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

Phoenix, Arizona – Part One

Phoenix, Arizona – Part One

Temperatures cooled ten degrees in the Phoenix valley so we left Payson on Sunday, October 13, 2019, and headed into the metropolis. We had been avoiding the big city the past few years, so it was time to stop and visit family and meet new friends.

On our drive to Phoenix, we were impressed that a couple of Westys kept up with us. They’d pull away on the downhills and we’d catch them on the inclines. Climbing a particularly steep grade, we had to pass and leave them behind.

We also marveled at the amount of saguaros marching up the hills.

Ingrid from Live Laugh RV (livelaughrv.net) recommended Pioneer RV Park as a place to stay in the Phoenix area. We enjoyed our stay so much we extended a couple of days. The best part was sharing a couple of happy hours and dinners with Ingrid and Al. Thanks, guys. We had a great time talking with you two.

Our nephews on my side of the family, Scott and Jared, picked us up for dinner one night. It was fun catching up with them and meeting Scott’s better half Leslie and their daughter Alycia. I hope we can stop for another visit soon.

Our next family visit was with our niece, Kelly, and her family on Jon’s side. I promised myself on this trip I would take photos of people. Not quite in the habit, I left my camera at the trailer, so no photos of Kelly and her family. We had a delicious dinner at her house, though. I enjoyed talking with her granddaughter about all her toys (oh, so many toys) and meeting Kelly’s husband and mother-in-law. I even warmed up to the dogs, as long as they didn’t get too close. My fear of strange dogs has not abated, especially when they growl and bark; however, I can tolerate them once I get to know them.

Kelly and her husband are both in real estate. Who better to ask about all the new construction we had seen? We learned that 200 people a day moved into the greater Phoenix area from 2017 to 2018 and Maricopa County—home to Phoenix—was the fastest-growing county in the U.S. No wonder we saw so many housing developments pop up like mushrooms from the desert floor.

Sightseeing is always at the top of our “to do” list and Phoenix was no exception. Below are a few of the places we visited. The rest will come in Part Two.

Desert Botanical Garden

The behind-the-scene docent tour at the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden was a treat. One of only twenty-four botanical gardens accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the garden operates with 106 regular staff and approximately 730 volunteers donating 67,364 hours of their time. They have 55 acres under cultivation containing 4,482 species in the living collection and care for 39 rare and endangered species. The photos below are a small sample of what a visitor will see.

The three light-green tree-like structures are Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. The colorful prairie dogs—made from recyclable plastic—are part of the 1,000 animal sculpture exhibit by Wild Rising by Cracking Art. They will be on display through May 10, 2020.

The doors opened to the public in 1939, but World War II halted activity in 1942. A visitor center opened in 1961 and over the years, a library and butterfly exhibit were added. Multimillion-dollar expansions led to research facilities and a desert landscape school.

A group of frogs watched us while we ate lunch under the entry arbor.

The garden is open daily; however, check the website for early or all-day closings. Tours are offered from September through May, the best time to visit. June, July, and August are too hot to walk on the concrete and gravel paths.

The water feature and shade gave us a respite from the heat.
If we weren’t away from home so much, I’d love for my backyard to look like the Steele Herb Garden.
A sundial in the backyard would be cool too.

We enjoyed watching the butterflies in The Butterfly Pavilion. Some of them flitted around so fast we could barely see them, while others landed on flowers and spread their wings as if posing for a photo.

Soon to be butterflies.
Five little butterflies posing for a photo.
Desert scene with prickly pear, barrel cactus, agave, saguaro, and senita. Wait a minute. Where did those little green penguins come from?
Play nice.
Crested saguaro
Replica of an Apache household of old
Blooming barrel cactus
Desert oasis
I liked the fall colors on this plant. Anyone know what it’s called?
Outdoor desert landscaping lab
Reclaimed cement blocks turned to art in this wall feature.
The shade over the greenhouse roof combats the summer sun and protects the specimens.
Inside one of the many greenhouses with an array of specimens.
Cactus, cactus everywhere

We definitely recommend spending a morning or afternoon at the Desert Botanical Garden. Come for the cactus and stay for the art, music, and culinary activities.

Pioneer Living History Museum

While Jon watched football, I went to the Pioneer Living History Museum.  Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the 90-acre property depicts the Arizona territorial period between 1863 and 1912. Some of the buildings are authentic and others are historically accurate reproductions. The museum is a popular place for weddings, field trips for schoolchildren, and special events. Preparations for the All Hallows’ Eve event were in process during my visit.

Pioneer Living History Museum
On certain days, gun shows are presented.
The Merritt Farm complex lets visitors imagine living on a farm in the late 1800s. The house, water tower, granary, and carriage house are all original buildings preserved and restored to depict the early 1900s.
The three-room Meritt House with detached “summer” kitchen. Kitchens were in a separate building to keep the heat from invading the main house during hot summer days.
A glimpse of a bedroom and dining room inside the Merrit House.
An 1800s commercial building housing an exhibit hall and a dress shop.
So much equipment used for printing. Today printing isn’t needed, just open the laptop, type, and send.
Vehicles on display in the carriage house.
Children will like panning for gold.
I wanted to take a look inside this little cabin up on a hill. Then I saw the sign below.
When in Arizona, one must scan all paths in search of snakes. Luckily, we saw none.
Looks like a great place for children to play tag or other old fashioned games.
The church is used for weddings.
Plenty of seating inside.
William Gordon and his family used this original building before it became a school. The school operated from 1885 to 1930. The dunce cap must stir up lively conversations among school children.
Skeleton waiting for All Hallow’s Eve.
The Flying V cabin, with gun ports, is an original building built around 1880. The builder, John Tewksbury, is notable for his participation in the Pleasant Valley War.
Senator Henry Fountain Ashurst grew up in this original 1878 Ashurst Cabin. Ashurst earned the name “Silver-tongued Orator of Congress.” While I peeked inside to take a photo, the wind came up and wrapped the black cloth around me. Luckily, no one was around to hear my scream.
Modest accommodations with all the necessities and a leaky roof.
This house is a McMansion compared to some of the cabins.
Quiet down out there, I’m trying to sleep.
This guy’s been hanging around for way too long.

On some days, costumed interpreters dressed as cowboys, lawmen, miners, gunmen, and Victorian ladies roam the grounds, which must make the town come alive.

Stay tuned for more sightseeing in the greater Phoenix area, including visits to Cave Creek and Carefree, Old Town Scottsdale, Rosson House Museum, and Lake Pleasanton Regional Park.

Safe Travels

Payson, Arizona, Part Two

Payson, Arizona, Part Two

The Payson visitor center and Payson Ranger District office loaded us up with so many pamphlets and maps I knew we’d never see it all in the week we had allotted. The following are sights we managed to fit into our schedule from October 6 – 12, 2019.

Pine, Arizona

A 20-minute drive from Payson on scenic route 260 takes drivers along a road with wonderful views of the mountains and forest, past the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park (more about the park later), and into Pine, Arizona. Four Mormon families established Pine in 1879. The 2010 census showed approximately 1,963 residents. This compares to Payson, which had a population of 15,301.

“Open house” signs enticed us to follow the arrows. We weren’t in the market to buy, just playing lookie-loos. A family of elk crossed the road in front of us so we stopped to wait for them to pass. Another car came up behind us. They didn’t have patience for the elk and drove around. We could almost hear the epithets they hurled our way as they zoomed by. Where we live, we stop for deer and wild turkeys on the road. It’s better than running into them and wrecking our vehicle.

The elk made it safely across the road

Strawberry/Pine Fall Festival

After touring the house, we found the main road lined with trucks and cars, and people walking around. “Oh, look. Kettle corn,” we said in unison. The popcorn vendor wasn’t sure what was going on, but the banner across the road advertised The Strawberry/Pine Fall Festival, so we walked down the street, peeked in a few antique and craft stores, and cruised the vendor booths. The limited storage space in the fifth wheel prevents us from buying stuff while traveling. I did splurge on a few bookmarks, though.

