More Hikes etc.

This week’s activities included a couple of days of softball, a couple of days of hiking, and not nearly enough pickleball. Part of the last point was because the weather turned wet and cold again this weekend. Right now we’re sitting here listening to the rain pound down on the roof of the trailer. We’ve heard that sound more than enough this winter.

The ball games went so-so this week. My Monday team got thrashed in both games, and the Tuesday team won both games in rather easy fashion. Sylvia was around to watch the games both days, and told me she enjoyed Tuesday a lot more. Funny thing, but I think we all did.

On Wednesday our hiking club went on a short hike below the Superstition Mountains. As I was not at the Monday planning meeting and no one stepped forward to lead the hike I was ‘Volun-told’ that I would be leading the hike. Volun-told is a new term I’ve learned this year, but is rather appropriate for the situation as I was informed that I would be leading a hike I had never been on before and didn’t seem to have a choice in the matter. At least I had access to a map.IMG_20170215_091545

So, Wednesday morning I organized 26 hikers in a process that resembles herding Cats and headed off into the desert. Leading a hike isn’t a difficult process, but you do have to make sure that people make the right turns at the right time. I actually brought home all 26 hikers, so it must have been a successful hike, but it was far from a sure thing at times.

I led the group out to the first turn, and pointed the way to go. Once we reached a good spot for a break several hikers wanted to continue right away, and I pointed them on their way. Unfortunately I picked the wrong way, but it was discovered before long. I went the rest of the way with the main pack of cats, I mean hikers, and once we reached the last turn I stayed behind to make sure the stragglers made the right turn. I’m glad I did as they attempted to walk straight past the turn and would have ended up in the local State Park instead of back at our parking area.IMG_20170215_091348

The hike started in the sunshine, entered the shade and cool breeze below the Superstitions and ended up on the flats in the full sunshine again. Not a bad day, but we didn’t see any evidence of flowers yet, although the grass on the floor of the desert is thick and green.

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One of the reasons for the short hike was because our RV park had a Cancer fundraising event planned for the afternoon. We’re in a small park compared to many others in the East Valley area but consistently raise a substantial amount of money for this cause. This year the total was over $30,000.

Friday another hike was scheduled to bring a group to the Ridgeline of the Superstition Mountains above Gold Canyon. There were a few options for this hike, both more and less strenuous. Ten of us hiked the 4 miles and 2600’ up to the Ridgeline which is at 4600’ while 2 others went past our stopping point to conquer the highest peak in the Superstitions called 5057, which is also it’s elevation. The largest group, which included Sylvia, stopped about halfway up the hill at about 3000’ and were quite happy to send us on our way to the top.

The highest point in the background is 5057. We intersected the Ridgeline further over on the left in one of the lower saddles. It’s a long way up no matter how you look at it.IMG_20170217_082645

Our path took us through the Heiroglyphics Pools which is surrounded with pictographs and evidence of Indigenous habitation in the distant past. A small group of our hikers turned around here.

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Before long we were climbing steadily and looking down on the Valley floor. Some of us were wondering why we ever left it.

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Once at the Ridgline we were above Weaver’s Needle, and had a great view of other hiking areas we’ve been to and plan to go to soon.

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It was windy and cool on top, and we didn’t stay too long. Two of these ladies weren’t planning on coming all the way to the Ridgeline and were quite happy that they made it.

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Lower down the hike it warmed up again and the breeze died down. We did manage to find some Poppies flowering in the sunshine. The first of many we hope to see in the next several weeks.

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The winds up high brought in the rains overnight and they haven’t stopped yet. Unfortunately that washed out any chance of playing some pickleball. Hopefully it will warm up and dry up by Monday and we can get back to our regularly scheduled routines.

Mini Grand Canyon

On Wednesday we decided to go on a different hike than what the Club had planned. There were a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the planned hike wasn’t one of our favourites. Secondly, our friends had just returned from Colorado and hadn’t hiked for 3 weeks or so, and wanted to stretch their legs and get in some elevation hiking. So, it was decided that we’d head to the Apache Dam overlook which is a relatively short hike at 3.6 miles, but includes a 1150 foot elevation gain. Some how we managed to turn it into almost a 5 mile hike by wandering around the top of the mountain though.

The weather for the hike was great, warm and sunny like we’ve been waiting for all winter. As we waited a bit before heading to the trail it was starting to get nice and warm by the time we reached the trail.

We’ve been coming here since 2011, and up to 2015 the southwest has been in a drought situation. The drought has been broken all across the southwest this year, and nowhere is it more apparent than during our hikes. The desert is greener and healthier than we’ve ever seen before.

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The rains haven’t affected the brilliant blue skies at all.

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The group was supposed to be looking for wildlife in the valley below. No deer were seen this time, but it didn’t stop us from hoping to see them.

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It wasn’t too long before we we were on top of the overlook. Deb did fine, although she could tell she hadn’t been hiking in a while. Her legs were tired, but she made good time.

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From the overlook we had a great view of the Salt River Valley. It’s easy to see where the name Grand Canyon of the Superstitions comes from. You can’t actually see the Apache Dam from this viewpoint, as it’s just around the next bend.

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The other side of the overlook is above Fish Creek.

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We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the plateau and eventually started looking for rocks called Desert Rose. I ended up with quite a pile of rocks in my backpack. I plan to place these in my flower posts at home as the colour of the quartz is rather unique.

There are certainly more delicate and intricate versions of Desert Roses to be found. This is one I pulled from the Interweb. Mine look rather clunky in comparison.

Just as we were walking off the trail Sylvia found a Cactus she want’s to adopt. I managed to convince her that it would grow into something large and mean, so it was left behind, but isn’t it cute?!

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On Friday we took a day trip to Tubac with our friends Jim and Cheryl and Dana and Debbie, and visited the Arts Festival there. Sylvia also found several items that she wanted to take home, but resisted the urge to spend a few thousand dollars.

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These colourful creations done on Birch Bark were especially nice, but the tall cylinders, which are actually lamps, range between $600 and $1500.

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These metal pieces were my favourite. I couldn’t get the artist to stop polishing his work, so you get to see his best side.

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Along with the regular pickleball and softball, we’ve had a busy week again, and are sure enjoying the heat and sunshine. Our neighbour sent us a picture of our front yard to show us what we’re missing at home. IMG_1684

Yep, I think we made the right decision to spend our winters in Arizona. Maybe next year we’ll convince our neighbours to join us.

The Wettest Desert

When we were on the plane coming back from London this Christmas there was a travel magazine on the plane touting the features of visiting Arizona. One of the interesting descriptions for the area was ‘The Wettest Desert on Earth’. While this description seems to be an unworkable mix, it seems to be true. Not that we’ve spent a lot of time living in many other deserts, but the terrain here is certainly greener and more lush than that surrounding Palm Springs or Las Vegas. Several years ago some friends of ours wondered why we would want to spend any time in Phoenix, as it’s so brown and barren. They were mistaken.

I swear that as every year passes the sides of the Superstition Mountains seems to get greener and that greenery is  growing closer to the top of the mountains. With all the cool temperatures and rain we’ve seen this year, the hillside is certainly healthy and lush this year, and should hopefully make for lots of flowers in a few weeks.

Another side benefit to the rain has been an oppourtunity to see creek beds that we’ve only known to be dry and rock filled live up to their name with flowing water and even small waterfalls.

I couldn’t find two identical pictures from my Photo files, but these two pictures are from the slot where First Water Creek flows past Hackberry Spring. The first is from 3 years ago, and the second is from Wednesday. Quite the difference.

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The group this week numbered 43, one of our larger outings. Last week Sylvia and I wandered through the open houses at the housing development next door to Canyon Vistas. While there we ran into a fella from their hiking group and he told us that they average less than 10 hikers on their hiking outings.  Can’t say our park isn’t active.

Not long ago there was a lot of snow on 4 Peaks. Now that temperatures have returned to the mid 70’s we hope not to see any more white stuff this winter.

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In a few weeks, we’re hoping that hillsides like this will be covered in yellow Brittle Bush flowers.

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A dead soldier that I know some folks would like to place in their front yard.

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One of the benefits of so much water is a chance to get reflection pictures. A few of the members of our club hang back to try and get pictures without people in them. Tough to do with 40 or more hikers with you.

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This hole in the rock is where Hackberry Spring seeps from the bottom of a steep hillside. It is a perpetual spring, but only flows about a cup or so of water a minute at the best of time. Not nearly enough to fill up First Water creek.

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This is the cliff above Hackberry. All those streaks show where water flows off the plateau above.

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The total hike was 5.5 miles and took us slowpokes about 3 hours. We were back before lunch!

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The last couple of weeks have been wet and cool, and as we had a planned trip back to BC it wasn’t such a bad time to leave the sunbelt. We spent 3 days visiting with Sylvia’s folks before flying back. The temperatures back home really weren’t a lot cooler than  when we left Arizona, but once we returned it was to sunshine and mid 70’s temperatures. Just the way we like it.

So, Lately….

It’s been pretty quiet for us these past couple of weeks. We have only been on one hike due to scheduling issues, and illness.

First, Sylvia picked up the Galloping Crud which runs rampant in the RV park every winter. It seems no matter how hard we try and prevent it a strain of cold and/or flu gains a foothold in the park, and a large portion of us catch it eventually. Sylvia felt the effects for about 10 days, which is abnormally long for her, but it didn’t prevent her from trying out for the Pickleball team that will represent our park in the Cal-Am tournament next month. She and Debra ended up 5th, which wasn’t too bad. Did I mention that there were only 5 teams? The very next day she didn’t get out of her PJ’s all day as she was pretty wrung out. 

The weather hasn’t been great either, as we’ve seen cooler temperatures and more rain than we’ve ever experienced before here in Arizona. To remind us why we’re down here, we flew back to the Fraser Valley in BC to visit Sylvia’s folks for a few days. She recovered from her cold just in time to fly here, but just before we left I managed to catch the crud, and have spent the weekend blowing my nose. 

Flying over Mt St Helens

 The weather isn’t bad here, for mid winter, but we are looking forward to heading back to 70+ temps and sunshine. I will miss a softball game on Monday due to our trip, and as we’re on a one game winning streak (finally) that’s too bad. I will be back in time for the Tuesday games, and as that team is undefeated it’s going to be interesting to see how long we can keep our record intact.

Sunrise over Mt Baker

With the return of warmer temperatures and better health, we should be back on the trails, courts and Ball diamonds as per normal. Can’t wait.

I Won a Car!

Every Saturday the park has Round Robin Pickleball tournaments for the various skill level groups here. I play with the A group and today I ended up with the most points of all the 30 players after 6 rounds. 

My prize for this feat was a New Car!

Just about my speed. Now Sylvia or I have to win it again some week, as I have two grandkids, and need at least one for each of them.

Unfortunately, Sylvia and the B group got rained out today, as it started to pour just as my group was finished. Maybe she’ll win the car next week.

Massacre Grounds Hike

If I were to tell you that our last week consisted of Pickleball, Softball, Hiking and general merriment would you be surprised? The various activities we engage in down here remain relatively constant, but the amount of time we spend on each varies widely each week.

This past week we cut back on the hiking a bit as Sylvia is practicing with a partner for an upcoming pickleball tournament and that took up one of our hiking days. Prior to that I played a couple of days of softball on the two teams I’m on. Our Monday team got smoked in two straight games by two different teams. I am beginning to think that we’re overmatched in that league this year. The Tuesday team, which is supposedly comprised of the best players in the park (exactly why they asked me to play is a mystery) won both games, although I only played in the first one where we shut out the other team. The uniform for the team is pretty classy, but I have the feeling the long socks make me look a bit like a little English School Boy.

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Friday was hiking day (finally!) and our club took 30 or so of us to Massacre Grounds. This is a fairly short hike, just under 6 miles round trip, but is a fairly steady uphill slog all the way. A small side trip took a few of us to Massacre Falls which is a rather generous name for a trickle that flows down the hillside below Superstition Mountain.

It was a cool cloudy day today, so the pictures are a bit different – No Brilliant Blue Skies.

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Our path took us right past Praying Hands where we hiked a few weeks ago. There is some sort of a path between where we were and Praying Hands, but the last time some of our hikers tried it they found it very overgrown with Cats Claw. A rather nasty bush that grabs and scratches everything that comes near it.

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This is Massacre Falls. This is at least the third time we’ve been here, and have never seen a whole lot of water. The black streaks show that there is a lot of water that at the least seeps from the hillside.

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I spent some time climbing above the falls to get some different pictures. Sylvia wisely decided to stay below with the rest of the crew.

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Dana thought about having a shower in the trickle. This is actually the most water we’ve ever seen here, but we’ll keep trying to get here at a time when it actually deserves the title ‘Falls’.

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The view from the spot where Sylvia and Deb were standing was pretty special. That’s Black Mesa in the foreground, 4 Peaks in the far background and I believe Battleship Mountain to the right. The rest of the hiking club is on the extreme right sitting on the Massacre Grounds.

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The story behind the name for Massacre Grounds is a bit murky, but I managed to find a webpage that documented the most commonly accepted story.

‘The main story goes something like this: During the middle years of the 19th century, the wealthy Peralta family of Mexico operated several mines in what is now Arizona. In the aftermath of the Mexican War, with the new border shifting south, the Peraltas decided to extract as much ore as possible before their holdings became U.S. territory.

One last expedition, laden with rich gold ore, was on its way to Mexico when Apaches attacked, slaughtering the hapless miners on the northwestern flanks of the Superstitions. Years later, the single survivor of the attack revealed the location of the family’s richest mine to Jacob Waltz, who had saved another family member from harm.

True or not, the account provides a foundation for tales of the Lost Dutchman Mine.’

The edge of the bluff at Massacre Grounds has a few of these little Bonsai trees growing out of the rock.

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We were back at the park in time for lunch, and finished off the day sharing laughs and munchies with a few friends. One of the heavy duty discussions at our little get together was how much we enjoy having an ‘unstructured life’. I’m really not sure how unstructured we are, as the alarm is set almost 7 days a week, and we seem to always have somewhere to go. Just the way we like it!