Red Rock Energized ~ Sedona, AZ

Sedona has long held the reputation as a world-wide spiritual mecca, drawing healers, artists, and spiritual guides.  Whether or not you believe in her vortex energy, there is no denying the breathtaking views that can be seen in every direction. Having lived in Sedona for many years, we believe the magnificent red rock formations and evergreen vegetation exudes energy, a year-round feeling of renewal and sense of peace, and is one of the reasons we come back year after year to hike her enchanting trails.

We recently found ourselves back in Sedona to visit friends, get a tune-up for me, and do a little hiking.  Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood is where we tend to stay, a peaceful park that is just far enough away from the tourist pace of Sedona, yet close enough to hiking trails.  Finding a trail we haven’t already tackled is the biggest challenge, particularly Terry, who I think has pretty much hiked them all.  I did manage to introduce him to a newer trail that I hiked a few years ago with a girlfriend and he agreed to tag along with me on one that I had yet to cross off my list.

Here are two hikes we would highly recommend should you find yourself wandering around Sedona’s red rocks:

1)  Slim Shady / Highline / Baldwin / Templeton (with a twist)

Better known by many as the Highline Trail, this was actually designed as a technically difficult mountain biking trail but is equally loved by hikers.  It is a bit of a challenge to stay on course as many trails converge at one point or another.  And with such breathtaking scenery to distract you, you may as well decide you are going to get turned around a time or two.

Views of one of the most-photographed sights in Arizona, Cathedral Rock, can be seen from many angles, and we soon found ourselves getting off our charted course to see if we could pick up a trail that would take us to the highest saddle point on Cathedral Rock.  There is a designated, slick rock trail up to the saddle point but it was on the opposite side of Cathedral Rock from where we were.  But did that stop us?  Nope!

Although we would not suggest this as the soundest or safest way to get to the saddle of Cathedral Rock, what with the bush-whacking and boulder-hopping, it was certainly a unique approach.  What began as a moderate 5-miler ended as a very interesting 9-mile hike.

Our next day’s adventure was to be a bear and Terry’s all-around favorite Sedona hike.  After tackling this mountain, I had to agree.

2)  Bear Mountain

I’m not sure why I never hiked this mountain while we lived in Sedona, as it has always been touted to have some of the most breathtaking views from its peak.  I had decided this visit was the time and I wasn’t leaving Sedona until I had firmly planted my feet on top.  All I can say is wow!

Bear Mountain is a 5-mile hike with a 2000 foot elevation gain over some of the most unusual topography in Sedona.  There are cairns to mark part of your journey but white arrows painted onto the rocks are your true guides to the peak.  There are interesting breaks or decks of changing geology that you pass through, almost as if you traverse three false summits before reaching the true peak.  A section of Apache Limestone moves into Schnebly Hill Sandstone, then onto a deck of swirling Coconino sandstone dotted with manzanita, truly spectacular.

Sedona’s grandeur can be seen without taking to the trails, but we have always believed that the essence of her spirit lies off the paved roads, tucked back into her hidden canyons.

We have settled into our winter home in Southern California, which I will post about in the near future.  It is a change from our existing approach to RVing and we are enjoying it more than I had imagined.  More on that later…

An Ancient Landscape ~ Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

Recently, while on a trajectory back to Sedona, AZ, which was home to us for several years, I realized that Petrified Forest National Park was within striking distance.  It had been many years since we had last visited so an overnight stay was added to our itinerary.

Petrified Forest National Park, in northeast Arizona, encompasses roughly 150 miles of brightly hued, abraded badlands, an ancient landscape that was birthed over 225-million years ago. Wind and water transformed this once humid, sub-tropical land, along with tectonic forces that pushed the landscape upward, exposing the Colorado Plateau to immense erosion.  Today, these desolate but beautifully striated formations tell the story of a land that has been scattered on the winds and the remains of trees now dot the landscape, turned to stone, as if Medusa had been at work here.

The Tepees

The Tepees

Petrified Forest is the only national park to protect a section of historic Route 66.  The roads are well-maintained so larger vehicles/RV’s can easily maneuver the 28-mile scenic drive through the park.  If your visit is short as ours was, the Crystal Forest Gift Shop Campground at the southern entrance is the place to stay.  Although you will be dry-camping, you will also be staying there free of charge. :)

The Painted Desert lies far off in the distance.

The Painted Desert lies far in the distance.

Newspaper Rock, where ancient words are etched onto desert varnish.

Newspaper Rock, where ancient words are etched onto desert varnish.

The sun peering through clouds over the Petrified Forest

The sun peering through clouds over the Petrified Forest

Final rays cast a golden glow over the desert, with petrified wood strewn across the landscape.

Final rays cast a golden glow over the desert, with petrified wood strewn across the landscape.

Enveloped in a Golden Glow ~ Parshall, CO

High in the Colorado mountains, just outside of Silverthorne, the tiny town of Parshall sits, quietly basking in the golden hue of the surrounding aspens. A  small ranch, perhaps better known for its winter activities, is where our niece chose to be married and it was their great fortune to have picked the weekend when the fall colors were at their peak.  With a few hours to spare the morning of the wedding, we decided to officially become “leaf-peepers” and get in a little exercise hike as well.  Ute Pass was just a few miles away and was where a hike among the aspens was possible, a place to imbue our senses with the golden aura of autumn’s arrival.  How could we resist?  The colors of the mountainsides were so brilliant it almost hurt to look…almost.

Here is just a snapshot of the spectacular fall color extravaganza that awaited us!

As blown away as we were by the landscape, this was just a prelude to the beauty we were to experience later that day.  Our niece’s wedding day was finally here and the day was pure joy, a light breeze causing the aspen leaves to shimmer, the sun peeking through the clouds as the ceremony began, and a golden glow settling over the mountaintops.  This day, this place, surrounded by family and friends, was the perfect venue for beginning a life together as husband and wife.

We may be biased (she is our niece after all) but we thought Sara was stunning and we could not be more pleased with her choice for a husband.  We were thrilled to be a part of this extraordinary day and wish Nick and Sara much love and happiness.

Denver’s Backyard Playground ~ Cherry Creek State Park

Lovely lake at Cherry Creek SP

Lovely lake at Cherry Creek SP

Given we have paid for campground fees in Colorado for the past month, you would think I could speak with some authority on activities in the area but lately I would be better equipped to speak about the creeping nature of airport security lines or traffic patterns in Denver.  Too much time recently spent at the airport has been a bit of an energy zapper for us but such is life sometimes. Colorado will just have to stay on our list for further exploration, which is the beauty of this nomadic lifestyle.  Not all was lost though as we had great family visits, attended a niece’s wedding (more on that later), hopped on our bikes a few times while in the Denver area, and finally caught up for a quick visit with a couple whose blog I’ve been following and whose photos I have been quite literally drooling over.

Shades of blue hover over the park

Shades of blue hover over the park

For the past 10 days our rig has been comfortably resting in the lovely Cherry Creek State Park, an urban oasis serving as Denver’s backyard playground year-round.  For those who yearn to escape their personal rat race or for us full-time wanderers who want to have easy access to city life, Cherry Creek is the perfect solution.

One of several lovely sunsets captured at Cherry Creek

One of several lovely sunsets captured at Cherry Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bikers and runners alike share the 12 miles of paved trails and the 35 miles of multi-use trails that meander through the park. I’m told that winter-hardy outdoor enthusiasts strap on their cross-country skis and glide across pristine groomed trails during the snowy months.

Interesting cloud formations over the campground

Interesting cloud formations over the campground

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry Creek State Park’s 4200 acres entices fishermen, boaters, jet-skiers, and archery fans as well.  With lots of open space between campsites, I don’t think you could go wrong no matter which site you chose, and for us the views of a sparkling blue lake and rugged mountains as our backdrop were the perfect respite to a hectic schedule.

Magical mountains at sunset

Magical mountains at sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 40-mile Cherry Creek bike trail runs directly through the park so biking into the city for a Starbucks and a trip to the flagship REI store was a must. The round-trip will reward you with 30 miles of spinning and aching legs, as the trek back is mostly uphill.

For a more leisurely ride, the trail around the lake and across the dam will allow you to explore the park’s many amenities and, if your timing is right, you may be able to participate in a most unusual yoga class.

The yoga instructor for the day, giving a quick lesson to a watchful egret.

The yoga instructor for the day, giving a quick lesson to a watchful egret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As busy as our schedules were, it is a wonder that we caught up to a delightful couple and their little Angel. Yep, Island Girl was in the house (or campground to be more precise).   With their crazy schedule and ours we each had to work our flexibility muscles to squeeze in two short visits.  Hector and Brenda were as warm and engaging as we knew they would be and we look forward to catching up with them again later this winter.

For those who want an escape to some fabulous destinations teeming with wildlife, click here to see how Hector views his world. It is a feast for the eyes.

