Blue Ridge Reservoid

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We have not had much of a winter, or snow fall… or rain this summer.  As a result Blue Ridge Reservoir, our local waterway, has been pretty devoid of water.  Our recent fires haven’t helped much, with air support dipping into the reservoir for water needs to put out fires.

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Hiking into the river bed revealed the reality of the toll the reservoir has taken, when it was clear that the waterway was not only dry, but dry long enough to be covered with a fresh green grass.

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While it was a beautiful hike, it heightened our need for rain… and a good snow fall this winter.

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Old Route 666

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Probably 2 decades ago, Route 666 from Clifton, AZ to Springerville, AZ was renamed for political reasons to Rt 191.  The road hasn’t changed much, and is nearly as scenic as it has been… other than the devastating Wallow Fire which went through the area in 2011.

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It was awful to see that the damage which still scars the beautiful landscape some 7 years later.  The Wallow Fire was started by an unattended campfire (an all too frequent story), and was Arizona’s largest fire in history, burning more than 500,000 acres.

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While grass has grown back, and new growth aspens, the sticks and moonscape are still burned into the landscape telling it’s story of devastation and carelessness.

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People still come to visit the area.. but it has never returned to it’s hey day, pre-fire.  Many business had to close down due to lack of tourism, campers, and visitors to the area.  Today it is but a ghost town of what it once was.  All because of the carelessness of individuals who walked away from a campfire not properly extinguished.

 

Hutch Mountain

 

hutch lo far_IR.jpgHutch Mountain Lookout tower is one of many throughout Arizona.  It is on the National  Historic Lookout Registry.  It was built in 1936, and still serves as a manned major viewpoint for fires in the Flagstaff area.  Located off of FR3 (Lake Mary Road) at Milepost 310, not too far down a couple good dirt roads.

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The day we were there there were 9 fires in the area, all started by dry lightening, including the Tank Fire.  The Tank Fire was in the very same area as the Tinder Fire which devastated our neighborhoods just a month before.  As an eery reminder of those terrifying days, our neighboring subdivisions CCP 1&2 were issued pre-evacuation notices.  Fortunately, the fire was quickly doused and completely contained.

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From the top of the tower you could see the Chinooks flying on the horizon dumping water of the fire.

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The surrounding landscape is full of Ponderosa pine, mixed conifer, elk and deer.

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At 8535 feet elevation the days are cool, and nights brisk.  Climbing the tower offers a vantage point across northern AZ.

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Carrieres de Lumieres

 

lumin wave_IR.jpgJohn and I are all about repurposing things… whether it is a hunk a wood we make into a table or a slab of rock into a bench.  We love nature and using it for new and interesting useful things.  During our visit to France we went to this fascinating old Boxite quarry in Les Baux en Provence.

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The ‘mine’ itself was fascinating, but their repurposed use of it, was even more fantastic.

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They developed light shows of works of art that they shown onto the walls of the mine that played and faded with the music.  It was wonderful.

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The ‘shows’ change ever 6 months or so.  When we went it was works of the Picasso mixed in with The Spanish Masters and a Pop Culture show.

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It was one of the most interesting ‘shows’ we have seen… truly magical.  We stayed and watch it loop all the way through as we stumbled through the mine and watch the works of art unfold before us in full living color.  Just fantastic!

 

 

South of France

I’ve said it before, everyone looks for something different in a vacation.  For some it might be a golf course, or white river rafting, maybe shopping or big adrenaline adventure.  For us, we like to see and experience something new.  We like the relaxation of walking around taking it all in… but also an activity to bring some excitement, and culture to round it all out.

Our relaxation came from the tradition of ‘paseo’, a term that actually means walk in Spanish, a time honored tradition of walking around the town square before dusk and dinner time.  It’s a time for the Spanish people to visit with old friends.  In France, the tradition takes another form, when the people sit at a table, turning their chairs to overlook the street and watch the people go by.  We practiced it often to be sure we got it right!

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Of course, the views while sitting watch the people go by, are stunning.  As you can see where we were overlooking the boats in Cassis or the old ruins in Arles.

