Why We Love Phoenix

Why We Love Phoenix

I love the diversity of our RV lifestyle. We’re able to live in a major city one day and move out into nature the next. And when we come across a city such as Phoenix that offers both environments in relatively close proximity, I say this is an RVers dream … jackpot!

“May you live in interesting times.”

BUT … Life is anything but normal these days and I’d be remiss if I jumped right into the content of this post without mentioning a couple of things.

March is usually the busiest and best month to visit Phoenix, Arizona. Wildflowers are in abundance adding vibrant color to our desert landscape, not to mention the beautiful blue skies and near-perfect temperatures that are enjoyed by all. But not his year! Not only has the weather been schizophrenic leaving us wondering what has happened to our wonderful March weather, but the coronavirus has turned the tourism and stock markets into a volatile frenzy.

bee on purple lupine wildflower

Walmart empty isle, no toilet paper at Walmart
Walmart – Where’s the toilet paper?

The Phoenix valley’s robust tourism industry has been severely impacted by potential visitors canceling reservations left and right. Resorts that are normally booked solid and charging premium rates are now half empty and offering discounts. Baseball spring training has also been canceled and all the stores are out of toilet paper. Out of toilet paper! Really?

Ah, but let’s all revel in the fact that this too shall pass and life will return to normal eventually … soon, I hope. For now, I’ll immerse myself in summer trip planning and images of wildflowers. The wildflowers are a given, but our summer travels could be in question if current conditions were to continue.

I’m sure we can all agree that there’s currently too much uncertainty right now that might affect our travels. However, I’m optimistic and think in another month things will turn around, and therefore, our summer travels will continue as planned.

So, let’s get back to talking fun stuff!

An RV friendly city in Arizona

There are so many things to see and do in a big city; museums, restaurants, stores, sporting events, other events, and the list goes on, but the solitude and beauty of nature are always a strong pull for me. What if we can enjoy both?

It’s a rare treat to find an RV friendly city, and when we do, we like to plan a lengthy stay allowing us plenty of time to immerse ourselves in everything big city life has to offer. Since our children live in Phoenix, Arizona and Phoenix is RV friendly, this city has become our winter home.

Golden yellow poppies with a bee flying

The Phoenix valley is not only super popular with RVers but equally popular with all kinds of other visitors; snowbirds, vacationers, convention traffic, seminars, etc. Peak tourist season is January, February, and March … March is the busiest due to Spring Break, excellent weather, and baseball spring training (Cactus League).

The lodging options throughout the Phoenix valley are abundant and diverse. For those of us with RVs, we can find everything from scenic campgrounds to full-on RV Resorts complete with resort-style pools, pickleball courts, and golf courses. For non-RVers, there’s everything from inexpensive hotels, to vacation rentals, to mega-resorts, and everything in between.

An RV camped at Lost Dutchman State Park with the Superstition mountains in the background
Al and I camped at Lost Dutchman State Park located on the far east side of the Phoenix valley in the town of Apache Junction.

If you plan on visiting the Phoenix area and are looking for an RV spot for less than a 2-week stay, I would highly recommend Lost Dutchman State Park. It’s one of our favorite campgrounds. We love the views, hiking trails, and location. Lost Dutchman State Park offers a feeling of being in the backcountry, and yet, shopping and restaurants in nearby Apache Junction are less than a 15-minute drive away … the best of both worlds.

Coming in second to Lost Dutchman State Park would be one of the campgrounds in the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation system. Our personal preference is either Cave Creek Regional Park or Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Our friends prefer McDowell Mountain or Usery Mountain. McDowell Mountain Regional Park is well known for its biking trails while Lake Pleasant is known for its water recreation. There’s definitely a little something for everyone around here.

And of course, there are plenty of private RV parks throughout the valley. So many, that I couldn’t possibly list them all. Most are 55+ communities but there are a few that aren’t age-restricted.

I can't adult today

Valley Talk … The term “Phoenix valley” refers to the actual city of Phoenix as well as her dozen-plus surrounding suburbs. It makes communication easier. You might hear folks comment, “That’s in the east valley (meaning Scottsdale, Mesa, etc.) or that’s in the west valley (meaning Glendale, Goodyear, etc.). Then there’s the north valley near the town of Anthem where I am currently parked. Most people in the U.S. know where Phoenix, Arizona is located, but not everyone has heard of Mesa, Glendale, or Anthem. Therefore, by using the term ‘Phoenix valley’, people have an easy grasp of where in Arizona one is talking about.

Things we like to do in the Phoenix valley …

There’s a never-ending schedule of art shows, craft shows, sporting events, or other events to attend throughout the year in the Phoenix valley. I always discover some unique event worth checking out. Although hiking and photography top my list of favorite activities, there are so many other great recreational and educational opportunities to explore. Yes, RVing in a major city definitely has its pluses.

Scottsdale farmers market
The Farmers Market in Old Town Scottsdale is a great way to start a Saturday morning. I’ll admit, it usually feels a little strange attending a Farmers Market in the middle of winter, but keep in mind, you won’t find a Farmers Market around here during the summer months when temps sore into the 100 degree plus Fahrenheit range. It takes most northerners a little time to wrap their heads around a Farmers Market in the middle of winter, me included.

Corporate conventions and various educational seminars are held throughout the year in Phoenix or Scottsdale. I always keep an eye out for these special events for us to attend. One of our favorites is attending educational TD Ameritrade seminars. We’ve even had the pleasure of meeting Joe ‘JJ’ Kinahan. If you’re a trader or CNBC watcher, then shaking hands with a “celebrity” like JJ might be a real treat like it was for me. We’ve also had the opportunity to meet some of the various traders/instructors from the Think or Swim trading platform. They are always a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.

Desert Botanical Garden butterfly display
My daughter taking a selfie with a Monarch butterfly at the Desert Botanical Garden
Chili and Chocolate Fest
We enjoyed a cooking demonstration while attending the Chili and Chocolate Festival at the Botanical Garden.
western history
Lots of western history just begging to be explored.

Family and friends Spending time with family is our favorite pastime while visiting Phoenix

Let’s get social

Because Phoenix is such a popular travel destination for RVers and non-RVers alike, we never know who we might bump into. It’s always a pleasure connecting with my social media friends in person. Every winter, we enjoy numerous get-togethers with blog readers, blog writers, or folks from other social media platforms. Over the years, we’ve developed some amazing friendships via social media. Phoenix is the perfect city to physically connect with like-minded people.

Golden yellow poppies with a bee flying

Nature around Phoenix

Although I enjoy most aspects of big city living, I have a need to be close to nature and wildlife. Fortunately, with plenty of parks and open space located throughout Maricopa County, I’m still able to get my nature fix while living in a big city.

There’s some amazing scenery in this part of Arizona. Just outside of the city, in the east valley is one of my favorite scenic drives. Driving the Apache Trail makes for a perfect day trip, but before embarking on this drive, do your homework. The stretch of road between the town of Tortilla Flat and Lake Roosevelt is a gravel road and can be pretty rough in spots. A high clearance vehicle is usually recommended. Always check with the local ranger station for up to date conditions regarding Route 88/Apache Trail.

