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.

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.

Clearer Vision


November 29, 2016, Prescott- Now that my backlog of stuff has cleared up, somewhat, it’s time to consider what 66 has in store for me, or I, for it.

Fitness:  I like going to Planet Fitness, as there is a place for everyone, with a feeling of community and non-judgement.  People of all ages, sizes and ability levels exercise together and support one another, either silently, or as “spotters”.  My current plan has me there, three days a week.

Hiking:  Related to fitness, and to photography, my hikes vary in length and in difficulty.  They have sustained me, in many ways, for nearly 58 years.  The next twelve months will take me to:  Prescott Hotshots Memorial State Park, in Yarnell;  the southernmost three segments of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, in New River; Spur Cross Ranch, Cave Creek; McDowell Mountains Desert Preserve, Scottsdale; the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff; the Grand Canyon and who knows where, in AZ and elsewhere.

Work:  I was asked to consider being lead teacher in my current classroom.  I respectfully declined, preferring to see a younger person have a shot at that opportunity- as I am not devoting more time to the courses necessary for re-certification, and  given that I plan to work full time, for 4 1/2 more years, then go on to other pursuits, at the end of May, 2021. Children, and their well-being, will always be one of my highest concerns, though, wherever I am.

Family:  This means both biological and of choice.  Thankfully, there is no one in my biological family who would not be in my family of choice.  The former consists of about 140 people, including my mother, siblings, son, maternal and paternal relatives, and in-laws.  The latter has grown to at least 300, including many who will read this, over the past twenty-five years.

Travel:  My main immediate priority is time with Aram, after Christmas and before he heads to Korea for his next Navy assignment.  Between now and the end of May, I will be mostly in the Southwest and southern California, as work and my Baha’i activities keep me close to Home Base.  Mid-March may find me in west Texas, re-connecting with old friends.  The summer’s focus leans towards the Northwest, and possibly the Great Plains, but much could change, in the interim.  My Back-East visit looks to be in December, 2017.

Spiritual:  As most of you know, I am a fervent Baha’i.  We will observe a significant anniversary, on October 22:  The bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, Founder of our Faith.  A committee is planning a dignified and welcoming commemoration of the event, here in the Prescott area.  I will support and take active part in the event that is put together.

I also support the ecumenical event, known as Hope Fest, which will also occur in October, for its sixth year.  We all are living under the same blessings, coming from One Heavenly Source, in my view.

Writing:  I still very much plan to put together, and publish, a volume of mixed short prose and poetry, between January and March of the coming year.  Online, a series of posts on this site will be called 66 Days of Sixty-Six, being a random group of days that celebrate this age.

It’s going to be a great, if often challenging, year.  Stay tuned.



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


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.


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.


White quartz, at foot of East Peak, Quartz Mountain

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


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.


Stopping place for hike on 4/2/2016

The Road to 65, Mile 29: Darkening, Below the Peaks


December 27, 2014, Phoenix-   When I was 18, and working at the General Electric Company’s Riverworks, in Lynn, MA, word came up the pipes that one of our town’s favourite police officers, Augustine J. “Gus” Belmonte, had been slain, while busting up a robbery attempt at a Saugus restaurant.  Rumours flew about that it was an execution, ordered by this or that Mob boss.  Gus was a man of the people, and enforced the law in an even-handed, humane manner.  It turned out that the killers were Irish-American thugs, but not tied to any crime family, per se.  All Saugus turned out to see Gus off to his place in Heaven.

I was a jerk-wad kid, back then, and probably struck a lot of people as being barely able to tie my own shoelaces, but I thought the world of Augustine J. Belmonte.  He was in the prime of his life, forty-four years of age, when the Lord called him home.

Fast forward, nearly forty-six years later, to Flagstaff, AZ.  Tyler Stewart, a young man from north Phoenix, serving in his first year as a police officer on the Flagstaff force, responded to a domestic violence call, in one of the mountain town’s few tough neighbourhoods.  The perp got the officer’s confidence by seeming to be polite and co-operative, then got the drop on Officer Stewart.  Tyler Stewart was 24.

Flagstaff is a university community, a ski resort and an outdoorsman’s year-round paradise.  The San Francisco Peaks, an alpine sky city, loom to the north and smaller peaks like Mount Elden, Mars Hill and Kendrick Peak beckon to hikers and runners, as well.  It is also a railroad town, as anyone seeking a good night’s sleep in any of the motels along Old U.S. 66 can attest.  Drifters and the troubled find their way here, en route to or from California or  Las Vegas, and many stay.  Robert Smith, who killed Officer Stewart before turning the gun on himself, was one of those troubled souls.  He was 28.

While this transpired, on a sunny Saturday-after-Christmas, I was in a faith-based conference in Phoenix, learning of systemic alternatives to greed, rapacity and vengeance.  It occurred to those of us who heard of this incident, over dinner, that there is, when people feel utterly trapped, and at the mercy of wolves, so to speak-they revert to savagery, however tempered by cunning that it may be.

We often worry about high-profile catastrophe: Mass murders, such as the Twin Towers, Newtown or Peshawar; missing and ill-fated airplanes, of which there have been three this year; or almost incomprehensible global phenomena, such as the Mega-Tsunami of ten years ago, Friday.  The more common tragedy is, collectively, like death by a thousand cuts.  Four police officers have been killed, in the line of duty, over the past two months. Some blame an obscure street gang, which has “declared war” on police. To date, that group has not carried out any of its threats.  The deaths which have occurred, are all random results of a torn social fabric.  The mentally ill, from unrestrained sociopaths to schiziphrenics, who are shunted aside by the hipsters and the Men of Purpose, have, in each case, been shown to be the perpetrators.

While there is no conspiracy, there is an issue that needs to be addressed.  Registration of firearms, as appealing  and, in many cases, necessary as it is, resolves only a small part of the problem.  It has not been that many years since I had to explain to my then-teenaged son how it was that a schizoid man could behead his own flesh and blood, and toss the head out of his moving truck, onto a highway full of horrified commuters.  No human being can long be made to feel that he or she is irrelevant to the very people in whom trust has been placed.  The rest of us will soon have to bear the full cost, and dollars are a very small part of that cost- as everyone who has tried to make mental health care all about the money has learned, to their chagrin.

In a couple of days, most of us will assess this departed year and gaze ahead at the broad horizon of anno novo. The sunrise and sunset will appear the same.  Perhaps somewhere, an overloaded ferry, in a far-off place, will be the first reported disaster.  The jails will be full of those who over-celebrated.  In New York City, a young widow will wake up alone, and two fatherless boys will look at the empty dining-room chair, where their father used to sit.  In the Anthem neighbourhood of Phoenix, a veteran State Police officer will look out the window, and tears will stream down his face- as he wonders “Why MY son?”. even as he knows the answer, full-well.  In the Old Town section of Flagstaff, a young woman will also wake up, without the man she thought she could trust, and hopefully not blame herself.

Life is beautiful, under the shadow of the Peaks, and it is also grim.