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A Wonderland Of Rocks: Chiricahua National Monument

A Wonderland Of Rocks: Chiricahua National Monument

Posted by on Feb 21, 2018 in Arizona, Gallery, Travel | 46 comments

We’ve been wanting to hike the trails in the Chiricahua National Monument for years. Known for its splendid assortment of hoodoos, balanced rocks, and spires, the monument is part of a sky island, an isolated mountain range that rises above the desert in the far southeastern corner of Arizona.

We planned three nights in Bonita Canyon Campground, deep in the heart of the canyon. We knew we were flirting with the likelihood of chilly nights in mid-December, but when we discovered that below freezing temperatures were forecast, we almost bailed on our plan. At the last minute, we decided to forge ahead. We are so glad we did.

Sure enough, the temperatures dipped into the low 20’s. With no hookups, we relied on our little auxiliary propane heater to keep us warm. Our hiking strategy didn’t turn out as planned when we awoke the second morning to find the road to the top of the canyon closed. Still, we got in plenty of hiking. And we spent a wonderful three days at Chiricahua National Monument.

If anything, the light dusting of snow added to the magic of the canyon.

A light dusting of snow greets us our third morning in Chiricahua National Monument

The park offers an assortment of trails that can be combined in many different configurations, depending on your time, energy, and desire. Most of the trails are clustered at the top of Bonita Canyon Drive. This spectacular scenic drive climbs from the visitor center to Massai Point, eight miles winding through a landscape of oak, juniper, and pine forests with stunning views of sculpted rocks and far-off mountain vistas.

Even if you don’t intend to hike, the scenic drive is well-worth taking. The views from Massai Point are outstanding.

Views from the Massai Point observation tower

As I mentioned earlier, we had a plan. With three nights in the park, we figured we had two full days for hiking all of the trails at the top of the canyon. Using the excellent map provided by the visitor center, we figured out our routes.

The first day worked out beautifully. The park has a convenient shuttle van that leaves from the visitor center at 9:00 a.m. and drops hikers at the Massai Point trailhead or Echo Point trailhead to make their way back down the canyon to the visitor center.

We chose the Massai Point trailhead, first hiking the gorgeous half-mile Massai Nature Trail, and then heading down the canyon via the Ed Riggs Trail, Mushroom Rock Trail, Inspiration Point Trail, Big Balanced Rock Trail, Heart of Rocks Loop, Sarah Deming Trail, and the Lower Rhyolite Canyon Trail back to the visitor center. All in all, nine miles of extraordinary beauty.

At the Massai Point Trailhead

The Civilian Conservation Corps observation tower at Massai Point

Scenic locater built by the CCC. So low-tech and so cool!

Ready to begin the descent into the canyon

Pinnacles along the Ed Riggs Trail

On the Mushroom Rock Trail

Mushroom Rock; (honestly, we kind of expected something more…extravagant)

Trails built by the CCC. Those guys worked hard!

The trail to Inspiration Point; the only flat trail in the entire 9 miles we hiked.

Inspiring views from Inspiration Point

Cochise Head from Inspiration Point, in honor of the Apache chief and the original inhabitants of this land (can you see his profile?)

A Mexican Jay joins us on the trail

Big Balanced Rock weighs more than 1,000 pounds and stands 25 feet tall

More big rocks on the Big Balanced Rock Trail

Another view of Cochise Head from Big Balanced Rock Trail

Beginning the Heart of Rocks Loop Trail; this was the most difficult section of the hike

There were a ridiculous number of stone steps on the trail. It was exhausting!

Around every corner were fancifully named rock formations. Guess this one!

You got it right, didn’t you?

View from Heart of Rocks Loop Trail

Thor’s Hammer

Camel’s Head

Punch and Judy

Continuing down canyon on the Sarah Deming Trail

The Sarah Deming Trail is one of the most rugged sections of the trail, you have to watch every step

In Lower Rhyolite Canyon, ready to get back to the barn

We awoke our second morning to icy rain and the news that the road to the top of the canyon was closed. Alas! Our plans for hiking the 3.5 mile Echo Canyon Loop were dashed. Instead, we set out on the easy and flat 3.0 mile (round-trip) Silver Spur Faraway Trail, which took us from the campground to Faraway Ranch.

Along the way was a self-guided tour of the history of the monument, including the role the Civilian Conservation Corps played in making these remote mountains accessible in the 1930’s. They built roads and extensive trails, named the rock formations and created signs—these guys did an outstanding job.

The CCC built all of the roads and trails in the monument—and made the signs creatively naming the rocks

The Silver Spur Faraway Trail, walking past a stone chimney leftover from the CCC days

Along the Silver Spur Trail on a very chilly morning

Faraway Ranch was the home of Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson, who settled here in 1888. In the 1920’s, their daughter Lillian and her husband Ed Riggs turned the home into a guest ranch for nature lovers, which was in operation until 1973. The family played an instrumental role in the creation of the national monument.

Faraway Ranch

The dining room at Faraway Ranch as it appeared during the guest-ranch era

On our last morning, we awoke to snow and the exciting news that the Bonita Canyon Drive was again open. We drove the scenic road to the top, hiked the nature trail again at Massai Point (it looked so different in the snow!), and had just enough time to do about a half-mile of the Echo Canyon Trail before turning around and heading back to pack up camp.

We need to return to finish that Echo Canyon Loop.

Massai Point on a snowy day

Views from Massai Point

The Nature Trail

Narrow passageways and big boulders on the Echo Canyon Trail

More beauty along the Echo Canyon Trail

About the campground:
If you have an RV smaller than 29 feet and don’t mind camping without hookups, this is the place to be! We loved our stay at Bonita Canyon Campground. With only 26 sites, reservations are essential if you want to score one of the larger sites. The campground has restrooms, but no showers. It’s quiet, dark at night, beautiful, and within walking distance of the visitor center and Faraway Ranch. No cell service, of course, but you might get random texts on the trail at the top of the canyon (that’s where we got a text from our RVing buddies Jodee and Bill: “Don’t forget to look for Cochise Head!”).

Our campsite in Bonita Canyon, Chiricahua National Monument

Up Next: In Search Of The Starry-Eyed Man: Hueco Tanks State Park

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Family And Friends: San Diego To Tucson

Family And Friends: San Diego To Tucson

Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Arizona, California, Gallery, Travel | 32 comments

Bidding farewell to the Central Coast, our travels from San Diego to Tucson were a whirlwind tour of time with family and friends.

We were looking forward to seeing family in San Diego; when we discovered that no less than four of our favorite full-time RVing buddies were also in the area, our dance card filled up immediately. A week later, when we moved on to Tucson, we serendipitously met up with another favorite RVing duo and their trusty side-kick.

Four-and-a-half years ago, I never imagined the friendships that would blossom in our travels. Honestly, I secretly feared we might be lonely as we roamed the country. As it turns out, we’ve made many wonderful friends through our blog, as well as through fortuitous encounters on trails, in campgrounds, and during our yearly camp hosting gig on Lopez Island. One thing is for sure, meeting up with friends adds depth and camaraderie and a whole heck of a lot of fun to our travels.

We gathered with our RVing buddies for a delightful evening at Stone Brewing at Liberty Station in San Diego. What a great group of friends and fellow travelers! Hans and Lisa (Metamorphosis Road), Pam and John (Oh, the Places They Go!), LuAnn and Terry (Paint Your Landscape) and MonaLiza and Steve (Lowe’s Travels) showed up for an evening of reconnecting, sharing stories, and plenty of laughter. We didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant, so we apparently showed some restraint.

Liberty Station all decked out for the holidays (yep, this blog is far behind)

A very fun gathering of RVing friends and fellow bloggers at Stone Brewing, Liberty Station. Clockwise around the table: Hans, Eric, John, Steve, MonaLiza, Pam, Laurel, Lisa, LuAnn, Terry.

Dos Picos County Park, our home for the week while visiting San Diego

We always enjoy our time with Eric’s family in Poway (sister Penny, brother-in-law Tom, nephews, and families)

A great day of biking and fun with Pam and John along Mission Bay

Time for a lunch break on our bike ride

Meeting up with Terry and LuAnn for a beautiful day of hiking at Lake Poway

A delicious lunch and catching up at Stone Brewing in Escondido

At the top of Iron Mountain in Poway with Steve and MonaLiza

Lunch at Marinade on Main in Ramona; MonaLiza is happily anticipating that beer tasting

Moving on to Catalina State Park, a Tucson favorite

We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Tucson on previous visits. This visit was short, but we still managed to hike every day in Catalina State Park (one of the benefits of staying in the park). Fortuitously, just a few sites down were Sue, Dave, and Lewis (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) and we had a great time sharing a happy hour, a birding hike, and a wonderful dinner out with them. More good times with good friends.

A very rude saguaro cactus

Happy hour with Sue and Dave—and Lewis, the butler

On the birding trail with Dave and Sue

A fabulous dinner at Vivace in Tucson. Go here if you find yourself in Tucson.

And of course, a few of our feathered friends:

A Phainopepla (what kind of a name is that? I liked it better when they were called “Silky Flycatchers”)

A Cactus Wren, always one of our favorites with their very big personalities

A Roadrunner, another of our perennial favorites

We saw a coatimundi on the trails at Catalina State Park! That was a surprise.

A Northern Flicker, isn’t that feather pattern gorgeous?

