Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
We left off in Part III having just arrived in Goodyear, AZ to visit Sara’s sister and brother-in-law, Kathy and Mike.

The first day of our visit it was gorgeous--sunny and warm. We gathered up our hiking sticks (so Kathy and Mike could try them out and see if they’d like a set themselves) and went to White Tank Mountain Regional Park for a hike. We took the Waterfall Trail which gently winds up the hills through the desert.

There weren’t many flowers but there were a few tiny desert poppies tucked in among the rocks.

Desert Poppy White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Partway up the trail you come to a series of petroglyphs.

Petroglyphs White Tank Mountain Regional Park

These were chipped out of the varnish on the rock to the raw rock below to give contrast.

Petroglyphs White Tank Mountain Regional Park 

The trail continues uphill for a ways until you reach a cleft in the hillside. If you scramble over the rocks you enter the waterfall area. There wasn’t any water in the waterfall (this is normal) but there was a pool that you could see. The waterfall only flows right after a rain and the pool only exists for a few weeks after the waterfall dries up. So we were lucky that the pool was there.

Here are Kathy and Mike enjoying the cool refreshing air next to the pool. It was in the low 80’s and I got pretty warm as we hiked up but it was almost cold here in the shade with all that rock and water.

Kathy and Mike Donaghu White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Here’s the view upwards from the pool. Don’t you just love the way the sun lights up the rocks at the top?

Canyon rim at watefall White Tanks Mountain Regional Park

On the way back down we got a nice view of the terrain and the valley as it stretches eastward from the White Tank Mountains.

View eastward from White Tank Mountains

In the afternoon we hung out on the patio at Kathy and Mikes and enjoyed watching the rabbits and the quail as they scurried across the golf course that they live on. The rabbits look like a cross between a cotton tail and a jack rabbit because they have ears that are so much larger than your basic cottontail rabbit. We learned later in the trip that they are Desert Cottontail Rabbits that are native to the area and share their territory with Blacktailed Jackrabbits. Whatever they are, they are great fun to watch as the scuttle from bush to bush all afternoon.

The next day we stopped by Chase Field for the Arizona Diamondbacks Fanfest so Mike could sign up to audition to be a linesman during the regular season. They let the fans down on the field itself for the event because they re-do the entire infield and outfield before the season starts. The turf was pretty much dead and it was dusty but fun. Now that we’ve done the Diamondbacks and the Padres Fanfests we really aught to do the Mariners some year.

When we were done with Fanfest we went on to have a picnic lunch in the park between Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo.

From there we went inside the botanical garden and wandered around for a while. We visited the wildflower section where there wasn’t much in bloom and then headed over towards the herb garden. In the process we went past this really cool installation of barrel cacti. I like the contrast between the black jagged rocks and the round yellow-green cacti.

Barrel Cactus Desert Botanical Garden Phoenix

In the herb garden there’s this fun sundial planted with cactus. It even tells time pretty well. I took the photo at 2:30 and the sundial says it’s about 2:15. Not bad at all for a sculpture!

Sundial Desert Botanical Garden Phoenix

There was very little in bloom—they haven’t had much rain this past winter—but I found one small cactus with a little bitty flower.

Cactus bloom Desert Botanical Garden Phoenix

The next day Walter and I took our bikes out for a ride around the neighborhood and then just hung out with Kathy and Mike. We had a great visit. All three days the weather was gorgeous.

The next day we packed up and went south to Tucson. We’d never actually stayed in Tucson so we decided to spend a few days and explore the area. We opted to camp for 3 days at Catalina State Park which is northeast of town. It’s a really nice park with full hookups and great views. It’s pretty popular in the winter so you need a reservation if you want to stay more than one night at a time.

The people in the spot next to us had several bird and suet feeders out (and orange halves stuck on the tree branches) which attracted a ton of birds including Gila woodpeckers by the score. They never sat still long enough for me to get a picture of them. But there was a road runner which came past that I did catch.

Road Runner Catalina State Park AZ

After lunch we took a short hike on the nature trail at the end of the park road. As you can see, it was gorgeous again but a little on the cool side in comparison to Phoenix or Anza Borrego.

Walter Cooke Nature Trail Catalina State Park AZ

The trail takes you along to the top of a mesa with lots of benches to sit on and signs to read. There were even little plaques set in the ground with the footprints of critters like coyotes and road runners. Walter set himself a goal to sit on every bench which made the walk very leisurely and fun.

There was a lot of Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) in bloom.

Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)

At first I thought these might be seed heads but they actually are flowers. Pretty strange huh?

The view from the trail kept changing as we circled the mesa. This is looking mostly north. They’ve got a lot of very nice Saguaros and a good collection of other native cactus too.

View Nature Trail Catalina State Park AZ

This is a full panorama shot reaching from the north and then looking east and finally south. We had clouds just starting to come in and they made the sky that much more interesting.

Nature Trail Panorama Catalina State Park AZ

Those same clouds helped to make a great sunset later that evening.

Sunset at Catalina State Park AZ

In Part V we’ll be taking you Saguaro National Park for a hike or two.