Monthly Archives: May 2018

2018 Trip 4: Arizona: May 29

Grand Canyon, AZ. Tuesday May 29

Grand Canyon with the Colorado River from Desert View Watchtower at Grand Canyon National Park

It was a glorious day for visiting the Grand Canyon. Our plan had been to leave Flagstaff, drive through the San Francisco Peaks and Coconino Forest to enter Grand Canyon through the South Entrance. Reviewing the park’s web site made us switch plans. Road construction inside the park and summer attendance were forecast to cause delays in reaching the park. Instead, we drove north to Cameron and then west to enter through the East Entrance at Desert View Watchtower. I had been reluctant to go this route because we will leave the park through this gate Wednesday. It is our preference to view as much different territory as possible on our trips. Later on Tuesday we encountered the road construction and it verified the wisdom of using the East Entrance.

The drive up from Flagstaff begins with numerous inactive/extinct volcanoes on either side of the road. As we progressed north, the trees and volcanoes disappeared to be replaced with scrub brush and rolling buttes and escarpments. The Little Colorado River joins the road just after our turnoff to the national park. We stopped at Cameron Trading Post about a mile past the turnoff for some lunch which we packed away for later. The road has been improved since we last drove here and a McAllisters Deli added at the junction of US 89 and AZ 64. It did not open until 10 AM though so we catch it for lunch Wednesday or Thursday.

Desert View Watchtower with Interior Native American Indian symbols

Our first stop in Grand Canyon National Park was at Desert View Watchtower. This building, and several others, were designed by Mary Coulter, a famous female architect and designer who worked for the Fred Harvey Company and Santa Fe Railroad for 38 years. She incorporated Native American Indian styles into much of her work. The Watchtower is 70 feet high with a stunning view of the landscape. She designed the building with a modern steel structure but an exterior of weathered looking stone. It has Native American symbols on the interior walls.

As our first stop, we took our time here. The crowds were not too bad. The views from outside on the overlooks and from inside the tower gave us a great introduction to the canyon and the Colorado River. The temperature was in the high 70s and sunny all day; it made for great walking and picture-taking. The drive to the main south rim area is 22 miles. We saw some elk along the way and stopped at a few overlooks.

The main visitor center has an excellent introductory film which we viewed along with a few other displays. We ate our lunch outside and then walked the two some miles from the visitor center at Mather Point to the El Tovar/Hopi Point area.

Another view from the rim walk


Along the way we took pictures, took pictures of other people with the canyon in the background, and just enjoyed the day. By now it was after 3 PM. Chris, Deb, and Rebecca walked along the rim a bit more and then headed over to Maswik Lodge to check in.

Grand Canyon

Along the rim walk at Grand Canyon

Waiting for sunset at Grand Canyon

If you are paying attention, you remember that the car is back at the visitor center. I tried to take the shuttle back to pick it up. As I waited at the shuttle bus stop, a construction worker (remember the road work?) told me that the shuttle no longer stops here due to the construction. No sign was posted to that effect. So I took the Greenway Trail, a pedestrian/biking path through the trees most of the way back to the visitor center before I was able to catch a shuttle. The construction has messed up the timing of shuttles too. The shuttle I took was jammed-I compared it to the shuttle buses we take to the MN State Fair. Everybody gets in to fill the bus and then 20 more people pack in.

The four of us separated for a while and then met up at dinner at the food court in Maswik Lodge. Sunset viewing is a big deal here, good spots are taken early. We chose to drive out to the Geology Museum at Yavapai Point, getting a good parking spot and a good viewing spot. Since we had over an hour to kill before sunset, individually we walked a bit, took some pictures, and talked to people. Deb spotted a young elk along the path, drinking from water pooled by a water fountain.

Chris and I spent fifteen minutes chatting with a ranger. She was feeling sore. Last night, she and her partner transported a prisoner to Flagstaff. On the return trip, a deer hit the patrol car. She was in the passenger seat where most of the impact was and the air bag deployment was a little rough.

Sunset and moon rise at Grand Canyon National Park

The crowds increased as sunset neared and we took more than our share of photos. Last night was also a full moon. We hung around to watch the moon rise before heading back to our room.

All in all, a grand day at the Grand Canyon.

Ed and Chris. May 30

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona: May 26-28

Flagstaff, Arizona. May 28

Sedona AZ view

Red Rocks of Sedona Arizona

The last three days have been a relaxing time with Chris’ brother Lou and his wife Joyce. We picked up Deb and Rebecca at the Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix late Friday night and spent the night in Phoenix. Saturday morning we drove the 150 miles to Flagstaff. Deb and Rebecca spent some time with an old friend of Deb’s; we walked around Flag. We picked up Deb and Rebecca at 4 and went to Lou and Joyce’s house.

Downtown Flagstaff AZ

Looking at Flagstaff from the Lowell Observatory

Going for a walk along a created pond in Flagstaff

Sunday and Monday have been family oriented, spending time together, touring Flagstaff and nearby Sedona. Instead of writing narrative, we are just giving you photos. Greater narrative will resume as we visit the Grand Canyon.

