Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"ROAD SCHOLARS" @ SEDONA'S YAVAPAI POINT

 This is the group of people I spent April 21-25, 2013, with, as a participant in a Road Scholar program ( www.roadscholar.org ), based out of  Sedona, Arizona. (The headquarters for Road Scholar world wide is Boston, Massachusetts.)  It was a hiking program to explore what the locals call "Red Rock Country". 
 All the photos in this particular blog post were taken on our expedition to hike Yavapai Point, just south of Sedona.  Our group traveled via two white, 12 passenger vans to all of our trail heads.
 When anyone hikes or bikes in Red Rock Country, they must have an official "Red Rock Pass" or a federal national parks pass to park a vehicle on Forest Service land.  Some of the trail heads have vending machines like this one, where the visitor can purchase the parking pass.  The pass can also be purchased at the Sedona Chamber of Commerce or the Red Rock Ranger Station .  A daily pass is $5; weekly, $15; annual, $20.  Fortunately, our group did not have to be concerned about the pass, as our leaders had taken care of that detail.
 The Yavapai Trail was well marked, but nonetheless, I recommend taking a photo of the trail map with your phone or camera, in case you need to refer to it later in the hike.  Such a photo also serves as a "Title Shot" whenever you review your photos later.
 Most of our group used hiking sticks to help navigate the uneven terrain we crossed.
 Each morning our group gathered at 8 am to travel to our trail head, so that the sun would be a little less intense as we traversed the desert landscapes.
 My new friend, Reed, from New York state is shown in this photo, sitting on the trail marker.  She is not only resting, but serving as the "trail monitor" for approaching hikers.  You see, none of the trails we were on the entire week had any bathrooms or even, port-a-potties.  Instead, our leader told us there were "pink bushes" and "blue bushes".  When a "relief" stop was necessary, the girls went to the side with the "pink bushes", and the guys went to the side of the trail with the "blue bushes".  It was Reed's job, to make sure that none of the approaching hikers coming up the trail, went to the incorrect side!  On the first evening of orientation for the week, our leader went into great detail as to how we were to deal with urination and defecation along the trails.  I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say, we were admonished to "leave no trace"!
 Our list of gear to bring for the hiking week included a "day pack", that was to be worn on our backs.  These held our snacks, lunches, water, extra socks, "toilet kits", jackets, etc.; considering we were to carry two liters of water every day, they seemed quite heavy when you first started hiking each morning!
 With the bright desert sun, most of the participants followed the advice of the leader, and wore a wide-brimmed hat for protection against sunburn.
 Our leader was a staff member of Northern Arizona University, and would stop throughout the hike to point out various botanical or geological points of interest.  In this photo, he was discussing the giant slabs of rock that had fallen from the mountain above us, and onto the area where we were hiking.
 Our leader also told us to be very careful where we put our hands, and other body parts, as we were climbing up rocks.  If you are not looking where you put your hand or foot, it is very easy to land on a prickly pear cactus or similar "sticky situation."
 In every case, the climb to the summit of the trail was worth it, because of the expansive views one had of the surrounding countryside.
 Our group did not do "technical climbing" with ropes and harnesses.  Rather, we walked along narrow ledges along the rocks' edge.  If one is afraid of heights, this type of hiking might be a bit of a challenge for you!
 Some of our group took advantage of the small amount of shade under the rock face, to rest and recuperate, instead of continuing on to the next outcropping.
 In this photo, hiker Jeff from New York state, is taking a photo of the first hikers to make it to the "diving board", a nickname for the rock ledge that juts out over the landscape below.
 From the "diving board", one can see Sedona to the north, and the Village of Oak Creek to the south.
 After making it to the turnaround point, we started our return trip, inching along like mountain goats, on the narrow trail carved into the mountainside.
 This photo shows my hiking shoes, as I rested with outstretched legs, during our lunch break.  As I ate my lunch in this beautiful setting, I was giving thanks to God for being able to walk to this location, and for being able to see such a glorious landscape. 
 Along this hike, our leader pointed out the Sego Lily ( Calochortus nuttali ).   The word "lily" reminded me of Matthew 6:28 (a part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount ) that says "And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."   That verse was especially meaningful to me on this day, because my appearance indicated that I was obviously NOT worried about clothes for this hike---not a fashionista for sure!  If you would like to learn more about visiting Sedona, just log on to www.VisitSedona.com and I can guarantee that you will find something there that will give you "Miles of Smiles"!!  Tricia
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Friday, April 12, 2013

PARK IT!

 Whenever your view of life gets a little distorted (like the buildings that appear to be crooked in this photo collage!), it is time to regroup, and go enjoy God's great outdoors.  If you live in a large urban area such as Chicago, the quickest way to enjoy the outdoors is by visiting a park.  These photos tell about the amazing Millennium Park in the Loop area of downtown Chicago.  Although it was named  in recognition of the millennial year of 2000, it was not actually completed until 2004.  And even though Millennium Park cost millions to build, there is no admission charge to visit it.   Maybe that is why it is the second most-visited tourist attraction in Chicago, second only to Navy Pier.
 If you enter the park from Michigan Avenue, your first stop will be McCormick Tribune Plaza.
 There you will find the Park Grill which brags that it is the best al fresco eatery in the city, with an expansive view of the city and its people.  The shiny object above the colorful sun umbrellas was specifically designed to sit on the roof of the Park Grill, and is the result of  an art competition that  was held in 1999 .  The designer was Anish Kapoor, and he said his concept was to make it look like a drop of mercury about to splash to the ground.
 The official name of the sculpture is "Cloud Gate", although the locals affectionately refer to it as "The Bean" because of the way it resembles a legume, when seen from the AT&T Plaza section of Millennium Park.  Since it is said to be the most-often photographed items in Chicago these days, it is not surprising that park workers spray it down with Windex two times per day, and scrub the top with Tide two times per year.
 It was paid for by private funding, and cost a whopping $23 million!  That is why I wanted to take this photo of my reflection in it, as it is surely the most expensive mirror I have ever looked into!
 This runner is taking advantage of the "Great Lawn", which spreads out in front of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry.  This concert venue can hold 11,000 patrons, with 4,000 in the fixed seats and 7,000 on the lawn.  The curved steel trellis system over the seating area supports a state-of-the-art sound system, making this an outstanding outdoor venue. 
 This is the largest structure in the park, and is designed to look like a flower opening up.  It is classified as a sculpture, rather than a building, to skirt an 1844 legal designation that this park space be "free of buildings".
 This photo shows The Nichols Bridgeway, which is a 625 foot pedestrian bridge that joins Millennium Park to the Art Institute's Modern Wing.  Both the bridge, and the Modern Art Wing, were designed by Renzo Piano.  The gentle incline of the bridge will gradually take pedestrians up sixty feet, over a city street, and into the third floor entrance of the Art Institute.
 Looking back from the top of the bridge to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion gives the viewer a better grasp of the giant expanse of the Pavilion.
 From the Nichols Bridgeway you will be able to see Lurie Garden, shown in this photograph.  Through its structure and basic design, the Lurie Garden is a model of sustainable horticulture.  It is built over parking garages and an active commuter railroad.  Thus, it has been designated as one of the world's largest green roofs.  Green roofs improve air quality,  conserve energy, minimize stormwater runoff, and help reduce the urban heat island effect.
 It is not surprising that Lurie Gardens will be having a special event for Earth Day on April 20.  You can find out about their Earth Day event, as well as their full schedule of educational offerings, at www.luriegarden.org  .  Although "Earth Day" recognition, as we now know it, has only been around a few years, Genesis 1:1 reminds us that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Now THAT is what I would call the true beginning of "Earth Day"!
 The graceful curves shown in this photograph picture the BP Bridge for pedestrians.  It was also designed by Frank Gehry, who designed the Pavilion.  The bridge was designed to prevent any traffic noise from the street below, from reaching the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which is adjacent to the bridge. 
Millennium Park hosts numerous musical performances throughout the spring and summer months.  Most of the performances are free, but if you want to be assured of one of these comfortable red chairs, you can log onto www.millenniumpark.org to check out the schedule and purchase tickets. 
 Without a doubt, my favorite part of Millennium Park was Crown Fountain.  This is an interactive fountain by Jaume Plensa that features visual images of ordinary Chicagoans on the two large monoliths.  Can you see the face in the fountain farthest away?
 As you get closer to the fountain, you may be surprised, as water periodically shoots from between the lips of the face on the screen.
 There is a shallow basin that collects a small amount of the water sprayed out, for the youngsters to splash in.
 This side view of one of the 50 foot fountain towers, gives a glimpse of the interior, as the sun is shining through the glass bricks. 
 There are LED video screens behind the glass bricks, that create the images.  When I saw this scene, it was like someone was blowing me a kiss through the tree branches!
 This photo shows that youngsters are not the only ones who like to play in the water!  During the summer, you will see kids of all ages splashing and cooling off, from the Chicago heat. 
 These kids have "fully immersed" themselves in the Millennium Park experience, and I would recommend that you do the same.  A day in the park will give you "Miles of Smiles"!  Tricia
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Friday, April 5, 2013