A sweet little Verdin, the first to show up when we put out our hummingbird feeder

A beautiful Broad-billed Hummingbird stops by for a drink

A Cooper’s Hawk on our picnic table; probably eyeing the little birds at our feeder :-(

Next Up: Hiking The Chiricahuas

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A Week Of Adventures: Lake Powell, AZ

A Week Of Adventures: Lake Powell, AZ

Posted by on Jul 5, 2016 in Arizona, Gallery, Travel | 33 comments

The first glimpse is surreal—a vast sapphire body of water shimmering against a backdrop of picturesque, orange-hued sandstone buttes. At 186 miles long and with more than 90 side canyons that snake into the desert landscape, Lake Powell holds the title as the second largest artificial lake in America.

Honestly, we prefer our lakes created by nature, and our rivers running free. But Lake Powell, straddling the border between Arizona and Utah, happens to be close to some unique places that have long been on our list—Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Lower Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend, among others. And so, mid-May found us at Wahweap campground on the shores of Lake Powell, just upstream from Glen Canyon Dam. With our apologies to Edward Abbey and the Sierra Club (both of whom ardently opposed the dam), this is an undeniably beautiful place.

Once a remote desert canyon, Lake Powell came into existence after the dam was completed in 1963. An ambitious 10-year project that corralled the mighty Colorado River, the dam was built to control the flow of water downstream and generate a cheap supply of electricity. As perhaps a not-so-surprising side note, Lake Powell has become a mecca for water recreation in the arid Southwest.

But damming the river has come at a high price—as the lake filled, it drowned canyons of legendary beauty and hundreds of archeological sites sacred to the native peoples. The environmental issues are equally devastating, from pollutants caused by heavy recreational usage to erosion and loss of native species. Everything and everyone downstream has been affected—including the Grand Canyon, a close neighbor. Obstructing the natural flow of the river also means that the reservoir behind the dam—Lake Powell—is slowly filling up with mud.

More than five decades after the last bucket of concrete was poured, Glen Canyon Dam continues to be plagued by controversy. (It’s obviously a complicated situation, but if you’re interested, the Glen Canyon Institute presents an intelligent discussion of the issues.) Whatever your point of view, in another 150 years, the dam will likely be obsolete. By then, Lake Powell will have amassed enough silt to significantly impact storage capacity, and the dam will be decommissioned. However, proponents of removing the dam advocate acting sooner rather than later to facilitate cleanup and restoration of the canyon (as you can imagine, it’s easier to remove 50 years of silt than 200 years accumulation).

In years to come—probably not in our lifetimes—there will be those fortunate to once again explore the beautiful canyons that currently lie beneath the lake. As for us, we thoroughly enjoyed short hikes to nearby Horseshoe Bend and Hanging Garden, both within the National Recreation Area, as well as a guided trip into Lower Antelope Canyon. These are not places one can commune with nature in solitude—especially the famed photography destinations of Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. But they’re renowned for good reason, and well worth a visit.

Antelope Canyon lies just outside of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on Navajo Nation Land. An extraordinarily beautiful slot canyon famous for a just-right combination of sculpted sandstone walls, color, and ambient light, it’s the most visited and photographed slot canyon in the Southwest. If you go, expect to be in a herd. Despite the crowds, we thought it was worth the $26 entrance fee (per person). The tours are well run, and our guide was enthusiastic and informed.

We’ve visited both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons, and prefer the lower canyon—it’s much less crowded, and in our opinion, more interesting. The half-mile walk through the canyon involves steep stairways and tight passages, so if you’re claustrophobic, this tour isn’t for you. Some photographers favor the upper canyon because the light shafts at certain times of day are especially striking, but we think both canyons are equally beautiful. If you go, choose a sunny day—that’s when you’ll see the best colors in the canyon.

We also experienced—I can’t say enjoyed—kayaking on Lake Powell. We put in at Antelope Point Marina, intending to explore some of the side canyons. Too many speedboats and too many people not paying attention to the “No Wake” signs made it more stressful than fun. In talking later with a kayak guide, he recommended putting in before 7:30 in the morning or after 3:30 in the afternoon—and never on a weekend.

Last but certainly not least, we enjoyed meeting up with fellow full-time RV’ers Mike and Kathie  (Life Rebooted) who also happened to be staying at Wahweap. We had fun sharing happy hour and stories of the traveling life on a scorching afternoon at our site—it was so hot that I couldn’t motivate myself to get out of my chair to get my camera. We hope to catch up with them in Florida this winter—and we’ll be sure to get a photo next time around.

About the RV Park: Wahweap RV Park and campground is within the National Recreation Area but run by a concessionaire. The park is well kept and the views are amazing—depending on your site. The older section (loops A, B, C) is tiered, with spacious pull-through and back-in sites, asphalt or concrete pads, and full hookups. (We stayed in loop C in a back-in site and loved it.) The newer section (D and F) is laid-out in typical RV-park rows. Nice bathrooms, coin operated showers and laundry, and decent Verizon coverage. It’s an expensive option for a National Recreation Area ($44 per night with AAA discount!) but it was a relaxing stay with a gorgeous view.

