Red Mountain, in the Blue Hills

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October 13, 2020, Dewey, AZ-

There are two Red Mountains, within a day’s driving distance of Prescott. One of these lies just south of this little ranching and farming community, southeast of Prescott. The Blue Hills, in which this Red Mountain may be found, are a rugged subrange of foothills to the larger Bradshaw Mountain chain, which stretches from Prescott’s southern edge to Black Canyon City and Crown King, at the southern tip of Yavapai County.

I’ve hiked a fair amount in the Bradshaws, over the past nine years. The hike today was my first visit to the Blue Hills region. I got there a little past 11:30, finding only two other visitors in the parking area. They were on their way out, so I had the trail to myself. Off it was, to Red Mountain of the Blue Hills.

The trail was introduced recently by the estimable Phoenix hiking trails writer, Mare Czinar. I found the trail exactly as she described it-beginning on a stony Forest Service road, then entering a forest of Gambel’s Oak and Alligator Juniper. After about 1.5 miles, the trail loses the forest, entering into a sparsely-vegetated area of scattered lone juniper trees and prickly pear cacti.

Switchbacks and mildly steep inclines take up the final mile or so, landing one very close to the summit of Red Mountain, with a Forest Service gate, that begins a trail to Lynx Lake, some five miles westward. I will check out Prospectors Trail, from the Salida Gulch area, later this Fall. For now, here are some of the views I encountered.

This message has wider implications for all of us.

Blue Hills Trail System joint-use guide
Red Mountain, from the Trailhead
Sandstone Outcropping, near Trailhead
Sandstone and Juniper mix
The trail passes alongside Green Gulch, for about .9 mile. Green Gulch, Red Mountain, Blue Hills-wonder where indigo and violet come in.
Year ago, there were miners panning for gold, in Green Gulch and in Salida Gulch, further southwest. This foundation is what’s left of one such mining claim.
Smidgens of Fall colours could be glimpsed, here and there.
This gate took m eout of BLM land and onto Prescott National Forest.
This is close to the end of the thick forest and start of high desert scrub.
The climb out of Green Gulch, and up onto the ridges of Red Mountain, begins here.
This large sandstone outcropping lies slightly to the east of the final ridge of Red Mountain.
Here is the reddish sandstone that gives the peak its name.
Once through this gate, one goes down into Salida Gulch, and on to Lynx Lake and Highlands Nature Center- five miles, one way.
This is one of several heart-shaped rocks, which always affirm my journey.

The Goosenecks and Valley of the Gods

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October 8, 2019, Blanding-

There have been several goals that I have kept on embers, for several years now.  Camping out, above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River, is one of these.  The otherworldly ambiance of this unique landscape has captivated me, every time we passed by there, en route to visit the Dineh of southeast Utah.

Once out of Monument Valley, one comes upon Mexican Hat, a small, mainly Dineh town that offers astonishing cliffs, a small, expensive motel and a fairly economical cafe.  I enjoyed dinner there, then pursued my camping option.

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Small outcroppings of Monument Valley appear to the southeast of Mexican Hat.

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Three miles due east of the town, I turned left, drove three miles north and came upon the Goosenecks.

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As the soil at the campground is powdery, for at least a foot down, I opted to sleep under the stars.  It was a bit chilly, towards morning, but the brilliance of the stars and the sheer stillness of the place made it more than worthwhile.  I felt there were two rivers, one below and the other above.

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The easternmost promontory of Monument Valley is visible to the south.

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Once morning arrived, I greeted a few of the other campers, ate some stale leftover cinnamon buns and called it breakfast, changed clothes in the port-o-potty and headed uphill, to the Valley of the Gods.  This small, unorganized park is accessible by gravel road, just before engaging the 3-mile series of narrow switchbacks which leads to Natural Bridges National Monument.  I opted to take several photos from the side of the road.

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The last two photos were taken from turnouts, along the switchbacks.

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This view of the area was made even more otherworldly by the early morning cloud cover.

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In about twenty minutes, I had scaled the switchbacks in my Elantra and was en route to Natural Bridges.  I look forward to returning to this area again, in the near future.

 

Mother Miguel Mountain

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January 3, 2017, Chula Vista-   Whenever I look out the window, from my son’s apartment, the curious sight of Mount San Miguel, in the Otay Range, looms to the southeast. I took advantage of Aram’s being back to work, got up before dawn, and headed over to Mount San Miguel Park, on Chula Vista’s east side.  There was a short wait, of about twenty minutes, as the city park opens at 6 A.M., with decent light about 6:30.

