…the trail rounds rocky corners and hiding hills and rises gently from the desert floor as the sun eases from below the far horizon and lights anew this sharp and prickly land…the glow and flare inside the lens is equaled among the red spines and golden stems of cacti and brush and grass alike…the morning fire quietly waking the harshly coated earth…sweet light fading soon with the ascent of day….
I’ve only been hiking about two dozen times since I moved back to Arizona almost two years ago, and all of the hikes have been on different trails…or on different sections of the same larger trail…with very little overlap of covering those sections, and on only one occasion, hiking the exact same trail. When I was hiking in Utah, I covered many of the trails several times, five or six times, and even more than ten times on another two trails…they were compelling locations with easy and quick access, short drives from the house, where minutes later I would find myself in the woods…alone, or with very little company.
You might remember from various earlier posts that I’ve hiked several segments of the Black Canyon Trail…and on some of those occasions, I went past the “formal” or designated section’s length and continued onward for another mile or two onto the next section….this is some of the “overlap” that I mentioned above.
When I found myself about 100 yards to the left of the location on the trail where I made this photograph, I had an overwhelming sense, a physical knowing, that I had been there before. It actually caused me to stop and turn in slow circles looking for something that was familiar…some landscape feature that was significant and placed somewhere in my memory. I found nothing…there was nothing that I recognized…and I can usually recall sections of most trails that I’ve hiked, both here and in Utah…the stuff just gets cataloged away, mental images…. Anyway, I “felt” that I had been here before…and I’ve never “felt” that way before when out hiking. Yes, certainly, I’ve visually recognized and absolutely “known” where I was out on hikes that I had made before…but this is the first time that I “felt” or physically “sensed” that I was somewhere where I had been previously…but didn’t visually recognize….so it was odd…strange…made me wonder about juju and voodoo and other related and unrelated things.
Maybe it was a physical memory as a trauma response to the last time that I was at this location…at the spot right there in this image. I had hiked north to this point…and then went off trail to go exploring in what looked like the chute or body of a rock-lined water-course and water fall…the point that you can see immediately to the right of the large light-colored rock that is just left of center in the image. I went off trail…something that I don’t do unless I leave a note saying that I’m going to do it…something that maybe I shouldn’t do, shouldn’t have done…something like that. But…I did…bush-whacked it right through the desert and climbed over the associated boulders and scree, balanced on shifting rocks with my full back-pack…and then there was a buzzing and flying creature screaming into and around my face, darting at my eyes, nearly clinging to my glasses with wings flashing and whining face-close and loud…my hands swatting at the winged-beast, trying not to knock the glasses off my face…and finally, the bastard landed next to the outer corner of my right eye and JABBED its stinger into my face flesh and then its poison or toxin lightning-darted and ran and flew through the nerves and up into my scalp, Real Lightning Darts, not any of that fake shit you see on TV or read about in pulp magazines…but the real stuff, right through the muscles and upward…screaming WOW WOW WOW!!!!!
So…after I steadied myself, assessed the minimal damage to my confidence that I was really somewhere that I should have been…realized that my eye wasn’t going to blow-up…realized that I could still see…with just a little bit of blur…I sat on a rock, had a bit of water, and then continued my explorations….cautiously…listening….watching. There were no hissing and rattling snakes or attacking Gila Monsters…no circling round of buzzards aloft overhead…and no banjo-playing hill-billies…..just a dried desert waterway that hadn’t been visited by any creatures that would have left tracks since the last rainfall. After looking around in the wash and making a few photographs, I climbed back up the hill to an area close to where I made this image, and then continued up the trail, still heading northward, the same direction I was going before stepping off the trail to go exploring and getting my face stung.
I think my spirit of adventure had been abated somewhat…and I didn’t actually continue very far up the trail. I had already gone more than a mile past what I had planned, so I did a 180 and then started back to the truck.
In my post-event analysis of this experience of “feeling” that I had been there before without actually recognizing it, I think that this must have been where I turned around…where my body decided for me that it was time to go home…that my still hyper-alert mind had probably cataloged the whole surroundings and then recognized them before my conscious mind did when I returned to the place while hiking south from a different trail-head….some seven months later.
So…that’s the photograph…that’s the place…that’s my little bit of desert deja vu.
I hope it was fun for you, too. :)
I have hiked into and among these hills several times over the past two years. They are just east of the neighborhood where I live in north Phoenix and are a distinctive landscape feature that is visible for many miles. It wasn’t until last week when I posted the images of the Golden Poppies that I learned what “Tramonto” actually means…I had figured that it was the name of a place in Italy…given that the street names of the development are all related to Italy in some manner or another. But, thanks to Emilio at Disperser Tracks, I now understand that the word means “sunset,” and it is quite fitting, as the hills are often lit with a beautiful, golden hue during the last hour of a given day.
It was a wet-enough Winter that the hills have come alive with the bright yellows and soft greens that are typical of early Spring in this part of the desert. In the above image, you can see multitudes of Brittlebush blossoms…a very common sight at this time of the year. Some people might say that it’s invasive, or maybe unnatural to exist as profusely as it does, but it brightens the roadside along the highways on this north end of town and makes it almost pleasurable to be out on those freeways…going…going….
I don’t know the names of the tiny white flowers above, or even the larger ones in the photo below, but they were tender treasures in the shaded slope of the hills that made me want to tarry long and forget about the rest of the ascent to the saddle and several minor summits that awaited me.
But those little summits and saddles were my goal on this particular morning…I wanted to view the surrounding area from these specific places, as I had never been there before and didn’t know when I would get there again…so onward and upward I went.
I had no delusions that I might escape the signs and trappings of civilization when I embarked on this hike…as I will admit that I do when venturing out on many other hiking excursions…I knew that I was essentially smack-dab in the middle of it, but I knew that the offered views would be wonderful. Looking a bit southwest in the above photo…and almost due west in the one below…the near ritual hot-air balloon rides were underway on this weekend morning….
…with the broad view above, where we can’t seem to escape the ubiquitous electrical poles and lines…with a bit of freeway thrown in for fun….
…and then the much closer view of examining Nature’s leavings on one of the few saddles along the way.
Looking south from the same saddle…the desert hills…a stately Saguaro…Orange Globe Mallow in the foreground, and a bit of Brittlebush again with its yellow flowers.
This one above is actually a photograph of the volcanic rocks…and the flowers kind of got in the way. It seems that the hills facing west are made of a type of crumbling granite and the hills just east and north of them are covered in various kinds of volcanic mess…some with the appearance of lava and others with the appearance of basalt…that provided a nice glass-like tinkling when they clanked into each other when moved under-foot.
Yet another view of a solitary balloon…looking southeast now…over the desert plain…with the metropolitan “fog” in the air….
Far and near….near and far….and many fascinations do we find…sweet flowers and wild grass pollen or seed….
Who knew we’d be able to see Lake Pleasant from up there…but ahoy, there it is….west…and beyond the basalt-ed cairn…. And yet another cairn when looking north over Anthem and the prominent Gavilan Peak….
…and looking east, now, at the opposite side of the first cairn above…with the metro-mist and a balloon, to boot….
You’ve already seen the Golden Poppies, but I encountered them on the way down from the various saddles and summits…down in the deeper shadows of the volcanic ridge-line, waiting for the sun-shower that would soon be theirs….
While the below image was taken earlier than some of the previous photographs, it seemed like a nice way to end the post…so there it is…looking south and east from the first saddle with the various desert hills cloaked in what looks like a carpet of green….
I made this first image within the same minute that I made the photo from the last post…at 7:45 on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago…but this one caught the sun just coming up over the ridge.
There wasn’t anything spectacular about the landscape on this hike, as it resembled much of the Black Canyon Trail (BCT) that I had already hiked…but this was yet another section to complete, the Antelope Creek segment. I had actually hiked the first mile of the trail on another occasion, but this was the first venture in covering the entire area. This is the portion of the BCT that is just south of the Drinking Snake segment that I covered in an earlier post.
After several hours of hiking south and southeast and then north and northwest on the return trip, I was back at the same spot where I made the first image, approaching it from another direction and with the fullness of the day’s sun shining on the land.
Thank you for joining me on another hike in the Arizona Sonora Desert…and stay tuned for more coverage of the Black Canyon Trail.
The sun had already risen, but the trail had meandered down into a fold of the land and I found myself again in a pre-sunrise situation. The foreground wasn’t actually this dark, but with the brightness of the sky above the horizon, the area closer to me was darkened and made for a nice silhouette image. That’s one of the trail-signs to the left of the juniper tree…a common and reassuring symbol that I was exactly where I was supposed to have been at 7:45 on a Sunday morning….
This isn’t my photograph, but I thought I would do something a little out of the ordinary and share a link that my son sent me…he was in the US Army and stationed at this post in Germany for two years preceding its closure in July, 2007. We can see that the lawns have still been cared for to a minimal degree, but it looks like everything else is returning to nature…rather, Nature is beginning the slow, but inevitable process of reclaiming what was Hers in the beginning.
Again, this is not my image, I simply copied it from the page and stuck it in here as an enticement for my blogging friends who enjoy making and admiring photographic images of abandoned structures. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click on the highlighted words above, or cut and paste this URL directly into your browser: http://www.thematrixer.com/urbanexpedition1.php so you can take a visit to the fading past, as presented in this fascinating piece of art.
Credit for the above image, and the rest of them presented on the linked page, goes to Industrial Heritage and Abandoned-Decayed Places Photography. If you click on this italicized and highlighted link, it will take you to what appears to be their home page.
I’ve shared several posts with images that I’ve made while hiking the Black Canyon Trail, here in the Arizona Sonora Desert, just north of Phoenix. If you’d like more information on the trail system itself, you can click on the highlighted name to be taken to the home-page. There are something like thirteen sections that cover approximately 78 miles of scenic desert trail leading from the Carefree Highway, just down the road from my house, all the way up to highway 69, just north of Mayer.
This post pertains to the area that I covered during my ninth hike on the Black Canyon Trail (BCT), the Drinking Snake segment, which, if you care to look at a map of roughly central Arizona, you will find six miles north and west of Interstate 17 and Bloody Basin Road (exit 259)…and for those further interested, or even mildly curious, I did not encounter either a drinking snake or a bloody basin….
I was still about three miles from the trailhead when I was compelled by the beautiful sky to stop and make some photographs. The above image is from 7:28 am., about 12 minutes before the one below, taken from the trailhead parking lot.
I can’t think of a reason to share a photo of my truck here on the blog, so just forget that it’s there. I always take a photo of the truck at the start and end of my hikes to mark the time…that’s all…and given where the sun is located in this particular image, I figured (when I made it) that the sun would wash-out the image, but it would still show the truck and mark the time. When I returned home and found that it was actually a rather nice image of the sun just peeking over the horizon, I had to do more with it than just leave it in the folder. Anyway….I was happy that my point-and-shoot captured an uncharacteristically clear and aesthetically pleasing image of the moment of sunrise at 7:40 am.
As you will notice as you scroll further into the post, and possibly remember or reflect on the desert images from earlier postings, the landscape I encountered on this hike was markedly different from what I found on other outings. The first example of that difference was in the juniper trees that appeared in clumps and in singular instances along the trail and out on the rolling hills and plains. The cairn above appeared to be a tabletop for some creature that thrives on the juniper berries. I found a handful of other locations along this first part of the trail that appeared to be similar feeding stations.
A reliable website that I frequent when researching various hikes, Arizona Hiking, indicates that the elevation of the Drinking Snake segment ranges between about 3,900 and 4,300 feet, which is a significant enough increase in elevation to effect the types and kinds of cactus and other desert/high-desert vegetation that can live there.
The weather report for the area said that it was going to be a partly to mostly cloudy day…but it was a bit different during the time I was out on the trail. There were beautiful clouds for sunrise and the next hour or two, but the earlier winds seemed to have removed them for mid-day and early afternoon.
I love to hike in the mornings…aside from there being many fewer people out hiking or riding their trail bikes, the rising sun plays wonderfully on the cactus spines and grasses that I normally find along the way.
The below photo is a bit darker than I would prefer, but it still gives you an idea of the grassland and the different type of shrubs…the singular yucca with its multi-podded antennae, the juniper off to the right, and, of course, the few groupings of the ubiquitous Prickly Pear cactus….and the fence….
And here are another five photos that show the morning light captured in the cactus spines and seed-heads…
…a different variety of the Prickly Pear cactus…and seed-heads…
…a nearly heart-shaped lobe of cactus…
…wild grasses and cactus spines…
…and some kind of wildflower left-overs among the cacti….
Looking toward the southwest, but mostly west, we can begin to see more of the Bradshaw Mountains…beyond the rising, grassy plain…
…and looking behind us, the direction from which we came, we can see the flatter grassland and those fading clouds….
A few minutes later, the trail turned a bit toward the east, still going south, though, so the mountains out in the beyond are not the Bradshaws…but possibly the New River Mountains…I’m not sure.
The online resources indicate that this watering hole and windmill are at 2.8 miles into the hike…but they didn’t say anything about the clatter and racket from the blades, or the sound of the wind in the air and among the grasses….
Those are the Bradshaw Mountains off in the distance…and I believe this little draw area in the foreground might be the drainage of Antelope Creek…. The section of the trail just south of this Drinking Snake segment is named after Antelope Creek…and this bit of landscape is in the right spot to be such a named thing….
And this next image is looking east again, with a bit of south in it, as well…with a couple of horses and mountain silhouettes, cacti…and the ever grasses….
…a bit closer….
…and a bit farther away, too, from a slightly higher elevation and further down the trail where you can see a greater spread of the land.
We’ve already seen a different presentation of this next image…it’s the same bit of ground as the one where the horses first appeared…but we’re closer now.
The Drinking Snake segment of the Black Canyon Trail actually ends right there at that lone tree in the upper image. Just beyond that spot is a graded road…Forest Road 259, or Antelope Creek Road….the northern starting place for that next section of the trail that I mentioned above. I’m not sure how long that stretch of the trail is, but it will join up with the segment that we visited a while earlier when we went north from Bumble Bee Road…back in July.
I made this last image toward the very end, actually the very middle, of my hike…my turning-around point. It’s about 0.8 miles into the next section of the trail that is south of the Drinking Snake segment. I hadn’t explored this bit of ground on the map before heading out…and hadn’t indicated (on the note I left taped to the fridge at home) that I was going further, so it was a good spot to sit and have a snack before heading back to the truck.
So…that was another almost six miles of the Black Canyon Trail…shown in chronological order from the starting sunrise to the point of return. Thank you for joining me on the hike. I hoped you enjoyed this latest glimpse of the Arizona Sonora Desert….