Chicago Summer Goal: Get on the Water

I have always felt a connection to the water and boating. My grandfather was a fishing boat captain in Mexico for many years. I remember visiting him on the boat during summer vacations and loving every minute of it. 

Now, boat is still accessible to me via Discover Boating’s Get on the Water tool, which shows boat classes, charters and rentals in my area, as well as around the country.

While I don’t get to go on fishing boats often anymore, last summer I was lucky enough to experience a Chicago sunset from a boat on Lake Michigan. It was one of my favorite summer memories in our first year in Chicago. This summer I am determined to recreate that experience as often as possible. My mission: Get on the water. 

While researching boat rentals, I came across this touching video titled “Good Run: A Boating Story.” It reminded me of my grandpa and of all the reasons I love being on the water.  I love feeling the cool breeze, looking at the amazing city views and spending time with friends and my husband in such a fun setting. 

I found various ways to experience Chicago in new ways on, which makes boating accessible by providing everything you need to know to get on the water. I found 20 locations for boat rentals in the Chicago area to make my summer dreams come true.

Ideas for boating activities in Chicago found on Discover Boating:

  • Renting an island theme party boat with friends.
  • Chicago river boat rentals and cruises to marvel at the city’s impressive architecture.
  • Night boat rentals to see the Navy Pier fireworks held during the summer.
  • Sunset boat rentals to see the gorgeous lighting surrounding the Chicago skyline.
  • Swimming and sunbathing sailboat charters.
  • Youth Boating Programs such as sailing classes and racing teams for children.

Want to go boating this summer? Discover Boating has tools to help you get out on the water, even if you don’t own a boat! Those looking to buy a boat can find a Boat Selector tool on Discover Boating’s website. It’s a must-see resource for new and experienced boaters. 

*“This post contains affiliate links.

Butcher Jones Recreation Area

Saturday’s plan was a hike at Butcher Jones Recreation Area. Taylor and Capone joined us for the mini-adventure, and they took the opportunity to jump in Saguaro Lake to play. You can’t keep Taylor out of the water. It’s her happy place.
We had originally planned to drive to Sedona or Flagstaff, but it was too cold up north that day. “Why did we come to Arizona for the holidays if we want to be in the snow and wind?” I asked. We will get enough of that back home in Chicago. It was even a bit chilly in the Phoenix area.
The trail was popular that day. It seems everyone wanted to be out in the sun to work off some of that Christmas celebrating. To be honest, I really wanted to stay in bed all day. I felt so off all weekend thanks to all the sugar and lard (tamales) I ate.
At least I was able to test out my new camera lens. Watch a video of the fun on my YouTube channel and subscribe, will ya?

If you go:

I completely forgot to buy a Tonto recreation pass ahead of time, so we had to drive back to Walgreens on Power Road to get one. Save yourself a trip or a ticket by purchasing one on your way there. Also, dogs are not allowed on the beach, but they can join you on the trail. Have fun!
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Marathon Training, Week 15

After missing two long runs during our move to Chicago, I was finally able to return to my training schedule. And I love my new running path!

Monday: 5.12 miles. It was finally sunny, and the run felt amazing. The wind still pushed me back a bit, but I loved the views. My pace ranged from 10:05 to 11:11, though I didn’t stop my timer during stoplights.

Tuesday: I did some at-home yoga between work tasks.

Wednesday: 8.32 miles. After this workout I had already run twice as much as the previous week. I was myself again. I was filled with excitement about our new city. The sunny, 40-something degree day was perfect for running.

Thursday: I made it to a yoga class at a studio in our neighborhood. It was an hour-long Level 1-2 Vinyasa class. It’s eye opening to see how yoga is taught in different places. An example: From a tabletop pose, we extended one leg behind us, brought the foot down to the ground, tucked our back toes in and pushed our heels back for a calf stretch. It’s was a simple move but it felt amazing. It’s something I need to be doing more often, especially between runs. And instead of child’s pose we did devotional pose. The teacher smiled often and seemed to enjoy leading the class. She didn’t do any adjustments, though. She played traditional music but it remained at a low volume. I forgot it was even on during class. I’m looking forward to trying new classes at this studio.

Friday: 5.85 miles. It was cold and windy again. Funny, because the days before were beautiful. I had more miles in mind but turned around when the wind became unbearable.

Saturday: No exercise. That afternoon I had a coffee date with a potential new friend at Intelligentsia on Broadway. The neighborhood was bustling on a lovely day.

Sunday: 20.06 miles on a 66-degree day. I had to take my running jacket off and run with it tied to my waist. So many Chicagoans and tourists were on the trail and at the parks to take advantage of the gorgeous spring weather. The people watching was riveting. My pace ranged from mid-10 minute miles to mid-12s at the end, when I stopped to walk a few times or to get water. I felt like I could have gone a little bit longer had I not run out of gels, so that’s promising. This will be my last long run before my marathon. I now know that I can at least run 20 and run/walk the last 6.2 if needed (but let’s hope that I don’t need to!).

Week’s goal: 34 miles.

Actual mileage: 39.29.

March mileage total: 58.82.

April mileage so far: 34.23 miles.

#1800MinuteChallenge total (until March 31): 2,355.

Camping at Blue Ridge Reservoir

Last time we tried to camp at Blue Ridge Reservoir near Strawberry we were thwarted by road closures. Luckily, Graham and I were finally able to check it out last weekend. We didn’t bring the canoe because this was a short camping trip, but next time it is a must. There is a ramp for boat loading, and most visitors had their kayaks and canoes in tow. This time we were content to let our dogs play in the water to cool off.

Taylor loves to fetch sticks thrown into the water.

The access road was popular with campers on Saturday. Typically we like to camp away from the forest road, but we found a decent spot just before the area where camping is prohibited. My only gripe was the abundance of mosquitoes. No amount of insect spray would keep them at bay, and I took home several bites, including one on my forehead. It was worth it for the quality relaxation time, though!

I love watching the changing light shining through the trees.

Stormy Day at Saguaro Lake

Sunday at Butcher Jones Recreation Area turned into a weather-watching event. It started raining as soon as we arrived, so we watched from the lake’s edge as the sprinkles hit the water. It didn’t take long for the storm to make its way to the Valley. Then we headed out into the water on our rafts. By then the temperature had dropped enough that I was even a little cold!

Dolly Steamboat Cruise on Canyon Lake

Part of our anniversary weekend was cruising Canyon Lake on the Dolly Steamboat. As an outdoors enthusiast, I was excited about the possibility of seeing some animals along the 6-mile ride. It’s quite a hike out to Apache Junction — it took an hour to get the the marina from central Phoenix — but it’s worth the trip to check out another one of our state’s gorgeous lakes. You’ll drive through Apache Junction to get there, where you’ll pass Lost Dutchman State Park and the Superstition Mountain Museum. As is expected in June, it was a hot day, but the steamboat has an air-conditioner, so you can still keep cool (at least if it’s working). There’s also that lake breeze that tickles your skin.

Canyon Lake was busier than I expected it to be, considering how far it is from the Valley.

You’ll hear some tunes (including “Diamond in the Rough” by Rex Allen), Arizona history and details about the flora and fauna of Canyon Lake. You might see eagles and bighorn sheep, and you’ll definitely spot Mormon Flat Dam and rock formations such as E.T and a mastadon. The captain points out some tree rings in the rock as well.

We sat toward the front, on the upper level, where we enjoyed this view:

Graham captured this little guy.

As we made our way back to the marina, we were beginning to think we wouldn’t see any wildlife. Some people asked the crew what animals we might see and what sightings they’ve had recently. Just then the captain pointed out bighorn sheep to the right. It’s a wonder he could spot them from so far away. It took the rest of us a few minutes to see the rams and ewes.

We shared the day with other couples, retirees and some families. Overall it’s a nice little day trip.

Camping at Knoll Lake, Mogollon Rim

Graham and I celebrated our first full weekend together in almost two months by going on a weekend camping trip. We set off toward Blue Ridge Reservoir, but we discovered it’s closed until at least early April, so instead we kept driving until we hit Forest Road 95.

Signs for the Arizona Trail make me want to hike at least parts of the 790-mile trail. Adding it to my travel list.

Without a plan, we decided to look for another body of water on which to canoe. We noticed Knoll Lake on the map; it was more than 20 miles away on a dirt road. But we had nothing but time.

Somewhere along Forest Road 95 was a bridge over a creek. We hiked along the creek for a mile or so, checking out the scenery. Then we hit the road again, driving through the Christmas tree cutting area, where we spotted a wild turkey. (He was too quick to let me snap a photo of him.)

We turned left on Rim Road, driving alongside the rim, and expansive views, all the way to Knoll Lake.

The campgrounds at Knoll Lake were closed, but we found an amazing campsite on the rim.

We could see for miles from our campsite. We dined around the campfire with the sunset before us. I could not have asked for a more beautiful night.

The next morning, we returned to Knoll Lake. The winds had picked up that day. Forty degrees felt more like 20 to me. I wrapped myself in a blanket as Graham tried his luck at fishing. We spent a lovely afternoon at the lake, seeing only four other people the entire day.

Our drive home was just as scenic as the drive in.

Want to see a map of how to get there? The Coconino National Forest website has one.

A Hike to Upper Cliff Dwelling, Tonto National Monument

On a recent morning when the rest of the country was preparing to watch the big football game, I was heading east toward Globe in search of ruins. I had made reservations for the Upper Cliff Dwelling tour at Tonto National Monument. A two-hour drive leads to the park, about 25 miles outside of Globe (though GPS thought it was 17 miles). The ranger and other tourgoers were nice enough to wait for late arrivals. Ranger Jen Harper suggested using the restrooms first and meeting up with the rest of the group along the trail. That was excellent advice given that the tour lasted more than three hours and involved a 3-mile hike.

The ranger stopped often to tell us stories and show us plants we could use to make a salad if we had lived in the area at the time it was inhabited by these tribes. At one point we went off the trail so she could show us a vertical sedimentary rock that had fallen from a nearby mountainside.


She said the Salado people would scrape the orange part of the rock off and put it on their gums to treat infection.
We hiked along a shallow creek, so lots of mud got on our shoes. Walking sticks are a good idea.



Ranger Jen led the tour to the gate at the Cliff Dwelling, where she suggested a 15-minute snack break before touring the ruins. Eating is not allowed in the ruins because squirrels will often dig in search of the food. There’s a historical marker from the park’s early days nearby. (It says USDI for U.S. Department of the Interior.)



As you walked through the terraced ruins, you wonder what life was like for the people who lived here. This room above was sealed, which was a clue that its contents were valuable, and that the people planned to return. You can see Roosevelt Lake in the background. Apparently the lake’s water level has been lower since some of its water was used to refill Tempe Town Lake after its dame burst in 2010.


We learned that what look like windows are actually doorways.


Inside the cave is a cistern. There is also a small hole where food was likely stored.

Tools used to grind corn were left behind in this room.
We also toured the outer rooms of the Cliff Dwelling. One of the rooms had the imprint of a corn cob on the wall.


We entered a room with a low roof that was made with different types of wood than the other rooms. The ranger said this could have been because wood was becoming scarce.
We soon said goodbye to the ruins and headed back down the trail at our own pace.
At the creek we heard an intense buzzing and noticed hundreds of bees flying over the water. The only way out was to walk through them slowly. I am terrified of bees, so the encounter was nerve-racking. I couldn’t get off the trail fast enough. I was thrilled to be back at the visitors center looking at pottery.




The Lower Cliff Dwelling, which can be seen without going on a tour, is visible from the parking lot.

And finally we took one last glance at Roosevelt Lake.

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