More Spring blooms

Every week I get a new treat for my senses. Since this is my first Spring in Arizona, I keep seeing more plants bust out with flowers. I took these photos this morning in our back yard and around our neighborhood. I’m trying to learn the names of the native flora so I downloaded an app where I can snap a photo and it gives me the Latin and common name. But it’s hit and miss and many times the information is obviously wrong.

On a hike this weekend at the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy we picked up a book called “Wildflowers, Butterflies and More.” It’s a flora photo ID guide by photographer Marianne Skov Jensen for the conservancy. She has it organized by color, so you can flip through the white, yellow, blue or pink or red flowers for easy identification.

I think this is a prickly pear cactus.
The is a type of geranium that began blooming a month ago.
My plant app calls this Erthrostemon gilliesii.
Aloe plants in bloom.
I’m not sure of the type of cactus, but I love the white and pink flowers.

If anyone can help identify these plants, cactus and flowers, I’d love the help!

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?

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.

 

Exploring my new hometown

standing next to saguaro

This saguaro must be 200 years old.

I walk every single day and have for at least six years — except for 2018 when tore my ACL and meniscus skiing. I had surgery and months of recovery. Other than that lovely experience, I get out seven days a week without fail.

In Palm Springs, I’d walk downtown among the shops and restaurants or around the neighborhood and park. In my new Arizona home, it’s a wilder landscape full of saguaro, brush, shrubs, hawks and quail. At first I walked every morning in our development but that soon became boring. So I ventured outside to a sidewalk between our development and wild federal land.

saguaro in the sun

The wild views across the street.

I made a pledge to myself that every weekend, my husband and I would explore a new trail and go hiking. I was excited to get off the sidewalk and see more, but not willing yet to do it on my own. Moving into a new area during a global pandemic makes hiking the perfect way to explore safely. The first weekend after getting somewhat settled, we drove 10 miles to Cave Creek Regional Park for our first hike, which was challenging and gorgeous.

To find more trails, I googled moderate hikes in the county and discovered our house was across the street from a conservancy with trails — the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. We’re miles from the main entrance but there are trails literally across the street. A trailhead is two miles down the street from our house. We decided to drive to the trailhead instead of wasting four miles round-trip on the sidewalk. The other choice is to cross the street and walk through the brush and cactus until we ended up on a trail. I nixed that.

During the hike, as we got further into the wilderness, I felt a little anxious as we passed coyote scat and other signs of wildlife. I told my husband that next time I’ll bring my pepper spray or a hiking pole. My husband, of course, thought I was silly.

The hike was easy and we marveled at ancient saguaro and wanted to learn more about other cactus and plants. The landscape is so different from what we’re used to, it’s breathtaking. I wonder if I’ll get used to it and take it for granted? We missed the trailhead that led to our car. We kept going thinking it would be around the next bend. Pretty soon, we were close to our house. So we backtracked — adding more than a few miles to our hike. Not so easy, after all.

Saguaro

It takes a saguaro 100 years to grow an arm. I wonder how old this guy is?

Do you hike or walk during COVID-19 to get exercise? Where are your favorite places to go?