Local Secrets of Northern Arizona!

Work camping jobs are normally around six months long.  One of the things we love about being able to stay in an area for a while is the fact that eventually, we get to check out some of the things that the locals know about, but the average tourist never gets to experience.

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Here are three of our favorite “local secrets” that we have enjoyed over the past few months…

Bill Williams Mountain

The tiny town of Williams is surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks.  These are part of the San Francisco volcanic field.  Now dormant, these beautiful peaks used to be active volcanos!

Bill Williams Mountain is the tallest of those peaks surrounding Williams and is named after Old Bill Williams, a scout, guide and mountain man who lived in the 1800s.

We heard that there was a dirt road available to get to the top.  At 9,256 feet above sea level at the peak, it was sure to be an amazing view.  So we set out to find it!

local secrets of williams arizona

Instructions to get to this local secret are as follows:

Take 4th street out of town toward Dogtown lake.  Go 4.7 miles from downtown and turn at the first dirt road on the right, just after the speed limit drops to 35 miles per hour.

Yep, it isn’t marked very well.  Hence the local secret, right?

local secrets of williams arizona

Warning- do not try to take this road in inclement weather, right after a rain, or in a vehicle that sits very low to the ground.

It is a total of 6.9 miles from the main road to the top of the mountain.  The road is in relatively good shape, but is steep and full of many switch backs and hairpin turns.

Oh, and there is no guard rail.

local secrets of williams arizona

The view is well worth it.  Our little KIA “I-think-I-canned” the whole way up.  We were glad we traded the VW bug in.  It sat so low to the ground that it never would have made it.

local secrets of williams arizona

At the very top of the mountain you will find a large antenna farm.  We were careful to respect any no trespassing signs as we took in the view from the top.

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Here we were at 9,256 feet above sea level and we could literally see for miles!

local secrets of williams arizona

Want to go a little higher?  Well, there is a fire tower on the top of the mountain too!

Dave refused to climb it, but I decided to brave it and climbed about half way up.

local secrets of williams arizona

From there I had an amazing, unblocked view of all directions.  Down below I was able to make out the campground.

local secrets of williams arizona

Fall is in the air this time of year and the journey to the top of Bill Williams Mountain was full of beautiful photo opportunities.

local secrets of williams arizona

The ride to the top and back down is full of beautiful scenery and definitely worth the effort.  For those that enjoy a good strenuous hike, there are some great trails that also go to the top of this mountain.  Just be aware of changing weather, and local wildlife.

And true to most local secrets, we didn’t run into a single person the entire trip.  I love these kind of secrets!

Click here for secret #2!

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Wild Arizona- Bearizona and Grand Canyon Deer Farm

One of the perks of working for KOA campgrounds is that often we are given free tickets to check out local attractions.  This helps us to better recommend these attractions to our campers.  That being said, we decided to take advantage of this perk and visited two animal parks within a few miles of the campground.

bearizona and grand canyon deer farm

Bearizona Drive-Thru Wildlife Park

Bearizona was our first stop.  Located in the town of Williams, approximately three miles from the campground, It is a must see for children and animal lovers alike.

Bearizona does not want to be known strictly as a zoo.  It is a drive-through wildlife park where visitors can get up close and personal with some amazingly beautiful and wild animals.

bearizona and grand canyon deer farm

Yep, up close and personal with wild bears!

For a $20 admission for adults and $10 for children, you can actually drive your own vehicle along a three mile gravel road to see bears, wolves, buffalo, deer, elk and other wild animals right up next to your car!

The question we get asked the most is do you really see lots of bears there?  Up close and in your face?

bearizona and grand canyon deer farm

Um…yes.

There are many, many bears there.  In fact, the park asks that as you drive through the bear exhibit, you do not stop your car.

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You see, the bears love to climb and have been known to not only climb on top of vehicles, but take their own little souvenirs too.  Like maybe your license plate, side mirror or bumper.

bearizona and grand canyon deer farm

Fortunately for those of us that kinda like our cars, they also offer a free shuttle into the drive through area.  You can drive through in your own car, take the shuttle, or even do both!

The nice thing about the shuttle is that you have a very informed driver who talks about the animals, gives you their names as she sees them and tells you background stories on them.

bearizona and grand canyon deer farm

Along with the drive through section is Fort Bearizona, where bear cubs, river otters, foxes, pigs, goats, and other animals are on display in man-made habitats.

Fort Bearizona has a great set-up where the animals are easily seen, but we aren’t a bother to them.  They are happy to bask in the sun nearby and allow beautiful photos.

bearizona and grand canyon deer farm

If the premise of Bearizona sounds familiar, it is because it is owned and run by the sons of the owners of Bear Country in the Black Hills of North Dakota.

Click here for more…

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Two Guns; A Ghost Town with a haunted past…

We decided to drive out to see the Petrified Forest and the town of Winslow.  Because we felt the need to get a photo on the corner, right?

But just west of Winslow, we took a detour when we noticed some amazing looking ruins along side of the interstate.  And I’m so glad we did.  We stumbled upon the ghost town of Two Guns; a town with a sad and terrible past.

We were not aware of the history behind this place as we were exploring, but I managed to do some research and found out some very interesting things!

two guns ghost town in arizona

The Death Cave

The area that became Two Guns was originally Navajo and Apache territory.  In the late 1800’s, a total of forty-two Apaches lost their lives in a show down with the Navajos.  The Apaches were burned to death in a cave in the canyon located on this property.

two guns ghost town in arizona

After this terrible incident, the Apaches and the Navajos never returned to this area.  To this day, the Navajo believe the Two Guns area is possessed by Chindiis, their term for “ghosts of the dead”.

And the history of the area after the massacre is curiously dark.  Enough so that I was glad we did not stumble upon the Death cave or go anywhere near it.

two guns ghost town arizona

Two Guns and Route 66

In the early 1900’s, taking advantage of the traffic along the newly named Route 66, a local resident named Henry Miller created the town of Two Guns.

He added a gas station, over night accommodations, a cafe, souvenir shop and even a zoo.

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two guns ghost town in arizona

The zoo housed mountain lions, panthers, bobcats, gila monsters and more.

Click here for more!

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Taking a ski lift up into the clouds…

We work five days a week with two days off right now.  So on those two days, we like to become tourists and visit something fun in the area.

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I mean, who wants to stay in the RV all day?

Fortunately, there is so much to choose from around here that I doubt we will have a single weekend without some place new to see.

san francisco peaks flagstaff arizona

This photo was taken in May, shortly after we got here.  We were very surprised to see snow capped mountains right in our back yard. This mountain range is called The San Francisco Peaks.

The tallest mountain in the range, Humphreys Peak, is the highest point in the state of Arizona at 12,633 feet in elevation.

san francisco peaks flagstaff arizona

We took a ride out to the Arizona Snowbowl, a ski resort located on the San Francisco Peaks.   Opened in 1938, the Arizona Snowbowl is one of the longest running resorts in the West having been open for 75 years.

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You see, we heard that they will take you up on the ski lift for a nominal fee.

And we totally couldn’t pass that up!
san francisco peaks flagstaff arizona

The chair lift officially opened for the summer right after Memorial Day.  We were very excited to check it out.

Dave and I were skiers in our younger days.  We choose not to break any bones at this stage in our lives, so we have to settle for a summer ski lift.  But I have to tell you, that it brought back great memories!

Click here for more!

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Of hail storms, tumbleweeds and crazy looking squirrels…

We have been here in the high desert about three months now.  Time is certainly flying by!  We are half way through our season at the Circle Pines KOA in Williams, AZ already.

I want to talk about a few unusual things that we have discovered here in this beautiful place.  Things like extreme weather,  tumbleweeds and funky squirrels.

Oh my!

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Northern Arizona was really not what we were expecting.  Having never been to Arizona before, I figured we would be living in a desert.  And true to form, much of Arizona is just that.  But the towns of Williams and the Flagstaff area sit at about 7300 feet above sea level.

And that makes all the difference in the world!

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At such high altitude, we often have folks showing up at the campground with altitude sickness.  It takes at least three days for your body to adjust.

You also have to think about things such as adding flour to your baking recipes and the fact that water boils much slower.

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But I’d have to say that the biggest thing to get used to was the quick and dramatic changes of weather that are so common here in the high desert.

Monsoon Season

sedona storm clouds

When visiting the town of Sedona a few weeks ago, we took a bunch of photos of the beautiful rock formations and the gathering clouds behind them.  It was in the 80’s that day.  Sunny and warm.

And then we went into a restaurant to have lunch.

sedona storm clouds

We came out to several inches of pea sized hail and temperatures in the 60’s!  Freak storm?  Hardly.

It seems that at this altitude, these types of storms are quite common.

sedona hail storm

Especially during the Monsoon season of mid July through August.  Most days are sunny and temperate.  Most afternoons are full of interesting surprises.

We are right in the clouds.  Thunderstorms can be very dangerous.  The weather here can kill those that do not properly respect it.

Click here for more!

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Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater

One of the great things about traveling the country is that wherever we stop, our family will eventually join us!  My sister and her husband arrived for a long weekend and stayed in a cabin at our campground.

sunset crater and wupatki national monument

We took them on an adventure to visit Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument.

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Lynda and Jeff are very familiar with this part of the country.  Having done many road trips in Arizona and New Mexico, they knew exactly what they wanted to see again.

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They suggested that we take the 73 mile Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Monument loop.  This scenic loop would take us through the vast lava fields of Sunset Crater and then onto the ancient pueblos that make up Wupatki National Monument.

Located about 15 miles north of Flagstaff, this was a fun day trip for all of us!

Sunset Crater

wupatki national monument and sunset crater

Our first stop was the amazing lava fields at Sunset Crater.  You see, nearly 1,000 years ago a fiery volcano destroyed the landscape and the tiny settlements that used to call this area home.

New mountains were created and where there used to be grassy meadows, there remains acres and acres of lava fields.

wupatki national monument and sunset crater

These photos truly do not do it justice.  There was hardened lava as far as the eye could see.

The lava and cinder rocks seem frozen in time, almost as if they had just cooled down last week.

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There is a one mile self-guided loop trail located at the base of Sunset Crater, but hiking to the summit is no longer permitted. Unfortunately, the trail to the summit and crater was closed in 1973 because of excessive erosion caused by hikers.

wupatki national monument and sunset crater

The wildflowers in the area were just beautiful.  These are called Apache Plume.  It is a drought resistant plant that is located mainly in the southwestern US.

A thousand years ago, this land was desolate and barren.  Now nature rules again.

Our next stop was the Wupatki National Monument…

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Arizona Destinations: Meteor Crater in Flagstaff

We love to go on mini vacations on our two days off each week.  In fact, we spend a lot of time doing research, trying to decide what we would like to visit each week.  This week, based on a cool billboard off the interstate, we decided to visit the Meteor Crater.

And to make the adventure even more fun, we took the motorcycle.  It was a particularly windy day, with gusts of 20 plus miles per hour,  which made the ride to the crater a little nerve racking.  But we were in for the adventure, right?

trip to meteor crater

The crater is about an hour drive from the campground, which worked well for me, as I have about an hour butt-limit on the motorcycle.

Seriously.

meteor crater arizona

But this was worth the wind and the tender rear end.  You see the crater is a huge, huge hole located smack in the middle of the flat high desert of Northern Arizona.  In fact, it is 3/4 of a mile in diameter and about 600 feet deep.  A heck of a hole.

meteor crater arizona

So how big is this hole?  Well check it out!

Fifty thousand years ago, a giant meteor streaked across North America and struck the earth in what is now northern Arizona, exploding with the force of 2.5 million tons of TNT.  It is thought that the meteorite weighed about 300,000 tons and was traveling at a speed of 26,000 miles per hour.

The force when it struck was about 150 times the force of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

meteor crater arizona

The force of the impact not only melted most of the meteorite, but forced millions of tons of limestone and sandstone out of the hole,  throwing rocks and meteor fragments for miles.

meteor crater arizona

The crater and the land around it has been privately owned since the early 1900’s by the Barringer family.  The family has built a nice visitor center along with a movie theater, restaurant and gift shop right on the rim of the crater.

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Along the rim, there are impressive views. You can walk out on a platform that juts out over the edge.  From this vantage point a sign informs you that a tiny rock on the floor of the Crater is actually as big as a house. In the center of the crater stands a cardboard cutout of a guy holding an American flag, but you can’t see him unless you’re looking through the platform’s fixed telescope.

This is a huge hole!

Click here for more photos and info on the meteor crater!

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A look at Monument Valley!

One thing that we love about the high plateau of Williams and Flagstaff is the fact that the summer is very mild.  Travel two hours in any direction and you come down from the plateau into 100+ degree weather.

This week, we decided to bite the bullet and head for the amazing vistas of Monument Valley.

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Yes, it was 102 degrees in the shade.  But we have to tell you that the adventure was totally worth the extra heat!  If you have never gotten the chance to see Monument Valley in person, be sure to add it to your bucket list.

map to monument valley

Monument Valley is about a four hour drive from Williams.  Heading pretty much due north, it is just across the Arizona/Utah state line.

Monument Valley is characterized by vast sandstone buttes, many reaching over 1,000 ft above the valley floor.  It is located almost entirely on the Navajo Nation Reservation.  

visit to monument valley

The drive was a long one.  Once we went down into the valley, we passed from the pine tree forests into the hot desert.  It wasn’t long before we started seeing red rock in the distance.

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visit to monument valley

Because it was going to be a very long day, we decided to take the dogs with us.

Seems that they are not as easy to impress as we are.  They spent the entire journey in the back of the car with the air conditioner running.

visit to monument valley

 Look familiar at all?

Monument Valley has been featured in many forms of media since as early as the 1930s. Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, including Stagecoach, starring John Wayne.

To many, this is what the old west represented.

Click here for more!

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A Yabba Dabba Doo Time!

On the way back from visiting the south rim of the Grand Canyon, we noticed this fabulous sign from the past welcoming us to a campground/roadside attraction named Bedrock City.

We totally had to stop. 

flintstones park arizona

We both grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, and like many of our generation, we absolutely loved the Flintstones.  After taking several photos at the entrance, we decided to come up with the $5 entrance fee and see what was hidden behind those big brick walls.  

I’ve always been a sucker for campy and fun.  And Bedrock City, located smack in the middle of the dusty high desert seemed very promising!

flintstones park arizona

After paying our entrance fees, we walked into a stone age ghost town.

Originally opening in 1972 at the height of the Flintstones popularity, Bedrock City once was a thriving road side attraction, offering live actors playing Fred Flintstone and the rest of the stone age crew, rides, a theater and much more.

Fourty-four years later, this little attraction is not much than a run down shadow of its former self.

flintstones park arizona

Bedrock City also included a small restaurant, a dark and dusty gift shop, and a campground that has seen better days.  Of course, this did not deter us much.  I love a photo opportunity, and there were plenty of those to choose from.

flintstones park arizona

The amusement park, while silent, was full of colorful representations of the old cartoon series.  Unfortunately, the remaining structures at Bedrock City are in currently in terrible disrepair, with crumbling buildings and character replicas that need more than just a fresh coat of paint after baking in the desert sun for 44 years.

Click here to continue reading…

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Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon!

We are currently living and working at the Circle Pines KOA in Williams, AZ.  We arrived here about a month ago and were assigned a spot in the center of the campground.

I have to say that in our work camping career so far, this site is the best that we have had!  It includes trees, a nice size yard (even when campers are around us), a huge fire pit and lots of flat space to store the motorcycle!

appreciating the grand canyon

We love this laid back campground!  It is a lot smaller than Bar Harbor, and St. Petersburg.  With just 20 cabins, and about 150 pull through sites, it is not only pleasant to live here, but working behind the counter is that much easier.

We will be here until October 31, which gives us plenty of time to explore the area and take in all that we can.

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And Circle Pines also owns a Go Cart track, putting a little variety into our work routines!

So why did we choose northern Arizona for the summer?  Well, there were several reasons.  At about 7000 feet above sea level, this area of the country does not get extreme heat in the summer.  In fact, evenings are jacket weather!

But the biggest draw of the area has to be The Grand Canyon.  Since neither one of us had ever seen it before, this area of the country was on our “bucket list”.

The Grand Canyon National Park

appreciating the grand canyon

It is about a 60 mile drive from Williams to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  The drive is actually very interesting as you move from pine forests to dry desert land.   Keep an eye out for deer.  They are everywhere!

Along the way, you will find the occasional camper parked off the roadway.   You see in this area of the state, you can dry camp off road for as long as two weeks.

appreciating the grand canyon

Entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park is $30 per vehicle. Parking spaces are plentiful and even include areas for RVs and buses.

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Once parked, you can either hike along the rim trail, or take free shuttles to restaurants, stores and view points along the South Rim.

appreciating the grand canyon

The canyon itself is absolutely breathtaking.  No photos or words actually do it justice.  You have to see it for yourself to understand the magnitude of this amazing Natural Wonder.

The Grand Canyon is about 277 miles long. At its widest point it is 18 miles wide. The average width is a distance about 10 miles. The average depth is about 1 mile.

Click here for more photos and info on the Grand Canyon!

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