Next Up: A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch

Lake Powell

Our Spacious Site At Wahweap Campground

View From Our Site

Houseboats On The Lake

Antelope Point Boat Launch

Ready To Go Fishing

Kayaking On Lake Powell

Sea Of Humanity At Horseshoe Bend

Don't Expect Solitude

A Condor Sails Overhead

Colorful Horseshoe Bend

Trying To Get The Entire Circle

Full View Of Horseshoe Bend

On The Hanging Gardens Trail

The Hanging Gardens

Orchids And Ferns In The Desert

Expansive Views From The Trail

Glen Canyon Dam

Overlooking The Lake From The Dam

Bridge Across The Colorado

Ken's Tours, Lower Antelope Canyon

John, Our Excellent Tour Guide

Heading Down Into The Canyon

Not For The Claustrophobic

Photography In A Herd

Worth The Crowds

Incredible Sandstone Swirls

Sunlight Illuminating The Curves

Alone For One Second

In Beautiful Antelope Canyon

A Demonstration Of Sand And Light

A Shower Of Sand

The End Of The Tour

Emerging From The Canyon

Lake Powell
Our Spacious Site At Wahweap Campground
View From Our Site
Houseboats On The Lake
Antelope Point Boat Launch
Ready To Go Fishing
Kayaking On Lake Powell
Sea Of Humanity At Horseshoe Bend
Don't Expect Solitude
A Condor Sails Overhead
Colorful Horseshoe Bend
Trying To Get The Entire Circle
Full View Of Horseshoe Bend
On The Hanging Gardens Trail
The Hanging Gardens
Orchids And Ferns In The Desert
Expansive Views From The Trail
Glen Canyon Dam
Overlooking The Lake From The Dam
Bridge Across The Colorado
Ken's Tours, Lower Antelope Canyon
John, Our Excellent Tour Guide
Heading Down Into The Canyon
Not For The Claustrophobic
Photography In A Herd
Worth The Crowds
Incredible Sandstone Swirls
Sunlight Illuminating The Curves
Alone For One Second
In Beautiful Antelope Canyon
A Demonstration Of Sand And Light
A Shower Of Sand
The End Of The Tour
Emerging From The Canyon
Lake Powell thumbnail
Our Spacious Site At Wahweap Campground thumbnail
View From Our Site thumbnail
Houseboats On The Lake thumbnail
Antelope Point Boat Launch thumbnail
Ready To Go Fishing thumbnail
Kayaking On Lake Powell thumbnail
Sea Of Humanity At Horseshoe Bend thumbnail
Don't Expect Solitude thumbnail
A Condor Sails Overhead thumbnail
Colorful Horseshoe Bend thumbnail
Trying To Get The Entire Circle thumbnail
Full View Of Horseshoe Bend thumbnail
On The Hanging Gardens Trail thumbnail
The Hanging Gardens thumbnail
Orchids And Ferns In The Desert thumbnail
Expansive Views From The Trail thumbnail
Glen Canyon Dam thumbnail
Overlooking The Lake From The Dam thumbnail
Bridge Across The Colorado thumbnail
Ken's Tours, Lower Antelope Canyon thumbnail
John, Our Excellent Tour Guide thumbnail
Heading Down Into The Canyon thumbnail
Not For The Claustrophobic thumbnail
Photography In A Herd thumbnail
Worth The Crowds thumbnail
Incredible Sandstone Swirls thumbnail
Sunlight Illuminating The Curves thumbnail
Alone For One Second thumbnail
In Beautiful Antelope Canyon thumbnail
A Demonstration Of Sand And Light thumbnail
A Shower Of Sand thumbnail
The End Of The Tour thumbnail
Emerging From The Canyon thumbnail

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A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest

A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest

Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 in Arizona, Gallery, Travel | 23 comments

Ifirst visited Petrified Forest National Park about 20 years ago, in mid-August, at mid-day. It was scorching hot, the sky hazy, and the petrified logs were uninspiring brown lumps. As you can imagine, I was in no great hurry to return.

But Eric had never been, and wanted to see for himself. “There’s not much to see,” I told him. But because we were passing by on our way from Lyman Lake to Flagstaff, we decided to make a quick stop. I was so wrong! Apparently time of year and time of day make all the difference here. This place is gorgeous—a couple of hours weren’t near enough, and Eric ended up having to drag me away.

In mid-May, with big billowy clouds sailing across the sky, the Petrified Forest was a wonderland of undulating dunes and colorful wood turned to stone by the magic of time and geologic processes. The names bestowed to the trails and historic structures enticed us deeper into the park: Rainbow Museum. Crystal Forest. Agate House. Jasper Forest. We walked several miles of trails, fascinated by the landscape and the spectacular rainbow colors of the petrified wood, remnants of the sub-tropical forest that stood here 200 million years ago.

