Sunday, February 28, 2010

And Then It Rained Some More!

It started to rain again last night and rained off and on all during the night. It was raining pretty hard on our way to church this morning. I had to chuckle as I pulled an umbrella out of the cupboard that the Phoenix convention bureau had given me (and other members of the Executive Board) last year when they were trying to convince us to have our Biennial Meeting in Phoenix in 2013. It reads on the inside: "If you lived in Phoenix, you wouldn't need to be using this!"

The rain slacked off a bit this afternoon and we went for a walk after watching the disappointing outcome of the Canada vs USA gold medal hockey game (US lost 2-3 in overtime). This feisty little guy was very gamely protecting his territory and scared off at least two contenders as we walked along. He's a male Anna's and if the sunlight catches his feathers just right, the black on his head and chest is a brilliant iridescent red.

This is the formerly dry wash that runs along the back of the mobile home park!

As we drove home from church this morning we saw that many of the man-made catch basins were also full of water. As I write this, it has again begun to rain...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Forry saw a little phrase on a map of Arizona that said Tonto Natural Bridge and wanted to find out what it was. We couldn't find any pictures of it, even on the internet -- the one picture on the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park website was only of the opening at the bottom.

It is tucked away in a tiny valley in the middle of a forest of pinon and juniper trees high in the mountains. It was documented in 1877 by David Gowan, a prospector who stumbled across the bridge as he was chased by Apaches. Gowan hid for two nights and three days in one of the several caves which dot the inside of the bridge. On the third day, he left the cave to explore the tunnel and green valley surrounding it. Later he returned and claimed the valley as a homestead. After changing hands several times, it was bought as a state park in 1991.

The bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. It stands 183 feet high over a 400 foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. We hiked down the trail all the way to the bottom (I was pretty proud of myself!). Fortunately it was a cool day and we were able to take our time. The valley itself is beautiful and then you come upon this incredible structure!

Unfortunately this spectacular bridge is not well known nor well publicized. The docents said they almost get more visitors from Australia, Germany and other countries then they do from the US. The foreigner come with great descriptions in their guidebooks while we could not find more than a sentence mentioning it in any tourist information!
Tonto National Bridge State Park is on the list of 13 state parks that the State of Arizona is planning to close in March of 2010 as part of their budget cuts....

Friday, February 26, 2010

More From the Desert Museum

The almost full moon over the desert yesterday --

One of the very tame desert wrens who guarded the grounds --

A couple of the Mexican gray wolves who are being re-established in Arizona --

Today we drove out to Saguaro Lake created by a dam on the Salt River. There were not a lot of birds around -- coots and grackles and starlings and Western grebes. We did see some piebald grebes and lesser scaups -- both of which were new ones for me (though Forry's had them both for a long while...).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

We saw some interesting sights today! We drove back up to the outskirts of Tucson to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. It's quite a place. It has a museum, a small zoo, two different aviaries, galleries, lots of nature trails and, of course, a gift shop.

The animal displays are strictly the animals of the Sonoran desert. I got a good picture of one of their mountain lions (Forry got one of the Mexican wolves that I'll post tomorrow.) --

The museum is located adjacent to the Saguaro National Park. My cacti book says this kind of formation on the top of a saguaro is very rare - and they really don't know for sure what causes it --

They have a rather large prairie dog town and as it was warm today, several of the inhabitants were out lounging in the sun --

The ocotillos are beginning to bloom VERY early. The book says they generally bloom in mid-April (which is when we saw them last year!), but they are well on their way.

And look at how green and leafy the plants are! Last year, the ocotillos we saw in bloom looked like dry brown sticks with red on their tips.

It was a long, but very good day. When we got back to Mesa this evening we went to Tia Rosa's for a scrumptious dinner of chicken enchiladas with mole' sauce.
I got a good chuckle this morning when I got a call from Sister Roxy after she had read yesterday's blog about the HP Mini. She and Rich had also gone out and bought one yesterday! LOL

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A VERY Early Birthday Present!

On the left is my new VERY early birthday present! Forry bought me an HP Mini computer today!

When I was packing last week to go to the Executive Board meeting, I debated packing my computer. It's great to have it. Although I can blog and read my email on my iPhone, it's hard to access documents or take notes. Since I am still limited on how much weight I am supposed to pack -- let alone lift up over my head -- I have been paying the $15 and checking my suitcase. BUT, you don't want to put your computer in checked baggage! The computer itself isn't all that heavy, but by the time you add the cords and the adapter, it gets pretty heavy to pack for very far and so I left it home.
We had looked at some of the Acer mini-computers that people had at the Health Sector Assembly last October and thought that might be the real way to go. Then HP came out with one
that is the same small size! Since Forry and I both have HP computers, we decided we would stick with the same brand. Anyway, when we were at Costco today, Forry bought me an early birthday present! I've been playing with it ever since we got home. It's sweet!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another Moving Day

Auntie Violet's new home at the Sun Life RV 55+ Resort --

This morning was a "get up early" morning so that we could once more move to a new site. Most of the parks only allow a seven day stay during their busy winter season at the fifty percent discount rates. Therefore, we stay a week at a time at once place then move on. There are so many RV Parks (most of which are 55+) in the Phoenix area that it mainly means we move no more then a few miles from one park to the next.

This again seems to be a very friendly park with mostly park models (see the one next to Auntie Violet in the above picture) and rather narrow streets. Forry had to make some fairly tight turns to our site on "M" street, but his guide in the golf cart who parked him did a great job of getting him around.

We watched the hockey game between Canada and Germany tonight -- Canada shellacked Germany 8-2! It's a good thing they weren't that hot when the USA played them the other night!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thunder and Lightning and RAIN!

The view out of Auntie Violet's door this morning as it POURED! And there was THUNDER! And there was LIGHTNING!

I got really WET when I opened the door and leaned out to take the picture!

This is the sky an hour or so later --

As I commented on FaceBook earlier today, we have had more rain here in the "desert" the last month then we EVER have in eastern Washington in a WHOLE year!

We were going to out to do some exploring today, but it was just way too wet. We had rain showers off and on all day. We did go to the Post Office and picked up Forry's prescriptions, then to Fry's grocery and picked up some salad stuff and a barbecued chicken for dinner. And I did finish the laundry I had started yesterday.

We've been watching the Ice Dancing finals at the Olympics tonight. While not nearly as exciting as the hockey games we watched yesterday, they are nevertheless amazingly beautiful.

This is the gorgeous sunset we had tonight --

Sunday, February 21, 2010


When we lived in Spokane (in another life), we had season tickets to Spokane Chiefs hockey games and loved spending time at the Arena watching those young men skate. As we were watching the hockey games at the Olympics today, I realized how much I missed that. Russia and Slovakia played this afternoon and tonight we watched the USA beat Canada 5-3 in a hard fought game. (Finally discovered that MSNBC and CNBC were also showing different parts of the Olympics -- so didn't miss tonight's game while NBC was showing Ice Dancing.)

After arriving home last night after midnight from the airport, we weren't very early risers this morning and have spent a fairly quiet day today. We did walk across the street and took a look at the Park Models they have on display here at the RV Park. These buildings have to be kept to a certain size to still qualify as "mobile homes" and fit into the sites at an RV park. They usually have a kitchen, bathroom, combo living/dining room and a bedroom. Most people add on what is called an Arizona room that covers the back portion of what would be the driveway portion of the lot. It seems like many of the people we have chatted with who live in them often still have houses in the "north" and come down to live in their park models during the winter. Some of the parks we've been in have more of these than they have actual RVs.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Home Again!

I had a Anti-Racism Team meeting this morning at 6:30 AM! We had to get together and decide what we wanted to report back to the Board this morning. We had an interesting Board meeting -- two other agency boards met with us by conference call. We met to decide by a unanimous vote that we would go ahead and proceed with building a new facility in Elkhart. It was definitely a different experience.

I rode with a couple of the other Board members back to the airport in Norfolk (many of the others had flown into Newport News), stopping on the way for a quick lunch. We had a quiet flight into Detroit on a plane with lots of empty seats. The flight from Detroit to Phoenix was nice as well, I had the whole row of seats to myself. It was also fast -- we actually landed almost 25 minutes ahead of schedule!

It's nice to be back at Auntie Violet with Forry!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Another Long Day of Meetings

We left this morning at 7:30 and returned at 9:30 tonight. That makes for a long day of meetings. This afternoon we were able to tour Calvary's facilities which range from the church facility complete with a TV studio to the school which accomodates classes for two year olds to 3rd graders to a full print shop which does work for NGOs and not-for-profits as well as themselves. They have between 700 & 1000 people in attendance at Sunday worship. Pretty impressive.

