For You: Sunny Days to Come

Chad Coppess | Monument Valley

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following appeared at the end of the December 1951 issue of Arizona Highways. Happy New Year!

Friends meet and part, going their separate ways through the maze and patterns of life woven by the stern fingers of destiny. They give something of themselves to each other. Neither time nor distance takes away the influences left by the warm traits of personality and comradeship; nor lessens the pleasant memories of joys and happiness shared, one with the other.

Friendship is one of the great compensations of living. How sparse, indeed, would one's life be without friends!

A friend cheers you in your triumphs, lends solace in your sorrows. A friend demands nothing of you; he gives everything cheerfully. He shares his life with you; so that your life is made more complete by the precious gifts of friendship.

As the New Year begins, one remembers one's friends, both near and far. When the Old Year dies and the New Year is born, a new page unfolds bright and crisp and clean for our story to be written there upon.

We hope that as the new story on the new page of the New Year is inscribed for you, there will be each day and every day to come, for you and yours, much happiness and sunshine and the warmest wishes that friend can extend to friend.

— Raymond Carlson, Editor

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An Arizona Population Milestone: 7 Million Residents

Maribeth Brady | Phoenix

Arizona remains one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, with its population topping 7 million this year, the U.S. Census Bureau announced last week.

According to Census estimates, Arizona added about 107,000 residents in the past year, giving the Grand Canyon State an estimated population of 7,016,270. That's a 1.6 percent increase over the 2016 population, the sixth-highest in the country in terms of percentage. (The states ahead of Arizona on that list: Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Florida.)

Arizona's population growth has been among the highest in the nation for several years, but it's fallen short of the prediction Senator Barry Goldwater gave to Arizona Highways in 1978.

"I have stated publicly ... that I feel that Phoenix will grow to be the fifth or sixth largest city in the country," he predicted, correctly. But the second part of his prediction hasn't panned out: "I was asked to project Arizona's population through the year 2012, and from all the data that I used, the number 20 million people came up. But I tempered it and said 18 million."

We've still got a ways to go on that. In fact, 7 million, while an impressive figure, is just 1 million fewer people than visited Grand Canyon National Park in 2016.

Nationwide, the U.S. population increased by 2.3 million, or 0.72 percent, this year. Eight states saw their number of residents decrease; the sharpest decline was in Wyoming, which lost 1 percent of its residents.

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Staying Warm (or Cool) at Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Colossal Cave Mountain Park features an extensive cave system. | Noah Austin

On the way back from a recent Arizona Highways assignment in Southeastern Arizona, my wife and I were looking for something to do in the Tucson area. Having visited Kartchner Caverns State Park last year, we decided to check out another well-known cavern in the area: Colossal Cave Mountain Park, located east of Tucson.

On an hourlong tour past the cave's stalactites, stalagmites and other unique formations, we learned while Colossal Cave is similar to Kartchner Caverns in many ways, there also are important differences between the two caverns. For one, water continues to flow into Kartchner Caverns, meaning that cave's rock formations continue to grow. Colossal Cave no longer has water flowing, although it's not technically a "dead" cave — a bit of monsoon runoff trickled into the cave this summer, the first time that's happened in 12 years, our guide said.

The other big difference is the caves' human histories. No one had ventured into Kartchner Caverns before its discovery in the 1970s, and its designation as a state park has kept it in pristine condition. In contrast, Colossal Cave was used for storage by the Hohokam people about a century ago, and after white men discovered it in the late 1800s, it became a hideout for bandits and a target for treasure hunters. Many of its rock formations were broken off to be sold as curiosities.

But Colossal Cave is still a spectacular place to visit, starting with the above-ground facilities constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. CCC crews also built the walkways inside the cavern, where the temperature stays in the low 70s year-round. The basic tour, on which we were joined by three others on a rainy Sunday morning, follows a half-mile loop and includes information about the cave's history, geology and legends. More extensive tours that utilize CCC ladders and rock-climbing techniques also are available.

