Fall Break in Sedona

When I started this blog I wanted to give a voice to the less popular national parks and to write about family friendly activities. It’s easy to find information on the most popular parks but that’s not always the case for the smaller parks. I kept running into this issue when planning and decided to do my part to build out the content. What I did not expect is the joy I would get in looking back and reading about our trips. As time goes on memories fade. I am so glad I decided to start this blog to capture some of our memories in written form. Now, my blog is part for the world and part for me. This post, however, is all for me because I want to remember the last several days forever. (I wrote this post mid-October and never got around to hitting post. I’m not changing anything because I like the way it was written.)

We just got back from spending a couple days in Sedona, Arizona and it was a perfect weekend. Quite possibly my favorite trip we’ve taken in a while. This trip was a little different in that we stayed in a hotel versus our camper. I missed camping though. I would much rather camp than stay in a hotel. But this hotel stay was free so I can’t really complain.

Our first night in Sedona we ate out at a local pizza restaurant. We hardly ever eat at restaurants, at home or on vacation, so this was a treat. And a pizza restaurant nonetheless. Little Miss was able to get dairy-free cheese and I was able to get a gf/df pizza. It was a fun treat for all.

Sedona is a great home base for the Verde Valley and we were able to see quite a bit during our short stay. Our first stop was Tuzigoot National Monument which is just outside of Cottonwood. Tuzigoot was built by the Sinagua people around 1,000 A.D. It was a 110 room pueblo high atop a hill. Some of the rooms are still standing and you are able to walk around the pueblo. I always find it fascinating to see how people lived years ago. There’s not much to this monument though so it was a short visit and then we headed off to Jerome to explore.

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument

Looking out at the valley from the roof of the Tuzigoot pueblo

Jerome was once home to a bustling copper mining community but is now the largest ghost town in America. The city is built on the side of a mountain and is in between Prescott and Cottonwood. There are many art shops, restaurants, and tasting rooms and it makes for a great day trip. We are Tool fans (the band) and have been wanting to visit the Caduceus Cellars Tasting Room for a while, so we made it happen! (Maynard James Keenan is the frontman for Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer and he owns two wineries in Arizona – Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards.)

Visiting the Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards tasting rooms

We ate lunch at the Haunted Hamburger and had the best seats in the house. Our table was at the edge of the balcony and our view was of the Verde Valley. We talked, played Crazy Eights on our phones (the kids found some app that allows us all to play together), ate and just had a truly enjoyable time. A perfect lunch in my book. After lunch we walked around Jerome for a bit and then headed back down the hill. We stopped at the Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room in Cottonwood on the way back to our hotel. Nothing says class like taking your kids to tasting rooms. 🙂 (In case you are wondering, I was not drinking so we were safely traveling around.)

Campground pools always close at sunset but hotel pools do not! I guess that’s another perk of hotel life. The kids wanted to visit the hot tub at night so we waited until 8:45pm when everyone had left. The kids kept hopping in between the hot tub and the pool. I tried once but the pool was too cold. I don’t know how they kept going back and forth but they were having a blast. We stayed until the pool closed and called it a night.

On our second day in Sedona The Husband and I got up early and went for a hike. We decided to let the kids sleep in and I am so glad that we did. Since we were staying in West Sedona we were close to the Devil’s Bridge trailhead. It’s a popular short hike so we figured why not. The trail itself is only .7 miles each way but it starts 2 miles down a 4×4 trail. Many people walk the road and then do the hike. Since we have a 4×4 we chose to drive. Also, because any day that starts on a dirt road in 4-wheel drive is a good day in my book. This was supposed to be a quick hike but ended up taking longer than we planned. Not terribly longer but it wasn’t the easy 1.5 miles I was expecting.

4-Wheeling in Sedona on Dry Creek Road

The Husband enjoyed the trail but I did not. Everything I read said this is an easy trail so we were expecting easy. (Recent internet searches indicate that this trail is a little more difficult that we were lead to believe.) The Forest Service website says this about the trail, “Follow it up a steep, natural rock staircase to a wide open area that offers some fantastic views.” When I had read the trail description I was envisioning actual stairs with a railing. In reality there is no railing and some of the stairs have exposure, some areas require scrambling, and others are more stair like. It’s not a very long section but I was not prepared for what we encountered.

Eventually we got to the top, the trail flattened, and we were rewarded with absolutely incredible views. I didn’t walk onto the bridge but The Husband did. He said it looks just like a trail and doesn’t feel like you are on top of an arch.

Proof that I made it up to the arch!

The other issue we had is that we went off trail twice. Both areas were really well worn so we weren’t the first to go that way. Fortunately we were able to find the trail quickly both times but it reinforced the importance of being prepared – always have your Ten Essentials. Even on a 1.4 mile hike.

Supposedly there is also a trail that goes underneath the arch but we never saw the trail. I do think one issue is that the scenery is so beautiful that it’s hard to stay focused on the ground in front of you. 🙂

The Husband standing on Devil’s Bridge

I guess I need some good since I started with the bad. The good? The views are absolutely spectacular. 🙂

Would I take this trail again. NOPE! And I also won’t be climbing Angel’s Landing in Zion or Half Dome in Yosemite. Just writing about this trail is making my palms sweaty. I guess I now know where my limit is. The Husband loved it though and thought the trail was fine.

After we got back to the hotel we grabbed the kids and headed for Montezuma Castle National Monument. I have driven by Montezuma Castle so many times and never stopped. Mostly because I didn’t know how far off the highway it was. It takes maybe five minutes to get there from the highway and the monument can be seen in just a few minutes if needed. Montezuma Castle is a cliff dwelling and is in a really beautiful setting. You cannot go in the dwelling but there is a diorama that was created back when the dwelling was open to visitors so you can see what the inside looks like. The area below the dwelling is surrounded by large trees and there is a short walk with a few points of interest.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Ruins at Montezuma Castle National Monument

20 minutes north of Montezuma Castle is Montezuma Well and it’s another quick stop. The well is a limestone sinkhole that contains 15 million gallons of water. 1.5 million gallons of water flow through the well every day. The water contains 80% more carbon dioxide than most lakes so you won’t find the typical occupants here. There are five species that live in the well and this is the only place on earth they have been found. A miniature shrimp-looking amphipod, a leech, a snail, a water scorpion, and a one-celled plant called a diatom.

Montezuma’s Well

Cliff dwelling above Montezuma’s Well

The last stop on our adventure was Slide Rock State Park  just north of Sedona in Oak Creek Canyon. Slide Rock is a 1/2 mile section of Oak Creek that has an 80-foot natural water slide and several areas for swimming. Even though the water was freezing, Little Miss went sliding. Several times. She had a blast but was as cold as a popsicle after she was done.

Natural water slide at Slide Rock State Park

Swimming in Oak Creek at Slide Rock State Park

Swimming in Oak Creek at Slide Rock State Park

And just like that, all good fun comes to an end. I’m so thankful for this precious time with my family.




A Short Stay in Telluride, Colorado

The last stop on our summer road trip was Telluride, Colorado. The plan was to spend a few days mountain biking and then head home. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans. It rained the entire first day we were there and rain was predicted to continue through the weekend. We decided to cut the trip short and head home.

This picture perfectly sums up our Telluride experience.

We stayed at the Matterhorn campground which is about 20 minutes outside of Telluride. It is a beautiful campground but there was too much highway noise for our liking. The campground has 28 sites and we stayed in site 27. The sites on the inner loop of the campground have electricity but are very open. The sites on the outer edge are tucked nicely into the trees. The bathrooms have (free!) showers but the doors to the bathrooms were always open. I’m not sure why and never asked. It wasn’t so much of an issue during the day but we noticed at night they were still open and the bright lights were flowing into the street and the sites nearby. I would not recommend staying near the bathrooms unless you are prepared for a night light.

Matterhorn Campground

Matterhorn Campground – Site 27

Matterhorn Campground – Site 27

Our camper tucked nicely into the trees

The campground loop made for a fun circle to ride our bikes on and there’s even a little bridge that goes over a stream.

