Sprawling across 392 acres and home to thousands of unusual plant and animal species, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is far from a standard classroom. Here, people learn through exploration rather than through textbooks; they’re able to smell the plants they study and ask native squirrels for direct quotes about soil quality. Jaunts through the park cover a range of terrain. Butting up against the northern face of Picketpost Mountain, the park encompasses canyons, hills, and trails carefully landscaped to duplicate arid environments from around the globe. The cactus garden features plants both sinuous and spiny, creating a vast collection of shapes and textures nestled into the dusty red landscape. Queen Creek Canyon provides respite from the sun, its towering trees thriving in the cool shade. Visitors pick up tips on how to enhance their own yards in the demonstration garden of drought-tolerant plants, which are relatively easy to care for except for when they demand chocolate milk. Additional education can be found in classes and lectures held at the Smith Interpretive Center.
Sculpted in the foreground of the Superstition Mountains, Mountain Brook Golf Club charms golfers with a 6,620-yard course that blankets the arid desert with immaculate fairways and greens. Water hazards, crushed-marble sand traps, and desert wilderness await balls that stray from their path due to an open clubface or the desire to snuggle a cactus.
The club's 12-acre practice facility blasts bogeys off scorecards with a full-length grass-tee driving range, a putting green, and two short-game practice areas where players can rehearse greenside chips, bunker shots, and approaches from as far as 100 yards. Brand-name golf apparel and equipment populates the pro shop, which sells merchandise emblazoned with the Mountain Brook Golf Club logo for those looking to obtain a souvenir from their round without having to adopt a rambunctious tumbleweed.
Course at a Glance:
A safe space. That's what the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley give to more than 43,000 kids each year. But along with keeping kids out of harm's way after school lets out, the Boys & Girls Clubs enrich children's lives though their programs. Kids get creative in arts classes, learn social interaction and fitness skills in sports programs, and prepare for the future with technology courses that ensure they won't buy stock in companies that only produce floppy discs.
But the Boys & Girls Clubs impact kids beyond afterschool care. In addition to the East Valley clubs having the first Arizona club to serve a Native American community, the clubs' Ladmo branch has Mona Dixon, who was named National Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2010.
Her path of success, encouraged by the Boys & Girls Clubs, led her from a girl homeless and worried about her family's survival to a young woman with a full ride to college and named one of the Top 28 Most Influential Black Women in America by Essence magazine.
Located on an site covering more than 12 acres at the foot of the mountain, Superstition Mountain Museum shares the rich history of the varied inhabitants of the Apache Junction area. Both indoor and outdoor exhibits pepper the site, where curious sightseers take in the area’s geology and natural history, finding out that gold normally begins as ore, rather than popping out of the ground as gold teeth. With an emphasis on the gold-rush years of the late 1800s, outdoor walking trails are replete with days-of-yore accoutrements, such as stagecoaches, windmills, and old mining equipment. History hounds stomp around a reproduction of a town straight from the Old West, peering in the windows of the barber shop or bailing fictional poltergeists and real uncles out of the old clink. Movie mavens clamor for two famous structures, both transported piece by piece from their original sites, the Apacheland Barn, known for its western film cameos, and the Elvis Memorial Chapel, which now houses the Apacheland Movie Memorabilia Museum. Gold gophers examine a collection of maps to try their hand at searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine(http://gr.pn/gLJM0r), supposedly the most plentiful gold mine in the world.
The dunes aren’t going to ride themselves. That’s why GoFast Rental puts off-roaders behind the wheels of buggies such as the RZR XP 4 900 EPS that seats up to four. For those trundling dirt paths, they offer similar buggies as well as quads. With dirt and sand covered, the only thing left is the wet stuff. To crest waves, they slip patrons into V-drive wakeboarding boats and jet skis.
Though the calendar maintains that it's still the 21st century, the experienced cowfolk at MD Ranch take visitors back to the Wild West with horsemanship and equestrian knowledge that's been perfected across the centuries. Joining them is a herd of well-trained horses, who itch to take riders on vigorous romps across the Sonoran Desert landscapes of San Tan Mountain Regional Park. The only outfitters in the mountains, the ranch's seasoned guides lead experienced or first-time riders along desert trails, trotting past stately cacti on all-day and sunset excursions or galloping in search of far-off coyote choruses during intense ranch rides. The herd contains a wide range of horse personalities–from horses that are safe for even the most inexperienced riders to those with enough go for seasoned cowboys. On-site trainers work with steeds and riders alike, teaching students of all ages the techniques of English and Western riding as well as basic horsemanship and equine care skills.