Archive for the ‘Mystery Mondays’ Category

Mystery Monday: Backpacking Feather Mountain

Happy Labor Day!

If you know me at all, you know that I pretty much stick close to home on a holiday weekend. I just don’t want to deal with the traffic, the crowds, or the multitude of noisy people in the forest. Which means that I never ever go camping over Memorial Day, Independence Day or Labor Day.

Except for this year!

My long-time college buddy, Jessica, has been begging me to do a camping trip since June. And wouldn’t you know, the only weekend that we both had available was Labor Day!

Back in April, I introduced Jess to the joys of backpacking. She’s been hooked ever since and has joined a backpacking group, and geared-up with a backpack, sleeping bag and pad, outdoor clothes, and gear galore!

It seemed that this trip was doomed from the get-go though. Because of some heat sensitivities, Jess needed a trail that would be relatively cool and would be near a water source so we could re-fill water bottles often. After a ton of research, I settled on going to East Clear Creek. To Kinder Crossing Trail #19 to be precise.

And then the trip started to fall apart!

At the last minute, Jess invited Ben & I to join her on a friend’s trip to Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. But Ben had to work Saturday morning AND on Monday. Plus, there’s a huge difference between a 3-mile trail and suddenly thinking of a 9-mile one-way trip.

Too bad Mother Nature just didn’t get the memo that I wanted to go backpacking! There were epic rainstorms all across Northern Arizona. Everywhere that we could have gone was flooding or in danger of flooding: the Verde River, East Clear Creek, and every single little drainage or normally dry wash.

While we were trying to plan our adventure, I suggested a game of indoor mini golf at Lunar Golf. Fun, but not backpacking.

But as we were leaving the mall (Seriously? ME? In a mall!?) the storm clouds to the north were lifting and flowing away. After a brief deliberation, it was decided:

A quick overnight trip to the Feather Mountain Ruins! No water but a “short” hike and stunning views.

The hike is pretty much straight up a mesa. We figured it out to be about 450 feet elevation gain in about .75 miles. If that sounds easy, let me remind you that we were each carrying 35+ pound packs, at the end of a hot, humid summer afternoon. Oh, and we were booking it up the mesa with no trail so we could get to the top before dark.

Read the full post at is my new blog about backpacking. I’ll cover gear, trips, tips, tricks, and all things backpacking related. It’ll be 100% beginner and focused on women.

Mystery Monday: Prescott’s Great Outdoors


I’ve been invited to be a presenter at the 2013 Prescott’s Great Outdoors event in October! This is the second year of the event, held at Watson Lake Park.

The details are still getting nailed down but it looks like I’ll be teaching at least one clinic on beginning camping. I’ll also have lots of books for sale and signing!

This event is designed to highlight the many outdoor and water-based recreational opportunities, organizations, retailers, equipment, and resources in the Prescott area. The expo component is designed to expose participants to the latest equipment for enjoying the outdoors, while the festival component includes a large educational emphasis.

Prescott’s Great Outdoors is a family-oriented event with music, food, vendors, clinics and demonstrations, recreational activities, and displays. Various musical artists will also add to the festival component.

The event will take place 9:00 am to 7:00 pm Saturday October 12 & 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Sunday, October 13 at Watson Lake Park.

Rumor has it that they will charge an entrance fee but I haven’t heard for certain one way or the other.

Here are articles about the 2012 event:


And PS Happy Birthday to The Queen Mother!

Mystery Monday: Flagstaff Day Trip

Every family should have one last Hurrah! to say goodbye to summer. This summer, the folks have been super busy with home improvement projects so they haven’t gotten out much.

(I’ve been camping without them! A LOT)

But yesterday, we all decided to head to Flagstaff to celebrate the last weekend of summer before mom heads back to teaching on Tuesday. The original plan was to ride the ski lift at Snowbowl but the monsoons just were having none of it!

Instead, it was a trip to Bookmans!

I love Bookmans. It’s a HUGE used bookstore with stores in Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff. I found some great resources for future blog articles! (And a couple of cookbooks just for me!)

From there, it was on to lunch at, you guessed it: Flagstaff Brewing Company! There’s this post that I keep seeing around Facebook that goes something like: “Just how DID we ever survive without seeing pictures of your breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack…” And while I whole-heartedly agree with that statement, I couldn’t help snapping this pic of my beer.


My favorite part? The guy’s back in the background!

And yes, I had the French Onion Soup! It’s to die for. If you’re ever in Flagstaff, go to there. Order it. Enjoy. Tell them I sent you!

Since it was still raining, we drove out to Mormon Lake to see if there were any elk grazing in the “lake”.

