Western Trips

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Quartzsite Arizona

quartzsite arizona
Former home of Hi Jolly, Quartzsite AZ

Western Trips visited the interesting town of Quartzsite Arizona, about eighteen miles east of the Colorado River off of Interstate 10.

The history of Quartzsite includes it's use as a stopping off and gathering place for pioneers heading to the California gold fields. The site was also established as a stage stop on the site of old Fort Tyson in 1866. Mining for gold, lead and mercury were also active industries in Quartzsite's past.

Today, the town of Quartzsite is a very popular gathering place for those winter travelers we refer to as "snowbirds" wishing to escape the harsh northern winter weather.

The Quartzsite Annual Gem and Mineral Show

The town of Quartzsite is an interesting stop for a variety of reasons. First of all, Quartzsite hosts a two month long gem and mineral show each year which brings visitors there from around the U.S. It's a popular swap and meet held during both January and February. The gem and mineral show will see over a million visitors and over one thousand exhibitors. There's good reason that this show is held in Quartzsite since the town has the nickname as the "Rock Capital of the World". In addition to this Quartzsite is known for its RV and ATV friendly atmosphere. Quartzsite is known to many as a rock hound's paradise. Vendors of rocks, minerals, fossils and gems create one of the world's largest outdoor flea markets.

military camel corp
The Annual Hi Jolly Daze and ATV Parade

When you visit Quartzsite Arizona you have to know about the historic significance of a man named Hi Jolly

In the 1850's the U.S. Government had the U.S. Cavalry import seventy-seven camels to the U.S. from Syria. Along with the camels came their Syrian camel driver and caretaker, Hadji Ali. The American's referred to him as Hi Jolly.

The U.S. camel experiment was meant to determine the feasibility of employing camels in the southwest desert region to transport both passengers and freight.  At the time Jefferson Davis who was Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce  found the Army needed to improve transportation in the southwestern US, which he and most observers thought a great desert. The idea of using camels had been around for some time but Davis was unable to test the project until he became a cabinet secretary.

The camel experiment actually worked out quite well. Survey teams headed west from around San Antonio and traveled through the Big Bend region of Texas and some made their way westward to California. Compared to horses, the animals appeared more sure footed in the desert environment and could go without water much longer than a horse. Some  camels eventually made their way to the old Benicia Arsenel in the San Francisco Bay area.

hi jolly monument
Monument dedicated to Hi Jolly and the Camel Corp
What ended the camel experiment was nothing less than the American Civil War. In addition to that, the camels appeared to spook the army's horses and mules. Regardless, there was a request to Congress to appropriate funding for an additional 1,000 camels when the Civil War broke out.

When war broke out the camel experiment took a back seat and was essentially forgotten. The camels were either auctioned off or set free in the deserts of Arizona and California. The camel experiments in the southwest American desert region remain one of the military's most interesting ventures. 

As a result of the abandoning of the camels, Hi Jolly, the animal's caretaker, was out of a job. He was discharged from the Quartermaster Department of the U.S. Army  in 1870. He tried his hand with the freight business with the few camels he had left. About fifteen years later he found employment by the army as a packer during General Crook's military campaign against Geronimo. Hi Jolly did stay in the U.S. through the remainder of his life and passed away in 1902 in Quartzsite Arizona.

A monument was dedicated to Hi Jolly in 1935 and was placed in the Quartzsite Cemetery. The monument shown in this article at Hi Jolly's grave is in the shape of a pyramid built from local stones and has a bronze camel at the top.

attractions quartzsite arizona
Quartzsite Arizona, A Mecca for Winter Travelers

The population of Quartzsite Arizona grows enormously during the winter months of January and February. In addition to the people arriving there for the annual gem and mineral shows, the winter weather in Quartzsite is warm and dry.

Tourism is the key to Quartzsite's economy and the town is extremely popular for RV camping. RVs by the thousands camp in relatively primitive desert conditions very economically. The area around Quarzsite is surrounded by several mountain ranges and you'll find a unique collection of flora and fauna. There are also a good number of ancient petroglyphs in the area.

 For a list of RV parks around Quartzsite see the website www..quartzsitebusinesschamber.com/camp.htm

Links to two additional Western Trips photo articles you'll enjoy include;

A Hiking Trip at California's Joshua Tree National Park 

A Visit to Old Scottsdale Arizona 

See These Carson City Nevada Historic Sites 

Things to See and Do in La Jolla California

A good website for additional information and an event calendar for Quartzsite is www.quartzsitemuseum.com. You'll also find a current list of planned field trips. The Quartzsite Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support and management of the Tyson’s Well Stage Station Museum.The Quartzsite Museum is located at 161 W. Main Street.

Quartzsite Arizona is located about 129 miles west of Phoenix along Interstate 10 and about 119 miles east of Indio California in the greater Palm Springs area.

(Photos from author's private collection)

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Santa Fe Travel

la fonda hotel santa fe
La Fonda Hotel
One of the unique attractions of Santa Fe New Mexico is it's historic and popular hotels. Western Trips visited several and we want to highlight just a few of these.