Path around the Matterhorn Campground

The campground is right off of the Galloping Goose trail so you have quick access to hiking and mountain biking. The trail is accessed from the back of the campground near the three walk-up sites. If you take the trail towards site 14 you will see a small trail that veers off to the left. Once you are to the road, you can go right which will take you down a dirt road (which is part of the Galloping Goose) to the trailhead at Lizard Head Pass. The road also goes left which is not part of the trail and I’m not sure where it goes. This intersection is where the trail switches from jeep road to single track. The single track is right in front as you come out of the campground. There is a sign but no arrow pointing up.

Galloping Goose access right off the Matterhorn Campground

One of the reasons we came to Telluride was to ride the Galloping Goose trail. Last summer we rode the Route of the Hiawatha mountain bike trail and were hoping for a repeat of that experience on the Galloping Goose. Turns out, they are two totally different experiences and information on the Galloping Goose is rather hard to find. While we didn’t ride more than a mile or two of the Galloping Goose, we did a little scouting which will hopefully help anyone trying to figure out how to ride it. The Galloping Goose may be scenic but judging by the lack of available information, it not is not a popular trail. It probably doesn’t help that there is a free gondola in Telluride with tons of trail access. The Galloping Goose has no shuttle so unless you are ready to ride 18 miles uphill, the gondola is a better option.

Galloping Goose trailhead at Lizard Head Pass

The trail officially starts at Lizard Head Pass which is 30 minutes up the highway from Telluride. The Galloping Goose mountain bike trail is 18 miles long and ends on the Telluride valley floor. One of the cool things about Rails-to-Trails trails is that the grade is pretty mellow since they were old rail lines. This means that there should be no steep climbs or descents. The Route of the Hiawatha has a shuttle bus that picks up riders at the bottom of the trail. I tried to find a shuttle service for the Galloping Goose but could not. There is a company in Telluride that offers guided rides (with a shuttle) but we didn’t want a guide and didn’t need bikes. Unfortunately, they do not offer just a shuttle and neither does anyone else in town.

Our campground was 5.6 miles from the trailhead so our plan was to break the trail into two segments. Ride from camp to the trailhead and back and from camp to the valley floor. We decided that The Husband would drive to the bottom, leave the car, and ride the trail back to camp. (He can ride 12 miles uphill – the rest of us cannot.) We would then all ride back down to the car. That was our solution to not having a shuttle. Once we decided that was the plan we had to figure out where the trail ends. This was obstacle #2. There are several end points. One is down a dirt road and another is in the middle of a neighborhood. The trailhead in the neighborhood is not marked and was really hard to find. We did find it though after driving down every possible street.

To find the trailhead, turn west on Society Drive off of the 145. Drive about 1/2 – 3/4 of a mile and turn right on San Miguel River Road. On the righthand side is a dirt lot with no parking signs everywhere. The trailhead is right next to the parking lot and you should see a Galloping Goose sign. If you reach Telluride Mountain School you’ve gone too far. Just south of the dirt lot is a road down to some sports fields with a parking lot where you can park. You can also access the trail from where the 145 and Society Drive intersect. There is a small dirt lot on the east side of the 145 and the trail is across the street. We didn’t see any noticeable signage though.

The other issue we found is that the trail is not all railroad grade downhill. The trail alternates between jeep roads and single track. The single track right next to our campground actually had a big uphill climb. A train certainly couldn’t make the jaunt up the hill so I’m not sure where the tracks actually went. We didn’t ride the entire trail so I’m not sure if there are anymore sections with an unexpected change in elevation. Oh, and you’re riding at 10,000 feet.

Galloping Goose – Trout Lake Segment

Galloping Goose – Trout Lake Segment

The few blog posts I’ve read about the Galloping Goose say it’s a fun, beautiful trail. It was definitely beautiful and I wish we could have experienced it, but we’ll have to take a raincheck. The Forest Service has a brochure and map with the trail segments and a few of the trail highlights. They had a few at the trailhead but you might want to save a copy to your phone before heading out.

Overall, we had a short, enjoyable stay in Telluride. We drove through town and got to see the sights that make Telluride so popular. The houses are adorable and oh so expensive. We had a blast looking up the prices of houses we liked and realizing we will never own a house in Telluride.

