Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Two Week Update

Really, I can't believe it has been two weeks since the last update, but the last entry is the proof! Well, we spend a couple more days at Benson, but then it was time to move on. We had already chosen that we would go to Picacho Peak RV Resort for a few days.
Picacho Peak RV Resort

There are people up there
See, I told you
 We had been there before and enjoyed the park and location. Denice wanted to stay there and then take a short trip into Mesa to see her Uncle Gene, who is getting on in years. On the 17th of March we did move to Picacho Peak ( it was only a trip of about 90 miles), and we settled in there. The weather was great, the park quiet, as it seems that a lot of the "Snowbirds" are already heading north Guess they can't wait to see if they still know how to use one of those snow shovel, thing-a-maj-igs!! I am not one of those, as they do not interest me in the least. Originally we booked for a week at that park, but in the end increased it to two weeks. Haven't a whole lot to report over that couple of weeks. The only real activiy was the one day that we went into Mesa, and spent the afternoon with Uncle Gene. He lives alone since Aunt Rosemary passed away a couple of months ago. Gene is almost 86 years old and has hearing and seeing issues, but is still sharp as a tack. He had been the president of the bank in a small town of Hemmingford, Nebraska for may years until he retired 20 years ago. It is still obvious, that he retains that "Bankers" edge when talking about anything that pertains to dollars. He now lives in a brand new "Double Wide" park model unit in Palm Gardens Mesa on Main Street. Palm Gardens is a very nice +55 park with all the amenities you could ever want. There are fountains and pools, hot tubs, and all kinds of excercise rooms and event facilities. We took him out to lunch at the "Meatmarket", his favourite meal place. Nothing fancy but good food. As it was just before noon we all opted for Prime Rib and Eggs. Ummmm!!!  The whole restraurant wes filled with "Q-Tips"  (White haired clients as we are), so it is a favorite of all the seniors. After a short tour down Main Street Mesa we returned to his place and enjoyed a few hours with him, before it was time for us to return south the 75 miles to Picacho. 
One other  highlight was when Nephew Lance Ross and friend Shelley called us to let us know they were in Phoenix and on the way down to see us. We spent an enjoyable few hours with them before they headed back to the big city.

A multi Level Condo

On another day we drove to Maricopa to see John and Breda Brown, friends of ours from back home just north of Calgary at a small town called Dogpound. John and I both worked for Shell Canada, although in different departments, but our paths crossed often. John and Brenda just purchased 3 acres of prime desert in the Maricopa Community. He is calling his unit "Dogpound South". As with any new purchase, there is lots to do in upkeeping, and they have been busy completing several projects. From gravelling the area for dust control to renovating the Park Model unit on site. I'm sure they are going to have lots of enjoyment with their Southern Residence in future years! The remainer of the time we just sort of chilled out. Well not really "chilled" as the temp was in the 70's and 80's every day. 
Back side of Picacho Peak

We took a few short drives in the desert and a few trips to Casa Grande for groceries, but the rest of the time we read, slept, rested, and just enjoyed the weather. This was one of the things we had wanted to do ever since we left home last July, but the weather had never seemed to cooperate until now, so it was very much over due.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Benson, Arizona

Check it out. I think I am up to date, even the pictures!!
OK, Lately I've been getting some subtle hints, and some not so subtle, that I have not been keeping my Blog up to date. Well since the last posting, there has just not been a whole lot to blog about. On the Feb 17th we moved into The Butterfield RV Resort in Benson, reserved for one month, and just settled down to a very relaxed month. Our friends from Warner, Alberta, are here as well, so we visit back and forth with them, but generally just have good R&R. Here are a few of the highlights of the month so far;
Mar 14th 
 Went to Mount Lemmon with Tom and Linda today. It is a great drive right on the outskirts of Tucson. A well designed and paved highway leads all the way to the top of the mountain, offering many view points and photographic opportunities.


We just came up that highway, away down there!!

Nice rock formation at "Windy Point"

Another of Tucson

The Highway below

Great Highway Engineering!!

Windy Point Viewing

Get that picture, Tom!!!

Hope that one stays up there until we are past

That one too !!

The ski hill

Lunch at Last!

8000 FEET !!!

Looks a little scary!!

This one must not have heeded the 35 MPH speed limit
Mount Lemmon is in the Santa Catalina Mountains located in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson, Arizona, United States. It is 9,157 feet above sea-level, and receives approximately 180 inches of snow annually. Mount Lemmon was named in honor of botanist Sarah Lemmon, who trekked to the top of the mountain with Native American guides by mule and foot in 1881.
At the peak of Mount Lemmon is an astronomical observatory, which was formerly the site of an USAF radar base of the Air Defense Command, and the building that formerly housed a military emergency radar tracking station for landing the Space Shuttle at White Sands Missile Range. Although the United States Military had a presence on the mountain for several decades all their facilities have been abandoned and were given to the US Forest Service. The area and buildings that makes up the Mount Lemmon Station Observatory are leased from the Forest Service by the University of Arizona. The telescopes on the mountain are still used for astronomical research today by organizations such as the Catalina Sky Survey, The University of Arizona Astronomy Camp program, the University of Arizona, the University of Minnesota, and the Mount Lemmon Sky Center. The educational resources at the top of the mountain make it a unique research, Biology and Astronomy, and teaching destination.
The Catalina Highway, also called the Mount Lemmon Highway, as well as the Hitchcock Highway (after Frank Harris Hitchcock) runs up the Santa Catalina Mountains from the east side of Tucson up to Summerhaven, at the top of Mt. Lemmon. The beautiful, curving road is a favorite drive for tourists, for locals escaping summer's heat, for motorcyclists, and cyclists, and has been recently designated as the Sky Island Parkway, part of the US National Scenic Byway system. The highway has been improved recently, but the speed limit has also been lowered to 35 MPH (56 km/h) due to concerns about the highway's safety during peak traffic times.

The highway and other roads around the area were used for the first training camp for professional cycling Team Radioshack in December 2009.

2010 saw the inaugural running of the Mount Lemmon Marathon.
Mar 13th
 Denice and I went to Patagonia

The welcoming signs!!

Quale at the Patons private bird sanctuary

A Northern Flicker

And of course, a hummer

See the screech owl???

Here is a sample of the vehicles that patrol the Mexican Border
Patagonia is a town in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, United States.  Patagonia was formerly a supply center for nearby mines and ranches. Currently, it is a tourist destination, retirement community and arts & crafts center. The Nature Conservancy's Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve is adjacent to the town.
Patagonia is a small town at an elevation of over 4,000 feet located between the Santa Rita Mountains and the Patagonia Mountains. It has a population of about 1,000. There are some shops and a nice park in town, along with a couple of local bars and a modern high school.
Our first stop was at a private residence that have been feeding the birds for many years. The Patons allow the public, who are interested in watching the birds,  to come into their back yard where they have many feeders, and birds are very plentiful. We spent a couple of hours there and Denice was able to snap away to her hearts content. I took a few of sparrows and crows! Thats about my expertise in identifying all the de=ifferent species!!
As nice as a small town as Patagonia is, it is internationally known as a premier bird watching destination. We stopped at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, which is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. It is a cottonwood-willow riparian forest and over 290 species of birds have been seen in the area. There are guided tours at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve every Saturday morning. We chose to walk part of the 2.5 mile of trails ourselves and just enjoy the beauty of the trail and the surroundings.

