Favorite sights from the past days

gorgeous Arizona sunset
I walked up the street to find the best view of the sunset this past weekend.

I’ve had some interesting sights this week. The desert is bursting alive with blooms. Baby bunnies are everywhere. I had bright red cardinals in my trees. A red-headed woodpecker sucked all the red juice from the hummingbird feeder I hung out and he’s pecked holes to make nests in our saguaro (not our favorite bird.)

We went for a hike in the nature’s preserve across the street and decided to veer off the trails we know. I thought the trail Hawknest would save us time, but it added. It didn’t loop back but headed straight down the preserve away from our house. It’s unsettling to not know where you’ll end up, but finally we found a trail crossing that we knew would lead us back home. Next time, I’ll bring a paper map! The phone was not cutting it.

I was smiling before we veered off familiar trails.
Bouquet of May Day flowers
My husband surprised me with May Day flowers. I kept walking by where he had them placed. Finally he asked if I had dusted the living room. I was offended and thought “WHAT??? Why is he asking me about dusting of all things!” There they were, on a shelf.
peter cotton tail bunny
Bunny in the front yard.
bunny in the yard
Bunny in the back yard.

Our bobcat made an appearance mid-day waltzing through the yard like he owned the place. Sorry I didn’t capture a pic.

Saguaro with eight arms in the Sonoran Desert
A majestic saguaro we saw on our hike. It must be well over one hundred years old.
Quail hanging out at the pool bar.

What are some of the interesting sights you’ve seen this past week in your neighborhood?

I think we overdid it…

Standing next to saguaro with many arms
Standing next to a saguaro. They grow their first arms at around 100 years old.

My bones ache. My muscles are tired. I don’t know why it’s so hard to recover. Maybe we overdid it and got carried away. Every weekend we go for a hike. When we started out with life in Arizona, we explored new areas to hike, but no more than two or three miles a day.

A week ago Friday, we had a visit from my sorority big sister and her husband. Wonderful surprise to see them after many years — and to learn that they are buying a home a few miles away! We went for a five-mile hike with them on the nature’s preserve across the street. It was a gorgeous afternoon and so much fun to catch up on the past 10 years or so of our lives.

Then as we walked them out in the dusk to their car, we were showing them our yard — I tripped over a cactus and flew onto our brick walkway landing on both knees and hands. Hard! I was stunned and didn’t bounce back to my feet. My husband had to help me up and I felt like a fool. Our friends were worried about me and I assured them I was fine.

Ever since my knee surgery, I have to think about how to get up. It’s like I’ve fallen on a steep ski slope and I have to make sure I’m positioned perpendicular to the slope with my skis below me before I can push myself up. My physical therapist had to teach me how to get up after surgery and had me practice it. I have to put my knees below my butt, sitting on my side before I push myself up — just like getting up on the slopes. That’s why I was not bouncing up after tripping over the cactus. It’s a mental thing but also my knees and hands hurt.

Trail signs on the McDowell Sonaran preserve
The trails have great signs so it’s nearly impossible to get lost.

Fast forward to yesterday and I felt no pain in my knees and only my right hand still hurts, so we went for another hike. We brought a trail map with us and found a loop across the street from our house. It was on the hot side, but there was a nice breeze. I didn’t slip or fall and made it through the six miles of undulating trails through the Sonoran Desert without a hitch.

When we got home I felt tired. So did my husband. We took a cold water plunge and went waist high into our freezing cold pool to get our legs back under us. Then I luxuriated on a zero gravity lounge reading a novel for an hour. What a gorgeous, perfect Sunday.

The cold water plunge reminded me of my daughter during swim meets when she had prelims and finals with a few hour break between sessions. She’d fill the hotel tub with ice and water and soak in the freezing cold ice bath to recover.

Today I woke up and tried to stand up. Yikes. I’m sore and tired. Moving kind of slow for a Monday.

Backyard pool in Arizona
I took a plunge into this freezing pool to recover from our hike.

Do you find it harder to recover as you get older? Or, is everything still as easy as ever. Do you have any tips that make it easier?

About those to-do lists…

view of sonoran desert

View from our hike on the Broken Spoke Trail.

As I was writing my to do-list today, I felt frustrated. There are a couple things that I never get around to doing. Why do I continue to put them on my list? Instead of helping organize my day, the list is making me feel like a loser.

I have a choice. I either tackle those pesky things that I don’t want to do — or let them go.

My husband and I had a great hike yesterday on the Broken Spoke Trail near our house yesterday. He said he’s getting bored of not doing anything on the weekends. We are at the point that it’s tough being together in COVID isolation almost for a year. While we were out in the desert — I had an idea. It entailed making more lists.

ancient saguaro

My husband standing next to an amazing saguaro.

One would be a list of places we want to explore in our new state. I want to visit Sedona and the Grand Canton. He wants to see Payson and Puerto Penasco on the Sea of Cortez. All of those places will go on our list.

The other is a to-do list for our new house. On the second list, I’ve decided to spend one hour a day working on the guest room. Sitting on the carpet are 10 boxes that I’ve avoided unpacking consistently for the two months we’ve lived here. It’s probably stuff I should have thrown out, rather than moved. Also, the artwork is leaning against the walls. We have the rest of the house almost put together. We’re just waiting for the living room furniture we ordered in November. 

woman on hiking trail in the desert

On our Super Bowl Sunday desert hike.

So, I’m not giving up on lists. I just want to figure out how to not let my lists hurt my feelings.

Any suggestions?

 

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