Venture Back Through Rugged Wilderness and Into The Old West: Hike Poland Creek, Crown King, Arizona

Summers in Arizona are hot! But that’s just the central and southern portions of the state called the Sonoran Desert Region. What many people don’t know is that here in Arizona even in the summer there are still plenty of beautiful and interesting places to go if you want to get outdoors and cool off for the day. So if you’re up for a new hiking adventure with the possibility of getting wet, then check out Poland Creek, in the Castle Creek Wilderness, Crown King, Arizona, and journey back through rugged wilderness beauty and into the real old west!

I have always been interested in taking a trip out to Crown King which is located south of Prescott and in the Bradshaw Mountains, bordering the Castle Creek Wilderness. If you have a truck or 4wd then you should do just fine because Crown King is only accessible by a 27 mile all dirt road. But I recently joined an excellent local hiking group called the TLC Hiking Group, and when they said they were heading out to Crown King to hike down into a place called Poland Creek to a 30 foot waterfall with a large swimming hole called the “Big Dipper”, I thought wow, that sounds pretty interesting and eagerly signed up.

So bright and early on a Saturday morning, I met the TLC Hiking Group at Anthem, just north of Phoenix at about 6:15am. Those of us with passenger vehicles car pooled with other members who had trucks, jeeps and 4wds. We were also advised to try and car pool together due to the limited parking available at the trail head. By 6:45am we were on our way to Crown King heading north on route I-17 until we reached the Bumble Bee exit, just past Black Canyon City. We exited the freeway and took a left onto FR 259. Most of FR 259 in the early 20th century used to be an old rail road line called the Bradshaw Mountain Rail Road and its one lane bridges are still being used today. We first passed through the small town of Bumble Bee, then on through an even smaller and much more old and rustic looking town, called Cleator. The drive on FR 259 is absolutely beautiful with scenic views all around as you slowly climb up in elevation and further into the rugged Bradshaw Mountains and Castle Creek Wilderness. Overall, I thought the road was in pretty good condition and in dry conditions would be very passable for regular vehicles if you took it slow enough.

We arrived up at the top, elevation 5500 feet, called Poland Vista Point, and our trailhead by 7:30am. It’s not an easily recognizable trail head from the road but at mile marker 25, watch for the small pull out and parking area on the left. After a couple of group photos, we set out on our hike by 7:45am. In order to reach Poland Creek, you first need to follow the Algonquin Trail. The views of Horse Thief Canyon from the Algonquin Trail are breath taking and the decent, although a total of about 1000 feet, is really quite gradual. After making our way down, we hung a left and headed down into the canyon and into Poland Creek. This is where the hike actually becomes a bit more strenuous as you begin hopping over huge rocks and boulders in the creek bed. We continued on for a short ways past various small swimming holes until we reached the falls area, what’s called the “Big Dipper”. Unfortunately though, the water level at this time was too low and no water fall was running. A small group ventured on in search of another possible swimming hole while the rest of us hung back and rested. When they had returned, they reported having seen a full grown Black Diamondback Rattlesnake sunning itself on a rock!

After about an hour or so, and with temperatures starting to quickly warm up, we decided to head back. The return trip back over the rocks and boulders in Poland Creek, then up 1000 feet in elevation on the Algonquin Trail felt more difficult by this time. However, the scenic views of the surrounding area were again absolutely stunning as I stopped here and there to catch my breath and take some photos. Most of us had arrived back at the hill top where our cars were parked by about 11am for a total round trip hiking distance of about 3 miles.

After collecting our group at the trailhead, we got back into our cars and headed two miles down the road into the old west town of Crown King. They had a lot of road construction going but after only a couple of minutes wait, we were allowed into town and immediately were personally greeted and welcomed. We were also invited to have lunch at “The Mill Restaurant” up on the hill, an old reconstructed Gladiator Mill built in 1893, and said to have the best food in town, and it did! The food was great and the service across the board, very friendly, personal with everything done with a homemade touch. Really excellent! After lunch we decided to check out the rest of the town of Crown King. The town originated back in 1875 after a prospector found gold and then grew for about 45 years after that as a gold mining town with the Bradshaw Mountain Rail Road to support the mining economy. However the mines were not productive, they say, and the rail road went out of business early in the 20th century. Today, they still have a few gold mines in operation and mining their own gold too. It’s definitely a very quaint town that hasn’t lost its “rustic” old west history or charm. Nestled in the pines at elevation close to 6000 feet, the temperatures on this August day were warm, but mild, in the low 80’s and with a slight cool breeze too. Perfect! After checking out the town’s old saloon, Prospector Mall and General Store & Post Office, we returned to our cars and left Crown King at around 2:45pm.

The drive heading back down in elevation on FR 259, was single lane with many switchbacks and tight s-curves. It seemed a bit more hair raising too with a lot of oncoming trucks and construction vehicles, all of whom seemed to be driving at a fast clip. We almost went head on with a dump truck! But thankfully, my good friend Dan was a great driver with a lot of experience behind his belt so we were in good hands. We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the beautiful drive and arrived back at Anthem, where our cars were parked by 4pm.

In all, it was a great day of fun, amazing mountain wilderness scenery, an excellent “moderate level” hike with some really wonderful people and a very enjoyable visit to the old west town of Crown King. So if you’re up for a hiking adventure and a scenic day trip back into the old west, then I definitely would recommend checking out Poland Creek in the Castle Creek Wilderness, at Crown King, Arizona.

Isle of Colonsay – Why It Is Calling

Where? Colonsay? With all the world to choose from, why on Earth would you choose an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, barely 10 miles long by 2 miles wide, with only 130 inhabitants? Here are the reasons, and they are fairly compelling:

1. Saving the world: anyone in Britain can get to Colonsay by public transport – the mainland port is Oban, easily reached by train or bus. Both ScotRail and CityBus operate frequent services between Glasgow city-centre and Oban. No private pollution is entailed and you enjoy a stress-free journey, no traffic jams, no motorway service-stations, just the ease and comfort of a bygone era.

2. The pleasure of the journey: the West Highland Railway (ScotRail) is acknowledged to be one of the most scenic journeys in the world, and it is followed by a 2 hour cruise through the magnificent Firth of Lorne, aboard a comfortable modern ship operated by CalMac Ferries Ltd, wholly-owned by the government.

3. The fascinating geology: you do not have to be an expert to recognise the overwhelming power of the ancient ice-sheets in the surviving contours of the land, nor to appreciate the massive pressures that suppressed the island and so slowly unveiled the extraordinary raised beach exposures of the present day. There are dramatic dykes filled by the magma of long-extinct volcanic action and the evident action of erosion upon a landform first created some 4,000 million years ago.

4. The magic of the island: vibrant with one of the largest bird colonies in the Inner Hebrides, blessed with hundreds of species of wild flowers, sea-girt and fringed with literally miles of flawless golden sands.

5. The romance of the place: at a critical junction in the sea-lanes of antiquity, Colonsay is endowed with significant remains from almost every period. The Mesolithic sites are amongst the finest in the UK, and there are also Bronze Age graves, Iron Age Forts, early Christian chapels, Viking settlements and enigmatic settlement and field systems from every age.

6. The lure of a proper holiday: every destination is within walking distance, there is golf, and fishing, and sand-castling and skinny-dipping and painting and photography and cycling and everything else that makes for true relaxation, and two restaurants and a pub, a bookshop, a brewery, a choice of two local gins and an excellent range of arts and crafts… to say nothing of the ceilidhs and the craic!

7. The satisfaction of a good choice: with the pound plummeting, foreign holidays are a bit of an indulgence. With airports becoming more crowded and oppressive with every passing day, flying is the new purgatory. With pollution and global-warming being what they are already, nobody wants to make things any worse.

Of course, you might say “Why Colonsay?” You might even say “Why not Skegness? Or Mull? Or Coventry? Or London?” In fact, you will only ask that question if you have not yet been to Colonsay – just look it up, and be surprised. It may be small, but it is very special, it is easily reached and it can easily become that very special place for you and your family.

Affordable Travel Deals Tips – Ways to Find Bargains on Airfare, Car Rental, and Vacation Packages

The internet has made finding affordable travel deals an easy process. Everybody can do it these days – there is no need to hire a travel agent. Whether you’re looking for deals for a specific trip or just want to wait until a good vacation package pops up before jumping on it, the web provides you all the tools you need for doing so.

The best bargains usually don’t last very long so you’ll need to jump on an offer ASAP. Sometimes the best deals are of the last-minute variety, and other times it is recommended to book early in advance. Most experts agree that booking 7 – 8 weeks in advance is ideal.

When looking for cheap hotel rooms, keep in mind that you should never, ever just pick the first good deal you see in a city you are not familiar with. While you will want to jump on deals quickly, you should still take the time to research the hotels and locations. If a bargain hotel does is not close to all of the city’s major sights, you could wind up paying more for your rental car or taxi rides. Does the hotel you are considering offer the amenities you need as well as free breakfast? Is it located within easy walking distance to inexpensive restaurants?

Subscribe to travel discount newsletters and follow the leading travel sites on social media so that you can stay up-to-date on all of the affordable travel deals. If you haven’t already done so, download some apps on your smartphone to receive alerts. These services are free.

As for airline tickets, it is sometimes cheaper to just go ahead and purchase one with the hotel reservation. When airlines and hotels partner together, there are often good discounts available. However, you might be required to fly out of a specific airport and stay at the hotel for a minimum number of nights.

Choosing Cars in Affordable Travel Deals

If you’re going to rent a car, select a vehicle that is in your budget range and show up at the office to pick it up bright and early in the morning. If you can beat the crowd, you’ll likely get the option to upgrade for free!

Another way to potentially save on your upcoming trip is to consider vacation rentals. Sometimes it’s a lot cheaper to rent an apartment or condo for a week instead of staying at a hotel. Travel discount sites now have a section dedicated to these kinds of rentals. Just make sure that it is located in a safe part of the city.

There are always affordable travel deals to somewhere – you just need to be patient and know where to look!

