Friday, February 26, 2010

High-tech Gadgets

This was a day for high-tech gadgets. After a breakfast/staff meeting at 9 am (it is our day off, but I cooked an egg dish and we attended, anyway), we took off on our bikes to do some geocaching. In case you don’t know what that is, let me explain. People all over the world hide small containers—from hide-a-key boxes up to ammo cans—and post the coordinates for the hide on the web site. Then people who have a GPS (Global Positioning Satellite device) hunt for the hidden item, sign the log they find there, then go to the web site and log the fact they found it. Many hidden containers have numerous small items for people to take or trade.

Last night John wrote down the coordinates for several caches near Casa Grande National Monument. Today we went hunting and found two hidden containers.

We also responded to a virtual cache. That is when you find the cache by answering questions about the site or sending in a photo of something. National Park facilities don’t like people hiding things there because of possible damage to the property when cachers come hunting. But virtual caches encourage people to visit historic and natural sites and learn about them.

We enjoy geocaching because it takes us into places in the area we are visiting that we might not have seen otherwise. Over the years we have logged 89 caches found. That is nothing compared to some people, who have found thousands.

We have had our GPS since about 2004, before our trip to Alaska that year. John felt newer devices offer more than our old one. So yesterday he ordered a new Garmin Oregon 400T from After we returned from our bike trip we received a phone call from John at the Visitor Center front desk, announcing a package from FedEx. Can you imagine? It came in less than 24 hours.

And are we impressed! It has maps and many other bells and whistles. It will take us a while to learn how to use it. We can even download waypoints for geocaches, if we wish.

In addition to ordering the GPS yesterday, I ordered a 1-terabyte external hard drive to back up our photos and my computer, which is now nearly five years old. It is only a matter of time before we need to replace that. What would we do without our high-tech gadgets and on-line shopping?

Friday, February 19, 2010

What on Earth Were We Thinking?

Yesterday we met Ron and Barbara at Picacho Peak State Park. You can see her blog here. Barbara suggested the park because it provides just about the only hiking near where we are parked and she and Ron had both hiked to the peak before. We were eager to go there because Picacho Peak is one of the Arizona state parks that will close in coming months because of budget shortfalls. We hiked there once last year.

This sign told us where we were headed. Frankly, I was a little disappointed that it was only two miles to the top. At least I felt that for a while. The "primitive trail" includes numerous stretches of cable attached to rebar to help hikers get up and down the peak. Are you serious? We guessed that is why they sell gloves at the entrance station. Here is John, showing off this gloves.

Before the trail got steep, we heard, and then saw, a bird squwaking at us. John took a picture of Barbara and Ron looking for the bird and me taking a picture of the bird. Below are his picture as well as mine of the bird.

The desert was beautiful as we hiked to the peak.

We reached the saddle, then we had to hike DOWN for a spell. And the trail became more difficult.

Time and again, Barbara said we had finished the hard part and it would be easier the rest of the way to the top. We learned to not believe her. Sometimes it was only steep and rough enough to need one cable. In a couple of sections there were two cables.

We did make it to the top! Thankfully, there were other people at the top who could take our picture.

And these views were our reward for all the work climbing to the top.

On the way down, which wasn't much easier than the trip up, we told Ron and Barbara that when we agreed to meet them at Picacho Peak, we didn't realize at first they meant we would climb TO the peak. We knew the park had several hiking trails. Barbara admitted that if she had remembered that the hike was this difficult, she never would have suggested it.

As we came down and saw the parking lot with our truck and their car, we were all proud of what we had accomplished.

But at least three of us don't intend to do hikes like that every week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spring Is Here!

The calendar and people in most areas of this country might not agree, but Spring is here. How do I know? It is getting into the 70s every afternoon. All of us living in the VIP compound here at Casa Grande are sitting outside, getting together to talk or share a glass of wine. This is the weather we come to Arizona in January and February and March to enjoy. And it has finally arrived.

Also, the Mourning Doves are courting, the Great Horned Owls that live in the roof over the Great House are tending eggs in their nest, and the Round-Tailed Ground Squirrels have come out of their burrows and are running around everywhere. This last evidence of Spring isn't something to celebrate. Sometimes they build nests under the hoods of trucks, cars and RVs, or just feed on the wiring they find there. All of us living here have one or more strings of Christmas lights glowing under our RVs at night. I don't know if that works or not. We haven't had any trouble with the critters either last year or this. Last year we didn't have the lights--just borax and moth balls. This year we have the lights. So do both kinds of cure work or don't we need either? We don't know.

Saturday we had two visitors. Fellow Montana 5th-wheel owners, David and Jo-Anna Kikel, stopped by. We first met them at Klamath, California. They were on their way to Alaska and we were headed to Oregon. They volunteer at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where we visited them last year. Saturday we gave them a quick tour of Casa Grande, then visited for a while.

We have been quite social recently. Last week we drove to Surprise, on the northwest corner of Phoenix, to have lunch with Bill and Ellie Pendleton. We talked so long at the restaurant, I'm sure they were about to kick us out. It was a very good visit.

This weekt we have had some real competition while giving tours of the monument. An archaeological construction crew--I guess that is what you would call them--are correcting the drainage pattern in the southern half of the compound where we give tours. As you look at the equipment they are using, you can see why it is a real test. But the visitors here are good sports about it and very interested in what they are doing. Note the heavy equipment on the left and the tour group next to the Great House at the right.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Were We Ever Surprised!

For three months we are Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in the town of Coolidge, Arizona, a town of a little more than 7,000 people. As we drive south and west of town, we pass the Wurtz Farm, which sells hay and gourds.

So, when we read they were holding a gourd festival at the Pinal County Fairgrounds about 10 miles from Coolidge, we decided to check it out. We didn't know what to expect, but we certainly saw much more than we had anticipated.

We entered the exhibition area of the fairgrounds under this neat sign.

We saw lots of cute festival decorations made out of gourds.

And huge baskets filled with about every shape of gourd imaginable.

Lots of people were lined up to view a juried show of decorated gourds. We didn't bother standing in the line.

We were amazed at the number of people attending the festival. In addition to the crowds of lookers and shoppers, there were vendors from all over the country.

There was a booth to teach about gourds.

Vendors selling the tools needed to work on gourds and lots of useful books for sale.

Gourds can be painted, carved, laced and decorated in so many ways I can't even describe them. At times, if I hadn't known we were at a gourd show, I would have thought I was looking at pottery. We took so many pictures, I made several into a movie, so you can appreciate the beauty and fun of what can be done with the humble gourd.

Gourd Festival

Friday, February 05, 2010

What Kind of Oil?

Yesterday, as we were driving home from a hike, we passed this sign.

I couldn't read everything on the sign, so I wondered what kind of oil they were talking about--a new oil well? A short distance down the road we spotted this sign.

Last week, while working in the visitor center at the Ruins, a woman asked me how to get to Queen Creek from Coolidge. She wanted to take her visitors to the olive mill there. So, now I knew what kind of oil they were talking about! We turned around to check out the mill.

I often use olive oil in cooking, but I really don't like eating olives. Obviously, lots of people do, not just my husband. The restaurant and store at the Olive Mill were packed. They sell oodles of foods made from olives and olive oil. Since our truck was full of groceries, we made a quick tour of the store, then left. They even have outdoor restaurant seating in the olive grove.

Earlier in the day we hiked the Goldmine Trail at San Tan Mountain Regional Park. We had last been there on New Year's Day. Since then, we have had lots of rain. You can really see the green coming out.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

What a weekend!

Saturday and Sunday were the days of the 2nd Annual American Indian Music Fest at Casa Grande Ruins National Monuments. All of the regular volunteers, all of the staff and a lot of other folks worked to make the festival a success. Nine individuals and groups provided the entertainment. Most of them were Native American Flute players. Some were storytellers. There also were two traditional dance groups and one classical guitar player. Though we are really into Indian music, we really enjoyed the performances and were glad to help make the event successful. Somewhere over 4500 people visited the Ruins over the weekend--most to hear the music. They really got their money's worth--$5 or a Senior or Annual Pass. Where else could you listen to music from 11 am to 8 pm on Saturday and 11am to 5 pm on Sunday? What a deal! Here is a slide show of some scenes from the main stage area. Click on the photo, then on "slideshow" in the upper left corner.

Music Fest Entertainment

In addition to the entertainment, there were many vendors of handmade music instruments, jewelry and carvings. A local tribal group and a family sold Indian tacos and natural desert foods were also available for sale. Here is a slide show of the vendors. Again, click on the photo, then on "slideshow."

Music Fest Vendors