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Nests

Posted by on Apr 17, 2017 in Travel | 10 comments

BTA nest

I love it when I’m walking and spot a nest in a tree.

catalina-nest

It feels like a small discovery, like finding an Easter egg (no pun intended) or a secret door.

Yuma

From the time I was a little kid, my dad taught me how to look for signs of what’s going on in the natural world, pointing out the high waterline above a dry riverbed, animal tracks in the dirt, cottonwood trees where there’s water, and all kinds of habitats – burrows and holes and nests.

Arboretum nest

At the Arboretum recently, we saw a man was pointing out a nest in a tree for his grandson.

“You guys should check this one out, too.” I showed them a large nest right in the middle of a cholla cactus that would’ve been hidden from their viewpoint.

I can’t think of a safer place for a home – or a trickier place to build it.

Cholla nest BTA

 




 

 

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Make a Mt. Lemmon Day Trip

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Mount Lemmon wildlowers

You start in the Tucson heat surrounded by saguaros. An hour (or so) and a few thousand feet in elevation later, you can be sitting among spruce trees in air cool enough to not melt the chocolate chips of the oversized cookie in front of you.

Summerhaven tables

Welcome to Mount Lemmon, a 9000-foot peak in the Santa Catalina Mountain Range.

Mount Lemmon view

Drive the Sky Island Scenic Byway (also called the Mt. Lemmon Highway, the Catalina Highway, and – officially – the General Hitchcock Highway) through beautiful landscape and six (6!) different climate zones.

Mt. Lemmon

Mt Lemmon

Then you can hike or picnic or ride the year-round ski lift. (Yes, it gets cold and snowy enough in the winter for skiing up there!)

Mt Lemmon trail

When Phillip and I and my parents went, we stopped at a picnic area (Box Elder, I think-?) before driving to the parking lot at end of the road and taking a little hike from there.

Mt. Lemmon

Along the way is the town of Summerhaven, a one-and-a half mile high city that caters to visitors seeking shelter from sweltering Tucson summers.

Cookie Cabin

It’s also home to the giant cookies of Cookie Cabin. Four of us split one sampler cookie. There was literally a line out the door but plenty of nice outdoor seating.

Mount Lemmon cookie

I taught my dad how to use the Hyperlapse app, so we could take timelapse videos of the drive up. You can see the dramatic changes of scenery compressed into two minutes.


Mount lemmon

– More Mt. Lemmon info –

  • Be prepared to pack out your own trash.
  • Ski lift – The “sky ride” to the summit lasts about half an hour. Off-season (summer) adult tickets are $12/ride. Winter lift tickets are $45/day. Details at skithelemmon.com.
  • Keep the high altitude in mind when you’re planning hiking or other activities.
  • We were there in mid-August, right at the end of the summer wildflower season.

image

Scenic Drive:

Mt. Lemmon - Ski Valley

Fees:

  • Many places you can park on Mount Lemmon require a pass, including the visitor center, picnic areas, etc.
  • You can purchase a Coronado Recreation Pass on the mountain at the Palisades Visitor Center or buy one before you go.
  • Passes are available at several locations, including the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 300 W. Congress near Downtown Tucson.
  • Day passes are $5 per vehicle. ($10 for a weekly pass.)
  • Instead of worrying about which specific places require it, consider just getting a day pass in town before you make the drive. It’s only 5 bucks and helps to support the forest.

Mount Lemmon

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6 Airbnb Getaways in the Western US

Posted by on Mar 18, 2017 in Travel | 4 comments

life-crush-1-wildflowers

There is something so restoring about getting into nature, whether you’re taking a hike or just taking in the view.

If you’re feeling like you need a weekend away, here are some peaceful spots we’ve booked through Airbnb that are perfectly positioned for enjoying the great outdoors in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada. All of them are close to hiking and most have kitchenettes.

I’ve included drive time to nearby cities and towns for reference.

Airbnb tucson

Airbnb 101

For those who have never used Airbnb, it’s a site that allows people to rent out spare rooms or guest apartments, so you end up with a really unique stay with a more personal touch. As you’ll see, we’ve used it to find and book places like a cottage in remote Southeastern Arizona, a trailer near Monterey, and a cabin room near the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.

You can get $40 off your first stay when you sign up at airbnb.com/c/sliebold2. (Full disclosure: using that link also sends some credit my way…so win-win!)
Pasadena-airbnb-1

California

1. Pasadena Glen Separate Cottage

The Setting: Lush, quiet neighborhood at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains that’s maybe technically part of Pasadena but feels like its own world.

  • Old Town Pasadena (or The Huntington) – 15 minutes
  • Downtown L.A. – 45 minutes
  • Phoenix – 5.5 hours

Pasadena-airbnb-3
The Room: The cottage is like a standalone studio apartment next to a larger house.

  • Very comfortable bed.
  • Included mini fridge, dishes, fruit, breakfast bars, electric kettle with Starbucks Via and a selection of teas.
  • Lovely garden/mini-yard area outside with a table.
  • Private 3/4 bathroom inside the apartment.
  • Separate entrance with keypad.

Pasadena-airbnb-2
Tips:

  • There’s a hiking trail at the end of the street.
  • You may get apples from one of their trees!
  • Sign a waiver if you plan to use the pool.
  • Two or three dogs also roam around the yard and will probably come to say hello. One of them is very large but very sweet.

How we ended up here: We stayed for a week while Phillip took a class at Fuller Seminary’s main campus in Pasadena.

goats-airbnb-ca
2. Trailer or Tipi Camping

The Setting: Travel trailers (and a tipi/teepee) surrounded by sprawling gardens and DIY-projects-in-progress, wandering chickens and a few cats, a goat pasture, and forest.

trailer-airbnb-ca-2
The Room: Boho vintage travel trailer with cozy sleeping area, dinette, and posssibly-working kitchen.

  • Microclimate tends to be cooler and cloudier than surrounding area.
  • Primative toilet in the woods (with privacy screen) and solar-heated shower.
  • Self-serve breakfast available from a pantry with oatmeal, granola, fruit, etc. and fresh eggs in the chicken coop.
  • Fire ring available for cooking or evening bonfires.

trailer-airbnb-ca-1
Tips:

  • Think camping without the set up! Of course, if you’re not into camping, this is not for you.
  • You may be able to use the host’s Monterey Bay Aquarium pass at a discount.
  • The chickens greet you in the morning – and provide breakfast!
  • There’s also a tipi option, subject to availability. (It was already occupied when we stayed there.)

How we ended up here: We were going to be in the area the same weekend as the Monterey Jazz Festival, so lodging options were limited and pricey. We were on a tight budget and decided to take a chance. And we’re glad we did! It was the quirkiest place we’ve stayed via Airbnb, but it was a lot of fun!

co-ridgway-bnb-2

Colorado

3. True Grit Mountain Retreat

The Setting: Cabin-like home with big picture windows looking out over gorgeous Colorado scenery and the San Juan Mountains.

  • Ridgway – 7 minutes
  • Ouray – 20 minutes
  • Denver – 5 hours
  • Albuquerque – 5.5 hours

co-ridgway-bnb-1
The Room: On the split-level second floor, there are 2 guest rooms available with bathroom and laundry in between. (There is a second guest bathroom downstairs.)

  • The Queen Room has a queen-size bed and Mexico-inspired decor.
  • The Spruce Room has twin beds and a private balcony.
  • Lovely breakfast in the dining room.
  • Hot tub outside.

co-ridgway
Tips:

  • It’s available during the summer only.
  • Get there before dark, if possible. Being out in the country means less light pollution – great for stargazing, challenging for finding house numbers.
  • Use of the kitchen downstairs is limited and may require an additional fee.
  • Nearby Ridgway is a one-stoplight-town that’s worth a stop. It’s home to the maker of the Grammy Awards and was the location for the 1969 western True Grit starring John Wayne. And a nice little roadside market!

How we ended up here: We needed a place to stay on the way home from a Denver road trip.

Tucson airbnb view

Arizona

4. Studio Cottage in Gated Community

The Setting: Quiet neighborhood street that winds through the Sonoran desert.

  • Downtown Tucson – 20 minutes
  • Phoenix – 2 hours

Tucson
The Room: Roomy southwestern casita with dining table and kitchenette, colorful ceramic tile, and a pink clawfoot tub.

  • Food and coffee aren’t included, but the kitchenette is stocked with the dishes and appliances (coffeemaker, microwave, toaster oven, fridge) to let you do it yourself – everything including a kitchen sink.
  • Pool/hot tub.
  • Parking and separate entrance through the garage.

Airbnb tucson
Tips:

How we ended up here: Basically, we’re always looking for excuses to go to Tucson and neat little places to stay there.
Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

5. SE AZ Hiking, Birding, and Quietude

The Setting: Remote casita near the Dragoon Mountains.

  • Willcox – 30 minutes
  • Tucson – 1.25 hours
  • Phoenix – 3 hours

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset
The Room: Separate little adobe house.

  • Well-stocked kitchen with sink, coffee, grinder, and milk in the minifridge.
  • Composting toilet and shower in a separate building.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset
Tips:

  • Breakfast may be available for an additional fee. (I think we paid $10/person. We had so much delicious food that even Phillip was stuffed.)
  • Property backs up to state land with hiking trails. You’ll want to get written directions (or a map) before you head out. We got mixed up and went the wrong way.
  • They provided a flashlight (for night visits to the outhouse, etc.), but you may want to bring a headlamp or other hands-free light if you have one.

How we ended up here: This is where we stayed for our 10 year anniversary after picking apples in Willcox.

Red Rocks, Nevada

Nevada

6. Las Vegas

The Setting: Neighborhood in the Las Vegas suburbs near the edge of where city streets give way to Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area.

  • Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area – 10 minutes
  • Las Vegas Strip – 30 minutes
  • L.A. – 4 hours
  • Phoenix – 5 hours

Las Vegas Airbnb
The Room: Apartment with a full bath and a few midcentury modern touches.

  • Keurig, coffee and tea pods, and snacks included, as well as minifridge, microwave, and dishes.
  • Separate entrance but very near the main house.

image
Tips:

  • We didn’t meet the hosts, but everything (including check-in) was taken care of with lots of thoughtful touches.
  • There’s a really cool guestbook/journal you can leave a note and/or memento in.
  • Check out our Las Vegas Off the Strip list for a list of non-casino things to see, including Red Rock Canyon picnic spots and easy hikes.

How we ended up here: Avoiding the craziness of The Strip while in Las Vegas for a wedding!


Have you used Airbnb? Where’s your favorite getaway?

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Bartlett Lake Marina

Posted by on Mar 9, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Bartlett Lake

Don’t believe the rumors. The road to Bartlett Lake Marina is definitely paved.

Bartlett Lake Road

I couldn’t help laughing when I learned that some guidebooks still list it as being rough and “unimproved,” like you’re blazing a trail through the wilderness. We had just made the drive – it’s an actual road, just like the highway we turned off to get there. You don’t need to machete your way through the undergrowth. You don’t even need 4-wheel drive.

Bartlett Lake

Reservoir

This perfectly good road takes you all the way to the marina parking lot, winding through beautiful desert hills until you finally spot blue water in the distance.

Bartlett Lake marina

Like many Arizona lakes, Bartlett is technically a reservoir, formed by damming part of the Verde River. Besides watersports, there’s hiking, camping, and wildflower viewing in the area, which is about an hour outside of Phoenix (half an hour from Cave Creek).

Bartlett Lake Marina Restaurant

The reservoir is part of Tonto National Forest, but the marina, general store, and restaurant are owned and operated by one entrepreneurial extended family.

Sarah Church at Bartlett Lake Marina

“We built every single thing you see,” Sarah Church, the self-proclaimed Matriarch of the Marina, told me, motioning from the restaurant patio to covered boat storage.
Bartlett Lake Marina
Phillip and I were part of a group invited to check out the new restaurant, The Last Stop, and take a ride on a rental boat. (Mr. Cheeseface stowed away too.)

Bartlett Lake Marina Restaurant

Restaurant

At lunch, we sampled cheeseburger sliders, grilled chicken sandwiches, pulled pork, regular and sweet potato fries, onion rings, and mac-and-cheese bites.

Bartlett Lake Marina Food

The clear favorites at our table were the pulled pork and the onion rings, followed by the sliders and fries.

Bartlett lake Beer

They offer a list of Arizona beers. Phillip liked the Scorpion Amber Ale by Lake Havasu-based Mudshark Brewery.

Bartlett Lake Marina Mousse

The winner, however, was dessert. Daily specials vary, but we got to try the mocha mousse, which was light and caramely and delicious. We’ve considered making the drive just for dessert (and a lake view, of course).

Bartlett lake Boat

Rentals

Afterwards, we all headed down a long pier and boarded a couple boats.

Bartlett lake Boat

Phillip and I joined the group on the 45-foot Party Yacht. It can carry up to 20 people, has seating on 2 decks, a bar, barbecue, speakers, and a water slide.

Bartlett lake Boat slide

Wouldn’t be fun to have a cookout in the middle of a lake?!

Bartlett Lake Marina Boat waterslide

The boat felt very sturdy and just rocked gently when the occasional waves rolled under it. We were there on a weekday, so everything was pretty quiet. It was neat to take in the view of the rocky hills that line the lake from the marina to the dam.

Party Yacht speakers

Besides the Party Yacht, you can rent pontoon boats, speed boats, or jet skis. There aren’t boat tours at Barlett Lake, unless you make your own.

Bartlett Lake Marina Boat

We enjoyed our time at Bartlett Lake and headed back down the (definitely paved) road contented.

Bartlett Lake

– More Bartlett Lake info –

  • The Last Stop Restaurant is open Friday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm or later.
  • Boat rentals: Party Yacht (full day) $1295. Pontoon Boat (half or full day) $295-425. Jet Ski (by the hour or day) $95-280.
  • Directions: Make sure you’re headed to Bartlett Lake Marina or Bartlett Lake Boat Club. Owner Bryan Church said GPS has lead some people to the wrong location and recommends calling if you need directions (602.316.3378).



Thank you to Bartlett Lake Marina for hosting us and RSVP & Associates for the invitation.

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Riders: A Novel Approach to Opera

Posted by on Mar 2, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Arizona landscape

It’s not every day that a new opera is born. Especially not one about cowboys. Sung in English. That opens in Tucson, Arizona.

However, this past weekend, Phillip and I got to see the world premiere of Arizona Opera’s Riders of the Purple Sage at Tucson Music Hall.

Riders of the Purple Sage program

While other U.S. cities have premiered new operas, I doubt any of them had as many audience members wearing Stetsons and bolo ties.

Riders of the Purple Sage. Photo by Tim Trumble. Morgan Smith as Lassiter.

The Story

Riders of the Purple Sage is about fighting for love, power, and, ultimately, survival in the harsh western landscape of the Utah-Arizona border in the 1870s.

There are gunslingers and churchmen, cowboys and rustlers, and more than one mysterious stranger.

Riders of the Purple Sage. Photo by Tim Trumble.

But it all revolves around Jane Withersteen, owner of a sprawling sage-covered cattle ranch in a Mormon community. Besides her home, land, and herds of cattle, she possesses a strong will. Her refusal to marry one of the church elders and continued friendship with “Gentiles” (non-Mormons) begins to threaten everything she loves and test her loyalties.

Riders of the Purple Sage at Tucson Music Hall.

The Adaptation

The opera is based on a 1912 bestseller by western novelist Zane Grey. I made it about three-quarters of the way through the audiobook before attending Saturday’s performance.

While the book has been made into a film several times, its adaptation to an opera is brand new, executed by composer Craig Bohmler and librettist Steven Mark Kohn. It’s actually the first time Arizona Opera has commissioned and debuted an opera.

Riders of the Purple Sage. Photo by Tim Trumble.

