“Who can withstand the recondite wisdom and sonorous silence of wildness?”**
**Terry Tempest Williams in An Unspoken Hunger.
It seems that any worthwhile hike in Arizona is going to start with something like what we find in the above image…waking a couple of hours before dawn and driving for those same hours to make it to the trail-head before the potential swarm of other humans and the known and persistent presence of the warming/heating/baking sun….
It was 4:37 am in the first image and then 7:12 am with this next one…145 miles later….
In my estimation, nothing compares with the sunrise on a forest trail…or a forest trail at sunrise…a most wonderful place to be on a September Sunday morning.
Many people know of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail…but maybe not so many know about the local version of those adventures, The Arizona Trail. This is a cross-state trek that literally goes from the US/Mexican border in the south, all the way up to the Arizona/Utah border in the north…800 miles of trail broken into 43 segments that can be accessed from various locations and hiked individually…as simple out and back day hikes, or as overnight backpacking treks…or however else one might desire to experience them. You can click on each of the above trail names to be taken to their internet home pages.
For those of you who have been following/visiting the blog for at least the last four years, you might remember various posts about Marshall Lake, Fisher Point, hiking in the Coconino National Forest, etc. The majority of those posts came from my hikes along the segment of the Arizona Trail that goes north from Marshall Lake to beyond Fisher Point…a stretch of the trail that is known as Passage 31: Walnut Canyon.
While it would be something of a dream to be able to thru-hike the entirety of the trail, the constraints of my life as it currently exists only allow for occasional forays. That said, I have hiked the southern part of Passage 31 four times over the last four years, so it seemed like it was time to try another segment…and for simplicity’s sake, I chose the one that heads south from the same trail-head at Marshall Lake…Passage 30: Anderson Mesa. For those interested, the numbering of the passages goes from south to north…Mexico to Utah.
If I’m going to be especially honest about this particular adventure, there was nothing thrilling about it…the only landscape change was going from my parking location down closer to Marshall Lake, up through a couple hundred yards of oak and pine forest, and then onto the plain of the mesa.
There was a lot of open sky…and prairie grass that was much greener than one can see in these photos…. Again with the honesty thing, I should include that it was still interesting…largely because it was different and unknown.
The middle “peak” in the above image of the San Francisco Peaks is actually the highest point in Arizona…Humphrey’s Peak…at 12,633 feet in elevation. I spent the better part of a Sunday climbing up and down that mountain three Septembers past…a wonderful and crowded adventure that you might remember from this post.
As I hiked and as the hours pressed onward, I kept waiting for something “more,” which didn’t and couldn’t really happen, given that I was hiking on the top of an essentially flat mesa…I had to look closely…to consciously view things with “new” eyes….open ones…watching eyes…even then it became a bit……..monotonous.
If I had had unlimited time and endurance, I could have gone the entire length of this particular segment, which was something like 17 miles…and I would have encountered scenery that would have been less…….monotonous.
But…the mountains were there, behind me, the temperature was in the 50s at the start of the hike and only in the mid-70s toward the end…so it was still a good…pleasant adventure.
Less than a mile from the trail-head, the trail passed the Lowell Observatory…and then it passed Prime Lake and Vail Lake. From what I could see, only Prime Lake contained water. Both bodies weren’t “lakes” as we often imagine them, but were more of marshes whose water levels would raise with the seasons. They were also both fenced and posted with signs identifying them as preserves or refuges for wildlife and migrating birds.
The open space in the above image is Lower Lake Mary…not holding any water when I was there…but which contained some during my visit last year which allowed me to capture this image…something I was hoping to duplicate on the morning of this hike.
Hiking across the open plains of the mesa did bring a couple of “firsts” with this adventure…the first time I saw antelope and a coyote while out on a hike. I have seen them plenty of other times, mostly while driving, but this was the first occasion of actually encountering them out in the “wild.”
The first image of the San Francisco Peaks above was from 8:26 am…and the one below was from 11:23 am…three busy hours in the jet-stream hauling clouds from their wherever places to the high desert and mountains of Northern Arizona.
Thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into The Arizona Trail…..
The storm woke me at 3:45 that morning with rain slashing sideways into the bedroom windows…bolts of light flashed through the curtains and thunder sounded from its near, though distant home. I had purposed the night before to rise early and head into the desert’s mountains because I wanted to see and hear the water flowing from the previous day’s showers. The early morning rain was still alive in the mountains’ waterways when I found myself there only hours later…tiny tinklings of life running slowly down the canyons…resting in small pools mid-trail…and rising in surprising excess atop delicate blades of grass….
Fifty miles north of the city, give or take, a pleasant obstacle in the Black Canyon Trail…a treasure from the desert’s summer rains….
The wildflowers were blooming along Lake Mary Road on the southeast side of Flagstaff this past weekend…too beautiful to resist…too compelling to keep driving past without capturing a few images…furthermore, it was 80 degrees in the mountains…and close to 110 down in the desert…so it was a Sunday morning/afternoon well spent up north.
It’s been over six months since I shared an installment of the street-art or building murals that I’ve encountered in the greater Phoenix area. I suppose it was good timing, then, that something caught my eye the other morning as I was out in the field for work…at 137 E University Drive in Mesa…. The address was not on my itinerary for places to visit, but I couldn’t drive past without stopping to make a few images.
A previously unseen (by me) mural glowing invitingly on the side of the road…on the side of the wall at Mesa’s United Way building, actually. While I thought the deeper meaning of the mural might have something to do with enriching the lives of Mesa’s children, families, etc., it was actually sponsored by one of the local power companies, Salt River Project. Click on the highlighted words to see more about the “#Powerisallyours” campaign.
As far as the artist is concerned, I had seen one of his other murals on the backside of a coffee shop in Phoenix, but had not yet visited it to make any photos. Click on his highlighted name to learn more about Addison Karl, a multi-media artist from Munich who has murals all over the world.
If you’d like to see the earlier posts of street art and building murals from the greater Phoenix or Salt Lake City areas, you can scroll down to the Categories widget at the bottom right-hand side of this page and click on the “Street Art – Graffiti” link.
As always, thanks for visiting and spending a few minutes of your day with me.
I was heading west on County Highway 85 (MC85 for any locals reading along), also named “Buckeye Road” in its eastern environs, going toward the town of Buckeye, where I hoped to find someone who had some positive test results and was in need of medication.
My work with the health department takes me to various corners of the county…all of them over time…so I get to go places and see things that a “normal” office job likely wouldn’t provide. Sometimes I go to jails, city parks, transient camps, doctors’ offices, hospital emergency rooms, or psych wards…and other times I’m actually out “in the field.”
The US Department of Agriculture’s “2012 Census of Agriculture” (the most current one I could find) for Maricopa County, Arizona, provides that there were 2,579 farms consisting of 475,898 acres of land at that time. Those numbers reflected a 38% increase in the number of farms and a 2% decrease in acres of land since the previous census, dated 2007. I provide all of that to simply state that there remains quite a bit of agricultural land in the County, with most of it being situated on the outskirts of the more densely populated areas.
For those interested, this Wikipedia article provides that Maricopa County has a total area of 9, 224 square miles, is 132 miles wide from east to west, and measures 103 miles from north to south…it has a greater land mass than seven states, is the fourth most populous county in the USA, and has a population of 4,307,033 (2017), which is greater than that of 23 states.
I took my camera to work with me on this particular day because I was hoping to make some photos of the melon and corn fields that are near my home, on my way home from work…when the light would be softer with the setting sun, etc…so I had it with me when I was in the field driving hither and yon…passing field upon field of corn, cotton, hay, onions, and alfalfa.
A five minute stop on the way to Buckeye allowed me to get down and personal with a surprisingly fragrant field of alfalfa at about 10:30 am on a day that was supposed to get up near 115 degrees.
I found the address, but not the person I was looking for when I made it to Buckeye…
…but I did bring back some unplanned bounty in the way of a few photographs…and testimony to the fact that Arizona farming can yield beautiful results!
There are marquis-type signs over the freeways in the city that tell drivers that it is going to be a “high pollution day” tomorrow and suggest that they use alternative means of transportation…bike, bus, carpool, etc….
…but there are no signs out in the agricultural areas telling drivers to keep their vehicles’ windows closed or to wear respirators so they don’t breathe-in the ever rising dust that comes from the tractors and machines turning the desert fields….
Panning east to west and proceeding minute by minute, this was the view from the side of a road less than one mile from my house last evening.
I’ve mentioned before that I live in the far northwest corner of the “Valley of the Sun” that is Metropolitan Phoenix…the pan of desert that through the miracles and science of hydrology and irrigation, comes alive with great expanses of nearly unnatural hues of green that we don’t expect to find in places such as this.
The foreground is dominated by watermelon fields, the dark line with the golden cap beyond the field is ripening corn, and then you see the edge of a neighborhood to the left (east), and then the Estrella Mountains in the distance. There are hiking trails on the right (west) end that are similar to the ones found in the White Tank Mountains that you can see in the last photograph below.
The trails are part of the offerings in the Estrella Mountain and White Tank Mountain Regional Parks, which were created and are maintained by the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department.
Making photos of this area has been on the agenda for the last couple of weeks…as the softer light of the setting sun make for more appealing images. The clouds were not expected, but greatly appreciated. They are an early indication of the approaching monsoon season, but have yet to do anything more serious than add to the humidity and cause desert hearts to long for rain.