Celebrating Milestones with Desert Vibes

By Candice Wheeler
 Writer; Radio Personality, 92 KQRS


The thing about old friends is that you grow old together. Celebrating milestones are in fact most special beside the ones who know us best, and now that my oldest friends and I are all turning 30 years old, we plan to go all out in commemoration of our long-lasting friendship.


Transferring to Richfield Middle School in 8th grade fitted me within a group of girls just as squirrelly and silly as I am. Our friendship was natural, but not always easy. Our uniqueness made us somewhat of a rat-pack, but our closeness and group mentality made us unbreakable—something that still holds true today.


My favorite thing about our friendship is how much we laugh. I seriously cannot even wear mascara around these girls because I just end up crying it off. Tears of laughter often stream down our faces when we are together—even when cocktails aren’t involved. There is no doubt we love each other deeply, and I am very grateful to have that kind of bond with this crazy group of characters.


The Special Occasion

As I mentioned earlier, this year and next, all of us girls are turning 30, with my friend Alicia being the first. We work hard in our daily lives, but there is no denying that we are party girls. We absolutely love doing crazy things together. Though this current pandemic has made us mindful and cautious, we have chosen not to let it stop us from including each other in our celebrations. 

Alicia invited us on a birthday trip to beautiful Arizona. Never have been, so I gleefully accepted. The goal was to spend time outdoors and at our home base—a charming Airbnb in Flagstaff. To my surprise, a low-key getaway such as this was much more fulfilling than spending our time in bars and clubs. It was in fact, exactly the serenity we all needed.


To kick off our trip, my dear friend Jane and I hopped on a plane, then into a speedy little rental car, and swiftly arrived in Sedona, ready to jumpstart our adventure. We met Jessica and the birthday girl at Pink Jeep Tours and embarked on a bumpy, but enjoyable jeep ride through the desert. (I’m just glad we did this on our first day; it would have been miserable after a night of partying.) Our guide, Daniel, was chatty, but very entertaining, and we appreciated him taking zillions of photos of us girls with no complaints. 



After the tour, Janie and I drove to meet Alicia and Jessica at our Airbnb. We stopped at a gorgeous little crystal shop where Jane had her Aura read. I also had my own spiritual moment being drawn to an angel figurine made out of Amethyst. My grandma Virginia who passed away when I was eight years old is my guardian angel of whom I pray to often. Her birthstone was Amethyst, and it makes sense that I was attracted to such intense energy in one of the most spiritual cities in the country. It was a very special moment for me.


The next day, it was the day of Alicia’s 30th birthday, and our friends Shelby and Michelle were en route to meet us in our desert cottage. Before that though, we spent the day curing our hangover with a nice brunch at The Toasted Owl in Flagstaff. (We may have had a bit too much champagne in the hot tub the night before!) After a brunch full of shenanigans, we walked to take photos at the famous Route 66 landmark. Flagstaff is a very enjoyable city filled with shops, breweries and quaint neighborhoods. I felt very comfortable there.


The One Where Alicia Turns 30

 As soon as Shelby and Michelle arrived, we were really about to get the party started! Collectively we loved the show Friends. Rightfully so, the night was deemed “The One Where Alicia Turns 30, as a nod to the sitcom. We dressed up in our best 90s outfits completed with the most perfect accessories like crazy straws, chokers and ring pops. 

Our kitchen table was decorated with glow sticks, disposable cameras, stick-on face jewels, and a photo album filled with pictures of us girls throughout the years. We listened to our party playlist that we all contributed to and sang and danced a lot. Alicia’s rocker dad even popped by for a round or two of karaoke. A total Van Halen guy, we sort of forgot about the 90s for a moment in his honor, and rocked the rest of the night away.



Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend

Surprisingly, we all woke up the next morning excited and ready to conquer the day. We set out for a two and a half hour drive through the desert to Lake Powell, located in damn near Utah, where we were to venture out on a rigorous kayak trip. I was quite nervous since I had never done anything like this before. Even though I was a bit reluctant, it ended up being my favorite part of the trip. The champagne bottle we brought along seemed to soften my nerves, and though the trek was a bit treacherous, the sight of our destination, Antelope Canyon, was well worth it. The area’s insane views hypnotized me and put me in a sort of loosey-goosey state. 


The girls laughed at me as I struggled to climb out of my kayak, and were quite dumbfounded by all my cheesy one liners that seemed to make sense to me and me alone. 

Horseshoe Bend

After our hike, we had to hustle back to port to return our kayaks on time. Thankfully so; we made it to our next destination, Horseshoe Bend, just as the sun set.  I highly recommend exploring this area. It was a day filled with pure amusement and amazement. 



And finally, the Grand Canyon

When we finally got home, Shelby made us sloppy joes and we nestled up to a good movie. We awoke Saturday morning after a great night’s rest to head to none other than the Grand Canyon. Ooof, that was a cool day. The views were breathtaking; very movie-like. I thought of the Brady Bunch episode as the mules passed us on our descent into the canyon. 





The day was most exciting because our good friends Dana and Greg, who are now married and living in Arizona, joined us on this venture. It was so nice to have them there to experience such a spectacular sight. I remember my wild friend Jessica scaring me many times as she posed for Instagram-worthy shots just a bit too close to the edge. It was crazy how easy I would be to topple over, and known for being extremely clumsy myself, I stayed clear of any over-zealous poses. It was simply another amazing day with my best friends seeing things we’d only imagine of seeing together.


Grateful for these girlfriends

I will always remember this trip as a time for reconnection and reflection for us old friends. Our long-standing friendship continues to outshine itself with every reunion. We laughed until we cried and danced until we passed out. We made everlasting memories that we are sure to reminisce about the next time we see each other. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have experienced this trip with my greatest girlfriends. My friends are my family— not of which I was born with, but that I was so luckily gifted.


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