My birthday weekend and how I spent it

I celebrated my birthday on Saturday.

Hidden in the cooler was a birthday cake and candles.

For my birthday I wanted to see a brilliant night sky.

This blog post inspired me to make my birthday wish. I saw shooting stars too.

Pine trees.

We camped at a campsite with the lyrical name FR9350. The web says this camp site is on the rim, but actually it was a 1/4 mile walk. Our camp hosts were Bunny and Mike.

A waterfall.

Chips and salsa and bottomless glasses of iced tea.

We stopped at El Mexicano in Payson on Saturday for lunch and enjoyed lunch on Sunday on the way home

Saturday morning, we drove 2 hours north to a new campsite along the Mogollon Rim. We picked the site from my trusty book. This was my 3rd trip to the rim. We’ve stayed Black Canyon Rim, Crook Campground, Woods Canyon Lake Group site and this time FR 9350. For me, this was the best one simply because we could walk in ten minutes from the rear of our tent through woods to the rim without crossing any road or campsite.

The Best In Tent Camping: Arizona

We walked for an hour along the Rim Lake Vista Trail. The trail was level and easy to walk. We were gloriously close to the rim (20 yards?) so near enough to enjoy the view and far enough that I did not worry about losing Max.

Vista Point

The dramatic rise of the Mogollon Rim produces a sudden uplift to approaching storms resulting in a high incidence of lightning strikes during the summer, creating an active fire season from May to July.

Mogollon Rim is the site of frequent lightning strikes. If you plan to visit in the summer, be cautious. We stopped for a long while watching common blackhawks, easily 13 or 14 circling on the draft created by the rim. If you happen to see them, listen for them to scold you when you hike, because they do and they will!

Assortment of shots, showing the divebombing behavior (top row, center & right), the deep wingbeats (bottom row, left & center), & the typical Black Vulture-like soaring flight: They are losing their habitat, the Mogollon Rim is one of the few they have left.

My favorite gift is a new place to see, so we drove down the steep road to the park (14% grade, make sure your brakes work!)

We used the brakes all the way down, it was steep, windy and did I mention steep?

And discovered a jewel of a park, green grass, shady trees, soaring rock walls all around. The boys were too tired to take on a challenge, so we did an easy 10 minute hike to a waterfall.

and another short walk to the observation deck of the natural bridge. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. There are three hiking trails, a picnic area, and a group use area. My pictures of the park are not very good. This page gives a good idea of what you can expect to find if you visit the park. Park admission was $5.00 per adult and $2.00 for children 7 and up.

My pictures are terrible, but your take away from this shot is that if you walk to observation point 3 and 4, you can see 1) stand on the natural bridge and 2) see the bridge and enjoy the view. It is tremendous and worth the price of admission. It would be easy to spend a nice day here hiking and picnicking.

We plan to come back when the boys are not worn out and hike the Gowan trail to the Natural Bridge. Give yourself an hour, 2 liters of water and proper shoes.

My pictures are terrible, so please multiply this time 1000. If you look to the right from this vantage point and crane your neck a bit you can see into the chasm below the bridge. It is deep and has a score of happy hikers scrambling through the chasm below the bridge, behind a curtain of a waterfall. Lovely.

Thanks for enjoying my birthday weekend with me. I hope it inspires you to get out and enjoy a beautiful place. Where would you like to go for your birthday, if you could have any kind of day you like?

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.