Take a Virtual Adventure on the Arizona National Scenic Trail 

Passage 39, Grand Canyon — North Rim; Photo: Larry Simkins

Residents looking for a big goal to keep them healthy and motivated during a time of social distancing are invited to sign up for the Arizona Trail Virtual Adventure.

Passage 34, San Francisco Peaks; Photo: Larry Simkins

This do-it-yourself event encourages participants to hike, run or ride anywhere and accumulate miles toward completing all or a portion of the 800-mile Arizona Trail. There are great rewards for various miles completed, and all proceeds benefit the Arizona Trail Association (ATA) to help supplement revenue the ATA has lost through cancellation of its trail running events, Arizona Trail Day and other community events that are an important source of financial support for ATA programs and operations.
Choose from the 25-, 50-, 100-, 200-, 400-, 600- or 800-mile challenge. Participants can walk around their neighborhood, ride trails close to home, run on a treadmill or any form of non-motorized locomotion anywhere. Those who complete an average of 4 miles per day between now and the end of the year, will reach the 800-mile finish line. Shorter distances have a completion date of Sept. 30.

Passage 31 – Marshall Lake Trailhead, Walnut Canyon

Every mile achievement has Arizona Trail rewards to keep folks motivated, including a hat, bandana, Buff, coaster, coupons, socks, custom 3-D wooden map of Arizona and more.

Coconino National Forest; Photo: Daniel Snyder

Learn more about the event by visiting the Arizona Trail Virtual Adventure website. Visit raceroster.com to sign up.

The Arizona National Scenic Trail is a complete non-motorized path, stretching 800 diverse miles across Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It links deserts, mountains, canyons, forests, communities and people. The ATA’s mission is to protect, maintain, enhance, promote and sustain the Arizona Trail as a unique encounter with the land. Learn more at aztrail.org.

All photos Courtesy of Arizona Trail Association

Recreate Responsibly This Summer


All photos courtesy of Arizona Office of Tourism

Thousands of residents and visitors enjoy Arizona’s amazing parks, trails, forests, refuges, wildlife areas, historic sites, wilderness areas, rivers, lakes and reservoirs every year.

As summer arrives and state “Stay Home” orders lift, the Arizona Office of Tourism wants to encourage residents to enjoy all that Arizona has to offer in a responsible manner — while adhering to the COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state says that it is committed to keeping all public lands open and “as accessible as possible while protecting staff and visitors,” and provides these Top 10 Common-Sense Guidelines:

  • Practice physical distancing outdoors by staying at least 6 feet apart.
  • Avoid crowded locations where physical distancing may be difficult.
  • Do not gather in large groups.
  • Limit group activities to members of your household.
  • Plan ahead, as services and facilities will be limited.
  • Pack out trash.
  • Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
  • Be respectful of public lands.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Do your part!

Valley residents who are looking for a summer getaway can plan ahead by confirming open sites online. The USDA National Forest Service began reopening select recreation sites in Arizona May 15. Each reopened site has been evaluated per federal, state and local guidelines and deemed safe for public use. Visitors are strongly urged to contact their local district ranger office or check Forest Service websites for information on specific recreation sites prior to traveling or making plans. For open sites in the Southwestern Region, visit www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r3/home.

The Arizona State Parks and Trails website can help residents find outdoor recreation in the state or find a new adventure from home with online resources.

Finally, for those who are staying close to home this summer but would still like to enjoy the sights and sounds of our National Parks, visit National Parks Service website and click on the “Find Your Virtual Park” link for online discovery for the whole family.

For additional information go to www.visitarizona.com.

Meet the Makers who are Redefining the Flavor of American Cuisine — ‘tasteMAKERS’ hosts Phoenix Event Feb. 29 at Unexpected Art Gallery

If you travel to the top of the Sacaton Mountains, acres of historic land will surround you — land that was once rich, green, full of life, but later became arid. When Ramona Button was a child, her father brought her to a mountain peak overlooking the Valley, and told her that his dream was for her to restore the land and with it, the disappearing tepary bean and the agricultural tradition of the Akimel O’Odham community. Beginning in 1974 with a push from local elders, using two pickle jars full of white and brown beans her father saved for her, Button embarked on this mission. Today, because of her and her family, tepary beans are back — cultivated as food for the body and the soul.

