From a Reader: A Special Copy of an Old Book

Courtesy of Bill Wheeler

Our April issue, on Sonoita-Patagonia, featured a reprint of a story originally published in the September 1966 issue of Arizona Highways. The story, San Ignacio del Babacomari, was written by Frank Cullen Brophy and recounted the history of the Babacomari Ranch, which the Brophys still own today. And it spurred Bill Wheeler of Upland, California, to send us an email.

"In the second paragraph on page 39, Brophy includes a brief quote from the book by Arizona pioneer Captain James H. Tevis, Arizona in the Fifties (meaning the 1850s, of course)," Wheeler writes. "I found this interesting because I have a copy of Tevis' book in my personal library. It's a very engrossing and enlightening book, and it really gives the reader an idea of just how challenging — and dangerous — it was to live in Arizona during its earlier years."

Wheeler says he bought his copy of the book many years ago in a used-book store. Inside it, he found a name label for a Mrs. A.S. Baillie in Paris, Missouri, who he assumes is the person who owned the book. But there's also a handwritten inscription that appears to have been written by the author's daughter, Minnie Tevis Davenport.

"It makes me wonder if Mrs. Davenport sent this copy of the book to Mrs. Baillie as a gift and decided to add the brief inscription about her father and a few details about his years in Arizona," Wheeler says. "Additionally, on the dedication page in the book, it appears that Minnie Davenport also added some notations, additions and one correction to the names on the page (which I believe were probably all relatives of Captain Tevis."

Wheeler scanned the book's dust jacket and the pages he mentioned, and sent the photos our way. We sure appreciate that and thought we'd share them with all of you. It does look like he's got a very special copy of a very old book on his hands.

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Despite Pipeline Break, North Rim Will Open as Scheduled

Grand Canyon North Rim | Daniel Clarke

The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park will open as scheduled May 15, despite damage to the pipeline that supplies water to park facilities there, park officials said this month.

However, visitor services will be limited, and water conservation measures will be in effect, until the pipeline can be repaired, the park said in a news release.

A rockslide from a winter storm took out more than 300 feet of the pipeline, which pumps water from Roaring Springs to the North Rim. It also damaged the North Kaibab Trail, which runs from the North Rim into the Canyon. The Trans-Canyon Pipeline, which supplies water to the South Rim and Phantom Ranch, was not affected.

Access to the pipeline is extremely challenging, park officials said, and an estimated 45 work days will be needed to replace the missing pipeline and repair other leaks. Helicopters and other equipment will be needed to ensure work crew safety, the park said.

Damage to 800 feet of the North Kaibab Trail is also being repaired, and hikers should anticipate closures during the day while crews are working. The closure is at Redwall Bridge, located about 2.5 miles above Manzanita Rest Area and 1 mile below Supai Tunnel.

Until the pipeline is replaced, the North Rim will have to rely on the water in its holding tanks. As such, the park is putting water conservation measures into effect:

  • Day-use operations will begin as scheduled May 15 at Grand Canyon Lodge, which will offer limited food and beverage services. But overnight accommodations at the lodge will not begin until Friday, May 26. Those who reserved rooms and cabins for May 15-25 are out of luck, unfortunately.
  • The North Rim Campground will open as scheduled May 15, with potable water and portable toilets, but the public laundry and shower facilities will not be open.
  • The North Rim grocery store, gas station, post office, visitors center and bookstore will be open as normal.

For the latest information, call Grand Canyon National Park's recorded information line, 928-638-7688, or visit


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Report: Navajo Council Won't Vote on Escalade Project in Spring Session

Lawrence Busch | Grand Canyon

A controversial proposal to build a tram ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon won't see a vote by the Navajo Nation in its current session.

As The Arizona Republic reported last week, the proposal, known as Grand Canyon Escalade, has yet to be taken up by a Navajo Nation Council committee that must debate it before the council can vote on it. Observers say the proposal has struggled to gain support from council members, but it could be reintroduced in the summer session, which begins July 17.

The heart of the proposal is a 1.6-mile gondola tram ride that would take visitors from Navajo land on the Canyon's East Rim to near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. Commercial and retail space, a river walk, a multimedia complex and administrative buildings are also part of the plan.

Supporters of the proposal say it's a way for the Navajo Nation to benefit from the Canyon's immense popularity, while opponents view the Canyon, and the confluence, as sacred places that should remain unspoiled.

A recent in-depth story by The Republic explored the various sides of the debate and is, we believe, worth your time.

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The Sedona McDonald's: An Arizona Oddity

The McDonald's in Sedona is believed to be the only one in the world with a turquoise logo. | Doug Kerr (via Flickr)

At last count, there were more than 36,000 McDonald's restaurants in the world. But the McDonald's in Sedona is one of a kind.

There's perhaps no more recognizable brand than the McDonald's "Golden Arches." At the Sedona McDonald's, those arches are turquoise (or teal green, or jade, depending on whom you ask).

And while this deviation from the norm has spurred all sorts of theories about building codes and city ordinances, the truth is a little less exciting, according to a news report from a few years back.

It's hard to imagine today, but Sedona wasn't even incorporated as a city until 1988. The McDonald's franchise came along a few years later, when the city was still firming up its building and signage restrictions. The franchise owner worked with the city on the look of the restaurant; since the shopping center next to it featured turquoise signage, the color was a natural fit for the McDonald's.

The fast-food stop opened in May 1993 and has become a minor tourist attraction, with visitors posting photos of "the world's only Turquoise Arches" to social media. And you have to admit, turquoise goes a lot better with Sedona's stunning red-rock views than yellow would.

You can see the unique McDonald's for yourself at 2380 W. State Route 89A in Sedona. And while most of us at Arizona Highways enjoy a Big Mac every now and then, we'd recommend Elote Café, Red Rock Café or one of Sedona's other great local restaurants first.

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Restoration of Petrified Forest Storefront Completed

The Oasis Building at Petrified Forest National Park now looks as it did in the 1960s. | Courtesy of National Park Service

A project to restore the storefront of an iconic Petrified Forest National Park building has been completed, a group involved with the project announced this month.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation says the Oasis Building project removed "inappropriate alterations" made to the building's storefront decades ago, and that the building once again features unobstructed views of the Painted Desert Community Complex courtyard.

A $150,000 grant from American Express helped to fund the project, which comes on the heels of the complex being named a National Historic Landmark earlier this year.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey says the partnership between the trust, American Express and the National Park Service is "a national model for how we can leverage public-private partnerships to preserve our most significant heritage assets."

According to the trust, the complex is the last remaining Park Service facility designed by Richard Neutra, a prominent Austrian-American architect and a leader of the Modernist movement.

In the past few years, the trust has also worked to restore the striking original paint colors on several buildings at the complex, and enlisted the help of a California-based preservation consulting firm to provide expertise on other restoration projects there.

To learn more about the Painted Desert Community Complex, click here.

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Hoodoo? You Do!

Rhyolite hoodoos are the centerpiece of Chiricahua National Monument. | Noah Austin

Early this month, I headed down to Southeastern Arizona for an Arizona Highways assignment. On our way back to the Phoenix area, my wife and I decided to visit Chiricahua National Monument.

It was the first visit to this natural wonder for both of us, and while I've seen many photos of the monument in the magazine, they truly don't do this place justice. On the Echo Canyon Loop, an easy 3.5-mile hike, we enjoyed stunning views of the monument's hoodoos — the rock spires for which this National Park Service site is best known. The number and size of these bizarre formations were unlike anything I'd seen in Arizona.

I started wondering how, exactly, these hoodoos formed, so I did some research and thought I'd share it with our readers.

According to the Park Service, hoodoos are the result of a process called frost wedging. The hoodoos at Chiricahua are made of a type of volcanic rock. Like many rocks, it features small vertical cracks, called joints. When water fills these joints and freezes, it expands by about 9 percent, exerting enough pressure to shatter the rock; when the ice thaws, the broken rock is washed away, widening the cracks. During the Pleistocene ice ages, from 1.6 million to about 10,000 years ago, this happened repeatedly, eventually creating jagged columns of rock.

The columns were then smoothed by erosion over thousands of years. Wind erosion played a big part, with sand carried by the wind acting as a kind of sandpaper. Chemical weathering, lichen growth and other factors contributed as well, the Park Service says. The result is a collection of spectacular rock formations, each with its own distinct shape and character.

I definitely recommend a trip to the monument and a hike on the Echo Canyon Loop, which still shows some signs of the 2011 Horseshoe 2 Fire but is in great shape overall. The remote monument doesn't get a ton of visitors, and on the entire loop, we saw just one other hiker, despite it being a Sunday morning with perfect weather. The hike took us about two hours — mostly because we stopped every few minutes to shoot photos. I expect you'll find yourself doing the same.

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor

Chiricahua National Monument is located near the intersection of state routes 186 and 181 in Southeastern Arizona. To learn more, call the monument at 520-824-3560 or visit

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Q&A: Katie Lee's Folk Opera

Courtesy of Katie Lee

Our May issue, on newsstands now, focuses on Lake Powell and Glen Canyon, and includes managing editor Kelly Vaughn's essay about the esteemed Katie Lee — who's spent most of her 97 years protesting Lake Powell's existence. Today, the actress, folk singer, author and wilderness activist lives in Jerome and is assisting on the first-ever production of Maude, Billy & Mr. "D," a folk opera she performed on her traveling show in the 1950s. It's being produced by the Blue Rose Theater of Prescott and will be performed one night only, Saturday, May 6, at Mingus Union High School Theater in Cottonwood.

We asked Ms. Lee to tell us a little about the opera, what inspired her to write it and what viewers can expect.

When did you originally write Maude, Billy & Mr. “D”?
I wrote it way back in the '50s, and for years I performed it as the second part of my concerts when I would do shows. I was on the road for many years, and I did concerts for universities, and for organizations and for clubs. I always used this because it was a beautiful thing to put at the end of a show. Kids from 4 and 5 years old through up to 95 years old, they just sat very quietly and watched this little drama unfold. It’s quite a story.

But I didn’t write [the original story]; I read it as a short story in The Saturday Evening Post, and the woman who wrote the story, Helen Eustis, actually wrote the first paragraph in rhyme. Maybe she knew it, maybe she didn’t, but that just set me off. I said, “This story needs music!” So I just began writing music for it, and that’s how it all began.

I played it for her one time where she lived in New York; while I was on the road, I stopped in and played it for her, and she said, “That’s the best treatment I’ve ever heard of my story.” It had been done as a short for television and in the movies, but she didn’t like the way they treated it.

Did the Blue Rose Theater approach you to put on the show, or was it your idea to put on the show? How did it all come about?
That came about very strangely. I met this little girl a couple of years ago at a book signing who is a classical violinist; her name is Erin Burley. It seemed that she really wanted to make music, rather than read music. She was playing with orchestras, and she was also a teacher of violin.

We became friends, and I introduced her to Peter McLaughlin, who is an incredible musician and songwriter. They got together, and he started teaching her how to listen to words and make the music fit the words — that’s the way folk musicians work. She loved doing it, she was good, and she was quick to learn.

She wanted to use a song from the folk opera, which I had given to her to listen to. All she wanted to do was to come up and celebrate my birthday and play some songs for me with some other musicians she knew, and it just mushroomed. When I told my friend who owns the Blue Rose Theater over in Prescott, Jody Drake, she said, “Oh, my God! This needs to be produced!” And from there it just snowballed.

[Erin] became very ill, and we’ve missed her a lot because she can’t come to the rehearsals. But we’re still very much in touch with her, and we’re hoping she’s going to be able to come to the production with her family and sit in the front row and see what she started. Really, we just owe this whole thing to her.

When was the last time it was on a stage?
It has never been produced before. I put it on a CD back in the '70s, after I performed it for 20 years or more on the road, as a traveling musician. This is the first and only performance so far, but I know there’s an organization down in Tucson that wants the show, so it will probably be performed more than once.

Tell us a little about the show; what is it about, and what should viewers expect?
Maude Applegate is a young girl that goes out after Mr. Death to get him to stay his hand against her boyfriend, who just got shot up. While Billy lies there dying, Maude decides to go find Mr. Death, get him to stay his hand against her true love, and that begins the story. It’s a story kind of destined to discover whether true love can overcome the power of death.

The show features really fine performers that are actors as well as singers. It held audiences just spellbound when I used to perform it. It’s a simple story, but it’s really hard to explain — but people leave the theater feeling elated.

What role have you played in the production?
I’m not singing in this show. They just consult me whenever they need to know anything about the script. I help wherever I can. I’m just in the background, watching and waiting to see what’s going to happen.

— Emily Balli

Maude, Billy & Mr. "D" will be performed one night only, Saturday, May 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the Mingus Union High School Theater in Cottonwood. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. For more information, visit, or call 928-899-5472 to purchase tickets.

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Wet Winter Could Mean Busy Wildfire Season, Experts Say

The Wallow Fire burns between Nutrioso and Alpine in the White Mountains in 2011. | Courtesy of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

Arizona is looking pretty green these days, but when all that greenery dries out, experts say it could become wildfire fuel.

The state's wet winter has been great for wildflowers and aquifers, but, as ABC 15 reported last week, it could also mean a severe fire season.

A National Park Serivce spokeswoman told the station that once the temperature hits 90 degrees, wildflowers, grasses and other plants can easily become fuel for wildfires. And those fires often start when people park in the grass along roadsides, because the underside of a car can be hot enough to ignite the grass.

Authorities say now is a good time to clear brush, grass and other potential fire fuel from around homes and property. And it's always a good time to remember the Leave No Trace principles of proper campfire management.

The 2011 Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona's recorded history, was sparked by a mismanaged campfire and ended up burning half a million acres of Eastern Arizona. That year, more than a million acres burned in the state. In 2016, Arizona wildfires burned just under 300,000 acres, the most since 2011.

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