brad's blog

Too old for Tik-Tok. Too lazy for YouTube.

Desert Botanical Garden

04/12/24 - It's spring in the desert, so I decided to take a trip down to the Desert Botanical Garden in Scottsdale. I've driven by it for years, but I'm not much of a gardener so I never felt much of a draw to it. But, after the rain we had this winter, the places I do go for hiking an outdoor activities were more colorful than typical, so it seemed like a good time to check this place out. It seemed like a lot of other people felt the same way, because the parking lot was jammed, but once in side, I found the place somewhat busy, but not out of control. There is a main trail, named the Desert Discovery Trail and 4 additional trails that branch off of it and loop back, making it easy to navigate. There are a ton of volunteers there who are willing to help you if you get lost or if you just want more information about things in the garden.

Walking bridge entrance to the Desert Botanical Gardens.
Cardon cactus, about 25 feet high.

One of the things that I enjoyed was finding out more about the plants that I see in my own trips into nature. I know the names of a lot of what I see, but I don't know them all, and within the ones I do know, it's neat to find out more about them. With 50,000 plants here, there is a lot to see. When a specific plant is featured, there is a plackard that gives you more information about it. And the information is tailored to the trail you are on. Did you know the difference between a Saguaro and a Cardon cactus? I did not, but I do now. Also, if you are on the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert trail, the plackard will give you information on how the plant was used, or what parts of it are edible. On the Desert Wildflower trail, there is information on how the specific plant is of value to bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, etc.

A view of one of the waking trails with barrel cacti and other assorted desert plants.
Small bunny in the brush at the Desert Botanical Garden.

If you put that much flora in one place, you are bound to see some fauna. On this trip, I saw a bunny, a butterfly, some bees, and all kinds of birds. There was one display showing how birds use Saguaro as their homes and as if on queue, a bird flew into a hole at the top of a nearby cactus. The Desert Wildflower trail had specifc subsections for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds and I saw some of each while I was there. In addition to the trails, there is a butterfly pavillion, a restaurant, and a gift shop. One of the areas was cordoned off becuase a wedding reciption was being held. I think that is a capital idea as this place was beautiful and tranquil. If you go, make sure you are aware of the weather as this is all outdoors and there is not a lot of shade. Also, different seasons bring different looks in the desert so They do have water fountains and bottle fillers thoughtout the garden, so bringing a refillable bottle would be a good move. The ticket price when I went, was 29.95. Maricopa County Library members can get 2 free passes as part of the Culture Pass program.

Selection of wildflowers from the Desert Wildflower Trail,
Selection of desert flora as viewed from the bridge.

Hiking in Phoenix

04/05/24 - I got a call from an old friend who was passing through town and as he often does, he suggested we get together for a hike. I was reminded of how much good hiking there is in the Phoenix area. Most of it is on the flat side, but you can find some elevation if you try. And the desert can be beautiful if you pay attention to the details. There are about 3 months a year where hiking is just a hot mess, but for the other nine it's a great way to get outdoors, see some nature, and get some exercise. I have run across about 5 rattlesnakes since I've been here, and that's 5 too many for me, but they have all seemed to be more afraid of me than I of them. (If that is possible). Phoenix and the surrounding area is covered in trails for all abilities. Let's take a hike!

Waterfall trail at White Tanks Mountain Park.

Estrella Mountain Regiona Park is part of the Maricopa County park system. It is a less used gem of a park, just south of I-10 in Goodyear. It is 19,840 acres of mostly desert, with some seasonal wetlands. At one time, it was actually in Mexico, before the border moved. Most of the 17 trails are in the Easy or Moderate range, with only two listed as Moderate-Difficult. The longest trail is 8.4 miles, but you can put together multiple trails if you want something longer. This park has a lot of intesecting trails so it is easy to vary it up doing part of one and part of others. The difficulty in hiking Phoenix is usually tied to the weather in which you try to do it. There is not much shade so plan accordingly and bring adequate water. This park has a daily fee. At the time of this post it is $7.00 per car, but that also includes entry to the other Maricopa County Parks for the same day.

Baseline Trail at Estrella Mountain Park

Skyline Regional Park is a free park in Buckeye. It has 17 trails but they are smaller than the ones in the other parks. Like the others, you can link several together to get a longer hike in. Unlike the others, you can get a little bit of an elevation change here. Some trails like the Skyline Crest are up on the top of the hills and you have to gain some elevation to get there. In the picture below, you may be able to pick up some hint of the trail horiontally crossing in the middle of the shot. 4 of the trails here are classified as difficult, which I attribute to the elevation changes. This park is also part of the White Tank Mountains, but not part of the White Tanks park. There are a few slips for RV camping. At the time of this post, the cost is $20 per night.

alt text

There are many other places to hike in Phoenix. These are just a few of my go to parks since they are local to me. Links to the parks and their trail maps below

Estrella Mountain Regional Park website
Estrella Mountain Regional Park map
Skyline Regional Park website
Skyline Regional Park map - Best Hikes in Phoenix


current, 03/24, 02/24, 01/24