Soon it will be Christmas!

16 Dec

Two days in Buckeye near Phoenix and a day in Mesa sitting out a storm left us longing for countryside. Lawrie and Monica had passed us details of a campground at the Usery Mountains Regional Park, we headed for the hills leaving behind the huge residential sites of Phoenix.


Just a few miles from the hub bub we found beautiful desert and mountain scenery and a good wide site with the lights of the city in the distance, far enough away to look pretty. A wide variety of cactus surrounded our site and stretched out in all directions, multiple trail heads began just over a mile from the campground so we chose one for an afternoon walk.IMG_3629 The sun was warm on our backs but the wind was still cold, remnants of the recent storm which dropped 20inches of snow not that far north of us and was now causing havoc further east.

In England I have always maintained that bad weather on the east coast of the US usually takes two weeks to reach the UK. This storm may revisit us.

We visited the Nature Centre on our second morning and made the acquaintance of Elvis the snake, a tarantula and several other creatures of the desert housed there then chatted to the volunteer about our travels and theirs too. Friday was bright and clear and the cold wind seemed to have blown itself out, we decided to walk the Pass Mountain trail, 7.5 miles long plus the mile and a quarter to get to the trail head. This would be our longest hike in a while and well overdue.

As the trail began to rise from the desert floor we were treated to a view of the city laid out in the valley to the west of us, the huge urban sprawl seemingly endless. We however, were much more interested in the mountains and the desert plants which not so long ago we had been unable to identify. Now we named many with ease and marvelled at the size of some of the pipe cactus trying to guess just how old they might be. Cholla or teddy bear cactus were also abundant with lots of small pieces having been blown off in the recent storms lying ready to root themselves and form new plants. As the trail led higher still ( but below 2500ft) we rounded the mountain to the shadier side we were surprised to find in one small area moss and ferns growing, not plants we had associated with the desert climate.IMG_3669 This lonesome pipe cactus growing on the edge of a rocky precipice fascinated me. How long had it stood there, weathering the heat and the wind storms looking out over the valley below and the mountains beyond? It was only later I saw how much it looked like a hand with the thumb bent in towards you!

Before we began our decent we had to negotiate the saddle between two high points on the trail, the description had indicated this was a scramble and we were unsure exactly what we might find.IMG_3672 The photo actually makes it look like there is no path but we found one. After this part the surface became loose and steep causing us to tread wearily, but we like a challenge every now and again! We rewarded ourselves with a Trail bar and water while sitting on some rocks and taking in the view from the other side of the mountain.

In all we walked around 10 miles and were quite foot sore when we arrived back in haRVey. We made a note not to have such big intervals between our longer walks.

Saturday we had to make our way back down into Mesa to pick up a hire car for the remainder of our time in Phoenix. haRVey was due to have the very last warranty job fixed on Monday and we had a few days spare to do our Christmas shopping, cleaning and packing in readiness for our travels home on the 18th. We drove over to Scottsdale hoping the retail premises there would be able to inspire us and help fill Santa’s sack. We were not disappointed with the Fashion Square, in fact we felt quite at home as it reminded us of our own Metro Centre, it even helped us feel more festive. We ended the day far more weary than after our mountain hike!

As I write this we are back in Buckeye, haRVey is going into storage here until our return. I have just completed my longest US lone drive (in the hire car; still to drive haRVey any great distance) across Phoenix from east to west, quite traumatic. The slip road on to the Highway 10 was perhaps the most daunting, the view of the very busy six lane highway in front of me and the knowledge that I had to negotiate 50 miles of the same brought home the fact that I have not driven much in a while!

Now for the cleaning and packing, we are excited to be going home to see the family and know they are looking forward to seeing us too, especially the little ones.

Guess what? they are forecasting snow in the UK.

It is my intention to keep the blog up to date while we are back home. We hope our new friends this side of the pond will enjoy our view of Christmas with the family. As we travel around our little island we will attempt to give you a flavour of England as we have tried to pass on a flavour of Canada and the States to our UK followers. So, watch this space!

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