Hiking Fossil creek

PART ONE!

Have you heard of Arizona’s Fossil creek? Living here myself I’d heard of it, and even visited it years ago, but still at the time, hadn’t realized there’s more to this place then I imagined.

Once I started getting out and really hiking around I slowly discovered more and more of this beautiful place. I knew there was a waterfall here to see and heard it was about a 2 mile hike in. Sounded like fun to me. I had wanted to go after October because I heard you needed a permit from April 1st through October 1st. I wanted to go during off season and hope it wasn’t as crowded. However time got away from me and I had to go during permit season, and here’s where it got confusing to me;

There were a bunch of different parking lot/trailheads. I was worried about finding the one I had my permit for. You can only park where you reserved. That’s what you need the permit for. The parking lots are as follows; homestead, fossil Creek bridge, Tonto bench, Irvine (flume trailhead), waterfall trailhead, sally may, purple mountains, and mazatzal parking lots. These are accessed through a 14 mile long rough dirt road that is narrow, steep, and rocky.  High clearance vehicles are recommended. The other trailhead, the one my permit was for and going to talk about here is the park and hike. Its location is through the town of Strawberry off forest road 708.

The trailheads off the long dirt road are about a two mile hike into the waterfall. I got the park and hike permit with ease..all dates were available, and figured maybe it was just because people didn’t want the longer hike. At over 4 miles one way I wasn’t bothered by the distance. So I brought my dog, and was off on my merry little way.

The trail starting down

First off, I would advise against bringing dogs. There is no water on the trail until about 3.5 miles down.  Which I brought plenty for her but also coming back up my dog needed frequent rests and struggled. There are signs everywhere saying 200 people a year are rescued from down there, and as I came back up and reached the parking lot, sure enough the ambulance was pulling in already. Bringing a dog was just extra worry.

I had assumed I was hiking to the main waterfall. I actually only thought there was one. The one I was hiking to was a man made one and not the famous photographed one everyone wants to see. I wasn’t aware of this until the Ranger explained it to me. I was kind of dissapointed until I realized I can come back and see another one!! And even this one, was well worth the hike.

About 3.5 miles in you reach some water. Some scattered ponds is how I’d describe it. As well as some decent shade. It was all down hill so it did cross my mind coming back up was not going to be enjoyable.  But the beauty below was stunning.

The first bit of water you come to

Once you got past the pond areas, you came into streams and it looked like its own little oasis.

I finally reached the waterfall and a sign that said flume trail. I was still very impressed with the waterfall. It was refreshing to sit and enjoy the soothing sound and take my pictures. I ate some lunch and dunked my dog to cool her down before we started our trek back up.

The round trip for me was almost 9 full miles and there was plenty more walking around down there I could have done so I’d say that’s a minimum mileage.

Coming back up is no joke! You will be tired and exhausted from hiking down, swimming, or spending the day down there! So  here are some things to take into consideration;

  • It is a minimum of approximately 9 miles round trip. Take plenty of water and/or filtered straws or water bottles as well for down there.
  • Tons of sunscreen and even a hat to cover up. Coming back up after midday there wasn’t as much shade.
  • The hike is no easy stroll. It is 1481′ Elevation gain, and exhausting. Especially if you’ve been swimming as well. Take your time and rest as needed. You dont want to be one of the statistics rescued.
  • Remember the park and hike trail is through the town of Strawberry and not with the other trailheads. Its the 9 mile hike not the 2 mile hike, and goes to the smaller man made fall.
  • Weather can close the roads down. Especially in monsoon season so again-always check weather and there’s even a number to call to check conditions and closures. Its 928-226-4611.
  • You can make reservations of you go during permit dates at recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777. All permits are for day use only, no overnight camping.

As always, just be smart about your hike, and know your limits. Arizona’s heat and monsoons can pack a heck of a punch leaving you with a very unpleasant or even fatal experience that by a little bit of extra planning and caution can be totally avoided.

Hopefully within the next few weeks I’ll have the other two mile trek covered to the main waterfall with more pictures and experiences to share. Stay safe!

Yarnell’s Memorial State Park

A dedication for our 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots!

On June 28th 2013 a hill near Yarnell Arizona was struck by lightning. On June 30th tragedy struck the entire state with the fire being overran and killing 19 of Arizona’s finest firefighters; the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The deadliest wildland fire for U.S fire fighters since 1933’s Griffith park fire which killed 29, and the deadliest wildfire ever in Arizona.

