Learn Something New Every Day!


Opening SignOutside of Williams, Arizona, is a tourist attraction called Bearizona.  The sign was hokey enough that it caught my eye as I drove past.  It certainly was not on my list of places to visit in the area.  Still—that night—I checked it out online and learned it was a drive-through wildlife adventure that housed lions and wolves and bison. Oh my.  I decided I might give the place a try, if I finished planned activities some day in the late afternoon.

IMG_6487A few days later, I was finishing my visit at Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument late in the afternoon, so I headed for Bearizona. I arrived a bit after 4 pm, knowing the place closed to new entrants at 5 pm.  I was the only tourist in sight!  The entrance fee was steep:  $20 per person (not car!) with tax added on.  The drive-through portion was only 3-miles wandering through some pine trees, so I was more and more doubtful that visiting Bearizona was a good idea.  At least some of the animals were rescues, and the habitats seemed very open and natural.

3-mile loop map

Then I started the drive through Bearizona—and had a great time!  The attendant handed me a GPS gizmo that narrated the tour over the car radio, sharing info on each animal group as I drove into its area.  Each car could travel at its own pace, even stopping along the road at times.  A couple cars entered after me, but rushed through the little drive as soon as possible.  I was very content to sit and watch and wait to see what animals would become visible.  Most came out to play!

First up were the Rocky Mountain Goats and American Burros.  They did not do much, but were content to let tourists watch them.




There were also American Bison and Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep.  They did not do much either but stand around and eat, but they seemed content enough.  Later in the year, maybe they would not be molting.



IMG_6613A separate exhibit showed White Bison.  The two tourists who started the tour after me zipped by me as I was waiting and watching these big beasts.  After they rushed past, the baby bison came into view.  He’d been there, just hidden behind his mom.





The Black Bears were pretty active.  Younger ones were playing together, but it was not easy to catch them on film.  Some were content to sit—or nap—so I could take their picture.







By far my favorite animal was the Artic Wolf.  Two of them were chasing each other in a great game of tag, seeming very much like dogs I have known and loved.  And the four of them greeted each other in a little group, as if they had not seen each other for quite some time.  Watching these wolves was a delight!










I arrived at Bearizona too late in the day to enjoy one of the Bird of Prey shows.  I also opted to not wander through the little petting zoo with a handful of kids who were there ahead of me.  But when those options are included, the cost does not seem quite so exorbitant.  If you are ever in the area, I would suggest you stop and enjoy these animals.  Just make sure your windows are clean for the best photo opportunities.  Funny.  The zoo stresses you cannot have your windows rolled down as you drive through the bear and wolf enclosures.  I sure would have loved to pet them!

They seemed interested in me too!


“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” Henry David Thoreau

“Solitude never hurt anyone.  Emily Dickinson lived alone, and she wrote some of the most beautiful poetry the world has ever known. . . then went crazy as a loon.”  spoken by Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons (Matt Groening)


IMG_7063In April, I traveled a total of 3,870 miles on a two-week road trip into the Southwest.  I knew what cities I would stay in for a few days each time and had some key attractions I wanted to visit.  But most of the trip was going to be simply wandering Arizona and New Mexico, enjoying the scenery and history of the area.  I even traveled a bit on an old stretch of historic Highway 66.  I had a wonderful time.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

I travel alone on these trips—and typically someone will ask, “Why?”  Speculation is often that I would be lonely.  But that is never the case! Solitude is not loneliness—and I love the peace and quiet of the back roads I tend to travel. On those roads, it is easier to pull over and stop to watch some clouds drift by, appreciate some wildflowers, listen to some birds, even see some animals I wouldn’t otherwise notice.  Even without such wonders, the wide open spaces can be relaxing.  How can that be lonely?

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly

My overall game plan was to stay a few nights in Flagstaff, Arizona; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Gallup, New Mexico, taking day trips from those locations.  In part, I just wanted to immerse myself in the area geography, driving the backroads and visiting the small cities that are an integral part of the Tony Hillerman novels I enjoy.  I also knew I wanted to visit Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and Four Corners.  Other trips would be decided each day, from a list of possibilities I had generated.  I was also open to just following signs and seeing what I could see.

Some Views from Monument Valley:

Merrick Butte

Merrick Butte




El Malpais National Monument

El Malpais National Monument

Eventually, I will share photos of some of the major stops I made on this two-week adventure.  But many of the memories are the smaller moments of each day, some that could not even be captured with a photo. For example, every morning as I left the Gallup hotel, there was a little sparrow in the tree by where I parked who sang good morning loud and clear.  But he was shy and never, ever let me capture his photo.  In fact, many birds and even some small animals kept me company along the road, but rarely let me take their pictures.  It is always a fun little game to try to catch them on film.

