One of the things I love about staying in the Phoenix valley are the views. The Arizona desert provides a unique beauty especially in the spring when she’s in bloom. The desert sunrises and sunsets are some of the best I’ve ever witnessed. That said, since I’ve traveled a lot I’ve seen my fair share of spectacular sunrises and sunsets but none better than in Arizona.And then every now and then I happen to be in the right place at the right time to see the sky filled with colorful hot air balloons. Just when I think the view couldn’t get any better….. it gets better!The moment doesn’t last long as the winds carry off the people filled baskets high above the desert landscape.Each morning and evening I’ll search the skies never knowing exactly where I might spot these colorful balloons or even if I’ll spot any at all.
The moment is usually fleeting….. ephemeral you might say.Thus, I keep the camera at the ready.It’s a fantastic sight that I never seem to tire of.
One minute the sky is filled with balloons and the next they are gone with the wind.
Last week hubby and I completed one of the best hikes we’ve ever done. The scenery was great, the weather cooperated, and we both felt strong and prepared for it. We knew the Peralta Trail would be our most ambitious hike to date but after a couple of weeks conditioning on the trails near Lost Dutchman State Park we felt ready.
On a personal note; what made this hike even more special and rewarding was the fact that a year ago I had difficulties walking a Walmart let alone a rugged trail.
The first half of 2014 had me struggling with some health issues and I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to hike a trail like this. I won’t bore you with my medical woes…even I don’t want to hear it about it LOL.
Suffice it to say; WOW, what a difference a year makes. I feel great and can’t believe I managed this hike without issue!
This amazing hike begins at the mouth of Peralta Canyon and climbs steadily through a varied terrain. The area is stunning and has a complex volcanic origin. The rugged trail starts amongst oak and mesquite scrub then eventually changes to cacti and rock.Although the trail is rated moderate – strenuous, that doesn’t stop hikers from making it one of the most heavily used trails in Arizona. Most folks take the trail up 2.2 miles (1,380 foot uphill trek) to the crest at the Fremont Saddle to enjoy a dramatic view of Weavers Needle then retrace their steps back down to the trailhead. That’s exactly what Al and I did.
Al and I took a 20 minute break at the Fremont Saddle to have a snack while admiring the view of Weavers Needle.There’s a stark rugged beauty to the Superstition Wilderness Area that has a draw about it, not to mention all the rumors concerning lost gold mines and secret maps.
This is harsh inhospitable terrain to those not equipped to meet natures own terms.
As a matter of fact, the Superstition Wilderness Area keeps Search and Rescue busier than they’d care to be. The stories are endless of those who have either disappeared, required rescuing, or have actually perished. The land is unforgiving.
Al and I came prepared with plenty of water and a snack and although we were tempted to hike out to the “lone pine tree” for an even more spectacular view, we knew that would add about another half hour to our hike, but more importantly might require more water than we were carrying. Not worth chancing.
We promised each other the next time we hike Peralta Trail, we’ll hike to the lone pine.
Weavers Needle is a dramatic volcanic plug that rises 4,443 feet. It’s surrounded by hoodoos in all directions adding a sense of unique drama to the already stunning landscape. The photos just don’t do it justice.
As we marveled at incredible views in all directions, we took our time enjoying this fabulous hike. It took us about 3 1/2 hours to complete…. 3 hours of hiking with a 1/2 hour of stopping. After all, I needed photos for proof I completed this hike… more so for me, than for you!
We tackled this hike on a Sunday in March (Spring Break) and although this is considered an extremely popular trail especially on weekends, we thought the trails at the State Park seemed much busier. That said, we were off the trail by noon. So maybe it got busier as the day progressed. Personally, we wouldn’t hesitate hiking it again on a weekend.
We can’t wait until we’re back in the area in the fall to tackle this trail again…. it’s a butt burner 🙂
If you’re interested in visiting Weavers Needle but looking for a trail less popular, check out LuAnn’s post over at Paint Your Landscape.
