Prescott Has a Final Word

We are missing home. We miss Jan and Rick. We miss Susan and John and Dan and Mary and the Prousties’ wicked senses of humor. We miss our friends at Monti’s and their good coffee and great cheer. We miss our morning routines and our own fridge and washer  and light switches and views out our own windows. In other words, we are at the end of our stay and it’s time to go home.

However, the flight isn’t until Saturday. Boredom won’t do. The weather looked good only on  Sunday. [Ed. note: the next day, Monday, was cold and damp, Tuesday it rained furiously and we got soaked going from the museum to El Gato Azul, and we woke up to furious snow on Wednesday.  Sunday was the day for adventure].

So Sunday we took a hike — and found a bunch of serendipitous moments and events.

We like trails through cities, because they are different. A part of the Prescott’s Greenways Trail Systems goes along Granite and Miller creeks in downtown Prescott. The difficulty of putting together this trail is hinted at in the sign: This multiple use system, formed to follow the two creeks through the city, “is the result of dedicated trail and creek advocates, affected property owners, and city staff and elected officials.” Oh my, those must have been interesting meetings.

Like many trails in cities trying to recover their waterfronts, the Greenways is made up of lovely creek scenes, the backsides of warehouses, pleasant pathways through trees and shrubbery, derelict buildings, scrubby mucky wetlands, and rather nice public parks. It goes through streets and alleys, up a railroad trestle, into places where the trail was all but wiped out by flash floods, and past stacks of flood-scrubbed foliage debris. It was definitely the backside of Prescott. Worth seeing. We had notions about following the trail to its end at the county fairgrounds, but I pooped out early, whining about coffee and sitting. We spotted Prescott College banners across one of those monster AZ streets. We navigated it successfully, and entered the tiny but pleasant campus.

Once inside the College commons area, surrounded by encompassing buildings, we were instantly at home. It was spring break and scarcely a soul was around. The sun was warm, the environment cozy, and even the signs at the library (“Words matter. Respect them.”)  warmed my heart.

The (closed) campus café and offices are on the left and the (also closed) library on the right. We sat between them, basking in the sun.

All this was fun, but not exhilarating. It was time to get lunch in town, which was surprisingly close, given how far we had walked. As I said, the creeks meander. We looked for a college art gallery, unsuccessfully, passed up a couple of eateries thinking there would be better in town, and then remembered we wanted to check out a play that the Prescott Center for the Arts was putting on. This was last day for this event — no more tickets online but suggestions that we try the box office, the art gallery, and at the door. We were hungry, but we had just time enough to make a matinée if we hustled.

The Art Center has two theaters, and we were going to Stage Too, the smaller one. The Center is located in an erstwhile Catholic Church with offices in the rectory. No obvious doors to a secondary theater. All entrances, including that of the back shed, locked tight.

We found a door to a basement gallery, which was, hallelujah, open. The guy tending the gallery said we’d find the theater if we just went to the right and down the alley, past the blue trash bin. We found the blue trash bin, but no door on the grounds except that of the shed, which we checked again. By now, I was on a Quest. We were going to find this theater!

We rounded the grounds of the church once more, stopped a young couple out front who looked at us peculiarly and shrugged. And then, finally, on another rounding of the environs, we saw a parking lot that had A) a sign claiming it was for the Art Center, B) had cars in it, and C) people getting out of one of the cars.

Theater goers are instantly recognizable as different from general tourists. These two who had just parked, pointed us down the ally, past 4 trash bins, to a fellow standing outside a set of, well, back-alley doors down and across the alley from the church. And that was the Stage Too entrance.

We pleaded our case  to the person selling tickets. She fluttered and checked her hand-written form and said the play started in 15 minutes and maybe, maybe, somebodies wouldn’t show up. We waited. Play-goers came, seats got taken, everyone from the busker outside to the ushers inside were hopeful that we would get seats. The theater seated 45, so there wasn’t a lot of flexibility. It was the last day of the run, always popular.  A party of 3 was still not there. It was 15 minutes, 10 minute, 7 minutes, and finally at 5 minutes to curtain, everyone triumphantly declared the seats were ours. The busker ushered us in. We felt victorious.

The play, called “Art”,  was extremely well done. It’s been around a while, and although centering on arguments about whether an all-white painting is really a painting (and has color or not, meaning or not,  and value or not) is actually about three old friends, having to sort out their relationships, again.

The photo below captures some of the painting, which appears and disappears throughout the show and once gets written on with a red magic marker by a curmudgeon determined to muck up the masterpiece. Luckily the marker is water-soluble.

We left the theater, hungry but delighted, feeling like we had had a good rich afternoon. Dinner at Murphy’s with cheerful Irish music and two glasses of wine capped a full Sunday. We forgot we were homesick and bored, and proved it isn’t the Inner Resources, as Henry’s Mother told him was needed for excising boredom, but rather a good town full of possibilities for walks, talks, architecture, food and theater.

We fly off to Portland on Saturday, with stories of shoveling snow and javelinas, native American wonders indoors and out, a small town with a beautiful library and welcoming smiles, and weather that caught us frowning, and fleeing to Tucson for relief. All  good, all in the interest of discovering more about America, the southwest, the varieties of AZ geography, and our own limitations and breakthroughs. Also stories about chicken pot pie at Rustic Pie. See you back home, soon.

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Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

Down the road lives Sally Fry,
Who makes the most delicious crust
To top her special chicken pie.
Down the road lives Sally Fry.
Her peas and gravy, piled high,
Have filled us with a kind of lust.
Down the road lives Sally Fry,
Who makes the most delicious crust.

— Jer

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Thumb Butte, There and Back Again

After our truncated walk around Watson Lake–disc golf, geese, children and swamp being obstacles–we thought we’d venture on another hike touted by the hiking and recreation advice guides. Thumb Butte is a landmark for my space-challenged brain, visible from everywhere in Prescott.

There’s a well-traveled trail leading up to Thumb Butte and back. “Moderate” said one scale and “a jaunt”  said another review. We, being good moderates, thought it sounded like a possibility for our aging muscles, with some caveats about scrambles over boulders and whatnot.

“Length : 2.1 miles, Elevation : 6,314 feet,” starting at something over 5,00o feet.

As the brochure explains, “the trail climbs steeply to a ridge just below the rocky crest of Thumb Butte. Here, Groom Creek Vista offers spectacular panoramic views of the Prescott area, Bradshaw Mountains, Sierra Prieta Mountains, Granite Mountain, Mingus Mountain, and, on clear days, the San Francisco Peaks. During certain times of the year, peregrine falcons nest on the rugged basalt crags of Thumb Butte.” All moderate pitches, of course. Of course.

The trail looked ever so pleasant — nary a boulder in sight:

And while the Butte was, um, a bit far and a bit high, such a nice moderate trail should be easily traveled.And the footing and trail were traveled with great ease, or at least without the danger of falling into a boulder crack or breaking a knee climbing over one. The one difficulty was the slowness of ascending and the pain in the lung area from breathing:

We did get  to the top of the trail, although some of us had to resort to wiles well known to those who take on steep pitches with wheezing lungs:

And you had imagined photos of scenery and picturesque dead trees were a result of artistic impulses. HA! Of course others of us simply resorted to a time-proven ploy when wind and knees said enough:

At last, however, we reached the point at which we knew we were at the top. We knew because the rocks were insurmountable, the ascent started its descent, and the trail became paved.

The paved part of the trail had been touted in signs at the beginning as the way to prevent the trail from being washed out. That should have been a signal to us, but oxygen-deprived as we were, we had come to believe a paved trail mean an easy descent.

A side note: there are reasons for all those railings. If the knees, no longer able to bend appropriately and gave out and one tumbled down and down and down and down, it could be inappropriate hiking behavior. It’s true that the switchbacks might change the course of the tumble, but falling down the ravine rather than along its edge didn’t really feel like a consolation. Hence the railings.

We acknowledged that had we tried to go clockwise on the trail, the paved side, we would have quit long ago, railings or no. And that going down the trail was a whole lot faster, theoretically, than  going up. Alas, the steepness of the down trek forbade any pleasant benches to contemplate wide vistas. Once on the way down, you were on your way down.

And, triumphantly, we made it to the parking lot, and I even got into the truck without screaming, although my knees kept urging me to disgrace myself. We awarded ourselves great stars on our foreheads (metaphorically speaking) and some of us spent most of the next day lying on the couch, feeling pained but virtuous. Just the kind of outing, safe, silly, and taxing, that the j-woods “enjoy.” Or at least try to do once a year.


Reading the trail reviews after the excursion, was a mistake: this is typical: ” We really liked this trail. It was not very difficult yet the views of the valley were great. This is a great short hike if you are looking for a little outdoor exercise and great sightseeing.” About the sightseeing, we agree.

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Let the Driver Beware

Road Sign Update: Let the Driver Beware

Caution: Nose Protection Required

Ignore Pedestrian in Crosswalk

Proceed with Wild Abandon

Do Not Flood When Entering

Leave at Your Own Risk

No Parking Garage Next Left

Avoid Passing Out on Yellow Line

Slug Traps Next 12 Miles

Distress Lane

Impatient Parking Only. Violators Will Be Tarred

Danger: Contraction Area

Be Prepared to Oscillate

Fines Doubled in Sloth Zone

Undead End


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The Dells — in AZ, that is

Sunday, having returned to Prescott and its beamish sun and warm afternoons, we decided it was time for a wilderness excursion, preferably near home.

