Thursday, June 30, 2011

Escape Winter Visit Arizona

For the past several years our February/March travel plans have include a trip from cold and snowy Illinois to the idyllic desert of Arizona.  We are always mindful that higher elevations like Flagstaff have real winters and bring out the skiers and snow boarders in great numbers, but we have come to expect that we can look up from the relative comfort of Saddlebrook (outside of Tucson) and only think of snow when we peer at the lofty summit of Mount Lemon.

Last year brought a change in that expectation.  It got cold in the valley.  So cold at one point that the fountain in my cousin's back yard took on the aspect of ice blue popsickle.  Then a little later on we went to bed serenely and woke up to a  "what to my wondering eyes did appear" frosting of white stuff that turned the desert environment into a strikingly unusual new postcard material.  It didn't last long, but while it was there I snapped and snapped.  From the cactus in the snow to hummingbirds mystified by the new covering on their feeder, it was a new experience for us. Below are a coupleof samples. See some more at

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ride the Apache Trail Outside of Phoenix

For the utmost in day tripping out of Phoenix you cannot go wrong with a drive on the Apache Trail Circuit.  You can find a great old western mining town,  super-scenery surrounding crystal blue lakes,  twenty-eight miles of mountainous desert landscape on reasonably smooth gravel, the magnificent Roosevelt Dam,  and cliff dwellings at the Tonto National Monument.

 You start your circuit at Apache Junction and take State 88 out of town.

 Stop for a stroll and mine tour at Goldfield.  If desert flora is on your list, you could also stop briefly at Lost Dutchman State Park.  Then head on past the scenic Canyon Lake. A paddle wheeler cruise is available at the marina.

There's a great restaurant and souvenir shop at Tortilla Flat, but that's also where the blacktop turns to gravel.  From there for twenty eight miles it's rugged but well maintained. The scenery on this leg is worth the dust and you can negotiate it with a normal vehicle. 

This is Apache Lake
You finally reach the Roosevelt Dam and the story of its construction and rebuilding is fascinating.

Just the other side of the dam is Roosevelt Lake and the highway bridge just above it is a marvel of symetry.

From here you are back on the hard road and it's time for a stop at the Tonto National Monument.  No question it's quite a climb to the cliff dwellings but if a 74 year old can make so can you.  And it is  well worth it for both the ancient site and the views of Roosevelt Lake.

From the Tonto monument you cruise down Hwy 88 until you get to Hwy 60 where you can dive back down out of the mountains and back to Phoenix.   Lots more pics can be found on my Flickr site at