Cochise Dawn

ancestral Apache land

From 2004 through 2011 I visited Arizona every Autumn, October or November. As a University of Arizona Alumni Board member for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences we had a meeting during “homecoming” and a fund raising event. I’d come early or stay later for getting acquainted with Arizona, more than was possible as an undergraduate. In 2007 I camped for several days Chiricahua National Monument of the remote south eastern corner of the state.

The park empties out this time of year, for some reason. The weather is perfection with clear skies, moderate daytime temperatures, cool nights. This time of year the Arizona White Oak acorns ripen and fall. The campground has aluminum picnic tables, the falling acorns made a loud plunks throughout the night. This would annoy some people. Me, it is a great memory.

The following two images are great memories from my first morning.

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Rhyolite Moon
These formations hovered over the trail on my first morning. The rising full moon was an unplanned bonus.

I experimented this trip with a breakfast of granola with dried whole milk. It was delicious (for me) and got me out on the trail quickly. This first morning I clicked my hiking poles together to scare away bears as I walked in the pre-dawn dark. The preparation and extra effort paid off with this photograph.

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I met one hiker who was a harbor pilot from Hamburg, Germany. He came just to view a particular rock formation that was, literally, the rubber bath duck. It is several miles to the site, a moderate hike with significant elevation gain. He took his snapshot with a little camera and was on his way.

The following is my masterpiece from the trip. Imaging the effect of seeing this image on settlers. That same first day I turned a corner and there this was…it took a few minutes to comprehend what I saw, it was so incredible and, for me, unexpected. It first, the only perception is a huge rock dome of rough rock, then, slowly, the image of a native American profile forms in the mind.
Cochise Dawn

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Cochise Dawn
Cochise Dawn

Click link for the complete story behind how I captured this image, from my Online Gallery.

Michael Wills Inspiration Point
Michael Wills Inspiration Point

During the session for Cochise Dawn I turned the camera for the view northwest and did a self portrait. In the distance are the Galiuro Mountains and Wilderness. Tucked alongside is the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, hosting one of the few perennial streams of Arizona.

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

History and Ghosts of the Triangle T Ranch

a ghost story

In my last post, Homecoming Parade 2003, I described my initial reconnection with the University of Arizona (U of A) as a 1975 graduate and alumnus.  This personal project of involvement with U of A and Arizona continued through 2011 with annual autumn trips to coincide with Homecoming.  The travel was as a CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) Alumni Board of Directors member, a primary responsibility was raising funds for scholarships.

Texas CanyonGranite2007-5
The Amerind Foundation and weathered boulders of Texas Canyon granite.  Beyond are the Dragoon Mountains

I met, Linda Kelly, the owner of the Triangle T Guest Ranch, while camping in the Chiricahua Mountains.  I arrived a week before homecoming to photograph the landscape, nature and rock formations of the Chiricahua National Monument.  Click this link for my Arizona Online gallery, including some work from that time.  Linda and a friend were visiting that day and we struck up a conversation about the area and her Triangle T Guest ranch.  The next day I was scheduled to guest lecture a class at the U of A, as an alumnus of CALS.  The ranch was on the way and I needed a place to stay, so Linda gave me directions and I checked in.

She gave me a tour of the incredible weather granite rock formations of Texas Canyon and, meanwhile, shared stories of the history of Texas Canyon.  It is appropriate for the Amerind Foundation to be here (see first photograph), the winter camp of an Apache tribe for generations.

Texas CanyonGranite2007-1
Weathered granite boulders greet visitors to the Triangle T Ranch.

That night, my request was for a room storied to be haunted by a spirit they call “Grandma,” as in when her foot steps wake you from a sound sleep you say, “It’s all right, Grandmother.”  She woke me that night, footsteps in the dark, hollow on the wood floor, the room filled with a hard cold.  I talked to her, without a response, while swinging my legs out of bed to reach the gas heater in the wall.  I turned on the heat and the sound of expanding metal heat fins lulled me to sleep.

Texas CanyonGranite2007-2
I call this pair, “Father and Son.”  The restaurant is built around a round boulder. 

It made a good story for the students.  They were surprised I could fall back asleep, but after all I had to be there the following morning.

Texas CanyonGranite2007-3
Your imagination roams among the natural forms.

I gave Linda a few of my photographs from that day and we made arrangements for the Triangle T to supply a two night package for the CALS “Dean’s Almost World Famous Burrito Breakfast” silent auction during 2008 homecoming.

