Friday, February 28, 2014

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Another spot we hadn't made it to on previous trips to Phoenix was the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. It has some similarities with the botanical gardens but it's outside town, in a more natural setting. It also includes plants from other countries, for example there's a big Australian portion. And there's a pond and a creek. Overall, I think we liked the arboretum better.

One of the excitements at the arboretum was seeing a (wild) rattlesnake. Everyone out here always warns us about the rattlesnakes when we're going hiking but we've never seen one till now. I had walked by some bushes beside the main path and heard a noise that didn't sound like the typical bird or lizard, but I couldn't see anything so I kept going. A few minutes later Shelley called me back - she'd spotted a snake. We couldn't see the whole snake since it was under the leaves and branches, but we could see its middle section moving slowly along. It was quite large, maybe 2 inches in diameter? Finally it's tail came into view with its identifying rattles. Considering Shelley says she doesn't like snakes, she was quite calm and interested. Especially considering it was only a few feet off the path. But it was obviously uninterested in us, and just going about its business.

We also saw some red cardinals, but they didn't cooperate enough to get photos. They are such colorful bright red birds.

butterfly

cactus

Untitled

turtles

Untitled

hummingbird

lizard

flower

butterfly

See all 44 photos as a slideshow or overview

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Parking Lot Flowers

One of the nice parts of warm climates is that there are a lot more flowers around. I had half an hour in a strip mall parking lot waiting for Shelley to get her haircut, and I had my little camera with me (the RX100m2) so of course, I took some photos.

My family has always had a thing for bougainvillea - my father's saying was that man should not live where bougainvillea will not grow. (So why did he move to Saskatchewan when they could have moved anywhere in the world?)

bougainvillea

bougainvillea

bougainvillea

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

(click on the photos to view larger)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Arizona Trail

Recently we hiked a 70 km (43 mile) section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail. The complete trail runs almost 1300 km (800 miles) from Mexican border to Utah. We went from Roosevelt to Superior (just west of Phoenix). It was a great hike - dry and rocky, but with some nice canyons and beautiful scenery. There were quite a few flowers blooming.

We took four days to do this section but it probably would have been nicer to take an extra day. It took us 26 hours of hiking (5 hours on the first and last days, and 8 hours on the middle days). The first half was quite rough and rocky and had a lot of up and down climbing up to our high point. The second half was better trail and mostly downhill and went quicker..

One of the complications was that the only reliable water (according to the guidebook) was about half way, at Reavis Creek. So we started out with enough water for two days, hoping we wouldn't get to halfway with minimal water left and not find any! And then from halfway we again had to carry water for two days. As it turned out, there was water at a number of intermediate points so we didn't have to worry. (But that might be different other seasons or other years.)

Untitled
the view down to Theodore Roosevelt Lake near the beginning of the hike

Shelley on the trail
Shelley on the trail

Untitled
sunrise from our tent at our first camp

Untitled
second camp at Reevis Creek

soaring raven
soaring raven

Untitled


ocatillo
butterfly feeding on ocotillo blossoms


Untitled

See all 65 photos as a slideshow or overview (sorry I didn't narrow it down more!)

See also Shelley's blog post

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden

We had a great visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix / Tempe (recommended). In addition to all the great plants (and occasional wildlife), they also had a Chihuly glass installation in the garden. We went in the afternoon, which was a little hot, but the advantage was that we could stay till dusk and see the glass lit up in the dark. Of course, I took a ton of photos :-)

Untitled

Untitled

Gambel's Quail

Untitled

hummingbird silhouette

Untitled

Untitled

The big glass sculptures are made of lots of separate pieces of glass (each "spike"). I understand that these aren't numbered or anything, so each installation is unique because the pieces get put together in different ways each time. Another one of those artistic endeavours that involve a mind boggling amount of work.

I carried my macro and telephoto lenses the whole time, but I ended up taking all of these with the 18-250. I continue to be amazed at what cameras can do these days, virtually in the dark. And as usual, shooting raw and processing in Lightroom makes a huge difference.

See all 56 photos as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's blog post

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Prescott, Arizona

On the way from Las Vegas to Phoenix we stopped in Prescott, Arizona (we're told "Prescott" should be pronounced like "biscuit", not like "press cot"). We stayed at the Willow Lake RV Park just outside of town (where we stayed a few years ago). RV parks don't always have great tent sites, but this one is pretty good. No one else was tent camping so we got the prime site (T17) in a small sandy bowl surrounded by granite hills and boulders. Definitely a scenic spot, as you can see. (our site was just down to the left)

view of Prescott from Willow Lake

We decided to spend two nights here and do a day hike. We chose the Groom Creek Loop Trail (which we found using the AllTrails app) and really enjoyed it.

spiral seeds

As usual, there were quite a few birds flitting about, but it was hard to catch them. It wasn't until I looked at the photograph that I managed to identify (I think) it as a Spotted Towhee. He looks like he has some character. (I know, hopeless anthropomorphizing!)

Spotted Towhee

The night we arrived (fairly late in the day) we ate at the nearby  Manzanita Grill at the Antelope Hills Golf Course. The next night we ate in town at El Gato Azul (The Blue Cat), a tapas style restaurant. The food was great and there was excellent live entertainment (a foursome playing flute, keyboard, bass, and percussion) - recommended.

See all 11 photos as a slideshow or an overview

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Springs Preserve 2

When I'm travelling and I visit zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, etc. I make a habit of buying yearly memberships. Not because I'm likely to be back often, but because I like to support them. And sometimes there are some perks associated with membership. At Springs Preserve, one of the perks is that you get to visit the outdoor areas starting at 8am, although they don't officially open till 10am. So on the day we were leaving Las Vegas we stopped at the Preserve early to wander around when it was quiet. And, of course, I took a bunch more photos. We saw a few more birds this time, including a couple of Canada Geese - nice to hear that familiar honking.

Untitled

Red-shafted Northern Flicker
Red-shafted Northern Flicker
I love the bee that I accidentally caught in this photo. It was probably feeding on the same flowers as the hummingbird. Amazing that the long telephoto picks up a bee at 50 feet.

Anna's Hummingbird

The hummingbirds colors are actually iridescence, so they only show up when the light is from the right angle. Notice the red head in the above photo, but black in the below photo (same hummingbird).

Anna's Hummingbird

The hummingbird kept returning to perch in the same tree so I could get a decent shot of it.

Untitled

See all 23 photos as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Vegas Sunrise

My mind surfaced slowly from a deep sleep. What was that incessant noise beside my head? Eventually I woke up enough to realize it was the radio clock alarm that the previous guest of the room must have kindly left set for 6am. Of course, it was a high tech radio clock alarm with a million buttons so it took me considerable groggy fumbling before I got it to shut up.

By this point I was awake enough to notice the fantastic sunrise. Luckily we were on the 16th floor (of the Red Rocks Hotel & Casino) where no one was likely to be looking in since I didn't bother putting on any clothes before grabbing my camera. FOMAS = Fear of Missing A Shot :-)

It would have been nice if the window was cleaner, and the reflections were problematic, but the results are still pretty good. Almost too colorful, but I didn't boost the saturation at all.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

See all 7 photos as a slideshow or overview

Friday, February 14, 2014

Red Rocks Two

After our "rest" day, we headed back out climbing. First day we went to "The Hamlet" at the first pullout and did a bunch more sport routes. Second day we got a little more ambitious and did Olive Oil - a 5 pitch, 600 foot, 5.7 trad route. Third day we went back to the first pullout and climbed on Panty Wall and Civilization Crag, finishing on a couple of 5.10's which is about as hard as we wanted to climb by that point. Both of us were feeling a little worn out after six days of climbing.

Untitled

bird

Shelley on the top of Olive Oil

antelope squirrel

lizard

sunset from Red Rocks hotel

Our La Quinta was full on Friday night - Valentine's Day and a long weekend here - so we moved to the Red Rock Hotel and Casino. It's the closest hotel to the climbing, except there was a police shooting that closed down the highway and meant we had to make a 20 mile detour! Of course, all the restaurants were totally booked, but we managed to get a table in the pub type place with only a 45 minute wait. And, being Vegas, we could carry a glass of wine from the restaurant back to our room.

See all 19 photos as a slideshow or overview

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Springs Preserve

After three days of climbing we took a rest day. It turned out to be a busy rest day, though!

First stop (after morning coffee, of course) was Desert Rock Sports, the local climbing store. I didn't buy any climbing gear but I did end up buying a beautiful coffee table book of climbing photographs - Stone Mountains: North America's Best Crags by Jim Thornburg.

After that we headed for our favourite spot in Vegas (other than Red Rocks) - Springs Preserve. This is a wonderful combination of museum, gardens, and natural area, right inside Las Vegas, amazingly, not far from the strip. Unless you're glued to the strip and shopping, we highly recommend a visit. We spent about 3.5 hours there, largely due to me taking a zillion photographs :-)

After Springs Preserve we went to Gravity (the movie) in IMAX 3D. I could quibble with some of the science and physics, but other than that it was good.

Next stop was REI, where we didn't actually buy much but always enjoy browsing all the latest outdoor gear.

We ended the day at Vintner Grill, one of the restaurants we like here. As usual, we had a great meal with good service.

It was a full day, but at least it didn't involve any additional abuse to my sore fingers and muscles!

Here are a few of the photos from Springs Preserve. Or view all 34 as a slideshow or overview.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

I had my full contingent of cameras and lenses. Shelley helped carry "the baby" i.e. the long telephoto in between bird sightings, while I played with close-ups with the new macro lens.

Untitled

View all 34 photos as a slideshow or overview.