We kicked off the first week of 2018 at Usery Mountain Regional Park outside of Phoenix, AZ.  By the end of our six days there, we had a pretty long list of pros and cons regarding this campground.  While absolutely beautiful (see photos below), we’d found ourselves in one of the least-friendly dog areas we could be.  Never before have I seen so much cactus of so many different varieties.  It was everywhere and our very first day we somehow just barely avoided a cactus disaster with Kaia (see photo below).  Unfortunately her instincts, when it comes to cactus, are non-existent.  Between the cactus, the nearby shooting range with CONSTANT gunfire from 8am-8pm and drivers that refused to use caution around pedestrians, we were ready to wrap up this leg of our travels and move on.  However, looking back at these photos, I’m still glad we got to see this area.  It’s gorgeous and the hiking and biking trails are a definite highlight to this park.  It also didn’t hurt at all that it was 75 degrees and sunny the entire week we were there.  Arizona is definitely the place to be this time of year if you’re looking to avoid the cold, fluffy white stuff.

usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park

This right here is the cholla cactus, and there’s no getting away from it.  Pieces fall off and gather in piles around the base of it.  Then they dry out and blow around like little tumbleweeds covered in needles.  They blend in with the dirt and hide underneath seemingly innocent looking shrubs.  And when they get you, they grab on and don’t want to come out.  Thanks to their ball-like shape covered in spines, you can’t exactly just pull it out.  After Kaia’s encounter, we carried pliers and sturdy work gloves with us on every walk.
usery mountain regional park

The moment this happened she started pawing at her face and licking.  She nearly pawed it right in to her eye.  I was able to get her to stand still while I called Mark and told him we needed his help.  He was able to remove it from her face, jowls and paws with pliers.  I feel for any dog owner that gets in these situations without tools or a dog that can’t remain calm.
usery mountain regional park

During our 7.5 mile hike around Pass Mountain, Cholla struck again.  This time going straight thru Mark’s leather boot and into his foot.  I’m telling you people…that Cholla is nasty stuff!
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park

It may not be a very welcoming environment but it has a beauty all it’s own.  The landscape of this cactus-laden desert is truly unlike anywhere else.
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park

Did you know the saguaro usually doesn’t grow it’s first arm until it’s 70 years old?  How cool is that?!
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park
usery mountain regional park

That’s all for our stop in Phoenix.  With fresh groceries on board and an appetite for something new, we set off to much lesser-known areas of Arizona.  It was time to get back to boondocking.