2. Southwest Adventures…April/May 2017

day 6…4.17 
Tucson!  Time to explore a new town!  Right outside of town is the Mt. Lemmon Scenic drive & it was beautiful! A 28 mile drive that takes you from Saguaro cactus, to big rock formations & then into the pine trees & forests.  It was a really cool drive.  There was still snow on top.  I found a place to dry camp, but it was only noon.  So after stopping at several look out pullouts, the Visitors Center, the top to take a walk & then a little tiny town near the top called Summerhaven.  I went into the General Store, one of about 4 places in the town.  The nice woman there was just cutting fresh fudge.  Now Im not much a fudge person, they sell it in every tourist town Ive ever been in & it doesnt usually look that appetizing to me.  But I could tell this had just been made, so I bought a single piece of Rum RaisinWOWIE zowie!  Those raisins had a ton of rum in themit was fantastic. 

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After my time at the top, I made my way back the same Id come up, enjoying the views going down.  I was about 10 miles from Saguaro National Park, so that would be my next stop.  There are actually two of these in Tucsonone on the east side & one on the west.  I was going to the east one.  Its a tiny park, but had a ton of staff inside the Visitors Center.  I bought my postcard, asked some questions, then headed to the entry booth & showed my pass.  Im super glad I didnt have to pay the $18 to get in!  The park has an 8 mile drive through the cactus.  You can get out & walk a mile or two through the cactusbut that about sums up the whole park.  So, I droveslowly just to make sure I didnt miss any of the cactus.  One woman in the Visitors Center told me of a place I might see a Gila Monster, but when I went there I was just looking out towards hundreds of Saguaro cactuses….& wasn’t sure exactly where to spot said monster.  

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It wasn’t long before I was done…where to next?  Tucson has 20 breweries…the two I wanted to visit were both closed on Mondays.  I chose Thunder Canyon Brewery near downtown Tucson & had two awesome beers!  The bartender was really nice & the place has a great atmosphere.

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Next I went to their historic downtown hoping to find some funky shops.  What I found was some places to eat, tattoo shops, vap shops, incense stores, etc. Ummm…I walked for several blocks & went into a couple of places but none were what I was really looking for.  So, I drove back to my little campground for the night.  I parked in a different spot tonight & noticed a small camper, tent & truck across the way from me.  It looked like a single woman was camping. I sat out in my chair for quite awhile reading a book. As night fell,  I could hear an owl hooting somewhere near, then saw it up high in the rock formation behind me.  With my windows open for the night, it’s soft hooting lulled me to sleep.

day 7…4.18  
Fairly early in the morning, I drove out to Catalina State Park to hike the Romero Canyon Pools hike I’d read about.  The hike is rated as difficult, but you never really know until you’re on the trail.  The guy taking money said it was a challenging hike & be sure to take plenty of water.  It was hot for sure!  The parking lot was full & I wondered if everyone was on this same hike.  The mileage is 5.9 & the guide book said the first part of the trail was flat, but the rest was climbing.  This was all true.  Once the trail started up, it didn’t stop until the very end, when it went down to the pools, in which I was hoping to swim or at least soak my body in the water.  The trail was very rocky, uneven & you had to watch every step.  Did I mention it was hot?  By the time I got to the pools, I was ready to soak.  There were small puddles…some stagnant water; some running & clear.  I hiked around a bit & finally found the big pool…the one I could soak my hot, dirty body in.  Only it was about 15’ down below the rock I was standing on.  It might have been deep enough to jump in to, but then how would I get back out?  There were other hikers around, but only a couple teen agers even had their shoes off & soaking in the small pools.  Ummm…so, I took off my shoes & soaked only my feet in the cold water.  It did feel good!  

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The views both going & coming were really nice though & in spite of watching every footfall, I enjoyed the hike.  I was amazed at the people coming up the trail as I was near the end, with one bottle of water & the temperature near 90 degrees & just starting the hike.  I was so hot, dirty & tired as I went into the gift shop.  I asked the nice lady if they had a campground…yes they did.  I asked her if they sold showers…she didn’t know so she called the ranger to ask.  They were only available to registered campers.  I never get this…some truck stops also only sell showers to drivers who can show their CDL license.  I must have looked forlorn & mentioned that I just wanted a shower & was offering to pay for it.  She said she understood & didn’t get why they would be so exclusive (I think a lot people love to be exclusive).  Then she told me there was a spigot outside & that I was welcome to turn it on full blast & wet anything down I wanted to!  Yay!  I went back to my car, grabbed my sandals & a small towel & went back & turned on the water.  I washed all the trail dirt off my legs & feet then my face & rinsed my hair.  It wasn’t a shower, but I felt so much better!

I had some time to kill before my evening ‘appointment’, so I went back to Thunder Canyon brewery for their lunch specials.  The food was so great & I drank a full pour of another amazing beer.  Nice treat…when I walked into the restaurant & up to the bar, the same bartender that visited with me yesterday, greeted me with a “Hi!  Welcome Back!”…then as the afternoon went on, we visited about where we both were from, etc.  

I had some place to be at 5:45.  The whole reason I’m in Tucson on this day is for my GOES interview.  I applied for Global Entry a couple of months ago & was approved for the first part.  The second part requires an interview & fingerprinting.  Kansas & Oklahoma don’t offer anyplace for interviews; Missouri’s was booked until after August, then they quit taking them at all.  I also checked Denver, Orlando & Dallas…long, long wait times.  I’d had one booked for May 10 in somewhere-Nebraska, but then when I planned this trip, I checked into to see if anywhere in Arizona had appointments.  Because they’re conducted by the US Border Patrol & Customs, Arizona had four places for interviews (living in the middle of the country doesn’t require too many Border Patrol offices).  So, a few weeks ago, I’d scheduled an interview for today.  I found my way to the Tucson airport, then to the Border Patrol office & I was 30 minutes early.  It was interesting to people-watch.  There was one officer & three other people before me.  They were all dressed up & I wondered if people just dressed up in Tucson or did they dress for this interview?  I had on clean clothes & of course my freshly washed from the water spigot body, but I only dress up for weddings & funerals (& still the term “dress up” means very different things to different people).  We had to watch a video regarding the process for when we came back into the country & how to use the kiosk for Global Entry.  The big warning is….BE SURE TO DECLARE ANY FOOD & MONEY!  The officer warned everyone how you could be kicked out of the program if you didn’t!!!!!  Finally it was my turn.  The officer was nice & tried hard to be funny.  But I found it odd that a guy running a computer needs to be armed with big gun on his hip (he could probably get a job in Tombstone though when he retires from the Border Patrol!)  I was finger & thumb printed…then the computer shut down.  So, we moved over to the next cubicle & I waited while the next computer booted up & repeated the process.  I was approved & even received an email in the middle of the night telling me so (wow…that’s fast & efficient for a government agency).

I was ready to go back to camp, sit & read; straighten out my car as I was going to leave Tucson in the morning.  As night approached another camper approached my campsite gently calling out “hey neighbor” with a flashlight & a bottle of water she offered me.  She was warning me that she’d seen a giant snake under one of the trees, & that I might want to be careful & use a headlamp when/if I got up in the middle of the night to take care of business. Diane was about my age, & I asked her how long she’d been camped here.  She said since last November.  There’s supposed to be a 21 day limit on camping on BLM land, & she said the rangers drive through, but hadn’t run her off.  Her husband had suddenly died last fall & she didn’t have a choice but to be out here.  Then she began to cry.  She told me she had a dog; one she’d had since she was a puppy & that she was going to have to give her up & decided she would do it tomorrow.  Diane said she couldn’t get a full time job & have the dog…there was no place to leave her during the day & the camper was too hot.  She’d been asking friends if they knew someone who could take her, but no one could.  As tears rained down her face, she told me she was losing her best friend.  I’d seen the dog & Diane walking & she seemed gentle & sweet.  But the dog was a pit bull & Dianes worst fear was that she would not go to a good home, but that someone would take her & use her for fighting.  This was so heartbreaking.  We finally said goodnight.  To say the least, I did not sleep well that night.

day 8…4.19  
My plan had been to hang out in camp & have a leisurely morning, enjoying my coffee & finishing my book.  And I did that for a while.  I must have looked like I was packing up my though, when Diane came over.  I gave her a hug & said I knew it would be a tough day for her.  Then she said to me, “Vicki, please take her.  I know you must be a good person & would give her a good home”.  Then I had tears leaking out my eyes.  I told her I’d thought about it most of the night, which was so true.  I believe that some people cross out paths for a reason.  And while I don’t think I can make a difference in the world, I do think I can make a difference in an individuals life.  Was this the time I gave one woman some peace & hope?  I’d thought about the logistics…I’m 1,200 miles from home, my car is stuffed, I’m supposed to be on the road for another 3 weeks & some of those places super hot…but did any of that really matter?  Did I have to do it that way?  I could just drive back home & cancel the whole trip?  I knew Danny would take in another dog, but I don’t want to be a dog owner.  I want freedom & to travel…I don’t even want any houseplants.  Believe me…these are the thoughts I had all night.  I gave her hug, told her I’d wrestled with the idea all night, but came to the conclusion that I could not take her dog.  She thanked me for even considering it & after a little more visiting, we hugged good bye & she walked backed to her camper.  I quickly got my stuff, packed up & left my spot.  I stopped by to say good bye to her one more time, & then crying all the way, I left.  I was wondering what type of person I was.  I made it to gas station down the road & called Danny.  He didn’t judge me…I knew if it had been him, he would have taken the dog no doubt.  But I felt awful…not just wondering if I’d missed the opportunity to help someone out & a living breathing animal who just wanted to be loved & would miss her owner as much as her owner will miss the dog, but I was so sad for Diane.  I may not be rich with money, but I’m privileged.  Its easy to forget there are many good people that can’t seem to catch a break.  I hope none of us ever feel that kind of pain, desperation, fear & struggle.

I drove north to Tempe having some time to kill before my next stop.  I walked around their shopping district, but it was mostly restaurants near the University.  I didn’t really feel like going in & out of ANY stores, so I just headed for the Pedal Haus brewery.  No other customers were at the bar, but the bartender was great & I ordered a beer.  I really don’t even remember what I ordered.  I felt pretty melancholy at this point.  

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But the bartender took me to another place…she started talking about her travel.  She was probably 30 or 35 & had been all over the world & someplaces for months at a time.  She bartends several months a year, then takes off to travel.  Her latest place had been New Zealand so we talked about the huts, the hikes & cities she’s been to. I always love to hear about other people’s travels…always, but today it felt like a special gift.  But I knew I was just being selfish…Diane’s situation hadn’t changed.  And I know, there are thousands of good people out there just like her.

The bartender at the Pedal Haus recommended I try another brewery called Wren House.  So I drove across town to a tiny old house in some part of Phoenix & ordered a couple of sampler beers.  I love their logo & the beer was good.

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I was supposed to be at Danny’s brother’s house in Scottsdale at 3pm & that’s when I showed up.  David & his wife Linda & their two kids, spouses & new baby Ava were all coming over after work for Pizza.  I hadn’t met Ava yet & she is precious!  It was great seeing David & Linda with their grand baby too.  Just like when Danny is with Claire, David’s face lights up with big smiles & supreme happiness when he’s playing with Ava.  It was nice to catch up with family, hearing about all their jobs, homes & plans.  It was a work night for them all, so it soon came to an end.  I tucked in for the night & left early the next morning as Dave & Linda had to go to work.

day 9…4.20  
It was about 6:30am, so I drove to Starbucks to figure out a plan.  I was going to my cousin Gary’s house tonight who lives just north of Scottsdale, but didn’t have to be there until 6pm.  What to do?  It’s hot in this town. Truthfully, I’m not sure I could stand to live at these temps.  It hadn’t hit 100 yet, but would a couple of days later.  I caught up on some phone calls, since I was on mountain time.  My mother in law suggested I go to Constatini….where the Paolo Soleri bells are made.  So, after a bit, I formed a plan.  Constatini was my first stop & I got there about 10 minutes after they opened.  It was pretty cool.  I couldn’t afford & didn’t need any of the bells, but it was a peaceful pretty place to walk around.  I watched some of the workers for awhile & wondered how they came to work here.  There had been a couple there when I first got to the place & they bought about $3,000 in bells…I think they bought 3 big bells.  But I was all alone sitting outside watching the workers…it was a nice way to start the day, sitting in the quiet except for the hundreds of chimes from the bells!

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After I left there, I went to Old Town Scottsdale.  There must be 50 galleries there….most all very high end stuff.  But I found a local artist gallery & took my time strolling through there….it was great!  There were lots of shops, but I just walked by them looking in the windows.  Old Town is blocks by blocks…there is an unbelievable amount of shopping in this area not to mention the whole town seems meant for shopping.  

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I Googled & found a brewery about nine blocks away & decided to walk there.  I had a flight of four beerstwo made by Craft 64 & two guest taps.  I liked one of the C64 IPAs, hated the other one, but enjoyed the other two guest beers.

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On to my next adventure….Jill & I had taken a wacky trip to Wisconsin several years ago & included in that we visited Taliesin…one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes.  The tickets are pricey…for me anyway, but we took the tour.  All should have been great…except we both thought our tour guide had drank her lunch…she was punchy for sure.  And the house was so run down which surprised us.  It was an interesting tour to say the least.  So when Jill found out I was headed to Scottsdale, she said I should take the tour of Taliesin West…she’d been on it & said it was a fantastic place.  This morning I’d decided to spend the big bucks & take the tour.  And I was sooooo very very glad I did!  Not only was the house super great, but my tour guide was super wonderful!  I bought the 90 minute tour & enjoyed all 100 minutes of it!  I’m sure I took way to many photos, but I loved it all.  And the tour guide didn’t try to hide the architects flaws, but included them in the tour with a little twinkle in her eye…she was what every tour guide should be.  

The outdoor sculptures & water features were so awesome.

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And the inside of the house was just amazing.  His designs for the way the walls slant, the windows, the beams, & all the furniture are brilliant. The living room below & his bedroom on the right.

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Every room has a fireplace like this, because the house originally didn’t have heat or electricity.  This type of fireplace the wood stands up in the corner & the heat radiates efficiently into the rooms.

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There is a lot of Asian influence in the home…it’s everywhere.

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The home has been & still is a working school….the smallest School of Architecture in the country.  The walls…every one of them, were built by students putting rocks from the property in forms the filling with concrete.  Hundreds & hundreds of hours of work.

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The tour had been wonderful!  I had a little more time to fill before going to my cousin’s house in Cave Creek (a little north of Scottsdale), so I went to McFate Brewery & really enjoyed an IPA called ‘Fatalty’.  The guy next to me told me he was drinking the same thing, but the name sort of freaked him out!  It was a super good beer, as was the conversation.  When the glass went dry, I hopped in the car & drove to Ann & Gary’s lovely home.  

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Ann’s passion is horses & I arrived just as Gary got home from work & Ann was beginning her evening chores with the horses.  She let me hang out with her & answered all my questions about her huge pets.  Then we went out to local, small, nearby Italian restaurant, ate outside as it had begun to cool off & the evening was perfect.  We chatted & caught up on each other’s adult children, our grandchildren, Gary’s upcoming part time retirement, & their new summer home they’ve built in the mountains of Colorado.  Gary’s passion is travel…besides being family (there are few of us), travel is what we have in common.  What we don’t have in common is Gary’s side of the family are all really tall & really smart!  We continued our visit back at their house which seems to sit near the mountains but outside of the big city lights, noise & traffic.  It was a wonderful evening!  I went to bed listening to the sounds of birds & coyotes & a few neighborhood dogs.

day 10…4.21
We were all up early, as Gary had taken off the morning from work to go hiking with me.  The McDowell mountains are just a few minute drive from his house & have so many different trails.  I thought the hike would be flat (don’t know why I thought that…there’s mountains all around) & through the cactus.  But there were huge rocks, lots of wildflowers, all kinds of different trees & desert plants.  Gary would tell me what I was looking at & in between I’d ask him about his travels.  We’d never hiked together before, although Gary has invited me on his group backpack this summer in Colorado.  With his very long stride & so much more experience, I wasn’t sure how the hike would go.  But it was pretty perfect!  He didn’t mind talk at all & told me about some of his trips…he’s been all over the world in their backcountries, over their mountains & on their rivers.  He’s done extensive hiking in the Grand Canyon.  After about six miles the temps were rising & the trail took us back to the car. PS:  I heard something slithering through a bush near the trail & suddenly stopped…it was a Gila Monster!  Gary had never seen one in the wild before either, so we both took some minutes to just watch & appreciate this interesting creature.   What an awesome morning.  I have good memories as a little girl spending holidays with Gary’s family & his mother was such a wonderful, tender person & a good friend & confident to my Mother. I miss them all.  At the house, I showered, we all hugged & said a temporary good bye.  I get to see them this summer in Colorado, & hopefully their sons family including their two grandsons.  Gary & I were both excited at the prospect of seeing each other more often, & possible hikes together in Colorado.

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I drove north to one of my favorite places & to one that’s been calling me back (actually it’s been yelling in my ears & heart) for the past two years…since the last time I was here.  Sedona. Amazing scenery with huge red rocks against a brilliant blue sky & so much hiking.  I could be here for 3 months & probably never hike the same hike twice.  But I have my fave’s, so I will be hiking some old trails & some new ones.  I was arriving on a Friday afternoon, along with a gazillion others here for the same reason.  There was an art show as I came into the south side of town, so I stopped & looked at everything.

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I stopped at the Visitors Center & actually had the same guy that talked to me two years ago.  He told me they’d closed my camping area.  Bummer.  Now I would have to spend the afternoon finding some place to camp.  I stopped by the Oak Creek Brewery tap house for a beer, but didn’t feel like eating anything….there or anywhere else. Town was so crazy crowded & filled with slow moving traffic, so I took off towards my old camping spot anyway…just to double check.  

It was true, they’d closed some spots, but not all.  As I drove down the old dirt rocky road, campers seem to fill the spots still allowed.  But then I came upon a Forest Service truck & a couple of workers.  Someone had left some sleeping bags, pads, etc. by one spot near the road & they were checking it out.  They told me I was free to camp there, just to leave the stuff there, & if it wasn’t reclaimed by their next visit, they’d take it away.  (This is why so much dispersed camping is being taken away, because people won’t pick up after themselves.  I can’t tell you how much this pisses me off!! I’m constantly picking up trash along the trail. “Leave NO Trace” is the ethic along the trails, in camps, in the backcountry & should be anywhere you are outside.  Orange peels?  Sunflower Seeds?  Trash? Would you leave these & spit these in your front yard?  On a golf course?  Of course not, but people will do it on the trail.  OKI’ll stop ranting now.)  I decided to pitch my tent, set up my chair & table on the other side of a tree from the leftover crap, just in case the owners came back & planned to camp.  I knew there would be lots of people, like me, looking for a campsite on a Friday & I didn’t want to lose this one.  I’m 6 miles from town, it was free, it’s really dark at night so the sky is filled with a million stars…I think it’s a great place!  So, I spent the rest of the day in camp.  I made some noodles for dinner, had a beer & read a book.

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day 11…4.22
I’d picked out at least 10 trails I wanted to hike on this trip, but I was going to be here less than a week…guess that means two trails a day.  Some of the trails aren’t very long, but I knew I’d be pushing it to try to get them all in.  I made coffee, shoved some food in my mouth (I’m trying to be better about eating more frequently so as not to have any more low blood sugar events, but it’s a small struggle to change my habits) & drove to the Boynton Canyon trailhead…the trail is  6.4 miles.  The Boynton Vista is a vortex hike, one of four in Sedona.  I’ve done this one before & loved it.  I hung my National Park Pass in the window…an unexpected surprise from the guy at the Visitors Center.  Sedona has free parking for shopping, but you have to have a pass or pay at each trailhead.  Weird I know, but he told me my park pass would work!  Yay!  The hike was great, the views amazing & I was on top of the vista —ALL ALONE—for about 20 minutes (that’s a miracle in itself on a Saturday morning).  I like to hike early while everyone else is showering & eating breakfast out.  The small parking lots & trails get crowded around 9:30 or 10.  Here’s some pics from the hike!



I found some shade at the end of the canyon hike & sat down…for about 45 minutes.  I ate some food & took in all the wonderful views & enjoyed the little breeze blowing.  Once back in West Sedona (not the tourist part) I bought ice…my 7th bag in 11 days…(I had higher hopes for my new cooler) & then decided to find a late lunch.  I was trying to avoid the downtown main tourist part of Sedona for the whole weekend, both for hiking, eating & drinking.  I went to the Golden Goose Grill for a burger & fries.  As I was going into the place, another couple was looking over the menu posted outdoors.  They asked me if the food was good.  I laughed & said I’d just spent about 20 minutes trying to find a place to eat & looking over reviews.  I finally chose this one & had hopes it was good.  We all sat outside in the shade enjoying the wonderful day.  The burger was really good & the fries were tiny thin ones…nice because they didn’t make you feel overly full.  The couple was up here for the weekend & we enjoyed visiting.  The guy was a beer geek too, so we also talked beer.  It was a nice lunch & I was glad for the sustenance & chair to get off my feet.  

My next hike in the late afternoon was a new one.  Right down the street from my lunch spot was the Airport Loop & Vista trailhead.  The Vista is also a vortex hike & both are new trails to me.  Wow!  The vista was amazing….360 degree view!  I be this place is packed at sunset!  I used the chains to climb back down from the Vista, then found my way to the 3.5 mile loop.  It was such a nice trail…only one other person on it aways in front of me.  The trail takes you around the mountain overlooking all the major features of Sedona.  I was super tired by the time I was done, but I’m so glad I did this hike!





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My body was ready for a break so I went to my fave west side beer/wine bar with the most awesome outdoor space called Vino Di Sedona.  They have live music every night.  I enjoyed the evening, but the music never happened, so after my beer & headed back to camp pretty tired & ready to go to bed. (Love their t-shirts!)

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