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Picacho Pass

Sometimes you just need to step out of your normal routine and go on an adventure. I’ve lived here in Arizona’s low desert since 1982. In that time, I’ve seen it register 126 degrees + during the summertime. Thus, we don’t venture out much in the heat. However, when it begins to cool off into the low 90’s my husband and I often take a road trip. I usually plan the trip and navigate while he drives. Of course, along the way, I’m reading all the interesting facts I’ve discovered and might want to use in writing my next novel.

After plotting novel #5 (Book 1 of my Civil War Series) last fall, we headed toward Tucson. Our goal was to discover exactly what had happened during the skirmishes between soldiers of the Confederate States who had expanded their operation into the Southwest and taken over Tucson in the Summer of 1861 and Union soldiers with a mission of maintaining the status quo.

By now I’m sure you are probably wondering if I’ve been standing in the sun too long. But honestly, check it out. My original source regarding the skirmishes between Union and Confederate soldiers in the Arizona Territory came from a book written by Mark Hughes, entitled: The New Civil War Handbook (Facts and Photos for Readers of all ages), published by Savas Beatie LLC, El Dorado Hills, CA. 2009, 2013. I purchased the book in 2016 at the Gettysburg Book Store after touring the battle site. On page 108-109 there is a table that is entitled: Number of Engagements Fought in Each State and Territory During the Civil War. Second entry down is Arizona Territory and it lists 4 clashes. One in each of the succeeding years of 1862, 1863, 1864 & 1865.

By this time, I had lived in the state nearly 35 years. I had taken an Arizona History class one weekend at the local community college. Never once had I heard or read anything about Civil War clashes being fought here.

I got to wondering how many other people had never heard or read about the facts I had discovered. Thus, the idea for our road trip began to germinate. And of course, our first destination had to be the area surrounding Picacho Peak where the first skirmish took place.

You can’t miss seeing the mountain jutting up out of the flat landscape while driving the interstate south to Tucson. Follow the signs and go into the Ranger Station. They answer any and all questions, they certainly did mine. Take the time to walk the memorial path and read about the engagement. I found it fascinating and took lots of photos. There is also a re-enactment of the engagement in March of every year. We had planned on going in March 2020, but with the closure of venues, parks, etc. because of Covid 19, we had to cancel our plans and add it to the bucket list.

For our next stop, we turned back north and traveled toward Phoenix with the goal of Apache Junction in our sights. There, we toured the old west town of Goldfield. We rode the train, went into a mine, a brothel, a saloon (but the church was closed). Took lots of photos and had a great lunch. Then we headed west toward Yuma the next morning.

The last half of book 1 is set in the Yuma, Arizona area. And while Fort Yuma was closed to tourist (the last California earthquake damaged the old buildings and they are in a state of disrepair), by standing in the Yuma Territorial Prison yard and looking across the marshes and the Colorado River flowing past the old fort sitting atop the bluff, helped me visualize what it must’ve been like to live at the fort in the early 1860’s. And what the river crossing must’ve been like for the settlers heading west into California.

I find that whenever I get the opportunity to discover American or World History, that’s when my imagination takes flight.

Now I challenge you to get out, discover something new about the state or country you live in. Then drop me a note and let me know about your experiences.

Until next time, stay safe—L.J.

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