The next morning after our hike on Dead Man's Pass Trail we packed up everything and headed further south to the Phoenix area. Someone had suggested that we check out hot springs along the way, so we turned on Fossil Creek Road and slowly and painfully made our way on the twisty and very bumpy gravel road. About 15 miles and nearly an hour later (I mean it was real sloooooow going!) we discovered that we were barely half way there, so we decided to turn around.
As it turns out, we did manage to pick a bagful of pecans off the ground along that street. They grow in a black softish outer shell; a fact I was completely unaware of. I wanted to have more as they make such a wonderful road snack, so we stopped at a house that was advertising pecans for $1/lb - a fantastic price for us as they easily go for $4 in Canada and are nowhere near as good!
Dale and Barbara kindly took us around their property, giving us a taste of the different varieties of pecans growing on it. He even demonstrated how he shakes the branches with a long metal pole in order for the nuts to fall to the ground.
Don't they look a little like flowers?
We left with bagfuls of yummy fresh pecans; while we bought several pounds, they also gave us a few extra, including some lovely wild pecans which are super small and particularly tasty. Not a good seller, they said, as they require too much patience to crack open. Perfect for travelers like us with countless hours on the road! ;-)
I was a good girl and had done my homework; I scouted a few potential regional parks in the city's vicinity. Our first stop was at Cave Creek but the campground was full. We continued further south along 'the back road', choosing to avoid the highway traffic around Phoenix. We don't care much for it in the first place, but it's a nightmare here as the city/suburbs are so spread out that you can drive for more than an hour at 60 mph and you still haven't come to the other end! Yikes!
Thankfully there were spots left at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, a few miles north of Fountain Hills. Yippee! In fact, I'd say that we probably ended up with one of the nicest sites in the entire place! It was huge and private, with the desert as our 'backyard'. Paradise!
McDowell Park is spread over 21,099 acres - making it one of Maricopa County's largest - and offers some 51 miles of trails. Most of our walks started along the Granite Trail as its head was virtually right next to our site. We got to admire more of the desert's interesting flora that we so enjoyed last time.
Palo Verde tree, named after the green color of its bark.
Saguaros... Each one is so unique and seems to have a personality of its own.
Nature seems so determined to grow here in spite of the harsh conditions. We saw one tree that was literally on top of a big rock!
From Granite we continued onto Bluff Trail which gave us a better perspective of the area.
These next photos were taken on the south east section of Granite Trail.
Don was puzzled by the white column in the distance, and later we found out that it's a ginormous fountain in the nearby town, Fountain Hills.
We had encountered very few chollas along our daily walks; something we were all happy about, as these are mean little guys. Their spikes are like fish hooks and they hurt like heck to pull out! We nearly gasped at the sight of so many all at once!
We decided to loop back to our campsite via Stoneman Wash Trail for a different scenery. This proved to be hard work as the ground was soft under our feet. The flora however really thrived there, probably due to its temperature being slightly warmer (less wind) and the flash floods providing much welcomed water.
We saw the biggest saguaros we've come upon so far! Did you know that it takes 60 to 80 years before a saguaro grows its first arm?
The delicate beautiful leaves of the Mesquite tree, also known as the Tree of Life. Its ripened seedpods are gathered and ground up into the smokey flavored powder that is sometimes called for in raw recipes.
Some really cool looking dried up trees.
One day we ventured on a different trail that started at the Visitors Center. After picking snow white amethysts on Tortoise Trail we followed the Scenic Trail along a valley flanked on either side by gentle rolling hills and cloudless blue sky. It had been a while since we'd seen so much of it; accustomed as we are to the forested areas of BC. After several minutes we finally began to climb up one of the hills and get an overview of our surroundings.
A fallen desert warrior; the inside of dead saguaros is actually just like wood!
It's so interesting how some areas are jammed packed with saguaros while in others they are far apart. On our walk that afternoon we encountered what I thought of as a 'field of saguaros'.
Let's Get Together
Again this year Don's sister, Sandy, and her hubby Bruce drove down from Calgary in their RV and have been spending the winter in Mesa. We were all looking forward to getting together... something especially awesome when you're so far away from home! We hadn't seen each other in almost a year (since we were last in Arizona actually) so had lots of catching up to do. They came to spend an entire day with us at McDowell Mountain Regional Park and we had a wonderful time! We went on a nice long walk along Granite and Bluff Trails.
Once back at our site Sandy, Don and I worked on assembling a raw feast.
We made Cheezy Corn Chowder, always a hit with rawbies and non-raw initiates alike. We also prepped the various components for Tostadas: a simple Salsa made with tomatoes, green onion, corn, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, salt and lime juice, Guacamole, 'Refried' Beans, Sour Cream (I blended cashews with a little water and probiotics and let it sit for 2 days at room temp), broken up dehydrated corn chips and slivered lettuce.
Mmmm... I love love this stuff!
For dessert we enjoyed a Chocolate Chia Pudding I had whipped earlier that morning (upon Don's insistence, as the poor guy has been feeling dessert deprived! lol) Sorry no pic for that one!
Puss On The Go
Our feline companion, DaPuss, has been really amazing so far; hardly complaining about our constant moving around. I guess she's gotten used to it over the months. We could tell, though, that she seemed particularly happy to find herself in the familiar surroundings of the tent. One of the drawbacks for her of traveling is that she doesn't get to go out much at all. She needs a super quiet and safe environment so that we don't have to worry about her getting scared and darting into the wilderness, maybe never to be seen again. Eeek! We did let her explore around our tent at McDowell Mountain Park and she absolutely loved it! She found herself a nice spot in the shade to lie in.
I tried to catch her rolling around in the sand in pure pleasure, but I wasn't fast enough. Ah well, you can still see her look of delight. ;-)
Before I go I'd just like to share a couple of sunsets pics that I snapped from our campsite.
But wait 'til you guys see the ones I took in my upcoming post! A must see for all sunset lovers!