Blessed Intentions

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November 19, 2017, Paulden, AZ-

I spent the better part of today at a small intentional community, in this mostly agricultural, unincorporated town, in northern Yavapai County.  Paulden is due west of Sedona, and despite being sans Red Rocks, it has a good deal of its eastern neighbour’s vibes.  These have drawn many people whose goal is to live as close to the land as possible.

Dharma Family Farm is made up of six adults and several children, living in conscious connection with the tall grass prairie that is found between the various small mountain ranges of western and southern Yavapai County and the Verde and Agua Fria Rivers to the east.

I met most of them last week, at Convergence, and had the pleasure of taking breakfast with them, last Sunday.  This led to an invitation to visit their farm and join them at table.  So, I took up that offer, this afternoon and evening.

Conversation with three of the farmers ranged on several matters, from not tilling the soil and understanding the nature of weeds, to the worth of intentional communities.  The recognition that rent and mortgage derive from the European manorial system, and earlier, from imperial mindsets in places as far afield as China and Egypt, led to one person’s opinion that having a roof over one’s head should not require half, or more, of one’s income.

It’d be really nice if that were not my reality, or that of millions of others, around the world.  The alternative, gift or trade economy as a means by which to live, is the basis for many intentional communities.  At Dharma, everyone has a set of responsibilities, which they undertake, daily and heartily, in good faith, in exchange for simple but comfortable housing.  Each adult accepts responsibility for the well-being of the children.  There is a group meeting,  in advance of any major event, and a planning board, with an interesting beehive motif, sits behind the common dining table.

If some of this sounds like the communes of the 1960’s and ’70’s, there are features of those entities, such as vegetarianism and natural healing. Fidelity between marriage partners is very definite at Dharma, however, and modesty in dress is practiced by all adults, and children of school age.  Hygiene is excellent.

Here are a few scenes of Dharma Family Farm, bearing in mind that this is the time when preparations are being made for the winter months.

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This is a bottle wall.  Glass bottles help prevent cement from cracking.20171119_154703[1]

Artwork is random and eclectic.  I like the creativity of the residents in this secondary house.

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Here’s the supply yard. EVERYTHING in this lot will be put to good use, especially during the winter and spring repair and planting seasons.

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This is Holly, her youngest daughter, Lunaya, and two of their four dogs.  Holly  and her mate, Landen, were the first of the current group of residents to come to Dharma.

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I came away with renewed respect for people in intentional communities.  Their work ethic is as good  as, if not better than, that of many wage and salaried workers, in the wider world.  Their children are well-fed, feel emotionally secure and, from infancy, are not held back from doing tasks that their bodies and motor skills can handle.   There is full equality between the genders, and nobody divides labour, of any kind, by stereotype.   Home schooling is the preferred vehicle for education.  This last would give me a skill to offer, if I pursue a period of itinerant service, following my retirement from my current work, three years hence, as I am sure that other intentional communities may have such needs. Indeed, I spent thirty minutes with a very meticulous two-year-old, assembling a tower from the plastic blocks I had brought as a gift to the children.

I will be back at Dharma, several times, over the next three years, at least.  Life is good, where there is love and devotion.

 

Portraits from A Year Gone By

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December 31, 2016, Chula Vista- I am taking the readership on a brief journey back, with one photo from each month, that sums up the month, for me.  So, let’s begin.

January-

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Pharaoh’s Face, with a barrel cactus keeping watch, south of the Agua Fria River, Black Canyon City

 

February-

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Sunset, over Goldwater Lake

March-

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Small pond, Banning Creek, northwest of Goldwater Lake

April-

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Quartz Mountain, north of Copper Basin

May-

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Granite Mountain, Prescott

June-

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Cathedral Gorge, Pioche, NV

July-

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Lake Redwine, Newnan, GA

August-

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Kayla Mueller, who was killed in Syria.  This is not my photo, but symbolizes the month of August, as I took no photos of my own, and the sacrifices of some Americans, in the fight against terrorism became front and center.

September-

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View of Santa Maria Mountains, from Juniper Mesa

October-

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Monarch butterflies, in Agua Fria watershed

November-

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Agua Fria Fort, off Little Pan Trail, Table Mesa region

December-

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White Christmas 2016, Prescott

So went the Year That The Common Man roared and I continued to explore.

 

 

Table Mesa, Part III: Little Pan Let Me In

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November 6, 2016, Black Canyon City-  As I rounded a bend, in the access trail to Little Pan Loop, this afternoon, I became a surprise visitor, to a local resident.

