K is for Kaibab

Kaibab is a Paiute word meaning “mountains lying down.” The Kaibab-Paiute people are one of ten member tribes of the Southern Paiute Nation. The Kaibab-Paiute Reservation is on the Arizona/Utah border and covers over 120,000 acres of plateau and desert grassland along Kanab Creek in northern Arizona.

According to the Forest Service, there are six National Forests in Arizona. The most northern of these is the Kaibab National Forest.  It is divided into separate regions and varies in terrain from mountain lakes and deep canyons to high plateaus and prairies. 

Deep Canyons


South of Kayenta


Kaibab also refers to the Kaibab Plateau, which is part of the larger Colorado Plateau. The Colorado Plateau  is a unique region of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico that is geographically uniform and defined by flat-lying sedimentary rocks surrounded by rocks that have been folded and deformed. The Kaibab Plateau is bordered on the south by the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is separated into North and South Rims by a 277 mile long canyon a mile deep.  You cannot access both parts of the Park from a single entrance.  Most visitors go to the South Rim entrance, which is open all year. There is airport and rail service and is a 90 minute drive from Flagstaff and Williams.  The North Rim is more remote and has a short season from May 15th through October 15.  The North Rim is 30 miles south of Jacob Lake on highway 67,  and the visitor center is an additional 14 miles south of the entrance station.  There is no airport or rail service to the park at the north rim.

Kaibab squirrels are found only on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  They are one of two Arizona tassel-eared squirrel species.  Kaibab and Abert Squirrels were one species before the Grand Canyon divided their habitat.  Now the Abert Squirrels live on the south side of the Canyon, and the Kaibab Squirrels only on the north. Kaibab squirrels have white tails, black bellies and brown on their heads and backs, as well as the furry tassels on their ears.

Is this a Kaibab Squirrel? It is a real trick to distinguish between them, but no, this is the southern cousin, the Abert Squirrel.  Here is the (link) Kaibab Squirrel.Abert Squirrel

Within the Grand Canyon there are two Kaibab Trails, North and South.  They are part of the Arizona Trail, which traverses the entirety of the state north to south. It is possible to do day hikes partway into the Grand Canyon on these trails, but to stay overnight requires passes from the back country office. Such passes are in high demand, so plan ahead.

The South Kaibab Trail begins on the south rim.  You take a shuttle bus to access the trail and begin hiking south of Yaki Point at elevation 7260 feet.  This trail is also used by the mules with packs and riders. There are wonderful views along this trail and going down seems easy.  Save your energy for the hike back out, and plan on twice the time to climb up. I have hiked this trail with preteen Girl Scouts who were experienced hikers.  As with all Grand Canyon trails, you must carry plenty of water. On the South Kaibab there is little or no shade.  This is not recommended as a day hike all the way to the Colorado River and back.

The North Kaibab Trail begins on the North Rim and is the least used and most difficult of the maintained park trails. The trail head is almost 1000 feet higher than then South Kaibab Trailhead. The trail descends steeply through aspen and evergreen trees and wildflowers.  It passes through tunnels carved through the rock wall of the canyon.  Side trails lead to Roaring Springs and Ribbon Falls.  There is a campground before the trail enters the inner gorge.  This trail passes through temperature extremes, from cool, even icy Rim to dangerously hot inner gorge.

There you have it.  K is for Kaibab.

Kaibab: Mountain Lying DownKaibab mountain lying down






J is for Joshua Trees

One of Arizona’s desert flora is the Joshua Tree, or Yucca brevifolia.  They are perfectly adapted to the environment of only the Mojave Desert, just as the Saguaro epitomizes the Sonoran Desert.  Joshua Trees are not really trees, but members of the Agavaceae Family, like Century Plants. They are not Cacti.  They grow very tall, 15 to 40 feet, and can live 150 years or more.  A great place in Arizona to see them is the Joshua Forest Scenic Road from Wikieup to Wickenburg, where I took these photos.  

Joshua Tree 1

Joshua Tree 3 Joshua Tree 4 Joshua Tree 5



Historic: Wild West


Wild West

For many, the southern Arizona town of Tombstone embodies Arizona’s frontier days. That would be true.  Tombstone was once bigger than San Francisco.  In the 1880s it had quite a reputation as a boomtown of the West.  But Tombstone wasn’t alone in its notoriety.  Around the same time as Tombstone’s heyday, other towns in Arizona were equally lively.  Just 24 miles from Tombstone is Bisbee, my home town.

Just as gold and silver had motivated the Spaniards to search for mineral wealth in southern Arizona, it seemed that everyone was a prospector after the discovery of gold in California.  The Mule Mountains where Bisbee is located first gave a hint of a wealth to a cavalry scout.  Just as other boomtowns were doing, Bisbee attracted prospectors and investors from the 1880s on and  grew and prospered. At the turn of the century Bisbee housed 20,000 inhabitants and Brewery Gulch hosted  50 saloons, gambling establishments and brothels. It even had its own Stock Market Exchange.  Its reputation as the wildest city between St. Louis and San Francisco was well-earned.

Bisbee was built along two canyons. The main canyon came to be called Tombstone Canyon, and the other was Brewery Gulch.

Brewery Gulch 2

Brewery Gulch


The original mineral exploration in Bisbee was for silver and gold.  But as the demand for copper grew, Bisbee’s rich copper ore built large mining corporations and Bisbee was one of the biggest cities in Arizona.  The copper ore was accessed deep underground. Immense bodies of high grade ore made Bisbee mines some of the richest in the world.

Headframe of the Campbell Shaft.

Headframe of the Campbell Shaft.

Sacramento Pit

Open pit mining became feasible during WWI. In 1917 tons of explosives were used to blast the top of Sacramento Hill in Bisbee and terracing began to get to the copper ore.

Lavender Pit

By the mid-1950s Sacramento Hill was a hole in the ground, and the pit was expanded to become the Lavender Pit. This necessitated the removal of roads, homes and businesses that lay in the path of the proposed open pit copper mine.

By 1915, times had changed.  Families lived in Bisbee, and the brothels and gambling had been shut down.  Prohibition had been declared in Arizona and the bars in Brewery Gulch disappeared.  Bisbee had a railroad, street cars, churches, schools and celebrations.  There were hard rock drilling contests between  miners from all over the West. Every fourth of July there were coaster races down Tombstone Canyon, parades and fireworks.

Coaster Race

The mines closed in the 1970s and Bisbee avoided becoming a ghost town because its wonderful climate made it attractive to retirees and artists. A visit to Arizona should include a trip to Bisbee.  Much of the Main Street and surrounding homes on steep hillsides have been well-preserved and you have choices of great places to stay.  The Copper Queen Hotel pictured in the Cuprite photo above, other historic inns and bed and breakfasts, even an old jail!  The Queen Mine tour is not to be missed.  The mine opened in 1877 and will give you a tiny taste of what made the Bisbee miners such well-thought of workers:

Bisbee's Iron Man statue has been painted copper.

Bisbee’s Iron Man statue has been painted copper.

The plaque at the foot of the Copper Miners Statue at the top of this page.

The dedication for the Copper Miners Statue.





Historic: Spanish and Mexican Periods

San Xavier Mission is a National Historic Landmark in Tucson.

San Xavier del Bac is a National Historic Landmark in Tucson.

The Spanish Period 1528-1821

The Mexican Period 1821-1848

Nearly two centuries after the decline of the large Archaic cities, when the first Europeans arrived, most of the natives were living in simple shelters in fertile river valleys, dependent on hunting, gathering, and small-scale farming for subsistence. (More at link.) Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, and a dwindling number of would-be settlers roamed the desert of the southwest from 1528-1536. Cabeza de Vaca became one of the first Europeans to encounter the indigenous peoples of North America.  He found those nomadic groups who spoke of the magnificent cities built to the north of Mexico. Upon his return to Spain, his writings stirred interest in further explorations of the land he had travelled because an old Portuguese legend spoke of lost cities of gold. The expeditions of Fray Marcos de Niza, and Coronado followed, all in pursuit of the riches they imagined from the tales told by the indigenous for whom the pueblos of the Zuni seemed marvelously rich.

The Arizona Indians they encountered belonged to three linguistic families: Uto-Aztecan (Hopi, Paiute, Chemehuevi, Pima-Papago), Yuman (Yuma, Mohave, Cocopa, Maricopa, Yavapai, Walapai, Havasupai), and Athapaskan (Navaho-Apache). The Hopi were the oldest group, their roots reaching back to the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi); the youngest were the Navaho-Apache, migrants from the Plains, who were not considered separate tribes until the early 18th century.

The first Europeans to live in Arizona were Franciscans, who in 1629 established a mission to the Hopi at the village of Awatovi in northeastern Arizona.  This did not end well for the Franciscans and it wasn’t until 1692 that San Xavier Mission was founded by Father Eusebio Kino in southern Arizona. The Spanish quest for riches continued and in 1736  silver was reportedly found near a Pima Indian village southwest of present-day Nogales.  This brought more settlers and Spanish prospectors north out of Mexico.  The Pima people were uneasy with the Spanish incursion and as a result, Spain created a military outpost at Tubac. The garrison was moved to the new fort at Tucson in 1776.

As missions, ranching and mining prospered, Spanish troops campaigned against the Apache in southern Arizona and eventually worked out a peace.  The attention of the Spaniards turned to the Revolution and in 1821 Mexico gained independence.  Most of modern-day Arizona was part of Mexico at that time.  The 1835 Texas war against Mexico weakened its hold over the land in the southwest.  The US Army of the West fought the Mexican War and the US took control over New Mexico (including Arizona) and California.  With the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the war ended and the US gained title to Texas, California and New Mexico.

Historic, even pre-historic!

Southeastern Arizona Riparian area

Prehistoric times:


People have inhabited Arizona for a very long time, more than 12,000 years. The San Pedro River runs northward from Mexico through southeastern Arizona. The upper San Pedro Valley  contains the highest concentration of preserved Clovis sites in North America. Studies of the Murray Springs site uncovered many distinctive stone Clovis spear points. Because  they found these Clovis points associated with the bones and teeth of now extinct mammoths, bison, camels and horses, scientists conclude that these Paleo-indians remained in the San Pedro Valley to pursue these large game animals.  The climate was much different at that time, being much cooler and wetter.  The climate became warmer and drier and by 6000 BC the megafauna had died off. The people had to change their way of life to survive.

The people living in Arizona after the Paleo-indians have been called the Archaic people.  They were hunter-gatherers who moved over the land as the seasons changed.  Because of the variety of stone projectile points found, it’s apparent that different groups ranged over a wide area. They also must have had contact with people living in present day Mexico. Trade items found by archeologists include shell from the Gulf of California, turquoise from southern Arizona, parrots and copper bells.   Eventually they learned to farm and settled into stable communities.  Several general groups of people emerged.  Those that lived in the south have been called the Hohokam.  They constructed irrigation canals along the rivers in the area that is now Phoenix.  The Mogollon people lived in eastern Arizona, the Patayan lived along the Colorado River and western desert areas and the ancestral Puebloan peoples lived on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona. Pottery sherds we find today reveal differences in cultural style and the remains of their homes vary widely according to the area they inhabited and the climate there.

Primitive housing

WupatkiThe Sinagua people created Wupatki in northern Arizona after the eruption of Sunset Crater in 1064 AD.  The cinders from the eruption made the ground more arable, and they were able to live in one place in a puebloan culture.  The Tsegi phase sites at Betatakin and Keet Seel were built by the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) people in the natural alcoves in the sandstone canyons of northern Arizona.  These sites are maintained by the National Park Service. The ancient people who inhabited Arizona led the way for the modern native americans you will find there.  More in next post.  Historic Arizona