Friday, August 8, 2008

7 Aug 2008 - Arizona

On my birthday, August 7th, I am back at the computer and find the time to describe my last two weeks in Arizona with my family. It took a GMC pickup and a Dodge Aspen to transport us all to the Sprucedale Guest Ranch, near Alpine, in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. I drove the pickup and Emily (age 14) rode with me, acting as navigator and photographer. Daughter, Alisa, son-in-law Scott, and grandkids Heather and Braden were in the Aspen. We left Sierra Vista, AZ once we got ourselves packed, and headed north to the I-10 east. Around Willcox (home of Rex Allen, cowboy star), we turned north to Safford. At this point the lunch bell rang, and we stopped at Arbys, then the real treat was a dessert stop at Dairy Queen for their July special flavor: Girl Scout Chocolate Thin Mint Blizzard. How double delicious!. Heading east we reached Hwy 191, the Coronado Trail, which took us to the old mining towns of Clifton, Morenci and Metcalf. We were amazed at how huge the Morenci copper mine was. They say it's the biggest in America, I believe the Phelps-Dodge Company owns it. Clifton reminded me of old Bisbee. The highway north, paralleling the New Mexico border, is famous for it's many twists and turns. I was expecting worse, but because the road surface was very good, it wasn't so bad, however Alisa opted to take another route home (via the New Mexico side). We saw a few stranded cattle along the road, and hundreds of acres of forest that had burned a couple years ago.

After 6 1/2 hours we arrived at Road 26, just north of Hannagan Meadows. For the next 12 miles, west, we were on a gravel/dirt road and past some beautiful ranch homes and exceptional mountain meadows. Just before the ranch we drove through the meadow where the Ranch horses were loose to graze. There were several foals that we would later meet. Sprucedale has been a guest ranch owned by the Wiltbank family since 1941. This week there would be 32 guests, and more than half were children. Every day we rode horses on outstanding mountain/meadow trails, able to get out of the "line" and enjoy an actual ride. Meals were home-cooked and delicious in the dining room. Activities included foal leading, cow milking, kittens & puppies, horseshoes, vollyball, football, rodeo events, dances, a cookout, a evening bonfire, and hay wagon ride. We knew this time of year is the "monsoon season" in Arizona, but we were caught off-guard a couple times with the suddenness and intensity of the storms. It even hailed one afternoon. But these rains passed quickly and except for the mud in the rodeo arena, quickly forgotten. One day I took an "historic drive" with "Big Emer" Wiltbank in his Suburban with three other guests, and we saw a great deal of the historic country/ mountains/ lakes and into the Apache Reservation. When we got to the site of the former logging camp "Maverick" it poured rain, but we got a good idea of where our guest cabins were originally built on the Apache Reservation, and later moved to Sprucedale when the logging contract ended many years ago. The last day included a gymkhana of pole-bending and keyhole racing. I competed in both, and did OK, with only minor stresses on my right wrist and shoulder (I'm not 14 anymore!).

Saturday, July 26, we went separate ways, with Braden, age 11, and I driving north on Hwy 191, and the rest of the family heading back home. Braden and I were going to Flagstaff to participate in the Elderhostel Intergenerational Program: Rails, Ropes and Rafts. But we had one day to kill, so I decided that a detour to Canyon de Chelly National Monument would be interesting. Leaving Sprucedale we encountered horses crossing the Highway at the first town, Alpine. Of course I stopped an took photos... we were the only vehicle heading north at the time. Then we passed Nutrioso (means beaver & bear in Spanish), Eager, Springerville and St. Johns. We got caught up in the Rodeo parade at St. Johns as we ventured into the old Mormon ranching town to get gas. Finally we reached Sanders at I-40 and I was able to get a brief cell-phone signal on Verizon. We called Alisa and they were just about to Morenci on the way home. We continued north on Hwy 191 to Ganado and the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. It was a great surprise to visit this original trading post now on the Navajo Reservation. It was a step-back in time to enter the trading post built in 1883 and J. L. Hubbell's home. President Teddy Roosevelt was once a guest there. I spied an oil painting on the wall of the home, by Louis Akin, and ever seeking genealogical connections, I looked him up where I got home. Alas, he stems from a completely different Akin family than mine, as near as I can figure out. Just north about 30 minutes we reached Chinle, AZ and the entrance to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. We checked into the Thunderbird Lodge and with directions from the National Park Service visitor's center, we drove along the 19-mile south rim of the canyon and stopped at the beautiful overlooks. before sundown.

Sunday, July 27, 2008 Braden and I were up early to get breakfast at the lodge and take the Thunderbird morning truck tour into the Canyon floor. One must have a Navajo with you to enter the Canyon except at one particular trail to White House ruins. The canyon walls are up to 1,000 feet high and includes 2,000 prehistoric sites and 12 major Anasazi ruins. We enjoyed the open truck ride, especially when it criss-crossed through the river going up the canyon. But our schedule was tight, and after the tour we headed for a fast lunch and were off towards Flagstaff. I decided to try local Navajo Reservation Road 15 as the fastest route to Flagstaff. It turned out fine, and very scenic, but the Navajo Nation doesn't seem to post many roadsigns, so I relied on my map. We drove through Burnside, Cornfield, Sunrise Springs, Greasewood, Indian Wells, and Dilkon before returning to I-40 and a fast track to Flagstaff, and our La Quinta Hotel. Remarkably we arrived just exactly on time, at 3 pm, Arizona time (the Navajo Nation goes on federal time (day-light savings)). Just in time to check into our room and attend the Elderhostel registration. There were 37 of us, and mostly grandchildren, who would be here this week, and we all walked to dinner at the nearby Sizzler Restaurant.

This week was filled with so many wonderful and adventurous events and happenings, that I'd best just list them: Mon: Ropes Challenge Course (more later), Forest survival workshop, and Raptor presentation at the Flagstaff Arboretum. Tue: Bus to the Glen Canyon Dam; 3/4 mile walk to the Horseshoe Bend overlook; drive down 2-mile tunnel to the Colorado River to take rafts for floating down 25 miles to Lee's Ferry; dinner at Cameron Trading Post. Wed: Geology presentation at the University of Northern Arizona and freetime which Braden and I filled with a visit to the Pioneer Museum, and the Museum of Northern Arizona, finishing at the University of Northern Arizona Library - to search the Special Collections for my Ferrell/Blanding family neighbors when they lived in the Cliffs district northeast of Flagstaff (more later). Thur: Bus to Williams, AZ, then old train to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. We hiked down Bright Angel Trail a for a ways and visited the historic buildings and sights on the rim. A great treat was double scoops of ice cream. There was a horseback train robbery on the train ride back to Williams, and singing cowboys. A great trip. Fri: our last day was the morning a Walnut Canyon National Monument just east of Flagstaff. There are more Anasazi cliff dwelling ruins in this beautiful canyon. All too soon our time ended and we headed back to Sierra Vista. Unfortunately, I would later learn that I'd forgotten to take the clothes hanging in the closet at La Quinta. When I later called them, they had put it all in a bag at the lost and found and we arranged to have it sent UPS to my home in Hawaii. Pheww!

To go back to the bit of genealogy research I was able to do. My great Aunt Fern Blanding married Lee R. Ferrell around 1914, but he died about three years later, so then she married his brother, Carl E. Ferrell, around 1917 and moved to a ranch near Flagstaff. They are located on the 1920 US Census at Cliffs Precinct, Coconino County, Arizona. My mom said that Uncle Carl was a big lumberman who, together with my grandfather, Leonard Pearce, and Aunt Fern, bought some property to raise potatoes and probably hay, etc. Looking at Carl's WWI Draft Registration card he shows he was at "Black Bill Park" a meadow area originally purchased by Black Bill ( H.Conrad West) when the land was a possible railroad track site to get to Grand Canyon. Braden and I visited the UNA Library to look up their neighbors that were there when my mom visited them in about 1920. Using the UNA computers I printed out the census pages and found the neighbors, the Harlow Jaeger family, Floyd & Daisy Copeland, and the Bert Doyle family. Braden searched the photo archives card cataloge and found an 1894 original photo of Bert Doyle standing on the steps of the Flagstaff city hall. We had to have white gloves, etc. to view the photos of him and also author, Zane Grey. I think Bert Doyle may have help guide Zane Grey around Flagstaff (Al Doyle was noted as the guide). Anyway I ordered a copy of that photo for $15 and should get it in the mail.

The long trip back south to Sierra Vista was a bit eventful. North of Phoenix there was a two-motorcycle accident which blocked Interstate-10. We sat at a standstill for 10 or 15 minutes then went about 5 mph merging into one-lane for the next five miles until we passed the scene. While stopped the digital thermometer readout on the truck rear-view mirror showed 122 degrees F. It was very hot and we were wondering how interesting it would be to have raw eggs and see them fry on the pavement. Between Phoenix and Tucson we narrowly avoided a terrific thunderstorm and sandstorm that passed across the highway just before us. We came upon two wrecks on either side of the highway who had been blown off. One car was totally upside down. At last we arrived back in Sierra Vista at sundown and had a nice reunion with the rest of the family.


Anonymous said...

Hello -- We are also Akins. How did you find information on Louis Akin? I have looked all over for his family ties.


Donna said...

Hello Anonymous Akin,
Thanks for your comment about Louis Akin, the artist. I found information for him on Does any of my Akin(s) family seem to connect with yours? -- Thanks, Donna Hague Wendt