Sunday, March 31, 2024

Hiking Again in Tucson

These yellow flowers were everywhere in Arizona but I never got tired of them. We're on the road
into Picacho State Park.
Looking up at the main mountain on the right

We found an empty section in the day parking
for a great lunch spot.

We only spent one night in Casa Grande but we enjoyed a leisurely morning and didn't leave until 11, checkout time. It wasn't far to our next destination, the KOA Lazy Days in east Tucson. This and the following reservations were all made just two days ago when the cold weather decided us to move south instead of our planned trip through Taos. We were lucky to get places as this is Easter week and generally booked up. On the way we stopped at Picacho State Park for lunch. We tried to get a site there earlier but it was totally full. It's a lovely place and maybe next time.

We've gotten to know many of the cactus varieties but they are endlessly fascinating for these Vermonters! Now we're hiking in Saguaro National Park East.

We used a little telephoto to take this photo of the
mountains over Tucson going north.

This little bird has found a smooth
spot to sit.

The saguaro come in fantastic shapes!!!

Looking down from a high spot on
the Cactus Loop trail.

The KOA, like many we have stayed at, was very nice although we didn't take advantage of the two pools - too many kids and too cold. We moved south to warmer climes but Tucson was experiencing a cold snap which for them means a high in the lower 60's. Our first day we explored Saguaro National Park East. After the usual talk with the Ranger, we drove the Cactus Loop Trail and hiked the Mica View Trail and looped back on the Cactus Forest Trail.

Then we visited our cruiser friends Jack and Fred (her real name is Susan) at their winter home RV. They have another RV in Alaska where they spend summers and a house in Philadelphia area for the in-between seasons. Their boat "Denali Rose" was a Nauticat 43 like ours but a ketch not a cutter rig like Scott Free.  We met them at a Nauticat Rally in Beaufort, NC before we bought Scott Free and continued to see them for years as far as Trinidad. It was a fun evening with lots of memories of life sailing.

The Valley View trail in Saguaro NP West

The barrel cactus were in bloom and
the fruit ripening.

The start of our Valley View trail.

The trail was easy with lots of rock steps to mark the way. We met a lot of families on this trail and everywhere - again Easter week and school vacation. 

The view at the top of the trail.

Our second full day we planned to hike in Tucson Mountain Park. Scott put the Visitor's Center into our navigation but it sent us to Saguaro NP West, where we'd already been just a few weeks ago. It turns out they are all in the same area. The ranger gave us a good suggestion, "Park in the first trail head where there is a spot and hike there." It was so crowded due to Easter week. We lucked out and on the Bajada Scenic Loop we snagged a spot in the Valley View trailhead. This is a lovely trail with beautiful views and lots of wildflowers. Later we returned to Tucson over the Gates Pass, which Donna & Dick had taken us to 3 years ago. It's a dramatic and historic road over the mountains started by Thomas Gates in 1883.

The rugged landscape going up Gates Pass

Looking back at the road from a viewpoint.

We didn't stop at the top of the pass as the 
parking lot was packed but we did last time with
Donna & Dick.

We finished up that day with a late lunch at a surprising restaurant Scott found online, Moriscos de Chihuahua. From the outside it looked like a dive but inside it was covered in murals and we were the only non Latinos there. The food was excellent and so plentiful that we had it again the next day for lunch! We had little room for dinner that night! The next morning we were off again, back this time to Las Cruces.

This is just one wall in the Moriscos  de Chihuahua Restaurant. 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Sedona, AZ


Heading down through Oak Canyon
on 68A. Scott took this looking out
the window, straight up, no shoulder.

This was taken though the windshield just before
a hairpin turn, narrow road.

At the bottom of the twisty section we could take
a break and hike down to the river.

We got a pretty early start from the Grand Canyon on a beautiful sunny day. We took a trip down Memory Lane in very different circumstances. Last year we left Cottonwood in the rain and stupidly took the "scenic route" through Sedona and up Route 89A up to Flagstaff. We hadn't checked the weather in Flagstaff or in fact at checked the news. If we did, we would have learned that there was emergency flooding in Sedona and the rain turned to snow halfway up the canyon. When we entered Oak Creek Canyon we were greeted by warning signs and then a swollen frightening river alongside us. Then the side roads were all closed due to flooding and we had no choice but to keep on going (with the trailer attached we had no room to turn around).  Well, we thought, we'll be up above the river soon and yes, that was true. But we gained elevation quickly - 2,700 feet and the rain turned to snow. The road is steep with hairpin turns and again, no place to turn around. But we made it - we are experienced snow drivers living in New England. What a difference this year. It was about 60 degrees and bright sunshine and of course, we went downhill this time. 

This was taken on our hike down to the river.

We stopped for ice cream and checked out the 
Native American artists wears on display in the
 parking lot. Beautiful things!

Here's our lovely RV site at Page Springs RV

There is no place to pull over for us with the trailer so Scott took a few photos through the windows. It's pretty spectacular and in the beginning, a steep descent. Near the bottom we were able to pull over and follow a trail down to the river. We wanted to check into Page Springs RV Resort and get settled so we continued on through town. Our site at the park was really lovely, parallel to the rushing river and we were able to have our lunch outdoors for a change. 

The steep beginning of the Huckaby Trail.

It led to a beautiful view over the river and the 

Then it turned into an easy hike along the river.

My red shirt fits right into the color scheme.

Another view up the trail.

But we were anxious to get in some hiking so we drove back into the Canyon and pulled over to a parking lot just above the Midgley Bridge. We had to wait a little while for someone to pull out but it was worth it. We took the Upper Huckaby Trail north along the river. The views were really lovely and it was a generally easy trail. On the way back we stopped for dinner at Gerardo's Pizzeria. It lived up to the great reviews which had sent us there. The pizza was one of the best we've ever had!

The entrance to Gerardo's

Amazing pizza

Next morning we knew that the weather was deteriorating during the afternoon so we got a good start and hiked in Red Rocks State Park, which was fairly close. We took the Apache Fire Trail loop. We had actually been here before with friends on our first RV trip west back in 2021 but we enjoyed it again. 

The views from Red Rocks State Park were great and the trails easy and fun.

The cottonwoods along the river weren't green
yet but this huge one was pretty impressive.

That's Apache Fire House on the left. Jack Frye, at
the time President of TWA and his wife Helen
built this. They divorced soon after and the 
property became her's. She was a colorful and
fascinating person! Right now it's lying unused
within the park but hopefully and good use
will be found. 

But now we faced a dilemma. We had one more night at Page Springs but the weather report looked alarming. A front was coming in with heavy rain, gusty winds and possible snow. We decided to pack up and move south. A few calls later we had reservations back at our old haunt in Casa Grande, south of Phoenix. Their hot tub was beckoning to us.  And after a long 4 hours (traffic through Phoenix) we settled Baby into her favorite site there and were in the hot tub lickity split.  Heaven! And we were so glad we made that decision. It poured that night and the wind was so strong it shook the trailer. We counted ourselves lucky we weren't next to that already rushing river in Sedona!

Monday, March 25, 2024

The Grand Canyon, Finally!

As you can see, the weather was perfect for our visit - finally. We are so glad we were able to rearrange our trip and get new reservations at the campground. This was taken our first afternoon from Mather Point. 

We had a full half day at the Park after 
settling Baby in the first site at Mather campground.

We took advantage of the many benches along
the Rim trail to enjoy the view and rest.


We made reservations for 3 nights at the Grand Canyon months ago but as the time drew closer the weather report looked ominous: freezing temperatures and possible snow. Mather Campground inside the park had no electricity or WIFI and possibly no cell service. So we rearranged our schedule. We were supposed to go from our RV park south of Phoenix to Sedona, then the Grand Canyon and finally to our friends Rick & Marsha in Prescott Valley. They were fine with our going to them first and  we were able to get three nights at Mather in the Grand Canyon following our visit to them - unfortunately 3 different sites. And the weather by then looked great. Finally the nice people at Page Springs Campground near Sedona allowed us to move our reservation to 2  nights following our stay at the Grand Canyon. 

The view our first morning near the El Tovar
hotel looking east about 6:15 AM

A close up of the point east of our spot just before
the sun rose. This scene is in the upper right of the
photo to the left!

We brought thermoses with hot coffee and 
dressed warmly as you can see!

Then afterwards we sat at a window table at the
elegant El Tovar dining room for a fantastic

It all worked out wonderfully. We had three days of sunshine with highs of 68 and moving the RV each day wasn't too hard. The sites themselves were all very nice, in different loops within the Mather Campground. There is a shuttle stop right outside the campground entrance so you don't need to drive everywhere. The shuttle service is very convenient. They come around every 10 minutes and weren't crowded. I imagine later in the season there could be long lines at some of the stops.

I love looking at the trails and imagining our heading down them. But it's too late for us to experience the trails down to the bottom of the canyon. Ten years ago we trekked in the Andes of Peru at much higher altitudes so we could have done it then. But our daughter Zoe and husband George hiked down with 1 year old Nick and all their camping gear 20 years ago - pretty amazing. And then just a few years ago George did the grueling Rim to Rim hike! Down the from the north rim, up the south, down again and back up! Hard to believe!!! You can just see the Bright Angel trail going down in the upper right and then the next section below the pink cliff.

