Photography offers us the chance to be an artist and to witness the world through a lens – creating art through imagery, all while witnessing something unfold right before our eyes. This is why photography is such a worthwhile pursuit that you should seriously consider taking up. However, newbie photographers (me included) may find themselves frustrated at the beginning, as there are some growing pains to endure before getting that perfect shot. Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get better relatively quickly:
Do use what you already have
As a beginner, any camera you currently have for photography will suffice, whether that’s your phone or a point and shoot camera, and then you can work up to a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. For now, use what you already have to get a good understanding of the different camera settings and practice composing pictures until you can buy that upgraded camera. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, entry-level cameras listed by Tech Radar that you can begin with. The Nikon D3500 and the Canon EOS 90D are a good start, as both are packed with features and are reasonably priced, but there are certainly others to consider.
Don’t go crazy buying equipment
Some beginners make the mistake of going for the most expensive camera, mistakenly believing that the pricier, the better. While others, stock up on pricey equipment, thinking that all that gear will make them a great photographer. Don’t make the same mistakes. It’s important to remember, it’s not the gear that makes a great photographer. Rather than focus on stockpiling equipment (some of which you might not even need), devote your energy and budget to learning about photography by attending seminars, taking courses, reading books, and learning from others.
While you don’t need to buy everything professionals have in their kit, accessorizing is still important to make the process much easier. Luckily, there are plenty of accessories to begin with, depending on your needs. In fact, the range of photography equipment on Adorama such as tripods, battery packs, and lighting equipment is a testament to just how much equipment is out there to help make the job easier. Whether you’re looking for your camera to last longer by purchasing additional battery packs, or looking to get a steady shot using a tripod, there’s bound to be an accessory to assist you. For beginners, you should start with a lens cleaning kit, a couple of new lenses, spare batteries, a bag to keep your gear organized, and a basic tripod.
Don’t settle for Auto
Photo Pro Magazine state that it can be hard to steer clear of the automatic settings, as it makes capturing photos easy and convenient. However, you should break that habit if you want to become a better photographer as there is a lot to explore beyond the typical settings. At the end of the day, the more you explore your camera’s settings, the better you’ll be at photography and shooting in different scenarios. Not to mention, you may have already invested in a DSLR/Mirrorless, so make the most out of it by testing out new things.
You get better by taking photos of different subjects in diverse scenarios using a multitude of settings. As you practice, keep in mind some guidelines, like the rule of thirds, where you divide a frame into a 3×3 grid and place your subject on any of the four intersections. It’s a purposeful misdirection, as it goes against the eyes’ natural inclination to look directly at something. Nevertheless, it creates a dynamic balance and compels the viewer to look at the entirety of the image. Now, as you practice, it’s important to keep those creative juices flowing, and my ’10 Tips for Finding Inspiration’ post will hopefully help inspire you.
Even walking around with your camera on you at all times will help you to flex those creative muscles.
I love the diversity of our RV lifestyle. We’re able to live in a major city one day and move out into nature the next. And when we come across a city such as Phoenix that offers both environments in relatively close proximity, I say this is an RVers dream … jackpot!
“May you live in interesting times.”
BUT … Life is anything but normal these days and I’d be remiss if I jumped right into the content of this post without mentioning a couple of things.
March is usually the busiest and best month to visit Phoenix, Arizona. Wildflowers are in abundance adding vibrant color to our desert landscape, not to mention the beautiful blue skies and near-perfect temperatures that are enjoyed by all. But not his year! Not only has the weather been schizophrenic leaving us wondering what has happened to our wonderful March weather, but the coronavirus has turned the tourism and stock markets into a volatile frenzy.
The Phoenix valley’s robust tourism industry has been severely impacted by potential visitors canceling reservations left and right. Resorts that are normally booked solid and charging premium rates are now half empty and offering discounts. Baseball spring training has also been canceled and all the stores are out of toilet paper. Out of toilet paper! Really?
Ah, but let’s all revel in the fact that this too shall pass and life will return to normal eventually … soon, I hope. For now, I’ll immerse myself in summer trip planning and images of wildflowers. The wildflowers are a given, but our summer travels could be in question if current conditions were to continue.
I’m sure we can all agree that there’s currently too much uncertainty right now that might affect our travels. However, I’m optimistic and think in another month things will turn around, and therefore, our summer travels will continue as planned.
So, let’s get back to talking fun stuff!
An RV friendly city in Arizona
There are so many things to see and do in a big city; museums, restaurants, stores, sporting events, other events, and the list goes on, but the solitude and beauty of nature are always a strong pull for me. What if we can enjoy both?
It’s a rare treat to find an RV friendly city, and when we do, we like to plan a lengthy stay allowing us plenty of time to immerse ourselves in everything big city life has to offer. Since our children live in Phoenix, Arizona and Phoenix is RV friendly, this city has become our winter home.
The Phoenix valley is not only super popular with RVers but equally popular with all kinds of other visitors; snowbirds, vacationers, convention traffic, seminars, etc. Peak tourist season is January, February, and March … March is the busiest due to Spring Break, excellent weather, and baseball spring training (Cactus League).
The lodging options throughout the Phoenix valley are abundant and diverse. For those of us with RVs, we can find everything from scenic campgrounds to full-on RV Resorts complete with resort-style pools, pickleball courts, and golf courses. For non-RVers, there’s everything from inexpensive hotels, to vacation rentals, to mega-resorts, and everything in between.
If you plan on visiting the Phoenix area and are looking for an RV spot for less than a 2-week stay, I would highly recommend Lost Dutchman State Park. It’s one of our favorite campgrounds. We love the views, hiking trails, and location. Lost Dutchman State Park offers a feeling of being in the backcountry, and yet, shopping and restaurants in nearby Apache Junction are less than a 15-minute drive away … the best of both worlds.
Coming in second to Lost Dutchman State Park would be one of the campgrounds in the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation system. Our personal preference is either Cave Creek Regional Park or Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Our friends prefer McDowell Mountain or Usery Mountain. McDowell Mountain Regional Park is well known for its biking trails while Lake Pleasant is known for its water recreation. There’s definitely a little something for everyone around here.
