Arizona – Basking in Buckeye

Sam’s parents (Tim and Carol) recently bought a house in Buckeye, Arizona. Located about 30 minutes west of Phoenix they spend 6 months of the year here escaping Raincouver and playing golf. They like golf which I am sure you will come to realise as my time in Canada with the Ellan’s continues over the years. Having not visited the house, Sam was keen to visit and we decided to combine her birthday treat with the Easter long weekend and head down to Phoenix. By North American standards the flight (about 3 hours) was relatively cheap at $250 return… Yes I know us Europeans will lament at this, after all I bought return trips from Manchester to Italy for less than $100.

Buckeye is the westernmost part of the greater Phoenix area and one of the fastest growing ‘cities’ in North America (the term cities is banded about far too easily in NA). The house, a 3 bedroomed bungalow with its own pool and astroturf putting green (perfectly suited) is fantastic and definitely a spot I can see the whole clan utilizing for many years to come. Below are some photos I took of the house and pool area.

The trip started in mixed fashion. One of the family dogs (JD) who had been very poorly was unfortunately put down on our first day. His time had come and it was a peaceful and loving end but terribly sad either way. Tim stated that they didn’t want another dog (there is still Molly) but I believe this has been said before so watch this space….

Buckeye is home to American staples which are all worth a mention. The first is Walmart which is a place like no other. Americans can be large at times and with 50c for 2L of fountain Coca Cola and $16 for 2L for named brands Vodka/Rum you can quickly understand why. This is £12 for 2L of Smirnoff Vodka!!!

The next is Costco which is similar to the UK but on a larger scale. I am still (thinking back) mesmerised by a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) bigger than my last apartment in Manchester. you could seriously live on it (it was about 4m tall and 1.5 wide at its widest part). I have no idea why I am obsessed with it but I am.

3rd, and finally is In N’ Out burger. This Californian burger chain is supposed to be the bee’s knees when it comes to burgers (something I am not mad about to be honest… I prefer chicken burgers). It was OK and for the price you can’t complain but I am not OBSESSED like others seem to be.

Skyline Regional Park

The Skyline Regional Park is an 8.700 acre national park located to the south of the White Tank Mountains. It is also the closest hiking spot to Buckeye so an ideal place to fulfil my hiking addiction without sacrificing a day lounging in the sun by the pool (not a personal sacrifice but one that others don’t always want to make).

The easiest of the trails was the Turnbuckle Loop. This 3.2 mile circular path had some elevation for views over the local landscape but was accessible enough for Carol and the dogs to join us without too much discomfort.

The semi-arid landscape is a far stretch from those commonly experienced in Vancouver, or indeed those experienced in the UK which makes for an enjoyable (if not slightly repetitive) hike. The route also had a challenging ‘diversion’ called the Valley Vista which headed directly up the mountain to maximise the views of the area. I completed that myself at a brisk pace to catch up with the team before they got back to the carpark.

My favourite part of the hike is the proximity you can get to the eye-catching Saguaro Cactus. This plant is a symbol of Arizona and Carol told me that you are not allowed to cut them down without a license) even if they are on your property due to their symbolism. They are pretty cool.

The walk took less than 2 hours meaning we were back by the pool by early afternoon. Not a bad morning out.

The Arrival of Meg

One of Sam’s friends Megan joined us in Buckeye on the Monday to celebrate her birthday (on the Tuesday). With her arrival the drinking levels increased exponentially (cause and effect). For her birthday we hung out by the pool all day (something I detest doing for more than a single day). That evening we decided to hit up one of the only bars in the area. Rex’s Saloon.

The uber driver was surprised by this choice and even offered to take us (for free) into downtown Phoenix. However with plans the next day we decided to stay local and give it a go. The bar epitomizes the stereotypical small town USA dive bar. With 5 total occupants (before we turned up) we had the free reign of the place. Control of the pool table (note Megan needs some practice) and Jukebox. Following a whole day of day-drinking the night soon turned to madness and thankfully Uber was around to take us home. The evidence of this return trip was swiftly removed from social media wasn’t it Meg?!

Sedona – Devils Bridge

Whilst the trip to Arizona was mainly designed as a get-away in the sun to chill and refresh I was given one day out to get fill my adventurer lust and chose Sedona. Sedona is a town just south of Flagstaff (and about 2 hours north of Phoenix) made famous by the striking red sandstone (Supai, the same rock made famous in Hava Supai) buttes which surround the town.

The trip from Buckeye to Sedona is one of relative easy up the highway. Tim and Carol joined us on the trip and booked to play golf at the Sedona Golf Resort whilst we went on a hike (a trip to satisfy two sets of outdoor urges). I spent a bit of time prior to arriving in Arizona choosing the best hike to go on as time would be limited in the town. Eventually the decision was clear and we chose to climb up to ‘Devils Bridge’ a natural arch with great views over the western part of Sedona.

The climb didn’t start well. After sitting in traffic through the centre of Sedona and realising my camera’s battery was flat (a modelling shoot by the pool the day before was to blame) we arrived to hundreds of cars spilling out of an already full car park… great, bloody brilliant. The last thing I wanted was to share a photo of this natural landscape with 100s of people I didn’t know.

With a mood akin to a 3 year old whose toys have just been taken away I joined Sam and Meg as we traversed down the dry creek road (which is accessible by 4×4’s) to the trailhead. This is actually the worst part of the hike as its flat and relatively uneventful (and at probably 1.5 miles relatively long. Once we hit the trailhead the path began to rise. The trail was very busy (and for a Wednesday I was surprised by this) which did nothing to improve my mood. The trail, at times is steep and narrow and progress is slowed by people of different abilities and fitness levels blocking off spots in the path. Finally we reached the top and saw Devils bridge for the first time….

And how I was wrong. Yes the top is full. There were probably 100 people resting at the top. However a natural queue formed off the bridge allowing people to experience the bridge (and get a photo) with no interruptions. Sure I would of liked to have time to explore the arch and have the place to myself but without starting the hike at 6am this is unlikely. The photos were out of this world even if they were taken with an iPhone (sobs).

And like a hangry girlfriend who has just been fed, my mood was instantly improved and I bounced back down the trail in a jovial manner saying hello to the same people I snarled at on the way up. Yes, I can be fickle at times.

The return trip, with 15-20 minutes at the top took just over 2 hours. We celebrated by eating at Javelina Cantina, a popular South-Western food spot with monster Margaritas as big as my head. The combination of tired legs, large portions and strong cocktails mean’t the 3 of us (Sam, Meg and I) snoozed heavily on the return 2 hour trip back to Buckeye. A great day!!

Overall the trip to Arizona was as prescribed. Relaxing with large amounts of drinking and some exploring. I hope to come back soon and a trip to Havai Supai (about 4 hours north of Buckeye) is 100% on the cards for 2019. Watch this space.

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