Category Archives: Photo Essay

Hiking in Usery Park

Standard
Hiking in Usery Park

A week and a half ago, my daughter Katie invited me to hiking with her in Usery Mountain Regional Park, part of the Maricopa County Park system. I’d never been there before, but I knew it was a favorite spot of a friend of mine, so I was happy to accept.

I’ve enjoyed my hikes in South Mountain Park, which I think is gorgeous, but Usery Park is much more beautiful, greener.

DSC03433

As we entered the park, we asked the attendant at the guard house where to find an easy trail for beginners (for me; I’ve only been hiking once since my emergency gall bladder surgery in April, and I wanted level ground). She recommended the Merkle Trail, which circles around a small mountain. We started on that, and immediately came to the Vista Trail, which went up the mountain, followed the ridge, and went down the other side. We decided to try it. The photo above was taken at the top. You can see the Merkle trail on the lower level.

The trail was rough and rocky in spots, but not too steep. There was one short stretch that was strenuous enough to get my heart pounding, but it was doable for an old lady like me. I brought my Sony Cyber-shot instead of my “good” camera, but it did a reasonable job of capturing the beautiful terrain.

Lots of cactus (click on the smaller photos to enlarge):

DSC03449

And we met a little friend. Katie thinks it’s a chuckwalla. I tried to walk around him and take a better picture, but he took off.

DSC03428

Here and there were some big outcroppings of rock.

fullsizeoutput_d03

Painted on the mountains in the distance is an arrow pointing the way to Phoenix. You can see it from the air on the way to Sky Harbor International Airport.

When we came down the mountain, we followed the Merkle Trail back to where we started.

fullsizeoutput_cff

I can’t wait to go back again.

Roses for Mother’s Day

Standard
Roses for Mother’s Day

When my youngest daughter, Katie, called me up last week and asked me what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day, I had an answer ready. “Let’s go to Mesa Community College and walk in the rose garden.”

Katie attended MCC in Mesa, Arizona, before she transferred to Arizona State University, but she’d never seen the rose garden. I had gone by myself a few years ago, but I’d only made it through half the garden–that’s how big it is. In fact, it’s the largest rose garden in the Southwest, with over 8,000 bushes.

fullsizeoutput_cf3

And, of course, I brought my camera.

It’s astonishing how many different colors, shapes and sizes roses come in. Each one has its own fragrance. The people who develop new varieties are geniuses in my book. (Click on the smaller pictures to enlarge.)

 

Each bed is marked with the names of the varieties, but I didn’t trust myself to be able to match the name to the correct flower.

 

 

 

Here’s Katie:

IMG_2136

And here’s me, enjoying the flowers. If you look carefully, you can see Katie reflected in my sunglasses.

 

Before we left, I wrote a “kind note” about our visit.

IMG_2207

Then we went across the street to Pita Jungle for a Mother’s Day lunch.

Be sure to check out Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.

 

31st Annual Arizona Renaissance Festival

Standard

IMG_3371

For thirty years I’ve lived about 45 minutes away from the Arizona Renaissance Festival, and I’ve never been there. Fortunately, my daughter Katie invited me to go with her, so we went last Sunday.

Forty-four weekends a year, the festival grounds, located in Gold Canyon, are closed. But for eight weekends in February and March, you can enter the Europe of 500 years ago.

My first impression was that it looks a lot like Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter movies. (Click on the smaller photos to enlarge.)

It was wonderful to see people dressed in period costumes, workers as well as visitors, and children dressed up in Hogswart robes, Disney princess gowns, and fairy costumes. And if you don’t have a costume, you can rent one near the entrance to the festival, or buy one inside. Katie and I wore 21st century attire.

Officially, swords are supposed to remain sheathed, so that fights don’t break out; but sometimes a duel just can’t be avoided.

IMG_3278

Everywhere you look, something is happening, such as music and dancing. (I do so love dancing!)

All sorts of shows occur all day long, such as this acrobatics/juggling performance. The lady is juggling knives while standing on her husband’s feet while he holds his body rigid in a horizontal position while balanced on his friend’s feet. How is that even possible?

fullsizeoutput_c95

Katie’s been to the Festival before, and she recommended seeing the “Whip Guy.” Holy smoke!

There was absolutely nothing Renaissance about the Three Guys and a Bunch of Drums. They were more a hippie drum line. And they weren’t limited to drums. They also played the Lumbera, their own invention made from 2 x 4s of various lengths. I hoped it would sound like a marimba. It didn’t. And they played triangles.

There are loads of games to play. The tomato throw was extremely entertaining, and we watched it for a while. Kids were allowed to aim from closer to the target, ensuring more hits than the adults got.

There are all sorts of interesting rides for kids, and a costumed dragon and fairy to interact with and get your picture taken with. On the Leonardo da Vinci ride, you can operate mechanical wings and a corkscrew spiral like the ones in the famous inventor’s notebooks.

And so many things to buy! From food to clothing, crafts to hair braiding.

And speaking of crafts, people were on hand to demonstrate how work was done in the Renaissance.

And wherever we went, we were struck by the effort to make the Renaissance village beautiful.

We had a wonderful day at the Renaissance Festival, and we will definitely go again next year.

Walking on Arizona State University Campus

Standard
Walking on Arizona State University Campus

After I climbed “A” Mountain last week, I walked on to nearby ASU. I passed by Tempe City Hall, below. If it looks kind of wonky, it’s because, yes, it’s an inverted pyramid.

DSC03316

Just north of ASU campus is the Islamic Community Center. See “A” Mountain in the background.

DSC03323

Look at these lovely street lamps disguised as palm trees:

fullsizeoutput_c30

DSC03330

I love college campuses. From the time I was a junior in high school and was visiting potential higher education institutions, I’ve felt a distinct energy on campuses, a huge intellectual potential; students and faculty members with so much to offer and explore. I still experience that buzz any time I set foot on college property.

Every college has its Old Main building with a quad out front, and Arizona State University is no exception.

fullsizeoutput_c31

ASU was founded as a Normal School,  a training college for teachers.

fullsizeoutput_c3b

The University Club is a private club for current and retired faculty, staff, alumni, community and corporate members, who can gather there for weekday lunches and meetings or special events.

DSC03339

This is the entrance to Hayden Library, which is actually housed underground.

DSC03352

I have no idea what this tower structure with the steps is, but it provides seating for people to eat lunch or check their phone.DSC03353

ASU’s Herberger Institute School of Music, one of the finest music programs in the country, is housed in this “birthday cake” building. Its architecture blends with the most famous building on campus a mere 100 yards away. . .

DSC03358

The Grady Gammage Auditorium was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was originally supposed to be constructed in Baghdad, but the deal fell through. When ASU President Grady Gammage contacted Wright about building a concert hall for the University, Wright resurrected these plans. Neither Wright nor Gammage lived to see the building completed.

Besides being used for concerts of the University’s large musical ensembles, the 3,000 seat auditorium also hosts Broadway musical touring companies and many cultural and entertainment events open to the public. (The music building above also has a music theater, a concert hall, and a recital hall.)

DSC03359

The sweeping ramps from the upper level of the building aid in allowing the audience to exit the building quickly after performances.

DSC03360

DSC03363

ASU also has its own Art Museum.

DSC03367

The Tempe main campus of ASU covers 661 acres and serves over 42,000 students. It is the fourth largest university in the US. I only photographed a few of the buildings, then headed to the light rail station (a 15 minute walk) for the ride home.

Hiking in South Mountain Park, Phoenix

Standard
Hiking in South Mountain Park, Phoenix

My daughter Carly spent seven and a half weeks in Israel last year, six of those weeks in Hebron (I guess, technically, in Palestine) studying Arabic. She wants to go back this summer, and suggested I go, too. It’s been on my bucket list for thirty years.

img_2984

img_2980

Carly warned me, “I don’t understand how this is possible, but I swear every street in Bethlehem is uphill.” I promised her I’d train. I’ve been walking the treadmill at an incline, and I will gradually increase my speed and my height. A friend who’s been to Israel recommended bringing a trekking pole for uneven ground and cobblestones.

img_2991

img_2992

Working out on the treadmill is nice, but maybe it’s not realistic. I bought some hiking boots and a trekking pole and headed out to South Mountain Park.

img_2995

img_2996

South Mountain Park/Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. It encompasses more than 16,000 acres at the southern edge of Phoenix, Arizona.

img_2997

img_2998

I used to drive up to the summit of the park with my children when they were young. There’s a cabin-like structure at the top where you can sit, eat a picnic lunch, and enjoy a panoramic view of the entire “Valley of the Sun.” But I’d never hiked there, except for one brief excursion with my kids when they begged to go home after 15 minutes.

img_3008

So, now I’m a sixty-six year old beginning hiker with two artificial hips. With the help of Hike Phoenix, I determined that the Kiwanis Trail would be a good place to start.

img_3009

img_3010

Thursday late morning I parked my car at the trailhead and looked around. If you follow ARHtistic License, you may have caught on that I love the desert. It’s so much greener than I’d expected when we moved here from New Jersey. I love the rugged rockiness of the desert mountains.

img_3013

img_3014

There’s a profound silence in the park, except for the chirping of birds. And the sounds of the jets en route to and from Sky Harbor International Airport, not too far away. And barrages of gunfire from a nearby shooting range. And the disconcerting buzzing of bees busy pollinating the yellow brittlebush and taking detours around my head.

img_3015

img_3017

In the 1990s, Africanized honeybees invaded Arizona, and from time to time we heard reports of people and dogs being severely stung and even killed by swarms of the bees in Arizona, and at least one in South Mountain Park. Not so much lately, though.

img_3019

img_3022

I discovered I really like the trekking pole. It helped stabilize me on the steeper sections of the trail, and even a gentle push on the pole helped boost me up a big step. I will definitely take it to Israel.

img_3023

img_3029

Even though there were quite a few cars in the parking lot, I didn’t see many people on the trail. Part of that might be due to the fact I was there on a weekday; also, I brought my camera with me, and I stopped every few feet to take another picture. The desert looks different every time you change your perspective.

img_3046

img_3048

At one point, all I could see ahead of me was a jumble of rocks. Uh oh, I’ve lost the trail. But a couple steps later, I saw it again. I guess my stature of five feet nothing was to blame for my limited vision.

img_3055

img_3058

I never reached the end of the trail. After forty minutes, I decided I’d had enough for the day and turned around.

img_3059

img_3064

I found coming down the trail more challenging than going up. Again, my trekking pole helped me keep my balance while stretching beyond my normal stride, and kept me from stumbling when my heel caught an outcropping or I landed on a lose rock and almost twisted my ankle. I made it back to the car in twenty-five minutes, taking few pictures on the way down because I needed to concentrate on my footing. (I ended up with a total of 95 shots!)

img_3065

I will definitely be going back, without my camera next time. I want to enjoy the hiking without any distractions. I am so blessed to be able to immerse myself in the beauty of the desert.

Christmas at Niels Petersen House

Standard
Christmas at Niels Petersen House

I first visited the historic Niels Petersen House in Tempe, Arizona, in the early 1990s. When I stepped into the kitchen, I was hit with a wave of déjà vu. I realized it reminded me of the farmhouse my Uncle Hughie grew up in. (Click the smaller images to enlarge and to view captions.)

 

I recently visited again. In December, the house is decorated for Christmas.

 

 

Niels Petersen, the original owner of the house, was born on October 21, 1845, in Denmark. He served in the English Merchant Marines from 1863-1870, allowing him to travel the world until he decided to immigrate to the United States.

 

In 1871, Petersen arrived in the Salt River Valley of central Arizona, where he staked a homestead claim and begin farming. Four years later, in 1878, Petersen became a United States citizen and subsequently filed a homestead entry, the next step in permanently establishing himself in the valley. The final action in this process was the filing of a homestead proof, providing evidence that improvements to the land had been made by the claimant, which Petersen filed on May 12, 1883. By the time of his final homestead filing, Petersen had built two small adobe houses on the property and maintained 140 acres in cultivation.

 

Petersen acquired more property surrounding his homestead claim. His ranch grew to more than 1,000 acres and Petersen emerged as one of the area’s leading producers of cattle and grain.

By the 1890s, Petersen emerged as one of the Salt River Valley’s wealthiest and most revered citizens. In 1892, he made the decision to construct a new two-story brick home, in the Queen Anne Victorian style, hired Architect James Creighton to design it. Petersen’s house was widely considered one of the most elegant homes in the region.

 

Petersen married twice. His first wife died in childbirth and their son died in infancy. His second wife did not bear any children.

 

After Petersen’s death, the property passed to a distant relative, Rev. Edward Decker. He modified the house somewhat, including adding its one and only bathroom.

 

Only one more family ever lived in the house. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The city of Tempe acquired it in 1979 and restored it.

 

The Niels Petersen House will be open to the public this weekend, December 15 and 16, 2018, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. For more information, click here.

fullsizeoutput_ba8

Photographs by ARHuelsenbeck.

Walking in Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Standard

Sunday was my birthday, and last Saturday my daughter Katie took me to Boyce Thompson Arboretum. A forty-five-minute drive from her home, the Arboretum is surrounded by desert.

It’s close to Tonto National Forest and I expected there would be lots of trees. (Click on the smaller images to enlarge and scroll through.)

But there’s so much more. Cacti, succulents, and flowers that thrive in the desert:

Roses! and butterflies:

Sculptures and benches and structures from which to rest and enjoy the view:

And speaking of views, you can see mountains from the trails.

 

Katie 2

Katie

 

I love the desert, and Boyce Thompson Arboretum shows off its beauty. We saw only a small portion of the park during the hours we were there, but Katie is a member of the Arboretum and promised me I can visit any time I want as her guest. We’ll be back soon.