It seems only fitting for Arizona to make a memorial for the brave 19 men who lost their lives. Arizona state parks purchased 308 acres of land on the site of the 2013 Yarnell hill fire. On November 30th 2016 the park opened to the public so I made sure to be there with my dog Ruger, and pay my respects. This is what you’ll find on this breathtaking trail;

Starting off and throughout your way down every 600′ 19 granite plaques set into rocks share a photo and a story of each fallen hotshot. As well as signs along the way with information about woodland firefighting, the hotshots trail that day, and even the spot they ate lunch before heading down into the fire to continue fighting.

You will hike along and get to an observation deck where you can look below and see the fatality sight and 19 ribbons placed for each hotshot. This hike for me  was very touching. I hiked with a very heavy heart that day. How could you not knowing the hike leads down to the fatality sight.

Along the trail
View from the observation deck looking down to the 19 memorial
Views from the trail

This tragedy hit home for everyone not only in our small town community but the entire state mourned the loss of these fine gentlemen! You can feel the love and care that went into creating this memorial. It was very beautifully done and if you’re in the area and get the chance, its well worth a visit to see, pay your respects, and hike a beautiful trail created for Arizona’s bravest!

Some things  you need to take into consideration for this hike;

  • It is steep coming back up. At almost 7 miles round trip, you will have an elevation gain of 1,837′. It is by no means a walk in the park so make sure physically you can handle it.
  • Definitely take plenty of Water. There is no water along the way or at the trailhead.
  • The earlier you start out the better. Especially in the summer to beat the heat.
  • They say plan on taking four hours round trip. Depending on how long you spend down at the bottom as well. So make sure to plan for that.
  • The parking lot is very small. So again, the earlier you arrive there the better.
  • Dogs are welcome on a leash. There are times the path is very narrow with not much room so make sure your dog is well-behaved as he’ll be passing very close to people and other dogs side by side.
  • Do not step inside the tribute circle with the 19 ribbons. Out of respect for those who lost their lives there, they ask you pay your respects outside the circle where there are also benches to sit.

And lastly…a tribute I wrote myself with Sandy Ramos and Galen green for the hotshots, their family, Yarnell residents and anyone affected. I hope you get to stop by and see this beautifully done tribute!

 

 

Arizona’s waterfall spring time drive

Everyone loves a good fall drive. I’d be lying of I said I didn’t! I took one with my kids last fall from Flagstaff through Sedona that was breath-taking!  But what if I told you Arizona has a spring drive that could knock your socks off! From the mountains of Flagstaff to the pines in Williams and mixed terrains in Prescott, you could spend a day driving and hanging out with some waterfalls!! Everything comes to life in the spring including our blooming flowers, thriving cactus, and flowing falls! This could be a drive to remember forever!

If you want to start with the biggest that puts us at #1; the Grand Falls!

Located 30 miles East of Flagstaff and down a dirt road, you’ll get to feast your eyes upon Colorado river’s “chocolate falls.” Tucked away on Navajo nation land and known for its many tiers of water and wide stance, sits Arizona’s Grand falls!

This waterfall thrives in the spring from the snow melt off the mountains and is best seen in March and April. It will dry up with a short chance of seeing it during monsoon season.  There are picnic tables above the falls to eat and take in the views before you walk to the bottom and see the views of this beauty from ground zero! Its been said there’s a hiking permit required but when I called the lady told me it’s not needed. I went without one and was just fine. I also read there are difficulties getting there on the dirt roads. I think a car could get there no problem. I didn’t go during monsoon season where the road was muddy but it was a smooth clear main dirt road. This is one I’d take my time at and enjoy the views as it’s truly breath-taking!

Your next stop is going to be an exit off the 40 outside of Williams. As you make your way towards Prescott for your final fall. This next one has its own uniqueness and beauty surrounded by pine trees and truly in the heart of the woods. The landscaped beauty of this one starts way before you even reach the falls. Dont be surprised if you see deer and elk wandering through as you make your way along the garland prairie dirt road. You will soon see signs for sycamore canyon and see a trailhead  and parking. This is also a very well-known area for rock climbers, and known also as paradise forks. Upon parking you will walk down the stairs and stay to your right. You’ll see the rim right there and as soon as you get to the edge you see this stunning falls!

