Our half in a van and half at resort Arizona Honeymoon.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Much of our plans changed from when we engaged in 2019. We were engaged under Umbrella Falls in Oregon moments before our rental car got robbed. Though the bliss of being engaged really removed the sting of losing my wallet, ID, glasses, and being strip checked by the TSA it was nothing compared to the hurtles of the next two years. From 2019-2021, our wedding plans changed dramatically. Our wedding went from being at Cliff Bell’s, a jazz restaurant in Detroit, to being an intimate small wedding at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. During that time there was one large life change after another. Our plans to have our honeymoon in Hawaii also transformed into something unexpected and very beautiful. We decided to rent a van and take a road trip around the desert of Arizona but also stay at a mountain resort. The results was a winter time adventure into the desert that was actually a much more affordable trip. Arizona had an amazing array of Navajo culture, spirituality, celiac friendly food, and stunning art. Our originally honeymoon plan changed into something much more exploratory yet was still so memorable.
Carmen (The Rental Van) - Phoenix
Our van’s name was Carmen and it was quite snug but it did the job. It was complete with a full bed, bedding, pillows, mini fridge, sink, and pull out shower head. No toilet, but we just used the bathroom at various stops along our trip. We also didn't use the shower or sink option to avoid re-filling the water tank. We rented it from BohoVans. We would park the van at campsites for the night and was able to get moving to the next site first thing the next morning. The van was way smoother to maneuver around the twisted mountain roads than the average RV. Renting a van also gave us more flexibility to visit sites more spontaneously and avoid setting up camp continuously. In the future, I would meal plan more to avoid eating processed food and eating out as much. However, potato chips and Queer Eye on our iPad wasn't a horrible way to end an evening of hiking.
Antelope Canyon - Navajo Tour - Navajo Land East of Lechee
Touring the Antelope Canyon was probably my favorite part of the trip. We were guided by Dalvin Etsitty, a local Navajo through Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours. Dalvin pointed out the imagery, sound, and history that resonated from the canyon. The canyon was smooth and cut light in dramatic ways. They pointed out the different silhouettes people see, like the form of a bear, an eagle, and George Washington. Though in the middle of a desert, the canyon was cool, very tranquil, and also seemingly hidden.
HorseShoe Bend - Page, AZ - East Rim of the Grand Canyon
Though there is little water in the desert, even more so due to dam building and climate change, there is still water sitting in the HorseShoe Bend. So clear, it's beautiful to see the edge of the rock seep beneath the water.
HorseShoe Bend Trail - Glen Canyon Recreational Area - North of the Grand Canyon
The HorseShoe Bend Trail was a smooth walk through a sea of sage brush surrounded by distant mountains.
Chapel of the Holy Cross - Sedona, AZ - Coconino National Forest
It was the first time I saw a chapel built hidden in the mountains. Here you can read more about about my spirtual experience visiting.
Ooh Aah Point - South Kaibab Trail - Grand Canyon National Park
My fear of heights has gotten better over the years but when it comes to cliff edges with no railings I am usually paralyzed to move any further. For that reason, Robert actually took this venture to Ooh Aah Point on his own and even saw caribou resting nearby. We were also suggested by a Arizona resident to visit the Sedona Vortex, another high point. A vortex is thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. I have no pictures of the vortex because reaching the top I went into a panic possibly due to the heights or the energy was too much for me to handle.
I thought the one with three peaks reminded me of three sisters. By the end of this trip, these vast landscapes also reminded me how similar I am to an ant.
Ironwood tree, prickly pear cacti, and teddy bear cholla cacti. I thought the small hints of green, pink, and purple stood out nicely against the tan sandy dirt.
Taliesin West - Frank Loyd Wright’s Home/Studio - Scottsdale
Taliesin West is the ideal blue print for a creative, educational, and cooperative living space that also integrates with the surrounding environmental landscape. A gorgeous inviting space that inspires and supports the architects that live and work there. Every room designed with the sun and landscape in mind, as well as using natural methods of having lighting and cooling indoor temperatures. One of my favorite spaces was the small rock walled theater room that would host a range of small performances for a small audience.
Chihuly Glass Installation - Frank Loyd Wright’s Home/Studio - Scottsdale
Its always a treat to see Chihuly glass work installed in garden settings. We saw another Chihuly install back in September 2021 in Ohio at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The Chihuly pieces definitely referenced the sharp foliage that one might find throughout the desert but with a bright colored twist.
Mountain Shadows Resort - Scottsdale
After dropping off Carmen, the rental van, we got to the more luxurious and I would say the more traditional kind of Honeymoon experience. Mountain Shadows Resort was beautiful with views of surrounding mountains. It had amenities like an on-site bar/restaurant, hot tub, pool, and a free exercise class daily (we did yoga). They even welcomed us with complimentary champaign celebrating our marriage. It was the fanciest hotel ether of us have ever stayed at and was the highest cost of the whole trip. Nevertheless, it was nice to slip away into a high class paradise for a moment. It was cringing to look out into the landscape only to see oversized mansions and grass lawns scattered across the desert scene but also really amazing to have the whole resort at our disposal. We tried to soak up every relaxing moment we could.
It's usually a hassle finding celiac friendly food options when traveling. However, in Arizona there was actually plenty of options. Of course we visited fast food celiac friendly options on the road like Chick-fil-la and In-N-Out Burger. Our favorite on the road treat was the popular Chick-O-Stick, a crunchy peanut butter stick covered in toasted coconut. There was actually plenty of celiac friendly Italian food options. We stopped at Picazzo's Healthy Italian in Sedona where the entire menu was celiac friendly. I also loved the look of the very soft pink gelato with multi-color gum balls from Cool Gelato Italiano in Scottsdale. Another rare find was Jewels GF Cafe in Phoenix where they had fresh donuts and chicken & waffles, all celiac friendly.
We mixed in various activities throughout the trip along with all the hiking. For a day, we rented a 2008 Lotus Elite. Not the most comfortable or luxurious to sit in but it is a very flashy sports car to drive in. Driving around the desert landscape with top down felt very powerful in an affluent way but was not as freeing as riding a horse. We did horse back riding at the KOLI Equestrian Center in the Gila River Indian Reservation. Beautiful ranch, they guided us around the desert and we actually were able to see a group of wild horses gathered together. My horse was named Rocky and he didn't quite get along with Robert's horse. At the Tao Foot Spa in Sedona we got a couples “reflexology” massage which was really nice after all the walking. We also visited the Heard Museum of American Indian Art in Phoenix. The Museum does a great job not only displaying the beautiful artwork of various tribes including pottery, clothing, and figurines, but also goes into the haunting history of their oppression.
There is something about Arizona that makes you want to live there the first few days of visiting. The vast mountain scape, the warm weather, the celiac friendly food, the spiritual energy, and the art...yeah we were initially caught in feeling like we should up root and move right away. Yet, when you stay a little longer you notice that you need to drive everywhere. You notice the drought of a river that once was. You notice a tear of West Coast wealth that lingers with the hum of the harsh truth of Native American poverty. It's a conundrum because it's the tourism that the Native communities have been forced to live off of. We would love to visit again to learn more and explore more. Our honeymoon, like our wedding, changed from what we originally intended and became so much more. It was an amazing experience I am so grateful for and will hold for a lifetime.
This post content was created by Giuliana Cascardo. All visuals are self taken or created, all writing is original aside from any statistical or historic information which is sourced by external links. Any photos that are not taken or created by Giuliana Cascardo are sourced in photo discription. Nothing in this post is affiliated with any sponsors or commercial work.