Golfing, Hiking, and Caves

The Next day was pretty relaxing.  I opted to stay put as Gary, Maureen & Derek went golfing.  Guess I missed some excitement, but I had some of my own relaxing on the patio, watching the golfers go by and doing laundry.  Yes, ones cloths tend to get dirty when travelling!  There was a major plus  to me not going golfing, well for the homes that line the course they went to anyways.   There  was only one swinging golfer pounding balls into trailers, and yards instead of two!

Golf 2

That evening we played  marbles, which I guess is another “senior” game that gets played around Mission Royal. Its not the kind of game you get on your hands and knees for, its played with a board, cards, and of course marbles!   Its fun, and I actually had the opportunity to win a game!  Not going to say how many games it took to win, and the instructions were much easier than Pickle Ball!  I didn’t cheat or anything!  Plans were then made for the next day, a trip out to Kartchner Caverns.

We got to the Caverns early enough the next day to go for a  hike.  Happily, clear skies and  very “warm”  We did the Foothills Loop Trail, which was  just about 5 km and actually took us over the hill that houses Kartchner Caverns!  To the unknowing eye, its only another hill in the desert!

The caverns, were  discovered in  1974 by cavers Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts who came across a sink hole, that appeared to have a large crack. A closer inspection revealed a  warm breeze coming from the crack, so started their exploration. There is approximately 4 km of passages in the cave, and is truly an experience to enter into this world.  I cannot imagine what these two cavers endured, although as cavers, I’m sure it was a thrill to them not knowing what was around the next rock pile, steep descent, boggy terrain with only a small flashlight to light their way. These caverns were opened to the public in 1999.   Even though it was hot outside, the moment you entered  the door into the cave you became aware of the heat and humidity.   It maintains a temperature of 22 C.  and 99% humidity year round, a little muggy to say the least.  Approximately 1500 bats do migrate to the cave during the spring, and make the Big Room their summer home. Thousands of years ago they did roost in other areas of the cave, but they no longer do. On April 15th  each year all doors are closed to the Big Room, and lights unplugged to ensure lights don’t come on during the summer months.  No one enters this area of the caverns until the bats have left for the winter;  middle of October.  At that time they open the room to the public again.  Our luck, timing was a little off and we were in the right place at the wrong time so were not able to witness the bats.  Also unfortunate was that  photos were not permitted in the caverns, however if you’re interested, I will leave you with a web page with some magnificent photos and videos of the cavern.

During our trip home someone got a craving for a DQ Blizzard, and NO it was not me!  However, we all reaped the benefits of the whining! Thanks Maureen!    The sun was setting behind Picacho Peak as we drove past.  As Derek & Maureen have already done the climb, Gary and I will attempt tomorrow!


Got up bright and early the next morning and headed South on I10 toward Picacho Peak. Hoping to get up and back down before it got too hot – again!  Filled our packs with water, sunscreen, fruit and water and down the road we went.  You can see the Picacho Peak miles before you get to it. (could see it more clearly without the remnants of all the bugs!_


In fact, on clear days you can see the peak from Tucson, over 45 miles away. It was used as a navigational landmark for hundreds of years.   The Battle of Picacho Pass is one of several American civil war sites to occur in Arizona and marks the second most western battles of the  Civil War. A re-enactment of the battle is done every year in March, and it just so happened, it was occurring that Saturday.  Knowing the hike would take  several hours, we didn’t hang around and wait for the battle to start, we had our own battle, to climb the Peak!  The total distance up and back is just over 8.5 km. and as you can imagine, its a workout. The reward, a beautiful  360 degree view from the top!  Thanks for the use of your gloves Maureen, I used them!

I have to admit I didn’t think about spiders and such until after we were up at the top and a fellow explained to his son that it was “that bush, right there, that’s where a tarantula crawled out of”. Then we noticed these strange flying wasp like bugs.  Gary spent some time getting the perfect photos.IMG_0798

One kid said it was a  Tarantula Hawk Wasp.  Never heard of one, but hey, if there are tarantulas there, why wouldn’t there be a big old wasp to eat them!   When I got home I googled it!  Sure enough that is exactly what it is. Its difficult to see in the photo, however it is approximately 2 inches long.   It has a sting which is the second most painful of any insect (the Bullet ant being the most painful). Though the intense pain only lasts about three minutes, they say the best thing to do is lay down and scream because you could hurt yourself if you stay standing! The sting is described as being “electric”.    I can not believe Gary was so close to those nasty flying things!  I was a little more careful with my hand placements on the way down!






Flagstaff/Casa Grande


We arrived in Flagstaff around 9pm and called it a night.  I did send our friend Harold an e-mail and set up a time to meet for lunch the next day.  We didn’t rise too early, and so had no time to loose in getting ready and heading over to Harold Motel on famous Route 66 to pick him up for lunch.  As usual, Suzie did another wonderful job of navigating though the city, and we arrived right at 12!   We headed to a restaurant Harold chose, and it was no surprise that he made a good choice.  Food was fantastic, as was the company and stories that were told all the way around!  Harold has such a good way with stories!  After lunch we headed back to our hotel, where we  sat back, had a few more beer and visited into the early evening, then after dinner ordered him a cab, and we settled down in hopes of getting an early start to Casa Grande the next morning.

Didn’t get as early a start as we wanted, but then we only had 192 miles to Casa Grande.  We put several behind us before stopping at   Montezuma’s Well which is  a natural sinkhole  near Rimrock, Arizona. It is said that over 5,700,000 L. of water enters the well each day from an underground spring, and then flows out through a 150 foot underground passage way into the Beaver River.The Well measures 386 feet (118 m) in diameter from rim to rim and contains a near-constant flow of water into the well, even through seasons plagued with drought.  Very impressive sight, with ancient dwellings.The earliest  ruins located at the site is  a “pithouse” . Over 50 ruins are found inside the park, and not all were used for living space, some likely for food storage or religious ceremonies.

Back in the car, and down the road only a few km to Montezuma’s Castle National Monument.  As in the name of the Well, neither part of the monument’s name is correct either.  When European/Americans founded the ruins in the 1860’s they had been long abandoned. They made the assumption that the Aztec Emperor, Montezuma, was connected somehow to this construction. Montezuma had not even been born at the time that the dwellings were abandoned! Several communities of the Hopi and Yavapai clans can trace ancestries to this area, and still perform religious ceremonies at the site.  Rather than a castle, that we envision royalty or more superior persons to occupy, it was more or less an ancient apartment building in which 30 or 50 people lived.  It is the best preserved cliff dwelling in North America. The Castle sits 90 feet up a sheer cliff, facing Beaver Creek. Due to its positioning in a natural alcove, it was protected from nature’s elements, to say nothing of protection from other threats such as high water, and enemy tribes. Ladders were used to climb into and out of the dwelling, which were easily hoisted up when not in use.   There is almost 4000 square feet of living space built into over 5 stories.  Tours are no longer permitted into the ruins, however, standing at its base on the valley floor, one must come to the conclusion that they were very brave people to have built and lived in such dwellings.

IMG_0738After a warm walk around the park, we stopped down the road at the Castle Casino for a quick bite, which ended up not being so quick, and a cold drink. Then off we went again, next stop Casa Grande!  Again, Suzie took us right to our destination!   We quickly settled in at Derek & Maureen’s and headed out onto the patio for a “cold” one! Might have been more than one, but who was counting!?  What a beautiful place.


We went for a stroll around the “community” and saw the common areas, and the Pickle Ball Courts that we’ve heard so much about.  As there were several challenges occurring on the courts at the time I can say, it doesn’t appear to be a very “senior” kind of sport!  To each their own. Maureen also opened the door into the  banquet room…and weren’t we lucky to arrive just days before the big ol’ St. Patrick’s Day Dance!  It truly was a very relaxing evening with good friends, good weather and of course, cold beers!


Bryce Canyon

First thing on the agenda the next morning was 124 miles of driving, before arriving at Bryce Canyon.  The weather was good, no sign of snow despite the forecast the night before!  Our first glimpse of what we were about to embark on was entering into Red Canyon, which alone was spectacular, and was only a tease to what was coming.