Our tour guide addressed one popular legend: that bandits hid a stash of gold somewhere in Colossal Cave. If they did, he said, it's never been found, and park personnel have extensively explored the cave. Even without a stash of gold, though, Colossal Cave is a treasure worth seeing.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park is located at 16721 E. Old Spanish Trail in Vail. For more information, call 520-647-7275 or visit

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor

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Just an Old-Fashioned Christmas

Lyle Bown | Grand Canyon

The following text appeared in the December 1949 issue of Arizona Highways. On behalf of the magazine's staff, we wish you and yours a happy holiday.

Your neighbors or the choir from the little church down the street will gather before your house and sing the ancient songs of Yule on Christmas Eve. The Christmas tree in your house will send its merry, twinkling light of good cheer through the unshuttered windows, sharing with the stars in a Christmas sky the happenstance of guiding the way of a neighbor or a stranger passing by. There will be gifts around the Christmas tree, large and small it matters not. It isn't what you give but how you give it, it isn't what you receive but how you receive it that bespeaks the spirit of the Holy Season.

If your dear ones are far away, they will be with you this day, your thoughts and their thoughts, your love and their love, your memories and their memories encompassing the intervening miles. If your loved ones are with you they will be closer than ever, because family affection and trust has always been the inspiration of this day since the first Christmas long ago when a Child cried in a Manger and patient beasts of burden munched the dry straw.

Among you and yours there will be charity for the less fortunate, comfort for the lonely, solace for those who sorrow, sympathy for the ill, compassion for the proud and selfish. Among you and yours there will be reverent gratitude and humility for all that has been given to make this day for you richer and happier and more complete.

In short, we wish you just an old-fashioned Christmas.

— Raymond Carlson, Editor

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Ancient Textiles on Display at Camp Verde Museum

One of the Sinaguan textiles now on display at the Verde Valley Archaeology Center. | Courtesy of the museum

A new exhibit at a Central Arizona museum focuses on 800-year-old textiles discovered in a cliff dwelling along Wet Beaver Creek.

The Verde Valley Archaeology Center in Camp Verde last week announced the opening of the exhibit of ancient textiles from the Paul Dyck Rock Shelter, named for the Paul Dyck Ranch, in Rimrock, where the cliff dwelling is located.

Extensive excavations at the cliff dwelling in the 1960s and '70s unearthed more than 10,000 artifacts, including perishable materials preserved in dry midden deposits inside the dwelling. The artifacts include woven materials such as textiles, sandals, skirts, ropes and bags, the museum said.

"The Dyck textiles represent the most extensive and well-preserved collection of Sinagua textiles ever recovered," the center's director of archaeology, Dr. Todd Bostwick, said in a news release. "Some of the 800-year-old textile fragments have retained their color so well, they look like they were woven yesterday."

The fragile textiles are being rotated into and out of display to protect them from deterioration. Among new items recently added to the display is a plain weave (pictured) with a dark brown tie-dye pattern.

The museum is located at 385 S. Main Street in Camp Verde, and its exhibits are open and free to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., although the center will be closed December 23, ahead of Christmas, and December 30, ahead of New Year's Day.

For more information, visit

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National Park Service Slashes Free-Admission Days for 2018

Visitors will have only four opportunities in 2018 to visit Petrified Forest National Park and other National Park Service sites without paying an entrance fee. | Tanju Bayramoglu

Visitors to America's national parks will have fewer chances to avoid entrance fees next year, the National Park Service announced last week.

The federal agency says it's cutting its number of fee-free days from 10 in 2017 to just four in 2018. Those days will be Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 15), the first day of National Park Week (April 21), National Public Lands Day (September 22) and Veterans Day (November 11).

In 2017, the fee-free days included the weekends surrounding National Park Week and all of Veterans Day weekend. This year's fee-free days were six fewer than in 2016, when all of National Park Week and four days around the Park Service's centennial were included.

The reduction drew criticism from conservation advocacy group Western Priorities, which accused Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of "being determined to turn [national parks] into a playground for the rich." The Park Service, though, says the reduction will increase revenue and allow it to improve facilities and address deferred park maintenance.

For more information about the fee-free days, click here.

The move comes amid a public-comment period on the agency's proposal to increase entrance fees at 17 of its most popular parks, including Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Public comments on that plan are being accepted through this Friday, December 22.

