"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

October in AZ - Hiking to the Famous Giant Alligator Juniper Tree

Surprise, AZ
Happy Trails RV Park

October 2020 brings us back for our usual 3 weeks stay in Surprise, AZ to stay with his step-mom.  We have our usual spot we rent.

One thing we finally did was have Steve clean our carpets.  In the 6 years we have never done this.  We don't wear shoes in the trailer and I'm very diligent on vacuuming and overall cleaning.  Plus we keep Hurley washed regularly.  The carpet still looks like new but it was nice to have it deep cleaned.

Our time here is usually uneventful as we are busy helping out around the house, etc.  We usually get out a couple times though.  We have hiked the Granite Mountain Trail memorializing the Hot Shots.  It's a great trail if you haven't hiked it.  We saw the movie at the same time and decided we also wanted to hike to the famous Giant Alligator Tree the Hot Shots helped save just 2 weeks before the Yarnell fire took their lives.  We tried to hike it the year before but the cold temps and snowfall prevented us from hiking.  It's a 2 hour drive from Surprise but the weather was great and we needed to get some trail time.
Above are the coordinates for the hike.  It's almost 5 miles round trip with a gain of about 500 ft.  We left early as the weather was still hot out.

Don't scare the cows, they are thirsty!
The trail isn't bad, just a few sloppy spots.  It's also well marked.  We loved the boulders and the landscape that sit just below the Granite Mountains.

These open pine cones looked like flowers.

It was a great hike and we only saw one couple while we hiked in and another as we hiked out.

Spotted this guy on the way in.  He was a few inches long.

Luckily just as the trail petered out there was an arrow made from quartz marking which way to turn off the what was left of the trail .  Just a few hundred feet and you are at the beautiful, huge, old Juniper Tree.  This tree in Prescott National Forest lays claim to the largest measured alligator juniper, which is 46 feet tall and is 27 feet, 4 inches around. These trees may reach 500 to 800 years of age.  This one is estimated to be 2000 years old.
You can see the scorched areas where the fire burned.  Above our bird buddy watches us.
As you come upon the tree it really takes your breath away.  The area is very somber and the tree is just amazing.  They had a plaque put in place as a memorial to the firefighters.

This is the famous shot of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots after they saved the tree. (borrowed from the internet).  Sadly another wildfire, much worse, took their lives 2 weeks later.
People bring momentos for the fallen.  There are rocks, hats, coins and many other items around the tree, hanging from it and stuffed into several nooks and holes.
It's 2020.  What else than a mask?
There is a scarf for each firefighter that died and other special things attached to this.

Firefighters from all around the world come to pay their respects and leave something special.
Here are pictures of Steve standing on each side of the tree. 

The scales of the Alligator Tree.  It's easy to see why it's called that.

We walked all around exploring the area and had a nice lunch before heading back.  There was also a geocache hidden on a nearby hill.

It's really heating up as we head back to the truck.
Cactus heart.
This little guy was on the way out.  He was only a couple of inches long.
It may be hot but it is October and there is some changing of the leaves happening.
It was a fantastic hike!  The tree is not on the trail, you have to know where to go off-trail to get to it.  My above coordinates will help you get there if you'd like to see it and the memorial.
Driving back home through Wickenburg we always love the large art that sits in the several round-a-bouts.
Last stretch before we arrive back in Surprise.  What a great day.

At the end of our time in Arizona we finally met up with Tom and Lynn.  Lynn is the older sister of my grade school friend, Debbie.  Her and her husband have been fulltime for a couple of years.  We have crisscrossed each other and missed each other by days.  This time we were nearby.  Us in Surprise and them visiting one of their kids in Mesa.  So we set up an outside dinner at Four Peaks Brewery.  I have not seen Lynn since Debbie's wedding about 30 years ago.  We had a great time catching up.

One last more thing to tackle was a crack in our fresh water tank.  This is the second time this has happened.  We also had a similar crack in our black tank earlier this year.  So strange.  Maybe 2013 was a bad year for tanks for Montana?  You can see in the above picture the crack that ran alongside the tank on the bottom.  Our only problem was with Covid, RV parts are hard to come by.  There was no way we could get a replacement tank for weeks.  Beautiful AZ RV Repair promised us they could weld it and would stand by their repair with a 100% warranty.  Well, we didn't have a choice so repair it would be.
They did a great job and it looked really strong.  I guess time will tell.  If you are in the Phoenix area and need RV repair, we highly recommend them.  They call you right back and are very honest and hard working!

(fast forward to today, 2/8/2021 and the tank is good as new)

One last get together with Curt and Glenda.  We met at a brewery for dinner.  We always love spending time with this special couple.  We are so happy for their next chapter settling down near Casa Grande at a gorgeous resort.  Their new home is beautiful.  We're just happy they are in Arizona so we can visit them twice a year!

We celebrated Steve's birthday before we left Arizona for the year. It was so hot that his birthday cake that I picked up actually had the frosting melting down the sides by time I got back home.  There was only so much I could do to fix it without making it worse!  Too funny!

One more fill up.  Gotta love Arizona's gas prices!  We're off to spend some time in Nevada before crossing back in to California for the rest of the year.
Crossing into Nevada.
I like how some states really decorate up their overpasses.
That's Las Vegas.
This is the 14th out of 18 Thousand Trails  parkswe've visited this year in the SW Region.  This one in Las Vegas is very popular and sold out most of the time.  I heard it was a very tight park and most of the sites are.  We were supposed to be closer to the rig on the left but we wouldn't  have fit.  The guy on the right was super nice and said he'd move his truck closer to his rig so we could fit.  He ended up  just a couple feet away.  Our slides and the guy to left were very close also.  It was ok for a couple of nights.  While some of Thousand Trails parks in the SW region work out for us, most are just not our style of camping.  We would not search them out.  They work in a pinch.
One of the nights we were here we had dinner at a Cuban place that was known for their tacos.  We had the beef, pork and chicken.  The food was so good we ordered some breakfast burritos to eat the next day.

Only bummer was no margaritas.  We were so tired and hungry though we didn't care.

Next up we finally get to explore the Alabama Hills!


  1. That looks like a nice hike. I miss seeing diesel lower than $2/gallon! It's been creeping up the past couple of weeks and sitting at $3.39. Nice to catch up with friends and as the years just melt away.


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