First off, a big thank you to all who made suggestions regarding “must do” places to visit and things to do in our final four states this year. Some of you even indicated we’ve saved the best for last, and from your tips it looks like we’re in for a treat. Woo hoo!
Let’s see now, where did I leave off? Well, we started the new year with a bang, and I mean with boots on the ground. Not combat boots, but hiking boots! We were so glad that Jim and Gayle picked us up from our site at McDowell Mountains State Park and drove us to nearby Tom’s Thumb Trail to start our new year with a healthy 4.2-mile hike.
They had hiked this trail before and were happy to do it again with us, but we had lots of company on the trail. Well, it was a Saturday and lots of folks wanted to burn off those holiday calories. The trail was moderately difficult with an elevation gain of 1,100 ft. on lots of loose gravel. The reward was great views of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. Rather than repeat the history of Tom’s Thumb Trail and the details of our hike, check out Jim and Gayle’s story at Life’s Little Adventure.
Lost Dutchman State Park
As we set up camp at Lost Dutchman SP (Steve’s review here), we knew the weatherman had forecast a series of winter storms coming from the west. On our arrival at the park, we immediately spent time outside enjoying what was left of a a sunny and gorgeous afternoon, the last one for several days.
Unfortunately the weatherman was right-on this time, as he predicted a series of El Nino storms charging in and bringing lots of rain and snow. But we shouldn’t complain, California and the southwest certainly needed it and we obliged by hunkering down and staying mostly indoors.
Out came our list of indoor projects and some recipes to keep us busy. I backed up my hard drives to my “offsite” drive (offsite being in the back of the car), purged unwanted pictures, began early preparations for tax day and did some organizing/cleaning up in the coach. Our little kitchen was kept busy as Steve experimented with new soup recipes and made yet another batch of beef jerky. When he got out of the way I baked bread and some almond cookies – yum! The rest of the time I would just look out the window and watch the rain, or catch up on my reading. Life is good!
During a break in the storm I ventured out to enjoy the newly-showered desert, awash with fresh colors and happy cacti. The light green Cholla, the vibrant Palo Verde, the refreshing smell of the creosote bush and the dark varnished rocks filled the landscape as the fog covered the mountains.
Even a coyote set out for a walk in search of his friends. I think there were at least a dozen of them within the park, and we frequently heard them at night howling all around us.
I got too close to a Jumping Cholla (pronounced choy-a) cactus when I took this picture, and one of its spine clusters found a new home on my boot. The plant’s name comes from the ease with which the stems detach when touched, and sometimes they even jump short distances. Despite its beauty, it’s one of the most hated cacti because its spines can be very difficult – and painful – to extract.
Why are those spines so difficult to remove? Unlike other varieties of cacti with solid spines, the Cholla’s are hollow. Because of this they can easily attach to whatever they touch with their needle-like sharpness. If moisture is present, such as with skin, the tips actually curve once they have made contact, locking the spine in place just beneath the skin’s top layer. OUCH! Fortunately in my case they attached to my boot, but Steve still had to use pliers to get them out.
My feathered friends were also enjoying a respite from the rain and resumed their normal activities.
A second wave of storms came, so we snuggled up and read our books while listening to the pitter-patter on the roof until we dozed off. The following day we decided to drive the historic Apache Trail. It’s a 40-mile scenic drive through the Superstition Mountain wilderness, and one of the most scenic drives in Arizona – usually. Rain and clouds gave our twisted drive a subdued moody scenery and a muddy Canyon Lake.
We stopped at Tortilla Flat for a quick lunch, thinking once the rain passed we would continue on. I remembered that the first time we were here the restrooms had a funky decor, so I asked Steve to get some pictures in the men’s room. Take a look!
After lunch we quickly discovered we would not be continuing on this drive, as the road was closed just past the restaurant due to heavy flooding. So we turned around and repeated the same scenery from the opposite direction. The cliffs and mountains displayed several different hues on this gray day. Due to all of the rain, bright blue lichens and green moss covered the rocks to add a pop to the hillsides.
Another night of rain and dipping temperatures came and went, and we awoke to the sight of fresh snow covering the Four Peaks Mountains northeast of us. I was silently hoping that the Superstition Mountains in our front yard would also have a white dusting, but it was not to be. The storms moved on and the promise of a gorgeous day began with the sun shining through the peaks.
With only one day left to explore and hike, we were joined by Curt and Glenda, whom we first met at our social gathering at Cave Creek. We followed the Treasure Loop, Jacob’s Crosscut and Prospector’s View trails, creating a moderate lollipop loop through a diversely vegetated bajada at the base of the Superstition Mountains. Since this was the day after the storms passed through, the scenery along the trail offered an amazing display of sonoran vegetation and awesome views of mountain ranges. It was difficult to focus on hiking with striking views like that!
The storms limited the amount of hiking we could do here, but we’ll be back someday to take on several more of the many trails in this area.
And lastly, a sunset after a storm is always stunning.
Jim and Gayle are such nice people. Glad you got to spend some time with them.
We hope to stay at Lost Dutchman SP the next time we are in that area.
The low-cloud photo is lovely!
I took pictures of the ladies room but never saw the men’s room. Just as cute as the ladies.
Four Peaks Mountain…gorgeous!
Well it’s too bad you had so much weather during your stay at Lost Dutchman, but your photos are still beautiful and you sure got lots done inside!
What fun to go hiking with Jim and Gayle (who we have yet to meet!)!! At least you were in a beautiful location to watch the changing scenery with the weather. Love those clouds encircling the Superstitions:) Great coyote shot! See you Sunday…yes!!
I so love to hear the beautiful song of the curved-bill thrasher.
Beautiful photos once again MonaLisa…hard to pick a favorite! The low hanging clouds circling the Superstition Mointains after the rain shower sure is pretty! And there is nothing quite like an Arizona sunset!
The cacti needles in your shoes is a huge reason we don’t take the puppies hiking anymore…that and the rattlers!
See you in Tucson….I hope!
Fantastic photos! We were looking forward to exploring more of AZ on our way back to TX from WA, but here we sit in OR, waiting for a new wheel — to replace the one that FELL OFF the RV on I-5 yesterday. Guess what my blog will be about today? Heh. It’s all material.
Thank you so much for sharing your travels with us. My husband and I recently retired and plan a summer trip from FL to Maine this summer. I’m hoping to follow some of your adventures.
When planning your trips do you make reservations ahead?
We usually plan on reserving ahead during holidays for parks tend to get fully book on those days. . Some state parks, such as Florida and Arizona get booked early on so we make reservations six months ahead.
What a marvelous view from your front yard! Love the name, ‘Lost Dutchman’. My dad was a Dutchman who had the same questionable sense of direction that I have. 😀 Gorgeously striking sunset image, Mona Liza.. xx
You certainly made the most of those rainy days (those almond cookies look so yummy!) — but I know you were really happy when you were able to get back out on the trails! Lost Dutchman is a place we’ve been wanting to stay for several years now — it looks beautiful. What a view!
Of course, another wonderful display of photos but that coyote pic is great. During our first visit to Lost Dutchman, it DID snow. It was in March 4 years ago, my dad was wearing shorts in Chicago while I was wearing a winter coat in Phoenix. He and I shared a good laugh about the circumstances.The many moods of the Superstitions is a photographers delight. Hope you enjoyed your stay despite the inclement weather. We love those trails you hiked with Curt and Glenda.
What really great pictures in this post. The campground looks really fine and your front yard view is fantastic. I’m sorry to hear that we aren’t the only ones having to work around the rain but you are right that California really needs it. But we aren’t lucky enough to get those great snow capped mountain pictures. That cactus looks dangerous for sure. I love your little arrows. I think I’m going to have to break down and get some software that I can do things like that more easily and so that they look a lot better like yours do.
So glad we had the opportunity to get at least one hike in together. Wish we could have done something about the weather. It still looks like you made great use of your time even with the rain. We love the Lotus Garden restaurant. Thank you for that discovery. We’ve been back a couple of times since you left. Hope all is well in Tucson. Looking forward to meeting again down the road. Be safe.
Looks like you had a great visit. I’m camping Lost Dutchman in March, was there last year also. It’s a good place to go for a hike. Of course to take pictures. Nice shots by the way. Enjoy your travels, I’m just west of you in East Mesa.
Well, we were there for a week and was slightly disappointed we missed so many trails there. I guess a good reason to return someday.
Gorgeous sunset … and an appropriate end to the blog post. I’m backing up my computer even as I write this … the idea of keeping the drive in the car is a good one; I’m going to start doing that. I try not to be too fussy about the rain, either … so many places, including Texas, is in need of that water. We did the Apache Trail drive years ago … 2001 I think it was. Don’t recall the restrooms, so we must not have gone into Tortilla Flat although we did park out front so I could get some motion sickness meds in me 😉
I do my external back up once a month at least, and that give me piece of mind. The ladies restrooms are also funky.
those jumping chollas are slippery little suckers, we couldn’t get them off my boots even with pliers, they just broke off, so they are probably sill in there! Lovely sunset shot, you were lucky with the clouds. We have nice sunsets here in PV but I haven’t found a nice foreground yet.
I think we were unable to remove all of them and those hooks are probably still stuck within my boots.
Great shot of the four of us! Enjoyed hiking with you.
Sometimes a few rainy days are good to catch up on chores. Sounds like you managed to keep busy despite the weather.
Yes rainy days are a good excuse to go back to a long to do list. Im so glad you took us to Toms Thumb, at least we had one decent hike from McDowell Mountains RP.
Good gracious! Those are some magnificent views. You really started us with a bang! I’ve seen Superstition Mountain again and again in the blogosphere. It’s no longer a wonder it’s so popular. Such gorgeous formations of rocks. Your photography is exquisite!
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