Tag Archives: Phoenix

Free Camping Near Kingman, AZ

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I was making the trip from Las Vegas, NV to Phoenix in early December 2016, and I considered an overnight stop somewhere in between. I got on the Free Campsites website to look for a place and found a listing for a spot on Highway 93 east just before Kingman. The listing didn’t say who administered the land. BLM? Forest Service? Department of Transportation? No clue.

I ended up getting an early start the morning I left Vegas. Even with a stop at the Taco Bell in Boulder City for coffee and breakfast burritos, I was still on target to hit Kingman early in the day. I decided I didn’t really want to boondock just for the sake of boondocking. Besides, I was wide awake from the coffee. I knew I could easily make it all the way to Phoenix well before dark.

However, since I was passing right by the free camping spot, I thought I’d stop there and see how it looked.

Just as I’d seen during my Google Maps research, there is a turn lane with giant arrows leading right to the camping area. It’s the only big turn lane with arrows I noticed that wasn’t either in a town or leading to some business. This turn lane must often make drivers wonder, Where the heck does this go?

When I pulled in, I saw a small sign saying the area is a  Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund Project. I saw no signs saying people couldn’t camp there or park overnight.

According to the Arizona Heritage Alliance web page,

Formed in 1992, the Arizona Heritage Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is guided by a Board of Directors drawn from a broad base of outdoor sports, environmental conservation, and historic preservation organizations that helped pass the 1990 statewide voter initiative creating the Heritage Fund.

Our mission is to preserve and enhance Arizona’s historic, cultural and natural heritage.  We accomplish our mission by actively:

  • Protecting the integrity and voter intent of the Game and Fish Heritage Funds.
  • Monitoring state legislative and agency activity.
  • Pursuing sustainable and dedicated funding sources for Arizona’s historic, cultural and natural initiatives, programs and activities.
  • Educating people of Arizona about the benefits of Arizona’s wildlife, open space, parks and historic and cultural resources.

The area does have a pit toilet in one of those Forest Service style buildings (known as a CXT in the pit toilet business), but I didn’t get out of the van to check on cleanliness and toilet paper availability.

There are no actual campsites in this area. There’s a strip of road to drive on, and it seems people can park their rigs anywhere off the roadway. When I passed through, there was one camper parked to the side of the roadway near the entrance, so yes, people do boondock there.

I don’t remember seeing a water spigot or a trashcan in the area. If I were going to stay in this spot, I would plan to bring water and pack out trash.

This photo shows a view from the camping area.

The area is not super beautiful, but it’s pretty for a desert region right off a highway. Because it is a desert, there aren’t many trees, which means not much shade. This spot would probably be nice in winter, but hot as hell in the summer.

This spot would be good for boondocking if a driver wanted to stop overnight on a trip between Vegas and Phoenix or if someone wanted to explore the Kingman area.

I thought maybe next time I traveled on Highway 93, I’d actually spend the night in this area, but an April 2017 review on the Free Campsites webpage says it is “is soon to be made into day use only.” I’ll check it out next time I pass by, then issue a full report.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

The Water Knife (A Book Review)

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The Water Knife
I first heard of the novel The Water Knife (set in the American Southwest, primarily in Phoenix, AZ from a blurb in Sunset magazine (http://www.sunset.com/). The description intrigued me, and I wanted to read the book. Thanks to a kind BookMooch (http://bookmooch.com/) member, I had my chance.

In author Paolo Bacigalupi’s Phoenix, water is precious and scarce, and society is divided according to who has it and who doesn’t. The rich have water, of course, The rich live in lavish “arcologies” where all waste water is sceientifically filtered clean and reused. The rich have plenty of water to drink, can bathe whenever they want, have their clothes cleaned regularly, and even use flush toilets. The poor have limited water resources. The poor live in squats built from salvaged materials or abandoned houses; neither type of housing has running water. The poor buy their water one gallon at a time from pumps with fluctuating prices. The poor are dusty dirty because they can rarely shower or wash their clothes. Needless to say, there are no flush toilets for the Phoenix poor.

Not every place in this distopia Southwest has the water problems Phoenix does. Things are much worse in Texas, and refugees have poured into Arizona via New Mexico. The good people of New Mexico wanted nothing to do with Texas regugees and sent them on their way, sometimes violently. Life isn’t so hard in California and Nevada, and those states want to keep it that way by limiting who crosses their borders to use their limited resources. In this world, coyotes still guide people across borders, but the borders crossed are into states with water.

The most important thing in this world are water rights, and the water knife of the title makes sure his boss gets the water rights she needs to stay wealthy and priviliged.

There’s a lot of dark action in this book: shooting, torture, murder, death. Young women (called “bangbang girls,” usually Texans) sell their bodies for money and, hopefully, the chance to wash their panties in the sink while the rich man sleeps. A man who controls a neighborhood and demands a percentage of the money the area residents earn uses hyenas as part of his enforcement plan. Dams are blown up and precious water is diverted. People are tortured for answers. This book is so dark, in fact, that I put it aside for four months after reading the first nine chapters. The book was good, but it had me on edge, knowing all the characters were facing terrible fates. When I picked it up the second time, I must have been in a better state of mind, because I was able to enjoy the story without letting the violence get to me.

The action of the novel just keeps coming. I enjoyed the suspense of not knowing what would happen next or who would doublecross whom. I did, however, figure out the story’s key mystery long before the characters did. (Of course, I had a big picture view the characters were lacking.)

I also enjoyed the characters. I was pleased to see two of the three main characters through whose eyes the story is told are women. The women aren’t damsels-in-distress women either, but strong, ass-kicking, gonna do what has to be done women. Even though the book is primarily an action/adventure/mystery story, there is also character development, which I appreciated.

The social problems the book examines are not easy to look at. What happenes when modern life as we know it breaks down? What happens when one of humankind’s most basic, most necessary resources becomes so scare people are willing to kill for it? What happens when the environment changes to the point people may no longer be able to survive on the surface of the earth? The Water Knife raises these questions and offers only bleak answers.

Still, I’m glad I read this novel. It was difficult to get through some parts of it, but those hard parts really made the story ring true. It’s a good book, but maybe not for readers who can’t handle the dark side of humanity.

Pie!

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I should have shared this post on National Pi Day, but I didn’t get it together in time for that. Maybe next year I will have a pi/pie related story prepared for March 14. In the meantime, read more about National Pi Day here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/14/national-pi-day/, and enjoy this pie related story today.

NOLAgirl and I starting making plans to attend pie night a month before it happened.

She was in Phoenix, and I was house and cat sitting in Murphys, CA. She must have mentioned pie night to me, and I was all in! Pie. Pie is delicious. I love pie.

Pie night is held at a store called Practical Art, located at 5070 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix, AZ. Here’s what Practical Art’s website (http://practical-art.com/about/) has to say for itself:

Practical Art is a friendly retail and gallery space featuring 100% locally-made wares in wood, fiber, ceramic, glass, metal, and up-cycled materials. All of our work is produced by Arizona artisans—we have over 100 of them producing work for you. We carry art that is practical in some way—everything from kitchen tools to home and office items, soap, clothing, furniture, jewelry, and more.

Pie night is more accurately Charity Pie Night. The Charity Pie Night page on the Practical Art website (http://practical-art.com/charity-pie-night/) says the monthly event has raised over $34,000 since 2011. Past beneficiaries of charity pie nights include Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Center for the Arts, Area Agency on Aging, Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, Rising Youth Theatre, and the Animal Defense League of Arizona. The night in December when NOLAgirl and I attended, the beneficiary was the Art Resource Center.

According to their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/The-Art-Resource-Center-104422642933401/about/?ref=page_internal),

The Art Resource Center is a non-profit corporation 501(C)(3) whose objectives are to collect reusable discards from individuals and industries and offer them free of charge to schools and other non-profit entities for the purpose of making art.

The Art Resource Center’s website (http://www.artresourcecenter.org/) elaborates,

By recycling art worthy materials for creative minds, THE ARC is filling the ever widening funding gap of nonprofits by providing quality materials to continue the passion we call ART.

The Art Resource Center is a wonderful project that I can get behind 100%. However, on that December night, my prime objective was PIE!

NOLAgirl and I arrived right on time, plates in hand. (To make Charity Pie Night more environmentally friendly, Practical Art encourages people to bring plates from home or buy reusable plates in the store. Reusable plates were provided to folks who hadn’t brought their own plate and didn’t want to buy one, but the plates provided were SMALL! I was glad to have brought my own slightly larger plate.)

Here’s how it worked: $5 got a person a slice of pie; $10 got a person unlimited slices. Anyone who knows me (and my love of pie and love of a bargain) will not be surprised to find out I had budgeted $10 for all the pie I could eat.

NOLAgirl and I lined up and waited our turn to step up to the pie table.

The pies were made by Vonceil’s Pies, owned by Karen Olson. The pie company’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/VonceilsPies/) says,

Vonceil’s Pies is my dream in the making…some day I hope that Vonceil’s will be my own store front bakery in which I can share the wonderful, crazy, beautiful world of homemade pie to the Arizona community.

There must have been a dozen different pies on the table, and they were being served up by friendly young women wearing cute aprons. There were vegan pies made with no animal products. There were traditional pies made with whatever traditional pies are made of. There were berry pies and fruit pies. There were pies containing chocolate and pies containing chocolate and peanut butter and pies containing alcohol. One of the pies had a crust made from crushed nuts, which made it gluten free. How would we ever decide what varieties to choose?

It seemed like bad form to say Give me one of each! and besides, I don’t think I could have fit a dozen slices of pie on my medium-sized plate. NOLAgirl and I each chose four flavors to sample, then went and found a place to sit in the back of the store.

Wow! That pie was good. I wish I had noted which flavors I tried, but alas, I did not. In any case, every type of pie I tried was delicious.

After we finished our first round of slices, NOLAgirl and I walked around the store and looked at all the cool items for sale.

“The Big Robot Show”  by Jordan-Alexander Thomas was in progress at Practical Art during Charity Pie Night. According to http://practical-art.com/events/2016/12/1/the-big-robot-show-works-by-jordan-alexander-thomas,

In “The Big Robot Show” local mixed-media artist, Jordan-Alexander Thomas exhibits his inventive and sometimes curiously odd robots and sci-fi creations on a grand scale. Using wood and up-cycled found objects, Thomas transforms these findings into whimsical and entertaining creations that are constructed to excite the imagination. Thomas began creating robot sculptures when his passion for indie handmade objects collided with his love of all things science fiction.

The robot and sci-fi creations were wonderful! I loved them but didn’t take any photos. Luckily, you can see some of them on them on Thomas’ website (http://www.spaceboyrobot.com/#robot-gallery). Really, it’s worth clicking on the link and having a look!

After we looked at everything in the store, NOLAgirl and I shyly asked one another if we wanted more pie. As a matter of fact we did, thank you very much.

We got back in line and patiently waited to get up to the pie table. The pies were dwindling by this point, but we were both able to get slices of four pie varieties we hadn’t tried in the first round. They too were divine.

Once we finished our second helpings of pie, our bellies were full, and we were all sugared up. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant feeling, but maybe I don’t need to eat eight pieces (even eight small pieces) of pie in one night.

For folks visiting Phoenix, I highly recommend a stop at Practical Art. For folks who like pie, if you can time it right, you really should make your visit there coincide with Charity Pie Night.

 

(Guest Post) Why Phoenix?

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Today’s guest post was written by an old friend of mine who currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

It’s November 1st and finally, I believe the summer has left us. Don’t get me wrong. We will still have days with temperatures in the 80s but the evenings and the mornings are so cool and comfortable and finally wearing long pants is an acceptable dress code.

This summer has been especially hard on this perimenopausal woman in her late 40s. The temperatures have been no higher than other years and the fact that the hundred degrees last until October is normal. But my ability to cope with the warm temperatures is not what it was 20 years ago.

When I moved to Phoenix, many friends asked “Why Phoenix?” “What’s in Phoenix?” And honestly for years I had no answer for them. It’s flat, it’s brown and it’s very new and modern compared to other cities in the United States.

Tovrea Castle

Tovrea Castle

The history here only goes back to the 1940s. Convincing the city council that we need to keep those buildings from the 40s and 50s has been a challenge. Hence why everything is so new and modern. So when I find a building that is unique/different/older I get super excited and I must go inside and explore! That’s the case with the Tovrea Castle. The Ellis Shakelford House. The Security Building downtown. Luhrs Tower.

When I moved here 20 years ago, Phoenix was only supposed to be a temporary layover to my next destination somewhere on the west coast. I never intended to stay this long but good jobs, a great husband and my beautiful daughter all led to me becoming an Arizonan. I’ve not forgotten my roots. I will forever and always be a Louisiana girl. Nolagirl at heart. For that is where I found my true spirit, my true self. But now when people ask me what’s in Arizona, why Phoenix, Arizona, I can say: the Grand Canyon, street corn, fresh homemade tortillas, a sunset and

Phoenix Sunset

Phoenix Sunset

sunrise every morning and night that can take your breath away. Sonoran hotdogs. The Superstition Mountains. Home of Miranda Rights. Witnessing the evolution of a grass roots art and historic preservation community. My family. My community.

The photos were taken by the author.

A Few Things I Know About Cacti

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I took this photo on the BLM land near Saddle Mountain in Arizona.

I didn’t grow up in the desert, but after two guided tours at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and a couple of hours at the Desert Botanical Garden, I’ve learned a few things about cacti and other desert plants.

For example, what makes a plant a cactus? I first contemplated this question when Ranger Mark told me during a restroom break on the Ajo Mountain Drive tour that the ocatillo is not a cactus. When I asked him what makes a plant a cactus, he admitted he didn’t know. Low and behold, at the Desert Botanical Garden, I found the answer. All cacti have areoles. If there’s no areole, the plant is not a cactus.

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All cacti have areoles. If there’s no areole, the plant is not a cactus. This photo was taken at the Desert Botanical Garden.

 

So just what is the areole of a cactus? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/science/areole),

Cacti can be distinguished from other succulent plants by the presence of areoles, small cushionlike structures with hairs and, in almost all species, spines or barbed bristles (glochids). Areoles are modified branches, from which flowers, more branches, and leaves (when present) may grow.

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It is easy to see the areoles on the Straight-spined Barrel Cactus in this photo. The areoles are the dark areas from which the spines are growing. Notice that several spines grow from each areole. I took this photo at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/plant/Caryophyllales#ref594853) elaborates,

 Areoles are universal in the cactus family (at least in the juvenile phase)…Almost all species of cactus have tufts of spines that develop from the areoles. These spines are of two basic types, stiff central spines located in the middle of the areole or radial spines that grow out laterally from the edges of the areole; the former are probably protective or when brightly coloured attract pollinators, while the latter are often white and reflect sunlight, providing shade and protecting the plant body from solar radiation. In addition, these spines may be variously modified, depending on the species; for example, they may be curved, hooked, feathery, bristly, flattened, sheathed, or needlelike.

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I took this photo of an ocatillo on BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop in Arizona . While I was visiting, I saw no ocatillo with leaves or flowers.

So if an ocatillo isn’t a cactus, what is it?  According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum plant fact sheet (https://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/Ocotillo.php),

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)…are…large shrub[s] with long cane-like unbranched spiny stems that grow from a short trunk.

I’ve recently learned many things about the saguaro cactus, most importantly, it is found only in the Sonoran Desert. Although the saguaro may be the cactus that really represents the desert for for a lot of people, if you see a saguaro representing the desert in New Mexico or Utah, or Nevada, well, that’s just wrong. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saguaro,

[The saguaro] is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican State of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California.

I also learned saguaros often grow with the help of a nurse plant. According to a brochure I got at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument,

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This photo shows a saguaro cactus growing within the protection of its nurse plant. I took this photo on the Red Tanks Tinaja hike in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

[a]lmost any plant can become a nurse plant. Shade from the nurse plant protects the delicate cactus seedling from temperature extremes and sunburn. Shaded soil holds moisture longer. Slowly decaying leaf litter adds nutrients. Leaf litter hides the tender young plant from hungry birds or animals…

A nurse plant is not mandatory for the growth and health of a saguaro, but as the brochure says,

The saguaro cactus seedling grows best in this protected, humid environment and enriched soil beneath its nurse plant.

Finally, I learned that saguaro cacti grow very slowly. It takes about 10 years for saguaros to grow one inch! Saguaros will have grown about one foot tall after 30 years and about three feet tall after 50 years. Saguaros get their first flowers after about 70 years, when they are approximately 6 and 1/2 fee tall. They get their first arm at 15 to 16 feet tall, after about 95 to 100 years, and they reach their full height of about 43 feet when they are around 200 years old. (All of the information in the preceding paragraph is from the brochure mentioned earlier.)

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I took this photo of an organ pipe cactus on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop in Arizona.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stenocereus_thurberi,

Stenocereus thurberi, the organpipe [sic] cactus…is found mostly in Mexico, mainly in Sonora and southern Baja California. It is also known to the United States, but is much rarer, with the notable exception of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The plant is predominantly found on rocky hillsides up to 3,000 feet (910 m) in elevation. It is sensitive to frost, so the species is rare in low desert areas, which can be more susceptible to frost.

Unlike saguaros organ pipe cactus don’t rely on nurse plants for early help. The brochure says,

Most organ pipe cactus grow out in the open in totally unprotected settings.

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This photo of a cholla cactus was taken on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop in Arizona.

And then there’s cholla cactus. According to the Desert USA website (http://www.desertusa.com/cactus/cholla-cactus.html),

Cholla cactus represent more than 20 species of the Opuntia genus (Family Cactacea) in the North American deserts. Cholla is a term applied to various shrubby cacti of this genus with cylindrical stems composed of segmented joints. These stems are actually modified branches that serve several functions — water storage, photosynthesis and flower production.

[C]hollas are the only cactus with papery sheaths covering their spines. These sheaths are often bright and colorful, providing the cactus with its distinctive appearance.

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I took this photo of a chain fruit cholla cactus on the Red Tanks Tinaja Trail.

Opuntia are unique because of their clusters of fine, tiny, barbed spines called glochids. Found just above the cluster of regular spines, glochids are yellow or red in color and detach easily from…stems. Glochids are often difficult to see and more difficult to remove, once lodged in the skin.

Before this year, I’d never given much thought to cactus and had no idea how varied and fascinating they are. Now I’m excited to learn more about them.

 

 

 

 

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Seguaro and the moon. I took this photo from my camping spot on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Desert Botanical Garden

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The Desert Botanical Garden is located at 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Botanical_Garden, it

is a 140 acres…botanical garden located in Papago Park

Founded by the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society in 1937[1] and established at this site in 1939, the garden now has more than 21,000 plants, in more than 4000 taxa, one-third of which are native to the area, including 139 species which are rare, threatened or endangered.

…It focuses on plants adapted to desert conditions, including an Australian collection, a Baja California collection and a South American collection. Several ecosystems are represented: a mesquite bosque, semidesert grassland, and upland chaparral.

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This 20 foot tall saguaro sculpture on display at the Desert Botanical Garden was created by Jeff Hebets in honor of his cousin, Phil. The saguaro is made from pick heads used to salvage native plants.

