South Mountain, Phoenix, sunrise
South Mountain, Phoenix
South Mountain, Phoenix, & Michigan Awesome
Jeff Hunt atop Camelback Mountain, Phoenix
Me on the Hermit Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
It's kind of difficult to not have a very good time in Arizona, especially when visiting friends. This was a much needed getaway at a much needed time. My friend Jeff moved out to Phoenix a year ago, and we haven't seen each other since. We've had a unique tight knit friendship for many years now. We've had some years where we would see each other almost daily (his office was located in the same building I worked), and then other years where we might see each other once a month or so. But, none of that mattered. We have very similar views on most topics, and when we did talk or get together it was just like old times. We've got lots of great memories, including 1 trip to the Grand Canyon, working together, countless mornings at coffee shops, countless late night manly movies, UFC pay per views, you get the point.
So, in many ways, this was a dream come true to visit him and his family. I flew out on a Wednesday night, and we stayed up late eating pizza and catching up. Thursday morning we got up early to begin hiking South Mountain in the dark, so that we could catch the sun coming up over the mountains. One of the most beautiful sights I've seen in nature in a long time. This was a great way to start the day! Afterwards, we headed to a local coffee shop, and got McDonald's breakfast before tackling Camelback Mountain.
Camelback was a much different climb, with much steeper sections, and many larger rocks to climb up over. There were even a few steep sections where handrails were installed. This was incredibly challenging, but the view from atop was breathtaking! A 360 degree view of the city. After lunch at Samurai Sam's we headed back to relax for the rest of the day. We contemplated hiking one more mountain, but didn't have quite enough time, or energy.
Friday we got up early again and began the 3+ hour drive to the Grand Canyon. As I mentioned before, we hiked there a few years ago, but in a different section of the Canyon. On this day we were going to hike part of a trail neither one of us had been on before, Hermit Trail. Driving through Flagstaff was amazing, and created a huge desire in me to want to live there one day. Maybe I'll have to settle for another visit in the future. It was really cool to see some dramatic storm clouds descend on Snowbowl, the local mountain in Flagstaff.
We finally got to the GC, and after catching some of the touristy scenic overlooks, we were able to spot some elk on the side of the road. This was my first time seeing them, and they are MASSIVE! I'm hoping to add some pictures from my digital camera as soon as I can get new batteries put in it (the pictures above are from my cell phone).
Hermit Trail was a lot of fun, with about 1/3 of it covered in snow and a little ice. It was pretty narrow at times, which made it all the more fun and exciting. We definitely had some good conversations while hiking that trail. Afterwards we stopped in the General Store so I could get a few things, and then headed back to Flagstaff for Bun Hugger, a local hamburger joint.
In the meantime, Denver was getting hammered with a snowstorm, and I was supposed to have a connection there on Saturday. Rumor was that they had shut down the airport, so I didn't really enjoy my food all that much while on hold to check on my flight status. We finally got ahold of the airline and found that everything was still on schedule.
Interestingly enough, on the way back to Phoenix we got stuck in what must have been a 6 mile traffic backup. More good time to chat. We finally got back to Jeff's place, had some more food, and hit the hay. Saturday morning, I got packed up, and we said our goodbyes as he dropped me off to meet up with another friend.
Roomie picked me up and we were able to spend about 4 hours together before he dropped me off at the airport. "Roomie" is Russ Funk, my roommate the entire time I was in South Africa with Team World Vision back in 2010. It was so great to see him and catch up on life! We had breakfast at a local joint, walked around ASU campus for awhile, went to his house to meet his family (I had already met his son Rusty on a few occasions, and also went to South Africa with him) and then we went to a local brewery for lunch.
Even though I've used a lot of words in the post, it's truly difficult to describe just how much this trip meant to me. I couldn't have pulled it off without my wife Emily and money I got for Christmas from my parents. I don't know when the next time is that I will see my friends. I'm so thankful in situations like this for social media, cell phones, and email because it makes it so much easier to keep in touch. To Jeff, Shannon, Cassidy, Cade, and Roomie, thank you so much for taking the time to hang with me.