Piestewa Peak Saturday, Jan 30 2010 

Piestewa Peak

Piestewa Peak

The 2.4 mile round trip hike on this steep, heavily used trail has an elevation gain of 1,190 feet or about 100 feet every tenth of a mile.  It is a short but strenuous hike over schist, a distinctive gray and black rock to a cliffed summit pyramid with a spectacular 360 degree view of Phoenix and the surrounding mountains.  The trek to the 2,280 foot North Summit was followed by carefully descending using a walking stick.  This trail, originally named Squaw Peak Summit Trail, was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1974.  Recently it was renamed to honor U.S. Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa, recognized as the first female American Indian soldier to die in combat.  A Hopi and mother of two children, she died March 23, 2003 in an ambush near Nasiriyah, Iraq.  A memorable hike.

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Vivaldi/Piazzolla: Eight Seasons Sunday, Jan 24 2010 

The Phoenix Symphony Chamber Ensemble presented two violin soloists playing the works of Antonio Vivaldi, 1678-1741, and Astor Piazzolla, 1921-1992, last night at the Orpheum Theatre.  The concert presented their music using an unusual format.  During the first half of the concert, Vivaldi’s La primavera (Spring) was followed by the first movement, Primavera portena, of Piazzolla’s Les Cuatro Estaciones Portenas (Four Seasons of Buenos Aires), then Preludio from his Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra preceeded Vivaldi’s L’estate (Summer) before concluding with Piazzolla’s Verano porteno.  After an intermission, the concert continued with similar spacing starting with Fuga from Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra by Piazzolla, followed by Vivaldi’s L’autunno (Autumn), Piazzola’s Oton porteno, Divertimento from Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra by Piazzolla, and concluding with Vivaldi’s L’inverno (Winter), and Piazzolla’s Invierno porteno.  Robert Mealy, using a Baroque bow which is shorter than bows used today, was the violin soloist for the Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  Karen Gomyo stole the show with her interpretation of Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.  Her full, robust sound from a 1703 Stradivarius known as “Ex Foulis” for the Scottish violinist who once played it was visually accented by the four distinctive gowns she wore with each piece.  Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov arranged the Piazzolla score, orchestrating references to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  As we learned during an on stage discussion between conductor Michael Christie and Karen Gomyo during the intermission, Gomyo added her own interpretation in the style of a jazz musician.  Michael Christie, the Virginia G. Piper Music Director of The Phoenix Symphony, is a young, vibrant talent, and a graduate of the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.

This concert devoted to “seasons” was a timely one in Arizona.  During the previous week, Phoenix received five times its usual January accumulation of rain.  Rivers throughout the state flooded, some rising to historic levels.  The Prescott area was hit with 5-7 inches of snow by Thursday morning and 67 miles per hour winds later in the day.  The mayor declared a state of emergency, parts of Gurley Street in downtown Prescott were closed because of flooding and icy driving conditions, and we lost power for five hours.  Our dependence on electricity for heat and light, of course, resulted in an unexpected respite from TV and internet activity.

Some final notes on the Orpheum Theatre, the site for this Target World Music Festival concert.  Like the Ohio Theatre, the Orpheum was originally built for movies and vaudeville.  A 14-million dollar restoration project of this 1929 building was completed in January 1997.  It refurbished this landmark site in its original Spanish Medieval and Baroque style with intricate moldings and landscape murals adorning the side walls.  On Saturday evening, wonderful music, featuring two great soloists, filled this sold out theatre that seats 1,364.  It was seasonably refreshing.

Geronimo & Mountain Loop Trails Sunday, Jan 17 2010 

Phoenix

Phoenix

Our exploration of the Geronimo Trail up South Mountain from 20th Street resulted in discovering another trail, Mountain Loop, that isn’t on the map we picked up at the Gate House a couple of weeks ago.  After taking a side trail from the Geronimo Trail through a wash to an old campsite (R4), we scrambled up a hillside to join the Mountain Loop Trail.  We climbed to the Buena Vista viewpoint where the trail connects with the National Trail and has road access before returning to our car in the Boy Scout parking lot.  Mountain bikers, riding sturdy steeds and outfitted in flashy apparel and  helmets, gloves, knee pads,  know about this trail.  We moved aside as these well equipped adventure seekers raced down the steep, rocky trail.  We enjoyed good views of Phoenix, Tempe and the surrounding mountains while hiking steeper terrain than we had anticipated.

Mystery Castle Monday, Jan 11 2010 

Mystery Castle

Mystery Castle

In 1930 Boyce Gulley abandoned his wife and daughter in Seattle after receiving a diagnosis of tuberculosis. He relocated on the outskirts of Phoenix, near a dump at the base of South Mountain. During the next 15 years he built an unusual dwelling with 18 rooms and 13 fireplaces. His eclectic interests and whimsical sense of humor resulted in the Mystery Castle.  After his death his wife and daughter were notified and decided to move to Phoenix and  live in the Castle.  During our tour of this site on the Phoenix Historic Property Register, we saw the room that used to be used for weddings, a bar area with a bed and base of a wishing well equipped as a dumb waiter for the delivery of drinks on the patio, and kitchen with a raised oven.  We were privileged to meet Mary Lou Gulley, Boyse’s “princess” daughter.  Unfortunately, too many visitors wanted to visit the Castle at the same time we were there which meant that each room was crowded and there wasn’t enough time to take in all of the unusual built in and decorative items. After our tour, we hiked part of the Box Canyon Loop Trail within the South Mountain Park.