Lasting Moments in Arizona

This is my last full week in Arizona and I am making memories! The weather is great and the sun is shining everyday!

*

Mesa Grande Cultural Ruins is a place totally undisturbed by its surroundings. Although it is only a tenth of what is was in AD 1100/1400 when the Hohokam, ancestors of the Akimel O’odham (Pima) began construction of the temple mound.

Artifacts shown here are grinding stones of different shapes and sizes.

Hohokam Timeline

The walls were made from “caliche,” the calcium carbonate hardpan that forms under the desert soils.

You see in this picture that there is development all around the compound. It is sad that they couldn’t preserve more.

A large adobe wall encloses the mound and a large plaza can be found in front of the mound.

The mound is longer and wider than a modern football field and is 27 feet high.

Today there are just a few remnants from the past but what is here has been preserved for many years to come.

This is a Tamerisk tree (a tree mentioned throughout the Bible). It was planted in the early 1900’s and it is a huge tree.

The tamarisk looks like a pine tree but in fact it has small scale like leaves and small branches. In the heat of the day the tree secretes salt, the salt then dries and during the night the salt absorbs the water from the air. When morning comes the water evaporates and creates a cooling effect which makes it a popular shade tree.

This was a type of oven used in the Hohokam culture.

I have learned many things about the early development of the land and its people before it was Arizona.

*

This is the Phoenix Arrow built in the 1950’s by boy scout troops under the direction of an eccentric WWII pilot. The arrow is as long as the Eiffel Tower is high. Each letter is 100 feet high and 12 feet wide. It is said it helped pilots find the Phoenix Airport as it points in the direction of the airport which is 20 miles away to the west.

So, the next time you fly into Phoenix from the East, look for the arrow on the side of Usery Mountain.

*

I love old neon and Tracy found this gem while running errands. She took me there to see it and then I had to go again at night to see it lit!

*

Have you ever heard of the “miranda rights”? Well. Ernesto A. Miranda was that guy. He was sentenced for kidnapping, robbery and rape based on his confession to police in 1963 . When his case was taken to the Supreme Court it was ruled that during an arrest individuals must be given the Miranda warning.

*

I have heard so much about this next place that I couldn’t wait to see it. Let’s just say it went above any expectations I had.

Organ Stop Pizza !

Home of the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ and pretty darn good pizza! It’s like an adult Chuck-E-Cheese!

The organ has nearly 6,000 pipes, and boasts 82 ranks, 17 tuned percussions and innumerable traps and effects. This is the worlds largest assembled Theatre Pipe Organ.

The massive amounts of wind required for operation are provided by four huge turbine blowers.

The pizza was delicious and afterwards we had ice cream!

While you enjoy your food, you are entertained by an arrangement of requested songs from the audience.

There are four different organists who entertain here at the Organ Stop which is open seven days a week.

This place gets ☆☆☆☆☆ from me!

*

Everyone knows I love sunsets, so I drove out to Superstition Mountain so I could get pictures of the sunset on the mountain. As the sun goes down the colors are most brilliant during a sunset.

Here is the best part! What are the odds that I would be in Apache Junction, on a random drive to catch sunset pictures and find out that I/we were about to witness a rare event.

For a period of 1 to 3 days in March and September of the year, when the sun sets in a “clear” west sky, a shadow of a cougar chasing its prey, appears in the shadows of the mountain.

Here are a few of the cougar that only lasts seconds!

Isn’t it amazing!? The stars were certainly aligned for me this day!

*

I love baseball and April marks the beginning of baseball season and March is spring training in Arizona.

I met up with a group of new friends that I made while at Desert Springs RV Ranch during the month of February.

We met at Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona, west of Phoenix to watch, my team, the Cleveland Indians play the San Diego Padres.

The sun was shining and not a cloud in sight. 80 degrees, a nice breeze and lots of sunscreen.

These are my new friends. They are so much fun! I just love them!

Action shots!

This guy here, well that’s Sandy Alomar, Jr. He played for the Indians in the 90’s as the catcher and now he is a manager.

The Tribe lost 3 to 1 but it was a fun day at the ballpark!

*

Lost Dutchman State Park is at the base of Superstition Mountain and today we took the girls for a nice 2.5 mile hike.

There were some really tall Saguaro cactus and the wild flowers were beautiful.

There is a very nice nature trail that tells you what each cactus is called, plus a few extra exhibits like a pack rat nest, an example of a Saguaro’s growth and a sundial made from a howling metal coyote.

The Park also has camping and several hiking trails and mountain bike trails to take advantage.

The Native Americans have long held the Superstition Mountains to be sacred. The Apache Indians tell of the Thunder God who lives within them, and the Pima Indians believe their ancestors are entombed in the mountain waiting for release into the great beyond. After hearing of the Indian legends the early settlers started calling the mountains Superstition.

*

We headed out on Apache Trail into the Tonto National Forest.

The wild flowers along the road were amazing.

We soon found ourselves at the Canyon Lake Vista with a great view of the lake below.

The road was very curvy as we drove down past the lake to Tortilla Flats.

