Omitted, A Trek in the Maroon-Snowmass Wilderness

I have begun scanning slides I took years ago and depositing them in my computer.  Many of the slides have degraded but the set from this trip are in good shape so I decided to publish a blog of the experience.  The slide camera I used took half-size pictures, thus getting double the number of pictures per film cannister.  The scanner only projects one size slide and puts extra black borders around the unused portion of the scanned fotos.


This was a trip of omissions.  The first omission took place on August 19, 1983 while I was driving George Cohen and myself, Sylvia Lee, to the trailhead from which we would start our five-day backpack.  The Forest Service had omitted placing or replacing directional road signs to Snowmass Creek Campground.  Eventually we found the campground and, farther on down a dirt road, the parking lot that we were looking for.

Signs at the parking lot stated camping was not allowed there.  Around 5 pm, in spite of threatening weather, we saddled up our backpacks and walked about three-quarter mile up the trail where we found a small, somewhat flat meadow in which we could make camp for night one.  We camped at about 8,600 feet elevation.


Maroon-Snowmass Aa, Bear Creek Canyon entering Snowmass Creek Valley, 20august1983

Lovely country we tromped through.

The second omission was, thankfully the lack of a deluge that late afternoon.  Clouds had been throwing thunder and lightning as we had shouldered our packs and gamely set off.  When the lightning realized it didn’t scare us, it moved its thunder elsewhere.  During the night we had only light, intermittent showers.

At supper time George and I found out we both had made mistakes with our grub.  George’s swollen sardine can hissed and spit at him as he opened it, so he threw the sardines away.  I discovered I had omitted one breakfast and all my snack bars when I packed.  That was almost half of the food for this trip.  George found a huge puffball mushroom, about one foot in diameter and weighing about three pounds, which he nibbled on to stretch his rations until it began to look dead around the edges.

Maroon-Snowmass Ad, George Coen and puffball just below Snowmass Lake, 20august1983

That evening we also found yellow brookcress for salad and large dandelion leaves for toilet paper.

George and I were both wildflower aficionados and discussed the flowers and plants along the trails each day.

After supper we hung our food bags on a high branch in a nearby tree, high enough that bears could not reach them.  George had good aim.  He tied a rock to one end of the hanging rope and threw the rock over a very high branch.  We tied the food bags to the other end, hauled them up, and secured the rope.  Hoping the bears would not figure out the rope system.  Just before dusk a party of four young men set up camp at the edge of an aspen grove close by.  They stared and pointed at our hanging sacks and, just after dark, they started to pull our food down.  They had omitted noticing our camp and us.  We intervened.

During the night we were serenaded by coyotes and owls.

The next morning we regretted omitting the wade through a pond which had covered the trail due to a deadfall jam.  As we pushed through shrubbery edging the low spot the small trees shook off the night’s raindrops, wetting us thoroughly while I, wearing hiking shorts, worked my way through a batch of stinging nettles.

The wildlife omitted showing hospitality.  In the afternoon, as we approached Snowmass Lake, I saw a gopher run into its burrow and push dirt up with its hind paws to close the entrance.  A chipmunk, chattering loudly, ran towards me, then dodged into a hole in the foliage just off trail.  We heard and glimpsed several pika, but they, too, quickly disappeared from sight.

We made camp our camp a short ways below Snowmass Lake, at elevation of about 11,200 feet.

Maroon-Snowmass Ae, Snowmass Lake, 20august1983

Snowmass Lake.

Mosquitoes were bad.  That evening I studied the topographic maps carefully and learned we had three major passes to cross, instead of two.  The Forest Service had omitted naming the highest pass, had even omitted the word or symbol for “pass” from their planographic map of the White Mountain National Forest in Colorado.  My original itinerary had us covering the miles of all three passes in one day because I thought there were only two.  I told George we could not linger one day at this camp as planned to explore the area.

Maroon-Snowmass Af, Snowmass Lake, 20august1983

Snowmass Lake.

The following morning George, a habitual early riser, did not get up until after I had risen.  He had a touch of food poisoning from eating sardine juice which he had omitted throwing out with the sardines the evening before.  He insisted he was well enough to cross the passes.

We headed for Buckskin Pass, elevation 12,462 feet, and Willow Pass, at a similar elevation.

Maroon-Snowmass Ag, View while climbing up west side of Buckskin Pass, 21august1983

View while climbing up to Buckskin Pass.

On the way up Buckskin Pass I saw a disembodied, furry brown tail waving and floating along the trail several switchbacks above me.  When I caught up with the tail I found a marmot attached.  On top of the pass, friendly chipmunks and a semi-friendly pika snooped for lunch crumbs they hoped we had (accidentally) left on the ground.

Maroon-Snowmass Ak, Snowmass Mt. double-pronged, Buckskin Pass, 21august1983

Double-pronged Snowmass Mountain from Buckskin Pass.

Maroon-Snowmass An, Sylvia Lee and Snowmass Lake from Buckskin Pass, 21august1983

Sylvia Lee on Buckskin Pass.  Can you see Snowmass Lake to right of center of foto?

As we were descending a small airplane passed low overhead, almost grazing the tundra on Buckskin Pass.  George, a WWII veteran, commented, “That looks like one of ours.”  We stumbled about six hundred feet down Buckskin Pass then up the same distance to Willow Pass.

Maroon-Snowmass Am, Snowmass Lake from Buckskin Pass, 21august1983

Snowmass Lake from Buckskin Pass.  Tiny bit of water visible in foto.

On top of Willow Pass I scared a juvenile pika when I shed my pack with a thud.  After a while the animal came back out of its hole and began plucking grass and flowers, stems and petals.  After making a few piles the pika picked up a bunch at a time and scurried to his burrow to store the food for winter.

