Monday, November 30, 2009

Indian Canyons- December 1

There are three canyons located on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. Centuries ago,ancestors of the Caliente Chuilla settled and thrived in the Palm Springs area. There was an abundant water supply because of the presence of an large oasis;plant and animal life flourished here. In 1876,the U.S. government deeded in trust to the Agua Caliente people 32,000 acres for their homeland. At the same time they gave Southern California Railroad ten miles of odd sections of land to induce the company to build the railroad. Of the reservation's 32,000 acres,some 6,700 lie within the Palm Springs city limits. We first hiked in the Andreas Canyon. We followed a scenic foot trail,passing unusual rock formations. The babbling Andreas Creek and chirps of many songbirds were the only sounds heard-what a serene place! In this canyon we also saw bedrock mortars and metates used centuries ago by the Indians for preparing food. In Palm Canyon we saw an abundance of the fan palms-in fact,Palm Canyon is considered one of the world's largest fan palm oasis. One interesting phenomenon we discovered in walking through this canyon was a occasional feeling of a warm breeze. The sun had been sinking behind the mountains and the air had started to feel cool. So I doubt that the occasional warm feeling was not in our imagination. Looking at a map of the area later we discovered that a warm springs was located in this area.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

San Jacinto State Park- November 30

We started our day yesterday at Hope Lutheran Church in Palm Springs. This was the first day when they start having a third service on Sunday mornings,so there was only about 30 in attendance. Pastor Witt made the comment to us that as the weather becomes colder up north, snowbirds flow into Palm Springs. The late service will then increase in number of worshipers. I have a picture of Hope's altar,which is quite beautiful with the wood carvings. After the service we drove to San Jacinto State Park. There we took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up the mountain 8,516 feet. It is suppose to be the world's largest rotating tram car. In ten minutes we traveled through five unique ecosystems and over pristine wilderness. It was breathtaking to come so close to towering rock boulders and look out over the valley below. At the mountain station we stepped into a snowy world and a temperature of 25 degrees. It was like traveling from Mexico to Alaska-we had left a temperature of 70 degrees in Palm Springs.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cabot Museum- November 29

While looking for the Desert Hot Spring's visitor center,we accidentally came upon this museum. Cabot Yerxa was important to Desert Hot Springs because he was the one who discovered the springs which has made the city famous. In 1913 he was homesteading 160 acres here and,at the direction of an Indian,began digging for water. His first well delivered hot water and 600 yards away his second well delivered cold water. Cabot Yerxa,born in 1883,grew up among the Sioux Indians. At the age of 19 years he lived among the Inuits in Alaska. He became both a writer and an artist. He always worked tirelessly on behalf of Indian rights. He and his wife Portia valued community and compassion above all else. We toured his home,which he designed and built according to the Hopi pueblo. He scrounged everywhere for the windows,doors,beams,and nails. Many times he took those materials from deserted homesteader's cabins. Consequently his doors and windows come in all shapes and sizes. What an interesting,quirky house! Building his home was an on-going process for 23 years,until Cabot died in 1965. It ended up having a total of 5,000 square feet and 35 rooms. He adorned his home with Katchina's which he painted himself-one can be seen in the picture posted here of his home. After touring this museum John and I went on to Big Morongo Canyon. Because of a cold front coming through it was rainy and overcast. This cold front brought snow to the higher elevations,which you may notice in the picture here. In the foreground are wind towers-it may help to enlarge that picture to see all the details. We enjoyed our hike in the canyon,where we were able to enjoy both marshy and desert areas. In the wet areas were cottonwood and willow trees-the cottonwood trees are quite noticeable in the picture here with their bright yellow leaves.

Joshua Tree National Park- November 28

This park is a bit of a distance from where we are parked,so a traffic accident which held us up for an hour on I-10 really cut into the amount of time we could spend here. John has a theory that if it is a national park it has to be good. And he was right again. It is not all about the Joshua tree here,although I did find them to be awesome and unique. This park is part of two different desserts;the eastern half of it is the Colorado desert(which is part of the much larger Sonoran Desert). The western part is the Mojave Desert. And much of the park is an overlay of the two deserts,called the transition zone. The characteristics of each ecosystem is largely determined by elevation.We immediately started looking for the Joshua tree as soon as we entered the park- only to discover that the tree is primarily seen in the higher elevations. This tree is to the Mojave desert as the suguaro is to the Sonoran desert. Someone described the branches of this tree as "wild armed". The Mormon settlers when they first saw the tree named it Joshua because its branches looked like they were raised in prayer. The tallest Joshua tree in this park is 40 feet high and 300 years old. Researchers believe that below freezing temperatures may damage the growing end of the branch and stimulate flowering,followed by branching. In our drive through the park we stopped to see a cholla garden-never before had we seen so many of this species of cactus in one place! The park also has towering rock formations,stacked boulders begun eons ago by volcanic activity. And as we headed out of the park we stopped at Keys View,an elevation of 5,185 feet from where we could view an impressive expanse of valley,desert,and mountain. From this point can be seen San Andreas Fault,Palm Springs,San Jacinto Mountains and Mexico. Because of air pollution from the larger cities nearby this view usually has a bit of a haze over it-as you may notice in the picture of it posted here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

First Thanksgiving- November 26

We want to wish a blessed Thanksgiving to all our family and friends.Our oldest son Mike will be joining us today,driving in from Los Angeles. After services in town,we will then have our Thanksgiving feast here in the rv/mobile park. The park manager will be cooking up the meal in the recreation hall for the residents. I made a pie for that. What about the first Thanksgiving? One thing John and I have learned while traveling around is that the United States history which we were taught growing up had a lot of fallacies in its facts. I had always thought that it was a nice story about the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth in 1621 when supposedly the Indian and English settlers sat down to a meal together. Then I found out that maybe things were not so peaceful between the two groups,and the dinner I had thought they sat down to did not have the same foods available to us today. Berkely plantation on the James river boasts that they have the first Thanksgiving site. On December 4,1619 English settlers landed in that area and immediately Captain John Woodleaf led them in a prayer of Thanksgiving. As to whether a big feast went with that first Thanksgiving,I don't know. On April 30,1598 Don Juan de Onate ordered the friars who were traveling with him to say a Mass of Thanksgiving,after which he claimed the land for the King of Spain. Later they feasted on duck,geese and fish. This was in the area of what is now San Elizario Texas. We may yet find another part of the states which lays claim to the first Thanksgiving,I don't think we have all the facts yet. The picture here was taken in the Desert Botanical Garden,there are aloe plants in the foreground.

Palm Springs California- November 25

We left Phoenix yesterday. Before we left I had to snap a picture of a bougainvilea bush,and a citrus tree-both of which were frequent sights when driving around the city. I was not going to say anything about the names of the streets in the Phoenix area until I saw one that made me laugh. It was Sore Finger Road-now how could anyone thing of that unless he/she had just hit their finger with a hammer? Equally goofy: Rocking Chair Road and Coffee Pot Road. As we were driving to Camp Verde a couple of days ago there were such cheerful road names as Carefree Highway,Anthem Road,Happy Valley,and Joy Ranch Road. On that same route we also saw such downers as Bloody Basin,and Horse Thief Basin. We never did check out Mirage or Surprise Roads-we wondered what could be found on those roads.. Anyway,we had a nice sunny drive out here yesterday,saw a lot of desert coming out of Phoenix on Interstate 10. Lots of mountain ranges in the distance. Mountains and hills came closer to the highway as we came into California,they were the Chuckwalla and Santa Rosa Mountains.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

McDowell Regional Park- November 24

We are leaving Phoenix today and I have some catching up to do on this blog. We have been quite busy here,visiting family and friends,besides doing our usual sight seeing. The Phoenix area is quite sprawled out,going from one direction to the opposite usually takes a minimum of an hour. Sunday we attended Resurrection Lutheran. That was quite an inspirational service. It was "Celebration Sunday"-a time to reflect on God's blessings and give back by tithing-the whole approach was that it was a joyful act to do. It was all about celebrating "the God flow",God's love to us and our return to him with our money and care for others. We attended the contemporary service and,being a large church,they almost had a complete orchestra with violins,a cello,drums,guitars and even a trumpet. Yesterday,Monday,we hiked McDowell park with my sister Gloria. From this park we could view Four Peaks,a mountain range which I have pictured here. It is these purple mountains which are on the Arizona license plate. We hiked the North Trail,which had interpretive guideposts. We saw desert mistletoe,a parasite seen here on a Palo Verde tree. It looks a bit like Spanish moss,even had some red berries on it. We also saw a pack rat nest. One peculiar trait of this rat is that if they find something which they want to bring back to the nest they will drop what they are currently carrying and "trade" it for the new item. This must be a deserted nest as we found no shiny treasures in it! It just looked like a nest of twigs.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Apache Trail-November 23

Saturday we drove on the Apache Trail in the Superstition Mountains. This trail once served as a stage coach and freight wagon route from Mesa to Globe. Lots of wild west stories have come out of this area where once Indians,cowboys and miners roamed. This was a beautiful drive with rugged canyon vistas,towering saguaro cacti,and desert wildflowers. There are three lakes in these mountains and we had a picnic lunch by one of them,which was Canyon Lake-I have a picture here of that lake. Speaking of saguaro,we have heard a fascinating fact regarding them and other cactus. They begin growing next to a nurse tree-which you can see in the picture I have here. That is a palo verde tree next to it. Unfortunately,over time the cactus will suck all the water from its nurse and cause it to die. We turned off the Apache Trail at Tortilla Flats and drove to Casa Grande Ruins(pictured here). These ruins are the tallest and most massive of Hohokam Indian buildings,dating from the 1300s. While we were viewing this area a group of Native Indians walked silently around the largest building three times,not viewing the ruins but looking at the ground as they walked. They left as quietly as they came. The park service ranger said this group makes that religious pilgrimage once a year when the weather gets cooler.

Art and Poetry in the Desert Garden- November 22

I wanted to share with my readers a few more pictures of the garden. These pictures will feature one work of Alan Hauser,renowned 20th century Native American artist. The exhibit of some of his works are currently on display in the Desert Botanical Garden. The one shown here is titled "Abstract Crown Dancer". Earlier part of this year Dale Chihuly's glass works were featured in the garden. The garden must have purchased a couple,as we noticed two huge yellow glass cacti upon exiting the garden. Also in the garden we noticed in the cactus beds quotations from notable people as William Yates,and Luther Burbank(to mention just a couple out of the many we saw). They either caused me to reflect on the beauty of the garden,or to think of the challenges that are incumbent upon all of us to maintain desert life.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Desert Botanical Garden- November 21

We had an absolutely delightful day in this garden. Not only were we able to view many kind of cacti-but there were tags identifying the plants. And in each section of the garden there were interpretive exhibits regarding water conservation,also Sonoran desert plant and human adaptation to what could be regarded as a very harsh environment. I have here a picture of a Native Indian hut made of desert plants-the roof is composed of arrow weed and willow saplings,and the wooden framework is made of cottonwood and mesquite. We were surprised to learn that in the oasis of the desert willow trees can be found. There are 400 edible plants in the dessert. For one example,the mesquite bean is pounded down and used for flour. And speaking of the mesquite,it is also known as the "tree of life",as it can be found near a water channel. What also made a tour through this garden so enjoyable was the very active insect,bird and animal life. There is a wildflower garden section,and here the bees and butterflies were numerous. We came to find out that there are 1200 species of bees in the garden. I also have to mention the birds who were very active. They seemed to go on about their business with no attention to the humans around. A hummingbird just grazed my forehead,and another bird swooped so low he almost got caught in my hair. What was fascinating was to watch a thrasher pound at a barrel cactus with his long pointed beak. My sister Gloria was with us-I have her pictured here in front of a fruit chain cholla. The other picture is of numerous pipe organ cacti.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Taliesin West- November 20

John and I finally toured a Frank Lloyd Wright home. We have seen the outside of many of his homes,but never stepped inside because it was the wrong time for tours or just that the cost for doing seemed too exorbitant. After touring this place,however,I can understand why a paid tour guide is necessary. A lot of what one sees in a Wright home would not be appreciated or understood unless the details were explained by a trained guide. This tour took an hour and half. We enjoyed every minute of that time. Taliesin West was Wright's home for the winter months from 1937 until his death in 1959. His first Taliesin was in Wisconsin,where he spent his summer months since 1911. He loved his desert views(see picture)and when power lines became part of that view he redesigned Taliesin West so he would not have to look at them. A couple of words I heard on the tour really expresses what he tried to do with this home,and they were "organic architecture". The other imagery I liked,to explain Wright's work,was that his designs had to be in harmony with nature,the final design his opus. He was a self taught musician-enjoyed playing Bach and Beethoven by ear on the piano. He wanted this home to truly be a part of the desert,to fit unobtrusively into its surroundings. He used rock and sand from the nearby hills to form the walls of the building and fences for his sunken gardens. Every consideration was given to make the most of the sunlight and breezes flowing through openings of the house. A pool of water was placed outside of his office so that when a breeze flowed over that water,it created cooling air inside(I have that picture here). This is a rather massive complex,as it provides accommodations for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture,begun in 1932. So besides the drafting studio,we toured Wright's living quarters,two theaters(Wright loved watching movies,his granddaughter Ann Baxter provided them,a kiva room,cabaret nightclub(he had to have one after seeing them in Germany),and a large fellowship dining room. Sprinkled through out the building,and his gardens, were Japanese art forms and Native American symbols carved large rocks. A very beautiful,restful place!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oak Creek Canyon- November 19

Yesterday we drove about one hundred miles north of Phoenix to this canyon area. It was almost tempting to drive fifty miles further to see the Grand Canyon,but we were quite satisfied in just driving through Oak Creek Canyon. It has its own spectacular beauty,but on a smaller scale. As we came into the town of Sedona we started noticing high red rock buttes and monoliths. From that town we swung a bit more west and took highway SR 89A north through the canyon. This road is 16 miles long and rarely more than a mile wide. Rocky cliffs in shades of white,yellow and red rising to 1,200 feet towered over us on either side of the road. We stopped frequently to view the spectacular vistas and to peer down into rocky gorges. We soon found ourselves in higher elevations with the air getting quite cooler. After weeks of seeing dry dessert cactus land we were pleasantly surprised to see forests of pine,juniper,and cypress. We also saw a herd of elk. Returning home we took Interstate 17 and made a stop at Camp Verde to visit some friends of ours. They work at Rainbow Acres,a residential home for adults with special needs. That is quite a beautiful area located in the valley of the Mingus Mountains.

Monday, November 16, 2009

KC the Traveling Cat- November 16

We moved today from Tucson Arizona to Phoenix. It is beautiful here- palm trees,lots of blooming shrubs and citrus trees with ripening fruit on them. I just realized also that our cat has made it this far west. A veterinarian in Florida last spring said she would cure him so he could make it out west with us. He is doing well and just as sweet as ever. This morning while I was getting dressed he sat next to me on the bed and started licking my shoulders,purring quite loudly. Of course I do realize that one thing was on his mind and that was that he was going to get food soon! Speaking of his food,I am having a devil of a time getting his medicine down him. I put it in his wet food. For a long time he took it down well in any cheap cat food I would put it in,as long as it was fish. Then he started refusing it. I switched to Fancy Feast cat food. He refused the tuna variety so I switched to the salmon. That worked for awhile,then he refused that until I opened a fresh can every couple of days. Then he refused the salmon. All along I had been adding a little warm water to the mix- he has to have some water because of the fiber which I add to it. Then I realized that warm water may make the medicine taste come out in the food. Cold water did not help- as a last resort I tried Chicken of the Sea tuna. For now that is working,if it ever stops working I am out of ideas. I absolutely refuse to hold him down and shove it into his throat! Any ideas out there?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kartchner Caverns- November 15

This "live" cave was discovered in 1974 by two men. They and the owners of the property kept it a secret for about fourteen years. Their concern was for the wide variety of unique minerals and formations present in the cave. Once they did move forward to develop it for public viewing they first checked with owners of similar caverns to learn the best ways to develop the cave while at the same time protecting its unique features. They needed to keep the moisture coming into the cave,as that is necessary for the formations to continue growing. Any visitors coming into the cave are misted lightly to replace any moisture they take out,and there are several steel doors to go through before one enters the main rooms. Consequently the air inside is very humid,average temperature is 70 degrees. The most awesome feature of this cave is a massive column over 58 feet tall,called the Kubla Khan. At first when the owners were keeping the existence of the cave a secret, its code name was Xanadu. So it seemed only fitting to give the column that name. Outside the cave is a hummingbird garden. I did snap a photo of one hummingbird in mid-air. It is in the picture with the cactus,and possibly if you enlarge the picture you may see it. The other picture is of some mountains we saw coming home at sunset. The day had been rainy and cool. The warmth of the cave had actually felt good!

Mission and Missile- November 14

Mission San Xavier del Bac is known as "White Dove of the Desert". It is an active Franciscan mission located on the Tohono O'Odham Indian Reservation. I was taken aback by all the religious beauty inside this church. Beautiful murals on the walls and many statues and relics,which were brought over from Spain. It is the original church,built in the late 1700s. Art conservators from the Guggenheim Art Institute and the Vatican have come here in efforts to restore the statues and building. Today Indians were scattered through out the courtyard selling crafts and food. We tried their flat bread with cheese and beans,not bad just full of grease! A roadrunner entertained us with his busy antics. We took quite a few pictures of him in an attempt to catch him when still. Our last stop of the day was the Titan Missile Museum. This is one of 54 that were put on alert in 1963 during the Cold War. We had a guide who took us through the control room and missile site itself,explaining all the safety procedures and codes put in place to fire the missile. I have here a picture of the safe which was to be unlocked if an order would be given to fire the missile. Two keys on it had to be turned and codes reviewed,checked and triple checked in preparation for launching. Three lights on the control panel were labeled site one,two or three- each one representing a certain area of the world. One of them would be designated by our president as the site to be hit by the missile. Hard to believe this system was in place for forty years! And,as our guide explained it,it was a peaceful deterrent to war,worth every penny it cost.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tombstone Arizona- November 13

This is my second or third trip back to this town and I still enjoy visiting it. Our first stop was Boothill Graveyard where the three men who where killed during the shooting at the OK Coral are buried. The epitaph on their graves notes that they were murdered. That is closer to the truth than legend would have the story spin. We saw a reenactment of the shooting and the way I saw it,the Earp brothers were itching for a show down! Doc Holiday(probably a bit drunk)fired a random shot which triggered an avalanche of bullets and soon three men were dead and two were wounded. There had been a lot of tension in town between the rich men from the north and the gentlemen cowboys of the south. Realize the fact that this was only 15 years after the Civil War. The dialog of the reenactment also mentioned Democracts versus Republicans-not sure whether that was for laughs,probably politics mattered very little to the cowhands of those days! Oh,and add to the mix the tension between the miners and the cowboys. This town was started because of the finding of silver. In the late 1850s Ed Schieffelin left the comfort of Fort Huachuca (despite the presence of Apache Indians)to prospect. He was warned that in doing so would guarantee him a tombstone. In 1877 he named his first strike Tombstone. The town was originally called Goose Flats,but later called Tombstone. We toured one silver mine located in town-it was interesting to see the veins of silver-small amounts of gold can also be seen in the rock. Apparently 140 mines of silver(some of them rather small) are in the area- because of the value of silver in the market today it just isn't worth mining. Processing the ore would just be too expensive.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sonoran Desert-November 12

Saguaro National Park has within its boundaries two entirely different kinds of landscapes. Nowhere else in the United States does the ponderosa pine and the saguaro exist within close proximity to each other. The park not only has the Sonoran Desert,but also the Rimcon Mountains. On our drive in the park yesterday we not only saw desert plains but also foothills and canyons. The desert is quite different than the Chihuahan Desert in which we hiked a couple of days ago. The Sonoran has fifty different species of cacti. We were grateful that the Visitor's center had a small cactus garden in which were represented many of the trees and cactus we would find in the park,and they were identified with little signs. One picture I have posted here is of the staghorn cholla-quite colorful this time of the year with its red fruit. The other picture is representative of the different cacti which we mainly saw. The barrel cactus is in the foreground,and the prickly pear is near it. For some strange reason we learned that the barrel cactus always points south. One other item before I close off here. I espied a dark blue tufted headed bird while in the park. It was a phainopeplas(I had to do some research to figure out that name). It is also called a silky flycatcher. We also saw a lot of the cactus wren-can't miss him what with his lively chatter! What intrigued me was watching the birds alight down on the cactus,which probably is nothing in comparison to the fact that they make their nests in the arms of the saguaro. What better protection is there for the young from birds of prey!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saguaro National Park- November 11

We really enjoyed the Cactus Forest Drive through this park. I would encourage anyone coming to this area of Arizona to make this a must see place. The saguaro are the largest cacti in the United States,and has been protected by the Saguaro National park since 1933. I will quote here from the National Park Service brochure: "the saguaro has been called the monarch of the Sonoran Desert,supreme symbol of the American Southwest,and a plant with is renown for the variety of odd,all too-human shapes it assumes"(note here the picture I took of one such plant at sunset with its arms all twisted). The saguaro is vulnerable to very cold weather,droughts, lightning and strong winds.The city of Tucson is growing out toward this park and threatens them also(notice the suburbs off in the distance of a patch of saguaro pictured here). Fortunately the city is keeping these sub-divisions at low density so they can provide buffer zones for the park. The first picture here is of a saguaro with nest holes drilled in it(if you enlarge it you will notice them better). Two birds are able to accomplish this -the Gilia woodpecker and the gilded flicker. At 15 years of age this plant is barely 12 inches tall,at 75 years it may sprout its first arms and at 150 years it may be 50 feet tall and weighting 16,000 pounds or more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lone Star of Texas- November 10

We have moved from El Paso today to Benson Arizona,but I do have a few items to share yet from Texas. John and I noticed,when driving around the city at night, that there was a huge brightly lit star on the Franklin Mountains. We thought that perhaps that was an early Christmas decoration. In reading the El Paso Times,however, we discovered that the star is kept lit by the citizens of the city. For fifty dollars one can have it lit in memory of someone,for someone's birthday, to honor a company or organization-or for whatever reason one wishes,and it is then posted in the Times. Not a bad idea! I have posted here plants which we saw yesterday in the Chihuahan desert. The tall one with the brown stalk is called the sotol plant. The plant with the yellow flowers is called the skeleton leaf goldeneye. And the last picture is of guinea fowl which entertained us in the rv park where we stayed. Apparently they have been residents of the park for quite a long time. I did some research and found out that they earn their keep by keeping the insect population(as lice, ants,and ticks)under control.