Feeling Young Again

Eric Clapton, MSG, 2022-09-19

But oh my, we sure don’t LOOK young anymore, do we?

We were at Madison Square Garden last night rocking out to Jimmie Vaughan and Eric Clapton. Oh I LOVE the Blues. Although I was so excited to hear Clapton, I’m a bit sorry that Jimmie Vaughan’s set was so short.

Jimmie Vaughan at MSG

We missed the first few minutes, unfortunately. I also was not yet into the automatic “take a video” mode. So all I have are some very poor quality photos and 3 second videos which are really “live” photos. What can I say? I was enjoying the music and getting into it. In other words – EXPERIENCING IT LIVE rather than viewing it all through my phone. 🙂

Clapton opened with God Save the Queen (or should I now be writing King???) which he has been doing since Queen Elizabeth’s death several days ago. I haven’t seen him perform live in several years, but I don’t recall him wearing a suit & tie to perform. Black suit, black tie.

The guitar playing is still amazing. Is it generational or does every age love to hear those guitars singing out, weeping, rocking, pounding, loving?

It was a long night transportation-wise. We did take the train in, but it had a pause around Newark because of “police activity ahead”. We got to Penn Station about 75 minutes before the concert.

We thought we’d get fast food at the station before going upstairs but the problem with that plan is that there is nowhere to SIT anymore. All seats were removed years ago to deal with the issue of homeless sleeping in the station.

To our great delight, there is a restaurant/bar right in the station – Kabooz. We got a table for 4 in their “outside” area – outside meaning not inside their site but in a fenced off area on the floor of the station. 🙂 “Outside” is a relative term. The drinks were VERY strong and the food was quite good. We were already mellowed out by the time we got to our seats.

Coming home was much more of an adventure. The concert ended about 10 minutes before the 11:06 pm train home. That meant a midnight train home getting in after 1:00am. Ouch. But when we got downstairs we discovered the 11:06 was delayed. Very delayed. We made the 11:06 which left at about 11:35pm. Even so, there were sooooo many delays. My guess is that there was a lot of rail work happening. When we got to our station we were on the Northbound track (we were on a train heading south), and had to climb down the steps to cross the 2 southbound tracks and then go up stairs to get to the platform. We got home somewhere around 1:00am. Although we are sooooo tired today, it was worth every moment!!!

More Proof It’s a Very Small World

I ran away last weekend. I am soooooo tired of being stuck in my house. My house is lovely (despite the renovation), my cats are lovely (mostly), and I love all the convenience. But I have found that my personality is not a good fit for being housebound every day, all day. Every where I look I see something that needs to be fixed or something that needs to be put away or something that needs to be cleaned. It’s not even so much a question of needing to talk with other people – I’m on video conferences a good part of the day and the contractors always exchange pleasantries. I need the outdoors, a change of scenery, fresh air, and nothing for which *I* am responsible! I hopped in the convertible, top down, and headed OUT.

Since I’d been down the shore only 4 days earlier, I headed west this time, towards the Delaware River. There are many cute stores in Lambertville, one in particular delights me – A Mano. There is a restaurant in New Hope, The Landing, with a wonderful view of the river and great cocktails. My plan was to drive to Lambertville, park, wander about, catch a cocktail and a nosh in New Hope and then head back home for dinner (I had been promised burgers on the grill!).

A Mano was all I hoped it would be – a present for me and one for my adorable grand-niece, and lots of ideas for if when the renovation is done. Prezzies in hand I crossed the river to New Hope, but not without the obligatory mid-bridge selfie (my son got that picture). I wandered into several stores looking for an ankle bracelet – I’d lost my wonderful white & teal turtle bead one. I found 2 that would suit the same slot as the lost bracelet, and some guest towels for the bathroom. I realized it was 3pm and I was hungry – I’d not eaten all day. I went to the Landing which was PACKED – a 45 minute wait for a table. If I could find room at the bar, however, I could sit there and get a drink and a snack.

I was lucky and there were TWO empty chairs at the bar, despite 3 people standing right by them. If you are a group of 5, you can’t chat very well if everyone is seated at the bar. There was a couple sitting on the 2 seats by the wall, and I took the empty seat next to the woman. You know I’m gregarious and when the woman started adjusting her hair I smiled and said “you look great”. We started chatting. And chatting. It turned out they were from the town next to my hometown. I had to drive all the way to New Hope to meet neighbors??? Too funny! Then she asks me “do you know x?”. I nearly fell off my chair. I stared at her and said “That is my SISTER. WHO ARE YOU?????” Who is she? She’s Lu- she cuts my sister’s (2 other friends’) hair. She said that I sound like my sister, have the same head gestures, hands, mentioned where my/our mother lived, loved the now-defunct Sugarloaf Craft festival. Lu was sure x and I were related. *laughing and laughing* All the way to PA and I end up next to my sister’s hair stylist. It can be a VERY small world! But SO much FUN!!!

NYC in the Summer

Patience & Fortitude, NY Public Library

If you read this blog you know by now that I go into the city (and btw – there is only ONE “the city”) every winter and often in the fall. I go in more often but not that often in the summer. NYC is no different than central NJ in July & August – hazy, hot, humid. Of course there ARE exceptions. Last year we went into the city in the summer for the Interactive Van Gogh exhibit and my birthday. I never did finish blogging about that wonderful trip, did I? I got you on the ferry across the bay and never finished with the great walk down the East River to the restaurant. My bad. That was a FANTASTIC day.

Fortitude, sitting on the north. (Patience sits to the south)

My husband and I are both Senior Citizens which means we get to pay lower train fares. It used to be VERY expensive to take the train in – 2 or 3 round trip tickets cost more than driving in and parking in a lot. In addition there was no easy place on this end of the train trip to park. Now with the cost of gas, the high tolls, being senior citizens, and the new very convenient very large parking deck next to the train station, we’ve stopped driving in. A good thing too as they are discussing imposing “Central Business District” fees on motor vehicles, and that would include us trying to reach our favorite parking deck.

Fountain on Rockefeller Center promenade

I work for an international company and so I have many coworkers who I’ve known for years but either never get to see in person or almost never get to see in person. One of these is the wonderful woman who is my technical support. She is fantastic and over the years I feel that we’ve become friends as well as colleagues. She lives in California, however, so we’ve only met 3 times over the last 10 years. A client was flying her in to NYC last week and we knew we had to meet.

Rocking Horses on Rockefeller Center promenade – how appropriate, right? 🙂

Of course the day we were meeting for lunch was day 5 of the current heatwave, temperatures over 95F, the humidex (is that a word?) over 105. I didn’t care. 🙂 I found loose-fitting clothes, comfortable walking sandals, blocked my calendar and headed for the train. Getting the right train is always an interesting endeavor. We were meeting in midtown at noon. If I took the 10:40 am train I’d get in at 11:45 and would have only 15 minutes to make it 12 blocks uptown, which is about 3/4 of a mile. Hmmm. When I do my morning walk I average a little better than 3 mph. But not in this heat, not on crowded city streets, not in sandals, and who knows if the train would be on time. On the other hand, the train before that was at 10:17 getting me in at 11:15 – 45 minutes early, a long time to hang at the restaurant waiting.

Prometheus – HE can jump in the water to cool down

Of course I opted for the earlier train and decided to do my traditional sight-seeing BEFORE lunch instead of after lunch. That gave me something to do with my time as well as freed me to go-like-crazy after lunch if I wanted to catch a train back home without having to wait 30 minutes or more. Penn Station NY is much improved but not THAT much. 🙂 I got out at 32nd and 7th and headed uptown. I had a lot of friends to see. I made my way to 5th Avenue & 42nd to see Patience and Fortitude.

In the summer the ice skating rink is a roller skating rink – 30 Rock

I checked my watch but I thought I could make it up to 30 Rock and Prometheus and still make lunch on time at Carmine’s on 44th between 7th & 8th. Walking a bit faster despite the heat I trekked up 5th. Ah, home sweet home. There was a time, gentle reader, when I worked for RCA, and 30 Rock was the RCA building and I was up there regularly. I couldn’t get a good angle for a shot of the entire promenade so I started walking to Prometheus. I loved the fountains in the middle of the promenade and was delighted to see the rocking horses!!!! Oh my! I really wished I had time to get on one and take a selfie. 😦 But time was pressing. Hastened to say hi to Prometheus – you can see I was less than careful with my camera angle. Then off to 6th and 48th for my traditional photo of Radio City Music Hall. The plaza in summer is much different than in winter. Now I knew I was going to be late – but only by 5 minutes. Indeed I was less than a block from the restaurant when my friend texted me to say she was there. I said “go in, I’m right behind you.” I was – sweaty and disheveled but I was there! The waitress was lovely and brought me some paper towels so I could mop up. 🙂 Lunch was wonderful! We started with fun summer cocktails, the lunch was delicious, and the company superb!!! And I made the 2pm train home – got to Penn Station as the train was boarding. Now THAT is timing!

Our traditional shot of Radio City Music Hall. 🙂

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Atop the Kittatinny ridge

Doesn’t that title sound EXCITING???? IMPRESSIVE? Don’t my son and I sound healthy/virtuous/outdoorsy??? Well, we DID hike over 6+ miles on the Appalachian Trail when he came east for Passover in April. The amusing part was that we had not intended to hike the AT at all. We ended up there by accident. Okay, not accident – stubbornness by the elder side of the expedition. But as the REAL Park ranger said when we made it back to our car: “Now you can tell everyone you hiked the Appalachian Trail.” 🙂

I have a few books on hikes in NJ. I looked through the books and picked out several hikes that I thought we might be able to do in April, when the weather is not too hot and not too cold but could turn out to be either. My son made his choice from my subset. We had Passover seders on Friday and Saturday night, Sunday was for recovery. Monday we had tickets to go to NYC to see Daniel Craig in Macbeth. We HOPED we were going. A few days before Passover it was announced that the cast had Covid and performances were cancelled, re-opening Friday night. Saturday. Sunday. Sunday night it was posted that the Monday performances were cancelled.

The weather was more cooperative on Tuesday than Covid was on Sunday, so we set out for the Mohican Outdoor Center in Warren County (north western NJ). The book described a nice hike starting near there, approximately 4 miles easy/moderate hiking on the Coppermines and Kaiser Trails. We had all day to walk, so we were sure we’d be alright. I should have done all the internet searching BEFORE the hike that I am doing NOW to show you the trails and information. *grin* Because then we would have been on the correct trail.

Not doing my research first was not my only mistake. When we hike in AZ we are SO GOOD about having all the water we might need, and any other accessories (sun screen, clothing, protein bars, etc). I don’t know why the same reflexes did not kick in for me in NJ. Because I was relaxed about being in NJ? Because it was April and cool? Because the trail was “easy/moderate”? We did NOT read the book description first, we did NOT bring enough water, we did NOT wear the right weight clothing. You’d think it was the first time we’d ever gone hiking. We had 2 water bottles, not our usual 4. We did have hats. The book warned that the weather in the mountains could get cold quickly, so we were in jeans. But it was April and sunny and the jeans were just too hot and confining for hiking. I didn’t have any protein bars either. We stopped for breakfast on our way north, which is what kept us going when we ended up hiking for 4+ hours.

We found the Mohican Center with no trouble. There were a few cars pulled off on the side of the road near a little wooden bridge, but we kept going up the very bumpy lumpy road until we found the lodge. There was a young man sitting on a car bumper by the Park Ranger vehicles. He was on his cell phone. We parked near him and wandered over to the lodge, which was closed. We had our book and the page/map marked. We probably should have actually read the book, not merely looked at the picture, because it gave explicit directions (walk x # of feet to the bridge, look for this, etc.) for finding the trailhead and how to proceed. The sign board did not. You can see there was a warning about rattlesnakes. I don’t know how many times we’ve seen warnings in both NJ & AZ about snakes, but we’ve yet to see a single snake, rattled or otherwise. I’m not sure if I regret that absence or I am grateful or both. 🙂

We could see from the book that the actual trail was down the road from the lodge (we must have passed it on our way to park) but I, being the social, outgoing, neurotic person that I am, wanted to confirm it. 🙂 So I interrupted the young man, who I assumed (yet again a huge mistake) to be someone official, and showed him the book/map and asked him where we’d find the trailhead. In hindsight this was NOT a wise move. He looked at the map, made a few assumptions of his own, and then told us that the trailhead was down the road, turn LEFT at the bridge, not over the bridge, and up the hill onto the trail.

That agreed with where we thought we should be heading so we walked down the road. As we neared the bridge an elderly gentleman (yeah, right, so maybe he was around my age – he LOOKED older than I) got out of his car and greeted us. We explained what we were doing and he told us to turn right over the bridge. I did NOT have in MY hearing aids and really could not understand the gentleman all that well, so I assumed (bad move) that he could not hear US all that well either. 🙂 Can you play the ominous music now? We said no, up the hill, he said no, over the bridge. My son and I exchanged confused looks, thanked him, and turned LEFT, across the road, not right across the bridge, and headed up the trail.

So this is either when we still thought we were on the correct trail or our joyful faces when we realized we were calling it quits and heading back to the car. 🙂

I will spare you the details of the next 4+ hours. Here is the Readers Digest version (do people even know what that phrase means anymore???). The old man was right (obviously). I should not have interrupted/trusted the young man, who assumed we wanted the AT, not the Coppermine. We hiked up the Kittatinny ridge, looking feverishly for the branch to the right as described by the map and the young man, who added that it would be hard to see if we were not looking. We kept trying to make what we were seeing match the sparse description on the map. We glimpsed what we thought was the Delaware River. It could have been. We were high enough and the trees were sufficiently bare that we might have been looking at the Delaware.

We had a lovely view of what we thought was the Paulinskill Valley. Or was it the Kittatinny Valley? And oh em gee. Unlike hiking in AZ mountains, we kept seeing the same darn tree and the same darn rock and the same view of the same valley, just a little further south. It was all the SAME. I have almost NO photos because every time I picked up the phone to take a shot it looked exactly like the last photo.

View to the valley. It was pleasant the first 10 times. 🙂

And the trail markings are NOT like AZ. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, however. The trails we do in AZ are aimed at not losing any inexperienced, novice hikers. There are signs at every branch, clearly marked forks. At least that’s true for where we’ve hiked. In NJ on our two mountain hikes (I haven’t told you about last September yet) we followed white triangles and yellow rectangles and blue squares, all of which could be ANYWHERE – on a tree, on the ground, on a rock. We kept asking ourselves whether we’d missed the branch to the right to get on the Kaiser trail. Oh yeah, we’d missed it alright. 🙂

an interesting branch. seriously – i was hard pressed to find anything photogenic.

We knew we missed our trail because enough time had passed that we should have seen the hydroelectric plant and found the turnoff to Kaiser Trail no matter HOW slowly we might have been proceeding. It was warmer than we expected. We were bored. We were running low on water. We were experiencing a major letdown. We broke out of the woods into a clearing with a fire tower. NOT on our map at all. There were school-age beings there, obviously hiking, some climbing up the fire tower, others lounging about. We asked them if they knew about the trail. They did not (big surprise not) but that their teacher was coming up the road (other direction from whence we came) and she would know. So we kept going. This part of the trail was wide enough for trucks/SUVs. It was also extremely muddy and rutted.

These rocks were the trail. This is on our way back home. Heading out I was extremely stressed at having to cross them. Perhaps you can see the drop to the left off the ridge. Going back the perspective was different enough that the drop was less obvious. And I knew I’d navigated it safely once already.

We did encounter the teacher, who had a map, and shared it with us. We learned we were at the Catfish Fire Tower. I think. Quite honestly I was so turned around, and I’m still having difficulty figuring out some of these online maps, that I doubt I’d actually place money on being at Catfish. But since it’s the only fire tower on the AT in Warren County, that’s probably where we were.