With only a couple of hours in the park, we explored only a fraction of what we wanted to see. And sadly, we didn’t get to the Painted Desert, which is part of Petrified Forest National Park. Although there’s no camping within the park, just outside the entrance are two campgrounds associated with gift shops—Crystal Forest Campground is free, with no hookups; the other has electric hookups for $11. We’ll return, and we’ll stay in one of those campgrounds while we explore the rest of this unique and beautiful park. (I assure you, it will not be in August.)

Although we were headed for Flagstaff (another 120 miles away), a late spring snow storm in the mountains ahead deterred us, and we stopped instead at Homolovi State Park, halfway to our destination. It was no hardship—we love this little gem of a park. We first discovered Homolovi 10 years ago and have stayed here several times in our cross-country journeys.

Considered by the Hopi to be part of their ancestral homeland (Homol’ovi means “place of the little hills” in their language), the park—which includes seven sites with ruins—is a combined effort between the state and the Hopi people to protect this sacred place. The Hopi live on nearby mesas and regularly make pilgrimages to Homol’ovi for ceremonies and offerings.

Two of the ruin sites are open to visitors. Pathways wind among the adobe rubble of ancient villages, the only sound the gentle rustle of the wind through the grasslands and the harsh calls of the ravens. The most fascinating part of wandering these ancient villages is the abundance of potsherds left behind by the people who lived here between 1260 and 1400 AD. Painted, inscribed, coiled, and stamped—thousands of pieces of pottery are scattered throughout the ruins. Picking up and admiring the pottery is permissible—but of course, you can’t remove anything from the ruins.

After a peaceful night’s sleep and a morning of exploring the ruins, we continued another 85 miles to our campground just south of Flagstaff. (The snowstorm the day before had passed, and we arrived in perfect weather.) We’ve never found a private campground in Flagstaff that we like, so we always stay in one of the nearby Forest Service campgrounds, which are lovely, spacious, and peaceful. There’s one drawback—both Bonito Campground and Pine Grove Campground are almost 20 miles from town. But it’s an easy drive, and worth it for the tranquility and beauty.

It was a quick stopover for us in Flagstaff this time—just long enough for some truck maintenance and a couple of hikes, including part of the Arizona Trail in the campground, and the Fatman’s Loop in the hills above Flagstaff while we were waiting for our truck repairs to be completed. Lunch at Café Daily Fare was also on our short list of things to do—the food is creative and delicious, and we always make it a point to stop here when we’re in Flagstaff. (Do not bring your rig—the parking is atrocious!) To round out our stay, we had a surprise call and delightful meet-up for coffee with our hometown friends Brenda and Morey, who were heading to the Casita factory in Texas to pick up their new rig. So much fun to meet up with friends on the road!

About the campgrounds:

Homolovi State Park seems to be somewhat of a hidden gem. It’s conveniently located just a few miles off of I-40 near Winslow, Arizona. The campground is peaceful, with spacious sites, fabulous sunsets, and dark night skies. It has an excellent visitor’s center and short but fascinating hiking trails. Although the campground seems to be getting more popular, we’ve never had a problem walking in and getting a site. Water and electric hookups, immaculate bathrooms and separate, private showers, good Verizon; $20 per night ($15 for non hookup sites).

Pine Grove Campground is a Forest Service campground 18 miles south of Flagstaff. Aptly named, the campground is situated in a beautiful forest of fragrant Ponderosa pines. If you choose a site on the exterior of the loops, your backyard will be an expansive view of pine forest and open meadows. Open from May through October, half of the sites are reservable. No hookups, but clean bathrooms, one coin-operated shower facility, dump station and water fill station, good Verizon. $22 per night, $11 with the Senior Pass.