In the second season of “tasteMAKERS,” which airs on public television stations nationwide, Emmy-winning producer and host Cat Neville travels to Phoenix to explore the impact that Ramona Farms and the revival of the tepary bean has had on the Gila River Indian Community. The episode highlights the history and sacrifice that went into the creation of Ramona Farms while emphasizing the importance of indigenous culture and recognizing foods unique to Arizona. Featured in the episode are Kai Restaurant and Cotton & Copper, both of which include Button’s tepary beans in a variety of their offerings. The episode also features Michael Preston of the Akimel O’odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council, who uses tepary beans and other traditional ingredients as a way to help connect the Gila River Indian Community’s youth to their cultural history through food.

“Ramona and her family are doing more than cultivating heritage crops,” says Neville. “They are connecting their community as well as others with the history and rich agricultural heritage of the Akimel O’odham people through these traditional foods, which were almost lost to history when Ramona began growing the beans in the 1970s.”

In the episode, Velvet says that through cooking with intention and appreciating that tepary beans are a gift, she and her mother are able to preserve the traditional flavors of their community. The episode also notes that Button and her daughter, Velvet, frequently host classes and teach the proper techniques associated with cooking tepary beans and other products from the farm like heritage wheat and ancient varieties of corn.

As part of its mission to connect makers, farmers and chefs with their communities, “tasteMAKERS” hosts Meet the Makers events in key cities across the U.S. On Feb. 29, tasteMAKERS’ Neville, will host Meet the Makers at Unexpected Art Gallery in Phoenix. The event will feature segments from the Arizona episode, plus interviews and demos with Velvet Button, Michael Preston, chef Tamara Stanger of Cotton & Copper and chef Ryan Swanson of Kai Restaurant.

“Meet the Makers is a fantastic way to highlight local makers and the foods they are bringing to their communities,” Neville said. “To us, it’s not only about good food, but also spreading a cultural movement. We are thrilled to watch first-hand as event attendees learn about the culture, flavor and stories behind these unique artisan chefs.”

Following the live program, attendees will enjoy a pop-up Makers Market featuring Phoenix makers, including Fairytale Brownies, Raul’s Cocina, Untamed Confections, Mi Salsa, Queen Creek Olive Mill, Iconic Cocktail Co. and Hope’s Artisan Breads. Like Button, these makers use equal parts precision and passion in each part of the cooking process to define the flavor of Phoenix cuisine.

Doors open at 1:30pm, the live program begins at 2pm, with the Makers Market scheduled to begin at 3pm. For more information about dates, specific vendors and location details, visit www.watchtastemakers.com/meet-the-makers-phoenix. Use the code “tastemakers50” to receive 50 percent off of tickets.

Rocky Point Sees Its First Cruise Ship Set Sail

After much anticipation and planning, the first cruise liner departed Thursday, Jan. 9, from Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, commonly known in the United States as Rocky Point. The Astoria Cruise Liner, owned and operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages, is currently sailing around the Sea of Cortez and returning back to Rocky Point Jan. 20.

“This is a major step in Rocky Point’s development and growth,” stated Keith Allen, director of sales of a new and contemporary condo development Encantame Towers and founding member of Peñasco Business Coalition. “With the launch of this cruise, we are hoping that Rocky Point, with its unique location on the Sea of Cortez, will be seen as a premier, local cruise ship port. It’s just another wonderful amenity added to this safe, beautiful beach town.”

The Astoria set sail on the cruise titled “Treasures of the Sea of Cortez.” Over the course of the 11-day voyage, the ship will take passengers to eight ports along the Sea of Cortez, including Topolobampo, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Bahia Loreto, Santa Rosalia and Guaymas. The ship itself has 250 cabins and can hold around 550 people. In addition, Cruise and Maritime Voyages arranged ground transportation from Phoenix and Tucson to Rocky Point. Most of the passengers are anticipated to be Arizonans and people from surrounding western states.

“With so many transplants to the Southwest from other parts of the U.S., there’s a huge number of people who’ve yet to experience the charm of Rocky Point first-hand,” said Steve Schwab, founder and president of Casago, a leading property management and vacation rentals company, founding member of Peñasco Business Coalition, and passenger on the Astoria. “This is yet another reason for first-time and seasoned visitors to experience Rocky Point and all its year-round offerings.”

“Puerto Peñasco is well prepared for the already growing tourism our community is seeing and we are proud to see the launch of the much-anticipated cruise, Treasures of the Sea of Cortez,” said Puerto Peñasco Mayor Kiko Munro. “New businesses, new development, and the hard work of our public safety officials make Puerto Peñasco an ideal beach destination for many Arizonans.”

There are three scheduled departures from Rocky Point for the Treasures of the Sea of Cortez Cruise on Jan. 9, Jan. 20 and Jan. 31. Following these three cruises, the Astoria will move on to other scheduled cruises launching from England in 2020. Cruise and Maritime Voyages will determine the 2021 schedule of the Astoria at a later date.

More information on the Treasures of the Sea of Cortez cruise can be found at https://us.cruiseandmaritime.com/cruise/r008/treasures-of-the-sea-of-cortez.

Wickenburg to Host Fortieth Annual Bluegrass Festival & Fiddle Championship

The Four Corner States Wickenburg Bluegrass Festival, Nov. 8–10, is sponsored by the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, and it is one of the oldest bluegrass festivals in the Southwest.

Featured bands entertaining all three days at the festival are Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Incidental Bluegrass, and The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys. Additionally, contestants will compete in eight categories for prizes and cash awards. Some of the categories bring championship designation, such as fiddle, mandolin, flat pick guitar and banjo.

The festival is held outdoors at the Everett Bowman Rodeo Grounds, 935 Constellation Road, just a half mile east of Highway 60/93 in Wickenburg. Limited reserved self-contained RV camping in Constellation Park is arranged through the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, as well a limited space in the tent camping area.

The festival opens Friday to the public at 11am, with entertainment from 1pm to 5pm. Saturday and Sunday, gates open at 7am for a pancake breakfast, and entertainment follows from 9am to 4:30pm.

At the festival for the three days, attendees will find food and drink concessions, beer booth, arts/crafts and a designated Kids Zone, Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 4pm. Organizers prohibit bringing in alcoholic beverages, dogs, food and coolers. A covered grandstand seating area is available; however, spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on.

Tickets for the Bluegrass Festival are $18 adults, $15 senior citizens, $10 children; three-day passes are $ 45, $40 and $25 at the gate. For more information and tickets call the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, 928.684.5479, or visit www.wickenburgchamber.com.

Explore the Centrality of Water in Our Lives with Black Canyon Heritage Park

Black Canyon Heritage Park (BCHP) is hosting its final two “Water, Black Canyon City & Me” events in October and November.

The “Water, Black Canyon City & Me” programs lead up to the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street traveling “Water/Ways” exhibition coming to Cañon School (34630 South School Loop Road, Black Canyon City) Dec. 14 to Jan. 26.  Working with their regional sponsors and partners, BCHP is supplementing the national “Water/Ways” exhibit with a local exhibit that focuses on the Agua Fria watershed that extends from the Prescott Valley area through Black Canyon City and Lake Pleasant and ending as the Agua Fria river merges into the Salt River.

These events are free and family friendly:

  • Sunday, Oct. 20; 1:30–3pm: Art Exhibit & Afternoon Concert by ProMusica Arizona at Black Canyon Community Health Center, 19251 Oasis Drive, Black Canyon City
  • Saturday, Nov. 16; 3–4:30pm: Celebrating History of Water — Marshall Shore, Arizona’s Hip Historian at Pioneer Masonic Lodge #82, 19055 East K-Mine Road, Black Canyon City

Black Canyon Heritage Park has additional activities to compliment the Smithsonian’s “Water/Ways” exhibit, including the WinterFest/BookFest exhibits Jan. 26.

