NORTH RANCH in Congress, Arizona is an Escapee Park. You don’t have to be an Escapee Member to stay here but your rate is somewhat higher. Reservations for Escapee’s can now be made online. We’ve been here numerous times and we like this area. Congress is located on the junction between SR 71 and SR 89. Once a gold-mining ghost town, Congress now serves as a retirement and bedroom community for nearby Wickenburg. The population is around 1800 people. There are many places to explore; old mines, jeep roads, historic cemeteries and nearby towns. The small town of Yarnell is located about 10 miles up highway 89. We took a drive up here one morning to have breakfast at the Cornerstone Bakery, a favorite among locals and visitors. It was a Wednesday and unfortunately it was closed that day. Most people probably remember that the Yarnell community suffered a great loss in 2013 when a Wildfire swept through the town taking over 99 homes, other buildings, and personal property. The most tragic part of this wildfire was the loss of 19 firefighters. The fire was ignited by lightening on June 28, 2013 and on June 30th the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed fighting this fire.
Today as you drive through this mountain community you can’t help but go away with a heavy heart. Foundations standing alone throughout the neighborhoods are the only hint of someone’s home, that was lost in that fire. The personal memories, family historical mementos, historical sights, photos and just everything they cherished were gone. Purple ribbons, and banners with the number 19 are scattered around the area in memory of these men who bravely went out to fight this fire. Below is a video I found that reported about the tragedy. Warning, this is a Very emotional video.. http://vimeo.com/82920041
We returned to Yarnell a few days later to have breakfast with our friends Ron and Elena. They recommended The Ranch House. This restaurant served up a meal that I would call a Miner’s breakfast. It was huge and delicious. The staff is very friendly and go out of their way to make you feel welcome. I highly recommend this spot.
We arrived at North Ranch just in time to enjoy some of the activities at the 66th Annual Gold Rush Days Festival in Wickenburg. The first day we went to the Art Show, the Classic Car Show and toured the carnival area. Saturday was the parade with all your typical participants including about 1000 horses.
At The Car Show
AT THE PARADE
Weather was great and we had a chance to catch up with our RV friends Ron and Elena. The four of us always have a good time together. Mark and Elena exchange recipes and cooking tips while Ron and I talk about software, and Mac computers. A trip to Congress would not be complete without a meal at Nichols West. Ron and Elena treated us to lunch and as usual it was great.
One of our adventures, during our stay, was “A Hunt for Crested Saguaros”. Ron had information and general coordinates of the location of a few of these rare cactus creatures. If you are not familiar with the term Crested Saguaro follow along and you will see what we found. First of all, how or why a Saguaro grows in this manner is subject to controversy and different opinions. What I learned was, one of the terms used for this abnormality of the Saguaro cactus is called Faciation (pronounced “fash-ee-ey-shun). It is a rare condition of abnormal growth. In the case of the Saguaro, the growing tip or arms never develop. They seem to evolve like ribbons of the spiny plant flesh creating a cauliflower look at the top of the plant often times looking a bit silver in color at the top. I had only photographed one of these saguaros in my travels just outside of Tucson. I have seen a few from the window of the motorhome as we drove along but honestly they are very rare. Since we did find several within about 1/4 mile, it made me question if there was something in the soil that might have caused it. Some reports say any occurrence of “fasciation” has several possible causes, including hormonal, genetic, bacterial, fungal, viral and environmental. So maybe this area we found had some viral or fungal situations many years ago. Since Saguaros grow so slowly and the size of the ones we discovered tells me they may have been in this area for possibly 70 years or more. Below are some of the photographs of the ones we found.
First we had to maneuver as close to the first GPS location as we could by car and then we were on our own to go cross-country on foot.
The terrain was very rugged. Here is Mark dwarfed by these cactus giants. Some of the rocks were taller than we were as well. A hike to remember and well worth the effort.
We scrambled over rocks and through brush any way we could to get near enough to get a photograph of each of our Crested Saguaro treasure. There was one thing on my mind besides Crested Saguaros and that was “Rattlesnakes” . Lucky for us, we only spotted the Saguaros!
One more “FOODIE” recommendation here…. A place on Hwy 89 at the bottom of the Yarnell Hill is called “Arrowhead Bar and Grill. We ended up here when the bakery was closed. We can only say that their Hamburgers, The Western Burger and the Green Chili Burger were Excellent. Their french fries were cut fresh, the Cold Slaw was Amazing…mixed fresh on each order and the staff was Great.
Oh yes and how could we forget mentioning “FROG ROCK” which is on the highway that connects Congress and Prescott, Arizona.
Well it’s about time to leave Congress and head to the Mesa/Tempe area. It’s almost Spring Training for the Cactus League and since we are Giants Fans… we enjoy soaking up the sun and rooting for our team in a very small venue compared to the AT&T Stadium in San Francisco. The players are accessible, we sit close to the game and the sun is shining with temperatures in the upper 70’s. Life is Good. I’ll write more from there.