Hiking in Sedona

Left, moon photos taken through Lou’s telescope; right, full moon early this evening

View of Oak Creek Canyon towards Sedona

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona AZ

Lunch in downtown Flagstaff

Ed and Chris. May 28

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona: May 25

Phoenix, AZ. Friday May 25

Breakfast at the Guest House Inn at Ajo AZ to start the day off right

Ajo is now but a memory, a stronger one when I discovered this morning that a Minnesota designed the town in 1914. Lodging at Guest House Inn was great, Michael was a gracious host. Breakfast was delicious and the bed gave me a great night’s sleep. The B & B had been the location where visiting dignitaries to the copper mine stayed when the mine was still operational. (By the way, RW if you are reading this, I hope you saw our email and responded to Michael.)

As we drove out of town, we stopped at the offices of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Cabeza is the third largest refuge in the lower 48 states and is primarily desert and mountain. But as the introductory video states, desert does not equal barren of life.

One needs a wilderness permit to enter the refuge which we obtained but we could have skipped it. Once again, high clearance vehicles are “suggested”. We tried the first mile or so of road but decided once again to be cautious and avoid the potential for damaging the bottom of the rental vehicle. Some time we will have to visit and make sure we have a true high clearance vehicle and go wild on back road trips. We passed another wilderness area, Sonoran Desert National Monument on the way back to Phoenix and just kept driving.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Coolidge AZ

Phoenix was our eventual destination to pick up Deb and Rebecca who will join us for the next eight days. Their flight does not land until late in the evening so we dropped in at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. This is a NPS unit that Chris and I had disagreed whether we had been here before. I said yes, Chris said no. Once we arrived, we realized Chris was right.

The area around Phoenix was home to people now called the “Ancestral People” who probably arrived around 300 C.E. Over the next thousand years various changes took place, including the change from smaller settlements to larger ones. Casa Grande is the largest known of those large settlements, home to about 2,000 people. Casa Grande is named due to the still-standing four-story Great House.

By the time European explorers arrived in the area, the Ancestral People had dispersed. While not known for certain, best theories believe a combination of weather related conditions caused a societal breakdown and the people dispersed. Six Native American tribes claim ancestry to the Ancestral People.

Map of irrigation canals top; bottom remnant of canal by Casa Grande

We do know that the Ancestral People created a system of canals, close to 220 miles worth, to be able to irrigate crops with water from the Gila River. Without steel implements, this would have been a major task for the community to create. Highly skilled craft remains have been found, indicating the communities had time for more than just work.

Casa Grande up close

Casa Grande was constructed in layers of local building material called caliche, a desert sand high in calcium carbonate mixed with water to form a concrete like substance. The building is oriented north and south with astronomical openings that line up to record the spring and fall equinoxes and the summer solstice.

Casa Grande Ruins was declared the nation’s first archaeological preserve in 1892 and a national monument in 1918. From the picture, you can observe a shelter over the ruins to protect them from the elements. The shelter is called a “Ramada”, or open air shelter, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and constructed in 1932.

The wispy residue of a dust devil

While walking around the site, we experienced a short but nasty wind storm, with the wind creating the type of dust devil I wrote about a few days ago. This time, we had to close our eyes and turn away from the wind; by the time it died down enough for me to get my camera out, I was only able to snap the few wisps of dirt in the air above us.

The rest of the day was spent driving back to Phoenix, checking in to the hotel and having dinner. We picked up Deb and Rebecca at the airport. As usual for us, we did a test run to the airport and spotting the best location to meet them. Of course, the test run was done flawlessly with few cars or people around. Pick-up time at 9:30 PM was jammed though. But we found them.

Saturday we will head to Flagstaff for the second half of this trip, visiting Lou and Joyce, and taking Deb and Rebecca to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, etc.

Ed and Chris. May 26

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona: May 24

Ajo, AZ. Thursday May 24

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Only one major goal for today, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It was founded in 1937 to protect the Sonoran Desert and the organ pipe cactus here. Organ pipe cactus are more at home in Mexico than the U.S. This location is at the northern reaches of the cactus’ range. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument protects a wide variety of plants and animals, allowing them to flourish in their native environment without much human interference. The United Nations recognized the monument’s value and its success in protecting the environment in its natural state by naming it an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976.

It took us all morning to reach the monument. We left Green Valley, going north in I-19. I-19 is an interesting anomaly. It is the only United States Interstate Highway marked in kilometers, not miles. According to our Evergreen hosts, the highway was being built during a time when the U.S. was planning to convert to the metric system. The highway planners did not want to install signs with miles as a measuring unit if they would shortly have to take the signs down and install new signs in kilometers. The decision was made to install kilometer signs from the beginning. Then, the U.S. backed down on the metric conversion but the I-19 signs were already up. Locals did not want to change their address on all of their marketing measures. The decision was made to support the local preference and the use of kilometers continues to this day. It did throw us off the first time we drove on I-19.

I-19 was just a blip today as we turned off it and headed west on Arizona 86. Shortly after leaving the Interstate we were on a two lane road, speed limit 65. We went through the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation for the entire drive to Why, AZ. Why, population 162, was our lunch and gas stop. Restaurants and gas stations are not plentiful here so you gas up when you have the chance.

One of the more elaborate memorials along AZ 86

Along AZ 86, we observed roadside crosses and memorial displays. When driving through the U.S., particularly on two lane roads, one observes a white cross where a person died in a traffic accident. On AZ 86, these crosses were too numerous and too elaborate to fit that pattern, at least in my mind. Upon arrival at Organ Pipe, I checked in with a ranger (new, so she had to talk to a more veteran, locally knowledgeable ranger). The Tohono O’odham have a deep reverence for the dead, the memorials on the highway do reflect where a fatal accident occurred. It is just that the memorial is maintained for decades by family members.

