A perfect weather Sunday was a great reason to go sniff out some more wildflowers.
The Globe area is proud enough of their wildflowers they have a festival the weekend of April 7th and 8th, but we visited the weekend before with a return to Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, about 20 miles east of Globe.
The surrounding mountains appeared to have ‘streams’ of flowers running down them.
The native plants add to the atmosphere, mixed in with the wildflowers.
Trail Dust Town is an old west themed tourist center located in northeastern Tucson since the 1960s.
The town started out as a movie set for a 1950s western that was never completed, but a local businessman bought it, and made it into the tourist attraction that remains to this day.
This day however was for the dogs. An event known as Woofstock was occurring, with most of the rescue organizations in town having their available dogs, as well as a number of local businesses that cater to dog people.
A unique setting and friendly dogs – what more can you ask for?
The Gila River runs for hundreds of miles through New Mexico and Arizona. For centuries it ran wild, sometimes flooding, many times dry, until the early 1900s when the U.S. federal government built a number of dams.
The Coolidge Dam was started during the administration of Calvin Coolidge, finally being completed in 1930, after Silent Cal was out of office. Regardless Cal and his wife came to this remote area of Arizona for the dedication.
Also there was noted satirist Will Rogers, who when he gazed out at what was supposed to be a lake behind the dam, but was nothing but tall grasses because of an ongoing drought remarked ‘someone should mow the lake’.
Not long ago it was almost back down to nothing but weeds but thanks to a very rainy couple of monsoon seasons and a equally rainy winter, the lake is back.
The dam and lake is located in a mountainous area of the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
The dam is designed with three concrete domes, supported by buttresses. After 100 years of Arizona weather, the dam looks a bit rough, even with major reconstruction in the 1990s.
The dam is 580′ long, and consists of a 2 lane roadway.
The art deco architecture of it’s 1920s construction is evident.
The dam is 249′ above the Gila River.
The reservoir behind the dam is known as San Carlos Lake.
U.S. route 70 is a major 2 lane route through much of Arizona (and across the country). It’s original design ran straight from Safford to Globe, but once the dam and lake were completed it was re-routed to take a scenic route up to and across the dam, before returning to the main route.
After about 20 years the straighter route was repurposed for U.S. 70, but by this time the state had placed mile markers on the longer, dam route. As a result when the road returned to it’s original route, it was ‘missing’ 12 miles. Rather than replace all the mile markers from here to New Mexico, they just skipped it, so to this day if you drive along U.S. 70 the mile markers make an unexplained 12 mile jump. The Arizona DOT has a page detailing this anomoly. https://azdot.gov/adot-blog/case-us-70s-missing-12-miles
The dam route was obviously built for the U.S. highway system of the 1930s as there are bridges across all of the washes, but the road doesn’t look as though it has been repaved in 90 years. Though bumpy as hell, it is a scenic ride.
The Amerind Museum is located about 10 miles east of Benson, situated on 1900 acres of land in an area known as Texas Canyon.
This area is known for the giant boulders that are scattered about along Interstate 10 for a 10 mile stretch. These granite boulders are a result of erosion with water working their way through cracks that over millions of years created these great rocks.
It received it’s name Texas Canyon as a result of the early European settlers all coming from that state, displacing the Native who had been here for more than 1000 years.
While the rocks are the most noteworthy part of the area, the grasslands have supported ranches for over 100 years.
A couple times a year the Amerind Museum opens up the trails and roads throughout their land for a ‘fun ride’.
It was 7 miles of bumpy ground down grasses, dirt, rocks and sand, with over 500′ of total elevation gain.
The views however were worth it.
Especially visually interesting was the mix of the grasses, rocks and landscapes in the distance.
There was some evidence of prior homesteads scattered about, including this windmill – still spinning but for no apparent reason.
The area is high enough in elevation there are no cactus, but the random yucca does make an appearance.
A couple of octotillo’s made an appearance as well.
The rocks are huge, as evidenced below with the semi trucks sailing down the interstate dwarfed by the boulders.
As we neared the end of our 7 mile loop we passed this area with rocks more reddish/orange than the other granite ones.
While the fun ride ended up being far more challenging than expected, the views were worth it.
The highlight of the helicopter tour was headed up over Mica Mountain above Saguaro National Park.
Tyler’s astute piloting lead us up into the canyon, then just enough altitude to get up over to the next one. You knew you were going to clear the next one, but it was still a thrill to see it coming towards us.
Next stop on the tour was going over Reddington Pass. The darker rust color in the wash is the water running off from the recent rain and snow.
We continued to climb, headed for the ridge ahead and on to Bear Canyon.
The highlight of the entire trip was going up into Sabino Canyon.
We went as far as we could up the canyon where, again thanks to the recent rain and snow, was a series of waterfalls.
Tyler hovered us just above the falls and rotated the helicopter so we had a true 360 view before heading back down the canyon.
As we made our way back down the city came back into view.
Once we reached the foothills we began to see the houses directly below us again. For those who want to be remote, yet close to the city, this is the place.
A beautiful Saturday morning provided the perfect setting for a helicopter tour of the Tucson area.
We chose to fly with Volare Helicopter, with the owner Ryan as our pilot. Having flown in airplanes hundreds of times this was my first ride in a helicopter, but Ryan made us feel at ease from the first moment.
After a few minutes explaining the sounds and feels of the 4 seat Robinson 44 helicopter, we were off.
The first noteworthy view was of the Casino del Sol, backed by the smaller hills in the middle of the shot, with the Santa Catalina’s filling the background.
Just a bit further east revealed this expansive view of the entire valley, with downtown Tucson looking quite small compared to the towering Catalina’s in the background.
Black Mountain is a lava capped mesa on the San Xavier Reservation. While not visible here, the mountain top is home to ruins of an ancient Hohokam fortification.
The mountain is off limits to the public, so this view from above is the only way to see the saguaros growing out of the lava covered hillside.
The Tohono O’odham Nation owns the somewhat symmetrical Desert Diamond Casino. Clearly a light gambling crowd on this Saturday morning.
The Green Valley Pecan orchards extend as far as you can see to the south. The ponds in the foreground are at a concrete plant.
This simple view of the interstate running through the desert provides a great contrast of nature and development.
This is I 19, which runs 60 miles from Tucson to Nogales. It has for it’s entire existence, been the only interstate in the United States to use kilometers instead of miles for the exit numbers and mileage markers.
The Marriott Starr Pass Resort takes up a huge space at the base of the Tucson Mountains.
A couple of close ups of the mountains as we made our way back west.
The view from 1500′ above the ground shows the varied topography of the area – large expanses of flat desert areas, with some smaller mountains backed by the towering ‘sky islands’.
While this is the first in a series of aerial views of Tucson, our tour ended where it started, at Ryan Field on the far west end of town.