Spring is here for many of us in the southwest and the Sonoran Desert can be quite spectacular this time of year. Arizona receives lots of winter visitors each spring and after traveling to downtown Chicago and the east coast several times – I completely understand why. While the area may be most well-known for the spring training baseball games and sunny skies, you might be surprised at how many winter visitors you’ll find at the local desert attractions. The Desert Botanical Gardens is a real nature-hot-spot this time of year. Tucked within the Papago Mountains (see this historical picture taken about 1/4 mile away), it has several themes and trails, world renowned art, and a new butterfly exhibit this year. Another wonderful spot is Boyce Thompson Arboretum. It’s about an hour drive east of the Phoenix metropolitan area, but it’s well worth it. There’s a treasure trove of beautiful finds including 100+ year old eucalyptus and boojum trees, as well as special plants from all corners of the the world.
For some additional coverage, here’s a link from local Phoenix blogger Judy Hedding that includes her in-depth review of the state park. And for even more access, you can see cool videos from all around the park on their Youtube channel below.
Now in the traditional Dally’s fashion…we’re going vintage in the modern day and “puling the truck off the beaten path”. So for those who are looking for some additional adventure, go ahead and make a left turn after you’re well outside of city limits…somewhere about 15 miles west of the Boyce Thompson. Within 10 minutes, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the beautiful Superstition Mountains. Home of the Apaches, the famed “Lost Dutchman”, and the many who’ve failed searching for his infamous treasure.
That’s exactly where we found ourselves after driftin’ (a.k.a. gettin’ lost with a purpose) down several desert roads. And wouldn’t you know it?! We end up crossing paths with a rattlesnake! Thankfully, a local native from the Tucson area found it first, realized it was just trying to warm up, and was courageous enough to move it off the road for us.
After adventuring through these majestic mountains another 5 miles or so, we’d really worked up an appetite. That’s where we pulled off the road, found a nice spot and had a picnic. A gourmet, desert-picnic of sorts… Actually, it was a “roasted balsamic vinaigrette brussel sprouts with seared beef tenderloin” kind of picnic. Whoa! Let’ me tell you, it was absolutely amazing. And, that’s coming from someone who didn’t even like brussell sprouts until I ate this meal. (I’m actually craving them again as I write this.)
We cooked this mouth-watering lunch with what I’ll say was the best campfire grill I’ve ever seen. I can say that because I’ve spent LOTS of time outdoors, camping, fishing, hunting, etc…and have never eaten this good before. The experience reminded me that having the right tools really makes a difference. It had a stainless steel griddle that we used for roasting the veggies, and a stainless steel grill that made cooking the beef tenderloin a cinch.
We made a small fire ring, filled it with some vagrant mesquite, and placed the portable campfire grill directly on top of it. Then, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery amidst the gentle smoke and a non-committal desert breeze. Hmmm…. The only thing that distracted us was our stomachs…stirring in anticipation as our feast gently sizzled on the griddle.
I know, I know…We’re known for posting some good “how to” recipes on this site, so stay tuned. I’ll definitely be posting this wonderful recipe shortly. Until then, here’s to taking the road less traveled and finding gold for food lovers! The below camping grill is appropriately named the Dutchman campfire grill. And if you like food and getting outdoors as much as I do, you can check out this grill in more detail by clicking on the below picture.