Location of the Peralta trailhead: located off US Highway 60 east of Phoenix, Arizona. At the traffic light in the town of Gold Canyon, head north on Peralta Road. There’s a brown directional sign for the trailhead. The road starts off paved and then the last seven miles are gravel. The road ends at the trailhead. There’s a vault toilet but no water. Leashed doggies ok.
What is it about being out on the water paddling that has me feeling like a giddy little school girl? Is it the gentle breezes or the warm sun? Is it floating on the water along side ducks? Is it the fond memories of times long ago? Perhaps it’s a combination of all these reasons and more.
I’ve always enjoyed fresh water lakes and especially when they are as picturesque and pristine as Canyon Lake. There are times I really miss our canoe and the paddling Al and I once did in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota.
Last week while out hiking with our friends G & T, they happen to mention how they’d like to get their kayak out on the water one of these days. Say what? With perked ears, I began asking questions about said watercraft.
We learned it’s one of those inflatable Sea Eagle Kayaks that nicely stows in the back of their truck. I’ve had a curiosity about these inflatables for a number of years.
After our lovely hike followed by lunch at a fun local restaurant, we go our separate ways, but the thought of that kayak remains ever so present in my mind.
The thoughts of getting out on the water paddling has me tossing and turning at bedtime. Instead of counting sheep, I’m counting kayaks…. inflatable kayaks!
The next morning I awake with kayak on the brain which quickly led me to the computer. An email was rapidly sent to G & T with an invite for a picnic at Canyon Lake. You guys bring the kayak and we’ll bring the food. It’s a date!
The drive to Canyon Lake is beautiful. The twisting and turning two lane road is lined with yellow blooms in mid March. It’s spring time in the Arizona desert and it’s the perfect time to visit the Phoenix valley.
We find a covered picnic table and quickly make ourselves comfortable. It’s really windy. So windy the lake is sporting white caps. Certainly not ideal for kayaking. I’m disappointed, but it’s still a lovely day surrounded by great scenery and wonderful company. We decide to eat then reevaluate before chalking up the kayaking adventure.
With tummies full, we relax. We’re engaged in conversation enjoying the view and eventually realize the winds died down. I’m so thrilled and exited that I don’t hesitate to volunteer to work the foot pump. “Nemo” (yes, the kayak is named)…… Nemo is set on a picnic table so no one has to bend over while he’s blown up.
I’m impressed with how rapidly Nemo inflates. I guess I envisioned those air mattresses from long ago that Al and I used to use during our tenting years. Those things seemed like they took forever to blow up. Nemo was ready to hit the water in less than 15 minutes.
G & I take the kayak out first. I think our spouses decided if anyone was going to get wet, it wouldn’t be them 😉 We paddled around. Then paddled some more. It felt wonderful to be out on the water paddling again. Oh, how I’ve missed this.
This particular Sea Eagle model seemed more fitting for one person than two. Thus G and I took turns taking Nemo out individually. And of course I still had to take photos while I’m out on the water. I used my trusty little waterproof camera with wrist float.
The day was over before we knew it. We had a fantastic time with promises to do a repeat soon. Thank you G & T for a fabulous day.
Ah, but there’s one more tidbit to the story. I promised to bring the burgers and salads for the picnic, but nearly forgot to visit the grocery store.
You see, there were a couple of fellow bloggers in town that I was looking forward to meeting.
After a series of emails, a blogger meet up was scheduled at the Handlebar Pub and Grill in Apache Junction the evening before our kayak outing.
The conversation flowed freely with these two engaging couples… so freely that I nearly forgot Al and I still needed to get to the grocery store and prepare a few things for the next days kayak outing.
It was great fun finally meeting these couples; John and Pam from the blog Oh the Places They Go and Paul and Marsha from Where’s Weaver. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before our paths cross again.
Due to our travels, it’s not always easy for me to take part in photo challenges but when Teri over at Images By T. Dashfield invited me to join in this photo contest and challenge, my interest was piqued.
It didn’t take me long to have an idea of which photos to pick. Let’s explore my vision for the four elements; Earth, Air, Fire, Water…..
EARTH – I’m very fortunate to travel as I do and I see some amazing scenery. I’m still awed by the fantastic vistas and mesmerized by the plants that thrive in incredibly harsh environments.
