The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 29: Up to the Peregrine’s House

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June 29, 2020-

Each day, as I walk downtown, Granite Mountain rises above the northwest horizon. I have hiked to the summit,twice. The first time was in April, 2011, with Aram. The second time was after I returned from Europe, in September, 2014. As it happened, the photos from that second climb were lost, when in a relapse into my mental fog of 2011-13, I put the SIM card into its slot in the computer, without using the guide sleeve. That took care of most of the photos from the latter part of my European visit (Metz, France to Berga, Germany and Frankfurt, Part II) plus Granite Mountain, Part II.

So, as it had been six years, anyway, and ,there is a two-day cooling off, before the July Oven heats up, I took a hike up Granite Mountain-not all the way to the summit, but to the closing-off point, past which peregrine falcons are in the last part of their nesting season.

I wanted to make this trip more about Granite Basin and Blair Pass, the approaches to the peak, anyway, so this was especially worthwhile.

Here are some of the scenes of those areas, and the lower part of the mountain.

The serene trailhead of Metate Point
This is the boulder called Metate.
The trail opens wide, headed towards Granite Basin.
This dam helps form Granite Basin Lake.
So often, boulders can appear to be rogues from the Great Beyond. Here is one such image.
Once in the heart of Granite Basin, boulder flows abound.
There are several golden staircases, along the Basin path, and on the north slope of the mountain.
These are some penstemon flowers, which are seen only on occasion, along Metate Trail.
Prescott has lots of corvids. These look like they got petrified, way back when.
Here is another Watch Lizard of the Basin.
Now, we are approaching the Basin’s boundary, and Blair Pass.
A view of the summit, where the pergrine falcons are still rearing their young.
Remnants of the 2013 Doce Fire are seen ahead.
The sky is bluer than it’s been in several years.
From this bench, also called Metate Point, is a clear view of Little Granite Mountain and the Santa Maria Mountains, in the far distance.
This is a northward view, towards Williamson Valley and the Cornell Range.
After apprising a young lady, who appeared more interested in running, about the course of the the trail to the summit, I determined to only walk until I heard the first little peregrine chick peeps. That took me most of the way up this ridge.
Here is a second “Golden Staircase”.
I took one final look at the Cornell Mountains, from this viewpoint near the first nests I encountered, then headed back.

All told, I met five people along the trail, including the runner. It was thus a bit more active than six years ago, when the only soul I met was a young lady, who appeared out of nowhere, took my picture and disappeared just as quickly. I encounter souls like that, every so often, but not today.

This was a perfect day, in an area where perfection can come as easily as a brief walk to a bouldered area for a picnic as from a hard march to the summit. I stopped upon hearing the first faint peeps, then headed happily down.

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.