Grand Canyon 2021: Falling Feels Like Flying ‘Til You Hit The Ground

In a typical year, Carolyn organizes a trip to the Grand Canyon and our 2020 trip was canceled due to Covid Restrictions for staying on the North Rim. This year, Jordyn and Carolyn booked a cabin on the North Rim over the Memorial Day weekend and the plan was for all of us to hike Rim to Rim, south to north overnight arriving Saturday morning. The plan went on without me doing the hike due to multiple issues including not being as prepared as I might normally be.

Carolyn and Jordyn drove separately and left on the Bright Angel Trail around 10 pm Friday night. I slept and was scheduled to drive to the North Rim Saturday morning with our oldest daughter Caitlin and Jordyn’s husband James. By the time I got out of bed, Carolyn texted me letting me know they had arrived at the North Rim in under nine hours.

We loaded up the car and the rest of us headed on our long road trip to the North Rim traveling I 17 to Flagstaff, US 89 towards Page, US 89A to Jacob Lake, and AZ 67 to the lodge. The six hour drive is always one that keeps you on edge especially with heavy traffic on US 89 towards Lake Powell.

Caitlin, James, and I stop at Jacob Lake store for some cookies. The store is known for its home made and baked cookies. Caitlin and I also sneak in a butterscotch malt. It was a good one. We see no bison on the road to the rim and upon arrival we meet up with Carolyn and Jordyn to get checked into our rustic cabin on the west side of the lodge located close to the Rim. It seems fairly crowded and the girls shower up so we can enjoy the sunset and some walks along the Rim.

Jordyn and Carolyn are tired after hiking all night but they manage to eat dinner with us at the lodge. In talking with our older waiter, Covid has impacted them getting staff to work so like everywhere else, they are short staffed and no where near capacity for dining.

On Sunday we drive out east of the lodge for some beautiful views of the Canyon plus we hiked Point Imperial, some of the Saddle Mountain Trail and some quick hikes out to various lookout points along the way. For the day, our hikes total around 8 miles. Along our Point Imperial hike on the return part, yours’ truly (me), trips over a rock and I land flat on my face knocking myself silly. I am dazed and confused, bloodied, and embarrassed. My family rushes to my rescue making sure that I am not seriously injured requiring assistance. Chris Stapleton sings that “falling feels like flying ’till you hit the ground.” I can say it was a surreal experience, straight down with my chest and head smacking the ground. Thankfully, I have a hard head and survive with multiple abrasions and a nasty cut on the bridge of my nose. I can’t even explain what happened but I’m not about to hide the fact that I fell hard on a hike. I sure don’t like admitting those failures but it happened. We get back to the trailhead for our picnic and a couple of Huss Brewing craft beers to help ease the pain. I just had too.

We return to the lodge and Carolyn and I walk to the NPS fire station and the EMT checks me out and want a pleasant young man. His opinion was I probably did not need stitches and to keep the skin flap taped down. (As I write this blog, my face has acquired a nice scar on the bridge but such is life.)

Jordyn and James rest up at the cabin since they will be hiking from the North to the South Rim overnight. Carolyn, Caitlin, and I enjoy dinner and some walks along the rim by the lodge and sometime around 10, I drop off James and Jordyn for their midnight trek across the Canyon.

On Memorial Day, Jordyn and James have texted us that they have arrived on the South Rim just in time to enjoy breakfast at the El Tovar. The rest of us pack up and head to Jacob Lake for breakfast at the cafe.

Our trip back to Phoenix was uneventful and traffic was not near as bad as we had anticipated on I-17 heading from Flagstaff. Another year and another Grand Canyon trip in the books. For Carolyn and I, this trip was extra special having both of our daughters with us. That is a rarity on our adventures but we have been blessed to have them for a trip into Zion in April and this Grand Canyon mini adventure. I missed my time inside the walls of the Canyon but I do hope that I still have some gas in the tank to revisit the spirituality and specialness of hiking through the grandest of canyons. If you have never been to the North Rim, it is extra special for views and way less crowded. It is truly a special place.

Next stop, Park City and Moab.

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Burros, Breweries, Butts, and Bites: Getting Our Kicks on Route 66

During April and May, Carolyn had Wed thru Friday for her days off and mid week travel is a simpler way to get out and go. Wednesday, May 12, we decided to head to NW Arizona and the Kingman area for some new to us adventures. We placed Oatman on our itinerary and headed up through Wickenburg on Route 93 for a direct trip to Kingman and then over to Oatman.

Somewhere along the way, while passing through Wickenburg, we miss direct and end up on Route 60 headed to Salome, so a quick change on our route and we get on Route 72 to Parker, up to Lake Havasu, and on to Oatman. Best misdirect I’ve had in awhile. Added a couple of hours to our trip but we saw areas we had never seen before. I quickly got over my irritation and anger with myself and enjoyed a much less traveled route with scenic views of the Colorado River.

Burros

We arrive in Oatman from the south on Historic Route 66 into the old mining town now a tourist stop for checking out the wild burros that roam the streets. What a fun stop on the road. We had brought carrots as a feed of choice for the burros and they sure took after us.
We stop in the famous Oatman Hotel, that has dollar bills covering every available space on the inside of restaurant/bar. We were told that there is in excess of $300k papering the walls. It sure is something see. The hotel usually hosts a tour of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard’s honeymoon suite where it is said they honeymooned in 1939. Mr. Gable liked coming to Oatman to play cards and have drinks with the local miners. Who would have known? We continue our journey to Kingman traversing a narrow winding Route 66 section heading northeast to Kingman.

Breweries

Upon arrival, we check in at the Hilton Hampton Inn & Suites, (Diamond Team Member that’s me) clean up and head in to Historic Downtown Kingman. Let me just say that this pass through type of town has a lot going for it by reinventing and reestablishing a cool downtown area. With Covid still hanging around, masks are sort of in play but There are two breweries in the downtown and one has a restaurant associated with it in a separate location but just a couple blocks a part. Being hungry, we head to the restaurant part of Rickety Cricket Brewing. The town has allowed the local places to put outdoor seating on curbed areas and we immediately feel right at home. The service is good, the beers and food are great. Excellent happy hour as well. With an early morning start ahead, we retire early.

Butts

Today’s hike will be a long hot one to the Arizona Hot Springs from the trailhead located just south of Lake Mead right off of Route 93. We arrive at the trailhead around 8:00 after an hour drive from Kingman. There are a few cars at the trailhead but not many and instead of doing the loop, (we were told that the ladder to approach the hot springs from the Colorado River is gone) we take the Arizona Hot Springs Upper Route both ways. The temps are near 100 with no shade and it is a tough hike in the heat. We gain over 1000 feet in elevation over the 5.5 mile round trip. There are many different side trails that can distract you from staying on the main trail but we managed without too much difficulty to get there. It really is a beautiful day in the desert and the National Park Service closes the trails at the trailhead starting May 15 and lasting through September 30 due to the heat and dangers from the heat. We had visited the hot springs about seven years ago on a “canoe” kayak trip from Willow Springs up the Colorado River and it is a short hike from the river. That trip was one we won’t forget since our “boat’ was not conducive for paddling against the current.

Upon arrival, we take our shoes off and get in the water and it is beyond hot. Each pool gets cooler as you work your way down to one that might be okey to sit in. We we get to an acceptable temperature pool, we encounter a naked man from Michigan. Very friendly older man who just liked to be without his clothes. He told us of other hot springs and his adventures in the wild. Other folks came through with kids and I’m not certain they enjoyed the views of an old guy without clothes. We also met a family that had hiked in from Iowa and they headed out to try and beat some of the heat. Our friend from Michigan eventually packs up and decides to get out before the temps hit their highest points and Carolyn and I hang out for about 45 minutes soaking our aches and pains. I love the hot springs for soaking one’s troubles away and it probably would have been really nice in cooler temps. We pack up and start to head back through the various pools to the trail and we encounter two more naked guys. These guys were much younger (40’s) and they just shed their clothes and off they go. Carolyn had the full monty experience without having to pay for the show. (I thought it was funny.)

Bites

We get our hiking stuff together, shoes on, and back on the trail where we come across two females hiking in with their unleashed dogs. We say our normal hellos and the next thing I know the one mixed breed dog comes from behind me and jumps up and bites my right hand with a vicious clamp down of its jaws. I’m in a shocked state but remain in control and the lady is immediately apologetic. I have two small holes in my hand and it is hurt from the pressure applied by the dog’s jaw onto my hand. She assures me that her dog is up-to-date on the shots and I get her name and number in case it becomes necessary for treatment. On our trip out, we pass all those who left long before us and the Iowan parents are not doing so well due to the full sun exposure and heat. Their daughters have gone way ahead of them and we catch up to them at the trailhead and told them they might be waiting awhile.

Breweries (Again)

I decide to report the dog bite incident to NPS law enforcement since dogs are supposed to be leashed on all National Park Trails and in case I had any complications from the bites. Back to Kingman we go for some fun times. On our way into Kingman, we go to a nano brewery Black Bridge Brewery a small intimate place that has a good crowd on this Thursday afternoon. We do a variety of sample size brews and kudos to the limited edition beer brewed with peppers. It has an interesting tasting hotness to it and it is an exceptional “chili pepper” beer. The owner/brewer gave me a rundown of how he keeps changing that speciality beer and it works well. We head to a Marriott property Springhill Suites for tonight’s stay since I had a free night I needed to use. Neither one of our hotels had a breakfast going to due to “Covid” so our stays were very basic. The Springhill was newer and our room was really nice. We clean up to head back into downtown Kingman for a stop at Rickety Cricket’s actual brewery and taproom known as the Dirty Dough Co. that is only open Thursday through Saturday from 4 to 8. We take a cab there since it was about half price of an Uber or Lyft.

What a treat. The Dirty Dough becomes jammed packed with locals and what an atmosphere. The service is fantastic, the beer is incredible, and the pizza is amazing. They also have a happy hour and let’s just say the pizza names might give you a hint on why they call themselves the “Dirty” Dough. Carolyn and I met the owner/brewer and he was so interesting and had retired from being a DPS officer in the Kingman area. He told us the history of his ventures and he was quite passionate about his work. He brews some 30 different brews and they are really good. Carolyn raves about the Hibiscus Wit-ness. The beer names are interesting and I go sample size on a few of them. Karaoke starts up and one of the local crooners grabs the mike and puts on quite a show for all of us.

Since we didn’t get enough walking in today we decide to hike back the 3+ miles to the hotel. Beautiful evening for a walk.

Friday morning, we eat breakfast at a Kingman original diner, Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. Fun place loaded with Elvis era decorations. Continuing on this theme, we decide to take Historic Route 66 to Seligman on the backroads off of the freeway and we are not disappointed. Very few cars and adds a great nostalgic feel to our journey. Very pretty and a nice isolated stretch from Kingman to Peach Springs to Seligman. We eat lunch at the very famous Delgadillo’s Snow Cap. Another great stop on Route 66 for lunch and an old school milkshake. From Seligman we head to Prescott on our journey back to Phoenix and we decided to check out a new to us brewery in Prescott, the Lazy G Brewhouse.

The Lazy G is located close to the downtown area and when we arrive, it is packed. Once again the service is excellent and the beer is very good. Prescott has a new player in town and they got it down. It happens to be happy hour and I am partial to blondes so I get the Sunshine Blonde and it doesn’t disappoint. Our server told us a bit of the story how the brewmaster came from the San Francisco and San Diego areas and I do not remember who he worked with but it made for a great story. From Lazy G to Hot P (Phoenix) the trip was uneventful.

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Our 2021 US Open Tour Stop In Torrey Pines

Carolyn’s mother had a birthday in April and to celebrate, Carolyn planned a midweek getaway to the Torrey Pines area to end the month. Our flight to San Diego had us in town by 7:30 and up the coast we drive.tempImage8bvb6e

First stop is a breakfast stop at Farmer & The Seahorse. What a cool venue located around offices with outdoor seating and a farm to table menu. The service was phenomenal and not many guests during the 10 o’clock hour. tempImage6fofiVCarolyn and I split the Harvest Bowl and it was filling and delicious. We were glad we found this spot. After breakfast/brunch we have decided to try a new to us hiking area that features a slot canyon.

Located in Solana Beach in the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is Annie’s Canyon Trailhead and trail. I had picked this hike out due to it’s easy access, newness to us, great views, and the bonus feature of a slot canyon in Southern California.

On this Wednesday morning there are some hikers out, some with masks, some like me–maskless in the great outdoors. Our hike takes us about 2.5 miles from start to finish and a total of 240 feet elevation gains. Carolyn and I ventured into the short sandstone slot canyon and it was pretty neat. Not a very long slot but not many can say they did a slot canyon in the San Diego area.

After our hike, we stop at the Viewpoint Brewing Company for a quick brew sitting outdoors overlooking a lagoon. Very beautiful place for a craft beer and our second time being at Viewpoint. They have a seasonal beer the Apricot Belgian Blonde that is incredible.

We check in to the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. Being a Diamond Member has its privileges plus being a team member of Hilton just adds to our ability to travel. Our rooms are great but we aren’t sticking around and quickly get back to our car for a drive up the coast through Carlsbad and on to Oceanside. The skies are clear, the beaches pristine, and the drive is a good one. Driving on the Pacific Coast Highway through Del Mar, Carlsbad, and Oceanside allows for some great sight seeing and our first stop is at a brewery in Oceanside that we haven’t been to. The Breakwater Brewing Company is located on PCH in downtown Oceanside. Breakwater has a great atmosphere with an outdoor patio and a decent midafternoon crowd. We share a pretzel to hold us over until dinner and enjoy a Kali Krush, a unique, hoppy American pale ale with California sage brush added. Something completely different and very tasty. I step out of my comfort zone and decide to try their 6-time San Diego International Beer Festival gold winning Rasbiscus Mead, a ruby red colored honey wine brewed with a raspberry puree and hibiscus flowers. I’ve never been a mead person but wow, this was fabulous. Sure glad that I stepped out of my tasting comfort zone. In talking with the employees, the recall of Governor Newsom is a hot topic as well as trying to stay in business and overcoming the CA challenges.

Back to the hotel and head off to eat some oysters at the Seasurf Fish Company. During happy hour, the oysters are a buck a piece and delicious. The fish tacos and calamari were not as good but the oysters. The restaurant was busy for happy hour and yes masks required etc. Back to the hotel and a sunset walk along the golf course area that was already prepping for the US Open in June. This will be the second time the US Open has been at the Torrey Pines course and it sure is a scenic stop for just about anything.

After breakfast at the hotel we drive to the Torrey Pines State Park. Carolyn and I had visited here in November and it is a beautiful place with some interesting history. Our hikes at the park take in some great ocean views with eroded cliffs and plenty of hikers. We end up hiking close to six miles and I believe that Carolyn and I have now been on every trail in Torrey Pines State Park.

We return to the hotel for a short rest and to get around for our next happy hour adventure at one of our favorite Southern California stops, the Brigantine. By prepare, that means that Carolyn is going to run the six miles from our hotel while Carol and I drive to the location. Our timing is off and Carolyn beats us to Brigantine and secures us a spot outdoors that overlooks the Del Mar Racetrack and the lagoon.The place is always hopping and especially since CA had relaxed some of their COVID requirements for restaurants. This place never disappoints. Our server was fantastic and excited about being open again. Carolyn gets some clam chowder and it is great. The fish tacos are indescribable and the calamari is awesome. Great atmosphere with great food and great service.

To end our evening we take a sunset walk along the Torrey Pines State Park Beach. Another beautiful day and evening in the books. We head back into San Diego Friday morning and I have convinced Carolyn and Carol to allow me to visit the original Price Club warehouse. What a great experience for me a loyal 40 plus year Costco (Price Club) member. It is still in the original condition of being an old warehouse. With that my trip is complete and we all make our flight back on a 100% full plane. Carol and I are literally the last two on the plane since two passengers failed to show up. We had already prepared to just hang out in the airport and wait for the next flight but sometimes it just works out.

Next stop on our travel adventures involves a hot hike to an Arizona Hot Springs. Stay tuned.

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Pleasant Days In The Desert

Carolyn and I have been exploring the Maricopa County Park System with several trips to Lake Pleasant. On our first trip out to Lake Pleasant we discovered that the North Entrance is closed during the week and not knowing what to do, we came in the main entrance and decided to hike the Pipeline Trail, Yavapai Point Trail. From the south side we began at the Pipeline Trailhead and hiked down the canyon to the lake where there is a floating bridge that crosses a cove so you can continue hiking on the northern portion of the trail. That didn’t work out so well since the floating bridge is no where to be found. We returned to the trailhead and went back to the entrance point for some hiking recommendations.

The young man was very helpful and sent us to an access point for the Beardsley Trail. We trekked north on the western side of the lake on a sunny and warm day through the dessert. Our hike took us to the Wild Burro Trail and we continued north to the Pipeline Canyon Trailhead. The Wild Burro Trail runs close to the lake and that was the only place we encountered any other hikers. It was around 4.5 mile one way. The Lake Pleasant area is known to have wild burros roaming around hence the Wild Burro Trail. We see no wild burros on our journey to the trailhead. As we prepare for the journey back to the car, Carolyn says to me, “We are probably more likely to see a rattlesnake than a burro on the Wild Burro Trail.” Sure enough we get our first rattlesnake sighting this hiking season on the Wild Burro Trail. Seeing a rattlesnake while hiking always gets me a bit anxious. I know we try to be on the outlook every hike and this one was meandering across the trail where it went behind some rocks.
We get back on the long desert section of the Beardsley Trail and Carolyn ends up spotting some wild burros. That was an added bonus and we got to see about six out in the desert.
Our hike ended up at 9.1 miles which did not include the 1+ mile that we had hiked on the Pipeline Trail earlier that morning.

Craft beer time has come and being on NW part of the Valley, we head to Throne Brewing Company on 67th Ave in Glendale. Throne was formerly Dubina and Carolyn and I had stopped by their brewing facility last fall that was opened during Pandemic time in April,. The location in Glendale is a popular spot on the Westside and my favorite of their brews is the Blood Orange IPA.

On Cinco de Mayo, we return to Lake Pleasant and find the north entrance closed again. This time we park off the side of Castle Hot Springs Road and enter the park by hiking. We start on the Cottonwood Trail located by the closed entrance and access the Yavapai Point Trail and hike to Yavapai Point. Once again it is very warm and sunny with nobody on the trails. This time we notice many burros and some young ones are with their mamas. Those little ones are very cute. With our old school phones, we couldn’t get many decent photos but we were thrilled to see them.

Yavapai Point overlooks Lake Pleasant and has some nice elevation gain (400 feet) getting to the top. On the return, we crossover to the Pipeline Trail and hike to the cove where the floating bridge would normally be. No bridge. On our way back to our car, we come across a burro that takes exception to us and lets us know by a long winded bray. It was something to hear as the burro continued braying for quite some time. Our hike today in the desert roundtrip to and from the car was 7.77 miles with a total elevation gain of 760 feet. After our hike, we enjoyed a picnic lunch by the lake. 

It wouldn’t be complete without a brewery stop, so we head to Front Pourch Brewery located in North Phoenix just south of Happy Valley Road and east of 19th Ave. My favorite from Front Pourch is the Toasty Blonde Ale and It’s Chime Time Blonde Ale that is brewed with cherries and key limes. Quite tasty and quite refreshing is how I would describe this perfect summer brew. Front Pourch has been involved in community work and last October, for a couple of weeks they donated $1 from every pint sold to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. From their website: “Our commitment to a better world goes beyond establishing a fantastic brewery. We are grateful for the work of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

Lake Pleasant is very popular for boaters and partiers on the weekends. For us, we found that during the week is a great time to visit with no crowds and a much calmer atmosphere and it has some great desert hikes. No rattlesnakes this time but beware they are out there. Added bonus for us was seeing more burros and encountering zero humans on the trails with a great picnic at the end with nobody around. And of course another brewery to add to taste along the way.

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Vacation Race Road Trip to Zion

Carolyn and Jordyn signed up for the half marathon trail run hosted by Vacation Races and being held near Zion National Park and we had been planning this trip for some time. Carolyn had put in some decent training in preparation only to catch Covid for the first couple weeks of March. Her training took a major hit but she got back out to running as quickly as possible and had regained some of what she had lost.
Our oldest daughter, Caitlin, agreed to join us for a family reunion trip. Caitlin was closing on her condo so she had to fly to St. George Saturday morning where she would join us for the rest of the trip.
It was a beautiful Friday for traveling and we went through Flagstaff towards Page, across Northern Arizona to Fredonia and headed to Hurricane, UT. Very scenic drive passing by the Vermillion Cliffs to Jacob Lake and coming off the plateau to the area around Zion. We stopped south of Hurricane in Apple Valley and Jordyn and Carolyn picked up their race packets and info for Saturday morning. From there we headed on to St. George for the night.
St. George is a growing town and the restaurants were packed with long wait times and we ended up eating at a pizza place so we could get to bed for an early start Saturday morning back to Apple Valley. St. George is becoming a very cool town.
Race day got us off to a very early start and the morning temperatures were in the 30’s. There were 500 total participants in the half marathon with about 320 being female. Off they went and I read in the car staying warm. I returned to the finish line and watched and waited for my girls to cross. I watched six male finishers and Jordyn appears crossing the line as the first female. Let’s just say I was stunned. Her time of 1:58:31 on a difficult trail was astounding. The run was closer to 13.5 miles so the time was more impressive. Carolyn finished about 20 minutes later and was first in her age group. Knowing how Covid had impacted her training, her accomplishment was amazing. It was a great morning to be me.

Jordyn Finished #1
From the race we went to Hurricane for coffee at River Rock Roasting Company. What a great local coffee shop. I will return. From there we head to the St. George Regional Airport to gather up Caitlin and head to Springdale, located at the entrance of Zion. I love Springdale. The town is small, beautiful, well kept, and handles tourism like a champ.
Our stay is at the Curio and it is beautiful located along the Virgin River. Our day is spent hanging out at the pools, relaxing and enjoying the amenities and the beauty of the area.
No trip to Springdale is complete with out a stop at the Zion Brewery located at the entrance to the National Park. It just might be the most scenic brewery in America. The beer is brewed off site but definitely worth a stop.


Sunday we head into the Park on the shuttle bus since Jordyn had secured us tickets because you can’t get on without having a preordered ticket and they are sometimes hard to come by. Our hikes include all of the Emerald Pool stops and down to the lodge. Still many Covid restrictions in place including mask required on the Shuttle. Some worthy coffee shops to check out in Springdale include Deep Creek Coffee Company and Feel Love Coffee that recently opened in Springdale after finding success in St. George. Some fun and busy spots for dining are Oscar’s Cafe and Zion Pizza and Noodle Co. Both places pack them in and the Pizza and Noodle place is a repurposed very old Morman Church, in case you were wondering.

Back to the Curio knowing that we are headed back to Arizona, Monday. On Monday we travel through Zion to the eastern entrance and it is a beautiful drive. We stop for a hike that is new to us located just inside the park entrance. Our hike is along the East Rim Trail and there are few hikers encountered. Our hike is an out and back for a total of 5+ miles. The Overlook area is very scenic. I enjoyed the solitude of the hike which is often hard to come by on the trails located near the western entrance to the park.

After our hike it is on to Kanab for stops at Sunny Creek Coffee and Big Al’s Burgers. Sunny Creek has fantastic coffee and espresso drinks located in a trailer. Always busy and run by some local ladies. With coffee in hand, Big Al’s bison burgers are a must have. This place is legendary and seems to always be busy. It makes our drive home much easier. 

This road trip was about the race, family, and enjoying some down time in Springdale. Our first major road trip of 2021 was a great adventure with all my girls. What a wonderful time in Southern Utah.

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Rockin’ a Road Trip to the Verde Valley: Craft Beer and Hikes

Getting back to normalcy in April for Carolyn and I meant returning to all of our outdoor activities. Carolyn was back to running longer distances and both of us hiking the great outdoors without worry of Covid aftereffects. Easter Weekend had us in Payson with Carolyn’s mother and we decided to follow Arizona Governor Ducey’s advice on visiting a state park. For some background information the Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego had closed all city parks for picnics and gatherings due to fears of another Covid outbreak. Governor Ducey didn’t much care for that so he promoted in a video that state parks were open and mentioned two as possible places to visit. One was the Tonto Natural Bridge in Payson area and the other mentioned was Rockin’ River Ranch in the Camp Verde area.

We decided to travel to the Rockin’ River Ranch. This state park had never been open and has gone through a long process of making it into a state park. I made the assumption that Governor Ducey knew something that I didn’t and that maybe the state was doing a “soft” opening as a gift to the residents. We travel the 60+ miles only to discover that it still was closed and somebody had given the Governor some bad information. I’m guessing we weren’t the only ones to travel to a closed ranch state park based on his recommendation.

Rockin’ River Ranch is located close to the Copper Canyon Trailhead and we decided to head there for a hike. We took Carol on part of the loop trail to the waterfall area. Carolyn and I had hiked this area last year and it is a nice area with little traffic. The waterfall is spring fed and a very peaceful area to visit. Our total hike was about 2.7 miles with little difficulty. I highly recommend doing the close to four mile loop trail that is moderate with some elevation gains.

Every good hike deserves a good beer and we head over to the Verde Brewing Company located in a warehouse area off of I 17. We have been here multiple times but they had been closed for almost a year during the Covid shutdowns and had recently reopened. Verde Brewing doesn’t get much for style points on location and ambiance but their beer and food are winners. The Gold Buckle Blonde Ale is one of my all-time favorite craft beers. It contains Verde Valley honey and is phenomenal. Their Wildflower IPA is also exceptional brewed with wildflower honey. I don’t always rave about specific beers but these two are Allstars. We shared the “elote” style nachos and some chili and they are fantastic. If you are ever in the area, this place is great. Just do it.

After our noon stop at the brewery we drive to Cottonwood and the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Our first state park attempt failed so we were determined to visit another. In all my years, I had never been to this state park. It is located close to Old Town Cottonwood along the Verde River. Very nice and we hiked around the lagoons for a peaceful walk. The park has multiple trails and Carolyn and I are determined to return and just maybe hike the 15 mile one way trail that goes to Red Rock State Park near Sedona. I might make the 15 miles but to certain how I would get back. I suppose I will have to figure that one out.

While in the area, we decided to visit a new to us brewery, Smelter Town Brewery, located in the old mining town of Clarkdale. Clarkdale has a cool vibe and they are restoring and repurposing some of the historical buildings. The Verde Canyon Railroad is located here and brings in many visitors. The brewery opened in the Fall of 2020 (Covid time) in a 100 year old restored building that also has a hotel. The ambiance of this place is something else. It is a beautiful building and we order samplers to taste their different beers. It is good to see that a small town can work together to get projects off the ground and completed. Clarkdale just might be on to something and the Smelter Town Brewery could be a cornerstone for other projects. Another spot you need to see.

Sampling The Smelter Town Brewery

Our trip back to Payson is nice and easy with little traffic on a late Saturday afternoon.

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Back On My Feet Again

Gonna break these chains around me
Gonna learn to fly again
May be hard, may be hard, but I’ll do it
When I’m back on my feet again

Gonna feel the sweet light of heaven
Shining down its light on me
One sweet day, one sweet day I will feel it
When I’m back on my feet again
by Dianna Eve Warren

After being down with COVID 19 for two plus weeks, I was ready to break the chains around me and get back on my feet again by hitting the trails that include brewery stops. Granted I started off slowly with longer walks around our Phoenix Dreamy Draw neighborhood and into the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Carolyn was back to running and working to regain her stride before her Covid setback and she definitely broke the chains much quicker than me. To commemorate my three week anniversary of testing positive we celebrated with a five mile round trip canal/street walk to North Mountain Brewing Company. If I was going to break those chains, I had to put in a brewery for a reward. North Mountain is a hidden gem off of 7th St and Dunlap. The “Golden Ale” is their signature brew and it has a great touch of honey that makes it an easy sipper.

The following day, Carolyn and I returned to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the Lost Dog Trailhead. Carolyn did a trail run and I read a book and then we headed out on the trails for a nice loop hike. Nothing real strenuous since I still wasn’t 100%. The hike was about three miles on the Lost Dog Wash to Ringtail. Very beautiful desert hike that had some slight elevation gains. Our reward for this adventure was a trip to Bone Haus Brewing located south of Shea close to the Fry’s supermarket. Another hidden gem with a great atmosphere and good brews. Our personal favorite is “Englemann’s Elixir” a prickly pear pale ale. We really like this one and on tap it is something special. Check out if you are ever in the Fountain Hills area on Shea.

I could feel myself getting stronger as the after effects of Covid were decreasing day by day. Carolyn and I decided that it would be good to see how I felt on a longer, more strenuous hike. On the last Sunday in March, we hiked in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve from the Desert Vista Trailhead located northeast of I17 and Jomax. For a Sunday afternoon, we did not encounter many other hikers. Our trail was the Hawk’s Nest to Dixie Mountain Loop. Our total hike was was over 4.5 miles and elevation gain of 850 feet. In the spring a great horned owl returns to her nest in a saguaro, gives birth and the baby owls are so cute to view. Those babies and their momma are something to see. (Carolyn did this hike with me after running on another strenuous trail loop of around four miles.)

Our brewery reward for this hike was Simple Machine Brewing Company located in the Deer Valley Air Park. This was a new brewery experience for us and once again another winner. Great open air pub with a patio and a local following. We will return when in that area. My personal favorite was the “Day Crusher” blonde Ale.

My day went so well, I figured I should get back on it and Monday we headed to White Tank Mountain Regional Park. Being Monday, there was very few encounters with humans on the trails. Our big hike for the day was a loop that took us on the South, Bajada, Mule Deer, and Goat Camp Trails. We managed 7.25 miles with elevation gains of 530 feet. Located close to Luke Air Force Base, our start was quite noisy as their jets flew over multiple times. White Tank area has been known to have snakes but the only wildlife encountered were small rodents. After this hike, I still had some energy left and we ended up hiking the Waterfall Trail. There is a waterfall, only after big rains, and this hike is worthwhile to view the many petroglyphs. I’m always fascinated by the ancient drawings and this trail has many to view. We adding two miles and another 400 feet of elevation gains to our daily total.

On the way back home, we found us another brewery to stop and visit, State 48 Brewery in Surprise. State 48 has six locations in the Phoenix area but this a first for us in Surprise. Our food was really good and our beer was ok. They happened to be out of several that day.

These hikes bring me to the end of March. I started the month of March under the weather with Covid but I continued to get better and by mid month I was back on my feet again hitting the trails and stopping at breweries along the way. Craft beer and hiking–it doesn’t get much better then that. Back in the day, we used to listen to Michael Bolton. The song for me always represented overcoming adversity with some encouraging words. In case you forgot who he was, I have attached “Back On My Feet Again” by Michael.

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Gonna Fly Now: Coming Back From Covid

There are moments in your life where something is said to you that you never forget and the words change your life forever. For example, my wife saying, “I’m pregnant!”. That was life changing and when Dr. Zonakis called and told me that my lab results for a mole showed melanoma, that was life changing. Or as recent as February 27, the physician assistant at a NextCare Urgent Care telling me that my nasal swab showed I was positive for COVID. Yep that was life changing as well.

