Archive for May, 2011

Kayaking The Lower Salt River

Now that tax season is over (!!!) I have been itching to get outside for an adventure. It’s been knock-you-down windy here lately so that’s really put a halt to my outdoor plans. But, when ESP Boss invited me to kayak the Lower Salt River on Saturday, I jumped at the chance.

Since we had to be on the road by 5 am, it was a little after 6 when we entered the Valley. And what did I see floating over the I-17? Hot air balloons. Too cool!

Hot Air Ballons over I-17

We were meeting our friend, Captain Ted, at 7:30 Saturday. The Lower Salt River is in the Tonto National Forest. The area requires a Tonto Pass, a $6 per-day pass that allows access to a variety of day use areas along the Salt. Since we’re not from the area, Captain Ted said he’d pick a pass up for us and also provide a shuttle.

We dropped our Jeep at the take-out spot and then piled our kayaks (and gear!) into the Captain’s truck and headed up river to the launch point.

And I’ll admit, I didn’t do a great job of keeping track of the names of the day-use areas that are the start and end points for the float. But, Code Wolf lives about 20 minutes away from the area so I’ll be back to snap pictures and get more details!

We were on the river by about 8:00. Well before the heat of the day. We also wanted to be on the river early since the Lower Salt River is known as a great place for tubing.

ESP Boss

ESP Boss & Captain Ted's wife, Lilly.

I knew next-to-nothing about the 9 mile stretch of the Lower Salt River that we were setting out upon. But one thing I figured out really quickly: Class I Rapids. Lots of them.

Class I Rapids

Now, before you get all worried about the word “RAPIDS” let me explain. A Class I is the smallest class of rapids. The water would break over the front of the kayak but not a drop actually ended up inside. They’re exciting but not really scary. They look a lot like white caps on a windy day.

I was amazed at the variety of wildlife that we saw. The stretch of the Lower Salt that we were on is less than 10 minutes away from the Valley. (I call EVERYTHING down there ‘Phoenix’ but it’s actually closest to Mesa.)

We saw a ton of herons.


Turkey vultures.

Turkey Vulture

I LOVE the sign he's sitting on! Too bad many river users DON'T pack out their trash.

And I saw my first ever in-the-wild turtle. Pardon the blurry photo but Captain Ted’s wife was coming in for a closer look which scared the bird which scared the turtle and they both took off. So I only got the one snap!


The water in the Lower Salt is crystal clear and icy cold. Which in some ways is unfortunate because I could clearly see all the trash left behind by people. Even though there were trashcans (lots of them) at every access point, the bottom of the river was littered with beer cans, lost towels, clothes, swimsuit pieces, water bottles, and just general trash. Some of it might blow in from the road or be released into the river through the waterflow, but I think most of it was just left behind.

It was really sad. And it made me FURIOUS. The Lower Salt River is a seasonal river that is controlled by having the large lakes upriver release water to create the flow. I’m not really sure how low the water gets during the winter, but I’m already making plans to head out there with trash bags and gloves to take as much trash out of the waterway as possible. I figure I can make a FORTUNE in aluminum can recycling! CITO anybody?

But more about the good things: and there were LOTS of them!

The scenery was stunning. I was a bit worried since the road to the launch point paralleled the river most of the way that I’d have seen everything the Lower Salt had to offer from the truck’s windows. But I was totally wrong!

Scenery on Lower Salt River

The first 6 miles or so had a good current and it alternated between Class I rapids and a calm river flowing at a quick pace. It was great to sit back and enjoy.

One of my favorite places was called ‘Mud Cliffs.’ There I saw red winged blackbirds and was dive bombed by swallows. The swallows made their mud nests on the cliff sides.

Mud Cliffs

ESP Boss below the towering Mud Cliffs.


Swallow Nests

Swallow Nests

The last 3 miles, however, while just a pretty, were FLAT. It’s after the confluence of the Verde and Salt Rivers. The water becomes muddier and the current isn’t as quick. Which means more paddling.

Flat Water

(And less photos!)

The highlight of the trip?

The Bald Eagle that was sitting on river left munching on a catfish! I’ve seen these birds in my travels around the state, but never so close. And I’ve NEVER seen one on the ground.

Bald Eagle

Captain Ted said that it’s common to see herons, ducks, turkey vultures, bald eagles, and red winged black birds. I’m not really into bird watching, but it was really cool seeing all of them. It’s less common but still possible to see wild mustangs and big horn sheep. (Didn’t spot either!) I did see signs of beaver along the banks as well.