The first of what we can say were hotels for the traveling public were the famous Harvey Houses. These were the hotels and eateries operated by the Fred Harvey Company in partnership with the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.

La Fonda Hotel

In the case of Santa Fe this was and is the La Fonda Hotel located on the Santa Fe plaza. The La Fonda Hotel's site was actually a hotel prior to Fred Harvey's arrival in Santa Fe. The site where the La Fonda stands is considered the oldest hotel site in North America. Spanish records indicate that today's La Fonda Hotel site was used as an inn not long after the city of Santa Fe was founded. During the 1800's La Fonda became the preferred destination of trappers, soldiers, gold seekers, gamblers and politicians. All through the nineteenth century the names changed, the ownership changed hands but there was always some sort of hotel or inn on the property.The land where the hotel resides is literally at the end of the old Santa Fe Trail.

hotel on santa fe plaza
Pueblo architecture of La Fonda Hotel
The present La Fonda Hotel had it's start in 1922. In 1925 the new building was purchased by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and then leased to Fred Harvey. Fred Harvey ran his "Indian detours" automobile sightseeing tours from the La Fonda. These were quite popular tours of the surrounding landscape and Native American pueblos for people arriving at the hotel via the AT & SF Railroad. Harvey's company made La Fonda into one of the famous Harvey Houses and it remained a Harvey House until 1968 when it was purchased by local businessman, Sam Ballen. One of the prime attributes of the La Fonda Hotel, aside from it's rich history, is it's location across the southeast corner of the plaza.

Inn and Spa at Loretto

The Inn and Spa at Loretto has long been a popular hotel about two blocks southeast of the Santa Fe plaza. The Inn and Spa at Loretto is one of the older hotels in Santa Fe. The hotel is built in the pueblo architecture style with unique shops lining it's ground floor hallways.

inn and spa at loretto
Inn and Spa at Loretto
The Inn and Spa at Loretto is also located next door to the historic Loretto Chapel. The site where the hotel is today was at one time the location of the Loretto Academy, a Catholic girl's school. The academy functioned from 1853 to 1968. At the time of it's closing the female students were transferred to St. Michaels High School which was made a coed institution.

Being located only about two blocks southeast of the Santa Fe plaza, the Inn and Spa at Loretto is a very easy walk to the plaza, Canyon Road, St. Francis Cathedral and the many fine restaurants and art galleries of Santa Fe.

Links to additional Western Trips Santa Fe travel articles you'll enjoy include a Visit to the Loretto Chapel and a Trip to the Old Mining Town of Cerillos just a few miles south of Santa Fe.

La Posada Resort and Hotel

The La Posada on Palace Avenue is another hotel and resort you'll surely want to visit. While the La Posada is a short walk east of the plaza, the hotel is peaceful and quiet and yet a very easy walk to the Plaza and all the great restaurants of Santa Fe.

la posada hotel santa fe new mexico
The La Posada is situated on six acres and had it's beginning back in 1882 as the Victorian designed Staab House. Staab made quite a lot of money as a supply contractor for the U.S. Army and built the three story mansion for his wife Julia. The Staab family experienced a tragedy when their youngest child died suddenly. Mrs. Staab reportedly went into a deep depression and most say that she never recovered. Julia Staab passed away at the mansion in 1896 at the age of fifty-two.

Today there have been several reports of Julia Staab's spirit being experienced by both hotel guests and employees. The belief is that Mrs. Staab enjoyed her home so much that she decided to never leave it. Some of the ghostly sighting have been reported by a security guard and a hotel operator. There have been reports of a fireplace turning itself on and off and glasses flying off the shelf at the hotel bar.

Santa Fe travel is always a lot of fun and there are many fine hotels and inns all throughout the city. The ones we've highlighted in this article are only a few of the several unique hotels and resorts to choose from. Santa Fe's resorts offer the ultimate escape from everyday life. Santa Fe resorts are as unique as the "City Different" itself.

(Photos from author's collection)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

History of Cowboys

The history of cowboys is one of the most researched subjects in America. Cowboy history has been a part of dime novels, heavy tomes as well as motion pictures and television. The biggest question however is what is truth and what is fiction. One of the interesting most facets of studying the subject of cowboy history is determining the difference between the two.

cowboy chuck wagon
Chuck Wagon exhibit at NM History Museum
As of this writing we're fortunate to have two excellent venues where exploring the history of the American Cowboy is a lot of fun. Below are two museums you will want to add to your next road trip planner.

Cowboy Exhibits at the New Mexico History Museum

The New Mexico History Museum located in Santa Fe New Mexico currently has a very unique and large display of everything cowboy. The New Mexico History Museum is connected with the Palace of the Governors on the Santa Fe plaza. Museum exhibitions cover Native people, Spanish explorers, the Mexican era, the Santa Fe Trail, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Long Walk, outlaws, the railroad, World War II and even modern day New Mexico.

On special exhibit now through March 16, 2014 is Cowboys Real and Imagined. Lectures, western movies and a Wild West Weekend are planned. Among the exhibits featured are artifacts that include cowboy clothing from the 1700's to modern times and a chuck wagon that served the cattle drives of northeastern New Mexico's historic Bell Ranch. This special exhibit uses artifacts and photographs from its own wide-ranging collections, along with loans from more than 100 people and museums. Among the events scheduled during this exhibition's run are archival footage, oral histories, musical performances, and a programming series that includes screenings of classic Western movies filmed in New Mexico. For a schedule of events planned through the exhibits one year run see website www.nmhistorymuseum.org

Try our fun twenty-five question history quiz on our Trips Into History site.

History Quiz

The New Mexico History Museum is located at 113 Lincoln Avenue, Santa Fe NM 

old west stagecoach
Palace of the Governors stage coach exhibit
If your travel plans include New Mexico you'll surely want to add the New Mexico History Museum and the exhibition Cowboys Real and Imagined to your vacation planner. This is a great exhibition for the entire family to enjoy.

When visiting the New Mexico History Museum be sure to visit the separate Palace of the Governors which faces Santa Fe plaza. The Palace of the Governors has the distinction of being the oldest continuously used public building in the United States. The Palace of the Governors was constructed in the early 17th century as Spain's seat of government for what is today the American Southwest. 

Within it's walls are fascinating exhibits that tell the story of Santa Fe, as well as New Mexico and the region. To mention just a few of the many exhibits on display is a 16th century Morion helmet with a religious depiction that was discovered in a New Mexico location known to have been traveled by Spanish soldiers under Governor Juan de OƱate. You'll also enjoy viewing the New Mexico State Seal that was made from assorted pieces of hardware...spoons, quills and tacks. This particular seal was made by the Shapleigh Hardware Company of Missouri to commemorate New Mexico's entrance into the Union, 1912.

Another very unique exhibition is the Segesser Hide Paintings. These are the first known depictions of Spanish colonial life in the United States.

Links to two additional Western Trips photo articles you'll be interested in include a story about the historic Magdalena Cattle Trail and the famous Waggoner Ranch in north Texas.

national cowboy museum
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

This is one of the best stops you can make in Oklahoma City. Among the permanent exhibits at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is the 6,500 square foot American Rodeo Gallery which features rodeo exhibits and unique artifacts including a rodeo arena. 

The American Cowboy Gallery is an 8,000 square foot collection that interprets the cowboy's history and culture from Spanish colonial times to the 20th century. Learn how cowboy equipment such as saddle, clothing, bits and spurs changed over the years. The museum is proud to display the most extensive exhibition on the working cowboy in the United States.

Prosperity Junction is a part of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum that features 
a replica of a turn-of-the-century cattle town. Among the structures in this 40 foot high exhibition space is a blacksmith shop, school, livery stable, photographer's studio, church and a railroad depot. 

rodeo hall of fame
Rodeo Hall of Fame at Oklahoma City cowboy museum
Another permanent exhibit at the museum is Art of the American West. The William S. and Ann Atherton Art of the American West Gallery contains outstanding examples of paintings and sculptures from the more than 2,000 art pieces in the museum collection. 

Among the museum's permanent exhibits are the Fine Firearms Gallery, the Museum of the Frontier West, the Native American Gallery, a Childrens Cowboy Corral and several others. 

As you can see, a visit to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum can be a full day or more exploration of the American West. It's a fine addition to your vacation planner and just like the New Mexico History Museum is a fun and educational experience for the entire family.

For more information about the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and a schedule of events, see website www.nationalcowboymuseum.org

For great authentic and fun exhibits and and information regarding the history of cowboys, both of these venues, the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City are must stops if your vacation plans take you to either New Mexico or Oklahoma. 

(Photos from author's collection)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Corner in Winslow Arizona

The corner in Winslow Arizona is a good stop to add to your northern Arizona vacation planner. "The Corner" is located in downtown Winslow, a spot made famous by the song “Take It Easy”. Written by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne, that represented the singing group The Eagles first single hit in 1972.

the corner in winslow arizona
Standin on the Corner in Winslow Arizona

You'll want to visit the “Standin’ on a Corner” Park which attracts visitors from all over the U.S. and world. You'll see a bronze statue and a two story mural depicting the story behind the famous song. This is a must stop for music fans.

You'll even see the flatboard Ford truck parked on the corner. Directly on The Corner is also a very unique gift shop with a great selection of merchandise celebrating both Route 66 and the famous hit song. The park is also a great photo opportunity site.

Lyrics to the Eagle hit Take It Easy include...

