Last May, my brother, who just moved from Portland, Oregon to Austin and is in heaven trying to be a Texan (adjusting to Texas Music, no mountains or rain every day, tall friendly good looking Texas women, shallow brown lakes, 100 degree temperatures, and the joy of cruising through the Hill Country in his new BMW convertible) called - "Yo, Bro, I just booked a 2 bedroom villa at the Westin Kierland Villas in Scottsdale! You and Susie want to join me for a week of fun?"
How can you say no to that! After numerous phone calls, lots of Google searches (an ArizonaOutside.com with golf maps and reviews, like TexasOutside.com, would have made it easier to find some courses to play), and plenty of questions about where to eat, what to do, and where to golf we had created a fun filled jam packed week and we couldn't wait to get started. Over the next 7 days we would:
Before we knew it we were off to the airport with clubs, t-shirts, lots of new golf balls, plenty of Advil, hats, and a couple bottles of sun tan lotion. Scottsdale is a perfect place to spend a vacation any time of the year - a little hot in the summer - and offers more to see and do than you can accomplish in a week. You'll find a variety of accommodations including fantastic resorts, plenty of upscale or artsy shopping, a number of ways to win or lose you money at the casinos, excellent nightlife, every kind of restaurant you can think of from burgers to gourmet French cuisine, museums, theater, and plenty of year round outdoor activities. You can go horseback or mountain bike riding; hike in the mountains or in the desert; visit ghost towns or quaint artsy communities; enjoy a ball game or an Indy race; tube or kayak down some cool refreshing rivers; go sky diving, hang gliding, or hot air ballooning; visit ruins or cliff dwellings; go off roading or fly fishing; or play golf at any of the over 120 courses. If you can tolerate the heat (hot but dry and consistently over a 100), May to September is a great time to visit Scottsdale - during the summer months when its hot no one plays golf and the courses are wide open after noon, most of the tourists are gone, and the prices are cut in half. You can play some $250 courses for $39 during the summer - look for discounted tee times to save lots of money.
Wow - what a way to start a golf vacation! Troon North is 36 holes (Pinnacle and Monument courses) of desert golf at its best. In fact, Golf Magazine’s raters naming the Pinnacle Course at Troon North Golf Club number 21 in the nation and number one in Arizona. And Golf Magazine also positioned the Monument Course at Troon North as number 45 in the nation and number 4 in Arizona - can't get much better than that! Both courses meander through the ravines and foothills in the high Sonoran desert and leverage the natural terrain to provide a memorable golf experience.
We started on Pinnacle and it was our first experience at true desert golf and we loved it - fun challenging, beautiful scenery, and lots of variety. Pinnacle has 5 sets of tee boxes with yardage ranging from 4883 yards to over 7000 yards - after all the drinks and partying the night before, Scott didn't think he could handle over 6200 yards so we played from the Silver tee box, which still had a slope of 130 - the slope from the tips was 147! The course has a links feel with fairly large greens and wide open fairways, although you need to carry the desert to get to them from the tee boxes and if you miss them you will go through a lot of golf balls. Pinnacle offers plenty of challenges - some target golf, dog legs, desert carries, boulders, cactus and other desert fauna, lots of rabbits, and large white sand traps. To score well you need to manage the course. In addition, to the challenges we were in awe of the stunning scenery and beauty of Pinnacle. It is built around dramatic granite boulders and has some surprisingly striking elevation changes plus panoramic views of the desert and mountains, desert fauna of all sizes and colors, multi million dollar homes, wildlife of all types (bobcats, lizards, thousands of rabbits, snakes, birds), and lush green fairways and greens contrasting with the arid desert.
Pinnacle has lots of fun and beautiful holes, for example number 7 is a 456 yard par 4 dog leg right with some huge boulders along the right side and desert infringing into the fairway close to the green. Push your tee shot right and you'll watch your ball ricochet off the boulders or be blocked on your approach to the green still a couple hundreds yards away. Number 16 is a beautiful 140 yard par 3 with an elevated tee box overlooking the lake and green which is protected by the lake, huge bunkers on the left and right, and a small bunker in front. In addition to unbelievable scenery, the service is fantastic, the greens and fairways are in perfect condition, and the course is very well maintained and manicured. To learn more read our review of the Pinnacle Course and take a look at the video tour. We rated it a 9.5 - about as close as you can get to a perfect 10!
