Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona

Our four months in southern Arizona are over!  We will always have our memories, and I have a couple more blog posts lined up, but our extended honeymoon has come to a close.  That being said, we spent much of our time in the desert exploring.  Here are our five favorite things we did while in Arizona this summer.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We went on a really long hike

We have already blogged about our Grand Canyon experience, but if you missed it, here are some sunrise photos, and here is the complete story of our hike.

The Grand Canyon has been on my bucket list for a while.  It is one of those things that you sit and dream about, like Rome, or the Great Wall of China, or Iceland.  It is a destination I was dying to experience.  And boy did we experience it.

We got up at three in the morning to drive to the National Park and arrive in time to watch the entire sunrise over the canyon walls.  We then spent the next seven hours hiking along the rim.  Clearly it was a dream come true for this hike loving, National Park exploring, photography enthusiast couple.  The Grand Canyon is so much more than just a giant hole in the ground.

Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona

We made reading a priority

Back in North Carolina, life and busyness got in the way.  We were often running around and stressed, trying to be at every event, plan a wedding, work 50 or more hours a week, and sleep when we could.  Arizona has been much more relaxed and manageable for us.  One thing we were able to really enjoy was making reading a priority.  

Most nights you will find us reading a good book in bed before turning out the lights.  The weekend usually involves at least a few hours of dedicated book time.  And the goal has generally been to read one book a month.  This is something that I seriously hope we can continue once we get back to North Carolina.

Books I have been reading: the Harry Potter series.  

Books Will has been reading: the Inheritance Cycle, “Just Walk Across the Room” by Bill Hybels and “Ghost Soldiers” by Hampton Sides.

Chiricahua National Monument

We made some friends 

I have always said that it is the people that make or break a place.  Well the people in Arizona have absolutely made it for us.  The community we have experienced, the church family we found, and the friends we made have not only made these four months in the desert so much sweeter, but have made saying goodbye so much harder.

From the movie nights, hiking trips, lunch dates, and hotel breakfasts, we had an absolute blast with everyone.  

Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona

We toured a mine and ate really good food

On one of our first weekends in Arizona, we visited Bisbee, which you can read about here.  We didn’t quite know where to go, where to eat, or what to do.  After a few hours in the hot weather, we drove back home.  But ever since then, we had a hankering to tour the Bisbee copper mine.

The weekend of Will’s birthday, a couple we met took us to the Queen Mine Tour and followed it with dinner at Cafe Roka.  I definitely recommend both things should you ever find yourself in southern Arizona.

We wore our jackets, hard hats, and flashlights in the mines and rode a train to the very back.  Our tour guide showed us how miners would drill, what drills they used throughout the years, their dynamite techniques, and other mining habits to include how they went to the restroom.  I got to demonstrate for everyone.  Who thinks this should be our Christmas card photo this year?

Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona

After our tour, we went to the historic district for our reservations at a seriously delicious Cafe Roka.  We all ordered the filet on a bed of mashed potatoes and veggies.  The starters, salad, soup, sorbet, entree, and dessert sampler platter left nothing wanting.  We had a fantastic time and will definitely come back the next time we are in Bisbee.  We highly recommend it.

Coronado National Memorial

We explored a cave

Our absolute favorite adventure, despite having hiked the Grand Canyon Rim Trail, was exploring a cave in Coronado National Memorial.  It was so cool!  Caves and caverns are super fascinating, a little scary, and very very fun to explore.  This cave in particular was at the end of a short hike up the mountain and was not guided.  We climbed down a hill of rocks at the cave mouth (which distinctly reminded me of the movie “Descent,” although I tried not to think about that) and then used our headlamp and flashlight to explore its depths.  You can read more about that here.

Will and I are so excited to head back to the east coast and North Carolina!  We are seriously looking forward to seeing my family, eating my mom’s cooking, hanging out with our Taco Tuesday crew, and reconnecting with our church fam.  

Have you ever been to Arizona?  What was your favorite part?  If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and don’t forget to join our family by hitting that subscribe button 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!

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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.

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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.