Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fall Colors on Sedona's West Fork Oak Creek Trail

The kids had a short fall break and we decided to go hunting for fall colors.  We wanted not just yellows but reds.  Red colors are VERY rare in our State.  Had to go back to the trail I knew had everything to offer...

Sedona's West Fork Oak Creek Trail is located in the Call of the Canyon Recreation Area and is quite possibly the most beautiful hike in the State (at least in the top 5 for most hiking enthusiasts.)  The only problem is, everyone knows it.  Whether it's spring, summer or fall, you can generally expect to hike with at least 100+ other folks on the trail (it's still worth it so don't let that stop you.)  Parking is very limited.  There was already an 80 minute wait at 9:30 am so we improvised and parked 1/2 mile up the highway.

We were rewarded for our efforts... Inside the canyon the yellows and reds were near their peak (next week will be spectacular.)  Enjoy some fall colors in the Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona!

Of course, if you want to check out this trail in winter you may find yourself all alone and unable to breathe... see Sedona's Snowy West Fork Trail

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Big Lake and Black River Arizona Adventure

East of Show Low/Pinetop, Sunrise Ski area and the Mt. Baldy Wilderness lies countryside so wild and pristine, you'd think you were in Yellowstone National Park. Along with the Ponderosa Pine we are all accustomed to seeing around Payson, this piece of heaven in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest hosts vast meadows, big sky and deep forests that also include Douglas Fir, Blue Spruce and the ever so beautiful Aspen that bring fall colors to our State.

The forests are abundant in wildlife.  Black Bear, Mexican Grey Wolves, Cougar, Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Deer and Turkey (to name a few) flourish in this wilderness.  In our recent campout at the Aspen Campground along the East Fork Black River we came across this 75-100 pound black bear. 

The bighorn below were hanging out across the river from our campground along the cliff wall.

This turkey (with babies) and Heron were hanging out right along the forest road.

The fishing is great along the East Fork Black River.  The kids spent most of their time in or around the river catching rainbow trout, snakes and crawdads. 

These mountains are a great place to recharge and find solitude.  Driving the forest roads around Big Lake and the Black River wilderness yields plenty for the eye and the soul. 

These ancient paths have been used by explorers, ranchers, hunters and Native Americans for hundreds of years.  Check out that primitive wagon from 2004 below...

Anyone interested in camping in this wonderland will find plenty of designated camp sites with facilities along the East Fork Black River and the Big Lake Recreation Area.  Tent and trailer camping seemed plentiful.  We chose the Black River so the kids could play in the shallow water all day and then finished the trip with a fishing excursion (boat rental) to Big Lake on the way home.  Be prepared to drive upwards of 5+ hours from Phoenix - with that distance, 2-3 nights minimum make the most sense.  Remember half the drive is sight seeing and wildlife viewing!

Wide open spaces for some target practice with the Browning Lever Action 22 Rifle (BL-22).

For more pictures and places to explore around Arizona, visit:  Arizona Excursions @

Check out Yellowstone, Alaska, Washington and others here:  Adventure Archives @

The three maps below show the routes to Big Lake and the Black River area campgrounds.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Grand Falls, Arizona (aka "Chocolate Falls")

My daughter and I spent 3 Incredible Days Exploring Canyons and Iconic Views of the Southwest - This is the sixth and final post of our adventure
As a photographer, I’ve read about these falls on the internet and always wanted to explore them.  We had to burn rubber from Canyon de Chelly to make it to Grand Falls just before the sunset.  The last 9 miles off the back highway were on forest road.   The last mile was a rough one but it was well worth the exploration.  

The Little Colorado River leaves its headwaters in the white mountains near Mt. Baldy (Sunrise ski resort) and meanders through the back ways to join the mighty Colorado River  in the Grand Canyon.  Along the way, not too far outside Flagstaff, are the Grand Falls.  The river bottom is extremely wide and one can picture in his/her mind how these falls would look after a heavy winter with the snow melt.  The entire width would be one massive, Niagra-style waterfall and the churned up water would look like chocolate milk.  With the light winter we had, the river was low but this created it’s own beauty as several cascades were falling along the width of the cliff.  The sunset brought out some extraordinary colors.

Using her iPod, my daughter shot the panoramic picture above of the entire canyon and sunset.  Despite the low light, this picture really shows the enormity of this rugged and remote landscape.  After this photo and while waiting for her Dad, she found some really interesting heart-shaped porous lava rocks.  The entire drive off road and this location is a lava field from ancient volcanos.

See Part 1 of our Northern Arizona Adventure:  Slot Canyon Adventure - Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch
See Part 2 of our Northern Arizona Adventure:  Horseshoe Bend - A Memorable Sunrise
See Part 3 of our Northern Arizona Adventure:  Antelope Canyon
See Part 4 of our Northern Arizona Adventure:  Monument Valley
See Part 5 of our Northern Arizona Adventure:  Canyon de Chelly National Monument