It was the third week in September when I was finally able to explore a couple of Duluth parks on my must-see list. Since Duluth, Minnesota is almost a two-hour drive north of my summer home base in Wisconsin, I was really hoping that the fall colors would be popping more than they were. Oh well, the parks were lovely all the same.
Even though I was slightly disappointed with the fall colors, I was very impressed with the trails. Folks around here love their outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, I was in Duluth just for the day and my time was somewhat limited, but at least I was able to take in an overview and walk the trails a little bit.
Lester Park, Duluth, MN
Located on the east side of Duluth, Lester park offers over nine miles of hiking and biking trails and sits along a creek. This is a popular park with locals since it offers picnic tables, a children’s playground, access to a great trail system, and a refreshing river complete with waterfalls. I spent almost two hours meandering trails, crossing bridges, and giving my camera a workout.
(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)
The Lakewalk Trail – Congdon Park, Duluth, MN
Also on the east side of Duluth and along the Tischer Creek is Congdon Park. The park was once part of the Glensheen Estate. Owner, Chester Congdon donated the land to the city of Duluth and paid for its development on the condition that the city would stop using the creek as an open sewer. We thank you, Mr. Congdon!🦨
The park offers beautiful hiking trails, unique bridges, and lovely waterfalls begging to be explored. However, after having spent a couple of hours at Lester Park, I found myself short on time and was only able to walk about 15 minutes out and back on The Lakewalk Trail and never did make it into the heart of Congdon Park.
Although there’s a nice size parking lot near London Road and 26th Ave, I ended up parking the truck on a side street on 32nd Ave so I could view the Tischer Creek and bridges. The Lakewalk Trail is a beautifully paved trail perfect for cyclists, moms with strollers, or anyone wanting to go on a walk and take in nature. I know I’ll be back next summer for further explorations.
Our truck parked on a neighborhood street with access to the trail.
Goodbye for now!
Unfortunately, with winter inching closer, my visits to Duluth have come to an end … temporarily anyway, and I’m already formulating a list of things to do and places to see next season. Hopefully, I’ll do a better job of planning for next summer by making some Duluth RV reservations well in advance. This year, my last-minute planning didn’t work in my favor. Guess my luck had to run out sometime. 😏
Photography Challenge … Lens-Artists #117: A Photo Walk. For this week’s photo challenge, Amy asks us to share photos taken while on a walk. She encourages us to pause for a moment and observe our surroundings. Fun time!
While resting on a large boulder, I try to quiet my mind and take in my surroundings. I’m on one of my morning nature hikes. The sounds of birds chirping, water trickling in a babbling creek mere steps from my feet, and the sun warming my body remind me why I enjoy wintering in Phoenix, Arizona.
It’s January and there are no harsh snowstorms for me to worry about. The occasional rainstorm accompanied by high winds is about as bad as it gets. Sure, the temps on rare occasion may drop into the 30 degrees Fahrenheit range (-1 celsius) for an overnight low, but those nights are few and far between. Even then, the days will warm up into the 50s and 60s … perfect for me to lace up my hiking shoes and hit the trails.
America’s fifth-most-populated city is home to red-rock buttes, beautiful scenery, and the kind of cactus most people see only in cartoons. I don’t know about you, but when I used to envision a desert, thoughts of dull, boring, remote, dry, hot, and maybe even dangerous came to my mind. Boy, was I wrong! The Sonoran Desert is anything but boring … it’s still hot and dry, but never boring, dull, or unattractive.
A few desert facts.
Did you know deserts cover about 20% of the Earth? Deserts are characterized by extreme environmental conditions with little precipitation. Yet with minimal rainfall, they are able to inhabit plant and animal life. I’m totally enamored with deserts, especially the Sonoran Desert here in Arizona. Deserts are a fascinating ecosystem, but not all deserts are created equally. There are four types of deserts;
hot and dry (Arizona’s Sonoran Desert)
semi-arid (America’s Great Basin)
coastal (Atacama Desert in Chile)
The Sonoran Desert in Arizona is real.
As a child growing up in the Midwest among lush green vegetation, I never had any aspirations of living in a desert. As a matter of fact, I thought those images of red rock bluffs, three-armed cactus, and ever abundant tumbleweed were a fabrication of cartoonists. I remember watching the cartoon “The Road Runner” which took place in America’s southwest. Ah, poor Wile E. Coyote!
The thought of art imitating life wasn’t something I had considered. The scenery, vegetation, and animals drawn in the cartoon seemed surreal to me, but real they are. You can imagine my excitement when I saw my first ‘real’ road runner, not to mention laying eyes on the strange yet beautiful landscape of the desert southwest. And the night-time howling of a coyote always brings a smile to my face. Yeah, living in the desert can be exciting.
The star of Arizona
Although there are so many things that make a desert special, the real star and main attraction of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is the saguaro cactus. It took me weeks of living among these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly – pronounced: sa-wha-ro.
Each saguaro cactus is unique and appears to have a personality of its own. The Sonoran Desert’s bi-seasonal rainfall pattern results in more plant species than any other desert in the world, and it’s the only place in the world where you’ll see saguaro cactus growing naturally.
The saguaro is a large, tree-sized cactus that can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters) and is native to the Sonoran Desert.
Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years. It can take 50 to 70 years just for a saguaro to develop one side-arm. Arms are grown to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity … more arms lead to more flowers and fruit.
Saguaros are very slow-growing and may only grow an inch or two in its first eight years. The growth rate is determined by climate, precipitation, and location. Whenever it rains, saguaros soak up the rainwater and the cactus will visibly expand. This might explain why the desert feels so alive after a rainfall. The cacti are doing a happy dance!
this saguaro looks like it’s doing a happy dance
this cactus looks like a soldier
They grow very tall – note the cyclist
a saguaro blooming
the desert skies are amazing
Every saguaro cactus seems to have its own individual personality; some cute, some not, some look like proud soldiers, some like a cartoon character and others look tired, twisted, and weathered, but no two identical.What is a Crested Saguaro?
Why are some cactus crested? Saguaros rarely grow symmetrically and often grow in odd or mis-shapen forms. The growing tip on rare occasions produces a fan-like form which is referred to as crested or cristate. Biologists disagree about why some saguaro grow in this unusual form. Some thoughts; genetic mutation, lightning strike, or freeze damage. For whatever reason, their pattern growth is fascinating.
Water is Life!
To accommodate a potentially large influx of water, the pleats of a saguaro cactus expand like an accordion. I was intrigued by the plump texture of the saguaro after a heavy rainfall. You can literally see the water trapped below the skin’s surface. By trapping and conserving water, the saguaro cactus is able to thrive during harsh, drought weather.
Considering the majority of a saguaro cactus is made up of water, an adult plant may weigh as much as six tons or more. This tremendous weight is supported by a circular skeleton of inter-connected, woody ribs. The number of ribs inside the plant corresponds to the number of pleats on the outside of the plant.
Upon close observation, we’ll notice a strong relationship between plants and animals and the ability to survive in such a harsh ecosystem. The saguaro cacti are host to a great variety of animals and birds. The gilded flicker and Gila woodpecker excavate nest cavities inside the saguaro’s pulpy flesh. Large birds like hawks and owls also use the saguaro for nesting and hunting platforms. Their stick nests are constructed among the arms of a large saguaro.
In mid-summer, the saguaro cacti provide a source of food for animals with its ripening fruit. Jackrabbits, Javelinas, Mule Deer and other animals will eat the saguaro’s flesh during dry summer months, providing these animals with a water source. The desert is very much alive!
