As much as we’ve traveled, we hadn’t realized how enormous the city of Phoenix is. It’s the fifth largest city in the U.S. and per the Phoenix Business Journal “the Phoenix metro area’s population surpassed 4.3 million in 2011”. More than one person we met compared it to Los Angeles minus the ocean.
So the campground that we chose to stay in, McDowell Mountain Regional Park, although quite pretty turned out not to have been the best choice in terms of getting around this huge and extremely spread out metropolitan area. On the plus side, it was located in a large county park with lots of trails.
But our priority was to visit family and friends, so first things first. Our first visit was to Jon, Hector’s cousin son, who lives in Scottsdale. And Scottsdale just happened to be the closest town to Fountain Hills where we stayed.
We met in the very trendy Old Scottsdale for some food and drinks. This area has lots of great restaurants and nightclubs. And Jon took us to one of those “secret” bars that is not recognizable from the front, this one was accessed through an unmarked door in an alley. The place had a great mix of people and cool music. But I cannot divulge its location.
The next day there was a Denver Broncos game, and Jon invited us over to his place to watch the game. So we spent a nice afternoon watching the game in good company. And, as an added bonus, the Broncos won!
Once again, we really enjoyed spending quality time with one of our family’s younger generation and are really impressed, though not surprised.
In between visits, we hiked and biked a little around the campground. While with Hector, Angel got a thorn from a cholla cactus in her paw. Those thorns can be extremely hard to remove, but Hector was able to get it out incurring only slight pain himself. But it served as a reminder to carry a comb and tweezers in the desert.
Next we visited Hector’s ex-boss and friend, Simon and his wife Janet at their lovely home in Litchfield, a suburb west Phoenix, very, very far from our campground. They moved back to the Phoenix area recently from New Jersey and are enjoying the weather tremendously as evidenced by their fabulous yard complete with pool, outdoor barbecue and wood-fired pizza oven.
We took Angel who got to run around the house with their two pups. Dinner included a couple of different pizzas from the wood-fired oven, delicious!
We’d reserved one day for a drive around the area and chose the Apache Trail for our journey. The trail was originally used by Apache Indians and was later built up as a road to get building materials through the Superstition Mountains to the Roosevelt Dam, which was completed in 1911.
The Apache Trail begins on the east side of Phoenix and continues to the town of Globe, covering 48 miles of road, mostly unpaved. It crosses through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest through mountains covered by desert plants. The beautiful drive also passes by three man-made lakes. We stopped at Canyon Lake, a beautiful little spot.
We also stopped at the small town of Tortilla Flat, described as “an authentic remnant of an Old West town”, with a population of six. It was a stagecoach stop starting in 1904 and still serves as a stop for many of those traveling across the Apache Trail.
And we were happy to become one of those travelers, stopping for a late lunch at the Superstition Saloon and Rest Area. The place had lots of character, with dollar bills lining the walls, real saddles as bar stools …
and the cutest bathrooms ever!
The unpaved part of the road becomes quite steep and narrow at points, but the views of the cliffs and rocks are well worth it. Not recommended for RV’s though.
Towards the end of the drive we reached Theodore Roosevelt Dam, built of bricks, and still the world’s largest masonry dam at almost 300 feet tall. An impressive sight.
Once we passed the dam, the sun started to set and the moon was rising, a pretty sight just a couple of days before the full moon. But since it was getting dark, we decided to head back on the highway, which was a looong drive.
The Apache Trail was truly a stunning place though, and very much worth the long drive.
On our last afternoon in the Phoenix area, I visited my friend Marisol. We met in Tempe and had a wonderful Lebanese dinner together, catching up on many events that have taken place since we last got together. So much so, that the restaurant started to turn off the lights while we were there 🙂
All too soon, it was time to move on, as we were on a bit of a schedule headed to the big RV show in Quartzsite, Arizona. And as our visit to Phoenix ended, we realized that we never actually set foot inside the actual city limits of Phoenix. But we really enjoyed circling the town.