Bear Mountain Hike: Sedona, Arizona

The town of Sedona is nestled along the Mogollon Rim at the southern end of the Colorado Plateau in Northern Arizona. It’s famous red rock cliffs and formations make it a popular spot to escape the Phoenix desert heat. My family visits frequently and over the years we have checked out many of the hikes and still find the views breathtaking.

A canyon view looking toward Sedona

A canyon view looking toward Sedona.

Our last visit in January was welcomed by a light snow, most of which quickly melted in the morning sun. The shadows stayed cool enough to hold onto the snow and on a short hike to Doe Mountain we found icicles along the path.

Icicles on Doe Mountain hiking trail.

Icicles on Doe Mountain hiking trail.

From that path, we looked up at a ridge in the distance and noticed the trail for it zigzagging up the face of an opposing mesa. On the way home, we checked out the trailhead. Bear Mountain. We love challenging hikes, so decided to give this one a try the next day. It is a 2000 foot climb in elevation, the trails are not necessarily well-marked, and takes 4.5 to 5 hours round trip. I think we did it in 4…but the weather was cool and we were in shape. Even so, I wish we had taken more water (we took two bottles each and several energy bars). In hotter weather, a lot more water would be necessary and it could be brutal with no shade. Warning to those wishing to take this hike. Go prepared. This is the Sedona hike with the most rescues (and deaths).

You can see snow in the background shade of this photo.

You can see snow in the background shade of this photo.

The photo below is from the top of the first mesa in front of Bear Mountain. The views along this trail are spectacular, but at times deceiving. Bear Mountain is infamous for its false summits. That means a hiker will see a peak that looks like the top. By the time it is reached, a new summit becomes visible. For some people, this is the fun, unexpected part of a good hike, for others, it can be  discouraging. Did I say, I enjoyed this hike?

Photo from the mesa atop the first level of the hike. Only a few more stages to go.

Photo from atop the mesa at the first level of the hike. Only a few more stages to go.

If you’re interested in more detailed descriptions and topo maps of this hike, check out this site. It has a great photo at the bottom of the page that shows the various levels and false peaks. Speaking of false peaks, after reaching the one before Bear Mountain, I took a photo off the back side of the trail.

View off last level before the final climb to Bear Mountain peak.

View off last level before the final climb to Bear Mountain peak.

There is no doubt when you reach the top of Bear Mountain. The snow-covered Spanish Peaks on the Colorado Plateau were visible. A beautiful sight.

View from atop Bear Mountain of the Spanish Peaks.

View from atop Bear Mountain of the Spanish Peaks.

A Little “Diversion” on Trip to Peru

Overseas flights tend to be long, tiring, and for hubby and me, who seemed to be frowned upon by the Trim Gods, frequented by electrical problems that cause delays or diversions in the airliner’s flight plan. To prove my point, look back in the blog archives for a story about a fuel dump from last year’s trip to Morocco (Morocco Part One: Fuel Dump, and Flight to Morocco Part II).

Plane we took to Peru.

Plane Boeing 767 we took to Peru.

Headed to Peru and halfway to Lima on an evening flight, the Captain popped on the cabin lights and announced they had a little electrical problem and would be diverting to Guayaquil, Ecuador. While, I’m usually up for visiting new countries, we’d visited Ecuador a few years ago on a trip to Quito and the Galapagos Islands (Blogs: Exotic Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, and Galapagos (Giant) Tortoise). As travelers we have learned to be flexible and “go with the flow,” and lauded ourselves for planning in extra time at the beginning of our trip just for such an occurrence. Considering these delays have happened more than once, it’s not a bad piece of advice if you can afford the time.

Welcome to Guayaquil sign in Ecuador airport.

Welcome to Guayaquil sign in Ecuador airport.

Once on the ground, the Captain filled us in on the circumstances. The aircraft had a battery problem. The good news…maintenance would look into it. The bad news…maintenance had to get a copy of the battery (what they believed was causing the problem) manual. Ah, the joys of contract maintenance.

Pilot hubby guessed that it would probably mean a plane change, which considering our destination, posed a logistics challenge. There were no other B767s in Guayaquil. The plan…another flight from the airline would be arriving on a planned flight from Miami to Guayaquil in a few hours. Once unloaded, that plane would then take us to Lima.

The positive outcome? This time we didn’t land to fire trucks and ambulances, and the little cafe in the Guayaquil airport had coffees, tasty banana bread, and beer.

The little coffee, sweets and beer cafe in Guayaquil Airport.

The little coffee, sweets, and beer cafe in Guayaquil Airport stayed open late in the evening.

Eventually we made it to Lima, our connection picked us up (in the wee morning hours), and upon arriving at our delightful, boutique hotel, discovered cookies and champagne waiting in our room. Ate the cookies and saved the alcohol for the next night when we celebrated hubby’s birthday.

Bohemian little boutique hotel in Barranco (Lima), Peru. Loved all the little touches and wonderful art in the restored old summer home.

Hotel B, a bohemian little boutique hotel in Barranco (Lima), Peru. Loved all the little touches and wonderful art in the restored old summer home. Note champagne bottle at end of bed. Sweet little cookies were on the small desk. Security all over Lima and in this high-end area was high. Even though this neighborhood was a safe one and the Spanish embassy was across the street, a doorman had a key and unlocked the front door for arrivals and departure in the evenings. Absolutely wonderful  place if you’re one to avoid big hotels.

Galapagos (Giant) Tortoise

Studying science in college opened my eyes to the unique creations of our world and the men, like Charles Darwin, who have studied nature’s secrets. So when I had the chance in Spring of 2010, I grabbed my camera and headed for the equator. The Galapagos, discovered in 1535, is an archipelago (a collection of volcanic islands) in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador. The best way to experience them is to fly in and live on board a boat. While my stay was short and I made it to only half the islands, it is a place I never imagined getting to see firsthand.

Coral I. Our floating home while in the Galapagos.

Coral I. Our floating home while in the Galapagos.

One of the first stops I made was Santa Cruz Island where the Charles Darwin Research Station is located. The results of Darwin’s 1835 study of the Galapagos flora and fauna were published as “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.” People from around the world have become involved with saving these land tortoises and other natural species of the Galapagos. For more information check out the Giant Tortoise Recovery Project part of the Galapagos Conservancy.

Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island.

Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island.

I did have the chance to see one the islands most famous inhabitants, Lonesome George, a Giant Galapagos Tortoise. These tortoises made an easy meal for whalers and others who visited the islands in the 1700 and 1800s and almost became extinct from over-hunting. George recently died at over a 100 years old, and originally was thought to be last of his kind. Genetic studies started in the last few years have been done on young tortoises similar to George and provide evidence that hybrids of George exist and have been born within the last 15 years (since George had been in his safe reserve). Are there more of George’s family (subspecies) still out there somewhere?

One believed the last of his subspecies of Galapagos Tortoises.

Lonesome George. So named because he was once believed to be the last of his subspecies of Galapagos Tortoises.

There are actually 14 subspecies that have been discovered over the years although according to “Birds, Mammal, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands An Identification Guide” by Andy Swash and Rob Still, only 11 still exist many unique to a particular in the Galapagos Islands (remember these are land tortoises, not the Green Sea Turtles which also inhabit the islands and love the water). There are two categories into which these tortoises fall and that is determined by the carapace (body shell). One is a dome-like carapace and the other is called saddleback.

Dome Carapace

Dome Carapace

Saddleback Carapace

Saddleback Carapace

The Charles Darwin Research center (Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center) on Santa Cruz Island is hoping to restore the tortoise to the island where their habitat was wiped out by an introduced goat population. The photos below come from the rearing center.

Galapagos Tortoise hatchlings being raised in their pens at Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise hatchlings being raised in their pens.

Growing up is so hard to do. It takes tortoises about 25 years to reach maturity.

Growing up is so hard to do. It takes tortoises about 25 years to reach maturity.

Darwin studied not only the creatures of the Galapagos, but also the flora. The two prickly pear trees in the photos below survived perhaps by necessity by growing tall. They are quite unique to the islands.

Perhaps to escape being eaten prickly pears grow into almost tree-like form on the islands.

Perhaps to escape being eaten prickly pears grow into almost tree-like form on the islands.

Look at the long trunk of the unique cactus plant.

Look at the long trunk of the unique cactus plant.

The following photos give you an extra insight into the physical appearance, slow movement, and daily life of the Galapagos Tortoises. Enjoy. If time and money ever permits, I’d love to go back someday and visit the other islands that I missed.

Galapagos Tortoises are large reptiles that move slowly.

Galapagos Tortoises are large reptiles that move slowly.

Notice the claw-like toes on this tortoise.

Notice the claw-like toes on this tortoise.

This tortoise knows how to pose for the cameras.

This tortoise knows how to pose for the cameras.

