Soldier Pass – hike to the caves

May 11th, 2023

I’ll be doing some catchup posts over the next couple of days. Making a 10 day run to Europe to celebrate Katie’s wedding to Caleb Remnant got me off my writing track.

Jessica and I took on Soldier Pass!

I’m so lucky to have found a couple of hiking buddies while we were near Sedona. Jessica and I took on Soldier Pass one beautiful morning.

The trail starts in the middle of a beautiful, very high end neighborhood. We parked in the shuttle parking lot, but were too impatient to wait for the next ride, so we walked a bit to the trailhead.

Soldier Pass starts off pretty easy. We crossed a wash to get to the Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole. We then hiked another quarter mile or so to the Seven Sacred Pools.

Several sources said that Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole was created over time as the land dropped into a cavern below. It was first reported int he 1880s, and its walls have collapsed several times since then. Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole is about 40 feet deep.

The Seven Sacred Pools was

I have seen prettier pictures of Seven Sacred Pools. They were underwhelming when we were there. The pools were pretty dried out and what water was there was murky. I’m sure it’s beautiful after a recent rain.

We came across some beautiful examples of desert flowers.

Made it to the cave. You can see a hiker above me. We climbed in just to my left as I’m standing at the mouth of the cave. It was a scramble!

The views from inside the caves made the struggle to get up there well worth it!

Jessica scrambled up to a ledge for a beautiful lookout!

Devil’s Bridge Hiking – Sedona, AZ

Friday May 5th, 2023

Jessica and I took on Devil’s Bridge yesterday and it was a blast!

We met Jessica and Dale at Distant Drums RV Resort. They are work camping here and run the Sunday service and bible study. When I mentioned that Tim won’t hike with me on more challenging routes, Jessica offered to be my hiking companion while we are here! I am so thankful!

We left at 6:30am to be sure to get parking at the trailhead as this is one of the more popular hikes in the area.

Spoiler alert – I made it!

The hike from the Mescal Trailhead is 4.2 miles round trip. We took a couple of little side trails and I ended up with just under 5 miles according to my watch.

You can also do this hike from the Dry Creek Road which cuts the hike to 2 miles, but you need a 4×4 to get there and you miss a really pretty part of the hike if you do that.

Heading out – look how rested we look!

The Sedona shuttle also drops off hikers here so if you don’t get parking you can go that route.

The Mescal Trailhead has bathroom facilities and is well maintained.

We took the Mescal trail to the Chuckwagon trail that leads to the official Devil’s Bridge trail. We were greeted by so many desert flowers and plants.

There are a couple of tricky parts. Several hikers went off the path for awhile, but we used the free version of All Trails (waiting for a special to purchase the paid version) and stayed on track for the most part.

After Dry Creek Road (where the 4x4s can park) you get to the steeper and rockier part of the hike. There are several sets of steep steps and some rock scrambling to get to the very top.

Jessica on the final climb

At the top there is a large flat area where people wait to take their turns to get the money shot. I looked to my left and right and said out loud, “I’ll bet I’m the oldest one here.” Much to my surprise, a woman down the line spoke up and said “I’m 66 how old are you??” She had me beat by 5 years! I was definitely the second oldest up there at the time!’

Waiting in line to go on the bridge.

Not only do you have to have courage to go out on the bridge, but to get the excellent pictures, you have to hand your phone or camera over to a stranger behind you in line and ask them to do the honors! Luckily the guy behind us was a very good photographer!

Jessica goofing on the bridge
No goofing for me.

Scrambling back down the rocks was more challenging than going up for me. I’m thankful for the folding hiking stick Emily got me for Christmas last year.

We stopped at several overlooks for some shots of the gorgeous scenery.

As Tim says when we are seeing new things, “this is what I signed up for.” Can’t wait for the next hike!

Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona

Tuesday May 2, 2023

Timmy and the trees

Tim has wanted to visit the Petrified Forest National Park since he was a little kid. We took a day trip from our RV resort in Camp Verde to fulfill this wish.

The ride there was beautiful and very, very remote. We went the scenic way on highway 87 through Winslow (separate short post for Winslow) on the way there and the interstate on the way back.

We made it!

The drive through the park is 28 miles long and there are multiple areas to pull off and explore. Reba was welcome as long as she was on a leash and we saw tons of other dogs enjoying the park with their families.

Reba loves to chew on wood, but she has met her match with this kind!

The park sits between Navajo and Apache land in northeastern Arizona and averages 5400 feet in elevation.

