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I enjoy doing fun things outdoors. Family adventures, hunting, fishing, hiking, photography, 4 wheeling, etc. Get out there and enjoy ... NOTE: PLEASE CLICK ON MY PHOTOS IN THE BLOG POST SO THEY WILL BECOME LARGER.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Arizona Vacation - 2015

Kevin and I headed to Arizona for the week.  We landed at Sky Harbor Saturday night.  I rented a Red 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible thinking it would be a fun car to drive for the week.  It ended up being true.  Kevin liked driving it too.

We stayed with my Aunt Shirley in Phoenix through Tuesday.  On Wednesday and Thursday we would stay in Flagstaff then head back to Phoenix on Friday morning.

On Sunday we stayed local and explored.  I drove through my old neighborhood, by my old high school, up North Mountain, etc.  I found a spot to take night pictures but forgot my tripod so would have to go back.

On Monday met with Steve, Amy, Seth, and Alyssa for breakfast at Denny’s.  Seth joined us as we headed out to Cave Creek to explore.  We saw an ATV rental place and stopped to check it out.  We made plans to rent ATV’s Tuesday afternoon.  Later that day I dropped Kevin off with Seth at the Pointe at Squaw Peak.  They had fun at the water park.

Tuesday, Seth, Kevin, and I headed back to Cave Creek to ride ATV’s.  Seth and Kevin have motocross bikes so were excited to try ATV’s in the desert.  We were given a map and instructions on what trails to take.  There were trail number markers at various times and were told what trails to stay on.

I brought my hunting GPS in anticipation of a hike or ride.  When I turned it on I had a blank screen with the compass arrow and no terrain maps.  I forgot to download the topo maps of Arizona.  Mistake by ME ... I could still use the GPS by leaving it on the whole time.  It would leave a breadcrumb trail showing where we had come from and I could set waypoints, etc..  We were riding North of Cave Creek so it was all new territory.  My other thought was “How am I going to keep up with these guys?”  Our riding improved the longer we rode and as we got more comfortable. 

Back in the day I had several motorcycles growing up in Phoenix.  I used to start riding my Yamaha 250 from the Circle K at 19th Avenue and Bell Road.  I rode North and West from that location which was all open desert.  One time I rode from that starting point all the way to Cave Creek never seeing another person or rider.  Phoenix has now expanded so there are houses and roads from that starting point almost all the way to Cave Creek.  There's also a canal with Colorado River water now cutting through my old riding area.

Seth, Kevin, and I followed the trails and ended up at the Verde River where we were going to turn around.  When we arrived there was a Sheriff’s helicopter, 6 trucks, ATV’s and probably 20 Sheriff Deputy’s there.  Seth and Kevin headed to the river and I asked one Sheriff if this location was a meeting point.  He said “There's something going on in the area”.  Being the responsible adult with 2 teenage boys I asked if we should leave.  He said “You're ok for now.” … Hmm … needless to say I made the decision to leave after about 10 minutes …

We went back the way we came.  At one of the forks in the trail we went the wrong way and got lost.  Not good.  I looked at my GPS to help get us back to where we unloaded the ATV’s.  We were getting close but none of the trails we were on took us in the correct direction.  I remember we passed under power lines driving to where we parked and unloaded the ATV’s.  When getting instructions I was told if we hit the power lines we went too far.  With no trails going the direction we needed to go I headed for the power lines.  Once there we took the power line trails to the road.

We rode our ATV’s on the road for about a mile and turned on to the dirt road we took to get to the parking area.  We spotted the truck and trailer so all was good.  With so many small trails going all directions my GPS (even without the topo maps) really helped get us back to where we started.  My GPS said we rode 27 miles.  Our time was almost up so we loaded up the ATV’s and headed back to town.

That night I went back to take some night pictures.  This is a view of 7th Street in Phoenix.  I experimented with shutter speeds up to 15 seconds.  I got a bit creative by moving my camera while the shutter was open which causes the light trails.  I haven’t taken time lapse photographs for a while so had fun experimenting again.

We were up early on Wednesday and drove to Flagstaff.  We unloaded and headed south on 89a through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona.  The rock formations and colors are outstanding.

