Jim Shields' Garden Notes
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- Travels.

We have been traveling! We wanted to show my wife's brother and spouse the Grand Canyon and some other sights in the Southwest. We flew to Denver and rented a car, and we then drove to Colorado Springs, on to Taos, and finally to Flagstaff. We flew home from Phoenix.

There are no pictures with this recitation. My brother-in-law's wife took hours of videos and some stills, so I felt no need for a camera myself. Maybe she will share some later.

We spent the week, in essence, at about 7000 ft elevation (2100 meters) above sea level. Since home is at about 900 ft. (270 m.) elevation, we definitely felt the lack of oxygen. We did not religiously follow the natives' advice "to drink lots of water." It might have helped with something, maybe, in a land with more public restroooms. It would not have put more oxygen in the air we breathed.

The plants were in later spring mode, with few flowers to be seen. There had been recent rains, so even areas which are normally turning brown by now in most years had some green still showing. Most of the cacti we saw were already bloomed out. In any event, we were more interested in seeing mountains and deserts rather than plants on this trip.


Colorado Springs had pine trees starting to shed pollen. We probably left just in time to spare my allergies a serious overload. We did visit the Garden of the Gods, which is always spectacular with its upright slabs of red sandstone immediately at hand.

Wildlife in suburban Colorado Springs was limited this time to mule deer and a bobcat. I missed seeing both. There are also black bears in this area, according to the locals. I'm glad to miss seeing them.

New Mexico

We spent two nights, so one full day, in Taos. I like the atmosphere there, but stay out of the local supermarket: I got a hug there from a total stranger! Weird town. Things were more sedate at the Taos Pueblo, home of the Red Willow tribe of the Tewa.

New Mexico may have the most unique landscape of the area. It is strikingly beautiful.


Northern Arizona is almost as different from Southern Arizona as the latter is from the Midwest. My own line of demarcation is the northern-most limit of the habitat of the Giant Saguara cactus.

The Grand Canyon is in tree country. There are large pines and in drier areas, scrub trees of some sort -- I did not get out of the car to look at them closely. The whole landscape had a strange greenish cast, due to live growing grass, thanks to the spring rains thay had had.

Oak Creek Canyon is like a condensed, very intense version of the Grand Canyon. The colors are more intense, maybe because they are closer to hand in the much smaller Oak Creek area. Sedona, which we had not seen since 7 or so years ago, was so built-up I could hardly believe my eyes. Maybe my memories from 50 or 60 years ago overrode my eyes on our last visit.

The red rock cliffs at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon are every bit as spectacular as the vertical slabs in the Garden of the Gods. When approached from the north, after the dramatic descent into the canyon from the high plateau, the red cliffs just kind of sneak up on you. When approached from the south, they are overwhelming.

Our last day, spent in Sedona and in the Tlaquepaque mall, were very pleasant and restful. I particularly enjoy eating on the patio at the Secret Garden Cafe in Tlaquepaque. (I cannot give a precise pronounciation for that name!)

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

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Last revised on: 31 May 2011
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