Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake

February 2018 – One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona is to take a boat ride on one of the lakes around Phoenix. Years ago we rode on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake and absolutely loved it. This past week we took a ride on the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip

Dolly Steamboat floats through the Sonoran Desert on Canyon Lake in Arizona.

While we were camped in our RV on Canyon Lake, our new puppy Buddy loved going down on the beach, especially during our early morning photo sessions. He liked to show us how fast he could zip between the legs of our tripods.

Photography at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Buddy shows us his slalom skills.

When he wasn’t busy doing that, he was sprinting across the lakeside lawn carrying his favorite pink rope toy.

Puppy Chow plays fetch at Canyon Lake RV Park-min

Canyon Lake Marina & Campground has a big open grassy area that’s great for playing fetch.

Late one afternoon while he was down on the beach playing with the waves, he noticed an inflatable boat that had been pulled up on the beach. Hmmmm… a boat ride might be pretty fun!

Boating at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

A little sailor dog is born.

While we were out walking the next morning I was busy snapping pics of our shadows on the ground when we looked up and noticed the Dolly Steamboat moored at the dock.

Walking with puppy at Canyon Lake Marina Arizona-min

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The Dolly Steamboat was patiently waiting to take her first group of passengers out for a nature tour on Canyon Lake.

Docked Dolly Steamboat at Canyon Lake Arizona on an RV trip-min

Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake

Dolly Steamboat docked at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Dolly Steamboat rests at dawn.

A steamboat ride definitely seemed like it would be a lot of fun to do together.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

What would the pup think of a boat ride?!

Canyon Lake is a beautiful big, blue lake in the middle of the desert, and we had been getting lots of photos of it from the shore as we drove up and down the Apache Trail. But seeing a lake from the shore isn’t the same as seeing it from the water.

Canyon Lake Arizona RV Trip-min

Canyon Lake is a big blue expanse of water in the middle of the desert.

We talked about doing a boat ride on the Dolly Steamboat over dinner.

Puppy enjoys dinner in the RV-min

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And Buddy slept on the idea too.

Puppy relaxes in RV-min

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He slept right through the enormous rising full moon!

Full moon Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

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He’s a very quiet little pooch, but he does know how to express himself and let us know what he wants.

Puppy Chow in our RV-min

“I’ve been really really good for days. Can I go on that boat ride now?”

The next day we went to stand in line at the Dolly Steamboat dock. A group of kids in front of us eagerly waited for Dolly to come in from her last excursion.

Kids wait for Dolly Steamboat ride at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Kids wait for the Dolly Steamboat to arrive at the dock.

Finally, she appeared, and we made our way down the dock and onto the boat.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

There she is!

Walking down to the Dolly Steamboat ride on Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Mark and Buddy walk down the dock.

Captain Jason was very friendly.

Captain Jason Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

Captain Jason.

Seen from our truck window on the Apache Trail (Route 88), Canyon Lake doesn’t look all that big. But to our surprise, we traveled three miles into the hinterlands, winding our way through fabulous rock canyons that were studded with saguaro cactus.

Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

Canyon Lake turns out to be a lot bigger than it seems from the Apache Trail.

Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat ride in Arizona-min

The Dolly Steamboat heads into the canyon where it will disappear from view.

There is seating out on deck, and we found a seat at a table to take in the view.

Puppy on Dolly Steamboat Cruise Canyon Lake Arizona-min

There are wonderful seats on the deck that offer a great view.

While we marveled at the scenery, Buddy enjoyed the new smells.

Admiring views Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat Arizona-min

Buddy tests the air with his nose.

We were startled at how rugged and dramatic the rock canyons were. As music by Enya played softly over the loudspeaker, we floated past exquisite desert landscapes.

The Captain was hoping to spot some big horn sheep, which are a fairly common sighting on this tour, but the herd was somewhere else that afternoon.

It didn’t matter, though, the scenery was so stunning.

Views on Dolly Steamboat Ride Canyon Lake Arizona-min

The rocky canyon is extremely craggy and rugged with saguaro cacti poking up all over the place.

Canyon Lake Scenery Dolly Steamboat Cruise Arizona-min

There were always more views around the next bend. There are two free boat-in campgrounds too!

The Dolly Steamboat has indoor seating down below, as well as snacks and goodies for sale.

Admiring the views Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona-min

If it’s too hot on deck, there’s a cool spot in the cabin with big picture windows.

But Buddy’s favorite spot was a place in the shade up on deck where he got a dog’s eye view.

Puppy enjoys the view on Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat Ride Arizona-min

Buddy found a cool spot of his own down a narrow passageway on deck.

Finally, after about an hour and a half of gliding through the desert on glassy water, it was time to head back in to shore.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

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If you are traveling through the eastern side of Phoenix, Arizona, and have an afternoon or evening to spare, take a ride on the Dolly Steamboat. They have starlit dinner cruises too!

Dolly Steamboat Cruise with puppy Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

This simple little boat ride is a definite “must do” if you like the desert and want a scenic outing.

Note: The Apache Trail (Route 88 from Apache Junction to the Roosevelt Dam) is one of the most famous and popular scenic drives in central Arizona. It is full of hairpin turns and sweeping views, and there are serious drop-offs too! If taking your rig, scout with your tow vehicle or toad first. As of February 2018, the 18 mile paved portion is under construction for it’s entire length, and the winter traffic is significant, so allow plenty of time for delays — or wait until next year!

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Lake Pleasant & Canyon Lake – Waterfront Camping in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert

January 2018 – One of our favorite things in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is the places where the arid prickly land embraces water. The city of Phoenix was first settled by the ancient Hohokam people who used the rivers to irrigate their crops. The city was named “Phoenix” because the new modern community rose from the ashes of that ancient city like the mythical phoenix bird. Those same rivers still flow today and in places they have been dammed to become lakes.

Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Lake Pleasant, Arizona.

Lake Pleasant is on the northwest side of Phoenix, and it is big enough to house a marina, several boat launches, a few campgrounds and an RV park.

Golden hour cactus at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Arizona’s iconic saguaro cacti light up in the late afternoon sun at Lake Pleasant.

The air glistens with a special light at dawn and dusk, and we made a point to get out at sunrise and sunset to see what we could see.

Lake Pleasant Arizona at sunset with saguaro cactus-min

Sunset at Lake Pleasant.

There is something about the stately saguaro cactus standing watch over a beautiful calm lake in pink and blue light that stirs my soul.

Saguaro cactus at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Saguaro cactus at sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Sunset over Lake Pleasant.

Sunset steals over the water gradually, changing the sky and water from shades of peach to orange to pink.

Sunset saguaro cactus at Lake Pleasant Arizona RV trip-min

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Sunset at Lake Pleasant RV campground with saguaro cactus-min

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Sunrise at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Our favorite thing about lakeside sunrises and sunsets is the reflections!

The campgrounds at Lake Pleasant are lovely and offer campsites of all kinds, from up on a hill with a view of the whole lake to down on the shores of a narrow cove. Like all the public campgrounds in Arizona, reservations are highly recommended in the peak winter season.

Travel trailer RV at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Lake Pleasant.

One day the skies turned threatening, and heavy clouds dripping with moisture reached down to the desert floor.

