Saturday, August 28, 2021

Moving to AZ and Hiking Fatman’s Loop in Flagstaff…


Our time was up in Gallup NM so we packed up and headed west once again. A rather short drive later we pulled into Take It Easy RV Park in Winslow, AZ. We planned to stay three days and were still in some heavy monsoonal action. As soon as we set up camp I told Sharon we needed to hit the road for a hike in Flagstaff AZ some 55 miles away.


Why the rush? Of the days we would be in Winslow this would be the only day rain wasn’t in the forecast, at least not until late in the day.


An hour later we parked at the trailhead of our destination where the plan was to hike the Fatman's Loop. Rated as a moderate hike, it is very popular in the Flagstaff area. The trail sits on the eastern slope of Mt Elden and is roughly a 2.5-mile loop.


The trail started out well marked as we followed signs for Fatman's Loop. We were gradually climbing all the way to the Elden Lookout trail which was 2 miles further and a whopping 2,000 more feet of elevation gain!


Once we broke off from the spur to Mt. Elden the trail became rockier and quite a bit steeper. We pressed on thinking we had topped out on the trail several times before we actually did. Along the way we were treated to views of much of the eastern suburbs of Flagstaff. We had our eye on the sky as it was raining nearby and it even looked as if a tornado was brewing but it was just low hanging clouds. So we moved a bit quicker going back downhill as we didn’t want to get wet again!


Besides the city views we saw lots of beautiful wild flowers and some pretty cool rock formations. At one point we came upon a pretty narrow gap in the rocks which we had to squeeze through. I am pretty sure this may be why it was called Fatman's trail.


The trail was fantastic as it wound through a forest of white fir, ponderosa pine, cliff rose and one of my favorites, alligator juniper. Alligator juniper is best identified by its bark as it looks just like the skin on the back of an American Alligator.


After the hike I drove Sharon through the town of Flagstaff since she had never been there though I I had. We found some great beverages at the Lumberyard Brewery for a nice finish to the day.


NOTE:  We are currently in Prescott, Arizona until August 29th…

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Hike to Church Rock and on Strawberry Canyon Trail…


On another day while in Gallup, NM we did the hike to Church Rock. The monsoonal rains had let up so we hoped to make this hike without getting wet this time. However, we made sure not to forget our ponchos just in case.


The first part of the trail was on a flat sandy stretch but soon began climbing at an increasing rate into the rocks. We worked our way up to a ledge where the trail continued to wind its way toward Church Rock. While this hike did not take us to the top, it did bring us close to its base before looping back on another ledge.


The Church Rock hike was just under three miles but had some stunning views in every direction. We really enjoyed hiking the red rocks of Red Rock Park despite having to carefully monitor weather conditions. It really is a beautiful place.


With the weather warming up we decided to head to the mountains and hike the Strawberry Trail. This 4 mile trail wasn’t anything special but it sure was pleasant to experience the cooler temperatures in the mountains of New Mexico and walking amongst the Ponderosa Pine.


We only encountered a few brave souls on this trail but the first part of the hike took us through a primitive campground and picnic area. Since we were hiking this trail on a weekend there were a lot of “weekenders” picnicking and playing outdoor games such as volleyball. As a result it did take us a while to get past the campground’s loud laughter and chatter.


As we continued the hike, the trail meandered up a general incline as we made our way to the top of the canyon. At the end was a U.S. Forest Service fire tower perched atop the highest point around. Walking along this trail was like being back in spring as there were wildflowers everywhere.


Before leaving the Gallup NM area we made a short drive over to Window Rock in Arizona. I read about this easy access attraction so with rain again in the forecast we went over to take a look at it.


Once in the parking lot we took a short half mile walk around Window Rock and took a few photos. The park is dedicated to the brave Navajo Code Talkers who were used during WWII to confuse the enemy when transmitting messages. Their native language communications did indeed befuddle the enemy as was the mission. We were very glad we decided to check it out, as it is pretty cool place to visit.  


We enjoyed our weeklong stay in Gallup and are  glad we made the trip back into New Mexico to explore this area before heading into Arizona.


NOTE:  We are currently in Verde Valley, Arizona until August 26th…

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Hiking to Pyramid Rock, NM…

May be an image of monument and natureWe had planned to keep heading north but as time passed we decided to move back east and check out the town of Gallup New Mexico. Gallup is another of those iconic towns on Route 66 that shows signs of decline because of the highway which now bypasses the city.


One of the reasons we came was to hike in the Red Rocks Park. We originally planned to camp there as well but after pulling in the park we didn’t really find an empty site we liked. However, that didn’t stop us for returning to hike amongst the beautiful red rock within the park.