Next Up: A Week Of Adventures: Lake Powell, AZ

A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest

Entering Petrified Forest National Park

Rainbow Forest Visitor Center

A Blustery Day In The Petrified Forest

The Colors Are Amazing

On The Giant Logs Trail

In The Crystal Forest

Trail Through The Crystal Forest

Trees Millions Of Years Old

Wood Turned To Stone

So Vibrant

Trees Naturally Split Into Rounds

Campgrounds Just Outside The Park

Crystal Forest Campground

Nice Sites For Free

Campsite At Homolovi State Park

Trail To The Homolovi II Ruins

Ancient Hopi Dwellings

Searching For Pottery Sherds

Ancient Pottery Pieces

Collared Lizard

Pine Grove Forest Service Campground, Flagstaff

Our Backyard At Pine Grove Campground

On The Fatman Trail Above Flagstaff

Some Fun Rock Formations On The Trail

Cool Bark On The Alligator Juniper Trees

On The Arizona Trail

Blackberry Duck Tacos At Cafe Daily Fare

Brenda And Morey, Friends From Home

A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest
Entering Petrified Forest National Park
Rainbow Forest Visitor Center
A Blustery Day In The Petrified Forest
The Colors Are Amazing
On The Giant Logs Trail
In The Crystal Forest
Trail Through The Crystal Forest
Trees Millions Of Years Old
Wood Turned To Stone
So Vibrant
Trees Naturally Split Into Rounds
Campgrounds Just Outside The Park
Crystal Forest Campground
Nice Sites For Free
Campsite At Homolovi State Park
Trail To The Homolovi II Ruins
Ancient Hopi Dwellings
Searching For Pottery Sherds
Ancient Pottery Pieces
Collared Lizard
Pine Grove Forest Service Campground, Flagstaff
Our Backyard At Pine Grove Campground
On The Fatman Trail Above Flagstaff
Some Fun Rock Formations On The Trail
Cool Bark On The Alligator Juniper Trees
On The Arizona Trail
Blackberry Duck Tacos At Cafe Daily Fare
Brenda And Morey, Friends From Home
A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest thumbnail
Entering Petrified Forest National Park thumbnail
Rainbow Forest Visitor Center thumbnail
A Blustery Day In The Petrified Forest thumbnail
The Colors Are Amazing thumbnail
On The Giant Logs Trail thumbnail
In The Crystal Forest thumbnail
Trail Through The Crystal Forest thumbnail
Trees Millions Of Years Old thumbnail
Wood Turned To Stone thumbnail
So Vibrant thumbnail
Trees Naturally Split Into Rounds thumbnail
Campgrounds Just Outside The Park thumbnail
Crystal Forest Campground thumbnail
Nice Sites For Free thumbnail
Campsite At Homolovi State Park thumbnail
Trail To The Homolovi II Ruins thumbnail
Ancient Hopi Dwellings thumbnail
Searching For Pottery Sherds thumbnail
Ancient Pottery Pieces thumbnail
Collared Lizard thumbnail
Pine Grove Forest Service Campground, Flagstaff thumbnail
Our Backyard At Pine Grove Campground thumbnail
On The Fatman Trail Above Flagstaff thumbnail
Some Fun Rock Formations On The Trail thumbnail
Cool Bark On The Alligator Juniper Trees thumbnail
On The Arizona Trail thumbnail
Blackberry Duck Tacos At Cafe Daily Fare thumbnail
Brenda And Morey, Friends From Home thumbnail

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Delightful Lyman Lake State Park

Delightful Lyman Lake State Park

Posted by on Jun 16, 2016 in Arizona, Gallery, Travel | 24 comments

Every so often, even with our new and improved plan of slowing our travels way down, we still end up with an overnight stay here and there. It’s just how things work out sometimes—and honestly, we don’t need to spend multiple days every place we go. But even when we’re landing somewhere for only a night, we try to find a location that offers something more than just a place to park our rig.

After a day of travel, it’s refreshing for body and spirit to have a beautiful view and a peaceful night’s sleep. A convenient hiking trail makes it all the better—otherwise, we’re walking circles around the campground trying to get in a bit of exercise after a day on the road. Lyman Lake State Park, in east central Arizona, was the perfect stop on our route north from Silver City, New Mexico.

At only 177 miles from Silver City, we had time for a last stroll through town (and were able to watch a few races of the Tour of the Gila) before heading out. We didn’t have high expectations for the campground—for some reason, a neighbor at our RV park in Silver City told us that Lyman Lake wasn’t anything special. Apparently his criteria are different than ours.

We arrived at Lyman Lake State Park to find a pretty little campground with spacious, immaculate sites, and gorgeous views of the lake. It was quiet, peaceful, and the night skies are wonderfully dark—with no big cities nearby, great swaths of stars are visible.

Best of all, there’s a wonderful hiking trail within walking distance of the campground. The trail wends along the lake and around picturesque rock formations, with hundreds of ancient petroglyphs pecked into the rocks. We’ve seen lots of petroglyphs in our travels, but it’s always a thrill to search for the rock art left behind by native peoples thousands of years ago, and to try to decipher the meaning of the ancient graffiti.

We hiked a couple of miles of trails in the late afternoon, and again in the morning before leaving. Should you be traveling this way, we highly recommend this sweet little campground and the hiking trails.

About the campground:

Lyman Lake State Park is situated on the shores of a 1500-acre reservoir at an elevation of 6,000 feet. The sites are lovely, each with an individual ramada for shade. Nice bathrooms and showers, terrible to nonexistent Verizon (no big deal for one night, right?). If you head to the day use area to hike the trail, you’ll have excellent Verizon coverage and all of your emails will arrive in one big deluge. Water/electric sites are $28, non-hookup sites are $20.

