American West Travel Blog

American West travel is a favorite pastime of ours! We love primarily traveling the American West for two main reasons

  1. We live in the West, so we can road trip - we don't have to fly!!
  2. We can search out the historic places of the Old West - a big interest of ours

We're Karen & Bill – and we love to travel. We've always loved to travel, since we first met – way back! We were high school sweethearts. When we were dating, we began traveling. First just through our own state. Then we expanded to neighboring states.

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American West travelA New Year to Plan Our Travel

We're Baby Boomers – that 60s & 70s generation. After we married and had our first child, we even checked out a commune we thought about joining! In Massachusetts. We traveled there three times while considering it. Decided against it – but never regret trying it out. It was a unique, interesting experience!

We'd always had traveling adventures. Lots of them – never stopped traveling all around areas of the country car-distance from where we lived. Also getting to Canada for some wonderful trips.

Then we expanded to Western States. With our interest in Old Wild West history, we went to Texas. Crossed the border into Mexico for the first time ever! Then another trip, this time to Arizona. We were hooked on American West travel, for sure! So much so, our goal was to move to Arizona. We accomplished that – when our kids were high school age. 

Our move entailed finding new careers to support ourselves. Our travels now centered on the Tucson area while reorganizing our limited budget, re-formulating ourselves. But there was so much new & exciting there to see! And after all this time, we definitely haven’t seen or done it all.

Our new careers were in health care, in Respiratory Therapy, as Respiratory Care Practitioners. We did well, became very experienced and had a great schedule enabling super travel time! After a while, an opportunity arose moving to Southern California, working in Respiratory Therapy teaching. We did that until retirement. Then moved back to Arizona. To our Ole West Favorite, Tombstone Arizona

Travel the American WestOn an Alaska Cruise

Yet, still loving to travel and visiting all the places of fantastic scenery and history in Western America. Not that we don't travel to other places, too. We've done just that.

As our American West Travel blog theme says, we travel the West! We let you know where we go, what we do, so you can go there yourself – or maybe even avoid it! Ugh! If it’s not your thing – or we have reasons to not recommend it! When we travel the American West and locate truly wonderful sights, we just have to share them with you.

  • The fantastic vistas!
  • The Wild West history!
  • The unique scenes!

Please come with us now, as we drive around, near and far (and sometimes fly) on our American West travels. View these endless horizons along with us! We can welcome you along...

Where & When Do You Want to Travel in the American West?

Tucson Arizona Vacation

Marana is a small town just Northwest of Tucson Arizona. When Bill and I were in Marana, we stopped to see our daughter Shannon, and granddaughters. Shannon mentioned a place she’d just visited near her house. A great place – beautiful! It had access to hiking trails, which she'd taken. She got to the top of Sombrero Peak (local term)!

This place is called Sanctuary Cove. Before leaving for home, we decided to stop by. I just wanted to chill – and think about where to go to write about our next American West Travel page article. And right there before me was the subject! Wow!

Sanctuary Cove
Marana AZ

Feb. 17, 2017

Sanctuary Cove - a nice American West Travel ExperienceEntering Sanctuary Cove
Sanctuary Cove ParkingBill standing at the entrance to the parking area. We began walking uphill from there.

It’s West off Exit 246 or 244 from the I-10 Freeway just North of Tucson. Then from Silverbell Road, there are a few turns further West to get to its entrance off N. Scenic Drive. Check out the map:

Map to Sanctuary Cove
Welcome to Sanctuary CoveSanctuary Cove Marker Sign

There’s a little shaded area near the car park. Stop there for a picnic when arriving! Lots of parking areas available. We were the only visitors – on a weekday though. We walked uphill along a dirt roadway toward a building. Gorgeous Sonoran Desert scenery!

The Chapel is very beautiful, if small. We walked around it. Saw it had a few signs on the rear wall. The first one we observed spoke of the Mission Statement – its purpose:

They call themselves “A Desert Place Apart – set aside and donated as a retreat for meditation and prayer Dec. 15, 1955 by Elmer Amos Staggs. Dedicated to all of humanity. May you be inspired in this place toward your highest spiritual attainments. All Creeds Brotherhood Inc. Dec. 26, 1957. State of Arizona”

Sanctuary Cove MissionSanctuary Cove Mission Statement
Sanctuary Cove ChapelWe walked up to the Chapel

It’s certainly enthralling! It got me thinking right away about including it on our website. Inspirational just walking around here. We saw people could hold activities here. Like weddings, vow renewals, or memorial services. It’s quite suitable for these.