I tried to watch the Olymics last night, but couldn't keep my eyes open. I don't think tonight will be any different.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Day of Meetings

I didn't have a meeting until 1 pm, so actually got to sleep in this morning. So far the meeting has gone well. We talked with LaVern Yutzy about his report and recommedations. We are going to be asked to prioritize and decide which ones we want to act upon...

We went as a group to a Mongolian BBQ place for dinner that was really good. They give you a bowl that you take around and fill it from tables loaded with vegetables and meats tof all different kinds. Then you take it and a little bowl of whatever sauce you want over to a big round grill where six guys are all cooking at once. One takes your bowls, they cook each one individually, pour the sauce on and serve it up to you. Since you picked everything out, you get a very quick, very custom dinner..

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Flying Today

I spent most of today flying to Norfolk, Virginia for a Mennonite Church USA Executive Board meeting tomorrow, Friday & Saturday morning.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Moving Day...

We'd been at Mesa Regal RV Park for seven nights which is the limit you are allowed to stay paying one-half off. So today we moved to Valle del Oro RV Park a few miles away for another seven day stay. It was a bit of a hassle getting to our site because of all the cars parked on the park streets. They were celebrating Mardi Gras today with a parade of motorcycles, decorated golf carts and bicycles and were staging in the parking lot. Which meant they had blocked off most of the parking around the clubhouse, hence all of the cars parked in the streets. But Forry did a great job of backing around a palm tree and getting Auntie Violet settled in.

We went to the Mesa Post Office today to pick up the tightly packed Flat Rate box that Daughter Mary Mae had sent our mail to us in. Even the postman commented about how heavy it was -- said she "really got her money's worth!" I was VERY relieved to get two packets of material for the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board meeting that I am flying out to tomorrow morning. The meeting is in Hampton, Virginia. I have been anxiously watching the weather in the east and the forecasts. At least they shouldn't have any more snow, but the warmest weather has been in the 40's. That's going to be quite a change from the almost 80 we had here today.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another Quiet Monday

Here are some more cacti that we saw yesterday in the Superstition Mountain area. This first picture is of some 'tree' cholla that are extremely tall in this area. I was told they can get to be fifteen feet tall, but we didn't see any that tall. I think the tallest we saw was about 8-9 feet.

The next two pictures are of hedgehog cacti. This is the first time we had seen any of this type of cacti. It will be neat to see what they look like when they are in bloom in the spring.

Today was a bit of a catch-up day, sorta of getting ready to move tomorrow. Forry emptied the gray and black tanks; I did laundry; we checked out the location of both the new park and of the post office; and watched the Olympics.

I had a long chat with Sister Sherry in Touchet and Brother Pat in Moses Lake. And FINALLY found out the name of my new great-nephew! His name is Case Patrick. His big brother's name is Carter. I think the two names go well together. Patrick and Cindy have had all of their three grand-babies at their place during the week-end -- lucky guys!

To go with our steak, I made an avocado and grapefruit salad for supper using grapefruit from the tree growing alongside of Auntie Violet's parking place.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

More Birds!

The rocks along the crest along the crest of the Superstition Mountains are supposed to be Indians who were turned to stone as they fled "the great flood."

Another one of the phainopeplas that pop up on the cacti in the Tonto Wilderness Area -- I think we saw a dozen of them again today --

These two pictures are of a very busy Says Phoebe who has been hanging out on our neighbor's TV antenna. (S)he uses it as a platform for bug catching. It has been here every morning, swooping down every few minutes to catch another insect.

It's been a pretty busy day today. We went to the worship service at Koinonia Mennonite Church in Chandler (barely arriving in time as the GPS took us to SOUTH 2505 in Mesa instead of NORTH 2505 in Chandler!). After we got back home, we decided to take another drive into the Superstition Mountains to see if we could see the Common Black Hawks again (Why do they call something "Common" when it's actually rather rare?) and this time get some pictures. But, of course, the hawks were nowhere to be seen. In fact, we saw very few birds, a ladder backed woodpecker, a cactus wren and finally later in the afternoon, at least a dozen phainopeplas.

