I’ve met some new friends and I think they are trying to kill me!

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We are spending the winter in Arizona at a RV Resort.  Lots of activities to keep you busy.  You wanna play crib?  Cross crib?  2500? Bridge? Majohng? Poker? well do you?

I’m not much of a card player so to insert myself into the group here and get to know some of the fine people that surround me I decide to join some of the more physical activities that are offered here.

Pickle Ball?

 I’ve played badminton in my younger years, I can hit a ball with a paddle, I’m pretty sure of that..  Off I go and sure enough I can hold my own out there with the others.  What else can I join?

Billiards?

  I’ve played some billiards in my younger years, I can hit a ball with a cue, I’m pretty sure of that… Off I go and sure enough I can hold my own in there with the others.  What else can I join?

Hiking?

I can walk a mile or two or three, I’m pretty sure of that.  It’s the desert, it might be kind of warm out, but we are leaving early.  I’ll wear shorts and bring a couple bottles of water.  I’ll be fine… Off I go…

Me and 12 of my new friends meet at the clubhouse at 8AM.  They look innocent enough, they have white hair, grey hair, dark hair and are a cross section of your typical winter snowbirds.  Tall, short, medium, stout, skinny, wood walking sticks, titanium walking sticks, fanny packs, bright orange hiking shirts, durable footwear, smiles everywhere.  Looks harmless… right?

My assumption is that we are going to all go to the site of our hike and then break into our “easy” and “arduous” hiking groups and all will be good.  One group jumps into a van and off they go.  The rest of us separate in to 3 trucks and away we go.  We drive in the direction of The Wild Burro Trailhead in Marano, Arizona.  When we arrive the 3 trucks park and we disembark.

‘Where are the people in the van?’ I ask..

I am told: “They went on the “easy” hike on Casa Grande Mountain.  But don’t worry you’ll be fine!”

We begin our walk along a flat trail.  It’s beautiful.  My new friends point out different flora, fauna and cute little sing song birds that we can hear and see all around us.  We walk for 15 minutes and stop at the kiosk.  The kiosk is where you sign in to the trail system ( I found out later it’s so they know how many bodies they may need to retrieve if you fail to survive the Wild Burro Trail…).

We casually continue our walk along the wash towards the Tortolita Mountains and pass the lovely Ritz Carlton Hotel and Dove Mountain which you can see up the rise and off to our left after walking about a mile.  I’m having a great time, I’m seeing chain fruit chollas, saguaros, ocotillos, ironwoods, agaves and jojobas.  This is fantastic!

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We have now reached the end of the wash and my new friends have stopped for a break, we drink some water, discuss the hawks, bunnies and birds that we’ve seen so far.  Then our fearless leader points to the purple sign post that says “Wild Burro Trail” and the climb begins..  Are we really going UP THAT MOUNTAIN? … well yes we are.. OMG and before I know it, the 7 brightly colored orange shirts are off and climbing with ease.. It doesn’t take long before me and one other skinny guy wearing jeans are bringing up the rear.  My new friends are being pretty polite, they holler down the trail to ask if I’m ok… I weakly wave and give a thumbs up that yes, I’m OK.. (can’t they hear me and Mr. Jeans gasping for breath from where they are?).. This torture continues for at least an hour as we climb, stop and gather our breath, climb, stop, climb, stop, stop..  We finally arrive at our intended lunch break spot at the basin of the Wild Burro Trail.  We have a beautiful view of Marana and the valley.  There’s an old ranch site, stone walls and round depressions in the rocks called morteros.  They are thousands of years old and it is hard to imagine how many years of grinding it took to wear an 18 inch deep hole in a granite rock.  Were they grinding acorns? nuts? beans? Maybe all of those things?  Archaeologists aren’t really sure.

After catching our breath, battling the little gnats and flies while eating our lunch, we begin our return trip.  I’m relieved when I find out that we are taking an easier route back to the truck.  Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you I’m thinking.. then away they go.  We begin to climb a little more (I’m officially horrified to learn that we have to climb around this little mountain before we begin our descent).  The view was incredible, there was a nice cool breeze, and we saw a batch of colorful flowers along the trail.

The name of the return trail is called… wait for it.. The Alamo Loop.. (you know what happened to the guys at the Alamo right?).  But there’s not much I can do now, here we go.. down, down down, switchbacks, rocks, ledges, head down watching every step, don’t trip, don’t fall, don’t grab a cactus for support (Mr. Jeans learned that on the way up when I stopped suddenly and he had no choice but to grasp at the nearest thing to support himself).. poor guy, I felt bad for him.

We safely negotiate our exit, arrive back at the wash and trudge our way back to the safety of our vehicles.  All in all our hike lasted 5 HOURS and our distance travelled was 7 MILES.  I had survivor’s euphoria when it was completed.

 All in all, I enjoyed my hike, it was longer than I thought it was going to be, it was more exercise than I thought it was going to be, but my new friends were very supportive, made sure I had water, didn’t leave me behind and didn’t manage to kill me or Mr. Jeans.  I will definitely join them on another day!

 

The desert isn’t always Flat and Dry.

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One of many Saguero Cactus near Mesa, Arizona.

We’ve been in the desert now since Christmas.  We’ve been in Mesa where we visited my Uncle Al and Aunt Jean.  We travelled on freeways and other state roads and seen roadrunners, coyotes, and a bobcat.  Different types of cactus appear as you go up in elevation and disappear and change as you descend.

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Along the Salt River near Mesa, Arizona.

 

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Along the Salt River in Arizona.

There are mountains here, more than you would expect.  They have cool names:  The Superstition Mountains (Mesa), Picacho Mountain (Casa Grande), Black Mountains (Oatman) and the Chocolate Mountains (Parker).  There are 194 mountain ranges in the state.  There are lakes created by dams along the Colorado and Salt Rivers.  We’ve seen boats in marina’s along the lakes and rivers and we know there are places to fish in the summer here.

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Mammoth in the rock along Canyon Lake, Arizona.

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Canyon Lake, Arizona.

 

We haven’t done a huge number of tourist attractions (and there are many here).  I guess we are kind of “touristed out” after all our travelling.  We have been to Oatman and seen the burro’s, taken the Dolly boat ride on Canyon Lake, driven to Tortilla Flats and saw the fountain shoot over 500feet in Fountain Hills, and visited The Pima Air & Space Museum all while in Arizona.  There is lots to do here and it sure is nice to be warm and dry.  I miss the green and blues of Campbell River, but I don’t miss the grey winter rain.  We will be home on Vancouver Island in 30 days.  Hard to believe our circle is almost complete!

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at Tortilla Flats, Arizona.

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The Fountain in Fountain Hills, Arizona.