Tag Archives: Arizona

A fitting memorial to the nineteen who died.

I had been wanting to hike the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Trail and finally, in April, I was able to go there with my granddaughter, Brenna. We didn’t get an early start, and it was a fairly warm day, So I had only planned to hike to the memorial which would be five miles round trip. To reach the trailhead, we drove through Yarnell and started down the windy road toward Congress. The parking lot is about halfway down. It is small, but we were fortunate enough to get the last parking space. There is a shuttle that runs 7 days a week from the Arrowhead Bar and Grill in Congress. That is a good alternative if the parking lot is full.

The first two miles of the hike are pretty rugged and mostly up hill. Fortunately, along the way there are nineteen plaques inserted into large boulders. These provided plenty of opportunities to stop and rest while reading the plaques.

Once we reached the summit, we were treated to a 360 degree view that was nothing less than spectacular.

Hiking down the back side toward the memorial, below us we could see the actual site where they died. That was when I began to amend my plans. I was pretty certain that once I reached the memorial, I would not be able to turn around without finishing the hike to the bottom.

The canyon where the hot shots were trapped was now fully visible and we could see its proximity to homes in the small valley.

The memorial was a nice place to rest and have a snack. There were covered picnic tables.  The tribute wall was filled with tokens of appreciation left by previous hikers.

I was wishing that I had something to leave there, but alas I didn’t. If I ever have the opportunity again, I will certainly plan to leave a memento somewhere along the trail.

After a short rest, we began the mile hike down to the actual site. There we found the area surrounded by nineteen gabion baskets  connected by chains to signify the unity of the hotshot team. Inside the circle were crosses where each man fell. It is impossible to stand there and not feel the terrific loss that occurred, especially after reading the nineteen plaques along the way.

Since I didn’t bring anything to leave behind, I looked around for something I could place there. I found a rock that I thought looked like a thumbs up. I placed it on a large rock that was between two gabion baskets to say, “Job well done.”



A Happy Haunted Anniversary

IMG_0641For our forty-sixth anniversary, Craig and I went to Jerome, Arizona for a night’s stay in the Connor Hotel. We had been advised that room 12 was their most popular room, so we requested it. It is decorated with antique furniture and a wonderfully comfortable king-sized bed. We found a cold bottle of champagne and a spice cake waiting for us in our room as an anniversary gift from the hotel.

For those of you who are not familiar, the town of Jerome literally hangs on the side of Mingus Mountain looking down on the Verde Valley. It began as a mining town in the late 19th century.  Soon great deposits of gold, silver and copper were discovered and Jerome became a boom town–growing from a tent city to a population of 15,000 by the 1920’s. Jerome was known as “Wicked City” due to the great number of saloons, gambling establishments and houses of ill-repute. During that time, the natural and human resources were exploited by greedy men who became instant millionaires.  When the mines closed in 1953, the population dropped to just fifty–earning Jerome the title “Ghost Town.”

Labeling a place a ghost town sparks the imagination and tends to make one’s mind susceptible to the powers of suggestion. Still, most of the residents of Jerome and many of its visitors have their own scary stories to tell. The Hotel Connor, for example, is said to be  IMG_0640 Haunted by Mr. Connor, the original owner. There are stories of people hearing laughter, parties, and things moving around.  Craig and I did not encounter any spirits I’m happy to say, but we did have an experience that left me wondering. After spending the night in our hotel room, we were getting ready to go for breakfast. All dressed, Craig was still without his shoes. I searched the room from top to bottom–even in unusual places like the microwave and refrigerator. I looked again and again in the closet, under the bed and under all the furniture. There were two large chairs in the room. After looking under them many times, I picked up each chair and moved it–still no shoes. Not sure what to do next, I was in the bathroom when I said, “Maybe a ghost got them.” I walked back in the room and there they were under the chair–the same chair where Craig is sitting in the picture above.

After breakfast, we went on a walking tour of Jerome. When I related the story of the missing shoes to our guide, he said, “I know which room you were in.” Then he told us about a man who put his wallet on a night stand. When he was ready to leave, his wallet was missing. After looking for it everywhere, he finally found it under a chair. Apparently ghosts like to play tricks on people. Maybe it’s just their way of making themselves known. I’m still not sure I believe in ghosts, but it was enough to make me keep an open mind.


There’s more than one way to explore a canyon.

DSCN0183Although I haven’t given up on my plans to camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, my failed attempt left me searching for alternative ways to enjoy the canyon. I discovered a fantastic opportunity to explore–not only the Grand Canyon, but Glen Canyon and Antelope Canyon–by air, land and water. It was an excursion offered by Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines and it is worthy of a spot on everyone’s bucket list.

Because our twelve-hour day would begin at  5:45 a.m., we decided DSCN0159to drive to the canyon the day before and stay at the Thunderbird Lodge–very nice accommodations on the canyon rim. We arrived at the canyon in time to enjoy a picnic lunch. After checking in to our room, we decided to use the shuttle to take the DSCN0169West Rim Drive. We usually avoid this option on day trips because it is so time-consuming, but since we had a free afternoon we gave it a try. It was a cloudy day, but no rain fell on us as we traveled from viewpoint to viewpoint, each more spectacular than the one before.

Up early the next morning, we had a short drive back to the airport in Tusayan. On our way, we were distracted by a group of elk–including a small calf, and were almost late for our flight. After a box DSCN0185breakfast, provided by the airlines, we boarded our ten-passenger plane and began the flight over the eastern Grand Canyon and into Glen Canyon.  Along the way, we enjoyed views of the Colorado River, and could see the rapids in many places. We flew DSCN0189over the famous Horseshoe Bend–a 260 degree bend in the Colorado River.

After flying over Glen Canyon Dam, our flight continued over beautiful Lake Powell, finally landing in Page, Arizona.  DSCN0201

The next leg of our journey was by land. We were loaded into the back of trucks that had been fitted with bench seats and driven ten miles into the desert. We arrived at a place that seemed pretty desolate. There we not a clue to the spectacular wonders we were about to see in Antelope Canyon.

DSCN0217Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located on Navajo land. During the monsoon season,  water flows through the canyon and whirls around at up to thirty miles per hour. The result is a canyon one quarter mile deep filled with rock formations that can only be seen to be fully appreciated.  We were fortunate to have a guide who knew all the tricks to get the really superior pictures.DSCN0234DSCN0231











Returning to the airport, we boarded a bus that took us to the base of Glen Canyon Dam.  There we climbed aboard our pontoon watercraft for a fifteen-mile, still-water float to Lee’s Ferry.DSCN0242

The rock formations along Glen Canyon provided spectacular views. Along the way, we floated through Horseshoe Bend that we had seen and photographed from the air.DSCN0264

Once again we had a very knowledgeable guide who helped us appreciate what we were seeing. He told us that the dark color on the rocks was oxidized manganese  called rock varnish. It takes about a thousand years for that process to take place. Our guide pointed out a place where the rock face had fallen away and some varnish was visible–indicating that the rocks had fallen a thousand years ago. DSCN0261

When we reached Lee’s Ferry, we left the Colorado River and began our three-hour drive back to the South Rim.

On each leg of our excursion, the guide asked where everyone was from. There were travelers from Australia and Brazil. Some people were from Florida, New Jersey,  and Minnesota. But we were the only ones from Arizona. It seemed strange that fellow Arizonans wouldn’t take advantage of such a superior opportunity–especially one in our own back yard.




Vacation on the Rocks–Part I

IMG_0652Rocks were definitely the predominate feature on a trip we took recently through southern Arizona and New Mexico. We began our journey at Kartchner Caverns, southeast of Tucson, Arizona. We had been to the caverns before, on tours of the Throne Room which features the world’s longest soda straw and Kubla Khan, a fifty-eight foot column.  This time we were able to tour the Big Room which had only been open for a week. The Big Room is closed from mid-April to mid-October because it serves as a maternity ward for over a thousand female bats. It was a spectacular tour that included columns and ribbons called bacon as well as rare formations called moonmilk. What makes Kartchner Caverns distinctive from other caverns is that it is alive. Every effort is taken to maintain the proper humidity and conditions in the cavern. Watching water drip from the soda straws onto forming stalagmites, is like watching history in the making.

After leaving Arizona, we drove to Deming, New Mexico and then IMG_0649on to City of Rocks state park. It only takes a little imagination to picture Fred and Wilma coming out of one of the natural rock structures. This rock city is in the middle of a huge grassland. It appears as though some giant grew tired of carrying rocks in his pocket and dropped them on the ground. The park is a campground and some of the campsites are among the huge rocks. I had mixed feelings about that as I attempted to take pictures and avoid the huge motor homes.

After spending the night in Silver City, we left for Gila Cliff Dwellings. To get there required a journey of forty-five miles that would take an estimated two hours. The drive was along a road called the Trail of the Mountain Spirits. The two hours went by quickly as we were treated to forests of ponderosa pines splattered with the red and yellow leaves of the changing deciduous trees. Part of our drive took us up among the clouds.

When we finally reached the cliff dwellings we were greeted by forest ranger volunteers who directed us up the path along a small creek. IMG_0666 Reaching the top, the trail led us to another ranger who escorted us into the cliff dwellings. There we were able to explore the many rooms and enjoy the views. The ancient residents were Puebloan people archeologists call the Mogollon. They grew crops of beans and squash in the Gila River valley. The cliff dwellings were built between 1276 and 1287, using rock, mortar and timber.

IMG_0671The cliff dwellings consist of about 40 rooms inside five natural caves. Why the ancient people left this site is unknown. But by 1300, they abandoned their homes during a time of migration.  IMG_0682

We left the Gila Cliff Dwellings intending to follow Geronimo’s trail. This proved to be impossible because the road was closed due to damage from flooding. Forced to return to Deming and travel to Hatch, famous for their chilies, we reached our destination of Truth or Consequences. Originally named Hotsprings, New Mexico, the town changed its name in 1950, when Ralph Edwards, host of the radio quiz show, Truth or Consequences, promised to broadcast the show from any town in America willing to change its name. Hotsprings won the honor and the broadcast was held in May as part of a celebration they called “Fiesta.”

In Truth or Consequences, we stayed in a motel that offered a hotsprings bath. With water that comes out of the ground at 112.5 degrees and contains 37 minerals, we were able to soak away our travel fatigue and prepare for the rest of our journey.

Living in Bluesky



“The Bluesky Chamber of Commerce brochure boasts 273 sunny days each year. Nestled in the central mountains of Arizona, Bluesky has the ideal climate. Residents enjoy temperatures ten to twenty degrees cooler than the desert cities and four picture-perfect seasons. Even on rainy days, the clouds are not able to hold on for long but are soon pushed out of sight by the bluest blue sky imaginable. Yes, there are snowy days in the winter, but by three in the afternoon, the snow seems to have vaporized into thin air, without even a trace of mud to indicate the ground had once been covered with a powdery blanket of white.” (From Seven is a Perfect Number)

It may seem that Bluesky is too good to be true, but actually that is a fairly accurate description of the climate here in Chino Valley, Arizona.  When people who have never been here think of Arizona, they often picture a vast desert with saguaro cactus and rattle snakes. In fact our state has much more than that to offer. Here in the central mountains, we have tall ponderosa pines, grasslands, and chaparral.

Bluesky is actually based on Prescott Valley, Arizona of the 1980s. When we moved there in 1983, it was a very small town with just a few thousand residents. Nearly everyone lived on a dirt road and our mail was general delivery.  My son, who was twelve at the time, was in heaven. He roamed far and wide, discovering Lynx Creek and an old house that he called “the castle.”

Most travelers hurried through Prescott Valley on their way to Prescott. One landmark they would have seen was a boat house, a strange sight on the prairie.  A popular place was the Jack Ass Bar. Prescott Valley was originally named “Jack Ass Acres,” because of the wild burros that roamed there at one time. When we moved to Prescott Valley, pronghorn antelope shared the grasses in the middle of town with the Fain’s cattle.

Bluesky is a more developed version of Prescott Valley. The streets are paved and there are sidewalks. The pond that was at the end of our street became Holiday Lake in the Handy Helper books. Michael, my son, spent much of his time at that pond, collecting specimens and bringing them home. His sister’s splash pool was filled with dirty water and held his collection.

While the Handy Helpers could live in any town in America, I’m glad they live in Bluesky. The people there look out for one another. The Handy Helpers are welcomed and encouraged to pitch in and do their part.

I named the town Bluesky in honor of the splendid backdrop God paints for us every day here in the central highlands. But there is more. I like to think of blue sky as a metaphor for second chances. It reminds me of a slate being wiped clean so that we can start over. In A Rocky Start, Amber tells Spike, “. . . forgiveness is a gift that is freely given, not because we deserve it. But to accept forgiveness,  we have to forgive ourselves first.” That’s what blue sky means to me. We all make mistakes and come up short, but we have to forgive ourselves and start over.

The Handy Helper series is available on   amazon.

I love hiking in Prescott, Arizona.

IMG_0311 As a native Arizonan, I’ve done plenty of hiking. I’ve been to the top of Picacho Peak and Piestewa Peak. I’ve been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and Havasupai Canyon. But there is no better place to hike than Prescott. With over 80 miles of hiking trails and more being added, I could never run out of places to hike. Except for July and August,  Prescott has the perfect hiking weather. Even in the summer, the monsoon rains can cool things off enough for an early morning hike.

My husband Craig and I were introduced to hiking in 2008, when the Highland Center started the hiking spree. We picked up a flyer and decided to try it. When we finished the hiking spree, we just kept on hiking–all through the winter and the spring. We’ve done the hiking spree every year since and continue to hike year round.

The hike pictured above is the Watson Dam/ Flume Trail in the spectacular Granite Dells. It’s amazing the wonders contained in only one and a half miles of trail. The hike begins with a narrow passage through huge granite boulders. It follows a ledge above a dry creek bed before suddenly plunging down into a small valley. Private property abuts both sides of the trail and homes can be seen through the trees.  Reaching the loop portion of the trail, we usually go to the right, up into the rocks. Here the trail crosses solid granite. It is marked by blotches of white paint. Following the markings sometimes requires walking like a mountain goat up the slanted rock face. Vegetation is sparse consisting only of a few scrawny trees that dare to germinate in the crushed granite within the cracks of the rocks. Continuing over the top the trail goes steeply down where everything suddenly changes.

Now the landscape is lush with greenery. The narrow moss-covered flume is bordered by tall reeds. We follow the flume to the right and cross a narrow metal foot bridge. The roar of a waterfall can be heard. As we continue on, the back side of Watson Dam comes into view.  A huge spray of water is gushing from the dam. The water pools below the dam among the flat granite walkways. Gigantic granite formations, at least three stories high surround the area.

We explore the many pools, watching dragonflies skitter across the water. Then we return to the flume and continue along the trail to the left as it climbs up a steep cliff above the flume. Wooden bridges provide passage across deep narrow gorges. Continuing on we see Granite Creek below us. The water babbles as it rolls over rocks in its path. Both sides of the creek are lined with trees.

As the creek bends to the east, we travel west until we reach the end of the loop. Back across the meadow, we climb up along the dry  creek bed. Soon we are squeezing through the rock entry leaving  behind the magical world it hides.


A little about me…

IMG_0443 (3)I was born in Phoenix, Arizona where I grew up during the fifties and sixties when it was still a small town. As a child, I spent most of my time outdoors, roaming the neighborhood, playing with any children who were available. I preferred to play in the dirt, catching lizards or little red racer snakes, climbing trees and riding my bike. But I could be prevailed upon to play dolls or dress-up. I never wore shoes in the summer and my feet must have been as tough as leather. I recall standing on the sidewalk that was literally hot enough to fry an egg on, and not feeling any pain.

Because my mother worked, I spent my summers with my grandparents who owned a laundry. It was not like the laundromats we have today. It was a huge building filled with agitator washing machines. After the clothes were washed, they had to be put through a wringer that was turned by hand. Then the wet clothes were hung outside on what seemed like miles and miles of clothes lines. Around the outside of the building was a gutter for the water to drain from the washers. My sister and I would check it daily for any lost change, buttons, or other prizes we might find.  My favorite place was the mangle house. It was a separate building with large pressing machines. People who could afford it sent their linens there to be pressed. I loved the smell of the crisp, freshly ironed sheets. That may explain why I love to iron.

My bohemian lifestyle came to an end when I was twelve years old and I foolishly suggested that I be permitted to care for my younger brother and sister while my mother worked instead of the caregiver my parents usually employed. I must have been hoping that some of the money budgeted for the caregiver would come my way, but that was only wishful thinking. As I proved to be a trustworthy teenager, my parents put more and more responsibilities on me. Eventually, I was doing most of the housework and cooking. By all rights, I should hate both of those jobs, but I don’t. During my years of teaching, I considered cooking to be my evening therapy.

My husband and I met as seniors in high school. I had plans to attend college and insisted that we wait to get married. It was during the Vietnam era, so Craig joined the Air Force just ahead of the draft. He was only in for a short time, before receiving a medical discharge due to a sinus condition he didn’t know he had until he went to Texas. (There used to be a saying, “Send your sinuses to Arizona.”) We were married in 1970.  We have raised two children, Michael and Kirstin.   Michael was an outdoor child like me, but even better at catching wildlife. Kirstin was born with Down syndrome, a chromosome defect that results in mental retardation. In spite of her challenges, Kirstin lives by herself in a mobile home she owns and works at Costco where she has been employed for fifteen years. Michael is the operations manager for the local cable company and very kindly provided us with three beautiful grandchildren.

Craig and I are both retired now. Craig operated a variety of businesses over the years, but his career came to an abrupt end in 2009 with the recession. After thirty years of teaching high school special education, I retired in May, 2013. Even with the responsibility of caring for my elderly mother, Craig and I enjoy our lives here in Chino Valley which is in the central highlands of Arizona.  We are fortunate to have several small lakes where we can take our kayak and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails to explore.