Posts Tagged Flagstaff

Migration South

Sedona

It’s been a while since I posted on my blog. My last entry was about our epic hike at the Grand Canyon back in October. I started typing my next post when something went drastically wrong leaving me unable to keep typing!

After Jeff and I left the Grand Canyon we headed back to Flagstaff where we dispersed camped at one of our favorite spots by Lake Mary. The alpine forest, miles of forestry roads to get lost on and hiking on the Arizona trail are some of my favorite reasons to camp here.

We did try a new location just north of Flag after calling the Forestry Department. “There are plenty of camping spots up there”, they said. “Good access”, they said. But after an hour of narrow roads and only two camp spots that were impossible to get in to, we decided to “go with what we know” and pushed on to Lake Mary. Trouble was, we were up a creek without a paddle. Or in RV’ing terms…down a narrow road without a turnout! After carefully backing up a 1/2 mile we finally swung the 5’er into to weeds to get turned around.

Flag

Contemplating how to get this thing turned around

I’ve found the most challenging parts of dispersed camping is that you never know what you are getting you and your rig into.

One persons opinion of “plenty of clearance” is usually nowhere close to the reality of our specific rig. If someone has wedged a 30,000lb forty-foot motorhome in a spot, then I have a bit more confidence in their recommendations. But NEVER take the word of a non-RV’er unless you want to find out what serious heartburn is like.

Lake Mary works out well for a Triathlete in training. The pool at the college is an easy 10 miles away and Lake Mary Rd is a major thoroughfare for cyclists and runners. Perfect for Jeff to continue some high altitude training for the Arizona Ironman.

Arizona Trail

The Arizona trail just steps from our campsite

While Jeff trained, I hiked a portion of the Arizona trail just steps from our camping spot.

The Arizona Trail is a National Scenic Trail that runs from the border of Mexico to the Utah border, traversing the North/ South length of Arizona for 800 miles. It was officially opened December 16, 2011.

The section I hiked was near the Lowell Observatory and Marshall Lake. It was not particularly scenic with primarily flat hiking through cattle fields.

Sam dog is a great little hiker as he follows the trail very well. If I come to a part where I’m not sure where the trail is I just follow him…he knows every time. But he did step off the trail briefly and ended up with a big cholla ball stuck to his front leg. When that happens he tries to keep going because he HATES when I pull those dang things out. He hollers like you wouldn’t believe and comically when I pulled this one out to his great displeasure it flung out and stuck his back leg, doubling the experience. Once we start moving again all is forgiven and Sam stayed on the trail.

We decided to pull out of Flagstaff a day early since wet weather was coming in and we were on soft ground with low batteries. So we pulled up the jacks and headed to Sedona.

There is free dispersed camping available west of town on Forestry Road 525. We camped here last year and learned if you travel about 5 miles back on the washboard roads you are treated with some spectacular views and close hiking trails. We had some great days of sun and got the batteries charged back up to 100%.

Sedona 2015

Scene out our front door

Sedona 2015

Sam tearing it up and turning a nice shade of Sedona red

Sedona is incredibly beautiful and is one of my top 5 places to see thus far in our travels.

Hiking is spectacular in Sedona, but it is also very popular. If you are looking for a get away from it all experience you will have to travel a little further out of town. But what I love the most about hiking here is the sandy red soil contrasted with the green scrub bushes, Junipers, Arizona pines and Pinon Pines. Mix that in with the scent of toasted pine needles on the trail, red rock views at every turn and warm sun and you have yourself hiking nirvana!

After paying a $5 day use fee Sam and I set off on Soldier Pass Trail. This trail is a great loop with incredible views of the red rock formations, slabs and the city. We hiked the trail counterclockwise; since I have hiked this trail clockwise a couple of times before.

Sedona 2015

Trail dog Sam leading the way

The initial accent takes to you to some red slabs with wide-open views. It’s a great spot for a picnic and photos before heading up natural stairs towards Brin Mesa. At the top of Soldier pass the trail flattens out and turns from red to a light sand color. I wanted to take the Brin Mesa tail for an out and back, to log some additional miles.

The Brin Mesa trail takes a steep decent back down the other side of the mountain. I always laugh at myself after descents like these because my mind automatically thinks about having to hike back up. Like the Grand Canyon  my mind blows up the imagined accent to be much more difficult than it actually is. Then I’m always surprised when I get to the top wondering if I still have “the hill” to go. Silly self!

