It was a good decision to go back the 15 miles to the Petrified Forest National Park although it had snowed the night before and we were unable to drive the more than 20 miles through the area. The visitor's center had very educational video, however, telling how the petrified wood was formed and the history of the National Park. It seems that millions of years ago the area was a forest with dinasours roaming freely. Then at some point there was a flood and the forest was washed to the present site and covered with silt. The silt slowly infiltrated the wood and turned to stone. The water dried up and the wood/stone was buried until the wind slowly exposed the petrified wood.
We realized that when they still hadn't opened the roads through the forest at 9:00, we better get going toward our destination for the day--Phoenix or more accurately Apache Junction. From Holbrook we entered the Apache National forest and the Mazatzal Mountains. At first we laughed that the small bush/trees that we saw on each side of the road sure was a different kind of forest. However, as we progressed further south, the trees were bigger and the mountains more beautiful. We did not realize that Arizona had so much forest and mountians. In realility, the "valley" as they say is the warm part of the state and the northern areas primarily along and north of I 40 are the highlands.
We arrived at Kayzie & Lynns around 2:00 pm.
Desert Botanical Garden Tuesday, January 17
Tuesday found us enjoying the warm weather and our friends hospitality. Kayzie and Lynn felt one place we must see is the Sonoran Desert Botanical Garden. It is a place where we could observe plants and animals found in the Phoenix area.
This was very interesting. We spent so much time there that the sun started to go down and that made it even more beautiful. The Sonoran Desert extends from central Arizona and southeastern California into Mexico. The Phoenix area is located in the northern part of the Sonaran Desert and is dominated by the Saguaro cacti, creosote bush and palo verde trees.
Of course my favorite is the Saguaro (sa-war-o) and it is the signature plant of the Sonoran Desert. It's waxy tough coating prevents water loss. Its shallow root system can quickly absorb a great deal of rainfall. They grow very slowly so a four foot tall cactus is probably at least 25 years old. If they are not killed by a frost persisting over 24 hours, struck by lightning, blown over by high wind or toppled by vandals, a saguaro can live to an age of 200 years.
There were other plants and animals that I will post later.
Superstition Mountain Wednesday January 18
“Located just east of Phoenix, Arizona is a rough, mountainous region where people sometimes go... only to never be seen again. It is a place of mystery, of legend and lore and it is called Superstition Mountain. According to history, both hidden and recorded, there exists a fantastic gold mine here like no other that has ever been seen. It has been dubbed the “Lost Dutchman Mine” over the years and thanks to its mysterious location, it has been the quest of many an adventurer... and a place of doom to luckless others.”
This quote is from the web site of Haunted Arizona (If you have time, it is an interesting read) Superstition Mountain is the hike we decided to take on Wednesday. We were not daunted by the thought of “doom to luckless others." Nevertheless, we brought our cell phones just in case.
We started at the Jacob’s Crosscut trailhead. It was an easy climb at first, so we had to catch a picture of the unusual Saguaro cactus formation.
As we began to climb more seriously, I decided to step off the trail and briefly laid down my camera. My hand shows the result.
The landmarks on the mountain were becoming more visible and beautiful. I am disappointed in my fitness level as I was soon breathing hard.
However, Lynn & Dan took pity (that’s the impression they gave, but privately I knew they welcomed the rest) and we sat on provided benches and enjoyed the fantastic view.
As it turned out, we were not on the trail that would eventually take us to the top of Superstition Mountain so we will try at it another year. This view was not far above us, however, and I wonder if it is the "needle" referred to in the story about the location of the mine.
It is always fun to get out and experience the terrian first hand....
It was around 11:30 am when we arrived in Holbrook and I40. We needed to drive across New Mexico as Tucumcari was our destination. So, it was pedal to the metal as they say the rest of the day with only rest stops. We reached Albuquerque at 5:00 and wouldn't you know I was driving. I gripped the wheel, watched the vehicle in front, stayed with the traffic and Dan read signs. We zoomed right through.
Earlier in the day I noticed Ute Lake State Park at Logan, New Mexico. Since we had planned to head northeast on Hwy 54, we decided to bypass Tucumcari for the night stay and heard to Logan. Again, a good decision primarily because they had a little Mom and Pop diner that served delicious suppers and breakfasts.
Our next stop was Dodge City for lunch. Boot Hill was closed so we ate fast food and moved on. How do you know you are in Dodge City? There is Wyatt Earp Liquor, Wyatt Earp Inn, Doc Holiday Liquor, Miss Kitty Boutique, Boot Hill 66 and Hitch' Post Travel Plaza. I even thought I saw Shoots Haircutting.
At Kinsley Hwy 56 meets the Santa Fe Trail. Near Larned is Fort Larned, a National historical site. This is well worth a stop. The Fort has been almost completely restored complete with furnishings, clothes and guns. Pete Bethke was the Park Service Ranger in charge when we were there. Perhaps it was because we were the only visitors at the time, but he took the time to answer all of our questions in detail. Almost all the buildings were open.
Fort Larned was built as a guardian of the Santa Fe trail in 1860. The trail carried several million dollars in commercial traffic between Independence Mo. and Santa Fe NM. With the acquision of land after the Mexican War and the gold rushes the trail became even more popular. Soon the great influx of travelers began to disrupt the Indians way of life so skirmishes and full scale attacks began. Fort Larned was built to protect travelers along the Trail. Mr. Bethke told us that actually it was cheaper for the infantry to walk with the travelers rather than the cavalry on horses.
The need for the fort decreased after the railroad progression in the 1870s and in 1884 it was sold at public auction. For the next 80 years it was a working farm, with the family living in the General's headquarters. In 1964 Fort Larned became a national historical site. Most of the buildings have been kept intact with the exception of the Blockhouse which was rebuilt exactly as it was originally. We are looking forward to taking our grandchildren to visit during one of the Park's summer programs. Mr. Bethke told us the children are allowed to sit on the bunkbeds and try on the soldiers clothing. Again, it is one of only five Kansas National historical sites (Nicodemus, Brown v. Board of Education, Fort Scott and Tallgrass Prairie).
From Fort Larned we traveled just a few miles more to stop at the Santa Fe Trail museum. We stayed so long at the fort that we only had a short time at the museum before it closed. The one fact I learned there was that merchants traveled on the Santa Fe Trail north from Mexico as well as south from Independence. The museum had many exhibits of period clothing, wagons, dishes, etc. It is well done and worth the small admission charge.
We briefly stopped by Pawnee Rock, a once high outcropping of rock on the prairie that could be seen for miles. At the top of the rock, the flag at Fort Larned could be seen.
It was dark when we arrived to a joyous welcome at Salina. We played games with the boys, our kids, ate some welcome homecooked food and went to bed. Sunday would be a stop by Chapman to visit Mom and home.