Rain on the windshield!

Rain on the windshield!

Let me explain about Mormon Lake: it’s the largest natural lake in all of Arizona. And it is massive! But really really shallow. Mostly it’s more like a marsh than a lake. But it’s also a great nursery for cow elk to raise their calves. There is an abundance of water, grass, and you can see for miles so mama can keep track of the herd, her calf, and any potential threats.

We figure there were upwards of 300 elk on the lake. Just munching and moseying from one primo patch of grass to the other. Now I know these elk look tiny but they’re really quite large animals! And thank goodness for a 35x optical zoom. Everybody else’s pictures just looked like green grass.



Sorry the color is so weird! I edited it a bit. The wet weather caused everything to be VERY washed out and the elk weren’t clear to see at all! I figure neon green isn’t too much of a price to pay for being able to SEE the elk!




And a few artsy fartsy pictures for your viewing pleasure:


Between dodging rainstorms,


we also checked on five of our six geocaches in the area. Here’s the entrance to my favorite: The Groaning Gate.

And then it was on to drive the back roads. And I must say, I should be old enough, but I did fall asleep in the truck! I woke up long enough to marvel at this:


Nope, that’s not a stream. Or as we call them in Arizona A RIVER. That, friends, is a wash. Running. And doing its best to wash out the road!

Mystery Monday: Feather Mountain Ruins

I think that Northern Arizona has some of the coolest place names ever! Mint Creek. Feather Mountain. Hootenanny Holler. Mary’s Mesa.

Yesterday, I “kidnapped” Ben for a much needed hike. We only had a couple of hours before he had to go fly and I needed to head back to work on the never-ending illustrations for Pastarelli.

But, after the crazy-busy tax season it’s been, I needed a break! I think Ben, Pete-The-Dog and I all desperately needed to get out into nature, enjoy the signs of upcoming spring, and get some air that hadn’t been locked up in an office!

I love the way the flower looks like it is made of ice!

I love the way the flower looks like it is made of ice!

It was a quick jaunt north on Feather Mountain Road and then up a MONSTER mesa. At the top, along the ridge, were the ruins.


After examining them, I’m really not sure that they were Indian ruins. Rumor has it that the Spaniards, had horses and a fort in this area. For some reason, the walls just didn’t feel old enough for Native American.

Regardless, Ben, Pete The Dog, and I had a great little hike and a much needed break!

Ben, Pete-The-Dog, and Kim, The Outdoor Princess.

Ben, Pete-The-Dog, and Kim, The Outdoor Princess.

I could see the San Fransisco Peaks (Flagstaff) above the surrounding mesas.

I could see the San Fransisco Peaks (Flagstaff) above the surrounding mesas.

The view to the south.

The view to the south.

Day Trip: Hiking The Mesa

I always forget how much I love day-long adventures until I have one. So far in 2013, I’ve had TWO: fishing on New Years Day and hiking this past Saturday. Saturday was one of those “adventures” that is only loosely planned.

Ben had noticed a seep marked on the wicked-cool Arizona Recreation Atlas I had given him for Christmas. It’s not that far from his house so we decided to hike up to it and have a poke around. We also grabbed the metal detectors to see if we could find anything fun.

There are some enormous mesas just north of Chino Valley. Since OCTOBER we’d been trying to successfully get to the top of one. Trust me, none of the photos do the size and steepness justice!

I knew that the day was going to be fantastic when it started out by coming around a bend in the road and finding an entire herd of antelope!

From there, we parked and began climbing the hill. I was testing out a couple of new products: Merino wool base layer (thermal underwear), an amazing new hiking stick, and a new mini-backpack from REI. I’ll get the reviews up in the coming weeks.

I don’t have a lot of pictures of the day simply because MOST of our adventure was spent hiking to the top of the mesa. And while my camera takes AMAZING photos, it’s not pocket sized!

The seep was really neat. I’ve never seen cattails growing basically out of the side of a mountain. There was about 8 inches of water in the bottom of the tunnel so there was no exploring; the high was maybe about fifty degrees!

You can see the cattails growing in the seep’s water. Ben is standing at the mouth of the mine, in a hole. See the huge prickly pear cactus growing behind the seep?

We then scaled the entire mesa to the very top. Along the way, I saw a 6-foot long snake skin, prickly pear cacti with pads at least twelve inches across, a galvanized steel pipe sticking straight up out of a rock outcropping, climbed some nasty cliffs, found pottery shards from the 1970’s, and enjoyed the most amazing views of the valley spread out below us.

Amazing views spread out below. This is only about 1/3 of the way to the top!