Maroon-Snowmass Ap, Sylvia Lee's pack on Willow Pass., 21august1983

Sylvia Lee’s backpack on top of Willow Pass.

We descended a few hundred feet down Willow Pass and found an area where we could erect our shelters.  George carried a plastic tube tent that was open at both ends.  I hung up a long, wide, ripstop nylon tarp and shaped it like a pup tent but I left both ends open.  I resist being cooped up when it is not necessary.

As we were lounging at camp that evening we heard an intermittent roar as of a large truck trying to pull itself up the pass.  A grey cloud soon appeared with a leaky faucet someone had omitted turning off.  The thundercloud eventually finished passing overhead and left behind only a few puffs, and we retired.

During the night a mouse must have omitted listening to its warning radar because I was rudely awakened by four small, furry feet climbing across my head.  I yelled, “Get out of here!”  The animal did not return.

Maroon-Snowmass Aq2, North Maroon Bell from Willow Pass. Sleeping Sexton to right., 21august1983

Maroon Bells from Willow Pass.

The next morning we scaled the nonexistent pass, elevation 12,680.  About a third of the way up the pass I regretted the omission of a defroster from my equipment as I slid across a sloping, frozen snowfield.  The snow and yesterday’s horse tracks had iced over during the night and were slippery to walk on.  No give, no footing for me.  But with its claws a marmot ran easily across the trail and disappeared.

After safely crossing the ice and rounding a corner of the mountain, I and the trail began ascending a wide ravine.

Time passed and I began to worry about George because he had not appeared around the mountain corner.  The snowfield was hidden from my view.  Had George slipped, fallen, and hurt himself badly?  On top of the unnamed pass I hid my large pack and put on a smaller day pack.

Maroon-Snowmass At, 8.10am on unnamed pass west of Willow Lake, elev. 12,680, 22august1983

Sylvia’s backpack on Nonexistent Pass, AKA Marmot’s Pass.

As I started back down the trail I spied George.  I retreated back to the top of the pass.  While I waited several pika scurried around.  I saw, and heard, two marmots have a brief fight, then watched one chase the other out of the territory.  We saw so many marmots as we hiked on down and through the valley that we decided to name the saddle “Marmot Pass.”

George explained that he had been held up at the edge of the snowfield, first by a conversation with a ptarmigan, then with a weasel.  He had sat on the icy snow for about a half hour communing with the animals.

At lunch George found two minnow-sized fish in his drinking water.  He had omitted inspecting his canteen after filling it from a tarn near Willow Lake and had swallowed one fish before he realized part of his water was solidified.

Maroon-Snowmass Ar, Pond near our camp near Willow Lake, where we got water, 21august1983

Pond near Willow Pass where we got drinking water.

The final omission was my sleep on our fourth and final night.  About dusk I heard some spitting and turned around in time to see two red weasels inside camp having a brief spat.  After shedding a few pieces of fur each, the weasels disappeared until after dark.  While I was dozing soon after wrapping myself in my bedroll one weasel slipped in under my tarp.  When the animal could not find any food at my bedside (we had, as usual, hung it from a tree) it gave a disgusted snort, then proceeded to climb across my head and into my sleeping bag.  I yelled and the animal fled.  The animal stayed away for a few hours then returned and crawled on my head.  Again I yelled, “Get out of here; you don’t belong here!”  The animal left, but every time I started to drop off to sleep the weasel returned and climbed on my head or tried to burrow under my neck.  I did not get any more sleep that night.

Maroon-Snowmass Ay, my tent on East Snowmass Creek, 22august1983

The shelter where I was visited by the weasel all night.

The next morning George suggested the weasel smelled my pet cats on my clothes and was looking for kittens for dinner (in my sleeping bag with me in it!).

Maroon-Snowmass Au, Above timberline along East Snowmass Creek, 22august1983

Above timberline along East Snowmass Creek.

The last day, hungry and leaner, we walked the two miles on out along East Snowmass Creek.  We looked forward to cold spit baths and clean clothes where Old Faithful was parked, followed by motor-propelled, cushioned seats.  The trail came out on the dirt entry road a quarter mile from the lot where my little pickup was parked.  Because I was exhausted from lack of sleep that two and a quarter miles to comfort that day seemed like ten miles.

In spite of numerous omissions during this trip the flowers had been brilliant, the air wholesome, the rain gentle in its timing, the atmosphere clean, relaxing, and companionable, and my head began hatching plans for future trips with a larger supply of comestible provisions.



West Pinto Creek

April 15, 2019

Tonto National Forest, Globe District

This being a spring of unusual wildflower exhibitionism the trip today was extra delightful.  Masses of Bluebonnets (Lupinus arizonicus) and pink Rosy Desert-Beardtongue (Penstemon pseudospectabilis) lined the paved highway.  They also lined the thirteen miles of one-lane dirt road from the Pinto Valley Mine to the trailhead.

W Pinto Creek Trail, Cg, Peek-a-boo, 15april2019

Peek-a-boo sycamore tree beside West Pinto Creek.

Speaking of that road, it was somewhat steep and wasn’t very rocky or eroded but it had one bad feature.  Much of the way there was steep a uphill incline on one side of the vehicle and steep downhill on the other side, and no way for two vehicles to pass.  Were two vehicles to meet, one would have to back up quite a ways, including backing around corners, to find a spot wide enuf for the vehicles to pass each other.  Even then, each driver would have to pull the outside mirrors against the bodies of the vehicles, put the outer wheels as far off the road as possible, and keep fingers crossed during the process of the vehicle on the outer edge slowly crawling past the stationary inner one.  If one vehicle were a wide cattle truck….

W Pinto Creek Trail, Cf, a creekside scene, 15april2019

A creekside scene.

