Yet, up until the twentieth Century, the only mountains that really mattered in what was to become Phoenix were the Estrellas. For thousands of years, they have stood as a barrier, or rather, something to go around or avoid. They are not friendly, nor are they small. From south to north they run 22 plus miles of hard, dry rock, isolated from the Sonoran plains below. Even in the 21st Century, access to the Estrellas is difficult and visitors are few.
From space, the Estrellas are the most visible object in all of the Phoenix area. In fact, all other mountains are absolutely unrecognizable, just formless blurs lost in the plains and mountains of Arizona. Likewise, the cartography of the region is fascinating. Map makers had a very dificult time understanding the basic geography of the region.
The Indians called them Komatke, a name lost in time (well, maybe not: Haze? Sharp?). To Father Kino, over 300 years ago, they were San Jose de Cumar. They were the only mountains specifically mentioned in the Valley of the Sun. A few decades later, Garces and Manje come through and describe the bighorn sheet and monsters inhabiting the area. After becoming part of the US, A.B. Grey explores the region and records the use of the term 'Estrellas' for the first time, doubtless based on the name already in common use at the stageline station on the plain below, and passed to person to person by the tens of thousands of 49ers on their way to the California. As the pioneers gathered around the campfires at Maricopa Wells, they were told the next leg of the journey would be the worst of the trip - if they took the shorter road south of the Estrellas, instead of following the Gila River north around the bend and back south. This trip, known as the "Jornada de las Estrellas", was to be made, as the Spanish name implies, "under the stars" to avoid the heat of the 40 mile desert. As they camped in the plains below the Estrellas among the Pima and Maricopa villages, they heard terrible stories of Aztec kings and warriors, of bloody battles among the tribes, of monsters lurking in the night, of lost mines and buried treasures, and of course, of men, women and animals suffering and dying on the cruel trail they were about to traverse. The harsh geography and ancient legends are the essence of the Estrellas.
Here are some of the pages on this site:
Now the Estrellas are endangered. Urban growth is lapping at the foothills of the Estrellas on the north end, and plants and animals are being severely affected by what we term as 'civilization'. The purpose of this site is to tell the story of the Estrellas and maybe, just maybe, to help preserve a part of Arizona -- and its habitat and treasures -- that is fast disappearing.
And last, but not least....
All Topics and Updates page
Please go to the "topics" page for a complete listing of most pages on this site.
There you will find a bunch of stuff about the Estrellas, Old Maricopa and the historic aspects of Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun. I have also added a "Blog" Editorial/Opinion page of relevant observations, personal views and also some totally worthless trivia.