Last weekend, TravelGuy and I decided to take a trip up to rim country, and check out life in the "not so hot" part of Arizona. We made our way up to Pinetop, in the heart of the White Mountains. It's funny though. Coming from the NW, to call something a mountain means that it's really a mountain. To me, you can ski on a mountain, it snows on a mountain (usually year-round, depending...), and sometimes mountains will erupt (think 1980 Mt. St. Helens). Mountains and hills are not the same thing in my mind. So, when we made our way to the White Mountains, I expected to see the snow-topped mountains during our drive, not a forest of green trees with an elevation of 7,000 feet and no "pointy top" (except for Mt. St. Helens of course). To be fair, we were there in July, so I wasn't planning to be driving in 12 feet of snow, but I DID expect to see a big pyramid-like natural hill that I could call a mountain. Well, that didn't happen.
Nevertheless, the White Mountains (can't we all just call it the White Hills?) were beautiful! We stayed in lodge-style accommodations in Pinetop, the perfect location for our weekend adventure. Our back deck faced the trees...and nothing else! This area of Arizona boasts the largest concentration of Ponderosa Pines in the world! The pine trees, though a different variety, really added a NW flair to the area, complete with sightings of squirrels and birds fighting over food in the trees.
Having not been camping in two years, we REALLY needed this weekend to get back to nature. Phoenix isn't exactly an earthly locale, so this getaway was perfect. Near Pinetop is Show Low, and our research indicated that the Show Low Farmers Market would be open during our visit. Our idea of a Farmers Market is of local farmers selling their locally grown produce at a fair price -- good deal for them, good deal for us. Well, not so in Show Low. Their Farmers Market consisted of exactly 10 booths, selling t-shirts, waffle dogs (uh huh), framed pictures -- it was really more like an arts and crafts carnival. Good thing we had an alternative activity as a back-up! We headed over to the Show Low Dog Days of Summer, where dogs were participating in agility contests, musical chairs (yep, you read that correctly) and strutting around for the rest of us to oooh and aaaaw. Good thing we LOVE canines because our 30 minutes at this event was a snoozer as well. We weren't really in rim country to check out dogs and a farmers market anyhow, so our trek took us up north to Snowflake where we happened upon a cool little secret spot called Amelia's Garden.
We don't like to eat out much, as it's just not a healthy way to live, you lose control of the ingredients that go in to making your meals, and it's not how we choose to spend money (when we're not traveling)...and yet people wonder why they are overweight. Eat at home, folks! Though we packed a cooler with food, we just had to check out this little green, healthy place. Amelia's Garden is part cafe, part organic grocery store. It was here that I was able to buy my hulled hemp seeds (I was jonesin' for a snack, BAD!), and grab a healthy vegetarian sandwich on gluten free bread, and thank Buddha on my way out the door! If you're in the area, and like healthy food, check out Amelia's Garden.
Our trek up north brought us to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert within it. Oh. My. Gawd. The Painted Desert was simply one of the most beautiful sights I've seen in my lifetime. To think that this natural creation is made up of stone and petrified wood, yes petrified wood that is 225 MILLION years old, qualifies as simply amazing. The panoramic view of the landscape gives me shivers. When you're standing at a lookout, and all you can see around you is the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, it's easy to forget you're in the desert, let alone Arizona, or the U.S. or even on earth. It really is that surreal.
With so many hiking and camping opportunities around this portion of Arizona, we found ourselves exploring grounds and performing a level of "recon" for a future trip. While visiting Lyman Lake, we encountered a bug in the road within the campgrounds. It wasn't just any ol' bug though. It was a tarantula, but this one wasn't a stuffed one that you can buy at Spencer's. This was the real thing. Yes, we stopped to look up close. Yes, we took a photo. Ick.
Our trip continued south through Springerville, then west to Greer. Neat little place, that Greer. The lodging there consists primarily of authentic log cabins, in a woodsy setting, surrounded by ponderosas. The place to be is Molly Butler's, and while we didn't actually stop in, it was Casino Night and the place was hoppin' at just 4pm. Get there early!
Back in Pinetop, we enjoyed our camplike setting among the trees, woodsy scents, pine cones, squirrels, and birds. This wasn't a camping trip, but it's the closest we've come to camping in awhile. The native NW girl in me longs for a flannel shirt, roasting marshmallows by the campfire, and a good game of gin rummy before the rain hits! Did I really say that? Ok, maybe just a couple of days of that as long as it's combined with 363 days of sunshine!
Visiting Arizona? Check out the White Mountains -- Beauty at its best!