On the way home, we ducked into Costco to pick up a Brita filter water pitcher (we're trying not to use so many plastic bottles) as the water in this area isn't the best tasting. I was very nice and bought Forry a Polish Dog for his Valentine's Day dinner...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gilbert, Arizona's Riparian Preserve

This is where we went today:

One of the things I really like is when a nature preserve has labels on plants that I have been trying to identify -- like this jojoba bush!
I've looked in my plant books, but it sure helps when there is a positive identification! The jojoba is just getting ready to bloom --

We found a wonderful place today! Forry had seen it on the map yesterday and we were going to check it out, but watched the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics instead. I looked at their website, but it wasn't very informative. What we found was a series of seven ponds and a small fishing lake -- all pretty much in the middle of town! The lake even requires an URBAN fishing license which evidently is different from the Arizona fishing license.
The ponds are part of the City of Gilbert's (Gilbert is actually one of the suburban towns surrounding Phoenix.) sewage reclamation facility. They've done a great job with it. There are lots and lots of water birds, an area where kids can dig for "dino" bones, an archaeological dig site also for kids, a few campsites, an observatory and lots of walking paths. We were there for over three hours (until I got tired) and we only saw about half of it! While we didn't see any "new" birds, we saw lots of old friends -- Northern mocking birds, dowitchers, yellow legs, coots, sandpipers, black phoebes, doves, cormorants, Great Blue Herons, snowy egrets, Northern Shovelers, Canada geese, vultures, several Anna's hummingbirds, verdins, yellow rumped warblers, sparrows, finches and I'm sure there were others I'm forgetting!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Desert Is Turning GREEN!

New grass and tiny flowers:

New leaves showing on the ocotillos:

I know I keep saying it, but the desert is greening up at an amazing rate! Ocotillos that looked like dead brown sticks a couple of weeks ago are actually showing little green leaves. And when you look closely on the desert floor, you can see wisps of green grass and weeds showing. There is actually a greenish cast to the ground.

We were going to go to a Riparian Center in Gilbert towards dusk to look for birds, but when we realized what time the opening of the Olympic Games was, we decided to go in the morning instead.

Wow! Did Vancouver ever put on a show tonight! It was fascinating to watch. The death of one of the Georgians on the luge track put a bit of a damper on the festivities, but even the Georgians marched in -- wearing black armbands. The USA team got a great reception from the crowd -- it was nice to see.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Superstition Mountain Museum

Forry got a picture this morning of the Gila Woodpecker who keeps coming to drink from the neighbor's hummingbird feeder --

This afternoon we decided to take a trip to the Superstition Mountains --
This the entry way to the Superstition Mountain Museum --

The museum is small but interesting. It's located on twelve acres in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. They have a great deal of information about the Lost Dutchman Mine and many mining artifacts on display. What is left of the Apacheland Movie Ranch is located on the ground. After most of it burned in the '70s, the barn and the Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel (used in the movie Charro) were taken apart board by board and rebuilt here.
After we explored the museum and grounds, we drove on up the Apache Trail highway and took a side road into the Tonto National Forest. It is a beautiful area with lots of different cacti. The desert is really greening up from the recent rains. There is small grass and weeds growing as well as a lime green lichen which is showing up on many of the rock bluffs.
It was a day for black birds. We saw 7-8 phainopeplas perched on the saguaros. Then we spotted some large hawks which also perched on the cacti so that we were able to get a good look at them through the binos. Forry was very excited when we identified them as Common Black Hawks. It looked like a pair with chick from last year. This is a new bird for us that Forry has been looking for the past couple of years. Unfortunately he didn't have his camera with him and the battery on my little one had died...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day One in Mesa

The view across the street from Auntie Violet --

On Auntie Violet's side of the street --

It's a lot different here then being out in the middle of the desert. I would imagine that the population of this RV Park is considerably larger than that of Ritzville, the town we grew up in since there are more than 2000 spaces here (we're in #1593) and each of them usually has two people...

There's quite a bit of bird activity here, but the pruned citrus trees make great hiding places for the little creatures. There is a Gila woodpecker who alternates between checking out the roof of the park model across the street and drinking out of their hummingbird feeder -- to the disgust of the hummingbirds who also approach to drink and get frightened away! We also saw grackles and Mourning doves when we walked across the park to the grocery store.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

On to Mesa

This morning we packed up Auntie Violet and left 3 Dreamers RV Park for Mesa Regal RV Park in Mesa, Arizona. It cost us an additional $19.03 for electricity for a total of $44.03 (we had made a $25.00 deposit when we arrived). We are so used to relatively cheap electricity in Washington State that $0.17 a kwh seems quite high. I sure am glad that I used the clothesline instead of the dryer all week!

We took Hwy 60, then down to Interstate 10 East through Phoenix into Mesa. We stayed at this RV Park last year when we met up with Juni and Tom who were here for a wood-turners conference. It's a total contrast to where we were last week. It's very urban with more then 2000 RV spaces, many of them park models.