I mistakenly thought the Brin Mesa trail would actually take me to a mesa. But once I ran into a forestry road, my turn around point, I was informed by other hikers that the actual mesa was off some other offshoot from Soldier Pass. I’ll have to catch that one the next time.

Back on Soldier pass, Sam and I started down the west side of the mountain back into red soil. It was getting hot by now and my two bottles of water were starting to get low. Thankfully we reached more slabs on this part of the trail. The slabs have some natural pools that form from bowl shaped indentations in the rocks. These pools had collected fresh water from recent rains, which Sam found refreshing for consumption and wading in, leaving the remaining water in the bottles for me.

Closer to the west side Soldier Pass Trailhead near “The Sinkhole” it gets pretty noisy from jeep tours and ATV’s that are allowed on the trail here. We jumped off Soldier Pass at this point and took the Jordon trail heading east back to our parking lot.

Sam found another pool that was pretty murky and large and waded in to cool his dogs. Problem was it was very deep. To both our surprise he disappeared underwater only to bob back up sputtering. He wasn’t too thrilled about going scuba diving but he was super frisky after that. I guess his bath really cooled him down.

Sedona 2015

Sam cooling down in a shady spot

We ended up hiking 8.5 miles over 3 hours…what a great time!

After a week in Sedona rain and snow moved in. It was stunning to wake up to a ring of white snow on the red rocks at the higher elevations. But to maintain our shorts and flip flop temps we moved on to Phoenix/Mesa…. where things turned very interesting!

Flat Iron

What the heck!

 

 

 

 

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Flagstaff Boonies and Peaks

Flag 2015

Welcome to 7,000 ft…catch your breath!

Comment: Im having a problem with my font and spacing the last couple of posts..so bare with me until I figure things out.
After an amazing time in Albuquerque, Jeff and I have made our way to a favorite boondocking site at Walnut Canyon in Flagstaff, AZ. It’s 5 miles from town, has great connectivity and so much space you can’t see your closest neighbors, except for the invited ones.
We were joined by our friends John and Becky who we met at the Xscapers rally in ABQ. We hit it off and wanted to spend more time with them and they were wanting an opportunity to boondocks. So we both ended up at Walnut Canyon.
Boondocking is spacious here, but its downfall is the difficulty of getting INTO the sites. Weather worn ditches and road grating make it challenging for even the smallest and nimble of rigs. Jeff and I had found the only site we were confident we could get into.
As a result, it was the only site our friends could get into as well. But we didn’t mind! When you travel with kindred spirits cozy campsites are easy to endure!
Flagstaff is a great town and has a bit of the “it” factor for Jeff and I. Even our dog Sam loves it here. The ease of getting around. Great swimming pools and cycling abound. And oh the hiking!
That brings me to something tough. Something I have never shared.
You see. I have had a secret thought for a while now and wasn’t sure I wanted to verbalize it. If I say it out loud then there is no way of backing out of what I’ve thrown out there. If I say it out loud, then something would have to be done about it. If I just keep the secret in my head, then my fears could prevail without anyone knowing. No expectation, no disappointment!
I’ve spent a lot of years operating in such a way, so that my self-inflicted perfectionism wouldn’t be let down.
But that all changed when we got to Flagstaff and Jeff asked a “simple” question. “What do you want to do in 2016 that gets you out over the tips of your skis? Something that challenges you and possibly scares you?”.
And then it came out.
“I would like to hike the highest peaks in each state”.
There. I said it and there is no going back!
ABQ

The trail calls and I must go!

I’ve always enjoyed LOVED hiking. Being out on the trails is my THING. The PLACE that fills my heart and soul with joy. My chest feels like it will burst open as I breath in mountain air. I love the smell of the forest. The smell of dried pine needles baking in the sun. I love the sound of the wind pushing it’s way through the trees, the resistance of the leaves creating a gentle whoosh. My mind empties as I push up and up the mountain. And the views! Oh the views from the top. Nothing can compare.
I come alive on the trails.
But the Highest Peaks? That’s another story. When I hike I can choose trails that are within my known limits. I know that I can finish and enjoy the journey. But the Highest Peaks? I don’t get the choice. To make it a goal to hike them is to commit myself to challenges that exceed my self-limitations.
Flag 2015

Agassiz Peak from Humphreys Peak Trail. San Francisco Mountains.

