"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Finishing our time in Surprise with Family & Friends

Surprise, Arizona
Happy Trails RV Park

The last half of February kept us very busy.  We took a little break before family arrived for the memorial service and we went to see the Disney movie, Coco.  It was cute and entertaining and a nice distraction.
 I liked the effect the purple lights had on the palm trees outside the theater at night.
Curt and Glenda brought their new home over for us to see the next day.  They traded their nice Big Horn 5er for this really nice Winnebago. 
 Congrats on the new rig!
Steve's Dad's memorial service would take place on Saturday, the 17th. Our son Shane would fly in on Thursday and our other 3 kids would fly in on Friday as well as Steve's two brothers and Bunny's granddaughter and her husband.  Thankfully all of them Ubered over so we didn't have to spend all day and night picking them up from the airport.
Steve's stepmom, Bunny.  She's been a wreck all month so we've been helping out as much as we can with arrangements.
 Hurley on the other hand was quite content with all the company.
Brennan, Ryan, Shane, Mickey, Steve, Jeff, Kaylee and I.
Unfortunately this was the only family picture we took.  Good thing Shane thought to take a selfie.  I had intended to take several family photos as we were all dressed up and it would be a long time before Steve and his brothers would be together again.  It's also rare to get all our kids in the same place and I would've loved a nice family picture too.  I completely forgot about it. The memorial service started out with a Military Presentation of the Flag and Taps.  Not a dry eye in the place.  The rest of the service was nice and went smoothly.  Curt and Glenda even drove up from Gold Canyon.
Steve and his brothers.
 We all changed into more comfy clothes and had a family BBQ after the service.
 Robert, Kaylee, Bunny, April and Marty.
 Our boys playing some Frisbee.

 I really like this picture of the kids.
 It was a long day that ended with a beautiful sunset.
The next day we all got together for lunch at the Texas Roadhouse before everyone flew out.  Minus Shane.  He had to leave early.
 With the service over and the holiday here, Steve and I spent the day geocaching with Jeff and Mickey.  It was Mickey's first time and he loved it.
 Mickey's first geocache.
The cold front really kicked in and it was a very cold and very windy day.  We finally were able to finish the day off with our 3900th find!  Now, off to dinner for some pizza and wings.  I wish they could've stayed longer.  We had such a great time with the brothers. With Mickey and Jeff now back in Virginia, we had just a few days before we left Surprise and headed to the Parker/Lake Havasu area.
Posing with Jon Taffer of the Bar Rescue TV Show.
You may remember on my last post that Steve and I wanted to hike to the 2000 year old Juniper Tree that was in Prescott with some friends.  All week the weather was threatening to snow on Friday.  And that it did.  I don't mind hiking in the snow or the cold, but it had been very windy too.  That's not a combo I like.  The windchill was horrible.  So instead we met Skip and Tammy for lunch at  Chilleens on 17 in Black Canyon City for BBQ.
Tammy is a retired firefighter from Prescott and Skip is a retired firefighter from Phoenix.  We had all just seen the movie, Only the Brave, about the Granite Mountain Hotshots and they thought they did a really good job with it.  Tammy had worked with many of them in Prescott and they both knew the Steinbrinks well.
We didn't get to do the hike, but we had a great lunch and talked for hours.  Steve even won a squeaky pig out of one of those claw grabber games.  We'll make a geocache out of it somewhere.  We said our goodbyes and hope to spend more time with them next year once they finish their new house.
One of our last outings was an 8 mile hike in the Sonoran Desert Preserve.  I've hiked here before and love the trails.  We were invited out by Faye and Dave.  Curt and Glenda joined us as well.
 Curt finding one of many geocaches along the way.
 I tried to capture the moon but it just didn't show up as bright in the picture.
 We shared the trail with some 4-legged hikers.
This was an easy hike on the Apache Wash Trail.  Towards the end we spotted this Saguaro whose arms drooped making it look sort of like a Christmas Tree.

Of course we ended up back at Fay and Dave's for some of Dave's famous BBQ.  He brined a pork butt overnight, dry rubbed it in his own special seasonings then smoked it all day while we hiked.
Faye made a delicious grape salad that I'd never had, but loved.  Glenda made a green salad as well as some appetizers and we brought the desert.
What a great way to wrap up our month in Surprise.  We won't see Fay and Dave for a while as they will spend the rest of this year in Colorado and then on to the East Coast.  We will see Curt and Glenda as they spend a couple of days in Placerville on their way up to Oregon and I'm sure we'll cross paths with them while we're in Oregon too.  Funny how we run into someone no matter where we travel.  I love that part!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial, AZ Hike

