Archive for December, 2008

Sunday, December 21 – Maricopa, AZ

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Mostly today we spent talking to family scattered far and wide, consoling them and trying to strengthen them in their trying times. It was a somber day for us today.

Saturday, December 20 – Maricopa, AZ

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Ha! The replacement convertor and laser printer have arrived so we can begin returning the trailer to functionality.

Here’s a big shout out for Dell computers. They were great to us.

We three hikers make quick work of the twelve miles following highway AZ-347 from Pima Butte down to Maricopa, then west on AZ-238 to where we near the trail parallel to our current camp location.

Pima Butte is an interesting area. Besides being a navigation point, the Maricopa Wells were close by providing a reliable source of “fresh” water – though somewhat alkali – for travelers. The Battalion dug here to obtain water. It was a major station on the Butterfield route. In the late 1800’s the last battle between American native Indian tribes took place here. It seems a young chief of the Yuma’s felt he needed to show his power, so he incited his people against the Akamel O’odohom and Pee Posh (formerly known as the Pima and Maricopa tribes respectively) confederation.

History has it that the Yuma warriors were handed a pretty sound defeat and their young chief didn’t return home. One sad side to the story is that the local tribal members asked their Anglos acquaintances to help them against the Yuma’s but the whites wouldn’t lift a finger. Subsequently, the relations between the two groups were much cooler.

In the afternoon, I got word that my mother and aunt were involved in an accident. Both were banged up some but not very badly. Mom is hospitalized for observation and my aunt is headed home. Worries. Sometimes it’s better to be ignorant. There are other challenges our family is facing at this time but we won’t burden you with our challenges. You have your own, I’m sure.

In the afternoon, we get to spend a few hours with Rose Ann Tompkins, a local trail researcher who is also a member of OCTA – the Oregon California Trails Association. Rose Ann is very kind to review our trail work and to share hers as well. She helps us clarify some sections that were problematical for us – especially the lower Rio Grande valley. Her group has evidence that General Kearny and the Battalion ranged up to a few miles west of the Rio Grande as they passed the Narrows which is north of the town of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. We certainly didn’t find trail near the river itself.

Rose Ann also encourages us for the upcoming hike into the Gila Valley. It’s an area we haven’t seen in either high resolution or in the flesh, so understandably, I’m somewhat concerned that we may not have the “best laid plans.” She reassures us that our intended route is pretty close and that we won’t have “any difficulty” finding and following the trail. I’m not so confident but take her at her word.

Normally I would NEVER do anything like this – go off into what is to me an unknown wilderness area without knowing EXACTLY where I’m going, how far, what the trail conditions are expected to be. Scouts, don’t be foolish and do something like this.

In this case, I consider it part of our “research” to determine how difficult it is to find trail, to follow it, to hike it. The pilots had to find trails for the Battalion where trails didn’t already exist. There had to be markers used for those following. How would someone find a trail that had already been used but only just a little? So many questions I still have.

By evening, we finish installing the new convertor, power up the system and get our lights and fridge back on. We get to plug in all the stuff we need to use and go out for a celebratory Chinese dinner – we wanted to get some good fortune cookie statements. Then we stop by the LDS Mesa Temple to check out their Christmas displays about the Nativity.

And finally, at the end of the day, the Suburban doors are repaired. Thanks Richard – very much.

Friday, December 19 – Maricopa, AZ

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Peter and I start hiking just about where I calculate the Battalion found some small water holes east of Signal Peak. There’s a small drainage channel through the area and under the right conditions, small water holes would fill with highly salty water. In fact, our recent rains have made a number of puddles appear in the desert. It’s flat here – very flat. The agricultural use of the land is widespread and we see cotton, old melons and other crops being grown in the area.

The photos of the drainage area we take were from a public road. We have promised to not trespass on tribal lands and we respect the tribal leaders’ wishes.

Hiking today brings us even with Sacaton, Arizona by using federal, state and county roads. All told, we won’t be able to hike about forty miles of original trail and will miss about 20 miles of makeup distance.

We cross the Battalion’s trail just about where they reconnected with General Kearny’s trail on the south side of the Gila River. Erosion has turned the Battalion route into a wash, but it’s linear and cuts across the natural drainage patterns so the route is discernible.

Again, I’m sad to short you on details, but we’re in repair mode for a few more days.

Thursday, December 18 – Sacaton Peak, AZ

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

All things are better when viewed in the light of day.

Denny and Peter do the hiking today. I’m delegated to getting repair parts ordered and “finalizing”” campsite plans for the remainder of the way to California.

Peter is fresh, so hiking proceeds quickly and they end the day at the border of the Akimel O’odham tribal lands southeast of Sacaton.

