Two Meetings

First view of Pine Creek

Advertisements

Continued from the chapter “A Dry Piece of Paradise.”

Imagine a bowl with steep sides, rough and sharp in places.

Look along the bottom and see a silver stream, sparkling and singing through rocks.

A figure is clinging to the upper side, almost to the rim.

The figure is me in the setting of my blog, “A Dry Piece of Paradise”. Here is my view from that spot.

View from the rim of Nameless Canyon

Hiking along this bowl rim I came to a clearing in the juniper and Manzanita bushes, with a fire ring and pile of roughly broken wood with outstanding views on all sides. This tradition of leaving wood is a welcome intrusion of human kindness and sympathy in this wilderness. We gather wood for total strangers, people we will never meet, to potentially save them in a rainy, cold darkness.

At noon Pine Creek was two miles ahead as I looked into a steep descent, a wide canyon and open range of low oaks, almost shrubs, and small juniper trees. Later, well along the trail, I stepped over Walnut Spring, a silent thread of water through a thin blaze of trees, yellow flowers and continued toward Reavis Gap and Pine Creek on Oregon Ed’s recommendation.

Even a blind man could find water there this year,” Ed claimed.

Ed’s van was parked at the Superstition Wilderness Tule trailhead when my sister dropped me off the morning before. She noted the van thickly coated with dust over grey primer with an Oregon license plate and changed her plan to accompany me the first mile or so for fear the van’s owner was lurking inside.
It was just as well Diane stayed behind because I met Ed two miles up the trail that first day. From the start, Ed was too outgoing and his pack more empty than light. He chatted me up on how “blue my shirt was”, seen from above, about his trips from Oregon to Arizona a few times a year, about his claim to be returning from a five day round trip to Tortilla Flats.

Ed’s good news about how the usual springs were flowing was welcome. Then, Ed expected me to give him some water for this information. This expectation of his was irrational, given his reports of good water sources. Plus, Ed was only a few miles from his van showed no physical signs of needing water.
I was to discover, a few hours in the direction he claimed to have walked, a flowing stream.

Ed’s attitude changed upon his spotting my .45 in a tactical holster strapped to my leg. Thirty seconds later he was heading down the trail. I had no water to spare and was relieved I didn’t need to escort Diane back to her car. Maybe Ed was an anti-gun advocate, but my conclusion was he had some lurking to do, back at the van.

While planning this trip I imagined “Reavis Gap” to be a narrow trail between towering peaks. While walking under the water heavy pack I elaborated on this expectation, but coming on the gap I walked through and into the reality of this photograph, taken from a point looking over the gap and down into Two Bar trail. This was the site of my first meeting with “The Searcher.”

North from Reavis Gap

“The Gap” itself is a high, narrow ridge over a 7,000 foot high valley with peaks, ridges and the occasional hoodoo. That rock formation in the mid-distance includes a hoodoo. It was this hoodoo that introduced me to the gap, being what I saw first high above in the distance from Walnut Spring, a silent thread of water through a thin blaze of cottonwood trees and yellow flowers.

Here’s a link to a video I did of a vast field of Wild Oats which covered Reavis Gap that season.

I first saw the “The Searcher” on that high, narrow ridge above Two Bar trail. I guessed he was a mounted park ranger; from the wide brimmed hat he was holding and the loose fitting shirt. From a half mile away his golden brown mount was standing steady, apparently at rest. Walking up that long, moderate grade my feet hurt and the 70+ pound pack, heavy with water, was chafing. Eager to climb the steep ridge ahead, between me and Pine Creek, I passed the signpost marking the juncture of Two Bar and Reavis Ranch trails and headed up that rocky ridge.

The clatter of horse hooves came up behind much sooner than expected. Turning, I came upon the unexpected site of two horses. The mounted stranger was not a park ranger, but a well dressed cowboy on a western saddle, riding a buckskin gelding.

Behind them, on a lead, was a brown and white pinto loaded with panniers.

I was polite and climbed up on the rocks, off the path, to let them by.

Here’s a photograph of these horses, taken a few days later.
“Colorado and Nugget, grazing at Reavis Ranch”

Enjoying the lush grass of the Reavis Ranch apple orchard, Colorado and Nugget graze.

Our chat was brief, but practical and meaningful: where we came from and conditions along the way. The stranger, who I came to call “The Searcher”, inquired about conditions in the very steep bowl behind Two Bar Mountain. He planned to camp overnight and do a Two Bar Mountain daytrip the next day, but would not if the trail was washed out by that spring’s heavy rains.

I replied the trail was obliterated in spots and even though I could pass his horses might not get by. His reply, “If you got up, so can they.” And with that he gave the buckskin a nudge and they were soon out of sight, over the ridge.

Fifteen minutes later this was my view of Pine Creek, a valley of steep sides sloping to a stream of cool water with mountains and sheer cliffs on all sides. Part of The Arizona Trail.

From a vantage point overlooking Reavis Gap tot he north. This is the view of Pine Creek, to the south.

Just before reaching Pine Creek I passed a southeast facing bank sheltering a garden of tufted evening primrose and a member of the crassulaceae family both in flower. The white flower is the primrose and the yellow the crassulaceae. I was so moved by the beauty of this patch, after trekking for seven hours through endless rocks, cactus, juniper and oak, I unloaded my pack and captured this shot. The primrose opens every morning and wilts each evening. That’s why the flower is a bit floppy in this photograph.

The crassulaceae is a succulent, similar to a kalanchoe, with tiny flowers composed of tiny yellow balls.

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

In future chapters you’ll see more of Pine Creek, visit the wilderness apple orchard at Reavis Ranch, learn more about The Searcher and an ancient, circular, rock wall on a peak overlooking Reavis Gap.

Click me for the first post of this series “Racing the Sun.”

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

At Home with Tom and Hen Turkey

Thanksgiving Freedom

The Catskill Mountains are not mountains. The Catskills started as a high plateau. Over eons, before the first humans, water, the sun, and wind carved high steep peaks: rounded, forested and teeming with life.
 
October 2008, on a return trip from my Mother’s house on Long Island, we traveled the winding road called “Route 17”, through the high autumn hillsides, one of our last trips to see her.  She broke her hip on New Year’s and lived with me and my sisters until her 2013 passing. 
Click Any Photograph for my Online Fine Art Gallery 

Route 17_FishsEddy_throughTheWindshield– CLICK ME!!!!

Fishs Eddy

We left Long Island early afternoon, as the sun passed over the western hills we stopped to explore a place called “Fishs Eddy”, a town on the banks of the Delaware River.

Delaware River at Fishes Eddy– CLICK ME!!!!

 
On the east side, facing sunset is a formation that would be a cliff if it was not for the hardwood trees growing from every available nook, crevice.  Everywhere a root could be sunk, roots fed trees that, one late October afternoon, made a hill bright with autumn.

Turkey Habitat

Turkeys live in this type of habitat. We took a trail, barely a road that climbed past failed farms and hunting shacks.

Catskill Hillside– CLICK ME!!!!

The Hens Flee

On a level place, in front of a ruined home, we came upon a Tom (male) turkey and his four hens. The hens fled at the sight of us.
 
With barely time to raise the camera I caught Tom and the last hen as she fled into the bushes.

Tom and Hen Turkey Flee the Scene– CLICK ME!!!!

Tom Turkey Defiant

I say she, because Tom stayed behind. He stood erect, all three feet of him, defiant and strutting in a direction opposite from the hens.

 

This is the bird Benjamin Franklin proposed as the national emblem of the new United State of America (the bald eagle won that competition).
Hunted into almost oblivion, across the United States the wild turkey is making a dramatic come back in many places, including the forests and farmland of rural New York State.

A Defiant Tom Turkey– CLICK ME!!!!

This fellow made no noise. His strutting posture and head bobbing said it all.
We left Tom Turkey in peace to his domain and hens.

