Flora of the Sonoran Desert

One year ago I was standing on the edge of a big hole in the ground. This year, I’m awaiting the impending apocalypse. What a better way to pass the time than to relive the days when we could all go shopping and not worry about whether or not there will be toilet paper on the store shelves. If you’re one of the 3 people who will read this post, and you also happen to have a thing for cacti, then you’re in luck – this post is filled with cacti. Also flowers, because duh. Arizona was a really, really neat place and I will go back there someday, no hesitation. That is, if the world is still functional in a few years. Time will tell. The photos below are from the few days I spent in AZ last March. The first day there, we went hiking at a place called Cave Creek. An amusing aside, before the photos: less than 24 hours in AZ territory, I thought it would be fun to pick up a little cactus and bring it, where? Unclear in the moment; what was clear was the fact that as I was carrying the little cactus by one of its spines, I dropped it. Instead of letting it fall to the ground like a normal human being, I instead used my cat-like reflexes to catch the little cactus. Gravity assisted in the usual way, and caused the spines to become deeply embedded into my fingers. Of both hands. It was painful, yes, but I think I was more embarrassed than anything. I ran up to my travel companions, and asked for assistance. They thought I had a handful of rocks – imagine their surprise when they saw a handful of cactus, instead! Using a bottle cap, a rock and some ingenuity, they were able to free my hands of their spiky prison. It resulted in a little blood and a lot of complaining. Overall, a fairly typical experience for me. Also, I can say that I’ve been “cactus-embedded-in-hands” free for one whole year, now, so I’d say that’s something to write home about.

Please enjoy the photos below, as I think they are very nice. But don’t take my word for it.


Cave Creek, AZ


Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix AZ


Sedona, AZ


The Grand Canyon, South Rim

Glacial Lakes State Park

In September, I met up with my parents and my little sister in Alexandria, MN for a nice, quiet weekend getaway. We did a little shopping, checked in at our AirBnb, and then hit up the Carlos Creek Winery. My sister and I went for the wine tasting, while our parents went for the flights of beer. The wines I tried were pretty tasty, and we got a complementary wine glass after we were finished.

Carlos Creek Winery was a lovely little place, and it was a gorgeous day for drinking some wine. After we were finished, we headed back to the AirBnb for some grilled salmon supper. Mom brought fresh veggies from her garden to grill with the salmon, and boy was it tasty! We went to bed, several alcoholic beverages and many laughs later.

The next morning, we awoke, packed up and headed 30 miles southwest to Glacial Lakes State Park. Which, by the way, is probably one of my favorite places in Minnesota. We stayed in one of the cabins on the lake, unpacked and had a bit of lunch before going on a nice, leisurely walk. We got back to the cabin, lounged around for a bit, went on a canoe ride around the lake, and had some supper. We had a nice little fire going, as well.

The next morning, we went on another walk before heading home again. It was a beautiful day, and there was sunshine and there were butterflies. And then the drive home, inevitable.

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A Weekend in the Mile High City

In July I went on a wonderful little weekend trip to Denver to visit my college friend Suzi. She moved out here a few months ago, giving me the perfect excuse to come visit. I left a relatively cool North Dakota to a steamy 100 degree Denver on Thursday afternoon, and after some technical difficulties with the Uber did manage to meet up with Suzi. We made out way out to Red Rocks for a concert. First off, I’m just going to say that Red Rocks is probably the coolest place to have a concert like, ever. Whoever decided that building an amphitheater into the side of a cliff was a good idea wasn’t wrong.

We went to see The Head and the Heart, a beautiful band if there ever was one. Seriously, here’s a link to one of my favorite songs. Go check them out, I’ll wait.

Okay, now you understand? Good. Go back and listen some more if you must, I won’t blame you!

The concert was wonderful, to say the least. The atmosphere was amazing, the band sounded amazing, the view of the city was amazing, just all around pretty darn amazing. It finished around 11 PM, but getting out of the park was a nightmare. It took over an hour for us to get out and back to Suzi’s place, but we managed. We were pretty hungry when we got back so we had a bit of food, then popped off to bed.

Friday we started the day pretty slowly, sitting at the table talking with Suzi and her boyfriend Cody for a good while before heading to a coffee shop (where I had a really luscious piece of quiche) to have beverages and play a card game called Golf. Let’s just say that if we were playing Anti-Golf I 100% would have won. It was an odd game, but somewhat intriguing.

At noon Suzi’s friend Emmy, who was at the concert with us the night before, picked us up and we headed to a place called the Denver Cat Company.20190719_140930.jpg

It is by far the most amazing cafe a person could go to, unless of course you have a cat allergy in which case you should probably avoid going there. This cafe was pretty basic when it came to foods and beverages (because of health codes and cats) but it was spot on with the cats. Yes, real cats. They had 14 at the time that they were fostering and all 14 were adoptable through the shelters they came from. What an superb idea! We went to the cat cafe with open minds, as Emmy was really entertaining the idea of adopting a cat, she even had a name picked out – Coconut.

So, we get to the cafe, pay the fee and start searching for Coconut. I happened to find THE most adorable kitten (besides Frankie, my cat, of course) and I was REALLY like almost going to adopt her and take her back on the airplane with me and everything. Oh it was just too much. Obviously I didn’t because North Dakota has cats too that would be much easier to bring home but, oh my heart, she was too much.

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Okay but during my whole kitten escapade we did continue the search for Coconut, and low and behold, found the most gorgeous Siamese/Ragdoll mix with happily crossed blue eyes, and some orangey tinge on the face and tail (Toasted Coconut, anyone?) and knew that we’d found the Coconut we were searching for. Coconut, or Phoenix as the cat cafe called her was a pretty sleepy little fella, hiding her face with one little paw. Oh, so cute! Couldn’t handle.20190719_135104.jpg

So Emmy was like, yes this is the one, it’s happening, so she filled out the application and we took one last look at Coconut (and my little lovely kitten) and headed out. I had decided I wanted to get another ear piercing, since the last cartilage piercing I got in Missoula, Montana so might as well keep getting piercings in places I visit. Anyway, we just chose a totally random one near the area where we were, and we went in and I talked with the piercer, his name was Sam. I chose the jewel I wanted, a blue color called London Blue that’s sort of a dark blue-green and very lovely. As I was sitting on the table, Sam asked me where I had gotten my shoulder tattoo, and I was like, oh someone in Fargo, North Dakota, not thinking that those words would mean anything to him, but he was like, oh really? Who did it? So I said the name of my tattoo artist and, what do you know, she had done a couple of tattoos on this guy like, 15 years ago. Small world, right? I guess they worked together at a tattoo shop 15-20 years ago, and I did recall my tattoo artist saying she was from Denver so that does check out. Just the weirdest thing! Anyway, got the piercing and it looks hella cool, said my goodbyes to Sam and we went on our way. We decided to go to Target to get some saline solution for my ear, and while we were there Emmy got a call from the shelter basically saying that she’s been approved for Coconut (cue celebration dance in the cat supplies aisle)! Oh we were thrilled. So we proceeded to pick out a litter box, some food and a fish taco toy that has catnip in it because, priorities. As we were leaving we realized that, because this Target had a parking garage below it and was technically on a second story with escalators, there was a specific escalator ramp FOR THE CARTS. Suzi and I had never seen such a sight, and therefore I’d have to say with 100% certainty that the cart escalator ramp was by far the best thing about my trip to Denver. Without a doubt. 100%.

Anyway after we got over our shock of seeing the escalator ramp, Emmy received another call saying that we could go pick up Coconut at the cat cafe. We were a little confused becuase that wasn’t what they had originally said but heck, we were so excited that we zoomed on over to the cat cafe as quick as we safely could. We walked in, explained what we had been told, and then the lady at the counter ended up dashing our dreams of bringing Coconut home that day. She said that someone made a mistake and the pick up time has to be scheduled through the owner of the cafe. So, with heavy hearts we left, but as we walked back to the car we decided that it was probably for the best, this gave everyone a chance to take a breath and a bit of space, as things were just progressing very, very rapidly up until that point. Also Emmy didn’t have a carrier which she would have needed to take Coconut anyway. So, not such a terrible thing that happened, after all.

We drove back toward Suzi’s apartment to find some food, deciding on a Mexican restaurant nearly across the street from where Suzi lives. It was pretty tasty, even though the salsa was more spicy than normal, according to Suzi. We ended the meal with dessert, Emmy and I choosing the cheesecake and Suzi the flan. She wanted to give it another go because she remembered having it when she was young and hated it, so she was going to eat it with an open mind, but sadly her reaction toward the dessert did not change much from the first time she tried it. But, the cheesecake was excellent!

