Back in January, Niecie’s family flew us down to Pheonix to see her grandparents. They’d recently retired and purchased a winter home in the community near Surprise on the west end of Pheonix.
While there, Niecie and I snuck away to enjoy a short hike at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. It was a big gesture coming from Niecie. She’d never really enjoyed hiking the way I had, but she knew it would mean the world to me.
White Tank Mountain isn’t so much a mountain as a rocky outcropping. Here miles of hiking and horse trails snake around hundreds of slender green cacti.
It being January, the normally red-orange landscape of the desert was awash in green-blues. Looking back at the pictures, it was almost surreal just how green everything was.
We arrived at the park a little before noon and the temperature had already reached 70. In the thin desert air, it felt far warmer than that.
All around us saguaro cacti rose 20 or more feet from the desert floor. It was the first time I’d ever seen saguaros with my own eyes.
I’d spent time in Arizona and New Mexico two years earlier, but that had been in the high desert and far from the classic green cactus.
Hitting the trail
After spending more time than I’d like to admit turning the map upside down trying to get oriented, we parked the rental and set off to explore the Waddell trail. It was really a rather short hike before we joined Ford Canyon Trail. Along the way, we stopped for a snack. I wanted to keep Niecie’s moral up so we could hike as long as possible.
I love the desert and I was going to spend as much time here as I could.
While we snacked on Halo oranges, chocolate turtles and Twislers, we got a surprise visit from a couple of horseback riders.
As we continued up the trail, the narrow path became rockier as it angled upward.
About this point in our hike, we turned back. It was a further 10 miles before we would loop around to where we’d parked.
Neither one of us was prepared for a hike that long and neither of us had brought the right shoes for a hike anywhere near that long.
Instead, we followed Ford Canyon back towards the rental car before veering off on a detour along Ironwood Trail. We were taking our time, enjoying the sites and sounds of the unfamiliar environment. Every now and then, we’d catch sight of a lizard darting amongst the sage brush.
We stopped frequently to take pictures of strange fauna and Niecie even had a couple close calls with a few prickly cactus balls which stuck to her boots.
All told, the three-mile hike was a real treat. I have to thank Niecie for working it into our visit.
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- Have you hiked White Tank Mountain?
- Have any hiking spots to recommend?
- How do you work hiking into your trips?
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