Prescott Bluegrass Festival Sunday, Jun 25 2017 

Old Blue Band

Old Blue Band

Yesterday we joined the crowd on the south side of the Yavapai County Courthouse for two sets of the 36th Annual Prescott Bluegrass Festival. We especially enjoyed the performance of the seasoned professionals of the Old Blue Band who are dedicated to the preservation of the music from the past and the continued presentation of its character in the present day. They were followed by the Heidi Clare and Ron Thomason duet. The power and athleticism of Heidi Clare contribute to lauding her as the best old-time fiddler of her generation. It was interesting to learn that she was a member of the two-woman, one-horse team that won the 2010 Ride ‘n Tie World Championship. Although I didn’t appreciate the red-neck humor of Ron Thomason, he is a master of the mandolin who also plays the guitar and claw-hammer banjo.

This past Tuesday six of us explored the Greenways Trail from Aubrey to Caleton Street. We found the following wildflowers: yellow flowered warty caltrop, pink flowered lizard-tail, reddish purple flowered ribbon four o’clock, yellow flowered buffalo gourd, light pink striped flowered common mallow, pinkish flowered little globemallow, tiny white flowered horehound, white flowered field bindweed, white sweet clover, yellow sweet clover, violet flowered alfalfa, white flowered bluestem pricklepoppy also known at cowboy’s fried egg, white flowered bastard toadflax, yellow flowered prickly lettuce, and yellow flowered curlytop gumweed.

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Acker Park Trails & Lynx Creek Wildflowers Sunday, Jun 18 2017 

Acker Park Stormwater Detention Basin Construction

Acker Park Stormwater Detention Basin Construction

On Thursday we hiked some of the Acker Park Trails from an elevation of 5,480 feet to 5,630 feet. We walked along the Powerline Trail out to the parking area on Autumn Breeze. We watched heavy equipment working on the construction of the Acker Park Stormwater Detention Basin that started in May and is expected to be completed in July. The iconic Thumb Butte could be seen in the distance. We looped back on the Ridge Trail including climbing the Hilltop Trail for panoramic views of Prescott. After returning to the Virginia Street parking area we walked along the Virginia Trail and Mural Trail to use the park’s restroom and admire the murals that encompass this structure depicting the history of the land, its flora and fauna, and recognizing the philanthropy of Mr. Acker.

On Tuesday I joined a half-dozen others at Lynx Creek’s Gold Pan area to identify wildflowers. With expert help we found the following wildflowers: white flowered Canaigre Dock or Desert Rhubarb, white flowered Poison Hemlock, lavender colored Desert Straw, Yellow-flowered Eriogonum, the reddish pink colors of Scarlet Beeblossom, the pale blue or violet colored Thymeleaf Speedwell, the deep carmine-red of Scarlet Four O’Clock, the golden yellow of Creeping Wood Sorrel, the white or pinkish colors of Field Bindweed, the bright yellow color of Black Medick, the yellow tinged with orange or red of Wright’s Deervetch, the deep violet-purple of False Indigo, Yellow Sweet Clover, and the bright yellow of Desert Blazing Star.

From Arkansas to Arizona Thursday, Jun 8 2017 

It was dry on Sunday when we left Bella Vista, Arkansas, although later we encountered some very heavy rain. I guess that is why northwest Arkansas is so green. A young woman’s vehicle with a flat tire stopped part way in the left lane of a two lane road created a dangerous situation. Also, multiple road construction projects often left me navigating between cement barriers on one side of the road or both sides. We paid tolls for four axles as we approached Oklahoma City. After connecting with Interstate 40, we stopped at the Elk City/Clinton KOA located in Foss, Oklahoma. We discovered on our orientation walk around the campground that a trail led to nearby Clinton Lake where some locals were boating while others fished.

On Monday, we drove from near the Oklahoma border through the Texas panhandle. We stopped at a KOA in Tucumcari, New Mexico. We took advantage of the swimming pool before a throng of children arrived.

New Mexico Sunset

New Mexico Sunset

On Tuesday, as we traveled across New Mexico, we encountered a cow that considered crossing the freeway. We stopped to prepare lunch at the El Malpais National Monument Visitor Center as a storm passed through the area. I took advantage of the heated swimming pool at the USA RV Park in Gallup. The park’s patriotic motifs include an American flag image on the bottom of the swimming pool. Another first was finding a chess set with large pieces. Although I made a first move, I later discovered my pawn back on its e2 square. This park offered a pretty good evening barbecue that we enjoyed with a pleasant sunset.

On Wednesday, we stopped for lunch at the Turquoise Room in historic La Posada. My anxiety about parking our rig in Winslow was unfounded as ample space was available in front of the historic hotel. Other than being blown by stiff winds we arrived home without incident after traveling some four thousand miles over five weeks.

Bentonville, Arkansas Sunday, Jun 4 2017 

We stayed at the Blowing Springs RV Park in Bella Vista, Arkansas, a few miles north of Bentonville. This area of northwest Arkansas, the Ozarks, is graced with green oak and hickory forests surrounding beautiful lakes. We visited the nearby Lake Ann and were impressed with the waterfall below the dam on Pinion Creek. We then hiked the two-mile Tanyard Creek Nature Trail, located a mile west of Bella Vista’s Town Center, that has a waterfall from runoff from Windsor Lake. Multiple signs explain the history of this area and pointed out many of the plants and trees. I liked the sign that identified the crown vetch, a blooming wildflower along part of the trail. From our campground, the next morning we hiked the two-mile Blowing Springs Trail. We encountered a deer on this shady loop trail.

Walton's 5-10

Walton’s 5-10

Our visit to Bentonville was particularly timely. First, the city celebrates First Fridays from April to November. A large crowd gathered to celebrate June’s First Friday “Art & Culinary” theme. This also happened to be the weekend when Walmart stock holders meet in Bentonville. The Walton Museum, located in the Walton’s original 5&10 on the Bentonville Square, was open and gave us a good introduction to this company. After dinner at a local restaurant, we listened to music by the Downtown Livewires.

Turquoise Reeds& Ozark Fiori

Neodymium Reeds on Logs

The main reason for our stop was to visit Crystal Bridges. It was most fortuitous that we happened on the opening of their “Chihuly: In the Gallery and In the Forest.” The forest component of the exhibit was similar to what I had previously seen in Columbus and Phoenix, although I especially liked “Neodymium Reeds on Logs”. The indoor exhibit, however, was much more comprehensive than anything I had previously experienced. A large wall covered with American Indian trade blankets introduced visitors to Chihuly’s early collecting and interest in cylindrical vessels inspired by Native American textiles including his weaving with fused glass. “Fire Orange Baskets” illustrate Chihuly’s continuing fascination of freeing glass from its traditional restrictions of symmetry. “Rotolo” pushes the boundaries of glass by creating long, intricate spirals of curving, clear forms rising from a central core. “Winter Brilliance” represents a window display of ice sculptures constantly transformed by changing colors. Chihuly arranged his “Calendula Persians” in a cascade formation. “Venetians” represents a variety of vases with unusual shapes, form, and texture. Combining painting and sculpture, “Glass on Glass,” displays dynamic, multidimensional paintings in color, light, and glass. Edward S. Curtis photogravures, an image produced from a photographic negative transferred to a metal plate and etched in to produce a high-quality print, were interspersed with Tabac baskets and Northwest coast Indian baskets before one exits the indoor exhibit. We enjoyed lunch at the museum’s restaurant, Eleven, while watching it rain outside. The curves of the roof structures allowed rain to naturally flow to water elements around the buildings. I was also attracted to the reflectivity of “Hanging Heart” a large hanging sculpture above our lunch table by Jeff Koons. After lunch, the rain took a break while we walked through the forest to see the outdoor Chihuly installations. My favorites include “Turquoise Reeds & Ozark Fiori,” “Neodymium Reeds on Logs,” “Belugas,” “Red Reeds,” and “Fiori Boat.” The Crystal Bridges collection itself focuses on American art. In the section documenting Native Americans I admired “The Old Arrow Maker,” an 1872 sculpture by Edmonia Lewis, daughter of a Chippewa mother and an African American father, who attended Oberlin College. We took note of Andy Warhol’s “Coca-Cola (3)” with special interest after learning about the bottling of the beverage in Vicksburg. The most unusual art work, “Untitled” by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, offered visitors an individually wrapped green candy from 50 pounds of candies spread out on the floor. Other art works that I especially liked include “Atala and Chactas” by Randolph Rogers, “Sappho” by William Wetmore Story, “Abstraction” by Georgia O’Keefe, “Untitled” by Ruth Asawa a Japanese-American who was interned in the Arkansas Rohwer War Relocation Center, “Greyhounds” by William Hunt Diederich, “Walking to Boras” by Jim Dine, “Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be – Variation #2” by Evan Penny, “Cube” by Alvin Loving, “Au Café (Synchrony): by Stanton Macdonald-Wright, and “Divinity Lotus” by Agnes Pelton. The Chihuly exhibit will be at Crustal Bridges until August 14th.

