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Hatch is the common name for the green and red chiles, but they are actually Sandia peppers grown in the Hatch region of southern New Mexico near Las Cruces, where the annual Chile Festival, held over Labor Day, attracts 30,000 visitors. While each batch is different, prepare for some heat as Hatch chiles are spicy. One medium-size green chile pod contains as much vitamin C as six oranges while one teaspoon of dried red chile powder satisfies the daily requirement of vitamin A. Watching your weight? Hot chile peppers burn calories by triggering a thermodynamic burn in the body and speeding up the metabolism.
Chiles aren’t the only culinary reason to celebrate the Southwest this time of the year – head up to Flagstaff on any weekend and trawl Route 66 for trucks selling roasted piñon (or pinyon) nuts. Piñon nuts come from two species of piñon (Spanish for “pine nut”) pine trees growing wild in the high desert mountain areas of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Piñon nuts are normally roasted in the shell, which resembles a bean and contains the delicate, pale brown nut. Each nut in any given batch tastes a little different. It’s a great snack, but they are not cheap. Many piñon pine trees grow on Indian reservations and they are all harvested by hand in the fall. Those in the know say the best batch of piñon rolls around every seven years or so – the 2008 forecast shows a decent crop coming from mid-New Mexico and southwestern Colorado. Pine nuts are full of amino acids, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, and are excellent in pesto sauces and salad dressings, so eat up!
Son Silver West is located at 1476 Hwy 179, between Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek. Call 928-282-3580 to check chile supplies. Trucks selling piñon nuts can be found along Route 66 in eastern Flagstaff.
5: Aspens in Flagstaff/Driving Schnebly Hill Rd.
Sure, the price of gas has garaged many leisurely Sunday drives, so if you’re going to do it, make it count: Grab a camera, get in a high-clearance truck, drive through Flagstaff, and traverse the narrow, steep dirt road to Lockett Meadow at the base of the soaring San Francisco Peaks, the remains of an extinct volcano. The meadow positively glows at the beginning of autumn, as the emerald green leaves of the tall quaking aspen trees turn bright yellow. While the popular, and rather strenuous, Inner Basin hiking trail begins at Lockett Meadow, we found the most beautiful stands of aspens only a few hundred feet up the trail. Leaves litter the ground and as early as October there’s a chill in the air at this 8,600-ft. elevation.
Lockett Meadow includes a beautiful campground with 17 sites ($10 per night) complete with fire rings and picnic tables, but the sites are reserved on a first-come first-served basis – they fill up early on the weekends. The limited parking also fills early with families snapping Christmas card photos in front of the aspens and the peaks. Don’t be surprised if elk, porcupine or even a black bear wanders through the area. Look for the “historic” graffiti carved into the trunks of the aspens, remnants of the area’s ranching history.
Closer to home, drive up Schnebly Hill Rd. 13 miles from Sedona to I-17 (high clearance vehicles are a must). As you climb, you’ll notice veins of amazing reds, oranges, and yellows winding up the steep walls of Bear Wallow Canyon to the top of the Mogollon Rim and Foxboro Ranch. We recommend stopping at the Cow Pies parking area about 3.5 miles up the road and taking a stroll. Look toward the Mogollon Rim and marvel at the color threading through solid stands of evergreens. Stop at Schnebly Hill Vista for a bird’s-eye view of Sedona. Just beyond the vista, you’ll catch dramatic views of the San Francisco Peaks. There’s a pastoral pond located at Foxboro Ranch – great for reflection photos.
To reach Lockett Meadow, head north on Hwy 89A to Flagstaff. Take I-40 east and Hwy 89 north for 12.5 miles to Forest Road 420, directly across from the Sunset Crater National Monument turnoff. Head west for about 1 mile to Forest Road 552. Turn right at the Lockett Meadow sign and continue to the campground. This dirt road is closed in early spring and late fall due to snow. There’s a $5 day use fee.