Checking in from Fort McDowell Indian Reservation, AZ …
My Spanish speaking friends will have to forgive me—I think one of those terms means hot weather and the other means hot women. Regardless, it is very caliente, very, very hot in the Valley. As in 108 degrees in the afternoon. Yes, we know it’s a dry heat; so is a furnace. But I am being careful and am walking only in the morning when temps range from the upper 80’s to the upper 90’s with plenty of liquids for hydration. Then we hold up in the RV with the air conditioner struggling to keep it tolerable. We now understand why we met so many residents of this area who were summering in the higher elevations back on our path.
The trip down into the Valley of the Sun has been anything but easy. It is not a steady downgrade as I hoped but is a series of steep up and downgrades of up to 6 degrees that sometimes run for two to four miles. As runners/walkers will attest, uphills test one’s stamina while steep downhills stress shins, knees and quads. The scenery coming into the Valley, however, is terrific. Mountains, rugged hills, boulders, canyons, ravines and washes. Our pictures do not do the vista justice. Both Brenda and I are fascinated with the saguaro cacti that dot the landscape. When most people think of cacti, they have an image of the saguaro. Actually, however, the saguaro cactus grows exclusively in the Sonoran Desert of central and south Arizona and western Mexico. This species grows up to 25 feet in height, is tree-like and columnar, covered in needle-like spires, and it grows upward tilting branches (properly called arms) as it ages. Check out Heart Trek USA on Facebook and website for lots of photos of saguaro cacti.
Once the heat builds up, late afternoon weather can be a little frightening. On our second afternoon in the area, we encountered one of the famous Phoenix dust storm which we almost outran in our little car. The sight of a sky-high, seemingly solid wall of golden dust headed your way can be somewhat disconcerting. High winds push the wall forward, to be followed by hard rain, thunder, lightning and often hail. With little grass in the area, except on golf courses, the dust storms are a frequent hazard. Not to be taken lightly.
For the next two days, I will be making my way across the Valley, mostly on Camelback Road through Scottsdale. Then we take a day of rest at the fabulous Phoenician Hotel. We’ll probably feel like GSA employees on a taxpayer-paid boondoggle. Stay tuned.