunday morning, we were beat and ready to go home.  

We ate breakfast at the hotel, packed up, and then took some quick shots in the wild flowers beside the parking lot because we forgot to take our traditional selfies with our National Parks Passports that weekend.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

We got on the road pretty early but encountered a detour as we searched for Starbucks and my Pumpkin Spiced Latte fix.  We enjoyed the first part of our drive through Flagstaff as we discussed the future and what life is going to be like once we are back in North Carolina.

What we did not anticipate or plan for was almost being out of gas, but then deciding to push it and drive thirty more miles to get cheaper gas, and then seeing a sign right beside that gas station for a National Monument just six miles down the road.

“Let’s do it!”  We were so excited.  

We decided early on in our trip planning that we didn’t want to go to a National Park because “we might as well since it’s right there.”  If we aren’t feeling it, we aren’t going to go—the passports aren’t an obligation.  But this castle opportunity was just too good to pass up.

Montezuma Castle National Monument
(proud moment as my husband is getting really good at this posing for the camera thing)

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Structures like this capture my heart.  I absolutely love learning about and exploring places where people actually lived.  Old houses, forts, castles—you name it, I would probably love to explore it.  Case and point—Will and I met at an outing where we explored an abandoned school house (read about it here).

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

In order to see the castle, you have to go through the Visitor Center, which was ridiculously busy on Labor Day.  We patiently waded through the crowds to stamp our passports and then to read about the history of the 800 year old cliff dwelling and its inhabitants.  The diagram above is a map of the castle floor plans, which the public is not allowed to explore any more.  Back in the day a lot of vandalism occurred and visitors would take pieces of the castle as souvenirs, so in an effort to preserve the history, we can only look at it from afar these days.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle was named one of the first four National Monuments in 1906 by President Roosevelt.  He called it a place “of the greatest ethnological value and scientific interest.”  The well preserved site has been protected ever since.  Early visitors could actually climb up to the castle using ladders (I’m so jealous), but as of 1951 we can now only gaze at it from paved paths.  

What is super interesting about the site is 1) why the inhabitants built so high up into the cliff, and 2) why they randomly disappeared and moved on after living there for several hundred years.  Learning about the people who once made this place home is the benefit of spending some time in the Visitor Center before jumping outside to see the structure.

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

It was super interesting to see up close.  It made us wonder about older generations who had to climb ladders to get home and what inspired them to build in the cliff face in the first place.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

As you can see, it’s pretty high up from the ground.  At least this would offer protection from elements and predators.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

To the left of Montezuma Castle is another structure, “Castle A” that was excavated.  Because a lot of artifacts were lost when Montezuma was looted, the second dwelling offered a lot of information and understanding for anthropologists.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

This diorama was another cool picture into what life would have been like living in a cliff 800 years ago.  Check out their website here for more information and photos.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

We headed straight home after the castle to get some much needed rest and relaxation before heading back to work that week.

Next up in our adventures—our first camping trip together!  Join the family and hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss the next post.  If you liked those castle photos, give this post a like and let us know in the comments the favorite historical site you’ve ever visited!

Until next time,
Jamie out

Read More:
Labor Day Part I 
Labor Day Part II Labor Day Part III

Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim Trail

Ron Swanson said it’s okay to cry at the Grand Canyon.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

September 1, 2018 | Labor Day Part III

Will and I woke up at three o’clock in the morning—probably the earliest I have ever woken up in my life—to get ready, eat breakfast, and drive from our hotel to the south rim of The Grand Canyon.  We arrived right around five in the morning, parked in a super close parking spot, took a trip to the bathrooms (which was literally the most disgusting bathroom I have ever been in in my entire life—I’ll spare you the details), and then booked it to Mather Point, where we arrived just as golden hour began.

If you don’t know, golden hour is right around sunrise or sunset and the lighting, colors, and atmosphere are spectacular.  

God bless.  It was an incredible experience.  Click here to see the photos we snapped of the sun rising over the canyon walls.

We hung out for essentially all of golden hour, just drinking in the beauty, and then quickly ran back to the car to drop off a couple things before beginning our hike.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

The Rim Trail

Perhaps the most ambitious decision of my hiking life so far was to decide to hike the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon.  A thirteen mile trail that follows the rim for almost its entire length, the trial is “easy,” with very few elevation changes and a great deal of it is paved.  

I have never hiked or walked or ran anything close to thirteen miles straight.  I had minimal faith in us completing the entire trail, and in actuality we started at Mather Point, which is not the trail head but about 0.8 miles from it.  Will, on the other hand (remember the guy who can run a six minute mile and crush me with his pinky finger?) is very accustomed to twelve+ mile treks.  He was exceedingly optimistic.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We set out around 6:30 in the morning with packs on our backs.  I brought all of the camera gear because when are you ever going to hike the rim trail at the Grand Canyon again?  Probably never.  Will brought all of the snacks and water.  

Literally every turn and bend in the trail had us stopping in awe.  For photos, for staring, for moments of sheer joy and amazement.  God spent a little more time on you, Grand Canyon.  

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

There are a few great things about the Rim Trail.  Like I said above, the trail has very few elevation changes, so it is a fairly flat hike.  You aren’t climbing down into the canyon.  If you want to do that and you are very fit, the Bright Angel Trail might be for you.  Click here for some other day hikes at the south rim. 

The Rim Trail follows the same route as many of the shuttles, so you get some fantastic (and occasionally crowded) view points along the way.  However, because you’re hiking and not shuttle hopping, you also get the in-between view points that the shuttles don’t stop at.  Granted, there won’t be stairs and railings and information plaques at these view points, but who needs that when you have… the Grand Canyon literally in front of you for thirteen miles?

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Tip:  get up early to get a parking spot inside of the park, set out exploring before it gets super hot, and even if you’re there during peak season (or Labor Day Weekend, like us), the crowds will be significantly more manageable at ungodly morning hours.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

An interesting aspect of hiking at a place as widely known as The Grand Canyon is that you will encounter an incredible amount of ethnicities in just one day.  In our experience, this was mostly wonderful and exciting.  Occasionally you will encounter cultural differences that may be frustrating, such as a family camped out at a view point taking literally a hundred photos while you are obviously waiting (politely) for them to finish.  But all-in-all, we had great experiences with everyone on the trail.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We came across four deer at one point who were not even ten feet from the trail.  They were extremely comfortable with humans. 

We stopped after three miles to eat some granola bars, drink some water, and apply sunscreen.  The sun, having fully risen, was beginning to bathe the trail in its late summer light and my plaid shirt went in my backpack soon after we set off hiking again.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Some view points just get you.  Right in the feels.  Let me tell you, even when you are very tired and your legs and feet are killing you, this view never gets old.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We didn’t go to the Visitor Center prior to our hike—mostly because it wasn’t open yet—so it was nice to have certain pieces of information available along the trail.  We wondered about who the first human to even see the canyon was.  Well this guy, Major John Wesley Powell, was the first explorer of the Grand Canyon.  He and his crew explored the Colorado River that cuts through the canyon in their row boats in 1869.  

We later learned that the Grand Canyon was awarded federal protection in 1893, but was not made a National Park until 1919, which was three years after the National Park Service was established.  The canyon was already receiving over forty thousand visitors a year, compared to today’s five million.  If you want to read more about the park’s history, click here to visit the National Parks website.  

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

I pulled out my zoom lens at this point as we took a small hiking break.  We stood and stared at details like these for a long time.  The shadows of passing clouds darkening the landscape below.  The jagged white rocks with tufts of vegetation on their sides.  The red rock, crumbling and sharp in stark contrast to the younger layers of white rock above them.  You can see the erosion and passing of time in front of you.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Game time: can you spot Will?

(Disclaimer to Will’s mother.  I’m sorry—it was his idea. And yes, he was terrified.)

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Second game: can you spot the rain storm coming for us?

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

After stopping for lunch around eleven and then deciding to keep hiking after the comfort of a full stomach, the clouds began to roll in.  At first this was pretty gracious of them, seeing as the sun was high above us and the desert summer was getting hot on our necks.  

We began seeing rain storms in the distance, and even lightning farther away.  It was gorgeous.  It also made me a little nervous.

My legs had slowly begun to fall apart by this point of the hike.  It started with my calves and ankles and traveled slowly from my knees, to my quads, and finally to my glutes.  I was just about out of juice, but we only had a little over a mile left.  We would be done in no time!  Will’s encouragement was all I needed. 

