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.



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



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.

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.

Welcome to My Arizona

I was born and raised in Arizona and have lived here almost all my life.  My only goal in keeping this blog is to share with you some amazing things about this state from my perspective. I have many areas of interest and will cover everything from Aurichalcite to Ziziphus obtusifolia. Lots of photographs will be included as I am an unapologetic snapper of pictures and feel that truly a picture is worth a thousand words or so. Arizona is a place of interest for scientists and tourists and residents.  The geology lies exposed for all to see and study the forces that have created the mountains and canyons.  Because of the great range of elevations, a great variety of plants and animals are found here.  Studies in the 1890s led to the establishment of 6 different life zones. These zones describe the differences between the desert land that Arizona is famous for, and also the high plateaus and pine-covered mountain peaks that may surprise visitors. Human history has left a deep footprint in the state and the stories told give us a dusty window into the wild west.

I invite you to come along if you think it all might sound interesting. Follow me on Twitter as Fan of Arizona, @fanofnmtn.