The Year of Living Furtively

2

December 31, 2020-

Some of the hardest losses of this voracious year were two of the last. It pains me, especially, when two people who are meant to be together are separated by death, however temporarily. Perhaps because I know, so well, how it feels. I know the self-doubts, the second guessing, the “if only” moments that dog the surviving spouse. I also know that the way to resilience, for the one left behind, is to embrace that which makes one special, as an individual, with double the intensity.

I learned, only this afternoon, of the passing of one half of such a pair. Jeff had struggled with his cancer, constantly surrounded, enveloped with the love that only his indomitable wife and daughters could offer. Others among us tried to help, some offering respite care; some, like myself, offering remedies and a listening ear for our friends, whose shop has become such a vibrant gathering place, in a town that is still in the throes of becoming a community.

Thirty-six friends and family members, ranging in age from 21 to 100, have passed to the next realm, in this year of living furtively, Some were fixtures of my childhood; others, I had the pleasure of knowing for only a few years. Some, I only met once or twice, but the empath in me let them make an indelible impression. That impression will last long. It comes with the nature of my beast.

It is now 6:15 p.m. , and it is still twilight. Solstice being past for over a week, daylight lengthens a smidgen at a time. That is fitting; this year has seemed at times to be made of a darkness that is interminable. Coronavirusdisease 2019 has dominated much of the time and energy of the vast majority of people across the globe. Most of us have not been stricken with the ailment, but far too many others have. Those who have not actually contracted it, have been suspect of such-every time we sneeze, or emit a wet cough, into the crook of our elbow, or appear somewhere without a face mask. All but four of those friends and family, to whom I alluded above, died of COVID-related factors-especially pneumonia.

Dealing with the pandemic became complicated, with racial incidents, some of which were exacerbated by crimes of ignorance and by people continuing to talk past one another. Demonstrations muddied the water of our national response to the pandemic, especially in light of bans on gatherings for worship or for bidding loved ones farewell. Too many of those loved ones died alone, after having spent their last days and months in solitude. Demonstrations were, in most cases, necessary to the public weal. So, too, however, were gatherings of worship, so deeply-rooted in the American psyche-and not just in Christian communities. Dineh and Hopi friends missed their traditional ceremonial gatherings. We Baha’is also have made do with virtual connection.

The two demonstrations upon which I happened, featured participants who were uniformly masked-even among counterprotestors. The two church-based memorial services I attended featured physical distancing and/or uniform face masking. In these instances, subsequent infection was either minimal or nonexistent. Needless to say, I have exercised extreme caution when out of Home Base, since having had bronchitis (non-COVID), in mid-February.

My usual taking to the open road took a back seat, for the most part, in 2020. There were two deployments with the Red Cross, to Louisiana and Dallas. Another journey took me back to the Dallas area, for Thanksgiving and my 70th Birthday, with care taken in airports and elsewhere, to not become part of the problem. The joy of just being with my small family unit was worth the trip, as was the drive to Phoenix, three weeks later, for a mini-visit.

Equally salubrious, however, has been the use of technology, in connecting with my Faith community, with the Red Cross community and with wider spiritual gatherings. I have learned much and shared much. This aspect of technology can only serve to enhance our direct physical encounters, post-pandemic. I know that I need not be isolated from those in this community, when further afield again, towards summer and autumn of the coming year.

Finally, in reaching seventy, I reached full social security, and look at the culmination of my teaching career. Five days a week, out of personal necessity, is in my rear view mirror. Work in the coming Spring semester, will be in view of service to the schools and more discretionary, in terms of schedule.

This year, now grumbling to a close, has accented the small-How needful it is to revitalize memory, when it comes to the humble password or the most routine of courtesies! How crucial it is, to rekindle acceptance of differences, reminding ourselves how dull it would be for everyone to be forced into the same train of thought or the same world view. Exclusivity, as much as its proponents tell themselves it is necessary, is a dead end.

Let not one’s conservatism, or progressivism, lead to that dead end. Let 2020 be what comes to an end, without one’s viewpoint joining it.

