Archive for October, 2020

Meteor Crater

I was out in Arizona to relax and refresh. When my son mentioned that the hike he picked for us was up in Sedona, my first reaction was dismay. Although I love Sedona, I was SO TIRED. Driving up and back in one day is exhausting. I’d already booked my hotel in Chandler for the entire week. But as I thought on it my attitude changed. I love Sedona. It sounded like a great hike. My hotel wasn’t costing all that much. We needed a break. I decided that we would drive up to Sedona (after all, isn’t that a perfect trip for a convertible Mustang?) AND we would stay overnight. Yes, I’d be paying for 2 hotel rooms at the same time, but I decided it was worth the cost. I started flipping through “What to do in Arizona” sites, and saw that up by Flagstaff there was something called Meteor Crater.

First stop on the rim tour

I like looking at holes in the ground. 🙂 After all, what are the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon but big holes in the ground? Okay – maybe they are more like wide cracks in the ground, but still – ‘in the ground’, not above. I liked the Ramon Crater in Israel – another hole in the ground. I suggested that we drive up to Flagstaff and see the Meteor Crater, and then drive down to Sedona for dinner and stay the night. We’d get up refreshed and go hike, hang about Sedona, then drive back to Chandler. My son agreed with that plan. (He’s actually very agreeable.)

The old mining site at the bottom of the crater – those little specs of white

I went to chat with the front desk at the hotel and told them my plans, and asked if maybe they could help me find a place at a “sister” hotel and maybe get me a better rate. They explained that they did not partner with any of the other hotels up there, not even ones owned by Hilton. But, she said, what I can do is help you out here. How about if I take off one night here for you, would that be okay? Would it be okay? It would be delightful. We had a long chat about Sedona, hiking, scenery, vacations. The folks at the front desk of the Chandler Hilton are so friendly and helpful. With this plan I didn’t have to pack up and check out and then come back and check in again. Not only that, but we’d not had room service yet. I scheduled room service for the Monday we were leaving. That way we’d come back to a nice clean room and if there were any germs floating about, they should have settled/evaporated by the time of our return. (Again – all the hotel personnel wore masks and followed all the social distancing protocols.)

Just a slight shift in position and the light changes.

Hotel rooms in Sedona are expensive and not plentiful, even during a pandemic. I checked out several and finally went with one of the less expensive ones, right near the lower center of town. It was a Hilton property as I thought it only fair. 🙂 We packed up our backpacks, made sure we had suntan lotion and water, and started out after breakfast Monday morning. *laughing* I think we ended up making 3 trips back to my son’s house for things we forgot before we finally got out to the highway.

Turning my back to the crater and looking out towards the tribal lands

Although we started out cruising with the top down on the car, we were traveling at such high speeds (love the Arizona speed limits) that I pulled over and put the roof back, and turned on the a/c. That made for a much more comfortable (and faster) drive. Route 17 goes through beautiful desert, then up to the forest, over the mountains and on to Flagstaff. I found this quote while trying to remember what we saw on Rt. 17: “You will gain more than a mile in altitude on your drive between Phoenix (1,117 feet) and Flagstaff (7,000 feet), cruising through ever-changing desert ecosystems dominated by saguaro, juniper, and Ponderosa pine.” Yep – they said it MUCH better than I did.

Making our way around the rim. It’s mostly flat except for that last bit we did.

We saw the sign for Montezuma Well and made our usual jokes. We saw a sign for Walnut Canyon and thought we might stop there during this trip as well. When I’m in NJ, I have a fairly accurate sense of how long a given trip will take given the mileage and the roads. For some reason I misjudged the distance to the crater. I kept thinking “Flagstaff” but it’s actually located 35 miles east of Flagstaff. Given our late start, and the slower driving with the top down, it was around 1:30-1:45 when we arrived. We were just in time to join the 2:10pm tour.