Saguaro cactus

Organ Pipe is 20 miles south of Why. We stopped in for the introductory video and then drove around for an hour and a half. I make no apologies for not hiking. It was hot and the scenery did not vary dramatically in the areas we could reach. Some of the roads were high clearance vehicles only. I did not want to risk the rental car on those roads. It is a long way from any AAA service station.

Organ Pipe Cactus

The organ pipe cactus were not the primary variety of cactus we saw. In fact, sometimes we had to really look around to spot them. The combination of desert vegetation and mountain backdrops did make for enjoyable viewing.

Border shots; the wall, the first wall for cars, road checkpoint, and Border Patrol vehicle in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe backs up to the Mexican border and the monument road provided a great opportunity to view “The Wall”. Two versions were visible. One was an initial fence built like construction barricades to prevent cars from driving over the border. The second fence type appeared newer and designed to stop individuals. The visitor center is named for a park ranger who was killed in 2002 while responding to the illegal border crossing of two violent criminals fleeing an incident in Mexico. Border patrol vehicles were frequently spotted in the monument, we were not stopped. We passed through two roadside checkpoints during the trip, again we were just waved through.

After Organ Pipe, we drove to Ajo. For the third night in a row, unplanned, we have slept, or will be sleeping, in the shadow of copper mines and their disposal sites. Ajo is the site of a large copper mine, closed in 1985, and now owned by Freeport-McMoRan. Same owners as the Bisbee copper mine.

Downtown Ajo plaza and park

Catholic Church Ajo AZ

Ajo was built as a company town. The downtown plaza, two churches, school, and hospital were built and are still impressive although some are vacant and some have been repurposed. Initial mine owners tried to send the ore to Wales but that was not economical. The next owners were from St. Louis and after several false starts and more new ownership, in 1915 open-pit mining began here. It was the first open-pit copper mine in Arizona. The pit today is 1.5 miles wide and 1,100 feet deep. We saw mountains of remains, probably the overburden removed to reach the ore and the slag produced from the smelting process. Our B and B is just blocks from the pit.

Ajo is not a major summer destination. Our dinner was at Pizza Hut, one of the very few options available. The town has decreased by 50% since the mine shut down but has been stable for the last two decades. New residents appear to be retirees and Border Patrol workers. There was a “scandal” as the feds built very expensive new housing for the Border Patrol employees rather than buying and rehabbing the many vacant homes. One industry in town is the business of selling Mexican insurance. It is only 100 miles from here to the Gulf of California. RVs and trucks towing boats were the primary vehicles on the road.

Ed and Chris. May 24

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona: May 23

Green Valley, AZ. Wednesday May 23

The inoperable Titan II missile

Arizona is a major mining state, this we knew coming in. We did not know that there had been 18 Titan II missile sites ringing Tucson AZ. Missile sites in ND, SD, Nebraska, etc. we knew about previously. Arizona missile sites are a new piece of information that we learned today at the Titan Missile Site Museum just south of Tucson. There were a similar number of sites around Little Rock, Arkansas and around Wichita Kansas. The tour takes 75 minutes and includes a visit to the missile silo and command room.

Our docent at the command center at Titan Missile Museum

The site was built in 1963 and de-commissioned in 1984. Successful efforts to make it a museum began right at the time of the de-commissioning efforts. The museum includes a real missile unable to fly and a dummy warhead, along with the original control center and mechanical equipment. As part of the nuclear de-armament process, we have to make de-commissioned missile sites available to be inspected by Russians as non-operational. Thus, the warhead has a window in it to show it was disarmed and the silo cover is permanently made inoperable.

Our tour discussed the construction of the silo and command center, with details on the redundancy of fail-safe systems, the ability to withstand nuclear strikes near-by, the protection from intruders, etc. The Titan II missile was extremely powerful and when de-commissioning occurred, the remaining missiles were removed and have been used to send up communications satellites and to send some of the early space exploration efforts.

Just minutes from the missile museum is a mining museum run by ASARCO, a huge U.S. mining company owned by a Mexican company. Kind of ironic, we took Arizona from Mexico and Spain who were seeking gold and other minerals. Spaniards did not find it in the 1500s to 1700s, not until the mid to late 1800s was mineral wealth discovered in Arizona. Now the minerals are being mined by a Mexican company.

The ASARCO Mineral Discovery Center only offers mine tours on Saturdays at this time of the year but exhibits and films explain the mining process and necessity. Certainly the films are presented from the company viewpoint, I can not accurately evaluate their true safety and environmental actions and record. I came away with two major points.

A wall map of the Mission mine site by Green Valley

First, the mine here in Green Valley-Sahuarita is massive, a conglomeration of several previous mines that are now one big mine. The mine goes two miles long and 1.75 miles wide. The reclaimed mine-related area stretching along I-19 seems to me to stretch over 20 miles. ASARCO has two other, large mines in Arizona.

Second, the world needs minerals which only come from mining. If we expect to construct buildings, to use electronics,to eat nutritiously, than mining has to occur. Not stated at the ASARCO museum, but self-evident, is our society has to determine under what conditions and at what cost that mining occurs.

Madera Canyon

By now it was time for a late lunch, which we satisfied at Manuel’s Mexican restaurant. After lunch, we drove to Madera Canyon, a well-known part of the Coronado National Forest. There are trails and picnic tables in a shady canyon with a (today at least) dry creek. Madera Canyon is a well-known birding location with birders from around the nation coming here. It was a warm afternoon and we took short hikes and did some bird-watching before returning to our Evergreen hosts.

Ed and Chris. May 23

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona: May 22

Green Valley, AZ. May 22, Tuesday

The shrine that drew us in

We have been to the mountain top and back to the valleys. Leaving Sierra Vista, our primary goal was to traverse the Huachuca Mountains and end up in Green Valley AZ, our lodging stop for the next two nights. Coronado National Memorial was our intended first stop and home to the road taking us over the mountains.

Looking down from the shrine

On our drive south from Sierra Vista, we knew we would pass the The Lady of the Sierras Shrine. We had not planned to stop. From Highway 92, though, the shrine stood out on the eastern slope of the mountains. It drew us in. The shrine has a chapel which is supposed to open at 9 AM but was still closed when we left around 9:15. A large cross and statue of an angel were also attention grabbers.

Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of the Sierras shrine south of Sierra Vista

After parking in the main lot, we hiked up the slopes past the Stations of the Cross; each one built into the side of the mountain, the next one always a little higher up than the previous one. The culmination of the 14th station was the tomb built into the hillside. We were not planning to do a lot of hiking today, the steps up this hillside were unplanned but proved to be sufficient exercise for the day.

On to Coronado. This NPS unit was created in 1941 with a hope that an adjoining park would be created in Mexico. The result would be a joint park like Glacier-Waterton on the U.S. Canada border. Mexico did not reciprocate. The purpose of the park is to recognize the goodwill and cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico through recognition of the endeavors of Francisco de Coronado. Coronado was a Spaniard who led a large expedition through a large swath of the southwestern United States. He and his subordinates went east as far as Kansas between 1540 and 1542. They were looking for gold, particularly the rumored “Seven Cities of Gold” which never did exist.

On the next turn after this one we encountered an oncoming NPS jeep.

The Coronado National Memorial visitor center has exhibits and displays, which we read. After the visitor center, we began the driving journey, about 20 miles on a twisty mountain road. Tight corners and switchbacks gave little warning of oncoming vehicles (nothing over 23’ allowed); at one corner we had to back up a ways to find a spot where we and an oncoming NPS pick-up were able to pass each other.

The view from Montezuma Pass in Coronado National Memorial

Three miles in, twenty minutes, and 1,300 feet higher, at 6,575 feet we reached Montezuma Pass Overlook. Far ranging views both east and west greeted us. The road continues westward as a gravel mountain journey for another 18 miles to Parker Canyon Lake. Other than the sections that resembled a washboard, the road surface was reasonable. On this stretch we encountered half a dozen Border Patrol vehicles. None stopped us.

Looking west from Montezuma Pass

Parker Canyon Lake is maintained by the Forest Service, part of the Coronado National Forest. Reclamation efforts were visible to stop erosion. Parker Canyon Lake is used to provide irrigation water for the surrounding lands. We just made a picture-taking stop since it was nice seeing a lake in Arizona. Pictures completed, we moved on to Sonoita to have lunch. No luck, no restaurant open.

Next town was Patagonia where the downtown was more thriving. Of course, Patagonia has more people, about 900 compared to Sonoita’s 800. We had lunch at a hotel with an attached restaurant, good food. The free Patagonia Regigonal Times newspaper did have a headline though that lead zinc mining sludge has been seen leaching out of a local, long-abandoned mine.

To reach our next destination, we drove southwest toward Nogales before heading north to Tumacacori National Historical Park. In 1908 Tumacacori was recognized as a National Monument to recognize and protect the then deteriorating buildings of a mission started in 1691. In 1990 it was redesignated as a National Historical Park.

The mission church at Tumacácori National Historical Park

Tumacácori was founded in 1691 by a Jesuit missionary (Padre Kino) to convert and aid the O’odham people who had requested assistance from the “Black Robes” (Jesuits) in improving the O’odham peoples agricultural practices. Kino was to work in this area for over 20 years and established numerous missions. The Santa Cruz River is less than a mile away and provided irrigation water.  Kino introduced wheat, livestock and fruit to diversify the food supply.  The O’odham and Yaqui Indians were taught Spanish and Catholicism.

Like most of the history of Spain in America, conflicts developed. Apache raids, Spanish infighting back home, lack of government support, encroaching settlements, disease, the Mexican Revolution all contributed over time to a dwindling Indian presence and to a dwindling Spanish and Mexican presence at the mission. It was abandoned in 1848.

Interior of the mission church at Tumacácori National Historical Park

When named a national monument in 1908, the buildings had deteriorated but restoration efforts have been effective. The brightly colored paintings that existed at the time of the active church are not present, only a few faint images. The site includes Tumacácori and two neighboring missions. Main visitation is at Tumacácori where the later mission church stands, along with several outbuildings foundations.  The intro video is old but between it and a well done museum, the story of the mission and the people of the area is effectively told.

After the mission we drove to Tubac. Tubac historically was the site of a military presidio, now a state park,  which we skipped. Tubac is a collection of bright painted and decorated adobe style buildings occupied by a variety of artists and accompanying tourist stores. We stopped for some ice cream and enjoyed the pleasant day in the shade.

Our lodging for the next two nights is with an Evergreen host in Green Valley. Green Valley has a population of over 20,000 and is just 20 miles south of Tucson. It is primarily a retirement community surrounded by agricultural and mining lands. As we drove in we could observe the recognizable terraced hillsides of a mining area being reclaimed.

Ed and Chris May 23

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona: May 21

Sierra Vista, Monday May 21

The San Pedro River

What a day! We found both water and greenery in the deserts of southern Arizona. Our waitress last night bemoaned the absence of greenery; one of the items she missed from Minnesota. Today we walked along water, although not plentiful, and among green trees.

Our first wet/green area was at the San Pedro House, a trailhead in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. This area runs 40 miles along the San Pedro River. Formed in 1988, the conservation area is designed to overcome the negative impacts of overgrazing and mining and to allow the desert riparian ecosystem to regenerate. San Pedro House is run by volunteers and runs tours, greets visitors and sells related items. It provides a convenient trailhead for hikers.

The trail we took starts across grassland which probably serves as a flood plain during the wet season. This is not wet season, in fact the volunteer mentioned how Arizona is in a drought, the winter snows were low, and summer rains are forecast to be lower than normal. The rest of the year may be tough water-wise.

The trail at San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

As we approached the river, we could observe a small stream in the middle of the channel. It was flowing slowly but between the river and the water table it supports, substantial trees and shrubbery were prevalent. The width of the green area could not have been more than a thousand feet but the cool, fragrant air was a noticeable improvement. We heard more birds than we saw but evidently this area is a major wintering area for some birds and part of the migratory flight path for others. We made the two mile walk at a pleasant pace, enjoying the atmosphere and change of scenery.

Murray Springs Clovis Site area

Our second stop was also within the San Pedro Riparian area. The Murray Springs Clovis site was discovered in 1966 and is named for two features: the stone spear points found here in 1966 that are dated back to the people who lived in the late Ice Age (the Clovis people) and the nearest natural feature to the area where the spear points were found (Murray Springs). This was a short hike and primarily in grasslands. The wash associated with Murray Springs was dry and the shrubbery here was fairly skimpy. They have installed signage to explain the people, the area, and the artifacts found here. The archaeological dig back in the late 1960s also found mammoth teeth.

After lunch we visited our third site. Ramsey Canyon Preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy. It is 280 acres located in the Huachuca Mountains. Ramsey Creek flows through it on its way to join the San Pedro River. The Huachuca Mountains are to the west of Sierra Vista and will be our next mountain range to cross as we continue our trek from east to west across southern Arizona.

Ramsey Creek in Ramsey Canyon Preserve

The preserve has a visitor center and gift shop and charges a small fee to visit. We made this short one mile hike a slow and relaxing walk. While uphill, the path is fairly smooth with numerous benches. The creek is always visible but the flow was shallow and did not normally make any sound to accompany our walk. Even without the sound of water, the walk was cool, shady, and the sounds of birds were ever present.

Ramsey Canyon Preserve

The canyon, as its name suggests, offers frequent views of steep mountain walls. The contrast between the green shady walk and the steep mountains with blue sky above made for numerous scenic images. We sat frequently, enjoying the atmosphere. At one location a group of ten deer were quietly grazing. At another, three wild turkeys were present.

Huachuca Mountains from Ramsey Canyon Preserve

This location is big for birders and hummingbirds are frequent here. The Nature Conservancy has added feeders to particularly attract hummingbirds for visitors to easily see and photograph at several spots close to the visitor center. We could have extended the hike to climb to Ramsey Overlook but today was just a day to relax and enjoy.

I have so far failed to mention one other stop. Actually our first stop of the day was the Environmental Opeations Center. This was promoted as a place where the wastewater treatment facility is environmentally discharging its waste and providing for a green oasis for birds to gather. Well, we remembered somethig like this in Florida where the treated water flowed into a marshland. The bird viewing there was spectacular. This one was not. Here instead of treated wastewater, the area has treated sludge land applied, allowed to dry and build up, then covered and grasses planted. There were some birds and there was some greenery and it was environmentally sound. However Chris did not enjoy the smell of the sludge and it really was nothing dramatic to view.

We wrapped up the day early, dinner being at a local restaurant where service groups meet. Food was good, staff pleasant but understaffed.

Ed and Chris. May 22

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona: May 20

Sierra Vista, Arizona Sunday May 20

Entering into the Queen Mine Tour

Sunday, normal weather for Arizona. Sunny and warm. Only question seems to be if the day will be windy. The forecast says sunny with highs in the 80s and 90s for the rest of week for southern Arizona. We checked out of the Holiday Inn Express in Willcox; on the positive side the rooms were fine, the milk at breakfast was cold and they had great, warm cinnamon buns. On the negative side, our room was overlooked for cleaning Saturday and the hot food at breakfast was bland.

The next two nights we will be staying in Sierra Vista, AZ. From Willcox, we drove west on I-10, stopping again at the Texas Canyon rest stop for pictures from the other side of the road. We went to church in Sierra Vista and then drove to Tombstone. Most Americans think of Tombstone and connect it with the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tidbit: O.K.stood for Old Kindersley. Kindersley was the previous owner and people referred to the corral as Old Kindersley’s corral eventually shortening it to O.K.

I am not going to make a drawn out discussion of the gunfight, suffice it to say that it put Tombstone on the map and later movies and books have made it a permanent fixture in American lore. We went to Tombstone more to understand the history of the old West and this town. Like many places in Arizona, mining played a boom and bust cycle here. The old courthouse in Tombstone is now a state historic park and has displays of that early time. It was our first stop.

Historic Tombstone Courthouse State Park

Tombstone is named due to its first successful prospector who was told he would not find rocks with minerals in the area, only his own tombstone since the Apache Indians were still fighting the U.S. Army. In 1877 he discovered silver and gold ores and named his claim Tombstone and the city was founded in 1879 with that name. By 1882 the town had between ten and fifteen thousand residents. In 1883 and 1884, silver production boomed and the price declined. Combined with operational difficulties at the mines with too much water seeping into the underground mines despite huge pumps, the mines went bust.

A few years later the price was back up and silver mining increased. Then the Panic of 1893 caused another bust. One more boom period occurred before the silver mining closed completely due to the water issues and the low price of silver. Silver mining does not occur in Tombstone any more. The population decreased, the county government was moved to another town, and Tombstone sank towards oblivion. Movies and TV kept the Tombstone name alive and today Tombstone is primarily a tourist city with a population of 1,300.

Downtown Tombstone

Since we were in Tombstone, we did shell out to watch a documentary and visit the site of the O.K. Corral Gunfight. There are frequent re-creations and characters dressed in period costume roam the streets. Stage coach rides, walking tours, T-shirts, trinkets, etc. are omnipresent. Lunch was at a small family restaurant where we had some good burgers.

After Tombstone, we continued the history tour by driving to Bisbee, a former mining town. Bisbee began as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880. Its production of these minerals was vast but not without hassle. Around the First World War, the Phelps-Dodge company and the local government twice deported hundreds of miners who were viewed as a threat to start mining unions in the area. Mining and the town’s population went through boom and bust cycles. Open pit mining began during WWI, underground mining continued also. By the 1970s, the higher grade ores had been mined and all mining ceased until a few years ago when it resumed on a small-scale basis.

The Lavender Pit-named for the man who began open pit mining in Bisbee

The Queen Mine Tour takes one underground to view the mining tunnels of a mine closed since the mid-1970s. The tour was part of an effort to help the economy stabilize after mining ceased. Today the tour and a cutesy, art scene keeps Bisbee alive although it does still lose population at each census. The town looks like a mine town. While environmental efforts are at work to reclaim mined out areas, there is a hundred year history of mining to overcome. The Lavender Pit is a huge hole in the ground and it with surrounding scalloped mountainsides are the major impression one has when leaving Bisbee.

The mine tour was worthwhile, though. It lasts 75 minutes. You ride on an authentic mine car into the mine on a horizontal tunnel. For this tour, besides a hard hat and vest, you have a light to get to play along the sides and roof of the mineshaft. The tour guide covers the mining process from its earliest days until the 1970s. There are over 1200 miles of tunnels carved into mountainsides of Bisbee. Through a period of consolidation, Phelps Dodge acquired ownership of the vast majority. In 2007, Phelps Dodge was bought out by Freeport-McMoRan, a vast mineral mining and development company, located in Phoenix.

We drove back to Sierra Vista and checked in at the Hampton Inn. Dinner was at Outback where our waitress had recently moved to Sierra Vista from Hastings MN to be near her aging mother. We shared numerous stories and left stuffed.

Ed and Chris. Sierra Vista May 21.

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona: May 19

Willcox AZ Saturday May 19

Organ Pipe Formation at Chiricahua National Monument

Up and out early today. When climbing in hot weather, one wants an early start. So we were away from the hotel by 8 AM and at the trailhead by 8:45 AM.

Fort Bowie Trailhead parking lot. Dirt road leads to it, we thought it was interesting to see the congested area sign and no one else in the parking lot when we arrived

Fort Bowie National Historic Site has an unusual feature. One must hike 1.5 miles from the parking lot up to the fort at Apache Pass in the Chiricahuan Mountains. Actually I liked the requirement. The hiker not only observes the change from grasslands to thickets of small trees and brush, but can visualize being on one of the early stage coaches on the Butterfield Line and seeing Indians on horseback on the ridges above. Of course, that visualization is more due to TV westerns than reality, but still it resonates.

As related at the Amerind museum Friday, the Apaches had seven different but related tribes. The Chiricahuas were one of the seven and lived in southern Arizona and New Mexico. Apache Pass was part of their normal territory. If you have the time, the trail to Fort Bowie provides several opportunities to learn more about the Chiricahua and about westward expansion by settlers eager to cross Chiricahua territory to reach California and other western locations.

The spring at Apache Pass, another reason the area was so important

You may recall the names Cochise and Geronimo. Both were Chiricahua Apache. Cochise came to leadership before the Civil War and in many ways preferred accommodation to fighting. Unfortunately, circumstances did not always assist. In 1861 a raiding party of unknown Apaches stole cattle and the stepson of a local rancher. Cochise and the military met to discuss this at Apache Pass. Cochise was accused of being the guilty party. Cochise denied it but offered to help find the boy. The U.S. military did not believe him. Cochise, insulted, escaped and for the next eleven years the U.S. military and the Chiricahua were at war.

