Three Bloggers, Three Cameras, One Desert

Wilderness, wild horses, pristine waters, and adventure await, all within a mere thirty minute drive away from the hustle and bustle of the big city of Phoenix, Arizona. I always enjoy my time exploring the far east side of the Phoenix valley, and my recent excursion with blog friends did not disappoint.

wild horses against a field of yellow poppies near Phoenix, Arizona

Salt River wild horses, Tonto National Forest, Arizona

A blogger meet-up

First, I’ll need to set the stage. It was the last week of February and the first pleasant weather of the month. What a crazy winter we’ve had in the desert southwest this year. The wonderful weather was perfect timing for my cyber friend Teri to come to Arizona for a visit.

three blogging gals with wild horses in the background

Nancy, Teri, me, wild horses in the background

Teri and I have followed each other’s blog for over five years, yet this would be our first connection in person.

Let’s add in another blogger, Nancy. Again, she and I started off as cyber friends via our blogs, but since we live only a ten-minute drive away from one another, we’ve socialized regularly.

So, there you have your three bloggers; Nancy, Teri, and me. Our common thread is blogging and a passion for photography. Therefore, our get together had to be centered around gathering blog material and capturing interesting photographs. Oh, we’ll add in a little goofing around just for fun.

It was a sunny Monday morning when I picked up Nancy at her place then jumped on the interstate to head to the FAR southeast side of the Phoenix valley. Nancy and I live on the far north end of the valley. Seriously Teri … could you have picked a hotel any further away? Just asking! 😏 An hour plus drive and a few hugs later, the three of us, along with our three cameras, were on our way in search of wild horses.

More driving, too much talking, distracted driver, missed exits, turned around BUT not lost 🤣 … we eventually made it to our first stop along the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest.

An egret lands along the shore of the Salt River near Phoenix Arizona. Snow capped Four Peaks can be seen in the distance.

Water is life

There’s a saying in the west, “Whiskey’s fer drink’n, and water’s fer fight’n over“. Water is a precious commodity in America’s desert southwest, and anytime one stumbles upon a body of water, it’s a special treat. And the Salt River is indeed a special treat in an otherwise dry landscape.

Through a series of dams creating reservoirs, the Salt River provides water to the Phoenix valley, as well as local wildlife. The wildlife and beautiful scenery were our focus of the day, and we really got lucky scoring a fantastic day.

Our first stop was a simple picnic area just off the highway. Unfortunately, densely covered tall reeds obstructed any photographic view of the water, but our second stop had these three bloggers doing a happy dance. Teri was busy photographing reflections in the water while Nancy was enamored with Four Peaks covered in snow, and of course, it was all about the shorebirds for me.

We could’ve spent hours here just exploring and taking photographs, but we were on a mission which included tracking down a herd of wild horses.

Our next stop was at the Coon Bluff Loop picnic area. I immediately zeroed in on a small group of photographers with long camera lenses standing near the river. There’s something about living the RV life that transforms a normally shy introverted individual into an out-going stranger approaching person. Stranger danger … what’s that? 🤣 After a brief chit-chat with one of the wildlife photographers, we took his advice and were on our way up the road to the location he shared. I never did figure out what they were photographing at Coon Bluff.

Supposedly, the guy had spent that morning photographing some wild horses near Saguaro Lake. So, that’s where we decided to go. We hoped he wasn’t sending us on a wild goose chase.

Siesta time for this herd of wild horses

Salt River Wild Horses

Sure enough! We found the herd of horses that the nice gentleman told us about. They were gorgeous and looked healthy. We kept our distance, walked around slowly, spoke softly, and reminded each other that these horses are wild.

Me admiring the horses and field of poppies

Out of respect for the horses, we didn’t hang around too long. After all, they were trying to take a nap. So, once we had our fair share of photographs, we were on to our next stop. For more information on the Salt River horses, please visit this website – Salt River Wild Horse Management Group.

Saguaro Lake picnic

It was already past noon and our stomachs were growling when we bid farewell to the wild horses. Unbeknownst to my friends, I had packed us a picnic lunch and knew exactly where to snag a picnic table with a view. I also knew we’d be pretty far away from any food establishment which is why I came prepared with lunch. A good tour guide knows these things!

However, little did I know we’d have additional guests for lunch. The squirrels were rather aggressive and when one jumped on the table … well, let’s just say Miss Nancy was none too pleased. I’m not sure if I heard “disease-carrying rodent” or “don’t touch my wine“. 🤣 The words “attack of the wild squirrels” may have even been thrown around. Ah regardless, they provided another source of laughs, wildlife photography, and entertainment for the day.

Saguaro Lake, Phoenix, AZ

Saguaro Lake

After lunch, it was time for a little stroll along the waters edge and more photo snapping.

Our last stop of the day was at a scenic overlook. This is one of my favorite stops for afternoon photography. I discovered this spot about six years ago and always make it a point to stop here whenever I’m in the area, even if I only have five minutes.

Salt River, Phoenix, AZ

Salt River

Wrap up of Day One

That about wraps up day one of our blogger get together. Day two will include more photography and a scenic hike. That’ll be in my next post. Until then, I’ll share a few more pics of the day and a map of where we stopped. To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.

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Phoenix Tour Guide

I was grateful that the Phoenix, Arizona, weather finally returned to temperatures we love and expect in the desert southwest during this time of year. With clear skies once again upon us, I didn’t waste any time getting out with the camera and exploring.

snow covered peaks in the distance reflecting in the Salt River while a white egret flies by

The Salt River with Four Peaks coated in snow. Far east side of the Phoenix valley

It has been a crazy and hectic week for me, but in a good way. Therefore, today’s post will be short and I’ll share just a snippet of what I’ve been up to.

