McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Arizona, March 2017, Part 3

McDowell Mountain is a great desert spot.  The park is about 50,000 acres, it has a campground, a group campground, an overflow campground and a horse campground. It has more than 75 miles of hiking/biking trails, some of the trails are used by horseback riders.  It has three competitive off-road bicycle tracks.  McDowell hosts more than 30 bike events each year. They also host road bike racing events, running events and many more special events.  More than one a week.

A Nature Walk

We went on a three mile walk with a Park Naturalist one morning.  We were looking for early blooming flowers.  There weren’t too many but by the time we left McDowell they were everywhere.

Amy knew the names of just about every native plant and quite a bit about how each plant  was important in the desert environment, to the Native Americans and to those who followed them.  She also talked about the Saguaro Cactus in the area and how long it took them to grow.  She showed us very small ones, less than a foot tall, growing in the protection of a bigger bush.  At a foot tall a young Saguaro might be 5-10 years old.

A lone poppy, but there were more flowers, some very small, some that only grew in the shadow of another plant near a place that water would flow when it rained. And there were a lot of birds here too.  Cardinals! I guess that is the name of their football team. But they are snowbirds as well, only here in migration but long enough to make an impression.

One thing we saw were lots of small lizards.  They were out early because it was warm and they are very fast.  Amy said when you start seeing lizards the snakes are not far behind.


The hiking/biking trails are easy to follow on a park map.  There is a huge 30 miles loop trail and shorter loop trails inside of that and then connecting trails in every direction.  In many cases they lead to the border of the park and connect to trails heading further away.  Most trails are wide and smooth.  Not many rocks.  There are some places where the trails cross a wash where there is loose, soft sand.

Plenty wide for biking.  This was lots of fun for me.  Susan was not so  interested in the off road biking part.

But walking was OK.  This time at McDowell it was particularly hot.  Several days in a row of mid 90’s.


While we were here John and Kathy Juelfs came to visit.  We met them two years ago in Nacogdoches when they were there buying their coach, their first coach, their first RV!  And they were selling their house, buying a car to tow and setting off as fulltimers.  What adventures, challenges and changes were ahead for them!

The next time we saw them was in North Dakota.  They were headed east on I 90 and we were heading west.  We were waving. They were waving. We both stayed at the same campground in Medora and missed each other by a day.  The next time was in the spring of 2016.  They were heading somewhere and stopped by for several days in Hastings.  And now they were in Apache Junction, about 30 miles south of McDowell, staying for five months over the winter and wanted to come see us and McDowell. It was a very nice visit.  They have settled into the full time life pretty well.

And we got a visit from Richard and Susan Peck.  We met them in October, 2015 in Indiana at the Foretravel GrandVention. More than 100 coaches were there.  They too were pretty new at this at that time. They bought a Foretravel and set off as fulltimers.  They are both still working while they live where they are. Susan works remotely for a robotics outfit. Richard is a professional sommelier.  That means he knows a lot about wine and this winter while in Mesa, he was teaching classes about wine at several RV Resort communities.  They seemed eager to come and see us so we did a nice lunch and lots of chatting.

Heard Museum

Last time we were in Phoenix we went to the Heard Museum. It celebrates the art and crafts and culture of many diverse groups of Native American people.  And it gives witness to many of the shared experiences as well.   In the new Virginia Piper Gallery the  inaugural exhibit was “Beauty Speaks For Us”.  There were weavings, pottery, jewelery and more from many of the various peoples.

This is a wonderful woven piece. Perhaps what the symbolism means is known to the artist and the people in their clan. To me the exquisite crispness of the detail and color, the symmetry and asymmetry at the same time and the skill and artistry in the weaving is beautiful and it spoke to me.

And another weaving of what the artist saw everyday in the landscape around them.  It is stark, dry and unforgiving it seems and stunningly beautiful at the same time.  This is the land of light and dark, of bright and shadow, of colors defined by distance and time of day. It is vast and close, vivid and subtle, brilliant and subdued.  In this land I am awestuck by its beauty every day.

And in this hand made Apache Woman’s tunic.  Made of animal hide, probably deer or elk, glass beads and ochre color it had to represent a very long effort to craft such fine detail. Perhaps it was for ceremonial wear, perhaps every day – it did not say. But  in the skill and dedication to detail and design and in the very fine fringe someone’s work, all by hand using crafts and skills perhaps lost today, there is beauty.

The Navajo people speak of walking in beauty.  It is more than just your surroundings or your possesions. It is a way of life, an inner peace, an understanding of who and what you are. I can hardly begin to say what it is as it takes a lifetime to learn.  When you are ill or troubled you need help to restore yourself to the beauty way, a way of balance and harmony.

