Lori Grace Bailey is a professional photographer and storm chaser.
This is her story and these are her incredible photos.
From ages 7 to about 10, my mother would often take me to the park down the street from our house in El Paso, Texas She’d let me play on the hot metal slides and swings (what were they thinking back then?). Before we left, though, we would always just lay back on the grass and she would ask me what kinds of figures I could see in the clouds. “Mickey Mouse!” I remember screaming. She would tell me that she could see dragons, rabbits, and long wiener dogs in the billowing cumulus clouds during the El Paso monsoon. She had divorced my father when I was 6 and was working as a nurse’s assistant during the graveyard shift, but she still took the time to look up at the clouds with me when she could. Looking back, I know the times she spent just being with me helped shape me into who I am today. My passion and love for weather continued as I got older. By high school I wanted to be one of those “tornado chasers” you’d see on TV and looked into pursuing a degree in meteorology. But by the time I started college at the University of Texas at El Paso, I also had a desire to help people so I moved towards getting a degree in Psychology. After college, I married my high school love and we started a family. Having always been an adrenaline junkie, I jumped career paths again and chased an opportunity to work in law enforcement. Though I found myself with a rewarding career and happy home, there was one thing missing from that equation: authenticity.
In almost every area of my life, I was quite extroverted, boisterous, and opinionated. But buried deep inside, since as early as I can remember, I suffered in silence because my mind and heart were telling me that I was different than what my body showed me in front of a mirror. After lots of heart to heart talks with my loving and supportive wife, dozens of hours of counseling, hormone replacement therapy and medical procedures , I transitioned from male to female. Depression lifted, I could see the world through clear lenses, and my passion for life was renewed.
My story and life are vastly more complex than what I’ve shared, but transition revealed to me that living authentically brought me back to my love for capturing the weather. As a wedding and portrait photographer, I’ve discovered that what my clients want most from a great photographer is to capture their spirit of authenticity and reveal true smiles or laughter. I’ve also discovered another gem: I now have a renewed passion for chasing storms that I did when I was young. When I’m watching one of the most dazzling sunset storms in the middle of the Arizona desert on a chase, I still think of my mom and wonder what she would see in the clouds before me. I still can’t help but see Mickey Mouse ears every once in a while. If there’s a storm to chase in southern Arizona, you’ll eventually see me on a dirt road or trail looking for the right vantage point to find and capture something extraordinary!
You can learn more about Lori and her photography here.
The heat is on in the Valley and Strawberry-Pine is the perfect escape!
Did you know Strawberry-Pine is about TWENTY degrees cooler than Phoenix on a typical summer day? Instead of enduring triple-digit heat, you could be enjoying highs in the 80s and all it takes is about a two-hour drive! My favorite part: unlike in the Valley, it actually gets cool at night! Here are the six things you’ve gotta do when you head to Strawberry-Pine!
#1 Stay at The Strawberry Inn
Not only is The Strawberry Inn unique and comfy, but it’s also in the center of all the action. This boutique beauty is right off Highway 87. The Strawberry Inn has the charm of a historic building with all of the modern luxuries you can dream of from WiFi and a Keurig to a flat screen TV and the softest sheets you’ve ever slept in. In fact, it’s non-hosted, meaning you’ll get an access code in your email so you can grab your key from a lockbox without even talking to a single person. There are eight rooms and each one has completely unique decor. Rooms 5-8 sleep two and are perfect for a romantic getaway. Rooms 1-4 sleep four and they are pupper friendly! We brought Ace on our last trip and he felt right at home.
You can pick the room you want and make your reservations now.
#2 Hike to Tonto Natural Bridge
Tonto Natural Bridge is an incredible natural display of beauty in Payson, AZ (short drive from Strawberry-Pine). It is believed to be the world’s largest natural travertine bridge. It’s beautifully formed by erosion and you can even walk beneath the bridge to explore the stunning scenery within. The bridge is 400 feet long, 183 feet high and 150 feet wide. Underneath the bridge, you’ll experience the erosion in action as water drips down the sides and ceiling of the bridge. It actually seems like it’s raining. There are green plants breaking through the rock and thriving. It is truly magical. I recommend taking the Pine Creek Trail which is a ½ mile scenic route to get under the bridge. If you like an adventurous trek this is for you! You’ll be climbing big boulders, stepping through river rock, and hearing the sound of a waterfall as you get closer and closer to the bridge. You do not have to hike to the bridge. What I love is that a whole family could enjoy this scenery whether they are a little one in a stroller or an adult with limited mobility. This state park provides viewing areas that are just a short distance from the parking lot and have ramps. You can go to one of those areas and look down at the bridge!
To research more on this part of your adventure head here.
#3 Visit Pine Creek Canyon Lavender Farm
(Owners Terry and Rick)
Pine Creek Canyon Lavender Farm is an absolute must. This property is historic and was initially established in the 1800s. The original log cabin on the property was built in 1890 and today you’ll find it storing all of the lavender that is currently drying at the farm. Terry Gorton and Rick Vesci restored the property in 2015 and decided to plant lavender. Turns out lavender is one of the few things the neighborhood Elk won’t eat and now there are 5,000 lavender plants for guests to enjoy! In addition to getting to take in the beauty and amazing aroma, you can shop, take cooking classes and even have a portrait session.
#4 Grab a Beer at THAT Brewery
(Kristen with Michael Willis of THAT Brewery)
One of my favorite parts of any trip is drinking local. On this trip, you’re going to need to swing by THAT Brewery for a beer and you’ll surely want to stay for dinner. I had the pleasure of getting a one-on-one tasting. My favorite is the Strawberry Blonde. If you can’t make it up to THAT Brewery, you’ll find it in the Valley at Fry’s and Basha’s in cans.
#5 Cool off at Fossil Creek
This just might be your favorite part of the trip!
The hike to Fossil Creek is short and sweet but the drive to the trailhead is about 14 miles long. Plus, don’t forget you need a permit from April to October. For all of the details, read this.
#6 Indulge at Pine Creek Fudge, Ice Cream & Espresso
Whether you’re in the mood for decadent fudge, a scoop of ice cream, pastries or an incredible cup of coffee, you’re going to find a delicious treat at Pine Creek Fudge. An absolute must for me is the Pine Creek Elk Tracks Frappe. It’s a blended combo of espresso, chocolate, caramel, peanut butter and more. It’s pictured in my hands below! Pine Creek Fudge also has an online shop.
Have a great trip to Strawberry-Pine!
For more travel fun, follow Kristen on Instagram.
You guys know my forever fav outdoor activity is hiking but when you live in Arizona, hiking can be a brutal hobby.
Before summer arrived I invested in a kayak to both keep me cool and keep me sane. When I get cooped up inside during the summer I start to get totally bummed!
Before I got my kayak, there were two factors preventing me from making the purchase:
- Where would I store a kayak?
- Am I going to put it on my car incorrectly and lose it on the freeway?
I eliminated both of those concerns by getting an inflatable kayak!
The kayak I bought was $80 on Amazon. I waited to test it out a few times before writing a post on my experience and now I can happily report, I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS THING! It folds up to to be the size of carry-on luggage and it’s super easy to set up!
I was afraid it would be flimsy or easily pop but it is durable and sturdy! I have had so much fun taking this to spots all over Arizona!
The kayak comes with a foot pump but I highly recommend investing in an electric handheld pump and plugging it into a power convertor connected to your vehicle. It will save you time and frustration.
Keep in mind, in most places, you are required by law to wear a life jacket. I got mine for $20 bucks at Walmart. I bring my dog Ace kayaking so he has a lifejacket too. I found his on Amazon.
Also, summer comes with danger from Monsoon storms in Arizona. Make sure you check the forecast and if there is any risk for thunderstorms in your region you need to reconsider your plans. If you were planning to kayak on a river or tributary you should absolutely not go kayaking if there is inclement weather forecast in the region.
Okay now back to the fun stuff! Here’s where I went kayaking and you can too! Even if you don’t want to buy a kayak, you will find rental information below.
- Lake Pleasant: We dropped the boat in at Pleasant Harbor and even took a lunch break at Dillion’s BBQ. It really was quite pleasant but I highly recommend going early and getting off the water by 1pm before the big boats take over and sadly some of their operators are intoxicated.
- Address: 40202 87th Ave, Peoria, AZ 85383
- Rentals: https://www.gopaddleaz.com/
- Show Low Lake: This is a small lake but it’s just right for a calm afternoon on the kayak. It is ambient and the scenery is beautiful with pine trees surrounding the water. Only boats with 10 horsepower or less are allowed.
- Address: 5800 E. Show Low Rd,Show Low, AZ
- Rentals: http://www.campshowlowlake.com/SHOWLOWLAKECAMPGROUNDFEESANDDUES.asp
- Watson Lake: I love this lake so much I almost felt I shouldn’t share, but I trust my readers treat every spot they visit with respect. Please prove me right. Watson Lake is magnificent. It is small and full of kayaks and paddleboards. It has unique formations called Granite Dells where you can even “island hop” and go for little hikes. See pic below!
- Address: 3101 Watson Lake Rd, Prescott, AZ 86301
- Rentals: https://www.prescottoutdoors.com/
Last thing… bring cash for parking/fees!
Now you’re ready to have a kayaking adventure of your own!