02.08.2021 – Meet the NAU Collegiate Wind Competition 2021 Team

CWC Team Member Tore Explaining the KidWind Challenge

The Northern Arizona University’s Collegiate Wind Competition (CWC) 2021 Team has been assisting Willow Bend Center to run our Arizona KidWind Challenge.  Natalie McDonald, CWC Team Member and Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student at NAU, joins us on our blog to tell us more about the team:

Hi! We are Northern Arizona University’s Collegiate Wind Competition 2021 Team. Our goal is to learn more about clean wind energy that allows us to build a more sustainable future and make a positive difference in the world. The Collegiate Wind Competition is providing skills we can use in our careers by teaching our team about the mechanics of building and testing a micro-wind turbine and designing a theoretical 100-MW wind farm to provide clean energy for communities in western South Dakota. Our team is comprised of nine undergraduate mechanical engineering students and five undergraduate electrical engineering students. You can see our team below:

Collegiate Wind Competition 2021 Mechanical Engineering Students



Collegiate Wind Competition 2021 Electrical Engineering Students

We would love to interact with our communities, so you can follow our journey at AeroAXE_NAU on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/aeroaxe_nau/). Feel free to ask us questions on Instagram. Can’t wait to connect with you!


By Natalie McDonald

Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate

Northern Arizona University



1.1.2021 Holiday Adventure Series: Join Jack Welch at the Equestrian Bypass Trail

My Number one favorite walk/hike in Flagstaff is the Equestrian Bypass trail through Picture Canyon which is also a section of the Flagstaff Loop Trail and the Arizona Trail. The trail follows the rim of Walnut canyon, the views are gorgeous and there are lots of opportunities to see wildlife. This trail was originally designed to give horse riders and packers an alternate route around Flagstaff to avoid traffic. While you can still meet the occasional horse and rider, its also become a favorite among hikers and bikers.

You can start this segment at both ends. Either from the North from the Sandy Seep Trailhead Off Highway 89 just past Townsend-Winona Road or from the South from the East Route 66 road bridge over the Railroad Tracks. No matter which end of that passage you start from you can end in the Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Flagstaff Open Space which has its own wonderful trail system.

I’ll be leading a hike on a segment of this trail that will start at Noon on New Year’s Day and I want to invite all the Willow Bend friends to join me. 

Directions: We will start from the mailbox parking area located just off East Route 66 next to the road bridge over the railroad tracks. Head towards Picture Canyon. Then, from the entrance into Picture Canyon: Stay on East Route 66 past Picture Canyon and toward Highway 40 for another 2 miles (still on East Route 66) and as you come off a steep East Route 66 hill there will be an open space off to your left with an abandoned water tank. The small parking area will have a series of mailboxes in a row. If you follow Route 66 over the railroad tracks, YOU HAVE GONE TO FAR!

I will be at the parking area location by 11:15 am on 1.1.2021 in a small gray Ford truck. The hike will be about 3 to 4 total miles of this segment leading into Picture Canyon.

I hope you join me on this adventure!

Post written by Willow Bend member and supporter extraordinaire Jack Welch (photo credit Betsey Bruner).


This is the last post in our Holiday Adventure Series. We hope we were able to provide fun ideas for local activities you can do off screen just before we all go back to virtual learning. Happy New Year from the Willow Bend board, staff, members and volunteers.

12.31.2020 Holiday Adventure Series: Let’s Go Biking! (It’s for everyone)

What better to enjoy during a dry winter than the variety of fun that can be found at the Fort Tuthill Bike Park.  Located at Fort Tuthill County Park just south of town, it’s a quick drive or ride from most locations in Flagstaff.  It’s chock full of different tracks, features, trails, and jumps for a variety of skill levels.  It was created as a partnership between Flagstaff Biking Organization (FBO) and the County Parks & Recreation Department in 2013, and has gradually grown to its current size.  There’s something for just about anyone with any level of mountain biking experience.

Photo credit Coconino County Parks and Rec and AZ Daily Sun.




