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Desert Plants and Wildlife Outdoor recreation Things to Do

Desert Belle Cruises: The perfect Fall adventure!

Fall is the perfect time to visit the upper canyon of Saguaro Lake, one of the series of lakes of Arizona’s Salt River.  Located only 20 minutes from Fountain Hills, the mountains and vistas include stunning views of Four Peaks and many of the Superstition Mountain vistas. 

Originally launched in 1964, the Desert Belle has been cruising the waters of Saguaro Lake for over fifty years. 

Choose from the upper viewing deck or downstairs in air-conditioned comfort and you won’t be disappointed! There’s always a combination of exotic Arizona wildlife, towering canyon walls and dramatic desert vistas.

This is the perfect spot for both Arizona residents and out-of-town guests. The Desert Belle is a unique way to enjoy all the beauty that Arizona has to offer.  The Belle offers bar service with food and an impressive line of beverages. 

Choose from a variety of cruises! The popular 80-minute Narration Cruise suits all family members. Cruises suited to a bit older crowd of 13-years and older include the Music Cruise, Wine and Music Cruise or Craft Beer & Music Cruise. 

Be sure to reserve early….they book up fast!  Check them out at desertbelle.com

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About Fountain Hills Around Arizona Community Engagement Culture Desert Plants and Wildlife Local Businesses Local Events Outdoor recreation Real Estate Schools The Verdes Things to Do Yard and Garden

Summer 2022’s Desert Vibe Magazine Is Here!

The second quarterly issue of Desert Vibe magazine is finally here, and it’s full of must-see information about local events, listings, and market information!

Here are some of the things you’ll see in the summer Vibe:

This Desert Vibe, as with the previous, is being released in an online-only format, with interactive links to everything you’ll need! To read the full Desert Vibe magazine, go to DesertVibe.com/Magazine.

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About Fountain Hills Community Engagement Local Events Outdoor recreation Things to Do

The Spirit of Bavaria Lives at Oktoberfest 2022!

Can you hear the polka music playing? For several years now, Fountain Hills has been home to an annual Oktoberfest for the whole town to participate in some classic Bavarian festivities.

Oktoberfest has been a tradition in South Germany for over 200 years, beginning in 1810 as a celebration for the Bavarian King Ludwig I’s marriage. Since then, Oktoberfest spread across what would become Germany, and eventually to the United States.

Oktoberfest in the United States stayed concentrated to regions with high German populations until after World War II, when it finally began to spread to the rest of the country, eventually including Fountain Hills.

This Bavarian-style celebration features live music, costumes, German foods, and of course: Beer! You’ll see authentic details such as long tables decorated with blue and white paper, perfect for meeting friends and enjoying your beer and pretzels.

Participate in various themed contests for prizes, such as the Beer Stein holding contest, the Alphorn blowing contest, and the Bavarian Costume Contest.

While you do have to be 21 or older to purchase the beer, there is a free Kidz’ Zone full of activities for young Oktoberfest fans.

This year’s Oktoberfest will take place on the evenings of September 23rd and 24th, 2022 from 5:00PM through 10:00PM. Pre-admission tickets cost $5, and tickets purchased at the gate will cost $10.

For more information on how you can get into the Bavarian spirit this fall, go to fountainhillschamber.com

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About Fountain Hills Community Engagement Culture Holidays Local Businesses Local Events Outdoor recreation Things to Do

2022 Turkey Trot Ticket Giveaway!

The 32nd annual Turkey Trot is kicking off Fountain Hills’ Thanksgiving! This year, the Sonoran Lifestyle Team is the Turkey Trot’s presenting sponsor, and we’ll be there the whole time

As presenting sponsors of the event, we have five extra tickets sitting around that we’d like to give away. If you’ve run the Trot in previous years and want a chance at a free ticket, your big opportunity is here!

Runners waiting for the 2021 Turkey Trot to begin.

Leading up to this year’s Turkey Trot, we’re going to be giving away five spots at the run FOR FREE! That’s right, if you want a chance to save $30 in registration, all you have to do is:

  • Send a picture of yourself at a previous year’s Turkey Trot to Sonoran@SonoranLifestyle.com,
  • or tag @sonoranlifestyle with your photo on Instagram.

