On my last full day in Arizona, my friend AJ took me to meet the tiny winged creatures living in Butterfly Wonderland located in Scottsdale. What a lovely way to spend a couple of hours walking through the gardens while thousands of tiny (and not so tiny) butterflies flitted around us.
It took a while for me to focus my phone camera – so many flutterbies to follow. There were a number of cute kids who were fascinated with them, too, so I just focused on one family….
I managed to capture some great shots of them as they sat in the sunlight, resting their wings…I even picked up a hitchhiker…..the great butterfly escape of 2019!The park keeps chickens to eat up all the nasty bugs who are dangerous to the butterflies…this cute one kept clucking at me as I tried to snap a pic.Lunchtime….everyone in the fruit bowl!AJ had several butterflies use him as a resting spot…
And unbeknownst to me, I had been walking around for some time with this gorgeous wee beastie riding on my back.
AJ took lots of great shots I’d like to share with you…just look at these beauties:We were starting to get pretty hot and clammy thanks to the temperature and humidity of the “wonderland” so AJ and I went thru to the adjacent reptile rooms and found some pretty cool critters (in a much cooler environment…LOL). Check these out…What a blast! Time for something to eat so we departed Butterfly Wonderland and headed out into the “mall” where we located a rather interesting restaurant….Yes, a dino-bistro complete with crazy ass dinosaur models! Food was pretty good – mostly Mediterranean style, and afterwards we walked around both levels of the compound…the sun shone thru the wrought iron railings creating some lovely shadow designs.If you plan on visiting Scottsdale/Phoenix, I highly recommend spending an afternoon here – lots to see and do, not just butterflies. And the souvenir shops are fabulous – lots of nifty things and very inexpensive. For directions and details, visit their website: www.butterflywonderland.com
Back home to Camp Joy Ranch, enjoying the beautiful countryside for the last time….The following day, I had to fly back to Toronto, via Calgary, so this night, AJ and I had our “last supper” at one of the local steak houses…yummmm.I’ll be back for sure…even if it’s just for the amazing steaks!!
A little closer to Camp Joy Ranch, AJ took me to Cave Creek, another beautiful town with a distinct wild west atmosphere and lots of touristy stores and restaurants. The drive into the town was thru vast “forests” of saguaro cactus..I was half-expecting to see cattle rustlers or stage coaches along the way.Knowing that I wanted to purchase some genuine, quality turquoise and native American silver, AJ knew exactly where to take me: Rare Earth Gallery, a very special (and very large) store with just about every gemstone and earthly treasure from around the world.Out front of the store were several carved marble pieces, like this magnificent rearing horse….…and AJ took an instant liking to this HUGE chunk of crystal (above). They also had a wide selection of Tibetan salt lamps (below)And behind the cash registers were two beautiful back-lit artworks (below) made with marble and precious and semi-precious gems mined in the surrounding Phoenix hills. You should see the outstanding amethysts and tourmalines that come from this region. I made a bee-line for the jewellery counters and found two stunning rings behind locked display case doors – please sir, may I try them on? Done…they fit perfectly…the rings are mine. One is a green-hued chunk of turquoise for my right hand and the larger one is made of blue turquoise and spiny oyster inlays, both silver. Obviously a favourite shop of his, AJ purchased a couple more stones to add to his and Tom’s basket of stones in their front lobby (below) – very tactile home decor and each stone carries mystical powers to heal or energize.Once we stored our purchases into the car, we wandered across to where the “frontier town” was – today there were only a few tourists and it seemed a bit sad. We dropped in to the candlemaker (fragrances were a bit too strong for me to remain there), then a couple of the souvenir stores but I just couldn’t “get it up” to enjoy the silly crap on sale there. They had a great loo, tho. I wish I’d taken a few pics – lots of old photos of 30’s and 40’s Hollywood movie cowgirls as well as old rodeo ladies lined the walls so I was able to enjoy a tinkle under the gaze of those vintage wild west gals. Next blog will cover my final full day in Arizona: we visit the incredible butterfly conservatory and reptile museum, and AJ and I enjoy our deelish “last supper” – more steak for me…LOL!
Monday dawned bright and filled with birdsong, as usual at Camp Joy Ranch – today AJ was taking me to Sedona where I was going to experience “new age” mysticism in the hippy-dippy heart of Arizona. Hurry, hurry, let’s get going – I was like a little kid off to see Santa!
First, we needed to fuel up at the local Starbucks – here their stores are all adobe-clad, and so clean and spacious.AJ then pointed the car north and off we went on the 90 minute journey….after about 40 minutes, the terrain changed and we were climbing in altitude, passing some pretty bad-ass towns and roads (see below)I turned round to catch this amazing view of a far-off snow-capped peak – wow!Then suddenly…we had arrived!