Visit Black Canyon Heritage Park Monday through Friday, 9am–4pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 9am–2pm —  walk the mini-trail and view native plants, birds and butterflies in the riparian preserve. For additional information, call 623.374.5282 or visit www.bcheritagepark.org or www.facebook.com/blackcanyonheritagepark.

Camp Verde Performing Arts Center Announces New Season

The Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts Foundation announced that its 2019–20 concert schedule will kick off with the annual Labor Day Jazz Festival Aug. 30, featuring the Bresnan Unplugged Ensemble. The Festival continues Aug. 31 with the Dom Moio Quintet. Moio will be joined by Nick Manson, a jazz pianist and two-time Emmy Award winner, with bassist Dwight Kilian, saxophonist Andrew Gross and percussionist Joe Garcia.

The Sweetwater Strings ensemble presents “Strings at the Movies,” a classical pop concert, Sept. 22 featuring some of the most loved and unique movie themes. The Camp Verde Blues Project follows on Oct. 5 featuring Innocent Joe Kopicki and the Silent Witnesses.

The holiday season offers two concerts. On Dec. 5 the Sahnas Brothers blend the sounds of their Greek culture, the Desert Southwest, and the warm inviting romance of the Spanish guitar, and 2019 will come to a close with the “Almost New Years’ Eve” concert Dec. 28, featuring the Uptown Big Band with vocalist and dancers presenting the sounds of the Big Band era.

The Center for the Performing Arts is located at 210 Camp Lincoln Road, Camp Verde, one mile south of the Cliff Castle Hotel and Casino. For additional information, call 928.593.0364 or visit www.pecpaf.com.

Waking Up In Budapest

By Kathi Kovach Koenig

It’s just before dusk as we slowly head into the city. Suddenly, our driver takes a quick turn, skirting traffic. Circling a flower-lined roundabout, he stops in front of a glistening hotel set in a centuries-old backdrop.

I’m immediately struck by the beauty of fading light and color, the mix of old and new, all playing off the reflection of the river Danube. It’s taken years of planning, but my brothers and I are finally here — ready to discover our hometown heritage of generations before us.

Waking up in Budapest is a travel moment to remember.

Looking across the fairy-tale scenery from the hotel’s picture window, there’s a sense of elation being in Hungary’s capital city. The feeling is contagious, as our extended Arizona family gathers on the ground floor of the sleek hotel. We’re on a mission. With no time to waste, we split up to explore the massive Buda Castle, the Gothic Revival designed Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Budapest is a tale of two cities. Buda and Pest lie on either side of the Danube. The two towns merged into one over a century ago. We are staying on the Buda side, directly across the historic Széchenyi Chain Bridge that connects to Pest. Our Hungarian grandparents spoke about its significance as one of the city’s most famous landmarks — yet its beauty and setting are beyond description. Impressive stone lion statues guard both bridgeheads, carved by sculptor János Marschalkó back in 1852.

A delicious mix of languages flow through the air — yet everyone seems to understand one another. I recognize the eyes of my grandmother in women along the streets — and can almost hear the hearty laugh of my grandfather drifting from a local café. All so vaguely familiar, yet not quite understood. To our delight, sounds of Hungarian rhapsodies are still woven throughout the districts, and my brothers and I nod to each other, affectionately remembering our grandfather playing his violin for us as children.

The extraordinary beauty of the crown jewel of Europe shows up in its historic buildings and sculpture that skim the landscape. Walking through the city lost in thought — my past sits before me like an Old World painting in the Hungarian National Gallery — which itself is a work of art.

The gallery is located inside the massive Buda Castle, where you’ll find the finest panoramic views offered in the city.

If Budapest is a truly a feast for the eyes, it’s also a fabulous choice for foodies. They say one of the strongest forms of memory is taste. Must be true, because it takes us three great restaurants to discover our grandmother’s Chicken Paprikash (chicken and dumplings) recipe. With one bite, we’re all transformed back to her dinner table. Paprika is a staple here. Hungarians put in on just about everything.

