Author Archive

Election Day and Jesse Girl

It was Tuesday morning after an anxious Monday…stressful months.

So many things have happened so far in this year of 2020…

…lies revealed, viruses emerged, taxes not filed, bountied soldiers’ lives not acknowledged, quarantines served…

…promises broken, tallies marked, masks unworn, lives lost, children caged, families torn, secrets revealed…

alliances broken, and real heroes scorned.

Sometimes it hurts to pay attention.

My morning commute down quiet streets, following taillights…

…watching the eastern sky gray into dawn, encountering silhouette cityscapes of buildings…

power lines, and ubiquitous palm trees.

Others heading in the same direction, south on Central Avenue…the light rail…bicyclers…

…a far off desert “mountain” the defines the lower edge of the Valley of the Sun.

Art museum, opera, loft apartments, pharmacies, coffee shops, attorney general office, city athletic club…parking meters…

…cameras watching to see who steals through a light….

Heading east now and ever approaching my destination, passing charter schools, groceries, fast food, temp agencies…

…ever present construction zones…and hospitals.

My bride and I ate lunch at this city park decades ago…when our children were little and life was difficult, though less complicated….

I could go straight and then left and reach the office…or I could get on the freeway and go somewhere else…head west and away.

When I found a pedestrian bridge on an evening walk in Utah, a local spray-can artist had adorned the walkway with “Seek Life.”

Looking west from the bridge…contemplating the day…desiring that it fulfills hopes…that more ballots are cast for my guy than the other….

An overhead ornament on the bridge…a simple thing in a complicated time.  Breathe….


On a Desert Morning

My morning today, November 1, was spent in part at my desk, reading and looking at images from friends’ blog posts across the country…with the office window open only inches away from me…cool autumn breeze slightly chilling my fingertips, with my cat lying next to the laptop with his nose and front paws occasionally touching the window’s screen as he intently watched the birds on the ground outside, or froze to an unusual kitty stiffness as hummingbirds approached the honeysuckle a foot away from his twitching whiskers.

Sunrise eight months ago…a Sunday morning in March.


Bouys in a sea of clouds….

Nature’s gifting on a cloudy and rainy day just over two years ago…radio towers atop the White Tank Mountains in the far west valley of metropolitan Phoenix.


a fence in context

From July 2019…heading north for a hike….

You might remember earlier posts with the images of sunrise through the seed-heads.

To use John Muir’s favorite word, it was “glorious.”

Wildfires earlier this year have turned this into a charred mess…posts and wires strung across a wasteland.

But it will come back…glorious splendor will return…after a season or two of restoration….


Colorful Desert…”supellex varia ad desertum”

I believe I have already shared some images from my springtime wanderings in the state trust land north of the White Tank Mountains in northwest Surprise, AZ…but I didn’t share many of the floral images…so here they are…covering a range of something like 22 days…three Sunday morning visitations.

Interesting name for the ones below…”Blue Dicks.”  I prefer the alternative name of Desert Hyacinth…just sounds better, somehow…Dichelostemma capitatum.

Chia, below….Salvia columbariae.

Rounded a bend in the trail and found this mass of lupines…Arizona or Coulter’s lupine…something like Lupinus sparsiflorus.

Closer….

….with their telltale eight leaves….

Lupine and a single Golden Poppy…Eschscholtzia mexicana.

A view to the north and east from the state trust land….

Lupine and Desert Fiddleneck…Amsinckia tessellata….

And the near ubiquitous Brittlebush…Encelia farinosa.

Orange Globe Mallow, Sphaeralcea munroana, with Lupine.

Probably Buckhorn Cholla, Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa…as the spines are much closer than we usually see on the Staghorn Cholla, Cylindropuntia versicolor.

Probably Buckhorn Cholla, not Staghorn

Red Brome…Bromus madritensis.

Lupine…in preparation (parabatur).

Desert Chicory…or New Mexico Plumeseed…Rafinesquia neomexicana.

Desert Bluebell…Phacelia campanularia.

That’s all for now…Quod ut ‘quia iam omnia.


Clouds…and hope for a high-desert rain….

Day trip north on Saturday of last week…US Highway 89 from north of Wickenburg, through Yarnell, into and out of Prescott, brushing up against Ash Fork, heading west on I-40 and skirting Kingman, and then back down US 93 to US 60 and “home” again….

It was good to see cottonwood trees along roadways again.

Maybe Argemone pleiacantha, Southwestern Pricklypoppy…maybe, quite possibly…also found alongside the roadway…high desert travels.

Fat, fluffy clouds are a welcome sight in the high and low deserts…even if they are accompanied by high winds and the general ugliness of broken branches and occasionally uprooted trees and downed fences; they’re seasonal treasures that truly freshen and sweeten the air and leave a rich verdure in their passing.

Windows down on the truck, just me and my thoughts…green rambling forests…the smell of warming juniper on the breeze….

Someone received the distant rain…rather, it was received somewhere, maybe not where any people could feel it…although, by the time I arrived in Prescott, further north and west of where we see the rain in the above image, I did receive a little of it…something like 13-17 drops on my windscreen…a regular downpour.

An anvil cloud in preparation, above, is usually a good hint that rain is coming.

This section of US 89 was new to me.  I’d driven it plenty between Flagstaff and south of Salt Lake, but never this stretch.

Low clouds…

…wide horizons with a lot of green in between…

…and then out of the mountains into the high desert flat-lands north of Prescott…

…raw desert with compelling geologic formations…

…some kind of caramel ball wildflowers along the roadway…

…and southern clouds that didn’t leave a drop in their passing….


Sycamore Canyon – Parsons Trail, Stream in Context

This was my destination when I was on the road and spotted the fire on the desert morning mountains in an earlier post…Parsons Trail in Sycamore Canyon.  You might remember that I visited here in March of 2015…before Spring had sprung…that’s over five years ago, already.

More images will follow, of course, but I hope you’ll enjoy these three…all taken from the same spot, more or less, accounting for shifting feet…

…starting with a closer look down the stream beneath the canopy of overhanging trees…

…and then slowly widening the view to encompass more of the surroundings.

Yes, this is Arizona…just north of Cottonwood…which is north and east of Prescott…and a bit south and west of Sedona…if you’re familiar with those places.


Toward Frary Peak on Antelope Island – Part Last

It’s been about six months since I posted the previous installment, so it’s probably been long enough now that the images won’t be overwhelmingly familiar…and so that our experience in viewing them won’t be with an almost blindness to the manifest beauty that’s out there because our palate had become over-saturated with it.

It’s approaching a year since I was out there walking the trails that you can see in the above and subsequent two photos…almost a year since I felt that Utah summer sun on my shoulders and face as I turned so many times to look around me, since I shielded my eyes so I could view the distant spread of gray earth to the shimmering water…

…and beyond to the islands and mountains that formed the various views of the horizon.

Yes, almost a year since I viewed them with my literal eyes, but it’s not been so long since I had images of those islands, mountains, and horizons reflecting in my mind’s eye…or looking up at me from the computer where they remain in this present form.

I can recall the stretch in my calves as I climbed up the trail to this point and how my heart beat in the moments when my legs rested so I could catch my wind…how I stared at the hillsides and took-in the skeletal remains of the trees that had succumbed to old fires, and how I watched strings of bison plod from the north to the south side of the island in their ant-like following of their leaders…or obeyed the urge to go and be with their intimates when they saw them walking away….

I recall those things now looking at these images…looking northeast in the above photo…

…and southeast in these, above and below.

Wasatch Mountains trailing north in the below photo…

…and Fremont Island off to the northwest in the below….

I’ve run out of words and superlatives…

…and you already know what’s in my heart for this place…

…so I’ll just thank you for joining me here again…and hope you’ve enjoyed the visit.


Fire on the desert morning mountains….

On the first morning of summer, 6-21-2020, at 0439 hours…a glow on the horizon that didn’t belong there.

I was heading north to go hiking in something like a desert riparian paradise…nine minutes into the trip, following the freeway north and then east…rounded the curve and saw the above view from afar…probably a couple dozen miles…

…smoke in the draw between the ridges…

…north of New River…north of North Phoenix…

…wild…

…and disconcertingly beautiful…

Referred to as the Central Fire in local media…burning since the previous day.


City Paint Phoenix 23 – “No More Stolen Sisters”

It’s been a while since I shared any street art findings from Phoenix….

