Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Last-First

Yesterday was Curtis' last first day of school - and everyone knows no first day of school is official without pictures! 

I love my super smart and hardworking husband. I also love how tan we've gotten this summer. :)

We were reflecting on our favorite memories from this summer. My top 2 were the moment we reached the peak of Mt. Humphreys, and the moments when we surprised our families a day early. I'm thanking God that we were able to have such a fun summer, filled with trips and so much time together. We were able to do most of the things on our "summer bucket list," the main things that didn't happen were things like "do lots of reading"…now why would I even put that on a list of things to do over the summer?! (**edit: Curtis wishes that I clarify that he managed to read 3 books this summer: A biography of President Polk, and the first 2 Lord of the Rings books, I guess I was the only one that didn't do lots of reading! Whoops :)**)
Now it's time to get into a good daily routine together, and develop new habits that will hopefully help us when our journey with the Navy begins next year. We're also training for a 3 day hiking trip coming up later this fall! I guess it's really not that hard to say goodbye to summer when the heat down here is going to stay around for a while longer. :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Weekend in Prescott, Day 2

Saturday, August 23, 2014

This was actually our second time ever being in Prescott. The first time was only a quick drive-through, but even then we knew one thing for sure: this is where we want to retire someday! Well, if we ever just settle down and retire… our first choice is to just live on the road and travel all the time. We'll see. :)

Today actually began when we were awoken at some point in the night when we heard some strange sounds coming from outside the tent. I'll admit I was freaked out, and I wouldn't let Curtis get up to check it out. Now I regret this though, because we'll never know what it was. The one thing we agree that we heard was licking. Was something licking the picnic table? We hadn't eaten anything on there. But then the next morning, Curtis found an empty soy sauce packet underneath the table…hmmm. We'll never know.

We woke up with the sun this morning, packed up our things, and drove into Prescott by 7. Unlike the night before, there were plenty of parking spaces downtown, so we stopped and took a walk around the Yavapai county courthouse.

Statue on the South side of the courthouse. It looks like the horse is standing on the man's back.

The beautiful courthouse from the Southeast corner.

There was construction going on around all sides but this one. We were conflicted about the trees, because on one hand they cast a shadow against the building, but on the other hand we like the trees because living in Tucson, we don't see big trees like these and we miss them!

The North side of the courthouse. We've taken a new interest in checking out courthouses. This was the 3rd one we've seen in the past month. :)

Our favorite part - they had written out the history of Prescott - starting with the US, then Arizona, then Prescott's history. Prescott was the original territorial seat for Arizona, founded in 1864.

After this, we drove out to the Salida Gulch trailhead, where we would be hiking today. Here there is a lovely loop trail with a letterbox series honoring the 19 Hotshot firefighters from Prescott that lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill fire in 2013.

Beautiful trees and rolling hills as far as we could see. The trail took us up and around several hills, then back down through a wash. It looped around so much that we were a bit disoriented with where we were and where we were headed, but we know that the trail was about 4.5 miles long.

Enjoying the beautiful morning together! While we were over here, some other hikers passed by and asked if we were bird watching. :)

This just gives you an example of how I take pictures with auto timer - here we have our letterbox logbooks on a rock, with another rock on top to set it higher, then a smaller rock to hold the lens up and keep it from falling. I was trying really hard to get it over the weeds. I guess I could always get a tripod or ask others to take a picture for us, but I really enjoy using my creative methods. ;)

This is probably the highest point we made it to today. This picture is facing West toward Prescott.

We really enjoyed the trail, the only unfortunate part was that the letterbox clues had us counting steps most of the way through which made it harder to enjoy. (by counting steps, I mean they varied between 200-1490 "steps", and that just took away from being able to enjoy the trail.)

Another fun stop was by this little waterfall near the end.

We found petroglyphs!

After this, we grabbed a few more boxes and then went back into town for some lunch. We headed on home after that, this time taking the interstate route. We stopped only once to enjoy the by 1-get 1 mixers at Culvers in Casa Grande. We really enjoyed the trip and hope to go back someday!

Day 2 summary: found 25 letterboxes, hiked almost 5 miles.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weekend in Prescott, Day 1

Friday, August 22, 2014

Our last trip for the summer - it feels so weird to be saying that! We're not terribly disappointed that it's over though, Curtis is excited to be learning in classes again, and we have more trips planned for the fall that we are eager to start preparing for! And of course, the weather is only going to get nicer down here, and we're excited to start doing more hiking.

Anyway, to celebrate the end of summer, we drove up to Prescott to go camping, do some hiking, and enjoy the beautiful weather. Just about an hour North of Phoenix, Prescott had highs in the 70's this weekend, and we were able to enjoy 2 beautiful long hikes that were lovely in ways we didn't expect.

