Posts Tagged 'Arizona'

I Am Not A Moderate

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Superstition Mountains

That statement probably doesn’t surprise some people who know me, it may surprise others. I used to swing on an extreme emotional pendulum when I was much younger. Somewhere over the years I did learn moderation and to try to skirt too much extremism. But by golly I DID hike up to Devil’s Bridge back in June and that hike is rated moderate by the USDA Forest Service. Yes, I was terrified during the steep ascent and descent, and frozen in fear at the top, but I got there and back. So when I knew I was heading back to Phoenix in September, I thought that I could handle hikes rated ‘easy’ or ‘moderate’. I’ve begun following “Hike Phoenix”, a blog about hiking in Arizona. I read several of her suggested hikes and the Peralta Trail up to Fremont Saddle sounded beautiful and do-able. She rated it ‘moderate’ and said it would take approximately 2.5 hours to hike 5 miles. I thought about that and figured it would probably be more like 4 hours for me, but if we went slow and steady I would be okay. My son agreed with my selection. We packed up water, and sun screen, and some light snacks and headed up the highway.

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Getting closer – left the highway

I make my son crazy when we are driving out there. The same way I make Honour crazy. I am oooo’ing and ahhhh’ing at the scenery and trying to take photos through the windshield and through the side windows and begging him to drive more slowly and oh oh just slow up over there! We headed up the highway and soon enough we could see the Superstition Mountains. Once again we were probably starting out later in the day than most serious hikers, but we’d already proven to ourselves that we carry sufficient water and we’re not foolish about over-staying.

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Made it!!

You turn off the paved highway onto a fairly well-packed dirt road. We traveled that for awhile, and we did see other cars. We also saw incredible scenery so it did take us awhile to make progress since I kept insisting we stop the car so I could take ‘just one shot’. We finally made it to the trail head at about 1 pm or so. We reapplied our sun screen, shaded the inside of the car best as possible, drank some water, and took photos of the sign boards. I always figure that if nothing else my phone can serve as a map should we need it. We were going to do Trail 102 – up to Fremont Saddle and then back the way we came. You are probably much wiser and more observant than I and you might see what I did not. We finally stepped out a little after 1:00 pm.

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Notice the Peralta trailhead marked at the bottom, on the left, Trail 102 leading up from there


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I really need to have a better understanding of what these charts told me

It was gorgeous. We met some other hikers – both heading out and coming back. I was envious of the young man who passed us – he had not one but TWO walking sticks. I said to my son that we needed to invest in some walking sticks for ourselves. It wasn’t warm, but not unduly hot. Sunny but there were shady spots on the trail. I took pictures of course. I figured we had 4 hours total. We’d get as far as we could in 2 hours and then turn back, even if we hadn’t made it to the saddle. That saddle was beginning to look quite a ways away.

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On the Peralta Trail

We’d been walking 10 minutes and I thought – I need to rest. I stopped, sipped some water, felt my pulse calm. I started up. I was beginning to feel stressed. My knees were fine (they have been problematic in the past). My foot was good too – I wasn’t feeling insecure in my footing, nothing hurt. And yet – I couldn’t seem to keep pushing on. Every 10 minutes I needed to stop and get my breath. My son is wonderfully patient. He never gives me a hard time about “let’s get going” or “you can do this”. He is supportive and says we’ll take it at whatever works for you. We’d been heading up for probably 30 minutes by now. I didn’t feel like we’d gotten anywhere but I also didn’t feel like I could keep going. By this time I was saying to myself that we would just go as far as we could go in an hour and then turn back.
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We met people coming down the trail from the saddle. 3 young women and their dog. They were fairly exhausted. When they met us they were saying “oh my aren’t we at the bottom yet?” They told us it was much more strenuous ahead, that it was a stiff climb, upwards, always upwards. In their opinion it wasn’t going to be worth it to me to keep trying to get up there because beautiful as it was, it was a beautiful view right where we were there.
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It was already after 2pm. I dreaded going any farther up the trail. I might have been petrified with fear on Devil’s Bridge, but I never doubted that I could get there or back. I was starting to fear that I wasn’t even going to be able to make it back to the car once I decided to turn back here. I simply could not get enough air. Nothing hurt, it wasn’t too hot, I just could not get enough air to breathe. New Jersey girl – meet the mountain elevations!
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I looked at my son and said “I can’t do this. I’m very sorry but I don’t think I can go up any higher. I’m not having fun. It’s not worth it to me. If I push myself to keep going I’m afraid I won’t be able to get back home.” He said it was my call and he was fine with turning around right there and heading back to the car. So we did.
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I made it just over 60 minutes on that trail – basically 30 minutes up with lots of resting, 30 minutes back. It’s beautiful. I’d love to do it some day. I was extremely disappointed. Obviously walking for 4 miles through the Rutgers Ecological Preserve is NOTHING like walking in the mountains of Arizona. 🙂 There is a HUGE difference between walking about and walking UP. If we’re talking walking ABOUT, hey, I can DO moderate. If we’re talking UP, I’m not a moderate. *grin*
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This little guy scampered along with us for quite a bit of the trip back down to the car

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final backward look

If It Was Good Enough For Marilyn

center court with construction wall behind

The center courtyard, Piestewa Peak in the background, fake ivy-covered construction wall cutting across the green

Although I absolutely LOVED my time at The Boulders in June, when I headed to Phoenix in September I wanted to stay a bit closer to my son’s house. Remembering the tips I got from my SuperShuttle drivers, I checked to see if I could get a room at the Arizona Biltmore. I remembered them telling me that the Biltmore had Marilyn Monroe’s FAVORITE pool. It is a historical site as well, with the architecture and grounds designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (who consulted on the design). I could indeed, and there was even a “special” rate. Keep in mind that this ‘special’ rate was more than half again as much as I paid per night for The Boulders. That fact will become important in the telling. Although it was a bit more than I’d hoped, it was for fewer nights so I figured it would all be fine.