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Q&A: Gerry Groeber and Arizona's Coolest Photo Booth

Courtesy of Red Photo Bus

Arizona Highways readers are familiar with the work and talent of Gerry Groeber, who's become a regular contributor of stunning landscape photos to the magazine — including the cover photo for our October 2016 issue. For the past several years, Gerry and his wife, Emily, have also been hard at work on a new project, the Red Photo Bus. Together, they restored a vintage 1975 Volkswagen and made it into a portable photo booth that can be used at events.

We caught up with Gerry and asked him about his work and his bus. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

Tell our readers a little about yourself.
I’m a photographer from East Mesa. I’m also a technician, an improviser and an artist. I was recently in a job for seven years and my wife was in a full-time position teaching. We both needed to look for new work at the beginning of the summer, and we wanted to do something together that would allow us to use our individual gifts and strengths, so we decided to create this new business together.

Tell us about your history with Arizona Highways.
I had been working pretty diligently for a year, and I submitted some images for the 2014-15 photo contest. I received a Facebook message from another photographer friend, and he told me my photo was in the running. I didn’t know, and I jumped online and saw that I was in the running, and then received third place for that year. It was pretty surreal; Arizona Highways was something I had been shooting for, and I thought I’d keep trying and just see how I do.

Starting in September 2015, when I placed in the photo contest, I started working with Arizona Highways and was brought on as a contributing photographer. I helped with some photos of Salt River wild horses, and then I was in the April 2016 issue. In October 2016, I got the cover for the fall issue and two other images, including the back page, and then in December 2016, I got another one. While building this business, I’ve kind of taken the last year off.

How did you become a photographer?
I’ve been an artist for many, many years, and for the last three years I’ve been building up my photography business. Growing up, my father was a painter — even though he was a doctor, he loved to paint, so there was always art in my house. I grew up with a lot of books and magazines on classic landscape oil painters, so I always had that push in my life early on. I did some painting at one time, and all of that influence from those classic oil painters kind of shows in my composition. I put all those skills together with my eye for landscapes.

How did you come up with the idea for the Red Photo Bus, and when did it all start?
Emily and I wanted to do something different, something that we could do together that would utilize our skills and talents. Our daughter recently became engaged, and that kind of got us thinking of having a photo booth as a business opportunity. We wanted something that was unique, something that would be memorable and that would make weddings, parties and events much more fun and exciting. We did our first wedding a couple of weeks ago, and we’re doing a 50th birthday party in December, so that’s going to be really fun.

How did you make your idea come to life, and how long did it take?
It really hasn’t been a smooth road. The bus itself took a while to restore — we’ve been working on it for the past five years to get it up to a daily driving state. We got the bus and just wanted to get it restored, and at the beginning of the summer, we decided to convert it to a photo bus.

Designing the flow of the booth took some time. I looked online on how to build a booth and then customized it to our liking. I handmade the booth, which is removable. It took almost two and a half months to build the photo booth. Then I had to design the logo, which we use on the side of the bus and on social media. We also had to design the back of the bus, where people can get their props on in front of a vanity mirror. The props we use are quality props; we spent a lot of time looking for real, good-quality props.

What kind of technology does the photo bus use?
Because I’m a photographer, everything we use is state of the art. Everything is inside the bus; the photo booth is custom designed and fits inside. We have a 20- inch touch screen where you can see yourself as you pose in the booth, and all the lighting is professional portrait lighting. We use a 24-megapixel Nikon DSLR, and we also have instant sharing to your phone and social media when Wi-Fi is available.

What has been your favorite part about having the photo bus business so far?
I love that we actually become a part of the experience of the event. It’s not just a photo booth that sits off in the corner, that people visit if they have time. People are really drawn to it, and they love it. Everybody that we’ve shown it to and every event we’ve brought it to, it’s just a hit.

What do you see in the future for your new business?
We hope that we’ll be able to do events all around the Valley — from weddings to corporate events — and make people’s events that much better. We’re hoping to pick up a New Year’s party.

To see more of Gerry Groeber’s work, visit To learn more about the Red Photo Bus, visit

— Emily Balli

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