Three Life Birds on the Apache Trail

During our recent trip to Arizona, Gail and I had a car and a few hours to ourselves on the morning after Kelly and Jason’s wedding. So we decided to drive at least a tiny portion of the scenic Apache Trail through the Superstition Mountains. We only made it as far as Tortilla Flat, so we were able to stay on paved road. Here are a few shots of the beautiful terrain.

At Tortilla Flat I noticed a few birds flying. At first I thought a black one with a long tail was a Great-tailed Grackle, which we see all the time in Scottsdale/Tempe/Phoenix. But this one had a prominent show of white in its underwing, a red eye, and a spiky head. It was a Phainopepla! A life bird for us! We had our binoculars with us so we could see details, but unfortunately we did not have our big camera and long lens. Our pix are from a point and shoot.

As we were oohing and aahing, we heard the familiar song and tapping of a woodpecker. But, what!? In the Sonoran Desert!? We looked to the sound and in a far away Saguaro cactus saw another life bird. The Gila Woodpecker! It was doing its thing, making its nest on the side of the cactus, where it will later forage for food. Sorry the pictures are so poor, but we know it’s the bird because it’s the only woodpecker that lives in this part of the country.

And finally, one our way back, we stopped on the side of the road to take a closer look at a large black bird sitting on a post. We figured it was a Common Raven until we saw the white ring around its neck. We took good enough pictures to later identify it as a Chihuahuan Raven, which happened to be in the northernmost part of its range, an unusual find. We may never see it again. Life bird number three in one day!

We did not intend to go birding during this trip, which was all about Kelly and Jason’s wedding. But funny how when you least expect it, you can be so wonderfully surprised!

It was a short but beautiful ride. I hope to drive more of it some day, with an off-road four-wheel drive for the unpaved part of the Apache Trail. And next time, we’ll bring our good camera and lens! 🙂

The Kelly Crotte and Jason Armstrong Wedding!

March 23rd will be a permanent occasion on my calendar. My daughter Kelly was married three days ago in a beautiful wedding and reception, the stuff of dreams. Really, the whole thing could not have been any nicer!

Kelly wanted a very sunny place for her college studies and chose Arizona State University. That was ten years ago. She loved the Arizona desert so much that she has made it her home. She has long since graduated, has been working full time as a Clinical Research Coordinator, is back in school for an advanced degree, just started a business called Armstrong Adaptations, and while planning for her wedding also completed a half marathon run! She is a busy girl! And somehow she finds time for one of her passions which is salsa dancing. Actually, she was a competitive ballroom dancer in college, and her first job out of college was as a dance instructor. She finds much more joy, though, salsa dancing with her friends at the salsa clubs. And through all that she found the joy of her life, Jason Armstrong, who is now her husband!

So family and friends gathered in Scottsdale, AZ for her wedding last Friday. Here is a picture of Kelly and me in the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, which is where the outdoor wedding and the reception took place. The building in the background is The Clayton on the Park, which is where the reception was held.

The Spring temperature was a lovely, dry 85 degrees during the day, and a very comfortable 70 degrees by 10 PM. Here is a shot of the park between the wedding site and the reception site.

And here is Kelly at a spot on the park known as The Marshall Garden, on the day before her wedding on that exact spot.

And here are some shots of the wedding itself. First, of course, because it’s MY blog, the bride and her father:

The wedding party (photo by Craig Amrine):

The wedding music: (Doesn’t everyone have mariachi love songs at their wedding?)

Walking down the aisle, Karen my ex, Kelly the beautiful bride, and me:

Part of the ceremony:

Dig the red shoes! 😀

The vows (photo by Craig Amrine):

The newly marrieds, Kelly and Jason Armstrong:

…and by photographer Craig Amrine:

All my children and me!

From left to right are my son-in-law Mike, his wife/my pregnant daughter Megan, me, Kelly, Jason, my daughter Ginny, and my son Kevin.

My parents:

And I’ll finish with three more pictures of the beautiful/handsome couple, Kelly and Jason Armstrong! (The first two photos by Craig Amrine.)

Kelly and Jason are two beautiful and outstanding young people! I am proud to welcome Jason into our loving family, just as I know they have welcomed Kelly into theirs. May they live long and prosper, and may the odds be ever in their favor! (The Hunger Games opened on the same day as their wedding.)

I am very happy! 😀

I’ll try to gather reception pictures/movies to share on another post.

Phoenix South Mountain Park

I have had the joy and pleasure of visiting my daughter, Kelly, in Tempe these past few days. It makes me very happy to see how well she is getting on in the world. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2007 and since then has been working for a company that executes clinical drug trials. She’s good at it, but is already restless for more. This past year, at great personal cost of time and money, she decided to continue working full time while going back to school full time. Her goal was to make herself an attractive candidate for a much sought after Master’s degree from ASU in the area of Sustainability (the “green” movement.) It was a good gamble, as she has been accepted into the program! Her bigger goal is an eventual PhD in the area. I give her a lot of credit for setting such a lofty goal, and am awed by her smarts and her tenacity.

I also got to meet Kelly’s boyfriend, Jason. He strikes me as a very gentlemanly young man, who served four years in the Navy, and will complete his degree in computer hardware engineering next month. They seem to be very happy together, and that makes me happy!

Yesterday, they took us on a great hike in South Mountain Park. For those of you who don’t know Phoenix, it is a city in a large valley (the Valley of the Sun) surrounded on all sides by mountains. Tempe, the suburb where you’ll find ASU and where Kelly and Jason live, is in the southeast corner of Phoenix. So the South Mountains are close to where they live.

It was a hot and dry 96 degrees in the Sonoran desert for our hike, though that is way better than the 115 degrees that it easily sees in the summer. We had a great hike up the mountains to a beautiful vantage point that allowed us to see both northward towards Phoenix and southward. Here are a few pics of my beautiful daughter and of our great hike!

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Colorful Kelly

From the day she was born, Kelly has added color to my life. Her playful creativity as a child is stuff of family legend. The ups and downs of her adolescence were painted with the joys and pains of life. She discovered some of her gifts, which include her intellect, athleticism and musicality. She has a view of the world that is special and unique. Her stories are Kellyesque. Her writing is spectacular. I wish she had a blog.

It was wonderful catching up with Kelly in AZ these past few days. I enjoyed meeting her manfriend, Jamen. As a father, it gives me great joy seeing her make the decisions that shape her life. A colorful life. Like the unfolding of a beautiful flower.

Cowboy Ciao

I skipped out of a “lunch with the professor” thing to have a “lunch with Gail” thing instead. Wouldn’t you?!

I used my iPhone Urbanspoon app to find Cowboy Ciao, and to make a lunch reservation online. And it lived up to it’s excellent reviews. Gail and I split pretty much everything. So we shared their signature specialties, the Stetson Chopped Salad, Mushroom Pan Fry, and a remarkably tasty Bread Pudding served with a 5-spice vanilla ice cream and cranberry compote. The bread pudding was my personal flavorite.

I promised more pics.