Patricia Anne Davis, MA  writes:

Walking in Beauty: “hozho naasha”

The four cardinal directions principles defined below are the “beauty way path” in the sense that beauty exists within us and around us as the light reflects through a rainbow. The symbol of the rainbow is our sovereign communication with creator.
“hozho” – means “natural order.” The term natural order is temporal time, cardinal directions, cycles of seasons correlated with principles placed in the four cardinal directions for a life journey.
The principles placed within the four cardinal directions are blessingway teaching translated to English as “the four corn-pollen footsteps”: child-youth-adult-elder.

  • EAST – child: sunrise-spring-spiritual moral standards for living
  • SOUTH – youth: noon-summer-learning/work/transportation
  • WEST – parent: sunset-autumn-family/home/story-telling/ceremony
  • NORTH – grandparent: midnight-winter-SELF-reverence/reverence for the natural order/hope/restoring resources
  • CENTER: fireplace/hearth of home – spiritual family love

Once one has experienced a ceremonial change process to correct the state of dis-ease/disease, their journey is in the natural order. Then we are living the loving way, in right relationship to the elements of the four cardinal directions. When we travel through life in this way we are walking in beauty.

She goes on to say … The meaning and vibration is my way of keeping track of information in English while I exist, speak and write in the Dineh Affirmative thinking.

There is much to learn and museums like the Heard help.

There is another section of the museum dedicated to home. It shows the link between home and people. Each home (home land) is different, all have common elements but style, detail and voice are different.  You can see this in the different clays used in pottery, the different decorating styles. Weaving styles change sugnificantly. Dress changes. And all thought that home was where they needed to be.

A permanent display about the Indian Boarding Schools was much the same as it was from last time but evoked the same sense of dismay.  In the last half of the 1800’s as Indians were forced onto reservations, children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools. In these schools located all across the country children from many different bands were mixed together, they were forced to wear school uniforms, their hair was cut, they could not speak their own language. They were being forced to conform to ways that would Americanize and Christianize the Indians. They were taught low skill trades because no one thought they could do more. Disease was common especially tuberculosis and many children died.  It seemed a very sad time. Many made it through and returned home. For many home was no longer the same.  For some it was an opportunity to help improve their home and the lives of the people in it.  There were many connections made between different Indian Groups and people became more socially and politically active.  It was not all bad but it is still pretty sad to see how the Native Americans were treated and how they survived.

You can read more about Indian Boarding Schools here.

A Morning Visitor.

Susan and I were getting ready for a “forced march” as she likes to call them. A morning walk up one side of Stoneman’s Wash, a long shallow valley where spring runoff flows, across to the other side and back.  Maybe three or four miles.  It was hot so we were going to try to get going early.  Susan was outside getting her boots on. I was inside getting a water bottle.  When I started to go out the door I stopped.

Right there on the rug at the foot of the steps coming out of the coach was this fellow.  Not surprising since we had been seeing lots of lizards. He was moving across the ground and as soons as I moved the screen door he coiled up.  I croaked something to Susan and said to stay where she was. She could see it too.

I got my camera to take a picture. The rattler had his eyes on me and reared up.

One of the campground hosts was going by and Susan waved at him.  He came over for a look and called John, the other campground host, who came over with his 6′ long snake grabber and a snake bucket.  By the time John got there the snake had calmed down and crawled under the coach. Without too much drama, John grabbed the snake, it was about three feet long but looked at least six in our wide-eyed view, and put it in the bucket and screwed on the lid.  They took it somewhere not too far away and let it go.  The campground hosts get training for all of this. John said they had picked up three in the week leading up to this one.  And since the snakes have a pretty small territorial range they only take then a mile or two away to release them.

We were surprised and startled at first. We were glad the campground hosts were prepared and trained. By the time we calmed down it was interesting to look at the rattlesnake and see its colors and textures.  What a sight!

We finally got off on our forced march.  It was very hot.  Susan got overheated and pretty dry.  We didn’t bring enough water.  We got to a bench by the side of the trail close to the end and sat for a while. I went to get more water.  By the time I got back she was much better but still drank a bunch of water.  When you go off for a walk in the desert, bring much more water than you think you might need.  We got back and started looking at the hydration back packs that we see everywhere out here.  Good idea.

Last Ride

We were coming to the end of our time at Mc Dowell Mountain.  Two weeks.  Not enough.  The morning before we left I went off on one last ride, longer than most I had done but a combination of trails I had been on before.  Coming down a long fairly steep downhill chunk (faster that I should have been going) I had to make an S turn around two big thorny bushes.  The first one was close and some hard braking in the second turn had my rear wheel slide out to the right in the loose gravel.  I sort of did a three point landing on my left hip, elbow and knee.  My elbow and knee got scraped up (three weeks later, they are doing well) and my hip got banged up.  No scrapes or bruises there but it is still sore.  Nothing new for me, I seem to get chewed up just standing there sometimes.

Next we are off to Zion Natioal Park with a couple days near Page AZ and the Glenn Canyon Dam on the Colorado River on the way.

More later,

Roger and Susan

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