A few saguaro cactus facts
The saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States.
Most of the saguaros roots are only 4-6 inches deep and radiate out as far from the plant as it is tall. There’s one deep root that extends down into the ground more than two feet.
After the saguaro dies, the wood ribs can be used to build fences or furniture. The holes that birds nested in can be found among the dead saguaros, and Native Americans used these as water containers.
The saguaro cactus flower is Arizona’s state flower. The flower is considered nocturnal – closing midday and opening during the night. The primary nocturnal pollinator is the lesser long-nosed bat.
Harming or vandalizing a saguaro cactus in any manner is illegal by state law in Arizona. When houses or highways are built, special permits must be obtained to move or destroy any saguaro cactus affected.
Favorite places to see naturally growing saguaro cactus near Phoenix, Arizona
Saguaro Cactus do not grow throughout the Sonoran Desert. For the most part, you’ll find them growing abundantly near the cities of Phoenix and Tucson. If you’re in the Tucson area, you’ll definitely want to visit Saguaro National Park. If you’ll be visiting Phoenix, here are my picks to get up close and personal with the southwest’s main attraction. Note, there are certainly more places to see the saguaro cactus, but these are my personal favorites … all have ample parking, hiking, and photographic opportunities.
Top 5 places to see saguaro cactus up close
Maricopa County Parks. This Arizona county offers some of the best parks near a major city that I’ve ever experienced. We love camping at Cave Creek Regional Park as well as Lake Pleasant, but my favorite park to hike is the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. There is a day-use fee at all the parks and some even have campgrounds.
Desert Botanical Garden. This is always a favorite stop for me, especially in spring. You’ll see some of the most bizarre and unique plants ever in addition to the saguaro cactus.
Sonoran Desert Preserve. Since our winter home (RV Park) is on the north side of Phoenix, I don’t reside far from the preserve. It isn’t what I would call the most scenic, but during spring the trails are lined with wildflowers. Also, if you are just passing through Phoenix and want some photos of the saguaros up close, this is a convenient stop since all three trailheads aren’t far off Interstate 17.
South Mountain Park. I still haven’t had a chance to explore this park personally because I’m usually camped on the north end of the valley and it would take me about an hour to get to South Mountain. Therefore, I can’t speak from experience, but I’ve heard great things about the park. Therefore, I wanted to include it on this list.
Tonto National Forest. This national forest is huge, encompassing nearly 3 million acres of rugged and beautiful country that ranges from a forest of Saguaro cactus to pine-forested mountains. The Superstition Mountains are located within the Tonto, and Lost Dutchman State Park is a great place to camp with access to the trails.
The Sonoran Desert in Arizona continues to intrigue and fascinate me. There’s a beauty that may not be obvious at first glance, but just spend a little time exploring this unique land, and I’m sure, you too, will discover its allure.
Spring in the desert southwest is always enjoyable. The weather is near perfect and the wildflowers are blooming. It’s so pretty and a great time of year to visit Phoenix, Arizona but as we get further into the month of April, the Phoenix desert starts heating up. We’ve already had some days exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Listening to the local weather report can be quite entertaining, especially when they talk about cold fronts. We have family members who live in northern Wisconsin. While our Wisconsin family remain bundled up in winter attire shoveling out from a recent snowstorm, we too suffered a cold front; gusty winds and a temperature high of only 75 degrees F. We almost couldn’t wear shorts. I guess, a cold front is a cold front, it’s all relative 😄
I assume that you aren’t exactly feeling sorry for me and my weather woes, but when I tell you who I’m likely to share the trail with while out hiking, you might feel differently. 🐍
It’s snake season but also baby season
As much as I’m loving the warm sunny weather, so do the snakes. I’m not sure I’ll ever get comfortable coming face to face with a Diamondback rattlesnake, and each snake encounter causes me to stay off the trails for a while … and may be the cause of a few more grey hairs!
Being startled by a rattlesnake sure gets my heart pounding, and I feel quite rattled as I’m sure does the rattlesnake.
Eventually, my apprehension to hike subsides, and I’m back out hiking but choosing trails that are wide and popular with plenty of other hikers out on the trail. I’ve also learned to keep my eyes down while scanning the trail.
By choosing a popular hiking trail, it’s my hope that the activity keeps the snakes away or that someone else spots her first, which was the case in my recent diamondback rattlesnake meet up.
Two weeks ago, Al and I decided to start our hike at the Desert Vista Trailhead which is part of the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. I’ve hiked here before and knew about a Great Horned Owl’s nest. Her nest is huge and constructed between the arms of a large saguaro cactus. Really interesting to see.
I figured by early April, momma owl most likely would be caring for her offspring, and I wanted to see if I could photograph her, or at the very least, see a little owlet.
Score! Ms. Owl was pretty far away and I had to zoom in as much as possible (600mm). I wish I could’ve captured a better image of her and her owlet, but it was still fun seeing mom and baby through my zoom lens.
After a few camera clicks, we continued on our hike. As we rounded a corner, another couple hiking stopped us to warn us of a rattlesnake along the trail. Cool! I had fair warning, and therefore, wasn’t startled … this is the best scenario if you’re going to meet a rattlesnake on the trail.
What to do when you see a rattlesnake?
The first thing you do is grab your camera … okay, no you don’t. The first thing you do is step away slowly to not alarm the snake. The snake will strike if it feels threatened. If you are a safe distance away from the rattlesnake, then maybe you can take a photo or two. But keep in mind, a rattlesnake can strike about half its length and is fast. So, if you see a six-foot snake know that it can possibly strike a subject three-feet away. And when they’re coiled up, it’s hard to tell exactly how long that snake is. Always veer on the side of caution!
Arizona is home to thirteen different species of rattlesnakes. Some may rattle before striking, but not always. So, they are definitely unpredictable. Each hiker, Al and I included, walked past her quickly … giving her a wide berth, but she did rattle with each passerby. As hikers, we not only had to worry about the snake striking but also not walking too close to the Teddy Bear Cholla cactus aka jumping cholla. If you get too close to one of these cactus, a needled segment will break off and fly at your body. Crazy, huh! And the thorns are like little fishhooks … ouch!
After our diamondback rattlesnake encounter, the rest of our hike was pleasant and uneventful. And these days, I’m sticking to trails that are wide and popular. This gal doesn’t like surprises!
How to make your desert visit safe?
Watch your step and be on the lookout for snakes. Rattlesnakes are known to blend in with their environments. When traveling at night, carry a flashlight to make sure every step is the right one.
Think twice before walking through vegetation and never put your hands where you can’t see them. You could be reaching blindly into a shrub, bush, or rock where a snake may be hanging out.
Don’t approach or provoke a snake. More than half of all rattlesnake bites are caused by provoking or approaching a snake. Keep a close eye on children and pets.
Never make a snake feel threatened. It doesn’t want to strike you any more than you want to be bitten.
Tips if you’re bitten
Keep the bitten area still and stay calm.
Seek medical attention immediately.
Remove any jewelry near the affected area in case of swelling.
Elevate the wound area if possible.
If you’re hiking, call 911 and if possible slowly walk to a trailhead or the nearest trail marker. Do not run. Keep body activity to a minimum to avoid the spread of venom.
Don’t drive yourself to the hospital.
Don’t use ice to cool the bite.
Don’t cut open the wound and try to suck out the venom.
Don’t use a tourniquet. This will cut off blood flow and the limb may be lost.
