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Make a Mt. Lemmon Day Trip

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Mount Lemmon wildlowers

You start in the Tucson heat surrounded by saguaros. An hour (or so) and a few thousand feet in elevation later, you can be sitting among spruce trees in air cool enough to not melt the chocolate chips of the oversized cookie in front of you.

Summerhaven tables

Welcome to Mount Lemmon, a 9000-foot peak in the Santa Catalina Mountain Range.

Mount Lemmon view

Drive the Sky Island Scenic Byway (also called the Mt. Lemmon Highway, the Catalina Highway, and – officially – the General Hitchcock Highway) through beautiful landscape and six (6!) different climate zones.

Mt. Lemmon

Mt Lemmon

Then you can hike or picnic or ride the year-round ski lift. (Yes, it gets cold and snowy enough in the winter for skiing up there!)

Mt Lemmon trail

When Phillip and I and my parents went, we stopped at a picnic area (Box Elder, I think-?) before driving to the parking lot at end of the road and taking a little hike from there.

Mt. Lemmon

Along the way is the town of Summerhaven, a one-and-a half mile high city that caters to visitors seeking shelter from sweltering Tucson summers.

Cookie Cabin

It’s also home to the giant cookies of Cookie Cabin. Four of us split one sampler cookie. There was literally a line out the door but plenty of nice outdoor seating.

Mount Lemmon cookie

I taught my dad how to use the Hyperlapse app, so we could take timelapse videos of the drive up. You can see the dramatic changes of scenery compressed into two minutes.

Mount lemmon

– More Mt. Lemmon info –

  • Be prepared to pack out your own trash.
  • Ski lift – The “sky ride” to the summit lasts about half an hour. Off-season (summer) adult tickets are $12/ride. Winter lift tickets are $45/day. Details at
  • Keep the high altitude in mind when you’re planning hiking or other activities.
  • We were there in mid-August, right at the end of the summer wildflower season.


Scenic Drive:

Mt. Lemmon - Ski Valley


  • Many places you can park on Mount Lemmon require a pass, including the visitor center, picnic areas, etc.
  • You can purchase a Coronado Recreation Pass on the mountain at the Palisades Visitor Center or buy one before you go.
  • Passes are available at several locations, including the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 300 W. Congress near Downtown Tucson.
  • Day passes are $5 per vehicle. ($10 for a weekly pass.)
  • Instead of worrying about which specific places require it, consider just getting a day pass in town before you make the drive. It’s only 5 bucks and helps to support the forest.

Mount Lemmon

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San Xavier del Bac: Before and After

Posted by on Dec 19, 2016 in Travel | 10 comments

The last time – no, the time before last – we visited San Xavier del Bac near Tucson, one of the towers was shrouded in scaffolding while restoration work was done on the 200-year-old mission.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson

When we visited just this past week, at the end of a quick trip to Tucson, the restored tower had been unveiled, standing in contrast to its mate that has yet to undergo that process.

San Xavier del Bac, Tucson

On the whole, the Mission has held up remarkably well, considering it welcomes 200,000 visitors every year and is still home to an active congregation.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson candles
San Xavier del Bac, Tucson
Weekly masses are open to anyone, and we attended a crowded Easter Sunday service there one year. I love that it’s not just an empty historical building but the center of a vibrant community.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson

San Xavier del Bac, Tucson at sunset

“The Mission was created to serve the needs of the local community here, the village of Wa:k (San Xavier District) on the Tohono O’odham reservation, as it still does today.”

Statement on Mission usage

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Route 66 Celebration in Flagstaff

Posted by on Nov 10, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

Does hearing about Route 66 put Nat King Cole’s “Get Your Kicks” in your head too?

Road to flagstaff

I don’t know the whole song, but I always chime in when he gets to “Flagstaff, Arizona.”

The “Mother Road” turns 90 this year, and Flagstaff is celebrating the milestone Friday (11/11). There will be food, music, games, classic cars, and bowling from 12-5pm between the Historic Museum Club and Starlite Lanes Bowling Alley. Bring cash – proceeds benefit the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Bowling for Vets.


If you’re in town through Saturday, you can also go to the opening reception for the It’s Elemental exhibition at the Coconino Center for the Arts 11/12, 6-8pm. You can find more ideas of what to see in the Flagstaff Visitor Center’s itinerary guide (PDF).

flagstaff arizona

According to the leaf-o-meter, there is still some fall color, and the forecast looks good. It should be a great weekend to get your kicks in Northern Arizona!

Flagstaff - NAU

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Payson Pie and Strawberry Llamas

Posted by on Sep 1, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

Llamas at ranch at fossil creek

Ever since a park ranger at Phoenix Comicon told us about Arizona’s National Park Centennial Celebration (which you may have seen on recent Happenings Lists), we had planned to make a day trip to Flagstaff to join.


After a late start the morning of the event, we were finally en route when we learned there had been a freeway-closing collision between us and Flagstaff and that the resulting traffic jam would likely last several hours.

So. We considered our options, ditched the plan, and headed to Payson instead.


While Phillip drove, I found a list of 35 things to do around Payson and read it to him. #33 was “Fossil Creek Llama Ranch.” Obviously, that went on the afternoon’s itinerary.


First, though, we stopped at the Beeline Cafe for lunch and pie. They have crazy good pie.


The clouds were moving in as we stepped out of the cafe and drove towards the Ranch at Fossil Creek in the town of Strawberry.


The Ranch is home to llamas, goats, Fossil Creek Creamery – where they make fudge, cheese, and soap from goat’s milk – and a little log-cabin-style store with their products.


It was sprinkling by the time we pulled up and went into the Creamery store. We checked it all out, sampled some cheese, made some purchases.

Fossil Creek Creamery: goat cheese

We went out to watch the animals. The llamas didn’t seem to mind the rain and just hung out around their field, chewing cud.


The goats, on the other hand, had taken cover and stood huddled together.

Fossil Creek Creamery: goats


Eventually, one black goat decided the rain had let up enough to venture out. The rest tentatively followed, one by one realizing the drizzle wasn’t so bad, and it was safe to get back to eating, climbing on stuff, butting heads, and doing all their regular goaty things.



– More info –

ranch at fossil creek - strawberry, arizona

Photo of Phillip by someone at the National Park Service booth.

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Where to Stop for Date Shakes on California Road Trips

Posted by on Aug 18, 2016 in Travel | 2 comments

Palm yuma
We don’t order date shakes at home in Phoenix. We could. There are a couple places that serve them, since date palms grow here.

But we only look for them on road trips through a certain western Arizona/eastern California corridor.
Hadley date farm cabazon california


If you’re headed from Phoenix to Los Angeles on the 10, there’s the Hadley Fruit Orchards store in Cabazon near the dinosaurs.


The decades-old farm store recently moved to a shiny new building. They still have a little cafe, and it’s still a great place to stop for snacks – all kinds of specialty trail mix and dried fruit and veggies, much of it from the local area and/or their own blends.

Hadley date farm cabazon california

Shakes come in a reusable souvenir cup. Last time, we got there near the end of the day and they said they were out of regular date shakes but had banana date shakes. So they must mix them in advance-? Anyway, you could mostly just taste the banana, and it wasn’t the same.

Marthas garden date farm, yuma


If you’re on I-8 headed for San Diego, I’d recommend skipping the well-publicized Dateland and opting for Martha’s Gardens in Yuma instead. Coming from Phoenix, it’s about another hour down the freeway but worth it. The shake we got at the Dateland Travel Center tasted overly, artificially sweet with dates in clumps. The Martha’s Garden shakes were blended well and sweet without being sickeningly so.

Date shakes in Yuma

The Martha’s Garden store is smack in the middle of a working date farm, down a dirt driveway surrounded by rows of palm trees. While Martha’s store shelves are mostly stocked with bulk dates, they do sell some other local products like honey and salsa.

Marthas garden date farm, yuma

From the counter at the back, you can order sandwiches, date shakes, coffee, or a shot of espresso in your date shake. Behind it is a room of tables and chairs – and a couple outlets if you need to recharge.

Marthas garden date farm, yuma

Have you ever tried date shakes? Do you have food/drinks you only get on road trips?

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