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Arizona Dude Ranch

Arizona Dude Ranch
Arizona Dude Ranch
via Delta and American First Class
October 2020


I'm off today to Arizona for a long weekend at a dude ranch with my two California sons, SFO777Jr-LAX and SFO777Jr-SFO.   A short flight to Phoenix and then a three hour drive north east and then south again thru the Tonto National Forest to a place called Young, Arizona and Cherry Creek Lodge.   Surprisingly, there was no morning rush hour traffic on the 405 and I made the 60 mile drive to the T5 garage at LAX in just 55 minutes.

7:45am on a Friday and little traffic at LAX.

A few more people inside.

And a Terminal 2 concourse that looked pretty busy.

On the mezzanine level is the Delta Sky Club, which is the former Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge.   Didn't get a chance to stop in today for a photo op as I mistakenly left my Amex Platinum card at home.  Duh.

So off to the gate to wait for boarding.

Delta DL 3522
Los Angeles LAX to Phoenix PHX
8:55am-10:20a (sked)
8:41am-9:45a (actual)
Seat 3D and COVID distancing blocked Seat 3C

Strange boarding call today with rows 16-20-something, and 3 minutes later... Diamond Medallion and First Class are welcome to stand in line behind Economy pax and board at their leisure. 

Delta's COVID snack pack was apparently handed out to everyone, First or Economy.

We arrived at Terminal 3 about 30 minutes early.  Since both sons were arriving on Southwest from BUR and OAK... I headed out to Terminal 4 to meet them at their gate... or so I thought. 

It's been at least 10 years since I was last at PHX and that was a simple connection.   But try to arrive at Terminal 3 and meet someone arriving in Terminal 4 and you begin to understand what an insanely stupid airport this is.   PHX Sky Train and Terminal 4 seemed easy enough... until it became apparent that none of this was airside.  In addition, Terminal 4 may as well be in a different time zone it was so far from Terminal 3. 

America's Friendliest Airport??!?  ROTFLMAO.

And of course, my LAX-PHX boarding was not valid at PHX so I sat outside for the BUR and OAK flights to arrive.  Thirty minutes, we were all in PHX and ready to pick up our rental car.   A few years ago, PHX relocated all the rental car companies to an offside facility, which is located 10 minutes away, seemingly closer to downtown Phoenix than the airport.

Thirty minutes after leaving the rental car center, we were heading north on AZ 87.  With 2.5 hours to the ranch, we stopped for lunch.  But of course.

Then back on the road north toward Payson... with some beautiful scenery along the way.

From Payson, we headed east.

And then south towards Young, with the first 20 miles in the Tonto National Forest.

After a vigorous 30 minute massage, back on pavement.

And then a left turn just before Young.   Primitive Road indeed.  

I bet this is fun after a few days of heavy rain.

Almost there...

Cherry Creek Lodge.  Our rustic home for the next three days.

Beautiful setting.

Our wonderful host and lodge manager, Carol, giving us a tour of this rustic country lodge.   

After we settled in and met more of the friendly staff, time for happy hour in perfect late afternoon 75 degree weather.

Time to check out and schedule our activities for the weekend.   

After a few more drinks and a lot of pool, time for dinner at the communal table, which we shared with the other weekend guests, a family of four from southern Arizona and a couple from Phoenix.

Now that's a baked potato.

Gorgeous sunrise the next morning. 

And a hearty breakfast to start the day.

Although none of us have been on a horse in over five years, we decided to go for broke with a double horse day... trail ride in the morning and barrel racing in the afternoon.  Ouch!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

First up today is a two hour trail ride with our guide Keanna.

Lunchtime back at the lodge.

After lunch, over to the arena for some horsemanship training...

... and then barrel racing.  This turned out ot be the most fun activity of the weekend, especially when we started competing and timing the course.   

We started out with times in the 40-50 second range but eventually got our runs down to the low 23-24 seconds after our horses reluctantly decided to play along.  By contrast, Keanna completed the course in 17 seconds.

After our fun barrel racing afternoon, back to the lodge for happy hour and a couple hours of cornhole.

Snack time before dinner.

And then a yummy steak for dinner.   With potatoes to die for.

And a great chocolate lava cake for dessert.

OMG.  Talk about sore.  Now I know why rodeo cowboys walk the way they do.   This morning's breakfast buffet...

This morning is an ATV excursion with Keanna thru hills and valleys around the ranch.

The remains of an old asbestos mine.  OK, that must have fun - an asbestos miner.

For the rest of the tour, I gave up my passenger seat and stood up on the back seat.  That was fun and used pretty much the same muscles as skiing.

And the miner's cabins from many years ago.

Some of the ranch's herd.

A couple hours later, back at the ranch for lunch.

And then to the range with our guide Reese.

We had booked an event called Team Penning for later in the afternoon.  Team Penning is another horsey thing, where two families are pitted against each other to see which can be the first to convince their horses to rustle cattle into a pen.  Sounded like a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, the cattle didn't seem to want any part of this today, as they had apparently run away and headed into the hills.  Instead, we were treated a much tamer roping lessons.

Back at the ranch, a few drinks and some pool.  And then tonight's dinner including cowboy stew.  


It's Monday morning and sadly, time to head home.  Although the weather turned south quickly with heavy rains overnight and much colder temps... in the low 40s.   One more hearty breakfast before we head out 

Fortunately, the ground absorbed most of the new rain and we had no trouble getting out of the property. 

We headed for a quick detour to check out the town of Young with some very cool old, old buidings. 

And then back the way we came, now north thru Tonto National Forest.

Where is was now snowing as the temps dropped into the low 30s.

Left back to Payson.

With the temps now down to 23F Yikes.

After a pit and fuel stop in Payson, we're on AZ-87 south to Phoenix.  Warmer temps and distinctly different vegetation.

After some online research, we decided to stop in Tempe for lunch.

My chicken enchilada was delicious.

Since SFO777jr-LAX had a 4pm Souithwest flight to BUR, we dropped him off at Terminal 4, then wandered around trying to find a gas station to top up the tank and finally back to the Rental Car Center, and the shuttle back to Terminal 4.

We bid adieu and I headed for the A concouse security and then the A6-A7 Admirals Club, the only one of the three PHX Admirals Clubs open these days.

Today's COVID-era self-serve snack options...

And a nice guacamole and soup station.

And great views of the tarmac.

At around T-45, I headed out for the long, long, long trek to B28... the furthest possible gate from the Admirals Club.

And finally, in the 2nd B concourse.

Very convenient for the Amex Centurion Lounge...

... if it was open.

Another COVID lounge casualty.

Phoenix PHX to Los Angeles LAX
American AA 390
5:40p-7:09p (sked)
5:40p-6:41p (actual)
October 26, 2020
Departed 16/16
Seat 3F

Boarding was by group.  With no Concierge Keys or active duty military, Group 1 boarded just after a few dead-heading pilots.

Despite a fuill flight, excellent open bar service in First Class by a pleasant and friendly flight attendant.  

Nice pics of the new Rams/Chargers stadium on approach.

With no delays, we arrived nearly 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  And at just $99 for First Class, this was a great option back to LAX.

What a fun long weekend with two of the kids.  Thanks for following along.