Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Lake Powell and So Much More

Lake Powell is a major center for many leisure activities including fishing, swimming, water sports, houseboating, backcountry hiking, and four-wheel drive trips

The Colorado River is dammed on both sides of the Grand Canyon, forming two huge artificial lakes: Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

Encompassing over 1.25 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area stretches for hundreds of miles from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based and backcountry recreation amid scenic vistas, geologic wonders, and a vast panorama of human history. Outdoor activities are what Glen Canyon is all about. There is something for everyone’s taste. 

The second largest man-made lake in the U.S., Lake Powell is without doubt the most scenic, stretching 186 miles across the red rock desert from Page, Arizona to Hite, Utah.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

What makes Lake Powell so memorable is the contrast between the deep clear blue waters and the surrounding landscape—stark red sandstone rocks with little or no vegetation and innumerable steep remote side canyons. Spires, ridges, and buttes that once stood high above the Colorado River now form cliffs at the lakeside or are semi-submerged as small islands.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Lake Powell has become a major center for many leisure activities including fishing, swimming, water sports, houseboating, backcountry hiking, and four-wheel drive trips.

It began filling in 1963 following the completion of a dam across the Colorado River near the south end of Glen Canyon, and was not completely full until 1980. In 1972 Lake Powell and the surrounding countryside was incorporated into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Access to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon by road is very limited. Activities are concentrated at the western edge, near Page, where various beaches, resorts, marinas, and campsites are found along the shoreline.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

At the far northeast end of the lake there are basic services and a few tracks leading to the water at Hite, though decreasing water levels have left this village quite far from the shoreline.

The only other paved approach roads are to the Bullfrog and Halls Crossing marinas two thirds of the way up the lake, which are opposite each other and linked by a car ferry.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is open year-round. The highest visitation is during the summer season.

Carl Hayden Visitor Center offers tours of the dam, exhibits, video shows, a relief map of the entire Glen Canyon area, restrooms, and a bookstore.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bullfrog Visitor Center offers exhibits relating to geology and the human and natural history of Glen Canyon, pioneer artifacts, a life-size model of a slot canyon, bookstore, and restrooms.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center, near Lees Ferry, offers a bookstore, outdoor exhibits, and self guided walks across the historic Navajo Bridge.

Lake Powell is abundant with camping opportunities, whether you seek developed campsites with RV pads, putting a tent up on a secluded beach, or anchoring your boat in a quiet cove.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There is a National Park Service campground at Lees Ferry. Concessioner operated RV campgrounds are available in Wahweap, Bullfrog, and Halls Crossing. Primitive camping is available at the following vehicle accessible shore line areas: Lone Rock (Wahweap area), Stanton Creek, Bullfrog North and South (Bullfrog area), Hite, Dirty Devil, and Farley Canyon (Hite area). These sites have no facilities except for pit toilets.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bullfrog Marina RV Park & Campground offers 20 pull-through sites and 4 back-in sites for RVs up to 50 feet in length. All sites have full hook-ups with 30-amp electric service.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Centrally located adjacent to Wahweap Marina near Page, Wahweap RV Park & Campground offers 139 full hook-up sites with 30/50 amp electric service and free Wi-Fi. With a stunning view of Wahweap Bay, sites accommodate RVs up to 45 feet in length. All campsites have charcoal grills and picnic tables. Only a short distance to boat launch ramps, swim beaches, boat tours, and small boat rentals. Our home base while exploring the National Recreation Area, we would return to this 5-star RV park in a heart-beat.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With 1.2 million acres of golden cliffs, lush hanging gardens, impossibly narrow slot canyons, and the brilliant blue of Lake Powell to visit, you may find yourself coming back again and again. 

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Your road is everything that a road ought to be…

And yet you will not stay in it half a mile, for the reason that little, seductive, mysterious roads are always branching out from it on either hand, and as these curve sharply also and hide what is beyond, you cannot resist the temptation to desert your own chosen road and explore them.

—Mark Twain, American author

Exploring Globe-Miami

The community of Globe-Miami is rich in copper, culture, and a pleasant climate

In the middle of the 32,000 acres that are the Salt River Canyon Wilderness, U.S. Route 60 is a narrow ribbon buckling through the harsh terrain.

Salt River Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

By starting in Apache Junction you’ll traverse the 1,200-foot-long Queen Creek Tunnel cutting through the mountain at a 6 percent upward grade. Now you’ll climb 4,000 feet via tight bends, S-curves, and the three consecutive switchbacks plunging into the canyon. The highway twists through the Tonto National Forest with views of the Superstition Mountains.

