Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sharing New Beauty With Old Friends

February 15-20, 2017
White Tanks Regional Park, Arizona

Other than a couple of our friends' homes, this is the first place we've returned to since going fulltime 20 months ago.  We love the quiet beauty of White Tanks Regional Park, and the close proximity to so many friends who live in the greater Phoenix area.

Our front yard view - Space #25
This year I chose one of the parallel spots with a grand northern view. Really, there isn't a space here that doesn't have views in multiple directions. I have to make a three-point turn to be facing the right direction (look at the campground map before you enter so you know which way to make the loop). Although the concrete parking bumpers are a challenge for "lining up" the front door steps, and we aren't able to get completely level, we'd definitely choose this site again - for the views and privacy. 50 amp and water with decent pressure, nice showerhouse with restrooms nearby, firewood for sale, and huge, immaculate space. 

Our backyard (campground road runs beside the motorhome)
Thursday morning we head out early to make the 50+ mile drive to Mesa. Bill's brother Wayne's best friend and his wife Lane live here. We see them nearly every year at the reunion, but this is the first time we've visited their beautiful home.

They're excited to show us the area and we all pile in their vehicle for the grand tour. First stop is Canyon Lake - a pretty blue spot in the red rock and green vegetation. The drive to Tortilla Flat is gorgeous. We continue to marvel at the beauty that is Arizona.

This little historic stagecoach stop/tourist spot is packed on a weekday! Live music plays on the patio, and Lane and I peruse the mercantile without making a purchase. We enjoy a yummy lunch, and then we're off again.

Eat, shop and drink - but you're not spending the night!

Definitely the smallest museum I've visited.

The 12'x12' space utilizes every inch to showcase the area's history.

A common ghost town custom, dollar bills line every wall and the ceilings.

Fun bathroom art.

A small creek adds to the natural beauty.
The original plan was to turn around and visit the little ghost town of Goldfield, but instead we all opt for completing the Apache Trail Scenic Drive. There are a couple view points before the dirt road becomes very steep and very narrow. Passing ascending vehicles is a dance of timing and cooperation. Sitting in the back seat on the drop-off side, I hold on with various body parts while occasionally braving the amazing vistas.

The sliver of road is dwarfed by the colorful canyon.

More Arizona Wows....

Mike and Bill, 50 years of friendship.

Tonto National Forest - the colors!!
The road meanders past Apache Lake and returns us to pavement at Roosevelt Lake. We stop at the dam overlook, then continue through more spectacular canyons with towering rock formations.

Lake Roosevelt Bridge, completed in 1992.

Lane checks out the original road at the bottom of the narrow canyon.

Majestic canyon walls - I didn't see the tagging until I uploaded the photo :-(
Back at their home we are treated to a delicious meal topped off with poached pears. So yummy! It's late (for us) when we head home, and nearly midnight when we tuck in for the night. Thanks Mike and Lane for a great day!!

Friday is our last day of perfect weather before a weekend storm arrives, so we get out to play in the park. There are many easy trails, and we have a great time enjoying the long distance views and the nature at our feet.

Poppies sprinkled throughout the grass. Grass. Lots of grass.

Blooms are promised on the tips of every cactus.

After our wanderings we stop at the visitor center that shares it's space with a fabulous library. The back wall of glass looks over the lush desert. A partially completed jigsaw puzzle draws us in, and we have to pull ourselves away to go home and get ready for dinner :-)))

A lovely place to read and learn....and puzzle!
We meet three other couples in Globe (we went to school with four of the six people), and have a good meal and even better conversation at Carlos O'Brian's. Afterward Kristy and Tom invite us to their home where we continue getting caught up around their lovely fire pit.

Coy, Patty, Cyndee, Rocky, Bill, Kristy and Jodee
Saturday it rains off and on all day, perfect for reading and naps. The smell of the desert is heavenly!

Cyndee and Rocky and Patty come out to visit on Sunday. While the guys enjoy the clearing skies and a few brews, we three drive to the Waterfalls Trailhead. Something that many, many others thought was a good idea too. I've never seen so many people on one trail!!

Rocky and Bill 
Still, we take photos and talk and laugh all the way. The number of Petroglyphs is surprising - they have done a good job of protecting them. When we get to the water I wait for the other two who climb the wet stairs and boulders to see the small falls above. Now that my knee is doing so much better I'm not anxious to slip on slick rocks.

Patty, Jodee and Cyndee

They bring me a pic of the falls. I'm okay that I missed it :-)
After a tasty tamale dinner we hang out around the fire until the chilly temps send us inside. It's been another great day with great friends.

Guess what we did on Monday? After sleeping late and going grocery shopping......we went to visit some friends :-)))) This time in Tempe.

We meet David (he and Bill were good friends in high school and have stayed in touch ever since) and Tina at their home, then head out for dinner at Uncle Bear's Brewery. With a doggie theme, Tessa feels right at home. Our meal is good and we have fun getting caught up. As we're driving home I realize I forgot to get a photo of them :-( Next time for sure!!

The park padlocks the gate every evening, and three nights we (Bill) have had to unlock it to get home. For a couple who is usually in bed at 9 PM, this stop we've been quite the night owls!

Next time we'll stay longer at this favorite spot, but now we're off to Wickenburg to see more of Arizona.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cactus, Rocks and a Jeep Day

February 13-14, 2017
Tucson, Arizona

Last year when we were in the area we visited Saquaro National Park - West. The only national park divided in two sections, this time we head out to the East park.

In the 1920's grazing threatened the giant Saquaros found in only a small region of the United States. Efforts to save these beautiful forests, led by Homer Shantz, resulted in President Hoover designating this area of the Rincon Mountains as a National Monument in 1933. President Kennedy added the Tucson Mountains in 1961, and in 1977 Congress designated over 71K acres as wilderness. The current two sections were established as the Saquaro National Park in 1997.

This area is lovely, but there are a lot fewer saquaros compared to what we've seen. There is however, a lovely variety of chollas, barrel, ocotillo and prickly pear cactus, along with Greasewood bushes and Palo Verde trees. Although we hear birds throughout the park, a single rabbit sighting is our only critter.

Variations in green.

Chain Cholla

Purple Staghorn Cholla, wispy Palo Verde, majestic Saquaro, spiky Prickly Pear

The golden crown of a Fishhook Barrel

This Jack Rabbit is huge!
The scenic loop is an eight mile, one-way road that climbs into the lower slopes of the Rincon Mountains. One of the stops is at Javelina Rocks where the three of us enjoy climbing around the large boulders.

One small trail takes us under the wavy rock.

What's up there??
Multi-layered views from the top.
Teddy Bear Cholla tucked among the rocks.

The lone "crested" saquaro in this section of the park.
The skies are cloudy, and we aren't ready to head home yet. Let's go back and spend more time among the formations on Catalina Highway (to Mt Lemmon)!

I figure I'll just look, since we were here a couple days ago, when I took a lot of photos. But the lighting is different, and I can't help but snap several more :-) It is also 20 degrees colder. We turn around when we find the gate to Lake Rose closed. I knew we'd be back, just didn't think it would be so soon!

If you've seen enough rocks, you should bail now.....

Massive fins wrap around the highway.

Line of robots.....
Jumbled formation with arch side-car.

Hodge Podge of rock

Clouds drop into the trees.
From the small rock wall across the river bed I can hear and smell the water at Seven Cataracts. I forget to take a pic from a distance, but I find three of the seven with the zoom.

Number two.

Number three.
Gay and Joe and Sue and Dave join us for happy hour on a much cooler evening. I don't think full-timers can ever run out of things to talk and laugh about - I always so enjoy these gatherings!

Tuesday is our last day in Tucson, and it's time to get the Jeeps out in the dirt. The others have appointments in town, but Dave and Sue are with us as we head up Redington Pass. The dirt road is well maintained for the first few miles, then rocks and ruts make it more interesting. The mountains are beautiful so going slow is a pleasure. We make several stops to enjoy the views and take photos.

Is that a crested :-(
The initial climb gives us expansive views of the valley below.

Dave takes in the view from an outcropping. The feathery skies add another layer.
Sue looks for the water we can hear but not see.
Subtle colors.
More rocks! Sorry :-)
We're looking for Josephine Tank for our lunch stop, but there's a closed gate when we find the entrance. Small stickers tell us Jeeps aren't welcome. Instead we turn back to Race Track Tank. I put Piper in 4-wheel-drive.

Crawling over large rocks, through mud and small pools of water, and over deep crevices get us to a creek bed where we stop for lunch. Although I'm hesitant at first, it's so much fun!

How 'bout here?

View with a lunch :-)
Comfy waterside seating. (thanks Sue)
The map looks like the tank is not much further so after lunch we continue on. I'm not a fan of the "feels like two wheels are off the ground", but Piper pulls around the one iffy spot and just over a small hill we find the pretty little tank.

Race Track Tank

The girls walk along the tank.
Discussing the return route while the humans wander around on foot.
The final puddle jump.
A single dark cloud moves overheard and light sprinkles follow us half way down the mountain. Nothing else smells like rain in the desert :-)))

It's a wonderful Jeep day with fun friends, and the perfect end to our time in Tucson. 

John and Pam and Dave and Sue and Lewis all stop by for quick good-bye-for-now's as the sun is going down. We know we'll see all of them down the road - love it!

We have an oil-change appointment first thing Wednesday morning, then on to one of our favorite Arizona stops.