As for fish, there were bass, catfish, carp, and walleye. And speaking of catfish, to the catfish that I ran over with my kayak, I sincerely apologize for the headache I gave you! (Seriously, it was swimming just under the surface of the water and I smacked it with the kayak!)

The whole trip took about 4 hours. Any later in the summer and Captain Ted recommends starting about 5:30 or 6:00. That way, you miss the heat of the day, see more wildlife and miss the tubers!

I’ll be taking Code Wolf on the river this summer as a warm-up for an overnight trip on the Colorado River between Hoover Dam and Willow Beach.

Fun Food Fridays: Chicken Noodles Romanoff


  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 TBS chicken bouillon granules (or, if you want a lower-salt dish, substitute whatever dried herbs you like I use dill weed and sweet basil)
  • 3 TBS butter or margarine
  • Grated Parmesan

At home, cut up chicken breasts, chop green onion, and mince garlic. Put chicken pieces in a large zippered bag and put green onions and minced garlic into a small zippered bag to bring with you.  Be sure to keep chicken very cold either in an ice chest or RV refrigerator. (Do the same with your sour cream and butter.)

When ready to cook dinner, boil water in a large pot and cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, combine sour cream and bouillon granules or dried herbs in a small bowl.

Take a large skillet and put on stove over medium-high heat. Melt butter in the skillet then, add chicken pieces, onion pieces, and minced garlic. Cook and stir until chicken is no longer pink. Reduce heat to medium then, add drained noodles to skillet. Add sour cream mixture and heat through. Do not boil.

Serve everyone, and sprinkle servings with parmesan cheese.

From Kathy Levey.

Set Your Hook: Tackle Box Setup

Quick Fishing Setup

tackle box


Over the last months, I’ve given you fishing tips on how to catch a variety of fish (trout, catfish, walleye, bass, etc) with a variety of lures. I’m sure by now your tackle box is full to bursting with all your gear.

You can catch different species of fish with the same type of lure but in different sizes, colors, and with different hook sizes. So, to make sure you’ve got the right tackle for the fish you’re going after, you can set up multiple tackle boxes.

For example, my main tackle box has all my tackle to catch trout and bluegill. I know that if I grab that box, that’s what I am equipped to fish for. A different box has everything I need for bass.

ESP Boss also has multiple reels with different line strengths. All he’s got to do is switch a trout reel (about 4 lbs. test) for a bass reel, grab his pole, and off he goes! Make your decision about which tackle box to take based on what fish are in the lake and which you want to try and catch that day.

Not sure which type of fish lives where? has the answers for you!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What time-saving tip do you have when you are switching from one fish species to another?

Pitch Your Tent: Spring Pre-Camping Checklist

Spring Camping Maintanence

Yeah! I am so excited it’s FINALLY spring. It’s been a long LONG winter here in Chino Valley. To make matters worse, spring teased us several times by getting warm and then snowing. Getting warm and then having knock-you-down wind that dropped the temperatures back into sweatshirt weather.

But it’s spring. For real. (And if it’s NOT for real, I’m here to tell winter to take a hike!)

That means that it’s time to do a pre-season shakedown of all your camping gear and head out!

Stoves and table top BBQs: Wipe them down from any residual grease or food particles. Yes, you should have done this in the fall, but a winter of storage will usually attract dust (and other more unsavory things!) to any spots you missed.


Dirty campstove

Fuel: Check your stove’s fuel source to make sure you have enough and that it didn’t leak away over the winter. (Scary!) It is a good time to take the stove or BBQ outside and fire it up to make sure that all the hoses and connections are still in good shape. Replace anything that you’re worried about.

propane fuel

Lanterns: take a look at the mantels to make sure they don’t need to be replaced. Make sure you have a stock of replacements on hand. (And yes, I use a propane lantern like the one pictured below. BUT, I also carry a battery powered one as well!)


Propane lantern

Ice Chests: Check for mold, mildew, sour smells and left-over bologna sandwiches. A little chlorine bleach and mild detergent should clean them up sufficiently. I’m also a big fan of letting them sit opened in the sun for a while; UV rays kill a lot of icky things. Just be sure to properly store the ice chests away from UV rays since they’ll deteriorate the plastic and shorten the life of the ice chest.

Ice Chests

Ice Chest

Water Containers: You DID completely empty them and allow the inside to fully dry, right? If you grew mold in your water container over the winter, you might want to consider replacing the container; you’ll probably always have a funny taste. Make sure all the seals still work and that the inside is clean, dry and critter (bugs or mold) free.

