Sure enough, the 30+ car pileup caused by a surprise dust storm on I-10
south of Phoenix near Casa Grande, about halfway to Tucson, was the lead story
on every local station and the national NBC Evening News show. The freeway was
closed for several hours while the mess was cleaned up. Three or four
victims were dead on the scene. Over a dozen people were airlifted to
hospitals, more taken by ground in ambulances. Some of the vehicles exploded on
impact and were so decimated that investigators were having a hard time even
identifying the type of vehicles, let alone who was in them. Very sad.
Other dust storms hit the western side of Phoenix, too. I don't know if
they caused any wrecks from lack of visibility but the high winds caused some
Meanwhile, farther north of Phoenix toward Flagstaff the storm brought
freezing rain and snow with its high winds, creating havoc on I-17 and other
roads. More pile-ups occurred when drivers slid into each other, unable to see
through the blinding snow. We didn't hear about any fatalities there, thank
Jim and I were oblivious to the drama as we ran errands in the early
afternoon in Scottsdale in eastern metro Phoenix. All we had was 1/4 to 1/3
inch of much-needed rain and some moderate wind. We lucked out and stopped
grumbling about the rain as soon as we heard how bad it was for other folks
only fifty miles north and south of us.
Storm clouds east of Phoenix this afternoon
The storm system brought in much colder air to the Valley of the Sun. Overnight
temperatures this week will be in the mid- to upper-30s in the valley and a few
degrees chillier at our campground several hundred feet higher up, a definite
signal that winter is upon us even in southern Arizona. At least the sunshine
will return tomorrow. We'll just have to bundle up a bit more when we go
outside. No more 60s and 70s until after Christmas. Highs will be only in the
40s and 50s (normal highs are in the 60s).
That's OK. We've still got better weather than most of the country. We know
many folks are having a very difficult time getting where they want to be this
holiday week because of weather problems ranging from snow and ice to
tornadoes. We're happy to be where we are for now.
MORE SKY DRAMA
I love to watch the changing patterns in the sky from our perch in the
McDowell Mountain Regional Park campground. That's one reason we like this
place so much. Most of the sites are wonderful vantage points with a 360° view of the
mountains around us.
Some days the sunrises and sunsets are just spectacular, particularly when
there are clouds to reflect the changing colors. The Goldfield and Superstition
Mountains in the Tonto National Forest to the east and south are usually more interesting at
dusk as they morph through a range of pinks and reds than the McDowell Range to
We aren't up early enough to see the sunrise every morning but when we are,
dawn over the Four Peaks Wilderness can be even more colorful:
Most sunrises are more subtle than that one. The next photo shows soft, muted colors over the
mountains in the Wilderness. Although this is a
sunset, some of the sunrises look very similar:
Although the mountains surrounding McDowell
Mountain Park aren't as high as those in the Rockies (the highest one nearby is
Browns Peak at 7,657 feet), they are weather-makers none-the-less. Their
interesting jagged peaks are cloud magnets:
This afternoon we saw a beautiful double
rainbow when the first round of storms passed through the area northeast of
Phoenix and the sun peeked out from the dark clouds. We were driving east
toward and through the town of Fountain Hills when I took this photo as Jim was
Pictures probably would have been even more
dramatic if taken from McDowell Park but the rainbows were gone by the time we
got home. (Home is where our camper is.)
The mountains around Phoenix are scenic no
matter what the weather is doing -- even
when the metro area's smog partially obscures them. On a hazy day they remind
me of the layers of fading blues that are so typical of the appropriately-named
Blue Ridge Mountains in the Appalachian chain:
Well, maybe except for the Saguaro cacti! Those are a dead
give-away that we're in the Southwest.
To my disappointment we still haven't seen any coyotes or
javelinas near our campsite. We see evidence that they have come
around, we just haven't spotted them yet. We can often hear
coyote choruses in the distance, both from our camper and from
various points in the eastern and northern part of the park when
we are running. Cody hears them but isn't very interested even
when they've traipsed through our campsite on previous visits
The Granite Trail passes close to the
southern campground loop.
One day recently Cody and I were returning to the campground
on the Granite Trail (above) after running/hiking an 11-mile circuit on the Bluff and
Pemberton Trails on the rocky southwestern side of the park near the McDowell
Mountains. From a ridge above one of the many washes that has
eroded the terrain we could hear two coyotes "talking" to each
other nearby. I looked for them but couldn't see the one that
was closest to us. It wasn't the high-pitched group "singing"
that we usually hear, but two
coyotes separated by some distance that were communicating with
each other, perhaps a warning about our presence.
This time Cody's fur was standing up on his shoulders. He was on
full alert status. There was something about the howls this time that
caused him to react differently. We listened to the coyotes for
a couple of minutes, then moved on, fascinated with the sounds
of the desert.
Tonight Jim went outside after dark and saw something BIG moving
across the road in front of our camper. Then he saw two more . . .
horses! They were headed from their more remote rangeland in the park to
the interior of our camping loop. We've seen them out on the
trails but never in the campground before.
One day I took photos
of these three roaming horses; a fourth was hidden in the trees
on the left:
The horses reportedly belong to a ranch on the northern border
of the park and are allowed to freely graze inside the park.
They appear to have the run of the whole place. They aren't really wild but they won't let us pet them, either. They eat
what little grass is available.
horse hidden in the palo verde trees on the left was eating
the little green leaves, which surprised me. I know that is
characteristic of deer and elk. Guess I don't know much about
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil