Thursday, May 30, 2013

Summer days at Central Avenue Farmers Market

When the mercury rises, Central Avenue Farmers Market moves partially indoors, but there's still plenty to taste.

Last week I found an empanada (stuffed pastry) vendor. I tried the Rojas and Spinach and Corn vegetarian varieties. Each was delicious, but the spicy Rojas was my favorite. My mouth was on fire. I washed it down with strawberry lemonade from a nearby vendor (who went to my high school). The empanadas sold for $2 each or for the daily special of 6 for $10. Other options included pork, beef and breakfast empanadas.

The outside portion of the market was livened up with live music from a young boy singer. He was so brave and charming that I couldn't help but drop a couple of dollars in his guitar case. He had a cheerful rendition of "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. I also picked up some tapenade from Queen Creek Olive Mill and some produce.

Just some of the things I bought.
Nothing beats riding our bikes to the farmers market each week.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Butcher Jones Recreation Area - Memorial Day weekend

What else do you do when it's over 95 degrees but swim? We headed out to Butcher Jones Recreation Area on Sunday to lounge on inflatables and bask in the sunlight.

Getting there was easy: We first stopped at Walgreens on Thomas and Power roads for a Tonto pass, then drove on Bush Highway to Butcher Jones Road. The beach was a popular place to cool off on Memorial Day weekend.

On the drive back, we admired the colorful sunset amid the desert backdrop.

HP Cafe Sedona

I recently tried HP Cafe accompanied by my two pups. You can sit on the back patio to enjoy a lovely breakfast in 70-degree weather. The patio faces a courtyard and doesn't have views of the red rock, but it's still pleasant. Servers at the dog-friendly restaurant seemed thrilled to have canine guests at our table.

HP Cafe is located on Highway 89A.
I tried the Breakfast Panini sans ham, with a side of potatoes.

And the American Toast topped with fresh berries looked just as appetizing. This meal made for a filling, tasty breakfast after two days of camping.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wildflowers in Sedona

As if the red-rock formations weren't scenic enough, our campsite in Sedona last weekend was surrounded by bright-hued wildflowers.

We camped along Forest Road 525 again, which we accessed from Arizona 89A. Few vehicles passed our site, mostly Pink Jeep Tours. You can camp on the left side of the road; most people didn't travel far on 525 to choose a campsite. But if you continue on 525 toward the Honanki Ruins, there's a much more secluded, gorgeous spot complete with two firepits and amazing views.

I spotted wildflowers in red, yellow, white, orange, pink and purple.

Follow these signs to a fantastic camping spot.

At this sign we went to the right of the fork.

At this sign we went left. 

After sunset, we could hear an owl nearby (but luckily no coyotes this time). It was as if the owl was speaking to us.

The only other animals we encountered were grazing cows on the right side of Forest Road 525.

We spotted a cave and decided to try to climb into it. It appears others have done the same, as there were signs of fire inside.

A video captures the view from outside the small cave.


I can't think of a more perfect setting for weekend fun.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fossil Creek Fun

Update: As of March 1, 2016, there is a parking reservation system for Fossil Creek from May 1 to October 1 of the year, also known as high season. Given the popularity of this beautiful area, this could be a positive development. As far as I know, part of the road from Strawberry is still closed.

Fossil Creek, Arizona

Less than two hours away from Phoenix is a desert oasis called Fossil Creek.

Getting there isn't easy. You must first survive a rough, bumpy road from just outside Camp Verde. It's a grating, uneasy 20-mile ride. 

If you're headed out to the waterfall, it's about a mile hike from the trailhead parking lot. It's rocky in some spots, so I don't recommend doing it in flipflops. It's best to wear hiking shoes and then change into water shoes, flipflops or bare feet at the swimming hole. 

Don't expect much seclusion at the waterfall, it attracts crowds and lots of partyers, especially on weekends. It's not unusual to see a line of revelers at the top waiting to jump off. I've seen people show off with flips and (painful) belly flops done on a dare (The guy said he got $20 to do it. Not worth it, my friend.).

Besides the popular waterfall swimming hole, you can find other pools along the creek. The water is so clear you can see its little inhabitants.

Other hiking trails include the Flume Trail, which takes you to an old dam. It's long and offers little shade, so bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen.

You'll catch vast views of the valley from a higher angle. The trail winds around the mountains at an incline, at least for the first half we did. Wildflowers and little critters call the area home. Beware of rattlesnakes; we were warned by a slithery creature to walk away. It's the first time I've seen a rattlesnack on a trail.

This is where the rattlesnake was hiding. It's in there somewhere. ...

Tip: If hiking with pets, make sure they wear booties so their paws don't get sore or burned. Your four-legged friends will thank you.


Camping is allowed past the bridge, but campfires are not permitted, so bring a cooking stove and lantern. 

Other things to bring:
  • Wet wipes and toilet paper. I never trust the portable toilets to have toilet paper. Hand sanitizer is always handy.
  • Be sure to pack some bug spray because gnats are ridiculously abundant, especially close to the water. 
  • Water shoes.
  • Towels.
  • Leashes and booties for your dogs.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Plenty of water.
  • Trash bags.
  • First-aid kit.
*This list may grow.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Coyotes Buttes North (The Wave): Third Time Was Not the Charm

Today was not my lucky day. I was hoping to win the lottery for hiking permits to the Wave, but instead I got this e-mail from the Paria Canyon Project Permits Desk:

"Unfortunately the dates and entries you chose did not become available to you in our lottery application process for a Coyote Buttes North permit. It is remotely possible the date and entries selected for your trip will be forfeited by the winners because of nonpayment or release. If that happens, the dates and entries will become publicly available via the calendar application process."

I've been trying to get hiking permits to go to the Wave for three months now. Today's drawing was for three dates in August. My tab so far has been $15, which is non-refundable.

But I won't be discouraged. The next lottery is for September, which might be cooler anyway ...