Tom Turkey Stalks the Ruin– CLICK ME!!!!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, my friends.
Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

 

Views of the Valley, Glendalough

A dramatic natural setting

Looking out over the Valley of the Two Lakes from the Glendalough Monastic City.

One of the lakes for which the valley is named, above the headstones in the mid-distance

Look closely at the carved scroll at the foot of the cross.

Click any photograph to view my Fine Art galleries

Memorial from a mother to her 6 year old son and husband

The site is within a semi-natural oak woodland.

Valley walls are dramatic and steep

For more background of this site, see my posting “The Cloigheach of Glendalough.”

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Fall Creek Winter

The magic of ice, water, light

This January 2005 morning dawned cold, the risen sun low to the south of a forested esker ridge, as I suited up for this long planned for photograph.  A Sony DSC-F828, a UV filter and tripod were all I needed to capture this.  That camera model has a integrated flex lens.  I needed to stabilize the lens to achieve this image clarity, depth and sharpness.

The shimmering gloss was achieved by waiting until the sun was above the ridge, shining light shafts through the trees, lighting the water obliquely.

As late as January the stream carries enough heat to create a fog or mist as the air chills after sunset.  This causes twigs to frost up to create those white stick figures on the far bank.  Snowfall from the previous day clings to trees.

Fall Creek freezes from the bottom up.  First the water smoothed boulders accumulate a glaucous ice coat.  Slowly moving water freezes from the edges, in stages, the middle stage an ornate filagree.  The stream narrows downstream where the surface ice first joins.  As the year progresses through February the creek gradually recedes under the ice, replaced by an ice road.

What is an esker ridge?  As the last glaciers melted 10,000+ years ago, the channels carrying meltwater and sediment, under the glaciers, deposited these winding ridged hills.  One of the outcomes was the channel of Fall Creek was altered to flow through the field of eskers among which, in the 19th century, a dam and water mill were created.  It made barrels and furniture.  My former home, in this photograph, was converted from the workshop of that mill.

Click this link to learn MORE about my Award-Winning photograph and misadventures of that day. 

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Visit with Tom and Hen Turkey

A Catskills Adventure

The Catskill Mountains are not mountains. The Catskills started as a high plateau. Over eons, before the first humans, water, the sun, and wind carved high steep peaks: rounded, forested and teeming with life.

October 2008, on a return trip from family on Long Island, we traveled the winding road called “Route 17”, through the high autumn hillsides.

Route 17_FishsEddy_throughTheWindshield– CLICK ME!!!!

Click me for more Autumn Magic from my Online Gallery

Fishs Eddy

As the sun passed over the western hills we stopped to explore a place called “Fishs Eddy”, a town on the banks of the Delaware River.

Delaware River at Fishes Eddy– CLICK ME!!!!


On the east side, facing sunset is a formation that would be a cliff if it was not for the hardwood trees growing from every available nook, crevice.  Everywhere a root could be sunk, roots fed trees that, one late October afternoon, made a hill bright with autumn.

Turkey Habitat

Turkeys live in this type of habitat. We took a trail, barely a road that climbed past failed farms and hunting shacks.

Catskill Hillside– CLICK ME!!!!

 

Click me for more Autumn Magic from my Online Gallery

 

The Hens Flee

On a level place, in front of a ruined home, we came upon a Tom (male) turkey and his four hens. The hens fled at the sight of us.
 
With barely time to raise the camera I caught Tom and the last hen as she fled into the bushes.

Tom and Hen Turkey Flee the Scene– CLICK ME!!!!

Tom Turkey Defiant

I say she, because Tom stayed behind. He stood erect, all three feet of him, defiant and strutting in a direction opposite from the hens.

This is the bird Benjamin Franklin proposed as the national emblem of the new United State of America (the bald eagle won that competition).
Hunted into almost oblivion, across the United States the wild turkey is making a dramatic come back in many places, including the forests and farmland of rural New York State.