My choice of trails led up Mother Miguel Mountain, to a military commemorative, called Rock House.  Two explanations are in order:  “Mother Miguel” is a mash-up of Madre Grande, which some early settlers from the eastern U.S. took to pronouncing “Mother Grundy”, and San Miguel, the name given to the area by earlier Spanish ranchers;  Rock House is the name given to a rock arrangement which houses two, rather tattered, flags-our national flag and the banner honouring Prisoners-of-War and those Missing-in-Action.  The latter is to be flown, or displayed at meetings of veterans’ service organizations, until the day comes when all such persons, or their identified remains, are honourably interred or cremated on U.S. soil.

My leisurely up and back lasted about three hours, over a round trip of 6.2 miles.  The photos, taken with my phone camera, are not as clear as those taken with the digital, but you will get the idea.20170103_0651391

Here is the trailhead for Mother Miguel, from the east end of Mt. San Miguel Park.20170103_0701591

Above, is a view of the destination, for which I used a series of 22 non-taxing switchbacks.

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Occasional limestone boulder piles provide a place to sit and contemplate, along the way.

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Others just dominate their area,  as does this castle-like outcropping.

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Once atop the modest-sized peak, Mexico looms, to the south, with the San Ysidro district of San Diego, in the foreground.

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Here is Rock House, with its resident banners.

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A second stone arrangement, intended as a circle for contemplation, is found just south of the Rock House.  Sweetwater Reservoir is seen in the distance.

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A third, circular, stone arrangement is a bit more to the south, still, and seems to invite a holistic view of the repatriation process.

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Off to the east is Mount San Miguel, whose owners SAY they don’t want hikers going to its summit, but do nothing to prevent those few intrepid people,usually military members doing personal training, who make the steep hike up its western slope.

Speaking of which, there were about six others on Mother Miguel Trail, while I was there.  One, a young lady, passed by, as I was taking in the rock arrangements, and went to the southernmost point on the summit.  After she had returned from her moments of solitude, and headed on down the mountain, I went to that point, and found a commemorative bench.

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There is, indeed, nothing that replaces a sense of home.  I hope that she felt comforted, and reassured, by this message.

The way down had me thinking, somehow, of just how vital the two youngest generations are, and will continue to be, to the well-being of our nation, and of our planet, as a host of problems, heretofore unfaced, will present themselves, over the next decade or so.  I guess the energy of the young runners and hikers, along with the industrial views of the area to the west and north of the park, set this thought in motion.  Like all previous such times of challenge, humanity will prevail, by working together.  There is no other choice.

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The rocks remain, and patiently look upon us.

 

Castle in the Canyon

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October 16, 2016, Prescott Valley- After a Saturday morning of service, via the Red Cross, in the incomparable town of Sedona, a fine lunch and conversation with a friend who works near our service site, and a couple of social gatherings with Baha’i friends, my knees asked for a bit of consideration.  Unlike many my age, I cannot sit for too long, without getting up and giving my frame a good workout.

So this afternoon, as our biweekly Sunday lunch gathering was drawing to a close, I headed for the one peak in the Prescott area which I had not yet hiked:  Glassford Hill.  This extinct volcano had been State Trust Land, and largely restricted in use, until this past May.  A trail was completed, and was dedicated then, and is now a welcome addition to this grassland community’s recreational portfolio.

It is a 2.25 mile hike, each way, from the trailhead to the summit.  The difficulty level, to me, is moderate, with four short switchbacks of moderate incline, each connected by road-width, relatively level longer switchbacks.  It took about 1 1/2 hours to go up and back.

The centerpiece of the trail is a pair of basalt outcroppings, called The Castle in the Canyon, for their imposing appearance.

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Basalt formations, Summit Trail, Glassford Hill

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Basalt formation, Summit Trail, Glassford Hill

The “Castle” lies just shy of the one-mile point, of the trail.

The rest of the mountain is largely tall grass prairie.  Pronghorns and deer are seen quite often on the wider slopes, though none were visible when I was there. A few mountain lions are said to live on the peak, as well.

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Communications towers, northwest peak of Glassford Hill.

At the summit, the peak’s namesake, Colonel William Glassford, erected a heliograph terminal, by which he was able to communicate, via  Morse Code, with U.S. Army officers at Fort Union, NM.  The process is described on the placard below.

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Information placard, on summit of Glassford Hill

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Heliograph plate, summit of Glassford Hill

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Commemorative flag, honouring Colonel Glassford, summit of Glassford Hill

As far as we know,there was little use of this peak by the Apache or Yavapai peoples, who pre-dated the ranchers in this area.  The first name bestowed on the mountain was “Baldy Peak”, owing to its being a grassland with a  few bristlecone pine trees.

Its uniqueness among the mountains of Yavapai County, nevertheless, makes Glassford Hill a  trail worthy of a good afternoon’s workout.