Random images from our Arizona getaway to Cottonwood

We recently made a weekend getaway to Old Town Cottonwood and found there’s lot to do and see in this quaint, historic section of the central Arizona town.

flowers

We started out the morning with a short hike along the Jail Trail in Old Town Cottonwood. At the trail head, we noticed beautiful morning glory vines weaving along the fence at the Wild Rose Tea House.

IMG_2669

Views along the trail include these giant pampas grass clusters on the banks of the Verde River.

IMG_2672

Pampas grass plumes bent to the morning breezes, resembling billowing ostrich feathers.

IMG_2659

Fungus took over residence in a downed cottonwood trunk.

IMG_2667

We lingered for a while at the edge of the Verde River, near the Tuzigoot Road bridge.

IMG_2660

The far end of the Jail Trail connects to the entrance of Dead Horse State Park.  (Tip: Walk-in entrance fee is only $3.)

breakfast

After walking along the river, we stopped for a bit of brunch at the Red Rooster Cafe.

coffee

There’s nothing better than a frothy latte on a chilly morning in Old Town Cottonwood.

larrys

Even if you’re not enthusiastic about antiques, you’ll find enjoyment browsing Larry’s Antiques & Things.

aliensign

While shopping for unusual antiques, we not only found a “alien receiving” sign, but we found an alien to go with it… 🙂

pillsbury

Finally, we topped off the day with wine tasting at one of several tasting rooms in Old Town Cottonwood including the Pillsbury Wine Company Tasting Room on Main Street.

Thinking about a road trip? Now is the perfect time to visit Cottonwood:

March 29 is the Verde River Runoff.

The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival is April 24-27.

A blues festival, guitar concert and local history program are among the events dot at the Old Town Center for the Arts.

Check the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce calendar for more events.

Enjoy your Arizona Getaway!

 

Unforgettable helicopter tour over Kauai

Chuck and I celebrated another wedding anniversary in June. Often this time of year, we reminisce about past anniversaries and the many ways in which we have celebrated over the years. For our 10th anniversary in 2007, we spent a memorable vacation in Hawaii. Our itinerary was so jam-packed with places to go and things to see over two weeks on two islands that some vacation memories have gotten a bit ‘fuzzy’ with time. But our helicopter trip over Kauai is one anniversary trip activity we won’t soon forget.

Who could forget the breathtaking scenery over the Garden Isle?  We soared high above Kauai’s spectacular beauty — each sight made us imagine we were dropped onto a page of a Hawaii photography coffee table book, a flashy, souvenir calendar or a colorful tourism website.

Inter-Island Helicopters was recommended by friends and also came highly rated in the tour guide known as the “blue bible” — The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. We opted for a deluxe tour which landed us at a private waterfall where we enjoyed a break from the loud whirring of blades. Some of us even took a quick dip in a crystal clear pool at the base of the falls. As I understand it, the waterfall landing tour is no longer available, so we feel really fortunate to have been able to go when we did.

Inter-Island is one of a few Kauai helicopters companies to offer tourists door-free rides. It’s one thing to fly a couple thousand feet above the azure blue waters of the Pacific and the lush Hawaiian tropical canopy; think about riding in a helicopter without doors!  After a few minutes getting our heads (and stomachs) adjusted to the motion and height of the take-off, we felt much more at ease. The pilot’s narration and humor helped us to relax a bit more.

Yet as we looked down over the landscape, we were quickly reminded that the only thing holding us in was a combination seat belt/shoulder strap. Our white-knuckled fists stayed firmly wrapped around the nearest grab bar — aka the “Oh-(insert expletive)! handle.”  At one point when the helicopter climbed up out and over the island’s northern cliffs, we glanced back and forth in both directions — we could see up and down the Kauai’s iconic Na Pali Coast. These overwhelming views kept the exclamations rolling off our tongues: “Wow!” “I can’t believe this!” “Incredible!”