After we finished we headed back to Suzi’s and played Exploding Kittens with Cody, and it was so fun! Super weird card game but I would definitely play it again. We went to bed around midnight, after a very emotionally draining day. Very much a rollercoaster of excitement, disappointment, and the like. It really felt like we did SO MUCH when really all we did was hang out with cats, go to Target and eat some food. A good day, despite all the emotional turmoil it caused.

Saturday, Suzi and I slept in a bit before getting dressed to go for a hike. We wanted to get breakfast at a place called Snooze but they had some kitchen issues and so the wait was suuuuuuper long. We decided to try a different place called Olive and Finch, and oh my was it so very good. The description on Google was that it was an “airy” restaurant, and they weren’t wrong. I’d compare it to a high class Panera Bread, but with much better food and beverages. We had a lavender mocha and was that ever delicious. Probably the best coffee drink I’ve ever had. The breakfast I had there was equally as delicious, a light scrambled egg over roasted potatoes with a small greens salad. Mm mm, tasty! After our meal we headed out toward Morrison, west of Denver, to do some hiking.

After a nice 1.5 mile hike, during which the clouds were rolling in ominously, we got in the car and within a minute of shutting the doors it started to downpour. And continued to downpour, leading to flash flooding on the Interstate, where we happened to be, trying to make our way back to Suzi’s. It was kind of scary, since we were in a little Prius and the water was actually pretty deep. The pick ups handled it with no problem, but we had to err on the side of caution. It took about 20-30 minutes more to get back to Suzi’s than it normally would have.

We finally got back, changed from our hiking clothes and picked up Emmy from her apartment. We were going to get ice cream from Little Man, an iconic Denver sweet shoppe.

As we were in line, again the clouds began to roll in ominously, but this time we weren’t so lucky. We were caught in an absolute downpour, so much rain, and also a lot of lightning. We were huddling in the bathroom area with about 10-15 soccer moms and their daughters from San Diego who were in Denver for a tournament. We all had a nice time eating out ice cream and watching the rain. A kind Little Man employee took pity on us and gave us garbage bags to wear as ponchos. After the ice cream was finished, Suzi, Emmy and I decided to go wait out the rain in a nearby bar. We walk into this place, literally wearing garbage bags, to find that it’s probably one of the fanciest eateries in Denver. Their faces as they looked at us made it clear we “didn’t belong” but they graciously said we could see if there was seating at the bar. We headed up to the bar area, which we decided was meant for commoners and peasants like us, only to be handed a drink menu on a fancy-ass clipboard. We decided that this was not the place for us and ventured back out into the rain. We went to another restaurant, a Mexican place this time, and again, fanciest goddamned Mexican/beach-themed restaurant in town. We did take a seat at the bar and ordered a drink, but the whole time we were discussing just how lowly we really are, and dressing in garbage bags didn’t help! Haha 🙂

But we spent 20 minutes at this restaurant, called Lola, before heading to Suzi’s car and going to the movie theater. We were going to see The Lion King, and my how wonderful it was! So good. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend that you do.

After the movie, we went to Suzi’s place of employment, a British pub called Bull & Bush. We had something to eat before going back to our respective apartments.

Sunday morning, Suzi and I got up and I had all of my things packed, so we went out to have breakfast before my flight. We ate at Sam’s No. 3, and it was incredibly tasty, my goodness. Suzi dropped me off at the airport, I got checked in and through security only to discover that my flight was delayed about 2 hours. So, I spent some time wandering around the airport and drinking Caribou. Finally we were able to board the plane, and thus ended my weekend trip to Denver. When I got back to North Dakota, I spent about 45 minutes tidying up the house before settling down to watch some TV. All in all, an excellent weekend, and I have plans to return to Denver sometime soon! 🙂

As in the words of Lewis and Clark, “Ocian in View!”

On Wednesday morning, we awoke to the toasty sunshine beating down on our tent through the trees. It was a gorgeous, albeit rather chilly, morning. We (and when I say “we,” I am referring to Sara) packed up the sleeping bags and tent, and reorganized the car. Jennifer and I wanted to take showers, but due to the fact that there were no actual showers in the vicinity, we had to improvise. I filled Jennifer’s water bottle with ice-cold water from the pump outside of the bathroom and, with much diligence, poured it over her hair inside the bathroom, as it was around 50 degrees outside and 9:00 in the morning. Not to say that the bathroom was all that much warmer, but at least we didn’t look like weirdos to everyone in the camp. There was also a drain in the bathroom floor, which is another reason why we chose to go in there. When Jennifer’s hair was sufficiently wet, she shampooed, during which time I filled the water bottle again. I rinsed her hair, and then she conditioned, followed by another rinsing. She then followed the same procedure with me. It was cold. But effective.

