Sunday, April 27, 2014

Discover Navajo

Our first experience to learn more about the American Indian tribe called Diné (Navajo – the People) was when we drove to Northern Arizona to the town of Chinle.  Nestled in this area of nearly 84,000 acres within the Navajo Indian Reservation is Canyon de Chelly (d’SHAY) National Monument – sitting at an elevation of 5,000 feet.  We pulled into Cottonwood Campground just below the Visitor’s Center where we set up home for a couple of days.

Canyon de Chelly was established in 1931 to preserve the record of history for the Navajo peoples and is administered by the National Park Service.  There is a North and South Rim drive that includes Canyon de Chelly and Canyon de Muerto – composed of sandstone and igneous rock with towering stone monolith sand ledges that tell the story of these ancient people.
The rock walls start at 30 feet deep and rise to over 1,000 feet above the sandy canyon floor.  The overlooks that we drove to on both the North Rim and South Rim were absolutely spectacular.

North Rim ~
It was advised to take this drive first (34 miles round trip) as the natural light for viewing these overlooks is best mid-morning:   Antelope House, Mummy Cave and Massacre Cave.  Our highest elevation on this drive was 6,838 feet.

Antelope House Overlook

This area was used as a refuge by early Navajos

Canyon floor
Cliff dwellings dating back to 1280
Enlarged - looks almost surreal!

South Rim ~
This drive offers panoramic views of these overlooks where the elevation rises from 5,000 -7,000 feet:  Tsejo, Junction and White House.   The “highlight” is really Spider Rock Overlook at 6,871 feet.  Here is where you can really see the beauty in the 800 foot sandstone spires that rise from the canyon floor.  It is breathtaking!

Tsejo Overlook with a view of Navajo farmland

Junction Overlook

Spider Rock


In keeping with our love of plants, here are a few to share.
Beautiful wildflowers growing everywhere!

Narrow leaf Yucca

Indian Paintbrush

We'd like to share with you some art pieces that we purchased when we were on the North Rim Overlook drive.  Local artists typically have their art displayed at each of the sites for you to see and ask question of.   

The Bear represents courage, physical strength and leadership.  The split circle in the upper right hand corner signifies water – day and night – and the small hand prints along the bottom of the stone stand for human life.  This sign was believed to channel energy to the wearer.
Kokopelli (on his back) is playing his flute to Father Sky hoping for rain for Mother Earth.  Many hand prints painted on this piece also.

Bracelet made of Juniper berries
This experience was quite the adventure for us.  Next stop on our Navajo adventure was Four Corners Monument.  This is the only place where four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) come together at one place.  It is quite a unique landmark.  Tourists have to get their picture taken on the medallion and we were no exception.  Each of the state boundaries radiate from the disk with the state seal within that boundary.  It was a quiet day when we were there – cloudy but at least no rain – and we were lucky when a gentleman said that he would take our picture.  Entrance fee is $5/person.  Their Indian Fry Bread keeps the tradition of the four states as well!


Some Navajo trivia ~

Ø Largest tribe in North America which spans into SE Utah, NW New Mexico and northern Arizona.

Ø Their language was used as a secret code in WWII to defeat the Japanese.  They were known as the “Navajo Code Talkers”.

Ø They believe that maintaining a balance with Father Sun and Mother Earth is key to harmonious life.

Ø Cultural pride reflected in their arts of rugs, baskets, turquoise and silver jewelry, pottery, etc.

Our Arizona experience over this winter has been amazing.  We definitely will be back as there are so many other places that we have not yet seen.  Thus, we start the trek northward through New Mexico and into Colorado for now.  We can’t wait to share the next Blog update with you.  So, until then, enjoy our travels! 
Hugs to all ~ Kay & Jeff

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Apache Junction

Driving around Phoenix went well.  With any big city you definitely run into more traffic.  The interstate roads here are beautifully kept and are quite scenic.  Take a look at what Kay snapped with the camera on how beautiful these roads are kept by ADOT.


We finally arrived in Apache Junction, Arizona (40 miles east of Phoenix) home of the Superstition Mountains – said to be the second most photographed and painted natural landscapes in Arizona after the Grand Canyon.  This range of mountains spreads across 250 sq. miles here in the Sonoran Desert.  Popularly called “The Superstitions” (for unexplained paranormal stories) they majestically look down over the Lost Dutchman State Park where we parked the motorhome.

Superstition Mountains

Our site at the State Park

On our first night here Jeff’s cousin and her husband, Carol &
Dale had us over for a delicious pot roast dinner with all of the fixings.  Dessert was strawberry shortcake!  Carol set an absolutely beautiful table for us.  The evening was perfect catching up on what each of us have been doing.  Carol had a folder of information already compiled for us to check out in the area of things to do.  With that in hand our second day was the start of a jeep trip that we will not forget, so hang on to your seats for this ride!

Carol and Dale
We started on our next morning exiting the entrance of the Lost Dutchman State Park in the Jeep, and it is here that we entered the Tonto National Forest.  Right away we start navigating its climbs, twists and turns on what is named the Apache Trail.  You do not take your home on wheels on this trail. . .believe me!  They say that this trail once served as a stage coach/freight route and also for building materials for the Roosevelt dam and where Indians, cowboys and miners roamed the mountains.  It’s hard to believe that humans could endure this diversity of landscape through these breathtaking canyons.

Taken from the driver's side.

About 10 miles in we see the first natural lake on this route.  It is Canyon Lake.  Nearby a popular tourist spot for food and souvenirs is Tortilla Flat, but most people don’t venture too far beyond this location.  After 5.5 miles the pavement ends and the beginning a 24-mile stretch of graded gravel - washboard bumpy – road awaits us.  The trail at this point takes you through some near pristine open country such as Fish Creek Hill with a nearly 8% grade (no RV’s here!).
Canyon Lake

Passing a second desert lake, Apache Lake on our left, we continue to cross numerous foothills before reaching the beautiful Salt River. 

Apache Lake

Apache Lake from the driver's window

One Lane Bridge ahead!
Areas for a boat launch - can you believe it?

Tortilla Flat in the distance.

The pavement ends ~ dusty road ahead!

Another 13 miles from this point - more dusty, gravel roads – we reach the beautiful waters of Lake Roosevelt and the Roosevelt Dam.  Directly from there the spectacular bridge appears that was built to take traffic off the top of the dam.  It is quite a beautiful structure.

Yes, I do believe we need to turn right!

One lane roads along the canyon.

We're going where below...on what road?

More one lane roads - awesome!
This vista point is a beautiful shot of the Salt River

The road parallel with the Salt River
The Roosevelt Dam in the distance.

Roosevelt Lake ahead with the new bridge.

Roosevelt Lake

We headed South so we did not cross this bridge.
South of the Roosevelt Dam we head toward the mining towns of Globe and Miami founded in the mid-1870s.  First started as gold mines but turned into silver/copper mines with 97% copper and the remainder 3% of gold, silver and other precious metals.

But first. . .two descents of 7% grades!

Hang on!!!

The diversity in the landscape is beautiful!

We headed toward the town of Miami.  Climbing to an elevation of 1200 ft. over the Pinal Mountains we reached 4600 ft. and then started the decent through Devils and Queen Creek canyons where we arrive at a spectacular steel arch bridge.

The booming town of Miami, Arizona


Large Mining area outside of Miami, AZ

The Mine from the distance. 
Such diversity in the rock formations

Heading down and through the tunnel we go!

The steel bridge in the distance

Superior is about 3 miles beyond where we start our descent to the Salt River Valley through Florence Junction.  From there we continue back to Apache Junction after a fantastic trip.  All in all – about 130 miles!
Clouds moving in for a few raindrops!

What a trip - what scenery!

As we begin to wind down our days here in the Apache Junction area, we have been able to enjoy our time with family – kind of getting reacquainted with family that we hardly ever see.  We enjoyed delicious pizza (with entertainment) at Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa.  The uniqueness of this restaurant is where the mighty Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ reins “king”.  This isn’t your normal pizza eatery.  43-foot ceilings provide unbelievable acoustic sounds:  “The massive quantities of wind required for operation are provided by four huge turbine blowers.  The resulting instrument boasts 78 ranks, 17 tuned percussion and innumerable traps and effects and is the largest Wurlitzer in the world.”   The hidden organ rises on an 8,000 lb. rotating hydraulic elevator and every 20 minutes musical selections are played for the audience.  One of Kay’s favorites was music from the Phantom of the Opera.  It was quite the musical performance that we have never heard and will definitely remember.

What a show at Organ Stop Pizza
Basha is a large grocery chain in this area of Arizona (similar to the HEB grocery chain that we loved so dearly in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last year).  Basha’s corporate office is in Chandler, Arizona so together with Jeff’s cousin, Carol and her husband, Dale, it was again time for another road trip.  It is at this location that we enjoy an art collection which Eddie Basha opened in 1992 in memory of his Aunt Zelma.  This art collection of over 3,000 pieces consisting of all mediums of paintings, drawings, bronze, wood and natural stone sculptures, wood-turned bowls, basketry, pottery, katsinas (Hopi Indian religious spirits) and jewelry – called the Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American & American Indian Art.

So many Pima and Hopi baskets to look at

Sculpture made of cottonwood

We always seem to be drawn to the "horses".

Corals and turquoise

Such beautiful detail on the pottery pieces.

Marble sculpture

Jeff and Dale checking out the guns!

This was Kay's favorite!

Kay and Carol
Note: This update is long overdue but due to the fact that we are boondocking at the north entrance of Lake Pleasant Recreational Area, we do not have an active 3G or 4G service because of being so remote.  Therefore, we are posting this from the parking lot at the Park’s main entrance.  We still have phone service and that’s okay – no need for satellite TV where we are.  Our next blog will let you know what we’ve been up to here at Maricopa County’s, Lake Pleasant Recreational area – about 35 miles from Phoenix.  Shhhhhhh….for those of you that are back in “cold USA/Canada, we are here enjoying wonderfully warm temps here.  We’d be crazy to head back home if we don’t need to right now.

Currently, our back yard at Lake Pleasant
Hugs to all ~ Kay & Jeff