outdoor restaurant with view

sitting in the outdoor restaurant, enjoying the view

Let me say that the grounds are GORGEOUS! The architecture is stunning. All the people working there (with one exception) were lovely, friendly and helpful. The pools are stunning. The views are sensational. Every grouping of rooms has its own pool and gardens and signature. I was staying in the Terrace Court section of the resort. There are many maps out there on the internet showing the grounds of the resort. I was given one when I checked in as well. It would have been helpful to have familiarized myself very carefully with the aerial view right from the start. I didn’t and maybe it would have helped, but maybe nothing would have helped. Anyway, the Terrace Court was pretty much as far from the check-in desk as you could be and still be on the grounds. 🙂 (That is a slight exaggeration but not a complete fabrication.) Even so – it wasn’t far. Once I understood the layout, and once I found my shortcut, it looks farther from things than it is.

left walkway to Terrace Court

the LEFT walkway to Terrace Court. Construction on the right, Piestewa in the background

I got in around 1pm Arizona time, 4pm ET. I wanted to get to my room, have something cold to drink, maybe a small nosh to eat, and relax. I was only carrying my bag and my rolling carry-on luggage – not too much to handle on my own. The sweet young thing at the check-in desk gave me a map and told me to head to the right once I was outside, and then continue bearing left to get to the Terrace Court. That would have worked. But unbeknownst to the check-in clerk, the grounds on Friday afternoon no longer resembled the grounds on Thursday night. They have begun digging up the gardens in the center of the grounds. At the point where I should have headed left, there was a construction wall up. I kept heading straight. I ended up in Ocatilla. I knew I was not in the right place but I really didn’t know how to get to where I needed to be. The ground crew and room staff were very concerned, and wanted to help but, alas, they did not speak English and my Spanish was not up to this task. (Hola Paco, Como esta usted? really doesn’t get you very far in most day-to-day conversations.) I could tell by their reactions that I was nowhere near where I should be. I backtracked and found a walkway that led left but it appeared to end at a wall. I figured I had nothing left to lose so I walked that way. Lo and behold – there was a walkway to the right, along the construction wall. I followed that and made it to my room. I was hot and cranky at this point. All I wanted was to relax.

the hidden right turn

Does it look like a through-way to YOU?

I always check out my room before I unpack – bathroom, safe, doors, locks. I couldn’t lock the balcony door. I’m not stupid nor am I incompetent. I was pretty sure the door was broken. I called to the front desk. They assured me they would send someone to help me with the door. Indeed, it was probably only about 10 minutes or so before 2 men came to help me with the door. It took them only 5 minutes to realize they could not help me – the door was indeed broken and they’d need to drill out the entire lock mechanism. They called down to the front desk and explained that I should be given a new room. So I sat and waited for the next person to come help me.

Terrace Court courtyard from above

Terrace Court courtyard from above

This was Pete from the bell staff. Pete is a star. He alone made up for all that happened so far and that would happen after. He was upbeat, funny, helpful. We walked down the hall to another room. We went in, checked the balcony door. He headed out and I walked into the bathroom. Where there was water running. Loudly. Except – there was no water running. Just the sound of water gushing down. I ran to the door and shouted down the hallway to Pete, who was still in sight. He came back. He heard the water. He suggested that it was the people above me taking a shower. I said, possibly, except we are on the top floor and there is no one above me. He acknowledged this and we both looked around trying to figure out where the water might be. I said “this is not going to work for me.” He said, not a problem, we’ll get you another room. I’ll be right back.

Terrace Court courtyard

Terrace Court courtyard

Ooooookay. So much for kicking off my shoes and making a cold drink and eating a nosh. Another 10-15 minutes and Pete returned. He led me to a room on the other side of the building. The first 2 rooms had views of the interior grounds, which are lovely, but under construction, whereas this third room had a view of Piestewa Peak. It also had a view of roofs and roads but Piestewa is a magnificent sight, and exactly the kind of thing I WANT on my vacation balcony. Pete and I checked every door. We turned on the shower, we turned on the bath. We turned off the bath and the shower. We flushed the toilet. We hardly dared to look at each other. I went to try the room safe. It was locked. A room safe should be left open when the previous occupants leave. Pete called for security, because locked room safes were beyond his authority. At this point we could do nothing but laugh. I mean really??? For what I’m paying per night for this fabled hotel and nothing in the plant is maintained properly??? I told Pete he owed me a drink and that if I had to change rooms AGAIN he was going to owe me chocolate and flowers. He smiled triumphantly and said “I’m on top of this” and handed me two drink vouchers.

terrace court pool

terrace court pool

Two security men arrived, one of whom it turned out was the head of security. They fiddled with the safe. Nothing. They fiddled more. And again. Finally AHAH!!! The safe OPENED!! It was, of course, empty. So with all 3 men watching me, I locked the safe, and then reopened the safe successfully. Finally!!! It only took 3 hours to get me a room where everything worked. I waved goodbye to my entourage and finally unpacked. I locked the door with a do-not-disturb on the knob, changed my cloths, grabbed my snack and went out onto the balcony to stare at Piestewa and read my book.

Balcony view of Piestewa Peak

View from the balcony – Piestewa Peak

My son was joining me after work. I told him I would meet him in the lobby because I didn’t think he would EVER find his way to the room, given all the wrong turns I took, especially because it would be after dark by the time he came. He called to tell me he’d arrived and that he’d just given the car to the valet to park, because he didn’t feel like dealing with finding the self-park garage. I met him in the lobby and escorted him back to the room with only one wrong turn on the way. It was dark, and that walkway that appeared to end in a wall was tricky to see.

