The year 2010 was quickly turning into "The Year of the Concert". In a normal year, John and/or I will see one rock concert and maybe one opera. This year, however, there were several good shows that we wanted to see. The Arizona Opera had not one but three operas in their 2009-2010 season that we had to attend: Così Fan Tutte, La Bohème, and The Barber of Seville. On February 24, Bon Jovi put on an incredible show at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, promoting their new album The Circle. On May 15, I had plans to be in Los Angeles to see A-ha during their Ending on a High Note Tour - a concert I could not miss!
And, on April 10, John and I had tickets to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, at Yavapai Community College in Prescott! Going to a concert in Prescott also meant that we had the opportunity for a hiking adventure as well.
Our plan for the day was to hike the Groom Creek Loop Trail #307, in the Prescott National Forest, just off of the Senator Highway. At nine miles roundtrip, it was one of those trails that we simply could not hike with Mary, as it would be too much for her; however, since she was spending the weekend with Grandma, this was the perfect chance for us to do it again. We had last hiked Groom Creek in September of 1999, when we hiked it with my friends Erik and Marcheta Strunk; it was going to be interesting to see how much the trail had changed in ten years.
In order to get an early start, we woke up at the crack of dawn (4:30 a.m.) and loaded our hiking gear and overnight bag into the car. We then got Mary out of bed and dropped her off, with her overnight bag, at Bill and Erika's house. (They were planning to take her and Joshua with them to the Gaard-Chak for the weekend.) At 7:00 a.m., after kissing Mary good-bye, John and I got into the car and took off towards Prescott, on I-17.
Our drive to Prescott was uneventful, except that the drive through Prescott Valley was frustrating as usual; between the slow drivers and hitting every light red, we thought we'd never get there! It wasn't until we turned off on Gurley Street that we left the traffic behind.
We finally arrived at the Groom Creek Trailhead just before 9:30 a.m. and wasted no time getting our gear together in preparation for our hike. We knew that, the sooner we finished hiking, the sooner we could go to the hotel and check in for a nap before the concert. Truth be told, if we wanted to stay up late enough to enjoy the concert after a nine-mile hike, we were going to need that nap!
Our hike on the Groom Creek Trail #307 began at 9:30 a.m., as we stepped off on the trail. We chose to do the loop counter-clockwise, remember that the trail was much less steep that way. Going in that direction, it was 5.5 miles to the top of Spruce Mountain, with 1,200 feet in elevation gain; if we had gone the other way, it would be 3.5 miles to the top, with the same elevation gain. While it is true that some people prefer the workout, we just weren't in good enough shape for that!
Okay, maybe John was, but I certainly was not. Even with the counter-clockwise loop, I was struggling with some of the uphill sections. I was still hiking at a pace of two miles an hour, but I had to stop frequently to catch my breath, and I was much slower than John, who always hikes much faster than me anyway.
As we made our way around the loop, we soon came across some incredible views of the nearby Mingus Mountains, which were still covered with snow. It was wonderful to see that much snow so late in the spring; hopefully, it will mean that the fire season will not be as severe as it has been in the past few years.
Not only was there snow on the Mingus Mountains, but there was snow along the Groom Creek Loop as well. We came across the first patches of snow at an elevation of 7,000, after having climbed 600 feet in about two miles. The higher we climbed, the more snow we encountered. It wasn't long before we were hiking in snow; it wasn't much different from our expedition up Mount Humphreys back in June of 2008, except that the snow on the Groom Creek Loop was much softer and less icy - and hence, much less treacherous for me, as I just don't do "slippery".
By the time we reached the junction with the Isabelle Trail #377, we found ourselves hiking almost entirely in the snow. Naturally, there were snowball fights aplenty; John kept pelting me from behind with snowballs, until, at one point, I picked one up and beaned him right in the chest! That did not end the snowball fights; it just meant that we had to use more stealth when throwing them.
Finally, at about 12:45 p.m. - after three hours of hiking - John and I arrived at the top of Spruce Mountain! Okay, not really; we actually arrived at the false summit, where the radio tower and picnic tables are located. But for all intensive purposes, we were at the summit; we were done climbing for the day!
Upon reaching the top of Spruce Mountain, John and I immediately zoned in on a geocache, located nearby. This was our 601st find, having achieved our 600th while in South Carolina during the last week of March. It was also the only one that we cared to find, because everything else involved hiking cross-country, away from the trail, and we just didn't have the energy to do that.
While at the summit, we sat and rested and ate our sandwiches, to build up the energy we needed to finish the last 3.5 miles of our hike. Thankfully, most of that hike was downhill; we hoped to be able to accomplish that last leg in an hour and a half.
After a good, twenty-minute rest, we set out to finish hiking the Groom Creek Loop. Along the way, we hiked at an average pace of about three miles an hour - which, of course, is much easier to do when the trail is all downhill. We also didn't encounter nearly as much snow on this leg of the trail. A good portion of this trail follows the south side of the mountain, which gets more exposure to the sun; the snow that had been there had long since melted...and that meant that it was no longer there to slow us down.
Of course, once we dropped below 7,000 feet, there was no longer any snow at all.
Our goal had been to finish our hike in an hour and a half, which would put us back at the car at 2:30 p.m.; but since we were hiking at such a strong pace, we set a stretch goal of one hour and fifteen minutes, or 2:15. That said, we hiked non-stop in our attempt to accomplish that stretch goal...and we made it! We finished hiking the last 3.5 miles of the trail in one hour and fifteen minutes!
Naturally, we were very tired when we finished our hike, so we quickly got into the car and drove back into Prescott, to check into our hotel for the night and take a nap.
We had reservations at the Hampton Inn, about three miles from Yavapai Community College. Once we were checked in, we immediately went up to our room and rested for a couple of hours. We both tried to take a nap; however, John wasn't able to sleep and ended up watching back-to-back episodes of "The Deadliest Catch".
Later that afternoon, once we were rested from our hike, John and I got dressed up and went out to dinner. Having never stayed the night before in Prescott, we weren't quite sure where to go to have a good meal and a good bottle of wine, so we consulted Google and several restaurant reviews. From that list, we chose 129-1/2 - An American Jazz Restaurant, just off of Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott. The food was excellent, the wine was superb, and the ambiance was lovely. It was such a nice choice that I'm sure we'll return again someday.
After dinner, we drove to Yavapai Community College, for the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert. As we stood in line to pick up our tickets from Will-Call, we were surprised to see that most of the people there were much older than us. In fact, the ratio of seniors to people our age or younger was probably 80:20, which we did not expect at all.
Even more surprising, once the band took the stage, no one got up and danced in the aisles! Big Bad Voodoo Daddy put on an amazing performance...and not one person was dancing! Eventually, John and I decided to get up and set the trend, when the band played "You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three" - one of our favorite numbers. Finally, four other couples followed suit and danced in the aisles.
Despite the lack of revelers, the concert was incredible; Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was very entertaining. Their sound was perfect; their stage presence was sharp; and Scotty played a perfect 1930's era bandleader! It was one of the best shows we had seen in a long time.
Following the concert, John and I tried to look for a nightclub to go dancing, but what we discovered was that most of Prescott is closed by 9:00 p.m. The only places that were open were biker bars - which would have been fine, if we hadn't been dressed up. We ended up going to the Olive Garden near our hotel for dessert, before turning in for the night.
The next morning, despite a late night out, John and I were still up at 5:00 a.m. - damn internal alarm clocks!
After getting dressed and eating our free continental breakfast at the hotel, John and I started looking for a hike to do - a short hike, maybe two or three miles long, that would kill some time before we had to be home to pick up Mary. John suggested that we hike Lynx Lake: an easy, two-mile loop that goes around the lake. I liked that idea, so I said, "Let's do it!"
The nice thing about going to Lynx Lake was, we didn't have to drive very far to get there. Upon leaving the hotel, we drove one street over, to Walker Road, and took that about two miles south, to the Lynx Lake Recreation Area.
We stopped at the North Shore of Lynx Lake, where there is a day-use area near the dam. As soon as we parked the car, John opened up the Geocaching application on his iPhone to see if there were any caches nearby - and, lo and behold, there was one less than five hundred feet from the picnic area! We decided to go for it and found it in the woods, beyond the picnic tables. Inside, there was a travel bug that we just had to grab. Called the First-Timer's Travel Bug, this particular bug had several goals: 1) to go to a concert; 2) to go geocaching with someone who has never geocached before; and 3) to be taken to a cache in Tennessee. True, it was too late to take that bug to the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert; but I could take it to the A-ha concert on May 15! AND, since my friend Nacole (who would be attending the concert with me) had never cached before...well, I could accomplish two of the bug's goals in one shot!
Having found that cache, it was now time to start our hike...only John wasn't sure where exactly we needed to go to start the hike. He saw a trail sign in the picnic area and followed it to the trail, but it turned out to be one of the trails that goes away from the lake. There was also a trail next to the chain link fence at the dam, but John wasn't sure where exactly it went once it reached the dam.
"Maybe the trail starts from the parking lot," I finally said to him, so we walked over to the kiosk...and sure enough, we found the trail marker for the Lynx Lake Loop Trail #311.
Since we hiked the counter-clockwise loop on the Groom Creek Trail, we decided to do the clockwise loop on this trail. And it was a good thing that we did, too, because right away, we got our boots wet. As the trail left the parking lot, it turned towards the dam and crossed the spillway - which, of course, was teeming with water. While the water was only about three inches deep, it was enough to soak our boots; it was also cold enough that we felt it!
After crossing over the spillway, the trail continued along the dam then turned into the woods surrounding the lake. It was there that we spied a large blue heron on the lake. We snapped a couple of pictures of it before it flew away.
The Lynx Lake Trail followed the contour of the lake, all the way around the lake - around bends, into coves, and along the shores. For the most part, the trail was flat, but occasionally, there were short, easy, twenty-foot climbs as the trail traced the natural contour of the land. All in all, an easy trail: the perfect morning hike.
As we approached the south shore of the lake, we encountered another hiker, coming from the other direction. Right away, he warned us that the trail was going to cross Lynx Creek ahead; the lake was so full that we would have to cross upstream, and he recommended that we cross at the big log that is laying across the creek. We thanked him for his advice and continued on our hike.
A few minutes later, we came to the point where Lynx Creek feeds the lake - and yes, it was just not passable. We could see where the trail continued on the other side, but there was no way that we could walk across the creek to get there. That said, we did as the other hiker had instructed us to do and followed the footpath upstream, to a place where we could cross safely.
We hiked nearly a quarter of a mile upstream before we found a place where we could cross - on a log jam in the creek. Of course, at that point, the creek was just shallow enough that we could have plowed through, but we didn't want to get our boots wet again; so we took our chances on the log jam. Fortunately, it was sturdy, and we made it across without any problems.
Once we found the footpath on the other side of the creek, we started downstream, until we were back at the lake again. At that point, we arrived at the south shore day-use area: the halfway point of our hike. We walked through a pristine picnic area, with concrete benches and ramadas and barbeque grills; it looked to be a great place to do a family picnic.
The Lynx Lake Trail continued on the other side, only now, it was paved and handicap accessible. There were even well-maintained bridges inside of the coves, to ease access over the water. Since this part of the trail was so easy, it was also busier; we saw several other families along the way.
It took us thirty minutes to complete the loop; it probably would have only taken twenty minutes, had we not stopped to get a geocache under one of the bridges. Once we had made that grab, we then hiked non-stop all the way back to the dam.
Having finished our short hike, we decided that it was time to start heading home. Rather than deal with the typical Sunday afternoon traffic problems on the I-17, we decided instead to take SR 89, down Yarnell Hill, to Wickenburg. It is one of the more scenic routes in Arizona and one that we have enjoyed time and again - most recently, on the motorcycle. Our plan had been to geocache along the way; but with spotty cell signal and no motivation, we chose to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
We arrived in Wickenburg at lunchtime and stopped to look for a place to grab a quick lunch and a beer. Surprisingly, though, a number of the restaurants near the SR 89/US 60 interchange were closed, either permanently or just for the day. The only place we could find was Anita's Cocina, a Mexican food place just off of the main drag. It was crowded, but we were able to get a table right away.
Anita's Cocina appeared to be a popular spot amongst the bikers; there was perhaps thirty motorcycles parked outside of the restaurant, and we were seated next to a table at which there was more than a dozen bikers. What we didn't realize at first was that they were all women, some of whom were wearing pink-ribbon bandanas. I wasn't sure if they were riding for "the Cause", but they may have been!
After lunch, it was time to go home, as our weekend adventure was over. On the way home, we picked up Mary from Bill and Erika's house, and the three of us went home to relax and to share the stories of our exciting weekend with each other.
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