Arizona is known for its magnificent sunsets!!!  And it has not disappointed us this year either, most of the best have been shared here so, if you are reading you know.  But I have to say that two of our sunsets with Anne and Ron were absolutely spectacular!!!

This first one has rain that doesn’t reach the ground.  Mike had a word for this but I can’t remember, so Mike, Emily, Anne, Ron does anyone remember???

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The second was just a spectacular evening.  With an almost full moon on the other side.  We had such a wonderful time visiting.

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I believe that the universe (Mom, GrandMother White, Grandma Ara, Grandmother Barbee, grand dads included, our ancestors, their ancestors, we are all one) was happy that we were all together!!!  Our love, existence, meaning is all wrapped up in our daily  life, choose well as to how to spend it.  Spread love to family and friends and most of all love the one you’re with!!!  We sure loved being with you for a few days, such a pleasure!!!

Peace love and thanks (mom) for the sunsets, blue skies and a few raindrops!!!

Sulphur Springs Valley

We spent a day with Anne and Ron simply exploring the Sulphur Spring Valley between the Chiricahua Mountains and the Dragoon Mountains.  On the agenda were Cochise Stronghold, Tombstone and Bisbee but had some unexpected sightings as well.  The best was seeing several javelinas cross the road right in front of us.  Randy and I had not seen any of these in the wild yet and it was a joy, although I did not get a picture.

As mentioned in Fort Bowie post the US Army and the Chiricahua Apache were at war for at least 25 years.  Cochise a legendary Apache war chief kept the peace with the Anglo-Americans until 1861 when he was erroneously accused of kidnapping a child from an area ranch.  He was held in a tent until he cut his way out and returned to his tribe.  Cochise stronghold is a section of the Dragoon mountain range that stand out from the neighboring hills with a protective rampart of granite domes and sheer cliffs.  He eventually died here peacefully and is buried in an undisclosed location.

Visiting the stronghold was harder than anticipated.  We were stopped by a small river crossing the road and several sizable boulders in the crossing.  High clearance 4×4 would be recommended to access the campground and trails at most any time (in my opinion).

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Next stop Tombstone, a historic town in southeastern Arizona founded in 1879 and by the mid-1880s it was a booming silver mining city of over 14,000 people.   It is probably best known for the shoot out at the OK Corral.  Many colorful characters called Tombstone home including the Earp Brothers and Doc Holiday.   Today it is a small town of about 1,200 people where tourism is its main industry as evidenced in my pictures.   Many actors roam the streets playing parts from the old west and they even have stage coach tours of the town.

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Bisbee our final stop was a quaint small town nestled in a canyon.  It too was started as a mining town, mining copper, gold and silver.  In the 1960s with a temperate climate and picturesque scenery Bisbee became a destination city for artists and hippies of the counter culture.  Looked like a pretty cool town, hope to visit again while we are still in the area.

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Bisbee’s open pit mining is still very evident as you pass the Lavender Pit copper mine.  Open pit mining began here in 1917 and ended in 1974.  This pit is 4,000 feet wide, 5,000 feet long and 850 feet deep at its maximum.  Over time as mining techniques evolved so did the equipment used.  Larger machines meant fewer workers and lower costs to the companies.  For example, in 1954 a typical mining haul truck could hold 35 tons of rock, by 74 it was up to 65 tons and today Arizona copper mining haul trucks carry 260 tons or more…

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Thus ended our tour of the Sulphur Spring Valley, AZ.  Peace Love and Wash your hands.

Fort Bowie and the Apache Pass

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These folks.   Fort Bowie is an unusual park on our tours, you have to hike to the visitor center, 1.5 miles each way to visit the site.  These folks pictured above, thought nothing of it.   Should I mention that they are both octogenarians and we are not!!!

As mentioned before, Anne and Ron allowed us to spend some time with them on their vacation we also had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with their good friends Mike and Emily.  The picture is not the best but the only one I got of them together.   Very nice people and apparently great friends of Anne and Ron’s.

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We all (except Mike) headed out on the trail with two dogs in tow (Nellie of course and Joey Mike and Emily’s cocker).  There were several informational signs and locations on the trail, including the Fort Bowie Cemetery.  The cemetery was established before the fort and remained after the fort.  All military personal buried there have since been moved to a National Military Cemetery, I believe in San Francisco.  But the remaining souls range from travelers on the Butterfield Stage Coach trail to local farmers and miners.  Pictured as we were walking around and from the top of the hill.

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This is a ruin of a stop on the Butterfield Overland stage and mail route.  They took advantage of a spring in the area and used the Apache Pass to transverse the mountain range.

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There is also much rich native American history in the area.   The Chiricahua Apache inhabited the area long before the white man arrived, but with the assistance of the US Army and Fort Bowie, they were driven out.  Fort Bowie witnessed almost 25 years of conflict with the Apache before they were mostly transferred to reservations from Oklahoma to Florida.

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The visitor center is located at the site of the former fort.  Mike brought our lunch via the drivable handicap access to the visitor center, I for one was glad to see him and lunch.  The trail is mostly a loop which just past the fort climbs to the top of a ridge for a bird’s eye view of the fort and surrounding area.  You can also see what the fort looked like back in 1894 when it was still active.

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It was a steep climb, but well worth it.  It continued down the other side with gentle switchbacks eventually connecting with the original trail and back to the parking lot.  It was a very nice hike with lots of laughs and fellowship.

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Peace Love and not always proud to be one of the “white men!!!”

Chiricahua National Monument ROCKS

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The Chiricahua Mountains are a “sky island,” a mountain range surrounded by flat grassland “seas.”  The mountains being an island floating amid grassy desert seas.  From the top you can really get this filling.  This is true of many mountain ranges in this area, but Chiricahua National Monument stands out due to its wonderful rock formations.

These formations began about 27 million years ago when the Turkey Creek volcano spewed ash over 1,200 square miles.  Ash from these eruptions melted together creating layers of gray rhyolite.  Cooling and later uplifting created joints and cracks in the rock.  Millions of years of weathering, heating and cooling, ice wedging and simple erosion enlarged the cracks, and eventually the softer material washed away leaving these wonderful spires, pinnacles and balanced rocks.

I mistakenly called these formations hoodoos, and even corrected someone else, but have since learned that these formations do not qualify as hoodoos.  Still not 100% sure why as Hoodoo is defined as a column or pinnacle of weathered rock, seems to apply to me, but who am I to argue…

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We visited this magical place with Anne and Ron, special people who are our family, but who we also like to call friends.

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We enjoyed a couple of hikes while in the park.  The first was a nice nature trail that circled Massai Point the summit of the park, reached via an 8 mile scenic drive.  This was our first introduction to the park and gave great views of the immensity of the rock formations.

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There was also this nice rock formation to the north that is said to look like Cochise (one of the more famous Chiricahua Apache), it takes a little imagination, but his head dress is to the right, nose in the middle and chin to the left including some teeth???

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Later we hiked to the “grotto” where piled together rocks form their own little cave.

That hike was very nice allowing us to be in and among the many rock formations.  Many of the formations look like faces, animals, balanced rocks, etc.  Here are a few of the formations we passed.

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The some of the first non-native American settlers in the area were Neil and Emma Erickson, Swedish immigrants who came in 1888.  They named their homestead Faraway Ranch as it was far-away from everything.  Later their descendants turned the ranch into a guest quarters where travelers were welcomed from 1917 until 1973, the visitors enjoyed birding, horseback riding and hiking on the trails and generally relaxing.  Below is the original cabin and the home they later built.

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This quote is from one of the Erickson’s daughters Lillian, describing the life they built here in Chiricahua “The rugged strength of the West united with the gentleness, the culture and the enduring fortitude of the East.”

Peach Love and Chiricahua ROCKS!!!

Superstition Mountain and Apache Trail

As usual we stay away from most big cities, but we got our mail which included a refund check and there just so happened to be a bank in Chandler (a suburb of Phoenix).  So, we headed toward the big city.   Naturally we had to find a place for our picnic and we had been thinking about visiting the Superstition Mountains and The Lost Dutchman State Park so that is where we went.

Not knowing what we were looking for, we stumbled upon a commercial ghost town like place The Lost Dutchman Museum.  It was free to wander around (the museum had a fee) had nice picnic facilities and view of Superstition Mountain.

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One of their best displays was this cool model train track.  Unfortunately, it was not running the day we were there, but the setup was very detailed and I believe was a replica of the area (could be wrong about that, but I want to believe).  There were other model trains and several other cool displays.

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Apparently, we were on the beginning of the Apache Trail, highway 88 heads north from Apache Junction and somewhat follows the Salt River before hitting hwy 188 south and completing the loop on hwy 60.  Well the road was closed about 14 miles north so we were not able to drive the loop, but what we saw was really beautiful.  There are several lakes in a row, all dammed on the Salt River to provide electricity and possibly water to the surrounding area.  We are certain they generate power simply by the number of power lines (excuse them in the pictures they were unavoidable).  Canyon Lake was the only one we saw; it and the surrounding area was a very nice diversion before heading back to the campground.  Hope you enjoy the views too.

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All that beauty in a canyon just a few miles from the flat desert of Casa Grande and the skyscrapers of Phoenix…  Peace love and canyons rock (ha ha)!!!


Picacho and Poppies

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Picacho Peaks State Park is just south of Casa Grande on the way to Tucson.  It is located right on I-10 and easily accessible.  Waiting for spring wildflowers everything we read mentioned Picacho and being so close it was a must even with the $7 entrance fee.  Picacho translates to peak so the park is actually named Peaky Peaks.  It is named for the dramatic shape of these peaks which are visible from Tucson to Phoenix.

The wildflowers were starting a beautiful and welcome sight for us.   The park was rather small (unless you hike to the peak) with a campground, 2-3 mile scenic drive and several trails most of which head to the top.  We did hike a bit, but were primarily there to enjoy the flowers.  The poppies were the stars of the show.  I have heard them called California Poppies or Arizona Poppies, but since I couldn’t tell the difference I will just call them poppies.

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There were also some lupine or blue bonnets.  If you follow us you may remember them from Big Bend last year before I realized that lupines were the same as blue bonnets or you may remember the ones in Maine and other parts of New England where they were several feet tall.

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And these bushes, which I am really not sure which ones they are, but I think they are sage bush???

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And a couple more of the mix cactus included…

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Beautiful introduction to desert wildflowers hoping the show continues for a while.  Of course, we had some beautiful sunsets and crystal clear blue skies watching over us.

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Peace Love and blue skies forever!!!

Casa Grande Ruins

The hot dry desert seems like and odd place for ancient humans to have survived.  Yet the ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert survived here for over 1,000 years from approximately 200 to 1,450 AD.  These people are sometimes referred to as the Hohokam, but decedents prefer the term Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert.  They hunted and gathered in the area, but were also accomplished farmers.

These ancestral people were able to dig canals diverting water from both the Salt and the Gila Rivers.  The canals provided water to the nutrient rich flood plans where they were able to grow crops.  They grew squash, corn, tobacco, beans and even cotton.  The canal system was quite extensive reaching for hundreds of miles and helping to feed thousands of people.

This was an amazing feat for the time, we currently use similar technology to irrigate crops in the area.  There is evidence of the Hohokam culture and civilization all over the area, but the Casa Grande Ruins are protected as a National Monument.  The central building in this village was built in 1350 AD and was 4 stories high.

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It also provides evidence as to their knowledge of celestial events including the solstice.  The two round holes near the top on each side of the building line up perfectly with solstices and other heavenly events.

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The great house and other structures are made from caliche, a concrete like mix of sand, clay and limestone and are susceptible to weather deterioration, so were covered in the early 1900s.  The structures were also left vacant from around 1450 until being protected as the nations first archaeological reserve in 1892, so there was a lot of looting and vandalism by early explorers and travelers.

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The village was walled and there were several smaller structures.  They believe that approximately 2,500 people called this village home.  There is evidence that after the “Casa Grande” or large house was completed in 1350 the civilization only lasted another 100 years.  It is not known what caused the end of this thriving civilization, but it is believed that it was some sort of major natural disaster, possibly flooding.

This was a fascinating and interesting place to visit.  I also have to mention that this was the most dog friendly national monument or park that we have visited.  Nellie was allowed in the visitor center and on the tour of the site.  Peace Love and hurray for dog friendly parks.