November 23, 2011

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

I have a Thanksgiving confession to make. All year long I have been revisiting one hike consistently, and I have never written about it. I intentionally saved this place until THIS WEEK so I could lure my readers here between now and December 15th for the fabulous fall color. If I were to pick one place in the state of Arizona that is my absolute favorite, it would be Boyce Thompson Arboretum. I have so many happy memories of coming here since my first visit in 1998 pushing a baby stroller along the main trail: the fragrant Eucalyptus trees, the Chinese Pistachios, the demonstration gardens, the succulent house, the rose garden, the kid's area, Ayer Lake, Queen Creek, views of Picket Post Mountain and Picket Post house, the Clevenger House and windmill, and the countless wildlife I've seen here from foxes to snakes to all sorts of birds. Since then, I have kept up my membership and taken many groups of cub scouts, girl scouts, homeschoolers, nature lovers, and out-of-town visitors to this oasis that is just west of the town of Superior. I can get to Boyce Thompson in 30 minutes from my house in the East Valley of metro Phoenix, but I am constantly explaining to people where Boyce Thompson is located. I think people know that US60 goes out to Apache Junction, but then, them's dragons beyond there. It is a gorgeous drive, especially in spring when the wildflowers flank the hillsides, and it's all freeway driving. Unlike another not-to-be-named garden in Phoenix, at Boyce Thompson you can bring your dog, you can picnic, you can barbecue, and no one is going to scream at you if you come too close to a luminaria. And at $9 per adult and $4.50 for kids, it is less than half the cost of the competing garden. Poor Boyce Thompson barely survived the 2010 state park closures due to budget cuts largely because of help from the University of Arizona and private donations. I really hope I can convince people to support this arboretum. It is an amazing place, and they need every penny. Their plant sales are out of this world. I recommend the 1.5 mile Main Loop Trail AND the 0.5 mile High Trail, and if you do both of these trails together, then you get a 2.5 mile hike and get to go through the prettiest section of the Main Trail twice (the section between the Clevenger House and the Pumphouse.) So walk off your turkey dinner and just go! Here are photos from my visit today:

November 8, 2011

Paseo Trail

I stumbled upon the Paseo Trail in Chandler after searching for a good place to play Frisbee golf for my son's 14th birthday. We came to the idea of Frisbee golf after considering all the usual birthday party venues. I quickly eliminated anything indoors -- November is far too nice of a month in the deserts of Arizona to do any indoor birthday parties. We are stuck indoors from May to October so, in my mind, that is the time to do bowling, arcades, and movies. We considered miniature golf, but I am too cheap to pay for 6 people to hit balls on AstroTurf at moving windmills. Then I suggested Frisbee golf, also called disc golf, or "frolfing." I googled places to play in the Phoenix East Valley, and I found that we have a new course in Chandler that opened last year and is getting high marks from From there, I learned that the Paseo Vista Recreation Area was built on a former dump site where a landfill was in operation from 1979 to 2005.

A dump transformed into a park is my kind of place. We all did research into how the city accomplished this feat, and we found that the initial money came from $12 million dollars in bond sales. Nice work, Chandler. Not surprisingly, strategic planning like this maneuver also led the city to court semi-conductor company Intel, which now employs nearly 10,000 workers in Chandler, and keeps us coast-loving people working here in the desert. The 2.2 million tons of trash was packed down with another 200,000 tons of additional soil from a nearby flood retention basin, creating a 40-foot deep "mountain" that is now the second highest point in Chandler. There are great views of the Superstitions, Santans, and all the other nearby mountain ranges from the scenic overlook. It's also a great place to watch airplanes take-off from Chandler Airport which is just to the north. To prevent erosion, there are granite rock walls encased in wire throughout the park holding back the soil while allowing water run-off. These walls, called gabion walls, are actually quite nice-looking. The park was created with recycled materials: the playground and the archery range makes use of old tires, the disc golf course uses old concrete for the tee-off pads, and the roads are lined with crushed asphalt from former city streets. The only grass at the 64 acre park, is in the two 1-acre dog park enclosures. The rest of the landscaping plant choices are all low water-users. The trash underneath the park continues to decompose, and the released methane gas is diverted to an incinerator on the McQueen-side of the park where there is a visible chimney. The EPA will continue to monitor the park through 2035. It feels clean and safe to me.

After our Frisbee golf game, I decided to walk the one-mile loop around the park to check out all the views. When I got near the canal-side of the park, I noticed two long ramps going down to a path along the canal. The signage stated that the concrete path is the "Paseo Trail," and it follows the Consolidated Canal manned by SRP. The trail is 10 feet wide so it would be suitable for biking as well as walking. I went a ways down the path, but I then realized it is much longer than I originally thought. I came home and printed a map before venturing out again a few days later. The section that I like travels south from the Paseo Vista Recreation Area across Ocotillo Road (be careful) to the bridge that links Pinelake Park and Crossbow Park; that section is one mile total. If you make the return trip, plus the one-mile park loop, then you are at a 3-mile walk. For a longer walk, keep heading south past the Pinelake/Crossbow bridge, cross Chandler Heights Road, and follow the path along the Bear Creek Golf Course to Riggs Road. One way, from the Paseo Vista Recreation Area to Riggs Road is 2.75 miles, or 5.5 miles round-trip, and it's a beautiful walk along the canal with the adjacent golf course.

Length: 3 miles or 5.5 miles for the round-trips described
Elevation gain: 50 feet
Time it took us: 1 hour for the 3 mile trip or 3 hours for the 5.5 mile trip, with a stop
Dogs okay: Yes
Fees: None

Bridge linking Pinelake and Crossbow Parks