And of course, there are plenty of private RV parks throughout the valley. So many, that I couldn’t possibly list them all. Most are 55+ communities but there are a few that aren’t age-restricted.
Valley Talk … The term “Phoenix valley” refers to the actual city of Phoenix as well as her dozen-plus surrounding suburbs. It makes communication easier. You might hear folks comment, “That’s in the east valley (meaning Scottsdale, Mesa, etc.) or that’s in the west valley (meaning Glendale, Goodyear, etc.). Then there’s the north valley near the town of Anthem where I am currently parked. Most people in the U.S. know where Phoenix, Arizona is located, but not everyone has heard of Mesa, Glendale, or Anthem. Therefore, by using the term ‘Phoenix valley’, people have an easy grasp of where in Arizona one is talking about.
Things we like to do in the Phoenix valley …
There’s a never-ending schedule of art shows, craft shows, sporting events, or other events to attend throughout the year in the Phoenix valley. I always discover some unique event worth checking out. Although hiking and photography top my list of favorite activities, there are so many other great recreational and educational opportunities to explore. Yes, RVing in a major city definitely has its pluses.
The Farmers Market in Old Town Scottsdale is a great way to start a Saturday morning. I’ll admit, it usually feels a little strange attending a Farmers Market in the middle of winter, but keep in mind, you won’t find a Farmers Market around here during the summer months when temps sore into the 100 degree plus Fahrenheit range. It takes most northerners a little time to wrap their heads around a Farmers Market in the middle of winter, me included.
Corporate conventions and various educational seminars are held throughout the year in Phoenix or Scottsdale. I always keep an eye out for these special events for us to attend. One of our favorites is attending educational TD Ameritrade seminars. We’ve even had the pleasure of meeting Joe ‘JJ’ Kinahan. If you’re a trader or CNBC watcher, then shaking hands with a “celebrity” like JJ might be a real treat like it was for me. We’ve also had the opportunity to meet some of the various traders/instructors from the Think or Swim trading platform. They are always a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.
Let’s get social
Because Phoenix is such a popular travel destination for RVers and non-RVers alike, we never know who we might bump into. It’s always a pleasure connecting with my social media friends in person. Every winter, we enjoy numerous get-togethers with blog readers, blog writers, or folks from other social media platforms. Over the years, we’ve developed some amazing friendships via social media. Phoenix is the perfect city to physically connect with like-minded people.
Nature around Phoenix
Although I enjoy most aspects of big city living, I have a need to be close to nature and wildlife. Fortunately, with plenty of parks and open space located throughout Maricopa County, I’m still able to get my nature fix while living in a big city.
There’s some amazing scenery in this part of Arizona. Just outside of the city, in the east valley is one of my favorite scenic drives. Driving the Apache Trail makes for a perfect day trip, but before embarking on this drive, do your homework. The stretch of road between the town of Tortilla Flat and Lake Roosevelt is a gravel road and can be pretty rough in spots. A high clearance vehicle is usually recommended. Always check with the local ranger station for up to date conditions regarding Route 88/Apache Trail.
Have you ever visited Phoenix, Arizona? What’s your favorite city to visit?
And please stay healthy and safe out there!
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Photography has surged in popularity in the past decade with the emergence of social media and smartphones. Even though we’re all taking more photographs, many of us assume we’re limited in our talents due to our equipment. I’m here to say it’s not about the equipment, and you can create great, even amazing, photographs with any camera.
I’ve had an interest in photography as long as I can remember, but my true passion didn’t emerge until we hit the road full-time in our RV several years ago.
After wearing out a couple of point and shoot cameras, I upgraded to a Bridge camera. I still suffer from camera envy and may one day switch to a Mirrorless Camera, but for now, my Lumix(s) fits my needs … certainly not professional-grade cameras by any means.
We’ve slowed down our travels somewhat and now spend our winters settled in an RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona. I enjoy this RV community and the friendships that have developed.
Although I don’t engage in many activities at the RV Park, I do co-host a photography group … a group of like-minded RVers who share a passion for photography. Not only have I learned a few things, but I’ve also been able to teach and share a few tidbits of my own photography knowledge.
I still consider myself a novice photographer, or rather more of a photo snapper and try to improve my skills with every click of the camera.
Being involved in the RV Park Photo Group has served as a great learning experience for everyone involved. Our group consists of every level of shooter along with every level of camera. Yes, we are indeed a diverse group of photo enthusiasts.
Here are a few tips that our RV Park Photo Group discussed on how to create more professional-looking images with any camera.
15 Beginner Tips – How to take better looking photographs
1. Learn your camera inside and out. This might mean diving into that owner’s manual and actually reading it. If you don’t have a manual, no worries, a Google search will come to the rescue. And don’t forget YouTube tutorials. It really is necessary to know how all the settings work and what they mean. Even if you won’t use all the features, it’s important that you’re comfortable navigating the camera’s menu and settings with ease, especially in the field.
Always half-press the camera’s shutter button before taking the shot. On an iPhone, simply tap the screen for your desired focal-point (a little yellow box appears around the item when you do). Once you know where your camera is focused, you can decide if this is where you want the focal point to be in the image, and if not, start over.
One of the best things I did when I first bought my iPhone 8+ last year was to attend some free seminars at the local Apple store. Needless to say, there were a few ah-ha moments by many of the attendees … me included.
2. Shoot regularly. The best way to improve your photography and get comfortable with your camera is to shoot often. Considering digital photography is free, there’s no reason not to spend hours behind your camera clicking away. Learn to love the delete button but always delete in your computer (unless you’ve taken a complete dud, like your lap or something 😆). You’ll be surprised by how an image might appear on your LED screen versus your computer screen. Sometimes it looks better in the camera and sometimes an image looks better on the computer. So give the photo a chance and review it on your computer screen before deleting it.
