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!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Sedona Getaway

A couple weeks ago we got an invitation to spend a week in Sedona at an Airbnb house owned by the woman we were supposed to cat sit for last month. As would be expected, everyone who had reservations to rent the house during the pandemic lockdown canceled, so it's been sitting there vacant. Due to all of the rain over the winter/spring, weeds were growing like crazy and she wondered if we would be interested in doing a little yard work in exchange for staying in the house. Jim isn't all that crazy about yard work, but I enjoy it on a limited basis, so for a change in scenery and temps about 10-15 degrees cooler, we took a little road trip. I can say that at least on I-17 between Phoenix and Sedona there was no evidence of a slowdown in travel based on the number of vehicles on the road, including many RVs.
View from the back deck

The house was great but the yard was full of weeds so we had our work cut out for us. She told us not to work more than an hour or so a day, but some days I got a bit carried away seeing how nice it looked after I finished. I failed to take photos of the yard, but I managed to clean out the entire back and got about halfway done with the front. Jim came behind me with a torch hooked up to a propane tank to burn those that were left behind. There were some windy days where he couldn't safely burn, but it definitely looked a lot better. We hope to go back and take care of her cats at the house across the street when she is able to travel sometime in the future. Never can pass up an opportunity to visit the soothing red rocks of Sedona.

Burning Man

We hiked or walked every morning, once on the unnamed trails just a few steps up the street below  Wild Horse Mesa. It's always good to be able to hike without having to drive to a trailhead.

Bell Rock in the middle

We were staying in Village of Oak Creek, so Kathryn recommended the Baldwin trail just a few miles away, one which we had never been on before. It follows along Oak Creek for a while, a pleasant, shady trail that is popular with families with kids who enjoy playing in the water. What a nice change from desert scenery.

Where the loop trail didn't follow the creek there were open red rock views.

At one point we intersected with a bike trail, just one of many technical trails around here.

A few mornings we walked the neighborhood from the house, a lovely area a couple miles from the golf course.

It's a shame Sedona isn't a national park instead of a place for second homes for the wealthy.

The day we hiked the Baldwin we also took a detour on the Templeton trail. It went by Cathedral Rock and I really wanted to go back and do the entire trail. Since I couldn't talk Jim into getting up early to avoid the heat, I went by myself and was on the trail about 7:15. It was nice and cool and there were just a handful of cars in the parking lot. I only saw a few other hikers and several mountain bikers over the 6.5 mile hike. Wish my dear partner was more of a morning person, but this is what he missed.

This mountain biker did a lot more bike pushing than riding up the switchbacks

Other than that little trip, which made us feel like things were a bit more normal, we are now in the process of trying to decide what we want to do when our lease ends on July 31st. New management has taken over the apartment and we aren't sure we want to stay. Jim's latest idea is to find some land and put a double-wide on it. Who knows, we may end up living in a trailer again!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Social Distancing with Nature

The other day we took a drive about 25 miles northeast of Fountain Hills to the Ballantine Trail in Tonto National Forest on the way to Payson, AZ. This is a trail we had not been on before but had heard good things about, and since we were needing a diversion from the news and some new scenery, we also hoped that being farther away from Fountain Hills and Scottsdale there would not be many people on the trail. 

There is a 3 mile loop that the Ballantine trail continues off of, and we decided to take it counterclockwise as there was a young couple who were heading off that way and we knew we would not be hiking as fast. A few other people came by us going the other direction in the first mile, but for the rest of the hike we were alone. It is a beautiful trail, especially with the desert being so colorful this spring.

We were amazed by the number of saguaros.                                                                                  

The Pine Creek loop has a view of Pine Creek, which surprisingly had quite a bit of water flowing.

  We continued on the Ballantine trail for about a half mile. It was steep and rocky but very scenic. 


It was a great hike until near the end when Jim did a little slip and fall, putting his hand down on cactus. Days later he still has some pieces in his palm.

Looking down on Hwy 87
Last week the director of Fearless Kitty called to ask if I would be up for some painting of cat rooms while many of them are empty of cats. I jumped at the chance for something to do and told her I was sure LuAnn would be interested in joining me. So we spent three afternoons painting and doing a few other little projects after the staff went home, keeping our social distance, of course. It felt good to do something "normal", although seeing most of the rooms without cats in them seems strange. We have a couple other rooms to paint next week after some of the remaining cats get moved around. We're hoping she finds more for us to do after that.                                                                                             

And finally, a few photos from our Fountain Hills walks.                                                              

This one made us smile

Stay healthy out there everyone!