Photographs ©ARHuelsenbeck 2016
When we moved from New Jersey to Arizona almost twenty-eight years ago, my biggest surprise was that it’s not sandy, brown, or dead. The desert is alive, with vibrant greens and pops of vivid color in the spring.
When my brother visited from New Jersey in March, I wanted him to experience the desert in all its glory. What better way to see it than from a boat?
Wait–a boat in the desert?
The Salt River (Rio Salado) runs right through Phoenix. You’d never know it, though, because there’s rarely any water in it. Why?
Because in the mountains way east of Phoenix, dams were built to create four reservoirs: Roosevelt, Apache, Canyon, and Saguaro Lakes. These reservoirs keep the greater Phoenix area well supplied with H2O. They are also recreational meccas for kayaking, camping, and fishing enthusiasts.
We hopped aboard the Desert Belle, a double deck cruise boat, for a 90-minute guided tour of the lake. Rimmed with breathtaking rock formations, the lake coaxed more than 150 shots from my camera. Here are some of the best.
See the two big horn sheep above? Near top center.
Photographs ©by Andrea R Huelsenbeck.
I’m going to tell you a secret: I hate to exercise. Yet I recognize that it’s crucial to maintaining quality of life, especially at my advanced age. So, I either dance, or I go to the gym, or I walk. But when I exercise, I need a distraction so that I can forget I’m doing something I hate. Luckily, I love to dance, and if I take a fitness class, the other participants provide an interesting diversion. But if I’m hitting the machines, or I’m walking, I at least need my iPod to make it bearable.
Back in the 90s, I didn’t have a gym membership, so I walked most mornings on a canal path that passed my children’s elementary school. Often, I caught a glimpse of one of my little darlings at recess. While I walked, I listened to cassette tapes of the books of the Bible on my Walkman.
Since I started my blog, I often bring my camera along, in case I see something that would make an attractive illustration. One day I left it home, thinking I’d already seen everything there is to see along the way. That was a mistake—I missed two or three great shots.
I’m working my way through poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldrigdge in my effort to write a poem a day. One of her suggestions is to take a poetry walk, bringing a notebook and pen along to jot down any ideas that come. So on my next walk, I brought a steno notebook and, to my surprise, filled nearly a page with observations that I could develop into a poem.
Here’s one that resulted from that poetry walk:
“You don’t need your jacket,” he says.
“I want my jacket,” I reply.
My jacket pleases me (I think to myself),
Hot pink and fleecy.
Besides, we just had a hard freeze—
Frost on the roof and the car rear window.
The neighbors’ bushes wear quilts.
I embark on my walk.
After a block, my jacket unzips.
After three blocks, the jacket comes off.
How will I carry it
So the keys don’t tumble out of my pocket?
I could turn around and drop it at home,
But then he’d say, “I told you so.”
So I hold it right-side-up,
Ever vigilant for the jangling of escaping keys.
The path is dotted with wildflowers,
Emboldened by the sudden warmth,
Speculating that spring has arrived.
The bougainvillea blaze red;
Were those blooms there yesterday?
Butte—an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top (similar to but narrower than a mesa).
When we were house hunting in Arizona in the summer of 1988, one of the sights we saw was a mountain with a big A on it, just a stone’s throw from Arizona State University. The A is supposed to be yellow (ASU’s colors are maroon and gold), but we’ve seen it every color of the rainbow (including plaid), even though unauthorized personnel are forbidden from painting it.
We moved to “the Valley of the Sun” (the greater Phoenix metropolitan area) in August of that year, and one of the things I looked forward to doing was hiking A Mountain, also known by Tempe Butte or its official name, Hayden Butte.
Of course, as soon as we moved into our new house, I became pregnant with our fifth child. And other aspects of life intruded. And I never got around to it. But I kept it in mind as something I wanted to do someday.
When I started this blog last year, I thought it would be fun to post photographs taken from the top of A Mountain. I could cross one item off my bucket list and get a good workout in addition to gathering content for the blog. And yet, every time I planned to do it, I got derailed. It was too hot. Hubby needed my car. It was raining. My hip hurt.
Add to that my husband’s suspicions that I wasn’t up to the job. I am a 63-year-old lady with osteoarthritis, after all. And I am not a hiker.
But when Wednesday, December 30, 2015 dawned, there wasn’t a single good reason not to try it.
Parking in downtown Tempe is a challenge, so to be on the safe side, I used a Park & Ride lot and took the light rail to the foot of Hayden Butte. (I actually saw some unused metered parking spaces in the Sun Devil Stadium lot next door, but that’s okay.)
Knowing my physical limitations, I gave myself permission not to force myself to climb to the very top. Yet I got pretty close. Several times I thought I was almost there, just to crest a rise and discover I had another hundred feet to go. Part of the path was made of steps created with railroad ties; another part was paved in asphalt; another part was concrete stairs; another part was rock, at jagged angles (the one spot where I almost fell). When I came to a second rock section close to the top, I pronounced myself high enough.
Here are some of the photographs I took (click on individual images to enlarge and see captions):