There are only five free spots available, so don’t delay! We’ll reply to the FIRST five entries with instructions for receiving their free tickets.

The Turkey Trot will take place at 7:15AM on Thanksgiving morning, November 24th. We’ll see you there!

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About Fountain Hills Around Arizona Culture Outdoor recreation The Verdes Things to Do

How The “Beeline” Highway Got Its Name

For residents of the east valley, the Beeline Highway is an important part of daily life, the gateway to the Mogollon Rim. It’s the only modern highway that connects to Fountain Hills.

The official name of the road is State Route 87, so you might wonder: why is it called “The Beeline Highway?”

History of Travel from Rim to Valley

You can see in this 1937 map that the Bush Highway follows its modern route. This is 21 years before the Beeline Highway. You can also see that the only trail that passes through modern Fountain Hills is likely the Stoneman Road.

The first major car route between Mesa and Payson was the Bush Highway, named after Harvey Granville Bush. He was a lumberman by trade, and thus had homes in Mesa and Payson, where the tall pines grow.

Getting lumber to the Valley from the mountains was a huge challenge during the days of wagons and early automobiles, involving several disjointed trails that went through the dangerous Reno Pass. So, Bush pushed an initiative with the state and the lumber industry to create a unified road from the city to Payson. Completed in 1934, the path, named after Bush, was the best and most convenient route to get to and from the Mogollon Rim.

As Phoenix’s population boomed after World War 2, camping became a larger and larger pastime, and the traffic up the Bush Highway increased drastically. This came to the attention of Grady Gammage, president of Arizona State Teachers College in Tempe. Gammage lobbied the state government and worked with James G. Hart of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to begin the creation of an official State Route to access and pass Payson.

After receiving permission from the Salt River Indian Reservation and Fort McDowell Indian Reservation, construction began.

A new, more convenient route was then built west of the Bush Highway. It was a significant shortcut for most Phoenix residents, considering it connected to West Mesa on Country Club Drive instead of all the way in Apache Junction.

The shortcut was so obvious, that it was considered “taking a bee-line” up to the Rim, with the term “bee-line” being a slang term referring to a shortcut.

While the Bush Highway passes through scenic and mountainous terrain, the Beeline shortcut cuts distance and time and travels along mostly smooth ground.

From then on, the Beeline Highway was paved and expanded on top of, and sometimes next to, the old Bush Highway. The original “bee-line” shortcut ends where the modern Bush Highway meets the Beeline, just north of Goldfield Ranch. You can still see the original route along the modern Beeline to this day, all the way to Payson.

The Beeline Highway as we know it today was fully realized in 1966, with the merging of the old State Route 65 (which connected Winslow to Strawberry) and the ever-expanding path of Route 87.

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Outdoor recreation Things to Do

Independence Day in Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation are both known for their fantastic fireworks shows to commemorate the Fourth of July. While the shows will go on as usual, this year’s schedule is a little bit different than other years.

What is usually dubbed “Fourth at the Fountain” is going to be “First of the Fountain” this year due to supply chain issues. Nevertheless, First at the Fountain is slated to be a fireworks show just as amazing as any other year’s, with live music by the Rock Lobster Band starting at 7:30 PM bringing the town together leading up to the famous fireworks show at 9:00 PM. As usual, the show will take place right in the middle of the Fountain Park.

Fort McDowell’s WeKoPa resort is also known for its grand fireworks displays during the days leading up to the Fourth of July. This year, the show will be “One of These Nights: The Ultimate Eagles Tribute.” With a live performance paying homage to the Eagles at 7:00 PM, leading to an amazing firework show beginning at 9:00 PM.

If you’re going to be in town the weekend of Independence Day, you’re in for a treat with both of these awesome tributes to the independence of the United States of America.