Popular valley hike

On February 21st and 22nd, Phoenix encountered some record weather … cold, rain, hail, and snow. Yes, snow in Phoenix, Arizona. What a rare treat to behold! And although, we spend our winters in Phoenix to avoid cold and snow, this storm truly added an unexpected beauty to the landscape.

an RV park in Phoenix, Arizona with a snow coated hill in the background

Our RV park in Phoenix, Arizona, experiences snow

We woke up to clear skies on Saturday the 23rd, and I just had to get out and take in the landscape. I bundled up and headed off to hike the Pinnacle Peak trail located in north Scottsdale. The cold brisk air (37 degrees Fahrenheit when I first started) didn’t deter me or other hikers on this popular trail.

Pinnacle Peak trail in Scottsdale, Arizona. Large boulders and yellow flowers line the trail with snow capped mountains in the distance

Pinnacle Peak trail with snow-covered mountains in the distance. Note the bright yellow wildflowers along the trail.

I’ll do a detailed write-up on the trail once I have a little down time.

Pinnacle Peak trail with wildflowers in the foreground

There was still a little snow here and there near the peak. What a beautiful contrast with the wildflowers lining the trail.

Tour guide duty

Then came Monday and Tuesday which kept me extra busy exploring and visiting with a couple of blogging gal pals. Teri and I have followed each others blogs for over five years, yet this would be the first time we’d actually meet in person. On the other hand, fellow blogger Nancy and I have hung out many times. Fortunately, Nancy lives a mere ten minutes away from my RV Park making it convenient for us to hike together anytime.

three different feet wearing hiking shoes photographed near a pristine lake near Phoenix, Arizona

Three bloggers in search of blog material

Since the three of us all met via our blogs, we’re always looking for blog material. With that in mind, it was time for me to pick up the ladies and go into tour guide mode. Actually, I seem to be doing a lot of Phoenix tour guiding this season, and I’m loving every minute sharing some of my favorite sights with out of town friends.

First on the list was tracking down the Salt River wild horses. Check!

hikers in a field of yellow poppies near 2 wild horses

We find a herd of wild horses near a field of blooming poppies – only 2 horses seen here

Our growling tummies told us it was time to bid farewell to the horses and move on. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Saguaro Lake followed by a little hiking along the shore … all of which included lots of photography. The next day, we were off to a new place to take in some other popular yet picturesque sights in Phoenix’ east valley.

Teri shares her backside while Nancy frames a photograph

We had such a great time together and hated to say goodbye to Teri. I assure you, she didn’t seem eager to return to the weather in Ohio. So, I’m hoping she’ll make it an annual trek back to Phoenix for more blogger shenanigans. And yes, I’ll need to do a more detailed post on our two wonderful and fun days hanging out together.

A happy Teri – gal and her camera

Keeping busy

The fantastic weather is making it difficult for me to stay home and get anything done. I’ve been enjoying new discoveries, as well as visits with friends and family at every opportunity, and today I’m attending a wedding.

I think, next week I’ll slow things down and hopefully get some posts written up. In the meantime, hope life is good wherever you are. Enjoy these wildflowers!

desert flowers against a log background

Taken on a trail Friday – March 1st

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Crazy Weather Photo Prompt

Is it me, or has this winter weather been absolutely crazy? Talk about challenging winter weather conditions all across the United States, and for those living south of the equator, I hear you’ve had your own weather challenges. Crazy stuff, huh!

We’ve been comfortably parked in an RV Park on the far north side of the Phoenix valley since early October. I use the term “comfortably” loosely. Although, we are enjoying the RV park, our RV site, and the great neighbors, the weather has been anything but “comfortable”.

thick cloud storms rolling over the desert landscape

storms make for interesting skies in the desert southwest

I love my RV, but living in a tin can RV during cold and rainy weather isn’t much fun. Sure, we’ve had some nice days which were perfect for hiking, but the inclement days seem to be more frequent this winter than previous years. And don’t even get me started with the wind, hail, and flash flooding.

With all that said, compared to other parts of the country, I really shouldn’t complain. The upside to all the extra moisture we’ve received here in the desert southwest over the past few months will be a colorful reward – a kaleidoscope of spring wildflowers.

Last year the desert was dry, brown, and sad. This year, she is green, plump, and happy. So, even though the weather has been colder and wetter than I’d prefer, I know there’s an upside. Can you believe those blooms have already started showing up … and it’s only February? March is going to be amazing!

a dusting of snow on a gloomy day in Phoenix

A gloomy winter day in Phoenix, AZ. Where’s the sun and what’s that white stuff?

yellow wildflowers against a dusting of snow in Phoenix, Arizona

The wildflowers were all closed up due to cold and ice

Last week in Phoenix, it actually snowed. Not the fun pretty kind of snow, but rather, the slushy irritating kind we call graupel. This stuff I didn’t enjoy, but I did enjoy a snow outing last month.

Snow in Arizona

Even this desert dweller occasionally longs for white fluffy snow. Yep, I miss snow every once in a while. So, in January, after a substantial snowfall in Sedona (mere rain in Phoenix), I hopped in my little red truck and took the 90 minute drive up the hill (Interstate 17) for a day of fun in the snow. I love Arizona’s diversity!

winter in Sedona Arizona

Winter in Sedona, AZ

After about three hours of traipsing in the snow along ice-covered trails, I’d had my fill of winter … especially after a near fatal fall on my derriere. It all happened in slow motion. While my feet where sliding hither and yon, my arms were flailing in all directions in an attempt to steady my balance …. all the while, at the forefront of my mind was my trusty Panasonic camera and saving her from a deadly fall. In the end 🤭, my naturally well padded bottom took the brunt of the fall while Panny survived unscathed and ready for more shutter clicking. Disaster averted! We don’t need to talk about the softball size bruise on my …..

cairns surrounded by snow in Sedona, Arizona

So yeah, I’m good with winter weather and won’t need a snow fix until next year. I’m ready for spring. How about you?

Weather – a photo prompt

For this week’s photo challenge, let’s share images of what the weather looks like in your neck of the woods.

snow covered ground against stunning red rock in Sedona Arizona

Sedona, Arizona, after a snowfall

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations

Wednesday is the day I like to share a photograph(s) centered around a theme. Photo challenges/themes are a great way for us to share our love of photography and engage with other like-minded people. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR, or something in-between, I hope you’ll join in on the challenge. Share and connect!

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Phil and his Shadow

On the morning of February 2, 2019 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, a groundhog named Phil emerged from his hole and did not see his shadow. Not seeing his shadow means we can expect an early spring. Phil has predicted the arrival of spring since 1887, but his accuracy leaves something to be desired. According to statistics, the groundhog is only right about 39 percent of the time. Let’s hope he’s right this time because I’m about done with this winter!

historical sites in Tucson

Shadow – a photo prompt

So with groundhog Phil in mind, let’s share images of shadows. Shadows are fun to play around with and can enrich a photograph. Shadows can be subtle and accentuate details or they can be the focal point. Shadows can strengthen a photo by adding a sense of balance, contrast, or dimensionality to a composition.

One of my favorite images of a shadow was caused from a saguaro cactus. I happened to be hiking at the perfect time for the sun to cast the saguaro’s shadow on the trail making it look like a fork. How about that … a fork in the road trail.

shadow of a saguaro cactus casting a fork on a trail

A fork on the trail!

How to improve your photography skills

Travel and photography seem to go hand in hand. After all, don’t we want to preserve memories of all those beautiful places we visit? I know I do, and I’ve been working diligently at improving my photography skills over the past few years. Ah, my photos are still hit and miss, in my opinion, and I occasionally succumb to the “point and pray” method of shooting, but I continue to practice.

One of the best ways to improve your photography skills is to engage in photo challenges or sometimes referred to as photo prompts. These prompts, challenges,  themes (whatever we want to call them) give me a purpose to get out and shoot or, at the very least, go through my photo archives to analyze what worked and what didn’t.

By picking up my camera regularly, I continue to practice, and by practicing photography consistently, I’ve become better acquainted with my gear and vision. I’m still best friends with that delete button, but continue to enjoy my photographic hobby.

Missions in Tucson, Arizona. Mission San Xavier.

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations

Wednesday is the day I like to share a photograph(s) centered around a theme. Photo challenges/themes are a great way for us to share our love of photography and engage with other like-minded people. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR, or something in-between, I hope you’ll join in on the challenge. Share and connect!

tips on how to improve your photography skills

10 Tips for Finding Inspiration

What do you do when the creative well seems to be empty? When you don’t know what to blog about or what to photograph? When the creative juices just aren’t flowing? Inspiration disappears for all of us from time to time, and it’s something I personally have struggled with for months.

Visiting the park in Anthem Arizona. Waterfalls, ponds and birds.

Since Al and I won’t be traveling much this winter (we’ll be in Phoenix, Arizona, till April), I find myself wondering what I should blog about and what might be new for me to photograph. Ever since our son moved to Phoenix in 2009, we’ve spent a substantial amount of time RVing around the Phoenix valley, and I’ve written dozens of posts in the past about our time in this Arizona city.

I suppose I could re-purpose some of my old blog posts, but that would keep me inside the RV and in front of the computer, and as much as I enjoy my computer time, the reason for living the RV lifestyle is to seek out new experiences and new sights and not sit in front of a computer screen all day.

The incentive to go out and about is easy when we’re visiting new places, but takes a little more effort and reflection on my part when I’m living a stationary life.

Reflections of life. Tips on finding creative inspiration.

Reflecting on the past can help direct you in the future

Now that I’m sitting in a familiar city that we’ve already spent a significant amount of time exploring, I find myself reflecting on the past for inspiration.

During our last year of owning a sticks and bricks home along Colorado’s Front Range, Al and I decided to pretend we were tourists. After all, Colorado Springs is a major summer destination for many. It was amazing the beautiful sights we discovered right in our own backyard (well, not literally in our backyard, but around town).

I’m grateful that we took the time to explore a little more of Colorado Springs before moving away. We still never made it to the top of Pikes Peak, but perhaps that’s an impetus for us to revisit.

So, think about your past. Think about a memorable place or time, and ask yourself where, when, and why? Memories can serve as wonderful inspiration. All I have to do is think about our five week stay along the shores of Lake Powell this past April, and a smile comes to my face. There was no lack of creative inspiration with scenery like that!

Alstrom Point

Me enjoying the scenery – overlooking Lake Powell.

Meet new people

Attending a conference, a seminar, or engaging in a local “meetup” group, forces us to mingle with new people. In the RVing world, this is an everyday event as our neighbors are forever changing. RV parks are a social mecca filled with activities, and meeting new and interesting people is always inspirational. But what if you don’t live in a setting that’s easy to meet new people?

At the end of November, I decided to attend a local WordPress meetup group. I thought it might be a good way to meet locals outside of the RVing community, as well as get a little WordPress help. You see, I’ve had difficulties commenting and liking some of my favorite blogs.

