Being the off-season, we had our pick of where to unpack. I also like to get out and trek to Horseshoe Lake. It’s only a few miles off Bartlett, but a completely different experience. No powerboats, no crowds—just tranquility. On this particular day, Bartlett Lake was a canoer’s dream. The water was like glass, and there were no strong or choppy waves to interrupt our paddling. In fact, aside from a few fishermen, a handful of kayakers and some families’ barbequing on the bank, we had the lake all to ourselves. To my relief, my friend did not tip us over and we were able to enjoy the beauty of the water.

After a few hours of peaceful paddling, we decided to head off for lunch by a nice, grassy area right on the water. What a perfect place to experience all that Mother Nature has to offer. Maybe it was the delicious food we packed, but the forest animals seemed to come out of the woods in droves. Tons of birds, a few furry critters; we even saw a bald eagle perched on a tree—either ready to nab our food or a cluster of minnows in the nearby water.

By the time the sun started to set, we packed up the canoe and headed home. We had such a great time that we did not want to leave. My friend and I made a promise to each other that we would come to the lake more often and bring other family and friends to share in the breathtaking scenery.

For less than $10—the park’s fee—we enjoyed a day of relaxing fun on the water. What’s more, my friend became a canoeing fan for life! But my absolute favorite part of the trip was being able to enjoy the splendor of the Arizona landscape. I often find myself taking the scenery for granted because I am constantly surrounded by it, but the more I explore the different regions, the more I appreciate what a gorgeous place Arizona really is. 

Stephanie Stafford moved to Arizona in 1999 from Western New York where she grew up in a small town on a lake. And even after her move, she never lost her love for adventure, the calm of the great outdoors or her wonderful canoe. Nothing is better than heading out of town to find something new to explore.