One Good Loop Deserves Another


April 7, 2019-

A week or so ago, one of Arizona’s premier hiking columnists, Mare Czinar, wrote of a new trail, branching in elliptical fashion off the Prescott Circle Trail, which I have hiked and chronicled, in the past three years.

A group called “The Over-The-Hill Gang”, loosely named for a Western movie set of characters, has taken it upon themselves to build this, and other new trails, as well as maintain older trails in the area.  I value their efforts.

The West Loop Trail begins at a large, new parking area:  White Rock.  Prior to this, those who wanted to hike in the region west of Thumb Butte had to leave their cars parked just off the road, or into the brush.  White Rock is a decent compromise, between “no footprint” activists and those who object to cars clogging the side of the well-traveled recreational road.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The West Trail’s initial segment is .5 mile in length.  It features several granite and limestone boulder formations, so despite its brevity and flatness, this small sector is worthy of keeping one’s eyes open.  I reassured a tired little guy, doing the home stretch with his parents, that he was almost done.  It was nice to see that kept him going, instead of having Mom or Dad carry him.

The boulder fields are off-trail, thus making for a quick, easy start.


As with any large number of rocks, the imagination can show a given boulder to have a human or animal likeness.  I see the boulder in the background as George Washington.


Poking out from between two boulders is a charred tree limb, with the likeness of an angry snake.


These sandstone boulders are laid out, almost looking like segments of a large worm.  It was about here, that I turned left, onto the Javelina Trail, a part of Prescott Circle.


I took a brief rest at this spot, writing in my hiking journal, as to the ambiance of the place. I had the trail to myself, much of the time, with the preponderance of other users being bicyclists, whose presence is most always fleeting.  I step to the side for them, as downhill and flatland find cyclists going at a fast clip and uphill involves their huffing and puffing.


Here, I see another giant watchman, in the center of this scene.


This clump of boulders is another fine spot for sitting and meditating.


“Little Italy” is a side trail, which I will investigate on another hike.


This abandoned corral was part of a small ranch in the area, prior to the National Forest being established.  The rancher moved away, before the Forest took over.


All that is left of his home is this chimney.  It seems to have been used as an outdoor oven.


The reason for his choice of home is simple:  Here is the South Fork of Willow Creek.


From the creek, the path becomes Firewater Trail.  A brief climb takes us past this stern eagle-like formation.


Back on the flat trail, a dead alligator juniper resembles a welcoming totem pole.


At the junction of Firewater Trail and the homestretch of West Trail, a clever OTHG member placed this trail marker.


Surrounding peaks make their presence known, along the West Trail.  To the southeast, is Thumb Butte.


To the north is majestic Granite Mountain.


Working around a family who had come to this panoramic viewpoint for photos, I got this shot of the San Francisco Peaks.  SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

After taking a photo of the three family members together, I headed down the last half mile.  Just before the parking lot, I came upon this little “critter”.


My left knee and cardiopulmonary system thank me for this afternoon- and I extend that thanks to the Over-The-Hill-Gang and the U.S. Forest Service.  It’s good to feel like old times.

Mr. Ribeiro


April 16, 2018, Prescott-

The cicadas started early this year.  Spring Break is usually not a time for such serenades.  Truth be known, my Nonna wishes there were never such a festival della canzone. It keeps her awake, tossing and thrashing- so she puts on a CD of the late Pope John XXIII, talking about the saints.  That of course, sets her to crying, and brings Mama, ever ready to console, into her bedroom.  In short order, the rest of us are up and making plans to start the day.  It is 3 A.M.  Not even the bakers are awake, in Little Italy, at this hour.

Baltimore is ready for action, though, at any time that one chooses to get going.  Papa gets showered and dressed- and expects us boys to follow suit.  “I got some deliveries we can handle, Gennaro.  Santino, you go over to the Flower Mart, and drop off the bags of mulch.  Ribeiro ought to already be there.  He has nothing else to do, after all.”

Antonio Ribeiro had come to the Flower Mart from New Bedford, where he had been the odd duck in his south side neighbourhood, preferring to cultivate flowers, rather than run numbers, or crack cocaine for the Shower Posse, who were ubiquitous in southern New England, in the early ’80’s.  His boys protected “Simple Tony”, and besides, the girls were all over him- and would have not taken well to the Jamaicans mistreating him.

He’d been a fixture in Baltimore for ten years now.  Antonio lived in a small room, in the back of his Flower Mart stall.  “It saves capital”, he told his clients.  He needed no car, did not have any prevailing vices and slept on a woven mat.  His meals were obtained by barter- his flowers, gratis, to local restaurateurs, in exchange for small meals:  Simple Tony, simple diet.

My brother pulls into the Flower Mart, right around 4 A.M.  Mr. Ribeiro is up and at ’em, with the rows of pots and vases 2/3 full- ahead of the 5 o’clock opening.  “Buon giorno, young Castaldo”, he chirps at Sonny.  “Back at ya, signor”, brother responds, while plopping the sacks of mulch on their customary pallets, “Pop says it’ll be two and  a quarter.”

“Tell your father I’ll need to settle with him on the First, Santino.  Things are a bit tight, this third week of August.”  Sonny massages his chin, turning a flinty eye towards the flower vendor.  “Okay, Mr. Ribeiro, that’s what my Papa figured you’d say.  Guess there’s no mulch until September 1.”  Santino, my hulking brother, alley-oops the mulch back into his truck.

