Protected: 2010 Noise complaints for Phoenix Gateway Airport in east Mesa, Arizona December 19, 2011
Walkabout in the Sonoran Desert August 9, 2011
Candace S. Hughes
I woke up at around midnight to see our lawn chairs floating by on the back porch, thankful that the flooding wasn’t splashing into our house. Wooshing water and pelting raindrops remind me of the newness of living with the boom and bust of desert seasons. When I lived in Phoenix, the flooding and drought didn’t seem as evident as they
now do in the desert. While I miss the greenery and the art, music and culture in Phoenix, the urban greenery seems like a respite from the crunchy, brown desert where I now live. The one inch of rain in the night won’t bring us out of a drought, but it is welcome. The infrequent rainwater runoff from caliche when the desert is scraped and baked brings back the sadness I feel when I see the irrigation spilling onto sidewalks and streets when I walk in Phoenix.
Seven years ago I moved to the desert from the flood-irrigated Bermuda grass, rose bushes, and grapefruit trees of East Phoenix. As I see the expanses of greenery on the Arizona State University campus, I realize I’m about 40 miles away from my home in terms of paved roads, but many more in lessons learned about how to live in the desert during a drought. A photo of me taken by an aunt visiting from Michigan shows me after giving food and water to birds, one of my new roles I have embraced after losing most of the plants I brought with me to birds, rabbits, and ground squirrels. As quail call and strut in front of me, I forget the hot, dry summer and fall.
There was no monsoon with rain this year and I missed the mud left behind when the water rushes through our yard and up to our back door, always a fraction of an inch from coming in. After a long period with no rain, a rare December storm hit last night. I got up around midnight to peer onto our back porch and arose again at 5 to see if there was snow on the mountain. No snow, but the mountain was enveloped in fog with buttes poking out of the mist.
The first time this happened our cat ran back and forth from window to door, terrified. I drove the car to the end of the squishy dirt driveway to meet the school bus. An hour later, it hadn’t arrived. When I went back in the house, our 9-year-old daughter came calmly walking up after the water subsided. The bus driver had taken each student as close as possible to the house and waited for an adult or checked to see that the child entered safely. My daughter cuddled a kindergartner whose father rescues people stranded in the desert. She knew what happens when the washes run. Now I wonder if the bus driver checks houses to see if the air conditioning is on in November when it’s close to 100 degrees and children often walk a long ways from the bus stop to their homes.
To accommodate the large number of commuters, a new bridge on our road carries vehicles over the deepest wash and the stupid motorist signs are no longer needed. I prefer to work at home and watch the goldfinches and house finches on a thistle seed sock outside the window where my computer sits. After driving to Casa Grande, Mesa and Tempe, I found the jobs and travel too tiring and unfulfilling. Before the bridge construction, the numerous early morning drivers would inch up to the swiftly flowing stream, turn around, and search for alternate ways to go to work or school. Sometimes they just had to go home and wait for the water to go down. Once I received a call from my father in Ohio, who, watching Fox News, could see our house from the air as a helicopter hovered over a car stranded in a wash with a woman and child marooned on the roof. They were picked up before the car was carried downstream and left embedded in mud.
In Phoenix I could safely walk on the bare dirt banks of the Crosscut Canal at 40th Street and Camelback Road following a Mother duck and ducklings furiously paddling to avoid being drawn into the falls. I miss being able to walk or bike to the library, post office, grocery, coffee shops, and parks. One time my daughter and I walked to the movies in the rain and home again, arriving joyously cold and wet on a June day.
Now I’m in a 30-year-old ranch-style home on an acre-and-a-quarter in car-intensive Pinal County. The roads are too busy and narrow to bike, and distances too far to walk. Music and art events are sporadic during the Winter Visitor Season, and sparse from May to September. Still, I often have a sigh of relief when I drive home late at night and see the sky turning from dark gray to blue-black as I approach Pinal County. Even as I begin to count the stars, I mourn the loss of my urban way of life. I still haven’t let go of the busyness of Phoenix and learned to reflect on, enjoy and respect what is in front of me.
The desert hiking is abundant, reminding me of the times I would take off along Ohio’s Olentangy River and tramp through frost-covered wet leaves and up shale cliffs and encounter no one for miles. The only litter was an occasional bait can. In the BLM land across from my house, the desert is littered with batteries, car parts, construction and landscape materials, appliances and even a Journalism 101 textbook. Small flood control structures hardly seem necessary since there’s been so little rain, and stand strong despite years of tires running over them. Before the fencing went up, carloads of teenagers careened through the desert, hunters bushwhacked on four-wheeled vehicles equipped with mounted rifles, and dirt bikes noisily kicked up dust in the middle of the night.