Saguaro cactus in mystical light-min

Heavy storm clouds hovered over the cactus.

Saguaro cactus at sunset in Arizona-min

A while late they turned pink.

The only caveat about camping at Lake Pleasant is that when the wind picks up it really howls. One night our trailer shook and rattled and bounced on its wheels all night long as the lake seethed with whitecaps and wind-whipped waves. It felt like we were back in the Sea of Cortez on our sailboat where the infamous Corumuel winds catch sailors off guard every year!!

After we had been camping at Lake Pleasant for a while, we packed up and moved to Canyon Lake on the other side of Phoenix.

Of course, nowadays “we” means not just the two of us but our new furry companion, Buddy, too.

Buddy the RV camping dog in our truck-min

My boys — the Pilot and Co-Pilot!

Canyon Lake is one of several man-made lakes on the Salt River. Gorgeous Roosevelt Lake is another lake on the Salt River that we have enjoyed most winters we’ve been in Arizona in our RV. This was our first time camping on Canyon Lake, however.

Canyon Lake Arizona speedboat and cactus-min

Canyon Lake is another beautiful desert lake on the eastern edge of Phoenix.

Down on the shores of the lake Buddy discovered a few new duck friends.

A puppy meets a group of ducks at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

The local duck welcoming committee.

One of the ducks was so curious about us he climbed out of the water and waddled up to say hello.

A duck waddles up to say hi at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Why, hello there!

There is a lot of bird life along the Salt River, from snowy egrets to bald eagles. At Canyon Lake there was a resident flock of coots that spent their days wandering between the grassy shore and the water.

Canyon Lake RV campground on an early Arizona morning-min

Canyon Lake.

Early one morning Buddy ran down to the shore to admire the sunrise.

Sunrise at Canyon Lake on an Arizona RV trip-min

Sunrise at Canyon Lake.

Mark and I followed, cameras and tripods in hand. As Mark set up his shot, Buddy gave him pointers on composition and camera settings.

Photographing-sunrise-at-Canyon-Lake-Arizona-on-an-RV-trip-min

Mark gets a few photography tips from our new companion.

Buddy checked the back of the camera and gave his approval.

Sunrise photography at Canyon Lake RV Campground Arizona-min

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We walked along the water until the sun was all the way up. Down by the water’s edge there were some fabulous gnarly trees, and Mark paused on a lower branch for a cuddle and portrait with the pup.

RV camping with a dog at Canyon Lake Arizona'-min

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Buddy seems to weasel his way into most of our pics these days. We just can’t help it!

Buddy the camping dog at our RV-min

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Whether he’s patiently sitting outside waiting to be let in.

Little RV puppy Buddy waits at our fifth wheel trailer door-min

Surveying the scene from the top step while waiting for the door to open.

Or patiently sitting inside waiting be let out!

The dog Buddy welcomes us home to our RV-min

“C’mon out, Buddy!”

If you are visiting Arizona with your RV this winter and looking for a different view of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, try camping at one of the many beautiful lakes!

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Ranch Sorting Competition – Cowboy Adventures in Phoenix Arizona

December 2017 – On the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, we’ve found not only beautiful waterways and fall color in the National Forest, but fun western cowboy ranching traditions in the outer suburbs too. Phoenix is home to lots of “horse properties” and small ranches, and our friends took us to a cool ranch sorting competition last week. This fairly new kind of cowboy ranching event is also known as “cattle sorting” or “cow sorting.”

As we walked over to the cow pens, a cute goat stuck his nose through the fence and gave us a smile!

Goat watches a cowboy cattle sorting event-min

A goat welcomes us to the ranch sorting competition.

There were about twenty competitors, both cowboys and cowgirls, sitting astride their horses and waiting for the games to begin. In the competition they paired up in teams of two in round robin fashion so every rider had a chance to team up with the others.

Cowboy cattle sorting event in Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

Riders line up before the competition begins.

There were several pens of ten calves each, and as the competition progressed, each group of calves had a few chances to get sorted. Every calf had a big number on his back, from one to ten.

The calves all turned to look at me when I stuck my camera lens between the bars of the pen to get their portrait!

Calves waiting to be sorted by cowboys-min

Calves wait to be sorted.

Numbered calves waiting to be sorted-min

Each calf has a big number on its back so they’re easy to spot and isolate from the herd.

Ranch sorting mimics the process that cowboys use to separate a single calf or cow from the herd so they can inspect it or administer medication or isolate it for some other reason.

In the cattle sorting competition, a pair of cowboys / cowgirls enters the pen with the calves and waits to hear the number of the first calf they’re assigned to isolate. For the next sixty seconds they chase after the calves in numerical order, starting with the first number they were given and then isolating each successive calf and sending it into an adjoining pen.

Calf sorting event with cowgirl on horseback-min

Our young friend Autumn rides into the herd in search of her target calf.

Cowgirl sorting calves on horseback in Arizona ranch-min

Ranch sorting is a fun way for riders to hone their horsemanship skills.

Working together, one cowboy (or cowgirl) chases the target calf towards the gate to force it into the adjoining pen while the other cowboy or girl blocks the rest of the calves from running into the pen along with it.

Calf sorting on horse in Arizona-min

First the calf is isolated from the herd…

Cowgirl sorting cattle on a horse in Arizona-min

Then it is chased through the gate…

We really enjoyed watching the action. The riders skillfully maneuvered their horses among the calves to find the one they were after and then chased it into the pen next door.

Getting the horse and calves to do what you want looks easy from the sidelines but takes a lot of focus and knowledge. The rider’s body position in the saddle and the way they hold the reins and touch the horse with their feet is the language they use to tell the horse what to do. A wrong hand position or posture in the saddle can give the wrong command to the horse!

Concentrating while riding a horse-min

Autumn concentrates and the horse sticks his tongue out too!

The cowboys and cowgirls were scored based on how many calves they managed to get into the adjoining pen in the 60 second time period. If a calf sneaked into the pen out of numerical order, then the score for that round was 0!

Cattle sorting riding a horse in Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

The distance between the pens is short. Once the calf is isolated, it’s a quick sprint from one to the other.

Sorting cattle riding a horse in Phoenix Arizona-min

Going after number 9.

The biggest challenge in each round was the first calf because cows are herd animals and they don’t like to be alone. When the first calf found itself isolated from the herd and being chased towards the empty pen next door, it would try to return to the herd rather than go into the empty pen by itself.

However, once a calf or two was in the adjoining pen, the next calves were a lot less reluctant to go in there because they saw there was company waiting for them. On rare occasions two sequentially numbered calves would be running alongside each other and would go into the pen one right after the other. A two-for-one!

Calves running in cattle sorting cowboy event on Arizona Ranch-min

Sometimes the rider got lucky and a pair of cows with sequential numbers went through the gate together.

The cowboy life, horses, barns and hay aren’t in my blood the same way sea breezes and hiking trails in nature are, but we had a wonderful time watching this classic western event.

Cowboy resting with his horse at cattle sorting on Arizona ranch-min

Cowboy culture is rich and widely celebrated across the western states. We have loved learning about it in our travels.

Of course, not everyone at the ranch sorting competition was quite as enthralled as we were. One little cowgirl was so tuckered out by the action that she suddenly dropped into the dirt next to the referee (her mom) to relax with her feet up on the fence.