Well, here we are. In Flagstaff. And I just found out hat the highest peak in Arizona is right at our back door. Humphreys Peak smack in the middle of Flagstaff just staring me in the face saying, “did you said something…out loud?”.
And there was nothing I could do about it but to accept the challenge. Squash my fears and climb up that 12,636′ mountain.
We couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day. Clear skies, cool air and aspens in full yellow fluttering glory.

Jeff, Sam and I left Humphreys Peak TH from the Arizona Snow Bowl following a smooth trail that took us through a field of glowing aspens. But the smooth trail was short lived as we quickly entered a hole in the tree line and the trail quickly turned rugged and rocky. It was an ankle turner almost the entire way and Jeff rolled his and launched himself over the side of the trail, only to be stopped by a small tree. That. Was. Close!

Up and up we went, scaling boulder fields, loose sandy gravel and roots. Lots and lots of roots. The higher we went, the steeper the climb, the thinner the air.
Mt Humphreys

Navigating the rough trail

We reached the first “false summit” and doubts started flooding my head. My leg muscles were on fire, my chest was heaving from lack of air and all I wanted to do was call it good and start the slide back down.
But, I had said something out loud and there was no turning back.
With the aspens far behind we pushed on to the second and third false summit. With the final peak in sight we managed to make the final push, and Jeff, Sam and I had summited our very first Highest Peak! Mt. Humphreys. You have been concured…along with my doubts!
Mt Humphreys Peak

View from Mt. Humphreys with aspens far below and controlled burn in the distance!

I am so glad I didn’t turn back. I am so glad I didn’t miss those views, the smell of pure clean air and feel the wind gusts push me around while I read the sign: Humphreys Peak. 12,636. I had made it to the very top!
WHAT A FEELING!
I wish I could say that the hike down was easy, but the rugged terrain made descending even more technical on the way down. More ankle turns and a fall reminded me that getting to the top is only half the hike.
After a total of 6 hours we were again poking through the hole in the trees and we were greeted to a fine display of a sunset turning those same morning golden aspens to a fiery orange glow.
Mt Humphreys

Sunset from Mt Humphreys TH set off by a controlled burn in the distance

I was warmed by the sun and by the feeling of accomplishment.
I don’t know how many High Points I will be able to achieve in my life, but I will take this first with me. To remind me to press on, even when I don’t think that I can. Arizona is considered one of the easier western high points. If that is the case, then I have my work cut out for me.
Maybe I should keep my big mouth shut next time!
And if my husband asks a simple question about a challenge again, I think I will say, “take a soak in a hot tub in all 50 states”. Yea. That’s what I’m going to say!
A soak in a hot tub! OR…a nap!
Sam

This is how we roll…me driving and the boys sleeping!

Up next? The Grand Canyon!

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On The Road Again

St. Louis

St. Louis Arch

We’ve spent the last two weeks traveling out west and back again.

Our trip started with driving to St. Louis to drop Sammy-do off at my Mom’s for a little paw sitting. Sam loves going to his grandma’s because the food scoop overflows, the squirrels are plentiful in a fenced in back yard and the cute factor gains a little extra loving. We hate traveling without him, but it’s comforting to know he is being super spoiled while we are gone.

While we were in St. Louis Jeff and I decided to try something new. We took a running tour of downtown. After 3 hours and 6 miles I learned things about St. Louis that I never knew. We went with St. Louis Running Tour, THE ONLY running tour in St. Louis. Our tour guide Joe showed us iconic buildings like Union Station, The Arch and Cardinal Stadium. Joe also gave the behind the scenes facts and sometimes seedy drama that unfolds during the development of the new frontier.

It is a run and it is a tour so there are lots of stops to talk with bursts of running to the next destination. Our longest stretch of running was no more that ¼ mile, so if you do this thinking you are going to get your 4-6 mile solid run in, you won’t.

We didn’t take the tour for the run, but to learn & see more about the city that I grew up around…while getting a little low-key exercise. Definitely a very fun morning with Joe!

