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

June Nature Walk

A perfect afternoon, June 16, 2021

Here is a repost for those who missed the video. Please click on video, below and share your responses via comments. Thank You

The Finger Lakes Trail joins Robert H. Treman New York State Park, running along the south rim along the park border.

Today, I started from the stairs next to the Mill of the upper park, walking along Fish Kill Creek, a brief visit to the CCC plaque, over the new footbridge and a steep climb up to the ridge to a marvelous view over the way we just walked. That is a millipede resting on a wooden trail stake.

A word on the creek name. The Dutch word for creek is “Kill”, the anglicisation of the original name retained the Dutch making it, in effect, “Fish Creek Creek,” not a memorization of fish massacre.

There’s one shot of the damage done to tree leaves by hoards of caterpillars…I found chewed-up leaves at my feet throughout the hike.

Then, I re-join the State Park South Rim trail, down the Cliff Staircase to wander the gorge floor below Lucifer Falls.

Up the Gorge Trail with many shots of these wonders including Lucifer Falls, Devil’s Kitchen Waterfall, and the Gallery.

Close with a shot of early Tiger Lily blooms on the south facing bank of Enfield Creek.

I used a new format with this post, with all media in one You Tube video. Enjoy!!

Finger Lakes Trail and Treman Park June 16 2021 – YouTube

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Woody Peony 100 mm

Macro series

See my May Woody Peony postings for background on this peony variety.

These photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr and the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens stabilized with the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head.

The morning breezes of May caused me to “up” ISO to 1600 for a faster shutter speed at higher f-stop.

Taking full advantage of the macro lens, the higher ISO helped to maintain sharper focus on the highlighted feature, in this case the stamens.

A gallery of macros with various settings and aspects of the bloom.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Woody Peony Reader Query

“It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Asphodel that Greeny Flower WC Williams

Here is a Sunny Sunday reader assignment. Which handling of this woody peony blossom do you prefer? Please leave your preferences in the comments section with details of your reasoning. Thank you!!

These photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr, new for me as of 2020, and the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.2L USM lens stabilized with the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head. This setup allowed me to fiddle with camera settings, here you see a variation in the width of the shutter diaphragm opening, or F-stop. The smaller the opening (higher F-stop) less light is let through to the image sensor, longer exposure time (allowing the subject to move, as in the morning breeze) offset by greater depth of field, more of which provides sharp focus as the subject elements are further from the lens.

In this first photograph, the F-stop is moderately high. The entire blossom and plant are in focus, the background moderately blurred though still recognizable.

For the second photograph F-stop is low, opening up the shutter diaphragm, allowing more light in for a faster shutter release, less time for the morning breeze to rise up and ruin the shot. The beautiful background blurring, bokeh, is a feature of this 50 mm lens. At the same time, at F/4.0 the shutter diaphragm is not wide open. The blossom is entirely in focus, many plant leaves and the other blossom, to left, are out of focus. This places emphasis on the primary subject of the photograph while providing a feel for the surroundings.

Here are the same photographs, click on one to open a gallery for you to flip back and forth to compare.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Woody Peony, Yellow Still Life 50 mm

Yellow for this last day of May 2021

This yellow woody (also called tree) peony blooms later than our red varieties. The first set of three were photographed May 26, 2021 have unopened buds. Yet, these are early compared to those photographed June 6, 2019 used in the last still life.

These first photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr, new for me as of 2020, fitted with a 600EX-RT Speedlite (flash) and the Canon EF 70-300 mm (variable) f/4-5.6L USM lens stabilized with the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head.

Our Itoh yellow tree peony has flowers on stalks too slender to hold the heavy blooms upright. The flowers open hidden among thick leaves. Here they are a still life of cut blossoms and leaves. The cultivars of Paeonia, the mouton, or hua wang, king of flowers, are ofe of the classic ornamental genera of China. By the 11th and 12th centuries the center off cultivation was in Sichuan, and there yellow-flowered varieties appeared.

Crossbreeding of yellow-flowered P. delavayi with traditional double-flowered P. suffruticosa cultivars by Victor Lemoine in Nancy, France has led to the introduction of the color yellow into the cultivated double-flowered tree-peonies. These hybrids are known as the Paeonia × lemoinei group. In 1948 horticultulturist Toichi Itoh from Tokyo used pollen from ‘Alice Harding’ to fertilize the herbaceous P. lactiflora ‘Katoden’, which resulted in a new category of peonies, the Itoh or intersectional cultivars. These are herbaceous, have leaves like tree peonies, with many large flowers from late spring to early autumn, and good peony wilt resistance. I am guessing our Yellow Wooden Peony is a type of this hybrid because the long stems are more herbaceous than woody, the heavy flowers droop so the best form to capture them is the still life.

Compare the above two exposures to appreciate the effect of the f-stop and excellent bokeh of the Canon “L” lens.

This still life from the 2019 bloom was taken with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr and the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.2L USM lens used above. Stabilization provided by a Manfrotto 3036 (studio) tripod with the 468MG hydrostatic ball head. That room is bright from large, east-facing windows. Late afternoon light is soaked up by the black velvet backdrop leaving the lemon yellow leaves to shine.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

References
Wikipedia “Paeonia × suffruticosa
Roger Philips and Martyn Rix, “The Botanical Garden, Vol 1, Trees and Shrubs” p 133

Woody Peony 50 mm

An Early Spring for 2021

Spring 2021, though cold, is early. As I write this the peony blooms presented here, photographed May 20, 2021 are seeding, the gorgeous purple magenta petals strewn beneath the woody stems. In my last posting, from Memorial Day 2019, the plant is in full bloom the end of May.

These photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr, new for me as of 2020, and the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.2L USM lens stabilized with the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head. Color results from the Canon dslr are impressive, the first time the unique purple magenta is accurately represented here. I found a slight under exposure captured the plum – fine burgundy wine nature of this Japanese cultivar, “Shimadaijin,” planted in the 1970’s or 1980’s.

Here is the last unopened bud of this season, enclosed by a calyx of 5 green sepals with reddish highlights . In the wild, woody (also called tree) peonies favored cliffs and scrub of western and central China, eastern Himalayas (southeastern Tibet).

The bud is toward the back, slightly out of focus, of this overview. The woody stems hold the profusion of large flowers each one erect. “Tree” is a misnomer as this plant is a shrub growing mid-thigh high. One of the classic ornamental genera of China, known there as moutan or hua wang “King of Flowers.”

Cultivation in China began in Chekiang in the early 4th century AD. By the early Tang period (circa 700 AD) hundreds of varieties were grown.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

References
Wikipedia “Magenta” color
Roger Philips and Martyn Rix, “The Botanical Garden, Vol 1, Trees and Shrubs” p 133

May Nature Walk

Our first post COVID outing

Pam and I headed out to Treman Park for a walk to the Lucifer Falls overlook. The Gorge Trail is not yet open due to the danger of rock falling from the gorge walls — the park maintenance staff needs to survey winter damage and knock down material in danger of falling.

Our first stop was the mill waterfall. This was was directed to the mill stream to power the mill where grain was ground to order.

Here is an overview of the Mill, now a museum not yet opened post-Covid. The millstone stands at the start of the foot trails. All media on this post is from my IPhone 7, lightweight equipment for this hike. The automatic upload to ICloud is convenient.

Round trip is four-plus miles, with several hundred feet elevation change. Pam and I discussed a car caravan for our next visit, to support a one-way downhill hike (still plenty of uphill hiking). We need to work up to the round trip after our winter inactivity.

Trillium are in bloom!!

Multiple overlooks into the gorge grace this trail.

More trillium before we reached the overlook. Lucifer falls and the incredible path etched into the cliff by the Civilian Conservation Corps (Roosevelt’s Tree Army during the Depression).

After the Lucifer Falls overlook is this stupendous view from the top of the Cliff Stairs, 224 steps continue to link to the Gorge and South Rim trails.

As we lingered on the top steps the flowering plants slowly revealed themselves.

I captured this tragic image on the return trip….a trillium discarded on the trail. Stiff fines await anyone caught doing this.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Leprechaun Rock along the Tain Way

The Last Leprechauns

Rocks such as this are a favorite perch for leprechauns to rest and contemplate the works of man who have invaded their world. Inhabitants of Carlingford who wander Slieve Foye have come upon them often enough, their stories and certitude in the existence of the Little People are resistant to manifold doubters with their reasons and arguments.

leprechaunRockCarlingford-02245
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Kevin Woods, aka McCoillte, was a doubter until worked on a stone wall on property he owned on Ghan Road, Carlingford. His belief did not arise on the discovery of the leather purse, covered with ages of dust and lime, nor with the gold coins inside. McCoillte pocketed the coins for luck. As luck would have it, McCoillte loved to walk on Slieve Foye. It was on one such walk he and his dog encountered Little People who paralyzed them to escape. His unexplained absence led to troubles with the wife.

EuHabitatsDirective-02267
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This experience brought McCoillte around to enough of a belief that he, with lots of help, succeeded in petitioning the E.U. European Habitats directive to recognize leprechauns a protected species.  According to a page on the Celtic Times web site, “The E.U. sent Madame Isobel Jeanne from Fecamp in Brittany France to Carlingford with the official letter declaring Carlingford Mountain (Note: otherwise known as Slieve Foye) protected, on the grounds that they could not prove or disprove their existence.”  The page is titled “The Carlingford Leprechaun.”  Google “Last Leprechauns” learn more about McCoillte’s stories.

I came upon this rock on June 9, 2014 on a day my cousin Sean Mills invited us to walk the Tain Way over Slieve Foye. It was such a finely shaped piece of what I suppose to be granite, the view of Carlingford, the lough and farmland so compelling, I spent time composing this landscape.

You can make out “King John’s Castle” just over the ridge and its yellow flowering gorse, on the margin of the blue lough. It is the boxy, grey structure; crenellations are visible on high resolution versions of the image. Carlingford is known for the castle, the popular name is for the English monarch who spent time there, although it was built by another.

Visit the opening chapter of our time on the Tain Way

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

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 me for the next episode, “Two Meetings.”

Click me for the previous episode, “Racing the Sun.”

Copyright 2021 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.
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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.

A rancher formed a cattle watering hole by damming an ephemeral stream and that day the pool held some water. Shortly after a rain a large mountain lion had approach the pool for a drink, leaving a footprint in the now dry mud.

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.

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.  

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 trunk 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
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