Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cowboy at Rest, Prescott, Arizona

In bronze statue, “Cowboy at Rest” by Solon Borglum, a cowboy lies languidly on his belly while his loving horse stands over him in a rather suggestive pose.

“Cowboy at Rest,” by Solon Borglum, stands proudly outside Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott, Ariz. From this angle, it’s rather … suggestive. I mean, come on! You have to see it! And if you didn’t before, you won’t be able to stop now. No, scratching out your eyeballs won’t help.

The cowboy repines at “bottom” while the horse “tops” him, a smug look on his horsey face. The seasonal flower wreath doesn’t help any. Were they a gift, I wonder? From whom to whom? I think I’ll retitle the bronze statue “Hey there, Buckaroo!” or maybe just “Horse Lover.”

I remember the first time I was “exposed” to Georgia O’Keefe’s flower paintings, such as “Black Iris” (below). “Shocked” would be the right word. Was it just me? Was I just a perve? Yes, I am a perve, and no, I’m hardly the only one.

But whereas O’Keefe might have been flirting with the erotic, I doubt Borglum was. Looking at his other work, I don’t see a homoerotic trend there. My reaction is likely just a “one-off” due to my 21st century, Internet-fueled sensitivities. I think.

“Cowboy at Rest” isn’t the only piece of Western-theme art in Prescott, it seems. On the other side of the courthouse is the “Rough Rider Monument,” also by Solon Borglum (OK, the title is funny given our current conversation. But it’s named for President Teddy Roosevelt’s Cuba invasion force. I’m sure the joke is only in our heads.)

Several statutes have been placed around Prescott. You can learn all about them in "Art Treasures and Museums In and Around Prescott, Arizona" by Marguerite Madison Aronowitz. Here’s an article by Aronowitz that tells a little about them and about her book.

I may take some time to walk around the city and look at some of these other fine pieces. But then, I’m not sure my warped sense of humor can stand it.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Warning, El Capitan Pass, Globe, Arizona

Sign along Hwy 77 at El Capitan Pass near Globe, Arizona, warns to trucks and trailers to use lower gear. The sign lower down the pass, barely visible, warns it’s an 8% grade.
After climbing up the Gila River valley from Tucson, Arizona 77 goes over the Pinal Mountains to Globe, Ariz., via historic, scenic, and steep El Capitan Pass. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic, and shades and tables are there for just that reason!

A historical marker there says that the pass was used by Kearney’s Army, guided by Kit Carson, in its 1846 expedition of the newly conquered US Southwest. But the pass had been known for much longer, used by Spaniards, Mexicans, and Native Americans.

I bet lots of pre-Columbian traders used it for business with the Salado, local pueblo people whom archeologists say traded with Mesoamerican peoples, including the Aztecs. Macaw feathers and Pacific Ocean shells have been found at Salado sites, such as Besh-Ba-Gowah, down the mountain in Globe.

That warning sign to truckers and the heavily laden going north is no joke. The sign further down the pass, tiny and yellow in the distance, warns that the grade is 8%. It’s curvy, too! All the emergency pullouts didn’t make me feel any safer. Trust me. I’m glad that my Promaster City, Kennel, has manual gear control for such occasions.

Liz would have hated going up and down these mountains, even with such a beautiful view. She hated mountain driving and always felt I took the curves too fast, even at 10 mph below the speed limit.

Below is a video I found on YouTube showing a panoramic view of El Capitan Pass. (That is not me in the video.)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Urban Encroachment, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona

Houses in Tuscon encroach on the edges of Saguaro National Park, Arizona. Pictured beyond is Gibbon Mountain (I think).
Not all US National Parks are in the wilds, and Saguaro National Park is a good example. Just east of the Tucson, Ariz., city limits, houses go right up to the park’s border. But that suits the people of Tucson just fine.

Saguaro's windy, hilly Cactus Forest Drive is a popular ride for bikers. When I was there, many bikers – mostly older folks – were gathering for some kind of group ride, Lycra shorts and all. I didn’t see any hikers when I was there, but I bet after work, plenty of Tucsonians take to the trails.

