Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Cave Creek, AZ

P1000158   We are so glad we took the camp host’s advice and drove over to Spur Cross Ranch today. The park is a cooperative between Maricopa County, the town of Cave Creek and the Arizona State Park system. It is not a developed park, and you have to travel a mile and a half on a dirt road to enter. They do have a few picnic tables and porta-potties, but not much else. There are only 7 miles of trails in the park, but after our 6 mile hike yesterday we wanted a shorter, easier walk today.
We decided to stick to the Metate and Towhee trails which don’t allow horses, and it was a beautiful walk along Cave Creek itself, with an amazing amount of running water. Which of course made everything very green and lush.
And there was the largest assortment of saguaro cactus we’ve seen anywhere.
Also this pond with  endangered pupfish, the water being kept circulated by a solar powered pump from the old ranch well.
As we were admiring the pond, we saw some orange bug fly by, which turned out to be a flame skimmer dragonfly. It kept coming back and posing for us on a reed in the pond. And it gave Jim a chance to use the macro feature on our new camera.
And  now the million dollar question….

Monday, March 29, 2010

Go-John Trail, Cave Creek Park, AZ


Today we hiked the 6 mile Go-John loop trail. It was the warmest day we’ve had so far this year, mid 80’s, but a great day for a hike. No snakes today, but we finally saw some blooming cactus, and they were impressive.


As were all the wildflowers. P1000145


And we didn’t run into any horses today. This morning when I went to the office to pay for a few more nights, I asked the camp host if there were any nearby trails that didn’t allow horses. She mentioned Spur Cross Park, near Cave Creek. We may check it out tomorrow. She asked if the trails were getting bad, and I told her we would rather not have to dodge horses and poop on a hike. She said part of the volunteers job is to go and scrape it off the trails. We sure won’t be looking for a volunteer position at this park!

While we were at McDowell Mountain a couple weeks ago, we hiked a trail to Rio Verde, which is an over 55 planned golf community. Many of the houses border the county park, and others are on the golf course. We saw a couple for sale and called to find out the asking prices, which were  between $400-500k. As you can imagine, the landscaping was superb. These are what cactus look like when they receive water at the optimal time.

P1000075 P1000076

No grass in the yards either, just rocks and plants.



Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Wine and Jazz

Trying to get a little culture and some free live entertainment, we went to El Pedregal at the Boulders for a concert featuring jazz singer Khani Cole. It was a beautiful day, upper 70’s with 15% humidity, and a lovely setting.

P1000138 P1000132  This was a popular place to be, but after a break we managed to get front row seats. She is an excellent vocalist and the band was great,too.

To cap off the day, I discovered that Mellow Mushroom Pizza opened their first Arizona location in Phoenix in December. This is our favorite pizza place, and the last time we ate at one was in Austin, Texas in November ‘08.  It was as good as we remembered, and one of the best pizzas we’ve had in a long time. Where else can you get tempeh as a topping? And Jim was actually able to chew it on both sides of his mouth for a change.

We’ll be here a few more days, then on to the red rocks of the Sedona area.


Friday, March 26, 2010

A Busy Week

We’ve done lots of running around the Phoenix area this week. Jim finally got his tooth and is trying to get used to chewing on that side again. He has one more appointment next week and hopefully will be able to stay away from the dentist for awhile. Saw these on the way to the dentist. They looked dangerously close to the power lines.
Yesterday we took our “house” to Sanderson Ford in Glendale to get the transmission fluid changed and the parking brake checked, since it never seemed to work.  We only have 22,000 miles on it, but the 3 year warranty runs out at the end of this month, so we wanted to get some things checked out. They have a heavy duty truck and RV service center, and it was an impressive place. Turned out the brake was not functioning and they had to replace the pedal under warranty. The transmission was fine, they changed the fluid and filter, and they also replaced the fuel filter. Ford recommends doing both at 30,000 miles but now we are set for another 30,000.
The other night we drove to Lake Pleasant Regional Park, another county park 25 miles west of Cave Creek. Our friends Chuck and Carla were there for a few days after spending some time in southern Arizona and California. They invited us to come and eat with them at Dillon’s at Scorpion Bay, a restaurant on the lake, to watch the sunset. It was a sunny day, but by the time we got there at 5 the clouds rolled in, so there was no sunset. The only thing vegetarian on the menu was a grilled portabella sandwich, and they were out of portabella mushrooms. So we had a nice evening visiting and watching our friends eat! They were kind enough to share a few of their onion rings with us so we were fine.
They had a pretty site on an inlet, but the sites are much closer than the other county parks we’ve been to. There is a 10 lane boat launch at the park, and only one hiking trail, so it is really a boating and fishing park. Not the place you want to be on a weekend.
P1000116 They had lots of flowers in their site, and we saw several hummingbirds. It’s not easy trying to photograph them, but if you click on this photo to enlarge it you can see it a little better.
We’ve done a couple short hikes here at Cave Creek, but unfortunately the trails are multi use, and they have a horse stable with trail rides. This is what we encountered both times we hiked. The horses themselves are okay, but what they leave on the trail is not so pleasant. And there is lots of it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cave Creek Regional Park, Cave Creek, AZ


We moved 35 miles northwest to Cave Creek Regional Park,  another Maricopa County Park just north of Scottsdale.

There were plenty of sites available, unlike Usery and McDowell Mtn, where they were full every night. This is another pretty park in the desert with large, well spaced sites. We were lucky to get on the outer loop so we’re hoping we’ll see some wildlife behind us in the hills.


When we drove into the park, there was a sign at the entrance that said  “Snakes are Out”.  We mentioned that we’d need to be careful on the trails.  Little did we know that Jim would come dangerously close to being bitten by a rattlesnake on the road.

We were walking around the campground, looking at an RV near ours, and Jim stepped right over a big rattlesnake on the road. It coiled and rattled and we jumped and screamed. Guess we’ll have to be more careful about looking down while we’re walking. He did get a picture of the handsome fellow. P1000094

Yesterday afternoon we went to a concert in Fountain Hills Park. The music wasn’t great, but it was a nice afternoon to sit out and watch the fountain. After, we decided to drive into Scottsdale and try Oregano’s Pizza, which we tried to go to in Mesa but wouldn’t wait an hour and a half. Since it was only 4:30 we thought we’d have better luck. We got seated right away but by the time we left at 5:45 the wait was 45 minutes. Unfortunately, it was just average pizza, certainly not worth waiting for, but you never know until you try.  And we will keep trying everywhere we go.   

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jim’s Turn

We hiked the Granite loop trail yesterday and Jim got a chance to play with the camera. We saw lots of birds, a couple snakes, some jackrabbits, and some beautiful wildflowers.

P1000070 P1000063 P1000072  P1000065

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Camera

We received our new Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 a few days ago, and the same day Jim pulled something in his back so he hasn’t been up and about much to use it. That means I have had the opportunity to play around with it a bit. The first thing he did was put the strap on it, and instructed me to use it at all times, which I have been doing. So far, I really like it. It is easier to use than our old Olympus, and the picture quality is much better.
Debbie and I went for a hike on the Scenic trail yesterday, and I took lots of pictures. The only problem I had was a few times I accidentally hit the record button and didn’t realize it, so I took quite a bit of unintended video. Gave Jim something to laugh about, and his back is feeling much better. He walked some yesterday and is even better today. He is hoping one day to wake up with nothing hurting!
Here are some of the pictures I’ve taken.
First, the view from our living room.
A fallen saguaro cactus behind our site that was cut.
And this pretty sunset a couple nights ago.
These shots are from the hike yesterday. You can see the charred saguaro from the ‘96 fire.
Some charred cholla that is coming back. That’s the campground in the background.
And the skeleton of a cholla,
                                         And a saguaro.
This one had a weird fan-like arm growing on it.
It looked like a piece just fell in between these two.                         P1000043
Just one more!  I liked this dead ironwood tree amongst the wildflowers that are beginning to bloom. It was another beautiful day in the desert.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fountain Hills, AZ


The pleasant community of Fountain Hills is located about 8 miles south of McDowell Mtn. Park.  They were having an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Saturday so we went to check it out and take a closer look at one of the world’s tallest fountains. It was built in 1970 by Robert McCullough, the same man who built the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City the following year. He obviously had way too much money! The fountain here held the Guiness World record for a decade but is now only the 4th tallest, at 560 feet. It is turned on every hour for 15 minutes, but they normally only run 2 of the 3 pumps so the water goes up about 300 feet. Still pretty impressive, and they colored it green for St. Pat’s Day.

Before the green…


Think they went a bit overboard at one point.DSC00872

It was prettier as it started to fade.



After all that excitement, we had to eat a gourmet pizza at Euro Pizza Cafe, which is right in the fountain park.

Jim had another dental appointment yesterday and got the final abutment on the implant, and they took the impression for the crown. Hopefully within the next 2 weeks he will be finished and can stay away from the dentist for awhile.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

McDowell Mtn Trails

We took a ranger guided hike on the North Trail and learned why there are so few cacti in the campground area. There was a lightning fire here in 1996, which killed many of them.  The northern part of the park was not burned so there was a lot more vegetation.DSC00845  DSC00841

Yesterday we hiked the Bluffs trail, which goes back to the area were the Marcus Landslide occurred 500,000 years ago. (At least that’s what they think.)


We just enjoyed seeing all the rocks that rolled down onto the desert.

DSC00856 DSC00857 DSC00854  Our new camera arrives Tuesday and I will most likely be banned from touching it!