“The Walking Dead” Saguaro…..

I’m not a great fan of popular culture, but this one was too fitting to deny….

Walking Dead Saguaro

I’ve never seen a Saguaro cactus in such a state of decay…upright…

Walking Dead Saguaro closer

…so it came to me that it must be a zombie Saguaro…escaped from the set of The Walking Dead TV series….just hanging-out in the Sonora Desert, just off the Black Canyon Trail……

Or not…..

Late Fall Canopy

An image from another time and place, sitting in the draft folder for nearly two years…it holds memories that are fresh with a crisp mountain air that rides with the iron smell of a coming snow…the sound of booted footsteps on a narrow trail…and a companion named “Solitude.”

Fall canopy on Pipeline Trail


it’s there if you need it

Just south of the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, there is a scenic overlook that permits visitors to have a fantastic view of the river below, as it has carved its way through the red/peach sandstone that used to be an ocean floor in eons past.  One can step past the protective guard rail and approach the literal edge of the earth, cliff-wise, and peer out and into the river’s chasm that is several hundred feet below.

The lines of the handrails and the ridges and scoops of the sandstone caught my eye when I turned to look back…a curious placement of such a thing when viewed out of context, but knowing where and why brings its meaning.  For those who are used to walking on uneven terrain, the walk down and back is not difficult, but for others, the railing is…there if you need it.

Handrail in the sandstone

Hiking Cottonwood Creek…….in Arizona

Anyone who has been following or visiting this blog for at least two years will know that I spent a few years hiking in both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons of the Wasatch Mountains…just east of Salt Lake City, Utah…so it’s a bit of a departure from that norm for me to be hiking in Cottonwood Creek…in Arizona.  But, alas, here we are anyway.  I had researched hiking in or near Hell’s Canyon Wilderness Area and found a related post for hiking nearby Cottonwood Creek, something that was more feasible, given my lack of a four-wheel-drive vehicle that is needed to gain access to most of the wilderness area.

Cottonwood Creek hiking companion

In the above photo you can see the shadow of the only person I saw for the entire five hours on the trail….

Cottonwood Creek Morning

And in these next two photos you can see what a great majority of the trail looked like…it wasn’t a trail…it was literally the creek-bed…mostly wide open with easy passage, but at other places it was so congested with cacti and trees that I was forced out and up onto the bank where I occasionally found game/burro trails that ran parallel to the creek and still headed in the direction I wanted to go.

Cottonwood Creek creek-bed trail

This was the first of my three “firsts” of this particular hike.  I had previously never seen a petroglyph while out hiking.  I was hoping that the center image wasn’t some type of foreboding message telling all passers-by to turn around and go back the way they came….

Cottonwood Creek Petroglyphs

I’m guessing that these are raccoon prints….

Raccoon foot and handprints

…and pretty confident that these below are coyote prints, given that there were no human footprints aside from my own since the last rain, so they wouldn’t be from a domestic dog.

Coyote tracks

…and below, you can probably discern the form of a wild burro near the upper center portion of the image.

Concealed Burro in desert vegetation

I was surprised to find so much yellow/green lichen out in the desert on this trip.  It was mostly on the red rock, the old sand-stone that likely retained water better than the other basaltic rock.  I also found some of the more typical flat gray lichen on some granite-appearing rocks, but that was not so unusual.

Desert Lichen

I found several examples of cacti growing out of the side of rocks or rock cliffs along the creek-bed, but this set was the most interesting.

Barrel cacti intent on living

And here is a handful or cluster of the Fremont Cottonwood trees that give the creek its name.  After the first group of a couple dozen near the start of the hike (not shown yet), there was only another handful scattered along the way, this one being a significant grouping, even with its sparce offering.

Cottonwood cluster in the creek-bed

The following two images are of my second “first” for the hike…while I have caught a few night-time glimpses of Great Horned owls flying over my backyard, I had never seen one when I have been out hiking…and further, had never seen one, period, that was perched somewhere that would allow a closer look…or photograph.

Great Horned Owl

This second image might actually be of a another bird…it was coming toward me (not toward “me,” but in my direction) within seconds of my having seen the other one going off in the opposite direction.

Great Horned Owl second

It was shortly after taking this next image that I climbed out of the creek-bed and up onto the ridge to the left.  The desert was easier to walk through and I still had the creek on my right the whole time, so it was easy to know “where I was” in the vastness of the landscape when it was time to head back.  I probably went another couple of hundred yards before finding a large enough Saguaro that provided enough shade so I could sit/stand for a while, re-hydrate, and make some photos before starting the return trip down the creek.

Desert Butte near the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek

Facing southeast in the below photo, it was only about 9:30, so the sun was still shining aslant into the cacti spines, giving them their morning glow.

Sonora Desert panorama

It wasn’t at this exact spot, below, but probably about a third of the way back to the truck, I heard the sound of a body crashing through the brush to the right of the stream, turned to look really quickly, and saw the rear-end of a brown something disappearing over the ridge.  When I turned to look back into the creek-bed, I saw a small Javelina exiting the bed and going into the brush on the left side of the stream.  I had thought the first body making it into the brush could have been a burro, as I had seen and heard one earlier, but after seeing the very distinctive pig body running the other direction, I would guess that the first body making it into the brush was also a Javelina.  At any rate, this was my third “first” of the hike…I had never seen Javelinas while out hiking.  It would have been sweet to have actually captured an image of one of them, but they were gone too quickly, so if you’re interested, you can click on the highlighted name above to be taken to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s page on the animal.

White cliffs of Cottonwood Creek

I don’t think this was the same burro that I had seen earlier, as this one was much darker…but it sounded exactly like the other one with the snorting noise that it was making as either an alarm or as a signal of its irritation with me.

Wild Burro in Cottonwood Creek

And lastly, this is the mass of Cottonwood trees at the beginning of the trail…but this is the view on the return, so they are not half in and half out of the sun, and therefore easier to appreciate.

Gateway to Cottonwood Creek

So…it wasn’t like hiking in the Cottonwood Canyons of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, but it was still a good hike and a nice way to spend five hours on a Sunday morning.

City Paint Phoenix 15 – Inspiration

Found in an alleyway where people park their garbage cans so the collection service can do their thing and haul away the waste.  There was a stretch of decorated wall that ran more than 100 yards deep into the alley…the backsides of backyard walls in a mid-city residential area.  The art was created as part of Paint Phx 2015.

Inspiration - alley wall art

Reaching new heights in Arizona….

It’s been a while since I posted anything…and it’s been another while since I have been out on any trails, especially mountain trails….but here we are again.  This particular trail has been on my radar for several months.  Someone had told me that hiking through the mountains of Flagstaff was very similar to hiking in Utah…the trails and the vegetation were supposed to be very similar….

Arizona forest trail leading to Humphreys Peak

And I would have to agree…they were very similar…and still very different to my discerning and and probably very biased or prejudiced eye.  That spot of blue near the center of the below image was the first person that I saw during my hike…the first of so very many people…..

Trail to Humphreys Peak, first of many people

That aside, it was truly wonderful being back in the chilly mountains, smelling the mulch and other forest smells, feeling the trail and rocks beneath my feet again, and finding comfort and shade from the afternoon sun beneath the pine, fir, and aspen canopy on my way back to the truck.

Lava trail to Humphreys Peak

The below image caused me to remember a particular hike that I made with two of my sons in Utah…my younger son and I were telling my older son that “we’re almost there,” and found that we really didn’t know squat about the trail and where we were going…and the substance of the words “false summit” became a reality to us…several times.  Some passers-by, or fellow hikers on this trail to Humphreys Peak, were talking about false summits and how the “peak” in the below image was nowhere near our destination.  You can see another spot of blue just down from the highest point near the center of the image…it’s a smallish person…or maybe a regular-sized person made smallish by the grandness of the surroundings.

Trail to Humphreys Peak, with spot of blue

Humphreys Peak (no apostrophe anywhere) is the highest point in the State of Arizona at 12,633 feet in elevation.  The trail-head is somewhere near 9,300 feet…so it’s a vertical gain of roughly 3,300 feet and takes the hiker 4.8 miles to get there.  I made the below image at some open spot along the trail, some little saddle between rises, that allowed a fairly clear view of what things looked like toward the east.

Trail to Humphreys Peak panorama

And this is what they looked like when facing north, toward our destination….above the tree-line…along the ridge of what is part of the remaining structure of a massive, extinct volcano that knew its glory-days some 250 million years ago…give or take a millennium or two…or more.

Destination of trail to Humphreys Peak

The on-line literature about the trail said that after reaching this point, if you lost sight of the trail, just keep an eye out for the trail markers…which turned-out to be tree branches carved and trimmed and marked with “TRAIL” and jabbed into the rocks along the way.  There were places where the trail was not visible, where it really didn’t exist because of the multitude of boulders…places where one could only intuit where it was heading because it was visible again several yards further along.

White marker on trail to Humphreys Peak

The on-line literature also stated that this is the only “tundra” region in the whole of Arizona…a place where trees do not grow because the climate and soils preclude it.  There’s another person in the below image…just right of center on the ridge-line.

People on the trail to Humphreys Peak

We’re getting closer, but the end of the trail seemed like it was still pretty damn far away in the below photo….

Getting closer on the trail to Humphreys Peak

More people below…four or more….

More people on the trail to Humphreys Peak

The final ascent, in the below image…

The final ascent to summit of Humphreys Peak

Taking a breather and looking east over the golden aspen before the final climb to the summit….

Looking east before making the final ascent to Humphreys Peak summit

I joined six or seven other hikers on the peak before another handful arrived.  It was very windy…and sweetly cool…it was the perfect setting to enjoy a chilled and crisp apple, a bottle of actually “cold” water, and some granola before feeling crowded to the point of needing to steer my tired self back down the trail.

The highest point in Arizona.

At home in the desert….

Don’t read too much into the title…I was referring only to the context of the post…the desert home, of sorts, that I found on my most recent hike on the Black Canyon Trail.  Each time that I’ve been out in the desert, I’ve looked relatively closely at the nearby terrain, the areas immediately bordering the trails, and more closely at the vegetation and ground where I might choose to stand or sit for a quick rest or hydration break.

Golden Cholla with nest

And each time I’ve been out there on the trails, I have happened upon a few to more than a handful of nests in the cacti and trees that were along the trails….

Cactus Wren's nest in Cholla cactus

This was the first time, however, that my curiosity was rewarded for taking the time to stop and peer inside of said nests.  What a nice surprise it was to find a couple of blue, speckled eggs tucked inside of the inhospitable looking home of what I believe is a Cactus Wren’s nest.  If you didn’t notice it right away, you can see the form of the nest in the first photo, tucked into the lower left/center portion of the mass of the cactus.

Cactus Wren's eggs in nest

Absolutely precious….

City Paint Phoenix 14 – Find Your Direction

It’s been almost two months since I posted any of the street art images that I’ve collected since my return to Phoenix, and while this one isn’t typical of the city’s offerings, it is a rather grand image on a down-town building in the central corridor.

Find Your Direction full mural

The mural is on the south-facing side of the Fast Signs building at 2517 North Central in Phoenix.  I’m not sure how long it has been there and I don’t know anything about how or why it came to be.  I searched for what appears to be the artist’s information via the website information that they provided on the far left side of the mural, but was directed to a nail-fashion site…so it’s probably not related.  When I Googled the name of the mural, I found this link with photos that show the artists actually painting it….

If you would like to see more of their work, you can click on each of the artists’ highlighted names to be taken to their individual websites:  Lalo Cota and Isaac Caruso.

Find Your Direction mural focused shot

And if you’re interested in viewing earlier posts on street art in Phoenix and Salt Lake City, you can scroll to the bottom of the page, find the Categories widget toward the right side, and click on Street Art – Graffiti.

Thanks for visiting…now go Find Your Direction…..

Prickly Pear “In-sight”

We’re used to seeing them like this, out in the desert wilderness of Arizona and other southwestern locales, or possibly even in other parts of the world….

Prickly Pear Cactus

Or we take a closer look and see the spines in their protective glory and the plump fruit that is awaiting harvest by desert creatures…and humans, too.

Prickly Pear cactus closer

But we don’t often get a view of what is inside those cactus “leaves” to witness what must be the vascular highway that provides the overall structure while transporting water and nutrients from one part of the plant to another as the seasons demand….

Prickly Pear cactus inside 1


Prickly Pear cactus inside 2


Prickly Pear cactus inside 3


Prickly Pear cactus inside 4


Prickly Pear cactus inside 5


Prickly Pear cactus inside 6


Prickly Pear cactus inside 7


Prickly Pear cactus inside 8

I think there is a particular “something” about the structure of the cactus’s leaves…a sort of compelling and abstract beauty….

Prickly Pear cactus inside 9



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