Category Archives: historic landmarks

Tumacacori Fiesta 2014

Every first weekend in December, for 44 years, Tumacacori National Historical Park has presented two days of the Fiesta de Tumacacori. It’s a time when the community celebrates the cultural history and diversity in the Pima Alteria of southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.

TumacacoriFor the past four years I have been a volunteer at this event. This past weekend I gave two days to assist, and I had a great time. In the past I’ve photographed the dancers, musicians, and awesome views of the Santa Rita Mountains.

This year as a greeter and representative at the Tumacacori National Park Service booth I had the pleasure of presenting a new focus for the Discovery Center. The Discovery Center is a section of the fairgrounds filled with booths of hands-on activities, from writing with a quill pen to inspecting chain mail to making adobe bricks.

This year, those who visited the Discovery Center booths could receive rewards for collecting stamps on the printed programs they received when entering the fairgrounds. On returning to the NPS booth they could choose their reward based on the number of stamps they collected. The rewards were a book for five stamps, up to nine, and a metal Tumacacori water bottle for 10 or more. The smiles and giddiness of the children, and even the adults who participated were wonderful. The most selected items were the Tumacacori cook book with recipes by staff and volunteers, and the water bottles. I think it was a very successful new program for the Fiesta.

I also enjoyed talking with the members of the U.S. Border Patrol who brought a couple of horses from their horse patrol unit. These are fabulous horses that are trained to track and detain persons illegally entering the U. S. over rugged terrain. They are also trained to be around people. I took these photos of a little boy reaching out to touch them.

Boy with Horse

Mustang-Draft and Boy2This brown horse is a mustang-draft horse, a very unique breed. He is very large and requires a large rider. Currently he is backup horse and not on regular duty.

Another activity for children is the piñata. Twice daily children could try their luck. This is one of the piñatas they opened.

Pinata2For two days there was cultural food and music and dancing and demonstrations of traditional crafts such as Tohono O’odham basket weaving, making cornhusk flowers, and making leather and horsehair rope. And on Sunday there was a traditional processional and mass at the Mission of Tumacacori church.
For more information about Tumacacori National Historical Park, the horses of the U. S. Border Patrol, and the Tohono O’odham people you can visit these sites.;_ylt=AwrTceIL8oVUocsAWM0PxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTBsOXB2YTRjBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkAw–?_adv_prop=image&fr=yhs-mozilla-001&va=tumacacori+fiesta&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001

2,500 Paper Bags

That’s the number of paper bags filled with sand and votive candles for the Christmas Eve 2011 Luminarias celebration at Tumacacori National Historical Park.  The bags were hand-folded by a 92 year-old volunteer over the summer.  Two piles of sand, about 20-30 staff and volunteers, two hours of filling, carting and placing the traditional nighttime lights.

Two thousand, six hundred visitors between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Loading a wagon for delivery

Lifting candle wicks and inserting into sand in bag

Placing luminarias on roof

Delivery for mission sanctuary

In the Garden

On the Garden Wall

All done!!!

Front of Mission

About 20 voices singing carols while visitors wait for the doors to open.

Hundreds of dozens of homemade cookies made by staff, volunteers, and friends of the community, and 50 gallons of Mexican hot chocolate

A beautiful sight. (Click on this photo to see larger)

A beautiful night.

Note:  The photographer (Moi) also filled bags, placed candles, sang in the choir, and served cookies…and had a great time!)

Visiting Near the Mexico Border Again

Over the weekend I traveled south of Tucson, enjoying friendships begun last year as a volunteer at Tumacacori National Historical Park.  On Friday, with my friend who lives in Nogales, AZ I had lunch in Nogales, Sonora, just across the border.  Approaching the city one can see the Nogales, Sonora houses on the hillsides.  They had recently been painted in varying colors of blue, pink, green, turquoise, yellow and orange and they looked so charming.

The day was cold and breezy, and it was a chilly walk across the border from downtown Nogales into Mexico.  We warmed ourselves in the cozy atmosphere of a small cafe with tortilla soup and burritos, along with some hot tea.  I had not been in Nogales, Sonora before, except to cross the border from Mexico into the U. S. by car when I traveled with a group to Magdalena, Mexico.  On foot one gets a more intimate experience of the city.  It was generally peaceful, with only the shopkeepers and ‘hawkers’ shouting out for us to stop and buy something.  We weren’t interested…and just kept walking.  (We didn’t want to buy ‘no yunk’ – Mexican “junk”, lol.)

After lunch we returned to Nogales, AZ and parted company.  I was on my way to stay with a volunteer friend from Tumacacori National Historical Park who had offered her hospitality while we volunteered at the 41st annual Fiesta de Tumacacori on the weekend.  I stayed in a lovely home at the end of a dirt road, just southeast of Tumacacori.  We enjoyed informal conversation and meals, and playing with their six-month old puppy Tuffy.  The puppy will be a very nice dog in the future; however, his young habits put him in the dog house with me.  He managed to chew the lace off one of my shoes, and the shoulder strap and corner off the purse I was carrying.  Also he pulled a glove and ski band out of the pocket of my jacket and began chewing the band.  I’ve been invited to stay there again later this month after the luminarias display.  I will have to really watch where I put my things.

For two days of very cool, stormy weather folks came to the fiesta grounds at Tumacacori to enjoy music, dancing, food, and cultural exchange.  I volunteered to man the Western National Park Association (WNPA) booth for both days.  The WNPA publishes the books that are found in the bookstores and gift shops of the western national parks.  Their headquarters is in Tucson.  Each park has a WNPA staff person who manages the books and gift items available at the national parks.

For this weekend, I assisted in unloading the boxes and  putting the items out for display, talking with customers about publications, and receiving payments for the various items.  The day began about 8:30 and lasted until 5:00.  On Saturday the time was shortened slightly because of a sprinkle of rain – just enough to make us dash to cover and protect the merchandise.  Each night we had to box everything up and remove it from the area.  The next day we repeated this scenario.  And each day it was very cold.  I had on five layers to keep warm – long underwear, a turtle neck shirt, my volunteer shirt, a volunteer fleece jacket and a hooded, puffy nylon jacket to cut the wind.

There were many vendors who offered food and beverages, and it was easy to get a taste of authentic Mexican and Sonoran food.  The ‘sonoran’ hotdogs I’m guessing, weren’t quite authentic, but they were very good.  The big pepper they added to the top managed to keep my mouth and lips on fire for quite a while!  I also sampled Mexican hot chocolate, beef tamales, and a kind of Mexican rosette cookie with cinnamon and sugar.

Mata Ortiz Pots

Tumacacori Mission Tile “Night”

It was nice to see many of the other volunteers I met last year, and to learn of other volunteer opportunities closer to Tucson.  Saguaro National Park (East) is looking for volunteers to take a saguaro census, and this sounds like something that could be fun.  I also enjoyed catching up with the friends with whom I connected most strongly.  The staff and volunteers are very nice, caring people, and always had a ready smile.

After the fiesta closed we were all invited for snacks and drinks before dinner, a group dinner of chili and cornbread, and assorted desserts.  It was a great ending to a busy and chilly day!  And I was pooped.  I’d been invited to stay an extra night at my friends’; however, I was wanting to get home to check on the heat and water for the trailer.  So I drove the hour and 15 minute drive back to Tucson, and arrived around 8:15.  Shortly afterward I was in bed, snoozing!

I love to go to Tumacacori.  It’s hard to describe why I like it so much.  It’s the feeling I get when I am there.  That, and the friendship of the park service folks, staff and volunteers alike, make it feel homey to me.  The grounds are so peaceful, and the whole site is hugged by the mountains and the Santa Cruz River, with its cottonwood trees.  A place for the spirit to enjoy.

Fiesta Dancer in Visitor Center

Corn Husk Dancer Dolls  from Guadalajara, Mexico

Corn Husk Creche



Canyon de Chelly Adventure

Early Sunday morning I met the group from the church where I take exercise classes for a road trip to Canyon de Chelly National Monument.  We left Tucson at 7 a.m. and arrived in Chinle, AZ around 4 p.m., standard time.  Chinle and the Navajo reservation are on Mountain time, so it was actually 5 p.m. there.  There were 10 of us, excited to tour the monument on Monday.  After a simple dinner we settled into our rooms in the Thunderbird Lodge to rest for the activities of the next day.

On the way to Chinle we passed through Globe, AZ and the Salt River Canyon, a windy, winding road with sharp turns and increasing and decreasing elevations.  It’s a beautiful thing to see; however, it is not that easy to drive.  My hat is off to the driver of our van (one of two vans) who negotiated this part of the trip with aplomb.

On Monday, after a difficult night of interrupted sleep my roommate and I set out for a good breakfast and the all-day tour of the canyon via a special vehicle – a military off-road truck, outfitted for about 16-18 visitors.  Although the seats were padded, I’m grateful to my roommate who provided extra cushions for our comfort.

Riding in one of these vehicles reminded me of riding a bull or bucking bronco, or perhaps a roller coaster that turns left or right all of a sudden – or perhaps a combination of those.  I’m surprised that it wasn’t my back that hurt, but my neck, almost like whip lash.  My shoulders and neck ached in the evening.  Some analgesic cream to the areas, however, and a couple of Tylenol helped a lot.

Regardless of the jostling our bodies took, the tour was well worth the price of the trip, with stops to see petroglyphs, pictographs, cliff dwelling ruins, and beautiful views of canyon walls and groves of cottonwood trees in their fall finery.  We had a few chances to meet Navajo people who live in the canyon and buy their jewelry and paintings.

The road into the canyon


Antelope Ruins pictographs

Free range horses

“First Ruin”

The first leg of the tour into the canyon ended in Canyon del Muerto where we had a bag lunch of roast beef sandwiches with chips, cookie, orange, and drink. On the turn-around, we headed into Canyon de Chelly where the tour ended at Spider Rock, named after Spider Woman who lived there, and who brought weaving to the people.  There we had some watermelon and a chance to prepare for our return to the Lodge.

It’s hard to present a history here, or a full description of this awesome place.  If you are interested in more information please go to other web sites that give that information.  The tour for me was a visual, emotional, and visceral experience.  I felt connected to the elements of the sandstone, trees, and streams, the wind and the colors.  The history was secondary to my wonder about this place.

Spinning Rock

Window Rock

Spider Rock

Cottonwood Grove

Golden Trees

Virginia Creeper

Our tour guide was a Navajo man named Ron.  He did a fine job driving through the pathway (it’s not exactly a road!) and offering us the story of the canyon’s history, adding in some humor along the way.  On our way back to the lodge we had a flat tire, which Ron quickly and efficiently changed.  He’s been doing these tours since the mid to late 90s.  So he’s had plenty of experience.  He said he’s had up to three flat tires in one trip.  Lucky for us we had only one flat tire!

New tire goes on

We arrived back at the lodge just before dinner time.  After getting cleaned up a little we had an early dinner and rested in our rooms.  I guess i was over-tired, and sore, so I had trouble getting to sleep.  In addition my roommate was suffering with allergies and unfortunately for me, she snored all night, keeping me awake until the early morning hours.  I finally fell asleep around 3:30 a.m. with a planned ‘wake up’ at 6:30 a.m.

Gift Shop

Our group left after breakfast, around 8 a.m. Mountain Time and headed for the South Rim drive to view the canyon from the overlooks.  I’m so glad we did this as it afforded a totally different perspective of the canyon. Awesome!

After viewing the canyon from the overlooks we began our trek back to Tucson.  We stopped in Show Low for lunch and in Globe for gas and a snack, and arrived in Tucson around 7 p.m.  When I got home I dropped my bags and turned on the computer to download my photos. I took a couple of pain tablets and went to bed, and slept like a baby!

I’m so glad I had this opportunity to see Canyon de Chelly, one of the spots I wanted to see while traveling in the RV, but didn’t get there.  I took over 350 photos, so it’s hard to select only a few to give a good idea of the place.  Perhaps this will be a place you will want to see for yourself!

Where to Begin?

As Lewis Carroll said, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.”

As directed by the agent with Jefferson Lines, I left Deming about 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 5. When the bus came, a little late, the bus driver gave me flack for having a ticket for six hours later; however, he did let me board the bus, which was going to El Paso. I could get my ticket amended there.

El Paso: I had about an hour layover in El Paso, so I stepped into the ticket line as soon as I got off the bus. It took about 45 minutes to get to the agent. At the counter I was told that to change my ticket would cost another $15, which I wasn’t willing to pay, as the change was made by the bus line. I then placed a call to Jefferson Lines and after waiting 10 minutes on hold finally spoke with one of their agents. When I told her about my problem, she checked my ticket, and said that my original schedule had not been changed, and I wouldn’t have to pay any fee to change my ticket, as it was the line’s change. As we were talking, the call to board for Dallas came, so I told her I would call again after I got settled on the bus. So, as I had a ticket for Dallas, I got on the next bus that went there, even if the time was early.

En-route to Dallas: I called Jefferson Lines again, waiting another 10 minutes on hold to speak with the agent, who had gone on break. The agent I spoke with again verified that there was no problem with the original route or schedule, and apologized for the error. I wasn’t going to Minneapolis afterall!!! But now I would have a 10-hour layover in Dallas instead of a six-hour layover.

Dallas: Arrived in Dallas at 3:00 a.m. Watched TV and waited until about 5:30 a.m. to get some breakfast – a very good breakfast burrito – yum! Had a couple of large cups of coffee and did some sudoku puzzles, and just watched the activity in the station. Around noon I boarded the next bus, heading to Oklahoma City.

The rest of the trip to South Dakota took me through several cities I’ve not been in before, such as Oklahoma City (I took some photos, but must have erased them), Tulsa, Oklahoma, and many smaller places along the way (Denton, TX; Norman, OK; Omaha, NE; Sioux City, IA). It was night time for most of these places. The route also went through Kansas City, MO, where I’ve been through a few times in previous travels – no major stops at any of these places, however.

All the buses were pretty full, although I did manage to mostly have a ‘row’ to myself. I had forgotten how little leg space there is between rows, and did my best to stretch out. Amazingly, my back wasn’t too distressed.

I transferred buses in Dallas, Kansas City, and Sioux Falls, SD. From Sioux Falls to Rapid City was the entire day of Oct. 7 – I arrived in Rapid City around 5:30 p.m. and walked the two blocks to my hotel, the Alex Johnson, a historic landmark in the downtown Rapid City historic district.

After checking into my room, even very weary, I decided I needed to shower and take myself to a nice dinner. I arrived at the Firehouse Brewery, around the corner from the hotel, and ordered a wheat beer and a buffalo burger…

To be continued…