Saturday, November 26, 2011

iPhone photos from a Black Friday hike in Bear Canyon...and some collages from elsewhere

For local day-hikes, when you want to be unencumbered with stuff, the iPhone is such a handy camera...and various apps allow for some pretty clean stitched-together panoramas--perfect for the landscape around Tucson...

'Black Friday' has been a hiking day for me the past few years, far from the madding crowds of the malls...Last week, I sprained my ankle; I was afraid I might not be able to go for a hike this year, but fortunately, it seems to be healing quickly. So, yesterday, a couple of friends and I met for breakfast and then headed to Bear Canyon, just a fifteen minute drive from mid-town Tucson.

Above image pieced together from three vertical phone-photos, using the AutoStitch app.
[This photo was just published in the Tucson newspaper's Foothills section.]

Two weekends ago, I went for a trail-run in here, and there wasn't much water--we've had a pretty rainy November, though, so the creek's been 're-charged'...just enough for some reflective pools among the fall color...

The trail to Seven Falls is mostly flat, although it does zigzag across a boulder-strewn creek for a couple of miles before switchbacking a few hundred feet up the south wall of the canyon.

...and after 3 1/2 miles, voilà Seven Falls:
vertical panorama from two photos

I pieced together eight phone-pics for this panorama--gives an idea of the terrain:
...from the left of the photo--looking down and out Bear Canyon toward the southwest, to the right of the photo--looking straight west into the Santa Catalina mountains, at Seven Falls, cascading down a steep smooth-stone gorge...

We shared the trail with lots of other post-turkey hikers--nice to see groups of multigenerational trekkers--grandparents, their kids and grandkids--all together, outdoors as family instead of being indoors somewhere amidst the consumer-frenzy...


Last week, while 'nursing' the sprained ankle, I had some time to play with a few older photos; I'd been meaning to group some together:

Desert Doorways: Tucson's Barrio Viejo

On the western edge of the city is "Old Tucson," the tv/movie set theme park of ersatz wild west streets. But the REAL Old Tucson is here: just south of the downtown core, full of preserved and restored adobe houses.

The Hohokam and Tohono O'odham peoples lived in this area long before Europeans arrived. The year before The Declaration of Independence was signed on the other end of the continent, the Spanish set up a presidio here. By 1821, this outpost became a Mexican settlement; it wasn't until 1854, with the Gadsden Purchase, that Tucson became a U.S. territorial town.

As with most western U.S. cities, strip-malls that could be from anywhere can sometimes detract from the mountainous setting...but seek history and you shall find; colors and stories in the desert abound.
When I first walked around the Barrio Viejo, I almost felt as if I were in a Mediterranean village...later, I came across this description, written by a Dr. J.H. Robinson of Columbia University, who visited Tucson for the first time in the 1930’s:

"But this cannot be the United States of America, Tucson, Arizona! This is northern Africa - Tunis! Algiers! - or even Greece, where I have seen as here, houses built flush with the sidewalks with pink, blue, green and yellow walls, flowers climbing out of hidden patios and overall, an unbelievable blue sky. And the sweet-acrid smell in the air? Burning mesquite. Lovely! And the people - charming. But all this is the Old World, not America."


Communing with ducks on the Sorgue
Ahh, to lie in a hammock on a summer afternoon in the South of France...
My wife and I had gone to visit friends who lived in LeThor, a town of a few thousand on the banks of the Sorgue River in Provence. (Between the very visited cities of Avignon and L'Île-sur-la-Sorgue, Le Thor is a quiet gem.) Their house was built into the medieval wall, just around a bend in the river from a 12th-century Romanesque church. We rowed a bit in the shade of plane trees, ducks for company...
In between the wall and the river, just enough room for a hammock, a table and four chairs--des olives, du pastis, and la sieste: perfect...
Sedona: into the elements...

Color, shape, naked geology--Northern Arizona appeals to senses in the most elemental ways. Agnostic hikers, secular scientists, souls searching for spiritual energy--all end up in Sedona, seeking and finding.

Mid-week in this red-rock country, we found a few days of calm--early morning trails around town, afternoons in galleries seeking shelter from summer thunderstorms. Weekends bring crowds from Phoenix, just two hours to the south, but away from pavement, you can still get away, going into the elements.


Coffee-crazy in Korea's capital

Seoul has to be Asia's most caffeinated mega-city. There is plenty of tea to be had, but coffee rules in Korea's capital.
Along with an abundance of multi-storied Starbucks, every street seems to have sprouted a home-grown café: from the Italian-inspired (Pascucci, Caffe Bene) to the French (Paris Baguette, Tous les Jours), the sacreligious (God in a cup) and the pseudo-religious (Angel-in-us), royal (Coffee Prince) and musical (Johannes Brahms), prepositions ("at-to-on"?), from the purely Asian (Gurunaru), to delightfully fractured English (Yoger presso, A twosome place, Me Too, cafe sand&food). Coffee and kimchee--it's what Koreans run on!
As erstwhile Seattlites, my wife and I had our fun sampling the different interpretations of the bean while in Seoul. Some were good, some were bad, many were puzzling (red bean latte? black bean latte? GREEN bean latte?), and most all were pricey...

Musicians: a palace restored

Late spring and early summer in Seoul: musicians in medieval clothing infuse the grounds of Gyeongbok Palace with a sense of its storied past.
Built in the 1390's when a new dynasty established Seoul as its capital, Gyeongbok-gung ("The Palace of Shining Happiness") was a city unto itself. In the 1590's, in the chaos of the Japanese invasions, the palace was burned and lay largely in ruins until the 19th century. The reconstruction almost bankrupt the kingdom, and then the grounds were the scene of the assassination of Korea's last empress. During the Japanese colonization (1910-1945), eighty-five percent of the palace compound was either destroyed or dismantled...
The last two decades have seen a remarkable period of revival and rebuilding. Today about forty percent of the palace has been restored. With colorful concerts, tea-ceremonies, and the changing of the guard, this palace is shining once again.
Years ago, during a summer staying with relatives, I had visited Gyeongbok-gung. Two decades later, it was such a treat to revisit the Palace, renewed, and with a 'live soundtrack.'
vibrant morning palette

...scenes from a morning in the midst of autumn's palette in Odae-san National Park: steam ascending from temple breakfast fires at sunrise, climbing up through maples and pungent gingkoes, happening upon a folk-painting of a tiger on a trail-side shrine...
I'd tagged along with my uncle as he drove from Seoul to the mountains along the east coast of Korea. We were going to pick up my aunt, who'd just spent a week-long retreat at Sang-won-sa, a "Seon" ('Zen' in Korean) temple established in the year 643. While they spent the morning around the grounds, I went for a hike.
This national park, near the site of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, is dotted with Buddhist sites established in the 6th and 7th centuries. (Odae-san is one of Korea's 'holy mountains.') During the fall, the temple's vibrant architecture blends in perfectly with the forested slopes; the colors of the folk-paintings seem to spring from the mountains themselves.

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