Wednesday, February 29, 2012


After we spent the night in Patagonia (Arizona, not Argentina) at a hotel that used to host John Wayne when he was in the area to film movies, we went on to Tubac and their annual Festival of Arts.

I had gone with the hope of finding lots and lots of Native American and Southwestern crafts on display. However, as this was a juried show it was a mixture of crafts from all over the US. In fact, one of the first booths that we visited was a man from New York who had also displayed his marquetry designs at the Craftsmens' Classic in Greensboro at Christmas.

I was a little disheartened because I was looking for something that specifically was Southwestern or Native American, not an item that I could pick up back home. And few of the booths had what I was searching for. So I started to wander in the shops there in the village in search of that one piece of jewelry to take back home.

Tubac may tout itself as an artisans center, but frankly most of the shops are tourist traps. Yes, they had Native American jewelry, but I was of the suspicion that the pieces were actually made in the Phillippines where a lot of so-called Indian jewelry comes from.

I finally went into a newish store that didn't seem quite so touristy and the shop owner seemed quite knowledgeable about his wares. I browsed through the collections of various Hopi, Navajo and Zuni pieces (most of which were quite out of my price range) until this ring caught my eye:

Sorry about the quality of the photo. I took it on the windowsill in the kitchen with overhead lighting. Yucky.

The ring is a silver overlay of the symbol for the Hopi Parrot Clan. It is actually made in two pieces - the bottom oxidized silver with the top a cut-out design. It is then soldered together to create this type of jewelry.

I then met up with my mother and aunt to eat lunch at Elvira's, a famous restaurant which used to be in Nogales, Mexico until the crime and drug gangs forced it to move north. Over lunch, they admired the ring while I told them the story of how I found it. Towards the end of the lunch, my aunt pulled out a business card that a friend in Scottsdale had given her so that she could visit a friend of his' brand new shop there in Tubac. Seems that the friend of her friend was a very famous Native American jewelry store owner in Wyoming who decided to move his operations to Tubac. When she showed me the card, I reached into my purse to pull out . . . the very same card but with the Tubac address as that was the man who sold me my ring.

*Gyazru is the name for the Parrot Clan in Hopi.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lavender Pit, Bisbee, Arizona

And while the Copper Queen was the largest underground copper mine, this is the Lavender Pit, the world's largest open copper pit. It was opened in the 1950's when the copper veins underground started to diminish. It is not named for the color of the ground, but for the mine supervisor at the time, Harrison Lavender.

It, too, was abandoned in 1975 when the Copper Queen mine was closed. The pit cover 351 acres, is 900 feet deep (which would be equivalent to a 90 story skyscraper) which is a result of more than 350 million tons of material being removed. Today it is fenced in with observation areas so that you can take snapshots.

One of the byproducts of copper mining at the Lavender Pit was that of some of the finest turquoise in the world, known as Bisbee (what else?) Turquoise. At the beginning of excavation of the pit, the remnants of copper with huge veins of turquoise were loaded in dump trucks and taken to the company dump. Employees started to take it home in lunchboxes and backpacks and by the end of the mining operations more than a ton of this type of turquoise had been removed. Since the mine is closed and no more turquoise is being extracted, Bisbee Turquoise goes for some eye popping prices on eBay and other sites.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bisbee, Arizona

After we finished touring Kartchner Caverns, it was back in the car for a quick trip to one of my favorite little towns, Bisbee, which was a good 45 minutes away. When I first moved to Sierra Vista, I spent my free time either here in Bisbee or 90 minutes away in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

By the time I had moved to Sierra Vista, Bisbee was on its last legs. Started as a mining town by the Phelps-Dodge Mining Corporation in 1877, by 1975 when I was there the company had shut down the Copper Queen mine, the world's largest underground copper mine. Copper prices at that point had dropped dramatically and most of the veins had been played out at the Copper Queen to make it a losing proposition for Phelps-Dodge. The town was expected to slowly die, leaving just a few diehards living there in the Mule Mountains. Indeed, P-D starting selling the company houses for $1 for anyone who wanted to have one. Most locals felt it wasn't even worth the dollar to stay as there now was no industry to support the town.

I would drive up there with friends on Friday and Saturday nights to go to the bar at the Copper Queen Hotel - a real cowboy bar if there ever was one. Meanwhile, a few artists and craftspeople started to buy those dollar houses and opened a couple of galleries to show off their works.

By the time that I moved back to Sierra Vista for the second time in 1980, the town was coming alive as a place for those who wanted to live a different lifestyle, be it artistic, anarchistic, countercultural, gay, whatever you wanted to be, with dozens of art galleries were not only opening up in Brewery Gulch, where those first two were when I was here in the early '70's, but up both sides of Main Street. The JC Penney store, which was the second one opened in the US by John Cash Penney and had gone out of business in 1976, had been converted to artists galleries and studios on the second floor with a farmer's market on the first.

Today, Bisbee is one of the few places in Arizona where the housing prices have stayed steady or climbed (yes, they are much more than a dollar today) and is probably as full of life today as it was at the height of the mining operations at the Copper Queen mine.

Stunning Mountain Skies for Sunday

I am so off schedule for my Sunset Sundays and Stunning Sky Sundays that I don't which Sunday today is. So I'm posting a snapshot that I took from a rest stop on Interstate 19 on our way to Tubac, Arizona. My best guess (since I don't know Santa Cruz County as well as I know Cochise County where I used to live) is that these are the Tumacacori Mountains.

You can see snow on the farthest mountain while we had 60 degree weather at the rest stop. Even though Arizona is in a 12-year drought, they will get occasional rain coming from California.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kartchner Caverns, Cochise County, Arizona

And on Tuesday after my brother had flown back to Los Angeles and work, my mother, aunt and I set off to southeastern Arizona for our three-day mini trip in the middle of our vacation.

This was taken at the parking lot of Kartchner Caverns looking west at the Whetstone Mountains. If you remember the first picture I posted of our trip was of the Dragoon Mountains, those would be directly behind me to the east (but 20 miles away).  The leafless trees are mesquite and the green spiky plant is some type of agave. People are always surprised that the desert isn't just sand and tumbleweeds, but full of all sorts of interesting plants and grasses. Also, this part of Arizona is almost 7,000 feet above sea level which creates an entirely different ecosystem than that of Phoenix or Tucson or even around the Grand Canyon.

I wish I could have taken pictures inside Kartchner Caverns (click on the link to read all about the cave's history), but it is a living cave (unlike Mammoth and Carlsbad, our two biggest and dead caverns) and they are very cautious about bringing anything inside that could damage the environment. They limit the number of people who can tour, have airlocks protecting the interior and lecture you about not touching anything other than the hand railing.

Here is a photo from the park's website of the Big Room where we toured:

© Arizona State Parks

The cave was discovered by two college students the same year I first came to Sierra Vista to live (Sierra Vista is about 20 miles south). I must have driven by them while they were exploring this cave numerous times since Arizona Highway 90 where the park is located is the only way to Interstate 10.  At that time AZ 90 was just a two-lane highway with just a gas station at the interchange. Today it is four-lane with motels, campgrounds and other touristy stuff.

When I would come back from being in Tucson or Phoenix for a weekend, I would crank up the 8-track (yes, it was that long ago) and head back to the wide open spaces of Cochise County, keeping an eye out for the police speed trap in Huachuca City, a couple miles before home. I forgot once and ended up with a speeding ticket, my contribution to Huachuca City's coffers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sunday in Sedona, Arizona

My mother and I flew to Arizona to spend a week with her sister and her husband. I had lived in southeastern Arizona some thirty-plus years ago for almost two years and had only been back once some 10 years ago. I planned a three-day mini-trip in the middle of the week to go over old stomping grounds.

My brother, who lives in Los Angeles, flew in and met us in Phoenix on Saturday to spend a long weekend seeing some of the sights with us.

Sunday was the trip to Sedona, land of the Red Rocks and New Age vortices. A two-hour trip from Scottsdale, we got into town just in time for lunch which we had at a deli in Tlaquepaque, an arts and crafts village featuring some really expensive arts and crafts. The lunch was probably the longest one I've had - the New Age attitude filtered down to our wait staff making our lunch more than two hours long (excellent food, but we were on a fairly rigid schedule).

Some pictures around Sedona:

Church of the Holy Cross designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright acolyte (look down in the far right corner):

Bell Mountain outside of Oak Creek Canyon:

Supposedly this is one of the places where you can experience those New Age harmonics. If you look closely, you'll see people at the base and halfway up the mountain as it is also a very popular hiking area.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dragoon Mountains, Cochise County, Arizona

Looking at the Dragoon Mountains more than twenty miles away from the Kartchner Caverns parking lot outside of Benson, Arizona. My most favorite mountain range in the US.

I took this with my very first Panasonic camera, the TZ1, a five megapixel camera. I didn't want to drag the super-zoom with me cross the continent.

I'm having a hard time getting back into the swing of things after my most wonderful trip to Arizona. I have tons of pictures and stories to tell, but - I just find myself blocked. Perhaps if I post this one picture that will get it started. I have a trip to take you on from Sedona to Kartchner Caverns to Bisbee to Tubac to Tucson and back to Scottsdale.

Sedona's red rocks tomorrow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Back in a Week

Between dealing with my Internet provider's customer service in India and the death of the modems, I need a vacation. So, I'm taking one.

Off to Arizona today to see family. Will be back next Saturday with hopefully a modem that works and lots and lots of snapshots.