Highlights From Three Days of Hikes

view of Lake Pleasant AZ

Lake Pleasant view from the bridge that didn’t make it across the water. 

To celebrate a Martin Luther King and a three-day weekend, we hiked Saturday morning in the preserve across the street — the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. We ran into a couple finishing a hike as we were starting. “People!” they called out to us. We asked them for ideas of where to go. They told us to hike to Granite Mountain, which was a mere six miles away. Nope. Twelve miles round trip was more than we could handle. Maybe we can work up to it?

saguaro growth

I’m learning so much about my new environment.

They suggested Dove Valley Trail, which we did for a bit, but it was more of a road than a trail. We saw a trail called Old Camp that fascinated us, so we veered off on it. I got a little nervous wondering where we would end up. Funny thing. Each time we leave for a hike, I print out a map. I even subscribed to All Trails. So far, the maps have never made it with us. They are left on the printer. Anyway, the Old Camp Trail crossed Stagecoach, which is the trail that leads home. So we made a nice loop without even trying.

The next day, we tried Stagecoach going in the opposite direction. We didn’t see any other hikers, but a hunter with a bow and arrows. We asked what he was hunting for and he said javelina. I wonder if javelina are friendly to humans? Or do they charge? The hunter told us the matted down brush we see under the trees is where the javelina sleep. I was happy to hear that the squashed down grass and brush wasn’t due to mountain lions.

man standing next to ancient saguaro

My husband with an ancient saguaro. I didn’t get the entire cactus in the photo. My guess is 175 plus years old — the saguaro, not my husband!

Monday morning my husband had the day off work. I told him early that morning that I had big plans and he better get ready. “Oh really?” he asked.

“Yes, we’re driving to Lake Pleasant. There are hiking trails with water views.”

Off we went for to explore a new area. The trailI I had selected was closed off by a Sheriff’s truck for “training.” We were told to turn around and go to the main entrance of the park and that there were other trails there. We went on a short hike on Pipeline Canyon trail down to the lake only to find the bridge across the water didn’t extend the entire way. We had to turn around and climb back up the trail. We looked for other hikes but mainly explored a beautiful lake, visitor center and made plans to return on another day. Then we hit The Thumb for barbecue!

hiking in the desert

Smiling at the end of a hike at the preserve across the street.

 

Is it a gas station, car wash or BBQ joint?

We discovered The Thumb in May 2018 — featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives — when we visited the Phoenix area with our daughter. She was going to graduate college in August and move to Arizona for a career in the financial world (which she despised.) Anyway, during our trip to Arizona, we discovered a gas station, car wash, gift shop, wine shop — that also serves the most unbelievable barbecue.

Yesterday, after a hike at Lake Pleasant, my husband and I were starving. Our car was filthy….so we remembered The Thumb. What a perfect way to top off a hike.

view from hike at Lake Pleasant AZ

Ready to hike Pipeline Canyon trail at Lake Pleasant.

I wrote this after discovering The Thumb in 2018:

peach cobbler sign at The Thumb Scottsdale AZ

Inside The Thumb gas station.

While spending the weekend in Arizona, our purpose was to check out where our daughter will start her career. While driving to dinner one evening, our car told us to get gas and directed us to the closest gas station. (I love that feature on our car because I get busy and don’t realize I’m close to running out of fuel.)

The car sent us to The Thumb. While my husband pumped gas, I noticed the two-story building that was unlike any gas station I’d ever seen before. I witnessed a stream of people leaving the building with white plastic bags with red lettering. Waving in the breeze were banners that said “BBQ.”

What kind of barbecue is found inside a gas station, I wondered.

Inside the Thumb Scottsdale AZ BBQ gas station

The BBQ counter next to the gift shop at The Thumb.

I left the car to check it out.

I was surprised to see a gift shop filled with all sorts of fun items, from Pug cha cha to lots of cactus cookie jars, shot glasses, cards and miscellaneous stuff.

There was a pretty extensive wine section plus a bakery that looked so mouthwatering. I should have tried the snickerdoodles or homemade pop tarts! They looked scrumptious. One side of the building had a huge chandelier with tables for those eating in, plus a patio with more tables for dining al fresco. A huge aquarium had several people entranced.

Then there was the barbecue. People were lined up to order and people were stocking up on the six flavors of sauce.

We ordered a pound of brisket, some coleslaw and tried a few sauces. We both decided the original was best. After getting our gas we headed back to the condo we were staying in and surprised our daughter with an amazing dinner from the gas station!

The Thumb’s website says it’s  “Just your average gas station…”
It’s been featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on Food Network, too.

Inside dining at The Thumb Scottsdale AZ

The inside dining area of The Thumb.

If you happen to be driving through Scottsdale on the 101, I highly recommend a stop at the Thumb for a car wash, bakery, bottle of wine, barbecue, gifts — and oh yes, gas.

What unusual gas stations or diners have you discovered during your travels?

Do New Year’s Resolutions Work?

This year, I’ve decided to not make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not that they haven’t worked for me in the past, so long as I kept them small and not overwhelming. I view New Year’s Resolutions as a “don’t do this list” rather than “try something new.” Although that’s not totally accurate, it’s how I’m looking at it for 2021. Here’s the difference between resolutions and goals I found online:

Essentially, a resolution is something you will constantly be working toward, while a goal is specific and finite. Resolutions are made up of goals. While there is a difference between goals and resolutions, they are relevant and intertwined.


What’s the Difference Between Goals and Resolutions …

quail on patio

These entertaining guys hang outside my office.

I’ve decided that I’d rather make a list of goals, not resolutions. Mostly it’s learning new things, seeing new places. In my new home, I want to learn about the birds I’m seeing, the plants, the trails and mountains.

hiking trail Cave Creek AZ

One of our first hikes in AZ at Cave Creek Regional Park.

So, a few of my goals — besides getting my house unpacked and in order — are:

  1. Start birdwatching — I already put a bird feeder in the backyard.
  2. Learn about saguaro cactus and other species of native plants.
  3. Hike on a new trail each week.
  4. Experience more sunrises and sunsets.
  5. Explore areas like the Grand Canyon and Sedona.
  6. Take a photography class online.
  7. Sketch or paint some of my new scenery.
  8. Begin a new manuscript, in a genre new to me.
    sunset in AZ desert

    The sunset from our street.

    Do you have a list of New Year’s Resolutions or goals to share?

Taking a well-deserved break from crisis

IMG_6079We escaped the heat and the change of surroundings had a healing effect. I was getting riddled with anxiety sitting at home in 120 degrees with just my husband and zero outside socialization. Every day seemed the same and I didn’t know what month we were in, let alone if it was a weekend or a weekday. Way before COVID-19 hit the world, we planned a trip and booked an Airbnb in Park City, UT. We stayed there last summer, too, and I loved the fresh air, outdoor activities like hiking and how good I felt. It’s a great escape from the desert summer.

A week before our trip, the homeowner of the Airbnb cancelled our trip! He was taking this summer to remodel due to few rentals. At first I was devastated and then thought it might be for the best. Maybe it wasn’t the time to leave our home in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. But, in the end I looked for another place and found something that would fit our needs. I needed a quiet private place for my husband to work, space for me to write and an extra bedroom for my daughter and any other family members who might join us.

As a person who literally hates to drive, strangely this time I was looking forward to a road trip. It’s a 10 1/2 hour drive, but easy with very little traffic and great views. The only rough spot is driving through Las Vegas, but this year there wasn’t the usual bumper to bumper traffic. I packed a cooler with sandwiches for the drive and off we went.

I love Park City. It was exactly the break I needed. At an altitude of 7,000 feet, it took us a few days to acclimatize. Everyday we hiked the trails on the ski slopes and walked to Main Street along the stream and forested path. I had a pool a few steps away where I swam laps. And we adventured up the chair lifts in Deer Valley. Of course, it wasn’t until the second to last day that we ventured in the hot tub in our courtyard. Wow! That would have been something to try out after the mountain hikes!

I can’t wait to go back next summer and do more exploring. I’m so thankful for the mental and physical break this vacation gave me. It was needed more than ever this year.

 

Chair lift ride in Deer Valley, UT

 

My favorite bits of Palm Springs paradise


PalmspringsI am fortunate to live in Palm Springs, California. I’m in the backyard of major golf tournaments like the Dinah Shore and the Humana Challenge — formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic. Tennis tournaments, too. (I don’t follow tennis, so I can’t elaborate much except to say they bring in crowds.

We are in the midst of three major weekends: two consecutive weekends of Coachella followed by Stagecoach. So now what?images-2

Here’s my top 5 locals’ list of what to do in Palm Springs.

  1. Hike
  2. Swim
  3. Eat
  4. Read
  5. Golf

My two favorite hiking trails in Palm Springs are the South Lykken Trail off of South Palm Canyon and Murray Canyon in the Indian Canyons. The Tram is my hot-season favorite, with temperatures in the perfect 70s in the summertime when it’s 110 plus degrees in town.

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The Palm Springs Swim Center boasts one of the most gorgeous public pools on the planet. Go for lap swim, or drop in on a Masters session with the Piranha Swim Team — the team my kids swam with for 13 plus years. There’s nothing like swimming across the pool and looking up at the majestic San Jacinto Mountain view!

Palm Springs Pool

We have serious food! My favorite restaurants in Palm Springs include — but are not limited to — Spencer’sJake’s and Johnny Costa’s.

Relax! Sit out by the pool with a good book. The resorts around town are gorgeous, from private luxury suites at the Ingleside Inn to larger trendy hotels like Riviera Palm Springs or Hard Rock Hotel. Soak up the sunshine, wearing suncreen of 50 SPF or better, and take a quick dip in the pool between chapters of your book.

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Golf. Yes, we have lots of it! My favorites in Palm Springs are the muni courses at Tahquitz Creek. The Legends Course is an older, more traditional course with a great price. The Resort Course is a little pricier, but more challenging. The Indian Canyons Golf Resort is spectacular, too!golf_course

Enjoy our blue skies, mountain views, and wide open spaces. It’s all here in Palm Springs. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it!

What are your favorite spots in Palm Springs?

About This Adventuring: The Toboggan Ride Was Fun

 

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A perfect day at Alta, Utah.

All my excitement of the New Year came to a crash on the slopes when I made one turn and lost my balance. I went skidding down the mountain spinning on my back and side—but only after feeling a rather awful snap in my left knee.

I stood after a friendly stranger helped me up and I thought I was okay. I skied a hundred yards more and “yikes!” The pain in my knee was sharp, intense and I collapsed. After a third try with the same result, I told my ski companion that I needed help down the mountain. I crossed my poles and we waited until a ski instructor stopped and called a number for the ski patrol to come get me.

Long story, short…actually, it’s a short story because it was only the first turn of my third run on a perfectly beautiful, sunny day in Alta. I was lifted into a toboggan with my left leg in a splint and wrapped like a burrito as ski patrol Chris, skied me to a snowmobile patrol, who took me the rest of the way to the clinic. I held onto a little flap of tarp over my head because the ski patrol Chris said it would keep the snow kicked up by the snowmobile from hitting my face on the way off the mountain.

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My view from the Ski Patrol toboggan.

 

The nurse, doctor and receptionist were really kind. They empathize with all their patients whose vacation has been ruined. In my case, I’m not worried about the torn ACL ruining my skiing days. I’m worried about the rest of this week taking care of my daughter’s house and puppy. (I’m in Salt Lake City, Utah to housesit and puppysit for my daughter, who is with her swim team in Florida. I thought I’d take advantage of her proximity to gorgeous ski resorts and ski for the first time in a decade.)

I have a lot going on and I don’t have time for this. In addition to taking care of the pup, there’s a swim meet I was going to compete in early February. Also, I’m traveling back to Salt Lake for my daughter’s senior day and final dual meet. Plus her final PAC 12 swim meet in Seattle. My cousin is coming to visit. My high school friend plans to stay with me. Yikes again. How do I have surgery and participate in all the momentous occasions ahead? What will I do to keep my sanity without my daily walks and swims?

I think a lot will depend on my attitude and outlook. After a good cry that hasn’t happened yet, I’ll pull myself together and face life every hour the way it’s put before me. I remember after my big accident in college, when I was crossing a street and hit by a pick-up truck going 35 miles per hour, it hit me to appreciate the little blessings in life. Don’t take anything for granted. And live life the best you can.IMG_9968

9 Reasons To Visit the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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One of the best things we do each summer is buy summer passes for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Palm Springs may sound like a wonderful place to live, but it does have its drawbacks—the main one being heat. I don’t want to hear “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.” Actually, it’s not always a dry heat. The Gulf of Mexico is below us and storms come through during the summer bringing humidity, thunder and lightening. Besides, even if it’s a perfectly dry day with blue skies and sunshine it’s too hot when the thermometer reaches 115 to 126 degrees.

Living in an air conditioned world feels claustrophobic. I find myself staying inside staring out the window, not wanting to leave the comfort of my home. When I do, I turn on the car and get the AC cranking before I buckle up.

I have a few strategies to deal with the constant heat. One is walking early in the morning—by 7 a.m. it’s too hot. The other is swimming at the Palm Springs Aquatic Center with Piranha Swim Team’s Masters.  The pool is cooled and feels so good—completely refreshing compared to our own pool that’s hot as a bath. Plus, I get pushed by my friends and coach and end up accomplishing so much more than if I swim laps on my own.

The third is the tram. Here’s a description from the tram website:

“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car—travels over two-and-one-half miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting riders to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. During your approximately ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering picturesque and spectacular vistas of the valley floor below. Once you reach the Mountain Station—elevation 8,516 feet—enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum, two documentary theaters, gift shop and over 50 miles of hiking trails.”

Here are my nine top reasons to visit the tram:

ONE
Architecture.
From the mid-century architecture of the Valley Station to the Mountain Station, the beauty is striking. Pay close attention to the details of how the architects made the most out of breathtaking views. “Both tramway stations were designed by notable mid-century modern architects. The Valley Station, finished in 1963, was designed by Albert Frey and Robson C. Chambers. The Mountain Station, built in 1961, was designed by architect E. Stewart Williams. Additionally, the distinctive Tramway Gas Station at the foot of Tramway Road was designed by Frey and Chambers.” —Wikipedia

TWO
Hiking Trails.
A quick fix to feeling cooped up in the summer means a short drive to Tramway Road and a 10-minute ride up the mountain. We start the season off with small walks—either on the Long Valley Discovery Trail or the Desert View Trail to get used to the elevation. Once summer is well under way, we advance to more challenging hikes among the more than 50 miles of hiking trails. My favorite is Round Valley Loop which is described as a “moderately strenuous 4-mile hike,” but manageable for after a day of work. It’s a really good work out.

 

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Round Valley Loop view.

THREE
Fresh Air.
Did I mention it’s hot in Palm Springs during the summer? The first thing you notice riding up the tram car is fresh air. The windows are open and on the 10-minute ride up the mountain, you feel a cool breeze. At the mountain station, the air is about 30-degrees cooler than on the valley floor—and it’s cool and fresh. What a relief from air conditioning!

FOUR
Fragrance.
I’m hit by the delicious aroma of pine trees and especially the Jeffrey Pine’s butterscotch smell. Not only is the air fresh and cool, the aroma of the forest is enticing. It lifts my spirit.

FIVE
Breathtaking views. Everywhere you look, whether it’s the panoramic view of the Coachella Valley or a view of the Mountain Station from the Round Valley Loop, it’s amazing. A babbling brook or a stately pine are awe inspiring.

 

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A stop along the Desert View Trail.

SIX
Wildlife.
“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a major gateway to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument traversing the southerly side of the Coachella Valley – officially designated a treasured natural and cultural resource.” There’s plenty of squirrels and lizards and I’ve heard there’s raccoons, foxes and big horn sheep. I notice the birds most of all. I must bring binoculars and a bird book next time.

SEVEN
Bring Your Children.
You’ll hear the excited voices of children ringing as they chase lizards, pick up pine cones and enjoy the outdoors. Many families visit the tram to let their kids explore nature. What a great way to escape the heat with your children and let them burn up energy.

EIGHT
Elevation Training for Athletes.
When my daughter was in high school, she used to run a few miles dryland training for her swimming. She and I would buy summer passes and she’d run at least two days a week at elevation. We often saw other athletes running the Round Valley trail, too.

NINE
The ride.
Some people buy their ticket for the tram for the ride alone. The views are spectacular and it’s a unique experience all its own. We, however, enjoy the tram for the world it transports us to. Ten minutes above the valley, we get to experience a slice of heaven and it makes the summer doable in Palm Springs.

 

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Granite views from the tram window with the other tram approcahing in the distance.

 

You can see why the summer pass is such a great deal!

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How do you stay active during hot summer months?