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

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