Some Excellent Mountain Hiking – Prescott, AZ

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Prescott and Prescott Valley are surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, complete with granite mountains.  We tackled three hikes while here; Granite Mountain Trail #261, Granite Mountain Hotshots Trail and Woodchute Trail. Continue reading

Travel Plan Reveal, Fun With Friends in Prescott, AZ

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Leaving behind the lush Sonoran Desert around Wickenburg was a bit melancholy, but we wanted to move on before the weather really heated up.  We were finally on our northward trajectory, after figuring out where we’d spend our summer and fall this year. Continue reading

A wonderland of rocks – Prescott, AZ

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Even though we had a lot of uncomfortable weather during our stay at Prescott, it would have been a “dereliction of duty” to depart without at least exploring the Granite Dells. We’d been inspired by pictures of this natural wonderland from RV friends who had explored it in the past, and it was one of the reasons we had to stop here.

The Granite Dells consist of exposed bedrock and large boulders that date back 1.4 billion years.  The rounded shapes and other unusual characteristics of these rock formations make them very unique.

Granite Dells, Prescott Arizona

The Granite Dells

Lucky for us, access to these awesome formations was just steps from our front door.   With temps in the 30’s and 40’s in the mornings we were in no hurry to get outside, and for the first time ever we started our walks and hikes a few hours later.  We are “fair weather hikers”, and those temperatures kept us curled up around the heaters until well after sunrise.

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The Dells reminded me of the Alabama Hills (my post is here) near Lone Pine, California, where old Western movies were filmed – except that man-made lakes give these formations a picturesque beauty of their own.  Watson Lake (closest to us) and Willow Lake (a few minutes away) are reservoirs that surround the Dells and enhance the natural beauty of the area.

Granite Dells, Prescott

Willow Lake

A short break along the trail at Willow Lake

Watson Lake

A kayaker is dwarfed by the gigantic boulders at Watson Lake, which give a stark display of the drought that has occurred here

There’s an extensive network of trails in and around Prescott, but we prioritized the Dells network that circumnavigate around Willow and Watson Lakes.  We followed these trails that ran over rugged rocky terrain with some easy flat sections in between.

Watson Lake Trail

At one intersection we chose the steeper and shorter route to warm up our legs

Watson Lake Trail, Granite Dell

What goes up must go back down!

On other days while Steve was attending to Betsy, I explored more of the Dells alone and managed to do silly things without someone there to make comments and roll his eyes.  I noticed while traipsing around and scrambling over the rocks that I glimpsed shadows of myself, and I thought I’d try to capture them.

Watson Lake

The Dells are a decent birding area as well, which made me giddy as I spotted my little friends perched up in trees or jumping around the rocks looking for morsels.

Cordillera Flycather

Looks like a Cordillera Flycather, or is it?

Canyon Wren

This Canyon Wren was quietly picking its way through a clump of brush then perch on the rock

Great Blue Heron

A Great Blue Heron was across the lake patiently awaiting its next meal

But look what I saw far away in the top of a tree at Willow Lake:

Willow Lake, Prescott

Can you see it?

Bald Eagle

I never get tired of seeing these majestic beauties

When surrounded by all these rounded bumpy and unusual shapes it gave me pause to ponder what the rock is trying to paint in front of me.  With a little imagination I named some of the rocks – do you agree with me?

Granite Dells

A resting (or dead) fish

Granite Dell

Lonely heart

Granite Dells

The ripple effect

Granite Dells

Darth Vader – or an alien – emerging from the rocks to watch the kayakers float by

With that kind of playground I completely forgot the chill in the air.

Granite Dells

One last look at the playground before we go

 

Next Up:  Steve performs another little upgrade on Betsy…



 

 

 

Literally Chillin’ in Prescott, AZ

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While planning our winter sojourn into Arizona last summer, a month’s stay in Prescott was on our list of stops.  Pronounced “PressKit” by locals, the city is nestled at an elevation of 5,200′ and boasts weather that normally averages 70º.  We heard good things about the city and planned to take a break here after several months of more intense travel.  It was time to just slow down and do some looking around in one of our fav states.

Prescott, Arizona

The city of Prescott surrounded by mountains, lakes and Ponderosa Pines

A few days after our arrival, some unseasonably cold Fall weather rolled in, bringing rain, hail and light snow.  And it looked like the cold was going to prevail for some time.  Since we’re weather wimps we altered our plans and cut our stay in half.  As many of you travelers know, weather can make or break a stop – and it was unfortunate that we couldn’t enjoy more of the opportunities offered in this nice city.