I’d love to go back and do some more exploring; maybe with a pocket-friendly camera! But, based on the size of that snake skin, I’ll ONLY be doing it during the cold months!

Oh, and the metal detecting? I found a 30-30 rifle cartridge, a bit of wire, and an old Coke can. Hauled it all off the mountain too!

Flagstaff Snow Guide: 6th Edition

Northern Arizona got our first snow storm of the season.  And that means that it’s time once again to promote my annual Flagstaff Snow Guide. In the past, I’ve offered this as an eGuide on The only problem with that, is that as much traffic as the website gets, I know that it’s only a fraction of the people who may be heading to Flagstaff to play in the snow.

So, (drum roll please)

I’ve decided to offer this year’s snow guide as an Amazon eBook! You can read it on the Kindle or any variety of free reading applications for PC, Mac or even your smart phone!

The 2012-2013 Flagstaff Snow Guide is available for $2.99!


Mystery Mondays: On The Beach Publishing

I’ve been writing and self-publishing books for a while now. I publish eBooks for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I’ve also been publishing the campfire stories, the “Scary & Silly” series, with a Print-On-Demand publisher.

(Print-on-demand means that when a book is ordered, ONE book is printed at the publishers and is sent directly to the purchaser. No cases of books in my garage!)

Anyway, through the course of this journey, I’ve been approached by a ton of people who want to learn just what it is that I do and how I do it. Most are frustrated or intimidated by the technical aspects of self-publishing or just don’t know where to begin.

And the savvy business owner that I am, I recognized a need that I could help fill. I’ve been teaching classes about how to self-publish for Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. To keep the aspects of my life separate (for newsletters and IRS issues) I’ve started a new company:

On The Beach Publishing, LLC

You can find my new website at

To jump-start anyone into the self-publishing world, I’m offering a free webinar on 12/18/12 that covers everything you need to know about writing the title of your book. The title is THE most important piece. It’s the first thing people see and how they make their initial buying decision.

You can learn more about the free webinar, and register at

The goal of On The Beach Publishing is to teach authors of all types how to easily self-publish and keep more money in their pockets. I’ve spent countless hours, made a ton of mistakes, and spent over $4,000 to learn what I know. And now I want to teach others how to do this too!

I don’t talk about it much on, but I actually have a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. I spent years NOT writing since I just didn’t want to deal with traditional publishing. I finally realized that I wasn’t happy if I wasn’t writing something — hence my multitudes of blogs, newsletters, and eBooks!

I am still planning on writing here and the other outdoor recreation blogs. And, of course, keep publishing eBooks about outdoor recreation. (Working on the Flagstaff Snow Guide 2012-2013 eBook right now!)

And the best part: check out how lives on in the logos:

The Outdoor Princess

On The Beach Publishing

Mystery Mondays: Backpacking Adventure

Do you ever have one of those perfect weekends? The one where you spend more time outside than in, have great adventures, see amazing scenery, are close to wildlife, and have great company doing it?

Well I just had one of those weekends!

I decided that it was finally time to do a real backpacking trip. I’ve been accumulating backpacking gear for a while but hadn’t ever done a trip. I’m not experienced and I was waiting to meet somebody who knew what they were doing. The last thing I needed was to hike three miles into the forest with somebody inexperienced. I’ll live without the blind-leading-the-blind, thank you very much!

For my adventure, my friend Ben & I decided to hike into a mine that had a seep coming out of it. And if there just happened to be a geocache there, well, yay for us!

We basically hiked about five miles round trip. And the scenery was stunning and the weather perfect!

At the mine I realized that we really hadn’t read the cache description all that well. (To be honest, I hadn’t read it at all!) And I hadn’t printed out the cache pages. I always print the cache description page because geocaching can take you well out of cell service!

We weren’t sure if the cache was in the cave or not (still not sure since we never did find it) but I did find something cool in the cave:


Lots of little brown and grey bats. Say what you want about bats, they are off-the-chart cool. The cave twists back into the hillside at least 100′. In the last thirty feet there were bats everywhere. Stuck to the ceiling like fuzzy light fixtures, squeezing out of holes about three inches across, and just dangling one at a time.

And no, I didn’t touch one! Nor did they come anywhere close to getting in my hair. But I did turn off the lights and kneel a moment in the black and listen to them squeak at each other. And felt the wind of one’s passing as it flew overhead. I really didn’t have the right camera equipment to get any good photos. And I couldn’t really sit on the mine’s floor since the seep was at the very back and the entire floor of the mine had at least two inches of water covering it.

I got one photo with Ben shining the light on a hole and, yes, I did take one photo with flash. I just couldn’t help myself. I left right after that since I’d woken them all up and I didn’t want to agitate them any more. I’m planning a trip back with better camera gear to get some photos!




Let me just say this, walking out the last time (took a total of three trips into the mine looking for the cache) I was treated to a view of Ben’s silhouette in the entrance and four bats flying between him & I. They didn’t want to pass either of us. But I crouched low so they could go over my head and got to watch the sunlight stream through their wings.

So cool!

The original goal was to hike up to the ridgeline above the mine and along the mesa until we could see the valley below and then camp. But the ridge was, well, not exactly hiking friendly. Very steep, rugged terrain. We did try it but gave it up as a bad job.

So, on to plan B: return to the truck and then drive to the other side of Chino Valley and hike into the Verde River.

After about five miles round trip (hauling a 30+ pound backpack!) that’s what we did!

The access to the river was in a remote spot that required 4-wheel drive so we had the whole area to ourselves. And it wasn’t that far of a hike from truck to river. Thank goodness because I’m not sure how much farther I wanted to hike. My super cool pack was a super good buy. And it doesn’t fit me as well as I’d like!

After a great night under a full moon, it was a hike back out in the morning!

I will say this: I think I may well be addicted to backpacking now. I love the ability to hike away from other campers and enjoy the wilderness. And I loved knowing that an ATV or 4-wheel drive wasn’t going to come screeching down the road and get dust all over my tent because we were miles from any road!

Mystery Mondays: Camping Adventure

Ah! Camping. Jessica and I had a great trip with Skippy. We ended up in a developed campground near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Near Ashurst Lake
The weather was beautiful.

French Onion Soup

I FINALLY got to stop at Flagstaff Brewing Company for the world’s best French onion soup. I think I’m going to be on a quest to duplicate this stuff. And when I do, I’ll post the recipe to Fun Food Fridays. Because I always want it when I’m camping. So that makes it outdoor food, right?

Jess and I also tried one of the yummy beers on tap!

I also got to test a really nifty roasting stick. The whole product review will be up in a couple of weeks.

Hot Dog

Ah! Breakfast of champions!

And yes, before you ask, I did make some notes and jotted down some thoughts for the upcoming eBook on camping. I also checked on two of my five geocaches (too hot and then too rainy to check the rest!) and started work on a new scary story for the next anthology. Hopefully it’ll be out sometime in September!

But mostly, I ate. A lot.

Mystery Monday: Getting Ready for the Trip

I’m going camping this weekend with my best friend Jessica. Yay! I haven’t been out since May, mostly because I’ve been super busy and the Arizona monsoons hadn’t started yet. Who wants to go camping when it’s hot, dry and windy? Bleck.

The other project I’ve been really busy with has been a new eBook: Family Camping for Beginners (it will probably end up with a MUCH catchier title!) that will be published to Nook and Kindle.

The funny thing about writing this eBook is that while I’ve been writing about camping basics since May 2006, I’ve never really stopped to think about all the things I take for granted that are completely new to a beginner. I’ve been working on the book since April, I had hoped for a release just before Memorial Day. Alas, I keep discovering more things that need to be added, clarified, and expanded. (Up to 157 pages and counting!)

This past May, I went camping with my “BS Club” to a private campground. I took Skippy the Tent Trailer. A couple of my girls stayed in tents and two “roughed it” in a cabin. Since I’m the only one with a pickup truck, I ended up taking a lot of the supplies with me. And it surprised me that some of the girls packed in real, honest-to-goodness suitcases. Not duffels which are stuffable around other bits of gear. Nope, suitcases that you can’t mash into another shape. And if they’re not full, well that’s too bad ’cause they don’t get any littler!

Bang! The concept of telling beginner campers to pack in duffle bags went into the section on packing.

My friend James proofread the first 50 pages or so for me. And in his notes, after I mentioned that primitive campgrounds regularly lack potable water he put in a little [?potable?] note. And I realized that not everybody knows that potable means drinking water.

I reached out to my Facebook friends for their suggestions. I had no fewer that THREE people tell me: “Put your tent together before you go; make sure nothing’s broken and you have all the parts!”

And I thought that was common sense!

As I am getting ready for this trip, running through real and mental checklists, I’m also going back to my own manuscript. Making sure I’m clear, that I haven’t left anything out that might be obvious to me but would take a newbie by surprise.

So, what’s your advice to the knows-nothing camper? What is a camping myth that you may have held that you now know is false?

And, please, give me feedback on the cover ideas! Courtesy of Jessica.

The thumbnails will be about this big!

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