What a perfect way to start our golfing vacation. We loved it so much, that after a good lunch, we decided that we couldn't leave without playing 18 at Monument. As it turns out, playing in June in Scottsdale is the off season and very few golfers venture out to play golf in the heat of the afternoon when it is typically over 100 degrees - in fact, the guys at pro shop ask "are you sure you want to play another 18 - it's 100 degrees out there?" Not a problem for us Texas golfers who are used to playing in 100 degree humid afternoons. It did however take it's toll on Scott who is used to playing in the rain and cool Oregon weather - I consistently took his money when we played in the afternoon! We loved playing after 11:00 because we typically owned the course and very seldom saw other golfers in front or in back of us on any of the courses we played. If we all had a bad score on a hole or really enjoyed the hole, we played it again! It was consistently between 95 and 105 but it's a dry heat and we seldom broke a sweat! And during the summer, the rates are very affordable.
We didn't see how the Monument 18 could match what we just played but it came very close and we rated it 9.4 and here is the link to our. Like the Pinnacle, the Monument has stunning scenery, perfect conditions, lots of variety, plenty of challenges, and is a blast to play. Tom Weiskopf was the original designer of the Pinnacle course and co-designer of the Monument course along with his long time partner Jay Morrish. There is a lot of similarity between both courses in the way they make the course fair but challenging and take advantage of the natural terrain.
The Monument also has 5 sets of tee boxes with yardage ranging from 5099 to 7070 and a slope of 72.9 and rating of 147 from the tips. Number 3 appropriately called the Monument is a monster 564 yard par 5 with a 3 handicap and a really fun hole. About 240 yards from the tips sits a huge granite outcropping in the middle of the fairway, marking the point where the fairway takes a 90 degree turn right. If you're short of the "monument" you can try to carry the dog and desert to shorten the hole and then you have a narrow fairway all the way to an oblong green that is well protected - par this baby and you're on your way to a good round. This 18th has a number of similar boulder outcroppings in and along the fairway that you need to avoid. In addition to all the boulders, you need to avoid the huge green and fairway bunkers, carry the desert, and stay out of the water (in the middle of the desert, can you believe it?) on 3 holes. We hated to leave Troon North and were thinking maybe we can fit another round at Troon later in the week.
After descending from 5000' on a hot air balloon trip (see below) we were back down to earth at The Boulders Golf Club struggling with our golf game and Scott's now puffy and swollen knee. The Boulders Golf Course is another fantastic course! Appropriately named, The Boulders plays through some huge 12 million year old granite boulders of all shapes and sizes that just seemed to have randomly dropped out of the sky. What a fun and scenic course. Scott claimed I only beat him because his knee hurt and looked like a large watermelon - that's the first time he's tried that excuse after a golfing loss.
The Boulders is world renowned as one of the finest golf, tennis and spa resorts in the United States and is a 2008 Golf Magazine Platinum Medal Award winning resort. Travel and Leisure Golf recently ranked The Boulders as the #7 Golf Resort in the USA for 2006 and #2 Golf Resort in the USA for 2005. The Boulders has 2 championship 18 hole golf courses, North and South, but during the summer heat at any give time only 27 holes are in play. And how could we leave without playing all 27!
All three nines are nestled in the tranquil beauty of the high Sonoran desert and meander through the Boulders community of stunning million dollar home surrounded by granite boulders of all shapes and sizes and desert fauna of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The panoramic views of the mountains and desert are stunning - at times it seemed like I spent more time taking pictures than I did golfing. It just so happens that when we visited Scottsdale in late May the greens and fairways are making the transition from winter to summer grass and most of the courses we played had just or recently aerated. Regardless, the conditions at The Boulders and other courses were still excellent.
In addition to some very fun and challenging holes, while playing golf at The Boulders it is not unusual to spot a bobcat, thousands of cute rabbits, coyotes or a javelina. As we were traipsing through the desert looking for our golf balls that missed the fairway, in addition to getting pricked, stuck, and scratched with 42 different types of cactus, we did spot lots of wildlife but seldom found our ball - another two sleeves gone!
