My Earth Day Saturday


Yesterday was something of a day of service.  I sat much of the day at a Red Cross table during the Prescott Wild Fire Expo, explaining to as many people as would listen, how to  prevent fire in their homes, what to do if they had to evacuate and how to pick up the pieces afterwards.

When it was time to pack up the display, I decided to walk around the Expo one last time,

then headed over to the Prescott Chalk Art Festival- three blocks away.  This is an outgrowth of a Sixteenth Century Italian art form.  Here, the mind can wander and see many things other than what is obvious- just as it can while gazing at clouds, or rock formations.

Here are several of the chalk artworks I saw yesterday afternoon.













As you can see in a couple of the frames, there was work yet to be done.  Lady Liberty is always a work in progress, and that’s a good thing!


The Flora of the Superstitions


Part of what makes the Sonoran Desert a cut above surrounding arid regions is its lushness.  The Superstition Mountains figure prominently among those sections of the Sonoran in which wildflowers run riot from April to early June.

When I visited last Saturday, the colours were beginning to emerge, and the Gambel’s oak was very thick in several spots along the Peralta Canyon, East Boulder Canyon and Dutchmans Trails.

Here is part 3 of this series on the Superstition Wilderness.  Hope you enjoy the plant life.

SAM_4339           SAM_4356 SAM_4358           SAM_4360 SAM_4373           SAM_4374 SAM_4376           SAM_4379 SAM_4388           SAM_4389 SAM_4411           SAM_4419

All of this is brought to you by the tributaries of the Salt and Gila Rivers, which grace the fringes of the Superstition Mountains.



Where Rhyolite Rules: Weaver’s Needle Loop


Most of the dazzling array of rock spires found in the Superstition Mountains are of a volcanic rock, called rhyolite.  Sandstone also figures into the mix, usually at the outer base of formations like Weaver’s Needle.  The Superstitions are an eroding mountain chain, far older than Arizona’s other large volcanic ranges- the San Francisco Peaks and the Santa Catalinas.

I found no dearth of amazing rock formations, giving my imagination full vent, during the nine hours spent in approach and circumnavigation of Weaver’s Needle, last Saturday.

Here are about twelve of the rock formation shots I took.  You be the interpreter as to what they represent. happy













The formations actually extend quite a bit further, to the west, north and east of the Fremont Saddle/Weaver’s Needle areas on which I focused last weekend.  Someday, who knows, I may just stumble upon the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.

Around Another Sacred Spire


This past Saturday, I set out for what i thought would be a mild, five-mile journey along the south rim of Barks Canyon, in the Superstition Wilderness, east of Metro Phoenix.

A gaze at the map board, near Peralta Trailhead, however, showed this would mean a three-mile bushwhack, through prime rattlesnake turf.  Since that is being penny-wise, and oh so pound-foolish, I opted to go on down Peralta Canyon, letting the chips fall where they may.  Did they ever.  This day became as full, demanding and glorious as the Longest Day trek last June, along Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon.

This central part of the Superstition Mountains has an iconic centerpiece:  Weaver’s Needle, a rhyolite and sandstone wonder that seems to sit by itself, between Peralta, Barks, Needle and East Boulder Canyons.  It kept me in its sights, most of the day.

The Superstitions draw people from all over, much as do Grand Canyon and Sedona.  There are two major facets, which I will show in the next two posts:  The largely rhyolite (volcanic) formations which dominate the landscape and the wildflowers, which explode this time of year.  (Peak flower time is later this month, but we enjoy what we can, when we can.)

I started out in the overflow parking lot, 1/4 mile from Peralta Trailhead.  The canyon actually gets its start here, with rising buttes to the west.


The trailhead itself, as I mentioned earlier, is fully informative.  The information it gave me about the way ahead offered two choices- See Weaver’s Needle from a variety of vantage points and make a full day the marvelous existing trails, or stop at Fremont Saddle and head back.  I opted for the former, and ended up with 17 miles under my feet, at day’s end.

Here are some of the features of the trailhead itself:


The sign on the right seems to be well-read.  I saw none of the above along any of the trails.

Peralta Canyon Trail takes the hiker up to Fremont Saddle, then down along East Boulder Canyon (which is actually west of Weaver’s Needle).  It ends at Black Top Mesa, where the eastbound Dutchmans Trail takes over.  One may follow Dutchmans, named for a gold prospector named Jacob Waltz, for about 14 miles, around the eastern periphery of Superstition Wilderness.  I opted to take the trail for 3 miles, then, with a group from Phoenix, went up Terrapin Trail and Bluff Springs Trail, back to the parking area.  Seventeen miles in one day is enough, don’t ya think?

Here are some tidbits of parts two and three of this series.

Rhyolite formation, along Peralta Canyon Trail



Castle-like formation, near Fremont Saddle


Pac Man?

Future chorus members?

Rhyolite castle

The Thinker, Bluff Springs Trail

The consensus among the four of us, at the end of the day, was:  ‘It’s best to not have to sleep under the stars tonight’.  Back in the settled environs of Apache Junction, I stopped to gas up and to rehydrate myself with electrolytes.  As I sat in the car afterwards, sipping my beverage, a jeep pulled up alongside.  Out hopped a lovely young woman, bikini-clad and in flip flops, and moving with a purpose.  She came back a few minutes later, with a similar beverage, smiled wanly and drove off.  My thoughts are that life is always beautiful to those who show respect.  The rhyolite edifices, the wildflowers, the emerging frogs, my fellow hikers, random beautiful people, and even the heard but unseen snakes- all deserve nothing but love and respect.  In this way, we shall have peace.

Part 2- The Rocks and Buttes, tomorrow.

Palm Spring’s Ride to The Top


                                                                                                                                                                            Last Monday evening, I capped a near-perfect April Fool’s Day by taking in the Palm Springs Tramway, one of my long-standing SoCal goals.  The tram goes up Chino Canyon, along the northern slope of Mt. San Jacinto.  It starts in the California portion of the Sonora Desert (also called Colorado Desert, as it extends from the Colorado River to the San Jacinto and San Gabriel Mountains.  The tram starts at Valley Station (El. 2643 ft.) and goes 3/4 of the way up Mt. San Jacinto, to Mountain Station (El. 8516 ft.).

    It was suitably crowded on the way up, with all ages and variations levels of vertigo represented.  i am personally quite comfortable in all but the most open and unguarded high drop-off situations.  I found the tram very safe, to say the least.  The views, both in the tram car and from Mountain Station, were breathtaking.

    Here are some views of Chino Canyon’s walls and floor.


    We came to Tram Platform #2, spun a bit, and continued.  Bear in mind that the tram floor is rotating 360 degrees, as the car ascends and descends.

    The views remained spectacular.


    Once we got to Mountain Station, a ponderosa forest surrounded us.  This tree was just outside the cafe.

    It is possible for a backpacker or speedy day hiker to do a six-mile round trip to the top of Mt. San Jacinto, so long as one starts early enough in the morning.

    Views are also very clear, of the Coachella Valley floor-


    -and of Mt. San Gorgonio, the highest peak in southern California.

    The best views are to be had from Grubbs Viewpoint, when the wind is not too strong (as it unfortunately was when i was up there.)

    Snow was still available for viewing, but not for throwing (Park regulations discourage snowball fights).


    Back at Valley Station, Popp Park affords a few more chances to enjoy the features of Chino Canyon.


    I ended this current California visit with a good night’s rest at Ruta Motel, in Indio.  The proprietor apologized for the lack of Internet, but given the 45 MPH gusts of wind, it was not surprising.  The variety of activities during the 3-day weekend, though, made this a very minor inconvenience.


The King of the Missions


So was the Franciscan outreach to the Payomkawichum people of what is now northern San Diego and southern Orange Counties called by those who settled in its wake.  The proper name of the outpost is Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, after the sainted King Louis IX, of France.  The Payom became known to their European overseers as “Luisenos”.

The mission, located roughly halfway between San Diego and San Juan Capistrano, became a major administrative center for the Franciscans, and, in time, for the Spanish army in California.  It lies today in the eastern part of the military and tourist-oriented community we call Oceanside.  Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is indeed a fine complement to the many attractions of Oceanside’s very attractive beachfront.  It is also far enough off the main tourist routes, that one may walk for several hours in peace and quiet, meditating in the cemetery grounds or in the Retreat Garden, so long as you don’t disturb the paying guests of the retreat.

I first went to the cemetery grounds, finding myself alone with the spirits of Luisenos and Espanoles long departed.  Monsignor O’Malley revitalized San Luis Rey as a parish church, about a century ago.  So more recently departed residents of east Oceanside are laid to rest here as well.


The fountain provides a nice spot for the living to offer their thoughts.

Like many old Spanish missions, this establishment has a large historic church, in need of repair.  Fortunately, the repairs are well underway.  They don’t lend themselves to eye-popping photography, but that will come later.


Outside the historic church, features common to the Spanish architecture of the 18th Century are found in abundance.  Here are the exposed beams of the outer walkway’s ceiling, both rounded and square arches and the wooden frame covering a church window.



The meditation garden in the Retreat Section is shown above, lower left, and below.


A water cistern is found in the middle of the meditation garden, and was used to sustain the earliest cultivated flora at Mission San Luis Rey.

In the book, “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”, Junipero speculates that there is a world of the living and a world of the dead.  He concludes that the bridge between the two worlds is Love.  There was a fair amount of love, and service, shown and accomplished in several of the Spanish missions- as much as these were tempered by elements of self- interest and national greed.  Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, along with the other Spanish missions I have seen in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Florida, shows mostly the former.





Back to Crystal Cove- Brand New Beach; Crumbling Bits of History


It had been about 1 3/4 years since I first visited Newport Beach’s Crystal Cove State Beach, about 3 miles south of downtown NB.  Crystal Cove State Park has three main features:  The beach itself; the cottages along the beach’s periphery and the semi-arid canyons which lead up into the coastal hills.  With my friend Janet, who lives in the area, I made a second exploration of the first two on the morning of April 1.  The beach was experiencing a rising tide, the opposite of what we had seen the first time I was here, in the Fall of 2011, just after I had brought my son to San Diego Naval Base for his tour of duty, which is now approaching the end of Year 2.

I walked down to the beach, from Los Trancos Parking Area, using an underpass, which has a delightful series of murals, mostly painted by Newport Beach school children.

The Los Trancos area has a few short trails of its own, with pleasant coastal hill scenery.

The tunnel is safe and scenic, as well.


Along the beach, I found limestone and shale rocks, with various degrees of barnacles, lichen and moss growing atop, and in the crevices.



The last photo shows a rock which could have been used as currency, back in the days of huge stones representing extreme wealth.

The drought in SoCal is far from over, yet I saw more vegetation here this time, than in October, 2011.


The cliff on the right was barren last time, and I explored its crevices, imagining the Luiseno people using it for a seasonal residence, in pre-Spanish days.

The cottages, as Janet has mentioned, are in disrepair on the north side of the restaurant.  There has been serious deterioration, over the past two years.


The flowers, however, are showing California resilience.

I plan to re-visit the area in October, 2014, and stay for 2-3 days in one of the cottages that is still available for overnight rent.

Son and Sand, Part II: Coronado Island


Easter Sunday, for us Baha’is, is a day of confirmation that God always does what He says He will do.  I did what I said I would do, this past Easter, getting up early, having a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal at Day’s Inn, then going to a cafe in Little Italy and enjoying  fresh coffee and a lemon poppy seed bun.  By then, it was 11 AM and I called Aram, to find he had roused himself and was ready for our jaunt over to Coronado.  We stopped at Sushiya, east of the airport, for lunch.  The food was fair to middling this time around, and the waitress obviously wasn’t too keen on having to work on Easter, but we ate our fill and set out for the island.

Coronado seems like a little brother to La Jolla- smaller, flatter and with a more compact business district.  It has a signature piece, the Hotel del Coronado, which struck me as being somewhat like Walt Disney’s original Fantasyland.  Aram and I made a counterclockwise journey, from the city park to the “Hotel Del” and back around.  We were able to get up close to all these sights that are visible from San Diego Tuna Fleet Park.

It’s always nice to start a walk in southern California near a Live Oak, when possible.  This one graces a park east of downtown.

The business district has its share of funky shops and a small hotel or two.  One shop that pleased us is Yogurt Escape.  I have taken to the sort of shop that has several choices of yogurt flavours, and of course, the requisite toppings.  Yogurt Escape features fresh fruit toppings, a plus in my book.

Rounding the bend, near Village Inn (a business hotel, not a restaurant), we came to the expansive beach on Coronado’s west side.


Some lucky folks have managed to set aside enough to live here, year round.  Their small, but pricey, homes are well-kept and well-coiffed.

The Grand Dame, however, is Hotel del Coronado.  This is to the island what Mission Inn is to Riverside, La Valencia to La Jolla and El Tovar to the Grand Canyon.


Some friends have mentioned staying in the “Hotel Del”.  I can imagine it’s a fine experience.

Son and Sand- Part I: Poway’s Iron Mountain


When I make a long drive, lately, it seems as if I get in the car and am transported by a force other than my own vigilance or the tank of gasoline.  So it went this past weekend. After taking a rest, following my Good Friday volunteer training in setting up a fire shelter with the local Red Cross, I headed out towards San Diego, getting as far as Banning, before the need to sleep became prominent.  A night at the Sunset Motel, followed by a hearty breakfast at Gramma’s Restaurant (the food’s good and the waitresses are all cute), got me up and running.  I was back in the force’s guiding clutches, and in San Diego, by 10 AM.

Aram managed to get himself up, and to our meeting place at the NEX gas station, around 11.  After a nice lunch at Chinese City, in National City, we ran an errand at a local discount store.  It was instructive for me to learn the parking lot etiquette of Mexican-Americans.  Drivers queue their cars up and wait carefully for people to pull out- no honking, no jockeying for position.  In my case, I had to move past a lady who was trying to pull out, so the Jeep waiting for her could get into position.  The lady didn’t understand at first, and started yelling at us.  After she figured it out, peace returned to the planet and I pulled around and found my spot.

The errand accomplished, thirty minutes later, we headed up to Iron Mountain, just east of Poway.  There, we hiked about halfway up and took a path around to a bowl-shaped valley, in the midst of four peaks.  Iron Mountain has two trailheads.  We chose the more northerly of the two, as it was less of a thoroughfare, and had lovely flower gardens on its eastern flank.


Aram led the way, for most of our four-mile loop.


We got to the crossroads and decided to enjoy the valley, and its groves of trees, rather than push upwards to the peak of Iron Mountain.  It’ll be there for future visits.


As you can see, the boulders speak volumes.

Here are the groves which captivated me.


Then again, there is no escaping the magic of SoCal’s flower gardens.

As I would see on Monday, at Crystal Cove, flowers can thrive just fine on their own, as well.

Son and I went back to San Diego and enjoyed quality Italian cuisine at  the lively Trattoria Fantastica.  I spent a restful night at Day’s Inn, ignoring the occasional train.

In part II of this account, we look at Coronado Island.