More Southern Arizona!

Gammons Gulch! What a fun, interesting place! You can find it just north east of Benson, AZ. It was our second visit there and we found Jay just as interesting as the first time!

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Jay Gammon wanted a western movie set town. He found the property and began collecting! He had early exposure to the movie sets accompanying his Dad, who worked security (and later became John Wayne’s personal body guard!) on the movie sets. Even appearing as an extra in a few movies, including Rio Bravo and McLintock to name a few.

Jay begins the tour in the Saloon where he plays the piano and the banjo!

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He tells us that swinging doors on the saloon are just ‘Hollywood’, the real ‘wild west’ did not have them!

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He reminisces about the movie days and shows off his collection of memorabila and antique cars.

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It is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon in southern Arizona!

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Our next area to explore was south west of Tucson, down highway 19 to the Amado area. We found the Mission San Xavier del Bac, an historic Spanish Catholic Mission 10 miles south of Tucson. What a beautiful Mission, one of the most beautiful we have ever seen, so well preserved and restored!

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The interior is amazing!

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We walked around the back of the Mission and it was just as impressive against the amazing sky! It is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

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From there we drove south to another national historic site, Tumacacori, the ruins of 3 Spanish Mission communities. The storm light was perfect when we arrived! The history of this area is so interesting! I won’t give you the History lesson but ‘google’ each place and read all about it!

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Another day trip we did from the Amado area was to go to Madera Canyon. It is a beautiful hiking area in the trees by a river! A refreshing change from the dry desert landscape! We even arrived to snow on the ground!! Luckily the sun came out and melted it quickly! We didn’t come to Arizona to see snow!!

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It was beautiful to walk along the river!

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Our time in the Tucson area was coming to an end, next up is  Yuma as we head west!

Until next time!

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Southern Arizona

For our month long stay in the Tucson area we stayed in Picacho Peak, about an hour + drive from our friends in East Tucson. When we arrived and got set up we noticed these bugs on the trees……not having seen them ever before, we were curious. I went to the office and asked what they were…..

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……Tarantula Hawk Wasp!!

This picture doesn’t really show you the size, they are about 2 inches long, the sting is considered the second most painful insect sting in the world!!! OMG! These were at our site! The girl assured me that they would not bother us if we left them alone, that they are actually good to have around….wait! It gets worse! This is kind of gross……The female tarantula hawk wasp stings and paralyzes a tarantula, (so we have tarantula’s too?????) then drags the specimen to a specially prepared brooding nest, where a single egg is laid on the spider’s abdomen, and the entrance is covered. Sex of the larvae is determined by fertilization; fertilized eggs produce females while unfertilized eggs produce males. When the wasp larva hatches, it creates a small hole in the spider’s abdomen, then enters and feeds voraciously, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep the spider alive. After several weeks, the larva pupates. Finally, the wasp becomes an adult and emerges from the spider’s abdomen to continue the life cycle. Disgusting!!! Needless to say we gave them a wide berth and luckily we were not bothered by them at all!

Our campground was right on the Sonoran Desert, it gave me time to go out and explore! The interesting thing I found was when the Saguaro Cactus die they just fall over and look the same laying on the ground, until they dry up. If they get too much water they get too heavy and cannot support their own weight.

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We also spent some time in the Saguaro National Park, I love these majestic cactus!

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As I said, we were there over Christmas, it was a fun time to be on the desert!

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One of our day trips we did with our friends was a visit to the Biosphere 2,  originally built to be an artificial, materially closed ecological system, or vivarium. It remains the largest closed system ever created. Biosphere 2 was only used twice for its original intended purposes as a closed-system experiment: once from 1991 to 1993, and the second time from March to September 1994. Both attempts, though heavily publicized, ran into problems including low amounts of food and oxygen, die-offs of many animals and plants included in the experiment, and squabbling among the resident scientists and management issues. It  taken over for research by the University of Arizona in 2007, and they assumed full ownership in 2011.

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On another day we traveled the Ghost Town Trail. It leads you between 3 ghost towns of Arizona, Gleeson, Courtland and Pearce, near the Dragoon Mountains. The scenery of southern Arizona is beautiful, an expanse of grasslands!

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First stop was Gleeson. Gleeson was first inhabited by Indians who mined the area for Turquois. When the white settlers arrived they discovered copper, lead and silver in the area, and a mining camp was formed. In 1900 John Gleeson came to the area and he opened the Copper Belle Mine. In 1912 a fire destroyed 28 buildings but it was quickly rebuilt, with a population of 500. By 1930 the mines had all shut down. The post office closed in 1939.

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Next town was Courtland. It got started later than Gleeson but grew to 4 times it’s size. By 1909, with 5 mining companies, the population grew to 2000! But the mines played out and so did the town, the post office closed in 1942.

