The Peaches Are In!

By Marilyn Noble

Peach Cobbler 1To me, there’s nothing better than a fresh, juicy peach. When you bite into it and the sweet juice dribbles down your chin, you know you’ve got a good one.

I think the love affair started when I was a kid growing up in Bisbee. A few miles away is the fertile Sulphur Springs Valley, the fruit and vegetable capital of Southern Arizona. In the summer we always had fresh peaches from the Valley, and my mom turned the bounty into pies, cobblers, ice cream, and other assorted treats. One year, the Valley suffered a devastating hail storm, and my grandfather kept showing up on our doorstep with bushels of hail-damaged peaches. I think he paid about a quarter a bushel because they were in pretty bad shape. We peeled and cooked and canned and froze peaches until we couldn’t stand them anymore. But even that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

Now I’m fortunate to live in Colorado, where we have some of the finest peaches anywhere. Palisade peaches are in the stores and at the farmers markets now, and it’s really tempting to buy a whole bushel and can and freeze them. I’ve so far exercised restraint and instead made one of my favorite desserts, peach blueberry cobbler. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, it just doesn’t get any better.

The nice thing about this cobbler is that you can experiment with fruit combinations. Peach raspberry is tasty, so is peach blackberry. Of course, if you’re a purist, you can leave the berries out and just enjoy the peaches. And if you don’t like peaches, you can also make it with plums or apples. For apples, substitute a teaspoon of cinnamon for the ginger.

Adjust the sugar based on the sweetness of the fruit and your own taste. I like mine with a little less sugar so the flavor of the fruit comes through, but if you have a batch of tart peaches, add a little more.

Peach Cobbler 2 Peach Cobbler 3

I don’t have a picture of a serving with ice cream, because by the time the cobbler had cooled a little, it had disappeared. I’m not the only one in the house who craves it.

Peach Blueberry Cobbler

Serves 8

10 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches
1 pint fresh blueberries
½ cup sugar, adjusted for taste
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon butter


1 cup plus one tablespoon flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup whole milk
½ cup melted butter, slightly cooled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish.

In a large bowl, gently combine the peaches, berries, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, flour, and ginger. Pour into the prepared baking dish and dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Place the dish on a baking pan to catch any drips. Bake uncovered until hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Just before the fruit is finished, make the topping. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, milk, and butter. Add the liquids to the flour mixture and stir until combined, taking care not to overmix.

Remove the fruit from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F. Pour the topping over the fruit and place back in the oven. Bake for another 45 minutes until the topping is slightly puffed and golden brown.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

If you want to celebrate all things peach, Peach Mania at Apple Annie’s in Wilcox is going on now. If you’re in Colorado, the Palisade Peach Fest is coming up August 14 and 15.

Marilyn Noble is Rio Nuevo’s cookbook and blog editor, and has written four cookbooks including Southwest Comfort Food and The Essential Southwest Cookbook. She is also the co-chair of the Southwest/Mountain Ark of Taste committee and the Colorado governor for Slow Food USA. This recipe is from Southwest Comfort Food.



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Today’s Travel Tip — Monument Valley

By Mike Koopsen

Monument Valley Landscape by Mike Koopsen.

Monument Valley Landscape by Mike Koopsen.

Monument Valley is one of the most iconic landscapes in the American Southwest. If you’ve ever watched a John Wayne western there is a good chance that you viewed some of these landscapes in the movie. It is located on the Navajo Nation, the largest sovereign Indian nation in the United States. The most famous landmark buttes that make this area unique are the East and West Mittens and Merrick Butte, which can all be seen from the Visitor Center overlook when you first enter the Navajo Tribal Park. A 17-mile self-guided drive on a dirt road will get you closer to these buttes as well as many other wonderful sandstone formations and monuments.

Monument Valley is located on US Highway 163 and is 25 miles from Mexican Hat, Utah, 51 miles from Bluff, Utah and 77 miles from Blanding, Utah. It is also 22 miles from Kayenta, Ariz. and 121 miles from Page, Ariz.

Park hours are 7 am to 7 pm from April thru September  and winter hours are 8 am to 5 pm.

For more information contact:

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
P.O. Box 360289
Monument Valley, Utah 84536

Mike Koopsen of Trails Traveled Photography lives in Sedona. See more of his work here.

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Today’s Travel Tip: The Wave

By Mike Koopsen

The Wave, a stunning sandstone formation in the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in Northern Arizona. Photo by Mike Koopsen.

The Wave, a stunning sandstone formation in the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in Northern Arizona. Photo by Mike Koopsen.

Coyote Buttes North is famous for its beautifully sculpted sandstone formations, especially the Wave. To get there you have to drive into Utah and then hike back into Arizona. Since many of these colorful sandstones are fragile this is a protected area and you are supposed to have a permit to go there. Twenty permits are available each day, and can, at certain times of the year, be a real challenge to get. Learn more about the permit process here. From the Wire Pass Trailhead off of House Rock Valley Road between Page, Arizona and Kanab, Utah, the hike to the Wave is approximately 3 miles. When you get your permit they will give you a map which will be instrumental in helping you find the site. Be sure to explore and enjoy the many other sandstone formations you will see as you hike around the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument area.

Mike Koopsen of Trails Traveled Photography lives in Sedona. See more of his work here.

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Today’s Travel Tip — Bisbee 4th of July

By Marilyn Noble

When I was growing up in Bisbee, 4th of July was my favorite holiday, coming as it did between my mom’s birthday and mine. It meant a whole week of celebrations, but the 4th was special. We started early in the morning with the coaster race down Tombstone Canyon, then we would move to my aunt’s house in Warren for the parade, go back uptown (sometimes — many years we needed naps) for the hard rock drilling and mucking contests, and then head back to Warren for the variety show and fireworks. This was pretty much the routine from the time I was born all the way through my college years and until I moved to Colorado in my 20s. I was bitterly disappointed to find out other places don’t make nearly the big deal out of the 4th that Bisbee does.

The celebration has calmed down a bit since the rowdy mining camp days, but Bisbee on the 4th is still a magical place where people celebrate the heritage of the old mining town. The day starts with the coaster race, a Bisbee tradition since 1914. Kids build Soap Box Derby-type cars powered by nothing but gravity and then ride them one at a time down the Canyon. In the old days, adults in two man teams riding coasters built of bicycle tires and scrap wood careened through the streets, but after a series of tragic accidents, the race has evolved into its current tamer version. Castle Rock is the most popular place to watch because of its thrilling S-curve.

Watching the parade in front of my aunt's house, around 1969.

Watching the parade in front of my aunt’s house, around 1969.

The dump trucks used to roll down the parade route every year when the mines were still in operation.

The dump trucks used to roll down the parade route every year when the mines were still in operation.

After the coaster race, move down to the Warren District for the parade at 11. When I was young, I was fascinated by the enormous dump trucks and other mine equipment that lumbered by, but since there’s no more mining, you’ll have to manage with floats, bands, horses, and Shriners in their funny cars. Spend the afternoon up the Gulch (Brewery Gulch) where modern-day strong men try to emulate their hardrock mining forebears with the drilling and mucking contests. While you’re there, visit historic St. Elmo, the oldest continually open bar in Arizona, where miners have been whetting their whistles since 1902. You’ll also find plenty of places in the historic district for lunch or dinner, but be sure to check their schedules to make sure they’re open on the holiday.

Finish the day back in Warren at the Vista Park next to the Warren Ballpark, the oldest professional baseball stadium in the country. This year there will be entertainment in the park beginning at 5:00, and the day will end with fireworks at dusk.

Bisbee is located about 90 minutes southeast of Tucson, and at a mile high, it’s a nice respite from the desert heat. Learn more about accommodations, shopping, dining, and more at the Bisbee Visitor Center.

"Bisbee panorama 2009" by TransporterMan (talk) (Uploads) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia -

The historic mining town of Bisbee is about 90 minutes southeast of Tucson. “Bisbee panorama 2009″ by TransporterMan Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Review of Hummingbird Plants of the Southwest

9781940322032The Native Plant Society of New Mexico has reviewed Marcy Scott’s new book, Hummingbird Plants of the Southwest, in their New Mexico’s Voice for Native Plants newsletter.  An excerpt of the review by Renée West follows: you can read the full review on page 9 of the newsletter here.

this [book] is different from the step-by-step instruction manuals. Hummingbird Plants is decorated with many gorgeous pictures of flowers and of hummingbirds. But this offering is decidedly more contemplative, more in the inspirational mode. It offers lots of information and tidbits that you might not have considered before (physiological, chemical, environmental) and challenges you to make your own choices. . . .