First stop…AJ insisted I attempt to climb up Bell rock which is one of the 8 vortices (thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy) – are you kidding me? Oh well, let’s see how this vortex thing works, see what the universe is gonna fling at me. Perhaps a palpable body buzz, maybe a spiritual shift in my soul – who knows. So I stayed open to whatever would happen and we trekked on up the massive rock. I got a little way up then turned around…OMG! The view was spectacular……we passed some of the legendary twisted juniper trees……then I reached the point where I thought my lungs would explode – whew! Can’t…go…on…any…further. So here are a few pics taken during my vortex encounter:AJ pointed out the vortex “power lines” flowing into me in this picture he took (above) but perhaps they may just be rays streaming down from the sun. Personally, I’m stickin’ with his theory. More incredible views….Time for a cool drink and some lunch so AJ took me to his favourite vegetarian restaurant, Chocola Tree, where we enjoyed healthy organic treats. Lovely peaceful environment and a nice way to “come down” from the vortex thingy.
Now for some serious retail therapy: I promised myself I would buy a really good piece of turquoise so the ever-patient AJ escorted me into and out of numerous touristy souvenir stores until we came upon one particular fine jewellers and there I found several pieces that made their way back to Toronto with me. Who needs rent money when you can buy genuine native American silver and turquoise, right? Haa haa. We then drove a little further into the real town of Sedona (away from the tourist traps) to a mission-style arts & shopping village called Tlaquepaque. What a beautiful place with all sorts of luxury boutiques surrounded by hanging gardens, balconies, flowers and stunning architecture…By now, the sun was getting low so time to head home to Camp Joy Ranch and as we drove out of town I looked up and saw some amazing cloud formations that resembled UFOs following us…yikes!The theme from Close Encounters started playing my head…LOL. Tomorrow, we’re off to Cave Creek, a modern “wild west” town (pretty close to our ranch) that had played host to thousands of bikers from across the country the weekend before. Wonder what we’ll find there….stay tuned.
Just like in the movies, the real wild west has plenty of ghost towns and my hosts, AJ and Tom, took me to the Goldfields ghost town north of Phoenix. It used to be a real working gold mine town back in the late 1800’s complete with mines, a saloon, general store, a prairie apothecary and bordello (a genuine whorehouse). We arrived in time to enjoy a train ride around the town, play in the shootin’ gallery and witness a noisy shoot-out with the local Sheriff and bad guys. So much fun and the views of the spectacular Superstitions rocks/mountains were breathtaking. I dropped in to the Siphon Draw Apothecary where lovely pharmacist/medicine woman Colleen (pictured below) created a beautiful refreshing & healing body spray for me using natural aloe and geranium oils. www.siphondraw.comAJ took some great pics of the saloon, the bordello and other buildings (below)……as I saved seats for the big showdown at the OK (for now) corral!
What a hoot! After this, we decided we needed to try our own hands at shootin’ so we headed to the shack out back and took up laser rifles…Didn’t feel much like the real thing but for 2 bucks, I ain’t complaining. Bang…bang bang. Gotcha, ya vermit! AJ & Tom took a time-out at the big saloon and posed for me in front of the horses and the big mountains in the background.Next, we rode the choo choo train that circled the town, giving us a great view of all the buildings and mining activities.
If you want to visit Goldfield ghost town for yourself and experience the excitement of the wild west, here’s all the info your need: www.goldfieldghosttown.comTomorrow…join me in Sedona (below) the new age capital of Arizona, where I experience a “vortex” and marvel at the rock formations and mesas, and the stunning beauty of the desert during the rare “super bloom”.
