Our plan to make a Canyon loop of Grand, Bryce and Zion for our road trip was defeated by an impending “Storm of a Decade.” Even after suffering the cold icy rain and a white-out day at the Grand Canyon, Todd and I still kept checking the weather as we fled the storm to see if we could somehow loop back and make it to one of the canyon national parks after the storm passed. Eventually we realized that just driving through Arizona made for a great road trip, and dropped the idea of chasing winter by heading back north. Instead, we fully embraced that we’d make the worst storm chasers ever.
So, Arizona. Wow! I have a newfound appreciation for the beauty of the state. I spent the last several years driving across Arizona on my way to or from California, with the only notable stop in Yuma, a city few would describe as picturesque. Even after hearing all about Arizona from my best friend, who grew up and attended college there, I just never really got it. Now, after spending a week and a half on its state roads, in its national parks, and around its historic towns, I am duly impressed!
Heading south from the Grand Canyon we got off the main road and looped back behind the San Francisco mountains through a ponderosa pine forest and valleys covered with snow. We mostly had the road to ourselves to pull over and take pictures whenever, although the wind and cold mostly kept us bundled inside of the RV.
We drove through the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Parks to take in more of Arizona’s natural beauty. I was shocked to see a tropical illustration with alligators and other riparian species on front of the park brochure, but millions of years ago, northern Arizona was a lush jungle. Now the petrified trees remain to give us hints of the story. It was difficult to imagine that the current arid landscape was once hot and balmy, and even more challenging to accept that the petrified trees lived 2.15 million years ago! The signs remarked on the theme of the constant presence of change – what a lesson.
As we headed south towards the Mexican border, we passed through the Salt River Canyon, a beautiful drive where the agave was sprouting on the hillsides and the setting sun highlighted the golden cliffs along the river.
Further south, we saw saguaro everywhere! What an amazing plant. It only grows about an inch a year, so many of them of are hundreds of years old. Although there were many in the classic two arms outstretched towards the heavens shape, there were also plenty to get the imagination rolling – it’s like watching clouds in the skies. Long tall skinny ones, short little chubby ones, arms ready to punch, arms swaying in the sun, one growing a head, one lopsided, some many breasted Artemis types and some with so much outgrowth their silhouettes resemble regular trees.
In Bisbee, we toured the Copper Queen Mining Museum and sampled the local beer and baked goods then managed to hold onto our wallets as we walked through some of the town’s galleries. Because we had a kid in the stroller we couldn’t explore all of the hills and staircases, but we’ll definitely be back again.
On our way out of Arizona, we drove by a double rainbow – surely a blessing for our trip.