The Road to 65, Mile 127: Light and Shadow


April 4, 2015, Cherry, AZ-   On any given day, there are hundreds of possibilities, for both good and ill.  I set out this morning for Tonto Natural Bridge, looking to explore the northern approach to the Bridge, via Pine Creek Trail.  I had gone the southern route on my first visit, last Fall.  The link between the two is a six-inch wide ledge, that is navigable by hugging the rock face, for about three feet of trail.  I have declined to so navigate.  My purpose in hiking is never bravado or machismo, but understanding.

I spent about an hour there, looking at the remnants of a waterfall, above Pine Creek, and walking along the creek, going through the small caves above it and marveling anew at the Natural Bridge.

The slight sprinkle of fluid, at the “waterfall” is not done justice by a mere photograph.


Pine Creek Trail, on the other hand, means lots of boulder hopping, along the creek bed.



The basalt, which makes up much of the area, may be examined up close.


This is the consummate Southwest- constant interplay between rock and water.


Small caves abound, north of the Natural Bridge.


You may see the first of my confirmations, as the two ledges meet.



Segments of the Bridge show escape hatches for the light.





I stood, contemplating the Natural Bridge, for about ten minutes, while encouraging those who had selected to traverse the narrow ledge between the north and south sides.  I can’t see the thrill, but they felt it.

After a satisfying lunch at Early Bird Restaurant, in Pine, I headed over to Pine Trailhead, for a five-mile roundtrip intro to the Arizona Trail.


Actually, I have walked about three miles or so of the Trail, in Davidson Canyon, near Tucson.  The Trail itself runs 807 miles, 795 of which go directly from the Mexican border to the Utah state line.  The other twelve miles circumnavigate Flagstaff.

I chose Oak Springs Trail, which takes one across Highway 87, over to a Reservoir and up to a ridge line.

Spring is springing!  These looks like houndstongues, but I could be mistaken.


There was no mistaking the horned lizard, however.


I rested at this little nook, just east of a reservoir, called Bradshaw Tank.



I did not go all the way to Oak Spring, choosing to save the majority of this magnificent trail for another time.  There were some anomalous sights on the way back:  A memento of a previous hiker’s visit;


A scene of life that is emerging;


and finally, my second confirmation of the day.


I headed back down towards Camp Verde and Prescott, after that.

There is an interesting pullout, on the way up to the Mogollon Rim, at Mile 13 of the General Crook Highway.  This area is closely associated with the unfortunate conflict between the U.S. Cavalry and the Tonto Apaches, as I have explained in a 2012 post on  Fort Verde State Park.



Thus was the interplay between light and shadow.  Little did I know, driving down the switchbacks and along I-17 towards Hwy 169, and home, that this drive would likely be the last, for my trusty Kia Optima.  Its brakes locked, as I approached the stop sign at the 169 just a bit too fast, and ended in a ditch.  Two hours later, my car, shattered windshield, deployed air bag and all, was in a tow yard.  I was at home, explaining to those closest to me, by phone, what had happened, as my client listened and offered his own support, while organizing his possessions for Monday’s move.  The State Patrol and the judge in Mayer are sympathetic, but still say I need to take an online Traffic Safety course.  Yes, indeed,  officers, and Your Honour.  I will take the course, treat my scrapes and scratches, work with the insurance company, get back to mobility and not take anything for granted, ever again.

Happy Easter.

The Road to 65, Mile 55: Challenges


January 22, 2015, Prescott- I got a call at 5:38 AM, got out of bed, fumbled with the phone, hit the wrong button, and ended up with no work today.  It always goes the way it is supposed to go, though.  While I won’t earn money from today’s activities, I did reassure a transient friend that he has allies in this community, got him where he needed to go, and spent some time with a friend in Prescott Valley, at a restaurant on the north side of the sprawling town.  The place is called The Chalk Board.  It’s a breakfast and lunch spot and has an inventive, well-prepared menu- like Soldi, here on the hilltop.  Several of us will probably gather there on Saturday morning, for breakfast.  I want to look for the trailhead where I left off of the Black Canyon Trail, last Spring, so a hearty breakfast, en route, will be a great start.

Slow days like this are a good time to look at challenges that lie ahead.  So, between now and the end of May, I have these:

Work- The full-time job will happen, if it’s meant to, by the end of February.  Otherwise, I will show up at every charter school in Prescott and Chino Valley, give them each a copy of my sub certificate, focus on building my Essential Oils business (which I’ll do, anyway) and sock money away.

Service- I am with the Red Cross as a volunteer, regardless.  American Legion? My continuing there, past May, will depend on the political climate.  Right now, it looks iffy.  Prescott Family Shelter is on my volunteer radar screen, also, unless I get full-time work.

Recreation and Travel- Colorado, next weekend, is my most immediate focus- for a  Winter Summit.  Texas, the Gulf Coast and central Florida follow, from Feb. 6-17.  My MIL has a birthday during that time, in Leesburg.  Weekend hikes will be many, from mid-February until late May:  Continuing down the Black Canyon, McDowell Mountains’ Pemberton Trail(Scottsdale), Spur Cross Ranch (Cave Creek),Kendrick Peak (west of Flagstaff), Tucson’s Sahuaro National Park-West Unit, a few more places in Sedona and the rest of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park’s trails.  Then, there are the hikes I will no doubt take, on the spur of the moment.

Faith- Baha’i, like random acts of service, makes up the built-in cabinets and shelving of my Life House.  My growth, and that of the community, will continue in tandem with all of the above.

These may seem like trifling challenges, and they are.  Then again, I’m autistic.  Everything is a challenge.

A Rim Country Saturday, Part 3: Mr. Gowan’s Haven.


November 8, 2014, Strawberry, AZ- Like many new arrivals in the American West, in the mid-19th Century, David Gowan, a native of Scotland, headed to California, to take part in the “Gold Rush”.  As the California lodes played themselves out, he headed to Arizona, in the hope of finding more.  As mentioned earlier in this series, Payson, where Mr. Gowan ended up, had scant offerings in terms of rich ore. To make matters worse, he was pursued by angry Apaches in the area.  He managed to escape northward, and in the process of navigating Pine Canyon, found a natural bridge.  There, he hid in a cave for three days.

David found a small, but profitable, lode of gold ore, along the East Verde River, west of the natural bridge, and homesteaded atop the bridge itself.  The rich soil allowed him to farm successfully, and the place became a comfortable home for his family, some of whom later turned the farm into a tourist site.  The home built by David Goodfellow, Mr. Gowan’s nephew, is still there today, and is the lodge for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

Here are several photos of the rim and canyon, into which I hiked in the afternoon of this splendid day.  The granite and rhyolite made for some slick hiking, especially where Tonto Creek was flowing, and the mist dripping off the natural bridge gave those of us below a refreshing shower, of sorts.  First, is the terrain of the canyon rim.


Rhyolite is quite common, throughout the park.


I made my way quickly down a narrow path, to the canyon floor.


A view of the natural bridge was not long in coming.  It is recognized as the longest travertine (slick limestone) natural bridge in the world.


Here are a couple of close-ups of the porous granite.  In the second frame, you can see an observation deck.



A lovely pool below the bridge, lends a grotto-like effect to the scene.



Boulder-hopping was necessary, in order to explore the length of the canyon bottom.  A bit past this area, I found the trail became obscure.  A ranger who was there said that the trail was a series of hand and foot holds, which were probably better done on day when there was more time.  Seeing that I only had twenty minutes to get back up top, I turned around, and left the rough climb out, for another day.


In the meantime, here are some views of the sky, from underneath Tonto Natural Bridge.



A look downward, as I was climbing out in the late afternoon glow, had its own magic.


Finally, here is a look at the Natural Bridge’s ceiling.  Lichen is abundant, in the crevices of the granite.