My favorite moment in twelve years as a coach did not happen on a field. It took place on a cold fall morning as I got to experience sunrise at the Grand Canyon with nine of my athletes. The collective gasp and silence from a group of guys, known to talk nonstop, as they soaked in the view was priceless. The brilliant oranges and reds only seen by waking up to dawns early light greeted us. At that point I hoped they realized what being a part of a team is all about. It is more than the wins and losses the medals and trophies, it is the other moments of bonding as a band of brothers. The sweat and hard work put in at the weight room and practice, the time spent together away from school, and the quiet moments when it dawns on them that they only get few chances to showcase their talent, to represent their school.
Of course, we usually do not realize that the train will continue on without us. That other coaches and players will replace us as time marches to its beat. It never hit me until my final game. So, I tell my teams to make a memory. Make the season special. Build relationships with your teammates that will transcend the sport. In the end those memories, those feelings, are all that you will be able to hold on to.-
With this group of seniors, some of them that I have known for seven years, I wanted them to have something special to remember. So, we took a trip to the mountains of Arizona. Saw the grandeur that is a sunrise at the Grand Canyon. Ran two-a-days in altitude to prepare. Bonded around the dinner table of my wife’s cooking. As the years go by and the trophies won collect dust. The memories of coming together as a team will be what they cherish the most.
My favorite moment in twelve years as a coach did not happen on a field. It took place on a cold fall morning as I got to experience sunrise at the Grand Canyon with nine …
Scenic, short, and flat, top three things that make for a “hey everybody can do this one” hike. The Rim Trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument is an easy .7-mile trail that offers some wonderful …
Easy to visualize but hard to fathom how any group of people would not only live on a cliff side rim but thrive. The Island Trail provides a close up look at this historical site. …
What a difference a few years make. It seems like we had just visited Bearizona, but the years are flying by. Three quick years later and we were back in the Flagstaff area of Arizona. …
Like a lone sentinel keeping watch of the east entrance to one of the grandest views around. The Desert View Watchtower perches over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon just as the Colorado River …
Scenic, short, and flat, top three things that make for a “hey everybody can do this one” hike. The Rim Trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument is an easy .7-mile trail that offers some wonderful views of the canyon below. Home to over 300 cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people. Walnut Canyon National Monument offers a glimpse into the 12th century lives of those native people.
Rim Trail while not nearly as nice as the Island Trail is worth the short time it takes to hike it. The hike shows off the impressive Walnut Canyon. As well as a view of the some of the many cliff dwellings found through the monument. I found it fascinating to think just about how difficult it would have been to live in a community like that. Basically, perched on the side of a ledge with the water source at the bottom of the canyon and the village crops above. Oh, to be a fly on the side of a rock to hear the conversation of the village leader that decided to live there.
Besides the views the Rim Trail also meanders through a ponderosa forest where the crops were grown. As well as the ruined walls of a two-room pueblo and a restored pithouse. If short on time, make sure you take the Island Trail which is the much better choice of the two trail options at Walnut Canyon. However, if you have the time do both. There is just something to taking a trek through history and thinking about those whose footsteps came before us.
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Trailhead located to the side of the visitor center
Plan about 20 minutes to hike
for more information about Walnut Canyon National Monument you can go to https://www.nps.gov/waca/index.htm
Easy to visualize but hard to fathom how any group of people would not only live on a cliff side rim but thrive. The Island Trail provides a close up look at this historical site. The trail drops 185 feet over a series of steps. Once down to the “island” part of the trail the path is quite easy. That is until the climb out. The Island Trail is a paved hike but runs close to the cliff edge. Those with vertigo might have difficulty though there is nothing to be fearful of.
The Island Trail takes its hikers past 25 of the ancient cliff dwellings. Last occupied more than 700 years ago by a group of Puebloan community. Getting a chance to walk in their footsteps is a cultural treat. However, one wonders why would any soul choose to live in such a precarious situation. On a cliff. Water hundreds of feet below. The series of ladders and steps they would have to climb day in day out to just to survive. Amazing feat of human ingenuity and will power.
As a high school history teacher, I enjoyed the trek. It is always a wonder to experience the things that I teach about in class. On this particular hike, I get to travel the trail with a group of my students. Though they are not the most inclined to enjoying a history lesson they liked the Island Trail. I have always felt it is better to get out and experience history than read about it. Getting to see their curiosity be sparked by getting up close and personal to some cliff dwellings was a treat.
