White Tank Mountain Regional Park AZ II

Here we are, back in the desert again after just over a year gone. We like the desert, always have, but it will be our third out of four winter seasons down here with a lot of repeats as far as campgrounds go. Thus, we find ourselves at the first in what will be a series of four Maricopa County Regional Park stays, White Tank Mountain, where we were almost two years ago exactly. Predictably, I hung out the Sugar Pig feeder right away. A sweet little Verdin found it that evening, and the Costa’s and Anna’s arrived the next day.

We like these regional parks, as they offer large, well-spaced sites, good facilities, lots of trails, and great visitor centers. As is our custom wherever we stay, we hiked almost all of what this park has to offer the first time around, and we arrived feeling a bit uncertain about how we’d muster up a little enthusiasm to do it all again. As is also my custom, I sat down pronto with the paper map of the park’s trails and highlighted all we’d done before in order to be sure we’d pick up the remainder.

Another thing we like about these parks is that they have lots of scheduled activities, and I had my eye on a night-critters walk that was slated for the evening of our arrival. It asked that participants bring their own black light flashlight, and when I checked mine, it was dead, and it wasn’t the kind with replaceable batteries. It turned out that the program was full anyhow, but nothing was stopping me from having my own Creatures of the Night adventure, though I needed a new flashlight. I balked at the $21 price tag of the one they had at the VC, but it looked like a pretty nice one and came with its own changeable batteries, so I ponied up the dough. Armed with my new Scorpion Master!, I started around our campsite. That was all the further I needed to venture. I located three of the little devils quickly. It was the perfect Halloween fright! The one on the left we named Moonbeam, and we saw it every night in and on its cement-berm home.

During our first stay, the autumn weather had already cooled considerably and there were intermittent storms that blew through. Not so this time. It was still a little too hot for our tastes, and we restricted our walking to early-morning and pre-sunset outings, often one of each daily.

The crested saguaro at the Bajada trailhead hadn’t changed much in two years, except that it looked healthier at the bottom and had a little nob-baby on one arm.

The birds were plentiful. That Rose-breasted Grosbeak, who doesn’t drink nectar, came back about five times in an hour, each time to tap on and admire himself in the window. He had a thorn lodged in his left cheek just below his eye, and while he sat for long stretches on the feeder, I eased the window open in an attempt to try to catch him in order to pull the thorn. I got very close, but he wouldn’t let me capture him. I could, however, see it very well, and it didn’t seem to be hurting or really bothering him at all. I imagine this is not an uncommon predicament in the thorny desert. That Kestrel startled me one afternoon by swooping under the little bedroom window awning and landing flat against the window while I was sitting on the bed. It clung there for a few minutes before flying out to perch on a saguaro skeleton where it scolded a pair of Cactus Wrens that wanted to share the perch. During our two-week stay, I was entertained by over twenty species that I could spot just from the RV.

A trail we repeated on purpose was the short mile-long one to the seasonal waterfall. Previously, we had gone after a heavy rain, and the fall was a mere trickle down the rocks, so we knew that it would be dry this time, but it’s still one of the prettiest areas in the park.

Other than a young couple and their wedding photographer making too much giggling noise, and a big coyote traversing the hillside, we had the place to ourselves once the pavement ended.

Just as we neared the falls basin, we came across a fresh deer kill right in the trail.

Using our Trail Scene Processing Skills, we determined the deer had met its demise during the night, and it was surely a puma that was responsible. We also used our consummate critter knowledge to know that dallying in a puma’s kill-zone isn’t a wise idea. Hike over! We alerted a few incoming hikers and the park employees on our way back out.

Some morning walks were longer than others, and TBG went out a couple different times to alternately capture a few sunrise and moon photos.

We did one longer hike that was supposed to be just over 10 miles, but ended up being just over 12. TBG says I lied about the distance, but I say he took us around the wrong loop at the beginning. Fortunately, we had enough water and leg power to sustain us. (we did not, as the map data below suggests, have over 2k of gain — the canyon-y terrain messes with the GPS)

After a well-earned snack upon our return, I headed over to the shower house.

“Hello, old friend, I’ve missssssssed you ssssssso.”

Wouldn’t you know, twelve miles of desert hiking yielded nothing, but try to make it 100′ feet to the shower house, and this 4′ rattlesnack just beside the path shook the nap right out of me. I jumped straight up and backwards, and another camper on her way to the restroom heard the rattling, too, and called out, “That one’s not happy with you!” No kidding, lady. I went back to the RV to inform TBG, who came out and took the above photo, then I continued on to wash the stink of fear off me.

As you’ll recall from my last post, we hid out and were anti-social for awhile. We wanted to be refreshed and recharged ahead of the Arizona Winter Social Season that commenced by a re-connection with our good friends The Lowes, who came off the road last year and settled in Wickenburg. We made an early-morning drive north from our location to their place, where we piled in their car to get out for a hike to begin the festivities.

They chose The Granite Mountain Hotshots Trail, one they’d done a few times but we hadn’t. As you’d imagine, it is a mixture of beautiful hiking and sobering way-points as you pass the 19 memorial plaques every 600′. At first, you wonder if you should be having a good time on this trail, but as you read each fallen Hotshot’s story, you are reminded that they fought to protect life and all the joy it brings, and you know it’s okay. The hike was a roller coaster of both terrain and emotions.

Thanks to MLSLowe for sharing her photos the two with Steve, TBG, and me are hers.

The hike was just the beginning of our day-long merriment, and we headed back to their house where we were joined by their long-time friends and fellow full-timers who had just recently come off the road and settled in…Wickenburg! We had been virtually acquainted with Dave and Sue of Beluga’s Excellent Adventure for awhile, but it was an absolute delight to meet them in person. We had originally thought we were going out to eat, but ML and Steve had prepared a feast for all of us to enjoy on their wonderful back patio. That also made it possible for Dave and Sue to bring along their famous poodle, Lewis, the sweetest dog probably ever.

It was a smorgasbord of two flavors of grilled pork kebabs, green rice, quinoa, butternut squash, and green salad followed by a traditional Filipino dessert of cheesy (that’s white Cheddar if you want to know) Ube Rolls and a sip of dangerously delicious peanut butter whiskey. We had a marvelous time talking over great food with even greater friends, and we have definite plans to visit again on our way north in a few months.

We’re off now to Regional Park #2 for our next stay. It’s a repeat as well, but we have some new adventures penciled in for the surrounding area, and you never know what nature might throw at you. Hope to “see” you there!

19 thoughts on “White Tank Mountain Regional Park AZ II

  1. Repeat seems to be the trend when wintering in the southeast. There are only so many warm spots to spend the winter months. We got to know the areas we stayed REAL well over our five years in the west. There is a comfort in returning to an old spot. Love that you got to finally meet my grandpuppy. He truly is the best guy and such fun. Oh, and his parents are pretty great, too!! I am always glad that Lew brings them along. Looks like a terrific day with terrific people.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s true, there is comfort in familiarity, and that’s not a completely bad thing at all. We’re grateful to be scheduled at these regional parks where we can hike right out the door if we want to.

      Your grandpuppy was the floofiest and his people were nothing short of fabulous. We are all so blessed to know one another, aren’t we?

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  2. I’m glad you went and bought yourself an expensive black light flashlight so that you could show us those scorpions. They are so cool! I know what I’m asking Santa for! You’ve had so many great wildlife sightings. Except for that rattler. That would have scared the bejeezus out of me. We’ve seen a few rattlers on the trail, but we’ve never been surprised by one. I love all of your bird sightings, but most of all, the chatty Cactus Wrens.

    How great that you got together with ML and Steve and Sue and Dave (and Lew!!). I can only imagine what a great time you hadβ€”and that dinner looks fantastic. We miss you guys!!

    Two more things: That sunset photo is fabulous. And pepperoncini potato chips and coffee gelato? Together? LOL.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m such a penny-pincher πŸ˜€ But I’m glad, too, that I got the Scorpion Master! in order to spot those dastardly little pinchers. TBG brings out a regular flashlight, and you wouldn’t believe how tiny those Bark Scorpions are under real light. The black light makes them seem way bigger. Fortunately, they’re the most venomous 😐 You would have loved watching the Kestrel scold the Wrens, who weren’t budging at all πŸ˜€

      We missed you on the trail and at the table, too! It was, as you know, a fantastic group to share a day with.