Don’t attempt to administer your own first aid.
Most popular snakes found in the Phoenix area
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (venomous). This is the most commonly encountered rattlesnake in the Phoenix valley and can be found anywhere where neighborhoods are near native desert habitat. They are large, aggressive, and venomous, so keep your distance and let it move on. They can be identified by the rattle, white and black striped tail, and white-lined diamond pattern on the back. Coloration is usually drab shades of brown or grey.
Sonoran Sidewinder (venomous). Sidewinders are small rattlesnakes that live in sandy desert areas. Most are 2 feet long or less and move with a distinctive side-winding motion. These are common in the outskirts of the Phoenix West Valley in washes or flat, open areas. They avoid rocky areas. They are easily identified by the horns that protrude over each eye, and the white and brown ribbon going down the back.
Speckled Rattlesnake (venomous). Speckled rattlesnakes live in rocky areas near mountains or hillsides. They vary in color, from a white/grey in the South Mountain and White Tanks areas, brown in North Phoenix, and orange and red going North into Cave Creek and the Anthem areas. They have a loosely banded pattern that is highly flecked to resemble granite. They’re most common in the South Mountain area.
Sonoran Gophersnake (harmless). The Sonoran Gophersnake is a large snake that can be found everywhere in the Phoenix area, even in alleyways and backyards in urban areas. These are very commonly mistaken for rattlesnakes due to a very good impersonation, which includes flattening the head, loud hissing, striking, and even a rattling tail. While they can become quite large and give a painful bite, they are otherwise completely harmless and great to have around for rodent control.
Images of challenging hiking trails accompanied by beautiful scenery are most likely not the first thoughts that come to mind when envisioning city living, but Phoenix isn’t your typical city. Phoenix, Arizona, and her surrounding suburbs have done an amazing job with urban planning. There are parks everywhere … from small neighborhood playground type of parks to large picturesque, rural feeling parks complete with challenging hikes and even campgrounds.
I’ve made it my mission to visit as many of these larger parks as possible. During each of our winter visits, I try and explore a new to me park. Although, I do have my favorites that I find myself returning to time and again making it difficult to check out the dozens of other amazing parks throughout the Phoenix valley. I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoy the Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park … a definite favorite, but I do have a couple more favs to share.
I never tire of the scenery. There’s something about the diverse eco-system found at this park that makes it incredibly special.
All the trails start off with the usual desert scenery, which in and of itself is stunning, but eventually, you’ll find yourself hiking among cottonwood trees and crossing streams, an unexpected surprise in such an arid desert climate.
There’s a wide range of trails to choose from making it perfect for every level of hiker. Our hike at Spur Cross with Liesbet and her husband turned into a longer hike than we originally intended, but with near perfect hiking weather, I believe we all enjoyed the three-hour six-mile hike.
We saw wildflowers, birds, folks riding horses, stood next to some of Arizona’s oldest living saguaros, crossed streams, and generally had a fun time.
One word of caution about visiting Spur Cross Ranch …. flash flooding. Although the road to get to the trailhead is paved, the last couple of miles or so gets narrow and a little rough in spots. The biggest concern is during heavy rains, including rains from the night before. There’s a couple of low-lying places/washes that are known to flood making it impossible to cross the road until the water recedes. Normally those sections of road are bone dry.
Earlier in the year, I tried introducing a new neighbor at my RV park to Spur Cross Ranch, but our hike did not go as planned. Although we had no issue driving to the trailhead, we did have a problem on the trails.
The moment we started walking on the Dragonfly Trail, I could hear the rushing of water, a sound I hadn’t experienced before.
I knew the creek would be running fast but wasn’t prepared to see exactly how fast it was flowing. The nice little boardwalks that we normally use to cross the creek were washed away.
Unfortunately, my hike with Karen was short-lived due to trail flooding. I’m hoping Karen and I can try again next winter.
The upside to all this water results in a lush landscape. The saguaro cacti along the Metate Trail are said to be some of the oldest in the state of Arizona and have more arms growing than the usual saguaro. I’m guessing the healthy dossing of moisture they receive is due to their growth and longevity. Some of these cactus are supposedly over 200 years old.
Our three-hour hike with Liesbet and Mark started on the Dragonfly trail (DF). We then connected to the Spur Cross trail (SX) to the Metate Trail (MT) where we admired the huge saguaro cacti before returning to the parking lot. Great hike!
Pinnacle Peak Trail … uphill both ways
We’ve been visiting Phoenix, Arizona, regularly every since our son moved here nine years ago, but it wasn’t until this year that I discovered Pinnacle Peak Park. Sure, I’ve admired the peak off in the distance while driving the 101 freeway on the north side of Scottsdale but had not seen it up close until this past winter.
The Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers an amazing out and back hike. However, the trail does connect to other parks if you wanted to extend your hike. Personally, the 3.5 mile out and back uphill both way hike is enough of a butt burner for moi. It usually takes me about 2 hours to complete depending on how frequently I stop to catch my breath or take a photo. The wildflowers have been absolutely stunning lately requiring extra stopping!
Pinnacle Peak is a super popular trail and the parking lot usually fills by 9:00 a.m. and then hikers start parking along the road. The only time I couldn’t find an open spot to park in the parking lot was during my recent hike with my daughter. We arrived before 9:00 on a Friday morning to a full parking lot. What I failed to take into consideration was spring break … families and kids everywhere. Somehow the crowd had very little impact on us. Perhaps it’s because the trail is wide enough to easily pass one another.
Also, most of the families turned around at the summit which was a smart move. The most challenging part of the hike is on the backside of the peak where the last quarter mile is rated strenuous. I can definitely attest to that!
Once we arrived at the end of the trail and it was time to turn around, we noticed exactly how steep the trail back up was and tried to focus on the pretty wildflowers instead of our huffing and puffing. Okay, my huffing and puffing. Daughter is in a lot better shape than I am. Let’s stop and look at the pretty wildflowers was my excuse for needing a rest.
Pinnacle Peak is another beautiful trail in the Phoenix valley not to be missed. For those not wanting to hike the most difficult part of the trail, my recommendation would be to hike to the “Owl’s Rest” viewpoint then turn around. You’ll still experience a little of that uphill both ways scenario but nothing as strenuous as it gets beyond that point.
Do these images look like we’re in a city?
If we look through the images on this post, do we feel a sense that we’re in a large city … the fifth largest city in the United States? Boasting an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, a boatload of nature, and all the happenings available in a large city, it’s no wonder tourism is huge business around here.
Rural parks, award-winning chefs, and tons of shopping … yep, go for a strenuous hike in the morning, be a shopaholic in the afternoon, and go out for fine dining in the evening. What more could a gal ask for? Hmm, maybe I need to start checking out some of that fine dining … ya know, purely for blogging purposes 😉
It was day two of our blogger get together. I had another fun excursion planned for the day sharing some of my favorite Arizona scenery with friends. While getting ready that morning, I received a text message from Nancy reluctantly bowing out of the day’s activities.
Although I understood why she wasn’t able to join Teri and me, I couldn’t help but tease Nancy with a reply, “NO! You are my plus one for the HOV lane. You have to join us”. (HOV=High Occupancy Vehicle – aka carpool lane, 2+ lane). In order for me to pick up Teri at her hotel, I’d be traveling from the far north end of the Phoenix valley down to the far southeast end of the valley, which’ll take me a little over an hours drive through the thick of Phoenix traffic. I’d have to time my travels with rush hour traffic in mind since losing my plus one. “Why Nancy, why?” 😥😆😘
FYI for trip planning to Phoenix, Arizona. March is the busiest month of the year. Our population explodes with tourism due to the fantastic weather and baseball spring training. RV parks are full and hotels charge double during this time of year. And traffic is insane, like most major cities. Although, the city is super easy to navigate considering it’s laid out in a grid style manner.