Salt River Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The community of Globe-Miami is rich in copper, culture, and a pleasant climate. Globe was named from the legend of a 50-pound “globe” shaped silver nugget. Numerous antique shops and art galleries are situated in historic downtown Globe. Located in the foothills of the Pinal Mountains at an elevation of 3,500 feet, Globe-Miami enjoys cooler summers than its metropolitan neighbors while still having sunny, pleasant winters.

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There is much to see and experience, as the area’s mining history, Old West traditions, and Native American culture offer a wide-ranging Southwestern experience. The historic downtowns, copper mining, the neighboring San Carlos Apache Reservation, and abundant outdoor recreation throughout the Tonto National Forest combine to make Globe-Miami much more than the sleepy community many expect to find. Mining still holds a significant role in the local economy, along with tourism.

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Cobre Valley Center for the Arts is located in the landmark former Gila County Courthouse of 1906 at the heart of Globe’s historic downtown district. Since 1984, this non-profit entity has been restoring and rejuvenating this architectural treasure, while presenting regional artists, community theater, and dance and music academies. The Center is located at the corner of Broad and Oak Streets.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

One mile south of Globe stands the ruins of the ancient Salado people who occupied the site nearly 800 years ago. This ancient village is known today as Besh Ba Gowah. The term was originally given by the Apaches to the early settlement of Globe. Roughly translated, the term means “Place of Metal.” 

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum offers visitors a chance to explore the ruins of this relatively advanced culture, a museum which houses a large collection of Salado pottery and artifacts, botanical gardens, and a gift shop. The adjacent Ethno-Botanical Garden illustrates native Arizona plants that were used in their daily lives.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located at the confluence of Pinal Creek and Ice House Canyon Wash, Besh-Ba-Gowah Pueblo has one of the largest single site archaeological collections in the southwest and is one of the most significant finds of Southwest archaeology.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Archaeologists consider Besh-Ba-Gowah a ceremonial, redistribution, and food storage complex. Salado Culture is identified as the cultural period from 1150 to 1450 in the Tonto Basin.

Visitors walk through a 700-year-old Salado Culture pueblo, climb ladders to second story rooms, and view the typical furnishings of the era.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Besh-Ba-Gowah had about 400 rooms, of these about 250 were ground floor rooms. Entrance to the pueblo was via a long narrow ground level corridor covered by the second level. The corridor opened onto the main plaza. This may have had a defensive purpose.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The present day interpretive trail uses plaques to inform the visitor. It begins with the ancient entrance way to the main plaza. The main plaza measures 40 x 88 feet. About 150 elaborate burials were placed under the plaza. Hereditary high status is suspected from burial evidence in the plaza. The ruins had very few doors. Room access was by roof hatchways with ladders. Several reconstructed rooms with prehistoric contents are featured.

Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The San Carlos Apache Reservation is located 12 miles east of Globe-Miami on U.S. Highway 70. Throughout this beautiful land you will find rich Apache culture, hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as other recreational delights. A tribal land permit is required for activities on tribal lands.

Wildflowers in the spring on Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Peridot Mesa, about 20 minutes east of Globe, is one of Arizona’s hot spots for wildflower viewing and one of the very first places in the state to kick off the spring wildflower season.

Spring Wildflowers on Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

To my mind these live oak-dotted hills fat with side oats grama, these pine-clad mesas spangled with flowers, these lazy trout streams burbling along under great sycamores and cottonwoods, come near to being the cream of creation.

—Aldo Leopold, 1937

Temecula Valley: Historic Old Town, Wine Country and More

The Southern California wine region was named one of the best destinations for 2019

For many visitors, the Temecula Valley wine country is a surprise. After all, a lot of people just don’t expect to see gently rolling hills blanketed with rows of vineyards so close to the California desert.

But the Temecula Valley has been producing top wines since the 1970s. And like the best vintages, this wine country just gets better with age.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For years, the Temecula Valley wine country has been somewhat of an under-the-radar destination. But it’s a secret no longer. Wine Enthusiast has named Temecula Valley one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2019” shining a spotlight on the area’s winning combination of notable wines and top-notch hospitality.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It’s a diverse growing region, home to everything from cooler climate grapes like Chardonnay to such warm-weather loving varieties as Syrah and Grenache. The tasting experience is varied, too. Visit posh wineries with lavish restaurants overlooking the vines, and summer concerts featuring top performers.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Stroll the streets of Old Town Temecula, with quality boutiques, eateries, and a relaxed Old West feel. Take a hot-air balloon ride or tasting tour in a chauffeured limousine, or play a round of golf. Or just hang out in a tasting room gain insights into this unique and surprising region.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Centrally located just east of Interstate 15, Temecula Valley is within an hour’s drive from San Diego, Orange County, and the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area. 