Colorful architecture, cobblestone streets and cafés line each side of the river along with a lively mix of locals and tourists. The landscape can be sun-drenched and rain-soaked all in the same day.

At twilight, while cruising the Danube, the landscape transforms again with the stunning lights of Pest shining like glittery jewels along the shore. We talk about our Hungarian past — our late parents and grandparents — while taking it all in under the spell of a deep sapphire night sky.

At the end of a perfect summer evening, it’s time to head back across the Chain Bridge to our hotel. I may be 6,000 miles away from Arizona, but it feels like I’m finally home.

Kathi Kovach Koenig is a former television and print journalist who continues to write about her travels.

Collaboration Pairs Wildlife Conservation With Craft Beer

Through an innovative public-private partnership, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and Mother Road Brewing Co. present Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch.

In a creative twist on funding for wildlife conservation, Flagstaff-based Mother Road Brewing Co. has released special-edition cans of its Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch-style ale. As the sunset-orange, purple-mountain colored label says, “Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch is best enjoyed pulled from a cold river, and straight from the can. It pairs well with fresh air, wild-caught fish, and good company.”

For a limited time, wildlife enthusiasts can contribute to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s mission to conserve and protect wildlife in a new way. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch cans will be donated to AZGFD to support its on-the-ground conservation work that is done without any general fund tax dollars. Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch will be available statewide.

“We want all Arizonans to know about the agency’s efforts to conserve and protect 800-plus wildlife species in the state,” said Ty Gray, director of AZGFD. “With Mother Road’s launch of Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch, we’re talking to a new audience that cares about sustainability, enjoys the outdoors and wants to contribute to wildlife conservation.”

Mother Road branded its summertime Kӧlsch with the agency’s Conserve and Protect messaging at no cost to the department.

“Assisting with wildlife and habitat conservation in Arizona is a natural fit for Mother Road as it dovetails with our mission of ‘building community one pint at a time,’” said CEO Michael Marquess.

In addition to supporting this unique collaboration, the public can contribute directly to Arizona’s wildlife by becoming a Conservation Member at www.azwildlifehero.com/join. The public also is invited to share their love of Arizona wildlife and support of the collaboration by tagging photos with #cheerstoAZwildlife.

The mission of the Arizona Game and Fish Department is to conserve and protect the state’s 800-plus species of wildlife. AZGFD receives zero general fund tax dollars. Funding is primarily provided by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, tags or stamps, and via a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Learn more at www.azgfd.gov.

Mother Road Brewing Company is an Arizona top-five craft microbrewery located along Route 66 in Flagstaff. Mother Road was John Steinbeck’s name for Route 66 in The Grapes of Wrath. The original brewery on Mikes Pike, the 1926 alignment of Route 66, is dedicated to experimental beers and processes, while the new Butler Avenue brewery brews for distribution in kegs and cans. Both breweries welcome guests into the tap rooms for pints, conversation, games, merchandise, and tours. Mother Road distributes statewide in Arizona with Hensley Beverage Company and its partners. For more information, visit www.motherroadbeer.com.

Enjoy Classic Rides and Cool Temps at Show Low Car Show

The 10th annual Cruz’n the Rim Car Chow, scheduled for May 31 – June 1 in Show Low, features classics of all ages, including Rat Rods. Festivities start Friday, May 31, with a 5pm cruise to Hatch Toyota and free burger burn and root beer floats.  Register on site starting Friday from noon–5pm, and Saturday 7–9am, with the gates opening to the public at 9am Saturday, June 1.

The whole family is invited to enjoy food, fun, prizes, giveaways, silent auctions and poker walk.  The first 200 spectators through the gate get to vote on their favorite car.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the local Salvation Army.

The Cruz’n the Rim Car Show takes place at Frontier Fields, 600 North 9th Place in Show Low. For additional information, visit www.cruisinarizona.com and click on the “Events” link.

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