Road Trips

Road Trips

Lost in the Granite Dells

The Granite Dells spill into Watson Lake reservoir.

Several folks insisted the great hiking through unusual rock formations (know as Granite Dells) just outside the city of Prescott, Arizona was not to be missed. We packed our lunch, filled our water bottles and set off over the hill to see what all the fuss was about.

We began our walk along the Peavine Trail.
A network of trails wrapped around, through and sometimes over the unusually shaped Granite Dells.

These granite boulders were formed 1.4 billion years ago, slowly exposed and shaped by erosion and weathering. Wandering through this geologic wonderland is like entering another world.

We loved the walking, but finding a shady spot for lunch wasn’t easy.
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A View From The Top

The Brins Mesa Trail led us on a 500 foot climb.
A chiseled red rock stairway appeared.
After 1.5 miles of climbing, we reached Brins Mesa and a 360 degree view. First, we looked back at where we’d come from. That’s the town of Sedona in the distance.
Then we turned around to view the landscape well beyond our trail.

We followed the Soldiers Pass trail, dropping down to connect with the Jordan trail and then Cibola Pass, leading us back to the parking lot. Above are some of the spectacular sites we saw. Although we got an early start, the trail down was crowded enough to be just a little frustrating in spots. Our advice: Set your alarm if you have to…the earlier start, the better!

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The Strawberry Schoolhouse

The Strawberry Schoolhouse teaches us about the past.

Located high above the Verde Valley in the community of Strawberry, Arizona, stands the little one-room Strawberry Schoolhouse. Built in 1885 out of pine logs, it was added to the National register of Historic Places in 2005, and remains one of the oldest standing schoolhouses in the state.

A notice on the schoolhouse door informed us that tours could be arranged by appointment.
The locked door didn’t stop us from peeking in the windows.
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Boynton Canyon Vistas

A short path off the main trail led to a vista point.

We normally prefer circular hikes that allow us to avoid retracing our steps, but there was only one way out of Boynton Canyon…at least only one safe way out. We followed the dusty red trail in until it dropped us down into the forest, beneath a cover of evergreens. Climbing began toward the end of the trail where we scrambled up a narrow channel of boulders, emerging onto a large, smooth rock outcropping, scattered with handful of other determined hikers enjoying the view.

A lunch spot with a gorgeous view greeted us at the trails end.

I try to remember to stop and look up every so often when hiking rather than carefully watching where I put my every footstep. The views were on our return trip were incredibly rewarding.

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Montezuma Castle National Monument

The Verde Valley was once home to the Sinagua people – pre-Colombian cliff dwellers.

We took the day off hiking to explore several sites just a stones throw from our RV park. First stop: Montezuma Castle National Park where the cliffs hold the history of the Sinagua people, cliff dwellers who populated the area from 1100-1425. We thoroughly enjoyed the park, but were glad we arrived early. The relatively small parking lot filled quickly.

Montezuma Well is a natural wonder.

Our next stop: A natural limestone sinkhole surrounded by lush vegetation. Montezuma Well appears as an oasis in a desert setting. An incredible 1.5 million gallons of water bubble up each day from this natural spring so it’s easy to understand why the waters have been used for irrigation since the 8th century.

These are just a portion of the 1,032 petroglyphs covering the rock wall.

Our third and last stop was the V-Bar-V Heritage Site, home to the largest collection of Sinagua petroglyphs in the Verde Valley. It was a pleasant stroll out to the site where a ranger was ready and waiting to provide a history and explanation of the ancient art.

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Red Rock Thrills

This was the high point of our hike.

The HiLine trail took us up, down and all around Cathedral Rock, connecting us with the Baldwin Trail and then to the Templeton Trail, an 8-mile Loop that took us back to where we began.

Feeling small among the rocks near Sedona.

Back on the valley floor after circling Cathedral Rock.

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Sedona Circular Hike

Bell Rock is one of the iconic must-see formations.

To secure a parking spot, an early start is mandatory for any of the Sedona area trailheads. The Big Loop Trail, Courthouse Loop Trail and part of the Llama trail led us around 8 miles of spectacular scenery.

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Tucson – Parting Shots

After three crossings in less than half a mile on our Sabino Canyon hike, Reg finally gave in and simply waded across the creek, shoes and all.


This big horn sheep proudly posed for a crowd at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, while I posed with the resident vulture. A combination zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, aquarium and art gallery it’s an attraction not to be missed.

Tubac was established in 1752 as a Spanish presidio and was one of the stops on the Camino Real (the “Royal Road”) from Mexico to the Spanish settlements in California. Thanks to our RV Park neighbors, full-timers Bill and Heidi, who mentioned the charms of the tiny town, we managed to squeeze in a visit on our last day. Now a thriving artist colony, shopkeepers are a trusting lot. On the door of one closed shop (center left) were instructions to drop cash or checks through the mail slot for any purchase of wares displayed outdoors.

The Pima Air and Space Museum entertained us for several hours with nearly 300 aircraft spread over 80 acres. Tram tours are offered, but not required, for the outdoor displays. Indoors, numerous volunteers are scattered about to answer any and all questions.

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Discover The Cape Arago Beach Loop

Just a short detour from U.S. Highway 101 in Coos Bay lies a beautiful stretch of the Oregon Coast where three state parks await your discovery.  The parks are easily reached by car, but the best way to see the sights is by foot along the cliff top path, an 8.5 mile walk out and back.

Cape Arago State Park, located at the south end of the loop, provides picnic tables, views and hiking trails down to tide pools.  A highlight is the viewpoint overlooking a noisy colony of seals and sea lions.  We were lucky enough to see the occasional spout from a whale swimming about.  Be sure to bring your binoculars!

Simpson Beach, a secluded cove with a sandy shore, is breathtakingly beautiful and a perfect spot to wiggle your toes in the sand or dip them in the surf.

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Directly above the cove is Shore Acres State Park.  Originally home to timber baron Louis Simpson and his family, the estate home is long gone.  The remaining Gardener’s Cottage is surrounded by 5 acres of formal gardens, open to the public and well worth a stroll.   Be sure to stop and smell the roses!

Because we were lucky enough to have secured a campsite, our walk ended where it began…with our return to Sunset Bay State Park.  Make your reservations here early…this is a popular spot to escape the summer heat and, of course, to watch the sunset.

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Cape Sebastian State Park

Sunshine speckled the trail to Hunters Cove as we set out from the Cape Sebastian State Park Viewpoint. Our guidebook warned of strong winds that have kept the Sitka spruce that grow on the point at shoulder height, but this morning all was calm. As we hiked around a bend, the view north opened up to reveal an impressive sea of fog hugging the coast below us. Our downhill path would, no doubt, lead into the thick of it.As the fog lifted, we were able to see the steep cliffs and the surf below. The trail continued downhill through the forest and would eventually lead to Hunters Cove and a view of a collection of rocky island outcroppings. We didn’t make it quite that far since we had left our lunch in the car, but we walked long enough that the return trip offered clear views of the coastline we had missed earlier.Once back at the car, we drove a few miles down the highway and found our own spot (with a pretty good view) for our picnic.

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