Arizona sunset in early January

Posted By Mike Padgett

Jan. 9, 2017

Sunset over north Scottsdale, Ariz. Photo © copyright Mike Padgett

“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.”
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Jan 9th, 2017
Comments Off on Arizona sunset in early January

Forever Views in Red Rock Country North of Phoenix

Posted By Mike Padgett

Dec. 12, 2016


Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett

SEDONA, Ariz. – About 120 miles north of Phoenix are some of Mother Nature’s best creations. The absence of city noise and pollution and the contrast of towering red bluffs with the high desert’s greenery are good for the soul. Pack a picnic lunch and a good book and find a solitary location near Sedona to enjoy the views with a best friend.

Dec 12th, 2016
Comments Off on Forever Views in Red Rock Country North of Phoenix

New Stars Lighting Sonoran Desert Nights

Posted By Mike Padgett

April 24, 2016

PHOENIX – Every evening after sunset, there are colorful new stars in the night at Desert Botanical Garden.

The stars are eight distinct displays installed throughout the garden by British artist Bruce Munro. His creative work, “Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light at Desert Botanical Garden,” runs through May 8.

Munro and garden workers and volunteers spent several weeks installing hundreds of miles of glowing fiber optics for the brilliant display.

The largest exhibit, called “Field of Light,” features a network of about “30,000 individual spheres of gently blooming light nestled on the hillside of the Garden Butte,” according to a description of the exhibit on the garden website.


Field of Light

“Field of Light” photo by Adam Rodriguez.

Another of Munro’s works is called “Water-Towers.” It consists of plastic bottles assembled into towers of light that slowly change color. If visitors walk to the western edge of this exhibit and look back past the “Water-Towers,” they will see the “Field of Light” display on the side of Garden Butte in the background.



“Water-Towers” photo by Adam Rodriguez.

In the garden’s Sybil B. Harrington Succulent Gallery is a display of spiraling acrylic rods called “Chindi,” which in Navajo means dust devil.



“Chindi” photo by Adam Rodriguez.

We visited the exhibit earlier this month. It was a Tuesday. The special exhibit is popular, so advance reservations are recommended. Garden members must log in on the garden website to receive free reservations. To avoid crowds, garden officials recommend arriving after 8 p.m. The exhibit is open until 11 p.m.

We arrived at the garden at 6:30 p.m. That gave us about 30 minutes to park, enter the garden and get our bearings before sunset.

The exhibit’s colorful fiber optics become brighter as daylight fades into darkness. It is after sunset when Munro’s creations become the newest stars of the night.

The light-based installations reflect the artist’s interpretation of the Sonoran Desert’s flora and fauna.



Artist Bruce Munro. Photo by Mark Pickthall.

Munro’s other current exhibitions are at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, Minnesota, and the “Field of Light Uluru” at Ayers Rock Resort in Uluru, Australia.

Previously, Munro has displayed his creativity at gardens and museums worldwide. They include the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Guggenheim Museum, New York City; Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, Nashville, Tennessee; Hermitage Museum & Gardens, Norfolk, Virginia; Simbionte, Mexico City; Discovery Green, Houston, Texas; Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, Georgia; and many others.

For more details about the “Sonoran Light” exhibit, visit

More information about the artist is available at


(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)

(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)

(Ideas for interesting news stories about Arizona residents and businesses are welcome. Please send ideas and suggestions to

(To avoid missing news, essays, features and photos on, sign up for convenient email alerts in the FeedBurner box in the right rail. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.)

Apr 24th, 2016

Oregon Sunset, Between Trees

Posted By Mike Padgett

Feb. 9, 2016



Photo © copyright by Mike Padgett

“My soul is full of longing for the secrets of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Feb 9th, 2016

A few days in the lives of baby hummingbirds

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 14, 2015

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The tiniest sword swallowers are gone. Over 10 days, I watched them grow. I was a spectator until they launched themselves from a nest the size of an empty walnut shell.