Designed by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), some of the work has been completed by a professional skills park group, FlowRide Concepts, with other portions completed by American Conservation Experience, and some of the skills area features fabricated by in-house talented County Parks & Recreation staff.

So, even though we’re getting some much-needed snow right now, get your bike dialed in, pack some snacks, grab the family and/or friends, and head to Fort Tuthill when the weather gets a bit better to enjoy the Bike Park.  While you are there, take the bikes on a few of the great trails Fort Tuthill has to offer.

Post written by Tom Hanecak, board member and Assistant Director Coconino County Facilities Management Department.

12.30.2020 Holiday Adventure Series: Red Butte

Sure, you’ve seen Red Butte as you drive to the south entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. But, like us, you’ve probably have never stopped. It’s well worth the drive if you’re looking for a sweet hike, with amazing views along the entire 1.25-mile (one-way) trail, interesting geology, and a fire lookout at the top. From the top of the butte, we were able to see the San Francisco Peaks to the south and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon! This is a kid-friendly hike as well, as the trail is short and not too steep until you reach a short area of a few steepish switchbacks before reaching the top.

It’s easy to get to Red Butte (not to be confused with Red Mountain which is off of Hwy 180 nearer to Flagstaff): after turning north on Highway 64/180 at Valle, keep an eye to the east where Red Butte is easy to spot. After about 10 miles, you’ll see a wide graveled Forest Service Road that heads directly east at the southern border of the Kaibab National Forest. The turnoff on FR340 is easy to spot if you keep an eye out. We met some friends at the intersection in early December, and they weren’t able to make the right turn because of a fast car on their tail, so be careful. If you miss the turn, don’t worry, as there’s a place to turn around just a few miles north.

Keep to FR 320 for about 1.5 miles and turn north (left) on FR 340 where there is a sign directing you to the Red Butte trailhead. Travel north along this road for about three-quarters of a mile and at a small sign directing to the trailhead, turn east on a smaller road that dead ends at the trailhead in .25 miles. The trail can be found at the south end of the small parking area. The roads to the trailhead are navigable by any type of vehicle, just take the last stretch a little slow. In wet weather, the roads may become impassable. The trailhead is located at 6,460 feet elevation while the top of Red Butte is at 7,326 feet. There are no bathrooms available at either the trailhead or at the top of the butte.

The interpretive sign at the trailhead tells you about the geology of the Red Butte which is a lava-capped remnant of overlaying rock layers that have been eroded from the surrounding area. The top of the butte is basalt, a remnant of an ancient lava flow that once covered the area. The base of the butte is red sandstone, with a layer of rocks from the Shinarump and Chinle formations above. Red Butte was a place the Havasupai moved to in the winter to hunt game. The Havasupai Nation refer to it as Wii’I Gdwiisa, “clenched fist mountain.” Given its 360-degree views, in more recent times it’s been used as a fire lookout (the original lookout burned down and was replaced in the 1980s with the current lookout). The top of the Butte is entirely flat and there are many social trails between the juniper and pinyon that will take you to the various views.






More information and directions here.

Post written by board member Michele James.



12.29.2020 Holiday Adventure Series: Educating and Climbing

I have been an educator for 15 years. I have been a climber for 3.  These parts of my identity have struck an unexpected synergy in 2020.

My journey as a climber is pretty non-traditional. Later than most, I started climbing in my mid-thirties. I also experienced a hefty injury early on in my development. Returning to climbing after this injury was a mental and physical roller coaster, with paralyzing fear 4 feet off the ground, and celebration of small accomplishments like learning to repel off Queen Vic, a gorgeous Sedona desert tower.  It is these small wins that have allowed me to return to the passion that brought me to the sport in the first place.

The dichotomy of fear and unrelenting passion I have learned as a climber transcends to my work as a seasoned educator. 2020 has asked more of educators than ever before.  The COVID  pandemic highlights the foundational role schools play in our society. As an educational leader, I have been brought to tears countless times as I see the teachers and support staff, at times paralyzed by their own fear, find a way to  show up for our students and our community. There is no road map to educate during a pandemic. Yet, educators rise up. Learning new technology, delivering meals, advocating for equity, innovating to continue to reach all students, and so much more.

Adrenaline as required by urgency has carried many educators forward, but without self-care this is not sustainable. For me, the outdoors is where I am best able to pause, reflect, and recharge.

During 2020 I have spent many days in the comfort of the limestone climbs at The Pit. This is the ultimate local crag and is accessible year round, although be ready for an icy approach in the winter.

I  carved out a few trips to Jacks Canyon and Hobo Jungle. Jacks and Hobo are climbing candy stores  with climbs that accommodate a range of abilities.

At both the school and the crag I am challenged, activated, and humbled. The knowledge, trust, and teamwork needed to tackle fear of the unknown are mirrored in these arenas. As is the peace and awe that are found when pausing to look over the trees during a repel, or when learning is ignited in a student across a screen or under a mask.  And so, I may not be Lynn Hill, but  I will continue to return to the rock to find peace, tension, and lessons that fortify me as a climber and an educator.

Written by board secretary Whitney Owens (who is also the new Camp Verde School Principal)

12.28.2020 Holiday Adventure Series: Fun Facts (or Booby Hill)

My name is Cree Donovan and I grew up in one of the highest elevation cities in the United States and it was named after a very tall flagpole.

 Fun facts are fun, but what’s even better are the trails surrounding this beautiful mountain town with an average of 266 days of sunshine per year.  Yes, that was another fun fact! If you don’t want to drive too far from town or just feel like a spending a few hours outside, I wanted to share a favorite short hike of mine.  This hike is a favorite because of the short, intense uphill and view you get as a reward at the end.  If you have lived in Flagpole, I mean Flagstaff, for a while then you probably have heard of Camp Colton.  Right across the dirt road from camp is the start of what is locally known as Booby Hill. If you haven’t heard of Camp Colton but want to check out Booby Hill because, well, who wouldn’t…then just head on over to Ft. Valley Road, take a right onto dirt road: FS 151.  Drive about 4 miles and just after Camp Colton on your right… you will park on your left. 

Double Fun Fact Alert!  Part of your view will include Mount Humphreys.  It is the highest point in Arizona and towers above Flagstaff at 12,633 feet!  Did you know that the San Francisco Peaks has three summits— Humphreys, Agassiz, and Fremont peaks—on the rim of an eroded extinct volcano? You can ponder all of these fun facts from the comfort and luxury of Booby Hill.  I highly encourage you to hike Booby Hill in the fall while the Aspen leaves and the weather are magical.  Last fun fact!  Altitude and low humidity combine to produce clear air and relatively mild weather conditions year-round.  






I hope to see you hanging out on Booby Hill, pondering Flagstaff fun facts!  Best Wishes for a fabulous, fun, 2021!  

Post written by board Vice President and Flagstaff teacher Cree Donovan.

12.27.2020 Holiday Adventure Series: The Grand Canyon

I love exploring the Grand Canyon this time of year, the weather is perfect. The Canyon never ceases to amaze me and I am always humbled by its vastness and beauty. There is a special energy in the canyon that always brings peace to my soul and perspective to my mind.  I feel very grateful to have this wondrous place in our backyard. Everyone can enjoy the canyon whether that be a pleasant stroll along the rim trail or a more adventurous hike further deep down inside the canyon.
A trail that I only discovered recently is the Grandview trail.  You can do a 11 mile lollipop. Its steep at the top but once you get through that first mile then there are lots of smooth sections down to the horseshoe mesa. It gives such delightful views that are different from the mainstream Bright Angel and South Kaibab.  You can then continue past the Horseshoe Mesa and down switchbacks to the Tonto Trail (about 4.5 miles from the top down to the Tonto). Last time I was there I saw a Big Horn Sheep family!  Once at the Tonto, turn left and go Westward for about half mile until you see Cottonwood Creek and a campsite.  Follow the trail back up to Horeshoe Mesa and then back up the Grandview Trail.
Here is a map of the trail. Enjoy

12.26.2020 Holiday Adventure Series: Fun Visitors in Picture Canyon

I have been hiking with llamas and camels in Picture Canyon for over 20 years. Its amazing to think that camels came through Flagstaff in 1853 with Lieutenant Edward Beale building the first federal highway in the Southwest. Between 1857 to 1860 Lieutenant Beale, a crew of 100 men, and 22 camels cleared a 10-foot wide track and pushed the rocks to the side to allow wagons to travel on the track. Beale’s “Wagon Trail” came through the Flagstaff area.

Camels are very effective at walking in rugged terrain, carrying heavy loads, and of course adjusting to dry conditions. However, they were not positively accepted by locals as they scared horses and mules, and looked odd to those who were not used to working with these animals.

On December 26th my two camels and I, along with Willow Bend Director Moran Henn and her two horse, will try trace a small section of Lieutenant Beale’s trail. We will judge, if indeed they navigate easily through this terrain, and what effect they have on horses.

Join us at Picture Canyon on the morning after Christmas and judge for yourselves how these beasts do in the Southwestern landscape. We will be attempting to cross the bridge across the Rio de Flag late morning. Exact time will depend on the cooperation of all involved, especially the furry ones. We are hoping for 11am-12pm timeframe. Snap a picture, post on social media and tag Willow Bend (or email it to moran@willowbendcenter.org), and enter to win a fun gift for participating in our Holiday Adventure Series.



Directions to Trailhead: From downtown Flagstaff, travel west on Route 66 toward the Flagstaff Mall. Turn right on Route 66 and left on El Paso Flagstaff Road. The trailhead is approximately ½ mile down the road on the right side. Once at the trailhead, hike approximately 1.5 miles along the Don Weaver trail till you get to the bridge. For more information about Picture Canyon and to download the hiking guide visit the City’s website. 

Post written by board member Eric Souders and Executive Director Moran Henn

12.25.2020 Holiday Adventure Series: Birding in Northern Arizona

Birding in Flagstaff, during the winter, can be challenging.  Many bird species have moved south, and those that tough it out tend to be quiet and reclusive. So where do you go to find birds?  Where there’s water!  Especially this year due to the past years being so dry.

You will see more birds on a sunny day without much wind (or in a spot out of the wind).  In winter I find the birds seem to be most active in the morning, once the sun has been out for a while.  Flagstaff has a number of places with year-round water that are frequented by our resident birds, such as Steller’s Jay, Mountain Chickadee, White-breasted, Red-breasted & Pigmy Nuthatches and a variety of Woodpeckers, to name just a few.

Try visiting any of our local springs.

Little Elden Springs: My personal favorite is Little Elden Spring. The reason I love this area so much is the incredible diversity of trees along the AZ Trail here – I haven’t seen so many different kinds of trees, all in one place, anywhere else in Flagstaff.  There are Oaks, Junipers, Ponderosa, Aspens, Spruce and others I haven’t identified. It’s also the only place I’ve encountered Elderberry bushes growing wild.  The rocks along the trail are fun too! Many have vugs of crystals in them. Take Hwy 89 to Elden Springs road, at the junction of FR 556A there’s a parking area. Walk across the road and up a short trail to the spring. More info and directions here.

Kachina Wetlands Preserve: When the water isn’t frozen, you can find a variety of ducks, eagles, hawks and perching birds – even, if you’re lucky, a Roadrunner – there is a pair residing in the area and I was lucky to get a photo of one on my last visit. Directions and more information here.
But for the best winter birding you need to make like a bird and migrate to a warmer climate.  Fortunately for us, that is a simple day trip to the Verde Valley.
Red Tank Draw: Driving south on I-17, take State Rt 179 (Sedona) exit and go east (away from Sedona).
You will see a small sign, and once across the bridge, pull over and park on the right. You’ll see a trail that leads down to the stream bed, walk a short distance south, and even as dry as it is right now, you’ll find small pools of water, perfect for perching birds to drink and bathe in.  Find a comfy rock to sit on and wait 5 to 10 minutes for the birds to return. I found lots of Robins, a few warblers, several phoebes, a sapsucker and numerous ruby-crowned kinglets enjoying this area. The geology here is wonderous, as is the peace and quiet, if you hike a bit further down the streambed and away from the road.
Beaver Creek Picnic Area: Just down 179 a bit further is the perfect spot for a picnic.This is my niece’s favorite picnic spot – we take a short walk down the trail and hop onto the large rocks in the water, relax and wait for the birds to fill the trees along the waters’ edge. Directions and more information here. 

Bubbling Ponds at the Page Springs Fish Hatchery: Bubbling Ponds hosts numerous species of birds due to the fish hatchery ponds where AZ Game & Fish raise many of the species of endangered Arizona fish, as well as having Oak Creek in close proximity. Here you can see a variety of ducks, herons, eagles and hawks – including the Common Black Hawk, which is only found near water and is not common, as its name implies. There may only be 250 pairs in the entire U.S.  They do migrate, and are not typically found at Bubbling Ponds in the winter – however, one seems to have decided to stay this year and can frequently be seen high in a Cottonwood tree between the road and the ponds.  Another bird that is fun to spot here is the Belted Kingfisher who frequents the stretch of Oak Creek next to Bubbling Ponds.  Numerous other bird species frequent this area, making it an amazing place to visit any time of year. Directions and more information here.






Other good birding spots in Flagstaff include: Griffith Springs, Picture Canyon, Francis Short Pond, I-40 Wetlands , Elden Springs (& the Elden Homestead site), Sinclair Wash below Willow Bend

Other good birding spots in the Verde Valley include: Montezuma’s Well, Verde River & Ponds at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, West Fork of Oak Creek, in Oak Creek Canyon, West Clear Creek Campground and Day Use Area

Another source of good, local birding information is Jay’s Bird Barn (who graciously donate both the feeders and birdseed at Willow Bend). As is Northern Arizona Audubon

Post written by Willow Bend member, volunteer and avid birder Kathleen Satterfield.


12.24.2020 Holiday Adventure Series: Sourdough Muffins

I want to share my grandmother’s sourdough English muffin recipe, since there is an overnight step, its a perfect activity for the holidays.


1/2 cup of sourdough starter, 2 cups of flour plus 1 Tbsp. 1 cup of milk, 1 Tblsp. Honey, 1/2 Tbsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 cup of corn meal.

Here it is step by step:

First, you’ll need to get some sourdough starter. There are many instructions on-line about starting your own or possibly source from a friend. This starter was from my grandmother and is about 45 years old. It has been maintained and passed around in my family.




The night before you want to serve the muffins (best when fresh), mix 2 cups flour, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup starter and one Tblsp. Honey (Note: I used local honey from Willow Bend’s very own Melissa Eckstrom!)




Mix everything together





Cover the dough bowl with tea towel and set in a warm place overnight.





In the morning, dough should have grown and have small bubbles. Add 1/2 Tbsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, and just enough flour (~Tbsp) so it’s not sticky.




Gently mix, just enough to incorporate the salt, soda, and flour.





Roll out on a floured surface approx. 5/8 inch thick.





Use a cookie cutter or glass to cut approx. 2 inch rounds. Spread corn meal on a cookie sheet and gently set the rounds leaving some space for expansion. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. Pictured here muffins have already risen.



Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet on medium heat. Sprinkle corn meal on the griddle and cook rounds. Rotate periodically for even cooking. If the corn meal starts getting brown, turn down heat.




When lightly browned, flip and cook the other side.





Finish in a warm oven at 220 for about 10 minutes. This will help stabilize the doughy center.





Fork split and toast or broil until golden brown.





Final product, fork split and toasted. Enjoy with a little butter and or your favorite preserve.





If you make a donation $50 and over on December 24th or 25th on our website Ariel will deliver some of her grandmother’s 45 year old sourdough* starter as a token of our appreciation (email moran@willowbendcenter.org with a screen shot of your donation, your address, and contact information if you want a sourdough delivery).

Recipe and pictures shared by Willow Bend President Ariel Leonard.


(while supplies last, first come first serve)