Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Catwalk and the City of Rocks

My brother and Brendan's uncle DeWitt came down for a visit last week.  Before his long drive back to Alberta, we talked him into some adventure in New Mexico...with just me and Brendan this time, as Kirsteen flies to Seattle for a long-weekend with an old friend and well-deserved vacation on her own.

Glenwood, New Mexico is a four-hour drive from our front door here in Tucson, mostly to the northeast; not far across the state line and set before a dramatic face of the Mogollon Mountains.  Beyond Safford, the last 90 minutes are always scenic and this time incredibly verdant, having had abundance of summer rains.

Tucked into a box canyon near Glenwood is the Catwalk Trail.  In days of old, the catwalk was set upon a pipeline; parts of it are still used in one or two places, though modern recreational engineering has replaced most of it and made the trail quite safe for the whole family.  Next to the parking area is a perfect picnic ground with ankle-wading access to Whitewater Creek.  This place is an all-round win.

There were no vacancies among the scant motel-pickings in Glenwood (we knew this might be the case) and headed an hour to the southeast to find one of the few rooms left in Silver City; cheap but clean and cozy...and the TV had Food Network, so Brendan was happy.  Just before we had left Tucson, Brendan was crying that he wanted to stay at home and not go on the trip...by the next morning, he was begging for a second night to the adventure!

Alas, my chemo meds were kicking in that morning and uncle DeWitt was to part ways with us anyway; so we planned a less ambitious but still Brendan-friendly agenda...a visit to City of Rocks State Park.

Turns out, this place is good for the six-year old in all of us!!  DeWitt and I tagged along to Brendan's excited and continued urgings to follow him here, there, and everywhere through a myriad-maze of bouldery chutes, hollows and passages.  The videos below convey it best.  Brendan is now demanding that we return for a camping trip.  Nearly all of the campsites are tucked right among the rocks...and instead of being numbered, the sites are all named for constellations!  How nerdy and cool is that?  I'm thinking Brendan's demands may be met before too long (when it's not so hot).

After hugs and goodbyes for DeWitt, he headed north and we headed west for home, stopping for a late-lunch at Kranberry's in Lordsburg, with its chicken-fried steak for me...and a promised pilgrimage to the fireworks outlet across the street for both of us.  My apologies to our neighbors for the occasional puff of colored smoke, whiff of sulfur, showers of sparkles, or bangs that project from our backyard in the coming weeks and months. (I'm a little surprised how much stuff you can get for $40.)  We won't be the first of our near-neighbors taking part in that action...but we promise to be careful.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Quick Photo Trio

Once or twice a year I get a little surprise with a few photos published (and a check!) in the Tucson: Official Destination Guide; a tourist magazine put out by the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau (hmmm, quite a mouthful) and soon there will be a copy in every hotel room in Tucson!  This last issue they chose three of my images...and since so many blogs seem to include a requisite amount of self-promotion, I'm telling you about it.

This first image I have posted before, it's a 45 minute-plus exposure of polar star trails...probably on my old-pro standby film Agfachrome 50.  I had intended the organ pipe cactus to be a silohuette, but to my accidental satisfaction, the light of our campfire (about 100 yards away) decided to get in on the action.  The sky is made green by the lights of both Phoenix (about 100 miles away) and Ajo, a small town in southwestern Arizona (about five miles away).  The Destination Guide used this photo for a write up on Kitt Peak.

The second image I self-titled "Brittlebush Road" and is one of my personal favorites.  It was taken on the Bunker Hill Road, southeast of Mammoth, back in March of 1995.  I think of it as "the backroad" into Copper Canyon, a interesting little area to explore in the Galiuro Mountains; featuring mines both old and active, exciting 4-wheel driving, and the old ghosts of the Sibley Mansion and general store.  Interestingly, the Destination Guide identified this as Saguaro National Park, which it isn't (though you can see it from there).

The last photo I took specifically in mind that the editor of a tourist magazine might go for it...a simple sign in a public garden with a bounty of color and desert plants.  They bit.  That said, I've had previous success with photos taken at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, where we found this scene in their demonstration garden. (This time the Guide identifies it as Tucson Botanical Gardens.  I think maybe I shouldn't say anything.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Illinois & Chicago

Our meloncholy visit to pay respects to my Aunt Felice came at the end of July.  It was nice to spend a couple of days in Champaign catching up with old family and meeting others for the first time; another generation ready to take on the world!  Brendan did well holding out with all the adult activities; his favorites were the hotel room and the ice cream shop...and helping out his second cousins.  He also loved wearing a suit; made him very important, like an adult!

After Champaign we had a room for three nights in downtown Chicago...woohoo, the high life for us!  Okay, 4th floor but we had a great view of Navy Pier and the lake.  Have you ever seen electric curtains?  Dang, Bubba, took us ten minutes just to figure it out it had to have a switch!  And how about those mini-bars that automatically weigh the contents and bill you for anything removed?  Who knew?  All we did was take out the cashews to make room for Brendan's chocolate milk!  Best of all, we went swimming and rode treadmills, on the 42nd floor!

But Chicago is great...not worth the expense as a tourist for three days, but I'd love the opportunity to live there for a month (in a penthouse apartment...yeah, that's the ticket).

We ate dinner twice down on Navy Pier whilst people-watching from our patio tables.  The notorious Chicago summers went easy on us with cloudy days and reasonable temperatures, most of the time anyway--it was miserable when the sun came out.  The other big hit of the city was the Museum of Science and Industry, though we didn't get to explore half of it as thoroughly as we would have liked.

Twice in the mornings we got rained out from completing our hop-on-hop-off double-decker bus tour, the one seeming conspiracy against us on this trip.  On the last day we headed north to Gurnee to meet with old friends (from Tucson!) and spent the afternoon at an indoor resort-bound waterpark, followed by a fabulous dinner at Olive Garden.  All in all it was a successful trip...and I would like to leave at least one more visit on my bucket list.