During January and February, I officiated high school basketball in eastern and central Arizona. On the last Tuesday of February, I worked in Camp Verde and I believe I may have contacted the virus from an asymptomatic person who had stated throughout our games that he must have had eaten something bad because his stomach was causing “issues”. We worked with masks but in the locker room you let down your guard and I can’t say with certainty that is where I was exposed but that’s my guess. The following Friday, I officiated in Cottonwood and on my drive back to Payson, I called Carolyn and told her that I wasn’t feeling right, “I just felt off.”

Once arriving in Payson, Carolyn and I watched some Netflix before retiring. I was still achy and running a slight fever with an intermittent cough. Carolyn suggested we drive to the closest place for an instant test on Saturday and I made an online appointment for 1:00. The night was filled with night sweats and it became more difficult to urinate. (one of my symptoms) On our journey to NextCare I was feeling very lethargic and my body temperature at urgent care was 103. After testing positive for Covid, I immediately notified my neighbor and my basketball commissioner so they could start the process of contacting those who were in contact with me over the past week not knowing for sure when I was exposed. On our way back to Payson, Carolyn picked up a variety of supplements including zinc, and Vitamins C, D, B.

Now that I am in my 60’s, I was definitely concerned on how this virus was going to impact my life. I should note that I had scheduled my first dose of the vaccine on Sunday the 28th but that just wasn’t meant to be. On Monday, Carolyn returned to Phoenix for work and I stayed under quarantine in Payson with our 15 year old dog Roxy. From Sunday to Friday, I would get out and walk an average of 3.5 miles a day. I was able to continue my daily regimen of making healthy smoothies loaded with super greens and fruits high in antioxidants. I continued to run a low grade fever 99 to 100 that was controlled with acetaminophen. I called my long time family doctor, James Schouten, to see if he had some ideas and he prescribed zithromax Z pack with a methylprednisolone pack of steroids. Not certain how effective it was and In hindsight I wish I had taken the monoclonal antibody treatment that he mentioned as an option, but it went right over my head. The first week included awful night body sweats, fever, mild body aches, the “Covid” cough, and a feeling of fatigue.

I joined Carolyn in Phoenix Friday night, and she had started to develop similar symptoms. She tested positive on Saturday. We were now in quarantine together in our condo. My second week was much worse then my first week. Not only did I continue with my previous stated symptoms, I added a tightness with pains in my chest and the cough worsened, my pulse rate was high, became unable to focus when trying to read plus the fatigue worsened. The fatigue overwhelmed my desire to do anything and my making of the daily smoothie ended because I just couldn’t do it. Even Roxy would run and hide in the closet as my cough scared her to death. Carolyn and I spent the week watching multiple movies and shows on our various entertainment apps. (That part was enjoyable) My outdoor daily walks were now down to less then 2 miles as I lacked motivation and struggled with fatigue.

Week number three for me and number two for Carolyn saw improvement for both of us and Carolyn returned to her home based work with Southwest on Friday. I still had a reoccurring cough and the fever finally abated. I was on the mend but the fatigue issues continued. By Sunday, Carolyn and I returned to some hiking with a walk of over 5.5 miles in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve which felt good to do.

Prior to catching Covid, Carolyn had been training for a half marathon in Utah slated for April 10. Thankfully her recovery was a bit quicker then mine and she returned to running even though the two weeks hindered her training she was determined to get moving. She has not returned to peak form but she is improving and she won’t do as well as she hoped but she will finish.

I continued to improve during my 4th week with more energy and the cough was almost gone. I was thankful that I had never lost my sense of taste and smell during my battle with Covid. Carolyn lost her sense of smell and taste for several days during her first week but it was short lived. My doctor thought I probably had one of the variants of Covid (UK version) due to not losing my senses of taste and smell.

Prior to having Covid, my last illness was March 19 to about March 24, 2020 when I ran a slight fever with the nightly body sweats and just being sick. Who knows what I had then since testing was minimal and I never felt the need to get medical attention. Carolyn also had the same type of symptoms during that time frame. I’m not saying we had Covid, simply pointing out that we had nothing for a year in the way of illness.

Being seven years older then Carolyn, I do believe that age plays a factor in recovery. Carolyn and I (as far as I know) have no underlying conditions that would play a role in the virus symptoms. Overall my health has been excellent and I do believe being active helped us get through it with a good recovery and I am so thankful that we never had to seek out emergency medical help but were able to just quarantine, hunker down, and get through it. During the Covid time, my oxygen levels remained good running from 93 to 97. My pulse levels remained high and are still higher then prior to having Covid.

Those who make light of the coronavirus should be ashamed. I hear and read where people state that it is no worse then the flu and some have even said it’s no worse then a cold. The commonality amongst most of them is they have never had it and their statements are reckless and inappropriate. For me, I never have had a sickness that lasted close to three weeks and left me with residual effects that have lingered on. (Still have bouts of fatigue) Maybe younger folks have less symptoms but I consider Covid dangerous and the real deal. I have friends who are still not fully recovered after several months. I also know many who have not recovered their sense of smell or taste. Both Carolyn and I know those we worked with that died from the disease. We both took it serious prior to catching it and now that we have recovered we still attempt to follow the CDC guidelines. Wearing a mask at stores doesn’t bother me just like wearing shoes and a shirt into a restaurant doesn’t bother me.

Covid had interrupted my life in many ways and I have been on furlough from my hotel job since March 13, 2020. I did referee high school basketball but Covid ended my season abruptly. After notifying Arizona Interscholastic Association, I never heard a word from them on how I might be doing and it goes to show that even if you have worked for them for 30+ years they just don’t care. My oldest daughter, Caitlin, had it last June, my son in law James in January, (Jordyn tested negative like four times even though she had the symptoms and my mother in law Carol caught the Covid while visiting relatives in Florida in January/February. So Covid was not a stranger to us.

Carrying around the burden of not knowing whether you infected somebody is real and I suffered anxiety for awhile. Nobody wants to be the one who passes it on and puts others at risk (there are so many who treat Covid like a hoax, believe themselves to be immune, and don’t have to follow any guidelines so I won’t lose sleep for them). Thankfully it appears that I didn’t pass it on. (Except for Carolyn)

I feel fortunate that during 2020, Carolyn and I were able to have many social distanced adventures out on the road. We wore our masks, avoided crowds, stayed social distanced when possible and still managed to have loads of fun. I have recently been able to return to hiking and my walking distances have slowly increased. My craft beer intake from various breweries has returned. Carolyn, Jordyn, Caitlin, and I are headed to Utah where Carolyn and Jordyn will run in the Vacation Race near Zion. Our adventures continue and they will soon return to my blogging activity. Three plus weeks of Covid is in the books and I am gonna fly now. I ain’t no Rocky but the struggle was real.

Trying hard now
It’s so hard now
Trying hard now

Gettin’ strong now
Coming on, now
Gettin’ strong now

Gonna fly now
Flyin’ high now
Gonna fly, fly, fly

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Life Is A Teacher, Time Is a Healer

As I have sat in “bloody” quarantine (been watching British Netflix shows) contemplating the great outdoors and missing my wintertime treks into the desert, I have continued to read vociferously (between rounds of Spider Solitaire) and to watch some outstanding movies on a variety of smart tv apps. For the record, I was officiating high school basketball in AZ and knew something was not quite right so I went and got an instant Covid test that was positive on February 27 and I will address that at some other time.

Since my hiking times have been put on hold, I’m going to highlight a book and some “quarantined” movies that have deeply impacted my thought process on why Blacks in America just might be a bit angry and without any politics state that yes black lives do matter since that was not always the case in America. I will get back to hiking at the end as some recent articles allude to hidden racism in the outdoors. For the record, I am a rural guy having lived my formative years in rural Ohio, then my career years in rural Arizona.

My interest in the prevalence of racism in the USA has led me to some fantastic movies. I started with HBO Max and the new film Judas and The Black Messiah. It is a powerful, well acted film about Fred Hampton, (The Black Messiah) the young charismatic leader of the Chicago area Black Panthers in the 1960’s and how the FBI, used William O’Neal (Judas) to infiltrate the organization to keep tabs on Hampton. It is a powerful film and it sparked my interest in reading about the events and it appears to be fairly accurate and of course some events are glossed over which is to be expected in movie making. The movie clearly portrays the assassination of Hampton by the FBI and the Chicago police. The movie really did make one think especially given the times we live in with the focus on not only equality but equity amongst blacks and whites. Clearly in the late 60’s, Blacks were treated quite different by law enforcement in Chicago. Highly recommend watching and should lead to some interesting conversations with those around you. Also it should be pointed out that J Edgar Hoover and the FBI were the ones to call Hampton the “Black Messiah”. It has garnered six Oscar nominations including best picture.

Next up on my watch list, was a Matthew McConaughey film Free State of Jones. This movie is from 2016 and never got much traction but it is a hidden gem about Newton Knight and his desertion from the Confederate army and his fight against the Confederates as he leads runaway slaves and other deserters in stands against the army. Taking place during the Civil War and the end of the Civil War in Mississippi, Knight is seen as a white person who fights for equality against the racists who eventually enact laws that attempted to negate many freedoms that had been awarded to those of color. The movie also touches on the them of the poor southerners versus the rich elite southerners. Some interesting points in the movie include how the blacks when given the right to vote all registered as “Republicans” since it was the “Democrats” that opposed “equal rights”. They don’t sugarcoat that in the movie. Also laws preventing blacks and whites from legally marrying are mentioned and the movie ends with the great grandson on Newton Knight who is described as 1/8 black being found guilty for violating the law of interracial marriage in 1948 almost a hundred years after the end of the Civil War and we still had made little progress in the South for equal rights. The film I found to be very powerful on noting that the Civil War did not bring about equality in the Southern USA. It also reinforced in my mind that things may have been quite different if President Lincoln had not been murdered. The Reconstruction years were disastrous under President Johnson and the states in the south were basically allowed to put into places many laws limiting the rights of freed slaves. The film is quite touching and once again an eye opener for me on many of the “glossed” over parts of years after the Civil War.

Next on my film journey was a new docudrama Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal. Using transcripts from the FBI wiretaps and some real interviews this film touches on “White Privilege” and the wealthy elites who cheated and bribed and did many unsavory things to get their privileged children into what are considered the top-rated elite universities. Excellent film that really does point out how pointless it is that kids think they have to go to these specific schools when in reality it doesn’t matter where one gets a degree, it is only about prestige and privilege. It will make your blood boil at times especially when they list the punishments as being so little. Once again the white wealthy elites definitely get an unfair advantage in our court systems.

While searching for another film, I discovered another gem of a movie Mudbound. Mudbound is from 2017 and Netflix bought the distribution rights and it also received several Oscar nominations. Fantastic well acted film that takes place during WWII and at the conclusion of WWII in of all places, Mississippi. It follows two families, one black and one white, that farm the area. It really shows us how the racist mentality was running full throttle and the reign of terror on black people by the KKK and how blacks in the south had little rights as were still subservient to white people. The most telling part was how the son of the black family who served in WWII and was treated like a hero overseas had to return to Mississippi and be completely mistreated and denied basic rights simply because he was black. Once again a gem that really grabs a hold of you and should make you uncomfortable since this period piece takes place a mere 70 years ago right here in the USA. Fantastic film. Mary J. Blige is great as the mother and the song that she wrote and sang Mighty River is powerful.

Prior to being quarantined, I had picked up several novels by Jodi Picoult at yard sales with the idea of reading eventually as they sat in the garage collecting dust, Plain Truth and Small Great Things. Picoult is an outstanding “liberal” writer who really has a knack of writing about family and social issues. One of the most meaningful novels I had read was written by Picoult, Nineteen Minutes about a school shooting and the impact on a community by a 17 year old male that was bullied at school. Incredible story. I finished Plain Truth prior to quarantine and it is a great story that takes place in an Amish community in PA. It’s an amazing book.

Finally, I pick up Small Great Things and start reading. Picoult picked the title from a quote of Martin Luther King Jr. “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”.

Wow, is an understatement. The book is the most timely novel that I have read concerning race, racism, equality, and equity. Told in her style through three main characters, Ruth Jefferson, a black widowed single parent labor and delivery nurse, Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, and Turk Bauer, a white supremacist who’s wife delivers a baby in New Haven, Connecticut. The book is tedious at times as she develops the characters but never becomes “preachy”. You might think it is about “overt” racism but Picoult gets into the often overlooked areas of racism that include the difference in how blacks might be treated from whites. For example, as a white person when I walk into a convenience store or even a high end department store I don’t have eyes following me around. Still happens where a black person walks in and they eyes may follow as if they should be watched. The idea of who do you sit next to on public transportation or how does law enforcement respond to a black man vs response to a white man. Picoult in telling this sad tale of Ruth Jefferson, gets into these things and how it impacts her teenage son. This story has a heart warming ending which is not always the case with Picoult stories. It is an excellent book that I’m glad I discovered.

Back to the outdoors. Is racism inherent in being an outdoors person? I read the following in an article “Racism In The Great Outdoors: Oregon’s Natural Spaces Feel Off Limits To Black PeopleCooper said when she did go out for a hike, she felt unwelcomed, invisible and that she didn’t belong. She said she was ignored by white people in these spaces. If she did interact with white people along the trails, she felt a sense of hypervisibility.

As a white person who loves to hike, I can assure you that when it comes to hiking I’m quite colorblind. Most of Carolyn and my hikes are away from people and we often discuss how few we see on the trails that we choose. I don’t go hiking to hang out with people. I don’t typically talk and strike up conversations with other hikers unless it is in area I’m resting. We always say hello when passing others no matter what the color or condition of the hikers. I take a bit of offense to the statement of feeling unwelcomed. I don’t hike many urban trails due to the sheer number of people on them because part of me being outdoors is just being away from others. Over the last 15 years, I have definitely noticed an increase in the number of people of color hiking. That’s a good thing. The outdoors is a wonderful place for healing, relaxing, and getting rid of stresses and should be colorblind.

No matter the color of hikers, what I most detest and probably show some contempt for are people who hike blaring their music. Sorry but it doesn’t belong on the trails. Trails are about connecting with your hiking partners, conversation, and the quietness that nature brings. Blaring music detracts from the sounds of wind rustling through the trees, the squawk of birds in their pursuit of food, and in the desert, hearing is essential for avoiding rattlesnakes. For me, diversity and racism is not something I would ever notice on my hikes due to the solitude of the trails we usually are on.

I would argue that due to Covid, it does seem that fellow hikers you encounter are much less friendly and often turn their heads and backs to avoid you. Also, if they are hiking with a mask and your aren’t (I don’t) you will often get “dirty” looks and being a white guy I don’t think it is due to race since all colors and creeds that hike with masks seem to give you a condescending look of contempt.

As soon as I feel up to it and my Covid fatigue has dissipated, my plan is to get back outdoors, away from as many as I can, and enjoy the feeling of being isolated and alone along the trails. In the meantime, check out Mighty River by Mary J. Blige. Great song about healing and coming together. After these weeks of solitude, I do believe that the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism in America. Not certain why we think we have to honor those who fought against the Union and got beat. No where in the world do you see monuments honoring the ones who lost the war or ones who fought against democracy and the unification of the country. Just an honest observation.

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Well, I’m Running Down The Road

This blog is a tad different for me once the on again, off again, and back on again high school basketball season got underway in Arizona on January 19th. My hiking adventures have taken a backseat since the Arizona Interscholastic Association voted to allow the season to start and continue as long as masks were worn appropriately by all participants and limiting the number of fans. I was a tad bit skeptical about refereeing with a mask but it has worked out just fine. Having officiated for 30+ years, I put the uniform back on (tighter) and headed out the door and on the road again.

The season does cut into my outdoor adventures with Carolyn but I really wanted to get to work. The season started for me in an ominous way as my traveling partners are out for the season, one with Covid 19 complications and the other with various ailments. For me life on the road is many trips on lonesome highways by myself, late at night traveling anywhere from 180 to 300 mile round trip during various weather conditions. All for the joy of being part of a game that I have loved. The journeys have taken me to small towns throughout Eastern and Central Arizona. They include Eager, St. Johns, Show Low, Snowflake, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, and once in a great while I find myself refereeing in Payson.

After my first road trip to Winslow I battled foggy conditions with a dusting of snow on a lonely Highway 87 passing all of five cars, two snowplows, and three elk from Winslow to Payson, I was fairly beat down. Racing up and down a court at my age, sure beats up the body.

It is always interesting to run into the people I have known over the 30 years of officiating and this Covid season has been interesting. The responses to Covid vary in each and every place I have officiated. In Winslow, fans are very limited as in hardly a soul there to places where the crowds now approach 40% capacity. Some school districts have hardly missed a day of in person school while others have just returned to having students in the classroom from a total online experience.

In Round Valley I have talked with those who have had horrible Covid experiences even though they were by all appearances very healthy individuals. The in person learning continued with nary a complaint. In Snowflake, they have continued in person classes and St. Johns has only had one week that they stayed away from classroom learning.

Camp Verde saw a spike in their local Covid cases after their annual October festival but in school learning continued. Every place I go, has an interesting story. In the White Mountains, as officials, we are quite strict on players keeping masks covering the nose and mouth. In other areas, not so much. I have learned that you can run and adjust to physical exertion with a mask in place on your face.

Since there are no games on Sundays, Carolyn and I managed to get some hikes in that were close by our house in Payson and in and around the Phoenix area. On Sunday, February 7th Carolyn and I hiked along the Peach Orchard Loop with an add on hike along a ridge line. We ended up with close to six miles and decent elevation gains.

The following weekend, we met Jordyn and James at the Lost Dutchman State Park for a cookout on a very windy day and since it was later in the evening, we did a three mile loop hike that was nice and included 600+ feet of elevation gains. An added bonus was talking with the Sheriff’s Department and the number of rescues they had performed that day in the Flat Iron area. I believe he told us they had at least five trips and one we got to watch. It is amazing to know that they just these expensive helicopter rescues with no charge to the rescued.

Lost Dutchman State Park

On Valentine’s Day, Carolyn and I hike in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve as the weather is better with much less wind. It was a very nice desert hike close to our condo and not many hikers in the area we were. We ended up hiking close to seven miles with 800 total feet of elevation gain so it was a worthy Valentine Day trek. It was a great way to spend the day with my Valentine. Yes, we did also enjoy a Valentine Day Dinner at Picazzo’s in the Paradise Valley area. Our server was fantastic, the food mostly organic and great, as were the adult beverages. Don’t want anybody to think I’m a cheap Valentine.

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

These small adventures sure help keep me going as I soon returned to Payson for more basketball on the road. If I can stay healthy, the adventure will continue so stay tuned as we enter the final stages of the basketball season and I can get outdoors a bit more and yes back on the brewery tour. Next planned big stop, Tucson in mid-March.

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