Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Desert Botanical Gardens

Fountain Hills, Arizona:  One of my favorite places to visit when we are staying near Phoenix is the Desert Botanical Gardens just south of Scottsdale.

I spent several hours on a Monday morning wandering around the five unique trail systems within the garden, breathing in the sweet dusty scent of arid plant life, and marveling at the abundance that can be found in the desert. For someone who spent her entire life in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, the desert can sometimes feel like exploring on a new planet.

The surprise of the day was discovering the botanical garden staff busy setting up for the Chihuly in the Desert exhibition that opens in two weeks.  Several large-scale installations are already in place around the garden and it was a treat to get to see some of them early.  I think they will be all lit up at night when the exhibit opens.  That would be cool to see.

One of the highlights of my day was trying to get photos of these big, beautiful monarch butterflies working over a huge bush of tiny purple flowers.  I just love getting to see butterflies in the winter months.

I decided to take a break after a long morning of marveling at the monarchs and took a seat on the patio at Gertrude’s which is located just inside the garden entrance.  It's a nice spot to get out of the sun and soak up the pretty garden atmosphere.  

Gertrude's is popular and known for its seasonal farm to table food featuring local Arizona growers and producers.  While there were a lot of tasty looking things on the menu I would have liked to try, today I just wanted a drink and a break from the sun.  I settled on the house-made lemonade with fresh herbs and berries.


Saturday, November 27, 2021

Back Again - McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Fountain Hills, Arizona:  Our daily life has been trucking along here at McDowell Mountain despite being in round four of the virus-that-shall-not-be-named. Today I thought I would just share a few pictures from what has become one of our all-time favorite RV destinations after three years of living on the road.

This is the third winter in a row that we have come to this little regional park northeast of Phoenix.  So far, the weather has been just outstanding. Warm sunny days with a little breeze. In my opinion, November is the nicest month to be in this part of Arizona. Last year we were here in December and that felt too late. It was much cooler after the sun went down that time of year and I really missed walking the dogs just before sunset and warm evening happy hours sitting outside of the camper - my favorite time of the day here.

By far the best thing about this park is watching all the critters and birdlife that visit my campsite each day. I did notice that there seemed to be less birds around when we first showed up at the end of October, but slowly things are picking up as the birds make their way back down from the North.

Mountain biking is another big draw that keeps bringing us back to this area.  Last year we purchased a Trek Marlin hard tail bike for me, and this year Jason got a new Giant Stance.  We've been having a blast cruising around on the more than 40 miles of mountain biking trails in the park.

Easy to follow signage along the trails

Honestly, this place should be on any trail rider's bucket list.  The rides here are just awesome! Hard packed desert dirt that goes meandering through tall saguaros and cactus gardens.  The uphill sections are usually gentle and riding back down is super fun with flowing and swooping runs and expansive views out over the Sonoran Desert.

Testing out Jason's new bike on Granite trail

Jackass Junction, a rest stop where several main trails come together

This guy has been on the roof for every visit but his clothing changes regularly

Made us laugh

Sun going down - time to go home

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➤  Return to McDowell Mountain