Sixty-six for Sixty Six, Part X:The Hotshots Trail

5

February 25, 2017, Yarnell-

A lone cactus wren croaked, as I came up the first stretch of hillside, on the way to the spot where, on June 30, 2013, nineteen formidable men met their doom, while working to safeguard this small community at the southeast edge of the Mohave Desert.

I encountered a moderate trail, whose increase in elevation is tempered by long switchbacks, frequent stops to read and ponder each of 19 memorial plaques, set in stones along the way.  Wooden benches and informational signs also provide respite, for anyone who finds the place more strenuous than anticipated.

Yarnell Hill abounds in granite boulders, much as does the back country between here and the east side of Prescott, nearly 50 miles away.  One of these boulders resembles a praying monk.  It is one of the first sights greeting the hiker, on the way up from the trailhead, 1 1/2 miles southwest of Yarnell’s center.  He stands, as lonely as the wildland firefighters must have felt, on that blazing final day of June.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Each man left people in grief- parents, a loyal woman, young children, siblings and entire communities, from Prescott itself to places as far afield as Oregon, Idaho and North Carolina.  Each man is immortalized by his own plaque.  Crew Chief Eric Marsh founded the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and was responsible for the recruitment and training of the men he led, for ten years, in the aftermath of the Indian Fire, which came close to obliterating downtown Prescott, in 2002.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I know some of the family members, of four of the Hotshots.  Each of the families has a solid work ethic, reflected in what their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers gave, however long their terms of service were.

The terrain that presented itself, that blustery, torrid weekend, was no gracious host to anyone hauling 50 pounds of gear uphill.  It was, as I say, of moderate difficulty for me, with my 15 pounds of day pack, and for those between the ages of 15 and 75, who I encountered along the way.  A couple of ladies said they found the trail scary.  I could easily figure out which places to which they were referring, though long ago, I stopped fearing secured heights.

Following, are some scenes of just what the wildland fire crew faced, in terms of terrain.  Three red-tailed hawks circled, above this rock.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Notice the charred mesquite, above, and the manzanita, below.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Unlike today’s hikers, the Hotshots had to pick their way up granite-strewn hillsides.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The town they were working to save survived, and will be a more vigilant place, with regard to fire safety.  Like the boulder below, Yarnell shows a large, if broken heart.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I continued from the main trail’s overlook, at the two-mile marker, to the memorial at the fatality site, another 3/4 mile to the east. At the site, 19 cabions encircle 19 crosses, one for each man who gave his life that day.  Some mementos have been left here, as well as at the flagpole that stands 500 yards to the east.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I sat here, in the wind, contemplating the meaning of sacrifice, while a lone woman circled around the memorial, lost in her own thoughts.  It is said that the mystery of sacrifice is that there is no sacrifice.  That can be understood, but, I would venture, not easily by a small child who wonders why Daddy went away.

Long may the heroes comfort the grieved, from their own private Valhalla.

 

 

Hearts, Black History and Chief Executives

6

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.

It’s Chalk Time!

13
SAM_8793

This weekend, Prescott hosted the annual Chalk It Up Art Festival.  I first attended this enthralling event, two years ago, and found this year’s version even more fascinating than that of 2012.  Kids of all ages put some amazing images together, such as the one which heads my previous post, “The Others”.

Here are nineteen of the images.

SAM_8745
SAM_8750
SAM_8752
SAM_8757
SAM_8758
SAM_8763
SAM_8764
SAM_8767
SAM_8770
SAM_8774
SAM_8776
SAM_8783
SAM_8787
SAM_8791

SAM_8794,

This next piece was photographed while the artist was present.  She was delighted that I shot the full rectangular outline, without prompting.  Others had taken shots from a trapezoidal angle, which bothered her.

SAM_8797
SAM_8798
SAM_8802
SAM_8812

That’s a matter of judgment.  Whatever colours your eyes and heart bring into your life though, the message is clear:

SAM_8801