Aren’t you a better, more well-rounded person for knowing these minute details of our salon-camping experience? You’re welcome.

Sara had the car packed up when we finished washing our hair, and then we took off, south down Highway 101. Remember when I said that Highway 93 in Montana was the curviest road I had ever driven on? Yeah, I take that back, because Highway 101 in Washington definitely takes the cake. Curves for days.

Incidentally, we realized that Highway 101 going south out of Sol Duc would lead us into the little town of Forks, Washington. That’s right, home of Edward, Bella, and the rest of the gang. I’m not sure if you should know just how excited we got when we found out that we would be driving through this town. Or maybe you should. We’re not ashamed, Stephanie Meyer managed to captivate millions of people with the Twilight Saga, whether you ended up being Team Edward or Team Jacob. I think our general consensus, after a lengthy and rather in-depth discussion, was that we were Team Edward for the books and Team Jacob for the movies. I mean, is it anyone’s fault that Edward ended up being really creepy in the movie? Other than Robert Pattinson’s, of course. Not to say he’s a bad actor, he was just a bad vampire. Also, helloooooo, Taylor Lautner! 😉

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As Jen so eloquently put it, “The Twihards are back!”

Anyway.

We found Forks, Washington, took a hurried and somewhat embarrassed photo in front of their welcome sign, and continued on our trip south, toward the ocean.

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Our first glimpse of the Pacific!

We reached Cape Disappointment (yes, that’s the cape’s real name and we’re not entirely sure why it was named that – we have several theories regarding Lewis and Clark that may or may not be historically accurate) around 4 pm on Wednesday the 31st of May. Sara and Jennifer jumped right out and started setting up camp, while I stood there watching and eating Cheerios. I also climbed a pine tree, which was in no way beneficial to the group, and resulted in me getting tree sap on my hands.

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Hey look, there I am in a pine tree! So productive.
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I also crawled around on the ground for about 6 minutes and cleared sticks and pine cones and rocks out of the general vicinity of where the tent would sit. So I guess I did do something! I knew our backs would thank me, before the end.

Camp was successfully erected sans my assistance, and then we went off in search of the ocean. But first, it was necessary to climb this giant rock. Obviously.

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Because I literally can’t go anywhere without taking photos of flowers. Apparently.

We heard the ocean well before we saw it; it sounded like a busy highway but was way better than a busy highway because it was the Pacific Ocean.

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Sara took a photo of me taking a photo of the ocean. Artsy, I know.
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In front of Sara is the expansiveness that is the Pacific Ocean.

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So much driftwood.
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Footprints in the sand. They may or may not be mine. Unsure.

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I caught a photo of Jen taking a photo of Sara doing the same pose as in the previous photo. Do try to keep up.
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This shot was a lot harder to capture than you might think, the dang water was super quick and kept on washing away my footprints. I like how it turned out, though! #worththewait

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Yeah, this crab guy is dead. There were a lot of dead crab parts on this beach, but I thought this fella was kind of cool looking. Jen thought so, too. I think.
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Oh look, it’s Sara’s lower leg and reflection in the water. Nice.

After exploring the black-sanded beach and playing in the what we later learned to be “dangerous” waters (thanks, cryptic store keeper), we headed back to camp for food and sleep.

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Sandy feet! Also check out my tan line 🙂

 

Let’s Go West! Part One.

Girls [3]. US Highway [2]. Outlandish plan to head out west [1].

My younger sister Sara and I, along with out lovely friend Jen, made a plan to drive out west on US Highway 2, over Memorial Day Weekend. Well, it’s Memorial Day Weekend and we have actually followed through with said plan. Technically it is still being followed through with, as we are currently in Montana. We have a lot more “west” to cover before completion of the trip. The fact that we are even on the first leg of this trip is in and of itself an amazing feat, as we are fairly notorious for making elaborate and exciting plans and only following through with a fraction of them. It’s a real issue.