The North 18 seems more traditional and straightforward while the South course is more scenic, more rugged desert, and much tighter requiring more accuracy. Each of the courses offer some of everything that keeps us coming back to play this hard and frustrating game - dog legs, plenty of challenges (steep faced bunkers and plenty of them, desert, water, and boulders), elevation changes, blind shots, and lots more. Scott's knee still looked like a watermelon and each time the cart lady came by, he begged them to go back to the club house and get him a bag of ice to put on his knee - he may have just been trying to get some symphany from the cute and friendly cart ladies. In 27 holes he went through 6 Advil, 8 lost balls, and 4 bags of ice! But he played pretty well and I barely beat him. Read our review of The Boulders to learn more.
After another 27 holes of golf in 100 degree weather, we were dead tired from all the golf and only 5 or less hours of sleep. But again, the hot tub and Pina Colodas worked their wonders and we were ready to go stuff our faces with some good Scottsdale Mexican food, a margarita, and a fun bar. By the time we finished dinner and a few drinks, we were too tired to find a bar and headed home around 11:30. Scott's knee was really swollen and he had the Westin deliver him an ace bandage and a huge bag of ice, which was delivered to him by the bell boy on a Segway. Scott than convinced the bellboy that he needed to let each of us go for a ride on his Segway. It's not that easy to ride a Segway (which requires good balance) at 12 PM after a few cocktails and within the confines of your villa - however, the bellboy was not having similar maneuvering problems.
From the river trip (see below), we jumped in the car and rushed to Grayhawk Golf Club for our 1:00 tee time. Grayhawk has two exceptional 18-hole golf courses – Talon and Raptor. Both courses have earned numerous awards and accolades over the years and have hosted high-profile competitive events such as the PGA Tour's Frys.com Open (2007-2009). We started on the Talon 18 which is on Golf Magazine’s prestigious list of the “Top 100 You Can Play in the U.S.” Talon was designed to leverage and blend into the natural desert terrain and the back nine is built around a series of deep box canyons and many holes skirt thick stands of Mesquite, Palo Verde and Ironwood trees while ancient Saguaros (protected cactus) and numerous species of native flowering plants dot the out-of-play areas.
With four tee boxes and yardage ranging from 5143 yards to 6973 yards and a slope of 121 to 143, the course is suitable to all levels of play and is fair but challenging - we lost more balls on this 18 than any other course we played during this trip - most of which were doing the Tin Cup thing saying "I know I can carry that box canyon!" The conditions were excellent, the fairways are forgiving, the greens are generous but tough - multi-tiered, fast, and sloping.
Talon offers lots of variety and the hole's names aptly describe what you're up against. For example, Double Cross requires a carry over two desert areas; Heaven or Hell requires carry over a wide and deep box canyon (miss and you're in Hell); Devil's Drink is a short par three over water to a green with water three quarters of the way around it; and on Desert Burn the desert will scorch you if you miss the green on this 206 yard par 3. Fun course.
We only had time to play a 6 holes of Raptor because it was starting to get dark and Scott wouldn't get out of the cart after the 3rd hole because his knee was hurting or was it because he was 6 over after the first 3 holes? So he hopped in the cart with the beautiful cart lady claiming he needed her help in getting another bag of ice for his knee - and off they rode into the beautiful Arizona sunset. We did however drive a large part of Raptor to check it out. To see some more pictures and learn more, read our.
Raptor was designed by Tom Fazio and if you know Fazio courses, you know he likes to build um very challenging. And he has done it here - Raptor offers a thrilling challenge that commands a player's respect through a daring, high-stakes game of risk and reward. Raptor is also listed by Golf Magazine as a "Top 100 You Can Play in the U.S." Read our Review of Grayhawk's Raptor Course.
Some of what we enjoyed when we played Grayhawk included:
After 87 holes of golf, the three of us were still speaking: Scott was down $10 bucks; Susie was winning on Bingo/Bango/Bongo; I was ahead in skins; no clubs were lost but we did have to go back a couple holes to retrieve one; collectively we had gone through 4 sleeves of balls, a half bottle of Advil, and a bottle of sun tan lotion; and we were all pretty tan and sore. Good news was we still had 27 to play at Kierland Golf Course and 36 at TPC for a grand total of 150 holes - makes me tired just thinking about playing that much golf in 6 days. We did have to restock on Advil, golf balls, a golf glove, a new lofter (the old one just wasn't working), and another ace bandage and bag of ice for Scott's knee.
