Veterans Memorial, Anthem, Arizona

On our usual trips to Phoenix we leave Zoe at home with a new dog bone and strict orders to run for the house if a coyote, or God forbid, a snake gets into the yard. As near as we can tell she follows the rules, doesn’t get into trouble and seems happy to see us when we get home. OK, there was the time she got out of the kitchen area and managed to turn on the hot water tap on the bath tub, but that’s another story. The last time we took Zoe with us to Phoenix she went upstairs to investigate the bedrooms and found a treasure. She proceeded to run through Tricia’s family room with a Victoria Secret bra in her mouth. Don’t ask! So Zoe has to stay home and we make it a one day trip.

There are several things we’d wanted to see in the Cave Creek/Scottsdale area and decided to just treat it like we would when we stop on our summer sojourns. Zoe is used to traveling and is content to stay in the motorhome and look out the windows while we take in the sights. People tell us she sits in the drivers seat and wait for us.

We found a camping spot in the Cave Creek Regional Park, a nice winter destination, it is desert similar to what we have here around the Desert Museum. We saw RVs from Idaho, Missouri, Utah, Oregon so I guess the snowbirds have started their migration.

The Park is located just seven miles east of I-17 on the Carefree Highway in Cave Creek. After getting settled, we zipped down Carefree Highway to Scottsdale Road, south to the 101 for our first adventure, the Butterfly Wonderland. The butterflies are celebrating Winter Wonderland and there were beautiful young ladies dressed in long white robes with gorgeous white Victoria Secret wings. They stood on pedestals with fans blowing their robes and wings, while they overlooked the rainforest Butterflies and moths of every size and color were flying all over. The rainforest provides lush greenery and the perfect landing sites for these lovely butterflies. We tried our best to get pictures but we soon discovered it isn’t easy to get pictures of butterflies, they are just never still.

We enjoyed the 3D movie about the monarch butterflies life and migration. Not that we are out of touch, but did you know the 3D glasses aren’t cardboard with red and blue plastic lens anymore? Who knew? Monty poked me when I tried to catch a passing butterfly, but it wasn’t like I was the only one doing it!

Wonderland Angles

The story about the monarch is fascinating, we knew they migrated from as far away as the Great Lakes down to Mexico every year, but we didn’t realize it takes three generations to get there, the third generation of the monarch is referred to as the super monarch and he/she makes the longest trip. I guess some of the others just spend time lounging around Texas, laying eggs on the milkweed.

Daughter, Tricia, joined us for the butterfly tour and we met Eric at Market Place Kitchen for appetizers and wine afterward. Phoenix has some delightful areas like this one located in north Scottsdale. Tucked away between a busy street and a residential area you enter a twisting narrow lane with trendy shops, small cafes and a lush court yard park with real grass, benches, and sculptures. It almost looks European in the setting, delightful street lamps and lights in the trees complete the picture. We sat out on the patio, drank excellent wine, ate appetizers and people-watched while we visited.

The next morning we took Zoe with us to look around the area where we were parked. There are a lot of hiking trails leaving from the visitor center and picnic tables under ramadas everywhere. At the stable you can rent horses for a trail ride. In the visitor center there is an interesting story about a woman who discovered a clay mine up in these hills in the late 1800’s. She created an elixir of clay and who knows what, and sold it as a life prolonging tonic. She actually had a lot of people that would swear by the stuff and it made her rich. She eventually succumbed to health issues, guess she didn’t drink enough of the tonic, and the mine was sold several times after that.

Our destination this morning is the Veterans Memorial Park in Anthem, just up I-17 a couple of miles. To refresh your memory this simple but magnificent sculpture consists of five marble upright slabs, each slab has an ellipse and at precisely 11:11 a.m. each Veterans Day (11/11), the sun’s rays pass through the ellipses of the five Armed Services pillars to form a perfect solar spotlight over a mosaic of The Great Seal of the United States. I wish we could have been there on Veterans Day but it is a moving display anytime. There are several benches around the brickwork patio to provide a place to sit and think about those that have given so much for our freedom.