"Well, I'm a standing on a corner
In Winslow, Arizona
And such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my lord
In a flatbed Ford
Slowin' down to take a look at me"

Add Your Inscribed Brick

In addition to getting some terrific pictures you'll have the opportunity to have a brick inscribed that will be added to the park. Donors can inscribe what they would like written on the brick and it will be laid permanently in the park. For more information on ordering a brick check out the website www.standinonthecorner.com.

standing on the corner statue winslow
Standin on the Corner bronze statue
Mural and Bronze Statue

The Standin on the Corner Park is in the middle of historic Winslow Arizona and directly on the famous old Route 66. The land for the park was donated by the Kaufman family and is right next to a two story mural by Trompe L'oeil artist John Pugh. This life sized statue was created by Ron Adamson and depicts a man from the 1970's clad in boots, jeans with a guitar on his boot.

Ron Adamson is a sculptor from Montana who has his artwork displayed at several venues. In addition to bronze Adamson also has many excellent wood carvings. Adamson began bronze sculpturing during the late 1980's.

Much of the restoration of downtown Winslow Arizona coincided with the reopening of the historic La Posada Hotel, about a five minute walk from the “Standin’ on a Corner” Park. The La Posada was originally a Fred Harvey Hotel built in conjunction with the Atchison Topeak and Santa Fe Railroad. It was designed by the famed AT & SF Railroad architect Mary Colter. A good number of the historic hotels designed by Colter and others are gone, but not in Winslow. The La Posada  has been beautifully restored and is in full operation. I have spent nights there are would highly recommend it to anyone.

standin on the corner park winslow arizona
A group of citizens of The Corner Foundation recognized the need for a downtown park and the hit record by The Eagles, recorded decades earlier, was a natural move for Winslow. Plans for the park began in 1997 and the dedication took place in 1999. In essence, the lyrics from the 1972 rock hit recording has been transformed into a 21st century tourist photo op.

Old Trails Museum

Just a few doors down from the Standin on the Corner Park is Winslow's Old Trail Museum. Admittance is free and donations are appreciated. If you're visiting the park you'll definitely want to stop into this museum. Exhibits at the Old Trails Museum include artifacts and information regarding the old Route 66 and other historic trails, the Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport, designed by Charles Lindbergh and a stop for the first transcontinental plane/train route, the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, the Fred Harvey, House, the Harvey Girls, and the La Posada,  northern Arizona ranches and ranchers and information and pictures about the pioneer settlement including the area’s first Mormon settlement.

Two additional Western Trips photo article links you'll find interesting:

A Visit to Historic Prescott Arizona

Old Town Tucson Arizona 

ford flatbed truck taking it easy
Famous Ford Flatbed Truck
Standin on the Corner Festival

Winslow Arizona hosts an annual Standin' on the Corner Festival at the end of September featuring country rock and Eagles tribute bands. Attending this festival is a great way to end up the summer. The dates for the 2013 festival are September 27th and 28th. The festival is a two day celebration featuring live bands, arts & crafts, food vendors, a live auction, a beer garden and much more.

You'' also want to note the dates of October 4th and 5th 2013 for the Standin on the Corner "Just Cruisin" Car Show.

Winslow Arizona is located on Interstate 40 between Flagstaff and the New Mexico state line. It is about 57 miles east of Flagstaff Arizona.

Visiting Winslow Arizona

Winslow Arizona has the distinction of being on a railroad stop for Amtrak's Southwest Chief, the daily passenger train service between Chicago and Los Angeles. The train stops directly in front of the La Posada Hotel, the historic old Harvey House. Travelers to Winslow have the option of traveling there by passenger train or by Interstate 40 making the town very easy to reach. If traveling there by train, the La Posada is a great hotel to sty at and historic downtown Winslow and the Standin on the Corner Park is only a five minute walk.

(Photos and images from author's collection)

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Friday, April 12, 2013

California Railroads

southern pacific railroad sign
Southern Pacific logo on front of diesel locomotive
During the latter 1800's railroads from the east were continuously building their rails west. After the historic meeting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads in Promontory Point Utah on May 10th 1869, railroad building westward boomed.

California in particular was a focal point of railroad building. First of all, the state of California was growing rapidly ever since the gold rush days of the 1850's. Secondly, California was the ultimate destination for a southern rail route that would serve both Los Angeles and San Diego from the east. California railroads and their connection to markets in the east was a top priority.

Western Trips visited a historic site that was part of the southern route to California which is also the story of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Indio California and the Southern Pacific Railroad

Indio California, on the eastern edge of the Palm Springs desert string of towns, was a key location for the Southern Pacific Railroad which eventually controlled tracks from Texas to California. Indio was established as a halfway point for the Southern pacific between Los Angeles and Yuma Arizona.

coachella valley museum indio california
Coachella Valley Museum, Indio CA
The Southern Pacific Railroad reached Indio in 1876, seven years after the first transcontinental rail route was established through the central part of the country. Indio was important to the railroad. This was the age of steam locomotives and these engines traveled through a largely desert area. Much different than many rail lines in the east. In addition as serving as a water refill stop which all steam locomotives required, Indio also was a stop where sand would be removed from the engine's working parts.

