It's crazy to think about how big this world is sometimes.  There are so many beautiful places I would still like to explore.  What's even crazier is that some of the most magical places exist right under our noses.  We just have to be open enough to discover them,  and daring enough to explore.   Welcome to a glimpse of how I spent my 40th.  With wanderlust in my head, a quest for adventure in my heart, and my best friend at my side.  

Day 1: and so the journey begins...

After a pretty reasonable non-stop flight from Milwaukee to PHX, we rented a car and drove about 4 hours up to Page, AZ.  Upon arriving, we enjoyed stretching our legs with a quick hike to view the Colorado River.

 Last day of my 30s.  See ya!

Last day of my 30s.  See ya!

 Page is a pretty secluded area, all of the hotels looked a little shifty except for this one. (The Courtyard Page at Lake Powell). We loved watching the sunset in the hot tub with a few cocktails, then headed out to dinner at a quaint little Mexican Restaurant called the Fiesta Mexicana.

Page is a pretty secluded area, all of the hotels looked a little shifty except for this one. (The Courtyard Page at Lake Powell). We loved watching the sunset in the hot tub with a few cocktails, then headed out to dinner at a quaint little Mexican Restaurant called the Fiesta Mexicana.

Day 2: Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon,  & Horseback Riding

 Hike down to Horseshoe Bend.  We went at the crack of dawn... If I were to see this again, I would go in the evening and watch the sun set over it instead. (better light from a photography nerd's point of view)

Hike down to Horseshoe Bend.  We went at the crack of dawn... If I were to see this again, I would go in the evening and watch the sun set over it instead. (better light from a photography nerd's point of view)

After sunrise at Horseshoe Bend, we had some breakfast and waited for our tour to see the weirdly incredible slot canyons of the northern Arizona Desert. (You must pre-register for these, they sell out quickly!)   There are two - Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon.  After reading a bunch of reviews, we decided that the less crowded but apparently not quite as amazing lower Antelope was the way to go.  I love people, but I hate crowds.   I was really torn on this decision because all of the reviews say that you'd be able to see these amazing light beams that peaked through the canyons at Upper Antelope.  Still, my gut just told me to stick with the Lower Canyon, and you will see below why we're so glad we did.

 what planet are we on?

what planet are we on?

 Man crush, every day.

Man crush, every day.

Now if this wasn't a lesson on not always believing everything you see on the internet, I don't know what is.  As we wound our way through this magical canyon, even though everyone else said otherwise... right before our very eyes, a light beam appeared.  I can't even begin to describe the effect this had on me.  It's cool and pretty dark down there, and all of the sudden, the most beautiful ray was warming my face.  I've spent my life chasing light, but for once, it found me.

 View from the top of the slot canyon... I couldn't believe we were just down in there!  It literally felt out of this world.  Amazing.

View from the top of the slot canyon... I couldn't believe we were just down in there!  It literally felt out of this world.  Amazing.

 See these smoke stacks?  They mean "I Love You" in Navajo.  Nahhh, just kidding.  I just thought they looked cool. 

See these smoke stacks?  They mean "I Love You" in Navajo.  Nahhh, just kidding.  I just thought they looked cool. 

 

Our last adventure to close out celebrating the day of my birth was a sunset horseback ride in Utah.  Benny had never ridden a horse before so part of the fun was watching him experience that for the first time.  

 This was my sweetie pie.  Her name was Purdy and I'm pretty sure she was my spirit animal.  She was fierce, stubborn, and loved to eat.

This was my sweetie pie.  Her name was Purdy and I'm pretty sure she was my spirit animal.  She was fierce, stubborn, and loved to eat.

 see?

see?

 Our wrangler J.R.  He liked to call me ma'am and said all sorts of things you'd imagine a real cowboy would.  My favorites? "Get er done, realllll niiice, and over yonder."   

Our wrangler J.R.  He liked to call me ma'am and said all sorts of things you'd imagine a real cowboy would.  My favorites? "Get er done, realllll niiice, and over yonder."

 

 Views from the Grand Staircase Escalante

Views from the Grand Staircase Escalante

 I can't remember this little feller's name, but he ran around us having a grand 'ole time chasing jackrabbits through the desert.  I loved his eyes.  

I can't remember this little feller's name, but he ran around us having a grand 'ole time chasing jackrabbits through the desert.  I loved his eyes.  

 J.R. also liked to show off a bit "for the purdy lady" and stand on his horse.  Boys will be boys.

J.R. also liked to show off a bit "for the purdy lady" and stand on his horse.  Boys will be boys.

 Sunset on my 40th birthday.  Happy to close out my 30s and start a new decade with an open heart.

