Saturday, January 19, 2019

San Carlos, AZ (1/15 thru 1/18/2019)

With a forecast of several days of nice weather, I brought the motor home out of storage on Monday, thinking I would leave on Thursday.  Then the forecast began to change.  First it was snow showers on Thursday, then it was snow on both Wednesday and Thursday.  I packed up and left early Tuesday afternoon, getting out before the system arrived.  My planned route over the mountains had to be abandoned, since that road was closed for a while due to potential avalanches being blasted.  Instead, I took a longer route through Moab, UT, which created a few photo ops of snow on red rock formations along the way.

On the second travel day, I passed through the scenic Salt River Canyon.  This area was covered thoroughly in a travelogue a couple years back, but I want to post one from this trip.  Driving through this canyon is almost like driving through Grand Canyon, only not as deep.  Here the descent to the river is only about 2000 feet before starting the climb out.
Unable to find a suitable site in Apache Junction as planned, I settled into the Apache Gold Casino, run by the San Carlos Apache Reservation.  Nothing scenic about this place, just a concrete parking lot with hook-ups.  Still, it has all I need and it is convenient to several towns for shopping.

The San Carlos Apache Reservation was created in 1872 when the U.S. Army rounded up several bands of Apaches, some of which were actually enemies.  The reservation has a history of poor treatment by the Federal government, and possibly its tribal leaders,  and today is one of the poorest reservations in the country, despite its casino business.  About half its people are under the poverty line, and unemployment is extremely high.  Drug and alcohol abuse are major problems, along with mental health concerns.  Despite all this, the Apaches I've encountered are friendly and personable.

Driving around the reservation, I noticed several Christian churches, such as St. Charles Catholic.  I met the Catholic missionary here a couple years ago, so I presume he is still active.  I also met a Mormon missionary couple at the same time.  I commend these people willing to live here in an effort to help.
St. Charles Church
Reservation Cemetery
The reservation also has the second largest lake in Arizona, formed by Coolidge Dam which was completed in 1928.  I read that it stays low due to irrigating some 100,000 acres of farmland.  (In my drive around the area, I did not see any farmland.) 

Coolidge Dam is an unusual design, one that I've never seen before.  Instead of a continuous wall, it has three very large domes connected by short walls.  I'm sure the domes better distribute the pressure of the water.
 There are spillways to release water when the lake overflows, but I don't know if they have ever been used.

In 1993, there was  above average snow and rain, filling the lake and prompting fears of dam collapse.  All the regular outlets were opened before the lake could actually overflow, causing some flooding downstream.  Right now, only one outlet is open keep the Gila River flowing.

There is a maintenance road down by the river, but a gate blocks the access road.  While looking down the dam, I spotted a stairway that might be used to reach the bottom, but I wasn't ready to try it.
The area around the dam is lush with desert vegetation, including cholla, saguaro, creosote plants, prickly pear cactus, agave, yucca and palo verde trees.

On the way back to town, I encountered a small band of wild horses, about ten in total.  They were in an area of dead trees, but I noticed there was good grass for them to graze on.

The mountains in this region aren't big by Colorado standards, but they are rugged and quite attractive to me.

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