Winter Solstice has past, Christmas has pasted, days grow longer.
I was visiting with the camp host here at Picketpost trail head, part of the Tonto National Forest. She is from New York (upstate). I said,”Its funny, winter seems as if it doesn’t even exist down here, the snow the cold whipping winds and freezing rain. I mean I find it funny that I don’t even think about the winter I might be missing in Montana. But I sure remember wishing and longing for a winter in the south.”
It feels like “vacation time” here in Arizona. Most people I meet are for the most part “snowbirds,” with a more relaxed, casual out look on life. The harshness of weather and stress of work has been removed. More time for leisure. Yesterday I spoke with a lovely retired couple, as cute as could be, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – spending 4 months in the Mesa, Az. area. They wore shorts, had backpacks on and were out hiking the Arizona Trail. But square dancing was their thing. If I am correct the fit looking older gentleman and his lithe wife of many, many years told me there were 100’s of square dances happening this winter in the Mesa/Apache Junction area. By the looks of it dancing was most certainly keeping this couple youthful with sparks in their eyes and a quickness in their steps.
A quick photo over view of the past couple of weeks as I continue my, “Travels with Rosie.”
I am an advocate for public lands, a self proclaimed spokeswoman for our National Forest Service and Parks and the people who work in the service of these government departments.
Recently Rosie and I discovered the Las Cienegas National Conservation and Historic Empire Ranch, 5 miles north of Sonoita, Arizona. An expansive landscape of desert grasslands, rolling hills dotted with mesquite trees, dry auroras lined with giant cottonwood trees, antelope, deer, raptors, land that gives you the feel of freedom. When we arrived a couple of weeks ago, I stepped out of Rosie’s truck and said, “ I feel like I’m on the African Savanna.” I have never been on the African Savanna but I have seen photos…this is what the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area felt like to me, exotic, breathtaking vistas, wind, sky and grass.
When I see the volumes of people striking out for a weekend camping expedition, when I read about the record breaking attendance Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Yosemite support each year and when I see the struggle between differing land use managements ie: motorized 4-wheeler, non motorized – horseback riders, hikers, bicyclist, hunters, the logging and mineral interest, all grabbing, all vying for a peace of open space, natural beauty, a place to “get away from it all… I think, “ We need more public lands.”
It is impressive what a group of strong minded determined people did in saving this ranch land and the ,ambience it embraces. www.empireranchfoundation.org. From the website……
The Empire Ranch Foundation (ERF) was established as a private non-profit organization in 1997 to work with the BLM to develop private support to preserve the ranch buildings and enhance the educational and recreational opportunities it offers to the general public. In the time since, ERF and BLM have completed significant emergency repairs to the main ranch house and to major outbuildings at the headquarters. Major long term permanent repairs to the Ranch House and Adobe Haybarn are being specified and undertaken as funding permits, while interpretation and education programs and a Discovery Trail and other visitor enhancements…
Between BLM and the Empire Ranch foundation the Las Cienegas has managed to blend a working ranch, 4-wheelers, hikers, horseback riders and hunters on to this 42,000 acre conservation area. It is clean, does not have roads everywhere and retains a sense of being alone with the land. Rosie felt it deserved a generous donation. In a time when our public lands are being threatened we must all pitch in and help and not rely so heavily on the government to save these national treasures.
My hat is off to the BLM and the Empire Ranch Foundation…and its a big hat!
Is a quaint, charming artist’s town. The streets are open and lovely and the people friendly. As Rosie, Bella and I strolled the town on a sunny afternoon I noticed this sign. I never did meet any of the women from the group but Rhonda the woman on the ladder said they were very influential in the community. One-hundred years ladies!!! goodness by the looks of your town you are doing something right.
It hardly seems like winter when the temperature is in the 70’s, nice. We are part of the winter migration called “snowbirds.” How remarkably easy travel becomes with a truck and trailer!
Recapping the past two weeks:
From Pie Town we dropped due south into the Gila National Forest. Jeanetta Sturgeon knew Annie George and Susan Dent (horse-gals) who own property just outside the forest boundary. Anne makes saddles, Susan’s a vet in Alaska. Annie provided us with water other wise it would have been impossible to have stayed where we did. We enjoyed one full week of lively conversation, sunshine, shared meals and trail rides with two new friends.
Rosie, her dog Bella and I toured the unique historical Silver City, joined the Gila Back-Country Horseman’s Christmas party at the Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House in Pin’os Altos (north of Silver City) and watched the Super Moon rise and brilliantly illuminate the sky.
As the weather turns cooler we head further south for Arizona looking for more canyons to explore, more sun and perhaps more new friends to warm us.
Pie Town, New Mexico and look at the PIES!. The Gathering Place is relatively new, it has been in business for two years.
The Pie Town Cafe and The Pie-O-neer Cafe were both closed today. I tied the horses outside on an old grey weathered wooden fence. Smiles greeted me from three women with white floured hands baking pies. I could not resist. “Blueberry please,” I said – after a breakfast burrito.
