Wednesday, February 10, 2016

72 Hours in Arizona: Day 3

Our third morning started bright and early too. We wanted to get up in time to watch the sunrise over the red rock formations. So, we got up at 6AM and didn't really bother doing much else besides brushing our teeth and throwing on our warmest clothes (since we figured we could put a little more effort in once we got back). We borrowed some blankets from the hotel so we could cozy up outside and then we piled into the car. Luckily for us, getting to beautiful scenery only required a brief jaunt in the car.
We decided to head back to the Doe Mountain trailhead because we'd enjoyed it so much whilst stargazing and this way, we could see what it looked like in the daylight.

DOE MOUNTAIN
I'd read that hiking up Doe Mountain would give a great view of the sunrise. However, as it was still rather dark when we arrived at the parking lot, we had some fears about wild animals (namely poisonous snakes and other creepy venomous critters) as well as the worry that we'd trip on rocks and take a tumble, so we decided to enjoy the views from the parking lot. It was a gorgeous sunrise and watching the surrounding vortexes go from a dull brown to a rich, dark red as the sun got higher in the sky was beautiful.
I also loved how the sky turned a beautiful cotton candy pink.

WILSON CANYON & HUCKABY TRAIL
After we watched the sunrise, we went back to our hotel, got ready for the day, packed our bags and checked out.
With the sun out in full force, it was a gorgeous warm day so we decided to do a short hike. I scanned the list of hikes for something short and easy and we ended up at the Wilson Canyon. Several of the parks require a 'Red Rock Pass' which is $5 per day. There are little machines at the various parks, which is lovely and convenient.
I died of laughter at this graphic. This guy is falling so dramatically.
The view of Wilson Canyon is gorgeous and I probably could have stood there for hours. But, we walked around the edge of the canyon along the Huckaby Trail. It was really easy (hardly any incline, soft dirt path) and offered some delicious views. It was the only real hike we did, but I loved it and it actually made me wish we'd had time to do some more.
CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CROSS
Because we'd had such an amazing time on Day 1, we decided to hit up the Chapel again. This time, the sky was much bluer with fewer clouds, so I think these photos are a bit nicer.
TUZIGOOT NATIONAL MONUMENT
After we finished up at the Chapel for the second time, we hopped back into our car and made our way south, back towards Phoenix. We made a few pitstops along the way, the first of which was the Tuzigoot National Monument. It was a $10 fee per person and this also covered a visit to Montezuma Castle.
Tuzigoot is a 100+ room pueblo made by the Sinagua (a pre-Colombian peoples). It was excavated in the 1930s and apparently, some of the preservation efforts were actually quite damaging to the structure (the literature mentioned a traditional concrete mortar which was too sensitive to the dramatic temperature changes of the desert) and had to eventually be repaired. They now use a soil-based mortar that is more similar to the what the Sinagua originally used.
The structure is pretty marvelous and it's interesting to think about how the pueblo was used in the past. I didn't quite understand why some rooms had doors and some didn't, but I assume that the preservation efforts have changed the structure to a degree. I love visiting sites like this because it's like going back in time and experiencing history firsthand.

MONTEZUMA CASTLE
This is another dwelling made by the Sinagua people. It's a pretty cool structure built into the side of a cliff. Apparently, the Sinagua were v. considerate people who thought that this way of building was the most sympathetic to nature. They thought that if ever the residents decided to permanently leave, eventually the pueblo would blend right back into nature.
To be honest, this wasn't the most awe-inspiring site but since our $10 entrance fee to Tuzigoot covered a visit here anyway, it was worthwhile. Plus, it was pretty cool to think about how the heck anyone got up there to begin with. It seems like a safe and cozy place and I'm sure the view from those window is pretty spectacular.

GABRIELA'S TACO SHOP
After we'd wandered around Montezuma Castle, we were feeling peckish so we stopped in town for some lunch.

Yelp recommended Gabriela's with 4.5 stars and a promise of cheap prices so we headed over. I got the fried fish taco platter while D opted for a beef burrito. She gobbled it up, so I guess it was good. My fish tacos were hearty (they did not skimp on the fish) and the rice and beans and the spicy salsa made for a generous portion size. I loved the hot, fresh chips (they were fresh out of the fryer and so hot that we were warned to let them cool before diving in).
ARCOSANTI
Our final stop on the way to Phoenix was at Arcosanti. We got off the highway as it started to drizzle and then we ended up on some gravel road.
Apparently, it's an experimental community designed by an architect, Paolo Soleri. This little town was created as a way to harmonize architecture and ecology (a term Mr. Soleri coined as "arcology"); basically trying to build something without making much impact on the surrounding ecosystem. I don't really get it, but I read that there is a documentary about this place so I might have to do a little sleuthing.
I found this place somewhat underwhelming, though I think the concept is fascinating. Maybe if the weather were nicer, we might have enjoyed ourselves a bit more.

NOBUO
Once we arrived in Phoenix, we checked into our hotel (the Fairfield Inn & Suites Midtown) and got dressed for a night out.
We met up with D's artist acquaintance and toured his awesome studio and then grabbed drinks at Valley Bar (where they make a mean margarita).

After drinks, we parted ways so D and I could grab some dinner. We did a little Yelp search and ended up at Nobuo, where we had some tapas-style sushi.
We shared five plates between the two of us, all of which were delicious but the portion sizes were rather small so I'm glad we weren't overly hungry.
We started with the yellowtail ceviche. The super fresh fish was topped with crunchy fried taro and dressed with bright and acidic flavors.
The shiromi carpaccio was maybe my favorite. A plate of fish was brought out and then the server drizzled on some piping hot chili oil. The heat of the oil barely cooked the surface of the fish and added delicious spice. We were given some scallion-studded focaccia to swirl around the leftover vinaigrette and chili.
Next up, we were brought the tako and tomato. Grilled tender octopus sitting on top of a cube of ripe and sweet tomato with homemade mozzarella; it was like a seafood version of caprese, with octopus instead of basil, I guess.
The tuna tataki was really good. The tuna was lightly seared and served on top of an earthy and fruity beet puree. Diced yellow beets were sprinkled on as a garnish too.
Our last dish was the pork belly, which was piled on top of rice which had been cooked in a banana leaf. The pork was super tender and the rice was sticky and flavorful.
Overall, we enjoyed our meal but we were more than ready to get to bed. We hurried back to the hotel just in time to miss a torrential downpour; talk about good luck! Honestly, we got incredibly lucky with weather that weekend. The next morning, we were up super early (4AM) to return our rental car and catch our flight back to the east coast.
MAP
Here's our map with sites and restaurants pinned:

(We pinned much more than we actually did; but I figure this map will come in handy in the future when I decide to come back.)

This was an amazing trip and I can't wait to go back and explore this region some more. I'm sharing a video diary tomorrow so come back for that.

xoxo.

2 comments:

  1. Rachel, great post, looks like we like similar activities, our trip begins Saturday at 6:35 AM from San Jose, CA. I'm so happy to have had this to follow along before our trip and you've highlighted some recommended points of interest but opened up some new places I can't wait to see. We will have a few more days than you had there but 2 full days will be taken up with Spring Training and seeing our SF Giants opener in Scottsdale. I've really enjoyed your travel blog on this area. I'll let you know how our trip goes and if I see anything I feel worthwhile to share, I'll let you know. Happy Travels!

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