Somewhere between the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s, I was taking a creative writing class at a local community college. One of the assignments was to write poetry…and I put together something about two lovers who could only meet at the fence of the jail yard where one of them was incarcerated. All told, it was rather lame; kissing through the fence, etc., right, whatever; but the title remains in my memory. It is refreshed, somehow, when I encounter the stuff again, the barbed-wire; it just pops to mind.
Anyway…sunrise along a high-desert highway in Arizona, 7/21/2019…there it is all over again…barbed-wire kisses….
If you have been following the blog for some time, you might recognize the art/artist presented in this current installment of City Paint Phoenix.
The artist goes by the name of “El Mac” and he has painted murals all over the United States and across the globe.
I have shared images of his other works on at least six other occasions…which you can find by scrolling to the bottom of this page and clicking on the Category, “Street Art – Graffiti,” or by simply clicking on the highlighted link.
As you can read in this article in AZCentral.com, the image is based upon an actual person, a teenaged Native American girl who lives on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which is located just east of Scottsdale.
For those of you who live in, or are going to visit the Phoenix area, you can find the 45 foot tall mural on the southeast corner of the building at 111 W Monroe Street, just one block south of the better known Van Buren Street, and one block west of Central Avenue, in the heart of downtown Phoenix. There is metered parking on the north side of the building, but if you’re only going to be there for a few minutes, you could probably get away with parking in the alley on the south side, as I did. A security officer came out of the building to check on my truck parked in the alley, but he just smiled, said “Good morning,” and then walked away as he saw me with my camera admiring the mural.
El Mac painted the main feature of the mural and his friend and collaborator, Breeze, painted the decorative trim that we see in brighter colors surrounding the mural and extending around the building and down the walls.
After viewing the mural the first time and having taken multiple photographs with my phone, I purposed to return the next morning with my camera to make some “real” images, which I did.
I should also add that I left the scene that first morning with something of a lightness of spirit…like an inspiration or a feeling of calm…like it didn’t matter that I still had to go to work for eight hours and be stuck inside an office or talk to people with whom I really didn’t want to talk…it was okay. I was further touched each time I got out my camera during the day to look at the images again and again.
Maybe it was the serenity and hopefulness that I could see in the young woman’s expression…
…or maybe I was still awestruck from having been in the presence of a simple beauty that transcended even the need for words to describe it.
August 14, 2019 was the 33rd Wednesday of the year….the 54th day of Summer…and the 226th day of the year. It was also Pakistan Independence Day…and World Lizard Day…six police officers were shot in Philadelphia on this day…and the Arizona Diamondbacks lost to the Colorado Rockies by the score of 6-7.
I was up from the desert to visit my Utah kids and to hike on Antelope Island…and to see a summer sunrise from a favored place.
It may seem odd to find American Bison on a large island out in The Great Salt Lake in northern Utah…but they’re there anyway and they create something of an allure to visitors from both home and abroad.
Wikipedia provides that there are between 550 and 700 individual bison on the island during any given year…and that, because of the lack of natural, non-human predators, the herd can increase by about 25% per year.
I saw 5-6 different groupings of the bison during my hours on the island that day…including this medium-sized collection and another one that I will share in a later post.
The first day of Summer last year, 6/21/2020, brought me back to a place that I had first explored on 3/29/2015, Parsons Trail in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area…which is located just north and east of Clarkdale, Arizona…which is a bit south and west of Sedona.
I left the canyon with almost six hundred photos after my first exploration…
…and brought home a bit under four hundred this last time.
So after browsing and examining the recent cache, I was able to whittle-down the presentable images to a few dozen…
…some of which I have already presented, here, and the remainder of which will appear in following posts.
Given that there were so many photos that I thought were “share-worthy,” I have separated them into the general categories of…
…trails, fauna, water, grass seed-heads…
…and one set of two images that will present the Sycamore Canyon version of Kermit….
It took roughly two hours to make it to the trailhead, some eleven or so miles beyond Clarkdale, from my house in the far northwest corner of Metropolitan Phoenix.
The very first image in this post was from the cliff edge where the trail drops from the trail-head parking lot into the canyon, at just shy of 7:00 am…so the sun was already up and well enough over the horizon to remove the shadows for a good portion of the canyon, but as you can see, was not sufficiently high to do so entirely…there was still a softness to the light in the canyon and a strong remainder of shadow to effect the images with a broader view.
In the eighth and ninth images above, to the right side of each, you can see raspberry bushes…a nice surprise for a high-desert, canyon hike.
Incredibly diverse plant life…just wonderful stuff.
The “focus” of this post is supposed to be the actual trail itself…a general subject of which I am quite fond…whether they’re winding through a mountain forest, through a “typical” desert range or flatlands, I find something very alluring about them; compelling, drawing, inviting…. In the below photo, you may notice that the trail is actually on the lowest level of the tiered rock just above the waterline…leading us back into the greenery…
…and this bit of trail takes us to the right of the fallen, sharp edged blocks, and skirting the cliff wall. By the way, the sand that you can see in the foreground was finer than beach sand…almost dusty at that location…making for awkward and struggling foot steps.
Now going beneath aged cedar trees….
…and now pass along the flattened rock, again, taking us beyond another larger pond that has formed in the length of stream.
On the way back, now, in the below photo, with the sun full overhead…
…and welcoming the shade again, of the branching mesquite and other canyon trees…at just after 11:00 am.
And below…the price one pays for going north to hike on a weekend day…the drive back to the Phoenix valley…..
The wrecked juju or Zen aside, it was well worth the drive to hike in Sycamore Canyon again. Thank you for joining me.
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 freezing 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.
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.
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….
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.
….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.
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.
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.
…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….
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.
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.
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…
…and disconcertingly beautiful…
Referred to as the Central Fire in local media…burning since the previous day.
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….
To read more about the artist, La Morena, click on this link.
…I stopped for something else…
…enjoyed that something else…
…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.
March 1, 2020
8:14 – 8:55 a.m.
White Tank Mountains, Surprise, Arizona, United States
Arizona State Trust Land
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.
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.
Palo Verde tree with low clouds over White Tank Mountains, 11/29/2019.
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….
In April of the past year I went trespassing onto State Trust land that lies north and west of the White Tank Mountains.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
And so I endeavored….
…to bring back images that were not too bleached-out by the late morning and early afternoon sun…
…to capture what might be a compelling representation of the essence of the lives that inhabit such a landscape…
…photographs that demonstrate what the desert is inside of that bleakness…the rolling fuzzy dirt of our West….
…the persistence of living…
…the evidence of death and decay…
…and the beautiful juxtaposition of harsh and delicate…
…sharp and soft…
…loud and mute…
…and may they be treasured…all.
ADDENDUM: here is a nice link from AZBackcountryExplorers.com that provides helpful information about using State Trust Land.
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.
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….
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
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.