Hot Springs, Arkansas Thursday, Jun 1 2017 

Fordyce Bathhouse

Fordyce Bathhouse

In 1832, President Andrew Jackson signed the bill creating Hot Springs Reservation. By setting aside four sections of land, this was the first time the nation acted to protect a natural resource. In 1921, Congress declared this spot the 18th national park. Hot Springs National Park is different from other national parks in that Bathhouse Row, a core component of the park, is across the street from commercial businesses in the City of Hot Springs. The Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center, found in the middle of Bathhouse Row, is in the Fordyce Bathhouse. We started with the 15-minute introductory film “Valley of the Vapors” before touring most of the 23 restored rooms furnished as they appeared during the heyday of the spa. All the women’s side and some of the men’s side of the building are outfitted with the furniture and equipment of the time: hydrotherapy equipment, steam cabinets, Zander mechano-therapy equipment, tubs, massage tables, sitz tub, chiropody tools, beauty parlor, a billiard table, and a piano. I especially liked the large domed skylight in the men’s area. It contains about 8,000 pieces of glass arranged to represent Neptune’s daughter, mermaids, dolphins, and fish in swirling water.

Superior Bathhouse, originally operational from 1916-1983, is now a brewery, the first in a U.S. National Park. They turn 144-degree water into a myriad of brews such as the ones I sampled: Sidetown Smoked Saison, Foul Play Stout, Desoto’s Folly Golden Stout, and SPA (Superior Pale Ale). The Hale Bathhouse, 1892-1978, is the oldest such structure on Bathhouse Row. The Maurice Bathhouse, 1912-1974, was the only bathhouse with a pool. The original Quapaw Bathhouse operated from 1922-1968, and under different ownership from 1969-1984. In 2008, under a lease agreement it opened as a modern spa. The Ozark Bathhouse, 1922-1977, was built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The Buckstaff Bathhouse has been in continuous operation since 1912. The Lamar Bathhouse, 1923-1985, now houses the park store.

Hot Springs Mountain Observation Tower

Hot Springs Mountain Observation Tower

We explored some of the Hot Springs National Park trails. The half mile Grand Promenade winds behind Bathhouse Row from Reserve Street to Fountain Street. Started as part of a PWA project in the 1930s and not completed until 1957, this intricately designed brick promenade is a National Recreation Trail. We ascended the steep Peak Trail 0.6 miles to the massive 210-foot-high Hot Springs Mountain Observation Tower. I took the elevator for panoramic views. After a picnic lunch, we walked part of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail before descending on the half-mile Honeysuckle Trail. On Wednesday, we ventured across the street to hike some of the West Mountain trails. To access the one-mile Oak Trail, we climbed part of the Canyon Trail’s winding switchbacks. At the West Mountain overlook we continued our walk on the West Mountain Trail before descending 0.7 miles on the Canyon Trail and seeing a deer cross our path.

Belle of Hot Springs

Belle of Hot Springs

On Wednesday evening, we boarded the Belle of Hot Springs for a sunset dinner cruise on Lake Hamilton. We were impressed by opulent homes on the lake, some with their own water features, and we were gifted with a pretty sunset.

On Thursday, we drove to Lake Catherine State Park where we hiked the two-mile Falls Branch Trail meandering along valley streams, mountain ridges, and lake shoreline. The terrain is steep and rugged in places, so don’t be like us and forget your walking stick. Three pileated woodpeckers traveled together looking for a mid-morning snack. A waterfall is a popular destination. We found young people enjoying the water and inappropriately egging their two dogs to jump from the cliffside. The dogs appeared to be smarter than their owners. We learned from a self-guiding interpretive trail brochure that Lake Catherine was formed in 1924 by the construction of Remmel Dam to generate hydroelectric power. Near the end of the trail we crossed a 45-foot-long swinging bridge that was built to prevent erosion caused by pedestrian traffic.

In the afternoon, we visited Garvin Woodland Gardens, part of the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture. This 210-acre botanical garden features several miles of walking trails. We enjoyed walking through the impressive Japanese garden where koi in a pond converged on me begging to be fed while I was setting up to take a photograph. We looped around the Perry Wildflower Overlook with its sweeping views of Lake Hamilton, including Mt. Riante in the distance. Several daylily varieties caught my eye in the Southern Inspiration Garden as well as the bright blue and purple colors of hydrangeas. A tooth fairy house is part of a whimsical collection of creative wood structures. We missed seeing the Anthony Chapel with its soaring columns and fan vaulting of southern yellow pine. Maybe on our next visit.