SNOW Much Fun in Flagstaff

Our alarm clocks sounded before the sun rose and we staggered out of bed to get ready for an eventful day ahead! With skiing on the itinerary, we knew it would be a memorable day.

Skiing

Once we were completely awake, we drove through Flagstaff to First Chair Rentals. There, we rented ski equipment. Although we had coats, gloves, and hats, we still needed ski pants, skis, poles, and goggles. The entire process of renting ski equipment was lengthy, but we were entertained by, Zoe, the owner’s frisky dog.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Flagstaff, First Chair Rentals

From the heart of Flagstaff, it takes about 25 to 30 minutes to get to Snowbowl.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Flagstaff, First Chair Rentals, Snowbowl, Arizona

Being the middle of the week, there weren’t many people there, which was an ideal scenario for the three Ambassadors who were new to skiing.  Indeed, even unloading our car and walking to the slope was a challenge as we weren’t comfortable yet with the bulky ski boots.

Birch and pine trees populated the mountains and outlined the ski slopes. We were stunned by the beauty of our surroundings and impressed with the diverse landscapes around us. Once we put our layers of clothing on, it was finally time to put the skis on! We quickly learned skiing looks easier than it actually is (at least it was this way for us!). Ryan and Professor Yawn had previous skiing experience. Therefore, they were able to give us lessons and pointers on how to maneuver the skis.

After a series of trials in the snow, we moved to the bunny slope. The bunny slope gave us more practice because it had no obstacles and gentle inclines. Once we learned to ski down, we could get in line for a conveyor belt to take us back up to the top of the bunny slope.

The more practice we did, the better we got thanks to our great instructors! Brian did particularly well on the bunny slope and soon struck ambition to go down the green slope.

Although Christina and I were not too particularly confident about the green slope (or in Christina’s case, even the bunny slope)…

…we all went together to ride the ski lift and enjoy the mountainous views. For some, the trip down went better than for others, but everyone eventually made it down the slope just in time for lunch. The Snowbowl’s restaurant, named The Lodge, served American classics like (overpriced) cheeseburgers or chicken strips, but also salads, pizza, and paninis. We ordered and ate quickly to satisfy our grumbling stomachs and to get back to the slopes quicker.

When we returned to the slopes, Ryan decided to test his skills on the blue slopes while the rest of us warmed up again on the bunny slopes. Eventually, we made our way back to the green slope for more practice. Although we may have fallen multiple times throughout the day, we all enjoyed the new experience of skiing. Professor Yawn and Ryan proved to be good teachers who helped us to get our bearings and build confidence.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Flagstaff, Snowbowl, Skiing

We took one last trip down the green slope before packing up our gear and driving back down to the rental shop.

Downtown Flagstaff

After a full day of skiing we took a stroll through Flagstaff’s Historic Downtown. We decided to explore some of their local shops and make the best of our last few hours in Flagstaff. As we walked down the streets, we decided to go into a local co-operative art gallery called The Artists Gallery. They had many beautiful and affordable pieces of art. One particular artist, who caught Ryan Brim’s eye, was Beth LaCour. Beth is known for her folded geometric paper vessels. She was only one of the many talented artists we discovered.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Flagstaff,

After looking through the gallery, we visited Flagstaff Soap Company. The soap shop had many pleasant aromas and we purchased some of our favorites to take back to Texas. Ryan bought himself a Rosemary Mint soap bar and Kaitlyn bought a soap sampler. We walked a few more blocks to Sweet Shoppe Candy store and enjoyed some delicious sweets.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Flagstaff

Kaitlyn and Christina purchased some chocolate covered pretzels and orange peels, while Professor Yawn tried their fudge. They also had cactus candy which we are excited to try once we get home!

Our final stop in downtown Flagstaff were the Old Town Shops. The shops were like a small mall housing a group of ten local businesses in the same building. Outside, we were intrigued by the murals done by local artist Joe Sorren that decorated the building.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Flagstaff

The Historic district allowed us to experience a few of our favorite things such as art, sweets, and history.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Flagstaff

As we headed to the Grand Canyon, we all agreed that Flagstaff was our favorite city thus far!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Flagstaff

Just as we arrived at our hotel in Grand Canyon Village for the night, large snowflakes started precipitating from the sky. Before we were ready to get some sleep, we decided to go outside to admire the fresh, fluffy snow. It was an exciting end to a snow filled day!

 

A Day of Sunshine in the Valley of the Sun

After arriving in Phoenix the evening before, LEAP Ambassadors awoke eagerly to explore a new city in the Grand Canyon State. Our second day in the “Valley of the Sun” included copious amounts of outdoor activity, Vitamin D, and adventurous excursions!

