Saguaro Lake – On the Waterfront in Phoenix

Salt River Arizona bike trail

Mark pauses by the Salt River

February, 2014 – We were really enjoying the waterways in Phoenix, Arizona, and we soaked in the ebb and flow of river life and all the daily patterns that surrounded it.

The rivers in Phoenix can be reached from many different access points, and we rode our bikes parallel to the Salt River, ducking in towards the shore at various spots to get a glimpse of the river.

We hiked and scrambled along the edge of the water too, marveling at the bright reds and greens of the algae, the surprising presence of all kinds of sea shells, and the thick, jungly nature of the scrubby vegetation that grew alongside.

Colorful Salt River Arizona

Colorful shoreline of the Salt River

One morning we came across a fly fisherman, and we were mesmerized by the flowing and rippling action of his rod as he stood knee deep mid-stream.

He didn’t seem to catch anything, but the fun seemed to be more in the casting than the catching anyways, so it didn’t seem to matter too much.

Other animals and birds stood in the water up to their knees and were fishing too.

We spotted a lot of different kinds of birds, and we heard that there were even beaver here. We were really surprised when we smelled a skunk a few times too.

Shoreline of the Salt River

Peaceful banks at the river’s edge

I’d lived in Phoenix for a long time and wasn’t even aware that skunks can make a living here in the desert.  They seem like so much more of a woods animal than a desert one.

Fly fishing

A fly fisherman casts his line

The river was at a standstill in a lot of places, giving off perfect reflections of the trees above.

Birds standing in the river

Shorebirds hope for a catch too

In other places, though, it rushed along at a good clip. One morning we watched three ducks taking a fast joy-ride down the river.

Three ducks get a joy-ride

Three ducks take a joy-ride downstream

They slipped through some mini-rapids lickety split, and you could almost see the grins on their faces and hear them quack, “Wheeee!” as they effortlessly zoomed past at full speed.

Saguaro Cactus Stand

Saguaro cactus give a standing ovation

In between the waterways, the saguaro cactus stood guard in armies that seemed to have been positioned with an almost military precision.

Saguaro cactus aren’t really loners at heart; they prefer to gather in groups. However, each cactus likes to have a bit of space around it.

They’ll stake out a claim across a valley or down a hillside, and stand at attention as if waiting for someone to issue a battle cry.

Or maybe they’re just cheering together in a standing ovation for some performer that just wowed them on the stage of the opposite hillside!

Saguaro cactus by the Salt River

Trying to get the perfect cactus photo with mountains behind, I stumble across another part of the Salt River

We love these desert people and have ridden our bikes past them on these roads so many times over the years.  Yet, little did we know — as we snuck through a fence into the open desert one day — that just a quarter mile in from the highway the Salt River flows full and strong.

I was hunting down the ideal saguaro cactus to photograph, staggering through the desert, tripod over my shoulder and eyes fixed on the horizon as I tried to line a cactus up with the mountains behind it, when I just about walked into the river.

What a surprise!

There it was: water flowing, ducks paddling, and saguaros right down to the river’s edge.

Road to Saguaro Lake Arizona

The drive to Saguaro Lake is just gorgeous

It had never occurred to me that the roads here are cut at such odd angles because they run parallel to the waterways.

And I sure didn’t know as I drove and rode my bike along these roads for all those years that a river was just out of sight to one side.

Whether by bike or car, the road from Fountain Hills to Saguaro Lake is one of the most scenic drives around Phoenix.

We kept finding ourselves taking detours to include this drive in our route, even when it sent us a bit out of our way.

Wild Horses in Arizona's Salt River

Wild horses come down to the river for a drink

The road winds and curves and soars up and down, making its way between thick groves of cactus and casually stacked boulders, while a view of some rock cliffs in the distance slowly takes shape ahead.

After the road dips for a final dive down a steep descent — making you feel like you are being thrown into the open embrace of these stunning cliffs — it swings past a scenic overlook.

One day we spotted wild horses as we passed this overlook, standing in the water far below.

 

Salt River Cliffs Overlook

Cliffs along the Salt River spring to life as the sun goes down

But it is in the late afternoon when this special spot really comes alive.

As the sun falls low in the sky, the shimmering rock faces of the cliffs light up in brilliant hues of orange and red while the water at the base mirrors it all in vivid shades.

One afternoon, when the lighting at this overlook was just way to beautiful to drive past, we stopped to find a group of photographers hanging out with their tripods all around the water’s edge.

We joined right in with the group, savoring this golden hour and wondering what the sunset might bring.

The sunset didn’t materialize that night, but Saguaro Lake itself drew us back again the next day to scope out the scenic vistas there.

Saguaro Lake Marina

Saguaro Lake Marina — water toys in the desert!

Saguaro Lake with blooming Brittlebush

Brittlebush bloom on the shores of Saguaro Lake

What a spot!  We love all the Phoenix area lakes, but this has to be one of the prettiest.

The bright yellow flowers of the brittlebush had just come into full bloom, and the shores were dancing in their golden spray.

Saguaro Lake was formed by damming up the Salt River.  It is wide and lake-like at the dammed end, but it wanders on a snaky, riverlike path upstream.

There is a marina in the widest part of the lake, and the boats were shimmering in the noon-time sun.

A funny little factoid is that Arizona has the highest number of boats per capita of any state.

Saguaro Lake Marina with Saguaro

There it is – a saguaro on the lake at Saguaro Lake!

This is odd for a state that contains so much desert land, but the low number of citizens in the state — and their very parched nature after they have lived here a while — surely contributes to this unexpected statistic.

Cliffs at Saguaro Lake Marina

Saguaro Lake Marina

We wandered along the waterfront, and dined at the wonderful Lakeshore Restaurant where we got seats on the patio overlooking the action on the water.

What a great way to while away an afternoon!

We didn’t take the little excursion paddle boat ride on Desert Belle this time around, but it is a delightful outing we did once, years ago, to celebrate Mark’s birthday.

Desert Belle boat in Saguaro Lake

The paddleboat Desert Belle goes
upriver on enjoyable outings

We watched folks eagerly lining up now just as we had done way back when.

Mark and Emily at Saguaro Lake

Happy days together!

At the further end of the lake there is a small, gravelly beach where tall, very undesert-like trees grow.

This isn’t much of a beach, as beaches go, but it is an intriguing spot in the desert.  The trees are very large and it is a great spot to launch a kayak to explore the lake and the river upstream.

Saguaro Lake has a wonderfully natural feeling to it, even though it is a lake that was made by damming up a river.

Tree on Saguaro Lake beach

A lovely cottonwood tree spreads its branches over the beach

In contrast, the lake in the center of nearby Fountain Hills is totally manmade without the help of a river.

It was made by digging a hole, lining it, and filling it with water.  At its center there is a fountain that shoots water way up in the air every hour for a few minutes.

This lake is an urban lake, with a paved walking path encircling it, and pretty landscaped lawns all around.

Whereas the desert around Saguaro Lake is natural, and you have to guess what kind of cactus put all those sharp needles into your hiking boots, there is a garden by the Fountain Hills lake where all the desert plants are labeled — and de-thorned.

Shade tree at Saguaro Lake

An unusual “desert scene” on the beach Saguaro Lake

Each lake is lovely in its own way, the one a bit wild and free with towering cliffs for a backdrop and seagulls and powerboats punctuating the scenery, while the other is small and civilized and boasts one of the tallest fountains in the world.

The most intriguing thing about both lakes is that their presence makes it seem like water is plentiful and in total abundance in the middle of the Arizona desert.

Fountain Hills fountain

Not exactly “natural,” but the fountain at Fountain Hills is very cool

Water is flung about with carefree abandon, shooting into the sky and supporting a myriad of boating activities.

This seemingly endless supply of water may be an illusion, but it is an illusion that is alive and well in Phoenix.

Illusion or no, we were enjoying ourselves in this part of Arizona so much that we felt utterly content and felt absolutely no compulsion to go anywhere else.

Black and white saguaro cactus

Mark channels Ansel Adams in the Sonoran Desert

The days ran into each other pell mell, and we basked in the unusually warm weather and even warmer friendships we were forming with other travelers we were meeting everyday.

At the end of each day we looked at each other and said, “Wow, what a great day that was!”

 

Saguaro cactus in streaming clouds

The days streamed by in a happy blur

We were busy from morning til night and each day was completely different from the one before it.

Fifth wheel in sunset

The buggy says “goodnight” to the sun

The more we saw, the more we wanted to see, and do, and experience, before we moved on.

So we settled in and relaxed and made the most of this very special and unusually summery winter in Phoenix.

 

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next ->

Rivers of Phoenix – Oases in the Desert!

Saguaro in Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran Desert is a special and unique landscape

February, 2014 – We had been living among the saguaro cactus on the outer fringes of Phoenix Arizona for a few weeks, loving life in the sweet Sonoran desert.

Saguaro cactus

One of the most elaborately shaped
saguaro cactus we’ve seen

The weather continued to be stunningly warm, with temps in the high 70’s every afternoon, and we hiked and biked all over the place, soaking in the beautiful views of the aged and stately cactus whose personal histories reached back before Arizona achieved statehood in 1912.  Heck, these guys were saplings in the 1800’s!

Red Mountain on the Salt River

Peeking through the trees at the Salt River

While visiting friends in nearby Fountain Hills, we took a bike ride through the Fort McDowell Indian reservation. Poking around the back roads, we took a turn down a lane and suddenly found ourselves standing next to a flowing river.

It’s funny, even though we’ve called Phoenix “home” for a long time, it hadn’t really sunk in for me that there are rivers here that flow year round.

You just don’t notice them as you drive around town.

 

Verde River Arizona

The Verde River joins the Salt River

These are vibrant riparian habitats where long legged birds go fishing, animals of all kinds come down for a drink of water, and tall reeds grow by the water’s edge.

Several rivers flow through Phoenix, and we spent a few weeks exploring the shores of two of them, the Verde River and the Salt River.

In the Phoenix area the Salt River runs east-west and the Verde runs north-south.

Kayaks on the river

Kayakers fly downstream

Confluence of the Salt River and Verde River

The scenic confluence of the Salt and Verde Rivers

They converge in a corner of the Tonto National Forest tucked between Fountain Hills and Mesa.

This confluence is a very special spot where kayakers paddle up and downstream, fishermen stand patiently by the water’s edge waiting for a catch, and people of all ages picnic and hike along the craggy shoreline.

 

 

Salt River Phoenix Arizona

What a surprise it is to see a river that flows non-stop through the desert

After being immersed in the Sonoran desert for a few weeks — a landscape rich with flora and fauna that can thrive on just an occasional spritz of dampness — we loved watching the leaves and algae and twigs floating lazily downstream on this steadily flowing body of water.

Red mountain with driftwood

Red Mountain forms a beautiful backdrop

Fisherman at the Salt River

Fishermen wait for the catch of the day

Whether stalking that next beautiful photograph with camera and tripod, or riding our bikes on a road that paralleled the flowing water, or hiking along the rocky banks at the river’s edge, we were floored by the change of scenery from the classic Sonoran desert to this watery world, a transformation that takes place in just a few steps.

Fishing on the Salt River

A little girl in pink boots tries her luck with the fishing rod

In the late afternoons the shoreside trees and reeds come alive with the raucous clamor of birds singing and calling each other and deciding who is going to roost where (and with whom!).

Salt River Flow

The Salt River doesn’t flow fast, but it is steady.

Grassy riverbanks

A long legged egret waits for fish among the reeds

“It sounds like I’m in the Amazon,” Mark said to me one afternoon.  We had staked out a spot to catch the late afternoon light, and the shrubs were alive with exotic squeeks and squawks.

There is easy access to the south side of the river, but the north side doesn’t have any roads or trails, so I was surprised when I suddenly heard the loud crunching noises of branches breaking from across the water on the north side of the river.

It sounded like the deliberate movements of something very large that was cracking tree limbs.  I stared into the reeds wondering who the heck was over there.

