Tag Archives: AZ

Hiking Spree 2017 is underway!

This is the tenth year of the Hiking Spree. With twelve hikes to choose from for each year, that’s 120 hikes in or near Prescott, AZ! You can get maps for all the hikes at the Highlands Center for Natural History website.

I’m hiking alone this year, as my husband is no longer able to make the treks with me. And since my time away from home is limited, I’m taking the shorter hikes. That doesn’t mean they aren’t spectacular. That was the case with Willow Lake, north. I thought I had explored all of the trails around Willow Lake, but apparently, this is a new one. Although I had a map with me and there are maps posted periodically, I still managed to miss the trail.  To help assure that you don’t miss it, I took this picture to show the white dots. When you reach the end of the approach trail, follow the dot on the left. Bear left as you proceed across the granite rock. Soon you will find yourself in a secluded canyon. Following the Canyon Trail a short distance, you will come to the Apex Trail.  It is a short, steep trail that will give you great views. Returning to the Canyon Trail, proceed to the James Trail, another short trip to another great view.

One great feature of the Canyon trail is that It is flatter than most of the trails in Willow Lake. The entire loop is only two miles but it is an amazing hike!

It’s hikin’ time again in Prescott, AZ

dscn0317The 2016 Hiking Spree is underway at the Highlands Center for Natural History. For our third hike, we chose the spectacular Constellation Trail. It is located at the site of the 1959 crash of a Lockheed Constellation. A memorial to the five men who died there can be found atdscn0301 the beginning of the trail as well as pieces of the wreckage.

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The trail is west of Highway 89, just south of Highway 89-A. You can park in the lower parking lot at Phippen Museum and use the tunnel to go under Highway 89.  The Constellation is actually made up of small loops inside a large loop. This allows hikers to plan short and long hikes. But you’ll want to allow plenty of time. No matter what my plans, I always end up spending more time than I expect. I get caught up in the wonder of it all.

dscn0304It had rained hard the day before leaving water along the way, but most of the trail was dry.  We began our hike on the North 40, which goes along the base of the large granite formations. Then we took a newly added loop called Ham and Cheese. The trail wove through the granite rocks as if they were made of Swiss cheese, making us feel like we were part of the sandwich–Does that mean the hikers are the ham?dscn0310 Next we took a trail called the Hully Gully. A walk across the face of granite rocks (the Hully) led us to a flower-lined gully.  Our next leg of the hike was the Lost Wall. This part was steeper than the other parts of our hike. I was envious of the lizards that made it seem so easy to go  up the granite boulders. But then they do have four feet instead of two and a much lower center of gravity.

dscn0318The lost wall is part of what was probably a sheep pen,  built more than one hundred years ago.  We skipped the Hole in the Wall loop that goes steeply up through a crack between the rocks. We have done that trail before and it is a fun one. Returning back to the trailhead via the Rock Wall Trail, we were treated to picturesque views of the Dells along with unbelievable rock formations.dscn0322

I hope you have the opportunity to explore this amazing trail. Don’t rush–You’ll want to stop often to enjoy the scenery that makes hiking the Granite Dells a unique experience.

 

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.

 

Winter Hiking in Prescott, AZ

IMG_0518Winter is a special time for hiking in Prescott. Cooler temperatures allow longer, less sheltered hikes. Sunny days with temperatures in the upper forties to upper fifties are best, but I’ve hiked when temps were in the thirties.  You soon warm up as you hike along.

Snow creates its own challenges. Recently we hiked the Centennial trail. It is named for the Arizona Centennial and was opened in 2012. We hiked it in September of that year. It was beautiful with flowers still in bloom. This time we hiked it after a snow. The beginning of the trail was muddy, but there were plenty of boulders on both sides of the trail. In most cases we were able to step on the boulders and avoid the mud. As we came around to the north side, the trail was still covered with snow. Making our way up the north face, we tramped through snow most of the way. The snow had melted in some places, leaving  very gooey mud.  In other places it had refrozen into slippery ice flows. At various spots along  the trail we had to cross small streams. Again, strategically-placed boulders provided a way across.IMG_0522

After our climb, we descended into a secluded valley–very mystical and delightful.  After climbing out of the valley–on snow-packed trails of course– we were treated to petroglyphs and magnificent homes in Enchanted Canyon. You can reach this trail off of Gail Gardner Way. Turn onto Westridge and go about a half mile. There is a small parking lot on the right. Then walk along Westridge for about 100 yards to the trailhead.

To avoid the snow and mud, we have elected to hike the trails along Pioneer Parkway and Williamson Valley Road. Many of the trails in that area are part of the Circle Trail that goes all the way around Prescott. You can begin the Legacy trail at Kuebler Field just off of Commerce Drive. Vegetation is sparse in places which makes it great for winter hiking. The trail goes under Pioneer Parkway three times by way of nicely lighted underpasses. There are great views of the Granite Dells, Granit Mountain and Glassford Hill. You can also begin this trail off of Williamson Valley Road. There is a small parking area on the east side of the road just after the intersection with Pioneer Parkway.

IMG_0521The trails around Watson and Willow Lakes are also good choices for winter hikes. Most of the time you will be walking on boulders, and snow melts away quickly there. We usually try to avoid the trails off Walker Road or Senator Highway after a snow, but otherwise they are also good for winter hiking on warmer days.

The important thing is to get out there and hike. Spring is just around the corner and you’ll be ready as the snows melt up north and the flowers begin to bloom.

Hiking Spree 2015

IMG_0927On Sunday, Craig and I finished our eighth and final hike to complete the Hiking Spree for this year. As it was a cold, cloudy day, we chose an easy 1.7 mile hike at Thumb Butte. Driving there, I felt a little bit of de ja vu, recalling the last time we had hiked that trail. It was the first year of the Hiking Spree, and time was running out. We needed to complete two hikes in one day. The choices of hikes included two at Thumb Butte, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone so to speak. It was a cold, cloudy day, much like last Sunday but we were undaunted by the weather.

Reaching Thumb Butte, we decided take the hike to the top first in   IMG_0466case the weather went bad. The rain began just as we started up the trail. As we continued, we encountered hikers running down the trail, but we were the only ones still going up. That should have been a clue, but we pressed on. Soon the rain changed to snow. Thunder and lightning was all around us as we struggled to reach the top of the mountain, hoping we would be sheltered on the trail back down. Wind was whirling the snow around as we reached the top. The steep switchbacks that lead back down the mountain are paved and a rail is provided for safety. Since we didn’t have gloves and there was lightning all around, we were afraid to touch the metal rail.

As is typical of Arizona, the storm ended just as we finished our hike. Cold and wet, we sat in our car and warmed up. Then we hiked the second trail as the sun began to peek through the clouds.

Fortunately for us, the weather held out on Sunday and we enjoyed a lovely hike with beautiful views of Thumb Butte. This year’s Hiking Spree included many trails along the Prescott Circle Trail–50 miles of trails that go all the way around Prescott. One of those is the Longview trail, beginning on Williamson Valley Road, just past the light at Pioneer Parkway. Along the hike, we were treated to views of Glassford Hill, Granite Dells, and Mingus Mountain.

I was surprised to discover a wonderful trail tucked neatly into the middle of Prescott at Aker Park. To get there, you simply drive south on Virginia Street until it ends. We took the longest trail–only 1.6 miles long–and took our daughter, Kirstin, along for the fun. We even had time left over to explore the Odd Fellows Cemetery in the southwest corner of the park. I was unable to find the famous Prescottonians buried there,(James Aker, James Cleator, and Barlow-Massick) but not from lack of looking. Kirstin was anxious to get home to do her laundry and so I was forced to give up my search.

IMG_0100 (2)We did enjoy some of the longer, 4-7 mile hikes. John’s Tank is a hike near Lynx Lake–trail 94 just east of the dam. I had seen that trail before and wanted to try it, but it was closed at the time because eagles were nesting there. It was a nice hike with views of the lake, creeks and lots of ups and downs. Goldwater Lake West is a hike that goes around the While Spar Campground and finishes on the old Schoolhouse Gulch Road. Though it doesn’t go near Goldwater Lake, it is still a marvelous hike through the pines.

We only lost our way once this year, which is probably a record. When we hiked the Southwest portion of the Ranch Trail (The Rancho Vista Trail in book three is based on the Ranch Trail.), we decided to take the longer route that was a loop back to our car on Senator Highway. Unfortunately, we made a wrong turn when we were circling back.  The trail we took south was a very steep, rocky old jeep road. It seemed like we were going the right way until we reached the bottom of the trail which suddenly turned east toward Walker Road. Fortunately, we ran into a very kind fellow hiker we had encountered previously. She suggested that we continue to Walker Road and then she drove us back to our car on Senator Highway–saving us about four miles of additional hiking.