You can walk around and get on top as well as both sides of the falls. As well as descend some down a ways. You will need climbing gear to get to the bottom though. There is also a hiking trail around the area as well, but I did not get to take it. The smell of pines in the forest and beautiful scenery compliments perfectly the sycamore canyon falls. You will leave here feeling refreshed and maybe itching for a camping trip!

As you make your way back to interstate 40 you’re going to get on the 89 and head towards Prescott. This one is more tucked away and the locals little secret. I set off in search the first time and did an unsuccessful five-mile loop. The second time I set out I ended up doing a 7 mile loop and if it wasn’t for an elderly lady I came across in the woods to direct me the last ten minute stretch I’d have never found it. I’ve put 12 miles into looking for this wolf creek falls and come to find out you can park within a quarter-mile of it.

This one you will climb down a bit of a hillside. It can be slippery so be careful, especially with kids or dogs pulling on a leash. I love this one as its local for me and nice to go sit at to get away for a while. Its my local little get away I never get tired of. This one as well though does dry up until monsoon season.

This fall you can view from the top as well as the bottom with breath-taking views from any angle.

So what are you waiting for, Spring? This will be one Spring drive that will no doubt leave your soul feeling recharged and your mind full of new memories. Those fall scenic drives get all the credit for their beauty, but now you can say you’ve been on a Spring drive full of Arizona’s waterfalls!

 

Upper Antelope Canyon & Horse Shoe Bend

Lower and upper Antelope canyons are both located in Page Arizona and are truly amazing sights to see. They were formed through mainly flash flooding. The water moved through the sandstone so rapidly and picking up speeds as it rushed into the canyon and narrow passageways, it shaped and carved away at the walls. Creating an unbelievable wonder to see.

Lower Antelope canyon didn’t seem as high stress to make a reservation as the upper canyon. I would definitely recommend making reservations. I drove 3.5 hours knowing they were sold out but you can be put on a waiting list. Luckily my perseverance paid off. I barely got in..but I got in! These canyons are also quite a bit more expensive. It was $40 for an adult and $20 for a child plus the $8 permit fee for every person. Maybe because there’s driving involved on this one. You spend about 20 minutes in drive time getting to and from the canyon, then walk through from there.

The whole ordeal took just under an hour and a half, including the driving. The longest part is walking through and taking pictures and when you get to the end you have to walk back through again. Once finally getting into the canyon it is absolutely mesmerizing! Just as beautiful as the lower canyon. I would say one of the few differences is it did seem way more crowded and some points got pretty narrow. The crowds bothered me more than anything. Five years ago I may not have even opted for the tour but I find myself pushing through things more and more just to be able to see and experience new things. I enjoyed seeing the canyon, however I was a little relieved upon coming out!

Just like lower canyon they point out designs and shapes in the walls and rocks. People, animals, a spot where Microsoft windows used a picture for their software, and a million dollar shot that made a photographer very wealthy! With its stunning beauty that doesn’t surprise me at all.

All in all it was an amazing experience to see. It truly is pure beauty on the insides of those canyons. Some things I’d recommend:

*Bring cash!! When I called the morning of, the lady said they took cards, then when I got there it said cash only in huge letters. Apparently they over used their debit card machine? And then she said all ATM’s were out of cash to. So to be on the safe side maybe have both cash and card on you.

*They don’t let you take any bags at all on the tour; purses, back packs, camel packs, nothing. Just a bottle of water and your camera. I would bring water for sure! They were selling them for $2 a bottle but could sell out. I would try to be prepared with your own just in case as it is warm down there.

Other than that, enjoy the scenery and views. There are some amazing things Arizona has to offer. If your prepared right and plan your trip right it’ll always be well worth your time.

Some things are close enough to see more than one thing, in one day. If you have time, it would be well worth it to stop by and see Horse shoe bend about ten minutes away from upper antelope canyon. I can’t decide what was more beautiful between the two!! I’m almost leaning towards Horse shoe bend.

It was very hot out and this place you will do a small trek to the rim. It is just under a mile to get there and it starts off immediately uphill. A lady on my canyon tour had seen this spot prior and said one person already had collapsed and people were asking for a doctor. So keep the heat in mind always!

Once reaching the point you can walk the rim and enjoy pictures of all angles. If you’re willing to walk around you can get more secluded and escape the crowds and just sit and take it in and get those beautiful pictures you came for.  I will be going back for sure hopefully to catch a sunrise or sunset. It was absolutely breathtaking!! I can’t even imagine it during one of our amazing Arizona sunrises or sets!!

Some things to keep in mind:

*This was definitely more strenuous of a hike if you’re not an active person. It was sand the whole way with some good hills. Water is a must. Even a camel pack would be best if you have one to be hands free.

*Take your time. My total mileage was 1.8 miles. I parked off the road before the parking lot  and that also includes walking  around the rim some. So it’s really not that bad at all. Just be wise about it and carry water and sunscreen.

Again though, the stunning beauty was well worth it. I cannot wait to go back and see it in different light. It was very peaceful there despite the crowds. Thankfully the rim is wide enough to escape some of the people if you’re willing to walk or climb some to higher points.

Upper and lower Antelope canyon are well worth the visit as well as Horse shoe bend. You could squeeze them all in, in one day and have an amazing day of sight seeing, rewarding pictures, and memories forever!

Some contact information for upper antelope canyon;

Navajoantelopecanyon.com (928)380-1874

navajotours.com (928)698-3384

antelope canyon.com (928)645-9102

walking back to the parking lot.

 walking to horse shoe rim

Is Antelope Canyon’s beauty worth the dangers?

According to ABC’s 15 news Antelope Canyon is ranked among one of the six most dangerous hikes in Arizona. Why you ask? In 1997 a flash flood swept through and killed 11 out of 12 people. Only the tour guide survived. “That day there was a thunderstorm 17 miles away dumping a huge amount of rain into the drainage. Above the slot canyon, a flash flood filled the wash 10’ deep. All that water suddenly headed for the narrow crack in the ground.” As reported by John Hollenhorst on ksl.com. When I took this tour our guide also told us it was clear skies in the canyon that day. They were not aware of the storm that far away. Welcome to Arizona’s flash floods and monsoons. They can wipe out and destroy anything in its path. So if you’re exploring during monsoons season, always keep that in mind and do your research!

Antelope Canyon is probably by far one of the most spectacular things I’ve been able to see. I wasn’t fond of having to go in a group tour, but I wanted to see it none the less. This canyon is located in Northern Arizona outside of Page. My kids and I were coming back from a trip from Texas and decided to go on a small detour to see this amazing wonder.

Upon arriving you buy a permit to get in which may have been around $8 if I remember right. And then you park and pay for your tickets, and wait for the tour to begin. They take down groups of maybe 10-15. When you get down into it, it’s absolutely stunning. The guide will also set your camera for you if needed but if you have the option to set it to “cloud” option. It literally brings out and intensifies the colors in the walls and reflections. Along the way they point out animal shapes or designs in the walls and some famous shots that have been used for movies or computer programs. Some of the best times to go are during the sunrise and sunsets obviously to see even more colors radiating off every turn and corner. All in all the entire tour takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and twenty minutes. About 10-15 minutes walking to and from the canyon and an hour spent down in it. The longest part is the time people use to take pictures. You’ll see professional photographers down there to your everyday person snapping all kinds of pictures.

For me; besides being down there seeing it all, the next best thing was climbing out and then turning around to see the little crack you just crawled out of. It’s hard to even believe it opens up like that below. It was a truly amazing experience and beautiful thing to see. It was worth the detour we took to see it. There is also an upper canyon to explore but we didn’t get to see that. It will be on next trips list for sure. As well as a kayak trip through the canyons that I will hopefully be writing about by the end of the summer!

Some pointers for this trip:

  1. I wouldn’t really call this a hike, it was a very easy walk with frequent stops. I’d say ok for any age or fitness level. However, it was hot down there so make sure you carry water.
  2. The guide mentioned they do monitor neighboring town’s weather as well as their own now to keep an eye on flooding. But again, make sure to do your own research as well. Monsoon season runs from June 15th through September 30th. So if you’re traveling to the area in that time frame try to go on a day nice weather is expected if at all possible.
  3. You can book tours in advance. We weren’t sure what time we’d be there so we just pulled up and bought our tickets there. They can sell out though so maybe call ahead of time if you’re concerned about that. They have tours run every thirty minutes.
  4. Some numbers to call ahead of time if needed are 928-645-9102, 928-645-5594 or go to www. Lowerantelope.com

 

Is this canyons beauty worth the known dangers? I’d say absolutely!! Plan ahead, be wise and knowledgeable about the weather and it’ll be an experience you’ll remember forever!

End of tour. Coming up out of the canyons is hard to believe what you just saw below you.