Sunset on Grayton Beach

Sunset on Grayton Beach
Sunset on Grayton Beach

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back to the Midwest for Christmas....I forgot how cold it can be here. Brrrr

After our 3 day road trip to the Midwest, we arrived in Illinois on Tuesday the 16th and 24 degrees. Man that's cold when you have been enjoying 60 - 80 degree temperatures. We are staying with my brother. (Thank you Kent) We have had the opportunity to visit with Dad at the nursing home the past two days and do some catching up with my brother and his family. I also had the opportunity to go back to the office I worked in at State Farm and visit with my former co workers. It felt good to be there as a RETIREE. As I posted before, my Dad broke his hip in September and due to issues with his heart he was unable to have surgery to repair it. We were able to secure a room at a local nursing home and for a while we thought he would not be with us for much longer. Well we called in hospice for comfort care and got him on some pain medications. It looked like the end would come soon BUT.....

My Dad has 9 lives and since then he has continued to improve in his health so I spoke to his primary care doctors nurse yesterday and she said that it might be possible to have a partial hip replacement with a spinal block instead of going under full anesthesia which caused his heart to act up. So we are contacting his cardiologist to see if we can get an ok from him to explore that procedure. This has given Dad some new hope for a better quality of life for a few more years. We wish someone would have encouraged us to explore this avenue and not have wasted 3 months in the nursing home thinking he didn't have much time left.  Of course there is no guarantee that the procedure can be done but now we have a plan. My brother is setting up the cardiology appt next month and hopefully by the time we are back in the spring he will have had the surgery and doing some rehab.  Who knows if all goes as planned he might even be able to move back to an assisted living home instead of the nursing home. Time will tell.

We plan to leave Normal, IL tomorrow afternoon and drive up to the Chicago area where our oldest daughter, son in law and youngest grandson live. We will be there through the weekend and celebrate Christmas with them. Then we will travel to Osceola, IN and visit our other daughter and the four grandkids there. We will celebrate Christmas with them and then plan to drive back to Normal, IL on Christmas eve day so we can spend Christmas day with my Dad, brother, his ex wife and our oldest nephew. We plan to leave this frozen tundra on the 26th and head back, as quickly as possible, to our rig and home in AZ. The temperature hasn't been above freezing since we got here and many not before we leave. The weather forecast is looking favorable(no major snow storms) until we leave. Really looking forward some family time but also getting back to OUR home. My hands are cold typing this.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Organ Stop Pizza

Well, I have, indirectly, been told that my daughter(you know who you are) would like to see some scenery other than just desert hiking. So I thought I would post our trip to Organ Stop Pizza. This is a pizza restaurant with a twist. Organ Stop Pizza is the home of one of only a handful of Wurlitzer Theatre Organs. Organ Stop’s Wurlitzer theatre organ was built for the Denver Theatre and was installed in 1927.  The organ was used regularly until the early 1930s. In the theatre, the organ was a style 260, having a three-manual console and 15 ranks/sets of pipes. Organ Stop purchased the instrument in the early 1970s and undertook the mammoth task of rebuilding the instrument. Several additions were made to the instrument by acquiring parts from other ill-fated Wurlitzers. The resulting 23 rank organ was installed in the original facility in 1975.

 As of 2011, the organ boasts nearly 6000 pipes. The massive quantities of wind required for operation are provided by four huge turbine blowers (visible from the outside of the building in the blower complex). The resulting instrument is the largest Wurlitzer theatre organ in the world! Our RV park along with a few others in the area were given an opportunity attend a special presentation along with our pizza lunch. The event started at 1:30 pm on Monday. We paid our 8 dollars per person for a buffet of pizza(which by the way is very good), and entertainment. Once we were seated the manager came out and explained how the pizza would be served and a short intro of what we would be viewing. After we got our pizza and drinks, the lights dimmed(which is why some of the photos are blurry) and the organ began to play. The stage in front of us showed a man and the organ revolving around as it came up from under the stage area. Click on the photos to enlarge.




The gentleman playing the organ was Charlie Balough. Mr. Balough began his professional playing career at the Phoenix Organ Stop in 1973. In 1976, he moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, performing at The Roaring 20’s restaurant (subsequently changed to Good Time Charley’s). His 14 year involvement there as a performer, musical director and owner was highly acclaimed. In 1991, he then returned home to Arizona with his family. In addition to performing at Organ Stop, Charlie is also a leading national concert artist, has many pipe organ recordings to his credit and was named “Organist of the Year” by the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS) in 2000. Mr. Balough took some requests and explained in great detail all the workings of the organ. You might want to follow the link, Organ Stop Pizza, at the top of the post to get more detailed information. The presentation was a lot of fun and entertaining. There are so many instruments associated with the organ and blend together to produce some incredible music.




I found this You Tube video of one of the organists that plays at Organ Stop. This is one of the songs that Mr. Balough played for us. The Phantom of the Opera.

 
Of course, our presentation included a number of Christmas theme songs. The entertainment ended after about a an hour presentation. We had a great time and would recommend this a stop if in the Phoenix, AZ area. So there you have it, I have been doing some other things besides hiking.

Tomorrow we pack and get ready to leave for IL, IN and some holiday cheer with family.

Until then....






Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Butcher Jones Trail Hike- Saguaro Lake

Today's hike was an easy hike around Saguaro Lake in Tonto National Forest. It was an out and back hike of about 4.8 miles. We headed west on US Hwy 60 to Ellsworth Rd north which became Usery Pass Rd and then we turned Rt onto Bush Hwy to Butcher Jones Trailhead next to Saguaro Lake.

Click on the photos to enlarge

 
 
The trail hugged the shoreline with some minor elevation changes and switchbacks. After about a mile or so the trail moved inland and crossed over to another side of the lake.
 





We stopped at a nice high point in the trail with some great views of the foliage near the water and the contrast of the cactus and shrubs further from the lake. We had about 40 hikers in our group and everyone was taking photos and enjoying the views.





There is a marina at one end of the lake that allows storage and access for fisherman and pleasure boaters that include kayaks, sailboats and tubing. This is truly an oasis in the desert. With about 40 hikers in the group there was plenty of conversation and getting know new folks to the hiking club this season. I plan to go on the Friday hike to Pass Mountain. This will be an 8 mile hike of moderate intensity. The back side of Pass Mountain is said to be very scenic. I should be able to get some good photos.

Also, this Sunday we will be renting a car and heading back to IL and IN to visit my Dad, brother, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to celebrating the Christmas holiday with family. Not looking forward to the weather since it will be about 30-40 degrees colder than our weather here in AZ. I think we can handle it for a couple of weeks. I'm sure I'll have some family photos to add to the blog.
Busy, busy.



Friday, December 5, 2014

Fremont Saddle Hike with Weaver's Needle

Everyone in the hiking club at the RV park has been talking about Fremont Saddle and the view of Weaver's Needle. This is the favorite hike of the residents here. The trailhead is off US Hwy 60 on Peralta Rd. Peralta Rd begins as a paved street for about one mile and becomes a dirt road which leads to the Peralta Trail after about a 7 mile drive.  The hike from the trail head to Fremont saddle is about 2 1/4 miles one way, with an elevation gain of about 1300 ft. The rock formations are really cool and the best one is the view of Weavers Needle. The parking lot is large and accommodate a number of vehicles. There is a nice ma of the Superstition Mountain Range at the entrance to the trail.

Click the photos to enlarge
 
I could tell from the views of the rock formations above the parking lot, this was going to be a good hike with some incredible views. 

 

 
 
From the trailhead you start off in dense desert foliage. This is also the trailhead for Bluff Springs, the Cave Trail and the Dutchman's Trail.
 
Desert Foliage

As we climbed the trail became very rocky

As we got higher in the canyon there were great views behind
 
 
The hike to Fremont Saddle is only about 2.4 miles however with the 1300 ft elevation change, the trail seemed much longer. We continued to climbed and climbed and climbed with some well needed rest periods for water and to take in the views from a higher level.
 
 
Geronimo's Cave(that's what it's called)

Just beyond the large rocks above is Fremont Saddle

Great view of rock formations

Hoodoos
 
Hoodoo's are rock formations that started as lava tubes. Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins and "broken" lands. Hoodoos are most commonly found in the High Plateaus region of the Colorado Plateau and in the Badlands regions of the Northern Great Plains. Hoodoos are formed by two weathering processes that continuously work together in eroding the edges of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The primary weathering force is frost wedging. In the winter, water seeps into the cracks and freezes at night. When water freezes it expands by almost 10%, bit by bit prying open cracks, making them ever wider in the same way a pothole forms in a paved road.
 
