Thursday, March 30, 2017

Empire Ranch, Sonoita, Arizona

We had a big day planned with Debbie and Dale and got up early to have breakfast at the Coyote Pause, a local restaurant.  After that we pointed the car toward Sonoita, AZ and the Empire Ranch.  The old original homestead with numerous additions over the years is in the process of being restored.    

Empire Ranch Info

The historic Empire Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for 140 years. Its rich history includes successive ownership by two prominent ranching families, two corporations, and finally by the federal government on behalf of the general public.

Vail Era (1876-1928

The Empire Ranch was originally established in the 1860’s as a homestead ranch of 160 acres with a flat topped four-room adobe ranch house and adjoining adobe-walled corral. In 1876 the ranch was owned by Edward Nye Fish, a Tucson businessman, when it was acquired for $2,000 by Walter L. Vail, a native of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and Plainfield, New Jersey, and Herbert Hislop, an Englishman. John Harvey, an Englishman from Bermuda, joined the partnership a few months later.
Over the next 20 years, as a part of the historic expansion of ranching, railroads, mining and other growth in the West, Vail and various partners expanded the original land holdings to include over 100,000 acres. The Total Wreck silver mine was discovered and developed, adding to ranch prosperity. The Ranch House became an extended complex with more than 22-rooms and a number of outbuildings and structures were added. Their original flat earthern roofs were later replaced with wooden gable roofs.

In 1896, in order to turn his attention more fully to growing corporate holdings in California. Walter Vail moved his family to Los Angeles and established his corporate headquarters there. Continuing Empire Ranch operations were overseen by Vail Company foremen until 1913 when William Banning Vail, Walter’s third oldest son, took over ranch management. He and his wife Laura Perry Vail, and their three children lived at the ranch until it was sold by Vail Company in 1928.

Boice Era (1928-1969)

In 1928, the Empire Ranch was purchased by the Chiricahua Ranches Company (CRC), successor to the Chiricahua Cattle Company (CCC). The CRC was incorporated by three Boice brothers, Henry Gudgell, Frank Seymour, and Charles Gudgell, respected ranchers known for their promotion of the Hereford breed of cattle in the Southwest. Frank Boice and his wife, Mary Grantham Boice, moved to the Empire Ranch in 1929. Frank and Mary’s sons, Pancho and Bob, grew up on the Empire Ranch and as adults assisted with ranching operations.

The Boices added many modern conveniences to the Ranch House. Propane, and eventually natural gas, was piped into the house; a large electric walk-in refrigeration unit was installed; plumbing was upgraded and cement stucco was applied to the exterior house walls. The living room, dining room, and kitchen in the family residence were remodeled. A swimming pool was installed south of the house and became the focal point for family gatherings and parties.

During the 1940 and 1950s many Hollywood films were shot at the Empire Ranch and in the vicinity. The Boices hosted numerous film stars, including John Wayne, when Red River was filmed at the Empire Ranch.

Corporate Era (1969-1988)

In the 1980s a groundswell of public support developed to preserve the ranch and its natural resources in their pristine condition. In 1988 a series of land exchanges put the property into public ownership under the administration of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a division of the U.S. Department of Interior. In 2000, the U.S. Congress officially designated these 42,000 acres to be Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (LCNCA).

BLM entered into a lease agreement with John Donaldson and his son Mac to continue ranching on the Empire Ranch, following modern ranching practices designed to preserve and monitor the LCNCA’s natural resources and also accommodate public recreation. In 2009 the Tomlinson family, owners of the Vera Earl Ranch in Sonoita, assumed the Donaldson grazing lease and are ranching on the Empire Ranch today.

From the outset, BLM managers were committed to preserving the historic Empire Ranch headquarters buildings and interpreting them for future generations. Necessary studies were undertaken to support and specify appropriate historic preservation.

The Empire Ranch Foundation (ERF) was established as a private non-profit organization in 1997 to work with the BLM to develop private support to preserve the ranch buildings and enhance the educational and recreational opportunities it offers to the general public. In the time since, ERF and BLM have completed significant emergency repairs to the main ranch house and to major outbuildings at the headquarters. Major long term permanent repairs to the Ranch House and Adobe Haybarn are being specified and undertaken as funding permits, while interpretation and education programs and a Discovery Trail are being implemented continuously.