Tired cowgirl lies on the ground at cattle sorting in Arizona ranch-min

All tuckered out…

When we researched the sport of ranch sorting after the event was over, we learned that these cattle sorting competitions are fairly new to the ranching scene and the first Nationals was held in 2007. But they are becoming extremely popular.

Cowboy sorting calves on a ranch in Phoenix Arizona-min

A friend of ours suggested that knowing tackle angles from football would be helpful with anticipating which direction a calf will run.

Cowboy chasing calf in cattle sorting event on Phoenix Arizona ranch-min

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The folks that were at this particular ranch sorting competition were extremely enthusiastic, and they attend events all over Arizona.

Calf running away in cattle sorting event-min

Calf #3 says, “I’m outta here!” while #2 heads through the gate.

Cowboy sorting cattle on a ranch in Arizona-min

The riders told us #8 was particularly feisty!

For us there were lots of neat photo ops and we got a kick out of roaming among the spectators, spouses, parents and loyal dogs.

Cattle dog with horse and cowboy on Arizona ranch-min

Spectators were treated to a fun event.

Horse eye closeup-min

What do the animals think of all this? The horses seemed to love it and the calves got some good exercise and worked up an appetite for grazing later.

Unlike the big rodeo events like roping, ranch sorting is something newer riders can enjoy. For us watching, it was easy to understand what was going on and to root for the cowboys and cowgirls as they whooped and hollered and worked to make both their horses and the calves do what they wanted.

Cowgirl chases calf in Phoenix Arizona cattle sorting event-min

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Cattle sorting event with cowgirl chasing calves in Phoenix Arizona-min

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Cattle sorting event with cowgirl chasing calves-min

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If you are spending the winter in Arizona and want to experience a brief immersion in some of the western traditions of horses and cowboys, look for a ranch sorting competition! We’d never heard of this kind of event until last week, but we got a huge kick out of it!

Cowboy walks horse back to horse trailer-min

What a fun few hours spent in the midst of cowboy culture!

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More info about Ranch Sorting:

Cowgirl Magazine article explaining what Ranch Sorting is

Other blog posts about our adventures with cowboys:

Central Arizona RV travel article index and more from our trips in the whole state of Arizona.

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Fall Colors and Wildlife on the Sonoran Desert Rivers in Arizona

December 2017 – The Sonoran Desert in Arizona is known for its cactus and warm dry climate, but one of our favorite things in the Sonoran Desert is the waterways – the rivers and lakes that flow through the arid land.

Sunset on Verde River Arizona RV camping-min

Sunset on the Verde River

While Spring is an awesome time to see wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert, the months of Fall are a beautiful time to explore the central Arizona waterways because the cottonwood trees and other riverside deciduous trees begin to change color.

RV camping on Arizona Verde River-min

The many waterways in Arizona are wonderful to explore.

Autumn comes later to the Sonoran Desert than most places, peaking sometime in November. Some of our favorite Arizona fall foliage images are in this article about Tonto National Forest here. They are from the eastern side of Phoenix just beyond the edges of the city of Mesa along the Salt River and the Verde River (“Green River”).

This year we returned to the banks of the Verde River once again to witness the colorful display.

Verde River Arizona RV camping-min

A thick bed of fallen leaves leads to the river.

The Verde River rises and falls depending on rainfall and water releases at the dam upstream. In some places the water had seeped up between the trees and made wonderful reflections surrounded by fallen leaves.

Verde River Reflections in Arizona-min

Reflections.

Big cottonwood trees reached out across the Verde River.

Verde River Camping in Arizona-min

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Suddenly a group of wild horses appeared on the far shore.

Wild horses on the Verde River in Arizona-min

Wild horses come for a drink on the opposite shore.

Central Arizona’s wild horses live in small family groups all along both the Salt River and the Verde River. We have seen them many times over in areas east of Mesa along the beautiful Bush Highway which parallels the Salt River.

Suddenly one of the horses crossed the river and approached quite close.

Wild horse Verde River Arizona camping trip-min

The wild horses of the Salt and Verde Rivers are much loved by Phoenix residents and visitors.

His tail and his mane were filled with burrs from running around in the prickly desert. It gave him a bit of a rastafarian look!

Wild horse in Verde River Arizona burrs in its tail-min

This guy’s tail and mane were thick with burrs.

Arizona wild horse with burrs in its mane-min

Quite a hairdo!

We wandered away from the river after the horses left and found some stately saguaro cacti with their arms outstretched toward the heavens.

Saguaro cactus near Four Peaks Arizona-min

Arizona is the only state where saguaro cactus grows, and they bring a lot of personality to every landscape.

A yucca plant erupted in a spray of gold along its spikey leaves as the sun lit it from behind.

Yucca plant in Arizona-min

A sunlit yucca.

Up on a wire we noticed a regal Harris Hawk surveying the scene below him.

Harris Hawk Lake Meade Utah RV trip-min

High wire act — a Harris hawk surveys his domain.

He moved very slowly, first staring in one direction and then staring in another, surveying the ground for any signs of scurrying feet that might make a good snack.

Harris

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Harris Hawk on an RV trip to Lake Meade Utah-min

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We have gotten a kick out of seeing various animals in our travels, including wild burros, buffalo, prairie dogs, mountain blue birds and herds of cows in the Black Hills of South Dakota this past summer (blog posts here and here).

Arizona’s most scenic spots off the beaten path offers the opportunity for some particularly special wildlife encounters too, and I wrote an article in the December issue of Motorhome Magazine describing the wide variety of animals we’ve seen in our Arizona RV travels.

Motorhome Magazine Feature Arizona Animals by Emily Fagan December 2017-min

Motorhome Magazine December 2017 issue
Article by Emily Fagan – Photos by Emily and Mark Fagan

Motorhome Magazine has posted the article online at this link: Animal Encounters in Arizona.

Dead tree in Arizona-min

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From snowy egrets to burrowing owls to peach faced lovebirds to sandhill cranes to hummingbirds and a whole host of four legged critters like big horn sheep and mountain lions (not to mention the wild horses), there are all kinds of animals to be seen all around Arizona!

Arizona is also famous for its beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and we caught a few along the Verde River.

Pink sky at sunset in Arizona-min

Sunsets in Arizona are stunning and surprisingly reliable!

Sunset on the Verde River on an Arizona RV trip-min

Twice the color!

Arizona sunset-min

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Sunset on the Verde River in Arizona-min

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Lots of snowbird RVers are headed to Arizona now and in the coming weeks, and we hope you all take a drive on the beautiful Bush Highway and catch a glimpse of the wild horses and perhaps a Harris hawk or two!

Happy days on an Arizona RV trip-min

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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More info about the Sonoran Desert and its rivers:

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    Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies

    April 2017 – We left the wondrous Petrified Forest National Park with its incredible hikes and nearby Route 66 nostalgia and headed due north from Holbrook, Arizona, on Route 77 towards Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

    Route 77 in the Navajo Nation Arizona

    Wide open lands on Route 77 in the Navajo Nation, Arizona

    This interesting (although occasionally bumpy) rural road goes through the vast Navajo Nation. We were mesmerized by the classic southwestern vistas that filled our views for the first twenty miles or so. My long lens was in the trailer (sigh), so I didn’t get good shots of the amazing rock formations we passed.

