It almost seems like an oxymoron using the word ‘Best’ with ‘2020’.
We have had more trips cancelled this year than we went on. We tried to go to Grand Canyon-North Rim on three separate occasions, and had every trip cancelled for one reason or another, including closures due to Covid, and forest fires.
I contend that the pandemic was different things for different people – some worse affected than others. For us, we tried to take our isolation on the road in our camper as much as possible to keep our sanity through this year’s events. So, without further ado.. here are my top picks for 2020, in no particular order:
(1) Mogollon Rim
(2) Mogollon Rim
Both these photos come from a trip to Mogollon Rim along Milk Ranch Road, which we found to be very crowded with campers this year.
(3) Carnero Lake
Despite the fact that we fought serious camera and lens issues throughout the year, we were able to enjoy (and capture) some beautiful sunrises at Canero Lake. I wish my osprey photos had come out as well.
(4) Carnero Lake
(5) Aztec Peak
As many times as we have been to Workman Creek outside of Young, we had never been (or even heard of) Aztec Peak. There is a gate that prevents you from driving up the road past the creek every time we have been there. We attempted to go to the area for photos several times, but were always deterred due to road closures. Persistence paid off and the third time was the charm when we found the gate open, and were able to enjoy the overlook from the peak, the highest point in Sierra Anchas Wilderness.
(6) Alstrom Point
We had put off our trip to Alstrom Point, not due to road closures or fire, but lack of clouds. The forecast called for weather though, so we packed up and headed out to this amazing overlook over Lake Powell. Unfortunately, there were no clouds, but still made for a wonderful outing.
(7) Flagstaff, San Francisco Peaks
Back behind Flagstaff, is an area called Government Prairie. Dirt roads wind around through scrubby brush and open fields. If you keep driving, the pine trees become more prevalent, and this wonderful view of San Francisco Peaks reveals itself.
(8) Sheeps Crossing
Sheeps Crossing was originally built in 1926 to allow sheep herder’s to herd their sheep across the Verde River, reducing the numbers lost in the swift currents. On the National Register of Historic Places, it has been re-built due to years of use.
(9) Fossil Creek
Just outside of Camp Verde along the Verde River is a stunning gushing stream, Fossil Creek. While it is harder to get there now that they closed access via Strawberry, and made it a fee area, it remains a gorgeous, if not sadly overgrown area.
(10) Greens Peak
Outside of Show Low is a popular area called Greens Peak that we frequent every year. It tends to get a lot of weather (snow and rain) that make it flourish with greenery and animals.
(11) Hart Prairie / Kendrick Peak
We had gone to check out Lockett Meadow, a stunning place for aspen color, but there was a line waiting to get into it due to overcrowding. So instead we found a new area we hadn’t yet explored, Hart Prairie, just outside of Flagstaff.
(12) Mogollon Rim, FR 95 bridge
We’ve gotten very little snow this year, so when we heard it was supposed to snow on the rim, we immediately headed out. We enjoyed a beautiful winter wonderland for a short period.
That wraps up my 2020 Best Of. Let’s hope 2021 abounds with happiness, laughter, great views and interesting places, storm clouds, and stormy weather.
Finally… instead of going out taking photos when our schedules allowed it… we decided to go out because there was weather in the forecast. Sometimes you have to make time for the things that are important to you.
Never was that more clear than this week! I have two friends in the hospital, and one recently out, all awaiting or have just undergone serious surgery. It’s very scary to see people you love facing such a difficult time. While in your heart, you know they will be ok, you can’t help but ache for their situation.
It’s made worse by their having to go through it alone (due to covid restrictions), without their significant other by their side to hold their hand and keep their mind off of the upcoming surgery.
While I know my friends will be better as a result of the surgeries, it really gives you pause. Enjoy life, every day! Do the things one enjoys. And don’t take life for granted. Don’t sweat the small stuff. One never knows what the future brings for any of us.
To Doug, Pat, and Meg: Be safe, be well, and know that you are loved. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
As I look out across the ridge, I am awe stuck by the beauty around me. The skies opened up and cast this amazing glow as if to say, it’ll all be alright, life is beautiful and there is a lot more to see.
Having lived in the Valley for years, we certainly had ample opportunity to visit any number of the many ‘attractions’ that Phoenix offered. Working and traveling for a living, many came to wait until after we retired, such as the Mystery Castle.
The Mystery Castle is known for being this eclectic ‘castle’ on the top of the hill, just below the popular hiking trails at South Mountain Park in south Phoenix. We only knew that it was made up of common items and a bit ramshackle, but never knew its story. For our $10 admission we were given the Tour of the 8000 sq ft ‘mansion’, with 18 separate rooms, 13 fireplaces, and a myriad of interesting details.
It was built by a man by the name of Boyce Luther Gulley, who left his wife and child and escaped Seattle, WA to a life of isolation with the very contagious and deadly disease of tuberculosis. He moved to AZ to find a warmer climate to live out his final days in 1930. He lived much longer than anyone expected, and over the 15 years between 1930 and 1945, when he died, he built this monstrosity of a house.
He staked claim to presumably dig for gold at the base of South Mountain. He had amassed 40 acres of land through his claim and the little gold he did find. He likely built the house to establish living quarters, and perhaps a place for his family to live after he had gone. Not having much money, all the materials were found and procured, such as the many slump bricks that with ‘mistakes’ in the firing process (now expensive oddities and rare treasures).
As he continued to survive, he continued to build in a run-on and ramshackle manner with inventive flourishes throughout. He added on a large great room, fireplaces, and flagstone floor. His big expenses were concrete and food. Most of the stones came from the surrounding land, and decorative pebbles throughout the flooring from the nearby Salt River.
Archways and circular windows with old thrown away pressed glass containers (early versions of Tupperware) as glass blocks and sky lights. Having no electricity or running water, he added holes in the ceiling for ventilation and light. Later he added a guest room, a little girls room for his young daughter, and later a bar and chapel. Eighteen rooms in all, most with fireplaces to warm the cool winter evenings. He built paved pathways, breeze ways and roof top patios, all with little to no education, power tools (or power), water, or assistance.
Feature shelves jut out randomly and selectively from its breezeway walls for knickknacks and special decorative treasures. Benches built into the walls were convenient for sitting, reflecting, and rests through the day. Arches and pillars lead one from the main house area to the auxiliary bedrooms for his daughter. Pebble snakes embed the floors as a sign of good luck and virility. I couldn’t help think that he was like an unknown Frank Lloyd Wright with great design ideas, architectural details, and well thought out features, but without the entourage, money, and fame of the arrogant FLW.
His family finally came to see him just in the months before he died in 1945. His wife Nell and now 20-year-old daughter Mary Lou lived out their lives there. They found that people would pay to see the house and in 1948 began giving tours, which have continued since. The daughter Mary Lou died in 2010. She set up a Foundation to take care of the house and her father’s legacy and continue the tours into the future.
It was a fascinating look into the tenacity of a man, desperate to leave something for his family. In the end he left much more. The innovativeness of what the human soul can create with limited resources and shear will is on display at the Mystery Castle. While the finish work is rough and amenities slim, the workmanship and work effort are awe-inspiring. It was fascinating a tour and an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.
1. Pismo Beach, CA... wish I could get sunset shots like this in AZ!
2. Lil Buck… If only AZH had published THIS pic
3. Hawley Lake …. Through the Fog is Clarity
4. Javelina … not a common sight in this neck of the woods
5. Snow Elk…. Animal behavior can be so much fun to capture, sometimes these little guys do the darnedest things
6. Moqui Snow … I need to work on getting more landscape snow pix
7. Oak Creek Fall … Gotta love waterfalls & fall, such an amazing combination
8. Morman Lake Elk Pool … While this is a busy pic, lots of fun interactions to look at
9. Kaibab Daisies … I had never been to Kaibab Lake before, I need to get out more
10. Babies Rule … love me some baby wildlife!
I could go on, but I think the exercise of limiting oneself to only the best forces one to be critical of oneself, encouraging growth and improvement. Something we should all heed in our lives. Happy New Year!
It’s been a great year for wildlife for us. We have seen a wide and varied collection of birds, waterfowl and big beasts – including our first ever mountain lion.
Below are those I consider my best of the year….
1. Sandhill cranes, Whitewater Draw
2. Deer in falling snow
3. Bobcat, Lake Mary
4. Hawk stare
5. Pygmy Owl
6. Sea Otters
7. Blue Heron
8. Monarch Butterflies
9. Big Horn Sheep
10. Baby antelope run
AND the number 1 top photo of the year, despite the fact that is isn’t the most technically perfect shot (would have better if he was coming toward me) is, solely for the thrill of it:
11. Our first mountain lion
We saw fox and javelina, elk and deer, eagles and turkey, but these were the ones that excited me for one reason or another – and sometimes not just for their expression or technical merits. Sometimes a shot can just emote an emotion or a feeling that brings us back to it. Maybe it was the place or the experience, but anything that keeps us coming back is worthy of a nod.
Having just gotten back from the CA coast, we saw lots of cool ‘critters’, including the sea otter.
I’m not sure I have ever seen a sea otter before. I could watch them for hours. They were just too adorable. I didn’t realize that they are actually an endangered species. There used to be some 150,000 – 200,000.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s they were hunted for their fur. They are now a protected species. Their population has dipped to 1% of what they once were, at a low of only 1,000 – 2,000. Now they are hovering at around 3,000 as they have plateau’d in their decline.
Their facial expressions and mannerisms were priceless.
We saw buzzards and blue herons, seals and sea lions.
Even caught a sunset or two….
Sometimes its good to get out of the woods and see the sea.
We don’t get too much of this in our neck of the woods.