Arizona Travel: Scottsdale | Tombstone | Tucson

"To the southward lay Arizona, land of painted mesas and storied canyon walls, of thundering streams and wild pine forests, of purple-saged valleys and grassy parks, set like mosaics between the stark desert mountains.” | Zane Grey

Arizona cactus

The Atlanta Airport can be an absolute nightmare sometimes. 

But after the hurry up and wait at the gate, I was finally settled into the window seat with my newly downloaded Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour books on my Kindle. 

I sat back to enjoy the views of verdant green forests shift to sand-colored ridges below. 

Arizona travel guide
“To the southward lay Arizona, land of painted mesas and storied canyon walls, of thundering streams and wild pine forests, of purple-saged valleys and grassy parks, set like mosaics between the stark desert mountains.” | Zane Grey

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Fairmont scottsdale princess resort

My final destination was the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona. 

The room reservation was in a wing that had a balcony overlooking the emerald fringes of the TPC Golf Course, with dusty mountains in the distance forever outlining the sky.

Fairmont scottsdale princess
“Then the wind blew cool through the pinyons on the rim. There was a sweet tang of cedar and sage on the air and that indefinable fragrance peculiar to the canyon country of Arizona.” |  Zane Grey

Old Town Scottsdale

I need this wild life, this freedom.

Zane Grey

While we had intended to spend the day hiking one of Scottsdale’s many scenic trails, the weather, however, had a different plan in mind.

Hail in Arizona…that possibility had not been taken into account. 

Through the crackling, hazy downpour, we drove instead to Old Town Scottsdale for lunch at Arcadia Farms Cafe and an afternoon of shopping. 

If you EVER find yourself in Scottsdale, a visit to Arcadia Farms for at least lunch is a must. 

Situated in an old house, the atmosphere is absolutely charming, but the food is the real reason to go. Everything we ordered, we agreed, was a win.

Susan cook the road taken to scottsdale arizona

The streets of Old Town Scottsdale are lined with several stores containing loads of silver and turquoise jewelry. After browsing through the majority, we collapsed for a coffee at the nearby Cartel Coffee Lab

Caffeinated, rested, and shopped out, we decided to go for a barrel-aged cocktail at Citizen Public House, a short walk up the street.

Our dinner that night was set for the Thirsty Lion Gastropub, a casual spot offering Scotch eggs and some surprisingly awesome veggie burgers. The only drawback was that it’s housed in the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall, but once inside, we didn’t mind.

Hiking the Lost Dog Wash Trail

The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.

Louis L’Amour

Lost dog wash trail arizona

The next morning dawned clear and bright with no sign of hail in sight. We chose the nearby Lost Dog Wash Trail Head, part of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy for our hike where cool breezes came and went as the bright sun lit up the prickly desert landscape. 

The hike was relatively flat and easy although the rocky terrain could catch your ankles by surprise.

Mid-conversation, we both saw it happen. A jogger took a tumble off the path and fell into a cactus patch. We had no idea how bad the injury was at first, and neither did she.

Painfully long, thin, spiny needles–clusters of them– had lodged themselves into her left upper body, neck, and face. 

We did what (we hoped) any decent human being would do. We helped her back to the trailhead and drove her to the nearest medical facility for immediate care.

I will never look at a cactus the same way again. Ever.

Lost dog wash trail scottsdale arizona cactus
“He’d always had a quickening of the heart when he crossed into Arizona and beheld the cactus country. This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaro standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite.” | Dorothy B. Hughes | The Expendable Man

Scottsdale Restaurant Suggestions

Final Night at The Fairmont

Scottsdale arizona sunset
“Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.” | Louis L’Amour

Back on the room’s balcony, I watched groups of people wander to the fire pit and rocking chairs below. Fire still draws us. Even in a day of tentacular social media that seeks to distract our every moment, everyone stops at a fire.

Maybe it’s the elemental need, the one energy force we can’t resist. 

Fire…water…the dirt and trees of a mountain range. We need them like air, although we rarely ever stop to think about it. 

I can smell the fire from here, three stories up; it’s a smell I find synonymous with Arizona. The fires that illuminate the cool desert nights.

A Day In Tombstone

Tombstone arizona
“Out here you better have a gun, and a gun in the wagon ain’t good for nothin’. I believe what the old Quaker said, ‘Trust in the Lord, but keep your powder dry.” | Louis L’Amour | The Quick and the Dead

The last leg of our trip led us to the legendary town of Tombstone – home of outlaws, violence, guns, and gold. We knew exactly what to expect, and yet we didn’t. 

Who knew we would end up walking the dirt streets to an indoor firing range?  

We stopped to fire old six-shooters filled with paint pellets at paper figures on the wall at Big Iron Shooting Gallery. I am definitely not the best shot, but I will (apparently) nail you where it hurts. You’ll live most likely, but you won’t like it.

Stage coach tombstone arizona street
“Never insult seven men when all your packing is a six-shooter.” | Zane Grey

The Birdcage Theatre was up next, and, in many ways, it was untouched. I thought for a moment we had stepped back in time. 

Bird cage theatre tombstone arizona
“There’s no normal life, Wyatt, it’s just life. Get on with it.” | Doc Holliday | Tombstone (1993)

Bullet holes in the ceiling, gambling tables in the corner, a rickety original piano, and the whorehouse downstairs. It was all a neglected museum of Old West artifacts in no particular reason or order. 

I don’t know, now that I think about it, perhaps it’s a fitting tribute to a time long gone.

Bird cage theatre cards

In Tombstone, folks in reenactment garb amble about the streets in flowing dusters, announcing their various shows about gunfighters or ghosts. I guess the two do typically go hand-in-hand. 

We did see the reenactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Virgil was our favorite. The actor had obviously seen the Tombstone movie. Wyatt Earp looked like he had visited the fast food joints a few too many times. Doc Holliday was clearly the crowd favorite–a fact I’m sure he would have found more than mildly amusing. 

We had a whiskey at the Crystal Palace and toasted those wild adventurers who had come to Arizona in search of gold, fame, or who knows what else…maybe they didn’t even know.

Boot hill graveyard tombstone arizona
“The spell of the desert comes back to me, as it always will come. I see the veils, like purple smoke, in the cañons, and I feel the silence. And it seems that again I must try to pierce both and to get at the strange wild life of the last American wilderness– wild still, almost, as it ever was.” | Zane Grey

Tucson | J.W. Marriott Star Pass Resort

Like two people at the end of an old western, we drove off into a glorious sunset to the Tucson JW Marriot Star Pass Resort

Tombstone arizona sunset
“I hope I have found myself, my work, my happiness – under the light of the western skies.” | Zane Grey

After a particularly delicious Italian dinner at Tavolino Ristorante,  we checked into the resort. 

Large, open, and so inviting, we couldn’t wait to explore the grounds. 

The resort is laid out in a terraced fashion. The fire pit table terrace cascades down to turquoise pools. The green of the golf course slopes into the distance.

Tucson j w marriott star pass resort arizona
Lazy River at the Resort

Our explorations ended with a cocktail by the fireside patio. 

Pool tucson jw mariott star pass resort

Our long day of highways and history melting into the white-hot flames.

Fire cocktails tucson arizona

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