The Best Way to Experience Northern Arizona (Or Anywhere, for that Matter)

I love seeing new places with old friends. It somehow enhances one’s enjoyment of both the people and the places to have familiar people with whom one can experience unfamiliar places.

On the relational level: Sharing a new experience together provides space to re-establish connection and catch up on life as friends. Experiencing another person’s world, first-hand, allows for understanding far beyond what could ever be established over the phone, or video conferencing, or through written communication.

And on the traveling level: Going out with a trusted friend allows for a deeper experience of the locale being visited. Of course, a local person knows all the best places to get the best food, see the best views, and experience the best experiences.

One of the main reasons we wanted to visit northern Arizona this summer was to experience it with our dear friend, Linda. Our family shared many meaningful moments with Linda in Amsterdam over the nine years that our lives overlapped in the Netherlands. But Linda moved to the Flagstaff area about a year ago, to care for her mother through the final stages of her battle with cancer. It’s been a tumultuous year for her. And since Linda has done such a good job of coming to inhabit our world on numerous occasions, we really looked forward to the chance to go and inhabit her world in return. Plus: northern Arizona was a new part of the world we’d never gotten to explore previously. So we were very glad this summer provided an opportunity to visit.

We met at a fairgrounds in Flagstaff and then drove together down into Oak Creek Canyon, catching up on life along the way.

At the bottom of the canyon, we visited Slide Rock State Park — where we entertained ourselves by sliding down some natural features that were reminiscent of water slides and jumping off sandstone ledges into crystal-clear pools of water.

We ate lunch in Sedona, a mecca for artists and tourists, and we enjoyed a more extended opportunity for conversation on a patio overlooking the beautiful red-rock landscape.

After lunch, we got to visit Linda’s home in Munds Park. My kids appreciated the opportunity to play with her cats, just like they did back in Amsterdam.

We took a hike in the Coconino National Forest, where we saw some beautiful views of the forested hillsides and some really unique trees called Alligator Junipers. And then we finished with a feast at a Munds Park barbecue place called Agee’s. With Linda’s expertise and enthusiasm, we made the most out of our day together!

By the time we made it to our motel that night — a couple of hours east, on Historic Route 66 — we were tired. But also happy. Northern Arizona was lovely, but especially so with our friend Linda.

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