Duane and I were awarded a three-day get away. We chose to go back to Sedona, Arizona.
    Anna, our daughter, was off of college for holiday break and encouraged us to stay a week. She was home to manage the farm, leaving us not to worry about anything.
    With the extra days added on, we used the three-day condo stay in Sedona, and then went to the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. We left Dec. 18 and returned on the 25th. We planned to go where we wanted to, when we wanted to with no commitments of booking hotels ahead of time. We would find places to sleep along the way.
    When we left the farm, it was unseasonably warm in the 40s, and the weather predictions were calling for no snow. The predicted weather in Arizona was the same temperatures of 40s in the evenings but highs of 60s during the day.
    We got into Phoenix in the late afternoon and drove our rental car just in time to see the sunset on the beautiful red rock cliffs all around Sedona. The colors from the iron in the soil are unimaginable, and the wind and water carved cliffs are massive. We drove in awe to our condo. We relaxed in the outdoor hot tub, looking forward to the adventures in the morning.
    We began hiking and learning about the ancient farmers and viewed the permanent settlements of the people who once lived in the harsh desert climate. Park rangers and volunteers were able to answer our questions and give us other destinations to visit. There are 98 hiking trails in Sedona, ranging from 1 to 18 miles. We limited our hikes to under 5 miles to insure we could visit other remarkable sites.
    As the evening approached, we were looking for a bar to have a drink and maybe eat a burger. In all of Sedona, there are only two places that were open after 9 p.m. The town really shuts down as the sun sets. We ended up at Mooney’s Irish Pub before the karaoke started. We had prickly pear cactus margaritas and listened to great local singers. We sang along with the locals, laughed and cheered. It was a perfect ending to a beautiful day.
    We finished up our next day in Sedona with more hiking and a ride on a Jeep up and down steep cliffs all the while feeling nervous as we were hanging on rocks looking at the sky or staring down at the boulders. I underestimated the extreme ride and was glad when it was over. The driver was from northern Illinois and had driven by our farm many times on his way to visit family. What a small world.
    We set out early to go to the Grand Canyon. We were looking for wildlife as we drove through the desert. The only things we saw were beef cows and calves on land that was rocky with sand and little vegetation beyond dry grass. They all looked healthy and well fed, so it must work for them with the large areas of pasture for the 20-30 head.
    We walked to the edge of the Grand Canyon. We stopped to absorb the mind-blowing grandeur of this beautiful place. It cannot even be described in words how big the Grand Canyon is. The magnificent colors of the rock layers and the width and depth are unimaginable. In the bottom of the canyon is the Colorado River, looking like a marker line scribbled back and forth in the sandy rocks below.
    We saw rocks that were formed as much as 1.84 billion years ago. We filled our minds with facts and learned the Paleo-Indians were the first to find the Grand Canyon. Then came the scientists, geologists, surveyors and so many others to study and solve the mystery of this remarkable canyon.
    We stayed that evening in Williams where the Grand Canyon railway departs daily. The train depot was lit with Christmas lights, and the railway was hosting evening polar express train rides for families. It was a 20-minute ride to a magical lite up town, and all the kids got a special sleigh bell just like in the movie. There were hundreds of families in their matching pajamas, getting on the train when we pulled into the hotel parking lot.
    The ride to the Hoover Dam was interesting because we drove by different kinds of rock formations and areas of cactus. We looked out over many solar farms with acres of solar panels to capture the sun’s power. These places were just off the road near transmission towers where the power lines connect to the grid. As we neared the dam, these power towers were everywhere.
    When we arrived to the dam and while we waited for our tour, we learned about the historic construction companies that were merged to become Six Companies Inc. This project was built during the Great Depression in the flood plain to protect cities and farms, supply electricity to power homes and industry, and create jobs for thousands of people who desperately needed work. It was completed in record time and under budget.
    The dam is considered one of the architectural wonders of the modern industrial world. As we were leaving, it began to rain. By the time we headed back to Phoenix the next day to return home, the grass was turning bright green, and little white and yellow flowers began to bloom. The color rush was a comforting goodbye that concluded an unbelievable journey in Arizona.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.