My Gratitudes

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November 28, 2019-

A year ago, my shoulder was getting better and my left knee, injured by what seemed to be a psychic attack, as I walked down a short, routine set of stairs, was also well on the mend. The “woo-woo” aside, my health has been fabulous this year.  I am grateful to do Terra essential oils, hemp-based CBD cream, a team of physical therapists, my dental team in Phoenix, Planet Fitness and my chiropractor for helping me maintain that fabulous.

My family has been extraordinarily gracious and generous this year, as always.  Being with Aram, Yunhee and the Shin family, on the occasion of their Baha’i wedding, and the travels around southern South Korea that followed, remains the greatest of blessings.

My Baha’i community and other dear friends, around Prescott, continue to keep me grounded.  Those whose aim was to bring me down also had a role to play. Rearranging my priorities this year, has only made my life richer and more satisfying.

Prescott, and Arizona as a whole, continue to be inspiring, good hosts.  I never tire of the view of Thumb Butte, from my front window or of any of the exquisite scenes that unfold, no matter which direction I go.

My many friends and family, across the United States, and beyond, are ever present and encouraging, even if we rarely, or never, see one another in person.  I am grateful to have spent time with some, from California to Massachusetts and in-between, over the past twelve months.

Being ever expansive in my view of the world, visiting new places and making new friends is always a plus.  I found new perspectives on Albuquerque, Memphis, Charleston, Raleigh, the Eastern Shore and Delaware, West Point, Pittsburgh, Chicago/Wilmette, Kansas City and Los Angeles, over the past twelve months. Youth hostels, Airbnb and the comfort of friends’ and family homes made all the difference.

Time in nature is always huge, in my life.  The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park saw me visit both North and South Rims.  The Navajo Nation’s Coal Mine Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Window Rock  and Monument Valley ever warm my heart.  Being in New Mexico’s El Malpais was a comfort, after a case of food poisoning upended my Father’s Day.  There were meanders along the banks of the Mississippi and above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River; focused exploration of  Utah’s Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments, Lake Powell’s Wahweap area and the urban solace of Los Angeles’ Venice Canals re-affirmed who I am,at my core.

The greatest gratitudes are reserved for what is ongoing:  My mother’s continued presence in our lives, my little family returning to the United States, having three of the finest people as my siblings, my Faith in God being reaffirmed, each day, and my physical, financial and mental health remaining optimal.

Thank you, 2019, for having been, and remaining, a space of strength and comfort.

One Good Loop Deserves Another

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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.

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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.

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Poking out from between two boulders is a charred tree limb, with the likeness of an angry snake.

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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.

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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.

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Here, I see another giant watchman, in the center of this scene.

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This clump of boulders is another fine spot for sitting and meditating.

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“Little Italy” is a side trail, which I will investigate on another hike.

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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.

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All that is left of his home is this chimney.  It seems to have been used as an outdoor oven.

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The reason for his choice of home is simple:  Here is the South Fork of Willow Creek.

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From the creek, the path becomes Firewater Trail.  A brief climb takes us past this stern eagle-like formation.

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Back on the flat trail, a dead alligator juniper resembles a welcoming totem pole.

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At the junction of Firewater Trail and the homestretch of West Trail, a clever OTHG member placed this trail marker.

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Surrounding peaks make their presence known, along the West Trail.  To the southeast, is Thumb Butte.

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To the north is majestic Granite Mountain.

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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”.

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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.

Prescott Circle Trail, Segment 1, Part 1: In Granite Basin

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May 19, 2016, Prescott- This is a different sort of Throwback Thursday.  Last Sunday’s hike took place, in between two social gatherings.  It’s important, somehow, that I complete Prescott Circle Trail, before summer starts.  So, May 15’s sumptuous afternoon found me hiking from Iron Springs Road to just above Granite Basin Road, a distance of 3 miles each way.

I began by crossing the first fairly busy roadway, Iron Springs Road, then down a mildly steep path, across Willow Creek’s relatively benign gorge, and along an easy trail to the overlook for Granite Basin, one of the most majestic places in Yavapai County.

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South trailhead, Prescott Circle Trail, Segment 1, near Iron Springs Road

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Granite Mountain, peaking over the south ridge of Granite Basin

Granite Mountain lords it over this area, as it does, by extension, over the cities of Prescott, to the south, and Chino Valley, to the north.

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Thumb Butte, to the south, isn’t about to be ignored.

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As always in the Southwest, boulders are a huge presence in Granite Basin.

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This resembles an ancient philosopher king, from some city-state in the Mediterranean region.

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Granite Mountain comes into clearer focus, at the edge of the Basin.

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The Basin itself has been the source of hours of pleasurable exploration for me, in the past few years.

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The sweep of Granite Basin, leading to the great mountain.

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The summit of Granite Mountain, through the afternoon haze.

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An old friend, “Mini Sphinx”, about a mile along Willow Trail, my diversion for the early evening, before hiking back to Iron Springs.

Lastly, here are a couple of  flower-gems, so that the little beings are not overlooked.

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Fireweed flowers punctuate the sandy brushland.

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Desert Dandelion are found, closer to the Basin rim.

This area has been an old comfort to me, both when I first came here, in April, 2011, and at various points along the Grief Road.  That it is the near ending of a 55-mile circle around my adopted home base seems most appropriate.  In a few days, I will complete Segment One, from Willow Trail to Williamson Valley Road.  Summer looks to be soothing, followed by a return to a secure work environment.

The Road to 65, Mile 358: Positivity Outside

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November 21, 2015, Prescott- I looked, to no avail, for a parking spot near the point where I left off on Prescott Circle, last Saturday.  I have an ethic about such things:  Never park on a business lot, unless patronizing said business.  So, the second half of Segment 7 will wait until after Thanksgiving, most likely until the afternoon of December 6.

That bit of irrelevance aside, the outdoors, as is well known to my readers, is a huge part of my life.  Positivity arises from the mountains, the desert, the beaches, the grasslands and the serene forests.  Even the ocean has given me a sense of serenity.

Sedona’s red rocks and pine forests abound in good vibrations, as do “our own” forests, lakes and grasslands, around Prescott and vicinity. The vortices of Sedona are closely matched by Thumb Butte.

I have felt similar vibrations elsewhere:  At Indian Gardens, along the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail; at both Spirit (“Devil’s”) Tower and Medicine Wheel, in northeast Wyoming; at Cahokia Mounds and at the Cairo Confluence, in southern Illinois; at Palo Duro Canyon, in northwest Texas; at Cape Flattery, Washington (the northwestern-most point in the contiguous United States; atop Harney Peak, South Dakota; at several points along Waikiki Beach, Hawai’i; and at more places than I can count, in southeast Alaska.  Then, too, Spirit knows no boundaries:  Stanley Park, Vancouver, the woods of Metz and Le Donjon, Rouen, France, held me in rapt respect.

The wind spoke to me, while on the ocean between Honolulu and San Diego and the rock along the River Trail glowed, in multicolours, when I first visited Palo Duro.  Spiders rode the breeze, on their webs, at Cathedral Rock, Sedona and spun exquisite places of rest in Olustee State Park, Florida, while I watched, in wonder.

There will, no doubt, be other encounters on the road ahead.  Nature eternally urges us onward.