Always nice to have a hiking buddy and because my dad’s bum knee rules him out for this trip, I was especially pleased to hike with my neighbor Amahia from Des Moines who happens to be here on sabbatical. She hadn’t been to Catalina State Park about a mile from my dad’s house in Oro Valley so I showed her the Loop Trail, an easy and lovely scenic hike into the valley dotted with saguaros and bordered by high jagged mountains.
We had a really nice lunch outside in the garden at Tohono Chul, the lovely estate and desert garden nearby. For the first time ever, in my experience, we waltzed right in and were seated — perhaps a benefit of being here in January rather than our usual February or March. The weather was perfect, high 60s and low 70s, although quite cool at night.
Lunch yesterday with my old friend from London, Mary, who is a longtime U of Arizona professor, at a good Italian place called North in the ritzy Encantado shopping center. Excellent grilled artichoke, bruschetta with asparagus, cheese and proscuitto and even better company!
We got crazy lucky with the weather here. Rather than scorching hot temps, as expected, the highs were in the low 80’s, sunny with a breeze. pretty darn perfect. so we could easily do early morning hikes (our standard loop at Catalina and a trail Just off Magee.
We stayed in a condo we rented from VRBO/Homeaway about 7 minutes drive from my dad’s in Oro Valley, off La Canada, just north of Naranja. Good deal $135 per night for two bedroom two bath, plenty of room to spread out. Not my choice of decor (bachelor pad bad) but good bed, reasonably clean, good backyard with hot tub. My sister found an even nicer place for $100 a night near the el conquistador hotel.
Also did some fine dining to mark my father’s 80th birthday– the reason my siblings and I came here – including Italian food at the new location of Vivace, up the road on Campbell from the previous location, with a stupendous view of the city from in high; excellent birthday brunch in Sunday at Wildflower. Today, we went to Beyond Bread after our hike and were grateful it was open (on Memorial Day). And excellent tuna melt. Tonight we went to Rosa’s Mexican restaurant on fort Lowell. The food wasn’t as good as we remembered but nice ambiance and good service. all good. Happy 80th to my dear dad!!! Xox
perfect weather for a hike at Catalina state park in oro valley where we did the challenging Romero pools trail, 2.2 miles each way and lots of rocks, mountains, glorious views.
We ate a much deserved early dinner (we missed lunch, while out on the trail for 4 hours). I had very good carne seca at rosa’s and good pizza the night before at skordatos.
The DM Register has a good profile of the new owner of the Hotel Pattee – a one-of-a-kind gem of a boutique hotel in Perry, Iowa, about 45 minutes west of Des Moines. Here’s hoping he succeeds! In another Register section is a story about the Whiterock Conservancy – a developing tourist attraction about 30 miles west of Perry in Coon Rapids that will offer trails for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding (more below – it would be great to visit on a perfect fall day like today in Des Moines where the autumn foliage is spectacular this year!). Put these two together and maybe there’s a successful weekend travel package (which has been part of the issue with the Hotel Pattee…since there are limited things for tourists to do there).
In 2000, when I wrote a story for the NYTimes travel section Historic Hybrid in Iowa, NYTimes 11/26/2000 about a stay at the historic Garst Farm in Coon Rapids (which now falls under the umbrella of Whiterock Conservancy and is still a lodging option from what I can glean from the website whiterock conservancy website ) we went on a very memorable 2.5 hours horseback ride with our kids. They were very little (ages 8 and 7) to be riding on such big horses by themselves so I was a bit of a wreck but they survived. I ended the account of our trip with a visit to the Hotel Pattee. It can be done!
Another good activity option near Perry is the High Trestle Trail with it’s awe-inspiring 13-story high bridge, hidden in the middle of nowhere, spanning a glorious river valley.
WHITEROCK, CROSSING A THRESHOLD
Next summer Whiterock will embark on the construction of our long-planned 35 mile backcountry trail!
The entire new backcountry trail will be open to walkers and hikers as it meanders among the forested slopes above the Middle Raccoon River. Sixteen miles of the trail will be a winding single track designed specifically for mountain bikers. Another seven miles will be for equestrians.The final twelve miles will be double track shared by all users, including those using low power vehicles to allow those with mobility restrictions the opportunity to enjoy nature. Trail users will also be able to access nine miles of other existing trails which connect to downtown Coon Rapids and many more miles of river upstream.
For the second year in a row, we haven’t taken our annual trip to Tucson to see my dad – just got pulled in different directions. But my brother and his wife are there and report that they’ve found a good new cheap Mexican restaurant – BK’s – downtown – which specializes on Sonora Hot Dogs and Carne Asada (neither of which sound great right now as I’m still recovering from dining in Panama). They also were looking for a hike we did together four years ago and report that the trail head is – as we thought – just north of AJ’s fancy food market on Campbell and East Skyline Drive.
My sister and her family may be heading south after her son’s baseball tournament in Monterey so here’s some ideas for Big Sur:
– Don’t miss a walk around Point Lobos reserve, on the ocean with its strange brown-rust-and-green seaside vegetation and rocky cliffs where otters and seals bleat as waves crash onto the rocks.
– We always enjoy eating at the rustic Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. We found Cafe Kiva at Nepenthe Restaurant overpriced ($4 for a lemonade back in 2001) but what a view!
– At Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park our then-young kids loved crawling and stepping into the huge redwoods. Nearby is Pfeiffer Beach – another favorite on the ocean.
– The drive from Big Sur to San Luis Obispo took about three hours and is, of course, stunning. We really liked San Luis – a college town (cal poly) with a great midweek farmers market on its long straight main street (all the shops were open that night too). Also home to the wonderfully kitschy Madonna Inn – at least visit and tour the goopy public rooms and eat some pie in the coffee shop.
– Hearst Castle, again of course. We spent about three hours there with the kids, taking the tour and I’m not sure what else. gawking. dawdling.