Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: A Precious Slice of the Sonoran Desert

I was hunting for arches. No, not Utah’s Arches National Park, crawling with tourists, but a tiny two-paned window high up in the hills of one of Arizona’s remotest national monuments. It was a double arch—one stacked on top of the other—found in the aptly named Arch Canyon, that drew me one warm May afternoon.

Sure, I could see the striking splotches of blue sky shining through the rusty earth from the comfort of my air-conditioned car, but I wanted more; I wanted to see the arch from the other side, and to see it much closer up. So, I parked my car at an empty trailhead that began on an unpaved road nine miles deep from the highway and set off with my camera, some water, and perhaps a little naïveté.

Whimsical green columns sprouted up all around me, some from a central trunk and others from the desert floor all bushy like. Globular chollas vied for space in the neighborhood with creosote trees, but what was most striking was the lack of any noise at all. Hardly a breeze was blowing…

What the Casa Grande Ruins Can Tell Us About Arizona’s Future

It’s 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday in June and it’s already 100º F as I drive down a highway that’s 14 lanes at its widest point. Heading south out of Phoenix, I pass through exurbs of stucco houses, strip malls, and one chain restaurant after another. It’s not long before I exit the sprawl and enter into the vast irrigated fields of Pinal County, Arizona.

The miles pass by as I switch from one state highway to the next. Water from aquifers, from the Gila River, or carried uphill across the state from Lake Mead fills concrete-lined irrigation canals, forming a moat between the blacktop and bright green fields. Lonely farmhouses are surrounded by Italian cypress, Australian eucalyptus, or shaggy California fan palms, themselves forming another kind of moat around homes. All this continues until the fields give way to the natural creosote flats of the Sonoran Desert. A huge structure dominates this clearing: a crumbling earthen tower capped with a modern metal roof.

Photo Post: Walkable Downtown Flagstaff, Arizona

You can think of Flagstaff, Arizona, as the gateway to all that northern Arizona has to offer. From Flagstaff, it’s easy to daytrip to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, encounter the enduring cultures of the Hopi and Navajo people, retrace historic Route 66 in all its kitschy glory, or go hiking and skiing in the San Francisco Mountains. But all these activities, as attractive as they are, require you to be stuck in your car for hours at a time.

Flagstaff’s historic downtown gives you the freedom to get out of your car, stretch your legs, and begin to acclimate yourself to more than 7,000 feet of elevation. This district’s regular grid of streets makes it easy to navigate the neighborhood, while dense, human-scaled development makes cars unnecessary to get from one hotspot to the next. Here in downtown, a new storefront opens up every few steps, from bookstores and hiking outfitters to healing crystal stores and candy shops.

7 Reasons Why I Love Arizona’s Boyce Thompson Arboretum

I killed a jade plant within weeks of moving to Arizona three years ago.

That poor succulent never stood a chance: its pot had zero drainage, the soil wasn’t sandy enough, and, in retrospect, I was probably over-watering it. I even tried to dry it out by sticking it in the hot Phoenix sun, but that ended up burning the poor thing’s leaves.

To atone for my houseplant sins but still soak up all the whimsy and greenery that turned succulents into an interior design craze, I decided to take a daytrip a one-hour’s drive east of town to the oldest botanical garden in the state: Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Here, I got to see tiny potted jade plants surviving—thriving, even!—as well as enormous agaves taller than I am, a menagerie of birds and butterflies, and a grove of fragrant, towering eucalyptus trees that seemed out of place in the dry, dry desert. I was hooked, and ever since that first serene visit, I’ve come back half a dozen times, bringing friends and family members to share with the…

Where to Eat in Tempe, Arizona

What makes Tempe, Arizona, a great destination for good eatin’?

This college town is home to the main campus of Arizona State University. And as you’d expect, thousands of students live here in constant need of snacks and caffeine. Tempe is situated in the core of the Phoenix metro area, which means there are plenty of older constructions with inexpensive rents that independent bars, coffee shops, or restaurants can afford. A handful of regional chain restaurants like Cornish Pasty or Pita Jungle had their start here before branching out to other cities. And Tempe sits at the gateway of the East Valley’s pan-Asian immigrant community.

I had the privilege of living in this city for three years—plenty of time to try a variety of coffee shops and restaurants in central Tempe. Moving to Tempe was a great introduction to Arizona for me, and while I’ve since moved across town, I’m glad I still work in Tempe and can keep going back to my old haunts on my lunch break.

Wherever I travel, I try…

Top 10 Things to Do in Tempe, Arizona

What draws people to Tempe, Arizona? You might not have ever heard of this city east of Phoenix, but it’s no mere Phoenix suburb.

Tempe (pronounced “tem-PEE”) is home to the main campus of Arizona State University—one of the country’s largest public research universities—so you’ll often see people coming to this college town to drop off their kids at college or to attend academic conferences. Businesses like operating in a community with an educated workforce, so regional headquarters and office towers dot the city from north to south. Plus, Tempe’s location in the middle of the Phoenix metro area makes it an ideal home base for tourists exploring the region.

Folks visiting Tempe and looking for things to do will often be told to check out places technically in Phoenix or Scottsdale, like the Desert Botanical Garden, Old Town Scottsdale, or even county parks and national forests. These are all great places to go to, but…

What if you wanted to do fun and interesting things while never l…

Making New Memories in Galveston, Texas

Do you have any un-memories? Something you know that happened to you when you were really young but you don’t remember? Like meeting your great-aunt Genevieve when you were a toddler, moving across the country as a baby, or—and I’m stating the obvious here—being born.

Something I know that I’ve done before—but which I have zero memory at all of—is visiting the coastal city of Galveston, Texas, as a little tyke. My parents have a photo on their fireplace mantel of my dad and me at Galveston Beach, with him showing me some seashells…apparently it was my first time at the beach, ever.

But I have zero memory of this seashell encounter ever happening, so when I went “back” to this gorgeous city southeast of Houston over Memorial Day weekend, it really was like seeing it for the first time.

I loved taking a daytrip to this historic Gulf Coast city, where I made “new” memories by exploring some historic districts, appreciating excellent architecture, and enjoying fresh seafood. Galveston’s c…