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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Prescott Circle Trail, Segment 4:White Spar to Copper Basin- Part I

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April 5, 2016, Prescott- This past weekend, I was able to break this 6-mile section of juniper pine forest, quartz and gray granite into two hikes.  It was prudent, due to a commitment here in town, each day.  It also gave me more time to focus on the features of each part of the segment.

Saturday’s jaunt began at White Spar North Trailhead, going 3.5 miles to the junction with Quartz Mountain Trail. The entire segment is Wolverton Mountain Trail, about which more later.

Above, are three scenes at the south end of the trail.  Even this close to White Spar, there are many small fragments of pink quartz.  The trail is rather flat, for the first 2 miles or so, until past this magnificent view of a local observatory, privately-run, and of the majestic San Francisco Peaks, seventy miles northeast, as the hawk flies.  The Granite Dells may be seen, holistically, in the midground.

The East Peak of Quartz Mountain, seen in the next two frames, signals a slightly more rugged terrain.

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East Peak, Quartz Mountain

I noticed small wonders along the way, as well, including this white quartz(below) and the upper jaw bone of a hapless raccoon, which I have left out of this gallery.

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White quartz, at foot of East Peak, Quartz Mountain

This area was filled with blooming manzanita, another special treat.

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Manzanita in bloom, near Quartz Mountain

The stopping point gave me incentive for a Sunday completion of the segment, starting then from Aspen Creek Trailhead, off Copper Basin Road.  As this was done after a Sunday brunch, I was grateful for a somewhat more strenuous trail.

Here is the junction with Quartz Mountain Trail.

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Stopping place for hike on 4/2/2016