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10 1/2 miles down the road is the town of Pearce, the only one of the three towns that still maintains a post office. Pearce was also the first established town. Jimmie Pearce had set up a ranch in the area and discovered gold on his property, gold with a high ore content of silver as well. He started the Commonwealth Mine which produced until 1979. I believe Pearce sold it in 1910 for 250,000.00 dollars. The post office opened in 1896, it and some of the original buildings are still standing today.

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While there we got to see this little roadrunner too!!

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Next up, Gammon’s Gulch!

Until next time…….

 

 

Movin on down the Road!

Well, it’s been a few months since I last checked in! We have been busy, but also it has been difficult to get good reliable internet at times. The trials of traveling around!

After we left the Barstow area we stayed in Mojave Valley, Arizona. It is just east of Needles, California. We were very close to Oatman, Az. I think most people have heard of, or been to Oatman, where  wild burro’s walk the streets! The hotel there dates back to 1902 when Oatman was a mining camp. The Burro’s are descendants of the burros they used then!

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We also made the day trip to Hackberry, AZ. Hackberry is a stopping spot on old Route 66 and has a huge collection of Route 66 memorabilia. The highlight for me was Bridget! I did not expect to find such a talented singer there to serenade us! She made an already fun experience 100% better! If you ever go to Hackberry try to get there on the weekends, you will love her!

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After the Mojave Valley area we turned towards Wickenburg. We had a motive for going there as we had been there 3 years ago and had the BEST cheesecake EVER at a small cafe in town.  We were very saddened to discover that the diner had been sold and the cook who was there, was not there anymore 😦  We did not let that spoil our time though, Wickenburg is such an interesting town with so much history. It has survived Indian wars, mine closures, drought, and floods. At one time it was known as the Dude Ranch Capital of the World! We took a day trip from there and drove up Highway 89 to Prescott. We packed a picnic lunch and stopped at Granite Dells on Watson Lake for lunch. It is a very unique place!

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The scenery through the mountains on Highway 89 is gorgeous!  We were treated to a beautiful sunset on the way back to Wickenburg!

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From Wickenburg we went south….searching for warmer weather. Alas, that has been very hard to find this winter! We were in the Tucson, Az area for a month and experienced a lot of rain and cold weather. Still better than the snow at home though, so we are not complaining!!! We have good friends who live in Tucson and we were very lucky to be able to share Christmas with them and their family!

Think I will sign off on this one now, lots more to come of our time in Arizona!

Until next time…..!

Boron and Calico!

After leaving the Yosemite area we headed towards Boron, California. Boron represents the past and the future, nestled between the historical borax mine to the north and a mountain ridge used for test firing rockets to the south. Our goal was to learn about borax!

Borax has been called the ‘white gold’ for it’s many uses and for the money it brings to its finders and mines.

Borax has a multitude of uses in our everyday life, from household cleaning & deodorizing, to laundry detergent and cosmetics, to glass making, fire retardant, fiberglass, to name but a few!!

Most of us will remember the familiar box of the ’12 mule team’ borax!

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Source, Desert USA, Boron California:

In the late 1800s, sodium borate ore (borax) from Death Valley was hauled by 20-mule teams across the desert to Mojave for shipment. In 1925 a rich borax deposit was discovered practically under the same wagon trails but much closer to the rail head. Twenty-mule teams were teams of eighteen mules and two horses attached to large wagons, according to Wikipedia.com.

Shortly after the borax discovery, Pacific Coast Borax moved its mining operations from Death Valley to the current location of the Rio Tinto Borax mine, three miles north of Boron. The mine has a large visitor center with views overlooking the large open pit mine.

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From Boron we moved on down highway 58 to just east of Barstow, to Calico Ghost Town. This old western mining town has been around since 1881, during the largest silver strike in California. Calico produced over 20 million dollars in silver ore over a 12 year span. When silver lost its value in the mid 1890’s Calico lost it’s population and became a ghost town.

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Walter Knott (of Knotts Berry Farm) purchased Calico in the 1950’s and restored all but 5 of the original buildings to their original look in the 1880’s. In 2005 Calico was proclaimed California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town.

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They even had the streets decorated for Christmas!

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There are some magnificent sunsets in that little area of the state!

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The next day we took a trip into Barstow to see the historical Harvey House!

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Harvey houses are legendary in the history of western rail travel. Operated by Fred Harvey in conjunction with the Santa Fe railway. They were a network of hotel/restaurants providing quality meals and lodging. I would assume they are similar to our CP rail hotels in Canada.

The Casa Del Desiert was opened in 1911 and closed in 1971. It is registered as one of the last remaining examples of the West’s Harvey Houses.

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We enjoyed our brief time in that area of California, but it was time to move on down the road!!

Until next time……

 

Yosemite National Park

We had an unplanned trip into Yosemite National Park, situated in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. We weren’t planning on going there but the weather was good, no snow, and sunshine in the forecast so we took advantage of the window of opportunity!

As first time visitors to the park, we really didn’t know what to expect. There was only one road open due to the time of the year.

Yosemite is famed for the ‘Tunnel View’, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Falls and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. We camped in Oakhurst. On our first afternoon we  drove the 16 miles to the south entrance of the park, then went about another 30+ miles to the tunnel, when we came out on the other side this magnificent view awaited us!

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Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect as we got there in time to watch the sun go down and the golden light shine against the cliffs!

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At this time of year the real show was going on behind us, away from the iconic view!

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The next day we packed a picnic lunch and headed up to spend the day exploring.

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It is hard to think of Yosemite and not think of the great photographer Ansel Adams. He is well known for his stunning black and white images showcasing this beautiful area of the world. For most of his life Yosemite National Park was his chief source of inspiration. He was born in 1902 and his love of photography and nature began in 1916 with his first Kodak Brownie camera and his first visit to Yosemite.

It is very hard to go into this wilderness and not get in touch with your inner ‘Ansel Adams’. I had to try my hand at some black and white photography!

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Inside the park is the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Built in the 1920’s, it is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and is a National Historic Landmark.

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Around every corner of this beautiful park is another stunning view!

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Although we only got to see a small portion of this vast area it was a wonderful experience and only fueled our desire to try and get back at a different time of the year when more of the roads are open. Now it was time to head back down the road to the valley.

One last stop at the Tunnel View!

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The clouds were moving into the valley on our way down, creating gorgeous silhouettes of the surrounding hillsides.

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Until next time……

 

And we’re off!

On the Road Again!

After two winters home bound we are again off on a winter trip to the southern United States. We do not normally leave this time of the year, usually we are gone in mid October to enjoy the fall colours and avoid the winter conditions!

The day before we left we had beautiful, almost spring-like weather, I was loading things into the motor home in my tee-shirt! The next day was completely different! Winter was arriving! Kamloops was getting rain but all around us was snow. We chose to drive towards Vancouver via the old Fraser Canyon route. It does not have the high elevations of the Coquihalla highway.

For most of the small communities along this route, Savona, Cache Creek, Spences Bridge, Boston Bar, Yale and Hope this was the first snowfall of the season.

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Driving through the Fraser canyon is a beautiful drive anytime, but especially stunning with a dusting of snow!

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“Pretty to look at, fun to hold…..but you can have it, I hate the cold”!!

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We were following along the ‘muddy Fraser’!!

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Along with the snow we hit fog!

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We crossed the border at Sumas, they asked the usual questions about fruit, vegetables, meat, cash, fire arms. We sailed through after a few minutes and made our way to our first stop, Ferndale, Washington. We needed to organize our phone and internet for the trip as well as stock up on groceries. We always stay at the Cedars RV, they have beautiful big sites and is a great location for shopping in Bellingham.

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BC was experiencing snow, Washington, in the lower elevations, has been getting rain!!! Lots of it from the looks of things!

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So we’re off to a soggy start but know that things will improve as we travel south!

Hope you can follow a long, leave me a message if you like, I would love your comments.

Until next time…..

Fall in the ‘Loops!

Here it is November 19th! Time to post some fall pictures before Fall is behind us!

We have been very lucky again this year to have a long, mild fall. Not too much rain here, but lots of rain in the province! The water levels in Kamloops Lake are as high as they are normally in August! In 35 years we have never seen the levels where they are at this time of the year!

I still have snapdragons, cosmo, sunflowers  and petunias growing in the garden, along with tomatoes!

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I love it when the leaves begin to change! Fall is my most favorite season of the year to photograph, so many choices! The delicate rose hips are a favorite.

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Or combining my love of old rustic vehicles with beautiful fall shades!

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And the grasses!

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Then the vibrant colours appear in the Maple tree!

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and the sumacs!

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Another favorite part of fall for me is the almost daily sightings of the Big Horn Sheep that call our area home!

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This guy posed so nicely for me the other day!

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Another blessing was the brightest rainbow I have ever seen! We were over at a friends place when this amazing colour appeared in the sky! Of course I did not have my camera with me, (I know, I should never leave home without it!)  I had to rush home and get it and still managed to capture part of the spectacular beauty!

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I like to try new techniques with my photography. One that has always fascinated me in the controlled motion. It creates an abstract look that I find quite beautiful!

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And lastly I have been experimenting with long exposures. Trying to capture the vibrant fall colours , at the same time creating that soft silky look of the moving water.

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I hope you too have enjoyed a lovely fall and you have been able to get out and enjoy the cooler temperatures and natures wonderful autumn changes!

Next up for me will be travel to the US in our motor home! Finally we will enjoy winter south of the border again! Hope you follow along with our travels!

Until next time……