 Gerry and I have been to the ranch a number of times and always enjoy the visits.  It is neat to see what a working ranch looks like and all the changes to it over the past 140 years.  I know you must be tired of reading after the previous paragraphs so I will change over to pictures.  

Ranch outbuildings

Main ranch house with additions on both sides.  Master bath or right.

Nice windmill behind a barn

Horse corral on the right

Rooms for staff and ranch hands

Living room

Master Bath in addition

General layout of the house

Original roof beams

Covered hitching post

Old cattle corrals

Huge cottonwood tree along the creek.
 We spent a couple hours touring the ranch and checking out some dry camping sites there.  Since it is BLM land, it should be free camping.  The volunteer manning the office at the ranch was getting ready to pull out after being there for 3 months.  It is about 35 miles to the nearest town of any size and I imagine it must have gotten boring sitting there all the time.  To each his own.

The ranch was our first long stop, but not our last.  Debbie and Dale have never been to Tombstone except for a drive through with us a couple years ago.  They wanted to go back and check it out in more detail.  More about that later.

Are you still reading this?  If so, you must really be patient.  Thanks for hanging in to the end.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, Tucson, AZ

The first visit to Tucson for Gerry and me was in October of 2001.  We had planned a trip to Albuquerque, NM to attend the Balloon Fiesta and then on to Las Vegas to attend a food show with Barbara & Henry.  After these two stops we decided to check out the Tucson area to see if we could find a nice RV park to stay in for the winter in the future.

The cost of camping in the Florida Keys became so expensive that we decided in 2006 to make the drive to Tucson after once again attending the Balloon Fiesta.  We had heard about Sabino Canyon then and after we settled in we headed there.  Oooopss.  They had a flood in the canyon the previous summer and it was closed down to tourists.  It took them 2 years to repair all the damage and reopen the canyon.  

It was on our "bucket list" to visit, however we always seemed to have an excuse to not visit the canyon.  Well, the day finally arrived and we went with friends Debbie & Dale to check out the place.  They wanted to hike the canyon and we decided the tram ride was more within our limits so we told them to hike and we would take the tram ride and wait for them.  The day we picked for the trip was very hot with temps in the high 90s and they decided to take the tram ride with us.  Good decision on their part.

Rather than write up about the Sabino Canyon, I copied from a pamphlet the description below, plus included a link to the complete information regarding the canyon.

Nestled in the foothills of Arizona's southern Catalina Mountains 12 miles from downtown Tucson, the oasis of Catalina Canyon is one of the most scenic spectacles in Arizona. A paved road runs 3.8 miles into the canyon, crossing 9 stone bridges over Sabino Creek. It begins at an altitude of 2,800 feet and rises to 3,300 feet at its end, a popular drop-off in summer because of the swimming holes at Hutch's Pool and The Crack.

Winding through the canyon, visitors who follow the road have views of the creek, the riparian vegetation, magnificent Saguaros on the canyon walls, and towering rock formations. Picnic areas are scattered along the road, as are trailheads leading to other sections of the National Forest or paralleling the road. Within the canyon, visitors travel by foot or horseback. Bicycles are permitted before 9am or after 5pm any day except Wednesdays and Saturdays .

The only motorized vehicles allowed on the 3.8-mile paved road that leads through the canyon are the Sabino Canyon/Bear Canyon shuttles and Park Service vehicles. Ramadas at the entrance give canyon visitors a place to sit and watch the wildlife while waiting for the shuttle.

General Information

Seasons / Hours

  • Park: Sunrise to sunset, daily
  • Visitor Center: 8:00 am to 4:30 PM daily 

Sabino Canyon Article

 We saw this crested cactus a couple blocks from Sabino Canyon and Gerry made me turn around to get a picture of it.  She does enjoy seeing them and getting photos.

 There are mile markers on the canyon road to give people hope when they are walking back from the end of the road.  I was surprised to see the number of families walking down the road.  It was quite hot that day and the sun was merciless. 

The tram makes several stops along the trail and passengers can get off, rest, look around, hike or whatever before hopping back on the tram.  Debbie and Dale took the opportunity to hop off near the end of the ride.  They spent a while exploring a bit more before returning to the base, where we were waiting for them.  Shade and benches were welcome.

