McDowell Mountain, near Phoenix, February, 2022

We were at McDowell Mountain Regional Park east of Fountain Hills for only 2 weeks, way too short a time. We have been here 3 times before and wouldn’t hesitate to come back again. We will try.

The reservation system has changed, each reservation can be for up to 14 days, you can have multiple reservations, and you have to change sites after each reservation. This is as it was but it is now you can only make reservations up to 180 days before the date you want to arrive. It used to be any date in the month 180 days before you wanted to arrive. This makes the number of sites becoming available on a specific date much smaller and makes it much more difficult to more than one consecutive two-week reservation. We met several folks who were there for a month or more. They had reservations that sometimes overlapped, some for less than two weeks, and some periods where they had no reservation in the main campground so they made reservations in the dry camping overflow campground. It is a complex game whose outcome is unknown while most alternative locations may have already been filled.

The campground at McDowell Mountain is high up on a sloping area about 500 feet above the Verde and Salt rivers and the valley they share. It is a very open desert landscape with camping sites that are far apart.

It is about 30 miles across the valley to the Superstition Mountains to the south.

To the west the sun sets behind McDowell. Mountain. On the other side of McDowell Mountain Frank Lloyd Wright built his Taliesin West studios in Scottsdale which was then the rugged outskirts of Phoenix. https://franklloydwright.org/site/taliesin-west/

Fountain Hills is off to the west and a bit south about 6 miles away. They are famous for their very large fountain which pumps water high into the sky. We see the top of the fountain at times but cannot see Fountain Hills itself or even its night-time lights from the campground.

In the morning the hills and mountains to the south look like layered cardboard cutouts of different shades of gray. This is a common desert appearance.

As the sun moves towards the west the light changes and color and detail emerge.

And closer to the end of the day colors change again. And with almost nothing else in the way, these views are pretty amazing.

Off to the south east, the late afternoon sun shines on Four Peaks and lights it up.

These are the views in a place that is very comfortable to us. Quiet, restful, beautiful.

This is also a huge park with about 75 miles of off-road bicycle trails to ride on, or walk, or ride on horseback. Lots to explore. If you are moving east or west it is sort of level, north is mostly uphill, south mostly downhill.

A Desert Walk

There are also many paved roads which were more suited to our three-wheeled trikes. We rode several times, short rides at first and then some that went from the campground to the south east corner of the park where there is a tent campground.

These rides were about 8 miles round trip with a total elevation change of just over 800 ft. These were some strenuous rides. We and the trikes did fine.

Bike Riding

I found a phone mount that fits on my trike that helped me take this video while riding. This is on a road with very little traffic. Susan’s trike has electric assist, she zoomed right by me.

And the GPS app on my phone tracks all the details of the ride and saves them.

A Saguaro cactus is about 100 years old when it gets its first arm. I wonder how old this one is? It takes 10 years for a Saguaro to reach 1” in height and 60 to 70 years to reach 6 feet. They can live for over 200 years.

While we were here we had lunch with Jennifer, a friend from Minnesota who moved down to the Phoenix area, and her friend Melanie. We went to an Italian place, Susan likes pasta. The restaurant was halfway between us and them, still an hour away. The Phoenix area is vast.

We also had a nice dinner with Frank and Patti, Susan’s brother and his wife at their home in Rio Verde. They live nearby to McDowell Mountain and are a willing drop-off address for Amazon packages.

And one of the main reasons we went to Arizona this year was to see my cousin Sandy and her husband, Claus. This got very iffy right off the bat after Sandy tested positive for Covid, Clause did not. Even after recovering she continued to test positive for some time. But then she had a negative test so after both Susan and I had also tested negative, we found a place to meet for lunch.

We were very glad it worked out. It was important to me to try to stay connected. They moved to the Phoenix area about 6 years ago. Sandy is from my Mom’s side of the family and many of us have stayed in touch over the years. We miss them at the Senior Cousin’s brunches and picnics.

The restaurant was sort of an old-time diner-themed place with lots of Coke memorabilia. Fifty’s music too.

Two weeks here just flew by. John and Sandy from Minnesota have been campground hosts here for as long as we have been visiting. And another Foretravel couple, Andy and Eilene, were hosts here as well this year. Nice to see them all.

We are on our way back to Fredericksburg, TX for the spring weather and flowers (we hope). We are looking forward to seeing our friends there. We had thought about going to Santa Fe for a week on the way but the weather from Flagstaff to Albuquerque looked stormy with snow. Being in Santa Fe would have been OK but not driving there. So a few phone calls, some reservation adjustments and we just headed to Fredericksburg. We could do it in three days, the plan is for five.

More Later,

Much Love,

Susan and Roger

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