A Defiant Tom Turkey– CLICK ME!!!!

This fellow made no noise. His strutting posture and head bobbing said it all.
We left Tom Turkey in peace to his domain and hens.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, my friends.

Tom Turkey Stalks the Ruin– CLICK ME!!!!

A Dry Piece of Paradise

A hellish shriek assaulted the cold 3 am darkness.

A hellish shriek assaulted the cold 3 am darkness.

The scream was instantly recognizable. Anything but terrified, after a confused scramble I reinserted the pin into a personal security device hung from my backpack. Wrapped in a silly waffle weave blanket, tossing restless in the cold, the pin lanyard hung up then pulled free. Several minutes had passed with that sound flowing out over the canyon, calling all carnivores to breakfast.

I had drifted off with the wind shaking my tent like a drunken prankster and now all was totally and absolutely quiet. In spite of the cold, the inadequate blanket and the imaginary creatures looking for the source of that scream, the next two hours sped by in a fitful doze.

Agave Heart

At 5 am I crawled out to find the thinnest crescent moon imaginable gracing the eastern sky, kept company by a century plant silhouetted against the early dawn light.

Click any photograph for a higher resolution image.

Century Plant Dawn
Century Plant Dawn

Click this link to see my photograph “Superstition Spring”

These stalks raise the golden flowers of this agave 10 to 15 feet above the green prickly rosette. Century plant stalks can be seen throughout the Superstitions, even at the high elevations among towering Ponderosa Pine.

Here is an agave in predawn light I caught on the next day, in Pine Creek canyon.

Agave
Agave in PreDawn Light

The leaves are used as needle and thread with the very sharp tip as the needle and the long leaf fibers, when properly dried and shredded, as thread. These leaves guard the agave heart from the harvest. A poke from an agave spike can be deep and painful.

The young shoots of the stalks are a succulent delicious treat raw. Roasted, the agave heart is a fresh, somewhat sweet delight. The earliest residents of this desert left numerous roasting pits on the mountain slopes, located where the agave still grows.

Dawn and the Pretty Hedgehogs

Although cold, the still dry air felt marvelous and even distant objects appeared absolutely clear. In this environment the spread of sun with its rising is a ritual. Here’s a photograph of the canyon walls a few minutes before the sun reached them.

SlopesOf2BarMountainPreDawn
Slopes of Two Bar Mountain in PreDawn Light

And, a few minutes later, as the sun passed the ridges of Two Bar Mountain.…

SlopesOfTwoBarMtnAtDawn
Dawn on the Slopes of Two Bar Mountain

By the way, that’s a desiccated agave stalk to the lower right, on the rocks.

At my feet, spread at intervals on the brown red broken rock, small Hedgehog cacti bloomed lavender.

Lavender Hedgehog, overview
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms with Buds

Cacti, such as the blossoming lavender Hedgehog seen above, require a space which enjoys full sunlight for most of the day. The thick grown of juniper trees limited sunlight and compete with the cacti for water. This image will give you an idea of the extent of the juniper growth.

Nameless Canyon in the Dawn
Nameless Canyon in the Dawn

Looking into Nameless Canyon

In the above photograph you are looking west over a canyon that is unnamed on maps. The dramatic flat ridge bathed in light is a landmark marking the canyon of Reavis Falls, on the far side in this view. Make your way down the canyon where is joins Reavis Creek, turn left and the falls are a few miles upstream. This is NOT the easiest path to the falls.

As the sun rose I needed to prepare for the day’s trekking, but took one more portrait of this lovely nameless canyon traversed by an almost non-existent path.

Nameless Canyon Morning
Nameless Canyon Morning

This season, a cold stream ran at canyon bottom. Flowing among the rocks the water produced peals of a crystal bell, but this was not my last memory of this place.

