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- Tyler

Over this year’s Presidents Day break, my family and I decided to return to Arizona, the state where we spent part of summer vacation last year. My dad and I were invited as journalists, so we decided to extend the trip into a full blown family vacation. We started the 10-day trip in the cities outside of Phoenix: Tempe, Chandler and Mesa. If you ever visit this area, I am sure you will learn very quickly that it is famous for mainly three things; The Superstition Mountains, it’s history of gold mining, and being in the Sonoran Desert (home of the Saguaro Cactus, or as you may know them, the cactus with the big arms). I strongly recommend going to the old Goldfield Ghost Town in Apache Junction, an abandoned gold mining town which now offers horse back riding, jeep, and walking tours thru the desert as well as a guided tour bringing you deep into the original mine. There is also a lot of old western-style shopping to be done here as well.

One of the highlights of the trip was a full-day hike we took deep into the Superstition Mountains with a tour group called Just Rughin’ It. Their guides, Ray and Debbie took us on a nine-mile loop into Rodger’s Canyon to ancient Native American cave dwellings where we actually saw an intact old Indian house built 700 years ago inside a cave overlooking the valley. It was really well preserved. One of the things that makes the Superstitions so beautiful is the Saguaro cacti. There are so many of them that it looks sometimes looks like a forest. Before heading up north to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, we got to try something new, hot air ballooning! We decided on the sunrise trip, even though we had to wake up early. It turned out to be well worth it. Since every day has different wind conditions, every flight is different. Depending on the forecast, they choose the launch location that day. When we got to the launch location, there were about six other balloons going up with us so it was a really cool sight to see. During our 90-minute ride, we flew over some highways and the pilot let us pour water on the cars below. Pretty funny. We eventually made it up to 6,500 ft. Even if you are scared of heights, like my mom, you will be fine up there. And for our landing, we hovered right over a school before landing on a field right next to the Interstate highway!

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