Thursday was another great day chasing that little white ball around 36 holes of outstanding golf at the TPC Stadium and Champions Course. Scott's knee had shrunken to the size of a baseball, he didn't need to focus on hustling the cart ladies for bags of ice, and he could walk a lot faster from the cart to the green to miss his putts - meaning the competition got a little tougher. Both courses were in pristine condition, a blast to play,immaculately maintained, challenging but fair, and afforded stunning panoramic views of the McDowell Mountains - more Kodak moments. Service was excellent as are practice facilities, clubhouse, and food (the Grill was named the #1 steak and seafood eatery in Arizona!). Over the years, TPC Scottsdale has won several awards including: Top 100 Golf Resorts in The World, Top 25 Best Courses in Arizona, Top 10 Public Courses in America, and Top 100 Golf Resort Destinations in North America.
TPC's Stadium course is home to the PGA TOUR's FBR Open (the largest spectator golf event in the world) and you may have seen some of the fantastic holes on TV. Stadium Course, designed by the team of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, is a masterful blend of challenge and playability for the enjoyment of all levels of golfers from professionals to amateurs, including Scott! Tom and Jay must have moved millions of metric tons of desert to create all the tall mounds, berms, and sloping fairways in what is traditionally an arid and flat bunch of sand. And then they planted trees, cacti of all shapes and sizes to stick you when you're looking for your ball, and a wide variety of other desert fauna - all of which add some challenge to playing the Stadium but also beautiful landscaping and a variety of color (pinks, reds, yellows, oranges, purples, and greens).
The are some fun and challenging holes and one of our favorites was #15 a 552 yard par 5 with water all down the left side and desert and trees along the right side leading to an island green with two traps making the approach even harder. Rich Beem states that this is "one of the best risk/reward holes we play" on the tour. If you watch TV, you know #16 and we could easily imagine the thousands who line this hole during the TPC cheering or heckling tee shot and putts! Outstanding course - read our
The Champions Course is across the street from the Stadium and was designed by Randy Heckenkemper. You'll find undulating Bermuda fairways, excellent conditions, challenging bunkers (deep, steep, and soft), dog legs, risk/reward opportunities, water, desert carries and more as Champions meanders over natural ravines and picturesque foothills - all at a price commensurate with municipal golf facilities. Can't beat all that. In fact, we actually liked Champions more than its bigger, better known sister - it seems more challenging, more diverse, and more fun to play.
The par 71 7124 yard Champions course has five par 3's, a diverse array of par 4's ranging from the 480 yard 5th hole with a split fairway to a short 310 yard par 4 that some of you might be able to reach if you're willing to risk flying over the desert to avoid the dog leg. Read our.
We had an enjoyable lunch with Tiffany Nelson, the TPC Scottsdale Marketing Director, and she gave us good information and tips about both courses as well as some ideas on restaurants, nightlife, and other fun things to do in Scottsdale. Tiffany is smart, very cute, personable, an excellent golfer, and successful - Scott fell in love during lunch and not with just his excellent Ahi Tuna Salad! In fact, I don't know how he ate his lunch, his mouth was open, his tongue was hanging out, and he never took his eyes off Tiffany. For the next three holes, all he could talk about was how he loved Scottsdale and might consider a move from Austin. If you need some information on either course or want to schedule an event or golf outing, give Tiffany a call
After golf, Susie's brother and sister-in-law (also named Mike and Susie, which tends to be a little confusing for everybody) joined us in the hot tub to work out all the kinks and give Scott an opportunity to pay off some of his golf losses with the couple rounds of drinks before he headed back to Austin the next morning - doesn't get much better than sitting in the hot tub with good friends, soaking the tired muscles after 36 holes of golf, watching the sun set over the mountains, and sipping a couple free (thanks Scott!) margaritas!
Following a good soaking, it was off to dinner at the Westin's deseo gourmet restaurant. Somehow the Westin management team heard about Scott's accident in the parking lot - they must have heard about it from Scott's multiple calls to the front desk for ice, ace bandages, and Tylenol. To express their sorrow for his woes (or get him off their back!), they offered to treat us to a meal in the deseo restaurant. And was it fantastic - I'm not claiming that we took advantage of this great free offer, but our bill must have been well over $800 after all the appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks. If you dine here, ask for Amelis, she is outstanding and provided impeccable service. The chef is to be congratulated for his creativity and presentation.