In the “Nameless Canyon Morning” image, on the left there is the almost vertical (no exaggeration) canyon wall I climbed in 4.5 hours that morning. It traversed 800 feet altitude in less than a mile. The path was substantially longer because it followed the contour lines of the land in long loops called switchbacks. As I proceeded up the canyon wall, to the southeast, above the opposite canyon wall, the memorable Four Peaks gradually appeared. Here’s the view from my lunchtime perch…..

Four Peaks from Nameless Canyon
Four Peaks from Nameless Canyon

This view looks over the basin of Reavis Creek and includes the, out of sight, 140 foot high Reavis Fall, the highest free fall in Arizona.

Click link for the first chapter of this tale, “Racing the Sun.”

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Racing the Sun

Through that afternoon the wind gusts hit me as a physical force like a cat playing with her next meal.

superstitionspring_copyright_640
Mexican Poppies bloomed in profusion throughout the Superstitions after the plentiful winter rains of 2008.
Want more? Click for my OnLine Gallery

The four mile climb up the 2,000 foot eastern Superstition Wilderness bajada and escarpment consumed the morning and much of the afternoon.  It was the 80 pound backpack that did it.  Ten days of supplies, tent, equipment and 3.5 gallons (28 pounds) of water; enough food for a trek across the Superstition Wilderness, water enough for two days.  One day in, one day out if the water could not be replenished.  Mine was a water commitment, enough water storage to allow two days to trekking to another source.

Two Bar Mountain
Two Bar Mountain from Tule Canyon trail with corral made from mesquite trunks and barbed wire. Yucca and prickly pear in foreground.

Here the canyon rim view from atop the escarpment…..

viewtoeasttrail122copyright
Here I found the huge mountain lion track in the dry mud from the spring rain, where water pooled and the cat drank.

…over trail 122, the Tule Canyon Trail, looking out from the wilderness.  Tule Canyon trail is very lightly used and only present in the form of occasional cairns.  There is a red rock cairn in the midground.  Theodore Roosevelt Lake of the Salt river is in the distance, as is the dirt road to the trail head.  A settlement is visible, on the right.

After that climb to the escarpment rim I was in a race to reach a safe campsite at an unknown location, the other side of Two Bar ridge, before sunset at 6:46 pm mountain time.  Yes, the time was exact to the minute.  If sunset found me on the mountain side or ridge, rapid fall of darkness would force me to set camp.

The following photograph was taken the winter of February 2006 from a campsite below Castle Dome on Reavis Ranch Trail.  A red line, starting to the left, is Trail 119, my path along Two Bar mountain ridge, beneath the mountain peaks, with switchbacks into a nameless canyon.

ff6h3323_twobarmountain_cropped_enhanced001_annotated_resized_copyright
Overview of my path to the nameless canyon behind Two Bar Mountain.

Ahead of me was a 400 foot ascent in a half mile to Two Bar Ridge, two miles along the glorious ridge providing endless views to the west and northwest.  An 800 foot descent to a nameless canyon below Two Bar Mountain.  This left no time for photography!!

This photograph, taken 4 miles to the west and 10 months later, is similar to what I enjoyed, and dreaded, that day.  A flowering century plant stalk grows at the end of the plant’s long life, usually 10 – 30 years.  After death, the plant is reborn through suckers from its roots.

sunsetfromcastledomemarch2006copyright-3372
A Superstition Wilderness Sunset from a February 2006 backpack.

My hope was to find some flat terrain in that canyon, for a camp site. If only there was time enough to reach it. My progress was bedeviled by sudden gusts of wind, grabbing like a large cat, throwing off-balance.  A huge mountain loin track I knew a mountain lion attack was improbable: I ran more risk of being run down on a New York City sidewalk by a madman or, even more so, of having a heart attack.  Still, during my brief lunch I faced east, looking over Apache Lake for the possibility of a cat leaping up from the canyon.  On all other sides was an open area until, a quarter-mile uphill, there was a thick growth of Manzanita reaching to the ridge.

The west wind was whipping the bushes as I entered the Manzanita.  Here is a photo of the plant from a later backpack to the Rincon Mountain Wilderness.  Yes, the truck is a dark, rich red.  “Manzana” is apple is spanish, the plan is named “Little Apple” for the small green fruits much loved by bears.

Manzanita.
A mature Manzanita growing along the Miller Trail of the Rincon Mountain Wilderness. There is an enlargement of the flowers, to the right.

Manzanita leaves were thick around me snapping in the wind, making it seem at all moments a large creature was moving. The trail was difficult and several times I needed to turn back to find it, all the while climbing continuously.

On ridge was the highest point for a hundred or more miles to the west, so the wind was free to run which it did in huge gusts.  You can get an idea of the openness from the Superstition sunset photo.  For awhile the Manzanita acted as protection, then I descended along the west face of the Two Bar Mountain ridge.

Evening from Lime Mountain to East with Risen Moon
Two Bar Mountain and Ridge from Lime Mountain with rising moon.

My hat tie-down were tested on that two miles of ridge, the brim was molded around the right side of my head. The backpack acted as a sail so that it was taken in the wind gusts, affecting my balance.

On mountain trails the path is full of stones of all sizes and,  aside from the occasional rattlesnakes, critter scat or, at lower elevations, Gila monsters, it is the rock that forces hikers to look four steps ahead, planning moves carefully to avoid falls.  The 80 pound backpack, wind, rocks, high perch and, not forgetting the prickly pear cactus and jumping cholla, all slowed me to less than a mile an hour.  I was jumpy walking through that Manzanita and this slowed me down more.

Trail 122 joins Trail 119 on Two Bar Ridge.  On the ridge a substantial barbed wire fence separates federal land from the working ranch.  Where the trails crosses, the fence has a break.  The hiker needs to wend through a simple maze impassable to cattle.

Of all the trail, this is the most clearly marked.  Fences have deep historical significance for the western United States.  Range wars were fought between men who had different beliefs about land use and ownership.  Many historians associate the building of barbed wire fences with the passing of the Old West.

Up until the fence, cattle grazing visibly damaged the land and plants.  After the fence, the land was free to become as it was since the beginning of time.  Up here, there’s wonderful grass that was, in this season after heavier than normal winter rains, was lush and green.

The trail followed the fence for a ways, then descends steeply into a fold of the land, leaving me in shade as the sun, low in a cloudless sky, raked over the mountainside with a brilliant golden light.  The Two Bar Mountain and Ridge with Moon photograph, above, gives an idea of the effect.

Below, the canyon floor seemed a mass of prickly pear cactus groves.  I decided the lower canyon wall was the best choice for camp…as unlikely as that sounds.

Here, the trail was anything but straight and almost invisible, descending in looping curves called switchbacks.

Here’s a photo from the following morning.  I found a small shelf on a ridge overlooking the canyon floor, amongst wonderful shrubby Juniper trees.  Tiny hedgehog cactuses were covered in lavender blooms.  There is a decrepit stalk of a Century (yucca) plant lying over the rock.

ontheslopesoftwobarmountaincopyrightmichaelstephenwills08
Morning view from my camp in a nameless canyon below Two Bar Mountain.

On approaching the shelf, the air turned suddenly cold as the sun fully set and the wind gained even more in strength flowing up the canyon and over Two Bar Mountain.  Stony ground made it impossible to stake the tent, instead I used small boulders to fix the corners and sides of the tent.  Once inside, I was grateful for an excellent mat to protect me from the small jagged stones at one with the ground.  The tent walls held back the wind.  I forgot to back an excellent sleeping bag for the trip.  Instead of buying one in Phoenix, my sister lent me a light waffle weave blanket.  “What was I thinking???”  It was a restless, cold night.  The sun was very welcome the following day.

Lavender Hedgehog Cactus Blooms
Lavender Hedgehog Cactus Blooms in pre-dawn light
Click for “Rincon Peak Summit”, another Arizona Adventure Posting.
Click for the first chapter of this Superstition Wilderness adventure.
Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved