This journal entry covers our stay in the Sedona area and the many hikes we went on over the 2 week period.
March 24th, Tuesday, we drove R Sherpa to Camp Verde, AZ, about an hour north of Phoenix, where we are staying at Distant Drums RV Park for 12 days. After settling into our spacious concrete pad, site #70, we took off to drive to Sedona, about 30 minutes from our park. We stopped at the Hike House and bought a map of all the many trails in the area and had a nice vegan dinner at the Chocolate Tree.
Hiline/Baldwin/Cathedral Rock/Templeton/Slim Shady Loop Trail
Ready to start our first hike, we woke up early the next day and headed to the Yavapai Vista Trailhead to the Hiline Trail, 3.2 miles, climbing gradually to the saddle with spectacular views looking out at the red rock formations such as Bell Rock and the Courthouse Butte and many other red rock mountains. It was a steep, rocky, technical descent from the saddle, and we were surprised to get passed by mountain bikers. We arrived at the Baldwin Trail to the edge of Oak Creek where we stopped for lunch by the creek. Then it was a challenging 0.4 mile climb up to the saddle of the Cathedral Rocks, where we had amazing views looking out at the vistas. It was difficult to leave these views but it was time to head back, we hiked along the Slim Shady Trail for 2.5 long miles, and we were running out of water and getting tired after a total of 8 miles today. It was all worth it as the scenery is out of this world. Continue reading
On Friday, Dec 6th we visited the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It is huge and sits on 145 acres and has more than 50,000 plants in its collection. The Garden has five thematic trails that exhibit cactus and succulent species from around the world. It has been opened since 1939 and has an amazing collection of desert plants. Continue reading
On December 5th we drove south to explore Picacho Peak State Park and climb the 1500 ft to the summit on the Hunter Trail. The 2 mile “Hunter Trail” is named in honor of Captain Sherod Hunter – Confederate States of America who lead Confederate forces against Union forces under the command of Captain William Calloway in the Battle of Picacho Pass (the only civil war battle in Arizona). We had driven past Picacho Peak many times on I-10 and wanted to see if we could climb to the top. The Hunter Trail won the “Best of Phoenix” Winter Hike and we definitely agree, it is a four-mile-round-trip butt-kicker hike, similar and harder than a lot of the trail on the AT. Once we reached the saddle then the fun began and we used the steel cables and planks to get through the steepest rocky sections. It is not a technical climb but the Park have put a lot of work into making the hike to the top accessible for all hikers by installing the steel cables. Picacho in Spanish means “big peak” and with the magnificent 360 degree view from the top looking south to Tucson, north to Casa Grande and the many mountain ranges surrounding Phoenix, you feel as if you are on the highest peak in the area. Continue reading
After leaving the Casa Grande Ruins we headed further East into the mountains towards Asarco’s Ray Mine; one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world. We travelled on a gravel backcountry road through some spectacular desert terrain. Along the way we passed the Boulders, a large collection of massive sandstone rocks. This area is popular with off-road 4×4’s as it is riddled with all terrain roads. After crossing over two ranges we came upon the mine site and were blown away by the scale of the operation. When you see the massive Liebheer mining trucks carrying over 350 tons of ore up out of the pit looking like ants, you begin to appreciate the size of the excavation. The open pit is over 2,200 feet deep and covers an area of 3.75 sq miles. The mine processed 250.000 tons of ore per day. Continue reading
On Dec 3rd we left Palm Creek Resort and drove east 19 miles to the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument which preserves the remains of the largest known structure of the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People, the Great House. It was built in 1350, and stands four stories high and 60 feet long, with a platform mound filling the first floor. The steel and concrete canopy built in 1932 continues to protect the Great House. We took the tour of the ruins and then watched the video about the history of the Ancestral People who left the area in the 1400s due to major floods. In 1694 when the Spanish missionaries arrived they found only an empty shell of the once flourishing village of the Casa Grande, and in 1892 the Casa Grande became the nation’s first archeological reserve. To this day the Great House keeps within its walls the secrets of the Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert. Continue reading
On Dec 2nd, Monday, after a great Thanksgiving weekend with Kevin and Ericka, we drove to Scottsdale to view Taliesin West, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert from 1937 until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Taliesin means “a shining brow” alluding to the scenic location and vista. Wright’s house was built in the beautiful Sonoran Desert nestled in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains with vast views of the surrounding desert. The buildings and landscape complement each other, they co-exist in harmony. Taliesin West was planned and built by the master and his disciples in 1937 at the age of 70, indigenous materials were used throughout and his students built it basically by hand. Even the furniture was designed and built by Wright and his students. Wright loved the movies and thus built a theater, a music pavilion and a Cabernet theater where he entertained many Hollywood stars. Many of Wright’s most famous buildings were designed in the drafting room at Taliesin West, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Taliesin West continues as the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and as the winter home for the School of Architecture. Continue reading
When we left the Caverns we decided to drive to Tombstone, not far away. Tombstone was founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin who prospected the nearby hills in 1877, and found silver. Throughout the past 140 years it has survived two major fires, the loss of the mining industry, and countless violent encounters at the OK corral. We visited the Cochise County Courthouse built in1882 at a cost of nearly $50,000, Tombstone remained the county seat until 1929. We walked down Main Street and went into Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, it is the best cowboy bar in the west. Kate was believed to be the first prostitute in Tombstone but her biggest claim to fame was that she was also Doc Holliday’s girlfriend. A great place to stop for a beer and a bite to eat, then we drove back to Tucson about an hour north. Continue reading
Today, Nov 21st, we went to explore the Kartchner Caverns State Park in Benson, AZ. We left early to drive about 50 miles south from Tucson, and arrived at the Caverns to take our first tour. These caves formed over 200,000 yrs ago, were unknown to humankind until 1974 when Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts found a sinkhole on private land, and followed the source of warm moist air, toward what ended up being more than 2.5 miles of pristine cave passages. They wanted to protect the cave from vandalism and kept it a secret for 14 years. After gaining cooperation with the Kartchner family, who owned the property, working with them for ten years, they decided the best way to achieve their goal was to approach the Arizona State Parks. Finally in 1988 the landowners sold the area to the state for the development of the park and show cavern. The state spent $28 million to preserve the caves and they have done an amazing job. Continue reading
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, located only 30 minutes from downtown Tucson was our next adventure to explore on Wed, Nov 20th. Sabino Canyon is Tucson’s own Grand Canyon at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. We took the tram, 3.8 miles to Upper Sabino Canyon, and from there we hiked up a switched back trail with great views of the canyon. The main road up the canyon crosses Sabino Creek over 9 stone bridges, however the creek was not flowing now and the bridges were dry. We saw lots of the tall Saguaro cacti including many armless. We hiked for 1.7 miles on the canyon trails and came back to the road and continued down the road until we reached the Visitor Center. We returned to Lazydays and enjoyed a cookout with friends in the campground. Continue reading
Today, Nov 19th, we took Sherpa (our RV) to get her electrical worked on and we took off to see the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. It opened in May, 1976 with 48 planes and it is one of the world’s largest non-government funded aerospace museums, now with 300 aircraft spread out over 80 acres. There are 4 Hangars, a Space Gallery and the 390th Memorial Museum, and we started in the Spirit of Freedom Hangar and saw the SR-71 Blackbird, a super high altitude spy plane. The first engine designed to operate for longer periods using the afterburner and flight at altitudes over 80,000 ft. The engine weighs approximately 6000 lbs and produces over 30,000 lbs of thrust, for all you fanatic pilots. Continue reading