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Culture Desert Plants and Wildlife Outdoor recreation Yard and Garden

Edible Plants in the Sonoran Desert

Most of us don’t pay much attention to the edibility of the many plants in our backyards. Most people just see spiky plants and assume that they’re poisonous or otherwise inedible, beautiful scenery only to be admired. In reality, the desert is full of fruits, beans, and other edible materials that you can find right in your own backyard.

Palo Verde Beans

Palo Verde beans are at their best when they look like this.

Palo Verdes are some of the most common trees in the Sonoran Desert, and they are actually in the legume family. The bean pods, which are currently falling off the trees in droves as of late June, are currently just past their prime. They are best eaten when still soft and green. If you harvest them while they are still in their most easily-edible condition, usually around April or early May, they taste quite similar to snap peas.

Prickly Pear

This prickly pear was prepared by putting a lighter to its thorns and then splitting it in half with a knife, scooping out the contents with a spoon.

Prickly Pears are some of the most famous edible plants in the Sonoran Desert. Prickly Pear pads can be de-thorned and cooked, turning them into “nopales,” a signature ingredient in many Mexican foods. The fruits of the prickly pear, after being carefully picked with tongs and de-thorned either with flames or towels (or both), can be eaten, juiced, or made into syrups. Often foods made of/with prickly pear fruit are served at restaurants as one of Arizona’s classic endemic flavors.

Wolfberries/Goji

Desert Hackberries (pictured) taste good and are filled with antioxidants.

If you’re ever out hiking and you see large bushes with red or yellow berries on them, you’re most likely looking at hackberries, wolfberries, or goji berries. Before eating random berries in the wilderness, be sure to do what you can to ensure that what you’re looking at is one of these three edible options and not something poisonous. Once you’re sure, you can pick these berries and eat them with no special preparation. They are in the same family as tomatoes and tomatillos (which also grow out here if you know where to look), so you’ll taste something reminiscent of tomato when you try these native berries.

Ocotillo Flowers and Leaves

These ocotillo flowers are edible and taste super sweet.

Ocotillos, contrary to popular belief, are not cacti, but rather drought-deciduous bushes endemic to the American southwest and Mexico. After significant rains, ocotillos often become covered in small leaves, which taste like spinach when consumed. Every spring, ocotillos bloom brilliantly with bright red flower stalks at the top of each branch. These flowers can also be harvested, and taste quite sweet.

Saguaro Fruit

Saguaro fruits are traditionally picked with one of these long sticks.

Saguaros are one of the most popular symbols of Arizona. Their fruits are quite delicious as well, and they usually become ripe over the course of June. It’s illegal to harvest saguaro fruits out in the wilderness, so be sure to stick to saguaros on your own property or on another property where you have been given permission to harvest.

Barrel Cactus Fruit

Barrel fruits last a long time on the cactus before they begin to decompose.

The Compass Barrel is another of the most common cacti in the Sonoran Desert. They produce bright yellow fruits that are ripe by June most years. These fruits are edible, but most people claim that they don’t actually taste very good. This might be something worth trying, but maybe only consider adding it to your diet in a survival situation.

Cholla

These are the young buds of a Buckhorn cholla.

This one surprises a lot of people. Most people look at cholla as the most painful of the cacti, the ones to stay away from at all costs. However, if you can successfully collect some young pieces of cholla (especially ones with flower buds), you can boil them and scrub them with a toothbrush and steel wool until the spikes fall out.

After it’s cooked and the spines are all gone, the meat of the cholla cactus is similar in taste to the nopales of the prickly pear. Most people only try to consume the buckhorn cholla, as its thorns are the easiest to remove during this process and it is the least likely of the cholla varieties to cause digestion problems. This is another option that might be best left for survival situations.

These are just a few of the many plants of the Sonoran Desert that are edible. For a few more items on the menu, check out this article from Phoenix.org.

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About Fountain Hills Around Arizona Desert Plants and Wildlife Outdoor recreation Things to Do

Monsoon Season Begins!

The temperature is high, the winds are getting stronger in the afternoons, and the thunderhead clouds are building up in the north.

If you’re familiar with our weather patterns, you’ll know these are some of the early signs of monsoon season, perhaps the most interesting time of the year when it comes to meteorological phenomena.

