After three weeks in Mexico and another 10 days in Texas, stepping back into the Winnie never felt so much like “Home Sweet Home.” Thankfully, everything was still just as I left it. The engine was a little slow to start, as was the propane, but after a few false starts, by the time my bags were unpacked and things put away, everything was firing on all cylinders.
But after having done all the maintenance, stowed my bags, checked the fluids and air in the tires, the sun was sinking fast, and no overnights were allowed in the RV Storage area. This is the very reason I chose this storage location…its close proximity to McDowell Mountain Regional Park.
Having stayed at McDowell Mountain twice now, I knew they had an overflow lot. This being high season in the Phoenix area, and being uncertain of my exact return date, I knew I wouldn’t be turned away if the park was full. Not only was I not turned away, but I was welcomed to the overflow lot by the extremely helpful overflow lot host Dave, driving his park maintenance ATV. “Hop in! I’ll show you the best spot, and how you can ease in without ever having to unhitch!” This was a big plus, as I had no idea how long I would stay. It all depended on how many times I would have to move.
Having been through more than my share of family trauma and drama in the past couple of weeks, I was feeling my own version of “post traumatic stress disorder.” So the overflow lot offered the perfect surrounding. I got the back corner of the large, level gravel lot, with nothing but me and the coyotes the first night.
Over the course of four days, rigs would come and go, but they were all quiet neighbors. It became my daily routine to hike the 2 mile round trip Tortoise Trail to the Nature Center to ask to re-up for one more night. For most people, the desire is to move into a camping loop as soon as possible. But at $10 a night less and with nonstop showers across the lot, I actually preferred the overflow to the loops, as my corner seemed very private with trails literally right outside my door. Fortunately for me, the camping loops were filled each night, which meant I was allowed to stay in the overflow night after night without having to move.
But camping aside, the trails are the reason to come to McDowell! Although not a mountain biker (yet!) they offer some very scenic hiking. Most named trails average 2 to 3 miles, but they all intersect, so it is possible to link several together for one long loop. I did this three days in a row, linking shorter trails together until I hit the 8 mile mark. It was like a game, fitting the trails together like a puzzle each day to get my “eight mile high.”
Of the trails I walked, Tortoise, Wagner, Pemberton, North, Lousley Hill, Granite, Bluff, my favorite by far was the Scenic Trail. I ended my day each day with this 3.5 mile loop up and over the nearby hills just as the sun was setting. It offered everything I enjoy in a hike – some elevation gain, scenery, a ridge line, and a loop. And with solid cell service and no chance of getting lost, it was the perfect sunset hike.
As much as I enjoyed hiking the trails of McDowell, no doubt this is “Mountain Biking Mecca,” to the point that most of the campground hosts are affiliated with bike shops, and will even hook you up with a bike if you are in the market. Maybe next time I meet McDowell Mountain, my “eight miles high” will be on two wheels, not two feet!
(Footnote: “Eight Miles High” by the Byrds was one of my favorite rock songs from my youth. I realized when I kept humming it along the trails in McDowell that I really only could remember the title, no lyrics. So I looked them up. Now, I know why I can’t remember any of them, as they make no sense! The Byrds truly must have been eight miles high when they wrote this hit!)