Awesome Arizona Adventure: Return to Route 66

Waking up in Albuquerque, we were super excited to get on the road and explore the beautiful state of New Mexico. We had to get an early start, since our motel reservations for the night were in Joplin, MO, eleven hours from Albuquerque. The earlier we hit the road, the more time we’d have to explore. We quickly ate breakfast, checked out of our super sweet La Quinta motel room, and got a move on.

GiGi Maltese fits perfectly in MaMa’s arms, perfect for a road trip!

About an hour into our drive, we came upon Cline’s Corners iconic trading post, restaurant and filling station. This Route 66 attraction was moved more than once by its original owner, Roy Cline, but found its permanent home along Route 66 (now Interstate 40) in 1937. It is home to New Mexico’s largest gift shop, so MaMa and Pops each took a turn looking around the store for souvenirs. There were no dogs allowed inside, but we did get a good look around the outside and even met some friendly tourists who asked to pet us, and said how much they missed their own dogs at home. We are so lucky that MaMa and Pops take us with on all of their adventures!

GiGi on the Scene at Clines Corners, New Mexico.

After leaving Clines Corners, we drove another 100 miles or so before making another stop in Tucumcari. We got off Interstate 40 and hopped onto old Route 66. The main strip through town has a lot of Route 66 memorabilia and vintage motels that make you feel like you took a step back in time to when Route 66 was a bustling road with tons of tourists. Nowadays, its not nearly as crowded, but we found many reasons to make it a worthwhile stop.

Our first stop on old Route 66 was at the relatively new Route 66 sign (dedicated in 1997) outside of the Tucumcari Convention Center. It looked like a great place for a photo op.

First, Levi had his picture taken looking all happy and sort of sappy!

Levi Pitboxer at the Tucumcari Convention Center Route 66 monument.

Then I said, “Enough of this nonsense! Let me in there for a pic!” Of course, we couldn’t agree on which way to look, only agreeing that neither of us should look directly at the camera.

GiGi Maltese and Levi Pitboxer at the Tucumcari Route 66 monument.

At last it was my turn to shine all on my own! Clearly that made me extremely happy, and I readily agreed to smile for the camera.

GiGi Maltese and the Route 66 monument in Tucumcari.

Further down the Mother Road we stopped at the Motel Safari, an iconic Route 66 motel, providing accommodations in Tucumcari since 1959. The camel sitting atop the motel’s sign is a nod to the camels which were brought to America from Tunisia, Malta, Greece, Turkey and Egypt in the 1850’s. Since they could survive for days without water, could carry heavy loads, and would nosh on forage that mules wouldn’t touch, camels were chosen by the US Army to traverse an area of land from New Mexico to California. This Camel Corps. enabled the creation of a 1,000 mile wagon road, which would later become part of Route 66, the Santa Fe Railway and Interstate 40.

GiGi Maltese at the Motel Safari in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Just a short stroll down the road we stopped at the Blue Swallow Motel so Levi could get a closer look at a beautiful vintage Hudson Hornet parked out in front. I don’t know much about cars, but I do know that Levi thought he would look pretty good sitting in the front seat. He had to settle for standing in front of it though.

Levi Pitboxer loves the vintage Hudson Hornet in front of the Blue Swallow Motel.

Fun fact, there was a character in the movie Cars (which took place in a town on old Route 66) named Doc Hudson, represented by a Hudson Hornet car. How crazy that we ended up seeing one of those very same cars on our return to Route 66!

Speaking of cars, the Blue Swallow Motel, which was built in 1939, was designed so each sleeping room has a garage unit, some of which are still in use today. Have you ever stayed in a motel with your own private garage?! How cool! It’s no wonder that such a unique and iconic motel was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1993. There is a ton of history in this vintage motel, and I wish they allowed dogs so I could stay there one day!

No dogs allowed at the Blue Swallow Motel but maybe a tiny maltese dog could sneak in!

Pretty soon it was time to go, but first MaMa had to make a stop at the Route 66 Welcome Center and Gift Shop to buy some turquoise. She could hardly believe she hadn’t bought any yet, seeing as we were out West, and that’s the best place to buy it, I guess! While she was in there making her purchase, she mentioned to the owner of the store that she was traveling with her two dogs. It turned out the owner was a dog lover, and she allowed us to come inside and have a look around. Unfortunately we were all so excited by the invitation, that we didn’t take any pictures inside, but did get one outside before we left. Oh, and MaMa did buy a pretty flower pendant with turquoise in the center, and wouldn’t you know the name of the owner who sold it to her was Flora! Funny how things work out like that.

Levi Pitboxer and GiGi Maltese at the Route 66 Welcome Center and Gift Shop in Tucumcari.

And just like that, MaMa and Pops said it was time to get back in the car and boogie on down the road to the next town. It sure had been fun seeing another stretch of Route 66. There are many stories and adventures to be had on that historic road. I’m sure we will be back again one day!

Route 66 in Tucumcari is scenic and historic!

Stay tuned for our next stop in Amarillo, Texas!

 

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Awesome Arizona Adventure – Almost Over

We left the stunning and spiritual city of Sedona and hopped on Hwy. 89A heading towards Flagstaff, where we would pick up I-40, which would take us all the way to Albuquerque. We had nearly six hours of driving ahead of us, and it was already the middle of the day. It was time to get on the road and start making good time, but Pops wanted to make one last stop in Arizona so we’d be too tired to whine about how long we’d be in the car!

The scenery along Hwy. 89A on the way up to Flagstaff is stunning. The road follows Oak Creek for a ways, and we were able to catch glimpses of it from the windows. MaMa and Pops snapped a few photos from the car, but unfortunately didn’t get any of the creek. What they did get is still really nice!

Mountains along Hwy. 89A, north of Sedona.

Down in the canyon by Oak Creek.

Where Oak Creek ends the road starts to wind and curve up through the mountains. It feels like you’re on a roller coaster or a water slide with lots of twists and turns. We made a 4,500-foot climb, all while navigating some switch backs and hairpin turns! It was fun and slightly scary at the same time! I’m just glad we were doing it in the car and not on foot!! I think everyone knows how much I hate climbing up a hill…

Right after the road stops twisting, at the top of the mountain there is a rest area and Native American market that overlooks the canyon we had just driven through. It’s appropriately named the Oak Creek Canyon Vista Overlook. This was the stop that Pops wanted to make before getting some serious drive time under our belts.

We found a place to park, hopped out of the car, and immediately noticed that it was a good twenty degrees colder than it had been in Sedona. The mountain air was crisp and fresh, and we were all ready to take a good look and sniff around.

We came across a nice path through the trees that took us to the overlook. We stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and once again take in the diverse beauty that is Arizona. One minute you’re surrounded by sand and cacti, and the next you’re in the mountains with a bunch of evergreen trees. I know there are a lot of places on Earth that I still haven’t been to, but so far in my life, Arizona has proven to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen!

Evergreen trees and fresh mountain air at Oak Creek Canyon Vista Overlook, north of Sedona.

Eventually we made it to the overlook and Levi was so excited, he almost jumped over the wall that separated us and a 4,500-foot drop! Luckily Pops had a good hold on his leash, because even though Levi swears he wasn’t trying to jump over, and all he wanted was a better look, I’m not sure I believe him! I think the sight of all them trees was just too enticing for him.

The wall that Levi tried to jump over into Oak Creek Canyon.
Levi Pitboxer realizing how far of a drop it would be into Oak Creek Canyon.

Once we got Levi settled down, and MaMa and Pops had their hearts back inside their bodies, we took a nice, slow walk along the wall that Levi tried jumping over. We meandered along, enjoying the view of the canyon and the millions of trees. We decided to take some pictures and I was happy to show Levi how to enjoy the scenery without scaring MaMa and Pops half to death! It sure is nice to be small enough to find a seat everywhere we go, and I had no desire to jump into that canyon!

I’m enjoying beautiful Oak Creek Canyon, north of Sedona on Hwy. 89A.
Trees as far as the eye can see in Oak Creek Canyon.
GiGi Maltese, enjoying the view at the Oak Creek Canyon Vista Overlook.
A maltese dog is small enough to sit anywhere!

As we were finishing up our walk along the overlook, we came upon the Native American market that features nearly a dozen vendors selling jewelry, clothing and other items. MaMa and I aren’t big shoppers, but we did take a look at what they had and admired some beautiful turquoise jewelry.

Levi Pitboxer checking out the market at Oak Creek Canyon Vista Overlook.
MaMa and GiGi Maltese checking out the Native American market at Oak Creek Canyon Vista.

Before long it was time to leave, as we still had 4 ½ hours to drive before getting to Albuquerque, and it was already late in the afternoon. I think we were all a little hesitant to leave the Oak Creek Canyon Vista Overlook, because it meant we were leaving Arizona. Even though we still had two days of driving ahead of us, and many more stops to make, it still felt like vacation was ending. And here I was just getting the hang of it. I could only hope there would be many more in my future!

On the drive to Albuquerque, we were all a bit melancholy. Levi and I decided to take a nap in the back, so as not to think about vacation being almost over. MaMa stayed awake up front with Pops so she wouldn’t miss any minute of the drive through Arizona and into New Mexico. As we were about to cross the stateline, she got this gorgeous picture of the sun setting in Arizona. It seems like an appropriate image to end our stay in Arizona with…

The last Arizona sunset of our Awesome Adventure.

By the time we got to our hotel in Albuquerque, it was after 10PM, and we were all really tired. I remember taking a walk around the place and seeing lots of other dogs. We were staying at a La Quinta, and they are extremely dog friendly. They don’t charge a fee for having your dogs stay with you, and it seemed as if our entire floor was filled with dogs and their owners. They have nice beds too!

GiGi Maltese is ready to sleep at the La Quinta in Albuquerque.

Stay tuned because on my next blog, we make a return to Route 66 (this time in New Mexico), the road where I was first bit by the travel and adventure bug!

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Awesome Arizona Adventure: On the Road Again

Before I knew it, the week was ending, and it was time to get back on the road. Even though we were leaving our new home away from home, it didn’t mean that our adventure was over. MaMa and Pops had planned our trip so our return drive was three full days instead of two. That meant we had plenty of time to stop and explore along the way.

On the drive to Arizona we had come up from the south so we could drive through the Superstition Mountains (check out Awesome Arizona Adventure: Mountain Time), so on the way out of Arizona, we were heading north in order to see Sedona and some other areas we hadn’t explored yet.

Our first stop after getting on the road was the Sunset Point rest area off of Highway 17 in Black Canyon City. Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning a rest area, but this one was the nicest I’ve ever been to. And as you might imagine, being an explorer, I’ve been to a lot of them! The mountain views at this place were stunning! There were lots of places to walk around, sniff, and pee on! If  you’re ever driving along that way, be sure to stop!

A beautiful place to stop for a rest along Highway 17. Little, white dog need lots of those!
Levi Pitboxer and I really enjoyed the view at Sunset Point rest area! Levi is in awe!

After taking a good look around the rest area, we were back on the road and heading towards Sedona, which was definitely on our list of places to stop and see before leaving Arizona. I’m sure you’ve heard about how beautiful it is there, and everything you’ve heard is true! We got off Highway 17 and onto Highway 179, which takes you along a scenic route into town. We had plans to go to Cathedral Rock, but needed to make another pit stop before exploring the area. We ended up stopping at the Coconino National Forest South Gateway Visitor Center, which boasts beautiful views and some wild Javelina pigs!

Beautiful scenery at the Cococino National Forest South Gateway Visitor Center in Sedona, Arizona.
I had to get in close to see if those pigs were real! I’m relieved they weren’t, because Javelina pigs have a bad smell!

We left the Visitor’s Center and headed towards Cathedral Rock, which is home to one of four energy vortexes in Sedona. It is also one of the most photographed mountains in Arizona, and has a very popular hiking trail. Since we were on a deadline, and the trail can be difficult to traverse in a few places, we just hung out around the bottom of the mountain. Hopefully we soaked up some of that good energy while we were there. I know I felt pretty good after taking a look and sniff around the place. Those red rocks are so beautiful, if a little messy!

Waiting for Pops to get back from the car. Cathedral Rock is a popular place, and we had to park far away from the trail!
Levi Pitboxer checked out the maps, and told me the trail would be too hard for a little white dog to climb!
Levi Pitboxer is soaking up some of the good energy from the vortex at Cathedral Rock.
I think a little, white dog could climb up Cathedral Rock without a problem!
But maybe I’m better off staying on level ground. I heard the rocks can be loose and dangerous on those trails!
Levi Pitboxer thinks he could climb it. He’s a big, strong dog after all!
Levi Pitboxer and GiGi On The Scene at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
I took some of the red rock dust with me when we left Cathedral Rock!

Eventually it was time to get back on the road, as we had a long drive ahead of us that day. We had to get all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico before the end of the day. Driving out of Sedona, we saw so many beautiful sites. I hope we get to go back there again one day and spend more time exploring those beautiful, messy red mountains!

Red Rock formations in Sedona, Arizona.
Red Rock formations in Sedona, Arizona.
Red Rock formations in Sedona, Arizona.
Red Rock formations in Sedona, Arizona.
Red Rock formations in Sedona, Arizona.

 

 

 

 

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Chocolate Covered Almond Cookies

Grrrrreetings friends! You know that normally this blog is about me (the most adorable little white dog you ever did see) and Levi (the most handsome big black dog in the world) on our many adventures, both near and far. Well, today I am handing the reins over to MaMa so she can blog about some cookies she made that I’m not even allowed to eat! That doesn’t seem fair at all, but since she is the one who types my blogs, I guess I don’t really have a choice, do I? Take it away, MaMa!

Chocolate Covered Almond Cookies made with almond butter.

How nice of GiGi to let me use her blog. I’ll have to make sure I give her an extra treat today for being so unselfish! I hope you don’t mind a break from GiGi’s travels and adventures, while I share this delicious cookie recipe with you instead.

I’ve been baking cookies for well over 30 years! I started with chocolate chip cookies when I was so little I could barely see over the top of the counter. I graduated to rolling and cutting out sugar cookies, all with assistance from my Mom of course. Eventually I moved on to peanut butter, snickerdoodle, and other more adventurous cookies as I got older.

Despite having baked 1000’s of cookies over the years, I had never been inspired to create my own recipe. I think I’d heard from one too many sources that baking was a science and you had to be extremely precise or everything would go horribly wrong. Hearing that for years, I never even thought I would be knowledgeable enough to create my own cookie recipe. I mean it is basically a science experiment and Science was my WORST subject in school. I had been content to look up recipes in my cookbooks and online. I’d always get excited trying out a new recipe I’d found, and testing it out on family and friends. Baking is like therapy to me. You can forget all your worries when you’re measuring sugar, whipping up butter or cracking an egg. I remember one Christmas season when I was trying to get over a guy (before I met Pops), I made no fewer than a dozen different types of cookies in less than two weeks. Like I said, it’s therapy.

Recently I’ve been branching out and baking things I’ve never made. In the last three months, I baked a chocolate cake, red velvet cupcakes, and half a dozen different kinds of muffins, as well as three or four new types of cookies, all from scratch, and all for the first time. And you know what? Everything turned out great! Oh, and how could I forget?! I made my very first cheesecake over Christmas, and despite it ballooning up in the oven, and freaking me out that it was going to explode, it came out great, and everyone who tried it said it was as good as Eli’s Cheesecake. Some people said it was even better!

Almond Cookies dipped in Chocolate Ganache.

Perhaps it was all those recent successes that motivated me to create my own cookie recipe, or maybe it was something as simple as an abandoned jar of almond butter. Pops had bought it one day, thinking it was his special peanut butter. When he realized it wasn’t, it sat in the cabinet for months, un-opened, beckoning me each time I opened the cabinet door to reach for another ingredient. Because I hate to see food go uneaten, and I didn’t believe Pops when he said he would eat it, I started thinking about making cookies with it. I’ve made plenty of peanut butter cookies, and I’ve even made a couple different kinds of almond cookies. I’ve never made an almond butter cookie though, so I began searching for a recipe online.

While I was out shopping one day, I purchased a container of almond paste, assuming that any almond cookie recipe I found would certainly have almond paste in it. Now, here I was with almond butter and almond paste sitting in my cabinet, waiting to be made into something yummy! Yet my search for a suitable recipe, containing both ingredients, was futile! Despite scrolling through page after page on Google, I couldn’t find one single recipe that had almond paste and almond butter. How could this be possible!?

Eventually I gave up my search and started thinking about whether or not I could make my own recipe. Seriously, I must have learned SOMETHING in all those years of baking. And every recipe had to be devised by SOMEONE. And I’m willing to bet, they weren’t all good at Science!

Once I decided to create my own recipe, I got excited! And nervous. What if they didn’t turn out? Then I realized it didn’t matter. That nobody would know except for me and Pops. It was a risk I was willing to take to make a delicious almond cookie. Besides, if I failed, I would learn something in the process! What not to do when making an almond cookie…

So I started thinking about quantities, and thinking, and thinking. In the end, I used what I knew from other cookie recipes, and I listened to my intuition. The voice inside me that knew exactly what needed to go inside these almond cookies. And below is what it told me:

Almond Cookie Recipe made with Almond Butter and Almond Paste.

After the cookies came out of the oven, I couldn’t wait long before giving them a try. And you’ve probably guessed by now that they were delicious, otherwise I wouldn’t have dedicated an entire blog to them! They have such a rich almond flavor, and the perfect texture. They are neither too hard or too soft. They didn’t crack while baking either, like peanut butter cookies tend to do. Even though they were amazing on their own, and didn’t need anything to enhance them, I still decided to dip them in ganache, because, you know, why not?! I’d had two bars of baking chocolate (4 ounces of bittersweet and 4 ounces of semi-sweet) in my cabinet since Christmas, and some left-over cream (3/4 cup) from a dinner I’d made earlier in the week. I combined all of that in a double boiler on my stove until all of the chocolate had melted and it was a nice, smooth consistency, and then I began dunking away.

Chocolate Covered Almond Cookies reflected in Kitchen Aid mixer.

I thought the cookies would look cool (and a little bit like GiGi and Levi lying next to each other) if they were half and half. I think I was right! Besides, they are easier to make and eat if the whole cookie isn’t covered in chocolate.

Inspired by my white dog and my black dog!

So, there you go, now you know the story behind the creation of my Chocolate Covered Almond Cookies. I hope you will give them a try, and let me know what you think! Next week we will be back to our regularly scheduled Travel Tuesday, but who knows, this Tasty Tuesday blog might be back if inspiration grabs hold of me again!

Thank you for reading, and happy baking!

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Awesome Arizona Adventure: Let’s Play Ball!

After climbing Lookout Mountain, we all needed a break, so Pops thought it would be fun to check out a baseball field where Spring training was in progress! The field we were closest to is in Peoria, where the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners practice and play their pre-season games.

We had fun walking around the facilities and even saw some baseball players practicing!

Little dogs and big dogs both like to watch Spring Training!
Little dogs and big dogs both like to watch Spring Training!

Levi walked right up to the fence, figuring if the manager saw him, he would be drafted on the spot.

“It’s worth a shot!” he said, “I’m great with balls!” and then he turned around and gave me his best Pitboxer smile.

Levi Pitboxer has the best smile!
Levi Pitboxer has the best smile!

“A lot better than you are, right short stuff? Unless they are looking for a ‘short’ stop!!” he said and laughed.

I didn’t see the humor in that statement at all…

Little, white dogs don't see the humor in short girl jokes!
Little, white dogs don’t see the humor in short girl jokes!

On our way around the park, I started getting hot. It is the desert, after all, so I started looking around for a place to cool off. It didn’t take long for me to find the perfect spot!

Little white dogs need to cool off frequently!
Little white dogs need to cool off frequently!

I might not be great at fetching and catching balls, but I sure am good at sitting on them. I’d like to see Levi Pitboxer try to do that! Fat chance of that ever happening!

After I felt up to walking around again, we found our way to the ticket booth and I was first in line to get the very best seats, but then MaMa told me that dogs aren’t allowed in the ballparks. That was really bad news. I mean, all that beautiful green grass…such a waste!

"Why can't little dogs go to baseball games?"
“Why can’t little dogs go to baseball games?”

As we were leaving the park, we saw a sign for a restaurant and Levi couldn’t help but make one last quip, when he suggested I stand in front of the sign, because I was the saltiest Senorita he knew!

“You’ve got the right color AND the right disposition, GiGi!!” he barked out loud. I had to agree that I was a bit salty at times, so I played along and let him take my picture.

I guess a little white dog can also be a Salty Senorita!
I guess a little white dog can also be a Salty Senorita!

Eventually it was time to go home so MaMa and Pops could go visit their friend. While they were there, they met some authentic Arizona pups! I sure wish I could have tagged along…they looked like super nice dogs, and I’m sure they could have told me what it’s like to live in Arizona year-round. I mean, I was curious how hot it really got there in the summer!

Cute little Arizona dogs getting some attention from Pops.
Cute little Arizona dogs getting some attention from Pops.

When they got home that night, Pops thought it would be nice to take us to see another ballpark. So we all hopped in the car and went to the field shared by the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers in Surprise. We arrived right around sunset, so it was nice and cool and I was ready to explore.

Little, white dogs love to explore at sunset.
Little, white dogs love to explore at sunset.

As we were walking around, we noticed that the gates were open to the practice fields, so Levi and I decided we should walk in and look around. Who would stop us, right?

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While exploring the park, we saw was a sign for the 2015 World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals. We were just about to take a picture with it, when a security guard started walking towards us. Before we could get a good shot, Levi skulked off, while I stared at the guy, challenging him to say something to us.

Little white dog stands up to authority, while big black dog backs down!
Little white dog stands up to authority, while big black dog backs down!

Which is exactly what he did! He asked MaMa and Pops what we were doing there, and told us the area we were in was off limits. Ooops! MaMa thought quickly and decided to play the ignorant tourist card, and told him we’d seen the open gates and didn’t know we weren’t supposed to walk through there. He was nice to us after that, and even escorted us out of the park!

Surprise Stadium at night.
Surprise Stadium at night.

Our last day in Arizona sure was adventurous! After our run in with the security guard, it looked like we’d only be able to check out the ballpark from behind bars, but at least we hadn’t been thrown in jail!

Little white dog and big black dog behind bars!
Little white dog and big black dog behind bars!
Little white dog and big black dog not allowed inside Surprise Stadium.
Little white dog and big black dog not allowed inside Surprise Stadium.
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Awesome Arizona Adventure: Lookout Mountain Trail

On Thursday morning, MaMa and Pops woke us up early and said we had to get our tails moving! It was our last full day in Arizona, and they were visiting Pops’ friend later that day, so all of our exploring had to be done in the morning. Pops had already chosen a trail for us to traverse, so off we went to the Lookout Mountain Trail near Phoenix.

On the way there, Levi decided he was tired of me always hogging the middle seat, and he decided to take it over and not leave any room for me. I was not happy with him at all, and gave him a real earful! He honestly couldn’t have cared less. Darn him! Fine, I guess he could have the middle seat…this time!

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When we got to Lookout Mountain, MaMa noticed that there were no facilities, so we drove back into town, so she could do her business. After that was all taken care of, we were finally able to start exploring. The Mountain has two trails. One that circles the mountain, called the Circumference Trail, and another that goes up and back down called the Summit Trail. We decided to try out the Summit Trail. It was a busy trail and we saw a few other people with dogs. One dog went up the mountain off his leash, which MaMa said isn’t allowed. Luckily the dog was well behaved, because I would have given him a real piece of my mind if he hadn’t been!

After climbing half way up the trail, we looked out and noticed about a dozen hot air balloons up in the sky! It was so pretty and they were so colorful. Unfortunately, since the trail was a more challenging one, MaMa and Pops hadn’t brought the camera, and all of the photos were taken on their phones instead. You can just barely see the tiny dots in this picture. Those were the hot air balloons!

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The first part of the trail zig-zagged and wasn’t very challenging. It definitely had a noticeable incline though, so we stopped to rest after getting to the 150 foot mark. I was proud of myself for making it even that high. It’s hard work when your legs are less than a foot long! It was so worth it though, because the views from there were beautiful, and I figured out why it was called Lookout Mountain!

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After a brief break, we started hiking again, and we almost made it to the top of the mountain, but realized the last little bit was very steep, and the trail was rocky and narrow. I’m sure Pops and MaMa could have made it if they’d been on their own, but they thought it was a little too steep for me and Levi. At that point, MaMa had to pick me up, and when she turned around to go back down, she had an anxiety attack! She started worrying about falling or slipping, especially since she was carrying me, and I think that made her even more nervous! Luckily Pops always keeps a level head, and nothing much phases him. She was able to pass me off to him, while she eased her way back down the scary part of the trail. I think her fear of heights kicked in at a really bad time! But we all survived, and that’s all that matters.

Because MaMa needed to chill for a bit, we found another nice area to take a break and look around. It sure was pretty up there, with so much to sniff and see. Luckily all we saw were rocks, plants and some pretty yellow flowers, and no scorpions or rattle snakes!

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Eventually it was time to make our way back down the trail. I’m pretty sure MaMa had enough of mountains for the day, and we were all ready for a rest. Once we got back to the wider, less steep part of the trail, it was an easy trip back down. I definitely prefer going down more than I do going up!

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Finally we were back in the car, drinking some water and taking a much needed rest. It had definitely been our toughest hike of the trip, and I was glad we had worked our way up to it! I was feeling pretty good about myself too. I don’t know too many 11 pound dogs that have climbed up the side of a mountain, do you?!

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I wonder where we will wind up next? I can’t wait to find out!

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Awesome Arizona Adventure: Wickenburg of the West

After our close call with cattle on the Vulture Peak Trail, we decided it was time to head to the town of Wickenburg, which is just north of the desert mountain range, and hopefully far away from any wandering livestock! Wickenburg was an old West mining town that is named after Henry Wickenburg, a German prospector who discovered a gold mine in the area that had over $30 million worth of gold in it! Whether that’s what it would be worth today or back in the 1850’s, I’m not sure, but either way, that’s a lot of moolah!

Since we’d left the house so early that morning, neither Levi or I felt like eating any breakfast, so that was the first thing we did when we got to town. I was hungry after our hike and made sure Pops knew about it while he was getting my food ready.

WhatYouGot

After what felt like ages, it was finally time to eat, and I didn’t waste any time diving in! I needed to get my energy back, so I could explore this town properly.

ChowTime

One of my favorite things to do is explore downtown areas. There are so many people to see, and interesting smells from the restaurants and stores, and of course all of the dogs and people who have walked those sidewalks before us. Downtown of any town is a great place to see and be seen. That’s why they call me GiGi On The Scene! BOL!  Wickenburg was especially cool because of it’s rich Western history, you just have to remember to watch out for rattlesnakes! Don’t worry though, it wasn’t real! It sure had me fooled though.

Rattlesnake

We saw a lot of cool stores in Wickenburg, like the Rusty Rooster, an ecclectic shop that showcases local and fine art, as well as items representing the Old West lifestyle.

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Levi’s favorite place in town was a shop that sold Stetson hats, and of course Levi’s jeans! I think Levi would look pretty good dressed up in jeans and a Stetson. He’d make a convincing cowboy in that get-up. He didn’t feel the same way, so we moved on.

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We also found a shop called Double H, which seemed like an appropriate place for me to hang out, since I’m the Double G!! They make custom hats, but none that would fit my little head. I really like the steer on top of the building, especially his horns. I’d like to get my teeth around those beauties!

DoubleH

Wickenburg is also home to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, which has displays and exhibits focused on the old West. I liked this bronze statue out front of a rancher and his horse called “Thanks for the Rain” by the sculptor Joe Beeler. They sure don’t get much of that in Arizona, so I can see why he would so grateful!

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After having a good look around the town, MaMa and I decided we needed to take a break in the shade. All smart explorers know that frequent breaks are very important!

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Eventually it was time to move on and find somewhere for MaMa and Pops to eat lunch. Since she’d never been there before, Pops decided to take her to In-N-Out Burger for a Double Double burger and fries. Of course, I had to see what all the fuss was about for myself.

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At first I wasn’t so sure what I was smelling, but once I realized it was a burger, I was all for it! I got a little taste too, and it was pretty darn yummy. I’d definitely recommend it to any man, woman or dog!

After lunch it was time to head back to our home for the week and get some rest. A vacation can be so tiring. I was beginning to understand why people say they need a vacation from their vacation! And, we’re out…

Naptime

 

 

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Awesome Arizona Adventure: Vulture Peak Trail

On our third day in Arizona we decided it would be a good idea to do some more exploring! While we’d had a great time at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, we decided to try a more challenging trail for our second hike in Arizona. We drove out to the desert mountain range, south of Wickenburg in mid-morning, wanting to beat the heat of the day. Though in March, it wasn’t likely to get TOO bad, we hoped!

On our way to the trailhead, we missed the turn-off and had to turn around and go back to find it. I guess it wasn’t well-marked, or MaMa just wasn’t helping Pops navigate like she was supposed to be doing. She was probably taking a picture of me or posting on facebook instead! We did finally find it though, and discovered when we got there that there isn’t much in the way of facilities. There is an outhouse-type toilet, and that’s it. There is no running water, so we were glad we had brought our own. It’s important to stay hydrated while hiking, especially in the desert! The parking lot is big enough for 15 cars, but there was only one other vehicle when we got there. I guess we would have the trail mostly to ourselves. How exciting!

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The first part of the trail took us into a wash, which is a dry stream bed that temporarily fills with water after seasonal rains. We found the wash by following some tracks in the ground that Levi and I found after sniffing around.

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Walking in the wash wasn’t very easy for me, as the ground is loose and rocky, but I managed, with occasional help from MaMa. It pays to be small when situations like that come up!

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While walking in the wash, you need to keep an eye out for the trail markers, otherwise you could end up walking for an eternity in that arroyo (another name for a desert wash). Pops is an experienced hiker, so he kept us all on track. MaMa is mostly oblivious and Levi and I were too busy sniffing all those good desert scents to pay attention to details like staying on the trail!

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We finally made it up to the main trail and it was beautiful and natural. The landscape is untouched Sonoran desert, and includes a variety of cactus like the saguaro, ocotillo, and teddy bear cholla. Every few feet was another opportunity to photograph our arid, yet lush surroundings!

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After walking for a while, we realized that the trail was natural the whole way, and therefore pretty rocky. It was also getting warmer, and I wasn’t interested in walking very far. I think even Levi wanted to stop and take breaks more than usual. Because of the conditions, MaMa and Pops decided we would turn around and go back before reaching the saddle (the lowest point before the summit), let alone the peak of the mountain. Luckily even the short distance we did walk was full of photo ops!

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So, after taking a break and making sure we were hydrated, we began the half mile walk back to the car. As we were making our way along the wash, we saw some animals in the distance, just off to the side in some tall plants. At first I thought they might be coyotes or mountain lions, but as we got closer, I saw that they were cattle.

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I didn’t know how they would react to me and Levi, and neither did MaMa! She started freaking out a little bit, wondering if we were going to be stuck there, and whether we had enough water with us, in case we had to wait there a while. After assessing the situation for a few minutes, and realizing that the cattle didn’t seem that concerned with us, Pops and MaMa decided we could walk past them. As long as we did it quickly! I think they were mostly concerned with Levi, since he doesn’t like animals that are bigger than him. MaMa just carried me, which was probably for the best. I would have tried to run after those big cows, and take a bite!!

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Since we were so concerned with getting past the cattle without incident, we ended up missing our turn-off for the parking lot! Luckily, we saw two young women walking down another trail, and MaMa asked them if that was another way back to the cars, and they told us it was. It was steeper than the way we’d come down, so MaMa had to carry me up. It was quite an adventure!

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Finally we made it back to our car, and were able to relax and take a moment to reflect on our close encounter with the giant cattle, and the timely arrival of some fellow hikers. It sure was an exciting morning. I wondered what we would get up to next?! Stay tuned to find out…

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Awesome Arizona Adventure: White Tank Mountains

I awoke on our second full day in Arizona anticipating some action! I was ready to get out there and explore the desert landscape and had my sights set on an adventure. I’d rested up the day before and was more than ready to seize the day!

In order to make the most of the day, Pops had us up early and out the door just after sunrise. He was taking us to the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, just outside of Surprise. This park is the largest in Maricopa County, totaling 29,271 acres. It has nearly 26 miles of trails, as well as picnic areas, shaded tables, restroom facilities and camp sites. We were going to be checking out the Black Rock Loop Trail, and the popular Waterfall Trail.

While driving into the park, my eyes couldn’t stop scanning the beautiful sights! We were up in the mountains (the highest peak of the White Tank Mountains has an altitude of 4,083 feet), and everywhere I looked I saw something I’d never seen before. There were so many different types of flowers and cacti, not to mention the awesome rock formations, which were formed by tectonic activities over 30 million years ago! And believe it or not, a 30 million year old mountain range is YOUNG in geological terms. Wow, just wow!

So much to see!
So much to see!

When we finally stopped and got out of the car, we were beyond excited and ready to hit the trails running! MaMa and Pops had another idea, which was to walk and take our time, so we could take lots of pictures and really take in the sights. I guess that would just have to do.

I'm ready to hit the trail!
I’m ready to hit the trail!

Since pictures can tell a tale without words, I hope you don’t mind if I take a break from narrating for a moment and let the pictures weave a story all their own…

Black Rock Loop Trail

dsc01633-2 dsc01635-2 dsc01638-2 dsc01644-2 dsc01649-2 dsc01656-2The Black Rock Loop Trail was an easy trail with very little incline, which is good for my short legs! We stopped a couple of times along the way to take a family portrait. As you saw, the second attempt was successful, but I had to share the first attempt, because it makes me giggle!  This trail connects to the Waterfall Trail which is another easy walk that ends at a waterfall that is only active if there has been a recent heavy rain. Though there was no waterfall that day, we all really enjoyed the many different rock formations, including these awesome rock steps!

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We also saw some giant boulders that I insisted on perching my posterior upon! I seem to have a propensity for sitting on large objects. Then again, just about every object is large compared to me!!

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It was so quiet back there in the shadow of the mountain. There wasn’t another person or doggie in sight. It was nice to have a quiet moment to think about how fortunate I was to be in that amazing place with my family. I sure am a lucky dog!

Just taking it all in!
Just taking it all in!

After our short break, it was time to head back, and on our way we stopped to check out some petroglyphs – prehistoric rock carvings, that were remnants of an Indian tribe called the Hohokams, who lived in these mountains from 500-1100 AD. The circles in the picture below show you where to look to see the petroglyphs. Pretty cool, huh?

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Back out on the trail Levi heard something in the bushes, and wouldn’t leave until he found out what it was. I didn’t see anything, but he insisted that it was only a lizard. I’m just glad it wasn’t a scorpion, snake or tarantula!img_20160308_095542795-2

Before we could finish our hike I decided to take a little break in the shade. Even though we’d started off early, and the temperatures were very moderate for March, it was still the desert, and this girl does NOT like to get too hot! You try walking around with a fur coat covering your entire body and see if you don’t feel the same way!

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Eventually we made it back to the car and hung out for a bit before hitting the road and heading back to home base. Can you see our little heads? Of course I’m in the driver’s seat, like you would expect it any other way!

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I wonder where we’ll go next? Stay tuned to next week’s Awesome Arizona Adventure to find out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flashback Funday: Kankakee River State Park

Saturday, May 21 was a warm and sunny day. I know from my three years on Earth that you don’t always get nice days in May. And when that nice day in May is also on a Saturday, you have to get outside and play! You definitely can’t sit around in the house all day.  It was time to figure out where to go today!

"Let's get out there and explore!"
“Let’s get out there and explore!”

We don’t usually plan our adventures in advance, preferring a more spontaneous modus operandi. You never know what kind of fun you’ll get into that way! Besides, Levi and I like to be surprised. We like living in the moment! After some Internet research and some discussion between MaMa and Pops, we agreed to check out the Kankakee River State Park, in Bourbonnais, IL.

Since we all knew the drill for a day trip, it didn’t take long for us to get in the car and be ready for the quick ride down to the park, which is located in both Will and Kankakee counties.  It’s 4,000 acres in size, so it’s no wonder it’s located in two counties. One just couldn’t contain it!

"Let's blow this pop stand!"
“Let’s blow this pop stand!”
"Come on already, geesh!"
I’m always ready first!

The car ride to a new destination is always filled with excitement and anticipation. Levi is usually whining and crying out, ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet?!?’ He actually starts that up about 3 minutes after we leave the house. He isn’t much for delayed gratification. I happen to love the car ride. Probably because I get to sit up front on MaMa’s lap. That’s definitely one of the advantages of being a small dog!

Riding in the lap of luxury!
Riding in the lap of luxury!

The surroundings where the park is located was home to a number of different Native American tribes, including the Illini, Miami, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Chippewa and Potawatomi between the 1670’s and the 1830’s. After 1832, when the Potawatomi ceded their land along the Kankakee and Illinois Rivers to the United States, most of the Native Americans left the area. It was eventually settled by a group of French Canadian fur traders. Later in the 19th century, an amusement park opened, which drew crowds from Chicago until it closed in 1920. After that, it became a popular location for summer cottages. The area along the Kankakee River became a park in the 1930’s when 35 acres of land was donated by Ethel Sturges Dummer, a Chicago area philanthropist. The rest of the land was donated later by Commonwealth Edison.

Since the park is so big, and encompasses land on both sides of the river, we had no idea what we would find when we got there. MaMa had read about a number of different trails, including a three mile trail along a tributary of Kankakee River, called Rock Creek. That trail goes through a gorge along cliffs! We didn’t end up on that trail though, mostly because we had no idea how to find it! Maybe next time we go, we will do a little bit more planning, because those cliffs sound exciting!

Instead we ended up walking on a trail that ran right along the river, which was also pretty cool! There were a lot of great river smells!

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Remember to watch your step!

Along with the interesting smells there were plenty of cool things to check out. You just have to be careful walking around though, because lots of people fish along the river, and at one point, I got caught up in some fishing line! Luckily MaMa got me untangled, and after that I was more cautious about where I put my feet.

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"I wonder if they've got any fish in that boat?!"
“I wonder if they’ve got any fish in that boat?!”

Since it was such a pretty day, Levi and I insisted on sitting for a photo shoot. The backdrop of the trees and the river just couldn’t be beat!

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Levi worked all of his angles that day! BOL!!

The day soon turned from warm to really warm, and we decided to find a place to sit in the shade. Luckily there are lots of trees and shady places to sit near the river, because after exploring, sitting is my favorite thing to do!

"This spot looks like a good place for a sit."
“This spot looks like a good place for a sit.”

When it was time to venture a little further along the river, I decided it was too hot to walk, and that’s when I got to go for a ride in my Outward Hound dog sack! It is the perfect size for me to sit and relax with my little head hanging out, while MaMa does all the work!

"Does she always have to be so embarrassing? Ugh?!"
“Does she always have to be so embarrassing? Ugh?!”

Considering the park is 4,000 acres and we only walked about one mile before turning around and going back, we will definitely need to visit the Kankakee River State Park on another day. The gorge and cliffs sound really cool, and I bet that we’d get some pretty neat pictures there too! But until then, pictures of Levi and I enjoying the area along the river will just have to do.

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My overall assessment of that park is…more information is needed, so we will be back! Knowing how much more there is to see there is reason enough for us to make a return trip.

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