Urban Camping in Northern Arizona

wide open

See that teeny little disturbance in the middle of the photo? That is our camp site. Even though Dead Horse Ranch State Park is practically in the town of Cottonwood, AZ, there is still plenty of wide open space and privacy.

Les and I decided to give “Urban Camping” a go this past weekend. Urban camping is about choosing a campsite that is near or in a town or city.
We decided to camp at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Camping in Arizona is still kind of strange for us. Coming from Southern California, we are used to driving long distances past housing development after housing development just to get out of town, much less to get to an actual camping spot. We have lived in Arizona for thirteen years already and it still trips us out that we can step out our front door and hit a hiking trail. Being surrounded by this huge blue sky and so much unoccupied land is such a gift to be appreciated and, believe me, we do!.

Les working

Setting up camp: as usual Les was doing  all the work while I goofed off taking selfies. Life is good. (grin)
At Dead Horse camp grounds there are a ton of camp loops ranging from citified (lots of shade trees and fully equipped with electricity and running water) all the way out to the farthest point where we chose. And even that site (tents only) had the most immaculate restrooms and showers we’ve ever seen at a state park. Les said that they were better than some of the hotels that we have stayed in and he is right!

unusual plants at Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona
unusual plants at Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona
abondoned cabin

This park is an exciting choice because, not only is there a lot of ground to cover, exploring abandoned shacks and ruins, but there is a wonderfully cool, shady lagoon to explore as well. You’ve got such a diverse eco-system within the park. You can hike from a high desert, to a cool lagoon to a shady marshland all in one day. Everywhere you look, the flora, birds and animals are plentiful.

the lake

Colorful and comical blue herons hang out at the dock of the lagoon where they steal fish from the buckets of unsuspecting anglers. This waterway is so peaceful and beautiful- an excellent destination if you just want to pack a lunch and go for a relaxing day hike.
At the lagoon, there is also kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, and a ton of different hiking trails.

Tadeshi marsh

On our second day in the park, we trekked on down to Tavasci Marsh.  It’s a fabulous hike down to a cool, wooded, marsh. It’s quite a surprise to find such an oasis in the middle of a dry Sonoran desert.  One of the rewards to this hike is coming upon a fern covered wonderland. You can see how dense the fine, lacy ferns are in the photo at the upper right corner of this collage.

Tuzigut Ruins, Arizona

From the Marsh trail-head, you can look across and see the Tuzigoot Indian ruins in Clarkdale, AZ. Also an interesting site seeing destination best saved for another day.

art · Travels

Art Day at Lynx Lake

When the going gets tough- say I am having a bad day at work- my husband, Les and I will pack up the truck and head on out for an art day in the wilderness. Into the truck we throw our cooler with lots of good eats, a ton of art supplies and a couple of folding chairs along with a table if we are going somewhere really wild. Since life can get stressful, it’s lucky for us that there is a lot of wilderness around here and a ton of really beautiful camping spots outfitted with tables, water and bathrooms. Perfect for creating!

Rusty red berries
Rusty red berries

The spot that we chose this past weekend was Lynx Lake near Prescott, Arizona.It’s got beautiful campgrounds full of gorgeous scenery. The camp spots are pristine and fairly private since it is so wooded. If you go in the middle of the week, it’s VERY private and quiet. There are a ton of hiking trails crisscrossing the area.  It’s one of our favorite spots and I highly recommend it both as a day camp and an overnight camp.

Wilderness, an acrylic painting in progress by Sandra McCall

Sometimes I bring blank canvases, paper or board to work on, but this time I decided to bring a canvas that I’ve been staring at for about a year now. I just did not know where to go with it. There is something about declaring “an art day” with my husband that is so freeing. When you are on location (especially out in the wilds), you are tied to only what you brought or what you can make on the spot. A lack of so many studio choices clears my head so that I can continue painting in freedom. Now I finally like the finished painting. Yay!

Wilderness, an acrylic painting by Sandra McCall
Wilderness, an acrylic painting by Sandra McCall

On our art adventures, Les works on his sketch books. Or he paints or he takes a bazillion photos, or he makes things with what he finds. Check out the little altered guys that he made with pine cones and berries. He left them propped on the grate of a fire pit. Les believes that his art is fleeting and is only there “for the moment”. But I find it much more precious. Still, I leave them where he places them and sincerely hope that someone savvy finds them and realizes what a gift they are. Check out the cool little guys that Les made this art day.

Les Gains and his altered art
Les Gains and his altered art