Wolves and Deer and Bears, Oh My!

In 2020 the kids lost out in so much due to the COVID pandemic, especially in birthdays and summer vacations. 2021 was a little different. We had a lot of things open but with restrictions. School in our area had opened their doors and everyone was getting ready to go back to school live and in person. Everyone was excited for this development but it snuck up on us very quick. We wanted to get the kids out one last time before school started at the beginning of August.

We decided to do a road trip, but where too? We heard about this zoo type place that you could drive through called Bearizona so we decided that would be our destination and our road trip began to form from there.

We live in So Cal so there trip to Bearizona was a 5 hour trip give or take a 1/2 hour depending on traffic. We decided to leave Saturday morning about 4am getting us to Kingman at 8am. This was our first stop have breakfast at Black Bear Diner. Yes it is corny but that’s what kind of parents we are. We kept telling the kids that the restaurant was a hint but they never figured out the hint. After breakfast we heading to Bearizona which was only about an hour away. We exited off the 161 exit and headed down the Historic Route 66. This stretch of town was so cute and we planned on coming back after Bearizona to eat lunch there. After we drove through the short stretch of town we ended up at the entrance of Bearizona. The kids saw the entry arch and it finally set in where we were at. They were excited to see the animals even at their rip old grumpy age of a teenage. You know the age where your parents aren’t cool anymore.

When you first drive in, after you pass the arch, you come to the toll booth. You pay for your visit and if it is your first time they will explain that you can either go right to the drive thru zoo or you go left to the walk thru zoo. They also explain most exhibits you can keep your window down and take your time trying to find the animals, but once you get into the wolf and bear exhibits windows must be up and doors locked and you are not allowed to stop at anytime. We decided to drive first and walk later. We had gotten there pretty early and there wasn’t too many people there yet. There are two lanes so if you want to stop to take a picture you have time without cars behind you trying to push you on. The first few exhibits we got to see all different types of deer, mountain goats, and donkeys. When you get to the deer take your time and look from them. A lot of them were by the back fence and hard to see but once you stopped and looked you could see them. Then we entered the wolf den. There is another booth with a park employee there telling you it’s time to roll up those windows. The wolves were beautiful and looked so much like your regular domestic pooch. I thought that they would have that sinister evil look with their head down and shoulders hunch up but they walked around without a care in the world. The next exhibit was the Bear section. And the rule about not stopping was hard to do because even with the very small amount of cars at the park all of them where stopped right in front of us to take pictures of the bears playing along the road side. Luckily the bears had no interest in us and continued to entertain while we drove by. After that we got to see buffaloes and long horn sheep.

Once we reached the end of the driving tour you end up in the parking lot of the walking zoo. This part of the zoo holds all the small game animals like raccoons, bobcats, javelinas, porcupines, badgers, red foxes, beavers, otters and birds. But it also keeps the larger animals and the more dangerous animals like the grizzly bear, jaguar, elk and cheetah. They had a great show with the birds but as we were watching the show a storm was brewing in the distance and lightning and thunder only minutes away. We were not dressed for a summer storm so we decided to make our way to the truck to take one last time around the drive thru part. As soon as we got in the truck it started to rain on us, but that did not stop the animals from moving around. Quite the contrary, the animals were out of their hiding places playing in the rain. We are so happy we decided to take that second trip around.

When we were finally done with the park it was about lunch time but it was pouring rain. So we didn’t decided not to walk around the small stretch of Route 66 that we saw on the way in. We ended up going to get the kids favorite place, McDonalds. Here is were we had to decide our next move. The only thing we actually planned was Bearizona everything else we were going to decide as we go. Usually these kinds of trips make the best trips for us. So I started searching the map and found that there was a lava cave about an hour away from where we were. Perfect! Our second destination the Lava River Cave in Flagstaff.

The Lava River Cave is about 8 miles on a dirt road when you exit the 40 on exit 185 and go North. The dirt road is well maintained and we saw a few cars at the parking lot even after a heavy down pour. The actual cave is about a mile long and was formed about 700,000 years ago by lava that came from a nearby volcanic in the Hart Prairie. Once we got to the parking lot the rain had let up but it was still sprinkling. Two of our girls decided that they didn’t want to make the hike down into the cave so only three of us got our head lamps and started our way down. The first part, walking down into the cave, is pretty difficult but worth it once you get on level ground. The cave itself is pretty level but the rocks you have to walk on are sharp so make sure to wear appropriate shoes. The outside temperature was about 80 degrees with humidity but inside the cave was in the 50’s. We could see our breath it was so cold. As you walk through the cave you will notice how large some areas are and some areas you have to duck so you won’t hit your head. There was a lot of people in there at the beginning of the cave especially on the way down but once you started to get deeper into the cave there were less and less people. We hiked for about an hour and never made it to the end. We decided to head back since we left two of the kids in the truck waiting. If you take this hike notice the colors along the walls and the different textures on the floor as you walk.

Out next stop on our road trip was Grand Canyon Deer Farm. This is a must stop if you are ever in this area. It is right off the 40 on exit 171, head north and then a quick turn west. When you get there you walk through the cutest gift shop. It is hard not to buy anything there. We headed to the register and bought our tickets and food to enter into the deer petting zoo. When you walk through the back door to the petting area you go through a couple gates before you are surrounded by the cutest fallow deer & sika deer. They know that you have food and follow you like a lost puppy. These are the kind of deer that you associate cartoon deers with. You know the small deer with the “Doe” eyes and the white spots that look up at you and steal your heart. I think we got maybe a quarter of the way through and those deer puppy dog eyes stoled our hearts and all our food. The back part of the property has you walking by some of the other deer species they have like reindeer, mule deer and coues deer. They also have elk, bison, porcupines, wallabies, mini horses, mini donkeys, llamas, alpacas, and peacocks. We even got to see a deer that wasn’t even a day old. The kids loved petting all the deer and it became one of their favorite stops.

When we were done with the deer farm we looked at the map and saw that we were only about an hour away for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had never been so that became our last stop of our trip. I booked a room in the park at Yavapai Lodge and we started to head to the Grand Canyon. We decided that we would eat dinner and get a good nights rest and wake up early the next morning before the crowds descended onto this national treasure. We checked into the hotel and they were super helpful on where we should go and some other special items we needed for our kids. We got dinner at the lodge, which was excellent, and got to bed early. The morning we packed up and headed to the parking lot of the Yavapai Geology Museum and start to hike the Trail of Time trail. The view was breathtaking, there are really no words to describe how beautiful the Grand Canyon really is. The canyons and cliffs with the layers of reds and browns look as though it was painted in the sky and the trees along the path were natures frames. Every turn we made there was a different view to admire and drool over. We reached the Hopi House and decided that it was time to head back. The one thing to note is that the park is very strict with COVID protocols. All stores, hotels, museums, actually anything indoors requires a mask. If you come from an area that does not require a mask make sure you have one on you when visiting. None of us brought a mask with us on our hike so we were unable to go into the Hopi House which was ok because we still had to head home with a 5 hour drive. So we made our way back down the trail to the truck to end our spontaneous road trip before the kids went back to school.

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