Chihuly Glass Exhibition

Dale Chihuly is a world renowned Blown Glass artist from the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about him at his website, or the regular channels like Wikipedia and YouTube.

He has numerous permanent and roving displays of his work around the world, and right now some of his work is at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. We wandered over there yesterday courtesy of Debbie and Dana to see the sights and wander the grounds as the sun went down.

His work is very intricate and pretty.
But becomes even prettier after dark (and when you can take a pic without it being photobombed).

There were several pieces placed throughout the gardens, and we wandered around an saw all of them in the light and after dark once the accent lighting was turned on.

FYI, Dale Chihuly is 80 years old. There’s hope for all of us yet.
He has started to work in Neon, but the regular glass is more impressive in our unlearned opinion.
Chihuly generally leaves a piece behind once the exhibitions are done. This was from a previous year.

And the Botanical Garden itself has quite a few great sights, and a massive collection of Cactus that we wandered around for a couple of hours.

Papago Park in the distance
Look closer!
Lots going on inside this particular Cactus.
All photos except this one taken by Sylvia. She’s getting good at this Photo stuff.

Now back to hiking, and softball, and pickleball and….

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Black Cross Butte Hike

We didn’t head out on a ‘new to us’ hike today like we have been trying to but for one of our group of 4 it was a new hike. Donna is an avid hiker, and we have done one hike back in the Okanagan with them, but today she wanted to search for some Rose Quartz for some hobby projects. This is a unique bit of rock which appears in a few areas, and kinda resembles toothpaste that has been squeezed out of cracks in the solid rock.

Today’s hike was out beyond Tortilla Flat on a very windy road. More about this little tourist town later.

As you can see the desert here is not very flat and not very brown. Our hike today was just under 4 miles in length, but we climbed over 1300 feet of elevation.

Maybe the Military helicopter wanted to see the snow?

We had a bit of rain here yesterday, and it left a dusting of snow on 4 Peaks. It was pretty well gone by the time we finished our hike.

From the top we had great views of the Salt River below, and what has been called the Grand Canyon of the Superstitions by a few of our fellow hikers.

Again, not a cloud to be seen.

The Butte was above us all the way back to the truck.
Brittle Bush can grow anywhere.

And by early afternoon we were done.

Oh, except for a stop in Tortilla Flat to pick up a Waffle cone filled with Salted Caramel Gelato. Quite a treat to end the day.

Back on the Trails

Again it has been a couple of weeks since we were out hiking. We were both tied up pretending to be officials at a local Pickleball Tournament -Sylvia was her usual Rockstar self, and has been told by fans watching that she was the best official there. I try not to look too hurt when tell her that in front of me. These duties kept us busy all day on our regular hiking days, so we were due to get back out there today.

Last week, one of our neighbours and friends finally decided to show up for the rest of the Winter Season, but since their home is currently in Pensacola Florida, it wasn’t much of a hardship for them to delay their arrival. When we wandered over to finally say Hi yesterday, they asked about the Hiking Club and how things were going. We told them we were mainly hiking with smaller groups of friends but had planned on getting to Fremont Saddle by ourselves today. They immediately volunteered to keep us company, and we made a day of it.

It has finally started to warm up a bit here, though we certainly have nothing to complain about. The warm temperatures today meant there were no gloves, touques or jackets required. It was another Blue Sky day, with not a cloud to be seen.

We learned today that Florida is essentially flat as a pancake, and the highest hill our friends had seen or attempted to climb in more than a year was a Sand Dune on the beach. We bested that height in about the first 200 feet of the trail, and ended up climbing 1350′ over our 5 Mile hike.

Still smiling, as we were almost there.

Given the relative lack of conditioning of our friends, we didn’t push the pace too hard, but after 2.5 miles and just under 90 minutes of moving time we were at the saddle.

This is always a hike we enjoy and the view of Weavers Needle at the top is spectacular.

The hike is a bit unique in that it is ALL uphill on the way in and ALL downhill on the way out. We met quite a few other hikers on the trail today, including several we had to encourage with ‘You’re almost there!’ messages. Someone said the very same to us our first time up almost 11 years ago. Time flies.

South Mountain Hike

Yet one more time this year we were off to explore a new hike. Well, new for Rod anyway. Sylvia had been here before, but not on this particular route. South Mountain is a City Park not surprisingly on the south end of Phoenix. It is 16000 acres in size, and by comparison, Stanley Park in Vancouver BC is about 1000 acres. There are dozens of different trails with several trailheads both inside and outside the park’s borders. Our route was along the National trail.

Due to it’s proximity to the city, it is a busy park, and we did run into several small groups of hikers, one larger group coincidentally from the resort next door to ours in Gold Canyon, and a dozen or more Mountain Bikers.

To get there is almost an hour drive, including about 8 miles inside the park on a road that was never designed for a large vehicle. It was narrow, twisty and had lots of great views with few places to pull over and enjoy the sights.

Entrance to the Park

Several buildings within the park were built during the 1920’s by President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps designed to keep people working during the Depression years. Most are just stone walls now, but a few are still in use. This included a rather rustic (translation: no doors on the stalls) restroom that Sylvia was brave enough to use.

No, this wasn’t the restroom.

Phoenix itself is very large and very flat with a few hills thrown in here and there. South Mountain gives a great vantage point to see it all.

Looking North over the City.

Out starting point was the Buena Vista trailhead, and our hike was a lollipop shaped route that intersected with some sections that Sylvia had seen before and was eager to test me on. Most of the trail was wide, but rocky, and that was just ideal for the mountain bikers. Several sections of the trail brought us up high enough to have a 270 degree view of the valley below.

Looking back towards our home in Gold Canyon.
Ancient Pictographs right beside the trail.

On the homeward half of the hike we entered Hidden Valley, which has some interesting features.

Hidden Valley Tunnel
What I called Limbo Rock.

To get through here you had to wiggle yourself in far enough to sit down and scoot though a small chute. The rock you are sitting on is highly polished and slippery from all the folks who have slid their butts along it. The friends we were with have been hiking this trail for 15 years or more and say it is much smoother than when they first encountered it.

And then there was the spot Sylvia was most interested in getting me to attempt.

Fat Man Pass

If it looks narrow, it’s because it IS! I didn’t think I would get through due to the size of my Molson Muscle, but after some coaxing, coaching and a threat to have someone pour some motor oil on me from above, I made it through. It wasn’t easy though, and for a bit I thought I was going to be a permanent feature on the trail.

Did I look comfortable? I wasn’t.

A couple of miles later, we were done. Eight miles and what my trail tracker indicated was 19000 feet of elevation gain (it lied, it was likely around 1200 feet) and we were finished another great day.

Willow Creek Hike

For the second time in a week we encountered an area of our local hiking grounds that we had never been to before. This hike was ‘discovered’ by our friends last season while we were shovelling snow back home, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss it this year.

The hike begins just off the highway to the infamous Tortilla Flat, which is a place you have to visit if you are ever in the Phoenix area. The atmosphere created by a town with a population of 5 with room for 100+ in the bar is something to see, but needs to be part of another blog.

The trailhead is on a flat stretch just off the road, and is deceiving, because within about 100 yards of leaving the truck we were heading down several hundred feet of rugged trail to reach Willow Creek.

Before we had gone a quarter of a mile in distance, we had dropped 250 of elevation and found ourselves walking along a mostly dry creek-bed for about 1.5 miles while we dropped another 200 feet.

Most of the trail was like this, but we had some large boulder fields to traverse
Hiking poles were a good idea on this trip.

I ended up being part of the crew pulling some of our fellow hikers up and over some big rocks, but never got any pics as I was too busy being gentlemanly. There is apparently a picture out there of me pushing Sylvia’s butt up a rock with the handle of my pole which I hope never gets published.

One of the features we passed was the Horns of Dilemma, which I had heard of, but never seen.

This is on the other side of the Salt River, I believe.

At the end of the 1.5 miles we reached the outfall of the creek at the Salt River. Apparently you can Kayak all the way up here from Saguaro Lake,

Kinda shady in the morning, but a pretty spot to stop.

We started back along the same path, and went past the turnoff back to our vehicles to reach a natural bowl that was very full of water compared to previous visits by our friends. The water was trickling in quite steadily at the notch in the rocks.

Jim got adventurous enough to take a group photo from the other side.

Then a 200 foot climb back to our vehicles and we were done. The hike is quite short at less than 4 miles, but provided us with some interesting challenges.

And the day finished itself off nicely with more Fire in the Sky.

Gotta love the sunsets.

Until next time.

Waterfall Canyon Hike

Or, just in case you think we don’t go hiking anymore…

A day after playing 4 games of softball our friends offered to take us exploring an area of the Superstitions we had never seen before. So, I loaded up on a few Ibuprofen and we headed out. Waterfall Canyon is just off to the side of the Praying Hands/Slot Rock hike we have done several times, but it heads up, and I do mean UP from the trail towards the top of the mountains.

Another nice morning in the Superstitions.
The newly named Rod’s Keyholes. Just past the turn to Slot Rock.
Any guesses on a name for this one?
The crew.

The terrain once we left the regular trail soon became steep and rugged, but the views in all directions were spectacular. The scrambling I had to do to get high enough to take the following pic was ‘interesting’, to say the least. Then as soon as I got down, I found out we had to do it again to get further up the trail. It wasn’t any easier that time either.

There were quite a few pools and running water in the canyon, so it comes by its name honestly.

No, there wasn’t much behind him but air.

So, after 6+ miles, 1600+ feet of elevation gain, and lots of great company we have now seen a place we hadn’t explored before. And we made it back in plenty of time to go to a play we had purchased tickets for. And we actually stayed awake for the whole thing….barely.