Online websites are the place to look for all of the aforementioned travel search tools. Whether you want to go on a nice cruise or a big, exciting city, you can use the site to compare affordable travel deals. Take the time to look over online coupon offers as well.

Camping Tips For Seniors – Looking For an Economic Way to Travel

More and more seniors are looking to travel with economical ways to do just that. After all, this is the golden years and what better way to travel then trying your hand at camping. Here are five tips to get you started in camping.

First, research campgrounds of areas that you may want to visit. To do that here are a couple of websites that may help you decide on where to go on your next adventure. One site I would suggest is the National Park Service and the other site is Reserve America. Each site is unique in giving information about camping by state, campsite maps, locate by activity and camping gear suggestions.

Secondly, you ask yourself what I would camp in. Of course, owning a RV would be nice and a more comfortable way to travel. That is something you can think about later if you plan on doing a lot of camping in the future. Even so, there is nothing wrong to begin your camping experiences in a decent tent at a more affordable price. Tents come in all sizes and shapes try to find the right one that will meet your needs. You can find them on line or better yet would be to see them in person at a sporting goods store that sells tents. Therefore, you would get a better perspective of the size that you would need. Another thought is you do not have to sleep on the ground if you have an aero bed and a big enough tent it will fit nicely.

Thirdly, the next area of concern is camping equipment. Everything from a camp stove, sleeping bag, cookware, and coolers. Believe it or not you may already have a lot of these items available to you. However, one of the most important items would be a camp stove to cook on. Car camping stoves work very efficiently to cook up sumptuous meals just like home. You can even use the pots and pans you have at home to begin your camp kitchen supplies.

Next, think about planning your meals a head of time. Preparing them at home not only will save time but money as well. Look in your cupboards and refrigerator for smaller items such as coffee, graham crackers, mustard, ketchup, mayo, and seasonings. Granted, look for items missed from your checklist on the road but try local vendors for fresh fruits and vegetables and discount stores instead. Why not ask about senior discounts as well. In addition, purchase blocked ice for the cooler it will last longer.

Lastly, look into a National Park Pass for seniors. They cost you $10.00 dollars, which will give you some wonderful price breaks in camping and other amenities. If you are 62 years of age or older and proof of age you may buy these passes at any national park. Check out this website for more information on this pass http://store.usgs.gov/pass/index.html. Happy travels!

Frosty Balls & Snotty Noses

Much akin to the machismo testosterone-filled practice of polar bear swimming in the Great Lakes, this event involved awesome bikes in below freezing weather. Our 160-mile run took us from Prescott into Wickenberg, through Black Canyon City and Cordes Junction and back home again. And we do it every year.

What were we thinking? It seemed like such a good idea as the clock struck midnight the night before, but that morning the temperature sputtered trying to reach 20 degrees.

Kevin was silently hoping that the gathering spot would be void of people who were strange enough to think that this was anything like a good idea. But we turned the corner and found the gas station filled with bikes and lots of laughing and smiling friends having a good time. It was clear that these people simply loved to ride and no amount of cold weather was going to stop them. We especially loved riding with people who shared our same values; God and service to country. Kevin put on his happy face and made a promise that he would enjoy himself, no matter what the cost in frostbitten body parts.

With full face masks and lots of wool scarves wrapped around our heads and faces, we leathered up and began our putt, praying for warmer weather. The sky was clear and blue and the north facing mountains were dusted with a light snow as we headed out Iron Springs Road.

Leader Mel, on his Ultra Classic, was followed by 14 other bikes and 21 people. There were Standards, Fat Boys, Classics and Road Kings. Paul admitted he rides Jackie whenever possible, otherwise he’s riding his O’Busted Sportster. Bob was on his Road Glide and Neil was riding “The prettiest Dyna Low Rider in Arizona.” You can quote him on that.

One of the best things about a good ride is the experience of the riders. Everyone stayed in formation and nobody hot-dogged any of us into the ditch. From engineers, to psychics, to retired salty dogs with dripping noses, we all wound our way through Kirkland, Yarnell and Congress, and into the warmer lowlands.

Several of the women passengers shot photos during the ride. We stopped for hot chocolate, coffee, gas and lottery tickets and then made our way down to the Country Kitchen Restaurant in Wickenberg for pancakes.

Gassed up again, the sun finally started to warm our chilly morning air. If you’ve not taken this ride before, put it on your must-do list. From pine trees to cactus, the ride is breathtaking and you won’t be disappointed.

Anyone who has ridden along Highway 17 has probably stopped in Black Canyon at the famous Rock Springs Café for pie. We did and just ate and rolled on, ate and kept rolling. In an attempt to stay 15 minutes ahead of the sunset, we finally blew back into town about 5:30.

These diehards of the Humboldt Thursday Night Men’s Group (and friends) just can’t seem to keep their bikes garaged through the winter. Good time? You bet. Nice to be around happy, crazy bike people for a frosty ride? Absolutely. With mile high winters here in the Arizona mountains, we need a couple of winter rides to keep the bike as well as our own internal batteries topped and charged.

We all thanked God for a safe ride and fellowship and prepared for next year’s gathering with joy.