Forty Years

8

December 6, 2020-

Dearest Soul Charger,

On the night of this day, in 1980, I had a slight awareness that I was about to have a woman in my life, for the first time in eight years. It was, as you surely remember, cold and rainy-then somewhat snowy, in that little village where a house blessing was taking place. We were there for different purposes, though both concerned with learning from the continent’s First Nations. I was earning college credits; you were finding out more about the relatives of your hosts-the Hopi.

We were drawn to one another, that night, through the happenstance of my classmates’ amusement at your speaking Spanish with a North Jersey accent. I was just glad for your smile, and yur companionship. The weather ceased to matter after that. It was the beginning of thirty years’ physical connection and forty years’ spiritual.

We grew together, and you taught me more than you may have known. I like to think that I brought you out of your inward focus and I know you brought me out of mine. You taught me to love children with a ferocity that had been latent within me. We raised one person to adulthood, even as we were “raising” one another. As this was happening, I realized that every child was a focus of my heart.

We came to adore every Messenger sent by God, and all in the Name of His most recent Manifestation: Baha’u’llah . We drew no lines as to with whom we would share the healing Message. We did not separate ourselves from even the most destitute of people; nor did we separate ourselves from one another. We were seldom apart, in fact, and made landfall in so many unlikely places: Dinetah and Hopi; southern Alberta; Israel and the West Bank; Guyana; Korea; Taiwan and so many places in between.

You never lost your luster-not for a fleeting moment. For my part, I’ve spent the last ten years cleaning the rust off my soul, feeling your abiding guidance every step of the way. Now, at long last, I see what the purpose of my life might have been, these forty years, had I used my vision more clearly. Now, at long last, I see what needs to be done, with how ever many more years I am given in this life.

I know you are still close at hand, Soul Charger, and it may have been you who held my arm, early this morning-or it may have been you who moved another spirit away from me. Either way, I can sense that the Creator of us all has you in a safe and uplifting place. He has me where I need to be, and the path will continue, not always as I imagine in advance, but always where I can be of utmost service.

I will ever see you reflected in our son’s visage, and in any progeny he and his wife may bring into this life. I will ever hear your voice, so rich and resonant, in all of their pronouncements. I will see you in every rainbow, every shower and every rising and setting of the Sun. I will hear you in every rushing stream, every tumbling tide and in every sweet song of the birds who frequent where I happen to be. I will feel you, in every warmth that comes my way.

Shine on, Soul Charger. You taught me what it means to love.

Homol’ovi

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November 14, 2020, Flagstaff-

The day dawned, crisp and clear, with the news that our entire county was without Internet. I took that as an opportunity to set out early, from Cottonwood and towards Homol’ovi State Park, just north of Winslow. The route goes through Camp Verde, so breakfast at Verde Cafe was the first order of business. Many of the dishes there have a Mexican flair and the place is relaxed, with vivacious servers. Today’s meal did not disappoint.

It was a quiet drive up the hill to Strawberry Junction, then to Winslow, with remnants of snow all along the road, in the sun shadows. I got to Homol’ovi,a mile north of town, around 11:30, and had to ring the doorbell at the Visitor’s Center, to purchase my admission. The ranger seemed surprised, though grateful, that I was even bothering. Indeed, nobody else was stopping there, but I don’t take something for nothing.

Here is the Visitor’s Center.

There are two 13th Century ruins, and a 19th Century Mormon cemetery, preserved in the park’s grounds. I walked to Sunset Cemetery, the only remnant of the Mormon settlement of Sunset, which had been built on the floodplain of the Little Colorado River. As the Mormon party had had no experience with the monsoons of the Southwest, they felt it would not be problematic to build on the flat area. When the monsoons came, and the settlement was washed away, they left. The hilltop cemetery bears witness to their simple lifestyle.

The names of those laid to rest are on this one stone, set by the LDS Church and the State Park.

Above, is a description of Sunset, the settlement. Below, is a view of the cemetery as a whole.

The park maintains a small observatory, for Star Viewing parties, during more normal times.

Tsu’Vo, above, is a short nature trail, where there are petroglyphs scattered among the stones. I did not see any, from the trail itself. Tsu’Vo means “Place of Rattlesnakes”, in Hopi, but with the weather being cool, I didn’t see any of them, either. Below, there is much evidence of volcanic debris, which is this area’s legacy from the eruption of Sunset Crater, 60 miles to the west.

After walking around Tsu’Vo, I headed to Homol’ovi II, the larger of the two preserved ruins of the settlements built by the likely ancestors of the Hopi. Hopi spiritual leaders are regularly consulted by the park curators, with regard to preservation issues. The park has brought a halt to vandalism and theft of artifacts, which was worse here than at other parts of the area.

Below is a view of the central kiva, where religous ceremonies were held. This kiva was restored, after having been vandalized, prior to the park’s establishment.

The, as now, the San Francisco Peaks were regarded as sacred, by the Hopi, as well as Dineh and other Indigenous peoples of the region.

Removing pottery shards, or any other artifacts, is a Federal and State crime. Flat stones are set, off the trail, as a safe place where people may place any shards found on the sidewalk and view the collections.

Two herds of wild burros have made their home here, between the two main ruin sites. I spent a few minutes, silently conversing with the equines, then headed to Homol’ovi I, the first settlement uncovered by archaeologists. Below, is one of the few intact walled rooms.

The scattered remnants of Homol’ovi I’s central plaza are seen above. Plazas were, and are, the main gathering places of Pueblo dwellers, including the Hopi. Homol’ovi’s preservation, along with those of other civilized communities which pre-date European settlement, is a sincere effort at acknowledging the foundation of Man’s presence in this exquisite, harsh environment.

Growing (Beyond) Pains

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January 24, 2020-

Every community has its pain.  I saw lots in Peach Springs, just as I did so many years ago, in various communities of the Navajo (Dineh) and Hopi Nations-and I know the pain continues, even though life is better, in some parts of the old Home Base.  So, too, there was, and is, pain in Phoenix, in La Paz County and here in Prescott.  I heard of suffering in Seligman, which is en route to any point northwest of here, yesterday, when I stopped for an early dinner.

People have their concerns, their agonies and their setbacks.  What makes the difference in much of this, is the extent to which the suffering souls lay their woes at the feet of others.  I’ve done some of that, and have thankfully learned to put that mindset behind me.  Whine and cheese are not the stuff of social progress.

I have said a bit about what I’d like to see in Peach Springs, though my own skill sets may not do much, immediately, to help that community, on the ground.  Prescott does have a few programs in place, which can help those who are knocked down, in getting themselves upright.  Essentially, though, it falls to each person to determine his/her own course of action.  The Blame Game may be mildly salving, for a day or so, then the confusion sets in, as one sees no progress.

When I last found myself really foundering, I had to set concrete steps for my own recovery.  They involved a mix of travel, social media-journaling, exercise, photography and involvement in the community that I chose as Home Base.  That mix still suits me, and it will long continue.

My hopes for each community that matters in my heart is that strong and good-hearted people will take the lead and show their family, friends and neighbours the way forward.  I want to be there when these communities arise.

The Art of Encouragement

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJune 14, 2019, Ganado, AZ-

During the course of the tortuous process of incarceration, known as The Long Walk, white America showed itself to be of two minds, regarding the Dineh (Navajo) people.  There was the idea that, by removing Dineh, the resources of the area in which they lived would be available to the “Greater Nation”.   President Lincoln also retained the distrust and dislike of First Nations people, which he had carried since his participation in the Indian Wars of 1818-20.  He did not have to be cajoled into signing off on this travesty.

In all of this, an even-handed, but not easily-swayed, Dineh leader named Totsohnii Hastiin (“Man of the Big Water”) resisted incarceration, initially, fleeing to the Grand Canyon and living among his paternal relatives, who were Hopi.  He learned of his people’s suffering at Fort Wingate, and so surrendered, after a time.

When the Dineh were allowed to return to their traditional homes, by President Andrew Johnson, in 1868, some Euro-American traders, especially those of Spanish or Mexican ancestry, were allowed to approach the First Nations people, to establish trading rights.