The next section is a series of switchbacks seen here in the lower left quarter. It's possible to ride a donkey down this trail and stay the night in the canyon. The ride doesn't scare me but sitting on a donkey's back for 5 hours does!

We left Marsha & Rick's early and were all settled in our first site by Noon. That afternoon was spent walking the Rim Trail from Mather Point west. It was a crystal clear day and the visibility was excellent. We did find ourselves more winded then usual, not used to the 7,000 foot altitude. We were happy to return to Baby later for a good nap and dinner. I was worried about the cold at night, not having electricity but the propane heater worked out well and we broke out our down comforter for our stay. Our actual difficulty was not having WIFI or cell service. We really missed that!

Our first full day we took the shuttle down to Hermit's Rest, stopping at the viewpoints and hiking along the Rim trail between some of them. 

Scott loves the driftwood and dried trees for the 
shapes they make.

You can see the Rim trail stretching out from one
of the viewpoints.

Our first morning we got up at 5:30 AM and were at the rim at 6 AM to watch the sunrise. Our location at El Tovar Hotel wasn't picked for the best view but so that we could get a seat in their restaurant right afterwards by the window! We did that three years ago on our first trip west in Baby and enjoyed it so much we looked forward to doing it again. Then we took the shuttle down to Hermit's Rest. At the driver's suggestion we got off at the first stop and hiked west to Hopi Point. Someone had asked me earlier what would we do for 4 days there - "Once you're seen the canyon, what else is there to do." For us, each stop looking out at the canyon was different and all beautiful. The view changes every 100 feet or so, and the light illuminates and brings out the colors. We also enjoyed the vegetation and wildlife along the canyon - we saw herds of elk, many wandering around the campground! After reboarding the shuttle, we got off at most of the stops to see the view. Hermit's Rest has a cafe (and of course, a gift shop - that's everywhere) where we splurged on mocha coffees and sandwiches. 

In the middle of the day in the bright sunshine the canyon's colors turn pastel. This was taken down near Hermit's Rest in the western most area of the National Park land.

In the early days of the Park, visitor's took a long
buggy ride down to this spot and could rest and 
have a simple meal. Then they either returned the
same way or took mules down to a hostel for the

Looking out from the cafe

We also love the Mary Colter designed buildings throughout the park. We first learned about her and her contribution to the west at La Posada Hotel in Winslow, AZ and the Painted Desert Inn at the Petrified Forest. She was the Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey Company architect and interior designer from 1902 to 1948. She was known for her innovative Southwestern concepts and use of native materials and design. Besides Hermit's Rest, she designed the El Tovar Hotel, the Hopi House, Lookout Studio and the Desert View Watchtower. 

It's 26 miles from the Village to Desert View at the eastern end of the park. There is a campground here but it is closed during the winter. The cafe however was open and many of the visitor's including us enjoyed hot drinks. It was windy so felt much colder than the actual temperature.

This view from Desert View looks down on the terrible airplane disaster location that happened back in 1956 when United Airlines and TWA planes collided mid air. All 128 on board died. There is a memorial to them at this site. 

The Mary Colter designed tower at Desert View.
There was a line to climb the tower and a charge
so we passed that up. I'm sorry now after reading
that there are some beautiful art works on the 
second floor.

Native American craftspeople had tables inside
with beautiful works on display and for sale.

Our second full day we headed east to Desert View, stopping at every view point. The shuttle only goes a short way in that direction so we drove. It's 23 miles but with all the stops took most of the day. The most interesting for me was Grandview Point which details the history of the copper mine on Horseshoe Mesa far below. This "incredibly steep" trail was completed in 1893 and the Grandview Hotel in 1997. This was the original center for tourism before the construction of the train in 1901 which resulted in the development at the Village.  I went down the trail aways until some ice appeared. Scott declined. 

The trail at Grandview near the beginning.

It got narrow and rough - also it was MUCH
steeper than it looks in the photo

I took this photo looking back up to the 
viewpoint - it's easier to see how steep it was.

The road in the park ends at Desert View where we enjoyed another mocha drink with a cookie. The campground was closed but the cafe and of course, the gift shop were open. The trip down and back with all the stops ended up taking a long time. and we got back late. Luckily I had plenty of leftover food for dinner! The next morning we were off to our next stop, the Page Springs RV Park near Sedona. More on my next post.

We saw a lot of elk around the park, These were
right near our last campsite.

The morning sun shone right on my face the
last morning and Scott took this photo and 
posted it on facebook (I didn't know). Kind of
sweet although I look my full 78 years!