Up the road from my Aunt's place in Flagstaff there was a marsh area with trails.  With elk in the area I really wanted to spot some and take pictures.  Lots of tracks but no elk.  I did take some bird pictures, sunrise and sunset pictures with the Snow Bowl in the background.

Next we headed down some back roads, on to 89a, ending up in Jerome.  It is a neat old mining town with lots of history.  Because of the extensive mining many of the old buildings are sliding down the mountain.  They said the old jail is 225 feet down the hill from where it was built.  We headed back to the Cottonwood area to visit one of my old friends.  We had Mexican food in Sedona.  It was very good.  Kevin drove back up Oak Creek canyon.  It's always fun with the corners and steep ascent but especially in this convertible Camaro.

When people visit places like Sedona and the Grand Canyon it is immense with so much BIG scenery.  I started thinking about the little things.  Here are a couple shots I took remembering the little things.  Cactus with rocks in the background ... Focus on Cactus ... Bulb on Cactus not yet blooming ... Ants on bulb ... Remember the little things too.

Thursday morning up early and headed to the Grand Canyon.  We went around Agassiz Peak, the second highest mountain in U.S. state of Arizona at 12,356 feet.  This is the snowy peak you see in my photos.  Snow Bowl ski area is on that mountain.

We arrived and parked at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.  We walked several miles along the rim of the canyon.  It started out a bit hazy but clouds showed up and seemed to take the bite out of the sun.  I took some good pictures but the camera doesn’t do the canyon justice.  I don’t think the camera can capture the depth of field appropriately. They do have free shuttle buses in case you get tired of walking.

Views of the Grand Canyon are breathtaking.  It is hard to capture the size of what you are really looking at with a camera.  In the Canyon there are trails, camping areas, a ranch, and buildings in various locations for hikers or the mule teams.  My friend Shawn has hiked to the bottom many times on 3-9 day treks.  You can see some of the trails from the top but not much else unless you have binoculars, a spotting scope, or in my case a camera with a good zoom lens.  Unfortunately I forgot my binoculars ...

Here is an example.  Using my zoom lens I panned and was able to spot some activity below.  This first picture is a normal photo looking at the canyon with no zoom.  I put a circle around what I spotted.  Do you see anything in the circle?   When I zoom in on that same area you can now see a black rectangle.  When I zoom in all the way you see the building, hitching rails, hikers, backpacks, etc.  Looks like the hikers were getting ready to head out.  If you go back to the first photo with the tiny circle you would never see it.  As we continued walking I pointed out the Phantom Ranch to Kevin.  Again, with a zoom we could see the ranch buildings and people walking on the trails, etc.

Bring your binoculars … You’d be surprised how much more you can see from the rim.

We left the Grand Canyon toward Sunset Crater.  When I visited as a kid we could climb to the top and look in the crater.  Not anymore … We took the 52 mile Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments Loop Road.  Kevin and I enjoyed the Indian ruins.  I really liked the grasslands with the Painted Desert in the distance.  This was one of Kevin's favorite parts of our trip.

Friday morning I decided to visit a friend in Wickenburg which was south and somewhat on the way back to Phoenix.  Kevin drove down Oak Creek Canyon this time.  89a took us back up through Jerome and through more very winding roads to Prescott.  From there we took 89 to Wickenburg.  After our visit we headed to Phoenix past Lake Pleasant.  When I lived in AZ there was no Dam so Lake Pleasant was small compared to now.  We passed 2 shooting ranges (one with a 1000 yard range).  Tempting …

As we drove we kept our eyes open for critters.  We saw 3 mule deer, an elk, Pronghorn Antelope as well as a variety of birds and lizards.  I was able to get a picture of these 4 Pronghorn Antelope on our way to Prescott.

We relaxed on Saturday.  I did more visiting.  Then returned the car and caught our night flight back to Boston.

I had a great time connecting with some old friends and relatives.  My Aunt Shirley, Shawn and Teri S, my Aunt Ellyn, Star and Ken C, Brian C, Keven and Linda H, Tim O, Ken S, and Mary & Cindy P.  It was fun talking about the old times and getting caught up.

Arizona is a big state with a variety terrain, climate, etc.  The Camaro had 6300 miles on it when we started.  We added 1205 miles over the week.  I told Kevin we didn’t go south or east from Phoenix so we have more to explore next time.

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