Another gorgeous weekend means another relaxing trip out in the canoe, and this time, my dad and I set our oars towards Canyon Lake. With a packed lunch and a full tube of sunscreen, we set off early to try to hit the water by 10 a.m.

Winding through the beautiful Apache Trail, we saw desert landscapesPOPPIE framed.jpg that we never knew of. And in the springtime, especially if it’s a rainy year, nothing is better than the sites and smells of the wildflowers in bloom. We brought the motion sickness medication just in case—as the road is a bit of a rollercoaster. As we got closer though, the road settled down to unveil the sparkling oasis in the desert sun.

We unloaded quickly and paddled out to the tall canyon walls that surround part of the lake. We wove through rocky cliffs and subtle waves, soaking in the fresh air for a few hours until we found an ideal dock for a lunch break. It’s amazing how tired we got paddling through the narrow canyons, especially when there were other boats around.

After lunch, we headed back to the car to reward our hard work with some ice cream. We veered a little east for the Tortilla Flats and found this little gem well off the beaten path. In what looked like a Wild West saloon on an old movie set, the Country Store and Ice Cream Shop served up the best prickly pear gelato you’ll find anywhere. Talk about a treat! The store was also filled with gift shop merchandise, hot sauces, old-fashioned candies and plenty of homemade Tortilla Flat Salsa to go around—perfect for mementos to remind us of our canoe trip when we got back home. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

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. She believes nothing is better than heading out of town to find something new to explore.