It is filled with magnificent examples of petrified trees. During the late Triassic Epoch, 225 million years ago, the now extinct trees fell into a huge lake and were quickly covered with sediment. Over time the organic matter was replaced with crystals and other rock and they became the gorgeous petrified wood you find today. We learned that these specimens were petrified BEFORE dinosaurs roamed the earth. You can learn the science on Wikipedia – search petrified forest.

Check out all the different layers!
One of the many long petrified logs.

The park has areas of badlands where the soft sedimentary and clay layers of the earth have eroded. This creates gorgeous canyon-like areas where you can observe the various layers in their colorful glory. One stop featured a one mile hike into badlands. It was incredibly peaceful and so beautiful! You can see here why the area is called the Painted Desert.

The park has such a variety of things to explore. In several areas you will find the ruins of pueblos and kivas where ancient people lived. In others you can view some of the thousands of petroglyphs (stone carvings) on the stones.

A few of the petroglyphs. This is using zoom -they have binoculars you can use to see them.

Thousands of pounds of petrified wood are stolen from the park each year, but responsible visitors can purchase a piece in the gift store. These specimens were legally harvested outside the park and the funds go into the park’s preservation efforts.

We did buy a few pieces in the gift shop to add to Timmy’s rock collection that he has had since he was a kid!

Little Horse Hiking – Sedona, AZ

Thursday April 27th, 2023

One of my very favorite parts of traveling the country in our RV is that we get to meet the most wonderful people.

I have been excited to hike the trails in Sedona, but Tim is not as excited about it. I was happy to meet Jessica and Michelle at Distant Drums and we all got up early to hike the Little Horse trail yesterday!

Kira, Michelle and Jessica – Little Horse Trail

We were early enough to grab a parking spot. If you don’t get going in time you can also park in Sedona and take the shuttle to many of the popular trailheads.

Jessica at the start of the trail!

Little Horse is part of the Bell Rock Pathway. It is pretty well marked, but we did use All Trails at a few junctions just to be sure we were headed the right way.

I took my collapsible hiking stick with me on this trek and I was glad I did. I didn’t really need it going up, but it came in handy to give me some confidence coming back down. The pebbles can be a bit slippery and my old knees are not what they once were.

On the way up, we were able to get a look at the Chapel of the Holy Cross that is built right into the red rocks. Tim and I have not visited there yet, but it is on our list.

We went as far as Chicken Point, which allowed us for a brief rest and some of the most incredible views I have ever seen. But wait, we then went a little further on the Broken Arrow Trail and the views were even better!!!

The Pink Jeep company got their vehicles up there somehow too, but I’m glad we climbed.

I paused my watch walking tracker at the top and of course forgot to start it again on the way down, but I believe we did over 4 miles total.

I’m working to get my endurance up so I can do some more challenging trails when we hit Grand Canyon, Zion, Moab, Yellowstone, Glacier and Rocky Mountain national parks.

Need to work on looking up – a sore neck was the worst of my aches!

Keep watching – you will either watch me get a bit more fit or collapse on a rocky trail!

Verde Canyon Railroad – Clarkdale, AZ

Tuesday April, 25th, 2023

Take a minute and join us on this amazing adventure!

There are lots of “touristy” things to spend your money on in the Sedona area and many are not worth it. The Verde Canyon Railroad is 100% worth the time and money you will spend on the experience.

Tim and I started the four hour journey by boarding the Flagstaff car. We settled into a super comfy loveseat with plenty of legroom and a coffee table for the generous charcuterie box and water provided for each passenger.

Our seat mates – they kept to themselves. Maybe we didn’t look too friendly.
We shared a champagne toast as the train left the station.

At the front of each car is a full service bar. I had a Titos and seltzer with their special prickly pear lemonade. It was delicious! In addition to the snacks and bar on the train, you can pre-order lunches from the depot. They were very good, but once we saw the snacks, we really didn’t need the extra food.

We spent most of the first two hours in the open air car! So much to see.

The young person in the teal shirt and baseball cap was our narrator. He shared information about the history of the area and the geologic events that created the beauty. He would point out the flowers that were blooming at the different elevations and made sure we caught the birds and animals that make their home in the canyon. He was delightful.

The train is pulled by an FP7 locomotive. The railroad owns two of just 10 that remain in service in the US. They were brought to Arizona from Alaska and still sport the huge snowplows they came with.

For an extra fee train enthusiasts can ride in the locomotive with the engineer. You can also upgrade your party of six to the caboose. You have your own valet and some other fun extras.

The train goes from the Clarkdale Depot to Perkinsville, AZ. Through the 20 mile ride, you learn the history of the region and of the interesting people who built (and sometimes lost) their fortunes here. In Perkinsville, they detach the engine, move it to the back of the train hook back up and give us the same beautiful views in reverse.