The name Temecula comes from the Luiseño Indian word “Temecunga” —“temet” meaning “sun” and “-ngna” which means “place of”.

The Spanish interpreted and spelled the word as “Temecula” translated to mean “Where the sun breaks through the mist”. Temecula is the only city in California to still retain its original Indian name.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

History buffs can wander the streets of Old Town Temecula viewing rustic buildings, sidewalks, and storefronts reminiscent of the historic golden west in the 1880s.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located in the heart of Temecula, the Old Town district is a unique blend of historic buildings, shops, restaurants, museums, hotels, weekly farmers market, and special events in one walkable, easy-to navigate area.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Taking a step back in time, we strolled along the wooden boardwalks past rustic western-era buildings, antique shops, and specialty boutiques. We checked out the shops with a stop at Temecula Olive Oil Company.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Once the site of a stopover on the historic Butterfield Overland Stage Coach Line, scenic Vail Lake was created in 1948 when the owners of the Vail Cattle Ranch constructed the 132 foot high Vail Lake Dam. Owned and operated by the Rancho California Water District since 1978, the 1,000+ acre lake is a well known mountain biking destination and recreational mecca.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Today Vail Lake RV Resort offers camping and activities for the whole family, including camping, mountain biking, hiking, miniature golf, swimming, horseshoes, and just plain relaxing under the oaks. Offering both privacy and security, Vail Lake RV Resort is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature in over 8,000 acres of ancient, shady oaks, and natural California chaparral hillsides.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Temecula Valley, at an elevation of 1,400 feet, with warm days and cool nights, is an ideal location for growing high quality wine grapes.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

No matter which varietal of wine you’re looking for, you can probably find it in Temecula Valley Wine Country. Wineries here in the Temecula Valley grow and produce over 50 different varietals of wine; from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot to Mourvedre, Viognier to Chardonnay.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Temecula Valley is particularly well-suited to growing Italian, Spanish, and French grapes such as Sangiovese, Syrah, Montepulciano, Viognier, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo.

The majority of Temecula Valley wineries make only a small quantity of each vintage—not enough for national distribution. So, you won’t often find their wines in grocery stores or wine shops; they’re mostly available to visitors via winery tasting rooms. That means, when you buy a bottle to take home, you’re bringing back something truly unique.

Pechanga Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Where to Stay: Pechanga Casino RV Resort, Temecula

Worth Pondering…

Products from the soil are still the greatest industry in the world.

—Dick Cooper, 1966

Stunning Papago Park: A World-Class Attraction

Papago Park features a wide variety of outdoor fun opportunities

Papago Park is located on the east-side of Phoenix, near the border of Tempe and South Scottsdale. The 1,200 acre park is home to “Hole in the Rock” a red rock that is distinctive to its landscape. Its massive, otherworldly sandstone buttes set Papago Park apart, even in a city and state filled with numerous world-class natural attractions.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It is not the largest park in the city of Phoenix, a distinction that belongs to South Mountain Park. But Papago features the widest variety of outdoor fun and is home to some of the most visited attractions in the Phoenix area making it a popular destination for both residents and vacationers. 

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Papago’s desert trails are generally smooth, easy treks with little elevation gain, making it a great place for a family hike or to hone your mountain biking skills. While visitors to Papago can enjoy its extensive trail network through Sonoran Desert habitat, they can also enjoy the park’s two major residents, the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden, world-class attractions that draw millions of visits each year.

Hole-in-the Rock Butte at Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It is also home to the Arizona Historical Society Museum and Hunt’s Tomb, the tomb of George W.P. Hunt (1859-1934), Arizona’s first governor. The Papago Golf Course is also located within the park. Oh, and did we mention it’s only 10 minutes from downtown Phoenix.

Looking through the Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

But did you also know that its 1,200 acres were once known as Papago-Saguaro National Monument? Part of the homeland for the Hohokam, local tribes—the Maricopa and Akimel O’odham—and rich in petroglyphs, archaeological sites, desert plant life, and scenic qualities, this area stood out among many other spots in Phoenix for a national monument status.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In 1914, about 1,700 acres surrounding Hole-in-the-Rock butte was designated Papago-Saguaro National Monument by President Woodrow Wilson. The intention of this was to federally protect the archaeological sites, per the Antiquities Act of 1906, as well as create a scenic area for locals and tourism.

Desert Botanical at Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Despite the lofty designation, however, Papago-Saguaro suffered from severe funding issues, something that many national park sites are still struggling with today.  Eventually, in 1930, Congress abolished Papago-Saguaro National Monument and transferred ownership to the state and local city governments.

Desert Botanical Garden at Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

During World War II, the area housed German prisoners of war from 1943 to 1946. After the war, the prisoner camp was converted to a Veterans Administration Hospital from 1947 to 1951. It became the District Headquarters for Arizona’s largest Army Reserve Unit from 1953 to 1966. In fact, today an “off-limits” portion of Papago Park is used for Arizona National Guard training.

The hole-in-the-rock is the most prominent icon in Papago Park and carries evidence that the prehistoric Hohokam Indians settled this area thousands of years ago. The red butte was created 6 to 15 million years ago and naturally formed with a series of openings caused by erosion.

Desert Botanical Garden at Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The openings and chamber (hole) near the butte’s summit are easily accessed from the rear via a smooth, but somewhat steep path. Those that trek to the chamber hole-in-the-rock are rewarded with great views across the city.

Desert Botanical Garden at Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The ancient Hohokam People noticed that a hole in the ceiling in the chamber creates a ray of light that changes positions on the chamber’s floor during the year depending upon seasonal movements of the sun. They marked the occurrence of the summer solstice by grinding a bedrock “metate slick” at the location where the ray of light falls during the day at noontime.

Desert Botanical Garden at Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The winter solstice is marked by the ray of light interaction with a natural seam in the bedrock. They also marked the equinoxes, the seasonal halfway point between the summer and winter solstices with a bedrock metate slick. The boulders near the hole-in-the-rock appear to provide other solstice and equinox markers.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

While Papagp Park may not be part of the original vision when the area become a national monument, it is an area where a portion of Phoenix’s original natural beauty still manages to flourish.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert,

I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy.

The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before.

I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, the sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night.

I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

Underrated Places to Hit While it’s Still Winter

Shoveling snow under gloomy skies doesn’t do winter’s brand any favors

Numerous places in the South are enjoying warm, sunny weather—a big draw for those in parts of the country where winter is long, cold, and dreary.

Here are some overshadowed places that’ll have you reveling warm during these cold-weather months.

Mississippi Gulf Coast at Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mississippi

There are also 26 miles of pristine water and white sand beaches in Mississippi, without anywhere near the number of tourists or tacky T-shirt shops you’d find in Florida. And, unlike the other beach towns on the Gulf, Biloxi, and Gulfport have casinos. And don’t overlook funky Bay St. Louis.

Mississippi Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dip your toes in the Gulf of Mexico at the “Riviera of the South,” then tap them to the beat of authentic roots blues music. Nourish your soul and body in Mississippi, known for its preservation of historical places, creative arts heritage, and natural wonders.

Ambrosia Bakery, Baton Rouge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Louisiana

If I could eat in only three states for the rest of my life, Louisiana would be in this select group.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

More to the point, y’all know the high regard to which we hold the food culture of Cajun Country and the rest of Louisiana (thank you for Tabasco, po’ boys, gumbo, crawfish, jambalaya, boudin, and crackling). 

Jungle Gardens on Avery Island, home of Tabasso © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food. Between bites of their tasty cuisine, boredom is never a problem in Cajun Country. Nature experiences are abundant on the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Road.

Gulf Coast State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Alabama

While mostly known for college football and slow cooked ribs, Alabama is actually geographically diverse with the rolling foothills of the Smoky Mountains in the North, open plains in the center, and the Gulf coast’s sandy shores in the south. This makes Alabama an excellent destination for RVers spring, summer, autumn—and winter.

Mobile, the modern and the historic © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The famed “Sweet Home Alabama” you may have heard is more than a song. This is a land of history, culture, music, and adventure from beaches to mountains. Music legends Nat “King” Cole, Lionel Hampton, W.C. Handy, and Hank Williams were born in Alabama. Here, Gospel is sung in churches and folks dance, while Blues, Country, and Jazz are also popular music genres.

Hank Aaron Childhood Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Alabama was home to sports greats like Hank Aaron and Joe Louis.

Alabama’s oldest city, Mobile claims America’s first Mardi Gras, a celebration that began in 1703. Every year the streets of Mobile buzz with parades and festivities for the entire family.

Historic small town Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It’s time to take a road trip to Alabama.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Utah

Way down south in…Utah. Dixie has it all: mild weather, red rock hiking, proximity to national and state parks, golf—even a little cotton. Since the early 1860s when Mormon pioneers came to the far southwestern corner of Utah to grow cotton, the Washington County area has been known as Utah’s Dixie.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The communities of St. George, Hurricane, and Springdale are situated near several national parks, state parks, and other scenic treasures that make the region so popular.

Utah Dixie’s climate features plenty of sunshine, low annual precipitation, and clean air.

Its year-round warm weather draws folks from the colder climates up north.