Veterans Park, Anthem

The next time you are heading up north take exit 229 and it is just a couple of blocks to the park. You can’t miss the park, the first thing to get your attention is the water falling over the rocks and into a lovely pond; flowers were bordering the paths, then there is the green grass everywhere, well, except for the roller hockey rink and skateboard park. The playground is every kids dream. We loved this place.

Right across I-17 is the huge Anthem outlet mall. Monty said it was closed, that’s our standard joke when we pass an outlet mall, Monty always says they are closed. I’ve yet to actually go to one! Back to the RV for lunch and to settle Zoe for the afternoon while we go to the OdysSea Acquarium, located next door to the Butterfly Wonderland.

We’ve been to the aquarium on the bay in Monterey, California so we might have been a bit skeptical about one located in the middle of the desert but we were pleasantly surprised. We were treated to another 3D movie, this one featuring whales and while I tried to catch a butterfly or two I was a bit worried about the whales landing in my lap. The displays were very nice and we saw all manner of fish.

Diver Answering Questions

There are several special highlights of the aquarium, the first being the carousel show, that has theater chairs that move around to the different large fish tanks, there are even divers in the tank, who answer questions about the various fish you are seeing. It is an interesting way to view the tanks and a nice break after walking around for a while.

The penguin show featured penguins from Africa. I didn’t even know they had penguins in warm climates but apparently they do and these little guys were really cute. They were the usual black and white but very small and fast. They swam around about 90 miles an hour and jumped in and out of the water. It was feeding time and the attendants were feeding them little fish, they burn a lot of calories and the attendants were making sure everyone got their share. We couldn’t figure out how they could tell one from another to make sure everyone got something to eat.

There is an escalator slowly descending thru a giant tube of water with fish swimming all around.  It was exciting to see a shark swim overhead. They even have a giant sloth, I can’t figure out what he had to do with an acquarium but I guess they need a ‘spokes person’ and you just can’t get a fish to play the part. He was interesting to watch, he had a couple of hammocks in his enclosure and he crawled into one and pulled the blanket in over his face and then peeked out at us. That took about 20 minutes they are realllllly slow. Odd creatures.

The not to be missed best feature of this aquarium is the bathroom. Yep, you read that correctly, the bathroom. In fact it was voted the best bathroom in America by potty talk magazine. When you walk in the door you are looking right into the giant fish tank. There are the usual stalls but the sink area is a giant picture window facing the largest fish tank. So while you wash your hands a shark swims by and the barracuda looks in the window. It is awesome!

There is a combination ticket price for the butterflies and the aquarium. The great part is they can be used anytime. Visit one today and come back next month to see the other. We divide it up between two days and it was perfect.

Large Tank View From the Bathroom

That evening we went into the old town of Cave Creek, to grab a burger, we passed up Big Earl’s Greasy Eats and headed right to the Buffalo Chips Saloon. Tricia and her youngest daughter, Rachel, joined us for burgers and beer at the bar and we watched the country dance lessons. Cave Creek is an old mining town established in the 1800’s. When we went there many years ago there was a main street with a couple of saloons and that was it but now they have a lot of trendy shops and upscale art galleries along with the saloon that features live bull riding. A sign at the edge of town reminds drivers, ‘horses always have the right of way’.

The houses surrounding the town are definitely way upscale. We enjoy seeing the housing areas in Phoenix, especially out here where the subdivisions are new. Most of them have signs with houses starting at $850,000. The houses are beautiful and everything blends into the desert. Most of the roadways are somewhat twisty and all are landscaped with beautiful desert vegetation.

