01 March 2014

Ups and Downs!

1 Mar 2014--Arrived in Phoenix on Monday and headed to the Capitol building on Tuesday.  We didn't actually end up spending too much time there as it was really pretty boring.  But it did have a grapefruit tree on the grounds...I guess I'm still a city kid at heart, because it never occurred to me that grapefruits grew on trees!  haha  I don't know where I thought they grew from, but I would have thought they were too heavy for a tree.

Outside the Capitol building we had a couple protesters, like this idiot, who claimed it was his religious "right" to discriminate against other Americans.  I guess it never occurred to him that as a Hispanic he is not so far removed from being discriminated against himself!  Fortunately he lost the argument the next day when the Governor vetoed the bill he was promoting.

The Capitol building is also the state history museum, but there is very little inside that demands sharing.  The state flag is pretty, with the rays of the sun representing the 13 original colonies, and the star represents a setting sun representing Arizona as a western state.  Arizona became our 48th state in 1912.  The building on the outside is pretty enough, but there was nothing interesting about it on the inside.  We would rate this Capitol building as 2nd worst, beating out only New Mexico's for worst Capitol that we have seen so far.

A long history of discrimination in the land of freedom!  This talks about an ordinance enforced by a sheriff by making the local Indians put pants on before they came into town.  (Interestingly, as we were hiking another day we overheard a young girl in her early 20s talking to a friend about how he was lucky to live in Arizona because he didn't like the government telling him what he could and could not do.  Ignorance is bliss, I guess!

From the Capitol we went over to St Mary's Basilica in downtown Phoenix, where we expected to see something spectacular due to it's age and history.  Another letdown!  I am starting to think we should stick to Cathedrals for splendor as we are 0-2 on Basilicas.

Remember I showed you that picture of the coyote we ran into?  This gives proof to the concern I expressed about what would happen if he chased us...these guys can haul butt!!!

So on Wednesday we headed to the Camelback Mountains and one of the better known trails here, the Echo Canyon Trail.  People in Arizona do a serious amount of hiking and in Phoenix alone you could probably hike a different trail every day of the year and never hike the same one twice.  This trail is 1.2 miles to the top, mostly rock climbing vs hiking, but we were surprised at how many people were out there and how many of them were older than we were.  We did not become a statistic!  haha

The 1st quarter mile or so of the trail is packed dirt and pretty easy.

But before you know it you are into ever more serious rock climbing...initially they even give you a rail to hold onto, but before long you are on your own.  You can tell how steep it is in in the 2nd picture, where the next step up is at about my waist level.  haha  If you click on the last picture in this grouping you will see a lady across from Cathy that is actually drenched in sweat around the collar of her shirt.  I said something to her and she replied, "I don't know what ever made me think this was a good idea!" haha

Getting closer and closer to the top, it seems like it  keeps getting steeper.

But this is the reward!


Surprisingly, coming back down the mountain was a little dicier than climbing up.  Going up is taxing, but coming down is more intimidating. My short legs can make reaching the rock below a bit of a challenge.  haha  Incredibly, we passed people who do this for exercise, and go up and down several times consecutively.  We talked to one woman, maybe 40-45 yrs old, who was on her 5th round-trip!!! Needless to say she was in tremendous shape!

The only wildlife we saw was the Cliff Chipmunk and the Chuckwalla.  The chipmunks are so cute, smaller than you would see in New England, and really fast scurriers.  I was delighted I could get this 3rd picture because he didn't sit there long when he saw me.

We saw a handful of these Chuckwallas, including the one in the cracks of the wall in the 3rd picture. They grow to about 15 inches long, but I think the ones we saw were all about 10 inches.

The greater Phoenix metro area has 4 million people and is the 2nd largest western city behind Los Angeles.  It is surrounded by mountains on all sides and has over 200 golf courses.  We figured Hallie and Donna would love that aspect...if you enlarge this 1st picture you can see 2 courses catty-corner to each other.

And then on Thursday we headed to a different mountain range, called the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, and a completely different  hiking experience than the rock climbing we did the day before.  This was closer to the terrain of Tuscon, way flatter and no rock climbing.  In this 1st pic are a bunch of my favorites again, the Chainfruit Cholla, which I only mention because it will come into play here shortly.

We are taking this trail because it is supposed to be pretty and when it rains there is a waterfall at the end of it.  Just starting out here, seeing more blooming plants than we did before.

Here is a cactus just trying to bloom.

As I was trying to get some good pictures of the blooming cacti, I made the BIG mistake of not paying attention to what was on the ground as I mixed among the plants.  I sort of kicked a fallen ball of cacti with my right foot straight into my left ankle, so my favorite cactus literally attacked me.  I am not kidding when I say I was in severe pain.  The Teddy Bear, Jumping and Chain Fruit Chollas are all one and the same, and as you can see this one is not just sticking in my ankle, but has truly embedded itself in my skin, straight through my sock.  Cathy, using a small map we had, tried 4-5 times to pull it out of my leg before she was able to dislodge it.  I was yelling in pain each time she tried...it was excruciating!!!

Recovered, we pressed on, soothed by the beauty!  haha

And the blooms start to get a little bigger.

Getting closer to the end, a little rockier, but still easy terrain.

And into the canyon-like area where the waterfall would be if we weren't in a drought.  I considered climbing the rocks in the 3rd pic, but was concerned that coming back down would be too tricky!  haha These walls look like they have been sprayed with silver spray paint.

And I guess because we are closer to the water source, we finally see cacti in full bloom.

So there's our first few days in Phoenix.  Planning to go on a riverboat tour in the Superstition Mountains for a change of pace next, so we are looking forward to that.  TTYL!


  1. Love the picture on the top of the mountain looking down at the golf courses. I have to agree with Donna that hat Is you!!! It look like your ankle would have hurt should have some purell.

  2. Loving your blog!!

    I wanted to ask did you scratch your ankle to distract you when Cathy pulled out the cactus? Just kidding. I couldn't resist asking. I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone.

    Keep the blogs coming and enjoy your trip!!!

    1. Just so people know...Sherri is my nurse who gives me my clinical trial injections every 6 months that I totally wimp out on. The older I get the more of a wimp I am, so I have learned to scratch myself somewhere else to distract from the pain she is about to confer me, making her a nervous wreck in the process. haha In this case, I was in so much pain I didn't even think to distract myself, although it might have taken severing an arm or something to distract from the pain of the cholla sticking in my ankle!!! haha

  3. Hi
    What the hell are you doing in that state
    Look--even the cactus have turned on you...
    Run before you need supplies. I'm sure there are people who think the law passed.

    1. haha...I am in better shape now though...I can outrun the bastards!!!

  4. ???? this climbing continues to boggle the mind. I love Patti's comments!!!! You look good in the hat. The cactus flower sure is pretty. Do you still love them after all the pain???

    1. The combination of getting some exercise while being surrounded by such beautiful stuff is what I like the best about the climbing/hiking...like killing 2 birds with one stone! And despite the pain, I still think the chainfruit cholla are really, really pretty!

  5. We have coyotes right here in Wakefield, have them catch a rabbit and take it back to their babies.

    The hat???? The hat???? The hat???? I exactly laughed out loud when I first saw it!!!!

    I am leaving work today and I am going to start walking the lake and then I am going to find somewhere I can
    climb up hills, I will never last with you to when I come to visit!! So off to go get in some kind of shape!