In the late 1800’s there was a mining camp and in the early 1900’s it became a frieght camp for the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. After the Dam was completed and became a big tourist attraction Tortilla Flats became a stagecoach stop for tourist and mail carriers.

Tortilla Flats is the last surving stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail.

There is an old schoolhouse that is now a museum, a restaurant with real dollar bills as wallpaper, a Mercantile, a saloon, a post office and a very small grocery.

We had packed a lunch and ate at the campground there before heading back to Apache Junction.

Here are a few more pictures of Canyon Lake.

The scenery was stunning.

*

There is a museum on Apache Trail that had a very interesting chapel on the grounds.

Elvis Presley filmed the movie “Charro” at this chapel when it was part of Apacheland. Did you know that “Charro” was the only movie Elvis never sang in? You do now!

*

What a treat we had visting the “Mystery Castle” which sits at the foot of South Mountain in Phoenix.

The true story goes like this….Boyce Gulley a man from Seattle had a wife and a daughter. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1927, and because it was contagious and at most he had just a few months to live, he just up and left his family without a word and moved to Arizona.

He squated on 40 acres of land which eventually was owned by Boyce and started to build mystery castle out of anything he could scavage. The castle is made out of desert rock, stone, boulders, mishappened brick and any discarded materials he could find.

You might ask, why would a man build a castle in the desert. A promise. He and his daughter would always build sand castles on the beaches of the Seattle area. The daughter, Mary Lou, asked her father to build a bigger one and he promised her he would.

Boyce died in 1945 never having any real contact with his wife and daughter. As his final wishes the castle was given to Mary Lou and her mother, with stipulations they must live there for at least two years.

Portraits of Frances and Boyce Gulley.

Portrait of Mary Lou Gulley who moved into the castle at the age of twenty.

With no electricity or running water, Mary Lou and her mother stayed and lived in the castle until Mary Lou passed away in 2010 preceded by her mother.

If the outside wasn’t so eccentric the guest house went over the top of eccentric.

The guest bed was in the room that was below the living area loft.

Take a look at the Saguaro of brick that made the lower level floor. The bed was on rails so it could be rolled out into the room.

The Saguaro tree in the corner was actually built around and what is left are the bones of the tree.

These are a few of the unique windows in the house.

We then visited another part of the castle. There were three rooms here, this one was purgatory.

The alligator is guarding a locked door to an old mine shaft. The door was opened a little over two years after Mary Lou and her mother moved in. The mystery Castle became well known when Life magazine covered the story. The contents were all personal items of Boyce’s.

The room to the right of purgatory was a chapel of sorts. Notice the floor in front of the fireplace. See the snakes?

The room to the left of purgatory was the bar. Maybe he envisioned Hell looking like this.

We are now going to tour the main house. Mary Lou was a bit of an eccentric herself. She literally had pet rocks, which were painted by a friend of each cat that lived with Mary Lou over the sixty years she lived in the castle.

Most items were Arizonian and Mary Lou and mother brought in the more current pieces.

The guide said that this was a guest bedroom that was where Boyce slept while building the castle.

This is the kitchen. As you can tell as time progressed electricity was added to the main house.

Mary Lou’s bedroom was above the kitchen and not open to the public.

This is an unfinished pool house. Look at that view!

Outside there was a magnificent patio.

The lower patio had a compass built into the floor.

There was a wishing well that never had water in it as they had to tote water in to use.

This was called the mother-in-law quarters yet there never was one as Mary Lou never married. Mary Lou did earn a living by giving tours of the castle.

In the corner of the upper patio was a very decorative fireplace along with a window.

When you looked through the window you see what is now downtown Phoenix.

There were 18 rooms in the entire castle, many we didn’t/couldn’t view as the staff that maintains the castle lives on premises. All the furnishings were original to the house and nothing has been touched since Mary Lou’s last days.

There was a jean room, a sewing room and a memorabilia room.

After Mary Lou passed she willed the castle to the “Mystery Castle Foundation” a nonprofit organization that maintains the property and continues Mary Lou’s legacy.

What a beautiful precious gift this dying father gave to his princess.

I could have lived there, seriously, even with the dirt floors and having to haul water. Ask me that again in June or July and the answer could very possibly different.

*

Monday I leave and head back East. The girls and I will definitely miss our times with Tracy. She is a great travel buddy and friend.

Next week promises to be an exciting journey. Until then have a great weekend and week ahead!

11 Comments

  1. Boy u went out with a bang! Luv the Indian land & history! The motel sign was cool! Too bad the Indians didn’t win, but it’s practice yet. The coyote sundial was neat & the cactus too! I seen that cougar thing on fb! Really awesome u got to see it! Well be safe, luv & miss u & travel on sista!

    Like

  2. Yes, I knew (of course!) that Elvis didn’t sing in Charro. I always thought it was his best movie. If the Colonel hadn’t ruled the roost Elvis may have been a great actor of dramas and more meaningful movies.
    Hope to see you when you get back this way. April 13th?

    Like

  3. Arizona just looks better and better. You have done so much in your visit and your photos are fabulous. Got me thinking of how we could organise a road trip to Arizona next year now ……………..

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s