We saw many different flowers alongside the one-lane road.  The more unusual ones were white Arizona Mariposa Lilies (Calochortus ambiguas), Wind Flowers (Anemone sp.), large white-flowered evening primroses (Oenothera californica or deltoides), and Mexican Gold Poppies (Eschscholzia californica).

While we were saddling up at the trailhead Jeanie opened a container of home-made chocolate chip cookies and offered us a snack.  We each took one cookie and relished the taste.

W Pinto Creek Trail, Fb, Returning to trailhead, 15april2019

Bluebonnets and Sore-Eyed Poppies (globemallows).

As we hiked the West Pinto Creek Trail we stopped to look closely at a few of the many types of flowers blooming.  One we’d never spotted before was the borage Cola de Mico (monkey’s tail) AKD Quail Plant (Heliotropium curassavicum).  One set we saw was growing among the blue-flowered waterleaf plants called Scorpionweed (Phacelia sp.) and looked like white scorpionweeds until we caressed the plants and felt the borage prickly hairs on the stems.  Very unusual to us was pink-flowered Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia sp.).  We’d all only seen this edible plant with white flowers.

W Pinto Creek Trail, Cia, pink Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia sp.), 15april2019

Pink Miner’s Lettuce.

There was a flowering plant that did not seem to fully fit any description in my books.  Nature loves to serve us mysteries and challenges.

The most eye-catching were the magenta flowers of a hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus sp.).

W Pinto Creek Trail, Cc, Demonstrating a rocky crossing, 15april2019

Rock balancing demonstration.

If anyone in the group did not know Poison Ivy (Rhus radicans) they did long before the end of today’s hike.

One time when we were walking over the very rocky edge of the stream overflow area we noticed a granite-like rock that was made of very thin layers.  It looked like a cross-section of a tree being exhibited to count its growth rings.

W Pinto Creek Trail, Gb, Tree Ring Rock, 15april2019

Rock with thin, tree-ring-like layers.

We lunched where the Campaign Trail crossed West Pinto Creek, but we didn’t.

W Pinto Creek Trail, Ec, Scenery at lunch, 15april2019

Lunchside scenery.

On the way back to the vehicles our leader, Gene Adkins, got to the bottom of a short but steep stretch of trail and sat down on a rock, facing us descending hikers.  When the woman in front of me approached Gene he told her to go to the left.  She moved to her left and edged around him.  Gene kept saying, “To the left!  To the left!”, and finally pointed to the right.  When I came up to him I said, “Which way were you telling her to go?”  About that time Gene realized that his left was not our left and we all had a laugh.

But the incident that led me to write this blog was a conversation about dandelions and their close cousins, Silver Puffs or Starpoints (Microseris sp).  All we saw today were fresh seed clusters.  We were pointing out to the uninitiated that the seeds of Silver Puffs were arranged in five-pointed-stars patterns, the stars then being gathered in a circular cluster, while dandelion seed heads were simply soft, dense circular stands of linear seeds.  Val exclaimed that Silver Puff seed puffs were “organized dandelions!”

W Pinto Creek Trail, Hb, Microseris Puff, 15april2019

Starpoint puff.  The flowers, grey stalks and leaves are from fleabane plants.

W Pinto Creek Trail, Ha, Dandelion Puff, 15april2019

Dandelion puff.  None of the tangle of plants belongs to the dandelion.

When we were unsaddling back at the vehicles Jeanie opened a second container of chocolate cookies, added the remaining cookies from the morning’s snack, and passed them around several times.  There were enuf cookies for each of us (nine people) to have three or four cookies each.

The walk had been 5 to 6 miles up and downhill, with no hills being very high.  The GPS instruments were divided, about half in half, as to the mileage.  Each hiker could pick a preferred mileage.  Mine was six.



Bushnell Tanks Trail Loop

Mazatzal District, Tonto National Forest

March 28, 2019

Bushnell Tanks loop, Eb, Mexican Gold Poppies, 30march2019

Mexican Gold Poppies.

There were thirteen of us today.  After we gathered at the Bushnell Tanks Trailhead we counted heads several times to make sure we had this lucky number.

The graveled road accessing the trail was blocked off at the top of a short rise so the roadside ahead could revegetate itself.  We parked near the barricade.

Our first steps followed the gravel road down the other side of the rise and walked past a huge pile of gravel.  At a sign indicating the Arizona Trail was that-away, we turned south onto a footpath that went steeply downhill from the road.  A heavy layer of very fresh gravel overlay the dirt path.  One woman’s feet slipped out from under her and she sat down rather abruptly on the gravel but was unhurt.  She was lucky.

When we got off the gravel we saw strings of fresh green horse diarrhea that seemed to have come from three horses.  Someone had not been feeding their mounts the correct diet.  I was near the end of the line of hikers and looked closely at the stuff.  No one had stepped in any of it.  We were lucky again.

We soon came to Sycamore Creek.  Because of the unusual amount of rain this state has had this past fall and winter the creek was running well.  The leader, Gene, found a plausible set of stones and crossed the creek.  He turned around, said, “There’s one long step,” put his foot on one of the stones, and held out his hand.  A few people, one at a time, crossed successfully on the stones.  Because I’ve never been good at balancing on stones or logs I walked a short ways upstream to where the creek widened and was shallower, and I waded across.  The water only came up to my ankles at the deepest.  A few hikers followed me.

Just as I reached dry land I heard a noise and looked downstream towards the stepping stones.  One man was toppling.  He fell into the water and rolled all the way over about one-and-a-half times.  He quickly maneuvered himself to dry land and stood up.  He said his foot had slipped as he pushed off a rock in order to get himself across the “one long step.”

Bushnell Tanks loop, Ab, Sycamore Creek where man fell in, 30march2019

The rocks the well-balanced hikers used for crossing the creek are at lower right.

At least the man was now on the side of the creek with those of us who had crossed the running water.  The man said he was all right.  His trousers were soaked from upper thigh to tips of boots, but his waist, belt, and other upper clothes were dry.  I asked him about his cell fone.  He unhooked it from his belt.  That area of his clothes was completely dry and so was his fone.  He was lucky.

We followed the footpath a short ways up the hill to the intersection with the Arizona Trail and turned westward on the trail from Utah to Mexico.

As we walked along, the man who had fallen began to realize he was growing bruises and bumps from having bumped his head, and that a ligament in his right shoulder — the only joint that had an artificial replacement — was quite painful.  But he had no trouble keeping up with us and enjoying the scenery.

We were now walking on the lower skirt of the north slope of a high hill.  Directly across Sycamore Creek was the southern face of Mount Ord.

Bushnell Tanks loop, B, Mt. Ord Mexican Gold Poppies, 30march2019

Mount Ord.  The yellowish patches on the lower skirt of the mountain are fields of Mexican Gold Poppies.

We began seeing beautiful wild flowers at our feet, and we could see that the land across the creek was not similarly blessed, except for the patches of yellow flowers..

On the south side where we were strolling there were a couple places with small “fields” of flowers, especially of Mexican Gold Poppies and the desert lilac shrubs.

Bushnell Tanks loop, D, Ceanothus greggii and Mexican Gold Poppies, 30march2019

The white shrubs are desert lilacs, better known by their genus name, Ceanothus (Ceanothus greggii).  The yellow flowers are Mexican Gold Poppies (Eschscholtzia mexicana).

For the most part flowers, or small groups of flowers, were scattered.  But there were a lot of flowers and quite a variety of them.

An engaging little plant Microseris linearfolia, sometimes called Silver Puffs, was scattered all along the trailside.  This little flower mimics the larger Salsify flower (genus Tragopogon) but is a different species.  The species of Microseris that lives in Globe opens early in the morning and closes by 9 am.  The Silver Puffs that looked sunnily up at us today stayed awake all day.

We stopped frequently to talk about or to fotograph flowers or other scenery.  We were lucky that Gene is a patient leader.  We felt we had been very lucky to hike thru the bountiful beauty today.

Bushnell Tanks loop, C, scenery, 30march2019

We eventually followed a footpath back down to Sycamore Creek.  Gene traipsed downstream and did not see a viable spot for getting certain of us across with dry feet, so he headed upstream.  In the meantime, the man who had fallen at the first crossing successfully crossed on some rocks and sat down and began eating lunch.  After a long wait we saw Gene strolling along the opposite bank.  He joined the other man and began eating lunch.

I waded at the shallowest spot but water came just over my boots and flowed inside.  Some people followed me and others waded deeper water.  The last two or three to decide to cross took off boots and socks and waded across barefooted.

I sat down beside Gene and said, “You left us to fend for ourselves.”  He said something about being a poor leader.  He later explained to all of us that, altho he had crossed at a spot where he kept his boots dry, getting to that spot was very difficult.  It appeared that he did not want to suggest that we wade the creek, so he left it up to us to figure out how to join him.  I thought that was an interesting form of leadership, of teaching self-reliance and woodsman skills.  Huh!

During the mile or more back to the vehicles we were on the Mount Ord side of Sycamore Creek.

Bushnell Tanks loop, K, hillside that had the flowers, 30march2019

View of hillside with wildflower display that we had contoured along.

We crossed fourteen sides streams, only four of which I waded.  One or two who, earlier, had waded barefoot now tromped thru the water with feet shod.  We had not seen or crossed any feeder creeks when we were contouring the hill on the south side of Sycamore Creek.

We told Gene we’d had a lovely time enjoying the flowers and scenery.

Now I have finished arranging the fotos in this blog so I shall return to arranging fotos for my book of the history of Boyce Thompson Arboretum.


Without-Name Waterfall

Without-Name Waterfall near Sears-Kay Ruin

Tonto National Forest, Arizona

March 9, 2019

Most of us hikers for the day met in the church parking lot and carpooled.  I rode in the leader’s car, in luxury in a Lexus, a step up from my Toyota 4Runner.  We went on Cave Creek Road a short ways beyond the turnoff to Bartlett Lake and parked in a small lot beside a fence with a horse gate, i.e., a bar that horses (and people) step over.  A sign merely read “Trailhead.”

The “What Would Jesus Brew?” group joined the “Heavenly Hikers” and me and asked us to help them collect wild yeast today.  We were each handed a plugged test tube with a pale yellow liquid inside.  The broth and inside of the tube were sterile.  The man handing out the tubes explained how to collect plant specimens and put them in the tubes but he failed to tell us that the broth was beer.  If he had, we might have returned with no liquid remaining in the tubes.  But with desired plant pieces in the tubes.

Both the trail and the waterfall had no names.  Perhaps the reason the waterfall has no name is because it dries up for much of the year.  However, after good rains water will fall off the rocks until the spring upstream runs dry.  Arizona had just had some good rains and, with hopes in our hearts, we set out to find the hidden waterfall.

Tonto NF, A, Waterfall trail near Sears-Kay Ruin, 9march2019

With two saintly groups from All Saints Lutheran Church escorting me on this hike, I felt as though I was ascending into heaven.

The leader had pre-walked the route, wrote that it was 3.6 miles round-trip, then got sick and sent his wife, who had never been in the area before, to lead the hike.  He gave her a map, gave her some verbal instructions, and showed her which arroyo we were to walk down.  She had no trouble leading us to the waterfall.

Tonto NF, B, Waterfall trail near Sears-Kay Ruin, 9march2019

The hike was upside-down.  We started from the highest point, worked our way down, then, later, slogged our way back up.

