The prairie had a name…posted on a wooden placard roadside…west of Flagstaff and east of Williams…close to my destination and far, far away from home…that elemental and figurative place that exists in heart and mind…and has an elusive definition that encompasses both desire and acceptance….
It feels like ages since I’ve been here…..
….here on the blog, that is.
The weather has been rather extreme for hiking down here in the desert valley…I heard that four or five people died because of the heat a few weeks ago….not a good thing…oppressive, nasty, raunchy heat…..
So last weekend I headed north…waaaay north…twenty five miles west of Flagstaff…the high was only 85 degrees…spent six hours hiking a sweet loop-trail that skirted the northern parts of Sycamore Canyon. With about an hour of the hike remaining, I came across a section of the forest that had six or eight of these Century Plants…Agave americana…just kind of hanging-out, real bright and everything in the middle of the otherwise dark green forest….the blossoms on this particular plant were easily eight feet above the ground.
The western edge of metropolitan Phoenix is covered in various agricultural plots, fields and fields of sundry growing things, from acres of palm trees, salt-cedar trees, wheat (or some other grain), corn, cotton, carrots (recently harvested), onions, alfalfa….
…fields of them….
….rows of them….
….rows(es) and rows(es) of roses….
“….red and yellow, (pink) and white….they are precious in (my) sight….”
A wrong turn last Sunday brought me to this bit of sweet serendipity….the northeast corner of Reems and Olive for any local readers….
I slowed down a bit to admire the fields, clouds, and the bright sky, and knew that I had to return with my camera in quick minutes to capture what I had hoped would be some amazing photographs.
By the time I did return, maybe 15-20 minutes later, the clouds were piling closer to one another and the blue patches of sky were becoming fewer and fewer…and then blue was gray and the light was good for some photos and not for others.
I’m not sure how long I was actually out there, stepping gently between the rows, crouching among the thorns, and muddying my shoes a bit in the process….
…but I left with over 100 photos….
….and managed to whittle the prizes down to these few….
As always….thank you for visiting….
…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.