Phoenix-The Superstition Edition

We left Tucson and headed north to Lost Dutchmen State Park in the Superstition Mountains.

Our Backyard

Driving to Phoenix on Rt 79 we came upon this Monument to the celluloid cowboy Tom Mix.

Tom met his demise on this spot in 1940 while speeding down the road in his V8 convertible. He came upon a repair crew working on a bridge, slammed on his brakes and was killed by his aluminum suitcase that flew from the back seat and broke his neck. The “suitcase of death” is on display in the Tom Mix Museum.

Our arrival in Phoenix coincided with the Tempe Arts Festival. The last time we came through Phoenix we went to it and found a great rug so we jumped at the chance to return. Plus– It’s easy to get there via the the Valley Metro Rail.

The event reminds us of the Elmwood Festival in Buffalo. Lots of interesting venders and street performers.

We made a couple of purchases in support of local artisans.

Shelly’s mesquite spoon

Pat’s glass earrings

The park is on the east side of Phoenix in Apache Junction. The whole area offers a number of hikes into the mountains as well as a 4 mile mountain bike trail that traverses the base of the mountains.

The 2.2 mile(one way) hike up to Siphon Draw is a strenuous hike offering great views of the east valley of Phoenix.

The Draw

The Flatiron

A few bike trail views

We are avid Jazz fans and always on the lookout for shows to attend. The Nash, in downtown Phoenix, is one of the nicest venues we’ve seen. It just happened that there was a performance by the Geoff Keezer Trio during our stay.

We arrived early

Geoff at work

Part of the fun of travel is meeting people. During our stay at Lost Dutchmen we met a couple from Germany. They are both artists who just retired from their day jobs and are exploring the Southwest.

Mirka and Mark

The sunsets have all been spectacular.

Exploring Tucson and Beyond

We haven’t spent all our time in Tucson holed up at Catalina State Park. There are restaurants, breweries, galleries and plenty of window shopping.

The Hotel Congress was built in 1919 and is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Tucson. In January, 1934 a fire started and the guests evacuated the hotel. One of the guests was John Dillinger who was laying low with his gang after a series of bank robberies. During the evacuation he was recognized and subsequently captured without a shot fired. The hotel celebrates his capture every January with “Dillinger Days”.

Some of the many murals that dot the downtown area.

No trip to Tucson is complete without a visit to one of our favorite Mexican restaurant, the mole is outstanding.

Just outside the park is access to a 131 mile bike trail. The trail loops around the city and is popular with walkers as well as cyclists. We used the trail to access the Oro Valley Farmers Market.

We also found the time to visit a couple of gardens. The Yume Japanese gardens is located off a busy thoroughfare and offers a quiet oasis. The day we visited they where having their Fall Ikebana Floral Festival.

Some of the many arrangements on display.

Last year while traveling in Florida we met fellow Airstreamers, Sandy and Bill. We’ve kept in touch through our blogs and realized our stay in Tucson would overlap.

You can check out their blog at:

We meet up for a visit to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. We were camping north of the museum and traveled south by way of scenic Gates Pass.

We have visited the Desert Museum in the past and have always been impressed by their unusual cacti displays.

The museum has expanded since our last visit and is definitely worth a visit if your in the area. Don’t forget to get there by way of Gates Pass.

Biosphere 2 is located about twenty miles north of Catalina State Park. We’ve seen the sign for years but have never made it there. The glass enclosed facility is 3.14 acres and recreates ocean, rainforest and desert biomes under the glass structures.

The facility opened in 1986 to research and develop self-sustaining space colonization technology. The facility was a closed system between 1991 and 1994 but insurmountable technical problems forced a reassessment of these grand goals. The University of Arizona took over management of the Biosphere in 2011 and uses it as a earth science research facility.

The “Lung”

Back at camp Bill and Shelly decided to hike to the Romero Pools while Sandy and Pat lounged back at the Tincan.

It’s a strenuous hike up to the pools.

There was even a decent amount of water in the pools.

Morning Light

Our two weeks in Tucson flew by. All too soon it was time to head north to Phoenix.

In the Shadow of the Catalinas

Catalina State Park in the Oro Valley just north of Tucson is one of our favorite layovers. We booked the two weeks around Thanksgiving almost a year ago-and good we did as the park is filled with celebratory families. We are surrounded by beautiful Sonoran desert landscape.

The bike paths throughout the park make it easy to get to trail heads.

The Sonoran is our favorite desert in the Southwest. It is surprisingly green with a variety of flora. This is the only desert where you will find the iconic saguaro cactus.

Saguaro Cactus Skeleton

It can be really green; even without recent rain this grass thrives under the trees along the wash.

We missed peak wildflowers but a few were still hanging on.

Love this morning light on the grasses. This desert has such a variety of foliage- cactus, mesquite, palo verde and all kinds of grasses.

Waking every morning and knowing this landscape is just outside our door is our happy place.

Sky Island Hopping

We left T or C and continued our journey West to Arizona. As you enter the Sulfur Spring Valley near Willcox AZ you find yourself in a vast grassland sea. Within this sea an isolated mountain range rises up, a sky island. These are the Chiricahua’s.

The Chiricahua Apache called these pinnacles “standing up rocks”. The Chiricahua National Monument was established in 1924 and protects these formations.

Twenty seven million years ago Turkey Creek Volcano erupted and spewed hot ash over this area of Arizona. The ash melted together forming layers of grey rock called rhyolite. Cooling and uplift created joints and cracks. Over time weathering and erosion did the rest. Wandering the endless variety of rock formations makes for a great hiking experience.

Continuing west, we set up camp in the foothills of the Whetstone Mts just south of Benson AZ.

Our destination was Karchner Cavern State Park. The park is home to a cave that was discovered in 1974. A great deal of conservation went into maintaining the cave’s pristine condition. The cave remains a living organism. No cameras or phones were allowed in the cave so no photos to entice you –but plan to visit this gem if you are anywhere near.

The San Pedro Valley

The Whetstone Mts. (a “sky island”)

The way up

We made it!

Just north of Sonita, AZ lies the vast Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Located within is the historic Empire Ranch. The Ranch began its life in 1871 and continued as a privately run cattle ranch until 1988 when the US Bureau of Land Management acquired it. The government leases the land and it continues to be a active cattle ranch.

Hiking, biking, camping, hunting and ATV use is permitted.

Giant Sacaton grass once dominated the flood plains of the Southwest. Today the Cienegas Watershed is home to the region’s largest remaining sacaton stands.

On to Tucson!

Truth or Consequences

The plan was to spend one night in T or C and then head over to Silver City.

Our view

We setup the Tincan and walked to town. This was our third visit to this quirky and friendly desert town.

While we were admiring a tile mosaic on a building, the door opened and Micheal(the owner) proceeded to tell us about the mosaic and invited us in to check out his home. Once inside we met his partner Dimit and four house guests down from Santa Fe. They told us about the activities taking place in town that weekend, a film festival, music at the new brewery, a dance performance, Art Hop and a Veterans Day Auto Show. With temperatures in Silver City predicted to drop into the teens we decided to spend the weekend.

Good beer

This film Festival is curated by the folks that put on the Santa Fe Film Festival. We attended the “Lane 1974” feature. It was a bittersweet “coming of age” story.

This Willys coupe was a nine year project with everything built by the owner.

The car took the Best Engine Compartment trophy.

The highlight of the weekend was the World Premier of a site specific dance performance titled “The Motel Dances”. Cydney Wilkes and Mike Barber choreographed and performed the piece with an appearance by Jeannie Ortiz. The work began with the audience entering three different motel rooms where individual dancers went through a series of movements.

The bulk of the work took place in the parking lot.

The performance was accompanied by live music composed and performed by Heather Perkins.

The city of T or C is located along the Rio Grande River and is known for its numerous hot springs.

The city was originally called Hot Springs but changed its name to Truth or Consequences in 1950 to win the honor of having the popular radio show “Truth or Consequences ” broadcast from the city. Ralph Edwards, the host, visited T or C every May for 50 years. A “Fiesta” was held during his visits and the tradition continues. A not to be missed event according to locals.

T or C is in many ways typical tiny desert town- windswept and gritty. We met so many folks who visited once, kept returning and eventually settled in to soak in the hot springs and become part of the tapestry of quirkiness that makes it unique. We WILL be back.

Adios, Santa Fe

Three weeks in the Santa Fe area has sadly come to an end. During the last week we attempted to get to some of our favorite hikes and restaurants before moving on.

This enormous valley lies within the Valles Caldera located in the Jemez Mts. The valley was formed about 1 million years ago when the valley floor collapsed after a series of massive volcanic eruptions. These eruptions are estimated to have been 500 times more powerful then those of Mt. St. Helens.

For those of you who were fans of the Longmire series, this valley was the view from his cabin.

Ghost Ranch is located northwest of Santa Fe. It was were Georgia O’Keefe spent a lot of time visiting friends and painting. It is currently a retreat center with a campground and some great hiking. This was our fourth visit and we decided to do the Box Canyon hike. It was one hike we had not yet done.

The hike takes you by an impressive sandstone wall where generations of Native Americans have come to remember their ancestors.

Where is the trail?

The Rio Grande Gorge near Taos has some great hiking opportunities. The last time we hiked along the gorge was 2012 and we were eager to return.

La Vista Verde Trail is a 1 1/2 mile trail along the gorge which terminates at a bench overlooking the river gorge.

Our last day in Santa Fe coincided with Pat’s Birthday which we celebrated by walking around town checking out galleries and having lunch at Izanami in the Ten Thousand Waves Spa.

This was our second visit to Izanami. We loved the food as well as the setting.

But before we leave, one more glorious sunset.

Out and About in Santa Fe, Again

At the heart of Santa Fe is the Plaza. The Plaza serves as a focal point for restaurants, art galleries as well as a curated Indian Market where local indigenous artisans offer their work for purchase. We’ve wandered through this scene often and never stopped- but this trip Pat purchased a pair of silver earrings to replace the ones she lost on this trip.

The San Marco Cafe and Feed Store

We’ve been checking out new restaurants this trip. We were just walking past Paloma in Guadeloupe St. and decided to check it out. San Marco was recommended by a local and just down the road from our campground. We would recommend both if you find yourself in Santa Fe and in need of a meal.

The Farmer’s Market at the Railyard is always an occasion for some spontaneous dancing. This city has such a great vibe.

On the first Saturday of November we headed north to the tiny mountain town of Dixon. The town is about halfway between Taos and Santa Fe along the Embudo River and is home to scores of artists. Saturday was the first day of their 37th Open Studio tour.

After a few stops on the tour and a delicious lunch at a local church, we continued on the High Road to Taos and as we headed back to Santa Fe, we dropped down into the Rio Grande River Gorge Recreation Area.

Within the city are a number of open spaces available for exploring. We’ve enjoyed our time rambling through these areas. This week we made our way to Arroyo Honda.

One of the things we like about Santa Fe Skies RV where we park the Tincan when in Santa Fe are the great 360 degree views.

The sunrises aren’t too bad either.

They don’t call it Santa Fe Skies for nothing.