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!


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Greetings

Jim was able to capture this shot of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket behind the McDowell Mountains on the night of December 22. It’s not Santa’s sleigh and his reindeer but it was an amazing sight to see, especially since it was over 500 miles away in California!


We’ll be volunteering at Fearless Kitty on Christmas morning, then joining the park volunteers and friends in the afternoon for dinner. Here’s wishing a Merry Christmas to all of our friends, family and blog readers!


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Random Thoughts and Photos

IMG_2113                                     Sunrise over Weaver’s Needle and the Superstition Mountains

On Monday the 4th we had to dump tanks and change sites. We were looking forward to trying out the new backup camera, which I had already turned on as we were getting ready to leave. When Jim started the Lazy Daze the camera went off. Scott had wired the monitor to the 12 volt switch for our TV antenna, and we never realized it was wired to switch off with the ignition turned on for safety reasons. Apparently the driver shouldn’t be watching TV. Scott was coming back out on Saturday to install the radio anyway so he was able to easily fix it with some help from Chris Horst, our Lazy Daze friend and forum moderator who also has a 30’ with the entertainment center. The photos he sent of his made it quick and easy. Thanks, Chris! Since we aren’t moving sites again until the 18th, we still haven’t had a chance to try out the camera. We do like the new Sony HD radio, and it’s especially nice being able to connect  the phone via Bluetooth to play our music. And although we didn’t replace speakers it sounds much better than the original.


Before moving to our new site we did go for a drive into Fountain Hills while exercising the generator. Jim wanted it warm so he could change the oil when we got back, which he did. Check one more chore off the list.


Friends Alex and Ellen arrived that day so we had happy hour with them and Sunaree, and have had several more since. Alex keeps making us drink his margaritas. 

Ellen and Alex on her birthday bike ride. Margaritas followed, along with a wonderful chocolate torte that Sunaree baked.


Jim had his annual visit with the hematology PA at the Mayo Clinic last week. His blood work was fine, she gave him a renewal on his Eliquis prescription, and he was told to come back in a year.

A few photos from hikes in McDowell Mountain Park where the weather has been lovely. It is hard to complain about 70s in December.


Although the desert is in desperate need of rain.


Northern mockingbird on top of a saguaro cactus..


Our Fearless Kitty cat of the week is Ricky, a good-looking, playful and friendly eight month old kitten. He is sure to get adopted soon.


Wild and crazy Theo is being adopted this week so we said our goodbyes. He’s been returned once before so we’re hoping his new home will work out this time. The same family is also adopting Mischonne, a sweet black cat who is good buddies with Theo.

I hope the next post will be coming from Jim with a review our new back-up camera if all works well after our move on Monday.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Staying Busy

IMG_2014                                              Lone bloom on a leafless ocotillo.

We’ve been back at McDowell Mountain for a month already, which is hard to believe since it feels like we just got here. We had the TadiBrothers backup camera installed last week, but other than looking at our backyard we haven’t driven anywhere yet to see how it really works. We have to change sites today so we plan to take the Lazy Daze for a drive and see what we think. We’ll write more about the installation and how it functions after we try it out while actually driving.

Male Phainopepla, a silky flycatcher that eats the berries of the parasitic desert mistletoe.


The first replacement in-dash radio we bought did not easily fit so we ordered another one which arrived yesterday. Hope to get it in sometime this week. The whole doghouse and a couple dash panels had to come off to get the old radio out because there was a screw in the back, so putting in this one should be much easier since we won’t have to disassemble everything. It wasn’t such a bad thing, though, since it gave me a chance to do some cleaning in places that rarely get cleaned.

We met Debbie for lunch in Chandler last week and picked up our new Blue Ox tow bar from her. It’s really nice and looks almost new. I’m sure Debbie is happy to have it out of her car. And one of the volunteers here at the park has the same tow bar as our old one so he took it for parts.


We’ve also been biking, hiking, visiting the gym, and caring for cats. The weather has been incredibly warm this fall but I’m not complaining. Last year was very cold and rainy while we were here so this has been a nice change.

This is Randy and Sunaree’s Airstream with the almost full moon shining down on it. Randy is off working in Georgia so he’s missed some nice sunsets this past week.


And some nice sunrises.


Sunaree and I joined the 8am Friday Fitness Walk in the park last week. I was surprised there were over a dozen people who showed up for the almost 12 mile hike. Most of us were senior citizens, and we finished in 4 hours, a pretty fast pace for that distance. We had to eat our snacks on the run since Kevin, the hike leader, barely stopped for a minute at a time, but it was fun and a pleasant morning for a long hike. That is Sunaree in the beige shirt and pants but I couldn’t get her to look my way.


I was impressed that everyone pretty much kept up the pace, but then it is billed as a fitness hike for experienced hikers only.






We hiked through a very pretty part of the park with lots of cactus.


This is chain fruit cholla.


There was a lot of teddy bear cholla, too. Both of these are also known as “jumping cholla” because segments break off easily when brushed against and attach to whatever part of you is unlucky enough to make contact. Jim’s rear has been up close and personal with a teddy bear cholla and he can tell you it isn’t pleasant.



No photos, but we saw a dead coyote, a live jackrabbit, and a scorpion along the way. Also one of the women spotted a plant called a cereus, or Queen of the Night, which looked like a stick coming out of the ground. Apparently once a year in June or July it produces beautiful white flowers which open one evening and close forever the following day. It was a good morning in the Sonoran desert.


Saturday night we went on a group sunset/moonrise hike on the Lousley Hill trail. It’s a mile climb up to a ridge with great views. We had some cloud cover so missed the moon as it rose over the mountains but we did get to see it a bit later.



The moon is there somewhere. I think this is the third time we’ve gone on a moonrise hike here at McDowell and it’s always been cloudy.




The camera battery died just after I took this.


Last night there were no clouds but we forgot to go outside until the moon had already risen.


Just one cat photo this time. This is Big Daddy, an FIV positive feral cat who used to hang out around the old Fearless Kitty building for food and water. Before the move last year he was trapped, neutered, and is now an official Fearless Kitty. He would not let anyone near him for many months, and last year he hissed at me every time I got close to him. Time and more contact with humans and his two other FIV + cat roommates have really changed his personality, and much to my surprise he rubbed on my legs and let me pet him for a long time last week. It made my day, and is one of the many reasons I love volunteering here!