Admission to the Desert Botanical Garden is a bit pricey: $22 for adults 18-59, with only a $2 discount to seniors. I am fortunate to have a friend with a membership to the Garden. Not only does she get in for free, but one guest can get in for free with her. My friend treated me to a morning in the Garden.

According to http://www.dbg.org/trails-exhibitions there are five trails in the Garden: the Desert Discovery Loop Trail, the Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail, the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, the Center for Desert Living Trail, and the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail.

This overview map of the Desert Botanical Garden is from http://www.dbg.org/trails-exhibitions.

My friend and I were only at the Botanical Garden for a couple of hours, so by no means did we see it all. My favorite part of the visit was seeing cacti that were new to me, ones that I hadn’t already seen hundreds of times in far south Arizona.

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The cactus on the far left of this photo is an old man of the Andes (scientific name: Oreocereus celsianus).

One new variety I saw was the Old Man of the Andes (scientific name: Oreocereus celsianus). According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oreocereus_celsianus,

Oreocereus celsianus, or the “old man of the mountain” is a member of the family Cactaceae native to the high lands of the Andes in South America, and is named for its fluffy white hair, which may protect it from intense sunlight and extreme temperatures.

The Learn 2 Grow website (http://www.learn2grow.com/plants/oreocereus-celsianus/) says,

Old Man of the Andes is a striking cylindrical cactus due to its coat of dirty blond coarse hairs that covers its entire length. These hairs help protect and shade its green skin from both intense high altitude sunlight and the occasional cold snap. The species is native to Bolivia, Peru and northern Argentina where it is found on rocky cliffs at high elevations of the Andes and other mountain ranges.

While the Old Man of the Andes looks rather fluffy and huggable (at least to me), Learn 2 Grow warns,

This cactus is well armed. Spines are stout, thick, and dirty yellow to reddish brown in color. They occur in groups from one to four heavier spines surrounded by 7 to 9 very sharp radial spines. These sit nestled deeply into the hairy cloak.

No hugs for you, Old Man!

Another new variety I saw was the Bishop’s Hat (scientific name: Astrophytum myriostigma). This cactus looks as if it were made from cloth!

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This photo shows a Bishop’s Hat cactus (scientific name: Astrophytum myriostigma).

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrophytum_myriostigma,

Astrophytum myriostigma (common names: Bishop’s Cap Cactus, Bishop’s Hat or Bishop’s Miter Cactus) is a species of cactus native to the highlands of northeastern and central Mexico.

The Plants Rescue website (http://www.plantsrescue.com/tag/bishops-cap-cactus/) says,

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More Bishop’s Hat cacti.

The basically green stem has no spine but is covered with tiny tufts of silvery hair (appearing like scales or spots). These give the plant a greyish cast.

It wasn’t quite spring when I went on this visit, so there weren’t many cacti in bloom. The few early bloomers I did see were quite lovely.

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I bet hummingbirds are attracted to these vivid purple flowers.

I had a nice time at the Desert Botanical Garden. Since my friend and I went early in the day, we didn’t have to fight any crowds. Thankfully, there were no groups of screaming school kids. Being near these various plants seemed very tranquil to me. However, as I write this post, I realize I didn’t take nearly enough photos. (What about the boojum trees? Why didn’t I get any pictures of the boojum trees?) Maybe my friend will treat me to another visit.

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I took all of the photographs in this post. I did not supply the map in this post.

Today is National Panda Day

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IMG_2629According to http://nationalpandaday.blogspot.com/, today is National Panda Day. And that, friends, is just about all the website says.

(Apparently International Red Panda Day is in September. I think today must be about regular black and white pandas.)

In honor of National Panda Day, I am sharing with you photos I took of a bronze statue in Phoenix, AZ called Maternal Love. According to http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMNDD5_Maternal_Love_Phoenix_AZ, the statue

was presented in September 1996 from Chendgu Municipal Government, P.R. China, and Mayor Wang Rong Xuan to the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

IMG_2631I hope your National Panda Day is a great one!

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