The deseo is part of the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa and it's a 5 minute walk from the Westin Kierland Villas where we stayed. Of course, Scott's knee was killing him, so he talked the concierge into sending golf carts to take us there and back. On the way back around midnight, not only did we take a cart tour of the property, the golf course, and some shops, we took bets on which cart was the fastest and most fun. Mike and Susie spent the night rather than driving home.
We have stayed at a number of Westin properties throughout the United States and they have an excellent reputation of taking care of their guests and they clearly took excellent care of us. We thuroughly enjoyed our room, the amenities (pool and 80' slide, pool side bar and restaurant, gas grills outside the villas, fitness center), the excellent service, the attention the detail, and the golf course. We'll be back! We stayed at the Westin Kierland Villas which are part of a timeshare program that Scott belongs to. The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa is close by and it has:
The Westin Villas or Resort is a perfect place to stay - it's close to all the golf courses, a 5 minute walk to Kierland Commons (upscale shopping, nightlife, and lots of good restaurants), and plenty of other fun things to see and do in Scottsdale.
Kierland Golf Club
After 36 holes of golf, a long soaking in the hot tub, a late night of good food and way to many drinks, it felt good to sleep in for a change. Scott was heading back to Austin and we were waiting for some good friends, Bill and Barbara, from Tuscan to join us for the night and 18 holes at Kierland Golf Club. Bill and I grew up and got in a lot of trouble together in Albuquerque and got together when he lived in Colorado and again when we both lived in California. I don't know why, but all of my major accidents (a broken femur snow skiing, two broken fingers, a broken wrist from horseback riding, 15 stitches in the back of the head from snow skiing, stitches in the chin when the rock from our trap hit me in the chin, and more) have all been when I was hanging around Bill. I was tempted to wear gloves, a helmet, shin pad, steel plated boots, goggles, and a chest protector when he came to visit this time - but it was too hot so I took my chances. Shortly after getting in the cart to tee off, blood was dripping from my forehead and Bill sat laughing in the cart - I hit my head on the cart roof getting in! Luckily, that was the only incident outside of a sore stomach from all the laughing and a headache the next morning from all the beer.
Kierland has three nine hole courses - Mesquite, Acacia, and Ironwood - all designed by Scott Miller to mirror the terrain of the desert and high prairie. Each course is named for the wide variety of indigenous vegetation throughout each nine holes and each nine has it's own unique personality and set of challenges. Like most good resort courses, at Kierland the:
And to top it off, the Kierland golf carts are air conditioned! Each cart has a small battery operated air conditioner with an adjustable tube to blow the cool air on your neck or back - a nice touch when it's over 100. Troon Golf manages the Kierland courses and their commitment to service, excellent playing conditions, and a memorable experience for each and every golfer holds true at Kierland as it does for every other Troon course - we go out of our way to play a Troon managed course and have never been disappointed. As we were walking out of the pro shop to tee off, I heard "is that Mike from Texas Outside?" It was Susie Womack, the new head golf pro. Susie was the pro at Hyatt Hill Country in San Antonio and is pleased as punch to be working for Troon and living the Scottsdale life. Ask for Susie if you need any help, lessons, or advice on play at Kierland.
Each nine plays with a diverse style created by differences in the landscape. It's hard to imagine that a few years back the terrain was once flat arid desert. Over a million cubic feet of dirt was bulldozed to create lakes, over 300 bunkers, mounds and berms, and elevation changes of up to 75 feet. And the contrast of the golden colored Buffalo grass, desert waste areas, trees and desert fauna against the lush green Bermuda fairways is stunning.
The Mesquite nine is the flattest of the nines and may be the easiest; Ironwood and Acacia are the most sought after, a little tougher, and have a bowl or saddle back contouring that helps keep the ball in play; Ironwood is the toughest; and Acacia is unique with 3 par 3's and 3 par 5's. Of all the nines we played, Acacia was our favorite and the last three holes are some of the best finishing holes we have ever played. Read our review of Kierland Mesquite Golf Course, review of Kierland Acacia Golf Course, and our review of Kierland Ironwood Golf Course.