Experiment with different subjects, different camera settings, and different light. Over time you’ll develop a style and voice that will be authentic to you.
3. Stabilize your camera to achieve sharp photos. Obviously, the best way to stabilize a camera is by using a tripod, but that’s not always convenient, especially if you’re lazy like me and leave the tripod at home. So, the next best thing to do is to use a wall, fence post, or another stable surface to minimize camera shake. Learn to hold your camera correctly and pay attention to your breathing when pressing the shutter. And be sure to have stabilization turned on when handholding and turned off when using a tripod.
4. Use the Camera’s “scene” modes. Cameras and phones are smarter than ever before. Therefore, take advantage of the camera’s preset scene modes. The various modes optimize your camera’s settings and do the thinking for us. Depending on your camera various modes may include; landscape, food, action, portrait, night, and more. I love using these settings, but I always shoot the same image in P (program) mode or A (aperture priority). Remember, taking digital images is free. So shoot away and shoot the same subject using different settings.
On my iPhone 8+, I use the portrait mode to capture food or flowers and create great Bokeh (blurred background).
5. See the light. Before clicking that shutter, observe and assess the light. The first step to creating better photographs is understanding light. Think about how the light interacts with the scene and subject. Is the light highlighting an area or casting unique shadows? Light plays a vital role in the mood and interest of a photograph and is the most important element in creating a great photograph.
Composition guidelines for newbies
6. Rule of Thirds. This is one of the most common tips when it comes to improving your photographs. It’s an easy technique and will aid in making an image more interesting. Think about cutting the frame into thirds by using both horizontal and vertical lines. Then place your point of interest over the cross-sections of the grid.
I have the gridlines always turned “on” on both my camera and my iPhone. By doing so, it aids in composing my image and keeping my camera level. Actually, when I attended a seminar at the Apple Store, the first thing they recommended was to turn on the gridlines on the phone.
7. Leading Lines. This is probably my favorite form of composition. I’m always looking for leading lines to photograph. This type of composition draws the eye into the image.
8. Interesting foreground. Adding an interesting foreground object will give depth to a photograph, especially in landscape photography.
9. Patterns are a repetition of objects, shapes, or colors. Patterns are everywhere if we once train our eyes to notice them.
10. Negative space. When shooting people, animals, or birds, always leave a little extra room in the image toward the direction the subject is looking. This creates interest and mystery. The viewer may wonder what the subject is looking at.
11. Rule of odds. While composing an image, try to include an odd number of elements in the frame. This is a common practice in interior design. With an odd number of subjects, the image becomes more balanced.
12. Include a frame. A natural frame around the main subject will add depth to the image by drawing the viewer’s attention into the photo. Think about a window or tree framing a subject.
13. Move your feet. Learn to shoot from different angles and varying heights. Moving your body closer to or further away from your subject can often create a more dramatic shot. Walk around looking for a unique perspective. Don’t rely on a zoom lens … move your feet and body and explore the subject’s surroundings.
Final thoughts for beginner photographers
14. Get good at processing. Every image needs some amount of processing, some images more than others. Embrace the process, learn the software, be creative and comfortable with whatever program you use. I’m a huge fan of Photoshop Lightroom while others prefer Photoshop Elements (similar to Photoshop, but geared toward beginners). These days, there are a number of photographic editing platforms to choose from. Some are free and some subscription-based. Find something that works for you and get good at it.
15. Slow down and don’t rush the process. Take the time to think about what is going on in your viewfinder before pressing the shutter. Think about the composition and what you’re trying to capture. Understand the creative process and make intentional decisions. Learn to tell a story with your photos. See the light, the lines, the moments, the little things, BUT be willing to put the camera down awhile and truly experience your surroundings and then photograph whatever makes you happy.
(This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support ❤)
Our shopping excursions and explorations to Duluth, Minnesota served as the impetus for us to take a vacation from our vacation. Although our campsite this summer on private property along a pristine lake in northern Wisconsin is beyond nice, Lake Superiors Northshore was calling. Al and I had not returned to this part of the country since the early 1990s and the pull to return was strong.
After a little research, I made a reservation at the Burlington Bay Campground in the town of Two Harbors, Minnesota. The easy thirty-minute drive northeast of Duluth made this the perfect location for our Northshore explorations. Since our reservation was made on rather short notice, I was only able to book three nights. We’ll take it! Oh, how we would’ve loved staying longer. Next time!
Once settled into our campsite, it was time to explore. Two Harbors, Minnesota is nestled along the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior. It’s a small quaint lakeside town rich in history and conveniently located to a bunch of scenic sites. It’s also home to a couple of historic sites that are found right in town.
Historic sites in Two Harbors
First lit in 1892, the historic Two Harbors Light Station is the oldest operating lighthouse in Minnesota. She consists of a two-story, square, redbrick dwelling, and a twelve-foot-square light tower attached between the gables. She no longer has her original lens (unfortunately), but still boasts an interesting twenty-four-inch aerobeacon. These days the lighthouse is in private hands, but she’s beautifully maintained & definitely worth a visit.
(To enlarge photos in a gallery, simply click on any image)
For train enthusiasts, the Depot Museum is just down the road from the lighthouse and is housed in a historic brick building built in 1907. Today the building serves as a museum but was formerly headquarters for the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad which played a prominent role in the development of the iron ore industry throughout the region.
Towering strange man-made structures
Although my goal was to visit the lighthouse, once I had the truck parked, my attention was drawn across Agate Bay to some strange looking structures. The structures are docks that are made out of steel. They’re 1,300 feet long and seven stories tall.
The immense size of the docks allows ships to pull alongside some 112 chutes where the iron ore is then deposited into the hulls of the boats. These days, about 12 million tons of taconite are shipped out yearly headed south to the lower Great Lakes where it is then unloaded, heated up in blast furnaces, and eventually converted into steel.
The first dock was built in 1883 and by 1938 there were six fully operating docks. The docks were a major source of iron ore during World War II. By the mid-1950’s the docks were shipping out about 50 million tons annually, but this all came to an end in the 1960’s when iron ore was mined out. Area miners then began mining taconite as their primary source of metal. The development of taconite lead to the reopening of three docks in Two Harbors, and two of them are still in operation today.
Visitors can view the docks anywhere along the shores of Agate Bay and get an up-close look at some of the massive ships that enter/exit the harbor. And I thought our combination of truck and RV was long. How’d ya like to park this big guy? These ships are seriously huge!
The real reason for our visit to Two Harbors, Minnesota was to allow Al and me the opportunity to travel a route that we used to drive every summer during our first few years of dating and marriage. Al and I worked in the airline industry at the time and could’ve flown anywhere in the world for free or for mere pennies, but for our yearly vacations, we wanted nothing to do with flying, hotels, or dining out. After all, that’s what our careers were all about.
So, as an escape from our work lifestyle, we packed up our camping gear, strapped a canoe down on the roof of our vehicle, and drove north … more than 650 miles north of Chicago. The first couple of years, we ventured into western Ontario, Canada, but then we discovered the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota’s Arrowhead. And from then on, the Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota became our summer vacation spot. Most times we camped while other times we splurged and rented a cabin.
So, our first full day camped in Two Harbors, we quickly set off retracing our driving route from years past. We found it amazing and rather exciting that very little had changed over the past umpteen years. There was a part of us that felt like we were just here yesterday and another part that felt like it was a lifetime ago … just another chapter in a life well-lived.
If we didn’t do anything else on our little excursion but visit two key stops, I’d be happy. My must-sees were the Split Rock Lighthouse and the town of Grand Marais.
As you drive along Highway 61, glancing to the south is Lake Superior; the largest of the five Great Lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world. It’s also one of the chilliest lakes. A rocky cliff shoreline serves as a reminder that these waters can be dangerous, which is why there are so many lighthouses on Lake Superior.
Replica – Split Rock Lighthouse in Lake Havasu, AZ
The Split Rock Lighthouse is situated on Lake Superior’s Northshore and is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the nation. I’ve always been intrigued by this lighthouse and images of it remind me of my mother. She loved lighthouse and Split Rock was one of her favorites. I was extremely excited when I discovered Lake Havasu built a beautiful replica. Now granted, it’s a fraction of the size of the real lighthouse, but wonderful nonetheless.
The Split Rock Lighthouse and State Park features a visitor center with a museum store, a lakeshore picnic area, a tent-only campground, a trail center, and hiking trails. Photographing this lighthouse has been a long-time dream of mine, but unfortunately, weather and timing conditions weren’t the best for anything better than a few snapshots. I was fine with that. The views were stunning!
Waterfalls and more waterfalls
While Lake Superior lies on the south side of the highway, dense forest and hills lie on the north side. Considering the north shore can receive well over 90 inches of snow during an average winter, all that snowmelt has to go somewhere creating some spectacular waterfalls. The waterfalls alone make visiting Minnesota’s north shore worthwhile.
The forecast for our day excursion consisted of cloudy skies with a 40% chance of rain which should’ve been perfect for photographing waterfalls … or so I hoped. Well, they couldn’t have been more wrong! The day turned into a beautiful day with totally clear blue skies and warmer than expected … not the conditions I was looking for to photograph waterfalls (much to Al’s delight). So, we changed our focus for the day and only stopped at the Falls at Cross River (around mile marker 78). These falls can be seen from the highway, thus requiring very little walking.
The day turned rather warm, humid, and buggy which did not put us in the mood for any hiking. Therefore, Gooseberry Falls State Park and Tettegouche State Park will remain on my must-see list for a future visit. Gosh, that list seems to be getting longer, not shorter! How does that happen?😏
If you love waterfalls and hiking, then the drive from Duluth, Minnesota to Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada is definitely an adventure to consider. The towns of Portage and Thunder Bay have some rather impressive waterfalls that should not be missed. This is already on my list for our potential itinerary for next summer. An unexpected kitchen remodel kind of curtailed our travels this summer (a forthcoming post is in the works).
It appears, most of the state park campgrounds along Hwy 61, do not offer hookups and are not big RV friendly. This is a tenters paradise and also perfect for cyclists biking the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. But for RV hookups along Lake Superior, we’ll just need to venture a little further down the road …
Grand Marais, Minnesota
The artsy little town of Grand Marais (pronounced – Grand Ma-ray) boasts a population of fewer than 1,500 people. It serves as the gateway to the Gunflint Trail leading visitors into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. When Al and I would vacation on Gunflint Lake, we would have to return to Grand Marais once or twice during our vacation to shop and replenish provisions.
Since our resort was an hours drive north of Grand Marais, we always made a day of it by strolling shops and going out to lunch. On this day, we happened to bring a picnic lunch and enjoyed eating it on a bench overlooking the harbor. After lunch, I took the interesting stroll out to the lighthouse and then we hit a few shops.
The walk out to the lighthouse was interesting.
Walking out to the lighthouse wasn’t a problem when there wasn’t much traffic.
Wow! When was the last time you saw this sign? This store has a little big of everything including a great selection of Merrell’s and other quality shoes.
Typical tourist stuff plus more.
Enjoying lunch overlooking the harbor. It was a beautiful day.
The town is small and after walking around for maybe an hour, we’d seen just about everything and it was time to retrace our steps back to Two Harbors but not before checking out the local RV Park. The town of Grand Marais manages an RV park that is big rig friendly with hookups and sits along the shores of Lake Superior. It’s nothing special and the sites are rather close together, but you can’t beat the location or views.
Burlington Bay Campground
We found this campground in Two Harbors to be the perfect place for us to use as a base for our Northshore explorations. We could even walk into town from the campground if we wanted to. There’s easy access to the kayaking beach and wooded trail along the lakeshore. It’s also an easy bike ride to the lighthouse, Ore Docks, and town restaurants.