Texas CanyonGranite2007-4
A tableau of figures keep silent watch with the ghosts of Texas Canyon.
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Tain Way Poetic Finale

A Poem to accompany our arrival at Carlingford

To close our time on the Tain Way I offer a poem written and presented to the congregation of the First Unitarian church of Ithaca New York 25 years ago, 1992. Interspersed are final photographs from our walk on the Tain Way of 2014.

The poem content is not directly biographical / confessional although it draws upon my experience as a single parent in the 1980’s through 1990’s.

A Poem Read To The Congregation

I

a crisis threatened an Irish village
men women children filled the meeting place
everyone participated especially the infants

Ram on Slieve Foy
The Tail Way descends from Goliyn Pass to the northeast, passing among commons grazing. I attempted to identify the breed of this ram, but gave up. I can say sheep on the Cooley Peninsula are primarily bred for meat and there are black faced breeds known for meat production.
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Ram in profile on Slieve Foy
The flocks of County Louth commonly carry paint brands to identify ownership. Paint branding lessens wool value. This is less of an issue if the livestock are primarily raised for meat.

in spite of it all a plan was arrived at
after the vote
from the back of the room a man called out

….you know the type…

THIS WILL BE OUR PLAN
UNTIL
WE FIND OUT WHAT IT IS.

Walls and Battlements of King John's Castle
The ancient portion of Carlingford. I called the top of the castle “battlements” in the loose sense, as the ruin now longer has a walkway.

II

my son John and I have a photo of him at 5 years
washing dishes
standing on a chair up to his elbows in rubber gloves
the caption reads “Two Men On Their Own.”

i had agreed to accept a divorce from helen
only if john was left with me

one night in particular stands out from that time
i did not sleep for planning what john and I would do

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Unbranded, perfect white marks this lamb among an extensive fern bed. Tain Way steepens on approaching Carlingford. Below is the residential Carlingford, the Greenore road running to the right. The large structure with two rows of dark windows is the Four Seasons Hotel where a substantial brunch is served Sundays.

III

seven years passed
not a long time
since then we’ve moved
found another a better life

Ram and Lamb in pasture
We descended below the ridge to pass into excellent pasturage. The growth of fern hides a lush grass pasture.
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raising John alone was not part of the plan
Its been just john and me
helen gave birth to john
to have a part of me
in case of loss
i felt the same way
and she understood

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

a welcome
feminine voice in our home
“Little House on the Prairie”
and
“Little House in the Big Woods” twice.

Gorse against the slopes of Slieve Foy
Plants and livestock on these slopes of Slieve Foy contend with adverse conditions in the form of a constant east wind. The stress is evident in the stressed trunk, although this species thrives in this environment, as seen in the strength of bloom and the yellow patches on the slopes, all of which are gorse. Gorse flowers are edible; the entire plant can be used as fodder when crushed to the consistency of moss. In Scotland there’s a museum with a roundish boulder called a Whin Stone.

V

Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article by Wilder
called “HOME”
that has an emotional resonance for me
dated 1923
Wilder was in her 50’s.

Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.

Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back. I realize that’s all my life the teaching of these early days have influenced me, and the example set by Father and Mother has been something I have tried to follow, with failure here and there, with rebellion at times; but always coming back to it as the compass needle to the star.

So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work. Especially did I wonder when reading recently that there was a great many child suicides in the United States during the last year. Not long ago we had never heard of such a thing in our own country, and I am sure there must be something wrong with the home of a child who commits suicide.

Tain Trail Enters Carlingford
The trail detours around sheep pasture just before descending to the outskirts of Carlingford.

VI

we give so much to our children
what’s left over though
is ours

Red Poppies front a Fieldstone Home.
The first Carlingford home passed by the trail is a solid fieldstone home with a slate roof fronted by a natural garden featuring red poppies.
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William Carlos Williams wrote
it is difficult to get the news from poems
yet men diet miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there

Ruined Cottage, Carlingford
This ruin lies off the Tain Way as it descends through the outskirts of Carlingford town. Constructed of stones, mortar and what looks to be concrete. Long slate slabs protect the eves. It’s been abandoned for an age. What a story it must have, long slow and full of life.

it is not difficult to understand this
to live it is another matter

The Abby Bar
Named for the Carlingford Priory, a nearby ruin, the Abby Bar is located on Dundalk Street (R173), Liberties of Carlingford, Carlingford, Co. Louth, Ireland. Liberties of Carlingford might be called greater Carlingford in the USA.
 

