Posts Tagged ‘outdoor adventures’

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: 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!

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!

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!

Mystery Monday: Foil Hat, Solar Eclipse, & a Mountain

People all over the world enjoyed the “Ring of Fire” eclipse yesterday, including me! ESP Boss & I were hurrying home from the Overland Expo in time to watch the eclipse with my mom.

And while we missed the exact peak of the event, AND were too far south to fully experience the “ring of fire” the whole thing was incredibly dramatic.

Tin Foil Hat

Because how can you watch an eclipse without a foil hat?


Watching the eclipse

Notice the hat hair, sun burned nose, and grimy tee? It was all worth it! (And I love how my camera made shadows across my face; totally real-life.)

We had been given special glasses to watch the eclipse with while we were at the Expo. The most dramatic part: seeing a partially eclipsed sun set behind Mary’s Mesa.


I don't have the right filter for my camera so I created this image to show what it looked like.

It’s always been on my list to see a total solar eclipse. I think this might be even better!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Did you get to see the eclipse at all? What did you think?


BS Club Camping Trip

I live in a little subdivision. Little houses on little streets. And on my street, there are EIGHT single ladies. Three years ago, we banded together to form the “BS Club” (a play on words for the name of our subdivision.)

Once a month, we gather at someone’s house for dinner, talking, and plenty of vodka-laced punch. Then, being the responsible adults that we are, we walk home.

In May, however, we broke from tradition and took our dinner club show on the road. We spend a weekend at Lolomai Campground.

Here are a few pics of the trip. And expect to see future posts with a couple of tips and some fabulous recipes!


Mystery Mondays: Horseshoe Bend Overlook

Horseshoe Bend

Last month I had the privilege of visiting Horseshoe Bend Overlook near Page, Arizona.

This was a short hike from the parking area. But don’t let the word “short” confuse you with EASY. The hike starts out from a dirt parking lot and promptly climbs STRAIGHT UP A SANDY HILL.

And this Arizona Princess really doesn’t like getting sand in my shoes! But, thankfully, my guide for the day, Andy, warned me about the sand so I was prepared with my boots and sticker gaiters.

From the top of the hill, the vistas all around are simply breath-taking. So much so I didn’t actually TAKE any photos! But, from the top of the rise you can see Echo Peaks to the west, near the confluence of the Paria River with the Colorado. The dark line of the Vermilion Cliffs lies farther west, while Navajo Mountain stands behind, to the east.

Navajo Sandstone

View of Navajo Sandstone

It’s well worth a pause just to look around and enjoy. But we were in a hurry, so it was a quick stop to catch my breath and then a rapid plunge down the far side to the overlook itself.

The overlook, from a distance.

From here, you can see the overlook and parts of the bend. Wow!

Needless to say, the views of the Colorado River below are nothing short of stunning. The water was a lovely blue-green that just invited a lazy paddle. Of course, while it looked like it was RIGHT THERE, the water is actually nearly 1,100 feet below. Yikes! I’m not usually bothered by heights, but it did make me a bit queasy.

The Outdoor Princess looking at the bend.

I spent a lot of time just sitting there and taking it all in. And sitting because the height made me a bit... Well, anxious to say the least!


The Outdoor Princess at Horseshoe Bend Overlook

That's a pretty good sized speed boat and I have an EXCELLENT zoom. It still looks tiny!

It wasn’t the best time of day for photos, but the views were just amazing. And we managed to hit the overlook in a lull between crowds of people. The hike is 1.5 miles round trip but it is up and over a pretty considerable hill. It was cool enough that I wore a sweatshirt TO the parking lot but toasty enough for me to leave it in the car.

I look forward to going back when I have more time to sit, enjoy, sketch, and get some better pictures!

After a few minutes enjoying the view, it was back in the car and back to Andy’s where he made Navajo Fry Bread. Yum!

Find Your Geocache: Caching Adventure

International Geocaching Day

The first International Geocaching Day was celebrated on Saturday August 20, 2011. says that this will be an annual affaire held on the third Saturday of August each year.

If you found a cache or attended an event on 8/20/11 you will get a special souvenir on your profile on (Souvenirs will be awarded soon but as of today, nothing has appeared yet!)

International Geocaching Day

jeananjoe's EVIL NASTY micro cache is actually hidden in my hand in this photo.

Not only did I drag ESP Boss and The Queen Mother out for a “quick” cache on Saturday, I also celebrated my 100th find. I had been “saving” lucky number 100 for a special occasion…

Okay, not really. I tried to get to 100 two weeks ago when I was caching with Sandy but struck out.

Anyway, not only did I get my 100th find on a very neat day in geocaching history but it was also the first ever micro placed by local caching couple jeananjoe that the “Royal” Family successfully found.

Very cool!

I know every caching area as “THAT ONE” cache hider who is so mean, ruthless, and nigh impossible to find their caches. Well, the micros of jeananjoe are my cache-placing nemesis.

And we found it!


Readers Weigh In:

  • Did you participate in International Geocaching Day? What did you do/find?
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