R is for Roads

Way back when automobiles first became common, states created highway publications to alert drivers to the paved roads within their road systems. Arizona Highways Magazine  was first published in 1925 by the engineers of the state highway department and has gone on to become a hugely popular magazine world-wide. It showcases everything from the most scenic drives, not-to-be missed hikes, the best Arizona photographs to the best wildflower viewing sites. If you haven’t seen it, click the link above and browse through the site. For many of us who grew up in Arizona in the 1950s, a prized family collection of Arizona Highways Magazines was the centerpiece of the living room bookshelf.

Freeways and stacked interchanges: yes, we have them. But Arizona has done a lot to create freeway art that is symbolic of our state.

Freeway art near Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix, via A View from Above Blogspot.com

In my family growing up, a Sunday drive was fine entertainment.  Our 1950 Pontiac covered many miles crisscrossing southeastern Arizona,

and we never flinched at a bumpy dirt road. I still like to do that.

Dirt roads can lead to beautiful places

Sometimes a dirt road gets pretty narrow

Sometimes a dirt road gets pretty narrow

Not all paved Arizona roads are divided highways and many of the two lane roads lead to spectacular places.

Elephant Foot Rocks

Elephant Foot Rocks

Roads down into canyon N. AZ

Northern Arizona on the Navajo Reservation

San Francisco Peaks in Northern Arizona

San Francisco Peaks in Northern Arizona

Roads near Tucson

Southern Arizona near Tucson

Roads woods near Flagstaff

Highway 89 between Sedona and Flagstaff

Tunnel in rocky mountainside near Roosevelt Dam

Tunnel in rocky mountainside near Roosevelt Dam

And finally, there are always road signs.

Roads signs Horsetheif Basin Roads Signs curves Roads signs curve Roads signs Bloody Basin Roads signs dips, winding roadRoads signs Burros small

 

20140706-102739-37659224.jpg

Q is for Quartz

Quartz is the most common mineral of all. It is a form of silica. You can find Quartz that is transparent, or milky or translucent. There are also more varieties of Quartz than any other mineral.  Some of the varieties are familiar names, such as Amethyst, Citrine and Agate.  Rock collectors enjoy the hexagonal crystals which can be quite large. Quartz 1 Quartz 2 Quartz 3

A large piece of rock Quartz with hexagonal transparent and translucent crystals

A large piece of rock Quartz with hexagonal transparent and translucent crystals

Clusters of tiny crystals are known as “drusy quartz.”  The most commonly seen chunks of quartz in Arizona are milky white  and massive (not crystalline), also known as “bull quartz.”

A large chunk of milky Quartz

A large chunk of milky Quartz

Arizona prospectors have long looked to Quartz as a possible sign of gold.  Some Quartz veins may have gold filling the fractures in the Quartz.  Sometimes gold is hidden in pockets of sulfide minerals such as pyrite in the Quartz. Gold panners sift through sand, which contains lots of Quartz, to sort out the heavy bits of gold from the debris.

 

20140429-184817.jpg

P is for Pyrite

Iron pyrite is found almost everywhere, and certainly turns up often in Arizona. Much of our Arizona history is about mining, and many a mining enthusiast and rock collector has great samples of fool’s gold. It is also called marcasite when mixed with silver. Although sometimes mistaken for gold, it is very different. Gold is made up of only gold atoms, while pyrite is a combination of iron and sulphur atoms. It is pretty easy to distinguish the two. Pyrite is not as dense, is harder, and has a different color than gold. Gold weighs about one and a half times the weight of pyrite.Pyrite is very common, and so is not valuable, except as a pretty collector’s item.

The rough face of a small pyrite cube

The rough face of a small pyrite cube

Pyrite forms block crystals

Pyrite forms block crystals

Pyrite dodecahedrons

Pyrite dodecahedrons

A large cluster of pyrite cube crystals

A large cluster of pyrite cube crystals

Drill core sample with pyrite inclusions

Drill core sample with pyrite inclusions

O is for Outdoor

Arizonans are outside a lot.  Here is a big factor:

Desert Average Temperature highs and lows:

January                   67                46

February                  71                49

March                       77               54

April                          85               60

May                           95                69

June                        104               78

July                          106               83

August                     104               83

September              100               77

October                     89               65

November                 76               53

December                 66               45

See that lovely winter range of temperatures? Plenty to do outdoors when it’s freezing in other areas.  Golf, marathons, triathlons, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, biking, camping, and the sports venues are amazing. We have botanical gardens, zoos, wildlife and don’t forget NASCAR. Even when it is HOT in the deserts of Arizona, we play outdoors.  If we want a change of scenery, a couple of hours drive will take us to lovely mountain lakes, ski areas and hiking and climbing spots.  Outdoors, Desert Botanical Outdoors-snow, skiing Outdoors Triathlon Outdoors sunset Outdoors Squirrel Outdoors Sports Outdoors OakCreek Outdoors hiking, riding Outdoors hiking desert Outdoors Grand Canyon Outdoors Fishing Outdoors Ducks Outdoors Burros Outdoors Beaver Creek Outdoors Bartlett Lake Speedboat Outdoors -biking

 

 

 

N is for Navajo Rugs

The Navajo or Diné, Nation covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Diné Bikéyah (link), or Navajoland, is larger than 10 of the 50 states in America. The Diné in Arizona live north of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff.

Navajo weavers (link) have long been known for their beautiful hand-woven rugs.

Time Among the Navajo

Time Among the Navajo

According to Kathy Hooker in her book, Time Among the Navajo, it takes 2 months to make a single rug.  Many Navajo families raise their own sheep. After the weather warms in the Spring, the women and children will catch and shear a sheep by hand, using shears.  Then the wool must be cleaned by shaking and washing in a wash tub. The wool is rinsed in cold water several times, and then washed with soap in warm water heated in a kettle on the stove. After rinsing again, the wool is hung on a fence to dry.  Carding commences when the wool is dry, using wooden paddles with metal teeth to pull the wool and straighten the fibers. Typically it will take 2 weeks to card enough wool for a single rug. The batts of wool pulled from the teeth of the cards are spun into yarn using a twirling spindle. Another two weeks can be spent on spinning. Once spun into yarn, the yarn is washed again and is wrapped from one fence post to another to dry. The weaver will have planned her design which she holds in memory, and she knows what colors of yarn she needs to create that pattern.  The wool may be dyed from plant dyes or some store-bought colors, especially red.  For black and white, the natural wool is used.  Brown is created by boiling wild walnuts. Bark, roots and fruit of other plants are used to make additional colors. It will take 3 weeks of constant work to complete the tightly-woven rug.

The weaving loom is an upright design.

Navajo loom

Navajo loom, this is a miniature model

Ray Manley's Southwestern Indian Arts and Crafts photo shows weaving outdoors.

Ray Manley’s Southwestern Indian Arts and Crafts photo shows weaving outdoors.

No two Navajo rugs are alike.  The place of origin for a rug typically determines the type of design. The Navajo Reservation can be divided into 13 weaving regions. There are other distinctive designs as well. If you wish to purchase a Navajo rug, choose a reputable dealer or trading post so that you can enjoy an authentic Navajo rug.

Navajo Two Grey Hills Rug

Navajo Two Grey Hills Rug

Navajo Storm Pattern Rug

Navajo Storm Pattern Rug

Old rug from the 1930s

Old rug from the 1930s

Two similar contemporary design Navajo Rugs

Two similar contemporary design Navajo Rugs

 

 

M is for Mesquite

Mesquite Bosque in Tucson

Mesquite Bosque in Tucson

Known as the Tree of Life to the Pima Indians, the Mesquite (mess-KEET) is common in the deserts of Arizona.  There are three native species in Arizona, the Honey Mesquite, the Velvet Mesquite and the Screwbean Mesquite.  Mesquites can grow into large, shady trees and are used in landscaping as well as found growing wild.

Mesquites are members of the Fabaceae Family, one of the largest plant families. A familiar member of this family is the pea plant. The unifying characteristic of these plants is the seed pod they create, called a legume. Many legumes are able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into compounds useful to plants, through the nodules they have on their roots.  Mesquites are able to do this and this makes them valuable to the other plants in the poor growing conditions of a desert.  They also act as nurse trees for slow-growing plants.  Birds, insects and other animals rely on the Mesquite beans as a food source and for shade and nesting. Often the Mesquites found throughout the desert are no more than a shrub, but under good conditions, they become large trees. Mesquites bloom in the Spring with creamy yellow dense, narrow clusters.

Mesquite flowers

Mesquite in bloom, North Mountain Preserve, Phoenix.

Historic records show that every part of the Mesquite had a use to the native peoples, for wood, for flour made of ground pods (pinole), the bark for baskets, medicines, and fabric. Today they are used in much the same ways. Mesquite burns slowly and is nearly smokeless, so it is popular as fuelwood. It makes an aromatic charcoal for barbecuing. Mesquite honey is very popular.

The Velvet Mesquite, Prosopis velutina, is very common in the southern part of Arizona.  It is remarkable in appearance because of fuzzy, short hairs that cover the entire tree and pods, making it look velvety.  The pods when ripe are narrow and brown and up to 8 inches long. This tree can grow a very long taproot, allowing it to access water deep underground. The Velvet Mesquite can get quite large, with a two-foot trunk and 30 feet tall or more. They can be found along streams or washes in shady thickets. Along some desert rivers, like the Verde and the San Pedro, dense mesquite bosques (forest in Spanish) can be found.

The Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa, has large spikes or thorns of up to three and a half inches and a sweet taste that make its beans delicious. The bean pods are mostly straight and up to 8 inches long. Its flower is a favorite of bees.  It is a smaller tree than the Velvet Mesquite.

The Screwbean Mesquite, Prosopis pubesens, like the Velvet Mesquite, has rough bark that separates into long, narrow strips. The bean pod on this tree gives it the name, Screwbean, because instead of a long straight pod, the pod is tightly coiled and spirals to 2 inches.

Mesquites growing on the shore at Lake Pleasant, with wild burros.

Mesquites growing on the shore at Lake Pleasant, with wild burros.

L is for Lupine and Locoweed

Two plants found in Arizona that are similar in appearance are (links) Lupine and Locoweed.  There are several species of each plant. They are both members of the Fabaceae, or Pea Family.  They have another similarity: they are both very toxic.

Cattle, sheep, horses and goats all have died from the effects of eating these plants.

First let’s look at Locoweed.  Loco Weed 2

Locoweed, Oxytropis lambertii

Locoweed, Oxytropis lambertii

Locoweed poisoning is the most widespread poisonous plant problem. Look closely at the leaves of Locoweed.  They grow in clumps close to the ground and each leaf has 19-29 leaflets attached in pairs.  They are covered with soft, fine hairs.  There are 300 species of locoweed. Pictured is only a single species, native to northern Arizona. Locoweed contains toxic levels of swainsonine, a poisonous alkaloid. There has been extensive loss of range animals caused by eating locoweed.  Horses in particular seek out Locoweed and become addicted.  Signs of poisoning may not immediately appear, even for months.  Then horses quickly die from damage to brain, digestive organs, or congestive heart failure.

The second plant is Lupine: Lupine w Trees Flagstaff Lupine nice Flagstaff

Lupine, Lupinus argenteus

Lupine, Lupinus argenteus

Examine the leaves of the Lupine. Each leaf is palmately compound. It looks like your palm with fingers splayed. There are 5-7 leaflets to each leaf. Lupine is also toxic. The seeds and pods are the most toxic parts.  Poisoning with Lupine can cause nervousness, foaming at the mouth, depression, reluctance to move about, birth defects, difficulty in breathing, twitching leg muscles, loss of all muscular control, convulsions, coma and death.

The flowers on both plants are remarkably similar, since they are all in the Pea Family.  They are a beautiful blue addition to the flora, but be cautious about handling them, and don’t you or your animals eat them.