Picture of the Day: Flowers in the Desert

The weather at home in Georgia lately has been chilly and damp. The colors seem muted and gray now that all of the snow from the freak blizzard has finally melted away.

I thought a pop of color and sunshine would be a great way to liven things up and hopefully bring a little cheer to your day.

These pictures were taken in Arizona in March as the cactus flowers bloomed and the sun with its buttery sunshine brought out vivid colors everywhere. rk

Mexican Hat

About twenty miles north of famous Monument Valley is the town of Mexican Hat. Named after a rock formation that looks like an upside down stereotypical sombrero (like the one Speedy Gonzales wears). On a recent road trip we got to stop by and take some pics in the Utah heat! 




Sunday Hikes: Wildcat Trail

The Wildcat Trail is a 3.2 mile loop in Monument Valley Tribal Park on the Utah-Arizona state line. I have wanted to visit Monument Valley for a while now and finally got the chance on a recent road trip! 


We started on the trail around 11am despite it technically being closed in the middle of the day due to “heat waves”. The trail is very sandy in the beginning and will fill your shoes if you don’t have boots on (or high top converse might do the job as well). The trail is marked pretty well with little arrow signs pointing you towards the trail when it gets lost in one of the many arroyos. Within 30 minutes of starting we were sweating to death but still enjoying the iconic views. 


The hike takes you around and in-between the buttes and lets you feel like John Wayne (if John Wayne payed $20 to park his horse for a couple hours). Despite the sun beating down on us and being probably one water bottle short of what we needed, this hike was great and there were few people on the trail (probably because it was 100 degrees). I love a good desert hike and Utah definitely showed off its best weather with scrawling blue skies to compliment the red dirt. 


The last 50 feet of the trail is a steady incline of loose sand that felt easy to walk down but going up was a struggle for sure. We walked back into the parking lot from the trail and to our car for a sandwich lunch. The Wildcat is easy to pass over because of the desert heat but is well worth it and gives you views that you can’t get from your car! 

“Monument Valley is where God put the West” – John Wayne 


Thanks! – Josh

Las Vegas NV

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Really the best thing about Las Vegas to me is that it is centrally located to a lot of cool places to visit within about 3 hours.   You can see spots in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California all on a “reasonably priced” flight from Atlanta.

I’m not a gambler and even though I’ve done the drink all the way down the Strip thing, I don’t really recommend it.  Most of the casinos reek of smoke (except the Bellagio for some reason).  There are some good restaurants, but they no longer are the bargains they once were.   What I do like about Las Vegas is the architecture.   It does feel like taking a trip around the world in one evening.   Where else can you visit New York, Rome,Venice, Paris, Egypt etc in one evening.  That alone is worth a trip to Las Vegas in my opinion.

rk

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El Charro in Tucson AZ

One of the best parts of traveling to new places is eating the local cuisine.   I was excited to try El Charro in Tucson AZ.   El Charro is not only the oldest continuously operating family owned Mexican restaurant in the United States, but it is an absolute must to visit if you are in Tucson.  While they are known for inventing the chimichanga, the reason I was there was to try their famous Carne Seca Platter.   Carne Seca is prepared by marinating shredded lean angus beef and drying it in the Sonoran desert sun.   It is then grilled with green chiles, tomatoes & onions.

Sun dried beef……count me in!

It was served with fresh guacamole and tortillas.   They claim Gourmet Magazine called it a “taste explosion”.   That was pretty accurate.   I made a taco with the corn tortilla, carne seca and and guacamole.   It was so flavorful and delicious.   It was the most unique Mexican food I ever had.   I definitely recommend El Charro.   Five stars for both ambiance and taste!

rk

Sunday Hikes: South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails

The sky was vivid blue and clear.   I could feel a nip in the air as I was dressed lightly in anticipation of hotter temperatures in the day.   My son Josh and I were packed and ready to descend into the canyon.   Which canyon?… the Grand Canyon of course.   The first time I visited the Grand Canyon, I had wanted to go down to the Colorado River.   Josh shared that dream with me and so we booked plane tickets from Atlanta to Phoenix.   Since we were unable to get a permit to camp in the inner canyon, we planned to hike from top to bottom and back up again in one day.   This is highly discouraged by the National Park Service and I would never recommend it in the heat of the summer.

Our hike was scheduled for late April (2016).   Our plan was sound and we were prepared.   At 7am, we headed down from the South Kaibab trailhead.   It was 36*F.   We both had backpacks loaded down with an excessive amount of water, high protein granola bars, peanut butter crackers, trail mix and an unfortunately large bag of dried apricots.    I was a little nervous.  I was in pretty good shape for 43, but could I keep up with my 18 year old son and the 13 miles of switchbacks back up the Bright Angel Trail?   My excitement and the easy start to the descent quickly made me forget about any anxiousness I may have had.   We marveled at the colors of the rock walls and the amount of blooming flowers.   6 miles and 2 ½” hours later we arrived at the Colorado River.   It is a very dramatic entrance as you go through a tunnel blasted through the rock face and cross a bridge that is somehow affixed to the rock wall on the south side of the river and leads to the north side of the Colorado River.   Our packs were much lighter having constantly chugged water and munching on our snacks on the way down.

We refilled our water bottles there at the bottom knowing the hike back up would be much harder.  Along the trail running parallel to the river, we found a picnic table in the shade to rest and prepare lunch.   The temperature at the bottom was a scorching 91*F.   We finished up our lunch and I was surprised to see that I had eaten almost the entire bag of apricots on the way down.   I went ahead and finished it off.   After spending a brief 30-45 minutes soaking up the views and watching a very tame deer, we were ready to head back up.   The unknown was a little scary at this point.  I figured that it might start getting dark in the canyon by maybe 4 or 5pm as the sun was blocked by the canyon walls and I was unsure how long it would take to climb back up to the top.

The first part of the ascent of Bright Angel was pretty easy as it followed the river for a ways before taking a sharp turn up through a pass and leading us back up the cliff face.   As we proceeded, the apricots started to make themselves known in my gut.   I quickly realized my mistake in consuming the large bag of apricots and I was struggling with stomach cramps as we ascended the trail.   We passed a beautiful small waterfall but I couldn’t stop to enjoy it as the apricots were causing me severe discomfort.  I was in desperation mode when suddenly we turned a corner and found ourselves already at Indian Garden.   Indian Garden is natural oasis with running water, trees and most importantly, bathroom facilities.   Crude facilities to be sure, but I never was more happy to see a hole in the ground.   After a rest in the cool shade, we resumed our journey and the more steep inclines.   Several hours and many a stomach cramp later, we turned the last switchback and crested the top of the trail.   My legs were like jelly and I was exhausted.   Josh looked like he could do the trail again.   Ah, to be young and strong again.

I must say I was proud to have done the hike in the time we had completed it.   8 ½ hours to complete 15 ¾ miles with 8000 feet of elevation change and a lifetime of memories to share with my son.   I would recommend this hike for everyone…..just leave the dried apricots at home.

rk