The biking event also attracted a couple of old church ladies, too, who’d set up a display in the parking lot promising to inform us on “What the Bible Really Teaches Us.” Fortunately, the noonday sun drove them off before they could solicit me.

Yes, there are saguaro cacti here – lots of them! But that only scratches the surface of the dryland biodiversity in the park. It’s a veritable garden. Unlike the ranched lowlands along I-10, the park, on the better-watered foothills, is exploding with desert plants: saguaro, barrel cacti, hedgehog cacti, cholla, palo verde trees, grasses, herbs, and much more. The mountain peaks have pine forests, and being February, the highest peaks even had a dusting of snow, even as it was 85 °F (30 °C) down by the visitor center.

Since I was there around noon, I didn’t see many animals, which tend to come out more at night. I mean, daytime temps are well over 100 °F (40 °C) much of the year. Wouldn’t you stay inside until nightfall?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Indian Bread Rocks Picnic Area, Bowie, Arizona

Kennel is parked west of an interesting, boulderlike formation at Indian Bread Rocks Picnic Area near Bowie, Arizona
This gorgeous, FREE campsite (with vault toilets!) is just off I-10 near Bowie, Ariz. The maximum stay at the Indian Bread Rocks Picnic Area is 14 nights. I found this Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site thanks to

Having lost a week waiting for a new tire rim in San Angelo and wanting to get to Saguaro National Park as quickly as possible, I only stayed the night and didn’t even meet the few other campers parked there. I got in at about 4:30 p.m. in the evening and left about 6 a.m. the next morning. Shame. Maybe in the future I’ll come back to stay longer and look for the archaeological remains.

According to a post at the Bowie Chamber of Commerce website, “Wandering Among Indian Bread Rocks,” the amateur archaeologist can find potsherds, stone flakes, and other Native American artifacts. Indian Bread Rocks is named for five bedrock mortars (metates) you can see, which the ancients used to grind flour from mesquite pods and acorns.

Not pictured to left (north) is the vast expanse of the valley. You can literally see for 20 miles to the next mountains. You can also see cars moving on I-10 down below, just a few miles away. Behind is the Dos Cabezas Mountain Wilderness. Those mountains reach up to about 7,500 feet, and when I was there, the peaks had a dusting of snow.

Warning: You’ll be sharing this campsite with cattle. Be careful where you walk! Bullshit (and cow shit) abounds! There are also cacti everywhere, which you’d expect. Coyotes, too, so don’t leave small pets out at night. But they sure do serenade you beautifully!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cienaga, Balmorhea State Park, Toyahvale, Texas

San Salomon Springs at Balmorhea State Park originally emptied into a large, natural cienega, or desert wetland. Shown is part of the 1980s restoration. Today, the cienga supports rare desert plants and animals, including the endangered Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish.

At the foot of the Davis Mountains, Balmorhea State Park is most famed for its giant, natural, spring-fed pool, in which fish, plants, and other wildlife live.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps dug out the springs and surrounded them with a 1.75-acre (0.71 ha), 3.5-million-US-gallon (13,000 m3) freshwater pool. The spring has a constant flow of 22-28 M US gallons (110,000 m3) a day, and the temperature averages 72 to 76 °F (22 to 24 °C) year round. The deepest parts of the pool are 30 feet (9.1 m) deep, attracting snorkelers and scuba divers (Wikipedia).

It may be one of the biggest natural pools in the world. It's so huge that only an aerial photo can take in its full size.

Aerial photo of Balmorhea State Park's 1.75 acre, spring-fed pool
According to a historical plaque by the pool, the cienega has been farmed for centuries. In prehistoric times, Mescalero Apaches planted corn and peach trees next to it. In the 1870s, canals were built, which still irrigate surrounding  Toyahvale, Texas, farmland today.

Balmorhea State Park is definitely one of my favorite places on Earth. So, I left a milkweed seed ball by the edge of the cienga in Liz's honor. Here's hoping it blooms!