View of Telluride from Black Bear Pass Road

Telluride is set in a box canyon and the east end has mountains, waterfalls, and switchbacks going right down the middle of the mountain. That switchbacks are a 4×4 trail called Black Bear Pass. It’s only for expert drivers and is not for the faint of heart. I read something earlier that said in order to really live you have to come close to dying. That seems like a fitting statement for Black Bear. The switchbacks are one way and barely wide enough for a Jeep. If you want to get an idea of what the trail is like this is a good video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blz2pzrdzao&feature=youtu.be. As a kid we spent may summers four-wheeling in the San Juans and I always wanted to go down Black Bear Pass. I was excited to learn that you can drive a little way up Black Bear Pass. Not all the way but far enough that the GPS says driving on Black Bear Pass! We went up the road a ways, stopped to admire the waterfall, and turned back around.

Driving on Black Bear Pass Road!

Picture taken by Little Miss with Bridal Veil Falls in the background

Telluride has great mountain biking, skiing, hiking, four-wheeling, and so much more. There’s a river that runs through town that you can even tube down. That was on our agenda but rain and cold weather do not make for good tubing conditions. This wraps up another fun summer vacation.

If you’ve missed any of our other posts from this vacation you may catch up using the links below:

Family Fun in Durango, CO

Ouray, Colorado – The Switzerland of America

Four-wheeling in Ouray, Colorado

Four-wheeling in Ouray, Colorado

Ouray, Colorado is know as the “Jeeping Capital of the World” and for good reason. The Husband’s and my favorite part of our trip was four-wheeling near Ouray. Our kids didn’t love it at first but it grew on them. Little Miss enjoyed it more when we started to get into the more technical sections. Little Mister started to enjoy it once I traded him seats and let him sit up front. Read more

Ouray, Colorado – The Switzerland of America

I am in love with Ouray, Colorado, affectionally known as the Switzerland of America. The only thing it doesn’t have is mountain bike trails. It’s probably best that way because if it did we might have to move. We spent three glorious days in Ouray and it’s exactly what we needed. We had fun in Durango (which was our first stop on our summer road trip) but our campground was too noisy and crowded so we didn’t get to enjoy the peace that should come with camping. We have come to realize that we are campground people; not so much RV park people. Fortunately, our next stop was Ouray where we got the peace and quiet we were looking for. Read more

Family Fun in Durango, Colorado

We just returned from our eighth summer road trip. It’s crazy how fast the years fly by. These road trips are a must for our family and we make sacrifices all year long to make sure they happen. We have seen so many incredible places and the time we spend together is priceless. I’m always sad when it’s over but excited to start planning for next summer. This summer we stayed a little closer to home (I’m still recovering from driving to Montana last summer ) and visited Southwest Colorado. The beauty in this part of the country is just incredible. I felt like we were in a painting for the majority of our trip. Read more

Garwood Loop Trail – Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is practically in my backyard. And by practically I mean about 10 minutes from my backyard. I love hearing stories about how the park came to be and about the homesteaders that originally occupied the land. Can you imagine owning 480 acres with a house smack dab in the middle of what is now the national park? That would be an absolute dream. That’s no longer possible for anyone, but one day that was someone’s life. Read more

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park in Eastern Nevada is one of the least visited national parks in the system. Several of my favorite travel bloggers have been to Great Basin and every one has said it is a hidden gem. We needed a place to spend a few days on our way home from Glacier National Park so we chose Great Basin. Read more

Route of the Hiawatha Mountain Bike Trail

I am crazy excited to write this post. Mostly because I had so much fun on this ride and want to relive every second of it. Every.Single.Second. Read more

Glacier National Park

Summer is here and we just completed another road trip through this incredible country we call home. This summer we drove a little farther than normal – from Southern Arizona all the way to Northern Montana. It was a looonnnggg drive and the highways through Nevada and much of Idaho are crazy straight. A drive I definitely wouldn’t want to do alone. We learned a lot and had a lot of firsts. First time driving for three days in a row. (It was painfully long.) First time camping for two weeks straight. First time living out of a cooler for two weeks. (We didn’t realize we’d need an ice budget.) Once I finish recapping the trip I’ll write up our lessons learned. Read more

The Desert in Bloom

Allergies aside, spring is my favorite time in the desert. The trees and cactus are in bloom, and everywhere you look colors are popping out of the sea of green. It really is the most beautiful time in the desert. Read more