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 ūüėĄ

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. ūüźć

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‚Äôt 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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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 ūüėČ

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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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?” ūüė•ūüėÜūüėė

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.

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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!¬†ūüėŹ 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 ūü§£ … 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? ūü§£ 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“. ūü§£ 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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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 ūüėĄ

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 ūüėÜ

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!

Visit Phoenix and Step Back in Time

Are you an adventurous traveler?  Are you looking for a scenic memorable day trip near Phoenix, Arizona?  Well, I’ve got just the day excursion for you.  Al and I first drove this 80 mile scenic loop several years ago and it still ranks as one of our top favorite day trips in Arizona.Salt River AZ

Arizona History

On the far southeast side of the greater Phoenix valley lies Arizona’s oldest highway. This former stagecoach trail which runs through the Superstition Mountains was Lost Dutchmanoriginally used by the Apache Indians, thus aptly named The Apache Trail.

The Apache Trail is officially known as State Route 88 and links the town of Apache Junction with Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

The trail was developed into more of a road in the 1930’s to support the development of dam’s along the Salt River, creating some beautiful lakes in the process.

There’s oodles of interesting sights and beautiful views along the way which necessitate lots of stopping.  Photo-op anyone?  Thus, the Apache Trail Circle Loop requires an entire day.  It’s also not for the faint of heart, which I’ll explain in a minute.

Be sure and pack a lunch, snacks, and plenty of water because you’ll be exploring some desert backcountry during this scenic day trip drive. It helps if you have a high-clearance vehicle, but we saw plenty of regular cars on the dirt portion of the road from Tortilla Flat to Roosevelt Lake. That doesn’t mean I’m saying a basic car is a good fit for the terrain. It means, I saw regular cars navigating without apparent issue.

My recommendation; be sure it didn’t rain the day before, take your time, watch for bumps, and be prepared for washboard road conditions. When in doubt, check with a Tonto National Forest Ranger for further clarification and up to date road conditions.¬†
Apache Trail

We’ll start our journey from the town of Apache Junction, Arizona, and head north on State Road 88, aka The Apache Trail.  Our first stop is the Superstition Mountain Museum.Superstition Mountain Museum

A picturesque museum

The Superstition Mountain Museum collects, preserves, and displays the artifacts, history, and folklore of the Superstition Mountains.  Even though we knew we had a long day in front of us, this picturesque museum is worthy of a photo-op and stroll around the historic buildings. We made a note to tour the museum another day.

Exploring a Ghost Town

Just a short drive north of the Superstition Mountain museum is our next stop; the¬†Goldfield Ghost Town.¬†¬†Goldfield¬†was once a happening¬†gold mining town back in the 1890‚Äôs. It’s now a popular tourist attraction which is rooted in Arizona history. It’s a fun and interesting stop. They still actually mine gold here, but that’s blocked from public view.¬† Guess they don’t want to share them there gold, huh!

Goldfield Ghost Town offers free parking and free walking around, but there is a fee for each attraction.  You can click on this link for more information on those attractions. We don’t usually do the tourist type of thing, so I can’t vouch for any of the paid attractions.

Superstition Mountains

The quaint little shops at the Goldfield Ghost Town offer unique trinkets specific to the area along with the typical tourist stuff … T-shirts, shot glasses, coffee mugs, postcards, etc.¬† The grounds¬†are¬†loaded with original mining equipment, and it‚Äôs obvious, these are the original¬†buildings and have stood for a very long time.¬† As a matter of fact, during our visit, a museum building was closed¬†while construction workers were busy shoring up¬†a second floor balcony.

Goldfield Apache Junction Arizona

As I strolled around¬†Goldfield Ghost Town,¬†I could envision the harsh realities of life over 100 years ago.¬†These were hardy folks living in an unforgiving and harsh environment. However did they survive living in the desert without air conditioning? And no A/C in that covered wagon either¬†ūüėĪ

I found it funny that the Bordello was located near the church. How convenient is that? Play hard …. pray even harder. Sow your wild oats on Saturday, and pray for crop failure on Sunday!

