Archive for the ‘Spring 2013’ Category

A Visit from our Sister

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Arizona

Verde Valley and Casa Grande

May 24 through May 26, 2013

Our sister, AnnaMarie, flew in for a whirlwind visit over Memorial Day Weekend.  She flew in on Friday on Allegiant Airways landing at Phoenix Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona. This airport is much smaller and less busy than Phoenix International.   I picked her up at the airport at about 8 p.m., and we drove  to a motel located just north of the city.  After a dinner of food and laughter at Denny’s, we headed for bed knowing that we would be getting an early start the next morning.

On Saturday, we were up and on our way to tour Montezuma Castle in the Verde Valley of Arizona.

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Montezuma Castle was built by the Sinagua People who lived in the area from about 1100 to about 1450 AD.   It is located above Beaver Creek in the Verde Valley of Arizona.   The Sinagua built the Castle out of fieldstones that are held together with a mortar of mud and clay.  A fieldstone is a rock that has not been worked or that has been worked only to the extent that it is broken off from a larger piece.  The Sinagua also used logs as support beams and covered the entire structure with three or four inches or mud and clay. 

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The name “Montezuma Castle” was coined erroneously by early white settlers who mistakenly believed that the ruins were associated with the Aztec ruler, Montezuma.  Actually, the Castle was deserted before Montezuma was even born.  President Theodore Roosevelt declared Montezuma Castle a national monument in 1906. 

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The dwellers reached the Castle via a series of ladders that were placed from level to level.  Until the 1950’s, tourists were allowed to climb up to the Castle.  It was closed to visitation due to damage and vandalism, but the sight from down below is awesome in itself.

There were also dwellings built off to the side of the Castle, and below it in the valley floor.

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The remnants of a dwelling on the valley floor

The remnants of a dwelling on the valley floor

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek

After wandering through the visitor center, we headed on down the road to Montezuma’s Well which is located about eleven miles from Montezuma Castle.

Montezuma’s Well is a sinkhole caused by the collapse of an underground limestone cavern filled with water.  More than a million gallons of water a day flow continuously through the well which measures 368 feet across and 55 feet deep.  It is fed by underground springs.  The well empties into Beaver Creek. 

AnnaMarie on the trail to Montezuma's Well.

AnnaMarie on the trail to Montezuma’s Well.

Montezuma's Well

Montezuma’s Well

The Sinagua People built dwellings just under the lip of the well and all around its banks.  They diverted some of the water flowing from the well into miles of canals used to irrigate crops.  Some of these canals are still in use today.

Dwellings just under the lip of the Well.

Dwellings just under the lip of the Well.

We also enjoyed seeing the trees and shrubs alongside the trail.

A picturesque tree

A picturesque tree

AnnaMarie and K.C. at Montezuma's Well

AnnaMarie and K.C. at Montezuma’s Well

More dwellings on the other side of the Well

More dwellings on the other side of the Well

We decided to take the trail that leads down to the level of the water.

AnnaMarie heading down the trail

AnnaMarie heading down the trail

There were many rocks and boulders showing the artistry of nature.

Nature's artistic nature

Nature’s artistic nature

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The People also built dwellings down at the water level.

A dwelling at the level of the water

A dwelling at the level of the water

We appreciated the shade down by the Well.

Ahhhh, shade

Ahhhh, shade

Some ruins show that there were dwellings in the surrounding areas too.

Ruins

Ruins

We walked along the canyon wall to see the canal that the Sinagua had built to divert water from the well to their fields.

Part of the ancient canal

Part of the ancient canal

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As we left the area, we passed the ruins of a different kind of dwelling – called a pit house.  The holes you see are where the tree limbs were sunk into the mud to support the roof and walls.

Remains of a pit house

Remains of a pit house

This is a section of the old canal system that is no longer in use.

Ancient canal

Ancient canal

After seeing Montezuma Castle and Montezuma’s Well, it was only about noon.  We decided we had time to go to Tuzigoot.  Tuzigoot is an ancient pueblo or village that was built on a 120-foot-high ridge in about 1000 AD.   Built by the Sinagua People, Tuzigoot resembles a castle or fort.  It is topped with a two-story watchtower.  Tuzigoot had 77 ground floor rooms and very few doors.  Entry was by ladders through the roof. 

AnnaMarie at Tuzigoot

AnnaMarie at Tuzigoot

A pueblo of many stories and rooms

A pueblo of many stories and rooms

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AnnaMarie walked way down there….I didn’t.  I, of course, needed to stay above to take pictures.

Look for AnnaMarie waving from way down at the bottom.

Look for AnnaMarie waving from way down at the bottom.

Holy smokes.  She's way to hell and gone now (as our Dad would have said).

Holy smokes. She’s way to hell and gone now (as our Dad would have said).

It's a long walk back up.

It’s a long walk back up.