I was pleased that the only injury when playing golf with Bill was a cart head butt and a little blood - I figured I would get hit by one of his errant shots, get pushed into a cacti, trip into the lake, or break something. Hurray, nothing happened and we had a great time getting reacquainted with them after 15 years. After golf, we had a fantastic dinner at Brio Tuscan Grill in the Kierland Commons.
Brio uses the finest and freshest ingredients and puts an emphasis on high-quality steaks, house-made pasta specialties and flatbreads prepared in an authentic Italian wood-burning oven. As usual we stuffed ourselves with excellent appetizers (a sampling of four house made Bruschettas, all four of which were unique and the best I've ever had), generous entrees (also one of the best veal Marsalas I have had - tender veal sauteed with mushroom Marsala sauce and served with fettuccine peperonata - and the Gorgonzola Lamb Chops were out of this world - individual chops grilled with a Gorgonzola crust, sauteed spinach, red wine veal sauce and a lemon oil drizzle. My mouth is watering as I write this! And then they brought us a huge and very tasty dessert. Fantastic and a great way to end a fun filled trip. Ask for Dan as a waiter - he is fantastic - and John Nemeth is the manager and will make sure you have a a good meal and good time at Brio Tuscan Grill.
Saturday was depressing as we packed our bags, loaded the car, said goodbye to Bill and Barbara and promised to meet in Colorado or New Mexico next year for a golf outing. Since our flight wasn't until 4 PM, we headed over to Susie's brother's house for a good brunch and some family time with his kids and grand kids. We said our goodbyes and rushed to the Phoenix airport. We were shocked when American Airlines said they didn't have a reservation for us. Turns out, our flight was on Sunday, not Saturday. Oh well, maybe we can get another 18 in. But when we called Hertz they wanted a fortune to keep the car another day and the clubs were all packed and we were out of Advil - sounds like we had had enough golf. So we called Susie's brother and ask if we could spend the night with them and if he wouldn't mind picking us up at the airport and dropping us back off the next day - boy, did I fell like an idiot. Mike agreed that I was an idiot, but still picked us up, feed us some excellent appetizers, supplied us with beer, took us to a great restaurant, put us up for the night, feed us breakfast, took us out to lunch, and finally dropped us off at the airport - how will I ever be able to top that. We owe them big time!
We stayed in a two bedroom Villa overlooking the 8th hole of the Kierland Golf Course. Our side of the Villa included a fully equipped kitchen, living and dining area, a washer and dryer, a good sized bedroom with a king bed with Westin's infamous "heavenly mattress," and a large bathroom with a jacuzzi tub and stand alone shower. The Villas have a number of other amenities besides the pool, but we never had time to explore and enjoy them.
The Westin Kierland Villas were a perfect place to stay:
After 36 holes of golf in the bright 95 degree sun, we were ready for more Advil, a dip in the pool, and a cold drink and soaking in the hot tub. We were staying in a two bedroom villa at the Westin Kierland Villas which has a fantastic pool area with cabanas and a water slide; a hot tub; an adult pool; and outdoor ping pong tables, pool tables, and chess game with 4 foot tall pieces. And of course a pool side bar! Within minutes after getting back to our room, the three of us were in the pool with a cold beer followed by the hot tub and a Pina Coloda and some Margaritas. Suddenly the tired and sore muscles and the hot and sun burned body was feeling refreshed and ready to go.
After soaking in the water and sipping some great drinks, we were ready for some grub. Scott had heard about a rock band playing at Martini Ranch in downtown Scottsdale. We aren't into rock music and the bartender recommended a fun and lively Italian restaurant, so we went our separate ways. Our dinner was excellent and we waddled home around 11 to try and get a good nights sleep before our 4:00 wake up call to go up and away in a hot air balloon.
The 4:00 wake up call came much too early and it wasn't easy getting Scott up and going after only an hour and a half of sleep - he claims it was well worth it and he had a blast dancing, people watching, and chatting with the locals. Finally got him up and without a word he grabbed his blanket and pillow and headed toward the car, only to trip on the curb (which Susie and I couldn't find) and bang his knee big time on the rear bumper. We were in the car waiting when we heard the big boom, both said "what was that", looked back saw nothing, and immediately got out only to find Scott moaning and flat on his back crumpled in a ball holding his knee! After a few laughs, Susie and I helped him hobble into the car and he quickly fell asleep in the back seat of our huge Hertz Lincoln Towncar (what a boat, but comfortable!) as we drove to the meeting place with Hot Air Expeditions.
