In January of last year, I went for a bit of a hike, walk, or exploration in the greenbelt area where the New River desert water-feature flows. It wasn’t a particularly thrilling adventure, but I was looking to experience something akin to wildness that existed within the suburban/metropolitan area of greater Phoenix…and found a bit of it here.
If you’re interested, you can go back in time by clicking here to visit the post that detailed the exploration.
I was expecting to see various plant life, hopefully a fish or two in the small stream, but I was surprised when I found an abundance of bird life, especially the birds of prey.
The very first photo above may be of some type of finch (couldn’t find an exact match), the second may be a crowned or hooded sparrow, and the pretty bird in the photograph immediately above and below these words appears to be an American Kestrel, also called a sparrow hawk, reportedly the smallest falcon in North America.
The next three photos strike me as being of a Harris Hawk.
I thought the bird might be a Cooper’s Hawk, but it was too darkly colored.
It is also too darkly colored to be a Red Tailed Hawk.
So through the process of elimination, I have settled for the appellation of Harris Hawk.
Lastly, we have a Peregrine Falcon. This guy/gal was not comfortable with anything resembling a “close” encounter, so I made the photo from “way far away” and thank the zoom feature of my camera for this fine little treasure.
As I mentioned in that earlier post, the physical setting for this New River exploration is equidistant between the NFL Arizona Cardinals’ stadium and the Glendale Municipal Airport. I nice little retreat from civilization while nestled in the middle of it.
Thank you for visiting….
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….
Not on a burned tortilla, grilled-cheese sandwich, or even in the faded paint on the side of an old weathered barn…but walking among us…sleeping under our same roof for almost 20 years…who knew…?
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.
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” that 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, then north 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….
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.
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.
The bowl of Lake Catherine from the left…
…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.
March 1, 2020
8:14 – 8:55 a.m.
White Tank Mountains, Surprise, Arizona, United States
Arizona State Trust Land
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.
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.