Shoveling snow under gloomy skies doesn't do winter's brand any favors
Quail Ridge State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Winters are relatively mild with infrequent traces of snowfall which rarely stays on the ground more than a day making the area ideal for year-round golf—ten of Utah’s best courses are located there!

Hard to surpass for its variety of scenic beauty, this area is one of the most popular resort and retirement communities in the Southwest. Winter here—the prices are reasonable.

Worth Pondering…

No matter where we go in our motorhome, that sense of independence is satisfying. We have our own facilities, from comfortable bed to a fridge full of our favorite foods. We set the thermostat the way we like it and go to bed and get up in our usual routine.

4 Small Town Gems in Arizona

Arizona is blessed with small town gems you’re sure to enjoy

Arizona is blessed with small towns that beg to be explored. But no matter how many times you may have visited, here are things you probably didn’t know about them.

Visiting small towns is one of the great joys of travel. Combine scenic beauty, easy access, and welcoming main street businesses and you’ve got all the makings of a memorable day trip.

We’ve explored Arizona and found these four small-town gems you’re sure to enjoy.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bisbee

Two- and three-story buildings built of brick and stone line Main Street as if holding back the canyon walls rising sharply along its length. Bisbee’s slopes display a century’s worth of architecture, from historic inns to refurbished, modern-looking former miners’ shacks.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bisbee thrives on a laid-back foundation of artists, entrepreneurs, and free thinkers. Whether you’re exploring the shops downtown, the drinking establishments of Brewery Gulch, or the town’s dizzying network of concrete stairs, you’ll be welcomed with a smile. 

Copper Queen Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Claim to fame: Put on a yellow rain slicker, climb aboard a rail car, and rumble into the heart of a mountain. The Copper Queen Mine Tour follows what was once one of Bisbee’s richest veins, mapped by men with no fear of dark, enclosed spaces.

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Prescott

On sunny, mild weekends—and so many of them are—residents and tourists flock to the grassy square at the heart of downtown. In view of the Yavapai County Courthouse, a four-story granite structure looming like a castle, many stake claims to shady spots under spreading elms, or people-watch from the courthouse steps.

Sharlott Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Others browse the shops, restaurants and bars that box in the 4-acre plaza, a design that’s as perfect today as it was in 1864 when the town was laid out. Founders couldn’t have envisioned the role the plaza now plays, hosting more than 100 festivals and events annually. The square is not just Prescott’s heart, but its soul.

Granite Cliffs and Watson Lake, Prescott

Claim to fame: Step back in time at the Palace Restaurant Saloon and Restaurant. Opened in 1877, the state’s oldest bar is one of the most popular stops on Whiskey Row and once hosted Doc Holliday as well as Wyatt and Virgil Earp. The Palace burned to the ground in 1900 but not before patrons carried the bar itself to safety. That original Brunswick bar remains, polished smooth over more than a century of use. 

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Jerome

The way buildings cling precariously to the side of Cleopatra Hill, it’s as if gravity has been suspended in this former mining town. Jerome is laid out vertically, with Arizona 89A switchbacking through it. The Verde Valley spreads out below in one of the most accessible vistas in Arizona. 

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With few signs of the mine shafts that run through Cleopatra Hill like a honeycomb, Jerome now thrives on tourism, enhanced by a welcoming vibe exuded by artists and small-business owners.

Jerome State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Claim to fame: The town may be Arizona’s most haunted. Many visitors hoping for a spontaneous outbreak of spirits can play it by eerie at the Jerome Grand Hotel. The building opened in 1927 as the United Verde Hospital and since then guests and staff have reported all sorts of unearthly activity, from apparitions and flickering lights to disembodied voices. The hotel looms over Jerome and even appears menacing at sunset. That’s a great time to duck into its bar, The Asylum, where spirits of a different kind are served.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Sedona

The first glimpse of Sedona is one of awe. Towers and walls of red rock surround the hamlet like a fortress. But rather than keep visitors out, the surreal landscape attracts tourists by the thousands. 

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Claim to fame: Many come to Sedona to experience the spiritual energy said to emanate from vortexes. Those open to the possibilities may feel psychic forces energize and heal them, per adherents. Even if you don’t believe, it’s worth visiting the vortexes because they happen to be in some of Sedona’s most scenic spots, such as Bell Rock and Airport Mesa. 

Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

Ah, Arizona! Check Out These Other Diamonds during Spring Training

If you’re in Arizona for spring training, you’re missing out on other cool sights. Check out these other diamonds across the state.

Cactus League Spring Training, a seasonal rite in Greater Phoenix, roars to life every March with the iconic sounds of cracking bats, snapping mitts, and happy fans.

For baseball lovers, it doesn’t get much better than this: sunny weather, affordable tickets, and unparalleled proximity to the best players in the game.

Baseball may have lured you here, and odds are good that your days and nights are planned around the sport. Good for you. But you’re missing out on diamonds of another kind. We’re here to help with some of Arizona’s can’t-miss destinations, and what you can do there in just a day.

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Odds are high you’ve never been this close to America’s greatest natural wonder. You’ll have 81 chances this year to see the Cubs play in Chicago, or Brewers in Milwaukee, or … you get it. But this could be your best shot to see a marvel a billion years in the making.

Must see: Stroll along and stare at the canyon for 30 minutes or so before visiting the historic Kolb Studio. This 1905 Victorian house seems to defy gravity from its perch on the South Rim. The story of photographer brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, who explored the canyon with cameras in tow, is a stunning as the views.

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Head down the Bright Angel Trail for the customary below-the-rim experience. Just keep in mind it will take you twice as long to hike up as it did to walk down. 

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: Buy a Grand Canyon pass online ($20), then park in Tusayan outside the front gate and take the free shuttle to the visitor center. Grand Canyon is busy during spring break, and the shuttle bypasses the long line of cars waiting to get in and searching for a parking spot.

How much time to allot: Eleven or 12 hours. The round-trip drive will take about eight hours, giving you three or four hours to enjoy the views.

Sedona

Hiking Cathedral Rock at Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With buttes, towers, and spires sculpted of rock in countless shades of red, Sedona occupies the perfect setting for a mythical city. And in a way Sedona is just that, if you believe healing energy whirls from spiritual vortexes. (Be sure to pick up a $5 daily Red Rock Pass; many sites require it for visits).

Must see: The Chapel of the Holy Cross protrudes from the red cliffs less than 4 miles south of Sedona’s “Y” intersection. The main stained glass window is held together by a giant cross and overlooks the Verde Valley.

Oak Creek at Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Take a jeep tour. Excursions rumble you across suspension-challenging terrain to breathtaking views. Costs roughly range from $75-$150 for 90-minute to 2-hour tours.

Insider tip: If skies are clear and you have the time, stay for sunset when rocks glow as if illuminated from within. Airport Mesa is the most convenient (and popular) overlook. For a quieter, more intimate experience, head to Red Rock Crossing and watch the dying light set Cathedral Rock on fire.

Red Rock Country near Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

How much time to allot: At least eight hours (10 if you add a jeep tour). The round trip from Phoenix is four hours, giving you four (or six) hours to explore. If you’re going on a Saturday, you might want to build in another hour for traffic.

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will

Catch Cactus League Spring Training

10 stadiums. 15 MLB teams. 75-degree temperatures.

Follow your favorite baseball teams to Arizona for Cactus League Spring Training and catch all the big league action you can handle. While you’re here, spend some time playing the Arizona outfield with all the incredible dining, shopping, outdoor activities, and incredible sights within easy driving distance of the Phoenix Metro area.

Tempe

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tempe’s casual cool attracts those who enjoy the exciting feel of a college town. Stroll historic Mill Avenue in downtown to find great nightlife, shops, and restaurants. Explore aquariums and museums, paddleboard or kayak on Tempe Town Lake. “A” Mountain is just a few minutes away from the lake.

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Or enjoy the sunshine with a hike around Papago Park, just north of “A” Mountain and Tempe Town Lake. A desert preserve Papago is home to hiking and biking trails and attractions such as Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo, Pueblo Grande Museum, and Arizona Heritage Center.

Scottsdale / Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For the see and be seen scene, Scottsdale is the place to be. You’ll find luxurious resorts, chic nightlife, eclectic shopping, and award-winning dining, all with a splash of Southwestern charm. Scottsdale also has wonderful hikes and a booming art scene, so there’s no lack of entertainment even if you’re not a baseball buff.

Mesa

Usery Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mesa is quickly becoming a foodie destination with its innovative, local cuisine. And when you’re not watching a game or munching goodies, swing away at one of the area’s many golf courses or explore miles of desert mountain trails in nearby Usery Mountain Regional Park, one of 13 Maricopa County Regional Parks. The spectacular desert mountain scenery here is breathtaking.

Glendale / Goodyear

Sports fans may recognize Glendale as home to Arizona’s NFL and NHL teams. This sports mecca entertainment district is like a mini urban amusement park, with restaurants, wine bars, and outlet shops.

