Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

 We rolled into Twin Peaks Campground at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on October 29, 2019. Fall is a good time to visit. With no reservations required and the pick of sites available, we slid into a site with no problem even though barriers blocked off four or five of the campground rows.

Our campsite at Twin Peaks Campground with no one to our right, to our left, or in front or back.

We talked about heading into Mexico to check out Puerto Peñasco since we were so close. All we managed was a drive to the Lukeville border crossing where we thought we could fill up with diesel. Unfortunately, the station was out of diesel. Perhaps we’ll make it to the beach on our next trip to the area.

Night Photography Attempt

Sunset view of peaks

The dark skies and lack of ambient light turned out to be a perfect place for nighttime photography. I set up my Sony and the tripod and waited for the sun to set.

Typical fiery Arizona sunset

As I watched the stars and planets take form and twinkle in the deep black sky, a feeling of peace and calm settled in my bones. The swath of light that sparkled above, reminded me that the Milky Way is present each night even if fog, clouds, or light pollution obscures it from view.

After sunset, the full moon was visible even though it was in its waxing crescent phase

It was as if the universe was giving me a message: a message of hope that humans will once again survive the chaos of the world.

First attempt at capturing the Milky Way. Looks like I need more practice.

Victoria Mine Trail

 The Victoria Mine Trail leads hikers into and out of 13 sets of washes and plateaus and past hillsides covered with saguaro, organ pipe, cholla, paloverde, ocotillo, and other shrubs.

Steps made it easy going in and out of the gulleys

The reward after about 2.4 miles is the ruins from a 19th-century gold and silver mine at the foothills of the Sonoyta Mountains.

Mine store ruins

We rested on a makeshift bench in front of the ruins and ate our lunch, guarding our tuna sandwiches and chips against greedy squirrels that would have easily snatched our meal if given half a chance.

Mine store ruins
Covered mine shaft
View of peaks across a plateau of saguaros, organ pipes, and ocotillos
Inside the mine store ruins
Mining equipment

Historic Events

President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the monument on April 13, 1937. As one might imagine, the local ranchers and miners raised a fuss because they would no longer be allowed to use the land for their own purposes. Congress took action during WWII that allowed mining within the monument, which drew prospectors to the area in droves. On September 28, 1976, the act was repealed and the mining operations ceased.

Organ Pipe Cactus

In 1976, UNESCO declared the monument an international biosphere reserve and in 1977 congress declared 95% of the monument as wilderness.

Chain fruit cholla

During the 1990s, illegal immigrants and drug traffickers found the monument a convenient location to enter the United States with over 200,000 undocumented immigrants crossing monument lands during 2000. In 2002, park ranger Kris Eggle was killed in action and in 2003 the park service renamed the visitor center in his honor.

Ocotillo

This led to the closing of 70% of the monument. In 2004, construction on steel vehicle barriers began along the 33 miles of the international boundary and was completed in 2006. This significantly reduced the illegal off-road vehicle traffic, which had caused severe damage to the desert ecosystem. In the 2010s new technology further deterred illegal entry and on September 15, 2014, the park reopened the closed areas.

Creosote blooms

Recently, as work began on replacing border barriers with a steel bollard design, controversy, protests, legal action, criticism, and even support erupted. The debate continues with scientists and environmentalists intent on protecting endangered species of wildlife and desert plants pitted against a government determined to stem the current tide of illegal immigration.

Baby saguaro arms

History shows that wildlife and plants often lose at the hands of the government. My wish is that the groups on either side of the debate are able to achieve an agreement that is palatable to both. Can the issues be resolved by this time next year? I wonder.

I found this guy digging around in the ground before he grabbed the thing in his beak and took off

If you would like to learn more about Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, check out our previous discussion on the park in our post titled Lake Havasu and Beyond.

Next up is another visit to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. With family and friends in the city, the location is a convenient stop for us when traveling beyond California.

Oh, before I sign off, I have an announcement. On January 1, 2020, a good friend of ours opened a new bar in the desert. For those of you in the area, check out The Bunker Bar near Havasu Heights. Here’s a photo I took on November 8, 2019, a few days after the containers were delivered.

The Bunker Bar Lake Havasu City November 8, 2019

From Highway 95, take Havasu Heights Road and immediately turn right on the graded dirt road. Drive about 2 miles and enjoy the beer and wine, food, music, and fun. Visit Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For current pictures and more information go to https://www.facebook.com/bunkerbarlhc/

Safe Travels

Happy 2020 New Year and Tucson Part Two

Yikes! It’s the start of a new year and a new decade. It seemed weird to me when the year 2000 crept into my consciousness. It’s even harder for me to imagine we are heading into twenty years of this century. Yet, here we are racking up the birthdays and still having fun. Before we get into our travel plans for 2020, we need to finish our 2019 Fall Tour. So, on to Tucson, Arizona, Part Two.

An hour drive south on Interstate 19 from Tucson led us to Tubac Presidio Historic State Park. The park preserves the oldest Spanish Presidio site in Arizona where visitors can roam through the gardens, walk around the foundation ruins, peek inside historic buildings, and step down into the Tubac Presidio Archaeological Excavation Exhibit.

Tubac Presidio State Park Visitor Center

The Pima Indians (or Akimel O’odham) occupied the territory for thousands of years relying on farming, hunting, gathering, and trading to provide food and shelter to sustain their way of life. In 1752, New Spain established San Ignacio de Tubac to protect settlers from Apaches and Seris, control the Pimas, and expand west.

Display along the walkway

Then Mexico gained control in 1821 at the end of the Spanish War for Independence. The land transferred to the US under the Gadsen Purchase in 1853 and became part of the New Mexico Territory. The Confederate States of America claimed control in 1862.

Fruit Orchard on site

Finally, on February 24, 1863, President Lincoln signed legislation officially recognizing the US Arizona Territory, and in 1912, Arizona earned statehood.

Herb and vegetable raised beds

Tubac Historical Events

 Juan Bautista de Anza III traveled through the region in 1776 while on an expedition to found the City of San Francisco in California. Sixty-three people from Tubac joined the party on their trek increasing the number of colonists to 240 and taking with them 1,000 head of livestock, horses, and mules.

Barrel cactus at the end of its blooming season

Attacks by the Apache forced many of the remaining Tubac settlers north to Tucson, leaving the presidio deserted and in ruins.

Blooming creosote bush

In 1856, Charles DeBrille Poston arrived from Texas with 300 miners and set up his Sonora Mining & Exploring Company headquarters at the presidio. The company abandoned the site during the Civil War and the Union Army moved in.

Agave Victoria Regina

The park exists today due to the generous donation of the first parcels by Frank and Olga Griffin on December 21, 1957. The donated land included the foundation of the Spanish Presidio. William Morrow also donated property and encouraged other residents to donate adjacent properties to the Park’s Board. Additional property donations allowed for a new visitor center and museum. Three of the properties are of historic significance: the 1885 Old School, the 1914 Otero School, and the 1890 Rojas House.

1880s Schoolhouse

Billed as Arizona’s first state park on the park’s website, the Tubac Presidio Historic State Park was dedicated and opened on September 28, 1958. Since the “great recession” of 2007 to 2009, the Friends of the Tubac Presidio and Museum has operated the park and visitor center with volunteers.

Schoolhouse along the walking path

A walking path took us through cactus, fruit trees, vegetables, and one of the oldest schools in Arizona. Inside the school are period classroom desks and educational displays.

The rocks outline the west wall of the presidio. Redish colored structure in the background is the archaeological excavation site.

Don’t miss the archaeology excavation exhibit where the layers of time are shown along with a small display of artifacts found during the excavation.

Below ground in the archaeological excavation site

Unfortunately, none of the original building remains above ground, however, there are a few other adobe ruins, which date after presidio’s establishment.

Adobe ruins at Tubac
This adobe building is protected by stucco

We missed out on seeing the museum because it was closed due to repairs, so maybe we’ll make it back to the presidio in the future.

This arrastra replica shows how silver and gold ore were ground and pulverized.

The state park is not the only attraction in Tubac. There are plenty of galleries, arts and crafts, and gift shops to browse through along with restaurants for food and beverages. We stopped in at Soto’s Outpost to curb our craving for Mexican food and were not disappointed.

Soto’s Outpost

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Museum is somewhat of a misnomer since 85% of the displays are outdoors and cover ninety-eight acres. With a botanical garden, zoo exhibits, art gallery and institute, natural history museum, and aquarium, visitors will find plenty to pique their interest.

How do birds prevent hurting themselves on the cactus spines?

William H. Carr, with support from his friend and the museum’s initial benefactor, Arthur Pack, founded the museum in 1952. Docents contribute more than 75,000 hours annually to the museum.

Does anyone know the name of this specimen?

Two miles of walking paths provide opportunities to view the types of animals and plants that inhabit the Sonoran Desert, a mineral collection, conservation and research programs, and an art institute. As if that amount of diversity is not enough to track, the ASDM Press has also produced over 40 books and guides on the natural and cultural history of the Sonoran desert region.

Both paved and gravel pathways wind their way through the museum

From the desert grasslands to the mountain woodlands, the museum highlights the ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert region with 1,200 different types of plants and 56,000 individual specimens. Visitors can walk through Cat Canyon and observe bobcats, a porcupine, grey fox, and an ocelot in their natural settings. Or, head to the Riparian Corridor for a glimpse at a river otter, beavers, bighorn sheep, and coatis. The Reptile, Amphibian & Invertebrate Hall is a great place to escape the outdoor heat.

View of the valley from the museum

Our favorites were the Raptor Free Flight and the Hummingbird Aviary. Although the weather was warm, we stood corralled between metal barriers among other spectators and waited for the raptors to appear.

Barn owl flying in for the show
Aren’t I pretty?

An announcer explained about the birds while they flew over the crowd between their handlers who crouched close to the ground or stood with outstretched arm gloved hands. Cameras and phones worked double-time to capture the birds in flights.

Harris’s hawk looking for prey
Where’s the meat?
Ready or not, here I come.
King of the tree.
Gray hawk on take off
Hmmm. What should I do now?

The Hummingbird Aviary was a similar experience. At first we didn’t see the small birds, then little by little they appeared, flitting from tree to bush and back to tree. Standing in place gave us the best advantage to capture the little buggers in a photo.

Sweet little hummingbird
What you lookin’ at?

Two restaurants—Ocotillo Café for fine dining and Ironwood Terrace for a casual food-court setting—are on site. Additional snack shops and refillable water stations are also available.

Wall decoration in the Ocotillo Café

As we wrap up this Tucson visit, we see why visitors call Tucson their home during the winter months. I’m sure we’ll find an occasion to stop there again when wandering around the Southwest.

Next stop: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Wishing everyone safe travels in 2020 and beyond.

Jon & Linda Todd

Tucson, Arizona – Part One

I love pulling into Rincon Country East RV Resort in Tucson. On October 22, 2019, the towering palm trees planted throughout the resort became visible from about a ½ mile away. After stopping at the security kiosk, we drove to the office where the “Welcome Home” banner greeted us, making us feel like we belonged.

Sunburst in the palms

Only a few winter visitors had arrived so there were plenty of sites the office could have assigned to us. Lucky us, we got a special one. We were almost set up when, Yikes! Ants! Not again!

The ant infestation we had battled for three weeks after leaving San Diego had ceased only two days before arriving in Tucson. Within a few minutes of my complaint, a maintenance person drove up in his cart and sprinkled ant poison around. As a safeguard, Jon used Comet around the jack stands and anywhere a cable or hose touched the ground. Those precautions did the trick and we enjoyed an ant-free trip for the rest of our travels.

Rincon Country RV Resort East

Although we have visited Tucson before, we still found plenty of places to go and things to do. First up, I twisted Jon’s arm to take over the blog for the next section.

Pima Air & Space Museum

Hi, Jon here with a few words about the Pima Air & Space Museum. While in Tucson and having driven right by the Monthan Air Force Base and the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group many times, I often wanted to check out the area a bit closer. It is amazing to see row after row of the mothballed C-130 military transport aircraft for as far as the eye can see. Since Linda wasn’t that interested in the aircraft, I headed out to the southern end of the Base for a look at the Pima Air & Space Museum.

Pima Air & Space Museum Entrance

There are two ways to see the museum with its five hangers, the surrounding flight lines, and other buildings: The docent-led tours on a tram and self-guided walking tours. I chose the self-guided tour. This place is massive and I was only able to cover about half of it.

A few aircraft there brought back memories for me. In Vietnam, we used to follow, in our tanks and ACAV (armored cavalry assault vehicle), and were directed into contact with the enemy by our squadron commander who flew at treetop level in one of these “Loaches.”

The Hughes OH-6A (Light Observation Helicopter) commonly referred to as “Loach”

Many times we called for air support from a Cobra.  It was awesome to watch a Cobra work out with a mini-gun and rockets.

The Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter

The F-4 Phantoms were the next level of close air support and frightening to see how much damage they could unleash with their various high explosives or napalm drops.

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom fighter bomber

These were just a few of the aircraft that I witnessed being used when I was in Vietnam.

There are also aircraft from WWII Army and Navy as well as Air Force too. One of the highlights for me was the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. It was impossible to get the whole thing in the photo, but I did manage to at least squeeze the nose, cockpit, and a portion of one engine. Sitting on the yellow lift is a drone.

SR-71 Blackbird Spy Plane.

