Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XXIII: Great Lakes and Muddy Rivers

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April 12, 2017, Prescott-  Every major transportation route, from airlines to roads, seems to lead to Chicago, or at least within its magnetic sphere.  For me, there is an added draw:  The Baha’i House of Worship for North America, in Wilmette, north of the city.  The House of Worship’s location, overlooking Lake Michigan, highlights the fascination I’ve long had, with the Great Lakes.  I would frequently visit “the Temple”, regardless, but the lake is a draw, in itself.  A few dips in its waters, as well as at Indiana Dunes and Fruitport, MI, have been a tonic, on a hot day. I have also been alongside Lake Erie, in Toledo, Cleveland and Erie, as well as Lake Superior, at Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The lakes are only part of what I have enjoyed about the east central region, between the Great Plains and the Atlantic Coast.  Chicago, as problematic as its internecine battles have been, remains a majestic city.  So, too, does St. Louis, especially with the Gateway Arch, and nearby Cahokia Mounds, highlighting the importance of the confluence of two great rivers.  Speaking of which, Cairo, IL has a special place in my heart, marking the union of the Ohio and the Mississippi.  I have prayed at Trail of Tears State Park, in Missouri and at Scioto Hills, Ohio, for the recognition that mankind is one, and that the Aboriginal nations feel vindicated of their long ago suffering.  I have felt intensely welcomed in Des Moines , in Cape Girardeau, New Madrid, and Rolla (MO), Quincy (IL), Francesville (IN) and Fruitport (MI).  Two of the best meals I’ve ever had, were in Dixon and in Vandalia (IL).

The Indigenous People of the riparian region may have irritated Abraham Lincoln, whose heritage I have honoured, in New Salem and Springfield (IL) and in Hodgenville, KY.  There would, however, not be as rich an overall heritage, for the Midwest, were it not for Cahokia, Chillicothe (OH), Pipestone (MN)  and the remaining nations that grace nearly every state in the East Central swath.  Too bad  that Honest Abe didn’t get to know the Native peoples better.  It may have made a great difference in the fates of their descendants.

I have plenty of family in this vast region- in Avilla and Blue Springs, MO, plus  Jeffersonville, IN.  Friends abound here, as well, in northern Illinois, the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, several parts of Missouri, eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, across Indiana, Little Rock, New Orleans, and eastern Alabama.

There remain many parts of the mid-section that pique my interest, from northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to bubbling, revitalizing cities, like Kansas City, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Detroit.

I will be back across, on the way to/from a family reunion, in mid-summer.  It’ll be a fine thing to feel the water, and the warmth of Midwest welcomes.

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, No. XXII: Wonders of the Middle Realm

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April 9, 2017, Prescott- Yesterday, I wrote of the western third of the contiguous United States, which is where I have spent most of my time, since 1992.  Being from the East Coast, and preferring surface travel over flying,  especially when the weather is good, I have developed an affinity for the regions which many call “flyover country”.  The Great Plains and South Central regions may not have the jaw-dropping grandeur of the Mountain West or Alaska, but there is plenty worthy of spending one’s time.

The Rockies, of course, are the heart of the Mountain West.  In many visits to the heights of Colorado, I have felt most at home in Longmont, Loveland and Denver, where I have family.  Manitou Springs, Garden of the Gods and Seven Falls have helped make Colorado Springs another “feel at home” stopover.  One of these years, I will find my way to the summit of Pikes Peak.  Boulder, also, has welcomed me, several times, with wonders ranging from Pearl Street Mall, and Boulder Books, to Eldorado Canyon, which I hiked in the rain, whilst carrying an umbrella.  The Tetons and Yellowstone invite me back, as well, with visions of geysers and Grizzlies.

As the Rockies recede into the Great Plains, I find Spirit Tower (forget the name, “Devil”), Medicine Wheel, the Badlands, Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak), Scott’s Bluff and the determination of the Indigenous People of the prairie as riveting as any great mountain or canyon.  Little towns like Deadwood, Belvedere and Custer(overlook the name) (SD), Burlington, Granada and Walsenburg (CO), Wellington,Dodge City and Hays (KS) have been as welcoming as any place in the West.  There is, to my mind, a goodly amount of sophistication and culture to be found in Omaha, Lincoln and Wichita, as well.

Friends in Amarillo and Enid (OK) have helped make those cities almost necessary pit stops, on any eastward trek that takes a southern route.  Texas, like California, is a world unto itself.  I was captivated by the warmth I felt, across the state, from the great cities of El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston to small communities- Grand Saline, South Padre Island, Laredo, Marfa, Sanderson, Quanah and Temple.  There wasn’t much happening in Luckenbach, when I happened through there, but the locals were glad I came, anyway.  Revelations abound, across the Lone Star State, from the view of the Rio Grande’s confluence with the Gulf of Mexico, to Pedernales Falls, northwest of San Antonio, or the wild canyons of the Llano Estacado and the Trans-Pecos region.  My favourite museum section remains the Music Hall, at Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History, near the Texas State Capitol (itself an extraordinary edifice).  Then, there are the five missions in San Antonio- a very full day of discovery!