Hardware Show

The super awesome CFX refrigerator/freezer by Dometic

That afternoon we flew off to Las Vegas for the National Hardware Show. Dometic had a huge display of their new portable refrigerator/freezers (CFX) that run off of 12V, 24V or 120 and their super insulated coolers. They are great for tailgating, RV’ing and boating. We have a CFX frig/freezer that is the best! You can set it to freeze or refrigerate anywhere from 50 degrees down to -8 degrees. That’s a lot of frozen solid ice cream…on 12volts of power no less! It makes up for the small refrigerators that RV’s typically have.

Las Vegas is an interesting town and one that neither of us is particularly comfortable in. I recharge in tranquility and nature. So when you go out for a run at 5AM and the street department is already at work with jack hammers and the all night partiers are just reaching their peak volume, my soul is just piled on with more noise that I went out to decompress from. Throw in a couple of propositions from some ladies of the night (Jeff) and we were ready to get rolling.

From Las Vegas we drove the Dometic RV back to Elkhart Indiana. We were going to hit the central, most direct route through Colorado, but with forecasted snow in the mountains we redirected to the southern route. Our first stop was in Flagstaff where we drove though sleet, snow and rain.

Saturday morning we woke to 1” of snow. The sun popped out and we decided to wash the Vegas grime off our running shoes with a trail run before hitting the road. We stayed at the Flagstaff KOA and they have access to trails right out the back gate. It was a stunning 5-mile run as the sun filtered through the snow-covered foliage. Now this is what I’m talking about! Running through the woods fully alive…nothing is better for the soul. I love this KOA for its convenience to town, trails right out back and very little road noise.

Our other stops

Albuquerque, New Mexico– Long push day to the KOA. Very nice park with level sites, good spacing but very close to the highway. I was able to get a 3.5-mile walk in just within the park by making 3 loops. It was a big RV park! We met a group of French Canadians who where traveling together. One of them had a Heartland Edge, similar to our Ironman Can we just sold. We are hoping to come back here in October for the Xscapers very first Convergence at the Balloon Fiesta.

Amarillo TX

Oasis RV Park just down the road from the Cadillac Ranch

Amarillo, Texas-Oasis RV Resort. This was a really nice RV park as well. Very level and spacious sites with weight room, hot tub and pool. We didn’t use any of the amenities and reviews are mixed on this RV Park as it relates to smell. There are a couple of VERY LARGE cow farms nearby. So the prevailing winds has a directed correlation to the type of experience you will have here.

Luckily the temps were cold and the wind was blowing from the North, so we had no issues of smell.

Tulsa, Oklahoma-Long push day to KOA at Will Rogers horse racing track. This is mostly grass covered RV parking. A lot of the sites were flooded with the recent rains, so we were upgraded to a raised gravel site that backed right up to the horse track. We arrived at 4pm so we were able to catch the last 3 horse races.

It was entertaining as the horses made their 90-second run (if that) around the track, then a water truck and 3 tractors made their way around grading the course with diligence and speed. Their job took about 15 minutes that was repeated after each 90 second run. We found it quite humorous and had more fun watching the tractors than we did the horses. I know…we are strange that way.

We went out for a run the next morning at 6AM to soothing country music over the loud speakers while the horse trainers were already out running the horses. We definitely felt like we were back in our part of the country where people wave as they drive by. If you are from the country you know the wave…one or two fingers just barely lifted off the steering wheel just to give you a friendly hello.

Tulsa OK

Horse Races at the Will Rogers Downs KOA Park

St. Louis, Missouri-Long push day to Mom’s house. We got to see our fur baby and stayed two nights so that Jeff could put in a solid workday that didn’t involve the swerving and jostling that comes with driving a can of marbles down the road at 70 mph. It was hard to leave Sam again especially when he was lying in front of doors, at our feet and around our shoes to ensure that he is not left behind. 😦

Elkhart, Indiana-Long push day to our final destination, MasterTech RV. They are doing the work on our personal RV project. The slide on the Dometic RV decided to stop working in Albuquerque so MasterTech is going to work on it for us. And they provide free parking with electric hookups.

It’s been a long trip with a few memorable moments. Now that we are here in Elkhart we get to check on the progress on our personal RV project over the weekend. The water damage on our roof was much more extensive than we originally thought…but everything is fixable.

More on our project in the next post. Until then…get out and play!

Elkhart, IN

The new rolling crib will be good as new…we hope!

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