Indio California took off rapidly after the railroad arrived and literally became a beacon of civilization in the middle of the desert. The California railroads had the same effect on many other towns. Stores and hotels sprouted up to help serve many of the workers who found themselves in a very sparse and harsh desert environment. If there were social activities during this era in the desert, it took place at Indio. Today of course, Indio California and it's neighboring desert communities are a desert spa resort mecca with beautifully manicured golf courses.

The Continuing Growth of Indio California

Many booming railroad towns of the last half of the nineteenth century faded from glory. Some disappeared entirely. We've written about some of these towns on Western Trips articles. Not so with Indio.

1920 era kitchens
1920's kitchen stove exhibit at Coachella Vallley Museum
At first glance you might not connect the Coachella Valley desert environment to agriculture. The reality is very much different. After the railroad established the town, Indio gradually became an agricultural center. Citrus fruits, dates, onions and other crops did very well in the desert's arid climate.

Desert Water

Much of this agricultural success had a lot to do with the farmer's being able to attain ample water. The first water was obtained from artesian wells and then eventually through canals.Canals were built westward from the Colorado River. Today the Coachella Valley of California receives water from three sources. Groundwater, recycled water and imported water either through the State Water Project or from the Colorado River via the Coachella Canal, a branch of the All-American Canal. Farmers in the Coachella Valley today receive about a third of their water needs from groundwater. The majority of their water comes from the Colorado River via the Coachella Canal.

Links to four additional Western Trips photo articles you'll find interesting include:

Joshua Tree National Park

Unique Railroad Museum Exhibits 

Railroad Square in Santa Rosa California 

San Diego's Popular Gaslamp Quarter

date museum in indio california
Date Museum at Coachella Valley Museum campus
Visiting the Coachella Valley History Museum

The Palm Springs desert communities offer a wide variety of recreation opportunities. The hot summer days give way to ideal winter weather. While there's many things to do in Palm Springs and the other communities, I think you'll enjoy a visit to the Coachella Valley History Museum. It's a fun low cost stop to place on your vacation planner and you'll really get a good idea of how the desert communities grew to what they are today. California railroads played a major part in the settlement of many towns you visit today.

The Coachella Valley History Museum displays the unique history of the desert and the pioneers who forged through the difficult environment to create the home it is to so many today.

When visiting this well planned museum, you'll view exhibits and artifacts from the days of the early Southern Pacific Railroad,the early farms of the Coachella Valley. You'll also see town and valley artifacts that portray what life was like in a new California desert settlement.

early 1900 schoolhouse
1909 India California schoolhouse
The Coachella Valley Museum campus contains the Smiley-Tyler House, a 1926 adobe home which houses the main exhibits; the historic 1909 Indio Schoolhouse; and the Date Museum.

The date has been a very important product for the Coachella Valley.The Date Museum recreates scenes found in many of the early shops that brought the date to the forefront of agriculture in California.

One interesting exhibit we found in the Smith-Tyler House is the Pioneer Kitchen. The restored kitchen is an accurate example of a 1926 kitchen. The items you'll see include an icebox, stove, butter churn, and various tools of the 1920s.

The 1909 schoolhouse on the Coachella Valley Museum campus is one of Indio’s oldest surviving buildings. The school was originally built on the site of the current Greyhound Bus Depot. It served as a hospital during the 1918-19 flu epidemic and was converted during the 1930s to be used as a classroom and cafeteria for Roosevelt School. In 1999, the city of Indio moved the school to its present site and performed restoration.. You'll notice that the original tin ceiling, floors, cabinets, and the majority of the original windows remain intact.

There's certainly many things to do in Palm Springs and it's neighboring communities. Visiting the Coachella Valley Museum and learning more about the Southern Pacific Railroad, California railroads in general and life in an early desert settlement is a good and fun addition to your southern California vacation planner.

The Coachella Valley History Museum is open the beginning of October to the end of May from 10am to 4pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday; and 1pm to 4 on Sunday.

(Photos from author's collection)

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Arizona Trails

petrified forest national park
Petrified Forest National Park, a 93,000 acre national park, just east of Holbrook Arizona, features a blend of easy to moderate hiking trails. Trails within the park range from one-half mile to three miles in length. Along these fascinating Arizona trails you;ll pass by logs from some 225 million years ago. these popular Arizona trails. Petrified Forest National Park is a surprising land of scenic wonders and fascinating science. An amazing fact is that more than 600 archeological sites have been found inside of Petrified Forest National Park.

Petrified wood itself is the product of permineralization. Essentially it is fossilized vegetation where wood literally turns into stone. All of the organic materials of the tree itself become typically silicate. At the same time the tree rings and the structure of the log remains intact while the process itself might take 1,000 years to fossilize.