Now I step through a gate and I’m on my way, eyes so accustomed to the junk piles I don’t even see them except when they are rearranged by the wind, water, or scavengers. I do pay attention when I come across makeshift shelters with discarded clothing and food wrappers, and horses hobbled out in grassy areas to eat when their owners can no longer feed them. At sunset, I discover two frightened, tied-up mud-covered horses. They won’t let me approach them and a pack of coyotes is circling. I call the sheriff’s office when I return home. A horse-rescue outfit is sent out.
Walking in the desert, I think of the Canalscape exhibit at the ASU Art Museum. There’s no choice to beautify the canals in the Phoenix area by simply adding desert trees and
plants, but no buildings. I enjoyed the canals as open space when I used to walk there. I think about when I locked my daughter in a child seat and biked on a canal path to a children’s reading time at the library. It was much more enjoyable than driving and parking in an underground garage, even though it was hot on the way home. The other value of the canals for desert dwellers is the healing aspect of running water. That’s why I retreated to the riverbank as a child and ignored calls to return home. When I lived by the canals, I reluctantly returned to our cool home, refreshed from watching the water as it was pumped vigorously through the various canals.
In Pinal County, we occasionally have a gentle rain, but it’s much more likely to be violent. With the scent of wet creosote comes the hope that our trees and plants will be saved, although for perhaps only a short time.
The Southwest Pieta outside the ASU Art Museum is shaded in the harsh noontime sun. I descend into the darkness of the museum. The recreated, orderly flow of water in the Canalscape exhibit helps me recall how happy I am when the rain is over in the desert. Hard structures controlling the water guide me past the bubbling liquid
to a painting of the Southwest Pieta. The Native American holds a female with her hair flowing like water. In the traditional Christian sculpture, a Mother holds Christ, bemoaning her loss. In this piece, I see a polychrome representation of the water, wildlife, and desert plants as we would like to remember them, not as they are today. One storm bearing one inch of rain isn’t likely to bring back the trees whose roots can’t reach the lowered groundwater table. The incessant pumping for homes and golf courses is removing what’s needed to keep the Sonoran desert alive.
The serenity of the landscaped ASU campus beckons with its many diversions and peaceful places to sit such as the rocking chair on the Piper House front porch. I sign the visitor book inside the home every Tuesday afternoon when I make my pilgrimage to campus, making promises to myself to return for the poetry readings. When I choose to stay at my new home in the desert, I see I am anchored in a new place.
The overnight storm blew the lid off our compost, exposing a pumpkin soup embellished with vegetable peelings. As I add this morning’s coffee grounds and apple cores, smell something new being made to add to our scanty 18 inches of topsoil. Although we may need to borrow our neighbor’s jackhammer, we’ll blast out a hole for our living Christmas tree and line the area with rotting matter sure to help the tree last awhile.
The Four Peaks, dusted with snow, peek from behind Superstition Mountain as we try for the third time to plant a pine tree in the Sonoran Desert.
Apple orchard springs from desert May 31, 2011
Yes, there really is an apple orchard in the desert
By Candace S. Hughes
Just off Highway 93 north of Wickenburg at milepost 177.5 a rough wooden sign with scrawled letters reads: “Yes, there really is an apple orchard here.”
Turning off the highway 22 miles northwest of Wickenburg is only the beginning of an adventure for families heading out for a day of apple picking starting in September, but the adventure began for the Knight family almost 40 years ago.
Four miles down a dirt road, just as families are beginning to wonder if they are going to right way despite encouraging signs, the green leaves of red and golden delicious apple trees are seen in a valley created by Date Creek.
“We’re right on the border of the Sonoran and Mohave deserts. There are saguaros, a Sonoran desert plant, and Joshua trees, a Mohave Desert plant,” says Stefan Wolf, 40, who took over managing the ranch with his wife Kim 18 months ago.
No one seems to know where the name came from because there are no date palms, but Wolf jokes that pioneers may have believed that the Joshua tree fruit were dates.
“We’re having trouble getting people to come out now,” says Wolf, who estimates that from 800-1,000 families arrive each season to pick 7,500 pounds of peaches and 10,000 pounds of apples at 80 cents per pound.
Although the numbers have been going down, hopes are high that Arizonans will make the drive weekends in September to pick apples from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. The orchard also is open the same hours Labor Day.
Be sure to call 1-(928)-231-0704 first if going in late September to ensure that there are still apples. Appointments also may be made for other times by calling 1-(928)-231-0704). Information also is available at http://datecreekranch.com or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sept. 9-10 the Rainbow girls, an organization devoted to helping girls learn leadership skills, will be selling apple treats. Those wishing to pick apples should plan to bring plenty of water and a picnic to enjoy at shady tables. Be sure to gas up in Wickenburg.
About 10-15 percent of Date Creek Ranch’s business is from the 1,100 apple and peach trees in the orchard, and another 20-30 percent from naturally raised beef. The remaining portion of the 39,000-acre ranch’s income or from $80,000-$100,000 is from commodity beef sold at auctions or private sales, says Wolf.
Families are urged to sample since no pesticides are used on the apple, pear and peach trees planted 35 years ago by Phil Knight. Wolf’s wife is Knight’s daughter, and the two families live on the ranch.
There’s only one paid employee, and the orchard and ranching operations sustain Knight, who is 70, in his retirement and provide a sufficient income so that Wolf and his wife don’t have to work off the ranch.
The peach crop was lost two out of the last five years due to frost. “Apples aren’t as susceptible to frost, but the peach blossoms come on earlier and they’re not as frost resistant the apple blossoms,” Wolf said.
The orchard is on the family’s 648 acres of private property, but much of the 120-year-old ranch is on Arizona State Trust land where about 250 cows are rotated. The ranch headquarters, first built in 1883, are close to Date Creek with cottonwoods and willow.
Solar panels and a diesel generator provide electricity, water is pumped from a well, and telephone service can be unreliable. “I’m a city kid born in Germany,” says Wolf, who met the family in his home country, came to visit the ranch, met his wife and has been living there for 10 years. “I married into this,” he laughs.
“My 13-year-old son is into horses, but my 17-year-old daughter would rather be in town. She does love to ride and they both help out on roundups,” Wolf says.
Horses and calves graze in the orchard to keep the weeds down and no weed killer is used. “They keep the weeds down for free and it’s much easier for an animal to eat than to mow it,” he laughs.
The family has experimented with several natural fertilizers ranging from chicken manure to bonemeal to organic liquid fertilizer. “It all seems to have a good effect. We only have good things to say about all of it,” Wolf says.
Apple pickers are given brochures about the family’s natural beef business, which generates about $45,000 annually from the 30-35 head sold by the quarter at about $3 per pound, he says.
Customers can arrange to pick up a side of beef in Wickenburg or on the west side of Phoenix. “Word of mouth is slowly growing. We don’t do any advertising. We tried ads in the Yellow Pages, but they didn’t bring in anything.”
Managing the land holistically has been the Knight family’s goal as they give a pasture 100-180 days of rest. “We try to have greater animal densities for shorter periods of time,” says Wolf, who adds that the family works with the Center for Holistic Management and Holistic Management International. They also are members of the Nature Conservancy.
“We have tried to move away from commodity agriculture and move toward community-supported local agriculture such as natural beef and fruit.
“We are also exploring other ways to increase revenue on the ranch,” says Wolf, who adds that they reduced their cattle due to the drought and have stopped raising pigs.
Diana Kessler, who with her husband Alan manages Orme Ranch, practices planned grazing for their natural and commodity beef. “The closer to nature, the better for all of us,” she says of the Orme family’s efforts to raise and sell natural beef with antibiotics or growth hormones.
Three Pinal County state parks help celebrate anniversary April 14, 2010
This was published three years ago, but I wanted to let people know the value of state parks to Pinal County and the surrounding areas.
Three Pinal County state parks
help celebrate anniversary
By Candace S. Hughes
This fall three Pinal County parks – Oracle, Picacho Peak and McFarland – will be part of a year long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of state parks.
On Oct. 13 Oracle State Park will help by hosting Fiesta de las Calabazas, a fall harvest festival, on the same day as the birthday celebration.
Picacho Peak will celebrate with Hike the Peak Oct. 27 and Maricopa Search and Rescue will sell hamburgers, drinks and chips to support its all-volunteer group. Hikers will receive safety tips from the 27-member crew.
And the McFarland Park will celebrate Veterans’ Day weekend Nov. 10-11.
Oracle park offers environmental education
The newest of the three Pinal County state parks celebrating this fall, Oracle State Park, was dedicated in 2001 as an environmental education center and wildlife refuge. The opening was only after more than 10 years of planning from the time the Defenders of Wildlife offered the property to the state as a park.
Originally, the 4,000-acre Kannally Ranch was donated to the non-profit wildlife group as a perpetual wildlife reserve in 1976. The Kannally Ranch House now is open for tours Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
With the involvement of area residents, little new development has occurred at the site with the exception of a visitor center and limited picnic sites and parking spaces.
The park now continues the efforts of the Oracle Education Project to offer cultural and environmental programs concerning the area.
During the state park 50th anniversary celebration Oct. 13, the park also will host Fiesta de las Calabazas with food, pumpkin decorating, arts and crafts and entertainment from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. with a $2 fee for the shuttle ride from Oracle to the park.
The eighth annual festival also will include games, hay rides, authors and animal exhibits.
The state parks anniversary celebration will be at 11:30 a.m.
Picacho Peak landmark attracts hikers
Picacho Peak State Park, which opened in 1968, attracts hikers to its 1,500-foot volcanic structure used as a landmark since pre-historic times.
Explorer Juan Bautista de Anza recorded passing by the mountain in the 1700s and the Mormon Battalion constructed a wagon road through the pass in 1848.
Places where the thirsty explorers found water are recorded in “A Historical Guide to the Mormon Battalion and Butterfield Trail” by Dan Talbot.
Each spring historic re-enactment buffs replay the largest Civil War clash in Arizona. They commemorate an event of April 15, 1862 when Confederate and Union soldiers collided in the Battle of Picacho Pass.
Known for its wildflower display when rains have fallen, the 3,747-acre park offers camping and is a quiet respite for weary travelers.
Pinal County friend donates McFarland park
The creation of Arizona’s state parks was supported by a Pinal County friend, Gov. Ernest McFarland, with a park named after him in Florence – McFarland State Historic Park, said Daniel Brown, a park ranger at the small park on the historic main street of Florence.
In 1957 McFarland signed the bill creating the State Parks Board, and asked the board in 1973 to accept the donation of Florence’s first courthouse which he had purchased for $8,000.
The park was dedicated in 1979 after renovation using state funds as well as an endowment of $27,000 from McFarland plus a deposit of $40,000 of Mountain States Telephone Bonds in the State Park Fund.
McFarland, who served the area as county attorney and Superior Court judge, also was majority leader of the United States Senate while representing Arizona and was chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.
Built in 1878, the restored building now displays McFarland family history and artifacts concerning Pinal County. After use as a courthouse until 1891, the building was converted to a county hospital and used for the purpose for about 50 years. It also was a welfare and public health center.
From 1968-1970 the Pinal County Historical Society Museum was located in the building and then it was vacant until sold to McFarland at a 1974 public auction. The building was designed by Levi Ruggles and made from locally produced adobe bricks and wood brought by wagon from northern Arizona.
Another Pinal County state park – Lost Dutchman – hosted the kickoff of the 50 years of state parks during a celebration in 2006, and Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park held a birthday party in January.
If you go
Fall birthday parties for Pinal County state parks are:
Oracle State Park
Location: 3820 Wildlife Drive. The park is off State Route 77 and requires a left turn on American Avenue when heading south on 77, a left on Mount Lemmon Road, and left into the park.
For more information on Fiesta de las Calabazas Oct. 13, visit the Web site at: http://www.calabazas.org or call 520-896-2425.
The music state schedule for Oct. 13 includes Freddie Terry, an oracle folk singer and songwriter, who will perform from 11-11:30 a.m. Also appearing will be the bluegrass band Oracle Junction from noon-12:45 p.m., and The Tortolita Gutpluckers, a bluegrass band, from 1-1:45 p.m.
Other entertainment will be Ismael Barajas, a flamenco guitarist, from 2-3 p.m.; Zephyr Strings, a jazz and Celtic band, from 3-4 p.m.; and Bob Meighan with Norm Pratt and Dick Furlow providing dance music from 5-7 p.m..
Activities will include pumpkin decorating behind the Kannally House and a gourd gallery with voting for favorite gourd art created by students from Oracle, San Manuel, Mammoth and Catalina.
ONGOING: SATURDAYS, SUNDAYS & HOLIDAYS: Guided tours of the historic Kannally Ranch House. No reservation needed for 45-minute interpretive tours beginning at 10am and again at 2pm. There is no additional cost; the tour is included with the park entrance fee. Alternate tours may be scheduled by advance reservation only. (520) 896-2425.
Watch for future events such as the December gift fair and wreath-making workshop.
Arizona Trail: An entry to the Arizona trail is available in the Oracle area by following these directions and using a four-wheel drive high-clearance vehicle.
From the intersection of State Route 77 and State Route 79 at Oracle Junction north of Tucson, drive northeast on State 77 for nine miles to American Avenue and turn right or east. Drive 2.4 miles on American Avenue to its junction with Mount Lemmon Road (also called Old Mount Lemmon Highway and Control Road) and turn right or south. At 1.1 miles south of the turnoff onto Mount Lemmon Road, pass a road on the left leading to Oracle State Park. At 1.7 miles south of the turnoff, a sign marks the boundary of the Coronado National Forest. At 3.2 miles south of the turnoff, bear right as the road forks at an unsigned Y junction. At 4 miles south of the turnoff, a signed Arizona Trail entry is on the left.
Picacho Peak State Park
Location: 60 miles south of Phoenix on Interstate 10 at exit 219.
Open: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. with office hours 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Fee: $6 per vehicle.
Hike the Peak Oct. 27 starts at sunrise.
Jeep tours of the area surrounding Picacho Peak State Park are offered through the Sunland Gin Visitors Center by calling 520-466-3007.
McFarland State Historic Park
Party: Nov. 10-11
Location: Main and Ruggles, Florence.
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Fee: $2 for 14 and older.
Information on other Pinal County state parks:
Lost Dutchman State Park
Location: 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction. Telephone: 480-982-4485. Fee: $5 per vehicle
Fall events include moonlight hikes, ranger-led hikes Saturdays in November at 9 a.m. and monthly star talks.
Fees: $6 per vehicle day use except for celebration day at each of the parks when admission is free.
Hours: Most state parks are open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Christmas Day.
Web site: Information on all state parks is at http://www.pr.state.az.us
Please see the Winter 2006-07 Pinal Ways for a feature on Lost Dutchman State Park. The spring 2007 issue featured Picacho Peak on the cover and an interview with John Swearengin, manager of McFarland State Historic Park from 1978-1982. The Autumn 1996 issue also covered the Picacho area. Copies are available at the Casa Grande Dispatch, 200 W. Second St., Casa Grande. They also may be ordered by calling 520-836-7461.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Location: Highway 60 milepost 223 just east of Superior. Car pooling encouraged at all times but especially on weekdays due to widening of the U.S. 60. Call 520-689-2723.
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Fees: $7.50 for adults and $3 for ages 5-12.
Web site: http://cals.arizona.edu/BTA/
Car pool Web site: http://btacarpool.proboards74.com
Dragonfly walk 9:30-11:30 a.m. Oct. 6; butterfly walks 9:30 a.m. Sept 22 and Oct 27; Bible plants guided tour 1:30 p.m. Oct. 7 and 20, Nov. 4 and 17 and Dec. 2 and 15; guided bird walks 8:30 a.m. Oct. 6, 14, 20 and 28 and Nov. 3, 11 and 17; and edible and medicinal desert plants walks 9:30 a.m. Sept. 23 and 1:30 p.m. Oct 13 and 28, Nov. 10 and 25.
Additional Arboretum events include: bye-bye buzzards 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 22; butterfly gardening 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 29 ($20 cost for members and $27.50 for non-members); fall plant sale 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 6-21; and wild foods of the desert 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 7 ($20 for members and $27.50 for non-members).
Other Arboretum activities are: basic herb gardening 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 20 ($20 for members and $27.50 for non-members); landscaping with cactus noon-3 p.m. Nov. 3 $20 for members and $27.50 for non-members; and a live music festival 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 10.
In addition, the Arboretum will offer: Arizona 101 noon-3 p.m. Nov. 18 $20 for members and $27.50 non-members; and fall foliage finale 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 24-25 with live music and spiced cider.
Monarch tagging training will be Oct 13. For more information, call Chris Kline at 520-689-2723.
Arboretum volunteer starts car pool
Helping people save gas and make more friends motivated a Boyce Thompson Arboretum volunteer to start a Web site encouraging car pooling.
C.J. Rider started the site in June to make it simple to share a ride to the park near Superior. “Forty-five miles isn’t really a long drive from Mesa,” said Rider, the car pool coordinator, “but this offers an easy way for people to save gas while doing something they love – spending a morning at the Arboretum.”
The Web site is: http://btacarpool.proboards74.com.
“I love walking the trails, photographing the gardens, bringing my easel up to spend a quiet morning painting in the shade of those huge trees . . . and I hop this Web site encourages people who love the Arboretum to visit more often,” said Rider.
“Car pooling is also a great way to meet new East Valley friends who share your interests,” added Rider, who also believes people who might be reluctant to drive on highways will be able to visit if they use the car pool Web site.
“Car pooling can be a great way to socialize and have a real conversation,” Rider continued.