We have had a plan for the day for over a week already. This was our day to go sailing. Pam had researched several different boating trips and selected Desert Belle Cruises. She had sailed on this boat before and enjoyed it with Martha and George and we knew we would have a good time. All we needed was some decent weather.

Pam and Cheri walked early in the morning but I didn’t join them. They got their two miles in and were back here in plenty of time to get ready for the day’s main event. We had no problem finding the lake and the boat and although the webpage had said we might want to make reservations, we had no problems with getting tickets, either.

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Me, Cheri and Gnate, Captain Geno and Gned, Pam and Gnute

Gned has learned to be bold and ask for photo ops and he approached the Captain and asked for a picture. It was going to just be Captain Geno and Gned, but he invited Pam and Cheri and they invited Gnute and Gnate and then some other passenger offered to take the picture and so everybody got to be included. What a fun way to start a cruise.

Many hundreds of years ago, this area was inhabited by a tribe of Native Americans who were quite inventive. They were great traders and agriculturalists. They built a series of canals that helped with both these endeavors. Around 1500, they disappeared and no one knows why. There was no mention of Spaniards arriving or European diseases spreading throughout a region without immunities.

Lake Saguaro is appropriately named

Lake Saguaro is appropriately named

In 1902, it was thought that building a dam and creating a reservoir might help make the deserts bloom and increase agricultural endeavors out in the still wild west. Luckily, there was a place with already constructed canals right out there in sunny Arizona. The first of what would become four dams and four lakes was constructed.

Antelope by the water's edge. Desert Belle photograph, used with permission

Antelope by the water’s edge. Desert Belle photograph, used with permission

Lake Saguaro was the last lake to be created and the four lakes together form a massive lake system with hydroelectric dams controlling water flow and creating power for the greater Phoenix area. The upper and lower Salt Rivers are above and below the dams and their lakes. The river is not salty, but instead was the highway the early European settlers used to collect the life-giving salt so desperately needed.

The lake itself is managed by Tanto National Forest and then entire perimeter is open for the public to use. There is a plethora of wildlife along the lakeshore, under the water, and in the air. The geology is amazing, the vistas breathtaking, and the history remarkable.

We think of the desert as being a vast wasteland of nothing but sand, heat, and the occasional oasis. However, the desert here is full of a variety of life. There are numerous fish, many birds including some nesting eagles and great blue herons, four types of larger hoofed animals as well as over 50 species of mammals (two have recently disappeared from the region but are not extinct and thriving in other areas), and many different types of fish – many of them tasty.

Not always sunny, but always beautiful. Desert Belle photograph, used with permission

Not always sunny, but always beautiful. Desert Belle photograph, used with permission

And then there are the plants. The saguaro is found in abundance here. And it is found in no other desert anywhere else in the world. The Sonoran Desert is the ONLY place in the entire world growing these giant plants. It is the only ecosystem supporting these old plants now protected by law. The many different arms that are so iconic in Arizona photos do not even start to sprout until the plant is 60 to 75 years old. After that they can sprout at any time. The saguaro flower is the state flower and blooms in the night and lasts for about 24 hours. They are fertilized by bats seeking their sweet nectar and then fall to the ground. Only one in thousands will ever sprout into a new plant. And yet, the desert is full of the huge beasts towering into the skies.

They can soak up so much water after a rainfall that they actually swell in girth. Two different types of birds burrow into the plant and use it for nesting. Inside the protection of the saguaro it is up to 15 degrees cooler for the babies to survive in the heat of the day.

The famous Four Peaks - tall and majestic and very, very old - visible from all over Phoenix.

The famous Four Peaks – tall and majestic and very, very old – visible from all over Phoenix.

Arizona is famous for the Five Cs. The first is copper and we actually visited a copper mine in Bisbee a few years ago. Copper is still widely produced here in Arizona. Next is cotton and the climate and soil here are perfect for growing this crop, especially with this supply of fresh water in these four lakes created so long ago and available for the irrigation needs. Citrus is also important to the state as grapefruit, lemons, and limes are grown here. Cattle are plentiful and if the wind is right you can tell that from Pam’s house. Luckily the wind isn’t usually “right” for that smell. And of course, the climate is important drawing people here for the wonderfully delightful weather for most of the year. These pesky hot summers might be slightly outside the perfect weather model.

There is a possibility of a sixth C. Because, you see, Arizona might have the highest number of Canadians here, at least in the winter. Living along the Route 95 corridor and seeing so many Ontario license plates, Florida might want to contest this.

Our trip was wonderful, the weather not too hot. We stayed topside and didn’t need to retreat to the climate controlled lower floor. Captain Geno was entertaining in his talks about the region and very knowledgeable as well. All in all, I just loved our morning. We spoke with the Captain again on leaving the boat and found that he is one of three who captain the ship and he modestly admitted that the other two captains are just as wonderful as he was and everyone who sails with Desert Belle can be just as delighted as we were.

There was a restaurant at the dock and we ate our lunch there. Again, I noticed the dessert menu but after being served a huge amount of food, there was no room left for dessert. We headed back home, happy with our morning adventure.

Between the lulling pace of the boat ride, the heat, and the too late nights too many times in a row, we all took an afternoon nap. When we were all awake again, we decided on dinner.

The boys selected what they thought might be the perfect dinner option.

The boys selected what they thought might be the perfect dinner option.

We went out specifically for pie. That was our entire meal. Cheri and I had coffee with our pie. Pam and Cheri got peanut butter and chocolate stuff and I got some caramel and chocolate concoction. We sat there and talked and laughed. The last time we ate here, Pam threw her pie on the table. This time, we all managed to keep our pies on our plates. Gnate and Gnute got to share some pie, but Gned – although shovel ready – was not given any. He did manage to sneak some when no one was looking.

Gned ready to finish off the massive amount of delectable dinner.

Gned ready to finish off the massive amount of delectable dinner.

Gned will not be thwarted.

Gned will not be thwarted.

We came home and laughed and talked well into the night. Cheri loves the rug in Pam’s bathroom and Pam offered to send her home with the yarn to make her own. She got out four zippered under the bed things chock full of yarn. These skeins of cotton are huge and they were not going to be made anymore so the store was getting rid of them. I think Pam bought the entire supply. There had to be 70 or more of these huge skeins to pick from. There were only so few because she has used many of them up already.

At my house, my excessive amount of yarn had been turned into scarves and we played with them and laughed and had lots of fun. I didn’t think of getting a picture of Pam’s excessive amount of unused yarn until after it was all put away. Damn. I missed a great photo op.

Since we napped and at least two of us had later than usual and extra coffee, we stayed up well into the wee hours. But it was such a fun day.

Today is the last day of sister vacation. We intend to savor every minute.

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