We had barely gotten parked (a very tight back-in) and our slides out when the lady down the street was at the door inviting us to a "Street Party and Potluck" -- unfortunately we'll only be here a week -- and the party is in ten days. (We're using our CampClub membership which allows to only stay for seven nights, but at half-price.) We remembered from being here before that it's a very friendly place.

We made a long overdue -- and expensive -- Costco run this afternoon. I bought a couple of new shirts -- have some that need to go in the rag bag. Of course, it made Forry's day as he got to have his favorite Costco hot dog for supper!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Our Last Night at 3 Dreamers

A desert viewing perch?

On this home in the desert!

At the entrance to 3 Dreamers RV Park --

The mobile home in the first two pictures is about a quarter mile down the road from the RV park. I think at one time there were quite a few "homesteads" out in this area. You can see lots of abandoned foundations that are all that are left. Yesterday we saw a very faded sign offering 2.5 acres lots for $15,500 "with good water!"

Today was our last day at 3 Dreamers. Tomorrow we will be heading towards Mesa where we will stay for the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Yeah, New Orleans Saints!

Before we sat and watched the Super Bowl, we took a brisk walk up the road back of the RV park. This picture is along the edge of the road.

Looking up the road the other way -- looks like we're going to be in for more rain?

We got back to the park and were knocking the mud off of our shoes when one of the campers told us there was an Ice Cream Social at the clubhouse. We went on over and discovered that ice cream (three choices) was fifty cents a scoop. Forry had two and I had one along with a cup of coffee and then went home to watch the game.

We were both rooting for New Orleans. We've spent a lot of time in Louisiana the past three years and have gotten to love both the country and the people. We knew what a boost in morale a win would be for everyone there and really had our fingers crossed.

Yeah for the Saints!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

RAIN in the Desert!

As it starts to rain, the puddles outside of Auntie Violet start to form --

Later looking through Auntie Violet's windshield --

The rain storms that hit California last night moved into Arizona this afternoon. We had several intense episodes of rain this morning and afternoon. I'm sure that by morning -- if it doesn't rain more during the night -- the puddles will have disappeared.

One thing about it, it should be beautiful in the desert this spring with all of the rain it's had. We were already seeing little grass shoots all over from the rains of two weeks ago. We should be seeing lots of wildflowers in bloom later!

It was a good day for staying inside. I made a batch of brownies earlier this afternoon that we've enjoyed with chicken enchiladas this evening.

Friday, February 5, 2010

More of the Desert

My book on Southwest cacti says that the cholla cactus very seldom spreads by seeds. It is more likely to spread by dropping pieces of itself which then, if lucky, will take root and start a new cactus. There was a great deal of wind that came with the rains a couple of weeks ago. This cholla cactus seems to have shed a great many pieces on the ground around it -- lots of new babies to come!

I was excited about finding some blooming flowers -- maybe spring is on the way? But again my Sonoran Desert Wildflowers book told me that the bitterbush blooms from November through May...

We didn't see a whole lot of them, but there was one area where they were all along the road --

Today wasn't quite a nice as yesterday. It was warm, but there were lots of clouds moving through. I don't know if the rainstorms that are moving through California tonight will come this far or not.

I did hang the sheets and towels out to dry today on the clotheslines outside the RV Park laundry. It is so nice to be at a park that doesn't forbid clotheslines! So many of them seem to think they are tacky or are worried about the way the park might look with clothes flying in the breeze.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

KOFA National Wildlife Refuge

The road through the north portion of the KOFA refuge --

Lots of majestic saguaros -- and ocotillos --

Lots of rocks --

Named after the old King of Arizona (Kofa) mine -- the richest gold mine ever in Arizona!

Today we made a trip to the post office in Salome to mail Valentine's packages to the grand kids and then went on to visit the north end of KOFA National Wildlife Refuge. It was a ninety-some mile round trip -- the 36 mile portion of it in the refuge was gravel unmaintained road for the most part. I think the road is mainly used by the natural gas line and electric tower maintenance people -- we met one motorcyclist and saw no other traffic.

The refuge has an interesting variety of terrain and flora with its changes in altitude. We saw lots of majestic saguaros, many ocotillos and a lot of chollas. But, there were absolutely no prickly pears.

We didn't see many birds. Forry saw a high flying buzzard and then we didn't see any others until almost the end of the road when a flock of bluebirds flew into a dead tree. They weren't close enough for us to distinguish whether they were Western or Eastern. We think they might have been Easterns, but couldn't tell for sure.