Category: Places

Blanche Russell Rock Houses

A few years ago, after a visit to the Grand Canyon, we drove east on Hgw 64, then north on Hgws 89 and 89A. We crossed the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge, and were on final approach to the Vermillion Cliffs when we were surprised to see some mushroom shaped rocks that looked like a group of Smurfs had built houses under them.

Arizona

We stopped to investigate  and quickly realized they really were ‘Tiny Houses’. A worn and badly damaged sign nearby told the story of  Blanche Russell  and her husband William (Bill), whose car broke down in the area in about 1927 (or maybe 1920)…

Arizona

The pair took shelter under the mushroom rocks over night. Blanche liked the area so much that she bought the property and built permanent structures. She lived there for about 10 years and operated a business.

Arizona

Arizona

Arizona

When I looked online for more information about the Blanche Russel Rock Houses, I found a number of  ‘folklore’ stories on several sites:

“Around 1927, Blanch Russell’s car broke down as she traveled through this area. Forced to camp overnight, she decided she liked the scenery so well that she bought the property and stayed. The stone buildings under these balanced rocks were built shortly after that in the 1930’s.”
http://arizona.untraveledroad.com/Coconino/HouseRock/56SSign.htm

“The Old Cliff Dwellers’ Lodge (Blanche Russell Rock House) is located on 89-A in Marble Canyon, AZ…  Blanche built a meager lean-to against the largest rock of many… and gradually built a life by serving food to passer-bys visiting the Grand Canyon. Guests of particular interest included Mormons traveling the nearby Honeymoon Trail to the temple in St. George, Utah.”
https://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=5326

“Blanche Russell was a successful dancer in a series of sophisticated theatrical productions called The Ziegfeld Follies. Blanche left the limelight when her husband Bill was diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis… They immediately purchased the land and constructed a unique rock house which they later converted into a roadside trading post. The structure was built with stacked rock against a large fallen boulder… The original home remains on the property today… They started serving food to travelers and later found themselves running a full-scale restaurant, trading post and even selling gasoline. The area became so popular, travelers began to refer to the area as Soup Creek or House Rock Valley… After a decade, the Russell’s grew tired of the desolate desert and sold the land to a rancher named Jack Church, who later turned the restaurant into a bar. It wasn’t but three years later when he sold the establishment to Art & Evelyn Greene.”
http://theproperfunction.com/the-cliff-dwellers/

“According to author Kay Campbell, who wrote a booklet about the Cliff Dwellers lodges, (Cliff dweller’s old and new: A history of the rock “village” on Highway 89A near Lee’s Ferry – 1998) the Russells sold water they took out of nearby Soap Springs and also sold pigeons out of a coop they kept at the site.” (This booklet is listed on Amazon, but is not available for purchase.)
– This site is no longer available: archive.azcentral.com/travel/arizona/features/articles/archive/0928cliffdwellers –

“By the 1930’s, their full-scale restaurant evolved to include a trading post, both of which are just a stone’s throw further down the road. The little settlement, known as Soup Creek or Houserock Valley, included several attendant outbuildings.”
https://frametoframe.ca/2014/10/blanche-russells-rock-houses-marble-canyon-arizona/

Jack Church, who added his own personal touch by turning the restaurant into a bar during World War II. In 1943, third owners, Art and Evelyn Greene, purchased the land. They kept the old dwelling, which then consisted of eight buildings and a gas generator.”
http://www.kitchensaremonkeybusiness.com/2012/05/may-20-2012-rock-houses.html

In 2001, Sandy Nevills Reiff interviewed Evelyn Greene for  the Northern Arizona University. The Greene family established trading posts, restaurants, and motels in the region. Evelyn’s recollection was that  Blanche Russell and her husband had come from New York in about 1920 or 1921. (She says the exact dates are in their archives, which are at ASU.) Evelyn says that Blanche and her husband set up a small business by the road side. Since the husband couldn’t do much in the way of helping, they would ask their customers to help them lay blocks and rocks to  make the buildings.
http://archive.li.suu.edu/voices/archive/transcripts/greenetranscript.htm

The only verifiable source facts I could find about the Blanche Russell story were  William Russel’s Death Certificate and the Patent for the land:

According to an Arizona State Board of Health’s Certificate of Death, William Pat Russel of Soap Creek, Coconino County, died July 27, 1936 of chronic myocarditis and mitral regurgitation. He was born on May 10, 1864 in Boston Mass, and was 72 years old when he died. He worked at a Service Station. He was married to Blanche Russell (nee Dodge) of Cameron Arizona. His father was Wm. Russell Sr. and his mother was Mary Sheets. He was buried in Flagstaff.
http://genealogy.az.gov/

The Bureau of Land Management holds the document that shows Blanche A. Russell, the widow of William Russell, was issued the Patent for 400 Acres of land on 1/11/1939.

