Hashknife Pony Express Route: Holbrook to Scottsdale

Dear Students,

Driving home from camping this weekend, I passed a sign in the Mogollon Rim area denoting our highway as Hashknife Pony Express Route. Did you know Arizona has the only pony express that still delivers mail for the U.S. Postal Service. I didn’t!

Special cachet used to identify the mailpieces carried by the Hashknife Pony Express, official Mail Messengers of the U.S. Postal Service

The 200 mile ride originates at the Holbrook Post Office in late January/early February. Leaving Holbrook, the posse’s route takes them on Dry Lake Road to Heber, and over the rim for an overnight in Payson, and then on to their campsite on Friday night by the Verde River. Along their route the posse picks up pony express letters from post offices in Heber, Pine, Strawberry, and the riders will be handing off the mailbags every mile or two to the next rider waiting along the roadside. The riders goal is to meet at a full gallop and change bags without breaking strides.

The riders are sworn in as post officers for the 200 mile ride.

The hand off was repeated with all of the mail bags of thousands of letters, so every pony express letter is carried by horseback before the arrival of the U.S. Mail at the Scottsdale Post Office on Osborne Road. Details of the February 9, 2013 arrival in Scottsdale, Arizona are here.

Hashknife Pony Express Monument, Scottsdale, Arizona

In 1959 Holbrook postmaster Ernest Hulet helped the Hashknife Search and Rescue posse acquire an official contract with the U.S. Postal Service. I included this fact because I like the idea that this living legacy came into being because of the novel idea of one man.

This was the birth of the Hashknife Pony Express and it has since become an exciting part of the history of Arizona from Holbrook to Payson to Scottsdale. The original Pony Express Route did not pass through Arizona, but the riders in Arizona effectively capture the spirit and accomplishment of the original riders.

This image is difficult to read, this links to a high resolution image that you can enlarge and see more detail of the original Pony Express route. (1860)

To mail a letter in the 55th Annual Pony Express (2013), postal patrons are to address their envelopes in the normal manner with the correct postage. In the lower-left hand corner, write “Via Pony Express”. This letter is then to be sent inside of another envelope addressed to the Holbrook Postmaster, Holbrook, Arizona 86025.

The Hash Knife Pony Express riders kick off the Parada del Sol in Scottsdale every year.

To learn more about the route and the significance of the original Pony Express in uniting mid-west to the West Coast, read about it on Wikipedia’s Pony Express article. To follow the history of the Hash Knife Pony Express riders, visit the Holbrook Historical Society. The National Park Service has created a Pony Express National Historic Trail which mimics the lines of the original Pony Express.

Warm Regards,

Mrs. Kenney

P.S. Lexicology Note: The hashknife design was taken from the knives used by cattle camp cooks to cut beef and vegetables into cubes to make hash. The blade was a 180 degree curve with tails on the ends of it. A straight shaft connected the middle of the blade to a handle so the cook could rock the blade back and forth easily. A major advantage of using this design for a brand was that it was difficult for rustlers to superimpose another brand on top of it.

The hashknife posse in this book were cattle rustlers, but don’t let that stop you from reading a Zane Grey western.

Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery

Dear Students,

Last week I learned that Arizona has 6 fish hatcheries in the state. I’ve never been to a fish hatchery. Turns out, this weekend we camped near the most popular one, at Tonto Creek. So we stopped by on the way home.

Located at about 6,500 feet elevation in the Tonto National Forest, the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery is a great place to escape the desert summer heat, or to play in winter snow. The hatchery and surrounding wetland area are good places for picnics, hiking and watching wildlife. A Google Earth Map search marks center of the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery Main Entrance Pond at about 34o 22′ 54.06″ N 111o 05′ 51.26″ W.

2009/365/190 Fish Frenzy

Photo by Cogdogblog on Flickr

The hatchery is completely free to visit. Parking is free, the tour is self-guided and the visitor’s center is unstaffed.

We parked in a lower parking lot and saw a sign that the hatchery was a 1/4 mile up the road. Some of our party piled into the minivan and some of us opted to walk the short, but steep walk. The Hatchery is open from 8 am — 4 pm daily, except holidays. We visited on a Saturday in June and there was a steady flow of people, but not enough to feel crowded.

turns out this is the overflow parking lot, but you can drive 1/4 up the road and park next to the fish hatchery

The hatchery is a series of fish runs. The first run we saw was a large pond teeming with mature fish. You walk up the hill to shaded fish runs and then the walk culminates in the visitor’s center which has the smallest fish and some educational displays.

Are these giant fish tank filters?

The 4 mile drive to the Hatchery from 260 is lined with hiking trails and campsites. There is a creek in view, lots of vibrant green and reportedly a good place to hike and bird watch. What would you pick? Do you like to hike or bird watch or splash in a creek?

Fish Run

Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery produces and stocks about 165,000 catchable rainbow trout and 400,000 brook and cutthroat trout each year, plus about 150,000 of Arizona’s state fish-the Apache trout. Our state fish was on the endangered species list, but thanks to places like this hatchery the Apache trout is bouncing back. You can read the story of how we almost lost our state fish again as a result of the 2011 Wallow Fire in the Sitgreaves Forest.

Inside the visitor’s center. If you want a guided tour, please call to arrange it ahead of time. Otherwise all tours are self-guided.

Warm regards,

Mrs. Kenney

Mom Note: Bring quarters to buy fish food from the dispensers. We passed some inviting hiking trails in the parking lot, the trailheads for Horton Creek Trail 285 and Derrick Trail 33 are located in the campground. Both of these trails access the Highline National Recreation Trail (#31). Tonto Fish Hatchery is four miles north of Highway 260 on Forest Road 289. (Of the 6 fish hatcheries, 5 are open to the public. To learn more about AZ fish hatcheries, read their FAQ page.)

Vision Gallery: The Phoenix Fridas

Dear Students,

Last year I got to know the Phoenix Fridas art collective when I visited their exhibition at the Vision Gallery in Chandler, AZ. I marked my calendar because they are coming back. Their art is varied, vibrant and best of all, free. I love that we live near Chandler, a community that does a magnificent job of closing the gap in our arts education by giving space to local artists and making art accessible.

The Phoenix Fridas are returning to the Vision Gallery

I Paint My Own Reality: An Artwork Installation by the Phoenix Fridas

Exhibition Dates: June 15 – August 3, 2012
(text copied from The Vision Gallery, Chandler AZ)

Artist Salon:
Friday June 15 6-8 PM – Our Inspiration: The Phoenix Fridas Artwork Tour and Gallery Talk

Ask a dozen people to describe what they saw during an event and you may get 12 different answers.

That idea is embodied in the upcoming Vision Gallery exhibition, “I Paint My Own Reality: In Frida’s Garden,” which features the Valley’s well-known Latina art collective, The Phoenix Fridas.

Kahlo spent many hours enjoying the gardens at La Casa Azul, interpreting the natural world around her through her personal filter, which was colored by passion and pain. Butterflies, flowers and wild creatures were a normal part of Kahlo’s surrealistic vision of the world. In “I Paint My Own Reality,” the Fridas created their own personal interpretations of the natural and supernatural.

The Fridas will share their inspiration for works in the show during an Artist Salon and then will put a twist on historical Mexican recipes during a weekend cooking demo. Two workshops for Vision Kidz are scheduled to teach craft making. Best of all, a birthday party to honor Frida coincides with the late artist’s birthday in July.

I love the unibrow!

Come celebrate with Vision Gallery and The Phoenix Fridas!

Photo from Phoenix Frida website page…love the intricate beading

Get Cookin’ with the Phoenix Fridas – Saturday June 16, Learn to cook historical Mexican recipes, $30 per person, (call for reservations)
Vision Kidz Workshop, Saturday June 23 – 10 am & 1 pm
Terra-Cotta Birdbath Workshop with Carmen Guerrero (call for reservations)
Vision Kidz Workshop, Saturday June 30 – 10 am & 1 pm
Reverse Glass Painting Workshop: Emily Costello (call for reservations)
Frida’s Birthday Party!, Saturday July 7, 12 pm – 4 pm Meet the Phoenix Fridas and celebrate the life of Frida Kahlo. A celebration not to be missed, children’s activities and live performances. Free Admission.

Photo from The Phoenix Frida Facebook page

The Phoenix Fridas were voted 2009 winners of Phoenix New Times’ “Best Heroine Worship” category; the women also won the New Times’ “Best Art Collective” in 2007. Both citations are dear to the hearts of the art collective. The women, who take creative inspiration from the life of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, each use the late artist’s name to create a personal crafty moniker. The Phoenix Fridas are Kathy Cano Murillo, Emily Costello, Anita Mabante Leach, Carmen Guerrero, Michele Delgado, Ana Lisa Rios, Gloria Martinez, Monique Sanderson-Mata, Veronica Verdugo-Lomeli and Diana Calderon.

Photo from Phoenix Frida Facebook page

Warm Regards,
Mrs. Kenney

Visit The Phoenix Fridas on Facebook, follow @PhoenixFridas on Twitter or online at: www.thephoenixfridas.com

Visit the Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona

10 East Chicago Street
Chandler, AZ 85225

Hours of Operation:
M – F 10am – 5pm
Sat 10am – 4pm

free parking/free admittance


Hohokam Hat Trick: Discovering the Mesa Grande Ruins

Dear Students,

This morning I was going to work in the libray, but the school was locked up so I did the next best thing and drove to Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange in Mesa. Driving out to Bookman’s took me to a new place in the valley. I took a minute with the GPS to see what was nearby. I looked at Leisure: Museums — Mesa Grande Ruins. Off we went. I passed the highly praised El Charro’s, the laudable Child Crisis Center,

Wikipedia says the City of Mesa bought the land parcel containing the Mesa Grande Ruins from B-Movie Actress Acquanetta, after they promised to preserve it. Can this be true?

