List of All Topics and Pages
The first three icons below are for the introductory pages from the Main Index (Home) page. Below them are the rest of the subject matter on the Sierra Estrella site, in no particular order.
The Sierra Estrella Mountains.
Although the Estrellas are the largest and earliest known of the mountains in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, I found that reference materials on that range were few and far between. The Estrellas. It is hard to believe that this range is among the most remote and least visited in Arizona - and that is fine with me! Only in the Estrellas could you have an Old Spanish Gold mine and arquiological site a few miles from Downtown Phoenix.
There is no doubt in my mind that Maricopa Wells could have been what Phoenix is today, except for the fickle fingers of fortune and few outspoken people, but that's another story. Before Phoenix, Tempe or any other settlement in the Valley, there was only the Wells.
The Old Spanish Mine.
This is an interesting paradox. Whereas up to the middle of the last century the Sierra Estrellas are often mentioned in literature, they have been almost completely ignored in the twentieth Century. On the other hand, such well know mountain landmarks as the Superstitions, Camelback, Squaw Peak and South Mountain are completely absent from the ancient journals.
Forgotten Airports in Phoenix. - Everybody knows Sky Harbor, one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world. And I am sure people have heard about Falcon Field, Goodyear Airport and Luke Air Force Base. But what about Airhaven and Paradise Airports, both well known in the 1950s? And how many people remember Phoenix Municipal Airport on Christy Road, the Van Buren airport or Roanoke Airport at Thomas and Central? Tempe had an airport. I bet few people remember airfields with names like Fram, Sanders and Airtopia, and even fewer know of Cactus, Granite, Ross, and Saguaro. The list of forgotten airfields in the Metropolitan Phoenix area goes on and on. So how many were there - 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80? Yep, a bunch.
Van Buren Street - The problem is that Van Buren is a mess. It is run down, decrepit, ugly and trashy - but enough of the nice talk. It was not always like this. Van Buren was the main drag. From the founding of Phoenix up until the 1920s it was a quiet, cozy rural road connecting Phoenix to Tempe. Then, as Arizona expanded and America discovered its passion for the automobile, Van Buren become the gateway to Phoenix. If you were coming to Phoenix from the East, as most people did, you came down Van Buren Street. You would drive by dozens and dozens of hotels, motor hotels (soon abbreviated to motels), inns, courts, camps, cottages, huts, resorts and many other names used to indicate that the establishment offered a place for the traveler to rest and relax.
A New Map of the Valley of the Sun. The Phoenix metropolitan area is a mess. It needs help. It needs change. There are too many cities, towns and communities. What I have decided to do is simplify the map of the Phoenix area, reclassifying and grouping all the 50 or so communities by their common characteristics and geographic proximity into eight basic mega-cities. The only real problem was to find new, useful and descriptive names for the eight new communities. But even that challenge was overcome, even if I am not entirely satisfied with the results.
Scenic Papago Park - there is nothing like it! Three words come to mind when I think of Papago Park: beautiful, interesting and convinient. This small area in the very center of the Valley of the Sun, at the junction of three cities (Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale) is among the most scenic places in all of the Sororan desert. It also contains over 50 different cultural, recreational and educational attractions. All visitors to the Phoenix area should, at least, give it an hour or two of their time. There is also a fourth word that comes to mind: endangered.
The POW Camp. Papago Park is the site of the most famous WW2 prisoner of war camp in America and the location of the largest and best known POW escape in American history - a story that always reminds me of Hogan's Heroes TV series. It is also the place of a murder that led to the last mass execution in the USA. This is about the buildings, ruins and remains of the famous POW camp in my neighborhood, with a map showing the locations of the compounds and buildings 60 years later. Almost nothing is left!.
Papago Maps. Well, not just maps, but also aerial pictures of the area. They are not easy to find, but I have found a few that serve to trace the evolution of the Park. The story of Papago Park is a story of encroachment and downsizing. It is also a story of endless projects to "modernize" it and make it "better" - which usually means smaller. You must realize that at one time, 'Papago Saguaro' was a US National Monument, then it became a State Park. Then it was divided up and became City Parks. The way things are going, the Park will end up as a parking lot for ASU - Arizona State University.