Some of these smaller memories I was able to preserve in photographs.

IMG_6906The promise of rain was a constant companion.  I was only ever really caught in a storm a couple of times, but the clouds were gorgeous almost every day.  One day, it even snowed on me in Santa Fe.  How cool is that?






Lilacs in a Back Yard in Gallup

Lilacs in a Back Yard in Gallup

Flowers were also plentiful.  They always brighten any day!  Some flowers were in the cities, like some gorgeous lilac bushes that made me think of my mom.  One stretch near Shiprock, Aizona, offered miles and miles of wildflowers lining the road.  Other times, wildflowers offered isolated splashes of color and beauty.

False Red Yucca (Hesperaloe), Las Vegas

False Red Yucca (Hesperaloe), Las Vegas

False Red Yucca Close Up

False Red Yucca Close Up

Some views around Shiprock, Arizona, mostly Desert Mallow:





Canyon de Chelly Roadside

Canyon de Chelly Roadside

Along the Verde River

Along the Verde River

Small Cactus Holding On Near Sedona

Small Cactus Holding On Near Sedona

Taking Root in Monument Valley

Taking Root in Monument Valley

Yucca in Bloom, Monument Valley

Yucca in Bloom, Monument Valley

Yucca Bloom Up Close

Yucca Bloom Up Close

Growing Out of Lava, Sunset Crater National Park

Growing Out of Lava, Sunset Crater National Park

Some Flowers in Petrified Forest National Park:

Desert Poppies

Desert Poppies

Indian Paintbrush Close Up

Indian Paintbrush Close Up

Common Name is Wild Apache Rose (I think)

Common Name is Wild Apache Rose (I think)

Apache Rose Close Up

Apache Rose Close Up

Shiprock National Monument in the Background

Shiprock National Monument in the Background

A few animals also cooperated as I traveled along, letting me catch them on film.  Horses wandered along the road at several locations.  Prairie Dogs were chittering alarms as I bounced along a gravel road traversing Valles Caldera National Preserve. Most scampered away, but eventually a few sentries came back to their posts.  I also shared shade with a little bunny on a break at the El Malpais National Conservation Area.

Prairie Dog, Valles Caldera National Preserve

Prairie Dog, Valles Caldera National Preserve

Near Canyon de Chelly

Near Canyon de Chelly

IMG_7152At one spot some sheep were literally running along the side of the road.  A ram was trailing behind, trying desperately—it seemed to me—to get back to the front of his little flock. That’s one of the hardest things about being a good leader—you need good followers!


This little trip confirmed for me that Nature and Solitude are great traveling companions!

Canyon de Chelly Rim Drive

Canyon de Chelly Rim Drive

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“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”  E. B. White

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”  Anne Frank

“If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature.”  John Burroughs

“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility.  This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.”  Albert Einstein

“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone.  It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”  Paul Tillich

“We live in a very tense society.  We are pulled apart. . . . and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together. . . . I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.”  Helen Hayes

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”  Lorraine Hansberry

“What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it—like a secret vice.”  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”  John Muir

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  Henry David Thoreau

Cloudy Skies


“Now, if God made the clouds so beautiful, did He not mean us to gaze upon them and be thankful for them?”  Alfred Rowland

Oh, I love clouds!


IMG_5508Clouds add beauty and majesty to any scene.  I recently took a road trip through the Southwest.  Some of my best memories are of the wondrous clouds that punctuated my drives along major and minor roadways.  I especially like when the cloudy sky takes over the scene, going on and on forever.  This is my first time responding to Jennifer’s One Word Photo Challenge.  This week’s theme is Cloudy, and you can see other entries here.

I have shared cloud images in the past here and here.





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 “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.”  Konrad Adenauer

“A cloudless plain blue sky is like a flowerless garden.”  Terri Guillemets

“When we look up, it widens our horizons.  We see what a little speck we are in the universe, so insignificant, and we all take ourselves so seriously, but in the sky, there are no boundaries. No difference of caste or religion or race.”  Julia Gregson

“Clouds on clouds, in volumes driven, curtain round the vault of heaven.”  Thomas Love Peacock

“These clouds are angels’ robes.”  Charles Kingsley



Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 015Last year about this time, I was traveling in Iowa and Illinois visiting family.  One great excursion was a visit to Pella, Iowa, for the Pella Tulip Festival.  It was a beautiful day with gorgeous flowers.