Knowing the sun and exercise would warm us we were wearing only light outer layers of warm clothing.  But underfoot there was ice! on top of the small pools of water that had collected in boot and horse prints that had trod the trail while the mud was wet.

We soon saw one disturbing note.  It was an invasive, exotic, bright orange African Daisy plant gaily waving its flowers at us as we walked past the lovely plant that did not belong in our desert.

Tonto NF, Mb, Waterfall trail near Sears-Kay Ruin, looking up at Mexican Gold Poppies, 9march2019

Nearby, we enjoyed the beauty of a patch of Mexican Gold Poppies just beginning to open their petals for the day.

Tonto NF, Bb, Waterfall trail near Sears-Kay Ruin, looking up at Mexican Gold Poppies, 9march2019

After a couple hundred yards we left the trail.  We turned right onto a foot path that descended steeply to a dry, sandy wash.  We slogged in that wash for almost a mile.  At one point we took a pause to study a stripped-down, rusty sedan shell resting calmly on its back.

A section of cliff-like boulders lined a portion of the wash.  The sandy area widened out and in one place we stepped down a check dam that had probably been erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the nineteen thirties when they were fighting the terrible erosion that existed across the deserts of the Southwest.  The dam had done its job and now held silt that had backed up and filled the wash to the height of the little dam.

We met a woman coming our way.  She said she had lived in the area for eleven years, had hiked to the waterfall regularly, and that it had more water today than she had ever seen.  Not surprising, because she had moved into this desert area in the middle of a prolonged drouth* that maybe had now broken and maybe had not.  Our expectations soared.

Eventually we arrived at the edge of the stream that we figured must come from the waterfall.  There was a US flag on a hill across the stream from us and another one on a hill just south of us.

Someone had set stepping stones in the creek.  However, their steps were wider than my hips and legs could handle at this time in my life. (All right, I’ll say it — I am 78 years old.)  So I waded.  Both crossings.  The air temperature was probably in the mid 50s and the creek water did not feel much colder.

Tonto NF, J, Waterfall trail near Sears-Kay Ruin, Waterfall, 9march2019

When we reached the lovely waterfall some people climbed the side hill and stood beside the top of the fall.  I chose to stay near the bottom where I could see all of the falling water.  For such a short waterfall (maybe 15 feet tall) it made quite a roar, a pleasing sound.  Between the water’s falling roar and a slight, cool breeze, I could imagine that I was high up in the mountains somewhere instead of down on the edge of the Sonoran Desert.

Tonto NF, Jd, Waterfall trail near Sears-Kay Ruin, Waterfall, 9march2019

Some people ate lunch, some of us ate snacks, and others ate nothing except the wonderful calm and scenery.

Soon, stomachs and other things drew us to our feet to hike back up to the vehicles.  Once comfortably seated, the inhabitants of most of the vehicles continued on up the highway about a half mile and parked in the small lot for the Sears-Kay Ruin National Monument.  We added another mile to our day’s mileage by walking up to and around the ruin.

Sears-Kay Ruin National Monument, AZ, G, pueblo ruins, 9march2019

Eight of us (out of perhaps 18) ate lunch together at the Ravens View Restaurant not very far back down the highway from the turnoff to Bartlett Lake.

Tonto NF, Z, Ravensview Restaurant, 9march2019

We’d had a wonderful day of food for the soul and the stomach.

*Southern spelling of the word, pronounced with a whispered “th” at end of word.  Non-Southerners spell the word as “drought” and pronounce it with a definite “t” spit out at the end.

Two Crenulated Saguaros

Tonto National Forest, Globe District

March 4, 2019

AZ Trail Cb, scenery Ab, 4march2019

Scenery we were going to enjoy.

We carpooled at the meeting place and 29 people sat down in nine high-clearance vehicles.  The hike leader, Gene, with his sweep Al, took the lead in the caravan.  Gene drove us over Gonzales Pass and past the entrance to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA).  As we approached the Superior (town) airport Gene explained to us who were in his red 4Runner that the helicopter hoveringover the runway was lifting up a piece of geo-physical survey equipment.  It was attached to a long line that was attached to the underbelly of the helicopter.  This equipment was a round object held in place in a huge (metal?) circle by several bars going from the round object out to the ring.  The helicopter would fly a grid over the land and Resolution Copper Mining Company would receive information about underground conditions.  Gene said the magnetic and gravitational fields that the earth send out tell information about the earth’s crust.

AZ Trail A02, Helicopter and geo-physical instrument, 4march2019

The helicopter flew over a wide swath of desert foothills and low mountains near where we hiked.  We saw the contraption several times during the day.

Gene then added that he had forgotten to turn off US 60 onto the Forest Service road he intended to drive on.  Gene later told the people in the other vehicles that he had known exactly when the helicopter was going to lift off and had planned the short, extra excursion on purpose.  Those twenty-five people weren’t buying it.

Gene made a U-turn and headed back towards Gonzales Pass.  When we were at the turnoff to BTA we turned north onto FR 8.  After about a mile and a half of dirt road we came to a “Y.”  Gene turned left onto FR 650.  We drove on this road for a few miles, then we parked. It had been very slow going with the vehicles because the recent rain had washed away a top layer of soil and exposed the rocks that had been underneath.  Looking at the Tonto National Forest planographic map it looks as tho we may have driven four and a half miles on FR 650.  I won’t guess at the driving time.  It was slow.

A short distance before we parked we passed a dense strand of Mexican Gold Poppies alongside the dirt road,S and yellow fields of same flowers on the adjacent hillside.  We convinced Gene to stop and the back seat people all got out, walked a few feet back, and took pictures.

