Posts Tagged ‘outdoor adventures’

Find Your Geocache: Sandy’s Adventure

Sandy’s First Geocaching Adventure

Last week I wrote about planning the big geocaching adventure for Sandy. It was her very first time ever geocaching but she’d been hearing about it from me all summer long.

Sandy's First Cache

Sandy's First Cache Find!

I decided that we should head to nearby Willow Lake. I chose Willow Lake for three reasons:

  1. There was a high concentration of not-too-difficult caches around the lake. I wanted an area where we would have multiple caches to go after so if we couldn’t find some Sandy wouldn’t get discouraged. Caches near Willow Lake
  2. Heritage Park is pretty busy every day of the week. Two women out alone — well I wanted to be someplace where we wouldn’t be isolated.
  3. It a GORGEOUS area! So I knew that even if caching was a bust there would be plenty of scenery for us to enjoy.

And my bonus reason was that I hadn’t looked for any of the caches there!

We left right after work and of the 7 caches we looked for, we found 6! That’s not too bad for an early evening of caching and especially great for Sandy’s first caching adventure.

Sandy and The Outdoor Princess

By the end of the trip, she was already asking me how much my Garmin cost! Prices have come down quite a bit since I got mine: Garmin Venture HC. That’s a link to

Garmin Venture Hc

Readers Weigh In:

  • What was your first geocaching adventure
  • How long did it take before you were hooked?


Find Your Geocache: Adventure Planning

Planning A Geocaching Adventure

ESP Boss has had a great girl working for him this summer. Sandy is a local girl who has been attending ASU pursing a degree in accounting. So, this summer we’ve hired her at the tax office to help out.

In addition to working on a MASSIVE project for a client, she’s also been doing some back-fill for Mainly, Sandy has been researching the state parks in Utah.

She’ll be heading back to school in a couple of weeks but before she goes back to Tempe, she asked me if I would take her geocaching. Yeah! I love nothing more than introducing a new person to the great game of geocaching.

We’re planning on heading out tomorrow evening, after work, to find some local caches. I’ll be planning the outing tonight (hence the shorter post). Here are some things I’m taking into consideration as I plan this:

1. Size of the cache
Let’s face it, the exciting part of getting started in geocaching is the swag. Every new geocacher is convinced they’re going to find something super cool in a cache. So for Sandy’s first caches, I want them to be large enough to have some good swag.

2. Difficulty
When you’re introducing a new sport or game to somebody you want them to “win”, right? Well for a lot of geocachers, the “win” is the find. I’ll be concentrating on caches that aren’t too difficult to find so she can start to build up her geosense.

3. Letting her do it
When I was camping with my friend Nicole last August, we went after a geocache. And I made a BIG mistake when I was introducing her to the game: I didn’t let her do it. It was a cache I had hid and I was in “maintenance mode” not “encouraging a new geocacher mode. I didn’t let Nicole hold the GPS or make the find. Tomorrow, I’ll be sure to let Sandy do it herself.

Some other things I’m planning are to have the caches pre-loaded into the GPS and the cache pages pre-printed. I know a lot of people do paper-less caching, but I’m not one of them. Also, before we head out, I’ll have her register for a free account on

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your tips when you’re taking somebody geocaching for the first time?

Mystery Monday: Skippy’s Maiden Voyage

I’m back from the maiden voyage of Skippy the Tent Trailer! For our “shake down cruise,” a friend & I decided to stick pretty close to home by heading to Williams. We stayed at White Horse Lake Campground which is the largest campground in the Williams area.

Coleman Taos Tent Trailer aka Skippy

Here are some of the things we learned:

  1. Pull-through campsites mean you don’t have to *gasp* back up the trailer!
  2. You’ll always forget something you need (bow saw, syrup for pancakes, Lily’s tick medicine.)
  3. Leave early (Thursdays are good) to get a pull-though campsite.
  4. Stop and snap pics of the sheep.Sheep near Williams, AZ
  5. White Horse Lake Campground doesn’t have a single pull-through campsite.
  6. There is a perfect speed that makes dirt roads less bumpy.
  7. You’ll always follow somebody who doesn’t know this and drives so slow your teeth rattle out of your head.
  8. No matter how fast or slow you drive, everything will be covered in dust!
  9. S’mores are the best when the chocolate is a little bit melted.S'more
  10. The Forest Ranger will always come to your camp to invite you to their evening talk RIGHT as you are burning dinner.
  11. Get dirty.
  12. After twenty minutes of trying to back the tent trailer into the campsite RIGHT WHERE IT IS NOW is good enough.
  13. Oatmeal Stout beer and s’mores go together surprisingly well.Oatmeal Stout Beer
  14. Bring more trash bags and paper towels than you think you’ll need.
  15. Dogs are bed hogs.
  16. No matter how short you cut your fingernails, they WILL get dirty.
  17. When your friend tells you you’re over-packing, ignore him. He’ll appreciate all the “extra” things you bring.
  18. Always bring sweatpants to sleep in.
  19. Take plenty of pictures!
  20. Put extra sunscreen on your nose. You’ll regret it later if you don’t!
  21. When you just can’t get the tent trailer to come down, find another tent trailer owner and beg for help.
  22. Keep an extra beer on hand to offer to said tent-trailer helper.
  23. It takes Lily 24 hours to get into the groove of camping.
  24. Three days without a shower is my limit.
  25. When your dog jumps out of the kayak, be thankful you not only put her in her life vest, you attached it to the kayak!
  26. Meals taste better outside.Cooking Outside
  27. Sleep in at least one morning.
  28. Have the first meal of the trip already cooked so all you have to do it heat it up.
  29. When you’re saying “Yes dear!” while gritting your teeth, it’s time to stop trying to back up the trailer and time to start heating dinner!
  30. Bring plenty of snack food.
  31. Buy enough wood to have a fire and then collect more to keep it going.Corn over the fire
  32. No matter what you do, cooking corn over the campfire will get you filthy!

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.

Mystery Mondays: Camping at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

If there’s one thing I LOVE about my job at, it’s getting to participate in all the fun outdoor recreation adventures. This past weekend I got to camp (in a tent in November!), kayak (with otters), geocache, hike, and fish. All at Dead Horse Ranch State Park near Cottonwood, Arizona.

Now, the interesting thing about this state park is that it’s just barely out of town but feels like its miles away from anywhere. As you can see from the campground, there isn’t a lot of shade and you’re pretty close to your neighbors. BUT, what it lacks in charm, the park more than makes up for in amenities.

Dead Horse Campground

This was CodeWolf’s first camping trip with the “Royal” Family. And his second introduction to camping period, so I wanted to take him someplace that wasn’t too rustic. The RV had power and water hookups (but we were in a tent!) There were flush toilets and hot showers (which didn’t actually HAVE any hot water!) And, we only had to make two trips to Walmart for supplies.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to fish at one of the park’s two lagoons. They’re fed from the Verde River and stocked with catfish, bass, bluegill, and trout. The secret gotta-have-it-bait? Nightcrawlers!

catfish and bass

I was the big fishing “winner” catching a bass, catfish, and bluegill.

I also learned some things on this trip that I’d never realized before.

  1. Otters are cool to watch but ruin the fishing.Otter
  2. I never met a sign I didn’t want to take a photo of!Fish Sign
  3. It is possible to stand ON a geocache and not realize it.CodeWolf standing on a geocache
  4. I might think I look funny in my big hat but it’s nothing compared to how I look in a beanie!Kim in hat
  5. Most people are completely oblivious to deer standing RIGHT OFF THE TRAILDeer

Keep an eye on this week’s blog posts for more insights, tips, and tricks I learned from the trip! And, if you want to read more of my camping wisdom, check out the article Mystery Mondays: 31 Things I Learned

Adventure Trip: Kayaking The Colorado River

If you’ve been following The Outdoor Princess blogs these past weeks then you know that ESP Boss & I had been planning a trip to kayaking the Colorado River from Hoover Dam to Willow Beach. It’s a total trip of about 13 miles, goes past 3 hot springs, 2 sets of rapids, and is the perfect place to see Rocky Mountain Sheep.

We started our trip early on Sunday October 18. In order to kayak this section of the river, you HAVE to be launched by an outfitter and have the proper permits. That’s because of security measures since we’re so close to the dam.

Water Flow

The floating rope bows out more when more water is released from the dam.

We launched about 9:00 in the morning. There was water being released from the dam and the outfitter warned us that the river could rise as much as TEN FEET in as little as an hour. Boy was I glad to know that ESP Boss had brought some rope so we could tie up the kayaks! I hadn’t even THOUGHT of bringing rope to tie up the yaks; I just figured we’d be able to pull them out of the water like we do at a lake.

