Gilbert Exhibition Features Arizona Highways Photographers

Gary Ladd's photo of the Grand Canyon is among the stunning photographs featured in "Arizona Highways — Hanging Together."

A new exhibition at Art Intersection in Gilbert celebrates eight frequent Arizona Highways contributors and their stunning photos of the state.

Arizona Highways — Hanging Together features the work of Paul Gill, Joel Grimes, Joel Hazelton, Kerrick James, Gary Ladd, Suzanne Mathia, Eirini Pajak and Bruce D. Taubert. It includes photos featured in the magazine, along with images never before displayed to the public.

Jeff Kida, Arizona Highways' photo editor, curated the exhibition. "We are very excited to bring work from these Highways photographers into an exhibition at Art Intersection,” he says. “These artists are shining examples of the magazine’s goal of showcasing Arizona’s beauty.”

The exhibition is open until mid-January, and there is no charge for admission. Art Intersection is located at 207 N. Gilbert Road, Suite 201, in Gilbert.

A free opening reception is tomorrow (Saturday, December 1) from 4 to 7 p.m. at the gallery. For more information, call Art Intersection at 480-361-1118 or visit

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North Rim Parkway Closed for the Season

Stars fill the sky over the North Rim Parkway (State Route 67). | Dustin George

The North Rim Parkway (State Route 67), the main route for visitors to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, is closing today (Monday, December 3), the Arizona Department of Transportation announced last week.

Because visitor accommodations at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park close during the winter, ADOT does not clear snow from SR 67 during that time. The route will reopen around mid-May, in time for the resumption of North Rim visitor services. The Canyon's South Rim is open year-round.

Several other state routes are slated for closure in the coming weeks, ADOT said in a news release. Those routes — state routes 261, 273 and 473, all of which lead to lakes in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona — are scheduled to close December 31, but they could close earlier, depending on weather.

The department reminded motorists traveling in snow country to take precautions, such as checking weather and road conditions before heading out; slowing down and driving defensively; and packing an emergency kit, a fully charged cellphone, extra clothing, blankets, water and snacks.

For more tips on winter driving, visit

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'Pure Land' Wins National Outdoor Book Award

Annette McGivney | Courtesy of the author

A book by a frequent Arizona Highways contributor recently was honored with a top prize at the National Outdoor Book Awards.

Annette McGivney's Pure Land, which recounts a 2006 murder in the Grand Canyon, won the Outdoor Literature category at this year's awards. As the judges wrote:

Havasu Creek.  Its aqua colored waters, quiet pools and breathtaking falls, deep in the Grand Canyon, is one of the most beautiful places in all of the American Southwest.  It’s truly a backpacker’s paradise, and many thousands have made the eight-mile hike into Supai, a small, remote Indian village, to spend time there.  But in 2006, the serenity of Havasu was shattered when a young Japanese woman was murdered by a Native American.  Author Annette McGivney, Backpacker Magazine’s Southwest Editor, investigates the circumstances behind the incident.  What emerges from her investigations is a captivating and an extraordinarily well crafted story, and one which takes a surprise twist as she finds her own life inexorably drawn into the narrative.

McGivney wrote on Facebook that she was "honored and grateful" for the award.

In late 2017, McGivney spoke to Arizona Highways about the book. If you missed it then, you can check out our Q&A with the author. To learn more about Pure Land and read an excerpt, visit the book's website.

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Bighorns Reintroduced in Picacho Mountains

A bighorn sheep grazes along the Colorado River. | Coral C Coolahan

A reintroduction project earlier this month returned one of Arizona's most iconic species to a mountain range northwest of Tucson.

As the Eloy Enterprise reported, the Arizona Game and Fish Department released 30 desert bighorn sheep in the Picacho Mountains, which are along Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak State Park. The animals were relocated from a population in the nearby Silver Bell Mountains.

“When we can help re-establish a native species to their historic habitat, we’re truly part of something special,” said Amber Munig, AZGFD’s big game management supervisor. “Projects such as these help us to conserve and protect bighorn sheep by establishing subpopulations within their native ranges, which could help if there ever were a disease outbreak. Such an outbreak wouldn’t have a devastating effect on the entire population.”