The Bureau of Land Management also shows that Art Greene acquired 40 acres of Blanche’s property (039N – 006E SE¼SE¼ 28) on 4/21/1955.
https://glorecords.blm.gov/search/default.aspx

The Arizona State University Libraries Archivist was kind enough to look through the Greene Family Collection for me. The only relevant item he found was a negative photostat copy of a 1930’s application for homestead by William Russell for the land Cliff Dweller’s Lodge occupies. (That application was denied by the federal government.)

Google Maps for the area:

Google Map – Blanche Russell Rock Houses (Cliff Dweller’s Stone House)

Google Map – Blanche Russell Rock Houses (Cliff Dweller’s Stone House)

So many questions, so few answers about a woman, who by all accounts, was a remarkably resourceful and adventurous person!

Wouldn’t you love to know ‘the rest of the story’!

A Peek at Bourton-on-the Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is a village in the Cotswolds Area of Gloucestershire, England. The houses and shops in the village are constructed of the yellow Oolitic limestone that is found in the surrounding hills. Cotswold stone is easily split into blocks and is quite weather-resistant.

The Cotswold hills cover an area that is about 40 miles across and 120 miles long. It is an extremely popular tourist destination.

thatch roof house

A peek over just about any hedge or stone wall will give you a glimpse of why at least 117 buildings within Bourton-on-the-Water have been listed as Grade II or higher. This designation means the building has ‘special architectural or historic interest’. The building’s owners have to apply for consent to do most types of work that affect their home.

hedge

A peek inside this wobbly hedge! I sure wouldn’t want to be the one who keeps it trimmed.

In old age, and having been sprained by the weight of snow over the decades, the hedges now wobble along, imperfect, but full of vegetable dignity…
– Description of Walmer Castle Hedges, Heritage Magazine Issue 48 –

Vine House

A peek at the house behind the Ivy. English Ivy is the most prevalent self-clinging climber found on walls in England, though some ornamental ivy types are also used.

In 2010, English Heritage released the results of a study to determine whether Ivy was beneficial or detrimental when it grew up the sides of buildings. Their research suggested that as long as ivy was not rooting into the wall, there were numerous positive benefits.

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Peek.

Artistic Looking Bridges

Old Town Hall

Bamberg Germany, Old Town Hall

Bamberg is an beautiful example of an early medieval town in central Europe. It has a large number of surviving ecclesiastical and secular buildings. It is crisscrossed by many rivers, winding canals, and bridges. Some of the bridges are old and famous and some, like this one, are more modern, but don’t detract from the architecture of the surrounding buildings.

Deception Pass State Park; Oak Harbor, Washington USA

Deception Pass Bridge, Washington

Deception Pass Bridge is the common name for two, two-lane bridges that connect Whidbey Island to Fidalgo Island in the U.S. state of Washington. Pass Island lies between the two bridges.

 

Arizona, USA

New Navajo Bridge across the Colorado River, AZ

Navajo Bridge – The original Navajo Bridge was completed and opened to traffic in January 1929. Prior to the building of the bridge, the only way to cross the Colorado River and its formidable gorge was at Lee’s Ferry a short distance upstream. Construction on a new, wider bridge began in May of 1993. The old bridge became a walking bridge.

RCMP – Law, Order and the Musical Ride

In 1867, Canada became a nation. This year (2017) is Canada’s 150th Birthday!

Mounties, dressed in red serge, are often seen leading local parades on Canada Day (July1st). There are 680 RCMP Detachments across Canada.

Six years after the Dominion of Canada was formed, the Parliament of Canada established a central police force and gave it the task of maintaining Law and Order in the newly acquired western territories of Canada. The force acquired the name “North-West Mounted Police” (NWMP). By 1886, the NWMP’s first riding school was established in Regina and in 1887, the horses and riders performed mounted precision cavalry drills on several occasions. It wasn’t until 1901,  though, that the drills, choreographed to music, began to be performed for the public.

