Tag Archives: Arizona

Return to Hole in the Rock


A year ago I went to Hole in the Rock, an interesting sandstone formation in Papago Park. That was when I was still suffering from arthritis pain (before my hip replacement) and was unable to climb to the top.

Now that I’m bionic and healed and going hiking once a week, I decided to go back and try again.


This is considered rather an easy trail, but it was still challenging for me. You walk around the back side of the mountain. Steps are built into the path and edged with rock. There were quite a few people there. Children scampered past me. So did parents carrying toddlers.


From the back, this is what the mountain looks like:


When I look at the steepness of it, I can’t believe I climbed up there. When I got to the opening, though, I couldn’t make myself descend the little stairs cut into the rock that lead into the chamber. Look for yourself–see them at the lower right corner of the picture below? I think part of my problem was that just out of sight on the left was a group of people enjoying the view and I didn’t want them to see me tumble down. (Although, if you’re going to fall on a hike like this, you want to do it when there are people around to help you.) Another consideration was that I had an expensive camera around my neck that I didn’t want to bang up.


Here’s what the view from the top looks like through the hole:


And here’s the view looking out from the back side, Camelback Mountain in the distance:


Someday I’m going back with a little more experience and without my camera so that I can really experience Hole in the Rock the way the Native Americans did.

Christmas at Niels Petersen House

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.


Photographs by ARHuelsenbeck.

Walking in Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park


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



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.

Ahwatukee Festival of Lights

Ahwatukee Festival of Lights

Unless you’ve traveled in the southwest United States, you may never have seen Christmas lights done quite like this before:




When we first moved to Arizona and our children were small, we’d make a point to drive down to the Ahwatukee foothills south of Phoenix to see the lighted cacti.




How do you string lights on a cactus? Very carefully. I tried it one year. Not fun, but very pretty.




The video below tells about the history of the Ahwatukee Festival of Lights:

Desert Walk

Desert Walk

My youngest daughter had a day off work on December 30, and she invited me to come over and hang with her.

Katie lives almost an hour away, so I don’t often drive out there.

But she asked me so nicely. My heart swelled with joy. So, I said, “I’d love to.”

She’d been to our house Christmas morning, before going to work for the day. It was then she suggested we do something together. She proposed three different outings, and none of them appealed to me. So I suggested a hike, and she jumped on it.

The San Tan Mountain Regional Park, just a short drive from Katie’s house, contains 10,000 acres of desert, with beautifully maintained trails. We walked a loop that consisted of part of the Moonlight trail, the Stargazer trail, and part of the San Tan Trail, covering 2.5 miles of relatively easy walking.

Although Katie didn’t complain, I must have driven her crazy, because I stopped every few steps to take pictures. Honestly, the view changed constantly. And if you turned a few degrees, everything looked different again. I took 160 shots. I’m only going to share a few.







When we first moved to Arizona 28 years ago, I was expecting the desert to look like the Sahara–lots of sand, completely brown. The Arizona Sonoran Desert is full of life. It’s rocky, although sandy in some places. Mostly, it’s dirt. And the mountains are rocky.

If you go to northern Arizona, it snows up in the mountains. There are actual ski resorts up there. Those mountains are covered in pine trees rather than cactus.


A barrier of some kind.



I think this is a variety of cholla.


My pretty Katie, sitting on an interesting log.


You can see how rocky the soil is.


Housing developments in the distance, and more mountains in the background.


You can’t blame Katie for getting ahead of me. Besides, I got some action shots of her on the trail.


The trail had some gentle ups and downs, but nothing steep, at least not where we were.


A lot of people rode mountain bikes on these trails, too. Or walked their dogs. Everyone was so nice, too. They greeted us as we passed one another.


Someone stacked some rocks.




The rocks don’t deter plants from growing.




Do you see what I mean about how beautiful and how diverse it is out here? I want to try to paint some of these scenes.



Who left these tracks?


Oh. That’s who.







A tree growing right out of the rock.


The sky was so blue. The temperature was 69 degrees. It doesn’t get better than this.





I love the shadows on the mountains.





Okay, I’m done. But there’s so much more to explore. We’re planning to go back.

Photos © by ARHuelsenbeck and Katie Huelsenbeck.

Wordless Wednesday: Desert Landscaping

Wordless Wednesday: Desert Landscaping

Photographs ©ARHuelsenbeck 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Cactus Fruit

Wordless Wednesday: Cactus Fruit

Taken January, 2016.

Photos ©ARHuelsenbeck 2016