you have to live it
in order to have something
left over

Metal Cover with Celtic Motifs
A metal cover, about 8 inches in diameter located in the sidewalk on the left side of The Abby Bar on Dundalk Street, Carlingford. The triple spiral triskelion symbol has become a Christian symbol of faith for Celtic Christians around the world, a visual representation of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and eternity. In Ireland, the symbol acquired its Christian meaning prior to the 5th century. The triskelion predates Christina and even Celtic culture as petroglyphs of the astronomical calendar at the megalithic tomb Newgrange (3,200 BC). The symbol is associated with Neolithic cultures throughout Western Europe.

VII

never the less
my emotional resonance in reading that piece
“Home”

Entrance with Calla Lilies, Carlingford
Caring touches to a well-tended home entrance along the Tain Way, Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

did not come from the sentiments Wilder so skillfully evoked
though I shared them it was that sharp part

Church of Saint Michael Grounds, Lamp Post
Lamp post on Church of Saint Michael grounds.

i did not agree with it lacking a reason
and so must have re-read
“Home”
fifty times a hundred
who knows

Church of Saint Michael Facade
The Church of Saint Michael is a Roman Catholic Church on Dundalk Street (R173), Carlingford.

so committed to speak today
and began to write
something was bound to shake loose

Church of Saint Michael Grounds

then those lines form Deuteronomy
gave themselves to me

Before you this day is set good and evil, life and death.
Choose life, that both you and your descendants might live.

Church of Saint Michael Grounds

“Home” was a twist of these lines

as long ago as 1923
Wilder was experiencing our present
contemplating the unthinkable

Wilder held her own experience as a shield
and denied such a tragedy
could ever touch her

for me the result
is a beautiful poisoned apple
innocently offered
by a treasured friend

Final Tain Trail PHotograph
Pam Wills and Sean Mills on the grounds of the Church of Saint Michael, Dundalk Road (R176), Carlingford.
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VII

life is a gift
not entirely under our control
Yes we must be careful
but for some this is not enough

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Michael Wills and Sean Mills on the grounds of the Church of Saint Michael, Dundalk Road (R176), Carlingford.

we must forgive others
and ourselves

************************************************************************

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Apple Orchard in the Wilderness

Persistence of agriculture

….continued from the chapter “A Ride to Reavis Ranch”

Imagine walking across the ranch house ruin towards where I described the former pond. Looking to the east and north from the elevation you see this sight.

In the near distance a grass pasture slopes into Reavis Creek. The creek has flowing water in all but the longest dry seasons. By the way, the trail from Pine Creek is on the slopes of that conical feature in the distance, to the left.

Click any photograph for a larger version.
Looking from the former house site towards the Arizona Trail running beneath the distant red rock ridge. Not the fence rails on the left and apple trees in bloom.

From the ruin, walk down the Arizona Trail, south, for a few hundred feet and turn left into the fields to encounter the same apple tree, and a close up of pure white apple blossoms.

Portrait of a Blooming Apple Tree

At Rest and History

This tree is an outlier of a thick stand of several hundred trees to the north. The Searcher and I rode into the middle of the grove for a rest and chat. The horses were allowed to graze in the abundant new grass brought on by the winter rains.

The Searcher told me the story of the valley and that it was a man named Clemans who planted 600+ apple trees, trees in bloom all around us. The Reavis Valley was long a site of agriculture, starting in the 19th century with Elisha Reavis, who passed away in 1896 and is buried on the slopes of White Mountain, and continued with a series of ranchers and entrepreneurs in the 20th: John Fraser, William Clemans, who planted the trees, and John A. “Hoolie” Bacon, then Bacon’s son-in-law Floyd Stone who sold the land to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1967.

We talked about some earthwork I noticed, in the southern part of the valley. It was part of a water system that diverted Reavis creek flow at the head of the valley to the ranch house. We decided that strange hexogonal structure on the elevation above the house ruin was the site of water storage. At that location the structure would provide a pressure feed for the house and much else.

Abandoned Hay Rake

A mix of winter rains and fertile soil were exploited in the Reavis Valley for a handful of decades, the enterprise now is set aside. This abandoned hay rake and chassis, used to harvest grass in seasons past, is evidence of the work. The apple trees produce to this day without irrigation.

The Searcher touched upon the subject of the “Circlestone” ruin he mentioned on our morning ride. He had never been there, but mentioned some books on the subject. It is a wide circle of rough stone wall enclosing mysterious structures. At this point, I was hooked, and decided to check Circlestone on a later trip. Here are some photographs from one of those trips, in November 2006.

Reavis Ranch Apple Orchard Tree

Reavis Ranch Apples Yellow

Reavis Ranch Apples Red

In my next post The Searcher and I return to Pine Creek, Colorado gives me some trouble and we visit a stand of wild oats in the Reavis Gap.

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Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Adirondack Respite

Seven new photographs from the Adirondack Wilderness

One weekend my nephew Chris and I backpacked to Peaked Mountain Pond, the Adirondacks wilderness, in the rain. My son, Sean, was to meet us later. The constant rain made the easy trek into a slog. Our attitude improved after the tents setup and the fire. The skies clear to a brilliant display of the Milky Way away from light pollution.

Peaked Mountain in the light of an August dawn taken from the west pond shore. Siamese Ponds Wilderness, Adirondack Park, New York State. At 2,919 feet, Peaked Mountain is a modest height though it rises an impressive 675 feet in 0.4 mile.

Peaked Mountain Dawn Light – CLICK ME for more Adirondack photography.
 

Looking north across Peaked Mountain Pond from the west shore shortly after dawn.

Peaked Mountain Pond – CLICK ME for more Adirondack photography.
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We used the canoe as a punt, using a solid branch to push around the shallow pond for short distances, after bailing.

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Mid-morning, we headed up the trail to the peak. I caught this orb-weaver spider web on the way.

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…and a detail. Technically, this is a macro. Did not wait around for the owner.

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Later, in the afternoon, Chris caught some Zzzzz’s in a time out from water gathering. We pumped water through a filter, this is necessary throughout New York State to avoid giardia infection.

Adirondack Respite – CLICK ME for more Adirondack photography.
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The ultimate in peace and tranquility, though disturbing a hornet pollinator can lead to excitement. This water lily bloom was caught with a tripod mounted long lens. Look closely for the hornet at work inside the flower. HHealthy water lily leaves are the epitome of tranquility because they are always clean, giving the illusion of tranquility. Scientists study water lily leaves to learn how the leaf surface sheds dirt. Imagine self-cleaning cloths.

Correction: it is the Lotus leaf, not lily pad, that is self cleaning.

Water Lily Flower with hornet – CLICK ME for more Adirondack photography.

Looking for the perfect photo for your web site and blog?

Browse my reasonably priced stock photography. This blog features seven (7) photographs I published today to Getty Istock and my Fine Art gallery.

License the photo, download and use it. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” Fine Art Gallery.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Ride to Reavis Ranch

Some history and exploration

….continued from the chapter “Desert Luxuries”

Hitching the saddled buckskin and lightly packed pinto onto trees on the trail, The Searcher came up to my camp for a visit. I started water for tea and soon we were chatting. Right from the start The Searcher asked for privacy. Devoted to searching the Superstitions for the gold of the “Lost Dutchman Mine”, he assembles his expeditions from a staging point near Phoenix and spends about 60 days a year in the wilderness. Part of his preparation was a desert survival course provided by the Reavis Mountain School, conducted by Peter Bigfoot.

An Invitation from The Searcher

The Search described a place near Pine Creek, he called it “Circlestone,” a large almost perfect circle, of precisely constructed stone wall, on the slopes of Mound Mountain above the headwaters of Pine Creek. My sister, Diane, and I found Circlestone on backpack expeditions March and November 2006.

Here is a panorama from March 2006, southwest from the forests of juniper and pinion on the slopes of Mound Mountain.. The southern tip of Reavis Valley is to the right, from there Arizona Trail lead to White Mountain in the distance. It was taken on a later trip, in November of 2006 when my sister, Diane, and I visited Circlestone.

Click any photograph for a larger image.

The Searcher also told of Elisha Marcus Reavis, who settled the Valley west of Pine Creek in 1874. At one point, a band of Apaches planned to kill Reavis, but were respectful of his reputation as a rifle shot. They were waiting him out across from the his dugout, when Reavis stripped naked and with wild hair and a flaming red beard charge their camp, knives in both hands. The Apaches rode off, wary of his insane behavior, and never bothered him again.

