Displaying items by tag: Arizona

Sometimes we must find respite from our hectic, tech-saturated lives.

Here are five places with a powerful sense of place where you and your family will also find peace:

Northern Lights. Alaska.

In the deep reaches of Alaska, somewhere above 60 degrees north latitude, you and your family will have the opportunity to see a red, green, blue and purple light display known as an aurora or the Northern Lights. The best time to catch the show is around the spring and fall equinoxes (mid-March and mid-September) The lights are most intense from December through March when the nights are darker. Consider a tour that includes a dip in a hot spring, a climb to a hilltop where viewers can marvel at the magnificent light display and a Mongolian yurt in which you can retreat to stay warm.

Contact: www.TravelAlaska.com

Float The Grand Canyon.

Whether you travel by raft or dory, for a few days or a few weeks, the majesty of the Grand Canyon may well provide a transformative experience, as it does for many visitors. This national treasure stretches 277 miles across northern Arizona, and plays host to more than five million visitors each year. From your craft on the Colorado River, geologically diverse canyon walls rise as high as 9,000 feet toward the western sky. Hike the side canyons, plow through storied rapids, relax on sandy beaches and revel in the grandeur of one of nature’s finest accomplishments.

Contact: www.oars.com/grandcanyon.

Montauk, NY.

Visit this seaside enclave on the East end of Long Island. Just 100 miles but a world away from the bustling Big Apple, you’ll find secluded beaches, whaling tales and pounding surf. Deep sea fishing, hiking, seal watching and surfing are all available in this community, first settled by Europeans in the mid-1600s. Scramble to the top of the Montauk Point Lighthouse for magnificent views of the craggy coastline.

Contact: www.OnMontauk.com; www.GurneysInn.com.

Hike the Canyons. Springdale, UT.

Find your way into the canyon country of southern Utah. From curvaceous slot canyons to table-top plateaus, this peaceful yet grand countryside offers a visual bonanza of color, shape and form. Consider the Narrows, a spectacular 16 mile corridor that requires one rigorous day for fit family members. Most recommend an overnight. Better yet, choose the Bottoms Up hike enabling hikers to see the most stunning aspects of the canyon in four to six hours. Numerous day hikes and mountain biking options abound.

Contact:  www.nps.gov/zion

Boundary Waters Canoe Trips. Ely, MN.

Your family will enjoy the peace and tranquility that can be found within this pristine wilderness area. Listen to the waves lapping against the shore as you drift to sleep in one of 2,000 secluded campsites that dot the lake region. Wake to the sounds of birds chirping in the birch trees, enjoy breakfast over a campfire and then set out to explore the more than 1,500 miles of canoe routes that criss-cross the waterways.

Contact: www.boundarywatersoutfitters.com; www.ExploreMinnesota.com

Published in Destinations

It's a great time to plan a road trip. Here are five beautiful drives that will make the whole family smile: 

Going to the Sun Road - Glacier National Park

Hop aboard the historic red touring cars or go on your own. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through Glacier National Park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana. www.nps.gov/glac; 406-888-7800 

San Juan Skyway - Colorado

Sometimes called the million dollar highway, this extraordinarily spectacular drive through southwestern Colorado will stun the visual senses. Appreciate jagged peaks, pastoral valleys, waterfalls and colorful canyons as you wind your way along this stunning loop.

Contact: 1- 800-463-8726; www.Durango.org. 

Pacific Coast Highway.

For majestic coastal scenery and seaside breezes, pile in the car for a trip up ( or down )our western shore. Begin in ultra hip Santa Monica, California and wind your way past the Hearst Castle. Push north to Carmel and then on to San Francisco. If you have time continue on to the dramatic Redwood forests.

Contact: 1- 877- 225-4367 www.VisitCalifornia.com

Monument Valley, AZ

You’ve seen the skyline in the movies and on television commercials. Your entire family will marvel at the 250 million year old red rock formations, the magical light and the native American history that is part of the iconic landscape.

Contact: 435-727-5870 http://www.azcentral.com/travel/arizona/northern/travel_monuvalleyindex.html;. 

Skyline Drive - Virginia

Meandering along the crest of the mountains through the woods and past spectacular vistas, Virginia’s Skyline Drive begins in Front Royal and twists and turns southwest through Shenandoah National Park. Hike in the shade of oak trees along the Appalachian Trail, discover the stories from Shenandoah’s past, or explore the wilderness at your leisure.

Contact: 540-999-3500; www.nps.gov/shen.

Whether you know it as the “Main Street of America” or the “Mother Road” as John Steinbeck labeled the byway in his prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, there is no doubt that Route 66 has consistently caught and held the imaginations of intrepid travelers who seek freedom, adventure and a slice of Americana.

Through Pixar’s film, Cars, a new generation of road trippers were introduced to the iconic roadway that stretches from Chicago, Ill to Santa Monica, CA.

The next time your family yearns for the magic of the open road, relive the glory days along Arizona’s continuous stretch of Route 66.

Here are a few suggested stops:

Winslow, AZ.

While standing on “The Corner” in this quaint, old railroad town you’ll be reminded of the 1972 tune Take It Easy, music that made both the town and the Eagles famous. Check into the historic La Posada hotel and enjoy train watching, outstanding food and a visit to the nearby Petrified Forest.

Contact: www.winslowarizona.org

Flagstaff, AZ 

This gateway to the Grand Canyon celebrates its Route 66 history with an annual celebration that includes vintage cars, arts and crafts and musical tributes to the Mother Road . Visit The Museum Club, built in 1931, a classic roadhouse famous for their extraordinary taxidermy collection. Classic hotels from the mid-century still line Rt 66 as it winds through the center of town.

Contact: www.flagstaffarizona.org/ 

Williams, AZ 

Local shopkeepers have brought this town’s colorful history back to life with sassy saloons, ghost-ridden bordellos, cowboy gunfighters and ice cream parlors all eager to serve travelers a taste of Route 66 hospitality. Kids will enjoy the historic Grand Canyon train trip to the South Rim which includes old-time musicians and an occasional “hold-up” by the local outlaws. Don’t worry. The U.S. Marshall arrives just in the nick of time.

Contact: www.TheTrain.com ; www.WilliamsChamber.com

Seligman , AZ  

Recognized as the community that inspired the movie Cars and as the birthplace of Route 66, this railroad town is full of historic gems. Thanks to the work of residents and fans of The Mother Road, the well-preserved quirky shops, restaurants and iconic signage make this a popular stop. Don’t miss the landmark Snow Cap Drive-In for tasty burgers, root beer floats and some good-natured funny business from the crew behind the counter. Contact: www.seligmanarizona.org

Kingman, AZ 

Visit the Route 66 Museum in the Powerhouse Visitor’s Center and then grab a bite at Mr.D’s Route 66 Diner. It is worth the trip to nearby Oatman where wooden boardwalks and vintage saloons are reminders of a by-gone boomtown era when gold hid in the hills. Kids will thrill to the sight of wild burros that still roam the streets, descendants of those that assisted the early day miners. Expect daily shootouts on Main Street when costumed cowboys strut their stuff for visiting tourists.

Contact:  www.KingmanTourism.org

For more history and suggested Route 66 itineraries visit the National Scenic Byways site at www.byways.org/explore/byways/2489/itinerary/59554

Published in Destinations

The take-off is amazing. But, it’s the sound that stays with you, I’d been told. Still, I couldn’t imagine the impending glory of the moment.

I was too cold.

This was my first visit to Willcox, Ariz., for the town’s annual celebration of the sandhill cranes’ migration to their southern Arizona winter home.

Crane Convention

The sandhills’ stop in the Southwest is perhaps their most famous performance. Scouting for a suitable mate, the birds spend nearly a month entertaining avid birders and the casually curious. The crane population peaks around St Patrick’s Day, before they depart en masse for the Arctic, where a demanding breeding season ensues.
I had heard about Wings Over Willcox and had been eager to introduce the birding extravaganza to my sons. My own interest in the cranes began when I first read A Sand County Almanac (Oxford University, 1970) in my 20s. Aldo Leopold, the late Wisconsin naturalist, wrote of his fondness for the sandhills in his 1949 classic.
Each year this farming community in Cochise County, roughly 80 miles east of Tucson, welcomes winter visitors of multiple species. Plenty of heat-seeking humans show up from places like Vancouver and Kansas. And as many as 30,000 sandhill cranes find their way to a 60-sq.-mile roosting site near Willcox. The Arizona Game and Fish Department owns the land where the birds roost and makes sure it is flooded each year to create the six-inch deep pool the cranes find so appealing.

Nature Calls
In an era when Facebook, video games and sporting events are mainstays for the modern teen, it is not easy to arouse enthusiasm for a weekend spent in a small Arizona town, where the adventure’s highlight is a predawn excursion to see a mass of long-necked, pointy-billed, spindly legged birds take flight. I am fortunate to have raised nature lovers. When journalist and youth advocate Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (Algonquin Books, 2005), sparked a national discussion about the lack of time children spend in the natural world, I feel grateful my sons have grown up exposed to desert wild flowers, the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, and now, the dance of the sandhill cranes.
There is much to be learned from these ancient birds that live long lives, up to 25 years, despite an arduous lifestyle; some are known to commute as far as Siberia. The cranes also are monogamous, have several offspring and even dance for their mates. They will mightily defend their loved ones and their territory. Their young even go through voice changes, just as humans do, says Michael Forsberg, a nature photographer and expert on crane migration and social behaviors.
National Geographic considers this avian traveling show one of the continents two greatest wildlife events, sharing honors with the great caribou migration. The residents of Willcox must be proud.

Familytravel.com

Lift Off

So it was that we found ourselves in the cold, dark Arizona morning, swaddled in warm layers to ward off the chill, waiting for lift off.
Then we heard it. As the rising sun spewed light on the shallows, a jarring whoosh filled the air and washed over us like a wave over sand. In that moment, thousands of birds, with a five- to six-foot wingspans, and weighing as much as 14 pounds, took flight. They were embarking on a day that would include lollygagging in nearby cornfields and flying in V formation to the delight of mesmerized onlookers. Later they would return, to roost once again, in this Sulphur Springs Valley sanctuary.
Thankfully, the rising sun, and the somehow haunting ritual, warmed us as well.
As we settled into a welcome breakfast of eggs over easy and piles of pancakes, we spoke of the birds’ flight. And of the sound. The amazing sound of the sandhill cranes, in unison, breaking the sacred silence of morning.

If You Go

  • The Event.
    Each year, the Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival (WOW) takes place during January’s Martin Luther King weekend. While the cranes are the stars of the show, the festival offers tours and educational programs that also explore photography, geology, archeology, history, botany, agriculture and ranching. Visit the Web site to review the seminars and tours that interest you and your family. Reserve early.
  • Just for kids
    Children can explore a nature expo in the community center, which features educational booths, live animal displays, and a wide variety of vendors with nature-related crafts and activities. Free seminars on various topics are offered throughout the day.
  • Be prepared
    Mornings are cold with temperatures dipping well below freezing. (Think 15 degrees Fahrenheit.) Wear gloves, hats and layers. Rain is unlikely, but possible. Bring your camera.
  • Where to stay
    The WOW Web site lists most available lodging options, including chain motels, local B&Bs and guest ranches. Top pick: Muleshoe Ranch. Run by the Nature Conservancy, its simple casitas in a birding sanctuary are ideal for nature-loving families.  

Guided Tours
Every winter, tens of thousands of sandhill cranes come to roost around the town of Willcox, 83 miles east of Tucson off I-10. For several years now, the town has decided to celebrate this event by staging a major festival during the third weekend of January, with birding tours and field trips to Willcox Playa, Cochise lake and the Apache Station Wildlife Area (the main habitats of the famous cranes). Other excursions take visitors to see raptors, sparrows and waterfowl wintering in the mild Southern Arizona climate. Inquire about tour dates and prices. Seminars and presentations on local wildlife are free. Due to limited seating, registration is required for all tours.

If you go:

www.wingsoverwillcox.com

800.200.2272


Southern Arizona guest ranches offer families a healthy mix of outdoor adventure and American tradition.A stay on a guest (or “dude”) ranch gives families a chance to unplug from the modern world and sample a taste of the Old West.

Published in Ranches

The take-off is amazing. But, it’s the sound that stays with you, I’d been told. Still, I couldn’t imagine the impending glory of the moment.

I was too cold.  

This was my first visit to Willcox, Ariz., for the town’s annual celebration of the sandhill cranes’ migration to their southern Arizona winter home.

Wings Over Willcox Sand Hill Crane Convention

The sandhills’ stop in the Southwest is perhaps their most famous performance. Scouting for a suitable mate, the birds spend nearly a month entertaining avid birders and the casually curious. The crane population peaks around St Patrick’s Day, before they depart en masse for the Arctic, where a demanding breeding season ensues.
I had heard about Wings Over Willcox and had been eager to introduce the birding extravaganza to my sons.

