Beyond Bumble Bee

For the past several years, I have used the website “Weather Underground” to follow the temperatures and weather patterns in the places I have lived…and to even look back nostalgically at places where I used to live to see how things are going there, as well.  Two weeks ago I was watching the temps for Black Canyon City and hoping the high temperatures for the coming weekend would be lower than they were a couple of weeks earlier when I was out in the murderous heat and so desperately needed a Coke after my hike.  I was in luck…the high for this past Sunday was supposed to be under 100 degrees, which meant that I could get out on the trail around 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning, have a nice long hike, and still make it back to the truck before the heat became too ugly.

This first image is of the Bradshaw Mountains, looking northwest at 6:25 am.  The larger trees in the foreground are a variety of Palo Verde.  During drought conditions, the trees lose their leaves and are still able to perform photosynthesis through the chlorophyll in the “bark” or exterior covering of all of the branches and trunk….  You can also see several Saguaro cacti in the background….

Bradshaw Mountains Morning

Most of my hiking in recent months has been along the Black Canyon Trail.  I’ve been out six times and have covered nearly half of the 78 mile long trail.  If you care to look at a map, find Interstate 17 (I-17) going north from the Carefree Highway at the extreme north end of Phoenix, and imagine a trail running in the desert just west of the interstate and east of the mountains further west…and follow that space northward for about 80 winding and curving miles up toward the Prescott National Forest.  The portion of trail featured in this post is what can be found heading north from Bumble Bee Road, about 25 miles north of Phoenix.

This second image is primarily of the “Pancake Prickly Pear” cacti and the dried wild grasses common to this area.

Worn "Pancake Prickly Pear" cactus

If you’ve ever driven that same interstate north from Phoenix and remember seeing a rest-stop sign for “Sunset Point,” and you stopped to look west at the huge, folding and flowing mountains, this hike took place on the stretch of trail just west from that Point.  The first part of the hike was mainly in the shade, as the trail followed the contours of the west facing side of the hills and was situated far enough below the ridge-line that I was out of the sun for quite a while.

Colors of the earth, slope of trail

It’s been a while since I shared multiple photos as single images, instead of presenting them in the “gallery” form, but I thought the photographs from this hike would be easier to appreciate in this larger form…so here they are, placed in chronological order and covering the first two and a half hours of the hike.  There will be a couple of other posts in which I share groups of photos from particular stopping-places along the trail.

Bradshaw Mountains Northwest perspective

These “desert hills” and mountains are quite different than the ones I hiked for the last few years, but they are still inviting…and tempting me to go off-trail to explore the draws and ridges that we can see off in the distance.  I won’t likely do that until the temperatures are much lower, however, just in case some “unplanned” event occurs and I’m out there for longer than I had planned to be.

Bradshaw Mountains with folds and layers

In the below photo, you can see an unpaved portion of Bumble Bee Road in the lower right corner, a couple of hiking trails further in the distance, and then a section of what might be the Agua Fria River bed in the area just left of center.

Bradshaw Mountains with tracks and trails and river-beds

I had knelt to take some closer shots of Prickly Pear cactus fruit and saw this single piece of bone lying nearby.  A quick search of the area failed to reveal any other bones, so this one must have been carried away and left here when the predator or scavenger was finished with it.

Black Canyon Trail "ossi-findings"

At just past 7:30 am, the sun was sufficiently over the ridge to highlight the shrubs and grasses along the trail in the next photo.  This one, right here, is where peace comes out on the desert’s trail, to me anyway…I love this image, this piece and the broader whole that it represents…the light, the smell, the quiet whisper of the morning breeze among the branches and grass, the un-nameable feeling that comes with being right here…is wonderful, and compelling, and alluring, and causes me to go out into the unpleasant heat that I know is quickly approaching, so that I can be here on a trail like this one.

Welcoming trail in the morning

I would prefer temperatures in the 60s or 70s, but it was far from ugly-hot when I stopped to make this next photo.  At only 7:45 am, it was still rather nice for desert hiking.

