Life Verse:

"...I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly." -- JESUS in John 10:10

Friday, November 28, 2008

SouthWest Adventure - Phoenix AZ

The Following is a copy of my Trail/Travel Log for my recent Adventure to Phoenix AZ. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

04:32 Diane and Robert dropped me off at Dannelly Field. Diane looked so small standing curbside with her sweater on and her lip poked out. She’s a Daddy’s girl and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m certainly going to miss my time with her once her and Robert get married (in the next couple of years). No one else in the terminal but me – so much for “having to get there” 2 hours in advance of the departure time. The ticket counters do not open up until 05:00! Oh well, I have time to think, meditate, and start this Journal.

Looking forward to some quiet time this next week. I have several things planned, but I hope to not be hurried. Rather I pray that I can enjoy the time, focus on the important things, and hear from YOU, my LORD.

If my plane arrives in Phoenix on time my first planned event is to drive to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park for some hiking time. This state park is touted as having a wonderful collection of native plants and some from Australia as well.

08:29 Landed at Memphis at 07:31 (4 minutes ahead of schedule). Ate breakfast (bacon, egg, cheese biscuit, chunk fried potatoes, and Sprite) at Backyard Burgers. Flight to Phoenix boards at Gate B30, sitting here waiting on it. I’m convinced that a great portion of travel time is spent waiting. Hopefully my “waiting” is constructive.

As a side note, Memphis airport provides WiFi (Boingo), but at a charge. MGM provided it free! (Go Montgomery!)

The day is gorgeous – hope it’s the same in Phoenix.

Kathy, Diane, and Merla should be well underway with Jean’s Estate sale – I pray that all goes well. LORD, please comfort Kathy and Merla during this grieving process.

20:43 Safely in Phoenix – thank YOU, LORD. Airline was actually a few minutes early landing but I waited in line “forever” to get my rental car. Don’t know why all these people are coming to Phoenix – vacations?

Drove directly out to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park on US60. Very scenic and nice drive, but did not hike much there. Once I got out of the Mazda 5 I had a sick headache and was light headed. What a bummer! I think the headache and dizziness was a result of the flight, no lunch, and no sunglasses on the drive out to the park. I drank most of a Sierra Mist and tried to eat a bag of Sunchips but was a little too sick to eat much of anything. I hiked a little over 1 mile of the Main Trail and decided I best stop (combination of the heat and my yukiness was asking for trouble). I did manage to get some good pictures of PicketPost Mountain and parts of the desert flora. Stopped at Walgreens on the way back to Phoenix and purchased sunglasses, Advil, and water for the week. I also realized how sleepy I was on the drive back! Thank YOU for getting me to the hotel safely.

Room is quite nice and the hotel is adjacent to a Waffle House (though the hotel does have a free breakfast each morning).

Took Advil and a short nap in the room and woke up feeling much better. Ate supper at Waffle House (TX Bacon Cheeseburger and hashbrowns with a Coke). Certainly not a healthy combination – but it made me feel better.

As I write I am seriously considering a change in my destination tomorrow. I have been thinking about Red Rock State Park near Sedona. The descriptions on line and photos paint a very beautiful area. It is a little further than The Superstitions but I have all day tomorrow. The Superstitions are impressive but I saw quite a bit of them from the car today… LORD lead me the right way tomorrow!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

19:11 Entire day spent on hiking, exploring, and worshiping at Red Rock AZ State Park and Tusigoot National Monument! Was a wonderful experience – thank YOU, LORD!

Started the day out early, leaving the hotel at 6:30am and hit I-17 toward Sedona and the Red Rock area. Stopped at McDonalds near Black Canyon for an Egg McMuffin – did not want a repeat of yesterday.

The Red Rock area is about 4000’ in elevation (3000’ or more higher than Phoenix). The temperature was much more comfortable (certainly Fall like) in the mid 50’s to low 60’s. Clouds began building early in the morning and a thundershower came up about 3pm.

Red Rock State Park was the perfect spot! The park is in the Oak Creek valley surrounded by high red rock cliffs, including Cathedral Rock. The riparian valley contains great quantities of Sycamore trees and other indigenous hardwoods, some in various stages of yellow and a few in red.

Trails crisscrossed the area and wound through the ridges and highlands with adventurous-sounding names like Eagles Nest, Coyote Ridge, Javelina, Apache Fire, Kivsa (Hopi for Shaded Wood), Smoke, Bunkhouse, and Rattlesnake Ridge. The trails were very well maintained and signed. Several aptly situated overlooks dotted the park yielding sweeping panoramic pictures to be burned into one’s mind.

I worshiped at 10:00am (11:00am central time to coincide with Crestview’s worship service) on top of Eagles Nest (the highest point in the park) overlooking all of the breath-taking creation. I had spent time reading Psalm 90 and 91 before leaving this morning. I reflected on GOD; HIS Creative work; HIS grace; and prayed for Crestview.

There was no cell service in the park, so I turned off my cell phone. To be honest, I felt a little guilty doing that – I felt like I was abandoning everyone. I finally managed to put that out of my mind and enjoy the hike.

A thundershower forced me to end my hike about 3:30pm (otherwise I probably would have continued until they closed the park at 5pm!) with almost 9 miles of hiking, over 6 video clips, and I-don’t-know how many hundred pictures. (Martha would be proud!)

There were many birds, lizards, and grasshoppers observed. There are many other species of fauna in the area, they’re just shy. In a conversation with the clerk in the Visitor Center I learned that they often see large numbers of Mule Deer, many coyote, and the occasional cougar in the park. A cougar had recently taken a Mule Deer just below the visitor center and (possibly the same cougar) had taken a small dog in a residential subdivision near the park last week.

After leaving Red Rock I noticed the brown info signs along AZ-89A advertising Tuzigoot National Monument. I couldn’t resist… driving through some small historical Arizona towns arriving at Tuzigoot about 3:45 (and the park closes at 5pm). Since it was a small park with only about 1 mile of trails and a “super” pueblo site, I made the loop and explored the pueblo before the park closed.

It was quite interesting. It would have been good to have had at least two hours to explore. The site was quite captivating, nonetheless.

To be able to walk through where a thriving Indian culture had thrived for so many thousand years was humbling. To know that they suddenly disappeared without a trace and without a known reason was sobering.

The sunset over Sunset Point just off I-17 was the final crowning moment in a wonderful day. Thank YOU, LORD, for this special time.

Monday, November 03, 2008

06:14 Bible reading for this morning: Psalm 92. O LORD, YOU are glorified in YOUR Creation. It can be readily seen – if we will only look and sense. YOU have revealed YOURSELF all around us and most especially in YOUR Word and ultimately in YOUR SON, JESUS CHRIST. I pray that others will see YOU in me as well. I love YOU. All praise, honor, and glory to YOUR name.

I’m glad my hotel is close to the Honeywell Automation College. I can travel back streets to the site and avoid I-17. Traffic on I-17 and I-10 is extremely heavy, as one would expect in a city of 6 million. There was a motorcycle fatality accident on I-17 SB early this morning and the southbound side is still closed for the investigation.

I hope to hike Lookout Mountain this afternoon. My book of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Phoenix indicates this hike is do-able in less than two hours. It is also relatively close to Honeywell.

Hopefully the temperature will not be too bad this afternoon. Forecast calls for high of 86 degrees.

19:51 A semblance of Fall has arrived in Phoenix. The night, early morning, and especially late this afternoon felt better. Highs were probably in the low 80’s but this afternoon had a nice cool breeze blowing at Piestewa Mountain Park.

I went to Lookout Mountain directly after class (left Honeywell at 4pm). Got to the park and on the trail about 4:30pm. I had planned on hiking the circumference trail (2.6 miles) but saw that the park locked its gates at sunset. I wasn’t about to chance getting my car locked inside the park so I turned around just before the saddle and returned to the car.

Knowing that Piestewa Mountain Park did not lock their gates until 11pm, I took a drive over to visit an “old friend”. Detouring by North Mountain Park I got a good view of this popular area. This mountain is cluttered with communication antennas on top – really detracts in my opinion.

Piestewa Peak was in its regal form when I arrived a little after 5pm. This park gets lots of visits and there was a parking lot full of vehicles at the summit trailhead. Driving to the end of the park I had an idea to try the Mojave or Nature Trail. Since daylight was rapidly fading on this side of the mountain I elected to strike out on the Nature Trail (#304). The trail is well used (and relatively easy to follow) but the metal cairns still lack a lot to be desired in my estimation. I traveled part of Trail #304 and a little section of Trail #8B before turning back to the parking lot. Being caught on one of these trails in darkness is not my idea of fun. I was equipped with a headlamp and flashlight but these trails have some steep sections and quite a bit of loose rock. Wisdom dictated to be safe and get back to the parking lot before it got too dark. I would have not hesitated to hike in the dark around home and/or familiar areas, but testing out new trails in possible physically challenging situations is not on my list of to-do’s. The thought of twisting an ankle or breaking a leg so far away from home was distasteful.

The short time I was able to spend on Trail #304/8B at Piestewa Peak was rewarding and worth the drive. I am still amazed at the giant saguaro cactus contrasted with the numerous smaller barrel cacti in the area. The slopes of Piestewa Peak and the surrounding valleys and washes are covered in small desert shrubs. The earth tones blend together in a canvas of browns, greens, blacks, and grays with splashes of red and yellow in the rocks. If one takes time to be still, he is readily rewarded with numerous bird sounds or the bark of a coyote. Yes, even here in the middle of a large urban area GOD can reveal HIMSELF in HIS Creation. I wonder how many people here this evening are even aware of HIM and HIS working all around.

Not sure what’s on my agenda for tomorrow afternoon. I would like to try some trails at South Mountain Park but I’m not sure I can make it there before darkness prevents hiking. I would really like to see sunset across the Sonoran Desert at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction (The Superstitions), but I know I can’t get that far before sunset – rush hour traffic is too bad in that direction. We’ll just see what doors GOD opens for me tomorrow! Stay tuned. Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts while I’m away. I am really enjoying your email replies to my postings!!!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

06:05 Psalm 93-94. All praise, honor, and glory to YOU, my GOD. Today is election day. Our nation will choose its leader for at least the next four years. May we do so after prayerful consideration. I know that it is YOU that truly rules among the nations. May we seek YOU with all that we are.

8 Understand, you senseless among the people;
And you fools, when will you be wise?
9 He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
10 He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,
He who teaches man knowledge?
11 The LORD knows the thoughts of man,
That they are futile.

12 Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O LORD,
And teach out of Your law,
13 That You may give him rest from the days of adversity,

-- Psalm 94:8-13a

20:42 Today was a lot more like fall with temps in the 70’s and a steady, cooling breeze. I didn’t get out of class until a few minutes after 4pm so I headed south on 7th Street toward North Mountain Park. This park is larger in area than Piestewa Peak though not as crowded. As I said earlier, the summit of North Mountain is cluttered with all sorts of communication antennae which detracts from the beauty of the park (in my opinion). The other areas of the park are beautiful, typical Sonoran Desert mountain landscape. There seems to be more scrub bushes (like Acacia) than cacti at this park. In fact the flora seems to be denser here than at Piestewa Peak or Lookout Mountain. It almost seems like the amount of water available to plants is greater on North Mountain as they are denser and greener here.

I hiked portions of Trail #100 and #101 in the valley of North Mountain, being careful to get back to the parking lot before they closed the gate at sunset. (Do you get the impression that I was constantly thinking about my car being locked up inside a park?) The trails were well maintained and the metal cairns seem to be better here (though the signage is still not good). I understand there are no trees to bear trail markings in Arizona but the metal cairns used in Phoenix as trail markers do not display enough information nor are they strategically placed.

Did not see any wildlife in North Mountain Park, but I was impressed by the varied colors of the flora. Being denser, the greens of the desert shrubs were prominent along with a surprising display of red swaths from small desert grasses in the valley and on the mountain slopes. The same chocolate brown rocks could be seen breaking through the surface in places throughout this mountain range.

This was an enjoyable and relatively easy hike. It would have been great to have had three hours or more to fully explore this park. I’m certain there are many hidden jewels here. I had largely dismissed this park from my list because of the antennae, but GOD opened the door and I’m glad I stepped through!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

06:14 Psalm 95-96. LORD GOD, YOU are GOD and there is no other. Our nation selected its next president yesterday, but it is my prayer that we will always seek YOU, above all else, as our King! YOU are glorified in these two psalms as Creator and Giver and I have experienced that even this week. Thank YOU for YOUR love and presence in my life. I pray for Crestview and specifically for the Prayer & Praise Service tonight.

I hiked a little over two miles this evening, but not the “normal” hike for me. GOD blessed me in the classroom this week and I was able to finish the entire course a little after 4pm! The instructor was amazed on the completion of a 4 ½ day program in three days, but she printed out my certificate for me and when I left the parking lot about 4:15pm I was through! Needless to say, it was too late to find a mountain park close enough to get any hiking done.

I gritted my teeth and pointed the Mazda 5 south on I-17 toward Tempe and Arizona Mills. Traffic was very heavy but thankfully there were no accidents and at least it did continuously move. I was genuinely surprised to find Arizona Mills not overly crowded – it is a rather huge place though. Walking around in the mall for over 30 minutes, I suddenly realized I was hungry. Well wouldn’t you know it, The Rainforest Café was right there in the mall! There was no wait and shortly I was sitting at a table in front of a fountain and waterfall, surrounded by the rainforest at night – complete with the moon and stars overhead. I shared this location with a leopard, several primates, lots of birds, and one elephant. Scattered throughout the café were large aquariums filled with all sorts of fish. There was no volcano in this café but we did have occasional lightning and thunder. Scattered on the outside perimeter of the café were huge (animated) butterflies and one crocodile in the pond. The food was ok (not great) but who cares when you have an atmosphere such as this!

After eating I had to walk off my dinner at the mall. Lots of interesting places here. I particularly liked the Black Market Minerals which had stones, trinkets, and other interesting articles from exotic places. Altogether I hiked (guess you would call that “urban hiking”) about 2.5 miles at Arizona Mills.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

07:00 Psalm 97-98. LORD GOD, YOU reign in majesty and splendor. May I honor and glorify YOU even more than YOUR Creation. May I reflect YOUR love and truth to all that I encounter everyday. Please forgive my sins and guide me to walk daily with YOU. Help me be the husband, father, and pastor YOU call me to be. I pray YOUR care and blessing for all of my Family of Faith. Keep them especially while we are apart. I wish they could be here with me.

I have a “free day” today!!! My plans are to travel east toward The Superstition Wilderness to check out Heiroglyphic Trail off US60 and then explore Siphon Draw Trail toward Flatiron from Lost Dutchman State Park near Apache Junction.

20:07 What a wonderful way to end the day and my stay in Phoenix! LORD, YOU really had a glorious day planned for me today! I got to spend the whole day in The Superstitions.

