Every Town Matters

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January 30, 2022, Douglas, AZ- The little boy, in the room next to mine, tried to open the door separating us. Of course, after a minute or so, his parents took him away from the door and there was no further attempt at a surprise visit. I would not have minded, if he had poked his head through the door, as long as Mom and Dad were close by.

I have also had a couple of “surprise visits” on the phone, from adult friends who thought they knew best how I might be spending my time. There is the usual “You’re out of town, so you must be on vacation” mindset and the “You’re in this area, so therefore you must go to….” prescription. Prescott is not a place I regard as a 24/7 work environment and while I appreciate suggestions or networking connections, when I am on the road, my schedule is basically set, most often with a good deal of forethought and inspiration.

I came to Douglas, and spent two days here, because I felt the urge to devote spiritual energy to this area and to the border. I had also wanted to connect with a Baha’i friend in Bisbee, not far away, but the person was not available. That much more time was thus spent on the former.

Douglas was founded as a railroad town, mainly as a place to load and haul copper and gold to points east and west. The rail depot is now the Police Station.

I walked from there to the border station, being careful to not enter any area that was within the actual processing district, to dissuade the few grifters and beggars who tried to make their case for “sharing” and to show kindness to those who were obviously leery of being accosted by anyone, so soon after having crossed the frontier.

Just before I got to the bench near the crossing, I spotted a white dove, resting on the branch of a tree, in Douglas’ west side park.

Douglas matters, for more than just its border crossing. A vibrant Mexican culture transcends the border here, as it does in many places, from Brownsville to San Ysidro. There is also a core group of regenerators, people who are either willing to invest in the infrastructure or are, as a small family of siblings and cousins at an innovative bakery and restaurant called Mana’, putting in serious hours to draw people TO Douglas, not to have them just pass THROUGH the town. Mana’ has an electronic menu, accessible only by phone or computer and it is one of the more extensive I’ve seen, for an establishment of its size, with over a dozen unusual omelet and Mexican scramble items. If the town can draw a music and arts scene, the way nearby Bisbee has, Douglas can again make its mark. In fact, I had three meals at Mexican restaurants here-and all were great. That can also be a draw- a culinary mecca!

On Juniper Mesa

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Juniper Mesa, from George Wood Canyon

September 4, 2016, Walnut Creek, AZ-  This settlement is only intermittently populated, when researchers from Arizona’s public universities, and Prescott College, show up to conduct their monitoring of the high desert’s overall health, in an area far from any permanent, sizable human community.  A few ranches break the landscape and, indeed, one of those ranches, just west of Juniper Mesa’s main trailhead, is sealed off from anyone not associated with its operation.

I came out here, in mid-afternoon, to explore the sky island known as Juniper Mesa.  The place was, in the 1870’s and 80’s, a military encampment, an extension of Prescott’s Fort Whipple.  It was, to the cavalrymen of the time, the perfect spot for a railway station, with the route commencing in Prescott, going through Del Rio (now Chino Valley) and pushing clear to the Colorado River, at Hardyville (now Bullhead City) and, from there, to San Pedro, one of the ports serving Los Angeles.  The railroad was built, but it went north, to Ash Fork, then to Seligman and Kingman, connecting with a much larger, transcontinental track, the Santa Fe.

 

So, Juniper Mesa has reverted to a lonesomeness.  I was the only person on the trail today.  Fortunately, I have come to expect that, even in areas closer to Prescott.  The large pack, with an ample water supply, a first aid kit, two knives, a detailed topographic map and a sturdy flashlight, along with one of my trusty walking sticks, has been an integral part of my communes with nature.  What has occasionally caused chuckles, from the smug hipsters doing lakeside botanical and entomological research in Prescott’s city parks, is, to me, a must on any hike lasting more than an hour.  Besides, it wasn’t too long ago, that one of those individuals had to be rescued from Watson Lake Park, a ten-minute walk from a North Prescott business district, because she was dehydrated and delirious.

I saw fairly fresh horse-hoof prints, along the way and smelled fresh bobcat urine, trail side, closer to evening, but it was the insects and I who had the place to ourselves, from all outward seeming.  Juniper Mesa could be for lovers, but so far, it is for the soloists.

I used three trails, in the course of my loop hike:  Oaks and Willows; Juniper Mesa (rim)  and the steep Bull Spring Trail.  Oaks and Willows meets Walnut Creek Road (County Road 125), proceeds through the lush George Wood Canyon to the top of Juniper Mesa, then branches off to the northeast.

Here are some scenes of Oaks and Willows.

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Broad trail, along the Oaks and Willows, Juniper Mesa

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Thick scrub, George Wood Canyon, Juniper Mesa Wilderness

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View across George Wood Canyon

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Sign, gnawed by black bears, over several years

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Heart of George Wood Canyon, Juniper Mesa Wilderness

Once atop the mesa, I basically followed Juniper Mesa Rim Trail, though finding it rather sparse, in several places.  Horse trails, though, are easy to identify by their indentation into the ground.

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Alligator Juniper, top of Juniper Mesa.  I almost see a parrot’s face, in the branch stump.

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Bear image, small sandstone, Juniper Mesa Rim Trail

Bears are reported to be common here, but I saw no sign of them- not even old scat.  They are probably further north, or in areas more sheltered from the lightning that hits Juniper Mesa frequently, during the monsoon season, that is in hiatus for several days.

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Lightning-struck tree, Juniper Mesa Rim Trail

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Lightning-struck piece of limestone, and heart rock, Juniper Mesa Rim Trail

The rock above was given a fierce countenance, by a recent lightning strike.

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Cairn, Juniper Mesa Rim Trail

Large cairns mark Juniper Mesa Rim Trail, at several points, especially after Oaks and Willows Trail branches off to the north.  A half-mile further east, I bid farewell to the benign rout along the rim, and began the descent, on steep Bull Springs Trail.

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View of Walnut Creek settlement and the Santa Maria Range, from Bull Spring Trail

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Hazy view of Walnut Creek settlement, from Bull Spring Trail

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Limestone cliff, east end of Juniper Mesa

The cliffs seen above, and in the next photo, were redoubts for Yavapai and Hualapai warriors, who resisted the U.S. Cavalry in the 1870’s.

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Limestone cliffs, east end of Juniper Mesa

After climbing down from the mesa top, I followed Bull Spring Trail, into the darkness.  Although it was along this trail, that I smelled the bobcat’s markings, the animal itself stayed out of sight, and only small insects, attracted by the flashlight’s beam, showed me any interest.  It took careful attention for me to find the last trail sign, returning to the nub of Oaks and Willows Trail that led me to the car, but I enjoyed a very deep sleep tonight- far from Juniper Mesa.

This is one of several places, in the middle of Arizona’s “nowhere”, that have been on my hiker’s list, in the wake of having completed Prescott Circle.  Stay tuned for others.