Rattled

I’ve always enjoyed walking, but I didn’t develop an interest in hiking until a road trip my daughter and I took back in 2007 to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  I’m not sure what possessed me to agree to the almost four hour round trip hike with a 2,000 foot elevation gain up to Harney Peak, but Ashton had me convinced we could do it.

hiking in ArizonaIt turned out to be a fabulous hike – my knees may have disagreed, but  Ashton and I both agreed it was extremely enjoyable even though we arrived back at our vehicle tired and sore.

Although the hike challenged me, I found it invigorating.  It made me feel so alive.  I couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, experiencing that kind of feeling, and couldn’t wait to plan our next hike.

I should probably mention that at the time, I was an out of shape workaholic carrying an extra twenty pounds more than I currently carry.  The day after the hike, my legs and feet hurt so much I had trouble walking, but I felt awesome.

Fast forward to today, hiking has become a regular part of my life.  Granted, I don’t embark on any epic all day hikes like some of my RVing pals (you know who you are 😉 ) but I thoroughly enjoy those one to three-hour hikes amongst beautiful scenery.wildflowers

This time of year is particularly pretty in the desert southwest with the trails lined with wildflowers.  The cactuses are budding and some are starting to bloom.  Up until two weeks ago, I could be found in the morning hiking three to four days a week for an hour or two somewhere in the Phoenix metro area.  There are so many fabulous parks in Phoenix to hike and explore that getting bored would be difficult.

desert flowersAnd then the weather started getting hot …. hotter than normal for this time of year, which required I get out on the trail a little earlier.  On that fateful morning two weeks ago, I knew I was running late, temps were already in the 80’s (Fahrenheit) and I would need to be vigilant in keeping an eye out for snakes.

I left the camera at home wanting to focus on exercise and not allow myself to get distracted.  Yeah, good luck on that!  I always carry my cell phone with me for emergency purposes and it just so happens it takes photographs, which works in a pinch.

I was clipping along, making good time on my morning hike.  In spite of the heat, I kept my pace quick all the while keeping my eyes peeled on the trail in front of me and scanning the vegetation from side to side.  I’m not freaked out by snakes, but I’m also not a fan of the slithery creatures.rattle snakeI was on a trail leading me back to the truck with maybe fifteen minutes left to go and that’s when the movement in the brush stopped me in my tracks.  Mr. rattle snake was coiled in strike position and his head was bobbing back and forth as if he was dancing.  His tongue was flickering while our eyes met.snakes

I stood there frozen for a split second then gently backed away.  Once I retreated, he slowly lowered himself and starting slithering first toward me (I walked backwards some more) and then toward the other side of the trail.snakes

I stopped a women and her dog from passing me.  She was grateful that I had seen the snake first or she might have walked right by it.  We watched the snake cross the trail and counted five rings on his rattle.

This was not my first snake sighting on a trail.  I almost stepped on a bull snake in southern Colorado.   He was crossing the trail and I wasn’t paying attention.  Fortunately, I looked down before stepping on him.  Although a little started initially, I continued on my hike without concern.desert hikingThis encounter with the rattle snake rattled me …. rattled me to my core…. to the point it took me nearly ten days just to get out on the trail again.  Even then, I couldn’t enjoy that hike.  I’m afraid I’ve turned into a nervous hiker, but am hopeful in time my fears will ease.

All photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 5, and thus, not the best quality.  From now on, I won’t leave home without my Sony DSCWX350 18 MP Digital Camera (Black) Since this was my first rattle snake encounter in the wild, I wish I had gotten better photos of the snake, especially considering its my goal not to come face to face with another snake!desert hiking

Asian shrimp

 

Less time on the trails, means more time in the kitchen…… much to Al’s delight.  Click here for my Lemon Shrimp recipe.

