Pat and I spent a week in Flagstaff just before Labor Day to escape the summer heat. We invited Pat's son David and his girlfriend, Krista, to split a two-bedroom timeshare, just east of town.

Northern Arizona's Flagstaff, a town of roughly 60,000 people, lies at about 7,000 feet altitude on the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, alongside the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the continental United States. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet, is just 10 miles north of Flagstaff.

The weather was wonderful for the entire week, mostly sunny with brief afternoon showers most days and high temperatures from 75 to 80 degrees.

We spent a relaxing week in the north country, reading a lot, eating a lot, and even sprinkling in a few outings.

On a day trip we drove up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon for Krista's first visit to the spectacular national park. Having visited the usually crowded site many times in the past, Pat and I were amazed at how few tourists there were.

We were able to have an unplanned (no reservation) lunch in the famous old El Tovar Hotel on the rim of the canyon. From there we drove east along the rim, discovering unfamiliar (to us) spectacular canyon overlooks along a trail northeast from Zuni point.

What made this visit so memorable (especially for photography) were a sky filled with billowing clouds, showers and a rainbow over the canyon, and sighting a huge elk along the rim road.

On another day, Pat and I treated David and Krista to a birthday dinner in Winslow (50 miles east of Flagstaff) at the historically famous La Posada Hotel, the last of the Fred Harvey railroad hotels, built in 1930 and designed by well-known southwestern architect Mary Coulter.

The hotel has been beautifully restored and the Turquoise Room restaurant is a "must visit" for anyone who appreciates fantastic food. The fried stuffed squash-blossom appetizers are world famous.

Pat and I did three outings on our own. We took a daytime tour of Lowell Observatory, where Pluto, recently reclassified as a "dwarf planet," was discovered in 1930. It was a very well-done tour that showcased all sorts of historical instruments and a first-class facility and museum, and allowed for viewing of solar sunspots. Though we decided not to, we could have returned for nighttime viewing on the same ticket.

To get some exercise, we hiked the loop trail at Buffalo Park in northern Flagstaff and visited Walnut Canyon on the eastern edge of town. It's the site of ruins of cliff-side dwellings that Sinagua Native Americans built around 1200 A.D. The Walnut Canyon walk required us to negotiate more than 250 steps; we could feel the effects of climbing at over 7,000 feet altitude.

Meanwhile, super physically fit and much younger David and Krista climbed Mount Humphreys (up and down) on a long, steep hike over 4.7 miles of often rough and rocky terrain and 3,333 feet of elevation gain to reach the summit. Two days later they rode their mountain bikes over spectacular trails at 8,000 feet altitude at the Flagstaff Nordic Center.

This discrepancy in daily calories expended made for some interesting meal challenges. David and Krista were used to eating four enormous meals per day, while Pat and I usually eat twice a day. We made some compromises in both directions and managed to have several terrific meals together - some cooked at our timeshare and others at local restaurants.

All in all, it was a fantastic week in Flagstaff, only a five-hour drive from Tucson.

On StarNet: Read Bob Ring's recent columns at

E-mail Bob Ring at