Historical Astoria

I love a crisp autumn day—fiery leaves aiming for the ground under a blue sky, the cool air challenging the sun’s warmth on our faces.

But enjoying this time of year is even more fun while exploring a few special places in a picturesque seaside town. One such place I recently paid a visit to: Astoria.

Originally one of the oldest settlements on the West Coast—named after John Jacob Astor—this Oregon jewel carefully preserves its amazing past, proudly sharing it with today’s visitors. Just passing through for the day, my husband and I fancied a walk and made a stop or two…

Back in time

The first noticeable—very picturesque—feature in this coastal-river town is only 50 years old: the Astoria-Megler Bridge. Surprisingly, this pair of small towns is home to one of the longest truss bridges in the nation.

Replacing a ferry system that was always hampered by crazy currents, fog and other weather-related challenges, this attractive span does its part to connect two states, along with a road that connects three countries. Not bad for 1966! We could see it from just about anywhere in town; it likes to photobomb…

Tea time

What does a successful local river bar pilot and businessman do for retirement? Build an 11,000+ square foot Victorian home of course! Captain George Flavel wanted something stylish that he and his family could enjoy, entertain, relax and come home to after visiting the world. Sporting 12-14’ ceilings on the first two floors (and in the basement), I’d say they enjoyed plenty of elbow room…

Now maintained by the Clatsop County Historical Society (and on the National Register of Historic Places), this beautiful structure known as the Flavel House entertains visitors from all over the world. And if you’re up for tea and scones (like me—always!), I suggest booking a tour…

Entering through the front door, we were escorted to the dining room and conservatory. Taking our seats at the table, I couldn’t help but look around at the ornate wooden walls, floors and furnishings. Enjoying our delicious tea and scones (as any Victorian era group would), we listened to our guide take us through what a typical day was like for this home’s original occupants.

After enjoying one last cuppa, we continued the tour on foot, climbing the sturdy winding staircases up and up. Walking through each room and peering through the many windows, I loved seeing the accessories: the steamer trunks fit for world travel, the art and the fireplaces. And the “hidden” toilets. I guess no one was in the mood to see that particular indoor plumbing feature…

We ended the tour at the Carriage House, where we watched a short video on the Flavel family history in Astoria. I also paid my respects to the gift shop on our way out…

Maritime

Strolling along Riverwalk, we found ourselves enjoying the past coming together with the present. Like watching the town’s historic trolley making its way along the water’s edge while the epic bridge quietly guards from above.

We happened upon several historical markers along the walkway, but there’s one that impressed me the most: Maritime Memorial Park. One would expect a maritime city to have such a special and beautiful way of honoring Astorians who died at sea. But seeing two workers adding new plaques made me realize that a life at sea remains a challenging way to make a living.

Astoria’s river-meets-ocean locale was a perfectly picturesque stop for us, before continuing on our way. But I would love to return for a long weekend, just so we could explore a little more. Its beauty and history transcends all seasons. J ⚓️

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Sitka’s walkable beauty

To enjoy cruising with my friends means to enjoy a lot of great food too. Which also means needing to do a lot of walking to keep up with my culinary intake. So… to help me with my walkies goal, this day’s shore excursion of choice took my cabin mate and me on a hike through a small part of the largest national forest in the United States: Tongass.

Encompassing a big chunk of the Pacific temperate rain forests, this gorgeously green place is home to five species of salmon—and their prey—as well as old growth trees, countless critters and floral varieties galore. And for a day, me—and our eager group of hikers…

Cause and care

Seeing an eagle in flight is a pretty cool thing—hunting, soaring or resting for just a moment on a tree branch, this beautiful raptor creates excitement for spectators with every glimpse. But when these feathered flying machines run into trouble—into cars, wires or other human obstacles—life becomes an instant struggle. Our first stop for the morning? A place that helps rehabilitate such birds of prey: the Alaska Raptor Center.

