17 March 2014

We're Baaa-aack!

{warning! warning! this post is photo-heavy. if 1000 (rough estimate) pictures of rocks'n'stuff isn't your jam, maybe come back tomorrow}

Hey, y'aaaaall!

We're back home, safe and sound, relaxed and in fighting shape after an AWSMAZING trip to Arizona over March break.

Yeah, that's right: A-R-I-Z-O-N-A: mecca of sunshine, dry heat, colour, cacti, light and natural wonders. It was... incredible. Amazing. At times poignant, at other times queasy. Inspiring. Fascinating. Absolutely freaking fantastic.

We couldn't have asked for a more wonderful - or wondrous - vacation.

So if you've never been to Arizona (which none of us had, before last week), it's difficult to describe. How to accurately convey the vastness, the emptiness, the sense of space? The colour, the vibrancy, the endless sky? The prosperity, the poverty, or the incredible, ever-changing palette?

It's impossible - truly impossible. But you know me: I'm always game to try.

Our three-day road trip through the desert brought us first to Sedona, land of the red rock. We stepped out at Cathedral Rock and our jaws literally dropped to our knees. The kids have never seen anything even remotely mountain-ish (the Escarpment, while impressive and lovely to look at it, is basically a pimple on our landscape in comparison. No offense, Escarpment.) so they were suitably impressed. Daryn and I were gobsmacked by the colour: blue-blue sky, red-red rock. So gorgeous is made our eyes hurt.

The four of us took a short hike up the rock, then split up at the first check point. Since breaking my leg a few years back I don't really trust my ankle on steep climbs, and the rock dust was as slippery as talcum powder. When the boys wanted to climb further, the Girl and I opted to stay below, smile, wave and take photos.

See those two teeny-tiny figures I've circled in the centre of the photo above? Yeah, those are my men. Just to give you an idea of scale and why the Kilfoyle chickadees opted out of the climb. (No, no, elite athlete: you and your intrepid adventurer father go on ahead. Seriously, we'll wait here.)

Next we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross, an historical church perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Sedona red rocks. Stupidly I didn't take a photo from the base of the rock (which would have been arguably the most sensible - and photogenic - place to snap a shot) but I like to think the 65 photos I took from inside make up for it.

Then obviously we spent a half-day touring the most famous attraction Arizona has to offer: the "Big One," the Grand Canyon. In the immortal words of the Girl, it was "Grand. And canyon-y."

Self-evident, or deeply insightful? You be the judge.

The colours, you guys. Oh! the colours. I've never seen anything like them. I can see where artists find this landscape so inspiring - and so impossible to capture.

What was also impossible to capture was the sound. It was quite windy and brisk during our rim walk, and the sound of the wind whistling through the canyon and gusting up the peaks was so beautiful: eerie, thunderous, lonely. It drowned out everything else; when the wind blew it felt like you were the only person in the world on that ledge. It gives me shivers still.

Along the way we stopped at the Desert View Watchtower.

Views of the canyon from the tower are impressive, but it was the views inside the tower that really blew my mind.

The attention to detail was spectacular, right down to the antiqued telescopes and the leather binding on the handrail. Pure aesthete's heaven.

Moving on through the Painted Desert, we were treated to a kaleidoscope of colour shifting from soft pink, dusty rose, mauve, lavender and plum to silver, grey, tan, buff, olive, mint and charcoal.

Next came one of the true highlights of the trip: the Petrified Forest. If you've never heard of it, you might think it's just a bunch of scared trees hanging out together in a field (bad-dad-humour: yukyukyuk). It's not. What it IS is miles and miles of ancient trees that washed down a riverbed and were buried in sediment. Over time the sediment settled into the wood causing chemical reactions at a cellular level, inside which crystals formed. Basically, it's prehistoric logs that have turned, over time, into stone. Solid, sometimes semi-precious, stone.


I brought very few souvenirs home (excluding a freaking boatload of new clothes) but a beautiful piece of petrified wood is sitting in pride of place on our mantel.

Mind = BLOWN.

Our last view of the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert was this beautiful vista.

It's impossible not to love this place.

We capped off the road-trip portion of our vacation with a quick trip to Montezuma's Castle. If you've never been (or heard of it, as I hadn't), it's a perfectly preserved cliff-dwelling village built by the Sinagua tribe. It's a remarkable feat of ingenuity and engineering.

I have a million* more photos, stories and observations to share, but I've probably overloaded you enough for one day. Later this week I'll share some photos of the most fab zoo we've ever been to, and regale you with tales of eye injuries, lizard-hunting and monkey business (and that's just what the Girl got up to!)


*kidding -- only a thousand more.