    A few years back we made a similar trek on the parallel Indian Route 12 and really enjoyed it. So, again, we decided to forego the more major highway (US Route 191) and take another scenic route instead.

    Little did we know it was going to snow on us as we got into the higher elevations!

    Snow on road Navajo Nation Arizona

    When we climbed from 5,000′ to 6,500′ elevation, we got a spring snow storm!

    This was our third trip to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon d’Shay), but like all of the National Parks and National Monuments, there always seems to be something new to see.

    In past visits we explored the overlooks along the northern scenic rim road through the park and hiked to the jaw-dropping White House Ruin. So, this time we decided to explore a few spots along the southern rim road.

    Tunnel Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Tunnel Overlook, Canyon de Chelly

    Canyon de Chelly is a massive canyon formed by uplifts and the relentless flow of water, and today the sheer red rock canyon walls tower 700 feet above the lush green valley floor.

    Far below us we saw trucks bashing through the water from recent rains.

    Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Tsegi Overlook.

    The only way to see the valley of the canyon is to take a private guided tour offered by the Navajo who live on the reservation that surrounds Canyon de Chelly National Monument. However, the North and South Rim Drives are open to everyone to enjoy for free without a paid guide.

    Car driving in wash at Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    The only way to get into Canyon de Chelly is on one hiking trail (White House Trail) or on a commercial tour.

    As we zipped in and out of the overlooks, the skies began to brood…

    Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument RV trip Arizona

    The clouds were moving fast at Tsegi overlook.

    …and the red rock cliffs seemed to swirl around each other in fabulously exotic shapes.

    Junction Overlook Canyon de Chelly South Rim Road Overlook Arizona

    The rocks formed beautiful shapes that were so much fun to climb on.

    Sliding House Ruin Overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Sliding House Ruin Overlook

    Eventually, we made our way to Spider Rock Overlook, one of the iconic images of Canyon de Chelly. We reached the overlook right at the golden hour before sunset when the rock itself was lit in rich burnt orange hues.

    Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Spider Rock.

    The day had been very cloudy and windy, but as if by magic, right as the sun began to set, we were blessed with the most astonishing display of colors in the sky.

    Sunset spider rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    As the golden light faded on Spider Rock and the red rock cliffs, the sky began a light show of its own.

    We each ran back and forth on the rim, unsure where to get the best views and which part of the sky would light up next.

    Sunset at Spider overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Mark lines up his shot on the next rock outcropping (upper right corner).

    Spider rock lost its glow but the fire in the heavens was just getting started.

    Spider Rock sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona RV trip

    Sunset’s brilliant display begins at Spider Rock.

    Once the drama had played itself out in shades of orange, the skies turned vivid pink.

    Pink sunset Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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    The light show intensified and our two-way radios crackled as we called each other from opposite ends of the overlook.

    “Did you see THAT??!!”

    Colorful sunset Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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    That sunset was breathtaking, but when morning came the next day and we ventured back out on the south rim drive, the drama in the sky was gone. We returned to Sliding House Ruin overlook because there is such a huge area to prowl around there, and looking down into Canyon de Chelly was as astonishing as ever.

    Valley at Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Sliding House Ruin Overlook.

    At Sliding House Ruin overlook there are endless stretches of flat and undulating boulders that head out in all directions on a promontory. Before we knew it, we had been there for hours running around on the tops of these cliffs and peering down into the tree-filled valleys below.

    Of course, if you get too close to the edge in a place like this, it’s all over. A sign near the rim was a good reminder!

    Sheer cliff warning sign Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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    Red rock cliffs and green valley floor Sliding House Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    It’s a long way down…but what a view!

    When I finally had gotten my fill of staring at the immense views in front of me, I glanced down at my feet and was taken with the rich hues and artistic patterns of the colorful lichen that was growing in and around the creases in the rocks.

    Nature's artwork Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Nature’s artwork on the rocks.

    Standing back and surveying the vast flat lichen covered boulders that stretched in all directions around me, I felt like I was looking at a modern art painting. Perhaps this is where Jackson Pollack got his inspiration!

    Lichen on red rocks Jackson Pollack painting Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Jackson Pollack — Or colorful lichen on red rocks?

    A little movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned to see a lizard scampering past. He stopped and stared at me as I snuck closer and clicked my camera’s shutter.

    Lizard Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    A lizard looks over at me as he runs by.

    The spring wildflowers had started blooming, and Mark found a beautiful bouquet of Indian Paintbrush flowers.

    Indian Paintbrush Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    A dash of scarlet…

    We stuck around and soon the sun was sinking low in the sky, and the shadows were growing long and deep.

    Shadows at sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Long shadows made for a surprise selfie at Sliding House Overlook.

    The clear sky meant there were no colorful theatrics in the sky for our sunset at Sliding House overlook, but the sun gave me a coy wink for a split second before it slipped out of sight.

    Starburst sunset Sliding House Ruin Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    A fleeting starburst at sunset…

    It was hard to set the alarm for a pre-dawn hour the next day, but we bundled into our truck with hot tea and coffee in hand and drove out to Sliding House overlook once again where Mark caught the sun giving us a wink on its way up.

    Sunrise Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    …and another at dawn.

    Canyon de Chelly is a special place deep in the heart of the immense Navajo reservation. There is a dry camping campground in the town of Chinle that is run by the Navajo, and a few sites are big enough for a big RV.

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    Blue Mesa Trail – Lavender Beauty in Petrified Forest National Park

    April 2017 – When we visited Petrified Forest National Park a few weeks ago with our RV, we discovered two true jewels in the park: Jasper Forest and Blue Mesa Trail.

    Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

    It is really easy to blast through Petrified Forest National Park at 50 mph and miss it all, and we’ve made that mistake in the past. We’ve also done the less spectacular hikes and later wondered where all the petrified wood was! How funny!

    As seen in our last post about Jasper Forest, there are some breathtaking landscapes where petrified logs are in stunning abundance.

    Blue Mesa is another fabulous region in the National Park where rolling hills are beautifully striped in shades of purple and lavender. There is a wonderful and very easy hike on a paved path at Blue Mesa that wanders through all these hills.

    Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    The overlook at Blue Mesa in Petrified Forest National Park

    At the start of the hike, high up on a plateau overlooking a vast expanse of exotic beauty, we saw a pretty spray of yellow spring flowers and spent a few minutes admiring them.

    Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    A vibrant sign of spring greeted us right away.

    Mark took advantage of the “Color sketch” option in his Nikon camera to get a very cool effect from this photo:

    Color sketch Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    The “color sketch” option is available in most Nikon DSLR’s. Fun!

    The Blue Mesa trail begins with a wonderful plunge down to the valley floor, and we got a few shots of the spectacular purple/blue landscape as we descended.

    Descending on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Blue Mesa trail took us down to the valley floor right away.

    As we made our way along the pretty, winding trail, the breathtaking views of these colorful hills surrounded us.

    Blue and purple on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    The purple stripes were magnificent!

    Rock striations Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Nature has a wonderful artistic flair!

