Friday, January 27, 2023

Some Great Hikes in Mesa, Riparian Preserve And a Fabulous Dinner!

When we get ready to leave an area, Sparky and Eldo always try to get some last visits/hikes/touristy things done in case we don't return to the area. In this case, we are fairly certain that we WILL be back next year, as Mesa was one of our favorite destinations this year.

Sparky wanted to check out three things before we left--a hike at Lost Dutchman State Park, which is on the way on the Apache Trail near Apache Junction, a challenging hike at Usery Mountain Regional Park and the Riparian Preserve, right in Mesa.

Lost Dutchman State Park was AMAZING! It was named after a famous lost gold mine and is in the Sonoran Desert right up against the Superstition Mountains. The lost Dutchman, wasn't really Dutch, by the way. In the 1870's, Jacob Waltz (who was German) supposedly located a gold mine and worked it for awhile, hiding some gold stashes in the Superstitions there. In bad health in his later years, he supposedly described the location of the mine to a neighbor before he died in 1891. People have tried to find the mine and some have met with foul play or death in their efforts. There are a lot of superstitions and legends about the Superstition Mountains and the lost goldmine, so many that books and films have been produced about them.

There are several trails that go from the park into the desert and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Sparky picked the Treasure Loop Trail today rated moderate....a 2.4 mile round trip with an elevation change of 500 feet. This trail was much easier by far than the Wind Cave Trail at Usery Mountain Regional Park, which was rated HARD that Sparky tried to do a few days before. More about that in a moment.

There are six trails that you can choose from at Lost Dutchman, the most challenging being the Siphon Draw Trail, which is 4 miles round trip and winds around into a canyon with a 1,000 ft. elevation gain to the basin area. WOW! Another time, Sparky might try that one. Not only is that trail difficult, the trail is not maintained past the basin, and there are elevation gains of over 2,000 feet. It takes 5-6 hours to do that one. Then again, Sparky thinks, well, maybe that one better be for somebody else. (Eldo is glad that she has come to her senses.)

The Treasure Loop Trail was spectacular in itself and a good heart pumper near the top of the trail. It starts in a beautiful picnic area, and ends back there. You literally hike right up to the mountain cliff walls.

The scenery is just terrific and you have to stop a lot just to admire these fantastic views--and to catch your breath if you are older, like Sparky. This view below is about 2630 feet up. The trail is fairly wide at the beginning, it's sometimes shared by horseback riders and then the trail narrows the higher you go. it was a wonderful hike and very doable for a senior. Sparky says the average age on the trail today was at least 65 and up. 

Next up, a hike at Usery Mountain Regional Park called the Wind Cave Trail, rated HARD, rated DIFFICULT, rated NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART OR THE WOBBLY. (Sparky's rating, the last two.) This is a 2.9 trail out and back near Mesa. It's VERY popular so there were a lot of people on the trail the day Sparky went, including a guy that only had one leg and was on crutches.(!) Sparky went last year and because of dizziness, didn't complete the entire trail. So she tried again this year, going further than she did last year, but was not able to finish due to severe sciatic troubles and worries about balance again.  Here's a map of the trail:

See all those wiggly lines? those are switchbacks, NARROW switchbacks, ROCKY switchbacks. Whew! The goal was to get further than last year, and she did. It really was a tough trail. Your goal is to reach near the top of those mountains in the distance, to an indented  area with a cave.

Here's what the Wind Cave Trail looks like in many places....
That IS the trail in front of you....

And another beautiful view....

Sparky was all hiked out and her sciatica was really flaring by the time she finished this hike.

Well, after a tough hike, it's time for a great meal! We discovered Steak and Stone, a restaurant in Mesa right beside a small airport. Great steaks cooked on LAVA stones, while you watch a steady stream of small planes take off and land at the airport. The steak comes to your table raw, but it's cooking on the lava rock as it arrives. You take it off the stone when you are ready for the degree of doneness you like. Which for Sparky, is almost immediately, haha. Luckily, Eldy is not grossed out by Sparky's love of very rare, extremely rare beef.

