Catalina State Park Saturday, Dec 27 2008 

Catalina State Park

Saguaros at Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park, at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains, about nine miles north of Tuscon, has a number of trails.  We intended to take the Canyon Loop Trail, but found the stream flow faster and deeper than we were prepared to cross.  After testing both ends of the loop for possible crossing spots, we decided to find another trail.  We transitioned to the Nature Trail, a mile loop through desert scrub vegetation with some nice views of the snow peaked mountains.  We also explored a small portion of the Bridle Trail, enjoying the multi-armed forest of saguaros.

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Lookout Mountain Circumference Trail Saturday, Dec 27 2008 

Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain, a two-summited peak jutting above north Phoenix, is the centerpiece of the Lookout Mountain Area, a section of Phoenix Mountains Preserve.  The mountain’s 2,054-foot high point is a flat-topped summit surrounded by volcanic cliffs.  The Circumference Trail is a 2.6 mile loop hike around the peak and the park marked by square brown posts with the number “308.”  This Phoenix Park offers open space in an otherwise crowded area, at one point the trail abuts the backyard of homes.  Note: there is no restroom at the 16th Street trailhead.  The blue sky, although the temperature was a bit cool, was a great backdrop for a hike on Boxing Day.

Papago Park Loop Trail Thursday, Dec 25 2008 

Tafoni at Papago Park

Tafoni at Papago Park

Phoenix weather has been unusually cloudy and rainy but we were able to get in an easy three mile hike at the city-run Papago Park located across from the Desert Botanical Gardens.  By hiking Christmas morning, we bypassed the usual mountain bikers.  The Papago Buttes contain large, strange looking holes, tafoni, created by water seeping into the rock and dissolving the minerals.  The north side of the buttes has an amphitheater.  It will be interesting to learn how it was used.  According to our newly purchased guidebook, Best Short Hikes in Arizona, this 1,200-acre city park was a camp for some 400 German prisoners of war during the Second World War.  Two dozen of the Germans escaped through an underground tunnel they dug while telling their guards that they were using the shovels to construct a volleyball court.  Sounds like Hogan’s Heroes in reverse.

National Trail & the Mormon Loop Monday, Dec 22 2008 

Rock House remains from the National Trail, South Mountain Park

Rock House remains, National Trail, South Mountain Park

U. S. Airways granted me silver preferred status and upgraded me to first class on my recent flight from CMH to PHX.  The upgrade allowed me to bypass the longest check-in line that I’ve ever seen in Columbus.  My hot breakfast and Bloody Mary contrasted with the policy of no longer offering a complementary beverage to those with an economy seat.  The priority sticker on my suitcase resulted in it arriving in the first wave of baggage.  The upgrade was a welcome early Christmas present.  Our six mile hike from the 48th Street entrance to South Mountain Park started on the Pima Canyon Road.  From there we hiked part of the National Trail returning on the Mormon Loop Trail and enjoying the expansive views of Phoenix.  Dinner at Flemings regained the used calories (and more) with a large salad, three side dishes, and dessert as well as enough tender prime rib for two meals.  What a deal!

Holiday Concert Tuesday, Dec 16 2008 

This past Sunday the Central Ohio Symphony held its Holiday Concerts in Gray Chapel on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University.  The Young Strings, students from area high schools, and Kinderchor, a children’s choir program connected to Otterbein College, participated, too.  Although about a dozen pieces of music were performed, the concert only lasted a little more than an hour.  The Pizzacato Polka gave all of the stringed instruments a plucking workout.  Several pieces involved different percussion of all sizes, shapes, and sounds.  The program included a couple of sing-along favorites as well as audience clapping as part of the Radestzky March.  Organist Sally Casto did a fine job playing selections during some of the group transitions on the stage.  The audience was dominated by gray hairs while a few young voices let us know of their presence. The Symphony’s music created a positive mood for the season.  Happy Holidays!

Kindlemania Tuesday, Dec 16 2008 

Prior to my flight to Singapore, I purchased a Kindle.  IMHO, the Kindle reading experience is fantastic! Of course, I read public domain books on a Handspring Visor several years ago.  Nestled in its cover, the 10.3 ounce Kindle looks like a small notebook. The reading screen is the size of a paperback with six font sizes available.  The image itself is remarkably clear and not subject to glare from the sun. Note, however, that a light source is needed because it is not backlit. Complaints about the page forward and previous page keys are valid; it is easy to accidentally press them. However, when seated for serious reading, whether in my favorite reading chair or on an airplane, reading is a breeze. In fact, it possible to read much faster on a Kindle than with a print book. Rather than turning pages and focusing on pages with different orientations, each page appears at the same place on the screen.  The momentary wait when moving to a new page can be offset by pressing the next page slightly before you are done reading the current page. The Kindle comes with a capacity for holding about 200 books. For a $6 expenditure it is possible to add a 2 GB SD card that will hold another 2,000 or so titles. Initially, I downloaded three recent bestsellers from Amazon, but it is possible to read the first chapter of a book and then choose whether to download it at a cost of @$9.99 per title.  Many public domain titles are available at no cost. My favorite site is Feedbooks.com which I found after I discovered that The Machine Stops from another site was riddled with typos. The Kindle comes loaded with the New Oxford American Dictionary which makes it convenient to look up the meaning of a word. Actually, it is possible to do a search of a word or phrase in  one or all of the books on your Kindle or the World Wide Web. In fact, the web browser is an unheralded feature of the Kindle that, IMHO, is worth the price of this exceptional device (5 months @ $60 per month). Although listed as “experimental,” the Kindle has full web access at no cost using the Sprint EVDO network.  The Kindle has the capability of listening to audio books or music as well as  downloading of newspapers, magazines and blogs as the time they are published.  Interestingly, this device reverses the customary business approach to the internet.  That is, access is free, content costs.  Read more with a Kindle!