Scott uses skill, humor, and information to help us recognize the loss of habitat that can be attributed to our kind, and gently urges us to do our own little part to reverse some of the bad.


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Mindy Muehlhausen and the Practice of Photo Therapy

Topock Gorge on the Colorado River by Mindy Muelhausen

Topock Gorge on the Colorado River by Mindy Muelhausen, the winner of the spring people’s choice award.

Mindy Muehlhausen is passionate about lots of things – people, animals, the place she lives, the changing sky – and she takes photos of all of them. But unlike many other serious photographers, she’s not a gearhead. Instead, she prefers to use her cell phone or a Canon Power Shot XS 400. She’s also not, like many of her shutter-snapping brethren, a world traveler, shooting most of her images in her immediate surroundings, which provide plenty of subject matter. “I take ninety percent of my pictures from my yard,” she laughs. Her people’s choice award winning image was taken on the Colorado River near her home in Topoc, Ariz. “It gets very hot here, so we spend lots of time on the river,” she explains.

Muehlhausen 1Muehlhausen 5

Muehlhausen 4Muehlhausen 6

Muehlhausen got into photography when her son was four – he’s twenty-four now and also shoots photos with his HTC 1 cell phone – and started with a 35mm Canon given to her by her mom. Her learning has been hands-on and by trial and error, but she calls it photo therapy. “It brings me joy and happiness,” she says. “I can be mad at the world and go out and take a picture and feel better.” She also believes in nurturing the next generation of photographers. “The best gift you can give a child is a camera,” Muehlhausen says. She spends plenty of time with her five-year-old niece, teaching her to use an old cell phone to take pictures.

Muehlhausen 2Because she’s a people-lover, Muehlhausen decided to set up a place for other photographers to share work. Her Facebook group, Beautiful Photos of Mohave County & Surrounding Areas, has gathered almost 700 members in just six months. The page is filled with images from the northwestern corner of Arizona, as well as Nevada and California, and many of the members, including Muehlhausen, have earned photo of the week honors in the Arizona Highways photo contest. Some of the members of the group have taken their friendships beyond the virtual world and go on photo expeditions together. “It’s been great seeing the camaraderie and friendships forming for people who love photography,” she Muehlhausen 13says.

While she doesn’t use sophisticated equipment, Muehlhausen is no stranger to technology. She uses an inexpensive clip-on cell phone macro lens that she bought on Amazon. “I really like macro. Bugs and flowers are fascinating when you get close to them.” She also bought a twenty-five piece lens kit for about twenty-five dollars and uses a blue-tooth remote. For processing, instead of PhotoShop she prefers Camera 360, a free app that lets her edit photos and add special effects in her cell phone. She says, “A cell phone, wi-fi, and apps take photography to a whole new level.”

Muehlhausen 14Muehlhausen 15Muehlhausen 11Muehlhausen 10

She might one day switch to shooting with a DSLR, but she says she’s a little intimidated at the thought of that. “Once I get comfortable with the PowerShot I might step up to a DSLR, but really, it’s so easy and convenient to just use my cell.”

Muehlhausen 3Muehlhausen has become so adept at manipulating images with her phone that she has a side business called Sweet B Photography and Editing Services, which is her outlet for editing photos for others. And this is where her love of animals plays a role. One of her goals for the business is to create a charity that will help people with vet bills. She’ll take pictures of people’s pets in return for a donation to the charity. When someone has an unexpected vet bill, the charity will pay it, and, she hopes, the beneficiary will someday give back to the fund so that she can continue to help others. “I just love animals and people,” she says.

Muehlhausen 16Muehlhausen 12Muehlhausen 8Muehlhausen 9

What’s next for Muehlhausen? She’ll continue to spend time with her flock of backyard poultry; hang out on the river with Ron, her husband of twenty-seven years; and stare at the sky, all with her camera in hand, practicing photo therapy.

Mindy Muehlhausen, her husband Ron, the boat, and her cameras.

Mindy Muehlhausen, her husband Ron, the boat, and her cameras.