    But where was all the petrified wood? It didn’t take long for us to find the gorgeous rock logs spilling down the gullies between the hills.

    Falling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Did a woodsman just cut down a tree?
    No! Nature did this over 200 million years ago!!

    Every crevice between the hills was loaded with perfectly hewn petrified logs. Incredible!

    Petrified log pile Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Solid rock logs that look for all the world like they are wood!

    Petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Every crevice between the hills was filled with stone logs.

    We couldn’t help but scurry up a ways to get different perspectives on these logs. Suddenly, I lost my balance and slipped. I brushed myself off and looked around, a little embarrassed and wondering if anyone had seen me fall. Luckily I was the only witness.

    That is, I was the only witness until I saw what my camera did when my finger hit the shutter button on my way down!

    Falling on hiking trail at Blue Mesa Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Oops!

    I don’t think I could have staged that shot more perfectly!

    Blue Mesa trail was largely surrounded with waves of gravelly hills that are horizontally striped in lavender hues. But a few of the hillsides and cracks were gray, and these were strewn with exquisite crystallized tree stumps too.

    Tumbling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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    Pile of petrified wood logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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    Surprisingly, even though this was peak season for visiting Petrified Forest National Park, with absolutely perfect sunny, dry, warm weather, there were very few people on the Blue Mesa trail. Every so often, though, we caught sight of someone in the distance.

    Tumbling logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

    We shared Blue Mesa with very few other hikers.

    Petrified Forest National Park has several “Off the Beaten Path” hikes, and there is one that originates at Blue Mesa trail and heads out to the Tee Pees formations. I had hoped to hike at least some of that trail because we had enjoyed the Off the Beaten Path trail at Jasper Forest so much.

    Hiking Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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    But I was so caught up in admiring the awe-inspiring views surrounding us on all sides that I forgot to double check the page of notes the ranger had given us to see where the gravel trail intersected the paved trail we were on. I think I’d kind of expected it to be obvious when we got there.

    Hikers and petrified logs on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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    The National Park Service is a little coy with these special Off the Beaten Path hikes.

    First, I’d only learned about them when I asked a ranger to recommend some areas for photography and then watched wide-eyed as he pulled a huge 3-ring binder full of photocopied trail notes off a low shelf behind the counter. More importantly, though, the trail intersection itself isn’t marked with a sign!

    Blue skies on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Somewhere out here there’s a neat unpaved hiking trail!

    I learned later that the intersection is to the right of the one plaque that is out on the paved trail at Blue Mesa, and unfortunately, we’d walked right by it. Argh!

    Purple striations at Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Lavender shades all around.

    Oh well, it’s a good reason for us to come back to Petrified Forest National Park another time!

    Hiker Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Purple haze…

    If you take your RV to Petrified Forest National Park, don’t miss the Blue Mesa trail, and keep an eye out for that plaque and head out on the adjoining “Off the Beaten Path” hike! I suspect there are some cool views back there.

    RV at Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    A cute teardrop trailer at the top of the Blue Mesa overlook.

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    Petrified Forest National Park RV Trip – Magic in Jasper Forest

    April 2017 – One of the highlights on Route 66 is the Petrified Forest National Park where the enormous trunks of 200 million year old trees have turned to stone.

    Photography at Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

    The solid stone tree stumps at Petrified Forest National Park are truly impressive!

    We have been to Petrified Forest National Park twice before, but it was on this trip that we finally found the true magic there.

    Stumps Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

    Those tree stumps are solid rock, through and through!

    We knew that the best way to see Petrified Forest National Park, like all the National Parks, is to get out on the hiking trails away from the crowds.

    Jasper Forest petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    We loved seeing how the logs split over millenia, due to the pressures of moisture and ice,
    and revealing the tree rings — still perfectly intact — inside.

    But it wasn’t until this visit that we discovered which hiking trails are the most stunning.

    Logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

    Was the woodsman just here with his ax?

    On our first foray into the Park on this trip we explored the area called Crystal Forest.

    Logs Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

    The logs were scattered everywhere. But there wasn’t a living tree to be seen anywhere!

    In every direction we saw the enormous trunks of trees that had been growing millions of years ago.

    These trees had toppled over during torrential rains millenia ago, and had floated downstream only to end up in a deep and muddy logjam where they slowly and very gradually crystallized.

    Over time, the pressure of moisture and ice within the logs broke them into segments.

    Out on the vast treeless plain, we saw countless tree trunks that looked like a lumberjack had just sliced them up with a chainsaw in preparation for splitting them into firewood!

    Petrified log Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

    We saw many 50+ foot long logs lying on the grass and split into sections.

    Here and there, the stump of a tree trunk stuck up from the ground and looked for all the world like the tree had just been felled.

    Wildflowers with petrified wood tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

    A rock and a wildflower.

    All the tree rings were perfectly visible in a rainbow of crystalline colors.

    Tree rings Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

    Brilliantly colored minerals have crystallized the tree rings in this ancient tree.

    The logs lay scattered all over the place, and in between were beautiful shards of petrified wood.

    Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

    There were exquisite shards of rock EVERYWHERE as far as the eye could see in all directions.


    Some logs had been split so the tree rings were visible while others had been severed lengthwise showing vertical striations from the interior of the log.

    Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest-2

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    In one area the shards that surrounded the logs look like woodchips. It was as if the lumberjack had just laid down his ax! These pale wood chips were very thin, just like ordinary wood chips, but these slivers of rock tinkled like a bell when dropped on each other!

    Petrified wood chips at Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

    The light colored “wood chips” on the ground were brittle rock shards that sounded like bells
    when they fell on each other.

    We had wandered out at the “golden hour” about an hour before sunset, and as the sun sank below the horizon we were blessed with a beautiful sunset over these exotic rocks.

    Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Sunset in Petrified Forest National Park.

    Even better than Crystal Forest, however, is Jasper Forest which is just a little further north. The overlook takes in a sweeping view.

    Jasper Forest Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizon

    Jasper Forest overlook has an incredible view — see the logs below? — and the trail to the plain below took us down among thousands of logs.

    In the distance, far below the Jasper Forest overlook, boulders and petrified logs intermingled.

    Overlook at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Huge waves of eroded rock formations were littered with tumbled boulders and petrified logs.

    When we stopped at the Visitors Center to find out where the best collections of petrified wood were in the Park, the ranger took out a large 3-ring binder labeled “Off The Beaten Path Trails.” He took out the trail directions, complete with photos, for a few trails and handed them to us. One set was for Jasper Forest.

    Sitting on petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

    Down among the petrified logs at Jasper Forest.

    The trail directions were a bit confusing, but they are actually very easy:

    • Go to the north end of the Jasper Overlook parking lot and look for a narrow trail heading north from the last parking space in the lot.
    • Follow this trail north and then west onto the wide plain that stretches out below the Jasper Forest overlook.
    Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

    Two faces from the same log reveal gorgeous tree rings.

    From there you can go in any direction you want, and we quickly ran off in opposite directions!

    Log with a knot Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

    The “bark” on this 200 million year old log even had a knot in it.

    We were there in the harsh light of noon, so even though the rock logs were mind boggling, we knew they would be even more beautiful in the rich light of late afternoon.

    Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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    Petrified wood logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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    So, we returned a little later with our cameras, and suddenly the logs came alive in vivid shades.

    Petrified tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

    At the “golden hour” an hour before sunset,
    all the logs began to glow.

    The skies were darkly overcast but the sun snuck through underneath and cast a brilliant light on all the stone tree logs.

    Storm clouds Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Storm clouds darkened the skies while the sun peeked through.

    Golden light at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Looking at the tree root ends of the logs — in rich light.

    As the sun sank towards the horizon, we were in awe of the beauty around us. We were also frantically running around trying to capture it as best we could while the sun teased us mercilessly!

    At one moment the sun would pierce through the clouds and light everything up in bright orange and yellow, and at the next moment it would disappear all together behind the clouds!

    Petrified logs at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    .

    The clouds were flying across the sky, making an ideal opportunity to use long shutter speeds to make them blur dramatically just as the sun set in a starburst.

    Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

    Drama in the sky above an ancient world of stones.

    Wild skies at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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    Dramatic clouds at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona 2

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    Petrified Forest National Park is a great place to go with an RV, and it is surrounded by many of the most spectacular natural wonders of America’s southwest.

    RV motorhome in Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

    A motorhome passes the Crystal Forest turnoff.

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    Getting Our Kicks on Route 66 by RV in AZ – Cool Springs, Winslow & Holbrook

    April 2017 – Back in the 1930’s to the 1960’s, Route 66 was a 2,448 mile long road from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, that passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It was established in 1926 but was gradually replaced with the US Interstate highway system starting in 1956.

    RV on Route 66 Arizona

    We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66!

    Portions of it still remain, and we have been bumping into it in our RV travels through Arizona.

    RV on Route 66 Arizona

    Cool Springs Station Museum on Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman

    Route 66 is memorialized in all kinds of songs and folklore, and one of the most iconic songs was (Get Your Kicks) on Route 66 written by Bobby Troup in 1946.

    Cool Springs cabins antique Mobil gas station Route 66 in Arizona

    Antique gas pumps and an old Mobil Oil sign at Cool Springs Station Museum near Kingman

    We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66 lately starting with a stop we made at the Cool Springs Station Museum between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona last fall.

    Antique Mobil Gas station Route 66 in Arizona

    What luck – A retro Royal Enfield motorcycle pulled in and parked next to the antique gas pumps while we were there!

    This is a cute stone building that has big antique gas pumps out front that will be familiar to our older readers and Mobil Oil signs that were familiar to us from our childhoods.

    Inside we found all kinds of charming memorabilia from decades ago, and outside we saw several antique cars that at one time might have rolled down this famous American highway.

    Mobil Lubrication or Mobil Oil Antique wooden sign Route 66

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    Route 66 chair in Arizona

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    Antique car on Route 66 in Arizona

    Ready to roll…in a bygone era

    Cool Springs Station is in the northwest part of Arizona near Kingman. Way over on the northeast side of the state we stopped in at the town of Winslow in northeastern Arizona a few weeks ago.

    Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

    Route 66 goes through Winslow Arizona

    Winslow sits on old Route 66 but it is much more famous for the song Take It Easy, which was written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey and recorded by the Eagles, and features the very memorable lyrics:

    Well, I’m a standing on a corner
    in Winslow, Arizona,
    and such a fine sight to see:
    It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
    Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.

    Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

    Winslow has memorialized the Eagles song “Take It Easy.”

    Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

    A painted mural reflection and the real thing:
    “It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me!”

    This corner is now a favorite tourist attraction. Every year the town hosts a huge “Standin’ on the Corner” festival. This year’s event is on May 6, 2017 (link at the bottom of the page).

    Five years ago on our way back to our boat in Chiapas Mexico we zipped through Winslow and got a selfie at the corner. This year the corner was a little busy with other people getting selfies, so we’ll just go with the old pic!

    Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

    From the archives back in 2012!

    Nearby, Mark found an electric guitar…

    Route 66 Guitar corner Winslow Arizona

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    The opposite corner is dressed up with a vintage coffee and soda shop that has old fashioned seating on stools at the counter inside.

    The other corner Route 66 Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

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    This building won the Good Job Award in 2004. I like a town that gives out Good Job Awards!

    Good Job Award sign Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

    The world needs more Good Job Awards!

    Although Winslow sits on Route 66 it was also an important train depot for the Santa Fe Railroad.

    Eagle on Route 66 sign Winslow Arizona

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    Wandering around town, we came across La Posada Hotel and Gardens which is a meticulously and lovingly restored Grand Hotel from the heyday of the railroad era, built by Fred Harvey for Santa Fe Railroad and designed by Mary Colter.

    Entrance La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

    La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, Arizona

    Built in 1929 to the tune of $60 million (in today’s dollars), La Posada Hotel and Gardens gave tourists a reason to take the train to Winslow. They could stay in an elegant hotel home base and visit Arizona’s many very cool sights that lie within a day’s chauffeured drive from town.

    Balcony La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

    La Posada was southwestern elegance at its best in the 1930’s and 40’s.

    The hotel was beloved by the well-to-do from its opening in May of 1930 until it closed in 1957. When it closed, all of the museum quality furnishing were sold off, and the building was turned into offices for the Santa Fe railroad. Over the next 40 years it was slated to be demolished several times.

    La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

    The restoration has been lovingly done.

    Chessboard table La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

    Visitors can watch a fantastic video that explains the details of the original design and restoration.

    Fortunately, when the Santa Fe Railroad planned to abandon the hotel, news of the its uncertain fate made its way to Allan Affeldt. After three years of negotiations with the railroad, in 1997 he moved in with his wife, Tina Mion and they began a $12 million restoration.

    Hallway La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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    We knew none of this when we walked in the door, but we were smitten with the beautiful renovations and artsy decorations in every room.

    Elegant La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

    There are endless common areas where guests can relax and socialize.

    The windows and French doors were thrown wide in every room, letting the warm air from outside flow in, and we wandered around the property enchanted by all we saw.

    Room with a view La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

    Room with a view.

    Balcony overlooking courtyard La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

    Let the outside in!

    La Posada Hotel and Gardens is a fully functioning hotel today and there is a very popular restaurant that was packed to the gills when we stopped by. We didn’t stay to eat, but unusual goodies drew us to every corner of every room in the hotel.

    Piano in La Posada hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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    Turning a corner, we came across a “hall of mirrors” which is part of the hotel’s gift shop.

    Hall of Mirrors La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

    Beautiful mirrors are for sale in the gift shop.

    The gift shop had all sorts of things for sale, but the ones that really caught our eye were the adorable antique trailer bird houses!

    Trailer bird house

    A bird house for the RV crowd!!

    Not far from Winslow, Arizona, we drove through Holbrook, Arizona, and just had to stop at the Wigwam Motel.

    Wigwam Motel Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

    Wigwam Motel in Hobrook Arizona – A Classic Route 66 stopover.

    Unlike the very upscale La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, this is a fabulous Route 66 motel that reflects the funky and slightly cheesy tourist traps that filled Route 66 in its day.

    Wigwam Motel antique cars Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

    Have you slept in a wigwam lately?

    The wigwams still rent out each night, and we saw people loading and unloading their bags for a night’s stay.

    Antique cars and tee-pees at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

    Modern travelers come in modern cars, but antique cars were parked in front of each wigwam!

    The motel’s owners have parked antique cars in front of each wigwam, lending an authentic air to this classic Route 66 stopover.

    Antique cars Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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    Wigwam and antique cars Wigwam Motel Hobrook Arizona Route 66

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    Antique car Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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    Of course, there’s plenty of room for Wigwam Motel guests to park their modern cars by the front office, but part of the mystique of sleeping in one of these wigwams is the fun historical context of being immersed in early American car travel on old Route 66.

    Antique Ford at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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    Studebaker truck at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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    If you are traveling east-west in northern Arizona, in the neighborhood of I-40, take a detour off the freeway to one of these stops near Kingman, Winslow and Holbrook and get your kicks on Route 66!

    RV on Route 66 in Holbrook Arizona

    A service shop from yesteryear… Luckily we didn’t need a new muffler or garage mechanic!

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    RV Camping with the Rock Art Petroglyphs in Gila Bend, AZ

    For years we’ve driven back and forth between San Diego and Phoenix on I-8, zipping by the exit for Painted Rock Petroglyph Site. I’d always look out the window thinking wistfully, “Oooh, that must be so interesting!” but it is a ways off the interstate and we were always on a mission to get wherever we were going and didn’t have time to stop.

    Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    Sunset at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend in Arizona

    On a recent trip we decided to make Painted Rock Petroglyph Site our destination, and we scooted off the freeway onto a paved side road that wandered off into the desert.

    Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    Petroglyphs cover all the rocks and boulders at this site.

    In a few short miles we arrived at the site and were delighted with what we found.

    Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    Some images are recognizable like the double parallel squiggly lines that probably indicate there’s water nearby.

    The sun was setting and it cast a wonderful pink glow across the desert and the pile of rocks that is the centerpiece of the site.

    Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend AZ

    Sunset on a sun rock!

    Following a trail around the rock pile, we found that petroglyphs literally covered almost every boulder, rock and small stone.

    Unlike so many petroglyph sites where the rock art is located high up on a wall or far across a canyon, these petroglyphs were right there in plain site at our feet.

    Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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    On one side of the huge rock pile there’s a dry camping campground with lovely widely spaced sites. A few of the campsites are right alongside the trail where campers can have a view of petroglyph covered rocks right from the RV window!

    The next day we wandered further and were amazed at the wide variety of patterns, designs and images we saw on these petroglyph adorned rocks.

    Patterns Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    A saguaro cactus stands watch over some petroglyphs.

    Some of the designs were easy to decipher, like parallel squiggly lines that surely describe the water sources that can be found nearby in the Gila River.

    Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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    Others were just crazy designs that seem indecipherable.

    Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    Crazy patterns!

    Almost every face of every rock had at least one design on it.

    Pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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    There were also lizards with tails — very similar to the little guys we saw scurrying between the rocks — and some images of people too.

    Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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    Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    A lizard and a bullseye.

    It was also intriguing that there were quite a few bullseye types of designs. Some were concentric rings.

    Man and Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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    Bullseyes and animals Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    Concentric circles form two bullseyes.

    And some were spirals. Was this accidental or did the two styles of circular designs have different meanings? Or were these things just random doodles after all?

    Spiral Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    A spiral pattern.

    It is thought that these petroglyphs were pecked out of these rocks by the Hohokam people who lived in this area between 350 AD and 1400 AD, the same time frame spanning the Mayans in Central America and the ancient Khmer in Cambodia and Thailand.

    There are ancient dwellings and rock art sites all over the southwest and they are impossible to protect from roaming vandals. Sometimes they bear scars from bullets or spray paint and sometimes an over eager collector has cut the entire face of the rock off to take elsewhere.

    Navajo pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    A cool and complex pattern defaced with bullet marks.

    Stealing defacing petroglyphs Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

    Someone chiseled the whole surface of the rock off to take elsewhere.

    But there are still thousands of pristine images carved on rocks all over this area that have survived as much as 1,000 years or more in the hot desert sun. Staring at them stirred my imagination as I pondered what motivated the ancient people to leave this legacy of art work strewn across the massive expanse of barren and inhospitable landscapes that makes up this part of the Sonoran desert.

    If you find yourself traveling on I-8 with your RV about 18 miles west of Gila Bend, Arizona, take a detour off the highway and check out the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site!

    More links below.

    RV camping boondocking Arizona

    Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is a little gem for RVers about 90 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona!

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    More info about Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend, Arizona:

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    Visiting the Dentist in Mexico

    Dentistry is really expensive these days, and RVers that make their way south in the wintertime can take advantage of the good quality dental care that is available just over the border in Mexico.

    The November/December 2016 issue of Escapees Magazine features our article about some of the great experiences we have had with dentists in Mexico just across the border from Yuma, Arizona, in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico.

    Mexican Dentistry Escapees Magazine Nov-Dec 2016

    Escapees Magazine Nov-Dec 2016
    Article by: Emily and Mark Fagan

    Escapees has posted the article on their website at this link:

    The Affordable Alternative of Mexican Dentistry

    Our dentist, Dr. Sergio Bernal, is a general practitioner in San Luis Rio Colorado just over the border from San Luis, Arizona (south of Yuma).

    Last year he coordinated and oversaw a root canal I had done in a tooth that already had a crown on it (described in detail here).

    Eight years ago, Dr. Bernal put a porcelain crown on a baby tooth of Mark’s that had never fallen out. It was an exccellent crown and very easy procedure.

    The crown was fabricated by the lab and ready to be installed within 18 hours of us arriving at Dr. Bernal’s office for the very first time. It fit perfectly and cost just $130.

    Mark always said it was the best crown in his mouth.

    Unfortunately, the baby tooth under this crown came loose this past October, and Mark was suddenly in a lot of pain. He needed another solution.

    Ironically, this happened just as the issue of Escapees Magazine with our article about Mexican dental care was being mailed out to Escapees members.

    Because we lived on our sailboat in Mexico for the better part of four years, we have enjoyed top notch dental care all over Mexico, from the Arizona border to the beautiful Bays of Huatulco very near the Guatemala border.

    We have always been very satisfied with both the dental care and the price.

    With Mark’s tooth aching, we dashed to Yuma and then zipped across the border from San Luis, Arizona, to San Luis, Mexico, on our bikes (you can learn more about doing this as well as walking over the border in our blog post about Mexican dental care here).

    Even though dental care in Mexico is excellent, the upscale frills that Americans are accustomed to are not necessarily a part of the deal.

    For starters, dentistry in Mexico is usually handled on a walk-in basis rather than making an appointment in advance.

    Some people have read my writings about dentists in Mexico and have tried to find these dentists on the internet. Well, most Mexican dentists don’t bother with the expense of setting up a website, as they rely more on word of mouth and patients showing up at the door when they need care.

    So, we got psyched up for a day of dentistry, rode the 1/2 block from the border to Dr. Bernal’s office, leaned our bikes against the wall and peered in the door. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there.

    Rather than wait, we decided to ride over to visit the endodontist, Dr. Horacio Avila, who had done such an excellent job on my root canal last year. I needed to see him for a follow-up on my root canal anyway, and we figured he might have some thoughts about Mark’s aching baby tooth. We each took a quick turn in his dentist’s chair and looked at our x-rays with him on his computer screen on the wall.