AIR – The endangered Whooping Crane migrates from the far northern edge of Alberta, Canada to the southern waters of the Texas Gulf Coast. With fewer than 500 left in the world, it’s a treat to see these magnificent birds. It’s exciting to see families and know that their population is increasing.
These birds are able to fly long distances by taking advantage of air thermals.
but then there’s the clouds…. beautiful clouds produced by the winds.
FIRE – I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of watching sunrises or sunsets. That fire-ball we call the sun provides me with a lovely show every day.
WATER – water is a necessity for all life forms, and this is even more evident when it comes to the Sandhill Crane. For the Sandhill Crane, the water is more than sustenance, it’s a source of protection from predators as they bed down each night in shallow waters.
For the Roseate Spoonbill, crustaceans are a major source of food. These pink beauties can be seen sweeping their bill back and forth in the water as they feed.
Now it’s time for me to invite 5 bloggers to participate. The choice to take part is totally up to you.
Are you an adventurous traveler? Are you looking for a scenic memorable drive? Well, I’ve got just the day trip for you. Al and I first drove this 80 mile scenic loop three years ago and it still ranks as one of our favorite day excursions.
On the far southeast side of the greater Phoenix area lies Arizona’s oldest highway. This former stagecoach trail which runs through the Superstition Mountains was originally used by the Apache Indians thus aptly named The Apache Trail.
The Apache Trail is officially known as State Route 88 and links the town of Apache Junction with Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The trail was developed into more of a road in the 1930’s to support the development of dam’s along the Salt River creating some beautiful lakes in the process.
There’s a bunch of interesting sights and views along the way which necessitate lots of stopping. Photo-op anyone? Thus, the Apache Trail Circle Loop requires an entire day for the excursion. It’s also not for the faint of heart, which I’ll explain in a minute.
We’ll start our journey from the town of Apache Junction and head north on State Road 88, aka The Apache Trail. Our first stop is the Superstition Mountain Museum.
The museum collects, preserves, and displays the artifacts, history, and folklore of the Superstition Mountains. Even though we knew we had a long day in front of us, this picturesque place is worthy of a photo-op and stroll around the historic buildings. We’ll tour the museum another day.
Moving on; our next stop is the Goldfield Ghost Town. Goldfield was once a happening gold mining town back in the 1890’s. I found myself on more than one occasion visiting this little tourist attraction. There’s free parking and free strolling around, but there is a fee for each attraction. You can click on this link for more info on attractions. We don’t usually do the ‘tourist’ thing so I can’t vouch for any of the paid attractions.
The quaint little shops offer unique trinkets as well as the usual tourist stuff. The grounds are loaded with original mining equipment. It’s obvious these are the original buildings and have been standing for a very long time. As a matter of fact, a museum building was closed while construction workers were busy shoring up a second floor balcony.
As I strolled around Goldfield Ghost Town, I could almost visualize the harsh realities of life over 100 years ago. These were hardy folks living in an unforgiving and harsh environment. I also found it funny that the Bordello was located near the church.
original mining equipment
Church conveniently located near Bordello “Forgive me Father for I have sinned”
typical tourist trinket shop
For those unable to secure a campsite at the Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town does have a campground. It’s a bit rough, but at least it’s a place to park in a pinch.
And speaking of Lost Dutchman State Park, which is just a little further up the road; we discovered some of the best hiking trails at this park. We take full advantage of these trails anytime we’re in the area. There is a day use fee unless you are already camped in the park. Lost Dutchman State Park requires it’s own day to explore and it’s own blog post. And I highly recommend camping here.
Continuing on our journey the road starts to climb, twist, and bend. Shortly after passing the state park we enter the Tonto National Forest. The scenery becomes more rugged and stunning with each mile. March is particularly beautiful as the road is lined on both sides with yellow blooms from the brittle bush and desert marigolds.
Twenty miles north of the town of Apache Junction, we round a bend and are graced with the sight of an oasis in the desert. Canyon Lake with it’s deep blue waters surrounded by rugged cliffs and rocky terrain is a pleasant and unexpected surprise.Definitely worth a few photo-ops around here. Canyon Lake in itself is a great day excursion; perfect for a picnic, kayak adventure, or even a cruise aboard the Dolly Steamboat.A few more miles up the road is the cute little town of Tortilla Flat – population 6. This is the perfect place to stop for lunch. The restaurant serves up great burgers and has a fun décor.
We recently revisited with friends and in the photo you can see dollar bills stapled to the walls along with old mining tools and historical photos. The bar stools are saddles and the little general store serves up some of the best ice cream and fudge around.
With tummies full, it’s time to brace ourselves for the truly adventurous part of the drive. Just past the town of Tortilla Flat the pavement ends. Most rental car companies will not want you driving this road and it’s not recommended for any vehicle over 25 feet in length…. Definitely no RV’s!
The gravel road is wide and in pretty good condition up to the scenic view parking lot. Obviously the vista is worth a view and for those less adventurous this would be a good place to turn around and retrace your journey home.
For us? Al and I are used to driving unpaved mountain back roads with steep cliff drop-offs with no safety barriers or guardrails. In other words, the stretch of road between Tortilla Flat and the Roosevelt Dam is not for the faint of heart.
As we continue past the scenic overlook the road narrows and winds. This two way traffic road narrows down to about a one to one and a half lane wide road. Those going down hill supposedly have the right of way and it’s not uncommon for the need for someone to back up to a wider spot in the road so vehicles can pass by each other. Fish Creek Hill/Pass is the worst part of the journey with sheer drop offs, very narrow, lots of turns, and a steep elevation change.One lane bridges and a washboard gravel road add to the overall adventure. Once we reach Apache Lake, another beauty, the road becomes a little easier to traverse. Due to the washboard condition of the road and our extra long wheel base on the F-250, it’s slow going. Two and a half hours after leaving Tortilla Flat we finally arrive at the Theodore Roosevelt Damn and Lake.
We tour the campgrounds and the boondocking opportunities and are pleasantly surprised. We will definitely be keeping Roosevelt Lake as a possible place to camp in the future. It’s pretty. It’s remote. It’s inexpensive. It’s located within the Tonto National Forest, although the word ‘forest’ is a relative term. You won’t find any of the usual trees around here. This is still the desert.
The majestic scenery continues from Roosevelt Lake to the active mining towns of Miami and Superior and onto the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
By this point in the journey, I’m photoed out, tired, and just ready to get home. We make notes for things to see and do in the future.
Whether one is looking for solitude or a host of activities, this part of Arizona seems to offer it all. I remain in awe by it’s raw beauty and fascinated by the plants and animals that survive in this harsh land.
Have you ever traveled somewhere that spoke to you or rather called to you; a place you just wanted to return to time and again? That’s how I feel about the Superstition Mountains also known as the Superstitions located in Apache Junction, Arizona (the far southeast side of the Phoenix valley). There’s something mystical maybe even spiritual about the place.
Our original plans after Tucson were to head over to the Ajo area and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, but the pull to return to the Apache Trail was too strong to ignore and thus the Superstitions won. I love having fluid plans that can be changed on a whim. Mr. Saguaro and I do a happy dance.
In the past, we’ve always taken Interstate 10 from Tucson to Phoenix. It’s usually a stressful drive with lots of truck traffic, high speeds, and folks following way too close for my comfort. It’s just another congested interstate that I would prefer avoiding.
Therefore, we opted to take the scenic route this time. We headed north on Highway 77 to 79 and eventually 60. We arrived safely at the Elks Lodge in Apache Junction after a very pleasant drive. I’m not sure I’lI ever want to take Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson again after discovering this alternative route.The Apache Junction Elks had plenty of room for us to dry camp and we found a nice little corner with an amazing view. There was a down side; we were parked close to Route 88 aka the Apache Trail, and during the day there was a fair amount of traffic noise. The view definitely made up for it though. Oh, and yes, you DO need to be an Elks Lodge member to stay here.
