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The Arizona Trail For Day Hikers: An Introduction

by Gary Nelson

This is my second blog in a series on the Arizona Trail that I will write as I hike the entire length of Arizona, top to bottom, from Utah to Mexico.  If you have not read my previous blog post on an introduction to the Arizona Trail, you can find it here.

The Arizona Trail North To Utah

I will write as I go from the perspective of someone who is experiencing almost all of it for the first time and also from the perspective of a day hiker.  To hike all 809 miles of this awesome trek all at once, or even in passages would be…amazing to do. It would be very reminiscent of the movie, “Wild” where Reese Witherspoon’s character traverses the length of the Pacific Coast Trail banishing her inner-demons along the way.  But no, I don’t have time for that nor does my right knee relish its old high school track injuries.  Maybe you don’t have that kind of time either and that is why you are still reading this.  Regardless, for many people, breaking up an 809 mile hike makes sense, I am sure.

I also am lucky in that I don’t have any inner demons to purge like Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Wild” had and therefore, I won’t subject any of you to very much drama.  I will do this in stages and it may take a while, but as of this my first writing…I am about 40 miles along the way after a little over a month of weekend hikes.  Most “legs” or “Stages” that I will write about will be 7 to 13 miles in length.  That is a fairly good morning hike for most people or…it is for me!  As time goes on, I know that I will need to plan some multi-day back packing trips to explore the remote parts of the State that is traversed by the Trail, but for now, it is great to be able to do this huge goal in small bites.

The Arizona Trail near Flagstaff

Also, I am very lucky to live in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Flagstaff is a day hiker’s dream location. The Arizona Trail runs right through the heart of Flagstaff and utilizes the Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS Trails) which features spectacular scenery in Flagstaff on a very nice trail surface.  Here is some great info on Flagstaff’s FUTS trail.

Therefore, I will be using Flagstaff as a center for these writings as most of the people that might read my blogs live there too.  If you live somewhere else, just search through my blogs for a Stage of the trail that appeals to you and start there.  Also, I would recommend the official Arizona Trail website for Passages. 

However, the Passages section on is broken down into 30 to 50 mile sections, which is very hard for a day hiker to do.  So what I will concentrate on is to try to convey the easiest way to use the AZ Trail in smaller, more manageable legs that I will call Stages.  This will include information on where I started, where I stopped and where I left a car.  This will be extremely important, of course, when it comes time to come back home again!  A turn around spot, a place to drop a car for pickup or a place to be picked up by a friend will be very, very important to the success of your hike, so plan accordingly! At the end of each blog I will also give you an added bonus:  A recommendation for a great place to grab a bite to eat!  After hiking all morning, a great restaurant is a very welcome reward for yourself, and I know some great places.

I would be remiss if I did not remind you to BE PREPARED for hiking anywhere and everywhere.  Maybe it’s the old Boy Scout in me that spent so much time hiking the Grand Canyon, Havasupai and other parts of Arizona that makes me try to be prepared for ANYTHING that comes my way.  My Camelpack is loaded and quite heavy even for a day hike.  I prepare for maybe getting lost or being stuck in the wilderness for several days, even if I am only gone for a few hours.  Prepare for the worst.  I use my Camelpack as a “bug-out bag” and make sure it is loaded for almost any emergency I can think of.  From a first aid kit, to a survival kit it is loaded.  When I hike, I am not only trying to be prepared for a blister on my foot, but also a change in the weather I didn’t know about or even personal safety.  You never know who else might be on the trail.

So…first make sure that you are healthy and fit enough to do the hike at all.  Get a physical if you haven’t had one recently.  Talk to your doctor about your health.  From there, here is a great resource for hints on how to be prepared for hiking and back packing:

That’s it for this blog. My next will be about my first Stage of the Arizona Trail:  Flagstaff.  That first hike was in August of 2015, so hopefully future blogs from me will explore other sections of the AZ Trail both north and south from Flagstaff, and in the order I did them.  At this writing, I have at least 5 Stages of the trail to talk about, so be patient with me and you will see some great photos of what I have seen on the trail along with some information that might help you with your own trek along Arizona’s great trail.


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

Flagstaff's Top 3: Small Plate Restaurants

by Gary Nelson

My last blog on Flagstaff Top 3:  Fine Dining caused a bit of a stir, as did a blog I wrote Flagstaff Top 3:  Mexican Restaurants For Breakfast Or Lunch a couple of months ago.  So, I thought I would appease a few people by taking a few of their suggestions and write a new blog on Small Plate Restaurants.  Now, strictly speaking, at least one (if not 2) of these are not really in a "Small Plate" category, but...they are good restaurants and don't quite fit under "Fine Dining" or anything else I can think of.  So, maybe this blog should be Flagstaff Top 3:  Places You Should Try From This Blog!

So, here goes:


Tinderbox is one of those places that is very good, but you don't really know where to categorize them.  Excellent food, but not quite "fine dining" as the atmosphere is much more casual.  "Flagstaff casual", as many of my friends would say.  But, as I said, it is very good.  So...that is why I am putting it in this blog.


Tinderbox describes itself as American comfort food and that pretty much sums it up.  I had the duck last time I was there and it was great.  Next door is Tinderbox Annex and the burger special of the day is what you want to have there.  But, order early as they typically sell out quickly.  The locals pretty much buy up the burgers at Annex.

Tinderbox Kitchen is grouped with Tinderbox Annex and the Tourist Home and provides 3 great places on South San Francisco Street in south Downtown Flagstaff. All 3 are fun places to grab a bite to eat.  Tinderbox Kitchen for dinner, Annex for drinks or happy hour with friends and Tourist Home for deli items, lunch or to go food.  Give any of them a shot!

Here is a link to their menu:  Tinderbox Kitchen Menu

Here is a link to Yelp's Review of Tinderbox Kitchen.

And a review on Tripadvisor of Tinderbox Kitchen


Coppa Cafe

This is another very good (OK, it is actually great) restaurant in Flagstaff that is hard to categorize.  It is very, very good, has strong French and continental influences but is casual.  So, I am putting here in a blog on small plate restaurants in Flagstaff.

Coppa Cafe

Honestly, I think I like it better for brunch on a Sunday morning than for Dinner.  Don't get me wrong, because dinner is excellent, but there is something to be said for a nice, relaxing Sunday brunch that is done well.

Coppa Interior

Some people call it "coppa", that sounds like a Brooklyn version of copper.  Others call it "coppa" like copa cabana.  But whatever you call it, you will enjoy it.  From excellent coffee drinks to hand made pastries as this is one of Flagstaff's best restaurants, hands down.

Here is Coppa Cafe's review on Yelp. 

Here is the review on

And here is the menu from their own website,


Shift Kitchen and Bar

Brand new to Downtown Flagstaff is Shift the sign says, Sh/ft.  It is another Flagstaff restaurant located on San Francisco Street, this time at 107 North.  It occupies a space that was formerly Flag Buzz coffee shop and Late For The Train before that.


It is getting very popular, very quickly as it is quite good.  I went there a few weeks ago in a group of about 8 friends celebrating birthdays and it was perfect.  We pretty much fought over the pork belly which was the special that night.  It was excellent.

Now, a word of caution:  This truly is a small plate restaurant, so do what we did, and order a bunch of plates and enjoy tasting each others picks.  Otherwise, prepare for an expensive meal as you order multiple plates just for yourself.

Here is a link to Shift on Open Table.

And here is the Menu at

And a review from Yelp of Shift Kitchen.


You won't go wrong at any of these 3 above places to grab a bite in Flagstaff.  Each is great in it's own way, but different from each other in menu, atmosphere and presentation.  Enjoy!

Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

Is Your Realtor Qualified? Part 2 of 4

by Gary Nelson

As I stated in my last blog (Part 1 of this subject) I believe that unfortunately there may be a majority of Realtors who are not qualified to represent your best interests in a real estate transaction.  You can read that earlier blog here:  Is Your Realtor Qualified? (Part 1).   I have come to this conclusion by rubbing elbows with the best in the industry and also having experience with agents that are…less than stellar in their business practices.  It is my opinion that a Realtors “professionalism” can be measured by experience, dedication, adoption of technology and trends and finally education.  We will look at education in this blog.


I would divide this category into two sections, really. Those would be continuing education and also Realtor designations.  When it comes to “continuing education”, a Realtor has many choices, but the choices they make can be very telling.  What I mean is this: Is your agent dedicated to getting the best, most current education there is…or are they skating by, and only taking the minimum in continuing education hours because it is required by the Arizona Department of Real Estate?

A significant number of Realtors learn about changes to the industry by trial and error.  Scary, isn't it?  Name another profession where the "School Of Hard Knocks" is the most attended school for continuing education. 

In Arizona, a real estate agent needs 24 hours of continuing education in a 2 year period.  That is a pitifully low number of hours required.  That’s 12 hours of classroom time per year. But, the State also allows online education, webinars and live feeds.  So, your Realtor can actually be “educated” by sitting in front of a computer, take an online class, never interact with an instructor and move on.  But the worst part is, many real estate agents have learned how to cheat the online system, by not actually being at the computer while the timer is going!  Ultimately who they are cheating is themselves, but unfortunately that means they are cheating you too.

Additionally, many agents wait until the last few days of that 2 year period to take their classes and then scramble to find a live class or just take all their online renewal classes at once.  There are real estate classes called “renew-athons” where the agent can just take all 24 hours needed over a fun-filled weekend.  Many times these are online classes, but some of these classes are offered live in Mexico or on a cruise ship!  Now that is dedication to an industry.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some multi-day conferences in Arizona that give your Realtor a tremendous education.  2 dear friends of mine are Realtors and educators.  They have 1 ½ day conferences that provide wonderful education, discussion and insight into trends.  These classes are both fun and informative.  Also, some Realtor designations require multiple day classes and also provide the best education possible to a Realtor in today's market.

Another way that a Realtor can continue their dedication to educating themselves is by earning designations and certifications.  For a list of recognized designations and certifications, look to  This is not, which advertises homes for sale. is the website for the National Association of Realtors and the part dedicated to explaining designations is here:

As you can see, there are many ways a Realtor can extend their knowledge base and these are the programs that are recognized by the National Association of Realtors.  If your Realtor’s “designation” isn’t listed here, then chances are it took them an afternoon to earn.  It may be a private certification class to teach them how to “negotiate” with the big dogs.  When it comes to designations for a residential Realtor, the CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) is the top designation one can get on a national level and the GRI (Graduate of the Realtor Institute) is the top state specific designation in most, but not all states.  In Arizona, the GRI program is regarded as one of the best nationwide and the classes and therefore the designation, is top notch.

So, when I started this blog in Part 1, I suggested that you ask your Realtor a series of questions specifically geared toward discovering what they do to stay educated.   My first suggestion would be to search for your Realtor here:

That site is of course, the Arizona Department of Real Estate.  It allows you to not only see if any disciplinary action was taken against your Realtor, but also how many continuing education classes he or she has taken and what kind.

 In addition to that, here are some suggested questions for your Realtor:

  • What real estate designations do you hold?
  • How many continuing education hours did you turn in when you last renewed your license?
  • How do you typically get your continuing education hours?

After reading what I have outlined here, clicking on the above links and educating yourself on your Realtors education, you should be able to decide for yourself how well your current or prospective Realtor does when it comes to education!  How is this relevant to you?  Think of any other profession that requires continuing education to keep a state license and how you hope that person stays connected and educated!

My next blog in this series “Is Your REALTOR Qualified”, will discuss some agent’s worst nightmare:  Technology!  Technology and your Realtors relationship to it can make or break a deal.  Stay tuned as I explain why!

Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

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Contact Information

The Gary Nelson Group
Realty Executives of Flagsaff
15 E. Cherry Ave. Suite 101
Flagstaff AZ 86001
Direct: 928-225-3510
Office: 928-773-9300
Fax: 928-774-1102