We talked about my prospects and plans when The Searcher offered to take me to the Reavis Valley the next day, on horseback. There is a large apple orchard there and, this being April, we’d be treated to masses of apple blossoms. The day after Reavis Ranch, I could pack out with him down the Arizona Trail, past the Reavis Mountain School, over Campaign Creek and drive back to the Lost Dutchman Park. I readily agreed.

To Reavis Ranch on Horseback

The following morning dawn rose from colorless darkness, thin birdsong and brightening high clouds. When the Searcher arrived around 8 am he was leading the pinto, introduced as Colorado, equipped with a western saddle instead of a pack. As an absolute novice trail rider, the Search would hold Colorado’s lead. The reins were wrapped around the saddle horn, leaving me to hang on and “enjoy the view” and swishing tail of the buckskin, named Nugget.

The 2.5 mile trail to Reavis from Pine Creek is typical of the eastern Superstitions, minimally improved, dramatically uneven with large and small boulders to navigate. From Pine Creek there’s a climb of a 631 feet to 5,278 foot elevation, where it meanders beneath a dramatic red cliff with a view of the pinyon/juniper forests on the slopes of Mound Mountain. As he picked our way, The Searcher pointed out the sights. “Circlestone is somewhere over there, a ring of stones overgrown with Alligator Juniper.” I was able to do little more than observe, photography was out of the question.

A cliff along the trail to Reavis Ranch offered cover and the flat perches preferred by cougars. It was not an issue for us in daytime and attacks against horses are very rare. The most either of us ever saw of the cat in all our time in Arizona was the tip of a tail slipping behind brush. This was a lush April after a “wet” winter, so small game was plentiful. Only a sick cat would be hungry. The worst case scenario is for a cougar to meet and become infected from a rabid animal at a water source and we did not linger on this thought.

Eventually, the cliff descended with the path, steeply, to Reavis Creek, the valley floor and the intersection with the Reavis Ranch trail. Heading south the Reavis Ranch trail passes the site of a long abandoned ranch. What’s left of the adobe and stone ranch house is on a level valley elevation overlooking what used to be the corral and a large open expanse.

Open field at near the juncture of the trail from Pine Creek with the Reavis Ranch trail.

Apple trees in bloom from the former site of the ranch house. There used to be a pond near this spot. With a little imagination, the trail from Pine Creek can be seen on the far ridge.

Reavis Ranch Trail, foreground, traverses the valley length north to south. The Arizona Trail from Pine Creek following below the red rock cliffs in the distance.

The US Forest Service razed the building after it “burned to the ground” around Thanksgiving 1991. I would not call what is left “a foundation,” it is a platform where the house stood. You can see for yourself in this photograph what was once was a homey tile floor. I’ve seen old photographs of the structure with a large pond to the left of this view, a door and simple porch face east and the pond used to hold irrigation water.

Turn around from this ruin and a platform comes into view. Built on the west valley slope, overlooking the ruined house is a hexagonal foundation of adobe bricks. We are looking here across the Reavis Ranch trail. My opinion about this structure rests on an examination of the land to the south, there is excavation of a shallow canal and this was the way water was captured from the upper Reavis Creek or tributary and directed to this catchment basin where it was then directed for storage or irrigation. The spot enjoys clear views of the central valley, an excellent place to enjoy the fall of evening.

The Searcher led me to a place a few hundred yards south, in a narrowing of the valley, where he let Colorado and Nugget roam free. The horses appreciated the level, open spaces and I enjoyed the Ponderosa pines on the west valley slope. We sat on the smooth trunks of fallen trees, 4 feet in diameter, near Reavis Creek.

Colorado took this opportunity to bolt, headed south. We took off after him into and through a thicket of locust trees where The Searcher cornered Colorado to regain control. “He was abused by his previous owner and is difficult at times,” was how The Searcher put it.

We were close to the end of Reavis Valley where Reavis Creek originates from the drainage of White Mountain, to the west.

We headed north here, back to the ranch house site, to the lush new grass of the apple orchard.

Nugget in Horse Heaven

Nugget grazed unfettered. Colorado was tethered with plenty of slack for grazing. This photograph of the pair shows their personalities, Colorado edgy, Nugget content to feast while the grass is available.

Colorado on the alert while Nugget grazes, typical of their personalities.

Click me for the next post for photographs and more history of this Apple Orchard in the Superstition Wilderness.

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Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Desert Luxuries

Enjoying the best of an Arizona desert at high elevation

….continued from the chapter “Sycamores and Riparian Space.”

