Sedona, Montezuma, Riordan, volcano, Wupatki. Ummm… gesundheit?

No, we didn’t sneeze. We did get out and see a heck of a lot of stuff in the Flagstaff area though, and a lot of it has names that are difficult to pronounce.

We started with repair work, in the form of undercarriage welding to stabilize the hangers and springs and equalizers and such. They’d taken a beating, likely because of the whole tire falling off thing back in January.

Aah, the sight of legs sticking out from under the RV. My favorite thing. Tim can do a lot of maintenance on his own, but he knows when it's time to pay a professional. Welding is not in his skill set, so we left The Toad with Buddy for the day.

Aah, the sight of legs sticking out from under the RV.
My least favorite thing.
Tim can do a lot of maintenance on his own, but he knows when it’s time to pay a professional. Welding is not in his skill set, so we left The Toad with Buddy for the day.

After that, we took our bicycles to a local shop, because they too were in need of some attention. Primarily, my bike needed new handle bars and grips after an unfortunate highway dragging incident in August. The shop cat matched my outfit. And cats do make me sneeze, so achoo!

After that, we took our bicycles to a local shop, because they too were in need of some attention.
Primarily, my bike needed new handle bars and grips after an unfortunate highway dragging incident in August.
The shop cat matched my outfit, so I took a picture. And cats do make me sneeze, so achoo!

We had the rest of the day to kill while our home was up on jacks, so southward we went, down the “back way” through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona.

Warning: when you look at a map of 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona, you're not going to see this unless you zoom in way far. I had to put on my magic bracelets.

Warning: when you look at a map of 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona, you’re not going to see this unless you zoom in way far. It’s narrow and canyon-y and twisty.
I had to put on my magic bracelets.

We didn't do any shopping in Sedona. Just went on a nature walk and looked at the rocks.

We didn’t do any shopping in Sedona. Just went on a nature walk and looked at the rocks.

Well they are impressive. Not sure about all that energy vortex stuff, though. I didn't feel any different.

Well, they are impressive.
Not sure about all that energy vortex stuff, though. I didn’t feel any different.

On the way back from Sedona, we made thrifty use of our National Parks Pass, and spent about an hour exploring Montezuma Castle National Monument

On the way back from Sedona, we made thrifty use of our America the Beautiful Pass, and took in the Sinagua Indian ruins at Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Here in the heart of Flagstaff, we visited the Riordan Mansion, which sat on 54 acres back in the day of its wealthy lumber mill owners, but is now tucked into a corner of the campus of Northern Arizona University.

I got only a third of the place in my shot. The house is 13,000 square feet with 40 rooms. It was built in 1904 for two brothers (who married sisters) and their families.

I got only a third of the place in my shot, being unable to step back toward… uh… the next county. The house is 13,000 square feet of Arts & Crafts style architecture, with 40 rooms. It was built in 1904 for the Riordan brothers (who married sisters) and their families. Many of its features reminded us of a certain 1912 Craftsman-style bungalow we’ve lived in…

Yesterday, we drove just northeast of the city and took advantage of our America the Beautiful Pass once more, to visit both the Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments.

Landscape: creepy These four white trees brought to mind horses of the apocalypse.

Landscape: creepy

Cinders, ash, and... life

900 years ago: cinders, lava, fire, and ash. Today: life

Moonscape

Moonscape

Color amongst the cinders

Color amongst the cinders

The ruins in Wupatki date back to the 1100s, and it was both warming and chilling to stand inside their walls, trying to imagine what it was like to live here. Then. This is the Wukoki Pueblo.

The ruins in Wupatki date back to the 1100’s, and it was both warming and chilling to stand inside their walls, trying to imagine what it was like to live here. Then.
This is the Wukoki Pueblo.

The Wupatki Pueblo is the largest set of ruins. According to the park brochure, "Once a regional center for trade, this 104-room pueblo features a billboard and unique geologic blowhole."

The Wupatki Pueblo is the largest set of ruins. According to the park brochure, “Once a regional center for trade, this 104-room pueblo features a ball court and unique geologic blowhole.”