This trail was one of the highlights of my time in Flagstaff, Arizona. Unfortunately for Walnut Canyon National Monument it had nothing to do with the historical experience it had to offer. I got to see just how great some of guys I took on this trip are. One of them has a healthy fear of heights. He braved the walk down but he gripped the railing a little tight. One the railing was gone he kept in close contact to the cliff wall. When a wall or railing was not handy some of the other guys would help him out to get him through it. As a coach you always hope that you have a close team that is willing to help each other out when it counts. It is another thing to actually experience them do it.
Island Trail is the must do part of any visit to Walnut Canyon National Monument That is as long as you are healthy and able to do it. At 7,000 feet of elevation make sure you take some precaution in going up and down the steps. Water and taking your time when taking this short trail will help make the Island Trail a nice little hike.
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Trailhead located behind the visitor center
Plan about 30-45 minutes to hike
Difficulty- Easy to Moderate but the altitude is nearly 7,000 feet
for more information about Walnut Canyon National Monument you can go to https://www.nps.gov/waca/index.htm
What a difference a few years make. It seems like we had just visited Bearizona, but the years are flying by. Three quick years later and we were back in the Flagstaff area of Arizona. This trip was more of a work related adventure. I brought my inner-city cross-country guys along to do some high-altitude training and get out of the city. I had the guys check out my blog and see what things they might be interested in. I contacted the great people at Bearizona and they kindly gave my team a generous discount. Thankfully, we accepted, because on our own we would not have been able to do it.
Karen and I enjoyed or first trip to Bearizona when our oldest was one. She is now four and our youngest is one so we were looking forward to coming back. I believe that Bearizona has become our go to animal attraction when in Northern Arizona. A tradition we would like to keep when child number three comes around someday.
As nice as it was the first go around Bearizona has really stepped it up in the last three years. We loved the new additions to Bearizona since our last visit. The otter exhibit was a nice addition to their “zoo” habitat area. A barnyard area that is a petting zoo. Their gift shop was amazing. Built as a lodge with over 12,000 square feet of space and assortment of souvenirs. It is also home to Arizona’s largest model train display. Last but not least was their incredible jaguar exhibit. I remember telling Karen this is nicer than most traditional zoo enclosures. There was a large space for the jaguar as well as 25-foot waterfall. One of the best single species animal exhibits that we have ever seen.
Well my family loved Bearizona. So, you might be wondering how a group of teenage boys handled the experience. The majority thought it was top of the class and the others enjoyed it. Overall, it was a fun visit for them. The ones that really had a good time made it in to the Birds of Prey Show. Something about having a large owl or hawk buzz your scalp with their sharp talons made for an interesting day. Bearziona does a good job with their raptor show. They also liked the drive through safari area seeing the black bears close to the cars definitely got their cellphone cameras clicking. Though they might not admit it, being tough guys and all, they even liked the petting zoo area.
Bearizona is just getting better with age. We would gladly go back time and time again. Karen and I hope that they keep adding to it. If their next additions/exhibits are anything like their new jaguar enclosure Bearizona will start to become the go to animal attraction of Arizona.
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Located at 1500 E. Route 66, Williams, AZ
Hours of Operation: Open 8 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 7 days a week during the summer months of June July and August time the rest of the year hours and days vary
Cost as of this Posting: Adults 13 and over $20.00 Seniors 62 and over $18.00 and Children 4 to 12 $10.00
For more information visit their website at http://www.bearizona.com/
Like a lone sentinel keeping watch of the east entrance to one of the grandest views around. The Desert View Watchtower perches over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon just as the Colorado River tracks north into the scenic desert landscape of Arizona. The Desert View Watchtower seems like an ancient relic of the Puebloan people. However, it was constructed in the 1930s by famed architect Mary Colter. She painstakingly handpicked every stone striving for a weathered look to make the Desert View Watchtower a relic from the past.
The Desert View Watchtower interior is just as impressive as its exterior. A circular staircase leads to three floors each with windows allowing unparalleled views of the canyon below. Native American symbols and pictographs adorn the walls. Including a mural of the Hopi Snake Legend. May Colter’s work paying homage to the native people of the Grand Canyon region was so well done it has become a must see in the land of incredible views.
Like all popular national parks, go early. Visit during the shoulder season. The views are worth it but the Desert View Watchtower loses some of its mystique when walking up the stairs packed like sardines peering around those in front to see. Much harder to appreciate the grandeur that is the Grand Canyon when sharing those fine views with tens of thousands of people.
The Desert View Watchtower is a great stop either on the way into the Grand Canyon or on the way out. To me the Desert View area will always be a special place. It was the first time my wife saw the Grand Canyon and I was there with her. Making it one of the finest views I will ever see in the park.
For more information about Grand Canyon National Park visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm
The Aspen Nature Trail is a fantastic fall hike in the Snowbowl area of Flagstaff Arizona. A short relatively easy hike that pops when the aspens start to change colors. I say relatively easy because nothing is simple at 9,000 feet. Good news it is a short hike at less than 2 miles in length. Bad news it is a short hike one that I wish could have gone a bit longer. The scenery is outstanding.
At the base of the Snowbowl ski area in the same parking lot as the Humphreys Peak hike is the Aspen Nature Trail. My parent’s favorite trees are Aspens. Over time I have come to enjoy them as well. Living in the Plains the only time we get to see them is when we head to the mountains. So, when I get the chance I seek the aspens out. Something about the white and black spotted park green leaves turning a vivid yellow in fall calls to me. Like being called home after a long stay away.
I had no idea the Aspen Nature Trail was there when I drove to the Snowbowl that day. My mind was set on conquering Humphreys Peak. Highly recommended hike if you and the weather are up for it. After my hike up Humphreys I saw the golden leaves of the Aspen groves. People were walking through them so I followed. Across the parking lot was a sign for the Aspen Nature Trail.
The Aspen Nature Trail is relatively flat as it winds its way through aspen trees and open meadows. If you are able to take your offs of the trees. The trail also has fine views of the San Francisco Peaks and Kendrick Mountain. Aspen Nature Trail is a great little family friendly trail.
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Aspen Nature Trail
Trailhead Located at the Humphreys Trailhead
1.8 Miles Roundtrip
Plan about 30-45 minutes to hike
Difficulty- easy level but the altitude is 9,000 feet
While we will never be able to see Mother Road in its heyday. The romanticized version of it is alive and well on the walls of the remnants of the Route 66. There is some really great artwork on display and the Williams Murals rank right up there with the best of them.
The Williams Murals are located on the main drag in town. A nice little stroll up and down their business district is a great way to see the artwork. We made a day of it. Stopped at the wonderful Bearizona, had lunch at a local diner, and did a little window shopping as we took in the Williams Murals.
As we have traveled throughout the West and Midwest we have grown in admiration for old Route 66. We like the fact that many of its attractions are free. There is just something about that road that strikes the heartstrings of red blooded Americans.
It brings you right back to a simpler time. Mom and Pop Americana at its greatest. We really enjoyed taking in the beauty of each one. In the busy stressful times of today it’s relaxing to just meander down old route 66 and surround your senses with bubbly happy images. One can’t help but smile, turn on the oldies station and drift back in time.
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In the rain shadow of the San Francisco Peaks sits the wondrous Wupatki National Monument. The 1500-year-old ruins of the Hisatsinom or ancient ones. Incredibly preserved in the desert landscape a visit to the Wupatki ruins was like taking a step back in time. Close to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument making a visit to both a convenient fun fact filled day.
The Tall House or the Wupatki ruins is one of the many historical national monuments that can be found in the Southwest. A history buffs can’t miss vacation destination. While many of these monuments provide great examples of Puebleo culture, the Wupakti National Monument stands out above the rest. It is much more expansive having several ruins scattered throughout its parks borders. Many of the others like Tuzigoot, Montezuma, and Walnut Canyon are all historic and worth seeing in their own rights, however they are single structures or in a compact area.
A rich archeological site. Wupatki National Monument has over 800 identified ruins spread throughout its desert territory. The vast majority of the archeological sites are off limits. Fortunately, five of the largest pueblo sits are close to the main road and open to visitors. The Wupatki Pueblo behind the visitor center is the largest, The Lomaki and Box Canyon Pueblos follow a half mile trail. The citadel and Nalakihu Pueblos are at the end of quarter mile trail. The Citadel offers sleeping views of the desert vista.