Papago Park 100 years. This page is set up to follow any proposals relating to future development of Papago Park, particularly that which relates to what is called the 'Centennial 2012' project. As I understand it, certain organizations and some specific individuals intend to make historic Papago Park a centerpeice in the celebration of Arizona's first 100 years as a state. I am very skeptical about the project. The idea that folks in Washington DC and London are planning the future of my local park doesn't make me feel too good about the idea.
Wildlife in Papago Park. This is not about the party scene in Scottsdale! For quite a long time I have been trying to collect photos of the animal denizens around the neighborhood and in Papago Park. Even though we live in the very center of a 3 million people urban habitat, we have a full and varied range of animal wildlife - large and small - in the neighborhood, including Bugs, Woody, Mickey, Tom, Jerry, Donald, Frank, Willy, Porky and many others. In case you didn't figure it out, those are obscure references to comic book characters.
Panoramic view of the Valley of the Sun. In early 2003 I went down to Papago Park (a couple of blocks away) to take some pictures. The object of the exercise was to obtain a clear view of all of the Valley of the Sun and the surrounding hills, buttes and mountain ranges (Camelback, South Mountains, White Tanks, Sierra Estrellas, etc..). I put the pictures together to make a full 360 view of the Phoenix metro area. This used to be called the "Salt River valley" up until the 1930s, when real estate people and politicians decided that "Valley of the Sun" had a better ring to it. Also a few words about the old Arizona tradition of painting BIG school letters on buttes. Somehow I also get into Political Correctness.
Cartoons of Mohammed. This is about freedom of speech. Normally I would not put a political and cultural issue like this here on this site, particularly one that has very little to do with Arizona. But I cannot accept that others dictate what I can think and say. The fact is that this 'Cartoon War' is good because the publishing of the drawings in the Danish newspaper brings out into the open fundamental issues that we must resolve - not that I think we can do it. You are insulted? Well so am I.
Arizona Joke. A Gila Monster walked into a bar in Scottsdale with a Buddhist Catholic monk and ordered a glass of tomato juice with a jalapeno pepper. Just joking! Here instead is the 'standard' 1950s joke that says everything there is to say about summers in Arizona, as related by a 'Snow Bird.' Unless you have had a soda pop can explode in your car on a hot summer day, you have no idea of what real Arizona heat is like.
Urban Sprawl. The Valley of the Sun continues to grow, eating up thousands of acres every year. The Phoenix Metro area is now one of the largest in the US with about 3,000,000 people and one grouchy old guy. I made an 'animated gif' image what shows what is happening, with the changes in urban areas from 1900 to 2010. It is like the old 1950s Science Fiction movie 'The Blob.' Well, this page is about the blob that ate Phoenix.
Report of Explorations. So, before there were Phoenix, Tempe or Mesa City, before Camelback, Papago Hills and the Phoenix Mountains, there were only Maricopa Wells and the Sierra de las Estrellas. It is rare to find an item that mentions the Wells and the Estrellas, but I found this one. It is an item that was on sale on Ebay (click on the icon for the full image). The document is a first edition of the official report to the Secretary of War, somebody known as Jefferson Davis, on the discoveries of Lt John Parke, relating to the "Explorations and Surveys for a Railroad Route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean." No, I did not buy the item - I don't have $5,000 laying around.
Golden Standard Mine This weekend (January 2005) a bunch of us Old Folks went out to the South Mountains, almost in the middle of Phoenix, to see what was left of the Golden Standard Mine - a trip down the tunnel of time, literally. Old mines are an important part of Arizona history, but they - like so many other things - are almost forgotten.
The Wells, 150 years later. The fact is that in all the communities around Phoenix, there are maybe 100 or so buildings left that were built before 1900, and you can count on your fingers of one hand those from before 1880. Strangely, the oldest establishment is the only one actually visible from space, and I found it. Yes, from space, way up in the blue Arizona sky, the only thing left of the Old Maricopa and Phoenix from the days of the pioneers is historic Maricopa Wells.
The Patio Area at Monetezuma's head. For all travellers - Native American or Anglo - a mandatory stop was the small flat area at the end of the montain, directly under what is called Montezuma's Head. It was here that people checked their supplies and rested before heading west. This is where travellers have stopped and rested for hundreds of years, leaving their markings on the rocks. Unfortunately, time and people have not been good to the petroglyphs of the Patio Area.
