Sedona is famous for its beautiful red rocks. The hike we chose is called Brins Mesa and it's about a two hour drive from Phoenix. Like most of my travel gems, I found this hike through a little googling. Click here for detailed trail information and directions. The website calls this hike "moderate," but I would describe it as "easy's attempt at being moderate." The views, however, are unbelievable throughout the entire hike.
Sedona is also known for the prickly pear cactus which produces a delicious fruit used in prickly pear margaritas (and various other treats I don't care to remember). What better reward after a few hours on the trail?
During our hike we saw several helicopters wiz through the canyon on red rock tours. This is something I would absolutely look into for next time - the helicopter gets (uncomfortably) close to the canyon walls and I'm sure the views are stunning. Check this out.
Fun fact: the red color in the rocks comes from rich deposits of minerals like iron, caused by movement of the ocean and volcanic activity over millions of years…. or it could just be the "blood of fallen angels."
The weather was perfect for a hike today. Camelback Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in Phoenix and offers panoramic views of the entire city. We took the Cholla trail because the other one was closed (for renovations?). This is not an easy hike - steep climbs, a little bit of bouldering action at the top, and the sun really zaps you. Bring lots of water, sturdy shoes (sneakers should be fine), and wear sunblock. It took my brother and me about an hour to get to the top.
My only complaint about the hike is that the trails reminded me of a New York City sidewalk at rush hour - soo crowded! We got stuck behind a few slow pokes and had to stop to let people pass on the narrow path.
But once we got to the top we were rewarded with a candy cane from Santa! So worth it. I heard it took a group of locals 5 hours to drag this tree all the way to the top of the mountain!
Where's the down escalator?!?!
During my far-flung travels I've heard many a naysayer condescendingly pronounce, "You won't have time for that," which I have learned never to listen to. From Cinque Terre to Chamonix, locals love to tell tourists that they can't do all the fun things they want to do in the amount of time allotted. Here's another example. Since the trip to the Grand Canyon is 5 hours from Phoenix I understand how getting there and back in one day could be ambitious. However, all it takes is a little research and a little asking around to make it happen. I found the Pink Jeep Tour website through a little googling and voila - they pick you up from your hotel in Phoenix and take you to the Grand Canyon in this pimped out giant pink Mercedes (ok, it's a van, but it's made by Mercedes yo).
During the ride you can relax in the comfy seats and help yourself to complimentary drinks and snacks. Our tour guide knew tons of history and told great stories on the way up. We had a quick stop in Sedona, AZ to take in the beauty of red rocks and walk around the cute little town. We had planned to meet actor Nicolas Cage, a Sedona resident, for lunch but he cancelled last minute (something about having to read a script).
The tour is catered to the customer and you are able to stop for breaks, lunch, to pet an armadillo… whatever. Just keep in mind that any stops take away from your time at the unbelievable Grand Canyon. It really is one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen in my life. We stopped at multiple viewpoints for pictures and brief hiking.
It's so difficult to capture the beauty with a camera lens! It is so mind blowing and even tricks your eyes so that you almost aren't sure what you're looking at.
During our last stop on the tour our guide took us out on a pretty dangerous (think, sheer cliff down several miles) path to get to a big rock with amazing views. Dad wasn't loving that, but the views were incredible! Not recommended for the feint of heart, but with great risk comes great reward.
Our family Christmas this year is in Phoenix, AZ. My dad's work headquarters are located here, but no one else in my family has ever been. We figured this would be a perfect time to get the family together and explore a new city. We are staying at the Marriott Tempe at the Buttes, which is a resort with beautiful grounds and a great pool area (much needed in the desert). Though I will admit we called it "The Butts" (cue immature laughter) for most of the trip.
We found an awesome brewpub (I swear, my family's middle name is "brewpub") called Four Peaks. This place has a great variety of beers brewed on location and an awesome elevated bar food menu. I highly recommend the salmon B.L.T. It's nice and light but still packs a ton of flavor. More room for beer!
Many people aren't aware that the Finger Lakes region is a top wine destination in the U.S. Check it out! I have been very lucky to live a stone's throw away from some of the best wineries, and now every time I visit I hit the trail with my family. Today we tasted wine at my absolute favorite vineyard, Thirsty Owl, which has gorgeous views of Cayuga lake and one of the best dry Rieslings I've ever had. It doesn't hurt that my brother works here on weekends and we get free tastings :-D. Usually the tastings are $3 to try 6 wines (each winery varies) - what a deal!
We also tasted at Knapp Winery, where I worked during the summers in college. It really is a fun job pouring wine and mingling with travelers all day! But I think I like being served the wine better. The tasting room was decorated adorably for Christmas.
After our tasting we headed next door for lunch at the bistro. Knapp is one of the few wineries on Cayuga lake with a bistro, and the food is phenomenal. You can also order bottles of wine for the same price as sold in the tasting room. Our favorites were the KV Dry Riesling and the Barrel Reserve Chardonnay. The chef uses the wines and fresh herbs to make the most phenomenal soups you will ever taste. The butternut squash bisque is a favorite and always on the menu. I ordered the baked potato soup of the day, which I remembered from when I worked here. I used to ladle this soup into paper cups and drink it - it's that good!
We also ordered the Brie En Croute appetizer, which is brie baked in puff pastry and served with fig, port sauce, Proscuitto, and crackers. So decadent.