Backcountry Scenic Drives: Mogollon Rim Road

April 20, 2010

The highest road in Arizona cuts 200 miles across the middle of the state at an amazing 7,000-foot elevation. Traveling roughly from Sedona to the New Mexico border, this road hugs the edge of the Mogollon Rim. A dizzying drop from rim to the canyon floor is 2,000 feet in places.

This amazing geological phenomenon that creates a “backbone of Arizona” separates the low southern scorching desert from the higher elevation cooler, temperate ponderosa pine and cedar forest of northern Arizona. The Mogollon Rim Road (Mogollon is pronounced “muggy-own”) provides a cool, serene perch to see forever over southern Arizona deserts.

Today the road follows sections of an original military supply route constructed in 1872 by General George Crook. The wagon road connected Fort Whipple in Prescott to Fort Apache and Camp Verde. The military established the forts to protect early settlers from the frequent attacks of the Apache Indians, rebelling against the takeover of their land and relocation to reservations.

General Crook took command of Arizona Territory’s military in 1871. Amazingly, his original journey from Fort Apache to Fort Whipple formed the basis of the route. During construction, Crook’s men measured the wagon road’s mileage with a cloth fastened the wheel of a wagon. A certain number of the cloth’s revolutions equaled a mile. Soldiers then carved a smooth patch out of nearby trees and rocks and then burned on the mileage. Blazes generally included a letter. For example, 13 miles from Fort Verde would be marked with “V13.” Today a few old trees and rocks still bear Crook’s original blaze marks. Many landmarks along the trail are named according to the mileage of the old route, such as Thirteen Mile Rock and Twentynine Mile Lake.

Approximately 15 miles from the western end and a short distance to the north of the main trail is the site of General Springs Cabin. Louis Fisher built the small wooden structure in 1914 or 1915, and it was used as a guard station for many years. The cabin sits beside springs used for water by General Crook and was reputedly the spot from which he narrowly escaped death during a surprise Apache attack. Camping around the historic cabin is prohibited but the area makes an excellent spot to stop and have a picnic lunch.

Opposite the turnoff to the cabin is the Tunnel Hiking Trailhead. Hike down to see the once ambitious project: a tunnel that was to burrow through 3,100 feet of the rock of the Mogollon Rim to connect Flagstaff to the rich mines of Globe by rail. The tunnel was to be a spur of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, which ran from Albuquerque through Flagstaff en route to the west coast.

The proposed 160-mile Mineral Belt Railroad was funded and construction began over incredibly rough terrain. Funding for the project soon dried up after the construction of only 40 miles of rail and blasting only 70 feet into the rock of the rim. The incomplete tunnel is located in General Springs Canyon, a low point in the rim.

Most of the narrow graded gravel and dirt road runs through a cool ponderosa pine forest. Many places along the road run right along the rim with amazing vistas over the canyons and good angles to see rugged rim itself. Take care walking to the edge of the rim, especially in wet conditions. Some trees at the edge hold memorial plaques to those who have accidentally fallen.

The road is uneven in places, but overall the main trail is not a technical challenge. Many smaller more challenging trails leave the main road. To the south trails lead to more secluded viewpoints and campsites on the rim, and to the north, 4WD tracks lead to spectacular overlooks.

The area is heaven for campers. Backcountry campsites abound, but one of the best is at Hi-View Point, an exceptionally beautiful scenic overlook set right on the rim. There are also developed national forest campgrounds at Kehl Spring, just off the trail at Knoll Lake, Bear Canyon Lake, and several sites at Woods Canyon Lake among others.

The eastern end of the trail within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest runs within the popular Rim Lakes Recreation Area. Be aware that motorized travel is permitted on numbered roads only, ATVs are not permitted, and there are restrictions on camping in this area.

Visiting Las Vegas And The Scenic Southwest On A Budget.

