Sedona and the Verde Valley, Arizona

Sedona and the Verde Valley, Arizona

We stayed at the Zane Grey RV Resort, just outside Camp Verde, in a site surrounded by trees and flowering shrubs. It was close to Montezuma’s Castle, a National Monument. Montezuma’s Castle is another example of an ancient ruin being misnamed when it was first discovered. Southern Sinagua farmers built the five-story, 20-room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300. It had its maximum occupation in the 1300s and was occupied for another century, then abandoned. We did a little birding there on a breezy day since it was relatively sheltered and beside a creek.

Here’s a view of our campsite, taken from the back of a vacant site across the road. The second photo is of the “castle” at Montezuma’s Castle NM.


We also visited the hillside community of Jerome. In the early 1900s, Jerome was a booming mining town of 15,000 perched on the mountainside. It was basically a ghost town by the 1960s. Hippies moved in in the 70s and now Jerome is a thriving community of 500 filled with shops, galleries and restaurants. We first visited the Jerome State Historic Park, in the preserved Douglas Mansion. The short video presentation about the history of Jerome was worth the price of admission. We then drove farther up to the main town and were lucky enough to get a parking spot.

Here’s a view of a partial building; behind it is a glass-blowing workshop. The Jerome Chamber of Commerce had some interesting displays in their little museum.

After being windy and cool, the weather improved enough for mountain biking and hiking. On Saturday, we drove up to Sedona (about 45 minutes) to hike to Cathedral Rock. There was no room in the parking lot when we got there at 9:00. We should have known better; hiking in Sedona is very popular. Luckily we consulted our hiking guidebook and map and found a “back way” in. (Baldwin trail to Templeton to Cathedral Rock trail) After half an hour of hiking, we were looking down at the jammed parking lot that we had first attempted to park. The climb up to the saddle was another half hour and was more of a scramble on slick rock than a hike. With some strategy, Doug was able to get his quintessential photo of Wendy near the edge. The photo doesn’t show how crowded it was. The route we took also allowed a great view back to Cathedral Rock in the afternoon light.

We enjoyed our lunch in a quiet spot near Oak Creek, very close to this vortex site. Vortex sites are places where some people believe energy crackles most intensely. And we had to include a cactus in bloom.

We got up earlier on Sunday and drove through to West Sedona and up to Boynton Pass Road and the Fay Canyon Trailhead. This trailhead was only just beginning to fill at 8:30 when we started our bike ride on the Aerie Trail. We made a loop around Doe Mountain and connected to the Cockscomb trail. The trail was a bit rocky but “rideable”, with the more technical sections at the beginning of the loop, and some nice flowy sections and fun “whoops” near the end.

Since we had already secured a parking spot, we walked across the road and hiked the short Fay’s Canyon trail. Highlights were seeing a rattlesnake up close (without consequences) and identifying a black-throated gray warbler.

Another day, we rode starting at the Bell Rock Trailhead and repeated most of a route that Wendy had ridden with friends a couple of years ago, when Doug was not yet able to get back on his bike. We rode up the Bell Rock Pathway and joined the Llama trail. We didn’t mind walking the canyon section of Little Horse. Then we cruised back via the Bell Rock Pathway.

Here are a couple of views from the Llama trail.

We found a hike that was closer to our RV park in Camp Verde and was also considered a “hotspot” for birding: West Clear Creek trail. The trail passes a popular swimming hole, where people can jump of the red rock cliffs into the deep pools. No photos of Wendy jumping in (we didn’t come to swim) but you could check out the “Bull Pen” swimming hole on-line if you’re interested. We did cross the creek twice; one crossing had mid-thigh water with a rocky bottom and luckily a gentle current. We saw some nice birds: our first really good look at an ash-throated flycatcher and a pair of summer tanagers were the highlights.

West Clear Creek has water in it all year and flows into the Verde River.


We travelled about half an hour northwest to Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, AZ to be on site for the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival. We both went on field trips for all four mornings of the festival. There were afternoon and evening sessions offered, but we were almost saturated with viewing birds from our morning sessions (about 45-55 species each day).

Here is our group at Travasci Marsh, reached by a trail system right in Dead Horse Ranch State park. The highlights of this trip were seeing a yellow-breasted chat and Bullock’s oriole.