In the evening, we head into Mesa for repair pieces/parts, catch some dinner and head back to work on trailer repairs. Sorry for the lack of detail. We hope you understand. Check back for more details in “the Book” that everyone tells me I “have to write.”

Wednesday, December 17, Picacho Peak, AZ

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

As we progress further from Tucson, the housing developments have given way to agriculture and we see harvested fields to the north. Across the interstate and to the south is Marana Airfield where dozens of full sized jet aircraft – passenger aircraft – are mothballed, shrink wrapped and awaiting a buyer, a leaser or demolition. The dry desert air keeps them preserved so it’s a staging area of airplanes that “could” go back to work but probably won’t. What a waste. Wish I had enough money to be able to buy and run one of them – a young man’s fantasy that probably won’t be fulfilled.

Mid-morning, Peter Guilbert from California rejoins us. Peter is descended from Moses and Edward Wade, father and son who served in the original Battalion. Virginia, Peter’s wife, noticed how excited he was after his Las Vegas to Albuquerque stint with us during October and said, “Why don’t you just finish out the trail from Tucson to San Diego?” Peter didn’t have to have that suggestion made twice. So, it’s at least a threesome again all the way to San Diego.

We pass Picacho Peak just before noon with the old trail off to our right as we head west. When we get to State owned property, we head northward to check out the areas we think may hold original trail remnants. There’s glimpses of it, but the erosion in this area has been really bad for the trails.

Picacho means “peak”, so the name “Picacho Peak” literally translates into “Peak Peak” which is redundant.

It’s a beautiful sunny day with a brisk but pleasantly warm wind. Not too warm and not too cool. Wonderful for this time of year and we really enjoy the day.

After completing our sixteen mile day, we gather up our vehicles and proceed to Maricopa and the home of the Figuroa family who will host our camp for the next week. Bless them; we get to park the trailer under a pole barn complete with electrical power, sewage dump and fresh water. Rain is predicted later in the week and to tell the truth, the trailer isn’t all that “tight” if you know what I mean.

After parking, we begin setting up. As the RV gets plugged into the power outlet, there’s a rather worrisome “zzznatt – pop” sound from the vicinity of the power converter inside the trailer. We open up the door and the smell of ozone/burning plastic is fairly strong. The 110 volt circuits are tripped and some of the wires are charred. Dang! Double Dang!!

After we try a few easy diagnostic things, make a few emergency phone calls, then conclude we won’t have power for the evening, so we cook up an easy meal using the propane stove, use an extension cord to power our necessary items and call for an electrician. After arriving and checking the outlet plug, he promptly informs us the outlet had been incorrectly wired for 220 instead of 120 volts. We fried the microwave, the laser printer and the power converter/charger (hardly Battalion equipment, I admit, but necessary for our work – well, except for the microwave – unless you consider fast popcorn a necessity, which we do).

The great news is that our data backup hard drives were unaffected by the power surge. They contain our photos, research information and just about everything of importance to the Trek. Some of it is back-uped on DVD media, but large portions are single redundant – existing only on the laptops and the backup drives. To lose them - especially our old archives - would be very, very sad.

Denny takes the Suburban over to a repairman who will fix our doors and windows. Oh, I haven’t told you our “other situation” yet, have I?

Well, Jerry’s Suburban’s doors and windows have progressively gotten worse during the past couple months of severe off-road shaking. Only the driver’s controls would work the power windows and locks. Two of the interior door handles would not work – we had to open those doors from the outside.

Then, a couple weeks ago the driver’s interior door latch broke and we had to roll the window down in order for the driver to exit. Dangerous, I know, but we planned on fixing it all in the Phoenix area.

Finally, three days ago, the driver’s window mechanism broke – fortunately with the window in the up position, but now, we have to climb cross the center console to get out the front passenger’s door and then let everyone else out. All other avenues of escape are closed. It really is annoying, but comical dressed in pioneer clothes – Denny especially in her dress, apron and bonnet. You gotta laugh or you’d cry.

Anyway, Richard Mahiai is going to get the Suburban all fixed up while we’re in the area and we REALLY appreciate it Richard.

Tuesday, December 16, Marana, AZ

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Ahhh! The joys of year-end tax accounting! I KNOW the original Battalion wasn’t faced with these concerns. What with being gone from our businesses the last half of this year, the economic hurdles we’ve all been subject to this fall and having to make some decisions prior to December 31, Denny and I are still sitting in the trailer at noon. Still, it’s nice to have a fax unit, cell phones, computers hooked to wireless modems and package expediters at your beck and call.

The original Battalion members had to leave everything in the hands of others. Many of the men had less than two weeks to make their arrangements. Some had less than 24 hours. Brigham Young called some eighty brand new Bishops to take care of Battalion wives and families. Some were better at it than others. It was, after all, a new experience for all of them; the men, the families and those new Bishops most of whom were thrust into a leadership experience they hadn’t sought and I suppose in some cases, didn’t want. This line of thought leads me back to insights I’ve had into volunteer organization dynamics, competencies and commitment.

Anyway, I get going on public lands and follow the trail I spotted last night on the photos. This is another of those sections where the wind and rain have removed the topsoil, so the trail that remains is primarily anchored in place by bush and tree roots which hold the sand. Consequently, the trail is more like a series of mounds in a nearly straight line and having bush roots that help hold the sand.

As I hike along, there are in this narrow transportation, communication and commerce corridor, the following:

Old animal trails, native tribal trails, Cooke’s Wagon Road, the Emigrant Trail, the Butterfield Stage Coach trail, the early railroad routes, an early automotive road, a later automobile road, the current Interstate carrying both passenger and commerce, a modern railroad bed being expanded, railroad service roads, aircraft routes overhead, satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and high above us, geostationary satellites, old “smoke signal” fire sites, the earliest transcontinental telegraph route, telephone lines, microwave phone towers, cell phone towers, fiber optic cable lines, radio and television towers, natural gas pipelines and petroleum pipelines. It is a very crowded corridor between Picacho Peak and Newman Peak to the north.

Lest you think I’m being dramatic or stretching the importance of what is in this narrow corridor, remember that Colonel Cooke wrote to Commandant Comodurian at Tucson that he (Cooke) hoped that the wagon road the Battalion was building would be of great value to both the United States and to the Republic of Mexico – a wish that has come true.

It’s a very gray afternoon with spritzes of rain every so often. Picacho Peak’s north side acts as a windbreak and the lower pressure allows clouds to form against the mountain, giving the peak a mane of white hair streaming away in the breeze. We finish our miles at dark, get some groceries and head back to end our day. The trains gently (but loudly) rock us to sleep.

Monday, December 15 – Tangerine Road, AZ

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Picking the Juan de Anza trail up at Columbus Park where we finished the day hike on Saturday, we quickly pass the Cannon del Oro river bed. Here the Battalion procured their last “fresh” water (and we use that term loosely because of the salts) before starting for the Gila River some sixty-five miles away. The only water between here and the Gila were a few small puddles of standing water and it must have hardly been drinkable.

In the distance at about 20 miles, we can see the narrow pass to the right of Picacho Peak that leads into the Gila River Valley. We should arrive there tomorrow.

We make camp at an RV park that is literally beside the railroad tracks. Lots of traffic this evening while I do some quick and dirty trail tracing from the GLO maps I picked up in Tucson.

Lo and behold! About a quarter mile north of where I am presently sitting, the map shows that the old trail passes beside and just to the north of the interstate highway. When I check the location on the Google Earth photos, the trail is clearly visible. Tomorrow morning, I will get to hike more original trail. It’s going to be a great morning.

Isn’t technology wonderful? For the second time, we’ve unknowingly chosen a Trek campsite that is literally ON the old trail without knowing it. Kind of funny, don’t you think?

Sunday, December 14 – Tucson, AZ

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Jerry & Bob leave for Utah. Denny and I are alone on our own again for a few days until Peter Guilbert rejoins the Trek. It’s hard for Denny and her Dad to be separated again. Hopefully Jerry will return after New Years.

The LDS community in the Tucson region asked us to participate at an evening event commemorating the Battalion. The main speaker was Tim Burton who chaired the statue committee back in the 1970’s. Downtown Tucson is the site for a heroic statue recognizing the Hispanic community trading with two members of the original Battalion. See yesterday’s entry for more details.

My portion is only 20 minutes, so I concentrate on the thought that we can CHOOSE to fulfill prophecy – such as Brigham Young’s prophecy that the Battalion would be held in honorable rememberance. By doing things to keep alive their heritage, we CHOOSE to make Brother Brigham’s prophecy fulfilled. Often (at least for me), we don’t think about CHOOSING to help prophecy be fulfilled, so this idea has been intriguing to me during the Trek.

When we CHOOSE to obey the “Word of Wisdom” we can lay claim to its blessings and thereby fulfill the prophecy that we can “walk and not be weary, run and not faint.” When we CHOOSE to pay an honest and full tithing we can lay claim to the prophecy that the “windows of heaven” will be opened to us. When we CHOOSE to … well, you get the idea.

Since every blessing is tied to a law upon which the blessing is based, by CHOOSING to obey we fulfill the conditions attached to the blessing and can lay claim to that blessing. That’s a powerful concept to me.

A couple years ago, I was asked what the “Plan B” was should I not be able to complete the Trek. “What if you break your leg,” was how the question was put to me. “Who will finish the hike?”

My reply was that there was no Plan B. My confidence was and is strong that this event would not have been placed in my heart and head for any other reason than success – that it could be finished. I’m not wearing rose colored glasses; I know the risks involved. We have many contingency plans for injuries, accidents and the like. But as for completing the hike, my confidence is complete that we will see this event through, God willing. We will do our part. The original Battalion did theirs. Should we choose to do less?

Saturday, December 13 – Tucson, AZ

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

We start the day with a six-point-five mile hike along the Santa Cruz River. The trail head for our event is the riverfront linear trail park on the west side of the river bed.

As we hike alongside the river bed, we spot a coyote loping along. He stops, turns back to look at us, then trots further. He looks well fed being a city coyote. It’s an unexpected bonus to our day. Of course, we do spot our daily hawk – red tail variety today as most of our hawks are.

Because we’re involved in this long-trail hike, other “long distance” events have started catching our interest. Amongst our hikers this morning is nine year-old Kinessa. She and her dad recently participated in a long-distance bike ride. As I recall, it was a 110 mile ride that had to be completed in ten hours or less. Kinessa’s dad had to drop out about half-way through, but Kinessa completed the ride. You go girl!

Like the original Battalion, most of whom were under the age of 24, our youth today can and do accomplish many great things. Generally, all we have to do is ask them for their help. They are, for the most part, willing and able to do just about anything. They may need some guidance - not much - but their energy, enthusiasm and optimism is infectious. For me, I enjoy being around our young people.

We have an assortment of Scouts, Scout leaders, parents and siblings along as well. It’s a merry group, chatting and talking all along the trail today. Weather is pleasant and in all, it made for a nice morning. The six-point-five miles will count towards our Monday distance.

We hustle back to the Presidio Tucson compound where we will participate in a “luminary” event. The Christmas parade is this evening and we will get to be present in the Presidio compound during the evening’s candle-lit reception for the public. It’s a beautiful facility and the docents are well informed about their areas.

The Tucson living history group represents Colonial Spanish period. Their military group is practicing setting off their cannon. The commands are given in Spanish and the crowds always love a cannon going “Boom!”

When you get to Tucson, make sure to stop in at this city park which is supported by a separate foundation.

The website is at:

The city park webpage is at:

Friday, December 12 – Tucson, AZ

Friday, December 12th, 2008

We hike Bob Tingey into the city. It is almost all urban growth sprawls – sidewalks, signs, trash (why do people throw trash out?), noise and fumes. We’ve not been around this for awhile and it’s not pleasant.

Bob hikes a couple of short sections of “desert fauna” – creosote bushes and a few small cacti – nothing as pretty as we’ve been seeing the past few days. We make it almost to city center, then Bob hops into the truck with Jerry who is supporting us. They go ahead to the Presidio to check it out while Denny and I hike the remainder of the way in.

Back in the 90’s, a group of folks got busy and built a statue commemorating the Battalion’s arrival in Tucson. It’s in the park behind the pink county building and though we’ve heard much about it, Denny and I have not seen it before.

The sculptor has put a lot of detail into the work. Worn out moccasins, holes in the pant knees, shaggy beards. Three men are represented: Teodoro Ramirez, a local Mexican businessman and a community leader trading food for buttons with Jefferson Hunt of the Battalion and Christopher Layton holding the American flag.

Last Tuesday, I promised I would tell more about this story; of how the brave people of Tucson met the brave men of the Mormon Battalion.

One of the folks who have been helping us field the Trek is Margaret Jorgenson. Her Battalion ancestors are Phebe and Ebenezer Brown – the couple that Denny and I represent as we reenact. Margaret also has, on her maternal side, Hispanic and Pima ancestors – from Tucson circa 1846. In fact, some of the families were original settlers of Tucson back in the 1700’s.
Her Tucson ancestors have a different perspective on the Mormon Battalion’s approach in 1846.

Some Tucson soldiers were sent to investigate this “Americano” army. Were they hostile? Would they destroy the Presidio, their refuge from their enemies? Would terrible things happen to their wives and daughters? Would all their worldly goods be stolen? They reported back that the approaching men did not resemble an army at all – except that they had guns and had demanded the Presidio surrender.

When one thinks about the usual results of an invading force, the prospects for the Tucson compound and people were fairly bleak. They did not know Colonel Cooke’s heart or his intentions, nor should they have trusted his statements. The community leaders decided to send all the women and children away for their safety. Since a battle would have destroyed the compound, the soldiers were sent away as well.

A few community leaders remained behind to trade and to seek to have the Presidio spared. These men had great courage to remain as the Battalion approached with guns loaded and bayonets fixed. It was for their families, their homes, their religion and their liberties that prompted them to face possible death. It was a faith that they were doing the right thing – the best thing they could for their families.

For permission to share this story, I thank Margaret and her family. They have done much to promote better relations in Tucson among its people. Such is to be commended and we can learn much from it.