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  • Writer's pictureClarissa Tapia

What Could Have Been

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

Watch the waves

They don’t get stuck

They ebb and flow

They find a way to their destination

No matter what boulder

No matter what sea creature

No matter what weather

They find a way

As will you

Grand Canyon National Park South Rim

Reflecting on some of the adventures the Big Guy has put in my path I realize I’ve had one hell of a ride so far. I have done more things in my life that involve love, bravery, courage and fear than I ever would have thought possible. This past weekend was no different for me. After months of struggling with some of life's harshest challenges, those of heartbreak and hurt, I finally had an opportunity to get out of town for a a few days. I was looking forward to this trip for weeks, but it just would not come fast enough. All I wanted was to get out of my skin and run away even for a little bit to escape my reality, even though deep down I knew running away wouldn't fix anything. Both the Big Guy and I decided to wait it out until the time came for me to go on my next adventure. Time moved like a snail stuck in peanut butter. There's a saying my mom quotes in Spanish whenever I get too impatient which is frequently, "No hay fecha que no se cumpla," there's no date that doesn't come to pass. Of course she was right, the date arrived no sooner than had I wished it. I'm happy to report I was looking forward to the trip for the simple reason of hanging out with my parents one on one. The trip was not an effort to escape or forget anything. I simply wanted to have some fun. I am happy to say I did just that!


I want to share with you things I did on my trip through Northern Arizona because if you're anything like me, you want to go anywhere except your home state, but I am here to tell you that we are missing out on so much beauty, and it's in our own backyard! I'm sure this is true for everyone's home states.

***

My trip began in Flagstaff, AZ. The minute I opened the car door and felt the rush of cold air hit my face and seep into my lungs, I could physically feel my heart smiling. My stay in Flagstaff was short, as this was our halfway point to the Grand Canyon, so my parents and I slept the night there and left first thing in the morning to our first stop, Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park, also known as Marble Canyon. You have to keep an eye out for the entrance to this breathtaking spot because it doesn't look like much as you travel north on U.S Highway 89 heading toward the Grand Canyon's South Rim entrance. We almost missed it! If you want to see natural beauty without spending on park entrance at the Grand Canyon this is a really good spot. The entrance gate was opened and unsupervised when we were there, but there were signs asking for a donation as your "entrance fee." There are some gorgeous photo opportunities here, and I heard if it rains, you can see water flowing below in the canyon. Can you imagine how beautiful? There are locals from the Navajo Tribe selling jewelry and art and I was so excited! Over the past couple of years my love for Native American jewelry has grown exponentially and it's not just the art that draws me in, it's the people who make it. There is so much passion and pride when they share the story of the piece of jewelry you are holding. I have a story for every piece of jewelry I wear and it brings about some of the most fun conversations I have ever had.



The Grand Canyon is only about 30 minutes from this point, so being this close, I would highly recommend taking the trip up to see this magnificent site. Be ready to pay $35 to park your car, unless you are Military. The pass is good for seven days though, so you can come and go for a week! You will be happy to have the extra days once you see how giant this park is. One day is not enough to see everything. We unfortunately couldn't stay beyond a few hours so we only made it up to the South Rim, but it was SO worth it. At this entrance you will find a beautiful Watchtower with views that will make you speechless. It is over 80 narrow steps to the top, but the entire inside is covered in Native American drawings. If you haven't been here in a while, or never been, do yourself a favor and hit this place up. There is nothing more grounding than being reminded of how small we are compared to the forces of nature.