A second relocation, one that involved the Rocky Mountain subspecies of bighorns, moved sheep from the Morenci area to an area north of Payson. That area was scorched by this year's Tinder Fire, providing new growth that made the area suitable for bighorns, the newspaper reported.

The department partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and other organizations on the releases.

According to some estimates, the nationwide bighorn population is only about 10 percent of what it was before the West was settled.

Longtime Arizona Highways readers might recall a February 2014 essay by the late Charles Bowden on bighorn introductions in the Pusch Ridge area of the Santa Catalina Mountains, near Tucson. As of last year, that population appeared to be thriving.

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Jo Baeza: 1931-2018

Jo Baeza | Arizona Highways Archives

Jo Baeza, a gifted and prolific writer whose descriptions of Arizona life endeared her to readers of Arizona Highways and other publications, died November 16 at her home in Pinetop-Lakeside. She was 87.

A cause of death was not specified, but Baeza's obituary in the White Mountain Independent, where she wrote a regular column, noted that she battled scleroderma, a progressive autoimmune disease, in recent years.

Born Joan Johnson, she was a Minnesota native and member of a family that helped settle that territory in the 1800s. She then settled in the Holbrook area after graduating from Stanford University in 1954; before long, she was writing for Arizona Highways. Her first story for the magazine was The Hash Knife Outfit, published in June 1956 under her maiden name. Sketches by Ross Santee accompanied the story, and the opening paragraph typified Baeza's plain-spoken, yet vivid writing style:

There were bigger cattle companies in North America. There was the XIT ranch in the Texas panhandle, and the gigantic Terrazas spread in Chihuahua, Mexico. But big or small, none will be remembered longer than the old Hash Knife outfit of the 1880s and 1890s, whose infamy has been spread in campfire legends throughout the West. It wasn't just the size of the property, nor its value, nor its gun-toting cowboys that earned the outfit its reputation. What distinguished it from all other cattle companies in history was just where and when it flourished. It was a product of the times, and the Hash Knife brand is a symbol of that stormy period in northern Arizona.

At a 2013 gathering of Arizona Highways "old-timers," Baeza recalled, her 1956 story was the subject of a good-natured debate with former editor Don Dedera over which of them had been first to contribute to the magazine. "I retain the title of 'Oldest Living Contributor,'" she concluded, "until an older contributor comes along, which seems unlikely at this time."

Also in 1956, she married cattleman Cooney Jeffers, and her time living with him on a ranch south of Holbrook inspired her 1964 book, Ranch Wife. Later works included 2011's Eagles at Noon, a collection of poetry, and 2012's Arizona: The Making of a State, timed to coincide with the state's centennial.

The couple divorced in 1965, and she moved to Pinetop-Lakeside, where she resided until her death. After an eight-year marriage to Western author J.P.S. Brown (another Arizona Highways contributor), she was married to horse trainer Luis Mario Baeza for six years before the marriage ended amicably.

Baeza's writing won her fans among generations of readers of Arizona Highways and the White Mountain Independent, for which she began writing in 1981. Her most recent work for the newspaper came in September, when she marked the passing of Senator John McCain.

Arizona Highways has published numerous stories by Baeza, most recently Not So Lonely, which originally ran in the magazine in 1967. It's a look at what it took to be a fire lookout in the White Mountains:

A lookout's days are long and confining, but different, every one. He notices cloud patterns, birds' songs, light and shade playing in the green forest. He smells dry, dusty leaves; brittle, cold morning air; moist pine needles; and sweet, wet oak leaves. A lightning storm charges the air with sharp purity. Rain on Arizona's red soil is sour and mineral. Always in the air is the clean, sharp fragrance of the ponderosas. They stand with dignity and patience in their God-given places. You wait for July and August, when the clouds will swell and darken in the southeast and come rolling over Baldy to bring rain to the thirsty land. Then our peaceful mountains will be safe for another year.

Her most recent original work for the magazine, though, was in our special White Mountains issue in July 2017. In At Home in the Woods, she described some of the reasons the Eastern Arizona mountain range had become her longtime home:

Kids played outdoors until dark in summer. We had a big vegetable garden, chickens and turkeys, all of which had to be fed and watered. Kids learned to work and take care of animals. I'd put them up against anybody for their fish-cleaning speed. Not many kids today can actually go fishing after school for their supper. ... If kids had grievances, parents usually stayed out of it and let the kids settle their own fights. Teachers paddled boys for using naughty words. Nobody was rich, but nobody was hungry.

I can't say that life is better for kids in the White Mountains today than it was 50 years ago, but it is different. Today, kids have endless opportunities to learn, to grow, to be who they want to be. In the meantime, they get to wake up every morning to the same natural wonders that have been attracting good people since long before 1964.

A memorial service for Baeza will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, November 29, at St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Pinetop-Lakeside. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the White Mountain Hospice Foundation, the Humane Society of the White Mountains or the National Forest Foundation.

Baeza's ashes will be interred at the Johnson family's plot in Minnesota.

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Arizona Forest Effort Wins Statewide Award

Jesse Tara Deacon | Kaibab National Forest

An organization that focuses on forest health in Northern Arizona took the top honor at Arizona Forward's annual awards ceremony last month.

The group's Environmental Excellence Awards, presented at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale on October 23, honored the Northern Arizona Forest Fund with the President's Award. As Arizona Forward notes in a news release:

Northern Arizona national forests provide the majority of water to the Salt and Verde Rivers. This water flows from the high-elevation forests, down to the desert below and eventually into the homes of millions of metro Phoenix residents. But the health of the forests and watersheds is threatened. The Northern Arizona Forest Fund was created to address these declining forest health conditions. To date, the Northern Arizona Forest Fund has completed over 10,000 acres of projects, reducing severe fire risk by about 25 percent.

The Governor's Award for Arizona's Future went to the Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge:

The Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge overturned a long-standing legal prohibition against potable water reuse. It also used craft beer to educate the public about the benefits of the “toilet to tap” revolution. The team took to festivals, conferences, parades and expos to get their message out, which resulted in changing a law and changing many minds statewide.

Other environment-themed awards were given to honorees that included Wurth House, Ocotillo Restaurant and the city of Phoenix. 

Arizona Forward, which began in 1969 as Valley Forward, aims to encourage public dialogue on regional issues and improve the sustainability of the state's communities. To learn more, visit the organization's website.

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New Short Film Celebrates Nation's Public Lands

A scene from "Balance." | Courtesy of Your Forests Your Future

A new film celebrates the joy of running in America's public lands — including at an Arizona event recently featured in Arizona Highways.

Balance, a short film produced by Your Forests Your Future, focuses on the Canyon de Chelly Ultra, a 55-kilometer race through Canyon de Chelly National Monument on the Navajo Nation. As we reported in our November issue, the race is open to only 150 runners per year and typically sells out in less than a minute.

Balance follows Liz Townley, an Idaho resident and U.S. Forest Service employee who ran some 500 miles in preparation for the race. In the seven-minute film, Townley discusses her love of public lands and their capacity for peace and healing.

Your Forests Your Future is a Forest Service project designed to get people engaged in how public lands will be managed going forward. For more information or to watch the film, visit the project's website.

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A Gold Hunting Tradition in the Superstitions

A satirical newspaper from 1957 touts the discovery of the Lost Dutchman gold. | Brent Ruffner

By Brent Ruffner

The day started with a few ribs cooking over the fire and some Superstition Gold coffee.

Just before noon, the small group had had enough chitchat. Instead, they wanted to get off-road, to a new site where there was the promise of gold.

That site – just off the Peralta Trail in the Superstition Mountains — ended up being a hole where a mountain lion had apparently made its home. The area was covered in mountain lion scat.

The group of "Dutch hunters" was in the area early this month for the Dutch Hunter Rendezvous, an annual camping event where the public can pay homage and celebrate Jacob Waltz — a German man, now known as the "Dutchman," who supposedly found a $200 million gold mine in the Superstitions in the 1800s.

The trek, a few hours before the official event, seemed routine for most of the group, who head to the mountains for adventure. Members say you must look for indicators instead of walking by signs of what could be treasure.   

“You never know what you will find,” Dutch hunter Wayne Tuttle said. “[The site was] right around the corner from what everyone is familiar with, and no one knew it was there.”

Tuttle, a cast member on the History Channel show Legend of the Superstition Mountains, is a member of the event’s sponsor, the Don’s Club of Phoenix — founded in 1931 by Phoenix YMCA members who developed a love for the mountains. The once-exclusive club was made up of young professionals and businessmen.

Members routinely dressed in outfits of the early Spanish dons and doñas while camping. For $3, the group bused people in from Washington Street in Phoenix to the western side of the Superstitions — at least a few hours' ride in 1935.

Customers received a miner’s lunch and a Spanish dinner at base camp with “all the coffee you can drink” that day. The program also featured two hikes in the afternoon. At one time, Don’s Club events featured performances from Hopi dancers and demonstrations by Navajo weavers.

In 1946, its members made President Harry Truman an honorary member of the club. They presented him with a sombrero in a picture that helped promote the club by landing on the pages of newspapers across the country. 

During the Don’s Trek event, members lit up the night sky on most occasions. Until 2001, members would drop 1,600 pounds of burning charcoal off the ledges of the Dayside Cliffs – which were several hundred feet high — in a practice called Fire Falls followed by fireworks.

“Reading newspaper articles, you can tell how popular it was,” said Greg Davis, a Don’s member since the 1970s. “But times change.”

His uncle, Art Weber, was a physical education director for the YMCA in Phoenix and helped form the group.

Davis uses a 1,000-square-foot room to house decades of newspaper articles, books and collector’s items about the club and the Superstition Mountains. He has nine filing cabinets filled with records about his uncle’s club.

Tuttle, too, has helped keep tradition alive despite only a few families with children who attended this year’s event. Next year, the Rendezvous will celebrate its 15th year.

He remembers carrying a canteen full of Kool-Aid and a peanut butter sandwich when he was 8 years old. Afterward, he couldn’t wait to go back. “My whole mood changes when I’m in the mountains,” Tuttle said. “It’s a great feeling.”

Tuttle has passed on his love of the mountains to his oldest son, Trevor, 17, who regularly travels with Tuttle to film YouTube videos for their online show. A new episode of the show is posted on Facebook every other week.

Prospector Woody Wampler attended this year’s Rendezvous and wants to pass on his trade to younger generations. Wampler, who has been a prospector since 1970, said people often use bad practices when panning for gold. He said moving the gold pan in a fast, circular motion is a good way to cause the gold to fly out of the pan.

He offers classes for $50 per person at his Dewey-based business. “I want to pass on what I’ve learned,” Wampler said. “I don’t want it to go to the grave with me.”

The self-taught prospector said panning is a process where you want to work the layers of rock and minerals off by moving the pan in a gentle side-to-side motion. The goal is to separate the black sand from the gold once you’ve found an area in the dry Arizona creeks, he said — adding that most gold is found between 3 and 6 inches below the surface.

“[The gold] won’t be any deeper than the material moving down the creek,” Wampler said.  

Wampler said he regularly donates his time to local school districts to and businesses such as Mortimer Family Farms to ensure traditions aren’t lost.

Starting January 18, the Don’s Club will host its annual Discovery Camp for students in the Apache Junction Unified School District. Students are bused in to the base camp near the Peralta Trailhead every Friday for six weeks. There, instruction lasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Still, it’s challenging to garner the interest of young people.

“It would sure be nice to get some young people interested in the club,” Davis said. “There’s not many. It’s getting tough. There’s too much other stuff going on these days.”

But Wampler is confident younger generations can become interested in the art of prospecting and can develop a curiousity about the mountains: “Families that play together, stay together.”

For more information about the Dutch Hunter Rendezvous, visit the group's website.

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