Travel - California & Arizona | Joshua Tree, Scottsdale, Sedona

So I definitely fell off the radar a bit since June, and though I had the best intentions of blogging our trip to California, Arizona, and Nevada soon after our return home, things got a bit crazy - which I’m about to take a minute to explain a little bit for context.

To get the full scope of the story we have to go back to Christmas last year which was about the time we learned of a possible opportunity at Andrew’s work for him to fill a temporary contract in Hawai’i at Pearl Harbor. I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty details of what has transpired since (partly because I don’t want to relive the back and forth of potential plans for my own emotional sanity), but the conclusion was at the end of August we heard final word on a Friday afternoon around 1PM that he would be boarding a flight to Hawai’i on Tuesday morning at 7:30AM (yes, 3 days away). A little bit of chaos, limited sleep, and a whole list of house projects later and I was driving my hubby to the airport.

Which brings me to the present, sitting on a plane (itinerary: Providence - Charlotte - Los Angeles - Honolulu). I figured with about 20 hours of travel ahead of me today this would be the perfect opportunity to catch up on some editing of personal work and blog a bit. To anyone reading this who might feel I went a little MIA, I’d like to apologize for delayed replies to emails and phone calls and thank you for your patience!

Now onto recapping our trip out West!

We flew into Las Vegas, but decided to grab a quick bite at an In-N-Out and be on our way with plans to spend more time on the tail end of the trip. Well fueled by burgers, fries, and a shared milkshake we set the GPS to Joshua Tree National Park and away we went. I’m going to say this right now *spoiler alert* it’s a toss up between Joshua Tree and Bryce National Park for my favorite night of the trip - both were camping nights, not coincidentally. 

The drive to JT from Vegas was beautiful and very rural. Before reaching the entrance to the park Andrew and I definitely talked about how remote the living is in that area. Granted we didn’t see a whole lot of it and maybe our route just didn’t take us by any of the grocery stores, but as a note to anyone planning a similar trip, just make sure you are well prepared before leaving a populated area with snacks and water (especially if you plan to camp!). We arrived just in time to hike to Barker Dam. I was struck by how quiet and peaceful it was. Unfortunately, during our visit the Dam was pretty dried up, but on the hike back out the moon was phenomenal and we watched a heard of bighorn mountain sheep walking about the rocks. Coolest. Experience. Ever. Make sure to checkout some of the photos of that below!

Arriving back at the car in the dark we found our way to the campsite, found a site, and then struggled to figure out where to pay. It didn’t help that it was pretty dark at this point, although we really did luck out with a full moon. Make sure you keep an eye out for where to pay at the entrance of the campsite - it’s easy to miss the sign in the dark!

I can’t even describe the way the air felt. Camping out West is incredibly different than what I grew up with in New England. Now, I was a Girl Scout from daisies all the way through seniors and I’m no stranger to hiking, camping, peeing in the woods, and mosquitoes. But our night as JT was nothing like any other night of camping I’ve experienced. It was quiet - aside from the echoing laughter from nearby campsites and the occasional dog barking - the air was cool, humidity close to 0 and literally no bugs. Can you say glorious? We “fought” over the one good camping mat we had, switching about half way through the night (have I mentioned my husband is amazing?) and I awoke to the most beautiful sunrise as it peaked it’s way out lighting up one giant rock at a time. Trying to describe the landscape with words is almost impossible, another reason I love photography so much. After a small bite to eat we made our way to Hidden Valley Nature Trail for an early hike. This entire time we hardly saw any other park visitors. On our way out of the park we drove up to Keys View, which is a great spot to be able to see windmill farms and Palm Springs off in the distance. In case you miss the sign for it on the way up, also be cautious of the bees when you park. Best to get in and out of your car as quick as possible to avoid driving around with bees for the rest of the day.

We knew we had limited time to spend at JT so we drove through and exited around late afternoon. At the first rest stop we found a diner and I consumed enough breakfast food for a village. If you follow me on Instagram @corajanep you probably saw visual evidence on my stories that this is not an exaggeration in the slightest #noregrets. We got back to driving, next destination Scottsdale where we spent the night at one of the greatest hotels ever - Embassy Suites Hotel by Hilton in Scottsdale - still in complete shock that we booked through Priceline and paid less than $75 for the night. We took the shuttle downtown and grabbed pizza at Craft 64 (I would hands down recommend their Uovo pizza: Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta, Bacon, Two eggs & Spinach, but I doubt you can go wrong with anything you order off the menu)…and then dessert at the Sugar Bowl ice cream parlor. I’ve never seen so much pink in one place, but the banana split we split *pun intended* was outrageously delicious. You’ve probably noticed that I include a whole lot of information about where we eat, I would apologize, but we’re foodies and it’s just such a big part of our adventures I can’t leave it out.

Did I mention how hot it was in Scottsdale? Pretty sure I sweat through at minimum 2 outfits a day and am not even a little bit bummed about it. When we got back to the hotel I hopped in one of the pools right outside of our room and we tried to catch up on some sleep. The next morning we enjoyed one of the most elaborate “continental” breakfasts I’ve ever seen. I put that in air quotes because I have no idea where the term comes from or at what point it transforms from continental breakfast to 5 star gourmet experience, as this one would have been more accurately described.

Onward, we drove from Scottsdale to Flagstaff on Friday (deciding to go through Sedona) where I found Rollies Camera store for some last minute gear and cleaning supplies for the wedding I was photographing on Saturday. We made a couple of quick stops in Sedona for some photos and lunch at Sedona Pizza Company (another pizza place, hmmmm, I’m sensing a theme). The drive between Sedona and Flagstaff is stunning. Winding roads and beautiful forests. We went through Flagstaff quickly and drove to the location in the woods where the ceremony would take place. I met Jesse and Kylee and went through some of the details for the following day and we parted ways. After checking into our hotel Andrew turned to me and said, “You’re going to regret it if we don’t drive back to Sedona for sunset” - how well does he know me? The reason we didn’t end up sticking around Flagstaff for sunset was really because Snowball was closed which would have been my first choice for a location to watch the sunset, but we did a bit of quick research about places to watch the sunset in Sedona and decided on a little knoll on airport road. The trick to this location is that there is limited parking - maybe 8-10 spots? So you have to get there early otherwise you’ll be forced to drive up to the top and pay for parking for a much more touristy location. We were lucky enough to have great timing and following a super short walk/hike we settled into our spot and waited for the sunset. We had a 360 view and one of the neat features of this particular spot is the small aircrafts that fly close overhead. 

Saturday was the wedding. It was a beautiful union of two incredible people with hearts of gold. Surrounded by friends and family they promised each other their forevers in the stillness of the forest. See a full recap of the day, complete with pictures, here.