White Dog supervised Steve as he put the rack and the bike on the back of the car; Quinn helped me pack up the picnic. We were heading to Fourth of July Canyon with Dragon, Candace and Gregg to belatedly celebrate Candace's birthday! The surprise gifts were stashed in the "way back" where they couldn't be seen until just the right moment and the cake was gently secured to keep the caramel icing intact...and then we were off.
One of the thing s we do miss from the Midwest is the explosion of maple leaf red during the Autumn color change. Maples are just not native to the Southwest and even though Sumac make a fair approximation and we have lots of incredible golds and yellows and even purples, we just get wistful for Maple Red. Fortunately there is a remote canyon about an hour and a half south of us that has stands and stands of maple trees (maybe from lumbering days?) so each year we play a game of tag with Mother Nature as we try to get there at just the right time to "get our red fix."
It wasn't peak but the colors were heart filling and the day perfect. We hiked. Then picnicked on spicy cilantro chicken salad, and spinach greens with beets and pecans and bleu cheese, and crunchy veggie straws, and pretzels crisps with white balsamic fig spread. After, White Dog and Quinn thrilled Candace with her present...a bike basket for Dragon (and safety harness) so that he could ride along with his mom. She was speechless with happiness.
After the ride, there was cake, yes for everyone. Rich moist yellow cake with caramel icing topped with a swirl of apple butter (thanks for the idea, Khyra). It was like a taffy apple without the stick. All we could say (all of us with mouths full of happy celebration) was "It doesn't get better than this!"