Shortly after the sun came peeping over the Scottsdale mountains, we headed up in a cozy basket for 12 under a 200' balloon filled with 250,000 cubic feet of hot air! We drifted over the historic Pioneer Village, over a prison, and across the desert at various elevations of up to 5000 feet with panoramic views for what seemed like hundreds of miles. After about an hour and a half, we landed in the middle of the desert next to our chase team who had set up a table with champagne, quiche, fruit, juice, and croissants. Seemed strange having a gourmet breakfast and champagne in the middle of the desert with the cactus and wildlife keeping an eye on us.
Enjoyable trip and you can view some pictures and read more about this flight by clicking on. Scott was quiet the whole trip except for some complaining about his knee hurting, but he didn't throw up, somehow kept his eyes open the whole trip, and surprisingly he passed on the champagne. However, as soon as we landed, he bolted directly to the back seat of the car and was asleep in 30 seconds.
Finally, a good nights sleep and we were off at 8:00, with Scott limping behind with a knee all bandaged and wrapped and covered with ice, to float the Salt River with Desert Voyagers. Desert Voyagers runs a variety of guided trips on the Salt River which is a clear refreshing cool river that flows through the mountains and desert on it's way to providing water for Phoenix. We selected a Funyak for a 4 hour trip down the lower part of the river just east of Mesa.
The Funyaks are fantastic - good for one or two, comfortable, maneuverable, and very stable. Our stretch of the river was flowing about normal, which is slow, but it does have a couple class 1 rapids (nothing to fear) as it flows through the desert. The scenery is pretty and we saw a variety of desert fauna and wildlife, including wild mustangs, a variety of birds, and a couple bald eagles.
We were a little nervous about kayaking with Scott because on two previous vacations where we kayaked he had flipped a couple times, ran aground once, got stuck in the mud, lost his paddle, and he was always spaying everyone with water and consistently asking for a tow. Each time he flipped, he needed assistance getting back in. No telling what he would do on this trip with his bum knee! Amazingly, all he did was get stuck next to a boulder and struggled for 10 minutes trying to get back in after a quick dip. Watching him struggle to get in gave all of us a good giggle (as we all ignored his pleas for help) but it made the guide a little nervous. To see more pictures read our
Silver Saddle Restaurant
After playing Greyhawk, it was back in the big black Lincoln boat for the 100 mile drive north to Sedona and our 9:15 dinner reservation at Sedona's Silver Saddle Restaurant. We made it on time and had a relaxing and fantastic meal at the Silver Saddle - the service was impeccable, the setting is casual but elegant, the outside patio is perfect, and the Southwestern cuisine is outstanding. Dinner had some firsts as we tried the local specialties like rattlesnake skewers, fried cactus strips, and buffalo steaks - all of which we thoroughly enjoyed. What a perfect way to end an excellent and fun day. We closed the restaurant and drug our selves to our room for the night at Enchantment Resort about 15 minutes outside of Sedona.
Enchantment Resort & Spa
When we arrived at Enchantment Resort it was pitch dark but what we could tell that this place is special. Our room was awesome and we were ready to hit the sack after a full day but anxious to get up early and explore the Resort. The next morning, we were awestruck and as we meandered through the resort, all we could say was "wow," "awesome," "unbelievable," and lots of other one word descriptions! The Resort is tucked under the trees and in a valley surrounded by tall majestic mountains of a wide variety of shapes, colors, and formations - the scenery is absolutely stunning! Enchantment Resort has won a number of awards and here is just a sampling of some of the accolades:
We kept asking ourselves how did we get so lucky to be staying in this fabulous resort and we only wished we had booked a room for more than one night. Enchantment Resort has unique and fantastic rooms, hiking trails, tennis courts, a beautiful pool, outdoor whirlpools, mountain bike rentals and trails, a par-3 golf course (we were tempted and badly needed to practice our short game, but not time) and putting green, championship Croquet court, bocce ball, and ping pong. In addition, they have a fabulous restaurant with magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and one of the most complete and luxurious spas we have seen. And as you would expect, service was outstanding and extremely friendly. To learn more about Enchantment Resort, Silver Saddle, and our adventures in Sedona, read our.
Our tired and sore muscles could have used a good message, but we didn't have time because we had a jeep tour and planned to slip and slide at Slippery Rock State Park before we had to had back to Scottsdale. Which meant that unfortunately shortly after breakfast we had to get Scott up, pack up, check out, and move on. We promised ourselves that we would schedule a family reunion at Enchantment Resort in the next year.
Pink Jeep Tour
We had heard a lot of good things about the Pink Jeep Tours and were excited about exploring the back country of Sedona. Pink Jeep Tours offers a number of off road adventures and tours in and around the Sedona area, some of which include at trip to the Grand Canyon or an offroad adventure to some cliff dwellings, or a guided hike to learn about the flora, fauna, history, and geology of the Sedona Area. We selected a 4 hour combo tour which included:
In addition to the off road thrills and unbelievably beautiful scenery, what made this trip fun was our guide. She (yep, a woman driver - made me nervous at first until I saw how easily she managed 45 degree climbs and descents and narrow, rocky trails!) was extremely knowledgeable about the fauna, wildlife, geology, and history of the area - plus she had a good sense of humor and made the trip fun, informative, and educational. To see more pictures and lean more about this fun trip, read.
Barking Frog Grill
After some hiking and all those "Oh, Awes, and Wows" it was time for a good lunch and a cold beer before our next adventure. Since we had such a great meal at Silver Saddle and had heard good things about their sister restaurant in town, he headed to Barking Frog Grill - an American restaurant with a Southwest Bark! Yes, there really is a barking frog that lives in the outcrops and caves on the rocky slopes of Southeastern Arizona and is known for their distinctive loud barking calls practiced for only two to three nights following the first heavy monsoon storm of the season - see, you learned something new that you can share with your friends! We had a scrumptious lunch (the prime rib sandwich, soups, and buffalo burger are fantastic), a perfect spicy Bloody Mary, and outstanding service from Morgan. Well worth the stop before heading out to Slide Rock State Park.
Slide Rock State Park
It was now 100 degrees with no wind and we were excited about getting wet at Slide Rock State Park. The short drive from Sedona to Slide Rock State Park is phenomenal with vistas of the mountains, deep valleys, and through the trees. A short stop at the overlook at the bridge crossing a deep creek carved gorge was well worth the stop.
The park is named after the famous Slide Rock which was created as Oak Creek cut through the mountains and carved several natural water chutes. The park is best know for the water slide which is about a third of a mile stretch of slippery creek bottom forming a fun water slide. The cold water takes your breath away but really feels great when it's over 100.
We spent a couple hours hiking up and down the creek, sliding down the chutes, swimming in the deep pools, and cliff jumping. Whether it was his knee, the Margaritas at lunch, lack of sleep, getting old, or all the previous adventures over the preceding 3 days, Scott decided to forgo the short hike to the slides and quickly fell asleep in the back seat of our rental car again!
Slide Rock is a fun place to spend a few hours.
We hated to leave Sedona because there is so much to see and do and it's such a fun, friendly, and beautiful town (I'm ready to move there!), but we hadn't played golf for a full day and we kept hearing screams from the golf sandals and clubs in the trunk - "Play Me, Play Me." On the way back to Scottsdale, we had to stop in the unique and fun town of Jerome - the mile high city with 50 mile views. Jerome is also known as "America's Most Vertical City" and "Largest Ghost Town in America".
Founded in 1876, Jerome was a historic copper mining town built on a 30 degree mountain incline and once known as the wickedest town in the west. Jerome grew into a roaring mining community and over time four disastrous fires destroyed large sections of the town during its early history. The mine has long closed and today Jerome is now a tourist magnet and artistic community with a population of about 450. It has some fun and very lively bars, a couple small restaurants, some B&Bs, Douglas Mansion/State Park, a winery, a museum, Gold King Mine & Ghost Town, and the unique Jerome Grand Hotel. We had a couple drinks and played some pool in one of the local bars and then headed up the hill to the Grand Hotel for an appetizer and the 50 mile view. You won't find anyplace like Jerome and it's well worth the short detour for a visit. It would be a hoot to stay at the Hotel or in one of the B&Bs for a night and explore the town and enjoy the nightlife.
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