Day 6 – Sedona and Phoenix

The next morning, we woke up excited for another day of hiking. My mom and grandma were doing Part 2 of their trolley tour, so we dropped them off in town and headed back up to that Route 89A with the intent of hiking the West Fork trail. This trail is supposed to be the iconic Sedona trail through a slot canyon following a river. I thought it would be good especially since there’s no climbing involved and my knee wouldn’t hurt. Turns out, the rest of Arizona thought it would be a nice trail too, as there were HUNDREDS of cars parked along the road. We definitely didn’t want any part of that, so we wandered around for about an hour just looking for a trailhead. Trailheads around here are incredibly poorly marked, but finally we found one called the North Wilson Mountain trail and headed up it. Right away the views were stunning, and we even had some tree cover and shade for this hike.

We were heading towards those dark cliffs in the distance, and I couldn’t wait to see it up close. We encountered one small group of people during our time on this trail, and that was it.

We continued on for about an hour, and entered into the cover of trees, which had stunning fall foliage.

We sat and enjoyed our lunch at the base of the huge cliffs. It was sort of a sad moment as we realized this would not only be our last hike for this trip, but our last hike together for quite a while.

After that short break we decided to head back down the mountain. It took about an hour, and surprisingly, I had no knee issues! I finally mastered the art of hobbling down mountain trails!

We got back to the car, went back to town, picked up my mom and grandma, and started the trek to Phoenix. This portion of the trek was uneventful. We didn’t stop for any photo ops, instead just carried straight through to Phoenix. During this time we saw REAL desert, with towering saguaro cacti and tumbleweeds. We arrived around dusk and got settled into our hotel, the Sheraton Grand Phoenix. My grandmother and I were on the top floor, and when we opened the curtains of our room, we saw this:

We looked at each other and just laughed, it was the best hotel room view we’d had all week (or probably ever). That night, I went to investigate the pool, which was totally empty, and went for a perfect nighttime swim.

The next day there was no time for exploring as I was presenting my poster at the BMES conference. My mom and grandma hung out by the pool all day while my father explored the city; meanwhile I was walking around in 100 degree weather in my fancy clothes.

That night, we enjoyed one last sunset in the endless sky, and went to bed early to catch our flight early the next morning.

After a long couple of days of travelling, I made it back to New York and reunited with Juno. This trip was absolutely incredible, and I’m so grateful that my family was able to go with me. Can’t wait to go back for more!

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Day 1 – Las Vegas

 

After being up at 5am for a 7am flight, we arrived after 7 hours of travel in Las Vegas at noon (time zones are so weird). We took some time to become human again (ie. a much needed shower), ate a super delicious home cooked meal, and headed out on the town. I never realized how ubiquitous gambling is in Vegas. That may seem like a stupid revelation, but I mean come on, WHY do you need a slot machine in the grocery store? In every gas station? They’re even at the airport, which is somewhat less surprising, but still.

Our first stop was to see the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, and pay our respects to the memorial for the recent shooting.

The Welcome sign, with the memorial and Mandalay Bay visible in the background

The memorial was incredibly humbling. Seeing the names and faces of all of the innocent victims of a senseless murder spree, the majority of whom weren’t even native to Las Vegas, hit home with a lot of the people visiting, especially when seeing mourning family members placing flowers on the crosses.

The memorial with the light from the Luxor shining vertically in the background

After that uplifting trip, we headed to the Bellagio to see their gardens.

Ceiling of the entrance to the Bellagio

The gardens were incredible! I can’t imagine how much work they put into building and upkeeping the displays. Next, we went outside to the fountains in the front to watch the show, synced with classical music.

We went on our way, heading downtown to explore the nightlife there. We entered a casino, where my family enjoyed playing the poker machines, and I lost $5 to a slot machine. I really don’t understand the appeal of gambling; I work very hard for my money, and don’t want to just feed it to a hungry machine! I’d much rather have something to show for it….so, naturally, my grandmother and I went to a little souvenir shop across the way and spent our hard-earned money on candy 😀 We spent a good deal of time hanging out in that casino, but the omnipresent smoke was really starting to get to all of us, and we took our leave and headed back. Finally, after being awake for ~21 hours, we passed out in our beds.

Day 2 – Zion National Park