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I loved the shadows

We were both very tired. We knew we wanted to head out hiking the next day, and we had plans for eating out to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, so we thought we’d simply take advantage of our free drink vouchers and eat in the hotel, although neither of us found the menu all that appetizing. We found our way to the outdoor restaurant with no problems. We had a pick of tables. We sat. And waited. A hostess came by and apologized and said things were busy and gave us menus and took our drink orders. That was the point when we noticed our drink vouchers were for “up to $15/drink” and most of the drinks were over $20. Seriously? I no longer remember every single detail (thank goodness for that) but dinner was a flop. Our waiter, when he finally showed, was terrible. Service was worse. We needed water desperately and I got up to try to tackle someone somewhere to give us water. On my search I ran into one of the security men from the safe episode. He promised to get us water. When our check finally showed up, I had my son figure the tip and bill it to the room. We were both disgusted with the whole meal and with everything up to that point. As we started away I asked if the drink vouchers had been applied. No, they had not. We turned and went back and I cornered the waiter. I explained about our drink vouchers, that the hostess had taken them, but that they should be applied. He not only applied the vouchers but he comp’d us the drinks completely. Honestly – at that point it had reached the point for us of ‘well yeah you’d better comp us’.

room service

Room Service

We headed back to the room. I HAD laid down a trail of breadcrumbs so we could find our way back but it was very dark at this point and there were NO LIGHTS along the construction wall. We took that misleading walk to the wall and turned right into the dark and were nearly run over by the room service bicycle. Thank goodness he saw us because we weren’t expecting him. We got back to the room totally astounded at the terrible grounds conditions and the crummy meal. The room was nice but we were both a bit disgruntled when we went to sleep.

paradise pool

Paradise Pool (early in the morning, before the crowds)

The next morning we wanted to get a relatively early start so we could have breakfast before we headed out for a hike. I picked up the phone to call the valet to have the car readied. No dial tone. I switched to another line. No dial tone. THE PHONE DIDN’T WORK!!!! Pete and I had not thought to check THAT! At that point I thought this is simply the pits. I’m paying nearly twice for this room for what I paid in The Boulders, where everything was exquisite. This is a fabled historic ballyhooed hotel and NOTHING WORKS. We headed to the front desk. My son went to get his car and I headed for the concierge. I went through the entire litany of misery. I figured they owed me something at this point. Indeed, they did end up comp’ing me an entire night stay. Part of me feels they should have been sending fruit trays and flowers to us as well but I suppose I shouldn’t be greedy.

paradise pool from the cabana

Paradise pool seen from the cabana

As I was talking to the concierge my son came up. Pete had guessed that he was my son and asked him if I had gotten the chocolates that Pete had sent me. My son, who had seen a candy bar I’d brought with me, said yes. When my son relayed this whole story I went out to Pete and said “Chocolates? You sent me chocolates? I never got them.” He said “Not only did I send you chocolates but I sent you a cupcake as well!” Jumping to the end of THAT story, because I had a do not disturb on my door and because my phone was out of order, room service had no way to tell me that they wanted to make a delivery. For the want of a phone the cupcake was lost. Needless to say, when we returned later that day we had both chocolates and cupcake in the room. AND a working phone.

view outside our door

The view from the balcony walkway around the courtyard

From Saturday night on I have no complaints about the hotel. Things worked as expected. They FINALLY put up signs directing people around the construction so that you could find Terrace Courts without having to use a GPS. They also mounted lights all along the construction walls so that you could see oncoming traffic in the narrow walkway. What we also realized in the daylight was that had we turned LEFT once we were outside and bore to the RIGHT around the gardens, we’d have gotten to Terrace Court with no problem. They like to send you to the RIGHT because all of the stores are on that side. 🙂 We ended up using the left walk for the rest of our stay.

lights and a sign

Look! A sign AND Lights!!

On Sunday I rented us a cabana for the day. We made a run to the local Walgreens after breakfast and I made sure we had extension cords so we could power all of our electronics while we were at the pool. (My son wasn’t really on vacation – he had work he had to be doing. While I was lounging in the refreshing water and napping on the chaise, he was working away at the table.) The pool food and service was wonderful – as far from our Friday night experience as possible. The cabanas at the Orlando Hilton give you more food and drink, but the Arizona Biltmore cabana has its own bathroom. 🙂 That IS a plus.

Terrace court pool in the afternoon sun

Terrace court in the afternoon sun

By the end of my stay I could see why Marilyn liked the Biltmore so much. I didn’t swim in HER pool – I was quite happy with the Paradise pool and the Terrace Court pool. I’d like to see what they end up doing in the middle court. It had beautiful gardens. I saw the broken up walls and churned up clods of dirt. Pete assured me that he had seen the plans and it would be spectacular. He told me I would have to come back when it was completed. It’s a possibility, Pete, it’s a possibility. 🙂

leaving Phoenix

Leaving PHX

Butterfly Wonderland

Subtitle: How to Creep Out Your Sister

black with blue on white flower

After viewing Taliesin West it’s a bit of a challenge to find something to do that is as stupendous. So we switched gears entirely. We moved from architecture and bringing the outside geology and flora in, to getting up close and personal with the fauna. We went to Butterfly Wonderland (we also made a stop at DSW for shoes, but I’m guessing you won’t be much interested in THAT stop – the shoes were for my son. Oy, shoe shopping with guys is just NOT shoe shopping. *rolls eyes*).