The information that is posted with all the aircraft is very complete and if there’s anything that you don’t understand there are docents close by that are happy to explain.

One building that I will need to return to is the 390th Memorial Museum.  This entire building is dedicated to WWII history presented through the deeply personal stories of the 390th Bomb Group personnel.  These are the aviators that flew hundreds of bombing missions in B-17 flying fortresses over Germany.

B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber

I spent the better part of a day and realized I would need to return someday to see the rest of the museum. Back to Linda.

Linda here. It sounds like another stop in Tucson is definitely in our future. Until then, here is another place we explored. The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block encompasses an entire block in historic downtown Tucson.

Tucson Museum of Art Entrance

Established in 1924 as the Tucson Fine Arts Association, it was renamed the Tucson Art Center in 1954 to more align with its new mission dedicated to education and exhibition of art. A final name change in 1975 further defined the museum’s collecting activities.

As with most museums, the building itself is a work of art. The concrete structure switchbacks its way from the lower levels to the upper.

Walkway to the upper floor

Current exhibitions include Art of Latin America, Art of the American West, Modern and Contemporary Art, Folk Art, and Asian Art, to name a few. Visitors can take advantage of tours, educational programs, studio art classes, and a museum store.

Construction of a 6,000 square-foot gallery was underway during our visit. This new wing will house the Kasser family’s extensive Latin American art collection, some of which are works of pre-Columbian art. I. Michael Kasser, a Tucson business leader and trustee of the museum, donated $2.5 million toward the capital fundraising campaign.

Here are a few pieces that caught my eye while wandering through the museum:

Oaxacan Folk Art
Oaxacan Fok Art
The Rampage, 1953 by William R. Leigh
Woman with Shawl, ca. 1992 by Tim Nicola
Conception, 1991 by Frank Howell
Glory Bound/Woody Guthrie, 2004 by Jim Vogel
Synchroneity, 2005 by Jim Waid
Resurrection Story with Patrons, 2017 by Kara Walker
The Night Herders, no date by Olaf Wieghorst
Passing Storm, Grand Canyon by Thomas Moran

The museum is also the caretaker of five historic properties: La Casa Cordova, Romero House, Edward Nye Fish House, Stevens/Duffield House, and J. Knox Corbett House. Visitors can tour the Corbett House with a docent.

When we finished exploring the museum it was well past lunch so we ducked into La Cocina Cantina, which was offering a Sunday Brunch complete with DJ on hand to entertain the patrons.

Mik and the Funky Brunch kept us entertained
La Cocina Cantina after the brunch rush

Coming up after New Year’s are other places we visited during our 2019 adventures in Tuscon when we’ll be back to feature the Tubac Presidio Historic State Park and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

From our house to yours, we wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with safe travels, hiking, and exploring these United States and throughout the rest of the world.

Jon and Linda Todd

Phoenix, Arizona – Part Two

We addressed the botanical garden and historical pioneer museum in Part One of our Phoenix, Arizona, post which you can see here. There were so many sightseeing opportunities we could not possibly take in all of them, but we did manage a few.

Cave Creek and Carefree are quaint communities about 35 miles north of Phoenix where visitors are treated to a western-style town and mid-twentieth-century architecture.

Cave Creek had a population of 5,015 in the 2010 census. Its motto is “Where the Wild West Lives.” When I learned Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, had a home in Cave Creek, I wondered if there was something in the surrounding area that inspired her to write about vampires.

We stopped in at Harold’s Cave Creek Corral for lunch. Harold’s is one of several historic buildings in the town. Enjoy Wild West Days activities, comedy shows, and live music at this western-style establishment. Or, drop in at Buffalo Chip Saloon and Steakhouse for dancing, suds, and a mini-rodeo. Bikers will be right at home at The Roadhouse, which serves typical pub food. They also have pool tables.

Heading east on Cave Creek Road we came to the town of Carefree, which had a population of 3,363 in the 2010 census. Conceived as a master-planned community in the 1950s, Carefree incorporated in 1984 to avoid annexation by Scottsdale.

The third-largest sundial in the western hemisphere is located in Carefree. Designed by architect Joe Wong and solar engineer John I. Yellott, the sundial was erected in Circle Plaza in 1959. The steel frame that points to the North Star is covered by anodized copper. It measures 90 feet (27 m) in diameter, stands 35 feet (11 m) above the plaza, and extends 72 feet (22 m).

The Carefree Sundial

Artists were busily setting up The Enchanted Pumpkin Garden display for Halloween. We had fun walking around snapping photos of the early birds who had already prepared for the event.

Hey, bartender. I’ll have another.

Carefree once was home to Southwestern Studios. The complex included three sound stages, edit bays, a 35-mm screening room, make-up, production facilities, western streets, and a backlot.

Various television programs (New Dick Van Dyke Show) and movies (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) were filmed there. Dick Van Dyke is believed to still own a home in Carefree.

Woo-hoo, it’s party time.

No one thought much of the historical value of the studio so developers razed it in 1999 and turned the once pristine desert into a retail space and residential development.

Even aliens get into the act at the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden

Old Town Scottsdale was an interesting place to visit and have lunch. We selected The Mission for our meal and it was a great choice. I especially liked the Apollo A La Brasa tacos.

The Mission is aptly named since it is next door to the Old Adobe Mission. A group was preparing for a wedding so we only had a few minutes to snap a couple photos inside the church.

Old Adobe Mission
Inside Old Adobe Mission
Stain glass windows inside Old Adobe Mission

Baseball fans will recognize Scottsdale as spring training country for the fifteen teams that comprise the Cactus League. The Baltimore Orioles was the first team to train in Scottsdale during the 1950s.

Howdy, pardner.

The free Old Town Trolley was a great way to tour this section of Scottsdale as it makes its way around the 45-minute loop. Visitors will find shops of all kinds, sculptures, monuments, museums, and hotels in the district.

No, this wasn’t the trolley. These folks pedaled their way down the street on this BYOB bar.

In downtown Phoenix, we toured the Rosson House Museum, which is located in the Heritage and Science Park across the street from Arizona State University.

Historic Heritage Square
The old and the new. ASU is across the street from the Rosson House.
Concord style buggy

The Rosson House is the only remaining home of what once was the heart of the city. A docent tour of the 2,800 square foot Eastlake Victorian style home, built in 1895 by Dr. and Mrs. Roland Rosson, gives visitors a taste of what it was like to live in Phoenix in the late 1800s.

The Rosson House complex. The visitor center is located in the carriage house to the right.

After losing block after block to the demolition of the once-stately homes, volunteers saved this one on Block 14 and created the park.

Entry stairwell inside the Rosson House
I thought it clever that an architect incorporated landscaping into the design of this parking structure. It’s definitely more appealing than a concrete wall.
We thought this stove quite small for a large family in the Rosson House.
Our docent talks about the medical tools Dr. Rosson may have used while living in the house.
Fragile looking rocker and sewing basket.
A wedding circle quilt makes this bed look cozy and comfy.
This nook with two windows made a perfect spot for a sewing machine.
A built-in hutch and ornate mantelpiece decorate the dining room

Now that Jon could walk more than a few feet before having to stop, we followed the road a half-mile to Cornish Pasty Company where we had a good lunch.

Good eats at Cornish Pasty Company
Me eating lunch at Cornish Pasty Company
A clever person figured out how to make the letters embedded in concrete change colors.

On our way to and from lunch, a couple of buildings caught my eye.

Saint Mary’s Basilica
Reflections in the Chase Tower glass

We checked out Lake Pleasant Regional Park for future reference. We thought the campground would be a nice place to stay for a few days especially if we lucked out getting one of the sites that overlook the lake. Developed sites for camping include electric and water hook-ups, dump station access, restrooms, picnic tables, and grills.

One of two marinas at Lake Pleasant

Besides camping, the park offers boating, fishing, hiking, picnicking, scuba diving, and swimming.  At the Discovery Center visitors can learn about the people who lived in the area as far back as 2000 years ago. During a study of the Lake Pleasant area, scientists found five archeological sites that included a defensive structure, a stone workshop, a farmhouse, and two small villages, which were occupied during A.D. 700 to 1450.

Dry camping is also available at Lake Pleasant Regional Park. I’m not sure I want to be that close to the lake with my RV.
Roadrunner Campground at Lake Pleasant Regional Park

While traveling Interstate 17 north of Black Canyon City,  we pulled into the Sunset Point Scenic Overlook for some amazing views and a look at the sundial memorial. This rest stop has plenty of room to stretch your legs with short trails to the overlooks. While here we saw our third sundial in the Phoenix area.

Tribute to ADOT employees “who died while serving the citizens of the State of Arizona.”
Travelers will find restrooms and vending machines at the buildings.
One of the overlooks at Sunset Scenic Overlook rest stop

That concludes our time in Phoenix, but I’m sure we will be back someday. There are plenty more museums to visit and trails to hike.

Stay tuned for our third visit to Tucson, Arizona, coming up next.

Safe travels