We’ve gotten a bit further counter-clockwise on the rim, down the steep part

Obviously the website will give a much better description of the crater and why it is so cool to see, but I’ll try to do some of that here for you folk who don’t click through. 🙂 Oh – and for one of you – “The Meteor Crater RV Park is located just off Interstate 40 exit 233, less than a 1/4 mile to the right. The large parking lot includes a Mobil Gas Station and Country Store for checking in.” The brochure says this is “the best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth. 50,00 years ago a huge iron-nickel meteorite, estimated to have been about 150 feet across and weighing several hundred thousand tons, struck the northern Arizona rocky plain with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. In seconds, the result of this violent impact was the excavation of a giant bowl-shaped cavity (550 feet deep and 4,000 feet across) known today as Meteor Crater.”

At the top, to the left, about 10:00 – you see a dark spec – the museum building (just right of the tall tan peak) – gives a sense of perspective if the little white mining dots didn’t

The land is privately owned, although surrounded by much tribal land. The guide told us that astronauts have used the site for training and they have used the site for film locations as well. You can no longer go down into the crater – the change in air pressure is so extreme (it actually gets thinner at the bottom) that many people cannot get back out. When that happens they have to call in the US Air Force to medivac them. That gets extremely costly. There is a tour on the rim, but for only a small part. Thank goodness! I can’t remember the exact distance but I know there is no way I could do a hike around the perimeter.

An old furnace at the top left. Impossible to avoid all signs of other tourists. 🙂

The tour was very interesting and just long enough, although I was a bit apprehensive from the very first things the guide said once he locked the door behind us. “We are at 5710 feet, higher altitude than Denver, CO (5280 feet). ” If you remember my post last year, I discovered that I am NOT used to high altitudes and had great difficulty attempting to hike in the Superstition Mountains for that reason. I had visions of me fainting and falling into the crater, which is 560 ft deep, and a very, very rocky descent. Obviously I was alright. *grin* For me the most interesting fact was finding out what happened to the meteor. Something that big you would think would still be around. It is. Although one good sized chunk (maybe a foot long) is on display in the museum, the rest of the meteor is underfoot. The guide did a wonderful display of scooping dust and then showing with a magnet that the dust was the meteor – completely disintegrated into the dust under our feet. Definitely a fascinating discussion and explanation.

So THIS shadow is allowed because that’s me, loving the red and tan rocks

I recommend Meteor Crater. Time-wise I think you might want to allow half a day. My son and I thought we’d go to Walnut Canyon on our way to Sedona, but we overheard 3 other groups talking about meeting up at Walnut Canyon. *grin* We decided that maybe it was getting a bit late in the day for another major excursion, and we still had another 90 minutes ride to get to Sedona. We’ll get to Walnut Canyon another time. 🙂

One final look as the sun got lower

Yes, Ahuva, There ARE Hummingbirds

If you’ve been reading my posts for awhile (18 months or so), you know that I had no recollection of ever seeing a humming bird until I took a trip to Phoenix in 2019. My husband and neighbors had assured me that there WERE hummingbirds in NJ, but I couldn’t even picture what they looked like, much less bring up memory of having seen one. Finally last fall I actually SAW a hummingbird among my canna lilies but failed to capture the moment in a photo. 😦

This year has been extremely disappointing as far as seeing butterflies. I have a garden full of pollinator- and butterfly- friendly plants, and I’ve had fewer than 10 sightings of butterflies. Lots and lots of bee-type insects, and moths, and some scary looking wasp-type things, but very few butterflies. I was thrilled to see a goldfinch feasting on my flowers a few weeks back.

Then a few weeks ago I saw a hummingbird! It was enjoying my firecracker plant (cuphea ignea). Note to self: plant more firecracker plants next year! I was sitting on the front steps and a movement caught my eye. It moved so quickly. Thank goodness my phone camera compensates for my shaky hands and for my inability to focus well. 🙂 I snapped frame after frame. I got as close as I could, loving every moment of watching the bird. I know these photos are not great, but I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Wings faster than a camera lens

Montezuma Well

I usually try to write & post in chronological order. That isn’t working for me these days. The malaise I attribute to life in a pandemic means that I took many photos and could never bring myself to write. My vacation to Arizona has refreshed me and ‘cleared my cache’ so I can again look on the bright side of life. I’m trying to catch up with all those old photos and dreading trying to put my love of Sedona in words. Sedona is beyond words. I may simply end up with nothing but pictures. In the meantime I’m going to stick my toe in the metaphorical water and write about Montezuma Well.

Looking down from the top – little white specks are ducks.

My son and I had seen the signs for Montezuma Well last year on our way to Sedona. It tickled our fancy and made us imagine ridiculous scenarios for what it might be. We didn’t know if it was a place or a thing or both. It reminded ME of that town along Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, that is named Jersey Shore. Montezuma (or more properly Moctezuma II) was an Aztec ruler. The Aztecs were not in northern Arizona. Yet there along Rt 17, as we headed up to Flagstaff, was that sign for his well. We couldn’t stop on our way north, but we did have time to stop on our way south.

Stairs leading down to water level

Montezuma Well, together with Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot, is part of the National Park Service. They are the remnants of the Sinagua people. The well began forming more than 10,000 years ago from snow atop the Mogollon Rim. That snow melted through all the rocks over the millenia, but hit a vertical wall of volcanic basalt. This volcanic basalt acts as a dam, forcing the water back towards the surface. Ultimately (remember – millenia), it formed the sinkhole that is there today. The water remains at a constant temperature (I believe around 74 F) and near constant volume. You’d think this was a wonderful source for drinking but it is highly carbonated with a very high arsenic content. Quoting Wikipedia: “At least five endemic species are found exclusively in Montezuma Well: a diatom, the Montezuma Well springsnail, a water scorpion, the Hyalella montezuma amphipod, and the Motobdella montezuma leech — the most endemic species in any spring in the southwestern United States.” (Yes, I had to look up ‘endemic’ – native and restricted to a certain place.) Wikipedia says the water was used for irrigation, which I find puzzling because of the arsenic. I need to research why the plants do not absorb the arsenic.

Petroglyph

Besides those 5 endemic species, we saw a lot of ducks having a peaceful time paddling about the water. As always, the view from the top of the well is beautiful – flat land stretching out to looming mountains. There are 2 paths but only 1 is open currently – the path down to the swallet. (I learned a lot of new words on this adventure: swallet = sinkhole.) From the top that path looked steep and a bit rocky but I decided to brave it anyway. I’m glad I did because the top view was misleading. Although it is somewhat steep, it was easily manageable – no need to traverse it on my tush. 🙂

Water leaving the well (goes through cave to outside for irrigation)

There are interesting rocks, and views of the dwellings on the far wall, and finally you arrive at water level. There you can see where the water drains from the sinkhole into a small cave to appear above ground outside the formation to provide irrigation. There was a volunteer ranger there as well to answer questions. Down at water level it is delightfully cool and shaded, with a bench for resting. There are at least 2 petroglyphs visible on the rocks.

Dwellings in the cliff, looking up from the path

Since the longer trail is currently closed for safety reasons, our visit was perhaps 30 minutes in total. We hiked to the top, read the signs, took pictures, and then hiked down to water level. We spent a few moments there chatting with the ranger and taking photos, and then hiked back up. Although it’s a short stop, it is well worth the time. We agreed that we needed to leave more time our next time heading north so we could see Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot.

Return of “Headlines I’d Rather Not See”

The world is a crazy, crazy place these days. I expect to see many headlines and articles that will annoy me, confuse me, and, on very rare occasions, delight me. It’s definitely time to share the headlines that caused me to blink when I saw them.

Poisonous furry caterpillars that look like wigs are popping up in Virgina

You really, really, REALLY need to click on that link and see the photo. I’m not much into caterpillars but this one is cute. It is, however, one of the MOST poisonous caterpillars in the US. You’ll especially like the sub headline: ‘The caterpillars can fall from trees and lodge in people’s clothes”. That’s right – in your clothes, in your hair, with all of its venomous spines, which stick in you. But as long as you keep your scotch tape handy you should be fine. “The Florida Poison Information Center (FPIC) recommends treating puss caterpillar stings by placing scotch tape over the sting, then peeling it off to remove the spines.” There are more interesting facts about these caterpillars, which turn into the even more venomous Southern Flannel Moth. *grin* From Texas to NJ, Beware the Furry Puss Caterpillar! (Yes, even in Arkansas.)

‘Zombie cicadas’ under the influence of a mind controlling fungus have returned to West Virginia

Or as my friend commented on twitter: This is 2020. Why NOT zombie cicadas? If you are curious about how the fungus spores ” eat away at the cicada’s genitals, butt, and abdomen”, read on. After that tasty treat, they are replaced with fungal spores used to transmit the fungus to other cicadas. Do be sure to check out this article. Don’t miss the exciting part where it explains “The parasitic fungus even manipulates male cicadas into flicking their wings to imitate the females’ mating invitation so they can also infect unsuspecting male cicadas to rapidly transmit the disease.”
You’ve been warned. Aren’t you glad you are not a cicada?

Tools of Terror’? New Face Masks Thrown into Fire Pit at Mission Bay Park

Time to give equal time to the west coast. I’m sorry if you agree with the people quoted in this article. I’m not going to have that particular discussion with you. The headline, however, is what made me blink. Also the photo with the article. There is no question that the author (Ken Stone of the Times of San Diego) had fun writing this article. It begins with “As if casting out demons, dozens of people tossed pricey KN95 face masks into a fire pit Friday in Mission Bay Park.” That is catchy, you have to admit. He continues: The coverings were depicted as “tools of terror” being used to “turn neighbor against neighbor.” They were a “precursor to adult mandatory vaccination” and “getting everybody angry.” Right. I especially like the “getting everybody angry”. People aren’t angry already?

Mealtime

Come upstairs, already!!!! Where ARE you, WC????

My mother used to tell us that she ‘wasn’t running a restaurant’. If we didn’t like what she was serving when she was serving it we could fend for ourselves. I like to pretend that I am that strict with my cats, but our reality is a bit different. WC (and GC when she was still alive) takes medicine for her thyroid. My technique for giving medicine to these cats is to grind up the pill and put it in their wet food. While some may prefer the ‘grab, hold firmly, pop it in their mouth, and rub throat” method, I’ve found that our cats, like ourselves, are more willing to accept unpleasantness if there is good food to ameliorate the situation. Unfortunately this means that I must stand guard over the plates so that the right cat eats the right food. When GC was alive she was convinced that the other 2 plates might have something BETTER than her plate, even though everyone got the same food and WC had the same medicine.

In order to maintain some illusion of control, I don’t put the plates on the floor until both WC and BC are in the kitchen. BC understands this concept. I come down in the morning, go through my routine and BC is right there with me. WC, who is old, and sometimes cranky, and completely deaf, is usually here, but not always. If WC decided to sleep in the basement, she does not always hear me in the kitchen and doesn’t see me. I try stomping on the floor (she seems to feel vibrations and maybe even hear them) and I flip the lights on and off. I call for her, even though I know that she can’t hear. BC sits there, looking for her, waiting for breakfast. Ultimately WC will come slowly up the stairs, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Ah, mealtime!

Postscript: Came down to my computer this morning to work. Not only had ‘someone’ turned off the power strip, apparently ‘someone’ walked all over my keyboard before shutting off the power. Have now spent over 20 minutes trying to get things back the way they should be. All I see are innocent little faces. Who ME?????

I’m here, I’m here. Make it worth my while.

If It Only Had An Ocean

view from my chaise lounge at the hotel pool

Like many people these days, I have been feeling frustrated living during a pandemic. I will say straight out (making every gesture and speaking every saying that averts the ‘evil eye’) that I really have no reason to complain. My husband and I both work from home and have been fully employed. My parents, may they rest in peace, are no longer here and I don’t have to worry about them. I have no children of school age so I don’t have to make the crucial decision of whether or not to let them attend classes in person. I live in NJ where we fought the virus and brought it under control. Well, we did, but now apparently many New Jerseyans are feeling mask fatigue and have stopped doing all the things that protected us all for so long. But I miss my son. I haven’t seen him since the very beginning of February. No trip back home for Passover in the spring, no trip for me to him in the spring or to spend Rosh Hashanah with him. Arizona brought its infection rate waaaaaaay down and I decided it was time to take action.

Ready for takeoff!

I booked myself a trip to Phoenix. I got a round-trip first class ticket for a ridiculously low price, using all of my accumulated airline points. I booked myself into a hotel only 15 minutes from my son’s house. The rates were VERY low for the room – on the executive floor, with a walk-out balcony, and access to the concierge lounge. I’d stayed at this Chandler Hilton before and enjoyed it. The people there are lovely – helpful and cheerful! I even had a reasonable car rental. I decided to go for an entire week, and spend some days on vacation but other days working from the hotel. I thought I was taking this trip to reset MY spirits, but as departure day got closer I realized that my son was also in true need of a complete and utter break from his life.

Somewhere between NJ and AZ

He’s been in his house since mid-April, working from home, hanging out with his housemates. Other than trips to the grocery store once a week, he really had no place to go. For many months Arizona was not enforcing mask usage, and the infection rates were soaring. His friends were sheltering and he didn’t want to risk infection. By mid-July Arizona had followed the example set by the northeastern states and had shut-down all indoor activities. His work, while interesting, had become pressure-filled with deadlines and changes and other elements that can make employment truly seem like “work”. I’d imagined we’d hang out at the hotel, around the pool, but when I got there I learned that the hike he’d planned was up in Sedona. So twist my arm. *grin* We’ll go to Sedona.

First look from the hotel balcony

The trip was wonderful. I began describing it as the two of us clearing our cache. Those of you who understand browser terminology will understand that. We cleared out all the stale information cluttering our brains, and started fresh. Flagstaff and Sedona rate their own posts, but you can see the view from the hotel, and the ridiculously expensive self-indulgent car I rented. They were wonderfully nice and helpful at the Budget car rental at Sky Harbor in Phoenix. When I booked I was told no convertible was available, but when I asked at the desk, they managed to find me one and work a deal. 🙂 We put over 600 miles on that little beauty.

The “A Butte” in the middle of Tempe

It was a very indulgent, relaxing, enjoyable week. We started slowly – cruising about Tempe on Saturday to find nearby spots that could refresh and renew (check out Tempe Town Lake and Beach). Downtown Tempe showed the effect of ASU doing classes remotely. Many closed restaurants and stores. There were still many students around, however, and music and food. (And of course the Tempe Butte, backdrop to Sun Devil Stadium games, is always there.) All restaurants followed the mask and social distancing protocols that have become the norm. Friday night (my arrival) we found outdoor seating at The Keg in Chandler, an excellent steakhouse. Saturday night we ate outdoors at Four Peaks Brewery, a favorite spot. Sunday was spent hanging out at the pool for a few hours reading. We were so relaxed from the heat and the water and reading that dinner was just a little bit of takeout (well, really delivery – the hotel no longer has a restaurant and bar and has worked out a delivery service with a nearby restaurant).

And we had fun, fun, fun!

We both feel refreshed and renewed. I LOVE Arizona. I would move there tomorrow if it only had an ocean. But I am too much a Jersey girl to move too far from the Atlantic Ocean. As much as I am lost in the splendor of the desert, ultimately it is the ocean that brings me complete serenity. Ah, to have them both. Since I can’t, I’ll keep heading out to Arizona to soak in that sun.

The mustang appears when you unlock the car. 🙂

Nature’s Sense of Humor

This, my friends, is a carrot on a red paper plate. It was one of the baby carrots in my snack pack the other day. It may have been every bit as edible as all the other carrots in the pack, but somehow I could not bring myself to take a bite. Would you? 🙂


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