A Blend of Life, Family, Awareness & Tales

Posts tagged ‘vacation’


For almost 12 years I have been in a love-hate relationship…

Shame on you for assuming I was talking about my husband. I am talking about Camelback, a little mountain with a big attitude.

My photo of Camelback as seen from the Taliesin Ridge in the McDowell Mountains.

Camelback Mountain has an elevation of 2700 feet. It looks like a giant camel resting in the middle of the Phoenix, Arizona metro area. It is an iconic symbol of the city and has become a bit of a fascination of mine. The hike itself is 1.2 miles long and has an elevation gain of nearly 1200 feet.  What this little mountain lacks in size, it makes up for with rough rocky trails, high temperatures much of the year, and a steep grade. I have heard the grade of the climb averages 40%, but don’t quote me on that because I simply heard it via word of mouth.

In the year 2000 I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, days after my husband and I were married. He had lived there for two years already and I had become enamoured with the Southwest. We hiked many different places on the weekends, but it was a hot December day when we took on Camelback for the first time.

I am by no means a regular fitness kind of person (with the exception of Cage Fitness which I will talk about at a later date). I am more of a barrel-into-something-and-hope-for-the-best kind of gal. Cases in point, hiking the Grand Canyon(2 times), riding 150 mile charity rides(2 times), and numerous hikes on Camelback Mountain. All of these events were done with virtually no training on my part, because to repeat, regular fitness is not really my thing.

A friend asked if we wanted to hike Camelback. We said yes, and off we went to hike up the Echo Canyon trailhead. I had no idea what we were about to do. There were extremely steep climbs that made me fearful of how I would ever get down again.


There were boulders to climb and gravel to slip on. There was even wildlife that at first made me wary. But we hiked it, and hiked it again and again and again many times that year. I don’t think there was a time that we hiked Camelback that first year that I ever enjoyed hiking up.  Ever. Sometimes I cried, usually I gasped for breath, one time I even stumbled and hit the dirt. As I stood bleeding, I looked up and there were two nuns in full habits and hiking boots coming down the trail. For just a few seconds I was convinced I had died. We all said hello, then I kind of chuckled at myself and continued on.

Kinda rocky.

When we came back home to visit family, I told my relatives of our hikes on Camelback. My Grandpa shared a story with us that back in the late 1930’s he went on a trip across the U.S. and stopped in Phoenix for a while. He talked of camping by the orange groves and the open space at the foot of Camelback Mountain. When I hiked up I always tried to visualize where he camped, but now there is nothing but houses and resorts in every direction.

Orange groves and Camelback -This is what my Grandpa saw.
Click on photo for more information. (Photo courtesy of Salt River Project)

In 2001 we moved back near where we grew up, but have visited Arizona several times since. Two weeks ago my good friend and I went to Scottsdale for a long weekend. I wanted to show her where I used to live, we both wanted a getaway and we were able to stay with my parents which made the trip very affordable. (Thanks Mom & Dad!) We went hiking with my parents in the McDowell Mountains.  I was not aware of how fascinated I must be by Camelback until I was told,

“You’ve been talking so much about that mountain. Let’s just do it.”

So J. and I got up the next morning and did it. It was tough, I’m not going to say it wasn’t. But it was great to hike those rocks again. It was great to see again the characters that hike that mountain every day, some twice my age, passing me or passing me more that once. It was great to see that city again from high above, to share the camaraderie with a bunch of strangers who had just accomplished the same thing. And it was great to share it with a friend who can now maybe better understand my obsession with the collection of sandstone and granite that is Camelback Mountain.


The House on the Rock

Last week my husband’s brother, wife and daughter visited from North Carolina. We live in Wisconsin, and my husband and his brothers grew up in a small town in beautiful Southwest Wisconsin. His brother’s wife is from North Carolina, and when she visits she is often only exposed to that corner of the state.

Now if you have never been to Wisconsin (or even if you have!), you might be inclined to think that we have nothing but cows, cheese and beer. I have a feeling my brother-in-law’s family feels the same way. But we have more, and we shared it with them last week – we have the House on the Rock.

When I was a kid, I remember my grandparents (dad’s parents) talking about the trip they were taking to the House on the Rock. I remember not understanding what they were talking about, not being able to picture what it was exactly they were going to see. Well, after three trips there as an adult, I am still not sure what it is I have seen.

How I felt much of my time in the House on the Rock.

The House on the Rock is a fascinating destination that is well worth the visit. In fact, it is reported a half a million people visit this attraction every year.

I don’t know how to describe the House on the Rock. It started as a weekend home built by a gentleman named Alex Jordan. He built the original house on a rock column that is approximately 60 feet tall in the hills of Spring Green, Wisconsin. According to the House on the Rock history, he never intended the home to become a tourist attraction, but so many people came to see the “architectural wonder” that he began to charge 50 cents a visitor.

Alex collected stuff, massive amounts of stuff, and in my opinion some weird stuff. Now the House on the Rock is an attraction that contains 16 buildings (yes buildings) to display all of it.

A couple of the hundreds (thousands?) of dolls in the collection.

I am not sure how to sum up the house in a literal sense. It is like nothing you could imagine, no matter how much I try to describe it to you. It is much like the first time you see the Grand Canyon. Sure you heard it was big, but no one is able to explain the majesty of that canyon. The House on the Rock is much the same way, except instead of the majesty of the canyon, it is awe and bewilderment wrapped up in an eerie sandwich. Our kids loved it, the adults loved it, but none of us could really explain why.

Did our North Carolina guests like the house? Absolutely! Would I recommend you visit to the House on the Rock? Definitely, it is one of those things you should put on your list of “must sees.” Would I spend the night alone in there? Not a chance.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The next time you get to Southern Wisconsin, take a day to check out the House on the Rock. It’s a visit you will never forget.

A chandelier in the organ room.`

A carving made out of ivory.

The World's largest carousel.

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