The cemetery along the trail to Fort Bowie

At another spot, you come upon a cemetery. Here the soldiers buried their dead. But you also find graves of Indians, including one of Little Robe, a two year old son of Geronimo. Little Robe was one of 15 Chiricahua captured by the U.S. in Mexico in 1885 and brought back to Fort Bowie as captives. The soldiers grew attached to the two year old boy but he died soon after, probably of dysentery. He is buried here. Apache custom was to bury their dead in small caves or crevices and to conceal the location. Cochise, for instance, was buried in a location not found to this day.

Fort Bowie close up

Upon reaching Fort Bowie, you can observe the value of the pass in crossing the mountains on either side of you. As usual, the ranger on duty was informative and helpful, after visiting over 200 NPS sites, I don’t think we have met even 5 rangers who were less than great. We also met a couple from Doylestown PA who have been retired for 13 years and we swapped various travel suggestions.

The fort itself is not reconstructed as were several forts we have visited. Various buildings have partial walls showing and you can walk the area and visualize what the site would have looked like in the latter half of the 1800s. Fort Bowie had a short life. A first fort was built in crude style and lasted less than six years. A larger, better fort was built in 1868 and these are the main ruins you can view. From 1862 to 1868, Fort Bowie was active in the campaigns against the Chiricahua. Geronimo surrendered in 1886. He and the whole tribe were exiled, the reservation abolished, and Geronimo ended up in Florida. We had previously visited Fort Pickens in Florida and the Castillo de San Marcos in St.Augustine where he and his family were separately housed for a number of years.

One other sad note. We lived in Carlisle PA for over 20 years. Particularly in the early years there, one read of the Carlisle Indian School (now home to the U.S. Army War College) and how the U.S. trained Native Americans in work skills and reading. It was only in the latter years and as we have traveled that one learns that the Indian children sent to Carlisle were forcibly removed from their families and forbidden to learn or practice their native religion or culture. Fort Bowie displays stated that the Chiricahua children were primarily sent to Carlisle and how many of them died there.

View of Fort Bowie from above on the return hike, the visitor center is at the lower left

Our hike back took a different path to create a loop. We began the hike by climbing up above the Fort and looking down at it. The view was stupendous. All in all, a rewarding three hour journey.

Hiking back from Fort Bowie

A side note. The NPS sites we are visiting participate in a program they call “I Hike for Health”. Each park sets its rules, generally you must hike three to five miles in order to win an award. Our hike to and from the trailhead to Fort Bowie qualifies so we received a Fort Bowie NHS I hike for health pin. Hooray for us.

Yesterday’s blog informed you that Chiricahua National Monument, one of our planned stops, was closed due to a forest fire. The ranger at Fort Bowie informed us that it was opened today and we decided to make that our afternoon stop instead of the copper mine in Morenci. It took us less than 40 minutes to make the drive to Chiricahua NM.

Some of the hoodoos at Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua was made a national monument in 1924 to preserve and to protect unique rock formations. Turkey Creek Volcano, long inactive, was south of Chiricahua and its explosive eruptions gave rise to the rock formations here, including hoodoos. Hoodoos are columns of weathered rocks. For those of you who have been to Bryce National Park, you recognize hoodoos. Chiricahua NM is also an area where different geological forces met and four ecological systems resulted.

One unique feature is called “sky islands”, a term common in this part of Arizona. Sky islands refers to mountain ranges isolated from each other by intervening grasslands or deserts. The valleys act as a barrier to the movement of forest and mountain species of animals and fauna.

Along Bonita Canyon Drive in Chiricahua National Monument

I will admit upfront that after the morning hike at Fort Bowie I was in no mood, or condition, to do another hike (five miles at Chiricahua) to earn a second I Hike for Health pin. Instead we drove the 8 mile Bonita Canyon road and stopped at lookouts. In 1976, most of Chiricahua NM was designated a national wilderness and Bonita Canyon road is the only road open to vehicles. Our original plan when we left St. Paul had been to arrive here early today and spend most of the day hiking after having spent Friday at Fort Bowie. The fire and revised schedule meant no hikes but we still enjoyed the spectacular rock formations.

The source of our dust clouds

On our various drives the last two days, we kept seeing small dust clouds; a column, almost tornado looking, that appeared in the distance. I thought these were localized wind patterns creating an eddy stirring up the dust. We never seemed to get close enough to be able to take a good picture. Finally, one dust cloud was close enough to shoot—then we saw that the cloud was caused by cattle ambling along and stirring up the dirt on the ground.

The day wrapped up having an early dinner at a truck stop in Willcox. Dining options are not huge, the two or three local restaurants being in the area of the wine festival and everything else was a national burger/taco/pizza chain. But the food was quite good and helped to restore my flagging energy. Of course, we had dessert at Apple Annies again.

We thought we would end up this post with some flower pictures. Arizona is in drought conditions but some flowers are finding their way to bloom. Enjoy.

Flowers near Fort Bowie and Chiricahua

Ed and Chris. Willcox AZ May 20

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona

Willcox, Arizona, Friday May 18

View from the I-10 Texas Canyon Rest Stop

Chris and I are in Arizona for 17 days. The first half of the trip will be along the southern border areas from Willcox in the east to Ajo in the west. There are five National Park Service units here we wish to visit, plus wildlife refuges, mine tours, etc. We hit our first roadblock Thursday just before we left Saint Paul. Chiricahua National Monument has a small forest fire blazing and the park is closed. It may open as soon as Monday, but we will probably be heading west by then. We will just have to combine it with a trip to southern New Mexico which is still on our list.