Sunset on my 40th birthday.  Happy to close out my 30s and start a new decade with an open heart.

day 3: Sedona & Flagstaff

The drive through the mountains from Page, AZ to Scottsdale are breathtaking.  We stumbled upon this place and it was the most tranquil, magical park I've ever been to.  Definitely worth a visit while in Sedona.

 Juniper Berries.  Random fact: this is where gin comes from.  If only I had some tonic and a few limes!  ;)

Juniper Berries.  Random fact: this is where gin comes from.  If only I had some tonic and a few limes!  ;)

 During our travels, we drove up and down the state of Arizona.  Our main destination (Havasu Falls) was fairly close to where we just were up in Page, AZ but our tour left from Flagstaff, another adorable city.  In Flagstaff we had too much fun chatting with people at restaurants and breweries that I didn't even get a single photo!  We did eat at Diablo Burger, had some amazing beer at the Historic Brewing Barrel + Bottle House,  and a romantic dinner at Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar.  All of these were fantastic. 

During our travels, we drove up and down the state of Arizona.  Our main destination (Havasu Falls) was fairly close to where we just were up in Page, AZ but our tour left from Flagstaff, another adorable city.  In Flagstaff we had too much fun chatting with people at restaurants and breweries that I didn't even get a single photo!  We did eat at Diablo Burger, had some amazing beer at the Historic Brewing Barrel + Bottle House,  and a romantic dinner at Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar.  All of these were fantastic. 

 Got our kicks on Route 66.

Got our kicks on Route 66.

 HERBIE!!!!!  This was the reason I have my little white bug (Betty) today.  I snapped this photo for her enjoyment and thought about getting his autograph.

HERBIE!!!!!  This was the reason I have my little white bug (Betty) today.  I snapped this photo for her enjoyment and thought about getting his autograph.

Days 4, 5, 6: Backpacking to Havasu Falls  

 Taking it all in.  I knew this hiking adventure into the Havasupai Indian Reservation would be amazing, but my photos don't even begin to do it justice.  Pure magic and truly a journey of the heart, body, and mind.

Taking it all in.  I knew this hiking adventure into the Havasupai Indian Reservation would be amazing, but my photos don't even begin to do it justice.  Pure magic and truly a journey of the heart, body, and mind.

 Fell in love with this guy in less than 30 seconds.  He was resting his head on his buddy here, just watching me take photos.  I never wanted to feed a creature a carrot more in my life. 

Fell in love with this guy in less than 30 seconds.  He was resting his head on his buddy here, just watching me take photos.  I never wanted to feed a creature a carrot more in my life. 

 Ready to begin our 10 mile hike in.  Since we were traveling across the country to hike, it made more sense to hire a guide and rent all of our gear instead of bringing everything.  Wildland Trekking was nothing short of amazing, and so was Dara- our adventure guide for the 3 days we were there.  She took the guess work out of the hiking trails, took care of all permits, and cooked fantastic meals for us every day.  I was a little nervous to be put in a group of 4 other people, but they ended up being absolutely wonderful!    ( Hi Susan, Jann, Elaine, and Nadia! )

Ready to begin our 10 mile hike in.  Since we were traveling across the country to hike, it made more sense to hire a guide and rent all of our gear instead of bringing everything.  Wildland Trekking was nothing short of amazing, and so was Dara- our adventure guide for the 3 days we were there.  She took the guess work out of the hiking trails, took care of all permits, and cooked fantastic meals for us every day.  I was a little nervous to be put in a group of 4 other people, but they ended up being absolutely wonderful!  

( Hi Susan, Jann, Elaine, and Nadia! )

 ahhhh YES another photographer!!!  I was so happy to see this, I knew I wouldn't be alone for wanting to pause, take it all in, and then snap a photo.

ahhhh YES another photographer!!!  I was so happy to see this, I knew I wouldn't be alone for wanting to pause, take it all in, and then snap a photo.

 The last stop before we reached the campgrounds was the village of Supai,  It's the ONLY place in the US where mail is still carried out by mules.  It's 8 miles from the nearest road and is accessible only by helicopter, on foot, or by mule.  There are no automobiles in the community.   (Thanks Wikipedia!)   

The last stop before we reached the campgrounds was the village of Supai,  It's the ONLY place in the US where mail is still carried out by mules.  It's 8 miles from the nearest road and is accessible only by helicopter, on foot, or by mule.  There are no automobiles in the community.   (Thanks Wikipedia!)   

 Pomegranate trees!

Pomegranate trees!

 Now while this just looks like a pretty white flower, it is actually extremely poisonous and hallucinogenic.  Called the Sacred Datura-  it's not something you ever want to pluck and put in your hair or give to your sweetie! (well unless you're really really REALLY mad at them tee hee) 

Now while this just looks like a pretty white flower, it is actually extremely poisonous and hallucinogenic.  Called the Sacred Datura-  it's not something you ever want to pluck and put in your hair or give to your sweetie! (well unless you're really really REALLY mad at them tee hee) 

 So while I was taking the above photo of the mysterious white flower, I looked to my right and Nadia was doing the exact same thing, ha!

So while I was taking the above photo of the mysterious white flower, I looked to my right and Nadia was doing the exact same thing, ha!

 A first glimpse of the magical turquoise water.

A first glimpse of the magical turquoise water.

 it was at this exact moment that Benny was saying " you're not going to make me do that cheesy thing where we look at each other and smile,  are you?"  lolol.

it was at this exact moment that Benny was saying " you're not going to make me do that cheesy thing where we look at each other and smile,  are you?"  lolol.

 Paradise, found.

Paradise, found.

 We had to cross this every day to get to our campsite.  Two words: Slick shoes.

We had to cross this every day to get to our campsite.  Two words: Slick shoes.

DAY 5: Mooney Falls, Buddha Beach, beaver falls

 If you have a moment and have a good sense of humor, google the legend of the Jackalope. ( http://jackalope.com/the-legend-of-jackalope/ )

If you have a moment and have a good sense of humor, google the legend of the Jackalope. ( http://jackalope.com/the-legend-of-jackalope/ )

 Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls

  Maneuvering the ladder system.  It's a straight drop down, and very slick.  We had to watch our footing and hang onto the chains for dear life.  Intense but so worth it!  

Maneuvering the ladder system.  It's a straight drop down, and very slick.  We had to watch our footing and hang onto the chains for dear life.  Intense but so worth it!  

 Do go chasing waterfalls.

Do go chasing waterfalls.

  "There is peaceful and there is wild.  I am both."

"There is peaceful and there is wild.  I am both."

 We did have drinkable water at the campgrounds- coming out of a rock.   Fresh, to say the least!

We did have drinkable water at the campgrounds- coming out of a rock.   Fresh, to say the least!

 To all of you hikers out there-  I know you and I have hiked where all we brought in to eat was dehydrated food, so you can imagine how good this was!  #getinmybelly

To all of you hikers out there-  I know you and I have hiked where all we brought in to eat was dehydrated food, so you can imagine how good this was!  #getinmybelly

Day 6:  journey out of paradise

 I was sad to be leaving that day, but my body was tired, my mind was rested,  and my heart was full.

I was sad to be leaving that day, but my body was tired, my mind was rested,  and my heart was full.

 I wanted to take this cutie home with me.    Every time we see a horse, Benny can't help but ask "Why the long face?"  heheheh

I wanted to take this cutie home with me.  

Every time we see a horse, Benny can't help but ask "Why the long face?"  heheheh

 Sorry for the blurry selfie but JUST LOOK at this guy's fabulous mane!!! 

Sorry for the blurry selfie but JUST LOOK at this guy's fabulous mane!!! 

 Taking a much needed break

Taking a much needed break

 Thank you to the kind soul that placed this rock here for hikers to see on the arduous  journey out of the desert.  My first instinct was to take it and put it in my pocket since I collect heart shaped rocks, but I felt that would be bad juju to remove anything from such a sacred place...  so I left it for the next person to see.  #spreadlove

Thank you to the kind soul that placed this rock here for hikers to see on the arduous  journey out of the desert.  My first instinct was to take it and put it in my pocket since I collect heart shaped rocks, but I felt that would be bad juju to remove anything from such a sacred place...  so I left it for the next person to see.  #spreadlove

 Last viewpoint of the canyon and self-timer pic of the whole gang before the last few brutal miles of the climb straight up to Havasupai Hilltop..  

Last viewpoint of the canyon and self-timer pic of the whole gang before the last few brutal miles of the climb straight up to Havasupai Hilltop..  

 Another wild Jackalope spotted

Another wild Jackalope spotted

 This is what the last leg of the climb looked like... hiking straight up to the Hualapai Hilltop in the heat of the desert.   We were sweating bullets, and our legs were burning.

This is what the last leg of the climb looked like... hiking straight up to the Hualapai Hilltop in the heat of the desert.   We were sweating bullets, and our legs were burning.

 Bucket list, check.  Giving thanks to this great earth;  feeling strong and centered.      Next up: Destination Jamaica.  

Bucket list, check.  Giving thanks to this great earth;  feeling strong and centered.    

Next up: Destination Jamaica.