The Carving of A Confluence


April 22, 2019, Cameron, AZ-

I set out from Flagstaff, around 9: 30 this morning, heading to the western edge of this once sleepy sheep-ranching community, which is now tapping into the growing number of people who want to visit the Dineh (Navajo) people, see their starkly beautiful land and learn of their culture.

Here, at the foot of Gray Mountain, on the way to Grand Canyon National Park, lie two overlooks which capture that stark beauty and share an area regarded by the Dineh people as their point of emergence from the underground, following a long ago calamity, and thus a sacred site.

It is the last segment of the Little Colorado River, approaching and reaching its confluence with the Colorado River, after a 338 mile journey, from the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, through the Painted Desert and Coconino Plateau.

A two-hour exploration of the twin overlooks offered these scenes.  Whilst some will say, “Well, what is so special about black and brown stone?” , the geological story told by the three main layers of limestone (top), granite (middle) and shale (bottom) is, like that of the Grand Canyon itself, a classic account of wind and water working together, with a fair amount of help from volcanic and seismic activity.


In the far background, please note Navajo Mountain (Naatsis’aan), an igneous rock peak, the rises 10,387 feet, towering over Lake Powell, and like the lake, straddling the line between Arizona and Utah.


The layers of sedimentary deposit are quite visible, as one scans the rock, from top to bottom.


The water, whilst uniformly scant, looked clearer from the first overlook than from its western counterpart.


You may not that there is considerably more silt being washed into the river, as it moves closer to the confluence.



Looking closely, it might seem as if the granite canyon fascia resembles petrified warriors.


The algae working this limestone bench seems to show everything from a man with outstretched arms (foreground) to pictographs.


On the right hand side, below, the tall shafts of sandstone appear to be standing guard over the shallows of the Little Colorado.


In all the bareness, sage, a medicinal staple of the Dineh and Hopi, alike, grows in abundance. Desert bottlebrush is its accompanist.


The relatively wet winter has produced an effusion of greenery in the Gorge.



This struggling, but intrepid, river and its gorge, lead to the most spectacular sight on the North American continent.  In the next post, I will focus on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, at its east end, and the Desert Tower that overlooks the beginning of its Inner Gorge.


The Road to 65, Mile 140: Happy Returns


April 17, 2015, Prescott- I returned an item that was particular to my Kia, and got money back, that will be useful tomorrow.  A few hours later, I returned to a neighbourhood trail, the Turley Trail, named for a man who was instrumental in starting the Prescott Circle, which begins at “P” Mountain, east of town, and goes in a 360 around the Bean Peaks, Sierra Prieta, Thumb Butte, Granite Mountain, Pioneer Park and our northeastern lakes, then back towards Lynx Lake and again to “P”.

The Turley is 2.5 miles, one way, and traverses four ridges, before ending at a Prescott Circle marker, in a forested ravine.  I’ve written of it before, but here are some views from yesterday.

“P” Mountain is not directly accessible from this point, but it’s quite an inspiration, nonetheless.


Here is the gap between the first and second ridges.  This is a moderate hike.


On return hikes, I focus more on the small.  Wildflowers are a bit past peak here, but still captivating.SAM_4791

The quartz and granite caught my eye, at several points along the way.SAM_4794



Finally, here is a cave, which I don’t remember seeing last time.


It’s probably an animal lair of some sort, so of course I contented myself with this particular view.

Finally, the journalist David Brooks was on NPR, discussing his book on returning to a community-centered ethos.  More on that, later.

A Rim Country Saturday, Part 3: Mr. Gowan’s Haven.


November 8, 2014, Strawberry, AZ- Like many new arrivals in the American West, in the mid-19th Century, David Gowan, a native of Scotland, headed to California, to take part in the “Gold Rush”.  As the California lodes played themselves out, he headed to Arizona, in the hope of finding more.  As mentioned earlier in this series, Payson, where Mr. Gowan ended up, had scant offerings in terms of rich ore. To make matters worse, he was pursued by angry Apaches in the area.  He managed to escape northward, and in the process of navigating Pine Canyon, found a natural bridge.  There, he hid in a cave for three days.

David found a small, but profitable, lode of gold ore, along the East Verde River, west of the natural bridge, and homesteaded atop the bridge itself.  The rich soil allowed him to farm successfully, and the place became a comfortable home for his family, some of whom later turned the farm into a tourist site.  The home built by David Goodfellow, Mr. Gowan’s nephew, is still there today, and is the lodge for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

Here are several photos of the rim and canyon, into which I hiked in the afternoon of this splendid day.  The granite and rhyolite made for some slick hiking, especially where Tonto Creek was flowing, and the mist dripping off the natural bridge gave those of us below a refreshing shower, of sorts.  First, is the terrain of the canyon rim.


Rhyolite is quite common, throughout the park.


I made my way quickly down a narrow path, to the canyon floor.


A view of the natural bridge was not long in coming.  It is recognized as the longest travertine (slick limestone) natural bridge in the world.


Here are a couple of close-ups of the porous granite.  In the second frame, you can see an observation deck.



A lovely pool below the bridge, lends a grotto-like effect to the scene.



Boulder-hopping was necessary, in order to explore the length of the canyon bottom.  A bit past this area, I found the trail became obscure.  A ranger who was there said that the trail was a series of hand and foot holds, which were probably better done on day when there was more time.  Seeing that I only had twenty minutes to get back up top, I turned around, and left the rough climb out, for another day.


In the meantime, here are some views of the sky, from underneath Tonto Natural Bridge.



A look downward, as I was climbing out in the late afternoon glow, had its own magic.


Finally, here is a look at the Natural Bridge’s ceiling.  Lichen is abundant, in the crevices of the granite.