This stretch of southern Arizona was added to the U.S. by the Gadsden Purchase in 1853-54. I believe most Americans think that the Louisiana Purchase added all of the land west of the Mississippi River to the U.S. But no, the Louisiana Purchase approximately only added land between the Mississippi RIver and a line drawn diagonally northwestward starting at New Orleans and ending near Glacier National Park, close to the current Idaho-Wyoming border. Washington and Oregon were in dispute but generally considered under British control. Alaska was in Russian hands, and everything else (California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, parts of Colorado) was part of Mexico. No wonder Mexico may look at the U.S. and get indignant that they should pay for a wall. Didn’t we get enough land and mineral rights from them to pay for a wall?

While not wanting to make this a major history lesson, let me just briefly cover the Gadsden Purchase. Completed in 1854, the purchase allowed the U.S. to buy enough southern land to construct another transcontinental railroad without going through mountains (Rocky, Sierra Nevada, etc.). Mexico needed cash and thought it was better to sell the land and get paid than to have the U.S. take it away. The U.S. bought about 30,000 square miles, about the same size as 8-9 Yellowstone National Parks. The land goes from the Mexican border to a point between Tucson and Phoenix Arizona. Our first week will be within this area.

A late flight out Thursday night got us to our Phoenix hotel by 1 AM Friday morning. We were up and out by 8:30 and on the road to Willcox . Our first stop was an Interstate Highway Rest Stop. The Texas Canyon rest stop on I-10 is roughly 25 miles west of Wilcox and well-known for its intriguing rock formations. It was an easy introduction to desert geology. Our second stop was another simple, easy one. Annie’s Pies. Apple Annie’s Orchard is in Wilcox and while apples are nowhere near ready for harvesting, Apple Annies has a market, lunch counter, and pie shop right next to our hotel in Willcox . A shared wrap and an apple crumb pie slice and an apple-raspberry pie slice continued the pleasant feelings.

Downtown Willcox Arizona

We are in Willcox because it has one decent hotel close to Fort Bowie National Historic Site and Chiricahua National Monument. Willcox itself has two small museums dedicated to old-time western singers, Rex Allen Senior and Marty Robbins; not exactly major household names today but still worth a visit.

Our plan had been to go to Fort Bowie Friday afternoon and Chiricahua on Saturday. With Chiricahua out of the way, we are switching Fort Bowie to Saturday. Friday afternoon after Apple Annie, we stopped at the two small museums in downtown Willcox. Willcox, population 3,700, was a major cattle-raising area and when the Southern Pacific Railroad went through the town, Willcox also became a major shipping point for beef.

Nowadays it appears to be struggling, numerous store fronts were empty. But this weekend will be busy. Unbeknownst to us when booking our hotel, there is a wine festival this weekend. This area has 15 vineyards and wineries and the Wines of Willcox Taste and Tour is this weekend.

The Rex Allen Museum in Willcox AZ

The two museums were not busy, At the Rex Allen Museum, the tour guide gave us a five minute orientation to Rex Allen, the “Last of the Silver Screen Cowboys”, part of group that included Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. As the museums states, “take time to return to those days of yesteryear when our heroes were the clean cut, God-fearing Americans of the Wild West, who wore white Stetson hats, loved their faithful horses, and had loyal sidekicks who shared their adventures. Koko was Rex’s faithful horse and received equal billing in the movies. Koko is buried across the street from the museum in the Willcox Railroad Park, next to a life size statute of Rex Allen. Allen’s ashes were scattered around the park.

Chirs and Ed in front of a painting of Rex Allen and his horse Koko

Rex appeared in ten years of comic books, did voices for Disney movies, had a TV show for one year, and advertised products like Ford tractors and Purina. His singing career started locally at age 14 and sang on the radio station WLS for the “National Barn Dance”-which we learned about during our last tour of Kentucky and Tennessee in March and April. All of this was news to us. Rex was born near Willcox and always considered this town his home.

The next museum was for Marty Robbins (1925-1982). Robbins was a successful country singer and songwriter. His museum was in Glendale AZ but moved here about ten years ago. I assume it was not overly popular there and Willcox promised a better option for it. It did not take long to go through the museum. Both were pleasant and basic but a quick visit was sufficient.

There was still time left in the day for touring so we moved up a visit to the Amerind Museum, located not far from the I-10 Texas Canyon rest stop. The Amerind (no pictures allowed inside) focuses on the culture and history of American Indians and their ancestors. In its words it: “houses a spectacular collection of prehistoric objects from archaeological excavations in the Americas as well as more recent items from Native cultures since the time of contact with the first Europeans.”

The museum was established in 1937 by William and Rose Hayden Fulton. His money came from the Waterbury CT foundry, hers from a copper mine here in Arizona. Their trips out here generated a deep interest in the Southwest, its history and people. The Foundation has sponsored numerous archaeological excursions in the U.S. and Mexico. The displays include an art museum displaying art that Rose collected. The museum’s second building displays artifacts and historical information about the peoples of the southwest. Once again, it was pleasant, but pottery and baskets can get old after a while. The historical information was more interesting to me; my challenge is to remember it a week later.

Driving back to Willcox

We drove back to Willcox on back roads, driving through Pearce, an almost ghost town (population 15) and Dos Cabezas, an area with a scattering of homes where there used to be a town and a mine. Dinner was at an unremarkable bar-b q restaurant in Willcox.

Ed and Chris. Willcox Arizona. May 19

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