 There were numerous crossings of the creek running down the center of the canyon.  I would have loved to get out and soak in the cool waters, but I didn't have a bathing suit.

Nice pool in the creek

 There are some very steep mountains on each side of the canyon.  The hiking trails are numerous and many mountain lions have been seen in the area.  I wouldn't want to meet up with one of them unless I had some protection.  They do keep the deer population in check so I guess that is a good thing.

 A small dam has been turned into a base for the road in the canyon.   The water looked very clear and inviting.

 These two young children came prepared for the hike with their water bottles and flip flops to wade in the creek.  It looked like they were enjoying themselves.

 Then, there was another nice clear pool on the way up the canyon.  I didn't see any fish in the water, but I imagine there are trout in the stream.

Our road in the distance along with the creek

 This group of people were swimming and enjoying the water on our way to the top and still there when we came back later.

Entrance to the park
 I would have loved to hike the canyon 20 years ago before my two knees gave out.  Now we enjoyed the tram tour and were able to see a lot.  

If you are ever in Tucson and have the time take the walking tour or tram tour of the canyon.  It is beautiful and wild.

ASARCO - Tucson Misson Mine Tour

March 17, 2017

ASARCO Mineral Discovery Center

The Mission open-pit copper mine was at one time five separate mining properties, but over the years, Asarco has combined them into one integrated mining operation. The mine occupies around 20,000 acres of private, State leased, and Indian land.  There are over 600 employees working two shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Each year the mine has the capacity to process about 260,000 tons of copper concentrates which yields 132,700,000 pounds of copper and 1,234,000 ounces of silver. Annually, the Mission mine pays royalties and taxes to the State of Arizona and royalties to the Tohono O’odham Indian nation.

There is some old equipment near the building housing the gift shop and a small museum.  The large truck on the left was too small to be run economically.  It was replaced by a truck much larger that cost about $5,000,000.  They currently have 24 such trucks.  The six tires on the trucks cost $50,000 each  and last about 6 months before having to be replaced.  At one time the old tires were recycled, however they had too many of them and the market dried up.  Now the tires are dumped into a played out pit and covered up.

 Structure from an old mine that is near the visitors center.

The different colored rocks from the tailings pile come from different layers in the mine pit.  These pilings can be seen from I-19 for miles and the view from google earth show how large these mines are.  They are nothing more than ground up rocks with the copper removed.

 An 11-foot-diameter tire from a 240-ton haul truck provided a
great photo opportunity

The first stop on our tour was the open-pit viewpoint on the south rim of the Mission Mine. The viewpoint was securely fenced for safety, and it has four binocular telescopes to provide a close-up view of the trucks and shovels working in the mine.

The Mission Mine is a quarter-mile deep, two miles from north to south, and a mile-and-three-quarters from east to west. About six times the amount of earth moved to dig the Panama Canal has been mined here.

The haul trucks carry the ore out of the pit along a haulage road with a slope of no more than about nine percent. They dump the ore into a gyratory crusher which reduces the ore to eight inches or less — about the size of soccer balls.  The primary crusher may send the crushed ore on to a secondary crusher or pile it directly onto the coarse ore stockpile.

 The ore is ground into a fine powder by large rotating mills. The two types used in the Mission South Mill are called SAG (semi-autogenous grinding) mills and ball mills. SAG mills use larger pieces of ore to break up the smaller pieces (autogenous — does it by itself). The larger pieces break down as well. To help the process along, eight-inch-diameter steel balls are added to the rocks as they tumble inside the rotating mill (semi-autogenous — gets some help from the steel balls). The two SAG mills in the Mission South Mill each have two 3,000 horsepower electric motors. They can rotate in either direction which helps even out the wear on the steel liners inside the mill.
When the rocks are about 3/8-inch or smaller, they are fed as a slurry into the two ball mills. Each ball mill is turned by a single 3,000 horsepower electric motor.   These mills contain literally hundreds of thousands of three-inch diameter steel balls that pulverize the ore until it is like fine sand or face powder. Only then are the copper minerals broken free of the rest of the rock to be separated by flotation.
 The slurry of water and pulverized ore is mixed with milk of lime to raise the pH and small amounts of special reagents: a frother to make bubbles, and a collector chemical that causes the copper minerals to stick to those bubbles. Air is blown into the tank and the mixture is vigorously agitated like a high-speed blender.  Rising bubbles carry the copper minerals up and over the edge of the flotation tank. The bubbles break soon after they flow over the edge. The copper minerals are then ground up even finer and  purified by another flotation process.
CuFeS2The dried copper concentrate of about 28 percent copper is shipped to the smelter. It represents less than one percent of the material removed from the mine. Concentrate is just a fine powder of the mineral chalcopyrite which is a naturally occurring compound of copper, iron, and sulfur.
The material that sinks in the first flotation cell goes on to two more flotation cells to recover as much copper as possible. What doesn’t float is called tailings because it goes out the “tail end” of the flotation circuit.  About 80 percent of the water used

