Well, we have enjoyed some pretty outstanding adventures during the last two years but the month of June was so full we hardly know where to start. First, we completed all the National Forests in Arizona (Fred is working on them as we speak) and spent the last two days of June enroute to Montana. Highlights of the route were the Cedar Breaks National Monument and Salt
Lake City. Cedar Breaks is an incredible mixture of dark green pines growing out of rugged black lava flows separated from the sapphire blue sky by snowcapped mountains. The Salt Lake City area is so neat and clean one must wonder if it was settled by folks from Switzerland.
The weather (isn't everyone talking about "the weather?") was delightfully dry. We actually have gone six weeks with no rain! (An unfortunate by-product we have heard is the cancellation of July 4th Firework Displays because of the fire danger.) After all the inclement weather we have experienced since leaving Burke, Virginia, (and we have the mildew stains to prove it)
these six weeks have been wonderful. But before you all decide to move to Arizona there are two features you must know. One, the date time temperatures in June range from 85 to 100 degrees and than plummets into the 35 to 45 degree range at night. The second feature of Arizona is, for the most part, the state has very little water. Water conservation is a way of life. Especially in Northern Arizona where, if you aren't in a large city like Prescott or Flagstaff, there is a very high probability you haul water to your house.
We started the month in the Coconino National Forest at the Mogollon Rim (an interesting geological feature) and ended it with a tour of the Grand Canyon. A suggestion for anyone considering visiting the Grand Canyon - take a day, two at the very most, to see the South Rim. Then, drive the 204 miles (most through the Painted Desert) to the North Rim and spend your time there. There really is no comparison. The South Rim is crowded, noisy, and desert. The North Rim, about 1000-foot higher elevation, has 20% of the crowds, and one of the most diverse forests in Arizona. Frankly, the Kaibab National Forest, which surrounds the Canyon, has to be one of the best keep secrets related to the Grand Canyon in the United States of America!
We hiked a wonderful trail while working the North Rim called Rainbow Rim Trail. It follows the northern edge of the Grand Canyon for about 18-miles (we did only a four mile stretch). The sights were awe-inspiring - the Ponderosa pines towering above us on one side, a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon's Granite Narrows and points west on the other, and the Kaibab squirrels protesting our intrusion. The Kaibab and Abert squirrels are the cutest little nut munchers you'll ever see. They must be related for both have these fun little tufts growing off the top of their ears and similar coloring. They are rather shy and stay in the tree tops most of the time (much to Tory's annoyance). And they chatter like a bunch of monkeys at the zoo. We don't get to hike often enough but each time we do, it seems we discover another interesting feature of the forest.
To reach the northern section of the Kaibab we had to drive through a section of the Painted Desert. The land is beautiful. Fred was like a kid with a credit account in a candy store taking a picture here, a video there. You may think deserts are dull, barren places but we are learning they are only places that receive less than ten inches of rain each year and have a special beauty to themselves. The Painted Desert has all the primary and most in between colors shading the hillsides. In contrast to the honest, natural beauty of the landscape are the "trading posts" along the route. You pick up some beadwork and see "Made in China." A blanket is from Guatemala or Mexico. Many of the rugs were from India or some such place. The stones used in the jewelry are imported and the pottery are mass produced in a factory "back East." If you want to see a "real" Native America, visit a casino.
Any of us who have seen a Western movie from the 50's will recognize the Sedona/Oak Creek Canyon/Red Rock country. The magnificent rock formations and spectacular canyons were popular back-drop in those films. But a visit to this area is like visiting an anthill. Jeeps take tourists up and around the awesome canyons. Visitors from around the world can be found camping along Oak Creek. Hikers move up and down trails with the regularity of the European train system. And seekers of alternatives lifestyles build "medicine wheels" in an effort to channel "cosmic forces". There are places we have found that are just to well-known.
One exception we have found is in the Prescott National Forest. Located high up in the Bradshaw Mountain (considered the richest-ore bearing mountains in Arizona) we found the town of Crown King. In some ways it is like Bisbee with trees, lots and lots of trees. Most of the homes are summer "cottages" built on the steep mountainside and hidden by the trees. About all there is in the town is a General Store/Antique Shop/Post Office, a Fire Station, the 92-year old Saloon, and a "new" bar. The Saloon was at one time a saloon, gambling house, and a brothel and is still considered a "local's place" (possibly the reason the owner of the Saloon built the second bar). The town's street (there is only one) is dirt and lined with quads (the vehicle of choice in these parts) and more dogs than you'll found at most animal shelters. Crown King is rustic, primitive and so interesting. It is a place right out of Louis L'Amour story.
But we saved telling you about the most exciting adventure for last. We started the month off with a visit to the Coconino National Forest Supervisor's Office. There, we meet with the Recreation person and the Public Affairs Officer. Through their efforts we got interviews with the local newspaper AND television station. We made the front page of the Arizona Daily (and didn't kill or have an affair with anybody) and got a ninety-second segment on the 6 and 10 o'clock news. It was so wonderful to have folks recognize us and know about what we are doing before we even opened our mouths. We are hoping to repeat this event but first, have to overcome our natural shyness and humility.
The beginning of July we will enjoy a short break in West Yellowstone, Montana and visits with Dolly and Fred's sister, Jean, and her family. Than it's back to the grindstone. We will be working on the Lolo, Kootenia, Flathead, Helena, and Lewis and Clark National Forests. Lots of work and lots of new sights. We realize it's a tough job but if not us, who?
Well, until next time, this is humble Fred and shy Suzi wishing you a pleasant summer.
Suzi and Fred