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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Sunshine & Gorgeous Scenery

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As I watch the news of CA on fire, my heart goes out to those in harm’s way.  Having been through our own fire, stamping it out in our neighbors yard, watching the flames from our back deck, and still in the midst of the aftermath and burn area around us – I feel their pain more than ever.

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We wandered around Oak Creek and West Fork Trail enjoying the gorgeous environment of Sedona, and I couldn’t help but think of all the gorgeous countryside around the wineries of Sonoma that we have been to many times.

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I hope and pray that the fire fighters are safe, homes are saved, and these terrible fires can be controlled, put out, and CA can move on to the repair, restore, and heal from this awful time.

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Check out more of my Oak Creek / West Fork pix on kritterspix.com…. https://kritterspix.com/2019/10/31/oak-creek-fall/

 

 

Potato Lake

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My friend, Maureen, asked me the other day if I had ever been to Potato Lake.  I promised her I would take some pix to share so she could see it.

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It’s been quite some time since I was last there.  Last time the small circular lake was surrounded by yellow quacking aspens making the lake aglow.  It reminded me of Lockett Meadow with the burst of color on a smaller scale.

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Unfortunately, on this visit, I think I could count the aspens, as there were very few left.  Most had burned up or fallen down.  Such a pity.

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In the absence of aspens, a ton of new crawdads have taken up residence.  Always fascinating how where one thing falls another rises up.

 

East Clear Creek

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If you’ve been to Mogollon Rim by way of Forest Road 95, you’ve passed over the bridge at East Clear Creek.

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The road itself is dusty, windy, and beautiful.  It’s kind of like a suspense thriller – and I don’t mean spooky guy at the end.  In fact, for me it’s a plot that thickens.  It starts with boring tall forest to pull you in.  It’s nice enough, but sorta drab.

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Then it sprinkles in some cool craggy oaks, and the occasional fir.  Then.. just as you turn the corner, it grabs you with more breathtaking views.

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It’s a suspense thriller with a happy ending.

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… and sometimes unexpected twists and turns.

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Kaibab Lake

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We’ve lived in AZ for a bunch of years now.  Truth be known, I was actually born here – one of the few I think.

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We’ve been to all the big lakes of Phoenix – you know: Saguaro, Canyon Lake, Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt, Apache, and Barlett, and many of the other well known lakes like Havasu, Lake Powell, and Lake Mead.  We’ve even been to some of the more obscure lakes like Ashhurst, Kinnikinick, Woods Canyon, Long Lake, Bear Lake, and Knoll Lake.

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Still, you just don’t think of AZ as having so many lakes.

We went to Blue Ridge Reservoir recently… you can see my post here – https://kritterspix.com/2019/08/20/reflections-of-blue-ridge-reservoir/

We found ourselves thinking – we need to get out to some of those ‘other’ lakes we haven’t been to.

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So we decided to head out to Kaibab Lake.  Neither John, nor I, had ever been.  So we were stoked to go someplace new… and found it to be very close to Flagstaff, just outside of Williams in fact.

We found it to be a beautiful respite, with terrific sunset & sunrise views.

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I think we’re on to something… let’s go do more lakes!

Relaxing in the Woods

We got out to the woods recently if you saw my post here… https://kritterspix.com/2019/07/18/a-walk-in-the-woods/

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But since there are woods all around us up North, we are sharing the load.  A recent trip to Greens Peak outside of Show Low highlighted a much different environment.

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This forest is a bit higher elevation than the Mogollon Rim, and gets more rain.  So it makes a great spot for foraging and mushrooming.

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The woods are dense with trees and moldy rocks.  Lots of shade and shadows, and cooler temps.

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I love that we have the vast diversification of areas to solicit and wander through.  It’s a great way to relax and ‘chill’.

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Can’t wait to go back… we are already planning our next trip.  It is mushroom season afterall. 🙂

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