The South Mill
At the Mill, the copper ore is ground into a powder so the copper minerals can be separated by the froth flotation process.  

There was more to the tour but my old memory isn't what it used to be, so you will have to take the tour yourself to hear it all.  

I was chatting with the tour guide and asked if they backfilled the pits like they do with strip mining in Illinois where Gerry and I grew up.  She said no and then asked where in Illinois we lived and when I said 50 miles south of Springfield she then asked what town.  It was becoming apparent to me that she knew the area.  When I said Gillespie, IL she said she went to middle school there, high school in Mt. Olive and Litchfield, IL  What a small world we live in when a perfect stranger connects with you over where you lived.  

BTW:  She did a fine job on the tour and hopefully if you take it, she will be your guide.

That was our day, how was yours?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mt Lemmon

March 12, 2017

Mt. Lemmon/Summerhaven Information

The Summerhaven subdivision of Mount Lemmon, Arizona is a community approximately 29 miles north of Tucson in the center of the Santa Catalina Mountains at an elevation of 8000’. The whole Santa Catalina mountain range is mistakenly called Mount Lemmon. The peak of Mt. Lemmon (9,157’) is actually more of a knoll, located adjacent to the University of Arizona Stewart Observatories.

The average temperature on Mount Lemmon is approximately 30 degrees cooler than that of Tucson which makes Mount Lemmon quite popular during the summer months. Additionally the top of the mountain is 9,157’ and is the location of the southernmost ski area in the United States. Mount Lemmon Ski Valley normally provides skiing and snowboarding from late December into March or April. The El Nino of 1997-98 brought 30 plus feet of snow to the mountain, one of the best years for skiing and snowboarding in recent memory. Ski Valley is also the home of the Iron Door Restaurant.

In addition, there are a number of recreational amenities offered on the mountain, including hiking, camping, fishing, birding, sledding, snowshoeing and rock climbing, making the area an attractive recreation and getaway location less than one hour from Tucson.

There are approximately 450 acres of privately owned land on Mount Lemmon, completely surrounded by the Coronado National Forest. Summerhaven, the largest subdivision, was subdivided in the 1920’s. The lots in this subdivision are small, typically averaging between 5,000 and 6,500 square feet. The subdivision of Loma Sabino Pines was created by a land swap with the US Forest Service back in the 1980’s. The lots in this subdivision average 16,000 square feet, giving the area a more open feeling.

The majority of the 450 acres of privately owned land is utilized for second homes and private residences. There are also approximately 130 cabins on land leased from the US Forest Service under 20-year permits.

Commercial development is limited to the lots along Sabino Canyon Parkway. Currently Summerhaven has The Sawmill Run, a new restaurant opened April 1, 2012. The Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop, provides anything a tourist, cabin owner, cabin renter or Arizona Trail biker or hiker may need or want. In addition the General Store & Gift Shop offers a large selection of gifts, to groceries to camping gear. The Living Rainbow, a gift shop, is located down the street and the Pizza and Cookie Cabin, serving pizza, giant cookies and homemade chili operates in Summerhaven. A US Post Office and a real estate office, Mt. Lemmon Realty also resides in Summerhaven. Karen’s Sky Mountain Realty operates out of Summerhaven but does not currently have an office here.

Overnight lodging facilities are currently non-existent in Summerhaven and on Mt. Lemmon. Families wanting to stay on the mountain must rent a cabin from private individuals or Mt. Lemmon Realty in the summer months. All businesses here rely heavily on summer business. Mt. Lemmon, because of the limited overnight facilities and the close proximity to Tucson, is largely a day use area. However, in the summer months, there is a large population in the private homes. After all, the subdivision was named Summerhaven for a reason back in the 1920’s.

