Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chimney Rock Loop

We had a few good days this past week between rounds of company. We took advantage of the weather to try a system of trails nearby that we had not done before. At the end of our street is a trail head that leads to a number of other trails. The Thunder Mountain trail runs along the base of Thunder Mountain which runs parallel with the main road through Sedona. These trails are close to neighborhoods so you may see some roof tops and power lines, but around the next bend is wonderful scenery. They are fairly popular with tourists.

Anyway, we took the Thunder Mountain trail to the Chimney Rock trail. There are two loops one can take, the upper or lower Chimney Rock trail. We took the Upper loop the first day. It had some spectacular views but I forgot my camera (even though it is on Judy's list by the garage door). What a shame. Chimney Rock is sort of between the formations near downtown Sedona and the formations toward the south, so you get great views in both directions. It was pretty muddy and fairly steep at times so it took us a couple of hours to make the loop.

The next time we took the cut-off for the lower trail. This trail also had great scenery and was a little easier on the thighs than the upper trail. We've done the lower loop again since the first time and it will definitely go on the list of trails to do for our company. Here are a few photos. Remember, you can double click on the photo to zoom it...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Snow Day

Well, it's cold and snowy today so it's time to blog. (If "google" is a verb, then "blog" can be too).

We've had a fun few days since the last blog. Curt and I have taken a number of great hikes - Boynton Canyon and the old ruin along with a hike up Doe Mountain. We also took another drive down the Diamondback Gulch road (see last's years blog). We encountered 3 people who had rented ATVs, one of which broke down halfway up the last climb out of the gulch. We helped him shove it to the side of the trail and offered him a ride to the rental office but they decided to stay together and double up. I'm sure they had to walk up some of the other climbs.

My sister Carol, from California, arrived on saturday for a few days. She flew into Flagstaff so we drove up there to pick her up. She had a pretty bumpy flight as the weather was pretty bad. She is leaving today and Flag is snowed in, so she'll take the van to Phoenix and fly home from there.

On Saturday afternoon, I took a half day workshop on Intro to Pastel at the Sedona Art Center with Michael Chesley Johnson. It will finish up next saturday so I'll let you know how it went next week. I like the approach he is taking. We are all working from the same reference and following a process to get to completion. So far, so good.

Despite the shakey weather we had a great day on Sunday. In the morning we took the Jeep over the Broken Arrow trail. Carol and Curt had a blast (as did I).
Then, the 4 of us took the short hike into Fay Canyon and ate lunch on the boulders at the trail end. We got hailed on when walking out. It was an interesting experience. From there we went to the Sinaqua ruins at Honanki. Got hailed on there too. We had the place to ourselves. Who else would go out in this weather? As usual, we took the back trail home from Honanki and encountered lots of slick rock and mud (see Jeep photo).
This back road gives us great panoramic views from the Red Rocks of Sedona to the snow capped mountains to the south. Although it was a bit stormy, from time to time an opening would appear in the clouds and throw sunlight across the landscape and light up some of the red rocks. It was really impressive. Here are a couple of Curt's photos.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Where else can you just decide on the spot to go to the GRAND Canyon just to take a few photos. That's what we decided to do Tuesday night. So, Bill Sullivan, Curt and I got up at 5am the next morning to catch some of the morning sun on the Canyon. We drove through Oak Creek Canyon in the pitch black. It is so dark here as there is no light from any populated area and all lighting in Sedona must be pointed downward. The night sky is unreal. (but I digress). We stopped in Williams for a quick bite and then north to the Canyon. Using my Senior Lifetime pass we saved the $25 entry fee, what a deal.
We were able to drive the Jeep along the Rim Road and stop wherever we wanted. (After March 1st, this road is only accessible via shuttle bus.) Sunrise was 7:15 and we got there about 8:45, so the sun had come up a bit but there still plenty of shadows cast in the canyon. We all took about 60 photos. There were just so many opportunities around every bend. I'll include just a couple. I am determined to try to do a large landscape of morning at the Grand Canyon.

From there our GRAND tour went to the Grand Falls. We were there last year and it was such a surprise that I wanted to detour there while we were in the neighborhood (an 80 mile round trip was in the "neighborhood"). The Little Colorado is fed from snow melt and run-off so we were glad to see that there was some water there. It is an amazing site way off in the middle of the Navajo Reservation. I'm still not sure how the river flows NORTH to the Grand Canyon.
A road just above the falls led across the Little Colorado. I wasn't sure what was under the water, mud or ledge, but figured the only way to find out was to drive in. Curt jumped on some rocks in the river to get a photo of the attempt. It turns out it was pretty solid ledge and pretty shallow. Later when the snow melt fills this river, it is fairly trick to cross.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 1 on the trails

Here is a photo of the new Rubicon's first day on the Broken Arrow trail. It was a good initiation ride. I took Curt out for his first trip on these trails. I bottomed out a number of times on the Staircase and smashed the wiring connector for the trailer hitch. I took off the broken connector and duct taped the lose wiring harness to the trailer hitch. It is a Jeep after all.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

End of the road

We left Amarillo before dawn and got to Sedona before sunset. It was a long day in the saddle. At the end, the Jeep looked like it was "rode hard and put up wet". We were glad to toss back a couple of beers on the Sullivan's deck and watch the sun go down.

We got up early to get a good start and got on I-40 before 7am. The Garmin said next turn in 560 miles (or something like that). It is a long haul across North Texas and all of New Mexico. Not much to comment on as the scenery looks a lot like the picture.

We gassed up in Albuquerque and decided to take an early lunch at the Laguna Reservation. Like the Whistle Stop in Texas, we wanted to stop at an off-beat place. We saw hand-made signs on the highway directing us to a place where we could get Fry Bread and Indian Tacos. So we pulled off the interstate and found the little building. The Laguna woman slid the screen window open and we ordered our lunch. She was very nice and friendly and 10 minutes later she slid the window open again and handed us our lunches. Check it out in the photos. It was terrific, if you like that kind of stuff.

We took a little side trip near the town of Grants, east of Gallup, NM. We saw on the map that there was a National Monument called El Morro nearby so we went to check it out. It was such a nice surprise. It is a rock formation in the middle of nowhere that had a deep pool of fresh water that was runoff from the top. The settlers and Indians used to stop there as it was one of the few spots on the trail that they could find water. There are Indian pictographs and settler's carvings in the walls. Two of the women who etched their names in the wall were attacked on the trail and had to return to Santa Fe before trying again. One had actually been shot with an arrow. And I thought our trip was an adventure.

After we left El Morro, we passed through the Zuni Reservation. No photos allowed on the reservation. The highway runs through town so one can get a look at the homes. Pretty rough looking accomodations. We did see a number of mud-ovens with people cooking their Zuni bread outdoors.
BTW, we did 3076 miles from Walpole to Sedona, via the southern route.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Riders on the Storm

Well, we made it from Tyler to Amarillo without too much trouble. As expected, it snowed overnight and dumped 3+ inches on the ground. Curt cleaned off the Jeep as Judy and I finished our coffee and we left around 7am.

We had the roads pretty much to ourselves as we headed towards Dallas. The road was beautuful but we saw many cars and trucks in the ditch. The bridges were very iced over. It was pretty intense for a few hundred miles.

We circled around Dallas and headed north then northwest. About 40 miles north of Wichita Falls we stopped for lunch at a local road house called Whistle Stop. The parking lot was loaded with muddy pickups, the dress code was overalls, the waitress knew everyone there and the smoking room was bigger than the non-smoking room. We ordered fried catfish, chicken fried steak with gravy and baked potato with chili and devoured it all. We thought we would never eat again, but we had room for margaritas and chips when we got to Amarillo.

BTW, does it look like we are crowded in the Jeep? So far, we are still speaking but we still have another day.

Winter Storm Advisory

The forecast yesterday was for a storm to come in to Louisianna from the west leaving a 3-6 inches of snow. We figured we could still visit the national park and head west and not be in too much trouble and that most of the snow would come at night. It worked out fine for us. We ran into some snow on the way across Louisianna but it didn't really start coming down until we were almost to Tyler, Texas. It is snowing pretty good now (5:45 am) but I think we will drive out of the storm as we head NW to Amarillo today. We seem to pick the weeks with storms to travel west. Last year I-40 was closed for a few days due to snow/ice. This year it is I-20 that has the problem.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


The main reason to head further south on our voyage west was to visit the Civil War Battlefield at Vicksburg. We have hit some of the key battlefields in the east but this was the first time we stopped this far west.

The battle of Vicksburg was key to the North because whoever controlled Vicksburg controlled the Mississippi. Lincoln wanted it taken as the highest priority. The Confederate general, Pemberton, surrendered on July 4th 1863, the same day as Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. It wasn't until fairly recently that the folks in Vicksburg actually celebrated Independance Day.

The city itself is fairly run down. We took the Scenic Route around the town and ran into a few seedy neighborhoods, some right next to the upscale B&B's. Can you see the cannon on the lawn in the picture to the left? The town is nestled among many rolling hills and ravines which made it nearly impossible to conquer. Grant finally won the battle after many unsuccessful attempts by locking the city down in a seige.

We toured the national park using a cd we bought for our self-guided tour. Unlike some other battle fields that have been cleared of trees to replicate their original state at the time of the battle, Vicksburg is heavily populated with trees that were planted in the 1930's before it was a national park. This makes it a bit difficult to visualize some of the individual battles that took place. But, it was still worth the detour and it was easy to imagine what it took to bring about a northern victory.

A very interesting display was the Union gunboat, Cairo, which was sunk by a mine before the battle started. It was lost in the Mississippi mud until the 60's when it was raised to the surface and reconstructed.

On the Road Again, again!

Well the time to get on the road had come. The Super Bowl was history, the Jeep was loaded to the gills and the tank was full. We set out monday morning for New Jersey where we visited with Judy's cousin, Jim, his wife Deb and their son, Andrew. We had a very good, although short, visit. We all played Wie and had a blast. It was my first time playing. It is very humbling to be skunked by a 4 year old.
From there we headed south to NC to freeload off the Hathaways. We were picking up my brother-in-law, Curt, who is coming with us to spend a week in AZ. The drive to their home was pretty uneventful despite the record snow that had fallen in the Mid-Atlantic states, until Lady Garmin had us take the loop road around Baltimore. This is where we saw that the snow plowing leaves a bit to be desired. Lanes would just disappear as the plow must have meandered along the highway. Traffic was crawling and we lost a lot of time taking the safe route. We then encountered some driving rain before arriving in Weddington, NC around 6:30.
Curt and Terry had prepared a great meal of pasta with broiled tomatoes and great steaks. Kaleigh was away at UNC. She just got back from a full semester at the University of Ghana, yes, Ghana as in Ghana, Africa. And, guess what, she made the X-country team and competed in meets. What an experience.
Kelsey is a junior in a new high school. There is a new HS at the end of their street, so she had to go there. ALL of her friends are at the old HS. She is pretty despondent about it. But I think we cheered her up by saying, "Who needs friends" and "Friends are overrated". She has submitted some of her art work to be accepted in the Governor's School program this summer. She's pretty talented. Here are a couple of photos. The one on the left looks like an intreresting exercise and the one on the right is a Klimt.

We left NC at 6:45. After a stop at Starbucks we made our way through SC, GA, AL and into MS. We will visit the battlefield at Vicksburg today. The forecast is for a winter storm coming through, so we will hightail it to Texas around noon and hope we miss the brunt of the storm. More to follow.