Tag Archives: Phoenix AZ

Hiking in South Mountain Park, Phoenix

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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



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!)


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.

Canaan in the Desert

Canaan in the Desert

Like an oasis in the desert, Canaan in the Desert offers refreshment, though of a different kind. Yes, there’s water, but also quiet, and beauty, and reminders of God’s great love for us. Canaan in the Desert is a prayer garden in northern Phoenix, Arizona, run by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, an order of Lutheran nuns started in Germany in 1947.



The deserts of the Holy Land and of Arizona are situated on different continents, but at similar latitudes, so the climate and the vegetation are somewhat similar. It’s possible to pretend you’re walking where Jesus walked as you visit the garden. (Click on the smaller photographs to enlarge them.)


The first stop is the Bethlehem grotto, recalling Christ’s birth.


But Bethlehem was soon a dangerous place for the Baby. His foster father, Joseph, received a warning in a dream to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt.


Perhaps they traveled along terrain like this:


We fast-forward to end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. After His last supper with His disciples, He invited them to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with Him.



But the disciples could not stay awake.


Gethsemane is also known as the garden of olives. Fittingly, an olive tree overhangs the sculpture of the praying Jesus.


While Jesus is praying, Roman soldiers enter the garden. After Judas betrays the Lord with a kiss, the soldiers arrest Jesus and take Him to Pilate.


Pilate orders Him beaten. . .





. . . and the soldiers mock him and crown him with thorns.


Though Pilate tries to convince the Pharisees to let Jesus go, they demand His crucifixion.


But the Good News is, His death is not the end of the story.



At each location in the garden is a bench so you can sit awhile and meditate on the scene before you. Also, scattered around the garden are little boxes filled with devotional materials to help lead you into prayer:


Plaques quoting scripture and sayings of M. Basilea Schlink, one of the founders of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, dot the garden.


Jesus, the Good Shepherd:


And a little more of the wild desert beauty:


Canaan in the Desert is a lovely place to rest and pray. I enjoyed my time here last week, my second visit; I plan to come regularly.

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever been to Canaan in the Desert or another place that drew you close to God? Share in the comments below.

Hole in the Rock: Papago Park, Phoenix AZ


If it weren’t for the cacti and other vegetation, you might think you were on the moon, due to the unearthly sandstone formations scattered about Papago Park, a unique hiking destination minutes away from downtown Phoenix.

The property that is now Pagago Park was designated a reservation for the Maricopa and Pima tribes in 1879. In 1932, a bass hatchery was located there as part of the Works Progress Administration projects following the Great Depression.

From 1942 to 1944, Papago Park housed a World War II prisoner of war camp, where over 3,000 mostly German soldiers were detained. On December 23, 1944, 25 prisoners escaped. After a few days trying to survive in the desert, they turned themselves in.


One of my biggest surprises, when we moved to Arizona nearly 30 years ago, was that the desert is quite green. Not only do cacti grow there, but also bushes and trees.



The picture below shows a view of the iconic Camelback Mountain in nearby Scottsdale. See the camel’s head and hump?

Haze hangs over the city (just barely visible on the horizon, below) due to “inversion,” which causes particulates (dust) in the air to be trapped near the surface because of the surrounding mountains.

Throughout the park, scattered ramadas shelter picnic tables.

How does a bush grow right out of the rock?

The roads and parking in the park are well-planned and partially hidden by vegetation in some places. You don’t have to walk very far to feel all alone in the desert. Two other major attractions, the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden, are also located in the park. Literally hundreds of people come to the park every day.


Hmm. Fred Flintstone’s couch?

The trail up to Hole in the Rock. I have hip issues, so I didn’t go all the way up. It’s not too hard, but it’s a little steep for an old lady not at her best.

Remember about ten years ago when everyone was worried about the killer bees coming north from South America? Guess where they settled. Yep. Arizona became home to a large percentage of the unwanted immigrant bees. They’ve interbred with the local bees and are less threatening now than they used to be. I haven’t heard of a death in a long time, but for a while, a few people and dogs were severely stung every year.


See the little triangle shape at the top of the hill below? George Hunt, Arizona’s first governor, is buried in the pyramid-shaped tomb.


One of the favorite attractions in the park is Hole in the Rock, pictured below. The ancient Hohokam people who lived here before the time of Christ used this structure as a solstice observatory, keeping track of the sun’s trajectory by making marks in the sandstone. Two and a half miles to the southeast are ruins of a Hohokam village know as Pueblo Grande, where there is a ceremonial mound. Atop the mound is a building with a door in the southeast corner which lets in the rays of the summer solstice sunrise, and the last rays of the winter solstice sunset. The door also is in perfect alignment with the Hole in the Rock. Coincidence, or a sophisticated feat of engineering?


Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix Art Museum

This past Mother’s Day, my youngest daughter, Katie, spent the afternoon with me at the Phoenix Art Museum. Here is a sampling of what we saw–just a tiny bit of the museum.


Ballet Dancer by Everett Shinn


Birdie Serenade by Gregory West


Detail of above



The Golfer by Victor Vasarely


Nude Man by Viola Frey, glazed ceramic

When we were on the raised platform where the Nude Man sat, Katie looked across the way and asked about the view below, “Is that a hallway or another piece of art?”


Answer: it’s a hallway; but do you see why she thought it might be a large mural or something?

Below is the wooden facade from a house in Hue, Vietnam.IMG_0708

Upside Down, Inside Out by Anish Kapoor, sculpture made of resin and paint:


Below, Column Interminable by Betsabeé Romero: 17 “tires” inscribed with symbols from pre-conquest North, South, and Central America, the Aztecs, the Paracas people of Peru, and the ancient Hohokam people who lived in what is now Arizona. Romero’s themes are migration and borders.


The portrait below of Philip Glass looks photographic, no? It’s not. Viewed up close, you’d see it’s a jacquard tapestry woven of very fine colored fibers. I’m guessing technology was key in producing this. I can’t imagine it was woven by hand. Phil–State I by Chuck Close:


Fernando Bryce drew the collection of drawings below from advertisements and newspaper articles about Leni Riefenstahl, the German dancer and actress who directed Nazi propaganda films. His motivation for the work was to explore the tension of an artist working on behalf of an evil dictator.



Samurai Tree 2H by Gabriel Orozco


Message by Matthias Goeritz; gold painted perforated metal on painted wood


Detail of Message


Hopi Flute Player by Emry Kopta


Shift Change at the Magma by Lew Davis


Sphere Lit from the Top by Sol LeWitt

The remaining images are pieces of European art on loan from the Schorr Collection:


Portrait of Cardinal Domenico Grimani by Lorenzo Lotto


Portrait of Barbara Palmer by Peter Lely


Detail of Portrait of Barbara Palmer


Genoese Nobleman by Antony Van Dyck


Portrait of a Man, Probably Pieter de Graaf by Govaert Flinck

The following are woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer:


The Annunciation


Detail of The Annunciation


The Adoration of the Magi


Detail of Adoration of the Magi


Portrait of Baron Philippe François Didier Usquin by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson


Portrait of an Old Woman by Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn


Bust of Julio Contarini by Alessandro Vittoria

Below, Moses Receiving the Tablets of the Law and Christ Blessing by Benjamin West.

It’s been ten years since I’ve been to the Phoenix Art Museum. I’m so grateful Katie wanted to go with me. Thanks, Katie!

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Walk in the Art District

Walk in the Art District

On Tuesday nights, on my way home from folk dancing at the Irish Cultural Center, I pass through part of the Phoenix art scene called Roosevelt Row. Many of the buildings have murals painted on them, and I longed to see what they look like in the daylight, so several weeks ago I took a field trip. I’ve already posted photos of the Irish Cultural Center and the nearby Trinity Cathedral.

But let’s back up a little. I took some pictures in front of the quirky FOUND:RE Hotel on Central Avenue next to the Irish Cultural Center:


On the corner of Roosevelt and Central stands this monument:





I realized I’d left my water bottle in the car when I boarded the light rail, so I stopped at a doughnut shop for an iced green tea.

Here’s what the building looks like from the side:


Pretty flowers, right? Lots of nice plantings in Phoenix.

A little further on is a restaurant called Carly’s Bistro, which I like because my oldest daughter’s name is Carly. The walls all around are covered with murals.


Did I mention murals are common on Roosevelt Row?















This mural appears on the fellowship hall of the church below.


The Stella Artois people set up an “Art of the Chalice” event.


Pretty tour bus:


The back of an Art Gallery called First Studio:


Characters from a local children’s television show that ran from 1954 to 1989, Wallace and Ladmo. My daughter Carly attended a taping, but did not score a coveted Ladmo bag.


This historic post office now “belongs” to Arizona State University.


I barely scratched the art district. I’ll have to go back and take more photos. Next time, maybe I’ll visit some of the galleries.


Trinity Cathedral, Phoenix

Trinity  Cathedral, Phoenix

Near the center of Phoenix, at the border of the art district, Trinity Cathedral rises like an  oasis.



Situated around a central courtyard, the buildings enclose a labyrinth and a sculpture garden recalling Christ’s passion and the saints. Conveniently placed benches allow visitors a place to pray and reflect in peaceful surroundings. The current sanctuary opened for worship on Christmas Day, 1920.


Another building bears a plaque which reads Bishop Atwood House Erected 1930.

A beautiful leaded glass door serves as the portal into the cathedral.

The Irish Cultural Center, Phoenix, Arizona

The Irish Cultural Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Right in the center of bustling, modern Phoenix rises a complex of stone structures reminiscent of medieval times.








Pass through the gates and you realize you’re somewhere magical.

The Irish Cultural Center is many things: a monument to a people devastated by famine; a place where Irish-Americans can research their roots; an academy where you can learn to play harp or bodhran, speak Gaelic, or dance Irish and Scottish dances; home to a rare facsimile of the Book of Kells; a library housing collections of Irish literature and history. It is also where the Phoenix International Folk Dancers meet every Tuesday night, in the building pictured below.


By far the largest building is the McClelland Library.





The Visitor’s Center looks like a quaint Irish cottage. It also contains a gift shop.


Though the buildings look hundreds of years old, they were constructed after 2000.


And here is a monument commemorating  the deaths of 1,500,000 people during the Great Hunger of 1845-1850:IMG_0605IMG_0607IMG_0606

For more information about the Irish Cultural Center, see their website.