This wonderful nonprofit facility aids all injured raptors (and non-raptor birds too) with rescue, rehabilitation and rerelease into the wild, and has done so since 1980. Entering the building, our group was brought up to speed on the history of the organization, as well as raptor characteristics. But… how does one treat a bird of prey without compromising its chances of returning home? With a very sophisticated routine. And a pretty cool physical therapy room…

Entering the observation area of the raptors’ PT building meant we had to mind our manners. Not that the birds could see us, thanks to the one way mirror and camouflage netting. Recovering eagles (and other birds, like owls) receive their food—primarily salmon—twice daily, but no actual interaction with humans.

In an effort to reacclimate the birds to their natural environment, openings near the ceiling allow outside air and weather elements to enter the room. Perches and ropes of varying heights serve as PT equipment. The higher a bird can go, the readier it is to go home. But what about those who can no longer make the climb?

Outside the building, just behind the PT room, we observed the raptors’ “retirement” facility. These retirees have rooms and netted areas open to the sky. They also receive quit a bit of human interaction, participating in educational events like field trips—even traveling on airplanes and making guest appearances in the lower 48!

Canopy and culture

Leaving the Raptor Center, we continued our journey on foot, heading for the next leg of our adventure: the Sitka National Historical Park. Honoring both the native Tlingit tribe and the Russian settlers of Sitka, this park features beautiful wide trails, lots of totem poles, historical and wildlife placards—and TONS of salmon.

While I expected to see our fishy friends swimming upstream, I did not expect to see them—so many of them—just chillin. From our trail’s footbridge, it was easy to spot Pink and Chum salmon in the shallow water, resting. Preparing. It was as if they were waiting for a starting gun to fire…

Walking along under this incredible canopy of trees, our guide Dana talked about the salmon, fish-loving bears and eagles, and the forest itself: the trees, plants and flowers, and the importance of the rainforest’s existence that keeps it all in balance.

Exiting the forest, we came to the park’s visitor center. And gift shop! I picked up two pairs of earrings featuring both the eagle and the raven—birds that symbolize a key balance in the representation and harmony of the Tlingit people.

Colony and church

Continuing our on-foot adventure, we followed the Sitka Sea Walk along the marina toward the city’s center. We stopped at a few points of interest along the way, one in particular that claims space on the National Register of Historic Places: St. Peters-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.

Completed in 1899, this rustically attractive place of Christian worship features a Star of David at the center of its gorgeous rose window. Truth be told, it wasn’t the religious symbol the Episcopalians requested on the order form. A slight mix-up at the factory.

But… given the craftsmanship and time put into this beautiful stained glass feature—and the distance it had to travel from the East Coast to Sitka (no Panama Canal back then), they decided to keep it. Respectfully, they came to honor the window’s symboled Star as a reminder of their own faith’s very beginnings.

Do you know that Russia’s presence in Sitka lasted over 100 years? Initially drawn to this area for fur trading, Russian settlers planted roots in this coastal Alaskan town, establishing a colony and creating their own home in the New World. We found out a little more as we approached the city’s center…

Saint Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, established 1837 and now a national historic landmark, houses several pieces of very old Russian-American art. Under the beautiful green domes, a fire in 1966 claimed most of the original structure, but not before many of the priceless artifacts were rescued by some very daring souls.

Chips and coffee

Having worked up an appetite—specifically for fish & chips—my friend and I asked our tour guide for a recommendation. Her choice? The Sitka Hotel Restaurant and Lounge.

Not too far from the cathedral, we located its wooden façade and walked in. Clever driftwood art decorated the walls, with Mason jar lights illuminating the seating area. We found our table, placed our order and enjoyed some of the best fish & chips I’ve ever had!

To round out my Sitka mealtime, I topped off my tank with a latte from A Little Something espresso. A colorful place that serves an excellent cup of joe.

Our walkies adventure over, we made our way to the shuttle stop and awaited our ride back to the ship. Reflecting on our day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the clear stream, teeming with salmon, waiting for the next—possibility last—leg of their journey, just to complete their circle of life.

Except for a few bear and eagle interrupting their trip, I hope these fishy friends of the Tongass will always have that chance. J 🌲

 

Golden Skagway

“GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!” In the history of eye-catching newspaper headlines, this Seattle Post Intelligencer attention getter from July 17, 1897 did its job. Gold fever hit the nation right between the eyes. Suddenly everyone knew about such places as the Klondike River, Canada’s Yukon Territory and one small, soon-to-be-very-busy Alaska town: Skagway.

Located at the base of White Pass Trail—declared one of the “easier” treks to the Yukon gold fields—Skagway became a boomtown for many stampeders and other opportunistic businesses. Preparing to trek through the rough, tough, freezing and unforgiving wilderness wasn’t easy; neither was the trip itself.

Many gold seekers—and their animals—didn’t make it. Some managed to find their way back, whether or not they found gold. By sharp contrast, my recent trip up the pass was a lot easier…

Scenic route

Looking for a relaxing way to enjoy the mountain scenery, our cruise group of travel companions chose the White Pass Summit Excursion. How exciting to ride in an actual vintage train car! We boarded not too far from our ship, and began our own climb up to the pass. Along the way, we were treated to gorgeous views and brought up to speed on the train’s features—and its original purpose…

In that first year of attempts to reach the Klondike, and with soooooo many would-be miners struggling for a safer way over the pass than by foot, railroad companies and their tycoons soon found their way to Skagway.

Making our way through tunnels and along the rugged terrain, our train conductors and staff shared details of the train’s history along with fun facts about the flora and fauna visible just outside our cars.

The thrilling part for me was standing on the platforms between the connecting cars—one amazingly unobstructed view after another! I tried to imagine the views had by the construction workers all those years ago…

Construction madness

Just nine months after the infamous GOLD! newspaper headline hit the streets, the new White Pass & Yukon Railroad Company began construction. And about nine months after that, the main track reached the summit. It would be another year before the tracks made it all the way to the Yukon—about the time the gold rush came to an end.

Crazy working conditions for the thousands who built this engineering marvel, but appreciated by all who dared brave their way to—and from—their would-be treasure. And for the WP&YR, there was plenty of life after the gold rush.

From my perch on the platform, I loved seeing the train itself make its way along the bends and trestles of the track. The spectacular waterfalls—and trees growing from rock—were breathtaking.

But our own trip hit a bit of a snag; technical difficulties with one of the switches caused us to make a stop near the summit. We had to turn back before reaching our destination: White Pass.

The conductors and crew handled it all professionally, even assuring price discounts—and free swag—for all passengers onboard. Heading back down the tracks, I thought briefly of those hopeful miners and critters hiking up the freezing trail who had to turn back too. Only they wouldn’t have been issued a refund…

Boomtown

Ready to stretch my legs after our train ride, I made my way along the boardwalks and sidewalks of Skagway in search of souvenirs. And coffee. And a pastry. In general, such items aren’t terribly difficult to find in your average tourist town, except my family back home requested game meat. Um… okay…

I’d already located my java beverage at the White Pass Coffee Bar, but wanted to check items off my souvenir list first before enjoying my treats. As luck would have it, I found such gamey gifts—and my pastry—at Klondike Doughboy. Hurray! What a fun, clean adorable store—and the fry bread is amazing! They had a good selection of vacuum-sealed cured meat treats too; perfect for my shopping quest.

I doubled back to the coffee bar for my iced latte, then found a park bench to rest and refresh with my delicious fry bread and caffeine goodness. Ahhhhhhh…yum…

As I made my way back to the ship, I happened upon placards, statues and old time photos honoring the many people, businesses and events that put this boomtown on the map. For the very few fortunate enough to find gold, their claims and names would make the record books.

For everyone else, well… some are forever captured in the many sepia photos showcased throughout the town. I think it’s pretty cool of Skagway to remember and honor those who dared to dream; to reach those fields of gold. J💰

 

Up-n-down Juneau

Between the Gastineau Channel and the bases of Mount Roberts and Mount Juneau sits Alaska’s capital city: Juneau. Bearing a closer resemblance to a quaint coastal village than to a US government seat, this Southeast Alaskan hub packs a lot into its limited—and somewhat unreachable—locale.

At a recent cruise stop, I was able to experience a few of the literal highs and lows this town has to offer. While my cabin mate headed for Mendenhall Glacier, I opted for afternoon tea—about 1800 feet up…

Waterfront

Looking for a shore excursion that included a tour guide’s expertise (but also allowed for personal wandering time downtown) lead me to Gastineau Guiding’s Town, Tram & Timberline Trek. Our first stop? Saying hello to Tahku, the Humpback whale, who greats all his visitors with a splash roughly every few minutes.

This impressive fountain and statue—a beautiful life-like replica—lives at Overstreet Park, near the Juneau-Douglas Bridge. The statue’s detail is incredible, from the full breach pose down to the whale’s barnacles. Tahku came to town to help celebrate Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood. He’s simply gorgeous!

Upslope

After waving goodbye to Tahku, we headed to our mountainous mode of transportation: the Mount Roberts Tramway. Our sophisticated coach in the sky took us 1800 feet up (giving us spectacular views in the process!) to the next leg of our adventure: the Alpine Loop Trail.

Jocelyn—our fantastic guide—lead us along this meandering 1.5 mile path from the subalpine to the alpine level of Mount Roberts, bringing us up to speed on native plants and trees, the people of Juneau (native and otherwise), and also the “bear” facts, should we encounter any of the large fuzzy critters…

The views from the trail were amazing! The Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock provided natural frames for many a photo, including those I took of the cruise ships docked in the channel waaaaaaaay below our mountain perch. Several trees along the trail also sported carvings—stories being shared with each passerby…

Time for tea! One of my favorite events of any day, our little group of hikers entered the Alpine Tea Room, and enjoyed a few locally made teas, along with jams made from Alaskan berries and plants. My favorite brew was the Alaskan Wild Rose tea. And yes, I made a purchase of this item (plus a few other odds and ends) at their gift shop in the Mount Roberts Nature Center. Don’t judge…

Downtown

After returning to sea level via the tram, I made my way through the very walkable streets of Juneau to a rather famous watering hole: the Red Dog Saloon. Known as the oldest tourist attraction in town, it definitely has that “come inside” appeal. A friend and former Juneau resident suggested I stop in for a drink. Well, I didn’t want to let her down…

 

Meeting up with my cabin mate, we “bellied up to the bar” (…no—really! Not one table available; just two bar stools…), ordered our drinks and nosh, then swung around every so often to enjoy the live music. The sawdust on the floor politely hid the dirt from my hiking shoes. The décor on walls distracted us—in a fun way—from getting too carried away in conversation. One novelty in particular caught my eye: Wyatt Earp’s gun, framed and unclaimed behind the bar. Legendary!

While enjoying the sights and sounds of this happening place from the comfort of my own bar stool, I very much enjoyed my Copper River Queso and Chips as well (made with a ton of white cheddar!), along with a nice white Chardonnay all the way from California. But before you think I wimped out on having a real saloon drink, we ordered the penultimate shot: a Duck Fart…

You heard me! One part Kahlua, one part Bailey’s Irish Cream and one part Whiskey. After seeing this drink promoted just about everywhere in Alaska, I knew I couldn’t head back to the lower 48 without adding this experience to my memory bank. Truth be told, it was delicious! I now have a new favorite shot glass beverage, along with a copy of the recipe on a Red Dog Saloon magnet souvenir…

Our short-but-sweet trip to Juneau complete, we headed back to the ship. By sea or by air—the only two ways in and out of this capital city. Even though arrival and departure methods are a bit limited, a trek to this town is well worth the effort. And a Duck Fart at the Red Dog is worth it too… J 🥃

 

Fetching Ketchikan

For centuries—long before art became objects at auctions or entered studios and performance halls—drawings, carvings, music and dance were the way to share life’s experiences. Pass along history and traditions. Tell stories. Give information. Simply put, to communicate.