I sat next to a couple from Young, Az. They were off to look at petroglyphs near Socorro, NM.
It was like this in 2006 when I rode through. I think its the pies. Its like home and friendly and welcoming where people have time to sit down and have a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. No, Pie Town has not changed much, thank goodness!
P.S. The pie was spectacular like the vista’s of New Mexico
Our hostess Jeanetta Sturgeon took Rosie and I for a drive to Datil 20 miles east of Pie Town and we came across this sign. I have read “No Life For A Lady.” Jeanetta’s grandparents had historical ties to this area. These women in my humble opinion define courageous.
I am very interested to learn about your travels across the country on horseback. I first heard about your story from my from my grandfather, Art Penzien. We are from Michigan and he had read about your trip across the country when you passed through northern Michigan several years ago. (2014/15- 8000 mile ride)
Since that time he has asked anyone he has talked to if they know anything more about your journeys. My grandpa celebrated his 98th birthday this summer. You would not believe how many people he has shown the article of your trip through Michigan that he clipped out of the small northern Michigan newspaper.
I was wondering if there is any way I could get more information about your rides? Do you have a book that chronicles your trips? Are you going to be doing any speaking engagements in Michigan any time soon. I would love to give him this for a Christmas gift this year and would be more then happy to donate to your rides for a gift for him. Any information would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much, Jon Penzien
So I sent him my DVD, The Adventures of a Lady Long Rider – the first 10,000 miles.
And I received this: “ I’m sure my grandpa will enjoy that. (my DVD) I’m looking forward to your book coming out. Hopefully we can get my grandpa to one of the stops on your book tour. He has a lot of questions for you.
Jon Penzien Art Pensien is 98 years old this year
Art Penzien was born to a farming family in Macomb Township, MI in 1919. He is a retired meter reader for Consumers Power in Michigan. He was married to Irma Reis and they had three sons, Herb, Tom and Jerry. He still lives in Macomb, MI to this day. Even at the age of 98 he is still very active. The loves spending time with his family especially his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He still plays euchre every Friday with a group of friends. In 2015 a friend from Marquette, MI sent him a copy of the Marquette newspaper which contained a story of Lady Long Rider passing through the upper peninsula of Michigan, and he has been very interested in her travels ever since.
THEN I received this photo! I asked him if he would mind sharing HIS story on my website and Facebook page. I knew you’d all enjoy it.Perhaps I’ll do a book signing in his Michigan town and personally hand deliver a book, “In My Own Skin – Becoming a Lady Long Rider – coming out this spring.
When I rode through Pie Town in 2006 from the west 2500 miles or so into a 5000 mile ride, a snow storm came raging in from the east stopping me dead in my tracks. While snow piled up in Pie Town I stayed warm in a tar-paper shack, with a million dollar view. I stayed 7 days. The tar paper shack is now gone, new business have opened, many shacks have disappeared. I won’t tell you much more about the ride in 2006 because my week in Pie Town became a chapter in my book, you’ll be able to read about it.
The town has not changed that much. It’s a town about PIES now that’s a good thing, lots of pies. Its just off the Continental Divide Trail and hosts hikers working their way up and down the roughed trail. Travelers racing by on Hwy 60 slow down when they see “Pies Ahead.”
Days are warm and sunny but last night the temperature dropped to 12 degrees, Rosie says with a smile, “We’re going further south.”
Knowing where you are going and how best to get there is a good thing.
Today I received new maps for New Mexico and California, I already had a Benchmark Arizona Map book for this ride. Now you must understand these are not just any old map books. The Benchmark State by State Road and Recreation Atlas minutely details each state with back roads, forest service roads, 4-wheeler roads, trails, even power-line roads and much, much more.
The pages have light color back grounds that makes for easy reading. I look at my maps morning noon and night, over meals, on the back of my horse, over a cup of coffee. When stepping up to a stranger asking for direction my Benchmark Map book is in my hand.
Without my Benchmark Map I feel lost. Each book has a large U.S. highway map then a regional map then recreational maps of the state followed by landscape maps full of information that keeps me awake nights looking, looking, looking, and usually discovering, “Ah there – that way will work, we can take this back road and connect up with that one.” Most of my rides are recorded on Benchmark Maps – complete with dates, campsites, people I stayed with and comments about weather and terrain.
Why no GPS? Many of you can understand when I say, “I want to feel the book and I can SEE where I will be going in relation to where I am.” Then I mark the route and plan, always planning another route. But also accepting the fact that it can be changed.
Each book contains information about the state, climate, attractions, notable towns, campgrounds and RV parks, Tribal Lands, National Parks and Monuments. I read and study each page with interest. These maps are as much a part of my rides as my Tucker Saddle.
IF you take a road trip, don’t leave without a Benchmark Road and Recreation Atlas. And when you return with stains from coffee and juice spills and tears from reading and rereading a page, with pen marks and phone #’s, you’ll look again at your trip, at your adventure refreshing those memories with ohhs and ahhs that no GPS can record.