Checking out scenic Phoenix

If you fly into Phoenix, make sure to spend some at the Desert Botanical Gardens, as well as Hole in the Rock, both just minutes away from Sky Harbor Airport. We were down in Arizona in March for a quick visit to Sedona. As we arrived late in the day, we spent the night there, and before driving north, visited these two attractions. They didn’t disappoint!

You do need to make reservations to get into Desert Botanical Gardens, but I had no problem doing it the night before. Admission is $29.95. There is an onsite restaurant, but at the time there was limited seating due to Covid-19 restrictions, so the wait time was long (although you can make reservations.)

I took a ton of pictures and it’s hard to exclude too many. As you can see, it’s not just traditional cactus, but a wide range of succulents as well.

After enjoying our morning here, we picked up some sandwiches at Subway and were able to find some picnic tables outside the park to enjoy the pleasant Arizona sun (not yet scorching hot summer sun). We then headed over to Hole in the Rock. It’s in the same general area as the Botanical Garden and the Zoo. It gets a lot of visitors since it’s an easy .3 mile hike up to the hole and offers spectacular views of the Valley of the Sun.

Vacation Planning in the Pandemic

I was very fortunate to travel to Italy last September.  In a nutshell: my husband and I flew into Milan, took a quick side trip to Lake Como, then continued down to Florence for a few days, hopped on another train to Naples, transferred to the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei and Sorrento, and ended our trip in a wonderful 400 year-old apartment (updated of course, but still with original wooden ceiling beams) in Rome. So many wonderful experiences. We couldn’t wait to get back to Europe, with the planned destination being Spain (with a sidetrip to Morocco).

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Outside our apartment in Rome

Then Covid-19 happened.

Even my spring birthday getaway to Arizona got cancelled. Fortunately, however, I had made campground reservations for this summer. Campgrounds book up quickly for the weekends and typically you need to do it 6 months in advance. Fortunately, we’re allowed to go camping here in Colorado and judging by the line at REI the other week, a lot of people are opting for this.

We’ll be camping near Twin Lakes just south of Leadville. The campground is at 9,500 feet – I think that’s the highest elevation I’ve ever camped at. Leadville itself is the highest incorporated city in North America (10,152 feet).

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Lakeview Campground, near Twin Lakes and Leadville

As it so happens, my oldest brother will be passing through on the Colorado Trail (part of the Continental Divide Trail) that same weekend. It’ll be nice to meet up with him.

His hike also presented us with another opportunity to do another Colorado staycation. The CT terminates in Durango, about 6 hours from Denver. Since I volunteered to pick him up, naturally I decided to  turn it into a mini getaway. We’ll sightsee  on some of the scenic mountain highways and visit the former mining town of Silverton. We’ll also stay a night in Pagosa Springs. Their hot springs resort has been on my bucket list for years.

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The Springs Resort at Pagosa Springs – check this one off the bucket list!Silverton-Valley-COSilverton, Colorado

Once September comes (when we had planned to go to Spain) it would take nothing short of a miracle to make it to Europe. We still have our tickets as Norwegian Airlines has not officially cancelled our flight to London Gatwick. But we’re expecting that to happen. So in the meantime we’re talking about some things we can do here in the US. One is to rent an RV and do a road trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a 2-day drive. I’m not sure if I could stand my husband’s driving. But it might be fun as we could bring our pug. He’s almost 12, getting up there in years, and he’s never been on a road trip. We’ll see.

In the meantime I hope you all manage to do something fun and still STAY SAFE!