COMPTON GARDENS EXPEDITION

 Compton Gardens is located in Bentonville, Arkansas, on the property that was formerly the residence of Dr. Neil Compton, whose efforts during the 1960's, were a big factor in saving the Buffalo River from being dammed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. 
 Dr. Compton's former home has been remodeled into a Conference Center that can be rented for seminars, workshops, retreats, weddings, and other private events.  Detailed information on rentals is available at www.peelcompton.org .
 Just inside the entrance of the Conference Center is an exhibit room that tells the history of Dr. Neil Compton.  Starting with his birth in 1912, I learned that Neil Compton attended Bentonville schools, then graduated from UAMS in 1939.  His professional career included being a county health officer, a U.S. Navy Medical Corps member, and an OB/GYN physician in private practice in Benton County.  The glass case contains his favorite shirt, which reflects his lifelong passion for exploring and photographing the outdoors.
 Dr. Compton's canoe is a visual aid to illustrate how it was the EXPERIENCE of floating the Buffalo River that convinced the appropriate government policy makers to re-examine the 1956 plan to dam the Buffalo River at Gilbert, Arkansas and Lone Rock, Arkansas.  During the time of re-examination of the issue, Harold and Margaret Hedges of the K.C. Ozark Wilderness Waterways organization arranged for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, a noted conservationist, to float the Buffalo River.  (Author's note: When I learned about the connection of Harold & Margaret Hedges to Justice Douglas's float trip on the Buffalo, it made me especially thankful that my son and I had the opportunity to float the Buffalo River with them, as well!  In fact, the Hedges were a great help to my son and I, because we had a metal canoe with a hole in the bottom.  The Hedges came up with a way to fix it, after confiscating all the chewing gum that was in our church group that day, and skillfully applying the gum to plug up our leaky canoe!)  When the Ozark Society was formed, along with its legal entity called "Save The Buffalo, Inc.", Dr. Neil Compton was elected its first president.  It is only fitting, that a generous gift from the Walmart folks (see photo insert) is responsible for the Neil Compton Exhibit Room, since Dr. Compton was the physician for various members of the Sam Walton family in Bentonville, for many years.
 Having grown up less than 20 miles from the Buffalo River, about the only thing I knew about it as a kid, was that it was the location where my friends and I went to swim.  We passed many a summer afternoon, splashing in the water, and jumping off the bluffs at Pruitt, under the Highway 7 Bridge.  If the dam had been built, that swimming hole, and its gorgeous bluffs, would be deep  under water.  So here is a belated THANK YOU to the Hedges, and Dr. Neil Compton, for your successful efforts to SAVE THE BUFFALO RIVER!
 This "Three Bears" sculpture marks the parking lot for Compton Gardens.  A friend who lives close by told me she uses this parking lot often, when she is visiting Crystal Bridges Museum, rather than the parking lot adjacent to the museum.
 From the parking lot, a visitor can connect to the Crystal Bridges trails, as well as the trails of Compton Gardens.
 A great way to learn about the flora and fauna of this green oasis is by participating in one of their FREE Tuesday Tours, held during the spring.
 There are placards such as this throughout the gardens that can help you get your bearings, plus tell you about the various aspects of the garden that are in the vista you are observing.   I find it is helpful to take a photo of the map of a new place I am visiting, so I can refer to it later, if needed.
 This trail is set up for both walkers and those on a bicycle, and is just one example of trails within the 6.5 acres of the property.
 This chestnut tree has the special designation of being an "Arkansas Champion Tree".  I would say Dr. Neil Compton, also is deserving of the designation "Arkansas Champion", and in fact, he was the recipient of numerous awards for his public service.
 I especially liked the way the landscaping was done along this woodland stream, so that it would be just as attractive when it was dry, as when water was running through it. 
 It also helps that the trails are wheel-chair accessible.
 There are numerous places along the trail, where visitors can get off the paved path, and venture onto native stone areas.
 This man-made bench blends in with the contours of the land, and looks like a perfect place for a "Kodak memory moment"!
 The circular "amphitheater" style of landscaping shown in the foreground of this photo, blends in with the circular designs of the round building that contains pubic restrooms.
 Even the "restroom" needs of your doggies have been planned for!
 This area of Compton Gardens has been designed with features that make it a place to watch the native birds, as they flit from branch to branch of the canopy of trees above.
 Just a short walk on the trail from Compton Gardens will put you at the lower entrance the the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art ( www.crystalbridges.org ).  I combined my visit to Compton Gardens with a visit to the Normal Rockwell special exhibit on display at the museum until May 27. 
 This photo insert shows the way that the trails entrance to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art works in harmony with the trails of Compton Gardens.  It reminded me of one of the verses from the 30-Day Church Challenge, currently going on at First Baptist Church in Mountain Home ( www.myfbcmh.com ).  The verse is from Roman 12:16, and says "Live in harmony with one another."  I am very thankful for the ways that the trails of Compton Garden and the trails of Crystal Bridges "live in harmony with one another", and I hope I can follow their example in my own life.  I know doing so will give "Miles of smiles" !!  Tricia
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