Friday, May 25, 2018

Mogollon ghost town

The old mining ghost town of Mogollon (pronounced Mo-Go-Yone) is as cute as a button. Zoe and I happened to visit this town in midweek and the sole resident we spoke with said, "The town comes alive each weekend." The restaurants, hotels and specialty shops open their doors for the visiting tourists when the crowds are there. Midweek wasn't all that bad, as we had the town to ourselves and that isolation added to the ghosty-feel from a by-gone era. The town, though abandoned, was well kept and tidy.
   The cool mountain air and the rocky mountain views were the reward after the steep and windy road to get there. This location is NOT a place to take campers, RVs, or any other large vehicles over 22 feet in length. The road becomes single lane in many places with steep drop offs and there wasn't a guardrail on the entire road. I am not trying to spook anyone from seeing this place, just those with large rigs for their safety.
   I would imagine that stargazing at this elevation, without light any pollution, would be a breathtaking event to say the least. Maybe, in the future, we can stay here over a weekend and enjoy the cafes, hikes, and stars. Until then, we pass on this good info so that others can enjoy this wonderful place, that time forgot.   

Ore carts with a mini locomotive at the front. It was totally awesome and a first for me to see a mini engine like this.   

From the days of the rum runners and prohibition era speakeasies.

The historic theater was one of our favorite buildings.

A cute cafe over looking the creek.

Wild West feel 

Old mining carts that Zoe found amusing.

1920's architecture, modernized. 

Cute store with ghost town knickknacks and curios. 

The hotel, to the left, has a grapevine covered courtyard for sipping wine and beer on the weekends.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Whitewater Canyon Catwalk National Recreation Trail

The catwalk, an elevated pathway, was originally set up by miners in the 1890's to help ferry out ore from the canyon. Western New Mexico has a long tradition of mining, which continues to this day. Some of the mining camps eventually became towns, like Silver City, where we are staying. The wild west feel that so many of us enjoy is alive and well, in this part of our country. We are enjoying the theme of this area so much so that we decided to give each of us Wild West nicknames:
1. Elise (AKA mommy) is "Wylie Coyote"
2. Sierra is "Desert Owl" though Zoe calls her a deadly desert owl
3. Zoe is "Jumpin' Jackrabbit"
4. Mike (AKA daddy) is Buzzard - No adjectives to enhance my name, just buzzard, probably referring to the way I eat.
   As for the park, Zoe and I decided to take a day trip to experience the Whitewater Catwalk area. Elise and Sierra opted out of going with us and decided to take a break from driving for the day. The park is an easy destination to see and once there an enjoyable hiking area for families. There were ample picnic areas both with and without grills. Many of the families that we did see there were swimming and splashing in the mountain stream to unwind and have fun. The Park fee was $3 per vehicle and is well worth it. For a Wild West experience to see how the early miners worked, or just to relax and enjoy nature, this place is ideal.

A modern catwalk for an easy stroll into the canyon.

We both liked going under the rock ledges and overhangs.

Beautiful canyon in the summer but is prone to flash flooding in the spring.

Not a lot of people at any of the parks we visited.

Some remnant pieces, mounted on the canyon wall, of the original wooden support structure of the catwalk.

A fun canyon to hike for kids and adults alike.

Kids love playing in the water. 

Zoe did a spell of jogging to exercise her knee.

A Highway, a cafe, and a National Forest

Highway 180 skirts the beautiful western edge of the Gila National forest in New Mexico. Each one of us thought the scenery here was stunning. In fact, my wife said the drive reminded her of our time in parts of Peru and northern Argentina, which is saying a lot. Surprisingly, this is not a heavily touristed area. There were countless campgrounds in this area and most near empty. There were fishing, biking, and hiking opportunities all over the place. This place would make a wonderful family vacation destination, this I am sure.
   Elise stumbled across a restaurant with awesome reviews, while surfing on-line so we decided to stop for lunch. The Adobe Cafe and Bakery was, as the reviews said, in the middle of nowhere on highway 180. The restaurant was eclectic, authentic and the food was delicious. We don't normally plug restaurants but what the heck, if you are in the neighborhood stop by.

Sierra always wanted to do this. Not too much traffic here so we obliged.

Riparian areas in the mountains offer bird habitats and vital water for wildlife. 

The rolling hills on top of a mountain were cool to see.

Elise looking at the different flavored waters and teas at the restaurant.

This restaurant is right smack in the middle of nowhere.

I had Mediterranean vegetables and chicken on flat bread with gouda cheese. Sierra and Zoe split a French toast plate and it was all delicious. 

Elise and I agreed that this cookie was AWESOME! It was a white chocolate chip and berry cookie.

The countryside was picturesque.

The mountains looked like they had little ripples on them.

This area was semi arid, punctuated by riparian areas and higher elevation pine forests.