Next Up: A Stroll Through The Petrified Forest

Delightful Lyman Lake State Park

Path From The Campground To The Trails

Late Afternoon On The Trail

Gorgeous Rock Formations

Petroglyphs Hidden In The Rocks

Petroglyphs Beneath Our Feet

The Trail Overlooks Lyman Lake

King Of The Mountain

A Windy Afternoon On The Trail

Repeating The Hike The Next Morning

Up The Stone Stairway

Ancient Stories

Elk Or Deer

View Of The Campground From The Trail

Most Likely An Eagle

An Ancient Turtle Petroglyph

Trail Back To The Campground

Campsites At Lyman Lake State Park

Delightful Lyman Lake State Park
Path From The Campground To The Trails
Late Afternoon On The Trail
Gorgeous Rock Formations
Petroglyphs Hidden In The Rocks
Petroglyphs Beneath Our Feet
The Trail Overlooks Lyman Lake
King Of The Mountain
A Windy Afternoon On The Trail
Repeating The Hike The Next Morning
Up The Stone Stairway
Ancient Stories
Elk Or Deer
View Of The Campground From The Trail
Most Likely An Eagle
An Ancient Turtle Petroglyph
Trail Back To The Campground
Campsites At Lyman Lake State Park
Delightful Lyman Lake State Park thumbnail
Path From The Campground To The Trails thumbnail
Late Afternoon On The Trail thumbnail
Gorgeous Rock Formations thumbnail
Petroglyphs Hidden In The Rocks thumbnail
Petroglyphs Beneath Our Feet thumbnail
The Trail Overlooks Lyman Lake thumbnail
King Of The Mountain thumbnail
A Windy Afternoon On The Trail thumbnail
Repeating The Hike The Next Morning thumbnail
Up The Stone Stairway thumbnail
Ancient Stories thumbnail
Elk Or Deer thumbnail
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Hiking To Betatakin: Navajo National Monument

Hiking To Betatakin: Navajo National Monument

Posted by on Dec 10, 2015 in Arizona, Gallery, Travel | 32 comments

On a sunny and cool late October morning, volunteer ranger Jimmy Black gathers our group of five on the Navajo-rug patterned brick patio behind the Visitor Center at Navajo National Monument. Our destination: Betatakin, one of the best-preserved ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, and one of the least-visited.

I’ve wanted to visit Betatakin for years, and we were finally going to do it. Located in northeast Arizona, in the heart of the Navajo Nation, the remote location had never been a convenient stop in our previous travels. But this time, we went out of our way to visit—and it was well worth the detour.

For starters, the landscape is beautiful. A high desert plateau, dotted with sagebrush, pinyon pine, and pygmy juniper and carved by deep salmon-hued canyons, it is a remote and peaceful place. A little more than a century ago, rancher/explorer John Wetherill (with the help of Clatsozen Benully, a Navajo guide) discovered the ancient abandoned settlement tucked beneath the overhanging cliffs. Constructed of sandstone, mud mortar, and wood, the ruins are remarkably well preserved. At the time of discovery the dwellings contained a vast array of basketry, pottery, grinding stones, and ancient tiny corncobs—all left behind when the people walked away 700 years ago.

Betatakin, which in Navajo means “ledge house,” is comprised of 135 rooms cobbled together and perched on the brink of a sheer sandstone cliff. The ruins are tightly protected—the only way to access them is with a ranger. Hikes are scheduled daily from Memorial Day until Labor Day; but from October through April, access to the cliff dwellings is closed. The Ancient Puebloans must have been smiling on us, because here we are, on a Tuesday in late October, and a hike is scheduled.

We’re taking the shorter (three-mile round trip) but more strenuous trail down to the ruins. Eight hundred precipitous stair steps and a steep trail of many tight switchbacks leads us 700 feet down into the canyon below. Along the way, Jimmy identifies native plants and tells us of their traditional uses. Pointing to sagebrush: “This one, my grandmother made into tea for headaches.” Born to a Hopi mother and Navajo father, Jimmy grew up exploring and playing in the area—his father was employed for decades at the monument, and Jimmy has volunteered here for many years.

At the bottom of the canyon, we sit in a circle while he tells us of ancient tribal ways that continue to be practiced among his people. He tells us of the coming of age ceremonies which last four days; the marriage traditions that include the weaving of the wedding basket (during which time the mother-in-law can say anything she wants to her prospective son-in-law, after that she has to hold her tongue). Married to a Hopi woman, Jimmy tells us that upon marriage, everything belongs to the wife. It is a matrilineal society, and the children are born to the clan of the mother.

Ancestors of the Hopi (the Hisatsinom) lived in this area—as they switched from nomadic hunting and gathering to farming, they built multi-storied stone masonry dwellings such as Betatakin. Other tribes, including the Zuni and the San Juan Southern Paiute, also traveled through and lived in these canyons. And for hundreds of years, the Navajo have lived in the surrounding territory. For the native peoples these sacred places are regarded as ancestral lands, and they hold deep spiritual significance in their cultural traditions.