I spotted the nest the morning of March 3. A hummingbird hovered nearby before flying to a bump on a tree branch. I walked slowly toward the iridescent jewel of nature and discovered the bump was its nest. After she flew away, a single tiny beak popped up over the edge of the nest.


Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


Over the next several days, I approached the nest slowly. I hoped to document – with photos – the first days in the life of hummingbirds. The tree was next to our driveway and the sidewalk, so the hummingbird was familiar with my daily routine and occasional joggers.


These magical birds in recent years have treated me with several close encounters. They have no fear, probably because of their speed. Once, while standing in our courtyard, a hummingbird hovered within inches of my face. Maybe it was attracted by its reflection in my sunglasses.


Over a period of several days, I watched two chicks grow rapidly. First, I could see only the tips of their tiny black beaks poking over the edge of the nest. Soon, their beaks were longer. Next, I could see the tops of their heads. I watched the mother feeding them a diet of nectar and insects.





                          Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


A few times, mother hummer returned while I was watching her nest. I captured images of her feeding her chicks. Her shiny black needle-like beak disappearing down their throats reminded me of the circus posters of sword swallowers.

I photographed the nest almost every day. Mornings offered the best light. Nine days after I discovered the nest, the chicks were spilling out of the nest. Soon, they gripped the nest with their tiny claws as they exercised their wings.



Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


The nest’s location in the tree offered only one ideal spot from which to shoot photos. After feeding its young, the mother usually sat on the edge of its nest for a few seconds. A few times, it flew towards me. It hovered close to me and my camera at my face. I stood motionless.


The tiny bird stayed within arm’s length for a few seconds before zipping to a nearby branch. It preened its brilliant green feathers or stretched its wings. Then it vanished to retrieve more food for its babies. The father has no role in the care and feeding of its young, according to



Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


On March 12, nine days after I discovered them, the young birds appeared to be ready for their first flight. Near sunset, I went to check on them a fourth time that day. Walking on the driveway, something to my left flew away from me and up into the tree. It appeared to struggle to gain altitude. I thought it was a large insect. But when it landed on a branch, I recognized it as one of the chicks. Then I spotted the mother and the other chick sitting on nearby branches.


I returned for my camera. One of the babies appeared less active than the other. It sat alone in the fork of a branch. I worried that it wouldn’t survive the night.


But the next morning, at sunrise and with my second cup of coffee, I saw that its sibling had joined it. I left to grab my camera. The day was cloudy, which meant photographing birds against a white sky. Ugh.



Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


The babies stayed huddled while I captured more images. They faced opposite directions on the branch. For what became the last time, they tolerated me with my camera. Soon, the mother returned to feed them.



Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


By late afternoon, they were gone. The empty nest was the only hint at the start of new lives.



(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)


(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)


(Ideas for interesting news stories about Arizona residents and businesses are welcome. Please send ideas and suggestions to


(To avoid missing news, essays, features and photos on, sign up for convenient email alerts in the FeedBurner box in the right rail. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.)








Mar 14th, 2015

A Flood of Memories from a Desert Rain

Posted By Mike Padgett

Jan. 11, 2015


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The smell of rain can revive memories.


Scientists say rain’s fresh smell comes from the action of rain and wind stirring up the air with ozone from the atmosphere and aromas from beneficial microbes in the soil.


I am sure that scientific explanation is true. To me, the smell of rain, sometimes accompanied by a colorful rainbow, can revive a memory. As years come and go, memories accumulate. Some become favorites, like books that will be kept and reread. Other memories are uncomfortable, even painful.



Raindrops collecting on mesquite trees add sparkle to the desert’s beauty. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


A recent rain and its fragrance triggered memories of a boy exploring along the Columbia River. This inquisitive first-grader once imagined he would have enjoyed exploring the American West. Until he read about life-or-death struggles faced by pioneers.


One day, as the boy searched for agates near the river’s edge a few miles west of The Dalles, Ore., a chunk of obsidian the size of a baseball was uncovered. The boy was visiting his grandparents. They were renting a house near the river. Today, the boy cannot remember if they found the obsidian and gave it to him, or if he found it.


