Category Archives: Travel

Sedona, AZ

January in Arizona

My husband hates winter and this year was particularly difficult with so much early snow in Colorado. The solution – spend much of January in Arizona. Our neighbor has been going to Sunflower Resort in Arizona (a 55+ community) for many years and suggested we check it out. The resort has RV spaces and park models for rent or to own.

The amenities at the resort are copious: silver/lapidary, leather works, woodshop/woodcarving, pottery, papercrafts, photography, basket making, painting, and many more clubs to learn crafting skills. Each of the clubs has a small annual fee ($10-$20) and you bring some of your own supplies. You can use your own tools or rent their tools.

The lapidary studio has one piece of equipment worth over $35,000. Joining this club is a stellar opportunity to use equipment that you would not typically have access to.

The woodshop club is very similar, with impressive woodturning equipment and just about any other type of wood crafting equipment you can think of.

The selection of exercise and recreational activities is too numerous to list. Yoga is quite popular and is offered each day. Another favorite is Zumba. You can find people playing pickleball, at all levels, every day. There is a Tiki bar with live entertainment and great food with reasonably priced drinks. You can’t beat the $1.50 beer at happy hour.

My favorite activity on this trip to Arizona in the winter has been hiking. Sunflower has a hiking group that hikes twice a week. The nice thing about hiking in a group is you can join in if you are a single and hike safely with others. Some of the individuals in the hiking group are married but their spouses have health issues that prevent them from joining in the hikes. A lost hiker was recently on the news. A young girl hiking alone and she missed her trail and ended up stranded in the dark. A helicopter finally found her and got her back down the mountain. Great reminder to not hike alone.

I was surprised at the number of hiking trails around the Phoenix, AZ area. You could hike two to three times a week for a month and never hike the same trail.

Lake Pleasant is a very easy hike with a beautiful lake view, picnic areas, flush toilets and camping/RV sites. We were fortunate to see a wild burro on our hike.

Wild Tank Mountain Regional Park is popular and quite busy on the weekends. If you can hike during the week that would be a better option. This hike is perfect for children. The camping/RV sites look nice, flush toilets and dog/goat friendly. We saw people hiking with their two pet goats.

Goats at White Tank Park

Pinnacle Peak Park was interesting with colorful signs of illustrations along the path from the book, Ten Little Rabbits by Virginia Grossman.

Sedona is not to be missed for the views, restaurants, and hiking. You could easily spend a few days here. Elote Café is a recommended dining hot spot in Sedona; be prepared for a long wait. Locals suggest eating at 9 pm to avoid the long lines. We ended up at PJ’s Village Pub, a local favorite. The $3.00 beer special of the day was Prescott Brewing Company’s Petrified Porter. Thumbs ups to this porter.

After a day of hiking you should treat yourself to a dessert at Big Daddy’s Italian Bakery & Café in Surprise, AZ. Their sandwiches are yummy, and the cookies are scrumptious. This is one of the best bakeries I have ever been to.

My Daddy's Bakery
I am certain that the winter months will continue to be a drain on my husband in the future. With that in mind, I need to book a site next January in Arizona!

Avalanche Ranch

Avalanche Ranch in September

Avalanche Ranch

A trip to Avalanche Ranch in September is food for the soul. Nestled between Redstone and Carbondale, Colorado, you will be swept away by the breathtaking scenery. The cabins are rustic; if you are looking for a Marriott experience this probably isn’t the trip for you.

It is hard to select from the cabins and shepherd’s wagons at the ranch, they are all so adorable. After perusing the website, I went with the Bird’s House #12. The cabin was spacious for two people and can accommodate five. The cabin is filled with bird items: pillows, artwork, sculpture, etc.
Bird's HouseShepherd's WagonBirds
Farm Animals

Resident sheep dogs herd sheep and llama to alternate pastures in the mornings. Wakening to the sounds of sheep baaing is such a pleasurable experience. And watching the free-range chickens scurry around the pig pen is also quite fun.
Sheep at Avalanche Ranch
Hot Springs

One of the most delightful aspects of staying at Avalanche Ranch is access to their on-site hot springs. They also offer day use of the hot springs. The best time to hang out in the pools is after 5 pm, when the day users leave. The pools never close. I can imagine they are quite marvelous during a full moon.
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Hidden Hot Spring

There is a romantic hot spring tub at the top of the property hidden in a cute wooden shed. If you don’t know about it in advance, you could easily miss it.
Private Hot Springs Tub
Carbondale, CO

If you go to Avalanche Ranch, you should visit Carbondale, CO. I didn’t realize it was such a charming town. Carbondale Beerworks has some tasty brews and I love the beer sign in the bathroom.
Beer Sign
Carbondale has created unique branding for the town. They use fun graphics on the trash cans located throughout the downtown area and the same graphics are used on their buses.
Carbondale Trash Can
The Way Home

A highlight of an evening spent in Carbondale is dinner at a new restaurant in town, The Way Home. They are doing everything right. The atmosphere is sophisticated, and they offer lots of patio seating under strings of lights. The head chef is Flip Wise. I was blown away by the elk and pasta dishes.
The Way HomeOutside Dining - The Way Home
Marble, CO

You will want to add Marble, CO to add to your itinerary. There is not much going on in this tiny town, other than lots and lots of white marble and white marble statues. Slow Groovin BBQ & Catering is located in the middle of town. The place is always packed and the BBQ is exceptionally good.
Slow Groovin BBQ
Coke Ovens

On the way to Marble, Co, you will see coke ovens in Redstone, CO. The “beehive” coke ovens were constructed in the late 1890’s to carbonize or “COKE” coal mined in coal basin for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.

Coke OvensCoke Oven Historical Plaque

Bell at Mabel Dodge Luhan House

Winter Retreat at Mabel Dodge Luhan House

If you need a little rejuvenation, you can’t beat a winter retreat at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, NM. My husband and I have made it an annual custom to travel to Taos and/or Santa Fe between Christmas and New Years. Mabel’s room is our favorite, but we decided to be brave and try the Solarium during this year’s trip.

Mabel Dodge Solarium

I wouldn’t suggest this room if you are modest, as the entire room is floor to ceiling windows. It was quite a nice surprise on New Year’s Eve when the fireworks were set off in the town square and we had a bird’s eye view from our room.

It is hard to describe the serene feeling one gets when entering the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. During the winter months the fireplace in the living room has a continuous crackling wood fire. The end tables in the living room have beautiful photographic coffee table books available for all guests to peruse. One afternoon, while sitting by the fireplace, I had just finished reading Enchanted Land and Healing Hands by Lenny Foster. At the end of the book was a page that had a photo and bio of Lenny. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lenny sitting on the other side of the room. I believe he may have been staying at the B & B. He only sat there briefly and now I am sorry I didn’t get to tell him how wonderful his work is.

Another fun part of sitting in the living room at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House is meeting people from all areas of the country. We met two lovely women from Brooklyn. Through meaningful conversations, it was clear these young ladies were at a stage in their lives where they were considering drastic changes. Taos has a way of bringing those thoughts and feelings to the surface. They may have even considered a move to the Southwest. I don’t know if I will ever hear from these women again, our brief interaction left a lasting impression. I wish them well as they discover a path that makes more sense to them.

One evening, sitting by the fire at Mabel Dodge Luhan House, a young couple came in and sat across from us, Billy and Mandy. They looked downtrodden and they were unable to get a fire to take hold in the fireplace in their room. We shared a taste of our bourbon and chatted about their budding business in Albuquerque, NM, Breve Crepes and Coffee. Being in business development, my conversations usually drift to business; especially if I am talking to a business owner. I was quite impressed by the determination and wisdom of these two business owners. I believe they will be highly successful in their business endeavors. I will certainly always stop by Breve when in Albuquerque to visit with them again.

I was able to finally drag myself away from the solace of the fireplace and we made a quick trip to Santa Fe. The Silver Sun on Canyon Road has an annual half-price sale on their native jewelry between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It is the perfect time to find a treasure for oneself or a gift for a friend.

I have walked past the New Mexico State Capital buildings a ton of times while in Santa Fe and have never stopped in. Curiosity got the better of me on this trip and I am so glad that we stepped into the building to discover the most amazing collection of artwork and furniture. You won’t want to miss this if you get to Santa Fe.

Ristas II by Marnie JohnsonBuffalo by Holly Hughes
I don’t easily give a thumbs up to restaurants, but there were a few gems in Taos that I will give a shout out to.

We ended up going back to Common Fire twice during our week’s stay in Taos. Their roast beef sandwich and mac n’ cheese were superb. All the staff members were welcoming and engaging. The owner, Andy, sat by guests telling fascinating stories.

Gutiz, serves Latin-French cuisine and seems to be a favorite of locals and tourists. The brie sandwich with Granny Smith apples was delish.

Lambert’s is exquisite and not to be missed. The cheese plate was really enough to fill us up and we should not have ordered the Sea Bass. But the Sea Bass dish was out of this world and I would not hesitate to order that again. Lambert’s has a casual area on their second floor, the Treehouse. I am a big fan of places that do happy hour well and these people know how to do happy hour. They have a $6 menu served in the Treehouse from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm. We tried the Kale Caesar Salad, the Marinated Beet Salad and the Pan Roasted Mediterranean Olives. The portions were large and everything was scrumptious. The bar is small and intimate, surrounded by comfortable furniture and an adjacent room filled with more comfy furniture. You almost feel like you are sitting in someone’s living room.

Eske’s Brew Pub is a local favorite spot and the blue grass jam session that we stopped by to check out was super. It was nice to see a new brewery in town, Taos Mesa Brewing. Good beer and wood fired pizza…you can’t go wrong with that. We tried to go out to the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, which is located about 15 minutes out of town, but the parking lot was so muddy we would have ruined our shoes. They have live music almost every night, sorry we missed that.

Jam Session at Eske’s

I will wrap up this post by mentioning my favorite restaurant in Santa Fe, The Pink Adobe. The atmosphere is intimate with crackling fires in the multiple fireplaces. Anything on the menu that you try will be fantastic. There is an adjoining bar, Dragon Room, that serves a more casual menu and that is an entirely different experience. I enjoy that area, but do prefer to be in the more formal dining portion of the building.

It is sometimes difficult to get back into the swing of things, upon returning from a retreat to Taos or Santa Fe. There is a calmness and maybe even a spirituality about the area. The calm feeling does linger and perhaps it would be a good plan to travel to this area twice a year to help ignite a create spark and to quiet one’s mind.