Saturday, May 19, 2018

Making the Best of a Hot Situation

May 12-17, 2018
Mesa - Apache Junction, Arizona

Looking at the dates and location above, I don't have to tell you it's hot where we are this week. We knew it would be hotter than we like, but we've wanted to visit this area for years, it's on our way back to SoCal, and we have good AC. Still.....it is hot :-)

Our reservations at Lost Dutchman don't start for a couple days so we move on to Usery Mountain Regional Park to check out what I've read is a beautiful location. Like the other Maricopa County Parks, there's great spacing with 50 amp and water at each site. Showers and flush toilets in centralized cinderblock buildings. The park is well maintained. We have decent AT&T cell service, and beautiful views from our large and level site.


Usery Mountain from our front yard.

The surrounding cholla are like having perimeter security.
Good friends Mike and Lane live in nearby Mesa. They were Bill's brother's best friends and have become good friends of ours as well. When we reach out, they invite us over for BBQ and brews. Sweet! They have a lovely home, and are both wonderful cooks. It's a great evening sharing travel stories (they take their motorcycle around the country and do extensive trips through Europe), and it's late by the time we pull out for home. Of course I forget a photo - again!

Sunday is Mother's Day and although I hear from all the boys, I still don't make the connection when I suggest we go out for a late breakfast. Yep, waiting lines everywhere. Duh!! We do find a Mexican place with available seating and have early lunch instead.

Bill suggests a drive to the Salt River area above the park - good idea!

The blooming Saquaros are plentiful and so beautiful. Neither of us remember ever seeing them in bloom, and they're a real bonus for being in this area so  late in the season. The river canyon has wonderful color and formations. Both Saquaro Lake and the river access areas are busy with families picnicing and playing in the water. Wild horses share the space, calmly grazing and meandering through the trees. They're a lovely surprise.


Wearing a small hat, holding two full bouquets.

A plethora of buds on each arm.

They seem to bloom in "stages".

Some bloom well beyond just their crowns.
Four Peaks - the name sake of my favorite Arizona brews, Peach Ale and Tilted Kilt.
River canyon.

Human families fill the beaches.

Equine families hang out in the shade.

How does she stay so clean?

Lunch time
The Salt River creates a beautiful green path through the desert.

A lone bay on the other side of the river.

 Ironwood Trees add more color.

But for us, nothing compares to these show stoppers.
Since my feet are still driving me crazy at night, when we check in to Lost Dutchman State Park I let them know we'll be leaving early. It's so beautiful here, even with the heat I'd want to stay the full week if I wasn't so uncomfortable. 


Superstition Mountains in the gloaming.

One of our more beautiful sites.

The setting sun pulls the red from the rock.

Interesting formations at the base of the mountain.

The colors melt into each other.......
Tuesday we head back to Mesa to do something we haven't done in a while - visit a museum. While I enjoy them much more than Bill does, I can usually get him to join me if there's some dinosaurs and fossils thrown in!


See Honey! You'll love it!

Fishtail Selenite - crystals formed over decades.

All the mineral and rock exhibits I've seen, and there's always something new and interesting - Pseudomorph Geode

The size of a large coffee table - wish we had room in the motorhome!

A nice ancient peoples exhibit, but difficult to follow a timeline. Stump Vessels from Peru, not Arizona.

Apache Gaan, a mountain spirit who performs ceremonies to ward off evil and prevent illness. They are often part of a girl's puberty ritual.

Small altar figures, about the size of your finger.

The small section of miners and settlers includes these wonderful miniature characters. The detail is wonderful on figures the size of baby cucumbers.
A walk-through mine has artifacts along the way, including these "notes" from Jacob Waltz, the Dutchman of lost mine fame. Each one gives a "maybe" of what he did with the treasure. Fun stuff!
A replica of one of many "maps" said to lead to the lost gold mine. No wonder it has never been found!



The Pteranodon display includes very small and very large specimens.

More dinosaurs here than in the Smithonsian's exhibit. The wood puzzle on the left bottom corner here is one of several throughout the museum for kids to build.
Named for the man who discovered it in Russia, the Inostrancevia alexandri was a fast running and aggressive predator - although it looks like the Welsh Corgi of dinosaurs :-) 

One of the largest Triceratops skeletons ever found.

By far the weirdest dinosaur I've ever seen - and it flew on the largest wings of any animal ever!
How did they figure out the wing bones attached to the "leg" bones? Amazing.

About 1/100th the size of his neighbor, with similar "assembly".
Like the ones we saw in situ in Waco, Texas, all the mammoths found in Arizona are Columbian Mammoths.
Some of the museum is in the process of being redone so there is an "unfinished" feel in many areas. Their lighting is very poor in several of the exhibits, there's a lack of signage differentiating each area, and a general lack of "making sense" of what is displayed with what. We enjoyed our visit, getting out of the 95 degree temps for a short while, but I can't really recommend the Arizona Museum of Natural History unless you really like seeing dinosaur bones.

Wednesday we're back in the desert, exploring the well known canyon along the Apache Trail. We did this route with Mike and Lane a couple years ago so I know I have zero desire to drive Fish Creek Hill again. 

950 acre Canyon Lake was created in 1925 and today is a well established recreation and power source for the surrounding area. 




Bill finds a dirt road south of the hill that sounds beautiful. Unfortunately we get turned back by a large sign telling us the US government will lock our ass up if we keep going (the wording may have been a little different....). The two miles we do see are indeed beautiful.


Like their neighbors the Saquaros, blooming Century Plants are a first for us.

Most are still yellow pods, but some have deep orange blooms.

Layers of canyons in all directions.




After two miles of dirt road the sign makes us stop here. Past the gate the road is a paved switchback that disappears down the canyon. We figure out later it is the back way to Morman Flat Dam at the top of Apache Lake.

The fluffy trail blazer leads us up a short hill. It's 93 degrees, and it's us - so a really short hill.

Peaks beyond the gate make it clear Bill was right about this being a beautiful area - we're bummed we don't get to see more of it!
A lot of work went into building the road!



Back out on the highway we stop at the top of Fish Creek Hill and turn around after taking a few photos. Known affectionately as "Mr Toad's Wild Ride", the narrow dirt shelf road isn't too bad going down, but we'd have to come back up on the outside which I promised myself I'd never do :-))) I haven't made that much progress!

Even more blooming Century Plants are visible on the way back. What a treat they are.


Neon green lichen adds color along the rock walls.


Uniform pods of the Century Plant.



Feathery blooms - the birds must love them!


Many fallen centuries leave dried sunbursts along the road.
Pretty views heading home.
We're already looking forward to coming back to this area when I'm 100%, and the temps are a bit cooler. Thursday we continue west to see a few high school friends while staying at one of our favorite desert spots.