Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rocky - Arizona's Green Frog

     With the arrival of another Arizona spring, weekend outings often come to mind.  A great day trip from Phoenix is to locate Rocky, Arizona favorite green frog.  Here is Rocky's story…

        Frogs are not the most common critters found in our Sonoran Desert and when one is spotted, folks tend to stop, look and take special notice.  That is especially true when the ol’ frog measures 16 feet tall and weights in at 60-tons of metamorphic rock.
This massive Arizona frog is named “Rocky” and he is located along side of Arizona Highway 89 just 25 miles north of downtown Congress, Arizona.
    It was prospector Dennis May who came across a sizeable vein of gold in the foothills of the Date Creek Mountains in 1883 and named his newly discovered mine Congress.  The Congress Mine soon had over 400 employees with an upper and lower section of town.  A United States Post Office was established there in January 1889.  The Congress mine operated until the mid-1930s producing well over $400 million dollars of gold by current gold prices.
    In 1893 the all-important Santa Fe Railroad laid its steel ribbon through this part of Arizona, but the tracks missed the mining camp by some three miles. Yet the railroad was king in those days and folks started building homes and businesses near where the steam locomotives ran. 
     This new settlement was called Congress Junction and it thrived with both the nearby mine and railroad serving as the town’s economic engines.  When the post office and mine closed in the 1930s, Congress Junction transferred the name and became simply Congress.
     It was 1926 when the good people of Congress saw US Highway 89 built right on the edge of their small town.  This road, known as the West’s Most Western Highway, was the main highway connection between Phoenix, Prescott and Flagstaff.  If you wanted to travel to northern Arizona from the Valley of the Sun, this was the road you traveled. 
     Eli Perkins and his wife, Sara, saw an opportunity to make a good living from all the cars and trucks now moving north and south along U.S. 89.  In 1927 they built and opened the Arrowhead Gas Station & Café just 1 mile north of Congress.
     Sara had noticed that one rock formation on the west side of U.S. 89 looked to her to have the shape of a frog.  So, to gather a little attention for the family business and add a little color to the desert brown environment, she and her boys climbed that 16-foot tall boulder in 1928 with some green, white and black paint and overnight, a rock became a frog.
     Rocky, the Congress Frog has been an important landmark in this part of Arizona since it was first painted during Arizona’s Roaring Twenties!    Over the 82 years since he was first painted, many a citizen has given their time, effort and paint to keep this Arizona rock art project a part of our state’s unique history.    
     The Perkin’s gas station and café have changed owners and names several times over the years but many of their original buildings are still there in the same high desert spot.  The Frog Rock Café and the Arrowhead Saloon are just waiting for you to get out and come looking yourself for that old green frog named Rocky right along the west side Highway 89 – the West’s Most Western Highway.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tombstone's Rose

    The 2013 Tombstone Rose Tree Festival happens this year on April 5 - 7.  Here is our story that we wrote about the festival a couple years ago.
     It is always good to visit the "Town Too Tough To Die" and the Rose Tree Festival is one of the best times to go.  Here too is a good link about the festival - http://www.tombstonechamber.com/Rose-Tree-Festival

Two photos were provided by Marcia Spitier

     There has been many a shady lady who lived out her life's story along the dusty streets of ol' Tombstone. There was Big Nose Kate, Dutch Annie, Madam Mustache and so many more. But none of the ladies of Tombstone have lived so long nor brought more love and enjoyment to people from around the world than Rose.
      Tombstone, Arizona is best known for its many silver mines, unique historic characters and gunfights.  Yet Rose has outlived them all and continues to this day to fill the air with her sweet fragrance while still offering cover from the hot summer afternoons that always find their way to the “Town Too Tough To Die.” 
      Rose first came to Tombstone in 1885 as a gift of love for the homesick bride, Mary Gee, from her family in far away Scotland.  Rose, more formally known as the Lady Banksia Rose, was just one of several garden plants that had made their way across the sea to Tombstone in a wooden crate.
Mary, with her friend Amelia Adamson, planted the rooted cutting of the white rose in the patio of the boarding house where they were staying.  To everyone's surprise Rose lived and thrived in the southern Arizona climate. 
      By the 1930s Rose was attracting the attention of some pretty famous people.  In that year Robert Ripley proclaimed this Tombstone Rose to be “The World's Largest Rose” a title that this shady lady still holds today in the Guinness Book of World Records.
     Rose's branches now cover over 8,000 square feet of patio where more than 300 people can find shady relief from the Arizona sun.  Many a bride and groom have traveled to Tombstone, Arizona to profess their everlasting love while standing under the fragrant blossoms of the Shady Lady of Tombstone.
     Today, Tombstone's Lady Banksia Rose is a part of the Rose Tree Museum and is still growing on the corner of 4th & Toughnut Streets.  The folks of Tombstone celebrate their famous lady each spring during their Rose Tree Festival.  If you happen to arrive in Tombstone while her millions of white blossoms are blooming, you too will be charmed by her beauty and will enjoy your time with Rose, the real Shady Lady of Tombstone.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Visiting Still - the "Father of Arizona"

     February 14th brings about Arizona's 101st  birthday as a state of the United States of America.  So, we thought it was a perfect time to publish our story about Charles Poston, the acknowledged Father of Arizona.

    The mountaintops of Arizona have some pretty unique, amazing and strange things built on top of them. One such small mountain, just north of Florence, is an easy 20-minute hike to the top and will lead today’s Arizona adventurers to another of those early 20th Century pyramids. Since February 14th is Arizona’s birthday, a climb to the top of this mountain would be a good way to honor the Father of Arizona, Charles Poston.
    Charles Poston first arrived to this land in 1854.  He soon established the Sonora Mining and Exploring Company and when, with other American miners, silver was discovered in the nearby hills of the abandoned Presidio of Tubac, the old adobe town came to life once again.
     Tubac at this time was a part of the New Mexico Territory and Santa Fe was the territorial capitol.  Poston was made the mayor of Tubac and his jobs were many.  He served as judge, town treasurer and even had legal authority to declare war.  He spent most of his time marrying folks or granting divorces and keeping the town’s records. 

     He even had paper money printed in New York with pictures of various animals on the bills to replace the bulky gold dust and silver bullion that miners had normally used in their business transactions.  A bill with a picture of a pig on it was worth 12 1/2 cents, a calf 25 cents, a rooster 50 cents, a horse one dollar; a bull five dollars and a lion was worth ten dollars.
     But since the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, Charles Poston had spent the better part of his time and money away from his Tubac home and the land that he wanted to become the Territory of Arizona. The war had resulted in the soldiers of the U.S Army being pulled from this land to fight in the battles of the east.  All of Tubac had to be abandoned due to endless Apache raids.
    While in Washington lobbying congress in 1862 word reached Charles Poston that Confederate soldiers had taken over Tucson and declared the Old Pueblo a part of the Confederate Territory of Arizona. His need to get the Organic Act passed and to get President Abraham Lincoln to sign it into law now took on a new urgency.
     By early 1863 his two-year lobbying effort was finally coming to a glorious conclusion.  On February 24, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation creating the Territory of Arizona. 
     Charles Poston returned to his Arizona as the territory’s first Superintendent of Indian Affairs.  In 1864 he would become the first territorial congressman to serve in Washington D.C.  Soon he would travel around the world learning about irrigation projects and desert farming.  He would also become fascinated with the idea of building a Temple to the Sun on a small mountain top that he loved near Florence.
     He spent his last years living in Phoenix writing and speaking of his memories of early Arizona. Charles Poston died in Phoenix, living in poverty, on June 2, 1902. 
     In 1925, to honor the 100th anniversary of his birth, Charles Poston’s remains were moved from Phoenix to his favorite hilltop near Florence.  There they were re-buried under a pyramid atop what was now being called Poston Butte.
     The Father of Arizona, Charles Poston, still lies under his pyramid on his favorite mountaintop near Florence.   It’s an easy hike for all the family and a fun day-trip from Anthem.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Native Seeds/SEARCH - Tucson, Arizona

    Native Seeds/SEARCH is one of the really great conservation organizations found in Arizona.  When we originally wrote this article, their retail store was on famous Fourth Avenue near the University of Arizona.  But their new store is located on Campbell, just south of Fort Lowell Road.  If you have any interest in gardening or in the culture of ancient seeds, you will love Native Seeds/SEARCH!

Here is their website link - http://nativeseeds.org/

    Fourth Avenue in Tucson, Arizona is one of those charming and unique streets found near many a major American University.  But the University of Arizona’s Fourth Avenue is made even more special as the location of the retail store for the non-profit organization, Native Seeds/SEARCH.
    Native Seeds/SEARCH seeks to preserve the crops seeds that connect Native American cultures of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico to their lands. Through seed conservation and community interaction Native Seeds/SEARCH works to protect crop biodiversity and to celebrate cultural diversity.
    Native Seeds/SEARCH began in 1983 with a request from the elders of the Tohono O’odham Nation near Tucson.  The desert people wanted to grow traditional crops for both health and religious reasons, but could not locate many of their traditional seeds.
    Today, through the efforts of the people of Native Seeds/SEARCH, a seed bank of over 1800 traditional seeds, many of them rare and endangered, now exists for the Native American people.  For anyone interested in gardening and the growing of historic plants, 350 different varieties of native seeds are offered for sale.
    Seed packets can be obtained so that Hopi blue corn, Anasazi beans, Apache dipper gourds, and even the ancient corn, teosinte, can be grown, used and enjoyed once again in the fields or backyard gardens of Arizona.
    The Native Seeds/SEARCH store also offers Native American arts and crafts, traditional foods, cookbooks and so much more.  All proceeds from their sales go to support the efforts of Native Seeds/SEARCH.
    So in this season of giving in thanks for our many gifts, a trip to Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson would be fun, educational and a reminder of the importance that seeds have always played in our American culture.

     The Native Seeds/SEARCH store is now located at 3061 N. Campbell Avenue, Tucson, Arizona, 85719.  502-622-5561

These pictures are from the Fourth Avenue Native Seeds/SEARCH store but will still give you an idea of this unique and and wonderful Arizona store and organization. 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sabino Canyon - Tucson's Natural Treasure

     One of the natural jewels of the Tucson area is Sabino Canyon.  It is a natural paradise that anyone who visits the Old Pueblo must take the time to visit and explore.  Sabino Canyon is very speical.

    The first 6 pictures are ours; the last 4 pictures were taken by Heidi Schewel, USDA Forest Service.  Here is a good link - http://sabinocanyon.org/index.htm

     Sabino Canyon, Tucson’s outdoor wonderland, is located along the southern slope of the sky island known as the Santa Catalina Mountains, a short 14 miles from the hustle and bustle of the old, downtown pueblo area of this historic Arizona city.    

     Sabino Canyon is Tucsonans’ most treasured natural playground with over 1 million annual visitors enjoying the canyon’s biking, jogging and hiking trails, cool mountain stream swimming holes and the diverse populations of plants and animals that make their home along the ever-flowing streams in this Sonoran Desert oasis.
     Sabino Canyon began forming some 12 million years ago along with the 20-mile long Santa Catalina range.  By 5 million BC the mountain building activity that created the four mountain ranges that surround Tucson ceased.  Modern Tucson sits atop thousands of feet of sediment, eroded from the Santa Catalinas and the other three nearby mountain ranges.
     No one know for sure where the genesis of the name “Sabino” came.  A favorite guess is that Sabino might have come for a Tucson rancher, Sabino Otero, who operated a ranch near the beautiful canyon in the late 1800s.
      A massive earthquake occurred in the Santa Catalina Mountains in 1887, sending giant boulders tumbling down the canyon walls and into the riparian valley.  Visitors to Sabino Canyon today still see these mammoth rocks littering the canyon floor as they enjoy the many miles of hiking trails found in the Canyon.
     Sabino Creek begins high up into the desert canyon at an elevation of 6000 feet and flows nearly year round to the desert floor.  With a constant supply of water comes life and the plant life is lush and the animals are many.  From giant cottonwood trees to mountain columbine; from mule deer to mountain lion – they and so many varieties of life make Sabino Canyon their home.
     Public vehicles are no long allowed into Sabino Canyon.  All visitors begin their Sabino Canyon experience at the new Visitor Center where they must pay a fee to park in the large parking lot.  Here are found gift shops, restrooms and self-guided nature trails for those novices to the Sonoran Desert Vegetation.
     Open-air shuttles take most visitors into Sabino Canyon.  Operated by Sabino Canyon Tours, these shuttle buses move over the 3.8 miles of paved roads into the canyon, crossing Sabino Creek nine times over low-water rock bridges.  Drivers narrate the story of Sabino Canyon as they travel deeper and deeper into the canyon on this 45-minute tour.
     Many visitors prefer to hike into Sabino Canyon.  The Sabino Canyon Trail, the Bear Canyon Trail, the Phoneline Trail and the Romero Pass Trail are all available and at different levels of difficulty.  Following the Bear Canyon Trail three miles to Seven Falls is the canyon’s most popular and beautiful hiking trips.
     The paved road of Sabino Canyon Trail is closed to cyclist on Wednesdays and Saturdays after 9:00 a.m.  Some of the canyon trails are open to horseback riders.
    So the many “really special places” found all around Arizona just keep showing up for those who get out and take the time to travel the highway and back-roads of our wonderful state, and few are more special than Tucson’s Sabino Canyon.