There are four sections in the campground. We chose a site in the David Dill Addition which is the newest section and the only area in the campground that isn’t wooded – it’s in a meadow without trees. Yeah, we don’t like trees, or rather our RV isn’t a fan of tree branches. We loved our unobstructed view of Lake Superior and would definitely stay here again, but there was a downside regarding our sewer connection.
We’re in site #2 and town is visible from our site. And yes, we encountered a couple of severe storms during our stay curtailing my photo outings.
David Dill Addition – tiered sites with views of Lake Superior
Burlington Bay Campground, Two Harbors, MN. Site #2B
The sites are tiered in the David Dill Addition offering nice lake views from all the sites and even two sewer connections allowing RVers to optimize those views. There’s one connection at the rear of the site for those needing to back in like trailers and 5th wheels and another connection closer to the front of the site for motorhomes that choose to pull straight in to enjoy the view out of the front windshield.
Those of us in the first row (sites 1B-12B) had trouble connecting to the rear sewer due to the height of the pipe. Al and I were in site 2 and fortunately, the folks in site 3 were also in a 5th wheel backed in allowing us to hook up to the intended motorhome sewer for site 3. Trust me, I was originally not a happy camper when the rear sewer pipe was sticking out of the ground so far that it was impossible for gravity to work with the sewer hose. The gal in the office said it was out of their control (appears they get a lot of complaints). The county health department determined the height. What’s interesting is the other tiers had properly cut sewer pipes. 🤔
Even with the sewer issue and unlevel sites, we would return and definitely relished not having to worry about roof damage from trees … been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt! But if you like trees, consider staying in one of the other loops.
Worth mentioning; we enjoyed picking up some sweets at Louise’s Place. Located in downtown Two Harbors not far from the Depot Museum and Paul Van Hoven Park. Louise’s is much like a local coffee shop offering breakfast and lunch along with homemade breads and sweets. We had to control ourselves from revisiting the next day.
If you love nature and beautiful landscapes, then you’ll enjoy visiting Lake Superior’s Northshore. With eight State Parks, a variety of National and State Forests, community parks, wayside rests, public beaches, and four-season trails, you’re bound to find something to make any visit worthwhile. We loved returning to an area that will always hold a special place in our hearts!
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like Telluride, Colorado. If I had to recommend one Colorado mountain town to visit, it would definitely be Telluride. There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy. Besides, how could anyone resist a place where there’s usually a herd of elk in a meadow on the edge of town welcoming visitors to the area?
We’ve had the pleasure of visiting this charming mountain town a few times over the past several years, and we were never disappointed. First off, Telluride is beautiful. It sits in a canyon surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs with the impressive Bridal Veil Falls seen at the far end of the canyon.
Telluride was founded in 1878 as a mining settlement. By the 1970s, the extensive mining in the area was replaced by ski tourism, and by the mid-1990s, Colorado’s best-kept secret was discovered by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and Oliver Stone.
Although Telluride is well-known for outstanding ski slopes, the summer months have become even more popular with tourists as the town hosts a variety of festivals all summer long, including film festivals and endurance events.
Continuing with our Top 5 Favorite Colorado Mountain Towns
In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they are just too much fun not to.
Telluride’s festival season kicks off at the end of May and is host to a variety of festivals held each weekend. The diversity of festivals range from Music to Brews to Wine, Yoga, Film, Sports, and more.
There’s also no shortage of summer activities available for individuals and families alike. One of my favorite things to do is hike to Bridal Veil Falls. There’s a hiking trail that takes hikers from town all the way out toward the falls. The trail allows me to admire the beautiful architecture along the way, which is a unique blend of old and new.
The colorful Victorian-era homes that I pass always captivate my attention. These Victorian-era homes help preserve Telluride’s historically significant architecture. The town of Telluride is just eight blocks wide and twelve blocks long and is designated a National Historic Landmark District due to its role in the history of the American West.
A row of colorful Victorian-era homes.
Newer homes in Telluride.
A view of Telluride from the gondola.
Elk greet us as we approach Telluride
me hiking toward the top of Bridal Veil Falls
At the base of Bridal Veil Falls
Tidbit: The famous bank robber, Butch Cassidy, committed his first recorded major crime in Telluride by robbing the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889 and exiting the bank with over $24,000.
One of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat is at the Smuggler’s Brew Pub. Al particularly enjoys their brew called Debauchery. I think the name speaks for itself and considering its high alcohol content combined with Telluride’s high elevation, one drink is usually enough … that is, if your goal is to be able to still walk straight. Picking up a bite to eat at the Friday morning farmers market is also a fun option, and of course, we never head home without picking up a few fresh items. And I never miss the opportunity to take the gondola ride up and over to Mountain Village … a bonus not to be missed.
The Town of Mountain Village is a European-style village that was founded in 1987 and sits at an elevation of 9,500 feet.
The architecture and feel between the two towns of Telluride and Mountain Village are vastly different. Where Telluride offers that old town historical western feel, Mountain Village offers a feel of polish and elegance that reeks of money – in a good way. I absolutely love the architecture around here.
The two towns are connected by a 13-minute gondola ride that is the only free public transportation system of its kind in the U.S. This popular scenic attraction provides access to hiking and biking trails during the summer and the ski slopes during the winter.
But Telluride isn’t the only mountain town worth visiting in this part of Colorado. Nestled in the San Juan Mountains are three more quaint and scenic towns, each with its own vibe and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them as a must-visit.
Other must-visit mountain towns near Telluride; Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway
No visit to this part of Colorado and the San Juan Mountain range would be complete without visiting the beautiful little mountain towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway. As the crow flies, Ouray and Telluride are less than twenty miles apart, but taking the shortcut would require a four-wheel drive vehicle and a few hours to spare. The regular car route between Telluride and Ouray is around 50 miles and will take about an hour.
Not only is Ouray known as the Switzerland of America, but it’s also considered the Jeeping Capitol of the World with over 500 miles of accessible high country 4WD trails.
