I had never heard of the high desert prior to visiting Bend earlier this year. It’s essentially up in the mountains – usually on a plateau – with low rainfall resulting in desert type vegetation. We spent three weeks traversing this arid landscape in the south-west of the states, marvelling at its sheer size and all-encompassing redness.
Stop 1 – Flagstaff
As we started our high desert stint after a week off work, we knew we’d need to schedule some heads-down-bums-up work time. With this in mind, we booked into an Airbnb in Flagstaff, Arizona for the first week.
We try to stay in Airbnb accommodation when we’re in cities (which are generally not conducive to van life) or when we need a break from, well, living in a van. Given our limited budget for AirBnBs, it can be a juggle to get the space we need to work with the amenities that make us feel our time is better spent in an Airbnb over the Eagleroo. Our Airbnb of choice in Flagstaff was a room with a private bath and a little adjoining work area in a mansion of twelve Airbnb rooms, all sharing two kitchens and several living areas. We arrived on a Sunday night to the darkened mansion, let ourselves in, found our room and checked out the beautifully appointed common areas. It was very quiet, and as the evening wore on it suddenly dawned on us – was it possible we were alone? In a mansion? Yep, nobody else stayed there that first night or any of the six following nights.
Thus, our week in Flagstaff flew by as we worked, watched Netflix, played on the mansion’s resident Steinway (yes – Erik even convinced me to jam with him on a piano!), and generally pretended like we were living in a mansion in Flagstaff. We were so absorbed in our game of pretending to be normal people we didn’t take any photos of our temporary home, but you can check out the listing here.
We did have one side outing to Sedona, a hippie town with incredible red-rock buttes and steep canyons. It is a new age town, with many believing that the area holds powerful energy vortexes that can encourage a high level of spiritual transformation. We went on a Saturday when it was full of tourists, so the only thing that reached a higher level within us was our stress levels, which prepared us for…
Stop 2 – The Grand Canyon
One of the incredible things about this trip is the friendships we’ve made across the way. Erik had only met Mitch and Dylan twice prior to this year, both times to complete some crazy 50-mile relay run through the woods with a group of friends. Despite this, they welcomed us into their home and showed us some damn fine New Hampshire hospitality earlier in our trip. We had such a great time with them, we decided to move our Grand Canyon dates so we could meet up with them the night before they started a seven-day hike into the Canyon.
There is not much to say about the Canyon itself except as one of my printers back in Australia put it when I spoke to him whilst there, you Americans got the name wrong… it should be the ‘fucking Grand Canyon’. It is spectacular for its sheer enormity. So much so that your eyes seem to be playing tricks on you and you don’t trust your own depth perception.
We arrived at the Canyon the night before Mitch and Dylan, giving us a chance to do a three-hour hike over the rim so at least we wouldn’t feel too ashamed of our adventure-less-ness.
Given we were staying two nights at the Canyon, we also had the rare opportunity to watch the sunrise and sunset on the same day from the same spot.
We had orchestrated a neighbouring campsite with Mitch and Dylan, so all this beauty and activeness could be celebrated with campfire tacos, beer, guitar playing, bourbon and tequila whilst we listened enviously to their plans for the next seven days they would spend in the Canyon itself.
We had such a fantastic time we even planned to meet up again in New Zealand for the Queenstown Marathon in 2018. The next morning we were sad to see them go, but – feeling a little worse for wear post beer-bourbon-tequila – I don’t think either of us was jealous that they were the ones hiking 7 miles that day.
Besides, we had more desert to see.