Grand Canyon - Desert View Watchtower

"When your spirit cries for peace, Come to a world of canyons, Deep in the old land;

Feel the exultation of high plateaus, The strength of moving waters,

The simplicity of sand and grass, And the silence of growth." - August Frugé


Grand Canyon South Rim

After being forced to tear my eyes away from this site, my parents and I headed to Happy Jack, AZ. Never heard of it? Me either, but I am so glad we did. My dad's brother has a cabin up there and we spent the afternoon surrounded by family, food, conversation and no Wi-fi. I actually lost cell service for about 24 hours while in up in the mountains and it was the most liberating feeling. I couldn't do anything but be in the moment enjoying the company of those around me. I was reminded during my stay in Happy Jack that while our phones make us feel safe and in control, the minute there's no service, we are lost. I feel that if I didn't have my cell phone or laptop always on me, I would be more curious and creative and the proof lies in the poem I used to open this week's blog. That came to me while sitting in bed, nestled underneath tons of blankets in layers of pajamas in a mystical cabin. No wonder artists and authors seclude themselves away from the world to work. There's no better way to make magic.


Happy Jack, AZ - I wish I had a Christmas Tree in my backyard!

From here, on the third day of our adventure, my parents and I drove down the most scenic winding road toward Strawberry, AZ. Isn't that the cutest name for a town? We didn't stop there, but locals told us one of the best hiking trails is in this area, it's called Fossil Creek. (My aunt also mentioned they are known for homemade muffins!) When I had a chance to look up Fossil Creek, it immediately caught my eye as something I have to try next time. I was told it's roughly a four-mile hike to the bottom of the canyon so it's not for the faint of heart. Once you make it, you can happily sunbathe and take glorious one-of-a-kind pictures. Just be sure to do your research before you go because permits are required to hike during certain times of the year.


Unsurprisingly, we managed to come across some of the best food doing all this driving. One of our favorite breakfast spots became Miss Fitz 260 Cafe in Payson, AZ. If you are a fan of hash browns, the classic old-fashioned kind that have the crispy top with soft middle, you are going to love this place. There was no wait when we arrived, but it was a revolving door the entire time we were there. I wish I had pictures of my pumpkin pancake breakfast I ordered but as soon as I saw them hit the table, the last thing I was worried about was a picture. They were crushed! Eating here feels like eating at Grandma's House, it was very warm and eclectic.


After eating like we'd never eat another meal again. we headed to our base camp for the night, Heber-Overgaard, AZ. This area sits right along the edge of the White Mountains, it gets really cold. When we were there the weather was in the 40's in mid May, I can't imagine the winters. I am a desert baby through and through anything below 60 requires layers and a jacket.



Heber-Overgaard is the perfect in between location to Show Low, AZ, Snowflake, AZ and even Pinetop, AZ. All these little towns are less than an hour away and each offer individual charm. For example in Show Low, my parents and I went to the most colorful Mexican restaurant I have seen, it's called Los Corrales. You are welcomed into the restaurant by the smell of fresh tortillas - they were actually making corn tortillas as you walked through the front door. The atmosphere is so enchanting. Each booth had a colorful background depicting animals, plants, and people; it was really cool. We ended up talking about ancient civilizations and Mexican history all throughout dinner - something about the pictures makes you wonder what life was like back then.


Show Low, AZ - My Parents in Los Corrales Mexican Restaurant

On the final day of our four day adventure, true to form, we found yet another amazing breakfast spot - this time in Heber-Overgaard. (We basically ate our way through Northern Arizona!) We found this spot by accident and we were not disappointed. It's called Baker's Ponderosa Cafe and if you have a sweet tooth like I do, you have to try their Banana Bread French Toast - it was mouthwatering and we ended up buying three loaves of banana bread to take home as gifts. We all licked our fingers that morning, especially my mom who thoroughly enjoyed her homemade biscuit ham & egg sandwich to the last crumb. We had the nicest waitress too who always topped off our coffee just at the right moment.



Baker's Ponderosa Cafe - Banana Bread French Toast

This trip was a beautiful reminder of how far I have come in the last few months. It was however, also a reminder of how much there is still left to go through. My heart may not sting as it once did, but it still bristles at the thought of what could have been. At least now, this unforeseen freedom has me wandering in directions I never would have considered had I been tethered to someone else. Now that's what I call an adventure.


“The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”

-Henry David Thoreau



*The links in the blog send you to restaurant or park sites so you can gather more information for your next adventure.

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