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The juvenile Gila monster was a bit bemused, but after a few minutes, it moved off the trail and watched me from some brush. It was a good reminder that reptiles find the early November weather perfectly satisfying, and I watched for rattlesnakes, as well.  None appeared, though.

After a quick crossing of the South Fork, Agua Fria, I found the southern turnoff to Little Pan Trail, and moved along, passing the Royal Throne, which overlooks the river,

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then across the Agua Fria itself, taking time to wander a bit around the mesquite and saguaro forests that line an island, in the middle of the riverbed.

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Little Pan Wash is not on the main trail, but it makes for an interesting side trip.

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It is one of the areas that was heavily mined, in the early 20th Century.  Little Pan Mine, upstream on the Agua Fria, is still accessible to an intrepid visitor.  I did not seek it out, this time.

About twenty minutes after leaving Little Pan Wash, I came upon the overarching attraction of this trail:  Agua Fria Fort, near the northern end of Little Pan Trail.  A side road takes the visitor to this remarkable fort, built by the Huhugam people, as one of their northernmost places of settlement.

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After examining this durable fort, from three angles, I walked quickly to the point where Little Pan meets Williams Mesa Trail, and the main Black Canyon Trail towards Black Canyon City.  It was there that I headed back, along Little Pan, towards the trailhead.

Thus ended my first visit to this lush, exquisite and challenging area, past which I have driven, so many times.  There remain three sections of the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail for me to explore for the first time.  Next up is a foray from Table Mesa trailhead to Boy Scout Loop.  After that, Boy Scout Loop to New River Road, and New River Road to Lake Pleasant Road, will take me through lower-lying Sonoran Desert terrain, to the edge of Phoenix.  It will represent some 88 miles of hiking, over a two-year period, and will be my longest completed route.

Table Mesa, Part II:The Williams Mesa Trail

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October 30, 2016, New River-  SAM_7410.JPG

I set out a bit earlier today, than last weekend, and the the traffic between Prescott and Table Mesa Road was decidedly sparser, this time.  The above photograph, taken at the South Fork of Agua Fria River, reflects the calmness I found today.

There was plenty of activity, especially in the river beds.  As I came down off the second ridge, to the nearly dry South Fork, a man was teaching his daughter how to negotiate boulders and sand, in the course of off-road exploration.  She thought better of trying to go over a two-foot ledge, and he certainly didn’t push the matter.  It was a successful lesson, and I encountered them again, at the Agua Fria itself, some twenty minutes later. There, the challenge was deep sand, but they again prevailed.

The river and its tributaries are the main features of Williams Mesa Trail, which is the western half of the Little Pan Loop.  I stuck with Williams Mesa Trail, going to and from, as it was  clearly marked, as opposed to the actual north link to the eastern Little Pan Trail, which I will explore from the south link, on my next trip to Table Mesa Road.

Here are several photos of the afternoon’s offerings.

Below is a view of the Agua Fria, from a southern ridge.  Notice how dry it’s been, this past month.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe limestone and granite ledges offer a convenient set of steps, up the ridge towards Williams Mesa.

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Before that, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the blissful peace of the pools along the river bed.

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Above, is a view of the unnamed mesa that I viewed from Cottonwood Gulch, on a hike from Black Canyon City, last spring.  It drew me, with a sense that there is a goodly amount of spiritual energy there.  I certainly felt energized, after sitting among some rocks that had broken off from the mesa, and offer themselves as a resting place.

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I spent about twenty minutes here, writing in my BCT journal.  From there, it was back towards the Agua Fria.  The junction with the east Little Pan Trail was not in evidence.

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This marker appears to be turn-around point of some kind, though, and it was fairly easy to get back on the Williams Mesa route, and the Agua Fria.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLooking closely at the river pool,  one can see the thick algae that results from the water standing too long.

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Cacti are certainly resourceful, as is this one, which look like a tongue sticking out of the rock.

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Look closely above, and note two Monarch butterflies, feeding.

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Here is another take on the late afternoon appearance of South Fork, Agua Fria.

A small family of cattle were enjoying the leavings from a pumpkin smashing party, that had apparently taken place, last night.

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No good morsel is left behind, in the Sonoran Desert.

So ended my 7.6 mile hike along Williams Mesa Trail, on a pleasantly overcast afternoon.

