Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sedona

Sedona under heavy rain clouds.It’s been almost 6 months since our southwest trip, but there is one place that we still haven’t said a word about — Sedona, Arizona. And I’d like to try to remember some things about it and write these memories down before they completely fade away.

Sedona is a town located in the heart of Arizona, surrounded by beautiful red mountains. It’s a very touristy town with a lot of shops, restaurants and swarms of visitors. At the same it seems very cozy with its small streets, uplifting colors and architecture.

One of cozy Sedona streets.For Alena and I this was not our first time here, so originally I didn’t even want to repeat the trip. We’ve been here on our Arizona trip in October 2005 and liked it a lot. But after driving through most of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona I thought it would be boring to revisit. On the other hand we had nothing to do and papa and mama haven’t been there, so off we went.

A simple BBQ place located at one of the back streets.It turned out to be a good decision. Papa and mama liked it very much and I found it, as I said, much cozier than I remembered. It was nice to remember some of the places in this town. We even managed to find a cheap BBQ place where we all ordered pulled pork sandwiches, just like we did with Alena in 2005.

Toozigoot National Monument and papa on top of it.On our way to Sedona we drove by Tuzigoot National Monument and got our mandatory stamps there. The monument itself wasn’t all that interesting — just some old dwellings that mostly fell apart.

And after Sedona we managed to get our stamps at Montezuma Castle National Monument. It consists of 2 distinct parts — the well and the castle. We were on time at the well, but castle was 10 minutes away and it was almost 5pm on the clock — that’s when they close it down.

Castle at Montezuma Castle National Monument.So we flew by the ranger right into the gate of the 2nd part, managed to get our stamps there as well and even had the time to run to the castle. On our way back I was worried that the ranger was going to be pissed at us for doing this, but when he saw us again he actually started smiling and waving. I guess he understood why we were seriously speeding.

And that’s pretty much all of the trip that I remember.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Phoenix

Phoenix. We had a picture of this building from our first trip as well, so it stood out.В Фениксе, столице штата Аризона, мы с Даней побывали второй раз, а его родители увидели город впервые. В нашу поездку в 2005 году мы практически пробежались по городу, и он оставил какое-то смазанное и тусклое впечатление. В этот раз Феникс мне показался намного приятнее, и кроме кактусов, поразивших нас раньше, я заметила опрятные домики построенные в каком-то южном испанском стиле, оливковые и апельсиновые деревья, современные небоскрёбы даунтауна, разномастные пальмы…

Rare rainy day in Scottsdale.Останавливались мы не в самом Фениксе, а в Скотсдейле — городке, прилегающем к Фениксу, который считается более фешенебельным районом в этой местности.

Homewood Suites. Our hotel in Scottsdale.Гостиница Homewood Suites оказалась очень уютной, и нам даже удалось снять 3-х комнатный номер впервые за всё путешествие (в остальных гостиницах мы просто брали отдельные номера). Мне однозначно больше нравится жить в таких номерах с двумя спальнями — веселее и как-то уютно-спокойнее. )

Us in front of Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix.Приехали мы в Феникс в среду вечером, а весь четверг посвятили изучению города. Мы прогулялись по площади возле местного капитолия — чистенькое, но очень безлюдное место. Statue of Novajo Code Talker in front of Capitol.Мне запомнился памятник индейскому радисту из племени Навахо — во время второй мировой войны индейцы успешно использовали свой язык в качестве кода, который японцы так и не смогли расшифровать.

Когда мы гуляли по городу, солнце то выглядывало, то пропадало за тучами. Надо было видеть в какое уныние невозможность сделать красивые фотографии вгоняла Даньку, и как он радовался и бегал от одного красивого места к другому, когда солнышко являло нам свой улыбающийся лик.

Alena attempting to eat Phoenix oranges. They turned out to be extremely bitter.Мы случайно забрели на выставку автомобилей и потратили там часа 1.5-2 нашего времени. Ну что можно сказать — выставка как выставка, ничего особенного. )

Стоит заметить, что в тот день страна отмечала День Благодарения, и мы пораскатывали губы на специальный праздничный ужин в каком-нибудь из многочисленный ресторанов в районе нашей гостиницы. Каково же оказалось наше разочарование, когда мы поняли, что закрыто было буквально ВСЁ! Phoenix City Hall and the post with names of sister cities.Магазины, рестораны, даже room service в нашей гостинице не работали в связи с праздником. Мы уже смирились с мыслью, что придётся нам довольствоваться 4-мя маленькими кусочками пиццы, оставшимися с прошлого ужина, но на нашу удачу мы увидели одно место над которым висел большой банер с надписью “Открыто”. В этот-то итальянский ресторан мы и пошли вкушать наш праздничный ужин. Индюшки у них не оказалось, но всё что мы заказали было очень вкусным. )
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cacti of Arizona

Sunset near Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.I always have been drawn to cacti in a certain way. It might be from the fact that it was nowhere to be found in Uzbekistan in the wild, or maybe because we were always told from early age that everyone should keep a cactus by the monitor to absorb some of the radiation — mind you, nobody knew what an LCD was back then.

Southwest of this great country and Arizona in particular is home to many different kinds of cacti. But now I’d like to talk about the two kinds that stand out the most — Saguaro and Organ Pipe.


House on the hill of the mountain covered in Saguaros. Outskirts of Tucson.On early Tuesday morning we drove drove through a couple of historic places of Las Cruces and left New Mexico shorty after, setting the course to Tucson, Arizona. Our main objective of the day was to visit at least one of the two parts of Saguaro National Park that is located on the outskirts of Tucson itself.

Saguaro National Park.I really had no idea what Saguaro stood for, but it turned out that it was actually the name of the cactus that I wanted to see so much. Papa and one of the bigger Saguaros at Saguaro National Park.Because of that I had no idea what to expect of the park, but to our surprise we were greeted by what I was expecting to see in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument a day later.

The closer we were getting to the park the more obvious it was becoming — we were in the middle of an actual forest made up of huge cacti — Saguaros. Some were standing as lone huge poles, some sprung out a couple of arms and some had up to ten of them. All kinds of shapes and forms. Some were going up, some were going down. Most of them had holes in them, probably created by woodpeckers, but sadly we didn’t see any of the inhabitants of those homes.

Dead Saguaro.We got a bit unlucky with the weather, as all of the sky was covered in thick gray clouds and sun was nowhere to be seen. But that didn’t stop us from being amazed by the unusual landscape that was surrounding us. A real cacti forest, or as my dad called it — the kingdom of cacti.

Two Cacti — Alena and Teddy Bear.We made a whole lot of scenic stops, took a lot of pictures and hiked one of the trails in the park. I, as everyone else, was just amazed by the size and the forms of some of these. They could easily run from 2 to 5 heights of me.

Saguaro forest at dusk.When we were done with the park we were pretty tired and the the sun has actually sat down — it was dark outside already. We went and found our hotel in Tucson (Google actually had it in the wrong location on their maps), ate a very good dinner in the hotel diner type of restaurant, took a walk around our neighborhood, jumped into the jacuzzi we had in our room and retired for the night.


Alena hugging Organ Pipe Cactus. Really. No Photoshop.Wednesday was even better. By the morning the sky cleared up and the 2nd part of the park was right on our way out of Tucson. But before leaving we drove to downtown, and again set out for a short walk.

Fallen Saguaro. Organ Pipe Cactus NM.We stopped by a visitor center where a lady tried to talk us out of going to Organ Pipe Cactus NM. I think she almost managed to convince some of us that it was a bad idea to go. Her arguments were that it was really remote and pretty dangerous place, being so close to Mexican border.

Papa, mama and I at Desert Museum on outskirts of Tucson.However I was 100% set on going. This was one of the main destination of this trip. I remember looking at the map multiple times, on that square near the Mexican border, thinking how I would love to visit this place which is so far away from everything. And that’s exactly what we did, but I’ll get to that later.

As planned we went out to the 2nd district of Saguaro National Park and took a lot of pictures on our way there and in the park. The landscapes were amazing, but I think it’s pretty much impossible to capture with the camera.

Fox at Desert Museum Zoo.On our way we stopped by Desert Museum, which we expected to be quite a bit more exciting than it was. We were promised to see a lot of animals, but there were very few. However we’re glad we did it, because otherwise we’d be left wondering if we missed something really good.

Mega Saguaro at Organ Pipe Cactus NM.But on to the main destination of the day — Organ Pipe Cactus NM. The road that was supposed to be bad turned out to be as good as at any other place. We thought that it might be going through the mountains, so it would be slow, but it actually turned out to be going through the valleys of more cactus forests and was pretty straight. We did see a LOT of border patrol cars all over the place though.

While we were driving the sky was getting darker and darker. Eventually we started to see huge streaks of rain ahead and on the left — where the park was supposed to be. We drove into it and the weather was so bad that you couldn’t see 10 meters ahead. However to our luck we drove right through the storm to some more blue skies right by the time it was time to turn south, into the park. The weather got beautiful again.

Entrance of Organ Pipe Cactus NM. Bad photo, but the only one we have.Turns out Organ Pipe Cactus is a different type of cactus and that’s what Organ Pipe Cactus NM has a lot of (weird, I know). o.O It also does have a lot of Saguaros. I think my best memories are from this day. Standing in front of the sign at the entrance to the park — it was hard to believe that we’re actually on that spot on the map that I looked so many times at.