My own interest in the cranes began when I first read A Sand County Almanac (Oxford University, 1970) in my 20s. Aldo Leopold, the late Wisconsin naturalist, wrote of his fondness for the sandhills in his 1949 classic.
Each year this farming community in Cochise County, roughly 80 miles east of Tucson, welcomes winter visitors of multiple species. Plenty of heat-seeking humans show up from places like Vancouver and Kansas. And as many as 30,000 sandhill cranes find their way to a 60-sq.-mile roosting site near Willcox. The Arizona Game and Fish Department owns the land where the birds roost and makes sure it is flooded each year to create the six-inch deep pool the cranes find so appealing.

Nature Calls
In an era when social media and sporting events are mainstays for the modern teen, it is not easy to arouse enthusiasm for a weekend spent in a small Arizona town, where the adventure’s highlight is a predawn excursion to see a mass of long-necked, pointy-billed, spindly-legged birds take flight.

I am fortunate to have raised nature lovers. When journalist and youth advocate Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (Algonquin Books, 2005), sparked a national discussion about the lack of time children spend in the natural world, I have felt grateful my sons have grown up exposed to desert wild flowers, the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, and now, the dance of the sandhill cranes.

Ancient Wisdom
There is much to be learned from these ancient birds that live long lives, up to 25 years, despite an arduous lifestyle; some are known to commute as far as Siberia. The cranes also are monogamous, have several offspring and even dance for their mates. They will mightily defend their loved ones and their territory. Their young even go through voice changes, just as humans do, says Michael Forsberg, a nature photographer and expert on crane migration and social behaviors.

National Geographic considers this avian traveling show one of the continents two greatest wildlife events, sharing honors with the great caribou migration. The residents of Willcox must be proud.

Lift Off

So it was that we found ourselves in the cold, dark Arizona morning, swaddled in warm layers to ward off the chill, waiting for lift off.
Then we heard it. As the rising sun spewed light on the shallows, a jarring whoosh filled the air and washed over us like a wave over sand. In that moment, thousands of birds, with five- to six-foot wingspans, and weighing as much as 14 pounds, took flight. They were embarking on a day that would include lollygagging in nearby cornfields and flying in V formation to the delight of mesmerized onlookers. Later they would return, to roost once again, in this Sulphur Springs Valley sanctuary.
Thankfully, the rising sun, and the somehow haunting ritual, warmed us as well.
As we settled into a welcome breakfast of eggs over easy and piles of pancakes, we spoke of the birds’ flight.

And of the sound.

The amazing sound of the sandhill cranes, in unison, breaking the sacred silence of morning.

If You Go

  • Each year, the Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival (WOW) takes place during January’s Martin Luther King weekend. While the cranes are the stars of the show, the festival offers tours and educational programs that also explore photography, geology, archeology, history, botany, agriculture and ranching. Visit the Web site to review the seminars and tours that interest you and your family.
  • Reserve early.
  • Just for kids
    Children can explore a nature expo in the community center, which features educational booths, live animal displays, and a wide variety of vendors with nature-related crafts and activities. Free seminars on various topics are offered throughout the day.
  • Be prepared
    Mornings are cold with temperatures dipping well below freezing. (Think 15 degrees Fahrenheit.) Wear gloves, hats and layers. Rain is unlikely, but possible.
  • Bring your camera.
  • Where to stay
    The WOW Web site lists most available lodging options, including chain motels, local B&Bs and guest ranches. Top pick: Muleshoe Ranch. Run by the Nature Conservancy, its simple casitas in a birding sanctuary are ideal for nature-loving families.

Guided Tours
Every winter, tens of thousands of sandhill cranes come to roost around the town of Willcox, 83 miles east of Tucson off I-10. For several years now, the town has decided to celebrate this event by staging a major festival during the third weekend of January, with birding tours and field trips to Willcox Playa, Cochise lake and the Apache Station Wildlife Area (the main habitats of the famous cranes). Other excursions take visitors to see raptors, sparrows and waterfowl wintering in the mild Southern Arizona climate. Inquire about tour dates and prices. Seminars and presentations on local wildlife are free. Due to limited seating, registration is required for all tours.

For more information, visit www.wingsoverwillcox.com;
1.800.200.2272

Published in Travel Essays
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