Surprise, Arizona
Thousand Trails RV Resort

On June 28th, 2013 a lightning strike in the Weaver Mountains started what became the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. The next day the Granite Mountain Hotshots were assigned to help with the fire.  What a tragedy it turned out to be.  Nineteen lives were lost that day.
A map of the trail.  You start at the bottom and end up at the Observation Deck.  You can look down at the Fatality Site or you can hike the 3/4 mile red trail to it.
The Granite Mountain State Memorial Park was opened to the public on November 30th, 2016 as a tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  We had been able to visit some of the other memorials since the tragedy but were not able to visit the new Memorial State Park as we were very busy with family matters while we were in Arizona last year.  The Memorial State Park has a 3 mile hiking trail (one way) with 1,200 feet of gain.  There are over 200 stairs cut into the mountain and 19 memorial granite plaques with a story and picture of each of the Hotshots.  Several other signs along the trail give information about wildland firefighting, history and more information related to the Yarnell fire. At 5460 feet elevation the Hotshot Trail ends at the Observation Deck looking down to the Fatality Site. There are benches, a Tribute Wall and signs with more information here. To reach the Fatality Site you hike down 3/4 of a mile on the Journey Trail to where there are 19 crosses where each Hotshot was found.  There is a fence around the area to protect it.

There is a very well done geocache series in honor of the Hotshots nearby that we had previously started and two more at the Memorial State Park.  One is at the entrance and one is up at the observation deck.  We wanted to find the last two and finish the series.
We drove up to the park in the morning and were lucky to find a spot at the bottom.  There are only about 13 or so.  There is a shuttle that will take you here. You can get directions and trail info HERE.
 You start up some steps and right up the trail.  I'd call it a moderate trail.  Nothing hard or too steep, just mostly uphill.  The only flat part is just before the Observation Deck.  If you aren't into hiking, you can get a good feel for it by taking your time and hiking a short distance to the first plaque.  Wear hiking boots or good, sturdy shoes.  Bring plenty of water.  There is no water or bathrooms on the trail but there are a couple of outhouses at the parking lot at the bottom.
Looking up at the beginning. 
Looking down to the small parking lot.
As you climb you can see the highway down below.

Looking across the saddle you can see a group of hikers.  This is very zoomed in.  They are in the lower left corner.

Beautiful vistas from all directions.
The only flat part just before the Observation Deck.

Looking down towards the Fatality Site which is out of the picture to the right.  And beyond that is the tiny town of Yarnell.
The circle in the above photo is a zoomed in view of the Fatality Site.
One of the memorial plaques.  This one is of Sean Misner whose wife was from our town of Placerville, CA.  We happened to be home when his body was returned.  It shut down our little town while the procession of firetrucks, police, etc came through.  I think our entire town turned out for it.  The overpasses were decorated and covered with flags.  It was very moving.
Looking at the fatality site and the area around it just after the fire.  (above)  And below is the Tribute Wall.  What a very somber and touching place this is.

This is a picture of the Hotshots taken in front of a Juniper tree that is thought to be over 2000 years old.  The oldest in the world.  They were sent here before the Yarnell Hill fire started to protect it while another fire burned nearby.  Luckily they were able to keep the fire back as it burned right up to the tree.
At the Fatality site there are benches that circle the area so that you can rest and reflect.  There were many mementos left all around the site.  We saw coins, badges, letters, angels, hats and rocks.
Some of the painted rocks.

The flag which flies at half mast.
You can see some of the 19 purple crosses in the middle of the circle where their bodies were found.
Back out we hike.  We came across a group of college kids which were in uniform in the Air Force ROTC.  We had a great time talking with them and we criss-crossed them most of the way down as we would stop and take pictures for them as they posed for group shots.

While I was surprised how much re-growth there was of the area, you could still see many burned trees.

There are those kids again at the top of the hill.  See them on the boulders?
There they are!

We loved all the rocks and boulders.

 We really enjoyed this hike.  We learned more about the Hotshots and the area.  It was sure amazing to hike it and see where it all happened.  We rented the movie, Only the Brave, and watched it a couple of nights later.  It was very sad, but very well done.  I recommend the hike if you can.  If you can't, well there is great info at the bottom to see and read.  We liked the movie and were glad to learn more about the survivor.
The 2000 year old Juniper Tree.
 We hoped to hike out to the tree with some former fire fighter/RV friends that live in the area and had worked with some of the Hotshots, but the weather for this Friday is still calling for snow, wind and very cold temps.  I guess we'll have to save this hike for our next visit. As the 5 year anniversary of the fire is approaching this June, I can imagine this will be a busy area.

On our way back home we did a little more geocaching and came upon a really neat, old pioneer cemetery in Congress.


One of the interesting art pieces in the roundabouts/rotaries in Wickenburg.  This is another town we have not been able to spend much time in over the years even though we've driven by it a hundred times.  I guess that'll have to wait until our next visit as well.