Gila Bend, Arizona

We loved exploring the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area in the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, part of the Sonoran Desert National Recreation Area.

Tall Saguaro cactus!

We bounced along a dusty rugged 4WD road to get to the trailhead for Margie’s Cove, spotting a roadrunner on the way, and crossing a number of dry washes. The saguaro cactus dominated the landscape, along with some mesquite and creosote bushes. Recent rains started flowers blooming…

…and we spotted gray fox, jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, butterflies, hummingbirds, cactus wrens, and lizards.

There were remnants of past ranching activity, but the area is protected now. Cattle can be rough on the saguaros! Saguaros are very slow growing plants, taking up to 10 years to grow to just one inch, and 70 years to reach six or more feet in height. The pleats in their skin allow for expansion when there’s ample water, and they have a strong skeleton of wood – which you can see from the remains of this dead saguaro.

Saguaros can sprout arms when they are over 50 years old, with the same kind of wood structure underneath.

These cactus grow to 40 feet in height, and they can live for 150-200 years. They’re magnificent! Other types of cactus dotted the landscape such as cholla and fishhook barrel cactus – some with fruit.

Margie’s Cove Trail landscape

Another interesting BLM site in the area was the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, a place of significance for local native people. The petroglyphs were made by the Hohokam people between 350-1400 AD, and this site has over 800 distinct glyphs. The overall site isn’t very big – the trail around the rocks is only 1/4 mile, so it’s interesting that there are so many concentrated here. There are other petroglyph sites in the region, but none have as many as this one.

From Seattle to Arizona

Before we headed south, we took a day to visit boating friends in West Seattle, enjoying their great neighborhood and views of downtown Seattle. They also took us on a little driving tour of some hidden gems in town – I loved the Troll under the Fremont bridge…

…and yes, that’s a real VW Bug in his hand! A perfect day.

Seattle city view

We started driving south and I remembered that Petersburg friends were also out and about in their RV, so I sent a text to say hello and to let them know where we were… and it turns out that they were heading to the same campground that evening to meet up with their son and his wife (also Petersburg people). We celebrated Jim’s birthday in style! A couple of nights later we ran into our friends again at another campground – we’ve seen more of them outside town than back at home!

Our general destination for this RV trip is Arizona. We stopped for a short visit to see friends in Yuma, and I had to laugh at how many Canadians were there for the winter. We saw the 60s pop band Herman’s Hermits in concert there – what a blast! Peter Noone is the only one of the original Hermits still in the group, but his voice was strong, he had a ton of energy, and he definitely had the moves. We capped off the visit with a trip to nearby date farm for a little date ice cream.

From Yuma we headed to the small town of Gila Bend, AZ – about 75 miles west of Phoenix. The campground there was terrific – very friendly people, and lots of hummingbirds.

They even had a little private nook where you could enjoy a nice view and no interruptions, complete with comfy chair, wind chime and a hummingbird feeder – a perfect place to enjoy my book.

But the reason we came here was to explore some of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) part of the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

This part of the Sonoran is pretty remote – we bounced along a 4WD road for a few miles to get to a trail area – we didn’t want to get lost! I’ll post more about the Sonoran Desert tomorrow – it’s a terrific wilderness.

From Winter to… Winter

It’s that time of the year when we head “down south” (which is Alaskan for “anywhere in the Lower 48”) for a knitting retreat (for me) and to do some exploring with the RV (for both of us). It’s a good time of the year to escape winter for a bit because this is what it looks like at home…

…but when we got to Seattle, it was worse!

Seattle was in the midst of “snowmageddon” – it’s rare to get snow in this very hilly town, and the city has very little equipment to deal with it. Flights were cancelled left and right, and neighborhoods were snowed in for days.

Regardless, the knitting must go on… and the knitters (and spinners) gathered one last time for Madrona – a knitting and spinning retreat that has been going on for 20 years. This is my fourth year attending “graduate school for knitters”, as Jim calls it. Classes, demonstrations, the Teacher Talent Show to raise money (serious money) for charities, lectures, and knitting or spinning by the fireplace are all great ways to experience Madrona. Sadly, this is the last year in its current incarnation, but two new people are taking over the same date and location starting next year for a similar event – Red Alder – and I can’t wait!

Sip Sip Knit

Spinning in the bar…

…demonstrations of antique sock knitting machines…

…asking a lady to pose with her knitted sheep doll (Dolores – a real character – in a custom designed mermaid outfit (just one of a growing collection)…

Now, you may think we knitters and spinners are all nut-cases, but really we just love fiber and making things and being creative. And being kind to one another. It’s a Big Thing with crafty people, which is what makes being around so many of them at one time pretty awesome.

Everyone admires everyone else’s knitted things. It may not be the colors or style you’d choose for yourself, but you can see the workmanship and pride in every shawl, sweater or hat and appreciate it. And the most fun is to take a class from one of the outstanding teachers and come back a year later wearing something you made based on that class. I’ve never been a “fan girl” about anything, until I met knitting teachers. I have a few favorites… Beth Brown-Reinsel, who wrote the book about Ganseys and is a traditional knitting maven, posing with Jim in his custom Gansey…

…and Fair Isle color wizard Janine Bajus, posing with me wearing two of her designs – the Helsinki sweater and the Cordova hat.

I took a day-long Knitted Tessellations class with another very favorite teacher – Franklin Habit – and as much as I detest to be in photographs, I just had to get a fan girl picture with him (and my tessellated swatch). (A tessellation is an arrangement of shapes closely fitted together in a repeated pattern without gaps or overlapping. It involves math and rules, but it’s really cool!)

You too can tessellate!

I wrapped up my glorious long weekend of knitting with a class about Danish star motifs and the history of their traditional damask garments from a knitter/historian – Vivian Hoxbro. She told us that the Danes think of the stars as holes in the sky that give you a little view of Paradise, hence the significance of the many star motifs on their garments. Suffice it to say that I’ve already ordered her book!

So here ends my annual Blog About Knitting, and now I promise to return to our normal kinds of adventures.

Early Morning Light

Finally we don’t have to wait until the third or fourth cup of coffee to see some beautiful sunrise light on the mountain tops! The reward for early morning exercise classes (Tai Chi on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and deep water aerobics on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) is that it’s getting light!! Huzzah!!! Moods are perking up all over town, especially when we got a nice dump of the white stuff and it was cold enough to stick around for a while. Snowmobiles on trailers were zipping out the road (they can run on the old logging roads), and cross country skis and snow shoes were finally getting some use.

The BEST treat was clear skies – beautiful stars at night and crystal blue in the daylight. After a long stretch of overcast and gloomy weather, it’s like the world is suddenly in color once again!

One morning the pre-dawn sky was a magical pastel pink just before the sunrise kissed the mountains. We paused our Tai Chi to watch – it was so beautiful. I was frustrated with no camera in hand, so the next morning I headed out before class to try and catch that light again. While I didn’t see that pastel sky, the morning light didn’t disappoint…

Petersburg Mountain

I zipped down to the South Harbor to catch a different angle…

South Harbor and Bearclaw Mountain

…then looked to the north and spotted some light on the Devil’s Thumb (a 9000′ peak that marks part of the US-Canada border) so I zipped up to Hungry Point – at the confluence of Wrangell Narrows and Frederick Sound to catch the view.

Flocks of surf scoters, Barrow’s goldeneye, mergansers and long-tailed ducks were feeding in the shadow of the Coastal Mountains, and the light on the water was a coppery hue.

The light was fleeting… by the time I turned around and pointed my camera back down the Narrows towards town, the magic was gone. All I was left with was the usual beautiful view…

Eagles were perched on some of the light poles as I zoomed to class. Just another Petersburg day.