And we found the blowhole. Air was rushing upward, and I regretted not wearing a white halter dress to make this a true Marilyn Monroe impression.

And we found the blowhole. Air was rushing upward, making my shirt pouf out, and I immediately regretted not wearing a white halter dress instead, a la Marilyn Monroe.

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Looking out from the ruins, we could just make out the Painted Desert in the distance. It’s that light pink strip in the center, just below the sky.

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And tomorrow, we roll. It gets cold and snowy up here in northern Arizona, and well, we just don’t have to put up with that kind of negativity.

We’ll spend the next month or so in the Tucson area, joining Tim’s aunt & uncle for Turkey Day. It’ll be our first Thanksgiving since 1995 without either one of our sons, and that’s kind of weird and a little depressing, but I am a strong believer in the medicinal properties of ridiculous quantities of pie, so I know I’ll make it through the day.

Then we’ll figure out what we’re doing for Christmas.

Grand Canyon hike: Check! And nobody fell in. Or got pushed.

We timed our adventure well. The weather, sunny with a high of 61 degrees and a light breeze, was perfect. The scenery was spectacular, and changed in color and intensity as the sun shifted throughout the day, and — best of all — crowds were low.  We crossed paths with only about 75 other hikers and a couple dozen mules on this early November Sunday.

Mule train! See 'em coming up the trail?

Mule train! See ’em coming up the trail?

Step aside, human. Step aside.

Step aside, human. Step aside. We gots work to do.

There were other critters on the trail too. This guy wanted food, and took a hopeful taste of Tim's hiking pole, but skittered off looking more than a little disappointed.

There were other critters on the trail too. This guy wanted food, and took a hopeful taste of Tim’s proffered hiking pole, but skittered off looking more than a little disappointed, and like he might have been planning our untimely demise.

I was apprehensive about attempting a hike in which the up comes after the down, and rightfully so. It’s a tough way to end a hike! All the tips we read said to plan twice as much time to ascend as to descend, but at my slow and steady pace, I spent the same amount of time on each.

We started at the South Kaibab Trailhead, hiked down about 2000 feet in elevation over 3 miles to Skeleton Point, and then back up -- which I'm pretty sure was 5,000 feet in elevation over 8 miles. Took us 2 hours each way.

We started at the South Kaibab Trailhead, hiked down about 2000 feet in elevation over 3 miles to Skeleton Point, and then back up — which felt more like 5,000 feet in elevation over 8 miles.
Took us 2 hours each way.

We laughed mighty hard at the "Puking Guy" sign near the start of our descent. On the way back up? Not funny. Not funny at all.

We laughed mighty hard at the “Puking Guy” sign near the start of our descent.
On the way back up? Not funny. Not funny at all.

We always look so happy and clean at the start of a hike. By the time we're finished, we're both filthy, soaking wet, stinky, and I'm crabby as hell because my body doesn't handle depletion well. You've heard of a mean drunk? Well I'm a mean hiker. When I growl, "Stop talking to me," Tim knows that's his cue to put about half a mile between us.

We always look so happy and clean at the start of a hike.
By the time we’re finished, we’re both filthy, soaking wet and stinky, plus I’m crabby as hell because my body doesn’t handle depletion well.
You’ve heard of a mean drunk? Well I’m a mean hiker. When I growl, “Stop talking to me,” Tim knows that’s his cue to put about half a mile between us.

We started out just after 10 a.m., and watched the sun come over the canyon walls on our way down.

We started out just after 10 a.m., and watched the sun come over the canyon walls on our way down.

We looked down at this set of switchbacks, wondering just how much they were gonna hurt on the way back up. Answer: lots. Sore knees, achy hips, trembling legs, and one torn calf muscle (Tim's) are now on the mend.

We looked down at this set of switchbacks, wondering just how much they were gonna hurt on the way back up.
Answer: lots. Sore knees, achy hips, trembling legs, and one torn calf muscle (Tim’s) are now on the mend.

One mile down: Ooooooohhh. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

One mile down: Ooooooohhh. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

Three miles down: time to eat lunch before we turn into skeletons!

Three miles down: time to eat lunch before we turn into skeletons! I bet that’s why they named it that.

Picnic lunch for two, with a view

Picnic lunch for two, with a view

img_1426Glad I did it, but wow, once was enough for me. Tim, meanwhile, got the itch to add a rim-to-rim hike to his bucket list. Guess I’ll serve as the support chick when the time comes, and pick him up when he gets to the other side!

Arizona canyons: size matters. And what the hell kind of squirrel was that???

You know the name of the biggest canyon. It’s 277 miles long by up to 18 miles wide, and about a mile deep. All we could see from our walk along the south rim ten days ago was rock — that is, when our view was not impeded by other tourists, cars, campers, shuttle buses, information centers, restaurants, and guest lodges.fullsizerender-14

Sigh. I know. I’m having no small amount of trouble with our overcrowded national parks. Remember Yosemite in July? Shudder.

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I found my place on the Trail of Time. Each meter signifies a million years of history, so um, it didn't take long.

I found my place on the Trail of Time.
Each meter of distance signifies a million years of history, so um, it didn’t take long.

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After countless cross-country military moves and other travels within striking distance over two+ decades, we finally made it to the Grand Canyon. Yippee!

By significant contrast, we decided about a week later to check out Arizona’s second largest canyon, which is Sycamore Canyon, at 21 miles long by about 7 miles wide, and about 1500 feet deep, with lots of trees and vegetation in the part we saw. For you geology types, it’s desert riparian. For those of us who simply enjoy the sound and smell of the wind rushing through branches, the place is full of fragrant ponderosa pines.

You probably haven’t heard of Sycamore Canyon because it offers more of a wilderness experience than it’s larger sibling to the north.

You probably haven’t heard of Sycamore Canyon because it offers more of a wilderness experience than its larger sibling to the north.

There are no paved roads, no visitors’ centers, no developed campgrounds, and on the Sunday afternoon when we went — traveling over 15 miles of dirt and gravel forest roads to get there — almost no people.

There are no paved roads, no visitors’ centers, no developed campgrounds, and on the Sunday afternoon we visited — traveling over 15 miles of dirt and gravel forest roads to get there — almost no people.

We explored the southwest section of the rim trail for nearly three hours and encountered only two men, who were rock climbing on this cliffside.

We explored the southwest section of the rim trail for nearly three hours and encountered only two other humans, a couple of guys who were rock climbing on this cliffside.

Our hike took us a little over 3 miles, from Vista Point to Sycamore Falls and back. Don't let the map's orientation fool you. North is down, so we in fact hiked along the southwest rim.

Our hike took us a little over 3 miles, from Vista Point to Sycamore Falls and back.
Don’t let the map’s orientation fool you. North is down, so we in fact hiked along the southwest rim.

That black wedge is where the falls are when there is actual water running. Do we still call it a water fall if it's dry?

That black wedge is where the falls are when there is actual water running.
Do we still call it a water fall if it’s dry?

It was the day before Halloween. The creepy trees were catching my eye...

It was the day before Halloween. The creepy trees were catching my eye…

... as were the skeletal remains of this poor critter. It took everything I had not to start singing, "I ain't got no body..." so I settled for "Hey, Honey. Get a backbone!" Groan

… as were the skeletal remains of this poor critter.
I considered singing, “I ain’t got no body…” but settled for pointing it out to Tim and shouting, “Hey, Honey. Get a backbone!”
Groan

Although black bears and mountain lions are known to roam the area, all we saw were a lot of birds, and a couple of, well, we didn’t know what manner of rodents they were until we got back home to Google. But before then, it was, “Oh my god. Is that a skunk? Wait. No. It’s a… Well, damn. What is that?”

Turns out they were Abert’s Squirrels, common round these parts, but never before seen by either one of us. Freaky looking little buggers with those tufted ears and white tails! (Photo borrowed from enature.com; I wasn’t fast enough to get one of my own.)

Turns out they were Abert’s Squirrels, common ’round these parts, but never before seen by either one of us. Freaky looking little buggers with those tufted ears and white tails!
(Photo borrowed from enature.com; I wasn’t fast enough to get one of my own.)

After two weeks here in Williams, AZ, we haven’t done as much exploring as we’d hoped, due to needing to be… well, heck… I almost said “near a phone.” Seriously? When in the last decade have we not had a phone with us at all times? I guess it’s better to say that we’ve needed to stay within a strong cell signal area, and the places we like to kick around often lack that. Nothing’s wrong; we’ve just had some business matters take priority, and I’ll have news to post about that later.

"The mountains are calling..." - John Muir "No, wait. It's just our realtor again." - Tim and Emily Rohrer

“The mountains are calling…” – John Muir
“No, wait. It’s just our realtor again.” – Tim and Emily Rohrer

Some funny things happened on the way to the Grand Canyon

We departed from Home Base San Antonio a week ago today, and arrived yesterday in Williams, AZ, which will serve as our base camp for a week or more as we explore the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and other northern Arizona destinations.

Our first stop was only an hour outside San Antonio, in Kerrville, TX. We wanted to spend some time with our friends, Jay & Kris, plus we had some tools of theirs to return, so we hung out with them for a few days at Kerrville-Schreiner Park.

It's a city park now, but until 2004 it was a state park, with the acreage, trails, riverfront and wildlife to show for it. Very pleasant stay, and highly recommended as a camping destination.

It’s a city park now, but until 2004 it was a state park, with 517 acres of trails, camp sites, cabins, wildlife, and riverfront access to show for it.
Very pleasant stay, and highly recommended as a camping destination.

Funny Thing 1: Giant crawdad at the boat launch. I really don't like knowing they grow this large, but...

Funny Thing 1:
Giant crawdad at the boat launch. I really don’t like knowing they grow this large, but…

... if we hadn't found it, we wouldn't have learned that Jay is some sort of crawdad whisperer! He unhooked the leash from one of his doggies, dangled it in the water, and used to to lead the crawdad out. I. Almost. Died.

… if we hadn’t found it, we wouldn’t have learned that Jay is some sort of crawdad whisperer.
He unhooked the leash from one of his doggies, dangled it in the water, and used it to lead. the crawdad. out.

The doggies, however, were most amused by this new plaything.

The doggies were most amused by this new plaything.

You think regular old dog breath is bad? Tim got a kiss from Pixie, who'd just licked the crawdad. Eeeeemwwww!

You think regular old dog breath is bad?
Tim got a kiss from Pixie, who’d just licked the crawdad.
Eeeeewwww!

Funny Thing 2: Unexplained teepee in the park

Funny Thing 2:
Unexplained teepee in the park

Funny Thing 3: There were signs everywhere advising against touching or feeding the deer, but I ask you, who can resist a face like that?

Funny Thing 3:
There were signs everywhere advising against touching or feeding the deer, but I ask you, who can resist a face like that?

Funny Thing 4: We took in downtown Kerrville's 2nd annual Chalk Fest. Let's just say that Linus and Charlie Brown weren't the only two characters we saw.

Funny Thing 4:
We took in downtown Kerrville’s 2nd annual Chalk Fest.
Let’s just say that Linus, Snoopy and Charlie Brown weren’t the only characters we saw on those sidewalks, and it. was. awesome.

We also went into the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center (it's free!), and looked up. Trippy!

We also went into the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center (it’s free!), and looked up.
Trippy!

Funny Thing 5: I giggled. And I make no apologies for having the sense of humor of an 8-year-old boy.

Funny Thing 5:
I giggled.
And although I make no apologies for having the sense of humor of an 8-year-old boy, wouldn’t “Kerrville Public Library” have been a less cringe-worthy name?

Funny Thing 5: It's not funny. The day before we left, Jay helped Tim tighten up our trailer brakes. And that's when they noticed we've got some suspension issues, probably relating the Tire Incident in January. I don't understand all the details, but we figured we could make it safely (albeit bumpily) to AZ with the springs and shocks in their current condition. We'll get everything back in better working order before we leave, though.