It was difficult to get pictures of the river as it was nestled in the trees, but the rail runs along the Verde River. We passed over several beautiful bridges and plummeted into a 734 foot tunnel that took us from the bright sunshine to a moment of pitch black.

It was a wonderful trip. We will look for more historic rail experiences as we travel!

Montezuma’s Castle

Monday April 17th, 2023

one of the first high rises?

Just down the road from our RV park in Camp Verde, Az, is the Montezuma Castle National Monument.

The Sinagua people built this group of dwellings between 1100 and 1425 AD. The main building, shown above, is five stories tall and consists of 20-something rooms.

When the site was re-discovered by American settlers, it had been abandoned for many, many years and the settlers named them after Aztec emperor Montezuma. However, it was later found that it was actually abandoned over 40 years before Montezuma was even born.

Building at this height took architectural skill and was probably dangerous. However, it is likely that the residences were built this high to prevent them from the annual flooding that occurs in this area.

The builders used stone and mortar in addition to huge timbers that held up the roofs. The Arizona Sycamore was used primarily.

The diorama below shows how the dwellings were built into the rock and how the residents may have used them.


Tim’s senior America the Beautiful pass got us into this amazing park free. If you are over 65 and are doing any traveling check it out!

White Sands National Park – New Mexico

Sunday March, 26, 2023

During our four night stay at Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruses, we made a day trip to the White Sands National Park. It was our last full day in the area, so though the weather looked a bit iffy, we packed Reba in the truck and made the hour drive to the park.

The park is surrounded by the missile range and Holloman Air Force Base. Occasionally the highway to the park is shut down for an hour or two at a time when they do missile testing

Our America the Beautiful senior lifetime pass (thanks to old Timmy), waived the $25 per car fee. We highly recommend that you get this pass if you are traveling at all. It’s only $80 if you are 62 or older and gives you and up to three additional adults in your vehicle free entry to over 2,000 federal recreation sites. It has more than paid for itself in our first year of traveling!

The white sand is actually the worlds largest gypsum dune field, that has taken over 275 square miles of the Tularosa Basin in New Mexico.

The dunes are as high as 60 feet and gift shop sells sledding discs and wax that gives you an easy glide down the dunes. Of course I bought one!

Checking out a couple of folks sledding!
Reba came with me on a couple of sled runs!

It’s quite a workout to get up to the top of the dunes for sightseeing and sledding, but Reba made it look easy. She had so much fun!

The view from atop a dune. See Reba and Timmy down below?

White Sands National Park is the most visited NPS site in New Mexico. About 600,000 people visit each year. White Sands has been featured in numerous movies throughout the years. The backdrop is simply inspiring.

On our way out of the park, we walked the boardwalk. You can see the stormy weather was trying to sneak back in just as we were leaving.

Boardwalk at White Sands National Park
A nice guy took a pic of us.

Saguaro National Park – Tucson, AZ

Friday March 31, 2023

Saguaros can grow upwards of 50 feet tall

It took me awhile to get the pronunciation down. You say the word like this: sa-WAH-ro.

These beautiful cacti have become the icon of the desert southwest and they are everywhere in the Saguaro National Park in Tucson.

We used our America the Beautiful pass for entrance into the park. If you don’t have one, it’s one of the very best investments you can make if you are traveling our gorgeous country.

There are two sections of this incredible park one to the east and one to the west of the city. The Saguaro National Park visitors center is on the west side. It is filled with thousands of Saguaro and other gorgeous desert plants.

Panorama from the visitor’s center.

Saguaros are slow growing cacti that regularly grow to 40 feet. The tallest recorded one was 78 feet tall. They can take up to 75 years to grow their first “arm” and they can live for 150 -200 years.

Some Saguaros never grow arms. These are called spears. The arms give them more ability to reproduce as the arms develop the flowers and seeds. (UPDATE). Saguaros without arm can indeed bloom! Thank you to desert dweller Ron Lenz for the photo proof!

Saguaros are built to absorb huge amounts of water when it is available. Their roots go only about 3 feet deep, but can reach over 100 feet along the ground so they can grab water before it runs off. You can visibly see them expand when it rains. When a Saguaro is saturated, they can weigh up to 4,800 pounds.

Harming a Saguaro is illegal in Arizona. If you want to move or destroy one to build you need to get a permit.

While there are 150 miles of designated trails, there are only two trails on the western side that are dog friendly. We drove the truck about two miles deep into the park to find the longer one, much to Tim’s dismay. But the bumpy adventure was worth it. The trail was wide, well marked and absolutely gorgeous.