Have you ever visited Phoenix, Arizona? What’s your favorite city to visit?
And please stay healthy and safe out there!

Golden brittle-bush in the foreground Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale AZ in the background

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Why I miss a Home Base | A Major Decision

Why I miss a Home Base | A Major Decision

The life of a nomad can appear glamorous. All you have to do is spend a little time on social media and the stunning images will have you longing to live a life of full-time travel. Yet those beautiful photographs don’t usually tell the whole story. I know I’m guilty of sharing predominantly the upside to RV living. Let’s face it, most people prefer to hear and see the positives of those living the nomadic life and ignore many of the realities.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told we’re living the dream which always makes me cringe. Ah, photographs, videos, and stories might appear like many nomads are indeed living a dream (and many feel they are), but in reality, there are days it’s far from a dream and more like a nightmare.

single lane tunnel in rearview mirror
RV won’t fit in that tunnel.

Travel fatigue, decision weariness, and sensory overload are real things.

My RVing friend, Laura at Chapter 3 Travels, recently wrote an article about travel burnout and the realities of living in an RV full-time. It’s a great read, and I would encourage any RV newbie or wannabe full-time RVer to read it.

Laura says … Because RVing has gotten so popular, and because a bunch of yahoo bloggers are all “blah, blah, blahing” about it online, there are more RVs on the road than ever before. What has not kept up is the supply of campgrounds. Ergo, supply and demand doing their thing means prices are going up and competition for choice sites is tougher than ever. Even worse, back in the olden days, there were plentiful options for boondocking on public lands. Now, many of those places are so overrun with RVers that public lands are actually closing down.

I couldn’t agree with Laura more and I accept the title of yahoo blogger knowing that she’s standing alongside me sharing that title.😁

Yep, traveling in an RV full-time ain’t what it used to be! Long gone are the days of traveling on a whim without reservations. Oh sure, Al and I still wing it when transitioning between locations, but we’re also willing to overnight in parking lots when campgrounds are full. (Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Cabela’s, Casinos, Truck Stops, Rest Stops) Those transitional travel nights are the only time we wing it.

Unfortunately, all the planning and scheduling that’s necessary has taken some of the fun out of RVing and that sense of freedom has changed. RVing full-time can be very stressful!

RV traveling down a deserted road in Utah

Why we got a year-round RV site

We’re in our seventh year of living the nomadic life … living in an RV full-time. A lot has changed over the years, including us. We’ve changed the way in which we travel. We’ve changed our goals and priorities. We’ve definitely slowed down as our equipment and our bodies have aged. Say it isn’t so! But to be honest, we’ve always traveled at a slower pace than a lot of other full-time RVers. Perhaps that’s why travel burnout has taken a little longer to hit us.

Even at our slow pace, we feel downright tired. Tired of planning. Tired of making never-ending decisions. Tired of researching. Tired of wondering if we’ll break down. And tired of worrying.

Now mind you, we’re not done with RV travel. Nope, not even close! We still love the adventure and socializing with like-minded friends, but we feel even the most adventurous need a break from a steady diet of travel. This is why many full-time RVers, Al and I included, start missing a home base … a place to go back to on our terms and regroup. A place we call ‘home’.

Sandhill cranes standing in reflection water
We love hanging out with like-minded friends.

Over the past several years, we’ve actually put contracts in on a few houses but were always relieved when negotiations stalled. We soon realized, we weren’t quite ready for the commitment of a sticks and bricks dwelling and that’s when the thought of an RV lot came to mind. We first heard about RVers owning their own lot several years ago through the Escapees organization.

At the time, we were relatively new to Full-time RVing and the thought seemed ridiculous to us. After all, the whole point of RVing is to travel. Why would anyone want to sit in an RV Park for months at a time? Well, after years of living life on the road, we finally get it! And now we’ve decided to rent a year-round RV site.

Why we chose the Pioneer RV Park in north Phoenix

Since our children live in Phoenix, Arizona this is where we spend the most amount of time throughout the year, and because of that, we made Phoenix our legal domicile several years ago.

Considering Phoenix is a winter hot spot for snowbirds, having a reservation in this entertaining city is an absolute must, especially during the most popular months of January, February, and March. Also, prepare for the city to explode in population during those prime months making traffic potentially difficult, but the good thing is with that influx in people, there’s no shortage of like-minded folks to mingle with and meet, and personally, we like that … just another upside to Arizona.

wild iris

This is our third winter camping at the Pioneer RV Resort near Anthem, Arizona and it feels like home. It’s now our home base and a place we have the freedom to come and go without concerns of reservations or fears of backing in the RV. We know exactly which site is ours. It’s a place we can leave our second vehicle and a place where we feel a sense of community.

We decided to contract for an annual site last spring after our first six-month stay at the park. Six months in one location? Wow, we didn’t think we’d last that long without hitch-itch setting in, but we did. We also felt more relaxed than we had in years. Renting a year-round site seemed to solve most of our travel fatigue without making a long term commitment.

I’ll admit, paying the monthly rent on an RV site all summer while we were away, did grind at me, but when put into perspective, it’s not so bad. Let’s face it, if we had purchased a sticks and bricks house, we’d be paying property taxes and all the other things associated with homeownership every month including the months we are away traveling. So, this is no different and our monthly rental cost is significantly less expensive than most monthly expenditures for real estate.

crabapple with droplets of water

For now, this works and solves some of our weariness. And with a mere thirty-day written notice, my rental obligation is nullified. This is the perfect solution for two people with location commitment issues.🤣 Perhaps if we didn’t have children, we might have chosen a place to purchase real estate by now. Or maybe, we’d still be drifting around. One never knows!

A lot of our RV friends that hit the road full-time when we did have either come off the road altogether or have gone part-time or have purchased lots at the Escapees parks or other similar parks. Then there are others who rent annual lots at various RV parks throughout the country as we’ve decided to do.

This changes everything!

So, with a monthly commitment, Al and I won’t be rolling much in the next year or two. We know we’ll be spending 6-8 months living in Phoenix, and during the hot weather months, we’ll escape the heat by traveling north. We’ll probably spend 3 months this summer back in Hayward, Wisconsin doing a repeat of last summer. We enjoyed that visit with family so much so that we’re already looking forward to this summer’s trip.

Will I miss our winter travels? Absolutely! But the travel downtime and the knowledge of knowing where we’ll be sleeping is very much needed at this stage in our journey. 2021 might look the same or we might shake things up. Aren’t choices wonderful?

So, now you know our plans. We’re always open to connecting. So, if you
find yourself in the Phoenix area, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Happy trails!

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February | Love, Baseball, and Wildflowers

February | Love, Baseball, and Wildflowers

The month of February ranks pretty high on my list of favorite times of the year. It wasn’t always that way. Nope, that didn’t happen until we started spending winters in the south. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, February marks the beginning of spring-like conditions.

Fairweather temperatures, sunny skies, and budding vegetation are telltale signs that the end of winter is near which always brings a smile to my face. Bye-bye winter, hello spring!

February weather in PhoenixSeriously, what’s not to love about February in the desert southwest?

February is the month the desert comes alive. Vegetation of all kinds come out of winter hibernation.

Plants are starting to bloom and by the end of the month, the desert explodes with color from wildflowers, cactus blooms, and budding trees and will continue well into April.

This time of year, the citrus trees are loaded with ripened fruit just waiting to be picked. And let me tell you, delicious doesn’t adequately describe the taste of freshly picked citrus.

My palate is indeed spoiled after picking my own oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. How will I ever eat store-bought citrus again?

Cactus League | Spring Training

February also marks the beginning of baseball spring training. Due to spring training and the gorgeous weather, mid-February and into March are the most popular times to visit the Phoenix valley.

It’s also the most expensive. RV Parks are booked well in advance and hotel room rates are nearly doubled in price. So, if getting up close and personal with your favorite ballplayer is high on your bucket list, be sure and plan well in advance for your Phoenix, Arizona visit.

There are ten stadium locations spread across the valley making it convenient to attend at least one baseball game during any visit. For a Cactus League schedule, click here.

Valentine’s Day in the southwest

Ah, but February isn’t just about baseball and wildflowers. It’s about love. Yes, spending Valentine’s Day in the desert southwest can be very romantic. There’s usually at least one chocolate festival to attend somewhere throughout the valley.

And as much as I love chocolate and indulge regularly, one of my favorite activities and challenges is to spot heart-shaped items while out hiking. I have a couple of friends who collect heart-shaped rocks … something I’d also love to do, but due to space and weight constrictions in my RV, rock collecting is not an option for me. Thoughts of The Long, Long Trailer and Lucille Ball come to mind.

Heart shaped cactus

With thoughts of Valentine’s Day nearing, I begin wondering what Al and I might do to celebrate. Would we celebrate? Perhaps a walk under the moonlight would be a romantic gesture. There are no shortages of great trails around Phoenix to do just that. Realistically, with my poor night vision, I’ll take a pass on night hiking but I would consider the short hike up to Hole in the Rock at Papago Park to watch the sunset, but sharing this cozy spot with twenty-some other people might fall shy of my romantic expectations.

My thoughts are leaning more towards a quiet evening out dressed in something other than hiking attire … maybe! Living in a major city offers a variety of cuisine options. Between Phoenix and Scottsdale, there’s no shortage of award-winning restaurants with food ranging from signature southwestern dishes to interesting international fare and every option in between.

owl couple
Happy couple hanging out together!

I love trying out new restaurants and usually focus on ordering a dish I don’t normally make at home. Then my quest is to try and recreate said dish at some point in the near future back at the RV … with the proviso that Al and I enjoyed the meal.

Ah, with no shortage of romantic options in Arizona, I’m sure Al and I will come up with something to do! How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

                         How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
                                By: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

                         How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
                         I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
                         My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
                         For the ends of being and ideal grace.
                         I love thee to the level of every day’s
                         Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
                         I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
                         I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
                         I love thee with the passion put to use
                         In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
                         I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
                         With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
                         Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
                         I shall but love thee better after death.

love is in the air

What is your favorite month of the year and why?

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One of a Kind Sights in Arizona

One of a Kind Sights in Arizona

While resting on a large boulder, I try to quiet my mind and take in my surroundings. I’m on one of my morning nature hikes. The sounds of birds chirping, water trickling in a babbling creek mere steps from my feet, and the sun warming my body remind me why I enjoy wintering in Phoenix, Arizona.

It’s January and there are no harsh snowstorms for me to worry about. The occasional rainstorm accompanied by high winds is about as bad as it gets. Sure, the temps on rare occasion may drop into the 30 degrees Fahrenheit range (-1 celsius) for an overnight low, but those nights are few and far between. Even then, the days will warm up into the 50s and 60s … perfect for me to lace up my hiking shoes and hit the trails.

America’s fifth-most-populated city is home to red-rock buttes, beautiful scenery, and the kind of cactus most people see only in cartoons. I don’t know about you, but when I used to envision a desert, thoughts of dull, boring, remote, dry, hot, and maybe even dangerous came to my mind. Boy, was I wrong! The Sonoran Desert is anything but boring … it’s still hot and dry, but never boring, dull, or unattractive.

Saguaro Cactus and a lake reflection at sunset at Lake Pleasant Phoenix Arizona
Lake Pleasant, northwest of Phoenix, Arizona

A few desert facts.

Did you know deserts cover about 20% of the Earth? Deserts are characterized by extreme environmental conditions with little precipitation. Yet with minimal rainfall, they are able to inhabit plant and animal life. I’m totally enamored with deserts, especially the Sonoran Desert here in Arizona. Deserts are a fascinating ecosystem, but not all deserts are created equally. There are four types of deserts;

  • hot and dry (Arizona’s Sonoran Desert)
  • semi-arid (America’s Great Basin)
  • coastal (Atacama Desert in Chile)
  • cold (Greenland)

The Sonoran Desert in Arizona is real.

As a child growing up in the Midwest among lush green vegetation, I never had any aspirations of living in a desert. As a matter of fact, I thought those images of red rock bluffs, three-armed cactus, and ever abundant tumbleweed were a fabrication of cartoonists. I remember watching the cartoon “The Road Runner” which took place in America’s southwest. Ah, poor Wile E. Coyote!

a wild coyote walking through the neighborhood

The thought of art imitating life wasn’t something I had considered. The scenery, vegetation, and animals drawn in the cartoon seemed surreal to me, but real they are. You can imagine my excitement when I saw my first ‘real’ road runner, not to mention laying eyes on the strange yet beautiful landscape of the desert southwest. And the night-time howling of a coyote always brings a smile to my face. Yeah, living in the desert can be exciting.

a wild road runner on a boulder in Arizona
Road Runner in Arizona: beep, beep!

image of the Sonoran Desert with hot air balloons in the sky

The star of Arizona

Although there are so many things that make a desert special, the real star and main attraction of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is the saguaro cactus.  It took me weeks of living among these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly – pronounced: sa-wha-ro.

saguaro cactus with interesting clouds Phoenix ArizonaEach saguaro cactus is unique and appears to have a personality of its own.  The Sonoran Desert’s bi-seasonal rainfall pattern results in more plant species than any other desert in the world, and it’s the only place in the world where you’ll see saguaro cactus growing naturally.

The saguaro is a large, tree-sized cactus that can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters) and is native to the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years. It can take 50 to 70 years just for a saguaro to develop one side-arm.  Arms are grown to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity … more arms lead to more flowers and fruit.

