Sunday, January 30, 2011

Biosphere 2

Today we welcome our newest blog follower, Kelly Florence. It's great to have you with us and we appreciate your support.

Although we've been very busy helping my sister with pre-nursing home care arrangements, we were able to fit in a trip to the Biosphere 2, just north of Tucson. It was another beautiful sunny day with temps. in the upper sixties by mid afternoon. The Biosphere is an amazing, one-of-a-kind structure like no other in the world. You can read more about here: Biosphere2

The Biosphere is able to create a limited number of ecosystems representative of different environments on earth. This particular biome is an ocean environment, complete with 25' deep sea water, beach, waves, palm tree and boat.

This rain forest was yet another controlled environment with relative humidity in the 90s and temps. in the 70s; quite a contrast with the dry, desert conditions just beyond the glass enclosure.

The University of Arizona is utilizing this hillside to test a large variety of different solar panel types. Plans are to eventually power this entire facility with solar power and take it off the grid.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Southwestern Sister

My sister, Connie, was admitted to the Benson, Arizona hospital yesterday. Connie suffers with COPD and was sent to the hospital by her doctor because her oxygen level had fallen to such a dangerous level. We all feel she'll be fine and hope to see her back home in a few days, but it makes us think how quickly your life can change.

Connie moved to the southwest more than forty years ago. After all this time she still makes the claim that she is the only family member to pull up roots and leave New England. As far as I know she is correct. If I may summarize our family history, we came to this continent in the seventeenth century, settled in New England, and pretty much stayed there for the next 300 years or so, myself included. Connie, for whatever reason, moved to New Mexico forty years ago where she raised a family and built a ranch with her first husband. Two husbands and twenty years later she settled in the San Pedro valley where she lives today.

For a good many years Connie and her husband, Ted, were Rangers with the BLM, stationed at the San Pedro House near Sierra Vista on Rte. 90.

The San Pedro House is home to some of the largest Cottonwoods on the San Pedro River. We've hiked many of the trails on the San Pedro at three of the major east/west routes that cross the river (Rte. 82, Charleston Road and Rte. 90) and feel this is probably the best hiking and most interesting area.

One of the prettiest, lone Cottonwoods' about 20 minutes hike south from San Pedro House.

Over the last forty years I think my sister took on a southwestern, more native appearance.

This is how I remember Connie as a child. I was only about two years old when this photo was taken; she was 17. Later on, as I grew up, I figured out why my big sister had sooo many boyfriends.

What a hay stack!; on our grandparents' farm in Connecticut. Connie is on the peak; our Aunt Persis, from Norway, poses in the foreground. I won't even exist for another 10 years or so.

After 4 years with the BLM, and the death of her third husband, Connie supported herself selling her artwork throughout the San Pedro Valley. For more than a decade she attended local shows, exhibitions and flea markets until her health no longer allowed her to create the wonderful artwork she had attained notoriety for in southern Arizona.

A few of Connies' hand-painted gourds and carved walking sticks.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ramsey Canyon-One More Time

This morning we planned to visit Fort Bowie but at the last minute learned that there is an event day there in early February, so we decided to mark our calendar and wait until then. On our first visit to Ramsey Canyon we had arrived very late in the day while most of the canyon was in deep shadow. Since I needed to visit Lowe's for some electrical hardware for our solar panels and our $5 Ramsey Canyon admission tickets were still valid we headed to Sierra Vista.

The canyon was better with more sunlight and clouds.

"The grand View" Even grander than the first time we saw it.

This time we got to see a couple of Coue (miniature deer, pronounced "cow") foraging in the dry grass. They were probably here the first time but they blend in so well they are very hard to find.

Martha waited patiently under a 250 year old Sycamore while I stood frozen, waiting for the Coues to move closer together.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gallery of Dreams' Farmers Market

Gallery of Dreams is located on Route 80 about 7-8 miles south of Benson, AZ in St. David. Inside the gallery you'll find the work of more than 50 local artists in a wide variety of mediums and price ranges.

John Reid "The father of American golf" by Tim Trask stands out in front of the gallery.

Inside there are more bronzes of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and more.

A limited edition bronze of Cochise, also by Tim Trask. If you liked Tim Trask's larger-then-life Wyatt Earp statue in Tombstone then you'll enjoy a visit to this gallery.

Work in progress; another larger-than-life piece in the back room almost ready for the foundry.

Gallery of Dreams hosts a farmers market on Saturday mornings. Turn out was light this morning with only three vendors, but I am told you can expect more vendors on future Saturdays. I bought some taco chips that are fabulous-real restaurant style! I also took home two homemade tamales just to try them. Next week I will get a half dozen, yummmmm!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ramsey Canyon

Ramsey Canyon is a narrow green gorge on the eastern slopes of the Huachuca Mountain near Sierra Vista, Arizona. Unlike all the empty arroyos and dry washes we see everywhere there is actually a babbling brook that flows down through this canyon. The other thing that stands out is how green it is. If you were somehow transported here from somewhere else and plunked down in this canyon you would never guess that it is late January. If not for the Agave and Yuccas you might not even think you were in Arizona.

The wide, .5 mile long, easy to hike trail is mostly shaded even this time of year. That's largely because the oaks here do not lose their leaves until spring. The other trees include Alligator Juniper, Pine and the Sycamores that have lost their leaves. This well maintained trail crosses the brook often and you can usually hear its peaceful sound wherever you are.

There are still remnants here from the 19th century settlers who made this canyon their home.

This chimney is all that remains of a house that was built directly over the stream.

Once you've climbed the gentle main trail there's a .5 mile extension on the Hamburg trail which takes you to a look-out at 6200 feet. This trail is steeper than anything we've seen. It's like climbing a 1/2 mile flight of stairs or a ladder without your hands as the BayfieldbunchRamseyCanyon said earlier this month. By the time we got close to the top, the last few resting benches were an absolute necessity to allow us to catch our breath. Coming back down offers more challenges with lots of loose gravel on the steep inclines. We'll have to see how our knees feel tomorrow.

The Hamburg trail at the 6200' look-out. The white spot in the sky is the Fort Huachuca aerostat, which is always tethered over Sierra Vista. Big Brother is watching, the air space near the border that is!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

End to a Perfect Day

This evening we headed east past Dragoon into the Sulphur Springs Valley to hopefully watch the moon rise and photograph the Sandhill Cranes settling in for the night. An estimated three to four thousand of these migratory birds feed here this time every year.

The moon did rise as expected but it was way too early for the birds. Hopefully they're still feeding in the agricultural fields near by. If the cranes are still here, they should show up soon to reach the safety of near by water, where the coyotes can't get to them tonight.

A few early birds are starting to show themselves. Their 7 foot wingspan makes them easy to see, even more than a mile away.

The sun is setting behind us now, they're starting to show up in larger numbers. Pleease, pleease, fly near the moon!

What a thrill, here they come, right by the moon in a triangular formation! They're coming in from all directions too, each one making their own unique call.

Ignoring the moon for a moment, we could also see the small double peak on the right side of this mountain top which gives Dos Cabezas, Arizona its name.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Coronado National Memorial

From the Coronado Peak looking east at the gravel road we just climbed, much of it in first gear. By days end we drove the Jetta in first gear more than we ever had before; Oh to have a Jeep!

The dark diagonal line in the valley is the border. Mexico on the right, USA on the left. We are at about 6500 feet here.

Numerous Border Patrol vehicles and signs like this are a constant reminder that the border in close by.

I believe this device is a sophisticated motion detector that scans the distant border in the valley below.

Martha is looking north while the Mountains in Mexico are behind her to the south."Buenos días en México"
Parker Lake is on the western side of the Coronado Peak. The road getting here from the peak is wickedly rugged, better suited for 4x4s and Humvees (of which we saw several today from Fort Huachuca), but the Jetta came through for us. I told Martha its not so hard on the car, it builds character. We also didn't have to go back the same way we came. To see this roadway at its worst, check out The Bayfield Bunch Visit earlier this month.

The solar array at the Parker Canyon Lake Store and Marina. It's totally off the grid.

What a perfect day. About 65 degrees here in the mountains and 75 degrees in the valley.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Historic Fairbanks

For a few hours today the Fairbank historic townsite was once again under the Spanish crown as it was from 1776 to 1780. The 2nd Catalonian infantry from the Presidio San Agustin de Tucson Garrison occupied the San Pedro River for several hours this beautiful Saturday afternoon.

All the soldiers wore the traditional attire and accessories for this time period.

Their muskets roared and the smell of black gunpowder filled the air.

Moving about 100+ years into the future, the Tombstone Territorial Actors recreated the "Great Fairbank Train Robbery" of February 15, 1900.
1/2 mile from the old townsite, atop a small hill is the original Fairbank Cemetery, circa late 19th century.