Click any photograph for a larger view

Evening Camp at Pine Creek

My third wilderness evening was unlike the others. I rested with an unhurried exploration of the camp area. Underfoot was a scatter of dry oak leaves, acorns on hardened desert soil not much softer than the numerous lichen encrusted boulders, all of which formed a bench above Pine Creek.

Pine Creek Camp Overview from a large lichen encrusted boulder

Pumping a gallon of drinking water though the ceramic filter takes more time than meal preparation. The four gallons I packed up were almost used and I enjoyed the luxury of pumping two days supply, 3 gallons in all and planned to down a quart or two of “gator aid” before dinner with the luxurious enjoyment of a flowing Pine Creek for company.

Pine Creek is the most common type for Arizona, recurring. To recur means to happen periodically or repeatedly and, for streams, this means for part of the year no water flows. For these days the flow was low, the water clear, what was left from the plentiful winter rains of 2004/2005.

Looking east toward Manzanita thickets with the unpacked backpack foreground

The wind gently rustled the manzanita and the sun just above the western cliffs as I settled on a boulder to enjoy a quart of fluid. I mulled over my next steps.

The kitchen: a very light gas burner, spork, dehydrated food with cup for beverages

Initially, the plan was to walk across the Superstition Wilderness, starting on the remote eastern end and emerging on the populated west side, in the Lost Dutchman State Park. My sister expected me there on day 10, but today was the end of day three. I didn’t know at that time the climb on my second day was the steepest of the wilderness and the way forward was much, much easier.

Looking west toward pine creek, manzanita branch foreground and thickets all round, young Ponderosa Pine, Arizona Oak behind tent.

Before a decision could be reach, my thoughts were broken by a different sound from the manzanita: several horses approaching on the trail.

Here is a photographic recap of the previous Superstition Wilderness postings as a gallery. You can page through the photographs.
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Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Slieve Gullion Forest Road

Visit a viewpoint in southern County Armagh, Northern Ireland

Yesterday, I simultaneously published nine photographs on my ImageKind Ireland Gallery and Getty IStock (click the links to visit): nine views taken from the slopes of Slieve Gullion.

Sunday, May 25, 2014 was a happy day for Pam and I.  It was the first full day of an eighteen (18) we filled with Ireland, travelling in a loop of the island following the coast from, naming the counties where we spent time on the ground, Louth, Armagh, Dublin, Meath, Wicklow, Cork, Kerry, Claire, Mayo, Antrim, Down and back to Louth.  The counties of Northern Ireland are in italics.  Indeed, at this time the politics allowed us to travel freely between the Republic and the North.  That day, our morning was spent in Louth attending mass, enjoying our first meeting with the family over a substantial mid-day meal (click the link for my Facebook album of the meeting).  We split off that afternoon to visit the home of my cousin, Mary and her husband Joseph in County Armagh, just over the border.  When Joseph offered to drive us over to Slieve Gullion it was totally new to us, we had no conception of the place or what to expect.

It was such a gift, we are grateful to Joseph for this experience.  Only in 2018 when, at 64 years of age and retired”, was I able to research the place and spend time developing the photographs for publication.  Two of the photographs illustrate this posting, to view the others in my online gallery, click either photograph.

Slieve is the Irish language word for “mountain.”  Slieve Gullion is a lone eminence, one remnant of volcanic eruptions about 60 million years ago during the rifting of continents that produced the Atlantic Ocean.  Around the mountain is the Ring of Gullion, a string of hills, 26 miles by 11 miles, surrounding the mountain and formed from the ancient collapse of a volcanic caldera.  The technical name for it is a Ring Dyke and it was the first of its kind to be recognized and mapped, well before the nature of the formation was understood of be volcanic.  The name Gullion is derived, in one formulation, from the name of the metalsmith, Culann.  In Irish Myth, Culann’s home and workshop was on the slope of Slieve Gullion.  A wealthy and respected personage, Culann invited  Conchobhar mac_Neasa, king of Ulster to feast.  During his approach to the mountain, passing through the surrounding plain, the king stopped to watch boys play hurling.  Among them was the future hero of Ulster, the young Sétanta.  Impressed with Sétanta athletic abilities, the king invited him to join in the feasting at Culann and the boy promised to follow after the game.  Later, while climbing the mountain to fulfill his promise Sétanta was attacked by the guard dog of Culann.  The myth says the dog was killed by Sétanta in self-defense.  Never the less, in compensation to Culann, Sétanta committed to rearing a replacement and to act as guard dog in the meantime.  In this way he became known as Cu Culann, “the dog of Culann.”  Click for more about Cu Culann.