What?!  After making that climb, I have to grind corn too?

What?! After making that climb, I have to grind corn too?

We enjoyed our visit to Tuzigoot.  As we prepared to leave, we learned that the freeway home was blocked due to a truck accident.  We decided to take a drive north through Sedona which turned out to be a rather bad idea.  Given that it was Memorial Day Weekend, Sedona was wall-to-wall traffic.  It took us about an hour just to drive through town and there was no place to park within K.C.’s walking distances.  We drove on through and took the wrong road out of Sedona.  We ended up driving north along Oak Canyon and emerged onto I17 at Flagstaff.  From there, we hightailed it south on I17, arriving at home in Casa Grande at about 8:30 p.m.

Sunday morning, we were up and on our way to see the Casa Grande Ruins.  Since I have posted information on the Casa Grande Ruins several times, I’ll just remind our readers that the ruins were built by the ancient Hohokum People sometime around 1100 to 1200 A.D.  Casa Grande translates to “Big House.”

AnnaMarie at Casa Grande Ruins

AnnaMarie at Casa Grande Ruins

Bob was able to come along on this trip.

Bob was able to come along on this trip.

K.C. and AnnaMarie at Casa Grande Ruins

K.C. and AnnaMarie at Casa Grande Ruins

The Casa Grande Ruins

The Casa Grande Ruins with Bob in the picture

We saw the great horned owl up in the rafters again.

We saw the great horned owl up in the rafters again.

There were many other dwellins and a ball court located in this area also.

There were many other dwellins and a ball court located in this area also.

After spending the morning at the Casa Grande Ruins, AnnaMarie and I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the pool.

On Monday, I drove AnnaMarie back to Mesa to the airport.  She enjoyed an uneventful flight home.  I really enjoyed her visit.  Saguaro cacti-asses will always remind me of AnnaMarie’s visit.

AnnaMarie tiptoes through the cactus

AnnaMarie tiptoes through the cactus

AnnaMarie tries to blend into the environment

AnnaMarie tries to blend into the environment

It was so fun to have my sister here.  I hope she’ll come back soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Road Trip Along a Historic Trail

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Arizona

Casa Grande to Gila Bend and back

April 3, 2013

Today Bob and I decided to go for a scenic drive and “blow the cobwebs out,” as my mother used to say.  After loading Patty and plenty of water into the pickup, we drove west on Arizona Highway 238, also known as Cowtown Road.  We gassed up in Maricopa.  Following our map, we left Maricopa on old Highway 238.  It now deadends.  We retraced our route and found our way out of Maricopa on new Highway 238. We were then headed west towards Gila Bend through the Sonoran Desert National Monument and the Maricopa Mountains. 

Sonoran Desert Scenery

Sonoran Desert Scenery

 

Maricopa Mountains

Maricopa Mountains

One fun sight to see was an old saguaro cactus with a huge hole in it.  We could see that there was an owl roosting in the hole and watching us drive by.  Unfortunately, it was not a place where I could pull off and take a picture.

Sonoran Desert National Monument

Sonoran Desert National Monument

At about midway between Maricopa and Gila Bend, we crossed a historical trail that has been the route of many peoples. 

Trail Post

Trail Post

In ancient times, this trail was used by the Anasazi, Hohokum, Zuni and other native Americans to travel through the mountain passes between Albuquerque and the Colorado River crossing at Yuma.

 

The historic Trail

The historic Trail

 

Looking north along the old Trail.

Looking north along the old Trail.

In the years between 1830 and 1848, it was part of a pack trail known as the Old Spanish Trail. Later it was a section of the Gila Trail which was the route that General Stephen Watts Kearny and his Army of the West used between El Paso and Yuma Crossing – where they took possession of all the lands along their way. This same route was later used by pioneers traveling to California who were seeking the southern-most route.  The Mormon Battalion followed this trail on their long infantry march (see my previous post about Picacho Peak State Park for more information on the Mormon Battalion).

The Butterfield Stage Company used the route to carry mail and passengers from the east to southern California.  The Butterfield route was established in 1858 by John Butterfield and his partners (one of whom was William G. Fargo).  They determined the exact stage coach route, improved the pack trail into a stage coach road, and established way stations where a passenger could wash and buy a decent meal.

When fully operational, Butterfield had about eight hundred employees and used about a thousand horses, seven hundred mules, and over two hundred stagecoaches and spring wagons. A full size stagecoach could seat nine passengers inside and as many as could pile on top.  The stages bounced along at about five miles an hour.

Nowadays, the Union Pacific Railroad and Arizona State Highway 385 closely follow this historical route. The authenticated section of the route that is north of Highway 385 is closed to motorized traffic at this time.  Drivers of off-road vehicles have caused damage within the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The old Trail is closed as park officials try to restore the land to its original condition.

To see a really interesting, informative, and interactive map of these and other routes, go to http://southern-trails.org/trailmap.html .

K.C. at the old Trail.

K.C. at the old Trail.

Arizona Highway 385 meets I 8 at Gila Bend.  We jumped onto I 8 and headed back east toward Casa Grande. 

Looking east on I 8.

Looking east on I 8.

Looking towards the east on I 8 at Gila Bend.

Looking towards the east on I 8 at Gila Bend.

We exited the freeway and took a back road through Stanfield.  I thought Stanfield was an old ghost town that I had read about in a  book I purchased recently.  Whoops, it was Stanton, not Stanfield.  Stanfield is a small, but busy town with many bustling businesses.  Oh well, it was an interesting side trip and we noticed a small cafe in town.  We’ll be going back to try it out. 

We drove into Casa Grande and had a grand lunch at Sonic.  Then it was home in time for an afternoon nap. All-in-all, it has been a fun day. 

 

Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Arizona

Next to I 10 between Phoenix and Tucson

March  24, 2013

The weather has improved and we are enjoying being outside more.  Last Sunday, I spent the afternoon finishing a cupboard door for the kitchen while Bob, Patty and I watched the Nascar race on our outside tv.

I finished a cupboard door for the microwave cupboard.

I finished a cupboard door for the microwave cupboard.

Bob and Patty are enjoying the nicer weather.

Bob and Patty are enjoying the nicer weather.

Here's our outside tv and a map of all of the states that we have visited.  The rule is that we have to drive in the state with our motorhome or Casita.

Here’s our outside tv and a map of all of the states that we have visited. The rule is that we have to drive in the state with our motorhome or Casita.

Today we took a drive out of Casa Grande heading south on I 10 to Picacho Peak State Park.  Picacho Peak has a nice, little visitor center, many picnic areas, a campground and lots of hiking trails. 

 

Picacho Peak State Park's Visitor Center

Picacho Peak State Park’s Visitor Center

Picacho Peak is not only a nice state park, but it is also of historical interest. 

During the War with Mexico, the Mormon Battalion of the U.S. Army camped at Picacho Peak enroute to California on December 17, 1846. Their march is considered to be the longest infantry march on record.  Further down their route,  they were the first to unfurl the flag of the United States at Tucson. 

Plaque for the Mormon Battalion

Plaque for the Mormon Battalion

Mormon Battalion Monument

Mormon Battalion Monument

 

Two decades later, Confederates occupied Tucson in the summer of 1861 in an effort to expand into the southwest.  The Confederates wanted to hold territory from ocean to ocean.  Lookouts were stationed at Picacho Pass to watch for Union soldiers moving to retake Tucson.

In response to the Confederate occupancy, Union Captain William Calloway marched out of Yuma with a force of over 200 men.  At Picacho Peak, he ordered Lt. James Barrett and thirteen men to move around the north side of the Picacho Mountains while Lt. Ephraim Baldwin took twelve men south around Picacho Peak. Their orders were to conceal themselves, hold their positions and to not engage the Confederate lookouts unless it appeared they were planning to escape to take word of Union activity to the Confederates in Tucson. 

Picacho Pass

Picacho Pass

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The plan was for Captain Calloway’s main force of 200 men to enter Picacho Pass from the northwest, attack the Confederate encampment and then proceed to Tucson. Against orders, Barrett charged into the midst of ten Confederate soldiers camped at a stage station.  As the Confederate soldiers prepared to surrender, Barrett discharged his weapon.  It is not clear whether the discharge of his weapon was accidental or intentional, but the rebels returned fire and fled.  In the ensuing skirmish, Lt. Barrett and another Union soldier were killed.  Four other Union soldiers were wounded with one dying the next day.  The Confederates suffered no casualties, but three men were captured.

This is looking towards the site where the skirmish actually occurred.

This is looking towards the site where the skirmish actually occurred.

After the skirmish, the remaining Confederates retreated to Tucson to warn of the Union activity.  Captain Sherrod Hunter ordered his outnumbered troops to leave Tucson on May 14, retreating to New Mexico.  The Union troops arrived in Tucson on May 20, 1862 putting an end to the Confederate incursions into the Southwest.

More views at Picacho Peak State Park.

More views at Picacho Peak State Park.

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Every March, a Civil War renactment of the Battle at Picacho Peaks takes place.  Next year we are hoping to go down, camp, and watch.

Replica of a Civil War cannon

Replica of a Civil War cannon

Adding to our enjoyment were all of the colors blooming in the desert.

Our Sport Trac parked among the cactus.

Our Sport Trac parked among the cactus.

Yellow

Yellow

More color

A blooming Barrel Cactus

A blooming Barrel Cactus

This plant looks a little like a stunted lupin.

This plant looks a little like a stunted lupin.

Today was a fun drive through the desert to an interesting, historical park.

 

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