There’s a different feel now. Road trips are different, weekend plans are different. Playing hooky from work is different. Shhhhh!!!
It’s hard to point your wheels in a wrong direction when summer arrives, as it did on Wednesday this week. The hot weather seems more bearable now that it’s officially on summer time. That all comes with the smell of sunscreen, the sips of colorful cocktails and personalized playlists waiting to happen.
Which brings us to road trips.
Romanticized in songs everywhere, Americans love their summer road trips. Day-trip destinations are usually the most accessible, and we’ll all be driving somewhere fun over the next couple sunny months.
“Two-thirds of Americans say spending quality time as a family is the most important part of taking a family vacation,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president of Travel and Publishing. “Whether it’s a cross-country road trip or a dream vacation to a far-off destination, travel offers busy families an excellent opportunity to share experiences and connect with each other in meaningful ways.”
AAA knows all about our habits, too. The American Automobile Association — 55 million members strong in the U.S. and Canada — reports that Americans drive, on average, the most during the summer months (July through September), at 30.6 miles per day.
Breaking down just where we’re all heading is simple, Triple-A adds: Road trips (69 percent), national parks (49 percent) and theme parks (42 percent) are the most popular types of vacations for families planning to travel in the next year.
It’s hard not to think about water for a summer day-trip. Along those lines, in the interests of our own backyard destinations here in Cochise County, we’re recommending Parker Canyon Lake on your summer excursion list.
Located around 30 miles southwest of Sierra Vista, it’s a rare chance for summer enthusiasts to get up close and personal with water, given its 132-acre lake.
Water is a big draw for Bobby Blanchard. She and her husband lived in Bisbee for a dozen years, then left for Texas.
“We were missing water and we went to Texas and lived on the shore by the gulf for eight years,” she said, adding that they moved back to Bisbee just over a year ago. “And I just missed the area. I missed Arizona. So we had to come back.”
They took in a recent afternoon at Parker Canyon Lake, opting for a quiet leisurely walk with irresistible ice cream bars.
“We’re just reacquainting ourselves with areas we’ve been to before and just want to check it out and make plans to come back,” she said. “We need to get into day-trips and having fun.”
There’s really no limit on ways to approach the lake. The pier offers motorboats, canoes, kayaks, sailboats and row boats for rent, not to mention a boat ramp for your own ride. And don’t worry too much if you get a late start to your day. If you can’t get there until late afternoon and want to take a boat out for two hours, they’ll wait for you. No need to hustle back by 5 p.m. No one around Parker Canyon Lake has much use for a watch.
Anglers will find both cold and warm water species, including stocked rainbow trout and resident bass, sunfish and catfish. The lakeshore country store features a computer where you can apply for your fishing license online right there.
The store itself stocks everything, from snacks and fishing tackle to firewood, tents and charcoal. Note that no alcohol or tobacco are available at the store.
A five-mile hiking trail that never gets more than a few steps from the water is there.
“Bald eagles and osprey are regularly sighted in this area, as are spring warblers and hummingbirds in season,” writes the Coronado National Forest. “On the terrestrial side, Coues whitetail deer can frequently be seen browsing among the oaks and grasses that surround the lake and in the two campgrounds near its shores. Coatimundi, javelina and roadrunners, three animals that are about as southwestern as you can get, make occasional appearances as well.”
Seven streams feed the lake, between monsoon and snowpack runoff.
“Just enough to be nice,” smiled Jack Fisher, who was, literally, minding the store on a recent afternoon at the 5,400-foot elevation lake.
Memorial Day Weekend is typically Parker Canyon Lake’s busiest, Fisher noted, but the Fourth of July is expected to bring crowds back.
In between those holiday dates might be the best time to plan a visit, though, if quiet solitude is your summer thing.
“On weekdays you can come up here and camp and pretty much not have anybody around. It’s real quiet,” Fisher said, then looking out his window at the four or five leisurely strollers and two kayaks on the lake. “This is busy, actually.”