Saguaros are very slow-growing and may only grow an inch or two in its first eight years.  The growth rate is determined by climate, precipitation, and location.  Whenever it rains, saguaros soak up the rainwater and the cactus will visibly expand.  This might explain why the desert feels so alive after a rainfall.  The cacti are doing a happy dance!

Every saguaro cactus seems to have its own individual personality; some cute, some not, some look like proud soldiers, some like a cartoon character and others look tired, twisted, and weathered, but no two identical.a forest of saguaro cactus, Tonto National Forest, ArizonaWhat is a Crested Saguaro?

Why are some cactus crested?  Saguaros rarely grow symmetrically and often grow in odd or mis-shapen forms.  The growing tip on rare occasions produces a fan-like form which is referred to as crested or cristate.  Biologists disagree about why some saguaro grow in this unusual form.  Some thoughts; genetic mutation, lightning strike, or freeze damage.  For whatever reason, their pattern growth is fascinating.

Summer Trip Planning

I don’t know about you, but our winter whizzed by. Even though the weather here in Phoenix was cooler and wetter than usual, we still had a very fun and active season. This was the longest stretch of time that we remained camped in one place since Al and I moved into the RV full-time back in June of 2013. Wow, just saying that … I can’t believe we’re close to completing six years of full-time RV living. So much for doing this for just a year or two!

wildflowers in Arizona, summertime, spring flowers

Although we have slowed down our travels, we are in no way close to giving up the RV lifestyle. And as much as our seven-month stay in Phoenix was awesome, that hitch itch is starting to set in and summer trip planning is in full swing.

Our plans for the summer

So, where are we going this summer? We’ll be working our way from Arizona toward northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We have a few stops in mind, but our main destination will be visiting family in Wisconsin. We had such a great, albeit short, visit with family when they came out to Arizona for our son’s wedding, that we all realized a lengthier family reunion needs to be arranged.

For our excursion, there won’t be any advanced RV reservations made on our part. Instead, we’ll travel in our preferred winging it fashion. I already know that staying in picturesque state parks probably won’t be in the plans unless we get lucky snagging a last-minute cancellation. There really is a method to my madness and reasoning behind not making reservations – we don’t want a schedule. The whole reason we travel via our RV is the freedom it affords us, and making commitments takes some of the fluidity out of the equation.

Monument Valley, road trip, summer trip planning

Since we expect most RV parks and campgrounds to be full during the summer months (I did try making some reservations to no avail. State Parks are already all booked up), we’re counting on staying with family, friends, casinos, and wherever else we can find a place to park. I assure you, that first year out on the road, there was no way I could’ve traveled like this. I had such a fear of being homeless … fear of not finding a place to camp that I had a well-planned calendar complete with reservations for the first six months and beyond.

First stop Colorado

distance between two cities, our summer road trip, trip planningOur first two days on the road will include more driving than Al and I have done in over a year. We do have a reason or two for our plan to drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Pueblo, Colorado in two days (752 miles/1210 km)

First off, we know this route like the back of our hands. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve traveled this very route ever since our son moved to Phoenix, Arizona back in 2009, and we still lived in Pueblo West, Colorado. We used to make the drive in one long day, but that was without pulling the RV. With the RV in tow, we’ll definitely break it up into a two-day drive.

We won’t have time to dilly or dally along the way since our main focus will be dealing with our storage units (plural, unfortunately) in Pueblo, Colorado. The goal is to purge our stuff down to one unit. And who knows how much time we’ll need to deal with this daunting task. 😕

Fingers crossed that we get the work out-of-the-way quickly and we can get on with the summer fun!

Slowing down

With the storage unit task behind us, we’ll slow our travels down to a more enjoyable pace and work our way up to South Dakota where we hope to mooch-dock on private property with fellow RVers, Jim and Barb. Treats are in their future. 🥧🍹🍪

Jim and I have followed each other’s blogs for several years and have also communicated via email and Facebook. For now, they remain cyber friends with plans to finally meet in person. I love these internet connections, and we’ve developed some amazing friendships via this lifestyle and social media platform.

pronghorn aka antelope

Our length of stay with Jim and Barb will kind of be up to them, but I promise, it won’t be more than a week. What’s that saying … Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days! However, Jim and Barb are avid angler’s and probably aren’t bothered by the smell of fish and therefore, hopefully, we won’t be kicked off their property at that three-day mark. 🐟

Moving on

summer road trip, trip planning, distance between citiesAfter our Black Hills, South Dakota visit, we’ll meander our way toward Hayward, Wisconsin with the intent of arriving before the long 4th of July weekend. Yeah, we don’t want to get stuck out on the road somewhere without reservations over this busy travel time of year.

See, I still do stress about traveling without reservations especially when heading east. Somehow my free-spirited western mind reverts back to that Chicago gal who plans every detail down to the last minute. Oh, and let’s not get into my German heritage where we vill be on time! Boy, I’ve changed. Let me count the ways, I love thee, RV life 😏

So, the plan is to be comfortably parked on Al’s sister’s property in Wisconsin where we’ll be on and off from early July until sometime in mid to late September.

Again, not wanting to overstay our welcome, Al and I plan to do a little out and back from sister’s property to explore in this part of the Midwest all summer long. It has been many, many years since we were last in this area, and we’re looking forward to revisiting some favorite spots along with exploring new ones.

Preparing the RV for travel

Considering the past twelve months we’ve driven very little, Al and I are in serious road travel preparation mode and that includes making sure the RV and truck are in tip-top shape for our anticipated 5,000-mile (guesstimate) road trip.

RV warranty, Will your RV break down, do RV's breakdown, RV repairs

The truck has already had some major work completed and the RV is being spruced up including a new set of shoes. She’s been outfitted with four new tires and two new spare tires. Unfortunately, Al and I are experienced when it comes to blown tires. Seems to be our thing! Experience has taught us to travel with two spares. 😆 I’m sure glad we can laugh about it!

Our long list of to-dos is slowly dwindling and with the southwest weather starting to heat up with temperatures already nearing the 100-degree Fahrenheit range (37c), we’ll be more than ready to roll come the end of May. If it weren’t for a few lingering appointments, i.e. dental, etc., we’d be on the road today.

Recommendations, suggestions from you?

Okay, now that you know what our tentative plans are for the summer, I’d love your help. I’d appreciate any recommendations for places to camp especially any Indian Casinos in Wisconsin and upper Michigan or other options to camp that might have openings … boondocking, mooch-docking, parking lots, we’re not picky. We just don’t like heavily wooded sites, or shall I say, our RV roof doesn’t like trees. Speaking from experience, RV roof boo-boos are no fun. They can be costly and time-consuming. So, we’ll pass on the trees and leave them for everyone else to enjoy 🌳🌲🍃

Also, I’m in that time gate where I don’t mind making reservations since I have a better handle on our schedule (August, September, and late July – we’ll need parking just for a few days here and there because we plan on returning to stay with family in Hayward, WI).

How about things to see and do in northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? I do know, we’ll want to revisit Mackinac Island and may want to overnight at a B&B on the island. Last time Al and I did that was in the early 1980s. 😳 Am I really that old? I revisited Mackinac Island with my daughter in 2011 and we regretted not overnighting on the island.

Mackinac Island, summer road trip, visit Michigan, island vacation
Me biking on Mackinac Island in 2011

Pictured Rocks and Tahquamenon Falls are a couple of places I’d like to visit, but not sure where we’ll find an available campsite.

I’m all ears! Please leave your suggestions in the comments below or feel free to email me anytime at livelaughrv@hotmail.com.  Thanks in advance AND if anyone is interested in meeting up, let’s see if our schedules can match up.

Happy travels everyone! Anyone have an epic trip planned this summer?

South Dakota badlands, summer road trip, RVing in South Dakota
Camped in the Badlands, South Dakota 2015

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Rattlesnakes in Arizona

Spring in the desert southwest is always enjoyable. The weather is near perfect and the wildflowers are blooming. It’s so pretty and a great time of year to visit Phoenix, Arizona but as we get further into the month of April, the Phoenix desert starts heating up. We’ve already had some days exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Listening to the local weather report can be quite entertaining, especially when they talk about cold fronts. We have family members who live in northern Wisconsin. While our Wisconsin family remain bundled up in winter attire shoveling out from a recent snowstorm, we too suffered a cold front; gusty winds and a temperature high of only 75 degrees F. We almost couldn’t wear shorts. I guess, a cold front is a cold front, it’s all relative 😄

I assume that you aren’t exactly feeling sorry for me and my weather woes, but when I tell you who I’m likely to share the trail with while out hiking, you might feel differently. 🐍

What to do when you encounter a rattlesnake, diamondback, hiking in Phoenix, Arizona snakes

It’s snake season but also baby season

As much as I’m loving the warm sunny weather, so do the snakes. I’m not sure I’ll ever get comfortable coming face to face with a Diamondback rattlesnake, and each snake encounter causes me to stay off the trails for a while … and may be the cause of a few more grey hairs!

Being startled by a rattlesnake sure gets my heart pounding, and I feel quite rattled as I’m sure does the rattlesnake.

an horned owl nesting in a saguaro cactus in Phoenix Arizona
An owl’s nest in a saguaro cactus

Eventually, my apprehension to hike subsides, and I’m back out hiking but choosing trails that are wide and popular with plenty of other hikers out on the trail. I’ve also learned to keep my eyes down while scanning the trail.

By choosing a popular hiking trail, it’s my hope that the activity keeps the snakes away or that someone else spots her first, which was the case in my recent diamondback rattlesnake meet up.

Two weeks ago, Al and I decided to start our hike at the Desert Vista Trailhead which is part of the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. I’ve hiked here before and knew about a Great Horned Owl’s nest. Her nest is huge and constructed between the arms of a large saguaro cactus. Really interesting to see.

I figured by early April, momma owl most likely would be caring for her offspring, and I wanted to see if I could photograph her, or at the very least, see a little owlet.

Great horned owl nesting in a saguaro cactus with an owlet
Great Horned Owl with an owlet.

Score! Ms. Owl was pretty far away and I had to zoom in as much as possible (600mm). I wish I could’ve captured a better image of her and her owlet, but it was still fun seeing mom and baby through my zoom lens.

After a few camera clicks, we continued on our hike.  As we rounded a corner, another couple hiking stopped us to warn us of a rattlesnake along the trail. Cool! I had fair warning, and therefore, wasn’t startled … this is the best scenario if you’re going to meet a rattlesnake on the trail.

What to do when you see a rattlesnake?

The first thing you do is grab your camera … okay, no you don’t. The first thing you do is step away slowly to not alarm the snake. The snake will strike if it feels threatened. If you are a safe distance away from the rattlesnake, then maybe you can take a photo or two. But keep in mind, a rattlesnake can strike about half its length and is fast. So, if you see a six-foot snake know that it can possibly strike a subject three-feet away. And when they’re coiled up, it’s hard to tell exactly how long that snake is. Always veer on the side of caution!

taking a photograph of a rattlesnake along the trail
We stopped these gals from walking past the rattlesnake. The snake is hidden in the shadow of the little bush-like cactus and coiled in strike position. Photo-op! Those Cholla cactus are also a danger.
diamondback rattlesnake in Phoenix, Arizona seen while hiking
Here she is up close. You can see her rattle and the beautiful diamond-shaped pattern on her skin. She blends in easily with the landscape.

Arizona is home to thirteen different species of rattlesnakes. Some may rattle before striking, but not always. So, they are definitely unpredictable. Each hiker, Al and I included, walked past her quickly … giving her a wide berth, but she did rattle with each passerby. As hikers, we not only had to worry about the snake striking but also not walking too close to the Teddy Bear Cholla cactus aka jumping cholla. If you get too close to one of these cactus, a needled segment will break off and fly at your body. Crazy, huh! And the thorns are like little fishhooks … ouch!

After our diamondback rattlesnake encounter, the rest of our hike was pleasant and uneventful. And these days, I’m sticking to trails that are wide and popular. This gal doesn’t like surprises!

A close up a diamondback rattlesnake with tongue hanging out

How to make your desert visit safe?

  • Watch your step and be on the lookout for snakes. Rattlesnakes are known to blend in with their environments. When traveling at night, carry a flashlight to make sure every step is the right one.
  • Think twice before walking through vegetation and never put your hands where you can’t see them. You could be reaching blindly into a shrub, bush, or rock where a snake may be hanging out.
  • Don’t approach or provoke a snake. More than half of all rattlesnake bites are caused by provoking or approaching a snake. Keep a close eye on children and pets.
  • Never make a snake feel threatened. It doesn’t want to strike you any more than you want to be bitten.

Phoenix diamondback rattlesnake coiled in grass

Tips if you’re bitten

DO:

  • Keep the bitten area still and stay calm.
  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Remove any jewelry near the affected area in case of swelling.
  • Elevate the wound area if possible.
  • If you’re hiking, call 911 and if possible slowly walk to a trailhead or the nearest trail marker. Do not run. Keep body activity to a minimum to avoid the spread of venom.

DON’T:

  • Don’t drive yourself to the hospital.
  • Don’t use ice to cool the bite.
  • Don’t cut open the wound and try to suck out the venom.
  • Don’t use a tourniquet. This will cut off blood flow and the limb may be lost.
  • Don’t attempt to administer your own first aid.

Most popular snakes found in the Phoenix area

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (venomous). This is the most commonly encountered rattlesnake in the Phoenix valley and can be found anywhere where neighborhoods are near native desert habitat. They are large, aggressive, and venomous, so keep your distance and let it move on. They can be identified by the rattle, white and black striped tail, and white-lined diamond pattern on the back. Coloration is usually drab shades of brown or grey.