Oklahoma has no end of variety, but I will content myself with sending kudos to Lake Texoma and Lake of the Cherokees, Black Mesa(the state’s highest point, at its juncture with New Mexico and Colorado), Tonkawa and its monument to Chief Joseph, of the Nez Perce, and the heartfelt, humbling memorial to the victims of Oklahoma City’s tragic bombing, in 1995.  Oklahoma City remains the only place where I have been mistaken for a county employee- being invited to an employee barbecue, as I walked by, on the way to the Memorial.

I will continue to skip the temptation to fly over, as long as the weather is not too harsh.

 

Mocoa, Mosul, Memphis

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April 4, 2017, Prescott- 

Three rivers converged,

burying some bodies,

and taking others into the maw

of the Amazon Basin.

Five nations’ armies converge,

blasting some innocents to smithereens,

sending others into the maw

of  pseudo-Islamic madness.

Four men converged,

in a sultry  neighbourhood.

One killed another,

sending America into the maw

of an outpouring of grief,

which the nation has yet to overcome.

 

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XIV: Picketpost Mountain

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March 13, 2017, Superior, AZ- Spring Break started in earnest, this morning.  A drive down to my dentist’s office took care of a moderately vexing issue, then I stopped at Scottsdale’s lovely Baha’i Center, to recite my morning prayers, in its serene courtyard.

Superior, and the Upper Queen Creek Watershed, have long been on my radar screen as a venue for exploration.  Picketpost Mountain forms a spectacular backdrop for Boyce Thompson Arboretum, a compendium of desert flora, from around the globe.  Like its counterpart, Desert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix’s  Papago Park, “The Boyce” manages to educate a wide-ranging public, on the value of deserts and the importance of preserving the life that is found in them.  Much more about all that, later.

My immediate draw, even before getting to the town of Superior, was a brief (2-mile, round trip) hike in the eastern approach to Picketpost’s base.  This gave me a foothold on Arizona National Scenic Trail, the length of which may yet be in my future.  It was also not enervating, as I am in the last week of a sunrise-to-sunset fast, of 19 days’ duration.

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This work station is managed by the Federal BLM, two of whose workers were on hand, when I first pulled in, to make sure I wasn’t planning on camping at the site.  Picketpost dominates Superior’s western approach, much as Pike’s Peak lords over Colorado Springs, and the San Francisco Peaks, over Flagstaff.  It was named by soldiers stationed here, under Gen. George Stoneman, in 1870, as it was a good spot for a sentinel post. Here are some of what await the serious hiker. (I would consider it in October, not before.)

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The wall is a remnant of General Stoneman’s western camp.  The bulk of his operation was what is now the town of Superior, 3 miles further east.

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As you will see, continuously, in this series, the rains have been good to Arizona, this winter.

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Thanks to my zoom,  here is a close-up of the top ridge, from a good distance.

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In the opposite direction, Weaver’s Needle says “Hey, remember me?”  I surely do, and what a marvelous trek that was!

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I have encountered many heart rocks, all symbols that the Universe holds me in a good place.  Diamond-shaped rocks are a sign of one step further.  Superior would join Prescott, Bisbee, Flagstaff, Sedona, Tubac and Chloride as a special Arizona place in my heart.

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Next up:  Oak Flat

 

Hearts, Black History and Chief Executives

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February 1, 2017, Prescott-

The Mini-Month is now upon us, with groundhogs galore waiting to be yanked out of the ground, tomorrow.  I know there will be many enlightening programs and articles about African-Americans, this month, but I think people should be fully honoured for their place in America’s story, and the stories of the world, EVERY month, and regardless of ethnicity.  Still, I’m glad the stories are getting out there.  Too many people still think Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, Irish-Americans, and even women, collectively, are making up, or exaggerating, the past,  because “things aren’t so bad for ________________ NOW!” We  have to know our history, and know it well, for the very reason that too many people see things on the surface, and have short memories.

The Italian martyr, Valentino, has become a symbol of unconditional love and thus a day devoted to love- and romance- has taken the English form of his name.  St. Valentine’s Day falls on a work day, Tuesday, this year.  I will be giving the same unconditional love to my students that I offer, every day.

The following weekend will be Presidents’ Day, ostensibly to honour two of our greatest Chief Executives:  Washington and Lincoln, and, by extension, those of our presidents who have not harmed our nation.  Who they are, remains a matter of intense debate.  I have my opinion, but will not get into that, here.

Aram will leave for South Korea, in about a week.  I will be at San Diego International Airport, to see him off.  Then, each of us will get on with our respective duties, and other aspects of our lives.  For him, there will be some familiar aspects, as he was born, and spent his first three years of life, in Jeju, and shore duty will be more of a routine, than sea duty.  For me, the regimen will continue at school, the American Legion honours World War II’s Four Chaplains, my work for the Baha’i Faith goes on, and new outdoor adventures will present themselves- Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountains, the Verde Valley’s Limekiln Trail and, a slightly-delayed visit to Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park, in Yarnell.

It looks to be a fascinating 28 days.

Fain Park, Revisited

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December 18, 2016, Prescott Valley-

This city, southeast of “old” Prescott, is sometimes seen as a counterpart to Gertrude Stein’s Oakland- “No there, there”.  It does have its gems, though, among them, Fain Park, in the southwest corner of town.

I hadn’t been back to Fain, for three years now.  So, this afternoon, following a small biweekly get-together at a Prescott Valley restaurant, I took an hour’s walk along the park’s Cavalry and Canyon Loop trails.

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There is a small lake, created by damming Lynx Creek, which flows down from the Bradshaw Mountains, towards the plains of central Yavapai County.  Lynx Creek also is the basis for Lynx Lake, a popular recreational reservoir, about five miles further southwest. Above, is a photo of Lynx Creek Gorge.

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This is a view of the Barlow-Massicks House, a still-occupied complex, once associated with the gold mining, which took place long before Prescott Valley was established as a town.

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On private land, south of Fain Park, there are several preserved ruins of stone miner’s cabins.

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This is the mostly dry bed of Rose Creek, a tributary of Lynx Creek, and another locus of gold panning, in the early Twentieth Century.

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I came upon Lynx Creek again, just before returning to the parking lot. It was running, just a bit, after Friday’s copious rains.

Fain Park remains, along with Glassford Hill and Mingus Mountain’s western slope, a fine place for connecting with one’s natural self, along the edges of a growing suburban community.

Poisoned By These Fairy Tales

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December 11, 2016, Prescott-

Don Henley included that phrase, in his song, “The End of the Innocence”, in 1989.  It was partly a reaction to what he regarded as the excesses of the Reagan-Bush the Elder years.

I think of it, instantly, whenever an outlandish conspiracy theory surfaces.  I have my own take on such theories, which are always based on fear-gone-wild.  They are a natural outgrowth of the complex levels of secrecy, employed by so many in the power structure.  Nature, and the human mind, abhor vacuums.  Where there is no explanation, a person will provide one of his/her own.  When no credible explanation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was offered, in which all questions were suitably explained to the public, all manner of explanations began to surface.  It was not long, before every unusual or unsettling event, from the Apollo 13 landing, to the airplane crashing into the Pentagon, was questioned, as to it’s ever having even happened.  Even the wanton slaughter of 26 people, in Newtown, CT, was denied by people with a fair audience- as if 20 children and six adults could actually be alive, and visible, one day- and have never even EXISTED, the next.

Yes, this nation is poisoned by fairy tales- both those invented from whole cloth and those made up by people working for God-knows-who, the end result of which is total, rampant confusion.  Now, we will have four years, during which a man with little political experience has the primary job of leading us out of a wilderness, to which many of his own supporters, and a goodly number of his foes, helped to guide us, in the first place.

May he succeed, even if, especially if, he is not initially so inclined.

Five Still Standing

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December 7, 2016, Prescott-

Seventy-five years have passed.

It was the second attack by foreign military

on U.S. soil, in our nation’s history.

A third would follow, fifty-seven years later.

By then, many had forgotten

the bloody sacrifice,

which again jarred our sense

of innocence.

This was as it had been before.

Those who remembered the White House burning,

were few and far between,

when the bodies fell

like cord-wood, at Antietam and Shiloh.

The Great War was witnessed by a few old soldiers,

who had served under Grant and Lee.

When the planes hit the Towers,

Pearl Harbor was a footnote,

in the rush to the House of Gifts.

How swiftly we deny,

and then forget.

Seventy-five years have gone by

and five still stand,

in remembrance of

that day,

when they were young

and no longer innocent.

(The five are the remaining survivors of the attack on the USS Arizona, at Pearl Harbor, in 1941.)

 

No Black Thursday

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November 24, 2016, Julian, CA-  This little town, northeast of San Diego, has been our Thanksgiving hub, for three of the last four years.  Only in 2014 were we diverted to Aram’s ship, for what was an estimable meal, in its own right.  Otherwise, Julian Cafe has been an irresistible venue- for one of the best traditional Thanksgiving meals this side of the Appalachians.

Julian appeals to Aram, because it reminds him of Prescott and Flagstaff.  The oak forests that surround the town, and the Laguna Mountains, to its southeast, are of immense comfort to one who was born , and spent his first years, in a forested landscape.

It appeals to me, as all mountain towns do, because Saugus ( my home town), and so many towns in New England, are similarly entwined with rugged landscapes and a wealth of historical nuggets.  Julian’s history is inextricably linked to the California Gold Rush.  Southern California had several spots which, while not as noteworthy as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, nontheless contributed to Gold Fever.

What appeals to neither of us is Black Thursday, as some have taken to calling the afternoon and evening of Thanksgiving Day.  There may be some LIMITED need for some people to pick up groceries, in the morning, as I did on behalf of Aram and his housemates, around 8:30 this morning, at the local Ralph’s store.  I can’t see either of us shopping for deals on Thanksgiving, ever.  I understand some want that to be their Thanksgiving tradition, but I stay with family remaining focused on non-commercial pursuits.

We had another awesome meal, with his two housemates along.  This will be the last time, though, for at least three years, as he heads across the Pacific, in a few months’ time.  That made it an especially treasured repast.