Funny Thing 6:
It’s not funny.
The day before we left, Jay helped Tim tighten up our trailer brakes. And that’s when they noticed we’ve got some suspension issues, probably relating to the Tire Incident back in January. I don’t understand all the details, but we figured we could make it safely (albeit bumpily) to AZ with the springs and shocks in their current condition. We’ll get everything back in better working order before we leave there, though.

Our itinerary: Three days of driving, from Kerrville to Roswell to Ruidoso to Pie Town to Williams

Our itinerary: Three days of driving, from Kerrville to Roswell to Ruidoso to Pie Town to Williams

Funny Thing 6: Pie Town, NM, is about as big as that crawdad we found, but the people there know it and play to it wisely. They're friendly as hell too. Our receipt might say we stayed at the Pie Town RV Park, but according to some folks we met it town, we stayed at Penny & Jay's.

Funny Thing 7:
Pie Town, NM, is about as big as that crawdad we found, but the people there know it and play to that particular strength wisely.
They’re friendly as hell too, as you can see from this welcoming sign on the RV park bath house, which is open to anyone who may need it. Our receipt might say we stayed at the Pie Town RV Park, but according to the folks we met in town, we really stayed at Penny & Jay’s.

Few things make me smile like an honor system cash box. This is how we paid for our spot, one of six in the gravel lot adjacent to Penny & Jay's.

Few things make me smile like an honor system cash box. This is how we paid for our spot, one of six in the gravel lot adjacent to Penny & Jay’s.

And yes, when in Pie Town, you find whichever of the three restaurants is open (unusual hours: plan ahead), and prepare to be treated like family when you walk in the door.

And yes, when in Pie Town, you find whichever restaurant is open (unusual hours for all three, so plan ahead), and prepare to be treated like family when you walk in the door. “Hi! Where y’all from? Before I forget, we’re out of meat loaf and mashed potatoes tonight, but we can give you a second side with whatever main dish you choose. Is that OK?”

We ate dinner at The Gatherin' Place, saved room for Very Berry Pie, and left our mark on one of their door frames. Can you find ownlessdomore.us?

We ate dinner at The Gatherin’ Place, saved room for Very Berry Pie, and left our mark on one of their door frames.
Can you find ownlessdomore.us?

Very Berry Pie: just the right mixture of tart and sweet, with a wonderfully flaky crust. Worth every calorie!

Very Berry Pie: just the right mixture of tart and sweet, with a wonderfully flaky crust. Worth every calorie!

Funny Thing 7: We learned a lesson in kitchen storage upon our arrival in AZ. Don't let the pizza cutter ride next to the pastry brush. Poor thing got a bit of a trim!

Funny Thing 8:
We learned a late lesson in RV kitchen storage upon our arrival in AZ. Don’t let the pizza cutter ride next to the pastry brush.

Coming up in a few days: the best Grand Canyon photos a girl can get on an iPhone. See ya when we’re done exploring!

Two steps forward, one oh-shit-is-that-a-snake??? jump back

The answer is one.

It takes one old man, telling me one time ’round the campfire, that he’s seen one rattlesnake in this godforsaken desert…
to make me think that any slightly twisted stick on the ground is a fucking snake.
Not a snake

Not a snake.

Also, despite appearance to the contrary, not a snake

Also, despite appearance to the contrary, not a snake.

Not a writing pit of snakes

Not a writhing herd (gaggle? flock? slither?) of snakes.

Hiss hiss, motherfucker. (Still not a snake. Just wanted to add a little homage to The Bloggess.)

Hiss hiss, motherfucker.
(Still not a snake. Just a little homage to The Bloggess.)

On the plus side, I burned several extra calories on my 4.5 mile walk this morning, due to embarrassingly frequent leaps backward, spirited arm flailing, and random high-pitched squeaking.
Sheesus. The “I Thought I Saw A Snake” workout, coming soon to a fitness center near you.