After Colorado we made our way to California. I had a wedding at Big Bear Lake in about a week, so we had a little time to explore though northern Arizona. First stop was the Petrified Forest National Park. I was SUPER intrigued by the place because of its name and the fact that I love Harry Potter. We had no idea what to expect, so literally everything was blowing our minds! It's such a surreal place. Our eyes were glued to the windows of the van while we drove through the park. And then once we got to the visitors center, we walked around and explored a bit because Skye was allowed on the paved areas. It's tricky exploring National Parks but also having a dog who wants to hike and explore as much as we do. Leaving her in the car is never fun, so we pick and choose what we want to explore wisely. Once we walked around a bit and looked at all the petrified wood, we camped on the opposite side of the park in a shop parking lot. That is the only camping for the whole park. But apparently that is something they are working on and are hoping to have more camping within the park soon. But it was free and had individual parking spots with tables and such. So it worked perfectly!
The next day we headed to Mike's uncles a-frame cabin. Mike has talked about this cabin since we were dating. He loved the look of it, the size, and the fact that he can build one himself. So it was very special to finally be there, looking at this cabin that has been talked to highly about. It was so gorgeous and perfect and everything we would want in a cabin. Hopefully Mike will build one someday just like it")
Flagstaff was next. I love this town. It has its querks for sure, but it is the prefect size with just enough great restaurants and coffee shops and tons of hikes and outdoor activites to keep you satisfied. They also have a dog park that we seriously went to twice a day everyday we were there. But Flagstaff was our time to do laundry, clean the van, pick up groceries, and get some work done at one of the coffee shops. And the weather was perfect which made our stay even better.
After feeling like we got caught up a little bit on work and chores, we drove to Sedona. They weather was at least 20 degrees hotter and the city was packed with people! It was the first hot day of the season, so tons of people were parking on the side of the road and bathing in all of the watering holes. There is one road from Flagstaff to Sedona, and that happens to be where all the popular watering holes were, so it was not fun driving in the heat in traffic on this two lane road. But we finally made it through the touristy area of Sedona and found a Whole Foods, where we picked up some food, and most importantly, beer. Nice cold beer. After being miserable in the heat, we decided to drive back on the road to Flagstaff to find camping in the woods where is was a ton cooler. There was only one campground open at the time so we sucked it up and paid the $20 to stay there that night. As long as we didn't have to sleep in the heat we were happy. The next day we found a trail outside the city that lead to a watering hole. It was a 3 mile hike to the water and it was super hot that day. So the watering hole was nice and refreshing:) And that was our extent of being in Sedona. The heat was too unbearable for us.
We then headed into California. We had about 2 days until we had to be at Big Bear, so we spent a day/night in Joshua Tree. This was a national park that we have passed dozens on time from our travels from CA to AZ but never stopped in. And it was just as we had pictured it! As a photographer, I follow a lot of other photographers on social media, and Joshua Tree is a hot spot for photos. So it was pretty surreal to actual be there and witness in person what I had been seeing in pictures for so long. It was super windy while we were there, so we didn't really do any major hikes, and we don't rock climb, so we just took in the sites and pulled off to walk through all the cool rock formations. It was a short and sweet time there but awesome none the less:)
Then we finally got to my sisters house in CA. We stayed with them for a few nights before making our way up to Big Bear Lake for the wedding. Long story short, we had car problems in Big Bear and had to stay there a few extra days. But my sister and her husband and daughter came up so I could do a family photoshoot for them! At the time my sister was pregnant with her second child, so it was a family shoot but also a maternity shoot. And we had the best time!!! I love and adore my niece so much, so it was such a blessing being able to photograph her just being the little one year old that she was! And now my sister just had her second baby, Chloe, and I am DYING to see her and hold her! I love being an aunt!
While in California (after our van got fixed), my best friend had her first baby! So I was able to drive to Long Beach and see baby Violet and take photos their new little family in their adorable house! Vanlife is such a blessing because I get to be apart of my friends and families lives at moments like these that I might not have been able to otherwise! It was a long and eventful week in California, but it brought me so much joy and made me so happy. Now I can't wait to go back to see all these new babies! And just like that we were heading back to Arizona and the desert...