We walked around back, which had large amphitheater type seating. I pretended to give a lecture! Then into the seating area, contemplating the view, thinking about how I'd write about this unique desert spot.

I thought about the beauty and calm of the area. The natural desert environment – the cactus, trees, grasses, birds! All gorgeous! It's a wonderful place for a wedding or a vow renewal! 

Here I am - Pretending to Give An Inspirational Lecture!
Outdoor Seating Amidst Sonoran Desert Mountain Scenery

Sanctuary Cove, as you see in their Mission Statement, does have a service purpose. Read all about it. 

Offshoots to hiking trails are in the area. This is the specific spot to access the trail to the Sombrero Peak summit, which you'll find behind the outdoor seating. 

We certainly enjoyed this little side trip before heading back south to Tombstone. If you get a chance to stop by Sanctuary Cove – it’s well worth it.

Small Indoor Chapel Room

Find a Place to Stay Nearby

More Tucson Arizona Travel Ideas

  • Here's a Unique Look at Traveling Arizona:
  1. For many ideas right in the Tucson vicinity - see this Tucson Arizona Travel Guide>
  2. Wondering what time of year might be best for your planning? Here you'll not only see top locations around Tucson AZ travel spots, but the ideal times to go. See this Tucson AZ Travel By the Month Prep>
  3. Maybe you're looking for an exciting tour - how about a great Jeep Tour? Here are some suggestions for 4-Wheeling Tours When You Travel to Tucson Arizona> 

Southern Arizona Travel

Feb. 25, 2017

We knew we wanted to be out in the middle of no-where for a few days, and by a river if possible. I checked around areas not too far off from Tombstone Arizona – and found the Gila Box Wilderness. It’s a little Northeast of Safford Arizona.

Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaGila River

Alone – Sort Of…
In the Gila Box Wilderness

We took our camper out for a trek into the Desert. I got out our book that tells us where we can find free camping sites, or at least cheap campgrounds! Love this book. Highly recommend it, if you’re into RV camping. It’s called the Guide to Free Campgrounds.

(See More Below)

We had our eye on Riverview Campground, listed in Wright’s book. Priced at $5 a night, with water available, no hook-ups. But with rest rooms, river access & hiking trails. Each site had a picnic table, shade & a grill. The Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area - Gila River OverlookGila River below overlook in Gila Box RNCA

We started out and found the turn-off, which crosses over the Gila River east of Safford. A good road, but once you enter the wilderness area, it becomes gravel, much more narrow & twisty turny! But our good ole RV made it through – carefully! We stopped at the first picnic area, river overlook…

Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaThe turn-off has a picnic area, for a nice outdoor lunch. You can see Mount Graham in the background.
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaBarrel Cactus at the front of our campsite.
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaEntrance Area to Gila Box Riverview Campground - The Board with all the instructions & area info
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area - camping areaYou can see the Campground hosts’ RVs way down the road in the distance. Only 1 or 2 other campers were there when we were camped.

We got settled that first day, and just relaxed, as there wasn’t too much daylight left. It started getting pretty chilly outside. It was wintertime. (You really wouldn't want to be here in the summer!)

We tried relaxing outdoors until the sun got so low that it didn’t provide much more heat. Then we retired inside the RV to fix our evening meal.

Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaPlaced our RV by the picnic table. Lots of room, far from the road!
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaView off to the NE from the entrance to our campsite.
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaBill’s relaxing by the ramada next to our RV. View of the cliffs adjacent to the Gila River.

The next morning we took a walk along the road to explore the campground. We met the campground hosts as they were walking their dogs. Very nice people, they host here each winter. They invited us over to their site later in the day. 

After walking & exploring awhile, we took the hosts up on their offer for a visit. Had a nice little chat with them just before dinner-time.

