A Road Less Traveled

How often do we watch a television program where the adventurer takes a road less traveled? There are benefits away from people, especially when taking landscape photos. We want few to no people in the photo and to view wildlife in their natural habitat, so I can relate to that idea in traveling a road few will be on. 

Recently I ventured down a road I had never driven before. It was a winding, paved road with no center line or shoulder. No consultation with Google maps was possible so I decided to drive at least 10 miles, assess the situation, and turn around if nothing caught my eye. In the first 5 miles, I only saw one other vehicle and then a bicyclist on the side of the road!

I pulled along side the bicyclist and asked if all was well. The guy smiled and said, “Are you checking on me?” Of course I thought; “Yes, you are in the middle of nowhere, stopped on the side of this road, and I wanted to be sure all was well.” Actually I was miles into my drive and not sure if the exploration was worth it. Then suddenly surprised to see another human being out here … and on a bicycle … or more specifically off his bicycle! Why not check on the cyclist!

While talking with him, one vehicle pulling a trailer passed us by … no other traffic … which is the reason this guy bicycles the road. He was simply having a snack break, one he takes every 45 minutes. When he heard me say I was exploring, he had a suggestion. Another mile down the paved road, the road splits and becomes dirt roads. Take the road to the left, drive about 4 – 5 miles and when finally up a hill the land opens to San Rafael Valley … what he suggested I should see since I am already this far down the road. He also mentioned to go straight, no turns, and remember how to come back out, back track, so I do not end up in Mexico. Easy enough. I drive on after we discuss the importance of bicyclists hydrating and eating food for fuel. I wish him a good ride.

Montezuma quail are in this area from research I had done last year. Despite no chance seeing them now, I did want to know where the San Rafael State Natural Area was. I continue down the road. 

I enter and leave national forest land, drive over cattle guards, pass signs informing me “illegal smuggling can occur” in this area (okay, I am less than 10 miles from the Mexican-USA border) and a “primitive road” sign indicating use at my own risk as surface is not regularly maintained. Of course, when you are driving a dirt road, through arroyos/washes, on rocky and winding roads it is a good time to check where clouds and the sun are in the sky. All was good. I continue on since the point of my drive was to discover a new place.

Do you know how long 5 miles is on a dirt road? It can seem like forever! Finally, up… up… an uphill and I thought this must be it! Yes! 

I pull over at this 4-way dirt intersection and within 2 minutes of my arrival, a truck pulling a trailer with hay turns off on the side dirt road, a regular pick-up truck and a Fed- Ex vehicle drive down the road I just came up! Then I have the place to myself! Wow!

I really need to plan these adventures earlier in a day! Of course, I probably would not have met the bicyclist to learn of this road to then drive and explore. Such is life; such is adventure! I will need to return another time … maybe Montezuma quail time! I loved seeing this beautiful expanse of land in the middle of nowhere! So glad we still have these places on earth!

Looking one direction
Another direction
Wonder where he was going?
The road I just came up.
The reason for the cattle guards.

Heading Home & Reflections on the Trip

My trip home the final 2 days of travel included many, many miles of Interstate 25 with very little vehicular traffic, then more miles on Interstate 40 with all kinds of trucks, trailers and cars. I stopped at El Malpais National Monument in Grants, New Mexico. There are many trails to hike in this area where 5 different lava flows came through thousands of years ago. The scenery was spectacular! So was the Western diamondback rattlesnake casually crossing the road! Fortunately I never saw one on a trail!


La Ventana Natural Arch
Sandstone Bluffs Overlook
Western Diamondback rattlesnake

As I think about this trip….

Happiness is within me when I can enjoy adventures in nature. It is as though my brain lights up, my heart lifts up, and my eyes see anew. As a past backpacker with years having escaped to the Adirondack Mountains and now as a hiker with my van travel, I enjoy being outdoors 24/7. I see more sunrises, more sunsets, many dark skies, live very simply within natural elements and love to discover and/or learn while having no distractions with the mundane everyday living I get caught up in when home. My ultimate goal: to enjoy this season of retirement for as long as I am able to move and appreciate the wonder around me.