Entrances to the park are in two places. The northern access to the scenic drive is at Exit 311 on Interstate 40, 25 miles east of Holbrook Arizona. The southern access is 19 miles west of Holbrook on U.S. 180. Trails in Petrified Forest National Park can be found along this twenty-eight mile scenic drive.The park has scenic drive maps free of charge that will show you the trail heads and other interesting places to stop at along the way.

petrified wood
Fossilized wood
 Crystal Forest Trail

The Crystal Forest Trail is three-quarters of a mile in length and is paved. On this short hike you'll view some of the bigger and more colorful logs. The trail takes you through a dense portion of colorful petrified wood. Woodpiles are scattered along rolling grasslands and emerging badland formations. Unfortunately, over the decades, beginning in the 1890's, mineral seekers took off a lot of the crystal logs. They were known to blast the logs and get the gems from them in pieces. This is a short yet very fun and educational trail which presents an easy hike.

Giant Logs

You;ll find this trail near the southern entrance to the park. Giant Logs Trail is found directly behind the Rainbow Forest Museum and  features some of the largest and most colorful logs in the park. "Old Faithful", at the top of the trail, is almost ten feet wide at it's base. The Rainbow Museum schedule ranger talks. You'll find a schedule inside that denotes the times and subject matter. In addition, the Rainbow Forest Museum offers displays showing Triassic plants and animals in their original habitat. Giant Logs self guided hiking tour booklets are available inside the museum. The museum also features an interesting and well stocked book store. 

petrified forest hiking trail
Giants Logs Trail
Long Logs

The Long Logs hiking trail is also found behind the Rainbow Forest Museum. It's length is 1.2 mile loop. The first half-mile of trail is paved. The trail passes by log piles and badlands. The Long Logs Trail  takes you past some of the most spectacular exhibits in the Petrified Forest. You'll find some of the logs are more than 100 feet long. All of them are piled in a large logjam. Some lie criss-crossed on top of each other.

Agate House Trail

The start of this Petrified Forest National Park trail is at the same place as the Long Logs Trail, behind the Rainbow Forest Museum. It is a 1.2 mile loop trail. The Agate House itself is a partial reconstruction of an Indian pueblo originally built about 1,000 years ago. The structure was reconstructed in the 1930's. The Agate House has the distinction of being built entirely by petrified wood and mud mortar. It's a structure you'll see nowhere else. The structure contained eight rooms. The ancestors of the modern Pueblo people employed petrified wood for a many purposes. These included for tools such as projectile points, knives, and scrapers.

petrified forest national park museum
Rainbow Forest Museum
Blue Mesa Trail

The mile long Blue Mesa Trail is in the Petrified Forest National Park and leads you down into the Painted Desert. On this Arizona hike you'll view cone shaped hills in a variety of colors. The trail starts at the top of the mesa and descends below the rim from there into the badlands. The badlands are composed of water deposited layers of volcanic ash which is , interbedded with thin layers of shale, sandstone, and river gravel.

The Blue Mesa Trail is rated moderately strenuous which may be one reason it's not hiked as much as other trails. Consequently you'll be free of the crowds found during the summer at some of the other trail sites.

Following are two additional Arizona links on our Western Trips site you'll find interesting. They are;

Homolovi Ruins Arizona State Park

Historic Downtown Flagstaff Arizona

You may also enjoy Mountain Bike Trails in the West and Types of Mountain Bikes

petrified forest rock formations
Teepee Rocks at Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert

The Painted Desert stretches from the Grand Canyon east to the Petrified Forest National Park. This is one of the reasons that this national park stop is quite unique. You might find this travel stop as being two parks in one. The Painted Desert received it's name from the beautiful colors you'll view there. To the south at Petrified Forest National Park you'll see the amazing petrified wood which at one time comprised a tall forest. 

The Painted Desert is comprised of shale, mudtone and siltstone. The Petrified Forest features the product of fossilization. The twenty-eight mile scenic drive from north to south lets you view and explore both of these geologic processes. The Painted Desert Visitors Center is located on the north end just north of Interstate 40 at exit 311 and about 25 miles east of Holbrook Arizona.

These sites are a great addition to your Arizona vacation planner and are very easy to reach by car.

9Photos from author's private collection)

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nuclear Museum

Albuquerque New Mexico is the location of a fascinating museum. The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is an affiliate of the Smithsonian and features an enormous amount of exhibits, many of them being interactive. This nuclear museum does an excellent job in explaining many of the applications of nuclear science with exhibits that date back into the 1950's and even before. 

the national nuclear museum of science and history
National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History which was established in 1969 is located at 601 Eubank Blvd SE which is not far from the Albuquerque International Airport. This museum originally had different names and was located at a few different sites prior to it's final move. The museum was originally established at nearby Kirtland Air Force Base. In 1973, the museum name was changed to the National Atomic Museum but closed in September 2001. From 2002 to 2009 the museum was operating out of an Old Town Albuquerque site and then relocated to the current location in April 2009.The stated mission for The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is “to serve as America’s resource for nuclear history and science".

Fascinating Exhibits

The nuclear museum in Albuquerque has an amazing amount of unique exhibits both old and new. All of these have a connection to science and atomic energy.

shoe fitting device from 1930s
Shoe Fitting Fluoroscope
One exhibit is a 1930's Shoe Fitting Fluoroscope. This piece of equipment shown in this article was used in shoe stores to make sure you were buying the right fitting shoe. It was used by both adults and children. It was promoted as being the "scientific" way to find the right fit. The apparatus was actually outlawed in the 1960's mostly due to the problem of radiation exposure. The belief was that you could certainly find a proper shoe without having the radiation exposure.

Another interesting small exhibit is the Radio-Rem Outfit. It was manufactured by Schiefflin and Company of New York. This Outfit contained eight bottles that were filled with water and left to charge over a four day period. Inside each bottle was a radium-containing brownish-pink terra cotta rod which released radon into the water. According to the manufacturer's literature, the radium was in the form of radium sulphate. After four days, one bottle would be consumed in the morning and a second bottle consumed in the afternoon. After drinking the water, the bottles were refilled and allowed to recharge.This was the early use of radiation therapy to treat certain tumors. Eventually this particular treatment was considered too small and ineffective.

radio rem outfit
Radio-Rem Outfit
Another very unique exhibit is the Revigator. The Revigator was another medical device constructed of a of a ceramic water crock lined with radioactive materials. The water would be irradiated by radium. Instructions were to fill the crock nightly with water and drink six or more glasses daily. Promotion for this device stated that it was beneficial for such maladies as arthritis and senility. As a side note, at one time radium was promoted as a cure-all for a variety of ailments. This lasted from the late 1800's into the 1920's. It was eventually determined that there were other particles in the water concoction such as arsenic and lead which wasn't necessarily a good thing.

Spa Radium is another version of the Revigator shown above. Among the claims for this type of therapy were " This Radium Spa is unconditionally guaranteed to make any water placed herein radioactive within twelve hours equal in strength to the average of the most effective health springs of the world".

Instructions were to rinse and dry in the sun every week and drink at least eight glasses of it per day. The firm Radium Spa stated "Keep Well With a Radium-Spa in Your Home!" In many ways this was in a home in much the same way as today's spring water cooler. The Radium Spa's and the Revigator's were quite popular during the 1920's and 1930's before it was learned that the radium also brought on unwanted health results. During those decades there were many touted cure-alls that really hadn't been scientifically tested for side effects. regulation in the health industry was in it's early stages.

pocket geiger counter
El Tronics Pocket Geiger Counter
The El Tronics Geiger Counter. Here is an exhibit at The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History that dates back to the early days of radiation measuring.  El Tronics was located in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and manufactured a variety of equipment. This particular model is a Model PR-1 from 1955. This was a pocket model which was advertised with full page ads in magazines such as Popular Electronics during the 1950's. El tronics was a leading manufacturer of these devices and sold them to labs, mining prospectors and to the military. Back during the 1950's the model shown here sold for about $22.

Links to two additional photo articles on our Western Trips site include the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos New Mexico and  the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas Texas.

Links to two more Western Trips photo articles you'll enjoy include the actual F-15 First Responder on display at the Pacific Coast Air Museum outside Santa Rosa California and a vintage Beechcraft 18 on display at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River Oregon.

Also see our article and photos of the Helicopters of the USS Midway

b 29 superfortress
B-29 Superfortress "The Duke of Albuquerque"
Famous Aircraft Displays

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History also has a very large outdoor display area. This nuclear museum exhibits an array of rockets and aircraft dating back to the first years of nuclear weaponry. 

Some of the aircraft on display includes both a B-52 and B-29 Bomber. The Boeing Stratofortress B-52 has been the main long range heavy bomber of the Strategic Air Command.The 1945 model B-29 Superfortress on display was named "The Duke of Albuquerque". This plane from World War Two was equipped with four Pratt and Whitney R-3350 engines and is scheduled for restoration.

If your travels take you to New Mexico and in particular the Albuquerque area, a visit to The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, a gem of a museum, is definitely worth your time. The museum is about a six mile drive southeast of downtown Albuquerque.

(Photos from author's collection)
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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Willcox Arizona

Western Trips had the opportunity to visit historic Willcox Arizona. Willcox is not only filled with plenty of old west history but also offers several very unique museums and some excellent hiking opportunities.

Rex Allen Museum
Rex Allen Museum, Willcox AZ
Willcox Arizona is located along Interstate 40 about 50 miles west of the New Mexico border and about 80 miles east of Tucson. The Southern Pacific Railroad named the town of Willcox in 1880 in honor of Major General Orlando Bolivar Willcox. Major General Willcox was active during the Civil War years and was even captured and held prisoner for a year. In 1895, eight years after his retirement, Willcox was awarded the Medal of Honor for "most distinguished gallantry" at the Battle of Manassas 34 years before. 

Very often the railroad itself named towns after famous figures and/or railroad officers. In many cases such as with Willcox and Benson Arizona, the town wasn't established until the railroad built tracks through it. Another example of this is with Barstow California (named after an officer of the Santa Fe Railroad) , Holbrooke Arizona (named after the first chief engineer of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad) and Gallup New Mexico (named after a paymaster for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad).

