After celebrating Christmas in Minnesota, we flew to Phoenix, AZ on December 26th to continue the celebration with Chris' side of the family. Two years ago in lieu of congregating in Indiana, we traveled to Prescott on on New Year's Eve
, and with Matt and Katie in drivable distance in San Diego this year, we decided to celebrate in Prescott again.
After an early flight from MSP to Phoenix, the girls crashed in the rental car on the drive to Prescott. Chris and I finally figured out a good system for picking up the rental car. I took the girls to baggage claim and collected the car seats and bags while Chris rode the shuttle to the rental car center, picked up the car and then met us curbside. Splitting tasks was much easier than dragging the girls, bags and carseats onto the shuttle to collect the car. Fiona and Eloise slept much of the ride but were awake enough to marvel at the Saguaro cacti towering through the rocks.
Fiona spent hours coloring while in Prescott and drew pictures of what she encountered. I took photos of some of her art. Here's her perspective regarding the cactus she saw.
We visited the zoo in Prescott again this year. Eloise, our little bear, enjoyed watching the elderly bear at the zoo eat its lunch. Rob harassed the tiger, and all of the kids also loved the snake area with its boas and rattlers.
We drove approximately one hour to Sedona again. After lunch, near an overlook, we hiked a trail that passed a sinkhole and series of pools that limped down a hill.
Fiona and Eloise surprised us with their stamina, jumping and hopping over muddy patches and scrambling up hills. After we turned back, Eloise crashed and welcomed the opportunity to be the "tallest girl" atop Chris' shoulders for a ride back.
A scary bear scurried ahead to roar at us from the trees.
Chris needed to dunk the girls upside down in the sacred pools on the way back to the car.
Fiona's take on the Sedona "rainbow rocks."
Fiona's hike among the pools of water and hills
The following day, Mike, Rob, Allison, Katie, Matt, Chris and I departed early on a 3.5 hour drive to Antelope Canyon near Page, AZ on a Navejo Reservation. Rhonda was gracious to stay behind with the kids so we could enjoy the trip. We crossed our fingers for a Starbucks stop after a 5 am departure but made do with McDonalds. Tours of the canyon are conducted via a select group of guides booked in advance. We met our guide in Page and took a cold, open-back truck ride over highway and sandy trails to the canyon. Once there, we slipped inside and maneuvered through tight turns and peered upward towards the sunlight warming the rock into shades of amber. Chris took pictures with his iPhone, and Mike and I used SLRs, but it was hard to find enough light to get great shots.
Entrance to the canyon, via a large crack in the hill
Can you see the dragon's eye?
Chris and I rode in the heated front of the truck on the ride back to Page and talked to our Navejo guide, Sonny, who lives in town. He gave us a tip for the best restaurants so we grabbed a Mexican lunch before driving a few miles out of town to Horseshoe Bend, where the Colorado River creates a "U" around a rocky outcrop. To be honest, I was stunned that a natural wonder in the US seemed so unregulated/unprotected. As you precariously peer below, no fences or barriers separate you from the 1,000 foot drop to the river below. My shaky legs barely got me to the edge to glance down.
You would never know you could drop to your death just 5 minutes' walk away.
Allison and I kept our eyes peeled for roadside jewelry stands, and despite the cold weather that kept most closed, we found an open stall and made a few purchases.
After spending 7 hours in the car to and from Page, most of us wanted to stay near Prescott in the following days so we hung out in town and hiked near the museum where Rhonda sells her hand-made Pendleton wool purses (very cool to tell Fiona and Eloise that Grandma Rhonda made some of the purses for sale in the gift shop!).
Strong Lilly hefted Fiona on her back for a bit.
Eloise's stink eye
Fiona's drawing of her hike among the rocks
Chris, Mike and Rob took the kids (minus Eloise) for a hike another day near the same boulder-strewn area.
A moment's peace on the deck...
...before a furious game of shooter guns ensues.
Chris and I stayed with our kids in Scottsdale the night before flying home. The highlights from the girls' perspectives was not the huge cacti or the number of cowboy hats; rather, cake pops for dessert and cold water (pool) and hot water (hot tub) rule the girls' memories.
Fiona transported her large souvenir snake home via a Brittany Spears-esque neck drape.
We enjoyed a fantastic time in Arizona. I don't have pictures of all of the hours the cousins spent playing together in the loft or of the meals we gathered around the dining room table or of the kids' hands sifting carefully through crystals, stones and geodes in the gift shops. We are thankful to be able to spend such quality time together.