Wednesday morning before work…driving up and down Roosevelt Row and the many feeder streets that lead to and from the artsy neighborhood and its surround…quiet and COVID-near-empty streets.

It had been a while since I had driven this particular alleyway…who knew…at The Churchill in Phoenix.

It’s not just a painting…click on the below links to read more….

Amnesty International – No More Stolen Sisters

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women

The Guardian – No More Stolen Sisters

Equal Means Equal – No More Stolen Sisters

To read more about the artist, La Morena, click on this link.

 


ludere luminis

Serendipity…

…I stopped for something else…

…enjoyed that something else…

…reluctantly left…

…back on the road…

…toward the original destination…

…the Earth moved in its way…

…’round the Sun…

…on its axis…

…and the horizon lowered…

…to bring us “Sunrise”….

* A companion post to “a morning’s grace” from August 2019.

Sycamore Creek

My former co-worker and friend, Chris, was traveling back from northeast AZ and had to stop to take some photos…the visuals were too good to not capture…somewhere along the Beeline Highway on a Spring afternoon…last year….


Dog Lake…and Lakes Mary, Martha, and Catherine

These aren’t necessarily from the archives proper, but the photos are from a little while ago.  August of last year found me visiting my Utah kids and then visiting the mountains and canyons south and east of Salt Lake City.  You might remember that I lived there for a few years…a few years ago now…and that I spent most weekends hiking in those nearby Wasatch Mountains.

Of the many hikes that I took while living in Utah, I never went to the lakes that I am presenting in this post.  They are situated in the conjoined space at the far eastern end of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.  In fact, one can walk up to the lakes from the Big Cottonwood side, at the Brighton ski resort, and continue on the trail back down to the Alta ski resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon, or vice versa.

I didn’t visit the lakes for the precise reason that I described above…their proximity to potentially great quantities of people.  To give a small example of how many people one might encounter there, let me say that there were five vehicles, including mine, when I arrived in the parking lot at 5:55 am, and over 50 when I returned to my truck at 10:30 am…and that was on a Monday morning in the middle of summer.  When I lived there, I hiked on weekend mornings…so I avoided the place…in hopes of avoiding the above mentioned “great quantities of people.”

I didn’t study a map of the mountains before leaving for the hike, so I was a little surprised that I would encounter Dog Lake on the near approach to Lake Mary.  The little body of water in the second photo is Dog Lake.  There is another Dog Lake in Millcreek Canyon, just north of Big Cottonwood Canyon…and back when I used to study my mountain map of the area, I knew of both of these Dog Lakes…but had forgotten about this one.  You might remember a black and white rendition of the above photo….

The photo below is from the close approach to Lake Mary…just a little ways further into the mountains from Dog Lake.  As you can see the concrete wall in this image, you can tell that this is actually a reservoir, not a true lake.

Not that it matters much, what we call it…especially when we get up to the mountain-reflecting body of water and look out over it….

I had a sense of being home again when I was out on the trail heading up to the lakes…off in the mountains…very few people around…the smells of mountain earth, forest, flowers, grasses, and maybe even the water…all of it flooding my head…rejuvenating the muscle-memories and the actual physical sense of “being” in those surroundings.

I would have to confess then, too, that my body also knew it was only visiting, that it had been existing in the desert at maybe 1,200 feet in elevation…and that it was now hiking from over 8,700 feet up to 9,200 feet…and I felt that difference in my lack of wind and the need to “pull over” every now and then to catch my breath…heart pounding as it was rejoicing….

You can see the top of the reservoir wall in the below image.

There were three or four people sitting around Lake Mary and their voices carried loudly over the water and in the thinner air, so I made my few photographs and then headed back up the trail…up a little further to Lake Martha.

The bluebells were in a huge clump, almost like a grove, actually, if that’s possible…a rather large swath of near boggy forest floor that was covered in great, dark green leaves of some familiar plant whose name I didn’t know…with pink sparks of Indian paintbrush…and then almost purple gray smudges of what became bluebells as I got closer.

Life in passing…in waiting…in anticipation….

Between Lakes Martha and Catherine, there is a something like a minor cirque on the south side of the trail…it rather resembled an amphitheater…an almost bowl-like depression in the ground like some huge something had reached down and scooped out a chunk of earth and then littered the ground with grass and wildflowers and pine cones and rock litter from the hills above….

I sat in the grass and flowers for several minutes with my elbows propped on my knees, making photo after photo of the flowers…with my head and heart lost in the present and the past and wanting to stay there…right there…for fucking ever.

Anyway….

The bowl of Lake Catherine from the left…

…the middle…

…and the right….

This little guy has a bite of my chocolate brownie Cliff’s bar in his hands….

Now heading away from the lake…

Encountering another little squirrel-person eating what he’s supposed to eat…and appearing more fit and trim for doing so….

Lake Mary from above….

Yes…my favorite flower, ever…the Colorado Columbine in its various opening stages.

Below…red, white, and blue Wasatch Mountain wildflowers.

And the trail back down from Lake Mary with its patch of near hedge-like accompaniment of yellow flowers…and the forest beyond….

Thank you for enduring the longer post…for going home again with me to my beloved Wasatch Mountains…even if it was only for a few minutes.  If you enjoyed the hike even half as much as I did, I know you absolutely loved it.


Needing clarity….

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White Tank Mountains – Brittlebush

Encelia farinosa

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum fact-sheet

Sunday

March 1, 2020

8:14 – 8:55 a.m.

White Tank Mountains, Surprise, Arizona, United States

Arizona State Trust Land

Hiking

“Alone”

Not Lonely

Never Alone


vintage desert

One from the archives…November, 2018…looking east along the Walking Jim Trail…Lake Pleasant in the distance…and the rolling desert hills in between here and there.


two sides of the sky

One minute apart looking in opposite directions….

7:34 am, above; 7:35 am, below

Morning in the desert on State Trust land, just north of the White Tank Mountains in northwest Surprise, Arizona, USA.


New River Exploration

It’s been over a month already since I went looking for something new, a local place that contained a bit of wildness, a place that I hoped contained something like wildness, anyway.

I cross a bridge on my way to work every morning that spans a desert river that was a mere stream when I encountered it on January 5th of this year.

At this particular location, the river runs between the Glendale Municipal Airport to the west and the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium to the east….

…so it’s not exactly far away from anything civilized…and one might even suggest that it’s still smack-dab in the middle of it all.

I “had” to hop the fence that you might have noticed in the very first photo above.  I wanted to walk and explore along the actual river, so I had to get away from the cemented and fenced bike and walking path.  It was only upon my return to the walkway that I noticed the No Trespassing sign with its warning of prosecution, fines, and jail time.  Good grief.

Anyway, I found a free-flowing river, of sorts, one that happened to still be alive and moving in the desert.  I’m not sure how much of it will still be around come summer, but it was pleasant enough during my few hours out there.

One might consider that the riparian vegetation and bird life was enough to make this something approaching “wild.”

When we look closely we can see microcosms of life beneath the desert trees; we can see the tiny flora that can’t help but enrich the soil of the waterway.

There was an unexpected diversity of riparian trees, bushes, grasses, and other assorted growing stuff along the way.

You may already know of my admiration for dew drops on morning desert grasses….

It was almost easy to forget that I was close to an airport and football stadium when I didn’t look around or hear an aircraft overhead.

There was a feeling of being “away,” as long as I focused on what I could see and not so much on what I could hear.

I’m not sure of the particular variety, but there were many cottonwood trees along the waterway.

And even a fairly grand assortment of bird-life, as well (more to be highlighted in a following post).

Even a richness in the winter-colored ground-cover….

I don’t know what they’re called, but I think they’re fascinating little Japanese lantern type things that I found in only one spot along the river.

After going south and exploring close to a mile along the waterway, I encountered a significantly boggy stretch of ground that would have prevented me from keeping my boots dry if I continued heading in that direction.

So I went back north and past the roadway that I drive every morning, under the overpass, and into another stretch of the riparian wilderness that was more densely packed with trees and reeds and tall wild grasses and other thriving things.  I had to skirt quite a bit of the more slowly moving water and take a broader view of the area.

I finally made it close enough to the water and found the above setting; it was almost like being under a forest canopy.

A final image of the New River plant life.


a tree in context

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Palo Verde tree with low clouds over White Tank Mountains, 11/29/2019.