One of these was a New Mexico native, John Lorenzo Hubble.  He settled with his family in a small Dineh settlement called Pueblo Colorado.  There, Chief Totsohnii established a friendship with “Don” Hubble (Don is a Spanish term of respect for a man of means.) In time, the village of Pueblo Colorado became regularly confused with the large town of Pueblo, Colorado. The people chose to rename their village as Ganado, after Chief Totsohnii’s common title, Ganado Mucho (“many cattle”).  Both names stuck, and today the great leader is remembered as Ganado Mucho.  The village has become a thriving crossroads commercial center.

An essential part of Ganado’s growth has come from the trading post established here, by John Lorenzo Hubble, in 1878.  Hubbell lived here with his family and actively encouraged Dineh artisans to sell their jewelry and wool rugs, two trades they had learned from the Spanish and which they had perfected over nearly a century.  His trading post became a model for others, throughout the Navajo Nation, and nearby First Nations communities.

Today, Hubbell Trading Post remains a working concern, whilst also being preserved in the National Park System, as a National Historical Site.  Here are some scenes of this special establishment.  Below, is the side entrance to the Main Trading Post.

 

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On the ceiling of the “Jewelry Room”, one sees baskets of many First Nations, who traded them with Mr; Hubbell and continue to trade with the present-day proprietors.

 

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The cradle board, examples of which are shown below, was essential for Dineh mothers to carry their infants, both during their work in the fields and along the Long Walk.  It is still used today, by traditional Dineh women.

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In these corrals, the Churro sheep that are so essential to Navajo weaving, as well as for the mutton that is integral to the Dineh diet, are penned.  Churro mutton is one of the Heritage Foods, recognized by Slow Food International, in its work to maintain a diversity of foods for the human race.

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Horses, also beloved of Dineh, as beasts of burden, are also corralled here.

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I got a chance to briefly look inside the home of the Hubbell family, now preserved by the National Park Service.

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The unique tree stump carving below, was commissioned by the  Hubbell family, as proof of  the range of Dineh artistry.

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This hogan-like octagonal cottage housed artists who were commissioned by Mr. Hubbell.

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The Hubbell family members are buried on this hill, which is off-limits to the public.

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The property also shares a Veterans Healing Trail, a serene walk of about 3/4 mile, with the Chapter of Ganado.

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It ends at this Peace Tree, on Ganado Chapter property.

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This first real effort, at bringing heretofore inimical peoples together, has served as an ongoing example of just how our our interests, both common and divergent, can serve as an example of alternatives to conflict.

NEXT:  Canyon de Chelly, As Viewed From the Rims.

Where Affirmation Started

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June 14, 2019, Keams Canyon, AZ-

Two months ago, after I left my full-time work, I got a text from a long-time friend, from the Navajo Nation.  Her uncle, another long-time friend, had died, and the family needed my help with his funeral.  I was to offer a final prayer, to which I agreed.  I did the service, in a small cemetery on this isolated, but starkly beautiful location.

Another member of the family lives near the cemetery and invited me to visit him, when I was next in the area.  There was no better time for this, than the start of the Summer, 2019 road trip, so I came up here yesterday evening and spent the night in his nicely furnished and solidly-built ranch style home.

It does my heart good to see Indigenous people have access to the same quality of life that people in other ethnic groups have.  I don’t see the point in anyone being left out.  For too long, First Nations have taken the leavings of the majority population.  This is changing, mostly for the better.

Coal Mine Canyon is one of the least-visited parts of Arizona. Infrastructure is non-existent though a graded road made it possible for me to take some photos of the canyon, from its south rim.

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This last looks like the Earth is watching!

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I continued on, this morning, to the Hopi Nation, visiting a former co-worker, briefly, then upon finding there was no social dance in her village, this weekend, I continued on over to Keams Canyon, where what has turned out to be one of the two really rewarding positions I ever held, started, in August, 1992.  It’s certainly arguable that I should never have left Cedar Unified, but here we are.  I felt affirmed as a school counselor, more than I did in any other position.  Affirmation began in Tuba City, near Coal Mine Mesa, and continued both at Jeju National University and here.  I still feel validated by my First Nations friends.

Here are a couple of views of the inner area of  Keams Canyon, now largely abandoned.

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There used to be a trail that led from Keams to a part of the nearby Dineh settlement of Jeddito, to which we moved in 1993, after living in Keams for a year.  The trail, like much of the settlement has been redirected elsewhere.

NEXT:  Hubbell Trading Post and Its Impact on Navajo Arts and Crafts

The Ties That Bind

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April 25, 2019-

I spent Tuesday honouring a longtime friend, who had passed on about ten days earlier.  As many of you know, Penny, Aram and I lived for seven years, on the Navajo Nation, working and living life among the Dineh and Hopi people.  Previous to that, Penny and I spent our first years as a couple in another Navajo community, where we similarly enjoyed life with both nations.

Dinnebito is a small, isolated Dineh community, between the two areas where we lived.  It was, at the time we lived there, included in a disputed land area- and the people found themselves hogtied, I daresay, by a Federally-mandated freeze on any improvements to land or property.  That merciless, unnecessary interference in relations between Dineh and Hopi has now gone away.  The pain it caused, however, has left a lasting scar in the lives of many.  That’s the way it is, with “Divide and conquer”.

I have friends, people I regard as family, in both nations.  One of them was KJ Manybeads, in whose honour I prayed and whose remains I helped inter on Tuesday.  John’s family welcomed me, at the service and afterwards, as we celebrated his life, the way we celebrated so many things in the years gone by- gathering at long tables or around in a circle of chairs, primarily outside.

When I drove back to Prescott, Tuesday evening, I took the long way around, driving on a back road, from the Hopi tribal seat, Kykotsmovi, to the Dineh town of Leupp. It gave me a long time, to recall what blessings and timeless character lessons are afforded those who honour the First Nations.  Yes, indigenous people are just humans, but those who are deeply connected to the Earth, to all Creation, have much to offer the wider community.

When I reconnected with “the world”, on Tuesday evening, I found time conflicts were causing me problems I had not fully processed.  That brought me to these conclusions:

  1.  In scheduling myself, while at Home Base, here on out, the priorities will be- a. Faith Community; b. this immediate area (Prescott and Yavapai County); c. everyplace else.
  2.  If it is someone’s sincere understanding that I have promised my time and energy, I will honour that, (even if I did not, in fact, make that promise),  for the sake of unity.

That  has been my standard, more or less, all along, and it just needed to be refreshed.

 

 

 

 

Interruptions

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDecember 29. 2018, Prescott-

I see my number of followers has declined, just a bit.

Ebb and flow don’t bother me.

I can’t please everyone, anyhow.

I had an urge to head up north,

to Dineh and Hopi country,

for a few days.

That will wait,

until snow and bitter cold

abate.

I found the trailhead

for the Great Western,

off to the side of

the marvelous Cherry Road.

The road itself leads to,

and through,

a small residential village,

with but a Bed & Breakfast,

to interrupt the flow

of privacy and quietude.

I will return to Great Western,

a few weeks hence,

once the cold abates a bit.

In the meantime,

milder climes will offer

their trails,

and we will see what

the Maricopa Trail

or Saguaro National Monument,

entails.

 

Gratitude Week, Day 7: The Finest Fruits

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November 24, 2018, Prescott-

I have decided to end this week of gratitude, by looking back at the ten best choices I ever made.  I am grateful to the Universe for having placed these in front of me and I have a measure of self-gratitude for having made them.

10,  Serving in the Army– At 18, I had little to show for my life. There was no discipline, of which to speak and my world consisted of drooling over girls and imbibing too much alcohol, too fast.  Other-imposed discipline gave me a regimen, which I could add to the work ethic that my parents instilled in each of us and it set me on  a course of self-reliance, which I still need and use.

9.  Studying Psychology- It didn’t make me wealthy and barely got me a job, but knowing something of what makes the human mind tick has given me insight into myself and has made me more understanding of others.

8. Living on the Navajo Nation- I have a strong genetic memory of the Indigenous. I am not much, in terms of blood quantum, but my nature fairly burns with the feeling that I belong in the woodlands; that I am a gatherer and a sharer; that I am one with the Universe. Being on the same page, day to day, with Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi people reinforced that unity.

7. Blogging-   Writing is a skill that three of my four high school English teachers saw as a talent that I needed to sharpen.  They gave me the tools to keep on sharpening that talent.  College brought it up another notch.  As a caretaker, and then as a widower, far from extended family, blogging gave me an outlet, one step up from journaling  (which I also still do) and a wider appreciative audience.

6, Returning to work, full time- In 2016, having been a substitute teacher, with a couple of other jobs, whilst being Penny’s caretaker, I found a niche at Prescott High School.  My place there was, more or less, secure and I was urged to return full-time, for the years leading up to my retirement from education.  That work has been fulfilling, and will remain so until I reach 70, two years from now.

5.  Working as a counselor- As a school counselor, I was able to impact thousands of lives, over the span of eleven years, between Tuba City and Keams Canyon/Jeddito, and some of those lives were saved.  I am haunted by  a few lives that weren’t and by those I couldn’t reach.  The majority, though, learned life skills and resilience, and knew that someone had their backs.

4. Settling in Prescott- The job aside, moving here after Penny’s passing was a lifesaver.  I had the anchor of a house, for the time I needed it, and of a Faith Community with whom I was already familiar and who were not intimate with Penny’s suffering.  That last was important.  I could not have the constant reminders of all that we had endured together.  Since then, I have made many new friends and branched out in several directions-all healthy.

3. Widespread travel-Besides going back and forth from Arizona to the East Coast, for family visits, my wanderlust has taken me to western Europe, Hawai’i, the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska.  I took in a small swath of eastern Canada, last summer and am likely to cross our northern neighbour again, in the summer of 2020.  California, Nevada and Colorado have also seen a lot of me, these past seven years, as have the South and Midwest.  This is an essential part of who I am.

2.  Getting married- I have always been crazy about girls and women.  There isn’t much about the opposite gender that I don’t like, though I am proud to be male.    Self-dislike got in the way, though, when I found myself drawn to one young lady after another.  Penny didn’t fall for any of that, and we built a solid foundation, by which both of us were able to tame most of our demons and raise a fine young man, who has taken his full place in the world.

1. Recognizing Baha’u’llah- I received a solid spiritual foundation, having been raised in the Roman Catholic faith. As I matured, though, the rituals and practices began to feel automatic to me, and I have always known that there is a continuity to Divine Revelation, superseding any one of the faiths or denominations that are commonplace.  In 1972, I heard of Baha’u’llah, and the Baha’i Faith, for the first time.  Nine years later, I embraced Baha’i as my own.  I have found its precepts teach everything in which I already believe, and the teachings regarding health are exactly what I needed, to tame the demon of alcohol dependence.  Far beyond those, however, are the vision of planetary and human unity-dispelling the darknesses of racism, nationalism and excessive materialism.

I am sure I will have other choices to make, in the coming days, months, and years.  Perhaps a life-changer will be among them, as well.

Besh Ba Gowah

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October 11, 2017, Globe, AZ-

The Southwest is as abundant with remembrances of the past, as anywhere on Earth, and perhaps more than many places.  The various cultures and civilizations that came here, long before the Athapascans, the Comanches, the Utes, to say nothing of the Spanish and other Caucasians, will perhaps never be well understood.  I see, however, that in many ways, these distant ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni, Havasupai, Hualapai, Yavapai and Rio Grande Puebloans are mirrors of ourselves.  Visiting the Salado ruins at Besh Ba Gowah (Apache, for “Metal Camp”), I saw a carefully planned, apartment-based community, which relied on knowledge and cultivation of high desert plants, having drawn on the practices of the Huhugam and others who came here, well before the 11th and 12th Century heydays of the Salado people.

Here are a series of photos of the excavated and unexcavated ruins, the upper and lower gardens, of Besh Ba Gowah, lovingly restored and maintained by an appreciative City of Globe and its citizens.  I am not commenting on all of the individual photos, hoping that you may draw a sense of the vastness of this complex.

Entry to Excavated Ruins:

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The Excavated Ruins:


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Unexcavated Ruins:

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Arizona Gray Squirrel, a bit mottled by the dryness.

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Upper Ethnbotanical Garden:

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Lower Ethnobotanical Garden:

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Look closely, and spot a smiley face:

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Besh Ba Gowah, and Globe as a whole, are nicely placed between Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson, making this stunning area a natural place, in which to enjoy a Fall day or three.

NEXT:  The Further Glories of the Gila Wilderness