The ancient glass rock, created eons ago by volcanic activity, is jet black with veins the color of blood. Maybe it came from Mount Hood or Mount Adams, the closest of several snow-covered and dormant volcanic peaks in the Cascade Mountains. Today, decades later, the shiny childhood treasure sits next to the boy’s laptop.


A year later, in a lazy mountain stream near Mount Hood, the little boy saw his first salamander. To him, the colorful four-legged creature was like an alien. He didn’t touch the salamander, but he squatted to watch it swim and meander slowly over water plants. Nature’s wonders had captured the attention of the boy, who then was in the second grade.


This was the year of other discoveries for the boy – learning how to navigate knee-deep snow; and making a kite from newspaper, glue, strips of balsa wood, and string. The kite soared. Until the string broke. The boy recovered his kite from the neighbor’s corrals. It never flew again because of damage from its nosedive.



Dangers of BB guns


The boy and a friend also learned the dangers of BB guns that year. The friend, probably acting out what he had seen in cowboy or war movies, fired his rifle at the boy. The BB pellet left a painful and bright red welt on the chest of the shirtless second-grader. The boy and his friend – who was a couple years older – vowed to keep the incident a secret. They never played that game again. The boy kept the welt hidden under his shirt as it faded.


By the next summer, the boy and his family had relocated to central Oregon. One day, the boy and his father left home to hunt deer. They had been walking for hours, without seeing any deer, when they heard an animal scream. It sounded like a large cat. They stopped to listen, but the animal made no other sounds. They never learned whether the cry came from a bobcat or a mountain lion.


The family was living in a small Oregon community. It had an elementary school, a small grocery store, several homes and a hobo camp near the railroad.


A short distance from the grocery store was a small shanty. It lacked a foundation, and the siding of unpainted wood had been darkened and dried by the sun. The boy learned it was the home of Otis, who lived alone.


The boy never learned Otis’ last name, nor did he ever see his face. Once, the boy saw Otis on the dirt path that led from his shanty to the store. He stopped to watch Otis walk slowly to his shanty. His shoulders were hunched.


The boy, who had been learning in his third-grade class how to write a check, wondered about Otis. He didn’t have a car or a job, so how did he pay for groceries from the general store? Did he have any friends? Where was his family?


Though Otis is long gone, he is represented today by many others living from check to check. If they have no family, they probably depend on social agencies for subsistence. If they are able, they might migrate to public housing in metro areas. Otherwise, they join the other homeless struggling in towns and cities across America.



A deer too far


Another year, the boy and his father again went deer hunting. From a high vantage point, they spotted a buck in the distance. The father dropped to one knee and took aim. Too far, he said.


The father aimed again. After a couple breaths, he gently pulled the trigger. The shot echoed across the valley. Missed. The buck fled into brush and trees. That was the only deer they saw that day.


The lingering raindrops and the fresh scent they create in the desert prompted these fleeting memories and others.


Fast forward a few years, past the boy’s part-time jobs after school, the Army’s draft notice he received after joining the Air Force, past his university graduation, a rewarding career that lasted decades, and his other encounters with nature.


There was the black rattlesnake resting coiled along a hiking trail, and his accidentally stepping over another rattlesnake stretched in the dark across a warm sidewalk. Once, he had an arms-length staredown with a territorial hummingbird, and he wrote about riding with a park ranger to check on a pair of eagles nesting in a cliff over a lake.



If Native American ruins could talk


Nature is one of many topics that fascinate my Best Friend and me. She introduced me to archeology. I introduced her to walks in the forest as well as in the desert. One summer weekend, while camping in northeastern Arizona, we shifted closer in our sleeping bags during a lightning storm.


Sleep finally arrived, after the thunder and lightning. The next day, we turned off the gravel road on the Mogollon Rim to follow a logging road. We drove a short distance before parking. We had the forest to ourselves. It was a sunny summer day with fresh mountain air and the sounds of a gentle wind rustling through treetops.


On the ground, where logging equipment had disturbed the soil, we saw shell fossils. Maybe they were brachiopods, marine creatures that lived on ocean bottoms eons ago.


We also enjoyed walking at sunrise along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and through California’s Muir Woods National Monument. Equally fascinating are Native American ruins in Arizona – Montezuma Castle National Monument, Tuzigoot National Monument and Canyon de Chelly National Park.


If the prehistoric ruins could talk, my Best Friend said, they could share some amazing history.


Some memories fade. Others are revived when a rain’s outdoor aroma encourages quiet reflection.





(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)


(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)


(Ideas for interesting news stories about Arizona residents and businesses are welcome. Please send ideas and suggestions to


(To avoid missing news, essays, features and photos on, sign up for convenient email alerts in the FeedBurner box in the right rail. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.)



Jan 11th, 2015
Comments Off on A Flood of Memories from a Desert Rain

Discovering gargoyles and ghosts at historic hotels

Posted By Mike Padgett

Oct. 26, 2014

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Gargoyles are perched outside our hotel window. A ghost in a red gown roams our hallway. And at the end of our journey, we watch several water taxis perform a ballet.

Our adventure began on a Tuesday afternoon. We opened the drapes and discovered two gargoyles outside our hotel window. From this vantage point on the 14th floor, these stone creatures have a view of the downtown of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.


IMG_9895 - Version 3

Gargoyles outside our hotel window, overlooking downtown Vancouver, B.C., were a pleasant surprise. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett

Our journey in Canada actually started nearly two hours earlier, after we landed at Vancouver International Airport. “Ever been here before?” the customs officer asked. She had our passports open in front of her. She glanced at us, then at our passport photos. She was youngish and all business.


“No,” I said. I wasn’t sure if “here” meant Canada or Vancouver. We visited a different part of Canada in 2012. And in the 1990s, we rode the Victoria Clipper ferry from Seattle to Victoria. That was years before 9/11. It was a time when travel across international borders was simpler.

“Why are you here?” the officer asked.

Vacation, we said.

“Where are you staying?”

“The Fairmont,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. She stamped our passports and returned them.

“Thank you,” I said. No response. The officer waved us through. She motioned to the next visitors in line to step forward.


My Best Friend and I headed for the luggage carousels. It was summer in Arizona and we longed for cooler weather. For weeks, we had been dreaming about British Columbia’s mountain scenery and two of Canada’s historic hotels. It’s now fall in Arizona, and we’re still thinking about our summer adventure in Canada.


The flight from Phoenix to Vancouver, B.C., is a short three hours. Another 90 minutes later, after walking the meandering line at customs, collecting our luggage and the ride from the airport to the neo-gothic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, we checked into our room.


IMG_0222 - Version 2

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is one of the city’s historic cornerstones. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


I joined my Best Friend at the window. We stood admiring the view of downtown Vancouver, the mountains in the distance across the harbor, and the gargoyles. I put my arm around her. She rested her head on my shoulder. British Columbia was another destination on our growing list of places to explore.


Once upon a time, travels for us were rare interludes in our high-energy careers. But no more. Today, with our careers behind us, travel is our priority. And with airlines increasing costs and charging for everything – from seats closer to the door, to luggage, to printing tickets – we’re giving more thought to trips closer to home. That way, we could drive to our destinations  and avoid check-in times and emptying pockets for intrusive security. And no angry passengers feuding over knee space.


We’re nearing a milestone year of our journey together, and it seems like the clock is running faster. Each day we anticipate tomorrow because yesterday was better than the day before. We plan to spend more time walking, holding hands and sharing sunrise with the quail.