Totem poles, carved and painted by Pacific Northwest coastal native tribes, are beautifully enduring works of art that tell stories and share history in a most unique way.

On a recent cruise stop in Ketchikan, Alaska, I learned a few things about these spectacular carvings, along with the migration of settlers from the lower 48, and the impressions left behind by one key US government official—recorded forever at the top of a towering cedar trunk…

Tall carvings

The year: 1868. The place: Portland Canal, in the new Alaska Territory. The visitor: Secretary of State William Henry Seward. His hosts? The Tlingit people, Tongass tribe. Welcoming Mr. Seward and celebrating his arrival with a total of four potlatches, they looked forward to successful trade relations between their tribes and the United States.

The Tlingit even erected a totem pole in his honor. But when Mr. Seward neglected to return the favor—that is host the same number of potlatches honoring the native tribes—his likeness was marked in red. Something akin to indicating cheapness. Oops…

Walking around the Saxman Native Village, I noticed bare trunks that featured an animal or a person only at the top. I soon learned that all totem poles tell a complete story, which doesn’t always involve carving the entire log. And no sanding—carving tools only, with paint as a finishing touch.

Six feet of the trunk is buried in the ground for stability. And when the totem would fall, it was left as is to “return to the Earth.” Nowadays, many totem poles are being restored, anchored by a sturdy base to prevent rotting. True artistry and skill are apparent in each standing pillar of history—each a tall wooden, timeless storybook. I was mesmerized…

Long boardwalks

Leaving the village, our guide dropped us off in town to further explore on our own. The wooden structures—especially along Creek Street—made me think of the “Old West” (substituting tall evergreens for tumbleweeds).

Elevated boardwalks meandered along Ketchikan Creek, allowing for easy access to hillside residences, shops and businesses, as well as providing excellent views and vista points.

Seeing salmon swimming upstream and eagles attempting to disrupt that process, just by leaning against a nearby shop railing, seemed a bit surreal. Wildlife doing its thing alongside tourists doing theirs…

Big business

Happening upon a shop called “Christmas in Alaska,” I couldn’t resist. In addition to finding wonderful souvenirs—and holiday trinkets I suddenly couldn’t do without—I discovered something called Devil’s Club. Native to Alaska, its salve is great for things like calming the itchy bug bite on my hand…

Something else I learned: this store isn’t open during the holidays; it is only open for tourist season. Cruise ships have a huge impact on the economy of this otherwise small Alaskan town.

Heading back to the pier to board my floating hotel, I thought about what it must take for this beautiful coastal community to be showtime ready, May through September. Maybe, one day, there will be a totem pole to tell that story to future passers by. Hopefully without featuring a lot of red paint…J 🎨

Sounders FC pride

Ah, football… there’s really nothing better than a contest between two rivals to excite and unite the fans. From the pre-game events to the post-game victory celebrations (or sorrow-drowning at a local pub), a team’s faithful followers are one. No matter their social class or DNA, togetherness comes from sharing the joy of cheering for the athletes who in turn represent a very special place: the fans’ home town.

Seattle is fortunate enough to host not one but two football teams: American football’s Seattle Seahawks, and soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC. Recently, we had the privilege of attending a very special Sounders match (against local rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps FC) honoring the beloved retiring football club player Chad Marshall, as well as honoring Seattle Pride 2019. And just how do the Sounders roll? In living color…

Assemble

The stadium’s neighborhood is a busy place, but especially so on game days. We arrived early (about 90 minutes before the match) so we could 1) park with ease, 2) visit the Pro Shop for souvenirs, and 3) have time for a drink at The Ninety. Recommended by our daughter’s boyfriend—who kindly took us to the game—this locale is not your average sports pub.

Open to the public only on matchdays, one can see the Sounders trophy case up close, grab a beer (wine for me today!), and even watch MLS matches in progress on the monitors. As a big fan of Dale Chihuly’s art, I especially enjoyed seeing one of his chandeliers here—sporting team colors—in this very special gathering place.

Now revved up and ready to cheer, we headed to the main event…

Unite

Our stadium’s had a few names since opening its doors in 2002, but for the last eight years we know it officially as CenturyLink Field. “The Clink” really is a beautiful structure. Seating 68,740, it also showcases millions of dollars worth of art. Heading to our seats was like passing by museum walls—fun and elaborate artwork everywhere!

Wanting a little something to eat prior to start time, we hit the concourse and found a favorite restaurant of ours: Din Tai Fung—one of 20 concessions inside The Clink. And after picking up an iced tea at the Starbucks Coffee Cart, I was good to go.

The pre-game events were show-worthy on their own. Chad’s smiling face was on the big screens, and literally in everyone’s hands (as a paper mask of sorts). Number 14 and his family were honored center field as his fans cheered their appreciation.

A giant pride flag flew above the scoreboard. Pride colors were featured throughout the stadium reader boards, souvenirs and team jerseys. But the grandest display of the symbolic colors came from the Emerald City Supporterstifo—under the scoreboard and covering the entire width of the field.

And one more honor to share with the fans: the singing of the Canadian and US national anthems while the countries’ respective flags were held outstretched on the field. United in our excitement, we were ready…

Celebrate

The game. Plenty of shots taken from both teams, keeping the goalkeepers busy and the crowd on its feet. But the real excitement came when a goal scored by the Sounders was called back due to the kicker stepping on the keep’s foot. Okay, so I’m not an official, but… where was he supposed to step? He’d just kicked a goal! Ah, but they didn’t ask me…

After that, the fans on both sides were extra vocal, pretty much exploding when the Sounders scored again in the last few seconds of the match. Wowza! The win gave the home team three points toward earning the Cascadia Cup, as well beating their cross-border rivals, thus adding a little sweetness to honoring retiring #14 and Seattle Pride.

As an added bonus, the four of us were able to step onto the field, post game. My first time ever, standing on a professional team’s field! And yes, I felt tiny, and a little in awe. Athletes who put their hearts and souls (and bodies) into playing a very demanding sport—in front of thousands—that’s something. Something worthy of pride. J ⚽️

 

 

The Wild West

“Wide, open spaces.” “Riding off into the sunset.” “Go west, young man.” When you hear these old familiar phrases, what comes to mind? For me—rugged terrain, dusty trails, ghost towns, saloons, wooden facades, careworn faces, tumbleweeds…and land. Lots of land, as far as the eye can see. Over the last couple of centuries, the quest to defend or claim the land “out west” has flavored our history books, stage and TV shows, and of course the silver screen.

Legends—part truth, part romance—helped immortalize the historical events that shaped this southwest corner of today’s United States. My recent visit to southern Arizona gave me a chance to see for myself how this desert way of life preserves some of its past in the present..

Whimsical history

Ever heard of the O.K. Corral—or Boothill? Well, a shootout near one lead to a few burials at the other, all in the city of Tombstone, “The town too tough to die.” A three-hour drive south of Phoenix placed us squarely back in time—1881 to be more specific. Our first stop: the Boothill Graveyard.

It’s first official name was the Tombstone Cemetery, giving a final resting place to many of the town’s early inhabitants. From 1878 until the late 1880s, law abiding citizens and criminals alike were buried here until a new cemetery opened in a different part of town. Very soon, the incoming population of what became known as “the old cemetery” slowed down considerably.

