Eric Jay Toll

Eric is a reporter for the Phoenix Business Journal covering Economic Development. In free time, he covers the West--and other journeys along the way. Eric has been journaling about travel for more than 10 years. He is a traveler, camper, and accomplished chef--or fancy food dabbler, as the case may be. He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

OMG! A real dinosaur bone you can touch

“Look, daddy!” and “Dinosaurs!!” are among the squeals of youthful voices seconds from entering the spacious quarry. An allosaurus skull, complete with most of its knife-edge teeth, is on display, along with other examples of amphibian and marine fossils found in the cliff face. Nothing on a road trip is more alluring to children than dinosaurs. There’s a vacation for that. In eastern Utah and western Colorado, there are more dinosaurs – well, fossils – than nearly anywhere else in the world. It’s hard to imagine that the breath-taking, red rock, canyon country was once a tropical paradise. The...

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A real-life cliff hanger taking a jeep tour into the fall colors of Colorado

“Yee-haw, Mom!” the younger of the two boys shouted from the third bench of the 4×4 as it splashed axle-deep into one the nameless streams that crisscrossed the narrow Forest Service road hauling us towards Corkscrew Gulch. Bundled up against the high elevation chill, Jack Frost ran the road ahead of us painting aspen and hardwood with bright fall colors in the west of the Great Divide in the San Juan Mountains south of Ouray, Colorado. The bright red 4×4 from Switzerland of America Tours bounced and rocked the nine of us through the rich deep Colorado forest, skyward...

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Giddyup with the family to a real dude ranch

Sitting on the Adirondack rocking chair, feet up on the fence rail, the only sound is the birds echoing each other’s songs in the tall pines poking up all around. Pine fragrance floats in a slight tremor of a breeze, mixed with the flavor of fresh bread wafting its way down from the dining lodge. Grab a pen and add “dude ranch” to the family bucket list. Watching last night’s award ceremony where each of the more than a dozen children received golden horseshoe awards, parents positively beamed at their kids’ broad smiles and shy acceptance speeches. One of...

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Once in a lifetime Four Corners is a must-do

If America is not on your bucket list, it should be. On the road for a 2,400 mile Colorado Road Trip, the scenery that is Arizona and the Four Corners region is awe-inspiring. This annual trip is something to share, and I’ll be doing that over the next 19 days. There are two ways to see the vast expanse of the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona. Bigger than a couple New England states, the Rez sprawls across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah from Flagstaff to Farmington, New Mexico, and Bluff, Utah, to Winslow. The charm of the road trip...

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Canyonlands a First Step in Red Rock Country

It’s not a long climb, but being the third hike of the day, it’s mercifully short. We’re heading up the red rock trail to overlook Upheaval Dome. The ranger at the Canyonlands National Park visitor center said it’s less than a mile and under 100 feet of climb, but after hikes at Grand View, Mesa Arch and meandering around Murphy Point, it might as well be far longer. The red rock sets this landscape aside from any seen elsewhere. “It’s like Grand Canyon without the crowds,” marveled my companion as she spryly surged ahead of me on the trail....

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Think Grand Canyon without the crowds — go Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

It looks like the Grand Canyon, and if the movie “Thelma and Louise” was seen, this is the “Grand Canyon” where the two drove into oblivion – except its Dead Horse Point State Park outside of Moab, Utah. “It’s like the Grand Canyon without the crowds,” is what one person said while the sun was drooping low in the west, and its warm rays were fading into a brisk, late November breeze. In the background, the snow-capped La Sal Mountains stood sentinel. The mostly bussed Japanese and Indian visitors in the overlook were taking in the radical curves of...

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The view from Delicate Arch is the highlight of Arches National Park

At the end of a 90 minute climb across the orange slickrock of Southeast Utah, the rock wall on the right gives way and steps into the sunshine, Utah’s symbol, Delicate Arch, welcomes hikers. The freestanding 65-foot (20m) arch is both a beacon at the end of a trail. Standing on a point surrounding a wind and rain carved amphitheater, the beautiful red-orange arch beckons families to its base for photos. Dozens of hikers sit on outcrops of the smooth slickrock and rest in the sunshine following the 1-1/2 mile (2.4km) hike that climbs nearly 500 feet (146m) from...

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Seven Monuments Between Phoenix and Grand Canyon

“Look at me, mom, I can pick up a boulder!” The child’s exclamation is carried in the wind across a black bed of pumice and lava flowing as far as the eye can see in the shadow of a towering cinder cone. On the road from the Phoenix desert to the first night in Marble Canyon, Arizona, we’re on a “let’s do it!” side trip veering off U.S. 89 north of Flagstaff, Arizona, into the Sunset Crater National Monument. It’s a two- to three-hour detour to see a “new” volcano and visit the villages where Ancestral Pueblos watched it...

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Touch the Sky, Touch the Sea in Olympic National Park

The puffed white clouds billow up from the Pacific Ocean. The winds push them east over the craggy shore pushing walls of sand. Carried over lush grasslands and forest, the clouds slam into the towering Olympic Range, kiss the glaciers with snow, pour water into the rivers and deluge the trees and ferns with water. The weather phenomenon creates the setting for Olympic National Park, Port Angeles and beyond, Washington. Multitask National Park Visit Without even thinking hard, this is a national park where just about anything outdoors is waiting: Backpack Beach walk Bike Cabin Camp Canoe Climb Dream...

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The First 5 Road Trip Sights Making the West Beautiful

America the Beautiful: From Desert to Rain Forest The narrow two-lane road twists its way between the trail blazed between the scrubby desert pines and the scraggly sage. The desert sand starts showing its cereal-stained off-white color as the road climbs and turns. Glancing at the GPS receiver on the dash, the route is correct. It just doesn’t feel right. As if God, changed paint without quite cleaning His brush, the sand starts changing color. The dirty white now seems to have a tint. In the desert, the morning sun can do that to sandstone cliffs, but it’s closer...

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