My adventure included: two new national parks for me: Olympic and Great Sand Dunes. I stopped at numerous state parks, and two national monuments: Colorado National Monument and El Malpais. Although not a birding trip, I did see 10 new birds! I had fun bicycling on 5 different occasions and even floated in a pontoon boat on Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho! I met friends along the way, saw spectacular scenery, talked with a variety of fellow travelers and listened to 5 audiobooks, NPR, BBC and music. There was very little rain to contend with. However, wildfire smoke was through eastern WA, MT, ID, and UT at different times during my travel, but never anything to cause me to detour from my original travel plan.

Although I know I will return to daily living at home, I also know there will breaks away from it. Travel allows me to do that. Having an understanding partner in life helps tremendously too. While the pandemic has been a hamper, it has not stopped me from enjoying the outdoors in the United States, a wonderful place to explore! I hope to include international travel again! For now, I head home and cannot wait to enjoy those homey comforts of life too with my partner! Please pour me a glass of wine!

Final sunset for this trip … Love it!

Part 3 of 3: Travel to CO Friend, Dunes & Waterfall

The next few days was a combination of travel, heading south for two new experiences: a stop for lunch in Woodland Park, then further south to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park. 

Do you know the on-line game Words With Friends? I played a few years ago with my mom and a sister. I continued to play, they did not. Most players do not use the chat feature; however, Beth did. Through chatting, Beth and I compared the weather between Colorado and Arizona. Long story short, while in Colorado I texted her, we met for lunch with a great view of Pike’s Peak from Woodland Park, and I enjoyed meeting her with a delicious lunch too. Her niece ran the Pikes Peak Marathon a few days later and Beth texted saying her niece won the women’s division! Wow!

Great Sand Dunes National Park is a couple of hours drive from the interstate. I have always wanted to visit and this trip I was going to make it happen! I immediately felt the elevation as I was hiking on the sand dunes. It is over 8500 feet and the summit is a few thousand feet higher which I did not accomplish (8500 feet is my comfort, beyond can be an issue). The wind had flags straight out as I walked in the sand and felt like it could push me over. I got out of the wind in some places to watch people “sled” down the dune. It was hilarious to watch the varying degrees of expertise and I did feel bad for the guy who “sand-boarded” the dune quite successfully for 3/4 of it, but face-planted at the end! 

I met an Orlando, Florida couple who had questions about my van. They are backpackers who currently travel via their Honda Element and looking to buy a van. All that they said sounded like my story!

Great Sand Dunes Basin
Sled down a dune
Dig in the sand
See the child digging in the sand?
Hikers at top of the dune in the cloud … I see them!

Zapata Falls is a must-do hike!

Close to the national park is Zapata Falls. They need to update the sign at the entrance as the 2.5 miles road to the trailhead is now paved. The trail to the falls though is very rocky, steep in a short section as you gain from 9000 to 9200 feet.

The real challenge came when crossing the stream flowing from the falls. Ice cold water flowing over many rocks, some with algae; looking just a bit slippery. There were 4 crossings and then you had to lean over at one point to get a photo of the 30 foot high falls! No way was I standing in 3 – 4 feet of ice cold water to get a photo of the complete falls. If you go on this hike, bring hiking poles for the stream crossings to make your life easier. At 2 points, helping hands made my rock-jumping a bit safer. Very kind people!

Zapata Falls

Walking back to the trailhead I talked with a Colorado couple. They love to fish and have been to college and lived in different parts of Colorado. As I was pulling away in the van, the woman caught up with me … she wanted to be sure I had seen her t-shirt. I like it!

You never know what people will share with you in a day!

At nighttime I did have an altitude headache even though I was sleeping at 6000 feet. A couple of Advil took care of it for a good night’s sleep.