After an hour of hiking, we have our first glimpse of Betatakin, high above in an alcove, the sun illuminating the red rock. In winter, the southern exposure provides maximum warmth and light; in summer, the dwellings are shaded from direct overhead sun. The ancient peoples farmed nearby low-lying lands, growing crops of corn, beans, squash, and corn.

We draw closer and Jimmy tells us more of life in the cliff dwelling. The rooms are small, with low ceilings—obviously the people spent most of their time outdoors. Some walls are blackened from the fires used for cooking and warmth. Some rooms have entrances just big enough to crawl through, with stones that could be locked in place to seal the entrance—these were granaries, designed to protect crops from thieving rodents. Ancient timbers still survive, hand and foot holds are worn into the steep rock face, faint symbols of the clans can still be seen painted and pecked into the sandstone. For an hour, we wander near the ruins, listen to the wind, watch the ravens catching the thermals, and imagine life as it was 700 years ago in this beautiful and secluded place.

And then, we make the trek back up, all 800 steep stair steps. For those who prefer to not take the strenuous hike down into Betatakin, an easy rim trail leads you to a terrific view from above.

About the campground: Two small free campgrounds tucked into the junipers and pinyon pines are available on a first-come basis. RV’s are limited to 28 feet or less, but we saw sites in the Canyon View campground that looked like they would accommodate big rigs. Water spigots and restrooms are available in the Sunset View campground; the Verizon coverage is decent; and it’s an easy walk to the Visitor Center and the hiking trails. According to the ranger, the campgrounds are never full.

Next Up: Getting Lost On Cedar Mesa

An Unexpected Adventure In Navajo National Monument

Stunning Colors Along Hwy 160

And Some Wild Rock Formations

Navajo National Monument

Shoehorned Into The Campsite

Surrounded By Pinyons And Juniper

Juniper Titmouse In Our Campsite

The Start Of The Trail

Descending Into The Canyon

800 Steep Stair Steps And Switchbacks

First View Of Betatakin

Ruins Of The Ancient Ones

Dwellings From 1250 A.D.

Extended Family Apartments

Rooms For Food Storage

Original Timbers

Pictographs Of The Fire Clan

Pointing Out The Pictographs

Jimmy Telling Us Of Tribal Ways

In The Bottom Of The Canyon

Only 600 More Steps To Go

Are We There Yet?

Walking Path Along The Canyon Edge

The Easy Way To See Betatakin

Betatakin From The Overlook

Wonderful Visitor Center

Patio Designed Like A Navajo Rug

An Unexpected Adventure In Navajo National Monument
Stunning Colors Along Hwy 160
And Some Wild Rock Formations
Navajo National Monument
Shoehorned Into The Campsite
Surrounded By Pinyons And Juniper
Juniper Titmouse In Our Campsite
The Start Of The Trail
Descending Into The Canyon
800 Steep Stair Steps And Switchbacks
First View Of Betatakin
Ruins Of The Ancient Ones
Dwellings From 1250 A.D.
Extended Family Apartments
Rooms For Food Storage
Original Timbers
Pictographs Of The Fire Clan
Pointing Out The Pictographs
Jimmy Telling Us Of Tribal Ways
In The Bottom Of The Canyon
Only 600 More Steps To Go
Are We There Yet?
Walking Path Along The Canyon Edge
The Easy Way To See Betatakin
Betatakin From The Overlook
Wonderful Visitor Center
Patio Designed Like A Navajo Rug
An Unexpected Adventure In Navajo National Monument thumbnail
Stunning Colors Along Hwy 160 thumbnail
And Some Wild Rock Formations thumbnail
Navajo National Monument thumbnail
Shoehorned Into The Campsite thumbnail
Surrounded By Pinyons And Juniper thumbnail
Juniper Titmouse In Our Campsite thumbnail
The Start Of The Trail thumbnail
Descending Into The Canyon thumbnail
800 Steep Stair Steps And Switchbacks thumbnail
First View Of Betatakin thumbnail
Ruins Of The Ancient Ones thumbnail
Dwellings From 1250 A.D. thumbnail
Extended Family Apartments thumbnail
Rooms For Food Storage thumbnail
Original Timbers thumbnail
Pictographs Of The Fire Clan thumbnail
Pointing Out The Pictographs thumbnail
Jimmy Telling Us Of Tribal Ways thumbnail
In The Bottom Of The Canyon thumbnail
Only 600 More Steps To Go thumbnail
Are We There Yet? thumbnail
Walking Path Along The Canyon Edge thumbnail
The Easy Way To See Betatakin thumbnail
Betatakin From The Overlook thumbnail
Wonderful Visitor Center thumbnail
Patio Designed Like A Navajo Rug thumbnail

Read More