Our end-of-year hangouts – Lake Pleasant, AZ

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Wild Burro Trail

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 Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

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.

Lake Pleasant

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.

Pipeline Canyon Trail

If in this area in spring, take the Pipeline Canyon trail.  The hillsides will be alive with blooming wildflowers!

Pipeline Canyon Trail

A floating bridge has been installed to allow hikers access when the lake water level is high

Yavapai Point Trail

Some dedicated anglers

Yavapai Trail

Attempting to be Samson on the Yavapai Point Trail

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:

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

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.

Crested Saguaro

Merry Christmas, Pam!

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.

Vulture Peak

That’s the saddle, our destination.

Vulture Peak Trail

This cow was a bit bashful and ran off when I asked for a picture

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.

Vulture Peak Trail

The last quarter mile was scrambling up rocks

Vulture Peak Trail

Abraham Lincoln was waiting for us at the saddle!

Vulture Peak Trail

Our car is down in that little lot. We had lunch before making the steep decent

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.

Vulture Peak Trail

Viewing the western side of the saddle

Vulture Peak Trail

We made it – tired but happy!

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.

Humming bird

Anna's hummingbird


Next up:  Surrounded by beautiful Arizona mountains


A great place called Cattail Cove

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Cattail Cove State Park

On our first morning at Cattail Cove State Park, we were awakened by a strange pitter-patter on the roof.  Oh no – we just cleaned Betsy and the car, and now it’s raining!  Wrong.  After a minute we realized it was a flock of Great-tailed Grackle running around on the roof, and they sounded a lot like rain.  Their tiny running feet were fun to hear, and during the day a raucous pack of them filled our site with their ear splitting voices.  They ran around the roof for a few minutes at about the same time every morning after that, and it always gave us a smile.

In our travels so far, this park had the largest diversity of birds hanging around us, chirping, quacking, humming or just perching in the trees.  We were not only enthralled by the birds, but we also noticed that the park was quiet and clean, and the sites were spacious and level.  So off we went to the office to extend our stay for another week. We were very happy to learn they were running a deal – pay for 5 nights and stay for 7.  Now isn’t that something, the stars aligned for us and we came out of that office chirping and quacking ourselves!

In addition to the beautiful birds, there was a hum of activity in the park.  They have a mini outdoor amphitheater where movies were occasionally shown on the warm nights, free of charge.  Hiking trails all around – we were in heaven!  A boat ramp and trailer parking is available for water activity lovers and fishing enthusiasts.  The park rangers and park hosts were very friendly and made us feel like we belonged.  The park is tucked into a cove along the lake about 12 miles south of Lake Havasu City and a few miles north of Parker Dam, the construction of which created Lake Havasu in 1938.

The bird story continues:  After the great-tailed grackle visited us in the morning, along came the quack quacks – mallard and drake ducks – for their daily visit to plead for a dole out.  We never fed them since it’s not a good idea, but they showed up every morning just to make sure we hadn’t changed our minds.

As we lounged outside,  a covey of  Gambel’s quail ran along the ground foraging for food.  Now, these tubby little birds are really fun to watch.  The Gambel’s quail travel together and often communicate noisily with one another.  Once you’ve learned their call, you’ll always know when they’re around.  If you get too close, they will issue urgent alarm calls and quickly run away or fly off.  They are really amazing birds.

We often saw and heard humming birds hovering around, catching insects in flight.  We also heard the Eurasian Collared-Dove giving its rhythmic 3-part coo.  In the evenings, Steve couldn’t wait to sit outside and watch one of his favorite critters – bats circling the nearby tree and feasting on the insects there.

During our hikes we saw a Great Blue Heron standing statue-like, stalking fish and other prey along the shoreline.  A Red tail hawk soared in the sky over the lake.

One morning we saw several Javelina running near the park.  What is that?  Is it a pig?  A boar?  Nope.  They are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. They are normally nocturnal and they travel in herds.  But one morning we lucked out and saw a herd of them walking along the park road in broad daylight – a rare event according to the ranger.  We didn’t know what they were, but of course we began snapping pictures like a couple of maniacs.  Then we asked the ranger about them and learned they are common here in Arizona and  are classified as a big game species.

We enjoyed the Whyte’s Retreat Trail, a 3-mile round trip that begins at the boat ramp and provides views of Parker Dam and terrific vistas of California’s Whipple Mountains across the river.  The McKinney Loop section of the trail leads through a scenic gorge lined by bluffs.  We also created several of our own excursions higher in the hills and across highway 95 where the ATV’ers usually play.

Cattail Cove SP has won the Bronze Award for Favorite Snowbird RV Park or Campground – Arizona in the 5th Annual Reader’s Choice Awards presented by RVWest magazine. These winners were chosen by the magazine’s readers; thus, they represent RVers’ favourite places, attractions and other RV-related stuff.  Thanks to our friend Stan, who we met at Bullhead City and told us about this gem of a park.

And the sunsets were just magnificent!

Sunset at Cattail Cove State Park

Sunset at Cattail Cove State Park