A couple of days before the New Year began, Team Gritty bid adíos to the intimate wilds of Cave Creek Regional Park and rolled into McDowell Mountain Regional Park and its vast 21,099 acres of preserved Sonoran desert.

Trail guide Grady with mountain horse Cowboy of Cave Creek Trail Rides

Trail guide Grady with mountain horse Cowboy of Cave Creek Trail Rides

Before leaving CCRP, one Team Gritty member giddy-upped on a post-Christmas trail ride with Cave Creek Trail Rides (Thanks again, MPM, for the Christmas gift certificate!). And rumor has it that another Team Gritty member, secreted in Cowboy’s saddle, made an appearance as well…. Check out some more pics here from that exciting afternoon ride along the Quartz Trail.

At McDowell Mountain Regional Park, our well-situated campsite provides 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain ranges, including a sweet vista of the Four Peaks. The Superstition Mountains vie for our attention and far below and to the west, the town of Fountain Hills makes it own splash with a powerful fountain that shoots water 330-feet into the air twice an hour, from morning ’til dark (rumor has it that the town colors the water green for St. Patty’s Day!).

In the early evenings, the coyotes’ howls signal that it’s about 5:15 pm, time for a glass of red wine and a stroll around the Park. We’ve taken advantage of the campground’s close proximity to trailheads and hiked along a few of the 59 miles of extensive trails. One late afternoon we hiked along Stoneman Wash trail, which follows a dry river bed of the same name. Remnants of a wildfire that raged through a large portion of McDowell Mountain Park in 1996 can still be seen along the Wash.

Our frequent campsite guests include jackrabbits, desert cottontails, Red-tailed Hawks, ravens, Gambel’s quail, cactus wrens … and a wily coyote who strode through one afternoon—not six feet from Matthew while he was working on a manuscript outside of the Airstream. Whoa, that’ll send a shiver up yer spine!

The beautiful winter desert landscape also has given us pause to reflect on the life-changing events of the past few years, the thrill of selling up and striking out on the trail, the incredible friendships we’ve made, and the bittersweet feeling of leaving behind family and friends. We are constantly amazed at, and thankful for, the generosity and kindness of the people we meet in our travels, and the support our family and friends give us—even if they think we’re nuts!—as we venture forth. And with that adventurous spirit that drove so many in the past Westward, Team Gritty looks forward to a year filled with exploration of lands not-yet seen…. Stay tuned!

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