Uphill both Ways

Images of challenging hiking trails accompanied by beautiful scenery are most likely not the first thoughts that come to mind when envisioning city living, but Phoenix isn’t your typical city. Phoenix, Arizona, and her surrounding suburbs have done an amazing job with urban planning. There are parks everywhere … from small neighborhood playground type of parks to large picturesque, rural feeling parks complete with challenging hikes and even campgrounds.

Hiker on the trail at Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale AZ with wildflowers lining the trail

I’ve made it my mission to visit as many of these larger parks as possible. During each of our winter visits, I try and explore a new to me park. Although, I do have my favorites that I find myself returning to time and again making it difficult to check out the dozens of other amazing parks throughout the Phoenix valley. I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoy the Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park … a definite favorite, but I do have a couple more favs to share.

a red cardinal sitting on a cactus in Cave Creek, Arizona

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

I love hiking at Spur Cross Ranch so much so that I’ve introduced this park to a couple of blogging pals, as well as several local friends.

I never tire of the scenery. There’s something about the diverse eco-system found at this park that makes it incredibly special.

All the trails start off with the usual desert scenery, which in and of itself is stunning, but eventually, you’ll find yourself hiking among cottonwood trees and crossing streams, an unexpected surprise in such an arid desert climate.

There’s a wide range of trails to choose from making it perfect for every level of hiker. Our hike at Spur Cross with Liesbet and her husband turned into a longer hike than we originally intended, but with near perfect hiking weather, I believe we all enjoyed the three-hour six-mile hike.

We saw wildflowers, birds, folks riding horses, stood next to some of Arizona’s oldest living saguaros, crossed streams, and generally had a fun time.

two hikers among a forest of saguaros
Liesbet and me at Spur Cross Ranch

One word of caution about visiting Spur Cross Ranch …. flash flooding. Although the road to get to the trailhead is paved, the last couple of miles or so gets narrow and a little rough in spots. The biggest concern is during heavy rains, including rains from the night before. There’s a couple of low-lying places/washes that are known to flood making it impossible to cross the road until the water recedes. Normally those sections of road are bone dry.

flooding at Spur Cross Ranch, Cave Creek, AZEarlier in the year, I tried introducing a new neighbor at my RV park to Spur Cross Ranch, but our hike did not go as planned. Although we had no issue driving to the trailhead, we did have a problem on the trails.

The moment we started walking on the Dragonfly Trail, I could hear the rushing of water, a sound I hadn’t experienced before.

I knew the creek would be running fast but wasn’t prepared to see exactly how fast it was flowing. The nice little boardwalks that we normally use to cross the creek were washed away.

Hiking crossing a creek in Arizona
Blogging pal, Liesbet, having fun crossing the creek on the Dragonfly Trail. Look how gentle the creek looks here.
a flooded trail at Spur Cross Ranch, Cave Creek, AZ
There was no way Karen and I could continue the hike – trail flooded.
The water was flowing dangerous fast during my visit with Karen in mid-February.

One of Arizona's oldest living saguaro cactus

Unfortunately, my hike with Karen was short-lived due to trail flooding. I’m hoping Karen and I can try again next winter.

The upside to all this water results in a lush landscape. The saguaro cacti along the Metate Trail are said to be some of the oldest in the state of Arizona and have more arms growing than the usual saguaro. I’m guessing the healthy dossing of moisture they receive is due to their growth and longevity. Some of these cactus are supposedly over 200 years old.

Spur Cross Trail Map

Our three-hour hike with Liesbet and Mark started on the Dragonfly trail (DF). We then connected to the Spur Cross trail (SX) to the Metate Trail (MT) where we admired the huge saguaro cacti before returning to the parking lot. Great hike!

Pinnacle Peak Trail … uphill both ways

We’ve been visiting Phoenix, Arizona, regularly every since our son moved here nine years ago, but it wasn’t until this year that I discovered Pinnacle Peak Park. Sure, I’ve admired the peak off in the distance while driving the 101 freeway on the north side of Scottsdale but had not seen it up close until this past winter.

Pinnacle Peak trailhead in Scottsdale, AZ
The trailhead at Pinnacle Peak Park

The Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers an amazing out and back hike. However, the trail does connect to other parks if you wanted to extend your hike. Personally, the 3.5 mile out and back uphill both way hike is enough of a butt burner for moi. It usually takes me about 2 hours to complete depending on how frequently I stop to catch my breath or take a photo. The wildflowers have been absolutely stunning lately requiring extra stopping!

wildflowers along the Pinnacle Peak trail in Scottsdale, Arizona
The trail is lined with wildflowers – stunning!

Pinnacle Peak is a super popular trail and the parking lot usually fills by 9:00 a.m. and then hikers start parking along the road. The only time I couldn’t find an open spot to park in the parking lot was during my recent hike with my daughter. We arrived before 9:00 on a Friday morning to a full parking lot. What I failed to take into consideration was spring break … families and kids everywhere. Somehow the crowd had very little impact on us. Perhaps it’s because the trail is wide enough to easily pass one another.

trail marker in Scottsdale, AZ
We made it to the end of the trail.

Also, most of the families turned around at the summit which was a smart move. The most challenging part of the hike is on the backside of the peak where the last quarter mile is rated strenuous. I can definitely attest to that!

uphill both ways

Once we arrived at the end of the trail and it was time to turn around, we noticed exactly how steep the trail back up was and tried to focus on the pretty wildflowers instead of our huffing and puffing. Okay, my huffing and puffing. Daughter is in a lot better shape than I am. Let’s stop and look at the pretty wildflowers was my excuse for needing a rest.

desert wildflowers
Let’s stop and smell the wildflowers!

Pinnacle Peak is another beautiful trail in the Phoenix valley not to be missed. For those not wanting to hike the most difficult part of the trail, my recommendation would be to hike to the “Owl’s Rest” viewpoint then turn around. You’ll still experience a little of that uphill both ways scenario but nothing as strenuous as it gets beyond that point.

Pinnacle Peak Trail Map Scottsdale Arizona

My daughter waiting for me on the trail.

Do these images look like we’re in a city?

If we look through the images on this post, do we feel a sense that we’re in a large city … the fifth largest city in the United States? Boasting an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, a boatload of nature, and all the happenings available in a large city, it’s no wonder tourism is huge business around here.

Scottsdale wildflowers

Rural parks, award-winning chefs, and tons of shopping … yep, go for a strenuous hike in the morning, be a shopaholic in the afternoon, and go out for fine dining in the evening. What more could a gal ask for? Hmm, maybe I need to start checking out some of that fine dining … ya know, purely for blogging purposes πŸ˜‰

Pinnacle Peak Park, Scottsdale, Arizona
Pinnacle Peak Park
This image was taken from the Pinnacle Peak Trail, Scottsdale, AZ –  photograph was taken after a rare snowstorm in February.

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81 thoughts on “Uphill both Ways

  1. Spur Creek looks fabulous! We spent a few days at McDowell Mountain and Lost Dutchman SP in December and absolutely loved it. Exploring all of the wonderful Phoenix parks is on our list, so thanks for the great hiking trail preview. What a gorgeous spring you’re having, with the green desert and the abundance of wildflowers. Beautiful photos, Ingrid.

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    1. Thank you Laurel. You would love hiking at Spur Cross Ranch. The eco-system is interesting. Next time you’re heading through Phx, camp at Cave Creek Reg Park. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. I can even point you toward some great sites and sights 😊

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  2. These are terrific Ingrid. I was amazed at the number of trails of all levels of difficulty during our visit. I’ll admit we took some pretty easy ones. I’m fit but used to flat and below sea level so Arizona is a bit of a stretch for me! I was happy to handle the hills and enjoyed the flowers and cacti along the way. Nice that they’re so accessible. Loved your photos and your overview of the hikes. Will be forwarding your post to my brother who hikes out there.

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    1. Thank you Tina. We really enjoyed our winter in Phoenix even though it was cooler and wetter than normal. I hope to explore a bunch of new trails next winter. Be sure and reach out if you’ll be visiting Phoenix again.

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    1. We have friends that alternate between winters in FL and AZ. They seem to gain weight in FL and loose weight in AZ due to the wonderful and challenging hiking trails throughout the state. I’m originally a flatlander from Illinois, and I do love my mountains and hills out west.

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  3. I so enjoyed this post, Ingrid, thank you. I like your intrepid theory to keep exploring new parks, and loved what you brought to us of from the Phoenix area. Your photos are spectacular, as usual. I especially love seeing the cardinal on the saguaro, the differences in the water, the many lush wildflowers (yes, lupine and poppies!) and hiking trails. Really cool old saguaro on the Metate Trail with all the arms. Great visit to the desert, thanks so much.

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    1. You welcome Jet. I love sharing the unique beauty of the desert southwest. The showing of poppies and lupines this season have been such a joy … relishing them for as long as they’ll stay around, which I’m afraid, won’t be much longer πŸ™‚

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  4. Thanks for introducing Mark and me to the Spur Cross Ranch and trails, Ingrid. We really enjoyed that beautiful and diverse 6-mile hike. I actually didn’t remember (and couldn’t find) the name of the trail anywhere, so thanks for reminding me here, so I can add it to my diary. πŸ™‚

    Your photos are stunning. Especially the wildflowers are amazing. And, now I understand what you meant about the creek rushing and why the planks to cross it are so new. What a difference!

    I have to agree with you that Phoenix has a lot to offer. I totally understand why it has become your winter base. And, those spring breakers… we’ve had plenty of experience with them the last few weeks! More in Sedona than in Page, though.

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    1. It was our pleasure. Spur Cross still remains a favorite. There are still many areas of the Phoenix valley you’ll need to explore. Ah yes, those spring breakers … can really make it difficult to find solace in those beautiful places. Next week, traffic should be back to normal … until summer break anyway 😏

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    1. Awesome! Just an FYI … It is getting hot and the snakes are out. So be careful if you intend to hike. Let me know if I can offer any suggestions for your visit.

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  5. Looks like you fully enjoyed your hiking trip in Phoenix. I’m a big hiking enthusiast and I would definitely want to check out those trails by myself. Great article and wish you plenty of wonderful hiking trips in the future.

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    1. Thanks! I too love that image of the cardinal … a rare find. I promise … Pinnacle Peak is not a ‘Teri’ hike, gosh, I’m not even sure it’s an ‘Ingrid’ hike 🀣. I enjoy it up to the ‘Owl’s Rest’ viewpoint then prefer to turn around. Those steps toward the end of the trail were too much for this old gal!

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        1. Lost Dutchman is the best, but I think next time, I’d love to take you to Spur Cross. You’ll love it …. although a long distance trail runner just fell down an old mine shaft at Spur Cross the other day, not to worry, she was rescued and the rattlesnake that kept her company didn’t harm her 😁 Just another adventure in the wild wild west!

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  6. I will concur… Pinnacle Peak is uphill both ways! Lol!

    We are blessed to have these beautiful trails in the Phoenix area!

    Even though there is traffic here in Phoenix… knowing the back roads to everywhere (which is quite easy) (and which you taught meπŸ˜‰) makes our lives here in the North Valley… FABULOUS!

    Nice pictures!

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    1. Thank you and I think future hikes at Pinnacle Peak should be done like you and I did the first time … a little beyond ‘Owl’s Rest’ viewpoint, then turn around. I did not like those steps at the end.
      I love exploring all these back roads and have figured out shortcuts. We too love the North Valley and now have our full-time lot/home base.

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  7. Yes, hard to believe your photos are taken in suburbia. I read a few of your comments, and agree – kudos to the city for putting in such a wonderful green belt. Also saw from the comments that the gorgeous red bird is called a Cardinal. That saves me asking you that question. Another great post Ingrid, and stunning photography. You are inspiring.

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    1. Awe, thank you Chris. Without all the parks, I’m not sure I would enjoy living here even though our children are close by (which is a bonus and the real reason we spend our time here). I do love having all the conveniences near and we’re never at a loss of things to do.

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  8. What a beautiful post Ingrid! Love every single photo…
    It is amazing how a few miles can completely change the scenery. We are usually in Tucson for the winter and have always heard how congested Phoenix is.

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    1. Oh, Phoenix is congested. You just have to know how to avoid traffic and where/when to drive. Our children live here so it works out very well for us. It has become “home” …. kind of πŸ˜‰

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  9. Beautiful spring surroundings captured beautifully. Oh yes Spur Cross is top on my list for a hike out there in the Phoenix area. We have not been to Pinnacles so maybe that could be on my future trails to try one day. The Cardinal is a stunning red on a green background. All photos are tops1

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    1. Awe, thank you ML. I discovered some great new places to hike this past winter. I’m staying off the trails right now after my recent rattlesnake encounter. Ok, maybe I’ll still hike the popular Pinnacle Peak and hope that someone encounters a snake before me πŸ˜…

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  10. Ahhh…Spur Cross, love that place. Nice to see you tackling Pinnacle Peak, hopefully next winter we’ll get to it. Thanks for a reminder of why we love the desert.

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    1. We had our best time this winter and the weather wasn’t even that great. I’m expecting an even more fun stay next year when a few of my favorite bloggers are in town πŸ˜‰ Lots more hiking in my future!

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  11. I am totally coming here! What a beautiful place to hike… Sans the rushing creek 😏
    BTW, do you have a website or (?) where you find areas to boondock on public land? We’re looking to try out the generator πŸ˜‰

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    1. My first stop is “Campendium.com”. I have friends that like Allstays and freecamping.com. Most Indian Casinos will also allow free dry camping… not always the prettiest, but works, especially if you just need to test things out. When we meander the UP this summer, we’ll be staying at casinos. Stay away from trees πŸ˜† They have a tendency to jump out and bite.
      You guys would love the Maricopa Regional Parks around Phoenix.

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  12. It is awesome that such a large city has prioritized maintaining beautiful natural spaces. That’s not a given, so kudos to them for making sure these parks are preserved and maintained. The before and after pics of that little creek are crazy. Many natural phenomena give us pause. Flash flooding in the desert is up there at the top of the list. Beautiful photos and helpful descriptions as always!

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    1. Seeing a normally dry wash filled with rushing water is quite the sight, especially the first time. I have a respect for those signs that say, “don’t cross when flooded”. There are so many wonderful trails and parks in the area that I’m having a great time testing them out.

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  13. Yes, that would be one hike I would enjoy. Most New Zealand cities have good walks within an hour or less from the city centre. Completely different vistas, though we do have a few mountains.

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  14. I can see why you enjoy being in Pheonix so much. Your excitement comes through with every post. You have showcased the area so well with your beautiful photos and descriptions. I really enjoy seeing all those colorful wildflowers!

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    1. I loved all the wildflowers. Unfortunately, they are already starting to wane. But, by the end of the month, the saguaros should start blooming … always a unique sight to see.

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  15. Your narrative and photos make us want to hit the trail. It seems like the only days we are taking off are the bad weather days so we might have a rainy/snowy hike in our future!

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    1. Ah, but you have a good excuse these days not to be out hiking. Hopefully, the snow is over for you guys and warm weather will help the building process.

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  16. Excellent post! I need to save this for our next visit. Love the saguaros with multiple arms, and I can’t believe you have a picture of a cardinal on a saguaro! Beautiful!

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    1. Thanks! I love that photo of the cardinal. I heard it first and then started looking for it and couldn’t believe it stayed there long enough for me to snap a few images. You know who to contact for info on your next visit to Phoenix 😊

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  17. It is truly amazing to see these views and know they are steps away from the urban areas of Phoenix! The wildflowers look amazing (I love poppies), and how fun to see Liesbet hiking with you, Ingrid!

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  18. Some great hiking locations, Ingrid! Thanks! And your photos are gorgeous. Great composition. Try the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert too. So many birds!! We are leaving Tucson tomorrow and I’m sad very few Ocotillo flowers are red here yet. My fav. Maybe more buds are open today! Got 3 nice hikes in last week. Madera Canyon, Saguaro West, and Saguaro East. All were very different hikes. The wildflowers were amazing in Saguaro West. Have to download all those pics from my Nikon. The prickly pear buds are getting big. But we can’t stick around to see all the gorgeous cactus blooms. Next time. The cold weather delayed the bloom this year. But the snow was fun to see and made the Catalinas strikingly white, unlike anything I’ve seen in Colorado. Arizona is a joy to experience.

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    1. I’ve heard about the preserve in Gilbert. It’s just so far away, that I get a little lazy. Maybe next winter, I’ll go with my photography group. I’m in charge of lining up field trips. The ocotillo’s are definitely a fave.
      Sounds like you had a good stay in Tucson. We had a great winter in Phoenix, although a bit colder and wetter than normal. Hopefully, I’ll be able to meet up with you in June while we’re passing through CO. I’ll keep you posted.

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      1. It was a good time in Tucson. Did some different things than last year. And enjoyed favorites again. We are on our last leg home. It will be nice to return to much warmer weather than when we left! Definitely want to spend time in the mtns this summer. Hope we DO get together in June. That would be a fun time! The Springs keeps getting better! Although much bigger.

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  19. These look like fabulous hikes. I definitely have to explore some of these hikes; I need to settle into Arizona for a good long time and explore all the landscapes. Thanks, Ingrid, for sharing these. πŸ™‚

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    1. There are so many unique and fun places to explore around Phoenix that a week is not enough. Be sure and let me know if and when you come this way πŸ™‚

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  20. Great post, And I got a mention in your blog! I definitely want to try that hike again next year, and I’d love to do Pinnacle Peak, too.
    We are back home now, and the weather has been decent.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, and photos, of the Phoenix area. I look forward to seeing pics of the cactus blooming……

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    1. Glad you made it home safely. I do hope you’ll return for a visit to the Pioneer RV Park next winter. We will definitely hit some trails together and give our cameras a working out. I just got a new iPhone and having fun playing around with it.

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  21. I love all the regional parks, they are a respite from the city for sure. White Tanks has wonderful hiking trails too. We did a steep hike at Usery on Christmas day with my friend from Canada. She was a trooper and we got a great view from the top.

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    1. We used to stay at the various regional parks and loved exploring them. Now we stick to day visits, but I do miss having the birds and views out my front door.

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  22. Such beautiful photos! The Sonoran Desert is so different from the Mojave High Desert around Las Vegas. 🌡🌴😎

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    1. Thank you! The two deserts are vastly different. We lived in LV during the early nineties, and the desert around there isn’t as lush as the Sonoran Desert. I do love my saguaros!

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      1. I agree, the Sonoran looks incredibly lush compared to here. I wonder if the lush has to do with the late summer Monsoons? Las Vegas doesn’t seem to get hit as hard as New Mexico or Arizona.

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        1. Hmm, you might be on to something. I don’t recall Vegas having the flash flooding as frequently as Phoenix, especially in August. I must say, this winter was a wet one for Phoenix, but all the plants loved it. The desert is looking good!

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          1. Good Lord yes, it was too wet! I’ve been in Las Vegas for six years, born and raised in Michigan. this past winter was easily the wettest and coldest since 2013. We don’t get too many major floods here as far as I know but the flash flood warnings are frequent during the monsoons.

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            1. We’ll be spending the summer in northern WI with family and will head into the UP for some exploring. It has been years since we last visited that part of the Midwest. I’m looking forward to it … well, except for mosquitos and ticks … can do without those 😏

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              1. Oh wow, the skeeters! Don’t miss them a bit. My son and daughter live in Oxford, a niece lives in Houghton, another in Oakland, CA. We are spread out!

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  23. Ingrid – thank you for the reminder of possibilities. You really make your days count – I love it. There are so many places around us to get out and enjoy the scenery. Thank you for sharing your beautiful picture of the Arizona landscapes. I am getting back to walking \ hiking with 2 new knees and I look forward to using my area to help me get stronger – wish I had the elevation changes you have, or maybe not! Take care and keep sharing amazing photos of the west. Peace.

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    1. You welcome Clay and thank you for the lovely comment. Lately, we’ve had some things happen to friends that reminds us to live life to the fullest…. as I’m sure you can relate to given your recent loss.

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