Thursday, April 30, 2015


After leaving Wupatki and the Sunset Crater area, we traveled through Oak Creek Canyon and down into Sedona proper.  The views in the canyon were beautiful and I wish we had taken time during our stay to go back there and picnic or hike around - it was hard for me to really appreciate everything when I was busy driving that narrow, windy road (and why is it that I always end up with some other car RIGHTONMYASS who thinks I should be jeopardizing my family's safety by exceeding the posted speed limit by, like, A LOT?).

After that beautiful drive, I have to say that I was not impressed with the first section of the town we drove through - it appeared super-crowded and touristy.  I learned later that was, indeed, the excessively touristy section so we just stayed out of that area.  Everything else was stunning - great views of gorgeous red rocks, wonderful shopping and art galleries, great food, etc. 

One of our scheduled activities was to take a Pink Jeep Tour on the Broken Arrow Trail.  This is a view of one of the red rock formations on the tour.  Note the "desert varnish" (black staining) on these rocks.
According to our guide, there are some crazy videos on You Tube of mountain bikers riding horizontally across that white line that you can see on this formation.  I haven't checked it out yet, but apparently, it's pretty amazing.

More rocks.
This is called Submarine Rock...and the jeep actually drove us out onto it.  In fact, the jeep went a lot of places that I didn't think vehicles could go - it was pretty impressive.  We drove down a very steep rock formation called "The Devil's Staircase" and I have no pictures of it because I had my eyes closed while we were doing it!  Meanwhile, Ryan was sitting next to me yelling "YEAH!  Awesome!" the whole time LOL! 

Looking down the center of Submarine Rock.

It was just the beginning of wildflower season so I grabbed this shot of a plant that was blooming.
Prickly pear cactus - the same kind of plant that made the wonderful syrup we had on our pancakes and the sweet and yummy lemonade, too.
Agave plant - also known as a "Cowboy Killer."  Those "leaves" are rigid and covered in spikes - imagine if you fell off your horse onto one of those!  Hence the name...
After about 20-25 years, an agave plant will put up a single stalk like this, bloom, and then the whole plant dies.
After the tour, we spent the afternoon shopping at Tlaquepaque.  It's a collection of shops, galleries and restaurants all built as a replica of a village by the same name in Mexico.  It was quaint and a wonderful artistic setting - plus you could still see the wonderful red rocks while shopping as in this photo.

This was just one of the fountains at Tlaquepaque.  Oh, and did I mention there's a bead shop?  Because you know I always pre-scout any area I'm going to travel to for possible bead buying opportunities LOL!  I always see Cocopah advertising in the bead magazines so it was fun to get to visit their actual location (they have two in Sedona and I went to both).  I'll do a future post on the goodies I picked up there.

Then it was time for some playing around with the camera.  I'm still working on using various settings and trying out different effects.  There were gorgeous flowers all around Tlaquepaque and they made wonderful test this Foxglove.

Not sure what these are, but I thought the colors were so pretty.

Snapdragons always remind me of my grandparents' house in Santa Fe - they had a lot of them in all different colors.
And, of course, I couldn't pass up the pansies (shout out to my Tri Delta sister, Erin).
On another day, we visited a local famous landmark called the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
It's this amazing chapel built right into the rocks in Sedona.  There's a spiraling walkway that goes up and around to the back of the structure and has some of the best views in all of Sedona.  I did not take the above picture (had to grab it from a website) because to get this view, you actually have to set up your camera down where the entrance/parking lot is and on the day we were there, it was a solid line of cars so no place to get out or even take a shot out the window. 

More of the red rocks viewed from the back of the Chapel.

At one point, I learned all the names of these formations, but I forgot them all by the time we got home LOL.

Still, they are all really stunning.

This rock looms over the back of the Chapel...and we learned from a local that there's an eagle's head formation on it...can you spot it?

Metal sculpture of St. Francis of Assisi.  

Pretty angel sculpture. 

Some camera play again - berries on a tree outside the chapel.  

This is a cleft in the rocks on the side of the chapel - part of the year, it's a little waterfall, but once that dries up, a whole bunch of plants bloom.  I thought it was a pretty little spot.

Pansies again.

Cacti growing fruit - I have a vague recollection from another trip to the desert that these are Teddy Bear Cactus, but that might not be correct.
I think it's kind of interesting that they actually have fruit. 

Don't think I'd want to be in charge of harvesting them though.
One of the most amazing things we did took place in near total darkness so I don't have any photos of it.  We signed up for a Sedona Stargazing Tour.  Living in Southern California, there's just too much light to really see much in the way of stars unless you head out to the desert and even then, I've never been completely sure what I was looking at.  In Sedona, this company takes you out about 30 minutes outside the main city to an open field where they have multiple large telescopes set up, laser pointers and experienced astronomers to explain everything.  Not only did our guide point out all of the visible signs of the zodiac (using the laser pointer to highlight them so I knew I was looking at the right thing), but we saw the Milky Way, Venus, Jupiter (including some of the bands and the red eye), 2 other galaxies, a nebula, a star nursery (4 stars being born), and we even watched a satellite pass over our heads during the presentation.
In addition to wonderful sight-seeing, we ate at some fantastic restaurants including the Elote CafĂ© (had their signature dish - Elote - OMG amazing!  It's a grilled corn dish served hot with a hint of spiciness and some cheese and it is to die for) and the Creekside which we enjoyed so much we went there twice for lunch.  It has a fantastic outdoor, 2nd story patio that overlooks a small wilderness area with trees so we got to watch birds and even a lizard on a nearby pole during our meals.  Their homemade peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream was unbelievably delicious!
Oh, and I forgot to mention, we stayed at the Hyatt Pinon Pointe.  Great location right at the main intersection in town, but up on the hill above it so no traffic noise.  It's mostly a nice property, but we had a few quibbles about some things to do with the particular unit we were in.  I'm really only mentioning it because we had quite a surprise there on our last night.  We were coming back from dinner and, if I haven't mentioned it before, it is exceedingly dark in Sedona.  In fact, they are an International Dark Site (see the above info about stargazing!) so very little illumination.  As we approached our unit, we heard a lot of rustling in the bushes - too large to be a lizard, squirrel, rabbit, etc.  To help with the darkness, the hotel had given us some small LED flashlights when we checked in - my son turned his over onto the bushes and to our shock...there was a whole group of javelinas!  There were about 5 total - a larger one and 4 small ones.  I'm assuming it was a mother and some partially grown younger pigs.  Definitely not something I was expecting and I think the pigs were as shocked as we were LOL!
We did one more bit of sight-seeing just outside Sedona, but I'll save that for the next post.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ancient Ruins

You may not have noticed, but I have a tendency to become obsessed with things that grab my interest (beads, sea life, birds...oh, who am I's VERY obvious that I have issues LOL).  One thing that I've been super-interested in since I was a child is native cultures...particularly ancient ones that have left ruins. 

This started when I was given a set of books about life as a girl in various Native American tribes by my grandmother.  Each book described a different tribe or group of tribes - one was about the Eastern seaboard, one about the Plains, one about the pueblos of the Southwest, etc.  They were very detailed about type of dress, jewelry, food, daily life, etc., and had wonderful artwork.  I can still picture the illustration in one of the Pueblo books about the girl gathering multi-colored corn and then having to climb up the outer walls of the pueblos using only finger and toe-holds to take the corn to her mother for grinding.  Between those books and several childhood trips to Bandelier and Mesa Verde, I've always had a fascination for Native American history.

So, I was really excited to learn that there were ruins that were easy to visit along the route that we would take from the Grand Canyon to Sedona.  The place is called Wupatki and even though the high winds were still making it difficult to be outside for too long, I just had to stop and check things out.

Here's an initial view of this large, multi-room location taken from the deck of the visitor's center.
This view shows a large circular structure that the materials say was most likely used for large group gatherings and/or ceremonies.  There is a smaller circular structure off to the right (out of the photo) that is thought to be a ball court.
Here's a slightly more up close view of the main section.  Would you believe that the first park rangers had to live in portions of these ruins in the 1930's?  And they were charged rent for it, too!  Their rooms were located on the back side of the tallest structure in the top left of the photograph.
It's pretty ingenious how all the stones are fit together and held in place with clay mortar so that this much of the structure still remains standing today.  Information at the visitor's center indicated that the men put the stones in place, but the women were master potters and therefore had the knowledge about the clay so they were the ones in charge of applying the mortar.  The women did most of the cooking and childcare, but the men did the weaving.
Mortar stones used for grinding corn.
Continuing further south on the detour that contains these ruins, you can stop off at Sunset Crater National Monument.  I had intended to do this, but we had already done the Watchtower and Wupatki and still had 1-2 hours to drive to Sedona and between everyone getting tired and me not wanting to drive through Oak Creek Canyon (twisting, two-lane, mountain road approach to Sedona) in the dark, we ended up deciding to pass on hiking up to the crater.  I did get the quick reward of seeing a pair of Steller's Jays flit in front of my car just as we were leaving the visitor's center, though.  Super bright blue and so pretty!
Next stop...the red rocks of Sedona!
P.S.  I promise this is all about to become bead-related in some future posts so don't give up on me yet!

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Big Hole in the Ground

After we left Williams and Bearizona, we moved on to spend a couple of nights at the Yavapai Lodge inside the Grand Canyon National Park.  I had hoped we could stay at the El Tovar - which is built right on the rim of the canyon - but apparently it books up at least a year in advance so there were no openings when I called for reservations.  The Yavapai is about a half mile from the rim and I was pleasantly surprised with it.  Very basic in functionality, but right in the woods, rooms were clean and had microwaves and mini-fridges in them and a convenient shuttle to take you pretty much anywhere in the park you want to go.

Unfortunately, we did have to deal with near constant 20 mph winds (with frequent gusts up to 40-50 mph) the entire time we were at the Canyon.  This made staying outside for any length of time rather difficult so we used the shuttle a lot more than I had originally intended and had to do a lot of our observing from inside structures.  I believe this also limited our opportunity to interact with wildlife.  I had received many reports of people seeing deer right outside their doors at the Yavapai, but we didn't have any luck.  I did see some birds, but taking photos was impossible as they were constantly being blown about by the wind - I watched one scrub jay literally get blown off its perch on a rock and out into the canyon and have to fight its way back to a perch in a tree. 

