Susan Vaughan here. In April the hubby and I spent ten days in Arizona. We hadn’t been out West in several years, so my friend and fellow author Linda Style’s invitation was a great opportunity to escape the forty-five rain-soaked degrees in Maine. What I didn’t expect in Arizona was to run across so many Maine connections.Linda and Chuck showed us the best hikes and sightseeing around Phoenix, some of which we wouldn’t have found on our own. On my bucket list was seeing the desert in bloom, and we hit it just right. One of my favorite days was spent at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, where we were surrounded by cactuses in full flower. Both plurals—cacti and cactuses—are correct, for you grammar hounds. The garden boasts many saguaro cactuses, a protected plant in the state. The saguaro grows only in the Sonoran Desert, and it can take up to seventy or a hundred years before a saguaro grows its first “arm.”We saw none with flowers at the top, maybe because the season was advance or because a saguaro doesn’t begin to produce flowers unit it is thirty-five or more years old. Harming a saguaro in any way leads to huge fines in Arizona.
We chanced upon Arizona’s state tree, the palo verde, Spanish for green stick, also in bloom. The palo verde has chlorophyll in its bark, thus the green stick moniker. Throughout the weeks we saw many of these. I snapped photos of ocotillo cactus with spindly branches and bright red flowers, low-growing clumps of hedgehog cactus, and prickly pears with pinkish-orange flowers that locals make into jelly. And the Maine connection? The clerk in the garden’s gift shop saw my LL Bean card and announced that she grew up in Boothbay Harbor. She added that she missed Maine summers but not the winters.
An outing with Chuck and Linda took us to the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake, which is so unlike any of our lakes in the East. The lake is literally in a canyon, in the middle of the desert, surrounded by bluffs and cliffs and craggy rocks. We managed to snag a table in the bow and munched popcorn while the captain described the various rock formations and pointed out wildlife. We saw bighorn sheep on a high bluff and moving bumps on a rock tower that he said were baby bald eagles. My simple Nikon couldn’t capture either very well.
The next day the hubby and I drove north from Phoenix at 200 feet above sea level to Sedona at 4000 feet up, where it was about ten degrees cooler but no less sunny. Sedona is known for its spectacular red rock formations, red because of iron oxide in the sandstone. The town is named for the first settler’s wife Sedona Arabella Schnebley. We stayed at the Arabella Hotel, and by coincidence I know Sedona’s granddaughter Laurie Schnebley, who is a fellow author and writing teacher. The Maine connection popped up in the hotel breakfast room. A man approached us when he spotted my husband’s Red Sox cap. This man now lives elsewhere, but grew up in the Mid-Coast area, and his brother lives in our small town.
One wonderful hike happened because we got lost. Instead of what we intended, we found the Palatki Ruin Heritage site. The National Forest Ranger had taught in Maine at Outward Bound on Hurricane Island. The climb on rock steps took us up the cliffs on the left to cliff dwellings and pictographs that date from 1100 A.D.Our other favorite outing was to Soldier Pass with Red Rock Jeep Tours. Not only was the scenery spectacular (Am I overusing that word?) but also our guide entertained us with descriptions and anecdotes of the history, geology, and plant and animal life, along with some corny jokes. He was our final Maine connection. Although not from Maine, he and his wife often visit Bar Harbor to go kayaking.
I hope this post hasn’t been too much of a travelogue for you, but it was fun for me to revisit my vacation. And I haven’t covered nearly all we did! If you go to Sedona, I urge you to take one of the jeep tours early in your stay so you can then enjoy the rest with knowledge of the area. I do love to travel, so does anyone have a vacation tip for me? Or questions about this trip?