Prescott Arizona

Hey, this isn’t what we signed up for! We left a day before yet another cold storm hit the higher Arizona elevations

Of course, the beauty of living on the road is that we can change our plans nearly as quickly as the weather can.  Don’t get me wrong – Prescott, with its four distinct seasons, granite mountains, lakes, streams, and great town is still a very desirable place – but not for us at this time.

Prescott, AZ

Looks like there won’t be any outdoor activities today!

The silver lining amidst nightly dips in temperature and cold, crisp autumn days was hanging out with friends and making new ones.  We knew Paul and Nina of Wheeling It would be at Point of Rocks Campground (Steve’s review here) when we arrived, and we pulled in just a few sites away.  We soon met Paul’s dad and stepmom, and learned about their winter RV plans.

Although we already owned Betsy in 2011 and were planning our trip to Alaska, we were still working when we began following Nina’s blog.  It is pretty much required reading for folks contemplating full-timing, or already doing it for that matter.  We’ve learned about many topics that interest us – boondocking, workcamping, photography, beer tasting, health care – the list goes on and on.  And Paul’s blog, Investing For a Living, contains excellent information for us rookie personal investors as well.

Mead Tasting

Paul shows Steve the way to the Superstition Meadery

Fun Times in Prescott

We had never heard of Mead, but fortunately Paul and Nina were happy to introduce us to it at the local Superstition Meadery.  Mead is not beer nor wine, but rather an alcoholic drink created from fermenting honey with water and various fruits, spices and/or grains.

Considered to be the oldest alcoholic beverage and referred to as “Nectar of the Gods” by ancient Greeks, we were impressed as we tasted a dozen-sample flight.  With crafty names like Lagrimas de Oro, Amnesia and Dancing Goat, we were intrigued as each of us picked our favorites.  Mine was Honey Highway (12% abv), flavored with Prickly Pear and aged in new oak.  I could probably get addicted to this particular Nectar of the Gods!  Don’t miss this place if you want to try something fun and unusual while in Prescott.

A flight of mead

Sharing a flight of Mead – alcohol content ranged from 8% to 16%

Unlike our first meeting with Paul and Nina two years ago somewhere in the desert near Yuma, our social activities here were not so limited.  Paul’s dad Armando and stepmom Ana joined us for a fun dining experience of Tapas, Sangrias, Mojitos and beers at El Gato Azul.  We all shared a dozen different Tapas and again enjoyed picking our favorites. Maybe not our healthiest meal while in Prescott, but the fun of sharing the various foods and spices, along with the great company, allowed us to overlook the health factor this time.

Tapas at El Gato Azul

Healthy?  Maybe not so much.  Tasty?  Oh yeah!

Social

Paul, Steve, myself, Nina, Ana and Armando.  Steve was amazed that the server memorized our 12-tapa order and drinks, never writing anything down!

“Happy hour” is a social time in any campground.  It’s an hour (OK, usually several hours) to catch up, exchange travel stories and just “shoot the breeze” over drinks with old and new friends.  At Paul and Nina’s happy hour we met Bill, a photographer, and Dianne who revealed that she follows our blog (thank you, Dianne!).

Wheeling It

Nina, Paul, myself, Bill and Dianne enjoying happy hour at “The Beast”

When it was our turn to host, we invited new friends Bill and Pamela to join us.  Steve had struck up a conversation with Bill when he walked by one day, and was stunned to discover that Bill had lived right up the road from him in Brentwood, CA for several years.  Not only that, they had also worked at the same national laboratory, although at different sites, for many years.  These two had a lot to talk about – what a small world!

Bundled up for the happy hour

Everyone’s bundled up for this happy hour, but still happy!

Lowes Travels

Pamela, Steve and Bill with their doggie Abbey  They are in the process of buying a home in Prescott.  Hope we can meet again!

Polly

Paul and Nina’s wonderful dog Polly and I got along very well – my new BDFF (best doggie friend forever)

Great company always overrules any weather-related complaints we may have.  All of the friends here, old and new, made our stay bearable and enjoyable.  We wish you all safe travels and hope to meet up again somewhere down the road.  Maybe I’ll have some lumpia ready to go when we get back together 🙂

Point of Rocks Campground

Betsy’s front yard, granite rocks!

The Point of Rocks RV Park is nestled within the Granite Dells, and we were happy to pull Betsy into a small site that faced a rock formation.  It became our personal climbing wall that I scrambled up several times during our stay.

 

Next up:  Scrambling the rocks, lots of granite rocks!



 

 

Whitehorse, the wilderness city

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Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon Territory, the Land of the Midnight Sun. Whitehorse is tagged as the city ten minutes drive from nowhere for it is just minutes away from a vast and pristine backcountry.

We had a long drive  today from Watson Lake to Whitehorse which took us  6 hours and covered 269 miles. We travelled thru lush river valleys and crossed low mountain passes in the Yukon Territory. We drove slowly not because of wildlife (which were not present on this drive) but because we were  warned of  several areas where there are frost heaves and gravel breaks. We experienced three things on this stretch, Frost heaves ; dry camping and the midnight sun.

Its hard to wrap our minds around the fact that we are driving over permanently frozen ground. The Yukon portion of the  highway is built on top of the layers and the freezing and thawing of the frost underneath creates the frost heaves. That is just our little description of  it, nevertheless we heed the cautionary signs and slowed down. We also passed the washed out highway, which caused the Alaska highway to be closed for three days and caused us to stay longer at Dawson Creek. The drive is still scenic and the Yukon has its own character.

We arrived at our chosen RV park  at the Hi Country RV park without a reservation. Oh well, the only spot available is unserviced, meaning no power,  no water and no sewer. We took it and experience our first dry camping (boondocking) in an RV park. As Betsy is self contained , we can generate our own power (generator) had enough water in the tank to last us a few days and we just recently dumped at the last stop. The site is only available for a day, so instead of going through the trouble of moving to another site the next day, we packed up and moved on.  We saw several sights around Whitehorse and feel we’re ready to move on to the next milestone – Alaska is only a couple of days away!

The midnight night sun is truly fascinating. Since we arrived in Canada we have had long days, but today happens to be the Summer Solstice. There were a lot of events in Whitehorse to celebrate it. For us we stayed outside and read  to experience the sun at midnight. Then the next day  after only four hours the sun shone again at  430AM. Wow!

Since we only have a day here we took a stroll at the downtown area and a quick hike at Miles Canyon. We checked out the SS Klondike, a national historic site  but was not able to climb aboard as it was past closing time. SS Klondike is the largest sternwheeler to ply the Yukon river  bringing in freight and supplies to remote areas before construction of the highways.

We took a quick short hike at Miles Canyon originally called “Grand Canyon.” The canyon was an imposing challenged for the  gold stampeders or miners on their way up the Yukon to the gold fields due to its narrow channel followed by the whitehorse grand rapids. The image on the canyon was taken around 7PM a very bright sun was still up there.

Hot Springs, Wildlife, and a milestone

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This next leg of our journey took us to a hot spring, wildlife on the highway and our second milestone.

We did not want to leave Muncho Lake but the unpredictable wind, rain and sun got to us. The lake is just spectacular but we have to move on. Our first stop was the Liard Hot Springs, a very popular stop for Alaska Highway travelers. This is on Mile 496 of the highway and used to be the site of a major camp during construction. These natural hot springs are a piece of paradise, from warm to hot to hotter depending on the spot you select. We soaked our tired muscles for half an hour and on our way out we saw a Moose.

As we moved along the highway, wildlife was the center piece. We were the only ones on the highway this early morning so we expected lots of animals on the road. We were not disappointed. We encountered Stone Sheep checking us out, a Moose that scampered away as we approached, grazing Bison and Bears munching away without caring about the tourists gawking at them. This was a slow drive due to some deterioration of road conditions and the increasing amount of wildlife along the way.  However, we have been surprised that the roads overall have been in fairly good shape.  We’ll see if that holds true as we continue.

Arriving at Watson Lake, Mile 635 is the second milestone in our Alaska Adventure.   We are now in the Yukon Territory, the final Canadian province to traverse before arriving in Alaska. This community  is a favorite stop over as it is home to a famous attraction, The Signpost Forest. It was started in 1942 by a homesick GI by erecting a sign pointing to his hometown of Danville, Il. Today, the collection of signs constantly grows due to visitors who wish to promote their own communities. We took a stroll and were amazed at how far the signs have traveled and their number, which has grown to over 70,000.

We stayed overnight at Tags RV Campground right across the Signpost Forest. Big rig friendly, quiet and okay for overnight stop.