In 1920, the name of the force was changed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Today, the Musical Ride consists of 32 riders (plus one leader) in scarlet jackets on beautiful black horses. The RCMP has bred and raised its own horses since 1939. The Ride tours throughout Canada and internationally between May and October.

RCMP Musical Ride at the Calgary Stampede – 32 horses and riders in an orderly line-up!

More Canadiana – Best Canadian Puns, Jokes and Observations.

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Order.

Post 577

The Greenery of Arizona

You might not think of the word ‘green’ when you think of Arizona – but the State is more than just desert with a few cactus!

Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens

The Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens is a showcase of arid-land plants from deserts around the world. This Dale Chihuly Glass Sculpture– Desert Towers welcomes visitors. It was installed as the entry-point to Chihuly’s first Desert Botanical exhibition in 2008. The installation was purchased by the Garden as a legacy to the exhibition.

Greater Phoenix ArizonaEast of Phoenix are the Superstition Mountains. In the spring, they sport a coat of green, sprinkled with bursts of color when the desert plants bloom. The mountains rise steeply to an elevation of 5,024 feet, and are characterized by sheer-sided, jagged, volcanic peaks and ridges.
Tonto National ForestNorth and east of Phoenix is the Water Users Recreation Site on the Salt River in Tonto National Forest. The Tonto National Forest, encompassing 2,873,200 acres, is the largest of the six national forests in Arizona and is the fifth largest national forest in the United States.
green water St. Patrick's DayNorth of Phoenix is the community of Fountain Hills. At noon on St. Patrick’s Day, the water of the Fountain Hills Fountain is tinted green, and when it is turned on, it shoots to the maximum height of 560 feet. Normally the height of the fountain  is limited to 330 feet. It runs for 15 minutes at the top of each hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week!
green water St. Patrick's Day

Winter in ‘Zona is springtime
Spring is summer askew
Summer is torturous hellfire
Autumn is summer part II
– Terri Guillemets, “Spring sun,” 1993 –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is It IS Easy Being Green!

Post 567

Donkey and Pancho – Boats and Sea Lions at Cabo San Lucas

We were in Mexico last week – specifically Los Cabos, which is a municipality on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, in the state of Baja California Sur.

Though we spent most of our time in San Jose del Cabo, the Cabo San Lucas Marina was the scene of the most excitement – if you like all the things that ‘bob’ on top of or ‘swim’ in water. This Marina has 380 Slips and 33 Megayacht Berths and just about every craft had a name!

559-cabo-submarine

 

559-donkey-i

 

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The Sea Lion might have a name too. If you Google ‘Sea Lion Cabo San Lucas Marina’, you will find several items about ‘Pancho’ the bandit sea lion. The sleek dark beast demanded fish from every boat that came in to dock, and it would aggressively attempt to ‘take’ any fish it spied. A flock of brown Pelicans followed the sea lion, supplying diversionary tactics that kept the fisherman busy scooting the birds off the motor and the back of the boat. It was all quite entertaining!

Have you ever owned a boat? Did it have a name?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Names.

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Look Up – Waaay Up… The Picket Post Mansion, Arizona

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Picket Post Mansion, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona, USA

– Picket Post Mansion, also known as the ‘Castle on the Rocks,’ was built by Colonel William B. Thompson
– Construction began in 1923, it took 14 months to complete and the estimated cost was $20,000
– The Colonel founded the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and donated his house and the surrounding property to the Arboretum in 1928. The Colonel passed away in 1930.
– When it became a financial burden to the Arboretum, the Mansion was sold in 1946 to Walter and Ida Franklin of Globe for $40,000. They operated it as a bed and breakfast.
– The Building changed hands again and was eventually acquired by Rick and Tina Rose who gave tours.
– On July 15, 2008, Arizona State Parks purchased the property to make the Arboretum whole again.

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Driving By the Numbers Through Utah and Idaho

Your car knows

Our trip home from Arizona to Alberta took 5 days (April 29 to May 3, 2016) to cover a distance of 2600 km (1650 miles).
Arches National Park Utah
This year we drove Sadie, a 2002 SL500 convertible that gets 10 L/100 km (28 mpg) and loves to gallop along at 129 km/h (80 mph) on the I-15.

Your car knows

One of our fuel stops was in Monticello, Utah – elevation 2,155 m (7070 ft) where Sadie dined on 91 octane. I bought 1 bar of dark chocolate fuel for myself – our glove compartment had 0 gloves and 0 candy bars.

 

M129E1

804 km (500 miles) later, we were in Idaho Falls, Idaho. We stopped at the Army Surplus Warehouse (after Sadie got some more gas, and I refilled the glove compartment with chocolate.) There are many interesting things for sale there, including an M129 leaflet dispenser that is 2.28 metres (7.5 ft long) and 40 cm (16 inches) in diameter. Its empty weight is about 52 kilograms (115 pounds) and when loaded with leaflets it weighs about 100 kilograms (225 pounds).

This leaflet bomb is apparently left over from the Vietnam War.

Leaflet propaganda is still being used, with one of the more recent examples being in Syria (population 18.5 million people) where the military hoped to deter possible ISIS recruits from joining in 2015.

Iraq was another conflict were PSYOPS (Psychological Operations) leaflets were used. About 19 million were dropped in Iraq prior to ground combat. 31 million were dropped during the fighting. Also, the U.S. bombarded Iraqis with e-mails and cell phone calls.

We probably get upwards of 5 phone calls a day from Telemarketers based in the United States. (Canada’s National Do Not Call List is very effective, and we are thankful for that!) Can you imagine what it would be like to be bombarded with leaflets, emails AND phone calls?!

This week I looked for Quotations about Numbers and found:

Managers and supervisors with large numbers of people under them – each with his own ideas – must sometimes feel like Charles DeGaulle, who once lamented, “Nobody can simply bring together a country that has 265 kinds of cheese.
– Author Unknown –

My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to 99 cents a can. That’s almost $7.00 in dog money.
– Joe Weinstein –

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Numbers

Post 544

Calf Creek Overlook – Highway 12, Utah

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Utah Highway

Calf Creek Overlook on  Scenic Byway 12, south of Boulder, Utah.

Unique panorama photos of this area are at Don Bain’s Panoramas.

In 2002, State Route 12 was designated an “All-American Road.” Spanning 122 miles, and connecting Capitol Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, it took almost 40 years (from the ’40s to the ’80s) to complete construction. The scenic byway crosses some of the most magnificent scenery on the Colorado Plateau: red-rock desert, mesas, buttes, cliffs, and even lush mountain forests.
– Matador Network –

Utah has the largest open-pit mine in the world. Visible from outer space, the Kennecott Copper Mine is nearly a mile deep and 2.5 miles wide. The mind is still in production and it takes trucks more than two hours to drive from the bottom to the top.
– National Geographic –

In the Fishlake National Forest in Utah, a giant has lived quietly for the past 80,000 years. The Trembling Giant, or Pando, is a enormous grove of quaking aspens that takes the “forest as a single organism” metaphor and literalizes it: the grove really is a single organism. Each of the approximately 47,000 or so trees in the grove is genetically identical and all the trees share a single root system.
– Atlas Obscura –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Landscape.

Post 537

Trios, Triplet, Thirds – Photos of Three Things

Egret, great blue heron, black crowned night heron

Trio, triple, thirds say three.
As do triad, ternion and  trilogy,
Triptych, trine and trichotomy,
Triangle, treble and trinity.
– Margy –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Trio.  I had no problem finding photos to fit, as I often compose a shot to include three elements.

The idea of the number ‘3’ is also an important part of a photograph’s composition. The Rule of Thirds is perhaps not instinctive, nor obvious, yet it can make a dramatic difference in a photograph. Of course, rules are often broken. I was thinking Rule of Thirds when I cropped the following photos, but wasn’t that successful!

deep pink flower

Cactus blooms  – Arizona

Egret, great blue heron, black crowned night heron

Egret, Great Blue Heron and Black Crowned Night Heron – Sun Lakes Arizona

Cactus Arizona

Golden Barrel Cactus – Arizona

Alberta

Tall Grasses – my yard, Alberta, Canada

Carefree Arizona

Three word street sign – Carefree Arizona

brick building three arches

Building with Three arches – Jerome, Arizona

tree Alberta

Three spruce cones – my yard, Alberta, Canada

Before I was married I had three theories about raising children. Now I have three children and no theories.
– John Wilmot –

I suffer from entertaining anxiety… a fear that I can’t juggle the timing of three things alchemically transforming themselves in dangerously hot places.
– Dominique Browning –

People can be divided into three groups – those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.
– John W. Newbern –

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
– Will Rogers –

The development of a new product is a three step process – first, an American firm announces an invention; second, the Russians claim they made the same discovery twently years ago; third, the Japanese start exporting it.
– Unknown –

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.
– Charles Schultz –

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.
– Mark Twain –

Three phrases that sum up Christmas are: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, and Batteries not Included.
– Unknown –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is: Trio.
Did you take part in this Photo Challenge?
Can you add any ‘three’ words to my poem at the top of the page?

Post 521

Man vs Nature – Ornate Designs

inside church

It is a WordPress Photo Challenge and the topic is Ornate. Man has challenged Mother Nature.

purple

Mother Nature presented this work by Jack Frost who embellished this Campanula flower with spikes of white crystals.

metal scrollwork on wood

Man replied with this intricate metal scroll work on carved wood at Residenz Wurzburg in Germany.

tree branch

Mother Nature fired back with the work of Sylvia Spider who embellished some dead spruce needles with a fine web thread. Jack Frost then highlighted each element with a sparkling series of frozen droplets.

inside church

Man said “Go big or go home” and presented the lavish decoration of the inside of Zwiefalten Abbey in Germany.

macro

Mother Nature confidently turned once more to Jack Frost and said, “Show them a close-up look at frost crystals.”

Who will win this Photo Challenge? The choice is up to you!

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is: Ornate.

Post 519

The Border between Hence and Thence – Fence and Border Photos

Boundary, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of another.
– Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary –

zig zag white linesArizona – Reflection of a fence – the boundary between wet and dry.

One time there was a picket fence
with space to gaze from hence to thence.
– Christian Morgenstern –

tree overlookRestraining fence at the Grand Canyon – when common sense isn’t enough…

Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.
– Robert Frost –

reflection trees goldenArizona Sunset – the border between day and night.

I like that time is marked by each sunrise and sunset whether or not you actually see it.
– Catherine Opie –

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge – Boundaries

Post 515

From Chaos to Order – Photos of Grids

Grid refers to a framework of spaced lines that are parallel and may also cross one another to form a series of boxes, normally squares or rectangles. It can also refer to a network for distributing power.

Grids have the power to be visible, as seen in these photos. But they can also be less obvious, to downright invisible – like the layout of text and photos in a magazine or the composition of a photograph or piece of art. Grids are all around us – how many can you see from where you are sitting?

To see these Grid Photos at their best, click on one of the photos to open a slideshow. To close the slideshow, press your ES-Ca-pay button (or the tiny ‘X’ on the top left of the screen).

When the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the medieval city in 1666, Christopher Wren was invited to design a new one. Within days, he had drawn up an elegant grid of broad boulevards leading to majestic squares, but it came to nothing – the existing landowners wanted things as they had been.
– Norman Foster –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is: Grid

Here is an informative History of Grids by Lucienne Roberts.

Post 512

The Grand Canyon – Half and Half Vistas

Many of my photos of the Grand Canyon attempt to show the immense size and depth of this geological wonder.  The photos below, however, capture the half and half balance between rock and sky, or rock and trees. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about this aspect of composition when I took the photos. The WordPress Half and Half photo challenge made me go looking for photos, and this is what I found:

place tower clouds Grand CanyonDesert View Watchtower on the south rim of the Grand Canyon – this really is a half and half photo, isn’t it! Did you know that a woman, architect Mary Colter, designed this building? It was completed in 1932.

place tower clouds Grand CanyonDesert View Watchtower – really more of a thirds photo with sky, rock and trees.

place trees Grand CanyonSouth rim of the Grand Canyon – the foreground is one half, and the background is the other.

place trees Grand CanyonSouth rim of the Grand Canyon – a diagonal half and half split.

When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband but only half the income.
– Chi Chi Rodriguez –

When you hear the expression half and half, what do you think of?
For more photos that interpret this WordPress Photo Challenge, see Half and Half

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