We also had good bird viewing at our trailer. The previous campers at our site had sprinkled bird seed on the ground in the dirt beside the picnic table and between the bushes and brush. Our regular visitors were Gambel’s quail, green-tailed towhees, sparrows (Brewer’s, chipping, white-crowned, black-throated and lark), and house finches. One day as we were sitting out, a pair or northern cardinals flew into the nearby bushes. Doug was patient enough to capture these photos of the male (bright) and the female (with attitude!).

And there were always the hummingbirds. We purchased this cute window feeder at the Mesa market. Amazingly, the hummingbird’s tongue can reach to the end of the tube. We also had little verdin feeding from them. Here’s a black-throated hummingbird feeding outside our window of the trailer.


Here are some highlights of the birds we saw. A great blue heron in flight.


Male (red) and female (yellow) summer tanagers.

A male lazuli bunting and a male Bullock’s oriole.

We listened to chatter of the yellow-breasted chat on all four days until the last day when one finally showed itself. (left bird). The more drabber bird on the right is the ash-throated flycatcher, another bird that we heard more than we saw.

And here are a few LGJs “little gray jobs”. The gray flycatcher on the left is identifiable by it’s tail-wagging behaviour. The gray vireo (right bird) was more elusive, but Doug was quick enough to get this shot.

We had a great time birding at the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival. Each of our guides was knowledgeable, each had their own style and strength, and we learned and picked up things from them all. We visited four different birding locations: Montezuma Well, Sedona Wetlands, Bubbling Ponds Preserve IBA and Tavasci Marsh, all places that we will return to on our own when we come to this area again.

We are on our way home now and can hardly believe that we’ve been away for over six weeks. Our new fifth wheel feels like home and has met and exceeded our expectations. Stay tuned for our summer adventures in “Big Red.”


Having Fun around Page, Arizona

Having Fun around Page, Arizona

We found lots of things to do around Page, Arizona, and one of them was literally around Page. Page is situated up on a mesa and has a trail that circles the rim. We rode the ten mile (16 km) trail two times in our eight day stay. At one place the trail went between the fairways of the golf course and we had a very short section on pavement. Mostly the trail was on slick rock or rocky trail. We had good views of the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.

Here’s a photo of the Glen Canyon Dam from another day.


We stayed at Wahweap campground that is in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area. We had spectacular views from our spacious site.

Rainbow Bridge is an impressive natural bridge that can only be reached by boat or an overnight backpack of more than 20 miles. Since our long backpacking days are over, we opted for the boat. We sat on the open top deck for the hour and a half cruise, wearing plenty of layers in the morning chilly wind. When we got off the boat at the floating dock near Rainbow Bridge, we converted our pants to shorts by unzipping the legs and hiked the mile to the bridge in the baking hot sun.

Here are two views of Rainbow Bridge; the first one is as you approach it, and the second is from behind. We took a trail around to the other side of the bridge; no one is allowed to walk under the bridge since many of the indigenous people of the area consider it sacred.

The cruise through Lake Powell was also impressive: clear water, blue skies, red sandstone cliffs. The white “bathtub ring” on the rock shows Lake Powell’s highest level back in the early 80s.


Our daughter and her husband joined us for a few days. We booked a tour to Canyon X in Antelope Canyon. The tour group is relatively new, so it was easier to get a booking. It seems that most tourists come to Page for just a few days to see Antelope Canyon. The tour was relaxed and our guide was personable. We got some amazing photos. Here are just a couple.

Our tour was an hour and a half, so we wanted to fill the day. Next on the tourist tick list is Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River. It’s a 15-minute walk from the parking lot on the side of the main highway south of Page.HorseshoeBend

To get a good view of the river, you need to get quite close to the huge drop-off, which wasn’t a problem for the young people. We saw recent construction of a viewing platform with a wire security fence. Hopefully a person will still be able to climb out on the rocks if they choose when the project is complete.

For the afternoon, we drove north into Utah and visited the toadstools. There’s a rough path up to the main group of toadstools. We then wandered around and worked our way back to the parking lot.


The next day, we drove back into Utah to Wire Pass trail. The trail follows a wash, goes through a slot canyon and joins Buckskin Gulch. We walked both directions in Buckskin Gulch until the water was too deep.

A short hike right in Page is to the “Hanging Garden.” Water seeps from between the sandstone layers and provides an environment for maidenhair ferns. It’s quite a contrast from the dry rocky terrain just metres away.

Yellow Rock is a favourite place, so we wanted to return. Back in 2015, Wendy hiked up with her quilt in the bottom of her backpack for a photo shoot. The patterns and colour in the rock fascinate us.

The hike to Yellow Rock was short, so we combined it with walking into Lower Hackberry canyon. We changed into our water shoes and enjoyed the cool water and shade.

We did get a little bit of birding done as well. This loggerhead shrike posed on the fence beside a road we were exploring. Our campsite seemed to be one of the best spots. Yellow-rumped warblers flittered in the tree, but their quickness and the leaves made it difficult to get a good photo.

We enjoyed our visit to Page, and there are still interesting things that we missed doing. Next stop is in the Sedona area.

St. George area: hiking, biking, birding, relaxing

St. George area: hiking, biking, birding, relaxing

When we were in the St. George area last year, we checked out Sand Hollow State Park, which is about a half an hour southeast of St. George. We made reservations in December for a full service site on the outside of the loop. The site (#18) was ideal for us, with a view of the lake (reservoir) on one side and a panorama of mountains on the other. The sites are also well spaced out.



Nearby to our campsite was a slickrock area known as “the jumping rocks.” The first day we walked there it was cooler than the next Saturday that was full of people, with teenagers jumping off the rocks into the chilly water.

We hiked at Snow Canyon State Park, which is nine miles north of St. George. No chance of snow here; it was named for Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, prominent pioneers. We love the spectacular scenery, especially in the area known as the “Petrified Dunes.”




We had a couple of good days biking as well. First we rode at the JEM trail area just above Hurricane. The JEM trail from the lower parking area winds its way up on the edge of a canyon then climbs steadily up through the desert brush environment. It was a fun flowy ride down.

We also rode the Church Rocks loop, which is in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. We accessed it from a new highway interchange at Washington Boulevard (Grapevine to Prospector’s to Church Rock loop). Prospector’s has a steep “hike-a-bike” section, but otherwise we were pretty much able to ride everything. If you look at the photos below, the trail is along the top of the rock behind Wendy.


We also had time for some birding. We found a great spot in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, right around the Orson Adams house (a pioneer family of the area). Quail Creek runs right by the house which is a draw for the birds. The cottonwood trees had verdins and yellow-rumped warblers. White crowned sparrows foraged below the scrubby bushes, and a black phobe enjoyed the water’s edge. There is also a good view of the red cliffs.


Being so close to Zion National Park, we just had to go again. We chose to do some birding along the Riverside Walk. Most of the people on our early bus got off before the last stop at the Temple of Sinawava. The 2.2 mile trail is mostly in the shade, so we were well bundled up. We got a good look at some Common Mergansers. A house wren was singing loudly, a posed for enough time for a photo.

On our way back to the Visitor Centre, we chose to get off the bus at the highway intersection (Canyon Junction) and walk back via the Pa’rus trail (1.7 miles). The paved trail follows the Virgin River and allows good views of the Towers of the Virgin.



From one of the pedestrian bridges, we watched a couple of black phobes catching insects.


As we got closer to the campground, the birds were more plentiful. There were lots of western bluebirds and yellow-rumped warblers.

We stayed at Sand Hollow for eight nights. Two bike rides, two hikes and a morning of birding, which means we also had time to relax, read, and Wendy had some time for quilting. We’re learning to slow down a bit and enjoy our time in “Big Red.”





The land of the cactus

The land of the cactus

We planned our trip to Mesa, Arizona to coincide with a quilt show, and choose the RV park because friends were staying there for the winter. We first thought we would be lazing by the pool most of the day enjoying the warm weather. After some research, we realized there was hiking and mountain biking in the nearby mountains, so although we sat by the pool everyday, we were also very active.

We stayed at Mesa Regal, a RV resort of over 2000 units. Many of the spaces are filled with park model mobile homes with attached “Arizona rooms,” with some spaces for coaches and fifth-wheels. Most residents stay for six months or more, but they have room for short-term visitors as well. Once we navigated the narrow roads and were backed into our site, we were glad we were staying put for a while. The park was a full-scale resort, with large pools in two locations, a restaurant and bar, tennis club, and various activity rooms including a quilting room. It was a very active 55+ community with a full schedule of activities to partake in. We enjoyed sitting by the pool, and if we had been there longer, Wendy would have joined the quilt group that has over 150 members.

The Arizona Quilters Guild annual show “Quilt Arizona!” was at the Mesa Convention Centre, about a 20 minute drive from the RV resort. Wendy was there most of one day; taking in a lecture and having fun perusing the various merchant tables for interesting products and bargains. The quilt below didn’t win any awards, but it is a good example of a quilt in southwest colours. (Finding Turquoise in the Desert by M. Nowacki).

We bought the warthog-like sculpture, (maybe it is a javelina?) at the Mesa Marketplace Swap Meet, which is less of a swap meet nowadays and more of an open-air market with about 900 merchants. It was a “recreational shopping” experience.

There was a great birding area within 15 minutes of our RV park: The Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch. Any water in the desert brings birds, and we had a productive morning observing forty-one species, including three that were new to us. Doug got a good photo of a Curve-billed thrasher on its nest in the Sagura cactus. The cacti grove (if you can call it a grove) was at the entrance to the riparian preserve.

We saw more cacti on our hikes. We hiked to the ridge above the popular Wind Cave in Usery Mountain State Park.

The Saguaros were also magnificent on the “Hieroglyphics trail.” The easy trail led to ancient Anasazi petroglyphs (erroneously named hieroglyphics). The feature photo on this blog (you’ll see it if you view the blog on your browser) is a view of the Superstition Mountains taken from the trail.


We also rode our mountain bikes through the cacti on the Hawes loop. Luckily the trail was wide enough that we didn’t get too close to any thorns. The trail was really nice, not very sandy or rocky.

Our next stop was to Boulder City, Nevada. It turned out that there was another quilt show nearby! The Desert Quilters hosted their annual quilt show, “Quilt Las Vegas” in the Henderson Convention Centre, about a half hour from the Canyon Trail RV park where we were staying. So, our morning started with a short mountain bike ride on the Bootleg Canyon trails that we rode to right from our trailer. A quick shower, and Doug dropped Wendy off at the quilt show. There were many amazing quilts, but we chose to post a picture of a “Leaf Me alone to Quilt” because the maker (M. McNelley) had bought the pattern on her trip to Canada.

To top off the day, we saw a sign for a beer festival; so we had to check it out. It was in the city park in the middle of Boulder City. There was a live band, and beer tasting tents and food trucks ringed the park. The photo below shows only a small section of the crowd. Doug enjoyed his sample of amber ale from “Rickety Cricket” a brewery out of Kingman, AZ.

We were also only minutes away from the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. (You can check out our post from April 2017 to see our photos from our visit last year.) This year, we saw the same number of species (31), although there were differences. We saw our first Black-crowned night heron. It is a stocky, large-headed heron that rarely extends its neck. The Yellow-headed blackbirds were loud and showing off.

We also got a good look at a family of Double-crested cormorants.

And of course, we had to visit our favourite Nevada brew-pub, Boulder Dam Brewing. It’s a block away from this eclectic antique shop.


Next stop: St. George area, Utah.

Petrified Forest National Park and area

Petrified Forest National Park and area

Petrified Forest National Park is a day’s drive from Fruita, Colorado en route to Mesa, Arizona. We stayed in the closest campground in Holbrook, Arizona.

We set out the next day for the park. We started at the northern end of the park, which encompasses the “Painted Desert.” The long views were so amazing that it was hard to capture them in a photograph.


Here’s a view from a trail below the Blue Mesa. Petrified wood lay scattered around everywhere.


Some of the petrified logs looked as if they had been spilt for firewood. The signposts explained it well. Think of the petrified wood as a piece of chalk; under pressure, it splits across the grain as if it was cut by a saw.

We’ve seen some good examples of petrified wood over the years; some involving long hikes in remote areas, but no other place had as much petrified wood as in the Petrified Forest National Park. It was all around; huge logs exposed to the elements. The variety of colours depended on the minerals present when the wood changed to stone.

Wendy couldn’t decide which was her favourite log; each had a different variation of colour. The old Route 66 cut through the park, and a rusty old car was appropriately placed (it was hard to believe that it actually died there), but it called for a photo.

We were also close to the “Meteor Crater,” so the next day, we decided to have a look. Although it has been declared a “natural landmark,” it is privately owned, and has been turned into a tourist destination, complete with admission fee, museum, tours and the quintessential gift shop (which you need to walk through to access the washrooms.) The crater itself was impressive and the museum was very informative.


Yes, we had to admit, we were tourists, because nearby was Winslow, Arizona and we had to go. Even before Doug knew there was a park commemorating the lyrics in “Take it Easy” he was interested in visiting Winslow. “Standin on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, Such a fine sight to see, It’s a girl my lord, in a flat deck Ford, slowing down to have a look at me.” We like to believe that the statue is of Jackson Browne, one of our favourite singer songwriters.

We enjoyed our few days enroute to Mesa, seeing things we’d never seen before. In our next post, we travel to the land of cactus.