To get there, we took the I-10 West through Phoenix, then took the new and pleasantly quiet 303 highway North to highway 60, up to Wickenburg where we did a little letterboxing. Everything after the I-10 was new roads to us which means we got to draw new lines in our atlas. :)

We stopped for a box South of Wickenburg, then took the 60 West a little ways outside to do a little hiking in the Vulture Mountains. It was a little warm, but really not too unpleasant for a 2 mile round trip hike. In the above picture, Vulture Peak is on the left. We only made it as far as some lower peaks before it (which I believe are more to the left of the peak and can't be seen in this picture.)

After hiking up a steep incline, we made it to the little peak and found the box. It's hard to tell the depth in this picture, but the view was worth it and the sky made it even better.

Vulture Peak is peeking at us! We had said that if it wasn't much more of an incline to the top we could try doing the whole 4 mile hike, but this really wasn't anywhere near as high as that, and we still had lots of plans for today!

Us! I don't think our pictures here can compare to last week's at Chiricahua, but I really enjoy trying to get creative using auto-timer rather than taking selfies all the time!

Curtis the cactus hugger :) We were impressed with how tall this one was! (I'm standing uphill from the cactus, Curtis is level with it and he's 6'3" if that gives you an idea of how great it was!)

We went a little further out of our way to see the Vulture City ghost town - rated as one of the top 2 ghost towns in AZ. There was a lot of gold mining around this area. We only drove past it to check it out. We read that they have tours on Saturdays. Maybe another time. :)

After this we drove North on 89 to Prescott. We stopped near Congress to get a box and see the Frog Rock. Can you see it?

Up close - the Frog Rock! It's been painted to look like this since 1928! The story goes that a homesteader's wife, Sara Perkins, saw this rock and decided that it looked like a frog, so she painted it green, and the town of Congress has kept it up to this day.

Driving on 89 North - about to drive through these mountains!

We gained quite a bit of elevation - here in the above picture, we are about as far East as the roads got through the mountains. The picture is facing East.

Once we made it around to the North side of the mountains, there were trees! Here we're driving through the Prescott National Forest. We drove to our campsite in the National Forest and set up camp. It was predicted to be a great night for camping, and the White Spar campground is a wonderful place to camp!

After setting up the tent, we drove through Prescott to get to the trailhead for our hike that night. The downtown district was lovely, but since it was very busy this Friday night, we decided to go walk around early Saturday morning. 

We drove to Watson Lake and took the Peavine trail, which goes alongside the lake. The trail is very well maintained and ideal for walking or biking. There's also a lakeside trail that is a bit more strenuous and branches off from the Peavine trail, and if we would have known about how beautiful this place was we would have planned more time to explore.

Lake Watson

If you Google images of Prescott, you'll probably see pictures like this pop up. We had seen it, but didn't really look into where we could find it, and were very pleasantly surprised when we found that we were walking right toward this beauty!

Us - the picture is a little blurry (silly rock wouldn't sit still?) but I still like it. This place was amazing!

Closer up of the rocks

Back on the trail

The Birds of Lake Watson

There were a few letterboxes along the trail that we were able to get. Of course I needed more pictures of us though as well. :)

It's a good thing I didn't look down and to my right because…

…after I went and retrieved my camera, I came and found that this sucker had been right next to me! That would have made a pretty funny picture though. :)

Heading back to our truck after finding boxes and loving this walk. Well, right up until we ran into these bikers and they pointed out a rattlesnake to us. Ahhhh! Our 2nd one seen in the wild. I think I'm done with the wild now. ;)

After this, we went out for dinner, then headed back to our campsite where we went over the events of the day and played a few games of Bonanza. Minus the beetle and rattlesnake, it was a great day. :)

Found 5 letterboxes, walked around 5 miles.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mastering Puzzles, Loving Puppies, and Losing Wisdom

Dining room table? What's that? Oh, you mean a puzzling table, yes we have one of those! After the last 7 months of having this gigantic 3000 piece puzzle taking over the table, we are SO excited to say that we are DONE!

As you can see, we didn't measure quite right before getting started, and the corners of the puzzle are hanging over the edge. You can also see that we pulled our table apart just a tad to give us that much more room. Yes, 7 months is a ridiculous amount of time to be working on a puzzle, but there were several weeks and even months within that time period that we were so sick of it, we couldn't even look at that silly thing. But with the last few days of summer upon us, we started taking it seriously and forcing ourselves to finish it. I don't think we even left it up for 24 hours afterwards - we were ready to put it away and move on to the next challenge!

