Parker Creek

Having lived in AZ all of my adult life, we have traveled many of the places and roads that AZ has to offer. We have enjoyed exploring the off roads and the gorgeous scenery throughout our amazing state.

It’s always a treat when we find a new special place and scenic view.

Parker Creek was such a place. It had stunning views of Roosevelt Lake and Four Peaks. It was truly breath taking.

The only thing we missed were some great clouds and wonderful sunsets. We’ll have to go back.

Oregon Coast

We just got back from the Oregon Coast, a trip we have made now multiple times in the last few years.

There is something special about the scenery and the seafood. We took the opportunity to get a much needed respite for some relaxing views, and amazing seafood.

We saw deer, elk, turkey, and even sheep along the way, along with rock spires, docks, and ocean views. This time of year, the weather was windy and cool with occasion rain…. a bit chilly. But we got some nice walks in and visited some great seafood spots for some amazing fresh seafood.

We camped in mostly state parks which offered some terrific walking trails filled with wonderful vistas and colorful plants. We were especially enamored with the western skunk cabbage which we coined the more affectionate name, ‘sea lilies’, with great bright yellow lily looking flowers, amidst large green leaves.

We enjoyed fresh oysters and clams, cooked and raw; fresh fish (ling cod, rock fish, and petrole sole); and fantastic Dungeness crab. The 2021 dungeness crab season isn’t the best, but we did manage to get a few tastes in of some terrific crab, as we picked up fresh fish at the docks and markets, caught that day, and enjoyed that night in our camper every day.

The drive home was a sad one as we enjoyed the redwoods of Northern CA, and headed back home, ending our sabbatical too soon. I’m ready to do it again already.

See more photos here … https://kritterspix.com/2021/04/21/oregon/

Nelson, Nevada

We were ready for a diversion, so we headed out of town to a place on our ‘want to go’ list. We had been told that we could go to Nelson, Nevada at the end of the road, with a great view overlooking the Colorado River and see big horn sheep coming down for water.

We didn’t see any big horn sheep, but we saw lots of iconic old cars and old buildings, relics of a time gone by.

Instead we found this cute little, eclectic ghost town between Searchlight and Boulder City, NV. Back in its heyday, in the late 1800’s Nelson and the El Dorado Mining Camp was the largest city in NV (prior to Las Vegas casino’s). Gold mining was active in the mines here from 1858 through 1945.

We were thrilled to be able to take a mine tour and actually go inside the mine.

The El Dorado Mine has been featured in several notable movies, probably most popular Kurt Russell & Kevin Costner’s 2001 movie, ‘3000 Miles to Graceland’.

These days it’s main attraction is tourists who come by the hoards to wander through the scattered relics, and tour the mine for $15 per head.

We enjoyed our visit and the opportunity for a change in scenario that beckoned a different time.

Fall Colors

If I were pressed, I would have to say, Fall is my favorite season. While Spring brings flowers, and winter snow… Fall intrigues us with it’s beguiling colors and flirtatious change in season. Winter is coming she tells us… if only.

Fields of fallen leaves drop from the trees above and crunch below our feet as they blow across the forest floor.

To me, it’s a magical time; one of re-birth, re-newal, and change.

I’m ready for what comes next.

Carnero Lake

I posted some photos here .. https://kritterspix.com/2020/07/31/carneros-sunrise/, from our last visit to Carnero Lake.

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We enjoyed it so much, we went back for more.

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While most folks go to a lake to swim, fish, and canoe, we go to relax and watch the animals and the sunset / sunrise, and take pix.

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I could sit by the waters edge and watch osprey fish or chipmunk play all day.

Carnero Pontoon

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Buck Springs

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Buck Springs is one of a number of old cabins littered around Mogollon Rim’s back dirt roads.  Tree Shadows

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There are two standing cabins on this site.  The smaller of the two was built in 1923, while the larger was built in 1946.

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The cabins found in this area were built by early Forest Service, ranchers and settlers while they worked the land.  The area is also home to animals looking for food, water, and shelter.

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Reflection Pond

The natural springs throughout the area provide vital water and pools for the wildlife that inhabit the area.

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If you visit, remember leave it cleaner than you found it.  These are precious places that hold their own history and beauty.  Leave a lasting positive impression for future visitors…. not one of trash that one brings in and leaves as a poor testament to today’s mankind.

Chavez Pass

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Arizona is filled with many vast expanses and amazing viewpoints.  The landscape is diverse and varied, with cactus in the south and pine trees in the north.  The land has seen equally disparate travelers, from the Indians that roamed the land hundreds of years ago, to the early European / American settlers who risk life and limb to trek across her rugged peaks and valleys.

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Back 1000 years ago, tribes roamed this land having left abandoned ruins that leave only to our imagination life in another time.  From A.D. 1050 – 1425 the Sinagua lived, foraged, and hunted this land from this ancestral Hopi pueblo, now known as Chavez Pass.

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A large oval depression north of the pueblo is the remains of a prehistoric ball court.  It also served as a trade center for a network that reached from the Hopi Mesas and Zuni Pueblo to the Pacific and Northern Mexico.

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There is very little left of what once was.  The overgrown thistle and foxtails outnumber the petroglyphs and stacked rock walls, or what’s left of them.  Yet, the opportunity to wander through something so ancient and decaying into the land over time, allows us a glimpse of simpler times, when life really was rough.

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Mogollon Rim toward Payson

We have been to the Mogollon Rim many times.  The ‘Rim’ we frequent is off of SR-87 long Forest Road – 300.  The Mogollon Rim escarpment actually continues for several hundred miles.

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It passes through some gorgeous country and spectacular views, not to mention a number of lakes.  Bear Lake and Knoll Lake along FR-300 are popular, and if one continues on they can visit Woods Canyon Lake and Willow Springs.  Though the latter two lakes are more easily accessible from Payson along SR-260.

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Continuing East on SR-260, the Rim Road (FR-300) crosses the highway and continues all the way to Show Low.  We had never taken this section toward Show Low before, so we took the occasion to check it out.

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We found the early part to have some nice views (and a LOT of campers, as it is very close to the SR-260 highway).  Continuing on, the East side is completely fenced off and entry to the Indian Reservation land prohibited.  Through this stretch the views are obscured through thick trees.  You literally can’t see the forest through the trees.

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It was a beautiful drive and yielded some photographic opportunities, although the weather struggled to cooperate.  We set out under the forecast of rain, and rain we got… and fog, and barely a sunset or sunrise obscured by dense cloud cover, and then clearing to blue sky after the storm had passed.

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I’m not complaining, any day spent in the woods with some gorgeous views, is always a good day.

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Mystery Castle

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Having lived in the Valley for years, we certainly had ample opportunity to visit any number of the many ‘attractions’ that Phoenix offered. Working and traveling for a living, many came to wait until after we retired, such as the Mystery Castle.

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The Mystery Castle is known for being this eclectic ‘castle’ on the top of the hill, just below the popular hiking trails at South Mountain Park in south Phoenix. We only knew that it was made up of common items and a bit ramshackle, but never knew its story. For our $10 admission we were given the Tour of the 8000 sq ft ‘mansion’, with 18 separate rooms, 13 fireplaces, and a myriad of interesting details.

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It was built by a man by the name of Boyce Luther Gulley, who left his wife and child and escaped Seattle, WA to a life of isolation with the very contagious and deadly disease of tuberculosis. He moved to AZ to find a warmer climate to live out his final days in 1930. He lived much longer than anyone expected, and over the 15 years between 1930 and 1945, when he died, he built this monstrosity of a house.

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He staked claim to presumably dig for gold at the base of South Mountain. He had amassed 40 acres of land through his claim and the little gold he did find. He likely built the house to establish living quarters, and perhaps a place for his family to live after he had gone. Not having much money, all the materials were found and procured, such as the many slump bricks that with ‘mistakes’ in the firing process (now expensive oddities and rare treasures).

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As he continued to survive, he continued to build in a run-on and ramshackle manner with inventive flourishes throughout. He added on a large great room, fireplaces, and flagstone floor. His big expenses were concrete and food. Most of the stones came from the surrounding land, and decorative pebbles throughout the flooring from the nearby Salt River.

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Archways and circular windows with old thrown away pressed glass containers (early versions of Tupperware) as glass blocks and sky lights. Having no electricity or running water, he added holes in the ceiling for ventilation and light. Later he added a guest room, a little girls room for his young daughter, and later a bar and chapel. Eighteen rooms in all, most with fireplaces to warm the cool winter evenings. He built paved pathways, breeze ways and roof top patios, all with little to no education, power tools (or power), water, or assistance.

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Feature shelves jut out randomly and selectively from its breezeway walls for knickknacks and special decorative treasures. Benches built into the walls were convenient for sitting, reflecting, and rests through the day. Arches and pillars lead one from the main house area to the auxiliary bedrooms for his daughter. Pebble snakes embed the floors as a sign of good luck and virility.   I couldn’t help think that he was like an unknown Frank Lloyd Wright with great design ideas, architectural details, and well thought out features, but without the entourage, money, and fame of the arrogant FLW.

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His family finally came to see him just in the months before he died in 1945. His wife Nell and now 20-year-old daughter Mary Lou lived out their lives there. They found that people would pay to see the house and in 1948 began giving tours, which have continued since. The daughter Mary Lou died in 2010. She set up a Foundation to take care of the house and her father’s legacy and continue the tours into the future.

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It was a fascinating look into the tenacity of a man, desperate to leave something for his family. In the end he left much more. The innovativeness of what the human soul can create with limited resources and shear will is on display at the Mystery Castle. While the finish work is rough and amenities slim, the workmanship and work effort are awe-inspiring.   It was fascinating a tour and an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.

Monarchs

MorroRockFog_IR.jpgLife is short – see and do those things that are important to you.

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I have always wanted to see the Monarch butterfly migration, ever since my friend Gary told us about it when he was down in Mexico years ago.  I don’t want to go to Mexico to see it, so we did the next best thing and headed to the coast of California.

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Of course, we headed to Paso Robles first to pick up some wine for the trip.  Just 2-1/2 hours south of San Jose, and a half hour from Morro Bay, we spent a couple days tasting great wines and buying some to enjoy on our trip down the coast.

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While we were amazed to see the eucalyptus trees dripping with butterflies, we were disgusted to realize that they are indeed a dying breed.  What used to be millions of butterflies, has dwindled to only 4,000 to visit Pismo Beach alone, and it lessens each year.

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The milkweed the butterflies like to eat and lay eggs in are dying off, as are the eucalyptus trees they shelter in.  Trees have blown down, washed away, or burned up and the monarchs don’t come anymore.  Areas from Morro Bay to Santa Barbara are now devoid of the annual migrations.

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Such a pity, as the monarch is such an amazing story of triumph and resilience.  The monarch butterfly only lives 2 months… a month of which it becomes a caterpillar, then morphs to a butterfly when it is focused on eating and laying eggs for a new generation.

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It takes 5 generations for the butterflies to fly from southern CA to British Columbia… and then 1 generation to coast back, and start all over again.

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I’m glad we were able to see the monarch migration.  It enriched our life for witnessing natures beauty.  Take time out to do those things that are important to you.

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