The Wupatki National Monument was a real treat to see. I think many people feel that there is not a whole lot of history that can be found west of the Mississippi. Those people just do not know where to look. Learning about the civilizations that came before the creation of the United States is not only a great way to appreciate those that walked before us. It is also drives home the point just how unique the land, people, and culture of this great nation. The Wukoki Pueblo sits on an isolated block of sandstone. The price for visiting our wonderful national parks have risen significantly over the last few years. So, I highly recommend getting your money’s worth and visit all five.
In the Sunset State do not let the lights go out on your vacation before making a stop at one of wonderful National Monuments Arizona has to offer. Seeing the past makes the present that much more valuable.
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Wupatki National Monument
Located at 25137 N Wupatki Loop Rd, Flagstaff, AZ
Hours of Operation: The trails to the ruins are open from Sunrise to Sunset
Cost as of this Posting: Private Vehicle $20
For more information visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/wupa/index.htm
Slide Rock State Park is a wonderful state park in Arizona. Having a group of teenage boys (boys cross country team) with me on this trip I knew it would be a place they would enjoy. First of all, it was a natural waterside and second a chance to jump off a small cliff. Slight problem. It was October and the water was freezing. Oh, but it was fun.
This was our second stop of the day after hiking the West Fork of Oak Creek Trail. We had a little lunch. I mean little because the boys were in charge of getting their lunch together that morning and they were woefully under prepared. This was our first day out and each guy was in charge of bringing and preparing their own lunch. They undertook it as a group project. Not realizing just how much each one of them would actually eat. Needless to say, it was light lunch for them. Our next visit to the grocery store was much better planned out on an individual basis and a good life lesson for them. Don’t worry we had snacks back and the cabin and my wife cooked them a full meal for dinner.
After lunch we kind of split up in the state park. Some wanted to kick a soccer ball around while half of them went with me to check out the surroundings. A few were sleepy from our early run and hike and took a nap in the van. What is a coach to do?
Slide Rock State Park basically sits in a canyon where the creek has created a swimming hole of sorts. A water slide area that runs into a deeper pool with cliffs on both sides. The boys tested the water and came away freezing. At that point it became a test of bravado to see who would take the plunge. After a round of egging each other on they leapt, splashed down, and got out as quickly as possible. Telling the next one that is not that bad. One by one they cliff dived.
After a few jumps it then got to the point of seeing if they could get me to jump. Now this would be something that I would not have done just on my own. However, my own machismo got the better of me and I was soon diving into the freezing water. It was a shock to the system. Albeit a good one. It was fun not thinking about things for a while. Just enjoying the moment and acting a like a kid again.
You can see our first review of Slide Rock State Park by clicking here.
Slide Rock State Park
Located at 6871 N Highway 89A
Hours of Operation 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Cost as of this Posting $10.00 per vehicle up to 4 adults $3.00 per additional adult 14 and up
For more information visit http://azstateparks.com/Parks/slRO/index.html
Buffalo Park was my cross-country team’s go to running place. A nice scenic area with a two-mile loop trail. Crushed gravel so it is easier on the knees than asphalt. The trail is mostly flat with one steep incline left of the entrance. Buffalo Park was a great place to run the trail was marked every quarter mile and the trail was longer enough to not get stagnant or boring on a longer run.
At 7,000 feet Buffalo Park was great for some high-altitude training. We ended up coming to the park four different days during our nine day stay in Arizona. We ended up doing several different types of trainings in the park. The boys loved it. Not the training part. The scenery with the San Francisco Peaks in the background, the friendly people on the trail, and sweet mountain air was just perfect. My number one runner commented several times about how great it would be to be able to run in Flagstaff full time.
Non-runners can enjoy Buffalo Park just as much as those working on finishing their next race. Besides the scenery it ended up being a good spot to see wildlife. As my guys were running and I was trudging around I saw deer, several different types of birds, and small mammals. The main park loop also connects to several other trails in Flagstaff. There are also exercise areas pull up bars, obstacles, and platforms scattered along the trail.
The people and city of Flagstaff have done a great job making an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. It’s incredible the number of miles both paved and unpaved that are available for people there. If money was no object I would have to look long and hard at living in this incredible area.
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Located at 2400 N Gemini Drive, Flagstaff,
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at http://flagstaff.az.gov/index.aspx?NID=1789