February 24, 2010

This article is based on years of traveling in and out of Las Vegas to visit some of the most beautiful places on earth. Las Vegas can be a very inexpensive place to fly into.
AdventureZoneTOURS, that’s what I should have named this article. That’s how I like to travel. I want to be comfortable, have great adventure, for a reasonable amount of money.
For our budget, our trip into the Vegas airport begins on a Sunday thru Wednesday. The focus and goal of our trip is to get into the great outdoors. But, we like to stay the first couple of nights in Vegas and then the last couple of nights too, with the middle of the trip spent touring awesome places in the great Mohave Desert.
As soon as you get off the plane you know you are in Vegas and are bombarded by visual entertainment. Everything is bright and flashing, it seems like daytime even at night. Huge screens preview the available shows and entertainment in town. As you leave the airport you will find all modes of transport available along the street including taxis, limos & shuttle buses.
There are a lot of hotels to choose from. Many times I have stayed on the strip at Tropicana Ave. Returning to the car rental lot at the airport is just minutes from this part of the strip. There are many choices for hotels. There are thousands of hotel rooms and more being built every day. There are hotels on Las Vegas Blvd, more just off the strip and some just blocks away from the strip in downtown Las Vegas. Fremont Street has been canopied by tens of thousands of lights. The hotel/casinos in this area have almost a neighborhood feel. At night The Fremont Street Experience comes alive with lights, and music. It’s feels almost like a block party.
Will you need a rental car? Many times your best deal on a rental is going to be for a weekly rental. Even if you rent for just 4 days, the weekly rental is normally a better deal. Normally, the car rentals work on a 24 hour period. For example if you pick up at 6 pm, your return would have to be by 6 pm of the day the car is suppose to be returned. Many times I will fly into Las Vegas and take one of the inexpensive shuttles to my hotel doorstep. Then the day I want to begin my weekly rental, I take a taxi to the rental location to pick up my car being careful to pick it up at the same time of day that I will be returning it the day of my departure. You can also consider renting your auto at one of the downtown off airport rental locations. This can save on the airport tax surcharges that are added on to your rental at the airport locations. As you choose your car rental, you might find that they have a location right at the hotel you choose to stay at.
Las Vegas has plenty of entertainment to enjoy, with shows that change from month to month. There are many free things to do as well. The water show at the Beligio is cool and interesting if seem by night from the Eiffel Tour. Everybody likes the free volcano at the Mirage, the lion’s habitat at the MGM, The show in front of TI, Mardi Gras style show in the Rio and on and on. This article is about getting out into the great outdoors, so I’ll leave the entertainment search up to you. There’s always plenty to see and do.
On to your AdventureZoneTOUR! Now, let’s find adventure!
The Valley of Fire
Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon
Lake Powell
Antelope Canyon
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
One of the first things I do as I’m leaving town is to find a big grocery store or the local shopping mart. I buy a cooler and load up on water, fruit, soda, chips, snacks, napkins, plates, forks and deli items. Many times we’ll have an inexpensive breakfast or lunch along the way. We’ll have a great restaurant dinner.
There is where the Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts are within striking distance of your entry point of Las Vegas. Some of these areas can be very hot in the summer, but if you plan well and hit the higher elevations, it can be very comfortable. Remember this area of the world can be wild and dangerous. Take all the precautions necessary. This is the Mohave Desert, you’ll need water. You do not want to get stuck in the sand, or have your auto break down in a remote area. There are places your cell phone will not work. If you hike into any remote areas, learn about them first and obtain necessary permits. There are a lot of slot canyons that are very beautiful. A slot is a narrow passageway thru cliff lined canyons. This was carved into the sandstone by water. Beware! If it is raining 100 miles away from you, you may not know it and the slot you could be in is where the water will run. I have heard several stories of people being carried away and drown because of lack of planning. When you are in a narrow canyon, there is no place to escape. Be smart and be careful. Take lots of pictures.
Heading north there is another great little casino city right at the border of Nevada called Mesquite, NV. I have found the hotel room rates to be down right cheap. Mesquite has everything that I need as a base of operations. The rooms are acceptable, the Casinos are modern and fun with pools and even arcades, bowling alleys and movie theatres, without lots of traffic. The town has lots of buffets, gas stations, golf, etc. If you are planning a visit to Zion, staying here is an easy drive up and back for a couple of day trips into the region. Many times I have gone with a group and we have to reserve quite a few rooms.