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Gals & Guys

While hanging at the EXPO, the four of us discussed getting together one more time before Linda and Mike hit the road.  They were off to explore parts of northern Arizona while Al and I were extending our time in Phoenix just a little longer to help our son with some projects on his house.Phoenix Botanical GardenAlthough the EXPO provided the guys with shooting opportunity, it was just enough shooting to wet Al and Mike’s appetite.  As I listened to the two guys conversing, much of the language was lost on me as I’m not necessarily a fan of guns.  Thus, the conversation sounded more like, “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours”.  Ah yes, boys and their toys.

sporting clays

the guys get ready to shoot sporting clays – safety first.

Mike is more of a pistol shooter while Al is predominantly a shotgunner.  The previous week the guys, along with their sons, spent time at the Pistol Range at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility allowing Mike to share all his toys with Al.  Now it was time for Al to share his toys.  Plans were quickly forged for Al to introduce Mike to Sporting Clays.

Wanting Mike’s first experience to be a fun one, Al arranged to have a large, slow-moving target brought in.hot air balloons“Aim for the smiley face, Mike”.  In all seriousness, I’m not sure what the balloonist was thinking landing in the middle of a clay target shooting range.  In the photo above, you can see to the left of the picnic table is shooting station number 13.

Ben Avery shooting range

Staff members were quick to approach the balloon.

sporting clays

balloon lands in the center of a clay target shooting range

Since this occurred prior to 7:00 a.m., no shooters were on the line just yet as shooting doesn’t start until seven.  Staff quickly informs the balloonist that it was not ok to land.  After some conversing and laughing the pilot fired off the burner and off they went for a safer spot to land.hot air balloons

I’m sure it was an exciting morning for everyone.  Oh well, Mike and Al will just have to aim at the little black disc in the air.

The guys of course had a great time shooting, but Linda and I were more interested in seeing the desert flowers.  After all, spring in the desert is beautiful and not to be missed.  Thus, the two of us were off to the Desert Botanical Gardens.

Phoenix Botanical Garden

Me and Linda crushing maze as we tour the “plants & people of the Sonoran Desert” loop

Phoenix Botanical Garden

We match!

This was our second attempt to visit the Botanical Garden.  The winds kept us away the first time, and although we missed the peak of the wildflowers, the weather was perfect; sunny, in the upper 70’s/low 80’s, with a gentle breeze.

Phoenix Botanical GardenWe were excited to see all the cactus just beginning to bloom including the saguaro. The saguaro cactus are late spring bloomers, but seem to bloom a little earlier at the Desert Botanical Garden than in the wild.Phoenix Garden

Phoenix GardenSitting on 140 acres, the Botanical Garden is a museum of living plants with more than 50,000 in its collection.

There’s five main loops, each focusing on a variety of plants; wildflower loop, desert discovery, herb garden, nature loop, and plants & people loop.

There’s additional exhibits including a butterfly pavilion.  It’s a beautiful botanical garden as seen in the photos.

 

It was a great day for both the guys and the gals 🙂

Plants of Arizona (Falcon Guides)
Sloggers 442DB01 Women’s Wide Brim Braided Sun Hat with Wind Lanyard – Dark Brown – Rated UPF 50+ Maximum Sun Protection

The Wild West lives on!

Hubby and I have always enjoyed a wide range of diverse activities.  We’re the kind of people who enjoy dressing up and attending a Ballet, Play, or Fine Art Museum in a major city and the next day we’ll equally enjoy hitting the road for a back country trip.wild westYears ago, you could find us visiting Chicago’s Art Institute one day and the next we’d be packing up the truck, tent, and canoe and heading toward northern Minnesota for some remote woods roughing it.  Those trips were always an adventure filled with campfires, fishing, and wild blueberry picking.  We’d need to keep an eye out for any black bears while stealing their blueberries as an actual bear encounter was not usually part of the plan.  Fun times, bear encounters included!

blooming saguaroArizona’s Phoenix valley, offers the diversity that Al and I enjoy.  In my last post, I attended a Fine Arts Festival in the upscale community of Carefree.  The terms refined and polished can easily be used to describe the northeast part of the Valley of the Sun aka Phoenix.

Old Town Scottsdale, the Musical Instrument Museum, and the Desert Botanical Gardens could also fall into the class of polished and refined.  All well worth visiting.

But let’s not forget, Arizona is located in the WEST and there’s still plenty of WILD left to entertain us all.

Time to leave the polish behind and inhale some dust and gun smoke.  Folks around these here parts like their guns, horses, and four-wheelers.cowboy mounted shooting

Arizona Game & Fish EXPOWith our friends Mike and Linda in tow, we attended the Outdoor EXPO at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility located on the far north side of Phoenix.  This family friendly EXPO was hosted by the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

Upon arriving, our attention was quickly drawn to the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Competition taking place.  The four of us could have spent the entire morning watching this event.

cowboy mounted shootingThe horses seem to be having as much fun as the shooters.   Talk about the relationship between a horse and rider….  Wow!  If you’re not sure what cowboy mounted shooting is, I encourage you to watch this 3 minute clip.

kayakingOnce we tore ourselves away from the horse activity, it was time to check out the guns.

Actually Mike and Al checked out the guns while Linda and I sat at a shaded picnic table watching folks test out kayaks in the pool.  We also needed to discuss our plans for a Desert Botanical Garden visit. Spring in the desert is not to be missed.

shooting EXPO

Al checking out a Glock

Gosh, who thought there could be so many different types of shooting and guns.  Here’s a list of the different station areas for the various types of shooting;

  • steel target shootinghandguns
  • practical pistol shooting
  • cowboy action shooting
  • air gun shooting
  • benchrest shooting
  • black powder shooting
  • .22 rifle steel target shooting
  • BB gun shooting
  • Intro to shooting

target shootingAnd then there were the event areas for Archery and Fishing along with special tents for exhibitors.

Phoenix gun EXPO

I am not a birder!

A third area was geared toward four-wheeling and shotguns.  Want an exhilarating ride in a OHV? (off highway vehicle)  Hop in one of these while an experienced driver whips you around the arena kicking up mud.  Another area was set up for Rock Crawlers.OHVIn the above photo, the rock crawling boulder track and Jeeps are seen on the left in the distance.shootingshooting expoAnd no event would be complete without plenty of vendors to supply food and drink.  BBQ and hamburgers took center stage with a choice of meet for the burger….. Angus, Bison, or Elk.  Al went with the Elk while I prefer Angus.

With the exception of a few of the shooting stations and food, this whole event including parking was FREE of charge.

RVing

the original RV

It was a fun family event……  and this coming from a non-shooter.  Refined?  Polished?  I think not.  Rough and tumble at it’s best.  I needed a shower afterwards to wash off the layer of desert dirt coating my skin. Ben Avery shooting range

The wild west is alive and well.  Time to go strap on my six-shooter 😉Valley of the Sun

FurReal Friends Butterscotch, My Walkin’ Pony Pet

UFREE Large Mechanical Rocking Horse Toy, Ride on Bounce up and Down and Move, 44” for Children 4 to 15 Years Old (Black Mane&Tail)

A Tourist Destination

While February found us exploring southern Arizona, March had us meandering around the Phoenix valley.  Phoenix, Arizona, has become a regular stomping ground for hubby and me ever since our son moved here five years ago.

Superstitions

approaching the Superstition Mountains located on the far southeast side of the valley

Phoenix AZOver the past five years, Al and I have taken advantage of our visits by exploring all corners of picturesque Maricopa County.  As an RV’er, we’ve found this area to be one of the most RV friendliest of places giving us oodles of parking options.

Not into RVing?  That’s ok as the lodging options are endless in that arena as well; from quaint Bed & Breakfast’s to Mega Resorts and everything in between.