We asked about cell service, since we were waiting on word of a new great granddaughter! They said it’s very difficult way out here. But the one location it sometimes reaches is a rock located outside the farthest campsite!

Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaWalked by farthest site in – Snow-capped Mt. Graham just peaking over the hills.
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaGroup picnic area & horse-shoe pit.

We tried for it after leaving them, just before going back to our RV – but no luck. We were in true Social Network “Alone” !!

We walked on to the farthest part of the campground, where there was a group area, with some activity areas – like a horse-shoe pit. We also passed some trail-heads which we planned to get to the next day.

Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaWe walked to a river access area - there was a small sandy beach.
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaAcross the other side was a small slot type of canyon

Returning back to our RV, did some afternoon unwinding, and some nice reading! Caught up on some of those books! Good way to spend time when you don’t have access to all those electronics. We could run our generator for electric power. They do have a time limit rule for running generators in the campground, because of noise.

We ran it in the early evening for a short time to watch a couple DVDs. We have a whole set of the Gracie Allen & George Burns show, that we just laugh & laugh over. So funny! Look into it, if you’ve never seen their TV show. What a crack-up Gracie was!

The next day we wanted to check out some of the trails. So after breakfast, we started out on some new explorations.

Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaWe started out on the trail near the beach access. It crisscrossed some others.

The Cottonwood Trail is 2.5 miles long & makes a loop which includes the Riverside Campground. It’s a basic hike, great for nearly anyone. Most of it's relatively flat, but there are a few sloping areas – not bad. Some gravelly parts can be a little slippery. So be sure to have good hiking shoes! We didn’t do the entire route, since we wanted to stay within the campground on this trip.

Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaThe Cottonwood Trailhead – Did a small section & then looped back by our campsite – would love to return for the whole trail sometime!
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaNice views of the Cliffs – Monoliths that almost looked like ancient buildings into the cliff-side! Alien-built? Hmmm!
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaWe circled back to the road & took the Campground trail.
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaThe trail parallels the Gila River, for nice views of the riparian areas & the cliffs.
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaThis weird zip-line looking feature went across the river! We asked the hosts – they said it was to lower water testing equipment into the river!
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation AreaOur RV campsite was ahead as we ended our treks. It was a good day! And a good trip. The next morning we headed out – quite satisfied with our visit to the Gila Box Riverview Campground!

Campground Guide Recommendation:

If you think this might be an interesting camping area for you when you travel the American West - here's where to go for some detailed info: Click Here>

As we said also, highly recommended is Wright's Guide to Free Camping. He also has some other cool camping guides. Look them over, see if they might be right up your alley...

(Disclosure - This is a link on which we earn a small commission if you buy, with no extra cost to you. We recommend these items: these books were really useful for us! Liked the lights, too. Learn more here).

Want to Explore Gila Box, but don't care to go camping? How about a nearby lodging stay:

More Southern Arizona
Vacation Spots

Northern Arizona

Northern Arizona Cities

March 1, 2017

The Great Snowy North:
Flagstaff Arizona Photos

Our son Sean had lived in Tucson, but got a job transfer to Flagstaff Arizona. It’s a whole different climate up there! That’s a great thing about living in Arizona. All you have to do is take a drive – anywhere from an hour to a few hours, and you can drastically change your environment and your climate.

View of Mt. Humphreys

We went for a visit to see Sean & his family – wife & 2 sons (our delightful grandsons!). While there – suddenly a huge storm headed their way. We hadn’t even checked on the forecast up there – as down in Tombstone it was a week of sunshine & 60s.

But the day after we arrived, the storm warnings came in – a Winter Storm on the way! Oh No! We’re not ever prepared for that!

Snowfall begins in Flagstaff AZBill & Karen huddled inside as the snow began!
Shoveling SnowLater on the snow finally stopped – about a foot was on the ground, and the shoveling began!
Ready for the snowAedan ran outside to try the snow depth – & then did some shoveling.
Shoveling Snow in Flagstaff ArizonaHis older brother, Evan, did a lot of the shoveling.


After the SnowMost of the shoveling was done – good work boys! They both came in to warm up, & have a nice cup of hot chocolate!
Northern Saguaro in the SnowI went outside & snapped a pic of their saguaro cactus statue they keep to honor the desert up there in Flagstaff! It looked cold surrounded by all that snow!

We all went into town, since our son still had to take care of some of his work responsibilities. In his job for a cell phone company, he must make sure those computers are running the towers correctly - no matter what the weather! So we made a little trip out with him.

San Francisco Peaks snow coveredLater the sun came out & we took a drive into town. A nice view of Mt. Humphreys – the highest peak in AZ – all snow covered!
Coconino CourthouseOur son made a quick work stop on top of a building – & got this nice view of the old Coconino Courthouse tower.
Icicles meltingThe sun was out all afternoon, making snowmelt off the roof – huge icicles formed on the side of the house! Yikes!!
Getting the mailLater on, as the sun was getting lower on the horizon – it was Evan who was sent out to get the mail. Part of the job of being a son!

The next day the sun was out, the storm was gone. Sean said he’d had enough of the snow that year. In his job he must drive miles through it – up through the mountains, over the passes – 4 wheel drive territory. Some crazy areas & situations! He keeps cell phone systems going, managing the computers at the bottom of cell phone towers – wherever they may be in all of Northern Arizona.

We hit the road, mid morning that day after the end of the snow-storm. The roads were clear up that way. After about an hour South, there was no more snow to be seen! We sighed a relief sigh! We’ve seen enough snow in our life – and just enjoy viewing it on the summits of our local mountains!

Maybe You'd Like to Try a 

Flagstaff Arizona Vacation
Huachuca MountainsThe Huachuca Mountains, snow capped – in Southern Arizona. Taken from the parking lot of the Sierra Vista Mall.

Travel Western USA
Big Island Hawaii

August 2017

Lanai in Leilani EstatesThe Beautiful Restful Lanai

We love to spend time in Hawaii. We travel there fairly frequently. Remember - Hawaii is part of America! And it's in the American West! We don't usually go to resorts, but instead try to find a nice house or even a condo to rent when our stay is more than a couple of days. We often look for something on Air BnB, VRBO, Home Away or something of that nature.

We definitely look for the best deals when searching for a hotel, motel or similar lodging. On our trips, we get best offers all the time with They even have places of the same sort you'd get with Air BnB, like Apartments or Guest-Houses. You might want to give them a try. We highly recommend it!

Check out some of our Hawaiian photos. 

KilaueaThe Volcano is Steaming! Pre-2018 Eruption!!

We used to have a Time-share, and we'd trade for a place in Hawaii. Then suddenly it was very difficult to get a trade there - no matter how early we tried. Even though we owned a top flight place in Scottsdale AZ.

We got rid of that Time-share. Now we just have a vacation club, but haven't traded for anything in Hawaii with it yet. We may try at some point.

Right now, we're happy enough with the places we get. On our last trip we spent 10 days on the Big Island of Hawaii. We rented a great little cottage in the rain forest about 45 minutes from Hilo. The little frogs around the place made an absolute cacophony at night. It was amazing!

Each day we traveled around the island for an exploration road-trip. We love it there. The volcano was active in two places. UPDATE: Early May 2018 - our beloved Big Island rainy side was now getting more eruptions. The home we rented for our 2017 trip when we took these photos, wasn't in it's path - it was further West of Pahoa.

Rain ForestBeautiful Big Island Rainforest

But we took our Granddaughter with us for a week's stay there in 2009. We rented a beautiful 2 bedroom home in Leilani Estates, where these 2018 eruptions were happening. I don't know if that home was affected. Hopefully not. I think it likely was, though. The photo of the upstairs lanai, right off the master bedroom, was taken there.

Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkOld Lava Flow was Downhill Along Chain of Craters Road
Steam from lava into Pacific OceanPuʻu ʻŌʻō Lava Flows Into the Sea - A few years Before 2018
Paniolo Hawaiian cowboysParker Ranch History - Paniolo Saddles
Most Southerly town in the entire United StatesSouth Side Shaka
National Historic SiteHeiau - a Hawaiian sacred site

What American West Travel Adventures Have You Taken? Let us in on them...

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