Drove east on US60 to Kings Ranch Road and followed serpentine turns to the trailhead parking area for Lost Goldmine and Heiroglyphic Trails. You can probably guess which trail I chose – Herioglyphic. After a moderate hike of almost an hour I reached part of the inner canyon where eons of water has polished the granite and small pools of water still stand. The ancient Hohokam drew many petroglyphs in this area – according to sources this is one of the best examples preserved for us of these ancient people’s petroglyphs. It was a truly beautiful area and quite thought provoking. Looking at the petroglyphic representations of animals and the landscape, one can’t help but wonder about the Hohokam and the life they lived in this rugged landscape so long ago. What did they think about? How their spirits must have yearned within them as they gazed up at the heavens and lived in the shadow of the impressive Superstitions. I wonder what they called the mountains.

After a break for lunch I headed east on AZ-88 toward Apache Junction and Lost Dutchman AZ State Park. This is the hike I got knocked out of last summer because of traffic delays in Phoenix. You can bet I was eagerly anticipating this exploration – and GOD did not disappoint!

As you turn into Lost Dutchman State Park, you are almost overwhelmed by the sudden and massive presence of the North side of The Superstition Mountains. Visible immediately is Praying Hands and the ridgeline with Flatiron. These mountains are awe inspiring in their own right but they are just the north and west anchor for an entire ridgeline. These giants command a wide view of the valley to the west all the way back to Phoenix. I hiked from 1:30pm until sunset (about 5:30pm) and spent considerable time on Siphon Draw, Jacob’s Crosscut, Treasure Loop, and Discovery Trails. All total about 6 miles of hiking and I’m not sure how much total elevation gain. I know the basin of Flatiron (Siphon Draw Trail) is at 3100’ and the Green Boulder (Treasure Loop Trail) is at 2580’. I did a lot of climbing and descending.

Believe it or not – I am almost at a loss of words to describe my experience in The Superstitions. The hiking was physically challenging in spots (climbing and descending through inner canyons with lots of rocks) but it was so very refreshing and comforting to my spirit.

The ascent up Siphon Draw Trail was difficult in spots but the workout was rewarded with great views of Siphon Draw Canyon and up toward Flatiron. Looking behind the entire Valley of the Sun lay before you. I did not climb up to Flatiron. The climb up does not worry me as much as the climb down. I’ll save that for some other time.

Jacob’s Crosscut Trail does just that, it crosscuts roughly north to south across all the other trails and is a convenient connector. The Sonoran desert plants and landscape is beautiful and full of life (observed many different birds and quite a few lizards). (There was a sizeable "covey" of desert quail that I spooked on my descent from Treasure Loop Trail. Their sound and actions reminded me of Bobwhite quail from home, though these birds are bigger.) The desert plants flourish on the slopes and the canyons of the mountains.

As I hiked up Treasure Loop Trail and toward the Green Boulder and Praying Hands I was not really prepared for the feelings and thoughts that flooded over me. As I stood at the base of The Superstitions and looked up at them and at Praying Hands the words of Psalm 121 poured through my spirit. How great and wonderful is our GOD?!

The perfect end to a perfect day was to watch the sun setting across the far ridges in the Valley of the Sun. The orange, yellow, red, violet, and blue spread slowly across the western sky. I was alone in the Siphon Draw parking area – though not really alone. As I finally tore myself away from the park and headed west toward Phoenix I just had to turn the radio off to tell GOD how much I love HIM.

It’s a little weird, but as I turned left out of Lost Dutchman State Park The Superstitions filled the rearview mirror. I had to look back again. It almost felt like I was leaving a friend behind. Maybe I’ll get to come back again – and maybe this time I can bring Kathy and Diane and maybe some of you as well!

Friday, November 07, 2008

07:19 An entire week in Phoenix is complete! I’ll be flying out a little after 1:30pm this afternoon. Should arrive in Montgomery at 9:00pm.

Psalm 98-100 YOU are faithful, LORD. I love and praise YOU. Help me seek YOU daily and walk with YOU continually. Thank YOU for such a great week. I ask for travel mercy as I head back to Prattville. Please give me YOUR words to speak on Sunday.