Saturday, September 23, 2017

Family Activities: March to May 1990: California and Arizona

(MARCH 16 TO 17, 1990)

As advisor to the scout program, I took Sam and went with Jeff Pyne, Dave Benson, Dave and Greg Palmer, Jared Glazer, Scott Abbott, Ty Glade and Neil Wilson out to Joshua Tree for rock climbing. The Palmers brought all of their climbing gear, including shoes, pitons and ropes and taught us how to climb. We stayed at Jumbo Rocks Campground that night and went into the rocks near Hidden Valley to do our climbing. We hiked about a quarter mile off the road to the rocks and then climbed a ways to the rocks we were climbing. The rocks we climbed were already a fair way up the rocks. We brought lunches and snacked and talked while the Palmers secured devices in the rock and prepared for us to climb. The first climb the scouts took was an easier one up a crack. The rappelling down once getting to the top was the scariest for the boys as they backed off the rock. Neil Wilson coming down, panicked and crashed into the wall sideways. Next, Jeff Pyne decided to take a more difficult route up the other side of the same rock. He and Dave Benson put their heads into a T crevice like ostriches as they felt for holds above them on the overhanging rock. They were free climbing with ropes attached in case they fell. After Jeff and Dave, I was elected to climb and nervously did so. The adrenalin started to flow and I was exhausted by the time I was lowered back to the bottom. Greg Palmer helped Sam do some climbing until Sam had gone high enough and wanted out.

We then transferred to a crack on our left that I didn’t think any of us could climb (about 60 feet straight up). But Jared Glazer, the first, did it and then the gauntlet was thrown to me. There were several times I did not believe I would make it, looking for hand or foot holds and losing strength, legs shaking uncontrollably. But I did make it, extremely exhausted and scraped up from the rocks. There was an element of fear, accomplishment and elation that made it a very gratifying experience. As the day wore on, Sam crashed in my arms and went to sleep.

On the way down we admired the desert scenery, including the Joshua trees and cholla cactus. The Palmers video taped the climbs and we watched the tape the next day during priesthood meeting.

(APRIL 7 TO 9, 1990)

April 7, 1990 (Saturday):                 (Ajo, Arch Canyon, Alamo Canyon)

We left Redlands at 1:30 a.m. with me driving. We drove to an area just 20 to 30 miles from Phoenix where we turned off I-10 to head south, and got gas. We stopped in Ajo for breakfast, where we stayed the previous 4th of July, and ate breakfast at Dego Joes in the town square. Judy and I had omelets with about 6 to 8 eggs each. In Ajo, we stopped at the Phelps Dodge open pit copper mine that closed a few years previously due to declining copper prices.  We had originally planned to go with Jim and Sally Coffin, but Joe Sax’s death at work and his funeral on the Monday made Jim (Joe’s associate) feel like he needed to stay in town.

We drove to the visitor’s center at Organ Pipe and went through the exhibits, reserved one of four spaces at the primitive campsite in Alamo Canyon, and then went on the Ajo Mountain dirt road drive. We stopped beneath the arch at the mouth of Arch Canyon and hiked around the first bend, teaching the kids various kinds of cactus (cholla, prickly pear, hedgehog, saguaro, organ pipe), ocotillo, etc. The plants and cactus were flowering, although it was a dry year and not as spectacular as in previous wetter years. The pretty reds were out on the ocotillo and some of the other yellow flowers. We ate a picnic on a bench at the mouth of the canyon and talked with a couple visiting from England.

We then went three to four miles up a dirt road to our campsite in Alamo Canyon. Our tent was pitched between a large saguaro cactus and organ pipe cactus on ground as hard as cement. Rachael, Sam and I took a hike up the side of the mountain. Organ pipe cactus and ocotillo grew on the side of the mountain. I ended up hiking ½ to ¾ of the way up the mountain. In the evening, we walked the dirt road near dark and saw bats. We heard coyotes howl while we were sleeping that night.

April 8, 1990 (Sunday):                    (Alamo Canyon, Puerto Penasco)

I walked up the south fork of Alamo Canyon on Sunday morning. There was the shell of a brick house, a fenced corral and water building for horses or cattle. The bottom of the canyon was very tangled with brush and large boulders, but I didn’t see much wildlife. It was surprising that we really didn’t see any lizards or snakes. We did see, however, a herd of 10 to 15 javelina or collared peccaries. They were to the south of our campground across the wash and near the mountain about ½ mile to one mile away from our campsite. We saw a group of about 8 turkey vultures circling and wondered what was causing them to circle. I then saw some animals running and hopping through the brush and cactus. At first I thought they were rabbits, then realized that at 50 yards away they were bigger and looked more like kangaroos. Then it dawned on me they were peccaries. I was very excited. It was a real treat to see an animal like that that is rarely seen.

Rachael drew some great pictures of cactus and other desert plants. The ocotillo, one of our favorite plants, gets the red flowers on its tips in April and gets small green leaves after the rains. It is not a cactus, although it has large thorns. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was established in 1937 and protects virtually the only organ pipe cactus in the United States (more is in Mexico) and some of the most spectacular Sonoran Desert scenery.