black and red

I’m not sure why Butterfly Wonderland is described as a “tourist attraction”. It seems to me that it is an attraction whether you are a tourist or you are a resident. Nearly everyone loves butterflies and enjoys seeing them up close and personal (we’ll discuss the exceptions in just a moment). Butterfly Wonderland not only has butterflies but, as we discovered to our great surprise, it has fish and reptiles as well. It also has a honeybee hive but that is not, in my opinion, an especially exciting attraction.

underside of electric blue butterlfy

So who doesn’t like butterflies? Well, butterflies are a lot like moths. In our family, the word “moth” is a very, very bad word. You see, long long ago, when I was a mere child, there was an incident. Oh, not MY incident. *I* slept (happily) through the entire event. No, it happened to my sister. She was doing that teenage thing and was out at a party. An outdoor party. I don’t know how this happened and as she is traumatized to this day it’s difficult to get a coherent description, but apparently a moth flew in her ear. I understand that in fact this is NOT that uncommon. Apparently our ears are warm and smelly and there is warm smelly air from our ears that attracts flying insects, including moths. It does leave unanswered how they can actually fit. Anyway, at the time when my sister was the main attraction we were not so well informed.

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Looks like a moth, don’t you think? 🙂

My father had to get my sister from the party and take her to the emergency room. This is where the truly horrific part of the story happens – the part that to this day elicits a bitter cry from my sister, who is unable even now to forgive. My father said to the ER doctor: “She SAYS a moth flew in her ear.” Oh the pain!!!! The betrayal!!!! He DOUBTED the existence of a moth in her ear. Now understand that we both loved and adored my father immensely, and he adored us, so to have him DOUBT us???? Salt in the wound.

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Anyway, as it became evident, there WAS a moth in her ear. The doctor extracted the moth, cleaned her ear, and she was all better physically. The emotional scars have lasted til this very day.

Is it gone yet???

IS IT GONE YET?????

This event proved soooooo traumatic to our family (okay, not to ME *grin* I laugh. Remind me to tell you the story about how Mary and I ran across the floor at the Y, and my sister walked and SHE fell and broke her ankle. *laughing* ), so traumatic to our family that MY SON now has a slight phobia about moths and butterflies. He’s a lot like my sister. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised he inherited this. Whenever we visit a butterfly world, my son cringes as the butterflies swerve near him. Should they land on him, rather than enjoy the experience he begs me to get it off of him. *grin* Okay, maybe not BEG, but trust me – until it’s OFF he is NOT happy. He recites the sister/moth story and empathizes. The shoulder that serves as a resting spot for a butterfly in these photos is his unhappy shoulder. 🙂

orange and black bf on red flowers

When we entered Butterfly Wonderland we were just in time for a movie about the life cycle of monarch butterflies. The movie was okay, but it didn’t answer my question – WHY do monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico? Apparently all monarch butterflies do NOT migrate, and of the families that do, not every generation migrates. My understanding from the film is that the 3rd generation migrates back to Mexico. The film never explained what triggers the migration.

a very very large butterfly

A very, VERY LARGE butterfly ?

After the film we went into a room where there were cocoons and emerging butterflies. It is fascinating to see how difficult it is for the butterflies to get out of the cocoon. They have a matter of seconds to get free and clear before their wings are hardened in a crimped position. We cheered the ones that made it out safely and felt very sad for the ones that just couldn’t do it, even in such a protected environment. They told us that these butterflies that had just emerged would be released into the exhibit in about 30 minutes.

orange with black on white flowers

We headed into the big butterfly enclosure and wandered about. There were some stunning electric blue butterflies but they moved so quickly and so high that I could not get a picture of their open wings. I have many shots with their wings closed but the outside (underside?) of their wings is brownish/black, not that electric blue. We did stay and enjoy (well *I* enjoyed) the exhibit for quite a bit, waiting to see the newly hatched insects released. After that we headed out and discovered the fish and reptiles. Pictures for a different day. This post is butterflies. (and moths)

orange butterlfy with purple flower

2 butterflies

Taliesin West

Trivets available for sale

Trivets for sale

I have nothing I can say about this experience except that I LOVE LOVE LOVE Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. Everything we saw at Taliesin West was fascinating, engaging and desirable. The absolute genius of the man takes your breath away. It must have been close to unbearable at times to live with him or interact with him, but his work makes heaven on earth.

Walk from parking lot at TW

Walking from the parking lot

I loved the tour so much that I signed up to become a member of the FLW organization, I bought gifts for every member of my family, and I ordered a wall hanging for my house. If I could have bought every single item in the gift shop I would have. This has strengthened my resolve to get to Falling Water this year before it is too late for either me or it. 🙂

Entrance to Taliesin West

View from the entry area, looking down towards the triangular pool (out of sight, all the way at the end on the left)

The pictures here are in the order of the tour. We started in the gift shop (it was air conditioned) and then moved past the large triangular swimming pool to look out on the once-unbroken vista, then to the entry courtyard for the living quarters.

Petroglyph at TW

Petroglyph in entry area

We saw the living room, the family courtyard, FLW’s study, the indoor meeting room/movie theater, the first stage theater they built, and then the second, larger theater/stage area. We could look into the communal eating area but we did not enter there or into the working studio, although we could look in somewhat through the windows as we walked by.

View from Taliesin West

Vista from the triangle pool.

Sculpture in courtyard at TW

Sculpture in entry courtyard to living areas. Notice the workman on roof. That and the pool are undergoing extensive repairs.

Entrance Courtyard at TW

Outside wall of the living room. Doorway is out of sight on the left. Can’t look in the windows.

Doorway into living quarters

Doorway into the living areas. Yes, the buildings really are that low. FLW was not tall. 🙂

Living Room at TW

The living area. Everywhere is comfortable. Everywhere has a view. The windows allow you to look out but prevent those outside from looking in.

Table and chairs in living room

Table and chairs in the living room.

View from living room to family courtyard

Looking out from the living room to the family courtyard with the moongate in the wall. Piano in the foreground. The armrests are designed to fit an adult in a resting position.

Family courtyard with view into living room

Family courtyard looking in to the living room. Looking in by the family/those inside the house is ‘okay’. Otherwise windows are situated to give privacy from ‘outside’.

Family courtyard with moongate

Family courtyard with moongate that leads to the private family rooms.

About this point in time I began to give up on trying to take photos. 🙂 It was ALL so magnificent and I wanted to remember EVERYTHING. I knew that none of my pictures were doing justice to what I saw. Even with that resolution, I kept taking pictures anyway.

Small pool at TW

Small pool between the living quarters and the meeting room, which also was the movie room. None of my photos could do justice to the recessed lighting and other forward-thinking amenities there.

View out to the mountains from a walkway

View walking from the meeting room to the first theater building.

Dragon Sculpture that breathes fire

I believe this dragon sculpture is designed to breathe fire. FLW did not miss a trick.

We learned so much about the man, the work, this location. I contemplated trying to put some of that in this post and realized I’d be writing for ‘pages’ and I’d undoubtedly get it wrong. If you can get there or to any other of the FLW organization sites, take a tour. There are so many features tucked away that you might not notice on your own. FLW had recessed lighting and lighting in the floor and so many other features that we think only came about recently.

Walk to movie theater

Aisle walking to the theater, which is carved out of the rock

Movie theater with perfect acoustics

Inside the theater. The Panel on the side of the theater was for showing the director’s cut of the movie, which is larger than the commercial version. The theater has perfect acoustics. There is a piano in that cutout in the wall on the right – you can hear every note perfectly despite it being in the wall.

Courtyard before new theater building

Courtyard in front of the second, larger theater.

Sedona

sedona 2

On the third day they rose early, filled the car with fuel, filled the backpacks with water and headed north to Sedona.

Sedona 1

Words fail me. Of course I’ll use several score attempting to describe the beauty anyway, but be aware that nothing I say will truly capture how I felt. My photos also fail. To be fair – no photo can capture for me the splendor of the mountains in Sedona. For starters – the mountains are so perfect and the sky is so blue that no matter who takes the picture, it’s going to look fake. Nothing can be that perfect, that awe-inspiring, that breath-taking. But the mountains of Sedona are all those things and more.

on the hike to devils bridge

I had three reasons to go to Sedona. The first was a bit snarky and pretentious. I’d heard how it was so new-age, all about energy and crystals and vortexes. It’s not that I’m not a believer. It’s more that I think I’m not receptive in the least. In the last several years either I’ve become more sensitive or less-blocked. There’s no question that it seems to me that some folks radiate “bad energy”. But other than that, I’ve not ever noticed crystals having much impact on me. I wanted to see if I would be able to “feel” Sedona. The second reason was much like the first. EVERYONE says that you MUST go to Sedona. How could I take a vacation in Arizona and confess that I missed Sedona? (Yes, Mom, if all my friends were jumping off a cliff I WOULD jump with them.)

hiking to devils bridge

The third reason goes back to my wonderful Super Shuttle drivers. Not only did they wax enthusiastic about Sedona, the non-driver pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures he’d taken in Sedona. They were enough to convince me it was worth a trip, even though it would take a good 2 hours to get there. I was intrigued by his picture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, built into the rocks. He recommended that we hike up to Devil’s Bridge. He told me that it was not a difficult hike until the last quarter of a mile, which was steep. We’d heard that description from our waitress the day before. (Oh I should add a postscript to that post – we had a great lunch at a local brewery after hiking South Mountain – Four Peaks Brewery on 8th Street.) She had also said it was an easy hike until the last quarter mile, which is steep. It certainly sounded do-able and after our success at hiking in South Mountain we were ready for more of a challenge. Hah.

sedona flowers 1

We rose very early and I took over the driving that day as I wake up “better” than does my son. 🙂 The directions couldn’t have been simpler: go straight on this road until we reach Interstate Rt 17 and then go north til we reach Sedona. 🙂 Wikipedia calls Interstate Rt 17 one of the most scenic highways and I am in full agreement. It climbs a mile high on its way from Phoenix to Flagstaff, passing through desert and forest. Like my dear friend Honour, my son also refused to take photos out the window of the car so you will either need to drive it yourself or believe me and Wikipedia that it is scenic. 🙂

sedona 3

We took Dry Creek Road to Vultee Arch, which has a parking lot for the trail to Devil’s Bridge. It was just about 9:00 am, but the lot was full. A car pulled out but that spot was taken immediately by another. I found a place that I figured could be a spot as long as no one had to use the passenger side door. I tucked the car into the brush and dirt and we headed off. There were families and solo hikers and folks with dogs and folks wearing babies. There was all manner of attire. As we walked along Vultee Arch (which seems also to be called ‘the unpaved part of Dry Creek Road’) we were passed by the occasional jeep – tour groups going to Devil’s Bridge. There is obviously another way up there because the jeeps keep going along Dry Creek Road when we pedestrians all turn off to follow the path.

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There were still flowers in bloom, and we saw an adorable lizard, who posed. Unfortunately I still have not done anything about getting either a new camera or a photo app for my phone, so no cute lizard pictures. We walked slowly, drank water, and conserved our energy. We met people returning from their hikes. Either they live a lot closer or they got up a LOT earlier than we did. We were impressed that we had actually made it to the trail by 9:00 am, our goal. 🙂 We figured it would be a good 90 minutes up and a good 90 minutes back, and that was just about what it took. The hike was easy until, as expected, the final ascent. That was steep. And narrow. With significantly increasing drops on the left.

the path

I found that I don’t really trust my legs on uneven, steep, rocky, loose gravel paths. I’ve had 2 surgeries on my right foot and I damaged my left knee decades ago. They do just fine for most of my life but steep ascents and descents can be strenuous. I was doing fine until I happened to glance to my left at one very narrow, very steep part of the trail. There was a lot of ‘nothing’ to my left. Oh sure, a tree or two and then nothing. I would have said that kind of view wouldn’t bother me but I happen to have a very deep fear of falling. The strength of my reaction stems from an early childhood event and to this day I have dreams where I reach the top of a hill and there is nothing there. In my dreams I have learned how to take control and ‘fix’ the dream so I don’t fall. There on the side of the mountain there wasn’t too much I could ‘fix’. My face reflected my stress as did my comments to my son. We met people who were on their way down who would encourage me and tell me we were almost there – hang on. As the only other option was to turn around and go back down, I kept going up. We reached the top, the high point of the trail. Devil’s Bridge was below us. It was stunning. If I looked OUT, I was fine. If I looked down, my stomach turned over.

devils bridge

From the high point of the trail you need to move down again and out to get to the bridge. There was a steady line of people doing just that. On the bridge itself we could see people lined up for their turn at being alone on the bridge for their experience and photo op. I sat down on the rocks with some other folks to catch my breath before we headed to the bridge.

I could not get up. I was frozen.

devils bridge up close

I looked at where I had to walk, and despite all of the people navigating that path in front of me, in spite of all the people walking there and back safely, I could not make myself get up. I knew I was not moving until we headed back down. And I knew that heading back down was not going to be fun either. I had no idea that I would freeze like that. My son joined the procession of folks heading down to the bridge and I watched. Well, mostly I watched. When I saw 2 young children jumping up and down on the bridge I nearly threw up. So I stopped watching a lot of things. My son reported that walking out onto the bridge was easy – that it felt wider than it looks from above. He said that when he stopped walking he could feel the wind pushing on him, and there was an illusory effect of the trees below moving. Why does that not sound like something that I want to experience?

why i couldn't walk to devils bridge

The woman on my right was in worse shape than I. She wouldn’t even look at the bridge at all. Her family was heading down there and she simply could not look. The woman on my left told me that her first time up there she did the same thing I was doing – stayed on that rock until it was time to leave. This was her fourth time and she had been down on the bridge and back. I thanked her for telling me that. I don’t know how to explain to you how bizarre it was for me to be sitting there saying to my body – just stand up, and to not have any part of my body move in response. My logic might have been ready to go to the bridge but my primeval soul knew better. I was able to take many pictures of my son out on the bridge, but I could not stand. I was on the verge of tears because my body was so tensed and coiled. Don’t misunderstand – I LOVED looking at the scenery, I loved a lot of it. But there was simply a part of me that was deeply deeply unhappy.

sedona 5

As I sat there and waited some young women asked me if I could take THEIR picture when they were on the bridge. I said sure, as I had no idea if I was ever going to leave my rock. I wondered how many people needed to be rescued from that spot, frozen and unable to leave. By the time the young women were at the bridge, my son had returned. He pointed out to me that the women were waving at me to take a picture of the 2 people on the bridge currently – they were all together. I looked to do so and saw that THOSE 2 people had moved to the edge of the bridge and were sitting down with their feet hanging off. I swear to you I was overcome with nausea and had to turn away. I couldn’t stand to look at them. My son did the honors. They came back, collected their camera and headed back down the mountain. It was time for us to do the same. I waited until there was a break in the steady stream of arrivals so we could leave. When it came to leaving I could stand, thank goodness.

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The path down was steeper than the path up. 🙂 Really. As my son’s landlord said: “going up it’s all muscles, going down it’s all joints”. I do NOT trust my left knee, no I don’t. A very awkward time to realize this. On the way up I’d seen many people coming back down on their tush. I knew that would be me as well, and it was. Every now and then we’d reach a spot where the path was sufficiently wide so we could let someone pass us on the way up or pass us on the way down. At one point as I paused on my way down (very easy to pause when you are on your tush) a HUGE yellow butterfly came and sat on my shoulder. It was large enough that it actually cast a shadow across my eyes as it flew. I don’t know what it was telling me but I decided to take it as a vote of confidence and encouragement. *smile* Shortly after that I was able to stand and do the rest of the descent on my feet.

sedona 7

The trip back to the car was uneventful but we both agreed that it was MUCH longer than the trip from the car to the path. 🙂 We headed back to town looking for some place to eat, and for me to browse for crystals. We found a place called Tlaquepaque, which is probably a huge tourist ‘trap’ but it had parking and restaurants. That’s what we wanted. We even found a spot in the shade! We were so hungry and tired that we walked into the very first restaurant for lunch, The Secret Garden Cafe. It was delicious and just what we needed. We ate outside in a shaded courtyard and relaxed and re-hydrated. Afterwards we wandered about the shops. Most of what I liked was too expensive AND too big to carry on an airplane so I was saved from myself. We did finally find a store selling all types of crystals for all different needs. Unfortunately it was the kind of place that also believed that putting scents and odors into the air enhances the shopping experience. Perhaps that is the case for some, but it causes me to sneeze and my sinuses to clog up and hurt. We had to flee the store without seeing very much at all, and certainly without buying a crystal. I am still crystal-less. We found an ice cream store and treated ourselves. As neither of us thought the ice cream was all that special I won’t share it. But if you are at Tlaquapaque I’d suggest you go elsewhere for ice cream. *wink*