    My root canal was doing great, but Mark’s situation was more complex. The adult tooth was present but was lying sideways, which meant there was no option for an implant. Instead, Dr. Avila felt he probably needed a bridge.

    Mexican dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

    Mark and Dr. Avila check out his tooth on an x-ray.

    Being an endontontist and not a general practice dentist, bridges are not his line of work. So, he handed us the x-rays and sent us on our way.

    The bill for our five x-rays at Dr. Avila’s office was $50.

    We biked back to Dr. Bernal’s office and found he had returned from his errands and was happy to see us.

    Mark got in his dentist chair, and Dr. Bernal had a look at his tooth and Dr. Avila’s x-rays. Of course, Dr. Bernal has an x-ray machine too, but there was no need to duplicate the x-rays. He agreed that an implant was out and that a bridge was probably the best way to go.

    He pulled Mark’s tiny baby tooth out of his mouth with a quick yank and explained that a bridge involves grinding down the two adjacent teeth, putting crowns on them, and then suspending a false tooth in between. Egads!!

    Sadly, the two teeth on either side of Mark’s (now absent) baby tooth were 100% healthy. Mark felt really badly about grinding those teeth down to support two crowns and suspend a false tooth in between.

    Dr. Bernal scratched his head for a while and studied Mark’s teeth for a while and then suggested he consider a different option: grinding a tiny channel on the back side of each of the two healthy teeth and suspending a false tooth in between on wings that were inserted and glued into the channels.

    This sounded intriguing.

    He suggested that Mark try a temporary solution like that and see how it felt before committing to a permanent solution. So, we hung around San Luis for about three hours while Dr. Bernal’s lab technician across the street fabricated a plastic temporary tooth. In the middle of the afternoon, Dr. Bernal inserted it and off we went back over the border.

    He charged us $20 total for all of his work and the lab’s work.

    Mexican Dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

    Dr. Bernal goes over Mark’s options with him.

    Mark liked the idea of being able to keep his healthy teeth mostly intact and not crown them, so we returned a few weeks later to get the permanent work done. Again, we showed up unannounced around 8:00 in the morning, and by late afternoon Dr. Bernal’s technician had fabricated a permanent false tooth with wings and Dr. Bernal had prepped Mark’s teeth and installed it.

    The cost: $250.

    Mark absolutely loves this tooth. He’s had it for a few months now and doesn’t even notice it’s there. It chews fine, looks fine, and the teeth on either side of it are totally intact except for a tiny indent in each one to support the wings of the false tooth. A retired dentist friend of ours said similar dental work in the US would have cost over $1,000.

    Besides the high quality workmanship and low cost, the best thing about all of this was the back-and-forth conversation we were able to have with Dr. Bernal. Rather than the brusque manner of many dentists, he took the time to consider other options besides a bridge and to listen to our concerns about destroying two perfectly good teeth. I was in the room with Mark the whole time, and I liked the feeling that we were participants in Mark’s dental care rather than being just recipients.

    Next door to Dr. Bernal’s office there is a hair cutting salon. Both times we visited Dr. Bernal, we dropped in on the hair cutting salon to get haircuts. The most delightful stylist named Amber works there, and for just $3 for men and $5 for women, she does a great job.

    To find her shop: as you walk into the alcove where Dr. Bernal’s office is, the hair salon is on the right side before his office. For both of us, these have been the bests haircut we’ve had in over a year!

    Barber next to Mexican dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

    Next to Dr. Bernal’s office there is a great little hair cutting place.

    Getting a haircut in San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

    Amber gives me a haircut

    Another thing that’s great about going to Mexico for dental care — besides receiving excellent care at a fraction of American prices — is that it’s an excuse to enjoy a daytrip to another culture and eat some really wonderful Mexican food.

    In San Luis there is an absolutely fantastic restaurant called El Parianchi that serves incredible food, complete with fun entertainment. We’ve now eaten several lunches there and a breakfast too, and we have loved the experience every single time.

    El Parianchi Meal San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

    The first course of a feast for two for $13 (pancakes and omelette not shown) at El Parianchi restaurant.

    We’ve gotten to know several of the waiters as well as the harpist, Elias. Mexicans enjoy listening to folk songs played by various kinds of musicians while dining, and the harp music adds a special something to the ambiance at El Parianchi.

    Mexican restaurant El Parianchi San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

    Elias entertains us with his harp.

    El Parianchi also has a stash of huge sombreros, and sometimes the waiters bring them out and put them on their guests as a gag. We ended up wearing these crazy hats on one of our visits for my root canal last year (see this post). On one of our visits this year, a group celebrating a 26th birthday ended up in the hats right behind us!

    People in sombrero hats El Parianchi Restaurant San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

    Sombreros for everyone at the birthday party!

    For lots more details about dental care in Mexico, including directions to our dentists’ offices, check out this link:

    Mexican Dentists – Finding Affordable Dental Care in Mexico

    Basic info for our primary care dentist. He’ll set you up with specialists in town as needed:

    Dr. Sergio Bernal

    Call him directly from the US by dialing this number: 011 52 653 534 6651
    Address: First St. #118-9 San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico

    Open Monday-Friday 9-5, Saturday 9-2, Sunday 9-11

    For first timers, walk 100 yards from the border to Dr. Bernal’s office (detailed directions at this link), and then take $2-$3 cabs to visit other dental specialists, if needed, and be sure to enjoy a meal at El Parianchi! Here is a map showing the locations we visited:

    Locations of Dr. Bernal’s Office, El Parianchi Restaurant and Dr. Avila’s Office – Interactive Google Maps

    On the above map, the locations are labeled as:

    • Dr. Bernal = “Calle 1 115”
    • Dr. Avila = GPS 32.477776,-114.766224 (Calle 13 & Madero)
    • El Parianchi is in between them at Calle 10 & Captain Carlos Calles

    When we crossed the border for our first visit with Dr. Bernal this past October, we were alarmed to see a huge group of illegal immigrants waiting to cross into the US. On our return visit a month later, Mexican authorities had removed them from the sidewalks and placed them in shelters. The sidewalks near the border were empty as they always had been before.

    So how do you get hooked up with a good dentist in Mexico?

    We first heard about Dr. Bernal from fellow Escapees members at the Escapees Kofa RV Park in Yuma. For new RVers, we highly recommend joining Escapees RV Club, as it is little tidbits like getting the name and address of a trusted Mexican dentist that are the unsung benefits of being part of this club.

    Escapees is known for its fabulous magazine, its many member parks, its discounts on RV parks across the country, its workcamping job board, its massive database of boondocking locations, its bootcamp training for new RVers and its incredible mail forwarding service and RV advocacy work.

    But sometimes it is the little things that are passed on member to member, like dentist and doctor referrals, that make the club particularly helpful for folks living on the road in their RV. Lots of people go RVing, but there is a comaraderie among Escapees members that is unique.

    To learn a little more about the unusual history of Escapees, check out our links:

    If you think you might want to join Escapees RV Club, you can become a member at the link below…and if you mention that you heard about Escapees from this blog, Roads Less Traveled, they will put a little something in our tip jar as a thank you (and thank YOU!!):

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