Friday, May 31, 2013

National Park Passbook Program

     As your family begins to take to Arizona’s highways this summer for the family vacation, be sure to consider visiting one or more of the 21 National Parks and Monuments of Arizona.  To make your family visit even more educational and fun, join the National Park Passport Book and Cancellation Stamp Program!

     Started in 1986 by Eastern National, a non-profit partner of the National Park Service, national park and monument visitors can acquire at each site and at no cost, one or more cancellation stamps for their passport book.  These cancellation stamps not only document the date of the family visit, but add to the feeling of fun and  adventure as your family searches out the exact location of the park’s/monuments’ cancellation stamp or stamps.

     And when your family leaves Arizona to travel the highways across our wonderful country, take your National Park Passport Book along.  There are about 390 American National Park units across America with over 2,000 cancellation stamp sites waiting for your family to discover. 

     Passport stamps come in various colors, highlighting the 9 passport regions that the stamp can be obtained.  Adhesive stamps can also be purchased to affix to the passport book.  Nine such photo stamps are issued once a year, one for each passport region. In the 20+ years of operation, over 1,400,000 National Park Passport Books have been sold.

     National parks must be created by an act of Congress.  They are usually created to set aside natural beauty or natural phenomena – like a petrified forest.  They are usually large in size with many different uses and visitors.  Arizona is lucky to have 3 national parks.

     National monuments are created because they contain prehistoric or historic objects or possess “things” of scientific interest.  Their size is unimportant and can be created by an act of Congress or by the President of the United States.  There are 92 national monuments in the United States.  Arizona has the most of any state with 18. 

     Who collects National Park Cancellation Stamps?  Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, RVers, AARP members, home schoolers, vacationing families, geocaching adventurers and grandparents sharing the adventure of the parks and monuments with their grandchildren; anyone who loves the historic and natural treasures of Arizona and America.

     People collect National Park Cancellation Stamps to learn about the parks.  Some collect because they enjoy the competitive search in finding the stamps.  Others collect the stamps because they enjoy sightseeing the wonders of America and preserving memories of their vacations. 

     So, this summer when you head down the highways of Arizona and America, keep an eye out for those brown and white national park and monument signs.  Pull into the visitor center and gather up your National Park Passport Book.  Find the cancellation stamp site and document your visit for that day and for your the many, many years of family memories!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day 2013 - An Honorable Pima Warrior

    The American soldiers has been a part of the Arizona story since the men of Stephen Watts Kearny’s Army of the West marched down the Gila Trail in 1846.  The Buffalo Soldier served with honor and won everlasting fame during the Apache Wars.  Prescott cowboys heard their nation’s call and became a part of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.  A young Pima Indian, Matthew B. Juan, was the first Arizonan to die in World War I.  A young Phoenix Union High School graduate learned to fly and became America’s greatest “Balloon Buster” over-there!
    Yet, Arizona’s the most famous soldier was born on the Gila River Indian Reservation town of Sacaton, a short  57 miles south of Anthem.  He grew up the son of a farming family who struggled to coax enough crops from the desert soil in order to live.  When American once again found itself engaged in the great World War II, this Arizona son, this Ira Hayes, volunteered and became a United States Marine.
    As Ira left his Arizona home, his tribal leaders told him to be an Honorable Warrior and to bring honor upon his people.  Ira never forgot those words and through three major battles in the Pacific, he never failed in service or in honor.
    It was in that third battle, a place called Iwo Jima, that this Arizona soldier would forever become a symbol of America.  On February 23, 1945, the fourth day of the battle that United States Marines fought their way to the highest ground of that island, a hill called Mount Suribachi.  Around 12 noon, 6 marines, including Arizona’s Ira Hayes, raised the American flag for all on the island to see.  Photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped the most famous picture of World War II and maybe in all of American history.
    The fight for Iwo Jima would continue for another 31 days, until March 26, 1945.  Over 6,800 United States Marines died on that volcanic, Pacific island.  Of the six marines who raised that grand ol’ flag, only 3 came off the island alive. One of those three was Ira Hayes.
    The three surviving flag raisers became instant heroes in America once the picture of the flag raising ran in American newspapers.  The three were ordered to leave their fellow marines still fighting in the Pacific and return to the United States.  There they would become a part in selling War Bonds.  For Ira Hayes the idea of being called a hero did not sit well, for he believed the true heroes were those so many killed on the islands of the Pacific.
    Ira Hayes was “wined and dined” across America.  Too many people wanted to celebrate with him by buying him another drink.  He became dependent on alcohol and became a drifter and a loner.
    In 1954, Ira Hayes was the guest of honor at the dedication of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C.  He was asked how he liked all the pomp and glory.  He replied, “I don’t!”
    On January 24, 1955, Ira Hayes, an Honorable Pima Warrior and a United States Marine, fell drunk into a reservation irrigation ditch and died.  For this Arizona soldier, his life story was now complete.
    Yet today, in that small Arizona town of Sacaton, Arizona, one can visit the Ira Hayes Memorial Park.  It is not so much in the way that modern Arizonans might measure a park, but it is truly a park that is named after a real American soldier and a real American hero.
    So on this Memorial Day 2006, if you are looking for something a little different and special to do, drive on down to Sacaton with a lunch and spend a little time at a park named for Ira Hayes.  And, when you look at the plaque of that famous picture, of those six marines raising that flag, look at the marine to the far left, the one whose hands have already let go of the pole.  For, you see, that soldier was and always will be the Arizona Honorable Warrior and United States Marine, Ira Hayes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Is This Heaven?" - The X Diamond Ranch

Looking for a great place to escape the Valley's heat this summer?  The X Diamond Ranch near Greer just might be your solution.  Enjoy!

    “Is this heaven?” the dude from Phoenix asked as he stepped out of his SUV into the cool breeze of the X Diamond Ranch.  “Nah”, responds owner ‘Wink’ Crigler, “but it’s mighty close to it!”
    And  “close to heaven” is a pretty accurate description of this historic ranch located in beautiful South Fork Canyon near Greer, Arizona.
    John and Molly Butler first came to the beautiful Greer Valley in the mid 1880s.  Molly cooked and hosted thousands of guests in the Molly Butler Lodge.  John added to the family income by guiding such folks as Zane Grey and Theodore Roosevelt into the backwoods of the White Mountains.
    In the early 1900s John and Molly Butler moved into South Fork Canyon and established the X Diamond Ranch.  The working cattle ranch is still owned and operated by their descendants who now share the ranch’s treasures with folks from around the world.   
    Six, rental log cabins allow visitors to spend a few days among the tall, ponderosa pines in the pristine mountain air.  Ranch visitors can fly-fish for trout in Little Colorado River or horseback ride on the many canyon trails.  And when you fish the streams and ride the trails of the X Diamond Ranch, you will be among some of Arizona’s most spectacular natural wonders. 
    History abounds on the X Diamond Ranch.  A visit to the ranch’s Little House Museum will take you back in time to the old west.  Your ranch guide will share many a tale about the “pioneers, preachers and outlaws” that once called this area their home.
    For those interested in Native American history, the X Diamond Ranch is the location of the Little Bear Archaeological Site.  Ranch visitors can participate with the site’s archeologist in an actual scientific dig.  Archaeological tours to canyon petroglyphs sites are also available.
    “Is this heaven?’  Nope, but any day spent at the X Diamond Ranch will certainly be some heavenly time spent in a real, Arizona paradise.
    The GPS coordinates of the X Diamond Ranch is
N 34 05.123’ W 109 25.180’.  To learn more about the X Diamond Ranch, visit their web site at