AZ Trail Ac, FR650, gold poppies Aa3, 4march2019

Our objective for this hike was about one-and-a-half miles up a section of the Arizona Trail beside which we had parked.  Soon after we started hiking Gene leaned down to pick up something from the ground.   He then began feeding the group small bites of dusty, dirty food.  He identified it as canaigre (Spanish) or desert rhubarb (Rumex hymenosepalous).  Some people accepted bits of leaves and others chewed on very small pieces of stalks.  We all agreed the plant was tart.  Bill thought it would make delicious rhubarb pie because he loves the pie made tart.  Myself, I always preferred mother’s very, very sweet rhubarb pie.

AZ Trail Cc, scenery Ac, 4march2019

Scenery along the way.

Because the rhubarb — canaigre — was so well received, further down the trail Gene snipped some thin leaves and stalks off a different plant and tried to feed them to us.  He said the plant was called odora (Porophylum gracile).  Most of us merely smelled the crushed plant pieces but a few tried chewing them.  One of those that chewed said the plant tasted “perfumy.”  Others said nothing.  I crushed a small piece of stalk and smelled it.  I smelled turpentine.  It did not go into my mouth.

When we came to the area of the first crested saguaro Gene paused the group.  Several of us climbed the little hill and took pictures of the interesting, tall cactus.

AZ Trail Db, crenulated dog saguaro Ab, 4march2019

The abnormal growth looked like a head.  The group said it was a devil’s head.  To me it looked like a dog’s.

Just around the bed we came to a wide ravine and walked up it a ways to eat lunch on a nice set of small boulders, altho it was only about 11:25 a.m.  Just uphill from us was the second crested saguaro.  Of course, many, or all, of us took pictures.

AZ Trail Fb, ravine side crenulated saguaro Ab, 4march2019

One woman returned from her uphill climb with a short stem of lovely little yellow flowers.

AZ Trail Gb, Yellow Bells near ravine side crenulated saguaro Ab, 4march2019

Gene identified them as Whispering Yellow Bells (often shortened to Whispering Bells; Emmenanthe penduliflora).  He said he had seen the flowers only once before and that had been ten years ago.  I had only seen them in books.

After a nice belly-filling rest we began to walk back down the ravine.  Bill said, “Ouch!” and swallowed an expletive.  He hobbled to the nearest rock big enuf to sit on and took off a hiking boot.  A cactus spine had gone all the way thru the sole of the boot and had tried to go into his foot.  A couple of the hikers had small pliers or all-in-one tools.  Even using the tools, Bill could not pull the spine thru and out of the shoe sole.  He was able to successfully operate on the sole (as he put it) and snip off the end of the spine enuf that he walked comfortably back out to the vehicles.

AZ Trail Ja, FS 650 scenery Aa, 4march2019

More lovely scenery.

While driving back out on FR 650 Gene turned off onto FR 2378.  We drove a short distance and stopped at an old rock corral and adjacent rock fence.  Gene wasn’t sure if the structure had been built by early Spanish settlers or even earlier by native Americans, but he was sure they were a couple or more centuries old.

AZ Trail Kd, FS 2378 old stone corral Ad, 4march2019

When we were back on FR 8 Gene took some of us on yet another side trip.  Three vehicles demurred and continued over to US 60 and the parking lot where the other vehicles were waiting for the return of hikers.  Six vehicles of us drove on a more primitive dirt road to the Historic Pinal Cemetery where we took fotos of a small monument to Cecelia Blake, who was better known as Mattie Earp, Wyatt Earp’s wife.

AZ Trail Lb, Pinal Historic Cemetery Ab Mattie Earp, 4march2019

Finally, Gene drove back to Gold Canyon.  Three of the five of us in Gene’s 4Runner were car enthusiasts.  I learned about suicide doors on cars.

An Unexpected Day


My ticket stub.

My friends from Dallas, Leza and Betty, had been in Tucson helping a friend of Betty’s.  They finished Friday morning, March 1st.  Since Leza retired from the media world she has been enjoying participating in Renaissance Faires around the country by singing to the accompaniment of her guitar. She calls herself The Moor of Dundee and she has costumes to carry out that theme.  So early Friday afternoon she called someone in charge of the Renaissance Faire out east of Gold Canyon and was happily accepted to play and sing the following afternoon, March 2nd.  Only one day because she and Betty had to drive to Santa Fe, New Mexico the next day, March 3rd.  Betty then texted me and we made arrangements to meet near the front gate in the morning.


This was a group of visitors who unfolded themselves from the van that parked next to me.  Perhaps at least a third of the visitors were dressed in costume.

Leza had a very enjoyable several hours singing just outside the door to the exhibit of “The Sea Fairies – The Living Mermaids.”  The line of people waiting to go inside the building was roped off and snaked back and forth.  Leza sang to the end of the line as it was moving horizontally alongside the building.

Adults enjoyed her songs and children were so entranced by some of her songs and by the guitar that she stepped up against the rope and let the children “play” her guitar while she sang songs she knew they would enjoy.  By the time she finished a short repertoire the people who had been listening had gone in the building and Leza began again with a new crew of listeners.  They all had a blast.  It was a joy to watch her happiness in performing.

But before the hour set for Leza to begin singing we three wandered around,


We met some interesting visitors to the Faire who were not part of the entertainment crew.


I am on the left end and Leza on the right.

then took in a couple of shows.  The second one was “Hey Nunnie Nunnie!  Silly Songs of Counseling.”  Two women, dressed as nuns, started the show with jokes about constipation.  One that I was able to jot down was:

  1. What do you get when you mix holy water and prunes?
  2. A holy movement behind.

They sang a song about some constipated Biblical men.  Each verse began with “There were five constipated men in the Bible….”  And continued: “The first was Cain.  He was not Abel.”  “The third was Solomon.  He sat for forty years on the throne.”  “The fourth was Noah.  He nearly filled the ark.”  “The fifth was Balaam.  He could not move his ass.”

They mentioned that there was only one constipated woman in the Bible.  It was Eve.  “She passed the apple.”

The ”nuns” have performed their show many, many times as they have toured the country following Renaissance Faires.  Their timing was done to perfection, and the show was hilarious.


Betty and I left Leza as she started her wonderful hours of singing and strumming to an audience and we went to see “Cirque du Sewer ―Cats, Rats & an Acro-Human.”  The woman performing was an amazing acrobat.  She did part of her performance on a half-inch rope.  The animals interacted with some of her acrobatic skills.  For instance, when trying to convince a small rat to leap from one stool to another one several feet away she did a head stand then opened her legs into a split with each foot almost touching a stool.  The rat quickly ran across her legs because it knew there was a food treat waiting on the other stool.

The rats were delightful although they had no idea they were performing.  The cats were rescues.  Two of them were not yet full-grown, but they did some performances in response to the woman’s hand gestures along with treats she held in her fingers.  She fed them a treat after the successful completion of each action.


All three of us attended the first show of choice.  You thought I had left out the first show by accident, didn’t you?  But I saved it til last because I was one of the performers!  At “The Ded Bob Sho” we sat about six rows down from the stage.  Ded Bob was a dummy, a very white skeleton.  The ventriloquist worn a monk’s tan cassock with cowl.  A dark brown net veil hung down from the cassock in front of the man’s face.  The ventriloquist could see out fairly well but we could not see his face.

Ded Bob had quite a spiel.  He harangued the audience and at times picked on specific people.   He had three rules for the audience, one of which was “Pay Attention.”  He explained each rule fully and delightfully.

During one of his harangues he picked on a slim, pretty, young woman.  I forgot what he was “upset” about.  He stood in front of her, told her to stand up, then told her to repeat after him:  “I am a Bobster,” which she repeated.  Followed by “I am a Bobster Zombie,” which she repeated.  I did not quite catch the third sentence but the young woman repeated it, then covered her mouth with her hand and got a look of horror on her face.  Ded Bob chuckled.  Ded Bob told the young woman to accompany him onto the stage.  Ded Bob brought out a huge maul (paper filled with something extremely lightweight) and bopped the young woman on the head.  He asked her to do a few things, then told her to sit on a bench that was at a back edge of the stage.

Ded Bob accosted a young man (late 20s or early 30s; great physique and face was not bad looking).  He asked the man to repeat “I am a Bobster” and “I am a Zombie Bobster.”  I don’t remember the third question he posed to the young man, but it was not the one he had asked the young woman.  On the stage he bopped the young man on the head, had the young man do a few things, then told him to join the young woman on the bench.

A couple people got up and left.  I wondered what time the next show on our list started and how far it was from this show to the next one.  I picked up the brochure, unfolded it… and in my peripheral vision I saw Ded Bob coming up the aisle we were sitting next to.  I looked up to see what was going to happen next and Ded Bob was thrust towards my face:  “You were reading, weren’t you?”  I nodded in affirmation and stared boldly at him.  Ded Bob asked me to stand up and repeat “I am a Bobster” and “I am a Zombie Bobster,” which I did.  He then studied me intently for a moment and did not ask a third question (there are times when having a lot of age-related wrinkles on my face comes in handy), but he did tell me to accompany him to the stage.

On the stage, Ded Bob produced the maul and bopped me three times on the head, then said, “Now behind.”

Aa foto by Chern-Hughes

I quickly covered my butt with my hands, more quickly than Ded Bob could get the maul that low.  Ded Bob made some remark and ditched that bop.  I don’t remember the few things he asked me to do on the stage before he told me to sit on the bench with the other two.

I do pretty much remember what took place after he gave several more minutes’ worth of spiel.  He told the audience he was now going to use us to tell a story.  He told the young woman and young man to stand to his right.

Ded Bob then told me to join them on stage.  I stood to the right of the young couple.  Ded Bob said, “No! Stand here on this side of the couple!”  Well, the ventriloquist was standing next to the couple; there was no room in between; so I walked over and stood behind the ventriloquist.  It seemed to take the ventriloquist a few seconds to realize where I was then he half-turned and Ded Bob told me to stand at his left, which I did.

The story began with the young man adoring the young woman, but she spurned him.  The couple acted out Ded Bob’s words.  The young woman turned her back on the young man and strutted back to the bench where she sat down.

The ventriloquist then stepped away from being between the young man and me and said the young man now turned his affections to the other woman.  The young man made some appropriate motions.  Ded Bob said the woman did a sexy dance and indicated I was to improvise something.  Now, I have two left feet.  I have taken ballroom dance lessons but never “graduated.”  However, on this day I did some slight shimmying that I remembered from 1930s movies while I took short steps to the left, and at the same time I did modern, vertical, shoulder-led arm up-and-down movements.  To my surprise, the young man followed alongside and imitated me.

Ded Bob brought out the huge maul and told me to bop the young man on the head.  Ded Bob then said the young man fell to the floor, unconscious.  The young man obligingly fell and lay flat on his back.  Ded Bob told me to rifle the young man’s pockets.  I knelt beside the man and patted the pocket nearest to me, then looked up at Ded Bob.  Ded Bob told me to rifle through the “middle pocket.”  I stayed quite still and wondered what the young man was thinking and expecting.  Ded Bob said there was a roll of dimes in the third pocket but I still stayed motionless.  Ded Bob gave a short spiel, in which he said the middle pocket was now holding a roll of quarters, then told me to return to the bench, and told the young man to wake up and go sit on the bench.