Hike

The day’s first activity began with a challenging hike to the second highest peak in Phoenix, also known as Piestewa Peak. The Summit trail was only 2.4 miles long, but the 1,165 foot elevation made the trek tough. We began the journey with a full tank of motivation and A LOT of water and a selfie!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Piestewa Peak

As we climbed up the mountain, the incline got steeper, the sun stronger, and the pathways tighter. Thankfully we occasionally stopped to admire the breathtaking views and to catch our breath along the way.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Piestewa Peak

The breaks also allowed us to explore juts off the mountain side. We even made friends with a mountain chipmunk! Although it was a treacherous climb…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Piestewa Peak

…we conquered the summit and reached the top!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Piestewa Peak

The views were breathtaking and well worth the energy expended on the journey up. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take group selfies and some individual pictures as evidence of our victory.

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We soon began our journey down the mountain…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Piestewa Peak

…and felt a sense of pride as we reached the car, reflecting on the beauty of what we saw.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Piestewa Peak

It was a terrific way to start our last full day in Phoenix.

Phoenix Art Museum

After refueling and cleaning up at the hotel, we headed out for our next adventure of the day, the Phoenix Art Museum. Upon arriving we were greeted by a giant red tyrannosaurus rex!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum

Fortunately, it was just a sculpture by Sui Jianguo named Jurassic Age and we were able to head inside to explore the museum. We immediately noticed hundreds of butterflies adorning the walls. 25,000 black paper moths and butterflies were part of the museum’s installation art called Black Cloud by Carlos Amorales.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum

During our visit at the museum, we saw art from some of our favorite artists including Alexander Calder…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, Alexander Calder

James Turrell, and Maya Lin.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, Maya Lin

Amidst our favorites, we also learned about new artists including Shiela Pepe…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum

and Phillip Curtis. Shiela Pepe’s exhibit titled Hot Mess Formalism was a mixture of installation art and paintings. Known for using fabrics, derby rope, knit, crocheted paracord, chainmaille, and hardware to create large works of art such as Not So Good for Emperors. Phillip Curtis’s art was featured in the New Deal and American Regionalism gallery with artists such as John Stewart Curry, Thomas Hart Benton, and Grant Wood depicting a sad time for America and harsher lifestyles.

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Another exhibit, the Border Crossing featured art from Diego Rivera, Debra Butterfield…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, Deborah Butterfield

…Freida Kahlo…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, Frida Kahlo

…Brian’s favorite piece Pixels by Oscar Munoz and Georgia O’Keefe.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, Georgia O'Keefe

Some of our favorite art from the museum included Mass by Cornelia Parker, and You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies by Yayoi Kasuama. Kasuama’s artwork is an interactive experience for all who enter the dark room. Made of mixed media with LED lights, visitors are absorbed by darkness but then consumed by the colorful array of lights hanging throughout the ceiling. The twinkling lights dangle and mix with the visitors, but do not help guide visitors to the exit. We admired the “fireflies” before stumbling out of the special exhibit.

After finishing with the installation art, we realized the sun would soon be setting and hurried off to Papago Park for sunset!

Papago Park

Even though we had gone through one of the most vigorous hikes in LEAP history earlier in the day, we still had energy to explore Papago Park. The sun was nearly set when we arrived to the park’s main formation, Hole in the Rock. When we got to the top of the formation, the views were still unforgettable.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Papago Park

From the top of the formation the entirety of the Phoenix metropolitan area was visible with all its bright, shining lights.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Papago Park

With such a sight, we set out to photograph the beauty of the nightscape.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Papago Park

After snapping a few photos and watching the sun sink below the horizon, we packed our gear and headed back to the car.

Evening Adventures

We did what our mothers told us not to do: we spoiled our dinner and stopped for ice cream in Old Town Scottsdale at an ice cream stand called Shakes & Cones…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Shakes & Cones

…where we treated ourselves to some soft serve. After our busy day, the sugar was a welcome treat! We indulged in ice cream cones, ranging from peanut dipped cones, Oreo dipped cones, and one smothered with hot fudge.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Shakes & Cones

After finishing our dessert, we took a short walk to the nearby city park. There, we took a photo with one of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculptures, the seventh that LEAP has visited!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Robert Indiana, LOVE

We even found a Louise Nevelson sculpture titled Windows to the West in the park. Also scattered throughout the park were yarn-bombed merry-go-rounds, where we all took turns getting dizzy before driving to our dinner spot.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Yarnbombing

Slightly full from our late lunch and sweet treat earlier, we ordered hummus, gyros, and the kafta burger. Our meals were both filling and tasty.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Pita Jungle

With the end of dinner, we closed another day of our Western Tour. Filled with sunshine and memorable experiences, we departed back to the hotel to get ready for the next full day ahead–and, of course, the year ahead, as well!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Phoenix, Mill Ave

 

Westward Ho: Tucson, Arizona

Having left El Paso early in the morning,  we continued our road trip through the southwest.  On the third day of the trip, we were given a flavor of this desert landscape through Saguaro National Park and by tasting its most notorious wildlife later in the same evening.

Saguaro National Park

After spending our morning riding and playing games in the car…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Tucson AZ

…we were full of energy and eager to visit with Mark Burns again to continue working on our documentary!  But, first, owing to the long car ride that completely spanned New Mexico, we stopped for a picnic lunch at one of the coolest rest stops in the country.

SHSU, LEAP Center, AZ

With our bodies replenished , we headed toward Saguaro National Park, just outside of Tucson, where we planned to meet Mark Burns.

Mark is very familiar with the park having photographed it during his National Parks photography project and visited multiple times afterward. He gave us some suggested lookouts to visit and we brainstormed where we could get the best shots. We began our visit with a trip to Valley View Overlook, a short half mile stroll to a scenic lookout over the National Park.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson

Besides, Mark’s expertise, we had our organizational president and the TSUS Student Regent, Kaitlyn Tyra, to look over us.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Kaitlyn Tyra

We read about the native cacti and wild plant life that grew throughout the Saguaro desert before soaking in the views of the overlook.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson

We took a few minutes to take photos…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

…climbed around on rocks…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

…before heading back and onto the next excursion with Burns.

Our second stop with Mr. Burns took us to a cul-de-sac with pueblo style picnic tables and benches (done by the CCC).

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

Mr. Burns decided it would be a good place to shoot a panoramic photograph. He then went to his SUV where he opened a large, rectangular black box.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

Inside was an elongated rectangle with a triangular body whose head had the lens of the camera. This elongated rectangle was the home of 120 film used for the panoramic photo. As Mr. Burns explained, this special camera captured the scene by exposing four frames at the same time in a single shot. This created the long frame necessary to appreciate the entire landscape.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

After he grabbed his camera, we positioned ourselves to start filming and photographing his work. Mr. Burns explained the process of shooting a panoramic photo with a film camera and showed us the filter he often uses on landscape panoramas.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

The filter darkens the sky while brightening the ground to balance out the contrast between the dark ground and bright sky.

This process took a while, but it was a fun learning experience, with all of us involved.

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Once the photograph was complete, we caravanned to our third and final stop of the day with Mark Burns. The third hike was similar to our first in that it included a half mile trip to see the beautiful, untouched beauty of the park. This particular trail included prehistoric Indian petroglyphs. We hiked up to see the ancient rock drawing and were met with beautiful mountains in every direction.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns, Indian Petroglyphs

This was our first visit to Saguaro National Park and it couldn’t have started off better than it did with sight-seeing suggestions from Mark Burns! While we hiked to visit the petroglyphs, Mark Burns was busy setting up for another panoramic photograph.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

We made it back before he finished and took the opportunity to observe and photograph his work!

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

After we left Mr. Burns, we decided we had enough daylight to hike a 2.5-mile loop named Gould Mine.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

The trail offered many pretty views…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

…and some interesting cacti.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

However, about two-thirds of the way through the trail the sun set.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

Although we were wrong about how much daylight we had left to complete the trail, we still managed to go though it safely and with excitement. Before we lost the sun, we managed to capture some amazing photos of the sky…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Ryan Brim

…and landscape.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Brian Aldaco

We were even able to find the perfectly-shaped cactus before it was too dark.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

Even though the last portion of the trail was traversed without sunlight, visibility was possible through our flashlights that provided safe travels through the trail. We made it back to the car soon enough with a slight detour that shaved time off our trip. After that hike, we were ready for dinner in Phoenix.

Dinner at Rustler’s Rooste

To end the day, we had dinner at Rustler’s Rooste. As we walked up to the restaurant door we noticed that the guests were greeted by a long-horned steer that introduced guests to the western theme of the restaurant. Inside, a country band could be heard paired with thumps of boots on the floor boards at a two-step rhythm. Were there a Texas flag displayed at the center of the dance floor, we would have felt right at home. Rustler’s Rooste did offer its own western feel different from Texas, one that we very much enjoyed.

When we sat down Professor Yawn told us we were free to pick what we wanted but he recommended the “Cowboy Stuff.” This plate included shrimp, barbecue chicken, beans, fries fruit, ribs, and much more food that could feed a whole wild west settlement. The menu had the plate servings marked well as it noted that it could be served for “two or a bunch more.” Accordingly, we ordered for a “bunch more” so that all six of us could eat. Before dinner arrived, the ambassadors went outside to check out the restaurant’s famous view and get their first glimpse of Phoenix!

SHSU, LEAP Center, Phoenix, Arizona, Rustler's Rooste

When we came back to our seats, it was with great surprise that we found rattlesnakes in our tables! They were however served in a plate an fired to an exquisite crisp.  This cooked reptile was also paired with another iconic symbol of the west, cacti fried to the same golden brown as the rattlesnake. Fortunately, the exotically delicious appetizers were not enough to fill us and keep us from enjoying our main course.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Phoenix, Arizona, Rustler's Rooste

Our meal was extremely filling and satisfying after a long day of hiking!

The ambassadors felt accomplished as they returned to their hotel that evening. We had now had a true taste of Arizona after we experienced one of its natural treasures by hiking in Saguaro National Park. Additionally, our adventurous palates led us to try some of the southwest most tasty treats. We are looking forward to the rest of our stay in the Grand Canyon State.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns