Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Hike Of 2013



It was laundry time again, so yesterday we opted for one in Apache Junction so we could meet up with fellow bloggers and friends Ron and Barbara, and John and Carol, for a hike in the Superstition Mountains.


We’ve been to the nearby Lost Dutchman State Park once before and hiked a trail in the park, but this was all new to us. We decided on the First Water Trail Head, a few miles down a rough, rocky dirt road. This is such a beautiful part of the desert!







There were lots of fine rocks, a few petroglyphs and too much graffiti, horses, a hunter, and even water to cross. And no seniors were harmed on our 3.4 mile hike.

Ron, Gayle, Carol, John and Barbara. Weaver’s Needle is in the background over Barb’s head.







It was a lovely day and a very pleasant hike. We definitely want to come back and explore more of this area another time.

On the way home Ron and Barbara joined us at BJ’s Brewhouse in Mesa for a happy hour pizza and beer. Then we made one last stop at Trader Joe’s to stock up on a few things we won’t get for awhile, since we will be heading west towards Quartzsite tomorrow. Time to get back in the boondocking mode.

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy New Year! Hope to see you on down the road.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas Story


We received an email and photo from the family of Z the cat, the one that Jim found the home for while we were staying at Zion River Resort. Here is what it said:

“We thought you would enjoy knowing that "Z" has settled in well and has realized that he was a Christmas miracle for one little girl! :) Well actually, a whole family!”

Benny Z under the Christmas tree

I can’t think of a better Christmas gift! We’re so happy it all worked out.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Night Before Christmas



How it got to be Christmas Eve already is a mystery to me this year. I stopped sending real cards last year, and we haven’t done the gift giving thing for many years now, so somehow time just goes by and all of a sudden it’s another holiday.


I can’t stop thinking of my good friend Joann who was killed in a bike accident in May and know how hard it will be for her family, as she was the one who always had the big Christmas get together at her house. I know after my mother died Christmas was never the same for me.


Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so morose on the night before Christmas. We are heading out early this morning for Jim to make one last trip to the doctor to get a couple skin lesions frozen off, then continue our as of yet unsuccessful search for a couple of new chairs for our “living room”. Perhaps mingling with the last minute shopping crowd in Scottsdale will help get me in the spirit!


Merry Christmas to our friends, family, and blog readers everywhere!

Friday, December 20, 2013

A New Toy Just in Time for Christmas



For many months now our old Samsung netbook computer has been acting up, probably something wrong with the graphic card which causes all kinds of psychedelic colored lines to jump around on the screen. The cursor has also been freezing frequently, so Jim had been researching a replacement.

Coincidentally a friend purchased a new iPad Air and made us an offer we couldn’t refuse on his old iPad 3. It’s only a year old and he threw in all kinds of cords and an ultra thin cover/keyboard.


Aside from some initial frustration over difficulty accessing Gmail (which turned out to be user error on Jim’s part), we really like it so far. We’ve put some free apps on it already such as Duolingo (I’m learning German, Jim is attempting Spanish), and Garage Band, which seems like it will be fun. If anyone has a favorite app you think we’d like, let us know. I think it will be a good replacement for the netbook, which we used for looking at email and surfing the internet. All our important information, photos, music, etc. will still reside on our 17” Toshiba.


One problem with staying at McDowell Mountain Park is the lack of a nearby laundromat. Apparently Fountain Hills is too upscale to have one, so the closest one is at an RV park at Fort McDowell, 11 miles away. We tried it once but it is expensive and there are not many washers and dryers. We also got the impression that the RV park residents weren’t too happy that outsiders were there taking up the few available machines.

So that means having to drive 20-30 miles to Mesa, Apache Junction or a not so desirable area of Scottsdale, which is what we opted for a couple days ago. I noticed that Phoenix Mountains Recreation Area was not far from the laundry, so we went there for a hike when we got finished. It was hard to believe the big city surrounded us on the rocky, rugged trails, and it was a nice change to be walking on trails rather than riding our bikes.

The afternoon was hazy and overcast, not good for photos.






This pair of Gila woodpeckers must really be thirsty, as one of them keeps coming to the hummingbird feeder, while the other works on trying to get water out of our spigot. We’ve had a good rain overnight so maybe they will find some easier access to water today. They are driving the cats crazy!



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fee Increases At Maricopa County Parks


It has come to our attention that Maricopa County has proposed a fee increase at its lovely parks surrounding the Phoenix area. We’ve stayed at McDowell Mountain several times, and also at Usery Mountain and Cave Creek. We’ve intended to check out the parks on the west side of town but haven’t managed to get there yet.

Usery Mountain March 2010.


Cave Creek March 2010. (Our least favorite.)


Currently the campground fees are $25/night with water and electric. We feel like $25 is already on the high side, but with the convenience of the location, the huge separation between campsites, the beauty of the surrounding desert, and the excellent trails, we keep returning to McDowell Mountain Park despite the rates.


If the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approves this rate increase, the campsite fees will increase to $30/night as of April 2014. Spending a month here would mean paying $900 for the privilege, which is $200 more than what it currently costs. Seems a bit excessive to us, considering no sewer hookups and bathrooms that are not heated, which makes it pretty uncomfortable to use the showers in the winter. Will we come back next year at $30/night? Probably so, for our annual doctors appointments, but we won’t likely stay as long. I really wonder if this will hurt their business.


Interestingly our next door neighbors, Canadians, have been wintering here for many winters as they love the mountain biking in the area. They even bought a house in nearby upscale Fountain Hills but stay here at the park in their 5th wheel, moving to a different site every two weeks as per the park rules. They said they aren’t sure what they will do next year and may just stay in their house, but I suspect another couple hundred a month won’t break them.

Unusual looking hummingbird at the feeder this morning.


On the Maricopa County website there is a form for public comments. We have expressed our opinion, and if anyone else is interested you may do so here. Thanks!

Another fiery sunrise this morning. It really did look like this.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Mountain Biking at McDowell Mountain



We’ve been biking our little legs off almost every day since we arrived, and with over 40 miles of trails in the park there is no danger of getting bored. And the best part is you can get to them all in just a short ride from the campground. Thanks Mark and Boonie for convincing us we needed mountain bikes!

We tackled the 15 mile Pemberton Trail on Friday but because we decided to take another trail to get to it, which turned out to be over three miles uphill, then took a wrong turn which added a few more miles, we didn’t quite make the entire loop and still ended up riding almost 18 miles.


There was a 10 hour mountain bike race on the Pemberton Trail Saturday, so there were lots of bikers scoping out the race course. We enjoyed talking with several people who were planning to race, and saw quite a few riders pass by while we were stopped for lunch.



It’s a nice trail, not too technical, except for a few very long rocky ups and downs. I only had to get off and walk the bike up a portion of one steep hill, but I think if Jim hadn’t stopped in front of me I could have made it.

The trail passes by an old ranch at one point. We stopped to read the signs and take a look.

McDowell Mountain December 2013

We took a shortcut back and were happy to finally see the campground.


We rode our bikes over to watch some of the racing on Saturday. You could enter solo and ride the entire 10 hours, or be part of a two, three or four man relay team. The race was limited to 285 riders.

We could see the tents in the staging area from our site.


We watched for a few minutes then took a ride on the North Trail, which is in a really pretty area of the park.


From the North Trail.




Yesterday we tried a new trail our neighbor told us about, which isn’t even on the park trails map yet. The Escondido Trail is a six mile loop, and we found it to be more difficult than the Pemberton. More climbing, and lots of twists and turns along steep drop offs. Not sure we will tackle that one again, but it may be easier a second time around now that we know what to expect.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but we really like it here. And so does Sophie.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Taking Care of Business



You know the sun rises late when Jim has been up to see it three days in a row. On Tuesday morning I had a mammogram, then yesterday we both had appointments for an annual physical and eye exams. We were out of the house by seven and didn’t get back until five. A long day of sitting around waiting, and unfortunately my doctor called in sick so I was rescheduled for Monday. Oh well, what else do we have to do?

I was impressed that the Mayo clinic radiologist was able to read my mammogram and give me the results about twenty minutes after the procedure. Since my mother died from breast cancer at the very young age of 52 this is something I dread doing every year. Have also had several good friends and coworkers over the years with breast cancer, so it’s always in the back of my mind if this will be my turn. Fortunately all was clear, and I can put those thoughts aside for another year.


We both got a good report at the eye doctor, although my cataracts were a little worse and it will just be a matter of time before I am faced with surgery. I’m hoping that will be years down the road, though, as I’ve had them since my mid 40s and they’ve progressed very slowly. This getting older is not a whole lot of fun! Jim’s medical doctor told him for a man his age he was doing very well. Jim said he wasn’t sure how to take that, but I think it was a compliment! His blood pressure was only 100/66, and no he doesn’t take blood pressure medicine, so I guess all that hiking and biking has paid off.


We also managed to squeeze in a couple mountain bike rides this week. The trails here are about as good as they get as far as being fairly easy but loads of fun. Lots of ups and downs but nothing super technical like the ones we rode in Utah. Today we’re planning a long loop ride on the Pemberton Trail. It’s rated as difficult, but I think that might be because it’s 16 miles long. Guess we’ll find out!