Friday, December 13, 2013

Countdown To Launch

We're almost ready to hit the road. The horses are relocated and the trailer renovations are almost done. It will be a challenge to fit everything we think we need into a 14ft. trailer, but I imagine we don't need as much as we think we do.

Our first few months will include extended stops in Colorado, California and Texas, with pass-throughs in Arizona and New Mexico. I'm looking forward to sharing the sights and our experiences and thoughts with you. Hope you'll enjoy following. 

For now, we're enjoying a visit with family in Northern Colorado, then will be heading back to Arizona to finish putting the trailer back together and packing up. I hope to have a couple more posts for you between now and New Year's, then be able to post more frequently, again.

Until then, Happy Trails!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

A Catholic Traveling
Wild Horses of Route 66
I Believe in Angels

Friday, November 8, 2013

Judy's Bracelets

I need hope. I'm homesick and I haven't even left for life on the road, yet. I look around my empty, too quiet barnyard and I miss the clucking hens, the screeching guineas, the baaing goats. I count how many Sunday Masses I have left to play for and I wonder where I will play my music when I'm on the road. How can I breath if I cannot play my flute somewhere? 

Judy likes to give out bracelets. In her younger years she had a hand in everything that went on in our little mission church. She was a powerful force in organizing dinners, fund raisers and raffles. Recently she has had to slow down quite a bit. Now she blesses us with her bracelets. One year it was angels. The next, St. Faustina. Then the Sacred Heart and Blessed Mother. Lately it has been blingy crosses. The bracelets are special, because they come from Judy, but also because they are given to us at church. When we wear them, we remember our connection. To each other, to St. Anne's, to the Holy Catholic Church begun by Jesus himself, to Judy.

Last Sunday I counted 5 of us wearing our blingy crosses. I went home and discovered another one hiding in the bottom of my suitcase. Such a small thing. Such a big comfort. When I wear Judy's bracelets, I feel connected. My heart is lighter, because I have a church family, even if I will be absent for awhile. Most of all I have hope. Hope that I will connect with more of my Catholic family as I travel. Hope that I will find other musicians to play with. Hope that, whatever God's plan for me, I will recognize it and participate joyfully.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy:

Oops! God, Have Mercy, I Goofed Again

While The Cat's Away...

Were You There When The Sun Refused To Shine?

Our Lady of Sorrows

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Oops! God, Have Mercy, I Goofed Again

Sunday's gospel (Luke 18:9-14) was all about humility. The pharisee proudly reminds God how well he has kept His commandments. The tax collector, in shame, hides in a corner and begs God's mercy. Fr. K's homily began with a reminder that once we think we have humility, we've lost it. His hint couldn't have come at a better time. More than one of us had goofed up that very day.

After Mass, several of us were discussing our humbling experiences during our monthly community meal. I had started things out by jumping into the Gloria, before the Kyrie was chanted.  My guitar player pointed out my mistake and I stealthily retrieved my chapel veil from my bag and covered my humbled head. Next, our second reader forgot "The Word of the Lord", at the end of his reading, because it ended in "Amen". I had to smile. I was no longer alone in my shame. The final humiliation was that sticky key on my flute, which naturally decided to stick in the middle of a solo. I guess I'd better get that fixed. At least the organ didn't blare out of tune like it did last Sunday...

We make plenty of little mistakes all the time. Usually we play through them and nobody notices. Sometimes they are very obvious and amplified by the presence of a microphone and a large group of people in front of us. As my friend Joan commented, "God must have needed a good laugh today". Always happy to oblige.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy:

Simple Music Guidelines

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spooky Skate Park

So what about a break from all the sightseeing and touring? How about a place for the kids to blow off steam and work up a sweat? We're here again, in the City of Williams, Arizona, enjoying an afternoon at the Recreation Center, which also has a separate Skate Park, designed by local youth. All activities are free, just sign a waiver, adult supervision is provided (although I tend to stay here and provide my own supervision for Yak). Unfortunately the swimming pool is not open during the winter. If you find yourself here during the summer, however, the cost is minimal, $4 adults, $2 children for the summer of 2013.

A play park is in the same complex, so there is a little bit of something for everybody. Yak and I enjoyed several games of ping-pong and a few rounds of pool in the rec center one day. For movie nights and other free and low cost family events put on by the City of Williams Parks and Recreation Department, visit the Williams Chamber of Commerce website and click on Events and Community Calendar. You can also find a list of parks at the City of Williams website.

One of the few things Yak and his friends like better than swimming is rollerblading. Since we live about 30 miles away from Williams, it gets inconvenient if we forget something we need there. Not to fear, "The Shed", as the skate park is called, stocks free loaners of rollerblades, pads and helmets, as well as skateboards. The equipment is sprayed with disinfectant after each use, just like at roller and ice rinks. Still, we're more comfortable with our own gear.

I hope you enjoy hearing about the offbeat things for kids and families to do on the road. As we prepare to hit the road full-time, I've begun to think about ways for my son to continue with his hobbies and interests, and these things will also help him to find new friends as we travel. If you would like to read more about our adventures in downsizing and preparing to homestead, homeschool and live simply while traveling slowly, head over to our sister blog Around the Homestead (by Mrs. D's Homestead).

Happy Trails!

If you liked this post, you might enjoy these:

Bill Williams Mountain Trail, Williams, Arizona

A Catholic Traveling
National Train Day in Williams, Arizona

While the Cat's Away...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bill Williams Mountain Trail, Williams, Arizona

The perfect days of a Northern Arizona autumn are here, yet I am reflecting upon one of my favorite summer hikes. When the temperatures rise in Ash Fork, I take the boy up to Williams, where it's 5-10 degrees cooler, with a lot more shade. Bill Williams Mountain Trail #21, is the main trailhead located at the Williams Ranger Station. Several other trails can be accessed from it, including Clover Spring and City of Williams Link Trail. Bill Williams Mountain is a great day hike, though there are some fairly steep patches on the way up. For a beginning to intermediate hiker, this will just mean a few extra rest stops and a reminder that the return trip is all downhill. 

This trail wanders through ponderosa pines, oak, aspen and fir, with a bit of rock climbing thrown in. Well, not actually climbing, but for a 10 year old boy, we call it that. There are dozens of small dens to observe, most will be empty during the day, but have caution lest you come upon a sleeping critter or a new mother with her litter. Several viewpoints offer a glimpse of the town of Williams. You will likely hear the train whistle at some point, if you make the entire 6 mile round trip. The Grand Canyon Railway leaves Williams for the Canyon at 9:30a.m. and returns at 5:45p.m. daily.

The reward at the top of the trail is the Bill Williams Lookout tower, still occasionally manned by the Forest Service. If you're lucky, maybe you'll get invited up to take in the spectacular view, as a friend of mine did. One thing this same friend mentioned is that it is also possible to drive to the top on Forest Road 111, so if hiking is not for you, or if you just want to make the one way trip, you can still enjoy the mountain.

Though the trail is very clear, we still saw a few of these marking tapes (pink ribbon on the tree) along the way, hmm...
The yellow plate on this tree identifies it as a "bearing tree", a part of the Public Lands Survey System, identifying land boundaries and locations long before the GPS was even conceived.

As you can see here, Yak is carrying his walking stick. We don't always use them, but they are very helpful. He's also got water and gatorade easily accessible from the outside pockets of his daypack. Inside, I happen to know, are an apple, chips, a granola bar and a camera, notebook and pen. He also has a hoodie and hat stowed in there. Even if you think you're just going on a short hike, it's a good idea to be prepared. You never know what's up around the bend...

Happy Trails!

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy these:

Clover Spring Trail, Williams, Arizona

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sycamore Canyon Overlook Trail, Williams, Arizona

Junction: Whitehorse Lake Trail and Sycamore Canyon Overlook Trail #70
While the government shut-down is affecting many services, including the National Parks and Forests, there are still a lot of activities available, if you're willing to walk just a little bit farther from your car, and pack a few snacks and a bottle of water in your daypack. The Sycamore Canyon Overlook Trail, #70, just outside of Williams, Arizona, meets up with the Whitehorse Lake Trail, #33. Another easy day-hike, it has a brief uphill climb, and is difficult to see in some spots. For me, this only added to the adventure. At trail marker 9 on the Whitehorse Lake Trail, take the trail to Sycamore Canyon View. This will make your hike a total of just over 3 miles, unless you have to park outside the Whitehorse Lake Campground and walk in to the trailhead. The reward is a mostly easy, fairly level trail, with abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing (especially with fewer people about) and interesting obstacles, such as these cattle gates, to negotiate.

I was standing right here, when a large hawk rose out of the canyon below and hovered in front of me. Noting his audience, he began to soar high overhead, dipping and rising on the air currents. My heart thrilled and I forgot to breathe for a moment. I sat and watched a small group of hawks dance on the winds for the better part of an hour.

The Dragon Tree
My mind, thus freed from its carefully constructed restraints, discovered this Dragon, cleverly disguised as a tree, apparently waiting either for its rider, or for some hobbit to try to steal its treasure. I was not going to fall for its tricks. The sun was setting, so I reluctantly returned down to the trailhead, mindful of the couple of spots where the trail was not very clear. 10 year old Yak would have enjoyed this hike, but at the time, the guys were in Colorado, so I had to go solo.

If you decide to take this hike, keep in mind that at the top, there are steep dropoffs and no safety rails. Keep young children close. Also, wildlife is not always friendly. Know how to protect yourself. Especially with Forest Rangers not on duty due to budget constraints, make sure somebody expects you back, so someone can alert authorities if you don't show up.

That said, Happy Trails!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Catholic Traveling

Oatman burro gets friendly outside of town
It occurs to me that I have not mentioned about our plans to get back on the road. When I first started the Catholic Traveller blog and website, the plan was to travel frequently and visit missions, shrines and other holy places, take lots of pictures and video, and share impressions, recommendations and interesting facts. Then my children became interested in horses and - nuff said. That batch of children is now grown and on their own. Now comes an opportunity to lighten up again and travel full time with my trailer for awhile. We will be traveling slow and enjoying the journey.

The new home: 1975 MeToo; bumper to bumper inspection before starting renovation
While the coming year is planned for the Western U.S., there will also be a few weeks in Wyoming, with a possible trip to New York and North Carolina, depending on finances and family situations. We are renovating a 28 foot RV and a 14 foot travel trailer - if you are interested in that process, you can follow it on Mrs. D's Homestead, my other site, where we will also post more about full-time RV living, homeschooling on the road and minimalist, homestead-spirited living on the road.

Miner's "cabins", Calico Ghost Town, Yermo, CA
Catholic Traveller will continue to focus more on the places we visit and on our spiritual journey, as well as the challenges of finding Mass, confession and fellowship opportunities on the road.

Until next time, Happy Trails!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wild Horses of Route 66

Route 66, or more appropriate for this blog post, Will Rogers Highway, passes through miles of open range, BLM land and private ranch land in Arizona. The longest existing stretch of Will Rogers Highway is between Ash Fork, Arizona and Kingman, Arizona. This is where you can see herds of wild horses grazing alongside range cattle. If you're lucky, you might even see a fast freight train on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line, bringing goodies to Los Angeles from all points east, while you're stopped to admire the horses.

Talk about a Sunday drive! I get to see this herd on my way back to Ash Fork from Seligman, after playing for Sunday Mass there at St. Francis Catholic Church. Sometimes I even see them from Interstate 40 on my way there from St. Anne's Catholic Church in Ash Fork.

This curious little fellow spies me and wants to know what I'm up to. The others studiously ignore me. I don't believe that this is a BLM herd, so my guess is that they are owned by whomever holds the grazing lease on this particular stretch of land. I have come to think of them as "my herd" and look for them whenever I come this way. There is a certain water hole near a blocked off bridge where my youngest son and I have spent many a Sunday hour watching the trains and the horses while picnicking on sandwiches and fruit. 

Every year it is exciting to see the new foals and watch them grow. This year, with all of our wonderful rain, the horses had plenty of water to frolic and cool off in. I tried hard to get some good shots of them playing in the water, but they came out too blurry or too late. I'll sure miss these guys when we head out on the road full-time. One more item on the list of heartbreaking choices I've had to make. I look forward, however, to discovering new herds in new places and especially to having some new adventures to share with you as we travel the Western United States and wherever else God in His good humor decides to take us on our pilgrimage of life.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Whitehorse Lake Trail, Williams, Arizona

Late in May, I found myself in Williams, with my car pointed down the "south road" (aka 4th Street) out of town. The warm sun, the brilliant blue sky and the seductive scent of pine lured me on to where 4th Street becomes Perkinsville Rd. past the back side of Bill Williams Mountain. At the signpost for Overland Trails and Whitehorse Lake, I made a left. Another left into Whitehorse Lake campground, passed through to the day use area and parked. 

Sycamore Rim Trail Access Map

After changing into my trusty hiking boots, I grabbed walking stick, hat, camera, water and snacks. Okay, so it's only 1 mile from the parking area to the end of the trail and 1 mile back. My out of shape self was taking no chances. Part of my strategy in choosing this trail was that it is easy. The terrain is fairly level, no boulders to climb or streams to cross. It meanders through Ponderosa pine and oaks, so is mostly shady, and stays near the lake. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of elk or deer, but be cautious of other wildlife. Puma have also been spotted, along with the occasional bear. I didn't even spot a fish on the day I went, but then, I didn't spot many people, either.

Don't plan on cooling off in the lake after your hike, as it is not aerated for swimming. Fish and Game does keep Whitehorse Lake stocked with trout, so bring your pole and license. Barbeques and tables are available for day use, for a fee, and the campground is right there. You might want to plan a few days at this spot, fishing, exploring the trails and relaxing and enjoying the tall pines, gazillion stars and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Best time to go is May-October.

This trail is great for families, children, adults getting in shape/back in shape, older adults and experienced walkers. It also joins up with the Sycamore Canyon Overlook Trail which joins several other trails, for a change of scenery and more of a challenge. More info and maps are available at the Williams Ranger District office, right off Interstate 40 at exit 161 map.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Phoenix in July? Why?!

Cooling off after a toasty time in Phoenix, AZ
Yet another mid-July trip to Phoenix, AZ. I am always opposed to the timing of these mid-summer fiascos and as events seemed to reinforce my objections, I didn't say, "I told you so". Didn't even give him "the look". I comforted myself with visions of sitting by our family member's pool in the early mornings and late evenings, reading, and taking in a movie in a nice, air-conditioned theater. That didn't exactly work out, either, but more about that later.

After we arrived at our relatives' home, our first order of business was dinner at the local Chinese buffet.  This lost its luster when a cockroach make an appearance on one of the plates.  We had planned to take in a movie next, but there were none we wanted to see that were playing at a convenient time. We wanted the matinee, of course. We decided to go the next day. Instead we went to Bass Pro shop, where we made several purchases. One was an open reel that was supposed to be $29 and the charge was $59. Wow. Is it a full moon? Yes, as a matter of fact, it was. The mistake was corrected (we were purchasing the display model and the salesperson had put it in the wrong box, which caused the error in pricing) and we went back to the condo and called it quits for the night.

Saturday dawned, hot and muggy. No sitting outside enjoying the sunrise. In addition, the pool was quite filthy, so we passed on the swimming, as well. Later, we got cabin fever and went looking for a Sprouts Market and a tea shop. This Sprouts didn't have the raw milk I've been drinking, but we picked up fresh, organic veggies for dinner and fruit for smoothies. I decided to settle for kefir, since I couldn't get my raw milk.

On the way to the tea shop, we stumbled upon a nice little Greek restaurant where we decided to stop for lunch. After I got my missing olives and feta, my Greek salad was delicious. The lemon soup was awesome and the gyro dinner was so tasty and tender, I think I am now addicted to Greek cooking.

The tea shop, on the other hand, was less impressive. Stocked full of ayurvedics, essential oils and loose teas and spices, it was a disappointment. All the teas were old, stale and dusty. From the looks of the tinctures behind the counter, I didn't think they were very potent anymore either. The real kicker was, the annexed vegetarian restaurant was packed! I hope the quality of the food there was better than the quality of the teas adjoining. We never did get to the movies, but our visit with the family was most pleasant, as usual. Thankfully, we enjoy each other's company, whether or not the outside forces cooperate.

Although Sunday Mass is easy to locate nearly any time from Saturday evening to Sunday evening in Phoenix, the advice from this pilgrim is: do not go in July! The optimum time to enjoy Phoenix, as well as most of Arizona, is winter and spring!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Writes of Passage: My Two Scents' Worth

This morning we were greeted by the aroma of skunk in the church. My friend Carol is a Baptist pastor's wife. Her latest reflection follows the skunk theme:

Writes of Passage: My Two Scents' Worth: I’m not sure anyone has ever measured the decibel level of a preschooler’s scream, but the shriek my daughter let out...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tic Tac Toe

In an effort to beat the heat this week, we've been escaping another 1000 feet in elevation to Williams, Arizona.  Relaxing at one of our favorite fishing holes, my son sets up an impromptu game of "tic tac toe".  After a couple of dozen rounds, his interest wanes and he gazes off to the side of our picnic table.  A tiny robin is collecting - something.  Foraging through pine needles and gravel for tasty morsels, perhaps.

The earlier cool breeze now fights with a hot wind, both struggling to dominate our respite.  We move to a shadier spot.  My son has been suffering heat exhaustion for the past few days and the fresh, cool breezes are much better for him than sitting in front of the air conditioner.  He dozes off.  The lake is so quiet today.  It usually doesn't get too crowded anyway, but today is heavenly, even for midweek.  In July and August, I just expect crowds no matter where we go.  

Clouds build and tease around the edges of the hills.  Will our "monsoons" deliver this year?  The lake is way down and we have a lot of water to make up for.  Boy wakes up and we take a short walk. Spending the days up here, pumping him with gatorade and water have helped keep his temperatures down.  He is just about back to normal now, but his body needs a few more days to recover from the shock he's had.  He is already chattering nonstop and I expect him to start bouncing around again, soon.