Valley Talk … The term “Phoenix valley” refers to the actual city of Phoenix as well as her dozen or so surrounding suburbs. You might hear folks comment, “That’s in the east valley (meaning Scottsdale or Mesa) or that’s in the west valley (meaning Glendale or Goodyear). Then there’s the north valley where I’m camped and I’ll need to travel to the south valley to pick up Teri at her hotel … I think you get the idea.
Rugged scenery near Phoenix
On the far east side of the Phoenix valley lies the Superstition Mountains (aka the Superstitions). This beautiful and rugged terrain is a favorite of mine, and anytime I’m able to camp at Lost Dutchman State Park or even visit just for the day, I’m a happy camper.
So, of course, I just had to share this stunning landscape with Teri. Knowing Teri was a flatlander from Ohio, I was very selective about which trail we’d hike and made sure she was well prepared for the terrain and strong sun. With that said, she still wasn’t convinced I wasn’t trying to kill her; was it the uphill climb, or our second ever get together, or was it the folklore surrounding the area …. hmm?
How the Superstitions got their name
Stories and mystery abound. This mountain range was called several different names by explorers long before the local farmers in the late 1800s gave it its final namesake. The Salt River Valley farmers had heard stories about strange sounds, people disappearing, and mysterious deaths from the Pima Indians. An overall fear of the mountain influenced the farmers to believe the Pimas were superstitious about this particular mountain, and therefore, the name Superstition Mountain was born.
And then there’s the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s gold, which is another mystery to the Superstition Mountains. To this day, many people believe there is a hidden fortune to be found out there somewhere.
Due to the severely rugged nature of the terrain, extreme changes in temperature, harsh winds, and dangerous wildlife, the Superstition Mountains have had their fair share of casualties.
There are more disappearances here than any other mountain range in Arizona. On average, about four to five hikers die each year and rescues are a common occurrence.
But hikers and explorers trek on. Unfortunately, many are unprepared regardless of warnings by local Rangers. Whether these hikers are adventurous, reckless, gullible or superstitious, the reality remains that there are a great number of tragedies linked to this wilderness area. It should be revered and respected. When visiting the Superstition Mountains, please wear sturdy shoes. Leave your flip-flops at home and bring plenty of water.
The perfect hike for a flatlander
Knowing this was Teri’s first time hiking at the Superstitions, I wanted to introduce her slowly to the beautiful landscape, and not scare her off with too difficult of a hike. Once parked at the Saguaro day use area at Lost Dutchman State Park, we started our hike on the handicap accessible informative Discovery Trail which connects the picnic area to the campground. (DI in red on map). Super easy trail and great for a warm up.
We then connected to the Siphon Draw Trail (SD is shown to the right in brown on the map). The Siphon Draw Trail is a continuous uphill hike that will eventually lead to the top of Flatiron …. experienced hikers only. We hiked a short portion of Siphon Draw before connecting to Jacobs Crosscut (JC in green). Due to the continuous uphill hike, Siphon Draw was the most challenging stretch of the trail for Teri, and I’m sure she was wondering what this new friend of hers had gotten her into.
After I did a little prodding to keep us moving, Teri eventually found her hiking groove especially on the Jacobs Crosscut trail, the perfect trail for a flatlander. The trail runs parallel to the mountain and is mostly level with only a little up and down in spots. By the time we reached the crossroad for the Treasure Loop trail (TL is shown on the left in brown on the map), Teri was even contemplating extending our hike instead of returning to the parking lot. Clearly, she was bitten by the hiking bug and realized her new friend wasn’t trying to kill her after all.
This is a loop hike I’ve done several times before and normally I can complete it in an hour, but since Teri and I were stopping to admire the scenery, taking photographs, and doing lots of chit-chatting, it took us an hour and a half to complete. This is the perfect hike for any desert newbie and/or for those easing themselves into trail hiking.
And remember, if you start feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated. You can’t possibly drink too much water out on the trail. I kept harping on Teri to drink her water. I promise you won’t need a restroom. The desert sucks the water right out of you. Lack of hydration is the number one reason visitors to Phoenix get into trouble and need rescue aid.
Time for lunch
After our enjoyable hike, it was time to head up the road for lunch at the quaint little tourist town of Tortilla Flat. The drive itself is beautiful, but be forewarned, it is a twisty curvy road with drop-offs.
The food was just okay. The atmosphere was entertaining, but we really enjoyed the scenery outside of the restaurant much more. The Salt River was running fast and furious and Teri and I had fun just sitting along the water’s edge.
I had a couple more stops in mind, but one glance at the clock had me remembering rush hour traffic. It was either hit the road before 3:00 or wait until after 6:00. Since I was already running low on energy plus had obligations the next day, I reluctantly took Teri back to her place before 3:00 and started my one-hour-plus drive home.
More hiking in our future
I had a great time meeting Teri, and I’m already looking forward to more photography outings and hikes with her in Arizona. Hopefully next time, we can schedule more time together and our good friend, Nancy, will be able to join us. This tour guide has a lot more plans up her sleeve!
For a few more things to see and do in the area, please click here.
And for more information on the hiking trails at Lost Dutchman State Park, click here.
I was grateful that the Phoenix, Arizona, weather finally returned to temperatures we love and expect in the desert southwest during this time of year. With clear skies once again upon us, I didn’t waste any time getting out with the camera and exploring.
It has been a crazy and hectic week for me, but in a good way. Therefore, today’s post will be short and I’ll share just a snippet of what I’ve been up to.
Popular valley hike
On February 21st and 22nd, Phoenix encountered some record weather … cold, rain, hail, and snow. Yes, snow in Phoenix, Arizona. What a rare treat to behold! And although, we spend our winters in Phoenix to avoid cold and snow, this storm truly added an unexpected beauty to the landscape.
We woke up to clear skies on Saturday the 23rd, and I just had to get out and take in the landscape. I bundled up and headed off to hike the Pinnacle Peak trail located in north Scottsdale. The cold brisk air (37 degrees Fahrenheit when I first started) didn’t deter me or other hikers on this popular trail.
I’ll do a detailed write-up on the trail once I have a little down time.
Tour guide duty
Then came Monday and Tuesday which kept me extra busy exploring and visiting with a couple of blogging gal pals. Teri and I have followed each others blogs for over five years, yet this would be the first time we’d actually meet in person. On the other hand, fellow blogger Nancy and I have hung out many times. Fortunately, Nancy lives a mere ten minutes away from my RV Park making it convenient for us to hike together anytime.
Since the three of us all met via our blogs, we’re always looking for blog material. With that in mind, it was time for me to pick up the ladies and go into tour guide mode. Actually, I seem to be doing a lot of Phoenix tour guiding this season, and I’m loving every minute sharing some of my favorite sights with out of town friends.
Our growling tummies told us it was time to bid farewell to the horses and move on. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Saguaro Lake followed by a little hiking along the shore … all of which included lots of photography. The next day, we were off to a new place to take in some other popular yet picturesque sights in Phoenix’ east valley.