After decades of neglect, tremendous effort on the part of many local individuals and historians brought this burial site back to life (so to speak), replacing what was left of the old wooden markers with stone lookalikes. The name Boothill, most likely a product of the early western cinemas, stuck.

Walking the cemetery, plot guidebooks in hand, we learned a bit about how and why some of Boothill’s occupants met their demise. The harsh terrain surrounding this place was a grave reminder to me of just how tough day-to-day living could be, all those years ago.

Our guidebook indicated a few slightly familiar names located in Row 2: the Clantons and the McLaurys. Three of them died October 26, 1881—shot to death—in a vacant lot just behind a rather famous landmark: the O.K. Corral.

In 1877, Tombstone became a boomtown, thanks to its founder Ed Schieffelin and his discovery of silver. Even in the days before cell phones and social media, news traveled fast—that is, when instantaneous potential wealth was at stake.

Prospectors and other opportunists arrived by the hundreds, ready to seek their fortune. And this eclectic collection of people, massed in such a concentrated area, experienced their fare share of trouble. Enter, stage left, a trio of brothers: the McLaurys and the Clantons—the cowboys, and the Earps, along with one Doc Holliday—the law.

Weeks of heated arguments between the two sides culminated in a gunfight that somehow became famous. The location: a vacant lot behind the O.K. Corral. After just 30 seconds, Frank & Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton were dead. We timed our visit just right…

Entering the O.K. Corral’s arena, we purchased tickets that also included a 24-minute multimedia presentation of the town’s history, along with a live outdoor stage re-enactment of the gunfight. We climbed into the grandstands and took our seats, awaiting an infamous fight.

As instructed by “the law,” we cheered for Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil & Morgan, and Doc Holliday. And booed “cowboys” Frank & Tom McLaury, and Billy & Ike Clanton. Before the first bullet flew, Ike managed to run to safety, but the rest of his clan were not so lucky.

Post “gunfight,” we enjoyed the theatre and the museum grounds, as well as walking around Tombstone, visiting its many shops and other attractions. We even stopped by their local newspaper office—now a museum too—with plenty of printed history and items to peruse.

Leaving town, we had a newfound appreciation for our automobile, giving us the opportunity to ride off—comfortably—into the sunset…

Wild beauty

Have you ever seen a saguaro cactus? As in up close? Found only in the Sonoran Desert, this monumental symbol of the Southwest can grow to over 40 feet tall and live close to 200 years. Scottsdale’s Pinnacle Peak Park fast became my favorite way to walk among these beautiful giants.

Entering the trail head, we began our climb toward the peak. Expertly maintained, the path wove us through a terrain featuring several different cactus types, along with many other desert dwelling plants and shrubbery. The trail also provided our mini hike with rock formations, informational placards—and one stunning view after another!

But, for me, the stars of the show were the saguaro. Striking in every way, their stillness was almost statue like. Given their height, they could very well dominate their surroundings—only they didn’t. Instead, saguaros were living in harmony with their trail neighbors—flora and fauna alike.

Western eatery

Whenever I’m in this part of the world, I use my internal divining rod of hunger (and my phone’s GPS) to locate the nearest In-N-Out Burger. This restaurant chain of fresh deliciousness has fed hungry burger fanatics “out west” since 1948. And—yippee!—there’s one in Scottsdale!

It’s a simple menu too: just three combo meals offered, but served up perfectly every time by a truly friendly and professional staff. And their eateries are always clean, inside and out. My go-to order: Combo #2 Cheeseburger, fries and a drink—usually iced tea for me… as always, it hit the spot.

There’s something magical about Arizona’s wide open spaces. The rugged beauty, the wild history and the sheer grit people needed (all those years ago) just to survive. Be it silver, lots of land or other opportunities, I wonder—in the 1800s—what did the residents think of their surroundings? If only the old saguaro could talk… J 🌵