In the foothills east of Tucson lies Agua Caliente Park, with it’s large palm trees and year round ponds feed by spring water.
Originally there were two springs, a hot spring and a cold spring. Over the years attempts to improve the flow of water failed miserably resulting in a combination of the waters, and a lower overall volume of flow.
The native Hohokam had a village here for nearly 1000 years. In the mid 1800s the Army had taken over the area for an encampment following the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.
In the late 1800s it was claimed by a settler who ranched the land. Later they advertised the ranch as a health spa. This pattern continued for 100 years, until the mid 1980s when the county took over the property to develop as a park.
The majestic palm trees were added in the late 1800s when it became a spa.
Madera Canyon is less than an hour south of Tucson, but a world away from an ecological perspective. While the base of the canyon is around 3500′ elevation, you can easily and quickly drive to over 5000′, and if you are energetic (I was not), you can hike to the top of 9456′ high Mt Wrightson.
We chose to hike around the lower areas of the canyon, which were beautiful, offer views from desert to fall tree colors.
An internet search of best sunsets in Phoenix suggested Usery State Park – just east of Mesa. We headed off for the short drive out, but in the end sunset was not to be as storm clouds moved in. While disappointed about the sunset, the clouds provided a great backdrop not often seen in Phoenix.
The drive back into town also provided some great shots
Smithers Park is an urban art oasis in southeast Houston. Named in honor of a couple folk art philanthropists, the park resides between a residential and commercial area, next to the legendary Houston folk art area known as the Orange Show.
The park has art from over 300 people, mostly self taught. The day we were there a few were working on their current projects.
The band shell was impressive, with an interior of mostly cut up road signs.
The mosaics are a collection of random materials.
All are very original in their design.
Bordering the entire length of one side of the park is a 400 foot long ‘Memory Wall’.
The surrounding neighborhood is predominately Latino, and as a tribute there is a ‘Day of the Day’ couple sitting at a table.
At first you think this is a small grass oasis, until you look closely and see the guitar neck in mosaic beyond it, and the grass is the body of the guitar.
Additional images of art on the Memory Wall.
A mosaic dog trying to get food off of the table, that itself is covered in mosaics.
Kilroy is here.
The Tiger mosaic is very impressive.
We end with a view of the back of the band shell, where you see it is a giant fish. Smithers Park is a great stop if you find yourself in Houston.
Not far from Huntsville, Alabama is the amazing natural wonder of Cathedral Caverns. For the last 20 years the state of Alabama has owned the cave and operated it as a state park.
The entrance is said to be one of the world’s widest entrance to a ‘commercial cave’ at 25′ tall and 128′ wide.
This column has been named ‘Goliath’, one of the largest stalagmites in the world measuring 45′ high and 243′ in circumference. To get an idea of the size, note the walkway railing in the lower left corner of the photo compared to Goliath.
The cave is filled with amazing stalagmites and stalactites.
For many years the cave was owned and operated privately. Note the railing on the left side of the photo – that was the path that the original owners had put in. When the state took it over they built a nice walkway with no stairs that runs 3/4 of a mile back into the cave complex, allowing all to have the chance to experience it.
More of the interesting formations in the cave.
About 1/2 mile back into the cave you come to this amazing field.
The stalagmite called ‘Improbable’ is renown as it is only 3″ in diameter, and goes up at a 45 degree angle for 25′.
Cathedral Caverns is truly a wonder of nature, and well worth the trip to northern Alabama.
Champaign County, Ohio is the home to Cedar Bog, a nature preserve created by the receding glaciers and the ground water from the Mad River. As a result there is a great deal of vegetation that is not common in Ohio. The result is a beautiful, but bug filled, boardwalk through the bog.