 The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700 m). The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874. It was said that it was a Hell of a Place to loose a cow!  We arrived Sunset point, the trail head for the Navajo loop and readied ourselves for the hike.  Wall Street area of this loop, which would take us back up to the rim, was closed due to snow,  so we had to swing around and complete the hike on the Queens Garden Trail.  It was a fantastic day, even though I had us back track about ½ a mile, and then go back over the same part of the trail a 3rd time to actually finish the Queens Garden trail to the rim of the Canyon at Sunrise Point.  Once at the Rim we followed the Rim Trail back to the car.  It was truly is an amazing trek, and I would love to go back and do more of the trails.  The weather was perfect, no rain, no snow, and the temperature was just right for hiking the steep terrain.  It is amazing that anything grows there.  At one point our eyes played tricks on us making the greenery look blue, even my runners looked blue, however we soon realized it was all due to reflections from all the red in the canyon.

The norm for places like this is pictures just don’t do  justice.  Nothing can replace the sensation one feels when you are standing above all the valleys and spires that weather and time have created. Hiking to the bottom of the Canyon is even that much more breathtaking.   Although the hike was a work out, it was shorter than we anticipated, or maybe we were in better shape than we thought!    We didn’t have time to do any of the longer hikes so set our sights on arriving in Flagstaff, Arizona that night, another 283 miles.  We had a quick bite to eat at Ruby’s Lodge in Bryce City and followed Hwy 12 to Hwy 89 and headed south.   It seemed a shame to pass so many places to sight see, explore and hike on the way to Flagstaff, but one only has so much time, so we’ll have to go back and do some more exploring another day.  Maybe incorporate a jeep for some of those not so travelled roads – next time!






March 9th – We’re Off!

The First two days of travel were relatively short.  But getting out of the house and on the road is always the most important thing, as well as the hardest thing to make happen.  On the first day we only travelled as far as Teepee Creek Ab. (240 Km) to see the grandchildren before leaving on our two week journey.

We were not in a hurry to leave the next morning, as we were only going as far as Olds Ab  ( 600km) to visit with Peter, an old Helicopter Engineer friend that Gary worked with in the Yukon, and travelled to Australia and New Zealand with. It was a great visit, talking about old times, and new.   Although we did have a quick dinner visit with him a year ago in Chetwynd, it was at least 20 years since we had seen him last.  Such a great visit, and hoping its not as long until our paths cross again.

Our Third day had us travelling across into the USA at Sweetgrass Montana. A beautiful sunny day….good things were coming, despite the forecast for snow in Bryce Canyon!). We HAD to stop and


Leaving Alberta made it seem like the road trip was actually happening, although I have to admit, there wasn’t an immediate change in the scenery!  The  disappearing snow was a wonderful way to continue our journey  – and we know there is warmer weather ahead.  We drove to  Helena, (735 Km) that Night, the capital of Montana.  As it was getting dark, and  we were tired,  we didn’t see too much of the place.

Up Bright and early the next morning to head down the road to Salt Lake City where we planned at stopping at the Mormon Tabernacle and the Temple Square. What beautiful pieces of architecture.  It was a beautiful day, for a wedding or 8!   We counted 8 brides around the church, and throughout the square.  Photos are not allowed in the temple, and very few guests are invited inside, however, there were hundreds of people milling about, in their finery, obviously guests of the weddings that took place that day.  I’m sure we are in some of the photos, although I did contain myself, and didn’t do the obvious photo bomb with a peace sign!

Unfortunately we were a day early to hear the choir practice in the Tabernacle, which was a little disappointing, but it did become the story of our trip!  Timing is everything, and I did say on several occasions- Next time!    Leaving the center of the city at rush hour is a little daunting, but off we went, and continued down I15 to Fillmore, putting another 626+ MILES  behind us. Fillmore obviously shuts down early. Driving in at 9 pm everything was closed up, stopped at the first hotel we saw, a Best Western, and the price was outrageous for the facility, so drove through the town, which appeared at that time of night to be a ghost town.  Just before getting back onto the I15 spotted a  Comfort Inn and Suites.  It was just right,  and 50 less than the BW.   We were done for the night, and the room was clean, quiet, and comfy!  Still forecasting snow for Bryce Canyon…Maybe they are wrong!?

Road Tour 2016

Today we are finishing the final preps for our 2016 road trip that will take us on adventures through several states, visits with family and friends, a little hiking, a little relaxation and a little of what ever else life brings us.  Enjoy the ride…I know we will!