Black Canyon Trail and Bradshaw Mountains

My only companions for the day were two mountain-bike riders who passed me on their way out and back in again…and the occasional cow, a couple of dozen lizards, multitudes of desert birds, and a single rabbit…

Line of demarcation

Lines of demarcation, thine and mine, in the images above and below, but I was and am thankful that there was a gate or opening that allowed passage…so many places we’d like to go, it seems, have fences around them….  At 8:10 in the morning, I wondered how many mornings and afternoons these fence and gate posts have seen….their colors and textures speak of years…decades, even.

Character of Place, gates of passage along Black Canyon Trail

The photograph below shows another view of an image that you have likely already seen…but I wanted to share it again within the context of the hike, moving from place to place, with the morning green of the desert hills and mountains, and the richer green, like a ribbon of life that thrives along a desert waterway, a sometimey waterway that likely runs below ground for most of the year, but rises again with the various seasons’ rains and floods.

Riparian Greenbelt of Sheep Gulch

I usually become aware of the Gambel’s Quail when they burst from the underbrush as I pass too close to their hiding place, but I happened to spot this silent sentry as she sat alone in the tree some 20 or 30 yards off-trail.  Even at this distance you can tell that this one is a female, as her head is missing the distinct color pattern that is common to the male.

Wildlife of Black Canyon Trail

And lastly, several blooms on a Graham’s Pincushion cactus.  I found several of these along the trail and, upon first seeing them, thought they were headbands that some hiker had lost along the way…they were so very bright, so vibrant in the middle of all the earth-tone, desert colors that surrounded me, they just seemed so unnatural and out of place.  And if you’re interested, the flat, paddle-like leaves around this cactus belong to the Jojoba plant….

Graham's Pincushion Cactus blossoms

So…that was most of the hike, on the way out, anyway…and minus a couple of detours that I will share later.  Thank you for visiting…and I hope you have a nice week.


35 responses

  1. I prefer the mix of narrative and photos to the gallery style . . . but then again, you knew this. Nice hike, narrative and photos.

    July 20, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    • Yes, I have observed that, Emilio….and thank you, too.

      July 24, 2015 at 9:22 pm

  2. You brought back some lovely images along with that peaceful feeling you get hiking out there when it’s not too ugly-hot. Here’s hoping you don’t have any of those “unplanned” events! We’re a bit hotter than usual here. I can’t say I’m enjoying it except at the beach where it tends to be cooler.

    July 20, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    • Well, thank you, Gunta…and no, I’d prefer to pass on those “unplanned” events if I have any say in it! I’ve been watching your temps up there, too, Gunta, and while they are a bit warmer than you’d prefer, I wouldn’t mind having some of them down here. 🙂

      July 24, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      • I have no doubt you’d gladly trade, but it’s all about becoming acclimated. I’m struggling with the higher temps, but the hardest bit is not having the fog to cool things down at night.

        July 24, 2015 at 9:28 pm

        • I’ve thought of that damn acclimation thing…it’s actually why I’ve gone out there these last few times…to force myself to experience this heat so that I can make it tolerable by comparison…, I just HAD to get out there….

          And where is your fog? Shouldn’t it be there now, at this time of year?

          July 24, 2015 at 9:33 pm

          • I have no explanation. All I know it’s way hotter and drier than it’s supposed to be this summer. And I don’t like it one bit.

            July 24, 2015 at 9:36 pm

          • I don’t blame you…not one bit! 🙂

            July 24, 2015 at 9:44 pm

  3. James Cowley

    This old man envies your time and place on the trail in the Sonoran desert, a place that only a perceptive few get to know and love. You bring immense joy to me and probably many others like me whose age and health now prevent our hiking in this hallowed place. Thanks for giving us this vicarious treasure. James

    July 20, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    • I’m very happy to share with you, James…and I hope these images bring back some happy memories from when you were out there yourself. I thank you, sincerely, for visiting and sharing your comments/thoughts. 🙂

      July 24, 2015 at 9:26 pm

  4. Enjoyed the walk with you Scott. I also like to see the pictures this way, rather than the gallery, though that is not so important because those gallery photos can be viewed individually too. The heat can be oppressive, though. Very good that you start out early. That’s the way to go.

    July 20, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    • I’m glad you could come along with me, Shimon…I do have frequent thoughts of you when I’m out there, truly, comparing some of our native vegetation with images that I’ve seen in your posts…and remembering the joy that you’ve shared in your own memories of hiking a little ways, finding a really beautiful spot, and then sitting and reading for hours. The earlier mornings would be good for that…and for continued hiking, as well…I just need to be better at turning around in time to make it back before it gets really hot out there.

      July 24, 2015 at 9:30 pm

  5. Love the cactus photos and the blooms, Scott. Well done.

    July 20, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    • Thank you, Frank. 🙂

      July 24, 2015 at 9:30 pm

  6. They are amazing photographs,… the shapes of the mountains, the colours, and the rocks,… everything is so clear and almost I can feel myself in this voyage. Thank you, love, nia

    July 21, 2015 at 12:47 am

    • Thank you, Nia….how nice that you could almost feel being there. 🙂

      July 24, 2015 at 9:34 pm

  7. Lovely post Scott! I very much enjoyed the walk!

    July 21, 2015 at 2:19 am

    • Thank you, Adrian….how nice that you could come along with me!

      July 24, 2015 at 9:35 pm

  8. Thank you Scott. That feeling of being on your own out there with that awe inspiring sense of ‘the here and now’ is a special feature of this post. You are so fortunate to have access to a wild place. So many of us live an urban life with intensively farmed countryside with wild upland areas a long way off. Thanks for making the effort and for bringing it to a reality here.

    July 21, 2015 at 2:48 am

    • You are very welcome, dear John…I think the only thing better than bringing back the images to share with you here, would be to be able to sit across from each other at a quiet table in a pub and enjoy a couple of cold pints together while talking about the hike. That would be better, even, than the cold Coke I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. 🙂

      I do appreciate the large expanses of wilderness around me here, too, John. I don’t know that I had thought of it in those terms until you mentioned something similar about some of my Utah hiking photos….we are fortunate to have this much space around us in this country…or this part of it, anyway.

      July 24, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      • Why stop at a couple of pints….it’s a long time since I rolled home singing…..we could even harmonise…
        Great idea my friend!

        July 29, 2015 at 2:34 pm

  9. Sounds like a wonderful morning hike. I don’t know when I will make it back out there, so I am happy to tag along virtually with you. My dog decided to lick a prickly pear the first time we went on a hike out there. He NEVER did that again!

    July 21, 2015 at 3:34 am

    • It certainly was a very nice morning hike, Laura…and I’m happy to have you tag along with me. 🙂 And no, I don’t imagine your dog would lick a prickly pear cactus a SECOND time…goodness!

      July 24, 2015 at 9:47 pm

  10. That looks like rough country that wouldn’t allow too many mistakes but I think I’d chance it to see those cactus blossoms.

    July 21, 2015 at 7:03 am

    • No, Allen, that’s not a place to make mistakes…and fortunately, there are plenty of trails that take us close enough to the desert wonderfulness, so we don’t really need to venture off of them to see a fair sampling of what it has to offer.

      July 24, 2015 at 9:50 pm

  11. Loved the photos.

    July 25, 2015 at 4:11 am

    • Thank you, Kirsty. 🙂

      July 25, 2015 at 7:00 am

  12. Your appreciation for this place has wafted up here to the PNW, Scott! Thank you, such love in this post.

    July 26, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    • You’re most welcome, Lynn…I’m glad that you can appreciate it, as well. 🙂

      September 19, 2015 at 11:29 am

  13. Your photos are amazing. Breathtaking.

    September 6, 2015 at 1:22 pm

  14. Reblogged this on AZ Wonders and commented:
    In order to discover some of Arizona’s true wonders, sometimes you have to venture off the beaten path and explore new places. Thankfully, adventurous photographers like Scott (aka seekraz) enjoy hiking out to capture pics of the places many of us wouldn’t take the effort to go see for ourselves.

    Below is an enjoyable entry from his blog.

    June 4, 2017 at 9:27 am

    • Thank you for the reblog, Paul…..

      June 4, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      • You’re welcome. Love your pics and write ups! I’m kind of new at this. Was getting a link error, so took it down. Will reblog again when I can figure it out. Paul

        June 4, 2017 at 3:36 pm

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