sedona 8

The ride home took much longer than the ride there as there was a multi-car accident on Rt 17. Now here is one of the disadvantages of Arizona. If I was traveling on a major interstate in the greater NJ area, there would be multiple options for other routes. Not in Arizona. It’s Rt 17 or it’s Rt 17. So we were in bumper to bumper traffic for much of the way. Honesty compels me to admit that at one point I drove east-coast style and cutoff another car as I changed lanes. Just as in NJ, changing lanes really didn’t accomplish much, but at least I was behind a car and not an SUV so my sight lines were better. 🙂 We made it back home in time for showers and a change of clothes so we could meet my son’s landlords for dinner. We had a VERY tasty sushi dinner at Sushi Ken. The presentation was excellent and the rolls were large and filling. We had a bottle of saki as well. Like mead, this will not become my go-to drink, but it was enjoyable and suited the food. We got back to the hotel and crashed. It had been a long day and we had great plans for the next day as well!

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sedona 10

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heading home from sedona

heading home from sedona 2

Petroglyphs and Rocks

deer valley petroglpyph 2

Petroglyphs at Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve

On Day 2 of our great adventure in Phoenix we decided to “hike”. My son had checked about with friends for a “good” hike for us. Now his friends didn’t know me, and they know my son is not really a dedicated mountain hiker, so they were looking for “gentle” hikes.deer valley He’d also told them I liked rocks and desert and mountains and scenery. One of my absolute best vacations was the one where we went to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and saw the hoodoos, Zion National Park in Utah with the gorgeous rock colors and formations, and the Grand Canyon, which has rocks too. *grin* They had suggested Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve, which has some of the best petroglyphs in the Phoenix area. We decided to go there. Of course, being us, and NOT being my sister, who is incredibly organized and plots and plans HER itinerary, we spent a lot of time driving back and forth over the same roads. deer valley petroglpyphFirst we went from the hotel to breakfast, then to my son’s house to get more clothes for him, then back UP to Deer Valley and then DOWN again to the next stop and then ACROSS for the stop after that and then finally home to The Boulders. Had we actually decided what we wanted to do while we were eating breakfast, we’d have spent a lot less time in the car. But at least the car is air conditioned. 🙂
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Deer Valley is run by Arizona State University. There is a very small museum and then a quarter-mile walk to the petroglyphs. As I said, my son and I don’t always think ahead or analyze what we are going to do.sm 8 We had a little map that showed maybe 10-15 stops to see petroglyphs. We were at #7 before we realized that we were halfway through, and hadn’t noticed any of the other stops. Somehow we thought the path we were on was merely the path LEADING to the walk, and not the walk itself. The distance of “quarter mile” had not registered. We backed up and paid more attention. It is true that there are fantastic petroglyphs there – very well preserved and very interesting. I also appreciated the signs (and the warning from the desk attendant) about rattlesnakes. It’s good work and interesting but as far as our hike expectations, a bit on the bland side. We made an effort to spend 40 minutes there. SM 3 Once I was home I did some more research and see that there is an entire preserve with ‘real’ trails but that’s not where we went. 🙂

Although we did appreciate the petroglyphs at Deer Valley Preserve, we were in the mood for a bit more of a hike. We had a lot of water, hats, sun screen and energy. So despite the fact that it was getting on to high noon, we headed to South Mountain. We stopped in at the information area/gift shop to get a map and more water. The women there were extremely concerned for our well-being. I guess we appeared less than experienced or something.petroglyph at south mountain Maybe they are that concerned for everyone. We’d already discussed with my son’s housemate how much water and how far we should hike (before it turned into a more adventurous trail). The women repeated the warnings that were posted on signs out on the walkway: turn back when half your water is gone. I believe we had over 4 liters of water with us (which is heavy until you start drinking it). We reassured them that we only planned to go as far as the water tower (not that we knew what that MEANT exactly) and that we had water and we would turn back if we hit the water half-point before we hit the water tower. We drove down to the start of the trail and parked the car. We tried to guess which way the sun was moving and if the tree by the car would actually end up giving shade, but that too is not one of our strengths. 🙂
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South Mountain was MUCH more the hike we expected. It was NOT strenuous but it was certainly not flat. There was enough loose gravel and steep inclines to have me rely on my son’s arm at certain points. sm 4I don’t really trust my knees and foot anymore so while I do want to ‘hike’, I know better than to do anything extreme.

South Mountain is gorgeous. The South Mountain Preserve is part of the Phoenix Parks System and is the second largest municipal park in the world (so says Wikipedia). It is black rocks and scrub and petroglyphs and dry wadis. We spent days trying to remember what “wadis” are called out west. We both use that term because that is the term used in Israel, the last place we had encountered wadis. We knew that wasn’t the correct terminology. Somewhere along our way I remembered the word “arroyo” but that still didn’t feel correct. We checked with my son’s landlord (and expert hiker/explorer) and he used the term “wash”.SM 2 Once he said “wash” all the old cowboy movies came into focus in my memory. 🙂

I took a zillion photos. I love looking at the rocks. I love looking at the scrub. I love looking at the cactus and desert plants. When I got home I treated myself to a electronic photo storage device that will hold my zillion photos and move through them as a slide show, so I can keep seeing the beauty of the desert even when I’m here in my mid-Atlantic green. 🙂

(The top 3 photos are from Deer Valley; the rest are from South Mountain.)

better petroglyph at SM

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What to Do in Phoenix

is it real cactus

I headed out to my Arizona vacation with only a vague itinerary. What I knew I wanted to do: hang by the pool, go to the spa, meet my son’s friends, see the desert, get to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home.weird plant 1 That left a lot of unplanned time. My Super Shuttle drivers had many suggestions for me. They suggested the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, a trip to Sedona, hiking to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, the Musical Instrument Museum and Taliesin West. They told me that it was a shame I was there then, because I should have come earlier when the botanical gardens (and all the plants actually) would have been in full bloom. They felt that I’d not get the true flower experience. Ah well, I got there when I got there. The point of the trip was escape, and that happens when it happens. 🙂

My son agreed with all of my plans and with the drivers’ suggestions. He’d also asked his friends for hiking suggestions for us. We woke up Friday morning and decided to have a comparatively relaxed day because we knew we’d be going out at night to meet up with his friends. Apparently mead and gaming are a winning combination. There are a lot of gamers in Phoenix and now there are meaderies as well.sundial Yes – multiple meaderies. The Scale & Feather Meadery in Avondale (part of the greater Phoenix area) is brand new – just opened in May. Jumping ahead to the end of our day I will say it was great fun to meet ‘the gang’ and taste the mead. There was live music and the place was full and it was a lot of good energy. I doubt I’ll ever be a mead aficionado but it was an interesting taste test. 🙂 There is another games & brewery right next door and there was a lot of back and forth traffic between the 2 businesses. I felt young again. *grin*

botannical garden desert hillOkay, so we needed to have a non-strenuous day so I’d be able to hang with the gang. We opted for a nice big breakfast at Chompie’s. This was actually a bit of an ironic choice in a way since it prides itself on being a New York deli. 🙂 Our meal was delicious and perfect for what we wanted. We headed from there to the Desert Botanical Garden. As we approached the entrance we saw huge lime green cacti rising up ahead. My son kept saying “those can’t be real” and I said “who knows – plants are weird”. We got closer and saw that my son was correct. The cacti were beautiful Chihuly glass sculptures. We paid the entrance fee and headed in. We realized that we had hats and sunscreen, but no water. You can’t go anywhere in Arizona in the summer without water.pink flowers and a cactus We stopped at a vending machine and got ourselves supplied. We wandered off to see the sights. I have to say that despite the pessimistic predictions there were still many, many flowers blooming.

Even had there NOT been flowers, the plants were fascinating. The layout consists of different garden areas – some are herbal, some contemplative areas, native american habitats, and more. Of course there are the wonderful surrounding mountains as well. Had NONE Of that been there, it would have all been worthwhile because I FINALLY saw a hummingbird.hummingbird closeup I do not think I have ever seen a hummingbird. Or if I have, for some reason I have been unable to retain the image in my memory. In one of the very first gardens we viewed, there was a hummingbird!!! I managed to take several photos. I was so excited! There were other birds and there were butterflies, and we saw a toad camouflaged among tree roots. For me the hummingbird was the star of the show.

both fountain pics

Fountain with alien/possessed water advancing on my son’s foot

There was also a possessed fountain. Oh sure, there will be those of you who are going to think I’m crazy, or that I have a vivid imagination. But I know what I saw. I didn’t take video, but I took photos. I’m telling you that it wasn’t really just water in that fountain. There was something alien and it was aiming at us. You want an explanation? We sat down in the shade, on a stone bench, near a lovely fountain.hidden toad As we sat there, the water began to flow over the top of the basin. It hadn’t been overflowing before we got there. It was a perfectly normal fountain. We sat down, chatted, took some photos. And the water came over the top of the basin. It began to trickle down along the bench, following the arc of the bench. It was aiming at my son’s foot. We moved down the bench. It followed. It kept coming. Right at us. Oh I’m sure some of you would say “what is WITH you???” But I have seen B movies. Everyone in the audience KNOWS that you don’t go in the empty house; you don’t sit in the deserted area; when the insects are buzzing and all else is quiet, you don’t stay.bird nesting in cool cactus 1 And when the mysterious liquid starts seeping towards you, following you, that is the time to FLEE!!! So we fled. I turned back to look. THE WATER HAD STOPPED FLOWING ALONG THE BENCH!!!! It KNEW we had left. I was right. We went to another garden. No mysterious alien water is going to touch us!!!

From the gardens we headed to the Musical Instrument Museum. My coworker had suggested this place before I left, saying that it was fantastic and well worth a visit.cactus and flowers Since the shuttle drivers had felt just as strongly about the museum we figured it should be on our list. I have to say – it is great. We got there in time for the next tour. It’s about 45 minutes and it’s set up to orient you to the museum structure and presentations. There are also audio guides which trigger automatically as you near an exhibit. It was very interesting to see the same kind of instrument being used in cultures all over the world. There was a good exhibit on the electrical guitar – so much I hadn’t known/realized and so much that triggered happy memories. The museum is worth a post for itself, but I didn’t take any photos.yellow puff flowers I was starting to fade a bit (probably from the heat in the garden and the 3 hour time zone change). We made it to the daily performance of the Orchestrion – a mechanical machine that plays music and is designed to sound like an entire band or orchestra. As it was the day after June 6, commonly known as “D-Day” in the US, the gentleman running the demonstration played a selection of military songs. I played the piccolo in our high school marching band, as well as in the marching band from our temple. I’ve marched in blazing sun and pouring rain, at football games, in holiday parades, in celebratory parades and there is one thing they all had in common – at least one song by John Phillip Sousa. Of course my favorite is Stars and Stripes Forever, where you can hear the piccolo above everything else. So for your listening pleasure I bring you the Orchestrion from the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix, playing Stars and Stripes Forever. (and a little bit of The Battle Hymn of the Republic)

botannical garden cave hill

contemplation garden

2 cactus plants with flowers


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