Toward Frary Peak on Antelope Island – Part Middle

We pick-up this post where we ended the last one, nearly the same spot, slightly different perspective, and a few/many feet further up the trail.

The hiking figure below me on the trail is continuing on her trek upwards, as well, drawing nearer, becoming more defined, and still providing an excellent gauge for perspective.  She is near the center of the below image….

Looking back over these photographs, I am still held by the colors and the expanse of vision, even with the slight haze in the distance.  It seems to add to the almost ethereal state of the place in my memory, these several months since the hike.

The images of the broader landscape do not show much color in the grasses that cover the island, but taking a closer look, we can see that there is quite a bit of green remaining in the middle of August.

The hiker has now passed me in her trek up toward the peak.  She told me that she didn’t live too far away and that she hiked the trail several times a month.  How wonderful for her, and for the island as well, to have such a dedicated and frequent visitor.

A sun drenched trail on a summer morning….

The below photo shows Stansbury Island (peninsula?) to the west.  When the lake’s water level is as low as it has been in recent years, one can literally walk to the island on the exposed lake-bed.  I went exploring there several years ago and did not find it as compelling as my trips to Antelope Island.  There have been more mining and other commercial endeavors on Stansbury and only the far west side accommodates public visitation.

Looking north and east in the below photo, we can see the lighter gray of the lake-bed between the darker earth and the evident blue of the water…

….and south and east in the below image, down toward Salt Lake City with the Wasatch Mountains in the distance…and the layered and fractured rock in the foreground.

I had seen photos of the lone tree when I searched the internet for other images from the island.  The ones from winter-time with the stark white of the snow-covered ground were most compelling.

One last segment to follow….


White Tank Mountains – State Trust Land

In April of the past year I went trespassing onto State Trust land that lies north and west of the White Tank Mountains.

White Tank Mountains, northwest side

I have now obtained my permit and can hike, shoot guns, park my truck, camp, get drunk and disorderly, or just otherwise mind my own business out there in the fenced desert of western Maricopa County.

White Tank Mountains closer to destination

On that first foray, I noticed the barely visible zigzag road on the side of the distant mountainside and purposed to get there someday, sometime, some other not-scorching Arizona morning.  Those are clumps of mistletoe hanging/subsisting in the palo verde tree in the below photograph…and creosote/greasewood in the foreground.

White Tank Mountain creosote, palo verde, and saguaro

So that’s where I went with purpose yesterday morning, back to that formerly trespassed land.  My plans for the day had been canceled and I jumped at the opportunity to get out there, to get out into the out-of-doors that lies just northwest of the town where I reside…to get into the literal desert just out there and beyond.

White Tank Mountain wild grasses

I’ve mentioned in the past how I find much of the desert so unappealing, especially when viewed from a distance, when all one sees is the rolling or flat or hilly or mountainy landscape or terrain or whatever you might call it…those locations where it just looks like dirt with green fur on it, if there’s even any fur to be seen.

White Tank Mountain panorama

And I’ve said, too, that I have intentionally gone out into the same desert looking for what my inner eye/heart might consider to be beautiful, compelling, possessing of that “something” that would make my mountain/forest loving soul, say, “Yes…it is beautiful out here.”

White Tank Mountain cholla skeleton

I have also shared that in order to find those things, I have had to look closer, to find those smaller things that give me pause, that insist upon being captured in images for me to reflect upon later, for me to enjoy.

White Tank Mountain ocotillo blossom

And so I endeavored….

White Tank Mountain assorted fauna

…to bring back images that were not too bleached-out by the late morning and early afternoon sun…

White Tank Mountain desert hillside

…to capture what might be a compelling representation of the essence of the lives that inhabit such a landscape…

White Tank Mountains wild grasses

…photographs that demonstrate what the desert is inside of that bleakness…the rolling fuzzy dirt of our West….

White Tank Mountain cholla

…the persistence of living…

White Tank Mountains decaying cholla

…the evidence of death and decay…

White Tank Mountains grass and cactus

…and the beautiful juxtaposition of harsh and delicate…

White Tank Mountain cactus in grass

…sharp and soft…

White Tank Mountains cholla and creosote

…loud and mute…

White Tank Mountains cholla in grass

…and may they be treasured…all.

White Tank Mountains grassy hillside

Thank you….

ADDENDUM: here is a nice link from AZBackcountryExplorers.com that provides helpful information about using State Trust Land.


Toward Frary Peak on Antelope Island – Part First

My very first trip to Antelope Island State Park was in February of 2012.  If you’re curious, you can click on this link to be taken back to the post I published after that visit.  And now my very most recent trip, partially documented in the following images, is from seven and one half years later, August of 2019.

Looking northeast-ish….

As I noted in the earlier posts about the sunrise on Antelope Island, it was my intention to get to the trailhead of the path that leads to Frary Peak at sunrise…but I was somehow delayed by the splendor of said sunrise reflecting off of the lake, etc., and didn’t get there until about an hour and a half later.

Turning your head a bit to the right from the above image…with the Wasatch Mountains in the background….

The images that follow are a chronological accounting of my hike up to the higher reaches on the island, close to 6,600 feet in elevation.  The trail is 3.5 miles in length and has an elevation gain of about 2,050 feet…which places the trailhead at right around 4,550 feet above sea level.

And now looking further southeast…back down toward Salt Lake City….

And I guess we could say we’re looking pretty much due south now in the below photo.

I’m drawn to the earth colors, the undulating hills, minor canyons or drainages, the small and larger crags, and the space that is open, yet bordered by the near water and the far mountains…I find it all compelling in a visceral sort of way.

All of this curved area in the below photo is referred to as “White Rock Bay,” which you can see here in an image from February 2014, with a much different perspective, as viewed from the north.

If I’m not mistaken, that’s Fremont Island off to the north…just left of center in the below photo…across the water.

Blue-green-gray sage in the foreground has an alluring scent, kind of resinous…and strong enough to linger on my fingertips for hours after rubbing/crushing the leaves between them…a small take-home treasure.

I didn’t see any antelope, but there were multiple strings of American Bison slowly trailing down the far/western side of the island.

A person approaches, below….

More to follow….


forest dreams in black and white

sometimes my daydreams are really thoughts about the things of which i would be dreaming, the words that describe what i would see or have seen, words i would use to tell you of the things i remember or wish to see again, so it might be appropriate to share those things in the black and white of words on paper, things which might be able to be described on the whole or in their collected parts, yet they are things which are beyond mere words when contemplated in the mixture of their richest essence, or in my experience, here

Dog Lake surround in B&W


Wasatch Mountain Wildflowers

Images of this nature used to be the normal fare for my spring and summer weekend hiking when I lived in Salt Lake City a few years ago…they were common enough punctuation marks in the trip narratives…highlights of color in the mountain landscapes…

…and now they are very occasional and intentional shared treasures of uncommon forays back into that used-to-be.

I don’t know the names of all of them, but when I do, I will share them, as I will here, above, with Queen Anne’s Lace, or Cow Parsnip…

…and the predominant flowers in the above image being Horsemint…a name shared with me by a fellow hiker after a chance encounter and then a follow-on comment on a post in those years ago.

Western Coneflowers above, something that I have also seen in the higher desert meadows of the Coconino National Forest just south of Flagstaff, Arizona.

The above resembles a type of gentian I have seen before, but I’m not sure how it is properly named.

A perfect Monday morning horizon above….

A trial for the newer camera…not entirely crispy, but still very clearly capturing dew drops on petals and leaves.

A richness of color for the eyes and morning crispness for the skin…and the mountain aroma of wet grasses and fragrant flowers….

I’m not sure about these, but there were tons of them on a western-facing slope as the sun was just over the mountains on the eastern side of the meadow….

Closer above and below….

And this one might be my favorite of the entire day…dew drops on Bluebells and leaves…I can still feel being there, making this particular photo, with anticipation and hope at what I would see on the computer when I brought the image home.

Life is full in that mountain environment, a feast for the senses at every turn.

And as I’ve shared previously, the Colorado Columbine, below, is my favorite flower, ever.

These were a first for me, the little purple Dr. Seuss flowers below….

And a fitting end for the post, I believe: a carpet of wildflowers with a Wasatch Mountain backdrop….

All images were made on 8-12-2019 during my very first hike from Brighton up to and from Lake Catherine.