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.  

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Until then,

Jamie out.

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

summer in the desert | Arizona Part III

As month three in Arizona pulled to a close, Will and I quickly realized that there were only a few weeks left in the desert before we will be moving back to North Carolina.  What a whirlwind we have had out here!  

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

The #SuiteLifeofWillandJamie

In month three we settled into a little bit of a routine.  We went on a few adventures here and there, but also found ourselves staying at home a little more often.  I spent my time watching the last month of Big Brother season twenty (yes, it’s still on the air, and this was a FANTASTIC season), working my butt off in the workout program 80 Day Obsession, and working remotely for a company back in North Carolina.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I discovered the folly of bringing hot coffee on errands when it’s still summer in the desert.  AKA, don’t.  I didn’t drink any of it and was lucky to make it home alive after leaving the house in the afternoon.  

We also found this fantastic Jurassic Park Jeep and decided that whoever owns it needs to be our BFF ASAP.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

There is a fantastic mountain right behind our hotel.  One Saturday we hadn’t planned to do anything, so after lunch we took our books up to the top and sat together to read and enjoy the view.  I’ll be honest, the attacking bees, wasps nests, and plethora of ants were a little off putting but otherwise we had a fantastic afternoon.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

Shopping

I have mentioned before that Will and I love shopping on holidays.  We always need things, and the things we need are often expensive.  So we try to wait for holiday sales to really get our money’s worth.  We drove up to Tucson on Labor Day this year to hit the outlets.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I picked up a couple pairs of jeans from Old Navy for fifty percent off.  We also stopped by Nike, which had great sales compared to last year.  Will got a lot of new workout gear he’s been needing and I picked up a couple things as well.  I also stopped in J. Crew for some shorts and, in a surprise twist, walked out of Kate Spade with my first piece that was seventy-five percent off!

Also, shameless plug—my sister is a Mary Kay consultant if you’re in the market for one!  I’m sure she would love to help you!

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

Food

Our food experiences in Arizona have absolutely never disappointed.  From some classic Taco Bell hot sauces (secretly probably Will’s favorite fast food restaurant) to some breakfast bowls in which you can see all the ingredients from a local cafe, we are basically eating our way through our time in the desert.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I was SUPER excited to finally find the holiday section tucked away in my grocery store and brought home our supply of pumpkin spice.  It was a blessed day!  We also went on a date night to our favorite Mexican food joint—La Casitas.  It is deliciously dangerous and we almost missed our movie (A Simple Favor) because we were enjoying ourselves so much.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

The Grand Canyon

Among our many adventures recently, the Grand Canyon was a huge one.  I’ve already blogged about it, so if you would like to you can read about the sunrise here, or our hike along the rim trail here.  

summer in the desert | Arizona part III summer in the desert | Arizona part III

We woke up at 3am, got ready, ate breakfast, and then drove about an hour to get to the park before sunrise.  It was incredible.  We stood there for an hour, easily, to witness the canyon see the first light of day.  I never regret early mornings while on vacation if the purpose is to experience a sunrise like this.  It’s probably one of my favorite things to do, and something I very rarely do in my everyday life.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

We spent the rest of our day at the canyon hiking the rim trail—12.2 miles.  It was an amazing seven hours in the presence of one of the most incredible natural wonders in the world.  

Once we had completed the hike, part of which was in the pouring rain, we hopped on a shuttle back to the visitor center to stamp our National Parks Passports and then learn a little more about the park before heading back to our hotel in Williams.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

This diagram of the Grand Canyon at the visitor center was really cool.  It was awesome to see where we had been all day.  

Once back at our hotel room, we crashed for several hours and then ordered pizza to eat in bed while we watched Harry Potter.  Now if that isn’t a perfect day, then I don’t know what is.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

Camping

Our first time camping together (ever) was a bit of a disaster, and you can read that blog post here.  To be fair, mostly we were just ill-prepared and already a little grumpy before we even left the house.  But sleeping in a tent in the fresh air and under the stars is always worth it.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I have been dying to test out my tent since I bought it, and these views were certainly impressive.  My absolute favorite thing about being in Arizona has been the outdoor exploring we have been able to do.  Exploring like this was not something we were able to do back on the east coast, but we’re resolving to change that.  

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

As our time here in Arizona is pulling to a close, we’re busy building lasting memories, cherishing the time we have left, and watching all of the Harry Potter movies in existence.  #NoShame

If you have any suggestions for things to explore in southern Arizona or adventures we should go on back in North Carolina, leave them in the comments below!  We would love to hear them!

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like, don’t forget to join the family and subscribe if you haven’t already, and we’ll see you guys next time!


Jamie out

More posts:
Moving to Arizona | Arizona Part I | Arizona Part II

our disastrous first camping trip together

Our first time camping together was slightly spontaneous and outrageously under-planned.  We did little to no research, left much later than we intended to, brought no smaller bills to pay for our camping spot, and ending up setting our tent up with the use of flashlights and the very last bits of orange on the skyline as the sunset had already passed.

our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together

Parker Canyon Lake

The camping spot was actually super cute and had a great view.  It’s five or ten dollars a night, all the spots have easy access to the bathrooms, and the break in monsoons had left the place nice and green for us.

As far as we could tell, the camping sites were first come first serve.  We packed up some odds and ends for breakfast, brought some extra water, and then stopped at Subway to grab dinner on our drive out.  Unfortunately, our navigation took us the long way to get there so it took twice as long as anticipated.  We watched the sunset during our drive instead of from our campsite.

Despite a somewhat frustrating start to our spontaneous camping trip, we made the most of it.  We resolved to be a little more prepared next time, because a camping trip without firewood (and s’mores) may not even be a camping trip at all.  

our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together

Despite having purchased my tent almost two years ago, I had never actually used it.  It was super nice to break it out and realize that the six-person tent is huge for just the two of us.

Will is a very experienced and avid camper and backpacker.  He has all the gear.  Despite having brought all of it to Arizona with us, we unfortunately didn’t plan well enough in advance to use most of it.  The consequence of spontaneity, I suppose.  Hopefully in a few years we’ll have this down to a science.

our first time camping together

We woke up a little after six, as you do while you’re camping, got dressed and ate breakfast.  We didn’t bring any kind of camping stove or firewood, so I made do with a few creative food items from our hotel room back home.  One item on my wish list is definitely a french press, or at minimum instant coffee and a means to heat up water.  Your girl had the worst migraine of her entire life later that afternoon and starting off the day with zero coffee didn’t help.

our first time camping together our first time camping together

After we ate breakfast, we packed up the tent in the already eighty degree weather and then drove down to the lake to take in its views and enjoy its peace for a bit.

our first time camping together our first time camping together

Items I added to my camping wish list:

  • Table cloth
  • Bug spray
  • Tiny broom
  • Mallet
  • Better stakes 
  • COFFEE

Let’s be real.  It was NOT the best camping trip in the world.  Hopefully we’ll do better in the future, but hey, not every adventure and spontaneous trip is going to be golden.  Despite some loud neighbors (who arrived after we did and left before us as well—what a whirlwind!) the camp site was great.  You can rent boats at the lake, go fishing, or even swimming.  It seems like a great way to spend the weekend, honestly!  Next time we’ll arrive earlier, bring fire wood and coffee, and it will be ten times better.

Any suggestions for whirlwind camping trips?  I’d love to hear some easy ideas!  I’m used to tent trailers and campers, so tent camping as an adult is new to me!  I need all your advice in the comments!

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Much love,
Jamie out.