Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Halloween!

These glass pumpkins, with the exception of the little one, were blown by artisans of the Sonoran Glass Academy, a nonprofit organization in Tucson, AZ that helps kids learn glass blowing skills. I've collected them over the last few years and I love them. The Academy has a big pumpkin sale every October and there are tons to choose from. I actually got to see the black and orange striped one being blown this year so it's very special.

You might also notice the maple leaf artwork woven in among the pumpkins drawn by my sister, Sarah.

Happy Halloween blogland!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Making Strides Walk Today

I had the privilege to raise money and walk in the Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk today with family. I don't know how many people walked this morning, but it had to have been several thousand. It was a beautiful morning with a clear blue sky, chilly air but with the promise of warmth later on. And it delivered.

One of the principles I teach in Aging Lite is that its very important to your health to be involved in giving of yourself to causes, community, family, etc. Focusing on the needs of others is emotional therapy for you. It's a win-win!

Me, my stepdaughter, Gina, my granddaughter Layla (like the song), Gina's fiance's mom, Mary, some of her family and friends all moved along with the crowd for three miles chatting away most of the time. That's one of the fun things about fundraiser walks - you can just yack the whole way if you want to. Layla rode in her stroller and was a happy little girl the whole way. We only had to retrieve her fairy wand and her box of raisins and other than that, all was intact.

I thought about bringing my number one dog Lucy, but we had planned to go out for breakfast afterwards and that would have been difficult with her. But some others did and the dogs pretty much had to dodge human feet the whole way. I don't think that would have phased Lucy. She's such a trooper. I took a few shots of dogs who were doing their best to survive the walk!

We sent scouts out ahead at the end of the walk to reserve a table for us at Mimi's Cafe. Good thing we did as others must have had the same idea minutes after we did! It was packed because it was Sunday anyway, but pink was the color of the day there. The pumpkin pancakes were awesome. Yummm. If you have a Mimi's Cafe near you.........

It was a good morning for all and maybe one of those dollars raised today will be the last dollar needed to find a cure for breast cancer. But in case it wasn't, we'll be back next year!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hiking Havasupai

A few posts ago I told you that some friends and I were going to do a Grand Canyon hike this fall and well, we did it! The last time we hiked the Grand Canyon, we were in the National Park and hiked down the Kaibab trail, camped at Phantom Ranch and came up the Bright Angel Trail. This time, we (Teresa, Laura, Diane and me) were on the Havasupai reservation and hiked the trail named after the tribe. Havasupai means "people of the blue green water." You have undoubtedly seen pictures of the beautiful falls and colorful pools there - they're quite famous.

So I was personally interested in two things: the hike itself, what we would see on the way down and the falls. They both promised to be fabulous. I knew we would be hiking into an Indian village, but I had no idea what it would be like and so for me it was more of a peripheral interest. Turned out that my ignorance of the people and their home ended up feeling like disrespect and I wished I had read the book "People of the Blue Green Water" before I had arrived there.

The village was fascinating and I found myself wanting more time to sit and talk with some of the people who lived there as I had a million questions. I felt like I should have been more aware of this place over 500 people call home and not just barreled into it ignorant. Live and learn.

The Havasupai don't live where any roads go. To get anything in or out requires a trip up the 9-mile trail by foot, horse or a flight on a helicopter. As we hiked from the rim Friday morning, trains of pack horses and mules passed us going up and down carrying peoples' bags, coolers, merchandise and even trash. Dogs trotted effortlessly along with the trains. The pack trains are apparently the main mode of making a living for the tribe now.

No cars down in the village naturally, but we did see a few of those four-wheel Polarises. Lots of horses and mules there - seemed like most people had them or herds of them. We stayed at the only lodge there instead of camping this time ( I was glad because I had sock issues on the way down, my feet were killing me by the time we got there and we would have had to hike another couple of miles past town to get to the campground).

Anyway, back to horses, the second day we were there, there was a loose horse grazing in the courtyard of the lodge! I guess it was their version of a lawnmower. He was doing a good job of it, too.

As I said, the main living there seems to be bringing some people, but mostly their stuff up and down the trail. Then there is the lodge, a couple small grocery stores and a cafe with a few staff people in each. That was about it. I didn't see any crafts or even souvenirs for sale there. The post office did sell postcards that you could have stamped by the post office with the Havasupai postmark when mailed from there. (Proof that you actually made it!)

The hike down on Friday took about 5 1/2 hours and we were taking pictures all the way. We met a group of women coming down from Utah on their annual adventure. Really nice ladies. We bumped into each other throughout our trip. Virtually hiked up and down almost on the same schedule, took pictures of each other at Mooney Falls. Really fun people. One of the benefits of doing these kinds of trips.

Friday night when we got there, we ate at the cafe, walked around the village a little and crashed. Saturday was our day to hit three of the four falls. The fourth, Beavers Falls, was too far this trip. Three young boys from the village came up to our balcony as we were getting ready to go. Asking us questions, just being social. We told them we were going to the falls and they told us that they could show us where they were - they'd been there a million times. But we didn't know where their parents were, didn't want the responsibility of little kids (10, 8, 6 I'm guessing) around water and falls and who knows what? We told them no, you can't go with us, but they were undeterred and just headed to the falls with us anyway - the farthest one being three miles away. I was a nervous mother the whole time worried one of them would go over the edge somewhere, but they actually ended up being kind of fun to have along. Talked all the way. When they ran off at Havasu Falls, the second major falls, in hopes of getting a reward for finding another hiker's hat, we were kind of relieved, but I also kind of missed them!

You may have heard that there was quite a flood there last year in late summer. We had planned this hike last September and had to cancel because of the devastation to the falls, trails and campgrounds. Mercifully, the town was spared, but one of the falls, Navajo, was totally destroyed. Now there is a new one in its place and you can still see how the water carved a path of destruction through the earth and the trees. It will take many years for the new falls to mature and become comfortable in its new skin.

So the first falls we saw was the new one and someone said they were calling it Rock Falls, but I'm not sure that's correct. Havasu Falls, the second falls, was easy to walk down to, had picnic tables dotted around it and this is it here.

We spent some down time there and then headed for Mooney Falls. It was also spectacular, but WAY harder to get to. The way down is not for the faint of heart or for someone who is out of shape. You have to do some basic rock climbing, stepping down backwards through two dark holes in the rock and down the cliff hanging onto big chains, finding footholds and grabbing spikes pounded into the rock. There are also a couple of short ladders to assist you. It was a little unnerving at first, but, boy was it worth it! We peeled off our boots and socks and hit the water as soon as we touched down. It was beautiful. Here are a few pictures of it and the funky climbing wall.

We spent awhile there enjoying ourselves. Our new friends from Utah arrived and two of them came down the rock face to the water. Later we spent some more time back at Havasu Falls and then came back to town before the cafe closed at 5:30 p.m. We heard later than had we hiked a little way farther towards Beaver Falls we would have run right into a herd of bighorn sheep. Darn!

We got up at oh dark hundred the next morning, Sunday, so we could hike in the cool of the day. We were on the trail by about 6:15 a.m. I was surprised at seeing virtually nobody on the trail but us for at least the first hour. I was beginning to wonder if we had missed the right trail. But there was lots of horse poop, so I just believed we must be right. And I don't think there is any other way out anyway. But when you're in a strange place, your mind can play tricks on you. Not only that but the way in and the way out look so different. That's why experts say to always look behind you as you hike so remember markers of the way back out.

You are mostly in a canyon on this hike after you leave the plateau above so you really have to pay attention to the weather. It is definitely not a place I would want to be caught in during a storm when water comes washing down through the canyon. In some places there are absolutely no places to go up.

We got back up in only 4 1/2 hours, said goodbye to our old and new friends and then Teresa and I drove home - about another seven hours. We did stop for lunch in Williams at a famous pie place. We figured that if there was any time we ever deserved to eat a piece of pie and not worry about the calories, it was then and so we did! It was a great trip, the weather was perfect and I look forward to going again one of these days. It was a real privilege.

Had to include this one picture of the cutest puppy with one floppy ear. We all loved him, fed him and wished we could take him home. But he was a little free spirit and we hope he does well.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Birthday Trip to the Apple Orchard

I was inspired by my sister Sarah's blog a week ago or so that featured pictures of her, my sister Barb, my mom and I waaaaay back when we were still living at home. We were at a pumpkin festival somewhere in northern NY state. Going "up north" was a favorite trip in the fall when we picked apples, bought cider and picked up a pumpkin or two for Halloween.

So since my birthday is this weekend and it's that fall time of the year, I decided to invite my kids to join me on a trip out to Wilcox, AZ which is a big farming community. One of their big claims to fame is Apple Annie's, a giant orchard where you can pick all kinds of apples and at other times of the year, peaches and more. They also have down the road, a huge pumpkin patch surrounded by fields of all kinds of other veggies you can pick yourself - squash, peppers, cucumbers, corn - you name it.

My husband wasn't able to go with us yesterday, so it was my daughter, Tamara, my son Jesse and his girlfriend who we love, Rachael who all piled into my Camry and off we went. Well we didn't get too far before Jesse was wondering about eating, so we pulled into a Denny's and ate and yacked it up. It was a little cold yesterday so we all had sweatshirts on - finally after 100+ degree weather all the way through summer and September! We weren't sure fall was ever going to get here this year.

Wilcox is a good two hours from home, so we talked, played with Tamara's ipod and enjoyed the ride. It's been four or five years since I'd been out to Wilcox and only Jesse had been there with me before. Apple Annie's has the whole program - the u-pick orchards, a grill where hundreds of big fat burgers get flipped onto customers' waiting buns all day long, a bakery that turns out pies to die for and all kinds of relishes, apple butters, salsas and more. It's incredible. As soon as you walk onto the property you smell the scent of burgers mixed with pies baking and cider vinegar from old apples on the ground. You also see people walking around with plates filled with pie and huge slabs of vanilla ice cream. This is definitely not a Weight Watchers destination, but one worth treating yourself to when you've been very, very good.

So armed with buckets and a device that helps you reach up into the trees to get the fruit, we headed off into the orchard. There were Fujis, Romes, Granny Smiths and Golden Delicious ready this weekend. Later on in the fall some other types of apples will be coming on.

Of course we picked way more apples that we would ever buy at the store - just because it's so fun to pick 'em. We had a great time. The clouds that threatened rain and hid the sun earlier all cleared away and this bright blue sky opened up on one of the most beautiful days we've had in Arizona in a months.

After we paid for and stowed our apple haul in the car we went back for pie. Jesse and Rachael had the apple berry pie a la mode and Tamara and I split an apple dumpling and stole a little chunk of ice cream from them since we didn't need a whole slab. Oh, it was good.

The pumpkin picking was 6 miles away, so we jammed down there by about 2 p.m. Of course the plan was to get a pumpkin each, but as soon as we saw the other veggies, they were too hard to resist.

Perfect pumpkins were everywhere.

The zucchini squash was pretty much picked out, but Tamara and Rachael rescued two giants as you can see. Not sure how good they'll be to eat, but Tamara says she's going to stuff and mount hers anyway!

Jess, being the only guy, was the designated hauler of the veggies.

Good thing we didn't have more time on our hands! The trunk was packed pretty tight by the time we got done.

We had a really great time and can't wait to go back again. It was definitely reminiscent of the good times I had with my parents many years ago. I wish my husband, Les had been able to join us, but hopefully next time. He spent most of the day crawling around under his daughter Gina's house working on a plumbing problem. Do you think he would have that been eating pie in the Arizona sunshine? You bet!

Anyway, thanks Sarah for the inspiration! Wish you and Barb could have been with us. Sarah, have a great birthday on Wednesday!