The Mount Lemmon Highway, which carries traffic from metropolitan Tucson to Summerhaven, has under gone a Federal Highway Improvement. This project was started in 1986 and completed in 2003. It is joked that it was a planned 10 year project that lasted 17 years. The project was implemented and was been accomplished in 3 to 5 mile segments, every other year. Traffic has increased because of the work done..

The Santa Catalina’s are heavily visited with an average use exceeding a million visitors per year. Mt. Lemmon and Sabino Canyon are Tucson’s second most popular tourist attraction. Weekend days with fresh snow on the ground are always a challenge. At times the Mt. Lemmon Highway is closed to traffic due to too many cars on the highway and lack of facilities to accommodate these large numbers of people and cars

One of our favorite drives is up to Mt. Lemmon while there is still snow on the ground.  If one times it right the snow melt creates waterfalls along the way and the streams are running with the ice cold water.  We were too late for the above, but it was a great drive nonetheless.  

Debbie and Dale went with us and enjoyed the views and drive as much as we did.  There is a small creek behind them with a little water in it but the photo doesn't show it.

Debbie & Dale
As mentioned above the road to the top took a number of years to complete and once you drive it you will see why.  It's 26 miles from the bottom to the top and an uphill climb almost all the way.  There are a number of turnouts along the way and also some campgrounds for small rvs or tent campers.  I wouldn't even consider driving our 40ft motorhome to the top.

There are a number of areas cut through boulders with sharp dropoffs.  Thankfully they have barriers that are quite strong and would save you in the event you ran off the road.

There are a number of beautiful cabins in Summerhaven that are mainly used in the summer to cool off.  The cabin below looked very nice and would be a great summer retreat.

It was warm on the mountain and the snow runoff was crossing the road in a couple places.  I would have liked to get out and wade in this stream crossing the road, but there wasn't a place to park.

We saw this vintage Porsche on the way up and I asked the driver what it was.  He said he bought it in an estate sale a couple years ago and was slowly restoring it.  The man was over 6ft tall and his head and shoulders were unprotected due to not having a windshield. 

There was snow on the ski slope but it wasn't deep enough to ski on and the area was closed off.  There are a couple ski lifts there and 2 or 3 ski slopes.  Not Sun Valley, but close enough for a day trip to ski.

We stopped at an overlook on the way back and got our picture taken.  I think we could see for 50 miles more or less from the area.

Closeup of the stone work.

I've included this tree since it's covered in carvings with initials, A loves B, etc.  If you double click on the picture you can see the carvings.  There is a smaller tree near this one with carvings all over it also.  It's amazing that the tree can live with all the bark cut out of it.

We took a quick drive through Saguaro Park East to show Debbie and Dale what is there.  It's an eight mile drive on a one way paved road and is a pleasant drive.  We were too early for most of the desert flowers, but there were a few out.  They have nature trails in the park along with many night time hikes led by a ranger.  Check it out if you are in the area.

Crested Saguaro Cactus

We stopped by Saguaro Corners restaurant on the way back and had a couple cold ones before we headed back to the campground.  There was a man singing and playing the guitar to entertain the patrons as well.  It was a long day but we enjoyed the mountain and Saguaro Park very much.

That was our day, how was yours?  Can you remember back to March 12?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hummel Sale

One of the ladies in Gerry's craft group happened to mention that an antique shop had Hummels on sale for 60% off.  That perked up Gerry's interest in a heartbeat so she decided to check out the sale.

Now some people buy Hummels as an investment, but Gerry just likes them and has collected them for the last 50 years or more.  She has a nice collection of them in storage and occasionally finds one or two on sale and adds to the collection.  That way she can see them while we are in the motorhome and enjoy them.  The following are some of her collection that is in storage.

Gerry knows the names of each hummel and she only collects original Goebel figurines.  There have been knockoff ones out there but she knows her hummels very well.

She had me somewhat nervous for a while when she asked me to come in and look at a couple hummels.  I usually just say if you like it, buy it.  When I saw the price tag for this pair I had to modify my statement.  Gulp!

Thank God she wasn't that interested in these three and we walked out with three others for a reasonable price.  These were 32 inch ones and she prefers the 3 - 6 inch ones.