We did still have a great time and managed to find some other highlights like drinking prickly pear lemonade (made from the syrup of the prickly pear cactus fruit) at the Arizona Room of the Bright Angel Lodge and having breakfast (corn and polenta pancakes with prickly pear syrup and pistachio butter and OMG they were so good we went back and had them again the next day!) in the El Tovar dining room overlooking the Canyon, taking the shuttle along the Rim Trail to some of the scenic overlooks and then exiting the park on our last day by stopping at the Yavapai Geology Museum and the Desert Watchtower.

This was our first view of the Canyon from an overlook outside the El Tovar.

In this view, you can see the Colorado River.  It is hard to believe that this river carved the entire Canyon! 

The black staining on the Canyon wall in this photo is called "desert varnish" and is left behind when Spring thaws cause temporary waterfalls to exist as the snow melts in late winter/early spring. 

Remember that Scrub Jay I mentioned?  Here he is on a bench at one of the overlooks.

And then I managed to get this photo of him on the ground before he had his little wind adventure. 

And here he is in the tree - recovering from being blown around.  Other birds I saw at the Canyon, but couldn't get photos of due to the wind, were Mountain Chickadees and Western Bluebirds

As I mentioned, the day we left, we stopped at the Desert View Watchtower.  It was designed in 1932 by architect Mary Colter and was meant to imitate the design style of Native American structures. 

Here is Ryan explaining that the tower is "this big."

The interior has murals and other artwork reminiscent of Native American art.  This is a view of the ceiling inside the tower

I wanted to remember the style and color schemes of some of the art work as inspiration for future jewelry designs.

This was part of one of the murals on the walls.

Large mural.

Wall painting between two windows.

This artwork is done in the style of some of the petroglyphs in the area.  In a future post, I'll be sharing some photos of those actual petroglyphs as we went out to one of the sites near Sedona to see them in person.
I did have one truly unusual experience while at the Watchtower.  Remember I mentioned the high winds?  Well, they were still blowing on that day as we were leaving.  As we headed out to the parking lot, Ryan and my mom split off from me to go check out a crow that was sitting on a picnic table begging for food.  I kept walking towards the parking lot and then suddenly I heard them yelling at me.  I looked up and realized that a HUGE dust devil had just dropped from the sky and was heading right towards me.  Now, I'm not talking the little ankle-sized ones that swirl some trash and leaves across the road...this thing was as wide as a large van is long and it was higher than the top of the trees I was standing near.  I knew I couldn't get out of the way in time so I hunched over around a small metal post that was near me, wrapped my face and head with my arms and proceeded to get pummeled by this thing.  I got hit by quite a bit of debris - fortunately most of it was small, but I did have a bruise on my back from a rock about the size of a silver dollar.  I also had to really scrub my hair that night to get all of the sand and grit out of it.
I guess vacations are partially about having once-in-a-lifetime experiences and if that is so, well, I can check "get hit by mini-tornado" off my bucket list LOL!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mood Lift Bead Porn

Nothing lifts my mood like good bead porn...and I'm feeling the need for that right now so settle in and enjoy some eye candy!

Every once in a while, I realize I've been so busy buying yummy beads that I've forgotten to stock up on important things like...oh, I don't know...findings and clasps LOL!  Kinda hard to put together good designs (or any designs, really) without those necessary basics.  Once I realize that "hey, I have 5 designs ready to finish and NO CLASPS for them", I tend to go on a clasp spree.  The next few photos are the results of one such recent spree.

  Bright copper hook and eye clasps...

...and patinated copper "S" clasp...

...and brass "S" clasps from Designs By Cher.
These cute starfish charms by Kristi Bowman are not pewter or silver, but rather white copper metal clay.  I love the aged, matte look of them.

See above info regarding clasp spree.  This aged bronze shell clasp is from Eden Art.

Of course, just because I'm on a clasp spree doesn't mean I can't pick up a few other items from the same shop while I'm at it like these bronze peacock feather charms also from Eden Art.
Tree Wings Studio has been doing some really fun and interesting things with leather lately.  I love the feathers she's created, but have seen a lot of other people snapping those up so I thought I'd go a different direction and try this flower medallion.  Love the colors!
Suburban Girl always has great ceramic pieces.  I love the soft colors in these blue drops and...

...these pale peach/ivory floral drops.

These earthy, rustic ceramic leaves are from Havana Beads.  That shop also carries lampwork and Mykonos beads/charms.

Copper and enamel disks in green..

...and bright coral from Eden Art Glass.
Bright polymer clay starfish charms in turquoise...

...and sunny yellow/red are from Kristi Bowman.
Beautiful lampwork set in lavender and...

...bright green are from Blueberri Beads.

Hope you enjoyed them.  I am looking forward to some creative time this weekend while the kid is at Boy Scout Camporee.