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Today’s Travel Tip: Canyon de Chelly

By Mike Koopsen

White House Ruin, Canyon de Chelly, by Mike Koopsen

White House Ruin, Canyon de Chelly, by Mike Koopsen

Canyon de Chelly National Monument has a wonderful assortment of ancient cliff dwellings that can be seen from a number of overlooks both on the South Rim drive and on the North Rim drive, which looks over Canyon del Muerto. Many visitors choose to take a guided tour into the canyons to see the buildings up close, since to enter the canyons by foot or car you must be with an authorized Navajo guide. However, there is one trail that you are allowed to hike into Canyon de Chelly unescorted, and that is the trail to White House Ruin. The structures are very impressive, one of my personal favorites in the American Southwest, and the hike is only three miles or so round trip.

Another overlook along the South Rim drive that I highly recommend is the Spider Rock overlook. It is a short walk to the viewpoint which has an awe-inspiring view of the canyon, as well as of the Spider Rock monolith that rises 800 feet from the canyon floor.

Editor’s Note: This is a perfect weekend to visit the Navajo Nation. Not only can you explore Canyon de Chelly, but you can experience Navajo lifeways at the Sheep is Life celebration on Friday and Saturday in Tsaile, a short drive east from Canyon de Chelly. It’s two days of workshops and food including the Navajo Churro Sheep Show and Wool Show, fiber arts demonstrations, butchery and traditional foods, arts and crafts, and cultural presentations. Sounds like the perfect place to escape the desert heat!

Mike Koopsen of Trails Traveled Photography lives in Sedona. See more of his work here.

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What We’re Reading: June

the_girl_on_the_fridgeThe Girl on the Fridge, by Etgar Keret
review by Aaron Downey

After seeing the movie Wristcutters: A Love Story, I simply had to track down an Etgar Keret book. I was ready for weird, but not ready for the weight of some of the stories that the Israeli writer gives us here. The bite-sized works in this collection are inventive, stark, strange, and alternately grotesque and beautiful. It’s great that they are so short and to the point because one gets the impression that if they were any longer, they could become almost unbearable. A few favorites are “Hat Trick” in which a birthday party magician’s trick of pulling a rabbit out of a hat goes horribly wrong, “Vacuum Seal,” in which a soldier finds an absurd reprieve from his training, and the eponymous story, in which a failed relationship is chalked up to a bizarre past. Like the other discombobulating stories in this book, they make no sense and also perfect sense. Keret’s cast of alternate universe players will delight readers looking for something a little different, while illuminating the best and worst in ourselves.

book of lost thingsThe Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly   
review by Sylvia Leon

Connolly tells one of my favorite kind of stories—finding yourself. And he does it with intertwining some of my favorite fairy tales. The Book of Lost Things‘s main character is a boy named David who in a time of tragedy becomes a strong, confident man. This book is what you find yourself doing every day, escaping from something you are not ready to deal with. David would never get back the life he once had, and you are witness to him figuring that out as well as accepting his new fate. Connolly does an amazing job at getting you to look up to this boy. He does it with a perfect mix of knights, Snow White, and trolls. You will read fairy tales you thought you knew. You will root for David as he travels on a journey we have all taken, a journey to adulthood.


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Chuck Hoekman: Traveling Man with a Camera

by Marilyn Noble

Week Four -- The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California by Chuck Hoekman.

Grand Prize Winner — The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California by Chuck Hoekman.

Chuck Hoekman enjoys the wide-open highway. One time he drove his small sports car from Orlando to Alaska and back, a trip of twelve thousand miles in thirty days, and on another occasion, drove from Orlando to Newfoundland and back (seven thousand miles). Now, from their home base near St. George, Utah, Hoeckman and his wife travel the Western U. S. and Canada. They’ve been through Death Valley four times in the last four years, and have visited many of the West’s premier botanical gardens and zoos. “It’s been a fun four years of traveling,” he says. They don’t have a firm itinerary in mind when they start out. “We just end up wherever at the end of the day.”

Hoekman Cactus BlossomHoekman Beavertail Cactus

Hoekman enjoys getting away from the heavily traveled highways and getting lost on roads that aren’t even on the map. Recently, the couple took a trip to California and explored the western flank of the Sierra outside of Bakersfield. “The road was curvy and full of wildflowers, from the poppies in the pastures down low to others at higher elevations. Of course, you have to make sure you have plenty of gas when you do that,” he laughs.

Hoekman Quarryhill Botanical Gardens

Iris at Quarryhill Botanical Gardens

Hoekman mentions several places that he’s enjoyed visiting recently, including the Quarryhill Botanical Gardens near Glen Ellen, Calif., home to one of the largest collections of scientifically documented, wild-source Asian plants in North America and Europe. On the day they visited, the place was empty of other tourists and they were able to enjoy the peaceful beauty of the gardens.

