Elephant Butte Lake

Elephant Butte Lake
Elephant Butte Lake

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Desert Belle Boat Cruise - Saguaro Lake

Last year before we left our winter home here in AZ we took a narrated cruise on the Dollie Steamboat Cruise on Canyon Lake and had a wonderful time. We saw beautiful rock formations, diversity of landscape and even some desert sheep. Click on the link to read my account.

We went with our friends from Canada, Ron and Patsy, and decided we would also like ride the Desert Belle Narrated Cruise this year. This cruise is on Saguaro Lake which is also home to the Butcher Jones trail in the Tonto National Forest. We bought our tickets on line and planned on the going on the 2:45pm cruise. The Desert Belle has public and private cruises every day of the week.

We drove to Saguaro Lake and waited for the boat to dock after the previous tour. This is a very relaxing, 90 minute-narrated cruise where you can see Arizona wildlife, towering canyon walls, and dramatic desert vistas. It’s the perfect opportunity to experience the magnificent desert beauty and natural wildlife of Saguaro Lake which is one of the Valley’s hidden treasures. For your pleasure on the cruise they sell beer, wine and soft drinks along with popcorn and candy. Of course Glenda had to have a Diet Coke and some popcorn which I helped eat. :-)

We got our seats on the port side (left side) along the outer rail on the upper deck. Great views and opportunities for numerous photos. The captain was very informative of the history of the lake and the surrounding desert landscape. The cruise started at the marina and headed up the lake through a canyon.
Click on the photos to enlarge


The boat moved slowly through the canyon with changing landscape but incredible views. It's easy to see how Saguaro Lake got it's name with the numerous saguaro cactus everywhere.







We cruised for about 45 minutes up the lake and then made a nice easy U turn and headed back to the marina. Along the way we saw boats traveling up and down the lake. Some fishing, some tubing and one guy on a wakeboard.


He wasn't holding onto a rope just using the wake to surf behind the boat. Quite impressive.

I just can't say enough about the desert landscape and it's beauty. The ride was truly relaxing and our captain was a wealth of information.


It was really cool to get a different perspective of the lake from what we saw when we hiked the Butcher Jones Trail the last two winters. This truly is a jewel of the desert.





At the end of the ride you could see the dam that was built to hold back the water to create the lake. The dam also generates electricity for the region. Beautiful and functional. We didn't get to see any wildlife on this cruise like we did on the Dollie Cruise last year but all in all it was well worth the ride. I know I've said this before and probably earlier in this post but I never get tired of the desert landscape. This is a perfect place to settle for the winter. So glad we had the opportunity to share this experience with our friends from B.C.

We only have about 5 more weeks here before we move on to Parker, AZ and 29 Palms, CA. Looking forward to seeing our RV friends, Steve and Debbie next week for the month of March. More adventures to come.








Saturday, February 20, 2016

Visit to the Arizona Renaissance Festival

We attended the Arizona Renaissance Festival on Monday this week which was President's Day. The park here sells a coupon book called The Coyote Book with discount coupons to restaurants, shops, attractions and events in the area. Well the Coyote Book had a coupon for 1/2 off the admission on President's Day. So we decided to go with our friends Ron and Patsy. It was a warm sunny day with a slight breeze. Perfect for attending an event like this. Last year we heard about the Renaissance Festival from other park residents but didn't attend. The festival location is further east of our park so we get a lot of traffic on the weekends out in front of the park. This makes it difficult to enter and exit the park during the day on the weekends from February 6 - March 27. Typically the festival is held on Saturday and Sunday during this period. However with President's Day on Monday there was an extra day. We didn't think we wanted to attend all day so we planned to go for just the afternoon. We arrived at the LARGE parking lot and walked up to the ticket booth.

Ron and Patsy in line

Well on exactly up to the ticket booth. We had to wait in line for about 20 - 25 minutes. Some people attending the festival were dressed in Medieval clothing.




Of course many of the actors, actresses and vendors were dressed in appropriate clothing of the period.

The festival has been going on each year for the last 28 years. Rain or Shine. It's a combination of theatre, amusement park, artisan marketplace and jousting tournament.

The website states "The Renaissance Festival is a medieval amusement park, a 13-stage theatre, a 30-acre circus, an arts and crafts faire, a Jousting Tournament and a feast, all rolled into one non-stop, day-long, family adventure!"

I had no idea this place was so big. We started walking through the park and saw several interesting characters.





We stopped at an open grassy area to watch a gentleman do a whip demonstration and he even set a whip on fire.




He was very accurate with his whip skills. It was a great demonstration. Everyone there is very theatrical and real gets into their characters.

We stopped to watch another actor/entertainer perform a sword swallowing act. He was very entertaining and had a lot of good jokes to go with the act. At the end of the act he swallowed a long balloon.




 Another actor had a juggling and balancing act. He too was very funny and brought some children up on the stage to help. They were very cute.



After some time walking around the park and seeing more folks dressed in the period, performing their acts and allowing photos of them it was time for the Joust.





The joust takes place several times during the day culminating in the final joust of the day to crown the victor. We attended the final joust. There is stadium seating around the arena and so we took our seats and watched the festivities. Each area in the area was assigned a knight to cheer for. Ours was in Green and White. Of course there was an evil knight.

A few wenches

This woman was announcing the jousters

The queen and her court parade around the arena

The knights that will joust

The Evil knight

Our (good) knight

The Joust and breaking lances

Well of course the evil knight ended up winning the joust and a sword fight at the end. Great acting and theatre. Once the joust ended it was close to closing down the park for that day. We walked back to the car and along the way I noticed this actor standing on a platform like a statue dressed as a court jester. When anyone would come near him he would move, greet them and offer the ladies a rose. He was quite good.



We had a fun time and worth the trip to see these artists and actors.

If you would like more information on the festival. Just click on the link at the beginning or HERE.

I don't know if I would attend again but it was worth going to at least one time.

I also enjoyed the dedication these artists give to their craft.

















Monday, February 15, 2016

Visit to Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Our friends Ron and Patsy are members of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and have been there several times this winter. They enjoy taking photos of the many plants, trees and cacti there. Glenda and I hadn't been there before so last week we went with Ron and Patsy to check it out. Their websites states
"Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is the place to discover the intricate beauty and many faces of Arizona's oldest and largest botanical garden. Featured are plants from the world's deserts, towering trees, captivating cacti, sheer mountain cliffs, a streamside forest, panoramic vistas, many natural habitats with varied wildlife, a desert lake, a hidden canyon, specialty gardens and more.

The Arboretum was founded in the 1920s by mining magnate Col. William Boyce Thompson. In 1917 Col. Thompson served as co-leader of a Red Cross mercy mission to Russia, where he came to understand the importance of plants as the ultimate source of a large portion of mankind's food, clothing, and shelter. It was then, that he determined to use his great wealth to improve the use of plant resources. The Arboretum is one of his legacies.

Encompassing 323 acres, the Arboretum is Arizona's oldest and largest botanical garden. It was the first purely botanical institution in the inter-mountain states. The Arizona State Parks Board entered into agreement with the Boyce Thompson Arboretum Board and the University of Arizona in 1976 to cooperatively manage the Arboretum."

There are different membership levels with different benefit levels.
$50 Dual Membership
  • Unlimited admission 364 days a year for two adults!
  • Two complimentary guest passes ($20 value)
  • 10% discount on gift shop and plant purchases
  • Member newsletter
  • Exclusive member-only events
  • Discount on classes and lectures
  • Personalized membership card
$75 Household Membership
  • Free admission for Children/grandchildren under 18
  • Four complimentary guest passes ($40 value)
  • Includes all of the above benefits
$100 Contributor
  • Six complimentary guest passes ($60 value)
  • Recognition in member newsletter and Annual Report
  • Includes all of the above benefits
$250 Boojum Club
  • Six complimentary guest passes ($60 value)
  • Recognition in member newsletter and Annual Report
  • Subscription to Desert Plants magazine
  • Includes all of the above benefits
$500 Picket Post Society
  • Six complimentary guest passes ($60 value)
  • 15% discount on gift shop and plant purchases
  • Invitation to Director's special tour and dinner
  • Subscription to Desert Plants magazine
  • Includes all of the above benefits
$1,000 Director's Circle
  • Six complimentary guest passes ($60 value)
  • Subscription to Desert Plants magazine
  • 20% discount on gift shop and plant purchases
  • Includes all of the above benefits
We got there around noon and explored as much of the arboretum as we could. There's a gist shop, Visitor's center, exhibits and hiking trails.

We started off on the main trail and followed it around to the bridge over Queen Creek. You should allow yourself about 2 hours to complete the loop. There are additional trails off the main trail to hike.










The trail is not roughed but you should wear sturdy shoes along with light colored clothing. Depending on how much hiking and how much time you want to spend there, you might consider taking some water too.

If you go to the Arboretum website you'll find a rich history of the arboretum and the Sonoran Desert.

As we hiked we came across several gardens....The Children's Garden, Cactus Garden, Australian Desert, Herb Garden and Legume Garden. It's still a little early for the cactus to flower but the gardens are still wonderful to view. We have a little more time here so a return trip is in order.









One of the gardens has a number of Red Gum Eucalyptus trees that are very large and majestic.



It was amazing to see all the different species of cactus and plants from all over the world.





We saw the Picketpost house on the property and there were several pavilions with great views.




 
As we came around the back side of the arboretum and toward the gardens, we saw a small pond. As we approached the pond a Coot came out of the reeds to greet us. He was definitely looking for a hand out. Once he saw we had nothing he swam back into the reeds.




This is just a sampling of the photos I took. I think I took about 200 photos while we were there. I won't bore you with every one of them. I will just say I couldn't help taking more and more photos as we rounded every corner. This is a place we intend to come back too. I will just add a few more photos from our excursion.








We had such a great time exploring and can't wait to go back and see more. There are additional trails to explore and things to see. Thanks to our friends, Ron and Patsy for turning us onto this little piece of paradise in SW Arizona.



In honor of Valentine's Day this tree is called the Marriage Tree. You can see the trunks entwined together as it grew.

A wonderful representation of marriage and the joining of two people that grow together over time making the tree stronger and more beautiful.