Judy Bottler had photo bookmarks for sale at the Strawberry/Pine Fall Festival

Three miles further north is Strawberry, which is even smaller than Pine. They claimed 961 residents in 2010. Many of the houses, cabins, and cottages in both Strawberry and Pine are vacation homes or rentals, which increases the population at times.

Strawberry, Arizona

In Strawberry we stumbled upon the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona. District #33 in Strawberry Valley was established in 1884 and still stands in the same place where it was built.

Strawberry School House

Besides a school, the building served as a meeting place, social center, and a church. Closed in June of 1916, by 1961 only the log frame remained.

School bell

On August 15, 1981, the Pine/Strawberry Archaeological and Historical Society dedicated the structure as a Historical Monument after they renovated the school. It is open to the public from May through mid-October on weekends and holidays. https://www.pinestrawhs.org/schoolhouse.html

Furnishings inside the schoolhouse

Driving through Strawberry, Pine, and even Payson, we noted homes hidden among shrubs and trees. This is what Paradise, California, must have looked like before fire wiped out the entire town in November 2018. Only a few residents in these communities had protected their homes from fire. Did most of the occupants not get the memo to create a defensible space zone around their home, or did they choose to ignore it? I could easily see how the entire communities of Strawberry and Pine could go up in smoke. I wish them well and pray it never happens.

Pine View Loop Trail

The Pine View Loop trail wraps around a hill for 2.8 miles. Wandering through piñon and ponderosa pines, and alligator junipers, Jon made it without trekking poles along the up and down trail with occasional switchbacks. This was his longest hike yet after his sciatic pain had disappeared.

Jon ditched his trekking poles for this hike.
This is the bark of an alligator juniper

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

After thirty years on the State Parks Board priority list and a few approvals by the state legislature to purchase the land, lack of funding delayed natural bridge becoming a state park. The board finally purchased the 160 acres on October 1, 1990, and the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park held its grand opening celebration on June 29, 1991.

Tonto Natural Bridge

Believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, the 400-foot long tunnel contains turquoise pools fed by a natural spring. The park offers several short trails making this a perfect place to bring young children.

Watch for slippery rock

We managed steep hills and a scramble over huge boulders and rocks along the Anna Mae Trail. The trail ends at the cavern under the bridge.

The trekking poles came in handy on the boulders and slick rock

While working my way over the boulders to reach the opening, I passed a woman sketching on a pad. We spoke a few words and I found a spot to sit and take photos. A few minutes later, the woman, Kathy Mann from Canada, asked if she could use my camera to take a photo of me sitting on the boulder.

Photo taken by Kathy Mann with my camera

Without thinking, I handed over my Sony and turned my back. After several minutes, I turned around to see if she was still there. She said, “Just a few more.”

I’m used to taking photos, not modeling for them, but if I could help an artist in her work, I was glad to do it. I sent the photos to her a few days later and hope to one day see her creation. Her paintings emote a sense of calm and peace. If you are interested in seeing her work, go to kathymannfineart.com.

Waterfall Trail is about 300 feet long and ends at a waterfall wall. A walk down approximately 120 steps takes visitors to an extremely narrow and short space to view water flowing out of the side of the cliff. More than five people created a huge crowd, making it difficult to maneuver. Kids will most likely enjoy the cool spray from the falls on a hot day. For us, it was a disappointment.

“But, I want to stay here where it’s cool.”

The short trails to the third and fourth overlooks provided additional views of the bridge. At the fourth overlook, Jon pointed out the hole in the walkway where you can look through the grates to see the water from the bridge top. It wasn’t that spectacular, but at least it was something different.

The backside of the Tonto Bridge, or is it the front?
The Gowan Trail was closed to hikers
Through the grate at the top of the bridge

Mogollon Rim

Mogollon Rim (pronounced mōgə-yōn, mo-go-yawn, or muggy-on, depending on your source) is a 200-mile geological formation composed primarily of limestone and sandstone. It runs across Arizona from northern Yavapai County in the west to the New Mexico border in the east and forms the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. Piñon pines, junipers, and ponderosa forests abound on the plateau.

Mogollon Rim

North of Strawberry is Arizona Forest Road (FR) 300, a dirt and gravel road that skirts the Rim for 43.3 miles from State Route 87 to State Route 260. FR 300 intersects with the General Crook Trail, a historic wagon route used in the 1870s and 1880s to provide logistical support for General George Crook in the U.S. Army’s war against the Apaches. Since we started our day too late to drive the entire route, we settled on checking out a few spots on the west end to get a feel for what the road had to offer.

A little bit of fall

Land south of the Mogollon has an elevation between 4,000 and 5,000 feet while the plateau rises to 8,000 feet.

We saw plenty of trees with their tops loped off

The forest is the last place I’d expect to see a typewriter. But there it was as if someone staged it just for me to come take a photo.

This typewriter has seen better days

Another day we drove out to the east end where parts of the rim are visible from the highway without driving on dirt roads. The visitor’s center had already closed for the season so we snapped a few pics and climbed back in the truck.

The valley below Mogollon Rim

We stopped in at The Tonto Creek State Fish Hatchery located 21 miles east of Payson off Route 260 on Tonto Creek Road. Although the visitor center had already closed for the season, the building was open.

Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery

Displays inside gave information about how the fish eggs are imported from other hatcheries and grown at this facility. The Work Projects Administration (WPA) originally built the hatchery in the early 1930s for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

I think they need a new life ring

The hatchery’s expertise is hatching and growing trout eggs to three-inch fingerlings and nine-inch catchable fish. Once matured, approximately 165,000 rainbow trout, 400,000 brook and cutthroat trout, and 150,000 Apache trout are stocked in Arizona waters.

Stream at the watershed

That wraps up our time in Payson, Arizona. For those who can’t take the Phoenix heat in the summer, Payson seems to be a good place to cool off and enjoy the Rim Country great outdoors.

As our time in Payson ended, we turned our focus on Phoenix and visits with family and friends.

Safe Travels

Payson, Arizona, Part One

We left the nearly 100-degree temperatures in Gila Bend for cooler weather in Payson, Arizona, on October 6, 2019. When our escort led us to the rear of Payson Campground and RV Resort, we cheered. Another week without freeway noise sounded good to us. The dusty roads and campsites surrounded by tall hedges and trees made us feel like we were in a National Forest campground.

Campsite at Payson Campground and RV Resort

Green Valley Park and Lakes

One of the highlights of Payson is the Green Valley Park and Lakes. The 45-acre property is home to the Rim Country Museum, the reproduction of the Zane Grey Cabin, and the Haught Family Cabin. Anglers are welcome to fish the well-stocked lake, sailors with non-gas powered vessels are invited to glide across the calm waters, and bird lovers will enjoy the waterfowl that live in the area or visit during their migration.

Green Valley Park Lake

Walkers, runners, and parents with children in strollers find the 1-mile concrete trail around the large lake and the amphitheater a great place to enjoy a bit of exercise. Children even have access to a playground.

Green Valley Park

The amphitheater is used for the 4th of July and Memorial Day events, summer concerts, and as we found out during our visit, the Annual Beeline Cruise-In Car Show.

Green Valley Park amphitheater

When we heard about the car show, we didn’t expect much. Cars had arrived from Phoenix and other Arizona locations as well as from neighboring states. Someone made an announcement over the PA system that this year’s event was the largest ever. They had slots for 225 cars but ended up with over 240. Fortunately, the group was able to accommodate everyone who arrived. Jon and I spent about two hours gawking at the classic cars and snapping photos.

If you’re not interested in photos of classic cars, just roll on down the page.

The Halloween Roadster
Ah, there’s the boy that made the music play, skulls rattle, and dog bark.
Delivery sedan
Mad Max car
Chevy Apache stepside pickup
Family picnic time
1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Country Club Convertible
At the Carhop
My first car was a white two-door 1970 Datsun 510 with a black vinyl top. I wanted the butterscotch color, but it wasn’t in stock. Fifteen years later when I could afford the aftermarket paint job it was time for a new car.
1980s icon Bob’s Big Boy
Jon owned a blue 1963 Volkswagen bug with a ragtop moon roof.
Payson’s first firetruck. The museum is taking donations for a restoration project.
Jon also owned a Metro after he crashed his 1955 Chevy
I don’t think this Jeep spends much time 4-wheeling

Taking photos with someone proves that photographers put their own personal spin on their photos. Jon took pics of the cars with their hoods up, showing off the power plant and/or the wheels and tires, while I took pics of quirky autos like the Mad Max, the Halloween Roadster, and Carhop.

Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin Tours

 The Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin are only viewed through a docent-led tour. Sadly, no photos are allowed inside the museum or cabin, and the museum’s website does not contain any photos. Only people lucky enough to travel to Payson and take the tours get to see the wonderful displays and artifacts inside. It is a small space, and I understand they need to limit how many people enter the museum. However, it would be nice if they shared their images so more people can enjoy the exhibits. Perhaps someday they can record a tour or take photos to post on their website.

The first National Forest Ranger building. Through the door and window are displays of objects used years ago.

The displays included artifacts and stories about ancient civilizations that populated the Rim Country, continued with early settlers, the June 1990 Dude Fire that took the lives of six firefighters and destroyed the original Zane Grey cabin, and a feud deadlier than the Hatfield-McCoy feud. The Pleasant Valley War (also known as Tonto Basin Feud, Tonto Basin War, or Tewksbury-Graham Feud) racked up an estimated death toll of 35 – 50 from 1882-1892, while 13 people died during the Hatfield-McCoy feud. For those interested in learning more, Wikipedia has detailed information on the conflict, and Zane Grey based his novel entitled To The Last Man: A Story of the Pleasant Valley War on the war.

Reproduction of Zane Grey’s Cabin

Through architectural plans, the historical society was able to recreate the Zane Grey hunting cabin. The structure contained one large room that served more like a meeting room than a place to sleep and cook. In fact, there were no facilities for cooking and sleeping. The hunters must have cooked and slept outside in tents.

Zane Grey Cabin replica

The docent-led tour of the Zane Grey Cabin included historical background of the author ‘s life, his time in Rim Country, and his career as an author. Grey’s books line the shelves and his typewriter sits prominently on the desk. Apparently, years after Grey’s death, his wife was cleaning out and giving away belongings. She gifted the typewriter to a young man who worked for her. He kept the typewriter safe for many years until one day he arrived and donated it to the museum.

The Haught Cabin

The Haught cabin is also on the premises at Green Valley Park and Lakes. Imagine living in a 10’ by 18’ dirt-floor cabin without windows with five children and a mother-in-law. That is what Sarah Haught did after she and her husband Henry arrived in the Arizona Territory from Oklahoma in 1897. Territorial settlers sure were hardy folk.

Haught Cabin
The cabin is staged inside as if only one person lived there, not eight. Did hammocks hang from the walls?

When the nearby spring dried up, they took apart their little cabin and moved it to Little Green Valley where they settled next. Years later, Henry and Sarah’s daughter continued the family tradition by living in the log cabin with her husband Henry Garrels and their 5 sons. When Larry Hammon acquired the property in 1999, he contacted the Rim Country Museum to see if they were interested in relocating the structure. Again, the cabin was dismantled and then rebuilt where it now stands next to the museum.

Restaurants

While in Payson, one must eat, so we tried out a few local restaurants. We stopped in for lunch at Miss Fitz 260 Café. I had a cheeseburger with potato salad (with bacon, yum), and Jon chose chicken fried steak. We both enjoyed our meals with Arnold Palmers.

We felt privileged that Duza’s Kitchen had room for us at lunch. The comments about Mensur Duzic, the owner and executive chef, and her restaurant in Phoenix were glowing, and previous customers promised a drive to Payson for her food. The turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwich on Asiago bread was delicious.

Duza’s Kitchen
Mensur Duzic is the woman on the left

Fargo’s Steakhouse was the perfect setting for celebrating the one-year anniversary of my surgery and Jon’s pain-free back and recovery from Bell’s Palsy. The menu offered so many choices that they are sure to please everyone’s palate. We enjoyed good food, great service, and best of all, spending our special day together.

Fargo’s Steakhouse has much more than steak

That’s enough for now. Stay tuned for next week’s post when we venture outside the city limits.

Safe Travels