Christmas in The Desert… Cave Creek

We left Alamo Lake and headed back to Phoenix, and then turned north. Cave Creek Regional Park is not far out of town, but it sure feels like it is. The campground is very spacious, and surrounded by desert, hills, hiking trails, and of course… cactus!

As soon as we settled into our site we drove to the visitors center to get some recommendations on hiking, and other things we might do while Elissa was with us. While there we learned of a Ranger led sunset hike that evening.  We decided to join in, and since we knew we’d be finishing that hike in the dark we hiked Sadie about a mile back to the campground, grab gear and headlamps and hike back in time for THE hike. The sunset hike was a quick paced hike up the Overton Trail with a group of about twenty hikers of all ages, skill levels AND speeds.

It was a great little burst of exercise, but not much of a sunset per se.

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Arizona hills at duck

The following morning I picked Elissa up at the Phoenix airport! Yay!  Christmas would be celebrated in the desert with my girl this year!

That afternoon John and I took her hiking on Slate Trail Loop. This is considered a moderate hike… 3.5 miles, but we started at the visitors center so probably closer to 4+ miles for us. The loop consists of parts of Slate, Quartz and Go John trails. With relatively little elevation change… other than possibly the distance… there was nothing moderate about it. Sadly Elissa arrived with the same doggone cough and cold I’d just gotten over, so it was a bit more challenging for her.

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Elissa hiking amongst the Saguaro on Go John trail

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Saguaro known as “Michelin Man”

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Saguaro group known as “The Three Amigos”

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Slate

Elissa’s cousin Makenna joined us on Christmas eve day. We did a bit of the touristy stuff around the little towns of Cave Creek and Carefree. That evening, with a sunset looking a bit more promising we decided to do the Overton Trail once again… this time starting and finishing at our campsite. With headlamps, water, and of course cameras, we set out for roughly a 5 mile hike. So worth going back for!

Elissa with her cousin, Makenna

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Nearing Sunset on Overton Trail

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Elissa and Makenna on Overton Trail

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Ooh Ahh… we got a sunset!

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Saguaro and sunset

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Saguaro and sunset

 

Meanwhile, back at camp… during our stay we enjoyed numerous visitors in our campsite… (In addition to those pictured below we had lots of quail doves, and although I never got to see them… owls. It was fun listening to a pair whooo-ing at one another just outside of our motorhome.

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Anna’s Hummingbird

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Anna’s Hummingbird enjoying our feeder

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Female Anna’s Hummingbird at the feeder

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Harris’s Antelope Squirrel

I kept noticing a black bird who, because of his crest, looked very much like a little black Cardinal (which I love, and miss seeing in my back yard in Texas). In order to identify him I had to get close enough to take a good picture…

These birds are new to both me and John… Phainopepla Nitens. Try to pronounce that one quickly! It’s name comes from the Greek words phain pepla meaning “shining robe.”  The male is indeed a shiny black, and the female (go figure) is simply a drab gray.

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Male Phainapepla

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona, USA

Female Phainopepla

Elissa’s cough was getting no better, so we opted out of hiking on Christmas day, and instead did most of our discovering from the car. We took a drive out to Bartlet Reservoir, where we were told we might see Otters.  As John was driving us slowly through an overlook area I noticed something… in an odd delayed reaction kind-of-way… and said, “Was that a tarantula?” (Referring to something we’d just driven over that could have been nothing more than a leave, but still… it COULD have been a tarantula! ??

He backed up carefully, and sure enough…

Bartlett Reservoir, Arizona, USA

Tarantula

Bartlett Reservoir, Arizona, USA

Does it count if a Tarantula sees his shadow?

 

Sadie… happy to be with “our girl”, Elissa.

Bartlett Reservoir, Arizona, USA

Sadie, old and tired, but still waits for a stick. 🙂

The following morning, after a quick visit with Makenna and her boyfriend Eric, I took Elissa to the airport for yet another farewell. These never seem to get easier for me, even now that she’s all grown up.  Most prominent in my flood of emotions, are a sense of sadness in knowing it’ll be months before I see her again, and incredible pride in the good-hearted and beautiful young lady she has become.

About 10 miles down the highway I met up with John, hooked Zippy up the The Beast, and we headed south to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, only minutes from the border crossing at Lukeville, and Mexican state of Sonora.

In the morning we would brave the border crossing into Mexico! Stay tuned!!!

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona, USA

Organ Pipe Cactus

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