Monday, July 27, 2020

Escape to Show Low

Our neighborhood for a week

All is well with us but we've been suffering from cabin fever and decided to take a little trip to somewhere cooler, Covid be damned. How foolish of us to think that there would be plenty of Airbnb type places to choose from in Flagstaff for a week or two during a pandemic when the governor is telling everyone to stay home. Our first try at booking a nice looking condo there resulted in an email the following day that those dates were not available because they had not updated their calendar. Not a good way to do business. 

So it was back to square one, and by that time everything else was booked. Our next choice was Show Low in the White Mountains at 6,300', not quite as high but definitely cooler than Fountain Hills has been. We found a cabin in Bison Ridge a few miles outside of town that had a 7 night opening so we jumped on it. 

2BR 2 BA cabin in the woods

This is the charred desert along Highway 87 between Fountain Hills and Payson, the result of the Bush Fire back in June that burned over 193,000 acres of the Tonto National Forest up towards the Four Peaks. It was caused by a vehicle that caught fire and pulled off the side of the road.

We got off to a bad start when arriving at the cabin as we discovered that the previous renter failed to leave a key in the lockbox. Fortunately, the owner called us back quickly and got the cleaning people to bring us a spare. I wasn't convinced they did an "enhanced cleaning" like the ad stated, but after doing our own disinfecting we felt okay about staying there. 

View from the front porch, where I spent a lot of time reading

It was a pleasant week of hiking in the forest and taking drives to check out the area. Many of the houses, cabins, park models and RV parks are summer homes or rentals for residents of the greater Phoenix area, since it's just a 2-3 hour drive and 20-30 degrees cooler.

It was a great location as there were trails from the subdivision that led to Los Caballos trail, part of the White Mountain Trail System, which we did a couple times in different directions.

Not the prettiest trail but mostly shady and we never saw another person

The only trail that was really busy was the Mogollon Rim trail, since part of it is paved, it's only a mile long, relatively flat, and is just east of town off the main highway. After dodging people who seemed to have no concept of social distancing, we drove down the road to check out the Country Club trail, near the Pinetop Country Club. The parking lot was full of cars so we continued on and found a forest road to walk on, which was actually an old rail bed from logging days, that intersected an unnamed trail where we saw no one else. 

View from the Rim trail

Our next hike was on the Buena Vista trail, a 10 mile loop just south of Show Low. It was too warm to do that long of a hike, so we turned around after 3 miles. There was a dried up pond and a pretty meadow near the start, then we climbed to some over-the trees views.

Coming back we saw several horseback riders who asked us if the wild horses were near the pond. We said we had not seen them, and didn't even know there were wild horses in the area. This time as we neared the meadow we saw them hanging out under the shade of some trees. 

Cute little colt with mom

On the warmest day the temperature in Show Low was getting up to 90, so we drove about 50 miles east to the West Baldy trail. It's 8 miles to the top of 10,900' Mt. Baldy, starting at 9,200', certainly not a  day hike for us, so we made it 2.5 miles until the dark clouds started coming together overhead and turned around. We got lucky as it started raining just a short distance from the car. It was a beautiful trail that follows the West Fork of the Little Colorado River. We felt like we were back in Colorado.

The forest is much more diverse at this elevation.

This little guy was following a man on a horse with another donkey and a dog. He was too far behind to get them all in the photo.

Our last hike was on the Panorama trail near Lakeside. Being a 9 mile loop we just did an out and back again since thunderstorms were in the forecast and the sky was getting dark.

Wildlife sightings along the trail.

It was a nice getaway and it rained several afternoons, something we haven't seen in Fountain Hills since April. The weather people keep threatening monsoon is going to begin here soon but so far the storms are just skirting around the Phoenix area, other than a couple of light showers.

On the way home, we stopped and had lunch in the car along the Mogollon Rim, a few miles down the road from one of our favorite dispersed camping spots. Hard to believe we were there in 2013 as it seems like it was just a short time ago.

We ended up signing a lease for another year at the apartment. Although there are a few issues, we just couldn't find anything better and it's a nice place to live. We've started going back to Fearless Kitty doing one caregiver shift a week as they have been getting more cats and kittens even though it's still not open to the public. Adoptions are happening by appointment only and are up considerably from last year. Who wouldn't want to cuddle with a cute cat or kitten while they are staying at home more?

And the good news is all of the above have been adopted!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Surprised to Find Boulders in Payson

Feeling the need for another scenic drive and hike, the other day we went up the hill 60+ miles to Payson, AZ, elevation 5,000'. It got pretty warm, in the 80s, before we finished, but still much better than the triple-digit heat in Fountain Hills that day. The Boulders trail, a four mile loop just a few miles from town sounded perfect.

In the summer of 2013 we spent some time camping on the cooler Mogollon Rim (elevation 7,500') another 30 miles from Payson, but only visited Payson to do some shopping, not hiking, since it was pretty hot then. The Boulders trail turned out to be a good choice as it was very scenic, there was a good bit of shade, and although there were some steep ups and downs they were fairly short. Plus we only saw a handful of other people. We did have some trouble finding the actual trailhead due to poor signage and trail erosion, and there were many social trails going off from the main trail, so it was easy to make some wrong turns. But that's part of the fun of hiking, right?

Welcome shade

And plenty of boulders.

We had not seen an alligator juniper in a while.

I am always fascinated by their bark.

We had to take a detour to see what was at the top of this slickrock and for Jim to test out the soles of his new Hoka's.

We found more unusual boulders up there.

The last part of the trail crossed a creek several times. Given how dry it's been we were surprised that there was water.

And now back to Fountain Hills, I found this saguaro with what looked like red flowers on one of my recent morning walks. Turns out after the white flowers have been pollinated they turn into bright red fruit full of tiny seeds, which get eaten by birds and other desert creatures. I guess we've never been here this far into June to see the fruit.

Also spotted this well-camouflaged roadrunner, a rare sight around here.

I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles but there was no room in the RV, and having always owned cats the dining table in our house was not safe. So during these past few months of lockdown this has been a great way to pass some time. This was my favorite so far, although it was not the most difficult.

In other news, the number of Covid-19 cases in Arizona is rising rapidly since things reopened a few weeks ago, while the number of people we see wearing masks appears to be falling. And with the recent protests, the number of cases is bound to go up. I'm afraid it's going to be a long summer. I hope we can find somewhere to escape for a bit.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Dixie Mine and Other Things

Last week was very pleasant weather-wise, probably our last cool spell for the summer, so we took a break from our usual neighborhood walks and did a loop hike to Dixie Mine in McDowell Mountain Park. We went out on a little-used social trail that I found out about on one of the Friday fitness hikes I joined over the winter. We tried it once before and got a bit lost, but this time around we stayed on the correct trail. Not a soul but us on the way to the mine.

Crested saguaro in the trail-head parking lot

The crest doesn't look very healthy but it had numerous flowers

Peak blooming season for saguaros is early May to early June. Saguaro flowers bloom typically at dusk and remain open till midmorning the next day, with each plant producing up to 100 flowers in a season.

Dixie Mine

The blooming palo verde are lovely

We thought we were seeing a big white flower about a third of the way down just below the saddle.

Thanks to the zoom we discovered it was a broken cactus. 

Nice hike and saw about 5 people coming back on the main trail.

Here are a few photos from our walks around town.

Saguaro blooms are supposed to smell like ripe melons, but even though this one was close enough to smell, there were so many bees there was no way I was going to stick my nose anywhere near a flower.

On Friday we decided to take a scenic drive just to get out of the apartment. We made a loop past Usery Mountain Park, up Bush Highway to Beeline Highway and back. The roads were full of cars and RVs heading out for their Memorial Day weekend bashes. We stopped at Saguaro Lake, which was teeming with people who were not social distancing. 

I managed to get a shot that makes it look peaceful, but the parking lot and picnic areas were packed.

Wish more people would take social distancing and mask wearing as seriously as this cactus!