Part 1 of 3: Visit Olympic National Park in Washington State!

There’s a long bridge between Astoria, Oregon into Washington state. As I drove across the bridge, I realized my west coast visit was continuing with misty fog into the next state! Is there any other weather happening on the Pacific Northwest coast? The good news: my front windshield is so clean!

Highway 101 is closer to the Oregon coast. Where fog lifted, I saw waves and shoreline, but not at Cannon Beach so I skipped that visit. In Washington, Highway 101 is further from the coast with plenty of trees between me and the coast. When along the shore, it is mostly mudflats. I visited Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge in Hoquiam, Washington. Walking the boardwalk with a couple from San Diego helped me enjoy and pass the time since few birds were in the area.

My first stop at Olympic National Park: Lake Quinault. There are 4 rainforests in the park and this is one. Here I visit the world’s record oldest sitka spruce tree. This tree is 1,000 years old and people standing at its trunk are puny compared to the tree’s girth. The branch that fell off the tree has been determined to be 400 years old, wow! 

1000 year old Sitka spruce tree
Branch fell off…it is 400 years old!

This park has 4 rainforests: Quinault, Hoh, Queets and Bogachiel. They are moderate temperate rainforests, different from tropical rainforests. When I climbed Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro years ago, one of the biomes you trek through is tropical rainforest. Being close to the equator, it was a hot moist area with dense vegetation where rains fall year-round. The moderate temperate rainforests in the northwest USA coastal areas also have dense vegetation with milder temperatures and seasonal rainfall. Everywhere you look, there are beautiful, huge trees! The misty fog certainly provides moisture for these trees to grow. There are also many beautiful ferns, wildflowers, fungi and goatsbeard lichen which hangs from the tree’s branches. 

Goatsbeard lichen

My next stop was to be the Hoh Rainforest; however, it was not to be. With its small parking lot, park officials monitor the number of cars in the lot so there is no gridlock. I did not want to wait an hour or more hoping others would be leaving the area. I continued miles down the road to La Push Beach. With three beaches in this area, people park their vehicle, walk to the beach and I suspect many stay for the day. I went to First Beach and had my lunch after walking the area. Here are photos from this beach:

First beach at LaPush

Most people are stopping at various vistas and hiking trails as I am. For others, their visit is a backpacking or bicycling trip through the area. The hiking trails vary in their steepness and the road through the park is not the easiest to cycle. After few hour’s drive, I decided to stretch my legs near Lake Crescent. Amazingly I saw an American dipper playing around in the lake’s edge! This is a new bird for me:

American dipper

Highway 101 is right through Port Angeles, a busy sea port with ferry service to Victoria Canada. I checked out the waterfront and spent little time in the city. My campground was about 10 miles away and I was ready to end this day. I had been traveling 11 hours … driving and sightseeing all on the park’s west side. Already I am realizing I needed to plan more days to visit this park.

Am I There Yet? The Oregon Coast!

Many miles to drive before I sleep to arrive at the Oregon coast. I am here days later from Arizona! While on the road, I stayed a night in Garberville, CA where many straight and tall redwood trees stand … wow … they are magnificent.

I did drive hundreds of miles, some on boring interstates and others on twisty, winding rural roads to finally arrive on the coast! Traffic jams are annoying  and I can never figure out what caused the bottleneck ahead of me. When I get to the supposed jam, there seems to be no reason for any back-up!

I try to stop every couple of hours, basically to stretch my body. Sometimes there is a photo-op, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Lone Sailor statue, a half hour nap thanks to that bed in my van, or a chai latte and cream donut to bring on a sugar spark. I listen to audiobooks for a couple of hours, then music, then news if an interesting piece is reported.

Golden Gate Bridge

The photo below is the memorial, The Lone Sailor, at the northern end of the Golden Gate. It is here where every person in the Marine Corp, Merchant Marine, Coast Guard and Navy would see this spot as they leave and return from service. 

There has to be wildlife sightings:

Near the Benbow Historic Inn, I found an active pair of acorn woodpeckers. The pair were caring for young within the tree trunk.

Acorn woodpecker by entrance to nest within tree trunk.
Two woodpeckers at the nest and screaming young within.

Elk signs are everywhere and seeing them was a treat even if roadside:

Elk!

Finally….

I am looking out on the Pacific Ocean from the Oregon coast. The mist seems to hang all morning before the sun comes through. It is cool, very windy and beautiful. I am driving along Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Bike Route. A number of bicyclists are braving the hills, long distances between towns, and unbelievable wind. I say that because as I took some of the photos below, I could barely stand up! A bicycle with full panniers would be like a wall for the wind to push against and while the cyclist holds tight to stay upright. I notice the bike lane is available and sometimes wider on the coast side which makes sense since most cyclists ride north to south. Where the road is too narrow the north-bound bike lane is small or not there at all.

New Bird per day in Salinas & Monterey, California

This trip is not really all about birds. I must admit to being excited when seeing a new bird though. I checked in at my campground in Salinas. In past trips I have already seen the cannery and other Salinas history, so off I went to Point Pinos in Pacific Grove, California. Will I see a new bird?

I hope we all appreciate the agricultural work done here in California … so many  fruits, vegetables, nuts, and there are the workers out in the many, many fields bringing in the food we shop for at our markets. While driving some back roads I discover Castroville is the “artichoke capital of the world”. Cherries and pluots are available now. And while we thank these workers, let’s not forget the truckers who are hauling these products all over the place! I see the trailer trucks here and on the interstates.

At Point Pinos, Pacific Grove, I see the usual birds: various gulls, brown pelicans, cormorants and then black turnstones! The thing about birding, I sometimes have an idea of what I am looking for and other times I discover a bird. I may not recognize the bird, so I photograph it, and later in the day identify it. The black turnstone is a new one for my life list.

Black turnstone

Another day … another bird?

The next day another birding hotspot: Moss Landing State Beach and north jetty where many birds were reported and apparently sea otters. I did not know about the otters till a woman asked me where they were, as we looked out on harbor seals lying in the mud flats. This was the Pantano Marsh area so I decided to walk the state beach and jetty. 

Sanderlings and marbled godwits are fun to watch as they run toward the ocean water going out, dig into the sand for food, and run back on the beach as the water flows in! At the jetty, people fish for whatever fish they can catch, or so they tell me.

The usual shorebirds were here too, but as I looked over the rocks on the jetty I saw a bird by itself. I knew what a common murre looks like swimming in water since all field guides have that picture; however, this one??? Hmmm… photo taken and later I identify it as a common murre! Another new bird!

Common murre

I ate lunch in my van and worked at my laptop to download photos and identify some. By the time I finished the work, it was time for a bicycle ride. I take the Monterey Coastal bike path from Fort Ord State Park …plenty of sand dunes here … toward Monterey. I start my Garmin to track my ride and “gale warning” is displayed on the Garmin. Ok, let’s get a ride in before that is a major concern!

Sea otter in the area!

I met interesting people today: couple from Oakland, CA because I found the woman again and could direct her to where the sea otter was eating. The woman, her husband and I could comfortably talk about any topic we wished and did so for a half hour. I also directed them to where the sea otter was … yes, only one sea otter and great fun to watch. I eventually direct others to where I had seen the sea otter.

Sea otter rubbing his belly with the clams
Eating one clam and other clam is on the belly of the sea otter.

Another guy from Las Vegas, NV is across from my campsite. He and his wife are winding up 3 month travel pulling their 40 foot trailer. They head to Morro Bay, CA tomorrow for a 10 day stay. I am sure to leave earlier than them  in the morning. I have a long ride tomorrow, but this was a great visit for birding and bicycling. Starting early each day with a gray, misty sky that does not burn off and reveal blue, sunny sky till 1:00pm is a bit of a challenge! Times like this I realize how important sunshine is for me. But tomorrow morning, I will be up and out early despite the lack of sunshine!

