A sketch rendering of the image from the post, “The Road Home.”
A gift from my son, HB.
Maybe it’s an appropriate post for the first day of the new year…onward and upward, as the saying goes….
Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona.
It has been several years since I have had the opportunity to behold the beauty of a snow-blanketed plain with mountains in the background and a serendipitous flock of clouds overhead.
Somewhere north of Scipio and south of Nephi, Utah, a northbound roadside view looking east from the side of I-15, heading home for the holiday.
Hmmm…racquetball…hiking…birthdays…knees…. My exercise for the past almost two months has consisted of walks around the circuit of the underground parking garage at work, five laps of which equals 1.15 miles. It’s too warm during the day to walk outside with Phoenix temperatures ranging lately from 99 to 106 degrees, so I walk underground. Five laps at lunch makes me sweat…two laps at a time during stolen 7-8 minute breaks from my desk just makes me warm and is doable. I’ve not been hiking for months, like almost a year of months. Anyway.
I left the house with camera a couple of Saturdays ago at the same time I normally leave with my son to take him to work and then myself to work. I wanted to capture something of the sunrise near the cultivated and fenced meadows where horses graze at 60th Avenue and Thunderbird. I have seen them in the mornings and wanted to see them on my own when I had nowhere else to be. It held a promise that wasn’t fulfilled this morning.
The horses were too far away from the pipe fence boundary keeping me out and the sun was too far behind and to my side for me to be able to even see anything that was resembling of what I hoped to find. I did stop, however, and made a few images of horses grazing, trees biding their lives in their row-planted places between meadows, and then left to find something else.
I found coffee at McDonalds, an image of a jogger heading south and east along the canal bank from 43rd Ave/Peoria, found some images of Prince on the wall next to Rodriguez’s Boxing Club at 15th Ave/Roosevelt, and then found myself at La Canasta, at 7th Ave/Grant St, purchasing a bit of Mexican wonderfulness.
I took my goodies to Encanto Park, at 15th Ave/Entcanto Blvd, where I sat and watched the quiet morning further unfold as mothers pushed their stroller-bound little ones along the sidewalk, transients sitting on cement benches watching those same young mothers walk past, and another likely transient, a severely aged man with full white hair and beard, baby-stepping from his evening’s bed in the grass heading toward the park’s restrooms.
I wanted to go ask him if I could take his picture, to add that experience to my memory files of uncomfortable things that I have made myself do, but I had no cash to offer him and had only my half-eaten burrito, something that I was not going to offer or relinquish for a couple of photographs.
The twenty-or-so-minutes that I spent at the park was full of memories, anyway, as consuming the particular burrito that I had ordered sparked an opening of old folders from when I worked at the police department and with the health department the first time.
The burritos were a favorite Saturday or Sunday morning treat, often bought with bags of chips and salsa to share with coworker friends on the supervisors’ pod. Other times, it was just me at the park alone, sitting in my vehicle or at a bench having a burrito and watching the morning or afternoon foot traffic of park visitors or denizens as they made their various ways or circuits along wherever.
I was going to return home then, but thought I would head down to the river bottom at 7th Ave just south of Watkins and see what the restoration area looked like, to see if I might enjoy a still fairly early morning walk along the river’s greenery and then. I parked at the west lot and went down and under the overpass and slowly headed east on the paved walkway, then stepped off and continued along on the parallel graveled service road.
I encountered a friendly transient who mumbled a “good morning,” and then continued eastward along the “river and through the woods.” There was not a full canopy of trees with their cathedral arching boughs, but it was often shaded and comfortable enough walking nearly beneath the desert riparian vegetation.
The goal was to go from the 7th Avenue trailhead east to 16th Street and then back again, but I encountered several fences blocking my way, as there had been construction to repair the 7th Street bridge over the river from where it had been damaged in last year’s monsoons.
I did not find any “no trespassing” signs, so I went around a couple of the fences where they ended at the river bank, scooted between two panels that were ajar because of their position on the downward slope of the hillside up from the river, and then walked through an open gate when I found one.
I was past the 7th Street bridge, a mile from my starting point, and heard a construction worker yelling down or at someone while he appeared to be pointing out in my direction, but I kept walking in my casual pace and making photos of a white egret that I happened to see on the far bank.
Having heard the construction worker yelling and pointing, apparently in my direction, caused a bit of unease, so when I encountered another fence about a quarter mile before my intended goal at 16th Street, I turned around and headed back to my truck.
I was approaching the overly-warm condition that told me that I needed to turn around anyway, so it was good to do so. Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought any water with me, so I was starting to feel stupid, as well as overly-warm. And fortunately, my animal brain was still alert enough to notice a snake-like something in the shadows that my then-awakened and present mind discerned to be a piece of rope.
For context, I will add that this is the Rio Salado River that passes through the metropolitan Phoenix area about a mile or so south of downtown. Its origins are far north and east of the valley; it is dammed-up at “Roosevelt Lake,” and then flows, when it flows, down to the Phoenix area, fills the “Tempe Town Lake,” and then continues westward into Phoenix proper. The river bed continues south and west, beyond my experience and detailed knowledge, and way far away. Back in the early 2000s, the City of Phoenix spent over 10 million dollars restoring a stretch between 7th Avenue and 24th Street, cleaning decades’ worth of trash and dumpings, and then planting native riparian species all along the river bed.
There are even locations where fresh water is piped-in to the area, keeping water in the river bed throughout the year. Driving over the bridges at 7th Ave and 7th St, and even to a lesser degree at 16th and 24th Streets, one can see the intense greenery around the riverbed and be tempted to forget that one is actually in the middle of the Phoenix desert. That’s actually a blue/gray heron in the above image.
When I researched the riparian restoration project a few years ago for an earlier blog post, I was surprised to learn that before the river was dammed and formed Roosevelt Lake, it used to flow at such a depth and breadth that there was a ferry service used to cross the river, many years ago.
It was nice to be out there again. Yes, I could see and hear the road and air traffic around and above me, could hear the beep-beeping of construction vehicles moving and backing around as the drivers were doing their work, and I could see the various warehouse and other light-industrial buildings hundreds of yards away on both sides of the river…but I could also see the intensely green natural and other vegetation surrounding the river, see reeds and sedges and other things that have no business being in the middle of the urban desert where I found them.
I saw pigeons, mourning doves, sparrows, some type of woodpecker, quail, ground squirrels, cotton-tail and jack rabbits, a grey/blue heron, a couple snowy egret, several lizards, and too many dragon-flies to count. I enjoyed that I was there and able to moderately participate in Nature again, to appraise my human weaknesses and strengths against the essentially mild desert environment…to feel stupid at being there without water, and to feel relief when I made it back to my truck and had the A/C blowing full-force into my face for several minutes while I drank the bottled water that I had there in the cab…
…and then to be alive later, here at home, sitting in my recliner in the A/C cooled TV room with music playing quietly in my headphones, with a cup of ice-cooled Gatorade at hand…with leg muscles telling me that I had been out hiking/wandering further than the neighborhood circuit where I usually walk on the weekends or the parking garage circuit where I walk during the week. Yes, in the broader context of my experience, it was “nice.”
A follow-on post from a couple of weeks ago…
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.