We bought gas in Lukeville and drove south through Sonoita down to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), about 70 miles south into Mexico. The terrain over the border was saguaro and organ pipe cactus and then gradually became completely desolate. On the drive, we saw a dead coyote being fed upon by turkey vultures and a dead rattlesnake. Puerto Penasco is right on the Gulf of California and is completely desolate of vegetation. Sand is everywhere. It is much less touristy than other Mexican towns we’ve been in. We went to the fish peddlers and bought a pound of large shrimp for $6.00 (which we took back to camp and barbequed over our camp stove in Alamo Canyon). We also bought two ironwood hawk carvings for $12.00 (one which I kept for myself and one for Dad). We ate at the Costa Brava Restaurant where I had a seafood combination which consisted of shrimp, squid, octopus, scallops, clams, mussels and fish, mixed together in a tangy sauce, the best seafood dish I’ve ever eaten. The Mexican food was definitely different. We’d heard Sonoran food was some of the best in Mexico. The hot sauce was very different.

We then drove out to Sandy Beach, which had an incredible sandy road covering several miles with large washboard bumps the entire way jarring us and the car. At the end was a mountain with sand dunes in a large bowl and people racing around in it in dune buggies. The weather was very warm. The kids put their toes in the ocean, Andrew stripped to his diaper (and threw an incredible fit as we went to leave). I stopped at a small shop on the way out and purchased a straw hat with a colorful “Puerto Penasco” band to keep the sun off of my head.

April 9, 1990 (Monday):                              

After taking a walk from our campground north toward Montezuma’s head, we drove Hwy 2 through Mexico from Sonoita to Mexicali. At first the terrain was very mountainous and rugged as we passed just north of the “Gran Desierto,” a Mexican National Park. The terrain then turned very flat, sandy and barren. Very few people and very harsh. We were impressed with Mexicali which seemed large, relatively clean (for Mexico) and untouristy. We then drove through Calexico, El Centro, and Brawley (where we ate at a Mexican restaurant), up to the Salton Sea, where we stopped to walk near a dike, through Coachella, Indio and back home.

(APRIL 21, 1990)

Mom Kenison was in town and had never seen Palm Springs. Last time she was here we had been to the Los Angeles County Arboretum and up to Forest Falls, more of our green country tour. This time was for desert. We stopped at Hadley’s and bought dates and nuts. Then up to Palm Springs and the Desert Museum. It is quite an incredible place. One portion has dioramas of stuffed animals in desert scenes, with lizards, snakes, squirrels, coyotes, bighorns, etc. They have some dinosaur bones and live reptiles and frogs, including a live rattlesnake that rattled continuously at us. They had some beautiful artwork, including some Remingtons and other famous artists.

We then drove through Palm Springs to McDonalds for lunch, then off to Palm Desert, to the Living Desert Museum. We were fortunate to see a presentation on birds in the Hoover Education Center. We had sparrow hawk and crow fly over our heads in the room and the kids got a close look at a redtail hawk. In another part of the building the kids did crayon rubbings of various animal plates and a woman let a large tarantula walk on her hand. They had a new Sonora Desert section structured after the area near the Ajo Mountains in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It was fun, as we had just been in the Ajo Mountains a couple of weeks earlier.

(MAY 1990)

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire is put on for about six weekends by the Living History Center in Devore, at the mouth of Cajon Canyon. Judy, Rachael and I attended on a very warm day. The real fun of the place is seeing the incredible costumes (England as it was in about 1680), the people speaking in old English (at times pretty bawdily) and the wonderful food. We had quail (very good), artichokes with mayonnaise and butter, venison sausage sandwich with onions and peppers, strawberry ice, peanut butter cup, buns (sweet rolls), several sausages, a Turkish sandwich made with lamb and peppers, corn on the cob and more that I can’t think of now. We enjoyed two knights on horses jousting with their long lances, men with powder muskets shooting out across a large pond and Scottish bagpipers.


Our first family scrapbook covered one year, including three separate trips into Arizona, starting with our trip to Arizona and New Mexico in April 1989, then included our trip to Southern Arizona in July 1989, and our trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in April 1990. A review of our year indicates quite a foray into the area around us as well as beyond. Travel within California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and Mexico (Baja and Sonora). Hopefully, all our horizons were expanded. We know the ancient Indians better, more about the dinosaur and the desert, and have probably seen more of the State of Arizona than most Arizonans have (that knowledge was increased further at the beginning of our next trip in another album, which started in Arizona). We visited several caves (Timpanogas, Crystal, Lehman and Colossal), zoos (San Diego, Phoenix, Sonora Desert, Rio Grande, Grand Canyon Deer Park) and otherwise had a great time.

1 comment:

  1. So Sam was just five years old when he had his first experience with rope climbing. Who knew it would turn into his passion. I think we still have one of those pictures Rachael drew of the cacti. Also, you mention several times in these family trip posts that Andrew is crabby or crying. My mind has blanked all of that out, and I remember only his sweetness. Interesting.