Patagonia Lake State Park is a state park of Arizona, USA, containing Patagonia Lake. The 2.5-mile-long (4.0 km), 250-acre (100 ha) lake located near Patagonia, Arizona, is a popular southern Arizona site for fishing, camping, boat rental, picnicking, hiking, and birding. Located inside the park is the recently established Sonoita Creek State Natural Area, Arizona's first major state natural area. Created by the damming of Sonoita Creek, the lake is habitat for bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish, and is stocked with rainbow trout during the winter. Special events include an annual mariachi festival in March and bird tours and interpretive programs on request.
Patagonia Lake State Park is located on State Route 82, 7 miles (11 km) south of Patagonia, Arizona.
Mar 12th
 Back to Bisbee for a Jeep tour at 10:30AM of Old Bisbee, Bakersville, Warren, Tin Town, and Lowell as well as visiting several of the old mining head frames
The sudden flood of real estate onto the market and crash in housing prices, coupled with an attractive climate and picturesque scenery, led to Bisbee's subsequent rebirth as an artists' colony in the early 1970s. Chief among the visionaries who turned the ailing mining town into the tourist destination it later became, were three men who saw Bisbee's potential during this time of exodus. Artist Stephen Hutchison and his wife, Marcia, purchased the town's anchor business and architectural gem, The Copper Queen Hotel, from the Phelps-Dodge mining company in 1970 after the company had failed to find a local buyer. The deed to the hotel had been offered to any local resident for the sum of $1.00, with no success. Hutchison purchased and renovated the hotel, as well as other buildings in the downtown, which included a turn of the century Brewery and Stock Exchange. Hutchison began to actively market Bisbee as a destination where travelers could find the authentic, old southwest, complete with aging long-term hotel residents who would recount their experiences from their easy chairs on the vast hotel front porch. Hutchison's endeavors attracted another dynamic personality, developer Ed Smart, the second figure in Bisbee's '70's revitalization triumvirate. Among the many guests at the hotel were celebrities from nearby California. John Wayne was a frequent visitor to Bisbee and The Copper Queen. He befriended Hutchison and eventually partnered with Smart in his real estate ventures, completing the triumvirate. This period of Bisbee's history is well documented in contemporary articles in The New Yorker and in an article by Calvin Trillin in The Cornell Review. It was at this time that Bisbee became a haven for artists and hippies fleeing the larger cities of Arizona and California and, later, the increasing gentrification of places like Aspen, Colorado.
The rediscovery of Bisbee by baby boomers in the 1990s saw it develop a more polished look, complete with coffee shops and live theater. Many of the old houses have been renovated, and property values in Bisbee now greatly exceed those of other Southeastern Arizona cities.
Today, the original city of Bisbee is known as "Old Bisbee," and is home to a thriving downtown cultural scene. Old Bisbee is also noted for its architecture, including its Victorian style houses and elegant Art Deco courthouse. Because its plan was laid out before the automobile, 
Narrow streets

10,000 stairs in town!!

A House of Pleasure

Do not pee on the wall!!

Now that is narrow

Not sure if we can make this one!!

More stairs

This house at the top has no road to it.  All building materials went up the stairs!!

Now that is what I call a real switch back!!

A Panorama of Bisbee

"The Glory Hole". This is where it all started.

A Mural by Rose Johnson

And another

A sculpture by some famous sculptor

Another Rose Johnson

Main Street

An old Mining head Frame

Taxi !!!

This house was one of the mine owners - 12 bathrooms and 26,000 sq ft
.  Now empty and for sale at at $650,000

Denice and Dorthy, our guide  --- and the jeep

I even went to church!

Old Bisbee has an almost European feel. The town's hilly terrain is exemplified by the old four-story high school: each floor has a ground-level entrance.
March 11th
Denice's Birthday today - 49 again !!!  Went to Bisbee for Lunch and I went on a mine tour of the Queen Mine.
Bisbee 1917

Bisbee now

A lot of Gold in them thar hills!