During this particular visit to the east side of the Phoenix area, we happened to be camped just up the road from the Goldfield Ghost Town at one of our favorite campgrounds; the Lost Dutchman State Park. For those unable to secure a campsite at the Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town does have a campground.  It’s a bit rustic, but at least it’s a place to park the RV in a pinch.

A favorite state park

Lost Dutchman State ParkSpeaking of Lost Dutchman State Park, this is one of our favorite places to camp while visiting the Phoenix valley.

The hiking trails are amazing and the campsites are comfortably spaced. And the views are absolutely stunning!

For those interested in visiting the Lost Dutchman State Park but not interested in camping, there is a day use area. For a small fee, you can enjoy the trails all day. The day use area offers plenty of shaded picnic tables, restrooms, and easy access to all the trails. Seriously, this is a “must see” place during any visit to Phoenix, Arizona, especially in March when the wildflowers are blooming.

A beautiful body of water in the desert

As we continue our scenic drive north of the state park, the road starts to climb, twist, and bend. I highly recommend driving this stretch of road without an RV for the first time due to potential length and height issues.

Shortly after passing the Lost Dutchman State Park we enter the Tonto National Forest.  The scenery becomes more rugged and stunning with each new mile.  March is particularly beautiful as the road is lined on both sides with yellow blooms from the brittlebush and desert marigolds.Canyon Lake AZ

Twenty miles north of the town of Apache Junction, we round a bend and are graced with the sight of an oasis in the desert.  Canyon Lake with it’s deep blue waters surrounded by rugged cliffs and rocky terrain is a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

Definitely worth a few photo-ops around here, wouldn’t you agree?¬† Canyon Lake itself is a great day excursion; perfect for a picnic, kayak adventure, or even a¬†cruise aboard the¬†Dolly Steamboat.

Canyon Lake, Phoenix, Arizona, kayaking in Phoenix
Canyon Lake, Arizona. Located on the far east side of the Phoenix valley.

Canyon Lake offers a marina for daily boat rentals; powerboat, kayak, and even SUP’s (stand up paddle board). There’s also a campground, but it is rather pricey for what you get, in my opinion anyway. The last time I checked, it was over $50 a night. With that said, the drive is also something to consider. It could be quite challenging for larger RV’s due to length and height. Considering we all travel with different types of RV equipment and have our own comfort level, I recommend checking it out first without the RV.Canyon Lake

A town with the population of 6

A few more miles up the road, past Canyon Lake, is the cute little town of Tortilla Flat ‚Äď population 6.¬† This is¬†the perfect¬†place to stop for a bite to eat, especially if you forgot to pack a meal, like we did.¬† The restaurant serves up great burgers and has a fun d√©cor.

(to enlarge photos in a gallery, simply click on any image)

The walls are covered with dollar bills stapled all over, as well as old mining tools and historical photos. The bar stools are saddles and the ladies restroom has entertaining painted stall doors. I think this is the one and only time that my daughter allowed me to photograph her in a restroom. I had to bribe her with ice cream. The little general store serves up some of the best ice cream around and the fudge was pretty good also.

The adventure begins

The Apache Trail, Phoenix, ArizonaWith tummies full, it’s time to brace ourselves for the truly adventurous part of the drive.  Just past the town of Tortilla Flat, the pavement ends.

Most rental¬†car companies will not want you driving¬†this road and¬†it‚Äôs not recommended for any vehicle over 25 feet in length‚Ķ.¬† definitely no RV‚Äôs.¬†Although, we did notice some guys pulling their boats ūüėģ

The gravel road is wide and in pretty good condition up to the scenic view parking lot.  The vista and scenery is worth the dusty, bumpy gravel road to get to it. For those less adventurous, this would be the perfect place to turn around and retrace your journey home. In my experience, the gravel road from the town of Tortilla Flat up to the scenic overlook is usually in good condition for any vehicle to navigate, but beyond that point, it can get dicey and very interesting.

Tortilla Flat, Arizona, Century Plants
My daughter fascinated by the Century Plant located at the scenic overlook.

Al and I are used to driving unpaved mountain backcountry roads with steep cliff drop-offs with no safety barriers or guard rails.¬† In other words, this next stretch of road between the scenic overlook and Apache Lake is not for the faint of heart. (Tip: if you’re interested in visiting Apache Lake, but don’t want to drive over Fish Creek Hill, access from Roosevelt Lake. The road between Roosevelt Lake and Apache Lake is much easier to navigate and without the high drop-offs.)

Fish Creek Pass, the Apache Trail, a scenic drive near Phoenix
Fish Creek Pass is the most challenging stretch of the Apache Trail and not recommended for folks with a fear of heights. It’s a one lane gravel road, intended for two-way traffic with¬† drop-offs and no guard rails. Check out the portion of road on the far right side of the photo… a little ledge of road with no room for error.

As we continue past the scenic overlook the road narrows and winds.¬† This two-way traffic road¬†narrows down to¬†about a one to one and a half lane wide road. There isn’t enough room in most spots for two vehicles to pass each other. Those going down hill supposedly have the right of way and it‚Äôs not uncommon for someone needing to back up to a wider spot in the road so vehicles can pass by each other.

Fish Creek Pass, aka Fish Creek Hill, is the worst part of the journey with sheer drop offs,  a very narrow road, lots of turns, and a steep elevation change. Fish Creek is the most stressful and challenging part of the drive and not for the faint of heart. Once we navigate Fish Creek Hill, one lane bridges and washboard road conditions continue to add to our adventurous day.

Apache Lake

Apache Lake

Once we reach¬†Apache Lake,¬†another beautiful oasis in the desert, the road becomes a little easier to traverse.¬† Due to the washboard condition of the road and our extra long wheel base on the F-250, it was very slow going for us. This is when my Tacoma or a Jeep would be perfect, but my Tacoma was back in Colorado during this excursion. Even a Honda CRV would’ve been a better choice for this road than the long wheel base of our Ford truck.

Two and a half hours after leaving Tortilla Flat and 22 miles of gravel road later, we finally arrived at the Theodore Roosevelt Damn and Lake. We averaged about 10 miles per hour with lots of photo-op stopping along the way.

Roosevelt Lake, Phoenix, Arizona
Roosevelt Lake

We leisurely tour the campgrounds and the boondocking opportunities along the lake shore. We are pleasantly surprised and make notes.  We will definitely keep Roosevelt Lake as a possible place to camp in the future. It’s pretty. It’s remote. It’s inexpensive, and located within the Tonto National Forest.

I’m entertained by using the term “forest” around this barren looking land. You won‚Äôt find any of the usual trees that most folks would expect in a National Forest.This is still the desert and you’ll find a forest of saguaro cactus and their cousins in lieu of any oak or aspen trees.

spring wildflowers, poppies, Superstitions Mountains, Phoenix, Arizona
Spring wildflowers

This unusual forest may look barren at first glance, but upon closer inspection, you’ll discover an amazing ecosystem with the ability to survive and flourish in some of the harshest weather and terrain.

The beautiful scenery continues

poppiesThe fascinating and majestic scenery continues from Roosevelt Lake to the active mining towns of Miami and Superior and onto the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Oh, how I wanted to stop at the Arboretum, but by this point in our journey, we were tired, photo outed, and ready to just get home. Besides, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum would require its own day.

There are so many interesting sights along this scenic loop that we wanted to stop and explore further, but we realized we couldn’t see and do it all in one day.

We took notes for future day excursions, as well as future overnight RVing spots and promised ourselves to return again and again. I always look forward to spending time in the Phoenix valley. Whether one is looking for solitude or a host of activities, this part of Arizona seems to have it all, and it rarely disappoints.

I remain in awe by Arizona’s raw beauty and fascinated by the plants and animals that survive in this harsh land. What an adventurous day we had!

discover beautiful lake in the desert surrounded by rugged terrain, road twists and turns lined with yellow flowers, ghost town with old historical buildings

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RVing in a Big City

I love the diversity of spending time camped in nature one day and living near a major city the next.¬† It’s an amazing joy not to have to choose one or the other and it’s probably one of my favorite things about living in the RV full-time – I’m not committed to a location. This sense of freedom is hard to explain, but I firmly believe it’s one of the top reasons RVing can be addictive.

Fork in the road
Fork in the road – city living or country living?

When you come to a fork in the road take it! –¬†Yogi Berra

Fork in the Road …

The freedom to choose where we camp is wonderful, but there are times I feel torn and have trouble making a decision.¬† Which way should we go? There’s so many things to see and do in a big city; museums, events, restaurants, stores … the list goes on, but the solitude and beauty of nature is always a strong draw and many times that’s my preference.

photo taken with Panasonic DC-ZS70
Taken with my new Panasonic DC-ZS70   Set on Auto РF6  Р1/125 Р373mm

Guess what? I don’t have to choose one or the other to call home.¬† One month here, one month there, or next month it’s something in between. That’s how we roll. Ah, the beauty of full-time RV living. We get to be non-committal.

After spending three months in Phoenix, Arizona (Oct, Nov and Dec), we started off the New Year by moving over to western Arizona to the small tourist town of Lake Havasu City. We’ve visited this area many times before and love returning. Even though our first two weeks here have whizzed by, I’ve had time to reflect on our three month stay in the big city.

inspiration, crafts, ideas, quotes

Phoenix, Arizona

It’s a rare treat to find a 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 and Phoenix is RV friendly, this city has become a regular stopping point for us. You’ll find us traveling in, out and around Phoenix regularly.

Phoenix resorts
JW Marriott Camelback

The Phoenix valley is not only a super popular snowbird location, but also popular with vacationers and convention traffic.¬† Peak tourist season is January, February, and March … March being the busiest due to baseball spring training.

Reservations for whatever kind of travel you choose during those three months are a definite must. You’ll also find lodging prices at a premium.

The lodging options are abundant and diverse. For those of us with RVs, we can find everything from basic campgrounds to full on RV resorts complete with pools, pickleball courts, and golf courses. For non RVers, there’s everything from inexpensive hotels, to Airbnb’s, to mega resorts, and everything in between.

Did I mention how awesome the weather is around here? That is, excluding summer of course!

Lost Dutchman State Park
Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park is one of our favorites. Barely fifteen minutes to grocery stores, restaurants plus amazing hiking trails right out our door. Scottsdale and Phoenix are an easy drive away.
I can't adult today
There’s a never-ending schedule of art shows, craft shows, or home shows to attend throughout the year in the Phoenix valley. My daughter and I always manage to find time to attend a few.

I’m never at a loss of things to see or do during my visits to the Phoenix valley. Although hiking and photography top my list of favorite activities, there are so many other great recreational and educational opportunities to explore.

Here are some of the things we’ve done in Phoenix …..

Scottsdale farmers market
Farmers market held all winter long in Old Town Scottsdale. Photo taken Dec 23 – yep, DECEMBER!
beignets farmers market
My friend,¬† Faye, and I enjoying freshly made Beignets¬†at the farmers market. Come on, can’t be all about veggies! Since we visited the farmers market early morning, it was still on the cold side. By noon, we didn’t need those jackets any more. There are bunches of 5 star restaurants with award winning chefs located throughout Phoenix and Scottsdale …. plenty of culinary delights to satisfy any palette.
TD Ameritrade seminar
Conventions and seminars are held throughout the year. Our son and daughter join us at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Resort for a TD Ameritrade seminar.
JJ Kinahan
This was the second day of the TD Ameritrade seminar and I got to meet Joe “JJ” Kinahan. If you’re a trader or CNBC watcher like me, shaking hands with JJ was a treat. JJ was getting ready to hit the links and enjoy the beautiful Phoenix weather while it was snowing in Chicago. TD Ameritrade and Think or Swim hold educational seminars once or twice a year in Phoenix and Al and I try never to pass one up. Always educational. We attended one of the best seminars yet this past December and had a couple of ah-ha moments.
I was really excited about attending the WordPress Camp, but was sorely disappointed. I thought I’d be surrounded by fellow bloggers in the audience, but instead the vast majority of attendees work in the tech industry. This conference was geared toward businesses who work behind the scenes, who write code and do lots of other stuff that I can’t begin to articulate. It was all Greek to me. At least the food trucks were good!
Desert Botanical Garden butterfly display
Daughter taking a selfie with a butterfly at the Desert Botanical Garden

Chili and Chocolate FestDaughter and I watch a cooking demo at the Chili and Chocolate Festival

western history
Lots of western history to explore around here along with the amazing trails.
Family and friends
Being able to spend time with family and friends is our number one reason for hanging around Phoenix
Let’s get social …

Because Phoenix is such a popular travel destination, we never know who we might bump into. It’s always a pleasure! During our three-month stay in Phoenix, we enjoyed several get togethers with bloggers and non-bloggers alike.

Blogging
Happy hour at Cave Creek Regional Park. From left to right: Dave, Faye, Al, Sue, Dave, me, and Lewis in the front. We all met via our blogs first – blogging leads to friendships!
Jeanette doesn’t write a blog but she’s been following mine for a while and she reached out to me last year as she and her husband were preparing to RV full-time. Since then, they’ve sold the house, moved into the RV and are workamping at Usery Regional Park this winter. We’re hoping to do some boondocking with them this spring once the hot weather pushes us all north.
Nancy on the left, me on the right. Nancy and her sweet man don’t RV but they do like to travel. They own a home just north of Phoenix. She and I met via our blogs a few years ago and we enjoy getting together whenever we’re both in town. She’s always so kind including us in their social gatherings at their home. Thanks Nancy ‚̧

This is just a small sampling of the folks we socialized with during this years three month stay in Phoenix. Every time we visit this city, our social calendar is as full or empty as we’d like it to be. Over the years, we’ve made some great friends via the blog and via RVing and Phoenix is the perfect city to physically connect with like-minded people.

How about wildlife?

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, I’m still able to get my nature fix while staying in Phoenix.

coyote
You can expect to see or at least hear plenty of coyotes.
wild burro
wild burros are more elusive and a treat to see while out hiking
Gambels Quail
The Quail are everywhere and I find them exceptionally entertaining.

Gambels Quail are everywhere, and if you can’t see them, you can quite often hear them. Since they fly as a last resort, spotting a covey of quail running across a street, sidewalk, or trail is a common sight, and always makes me smile.

Hummingbirds are also very common and entertaining to watch. Gosh, those little things buzz around so fast that it takes a great deal of patience to capture a photograph of one – a non blurry photograph. Obviously my patience during this visit eluded me as evidenced by the lack of a photograph. Oh well, next time!

Another fun thing to do …

There’s some great scenery in this part of Arizona. Just outside of the city 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.

holidays in PhoenixIt was a very busy three months …

Aside from all the socializing and activities, we tried to get in as much hiking as possible to work off all those extra calories consumed. It was the holiday season after all.

In addition, we managed to complete a bunch of maintenance on the trucks, RV, and our teeth ūüėí And as if that wasn’t enough, I threw myself into a RV remodel project.

I’m not ready to reveal the remodel just yet, but let’s just say, there was at least 24 yards of fabric involved with 10 more yards in my future. I’m loving my new window treatments and the fresh new look and wish I’d a done this sooner. Since we’ll be bouncing around Arizona the next few months, I’ll focus on completing the remodel in May when we’re back in a full hook-up site and sitting stationary for a few months. We¬† plan on spending most of the summer back in Prescott, Arizona again.

And speaking of sitting still, it came as a total shock to Al and me that at the end of our three-month stay in a RV Park in Phoenix, we weren’t ready to hit the road. Usually we get antsy after about a month and can’t get the wheels rolling quick enough.¬† Not this time! We hemmed and hawed about extending our stay …. there’s that fork in the road again …. decision time. In the end, we lifted the jacks on New Years day in search of new scenery.

Cheers to new and fun adventures in 2018! Maybe we’ll bump into you down the road ūüėÄ

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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 Рmy 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 ūüėČ ) 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.

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 ūüôā

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 ūüėČValley 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)