Apache Junction

Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Apache Junction is a suburban desert community nestled in the shadows of the Superstition Mountains, It is the easternmost community in the Phoenix Metro area.  Each winter the city welcomes an estimated 35,000 snowbirds.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, a few miles east of Apache Junction. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Starting in Apache Junction, the Apache Trail offers magnificent views of the Superstition Mountains with forests of saguaro and several blue lakes.Visit the old-west style settlement of Tortilla Flat.

Phoenix

Phoenix is a hotspot of urban action and family fun. Head downtown to discover hip restaurants and eateries, concerts with the biggest artists and up-and-coming bands, family-friendly museums, and so much more. Or tackle an urban hike-with sweeping city views-on Camelback Mountain or South Mountain.

Peoria

Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Peoria is only about a half-hour northwest of Phoenix yet it’s flown under the radar until recently. Relaxed and family friendly, the Northwest Valley offers plenty of shopping, growing arts scene, and natural beauty. The cool blue Lake Pleasant is located in a Maricopa County regional park. The recreation area has campsites, hiking trails, boat ramps, and a Discovery Center where you can learn more about the area’s plants and wildlife.

Surprise / Litchfield Park

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you’re up for a little adventure, trek through trails in the nearby White Tank Mountains. Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park has Arizona’s largest collection of exotic and endangered animals, with more than 600 separate species, rides, a petting zoo, and daily shows.

Wildlife World Zoo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will

A Small Town with a Big Back Yard

This is the place where the “Summer Spends the Winter”

“A Small Town With A Big Back Yard”, the tiny Arizona burg of Ajo (ahh-ho) is situated deep in the Sonoran Desert, 42 miles south of Gila Bend and 37 miles north of the Mexican border.

The Ajo Central Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A discovery worthy of Lewis and Clark, Ajo just might be the “best kept secret in Arizona.” This is the place where the “Summer spends the Winter”, according to the local Chamber of Commerce.

For many snowbirds, as it was for us, Ajo is merely a stopping-off point on the way to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. For others, especially Spring Breakers, it’s a town to pass through on their way to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point).

The Old Train Depot northeast of the plaza dates from 1915 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The town of Ajo reflects its one time wealth to this day. Glistening white churches and a well-designed plaza are so inviting.

Ajo today is a retirement community and snowbird haven along with an increasing number of artists. Ajo’s gorgeous mountain views and charming Old World architecture are enchanting and we soon fell in love with this friendly community in southwestern Arizona.

Across the street from the Central Plaza through a high arch of the train depot © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ajo got its name from a poor Spanish translation of an Indian word. To make body paint, the local O’odham Indians used copper. Their word for paint was aau’auho, which sounded to the Spanish like the familiar word ajo, meaning garlic in their language. Later, the wild lily plants in the area were named ajo for the flavorful bulb at its roots.

The birthplace of copper mining in Arizona, copper has provided the sinew for this desert town for about 300 years. Ajo was the oldest-known mine site in the state, and until the 1980s Phelps Dodge ran a sizable copper mining operation out of here.

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church follows the ornate architectural style of the plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The town of Ajo is worth a good walkabout. Most of the town, and in particular the central plaza, was created by John Campbell Greenway to be a good place for his New Cornelia miners to raise their families. Visitors can pick up a walking tour map/brochure at the Visitor Center located at the old train depot.

Greenway, formerly a Rough Rider with Theodore Roosevelt, was the highly successful general manager and an owner of the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company that included the Lavender Pit Mine at Bisbee and the New Cornelia Mine at Ajo. He was the second husband of Isabella who, following John’s death in 1926, founded the Arizona Inn in Tucson and became Arizona’s first U.S. Congresswoman.

The Ajo Federated Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For Ajo’s architecture, Greenway chose Spanish Colonial Revival, a Mediterranean style with Moorish influences: high arches, white stucco surfaces, tile roofs, and considerable decoration.

Across the street from the plaza, the most prominent features are two white churches. The Federated Church, while visually interesting, has almost no ornamentation. The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church follows the more ornate architectural style of the central plaza. Both are eminently photogenic.

Organ pipe cactus and saguaro along the Ajo Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A number of the buildings from the 1920s and before are still standing. Just beyond the churches,  the historic Curley School was constructed in 1919. The Train Depot directly northeast of the plaza dates from 1915. New Cornelia Hotel just east of Curley School was constructed in 1916.

A few miles further, past loads of cacti, long hills of white sediment and stretches of crushed stones in multi-colors line the highway, left by the New Cornelia Copper Mine.

Several boondockers along the Ajo Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

An easy scenic drive, the Ajo Ten-Mile Loop skirts the backside of the open pit New Cornelia Mine. Along the way you can stop at the overlook and little museum about the mine. Also, in the St. Catherine’s Indian Mission, the Ajo Historical Society has a small museum out here. To no surprise, it too is mostly about Ajo’s glory days sporting one of the world’s largest copper mines.

