Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Wish I Was Still In Arizona

I have been busy lately going through my vacation photos of my recent trip to Arizona and California. I still have more to share with you, but it takes time to sort through them and then post to Blogger.

The pictures in today's post look like pictures I would have taken in December. Nope, these pictures were taken this afternoon! Here we are back in the middle of the cold, wintry, snowy weather.

I am going to go back to looking through those vacation photos and dreaming of the warm sunny skies that I recently experienced in Arizona.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vacation - Part 10

The morning of Day 6 we headed out for a guided city tour of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. One of the stops along our guided tour was at Echo Canyon Park on Cambelback Mountain. I don't have any distance shots of this mountain, but Camelback Mountain was named because it looks the the 2 humps and head of a bactrian camel.

This is our step-aboard guide for the city tour. He is standing next to the skeleton of a Saguaro (pronounced sah-wah-ro) cactus. The main stems of the Saguaro are supported by these woody ribs. The Saguaro has a huge capacity to store water which allows it to flower every year in May and June, regardless of rainfall. The Saguaro has a very shallow root system.

The Saguaro is protected in the state of Arizona so you can not just go out into the desert, find one, dig it up and plant it in your yard. Saguaros can only be purchased from someone who has a permit to sell and transport them. When transplanting a Saguaro, the original orientation of the plant to the sun must be respected in its new location. The side of the cactus that was facing east in its original location must also be the side of the cactus that faces east in its new location.
The Saguaro provides habitat for many animals. The Gila woodpecker creates many of the nest holes that you see in the mature cacti. East year the woodpecker creates a new hole and either insects or lizards take over the old hole.
Although slow growing--about an inch a year--the Saguaro cactus can reach heights of 15 to 50 feet. The larger plants with more than 5 arms are estimated to be at least 200 years old. At 50 to 65 years of age and 6 meters in height, the Saguaro develops its first arm.
The Saguaro can be the dominant feature of the landscape. However, it almost always is accompanied by a high concentration of desert trees. These trees are supported by a high rainfall twice a year in the spring and autumn. These trees act as "nurse plants" to the young Saguaro seedlings by protecting them from being eaten by animals and also by providing shade and humus rich moisture retentive soil in which the seedlings can develop.

This is another of the many cacti species that we saw in the park.

The red rocks of Camelback Mountain give the landscape a moon-like appearance.

After the remainder of the city tour of Tempe and Phoenix, we stopped at Old Towne Scottsdale.

We enjoyed walking up and down the streets and browsing in many of the shops and galleries.

Many of the boulevards and street corners are landscaped with the most interesting varieties of cacti.

This is a cactus called, Organ Pipe.

An interesting bloom on a cactus next to a bistro.

Our evening meal was at Organ Stop Pizza.

Basically, this is a pizza parlour inside of an organ. Organ Stop Pizza is the home of the world's largest Wurlitzer pipe organ. As the performance starts, the pedestal that the organ player is sitting on rotates and rises up from the well. This was a fabulous show as the organist played requests and finished with both the Canadian and American national anthems.

As Canadians, we felt both welcomed and appreciated. The Organ Stop Pizza is an experience not to be missed if you are ever in the Mesa area.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Vacation - Part 9

The first 8 pictures in this post are pictures of the grounds around our hotel in Mesa. We stayed in Mesa for 7 nights at the Best Western Dobson Ranch Inn.
I couldn't resist going for a walk through the neighbourhood near our hotel. I love the simplicity of the landscaping in some of the yards I saw. If I lived here, I would definitely have one of these Saguaro cacti in my yard!

Citrus trees in back yards were very common.

The history of Mesa dates back at least two thousand years to the arrival of the Hohokam people. The Hohokam, built the original canal system that still exists in the Mesa area today. The canals were the largest and most sophisticated in the prehistoric New World. By A.D.1100 water could be delivered to an area over 110,000 acres, transforming the Sonoran Desert into an agricultural oasis. By A.D.1450, the Hohokam had constructed hundreds of miles of canals.
The expanses of green lawns and numerous golf courses in Arizona's cities require tremendous amounts of water to maintain them. Much of the water that now flows through the many canals that criss-cross the Phoenix metropolitan area today, goes towards urban uses. Canals also carry water to municipal treatment plants for distribution as drinking water. This is a photo of one of the many sections of the present day canals that delivers water to all parts of Mesa and surrounding areas.

Vacation - Part 8

The first 8 pictures show here are the scenery we saw as we headed out of Sedona towards Mesa.

The next stop was Montezuma Castle National Monument.
It is not a castle and the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II was never here; the castle was abandoned at least a century before he was born. The 20 room, 5-storey structure was built into a recess in a white limestone cliff 100 ft above the floodplain. Montezuma Castle was part of a large extended community of Sinagua Indians who farmed in the area from 1100 AD to 1400 AD. When the Castle was first discovered by early explorers, the ruins were thought to be Aztec in origin, hence the name bestowed upon them.

There is a large grove of trees with white bark along the river bank below the ruins of Montezuma Castle. These trees are Arizona Sycamore.

After walking through the park around Montezuma Castle, we sat and relaxed in the shade. This is my Mom and Dad.

And a picture of my Dad and myself under the Sycamore tree.

As we neared Mesa, the Saguaro cactus started to appear. The Saguaro is everywhere, appearing like weeds on the side of the road.

When we stopped for our afternoon coffee break, I noticed this large Prickly Pear cactus.

The fruit of the Prickly Pear Cactus appears as these red "bulb" like growths on the the flat pads of the cactus. This fruit can be sued to made candies and jelly. The fruit is full of tiny seeds which can be chewed and eaten whole or spit out. The fruit can also be made into ice cream. The fruit is peeled and then mashed. The red seeds are left and not strained out. The mashed fruit and seed mixture is then added to milk to make ice cream - no sugar needs to be added. Later in our trip we had the pleasure of trying some Prickly Pear ice cream.

Our final destination on day 5 was Mesa. Mesa would be home for the next 7 nights.