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March 17, 2018

Cactus League 2018 - Wrap up

After attending Spring Training in AZ for many years, starting back when the Padres were in Yuma! and there was no cost to tailgate behind the chain link fence, the Cactus Practice games now cost more than a regular season game at PetCo Park!

I have attended a game at every stadium in the Cactus League, including the Padres when they were in Yuma and the Rockies when they were in Tucson.  I had been to all 9 of the ballparks in the Cactus League and then the Chicago Cubs opened Sloan Park, making a 10th venue for my Bucket List.  The last time we tried to go to Sloan Park it was a sell-out, so this time I bought tickets online as soon as they went on sale.

But there was another reason to go this year, with Ichiro back in a Mariners uniform, that was our first game.  If just to say goodbye to one of the best, as he plays his last season back with the  Mariners where he started.

My Padres were smoked by KC at Surprise Stadium 4 – 0 as in zip for the Padres.  But the following day they made a late comeback with 3 runs in the 7th to beat the Cubs.

We are settled in the Usery Mountain Regional Park.  As we walk the trails it is abundantly clear the area of the Sonoran Desert is under great stress from the prolonged drought.   What’s left of this cholla is now a packrat nest.  The ribs of this saguaro remain standing although the cactus is long gone.

The barrel cactus tend to lean to the south, as the north side grows faster.

The saguaro often are found with the palo verde trees, which provide shelter as they mature.

Healthy saguaros are abundant, the one below even has a cactus wren that is nesting within.  However the one in the background is not what it appears – it is affectionately called a ‘cell-guaro’. It provides the strong Verizon signal to the campers.

At the Nature Center the landscape is on a drip irrigation system allowing the plants to thrive.  The hummingbirds were feeding on a large chuparosa there.

Back at our campsite our little feeder was getting quite a bit of attention also.

Took this wren a few tries to figure out he needed to land sideways on the feeder to have any hope of getting a taste of the nectar.

We spotted this massive crested arm on a saguaro off North Usery Pass Road.

I always schedule a couple of days to enjoy unrelated baseball  options in the Phoenix area.  We rented a couple of eBikes and cruised around Scottsdale.  The shop is across the street from McDowell Preserve with all those awesome trails, but our rental bikes were not capable of riding on the trails.  But we did cruise past the Jalapeno Inferno … I’ve got to get back there!

Another day we rode the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake.  We  first rode the Dolly on Lake Pleasant.  I have seen pictures of the relocation – not an easy task.  This is a beautiful ride with the canyon walls nearly 1000’ above the lake surface.

There is a section with caves along one of the cliffs, which provide homes to hundreds of bats.

A few years ago we took an evening cruise on the Dolly, also on Canyon Lake, and spotted over a dozen big horn sheep (link HERE), but only one today.

Afterwards we stopped at the tourist trap of Tortilla Flats for lunch.  There’s really not much here, but it sure draws the tourists.  The restaurant walls are covered with dollar bills.  This all started in 1974 when a Saudi laborer left a 500 riyal note in the tip jar.  It was pretty and unusual so it was hung on the wall.

The Mercantile did have a book with hikes just for me!

The only ballpark I have not been to is the Spring Training Home of the Chicago Cubs.  It’s a great venue, there’s not a bad seat.  There’s no vendors, or buildings between field and the fan.  Just the batter’s eye in center field.  No wonder it consistently sells out, it’s a great place to watch a game.

I was not impressed with their World Famous Chicago Dog.  Just different toppings on a regular dog IMHO.

We had another great time in the Valley of the Sun, including Usery's Ranger B's very funny and informative nature walks on rattlesnakes, cacti, etc.  But our week here is over and it’s time to head back to the beach.  A couple thoughts: 1. they drive FAST, not rude, just in a hurry to be somewhere else; 2. little solar in the valley of the sun … whatzup?

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too” ~Yogi Berra


  1. Always a good day when you spot a crested saguaro! That crested arms looks quite old. It may have only been one sheep but you did see one! The boat trip looks like great fun.

  2. I haven't been to any of those places yet wasn't too far away last week visiting friends at Casa Grande NM. Nice find on the cristate.

  3. I'm sure you are correct Pam the saguaro must be quite old and still fairly healthy to support the weight of that crested arm. Congrats again on your home purchase!, you, of all people, could put in a a crested succulents garden in place of the putting green.

  4. Geez Gaelyn, I had to look up cristate! Thanks for the new word, bet it would be fun to go on a ranger walk/talk with you!

  5. Looks like you are enjoying you fill of baseball and the Chicago Dog looks just like the dogs I make, yummy !

  6. It is fun to watch the wannabes doing their best to make the team. Not quite your hot dog no peanut butter

  7. Hikes for Creaky Knees! I need that book!

  8. LOL! Suzi I'm still in looking over my copy! Lots of good suggestions. On the talk with Usery's Ranger B.I introduced myself as 'tripod'. Once this knee heals I'll share my copy :)


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