The New Cornelia Copper Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A large wildlife refuge, Cabeza Prieta spans Sonoran Desert wilderness. Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is home to 275 species of animals, including endangered big horn sheep and Sonoran pronghorn. Capable of 60 mph, pronghorns are the fastest land animals in North America.

Organ Pipe National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located 35 miles south of Ajo on Highway 85, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument preserves a diverse and relatively undisturbed sample of the Sonoran Desert. Mountains surround the park on all sides, some near, some distant, with colors changing from one hour to the next. Ninety-five percent of the monument is designated as wilderness area, which makes this one of the best places to view the Sonoran Desert.

Worth Pondering…

The vast emptiness and overpowering silence of the desert and surrounding mountains sharpens your senses, enhancing self-contemplation, and stimulating creativity.

—Anon

13 Icons That Describe Arizona

Come along and discover the 13 Arizona icons that describe the state

Try and describe Arizona—its history, geography, and cultures—and a few iconic names and places likely come to mind.

At some point, you’ll get around to explaining how people living in Arizona’s deserts survive the scorch of summer. But you probably won’t be able to hide your bliss about what keeps you and other snowbirds returning winter after winter.

Here are 13 Arizona icons:

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Let’s start with the state’s crown jewel, the Grand Canyon—an iconic attraction that’s on every RVer’s bucket list. It’s hard to imagine a trip to Arizona that doesn’t involve at least a peek at the Grand Canyon. This massive gorge isn’t just a geological marvel, it’s a symbol of Western adventure and American spirit. One look over the edge and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

When filmmaker John Ford cast his lens on Monument Valley, he couldn’t look away. The stunning red buttes that rise from the dusty ground are iconic Arizona, and Ford made Monument Valley a backdrop for 10 films, including “Stagecoach” in 1939. Situated on the Navajo Reservation in a remote part of northern Arizona near the Utah line, its glorious skyline draws thousands of tourists to U.S. 163, the only road through Monument Valley.

Diverse topography

Sprawled across the state’s 15 counties is a topography as varied as the people who live here. Deserts cover 30 percent of the land, grassland and steppes spread over 53 percent, and highlands make up 17 percent.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Arizona once had petrified wood as far as the eye could see. Visitors arriving on the railroad around the turn of the 20th century took care of that, pocketing what they could and leaving behind enough to justify creation of a national forest.

Route 66

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

One of the original U.S. highways, this eclectic drive was established on Nov. 11, 1926, and became one of the most famous roads in America. It started in Chicago and ended in Los Angeles, covering 2,448 miles. Route 66 was immortalized in pop culture by a hit song and 1960s television show before being removed from the national highway system in 1985.

Sky Islands

On the Mount Lemmon Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Few geographic formations in the world illustrate such stark contrast as Sky Islands. Visitors to Southern Arizona are often struck by these vast mountain ranges rising suddenly out of the desert and grasslands. Saguaro, prickly pear, and ocotillo rapidly give way to a coniferous  forest, and a much cooler climate. Usually 6,000–8,000 feet in elevation—sometimes exceeding 10,000—these majestic mountains emerge from a sea of desert scrub and provide an oasis for an abundance of wildlife.

Sedona

Cathedral Rock, Sedona

Sedona is famous for its scenery, art, and history. Even if you’re not an adherent of the New Age movement, plan on visiting at least one of Sedona’s famous vortexes. They’re at some of the most gorgeous spots around town. Pink Jeeps are ubiquitous in Sedona, shuttling visitors past the sights year-round.

Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There’s a reason Oak Creek Canyon is the second-most visited canyon in Arizona. In just 15 miles, the drive takes you past countless outstanding vistas. Just make sure the driver’s eyes are on the road — it’s narrow and twisty. Don’t miss Oak Creek Canyon Vista at the top. It has a terrific overview of the canyon.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This national historic landmark was founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction on the White Dove of the Desert, south of downtown Tucson, began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.

Colorado River

Colorado River at Bullhead City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The river not only is a major source of water for the state, it is also a prime spot for fishing, rafting, and other recreational activities.

Kartchner Caverns

The limestone caves in southeastern Arizona were discovered in 1974 by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts as they explored the hills near the Whetstone Mountains.

Scorching heat

The highest temperature ever recorded in Phoenix — 122 degrees — was enough to temporarily shut down Sky Harbor International Airport on June 26, 1990.

Hiking trails

Hiking at Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Short or long, straight or steep, hundreds of trails make Arizona an outdoor wonderland for those willing to lace up their boots and explore the outdoors.

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever. Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area. Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip “south”. There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.