As you head north on I 15 you’ll see the Las Vegas Speedway home of NASCAR races as well as Nellis Air force base. You’ll probably see or hear air force jets flying around or landing as you travel past the base. The thunderbirds have a presence here, as well as some funky looking stealth and unmanned remotely piloted aircraft. Maybe this is where all the UFO Area 51 stuff comes from. If you’re interested in more information about the mystery lights in the sky, search for Groom Lake or Area 51.
The Valley of Fire State Park is up this way and located only six miles from Lake Mead, it’s 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas via Interstate 15 and on exit 75. Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park, dedicated 1935. The valley derives its name from the red sandstone formations and the stark beauty of the Mojave Desert. There are some really awesome campsites nested within the red rock cliffs. This is a great place to stretch your legs and do a little rock scrambling. It’s about a 30 minute drive from the highway exit. The Moapa Indian Reservation runs a store right at this exit.This can be a nice stop for bathrooms; they sell fireworks, have a small casino, tax free cigarettes and liquor in their small convenience store.
If you continue north into Utah on highway I 15 from Las Vegas you can go to Zion National Park. It’s just a few hours north of Las Vegas and can make a great day trip. April thru Oct. the environmental friendly shuttle bus provides transportation in the park. Other month’s autos are allowed in. There is a highway Rt 9 that goes thru park of the park and is open to traffic all year. If you might be planning a hike into the Virgin River and upstream, talk to the rangers first. Our last trip the water levels were too high and not safe. After you tour of Zion, be sure to take RT. 9 through the tunnels, and the landscape totally changes after the tunnel. It’s like a different planet. The second day we visited the Zion Plateau where we found a resort and paid the all day pass to ride their ATV’s, use their pool, play paintball, climbing wall, etc.
From here you now need to plan out your trip based on how long you’ll be traveling for. You could head to Bryce Canyon Nation Park or you could go to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Lake Powell, even The Grand Canyon. I normally take Utah highway 89 if I am going to Lake Powell and on the return just to see even more scenery I return towards Las Vegas using Arizona ALT highway 89.
Heading south on Utah highway 89 from either Zion or Bryce you’ll see a turn off for Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Here pinkish sand worn off the sandstone cliffs was deposited by the winds creating 3,000 acres of sand dunes. Continuing along highway 89 is the town of Kanab, Utah. One popular visit in the area is the Paria and Johnson Canyon Movie Set where over 300 movies and TV shows were filmed.
This area is called the Arizona Strip. We visited The Glen Canyon Dam which created Lake Powell. Lake Powell has 2000 miles of shoreline and canyons etc. We rented a speed boat for the day at the Marina. As you look for boat rentals, you need to decide if you want to rent at the marina where the boat is in the water or another rental where you may have to tow or arrange for the boat to be launched. You may choose to not have a hotel/condo and stay on a houseboat. The sun is strong and lots of sunscreen and sun block should be used. Many people visit Rainbow Bridge and it is the world’s largest natural bridge.
Antelope Canyon is a Page, Arizona photographer’s opportunity. This is the most spectacular slot canyon I have been to. You’ll find that all tours require a Navajo guide and there is an upper and lower canyon. The tours are separate. You can join a tour in Page, AZ or drive the few miles to the Navajo Nation. There is a cost for parking at the Navajo tour site, as well as for the tour itself. Our tour was in an open safari type vehicle for a few miles into the desert. As you get there you see just a dark crack in a huge cliff. It is an amazing slot canyon carved by water and wind over millions of years. The sandstone colors are awesome and many people are touched by this natural cathedral that the Navajo’s have treasured for years. When the sun is directly over head, beams of light can then shine into the canyon.
I like to return back towards Las Vegas using AZ alt 89 out of Page, AZ. Be sure you make the turn on alt 89 or you will continue south towards Flagstaff, AZ. Taking this route will bring you past the Vermilion Cliffs. As you continue on highway alt 89 you’ll get to Jacobs Lake, this is the turn off if you are interested in visiting the North Rim of The Grand Canyon. I timed my last trip so we could overnight at the Lodge. We showed up late afternoon, watched the sunset, stayed in a cabin right near the rim. We ate at the dining room with an awesome view. You’ll need reservations or you’ll be out of luck.
From here you’d just return back to highway 15 and your trip back to Las Vegas.