Tidbits: Ouray is pronounced ‘your-ray’ … hurrah for Ouray! I don’t recommend using a GPS in this part of Colorado. First, these three mountain towns are located along Highway 550 and as long as you stay on the paved road, you won’t need a map let alone a GPS to find your way around. Second, with miles and miles of former mining roads, some GPS view these roads as accessible, leading many a visitor astray. Don’t be fooled and turn off that GPS!
So, with all these former mining roads to explore, renting a 4×4 vehicle in Ouray won’t be a problem, but you’ll need to wait until the month of July before these roads are somewhat clear of snow. I highly recommend stopping in at the visitor center in Ouray and picking up a map of the backcountry roads and checking up to date road conditions.
During previous visits, Al and I have taken the Toyota Tacoma on a couple of the “easy” 4×4 roads. The map info is very helpful in rating these roads and we wanted to start easy and work our way up. We’ve taken Last Dollar Road to Telluride and Owl Creek Pass to Silver Jack Reservoir. Both drives were enjoyable and neither road took us above tree line. During our explorations, with the exception of a couple of rutted areas, a Subaru or CRV could handle these two 4×4 roads. BUT please check recent road conditions before attempting. Weather can and will affect road conditions drastically.
If hiking is more to your liking, Ouray has no shortage of trails to choose from. The most popular is the Perimeter Trail. It’s a five-mile well-marked trail that circles the town of Ouray. Al and I have hiked portions of this trail and look forward to returning to hike the total perimeter. May and June you’ll need to keep snowmelt in mind as all creeks and streams run dangerously fast and furious and trails can be muddy. July into August is stunning as the meadows are dotted with wildflowers. Then there’s September when gold can be seen … yellow Aspen leaves.
One section of the Perimeter Trail that we loved is the hike to Box Canyon Falls. Box Canyon Falls is known as Ouray’s own wonder of the world. The waterfall is created from the combination of Canyon Creek narrowing into a rock canyon and then plummeting 285 feet, spilling thousands of gallons of water per minute. The word ‘dramatic’ sums it up nicely. As you hike further into the canyon, the roar of rushing water becomes more deafening and the dirt trail quickly turns into a slatted iron bridge complete with rails. The temperature drops, the humidity rises, and the sun is hidden. Al and I both agree this is a unique find and experience not to be missed.
Silverton, Colorado – Is it worth the drive?
Hold on, as the only road to get to Silverton, Colorado from Ouray is not for the faint of heart. This stretch of Highway 550 is known as the Million Dollar Highway. The road twists, turns, bends, goes up, goes down, and meanders through the San Juan Mountain Range. It’ll help if you have some mountain driving experience and aren’t afraid of heights. There’s a notable lack of guardrails and you’ll want to plan on taking around 45 minutes to drive the twenty-five-mile distance between Ouray and Silverton.
If driving mountain roads isn’t your thing and you happen to be near the town of Durango, consider taking the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The rail route is even more scenic than the highway and the train pulls right into the town of Silverton.
Once in Silverton, you’ll find the town has a natural beauty that’s steeped in Victorian charm and mining history. Gold was discovered here in the 1860s. The town was platted in 1874 and by the late 1800s, the main business section was built.
On the “other side of town”, is notorious Blair Street. At one point, Blair Street was home to 40 saloons and brothels. Many of the original buildings are still standing today and have been turned into quaint gift shops and restaurants.
Tidbit: During the mining boom, Silverton boasted a population surpassing 2,000. Today the year-round population is less than 700. Although tourism has replaced mining as the current economic engine, conjecture is someday mining will return.
Silverton is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the NationalHistoric Landmark District.
With mining heavily ingrained in the area’s history, the backcountry is dotted with remnants of abandoned mines and ghost towns. If you have a high clearance vehicle (or rent one), the old mining roads are great fun to explore.
If you’re a John Wayne fan like my husband, then a stop in the little town of Ridgway is a must. During one of our day excursions from Ridgway State Park to Telluride, we took the Last Dollar Road. This gravel/dirt road takes travelers past the Ross Ranch, one of several film locations that took place in Ouray County from the movie True Grit. The road is accessed about 10 miles outside of Ridgway. Last Dollar Road is rated as an easy 4WD road. At the top of Dallas Divide, the road offers majestic views of the backcountry without traversing any extreme switchbacks or sheer drop-offs that are commonly found driving some of the more difficult backcountry roads.
Camping and lodging
Camping: Whenever we’ve visited Telluride, we love camping at Ridgway State Park, which is about a one-hour drive away. The park offers sites accommodating tents and large RVs alike. Ridgway State Park is one of our favorite campgrounds in Colorado.
For those interested in full hook-ups, the Centennial RV Park near Montrose is a consideration. When we weren’t able to find an available site at Ridgway State Park, we’ve stayed at the Montrose Elk’s Lodge (members only). There are also private campgrounds with full hook-ups in the town of Ouray, but they like to pack’em in tight … a little too close for our taste.
Much closer to Telluride is a delightful National Forest Campground; Sunshine Campground. We would love to stay here due to its stunning views and near proximity to Telluride, but unfortunately, we might only fit into a couple of sites and the turning radius to navigate into and around this campground is tighter than what we think we could navigate. The campground is super close to Mountain Village where one can park and catch the free gondola taking you up and over the mountain into Telluride.
Further down the road is the Matterhorn Campground, also a National Forest Campground and this place has several sites that can accommodate just about anyone … that is IF you can snag an open site.
For those traveling with tents, vans, or small RV’s, the perfect place to camp and really immerse yourself into the Telluride lifestyle is the Telluride Town Park Campground. Nestled in a grove of pine trees along a creek, it’s within walking distance to festival venues, restaurants, and shops. Obviously, where there are trees, there are low branches and tight turning radius’. Thus, we feel it’s not an option for us. Once again, small RV’s have the advantage. Note; during festivals, this campground is jam-packed making it difficult for even a Honda Civic to navigate.