Diamondback rattlesnake sunning itself on a rock

Sonoran Sidewinder (venomous). Sidewinders are small rattlesnakes that live in sandy desert areas. Most are 2 feet long or less and move with a distinctive side-winding motion. These are common in the outskirts of the Phoenix West Valley in washes or flat, open areas. They avoid rocky areas. They are easily identified by the horns that protrude over each eye, and the white and brown ribbon going down the back.

Speckled Rattlesnake (venomous). Speckled rattlesnakes live in rocky areas near mountains or hillsides. They vary in color, from a white/grey in the South Mountain and White Tanks areas, brown in North Phoenix, and orange and red going North into Cave Creek and the Anthem areas. They have a loosely banded pattern that is highly flecked to resemble granite. They’re most common in the South Mountain area.

Sonoran Gophersnake (harmless). The Sonoran Gophersnake is a large snake that can be found everywhere in the Phoenix area, even in alleyways and backyards in urban areas. These are very commonly mistaken for rattlesnakes due to a very good impersonation, which includes flattening the head, loud hissing, striking, and even a rattling tail. While they can become quite large and give a painful bite, they are otherwise completely harmless and great to have around for rodent control.

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Our Phoenix Adventure Continues

It was day two of our blogger get together. I had another fun excursion planned for the day sharing some of my favorite Arizona scenery with friends. While getting ready that morning, I received a text message from Nancy reluctantly bowing out of the day’s activities.

A view of the Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park with a coyote sundial and saguaro cactus
The Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park

Although I understood why she wasn’t able to join Teri and me, I couldn’t help but tease Nancy with a reply, “NO! You are my plus one for the HOV lane. You have to join us”. (HOV=High Occupancy Vehicle – aka carpool lane, 2+ lane). In order for me to pick up Teri at her hotel, I’d be traveling from the far north end of the Phoenix valley down to the far southeast end of the valley, which’ll take me a little over an hours drive through the thick of Phoenix traffic. I’d have to time my travels with rush hour traffic in mind since losing my plus one. “Why Nancy, why?” 😥😆😘

FYI for trip planning to Phoenix, Arizona. March is the busiest month of the year. Our population explodes with tourism due to the fantastic weather and baseball spring training. RV parks are full and hotels charge double during this time of year. And traffic is insane, like most major cities. Although, the city is super easy to navigate considering it’s laid out in a grid style manner.

Valley Talk … The term “Phoenix valley” refers to the actual city of Phoenix as well as her dozen or so surrounding suburbs. You might hear folks comment, “That’s in the east valley (meaning Scottsdale or Mesa) or that’s in the west valley (meaning Glendale or Goodyear). Then there’s the north valley where I’m camped and I’ll need to travel to the south valley to pick up Teri at her hotel … I think you get the idea.

Rugged scenery near Phoenix

On the far east side of the Phoenix valley lies the Superstition Mountains (aka the Superstitions). This beautiful and rugged terrain is a favorite of mine, and anytime I’m able to camp at Lost Dutchman State Park or even visit just for the day, I’m a happy camper.

So, of course, I just had to share this stunning landscape with Teri. Knowing Teri was a flatlander from Ohio, I was very selective about which trail we’d hike and made sure she was well prepared for the terrain and strong sun. With that said, she still wasn’t convinced I wasn’t trying to kill her; was it the uphill climb, or our second ever get together, or was it the folklore surrounding the area …. hmm?

two hikers at the Superstition Mountains with a snow-capped Flatiron in the distance
Me on the left, Teri on the right with “the Flatiron” in the background.

How the Superstitions got their name

Stories and mystery abound. This mountain range was called several different names by explorers long before the local farmers in the late 1800s gave it its final namesake. The Salt River Valley farmers had heard stories about strange sounds, people disappearing, and mysterious deaths from the Pima Indians. An overall fear of the mountain influenced the farmers to believe the Pimas were superstitious about this particular mountain, and therefore, the name Superstition Mountain was born.

Lost DutchmanAnd then there’s the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s gold, which is another mystery to the Superstition Mountains. To this day, many people believe there is a hidden fortune to be found out there somewhere.

Due to the severely rugged nature of the terrain, extreme changes in temperature, harsh winds, and dangerous wildlife, the Superstition Mountains have had their fair share of casualties.

There are more disappearances here than any other mountain range in Arizona. On average, about four to five hikers die each year and rescues are a common occurrence.

But hikers and explorers trek on. Unfortunately, many are unprepared regardless of warnings by local Rangers. Whether these hikers are adventurous, reckless, gullible or superstitious, the reality remains that there are a great number of tragedies linked to this wilderness area. It should be revered and respected. When visiting the Superstition Mountains, please wear sturdy shoes. Leave your flip-flops at home and bring plenty of water.

Superstition Wilderness
Superstition Mountains, Arizona

The perfect hike for a flatlander

Knowing this was Teri’s first time hiking at the Superstitions, I wanted to introduce her slowly to the beautiful landscape, and not scare her off with too difficult of a hike. Once parked at the Saguaro day use area at Lost Dutchman State Park, we started our hike on the handicap accessible informative Discovery Trail which connects the picnic area to the campground. (DI in red on map). Super easy trail and great for a warm up.

We then connected to the Siphon Draw Trail (SD is shown to the right in brown on the map). The Siphon Draw Trail is a continuous uphill hike that will eventually lead to the top of Flatiron …. experienced hikers only. We hiked a short portion of Siphon Draw before connecting to Jacobs Crosscut (JC in green). Due to the continuous uphill hike, Siphon Draw was the most challenging stretch of the trail for Teri, and I’m sure she was wondering what this new friend of hers had gotten her into.

hiking the superstition wilderness
Teri tries hiding from me.

After I did a little prodding to keep us moving, Teri eventually found her hiking groove especially on the Jacobs Crosscut trail, the perfect trail for a flatlander. The trail runs parallel to the mountain and is mostly level with only a little up and down in spots. By the time we reached the crossroad for the Treasure Loop trail (TL is shown on the left in brown on the map), Teri was even contemplating extending our hike instead of returning to the parking lot. Clearly, she was bitten by the hiking bug and realized her new friend wasn’t trying to kill her after all.

a hiker along the trail at the base of the Superstition Mountains
Teri enjoying her hike on Jacob’s Crosscut Trail at the Superstition Mountains

This is a loop hike I’ve done several times before and normally I can complete it in an hour, but since Teri and I were stopping to admire the scenery, taking photographs, and doing lots of chit-chatting, it took us an hour and a half to complete. This is the perfect hike for any desert newbie and/or for those easing themselves into trail hiking.

And remember, if you start feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated. You can’t possibly drink too much water out on the trail. I kept harping on Teri to drink her water. I promise you won’t need a restroom. The desert sucks the water right out of you. Lack of hydration is the number one reason visitors to Phoenix get into trouble and need rescue aid.

Time for lunch

After our enjoyable hike, it was time to head up the road for lunch at the quaint little tourist town of Tortilla Flat. The drive itself is beautiful, but be forewarned, it is a twisty curvy road with drop-offs.