It all started about a month or so ago. I have a bunch of blogs I follow via the WordPress Reader along with receiving posts via email. I used to be able to easily comment or ‘like’ an emailed post, but no more. Grrr … without getting into the nitty-gritty of my frustrations, I was hopeful in meeting some local techies.

Although I enjoyed mingling, this meetup group is geared toward the self-hosted WP user, and therefore, of little help to me. With that said, listening to other creatives was inspirational, making my attendance worthwhile. I might go again or maybe I’ll try some other “meetup group.

waterfalls

Go for a walk and search out the beauty around you

Phoenix, Arizona, is known for its mild winters and beautiful blue skies. The other day was cold and dreary. There was a thick cloud cover and the threat of rain. It was late afternoon when I decided to don my sweatshirt and head out on a photographic outing.

My husband was perplexed and expressed concern about the poor weather conditions, but when I explained that today was the perfect day for me to shoot a waterfall, he understood …. well, not really, but he did a good job pretending he understood.

I headed off to a local park in the quaint town of Anthem, Arizona (far north Phoenix valley). It’s a beautiful park with ponds, waterfalls, a Veterans Memorial, baseball/soccer fields, a skate park, railroad, a Sunday morning farmers market, and more.

I had a fabulous time playing with my camera and searching out creative inspiration. That little outing was exactly what I needed to get the creative juices flowing, and I’m so glad I didn’t let the weather deter me.

holiday railroad. Enjoy a festive holiday train ride through a park

Study other creatives

Visit a local art gallery, museum, or library and immerse yourself in other works of art. My recent sculpture tour in Scottsdale found me appreciating the talents and vision of the various artists and asking myself, “What inspires them?

If your creative outlet is writing, are you as awed by J.K. Rowlings talent as much as I am? Sometimes I like to go to the local library and peruse cookbooks looking for recipe and photography inspiration. A library is a great way to discover works of art.

And let’s not forget about music. Listening to the words of a favorite song or dancing to an irresistible rhythm can be very inspirational. Unfortunately, the music gene doesn’t run in my family, but I’m an appreciative listener.

Reading blogs

I’d have to say, my most favorite (my favorist 😆) way to find inspiration is via blogs. Seriously, you my friends, are the best creative inspiration around. When I’m really stuck … you know, staring at a blank screen ‘stuck’, and can’t begin to figure out what to write or share, I turn to my favorite blogs.

If that doesn’t work, I go in search of new blogs. Don’t you love it when bloggers write a post linking to other inspirational bloggers? I know I do! Of course, there’s Pinterest to consider, but blogs still rule in my humble opinion.

Tips for creative inspiration

Write a bucket list

Ask yourself, “If money were no object, I would ….?” Write down a list of things you’d like to accomplish … places you’d like to visit … maybe it’s a dream job … maybe you’d like to publish a book, whatever comes to mind. Be honest with yourself. I bet, when you read that dream list that many of the things you’ve written down are attainable.

Research! Whatever the subject, see what other’s have to say about it. What do they say about that dream job, about publishing that book, or traveling to that destination you long to visit? If you don’t have the physicality or finances, perhaps writing a blog post about those bucket list items will be a start to fulfilling a dream, and your writings might inspire you, as well as others.

Spiritual Enlightenment

We all have something we believe in that helps us get through life. For some, it’s attending church services regularly while for others it’s a way of living one’s life. I have friends who tap into their spiritual beliefs by reading the bible or devotionals everyday. Another friend of mine has quotes delivered to her inbox daily, and these quotes serve as her inspiration and enlightenment. Many use meditation, prayer, or both.

I know when I tap into my spirituality, I feel a sense of renewal and hope. That renewed feeling helps me focus and work toward goals.

enjoying fall leaves

My daughter having fun with fall leaves!

Meet a friend for coffee (or a drink)

Enjoy some one on one time with a friend over a cup of coffee or a cocktail. Be the listener and really listen to what’s going on in your friend’s life. What are their motivations and goals? How do your ambitions compare or differ?

Maybe they recently read a fascinating book that would make for a great blog article or maybe that photo shared on their phone was taken at an unusual angle, giving you inspiration for your next outing with the camera.

A relaxed get together with a friend is something we should all do regularly!

Take your camera in search

Take your camera (or phone) on an outing devoted to photography. Be a tourist in your hometown. What would you share with someone visiting your town/city for the first time? Walk around your neighborhood and find unique things to photograph.

My neighbor, here in the RV park in Phoenix, is a photographer. In an effort to exercise, he walks around the park, up and down the streets, regularly photographing interesting sights … the little yard decorations, door details, interesting plants, colors, etc., and in the process, he gets in his steps.

If the weather is too cold and blustery in your neck of the woods, think about heading into the kitchen and cook/bake something new … then photograph it. Step outside of your comfort zone. Photography is about finding out who you are and focusing on the world around you.

reflecting on life, thought provoking

Listen to your thoughts

Allow yourself to slow down, look inward, and listen to your thoughts. Although my camera shutter clicked often at the park the other day, I did take time to just sit on a park bench and watch the world go by. I watched the ducks drift by on the pond. I listened to the trickle of water from the nearby waterfall. I watched the storm clouds swirl about. I watched the changing light on a mountain as the sun was beginning to set.

I thought about the photographs I had just made, and recognized my strengths and weaknesses. I was feeling creative, a feeling which I hadn’t felt in some time, and it felt good. I needed this time at the park to just be … to listen to my inner voice and listen to my thoughts.

It was at that moment I realized, I don’t have to travel to far away places to be creative … to find blog material, photographic material, inspirational material. I just need to look at things from a fresh angle and shake up my routine.

time

10 Tips on how to find creative inspiration

  1. Reflect on the past. Analyze fond memories and decide to create new ones.
  2. Meet new people – interact, learn, and find out what inspires others.
  3. Go for a walk and immerse yourself in your surroundings
  4. Study other creatives
  5. Read blogs
  6. Write a bucket list
  7. Embrace spiritual enlightenment
  8. Meet a friend for coffee or a drink
  9. Take your camera in search
  10. Listen to your thoughts

If we look at the world with a love of life, the world will reveal its beauty to us – Daisaku Ikeda

How do you find blogging ideas and subjects to write about? How do you tap into your creativity or decide what to photograph? What inspires you?

How to find creative inspiration10 tips for finding blog ideas. How to find creative inspiration.

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A Weekend in Sedona, Arizona

A geological marvel … one of America’s most beautiful places … multi-hued red rock formations jutting upwards from the high desert floor creating a mesmerizing setting … ah,yes … I’m talking about stunningly beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona Arizona

Sun faded prayer flags contrast against the red rocks

Red Rock Country is unique and exudes a sense of spirituality along with a mood that changes hourly with the light. It’s no wonder this majestic place attracts 2 to 4 million tourists a year. Surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land, visitors to Sedona have easy access to plenty of outdoor recreation, but Sedona is equal parts rugged, equal parts resort.

With such an abundance of public land access, the availability of experiencing this amazing landscape is endless. There are trails for hiking and biking, along with plenty of 4×4 gravel/dirt roads perfect for scenic Jeep tours or ATV excursions. Meandering in the back country among red rock pinnacles, spires, buttes and domes is an absolute must for any visitor, and yet, you’re never far from the conveniences of town.

back country near Sedona Arizona

Exploring the back country near Sedona, Arizona

A birthday weekend …

It was the third weekend in September, and although a few weeks past my actual birth date, it was a great time of year to visit Sedona and celebrate my birthday together with family. This trip was actually all planned by my children as part of a gift … awe!

Since our daughter, son, and daughter-in-law all had to work that Friday in Phoenix, we didn’t check into our double-suite condo like lodging until 7:00 p.m., but that still left us a few hours for some socializing over cocktails and snacks before it was time to head off to bed. Sedona is less than a two hours drive and about 116 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona. We stayed at a lovely resort called Sedona Summit.

Saturday morning, my daughter and I were out the door by 8:00 a.m. with cameras in hand. As many times as we’ve visited Sedona, there’s always something new on our list that we look forward to exploring.

Sedona Arizona Spiritual journey

Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park, Sedona, Arizona

First stop, spiritual enlightenment

Located near the base of Thunder Mountain is a place for meditation and spiritual renewal.  Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park offers its visitors spiritual transformation and healing through the fascinating architecture and geometry of the stupa. Stupas are one of the oldest forms of sacred architecture and Buddhist practitioners have built them to promote spiritual deepening, healing, prosperity, and peace.

Filled with hundreds of prayers for peace, sacred relics and ritual offerings, the Amitabha Stupa is a vortex of enlightened presence and blessings.

Stupa Sedona Arizona Buddism

Ashton and I were fascinated with this Buddist park, but then again, anything associated with Nepal or the Himalayas seems to captivate our attention and that includes all the Prayer Flags. During her college days, Ashton and her roommate had prayer flags hung around their tiny dorm room. The prayer flags belonged to her roommate and were actually bought in Nepal during a family trip.

My daughter and I share a secret interest in someday traveling to Nepal – a land far away. In reality, I think this Sedona peace park or the time we went to Disney World and experienced Expedition Everest is the closest we’ll ever get to Kathmandu, and in reality, I’m okay with that … but shhh, don’t tell my daughter 😉

(To enlarge photos, click on any image in the photo gallery)

Discovering ancient history

Next on our agenda was heading into the back country in search of ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs. We originally wanted to visit the Palatki Heritage Site, but hikes are done via a tour, and since Ashton and I were already running a little late, we opted to visit the less popular Honanki ruins where you’re able to stroll without a guide.

After the split in the road (one way to Palatki and another way to Honanki), the road to the Honanki Ruins gets a bit rough in spots, and I was glad to be driving a vehicle that handles these rough roads perfectly. We did see the occasional car, but we mostly saw Jeep Tours or ATV’s. Here’s a quote from the National Park website about the road condition: “Those with high-clearance vehicles and/or a sense of adventure can turn ….. the compensation for abusing your motor vehicle are wonderful views of the red rock formations that Sedona is so famous for“. Alrighty then!

A final note on the road conditions. Older publications will tell you the route to the Palatki Site from Dry Creek Road is rough. Road conditions have improved substantially within the past year. The Enchantment Resort has brought new development to this end of Sedona and the road is now paved beyond Fay Canyon and Doe Mountain Trailheads. Once the pavement ends, the gravel road is still easily accessed by most vehicles all the way to the Palatki Heritage Site. However, you might want to check with the National Park Service for the latest up to date road conditions.

Once at the Honanki site, we enjoyed a short hike to the cliff dwellings and slowly toured the area taking in the ruins and interesting rock art. Could the ancient cliff dwellers be telling us that Yeti, the abominable snowman, did exist? Another connection to Nepal?

The Honanki cultural site is relatively small and my daughter and I spent less than an hour exploring the area, but we were glad we made the long, bumpy trek out to the site. The drive was all part of the adventure and taking in the beautiful landscape.

Retail Therapy and Dining

Once Ashton and I returned to our lodging, we grabbed a bite to eat with the rest of the family and then the five of us headed to the Tlaquepaque Shopping Village for a little retail therapy.

I love the architecture of this place and always find interesting shops and galleries to stroll through. During a previous visit, my daughter and I enjoyed a little wine tasting, but this time, we stumbled upon Spirits & Spice. This unique shop had the entire family engaged in tasting, and it did not disappoint. I assure you, none of us left the store empty-handed.

Dining … since we had a full kitchen at our accommodations, during this particular visit, we ate in most of the time, but we did enjoy a yummy Sunday breakfast with a great view at the Wildflower Bread Company. Another fun stop for us was at The Art of Wine for a little wine tasting. My daughter ended up buying some Arizona wine.

Restaurants we’ve eaten at in the past: The Coffee Pot Restaurant is ideal for a hearty breakfast and serves up some of the best coffee. I enjoyed the coffee so much that I even bought a bag of their beans to brew back at the RV. Javelina’s Cantina is one of Al’s favorite lunch spots. Oaxaca Restaurant is another tasty Mexican restaurant if you happen to be strolling Main Street. And for those looking for specialty foods, Chocola Tree is worth checking out. Their outdoor patio is very zen with a hippie vibe.

Final thoughts on Sedona

Sedona is most definitely a tourist town and on weekends traffic can be congested and challenging, but if you can get beyond the hoards of people, you’ll discover a sense of history, beauty, and well-being like non-other.

The history of this land goes way back to various Indian civilizations as evidenced by the Honanki ruins; AD 1150-1350. The first Europeans (Spanish) explored the Verde Valley in the mid 1500’s and the first Anglo settled in the area in 1876.

And we can’t ignore the energizing vortexes which attract believers from around the world to experience these mystical forces. What is a vortex? They are 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. Many people feel inspired, recharged or uplifted after visiting a vortex.

Whether you believe in the power of a vortex or not, I think we can all agree, Sedona is unique, and worth at least one visit. As for my family and I, we aren’t done exploring Sedona, Arizona, and are already planning our next visit. Yes Sedona, we’ll be back!

vortex energy Sedona Arizona

Top 7 things to do in Sedona

  1. Hike or bike the 300 plus miles of trails. You’ll find a trail for every level of ability, but do note, the trailhead parking lots fill up quickly. Sedona’s secret 7 hiking trails.
  2. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross and marvel at this unique structure built into the rock. For more spiritual enlightenment, visit the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Parkand enjoy the peaceful grounds of this 14-acre Buddhist park (open to all faiths)
  3. Dine at one of many restaurants. Finding quality food is not an issue around here, and most recently, Sedona has emerged as a destination for wine enthusiasts.
  4. Shop historical uptown Sedona (also known as Main Street) or at the architecturally pleasing Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. (pronounced: Tuh-locka-pa-key, I think)
  5. Take in the incredible red rock landscape by enjoying a Jeep or helicopter tour.
  6. Visit a vortex. Regarded by Native Americans as sacred, Sedona continues to be recognized as a place of healing and spiritual renewal. Many come to experience the vortex centers of Sedona to tap into spiritual energy.
  7. Or simply relax around a luxury resort. Sparkling pools and rejuvenating spas abound.

Sedona Arizona

Click here for a map of Sedona.

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Prayer Flags – Traditional Five Elements Arizona: The Grand Canyon State (Exploring the States)

Architecture as a Photographic Subject

Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, I was well acquainted with the name Frank Lloyd Wright at an early age. I lovingly blame my father for my interest in design and architecture.

Mission San Xavier, Tucson, Arizona

Mission San Xavier, Tucson, Arizona

My dad worked in the trades in the city (Chicago) and it wasn’t uncommon for me to see blueprints scattered across our dining room table. Although it would take me years to develop his eye and talent, it was a goal I embraced wholeheartedly.

Grand Hotel Mackinac Island Michigan

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan

I was very fortunate to have worked in an industry that I was passionate about, and just because I no longer work in the housing industry does not mean that I’ve lost my interest in architecture … to the contrary.

Travel has only piqued my interest in architecture further, and I love seeking out unique structures.

Loretto Chapel Santa Fe New Mexico

Loretto Chapel and the miraculous staircase, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Photo challenge – theme – prompt

For this weeks photo challenge, let’s share images of architecture. Show us one of your favorite buildings or structures. Feel free to share a link in the comments below or link back to this page on your own post.

After going through all my photographs, I realized I don’t have any images of Prairie Style architecture. Although I’ve studied and toured prairie style homes and visited several Frank Lloyd Wright historical sites in the past, I don’t seem to have any photographs in my archives. Hmm, perhaps this winter, I should visit Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona 😏

St. Louis Cathedral New Orleans Louisiana

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, Louisiana

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Photo Inspirations

Each Wednesday I post a different photo prompt as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like-minded bloggers. Perhaps this will help inspire you to pick up the camera in search of a composition or a reason to go through your photo archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy, share and connect!

San Xavier Mission Tucson Arizona

Next weeks photo prompt?

I’ll be taking a short break from these photo challenges for the next couple of weeks, but promise I’ll be back. In the meantime, I’ll be working on some photo prompt ideas and going through my external hard-drives for images. If you have any photo theme ideas, please let me know in the comments. I love brainstorming!

Chicago architecture

Ten years ago, I enjoyed taking my son on a walking tour of Chicago. The city offers a wonderful blend of old and new architecture . It was a great day exploring the big city.

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Designing Your Perfect House: Lessons from an Architect
Life is Good Mug

Home is Where the Heart is!