The Dells are a big local attraction. The trails that Prescott is making around the city (50 some miles of them) includes ones that circle the two lakes north of the city. In our rental cottage we found a great trail map, clearly marking the “easy” trails, of which there are many, and our research said that the views are stunning. We were off to our wild walk, winter coats and all. First sign that we weren’t in a wilderness area was the size of the parking lot — huge. But we are here in the off-off season, and a handful of cars seemed good. The wind was blowing, hard, and I started out in my winter regalia. As soon as the first trail dropped down the hill and out of the wind, I realized a winter coat was a burden ; I trudged back into the wind and put the coat in the truck and scurried back into the shelter of the hill and brush.

Off we went on a well-marked, easy to walk on trail. Just what our “hikes” consist of these days.

Well-marked for at least 50 yards, maybe. At which point it dissolved into 3 trails (less obvious), then 5 trails (even more confusing), 7 paths (almost legible although not really) through prickly bushes (I swear one was an Oregon grape). The rocks which had been navigable turned to boulders, the boulders made us scramble and fumble, the trails got fainter. The lake remained where it should be but the hills of big honking boulders grew larger and the scrambles started to feel like climbs.

A kayaker below seemed to be in control, but we weren’t sure he was close enough to hear when one of us plunged into the ravine below. And then we came upon other signs — not exactly marking a nice even path, but rather saying something like “Golf Disc Area — beware of flying discs.” I mentally put an exclamation mark beside the “beware” clause.

I stopped to photograph one of the stopping spaces between the bush trails. Later, I realized that the white, space-ship disk at the top of the hill, is one of the disc golf baskets — this being an official course of the sport, reviewed online by various kind and less kind players — this was probably hole #5, which had a reputation, well-earned. It looked like a rather difficult place to put a frisbee to me.

Well, wilderness experiences take a number of forms. And the “trails” that led to this basket (and the desire, unfulfilled, to see someone sail the disc off the rim) resolved themselves a bit, so we scrambled our way, more or less intact, down to the far more pleasant lakeside path, where walking and finding one’s way was possible. From there we watched various disc players (and off to one side a roadrunner that was not playing golf); the players slung those round things as if they were 90 mile an hour baseballs. They are not, I presume, called frisbees.

I photographed a group of players in a slightly less insane setting — the guy on the right has just finished sending his disc toward the basket, barely discernible, in upper left quadrant. These players also flushed the roadrunner, who wasn’t terribly concerned but did move away. No photo of it, alas, although I tried.

OK, not quite a stroll through wild-like scenery. But the lake was there. And there was scenery. We came upon a large picnic area (squads of geese and ducks, boat launching area, big picnic tables, 5 bocce courts meant for serious players, a rank of horseshoe areas, each very carefully placed with sophisticated ground cover rather than the straw and mud of my youth, and families with squealing children and large dinners spread out — oh my.

And then we came to the end of the path, too wet to continue:

And so ends this wilderness excursion, our first attempt in Prescott to become real Prescottians.


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Tucson Is Not Yet Delhi

Traffic in Delhi

Tucson Is Not Yet Delhi

Speedway is the main drag.
Want the gem show or rodeo?
Let’s drive.

Open spaces.
Traffic gobbles eight lanes.
Mind that signal! Make a U-turn!
Oh, no!

2 cinquains by Jer

Image is of a traffic jam in Delhi, India, sourced from Wikipedia, “Traffic Congestion”

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Upon Reaching Tucson the Snow Had Almost Melted

Perhaps the title of this post is a bit exaggerated — but only a bit.

After spending Saturday in Prescott shoveling enough snow that we thought we could get the truck on the lane facing downhill (but afraid to try a run because once down the hill we couldn’t get back up and we couldn’t pack the vehicle until we were ready to go) — well, after that, on Sunday morning about 10 AM — a snowplow showed up.

Keen Street being clean, we headed off to Tucson. And yes, although the sun shone and the temps rose, when we reached the city, we found slivers of snow in the back of the truck, proof that we hadn’t imagined the 28 inches we had escaped from.

We had two goals in going south, aside from escaping the snow. One was to visit Yvonna, our Tucson friend. And the other was to return to the place Yvonna had first introduced us to, the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Within the Gardens, the big attraction for us is the Cox Butterfly and Orchid Pavilion.

I only have a couple of decent photos from the Pavilion, thinking that I had an earlier file that I could crib from. Alas, I don’t seem to have that with me, and the most spectacular butterflies, the brown spotted ones that open to a brilliant blue, I have no photos of. But here’s one of the enchanting creatures, wings folded modestly, enjoying an orange slice:

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