After leaving Desert Shadows in Phoenix we headed only about an hour away to Usery Mountain Park in Apache Junction/Mesa area. What a difference to where we had been in the city. It was a great desert campground. Very rustic and natural with shrubs, tons of Chollo and Saguaro cactus and lots of open space. We really liked the area and the layout, but the views were icing on the cake. The mountain range close by was nice and the waxing moon made every night so enjoyable to be outside. The stars were fighting to be seen in the bright moonlight and were doing a good job of it. The park is part of the Arizona Maricopa county park system, which is the largest in the country with 120,000 acres. They have a top rated archery range, about 60 picnic areas, Camping (of course), horse trails, hiking trails and a really good activity schedule. We went to one talk by Ranger B on roadrunners which was interesting and fun and sure did come in handy later in the week. We also went on a moonlight walk with a group led by him. That was nice because we might not have gone into the desert on our own at night, but it was odd to hike with 50 other people.
The thing about being there was the people we met. When we first started our trip we met Lee and Tracy at a rally and we followed their blog ever since, but one night while we were in CA we talked with Tracy to see if we could help each other out with some questions. We found out we were going to be in the Phoenix area at the same time and it just all came together that we could actually meet up and even meet some of their friends. What a great group! We had a lot of laughs and shared experiences and now we can put faces with their blogs. It was really good to be around others who understand your lifestyle’s challenges- for me when I hear someone say they’ve got toget their blog done in the morning before they go out- I can relate! I don’t always do it, obviously or you would have read this a long time ago, but I do feel the nagging need to get it done. We picked up some good ideas on how to make our lives easier, like reading other people’s blogs to get ideas for campgrounds, look closer at google maps of campgrounds or maybe just reach out and ask. It was amazing how small of a world it seemed when we talked about where everyone had been and where they were going. It helped us immediately with our next stop. Thanks guys!
Along with great food, lots of drinks and fun times we also did some other things like we all went to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum together one morning and another morning we hiked up to Wind Cave in the park with Deb and Steve. The Arboretum/Botanical garden was nicely laid out. It had different areas which showed vegetation that went with it and the surrounding rock formations really added to the scenery. I liked the succulent garden section full of different types of cactus. So many desert plant varieties and so little time! The hike we went on was only 1 1/2 miles with an 800 foot increase in elevation. We left early to beat the heat and it really wasn’t too hard, plus the views were great. We actually met up with Deb and Steve on our next stop when we both left on Monday to head to Catalina State Park just outside of Tucson.
We had a good weekend with the family before we left when we attended my nephew-Kyle and his wife Abbey’s gender reveal party. Food, drinks, games and the announcement of a baby girl to be added to the family! It was sad to say goodbye because it was so fun to spend time with them all, but we hope to be back later in the year and we are very happy we got to see them for as long as we did.
Sunday we headed back to the camper after spending the night with at my niece Alli’s house. We don’t need a lot of prep time to get ready for a move the next day, but just wanted to relax before we had to move again. I also needed a nap! Monday we left for Catalina State Park- 14 miles outside of Tucson. It was an easy drive and we were impressed by the number of RV’s on the roads. They all seemed to be headed to Phoenix and we were wondering what was going on. We don’t usually travel on Mondays so we were thinking it may be normal and we were happy we don’t usually do that. HAHA- joke was on us. As we got further down the road we saw signs for a special event causing delays. Well, it turned out to be the site for the Country Thunder concert that had been held over the weekend and where obviously they allowed RV’s. Traffic thinned out after that.
When we got to the campground and I was backing into the site we had a roadrunner as our audience (and an old guy across the road- not unusual). I took seeing that roadrunner as a good sign that this would be a nice campground. It was not as rustic as Usery, but you know for sure you are in the desert. The mountains around us again were beautiful. Not so many cactus as before, but more shrubs and trees. The camping areas were pretty spacious and we were happy with our decision to stay here. Very rarely have we ever regretted staying somewhere (once for sure somewhere in Missouri.)
That night we met up with Deb and Steve for dinner and we all had plans the next day, so we made plans for a breakfast goodbye on Wednesday since they were leaving that day. We were leaving Thursday. Tuesday morning Deb and I ended up going for a bike ride around the campground. If you go down each road to the picnic, group area, equestrian area, both campging loop and to the trail head you can get in about 5 miles. I did do an extra loop after she went home to grt in a few more miles. Later that day Kat and I went into Tucson to check out the downtown and University area. It was hot and Kat wasn’t feeling great due to some stomach pains and so we just walked down 4th Avenue and drove around the downtown area. Seems like it could be fun to spend some time there in the evening for happy hour and dinner, but it will have to wait for next time for us. We had a nice dinner and took a walk around the campground while enjoying the sunset views.
Wednesday after breakfast we planned on either going to the museum of the living desert, which we heard was fantastic, or going to the Biosphere 2. Both sounded like we would enjoy them, but Kat just looked miserable and had no energy, so I was cool with hanging around. Maybe I could get caught up on my blogging—Haha, didn’t happen. But, I did have a very exciting nature day. I was sitting outside reading and the roadrunner and his partner kept running right by me and going out to find lizards. One would go out, be gone for a few minutes and then come racing back with a lizard. Then the other one would do the same. They did it like 5 times each. I was so excited to be seeing this. I knew lots about roadrunners after the talk by Ranger B at Usery. They mate for life and both take care of the babies. They eat lizard s and snakes, but will usually just walk around with them in their mouths nibbling until they are gone. The fact that they kept going to get more and more led me to believe they must have babies somewhere. I did see where I think they had their nest by watching the dad take a lizard home. I didn’t go check too closely because I didn’t want to cause problems.
As I sat there I was also watching the little ground squirrels in between roadrunners. They are fun to watch and more than once I would look down and see one stretched out under the camper right next to me with his belly on the cool dirt. So cute and so much easier to get pictures of them. Those roadrunners are fast! After awhile the roadrunner activity stopped and I got hot, so i went inside and asked Kat if she felt up for a ride. She is a trooper and said yes, so we headed out to check out Saguaro National Forest. No hiking involved, you can just drive through on an 8 mile loop and check out the scenery. I am happy they are making the effort to preserve these cactus and the land that supports them, but we had seen a quite impressive growth of the Saguaro’s just outside of Phoenix on the way to Sedona. It was still worth it. It didn’t cost anything except gas money to get there, but that also allowed us to check out Tucson a little more as we drove to the park. We both agree that the National Parks Pass we bought in August of 2016 was the best purchase ever and we have definitely gotten our moneys worth out of it. When you enter a National park it can cost you 20 bucks to enter. Well, not us…after our inital investment of 80 dollars we can go in for free. We haven’t added it up, but we know we have made out by having it and have gone places we normally wouldn’t because it costs too much. So happy that Carol and Sue told us how good it was to have one!
And our day got even better when we got back to the campground. As we came into the park we saw coyotes! One caught my eye as it crossed the road and when we approached and looked where it went we saw two others. Ok, call me crazy, but I got excited because we hear them a lot in different campgrounds, sometimes quite close, but I have never seen them. We were in no danger being protected by Fat Henry and all, so Kat was able to get some pictures. What a nice day after all, except for Kat not feeling 100%. We had an early evening planned t so we could leave early in the morning to head into NM and try to get a good site at City of Rocks State Park just outside of Deming, NM. Goodbye Arizona! Until next time, thanks for good memories.