On the summit two cairns north and south of a small lake, tangible proofs of ancient peoples and beliefs.  The north cairn is a more ancient passage grave, 90 feet wide, 16 feet high, the opening aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice.  The cairn north of the lake is less ancient containing two cist burials.  For our visit Joseph drove us along the 8 mile drive.  The following is an image of a viewing platform and the road.  Just beyond, on the right, where the ridge meets the road, is the trail to the 1,880 foot summit of Slieve Gullion.  Our arrival disturbed sheep resting on the asphalt.  I’d have loved to spent a day climbing the summit, but it was not to be this trip.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

The way is part of the Slieve Gullion Forest Park.  Throughout are turnoffs to admire the view.  It was during our frequent stops I pulled out the photography gear to grab the views.  Here is one, looking southwest.  For the other views, click either photograph to visit my Online Gallery of Ireland.

North View from Slieve Gullion– CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Sycamores and Riparian Space

a Preview of Reavis Ranch

….continued from the chapter “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek.”

Compare these Arizona Sycamores with the struggling specimen from the last chapter, “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek.” Many Sycamores such as this one flourish along Reavis Creek, a perennial stream of the eastern Superstition Wilderness. The drainage that feeds Pine Creek is far less acreage than that of Reavis Creek and, when the Pine Creek flow fades in the driest seasons, plants go into survival mode and halt growth and may even slough off limbs to conserve water.

These Sycamores grace a stream that seldom stops flowing, even in the driest of seasons. I had the good fortune to visit the Reavis valley of the Superstition Wilderness in November 2007, when these trees were at peak autumn foliage.

The tree requires a supply of water to thrive. This specimen demonstrates the species growth habit growing multiple trunks with a shape driven by water availability and the environmental context. The multiple trunks may be a desert survival mechanism. In dry periods a trunk or trunks are sloughed off to reduce moisture loss. This is why the Sycamore of “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek” has a single trunk.”

To encounter a riparian space of the Arizona desert is a revelation, to progress from Sonoran desert spaces assailed by the breath of dry wind, to see the first signs of water in the distance as a welcome fluttering of leaves, to feel a welcome odor of water.

Yes, the first effect of a riparian space on the senses is the smell of water. Let’s finish this post with limbs of the Reavis Creek Arizona Sycamore reaching for the sky.

Click me for the next episode, “Desert Luxuries.”

Click me to visit Michael Stephen Wills Online Arizona Gallery.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek

Explore a remote location of the eastern Superstition Wilderness

….continued from the chapter “Two Meetings.”

The spring gales persisted through my late afternoon arrival in Pine Creek, into the night and next morning. Protected from the west wind by the rising land, the tent was not buffeted like I described in the chapter “A Dry Piece of Paradise.” The song of soughing pines was my last impression of the evening and the first of the next morning.

Where the Arizona trail crosses, Pine Creek flows at 4,600 foot elevation through a canyon of broadly sloping sides. The flow originates at the foot of Mound Mountain to the southwest, at 6,253 feet the highest elevation in the Superstitions. There are 5,500 foot peaks to the east and west. The land falls away to the north giving great views of the Four Peaks Wilderness.

I chose a flat site to camp above the creek among Arizona White Oak, Arizona Sycamore, Ponderosa Pine and Manzanita. Of these, it’s Manzanita fruit for which the bears come in the summer. Manzanita thickets made approach to the camp site difficult from all directions but the path. Bear sign was thick among this growth. Go to my chapter, “Racing the Sun,” to see the red barked Manzanita and pink blossoms from which grow tiny green fruits that ripen summertime into a bright red, like tiny apples. Indians used this bland tasting fruit containing five hard seeds for food and a cider beverage.

Well before dawn I grabbed warm clothes, hat, camera to head out for a full day of leisure.

On a shallow rise above Pine Creek I took the two shots of agave (Century Plant) stalks in dawn light. These start the chapter, “A Dry Piece of Paradise.” One dry agave flower is to the left in this North view, looking down the creek not far from the creek crossing.

Click any photograph for a larger view
North View from Pine Creek, early morning

In the photograph notice how the canyon narrows as the creek flows north, the walls rising above it for hundreds of feet.

When I climbed about 200 feet above the creek to a ledge that provided great views, the protective canyon walls fell away and wind gusts threatened to up end the light tripod. It was necessary to anchor it with the daypack and I tied down my hat as well.

Shadows of night lie below, dominated by Four Peaks Wilderness. A unique long flat ridge is behind the near dramatic ridge above Pine Creek. This view leads me to daydreams. The long ridge is clearly visible in two photographs titled “Nameless Canyon in the Dawn” and “Nameless Canyon Morning” of my post “A Dry Piece of Paradise.”  A view from the west is available in my post “Racing the Sun.” Look at the photograph captioned, “Overview of my path to the Nameless Canyon behind Two Bar Mountain,” the flat ridge is just above the shadow of Castle Dome. The view from that spot must be incredible across the lower Reavis Creek valley. From here it is a day trip 4+ mile roundtrip bushwhack over the cliffs above Pine Creek.

North View from Pine Creek

Those evergreens in the following photograph are Oneseed Juniper (“Shagbark Juniper”) of the three species common to the Superstitions, this has this spherical, bushy appearance. Here the elevation is just high enough for junipers because there are none down below. The trail crosses Pine Creek to ascend the lower slopes of these red cliffs, following it around to the west and over to the next valley, Reavis Ranch, a distance of 3.5 miles. In my “Two Meetings” blog is a sweeping view of Pine Creek Canyon, from the southern approach.

For most people a 400+ foot climb over these steep cliffs is impossible. Fortunately, a saddle to the right of this photograph is a possible route.

Southwest View from the Arizona Trail above Pine Creek

The saddle is 100 feet lower without cliffs. Still, this entrance to remote, fascinating locations is a steep 300+ climb.

A Saddle breaks a line of cliffs

“The Searcher” arrived around this time riding the buckskin gelding and leading a pinto. He saw me and my camera equipment and stopped for a chat. His plan was to follow the trail I came up yesterday to find a rumored camp with good water. The howling wind made conversation difficult. I wondered where his camp of last night was located, since there was no sign of him. Before I could ask, his cowboy hat flew away with a wind gust. He hopped off the gelding, “That’s my best beaver hat.” After a quick brush and tie-down they were off.

Heading back down to the creek, here is a macro of lichen that covered the crumbling surfaces of boulders that littered the slope.

Nature’s Abstract

During the previous night fresh primrose blossoms opened, this one flourishing in the earth of a south facing slope. There is a reddish spent blossom at lower left. The soil here formed over eons by the action of the creek water, atmosphere and plant life. I have more about the Primrose and these yellow flowers in the background in my “Two Meetings” blog.

Pine Creek of the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness hosts this wild Tufted Evening Primrose.

Turn left (up stream) where the Arizona Trail crosses Pine Creek and jump boulder to boulder for a hundred feet or so and you come to this view. The creek bank, covered by vegetation, rises on both sides and makes it difficult to leave the creek. Those are Arizona White Oak leaves floating along the large foreground boulder.

Pine Creek Pool with Young Arizona Sycamores

This is a very young Arizona White Oak, common species growing along the creek. The leaves are not what you’d expect from an oak, being 2 – 3 inches long in the shape of a lance blade and without obvious lobes Mature Arizona White Oak has a rough bark and, at most, 24 inch trunks.

Arizona White Oak

There are better examples of grand Arizona Sycamores along the perennial Reavis Creek. Pine Creek does not flow in the driest seasons, this tree sloughed its branches in order to survive. You can see from the many young Sycamores in the Pine Creek Pool photograph the previous photo the sycamores are successful in this environment.

I spent some time with this Sycamore, capturing abstract patters of the bark.

The abundance of Ponderosa Pines here demonstrate the species thrives at this altitude and dry environment. This specimen grows on the creek bank. Those are shrubby Arizona Oaks around the trunk.

Abstract patterns in the bark of this Ponderosa. The popular and scientific name (Pinus ponderosa) for this species is from the dense weight of the wood.

The tree is over 100 feet tall. I patched together four shots for this view.

In the afternoon I explored the Arizona Trail to Reavis Ranch. It crosses the creek to ascend the cliff in broad switchbacks. Eventually it follows a contour below a cliff with fine views of Pine Creek Canyon. I turned back to leave the hike to Reavis Ranch for another day.

Click me for the next episode, “Sycamores and Riparian Space.”
Click me to visit Michael Stephen Wills Online Arizona Gallery.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills