On our round-robin day trip, our last stop, just as the sun was getting ready to set, brought us to the Shrine of Saint Joseph of the Mountains. This Catholic shrine features wooden crosses and statues made of wood and concrete. Today, the shrine is part of a larger retreat and conference center. You can read more about the shrine and conference center at their website here. A folk artist from Tucson, Felix Lucero, created the site in 1939. In the photo above, a statue of St. Joseph is the first stop for the Catholic faithful who want to walk the path of the Stations of the Cross as they wind their way up the mountainside.
As visitors climb the switchbacks, each station is represented by a wooden cross with a small plaque that helps the faithful with meditation and prayer at each stop. Coincidently, just prior to our arrival, a family started up the path ahead of us. Their presence made the site much more emotional to our party of casual visitors. At each stop, one of the members of the family read out loud the words written on the plaque. We could tell this was an emotional journey for them from the tone of their voices so we hung back not wanting to disturb their visit. At one point, one of the family members motioned for us to pass them if we were so inclined. We declined to move ahead and stayed at least one to two stations behind them.
As we stopped at each station, we noticed fresh ashes in the form of a cross lying at the base of each station. It became obvious to us that they were depositing the ashes of a loved one at each station. In deference to their privacy, obviously I took no photographs of them or of the artifacts of their presence. As we climbed higher up the mountainside, the views of the valley below became more spectacular. The gallery of images at the end of this post features some of the views from the mountain.
The last station at the top features a sculpted crucifix. We arrived at the top just after sunset. On the way down, other sculptures, all life-size make the journey down as moving as the journey to the top. In 2013, a major wildfire burned around 8,400 acres (3,400 ha). The Yarnell Hill Fire started by lightning strikes on June 28. On June 30, 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots from the city of nearby Prescott were killed when the fire overran their position. The fire destroyed 129 structures in the area and impacted the shrine by destroying the gift shop, three work and storage buildings and the crucifix at the top. Many stations and guard rails were damaged as well as three more buildings lost at the retreat center.
The shrine is a 501 (C) (3) non-profit and they can use donations to assist in the rebuilding. Not everything they lost could be insured, and there are also the costs of their insurance deductibles. If you are inclined to help them rebuild, stop at any Chase Bank and ask to deposit a donation to the account Shrine of St Joseph Restoration- Yarnell Hill Fire. Account # 983-92-1016.
The gallery of images below features a small collection of photographs taken on our visit. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.