Petrified Forest National Park, a gift from nature

My daughters and I drove right by this national park nearly two years ago and didn't stop for a visit due to time constraints. I promised the kids, back then, that one day we would return. They remembered that promise and so we decided to visit the petrified forest and enjoy the scenery. From the moment we entered the park I was completely entranced, and mesmerized, looking at all the 215 million year old petrified trees and the multicolored topography. My wife and kids, however, fizzled out after the visitor center, saying that it was the best spot and contained everything that we needed to see. That was understandable but I wanted to see this park, and the Clark Griswold came out in me. We drove from one end of the park to the other, stopping to take pictures every few minutes. Eventually my wife said, "We need to go back to our trailer now, we are all exhausted!" As for my daughters and our dog, they were passed out in the back seat of our truck. So I figured I could get some quality photo-time but my wife could not stand to see one more rock, mud mound, or pile of sand. She was done, finito, spent, whatever you want to call it, she was through.
   In the end, it was all good! I got to see the park, my wife got to enjoy her glass of wine before turning to a pumpkin and my kids had a wonderful siesta. Besides learning about tectonic uplift and petrification, I was also reminded that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As dorky as it sounds, I did not want to miss a thing, and my family obliged me at first, but once they got bored tuned out it wasn't fun anymore. I have to remember it's not about getting to Wally World but the enjoying the journey that matters. Thankfully, I learned this lesson early in our trip and shall not soon forget it.       

The colorful stratification of the mud.

Paco became an official Bark Ranger for the day :) 

The petrified wood looked as good today as it did 215 million years ago.

We asked a kind retiree to take our picture and this is what we got :) 

Paco knows a tree when he sees one, even if this is 215 million years old.

The minerals within the trees petrified as well.

Looks like it fell yesterday.

Starting to get bored.

I was mesmerized they were bored. 

The earth eroded under this intact log so the park service decided to put a cement support under it so it would not break into pieces.

Lovin' it.

The colors changed throughout the day.

Out cold.

Petroglyghs were at several locations within the park.

I liked how the egret has a frog in it's mouth. 

The park was very beautiful, but again it's in the eye of the beholder.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Meteor crater, northern Arizona

The Meteor crater in northern Arizona is unique because the normal wear and tear of weathering has not washed away proof of it's impact. The earth was hit by millions of asteroids and other inbound objects, throughout history, but most of them disintegrated in our atmosphere before ever hitting earth. The others that did crash into earth have their proof of impacts long since weathered away. So I guess from a uniqueness standpoint this is a rather special place. However, from a cost benefit analysis this attraction was more costly than benefiting. At $18 per adult and $9 per child I can think of better ways to spend this kind of money, like buying lottery tickets or going out to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet for starters. Sure, going to the crater's rim, one can see the size of the impact zone but that is about it. For everything else, though, these pictures can suffice. If you do decide to go to this park it is just a few miles off interstate 40 and has ample parking, a gift shop, and air conditioned clean facilities.   

A panoramic view of the impact site.

A view of the facilities and parking lot.

It must have been a big meteor to leave such a hole in the ground. 

The wonders of Sedona left me wondering

   Sedona is world famous, not only for it's physical beauty but also for its metaphysical energy. Many people claim Sedona is located in one of earth's few energy vortexes. People flock to this part of Arizona and spend loads of money on the illusive search for vortex energy. Shops lined the boulevards offering metaphysical guides, aura readings, energy balances and so on. All good, but how can you tell if it's real? Are these entities regulated by the state? Most of what I saw seemed more commercial, catering to the hurried weekenders, needing to buy all the vortex energy they could before going home.
   Native Americans treasured Sedona for the area's healing spiritual powers, so I am sure there must be something to all of this. However, when it came to envisioning a business model, I must admit, the sinister devil on my left shoulder was drowning out the sweet angel on my right shoulder. I mean, how would the customers know I was full of it? I envisioned myself waiving the holy scepter of divine light high in the air, harnessing unlimited ions and protons in my staff, then pointing my scepter at the believers who paid me thousands of dollars, whilst pretending to shoot them with beams of energy, like I was Yoda or something. The commercialism of the vortex was all a bit much for me. If I ever felt compelled to experience this energy I would do it on my own, in a canyon, most likely naked (for dramatic affect of course). Also I would scream at the top of my lungs, "Beam me up Scotty!" if I felt anything resembling swirling energy tickling my Aura. 

Now on to the practicalities of traveling here:
   Sedona is not only stunningly beautiful it is also quite pricey and usually booked out months in advance. For us, with a truck and trailer we needed a generous campsite and those were all sold out. We called park after park only to hear that no space was available. In fact, a couple of times I could almost feel the employees flipping me off through the phone lines when asking them if the had space available.
   We ended up broadening our search to include nearby towns. We lucked out and found the surprisingly cute town of Cottonwood, just south of Sedona. For us the price was right and the town itself had most amenities one could want, including a great hospital in case of emergency. So if you ever find yourself locked out of Sedona because it is sold out or because of finances, consider a surrounding town instead. Oh, and by the way, highway 89A is stunning to the north of Sedona and entirely doable with large RVs.       
Walking to our picnic spot on the river.

The youngest explaining to the oldest what there is to see in the horizon.

Barefoot and traveling together, it's an honor to be their father.

My kids playing in the river.

Sometimes the only way to capture a view is in a panoramic setting. 

No photoshop here, just stunning beauty for all to enjoy.

The vortex is said to frequent these flat rocks in Red Rock canyon.

Tastefully done architecture and strict zoning laws keep Sedona beautiful.

Zoe was writing in her daily journal while cooling her feet in the river.

The roads were up close and personal.

The views were breathtaking.

The views were so awesome my wife got mad at me for stopping all the time to take pictures. That's how stunning it was. 

Highway 89A north of Sedona