Gorgeous landscapes, infinite coastal beaches and dazzling canyons were not the only sights from our Kauai helicopter tour. We also were able to spot wildlife — mountain goats, wild boars and of course, those famous Kauai chickens.

Here are some of our favorite photos and a short video from that unforgettable anniversary helicopter tour.

IMG_0793

Hills of southwest Kauai

IMG_0800

Waimea Canyon

kau5

Along Kauai’s Na Pali Coast

kau1

Monowaiopuna Falls

kau4

North coast near Tunnels Beach

kau2

We landed in a clearing in north central Kauai

kau3

Multiple waterfall sights on Kauai helicopter tour

kau6

Patchwork farmland of south central Kauai

Cool off with culture in downtown Chandler

IMG_1807Arizonans don’t have to travel far to take advantage of cool, cultural offerings. Five air-conditioned locations in downtown Chandler offer respite from the heat and provide satisfaction for summertime cultural cravings — music, theater, art, film and literature.

At Chandler Center for the Arts, free summer concert performances start Friday Aug. 2 with the Bad Cactus Brass Band at 7 p.m. Other performances are jazz musician Dmitri Matheny on Aug. 16, a blend of flamenco and mariachi — “FlaMEXico!” on Aug. 23, and a music variety show for youth, “Plugged In” on Aug. 24. Tip: Since these shows are free and seating is first-come, first-served, you may want to get there when the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Allow extra time to check out the center’s gallery.

IMG_1810

Xico Arte y Cultura Galeria is an art gallery, shop and studio dedicated to traditional arts and crafts by Native American and Latino cultures. Find jewelry, paintings, multimedia art, folk arts and crafts at the shop, located on the west side of A.J. Chandler Park. Many of the items carry colorful Dia de los Muertos themes. Tip: Check this non-profit organization’s Facebook page for upcoming special exhibits and artist demonstrations. Open Wednesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

IMG_1797

IMG_2366

Stop by the versatile Vision Gallery and view special exhibits: “Decision Portraits by Susan Lenz” until July 26 or “Fine Art Photography by David Miller” beginning Aug. 2. About 300 regional artists’ works are on a rotating display. Don’t miss the popular “Art-O-Mat” — itself a mini art gallery, a showcase of mini art. It’s really a converted cigarette machine. Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tip: Sign up for the gallery newsletter and you’ll get first news about special exhibitions and artists’ opening night receptions.

Cool off with a “hot” read from Chandler Public Library’s Friends of the Library summer book sale. Buy Library discard books at 4 for $1 through the month of July! And if you stop by on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. through Aug. 6, you can watch a showing of one of the flicks in the Get Reel Documentary Film Series hosted by the Library in partnership with Public Television’s Point of View series. Tip: Don’t forget your library card to check out a Cultural Pass for free local museum visits.

IMG_1793

Gangplank, downtown Chandler’s collaborative workspace, comes alive with arts, crafts and music as the indoor location of the Downtown Chandler Art Walk on third Fridays during the summer months. Desks and computers make way for displays of sculpture, photography, painting, ceramics and jewelry from 6 to 10 p.m. So if you don’t have plans yet for this Friday, July 19: Come and enjoy music by Chris Buzan and a glass of wine while you stroll through the exhibits at Gangplank, located at 260 S. Arizona Ave. Learn more about Gangplank and its Wednesday brownbag series talks, health initiatives, community classes, business workshops by visiting the website or signing up for the weekly newsletter. Tip: Park in the city parking garage directly across the street, on the east side of Arizona Avenue. (Entrance to the garage is on its east side — off of Washington Street. It’s No. 10 on this handy downtown Chandler parking map.)

Combine any of these “artsy” venue visits with dinner at one of downtown Chandler’s cool restaurants, and you have the makings of a masterpiece — a memorable night out on the town.

Find AzGetawayTravel on Facebook and Twitter.

Travel and tourism give rise to quest for knowledge, adventure

photo 4

Although I was already in my 20’s when PBS television show Reading Rainbow originally aired, I enjoyed how LeVar Burton seemed to instill a desire for learning. Following the young book reviewers’ descriptions, Burton invited his viewers to “check it out” or “find more about it.” The end of the show would list related books or activities as a means to follow-up. Such experiences undoubtedly would spark exploration and discovery.

The same can be said of travel. We read about a fascinating destination or exotic location and we want to go there. And sometimes the converse true. As travelers, when we visit a new location, we naturally want to know more about it. Many of us delve into a kind of in-depth research  — finding out all we can about our destination. That’s why travel websites and guidebooks also are — in a sense — concise geographical and historical encyclopedias.

When I visited the Scott Polar Museum in Cambridge, UK, I realized I was merely scratching the surface of information about North and South Pole exploration. I wanted to know more about these expeditions — these men — these “heroes” who put themselves in such extreme and dangerous conditions to reach the ends of the earth – literally. The museum, which houses collections of the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, is continually expanding and developing its displays devoted to expeditions of both Arctic and Antarctic regions. Physical sciences meet social sciences with historical evidence through letters, journals, and photographs — all convening under plate glass displays. Museum visitors learn the gripping tales of polar conquest, perseverance, human survival and sometimes, tragedy. Here, visitors can learn about a bit of everything that represents polar exploration — about regional native cultures and indigenous plant and animal species including polar bears, penguins or tiny marine micro-organisms.

photo 5Exhibits at the Scott Polar Museum tell a story of various expeditions, especially the British led parties. The museum itself is named for Robert Falcon Scott, British leader of the Discovery and Terra Nova Expeditions. The latter team found its way to the South Pole 33 days after a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen, who is credited with the discovery. After a series of setbacks such as foul weather, poor health and unsuccessful rescue attempts, Scott and his Terra Nova team would not survive the return trip. Journals, letters, personal effects, tools, photos were recovered when the bodies were found months later. Some of these can be viewed at the museum. Other museum exhibits describe similar expeditions. One heroic tale involves The Endurance, the ship of Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916. Although the ship became trapped in the ice and the entire crew was forced off the sinking ship, a small contingent of men including Shackleton and Captain Frank Worsley miraculously reached a whaling station and returned to rescue the rest of the crew. There are some amazing videos of The Endurance and the rescue story on YouTube and it has been the subject of many books and films.

So when I asked my son, Andrew Britton — a University College London and Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration graduate, Cambridge resident (and my personal Scott Polar Museum guide) — if he could recommend a book that might describe both geography and history of Antarctica. His answer: “The Roof at the Bottom of the World: Discovering the Transantarctic Mountains” by ASU geologist/SESE professor Ed Stump. I can’t wait to start reading.

photo (1)

Souvenir coasters replicate the domed ceilings in the museum. Each pole is represented, with explorers’ names, expedition ships and geographic features

After my Scott Polar Museum visit, my interest in these expeditions peaked, I now find myself searching for old movies and documentaries about polar exploration on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. I am flipping through out-of-print books, journals and Wikipedia references.

See what travel and tourism do to an otherwise normal person? When I’m not exploring physically, I’m exploring intellectually. A little taste of exploration and discovery — even the satisfaction of reaching that destination — and it only makes you want more. Travel — like reading — ignites the imagination. Remember that famous LeVar Burton-Reading Rainbow phrase? “But you don’t have to take my word for it…”

 photo

Rocky Point: Much to do at the beach (or not)