Superstition Mountains

Spring in the desert

Maricopa County wants you to visit.  It’s a tourist destination.  Whether you spend a long weekend or spend the entire winter, all visitors are greeted with open arms and offered amenities for just about anyone’s personal interests and taste.  And with nine months of beautiful weather and plenty of sunshine, it’s no wonder northerners flock here during the winter months.

Speaking from experience; June, July, and August can be uncomfortably hot making it near impossible to engage in any outdoor activities.  This is the desert after all.

Arizona hiking trails

hiking near Phoenix during spring time

Spring TrainingThere’s no shortage of beautiful Golf Courses, wonderful hiking trails, or delicious restaurants.  Then there’s the various festivals, music venues, and sporting events.  This past February, Phoenix even hosted the Super Bowl.

Folks that enjoy baseball usually plan a vacation to Arizona in March to take in a Spring Training game.  The Cactus League is big business around here.

With only so many hours in a day, hubby and I picked our priorities for the month of March.  Hiking, socializing, and festivals seem to top our agenda.  Since I’ve already posted on some of the hiking we’ve done around Phoenix, I’ll focus on the socializing today.

bloggers

We enjoy happy hour over at Mike and Linda’s of “Bear Tracks Blog”. Mike fixes cocktails while I prepare nachos.

We reconnected with some old friends and met new ones along the way.  New friendships were forged with fellow bloggers.  As bloggers following each other on the internet, we seem to know a lot about one another but rarely meet in person.  It’s always an entertaining time though when we do connect face to face.

Since Phoenix is such a great place to live AND visit, it’s not uncommon for one to live here full-time, part-time (like me), or sometime meaning there’s always another blogger in the vicinity.  So if you visit Phoenix, be sure to put it out on your blog – if you’re into socializing that is.  You never know who will reach out to you and say, “Hey, I’m in the area.  Interested in meeting?”

Phoenix ArizonaThat said, it’s easy for two strangers to quickly become new friends.

A one hour coffee date turned into a three-hour chat fest with Nancy over at Two Trails One Road.  We could have easily moved from coffee onto cocktails as we got to know one another beyond our blogs, but alas obligations had us bidding farewell to each other.

We were so engrossed in our visit, that neither one of us remembered to take a photo.  Oh well next time, as I am sure there will be a next time.

Another morning I headed off to a Fine Arts Festival in the town of Carefree; a community on the far north side of the Phoenix valley.  This was my second time attending a festival in this lovely community.  The first time was with fellow blogger LuAnn and involved chocolate.

Carefree Festivals

Al and Mary from Tales from the Backroad

art festivals

Me and Mary in front of her stunning photography

No chocolate involved this time, but meeting this artistic couple was right up there.  Mary and Al are a couple of VERY talented people.

Mary writes a blog over at Tales from the Backroad.

Not only was it great meeting Mary and Al, I loved seeing their art work.  Did I already mention how incredibly talented these two are?  Impressive!  I hope to run into them boondocking in the desert next season.

The communities of Carefree, Cave Creek, and old town Scottsdale are known for their art galleries, unique one of a kind shopping venues, art walks, and festivals.  It almost makes me want a house again.  I’ve always appreciated the arts and find people’s talents almost mind-boggling.  I’m amazed by the vision of an artist and awed by the wonderful sculptures and paintings one creates.

If fine art isn’t your thing, stay tuned for a little rough and tumble type of Expo we attended.  No arts or crafts involved…. it’s a guy thing!arts and crafts festivalsI’ve managed to do a bunch of previous posts on Phoenix, Arizona.  For another post with some different info, click here.  AND if you’d like to meet a lot of bloggers all in one place, consider attending the WordPress Event being held in Phoenix on April 18th.  Click here for more info on Press Publish.

Kiera Grace Family 10 Openning Collage Frame, 14.5 by 28.5-Inch, With 4 5 by 7-Inch and 6 4 by 6-Inch, Black
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