The restaurant has saddles for bar stools.

The food was just okay. The atmosphere was entertaining, but we really enjoyed the scenery outside of the restaurant much more. The Salt River was running fast and furious and Teri and I had fun just sitting along the water’s edge.

A hiker sitting on a rock along the Salt River near Tortilla Flat, AZ
Teri along a fast running Salt River

I had a couple more stops in mind, but one glance at the clock had me remembering rush hour traffic. It was either hit the road before 3:00 or wait until after 6:00. Since I was already running low on energy plus had obligations the next day, I reluctantly took Teri back to her place before 3:00 and started my one-hour-plus drive home.

More hiking in our future

I had a great time meeting Teri, and I’m already looking forward to more photography outings and hikes with her in Arizona. Hopefully next time, we can schedule more time together and our good friend, Nancy, will be able to join us. This tour guide has a lot more plans up her sleeve!

superstition wilderness area Phoenix, AZ

For a few more things to see and do in the area, please click here.
And for more information on the hiking trails at Lost Dutchman State Park, click here.

#best hikes in Phoenix, #where to hike in Arizona, #scenic Phoenix, #hiking, #must see sights in Arizona

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Three Bloggers, Three Cameras, One Desert

Wilderness, wild horses, pristine waters, and adventure await, all within a mere thirty minute drive away from the hustle and bustle of the big city of Phoenix, Arizona. I always enjoy my time exploring the far east side of the Phoenix valley, and my recent excursion with blog friends did not disappoint.

wild horses against a field of yellow poppies near Phoenix, Arizona
Salt River wild horses, Tonto National Forest, Arizona

A blogger meet-up

First, I’ll need to set the stage. It was the last week of February and the first pleasant weather of the month. What a crazy winter we’ve had in the desert southwest this year. The wonderful weather was perfect timing for my cyber friend Teri to come to Arizona for a visit.

three blogging gals with wild horses in the background
Nancy, Teri, me, wild horses in the background

Teri and I have followed each other’s blog for over five years, yet this would be our first connection in person.

Let’s add in another blogger, Nancy. Again, she and I started off as cyber friends via our blogs, but since we live only a ten-minute drive away from one another, we’ve socialized regularly.

So, there you have your three bloggers; Nancy, Teri, and me. Our common thread is blogging and a passion for photography. Therefore, our get together had to be centered around gathering blog material and capturing interesting photographs. Oh, we’ll add in a little goofing around just for fun.

It was a sunny Monday morning when I picked up Nancy at her place then jumped on the interstate to head to the FAR southeast side of the Phoenix valley. Nancy and I live on the far north end of the valley. Seriously Teri … could you have picked a hotel any further away? Just asking! 😏 An hour plus drive and a few hugs later, the three of us, along with our three cameras, were on our way in search of wild horses.

More driving, too much talking, distracted driver, missed exits, turned around BUT not lost 🤣 … we eventually made it to our first stop along the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest.

An egret lands along the shore of the Salt River near Phoenix Arizona. Snow capped Four Peaks can be seen in the distance.

Water is life

There’s a saying in the west, “Whiskey’s fer drink’n, and water’s fer fight’n over“. Water is a precious commodity in America’s desert southwest, and anytime one stumbles upon a body of water, it’s a special treat. And the Salt River is indeed a special treat in an otherwise dry landscape.

Through a series of dams creating reservoirs, the Salt River provides water to the Phoenix valley, as well as local wildlife. The wildlife and beautiful scenery were our focus of the day, and we really got lucky scoring a fantastic day.

Our first stop was a simple picnic area just off the highway. Unfortunately, densely covered tall reeds obstructed any photographic view of the water, but our second stop had these three bloggers doing a happy dance. Teri was busy photographing reflections in the water while Nancy was enamored with Four Peaks covered in snow, and of course, it was all about the shorebirds for me.

We could’ve spent hours here just exploring and taking photographs, but we were on a mission which included tracking down a herd of wild horses.

Our next stop was at the Coon Bluff Loop picnic area. I immediately zeroed in on a small group of photographers with long camera lenses standing near the river. There’s something about living the RV life that transforms a normally shy introverted individual into an out-going stranger approaching person. Stranger danger … what’s that? 🤣 After a brief chit-chat with one of the wildlife photographers, we took his advice and were on our way up the road to the location he shared. I never did figure out what they were photographing at Coon Bluff.

Supposedly, the guy had spent that morning photographing some wild horses near Saguaro Lake. So, that’s where we decided to go. We hoped he wasn’t sending us on a wild goose chase.

Siesta time for this herd of wild horses

Salt River Wild Horses

Sure enough! We found the herd of horses that the nice gentleman told us about. They were gorgeous and looked healthy. We kept our distance, walked around slowly, spoke softly, and reminded each other that these horses are wild.

Me admiring the horses and field of poppies

Out of respect for the horses, we didn’t hang around too long. After all, they were trying to take a nap. So, once we had our fair share of photographs, we were on to our next stop. For more information on the Salt River horses, please visit this website – Salt River Wild Horse Management Group.

Saguaro Lake picnic

It was already past noon and our stomachs were growling when we bid farewell to the wild horses. Unbeknownst to my friends, I had packed us a picnic lunch and knew exactly where to snag a picnic table with a view. I also knew we’d be pretty far away from any food establishment which is why I came prepared with lunch. A good tour guide knows these things!

However, little did I know we’d have additional guests for lunch. The squirrels were rather aggressive and when one jumped on the table … well, let’s just say Miss Nancy was none too pleased. I’m not sure if I heard “disease-carrying rodent” or “don’t touch my wine“. 🤣 The words “attack of the wild squirrels” may have even been thrown around. Ah regardless, they provided another source of laughs, wildlife photography, and entertainment for the day.

Saguaro Lake, Phoenix, AZ
Saguaro Lake

After lunch, it was time for a little stroll along the waters edge and more photo snapping.

Our last stop of the day was at a scenic overlook. This is one of my favorite stops for afternoon photography. I discovered this spot about six years ago and always make it a point to stop here whenever I’m in the area, even if I only have five minutes.

Salt River, Phoenix, AZ
Salt River

Wrap up of Day One

That about wraps up day one of our blogger get together. Day two will include more photography and a scenic hike. That’ll be in my next post. Until then, I’ll share a few more pics of the day and a map of where we stopped. To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.

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Phoenix Tour Guide

I was grateful that the Phoenix, Arizona, weather finally returned to temperatures we love and expect in the desert southwest during this time of year. With clear skies once again upon us, I didn’t waste any time getting out with the camera and exploring.

snow covered peaks in the distance reflecting in the Salt River while a white egret flies by
The Salt River with Four Peaks coated in snow. Far east side of the Phoenix valley

It has been a crazy and hectic week for me, but in a good way. Therefore, today’s post will be short and I’ll share just a snippet of what I’ve been up to.

Popular valley hike

On February 21st and 22nd, Phoenix encountered some record weather … cold, rain, hail, and snow. Yes, snow in Phoenix, Arizona. What a rare treat to behold! And although, we spend our winters in Phoenix to avoid cold and snow, this storm truly added an unexpected beauty to the landscape.

an RV park in Phoenix, Arizona with a snow coated hill in the background
Our RV park in Phoenix, Arizona, experiences snow

We woke up to clear skies on Saturday the 23rd, and I just had to get out and take in the landscape. I bundled up and headed off to hike the Pinnacle Peak trail located in north Scottsdale. The cold brisk air (37 degrees Fahrenheit when I first started) didn’t deter me or other hikers on this popular trail.

Pinnacle Peak trail in Scottsdale, Arizona. Large boulders and yellow flowers line the trail with snow capped mountains in the distance
Pinnacle Peak trail with snow-covered mountains in the distance. Note the bright yellow wildflowers along the trail.

I’ll do a detailed write-up on the trail once I have a little down time.

Pinnacle Peak trail with wildflowers in the foreground
There was still a little snow here and there near the peak. What a beautiful contrast with the wildflowers lining the trail.

Tour guide duty

Then came Monday and Tuesday which kept me extra busy exploring and visiting with a couple of blogging gal pals. Teri and I have followed each others blogs for over five years, yet this would be the first time we’d actually meet in person. On the other hand, fellow blogger Nancy and I have hung out many times. Fortunately, Nancy lives a mere ten minutes away from my RV Park making it convenient for us to hike together anytime.

three different feet wearing hiking shoes photographed near a pristine lake near Phoenix, Arizona
Three bloggers in search of blog material

Since the three of us all met via our blogs, we’re always looking for blog material. With that in mind, it was time for me to pick up the ladies and go into tour guide mode. Actually, I seem to be doing a lot of Phoenix tour guiding this season, and I’m loving every minute sharing some of my favorite sights with out of town friends.

First on the list was tracking down the Salt River wild horses. Check!

hikers in a field of yellow poppies near 2 wild horses
We find a herd of wild horses near a field of blooming poppies – only 2 horses seen here

Our growling tummies told us it was time to bid farewell to the horses and move on. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Saguaro Lake followed by a little hiking along the shore … all of which included lots of photography. The next day, we were off to a new place to take in some other popular yet picturesque sights in Phoenix’ east valley.

Teri shares her backside while Nancy frames a photograph

We had such a great time together and hated to say goodbye to Teri. I assure you, she didn’t seem eager to return to the weather in Ohio. So, I’m hoping she’ll make it an annual trek back to Phoenix for more blogger shenanigans. And yes, I’ll need to do a more detailed post on our two wonderful and fun days hanging out together.

A happy Teri – gal and her camera

Keeping busy

The fantastic weather is making it difficult for me to stay home and get anything done. I’ve been enjoying new discoveries, as well as visits with friends and family at every opportunity, and today I’m attending a wedding.

I think, next week I’ll slow things down and hopefully get some posts written up. In the meantime, hope life is good wherever you are. Enjoy these wildflowers!

desert flowers against a log background
Taken on a trail Friday – March 1st

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The Southwest’s Main Attraction

When I envision a desert, thoughts of dull, boring, remote, dry, hot, and maybe even dangerous come to mind. At least that was the image that came to my mind years ago, and I think most people would have similar thoughts. But when we look closer, we’ll find the desert to be anything but boring … it’s still hot and dry, but not boring or dull 😄

Lake Pleasant Phoenix Arizona
Lake Pleasant, northwest of Phoenix, Arizona

A little desert knowledge

Did you know deserts cover about 20% of the Earth? Deserts are characterized by extreme environmental conditions with little precipitation. Yet with minimal rainfall, they are able to inhabit plant and animal life. I’m totally enamored with deserts, especially the Sonoran Desert. Deserts are a fascinating ecosystem, but not all deserts are created equally.There are four types of deserts;

  • hot and dry (Arizona’s Sonoran Desert)
  • semi-arid (America’s Great Basin)
  • coastal (Atacama Desert in Chile)
  • cold (Greenland)

The Sonoran Desert in Arizona is real

As a child growing up in the Midwest among lush green vegetation, I never had any aspirations of living in a desert. As a matter of fact, I thought those images of red rock bluffs, three-armed cactus, and ever abundant tumbleweed were a fabrication of cartoonists. I remember watching the cartoon “The Road Runner” which took place in America’s southwest. Ah, poor Wile!

coyote

The thought of art imitating life wasn’t something I had considered. The scenery, vegetation, and animals drawn in the cartoon seemed surreal to me, but real they are. However real the landscape and animals, the cartoon itself was filled with a lot of imagination and fabrication making it ridiculously funny. Wile E. Coyote uses absurdly complex contraptions to try to catch the Road Runner, which always “backfire” resulting in an injured coyote. Many of the items for these contrivances are mail-ordered from a company named Acme Corporation. Hmm, I wonder if Jeff Bezos got his business idea for Amazon from the Acme Corporation 😆

a road runner on a boulder in Arizona
Road Runner in Arizona: beep, beep!

You can image my excitement when I saw my first ‘real’ road runner, not to mention laying eyes on the strange yet beautiful landscape of the desert southwest. And the night-time howling of a coyote always brings a smile to my face. Yeah, living in the desert is never dull or boring.

image of the Sonoran Desert with hot air balloons in the sky

The star of the Sonoran Desert

Although there are so many things that make a desert special, the real star and main attraction of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is the saguaro cactus.  It took me weeks of living among these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly – pronounced: sa-wha-ro.

saguaro cactus with interesting cloudsEach saguaro cactus is unique and appears to have a personality of its own.  The Sonoran Desert’s bi-seasonal rainfall pattern results in more plant species than any other desert in the world, and it’s the only place in the world where you’ll see saguaro cactus growing naturally.

The saguaro is a large, tree-sized cactus which can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters) and is native to the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years.   It can take 50 to 70 years just for a saguaro to develop a side arm.  Arms are grown to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity … more arms lead to more flowers and fruit.

Saguaros are very slow-growing and may only grow an inch or two its first eight years.  The growth rate is determined by climate, precipitation, and location.  Whenever it rains, saguaros soak up the rainwater and the cactus will visibly expand.  This might explain why the desert feels so alive after a rainfall.  The cacti are doing a happy dance!

Every saguaro cactus seems to have its own individual personality; some cute, some not, some look like proud soldiers, some like a cartoon character, and others look tired, twisted, and weathered, but no two identical.saguaro

A crested saguaro

AND then there is the rare crested saguaro.  Why are some crested?  Saguaros rarely grow symmetrically and often grow in odd or mis-shapen forms.  The growing tip on rare occasion produces a fan like form which is referred to as crested or cristate.  Biologists disagree about why some saguaro grow in this unusual form.  Some thoughts; genetic mutation, lightning strike, freeze damage.  Fascinating to say the least for whatever reason!