Almost every time we plan a trip to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, our friends will ask, “What do you do down there, anyway? Just sit around on the beach?” Our answer: “There’s so much activity!” We proceed to list a host of activity options. Here are just a few of these pastimes in pictures:

rp1

1. Talk a morning walk with a friend or two

rp2

2. Search for seashells to add to your collection.

rp6

3. Look for creative ways to photograph a sunset

rp3

4. Take a relaxing drift on a ‘lazy river’

rp4

5. Spend quality time with family

rp5

6. Kick up your heels along the surf

rp8

7. Enjoy delectable dishes from the Sea of Cortez

rp11

8. Purchase refreshments without leaving the shade of your palapa

rp10

9. Capture some lifelong memories for your scrapbook

10. Make a list of ‘things to do’ at the beach:

Watch a sunset, bury yourself in the sand, build a sand castle, watch for dolphins, fly a kite, read a book, listen to music, wiggle your toes in the sand, draw messages in the sand, watch pelicans and gulls, take a ride on a horse, Jet Ski, banana boat or an Ultralight, go boating, fishing or body surfing, watch a sunrise, paddle through the waves in a kayak or a stand-up board, snorkel, get a massage, shop for jewelry, pottery, blankets, wood carvings, or souvenirs such as “your name on a grain of rice.”

rp7

11. Know that sitting around on the beach doing not much of anything is perfectly fine, too.

 

 

Don’t miss Prescott’s Textiles & Textures Artisans Studio

Colorful sand cast leaves by artist Chris Ryback

Custom wood vases created by artists Roger and Jan Harlow

If you’re headed to Prescott for Fourth of July festivities, consider adding to your itinerary a visit to Textiles & Textures Artisans Studio.

Located at 217 North Cortez Street (the same street with all those cool antique shops), Textiles & Textures is steps away from the Courthouse Plaza in downtown Prescott. The shop which opened for business a few months ago, is run by sisters Debra Owen and Donna Stirnaman.

To put it mildly, this studio/shop is a showcase of unusual and unique art and crafts. To put it more accurately, Textiles & Textures is so colorful and crafty you’ll think the popular website, Etsy.com exploded from the Internet into a downtown Prescott storefront! Much of the media is textiles, paper, wood, stone and ceramics. I was really impressed by all the racks of upcycled children’s clothing. That’s what this gallery-studio-store-workshop is all about: upcycling, re-imagining just about anything. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “upcycling,” think of it this way: Converting a used but colorful, print dress into a dust cloth is recycling; converting it into several sets of children’s pajamas is upcycling.

When we visited the shop during a recent Prescott visit, studio employees were busily designing new exhibits. Owners and staff were preparing for an event called “Tie One On Art Challenge,” an open call for art — a competition for artists and crafters to create works from men’s ties. Although the entry deadline has past, the competition submissions will be judged and exhibited July 2-28. A reception will feature the works Friday June 28 during the downtown Prescott Fourth Friday Art Walk. Check for more events and numerous photos on Textiles & Textures’ Facebook page.

The studio also offers a variety of classes and workshops, such as drawing and creating art journals. An upcoming workshop, beginning July 20, is Rag Papermaking by Annie Alexander. Participants will learn how to handcraft forms of paper to be used either as an art medium, or for a more functional purpose such as writing paper, cards or envelopes. Alexander’s paper art and original artist books also are available at the studio to purchase… or simply admire. Textiles & Textures’ shelves also boast creations by Chino Valley artists Roger and Jan Harlow. Find turned bowls, vases, tables, platters and more — executed from exotic wood pieces from throughout the world. Another noteworthy display includes large, colorful sand cast leaves by artist Chris Ryback.

Jewelry, apparel, painting, metal sculptures, art quilts, ceramics and paper art  — they’re all here. If you thought some of these crafts were “lost arts,” then consider them “found” at Textiles & Textures Artisans Studio. 

Bright spring and summer fashions in the Kids Corner at Textiles & Textures

You can also find AZGetawayTravel.com on Twitter and Facebook.

Trip tips from Cambridge UK: English pubs

My recent vacation to Cambridge, UK was my first trip to England and with it, my first taste of dining and drinking at a ‘real’ English pub. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the food, drink and atmosphere of the pubs, I also learned some lessons the hard way about pub etiquette and I wanted to pass them along to readers.

photo (2)

The front entry dining table of the The Anchor pub in Cambridge UK. If you sit here to wait for a hostess to come and seat you, you’ll be waiting a long time!

Seat yourself

Find an empty table, booth or place at the bar and seat yourself. When I first walked in to the Anchor Pub in Cambridge, UK I immediately assumed the comfortable looking couch and coffee table just inside the entrance was the place to wait for a host or hostess to show us to our table. Wrong! There are no pub hosts or hostesses – patrons just find a place and seat themselves. And ‘seat’ could mean any one of several options — couch, chair, bar stool, bench, patio chair. The pub’s interior furnishings look like it could be part of someone’s private home, and not a “public house” — hence the shortened identification form: pub. 

photo (1)

“Queue up” at the bar to place your food and drink order

Order from the bar

Not only are there no hostesses to show you to your seat, there are no waiters to take your food order at your table in an English pub. Patrons pick up a menu at the bar or at the table, and after having made their choices, one, some or all will go to the bar and place the order with the bar staff. (Best not to have all of you go to the bar, or you might lose your table.) You will also order your drink — and if you’re drinking a beer, it will likely be one of three or four Greene King beers or a “guest beer.” Greene King is a popular English brewery which distributes its beers to several of Cambridge’s pubs for draft service. Most pubs also seem to carry a variety of global favorites such as Guiness, Amstel, Stella, Peroni or Foster’s. You may even see the odd tap for Blue Moon or Corona. Another popular English drink is Pimm’s Cup — a kind of refreshing, fruity alcoholic drink often mixed with lemonade or ginger ale and splashed with fruit. It’s good for a warm English day when temps rise above 15 Celsius (which is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit — insert smiley face here).  I prefer the ales and I found a couple from the Greene King brewery which I could ‘rather fancy’ — the Abbot Ale and the Morland Old Speckled Hen.

Pay up front, tax included and no tipping

After you’ve placed your food and drink order, and before you’re ready to return to your table, you will first need to pay. Everything is paid in advance. Cash is preferred and sales taxes at retail establishments such as shops, pubs and restaurants are already built into prices. This makes it handy, so you will know exactly what you will be paying. This also means you’re less likely — unlike in the U.S. — to threaten refusal to pay because of poor service or food quality.  Also, tipping at pubs is not expected, in fact you may get some funny looks. Or they may just brush you off as another ignorant American tourist. Also, courtesy and etiquette are very much appreciated, even at the pubs so make sure you mind your manners. It’s only ‘proper,’ of course.

photo (4)

The Anchor Pub allows diners watch the punters on the River Cam

Kitchen or bar staff will serve your food

So by now you’re enjoying your pint of ale and the pub ambiance. A few locals who are done with their day’s work shift are sitting in the next room may have a couple of rounds’ head start on you. A few of their ‘mates’ could start singing old pub songs. Okay, you’d probably not see this much happening in the U.S. — at least not in this decade, or outside of an East Coast or Midwestern big city. But this is a great scenario, because you realize it’s another reminder you’re really in England. After your bar or kitchen staff serves your meal and returns to ask if you’d like anything else, what he or she doesn’t mean: if you’d like additional food. I guess they’re asking if you might need need a steak knife, some salt or more napkins… something like that. I made the mistake of saying, “Oh yes — we’d like some dessert.” Oops! Remember: If you want to order more food, another beer or dessert, you’ll need to head back to the bar.

Pub hours are a bit different

Some pubs may be open from lunchtime through the dinner hour until about 11 p.m., but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be serving food during all that time. In fact, many pubs (if they are open for lunch) tend to close up the kitchen from around 2 p.m. to 5:30 or 6 p.m. then close the kitchen again around 8 or 9 p.m. (Speaking of time, it’s helpful to get used to thinking in 24-hour — or military — time.) If you arrive during a time when the kitchen is closed, or you reach the bar to place your order and the bartender suddenly announces, “the kitchen has closed,” you may be able to order bags of ‘crisps’ to soak up those beers or Pimms.

And If you enter a pub and it’s crowded, it’s not considered courteous to stand around, lingering for a table or place at the bar to open up. Many patrons who come to the pub are there to drink, watch their team and may occupy their spot for a long while — much the same way we do here in the US at our sports bars.

photo (3)

The Eagle is one of the most popular pubs in Cambridge

Pub food and prices 

Most of the menu items include the traditional English pub favorites: fish and chips, bangers and mash, steak and ale pie and burgers. Chips are fries, of course and they typically are the larger cuts of fries — what we would normally call steak fries or ‘wedges.’ Try some jacket potatoes (like our stuffed or twice baked varieties) or a side of mushy peas which is… exactly that. Some pubs have upgraded menus with more eclectic, innovative selections. For example, at the The Eagle, my friend and I split the pan fried salmon with chive polenta cakes and buttered cavolo nero along with a roasted beetroot, goat’s cheese and walnut salad with mixed greens and balsamic dressing. Most meals will run about seven or eight pounds ($11) and pints are about three or four pounds ($5). By the way, a pint in the UK is 20 ounces. It’s possible to order a half pint. Sunday ‘roast’ in the UK means a traditional noontime pub meal, but I missed my chance to enjoy that. Next time…

photo (5)

Outside dining is possible (weather permitting) at The Red Lion in Grantchester UK

No doggie bags allowed

So you can’t finish your plate, eh? Well, don’t embarrass yourself by asking for a ‘doggie bag.’ It’s just not done in England. It’s one thing to go and order food for ‘take away’ (take-out) but it’s entirely different if you can’t finish what you’ve ordered, in fact it’s largely frowned upon. I couldn’t finish a plate of chips and a large burger but I wanted to take the rest of my burger back to the flat. (Yes, as a matter of fact — It was THAT good!) I was informed it would be more acceptable to wrap it in a napkin and sneak it out in my purse rather than to ask for a box.

Most pubs are family friendly – especially in tourism areas

I had heard a few years ago that children accompanying parents in pubs was not acceptable or appropriate, and in many locations, that may be still true, especially later in the evening. However, at many of the Cambridge pubs we visited, I frequently saw signs at the entrances, “Children Welcome” or “Family Friendly.” And I witnessed many a family at the pubs for an early dinner — ‘er, i mean ‘supper’ — after a day of shopping in the markets of central Cambridge.

Find more info on the Web

Naturally, these above items are based on my own perceptions after visiting five pubs over nine days during my stay in Cambridge. Like LeVar Burton said on Reading Rainbow, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” Find out more about English pub dining and etiquette on the Internet. Here’s a great site I found after I returned and I wished I had sought it out before my trip to the UK: Cambridge Pubs. It’s a comprehensive listing, but I’m not sure how up-to-date it’s kept, so combine the information there with review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor or travel sites like Lonely Planet and Frommer’s before you make your pub tour of Cambridge.

Don’t forget to say “Cheers!”

“Cheers” can mean “thanks,” “goodbye,” “agree” or “cheers.” The Brits seem to say it often. However it’s meant, it’s almost always said with a smile.

Find AZGetawayTravel.com on Twitter and Facebook.

Dos Cabezas WineWorks: Much more than wine-tasting

poster

A recent road trip to Sonoita Arizona made us realize a visit to a winery can add up to so much more than merely wine-tasting. It can mean relaxing on a storefront patio, viewing a gallery of art prints or shopping for olives, jams, honey, flour and T-shirts. One lingering, leisurely visit to this tasting room brought to us a sense of discovery… discovering another  part of Arizona’s cultural and physical geography, plus making new friends — all while sampling Arizona wines. The following photos represent additional ways to capture the complete experience at Dos Cabezas WineWorks:

opendoor

Welcome the cool, southeast Arizona breezes through open patio doors

photo 2

Peruse interesting art prints and unique pantry items

photo 3

Gather with friends and family to sample some of Arizona’s finest wines

photo 4

Shop for glassware and T-shirts in front of the winery’s main barrel room

cookies

Expect the unexpected — you’ll never know what goodies you may find at an Arizona wine tasting room…

Remember: Sonoita Arizona is usually ten degrees cooler than Tucson and Phoenix metro areas.

