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31 Things To Do Before You Kick The Bucket
"Every man dies. Not every man really lives." That quote, attributed to William Wallace, comes from the movie Braveheart, but it underlies the premise of that other popular movie. The one starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The one that got us thinking about our lives, and what we'd like to look back on someday. Most of us want our time on Earth to have some kind of meaning. We want a challenge, a purpose, and to make some great memories. With that in mind, we've put together an Arizona-based bucket list that combines a little of each. Some of these things you may have done already; others, probably not. Take a look and hit the road. The clock is ticking.

By Kathy Montgomery

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Natural wonder
Majestic saguaro, Ironwood Forest National Monument
Photograph: Randy Prentice


17. Find and Photograph This Incredible Saguaro
Near Ironwood forest National Monument
It's the arms that give saguaros their engaging, human-like character, yet no one really knows why they grow them. Some think it's because the ends of the arms grow flowers. A cactus with more arms has a better chance of reproducing. Yet a 150-year-old saguaro may not have a single arm. On the other hand, one in Southern Arizona has 75. We're not going to tell you exactly where it is, but it's worth finding so you can see it for yourself.
Information: Ironwood Forest National Monument, 520-258-7200, www.blm.gov/az; Saguaro National Park, 520-733-5158, www.nps.gov/sagu

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18. Quench Your Thirst at a Desert Oasis
Nellie E. Saloon
If you see a caravan of cars driving into the desert north of Parker, chances are they're headed to the Nellie E., a.k.a. the Desert Bar. When you see a copper steeple atop a chapel welded from steel plates, you'll know you've arrived. The Nellie E. opened on an old mining claim in 1983. There's a bar with glass refrigerator doors for windows, a music stage and sheet-metal cooling towers. It's a funky, jostling, happy place, but it's only open weekends from Labor Day through Memorial Day. In the summer, it shuts up tighter than a desert tortoise.
Information: Cienega Springs Road, Parker, www.thedesertbar.com


19. Take the Scenic Routes
Oak Creek Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, Hart Prairie, Saguaro National Park
Life is too short to spend it stuck in traffic when Arizona has such spectacular back roads. Crank up Springsteen and head out on a drive, one for each of the four seasons. Start with State Route 89A through Oak Creek Canyon in spring, when the creek's cottonwoods sprout their first vibrant leaves and the apple orchards are in bloom. Take the high road in the summer on the North Rim Parkway, with its cool, wildflower-strewn meadows and vanilla-scented pines. In the fall, you'll love Hart Prairie Road, its shimmering aspens carpeting the gravel road with golden leaves. And where better to appreciate winter than the desert? Pose in short sleeves with one of the stately giants at Saguaro National Park and send it to friends back East.
Information: Oak Creek: 928-203-2900, www.fs.usda.gov/coconino; Kaibab Plateau: 928-643-7395, www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab; Hart Prairie: 928-526-0866, www.fs.usda.gov/coconino; Saguaro NP: 520-733-5153, www.nps.gov/sagu
20. Walk Over the Grand Canyon
Navajo Bridge
On U.S. Route 89A, two nearly identical bridges span the Colorado River. The narrower one, built in 1927 to accommodate automobiles, replaced the boat crossing at Lees Ferry. At the time, it was the highest steel-arch bridge in the world. But by the mid-1990s, it couldn't support modern-day traffic, so a wider bridge was built just downriver. The historic bridge is now a pedestrian crossing, with panoramic views of the Colorado River 470 feet below and California condors wheeling above.
Information: Information: 928-355-2319, www.nps.gov/glca
21. Look to the Sky
Grand Canyon Lodge
To properly enjoy meteor showers, the most important element is a dark sky. That's why the Grand Canyon's North Rim makes such a wonderful place to view them. Add the quiet, the spectacular setting and an unobstructed view of the horizon, and you've got a front-row seat to two of nature's most impressive displays. In August, the Perseids take center stage, and this year's waning crescent moon won't outshine the stars of the show.
Information: 928-638-7888, www.grandcanyonlodgenorth.com
22. Run the Colorado
Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek
You can take a day trip on the Colorado River, and you even can take it in a motorized boat. But to paddle all 277 miles through the Grand Canyon is to glide through some 2 billion years of geologic time and see fern-covered grottoes, ancient granaries and 100-foot waterfalls. It is to test yourself against the rapids and experience the profound quiet of the canyons. It is to remember what it means to work toward a common goal, to travel lightly, test your limits and, sometimes, surprise yourself.
Information: 800-959-9164, www.nps.gov/grca
23. Take a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Shot
Grand Canyon National Park
In Arizona, a rim-to-rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon is a rite of passage. It's a 44-mile challenge, one that National Geographic writer Peter Potterfield ranks as one of the 15 best hikes in the world. The National Park Service, however, frowns upon long hikes like that. Taking it slow, over the course of four to six days, has its own rewards. Like escaping the heat of the day at Ribbon Falls, enjoying a cold beer at Phantom Ranch and watching sunset at Plateau Point.
Information:928-638-7875, www.nps.gov/grca
24. Travel Back in Time
Walpi
Perched on the high, narrow finger of First Mesa, this ancient Hopi village is the mother of the 11 present-day Hopi settlements. The Hopis have occupied this defensive location, built from hand-plastered sandstone, since the 17th century. Its residents still live as their ancestors have for centuries, without electricity and running water, selling the pottery for which First Mesa is known.
Information: State Route 264, Milepost 392, 928-737-2262, www.experiencehopi.com/walpi

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