Prickly Galore & Desert Adventures -> Usery Mountain Regional Park, AZ
Paul left a few days ago for Miami so I’ve been on my lonesome here in Usery Mountain Regional Park. Although I’m missing the hubby already, it’s nice to have a few days of alone time too. It’s pooch, 2 cats and a Dane loose and alone in the desert…very exciting stuff I tell you (I swear if I had a mask I could yodel “hi ho Silver” and make a film out of it), but the reality is that we’re just having some great, lazy days and taking advantage of the TON of stuff there is to do here.
Usery Mountain Regional park is 3,648 acres of desert goodness set at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains just east of Phoenix, AZ. The sites don’t have quite the majestic valley views of McDowell (the spot we stayed at last year), but they’re spacious with lots of natural surroundings and some fabulous hiking (around 30 miles of it) not too far from camp. Plus the park is conveniently close to shopping and the like. I’m pretty stoked we managed to get 2 weeks at this place.
Polly and I have been totally digging the trails, taking time to meander around the valley plus tackling the more strenuous ~3-mile “Wind Cave” hike up Pass Mountain to the views near the top. The nature and views are fabulous, but one thing we’ve discovered is that we need to get our butts out early to avoid the crowds…and by early I mean around 8AM. By 9AM people start coming in and by 10AM most of the trails are teeming with hikers. It’s not too surprising I guess. If you don’t learn to hike early in the desert you don’t hike much. The heat will get you just about any time of year by ~mid morning.
But I’ve been expanding my outdoor repertoire too. Many of the trails here are multi-use so I’ve been mountain biking too!
Now I should specify that I use that term in it’s veeeery loosest sense. I may well be the only mountain biker (in the US?) who rides the trails in hiking pants, a straw cowboy hat and slip-on Keens…this being my standard go-to outfit for just about any outdoor excursion. I may look like a redneck and, at the pace I ride, just about anyone short of the age of 90 can easily overtake me, but I sure do enjoy the time to stop and smell the cactus.
Which lead me to the cactus…oh yeah…there’s cactus here. Massive, stupendous specimens all around creating a near-infinite landscape of prickly galore. This is cactus country and you better like it!
The “jumping Cholla” don’t just jump here, they grow to the size of friggin’ trees and seed entire acres of desert with their deadly offspring. Saguaro’s aren’t just around here, they propagate like bunnies into “Saguaro forests” that go for miles and soar 40-feet into the air. Thankfully doggie is a well-versed desert pooch and avoids most of the traps, but hiking with a set of pliers is a necessity just in case. Oh and if you don’t like cactus pictures you may be disappointed in the blog for the next month or so….just letting you know…
Still I won’t be alone for long. I’ve already met a very cool fulltime family (Boyinks4Adventure) who are hosting here in the park, plus buddies are coming down for a long hike tomorrow. So, social activities will once again be on the agenda. Until then, I leave you with some cactus shots…..enjoy!