Like I said, we are currently in Montana. Columbia Falls, a tiny town just outside of Glacier National Park, to be exact. We started out from Grand Forks, North Dakota on Friday evening at approximately 11:45 p.m. after a necessary food stop at Walmart. Sara had driven to The Cities that day to pick up aforementioned lovely friend Jen, as Jen was a necessary component to this trip and did not have a vehicle with which to transport herself the five-hour drive from Minneapolis to Grand Forks. It really is a shame that aparation is not a real thing. That would make life so much more convenient. However, I digress. It is not the time to delve into the Wizarding World, no matter how fun that may be. This is the time to discuss the first leg of our “Let’s Go West!” camping trip. Like I said, we left Grand Forks around 11:45 on Friday night. I was the lucky one who got to drive through the whole great state of North Dakota. It really wasn’t bad, as I had taken a solid two hour nap on Friday around 7 p.m. in preparation for the all-night driving session, but I will admit it got a little rough around 4:30 a.m. My passengers had fallen asleep, so I just had Third Eye Blind to keep me awake. However, we managed to make it to Montana in time for the sunrise.

IMG_3160_1_1We stopped for breakfast, and kept right on going. I was provided a two-hour reprieve, during which time I had a nice little nap. I decided I wanted to drive again, because it was my vehicle we were taking (a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, white) and I just like to drive. And drive we did. Montana is a huge state, nearly twice the length of North Dakota. It took 5 hours through ND, which meant that we had about 9 hours to go through MT. However, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day for a drive. The three of us grew up in southern Minnesota, and so we were not used to such terrain. The hills of Montana were exciting, but when we saw the mountains we (meaning I) became ecstatic. There were squeals of excitement all around. Mainly from me. Of course, we had to stop once we were close enough to take some photos of the impending mountains.

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Look at those mountains! Also the cattle. And the fence. Lovely.

 

So we kept on driving and eventually made it to the mountains, and man was that a sight to behold. I’ve never really been in the mountains, much less driven in them, so that was an adventure.  IMG_3171_1_1After our lovely drive through the mountains, we made it to the west side of Glacier National Park, and we found our hotel in Columbia Falls around 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The beds were very inviting, and I ended up taking an hour-long nap, which increased the number of hours I had slept in the last 18 to a whopping total of three. Later that evening, Sara and I decided to do a bit of exploring. We found a nice little lake to sit by whilst watching the sunset. It was a gorgeous evening, albeit a bit buggy, but that is to be expected. It was around 65 degrees, no wind, and it smelled like forest. Wonderful.IMG_3199_1_1After our nice little sit by the lake, we returned to the hotel for a much-needed repose.

Savannah, Justin & Eloise

So. Last Sunday I had my first ever “official” photo shoot of people who weren’t my sister. Exciting, I know. 🙂 It was so much fun! The weather was beautiful; the sun was shining, the temperature was in the upper 40’s, and there was no wind (which is highly unusual for North Dakota).

Maybe I should back up, and explain how this whole photo shoot business came about. I met Savannah a few weeks ago, when we were both doing internships at the same facility; she for pharmacy and I for dietetics. We immediately realized that we have a lot of things in common, so much so that we decided we are basically long lost sisters. Savannah introduced me to her boyfriend Justin, and one night I was showing them some photos that I have taken with my fancy lil’ camera in the last couple of months. Savannah declared that I needed to take photos of her immediately, but then we decided that 10 pm on a Thursday night would probably not be the best time for a photo shoot. So we decided on Sunday, three days later, in Fargo ND.

I was nervous as hell. Savannah was so excited and I was like, umm I’ve never really taken photos like this before and she was just so confident in me, I did not want to disappoint her. But, my fears were not to be realized, because she loved all of the photos. Once I got started, I really found my element, and I think I took upwards of 800 photos. Unsure if taking 800+ photos is an unusual thing to do during a photo shoot, as I have never done one until now. So I am going to say no, it is not an unusual thing, and that I probably should have taken more. It’s a learning experience, that’s for sure!

In any case, Savannah and Justin were adorable and Justin’s daughter was such a cutie. She wore two different LuLaRoe dresses and leggings that Savannah had bought for her, and seriously, bring on the “oh for cutes” because OH FOR CUTE. Seven really is quite the age. Ahh, nostalgia.

Moving on.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of Savannah, Justin, and Eloise from last weekend. There are more hidden somewhere in my blog, I think under the gallery there should be two tabs with photos in them. Not 100% sure on how to run this thing yet. Also a learning experience. 🙂

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Savannah + Justin
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Eloise
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Savannah + Justin
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Eloise
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Savannah + Justin
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Savannah + Justin