Sunday, November 2, 2014

Changes in latitude, changes in attitude

Wow, it's been a long time since I've even looked at this blog and I really don't know why. Maybe it was just summer lassitude. Now it seems like summer may finally be over (after some temps in the 90s as late as last week!) and I'm feeling pretty happy about it!

 Back in June I found a half-price deal for the Hotel Vendome in Prescott, Arizona, where we stayed a few years ago, and last week we finally headed north for a little getaway. Autumn had to be happening somewhere, after all, and since Prescott's more than 3000 feet higher and 3 1/2 hours north of Tucson, it seemed like a good place to go looking for it.

We weren't disappointed. There weren't quite as many colorful leaves as we'd hoped for, but enough. And we like the Vendome, where we stayed last time we were in Prescott ( It's historic without taking itself too seriously (built in 1917, and there's even a ghost, though we weren't in that room), just funky enough to be comfortable, and with a nice continental breakfast included at the little bar every morning.

 Prescott's a great town for walking - not too big, with lots of lovely older homes and historic neighborhoods where the residents decorate for Halloween the way people other places do for Christmas. Imagine how much fun it would be to trick-or-treat there! And these photos are of some of the more restrained decor!

 The Hotel Vendome is in the center of town, just a block off the courthouse square. We walked a half-mile or so, uphill and through the neighborhood in the pictures above, to the edge of Acker Park, which is hilly with a couple of miles of trails. This is what we saw when we turned around to look back down at the town.

 Farther along we found these interesting shrubs, up to about 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide. A sign identified them as Apache Plume, and a web search told me that there are several varieties. These, with the wild and crazy white plumes, seem to be among the more unusual ones. This time of year they're fruiting and going to seed but there were a few of the pretty white open rose blossoms left; they're a member of the rose family.

 The trail was punctuated with words of wisdom like these - I agree with Thoreau:

Another view of town, from the top of the ridge, with Thumb Butte in the distance:

The best place we found to eat is this little "coffee bistro" right next door to our hotel. Wonderful salads, very generous portions - a half salad at $4.99 was just right for a delicious, light, and satisfying lunch. And the coffee's really good, with free refills.

 The next day we headed a few miles farther afield, driving out to Willow Lake, which is ringed by a network of trails that link up with miles and miles of other trails heading out in other directions. We confined ourselves to a long walk about halfway around the lake. One of the things we liked about being there was the relative quiet. Prescott may once have been Arizona's territorial capitol, but it's  not really on the way to anywhere now - it's the county seat and a fairly small one, so even though the lake is close to a main road, the noise is minimal and unobtrusive.

 We saw ducks and coots, even a cormorant and a snowy egret, birds we saw often when we lived  in northern California but which are much less common in Arizona.

Someone had put together this shelter among the cottonwoods on the south shore,

and a little further along we encountered this fellow lying across the trail. We weren't sure if he was dead or alive (he wasn't moving, even when gently prodded), or whether he was one of those snakes whose markings were similar to a rattler or an actual young rattler who hadn't grown his rattles yet, so we took a detour off the trail and around him - he was gone when we came back. A little beyond this big tree,

we came upon this sign, but the trail didn't end at all, though it's apparently under water when there's water for it to be under.

 We went a little further before turning back. The trees and brush grew thicker and the feeling was quite magical. It was the middle of the week and we'd met only one other person, a runner on her way back to the trailhead.

 I found myself remembering a couple of poems I read long ago, like this passage from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Renascence":

       The world stands out on either side
       No wider than the heart is wide;
       Above the world is stretched the sky,
       No higher than the soul is high . . . .

and from Christina Rossetti's "Uphill":

        Does the road wind uphill all the way?
        Yes, to the very end.
        Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
        From morn to night, my friend.

Our journey was not "uphill all the way," nor did it "take the whole long day"; we were back home in Tucson by dinnertime. But those few days away and being outside in the cool, clean air, in "October's bright blue weather" were just what we needed, I think, though I suppose some might say it's silly to drive 3 1/2 hours each way and pay for a hotel just to take a few long walks in the country. And now we can do that here at home, since it feels as if we've brought autumn back with us.

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