IMG_9911 - Version 2

Five blocks from the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is Burrard Inlet where floatplanes jockey for takeoff and landing. These planes resembling giant water striders share space on the water with private boats. A white cruise ship is docked nearby. Across the inlet are docked freighters. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


Vancouver has three Fairmont hotels downtown. Adjacent to the Vancouver Conference & Convention Centre is the Fairmont Waterfront. Nearby is the Fairmont Pacific Rim. History fans that we are, we chose the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, a historic hotel that opened in 1939 at Georgia and Burrard streets. This hotel, often called the “Castle in the City,” is a few blocks up the hill from the waterfront.


We learned that this majestic Fairmont is the third hotel bearing the Hotel Vancouver name. The first opened in 1888 at Georgia and Granville streets, two blocks from this location. It closed in 1916 and was replaced by a second one that had a short life because of “structural problems,” according to an account in USA Today.

IMG_0210 - Version 2

Historic hotels, with their roots in the city and distinctive architecture, offer much more than clean rooms and attentive staffs. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


Hilton Hotels bought the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and later sold it to Canadian Pacific Hotels. In 2007, the hotel was purchased by Quebec’s public pension fund, the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, as part of its real estate expansion. Earlier this year, the pension fund announced its plans to sell the Hotel Vancouver and other hotels.


We had some time before dinner on our first day, so we explored the hotel. Outside our hotel room door is a brass framework that can be closed to create a security door for the other rooms down the corridor. Past the brass door a few more rooms is another brass security door.


During our stay, we were pampered by the dedicated and attentive hotel staff. Our well-appointed room was clean and neat. Each day, after a visit by housekeeping, a note listing the following day’s weather forecast was left on our pillows.



IMG_0202 - Version 2

The 14th floor of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, with elaborate brass hallway security doors off the elevator lobby. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


Whenever we visit historic hotels, our curiosity powers up. One can only imagine the hotel’s previous guests. Who else stood at the window in our 14th floor room and enjoyed the views? What decisions or deals did they make during their stay? Were they local or foreign politicians? Business tycoons? Did they appreciate the gargoyles outside our window?


On our first day, we spotted a construction crane towering over a high-rise building near the waterfront. We saw many other cranes at construction sites during our ride from the airport. Vancouver is a city undergoing major growth. It would be interesting to see a time-lapse video comprised of photos of this city’s skyline shot from the same vantage point once a month since the city’s earliest years.


Such a video would show one downtown Vancouver building changing very little, if at all – Christ Church Cathedral, which opened in 1894. The church, built with local stone and wood, was founded in 1888. It is across Georgia Street from our hotel. The church once was “the brightest and tallest building” in Vancouver, according to the church’s website.



A historic hotel’s link to the past

There are many fine contemporary hotels offering luxurious accommodations. But historic hotels offer something found nowhere else ­– a glimpse of life in another era.


The architecture and interior design of a historic building are from another time. The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s high ceilings, interior arches, seating areas in elevator lobbies and stone gargoyles on the structure’s highest corners are reminiscent of Vancouver’s earlier years.


Historic hotels are a combination of unique architecture, influences of architects and owners, and dedication of conscientious employees. A few, like the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, have a ghost story for intrigue.


According to a narrative on the hotel’s website, the friendly apparition wearing an elegant red gown has been spotted on the 14th floor. Some say her name is Jennie and that she and her husband and their daughter began frequenting the hotel after it opened in 1939. They died in an automobile accident in 1944.


Hotel guests and employees have reported seeing a lady in red in the hall and in one of the rooms on the 14th floor. The hotel bar has named a drink honoring the ghost.


We learned about the hotel ghost while riding the hop-on, hop-off trolley. It was in her narrative about Vancouver that the trolley driver shared the ghost story. We later verified her yarn with a hotel employee and by checking the hotel website.


The trolley driver’s energetic narrative also answered our questions about the city and its history, parks and neighborhoods. She told us about Robson Street, lined with many fine restaurants and exclusive shops.


At one of the trolley stops, we stepped off to walk to the waterfront for lunch at Mahony & Sons Restaurant. From the promenade, we watched Harbour Air’s floatplanes arrive and take off.


The Fairmont has its own fine restaurant, and many other restaurants are within walking distance. We enjoyed dinners at Joe Fortes and Cin-Cin. For lunch one Sunday, after services at a downtown church, we stopped at YEW seafood + bar, the Four Seasons hotel restaurant. The restaurant’s 40-foot ceiling and the towering sandstone fireplace mimic Canada’s great outdoors.


To Victoria B.C. by bus and ferry


After a few days in Vancouver, we boarded a Pacific Coach bus for the short trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island. The bus took us from the hotel to the ferry landing at Tsawwassen, a suburb of Vancouver. After a short wait, the bus driver drove onto the ferry. He parked second in line to drive off the ferry. The crossing to Swartz Bay, a distance of 24 nautical miles, lasts about 95 minutes.


IMG_9952 - Version 2

Sailboats are a regular sight during ferry trips to and from Vancouver Island. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


During the crossing, we and the other passengers left the bus to find seats on the observation floors. We returned to the bus prior to docking at Swartz Bay.


Fairmont Empress 

Once at the Victoria bus station, we retrieved our luggage. Our destination was the Fairmont Empress Hotel. It is about a block from the bus station, so we walked. After sitting much of the morning, the walk was invigorating.


IMG_9981 - Version 2

The Fairmont Empress Hotel was built in 1908 in the style of a French chateau. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


In 1965, the hotel’s supporters rallied against a proposal to demolish this historical centerpiece of downtown Victoria and replace it with a modern high-rise hotel. A local newspaper, calling the iconic Empress “the heart and soul of this city,” opposed demolition. “Without this splendid relic of the Edwardian era,” the newspaper warned, “literally tens of thousands of tourists will never return.”


A year later, it was announced that the Empress would remain. The resulting renovation cost about $4 million.


In 1989, more then $45 million was spent on a more extensive renovation and the addition of a health club, indoor swimming pool and guest reception, according to the hotel website.


Earlier this year, Vancouver developer and philanthropist Nat Bosa and his wife Flora, bought the 477-room hotel from a subsidiary of the Quebec pension fund. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts will continue as manager, according to news accounts.


IMG_0055 - Version 2

One window of our corner room offered a view of the Inner Harbour across Government Street from the hotel. We watched ferries arriving from Seattle and Port Angeles, Wash., private boats, and the local water taxis. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett


The Empress’ guestroom floors have wide hallways with occasional seating areas where one could enjoy reading during inclement weather.


We wandered the hotel and found the Tea Room, which we discovered is a victim of its own popularity. Too busy for our liking. But we enjoyed meals at the hotel’s Veranda restaurant. Most days we sat at one of its outside tables. One evening we sat inside and enjoyed the brilliant sunset.


Earlier that evening, we crossed the street to walk along the harbor. On the sidewalk were a few arts and crafts vendors. A fortuneteller sat at her table waiting for a client. Behind us, the hotel took on a glow from the setting summer sun. To our left, across the street, are the British Columbia Parliament Buildings.


IMG_0023 - Version 2

The British Columbia Parliament buildings were designed by Francis Mawson Rattenbury, the English architect who also designed the Fairmont Empress. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


The Empress has its own permanent residents, according to the hotel history. A guest several years ago wrote about “a little girl who had watched over her bed and then floated across the room.” The hotel history also mentions “an early 20th Century maid” who sometimes helps with cleaning on the sixth floor.


IMG_9980 - Version 2

The Fairmont Empress’ gardens welcome visitors seeking quiet and beauty. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett 

In the hotel garden on a late afternoon, we walked the path slowly, absorbing the beauty and the quiet. A couple sat quietly on a nearby bench tucked into the flowerbeds. The late July weather is perfect, with an occasional light breeze. White roses and other flowers and a patch of lavender next to a trellis punctuated the lush lawn.


The Empress’ roses were a prelude to our visit to the Butchart Gardens, a series of gardens that has been blooming since its beginnings more than 100 years ago.


IMG_0059 - Version 2

Butchart Gardens occupy a worked-out limestone quarry established by Robert Butchart in the early 1900s. Butchart and his wife, Jennie, completed the first part of their home nearby in 1904. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


A friend gave the Butcharts a rose and some sweet peas to celebrate their new home. A garden publication says Jennie Butchart, in planting the rose and sweet peas by their home, “probably little realized this was the modest start to one of the world’s great horticultural adventures.”


As limestone in the quarry was exhausted, Jennie Butchart and workers recruited from the quarry crews added more flowers, shrubs and trees in establishing the 55 acres of Japanese, Italian, Rose and other gardens. Tour buses run hourly between downtown Victoria and the gardens 14 miles north of the city.


In 2004, its centennial year, the gardens was named a designated National Historic Site of Canada. The Butchart residence houses a historical display of the development of the gardens.


An elegant end to a memorable vacation

The morning we were packing for our return to Vancouver, we glanced out our window and saw several water taxis performing a ballet in the middle of the harbor. They were accompanied by classical music broadcast on loudspeakers. The unexpected visual treat was an elegant end to our summer adventure in Canada.

IMG_0167 - Version 2

From our hotel room, we watched water taxis perform a water ballet in the harbor across the street from the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett



(Copyright @ Mike Padgett, All applicable U.S. and International copyright laws pertain to any and all photographs and other images and articles on this site. Downloading, hot-linking, copying, reproducing, manipulating in any way and/or distribution by print, electronic media or other means is prohibited by law.)


(Please contact Mike Padgett if you are interested in purchasing prints or licensing images on this site, or if you wish to use any of the images on this site for noncommercial purposes. All rights reserved.)


(Ideas for interesting news stories about Arizona residents and businesses are welcome. Please send ideas and suggestions to


(To avoid missing news, essays, features and photos on, sign up for convenient email alerts in the FeedBurner box in the right rail. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.)

Oct 26th, 2014

Storm leaving Phoenix creates dramatic sunset

Posted By Mike Padgett

Oct. 10, 2014

Storm - Version 2

Copyright © iPhone photo by Mike Padgett

Pictured above is the departure of the storm that rattled metropolitan Phoenix in late September. I captured the iPhone image from an upper floor of the parking garage at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s Terminal Four.

At the horizon in the center is a rain shaft. A bank of low-hanging clouds obscures the mountains to the left. At the far right is part of the downtown Phoenix skyline.

Our flight that day into Phoenix from Seattle was diverted to Tucson, where we waited a couple hours for the powerful weather system to move out of metro Phoenix. Our plane was on final approach into Phoenix when the pilot was ordered to fly on to Tucson.

We learned later that our flight was one of several diverted that day from Phoenix. When we landed in Tucson, paramedics boarded to treat an elderly man complaining of chest pains.

After the storm passed, we returned to Phoenix and landed about seven hours after leaving Seattle. The Phoenix-Seattle flight usually lasts less than three hours.



Oct 10th, 2014
Comments Off on Storm leaving Phoenix creates dramatic sunset

Arizona mesquites glisten with early morning rain

Posted By Mike Padgett

Oct. 9, 2014


Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett

A walk in the Arizona desert after a gentle morning rain is a special treat. The air is clean and fresh, filled with the aroma of creosote bushes and other plants. Rabbits, quail and other wildlife begin emerging from cover offered by trees and brush. Overhead, the grey sky begins changing. By noon, it will be a collection of fluffy clouds scattered across a blue canvas.


The drops of rain glistening on the tiny leaves of a mesquite tree fit this quote from author John Updike: “Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.”



Oct 9th, 2014
Comments Off on Arizona mesquites glisten with early morning rain

Desert sentinels greet sunrise today in central Arizona

Posted By Mike Padgett

Oct. 7, 2014



Photo copyright © Mike Padgett

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

John Muir (1838-1914), conservationist, co-founder of the Sierra Club, and considered the father of our National Park System, according to the John Muir Association.


Oct 7th, 2014
Comments Off on Desert sentinels greet sunrise today in central Arizona
« Previous PageNext Page »