Phoenix and Lake Pleasant AZ
March 11 - 12, 2015
After leaving our friends in Indio we headed East again, this time for Phoenix and the Lake Pleasant Regional Park, operated by Maricopa County Parks & Recreation. Phoenix is not on our list of favorite destinations, but Lake Pleasant makes it a much more appealing place to visit.
Lake Pleasant, on the other hand, is at a higher elevation and more appealing. It's still very much a desert, but it's cooler and Saguaro grows naturally at this elevation. The lake itself is a reservoir of water pumped from the Colorado, and at this time of year it is near maximum capacity.
We arrived in the evening, just in time to watch the hot air balloons rising to the south of us above the saguaro.
Hidden in the hills
Our first camping night at Lake Pleasant was in a nice little site cut into the hillside. We weren't able to make reservations in advance due to our last minute planning, so we took what was available. The nice part, which we realized later, was that we were shielded from strong winds coming off the lake. The part we were concerned about was that it was clear that when / if we got any rain, more soil would wash off the hill side and then down onto our camping spot. Still, it was clear we weren't getting any rain that night, and it was a great spot. So, we settled in comfortably and enjoyed the evening. Note the desert flowers! The whole place, as you'll see below, was in flower during our visit.
Each campsite at Lake Pleasant has a lovely "covered ramada" or pavilion over the picnic table to help with some shade. It's a nice, thoughtful touch.
Dances with burros?
After noting that everything was in bloom, we decided to walk the "Pipeline Trail" to see the flowers and maybe catch a glimpse of the wild burros who also live within the park. We walked late in the day to skip some of the heat and sun, and hopefully catch the "golden hour". Clouds prevented most of the latter. Though we stepped over plenty of burro evidence on the trail, this time we only heard them from a distance. However, we did get some plant photos! Turns out the flowers aren't as crafty as the burros; they seemed eager to show off.
To prove the burros exist, we'll add a photo of them from our day hike in June of 2012. While we're at it, we'll cheat a bit on the flowers to include a blooming Saguaro from that same trip. There's always more happening in the desert than you expect. Give it a visit!
Shoots and scores! A second night at Lake Pleasant
We were so happy after our first night at Lake Pleasant that we decided to see whether anyone had cancelled for the next night. We got lucky, and moved to a lovely spot on the other side of the campground with nice view of the lake. We also discovered neighbors who are Internet friends on the Air Forums website where they post under the tag of "Gnorts." It was great to meet a pair of fellow PNW Airstreamers in person!
Sunset and evening star
We had a lovely evening at Lake Pleasant, with a spectacular sunset and a short walk along a path by the Visitor Center. The latter is a nice path clearly marked to tall you what plants are growing there.
One clear call for us
As the evening progressed, the winds off Lake Pleasant picked up quickly and dramatically. Good thing we brought in our awnings before going out for a walk! A neighbor with a huge Class A motor home was less fortunate. They had left out their awnings, carefully anchored with ropes to reduce the risk of wind damage. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong it was fully capable of separating the awning from the RV - and did so, much to everyone's chagrin.
It was so windy that night we were a bit worried the park-supplied "covered ramada" might come loose from its moorings and land on Rocinante. Even Rocinante, with the streamlined design, was jostled briskly by the gusts coming off the lake. Despite the buffeting we had a good night's sleep and everything, including the ramada, was where we had left it the night before.
Time and tide
The next morning we broke camp early and headed into Surprise, AZ, where we took care of some personal business - estate planning and such like, followed by starting our drive to Tucson, AZ. More on the latter in our next post!
Why we're not really fans of Phoenix
Once while in Phoenix we were hit by a one-two desert weather punch. First, a haboob. Before that was over, a brief and intense rainstorm. As a result, it literally rained mud. I kid you not. Everything and everyone was covered. The car was so filthy we couldn't see out of it until we washed off the mud. It's also insanely hot there for most of the year. Gila monsters, rattlesnakes, hantavirus-laden desert mice and Coccidioides are the only things that should really live in that valley. Many people obviously disagree and spend many happy years in the Valley of the Sun, but we'll leave them to it.