Next on the agenda is a tour of the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. I see a lot of their wildlife posts on Facebook. Monty is sort of like ,OK, where are we going? Do we have a tour scheduled? Did we pay for this? SWCC, is where we are going, and yes, 10 am and yes, we are helping to feeding the animals with our tour $’s. We both loved this place, it was well run, very clean, the enclosures were spacious and the animals looked well cared for. These are rescued animals that cannot be re-introduced to the wild for one reason or another, so they have found a home at the center for life. Our guide today is a young lady with a Master’s Degree from ASU. Stephanie is excellent and really seems to enjoy sharing stories about the various animals.

Tochia

There are several areas of the center; rehab where animals that might be able to return to the wild are kept away from people so they don’t become accustomed to seeing people. The medical facility takes in injured animals and some of these turn out to be permanent residents. The permanent residents are the ones on we can visit. Surprisingly, a lot of the animals that cannot be returned to the wild are ones that people kept as pets and then decided they didn’t make good pets. Duh! A mountain lion isn’t a good pet. Most of the animals taken in as pets weren’t fed properly. Many are suffering from bone loss due to an insufficient diet. They weren’t strong enough to set free and they are accustomed to having food delivered instead of hunting.

It would take too long to tell you about all of the animals and even just about my favorites but you know I’m going to try because sharing is fun. Let’s start with a favorite, I think Tocha the Mountain Lion was magnificent. He satisfied my bucket list request to see a mountain lion up close. We weren’t three feet away from this guy as he settled on his platform waiting for his mousesicle (a mouse popsicle ) Stephanie brought for him. There were two females sharing his enclosure but they were a little shy and were anxious to take their treat to the other side of the enclosure so Tocha didn’t get any ideas he could have theirs too. This magnificent beast was just gorgeous and I could have stayed there for hours just looking at him. Did you know Mountain Lions can purr? Yep, just offer one a mousesicle and find out.

Two snow white foxes were acquired from the midwest where someone was raising them for their fur, terrible thought to kill them just to have a few fur collars. Another animal we never would have recognized as a fox was charcoal and black and about the size of a medium sized dog. Really a large fox, he was also raised for his fur and the larger the animal the more fur. Glad these guys are with the refuge.

We were surprised to see there were four really large black bears at the facility. Each with their own enclosure but they came together to grab a peanut butter treat. The docent just smeared the stuff on the chain link fence and the bears came over to lick it off. Again, never thought I’d get this close to a bear. These are bears that found it too easy to steal garbage and live around people. Often times Fish and Game will relocate them but if they keep returning to the local garbage cans , stronger measures have to be taken. Lucky for these guys the Center had room for them.

Bobcat with his bird

I think my favorite critter was a young bobcat, he was as cute as any young cat and he was so proud of himself because he caught a bird. He was just sitting there waiting for us to see his treasure. He ran around with it and played just like a domestic cat. Ok, I felt kind of bad for the bird but I guess that’s the way of the wild. Funny there were several other bobcats in the enclosure and they just kept out of the way, one seemed taken aback that this cat had a bird.

Bobcats are beautiful and I’m so glad we have them here. When we first moved into our house there was a bobcat and a rattle snake playing games just outside our fence. The snake kept rattling and the bobcat kept taking swipes at it until the cat got bored and moved on.

There was a huge cat at the Center that looked like a large leopard but was actually a mix of leopard and tiger I guess he is a liger. This guy was rescued from a roadside attraction and is somewhat fearful of people. Stephanie said he was afraid of sudden movement and loud noises and asked us to be quiet and not wave our hands. He had a nice small barn he could go into if he wasn’t interested in seeing anyone and his enclosure was all nice and grassy because he had sore feet.

The Mexican Grey wolves looked a lot like large German Shepherds. There are only 113 of these Grey Wolves left in the Southwest and the center is part of a breeding program to save the species. We were tickled at Stephanie explaining to our tour that the females they had at the center were more mature and not able to bear young. While the boys still had ‘gifts’ to share. Thus they are part of a breeding program.

We lucked out on this tour because it was a small group of home schooled kids and us. They were nice kids and most importantly they weren’t very tall so we got to see everything like we were in the front row. This was a great trip!

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