And the last wonderful visit was a trip to the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert just outside of Mesa. It's a water wonderland-- a 110 acre wetlands/wildlife sanctuary with 4.7 miles of trails if you walked all of it all over the place in and around the ponds, one floating boardwalk, a simulated dinosaur dig, an urban fishing lake, three overnight campsites, an observatory, bird viewing blind areas and multi use trails. So many waterfowl to be seen! there were LOTS of Northern Shoveler ducks that day....They were in such a feeding frenzy that you can't see their unique shovel shaped bills.

And songbirds and hummingbirds....

Sparky thinks this is a black chinned hummingbird below. Even though the throat feathers or gorget (which comes from the days of knights when they wore metallic collars to protect their throats) are purple, when he turns his head they look black unless the sun is shining directly on them.

This is a good place to see Gambel's quail all over! Sparky had been trying for DAYS to catch these fast little guys around the campground, but at the preserve, they were too busy scratching the sandy dirt for bugs to notice and were quite used to the people walking around them.

Northern mockingbird

Ruddy duck

Many lovely places to sit and bird watch or people watch.....This is a wonderful place to see lots of different bird species....We highly recommend visiting Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch.

Mallard pair
And with that, we are leaving tomorrow for a return visit to Cottonwood, Arizona, where we will be for two weeks. We are still waiting for our jacks repair (parts have been ordered, the extended warranty company is going to foot MOST of the bill) and Sparky's broken tooth repair (Sparky is footing all of that crown repair bill).  She wishes there were extended warranties for teeth, haha, but we don't have dental insurance so that's the way it is. You go for a very long time with no problems, then BOOM, you eat a bagel and half your tooth breaks off and costs you an arm and a leg and a crown. 

It's very cold in Cottonwood right now, but Eldo hopes temps will warm up soon. Sparky is loving the temps, but not in the twenties at night, according to the weather app! See you later! Thanks for following along with us. We love sharing our journey....

on the Apache Trail in AZ 2023


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Howdy, Partner! Welcome to Tortilla Flat

If you visit Mesa, Arizona, there is SO MUCH to do here, it's impossible to give you all the lowdown with just a post or two and only staying two weeks. One of the best recommendations we can give you is to drive the scenic Apache Trail, a distance of about 40 miles. 

The Apache Indians originally used the trail to navigate through the Superstition Mountains. It became a stagecoach route in the early 1900's, and now runs through the mountains and the Tonto National Forest. The trail/drive starts in Apache Junction and ends at the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. We have never been able to drive all the way through due to road closures and we have tried three times. The most we have been able to drive in one direction, was about 17 miles, having to turn around at Tortilla Flat, a tiny little outpost. At Tortilla Flat today, the road was flooded just beyond the little town, so no driving any further was possible.

The road is very winding, and there are a lot of steep switchbacks. All the more fun in a big road hogging dually. RV's are NOT recommended past Tortilla Flats and we wouldn't even recommend taking an RV on the steep, narrow, winding mountainous road passages on the way, either. This wasn't the road, (photo below with the tan road) but maybe a ATV trail? Because of a fair amount of rain which is unusual for the area this time of year, the rocks and boulders were covered with beautiful colors of lichens and mosses. The area was a LOT greener and more beautiful than past years on this visit.

The drive along the way is SPECTACULAR! Here are some sample views..... 

The best view of the day

There are LOTS of scenic stops along the road, so you could make a day of it or just a few hours of your afternoon. The first stop you might want to see if the Goldfield Ghost Town. It was closed to due Covid last year, but appears to be open now. It looks interesting, but we didn't stop. We thought it might be a little too touristy, but for a reconstructed 1890's ghost town, it does look pretty cool. There is an old gold mine there, Old West scheduled gun fights, a history museum, a gold panning opportunity, and more stuff to do than that. It's free to enter the town, you just pay for some of the attractions.

The second stop is Lost Dutchman State Park. Sparky will blog about that in the next blog. Briefly, it's a 320 acre park, with great wilderness trails and it's popular. Seven dollars entry fee gets you into the park and get ready to hike away!

Canyon Lake
Third stop---Canyon Lake, one of three man made lakes along the trail. It has a large marina, an RV park and campgrounds. There are red rock cliffs surrounding the lake, making for a beautiful backdrop. supposedly, bighorn sheep and bald eagles make their home here. Keep your eyes peeled for them! You can book a ticket on the Dolly Steamboat to tour the lake if you like.

Fourth Stop--You will drive by the Superstition Mountains on the right on your way to a reproduction (?) town by the name of Tortilla Flat, population 6. You pass through a couple of one lane bridges on your way, but they are tall enough for most, at 14 ft. 0 in. And then, you get to town.

Don't try nuthin' in this town or else!
Tortilla Flat is one of the last vestiges of the Old West. When it thrived as a stagecoach stop, it was where travelers and workers stopped on their way to the Roosevelt Dam construction site. the population at that time was about 125 people. It had a little school, a church, a livery stable, a general store and of course, a saloon, the Superstition Saloon. It has since transitioned into a folksy, charming, humorous little place with LOTS of history behind it. It and a couple other little shops and stores have also been rebuilt after fires and floods over the years. The inside of the saloon is decorated with dollar bills, completely covering the ceiling, walls and everywhere there is a space to fit one, several times over.

Nobody knows how much money is plastered all over the walls, but it's been a tradition and still continues. If you want to have your moniker on a dollar bill, sign it and ask the wait staff to put it up for you. The tradition started when prospectors (thar's GOLD in them Superstition hills and lost gold mines!) would leave their last buck for a drink.They'd pin up their card and dollar bill behind the bar to reserve a drink after their shift. They'd return, pull down their dollar and buy a round. After awhile, tourists picked up on the idea, the tradition flourished and VOILA! The bills are from all over the world.

The saloon is famous for its chili, great burgers and fresh home cooked food. They serve prickly pear lemonade there, too, along with prickly pear salsas. (Prickly pear cactus is VERY abundant and a food source for many people in the southwest). We really enjoyed our meal there at the end of our drive. Eldo had a HUGE burger, and Sparky had street tacos that were fantastic!

You get a folksy newspaper, Tortilla Flat Telegraph, with lots of local history, comic strip and tongue-in-cheek information with your meal and afterwards, there's a general store and an ice cream shop for some great dessert and treats. And, there is the toilet seat photo op which is to to be missed, but we missed it. And sorry, no photos, darn it. But maybe that's for the best. There are three toilet seats, old wooden ones hanging outside of the saloon. Stick your head through one (EWWWWWWW!)  and get a memorable photo! We passed.....Second option, get someone to take your photo in the bathroom, haha.

We thoroughly enjoyed our drive today, up through the Superstition Mountains. We will definitely return to check out Lost Dutchman State Park. Stay tuned, Sparky is gonna check out some trails!

                                                Bye for now......

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Moving to Mesa

Mesa Spirit RV Park.    Site: V-79.   Highs: 50's-60's.  Lows: Mid 30's-40's  AT&T excellent, T-Mobile excellent 

Sparky is into alliteration these past two posts. We moved to Mesa Spirit RV park on Thursday. We traded wide open spaces with lots of trails for a very tight, narrow, packed in snowbird park. It's so tight that with a big rig and small narrow spaces, it's a lot more challenging to back into a site, because it's an older park designed when rigs were smaller. Also, for Thousand Trails members, there are only certain sites available to us, and due to a finite amount of allocations for TT members which is very small, the company restricts the park, so roomier sites are not available to us. This is an Encore park, a subsidiary park of theThousand Trails company, so we can stay for free except for a very few Encore parks. We can stay for free at most Encore parks for free because we have a small add-on to our membership, called the Trails Collection.

Back to the site difficulties...There is a personal metal mailbox at each site, and a fruit tree/bush at almost every site that you have to watch out for, in addition to maybe a park model (house) right across the street. The land that this park sits on used to be an orchard so that's why fresh fruit trees and bushes are at almost every site. Residents with fruit multiplying faster than they can eat it, will put out boxes or bags of free grapefruit and oranges throughout the park. Wonderful fruit!

When we came in, Sparky and Eldo were quite nervous at having to back in. Eldy knew he could do it, but it was just going to be very stressful as Sparky doesn't always tell Eldy the right way how she wants the rig to back into the site. Sometimes it can take up to a half hour or more with difficult sites to get situated and in parallel with the hookups. BUT--a really great park ranger named Frank, told us as we sat waiting at the office to check in, that he would get us in. He led us to our site in his golf cart, and he says, "Do you trust me? I'm gonna get you in this spot. Do you trust me? I'm so confident I can get you in, that your partner here (pointing to Sparky) could sit behind the wheel, and I could get her to back this thing in, no problem!" Sparky didn't want to question his ability, but she was pretty darn sure, that nope, that was not possible. He guides Eldy and the rig way forward past the site to get ready to back the rig in with a super sharp turn, and he gets a message on his walky talky radio. He says, "Just give me five minutes and I'll be there." FIVE MINUTES???? No way are we going to be backed into our site in that amount of time! (You'd have to be there to see the whole situation.) The actual parking spot for the rig is VERY narrow. The concrete pad for your living space is a decent size.

Well, five minutes later, we were in our spot! We did not have to do any back and forth see-sawing at all. He yelled (Eldy is hard of hearing) very specific directions--"TURN THE WHEEL TO THE RIGHT! HARD!!! NOW BACK THE WHEEL BACK TO THE LEFT---HARD! STRAIGHT BACK...KEEP GOING! YOU GOT IT!!!!" and it was just perfect. Thank you, Frank. He got us in correctly and spaced correctly the very first try, and off he went. Sparky gave him a big high five before he left and told him he was amazing!  Because he was. 

Did Sparky learn any tips to help Eldo park the rig next time for a difficult site? Sorry, nope! She has a LOT of trouble with directions and a rig backing up that goes in a different direction from the truck tires, so she's just going to pray that somebody as good as Frank will be available the next tight site campground or that Eldy will have the patience of Job, which he USUALLY does....haha....

It's a HUGE park, over 1650 sites, so they have LOTS to do for snowbirds.....TONS of activities, three pools, a quilter's room, a woodworking shop, and many many more as you can see on this list.

There are lots of dog parks, too, interspersed among the different corners of the park. They have free coffee and donuts on Tuesdays, and a little shop that serves breakfast or light lunches on some days. The parks schedules live entertainment on a regular basis during the winter months, and there are all kinds of exercise classes to boot. The park is also near the Superstition Mountains, which have trails and hikes that Sparky hopes to explore a bit in the two weeks we are here. Here's a cool fact about the Superstition Mountains and Mesa. If you are here the third week of March, or the third week of September around the equinox, the mountains cast a shadow in the shape of a cougar chasing prey. 

courtesy of the internet

Park at 4th Avenue and Goldfield Rd. The western sky needs to be free of clouds and best time for viewing is the last 30 minutes before sunset. So cool!

Did we get our jacks fixed? Nope, not yet. We are going around and around with the extended warranty company who is making it very difficult to file a claim. We have sent pictures and video to them and they are still refusing to take on the claim despite THREE mobile techs and the third one, who did a terrific job documenting testing all parts of the electric leveling system, who is trying to go to bat for us by trying to go higher up on the company chain to get them to honor the warranty, in which the LANDING JACKS ARE COVERED. Did Sparky get her broken tooth fixed? Not yet. That sucker broke off like a glacier calving. Luckily, no root canal--yet. Sparky is hoping it stays stable and doesn't develop an infection so she can just get a crown and be done with it. It will be a problem getting the final crown as we won't be in Mesa by the time it is ready, so Sparky will have to drive back from Cottonwood to Mesa to have it finished. 

What have we done for our first few days? Checked out the area, and revisited a favorite eating spot, the Organ Stop Pizza Restaurant, a pizza place with the world's LARGEST and finest theater Wurlitzer organ. It's a wonderful place to eat decent pizza and hear an amazing young man play this magnificent instrument. The organ revolves on stage at times, and goes down out of site when the organist is ready to take a break. The construction and equipment needed to run this amazing organ is mind boggling. 

There are four turbines in the blower room, which has a separately constructed floor from the rest of the restaurant to minimize the rumble  generated by massive machinery. Because the turbines generate tremendous friction, there is a 5 ton air conditioning unit that runs whenever the organ is running even if it's below 25 degrees F. outside.

The console, the main part of the organ where the organist sits, is the most advanced and complete theater organ console ever built. If you have ever played piano, some of this might make sense. There are four "manuals"/keyboards--61 keys each. There are 32 keys on the pedalboard for footwork needed. There are FOUR HUNDRED TWENTY-TWO stoptabs, which are what the organist pushes for different sounds--red is for reeds, amber for strings--vioin, viola, cello, etc., and ivory for flutes. There are two drawers that contain 327 switches to control stops, theatrical lighting and effects and other functions. There is even a digital rhythm unit which can be programmed to play traps and percussion instruments in complicated musical arrangements. There is so much variation and complexity woven into the design of this organ, that it is very adaptable to the style of any organist who plays it. WOW!

The pizza is decent, salad bar ok....You order it at the counter, you order your drinks at the counter, (soda or beer) and then grab a seat at the downstairs level or one level up. It's like very large auditorium seating, only with long picnic style tables on the ground floor and more table like seating on the second floor. And then, prepare to be awed by the massive pipe louvers opening and closing as the organist plays, the percussion instruments placed all around the hall, and even additional instruments tied into the organ like a grand piano and a player piano upstairs. The organist also takes requests. The Star Wars theme was Sparky's favorite!  The Organ Stop opens at 4:00 PM and fills up very quickly. We recommend going right at opening time to get a great viewing spot.

And with that, that's it for now...See you later on a trail or maybe in a state park nearby....

Monday, January 9, 2023

Settled in Sedona

Cottonwood, AZ   Thousand Trails Verde Valley    Site: J-6
Weather this week: Highs: high 50's to low 60's, Lows: high 30's
AT&T hotspots very good, T-Mobile mifi very slow.

Technically, we are in Cottonwood, AZ, which is 24.7 miles from Sedona but Sparky liked the title of "Settled in Sedona", haha. Because it's pretty chilly and we are only here for one week, we are going to do maintenance chores on our RV (cleaning jacks, trying to fix the bad jack, spot cleaning the outside) and cleaning the refrigerator vents. Sparky happened to think about how so easily dusty the whole RV gets, so she thought she better check underneath the fridge. Can't check behind the RV fridge, it's really in a tight space, so she looked down under the fridge, and OMG. It was crudded up (is that a real word? wonders Eldo) really badly with dust. How often does a 72 year old get down on her hands and knees with a flashlight to see how dirty and dusty things REALLY are??? We only see the dust flying around when the sun shines directly through the entire coach. So, not that often. There are some good things about getting older and having aging eyes. Harder to see those dust bunnies, dontcha know!

The vacuum attachments were not able to reach the deep vents, so Eldo found a hack on cleaning them while researching how to find and clean RV fridge vents-- USE A STRAW taped to the crevice tool! Brilliant! Problem solved for the time being, except it was a wimpy straw and kept bending in the middle.

We are going to try to get another mobile tech to come out and look at our bad front left jack, which is still not functioning properly despite brand new RV batteries. We are fairly certain at this time, that the jack has gone bad. It doesn't respond to the automatic leveling commands and continuously gives a fault error.  It feels like we are cockeyed and the coach isn't as level inside as we would like it. The front jacks are the key to the whole rest of the leveling system getting the RV level front to back and side to side. If the front ones aren't performing together correctly, then we can't use the automatic leveling system--which is a really neat feature. When it works, we push a button outside in one of the bays, and the whole coach levels itself from front to back and side to side with sometimes miniscule movements. It's neat to watch, except when it's raining. So far we've been told by three different techs including Lippert that it could be 1. the batteries, 2. a bad jack, 3. the motor, or 4. the motherboard (the panel that operates the whole leveling system). We replaced the batteries and knocked out solution #1. Eldy has gotten pretty good at leveling the rig manually, which is no small feat, as the control panel is a little complicated, and it's easy to hit the wrong set of panel buttons and forget to press enter in between commands on the panel, which is confusing to look at in the first place. A new jack costs around 400-800 dollars, so we're not too thrilled at having to get a new one. Maybe we will have to order one and then try and find someone to replace it for us. Cottonwood is not a major metropolis like Tucson, so it might be a little more of a challenge to get it replaced in a timely manner. In the meantime, we can live with manual leveling.

Well, we finally got to the bottom of this jack problem and it took a very capable and knowledgable tech to come out and DIAGNOSE for FREE the actual problem. We went to the park gate office and they gave us a reference of guy that came very highly recommended. We called him and he came right out to our site today. He is not going to charge us until he gets the part and installs it. We don't have a bad motor, we have a bad part within the motor, and in order to fix it, you can't just buy the little part, you have to buy a new motor. Well, naturally. Kudos to Jon Currier, of Currier Master Mobile Service, a fantastic mobile repair guy, trained and certified with MANY years of experience, who tested out several different parts of the system, who finally had a definitive answer by ruling out different scenarios instead of just semi guessing and saying we needed a new jack. AND--he also spotted some black soot on the outside of our water heater, checked the air flow tube, and it was too narrow, not allowing enough air to enter so the heater was burning hotter than it needed to be on gas, and spitting out soot above the panel. He adjusted it, and gave us a little lesson on how it should operate, again, at no charge. He said he was in this business to teach and provide mobile service at the most reasonable cost and wasn't in it to make a lot of money! What a nice man! We greatly appreciated his observance of our water heater and we learned something new about operating it. We always worry about so many things we DON'T know about and don't know how to fix, but we have been super lucky in finding great techs to come out and help us learn, even if they aren't always totally correct. Kind of like going to the doctor..."Well, I think it may be this, so let's try that...." This guy really knows his field. Eldo was impressed with everything he had on his truck! This was one of several he has, and it's a smaller one.

So now, we wait to hear the cost which shouldn't be outrageous because he is a Lippert dealer and has several suppliers he can work with to shop around to get us a decent price. Then he will come out and finish the job. Although we are only here a week this time, we will be back in two weeks for a three week stay so hopefully he can do it then.
View from the top of the park in "M" section
Thousand Trails Verde Valley is at an elevation of 3340 feet and is a big park, 300 acres, in the high desert spread out over rolling hills and land tiers. There are 371 sites. It is surrounded by the Mingus Mountains and Red Rocks. Sparky tried riding her bike a little the first couple of days we were here. Forget THAT! There is a BIG change in elevation from the most expensive sites with the best views of Sedona and the mountains at the top of the park, to down to the bottom where the cheapest 30 amp sites are crowded, tight, and there are no views. M section is the elite top view with the best 360 degree view of the mountains all around.
Another view in a different part of "M" section

It's almost impossible to ride up and down the park roads and NOBODY rides a bike in this park so that was all Sparky needed to wait for better days to ride. There are nice little narrow walking trails around the hills between the tiered sites and since we are at 3350 feet, it will be good exercise. And hey, the views.....wonderful! Sparky recommends a hiking pole--trails are narrow and very pebbly and rocky, you know, the slippery, sliding kind of rocks. You can easily get a couple of miles or more in for a hiking/walk by traipsing around the hills in the park and with significant elevation changes, it's great cardio.

The views where we are in the "J"- 50 amp section are not too shabby, either! This is the view out in front of our rig right out our "front yard".

The pool is shut down indefinitely for repairs. But who cares? It's really chilly during the day! This park even has a remote control raceway for the RC hobbyist. You don't see that very often at all. by the way, there are NO laundry facilities in TT Verde Valley. You have to go into town to do your laundry if you don't have units in your rig. We don't. Sparky has a craft closet instead, haha.

There are three major grocery stores in Cottonwood--a Fry's, a Safeway, and a Walmart. There are fast food chains to pick from, some decent restaurants and a vineyard nearby the RV park, the Alcantara Vineyards. There are several tasting rooms and wine bars in Old Cottonwood, a neat little portion of the city of Cottonwood, with cool shops and great little eateries. We ate at the Tavern Grille, a repeat from last year, which is a great restaurant with a great industrial vibe inside and great food. Highly recommend it.
We also recommend Bocce 
Pizzeria, a great Italian restaurant that makes all their breads and pizza crusts homemade with a cool indoor outdoor open air bar seating. A house salad was quite expensive, (11.00) but it was the most beautifully presented salad Sparky has ever seen! Everything coming out of the kitchen was beautiful. The pizza was thinner crust and not enough cheese for Sparky, but it was delicious as well.

We really do love this park because it's fairly close to Sedona, without all the tourist crowds, but has its own vibe seeming to be in the mountains and Verde Valley at the same time. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets seem to be the norm in Arizona, we've been seeing them almost every day unless it's cloudy. It's wonderful, too, to be seeing the red rocks in the distance, which are calling Sparky's name.
Sparky visited Dead Horse Ranch State Park. (Great name, eh?) For seven dollars daily use fee, you can walk trails there, bird watch and get some nice exercise. The Audubon Society fills bird feeders in a small area off Owl Creek Road. Sparky saw lots of finches, juncos and wrens the day she went.

Love the purple finches, or house finches, whatever they are! 

It's a beautiful park in January.....You can camp in an RV there, but no full hookups, just water and electric, unless you are the "lagoon host", a work camping job. The host's site is situated right in the center of the lagoon area under shady trees and has full hookups-- water, electric, and sewer. Nice! But it would be a super hot location in the summer. There are three lagoons where lots of locals come to fish. Usually there are lots of water fowl, but today Sparky only saw a lone pie billed grebe and a mallard pair.
In the park is a wonderful walk to Tavasci Marsh, a little over a mile, round trip. On the way you can see Tuzigoot National Monument off to your left of the trail. This view of the. monument, straight on, is from far away, there are closer views when you first start out on the trail.
This is a cool monument to visit if you are interested. It's a hilltop pueblo that grew into one of the largest villages in the area one thousand years ago by the Sinagua people. It's a great glimpse into prehistoric life of Arizona people. Here is a closer view from the trail.

Tavasci Marsh is just a marsh with LOTS of tall grasses and at the very end, a small body of water for the ducks and a viewing platform for you, but it was a beautiful walk back to it. Sparky likes looking up the names of local plants wherever she hikes, using the app, Seek. This is a barberry, like a form of holly.

Today there was a pair of ring necked ducks swimming around but too far away to capture it.
The trail markers on the way are a marvel to read. They have LOTS of information on them for whatever mode of transportation you are using on the trails whether a bike, a horse (!) or your feet. It tells you what the grade of the trail is, the cross slope--(the side to side elevation), the tread width, and what the trail is made of! Guess a lot of that might be helpful to a mountain biker, of which Sparky saw several heading out in other directions and other trails. They even give you a math example (Sparky needs that, haha) of what they mean, like if the typical grade is 2.6% and 5% of the trail is 10-22%, then 225 feet of the trail is 10-22%. That reference to slope vaguely reminded Sparky of a "rise over run" formula, a long distant math topic on which she probably failed and doesn't care to revisit. Oh, and by the way....8% is a standard ramp. HUNH? A mountain biker will understand. Sparky stood there for quite a few moments trying to digest all this, before heading on her way, because she was walking after all. Update: additional trail recommended at Dead Horse Ranch State Park is the Lime Kiln Trail. You can pick it up right behind the middle lagoon. It's a beautiful trail, with a little bit of elevation climb and gorgeous views of the valley. It is a shared mountain bike trail so keep your eyes peeled for bikers coming down or up. Sparky hiked it without poles the first time, but if a little bit of climbing up bothers you, then one pole is great for balance. Sparky used a single one the second time and liked it much better.

(Sparky will be visiting the trails in Sedona on our next visit to Cottonwood) and unfortunately, also a dentist, because a major portion of a tooth broke off the week we were here. Ugh.....

So we will see you down the road next in Mesa, AZ in our next blog. Until next time......Sparky and Eldo