The National Weather Service declares that June 15th is the “official” start date for the monsoon season, and it runs through September 30th. These dates are the average, but there are other ways to tell when the season has begun.

Map of “Precipitable Water” compared to air pressure in 2021. Higher millibars (mb) signify lower air pressure, which also contributes to stronger storms.

Dew Point

Scientifically speaking, the monsoon has begun when three consecutive days pass in June during which the Dew Point at night exceeds 55 degrees. That means that water vapor reaches its saturation point, turning to cloud at air temperatures of 55 and below.

Cicadas

Another way to tell when the season has begun is to listen for cicadas. Cicadas begin their chirping during the hottest, driest weeks of the year. These weeks just happen to often coincide with the dew point exceeding 55 degrees. Once you hear cicadas outside for several days in a row, you’ll know it’s only a matter of time before the first storms begin.

While the season may begin halfway into June, June is still the driest month of the year in the valley. Typically, the first raindrops of the season won’t hit the ground until the first week of July.

If a monsoon storm brings in enough moisture, the clouds can descend and even cover parts of the McDowells in the mornings. This happened a few times in the 2021 monsoon season.

This was the case in 2021, which turned out to be a record-breaking monsoon season in many parts of Arizona. Check out Weather.gov’s 2021 Monsoon Review for more details on what made last year’s season special.

The NWS explains its prediction of an above-average monsoon season in this short video.

The National Weather Service is predicting another above-average storm season for the summer of 2022, so stay tuned for some of the best shows of nature that Arizona has to offer!

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Local Events Non-profit Organizations Outdoor recreation

Fireworks Rescheduled to July 1st

The “Fourth at the Fountain” is going to be the “First at the Fountain” this year!

According to Experience Fountain Hills, “Due to fireworks and pyro tech shortage, the Town was able to secure fireworks and staff for July 1st instead of July 4th. This is the SAME amazing event, just a new date for 2022.” They plan to return the event to July 4th in 2023, so this year will be a special exception. Luckily, this places the festivities on a Friday night, perfect for having an exciting night of fireworks, food, and fun!

The First at the Fountain will feature live music by Rock Lobster from 7:30 PM until 9:00 pm, which is when the famous Fountainside firework show begins. Meanwhile, the fountain will be lit red, white, and blue while food trucks give out concessions and the restaurants at the park stay open for everybody to enjoy.

As usual, this is a free, family-friendly event for the whole community! People often come from around the valley for the show and the unique Fountain Hills atmosphere.

For more information about this year’s festivities, click here.

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Desert Plants and Wildlife Outdoor recreation

Good Early Morning Hikes in Town

During the summer months, hiking in the middle of the day is strenuous and often dangerous. Luckily, our summer mornings are beautiful, and you can go on some great hikes in Fountain Hills before the sunlight gets too direct.

Lake Overlook Trail

The view from the top of the lake Overlook Trail

As the name might suggest, the Lake Overlook Trail is a quick hike that overlooks the Fountain Lake and the whole of Fountain Hills to the west. You can see the Superstitions, Four Peaks, the Mazatzals, and more in their full glory to the east. Reaching the top of the hill at sunrise will give you some of the best views Fountain Hills can offer.

Click here to locate the trail.

Promenade Trail

The view from the rim of the Promenade Trail

The Promenade Trail is just one of the many larger trails that begins at the Adero Canyon Trailhead. A quick hike along the Promenade Trail is only about 2 miles if you turn back before the more difficult section that makes up the “Western Loop Trail” begins.

Click here to locate the trail.

Fountain Hills Botanical Garden

The view from the entrance to the Botanical Garden Trail

The Fountain Hills Botanical Garden is a short set of small loops along the south side of the Emerald Wash in the middle of town. The views are beautiful, and the wash is full of stunning specimens of desert wildlife, all labeled with their common and scientific names for educational purposes.

Click here to locate the trail.

Of course, there are dozens of great hikes around town. These three are just some of the quickest you can get done in the morning before the summer heat takes hold, all while getting the best views around.