Of course, squeezing a 23-chapter book into a 3-hour opera requires a lot of paring down. Characters are omitted, subplots get simplified, revelations come more quickly. As a result, some developments that made sense in the slow build-up of the novel may seem to lack justification in the abbreviated retelling on stage.

It is, however, an opera. So improbable plot twists and dramatic discoveries might not be so out of place.

Arizona desert.

On the other hand, the opera goes further than the book in explaining motivations, finding commonalties between characters that seem to have little in common.

As Kohn said during the pre-show Q+A, “Even ‘bad guys’ have a belief in what they’re doing…There are no black-and-white villians. The interactions of people are nuanced.”

Arizona mountains

The Music

Bohmler’s composition opens with the French horns typical of Hollywood Westerns. From there, it’s meant to “go on a journey,” taking the audience along and sounding more like a film score.

Riders of the Purple Sage pre-show

When a woman asked during the Q+A whether the music would evoke the western landscape like Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite, the composer smiled and said we (the audience) would have to be the judge of that.

Phillip felt Riders was more like a musical than most operas. Bohmler has previously written both, and others have also noted this musical theater influence, which perhaps gives this opera an even more American feel.

Riders of the Purple Sage. Photo by Tim Trumble.

The Scenery

Arizona artist Ed Mell is known for his landscape paintings of the American West, especially angular interpretations of rocky desert scenes with billowing clouds overhead. This is his first time as a production’s scenic designer and his work adds incredible depth to the show.

It is projected onto 51.6 x 26.6-foot video wall made from 248 interlocking LED panels.

Riders of the Purple Sage. Photo by Tim Trumble.

Honestly, when I read that kind of technical stuff, my eyes tend to glaze over. So lemme just skip to the result, which was awesome.

Riders of the Purple Sage. Photo by Tim Trumble.

The backdrop looks like a gorgeous, giant Ed Mell painting. And, then, just like on a windy afternoon, the clouds begin to move. The light gradually shifts, illuminating different parts of distant cliffs and mesas – and perhaps subtly reflecting the emotions of the characters. The painting’s colors grow warmer and deeper as the sun sets with a crimson sky giving way to a deep blue twilight with the moon shining from behind a cloud, making its edges glow.

It reminded Phillip of a John Ford movie. It reminded me of sitting outside in the open desert.

Even though it basically worked like magic, it didn’t distract from the opera, serving only to enhance the setting and mood.

Riders of the Purple Sage. Photo by Tim Trumble.

The Conclusion

We thoroughly enjoyed watching Riders of the Purple Sage, and there’s something really exciting about seeing a show in its first run. You don’t have to be an opera aficionado or western enthusiast to get into the story and this beautiful production.

You still have a chance to see Riders in Phoenix this weekend. And it’s totally okay to show up wearing a bolo tie.
purple sage in tucson

– More info –

The Opera

  • Upcoming performances of Riders of the Purple Sage are March 3, 4, 5 at Phoenix Symphony Hall.
  • Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30pm. Available tickets range $30-160.
  • The Sunday 2pm show is nearly sold out with remaining tickets $110-175. Afterwards is a Meet the Cast Q+A.
  • There’s a pre-show talk an hour before all performances.
  • Get a preview of the music on Soundcloud.

The Venue

The Artist

The Novel


Photos:
1. Arizona desert view on the way back from Tucson.
2. Program and ticket for Tucson Music Hall show.
3. Morgan Smith as Lassiter by Tim Trumble.
4. Karin Wolverton as Jane Withersteen by Tim Trumble.
5. Tucson Music Hall.
6. Amanda Opuszynski and Joshua Dennis as Bess and Bern Venters by Tim Trumble.
7 + 8. Arizona desert en route to/from Tucson.
9. Pre-show Q+A with composer Craig Bohmler and librettist Steven Mark Kohn.
10. View from the controlling laptop on the tech table in Tucson Music Hall by Tim Trumble.
11. Back side of the video wall and interlocking panels by Tim Trumble.
12. Photo by Tim Trumble.
13. Joshua Dennis as Bern Venters by Tim Trumble.
14. Purple chapparal sage in Tucson.


 

We were guests of Arizona Opera.

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