During our past visits to Apache Junction, we’ve always stayed at Lost Dutchman State Park. It’s definitely a favorite as it sits at the base of the ominous Superstition Mountain with hiking trails right out the RV door. I credit the Lost Dutchman State Park for introducing the joy of hiking to hubby. You see, Al was in the military and he remembers all too well the military boot camp type of hiking with heavy packs he was forced to do when he was younger. Thus, getting Al “into” hiking took a lot little cajoling on my part.
During our stay at the Lost Dutchman State Park three years ago, I introduced hubby to the Jacobs Crosscut Trail. Al found a great deal of pleasure hiking that trail, so much so that he started initiating our hikes. This visit to the Superstitions was no different. We started off with a portion of the oh so perfect Jacobs Crosscut Trail and then veered onto some new trails.We found ourselves hiking four times during our one week stay and even had some good friends join us.
G & T live in Apache Junction and spend their summers escaping the desert heat by taking their RV to higher elevations either in Arizona or Colorado. We’re never at a loss of things to talk about and it’s great comparing RVing notes and discoveries.
Speaking of friends, we reconnected with Cheryl and Pete. We first met this entertaining couple two years ago when we parked next to each other boondocking in the Arizona desert in Quartzsite during the big RV Tent extravaganza.
It was fun visiting, sharing lunch, and talking well into the afternoon. It was great fun returning to Tortilla Flat for a very yummy burger and a little goofing around.
Between hiking, errands, and socializing the week whizzed by. We moved up to Lake Pleasant for the first week of March to visit with our son and reconnect with a group of snowbirders who can always be counted on for a good time.
And now we’re back at the Elks Lodge in Apache Junction for more hiking and socializing. The Lost Dutchman Mine may still be lost, but we’ve found a new passion ….. hiking at the Superstitions. Perhaps I can convince hubby into staying longer than just a week. I can be rather persuasive when I want to be 😉
Before pulling out of Patagonia State Park, I checked one more time to see if there had been any cancellations, thus allowing us to extend our stay. No such luck. So we stuck with the original plan and hit the road with Tucson, Arizona, as our destination.A few days earlier, I made notes on a couple of places to stop and explore along our route, but after indulging in a little too much of my “special” lemonade the night before, I was fighting a mild hangover headache and wasn’t in the mood to do anything but find our next home site.
Gosh, I’m such a lightweight. I guess that can be viewed as a good thing.
The mission in Tumacácori and the cute town of Tubac will just need to wait until next years excursion.
Two hours after leaving Patagonia, Arizona, we pulled into a boondocking area known as Snyder Hill near the far southwest side of Tucson. We quickly found a level spot and proceeded to set up home. While nursing my headache the rest of the day, Al and I discussed the things we wanted to see and do during this stay in Tucson.
It turns out, we had only two things on our want to do list. This was our third visit to Tucson and on both previous visits, Mission San Xavier del Bac was a place I wanted to see yet eluded our schedule. Not this trip! I visited not once, but twice.I shared a few of my morning photos of Mission San Xavier del Bac via a previous post and today I’m sharing my evening shots.
During this late afternoon visit, I entered the mission as it was being readied for the evenings service. I hadn’t realized the mission held a Saturday evening mass.
I took a couple of quick interior photos but didn’t linger as I didn’t want to seem disrespectful. I’m sure it was fine as there were plenty of other folks snapping away, but for me, I felt a little uncomfortable doing so.
About a half hour later folks started arriving for Mass and by 5:30 the mission was packed allowing for standing room only.
With my desire to visit and photograph Mission San Xavier satisfied, our next ‘must do’ on our list was seeing our friends. Mike and Linda originally planned to boondock with us at Snyder Hill but a heat wave had rolled in requiring them to use the air conditioner for pooch, Lucy, while they were out and about all day exploring. Thus, they were staying at the Gilbert Ray Campground just up the road with electric hook-up.
We invited Mike and Linda over to our place instead of going out to eat so Lucy could join us. We had a great visit and realized our travels will be overlapping a few more times in the next couple of months just as they did last year.
