When my husband told me he was going to Phoenix for a conference I jumped at the chance to tag along. Fly on points, stay in the free hotel, visit a shopping mecca south of the border… I mean, why not?

Although once I arrived, shopping was just about the last thing I had in mind. Turns out that if you look beyond the ‘valley of the sun’, Arizona is a really cool place to visit.

Stop number one: the Grand Canyon. It was a day trip and I couldn’t go all that way and not visit one of the world’s finest wonders. I booked a trip with Open Road Tours that would guide me through the Sonoran Desert, the red rocks of Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon and the painted desert.

And indeed, my very first glimpse of the Grand Canyon literally took my breath away.  To say that I had a lump in my throat upon seeing this majestic creation is not an exaggeration.

Stop number two: Scottsdale. Seems like everyone I spoke to said I just had to visit Scottsdale. Maybe I missed something but I spent about 45 minutes wandering around waiting to be wowed. Perhaps if my initial goal of shopping were still a reality it might have changed my opinion.

Stop number three: Piestewa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak). If I lived in Phoenix, I’d join in with the locals and use this as a daily climb to get into serious shape. But with yoga being my only form of exercise these days, climbing this thing just about kicked me in the you-know-what. With a 360 degree view of the city of Phoenix and the surrounding mountains, the heart-pounding 1.2 mile trek up was more than worth it. I sat on the peak for three hours.

What stands out most from my three-day adventure are the friendly faces I met along the way. Adventuring solo can be lonely, but it’s also a great way to meet new people.

Cheers to my Grand Canyon travel guide, Robin, with his wicked radio voice; Irmane from the Bronx for her sense of adventure and peaceful spirit; Phoenix native, Bobby, for being my impromptu tour guide at the top of Squaw Peak; Jen from Seattle for her tips on hunting scorpions and tarantulas after dark; and finally, George, a war veteran who I met in the Phoenix airport who was en route to reconcile with his daughter in Washington. How fitting is it that he was sharing stories of his 35+ years in the US Army just the day before Remembrance Day?

Check out the rest of my Arizona adventure over on flickr.

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