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.

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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!

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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!

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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!