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Archive for arizona

The World’s Sunniest City

By Linda Tancs

Sun worshippers, take note. The sun is mostly always shining in Yuma, Arizona. In fact, the locale has been designated the World’s Sunniest City by Guinness World Records! To put that in perspective, the annual average of the possible hours of sunshine is 91 percent (a mean of 4,055 hours out of 4,456 possible hours in a year). Thankfully, there’s much to do to take advantage of that. The area boasts nearly a dozen golf courses, for starters. Or maybe you’d like to off-road on the dunes or spot desert critters at one of the three national wildlife refuges. And then there’s the Colorado River and lakes, which offer tubing, canoeing and boating opportunities. About 15 miles south of Yuma is another bit of terrain worth exploring although it requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Known as the Valley of the Names, it’s a remote desert in California (Yuma being the nearest city) comprising 1,200 acres of land filled with signatures, dates, messages and drawings made from rocks. Legend has it that the practice started during World War II, when soldiers stationed in the area for desert warfare training wanted to leave a memento for loved ones. If you go, stay on the trails, and don’t be tempted to add your own messages or take any rocks from the site.

A Wonder in Navajo Nation

By Linda Tancs

Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument was authorized in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover to preserve important archaeological resources that span more than 4,000 years of indigenous occupation, longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. The monument encompasses approximately 84,000 acres of land located entirely on the Navajo Nation with roughly 40 families residing within the park boundaries. It’s prized for its colorful sheer cliffs, sporting scenery like ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings (called the White House ruins due to a white band across the nearby cliffs) and the 800-foot sandstone spire known as Spider Rock. One of the best ways to experience these and other features is to drive along the north and south rims along the canyons, each offering several overlook points. Also, a wide range of free ranger-led programs are available between May and September, including talks and guided hikes into the canyons.

Red Rocks and a Railroad

By Linda Tancs

Arizona is defined by canyons presenting unforgettable views. One of those treasures is Verde Canyon, where a distinctive confluence of high desert and wetland provides enviable wildlife viewing opportunities. You can do that on a four-hour return train ride aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad between Clarkdale and the historic ranch town of Perkinsville. Using 20 miles of heritage track built in 1912 to serve the copper mines out of Jerome, the well-appointed vintage train cars journey through a red rock canyon that follows the curves of the Verde River, offering spectacular views of unusual geology, abundant wildlife, lush greenery and Native American ruins. The climate-controlled cars run year round.

A Limestone High-Rise in Arizona

By Linda Tancs

When you think of a high-rise apartment, you’d naturally imagine lots of steel and glass. But in ancient times, they would’ve made do with much less. That’s evident at Montezuma Castle in Camp Verde, Arizona. The third national monument dedicated to preserving Native American culture, the so-called castle is a 20-room, high-rise apartment nestled into a towering limestone cliff. The Sinagua people began construction of the structure around 900 years ago and abandoned it about 600 years ago. It isn’t structurally stable enough to accommodate tourists but you can admire the ingenuity nonetheless.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Passages in Arizona

By Linda Tancs

The Arizona Trail is an 800-mile scenic trail traversing the entire north-south length of the State of Arizona, connecting deserts, mountains, canyons and wilderness. Whether on foot, mountain bike or horseback, that’s a lot of ground to cover, so it’s a good thing the route is divided into passages to help you conquer it in pieces. There are 43 passages, categorized into southern, central and northern sections. You’ll even find volunteer trail stewards should you need assistance. You might be tempted to go during the summer months, but the desert heat is legendary. Likewise, winter months are fraught with heavy snow. The best times to visit are October/November and March/April. A good walk through the entire route will take six to eight weeks.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Rim-Side at the Canyon

By Linda Tancs

A canyon that is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep is what comprises Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park. Don’t be challenged by its immensity; there are ways to take in all that grandeur. One option is the Grand Canyon Greenway Trail, a 13-mile, paved pathway for biking and walking, offering a rim-side view of the canyon and providing access to numerous scenic viewpoints and landmarks in the park. One of those attractions is Grand Canyon Village, a historical landmark boasting sites like Hopi House (built like a Hopi pueblo), the old railroad depot and Buckey O’Neill Cabin, considered the oldest continuously standing structure on the South Rim.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Desert Conservation in the Southwest

By Linda Tancs

The Desert Botanical Garden is a 140 acres-wide botanical garden in Phoenix, Arizona. A pioneer in desert conservation, it’s an indispensable resource in the Southwest for helping individuals learn about Sonoran Desert plants as well as desert plants elsewhere in the world. One of only 24 botanical gardens accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, it boasts over 50,000 plant displays showcased in beautiful outdoor exhibits. The garden includes five unique desert trails as well as temporary exhibits and seasonal events highlighting desert life and its preservation.

Symbol of the American West

By Linda Tancs

The nation’s largest cacti reside in Tucson, Arizona. In particular, that’s the giant saguaro—a large, tree-like columnar cactus that finds protection in Saguaro National Park. A universal symbol of the West, these Sonoran desert sentinels are only found in small portions of the country. The park is uniquely situated around the 500 square miles that make up Tucson. Its two districts—the Tucson Mountain District to the west and the Rincon Mountain District to the east—are separated by the city’s 1 million residents. The western district boasts large stands of saguaro cacti. November through March is the park’s busiest season, when temperatures are cooler and range from the high 50s to the mid-70s.

Petrified in Arizona

By Linda Tancs

Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park is a prime source of—you guessed it—petrified wood. In a process beginning over 200 million years ago, logs washed into an ancient river system and combined with minerals that incorporated themselves into the porous wood, replacing the organic matter. The result is petrified wood found in the park and the surrounding region that is made up of almost solid quartz. The Jasper Forest vista point showcases one of the largest accumulations of petrified wood in the park.

The Spirit of Things in Arizona

By Linda Tancs

The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, has one of the most outstanding collections of American Indian artwork in the country. It was founded in 1929 by Dwight and Maie Heard as a museum to house the family’s private collection of native artwork. Over the years it has become particularly known for its broad collection of about 1,200 katsina dolls donated by the late Senator Barry M. Goldwater and the Fred Harvey Company. In Hopi culture, katsina dolls are the carved representations of the Katsinam, the spirit messengers of the universe. Made from the root of the cottonwood tree, the dolls are distributed to young girls to teach them about their role in the tribal community. This art form enjoys commercial success as well, and the dolls are treasured by collectors worldwide.

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