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.

 

 

 

 

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

 

 

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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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.

A Better Day at Goodenow Grove

Have you ever visited a good place at a bad time? That happened to us this summer when we headed out early one morning to check out Goodenow Grove Forest Preserve in Beecher, IL. Despite the title of another blog post, A Good Day for Goodenow, it really wasn’t that good of a day to visit a forest preserve. Even though we tried getting there early to beat the heat, it was still too hot to walk. I mean literally, I kept laying down, and MaMa had to carry me if she wanted to go anywhere. Also, when we tried to find some shade and decided to walk around a pond in the woods, the bugs were ALL OVER Levi. We ended up calling it a day well before noon, and said, “We’ll have to come back here in the fall!”

So that’s what we did this past Saturday. We got a later start this time, but it didn’t matter because the weather was much cooler, and this time MaMa was prepared! More about that later…

After a pleasant drive through the country we finally arrived at Goodenow Grove. We knew we wanted to check out the longest trail at the preserve called the Plum Creek Greenway Trail, but first decided to take a quick walk around the area surrounding the Nature Center. As usual, Levi took the lead!

Levi Pitboxer loves checking out new places!
Levi Pitboxer loves checking out new places!

While out on our jaunt around the Grove, we saw a group of people having a party at one of the two pavilions available to rent for an event. Near the larger pavilion is a 40 foot hill used for sledding in the Winter. They even have sled rentals if you don’t have your own. I wonder if they let doggies sled down that giant hill?

A great sledding hill! But I'm not ready for snow yet!!
A great sledding hill! But I’m not ready for snow yet!!

Before heading out on the trail, MaMa wanted to check out the Plum Creek Nature Center, mostly to find out if they had a bathroom. There are two permanent outhouses (one by each pavilion), but if you have the option to use indoor plumbing, you should always take it (so says MaMa)! As we were walking towards the door, the man working behind the desk waved us inside. MaMa popped her head in and said, “We can bring the dogs in?” and he said, “Yeah, bring them in!”

We were so excited because it’s not every day that we get invited in somewhere. I guess we are kind of like vampires that way. We need to be invited before we can enter a building!!

I was so excited to check out somewhere new!
I was so excited to check out somewhere new! I broke out in a spontaneous dance!

I was dancing and Levi was rolling around on the floor. We really know how to make ourselves at home!

Levi Pitboxer enjoying a good roll!
Levi Pitboxer enjoying a good roll!

Once we were finally settled down, we took a good look around the place. We saw stuffed birds and animals, rocks, books, a living snake and lizard, and lots of activities for little kids to create and have fun!

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The Nature Center had so much to look at, but it was a beautiful day and time to explore the outdoors. What I didn’t know was MaMa was prepared to go on a long walk this time, and was going to make sure I didn’t hold her up! I wasn’t sure whether to be embarrassed or elated. But either way, my secret is out. I’m officially a spoiled, little baby princess with her own little carriage to ride in!

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It turns out I really enjoy being rolled around in my carriage. I was able to chill out, not get too tired or hold up the group, and MaMa didn’t hurt her back by picking me up and carrying me. Also, I could see all of the same great sites, but with a brand new perspective. The only thing MaMa would have done differently was choose a long trail that wasn’t made out of natural limestone. She said she got a real workout that day pushing me for miles on that lumpy, bumpy surface!

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While out on the trail we saw some horses having their lunch in a grassy meadow, in addition to a horse being ridden that went right past us on the trail. If there is one thing Levi likes less than squirrels, it’s horses, and he got really worked up after seeing them! Since I get worked up when Levi is worked up, nobody was able to take a picture of the horse on the trail, but Pops did get some nice pictures of the ones just chilling in the meadow.

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Look, he’s marked with a D for dog!

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Since Levi’s panties were all in a bunch, Pops decided it would be a good time to take a break and sit in the shade and just relax for a bit.

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Levi really couldn’t get his mind off of those dang horses, so MaMa gave him a good scratching, which always seems to clear his mind because it feels so good! He really liked it!

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While Levi was getting his rub down, I took a look around at all of the beautiful trees. There weren’t too many leaves that had changed colors yet, but it was still a nice, peaceful spot to sit and enjoy the fabulous fall day that we’d been blessed with.

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Check out Levi in the corner, wondering where that horse went!

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After our nice break, Levi told us it was time to go and chase after some horses! And what Levi wants, Levi gets!

"Come on guys, I have a horse to catch!"
“Come on guys, I have a horse to catch!”

Back we went the way we came, and I really took advantage of being in my carriage and this time I lead the charge! “Onward!” I said, “Let us go forth and conquer whatever crosses our path!”

"Faster, faster, we have horses to capture!"
“Faster, faster, we have horses to capture!”

I had such a good time that day and look forward to going back again. This time it really was a good day for Goodenow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Route 66 Road Trip: Route 66 State Park

We’d seen a lot of strange things on our Route 66 road trip, including a 30 foot tall astronaut, a six foot long hot dog, and a giant pink elephant, but none of those road side attractions are nearly as interesting as the story behind Route 66 State Park.

If you don’t know the history behind it, and just happen to be stopping by for a trail hike while traveling along the Mother Road, there isn’t much there to visually indicate the tragedy that eventually lead to the creation of Missouri’s newest state park. But MaMa did a bunch of research before we left for our trip, and we knew before arriving that the park happens to be located on the former site of Times Beach, an unlucky town just 17 miles west of St. Louis, originally founded as a summer resort destination in 1925 on the banks of the Meramec River.

Because of the Great Depression, Times Beach didn’t survive as a resort town, but did eventually become a lower-middle class city, and home to approximately 2,000 residents. In 1972 the town, who’s only paved street was Route 66, hired Russell Bliss, a waste hauler, to oil down the dirt roads, in an effort to control a dust problem. What they didn’t know is he was using oil that was contaminated with Dioxin, a highly toxic by-product, found in waste that Bliss was hauling for the Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company, the producer of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War!

When local horses began dying in stables where the same oil had been sprayed by Bliss, an investigation was begun by the EPA, and eventually the Federal Government bought out the entire town in 1983, and all residents were evacuated in 1985. In 1996-1997, the government removed nearly 300,000 tons of contaminated soil and debris from the site, and everything was incinerated. After that, the 419-acre site was turned over to the State of Missouri, who turned the former town into the Route 66 State Park, which opened in 1999.

I told you it was in interesting story!

Our visit to the park was peaceful and not nearly as intriguing as the story behind the creation of this state park. I was pretty worn out from all of the previous activities from this day and the day before, that I made MaMa carry me for a large chunk of our walk! (This happens a lot, and now you know why they bought a carrier for me!)

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The view is nice from up here!
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I think I’ll take a nap now!
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You can see Pop and Levi in MaMa’s glasses!

While walking we found ourselves under the Route 66 Bridge, which was built in 1932 and crosses the Meramec River. Because of wear and deterioration, the bridge has been closed down for a number of years to all traffic, including pedestrian. There is a group trying to restore it, but if they don’t raise enough money by the end of this year, it will be demolished in 2017. I’m sure glad we got to see it, and hope the group is successful. Here is a link to their go fund me page, if you are interested in making a donation to save this landmark.

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Levi gazing up at the Route 66 State Park Bridge.
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Route 66 State Park Bridge

All in all, we had a great time at the park and were grateful for a nice time to enjoy nature, and are extremely happy that something so beautiful was made out of something so tragic!