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.

 

 

The Road to 65, Mile 236: Back to California, Day 6, Part 3: A Resilient Queen

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July 22, 2015, Santa Barbara- Mission Santa Barbara is the sixth  California mission I have visited, and only the second I have visited twice, along with San Diego de Alcala.  The first time scarcely counts, though, as the interior had closed.  The same is true of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, which was about to close when we got there, in 1997.

Yet, let’s get back to the splendidly restored Santa Barbara, “Queen of the Missions”, and another erstwhile casualty of the earthquake of 1925.  The community knew only one thing to do, afterwards, and that was to rebuild.

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Even with its modern ambiance, Mission Santa Barbara exudes a strong spirituality, especially in its courtyard garden.

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The Tower at Pisa has nothing on this olive tree.

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This garden font was operating on trickle mode, enough to show the tenacity of the “Queen”, whilst also showing sensitivity to the overall situation in the State of California.

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This Mission is one of several which has one public entrance, through the gift shop, where a cashier collects the $8 fee (for adults, 18-64).  The restoration work has all come from visitors’ fees, so they’ve been put to good use.

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The bell tower, and much of the northern section of the Mission, are off limits to visitors.

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As with other Spanish colonial structures, the walkways are shored up by exposed beams, in the ceilings.

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Various small chapels are dedicated to Mother and Child, throughout the periphery of the Mission Church.

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St. Peter is shown, honouring his suffering Lord.

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The cemetery dates from the 1770’s.

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Garden plots and funerary chapels are common here.

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The doorway to the Mission Church is guarded by three skulls, so as to prevent malevolence from entering the sanctuary.

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Silence is maintained here, as the church is an active parish’s place of worship, first and foremost.

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The framed flat column is a unique feature of Mission Santa Barbara.  At least, I’ve not seen it in any other missions.  It is intended as a place to make offerings.

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Chumash art is found throughout the Mission, as well.  This chandelier anchor also guards against demons.

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The Chumash are among the first Indigenous nations to share their painting skills with Europeans.

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In the museum rooms, details of daily mission life are made clear.  This is a depiction of the friary kitchen.  It reminds me of its counterpart at Mission San Luis, in Tallahassee.

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Between the Mission Church and the museum, Christ is depicted as a man of strength and courage, comforting Mary Magdalene.

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This aqueduct was the place where Chumash workers would bathe, and wash their garments.

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Although La Huerta, the signature garden of Mission Santa Barbara, was off-limits, the Olive Trail Garden, as well as the Courtyard Garden shown aforehand, were open to visitors. I have become quite enamored of anything bright red, on this trip.

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It was hot, being mid-afternoon, so I bid farewell to the Queen of Missions, with a nod to its place in the skyline.

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Thus, my northward journey to the south-facing coastline began to wind down.  Eastward ho!  I drove to Santa Clarita, the recently incorporated (1987) conglomeration of San Fernando Valley communities, due east of Santa Barbara, and opted for the familiar format of Chili’s,in the Newhall section, as a dinner venue, foregoing a brief plan to head into the Saugus section of town, for a meal at Los Angeles County’s oldest restaurant.  It was getting too late,but next time out- Saugus, CA will be on the itinerary.

A few hours later, via Palmdale and Victorville, I made my evening destination of Barstow.  Motel 66 is a clean and eminently affordable Mom & Pop west side establishment, and I don’t need anything more. Tomorrow, I will head back to home base, through the familiar Mohave Desert and uplands of Yavapai County.

The Road to 65, Mile 175: Northwestward, Day 1

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May 22, 2015, Tonopah, NV- After tending to matters of due diligence, including a chat with a local auto transmission expert, I bid my lovely adopted town farewell, for a month or so, and headed north- with some initial trepidation.  One stop sign or traffic light after another, these butterflies faded, as my Nissan kept on performing like a trouper.  I made it to Kingman, gave the car a fueling and myself a break, then headed further, to White Hills.

Rosie’s Den Cafe lies about thirty-seven miles north of Kingman, just shy of “Last Stop in Arizona”, where an unfortunate gun accident changed the lives of two families, last spring.  Rosie isn’t around anymore, but the raucous atmosphere remains in full throttle.  The bantering continued, between the waitresses, cooks, manager, at least one disgruntled vendor and the local regulars, while I continued with my chili cheeseburger. (This road trip will have its share of guilty pleasures, and plenty of healthy fare to balance them.)  There was a bit more tension in the air at Rosie’s than the last time I was there, so “Pray for Peace”.

Las Vegas traffic wasn’t too bad, and virtually dissipated, north of Summerlin and the Kyle Canyon turnoff.  My next stop was Indian Springs, a half-hour out of town, for more gas.  The ride remained as smooth as silk.  I had kept seeing the name Amargosa Springs, in my mind’s eye, over the past several days.  Of course, that little community is home to The Alien Store, so I stopped and stretched a bit.  Then it was onward, through Beatty, Smitty’s Junction and Goldfield.

Tonopah, with its magnificent hotel-casino,Tonopah Station, was my stopping place for the night.  I had fish and chips for supper, and settled in at Economy Inn.  Rain, which has been my companion, off and on, all day, stopped briefly- long enough for me to get to the Station’s cafe and back, on foot.  I will end this account with a few choice photos.

First, here are a couple of views of the area around The Alien Store.

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Tonopah has a similar terrain, being the eastern foothills of the Panamint Range, and the eastern portion of the Mohave Desert.

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Tonopah Station holds its own as a classic hotel.

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James, the Bear, greets gamblers and diners alike, in the hotel foyer.

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So, this old mining community has given me safe haven for the night.  Tomorrow will bring a brief look at the surroundings, then a 3 1/2- hour drive further on, to Reno, and some time with old friends.