Aqua-Tainer (this is the brand I use personally!)

Water Container

First aid kit: Make sure that you replenished any supplies you used last year. I recommend opening a bandage and making sure the adhesive hasn’t turned into a sticky mess. (Be sure to replace it!) Discard any outdated medicines. If any ointments look or smell funny, replace them as well.

First aid kit. Get a pre-made one and then customize it to your family.

First aid kit

Sleeping bags and pads: open and fluff! Look for any smells (mold or mildew are possible!), check zippers, drawstrings, etc. Now’s the time to repair any holes, rips or tears in your bag as well. Be sure to inflate your sleeping pads and check for leaks.

Sleeping bags

sleeping bags


See my article on sleeping bag maintenance.

Tents: set it up and make sure that all the zippers still work, the seams are in good condition, and all poles are still in good shape. Now’s the time to make sure you still have all the tent stakes and guy lines as well. Before your first camping adventure is the perfect time to apply seam-seal (if recommended by the tent manufacturer) and repair any rips in the walls or floor. Don’t forget to check the rain fly!




Other gear: go over your camping checklists to make sure that all your favorite camping gear is still in working order.

If you discover anything broken, you can repair it yourself, find a professional repair service, or set about replacing it. And it’s better to do that while it’s still a bit cold and windy rather than when you’re heading out for your first camping adventure of 2011!

To make your life easier, I included a link after every category to I’m more and more impressed with that company and use it to get a LOT of my gear! Those are affiliate links, FYI.


Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you fix your gear in the fall or spring?
  • If you had a tear in a sleeping bag or tent, do you fix it or buy a new one?
  • What’s you must-do activity before heading out for the first camping trip of the season?

Find Your Geocache: Product Review

Guest Author: Review of Magellan eXplorist

My friend, Kris, was lucky enough to pick up a new GPS a few weeks ago: a Magellan eXplorist. Since I’m a die-hard Garmin fan, I asked her if she would write up a review of the eXplorist for the Find Your Geocache blog.

If you’re ready to buy, or want more info, here’s a link to Magellan eXplorist on

Here it in, in Kris’ own words:


Paperless Geocaching


I have been talking for years about geocaching and my family. Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting that my girlfriend Kim of introduced us to many years ago. With geocaching, you use a GPS, enter in the coordinates and search for a hidden treasure.


Mazy Fullmer Family Stats


Sometimes those treasures are as simple as a piece of paper that you sign your name on, other times there are little trinkets that you can exchange with your own. Some of the neatest geocaches that our family has found contain travel bugs or geocoins that you can take, move to another location and track online.

There is a local cache just down the road from us that has a history lesson in it that includes a newpaper article. We use geocaching as part of our PE for homeschooling.

Last month, our family researched new GPSs and came across one by Magellan. The eXplorist GC is specifically made for geocaching and you can load on caches that you want to find right from your computer and the website. It is waterproof (perfect for our family of 7) so that we can take it on our camping trips and not worry that the 5 year old is growing the drop it in a stream, after all 5-year old boys are addicted to throwing rocks into water!


Griffen pointing the way.


To get started with this GPS, you will need to download the driver to your computer. Visit the site and look for local caches. On the individual cache pages, there is a download to GPS button. Click it and follow the directions. (Here’s an article on Loading Caches Directly to a GPS) It’s that easy!! The geocache coordinates are now on your GPS!!!

With the eXplorist GC, you can mark the ones that you have found, add comments, view the entire file, including comments, hints and description right from your GPS on location. Then you come back to your computer and download the file and it updates your finds and comments online!


And it is easy enough for a 9-year old to figure out! We are thrilled to find this GPS for our family!!

(Just recently in the news – a local Prescott Geocacher found an INTACT Yavapai Indian pot – check out the post on The Outdoor Princess’ Find Your Geocache tips and tricks blog)

Remember too that Geocaching in a low-cost FUN activity for your family. You can find GPSs on craigslist for inexpensive. Found mine online on for less than $150. We pack a picnic lunch and plan our caches in order to save on gas money. And you get to SPEND time as a family OUTSIDE!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Garmin or Magellan? Why?
  • What is your favorite GPS unit?


I’m back!

Tax season is over!

And I’m back to blogging!

(And newsletters, and kayaking, and site updates, and fishing, and getting caught up with the backlog, and camping! And getting caught up on laundry, weeding, research, product testing, Facebook, emails, walking the dog!)

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