Sunday, December 31, 2017

Another Year Passes

Hard to believe 2017 is almost over. Here is a quick wrap up of our past couple weeks at McDowell Mountain Park.

They can’t see in for the window tint but they know we’re in there.


The feeders continue to get lots of visitors.


One of many lovely sunsets.


That is Randy and Sunaree’s Airstream in the next site up from us.

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It was my turn for annual doctor appointments and all is well. Just need an eye exam and I will be good to go until next year, I hope.

We’ve been doing some hiking in between biking, as usual. This is Sunaree, Ellen and Jim on the Granite trail.


Randy, Ellen, Sunaree and Jim on the Bluff.


Before Randy got back from his month long job in Georgia, Sunaree and I did another early Friday Fitness Hike. This time we went out of the park to Spur Cross Conservation Area north of Cave Creek for a hike to Skull Mesa. Kevin, who leads these hikes, and his wife Marilyn, had room for us in their car so we hitched a ride to the trailhead. Turned out only one other person showed up, but not surprising given that it was the Friday before Christmas.

It looks warm but was only 40 when we started, still better than the 29 degree temperature when I got up that morning.


Our lofty goal was Skull Mesa in the Tonto National Forest, almost 2,000’ higher than we started. It doesn’t look that far in the photos but it was over 5 miles to get there, and that was with a shortcut.


Being uphill most of the way with bright sunshine we warmed up quickly, although the highs only got into the 50s that day. It wasn’t long before we were all shedding layers and gloves.



Pam, I thought of you when we came across this elaborate crested saguaro.



Also found some petroglyphs as this area was home to the Verde Hohokam around 800 years ago.


From this sign we were still 1.1 miles and 1,100 feet to the top of the mesa.


Getting closer.





That last mile was a challenge, with narrow, steep, rocky switchbacks to the top.


Finally up on the mesa it was surprising to see a mostly flat grassland.


It was still a bit of a walk to the edge, but worth the effort for the views.




Mitra, Sunaree and me.


Coming back down was trickier than going up, as the rocks wanted to slide out from under our feet, but we all made it unscathed other than having to pull out some cactus spines.

We then returned on a different trail through Cottonwood Canyon, where we spotted another crested saguaro.


Fall colors in the canyon.


Can’t believe we were just up there. It was a great hike, and we plan to join Kevin again one of these Friday mornings.


While we were off on our 7 hour hike, Jim was busy babysitting Randy and Sunaree’s dog Beau. He is a sweet French bulldog and very low maintenance. Jim didn’t pay close attention to Sunaree’s instructions and he thought she said whenever Beau stares at you he needs to go out. Jim said he stared at him most of the day but would never go to the bathroom when he let him out. What a face!


Before dinner we had a nice Christmas morning with cats.



Jim was very taken with Elton, and vice versa, although the white cat hair all over our clothes negated any desire to adopt him.


We saved the kitten room for last, as we knew we would spend a lot of time in there. There are five of them and they just crawled all over us. It’s almost impossible to get photos as they are in constant motion.


One of them kept sneezing so I was trying to figure out which one by their bio pictures. You can see I had plenty of help.


They are just adorable.


Jim ended up buying another mountain bike, a used Giant that’s kind of beat up but has better components, carbon wheels with tubeless tires, and is lighter and actually fits him better than the old one. He really liked his first ride on it, since he’s been missing getting out on the trails here. The recumbent is now for sale as we can’t carry three bikes. Besides, riding it was bothering his neck, and he missed having suspension. Live and learn.

Tonight we’re having dinner with friends and will no doubt be in bed long before midnight.

This was our last sunrise of 2017. Happy New Year to all!



  1. Paul and Marsha Weaver OCT. 17, 2009 has left a new comment on your post "Another Year Passes":

    It might be 40, but at least you have blue skies. It is 55 here in Houston and rain! Yuck!
    I love seeing crested saguaro. They are so lovely.
    Love those kitten.

    Happy New Year. Hope we can meet up in 2018.

  2. Sorry, I accidentally rejected your comment so I copied it.
    Our cold snap only lasted a couple days then it got back up to around 70, just perfect.
    Yes, I hope we get to see you guys this winter!

  3. WOW Nice and thanks for taking me along. It looks like from my recent research that there is a pretty good amount of nice walking/hiking below 5500 feet that is easily available. Happy New Year.

  4. Wow the birds on your feeder. Talk about up close and personal.. Very cool!
    Seriously blazing skies and the nearest neighbor sure seems far away. Sweet!
    Not sure how I’d feel about 29 degrees. I’m having trouble with 40’s and wind here.
    But I love the hiking, that crested saguaro and what looks like a spiral labyrinth. I could do without the cactus spines as I’m sure you could.
    Darling dog and kitties. Happy New Year to all!

  5. What a hike!! I love those crested saguaros!!
    Those kittens are adorable!! My brother had a beautiful white cat years ago and it would shed on us!!
    Wishing you both a very happy, healthy and lots of great hikes New Year!!

  6. Love those colorful and spiritual Arizona sunsets! Enjoyed following your 2017 adventures and look forward to 2018. Thanks for keeping us updated on the trails and destination you explore. Best wishes and happiness for the new year!

  7. Hi guys, Happy New Year from Tucson. Question, did Jim keep that mutant seat from his old mountain bike? If so, does he still like it?

  8. Ah, lovely McDowell. I do enjoy hiking at Spur Cross Ranch...the hike you did looks like a doozy!

    Happy New Year! Wishing you health and fun adventures!

  9. Wonderful stories accompanied by great photos! Wishing you another exciting year and more great stories and photos :)

  10. Wishing you a year filled with good hiking, good birding, beautiful sunsets, good health, and fun with friends and kitties. Looks like you're off to a excellent start. :-)

  11. Looks like a great hike Gayle. Hope you and Jim have a wonderful new year, filled with lots of laughter and adventure. Hope that we get a chance to catch up with you soon.

  12. Yeah, kind of a waste being at McDowell Mountain and not having a mountain bike. I was wondering if the recumbent would work on those trails...
    Guacamole this fall???
    Happy trails,

  13. Okay! I must return to this area! Wow! That first crested bowl saguaro is magnificent. I've only seen one bowl before. So many crested saguaro. What a fabulous treat! Glad you are having so much fun with all the kitties. Those little ones are all over the place. Happy New Year to you and Jim! Hope we can connect this winter:)

  14. That is really an inviting looking area but I didn't expect the 29F mornings there. Getting about the same in Yarnell except no saguaros. Awesome cresteds. Don't know how you can resist taking kitties home.

  15. We have been getting some poachers on the hummingbird feeders in Tucson too. Lots of hummingbirds as well.