If you live in or near Prescott, I highly recommend the Hiking Spree, a program of the Highlands Center for Natural History. It is a good way to get in the habit of hiking regularly. If you are planning to come to Prescott to do some hiking, I suggest you check out the Highlands Center website. (highlandscenter.org) Not only will you find maps for this year’s Hiking Spree, but also maps from previous years. These are very detailed maps with driving directions and points of interest to look for on your hike.

Happy Hiking!

The Highland Center for Natural History–Something for Everyone

IMG_0461Visitors who come to Prescott and those moving here, may be fortunate enough to discover one is our greatest treasures–The Highland Center for Natural History. Located a short drive down Walker Road from Highway 69 (by Costco) the Highland Center offers something for everyone.

My husband and I first came to the Highland Center because we were looking to add some more physical activity to our lives.  In September of 2008, the Highland Center began the Hiking Spree. Participants are provided with maps for a dozen hikes in the Prescott National Forest. The requirement is to complete eight of the hikes. This entitles the participants to purchase an emblem appropriate to put on a wooden walking stick (Which you can also purchase at the Highland Center). Craig and I have completed the Hiking Spree every year.  We are just three hikes away from earning our 2015 emblem.

In 2008, I was still teaching at Bradshaw Mountain High School, but I considered volunteering at the Highland Center once I retired. As retirement came closer, I put volunteering on my bucket list. For the past two years, I have been a docent for second and fourth graders who come to the Highland Center on school field trips. I have learned a lot from the docent training, but I also learn a lot from the kids. I love their enthusiasm and curiosity. Sharing my love of the outdoors with them has brought me many hours of enjoyment.

The Highland Center has much to offer. Besides the school programs for second and fourth graders, there are programs for preschool, kindergarten and seventh grade. During school breaks children can enroll in day camps where they become even more immersed in learning about our special Central Highland ecosystem.

Families come to the Highland Center to enjoy the many hiking trails. The trails connect with other places in the Prescott National Forest, such as Lynx Lake and the Lynx Creek Ruins. Throughout the year, there are programs for families. Bug-a-Boo Bliss is an opportunity to take a look at our tiniest creatures. Imagine studying specimens of insects or even holding and petting large cockroaches, or taking a hike at dusk with a guide who knows just where to look for bugs and spiders. At Halloween Happenings, families can participate in scavenger hunts, crafts, and fireside stories.

For adults the Highland Center offers many educational opportunities. There are guided hikes, bird walks and interesting classes. Whether you just want to know a little about our beautiful home or you are serious about becoming a certified naturalist, you’ll find what you’re looking for at the Highland Center.

It’s hikin’ time in Prescott, AZ.

IMG_0786Almost any time of year is a great time for hiking in Prescott. But springtime is especially nice. The temperature is in the sixties, the sky is a bright blue with puffs of white clouds, and signs of new growth are visible everywhere.

A trail I would recommend to you is the Granite Gardens. I call it 1.2 miles of awesome! To reach the trailhead, drive north on highway 89 through the Granite Dells to Granite Gardens Drive. It is across from Granite Gate Senior Living. From the parking area, walk east and use the bridge to cross Granite Creek. The beginning of the trail will be on your left as you walk up the road and goes sharply up. As you reach the crest of the hill and go over the top, you will have an excellent view of a small dam. It was used to divert water into a pipeline that carried water to the Chino Valley Irrigation Project. Another dam farther downstream provided water for a freshwater swimming pool at the Dells Resort. My mother has many memories of that pool. I think I might have gone there with my aunt and uncle as a child, but I don’t really remember it. The pool was closed in 1971.

IMG_0285Continuing along the trail, you will come to a stairway. Reaching the top, you will enter the majestic granite portion of the hike. Following the white dots across the rocks, you climb over and down the granite face.

 

 

 

IMG_0320From there the trail leads to Castle Rock. Views are spectacular in every direction as you continue along this loop of the trail.

On the next part of the trail, we became a little lost, but were glad we did. Otherwise, we would have missed the room built into the rock. The metal door said, “IMG_0302Do not come in,” but who could resist?

As the trail continued, we climbed up the side of what is called the Rock Stacker. It didn’t really take a great deal of imagination to figure out why it was called that.

From there, the trail led to an underground grotto. Giant boulders were wedged tightly into a crevice. The trail took us under the boulders, any one of which could have easily crushed us to death, had they not been so firmly in place. For part of the trail we had to squeeze between some rocks.  It was a daring adventure that no one should miss.

IMG_0334After wiggling our way out at the other end, we were treated to more spectacular views of the granite rocks as we climbed back down. From there, we walked across a meadow and back to the creek. We left our little refuge and returned to civilization, still amazed at all that we had seen on the short but incredible hike.