Island Girl's navigator Hector and the lovely Brenda

Island Girl’s navigator Hector and the lovely Brenda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took our leave from Cherry Creek earlier than our normal departure time as we were looking forward to visiting friends in Cañon City whom we hadn’t seen in three years. It seems our timing worked out well for us as an “epic hailstorm” moved through Denver and Cherry Creek State Park early that afternoon, causing much damage. Our thoughts are with those who did not fare as well as we.

Our next stop took us to the Colorado mountains, where the fall colors where at their peak and love was in the air.  Stay tuned! :)

Getting High with Friends ~ Longmont, CO

Did I get your attention?  Well, we are in Colorado, where an altered state of mind is perfectly legal these days.  However, the high I am referring to is the altitude, where a bit of acclimatizing is in order for us before getting too aggressive on the trails.

We have been looking forward to our Colorado trip for some months, where visiting friends, attending a niece’s wedding and hiking in the beautiful Rockies was on the agenda.  As can be expected at this time of year, Mother Nature has been fickle, unsure if she wanted to draw us into autumn or drag us back to the dog days of summer.  Within a few short days she chose to do both.

Our intended plans to hike these magnificent mountains with friends Stan and Marilyn didn’t materialize as storms moved through the Boulder area the first few days of our visit.  Not to be deterred, we settled for a farmers’ market visit, shopping, and some wonderful meals filled with lots of laughter and reminiscing.   Hopefully we will be able to squeeze in their recommended hike before we have to move on.

Delicious-looking vegetables at the Boulder Farmers' Market

Delicious-looking vegetables at the Boulder Farmers’ Market

Knowing we were in the area, Ingrid and Al of Live Laugh RV decided to join us at St. Vrain State Park, a park we chose due to its proximity to Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park.  Although we had only a couple of days in the park before we had to hop a plane back to Ohio to attend our father’s memorial service, we were able to catch up on each other’s travels over dinner at our place, with Ingrid providing some very tasty cookies for dessert.  A girl’s day of sightseeing and shopping rounded out our visit before we parted ways.  Sadly I did not pick up the camera during our time with either of these couples.   Sometimes reminiscing and a good meal takes precedence over photography.

The Chapel on the Rock at Camp St. Malo outside Allenspark, CO.

The Chapel on the Rock at Camp St. Malo outside Allenspark, CO.

I had little time to explore St. Vrain and when I did, the birds that I often saw flying overhead, white pelicans, osprey, and Canada geese, were absent from the many ponds on the property.  To see some lovely images of these fine-feathered fowl, check out Ingrid’s post here.

Sunrise over St Vrain SP, with the snow-dusted Rockies in the background

Sunrise over St Vrain SP, with the snow-dusted Rockies in the background

After our whirlwind Ohio trip, exercise was foremost in our minds, so it was time to pull out the Rocky Mountain hiking maps. I had read quite a bit about the beauty of Wild Basin, both in our books and from Ingrid so we decided upon a hike to Ouzel Lake. Beginning at an altitude of ~8500 feet, with a 1500 foot elevation gain, it was a great acclimatizing hike.

Aspen and Ponderosa pine lined the trail and the sound of water crashing over boulders could be heard most of the way.  What we hadn’t anticipated was the bridge just below Ouzel Falls being out, due to the flooding in 2013.  Try as we might, climbing above and behind the falls did not provide a way to reconnect with the trail.

The rangers who were working to rebuild the bridge were discouraging anyone from attending to forge St. Vrain Creek, due to the heavy rains the previous few days.  After checking out a few potential crossing points, we decided to choose safety over daring. So what started as a 10-mile hike ended at 6.5 miles, not bad for a first hike in the Rockies.

We had time for one more hike in Rocky Mountain National Park before moving on so we settled on Timberline Falls.  Beginning at Bear Lake Trailhead and looping back around to Glacier Gorge Trailhead, this 10-mile hike takes you past beautiful alpine lakes and waterfalls, with breathtaking views of the Colorado peaks.

It begins at 9,100 feet, with an elevation gain of 1,560 feet, two-thirds of that being in the last mile before you reach Timberline Falls.

From Timberline you can scale a 30-foot mist-soaked vertical wall to continue to Sky Pond but seeing hikers coming back down backwards off this wall, we did not feel the need to go that extra quarter-mile.

Following a brief storm, our final night at St. Vrain yielded a lovely sunset over the Colorado peaks.