I couldn’t imagine there could be a person weed-whacking their way through the dense vegetation.  It had to be an animal.

We had heard reports that wild horses had been spotted down by the river, and I studied the shore across the way, hoping for a glimpse of a wild horse.

Cow drinks at rivers edge

A cow comes down to the river’s edge for a drink

After a few minutes, the tall reeds parted and a big brown cow emerged and slowly made its way down to the water.

Well, it wasn’t as cool as a wild horse, but it was still pretty darn cool considering the concrete jungle of freeways and humanity that were the essence of greater Phoenix all around us just a few miles away.

Flipped car

A little reckless driving in the early morning

The cow took a long drink, stared at me for a while, and then dipped its head for another sip before slowly vanishing into the reeds once again.

Riverside starburst at dusk

Dusk on the riverbanks was beautiful and different every evening

This incredibly beautiful and peaceful spot can’t keep the insanity of the city at bay all the time, though, and one day while we were out on a bike ride we saw the bizarre sight of a car flipped upside down on one of the small national forest roads.

Barbecuing dinner

For us these were happy lazy days

We found out a young fellow had come blasting down the tiny, twisty roads of the area at breakneck speeds.

Luckily, he escaped breaking his neck when he lost control of his car.

Flying the Koop

Mark took this wonderful photo of our friends Mike & Donna’s rig
and they put it on their blog banner at www.flyingthekoop.com!

He was seen walking off into the desert, although police later found a loaded gun in his car.

Trouble in paradise, I guess!

 

Golden hour in the reeds

The Golden Hour on the river

For us, however, life was full of contentment, and we enjoyed a steady stream of quiet, happy days.

Mark got the barbecue going in the evenings, something we had not done in our boating lives and that we had missed sorely, and we met up with new friends of ours, Mike and Donna, whom we had met in San Diego.

They began full-timing last July and have a fun blog, www.flyingthekoop.com, with the delightful motto, “From real estate to wheel estate.”

 

Sunset with rain over Fountain Hills

Rain nearby gave us beautiful orange cloud formations

The late afternoons and evenings continued to lure us down to the water’s edge every day, and we were treated to some glorious sunsets.

There is a “golden hour” just before the sun leaves the sky when everything seems to be lit from within with a truly golden glow.

We caught this heavenly light one afternoon when the water was totally still. This created a perfect mirror for everything on shore.

Rain was falling in the distance, and the clouds were streaked and heavy with moisture, creating a mystical air in the twilight.

Golden hour along the Salt River

River reflections

The light turned from a crisp, radiant yellow to a burnt orange and finally to a soft pink blush that lit the river’s edge in a luminous warmth. There was a peace here that soothed our souls.

Mirrored sunset hues

We loved the mirrored hues of late afternoon

Sunset colors along the Salt River in Phoenix

The last blush of sunset

Fisherman in sunset reflections at the Salt River

A fisherman amid sunset reflections in the river

We didn’t realize what an unusual sunset this was until we after we had tried to recapture it every night for a week.

Every afternoon, as the sun began its final descent, we ran down to the water’s edge, tripods in hand, hoping for a repeat of that ethereal light.

However, the special light we saw that night, that warm glow that faded from gold to a pink blush to a lavender mist was never quite the same again.

Many sunsets were spectacular, but that fleeting moment where the whole river seemed to hold its breath as everything shimmered in a rose colored halo had been utterly unique and never happened again.

So it is with nature, and we are learning to savor every day that comes.

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next->

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve – A City Escape

Sonoran Desert Preserve

Apache Wash trailhead at the Sonoran Desert Preserve

Phoenix, Arizona, is a huge sprawling city that seems to creep further out into the desert with every passing day.

Each time we return to our old stomping grounds, we are surprised anew at all the changes.

Saguaro Cactus up close

Every saguaro cactus has its own personality

Roads we used to know like the backs of our hands now leave us utterly lost because we can’t find any of the old familiar landmarks.

With that kind of growth, and with new construction gobbling up the precious Sonoran desert at a scary-fast pace, it often seems that there can’t possibly be any open space left for the leisurely enjoyment of nature.