Ded Bob made a few more funny remarks to the audience, during which I heard him say we zombies were finished now we no longer were zombies.  I thought he was dismissing us so I stood up and started across the stage to the stairs I had come up earlier. (It pays to have a slight hearing loss which is not fully cured by hearing aids.)  The ventriloquist stepped in my way and Ded Bob said, “She’s trying to escape!”  He shoved three poles in my hands and told me to go sit on the bench.

I sat on the bench holding the poles.  Each pole had a jester’s hat with an elongated tail.  Ded Bob finished his show then said we three would walk thru the crowd and hold the jester-looking hats out so people could put their dollars in them.  We went out among the crowd.  People reacted pleasantly towards me.  I was surprised they wanted to interact, briefly, with me.  I said “thank you” as they stuffed their dollars in the “hat.”

To go back some ten minutes or so — when I got up on the stage and looked out at the hundred or so folks sitting and standing and looking at the stage I was not frightened nor ill at ease.  I was glad for the years of history walks and history talks I had given at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and for the two recent talks about the arboretum that I gave to a couple of organizations off the arboretum grounds.  And for the fact that when I do those talks I move around to some extent in front of the people.

After the Sewer Cat show Betty and I collected Leza.  Leza was ready to take a break.  We walked past several of the exhibits with Leza moving at a slow pace so she could study and appreciate the wares on exhibit and for sale.  One thing that stopped us for a minute or two was a very tall, talking tree.  Inside the tree was a man on stilts.


Leza bought herself a lunch then went back to sing some more.  Betty had eaten a huge bagel earlier and I had snacks in my daypack.

Leza had so much fun she may decide to come to this Renaissance Faire every year from now on.


Green Thumb and Keyhole Arch

The morning of New Year’s Eve 2018 awoke cold yet sunny and above freezing, but not by much.  Almost at the last minute Gene Adkins had announced he was taking, leading, a hike this morning.  His email read, “Monday, I will be going on a hike to the Keyhole Arch and Green Thumb.  This is in the Goldfields [area] and will not be a long hike or a strenuous one as I know we all want to save our energy to be able to ring in the New Year.”  We met Adkins at the Superstition Mountain Museum parking lot, backtracked a short ways down highway 188, turned west on Hackamore Road, and rode the deeply eroded dirt road to a parking area at the entrance to Bulldog Canyon Off-Highway Area.

goldfields area aa, bulldog canyon sign, 31dec2018

Note the lovely brittle bush flowers at the base of the sign.

Thus, on December 31st twelve people began walking behind Gene on an off-road-vehicle dirt road, under partially sunny skies, at 8:50 AM.  The road led us uphill to a spot where we had a good view of what Adkins called a Green Thumb.  The lichen covering the large boulder looked yellow to me.

goldfields area ab, the green thumb, 31dec2018

Adkins commented that in the four years since he was last here off-road vehicles had changed the configuration of roads.  He led us on a short cross-country jaunt up to another dirt road.  We went uphill a ways with the road, going past the base of the “Green Thumb,” then Adkins led us a few yards downhill to a foot trail.

goldfields area ah, view from keyhole arch, 31dec2018

Along the way Adkins stopped several times and talked about the flowering plants we found.  He mentioned that the hairs on the hairy leaves of brittle bushes protected the leaves from the intense sunlight.  By that time there wasn’t much sun; clouds were covering the sky.

We found plants blooming out of season.  Flat-top AKA California buckwheat plants, Eriogonum fasciculatum, were at their prettiest.  We were accustomed to seeing them bloom in the summer and maybe fall, but the books say that their normal blooming time in the Sonoran Desert is April thru December, so they weren’t much out of season.

goldfields area aj, flat-top buckwheat, 31dec2018

Another plant that had not gone to rest yet this winter was Parish Viguiera AKA Golden Eye, Viguiera deltoidea, whose blooming season is usually February thru June.

goldfields area ad, viguiera and brittlebush, 31dec2018

Viguiera is the blooming plant in the center of the foto.  At the right side of the foto are silvery-gray leaves of a brittlebush.

We were now on the trail Adkins had been looking for.  We walked along the footpath until we reached the point where it was closest to the Keyhole Arch.

goldfields area ai, green thumb and keyhole arch, 31dec2018

See the keyhole arch?  The “Green Thumb” is at the left.

All but two of us followed Adkins up the steep hill to the arch.  We spent a while taking pictures and enjoying the view thru the arch.

goldfields area ag, keyhole arch c, 31dec2018

goldfields area af2, keyhole arch b, 31dec2018

The obscene tip of the “Green Thump” exposed itself thru the keyhole arch.

We rejoined the footpath and followed it for a short ways.  Too short.  Walking on the well-pounded path had been heaven after working to balance on loose stones and gravel-like pebbles.  When we reached a dry wash Adkins led us downhill thru the sand and rocks of the ravine.  He expounded upon more plants, giving us time to relax and renew our balance.  All the plants looked green and happy from the good rains we’d had a couple months ago.  Some chain cholla cacti had grown large colonies of chains of fruit hanging off their branches.

goldfields area ak, chain cholla, 31dec2018

We ate some fat, slightly sweet, wolfberry berries as we strolled along.

goldfields area ae, wolfberry berries and chuparosa, 31dec2018

Wolfberry shrub interlaced with red flowering limbs of chuparosa.  Actually, the limbs are grey.  Note the very small orange-red Wolf berries.

In a short while Adkins turned us uphill onto a partially pounded trail under creation.  Walking was minimally better than in the wash.  Walking got worse when we left this incipient trail and headed cross-country.  Someone watching us might have thought some of us were drunk.  We met the beginning road a few yards from the parking area.  There we paused for some reason and, in studying the storm clouds that were now thick overhead, we noticed a light veil of snow falling on the tops of the Four Peaks.

We were back at the vehicles at 11:45.  In three hours we had walked about 21/3 miles.  My legs and nose were tired from rocks and cold breeze.