The hotel did, however, serve quite a good breakfast buffet of its own. A lot of hotels claim to serve breakfast buffets but make only the minimal effort to technically qualify as providing a "breakfast" "buffet." This one did the job properly though, with everything from cereal to waffles to bagels to muffins to a choice of red or green apples, plus a wide variety of spreads (peanut butter, jelly, butter, strawberry cream cheese . . .) and beverages (orange juice, coffee, milk . . .) We were quite satisfied.
Our first stop on Sunday morning, December 16, was the next used bookstore, the Bookmans in Mesa. As at the Bookmans in Phoenix, I read some riveting first pages in the autobiography section but then tore myself away and restricted my actual purchases to the fiction section. This time I picked up three books: Intrusions by Ursula Hegi, The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls, and Miss Grief and Other Stories by Constance Fenimore Woolson. I first discovered Jeanette Walls via her autobiography, which is much in the same genre of the autobiographies I was passing over during this trip. However, I don't remember disliking her by the end of it, and in any case, what I bought by her this time was fiction. I haven't read the latter two books I got from the Mesa Bookmans, but I did read Intrusions and enjoyed it very much. Intrusions is a novel into which the author keeps intruding to tell about her experience of writing the novel, and the characters, in turn, keep intruding into the author's life. It was published in 1981, and it felt to me very much a novel of 1981, with a distinctly 1981 tone to its feminist take on the difficulty of trying to raise children and also have a career. It felt very dated and very second-wave, but it was also brilliantly written, and I greatly admired the writing skill that went into it.
This second Bookmans declined to buy any of the books that Barry hadn't been able to sell to the first Bookmans. But Barry still had store credit left from the first Bookmans and used that to buy my three books for me.
Then we went to look at Barry's childhood home in Gilbert. Barry stopped the car by the curb, and we just sat and looked at it for a minute or two. Then we moved on again. We also stopped to look at the nearby canal. Then we stopped at a CVS pharmacy to buy some bottled water in preparation for a hike.
The hike was at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. This reserve is located very close to Barry's childhood home, but it wasn't there when Barry lived there. Barry's dad said it used to be a water treatment plant back then. But now it's a scenic natural preserve with numerous ponds - though a few of the ponds were drained of water when we were there. There was a long, winding bridge over a corner of one of the ponds that allowed us to get close to the ducks gathered there.
Here, have a closeup of some ducks.
The preserve was planted with native plants - it was clear that a lot of effort had gone into restoring the grounds of the old water-treatment plant to something approximating wilderness, but it was also recognizably not the original wilderness. More like a native plant garden, with plants carefully selected for contrast and showiness. But I enjoyed recognizing a few native Arizona species that are also native to California. Like this desert globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), a species that I've grown at home. I've never seen it in anything resembling wilderness before, and there were quite a few of them here at the Riparian Preserve. Some were a bit isolated from other plants, like the one below, while others mingled with larger shrubs directly adjacent to them.
The animal life seemed to overlap a bit more between Arizona and California than the plant life did. This is a mourning dove (Zenaida macroura), the same species we see in California.
Around a bend in the trail, we caught a glimpse of the shoreline and the birds gathered at it.
Continuing on a trail around the perimeter of the preserve, we happened across the Lutheran Church where Barry's old Boy Scout troop used to hold its meetings. It turns out they still hold their meetings there, and they have acquired a trailer at some point since Barry earned the rank of Eagle Scout, because we spotted a trailer there with Barry's old troop number on the side of it. Having this preserve directly adjacent to the troop's meeting place must be a great boon to the troop. The preserve even has several campsites where the Boy Scouts can practice their camping skills.
We also saw a field of Canadian geese (Branta canadensis).
Here's a closer view of them.
And we saw desert cottontails (Sylvilagus audubonii).
Near the end of our walk, when we had mostly drunk our water bottles, we found a place to refill our water bottles for future use. Upon leaving the preserve, we stopped at a place called Culver's, where we split a Wisconsin Swiss Melt.
From there, we went to Lost Dutchman State Park for another hike! Two back-to-back hikes on one day can really make you feel a lot more tired than the length of either individual hike would seem to justify. Well, the Riparian Preserve had been more of a leisurely stroll on flat ground, but at Lost Dutchman State Park we were hiking uphill. We hiked the Treasure Loop Trail, which goes up near the base of the Superstition Mountains. Barry's father used to own a business named for these mountains. Legend has it that a German immigrant (misnamed as a "Dutchman" because of the German demonym "Deutsch") found a gold mine in these mountains and died without telling anyone else how to find it. People have been searching for it ever since, and many have died by taking unwise risks in their search for the gold. Barry suggested that maybe I would find the gold, but I said I had no intention of even trying to look for it. Barry said, "But that's exactly when you're most likely to find things - when you're not looking for them." We did not find any gold, though.
What we did find was excellent views. We could see the entire ring of mountains surrounding the Valley of the Sun, and we could see Phoenix in the distance. Here's Barry enjoying the panoramic views.
The Superstition Mountains are the ones on the left of the panorama below. Those are what we were hiking toward (but not to the top, only near the base). It doesn't look like it should be that difficult, but it was a bit more challenging than it looked at first.
Here's another Arizona native plant that is also native to California: brittlebush (Encelia farinosa). Unlike most of the other plants in Arizona, this one doesn't try to stab you. I appreciated that.
Here are the Superstition Mountains again.
Here is my hot fiancé in front of the Superstition Mountains!
Here are some more panoramic views from the Treasure Loop Trail.
And one panorama of what we were hiking toward.
Barry took some pictures of me at various points along the trail.
And I took some of him. This was around the point when we realized we had reached the top of the Treasure Loop Trail, because the trail started to be mostly downhill rather than mostly uphill.
When I didn't have my camera ready, he made a grand gesture that I wished I had captured. I asked him to repeat it for the camera, but he couldn't remember quite what he had done. I told him, "Look triumphant." This was his effort.
We continued back down the slopes of the trail toward the parking lot.
Here's a final picture of me, as the sun was setting.
As we were leaving, we saw people posing for engagement and pregnancy photos. It was the "Golden Hour" when the sun was setting, and I guess this was one of the most scenic areas in the vicinity of Phoenix.
Barry drove from the Treasure Loop Trail back to the entrance of the park, where he parked the car again so we could walk on the extremely short "Native Plant Loop" at the entrance. We looked at all the plant labels and commented on how all the plants were armed with sharp spikes to stab us with.
Shortly after leaving the park, we took a quick detour through Goldfield, a ghost town that had been renovated and restored to attract tourists. We didn't get out of the car, though - just drove through to see whether there was anything interesting enough to stop at. We decided there wasn't. We next visited the business Barry's father used to own, and then had dinner at a restaurant called The Monastery. Barry ordered a Southern BBQ Burger and I had the Famous Monk Burger. The bathroom decor there was, uh, "interesting"? Usually I only hear about "interesting" bathroom decor secondhand, from men; the women's rooms are not usually similarly decorated. But this place had equal-opportunity softcore porn in its restrooms.
After dinner, we drove to the OdySea Aquarium in the Desert. However, it had already closed for the day; Google had their open hours listed incorrectly. So we returned to our hotel room relatively early, around 8:00 p.m., and had some unexpected time to relax and read some of those used books we'd picked up during our trip.