The White Tank Mountains are my absolute favourite mountain range in Arizona. Climbing the Waterfall trail, which starts from the centre of the mountain range and heads up into the rock face, is a tradition for me and my family whenever we're back in Phoenix and so I was very excited to take Dan there with me on his first whole day in Arizona.
On our "official" first day, Dan took me straight from the plane, directly into the red and white tiled walls of In-N-Out. I'd never been to In-N-Out before and, seeing as I'm not vegetarian on vacation, I was more than excited to dive into a sampling of Dan's favourite American fast-food! It was beyond delicious and yet so simple, although most of the best things I've eaten are just as such.
Walking into the restaurant and seeing an entire menu no bigger than the drinks selection at similar fast food joints was both surprising and refreshing. We placed our order for two cheeseburgers with a side of animal fries and sat on the black and white tiled benches, sipping the sweet syrup from a nearby Dr Pepper machine. Once we'd been served our food by a kindly gentleman in a paper hat, we headed out the door to pick up one last Phoenix-first-day-staple: Cherry Limeades from SONIC!!!
As we pulled up to the drive-in, rolled down the window, letting the hot summer air pour in, we placed our order and the voice on the other side asked us if we'd like to up-size our drink for only 44 cents!! Feeling in the All-American mood, we agreed and were promptly wheeled out two-gallon sized barrels of Cherry Limeade. Suffice is to say, we ended up falling asleep at 5 pm as a direct reaction to all that American-ambrosia. But we awoke the next morning well rested and full of vacation-vigor - ready to set out on our first Sonoran Desert adventure!
I awoke at 5 am from my 12-hour "nap", the sunlight gently peeking through the blinds in our bedroom. Dan slept quietly by my side and trying not to wake him, I slipped out from beneath the quilted blanket, grabbed my keys and snuck out into the garage where my beautiful bike sat waiting for me. I threw the keys into the basket and headed out the door. The warm Phoenix sun was rising against the sky, and I watched it slowly peek it's head up as I biked along the empty roads.....as I went, the smell of freshly made doughnuts filled my nostrils, and I quickly followed the trail to a tiny little shop along the main road. The women inside were busily stocking the glass cases with fresh and sweet doughnuts. I chatted with them for a bit and found out that they had only been open for two days, so I thought it my duty as a fellow, albeit temporary, Goodyear resident to buy them out! I had no cash on me so I grabbed my bike to rush back home and get back on my way. Dan was awake by this time (5:30 am), and he happily agreed to join me on our good baked runs! We biked back side by side, arriving at smiling, excited faces and filled my basket with a dozen freshly baked doughnuts of all different flavours, shapes and sizes....After a sweet little breakfast sitting by the pool, we packed a little luncheon and headed out towards the mountains, the sun on our tail, rising into the bright, blue cloudless world above....
With plenty of water and sunflower seeds in the toe (as displayed by Dan so wonderfully below) we made out way into the park, grabbed our map from a chipper park ranger and I clumsily guided us towards the Waterfall trail entrance! We parked our newly rented, trigger happy, car in the almost empty parking lot at the base of the trail, grabbed our snacks and took off!
The summer heat was seemingly too much for other hikers as we had this usually packed trail all to ourselves. The desert is an oddly quiet environment compared to other parks you might visit in around the world. Occasionally you'll hear the rustle of a snake in the grass or a hawk overhead but for the most part, the only sound you'll hear is the gentle shuffle of your feet on the dusty, dirt road. After a busy, stressful few months in the city - this quiet was a welcome interlude.
The Waterfall Trail is a beginners hike that takes you through all the beautifully weird flora and fauna that Arizona has to offer. Cacti is abundant on the trail, gnarled old staghorn slump on the sidelines; barrel cacti poke their heads out of the rocks, and even playful teddy bear cacti hide menacingly along the side of the road - ready to pounce!
The White Tank Mountains get their name from the huge flash floods that sent rainwater pouring down the canyon year after year, creating depressed (or tanks) in the white granite rocks. These mountains are known to be home to various animals and reptiles but the only playful creatures out and about on the rocks that day were ourselves!!! And we liked it that way!
Sometimes, when there's been a significant amount of rainfall, at the top of this trail, a temporary waterfall appears seemingly from out of nowhere - falling from the sky. Although there was no waterfall as we found ourselves at the top of the trail, we had a lovely time sitting down beneath the shade of the mountain and eating our early morning hiking snack pack I made for our little jaunt.
The White Tanks also have little, hidden treasures along the road, from old water barrels to ancient petroglyphs - there is always something wonderful to see!
Dan was the besttest hiking buddy ever! We had a jolly old' time and got to soak happily in some of the most lovely Sonoran desert views you can get so close to the city. Walking down from the top, you have the chance to take in the view and look at the sprawling desert, slowly disappear as the city pops up in the distance. From above, the rugged mountains that surround the valley seem to tightly cradle that precious little city in their palms, keeping it safe from the world outside. I took hold tight the hand of my precious one as we made our way back down to the city below, hand in hand, wishing days like these would never end...