There are two hikes around 3 miles each we found to be great hikes. Both of these trails were made by the CCC and even where there are steep climbs the CCC crafted steps into the sandstone to make the climb easier. We have traveled throughout the USA and are always amazed as to what the CCC built in our country.


The first day hike we did was to Pyramid Rock. This hike is more than 3 miles and gains fairly steadily in elevation. As we began our hike the weather looked dicey as we are in the middle of a very active monsoon season.


About three miles into the trail we found ourselves on the last climb to the top of Pyramid Rock.That final segment of trail curves behind Pyramid Rock and ascends all the way to the top. We passed several balanced rocks along our way but just short of us making it to the top the rains began.



We tried hunkering down under an Alligator Juniper tree hoping the rain would pass quickly. While under the tree I checked my cell phone seeing the rain was likely to get worse and last a long time. Compounding that with an occasional boom of thunder we were worried about being a tall object on the mountain thus attracting a lightning strike.


As quickly as possible down we went and after fast walking for 45 minutes in a cold 63 degree rain we drug our soaked bodies back into the car. Fortunately we had some dry shirts in the car and we turned on the heater to warm up. The hike was great even with the unfortunate ending.


Well, no good hike should end without a reward. Our reward in Gallup was Sammy C’s where we had choices of some nice New Mexico made craft beers. We even received a lesson from both a Zuni and Navajo gentleman as they taught us a few words in their native languages. What fun that was!


NOTE:  We are currently in Verde Valley, Arizona…

Thursday, August 19, 2021

A Mountain Drive and Hiking in the Canyonlands National Park…


One thing I wanted to mention about our campsite in Monticello Utah was that we had a nesting bird in a tree in our front yard. We loved sitting outside and watching this baby Tree Swallow call for its mom. Mom would go out to catch some goodies and return to a wide open mouth which was lots of fun to watch!


Near the park is a nice lake that we walked around. Also close are some mountains that one afternoon we drove up as far up the dirt road as we could. The drive was harrowing at times for Sharon because of her fear of heights but the views from above were breathtaking. We sure liked the cooler temperatures up high.


We saw lots and lots of deer in the high country. It must have been a great year as there were lots of fawns and many of the does had twins in tow. Colorful birds such as the Western Tanager were flitting about the tall firs and pines in the forest. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.


Also a short drive away is another place we have visited before, Canyonlands National Park. Previously we visited the Needles area of the park so this time we visited the rest of the park on the other side of the river. However, before getting there we stopped along the roadside to view newspaper rock. It was a large boulder riddled with petroglyphs from a  bygone area.


We drove into the park to take in the sights close to the roads. Then we found a nice short hike (less than 3 miles) to enjoy. This hike took us across a lot of slickrock and we were rewarded with not only views but cool rock formations.


It was a bit toasty and we went through our water pretty fast. It was also smoky as the smoke from the fires in California were permeating the skies above. The haze made for poor photographs but we still tried to capture what we were seeing. All in all another great hike.


Our time in Monticello Utah is up and we will move back into New Mexico for our next stop…

NOTE:  We are currently in Winslow, Arizona until August 19h…

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Day Trip to Arches National Park…


We originally planned to go to Moab, Utah from Monticello but with all the smoke in the NW we have changed our plans. Since we wouldn’t be staying in Moab we decided to drive over for a day of hiking in Arches National Park before moving on.


It was only about an hours drive from our park so we headed there early in the afternoon. I had been watching the live cams at the entrance of the park to gauge how crowded it would be. We have recently heard horror stories of not being able to get in much less find any parking once inside. After monitoring the entrance cams we felt like we wouldn't have any issues.


The drive up was quick and pleasant.. We passed by Church Rock and Wilson’s Arch so we stopped to take a photo. Back in the car we soon found ourselves in a line of three cars to enter Arches National Park. Feeling good about the crowds we started around the loop stopping at several pullouts for photographs before finally stopping to park at one of the arch hikes.


The park wasn’t very crowded at all as we had no issues with pulling out to park at any stop on the loop.. As a result we did all the popular arch hikes that are relatively easy to get to. We only had to actively look for a parking place once at one of the arch trails.



While we have visited several times before the scenery never disappoints. The winds had shifted this day and the smoke from the California fires was not evident within the park so we felt pretty lucky to see the clear blue skies. Arches is truly a gem in the National Park system and one if you haven’t been to you really should make the effort to visit to see its splendor.PXL_20210802_205814938

Late that afternoon we figured no hike would be complete without a visit to the Moab Brewery. Liquor laws in Utah are still a bit archaic but way better than when we first visited years ago. The beers they offer are still only about average at best but were a welcome treat after some dusty hiking . While relaxing and looking at our photos we decided we were more than glad we made the trip.PXL_20210802_214959783IMG_2476

NOTE:  We are currently Gallup, New Mexico until August 16th…