Before we leave on our hike

We didn’t get far before we stopped to take some photos

Everything within many miles of Phoenix has become either a master-planned community or a strip mall.

So we were utterly astonished when our friends Charlie and Cathie, who spend every free moment riding their bikes around town or hiking the many nearby mountains, asked us if we’d heard about the new road called Sonoran Desert Drive.

Lush Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran desert is very lush with
rich (and prickly) vegetation

New roads go in all the time, but they seemed truly excited about this one.  “It’s eight miles long, has a great bike lane, no traffic, and is surrounded on both sides by open desert as far as you can see.”

In Phoenix?  Impossible! We had to go check it out.

Sure enough, this beautiful, brand new parkway runs between Cave Creek Road and Dynamite on its eastern end and Dove Valley Road and North Valley Parkway to the west, without a hint of housing or development or urban living of any kind except at the cluster of homes tucked into its far western end.

Jumping cholla cactus

A “jumping” or “teddy bear” cholla cactus

For about 8 miles, this parkway bisects a huge, square tract of open desert.  Whoever knew that was there?  When you are scurrying around the housing-lined city streets, zooming up this road and down that one, there’s no way of knowing what’s in back of it all.

Better yet, right smack in the center of this vast piece of land is the brand new Apache Wash trailhead that is now part of the Sonoran Desert Preserve system.

Saguaro with starburst

The sun peaks around a cactus in a starburst

The first time we drove along this parkway and hiked the trail, in December, the trail had been open for just a few weeks.

Groups of people with water bottles, hiking shoes, fanny packs and safari hats stood around in front of the brand new trail maps deciding which of the many choices of routes to try first.

Teddy bear cholla

The hummingbirds need those long beaks to drink the nectar without getting spiked!

Near the shade ramadas, a sun dial looking statue turned out to be a pointer system to the mountains in the distance.

Trail hiking to saguaro cactus

This is a very beautiful trail to hike

The McDowells, Four Peaks and other mountains that surround Phoenix at distances of ten to thirty miles could all be spotted by lining up the pointer.

What a cool park!  And what luck that we happened to visit just after a big rain.  The air was as clear and crisp as could be, and the views to the horizon were haze free.

We set out on one of the trails at random, and of course we didn’t get very far before we had to start taking pictures.

This is a lush part of the Sonoran desert, rich with saguaro cactus, ocotillo and the many scrubby low lying bushes that always blanket the desert in pastel shades of gray and green.

Mountain biker

The trail is open to mountain bikers…

Jumping cholla, or “teddy bear” cholla (pronounced “choy-ya”), are the short, cute, pale, fuzzy many-armed cactus that look so cuddly.

But if you get some skin, or clothes, or hiking shoes anywhere near their barbed needles, they will cling to you for all they’re worth. That’s how they got the reputation of jumping!

 

Girl mountain biker

…and they were all having a blast on the trail!

If you step on one of their little round balls of needles that they shed so freely all around them, you will need a pair of pliers and a lot of patience to get all the needles out of the soles of your shoes!

I looked up when I heard the sound of wheels crunching the dirt, and suddenly saw a mountain biker barreling down towards us.

The trails are open to mountain bikers, and they all seemed to be loving their ride.

Saguaro cactus

A saguaro tells a funny tale to an audience of barrel cactus

Open sonoran desert

Turning 360 degrees at the summit we saw wide open desert in every direction

Horse hoof prints in the mud

Horse shoe prints in the hardened mud.

Saguaro cactus

Vast openness…
Ahhh… you can breathe!

 

 

 

The trail snaked around the backside of a hill and made a gradual climb.

As we ascended, I was astonished to look out across the valley and see nothing but desert vegetation.

We were in the middle of pristine Sonoran desert, and there wasn’t a home to be seen except right along the edges of the mountains on the horizon.

I heard a bird singing the most beautiful song.

 

 

He was just chirping away in the warm morning sun.  I finally spotted him sitting in the branches of a Palo Verde tree on the hillside.

Horseback rider

A horseback rider comes past.

It wasn’t a song I recognized, and I switched lenses really fast hoping to get his picture.

But my rustling around frightened him and he flew off. Or maybe it wasn’t the noise I was making…maybe it was the noise of the horses coming down the path!

We had seen horse hoof footprints in the hardened mud, and we had seen horse trailers down in the parking lot, but it was still pretty exciting when they came walking down the trail and passed us.

What a classic western image it made when they walked along the trail and off into the distance!

Horses on hiking trail

How beautiful to watch the horses walk off the “movie set” scene into the distance!

Closeup of cholla flower

A cholla flower

As we took a different route back and wound our way down the mountain towards the parking lot, I kept thinking how wonderful it is that a place like this has been built.

Saguaro cactus reflected in pool

Reflections on a beautiful walk in the desert…

Later, a little online research revealed that this trailhead was funded in part by the neighborhoods that abut the land, and that the Sonoran Desert Preserve is still expanding.  Just a week prior to our first hike there, another 600+ acres had been set aside.

The Sonoran desert is a rare treasure that exists only in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, and my heart breaks every time I see it being bulldozed for housing.

Bravo to the city planners that decided to create this park, and even better still, to make it open and available to everyone.

We have been enjoying getting reacquainted with the Phoenix area so much this winter — and we have been blessed with such unseasonably warm and sunny weather — that we’ll be sticking around a while and doing more desert explorations!

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next->

Roosevelt Lake, AZ – Desert Oasis

Saguaro cactus Roosevelt Lake Arizona wildflowers Roosevelt Lake Arizona wildflowers Roosevelt Lake Arizona scenic drive Roosevelt Lake Arizona Roosevelt Lake Arizona Tonto National Forest Campgrounds Roosevelt Lake Arizona marina Roosevelt Lake Arizona Tonto National Forest Campgrounds Roosevelt Lake Arizona Tonto National Forest Campgrounds wildflowers Roosevelt Lake Arizona Tonto National Forest Campgrounds Roosevelt Lake Arizona kayaking Tonto National Forest Tonto National Forest Roosevelt Lake Arizona kayaking Roosevelt Lake Arizona bridge to Tortilla Flats Arizona Roosevelt Lake Arizona kayaking Camping at Roosevelt Lake Hike along Roosevelt Lake Hike along Roosevelt Lake Roosevelt Lake at sunset Campground at Roosevelt Lake Campground at Roosevelt Lake Arizona Kayaking at Roosevelt Lake Roosevelt Lake boating Roosevelt Lake boating Roosevelt Lake RVing Roosevelt Lake birds

Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

April 5-18, 2009 - We left Chanute, Kansas in a blast of cold headwinds.

Those miserable winds pummeled us all the way across Oklahoma, Texas

and New Mexico.  We were totally windblown by the time we arrived in

Arizona, and we were utterly fed up with fighting it every time we set foot

outside the trailer.  Our usual mileage of 10 mpg while towing dropped as

low as 7.7 through parts of Oklahoma, and for the entire trip across

country our average was a dismal 8.5.

The truck and

trailer looked

like heck when

we got to

Arizona, and

we did too.  So

it was with great excitement that I

opened our door and looked out

at the lake on our second

morning and felt not just warm

sun on my skin but the sweetest

of gentle breezes on my face.

This is one of those areas that is

a little jewel on our planet.

Coming into Windy Hill Recreation

Area there is a fantastic curvy

road, and I spent several happy

hours on two different days

running up and down the road

getting pictures of RVs as they

drove past.

Roosevelt Lake was dammed in 1911, and at the time was the largest

man-made lake in the world.  We had lived in Phoenix, next door to this

little piece of heaven, for years, yet we had never been there.  I couldn't

believe how beautiful it was.  If we had known about it, we would have

camped there every spring and fall weekend in our popup tent trailer.

The lake is open to boaters of all kinds, and a marina sits next to the

visitors center.  There are lots of houseboats at the marina.  What a fun

place to roost for a while.

We had ridden our bikes on just about every road in the area with

various organized bike rides over the years, but the one spectacular

road that runs alongside the lake was a whole new discovery for us.