Following are some of the Willcox Arizona attractions you'll want to add to your southern Arizona vacation planner.  

rex allen statue
Statue of Rex Allen
The Rex Allen Museum

The singing cowboy star Rex Allen was a native of Willcox Arizona. The Rex Allen Museum opened it's doors in 1989 and is filled with memorabilia from his lifetime success in rodeo, radio, movies and televison. The museum is literally filled with photos, records, movie posters.

According to the Rex Allen Museum, the star's biography includes...As a boy Rex played guitar and sang at local functions with his fiddle-playing father. After high school graduation, he followed the rodeo circuit but decided that his future looked better with a guitar than with the rodeo. He got his start in show business on the radio in New Jersey as “Cactus Rex”, then performed in Chicago on the WLS Radio program, National Barn Dance. In 1948 he signed with Mercury Records where he recorded a number of successful country music albums. In 1952 he switched to the Decca label where he continued to record into the 1970s.

Rexc Allen fans will want to be aware that the town of Willcox hosts an annual Rex Allen Days which in 2013 will be held from October 4th through the 6th.  Among the events during the Rex Allen Days are a parade, professional rodeo and concerts. Among the rodeo events are bull riding, bronc riding, steer wrestling, ropers and barrel racing. October is also an excellent month to visit southeastern Arizona.

the dining car willcox arizona
The Dining Car, Willcox AZ
When in Willcox you'll also want to see the bronze statue directly across the street from the Rex Allen Museum. In this small [ark is a statue of Rex Allen as well as the grave of his horse KoKo.

It's said that Rex Allen made the last of the "singing cowboy" movies in the year 1954. Rex was born in Willcox in 1920 and died in 1999. The Rex Allen Museum is located at 150 N Railroad Ave just one block from the train depot.

The Southern Pacific Railroad Depot

The restored Willcox Arizona Southern Pacific Railroad depot which was originally built in 1881 has the distinction of being the only surviving on-site passenger depot which is still in use on the southern transcontinental route. Today's Amtrak Sunset Limited passes through Willcox on it's runs between Los Angeles and New Orleans. Today the old train station is used as the City Hall of Willcox.

willcox arizona train station
Willcox AZ train station
When you visit Willcox and view the train station you'll also have the opportunity to dine in a real railroad car directly across the street. As you might guess, the name of this popular Willcox restaurant is The Dining Car. It's a great stop for a unique dining experience. The restaurant address is 130 E Maley. 

Chiricahua National Monument

This is a must stop when traveling in the Willcox area. The Chiricahua National Monument is one of the best geologic sites you can explore in southern Arizona. In addition to it's eight miles of paved scenic roads, hikers will especially enjoy the seventeen miles of day use hiking trails.

The Chiricahua National Monument is located 120 miles southeast of Tucson and about thirty-six miles southeast of Willcox Arizona via AZ Hwy 186. 

For those that have just a few hours to spend there you'll want to explore the Visitors Center and view the eight minute park movie

willcox arizona historic district
Store in Willcox Historic District
Enjoy a tour inside the Faraway Ranch House which is open throughout the year. The Faraway Ranch House was actually constructed at two different times. In the 1890's a two story frame home was built and then in 1915 a two story adobe was added on. The ranch dwelling was built by Neil Erickson from Sweden who emigrated to the U.S. and served in the army at nearby Fort Bowie. The Erickson's acquired cattle and also cultivated vegetables and planted an orchard.

If you can spend a half day or more at the park you'll want to explore the hiking trails. One short hike is found on the Massai Nature Trail. This is a half mile loop trail which lets you explore the geologic story of Chiricahua National Monument.

The 1.2 mile Silver Spur Meadow Trail starts at the Faraway Ranch Picnic Area takes you through the Faraway Ranch Historic District to the Stafford cabin, built in the 1880s.

A longer hike is found on the Natural Bridge Trail. This 4.8 mile round trip trail  starts from the Bonita Canyon Scenic Drive one-half mile past the campground trail. The trail will take you on a climb up to the woodlands and then leads down into the Apache pine forest. The trail ends at an overlook for the small water-carved bridge located across a canyon.

southern arizona scenery
Southern Arizona geography
Links to three additional Western Trips photo articles include Tombstone and The Tombstone Epitaph, a visit to Historic Benson Arizona and Old Town Tucson.

Visiting Willcox Arizona

Being located along Interstate 10 in southeastern Arizona, Willcox is easy to reach. Souhtern Arizona is also rich in old west history and a stop in Willcox and the nearby Chiricahua National Monument fits in well with a longer trip that might include, Tombstone, Bisbee and Benson Arizona. All of these stops make great additions to your overall southern Arizona vacation planner. 

The history of southern Arizona is all about the Native Americans, mining (especially in the Tombstone and Bisbee areas), the U.S. Cavalry and the Southern Pacific Railroad. 

(Photos from author's private collection)
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