Yes we have BigFoot, but worse (really!) Although little known today, the Estrellas have a Sasquatch tradition far, far older than the Bigfoot legend of the Pacific Northwest. I am referring to the spirit and monster legends of the Pimas, first recorded by Manje, a Spanish explorer in the 1770s.
Legends and strange stories Yes! Gold mines, explorers, prospectors, UFOs, buried gold - and also real stuff: locations of petroglyphs, plane crash sites, massacre sites and other points of interest...The simple fact is that the Estrellas have more stories than any other mountains, easily. Time has taken a toll of most of them, but family stories and magazine articles exists that I will share with you.
The Bighorn. Will they survive? Gibraltar was baboons. the Estrellas have Bighorn sheep. the legend says that the Pimas will live as long as the Bighorns look down upon them. More than any other, the bighorn sheep epidomize the Estrellas. In the eartly 18th Century, Spanish explorer reported seeing a pile of 100,000 horns at a Pima village (probably Sacaton, maybe Komalte).
The Wild Horses, beauty in motion. It is kind of strange seeing wild horses grazing among the Carnegiea Gigantea (saguaros to us common folks). Evidently there is enough water and grass along the Gila River bottom and other food and grazing further up to keep them in pretty good shape. There were not skin and bones, for sure. They was at least one stallion, always checking us out, and one smaller colt. They were true magnificent when they would take off at a full gallop when we tried to approach.
Main Chart of Place Names. The problem is that most places (peaks, valleys, ravines, passes, washes, ridges, canyons, etc...) have no official names on maps, even those that are in common use in communities around the area. Many of the names I learned as a child are not found anywhere. Even the names that are used are often wrong.An attempt to identify major geographic features, place names and points of interest. This is a key to most of the locations mentioned on this site.
Maps of the Maricopa and Phoenix Regions. This is about maps: The Changing Face of the Region. How explorers saw the area. Evolution of charts of Maricopa Wells area and the Sierra Estrella region, from 1600s to early 1900s. BIG mistakes were made. It is something of a paradox that Arizona was among the first parts of the US to be explored and the last to be mapped. I have collected quite a few maps of the Old Maricopa region. It is really interesting to see how long it took for exploreres really to understand the geograpgy of the region. Probably the biggest issue was understanding the location and flow of the rivers and how the Big Bend of the Gila worked.
Space photos of central Arizona. As I did initially with maps, about 7-8 years ago I began collecting pictures taken from space of the phoenix area. My initial idea was to track urban sprawl, but it soon became apperent that this required more technical expertise and information than I had. the Estrellas are by far the most identifiable.
Documents in my Collection. I am going to put a partial list of some of the hundreds of documents I have collected over the last 12 years. This is not anywhere near all the stuff I have, but it will give the viewer/reader an idea of the extent of the collection. The purpose of this is to preserve knowledge and information that is rapidly disappearing.
Back to the Old Mine in 2000. Yes, the Old House is still there. Basically we went to explore the extent of the currals and walls in the lower canyon. Didn't find the dates in the rock seen when a kid 40 years ago.Went back to Old Mine for 5th or 6th visit in 50 years on Thanksgiving weekend 2000. We had a chance to exame the curral structures more closely and follow them along the ravines.
Blood and tears in the Maricopa region. Take I-10 south from Phoenix; go past Tempe, Chandler and Awatukee until you reach the Maricopa cutoff. Take Maricopa Road south past Firebird lake and race track until reach the Maricopa Plains area. A very few short miles of good four-lane highway will bring you to the Gila River and Pima Butte. You are now on the bloodiest ground in Arizona history.
Yes we have treasures. Lots of it! Want gold and treasure? The Estrellas have it. In fact, mile for mile, legend by legend, the Estrellas have more lost mines and buried treasure than any place on earth.
And UFOs too, as on national TV. As if Monsters and treasure are not enough, the Estrellas have UFOs too. It is a fact that the Estrellas are a kind of portal (AKA Stargate) to ETs (extraterrestrials) of intergalatic origin. I refer to the March 1997 incidents, often known as the "Phoenix Lights".
Montezuma this and Monetezuma that! Old Montezuma was a really hardworking guy. Not only did he rule the Aztecs down in Central Mexico, but he found time to travel throughout the Southwest building castles, digging wells, constructing adobe buildings, canals and generally raising hell. Wow! The eEstrellas are the epicenter of the Montezuma legend, with 5 places named after the old Aztec guy.
The Goals of this Site.