I found the Ruins at the NW Corner of 10th Street on the corner of Brown/Date St. I encountered a fenced block and two locked gates. One sign identified the area as the Mesa Grande Ruins on the National Register of Historic Places. When I peered through the fence, I saw the caliche mounds and some black tarp. It looked like a big pile of dirt.

Mesa Grande Ruins, Mesa, Arizona

Photo by thornydalemapco on Flickr

Disappointed, I drove around the block looking for an opening. I stopped a pedestrian who said it was always closed and that way it had been as long as he knew. So I came home and jumped online. What I discovered is a long journey to preserve the ruins and bring them to the public. The story of the modern Mesa Grande Ruins is tied to volunteers that work to preserve the story of the past. I am so grateful to the collection of individuals who have protected the ruins from encroachment.

The ruins are an archeological work in progress. Through the fence, I could see black tarp covering dig sites. (Wikipedia photo)

My fascination with the Hohokam grew with all the irrigation channels in Gilbert, Queen Creek and Mesa. I only see pieces of the puzzle. I don’t understand it. I wish I did. Part of my stumbling around Phoenix is a desire to understand the layers of how people made their life here, because here I am, raising my family here.

Hohokam Territory…note dots for Pueblo Grande and Casa Grande, Mesa Grande completes the troika

The Hohokam people had many settlements in the Gila and Salt River valleys of southern Arizona. Mesa Grande is one of the last places to show how the Hohokam created an irrigation network that pioneers began to reuse in the late 1800s. Mesa’s first inhabitants realized the partially filled canals for what they were and began excavating them to start the Valley’s modern agricultural industry.

Mesa Grande by air, from the north west…somewhere in here is a ball court, you can see some walking paths as well when you are close by. If your child plays soccer make sure to point out the ball court, a prehistoric precursor to our soccer and indication of the stability of the community that they could and did play games.

They built rectangular pit houses from earth, rather than stone, and lived in small villages.  They were a peaceful people who cooperated to build large canal networks. Some of their canals were over ten miles long and used gravity to control water flow and to flush out the silt! The Hohokam were the only cultural group in prehistoric North America to rely on massive canal systems, irrigating up to 110,000 acres of corn, beans and squash. Archaeologists from the Arizona Museum of Natural History excavated one prehistoric canal that measured 15 feet deep and 45 feet wide. These irrigation systems represented monumental efforts of labor and engineering. In the late 1800s farmers rebuilt and opened the brilliantly engineered Hohokam irrigation systems – some remain in use today.


Ernie Rawlston using home-made and commercial surveying equipment to map the excavations at Mesa Grande. (Photo by the SWAT: Southwest Archaeological Team)

Between the 7th and 14th centuries they built and maintained these extensive irrigation networks along the lower Salt and middle Gila rivers that rivaled the complexity of those used in the ancient Near East, Egypt, and China. These were constructed using relatively simple excavation tools, without the benefit of advanced engineering technologies.

Frank Midvale and Anna Madora Baker were pioneers in preserving the ruins for the public

These highly successful agricultural techniques produced a surplus of food. Villages and populations grew. Over the next 1500 years the Hohokam expanded their settlements into the Tucson Basin, then to the Phoenix area, and as far north as present-day Flagstaff.  It is incredible to me when I see the channels of water flowing along the roads that these channels are living connections to the Hohokam.

Mesa Grande Cultural Park coming Fall 2012! When the $250,000 center opens in 2012, Mesa expects to operate it from Oct. 1 to May 15. The expected hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

If you plan to visit: Contact Arizona Museum of Natural History Curator of Education Kathy Eastman at (480) 644-5662 to find out more about the ruins or plan a visit inside the fence. The City of Mesa purchased the Mesa Grande ruins to preserve this cultural treasure with the goal of opening it to the public as an educational and recreational facility.  The City is building a new welcome center at Mesa Grande and the goal is to open it in the fall. Fingers crossed that this works out.

Mesa Grande Woodcut, the Salt River is the middle line below the mountains

Next stop for us: Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park.

Warm Regards,
Mrs. Kenney

Citation Note: This post is a collection of quotes I lifted from Mesa newspaper articles and Arizona Museum of Natural history. If you follow the links you will see the original articles in context.

I heart Mesa: An East Valley Water Guide

Dear Students,

I found this guide online and knew you would like it!

Mesquite Aquatic Center, Chandler, Arizona

Reblogging this from i heart mesa.: A Summer with Heart: An East Valley Water Guide

Follow the link to learn more, lots of information here.