 

In Utmost Isolation

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April 30, 2016, Black Canyon-  This is a few days late getting to print, but here is what happened today. I started out in mid-morning, stopping in for breakfast at Flour Stone Bakery, a lovely little spot in the old mining town of Mayer, some 30 miles southeast of Prescott.  It has authentic challah, and finely baked rye and other loaves of bread.  I am inclined to stop here on future forays along Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, which I started walking, in segments, about 15 months ago- just north of Mayer.

Here is Flour Stone Bakery, inside and out.

It seemed that the entirety of western Yavapai County, from Prescott to Mayer, was hopping, with one form of mass entertainment or another- Bicycle Marathon, Antique Car Show and, here, just plain Antique Shows.

I needed to get back into the wilderness, though, at least for several hours.  So, on to Black Canyon it was.

The segment I hiked today extended from Black Canyon City’s trailhead to Cottonwood Gulch, about 6 miles one way.  It is roughly 3/8 of the Black Canyon-Table Mesa Road section of this amazing high desert system.  In a nutshell, that means I have hiked a bit more than half of the entire trail (44 of 81 miles), over the past 15 months. Manageable segments work well for me, in this regard.

Here are a few scenes from along the trail, which alternates between hugging the Agua Fria and exploring the rugged hills and mesas, west of the river.

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Here is a view of Horseshoe Bend, about two miles south west of the trailhead.  A family was enjoying the water of Agua Fria, at this serene spot. They were among the few people I encountered this afternoon.  Six bicyclists, here and there, rounded out the “companionship”.  Mostly, though, it was the desert and me, alone.  Plants, though, were quite prolific.

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Flowering barrel cactus, Black Canyon

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Emerging cholla, in basalt field

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Mr. Sandstone

He didn’t bring me a dream, but his presence was oddly reassuring, in the quiet of the afternoon.

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Hilltop bench, Cheapshot Mine region

I chose this little redoubt, atop Cheapshot Hill, to rest and write a bit in my journal. After a brief interlude here, I kept on going to Cottonwood Gulch, just shy of an intriguing Thumb Butte-like mesa, whose name escapes me.  I will check that one out on my next segment hike, from Table Mesa Road, probably next Fall.  Here is where I chose to turn around.

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This bush reminded me a bit of mimosa, though I know it is something different- just don’t know its name.  It looks like a four-wing saltbush, but the flowers resemble those of saltcedar.

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Desert lily, Cottonwood Gulch

Well, those last two gave me a reason to pick up a wildflower book, which was actually part of a map of Death Valley, of all places.

This trail was certainly the most isolated I’ve experienced since Seven Falls, northeast of Tucson, and it was every bit as satisfying a challenge- 12 miles in a day.

.Upon returning to community life, a poetry reading and a lively jazz-funk concert rounded out this last day of April.

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Heart-shaped Prickly Pear colony

 

Black Canyon Trail: The Elusive K-Mine and More Agua Fria

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Cactus Wren nest, in ocotillo plant.

January 24, 2016, Black Canyon City-  I returned to the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail,  this afternoon, with a long-time family friend and her dog in tow.  This hike was 5.5 miles round trip, not as intense as last week’s jaunt, but exactly what I had in mind.

We parked in the spacious Trailhead Lot, just north of Black Canyon City, and were treated to a taste of the lushness this section of the Sonora Desert offers.

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Blooming creosote, Black Canyon City Trailhead

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Ocotillo and sahuaro cacti, Black Canyon City Trailhead

We headed out, up a 1.1 section of trail called Horseshoe Bend, being on the south side of the feature of the same name, which was my stopping point last week.  It is not a strenuous trail section, and offers a few anomalies, such as the Pharaoh’s Face.  At the 1.1 mile point, Horseshoe Bend meets two other segments:  K-Mine and Skyline.  We took the K-Mine Trail, which took us close to the spot where I stopped last week.

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Pharaoh’s Face, with a barrel cactus keeping watch, Horseshoe Bend segment, BCT

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Friends along for the afternoon, junction of Horseshoe Bend and K-Mine Trails

The K-Mine Trail features mild switchbacks, down into a vast valley, outside Black Canyon (the natural feature).  The cacti and succulents here take full advantage of the water wealth proferred by the Agua Fria and its tributary streams.

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K-Mine Trail, west of Black Canyon City

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K-Mine Trail, west of Black Canyon City

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Desert valley, west of K-Mine Trail

The K-Mine Trail offered striking vistas, before taking us down to the Agua Fria, southwest of last week’s fording spot.

We explored a bit along the Agua Fria, but my intuition said it would be best for the three of us, that we turn back.  This did not happen, though, before we checked out a small cataract, a bit upstream from the K-Mine Trail.

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Edge of box canyon, along Agua Fria, near the K-Mine Trail

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Agua Fria River, north of Black Canyon City, with small cataract in the background.

We met three young ladies, riding a quad and a small motorcycle, and watched as they gingerly negotiated the river.  After returning to the trail proper, we found yet another crossing place, but again I had a feeling in my gut to turn back.  So, up the K-Mine Trail we went again.  The short section of trail to my last stopping place can wait for another day.  Everyone’s well-being mattered more.

On the way up, we spotted a couple of cactus wren nests.  One was wedged in between the arms of a sahuaro.

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Cactus wren nest, K-Mine Trail

With such confirmations as these, and several heart-shaped rocks along the way, we called the day a success.  More exploration of the Black Canyon Trail, and other such routes in Arizona, await, over the next several months.

 

 

 

Black Canyon Trail: Ever Glorianna

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January 17, 2016, Black Canyon City-  With the snow along Prescott Circle Trail slowly turning to mud, I determined that today was as fine a time as any to resume my journey down the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail.  Last spring found me stopping at a ranch in Bumble Bee, an old mining town-turned-have for off-gridders.  About a mile further east, along the old Crown King Road, lies Glorianna Trailhead.  It was there that I began today’s marathon:  12.5 miles, round trip, to Black Canyon City and back.

The crew of All-Terrain Vehicle enthusiasts, who greeted me at the trailhead, confirmed that this was the route I needed to follow-  a fact I had determined from looking on the BCNRT website, earlier.  It’s always good to have locals know where one is headed, the fantasy goons in “Deliverance” aside.  So, I bid them a fine afternoon, and headed out.

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Granite tower, near Glorianna Trailhead, Bumble Bee, AZ

Above, I encountered a cholla cactus, shimmering in the afternoon sunlight, a group of sahuaro, seemingly on the march, and, upon climbing a ridge, my first trailside view of Black Canyon City, still four miles further southeast.

The shared use portion of the trail ran for about two miles, before it split off from the road, and headed uphill, just west of the small shooting range, where a very focused young man was practicing,  and thankfully facing away from me.

About thirty minutes later, I came upon one of the two big treasures of the route:  The Agua Fria River.

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View of Agua Fria River, from a ridge to the northwest.

This used to be privately-held ranching land, and the old fence posts dot the trail.

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Old fence post, about a mile west of the Agua Fria.

The river needed to be forded, but as you can see, the shallowness made this a minor task- and it was rather delightful.  The cast and stunt people of “The Revenant” would have been rolling on the ground laughing.

Just before I made my way down to the flowing stream, the ruggedness of the upper branch of Black Canyon presented itself.

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Upper Branch of Black Canyon, north of its namesake town.

Above are two views of the Agua Fria, before I crossed (right) and after (left).  Just after I forded, a mother/daughter hiking pair came down from the south rim, accompanied by their protective 1 1/2 year-old-German Shepherd, who let me know my presence was not appreciated.  The women were more gracious, though, and held the youngster by her collar.

Onward and upward, I headed towards the canyon for which the town is named.  It is a far more interesting sight than I had previously thought. On the lower right is one of the four spur canyons which one encounters along the Horseshoe Bend subsection of the Glorianna.  On the lower left is a good view of the limestone “wall” which distinguishes Horseshoe Bend.

 

The canyon itself, which will be the focus of further exploration, next Sunday, is seen again, on the lower right.  I got a nice zoom shot of a cylindrical edifice that rises about three miles east of Black Canyon City, from the vantage point of Black Canyon’s north rim.

So as to get back to the wide road before dark, I did not tarry long at Horseshoe Bend, before heading in reverse.  Below are three examples of the mineral beauty to be seen along this trail section.

I encountered the three female hikers again, on my way uptrail, after recrossing the Agua Fria.  Dog was no happier to see me than she was the first time, but no matter.  I also met the ATV group, once back on the shared-use part of the trail.  They had been concerned for my safety, and once it was established that I was fine and knew where I was going, they headed on their way.

There are enough loose ends to be explored around Horseshoe Bend, that I will return here next weekend.  Stay tuned.