Try Northern Arizona Land For Sale: Cultural, Climatic and Scenic Diversity

February 23, 2010

If you have wondered about Arizona land for sale you may have discovered that the Phoenix area and southern Arizona is suffering from over-crowding. In contrast, northern Arizona from Flagstaff south and east through the Mogollon Rim Country and White Mountains remains a cooler yet delightful place for families or retirees. It is considered one of the best places to live in America and you can see the stars most nights very brightly. Lowell Observatory, famous for the discovery of Pluto by Schlipher in 1930 is here. Land for sale here offers cultural, scenic, and climatic diversity in things to see and do if you plan to relocate to the Arizona High Country.
The university town of Flagstaff has frequently been named as one of the best places to live in the US. Prescott and Payson are both premier retirement communities for west coasters. Arizona land for sale here offers small cities, with Flagstaff having less than 70,000 population, but steadily rising at an estimated 8.5%.
National Geographic has called Prescott one of “10 Great Towns That Will Make You Feel Young,” and Payson is similar but somewhat smaller. Pinetop-Lakeside has become the summer home center for the elite of Tucson and Phoenix. The population average age is 35, yet over 10% of the population is 65 or older. The racial makeup of northern Arizona is 64.5% white non-Hispanic, 18% Hispanic or Latino, and 12% Native American.
There is variation in the economic conditions and educational opportunities, but generally, they are favorable. Still an affordable area to live, new home prices is this Arizona land for sale have been on the rise. The hard working frontier ethic of the area and the very family-centered focus of those towns settled by Mormon pioneers are still tangible.
Northern Arizona has two roots. Those cities along I-40 grew from the flourishing railroad and forestry industries of the late 1800s. Yavapai County, the Rim Country, and the White Mountains developed in the same period from mining, ranching, farming, and forestry. With the arrival of Route 66 in the 1920s, the area became a popular tourist stop. Today the entire area is very tourist oriented. Route 66 and I-40 are an historic highway and popular tourist route with many hotel and restaurant chains mixed with the scenic and nostalgic charm.
Just 75 miles away from Flagstaff is Grand Canyon National Park. Arizona land for sale in this area has an altitude of 6,000′-9000′ and clear skies. Astronomers from around the world have known the area since before the turn of the twentieth century.
In this Arizona land for sale, one finds weather not often considered typical of Arizona. Flagstaff is at the base of the 12,000′ San Francisco Peaks. Show Low-Pinetop is near Hawley Lake, which can have the coldest temperature in the lower 48 states. Higher elevation ecosystems are surrounded with plateaus, juniper pines, high desert grassland, and the world’s largest Ponderosa forest. At an elevation of 7,000 feet, Flagstaff is considered a high Sonoran desert. Heber-Overgaard at 6,500′ is also. Payson and Prescott at 5,500″ are more moderate. However, residents do enjoy mild weather conditions and clear air for the most part. Summer temperatures are often 10-20 degrees below that of Phoenix. The monsoon rainy season of summer often brings an intense, scattered rain showers and thunderstorms. The winter weather brings an average annual snowfall of 80-110 inches, good for business at the Apache and Flagstaff local ski resorts. A popular weekend getaway, northern Arizona welcomes visitors from neighboring Arizona communities and beyond.
Amtrak connects Flagstaff, Holbrook, and Williams west to LA and to East. Air travel is available through small general aviation regional airports. All of this northern Arizona land for sale is accessible from interstate highways 17 and 40.
Come for vacations, and stay for life!