Hurry up daddy!

Many of the desert plants are just budding, so there were not many spectacular floral displays, but we could tell that is coming in the next week or two.

There is no car or RV camping allowed inside the park, but tent campers can hike in to stay the night.

Cell phone reception? Nope. Download your maps before you head to the trail if you plan to use one. If you are not going on one of the highly traveled paths I’d recommend having one downloaded to your phone so you can find your way back. We use the free version of All Trails.

Paper park map shows our trail

There is no water available outside of the visitors center areas. Bring plenty. And then add some more to your pack. You will need every drop. Bring snacks too just in case.

Shakespeare Ghost Town – Lordsburg, NM

March 26th, 2023

The Butterfield Stage Station

There is not much in Lordsburg, NM. It was simply the halfway point between one longer stop on our journey and the next. They had a decent KOA Journey and a couple of dollar-type stores, but that’s pretty much it. So Lordsburg is not on my “must return” list.

However, if you find yourself near Lordsburg one day, make sure to drive up the hill to the Shakespeare Ghost Town. The town was named Ralston City or the Burro Mines originally and in 1870 a real silver strike and false rumors of a diamond strike caused the town to grow to 3,000 people. When the diamond ruse was discovered the name of the town was changed to Shakespeare and it survived through the 1908-1932 mining boom.

In case you want to book a tour!

Shakespeare did not have a church or any formal law enforcement. Throughout the years it is thought that Billy the Kid, Curley Bill, John Ringo roamed the streets of Shakespeare.

The Hill Family has owned the site of the Shakespeare Ghost Town since 1935 and they have worked to preserve the buildings and history of the town.

The first building we toured was originally the Company Mining House that was moved to the site in the 1970s. It served as a dance studio for Janaloo Hill, the daughter of the Frank and Rita Hill, who purchased the town in 1935. Janaloo was an actress and dancer who gave up her career to come home and help rehab the town.

A relative of Janiloo’s gave us the two hour tour, answered dozens of questions and shared fun stories of the town’s interesting past.

We had the chance to tour the Old Mail Station, the General Merchandise store, and an incredible blacksmith shop filled with period tools. The Assay’s Office still had the testing equipment used by Shakespeare Gold and Silver Mining and Milling.

They also have a beautiful collection of antique weapons. They asked that we not take photos in that area for security.

I waited too long to write this post, so I’m not sure I can identify each building/picture, so I’ll let you use your imagination!

The tour was dog friendly and Reba just jumped right up into this window sill to watch out for any rustlers!

Mesilla, NM Tequila, Ghosts and a Haircut!

Thursday March 23rd, 2023

While we were in Las Cruses, we visited the adorable nearby town, Mesilla, New Mexico.

We spent some time in the area they call Old Mesilla. It has history back to the early 1800s and is filled with gorgeous old adobe buildings that feature shops and our favorite, local restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I love the shops too, we just don’t have the room for my old shopping habit while on the road. When we buy one thing to put in the RV something else has to get taken out and Tim is tired of me throwing out his stuff.

One evening we had dinner at La Posta de Mesilla. We had outstanding margaritas and Mexican food that felt like someone’s Abuela was in the back cooking for us. La Posta is known for having the largest tequila selection in the Southwest. It is good that I didn’t discover that until after we had left. I might have had to try a few in addition to the margaritas!

Doesn’t this look amazing?

Another evening we enjoyed a meal at the Double Eagle Restaurant. Double Eagle is in an old haunted house. The story goes that the teenage son of the first owners, Armando Maes, fell in love with the beautiful Inez who served as one of his mother’s servants. The two young lovers hid their romance from his mother, but the whole town knew. When Armando’s mother caught them in his room, she fell into a rage and killed first Inez and then accidentally Armando with a pair of her sewing shears. It is said that the forbidden couple haunts the home until this day.

We had a delicious meal including a Caesar salad made table side. We were too full from the salad and our wonderful steaks to try the table side Bananas Foster, but we watched it being made from across the room. Fun!

There is a second restaurant in the building. Peppers serves Tapas.
Is that a ghost in the mirror?

Another amazing find in Mesilla is the Old Mesilla Kennel. I normally cringe at any pet boarding/spa place that calls itself a kennel, but I do see it used more in the west.

Reba desperately needed a more thorough bath than we can give her in the RV and Old Mesilla Kennel was highly recommended by people we met at the RV park. And they were so right! The groomer (I believe the owner) was incredible with Reba and she looked so beautiful when we picked her up!

Look how pretty she looked (for about an hour).