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The ruins and history everywhere we went were fascinating.  It’s hard to imagine the stories these places could tell, and to be in the presence of something so old.  Some built as far back 7AD, others as new as 1600.

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The village overlooks were stunning.

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Even the streets themselves were fun to walk through, with their cobblestone walkways and decorative archways.

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We especially enjoyed the markets in all the villages with it’s own town as the backdrop.  Fresh veg and hand crafted goods were marketed with passion and pride.  Farmers carefully laid out their vegetables in an attractive presentation.  Lines formed behind favorite (and great) cheese and salami makers.  Amazing breads were everywhere, made with pride and passion.

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Which had to be our favorite part about the entire trip… the people.  It was not Rick Steves-afied, i.e popularized beyond belief.  It was real and genuine.  The people genuinely wanted to please and help.  They took pride in everything they did to make it the best they could, whatever it was they were doing.  They offered it and presented it in such a way to make it appealing and beautiful.  And everything was amazing.

 

 

Senator Highway

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John and I have traveled a lot of the back roads of Arizona.  But this road trip was a first for us.  We took the back road between Prescott and Crown King, called Senator’s Highway.  There are many ways to get to Crown King, some easier (via the freeway), some harder, like the nasty notorious back road – which I hope never to take again!

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Senator’s Highway is the old stagecoach route built in the late 1800’s.  It was the road that connected the many mineral mines like Bode Mine, Bradshaw Mine, and Crowned King mine.

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Arizona actually had 4 capitol cities before settling on Phoenix as it’s permanent capitol.  Back in 1864, Prescott was it’s capitol…. then in 1867 it moved to Tucson… in 1879 back to Prescott… until finally moving between Prescott & Tucson to Phoenix in 1889.  The old Senator’s Highway connects Prescott all the way to Phoenix.

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This old two track stage coach road is a seemingly endless meandering, incessant switchback of a road.  It took us 5 hours to get all of the 37 miles between Prescott and Crown King, and that was in our modern vehicle.  There’s a story that airplanes overhead can see the road at night because of all the glittering glass left over from the broken booze bottles that passengers would throw overboard when they would get liquored up for the tortuous trip.

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Not only does it host gorgeous views and grand vistas, it is also home to one of the oldest still standing stage coach stops, Palace Station.  Palace Station is still used by the Forest Service as quarters – off limits to the public.

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While it was a slow going road, it was well graded and a beautiful drive, well worth the trip… and a wonderful day’s adventure.

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Grand Canyon – South Rim

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We just got back from the Grand Canyon – South Rim hoping to get some great storm cloudy pix.  It’s difficult if not impossible to schedule a trip around a storm, as getting reservations at the Canyon can be it’s own difficult task.  But we managed to get last minute reservations in one of their old ‘rustic’ cabins.

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A storm was predicted for the days we were there… but today’s weather forecasters are often wrong.  Furthermore, it’s hard to say if upon a storm one will get awesome clouds and interesting sky, or complete whiteout and washed out gray skies.

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The afternoon we arrived brought snow almost immediately.  The next day we were socked in and you couldn’t see the Canyon over the edge…. so I was glad I got the shots I did when I did.

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The day it snowed all day, we had hoped to get to see Hermit’s Rest, a Mary Colter building 7 miles off the main Grand Canyon loop.  Unfortunately, the road was closed due to all the snow we were having.  We got about 8″ in the day we were there.

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Going to the Grand Canyon is like touring the world…. people of all nationalities wander with you taking in the magnificent sights of the ‘big ditch’…. even in the snowy winter.

While we were out driving in the snow, we passed no less than 3 tow trucks towing multiple cars that had careened off the ice.  It was like a ice rink with rental cars as bumper cars, skidding into trees and into each other, many of whom had no doubt never before seen snow.  Roads were blocked with tow trucks clearing the way, making it impassable everywhere.

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We found these elk watching the traffic go by… munching the afternoon away after a short clearing.

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Check out my pix … here…. of Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower.