Utah & Arizona – August 2018

Bryce Canyon National Park was the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Whether we were driving along the stretch of overlook points or hiking down deep into the canyon, we found ourselves constantly at a loss for words.

It is $35 to enter the park by car and you get a week pass. A yearly National Park Pass seems more worth it for $80.

On our first night, we checked out about 10 lookout spots, which took an hour and a half. There might be 17 total. It was nice to have these few extra hours to do this because we knew we couldn’t utilize this time for hiking, since it was going to get dark soon. Each view was more magnificent than the one before. The breeze at the high elevation was wonderful, as well.

Something to keep in mind, the park is conducive to sunrises and not to sunsets, so at night, your pictures might contain shadows across them.

We slept in Tropic, Utah, just a few miles outside of the park. It was fine for a quick night’s rest, but I don’t recommend eating at Clark’s Country Market. It is way overpriced food you can get at Applebee’s.

On the morning of our second Bryce day, we did a moderately classified hike called “Queens Garden/Navajo Loop Trail” on the way back up, we chose “Wall Street” instead of “Two Bridges” because we were interested in the switchbacks (which turned out to be the most challenging part). The photos make them look like bleachers, but each stretch was much more far apart than we expected.

From our first few feet of the descent, I couldn’t help just continuously stopping and staring at my surroundings. The rocks, dips and drops are all made up of different hoodoo formations. Hoodoos are bits of hard and soft rock that are formed in vertical patterns from weathering.

It was about a 3 mile hike and took almost 2 hours. You catch the trailhead at Sunrise point and finish at Sunset point. Then it was about a half of a mile back on the rim to get back to our car. This is the recommended direction, as well. Overall, this is an excellent choice for anyone who is relatively in shape and not extremely afraid of heights.

It is also worth it to note how unique of an experience it is to do the downward part of the hike before the upward slope. On a typical climb, it is easy to make the summit your reward, but with a canyon hike, you’re constantly wondering (and worrying) how much worse it is going to get.

We’re so happy we were able to visit Bryce and look forward to going back there one day.

Horseshoe Bend was both incredible and terrifying. The walk to the site is about 3/4 of a mile each way and there are signs plastered all over enforcing each person to bring at least one water bottle. The sun is so strong in the middle of the day and this path is just an open field with 100% sun access, so keep that in mind when you visit.

Imagine standing on a ledge of dirt, big rocks and a few yards of railing with a huge drop under your feet. Down below, a pool of bright blue water surrounds a centerpiece and it just leaves the mind to wonder. There are such fascinating natural treasures on this continent that are truly amazing to see.

Apparently people were kayaking the bend but I didn’t see that because I couldn’t get too close to the edge. Just when I was nervous enough, I noticed people taking turns dangling their feet off the cliff for cute Instagram photos. I’m nauseous writing this.

The Grand Canyon was… huge. Unlike Bryce, this National Park was a little less easy to navigate and we found ourselves wondering what was best to do. We ended up driving to the “village” and stopping at a few cabins to check out the scenery from different perspectives. Looking down into this canyon just looks like a pastel oil painting. It is not very dimensional to the eye from 6,000 feet up above. It’s compelling that this hole has been in existence for tourists to visit century after century. We were glad to have finally made it there, as it is one of the world’s most anticipated attractions.

Slide Rock State Park should be renamed “Slippery Rock State Park” because it might have been the most dangerous thing we’ve ever done; and we were extremely ill prepared for this concrete amusement park (for lack of better terms). We didn’t have water shoes, towels, chairs or a safe place for our belongings. However, what is life but one big adventure, right? We made it work. Nat wore her Sperry’s and I walked barefoot – very carefully, along the moss covered rocks. We took turns playing on the natural “slides” while the current dragged us into the deeper water, and hoisting ourselves back up.

The water was cool and refreshing and we’re so happy to have pulled over right before the center of Sedona to try this out.

It is $30 to enter this state park by car on the weekend, $20 on a weekday and $3 per person if you want to pull over on the side of a mountain and walk in.

Butcher Jones Beach in Tonto National Forest was so much fun. We hung out in Lake Saguaro enjoying some beers and the cacti scenery around us. In the middle of the day, the horses that live nearby make an appearance on the sand and in the water. In order to park there, you have to get a pass at a local supermarket. It is around $8.

There were a few food highlights of our trip, of course. First, were the cheese curds I found in a gas station shop that Nat specifically told me not to buy there. You bet that we enjoyed those jalapeño cheddar bites for our entire road trip. They just sat on ice with our waters in a cooler. Cache Valley Creamery would have been nice (and delicious) to visit, but unfortunately it was too far off of our path.

The best meal we ate on the trip was a little hole in the wall called Tortas de Fuego in Sedona. I ordered camarones ranchero, Nat ordered chicken enchiladas with verde salsa and we tried one carne asada taco and a pork torta. Everything was wonderful, but I was in love with my dish… and the salsa bar which we basically brought straws over to; to suck down every last drop they had available. Their pineapple salsa was such a surprise. It wasn’t too sweet and it was so creamy and delicious. Their verde was fire; perfect flavor and spice levels. Everything in the restaurant had a little bit of a kick. It is not a place to go if you can’t take the heat. I ate my leftover shrimp the next morning, cold.

In Chandler, an area of Phoenix, we took out tacos on “Taco Tuesday” from Espos, which was recommended by a colleague of mine who lived in Arizona for a few years. 10 tacos were $10. Crazy cheap! They also offered a salsa bar with various fix-ins; which later helped me to assemble beautiful looking soft corn shell tacos for a photo shoot. They had so much meat on them and were extremely filling. Excellent quality!

Another restaurant worth trying is Rustler’s Rooste in Phoenix. When the sun is setting you have a striking view of the city and the atmosphere inside is quite the experience, as well. The ground is covered in sawdust, live country music is being played, a real live bull is there to greet you upon arrival and you can slide right down to your table. Don’t forget to order the rattlesnake and cactus fries! Tastes like chicken! 😉

Two of the most memorable breweries that we hit on this journey were Dark Sky in Flagstaff and Four Peaks in Tempe.

Dark Sky had a large selection of IPAs and contrary to the coast we were on, plenty of them were juicy East Coasters. They had a couple of awesome sours, as well.

Four Peaks excelled in both their beer and food. We especially enjoyed these Arizona chicken egg rolls, a cheesy spinach dip and the Brussels sprouts.

Enjoy the photos and feel free to ask any questions you may have! Feedback is always appreciated!


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