I’m assuming there could be a few more happy hours accompanied by more amazing sunsets in our future. And by the way, I stuck with water the entire evening. This lightweight couldn’t handle even the thought of an alcoholic beverage 😉With both items checked off our list, we bid farewell to Tucson. Until next time!FYI…. This visit took place during the 3rd week in February and I know all you folks to the north are dealing with severe snowstorms and record low temperatures. I feel for you and although all the photos of snow are beautiful, I don’t miss the shoveling or bad road conditions. Yet another reason why we love our RV – we follow the weather.
After a few exciting days of crane photography, it was time for us to meander down the road. Three years ago we first heard about Patagonia State Park in southern Arizona. Everyone seemed to have the same response, “You just have to visit Patagonia”.With a piqued curiosity and no firm commitments, we pointed the RV in the direction of Patagonia State Park. Let’s see what all the fuss is about.This is a very popular state park and it’s usually best to book a reservation, especially on weekends.
We lucked out snagging a big enough site for us during our weekday stay, and although it was near the main entrance road, we didn’t seem to mind.
Once we had the RV all set up, we set off on a stroll around the park to see just what makes this place worth recommending. Within five minutes, we fell in love with the park. Water, woods, and wildlife…. wonderful!
The state of Arizona never ceases to amaze me with her diverse beauty. Within a two hours drive, one can go from a desert valley filled with unique cacti, to mountainous hills of pine forests, to fields of agriculture, to peaks of stunning red rocks, to a huge crevice in the earth (Grand Canyon), or to a pristine lake. It’s like being able to pick a different flavor of the week or a combo of flavors to savor and enjoy.Patagonia State Park is definitely a combo of flavors… a few of my very favorites. I always jump at the chance to camp near water and I’ve always enjoyed boating of any kind, and although we no longer have our own form of watercraft, it’s nice to be able to rent one and get out on the water.
The marina at Patagonia State Park offers several different options for boating; paddle boats, kayaks, canoes, fishing boats, and pontoon boats. Or sign up for a guided boat tour for only $5.00 per person.
Al and I took a pass on the boating and focused on hiking.
It was such a pleasant surprise to discover the trails meandering through a grove of tall trees partly near the lakes edge and then along a bubbling creek. We did need to beware of some mean looking obstacles though.
With plenty of trees and an abundance of water, Patagonia State Park is an anglers and birders paradise. We routinely encountered “birders” on the hiking trails looking for specific birds. They’d have one or two sets of binoculars hanging around their neck and quite often a list or bird book for reference.
Me? I am not a birder. I don’t own a set of binoculars. I’m merely someone who enjoys taking photos of pretty things, and that includes birds. Sometimes I’ll take the effort to learn the name of a bird but most often I don’t. It’s just not that important to me.
However, at Patagonia State Park one learns very quickly to be on the look out for the rare and illusive Elegant Trogon. Birders from around the country will travel to Patagonia State Park in hopes of seeing this beauty of a bird.There’s only two places in the United States where one can find the South American Elegant Trogon and Patagonia State Park is one of those places. Knowing that seeing the elegant trogon would be a special treat, Al and I would keep our eyes peeled during our hikes.
On our last morning hiking at the park, I spotted a bright green color whiz by me. I grabbed Al’s arm with one hand and point with the other. I said in a hushed but excited tone, “There…. there. I think that’s the trogon”. I started snapping away.
Al saw a group of birders up the trail and quickly strode in their direction to inform them. Excitement filled the forest and the elegant trogon was the focus of everyone’s attention. We were all very fortunate Mr. Trogon stayed around long enough for us all to enjoy before he finally flew off.
With all the excitement behind us, we strolled back to camp for a hearty lunch and to plan out the rest of the day… our last day at the state park 😦
This is the perfect time for me to point out that there is NO internet or TV reception to be found anywhere in the park which can be good and bad. Bring out the Game of Thornes DVD’s… campfires aren’t allowed.
We ended our day with a little of my “special” lemonade while enjoying a fantastic sunset. The perfect ending to a perfect day.Actually our whole stay was pretty awesome. So awesome, we tried to extend our visit, but as I mentioned earlier weekends book up, thus no sites were available for us to stay longer. Note to self.It’s obvious Patagonia State Park is a lovely place to relax, unwind, and chill for a few days. I finally understand why it’s a favorite with so many…. us included.