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 033Actually, we visited about a week after the tulip festival was over.  The flowers were still in bloom and the town was just as quaint as ever.  The only thing missing was the crowds.  I was fine with that—and the goodies from the great Dutch Bakery (Jaarsma Bakery) were exquisite.  If you are in the area for this year’s festival—or right after—plan a visit.  Along with the tulips, there are parades and dancing and shopping and evening entertainment.  You will love it!  This year’s Pella Tulip Time runs 7-9 May 2015.

Here are a few of the sights you will enjoy if you visit:

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 011

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 013

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 014

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 019

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 025

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Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 048

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 031

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 038

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 051

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 054

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 062

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 063

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 066

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 057

Day 2 R & R Pella Tulips 070

A great way to end the day would be to drive to Sully, Iowa, to eat at the Coffee Cup Café.  You will be able to enjoy the best Iowa Tenderloin ever!  The pies are great too.

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 “I love tulips better than any other spring flower; they are the embodiment of alert cheerfulness and tidy grace, and next to a hyacinth look like a wholesome, freshly scrubbed young girl beside a stout lady whose every movement weighs down the air with patchouli. Their faint, delicate scent is refinement itself; and is there anything in the world more charming than the sprightly way they hold up their little faces to the sun. I have heard them called bold and flaunting, but to me they seem modest grace itself, only always on the alert to enjoy life as much as they can and not be afraid of looking the sun or anything else above them in the face.”   Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth & Her German Garden

IMG_6316Over the last several days I have been playing in and around Flagstaff, Arizona.  The pine trees are impressive—and the scent in the air is wondrous.  The pine trees also represent resilience and hope for the future.  The hillsides are not as thick with pine as they were years and years ago, since they were cut as lumber.  Fires have also worked through the hills, thinning the forests.  But the trees are still here.  Thank goodness. IMG_6329 IMG_6376 Today being Arbor Day makes me reflect on how important trees are—and how we need to take better care of them, if we want them around in the future.  They are our future, literally and figuratively. I certainly hope you have been noticing and enjoying the trees around you, especially today.  Did you sit in the shade, climb to the highest branches, harvest some fruit, or maybe make a fire or carve your initials into the bark?  Have you hugged a tree lately? Maybe you even planted a tree? And today, like every day—whether you notice and appreciate trees or not—I know you have been breathing the oxygen trees replenish for us throughout the world.

How did you celebrate Arbor Day?  I am sharing some photos of a few of my favorite trees!

Some Ancient Bristlecone Pines–some are thousands of years old!



California Redwoods–some of the tallest and oldest trees on the planet!


redwood up

redwood path

Fallen Trees & Stumps from Petrified Forest, Arizona




Some Random Favorite Trees throughout the Years



Bryce NP, red rock canyon 139

Several Days with AJ & J 056



new birch leaf growth

tree new growth

pink tree

reflection 2

ribbon of highway

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“It’s the little things citizens do.  That’s what will make the difference.  My little thing is planting trees.”  Wangari Meathal

“Research gathered over recent years has highlighted the countless benefits to people, wildlife and the environment that come from planting trees and creating new woodland habitat.  It’s obvious trees are good things.”  Clive Anderson

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”  Abraham Lincoln

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”  Warren Buffett

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant an apple tree.”  Martin Luther

“He who plants a tree plants hope.”  Lucy Larcorn

“Be like a tree in pursuit of your cause.  Stand firm, grip hard, thrust upward, bend to the winds of heaven, and learn tranquility.”  Dedication from Father of the Trees

“Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall.  Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone.  Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.”  William Alexander

“For in the future nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious that if it were made of gold and silver.”  Martin Luther

“What is a fish without a river?  What is a bird without a tree to nest in?  What is an Endangered Species Act without any enforcement mechanism to ensure their habitat is protected?  It is nothing.”  Jay Inslee

“Until you dig a hole, plant a tree, water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing.  You are just talking.”  Wangari Maathai

“I never saw a discontented tree.  They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.”  John Muir

“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.”  John Muir

“A man doesn’t plant a tree for himself.  He plants it for posterity.”  Alexander Smith

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is now.”  Anonymous

“The act of planting a tree is, yes, a simple one.  But rich.  Rich in symbolism, rich in personal satisfaction, rich in the exercise of responsibility.”  Michael Fisher

“Only caring individuals can restore the places we inhabit.  The simple act of planting a tree not only restores the places we live, but makes us whole and powerful again.”  Paul Hawken

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets.  To plant a tree, one need only own a shovel.”  Aldo Leopold

“In the woods we return to reason and faith.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To exist as a nation, to prosper as a state, and to live as people, we must have trees.”  Theodore Roosevelt

“Tree are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”  Rabindranath Tagor

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”  John Muir

“The best friend on earth of man is the tree: when we use the tree respectfully and economically we have one of the greatest resources of the earth.”  Frank Lloyd Wright

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”  Greek Proverb

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”  Willa Cather


100_1623Yellow is the perfect color for spring.  It is vibrant, alive, boisterous, hopeful.  Yellow reminds us all that new life is just around the corner. It brings the brightness and warmth of the sun into the garden—or into the house through a bouquet.   A few weeks ago, I visited Red Rock Canyon State Park, near Mojave, California, and enjoyed a glorious spring day full of wildflowers and butterflies.  The Desert Dandelions stretched like a carpet across the desert floor.


If spring has not yet started to dance around your gardens, be patient.  As Elizabeth Sangster says, “Never yet was a spring time when the buds forgot to bloom.”   Hope these yellow blooms bring a little springtime to your world.

golden valley

butterfly on flower 2

angel flowers 4

angel flowers 7

Flower yellow cactus close



yellow cropped with bee

golden valley 2

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mulit tulips


sunflowers in vase

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“Yellow flowers are like physical manifestations of sunlight.”  Jarod Kintz

“She wore her yellow sun-bonnet, she wore her greenest gown’ she turned to the south wind and curtsied up and down. She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head, and whispered to her neighbor, ‘Winter is dead.”  A. A. Milne

light daffodills

“Yellow is a very favorable vibration for mental or intellectual activity, as it promotes a clear state of mind.  Yellow heightens your awareness and alleviates depression, sadness, or any kind of despondency.”  Tae Yun Kim

“Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.”  Pablo Picasso

“How wonderful yellow is.  It stands for the sun.”  Vincent Van Gogh

yellow with bee

 NOTE:  This post is my response to Sunday Stills, the Next Challenge: Yellow or Wildflowers. You’ll see some great shots when you enjoy all the responses to this challenge.

IMG_5074California’s Red Rock Canyon State Park sits in Kern County, about 80 miles from Bakersfield, 25 miles from Mojave, and maybe 150 miles from Los Angeles.  For me, these details indicate the park is a local attraction.  But one I rarely visit.  The last time was about 20 years ago.  I am so glad I corrected that mistake this spring.

IMG_5022When first entering the park, the area may not seem that impressive.






IMG_5069But Red Rock Canyon is impressive. It was established as a state park in 1968 and covers nearly 27,000 square acres.  It is a lovely little place with first-come-first-serve camping sites and a range of hiking trails.  The 300-foot cliffs are marked with rust staining caused by the iron oxide in the sandstone.  The cliffs and buttes at the entrance off Highway 14 are breath-taking! That little mushroom-shaped outcrop is about 25 feet tall.



IMG_5029The vistas once inside Red Rock Canyon are also impressive.




IMG_5020Various trails let visitors wander into the desert landscape to explore some of the cliffs’ nooks and crannies.




IMG_5036IMG_5031At the end of March, when a friend and I visited this little gem, we were overwhelmed with the wildflower display.  We could not have picked a better day for our adventure.

Desert Dandelions carpeted the floor of Red Rock Canyon.








There were several other wildflowers bursting forth as well.

Creosote Bush

Creosote Bush




Owl Clover

Owl Clover







Joshua Trees were abundant, dotting the landscape in all directions.  Some were starting to bud.







IMG_5335IMG_5358I returned the next week to see if the Joshua Tree buds were in bloom or other flowers had made an appearance.  Very little luck.  The flowers we had seen were waning, and no impressive Joshua Tree blooms were evident.


The Indigo Bush was more apparent, and some little white and purple flowers were starting to bloom.  Dozens of Painted Ladies were flying around—although they were very camera shy.

Indigo Bush

Indigo Bush


Shy Painted Lady

Shy Painted Lady





Beavertail Cactus by Visitor Center

Beavertail Cactus by Visitor Center


IMG_5081IMG_5078Leaving the park after the first visit, we headed north.  In about 25 miles, Highway 14 becomes U. S. Scenic Route 395—and we were moving on to see what we could see.  En route, these Globe Mallow caught our eye and the Desert Dandelions were still carpeting the desert floor.  I love the vibrant colors!





If you have not visited Red Rock Canyon, put it on your list.


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