After the previous failed sunset we went up South Mountain, just 5 miles south of downtown Phoenix. This time there were no clouds to obstruct the view!
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
Before you knew it we were back in Mesa.
From 1875 until 2016 there was a small zoo in the middle of Buenos Aires. With progress, the larger animals were relocated to nature reserves, and the area was turned into a park.
The park retains many of the old zoo buildings (some is less than pristine condition) as well as some of the small animal and birds, while being enhanced with a return of a more natural setting.
Also scattered throughout are many sculptures. Overall it is a pleasant setting to stroll around for a couple of hours.
Big Bend National Park is one of the more remote parks in the continental United States, but with some effort – we arrived!
The early morning drive down from Marathon provided an excellent sunrise, giving the mountains great coloring.
Eventually we made our way back down to the Rio Grande River Valley.
Our west Texas days constantly provided interesting cacti views.
The Rio Grande in this area is really just a decent size creek, but the kayaks were setting out for the day.
Our first choice for hiking along the river, the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, was closed due to wildfires, so we headed instead for the Boquillas Canyon Trail.
As we made our way along the river an elderly man on the Mexico side serenaded us with songs in an effort to get us to come down to the river bank so he could sell his wares.
The canyon walls continually closed in until we couldn’t go any further unless we went in the river.
We returned to cross the border into Mexico (detailed on the next post) passing more colorful mountains along the way.
With wildfires closing a number of the more popular spots in the park, we chose to go up into the basin and check out the Window View Trail. Again we were treated to interesting vegetation.
Being in the basin we were surrounded on all sides by the mountains.
This view is ‘The Window’.
While it was disappointing that the wildfires impacted the park, there was plenty to see and do for the day.
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.
Our day of touring Galveston, Texas took us to a couple of venues that featured an unusually high number of birds.
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.