Home? What does home really mean? The dictionary says – one’s place of residence, place of domicile, but I think it’s so much more than that simplistic definition.

curious neighbors in our front yard – Cherry Creek State Park, Colorado

I was fortunate to have grown up in a house that my parents owned with a nice yard, nice neighborhood, and have some very fond childhood memories as a result. Once I was no longer living under my parents roof, it wasn’t uncommon for me to still refer to that childhood house as home. I’d quite often say to my roommate, “I’m going home to spend the weekend with my folks”.

Knowing my living arrangement with that roommate was temporary, my heart continued to view my childhood residence as home. In addition to any physical house, I think many of us still view the town or state we grew up in as home.

My “home” in one of many temporary locations – Dillon Lake, CO – this was a fave!

The meaning of home

A home is more than a financial asset or physical structure. Whether you live in a big house or a little house, an apartment or a temporary house, or even a RV, home is a place where you feel that you belong … a place you enjoy sharing with friends and family … a place you connect with because your ideas or attitudes are the same as those of the people around you … a place where you can put your feet up and let out a big sigh of contentment … a place where you can relax and say, “Ah, life is good”.

RVing in Grand Tetons National Park

Another favorite … Home for a week – Grand Tetons National Park

We have a saying in the RV community – “Home is where we park it“. We travel with our houses in tow and have the freedom to change our yard and views on a whim. It’s a glorious way to live, but it’s not without its faults.

Pueblo West Colorado

The house Al and I lived in the longest and raised teenagers in  – home for 10 years.

Al and I moved into our RV on a whim over five years ago, and had every intention of living in the RV for merely a year or two … just until we found a new home base. Over the past five years, we’ve put contracts in on three different houses in various locations, and in each case, we breathed a sigh of relief when negotiations stalled. (hmm, wonder which client stuck their feet in the mud during negotiations? 😁)

Our former sticks and bricks home seen in the distance – photo swiped from our friends Facebook post this past winter. I do NOT miss those Colorado winters.

Do I miss the large custom home in southern Colorado that I designed, generaled, built, and raised my children in? … Nope! As much as I loved that house, and it was home to our family of four for ten years, once Al and I became empty nester’s that house became way too big for just the two of us. Plus, my sense of wanderlust took hold, and I was ready for a new direction, a new adventure, and a change of scenery.

The freedom of RV living is addictive, and clearly, Al and I aren’t ready to change our home scenario anytime soon. We love our RV home and our ever-changing backyard! With that said, we’ll keep looking for that home base, and when we do eventually find it, you’ll be the first to know … well, maybe second … our children should be the first!

Our home – we loved this backyard for five awesome weeks – near Lake Powell

Along with all the fabulous and varying locations we’ve enjoyed calling home over the past few years, we’ve also met some of the nicest people living this RV mobile lifestyle and made some wonderful friends along the way. Friends help provide a sense of home no matter where we’re camped.

This summer, we managed to snag a great campsite in a RV park next to fun neighbors. We adore these neighbors that we’ve lived next to for the past five months, and will be sad, yet excited, to be moving in a couple of weeks.

monsoon season in Arizona

My home for the summer of 2018. Watching storms was part of our entertainment.

And as much as we’re looking forward to the change of scenery, we’re already looking forward to returning to Prescott next summer, if for nothing else, than to harass our dear neighbors 🤣 because yes, we do intend to camp next to these very same people again next summer. Although we realize that there’s a risk they decide to change their housing situation. Run Forest, run!!!

Fairgrounds RV Park

Our home in the background and our neighbors home in the foreground – best neighbors!

Today, some places feel more like home to us than other places. The state of Colorado will always have a special place in our hearts, but it is no longer home. The meaning of the word home has taken on more of a spiritual meaning to us than that of a physical structure or place. Home is where our heart is!

Cave Creek Arizona – hot air balloons routinely flew over our home

Photo challenge – theme – prompt

For this weeks photo challenge, let’s share images of home. What does home mean to you and what does it look like? Feel free to share a link in the comments below or link back to this page on your own post. I’d love to see images of your home.

Lake Pleasant, Arizona. This place has served as home for weeks at a time

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Photo Inspirations

Each Wednesday I post a different photo prompt as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like minded bloggers. Perhaps this will serve as a little inspiration to pick up the camera in search of a composition or a reason to go through your photo archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy, share and connect!

our home in the desert – boondocking in Quartzsite for a couple of weeks a few winters ago!

Next weeks photo challenge – Architecture …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!

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 Home is Where You Park It Throw Pillow
Life is Good Adirondack Mug

Favorite Zoos – Photo Prompt

When my children were little (I mean, really little, like 1-3 years old), we lived in the Chicago suburbs and within an easy drive to the Brookfield Zoo. I don’t remember too much from those visits as I was too preoccupied keeping those two little ones corralled in a double stroller. However, I do know at that time, the Brookfield Zoo was known as one of the top zoos in the country.

By the time my children were in elementary school, we were living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and visiting the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo became a favorite pastime. Long gone were the days of that double stroller, and keeping my eyes peeled on the little kids. I was finally able to enjoy the zoo experience and focus on the animals. Our visits continued into adulthood …

giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Colorado Springs Colorado

My daughter feeding a giraffe at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is located in an absolutely beautiful place. But be forewarned, the zoo is built into the side of a mountain, and therefore, has some hilly walkways and elevation changes to navigate. Even for those of us used to the 6,000 foot plus altitude, those hills can make even the fittest person huff and puff.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Colorado Springs Colorado

Giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Now that my children live in Phoenix, Arizona, we like to make a day of it and visit the Wildlife World Zoo. This place is huge and constantly expanding.

ostrich at Wildlife World Zoo Phoenix

The first time my son introduced me to his then girlfriend, now wife, was during a visit to the Wildlife World Zoo. It was a great day watching their blossoming relationship.

Me and my son at Wildlife World Zoo – during this visit, I met his then girlfriend, now wife, for the first time.

monkey at the Wildlife World Zoo in Phoenix Arizona

During that particular visit to the Wildlife World Zoo, my focus was more on getting to know the young gal that my son was falling in love with than photographing the animals.

So a few months later, I connected with my blogging pal, Nancy, for a photographic day at the zoo. We enjoyed a very fun day and took tons of photographs, but guess what? I can’t find the images from that day 😥

ostrich Wildlife World Zoo Phoenix ArizonaThis past weekend, I spent well over an hour going through two external hard-drives looking for that file to no avail. I have one more external drive to check which is located at my son’s house.

It’s always a good idea to keep an external hard-drive filled with photographs and important documents off-site at another location.

If I still can’t find those photographs on that external hard-drive, that means Nancy and I will HAVE TO do a repeat. I’m sure neither of us will complain too loudly about a trip to the zoo. Will we Nancy? Maybe we’ll even throw in a visit to the Phoenix Zoo, which I haven’t visited yet.

Drive-through Wildlife Parks

Another great way to see animals up close is via a drive-through wildlife park. Of course, I always prefer to see animals in the wild, but we can’t nor shouldn’t get as close to the animals in the wild as we can in a park or zoo.

The first and only time I’ve visited a drive-through wildlife park was a couple of years ago when we were meandering around the state of Idaho. Yellowstone Bear World was a wonderful way to see a bunch of bears and cubs in addition to a variety of other animals.

Yellowstone Bear World Idaho

Gosh, I’m handsome!

Yellowstone Bear World Idaho

This moose was laying close to the fence, allowing me to get very close to her.

Yellowstone Bear World is a relatively small park and a two hour visit was enough to satisfy my camera. Even though small, I’m really glad I made time for this excursion. Next on my ‘must see’ list is Bearizonia in northern Arizona.

Since my sister and her daughter came to Arizona to attend my son’s wedding this past August, they not only visited the Grand Canyon but stopped in at Bearizonia per my recommendation. They were not disappointed and encouraged me to visit. As many times as Al and I have camped near the Grand Canyon and Williams, something has always come up that thwarted my visit to this wildlife park… sigh! Therefore, it still remains on ‘my list’.

Favorite zoo or wildlife park

Do you have a favorite zoo or wildlife park that you like to visit? For this weeks photo challenge / theme, I’ve chosen the prompt zoo. Feel free to share a link in the comments below or link back to this page on your own post.

leopard

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations

Each Wednesday I post a different photo prompt / challenge as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like-minded bloggers. Maybe this will help inspire you to pick up your camera in search of a composition or a reason to go through your photo archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy, share and connect 🤗

Next weeks prompt – Around Home …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!

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Flopsie Moose
LEGO Forest Animals
Animal Tote Bag
Grip and Stand for Phones and Tablets

Sunrise – A New Day, a New View

With a strong cup of coffee in hand while watching the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico … Ah, could there possibly be a better way to start a new day? I know it’s one of my favorites; a strong cup of coffee and a beautiful sunrise.

The dawning of a new day brings about a sense of hope, a sense of new beginnings, a fresh start. All the problems of yesterday are just that – yesterday’s problems.

Sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico

I love watching a beautiful sunrise, but I don’t always love jumping out of the RV so early in the morning in search of those wonderful views. Summer is particularly difficult for me to photograph sunrise considering the sun graces us with her presence so incredibly early in the morning.

It’s too tempting to stay snuggled up in the RV until a more reasonable hour. I guess that’s why I enjoy visiting the Texas Gulf Coast during the winter months. Sunrise is at a more sensible hour and I have no trouble loading up my travel mug with a steaming cup of strong black coffee, tossing the camera in the truck, and heading off in search of capturing an inspiring sunrise photograph. It’s not uncommon for me to be driving along the coast, sipping coffee, long before the sun makes her appearance.

Dock of the Bay

I find these early morning solo excursions to be refreshing. It’s the perfect way to start my day, and I always look forward to our visits to this special place in Texas. I was so looking forward to repeating our usual January – February Texas sojourn, but after much discussion and lots of hemming and hawing, Al and I have decided to stay in Phoenix, Arizona, the entire winter and forgo the Texas journey … this winter, anyway.

I’ll miss those Gulf Coast sunrises, but now I have the challenge of finding the perfect sunrise view in the desert southwest. Hmm, I think I’m up for the photo challenge! If anyone is interested in joining me on a photographic outing in Arizona this winter, please, do reach out … I love company and exploring new locations.

sunrise over the bay

I will miss those coastal views and shore birds, but I look forward to embracing new views, new photographic challenges, and meeting new friends. A new day, a new view, and a new adventure … bring it on!

For this weeks photo challenge, let’s share images of sunrise. Feel free to share a link in the comments below or link back to this page on your own post. I’d love to see your favorite sunrise location.

sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico

Wandering Wednesday –

Each Wednesday I post a different photo prompt / challenge as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like-minded bloggers. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy, share and connect 🤗

Upcoming prompt –  Zoo …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!

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Travel Mug
Camping Coffee Mugs
French Press Coffee Maker
365 Best Inspirational Quotes: Daily Motivation For Your Best Year Ever