The same lack of people resulted in “an unexpectedly nice trip to Yellowstone last July,” he says. On that trip, they witnessed a life drama playing out among two antelope and a coyote, all under the watchful gaze of an unperturbed bison bull. The coyote was stalking the younger antelope until the mother chased him away, all while the bison continued to graze. Hoekman also had a run-in with a coyote himself. “I laid down on a little hill to shoot (photograph) him, and then he saw me and ran straight at me. I jumped up and scared him off. It was exciting,” he says, with a hint of understatement.

Tucson’s Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is another favorite place. “The mountain lion enclosure is fantastic,” Hoekman says. “You can park yourself there for an hour or so and hope he moves.”

Hoekman Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

Mountain Lion at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

While photography isn’t the main emphasis of Hoekman’s travels – “we’re just traveling to see the sights, and I take pictures to remember” – he manages to take plenty of exceptional photos, one of which was the grand prize winner in Rio Nuevo’s spring photo contest.

Morro Bay, California

Moonlight over Morro Bay, California

Chinese Violin Player, San Francisco

Chinese Violin Player, San Francisco

Verde Canyon Railroad, Arizona

Verde Canyon Railroad, Arizona

He shoots with a Sony a77 Mark II DSLR, although lately he experienced technical difficulties and had to send it away for repairs. He had to go back to using his older camera, and can really tell the difference. “I have to work harder in Photoshop because there’s lots of noise in the old camera,” he says. He uses Topaz software to de-noise, but then the image suffers from less clarity. He shoots with a 400 mm lens for birding and animals and also enjoys shooting macros. He says he uses a tripod about ninety percent of the time.

He got interested in photography in the early 80s when he moved from South Dakota to Florida. “I had been a hunter and fisherman in South Dakota, but there wasn’t as much of that in Florida. I needed a new hobby, so I turned to photography.” He also joined the Orlando Winter Park club, which he says was a fabulous way to learn, and spent the next eight years immersed in shooting photos. At the end of the 80s he did a little commercial photography and some weddings, but those were “the most stressful thing in my life,” he says.

He took a break for a while to indulge his radio-controlled car racing hobby and do some fishing, but when they moved to Utah in 2012, he got serious again and bought his first DSLR. Now, when he’s not on the road, he spends five days a week wandering the high Mohave Desert near his home in St. George. He lives a quarter-mile from the entrance to Snow Canyon State Park and has a view of the mountains from his yard. “It’s a gorgeous place to be,” he says. “We have quail and roadrunners in the yard, and I can’t think of a better place to live if you want to travel the West.”

Week One -- Snow Canyon State Park, Ivins, Utah. Chuck Hoekman

Snow Canyon State Park, Ivins, Utah. Chuck Hoekman

He posts his photos on his Facebook page, and a recent macro shot of a grasshopper was the most popular in the last four years. Although he recently sold an image to a company to use for their Christmas card, Hoekman says he doesn’t sell his work on purpose. “It’s just for fun,” he says.Hoekman Grasshopper

See more of Chuck Hoekman’s work on his Facebook page.



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Today’s Travel Tip: Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon-KoopsenBy Mike Koopsen

The first time I entered a slot canyon, the stillness of it really surprised me, and the light bouncing off of the sandstone walls was unbelievable. There are quite a few slot canyons throughout the American Southwest, but two of the most popular ones to see are Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons just outside of Page, Arizona. Upper Antelope Canyon is the one that most people visit because it is very user friendly, and most really enjoy the experience. However, Lower Antelope Canyon is a very beautiful, but much narrower, slot canyon and is toured by climbing up and down some very steep ladders. Consequently, you should be in good physical condition and feel comfortable in confined spaces to have a good time here.

I find that the canyons are best photographed on sunny days, usually mid-morning through mid-afternoon from April to September, when the sun is higher in the sky. On cloudy days the canyons are still very special places to see, but on clear days there are times that the textured sandstone walls will glow with reflective light that include colors that range from lavenders and pinks to oranges and golds.

Slot canyons are to be avoided on rainy days due to the danger of flash flooding!

Mike Koopsen of Trails Traveled Photography lives in Sedona. See more of his work here.

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