Monday was another travel day. We bought our tickets for the Monday night Cactus League game between the Brewers and Diamondbacks online on Sunday, but we had quite a bit of time to kill during the day. I used my smart phone to search for parks and hikes in Phoenix, and found two likely destinations. One was Camelback Mountain, but I was discouraged somewhat by numerous comments about crowds and limited parking. It was Monday and a weekday, but we were learning that the time of the week was not very relevant during the spring break and spring training madness of Phoenix.
The second option was North Mountain Park. The location of this park was near our hotel, and also reasonably close the the ballpark, so we chose this as our Monday place for outdoor adventure. We arrived at the South 7th Avenue trailhead in late morning and quickly lathered up with sunscreen. The park appeared to be similar to Saguaro National Park but with far fewer saguaro cactus. The landscape was covered in many more low growing cactus, but as we looked north we saw two fairly imposing mountains. It was already quite warm, and the environment appeared to be even more imposing than the trails we hiked near Tucson.
Nevertheless we set out with hydration bladders and trekking poles. Our rattlesnake radar was set on high alert, as the terrain struck us as the perfect setting for an encounter. Fortunately we learned at the desert museum presentation that rattlesnakes seek shade during the hottest part of the day, and our trail rarely crossed this scarce commodity. We climbed a steep path over a saddle and then dipped and resumed the climb until we peaked at Shaw Butte. We curled around the butte to the north side and enjoyed some spectacular vistas, and then we reversed our steps. When we reached the Y near the parking lot, we turned left and hiked on a .2 mile spur, and then returned to the trailhead. In total the hike was four miles, and we were quite ready for it to be over due to the sun and the heat.
Once we were settled in the car, we skirted the western edge of the park and circled on to Thunderbird Road and then turned right on 7th Street, until we found the North Park Mountain Visitor Center. Near the front of the parking lot we spotted a round pergola structure that had a large round concrete table in the middle. We adopted this space for our lunch, and munched our typical snacks while resting in the perforated shade.
After lunch we continued south and found the Best Western Metro Center Inn, and the woman at the counter allowed us to check in. After reading some negative comments on Yelp, Jane and I were both concerned about the quality of the room, but it ended up being one of our favorites. The lobby and breakfast area was bright and clean, and the pool was very inviting. The room itself was clean and spacious, and the only negative we could find were the large groups of high school baseball and softball players present. Their behavior was fine, but they tended to take up space and contributed to the high noise level at breakfast.
Once we were situated, we turned our attention to the baseball game. We checked the map, and Salt River Fields were nearly due east. We got off to an early start so we could inspect the relatively new spring training complex and grab some food. Everything worked out according to plan, and we savored some excellent grilled bratwurst sandwiches while waiting for the game to begin. The air temperature dropped into the low 80’s, and it was a perfect evening to watch the Brewers and Diamondbacks play to a 2-2 tie. It was a great finish to our stay in the warm temperatures of Arizona. On Tuesday we would brace ourselves for the cold of Utah.