Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AJ, AZ - Boulder Canyon Trail

The next 5 days are supposed to be cloudy, rainy, cool and not the best weather for hiking so we thought we’d better hike today. Gary chose this hike and he chose a good one. It was on the north side of the Superstitions, south of Canyon Lake formed by a dam. And, you thought Phoenix had no lakes. The marina on the lake had a lot of boats even now in December and I imagine it is jammed full in the summer when Phoenicians want to come up higher to the cooler temps, boat and swim and picnic. 

Here's that stud muffin again.
There are 3 lakes in this region, all formed by dams but serving the water needs of part of the Phoenix area. We got there early and right in front of the hiking club of about 15 people who arrived just as we did. They took longer to organize and we were able to get on the trail before they did.

The Superstition Mountains are pretty rugged, as are all mountain ranges with little water and unforgiving rock surfaces. But the chances to get away from everyone else are pretty good and we love these opportunities.
We’ve often wondered how dogs protect their feet and horses protect their legs from the cactus spines on the trails. Well, we haven’t found out about horses but we’ve got the answer about the dogs. Look at these little hiking booties. The owner of the dog said he put them on a day in the house to get Hershey used to them and then took him out on he trail with his booties on. Hershey loves hiking but has gotten cactus spines in the pads of his feet but - no more.
We hiked by an old prospector’s home foundation and mine.
A tricky trail, with a steep uphill, a somewhat level part and then a steep, rocky downhill with lots of scree: loose flatter, slippery rocks. I was ecstatic about getting to the bottom and remarked to Gary that sometimes I enjoyed climbing up more than slipping down. Luckily he didn’t remind me of this when we were returning to the trailhead and climbing up this section. He knows better - I might have jabbed him with my trekking poles.
Neat hike: challenging trail, remote enough to feel as if we were the only ones hiking here, great views and an old prospector’s foundation and mine for the historical side of me. Good choice, Big Gar.

On the way home, I checked the phone and noticed a call from my brother. I called him back and he sounded so glum that I asked him what the matter was. I thought his best friend had died but, nope, it was his microwave. Gary chuckled and Jack took umbrage at our laughing at his plight. He told us he uses it all the time and would nave to cook in an old Dutch oven or starve. Hmm. I think this is a bit of hyperbole.

And, here’s another view of one formation in the Superstitions.

Monday, November 28, 2011

AJ, AZ - A Three-fer: 3 Museums in one day

Today we completed a trifecta, a hat trick, a triple, a three-fer or what ever else you might want to call it: we visited an archeological site, a museum and an arboretum. We even got our daily walk in. And, we were home for dinner. We began with the alarm at 6:30, a quicker than normal breakfast and an 7:45 start for the drive to Glove, AZ. Globe is east of Phoenix about 50 or so miles but there is an archeological site that is very good. We seem to have been specializing in archeology this trip so this fit right in with the program.

While Gary was shaving I made our lunch for the day, a peanut butter and jam sandwich on 12-grain bread. This is our usual since often we carry our lunch with us when we hike and pb&j is pretty durable. We also carry 2 protein/vitamin bars with us and today we had a honey crisp apple for each of us. For a change, today I also added lettuce to the sandwich. I thought I’d try that out and was pleasantly surprised. What a delightful addition. Not only healthy but it gave the sandwich a bit of texture. The next time I’ll add lettuce and some spinach sprigs. I probably should take some carrot sticks but they’ll be too heavy for hiking but great for a museum day.

So, for all of you who think we eat only ice cream and donuts, sometimes we intersperse these two with some healthy food, too. Actually, we had neither donuts nor ice cream today. But, it’s not for lack of trying. We tried to find the ice cream store in Globe but the door was locked, bolted and dark when we got there at 1:00, after lunch. The sign said 10 - 5 on Mondays but it was not to be.

Meanwhile back to our Globe adventure. We arrived Besh-Ba-Gowah, a 700-year old pueblo community where a Salado Indian community lived between 1225 - 1400 AD at 9:05. This community resembled many of the other pueblo style communities that we have visited this fall. There was an extremely thick, 4-5 stone wide, wall around the outside and the only way to get into the community itself was through a long covered corridor about 2 people wide with no windows along its length. Was all of this for fortification and protection? No one knows but we could see these construction techniques. In this picture it is not covered since much of the pueblo is in ruins but you can see what it looked like.
In places the buildings were 2 stories tall with most of the ground stories used for storage, the middle story for living and the roof for other activities. Back in the 30’s, much of the site was excavated as part of a government program to increase employment. When WWII came, the site was abandoned and much of the work was destroyed in the intervening years. There are some refurbished buildings around which we could walk. We could even ascend to the second story via a ladder and the Solado did.
As in most pueblo structures, there were very few doors since entry was generally through the roofs onto ladders which went to the lower stories. We did see two doors, however.
We walked around the grounds and imagined living here oh so many years ago. We were particularly impressed with this cactus. This is all one cactus - and one stud muffin.
Our next stop was the Gila County Historical Museum housed in the Globe-Miami (Mi-am-uh) Mine Rescue Station. The museum was divided into several rooms: Governor Hunt’s (1st Governor of Arizona and from Globe) Victorian bedroom, a print shop, a Native American room with some marvelous baskets,
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an archive room and several other rooms with a myriad of displays showing early Globe.

Globe was built on mining and there are still several mines in the area. Here is a map showing the copper mines in Arizona. Note the cluster around Globe.
We have looked at the Globe-Miami area on Google and the most stunning site is the copper mine to the east of the road linking the two communities. It is mammoth. There was a picture of this mine from the air in the museum and I took a picture of this picture. Note the homes and streets in the lower left of the picture.
And, here’s an old washing machine. It consisted of a deep round tub with a metal bar at the bottom attached to a handle. To switsh the clothes through the soapy water, the ‘operator’ moved the handle back and forth. Note the rollers on the back of the machine. Pretty basic and time consuming but it got the job done.
Lunch outside the the museum at a picnic table, followed by a futile search for ice cream, then on to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. I’ve heard that this is a marvelous State Park but I’m not always excited about looking at plants. However, this park was exceptionally good. I wish we had gotten there earlier. We originally thought we’d visit Besh-Ba-Gowah in the morning and the Gila Museum in the afternoon but both took less time than we had thought so we had some extra time and were driving right past the Arboretum. So, here we are.

12,000 plants spread out over 392 acres. There was an Austrailian desert section, A South American section and a Sonoran and Chihauhuan desert region. Boyce Thompson was a copper magnate who had a few misgivings about what the copper industry was doing to the environment. A trip to impoverished Russia in 1917 with the Red Cross at the end of WWI convinced him that growing and using plants wisely could help feed the world. His interest in plants led him to establish this Arboretum.

We took the map but actually just wandered around the gardens. We were surprised that desert plants in Australia did not develop the spines for protection that the American desert cactus did. We did see this sign for one plant though.
Our question is how in the world did the Aborigines devise the system to make this plant edible? Who was the one who crushed and leached but forgot to roast? And, how long is ‘at length?’ What if you are one minute short?

Look at this planting of barrel cactus. Cute little things aren’t they? Look, but don’t touch.
Very interesting trees here. Here’s Mr. Big, a red gum eucalyptus,planted in 1926 which is now 8’ in diameter and 100’ tall. They typically put on 6’ - 10’ of growth when young and have large root systems.. These are not ideal for foundation plantings. The second tree is a Boojum tree from Baja California.
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There were several trails that we could take through the arboretum and we meandered around. Beautiful plantings and informative explanations. Some of the trees were showing their fall splendor. And, I thought only northern climes had trees with leaves that changed color in the fall.
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We thoroughly enjoyed the arboretum and are glad that we came. It certainly broadened our knowledge and appreciation about deserts throughout the world and the infinite variety of flora growing in each.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

AJ, AZ - Gravity: Love It or Hate It

Time for another trail and we’re heading to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, about 42 miles away towards Phoenix. One of the trails in this area was described rather tongue-in-cheek as one where 'over-perfumed, under-dressed trophy wives with their disengaged, self-absorbed, aloof mountain biker husbands’ congregated. Yep, that’s us. Another was described as a Jeep road straight up to heaven.

Guess which one we chose. You got it - that heavenly Jeep road. As we neared the trailhead we noticed that the subdivisions are crowding in on this area from all sides and it is to the credit of Scottsdale that they keep this preserved nature for all to enjoy. Given what land must sell for in this area, Scottsdale is forgoing quite a bit in taxes to keep this so pristine.

Here’s a view from the top where you can see the encroaching developments on either side of the wilderness mountain. Note also the smog. We have not had a clear view of Phoenix since we got here, there is a continual pall over the city.
There is actually a beautifully bricked bathroom with flush toilets at the trailhead with a large paved parking lot.
I’m gushing about this because it is so unusual. We get used to dusty, unpaved trailhead parking lots with drafty, vault toilets for most of the trails we take wherever we hike. We surmised, and it was confirmed later by another hiker from the area, that the developer had to put all these amenities in as his price for getting to develop this land. Thank you, Scottsdale. However, the signs warned us that this all was private property and that we had to ‘stay on the sidewalk’ for about 2 blocks to the actual trailhead.

When we arrived there was a group of 20 or so getting ready to hike. The leader was calling off their names and getting the group ready. There was also a group of 5 20-somethings getting out of a compact white car in the handicapped parking area with a handicapped sign on it (probably the grandmother’s car.)

And finally a large family group with 4 adults and about 7 kids. It is Saturday and take-a-number time on the trail. We took off after all of these groups but passed the large hiking group at the fence into the Preserve. Whew.

The Sonoran Desert here was lush and beautiful. There was a variety of cacti, a green haze over much of the desert floor and other common desert plants were interspersed among it all. We were enjoying this part of the trail but out of the corners of our eyes, we could see the objective: Thompson Peak in the distance with all the radio and cell phone towers on the top. Here’s the picture though it is difficult to see all the towers on the top of the mountain in the middle, between the two saguaros. But, that’s the goal.
Soon we turned off the trail we were on and hit the Jeep road which would lead to the top. Now the real work began. The road wound slowly but inexorably up until we turned a bend. Then we realized that we were now going to earn our lunch. The trail turned upward as much as I wish the stock market would.

The road builders, not thinking of hikers, just built the trail straight up the hill. I’ve often looked at switchbacks on trails and wondered why I was expending so much energy zig zagging up the hill. Why couldn’t I just head right up? Never again will I disparage switch backs. I will embrace them. This trail was akin to stair climbing - I could have been climbing the 41 stories of the 801 Grand building in Des Moines at an easier angle. if I had fallen on parts of this trail, I’d have rolled all the way to the bottom and landed in the pool of a Scottsdale home.

2 bikers passed us as we were laboring up. We watched them ascend the hill, stopping every now and then as we were but they made it up. We also saw them flying past us on the way down. We could hear their brakes squeaking against their tires as they braked to slow their decent. At this pitch, they will have to replace their brakes tomorrow.

Then the cement started. Cement? On a trail? At this angle? Well, at this pitch, probably the dirt road washed out. Cement held the road better. But, how did they ever get a cement truck up here? And how did they pour cement that stayed on the road and didn’t just goop down the hill? With all those towers at the top of the hill, they obviously need to get up there to maintain them. There also are several buildings at the top for these towers. 

We climbed and rested, climbed and rested, climbed and rested. Then near the top there was a flatter area with a small caterpillar and::

        no Starbucks
        no Cheesecake Factory
        no Cobblestone Creamery

but something much better than all three combined:

        a kybo.

I was the first one to ever use it. Interesting. What in the world is this doing at the top of the mountain?

We then began he final ‘sprint’ to the top but were pulled up short by this sign. Hmmm.
Now, when you’ve had a bit of skin cancer as Gary has, you become much more sensitive to signs like this. So, we regretfully turned around. We hate to stop before we’ve reached the end of the trail or the top of the peak or have completed the loop. However, we did turn around, ruefully, and headed back down to the little area where the bathroom was. We found a great place to sit with a view of the valley and ate our lunch while we thought about it.

Guess what? We decided that we were going to be at the top of the peak for such a short time that we could ignore the sign. So, up we headed. Then we hit the hardest part of the trail, we must have been going up at a 25 degree pitch. It was like climbing up the Empire State Building. Where’s the escalator? Darn that gravity.
It was hard to stop and rest since standing at such an angle was uncomfortable. We wound our way to the top and finally got there. The view of the surrounding countryside was great. We could see for miles to the surrounding mountain ranges. Below we could see rows of streets as homes are encroaching on the preserve. We could have seen more except for the cell phone towers,
the huge water bladder, the small buildings, the heavy earth moving equipment and the fencing. Kind of ruined the ‘peak’ experience. BUT, and this is a big BUT, we were are the top. We had made it.
Now at the trick is to walk down the hill. At least gravity would help us here. That’s the trick of gravity: it fights us going up trails but helps going down. Sometimes I curse it, sometimes I love it.

Going down was at times harder than climbing up. The trail was so steep that I was sidling down sometimes to keep from losing my footing on loose sand on the cement. Losing my footing would be a catastrophe at this angle - remember that rolling problem.

Leaving aside the steepness of the pitch up Thompson Peak, we enjoyed the trail. And, I’m glad we made it up to the top. Love those bragging rights.

I just hope I can move tomorrow.         

Friday, November 25, 2011

AJ, AZ - Simplicity

The longer Gary and I live in our RV, the more we realize that we do not need all of the ‘stuff’ we have in our home in West Des Moines. We are able to live quite simply and completely in our RV with the possessions we’ve brought along with us and store in our 35’ RV.

One of the best lessons I learned and I learned it quite early on was from my second roommate out of college. I went to college at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa and, when I graduated I moved to Rhode Island to teach. My first roommate was a friend of mine, Sue, from my history classes at Ames who was also moving to RI. (What are the chances of that? Well, pretty good since another friend from history class was also moving to RI.) Sue got married after that first year and another teacher from the school where I taught and I rented a home in Warwick, RI and drove into school together. We got paid on Friday and on one Friday we stopped at the bank on our way home and deposited our checks in to our checking accounts. The next Friday we stopped and put our checks into our savings accounts. ‘Save every other check’ was her lesson to me.

Luckily, I was pretty frugal (I usually call myself ‘cheap’) anyway and saving half my earnings fit into my lifestyle. Now, here’s the disclosure - I haven’t always lived up to this ideal. In fact, I doubt that she did throughout her life either. But, it was an ideal and ideals are to strive for not always to reach. I suppose I wasn’t introspective enough to see that I was making choices about my lifestyle at the time. I was just living my life as I wanted to and being frugal suited me and became my lifestyle. Besides, I wasn’t lacking anything: I had everything I needed and wanted. I was living the good life.

Then, in 1969, I met Gary and it got even better. Well, I didn’t actually ‘meet’ him since we had known each other since 7th grade in Fort Dodge, Iowa. But, we didn’t start dating until after the Navy had stationed him in Newport, RI and I had moved there after college to teach. Who ever would have predicted in high school that Gary and I would ever meet in RI, date and get married? No one. But we did and have been married almost 39 years now. And, probably one of the reasons was that our lifestyles were similar. We were both frugal and thought we had everything we needed.

Does that mean that we didn’t stray and buy into the notion that we ‘needed’ to have more? Heavens, no. We have more furniture than we need, we have more clothes than we need, In fact, we have a whole home in West Des Moines which is filled with ‘stuff’ that we thought we wanted but that is way more than we need. Which gets back to my first statement that we have just about everything we need here in the RV. (We did decide that we should not have left the hair clippers in West Des Moines but it is what is it.)

What are we going to do with the ‘stuff’ in West Des Moines?

That’s the decision for the summer coming up. Meanwhile, if you know anyone who would like to buy a nice town home in West Des Moines, please keep us in mind.

In the interim, we will continue to roll on down the road, contented, happy and loving every minute in our 35’ tin box.

AJ, AZ - Resort Day

We’re staying in a very nice golf resort outside of Apache Junction, in a small town called Gold Canyon. As I was in the process of finding a place to stay in AJ for November and December, a friend who was looking for a place in AJ for February, called to tell me that this resort had a ‘deal’ going for Oct - Dec. Great deal and we are here. Thank you, Shirley.

There is a 9-hole Executive golf course. I’m thinking that an ‘executive’ course is shorter than a normal course but this one makes up for its shortness in its challenges. Here is the final, the 9th hole, which I think is positively evil. It is surrounded on 3 1/2 sides by water. I don’t care how beautifully they decorate this hole, it is still a moat and makes golf challenging. Here is a picture from the back of the hole where you can see all the landscaping.
And, here is the view from the tee. Evil, I tell you, positively evil.
The golfers have told us that you need to have lots of loft in your shot so that the ball comes down right in the middle of the green and doesn’t roll at all. Great trick. And, how many of you can do that? The other way to play the hole is to hit to the right, the one side of the hole which is not water.

Now, here is the result of that hole, lots of balls end up in the moat. When the maintenance staff dredges the moat and dumps the goop, there are lots of golf balls embedded it it. We walk the resort quite often and found this large pile of goop on one of the back roads. Then we told our neighbor who came out here and retrieved lots of golf balls. He’s set for the winter now.

We’ve been on several back roads driving to trailheads recently and our car was showing the sand and dirt. Time to clean.
One of the residents decorates to the max for Christmas. He’s had a large tarp over his carport for the last few weeks with a countdown clock, counting down the days until he unveils his Christmas display. Now, that Thanksgiving is done, he’s got it all ready. We walked by yesterday and found this massive display. He says it takes them about 4 weeks to put it all together but, for all the electric cords, only costs about $25 for the season.


The views of the surrounding mountains are beautiful and we have this view when we look out of our front window. That mountain in back with the lighter stripe is called the Flatiron. It rises straight up from the desert floor. Pretty impressive. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

AJ, AZ - Thanksgiving

Isn’t Thanksgiving a great holiday?

        The weather is usually warmer than Christmas and often you can take a walk after dinner to settle it down. You can see whole families walking through the neighborhoods. Yesterday it was even 60 and sunny in Iowa.

        This is one holiday which hasn’t become too commercialized. You don’t have to worry about having the right gift for the right person. You don’t have to worry about wrapping the gift in the perfect matching paper and bow. You haven’t had to wander the malls and fight the crowds. Decorations are minimal.

        You don’t have to send out cards. Now, I know, there are many who send out Thanksgiving cards but it isn’t as expected as it is at Christmas.

        And here’s the best thing: the Thanksgiving goal is so simple and pleasurable. All you have to do to have a successful Thanksgiving is to enjoy family and friends and try as many new foods as you can at the buffet table. A most worthy goal.

The weather was a bit dicier than Iowa’s here in Arizona. It spitted on and off all day. In fact, as Gary and I were leaving our RV to walk over to the community building, it began to spit a bit harder. But, it was a typical Arizona rain and we just waited a few seconds inside and it was all over. We hadn’t seen any others walking over to the community building and were concerned that we had the wrong time. However, when we got closer, we saw lots of cars and lots of golf carts and were relieved that we didn’t have to eat all those deviled eggs ourselves.
Close to 200 people had come and were sitting around chatting or wandering around seeing old friends. Many foods were already on the tables and there are about 20 crock pots sitting on tables to the side still plugged in keeping warm.
The meal was a superb meal and we enjoyed it all. I got to try a few new things like pineapple bread pudding and also got to load up on some old traditional things like green bean casserole. I learned that there is an infinite way to cook yams but they all involve brown sugar. We met some new people and shared stories of RV’ing and why they now have a park model here in this resort.

I’m proud to state that I have fulfilled the Thanksgiving goal: my stomach is as round as a basketball. Now, if I can only go to tomorrow’s dinner without eating, I can get rid of it. I’d better sleep a lot so I can’t hear my stomach rumbling.

But, Christmas is coming up and I’ll do it all over again.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

AJ, AZ - Deviled eggs

You all know my fashion sense: I think that a white button down blouse goes with dark pants. There, that’s the sum total of my fashion sense. Today I was walking through the large community center building during a fashion show where they had racks and racks of swim suits, stylish pants, matching blouses, cute tops and so forth. I was avoiding the area as other women were scurrying in and out choosing, matching and trying on the clothes. Then, in the bathroom, as I was washing my hands I got trapped. A woman held up 4 swim suits and asked which one I thought was the best for her: the fuchsia and orange flowered one, the black one, the purple and teal splashed one or the red, yellow and tangerine one? Ummm. I was quickly able to eliminate the black one. Oops, now what.

There I am in my white t-shirt and blue Adidas nylon pants (my typical) and she wants to know which color looks best on her? Ah, I stumbled but ‘we’ managed to decided that the fuchsia/orange one would go best with her coloring. There, wasn’t that simple?

Today my goal is to make my deviled eggs for our Thanksgiving dinner buffet tomorrow. The first day we were here we signed up for the Thanksgiving dinner. That is one of the things we miss most about traveling during the fall and winter: Thanksgiving and Christmas and the family gathering at each. However, most resorts and campgrounds try to provide a large dinner and this resort is no exception. There were sign-up sheets for which group we wished to be in and what we wanted to bring. Gary and I knew no one here so we just signed for the next group available and I signed up for deviled eggs, my specialty. In the end, there were 6 groups with 4 tables of 8 in each group.

Originally I had thought that we needed to bring enough for all 32 in our group and I envisioned making 64 deviled eggs. 64? I don’t have room in my refrigerator for that many. Then we reviewed the plans and learned that we only needed to bring enough for 16. That I can do.

And, today, I made my eggs. Now, I know that there are techniques to getting the eggs to peel easily and be great ‘show’ egg:

        refrigerate the eggs for a week before cooking them

        put the eggs into a pan of water that is as cold as the eggs to prevent them from cracking before they are cooked and put enough water into the pan to cover the eggs by at least an inch

        bring the eggs to a boil, remove them from the stove, cover them for a tight-fitting lid for 14 minutes (for large eggs) to finish cooking them

        cool the water and eggs completely - I use ice for this. This step will help the paper-thin membrane stick to the peel and not the egg.

        tap the big end first then the small end.

There you go - perfectly peeled eggs - and I wish I could get these every time.

My mother always took deviled eggs to buffets: everyone likes them and you won’t have to take any leftovers home. She also taught me the rules I’ve listed above. Sometimes I cut corners, like not waiting long enough for the eggs to get completely cold after cooking and I then pay the price: hard to peel eggs. In fact, once or twice in my life (probably more times that I want to count) I’ve had an egg that is so hard to peel that I lose patience and have only the yolk left after I’m done peeling. I may not have a ‘show’ egg but I feel much better about difficult peeling and am ready to begin anew.

Yesterday, I didn’t wait long enough for the eggs to cook completely and I paid the price. Patience, Nancy, patience. So, I turned up the volume on the music and took my time. There - 30 mostly good eggs. I’m ready for tomorrow.

At one point, I chanced to look out side our front windshield and noticed a young man in tight black t-shirt, tight black jeans, black baseball cap on sideways racing by on a skateboard. Sure enough, the families have arrived at the grandparents’ home in the desert.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

AJ, AZ - Wind Cave and Pass Mountain

Another day, another hike, this one a bit further from our resort. We began with Wind Cave which is mostly a 3 mile round trip hike up and down Pass Mountain with lots of switchbacks. The view at the top is great and we stayed to enjoy this a while. We began with this because we figured that if we began with the other hike, a 7 mile hike around Pass Mountain, we’d never want to go up to Wind Cave when we got back to the car. And, we were right. 

The second hike, the Pass Mountain hike and was a typical desert hike around Pass Mountain with lots of cholla and saguaro and ocotillo dotting the landscape.
Cholla are often called ‘Jumping Cholla’ because they seem to ‘jump’ onto you and get their spines imbedded in your clothing. However, it just seems like that since it is so sudden. However, it is a bit more subtle than that. Here’s a cholla in all its glory. Note all of the little baby chollas at the base of this larger one. These are parts of cholla arms which fall off and lie in wait in the trail for unsuspecting hikers. I’m sure this is what I stepped on when we were hiking on November 3rd when I found loads of spines in my shoe and sock. I must have walked over this and it rose to the challenge and got me good.
We enjoyed the hike but, since it was a fairly typical desert hike, I don’t have pictures of the hike itself. I do have pictures of the flora we found along the hike which were just beautiful in the noon-day sun. Note how the sun just make these grasses golden.
And, here’s another cholla cactus with each spine outlined by the sun.
And the sun turned each leaf of this ocotillo into a translucent green light.
A beautiful day for a hike - and, didn’t everyone know it. On the west side of Pass Mountain, we were in constant view of the Phoenix suburbs and could hear the constant popping from the gun club and the whir of the chopper blades of the police helicopter flying over head. As we rounded the northern tip, we emerged into the wilderness and all we could see were the mountains ahead, the blue sky above and the desert before us. Quiet solitude. Oops, there’s another hiker up ahead of us. And, further on was a group of hikers having a quiet lunch in the sun. And, there was a group of hikers consulting their GPS. We had hours of solitude punctuated by minutes of friendliness.

Monday, November 21, 2011

AJ, AZ - Breakfast with Friends and Silly Mountain

We began today with breakfast with some old friends. We met Sandy and Chuck in Madison, Wisconsin at a rally for motorhome owners. They were the ones who, on August 14, as we were all departing the rally, had trouble getting one of their slides in. We had enjoyed their company and planned to meet them when we got to Apache Junction where they were going to spend the winter. We suggested breakfast and they agreed. Fun breakfast and we all talked about motor homing, places to visit and things to see.
The restaurant had some interesting doors on the stalls in the women’s room. Both Sandy and I had to take our pictures.
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After we left them we hied ourselves over to Verizon to try to come to some resolution about our wi-fi gadget, the one we had taken in on the 14th to get fixed. It was still not working and we either needed a new one, to reinstall our old one or try something else. Because the history of our problems was on their computers under out account, the rep just offered to replace it and told us it would be shipped to arrive in about 5 days. Easy.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned a valuable lesson- never too old to learn a lesson. It’s no secret that Gary and I love ice cream - the hard kind not the Dairy Queen soft ice cream. However, caught in a pinch, we’ll eat a DQ Blizzard. It is often difficult to find a hard ice cream store and we thought we had found a gem in the local grocery store, Basha’s. There, next to the donuts was a freezer with 8 flavors of ice cream. Ah, we kept that in mind for the next time we craved ice cream.

And, today was the day. It was late enough that we were a bit hungry but early enough that it wouldn’t spoil our dinner. We pulled into the Basha’s parking lot, drooling, and rushed into the store. We stood at the ice cream freezer debating whether to get one or two scoop and which flavors to get. Patiently we waited for a clerk. The first clerk who saw us tried to ignore us but finally called someone else over, muttering something about the ice cream’s being too hard to scoop. Finally another clerk arrived, picked up the scoop which was as big as a baseball (good sign) and, muttering about the hardness of the ice cream, tried to scoop some out. And, tried. And tried. A teaspoonful later, she admitted defeat.

Well, it was obvious that the freezer was too cold and the ice cream too hard. But, here’s the lesson: in the freezer section of grocery stores are small personal size Blue Bunny ice cream containers with spoons attached to the lid. We’ll never go ice cream less again. And how old am I that I’ve learned this lesson? Like I said before - never too old to learn.

Then it was time to attack Silly Mountain. Silly Mountain? Yep, there is such a thing. You’re not going to find this on many maps and you’re to going to find it on hiking websites. It’s one of many ‘bumps’ interspersed throughout the Arizona landscape that is really a small hill but is great for a short aerobic workout, great for a family hike or great if you don’t have time for a long hike. It gets you out and about, off your duff, enjoying nature. It’s a bit challenging but not too difficult that kids and old duffers can’t do it. It’s a neighborhood hiking spot since it is surrounded by homes. You can tell by our shadows at the bottom of the picture that this hill isn’t a huge mountain.
It’s right off the highway into town and we’ve driven by it numerous times, always noting that there are lots of cars there. Must be fun, we said, we’ll have to stop. Today, it was too late for a long hike and we wanted something different than walking around the resort for our daily walk. Silly Mountain fills the bill. We parked, checked the posted map that the Apache Junction Parks and Rec had put up and chose our trail. Silly Mountain is actually a clump of about 3 or 4 small rocky, craggy hills and they have developed quite a few trails circling and climbing them. Many people have put a lot of work into making this a fun outdoor opportunity.

It was very rocky and craggy with lots of small flatter rocks that had sluffed off the bigger crags covering the trails. We wove around trying out several different trails. Now, I can race along the flats, can power up the hills but on the downs I’m every bit the 65-yr old duffer. I live in fear that I will slip on those flat rocks, fall down and hit my head on one of the larger rocks. And, believe me when I tell you - you may think my head is hard but it is no match for a rock. So, I move slowly down on a rocky surface and I use trekking poles. Today, I didn’t realize the trail surface and left my poles in the car. Could I have been any slower coming down? I doubt it.

We covered about 4 of the main trails, enjoyed climbing over and about Silly Mountain. we understand why there are so many cars in the parking lot every time we pass by. Great, shorter workout and we’ll return.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

AJ, AZ - An Unappreciated Museum and the 'A' Hill

Time for a museum and we chose the Arizona Historical Society Museum of History in Tempe. In fact we made it a Tempe day:

        the museum
        the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
        the City Hall built as an upside pyramid to conserve energy
        and a walk around the city ‘lake’ actually a dammed up portion of the local river.

Breakfast first at the Liberty Market, an upscale deli with breakfast. At the cash register was this display - when was the last time you saw these gums?
Very good breakfast: the onions in the potatoes were caramelized, the vegetables in the scrambled eggs were grilled and the cinnamon rolls were as big as a plate. No, we did not have one but it sure looked tempting.

When we got there, the museum was practically empty and this didn’t change for the whole time we were there. A very under appreciated museum - with no reason. It was a very good museum covering the history of Arizona. We noticed several themes, the need for water, the 5 C’s of Arizona’s history (citrus, cotton, climate, cattle and copper) and the growth of Arizona after and because of WWII.

Here’s a viewing casket from the 1800’s. Note the metal tray for the ice (it’s a hot climate) and the opening for the face of the deceased.
And, this tractor for use in the desert.

Arizona was used extensively for training prior to WWII. In fact unexploded munitions from bombing training can still be found on the desert in the bombing ranges. General Patton built a large training facility south of Joshua National Park which we visited several years ago. This brought thousands of young men who enjoyed the climate and came back after the war. Here’s a chart of the growth of Phoenix - note how it increases after WWII.
After Pearl Harbor, we were terribly afraid that the Japanese would attach us on the Pacific coast and so we drew a line down the middle of Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona. On the Pacific side of this line, the Japanese were forced to evacuate: sell their homes and businesses (at fire sale prices, of course), pack their suitcases and move to the east side of the line into concentration camps built for them. The line went right through the center of Phoenix: those on the north side of the line could stay in their homes but those on the south side were evacuated to camps - on the north side. But, even those who stayed: some worked on the south side and others had businesses on the south side. The could not cross. It was a mess.

Here’s a hatch cover of the battleship Arizona sunk by the Japanese in Pearl Harbor. This is the only piece of the ship not in the Memorial in Hawaii.
And, why was no one in the museum? We don’t know, it was a good museum.

We found a park near the Tempe ‘Lake’ on the map and though we’d eat lunch there. However, finding it on the map and finding it in the car are two different things. Seems that the Phoenix Ironman competition is on Sunday and they’ve got streets blocked off, making it difficult to maneuver around this area. We finally found a place to park, ate our lunch and then walked around this area. It was about 1/2 mile from the University of Arizona and the shops showed this: lots of food, food, and food. Lots of food. Guess what we found? An ice cream shop. Of course we’ve got our IPhone programmed for ice cream.
Since the town hall is near here, we walked over to it. It is built as inverted pyramid with walls at a 45 degree slope to conserve energy. Sunlight cannot penetrate the windows as much as if the building were straight up and down. (Note the large yellow ‘A’ on the hill behind the city hall for the University of Arizona. I’ll mention that later in the blog.)

The Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright - to be an opera house in Iraq. However that fell through so he had this neat extra design in 1957 when a friend of his, Gammage who was the President of ASU, called asking him to design a distinct university auditorium. ‘Hey, Grady, I’ve got just the design.’ Wright found a location on campus and altered his Iraqi design a bit to be the new auditorium. it was circular and had distinctive ramps coming out from each side as if arms saying ‘Welcome to ASU.
Neither Wright nor Gammage lived long enough to see the finished building. One of Wright’s most trusted aide finished the design. It’s 80’ high, and the ramp / bridges extend 200’ like welcoming arms.

They must have known that golf would be a ‘driving’ force in the growth of Phoenix and - look, golf balls in the design. Probably not but it’s a cute image.
ASUGammageAuditorium-4-2011-11-17-19-22.jpg ASUGammageAuditorium-11-2011-11-17-19-22.jpg
Finally, it’s time to head home - oops, what about he ‘A’ hill? This is a short, nearly vertical hill, near the campus used by all in the neighborhood for exercise. Well, sure - a challenge. And, talk about 45 degree sides - this looks like 45 degrees too. We met a local high school track team using it for practice.
And, this woman is walking up the slope backwards.
But there were great views from the top, we could even see downtown Phoenix. (Do you know that he citizens of Phoenix are called Phoenicians?)
And, here’s the A on the hill with Gary sitting by it.
along with the young men who camp out on the hill in a tent, with music, lights and food who ‘guard’ the A.
The climb was pretty steep but doable. As we were heading down, the track team was running a relay up the hill - right at us. I wish I had a picture of the running hoard of yelling kids heading right at me. I wish I had a picture of my expression as I saw them running at me. Their coach had told them to run along the sides but, they got excited and started running up the whole 8’ wide sidewalk as a team.
The sun set, it got dark and it was time to head home.