Wet Regards,
Mrs. Kenney

Papago Park: Hole in the Rock Hike

Dear Students,

Every time I drive to the Zoo, my eyes wander over the prominent buttes that form the “Hole in the Rock, to the left of the Zoo.” To me, the non-hiker with two little boys, it looked like an impossibility.

Because I don’t know anything about Arizona yet, we parked at the zoo and walked over where I saw the dedicated parking area…c’est la vie

This weekend we had mild weather, we were in the Zoo parking lot, I said on impulse, let’s walk to the Hole in the Rock. And so we did.

We didn’t know if we would walk to the back of the rock and see technical climbers with crampons and ropes. We hoped there was a manageable way to reach the top.

Mr. Dreamy walked with Brady and I walked with Max.

Max was eager to climb, he left the well marked trail and took off vertically

The path was graded and had steps cut into it at spaced intervals. I corralled Max and we caught up with our family

by now we are three minutes into the hike and three minutes from the summit

We rounded a corner and lo and behold, Hole in the Rock hike is 1/10 of a mile long and an elevation of 200 feet. Dead easy. I saw pregnant woman walking littles in flip flops. This is my kind of hike!

The hole reveals itself in stages, it is bigger than it looks

We entered through a smaller oval in the rock, certainly big enough but it opened to yield a cavern in the rock and a larger hole facing the zoo. People streamed in and out continuously, posing for pictures, enjoying the view, children climbed the rocks in the interior.

This is the reason we aren’t going to the Grand Canyon for a long time

Telling Max when we reached the top “Look at you! You climbed a mountain!” and the reward of his beaming face makes this a million dollar hike. I know he traces mountain ridges with his hands and tells me how he would walk along the top if only I would let him. Today, he got his wish.

we had our own turn at a group picture and then we were off to feed the ducks

My verdict on the park: The Hole in the Rock hike makes my roster for “out of town guests”, it’s so easy nearly anyone can do it. It’s a thrill to do it the way we did it, totally unaware of how easy it was and how pretty the view would be. This will be fun to share with my out of town guests. Do you bring family to the Hole in the Rock? Have you watched the city lights and seen the sunset?

From the Peak of Papago,
Mrs. Kenney

If you visit the park: All gated roadways and trailhead parking areas are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the park located east of Galvin Parkway. Trailhead parking west of Galvin Parkway is sunrise to sunset or 7 p.m. whichever, comes first. Though gated parking areas including restrooms and ramadas will close at 7 p.m., the trails remain open until 11 p.m. Don’t overlook the nearby Nature Trail, .25 miles long and begins at the ranger’s office. It has signage for the desert plants. I’m sorry we missed it. (Links to all 4 trails in the park)

Online Summer Reading/Game Sites for Kids

Dear Students,

Summer in Phoenix is Hot. Hot. Hot. 120 degrees hot. You are making a mistake hot.

Max hiding from the summer sun at Barnes and Noble

And when we aren’t abusing the hospitality at Barnes and Noble, you might find me on the  We Give Books site,

We Give Books–pick a storybook, book displays. Page through the book as a read aloud. Finish the book, click to donate a copy to a charity (you choose). Create account. Go from there. Easy easy easy. Pro, expands your library. Con: requires flash so can’t read books on the ipad. Give it a test run, I’m sure they will work around the ipad problem, this is a natural fit for a tablet.

 This is an empowering, well done site.

Browsing We Give Books Facebook albums to see books reach their destinations. Incredible!

Does your child like logic, puzzles and mystery?

Fin, Fur and Feather Bureau of Investigation is for the 8-13 year old. I like this site because it helps you acquire skills in internet research, critical thinking and covers a wide range of topics. The writing is so good, it was Webby Award nominated. It’s funny and weird. Kids dig it. For older kids (13) check out Ruby Skye PI, Smithsonian Museum of American Art Meet me at Midnight is another mystery with an art history twist!

My guilty pleasure: Harry Potter

My personal favorite: Pottermore,  an interactive, illustrated companion to the books. J.K. Rowling wanted to create a site where her stories could live on and where readers could explore them in a new way. In addition to discovering new material from J.K. Rowling about Harry’s world, you’ll be able to interact with key story Moments (the Sorting Hat sequence, for example) and upload your own comments, thoughts and artwork.

Get to know the kid’s reading resources at Changing Hands, the best independent bookstore in the Phoenix area

A 21st century reader makes connections with the community, both locally and globally. Reach out to your local independent bookstore and become a part of the community. Sign up for the emails, go to the events, contribute to the conversation. Engage, produce, communicate. write to your favorite author, create fan fiction, put yourself out there.  Summer is a the time to create content for your e-portfolio, write reviews or create lists on sites like Shelfari or Goodreads. What are you reading this summer?

Warmest Regards,
Mrs. Kenney