We asked for a good hiking trail at the visitor center, Organ Pipe Cactus.and we were giving great destination. The 2 mile trail lead us through the forest of Organ Pipe, Saguaro and many other cacti. It went through one of the mountain peaks which gave us a great view of the whole valley. And there was not a single soul there but 4 of us, under blue sky, surrounded by a magnitude of different cacti. Amazing memories.

And after that we drove through the towns of Why and Ajo all the way to Phoenix. Scottsdale actually. That’s where our last hotel was, where we were going to spend the last 3 nights of our great trip.
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Saturday, December 6, 2008

White Sands

Dunes of White Sands National Monument.Даня уже писал о Карлсбадских пещерах, а мне хочется добавить еще пару слов о своих впечатлениях. Лет 8 назад мы с Кузей посещали подобное чудо природы – Крымские мраморные пещеры – но мои воспоминания о них очень расплывчаты и отрывочны.

Карлсбаские пещеры произвели на меня довольно сильное впечатление. Мне то казалось, что я попала в какой-то сказочный дворец на бал, и свисающие с потолков резные люстры вот-вот зажгутся и осветят пространство мягким мерцающим светом; то возникало ощущение что я иду по какому-то морскому царству, и мокрые скользкие обитатели его величественно возлегают тут и там и думают о чем-то своём, глубокофилософском, не обращая на нас, мягкотелых ахающих людишек, никакого внимания.

Carlsbad Caverns.Переговаривались друг с другом мы приглушёнными голосами — этому способствовало не только то, что работник парка предупредил нас о прекрасной акустике пещер и попросил уважать других посетителей природного музея, но и сама атмосфера вокруг — полутьма, таинственность, мягкие звуки шлепающих о камни капель воды. Кстати, я ожидала, что в пещерах будет намного прохладнее (довольно низкая температура запомнилась мне из предыдущего посещения пещер), но не очень тёплой кофты оказалось достаточно для того чтобы чувствовать себя комфортно.


Главной целью следующего дня было посещение национального монумента под названием “Белые Пески” (White Sands National Monument). Признаться честно, я не ожидала очень многого от этого места, но фантастический ландшафт снеждно-белых дюн просто поразил моё воображение. Но начнём по-порядку.

Overlooking Tularosa Basin. Lincoln National Forest.Проснувшись с утра пораньше (как мы старались делать во все дни нашего отпуска) и позавтракав яичницей в китайском буфете, мы отрпавились в дорогу. Гостиница наша находилась в Артезии — небольшом городке, не насчитывающем даже 15,000 душ. Путь наш пролегал через Lincoln National Forest — хвойный лес, напомнивший мне пейзажи Колорадо. Мы сделали пару остановок — в деревеньках Mayhill и Cloudcroft, а так же в солнечной обсерватории, расположенной на одном из пиков Sacremento Mountains.

Solar observatory at Sunspot.Как же хорошо дышалось чистым и душистым из-за окружающих елей и сосен воздухом возле солнечной обсерватории! Сами здания обсерватории меня немного разочаровали — почему-то я ожидала, что нам дадут посмотреть в телескоп на небо… Но, конечно, разрешили нам только гляднуть через стекло на старую модель телескопа, и побродить возле современной модели, окруженной целой кучей компьютеров.

White sand flowing out of Alena's hands.Следующей нашей остановкой были белые дюны. Сначала мне показалось, что мы попали в зиму — занеженная дорога, грязноватые комки снега по обочинам, чахленькие пучки по-зимнему бурой травы, выглядывающие то тут, то там из сугробов… Ан нет — обман зрения! ) Снег оказался вовсе не снегом, а сыпучим и прохладным гипсовым песком.

Us at White Sands.На многие киллометры протянулись белоснежные поля, испещрённые характерными ребристыми узорами оставленными непоседой-ветром, а также следами лапок жителей этого необычного мирка. Конечно, на территории доступной туристам, мы видели и множество отпечатков подошв самых разных размеров.

Mama in White Sand Dunes.Бродить по песчаным дюнам было интересно, но мы старались не отходить слишком далеко от машины, потому что потерять ориентацию в этом белом царстве очень легко.

Road through the White Sands National Monument.Многие люди приносили специальные доски, на которых можно было скатываться со склонов барханов, и мне тоже захотелось слететь вниз и почувствовать восторг от скорости и адреналина. За неимением специальной экипировки, я решила воспользоваться тем, что мне предоставила природа — собственным задом. Увы, я не слетела, а скорее сползла с горы, причём в ход пошла на только пятая точка, но и ноги с руками, послужившие толкательными рычагами.

Papa near one of the few plants he liked in White Sands.Даниному папе очень понравилась растительность бело-песчаных дюн. Представители местной флоры должны были приспособиться к двигающимся пескам или погибнуть. Мы видели столбы песка, держащиеся только за счёт корней растений, спрятанных в их глубине, — довольно интерсное зрелище.
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Friday, December 5, 2008

Carlsbad Caverns

One of the caves in Carlsbad Caverns.Our second day started out very early. After eating the breakfast at our hotel and driving through the downtown we left El Paso and set out to the east, towards the Carlsbad Caverns National Park through Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. These were our two main objectives for the day.

Papa and mama along the route 180 in Texas.As soon as we left the city we were greeted by an always familiar yet different southwestern landscape that I’ve come to love so much over the past years. Huge flats, tall distant mountains, what might seem to be scarce vegetation of unusual to us composition — cacti and yuccas, and the never ending road. Road that I might say is always great no matter how distant of a place it runs through.

Alena and I on salt flats in Texas along route 180.Our first find was a big white field that was absolutely flat. Finally, the salt flats that I’ve heard so much about. I guess the water evaporated not so long ago, or it was raining recently. The salt was not rock hard, but soft and slightly soggy. I imagine during the summer it feels more like concrete.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park.In Gaudalupe Mountains NP we got a whole bunch of new stamps for our passports (4 official and one bonus). The park consists completely of hiking trails. We took a rather short one going through different plants with plaques attached to most of them. But we didn’t spend much time here as we didn’t want to be late to our next park.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park.We got to Carlsbad Caverns NP at about 1:30pm. The natural entrance to the caverns closes at 2pm and the elevator down closes at 3:30. After talking to the park rangers we decided that we’ll take the elevator right away, since the natural entrance adds an hour to the hike and you don’t really get to the interesting part until you reach the point where elevator would put us anyhow.

One of the caves in Carlsbad Caverns. Look at the guardrails around the trail to get a sense of scale.The elevator took us 750 feet down (that’s more than half of Empire State Building). I’ve never been in any cave or cavern before so for me this was a new experience. First of all the whole thing is HUGE. The farther we went the more space opened up. There were bleak lights installed behind some rocks, but you had to watch carefully where you were going because it was still pretty dark.

Hall of Giants. Carlsbad Caverns.The formations of different stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other things I do not know the names for were magnificent. Underground lakes and springs, the constant sound of water drops. My dad was the “luckiest” of us all with respect to water drops landing on his head. At one point he started worrying about growing a stalagmite. )

Carlsbad Caverns.I managed to take a good number of pictures and most of them came out well thanks to my micro-tripod and a remote control combo. The only thing that is hard to capture is the size of the whole thing. On some photos you will notice the trail itself with guardrails around it. Those were from 1 to 1.5 meters in height and should give you some sense of scale.

Alena with a nice prickly pear cactus in Carlsbad Caverns NP.After that we drove through a tiny town of Carlsbad itself to our final destination of the day — another tiny town in New Mexico — Artesia. We ended up having our 2nd anniversary dinner right in the hotel Chinese Buffet. But it’s not the food that matters, but the company, and the day itself was great.
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Monday, December 1, 2008

First Day in El Paso

Visitor center of Chamizal National Memorial.The vacation was great and it was awesome as ever. It’s always nice to be home however. Now I’m sifting through the photos and great memories. We haven’t been writing anything down, but we’ll try to put some thoughts together on the blog, so memories don’t fade away.

Everything started with Alena setting an alarm for 3:30am. The plan was to get up, get dressed, maybe eat some breakfast and pretty much get ready for the cab that will be picking us up at 4:30am to go to LaGuardia airport. I woke up at 4:29am from the call from my dad asking if we were ready. O.o shock

Mexican border. Road to Juárez, Mexico.The alarm didn’t go off. Alena changed her work day alarm to 3:30. The only problem was that it only works on weekdays. ) We ran out like crazy and were at the airport well ahead of the flight. We got an extra hour of sleep though. )

Our first day was dedicated to exploring El Paso. We went to Chamizal National Memorial — the place where U.S. border with Mexico used to pass until Rio Grande changed its path. We also were about 100 meters from the actual Mexico border.

Museum in downtown El Paso.Everyone in the town obviously speaks Spanish. We also tried to visit a famous military base, Fort Bliss. But they called military police on us for taking pictures of the gates which was really uncalled for. So we decided we don’t need that and just left.

The town center has a bunch of museums, but it was dead quite on the weekend. Nothing really special and I don’t think this is the place I’d like to live at. The day passed quickly and we turned in early since we were very tired.
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