Four step formation process (Plateau-Fin-Window-Hoodoo) 
 
The most famous Hoodoos are in Bryce Canyon in Utah. One day I hope to see them there. As we neared the Saddle we came around a corner of rock and there it was in all it's glory.
 
WEAVER'S NEEDLE
 
Photos do not do this formation justice. This is something you have to see in person. The vastness of the surrounding valley below and the layers of mountains in the distance. It is indescribable. Here are some additional views of the Needle. We were sitting at about 3800 feet and the top of the Needle is about 4500 feet.
 
Postcard shot
 
Needle and valley below
 
Needle and Lone Pine tree
 
We continued our hike to an area about another 1/2 mile further out on the ridge to the lone pine tree.
 

We had some lunch on the ridge by the pine tree which gave us some additional closer views of the Needle.
Obligatory photo op

A fun photo - I touched the Needle

We had some rain yesterday and with the increased humidity there were some low clouds in the mountains.
 
After about an hour of admiring the scenery, the Needle and the surrounding mountains, we headed back down Peralta Canyon. I actually think the descent was worse than the ascent. Stepping down on the rocks and trail there was quite a jarring of the joints. We continued to be amazed by the views and the trail. 
 

Two final views
 
I was tired and my feet and legs were sore but I couldn't wipe the smile off my face at what I was able to witness. I have fallen in love with the desert and the surrounding mountains. This is a new favorite place. Can't wait to see what hikes the club will decide to do next week. I will certainly let you know. Thanks for following along.
 
Total hike distance 6.5 miles
Total elevation gain 1300 feet



 
 
 



 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Arizona Trail - Kelvin trailhead hike


Wednesday the hiking club drove to the Kelvin Trailhead which is a new part of the Arizona Trail. The Arizona National Scenic Trail is a continuous, 800+ mile diverse and scenic trail across Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It links deserts, mountains, canyons, communities and people. Our hike was round trip of 5.5 miles, only a small part of the trail. We headed from the RV park on US Hwy 60 East to Superior, AZ and then south on Hwy 177 then right on the Florence Kelvin Hwy to the trailhead. We had one of the largest groups so far on this hike. A total of 38 folks in 10 vehicles caravanned to the trailhead.

At the trailhead

Heading out on the trail
 
 
The trail had some ascent and many switchbacks. Along the way we saw the typical cacti, shrubs and rock formations.  As we climbed on the trail the vistas were more and more beautiful. The trail also runs near the Gila River which was below us in the canyon.
 
Cacti and shrubs

Hikers below on the switchbacks

Desert Vista

More Beauty

Getting close to the top of the climb

The Gila River below
 
On the drive to the trailhead we passed by an open pit copper mine. As we climbed the mountain we could see the copper mounds that had been mined and piled for transport by train.
 
Copper Mound
 
As we hiked we came across a fairly rare sight. A Crested Saguaro cactus. This one was not as large as the one I had seen at Sabino canyon in Tucson but still impressive. (Click on photos to enlarge)
 
Crested Saguaro(pronounced Sa-wa-row)

 
Sabino Canyon Crested Saguaro
 
After reaching the upper portion of the trail, we descended to our destination that day. A train trestle crossing for the train tracks from the copper mine.

We stopped and had some nourishment and rested for the return hike with a twist. The twist was hiking back to the trailhead ON the train tracks.


Taking the tracks back was much flatter and about 1.5 miles shorter. You might think of it as cheating on the hike but the views from the lower level of the canyon were still impressive and gave us a different perspective. Overall it was a great hike and a good tune up for tomorrows hike to Fremont Saddle. Everyone who has been on the Fremont Saddle hike in years past talks about the view of Weaver's Needle. Here's a photo from the internet. Can't wait to get my own pictures.




 
Well time to prepare the water bottles, get the hiking pole out and pack my trail bag(fanny pack) with some nourishment. Had some rain today in paradise so the trail should be in great shape with less dust. Until next time.
 
The Master Hiker says
 
See you on the trail.