Everything

seemed to be

in bloom when

we arrived, and

the high winds

had blown

every bit of dust

and pollution to

kingdom come,

so the air was

crisp and clear.

The lake was

full to

overflowing,

and the views

in every

direction were

filled with the

promise of

spring.

We were blessed with a full moon

during our stay, and a group of birds

swooped back and forth in front of

the moon as it rose one evening.

The entire lake is smack in the

middle of Tonto National Forest, so

there is virtually no development

anywhere other than the slightly

developed campgrounds and an

Indian cliff dwelling site nearby.  I

was amazed by how many

campgrounds there are, and how

many campsites within each

campground.  The USFS has closed

several campgrounds and closed

many loops within the open

campgrounds, probably because

they just don't get enough

business to make it worthwhile to

maintain it all.

The campgrounds are set along little peninsulas, and many campsites

have a waterfront view.  Whoever designed the campgrounds along this

lake did an outstanding job.  There is boondocking too, but the

campgrounds are so spacious and pretty that we opted for a waterfront

site at the end of a peninsula instead.

Throughout our visit the cameras just kept clicking.  In every direction

we turned there seemed to be another lovely shot.  Friends of ours

were camped nearby, and each evening the discussion always seemed

to wander back to the various photos all of us had taken during the day.

One evening I

came back from a

bike ride to hear

an excited

discussion around

the campfire

about a clump of

clover and a bee.

This little bee had

unknowingly

become a

supermodel for the afternoon, and we

had fun comparing all the different

photos of him.

The Sonoran Desert is one of my

favorite places.  It extends from

Arizona into Sonora, Mexico, and is

extremely lush, filled with a wide

variety of flowers, birds and cactus.  It

is the only place in the world where

the wise old saguaro cactus chooses

to live, and they rule the landscape

with a myriad of personalities, all

seeming to wave a greeting to their fellow cactus.

The saguaros that have a cluster of arms are often 150 years old or

more.  Those cactus grew up in a very different world -- one with a

small river instead of a lake, for starters.

The main road hugs the lake for many miles, and on a few

days we ventured out to Tonto Basin, a small community at

the far north end of the lake.  On those morning drives the

hillsides were alive with bright yellow flowers and towering

cactus, looking down at the lake.  In the distance we could see

Four Peaks, an aptly named mountain range that makes a distinct

landmark on the horizon when looking east from Phoenix.  Here we got

to see its back

side.

A bridge spans

the river just

before the

dam, and every

time you drive

by it begs you

to take a

picture.

On several days we went out in the

kayak and pedaled and paddled

around.  The wind resumed its howling

every few days, so we had some

sloppy times on the water with the

spray flying.  But there were some

really calm days too.  Those were

times of heavenly relaxation and

serenity.

The lake is an interesting habitat because it is in the

middle of the richest Sonoran Desert land, but

because the body of water is so large, ducks, grebes and even seagulls set up

housekeeping here too.  Whenever we would go out in the kayak we were always

amazed to see hundreds of grebes swimming around.  They would alert each other to

our presence with frantic calls, and as we approached, one by one they would dive

underwater.  At the same time we could also hear the calls of the Gambel quail from

their perches in the desert scrub along the shore.

The fishermen complained

that the fishing wasn't too

good.  That surprised us,

because we saw all kinds of huge fish leaping out of the water as we

paddled.  Maybe their noisy powerboats were scaring off their catch.

The cycling in this area is spectacular as well.

There are a lot of organized rides sponsored by

the Arizona bike clubs that travel many of the

roads in this part of the state, however I know of

none that go along the lakeside road (route

188).  It would be the perfect location for an

organized ride: stunning scenery, challenging

climbs, screaming descents, and lots of picnic

areas for rest stops.

Roosevelt Lake is a gorgeous place, and we

felt blessed to be able to spend a good bit of

time there.

A little cardinal sang his heart out on one of our last mornings.

He seemed so happy to be alive.  Roosevelt Lake makes you feel

that way.  Sadly, we eventually had to pack up and go.  We drove

the beautiful lakeside road one last time and then turned west

once again to journey on to California.