On the train

And into the mine

The mining rest room ---------------

A simulated charge ready --

Mining a stope

The accessTunnel

Now a little modern mining equipment

Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880, and named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the adjacent Copper Queen Mine.
In 1929, the county seat was moved from Tombstone, Arizona to Bisbee, where it remains.
A syndicated television series which aired from 1956–1958, Sheriff of Cochise starring John Bromfield, was filmed in Bisbee.
Classic azurite mineral specimen from the Bisbee mines, collected circa 1890Mining in the Mule Mountains proved quite successful: in the early 20th century the population of Bisbee soared. Incorporated in 1902, by 1910 its population swelled to 9,019 and it sported a constellation of suburbs, including Warren, Lowell, and San Jose, some of which had been founded on their own (ultimately less successful) mines. In 1917, open pit mining was successfully introduced to meet the heavy copper demand due to World War I.
High quality turquoise was a by-product of the copper mining and has been promoted as Bisbee Blue. Bisbee is noted for the astounding variety of copper-based minerals and the superb specimens that have been taken from its mines. Bisbee specimens can be found in museums worldwide. Cuprite, aragonite, wulfenite, malachite, azurite, and galena are just a few of the myriad variety of minerals that have been found underneath the town
In 1917, the Phelps Dodge Corporation shipped more than 1,000 striking miners out of the town, because they were believed to be members of the Industrial Workers of the World and the company was trying to prevent unionization. They were transported to Hermanas, New Mexico. Earlier in that year of national labor unrest, in central Arizona, the Jerome Deportation took place
By 1950, boom times were over and the population of the City of Bisbee had dropped to less than 6,000, but the introduction of open-pit mining and continued underground work would see the town escape the fate of many of its early contemporaries. However, in 1975 the Phelps Dodge Corporation finally halted its Bisbee copper-mining operations. The resulting exodus of mine employees might have been the end of the town. Phelps Dodge Corporation closed the Bisbee underground mines in the summer of 1975. Bisbee Mayor Chuck Eads, with the generous cooperation of Phelps Dodge, brought to reality the idea of opening a mine tour through a portion of the world-famous copper Queen Mine. Mayor Eads felt that history of mining should be kept alive in Bisbee and in a manner that would attract tourists to the community. Many faithful volunteers cleared thousands of tons of fallen rock and re-timbered the old workings. They were assisted by local individuals and groups who furnished support and food for the workers. The local effort came to the attention of a federal agency, the Economic Development Administration, which approved a large grant to the City of Bisbee to help the mine tour project and other improvements in downtown Bisbee designed to aid the tourist business. The Queen Mine Tour was officially opened to visitors on February 1, 1976. Since then, more than a million visitors, from all 50 states and more than 30 foreign countries, have enjoyed the ride into the mountain on the underground mine tour train. Bisbee survived and remains as the county seat. 
Mar 10th
 To Chiricahua today with Tom and Linda
Chiricahua National Monument covers a small section of the Chiricahua Mountains in the extreme southeast of Arizona, and contains large expanses of volcanic rocks eroded into dramatic pinnacles and spires, an interesting variety of vegetation and some unusual wildlife species. Not many people visit, since the monument is quite remote and access is difficult - although it is close to interstate 10 there is no direct route south and the main approach is from the west, 40 miles along AZ 186 from Willcox. The only other possible paved entrance road is south, from Douglas on the Mexican border. There is one dirt track (the Pinery Canyon road) across the Chiricahua Mountains, linking the monument with New Mexico to the east but this is closed during the winter and is in bad condition most of the year. The mountains are particularly susceptible to thunderstorms during the summer months so the area is best visited in spring or autumn.
The nearest major towns with hotels close to Chiricahua National Monument are Willcox (34 miles), Tombstone (73 miles) and Benson (74 miles) - follow the links for descriptions and reservations..
Scenic Drive: The Chiricahua National Monument occupies an area only 5 by 6 miles. A winding 8 mile scenic drive climbs steadily from the entrance, past the visitor center to Massai Point (elevation 6,870 feet) where several trails branch off, descending into canyons and towards the main rock formations, which are not visible from the road. On the way, the scenic drive follows the course of a stream along Bonita Canyon for most of the route and passes picnic places, a campsite and various geological features most notably the Organ Pipe formation. 

Some camera instructions

Watch for animals -------- AND LIZARDS

Cochise's Hideaway

The viewing platform

The narrowest and highest spire -- 137 feet

Can you see Cochise's head profile - Upper center

Yes folks - that is snow!!

A Mexican Jay

This is a sloping cliff face, weathered into many rocky columns. The cliffs behind the campsite are quite easy to climb, and give good views of the Organ Pipes, as well as distant views of the flat desert to the west.
Hiking: The most striking rock formations are in the Heart of Rocks, an area reached by several quite strenuous hikes starting at the end of the scenic drive. One route passes along Echo Canyon - this has some rocky areas but also plenty of shady trees. The path descends almost 1,000 feet over 2.7 miles and into Rhyolite Canyon where the track divides. One branch follows this canyon eastwards for 1.5 miles, rejoining the main road at the visitor center and close to the campground. A daily shuttle bus service runs between the center and Massai Point and so allows hikers to return by walking downhill along this route. The other branch of the trail climbs, often steeply, for 1.6 miles to the edge of the Heart of Rocks where the vegetation is less dense and huge weathered pillars and spires of rock are visible in all directions.
Rocks: The formations at Chiricahua are similar in size and shape to those of Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks in Utah, although without as much color - the rocks are mainly grey but often with a covering of green lichen. A one mile circular route winds through some of the most impressive groups which include several examples of balanced rocks - boulders perched precariously on top of much thinner supporting columns. This area has good climbing and scrambling opportunities. The main trail continues and returns to the scenic drive by a shorter alternative route, one that is only 3 miles long and with less elevation change.
Wildlife: Due to the relatively high elevation, the climate in the Chiricahua Mountains is quite different to that of the surrounding deserts. This means that unusual species of plants and animals are present, many of them native to Mexico and not found elsewhere in the USA. In particular, rare species of birds such as the elegant trogon and Mexican chickadee may be seen, also mountain lions, javelinas and ocelots, although it is of course unlikely that the casual visitor will encounter anything this unusual. The only animals of interest I saw were a hooded skunk (at the campsite, eating some chicken I was about to cook) and a large Yarrow's spiny lizard, both relatively rare.
History: During the 1860's and 1870's, the Chiricahua Mountains provided a refuge for the Apache tribe who, led by the famous chiefs Cochise and Geronimo, carried out the last major series of attacks on white settlers before finally being defeated in 1886, though their descendants still inhabit the surrounding lands. One well-preserved fortress from this era is the Cochise Stronghold, in the Dragoon Mountains 40 miles west of the Chiricahua Monument.
Mar 8th
We drove to Tombstone to look around today. I bought  a shirt, and also a Birthday gift for Denice as it is only a couple of days away.  What can I say, maybe 49 again!! 
The stage - right on time

A very lonely street

Looks lke a gunfight about to erupt!!

Then we drove east toward Gleason and to a place called "Rattlesnake Ranch," a very unique place to say the least. It is about 12 miles out of Tombstone and then 2 miles south on a very washboardy road, but well worth the trip. It consists of a whole bunch of old antique JUNK displayed along a couple of 6 foot high fences. 

The road to nowhere

Even ET was here

A myriad of stuff

The Store

For sale is a large variety of gem type rocks and lots of Rattlesnake nick-nacks. Wallets, Belts, Rattles, and the rest of the stuff  that gift shops sell. There is a couple of occupied trailers and a residence nearby, but no body manages the shop. It is entirely on an honorary system. Items are priced and there is a box with a pad in it to record what you bought, and you just leave the money in the box. Amazing!!!  I guess there are still some honest people in the world after all!!  We left a good share of cash there ourselves, before we headed back home with some good memories of the place. Stopped at a Chinese restaurant for supper on Benson and it was delicious. An hour in the hot tub ended the day for me.
Mar 4th
Took drive to Ramses Canyon and took a 1 mile walk up the canyon
Ramsey Canyon, located within the Upper San Pedro River Basin in southeastern Arizona, is renowned for its outstanding scenic beauty and the diversity of its plant and animal life. This diversity—including such highlights as the occurrence of up to 14 species of hummingbirds—is the result of a unique interplay of geology, biography, topography, and climate.

A neat design on a wood knot- Sure like to make a bowl from that one!!

A Very Wild Cow Whitetail - "I know it is a doe, but this is a variety of Whitetail!!!"
Southeastern Arizona is an ecological crossroads, where the Sierra Madre of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts all come together. The abrupt rise of mountains like the Huachucas from the surrounding arid grasslands creates “sky islands” harboring rare species and communities of plants and animals. This combination of factors gives Ramsey Canyon Preserve its tremendous variety of plant and animal life, including such southwestern specialties as the lemon lily, ridge-nosed rattlesnake, lesser long-nosed bat, elegant trogon, and berylline and white-eared hummingbirds.
A spring-fed stream, northeast orientation, and high canyon walls provide Ramsey Canyon with a moist, cool environment unusual in the desert Southwest. Water-loving plants such as sycamores, maples, and columbines line the banks of Ramsey Creek, often growing within a few feet of cacti, yucca, and agaves. Communities ranging from semi-desert grassland to pine-fir forest are found within the vicinity of Ramsey Canyon Preserve.
Mar 3rd
Didn't do much during the day, but then went to the on-site observatory in the evening. The RV Resort we’re at also has a Meade LX-200 GPS 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope in a 15 foot diameter electrically operated dome. 
The Butterfield RV Resort is the only RV park in the nation, if not the world, to have it’s own observatory which is accessible to guests staying there. Sixteen people are allowed to each viewing of the heavens through the telescope. Viewing is at 8:00PM and at (9:15PM if weather and number of patrons request viewing. A guide gives the history and explains various stars and things that are viewed.
Mar 2nd
Drove into Tucson with Tom and Linda to do a little shopping. First of all Coffee and Doughnuts, then to Campers World for some RV Stuff (Always need some thing from there), then the Park Mall and lunch, then on to Costco, and finally back to Benson.
Mar 1st
Took a short trip down for a tour of Kartchner Caverns. Although we have been to Benson several times before, never quite seemed to be able to work in a tour of the caverns. 

We had made reservations, as they are required, and so arrived at 9:00AM. These are probably the most environmentally protected caverns of the many we have visited over the years.  I would hesitate to say that they were the best though. Carlsbad in New Mexico, and Ruby in Tennessee, that we visited on this trip, rank right up there on our list. When you enter Kartchner, you have to go through air lock doors and are sprayed with a mist to assist keeping the humidity high, with a temperature around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There are two tours, one to the "Rotunda Room", the other to the "Throne Room." We chose the "Throne Room," but I'm sure the "Rotunda Room" is not a lot difference. Cost of each tour is about $22, and cannot be combined together, so most people choose one or the other. Tours  last a little over an hour and are hosted with a guide.  Lights are kept low, so vision is obscured, and only significant stalactites and stagmites are highlighted with floodlights. The one, and best, structure in the "Throne Room," was called "Kubla Khan," and it was impressive. A very large, floor to ceiling, column. After exiting the caverns we enjoyed a picnic lunch with Tom and Linda in the park, and then returned to Benson.
Feb 27th
Guess What??  This morning woke up to snow. About a 1/2", but it was gone by about 8:00AM. Even in Arizona, we are not immune to that white stuff!
Feb 25th
Today was another "Make Over Day" for Denice. Took her down to "Lasting Impressions" for a 3 hour tune up. Hair cut, perm, pedicure and manicure. By noon she came out all renewed and ready to take on the world again. Amazing what that does for a woman!  Went home and had a brunch that I prepared. While finishing our lunch a Park rep came by and informed us that we would have to remove our bird feeders as there is  a potential to attract vermin and in turn snakes. Now when we made the reservation it was one of the questions that I had asked, and the answer was that they were OK. Not sure the issue now, but maybe the person who I was talking to was not fully informed of the park rules as he should have been. Anyway, I removed them as requested, although our neighbor still had his up, although more obscure behind his motor home. Guess I should have been a little more discrete. Also, the Parks "Free for one Week WIFI" ran out today so will have to revert to my own MIFI for the duration, but that is OK as for the one entire month that i used it, and we were on the Internet a lot, we used 4.1GB, and we are reportably allowed unlimited, although some of the fine print suggest 5GB. After lunch we went east to near Wilcox to see if we could see some of the Sand Hill Crane migration. They have a viewing place there that is reputed to be one of the best in the Southern States, and up wards of 40,000 of the big birds have been reported there. Alas, today there were none!  Murphy's Law! Returned back to Benson via the Dragoons. This is in itself an interesting place where huge boulders have been left by erosion over the ages, and present themselves in interesting formations, some balancing precariously upon others,that appear ready to tumble at a moments notice. After we had dinner Tom and Linda stopped by for coffee. They had been in Tucson all day doing some shopping, but appears there cart came home almost empty. They said nothing really appealed to their senses. 
Feb 23
Made reservations for Kartchner caverns for March 1st