We had such a great time together and hated to say goodbye to Teri. I assure you, she didn’t seem eager to return to the weather in Ohio. So, I’m hoping she’ll make it an annual trek back to Phoenix for more blogger shenanigans. And yes, I’ll need to do a more detailed post on our two wonderful and fun days hanging out together.
The fantastic weather is making it difficult for me to stay home and get anything done. I’ve been enjoying new discoveries, as well as visits with friends and family at every opportunity, and today I’m attending a wedding.
I think, next week I’ll slow things down and hopefully get some posts written up. In the meantime, hope life is good wherever you are. Enjoy these wildflowers!
There’s a saying in America’s southwest … “Whiskey’s fer drink’n and water’s fer fight’n over!” In a nutshell, water in the western United States is a precious commodity worth fighting over and fight they did back in the 1800’s. Gosh, even today, states continue to fight over water rights all the time, but instead of gunshots being slung, you’ll find attorney’s slinging water rights paperwork. Yeah, there’s beaucoup bucks in water rights … take note any young aspiring attorney.
I grew up in the Midwest where water was never an issue. Sure, we occasionally experienced a summer drought when communities would implement water usage restrictions. Such restrictions were usually centered around limiting homeowners to the frequency of lawn sprinkling or car washing.
With an abundance of lakes and rivers in the Midwest, Al and I had dreams of one day owning lake front property. Oh, we came close a couple of times buying something in Wisconsin or Minnesota, but eventually logic ruled and our dream was always put on the back burner. Ah, such young responsible adults we were!
Once we moved west, that dream became even more elusive considering lake front property in the western United States is a rarity. Most lakes are used for water storage … reservoirs. Maintaining a clean water source is top priority in a land where water is a precious commodity. Considering water is not taken for granted in Arizona, it makes a body of water that much more special and appreciated.
Because of our love of water, lakes in particular, Al and I enjoy exploring and searching out those bodies of water whenever we have the opportunity.
Lakes around Prescott, Arizona
Within a thirty minute drive or less from our RV Park here in Prescott Valley, we have access to four lovely little lakes. All allow kayaking as well as offer picnic areas and a great trail system. I used to think Watson Lake was my favorite lake around here until I discovered the other lakes in the area.
Last summer I spent a great deal of time hiking around the unique boulder laden landscape titled Granite Dells. Willow Lake and Watson Lake are both man-made reservoirs located within the Granite Dells area of Prescott and the scenery is so unique that it calls for regular visits.
I loved hiking around this fascinating landscape – up and down the various trails, exploring all the nooks and crannies around every boulder until …. until the snake encounter. Yeah, the sound of a rattle from a Diamondback can get the heart pounding and quickly take the joy out of any hike. After that experience, it was time for me to search out a few different trail options.
Once I discovered Lynx Lake and Goldwater Lake, I became smitten with them. Talk about a contrast of landscapes. Where as Watson Lake and Willow Lake are surrounded by a mostly barren, lumpy rock landscape, Lynx Lake and Goldwater Lake are nestled in a forest of wonderfully scented tall pine trees providing some nice cooling shade.
Once again these are man-made reservoirs serving as water storage, but also offer some nice recreation for the public’s enjoyment.
Lynx Lake was the perfect spot for my friend, Rachael, and me to meet for lunch and catch up on our travels. I met Rachael a couple of years ago up in Arco, Idaho. She was on a one year solo RV adventure, and we had an immediate connection once we started talking cameras, which then lead to a couple of photographic outings together. Ever since our Idaho connection, we’ve stayed in touch. Rachael has since given up the RV life and now lives full-time in Sedona, Arizona … not too far from me which made meeting in Prescott easily doable.
During our Idaho time together, Rachael had made lunch for me, and now this was the perfect opportunity for me to reciprocate. Once again, our cameras were brought along for the outing and plenty of shutter time was shared after our tummies were filled. Even Rachael was pleasantly surprised with the beautiful lakes seen around Prescott.
Although these four little lakes might not be impressive to the average Midwesterner, they are a treasure to an Arizonan. I for one appreciate it when these reservoirs are full of water and pristine. I make it a point to take full advantage of their beauty while they’re in my current backyard … okay, I’m not saying they’re literally in my backyard considering it takes me at least twenty minutes to drive to any one of them, but hey, in Arizona I’ll take whatever kind of water front I can. The short drive is worth those water views any day.
More Arizona Lakes worth noting …
Since our children live in Phoenix, Arizona, we spend several months every year during the winter hanging around the Phoenix valley. That has given us the perfect opportunity to search out and explore many of the scenic lakes (rather reservoirs) in the area.
Lake Pleasant is located on the far northwest side of the valley and used to be a regular camping spot for us. The sunsets here are some of the most spectacular that I’ve ever seen. Absolutely stunning!
Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, and Roosevelt Lake are all located on the far east side of the valley in the Tonto National Forest. This string of reservoirs are all connected via the Salt River and each body of water offers unique scenery and plenty of boating recreation.
Bartlett Reservoir is located to the far northeast of Scottsdale and also within the Tonto National Forest. This lovely body of water takes a little longer to get to from the heart of Phoenix but so worth the drive, and if you don’t need internet connection, you can enjoy camping right along her beautiful shores.
Eastern Arizona –
We still have yet to spend much time in Arizona’s White Mountains. We enjoyed a brief taste last August during a short visit with our friends in Pinetop. This eastern side of the state reminds me of parts of Colorado. No, you won’t find any tall majestic mountains here, but you will find a landscape of large hills or little mountains surrounded by pine forests and dotted with lakes. Yep, there are lakes all over and stocked with enough fish to satisfy most anglers.
This is a beautiful part of Arizona that should not be missed and begs for more exploring on our part. But do note, this is a summer destination for RVers and plan on sharing this landscape with lots of desert dwellers who like to spend weekends in the White Mountains. The mountains serve as the perfect escape from the extreme summer heat found in the Phoenix valley.
Northern Arizona –
In the northern section of Arizona, you’ll find the city of Flagstaff and the Coconino National Forest. Once again, the forested landscape offers a bunch of little lakes, some of which I’d say are more like an over-sized pond than a lake, but hey it’s Arizona and water is water …. don’t dis the body of water. We’ll take it any which way we can … pond, lake, river, creek … water is life!
But if size matters to you, than it’s time to head to the Arizona-Utah border and the shores of Lake Powell. Here you can boat to your heart’s content or until you run out of gas, which happens to boaters all the time. Yeah, it’ll literally take you days to boat the length of Lake Powell and a boat load of gasoline too.
Western Arizona –
If Lake Powell’s a little too big for your taste, then Lake Havasu on the Arizona-California border might be more to your liking. We’re fortunate to have friends that live in Lake Havasu City and own a pontoon boat. Oh yeah – loved getting out on the water.
Southern Arizona –
Oh my goodness, I haven’t even touched on the southern half of the state where we really enjoyed Patagonia State Park and the lovely water setting seen there. So many more lakes to discover!
Hot and Dusty …
In a state where the words hot and dusty are used often, it’s no wonder the diverse landscape and fresh bodies of water are such a delightful surprise to many a visitor. I know all these picturesque lakes have been a fun and fantastic adventure discovering during our travels throughout the state.
No surprise our wheels have barely rolled across the Arizona state line this past year with so much picturesque scenery to discover and still so much more to see. Now if only I could figure out a way to fold up that pontoon boat and store it in the belly of the RV … then I’d really be in tall cotton!
What could I possibly not like about northern Arizona near Page and Lake Powell? After all, I’ve been gushing about it lately. Just look at these photographs showcasing this amazing landscape.
I love starting the day with a beautiful sunrise
magical slot canyons abound
gorgeous Lake Powell
love my campsite
It’s pretty darn special around here, but it’s not a panacea. As a photographer and blogger, I like to showcase the best about an area and sometimes fail to disclose the downside. Yeah, there’s a few downsides … downsides I don’t like.
So let’s get real
Tourism is big business around northern Arizona (Spring, summer and fall). The town of Page is on the schedule as a stopping point for many international tours. You’ll see large tour buses (holding around 50 passengers each, give or take) all around town. You’ll see them parked at McDonald’s, Walmart, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, Horseshoe Bend overlook, the marina’s at Lake Powell, and of course, the slot canyons at Antelope Canyon.
What an unpleasant treat it is to get in line at Walmart after the bus load of tourists hit the registers or how about pulling up to a scenic area only to see buses unloading hundreds of tourists at a popular site like Horseshoe Bend 😕
enjoying a beautiful sunset at Horseshoe Bend Overlook
hundreds of other people also enjoy the view
Don’t even get me started with the tourists and their selfie taking …… 🤣
Speaking of Antelope Canyon …. Hiking a slot canyon is an amazing experience. The sight is magical and surreal, but sharing it with hundreds of other tourists and being rushed through the canyon is the reality for many. Most of these unique slot canyons lie on Navajo Indian land, and therefore, tourists must pay for a guided tour if they’d like to experience a slot canyon.
The two most popular slot canyons are Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. There are a few other lesser known slot canyons where group sizes are kept smaller and some specialize in photographic tours. So depending on what your interests are in hiking a slot canyon (fun or photography), you’ll want to shop around.
I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I called northern Arizona / southern Utah a land of extremes. The land is stunning, perplexing, and wild and so is the weather.
During our four-week stay (April 2018), we experienced temperatures as high as 84 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to overnight temps as low as 36 degrees F and everything in between. On a nice day, winds were as low as 4 miles per hour, while on a bad day, we experienced sustained winds as high as 25-30 mph with gusts over 50 mph.
a sand storm
a sand storm quickly had campers packing up and moving on – only the hardy stayed
Those high winds made camping on a beach lively! The RVers that paid attention to the weather forecast usually packed up and left before the impending high winds started while others were caught off guard. Campers with a pitched E-Z UP didn’t fare so well with those excessive winds as evidenced the next day at the dumpsters.
On those extremely windy days, it was impossible to enjoy any outdoor activities without being sandblasted. I’m sure with all the wind and sandstorms Al and I endured, we ingested our bodily quota of minerals. The grit in our teeth confirmed no additional supplements were needed …. nor did I need to use any of my wonderful exfoliating potions as Mother Nature’s sandblasting quickly rid me of any dead skin cells 🤣
Another storm approaches
only the hardy ride out the storms
The upside to all that nasty wind was it cleared out the beach leaving only the crazy hardy to ride out the storm …. a reprieve from the crowds, I’ll take it.
But let’s face it, without all the annoying wind, we wouldn’t have this boggling landscape to ogle. And just so you know, March and April are the two windiest months out of the year. Guess we timed it right 😞
In my opinion, the camping options are sparse around the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area especially for the amount of tourism this area receives. Tourists driving RV rentals are everywhere and all vying for a place to overnight. The nicest and most sought after option is camping at the Wahweap Campground. It’s a beautiful campground if you can find an available site or have a reservation.
Then there’s the private Page-Lake Powell Campground. We stayed here several years ago and it was okay. But with the increase of international tourism and the renting of RV’s, this place fills up fast also.
During our stay, we camped most of the time at the Lone Rock Beach area located along the Arizona – Utah border. Although it’s dispersed dry camping, there is a fee and a stay limit. The cost to overnight is $14 a day with the use of an American the Beautiful National Park Pass or $21 without the pass – ($7 a night for holders of a senior national park pass) 2018 rates!
Although my photographs may make the Lone Rock Beach area look quiet and enticing, the reality is this can be the wild wild west. People come here to have a good time and in the process bring all their toys.
There’s a bunch of off-road trails at Lone Rock for folks to play on with their UTV’s. I’ll admit, it looks like a lot of fun tooling around on the hills and sand. With the water right there, the sound of boat engines can be heard all day long, and of course, a steady hum of generators keeping all the RV’s charged up rumble at all times of the day (Quiet hours are 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.). The sounds of engines, music, and laughter fills the air. This is not a place for quiet solitude, but it can be a very entertaining and fun place to hang out for a short time.
At the end of March, we even had some ‘Spring Breakers‘ show up for a couple of nights. Ah, to be young and silly again!
Yeah, it was party central and the music carried all the way to the other end of the beach. I was more amused than bothered. These college kids were there to have a good time and I’d say they succeeded, BUT temps were only in the low 60’s and seeing them lightly clad had chills running up my spine. I’m sure the liquid heat was flowing freely in the form of spirits so they probably weren’t as cold as I was.
Al and I no longer own any form of a watercraft … sigh! Although there are a bunch of things to do around Page, Arizona, the real draw is the lake – Lake Powell. Camping near the water became more and more of a challenge for me once the weather starting warming. I began to miss my boat and wave runners. Visiting Lake Powell and not getting out on the water with our own boat was probably the thing I disliked most about our stay.
me enjoying time on the water
taking a tour boat through Antelope Canyon
We looked into a bunch of different ideas to get out onto the water, but since it still wasn’t as warm as I prefer for boating, we forewent renting a boat and opted for a one-hour boat tour through Antelope Canyon. That was just enough to satisfy my boat craving …. for now!
So aside from not having my own boat, the traffic was my least favorite thing. The way some folks drive around here was down right dangerous. I can’t count how many near head on collisions there are every day. People getting impatient seem to take chances passing slower moving vehicles like RV’s on the two lane highways. Plus, there are so many tourists (foreign and domestic) that slow down and make turns on a whim. Yeah, it’s important to be a vigilant driver on these two lane roads.
Did I already mention there are a lot of tourists around northern Arizona? Not only are they forever taking selfies, they drive like they are the only ones on the road, and have a tenancy to gawk at wildlife. Check out the wildlife and the crazy tourists 😁
Beep – Beep!
wildlife on the beach
“Look …. wildlife!” Crazy tourists!
I’ll be back
Ah, it was still a very fun and awesome time spent amongst some of the most amazing scenery. Waking up every morning to a gorgeous view and beautiful sunrise made any of my minor dislikes about the area seem insignificant. Yeah, I’m already missing those killer views and stunning sunrises … sunrises that I could literally watch while still laying in bed. How awesome is that!!!
What started off as a one to two-week visit to Page, Arizona, ended up turning into four weeks. Yep, an entire month! Changing our travel itinerary on a whim is a wonderful thing and since we didn’t have our next RV Park reservation until May 1st, we took full advantage of the freedom to roll at will.
After a month of exploring around the Lake Powell / Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in northern Arizona and southern Utah, one might think we’d seen it all, but such is not the case. Although, we did manage to see and do a bunch of things, I know there’s still much more to discover. Guess that means we have to come back!
Our first week whizzed by as our adventures were shared with friends. We hiked a slot canyon with friends. We enjoyed a back road 4×4 excursion with friends, and we also spent a week boondocking with friends. Sharing our adventures made our time in the area that much more enjoyable and entertaining. That week was filled with hikes, campfires, laughs, and beautiful scenery.
Camping with friends
Al and I arrived to the Lone Rock Beach area a couple of days ahead of our friends which gave us the opportunity to scope out the lay of the land.
Once our friends arrived, the four of us found a level spot to call home for the week. Faye and I began to gather rocks and set about building a fire ring. I recall there being a lot of laughter, especially when she and I decided to build some trail cairns to aid Dave in finding his way back to the RV from the campfire 🤣
Our friend Mona Liza had heard about our antics and expressed concern. Not to worry Mona, we broke no rules gathering the rocks and no rocks were harmed for the sake of our entertainment. All rocks were later returned to their original home …. leave no trace 😁
Unfortunately, our friends had a travel schedule planned and after a week they moved on leaving Al and me to our own devices. No problem …. I had formulated a list of things to see and do over the coming weeks.
Dining at Lake Powell
Our first stop was the Antelope Point Marina. Al and I enjoyed a very tasty lunch at the recently opened Jádi To’oh Restaurant. Great atmosphere and good food. After lunch, we walked the docks looking at boats … boats or yachts?
We enjoyed the atmosphere at the restaurant and the food was good
Yeah, some of these boats were huge and Al and I had fun visualizing the owners, or most likely companies, that own these floating beauties. Walking up and down the docks served as a great way to not only entertain us, but also get in some exercise.
Next up, was a visit to the Wahweap Marina and the Lake Powell Resort. The views from the resort are beautiful and I would highly recommend a visit here. Al and I stopped by for happy hour and enjoyed drinks and a sandwich in the bar area.
But the dining room …. oh my, what a view! I’d venture to say, it might be worthwhile enjoying breakfast or dinner here in the Rainbow Room (no lunch service). I can’t speak for the food or service, but those views are amazing.
Dining room at the Lake Powell Resort
beautiful spot for a wedding – Lake Powell Resort
While strolling around the Lake Powell Resort, we stumbled upon a wedding. Wow! What a great spot to get married. “Hey honey, wanna renew our vows?”
Hiking, hiking and more hiking
What can I say about the hiking possibilities around northern Arizona and southern Utah? …. Toadstools, slot canyons, mini waves, a rim trail, a hanging garden, and Horseshoe Bend …. and those are just the few trails we hiked. There’s many more.
When it comes to hiking, the slot canyons around here are the crème de la crème and a photographers delight. Folks from around the world travel here to experience one of these slots – Antelope Canyon being the most popular. Since the majority of these slot canyons are located on Navajo Indian land, permits and/or guides are required.
We hiked two slot canyons during our stay in Page. First was the Waterholes Canyon and second was Wire Pass Canyon. Both canyons had obstacles to negotiate, and this is when team work came in handy for me. I could not have hiked either canyon by myself, but I did discover several non slot canyon hikes that are easily doable solo.
New Wave trail – The newest trail around Page, Arizona, is what’s called the New Wave and although it doesn’t come close to the real Wave, these mini waves are made up of the same Navajo sandstone with extensive fine detailing and cross bedding.
the trail to the ‘mini wave’
Petrified wood seen along the trail
Rimview trail – This 10 mile scenic Rim Trail loops around the town of Page. Hikers and bikers can access the trail at any number of locations. I hiked this trail several times during my visit, BUT fear not, I never completed that ten mile loop. Nope, not me! Instead, I made my own much shorter hike. I parked at a small parking area near the Lake View Primary School, and by hiking this northern section of the trail, I was able to take in the sparkling blue waters of Lake Powell below me.
At the trailhead near the school
a favorite hike of mine
The Colorado River gorge can be seen
Blue waters of Lake Powell
Wahweap Marina in the background
Beautiful scenery along the rim trail
watching a dock being moved from one marina to another
beautiful scenery in all directions
Horseshoe Bendoverlook – No trip to northern Arizona would be complete without a visit to the Horseshoe Bend overlook, but be forewarned, it’s a crowded tourist attraction that brings in bus loads of people from around the world …. literally, tour buses filled with tourists.
I was lucky to visit during a lull in tourism – spring break was over and ‘the season’ hadn’t yet begun. During spring break, I saw the line of traffic stretch dangerously down Highway 89 and there was no way I was going to join those masses. Currently construction is underway to improve access and parking.
The hike to the overlook is about 3/4 of a mile one way in a sometimes sandy trail and is uphill on the return to the parking lot.
on the edge – watching the sunset
Lull in tourism – this is a fraction of the people normally seen here
the return hike to the parking lot is uphill
Hanging Garden Trail – This is another short and easy hike not far from the Carl Hayden visitor center (Dam). The trail leads to an interesting rock overhang where vegetation grows out of the rock, but the real fun here begins with a little off trail exploring. Fascinating, perplexing and colorful rock abound with more wave like action.
the alcove/rock overhang can be seen in the distance
vegetation grows out of the rock in this dry and arid land
heading into the landscape off trail is an experience
supposedly each line/ridge represents 100 years
If hiking isn’t your thing, how about a scenic drive? We enjoyed two back country 4×4 excursions. Our first outing was to the most amazing scenic overlook known as Alstrom Point, and second was a drive via Cottonwood Road through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
We didn’t need four-wheel drive on either excursion, but found the high clearance on the Toyota Tacoma was helpful, even though not necessary. Also, the weather was very agreeable for both excursions … meaning it hadn’t rained in quite sometime and the ground was extremely dry.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Without the Glen Canyon Dam there would be no Lake Powell, and Lake Powell is obviously the star of northern Arizona, and the Grand Canyon, of course. The Carl Hayden Visit Center is perched on a ledge overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam and the waters of Lake Powell and the Colorado River.
The visitor center offers an impressive view
The visitor center is a great place to stop and gather local information, pick up a trail map, take a tour of the dam, or walk the Glen Canyon bridge. Walking across the bridge to take in the sight is a must do, but I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of the bridge vibrating when semi-trucks crossed 😮 The bridge and the dam are an engineering marvel, especially amongst such challenging terrain.
The above photograph was taken at a scenic overlook located on Scenic View Road near the Wingate, Baymont Inn and Sleep Inn. The overlook requires a short downhill stroll over sandy slick rock. For the more adventurous, hike around the ledges and bluffs for impressive views in all directions.
Lodging in Page
There’s no shortage of hotels around Page with more being built to accommodate the influx of tourism. However, there is a shortage of available RV parking (in my opinion) especially on weekends which is why many end up boondocking out at Lone Rock Beach or Wallie-docking at the local Walmart.
If money is no object, consider staying at the exclusive Amangiri Resort. No lookie- loos allowed beyond the gate …. sorry, I tried. Perhaps, it’s understandable that if guests are paying upwards of $3,000 a night, that they’d like their privacy. Can’t imagine why they wouldn’t allow this hiking clad RVer into their luxury abode for photo-ops 😏 I don’t think they believed me when I told them my Louboutin’s were back at the RV 👠🤣
Time to move on …
After having more fun in Page – northern Arizona, than we ever imagined, the time has come for us to lift the jacks and move on. It’s what RVers do 🤗 It was a memorable visit …. one we hope to repeat!
When Al and I awoke to a beautiful and calm morning, we were quick to agree on an early morning hike …. early meaning out the door around 8:00 a.m. The previous two days kept us indoors due to high gusting winds. Ah, those pesky winds.
But while a sculptor may use tools like a chisel or rasp, Mother Nature sculpts with wind, water and time. Without all the annoying sandblasting wind, I wouldn’t have all this perplexing scenery to go gaga over. So I endure the bad along with the good, and plan our excursions around the weather.
