We had planned to check out several campgrounds around the valley of the sun (Phoenix) during the month of December, staying at several Maricopa County regional parks. We knew these parks – Cave Creek, Lake Pleasant and McDowell Mountain – are popular, and we booked sites at each several months ago. After a couple weeks of partying we moved from Cave Creek to Lake Pleasant, which was such a short drive that Betsy barely got warmed up. A mere 29 miles later we were at our lake view site, where we spent another week.
Lake Pleasant, an artificial reservoir near the Phoenix metropolitan area, is the cornerstone of the regional parks and a major water sports recreation attraction. As such it attracts all kinds of water enthusiasts, as well as land-based outdoorsy folks. We were told the park can get crowded, noisy and rowdy, but our stay before the holidays was fairly quiet. Perhaps the cold snap passing through the area had kept people away – we awoke one morning to see snow adorning the nearby mountaintops.
This park offers 23,662 acres of mountainous desert landscape, including the lake, and boasts a number of other recreational activities. Since we aren’t really water enthusiasts we focused on our favorite activity, hiking. We were happy to discover there are several trails within the park, some created just recently. We enjoyed the scenic beauty of the lake by following a trail to the top of Yavapai Point (3 miles roundtrip) via the Pipeline Canyon Trail (another 3 miles roundtrip), an easy to moderate hike with an elevation gain of only 399 feet. It was a cool and cloudy day when we trekked to the top, making my pictures somewhat glum.
The 4-mile roundtrip Wild Burro Trail lived up to its name. Just as we were about to be disappointed, we saw a band of wild burros hiding amongst the Palo Verde trees on a hillside. Then on the last mile of our return trip we were lucky enough to catch two of them grazing right along the trail.
When not hiking we would enjoyed just sitting outside and being entertained by sights and sounds from the water to high in the sky:
On one of my evening walks I found this saguaro that I know my friend Pam would love to see. I snapped it along with a waxing moon to make it more interesting.
When we blogged about our hike up Picacho Peak three years ago, Janna from tinteepeelogcabin had suggested that we tackle distinctive Vulture Peak near Wickenburg. We missed it at that time as we were already heading east, but with it being only 40 minutes from Lake Pleasant we took it on this time. Vulture Peak Trail is a short 2 miles to the top of the saddle between the peaks, with a total elevation gain of 940 feet.
The trail was very interesting because it had such variety – it was easy to strenuous in effort, and easy to difficult in trail condition. We agreed the last quarter mile was some of the toughest hiking we’ve done – the trail was loose rocky areas interspersed with some difficult rock scrambling. Steve admitted he was exhausted when we finally reached the top of the saddle.
We reached the saddle winded and tired, and even though it’s possible to go to the peak there’s no trail and it’s basically rock climbing – so that’s enough for us! We aren’t rock climbers and wouldn’t try it without cables and/or ladders.
We really enjoyed this hike and recommend it to our hiking friends who want to try an interesting and challenging trek when in this area.
Whatever calories we burned during the hike were immediately replaced when we stopped at the highly-recommended El Ranchero Mexican Restaurant in Wickenburg. We were not disappointed with their authentic food and yummy margaritas!
When we realized that three years ago to the day was our first meeting with Al and Ingrid at Cave Creek, we thought of reenacting our pose on a rock atop one of the trails as we had in December 2012. Our meet-up this time was unplanned and we were excited to be reunited again at the same place. This is what makes our mobile lifestyle rich and worthwhile, the people we meet and the friendships developed endure even as we follow our separate travel paths. Our blogs are our communication link, and we never lose touch with each other.
So like a couple of kids, Ingrid and I (neither of us has ever been accused of being camera shy) hopped up on the rocks and posed once again.
Back at the campground (Steve’s review here), the sparrows and finches were having a field day, fighting to empty our feeders in record time yet again. Steve said he might have to start workamping to support our bird food budget!
But it was the humming bird that I was really interested in capturing. After a few hundred tries I got a few decent shots, but I’m still on the prowl to capture that elusive perfect hovering moment.
Next up: Surrounded by beautiful Arizona mountains