And when it comes to other types of lodging, Telluride has it all. Click here for more info and enjoy your own Rocky Mountain getaway. I promise you won’t be disappointed 🙂
Western Colorado is definitely one of my favorite places to visit. You’ll take in some jaw-dropping beauty as you pass mountains, lakes, and streams. And when the wildflowers are blooming in July and August or the Aspen tree leaves turn golden in September … oh … my … gosh!!! Let’s just say, it’s a sight to behold and photographs rarely capture the enormity of such a spectacular and stunning sight.
Between the majestic San Juan Mountains and the small-town mountain lifestyle, it’s no wonder this area of Colorado is a favorite with many.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of connecting with a blogging pal. He had recently purchased a new Panasonic camera at my recommendation and was interested in a little help navigating the camera’s settings. Since I’ve been shooting regularly with a variety of Panasonic cameras for the past six years, I was more than happy to assist.
Actually, I loved the opportunity, and we had a fantastic outing where I think we both learned a few things. It’s always fun shooting with another photographer considering we all see things differently. We might be photographing the same subject, yet our images won’t look anything alike.
As my new friend and I were discussing this fact, I made the comment, “As photographers, we all see things differently, and therefore, create our own unique image”. My friend was very quick to respond to my comment by saying, “Oh, I’m not a photographer”. I immediately knew why he said that and could totally relate.
For years, I have felt uncomfortable referring to myself as a photographer. I consider myself more of a snapshot taker, picture taker, a novice, newbie, amateur, beginner … photographer wannabe.
What is a photographer?
So, after pondering those thoughts, I did a little Googling and this is what I came up with …
Photographers create memories and make special moments unforgettable. (check, that’s me)
Photographers produce and preserve images that paint a picture, tell a story, or record an event. (again, check)
Okay, well then maybe I am a photographer according to these two sentences. But then I dove a little deeper.
A photographer is a person who takes photographs, especially as a job.
A photographer is a professional that focuses on the art of taking photographs.
Photographers are artists with a camera.
Photographers can work as fine artists, wedding/event photography, or sell their photographs to commercial clients.
Hmm, we’ve got some keywords there that definitely don’t apply to me. Therefore, I am not a photographer but merely a snapshot taker … or am I? I’m so confused!
Professional vs. Amateur
Have you ever entered a photography contest or read the rules to one of those contests? They seem to always use the terms Professional Photographer and Amateur Photographer making a decided distinction that there’s more than one kind of photographer.
Perfect example; The Washington Post sponsored a photo contest a while back. As I read the rules, this sentence really resonated with me.
Only amateur photographers are eligible. Professional photographers (i.e., anyone who earns more than 50 percent of his or her annual income from photography) are not eligible.
The distinction has nothing to do with the quality of a photographer’s work, but rather with his/her income, and both amateurs and professionals are considered photographers.
After my research, I think I finally feel comfortable calling myself a photographer … an amateur photographer that is because I am most definitely not a professional photographer.
Whether its a hobby or a profession, we all love this thing called photography. The difference is we either sell our images or give them away. Does it really matter to those admiring a beautiful photograph? So, snap away on that iPhone, point & shoot, or nifty mirrorless camera and embrace calling yourself a photographer. After all, it’s so much easier than referring to yourself as a snapshot taker and a heck of a lot more fun too! 📷
Ever return home from an epic day of adventure filled with amazing photo-ops only to download the images onto the computer and realize your photographs don’t appear sharp? Unfortunately, that has happened to me more times than I’d care to admit. You’d think by now with all the photographs that I take, I’d know better.
Making our photographs sharp, clean and crisp is something most of us want, but isn’t always easily achieved. Camera shake, subject movement, and poor focus are usually the main reasons behind poor image quality.
So, let’s talk about some ideas to help capture sharper photographs.
6 tips for beginners to take sharper photos.
1. Is it me or the camera?
The first thing we need to consider is our vision. When was the last time you had your vision checked? Oh, how embarrassing to have learned this lesson the hard way. Amazing how much sharper my images appear with new glasses.🤓 Or consider the resolution on your computer screen. Computer screens can have a huge impact on how our images are displayed. So, let’s make sure it’s the actual photograph that isn’t sharp and not our vision or computer screen. Have someone else review your images and then check the images on different devices.
2. Holding the camera steady.
Camera shake is a common reason for blurred photos. While the best way to tackle camera shake is to use a tripod, there are times and situations where using one isn’t always possible … and then there’s lazy ole me who usually leaves the tripod at home. But there are other options such as holding your camera with both hands, keeping the camera close to your body, and using a wall, tree, or another solid object for support, all of which, can help steady and minimize shake. Also, be sure your image stabilization is turned on.
3. Make sure the equipment is clean.
Make sure your lens and sensor are clean of any dirt and dust. Eliminating smudges, dust, and grime can impact your photographs.
4. Exposure Triangle
Understanding the exposure triangle is huge; ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed. The first thing we need to think about in our quest for sharp photos is the shutter speed we select. I’d like to think the camera gets it right when we shoot in auto, but that isn’t always the case. Plus, if we want to improve our photography skills, we really do need to move beyond auto. Remember, the faster the shutter speed, the less impact camera shake will have on our image and the better chance of freezing any movement. But we still need to think about aperture and ISO.
Aperture impacts the depth of field, the range that is in focus in our image. Decreasing the aperture to F11 will increase the depth of field meaning that both close and distant objects will be in focus. By doing the opposite and moving your aperture to F2.8, we’ll need to be more exact where we focus. With a large aperture, only our subject will be in focus.
ISO – When I think back to the era of film photography, ISO was directly correlated to the speed of the film loaded in our cameras. I still think of it that way. To achieve the sharpest and most crisp image, shooting with an ISO of 100 or 200 is ideal, but lighting conditions may not always be ideal. We’ll need lots of light to shoot with an ISO of 100.
ISO has a direct impact on the noise and grain of our images. If we move up to an ISO of 1000, we’ll be able to use faster shutter speeds and a smaller aperture but we’ll suffer by increasing the noise and decreasing crispness in our photos. Depending upon our camera and how we intend to use the photograph, we can usually get away with using an ISO of up to 400 or even 800 without too much noise. A good quality DSLR/Mirrorless can easily go up to an ISO of 3200 or more. My Panasonic FZ300 is good up to 400 and then noise really starts to set in and I lose the sharpness to the image. Each camera is different which leads me into the next tip.