This is what the table looks like 48 hours after the above picture. The one in the middle is 750 pieces, and the ones on either side are each 500. We did a little "competition" with the two 500 piece ones (Curtis won) and then did the Eiffel Tower for fun yesterday. Every day we're puzzling… :)

Yesterday evening, we also enjoyed a 4 mile walk around our "neighborhood" with some awesome stops along the way. Our favorite fast food restaurant, Culvers, was having a "buy one get one" special that we couldn't resist. Then we stopped at the puppy store and this week we fell in love with a St. Bernard puppy! Did you know that they come in "short hair"? That's actually how they were originally bred, the long hair came in when they started breeding them with Newfoundlands. We actually considered it for a very long time. Hey, it won't be a big hairy mess, why not? We sat down next to its cage for a long time, and I swear, that puppy fell in love with us too! It wants us as much as we want it! Sadly, the price brought us back to reality. It's also kind of hard to imagine a St. Bernard in our apartment…but it would definitely love going on these mountain hikes with us! Oh well. Maybe some other day. :)

Today, Curtis got his wisdom teeth out. Sadly, I don't have any funny stories or videos to share with you, because it was just like any other tooth pull. Actually, he says it was the easiest and least painful one he's had! How is this possible? Because apparently, if you are like we were and are too scared to go through the surgery and just let your wisdom teeth grow in, then they are very easy to remove! I know that not every case is as easy and some people do have real complications, but I am now extremely thankful that I didn't give in to the oral surgeon's plan to take mine out in high school. Maybe this all is just something to consider if you're facing that terrifying surgery anytime soon. ;)

Weekend in Chiricahua, Part 3: Visiting Fort Bowie

Saturday, August 16, 2014

After leaving Chiricahua, we drove about a half hour North to Fort Bowie. Off highway 186, the road to get there was gravel but well maintained, and even with the recent rains we didn't encounter any flooding. (Important to note that in Arizona during monsoon season!) The parking lot and trailhead are 8 miles in, and then you hike 1.5 miles to get to the site of the fort. 

It was starting to warm up quite a bit now in the early afternoon. We filled up our Camelback with water and finished off our Oreos before starting on the hike. There was only one other vehicle, so we knew we were going to enjoy yet another quiet hike.

Starting on the trail! I might advise you not do this hike in the heat of an Arizonan summer. There isn't a whole lot of shade along the trail, so you're in direct sunlight a lot - and I have a burn to prove it! 

Here we came across the first set of ruins - they also did some mining here when they found gold.

I found shade! I took advantage of benches under trees whenever I could. :)

Curtis really enjoyed the informative signs throughout the hike. He read while I hid from the sun. :) 

In the cemetery, about ¾ of a mile into the hike.

I've been to many forts and battlefields in the Eastern parts of the country, and the unfortunate part about ones I've been to hear in the Southwest is that since the walls and buildings were built with adobe, they are now mostly just ruins due to the rain wearing them down over the years. It's hard for this place to top places like Fort McHenry when you can't walk into a 200 year old fort!

Examples of shelters - the one on the right is more of a winter home while the one on the left is for the summer!

We made it to the air conditioned visitor's center! They have a lot of interesting photographs and artifacts on display there. Curtis, as you can see, especially enjoyed playing dress up. :) The only thing that could have made it better was…ice cream!

Here's where the fort was - it's hard to see all the ruins, but it was actually once very large and spread out. Many of the buildings that were here were officer's houses.

Here's what it used to look like - oh how we wish we could walk around something more like this! :)

Looking back at the visitor's center - the brown building in the background.

Calvary barracks - the biggest structure there.

...And what it used to look like!

This used to be the commanding officer's quarters - it was a large Victorian-style house that served very little purpose. :)

What it used to look like!

The trail to the fort is a loop trail, 3 miles round trip. We were all for the change of scenery on the way back, but the trail began by having us scurry up the side of a large hill. The trail was quite rocky, and the other family that was visiting opted to return the same way because they had a stroller with them. This picture was taken about when we were at the top of the hill, you can see the visitor's center on the left side and some of the ruins scattered around.

Facing the other direction - heading back to our car. After the trail had us walk straight up the hill, it switchbacked all the way around the ridge and down the other side. We're just thankful it was all downhill from there!

We made it! We had a quick and beautiful drive back home after a great day of hiking. 

Oh yeah, it's a beautiful sunny day, blue skies, and raining. I just love Arizona. :)

If you're interested in hearing more about the history that took place at Fort Bowie, my husband has written a great summary on his blog, with some letterboxing clues thrown in as an added bonus. ;) Check it out here!