October day excursion to Sycamore Creek Canyon

Fall in Arizona means desert dwellers and out-of-state visitors swarming to the north and east parts of the state to the mountains to see aspen, oak and maple leaves changing color. They often overlook a visit to the Verde Valley for the cottonwoods, willows and sycamores. Along the Verde River, Oak Creek and Sycamore Creek they’ll find a wide array of spectacular scenery and fall color changes. One Sunday in early October, we opted to make a way to Sycamore Creek Canyon to hike the Parsons Springs Trail. Although it was a bit early for the most dramatic colors below the Mogollon Rim, we were still able to spot a few splashes of yellow, splashed against a canvas of azure blue.

Parsons Springs Trail is a beautiful 7-mile out and back walk along the creek, crossing about six times and before reaching Parsons Springs. Unfortunately, due to some tire issues on the way into Cottonwood, we had to cut short our hike on this particular outing.

Sycamore Creek serves as swimming hole for some brave, hot souls during the summer. On this particular fall day, water flows were slow. The creek appeared stagnant, buggy and muddy in spots. No wading or swimming this time!

We loved the 360-degree views of the canyon at the trailhead. The parking lot has plenty of space for a tailgate picnic after hiking. The trail was quiet; we only encountered a few hikers on the way in, a few more coming back. A few had overnight packs, indicating they likely had set up camp in the wilderness area north of Parson Springs.

A clear, sunny and relatively cool day in Sycamore Canyon reminds one of a creekside landscape in an eastern or midwestern state: Shady with lush, thick growth along the path. But you only need to look up to the red rock walls and your thoughts will be transported back to Arizona. Watch out for poison ivy; we spotted several patches.

The trail is relatively level, with only a slight incline heading back to the parking lot. Molly was getting hot and tired toward the end of the afternoon, and after a couple of hours, we had our appetite worked up for a bite to eat at one of our favorite cafes in Old Town Cottonwood.

It was too bad to see our shiny, new Subaru Forester so dusty, but that’s why we bought it, to award it with a little dirt and dust while exploring Arizona and western states. We didn’t need to use the 4WD for this trip, but it was nice to know we had it, plus we easily cleared any high spots on the road.

Late September through November is prime time for fall foliage excursions around Arizona. Get out and explore!

Pack up the pooch for pet-friendly Prescott

Molly is ready to spend the day in Prescott!

Molly is ready to spend the day in Prescott!

If you’re looking for cool ways to spend a summer Arizona weekend, consider spending a day, weekend or — even an entire week in pet-friendly Prescott. Just like we do, our furry best friends also deserve an cool getaway during the coming ‘dog days’ of summer. Here are some suggestions for Prescott:

Dog policies are well publicized at the Prescott Farmers Market

Dog policies are well publicized at the Prescott Farmers Market

Vendors from Rabbit's Run Farm sell their produce at Prescott Farmers Market

Vendors from Rabbit’s Run Farm sell their produce at Prescott Farmers Market

Grab a snack and a cold drink at Prescott Farmers Market

Grab a snack and a cold drink at Prescott Farmers Market

Start a Saturday morning by visiting the Prescott Farmers Market at Yavapai College. The market is held weekly from 7:30 a.m. to noon in the college parking lot, at 1100 East Sheldon Street. Find local produce vendors, crafty-types, ready-to-eat brunch and lunch items, artists and live music. We strolled the booths shopping for mesquite honey, artisan breads, homemade soaps and farm-fresh veggies while listening to laidback tunes such as a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.” We snacked on authentic Kenyan samosas — a delicious baked pastry, puffed and stuffed with one of several meats — beef, pork, chicken or chorizo.

We shared our samosas with our border collie, Molly who politely walked along the aisles of this ample farmers market. Know that the Prescott Farmers Market has a policy for dogs — mostly just common sense — but we acknowledge some dog owners need to be reminded: Keep your dog leashed, close to your side, away from the market vendors’ wares.

Crooked Sky Farms' booth at Prescott Farmers Market

Crooked Sky Farms’ booth at Prescott Farmers Market

If there’s a show, exhibit, fair or some other type of activity at Courthouse Plaza (and there usually is on summer weekends), you’ll want to check that out, so venture over to downtown Prescott. Because our visit fell on Memorial Day weekend, we were fortunate the 39th Annual Phippen Museum Western Art Show and Sale was in full swing at Courthouse Plaza. It seems most western art buffs must be dog lovers as well — numerous vendors, shoppers, both visitors and locals had brought their canine pets to the square.

Phippen Museum benefits from the annual Memorial Day art show and sale

Phippen Museum benefits from the annual Memorial Day art show and sale

Oodles of poodles can be seen at summer Courthouse Plaza events

Oodles of poodles can be seen at summer Courthouse Plaza events

Some events at Courthouse Plaza in fact, are just for dogs. The first weekend of June was Woof Down Lunch, a fundraiser to benefit United Animal Friends. The annual event is a pet fair featuring training demonstrations, contests, handcrafted pet food, music and pet adoptions. It was held on June 1st, so we just missed this event but we’ll mark our calendars for next year. Coming up in the fall on October 6th is the 7th Annual Dogtoberfest and Adop-a-Thon, sponsored by The Prescott Dog and the City of Prescott.

After the show, you’ll undoubtedly want a bite to eat. And you won’t have to travel far to find a dog-friendly patio restaurant in downtown Prescott. We opted for the Firehouse Kitchen, just half a block and around the corner from Whiskey Row. We did not see any Dalmations at this two-level firehouse, but we did notice some well-behaved dogs with their owners. Know there are TWO dog patio (one on each level) to allow enough space for pooches to spread out. Our server brought us our lunch meals without hardly any wait, considering this very busy weekend. Chuck ordered a satisfying crab melt with tomato and avocado, covered with cheddar cheese and served on an English muffin. I selected a delicious barbecue brisket sandwich on Kaiser roll with sweet potato fries. Molly noshed on doggie treats from home. She was very impressed that our server brought out a dish of water. Being on second floor, Molly enjoyed watching the street traffic below while we dined. A perfect lunch!

Crab melt sandwich at Firehouse Kitchen

Crab melt sandwich at Firehouse Kitchen

After lunch, you and “Fido” may want to exercise off some calories at a local dog park. Willow Creek Park, located at 3181 Willow Creek Road, is a City of Prescott dog park. Take some time to let your dog run off steam without the leash before heading back to the Valley or checking into your hotel room.

If you need suggestions for pet-friendly overnight lodging, more dining options or things to do with your dog in Prescott, there are a number of websites with information. Here’s a partial list:

1. Prescott.com

2. Petswelcome.com

3. Bringfido.com

One we checked out before our trip is The Prescott Dog, a locally managed website. The information seems to be fairly comprehensive, current and accurate, but we make it practice to confirm pet policies of restaurants and hotels before we go. Two downtown pet-friendly Prescott hotels at which we previously have stayed are  Hassayampa Inn and SpringHill Suites Prescott.  If hotel lodging isn’t an option for you, consider of several nearby campgrounds in Prescott National Forest.

Take the opportunity to visit pet-friendly Prescott at least one weekend this summer. It’s the perfect way to escape the Valley’s hot ‘dog days.’ We already have planned our next weekend in Prescott.

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