5. Sweet Spot
Cameras and lenses have spots in their aperture or zoom ranges that are sharper than others. In many cases, this ‘sweet spot’ is one or two stops from the maximum aperture or zoom. So instead of shooting with your lens wide open (ie where the numbers are smallest) pull it back a stop or two and you might find you get a little more clarity in your shots.
The same with zoom lenses. I know with my Point & Shoot as well as my Bridge camera, I don’t shoot with the lens zoomed in or out all the way and I also know F4 is my FZ300’s sweet spot (F8 equivalent to a DSLR). It just takes some trial and error to get to really know and understand your equipment.
6. Check focus
Always check what part of the image is in focus before hitting the shutter. Consider setting the camera to one autofocus point instead of several. This is especially important when shooting wildlife or people. Also, depth of field is something we need to consider. A large aperture like F2.8 will usually have only one autofocus point in focus versus a small aperture like F11 will have several of the autofocus points in focus.
Final thoughts …
Practice, practice, practice! And remember, photography isn’t a science. It’s a creative art of expression. And in the end, what matters most about an image is how it makes YOU feel and the memories that photo evokes within you.
Looking at life through the lens of my camera has helped enlighten my awareness of the world around me. I notice little things and details in my everyday activities that I may not have noticed if it weren’t for my interest in photography.
“Through the Lens”
The “through the lens” idiom came from philosophers who viewed life in a way that a lens can distort vision. The idea is that there are many dimensions and shades of life and everyone has their own reality.
Photographers like to borrow the phrase “through the lens” … a different lens with a different focus gives us a different view. We all have our own ‘lens’ that has us see things, events, landscapes, and ideas differently.
Gosh, even eyeglasses are lenses. We’ve all heard the expression of a person seeing things “through rose-colored glasses”. Our perception is completely unique to each of us and how we see the world around us.
When you look through a camera lens, that lens can make things look different. A telephoto lens makes things appear closer than they actually are while a wide-angle lens can make things appear further away.
A lens or a filter can change or transform what we see. It can also alter reality or distort a view. It might help us focus on special sights that we otherwise might not notice.
Looking at life through the lens of my camera has taught me a few lessons ….
What photography has taught me!
Slow down. I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the journey. Life is not a race, and I need to stop and smell the roses along the way.
Details. Beauty is in the details. Whether I’m confronted with in-your-face stunning beauty like the Grand Tetons or enjoying a taco at the local farmers market, I enjoy looking at not only the big picture but also the little stuff, the details.
Patience. Photographing birds, other wildlife, and even people requires a certain amount of patience and observation. That patience has translated into other aspects of my daily life. Yep, my children will tell you that I’m a lot more patient these days than I used to be. I’m sure it has nothing to do with old age but rather photography.
Control. I’m never in total control, no matter how much I try. I may have planned the perfect day, but if the weather doesn’t agree or there’s a mechanical problem with the truck, it’s time to rearrange the plans or as our GPS says, “Recalculating”. Life happens and recalculating is just part of it!
Share. I love sharing my story, my adventures, and my photographs. Sharing has given me purpose and encourages me to search out new sights and meet new people.
Be spontaneous. Changing plans or even direction on a whim has become my new norm. I’ve captured some of my favorite images with spur of the moment decisions.
Learn. We are never too old to learn new things. I’m constantly reading articles on photography and trying out new settings on my camera. But when WordPress changes things up, I’m not interested in learning their new and improved system, but that’s another subject. 😏
It’s okay to make mistakes. I try not to allow fear of failure to hold me back.
Practice and improve. In order to improve on anything, it takes a great deal of practice. I shoot lots of photographs. Digital photography is the best. I’d be in serious trouble if I still had to buy film and have it developed.
There are no shortcuts in life. Success at anything takes hard work.
Finding myself. I love being creative. It makes me happy. Even though my creative skills may be average, it’s still a passion. I took a painting class not too long ago, and let’s just say, I need to stick with photography … canvas, a brush, and paint ain’t my thang unless I’m trying to humor folks. Yeah, that canvas painting of mine provided a few laughs before being tossed in the trash.
Memories are important. Live in the moment. Life is short.
How about you? Has photography changed the way you look at things, your life, your perception, yourself?
Ever hear a photographer say “look at the bokeh in that photograph” and wonder what the heck they were talking about? Well, what they’re referring to is the dreamy soft background in a photo.
More specifically, they’re referring to the quality of the blur or quality of the dreamy soft background. Certain lenses and cameras produce better bokeh than others.
Why use bokeh?
Good photographs are supposed to be sharp, not blurry, aren’t they? So, what’s up with bokeh? Although the background is purposely blurry, the subject is still meant to be in focus.
We want to create an effect like this to draw attention to our subject. This way, we’re literally pulling the viewer into the photograph and showing the viewer what we want them to focus on. They really don’t have a choice because the rest of the photo is literally a blur.
Fun Fact: the origin of bokeh is Japanese and it literally translates to blur!
How do you pronounce “bokeh”?
I think it’s pronounced “bow-kay”, but you can watch the attached video to see all the different pronunciations and decide for yourself. Personally, I keep saying “bow-kuh”, which I’m pretty sure is incorrect.
How do we achieve bokeh?
First off, it depends on the type of camera and lens we use to create bokeh. With a DSLR, we’ll want to use a wide Aperture like f2 or even better f1.4. The goal is to create a shallow depth of field.
With a point and shoot camera or phone, you’ll want to experiment a bit and see what works best with your equipment. With my P&S camera, I set it to the “food” setting and zoom in. The more I zoom in on my subject, the more background blur I create. Good bokeh has a soft dreamy feel to the background, and it’s something we see a lot of in food photography.
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to creating bokeh, but I do have fun trying. How about you? Do you like creating images with bokeh?
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.