Saturday, May 23, 2015

Arizona State Parks

Most know Fred and I love to travel around by visiting state parks and volunteering our time at the parks.  We have found this a great way to really see this nation in a natural, nature environment plus give back by volunteering.  As we get to a state we try to see as many state parks as we can and only overnight in a RV Resort/Campground when we have to. 

Arizona has 28 state parks and we got to 13 of them as we traveled through Arizona.  Here is information of those 13 in alpha order and not in timeline as we saw them.

BOYCE THOMPSON ARBORETUM:  What a neat place.  This is a park that we would love to go back to as park host at some point.  This park is just an hour from Phoenix.  I talked about the park in an earlier blog right after we visited it.  There are more than three miles of paths and trial over 100 acres and the gardens and pathways are just amazing.  There is no camping in this park but it is worth you time to visit.  They do sale native plans and have a wonderful gift shop.  Plan a full day to visit as you will be amazed at the different gardens.  Those of you that are bird watchers there birds are everywhere and there is a special hummingbird garden that is very nice and busy with hummingbirds.

CATALINA STATE PARK:  This is the park that we stayed in while we were in Tucson.  Really nice park and again one that we would consider hosting in as it is just outside of Tucson and there is lots to do and see in the area.  Park sits at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains and you feel like you can reach out and touch them from your campsite.  There is lots of wildlife in the park and the bird watching is fantastic.  While we were there a mother mountain lion with her cub was spotted on the birding trail.  Park covers 5500 acres and even has an Equestrian Center for those of you that have horses.  Trails are everywhere and some even take you up into the Catalina Mountains.  There is both electric/water RV parking/camping and primitive/tent camping available.  I would recommend making a reservation as the park does stay busy.  They also offer day use area with great picnicking area.  Those of you that are traveling through Tucson and are looking for a peaceful/quiet place to stay just for the night, the park is about 12 miles off I-10 and really worth the stay.  You will end up wanting to stay two nights as it is great.

DEAD HORSE RANCH STATE PARK: We stopped to look around at this park as we were out sightseeing.  We planned a picnic lunch here on our day out and I was glad we did.  The park covers 423 acres and has a nice camping area and lots of places to fish and hike.  As we drove through the park the Boy Scouts were there with a jamboree so I can truly say their group camping area is neat.  It was cool seeing all these boys running around, yet staying in the area so they were not bothering other campers.  This is also one of three state parks that has cabin.  They are on their on loop within the park along the Verde River and are very neat.  There are electric/water sites available as well as tent/primitive site and even has an Equestrian area.  Truly a full service state park.  Another one that we would like to host at sometime.

HOMOLOVI STATE PARK:  This is another state park that we spend time.  This is an archaeological site but does have a camping and day use area.  It is located right off if I-40 and many use it as an overnight place as they travel.  You can see the freeway from the campground but you are so far away you do not hear the noise.  The land is wide open and you can see for miles over the vast desert area.  The park runs along the Little Colorado River and was the home of ancient people during migrations period.  These people eventually joined the Hopi Indians that were living upon the Mesas in the areas.  The park is a archaeology study area where there are two major ruins of the “communities” and homes of these people.  There are hiking trails with interpretative signage through the ruins and numerous picnic tables and pull out areas where you can sit in quiet and watch the wildlife within the park.  The Hopi people still consider the site as part of there homeland and continue to make pilgrimages to renew their ties with the people of the land.  During the summer there is a Suvoyuki Day Festival in which visitors are invited and a celebration is held to honor those that have helped to protect the Hopi ancestral villages.  Great place to stop at over night and/or spend some time hiking.

 JEROME STATE HISTORICAL PARK:  This park is strictly a day use park and is really interesting to get to.  If you take the time to go to Jerome stop in the state park first as you can learn the history of this mining town – but this is not a place you can take your RV with you, so camp down at Dead Horse Ranch and make plans to go up the mountain to visit Jerome and this park.  The town dates back to 1876 when copper mining was first started in this area became the largest producing copper min in the Arizona Territory in the early 20th century.  The park was the Douglas Mansion and looks out over the town and the copper mine.  It stands out as you drive up the curves and switchbacks of the mountain to get to Jerome and is the first think you will see.  The Mansion is a museum of the area and has a wonderful picnic area that looks out over the area and town. 

KACA_G_01[1]KARTCHNER CAVERNS STATE PARK: You are not allowed to take pictures within the caverns so I don’t have pictures of here.  We had a friend that was park hosting so we made a day trip there to visit with here and see the park.  The caverns are wonderful and truly amazing. There are two different rooms that you can visit; we only got to one and it was amazing.  The park has some great camping area and is very busy so make sure to make reservation.  If you want to take a tour of one of caverns make sure to make a reservation for that as they stay busy.  There is a café at this park so getting a snack/lunch is quick and easy.  This is park off I-10 just north of Bensen, AZ and is great place to stop.


Lost-Dutchman-State-Park[1]LOST DUTCHMAN: The park sits at the base of Superstition Mountain and has several hikes that will lead you up the mountain.  It is names after the fable lost gold mine located in the Sonoran Desert just east of Phoenix.  There are number of ghost towns just outside to park that are neat and an old mine with a unique museum about the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.  There are both electric/water sites and tent/primitive site.  Great park for exploring Superstition Mountain, hiking and/or just relaxing and getting away.

PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK:  Really a neat park.  You can spot this park from I-10 easy  as the peak stand outs against the skyline.  Located just west of Tucson as you travel I-10 west just right off the freeway.  One of those parks that can be spotted from the freeway yet the noise from the freeway is not a problem when camping.  We went there at a time when wild flowers were blooming and wow it was nice.  Lots of great hiking trials.  There is even a special trial that is set up for kids with interpretative information that is in an language that kids can understand.  Another park we would like to host at some point in time. 

RED ROCK STATE PARK:  This was a park that I was looking forward to walking around an exploring, but we were not allowed in the park as we had the dogs with us. There are no pets allowed in the park and even though you request just to be allowed to drive through we were denied access with the dogs in the car with us. The park the Center of Environmental Education so I don’t know if that has something to do with it or not as all the Ranger could tell us why we could not just drive through – we were not even allowed to park and go into the visitor to look around and find out information about the park.  I did take pictures of the drive to the park and the area around though.  The park is close to  Sedona, AZ and the area is unique.  If  you decide to go to this park just know that you will not be granted access even to the visitor center if you have your pets with you.  Here are some pictures I took of the area outside the park.

RIORDAN MANSION STATE HISTORIC PARK: This is a duplex mansion that was the home of Timothy and Michael Riordan who were big lumber barons instrumental in the growth of Flagstaff, AZ.  The park is located with Northern Arizona University.  The mansion was built 1904 by Charles Whittlesey, the architect of the El Torvar Hotel in the Grand Canyon.  This was the first structure built in the area with hot and cold running water, central heat and electric light.  There is a center living area with two separate living wings for the brothers and their families. Day use area with guided tours of the mansion by reservation only.  Make sure to plan ahead if you would like to see the place.  Unique mansion.

ROPER LAKE STATE PARK: This is the park that Fred and I were park host during January – April 2015.  Great park and we really enjoyed our stay there.  This is another one of the three state parks in Arizona that has cabins.  The cabins look out around the lake and have big porch swings on the front porch of each.  Good fishing and great birding at the park.  There is also a nature hot springs hot tub in the park to soak in after that long day on the road. There is also a sub-park that is three miles down the road that is called Dankworth Pond that is a day use area only with great fishing.  The lake allows boat but only electric motors – no gas motors.  Park is located 30 miles off I-10 on Hwy 191.  I strongly recommend reservation and plan on two nights as the park is no nice that once you get there you want to stay an extra night as there is a lot to see and do in the area.  Nice quiet place for just that over night stay though, you will not be disappointed with your stay here.  Look back over my previous blog for more information about the park. 

SLIDE ROCK STATE PARK: Very unique park and a very scenic drive to the park.  The area was once the homestead for the Pendley and was an apple farm located in Oak Creek Canyon.  The home, barn, and other building of the homestead still stand on the park for viewing.  The park got it’s name by the natural “slide rock” in the creek .  This is a 80 foot slippery shoot that is worn into sandstone that visitors are allowed to slide down while enjoying the creek itself.  There is a market located within the park that sell things you find in the regular visitor center of a park but also has products from the apple orchards that are still located on the park. This is a day use only park and really a neat place.  We enjoyed our visit here as it is very beautiful. 

 TOMBSTONE COURTHOUSE STATE HISTORIC PARK: Set back into the old west visiting this old courthouse.  The courthouse has been turned into a museum of the town of Tombstone and its rich history.  It was built in 1882 and housed the sheriff’s office at one time, plus was the center of many hanging as orders were issued from the Judge.  Beautiful old place that has been preserved with rich history.  So much to see in Tombstone when you go there but be sure to place this on your list of place to go and see in Tombstone.  You will not be disappointed.

This cover the 13 state parks that we have gone to in Arizona as of now.  We hope to get back at some time and see the other 15.  Hope you enjoyed and that will give you some idea of some state parks you might want to see.  On to our next adventure . . . .

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bucket List–Grand Canyon

Let start out by saying sorry this is long, but the Grand Canyon – WOW – what else can I say.  So much to see and do there and around the area.

We left Catalina in Tucson and headed for the Grand Canyon.  This is one of the bucket list items Fred and I both had on our list.  Neither one of us have ever been there and both of us were looking forward to this part of the trip; needless to say we were not disappointed. 

Since there was no state park close and the RV Park in the Grand Canyon was full we stayed at The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and RV Park.  The park was really nice with lots of amenities as well as we had access to the hotel amenities.  Sites are close but with Route 66 within walking distance and the Grand Canyon a short drive you really do not spend that much time in your rig.  This is also a Passport America park so the price is great!

This is also the location where you catch the train into the Grand Canyon.  Price for the train ride is expensive and you only get three hours of free time in the park before you have to get back to the train for the return trip but the experience is worth the cost.  There are a number of levels you can ride the train, so you have to select what is best for your pocket.

Within walking distance is Historical Route 66 – this was our first adventure on the route.  This was something that was really special to us as we both grew up during the high times of Route 66.  We went out our first evening there for a walk down the strip and for dinner.  Stop at the Route 66 Café, there was a guy there singing oldies but goodies and we had a locate beer and hamburger.  It was a fun special night.  Here are some other pictures of our fun visit on Route 66.

We were up bright and early the next day for our trip into the Grand Canyon and what a day we had.   We got to the visitor center and learned that there were three bus route you could take to different areas of the canyon that were free.  Great way to get to see just about everything.  So we took the blue route – which is the lodging/shopping route and had breakfast was at the Bright Angel Lodge overlooking our first view of the canyon.  Afterward we walked the Trail of Time for a while before we got back on the bus to tour the red line, which is the longest of the bus routes with nine stops to Hermits Rest.

There are a number of neat shops along the Trail of Time and we stop at a few along the way.  First was Verkamp which was the first trading post ever open in the Canyon. Over the years it has been updated and a second story was added but the original building is still the first floor.  At the end of the sidewalk up to the trading post was something we had never seen before – there are places throughout the park where you can refill you water.  There are lots of hikers around and they want to ensure plenty water is available to them.  The water comes from the springs within the canyon.  Another one of the neat places that we stopped at was the Native American Hopi House.  This place is a historic landmark as it is an original structure of the Hopi Indians   that has been restored .  Inside was really unique and has lots of great shopping.  Fred would not let me stay long though – lol

Now on to the Red Route of the bus tour.  Along the way there are nine stops where the bus makes stops.  You can get off at any time and take as much time as you would like at each stop and/or either hike to the next stop and catch the bus again.  The buses run every 10 minutes and you can get off and on as much as you like.  The route is 8 miles long and there is a hiking trail along the route so if you want to hike as much as you like or not hike at all.  Each stop has different view of the Canyon and each was as great as the last.  The first stop gives you a trail overlook of the Bright Angel Trail which is 12 miles one way.  There are five stops long the way on this trail and you can hike as much or as little as you like.  Here is a picture looking back at the trial and if you look close you can see Grand Canyon Village at the top of the ridge.  Great hike.

The last stop is at Hermit Rest which used to be a the rest stop for tourist as far back as the 1920’s after a rough buggy ride up the 8 mile trail.  There is a gift shop and a small deli inside.  The place is really neat and has a wonderful big fireplace.

Outside the overlook of the canyon is just as great; we also had a Raven that was just entertaining everyone and waiting for someone to drop some food. 






That evening as we were leaving the park an elk crossed our path and we noticed others resting/grazing along the side of the road.  It was a cool thing to see.

The next day we went back to the visitor center and took the orange tour bus route.  This route has two sections to it and covers six stops along the canyon.  From this route is the access to the South Kaibab Trailhead which is the trail the donkeys/mules use to take you to the bottom of the canyon and/or you can hike it.  From these points you will also have the best access to see the Colorado River.  Again the buses stop at each stop about every 10 minutes so you can get off and take as long as you like at any point. 

Our first stop was at the South Kaibab Trailhead and we hike down the trial a ways.  The trail is steep with switchback so we did not make it far, but it was fun.

View from this side of the park were just as amazing as the other -

But the all the sudden the weather moved in – this was something and we got back on the bus as fast as we could as it started hailing

With the weather moving in we went to the Market Plaza to do some shopping and get lunch; it was our hope the weather would improve.  The rain just seem to keep coming so we cut our day short but we did make it over to Mather Point before we left.  As you can see the weather was just hanging around but the sites were still awesome.

Views of the Colorado River as it winds through the Canyon were great from here.

Our fulfilling this bucket list items certainty was not disappointing and if you have not seen the Grand Canyon, make plans and go.  The place is amazing!!!