Van Conversion with New Ideas

Each time I travel with my RAM Promaster 1500 low roof van, I seem to think of new ideas or projects. If you missed my earlier blogs about my converting this cargo van to a travel van, click here.

Two easy things to do…

One of my easiest ideas: purchasing 2 YETI Hopper Flip 8 Soft Coolers. I store what I plan to eat within the next day or so in one cooler. It sits on one of my sliding drawers in the back of the van. Remember the day of installing the sliding drawers? Here’s that van conversion work at this link. The other cooler holds food I plan to eat in a few days. It sits in the interior of the van. As a result, everything stays cold longer. The big plus is not needing to buy ice so often! With both coolers I have a foil piece on the inside cover of the cooler (those you receive perishables in from some companies). I like the foil also to separate some items I do not need on ice, but still to be kept cool.

Cooler with foil piece

The other ridiculously easy idea was to dry sweaty stuff. I do have a clothesline along my bed’s edge and I can string another line from one part of the interior roof to another. But the small items like bike gloves and socks were always falling off the clothesline, until I realized another idea! I flipped my small camp chair over and hung items there. Perfect!

Small stuff dry here!

Other ideas combine here….

My travel van has no additional heat, air conditioning or electrical outlet and all of that is okay. I refer to my van as a “glorified tent” because my sleeping area is above where my bicycle is mounted and no tent could accomplish that. You may remember my sleeping area is screened in. If not, check this link.

I began to think about charging my portable power station: a Goal Zero Yeti 150 while at a campground since electrical hookup is available and I like to plug my electronics into it while out in the field. Yet I did not want to be carrying the 12 pound power station around just to charge it at the campground. Could I find a place to keep it in my van and still plug in at the campground?

I realized some nights are very warm in the van and I may even have hotter nights to come. How could I charge my Goal Zero and run a small fan to move the air across my sleeping area? After some thought and purchase of a fan, an electrical extension cord, and some small hooks, I had an idea. I would run the electrical cord under my bed, on the side of the van where most campgrounds have their electrical post, and connect with my Goal Zero. My power station will sit on the bench I built inside the van. The fan is velcro-ed to the wall of the van and plugged into my Goal Zero. My needs have been met!

Electrical cord along the side of van and blue bag holds the bulk of the cord.
The fan blows over the bed and its cord goes down to Goal Zero.

Do I have a trip coming up? Yes … on the road to northwest USA! Follow my travels here at https://righteffort.blog or maybe I will see you down the road! Safe travels all!

Travel & Everest at Age 50? Why Not?

Recently I immediately saw a photo of Mount Everest on the wall behind the bar at the Dutton-Goldfield Winery in Sebastopol, California. It was a photo of Mount Everest from Kala Pattar! So many of us climb this 18,519 foot peak to see a spectacular view of Mount Everest and the nearby peaks. I love travel and the chance to share experiences with others who have been to a same place! I wanted to know more.

Who traveled to Nepal and took the Everest photo hanging behind the bar? Thankfully the man setting up our wine tasting knew. After finishing a business meeting at a nearby table, Dan Goldfield was introduced to me! (He’s the Goldfield in Dutton-Goldfield Winery!) Both of us, many years ago and at different times, turned 50 years old and trekked to Mount Everest’s base camp. On his trek he continued to a neighboring valley. When I turned 50 years old, I trekked to Mount Everest’s base camp, thanks to the support of my employer allowing me time in Nepal during the school calendar.

Was it easy to train and complete the trek?

Train for the trek: carry a fully – loaded backpack, climb up and down garage parking lot stairwells – often smell horrible – and icy northeast USA roads, plus time on hiking trails in Arizona and the Grand Canyon (my favorite place now that I moved to southwest USA) to determine best hiking boots! Many times I wished I was 20 years old because the months of training were hard work! In retrospect, I am thrilled to have accomplished what I did! Out on the trail, “climb the mountain” was my mantra. Burning through hundreds of calories, sleeping on the ground, hiking for hours at continued increasing elevation – hike high, sleep low – and enjoying the company of fellow trekkers and locals where we enjoyed delicious food all added to the experience! Of course, arriving at Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp were the ultimate goals and then downhill to safely arrive home!

Yes, life is good with travel!

After the trek, I made presentations for my students and staff at my school, my community and at a local Eastern Mountain Sports – provider of my reasonably priced outdoor gear – some I eventually donated to our trekking porters. I cannot speak for Dan; however, if I was able to travel to Nepal to climb mountains when I was younger, I would have. From my point of view, when reaching 50 years of age it is time to travel and climb mountains or it will never happen. I love mountains! Thankfully my school’s faculty, board of education, student body and community allowed me the opportunity to trek in Nepal. Writing this post brought back wonderful memories!

Kathmandu – city time
The monkeys were everywhere!
On our way as we enter the park.
Loved the food.
Bridges – not for the weak of heart! I loved their sway!
On top to see Everest still in the distance.
What a sight …Mount Everest!
Avalanche while we were there at base camp.
I could not step on the Khumbu Icefall as Chinese liaison stop you. Look closely, in center of photo, of people crossing a crevasse. The icefall is huge.
I visited a local school as I do on all my travels. Eventually we send additional supplies to the school.
I love seeing children be educated!
Our group leap-frogged up the trail with Erik’s group. He is with his brother and father who I meet. Years later his father is involved with a Tibetan project I had; small world!
Wally – wonderful person and guide. I follow him to my next big mountain the next year!
I admired Rob Hall and was saddened by his death so left prayer flags at his memorial.

A few decades later, I am so glad I kept these photos! While having great memories is wonderful, especially since I am still of an age with a good memory, it is fun to see the good times and other people in the photos. Don’t wait till you are 50 years of age if you can make some of your dreams happen now! There’s a big world out there with many fantastic adventures to be had, so enjoy!

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Part 1: Borderlands

The lands bordering this national monument to the east are Native American land, belonging to the Tohono O’Odham, and to the south the nation of Mexico. In 1937, this land in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert was established a national monument by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1976, the United Nations designated it an International Biosphere Reserve. Scientific research studies are done of human impact on it. During our last US president’s term a border wall between the USA and Mexico was built and quite obvious from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. 

I drove to Lukeville, Arizona, a port-of-entry between USA and Mexico. Only essential travel is supposedly happening. There were few vehicles, but many young people with backpacks and others arriving by shuttle from Phoenix or Tucson walking across the pedestrian bridge to Mexico. I understand going across the border takes little time; however, returning to the USA can take 3 hours! I stopped at one of 2 stores on this border to buy an additional gallon of water. Most people were hanging out at the store to use their wifi. Cellular service is limited here. Another day, Friday afternoon about 2:30pm, I was a mile from the international border and traffic was backed up to this point. Maybe many travelers were visiting Rocky Point, Puerto Peñasco, a resort city on the Gulf of California for the weekend. 

I then drove a 2 mile dirt road east of Lukeville, Arizona, arriving at the Gachado Line Camp; an old adobe building with some wooden fences and downed barb-wire fencing. Driving to this point, one sees the border wall and at the camp you can walk up to the wall. You can hear Mexicans speaking; their homes are just on the other side of the wall. It was an eerie feeling and sad to think a barrier existed between us. Few people were driving this road, but a young man from Florida stopped at the adobe building too and we got talking about borders, walls, and the future of humanity. 

I then drove west of Lukeville, another dirt, wash-board road that parallels the border wall. Here one sees a highly trafficked road with truck trailers on Mexican Highway 2 also running parallel to the wall but on the other side of the wall. Again at certain spots I could walk up to the wall and the same eerie feeling descended on me. 

The Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation is to the east of Organ Pipe National Monument and, my understanding is, a 62 mile border wall exists with gates for people to walk through. While people of this tribe tried to educate others about the importance of protecting their ancestral lands and the migratory paths of the people and animals between Mexico and the USA, Border Patrol has jurisdiction 100 miles inland from US borders, giving it access to most of the reservation. One could spend time just studying the dynamics of the vehicle barriers and surveillance cameras in this area, but I will leave that to those who know more than me.

I wonder how neighborly we really are with the people of Tohona O’Odham Indian Reservation and Mexico? Are we doing the right things: respecting Native American culture, Mexican culture and understanding the plight of those who are escaping their homeland to travel thousands of miles to enter the USA? I am not sure. 

About 20 miles north of the national monument is Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range. The bombing range is between the US-Mexican border and Interstate 8 straddling the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife area and the Tohono O’odham Nation. As I write this post, I hear planes in the distance. I have no idea if this is usual or increased air activity. I hope for no world war, especially as we all continue to be concerned about the current Ukrainian – Russian war. Let there be peace!

Want an AZ Escape, No Cell or Wifi Service Where You Stay?

Recently my partner and I discovered a place in the wilderness of Arizona, north of Tucson. Since travel was within 2 hours from our home, we decided to check out the area and stay at Aravaipa Farms, Orchard & Inn for 3 nights. Here is the website: https://www.aravaipafarms.com

We stayed in a casita, purchased all 3 meals per day, and brought our own wine since at the time of our visit they did not have a liquor license. They are the friendliest people with fantastic cooks creating meals to meet our gluten-free, vegetarian and dietary needs. Since Covid was still the reality in Arizona, meals were delivered to us at our casita to be eaten there or as we did take our lunches on the hiking trails!

They have a farm with a burro, goats, miniature horses and chickens. They have an orchard with 900 trees: oranges, peaches, apricots and more. I loved bird-watching in the orchard, plus they have many bird houses hanging around the property. There are casitas of various sizes. We walked around their orchard and on some of the trails rights from their property. To arrive to their place, it is necessary to drive some final 4 miles on a dirt road, down a steep dirt driveway and across a creek, that had about 6 inches of water in it when we arrived, but all doable with a Honda Element.

Our favorite adventurous hike was the Brandenberg Mountain Ridge Trail. A short distance down the road from Aravaipa Farms, Orchard & Inn was the start of this trail. We hiked 2.5 miles to a lunch spot overlooking, in the distance, the place we were staying and with the orchard being easiest to notice along with great views. The mountain towered behind us at lunch, but on our way up we walked through a wash, steep incline and then an old jeep road on the ridge with so many options to stop for lunch and also make it our turn-around point.

Zoomed in for this photo so you can see the orchard where we stayed.

Another trail we enjoyed when we decided to hike beyond the creek trail was to head up Exploration Trail. This was a fascinating combination of hiking in washes and then to the top of the hill by following rock cairns (rock piles) and making our own way to the ridge to look to the other side. This trail is being created as I write.

One of many short sections off of Exploration Trail to explore!

At night, it is silent or you may hear an owl hooting! One night the wind whipped through the area for the entire night! Earlier that night we had been out walking and star-gazing, although chairs are available in a couple of locations if you wished to sit back and gaze up! We slept well each night after each day of fresh air, fun hiking and delicious food. 

Be sure to visit Aravaipa Farms, Orchard and Inn at https://www.aravaipafarms.com if you enjoy solitude, silence and an opportunity to hike, bird watch, star gaze or simply relax! 

Please know: to hike in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness you need a permit since the number of visitors per day is restricted. Permits are required in advance from recreation.gov for the West Entrance. 

If you are in the area, or staying at the inn, there are other trails to hike with no permit needed! We will return to Aravaipa Farms, Orchard and Inn and to hike Aravaipa Canyon Wildness when we are also ready to have wet feet since there are so many creek crossings there.