He doesn’t feel the cudgel that knocks him cold.  My hulking brother is found, unconscious, in the cab of his otherwise empty truck, at 7 A.M., at Pier 26, in the Inner Harbor.

Simple Tony Ribeiro is not quite so simple.

A Small Time Mariner’s Voyage- Day 1: California Musings


October 11, 2014, San Diego- I set out for San Diego on Friday night, actually, from this point in a town called Chino Valley,

AZ, where a few of us played musical instruments and sang as a send-off for what I hope is my last journey out of the Four Corners region, for a while.  I love the journey, but have a hard time with the backlash from those who don’t get that I actually care about them.  The fact that these are family members doesn’t make it any easier.  Maybe once they see that I am staying close to home, and am working as hard as they are, things will get better between us.

Now, back to the subject at hand. My friends, the Brehmers, were hosts at the jumping-off gathering.


As I drove across Arizona’s Outback, it was notable that two towns with which I am familiar, Wenden and Salome, had been drenched by the remnants of Hurricane Simon.  These towns in the western Sonora Desert are normally bone-dry.  Yesterday and today were different, though.

I got to Blythe, on the Colorado River, and stopped for the night, at Relax Inn.  It was a bit sultry, as the AC had quit, but I slept well, anyway.  This morning, I got up, ate a quick breakfast at Steaks and Cakes, and blazed to San Diego- getting into town around 3 PM.

This weekend, America’s Hometown celebrates Oktoberfest AND Italian Heritage Days, so rooms were at a premium, and scarce.  I got a spot at Premier Inn, on Pacific Coast Highway, near Old Town, and set out for Little Italy, taking my first ride on San Diego’s trolley.  One of my favourite Italian restaurants, Filippi’s, awaited, as did the Chalk Art Festival, stretching from India Street to Amici Park.






The presence of lilacs, and of Italian cypress trees, adds a grand ambiance to the already bellissimo Little Italy.



After an especially fabulous meal at the never-disappointing Filippi’s, I ended the evening with a walk over to Horton Plaza, in the heart of downtown.  The shopping mecca now has its own obelisk.


San Diego is never a disappointment.  The day ahead  would bring me to another city which holds out promise in that regard:  Honolulu.

An Eastward Homage, Day 8: Versailles, Part 3- The Town


Mesmerized as I was by the gold, marble and extraordinary spread of the chateau and its grounds and grand canal, finding the town that had both pre-dated the palace, and grown up around it, was a perfect finish to the day.

Versailles is not anywhere near the grey, troubled suburbs that I am told ring Ile de France.  It stands quite proudly on its own.

Here are some scenes from this marvelous little city.

First, here is Grande Ecurie du Roi (the King’s Stables), the first site I encountered, upon leaving the palace ground


Next came the east end of  the District of Notre Dame, named for- you guessed it, the cathedral.  Every major city in France has a cathedral, or a parish church, named Notre Dame.  The cathedral in Versailles could stand proudly next to any given counterpart in France.



We will see the cathedral in a bit, but first, making my way westward, I found Eglise Protestante Unie de France.   The Huguenots were terribly repressed by the House of Bourbon, making their presence in this town especially meaningful.


Next to the Protestant church is Place Hoche.  Louis Lazare Hoche was the commander of the Revolutionary Army. Louis Philippe I authorized statues of Hoche, as a token of national unity.

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It was then time for me to visit Cathedrale Notre Dame de Versailles.  Here is a view of the heart of Distrite Notre Dame, followed by the cathedral itself.



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I could look at stained glass all day long, contemplating the interplay of light and colour.  Here are a few of Versailles Cathedral’s offerings.

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Paintings and statuary interplay here as well.

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One noticeable difference between French churches and those in the U.S, is the seating arrangement.  many cathedrals in France have rows of small individual wooden chairs.  Some have seats of wicker.



Upon bidding this fine little cathedral farewell, I came upon a pigeon which was quite different in colour from the rest of the considerable flock, along Rue Rameau.




Next, slightly to the north, was Distrite des Antiquaires (Old City).  Old Versailles is not as ancient as some of the other cities I visited, but the streets are quite narrow.



Hotel du Bailliage was used as a prison by the Bourbons.  Just behind it, to the east, is Little Italy, Versailles-style.

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Hotel Cheval Rouge was built in 1676, and remains one of Versailles’ premier establishments.



Also in Distrite des Antiquaires is Hopital Olivie, a key facility during the 19th Century.



I stopped at an old dairy, Goutte du Lait, only to have a rather stern father tell me this was his daughter’s pre-school.  I was allowed one photograph.



Child safety always being one of my own passions, I headed towards Distrite d’Hotel de Ville.  City Hall stands, proud and imposing, in the center of it all.


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Here is a view of Hesperides des Les Maneges, a prime apartment complex.



Cathedral de Saint-Louis, across town from Notre Dame, is also quite impressive.  I joined a laid-back pair of artistes for a short tour, whilst waiting for the train back to Paris.  This cathedral seemed somewhat lighter and airier than Notre Dame de Versailles.  It is named in honour of St. Louis the King.


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Thus, my very full day in Versailles came to a happy close.  To celebrate, I had a fine dinner near my hotel.  If you are ever on Rue de Faubourg Montmartre, I recommend Restaurant Sizin, a full-service Turkish establishment.  This is a cut above the ubiquitous kebab shops, which I also frequented during my journey.  (“Eat Me” is a different establishment, and my curiosity didn’t get the better of me.)


NEXT:  Day 9, Part 1:  A Visit to La Louvre.