Saturday April 6th dawned bright and early for me…the sun streamed in my bedroom window (pictured below) by 6:30am and the birds were in full chorus! Today was the day AJ was taking me shopping in Old Town, Scottsdale’s touristy section with all the souvenir shops and boutiques complete with wild west themed exteriors. Our first stop was the weekly farmers’ market – not your usual ramshackle clutch of stalls and tents, but a well laid out, clean and welcoming market with free samples, deelish healthy breakfast treats and tons of local produce. Everywhere you looked, there were flowers and happy smiling shoppers. After indulging in a home-made quiche with honey drizzled over it (wow, so yummy) and downing cups of hot local coffee, we headed off to stroll the Old Town streets. There’s a fabulous art gallery, home decor/accessories and artifacts called Bischoff’sGallery that AJ wanted to show me so off we went, passing several stunning western sculptures…I found so many wonderful treasures inside Bischoff’s including this painted deerskin plus numerous kachina dolls…and I picked up a couple of modestly priced carved wooden figurines – a coyote in full howl and a bunny rabbit, plus a string of tiny red glass chili peppers that are now hanging on my front door. www.bischoffsgallery.com
More wanderings in and out of souvenir stores, picking up fridge magnets for friends as requested.We came upon a stunning fountain with several galloping horses…It was getting just a wee bit hot so we ducked into the fab Berdena’s cafe where the staff prepared fresh squeezed orange juice for me and a tea for AJ. Friendly & welcoming staff made for a pleasant visit. www.berdenas.comMore schlepping around the streets before heading to the incredible Museum of the West where I was to find treasures from cowboy history, native American culture and some samples of the great western artist, Charles Russell. I’ll let the photos do the talking…This next one is AJ’s favourite, as if you couldn’t tell!And these are two of mine….They’re also heavy into pot…clay pots, that is…Lots of wild west memorabilia was on display… I was particularly drawn to the Charles Russell exhibition of his paintings and stories about the women in his life…And there were so many amazing bronzes of native Americans…just look at these regal warriors:And of course I found my very own buffalo…Dances with Glenda!The museum has an outdoor courtyard filled with sculptures… …then back inside I discovered a tribute to John Wayne by his artist friend Harry Jackson near the gift shop:The museum also had a “secret garden” of sculptures around back – look what I found there…Big thank you to Jeffrey in the gift store who pointed out some great western books to bring home as well as some cool cowboy fridge magnets (these ones are for me!). Learn more about Scottsdale’s Museum of the West by visiting their website: www.scottsdalemuseumwest.org
More Arizona Adventure stories coming from this lone ranger so stay tuned!
It’s been 22 years since I took a vacation – working for one’s self means if you don’t work, you don’t make money so after all that nose-to-the-grindstone living, I finally accepted an invitation from old pal Anthony (AJ) Cavanagh with whom I worked at a local Toronto TV station back in 1999/2000, to visit him and his husband Tom on their ranch in Phoenix, AZ. If there is a heaven here on earth, Camp Joy Ranch must be it…or at least heaven-adjacent!
After coming in for the landing and seeing such a bleak landscape (below)……I was surprised to learn that Arizona had recently experienced an unusual amount of rain and the desert was in “super bloom” i.e. all the wildflowers and cacti were blossoming, bursting with colour and fragrance. After AJ picked me up it was pretty dark and as we drove thru the night about an hour or so out of the city, he explained that they have a law requiring street lights and commercial/retail lighting be turned off or down low in order to see the night sky. OMG…I have never seen such bright stars, the moon, all the constellations! But even more beautiful was the surroundings of Camp Joy Ranch when I woke up the next morning with the sun streaming through my bedroom window…The first thing I noticed, apart from the stunning vistas, was the sound of birds singing. Mourning doves coo’d, desert quails with their funny feathered top-knots warbled and the crows cawed high above as they rode the wind high above. I saw all sorts of birds including red cardinals, honeysuckers and humming birds (try taking a pic of them – impossible…LOL) as well as eagles and hawks, plus the bunnies came out to play every morning (below)After a great Aussie breakfast of toast & Vegemite, AJ saddled up the Prius and we headed out to Scottsdale for some serious shopping and touristy sight-seeing. I was so excited just like a little kid, knowing I was gonna be amazed and enthralled. My next blog post will show you what we saw so stay tuned.
Yesterday, Saturday April 13th, Urban Gallery’s artist of the month LORI RYERSON (pictured below) hosted a meet-the-artist event after her big launch reception last week. Those fans who couldn’t make it for the grand opening of her show “Off the Beaten Path” poured into the gallery and another photographic artwork was quickly sold…red dot firmly affixed to one of my personal favourites, “Tears of a Peacock” (below)Most of the photographs featured in Lori’s show illustrate the remoteness and emptiness of spaces in far off lands…My photography is usually the result of serendipity. I look for an alignment of things that convey a story, for the narrative in abandoned urban landscapes. I try to capture what silence looks like. These are the stories I tell through my lens. – Lori Ryerson, 2019
Here’s Lori to tell you about the show in her own words:
Lori enjoyed sharing her inspirations and travel stories with gallery visitors….…and Lori’s sister, Lisa, dropped in to wish her well with the show (below)…as did her fellow artists and friendsOver the years, Lori has amassed a huge portfolio of photographs, many of which have been compiled into books that her fans appreciate and stand in line to purchase at her shows…Off the Beaten Path runs until April 27th at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East, Toronto (just 1 blk E of Parliament). Gallery hours and directions: www.urbangallery.ca
If you’d like to learn more about the artist, follow her on social media or visit her website: www.focalocity.ca