Tag Archives: Arizona travel

Summer Vacay 2015 Pt. 2 Canyons

SedonaChurchHeading north from Phoenix, our first detour off Hwy 89 was Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. We’d spend this half of our trip looking at God’s art and creativity. Much like Taliesin West, this little sanctuary is an example of human artistry inspired by and set in God’s creative endeavor. We didn’t have time to take in all Sedona had to offer but enjoyed the breathtaking drive up through Sedona’s red rocks up to the chapel.

Vermillion cliffsOn the way to Flagstaff, which sits at 7000 feet, the terrain changed from rocky red cliffs to mountains and evergreens.  Some friends from Ted’s Austin Symphony days live there now so we met for dinner and they drove us around a bit.  Our friends told us Flagstaff is a big ski destination in the winter. Ski Arizona? Who knew?

Grand Canyon driveFrom Flagstaff we headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The drive took us into the Kaibab Forest, over the Colorado River, and past alpine meadows.

We stayed at the Grand Canyon Lodge which is run by the National Parks system. I guess we should have expected rustic conditions but there was no AC. Fine at night but it was a little warm in the daytime since there was only one window and no breeze through. I’d recommend a cabin over a lodge room if you’re thinking of going in the summer. It’s not like we were staying inside anyway though.

Grand Canyon Angel PtI hiked two of the less demanding trails, Bright Angel Point and Transept, both of which begin at the Lodge. Neither is particularly long, but Bright Angel is a little steep. The altitude is over 8000 ft. which will take a toll on the lungs.

GrandCanyon7The Grand Canyon is vast, awe-inspiring, beautiful, teeming with life, full of story, full of breaths taken from a million awed mouths silenced by its splendor. Words are paltry tools to describe the experience of standing there on its rim.

We left the Grand Canyon and headed for Antelope Canyon, a slot Antelope peepholecanyon on Navajo land just south of the Utah border near Page, Arizona. To get in requires going through one of the Navajo tours, we chose Ken’s Lower Canyon Tour. The upper canyon is jeep ride and walk in (and more expensive), but the more adventurous lower tour requires climbing down ladders and squeezing through some tight spots. From the surface, parts of the lower canyon looks like a large crack in the ground. Ken is a photographer so our guide was trained to help us with our camera settings inside the sometimes dark and cave-like canyon. In many place only indirect shafts of light come through. The colors created by the light on sandstone are unusual and other-worldly. I’ve always wanted to visit this place and I wasn’t disappointed.

From Antelope Canyon we drove into Utah to Bryce Canyon. The BryceCanyonBottomterrain here is unique as well, filled with spherical spires called hoodoos, that look like big chess pieces randomly placed around the rocky terrain. I hiked  from Sunset Point on the Navajo Trail. Going down the steep switchback trail lived up to the trail’s “moderate” designation, but going back up was more than moderate for me. At 7500-8000 ft the uphill climb took its toll on my lungs but, this 50-something, out-of-shape woman made it back up even if I had to lean against the canyon wall gasping every 50 or so feet of the 550 foot climb.  Something about doing that built my confidence about tackling some metaphorical mountains I’ve put off climbing.
SaguaroThe variety in geography was most evident on our one-day drive back to Phoenix as we made our way back down the Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau, past the Vermillion Cliffs, and descended to an elevation where Sagauro Cactus took over the view. The Sonoran Desert’s 100 degree temperatures welcomed us back to Phoenix. We experienced so many amazing, unique, inspiring things on this vacation. Arizona




Summer Vacay 2015 Pt. 1 Phoenix

PhoenixHotThree things about our time in Phoenix. One. It’s hot in the summer. Hot. Every day we were there was over 110. Two. Everything is at least half an hour away from everything else. Three. Picking up old friendships is just like riding a bike. You never forget.

We spent a hot week  in Phoenix catching up with dear friends. Don and June. Their daughter Casie and our son Eric have nearly the same birthday so we’d shared parties and done life together when they lived in Austin (Yikes, twenty years ago!!). Though our visit hit at a rough time for them, June’s mom died two weeks before we arrived and they were closing on a new house, they graciously put us up and let us do life with them again for a week.

Barnes Dbacks gameSaturday we took in a Diamondbacks game at Chase Field with Don and June. Sunday we visited Open Door Fellowship Church in Phoenix. The pastors are authors of one of our favorite Bible study books, The Cure.

After that we met up with at restaurant and brew pub in Tempe to celebrate Father’s Day together Barnes and Herringsand finally meet their son-in-law Kyle and 9-month-old grandson Carter after following them through Facebook. Later in the week we cooked out at Kyle and Casie’s and took in a sunset parting with hopes they’ll all come to Austin sometime soon.

Taliesin West
Taliesin West

Since everywhere in Phoenix is a drive we narrowed down our touristy stuff to three excursions: Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home in Scottsdale, The Musical Instruments Museum, and the Phoenix Art Museum.

We started on Monday at Taliesin West which turned out to be so much more than the Wright’s winter home. It was home to the Taliesin Fellowship, a place for young architects to come apprentice with Frank Lloyd Wright. Much of the building was built by the apprentices who learned by doing. TaliesinWsculpture

Wright believed that creativity breeds creativity so he included music and dance as part of the training in order to teach architects about movement. Heloise Crista was an artist who came to sculpting through dance because of the encouragement, influence and mentoring of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship.

TaliesinWestApprenticeWhile the building itself demonstrates Wright’s usual attention to setting and detail in its design, the most inspiring thing about touring Taliesin West for me was the attention to the creative process that it represents, both in Wright’s personal philosophical vision as an artist and as a mentor. The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture continues at Taliesin West.

BiltmoreAZAfter Taliesin West we headed over to the Arizona Biltmore for lunch. Frank Lloyd Wright collaborated with former student Albert Chase McArthur in the design of the hotel which opened in 1929.

Tuesday Ted played TPC Sawgrass in Scottsdale with Don and Kyle. While the guys played golf I helped June go through a big bag of her mom’s costume jewelry. Of course I came away with some cool earrings.

On Wednesday we visited The Musical Instruments Museum, or The IMG_0829MIM, another monument to creativity. The desire to create music is so strong that all over the world for centuries people have taken available materials and fashioned them into musical instruments. I got a bang out of the gong. Only one per customer.

MIMUd15,000 instruments from nearly 200 countries are on display at the MIM. Visitors walk through geographically arranged displays wearing headphones to look at instruments while hearing them played. Among those instruments I’d never seen before but loved were the Ud, a Middle Eastern stringed instrument.

MIMSteinwayThere is also a musical history section which includes Johnny Cash’s black suit and guitar, John Lennon’s Imagine piano, and the first Steinway piano, made in Steinway’s kitchen.


MIMTedCasalsThen Ted saw Pablo Casals’ cello and the visit went to a whole ‘nother level. As a young music student Casals was one of Ted’s heroes. Ted’s teacher studied with  a colleague of Casals. Amazingly there was no glass or anything around the cello. We stood close enough to touch it as Casals music played through the headphones.


ArtMusJapMedRmThursday  we visited the Phoenix Art Museum. I’ve never toured a museum with a docent before. Our small group were treated to explanations about paint, techniques, style, history, etc. in a selection of works. She explained negative space using the pieces and their placement in this Japanese meditation space.
ArtMusGerome Our docent pointed out Jean-Leon Gerome’s Pollice Verso. Gerome did extensive research for his historical paintings, so much so that filmmakers came to museum to study this painting as a reference for creating scenes in the movie Gladiator.

The docent not only made the individual works more meaningful, but added to my sense of appreciation and wonder toward all the art I saw on my own that day, including the special exhibit on American Modernism.  I love finding a new artists I hadn’t noticed before. Now I really want to see more by Phoenix surrealist Philip C. Curtis whose works were featured at the museum.   Yayoi Kusama’s You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies is a walk through light installation in a mirrored room. It was awesome. Creativity seems to be a theme on this trip.

After a week in Phoenix we loaded up our rental car on Friday and headed north to Sodona, Flagstaff, canyons and cooler weather.