An easy hike
With an eagerness to get out an explore, we hopped in the truck and traveled about twenty miles north of the Arizona – Utah border. This trailhead and hike will lead us toward what is known as the Toadstools.
This relatively easy and well-marked short trail starts out in a sandy wash.
Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to hike this trail after a rainstorm. As it was, we encountered a few muddy patches and it hadn’t rained in days.
The trail is pretty nondescript until you crest a hill and are greeted with the first and most impressive toadstool.
These mushroom like shaped rocks had Al and me tilting our heads in wonder. Bewildered, we were duly entertained and found ourselves drifting from one interesting rock formation to another.
By starting the day early, we literally had the place to ourselves ….. that is, for at least fifteen minutes ….. it was ours, and ours alone, and we loved every minute.
We found the land very strange and a bit surreal. We briefly felt like we were on some old movie set like Star Wars or Game of Thrones … perhaps, we even spotted ET!
Is that you, ET?
fun with the self-timer on the camera – hurry up and pose!
Sadly many of the toadstools have fallen apart
me sitting in front of the star of the Toadstools
Not having to share this landscape with other visitors allowed Al and I to have fun with the self-timer on the camera. Yeah, there were a few laughs and retakes as I didn’t always run and pose quick enough. It was me against the ten second timer and many times the timer one 😆
If you find yourself visiting Page, Arizona and looking for a fun way to spend an hour or two, consider visiting the Toadstools. It’s easy to get to. It’s an out and back hike and is less than 2 miles total. But be sure to linger amongst the toadstools and stroll in all directions before returning to the trail. You never know what else you might see!
A slot canyon hike with an obstacle
The weather was dictating our schedule and as much as we didn’t want to embark on a well known trail on a Saturday, we did exactly that (April 14, 2018). This time we were out the door by 7:30 a.m. (Arizona time). After all, we had about a one hour drive in front of us to get to the Wire Pass trail located in southern Utah.
Upon arriving at the trailhead, we found plenty of room to park. After grabbing our packs and paying the $6 per person trail fee, we were eagerly on our way. Once again our hike started off in a sandy wash which continued for about the first mile.
The trail starts off in a sandy wash
Eventually the scenery gets interesting
Eventually, the landscape started to get interesting as the red rocks began to surround us. We entered a small short slot, of sorts, before the rock walls opened again. I felt the canyon was teasing me, and giving me a little taste of what was to come.
Not long afterwards, the fun began.
Before deciding to hike Wire Pass canyon, I had done a fair amount of research about the trail. Al and I do not consider ourselves avid hikers. As such, I wanted to make sure we didn’t get ourselves into a situation beyond our abilities.
I read somewhere that there is one major obstacle in the slot …. an eight foot drop. Hmm, sliding down might be doable, but since this was an out and back hike, I had concerns about getting back up that 8 foot drop. Therefore, Al and I agreed ahead of time that we’d probably turn around at that point.
Guess I was wrong!
Before I knew it, Al had negotiated the drop. Of course, I’m always lagging behind with my camera as I snap away. Turns out, someone had placed some rocks and an old tree trunk at the base of the drop to aid in the navigation.
Al was encouraging and quick to help me on my scramble down. I have to admit, I was really glad he was game and wanted to hike further. I felt this obstacle shows up rather quick in the slot canyon. Actually way too soon in my opinion, and at the point, there was no way I wanted to turn around. I wanted …. needed to explore further!
Once over the drop, the canyon proceeded to get narrower and deeper. The lack of light made it difficult to photograph, but oh so fun to hike. The slot canyon was long and deep and we were glad we didn’t need to pass any other hikers. Eventually, the canyon opened up and we were at the intersection where the Wire Pass trail meets the Buckskin Gulch trail.
Buckskin Gulch is considered the longest and deepest slot canyon in the U.S. Its towering walls make it difficult for the sun to reach the canyon floor and hikers can expect to encounter water and mud. We were here in mid April and according to hikers exiting the slot, water was waist-high in one direction and knee-high in the other, and the water was very very cold.
My curiosity got the better of me and I had to peek around the corner, but I didn’t get very far before I felt my shoes sink into the mud. I walked Buckskin Gulch in both directions before that mud had me retracing my steps back to the Wire Pass trail. We weren’t prepared or equipped to hike in water nor did I have the inclination.
With hubby antsy to keep moving, I quickly took some photographs of the Buckskin Gulch trail and then we started our return trek.
There was a time when I would prefer and seek out loop trails instead of out and back hikes, but I’ve discovered when hiking in the opposite direction, the scenery can look quite different on the exact same trail ….. and I found that to be very true on the Wire Pass trail.
The scenery in the canyon was spectacular and it looked as though we were hiking a completely different trail on our return. Ah, but this was the same trail, and therefore, we would need to climb up that eight foot drop. Would I have a problem, I wondered?
I decided to go first. I tried one foot there. Hmm, that didn’t work. How about this foot there? No, that wouldn’t work. At 5’4″ tall, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get a firm hold on anything that would allow me to get high enough so I could fling my body over that boulder.
“If I could just hoist myself higher, I’d be able to crawl over that boulder”. Nope! I couldn’t do it. The sandstone walls were slick and didn’t provide any leverage. I couldn’t get a firm grip on that boulder. I could feel a little panic build up inside me. I realized the only other way out of the canyon was hiking miles via the Buckskin Gulch trail that was filled with water 😥
Hopefully, Al’s 6’3″ frame would be tall enough to get us out of here. Fingers crossed!
At that point, we both put on our gloves to help grip the boulder better (yep, we came somewhat prepared). After Al struggled a bit, I lent my hand as another foot hold for him, and then up and over he went. Whew! Now that he was at the top, he helped pull me up and over.
This was the only area in the slot canyon where we ran into other hikers …. they were coming down, and all appeared to be about half our age. Some navigated the drop like mountain goats, while others were more tentative like yours truly. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to watch anyone else climb back up this obstacle.
With a new-found spring in our step and a few pats on the back later, Al and I took our time hiking the rest of the way back to the truck. I found the scenery even more amazing on our return trek and I wanted to savor it.
The Wire Pass Canyon trail is a relatively easy hike with the exception of that one major obstacle. Al and I promised each other that we’d hike it again next time we’re in the area, but we’ll be sure to bring rope or some other aid in climbing back up that drop.
The Wire Pass trail is about 3.4 miles round trip. All in all, the hike took us about 2 1/2 hours, but that included lots of stops for photos and lingering on the Buckskin Gulch trail. My Fitbit registered 4.3 miles.
This was a leisurely stroll for us through a fascinating canyon. It was a beautiful day and a fantastic hike that we’d repeat in a heartbeat. BUT if photography is your goal, I would recommend Waterholes Canyon. It’s much more photogenic yet equally fun to hike 😊
Additional tidbit – near the Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch intersection is an interesting arched alcove with a hanging garden. Along a nearby wall are some petroglyphs…. signs of an ancient civilization. We also noticed water weeping down the walls in the narrowest part of the slot.
arched alcove with plants growing out of the wall – hanging garden
An Elk, a river and a fish?
Finding the trailhead – From Page, Arizona, take US 89 into Utah for about 34 miles before turning left on House Rock Valley Road (near mile marker 25). The turnoff is in the middle a 50 mph right-angle curve making it a little precarious with impatient traffic. The trailhead is 8.5 miles down this gravel road. From Page to the trailhead, the drive took us close to an hour.