An access road, now blocked with huge boulders by the State Park, leads to this dam at the head of Fillmore Glen. I stop here for reflection at times and have climbed behind the dam for photographs. It is possible to drive up the south side of the glen on a poorly maintained road and park next to the boulders. In this season (spring) the surrounding forest is carpeted in wildflowers. Hepatica, trillium, dutchman’s breeches. One day, years ago, I pulled in behind a late model convertible with a license plate holder advising the owner was a member of the 10th Mountain division and a World War II veteran.
They were a well dressed and groomed couple. The white haired driver, in his late 80’s at least, patiently waited while she, a frail woman, walked the margins of the forest, enjoying the wildflowers. It was my impression this was a ritual for them, developed over the years. One of the few spring outings left to them.
On the gorge slope below the parking area, in a hollow on the north side of a large (I recall) oak, one early sunny spring morning I discovered the last resting place of a deer. Only the bones and some fur remained, the visible portion resembles the Capitulum and trochlea of a human arm bone and, indeed, there was a scapula close by. The season is evoked by the unfurling fern against the based of the oak.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills
Life for me changed September 1971 with my matriculation at the University of Arizona. The next five years (4 for a BS degree and 1 year dietetics internship) were busy with study and supporting myself leaving minimal time for travel. Then came 27 years of work and family until in my 49th year of life, with the graduation of my son, Sean, from college planned for January 2003, I anticipated having time and resources to see more of the world. The Arizona postings here flowed the outcomes of this decision that spanned the years 2003 through my Mother breaking her hip just before New Years Day 2009.
Click the links for previous Arizona postings related to the post text.
November 2003 saw our first Arizona tour. Sean was scheduled to be home from USS Observation Island. He served as an engineering officer working for Maersk contracted by the US Navy to operate the ship. We flew into Phoenix and headed north for a tour of the Mogollon Rim onto Winslow, the Painted Desert, Canyon del Chelly, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon South Rim, the western edge of the Painted Desert north of Flagstaff to finish up at University of Arizona Homecoming.
My 2003 homecoming schedule including a meeting with the head of the Department of Nutrition Sciences, Dr. Houtkooper. We talked of ways to re-connect with the University, leading to an invitation to serve on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Alumni Board of Directors beginning November 2005. From then until November 2008 I flew to Tucson two to three times a year for planning and educational meetings: planning fund raising activities, learning how CALS benefits and connects with the people of Arizona.
These baskets from our home are reminders of my original Arizona connection and of one story of re-connection. The larger, birds, design is from my student years from a first trip to Kitt Peak. It was a gift to my parents and for decades was in their china cabinet, I’d see it each holiday visit and recall driving desert with friends, the road up the mountain, seeing the newly constructed Mayall Telescope building loom over us, the smells and views of the Sonora desert.
Meeting Native American Artists
Working for the CAL Alumni Board the first time, November 2005, I had an idea to approach Native American artists for donations of their work for student scholarships. My first outing to meet artists was to an event at the Saguaro National Monument, west of Tucson, where I met Olvera and Simon Valenzuela. They were a happy couple devoted to continuing a tradition of basket weaving. Olvera was the youngest active weaver from generations of Tohono O’odham women. Her husband, Simon, a Pascua Yaqui, learned weaving from Olvera and her family. I purchased the turtle basket, upper left, and obtained contact information.
Over the course of months, communicating with Arizona contacts, I came to the conclusion donations by Native American artists was not a sustainable model for financing donations. The individuals were not prosperous enough and there were too few of them. Instead, during the travels documented here, I made contacts. In the Chiricahua National Monument I met Linda Kelly the owner of Triangle T Ranch who donated stays there. The Searcher had a side farrier (care of horses feet) and donated services.
With the permission of Simon and family we started the Olvera Valenzuela Memorial Scholarship. The application is an essay on the subject: “A Proposal for Native American Cultural Conservation.” The qualified applicants are Native Americans enrolled at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) in a course of study leading to a baccalaureate. The designation “Native American” is defined for the purposes of these criteria as being a documented member of a North American tribe. It was an annual award of $500 to the successful applicant. To start I contributed $1,000 to fund it for two years.
Over the next year, Simon and I contacted potential donors, but were unsuccessful in funding the scholarship beyond two years. In the meantime, when I visited Tucson for CALS board meetings Simon and I would do outings with his daughters. Here is one from the 2006 University of Arizona Homecoming football game. This is after the game, a win for the team, with the field covered in celebrating fans.
The third basket of the photograph, a stars design, was raffled to fun Pascuala’s sixteen birthday celebration in 2018 and I won!!!!
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills
Four views of purple trillium, three of a grouping and one portrait. Taken in the same session of a rare set of perfect blooms growing wild.
Taken with a Canon 100 mm “macro” lens, a Kodak dslr body, a Manfrotto tripod and ample time and patience.
The trillium plant grows from a body of rhizomes, a type of underground stem you can think of as a type of root. There are rhizomes when use to flavor food such as turmeric, though trillium is not one of these.
The single scape grows straight from the ground to form a whorl of three bracts mirrored by the three green (usually) sepals and, again, by the three flower petals for which it is named.
You can clearly see all of this in my photographs.
Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
First Water trail head is the most used access point to the Superstition Wilderness, being the closest to Phoenix and its satellite cities and suburbs. For day hikers there are ample and interesting route choices as all foot trails of the west side terminate at First Water making for a variety of loops and incredible views. For horse people there are facilities to park huge trailers.
The ready access from Mesa, where my sister and husband had their home, was the primary reason I planned to finish my cross wilderness hike on the Dutchman Trail. Named for Jacob Waltz of the fabulous legend of the Lost Dutchman mine, the inspiration for The Searcher’s Superstition Wilderness expeditions and, ultimately, why he and I met and my change of plans.
On our ride over from Roosevelt he told of his difficulties building a home in Apache Junction, sleepless nights spent guarding building supplies from thieves. He looked forward to moving day.
This photographic record of five days in the wilderness would be much different without that meeting yet, there I was that afternoon with plenty of time for photography during the golden hours of late afternoon as I wandered the desert gardens until my sister arrived.
The long distant ridge beyond the rugged near hills is the backbone of the famed “Superstition Mountain.” On the far right are hoodoos, appearing as so many teeth on a jaw. Gorgeous saguaros in the foreground.
Weavers Needle is the distant peak, 5.5 dry miles away in this view to the west / southwest.
I’ve always been partial to how the dense spines of cactus catch the evening light. These staghorn chollas are in front of the same ridge of the Superstition Mountain. A famous formation, “The Flatiron” is visible on the far right.
The road to the trail head, Service Road 78, winds through 2.6 miles of hills. Here is another overview of Sonoran desert life.
You might remember hedgehog cactus blossoms from my posting “A Dry Piece of Paradise”. The following are from the large hedgehog cactus in the foreground of the preceding photograph.
During the drive back with my sister, Diane, we talked of plans for returning to the Reavis Ranch together, as a backpack expedition. In coming days I met with The Searcher to explore possibilities for a horse expedition and, three years later, these plans came together for a trip kicked off from this same First Water trail head.
Here is a gallery of the same photos. It is fun to flip back and forth with me disappearing from the scene.