You can see our trail at the bottom – the star is the fire tower

As we stared at the map, and realized how we were nowhere we hoped to be, we realized we had only 2 choices. First was to turn around and hike back the way we’d come. The second was to find the Rattlesnake Swamp trail parallel to the way we’d come and go back that way (In hindsight we realized that the young man thought we were taking the Rattlesnake to the main trail). That looked longer and, to be quite honest, we were both really done with the AT and the Kittatinny mountains at that point. We had less than half our water and we were hot, tired and hungry. We turned around and hiked back.

Ah, if we only turned RIGHT over the bridge. This is what it looked like on the bridge. 🙂

It was boring. It was uphill the whole way. Do not ask me how it could have been uphill the whole way home when it had been uphill the whole way out. It was. Every time we paused and looked ahead, it was an incline. I promise you that at almost NO point were we ever aware of walking down, but every time we looked ahead it was UP. The first hour of this hike was good. I confess that the last 3+ hours are probably NOT going into our top 5 hikes. 🙂 Next time we turn RIGHT over the bridge.

The pleasant (yet taunting) sound of Yards Creek – had we turned RIGHT over the bridge. 🙂

Canyon Lake

I love the Arizona deserts: the rocks, the cacti, the mountains. There is a LOT of desert. That’s why it’s even more stunning to find blue blue water nestled among the mountains. After we hiked up to Praying Hands and back, the afternoon was still young, and I’d not had my fill of gorgeous scenery, fresh air and sunshine. We’d seen signs for Canyon Lake on our way to Lost Dutchman State Park and so we thought we’d head that direction. According to the maps, Rt 88 would lead us directly to Canyon Lake. Canyon Lake is one of 4 reservoirs created off the Salt River.

This shot is actually from the hike down from Praying Hands but that rock face is seen on Rt88

I was slightly better this trip than I’ve been in the past. I only pulled the car over once so that I could inhale scenery and take pictures. It is so beautiful. My photos never quite capture the magnitude of the views, but I keep trying. Rt 88 is an incredibly twisting curving winding 2-lane road. When we headed out of Lost Dutchman the posted sign said ’25 mph”. I mentioned to my son that I thought perhaps that was unduly cautious and wondered why. He said, being prescient, that maybe it was because the road was going to be twisting ahead. (I was driving, he was looking at maps.)

view from Rt 88

Rt 88 is definitely twisty. With beautiful views. There was a lot of traffic on the road. It was a Saturday, gorgeous weather, out in the country. A LOT of motorcycles. We came around a curve to a stupendous view but there was no place to stop. As soon as I saw a spot ahead I pulled over – as had several other cars. Unfortunately where I was did not have as great a view as the middle of the road just prior to my pulling over. I decided that it was probably NOT a good idea to walk back and stand in the middle of the road by a blind curve. 🙂 Just take my word for it.

view on the OTHER side of rt 88

I got back in the car and we continued on and reached the overlook for Canyon Lake. Breathtaking. As we made our way down Rt 88 to the lake I pulled over yet again to take photos from another angle. Between the rock faces and the water I wanted to stand there and stare forever.

Our first glimpse of Canyon Lake

We got down to the actual parking and boat launch area and got out of the car to walk around a bit. We shared the water’s edge with some ducks. I took a video of the gentle lapping of the water at the edge – poetry for my soul.

There is a little town, Tortilla Flat, right along the lake. It was jammed packed with people. It looked to be the most amazing “tourist trap” I might have ever seen. My son kept describing it as the epitome of kitsch. 🙂 Yes, we were probably being unduly harsh. There IS a US post office there – it’s a real town. And if you click through on the link you will see that there is an official population of 6. I really should have taken some photos but I had no idea I was going to want them. 🙂

According to the website: “Tortilla Flat is an authentic remnant of an old west town, nestled in the midst of the Tonto National Forest, in the Superstition Mountain Range. Tortilla Flat started out as a stagecoach stop in 1904 and neither fire nor flood has been able to take away this historic stop along the Historic Apache Trail.” We did see lots of folks enjoying ice cream and further down the road a motorcyclist told me that the “best fudge ever” can be had in Tortilla Flat.

We decided we were not in the mood to deal with all those folks so we continued east on Rt 88. According to the map we could reach Roosevelt Lake, another reservoir created off Salt Lake. More twists and curves and bends, but now there were very few cars.

Can you tell yet that the text is merely an excuse for the photos?

The road climbed up and there was an overlook and a sign. The sign said that the road was closed ahead and that there was no pavement past the sign (that was true – we could see that). I pulled over and got out to take some photos. There were 2 motorcyclists there as well and I asked one of them if it was true about the road.

He said that it was, that the Woodbury Fire of 2019 that raged through Tonto National Forest had destroyed the road and the bridge. He said that the only way we could reach Roosevelt Lake was to go back to the highway (a good 30 minutes away) and head NORTH, and then approach Roosevelt Lake from the north. I did a little research once I was home and it was not actually the fire that destroyed the bridge. It was the horrendous rain storms in 2020 over the fire-scarred terrain which caused massive landslides and wiped out the bridge.

View from where we had to turn back on Rt 88

It was already late in the afternoon by that time, and it would have been getting dark by the time we reached the lake. We’ll have to do that another time and hope that the roads are open and we can get there. There is, of course, a lot of controversy over re-opening Rt 88. Arizona DOT has said they will NOT reopen the road until it is reforested (which will take years). We will have to get there from the north when we go.

Superstition Wilderness, Tonto National Forest

We turned around and headed back the way we’d come, all the way back to Chandler. By that point I was exhausted. I’d gotten something in my eye at the last stop and my eye was hurting and tearing – I made my son do the drive back home. I got into the hotel pool & hot spa to recuperate before we headed out to dinner. I leave you with this video of gentle waves upon the shore. 🙂

Hiking the Superstition Wilderness

Last time I attempted to hike Superstition I discovered that it makes a huge difference if the hike is going up and up, or more around and up. I was back in AZ and although it was a very short trip, I still had a day that could be spent hiking. I’m in much better shape than I was when I attempted Fremont Saddle via the Peralta Trail. All those mornings back home walking 2.75 miles, not to mention the TWO hills and the gradual incline, have definitely given me more stamina. Yes, I’m well aware that gasping my way up a suburban street is NOT akin to hiking up a mountainside, but it is some exercise. I did some internet surfing and discovered Treasure Loop to Praying Hands. I read the description MUCH more carefully based on my hard-won knowledge. It looked do-able.

Treasure Loop is the big loop – Praying Hands is the skinny line.

We decided to give it a try on Saturday, a day when we had absolutely nothing else planned. We could spend all day hiking if that’s what it took me – zillions of rests. The elevation gain did not look that difficult – only 834 feet compared to 1430 feet. The distance was also much less round-trip: 3 miles compared to 4.7 miles. And we were hiking in February, NOT early September. We checked with my son’s friend and although he made some faces, he thought I was probably able to do it. 🙂

We parked in the P by Maintenance. 🙂

It is only about 40 minutes from Chandler to the trailhead in Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. We got there a little after 11 am. *laughing* I probably should NOT put this here but oh, well, you know that for a supposedly smart woman I can do some pretty dumb things. 🙂 First, we ended up parking in the overflow parking because of a sign in the road talking about the parking being closed. Upon later closer inspection the sign was only intended to convey the information that you could NOT park overnight. But it WAS in the road and there was another car leaving that area coming at us, so we took it to mean the lot was full. 🙂 As it happens, I think that ended up being a good thing for us.

Keep your eye on that middle group of rocks.

We parked in the overflow and then tried to find the trailhead. Go ahead, laugh. I was getting a little worried about us that we could not even find the trailhead for Treasure Loop and what – I wanted to hike up to Praying Hands? 🙂 We wandered around the Cholla day-use area and decided it was NOT what we wanted. We made our way up the not-closed road to the Saguaro day-use area. Again, we saw lots of parked cars but no obvious trail-head. I was beginning to feel cranky. Just as I spied a sign that looked to be a trailhead sign, a gentleman called to us to say the trailhead began behind the restrooms. We went that direction but it was NOT the trailhead for Treasure Loop. Those of you who know me can imagine just how cranky I was at this point. I snarled my way over to where *I* thought the trailhead sign was and YES! I was correct!!! So we started out on Treasure Loop #56. If you click any of my links, or read anything online, you’ll see that all of the guides say start at the Cholla day-use area.

Very close.

I’m going to tell you that my son and I disagree with all of those trail guides. We started from Saguaro and ended at Cholla. Starting at Saguaro means you do the steepest, rockiest part FIRST, when you are still fresh and eager. The mountains are ahead of you, in all their beauty, and you start climbing immediately. The Cholla side of the loop is nearly flat, in comparison. Which makes it boring and a bit ho-hum. There were a handful of other groups of hikers – I’d guess fewer than 15 – both going our way and coming back towards us. All of these hikers were friendly and calling hello and smiling. My recollection of hiking Devil’s Bridge was that although the vast majority of the hikers WERE friendly and warm, there were definitely the groups who belonged walking in the city, where avoiding eye contact and smiles is considered the norm.

To know him is to love him.

For the most part the hike up was easy enough, but hard enough that we did need to pause a few times to catch our breath. We had a good cadence. You reach what seems to be the top of Treasure Loop where there is an aluminum bench. 🙂 We paused there to take some photos. We didn’t realize we were at the top until we met some other folk coming the other way (from Cholla) and they told us that we were. We could still see the Praying Hands a bit away, so we knew there had to be more to the trail. I remembered from when I found this trail originally that it was a loop with a line leading away from it – like a hanging pendant.

Wow Getting smaller.

We kept walking the way we’d been going and did indeed come to a sign pointing to Praying Hands. This path was definitely narrower and we could see it was much steeper than what we’d been doing. All of that fit my recollection of the first description I’d found. I keep talking about my “first” description because we downloaded an app: Route Scout which is an app from Hike Arizona . It wasn’t working for us. *grin* Oh be quiet. We were doing just fine without it.

And now you can barely see the details at all.

We headed up this trail towards Praying Hands. Definitely steeper. Definitely more loose gravel. Only 2 other groups doing this path -a group of 4 young women, and a young couple. We took some photos of the women all on one of the rocks, with the world spread out below them. 🙂 In return they taught me how to use Airdrop on my iPhone so that they could have the photos. 🙂 My son and I ALSO got up on the rocks for them to take pictures of US, but I chickened out and we stood on the CLOSER part of the rock ledge, not on the place where they stood. Honestly it is simply so gorgeous up there. I wish I could post every single photo. I took far fewer photos than I usually do. I wanted to experience the climb while it was happening, and many of the photos would look the same. What IS interesting was how the perspective changes. Rocks that looked so far away as we started got very close and LARGE. Then as we kept hiking up to Praying Hands they got smaller and smaller. We thought we’d come a long way at one point, but when we got up to Praying Hands and looked back at the huge rock at the top of Treasure Loop – wow. That huge rock was not a long trip at all.

See that rock in the foreground? That’s where the young women were standing.

We made it all the way to the top. The 4 young women had gotten there before us and we could see them off to our right, on a rocky ledge along the mountain face. The young couple reached us at the top flat ledge, where there was a pyramid of rocks. We could see Praying Hands across the way. I thought we were done. The young couple hiked down off the ledge and onto a very gravelly, OPEN SIDED path heading towards Praying Hands. Again, those of you who know me will recognize my reaction: heck, if THEY can do it so can I. Sigh. My son looked at me because he could see this next bit of path was not going to be fun. I said yes, we’re going. And we did.

I probably should have cropped this more but I liked the rock and the grass.

Reader, I hated it. 🙂 But we baby-stepped our way along that gravelly, long-way down on the left, irregular path all the way to the base of Praying Hands. We took a photo and pasted it to Facebook so you know that it really happened. 🙂 I also posted that I had no idea how I was going to get back down. Because that last little piece was really scary. Not for that young couple obviously but it was for me. Up is SO MUCH EASIER than down. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life up there, and I’m told calling for helicopter rescue is very expensive and frowned upon, so I knew I’d have to get down that steep loose gravel.

Pyramid of rocks at what I thought was the top.

Of course within my first 5 steps I slid and landed on my tush. My son’s friend asked me later “were you wearing proper hiking boots?” Of course not, don’t be silly. I don’t OWN proper hiking boots – I was wearing my sneakers. Hey – at least I wasn’t wearing sandals. 🙂 One of these days I really will invest in hiking boots and a walking stick. Once I was down there on my butt, and my heart rate returned to normal, I decided that was indeed the best way to continue. That’s what I did for that scary part. I reached a part where I could stand without too much fear, and for that part I proceeded on all 4s – 4s being my hands and feet, not knees. I’m probably mistaken about that being more balanced and secure but it felt better to me to have more contact with the ground and to be closer to the ground. It really is a VERY steep drop from that point. Trust me – I looked.

Praying Hands seen from the pyramid of rocks ledge

We made it back to the flat area with the rock pyramid. There were some steep parts from there back down to Treasure Loop, but they were fine after what had come before. There may have been one other place I trusted to my tush over my feet. We reached Treasure Loop and walked to the Cholla Day Use area. As I said to start, by then that part of the trail felt like walking on level ground. 🙂 All in all we were hiking for 3 hours. It was lovely – not too hot, sunny, not too crowded with other hikers. There was just enough challenge and risk (for me) to make it exciting. It was still early in the day so we decided to head toward Canyon Lake. But that’s a story for another day. 🙂

Escape from February

Happiness at the Hilton Phoenix Chandler – becoming my home away from home

I am a Jersey girl, born and bred. My idea of Paradise is the Jersey shore, more specifically somewhere on LBI (Long Beach Island for those of you who need a translation). But no matter how deep my roots, and they are very very deep, I can no longer endure February in NJ. My memory tells me that once upon a time when I was younger our winters were COLD but sunny. We had snow more often than rain. Now it seems that we are lucky to see the sun once every 2 weeks. The temperature is in the high 30s, low 40s, not cold enough to feel like winter but too cold to be at all enjoyable. Add to that covid and the 2nd year in a row when I can’t throw my blow-out-Superbowl party –> well, I need to run away.

Ahhhhhhhhhh

I planned to head to AZ to spend a week with my son around his birthday. One thing and another and I decided that week was not going to work well. I picked a different week and HE couldn’t make it. 2 days after I cancelled THOSE tickets/plans, we had another disgustingly damp, gray, miserable northeastern weather event. I told my son I didn’t care if he couldn’t take off to join me, I was coming to AZ. I neeeeeeed SUN and HEAT.

Flowers. In February.

I guess a lot of people felt the same. I could not get tickets for the days/flights I wanted. (I learned that the PGA Phoenix Open was happening this weekend.) So I made a shorter itinerary and got the plane & the hotel. I am staying at the Hilton Phoenix Chandler, where the people are absolutely wonderful. It’s becoming my home away from home. 🙂 I flew out on a Thursday afternoon, arriving that night. I took Friday as a vacation day and my son took off Friday afternoon to join me.

I spent the morning reading at the pool, soaking up warmth and light. We headed to Tempe to the promenade along the Rio Salada. I guess they call that area, or part of that area, Tempe Town Lake. We parked by one of the boat launches. When we got out I heard the most interesting bird chirps. Of course the moment I tried to record it he stopped cooperating but I did manage a very short bit. We started strolling along the river. It was heavenly. 🙂 There are plaques set into the concrete wall along the river. Some plaques are pictures, some have inspirational sayings, some have thoughts to ponder. My favorite image is NOT here because apparently a bird did not agree with my opinion and left a physical comment on the plaque. I liked the picture a lot but not enough to clean it off for a photo. 🙂

After walking for a bit we went and got some lunch at the Varsity Tavern. This was NOT where we thought we’d end up. We ate here back in October 2020, during the depths of the pandemic, and we were very very disappointed. Perhaps because we were comparing it to The Corner Room, a Penn State tradition, and a very fond and special memory for us. We were hungry and they could seat us so we gave it another try. I’m very glad we did. Our meals were delicious, and our waitress was great. Without question Varsity Tavern is back on our list of places to dine. 🙂 After that I had a somewhat unusual request: I wanted to go to a book store. When my son first moved out here, and I flew out to help him look for a place to live, we often had to kill time between appointments. One such time was spent in a bookstore, Changing Hands. It was a wonderful wonderful bookstore, with all the side gifts and items you want in a book store, as well as a HUGE inventory of new and used books. We discovered 2 new authors that day. We headed there after lunch and I had the joy of buying books for my son (we read a lot of the same authors).

If you are interested, I bought him Arkady Martine’s “An Empire Called Memory” and “A Peace Called Desolation” and Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. In return he has loaned me 3 very heavy books: Margaret Weiss & Robert Krammes’ The Dragon Corsairs trilogy. The amusing bit about THOSE books is that I have actually read at least the first 2. I’m not a very careful reader most of the time and have a habit of skipping parts that don’t interest me. 🙂 It was YEARS later that I discovered that the pirate ships were in the SKY, not water. Which finally cleared up that whole section where they sailed DOWN to somewhere else and all the action was happening, so I thought, under water. 🙂 Oops. There was no way I wanted to carry that weight on the plane so I have handed them over to the front desk to mail home for me. Yes, I AM a princess, why do you ask? 🙂

Ring in the New Year

frozen moment of the fireworks “raining” down in front of the hotel (do watch the live version below!)

And oh PLEASE let 2022 be MUCH better than the last 2 years!

You know by now that I fall into the “extrovert” category. As annoying as people can be, I neeeeeeeed them. 🙂 I love the excitement and energy of New York City. I love parties. I love meeting new people and talking to them. Okay – that last might need a few parameters but it’s essentially true. Covid has cramped my style greatly. Don’t misunderstand – I am EXTREMELY grateful that to date that is ALL it has done to me personally. My family and I are vaccinated, booster’d and wear masks when in public locations. We’ve been eating out at restaurants, going to the theater, being in the NYC holiday excitement. But even I am cautious about throwing a party at my home.

I got brave and decided to have a small dinner party to start the new year. I invited 8 others to join us for dinner on January 2, outside, with propane heaters, and canopies to shield us from the possible rain. (Okay – originally Jan 1 but the weather looked so bad that I moved it to Jan 2.) But if we are outside, we’ll be wearing coats and warm clothes. *I* wanted to GLITTER and SPARKLE. I decided my husband and I would go out for dinner on NYE so I could have someone else do the meal prep & serving & cleanup and *I* could SPARKLE. We made plans for an “earlyish” seating – 8:45pm (earliest I could get by the time I decided to do this) – even though *I* thought we should go for a much later seating so we’d still be in town when they set off the fireworks outside the restaurant at midnight. My husband nixed that but promised he’d stay awake to get in the car and drive to some point where we could see those fireworks. 🙂 I know he thought we’d both be asleep so it was a safe promise. So we were booked for dinner at 8:45pm at Catherine Lombardi in New Brunswick.

gotta glitter everywhere even if i haven’t had a mani/pedi in forever

Well. The best laid plans, right? In this case, however, the plan for fun was EXCEEDED. I dressed up – spent a good hour trying to put together the correct pants and footwear and necklace for my new glitter – oops – GLITTER – top. I felt pretty confident I’d nailed it. 🙂 I even wore makeup (no, the image below is NOT how I did my makeup). 🙂 We got to the restaurant and were seated, right on time. The tables were spaced very well, the wait-staff wore masks. We were at a table for 2 with only one table to our right (no tables directly to the other sides). We ordered cocktails (oh what a GREAT cocktail I had!!!) and as we were doing that the table to our right was seated – a family of 4. Two men in the chairs facing my wall, 2 women on my wall also. We all glanced at each other but kept on with our lives.

No, I don’t know why I don’t publish my RL face in this blog.

A few minutes later, after our cocktails had arrived, the man closest to my husband leaned over and tapped my husband’s shoulder. I, despite my hearing aids, could not hear what they were saying over all the ambient noise. I should have known. *I* am the one who is still living in the same town where she was born and bred decades ago. My husband is the one who knows people anywhere we go. 🙂 The gentleman and my husband had worked together on a construction job. My husband is a structural engineer, Paul is the owner of a construction company specializing in concrete structures, my husband’s personal favorite material. Those of you who know us both will not be at all surprised that from that point on the 2 of them exchanged a few comments, I ended up exchanging compliments and small talk with the women. Just before our dinners arrived, a table to our other side finished their meal and stood up to go. I was astounded when 2 of them came over to us. OMG!!! It was our neighbor Suzanne and her son Michael, who grew up with our son!!! It was great to see them, and hear what was happening. I took a photo to send to my son. Even funnier in the “isn’t it a small world” sense is that Michael lives outside of Knoxville, TN, which is where a good part of my husband’s family lives now as well. It was so lovely and wonderful to see the 2 of them! And I’ve made a resolution to get together with Suzanne one day soon.

We sat back down for our dinner, noticed that Paul’s table had been served as well. We ate our dinners and enjoyed the festive atmosphere and good food and service. Then we were all done with our main courses. In another day and age, the men would have repaired for cigars and brandy and the women off to to their chitchat elsewhere. In this day and age, my husband and the other man started talking construction, totally oblivious to the rest of us. 🙂 It was now around 10:30pm, and they were having a wonderful time chatting. I started plotting.

I excused myself ostensibly to use the rest room. I found one of the managers and asked if the table next to us had been drinking alcoholic beverages. Upon learning that they had, I ordered a round of champagne for the 6 of us. 🙂 I went back and sat down, but slid over the bench (the women’s side of the setup was one long upholstered bench) to join the women and 3rd man in conversation. 🙂 Our champagne arrived and we had to forcibly interrupt my husband and Paul to participate in the toast. 🙂 I learned that Paul had apparently also paid for a round of OUR drinks. Great minds think alike! As you might have guessed by now, we were all still there talking and enjoying when the management gave everyone the 20 minute warning for getting drinks and heading outside for the fireworks. 🙂 I took my champagne glass and we all headed outside to the street. As long as we stayed within the little fences we could bring our drinks with us.

oh just watch the video. 🙂

The weather was cooperating, it was warm, not raining. We had a countdown to midnight, and then the fireworks began! They were a lot of fun and not what I’d expected. They were shot off from the hotel roof across the street. There was music playing through a sound system. Loads of people cheering and laughing. Even so – we were not crowded into anyone else. When the fireworks were done we were still fairly near the other family. We walked over and hugged happy new year. Paul’s wife suggested that we should get together for dinner together some time (they live in the next county). I said that I would LOVE that! I’d just been remarking to someone recently about how does one make new friends at this age if you are not going in to work??? I guess go out to dinner!!

Wishing you all a happy, healthy new year to come, filled with peace and joy. And food and friends and fun and fireworks!

Skating in SL

Last night I was a bit cranky, a bit down. My mind kept circling in the same grooves, all of which were annoying. I remembered that “back in the day” when I was in this kind of mood, I’d head into SL for friends, live music, some relaxation.

I logged in and decided to head to my favorite go-to location – Fogbound Blues club. There was a time in this blog when I’d remember to capture all the links, the map locations. These days when I log in I can barely remember how to move myself, much less my camera, and even less remember how to find and save information. Trying to change out of my jeans & sweater to my adorable skating outfit was almost painful. 🙂

I’m extremely adept at physical activity in SL. 🙂

I made it to Fogbound and had a very difficult time moving about, or even getting my camera to do what I wanted. I finally saw an open chair and SAT there, listening to DJ Panther for a bit. As I sat there I IM’d my friend Honey who was inworld. She invited me to come skating. Ahhh, memories. We used to skate all the time back in the day, back at ShengriLa. (That is not a typo.) I said that sounded like a great idea and she sent me the TP (which is NOT toilet paper, for all you relative new-comers to this blog – it is Teleportation address).

I was just about to accept it when I realized one of my 2 absolute favorite musicians – Noma Falta – was playing live at the moment. (The other absolute fav is Komuso Takagawa, without whose music I could never survive the yearly traumatic procedure on my tongue.) I bopped over to hear Noma. I did a tad better once I got there, remembering how to find her, move closer, not bump into anyone. I stayed for one great blues song but then TP’d to ice skate.

What fun. For those of you who have never become immersed in a virtual reality, you have to believe me when I tell you that for me being in SL, living through my avatar, feels extremely real. My brain can accept what my eyes and ears send it and translate that as “real”. Honey and I skated and chatted and caught up on life. It was simply fantastic. Just what I needed. Well, maybe what I need is a new gaming computer. This Lenovo does NOT render the graphics anywhere near as wonderfully as my Alienware did in its day. My husband and son have fancy-dancy gaming computers. Maybe if *I* had one too, I’d spend more time in SL. Heaven knows reality has not been such a joy the last few years.

Yes, you are seeing a flying sleigh. 🙂 And look how HIGH I can lift my leg!!!!

Structures

Or Why I Married a Structural Engineer 🙂

30 Rockefeller Center (formerly the RCA Building)

I see I have not posted anything since Hurricane Ida. I had fallen waaaaaay behind even before that – lots of fun adventures out in Arizona in June, my birthday trip to NYC in July, hiking and sight-seeing in NJ in September – yep way behind. Add to that Sukkot, a trip to NYC in September, again in October, gardening, walking, the theater, and another all-day NYC experience, I may never catch up. I was loading photos from my phone to my laptop today and realized that I MUST share some of these pictures with you.

Main apse St. Patrick’s Cathedral

I LOVE architecture. My son learned this when we were touring in Italy together several years ago. All those paintings of dukes riding out to meet so-and-so. Endless. Boring. Even the Sistine Chapel was only “cool”, not breath-taking. (Yes, I know I am sadly deficient. It happens.) The REALLY cool pictures at the Vatican Museum were in the Gallery of Maps. OMG!!!! LOVED the Map Room! Loved the palaces, the plazas, the buildings. Architecture and maps.

Side entrance St Patrick’s Cathedral

I have several photos from my NYC trips earlier this year, but I’ll save them for when (if) I write up those adventures. In the meantime I’m sharing the pics from this past weekend.

Empire State Building

I LOVE architecture. 🙂 I even really like road cloverleafs and the ramp structures. If you build it, I will admire. 🙂

Paramount Building, Times Square