Baseball fans are counting the days. 2018 spring training is about to get underway. For the Cactus League, 15 major league teams head to the Greater Phoenix area to practice cracking bats under sunny skies.
With so many teams and stadiums in close proximity to each other, catching numerous games in play is easy. Well, in theory at least. With so much to see in the desert that isn’t tied to a baseball field, fans may have some tough choices to make.
Up, Up and Away
It’s almost unfair when the competition includes a hot air balloon ride over the Sonoran desert.
Balloon flights give you a whole new perspective of the desert terrain and they are one of those bucket list items. My flight with Hot Air Expeditions came with a 6:15 hotel departure, departure, but it was worth rolling out of bed before the sun came up.
It’s quiet and still in between the hot air bursts of the balloon’s propane burners. And those propane burners put off heat, so dress in layers, and it’s not a bad idea to wear a hat to keep your head from getting hot. After many of the rides, you’re welcomed back to solid ground with a champagne toast and a picnic-style breakfast in the desert.
Kayak with a Buddy
It comes as an unexpected surprise to many visitors, but there’s water in the desert. Beat the heat in between games with a kayaking trip on the lower Salt River.
Arizona Outback Adventures guides half-day trips on the Lower Salt River and they often come with some extra special company – wild mustangs. According to a 2017 census, more than 400 mustangs live along the entirety of the Salt River. Some believe the wild horses are descendants of Iberian horses originally brought to the area by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. The horses have their own Facebook page.
The water is mellow, so much so, my guide told me he’s had folks fall asleep floating along. AS appealing as it sounds, if you close your eyes you might miss the eagles, beavers and otters that also call the Lower Salt River home.
Watch the Sun Set from Taliesin West
Frank Lloyd Wright left a lasting impression in the desert with Taliesin West. Built in the 1930s, but constantly expanded and changed throughout his life, the famous home and architecture school was built by Wright and his apprentices using rocks, sand and other desert items so the building would blend in with its surroundings.
If you can make it work schedule-wise, night tours come with fabulous sunsets and the opportunity to see the property’s fire breathing dragon.
Cosanti Bronze Bells
One of Wright’s apprentices, (or maybe competitor depending on your interpretation) Paolo Soleri settled in Paradise Valley, in the mid-1950s and created Cosanti to serve as his home and studio.
He experimented with many things, but was well known for his hand-poured bronze windbells. Weekday tours provide a behind-the-scenes look at Cosanti, to see the dusty space that was once his studio, and watch artisans carry on the tradition of shaping bells from glowing, liquid bronze heated to 2,200 degrees.
Guides have extensive background, and some knew Soleri personally. Tours of the earth-formed concrete structures take place Monday through Friday at 11am.
Take a Hike
The Mesa and Scottsdale area is known for its miles and miles of hiking trails. Camelback Mountain always delivers a good workout and might be the most recognizable name, but photo worthy views are plentiful in these parts. Usery Mountain Regional Park stretches more than 3,600 acres and offers more than 30 miles of trails ranging from easy to strenuous. The Wind Cave Trail is one of the park’s most popular hikes. It’s a moderate to difficult hike that will take most two to three hours round-trip.
Dana’s trip was organized by Experience Scottsdale, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.