Sunday, February 17, 2013

My First Winter Escape! - Part 1

For the first time ever, I had a brief escape from winter. The trip was an ever so generous Christmas present from fam to spend a week with them at their winter home in Mesa, Arizona. I flew out of Winnipeg on the edge of an incoming blizzard on Jan 11 and landed in Phoenix that evening to what turned out to be a week of record low temps! So cold, that there were deep frost warnings most nights and I was often asked if I had brought the cold weather with me!!

I'll admit, that I've said a lot of nasty things about how Mother Nature handles the weather in my part of the world but I really hoped this wasn't my karma for the comments!

Saturday dawned clear and cool. After breakfast, we took a walk around the Rec Park that their park model is located in. The lots aren't large but several residents have added a guest room - commonly referred to as an Arizona Room. The well groomed lots and common areas are landscaped with several types of native plants, cactus and fruit trees.

How lucky they are to have fresh lemons and oranges growing right outside their doors! If I could have, I'd have brought fresh lemons home with me but customs doesn't allow that!

If you get bored at this place, it isn't for a lack of things to do! From fitness, to crafts/hobbies, games, other amenities and a countless choice of activities, it is a very social place! 

Since the first few days were so cool, we opted to spend a fair amount of that time shopping! (I'll write more about that and some otherthings from the trip in a future post!)

By Tuesday, the weather was a bit warmer so we headed out for some sightseeing. We drove towards the Superstition Mountain Range then turned into an old mining town called Goldfield. It was still quite cool and a bit of a wind so we didn't take the train tour but we did drive around to take pics. I would love to go back for the train ride and to explore the buildings!

Then, it was further up the road, past Canyon Lake. A spectacular view of desert and mountain scenery at every turn!

Our destination was Tortilla Flat. Originally, a stage coach stop, this little town is full of character, great scenery and good food! Our lunch was delivered to our table within minutes and was delicious! We stopped at the Mercantile to pick up some souvenirs and then the Country Store for some chocolate and peanut butter cup gelato! OH SO GOOD!

I was so busy enjoying the scenery and atmosphere, that I neglected to take pictures of the unique wallpaper that lines the walls, posts and beams of the restaurant and store - it is made up of real $ bills that are signed by visitors from around the world! Guess I'll have to go back someday!

On Wed, we took a drive out to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. It is home to a wide variety of desert plants including cactus, trees and bushes. There are numerous trails to explore - most of which are on fairly accessible levels. When we started walking, we inadvertently took one of the side trails. The side trails are far more challenging than my vision or legs could handle though so we only went a short distance before turning back and getting on to a main walkway. We only made it through about 1/3 of the main walking paths as there is just so much to see! If I make it back, I'd go for the day and pack a picnic lunch!

Thursday was the warmest day of my visit - and the only one I could have worn my carpri's and sandals had I not been boarding a plane back to Winterpeg in a few short hours! (Yup, Mother Nature may well have been sending me a message - you're leaving soon, so time to warm things up around here!)

Since I'd flown in at night, I wasn't able to observe the true landscape that surrounds Phoenix. When we headed out of the park for our various destinations, I was surprised to see just how close the mountains were. I could just make out the outline of the mountains along the horizon without using my monocular - and with my limited vision that is saying a lot! 

I was impressed with how much landscaping is done along the various roads and freeways in the Mesa and Phoenix area. Out on the highways, I was a bit surprised to see so much scrub brush and even small boulders in the open areas. I think I expected to see more actual sand. Naive to the area? Yup, but I also loved the beauty of it! A sight to behold at every turn!

There are countless places to enjoy walking and hiking regardless of your physical agility. The numerous Rec Parks for those of a certain age, provide many amenities and socializing opportunities. However, from what I saw, it would also be difficult for anyone without a vehicle to live independently there. Stores - grocery or otherwise - were not within walking distance of the parks.

Even so, I can certainly understand why so many snowbirds make the trek to Arizona every winter! It is a beautiful area with much to see and do. The winter temps there are generally warm enough for capri's or shorts during the day but it also cools down nicely for sleeping at night.

My time in Mesa was short, but I loved it! Hopefully, I will be invited back for another winter getaway so I can see and experience even more of this picturesque area!


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