Our first stop was a sauna cave. This was a man-made tunnel that goes back into the canyon wall. There’s a hot spring the bubbles up about 3/4 of the way back that heats the cave to a “balmy” 140.

sauna cave

That water was knee deep at the entrance was bath-water warm!

Next stop was Gold Strike Canyon. Here’s we got out to hike up the canyon to the hot springs AND to lay down some footage of our adventure. It’s currently in post-production but will be finished soon so I can show you more of the trip.

Gold Strike Canyon

Some pools of water were too hot to put a foot in let alone SIT in!

By the time we got back into the kayaks, the rapids just outside the mouth of Gold Strike Canyon were running. More water was being released from the dam so the river flow was higher (a LOT higher) and the rapids were very noisy.

Neither ESP Boss or I had really ever kayaked rapids before. What an adrenaline rush! Thankfully, we made it through the rapids without any problems; dry and upright!

From the first set of rapids, we headed to Boy Scout Canyon for more hot springs. But, since it was starting to get really cloudy (the whole day was overcast) and we could hear thunder moving closer, we hurried on towards our pre-planned camping spot near Arizona Hot Springs.

Boy Scout Canyon

It was a lot of fun splashing through the warm hot-spring-fed stream on the canyon floor.

The only problem? Arizona Hot Springs is just on the other side of Ringbolt Rapids. These rapids made the first set (never did find out their name!) seem like NOTHING. And, we could see a TON of people camping there. So we skirted the rapids and camped at one beach upriver from Arizona Hot Springs.

Want to hear about our camp? Check out the article on called Camp Setup Order of Priorities.

The next morning, we hiked over a couple of ridges to Arizona Hot Springs. You’re going to have to see this on film to believe it. Fantastic!

Arizona Hot Springs

I'm just about ready to climb that slippery rock to get to the next pool of hot water.

But, a word of caution about the hot springs. Most people wear clothes or bathing suits, but we did encounter a couple of people who were, how should I put it? Naked! Yep, apparently it’s not all that uncommon to run into people enjoying hot springs in their birthday suits. You’ve been warned!

After our dip in the hot springs, we headed back to camp to break camp and head down the river. We got to Willow Beach about 4:00 in the afternoon.

Now, you might be asking how we had heard about this trip. We found it in the book, Paddling Arizona by Tyler Williams. (That’s an affiliate link.) The only thing is that the information about this trip was kind of light. So, we’re working on a new eGuide that will cover EVERYTHING you need to know about this trip, including stuff to watch for (side canyons, hot springs, and the catwalk), GPS coordinates, photos and more.

Paddling Arizona

This is a good all-around refrence to kayking in Arizona.

Pitch Your Tent: Camp Setup

Camp Setup Order of Priorities

Remember how last week I said that we weren’t expecting rain for our Black Canyon kayaking trip until Monday afternoon? Yeah, well the rain showed up early!

But, thankfully, ESP Boss is a super-duper camp-setter-upper. And, he doesn’t listen to his daughter when she’s saying (over and over)

“Pops! I’m SOOOOO hungry. You never feed me!”

When we finally found a reasonable beach, the very first thing we did was to set up the tent. As you can see, the beach was far from level and that was the ONLY spot that we felt was far enough away from the river AND was big enough to pitch the tent.

Camp Composite

Our tent is a back-packing tent and the rain fly is optional; you don’t have to put it on the tent to keep the bugs out. It was hot and muggy so I didn’t really WANT to put it on, but the clouds kept building and I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance.

Did I mention ESP Boss is an EXTRA super-duper camp-setter-upper?

By the time the tent was fully set up WITH the rain fly secured, and loaded with all our stuff, it was drizzling. By the time we were done with dinner. It was raining. By the time the dishes were put away and the kayaks unloaded it was POURING.

I don’t have any photos of the storm but let’s just say the rain was coming down in sheets. We developed a waterfall on the west side of camp and the gully we were camped next to started running.

We sat out as long as we could with a rain poncho over our knees and wearing our rain gear. But watching the rain when the rain is also dripping off your nose just isn’t as much fun as watching it through a window!

But us? We were able to crawl into a warm, dry tent!

Moral of the story?

Set up the tent FIRST! Load it with your sleeping stuff, even if you don’t roll out the sleeping bags. Then have dinner.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have any tips for setting up camp?
  • What do you always do first?

Find Your Geocache

Ghost Love: Finding A Virtual Geocache

Way back in June, I wrote an article about non-traditional geocaches. The type of cache where it isn’t just a box of swag hidden in the woods.

Virtual cache icon

And I had mentioned, under virtual caches:

I’ve run into a few virtual caches but I never participated — I wasn’t sure what the ghostie meant and it made me nervous!

Then, blog reader Don_J left the comment: “Don’t be afraid of the Ghost.”

Well, Don_J, I took your advice and went after my first ever virtual geocache.

There’s only one geocache (virtual or otherwise) along the Black Canyon stretch of the Colorado River. Before I left, I used’s map feature to locate the cache: GC69E0 ‘Tale of Two Signs’. Since I’d never gone after a virtual before, I was careful to not only PRINT the cache description, but also to put it in an accessible spot in my kayak.

Map of 'Tale of Two Signs'

I think the hardest part of this particular “find” wasn’t so much the kayak OR having the GPS in the kayak (I’ve found caches with my kayak before) but that there was a current. It made it really difficult to figure out just how quickly I was moving and to plan when I should get my camera ready to snap the “proof” photo.

Geocache sign

I emailed a better pic of the sign to the cache owner for proof I had found the cache. But I'm posting THIS photo to keep everything spoiler free!

But that’s why I take ESP Boss with me! I was paddling and watching the GPS and he was about 30 feet down river from me watching for the clue. It was a good thing too! If I had gone strictly from the coordinates, I would have missed snapping photos of the signs.

Sign from river

The current made it tough to get a good photo for "proof" for this cache. That little white dot? Yeah, that's the sign!

As it stands, ESP Boss and I both got our first ever virtual geocache. Don_J, you were right! And I’m not afraid of the Ghost any longer.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you like best about virtual caches?
  • What’s your best caching story involving a virtual? (Or waymark!)

Kayaking The Black Canyon

ESP Boss & I JUST got back from our weekend trip kayaking The Black Canyon. That’s the Colorado River from the Hoover Dam to Willow Beach. It was an AMAZING trip and we had a fantastic time. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Next Monday.

Yep, I want to be able to write up some of the highlights of our trip so for now, I just want to post some of my favorite photos.

Hoover Dam and New Bridge

Water On Rocks

Big Horn Sheep


tea bag

Kayaks on shore

Mystery Mondays: Flagstaff Elk Adventure

Do you ever just have one of those days where you just HAVE to get away? Well, yesterday was one of those days for the entire “Royal” Family. I had articles to catch up on, ESP Boss had taxes to do, and The Queen Mother is getting ready for fall, but we all decided to hop into the truck and head for Flagstaff.

(If I seem a bit crazy this week, it’s because I am! Corporate tax extensions are due on September 15 and ESP Boss and I are working like crazy to get them all done!)

We stopped in Flagstaff for lunch at the Flagstaff Brewing Company. This is a great little restaurant we discovered when we were camping in June. I had the French Onion Soup. Now, I’m not a huge fan of onions, but this soup is to die for. The waitress told us that on Saturday, she had a table full of Japanese tourists that had come in JUST for that soup. (I’m sure they were in Flagstaff to go to the Grand Canyon though!)

I'm going to have to learn how to make this!

Then, we headed out Lake Mary Road to go check on one of our geocaches that had turned up missing. Unlike The Quiet Zone which was stolen by a bear, the No Cows Here cache had clearly been muggled. I reset it, moving it a bit further away from the road.

Since it was getting on towards dusk, we headed to the Mormon Lake Lookout to see if there were any elk standing in the shallow waters of Mormon Lake. It’s a little early for the rut (elk mating season) but we were hoping to hear an elk bugle.

ESP Boss looking for elk.

The first lookout had a few nice elk to see. WAY out in the lake though. There was another family (I’m sure all those girls are future Outdoor Princesses) also scoping out the elk.

All those kids politely took turns with the spotting scope. Their parents should be proud!

I was more interested in the fantastic views. Look at that yellow field; all wildflowers. And yes, that really IS the color!

I'm sure I'm allergic to them, but they're so pretty to look at!

A new lookout had just been finished so we headed that way. To our surprise, we saw a doe and a fawn playing in the water. You can’t really tell, but that fawn still has spots!

Fawn and doe in the waters of Mormon Lake.

See the spots?! I took this photo THROUGH the spotting scope. It's not going to win any awards, but at least you can see the spots on the fawn.

And the pleasure of the evening was when we heard a bull elk bugle. If you’ve never heard it before, you’ve got to head to elk-country and check it out. The sound is fantastic!

Then it was back into Flagstaff for a quick ice cream cone and then home early.

So we could do more taxes. Yuck!

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