Looking east from near the headwaters of the mostly dry Cottonwood Creek, north and west of Lake Pleasant, Arizona.
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.
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….
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re getting closer, but the end of the trail seemed like it was still pretty damn far away in the below photo….
More people below…four or more….
The final ascent, in the below image…
Taking a breather and looking east over the golden aspen before the final climb to the 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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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….
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…..
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….
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.
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….
I think there is a particular “something” about the structure of the cactus’s leaves…a sort of compelling and abstract beauty….
I had thought these were the Vermillion Cliffs, thought I had seen them named as such on a map somewhere, but when I was researching them to be certain, I found that they are the Echo Cliffs…. The Vermillion Cliffs are a landscape feature and national monument a bit to the north and west of these.
Some might argue that this structure is not a proper hogan…and they might be right. But I have seen several of them scattered about this bit of the Navajo reservation and they fit the concept of what I understand a hogan to be…a traditional Navajo home or lodging.
Some of the ones I’ve seen along this stretch of road have been more circular in form, but overall, they are similar in construction and style to this sand/flag-stone house. While this structure appears to be abandoned with its missing window panes, it might still be used for ceremonial purposes…but, I really don’t know.
The Echo Cliffs are a prominent feature of the drive for about 45 miles along Highway 89, stretching from Gap (yes, that’s the name of a town/community) to about 25 miles south of Page. The images above and below are looking south…and if we could see past the extreme right edge below, we would be able to look out over the Painted Desert to the east.
This last image is looking north from the same location…with the hogan being a couple of hundred yards to the right.
That’s all for now…..
This was a return, of sorts, to that former place, that home in the “used to be,” an incomplete migration, however…just a trip, a delivery, an instance of human transport from one place to another…taking my Little One to a halfway point between here and there where we would and did meet his older brother and family; a drop-off, an hour’s visitation, and then the return trip to the southern desert that is now home.
I’ve passed along this stretch of road countless times, now…back and forth, from Phoenix to Salt Lake City, this way and that, comings and goings, to one home and another, cars and trucks journeying over a familiar expanse of time and distance, emotion-laden memories, heartbeats, racing minds…acceptance….
With hours alone in the truck with my eyes and mind racing over the landscape, I recalled places in the contexts of other trips, heard echoes again of old conversations held on this road or in the places at each end of it…I remembered the road, too, and anticipated landmarks that would soon appear on the various horizons or at the end of a particular curve, around that far bend in the road and up against the fence-posts that remain in their ever places.
The images come from a particular stretch of that road, US Highway 89, heading south from Kanab, Utah, and representing in their randomness the terrain that exists up to just a mile or so north of the Utah/Arizona border.
It wasn’t intentional, really…it just happened this way…. After I made a few images of the fence-posts wending their way through the waist-high grasses and the carved-away, undulating fields of silver-gray sage, it struck me that the connecting threads of what I was looking at through the camera were those lines of wire and post…the common thing drawing together that changing landscape, keeping it whole as it was separate….
Red and purple mesas, white and gray and tan and brown rock with their layers of ancient sediment fading into cone-shaped forms of sand and dust riding down from their tops and sides onto an even lower sea-floor…golden grasses, verdant shrubs of various hues, richly green juniper trees, and the constant silver-gray of the unflowered sage…all connected and drawn into a constant vision of roadside landscape by the unspooled wire with its metal and wooden posts so ordered.
Looking north from the road at this point, in the photo below, one sees what is likely the southern edge of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument….
…and looking south, one can see what is likely the extreme northern edge of the Paria Plateau, the mass of land that is bounded by the Vermillion Cliffs and The Grand Canyon…south from here.
The grasses in the foreground struck me as more compelling than the skyline with the low mesa in the background of the below photo.
Several miles down the road and the fence looked the same, but the vegetation was changing…looking west…
…and looking south and east…to the northern reaches of Lake Powell….
The other side of the road revealed more “plain” cliffs of dirty brown and gray…that end-up having gray/blue sediment cones running down from their edges as this mass gets closer to the lake.
The road is now heading southeast, flying straight and fast towards the imaginary line that separates Utah and Arizona from one another…a contrivance that means nothing when watching the land flow into itself from one region to the next.
The last three images are essentially facing west, with Lake Powell to the east behind us. Notice this first image is looking directly over the fence-line…
…and this one, above, is looking to the left/south at another sediment mass that is slowly losing itself with large chunks falling out of its wall and creating a cavern that has also lost its ceiling…and the last image is looking to the right/north at what is actually the forward extension of the mass (to the right and out of frame) in the first of these last three photos.
I guess that’s it…representing approximately 75 miles of scenery between Kanab and the Utah/Arizona border, these 16 images are only a handful from the several-dozen that I made along this roadway…little delays that combined to add more than two hours to the five-hour drive home.
Thank you for enduring the longer post…I hope you enjoyed the drive.
If you remember seeing that ribbon of green in the third-to-last photo, three posts back, this is what it looked like from the inside….a bit of an unusual micro-environment full of fantastic trees, shrubs, and grasses that appeared rather unexpectedly, smack-dab in the middle of the desert.
I don’t know the names of most of the larger trees, but there are mesquite and assorted palo-verde on the fringes.
I don’t know the origin of the name of the place, either, but if we were to follow the stream-bed forward, in the above photo, a couple/few miles, we would run into, or at least approach, the proximity of Sheep Gulch Spring…….that’s the way it looks on a map of the area, anyway.
Maybe it’s not a miner’s shack, maybe it belonged to a shepherd, I don’t know…it was just a guess…and quite possibly wrong, as there were none of the other signs indicating that a mine had been dug there….no slag or tailings pile…no water chute….
I didn’t explore the little cave/shaft beneath the shack, either…it seemed rather imprudent at the time, given the poor lighting and the propensity for hidden and biting things to be lurking in such a place…okay, maybe not lurking, but certainly things that had tucked themselves away from the direct sun and would not have been welcoming of my curious bipedal disruption….
And below is the shack in the context of its surroundings…quite a place to perch one’s self, if you ask me….
I kept walking upstream a little bit, as I was looking for a soft place to sit in the shade and recoup myself before heading back for the next 2.5 hours hiking to return to the truck.
After a quick snack, I headed back toward the main trail, the Black Canyon Trail going south again toward Bumble Bee Road. Those are the Bradshaw Mountains in the background of the below photo, and a distinctly misshapen Saguaro in the upper right corner. It looked something like a smashed finger…or perhaps the still-webbed fingers/hand of an embryonic life-form.
Lastly, this is the view looking east on the bridge that crosses the stream, and the exact place that has the moniker of Sheep Gulch on the map. I know that some of those trees are cottonwoods, but, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure of the majority of the others. At any rate, they seem to thrive in the stream-beds of this portion of the Sonora Desert…and they cast a beautiful shade during the near-noon portion of the day.