Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Land of Az

Traversing the highways and byways of south eastern Arizona is pleasant indeed. Traveling south on US Highway 191 from Safford to the turnoff at the Arizona State Route 266 one passes from small town community into the rural countryside.

Once you have made the turn onto Route 266 you begin to sense the wonder of the Arizona High Desert. The road begins to twist and turn and you feel the rising elevation. It is listed by some sources as having an elevation of 4,544 feet (plus or minus depending upon the article you read) as compared to Safford’s paltry elevation of merely 3,176 feet. Once on the crest of Route 266 the downward tour begins and the panoramic view is almost overwhelming. Mountains surround the vista with typical rock outcroppings reminiscent of Texas Canyon.

This is the daily trek to my work site a trip of 37.6 miles one way. The prison unit is Fort Grant and is nestled in the Coronado National Forest. Mount Graham is a mountain in southeastern Arizona, in the Coronado National Forest. It is the highest mountain in the Pinaleño Mountains. As the name "Mount Graham" is often used by locals to refer to the entire mountain range, the peak itself is frequently referred to as "High Peak". The mountain reaches 10,720 feet in height, attaining the highest elevation in Graham County and the third highest in the state.

Slowing down the vehicle and pulling over on the side of the road to avoid the horse trailers, there they are - working cowboys dressed in their denim, chambray shirts, chaps, cowboy hats and boots as they head into the high desert on horseback. These men and women are employees of the Bureau of Land Management and they are probably surveying the area for indications of potential fire hazards.

The prison supplies inmates who, when they pass the rigorous testing process are then trained to fight fires during wildfire season here in Arizona. This is a coveted “job” for an inmate. It allows them freedom outside the fenced perimeter and often it is a chance to repay a debt to society in a very tangible way.

A sergeant told of a fire where he was supervising inmates while working along side of them. When they returned to the camp, people in the town would line the streets and applaud them. The sergeant broke up while telling this and said how deeply it affected not only the inmates but him, too.

Most of the land going uphill to work is either Federal or State land. Local ranchers keep cattle on it and you can see these cowboys on their ATV’s getting the job done. These - the latter day cowboys!

Being the youngest state in the lower forty-eight we sure have a rich history with Billy the Kid from our local and then the Clanton’s and Earp’s who made Tombstone famous (or infamous as the case may be). The Mexican culture is evident in our architecture, art and the food we eat!

Arizona is home to twenty-one (21) federally recognized tribes. Together, the tribes contribute to the rich cultural diversity of Arizona. The state is home to over 250,000 Native Americans (2000 Census). Reservations and tribal communities comprise over a quarter of Arizona's landmass. Precious few of the WW II Navajo Code Talkers remain in the four-corners area.

In 1888, Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry were stationed at Fort Grant who often participated in civil duties, such as chasing train robbers and other outlaws.

Local geothermal activity means there are natural hot springs that maintain a year round temperature of approximately 106º. Copper is what is mined locally and it is said the hot springs are most therapeutic for those with arthritis. The geothermal activity coupled with the amount of lava rock one finds while walking in the desert can cause one to conclude that perhaps there may be a dormant volcano in the area, perhaps Mt. Graham itself. No literature has substantiated this self deduced hypothesis however.

Have a most wonderful and blessed weekend. May you find joy in your journey!

Psalm 19:6

The Message (MSG)

6 That's how God's Word vaults across the skies
from sunrise to sunset,
Melting ice, scorching deserts,
warming hearts to faith.