A drink at the water hole.

A drink at the water hole.

Ah, content.

Ah, content.

Full face close-up.

Full face close-up.

Move over. You're such a camera hog!

Move over. You’re such a camera hog!

Exotic Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands. Their unique flora and fauna once captured the attention of Charles Darwin and led to his writing the “The Origin of Species” in 1859. If you ever have a chance to go, take a camera and a video recorder. The photos below are from my trip (and require permission for use of any kind). You’ll be within feet of magnificent creatures and watch mother sea lions suckle babies, giant turtles swim, thousands of colorful fish swirl in the ocean, and giant birds play, nest, and court. Their antics are fun, amazing, and memorable, like the Blue-footed Boobie below.BlueFootedBoobie

We flew to the islands from Quito, Ecuador on Aero Gal. The airport on Galapagos is understandably small and open; a place to simply congregate for flights and check into the island on arrival.

AeroGal Airliner taxiing in after landing on the Galapagos Islands.

AeroGal airliner taxiing in after landing on the Galapagos Islands. Notice the frigatebird near the tail.

The number one way to get around in the Galapagos (a province of Ecuador) is by boat. Tourists often stay on one of many small yachts. Ours held about twenty people (there are large and small ones) and had a dive platform to ease getting on and off dinghies that would take us out to the islands.

These are the type boats typical in the islands.

These are the type boats typical in the islands.

The volcanic islands rest on the equator 960km from Ecuador. The black basalts are visible just about everywhere and create dramatic landscapes.

A nice little cinder cone peaking up from the island.

A nice little cinder cone peaking up from the island.

The first stop was at the National Park to see several different species of the big turtles and the nursery set up to study and nurture babies.

Galapagos National Park

Galapagos National Park

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise

During our short stay we stopped on only half the islands (unfortunately I didn’t record the names of the particular ones we visited- lesson learned). One in particular had stunning basalt cliffs. Nazca Boobies, Marine Iguanas, sea lions, the largest breeding bird in the islands (the Albatross), and endless numbers of smaller creatures like lava lizards and crabs.

Basalt Cliffs

Basalt Cliffs

Large Marine Iguana

Large Marine Iguana

Marine Iguanas are well-camouflaged on the black basalts.

Marine Iguanas are well-camouflaged on the black basalts.

Beautiful sea scapes on the island.

Beautiful sea scape on the island.

Nazca Boobie's nest on this island.

Nazca Boobie’s nest on this island.

Two boobies with waves crashing in the distance.

Two boobies with waves crashing in the distance.

Parent and baby Nazca Boobie.

Parent and baby Nazca Boobie.

Blow Hole near nesting site.

Blow Hole near nesting site.

The sea lions had no fear of people. Kids in our group came across several sunning themselves on the beach and lay down with them, mimicking their sunbathing. Another day a sea lion launched himself onto our boat platform and worked himself up to the saloon. One of the crew eventually coaxed him off the boat.

Baby Galapagos Sea Lion nestled in the warm rocks.

Baby Galapagos Sea Lion nestled in the warm rocks.

Sea Lions on Beach

Sea Lions on Beach

The sea lion who climbed onto our boat.

The sea lion who climbed onto our boat.

Other islands had weathered down and provided interior marshes that were home to flamingos, smaller crab species, rays in the bay areas along the beach, and species of finches and other smaller birds.

I believe this is a Yellow Warbler. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

I believe this is a Yellow Warbler. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

Sea Urchins and echinoderms.

Sea Urchins and echinoderms.

Beautiful red crab.

Beautiful red crab.

One of the most fascinating islands gave a hint as to what awaited us as we approached the island. Cyclones of circling birds turned out to be frigates. Below the swirling birds, hundreds of nests were positioned in the rough scrub on the island.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Nesting area of the frigatebirds.

Nesting area of the frigatebirds.

Nesting frigate.

Nesting frigate.

Frigate baby.

Frigate baby.

The frigate island had huge Sante Fe Land Iguanas. We stood within 15 feet of a pair facing off, positioning, and enacting half-lunges. This was the trip of a life time and one if time permits may take me back to see the rest of the Galapagos Islands.

Santa Fe Land Iguanas facing off.

Santa Fe Land Iguanas facing off.

The Old, the Classic, The Modern Moroccan Village

While doing research today I was looking through my Moroccan photos from last year’s trip and came across this one I call the Old, the Classic, and the Modern. Along a stream in the barren desert of Morocco, life comes from water. The lush green of an oasis stands out in this eroded valley.

Old, Classic, and Modern Morocco

Old, Classic, and Modern Morocco

On top of the cliff is a modern town built up along a relatively new road to the area. Those houses maintain the old look, but are now built of concrete block, making them both less cool and less warm depending on the season. The tradeoff is the lower need for maintenance. The photo below shows a cut out of the modern village in the photo above.

A modern village in Moroccan desert

A modern village in Moroccan desert

Across the stream and lower down is the classic ksar (fortified town). Protection was provided in the way the homes were built together within tall walls and around a central open area. The walls were built from clay and straw and had to be maintained (new mud added) about every four years. The photo below is an enlarged cut showing the ksar from the top photo.

Classic Ksar

Classic Ksar

The old village is much harder to discern. It is underneath the modern town and can be seen by carefully looking along the cliff. The homes there were built in exactly the same building material as the classic ksar. Time is taking its toll and eventually the walls will disappear back into the earth from which it was built.

Crumbling Old Village Walls

Now go back to the top photo and pick out the progression of all three states of this village. That’s a lot of history in a small space.

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Sandy has a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. The one for February 2013 is on. It’s a short month. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. Your choice. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and  hope to hear from you.

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Stone and weathered wood: Mission San José, San Antonio

Sometimes man and nature combine in ways to create a feast for the eye and mind. Twists of gray wood against angular yellow and burnished stone took me back in time without requiring a plaque to announce the date. Paneled doors, crudely constructed, hid under a sturdy wood lintel that has stood the test of time. I found these photos I took during our visit to San Antonio a few years ago to attend my sons flight training graduation nearby. There is a certain allure in old wood that I find similar to drift wood along the beach.

Mission San José

Mission San José

Although much of Mission San José was reconstructed in the early 1900s, it still accurately portrays the layout of the community that made up the Catholic mission to serve the Coahuiltecan Indians in 1720 (source: Wikipedia).

Mission San José, San Antonio, Texas

Mission San José, San Antonio, Texas

In the next photo, the crude skeleton of an awning is softened by green, new growth around the poles and the wispy trees in the background. The trodden pathway of numerous visitors can be seen by the barren stretch of soil along the wall.

MSan JoseWall

This symmetry of the last photo is perhaps too perfect, but I find it fascinating the way it draws my eye right to the center of the photo and the delightful weathered wood.

A Mission Door

A Mission Door

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Sandy is starting in January 2013 a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and  hope to hear from you.

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Ever been fumigated on a plane before?

Hunting through plane photos, I came across one I hadn’t added to my collection of travel aircraft. Part of what I like in traveling is to check out planes of other countries and the often unique towers at airports. On this particular adventure, it wasn’t the planes or airports that were memorable, it was the process.

South African Airways

South African Airways

This is the South African Airways plane we took to Johannesburg from New York several years back. Aircraft in the background are an Emirates, a blue KLM, a Swiss, an Air India, and a conga line of aircraft either taxing for takeoff or heading for the terminal. On average, the flight takes around 18 hours to South Africa. While the trip is long, the airline catered to the passengers as well as most overseas flights, and we did our best to stretch our legs and maintain the blood flow. The jaunt required a refueling stop in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, Africa (where a few passengers would deplane, too). Once on the ground in Senegal, our hopes for a break to stand were crushed. The crew informed us to remain seated for the entire stopover.

We soon discovered they had a good reason for this. Down each aisle flight attendants strolled with little canisters held high. From them sprayed a rather foul white mist. It took a minute for my brain to register they were fumigating the air in plane (and us along with it).  Evidently the Senegalese worried about tiny creatures (flies and mosquitoes) invading their airspace. Needless to say they didn’t inform the uninitiated like us before the trip. Not that I wouldn’t have gone, but sheesh, at least I would have been prepared for it. On the return trip I covered my head with a blanket- it helped some, but hubby thought I looked silly. So he might have been right (for once), but can I help it if I have a sensitive nose?

By the way, we loved South Africa and would go back in a heartbeat (once we’ve been to the other gazillion places on our bucket list)…but telling about that country will be for another post.

I’ve heard airlines no longer fumigate, but if anyone knows differently or has experienced it, please shout out. :  ) I’ve also heard a good number of airlines now have direct flights to South Africa and no longer stop in Dakar. If anyone else has weird flying experiences to share, click on the comment tag near the title above.

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Sandy is starting in January a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and we hope to hear from you.

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