Find AZGetawayTravel.com on Twitter and Facebook.

 

‘Parting shots’ of Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak State Park will close for the summer season on May 24. To my knowledge, it’s the only Arizona state park to shut down completely during the hottest part of the year. The park will re-open Sept. 14. Although there are only a few weeks left to visit the park before it closes, you can still squeeze in some early morning hikes, picnic lunches and long, respectful gazes of this famous historic and geographical Arizona landmark.

In April we spent a Sunday morning hiking along a couple of the trails at the park, located just off I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix. Poppies, lupine and most cacti had completed their flower shows weeks before. Only the Ocotillo continued to splash its red and coral colors onto this canvas of Sonora desert rock and sand. As we returned from our hike, and as the temperature hovered around 90 degrees, we noticed the noon heat was beginning to get a bit uncomfortable for hiking. Fortunately, a Dairy Queen has been strategically placed across the highway from Picacho Peak State Park.

We look forward to hiking the trails of Picacho Peak next fall, winter or early spring. And as usual, we’ll be promising ourselves to be better prepared: “We’ll have amped up our gym workout. We’ll leave the dogs at home. We’ll start earlier in the day. We’ll have more water and better footwear.”

Yeah, whatever. And of course next time, I’ll try to keep my eyes focused on the ground right under my feet and not on the ground 1000 feet below.

Find AZGetawayTravel.com on Twitter and Facebook.

Here are some shots taken April 14, 2013.

Ocotillo blossom at Picacho Peak State Park

Ocotillo blossom at Picacho Peak State Park

A hiking trail for every ability at Picacho Peak

A hiking trail for every ability at Picacho Peak

Great views from the end of the short, easy Calloway Trail

Great views from the end of the short, easy Calloway Trail

Loop trails connect picnic and parking areas

Loop trails connect picnic and parking areas

Hunter Trail provides cables for climbing

Hunter Trail provides cables for climbing

"If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?" -T.S. Eliot

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” -T.S. Eliot

A perennial favorite: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Golden barrel cactus radiate in the morning sun

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park never fails to inspire and impress me. It’s not only one of the best places to see spring wildflowers and wildlife in Arizona, it’s an ideal spot to bring visiting out-of-state guests who want to see some native flora and fauna — no matter what the season. Plus the popular destination attracts photographers who want to catch a shot of a perfect sunrise, a rare bird or one of the garden’s amazing cactus blossoms.

What’s impressive is the number of activities, classes, guided hikes, plant sales, and other activities and events are held each year. No weekend at Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the same. Of course, you’ll walk the same paths, stop at the same viewpoints, gaze at the same gardens paths and lunch at the same picnic areas, yet it always feels like a new experience. Every time I visit the park, I almost feel like it’s my first time.

Ayer Lake attracts birds, butterflies and dragonflies

Ayer Lake attracts birds, butterflies and dragonflies

Even in the summer, visits to the park can be pleasant — especially during the early morning hours. The huge cottonwood trees in the picnic areas provide cool shady comfort. Walks along the creek and canyon are equally enjoyable.

Learn more about which wildflower varieties and cactus blooms currently are visible at one of several upcoming guided tours. Visit the arboretum’s University of Arizona website or watch the short video on the State Park website.

Historic Smith Building was the original park visitor center

Historic Smith Building was the original park visitor center

The park is open daily except Christmas Day. Park hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except during May through August when hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Last admission is one hour before closing. Fees are $9 for adults/teens 13 and older, $4.50 for ages 5-12. Frequent visitors may want to consider membership options or becoming a volunteer.

Excellent views of Boyce Thompson Arboretum from the High Trail

Excellent views of Boyce Thompson Arboretum from the High Trail

Find AzGetawayTravel.com on Twitter and Facebook.