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.



  1. WONDERFUL post! This is so interesting, Tamara, and how fantastic for you that you get to experience this each day on your drive to work!
    And thank you for the links too, I'll be back when I have more time as I was only able to skim the surface right now.
    I had known about the Navajo Code Talkers and that really interest me, as does your part of the country. So interesting to read about the 'cowboys' too. And so touching to read about the inmates.
    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Love and Prayers,

    1. Thank you Eileen! I hope you do go back and check out the links.

  2. Me too! LOVED this post - interesting,informative, and inspiring. (I felt I was with you on your trip to work.)
    I think it is very special when there isn't a single photo but I was hungrily reading every word.
    I so enjoyed feeling a little more knowledgeable about your part of this big world of ours.
    Thanks Tamara!

    1. Thank you Rose! I'm actually a transplant to Arizona, but love it so! I miss my family who reside in the cold and snow for half the year, but I just don't think I could do that again! I will be a desert dweller where I can see 10 miles in any direction!

  3. How long have you been in the area you live and where from originally? (Hope you don't mind my asking.) The US has so many states and so much diverse countryside (and totally gorgeous) it just entrances me.
    My family have said for many years that I must have been an American in a previous life. My grandmother used to host American Officers in her home during the second world war (lots of stories from the Officers themselves and the places they lived and their families) and I as an older child and teen used to beg her to tell me those stories over and over. She passed away many many years ago.

    1. In June it will be 22 years since we moved from Ohio - a distance of 2,500 miles. As we drove the distance, I was struck by the words of "America the Beautiful" as we saw firsthand the spacious skys, the amber waves of grain and then as we began the climb into Colorado and the "great divide" the purple mountains Majesty! Ours is a diverse country and an exceedingly diverse people!

      When we finally visited the Grand Canyon I was so overcome with awe and emotion I cried! But for now, in my litter rural corner of SW AZ, I'm longing for the ocean! Not a cruise, mind you, but a chance to sit on its shore and dip my toes and smell the... water!

    2. Tamara, thank you for that little trip in the first daughter and son-in-law recently spent 2-3 weeks in US and visited the Grand Canyon and she said there was something spiritual about it and was overcome with emotion.
      I can so relate to you wanting to dip your toes in the ocean and just 'smell' it. Townsville in North Queensland is a sea-side city and was born and raised by and on the ocean, but have lived inland and regionally in Tas and NSW for past 16 years and sometimes I close my eyes and imagine being back in the tropics and being near the ocean. At the end of April (when its much cooler in the tropics) I'm going 'home' for several weeks so I will be able to do just that! (only dip and paddle at the edge) as the young ones say over here "don't do swimming" !

  4. so interesting and rich in history!!
    I have a place in my heart to minister to inmates...I took all the classes and got the instruction...and every time I am scheduled to go to the prison something prevents me from going......

    1. My hubs is beginning (again) to visit the local juvenile facility this coming Thursday. Please pray for him. Maybe, just maybe your prison ministry could be to the families left behind? Oftentimes the family left behind are the ones who suffer: their incarcerated loved one is so many miles away, their financial situation has changed for the worse and now the family is without a parent. Children of inmates have a much greater chance of ending up in the court system due to poor choices and behaviors. Pray... pray... then pray some more as to where the Lord would have you minister.


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