      Don’t judge our snacks! It was a delicious combo πŸ˜€

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    • Thanks Pete. It was a sunrise photo, and knowing the pond was full of water I knew a sunrise would be optimal, but clouds would be a requirement. Upon waking around 6am, I happened to look out to see cloud cover. A mad scramble ensued and I hurried down to the pond where it all unfolded.

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    • When we were here two years ago, that pond was little more than a hole with some exposed black plastic liner and stagnant puddles. I was very happy to see it’s been tended to since then and, obviously, very pretty now!

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  3. I still want to know how you manage to score sites at all 4 parks! I must have been doing something wrong….. It was so nice meeting you and talking over MonaLiza and Steve’s yummy lunch offerings.
    I hope we can get together again when you come back through this way again…..unless we’re back in Beluga and on the road again. Lewis sends his love….

    Liked by 2 people

    • All I can tell you is I’m pretty sure we made the reservations in the early last summer, and we do have to move sites a few times in order to string together a few longer stays. Fortunately, the R.P.s allow you to do that! It was wonderful to finally meet you in person, and I think you’ll just have to delay your Beluga-ing until we pass through again, OK? πŸ˜€ Give Lewis all the scritches from us ❀

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  4. Those sunrise and moon pic are prize worthy, a spectacular scene captured spectacularly!
    Those scorpions are eeek, but they do manage to get inside the house! At the bottom of our post was a metal scorpion and we now named it after you….so we will always be reminded of you when we see it πŸ™‚
    It was great to see you both again and looking forward to a spring visit!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, we’re cataloging which photos will become out wall decor like yours!

      I hope those dang scorpions stay out of your house. Maybe you should get a cat? πŸ˜€ We’re honored to have your metal scorpion named for us ❀ πŸ˜€ We're still reveling in all the good feelings our visit brought, and are so looking forward to the next one!

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  5. Love those regional parks and am glad I didn’t know what was crawling around on the ground late at night when I would take Thor out for his late night walks. Ignorance truly can be bliss. The Hotshots Trail is one I have wanted to do, but it hasn’t happened yet. I totally hear you on the mix of emotions involved in hiking such an emotionally exhausting trail with friends. Speaking of which, it sounds like you all had a blast hanging out and it will be nice to be close to friends for the remainder of your time there. And Lewis is basically the Mick Jagger of the RV world. He’s just the coolest dog!!

    TBG – I sound like a broken record – but your photos are fabulous! Love that sunrise one on the water.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The R.P.s really are unparalleled for some winter stays in the SW, for sure. I’m ambivalent on whether I’m glad to see the scorpions (as a critter-lover) or upset that they’re so common out there (as a venom-hater.) With all the prickly, bitey things down here, I marvel at the number of folks who have dogs — I’d be so nervous all the time!

      I definitely recommend the Hotshots Trail if (when?) you’re back this way again for all.the. reasons.

      We had a wonderful time with all those fabulous people and that floofy floofer, and can’t wait to see them all again in a few months. TBG says when broken records get stuck on such kind words, they’re A-OK πŸ˜€

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    • I’m not a fan of whiskey, either, and my stomach isn’t a fan of alcohol at all, but even I had a few little sips of it, and oh boy, was it good! It would be delicious in a cup of hot cocoa on a chilly evening. πŸ™‚

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  6. Your photos and descriptions brought back fond memories of the winter we spent in Arizona in 2018-2019, and I was musing about when we might return. Then I saw your scorpion photos and said, “Nope. Nope. Nope.” But those incredible Arizona sunsets might still be enough to pull us back! Plus, we like McDowell Mountain Regional Park quite a bit – I hope that one is on your itinerary.

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    • In what seems ages and ages ago, when we were first thinking the SW would be where we settled permanently someday, I read far too many stories about scorpions hiding in beds and towels and clothing, and I was sufficiently freaked out about even traveling down here. Now we’ve actually met plenty of people who have been stung by one (or more) and my fears are well-founded. 😐 We’re enjoying what might be our last warm winter for awhile, and trying not to concentrate on all the desert critters that might spoil that. We, too, like McDowell a lot, and it will be our third of four Regional Park stays!

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