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Well friends, with only a mile to go, the heavens opened and it began to absolutely pour on us.  We quickly covered my backpack with my rain cover, pulled our hats snuggly to our heads, and clutched our freezing cold hands as we powered through the last mile of our day hike in a deluge of monsoon season rain.  Our hike that had been in the mostly comfortable eighty degree range quickly plunged into the low sixties. 

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We did it!  What ended up being 12.2 miles for us took about seven hours.  My legs were falling off, I was limping the last mile, and our shoes were sodden.  But we did it.  We snapped a few pictures, climbed aboard a (very crowded) shuttle, and shivered the entire ride back to the Visitor Center.  We quickly got our National Parks Passports stamped, watched a short film about the formation of the canyon, perused the gift shop, and then basically flat out ran back to our car through the wind and rain to finally turn on the heater and warm up our soaked, frozen little selves.  

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

I could not walk like a proper human being for several days afterward.  But we did it.  When again in my life will I have the opportunity to walk almost the entire Grand Canyon South Rim Trail?  I’m so proud of us, but I am especially proud of myself.  I have been working out five days a week so that I could do THAT.  And I DID IT.  

Backpacking through Zion here I come.

What is the longest distance you have ever hiked?!  Leave it in the comments below!  If you enjoyed this post, let me know by giving it a “like,” and if you haven’t joined our family yet, hit that subscribe button!

Until next time,
Jamie out.

Read More:
Labor Day Part I Labor Day Part II

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

For those who have never seen it, or for those would like to re-live this once in a lifetime experience, I would like to invite you all to witness the sun rising over the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

Labor Day Part II

sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon sunrise at the Grand Canyon

“You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it, you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths.” -John Wesley Powell

Until next time,
Jamie out.

Read More:
Labor Day Part I  | Labor Day Part III

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Labor Day Part I

Initially, Will and I had completely different plans for our Labor Day weekend.  When they ended up falling through, we were at a little bit of a loss and ended up on a little impromptu road trip up north to Flagstaff, Williams, and the Grand Canyon.  

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Your girl, who is not a planner, pulled through in the clutch and did all of the research about the Grand Canyon, including where to stay, what to hike, and where to stop along the drive.  Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I did a pretty dang good job.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano

If you want to read about other National Parks Will and I have visited, click here!  When we had only been dating for about four months, we picked up a couple National Parks Passports at the Blueridge Parkway in North Carolina.  It became our mission to stamp our passports at as many parks as possible over the coming years.  So far, we are killing it in Arizona.  

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Visiting Sunset Crater Volcano was a great look into how volcanos, earth quakes, and volcanic eruptions can drastically change a landscape.  Similar to Mount St Helens in Washington, Sunset Crater once erupted in what would later become Flagstaff, Arizona.  Luckily, the locals at the time appeared to get the gist about what was going to happen and got out of dodge well in advance.  

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

There are several hikes around the volcano to view more of the volcanic rock and ecosystem around the mountain.  Will and I picked a short one miler since we had been driving all day and were eager to get to our hotel.

The Lava Flow Trail is paved and explores the “Bonita Lava Flow,” along with “numerous volcanic features while walking at the base of Sunset Crater Volcano.”  For more information, visit the National Park’s website here.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

The trail we chose is just a short drive past the Visitor Center, where we learned more about the people who once inhabited this area of Arizona, as well as what the volcano may have looked like back in the day.  

We loved getting to peek at the wide array of volcanic rock and dust that still dominates the landscape surrounding the volcano.  We could see high up on the mountain where old trails still leave scars upon the mountainside.  Hiking and climbing is no longer allowed on the crater site in order to preserve and protect it.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

We spent an hour or so on the trail, taking in the landscape and learning about the crater, before we hopped in the car and drove an hour to Williams, Arizona.  We checked into our hotel and headed out to spend the evening at the Grand Canyon Brewery for some delicious steaks.  That night we turned in early so that we could get up super early the following morning to watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon.

Never fear—that blog post is coming soon.  Hoping you all have great weekends and praying for everyone in the Carolinas right now!  Praying over the impact of Hurricane Florence!

Don’t forget to give this post a like if you enjoyed it and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already!

Until next time,
Jamie out

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Read More:
Labor Day Part II Labor Day Part III

Chiricahua National Monument

Part two in our exploration of Arizona’s National Parks.

We have discovered not only that there are a plethora of parks in Arizona, but that a good amount of them are perfect for day trips.  National Parks are incredible preservations of nature, often highlighting a significant aspect of American culture and encouraging people to explore natural rock formations, caves, mountains, lakes, and forests.  

The National Parks of Arizona have yet to let us down.  We last visited the Coronado National Memorial where we  learned about the Spanish and Mexican influence in our culture and explored a 600 foot deep cave.  This time, we grabbed our passports and our friends and drove a few hours away to see some pretty spectacular rock formations.

Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument

The monument was created in 1924.  The Chiricahua Mountains are an inactive volcanic range surrounded by desert grasslands.  The monument is in a particularly exquisite area that once experienced quite violent volcanic activity.  The ash formed into rocks and through the passing of time, incredible rock formations, forests, and wildlife have created an ecosystem that is worth venturing out to see.  

Chiricahua National Monument

Our first stop was in the Visitor Center to stamp our passports.  All of the National Parks should have a stamp station, and additionally should have passports on sale if you don’t have one already!  Our friends J and M picked one up!  The stamps always have the name of the park and the date you visit so it’s an awesome way to keep track of where you’ve been and have a memento that lasts a lifetime.

Chiricahua National Monument

We spent a little time in the Visitor Center perusing their prickly pear jam selection, as well as learning about the local plant and animal life.  Apparently the rocks of the Chiricahuas are called “rhyolite” and the monument was created to protect them.  

We planned a three mile hike so that we could see many of the rock formations, which sometimes tower hundreds of feet into the air.  

Chiricahua National Monument

Echo Canyon Loop Trail

There is an iconic rock formation known as “Pinnacle Balanced Rock” that is probably the most photographed feature of the park.  Unfortunately, it is over a seven mile hike to see it and this girl had not brought enough snacks (or let’s face it, leg muscles) to brave that trek.

However, the incredible and totally reasonable Echo Canyon Loop Trail worked perfectly with our 1:30pm arrival time and promised to show off the features of the park spectacularly well.

Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument

Beyond the rock formations, there are plenty of faults, lava flows, and other caves to explore along the route.  Our friend J got extremely excited about the prospect of bouldering and quickly talked everyone into climbing on basically everything.  Let’s just say, it took us a little over three hours to go three miles.

Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument

None of us could get over the rock formations.  Everywhere you turned there was a valley of spires, balancing boulders, or tumbling caves and formations with jagged pieces.  It was red and brown and orange.  It was just stunning.  I couldn’t put my camera away.

Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument

According to the National Parks website, the “Apaches called this place ‘The Land of Standing-Up Rocks,’” and one can see why.

Chiricahua National Monument

This crevice was super cool!  As we hiked down into a valley, we felt an incredible wind whipping through this formation.  It was great to stand right in the opening and feel a fierce cold wind on a hot summer day in the desert.

Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument

This park is such a treasure.

Chiricahua National Monument

We found some water!  The summer monsoons have greened up the countryside and left their evidence in a little bit of running water through the mountains.  We also spotted a snake at the bottom of this little creek.

Chiricahua National Monument

We’re not sure what this plant was, but it was growing out of some kind of cactus and grew super tall.  They lined one part of the trail.

Chiricahua National Monument

Guys, I seriously suggest that you check out a National Park close to you.  There are some seriously cool things in nature that are worth the time and effort it takes to see and experience them.

If you liked this post, let us know down below with a like or a comment and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already!

Until next time,
Jamie out.

Coronado National Memorial

A lot of people love going on adventures.  Often times they are small—making a run to the gas station for ice cream, only to find that they’re closed and instead of admitting defeat, you run all around town searching for your favorite treat.  Sometimes the adventures are quite large—a honeymoon to Maine or an Alaskan cruise.

When it comes to adventures, Will and I really enjoy National Parks.

Will used to work for the Utah Conservation Corps, which means that he lived and worked outdoors while working conservation projects around the state.  I say this to impress upon you how much he loves and is accustomed to backpacking, camping, hiking, and the great outdoors.  He grew up in a state that has Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches, to name only a few.  

I grew up in a family that loved camping, albeit most of the time in a tent-trailer.  “Glamping,” some might call it.  My sister and I begrudgingly joined in on hikes and it wasn’t until after college that I started to love them.  

I took a trip with my family to the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina a few years ago and found some National Parks Passports at their visitor center.  The passports are like any passport, except that they’re to National Parks, not to other countries.  Every National Park has an visitor center and a stamp station for the passports.  

Being of limited means, I eyed the passports longingly and then left.  A couple years later, I took Will back to the same spot and we each picked up a passport, deciding that our new life goals were going to be filling them up with stamps.

Arizona, we are happily discovering, is FULL of National Parks for us to explore.

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

The Coronado National Memorial is one beautiful contribution to the National Parks community.  Located along the border of Arizona and Mexico, it climbs up from the valley and into the Huachuca Mountains.  Conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado conducted the first expedition into the southwest in 1540 and the memorial serves to recognize the ties that bind the United States and Mexico.  Check out this website if you want to learn more about the “journey of conquest filled with exploration, wonder—and cruelty” that the europeans and Aztecs experienced.

Interestingly to myself and William, the memorial was established on November 5, 1952.  He and I met on November 5, 2016, so it’s always a date that sticks out to us.  (If you want to read about how we met, click here)

Coronado National Memorial

The Visitor Center

Our first stop was, obviously, to stamp our passports.  

The visitor centers has a small exhibit that mostly talks about the blending of cultures, emphasizing food and spices and highlighting the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos).  They also have a cute little book store!

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

God bless the Spanish for brining coffee and cacao beans.  

There are no entrance fees for Coronado National Memorial, by the way, so it’s a super easy trip!  It’s only half an hour from Sierra Vista and has a couple hiking trails and a lot of picnic tables.  

Coronado National Memorial

Coronado Cave Trail

Unlike our recent trip to Bisbee, we were smart enough to do a little bit of research before we visited the park.  We discovered that there is a cave trail leading to a 600 foot deep cave that hikers are welcome and encouraged to explore.  You don’t need a permit, but it is encouraged for explorers to get information at the visitor center.  

The trailhead is just a short drive from the visitor center and it’s a half mile hike up the mountain.  See—THIS is why I’m working out five days a week.  So that I can climb half a mile up a mountain and survive!  Haha!  (I’m only half joking, by the way.)

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

Also, more advice—Arizona is HOT.  If it’s going to be in the mid to upper 90s, don’t hike after 10am.  We were lucky that it was only about 89 degrees that day and therefore we had until about 2pm to get all of our hiking in.  Heat stroke is real, people!

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

The Coronado Cave

600 feet long, about 70 feet wide at most spots, and home to a select few stalactites and stalagmites, this was one of the coolest caves I’ve ever been in (without a tour guide).  

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

Literally.  So much fun.

We climbed down the rocks (pictured above) and then took a few minutes to get our flashlights situated before heading in deeper.  

It is PITCH BLACK inside of that cave, y’all.  Will gave me the head lamp and he used a flashlight.  I was surprised at how massive the cave felt, especially with our limited light sources.  We climbed all around and explored a lot of side tunnels, but mainly kept to the real deal.  It was so much fun!  And a lot cooler than outside in the sunshine, that’s for sure.

At one point we turned off all of our lights to just sit in the dark.  It was nuts.  I couldn’t handle it.  I just kept picturing the creatures from the movie The Descent and had to turn my head lamp back on.  

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

After a proper adventure and exploring all of the nooks and crannies, we climbed back out feeling excited and accomplished.  The half mile hike back to our car felt like nothing.

After spotting some deer who were crossing the road, we got back in the car and drove the winding road up to the Coronado Peak to sneak some views of the canyon before we had to head home.

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

The valley is definitely greener than normal because of monsoon season.  I’m not complaining, though.  Apparently they get to experience all four season at Coronado.  I would love to see this place with some snow.

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

Honestly, we have nothing but good things to say about the Coronado National Memorial.  We had a great time!  We’re super glad that we looked it up ahead of time, otherwise we would not have been prepared for the cave trail.  Ending the trip with a windy drive up the mountain followed by a view of the valley was perfect.  

Do you like exploring caves or do you get freaked out by the dark?  

Until next time,
Jamie out

Coronado National Memorial
We aren’t dorks at all.