Don Roberts Regrets

I’m saddened that I have to share the news that Don Roberts passed away last Thursday. He was a long-time friend of mine. He succumbed to pneumonia complications at the age of 82. That’s too soon an age for a young minded man like Don to leave us.

Don was one of the first people that I made friends with when I moved to Phoenix in 1972. He was always quick to laugh at a joke and if he thought ill of anyone, he kept it to himself. As a couple, Don and Sharon were on everybody’s guest list, because their joy filled a room.

In the later part of the ’80s, I was fortunate to work with Don and other club members tasked to revitalize SCCA’s Arizona Region Solo program.  As president, his management style was refreshing. He would listen to and discuss any idea and if he thought they showed merit, he’d let you run with it. He gave encouragement and guidance as feedback and gave credit where credit was due.

Don was a racecar driver of eminence, but other people can tell that story better than me. As a competitor, he was never stingy with his help, but he always managed to do a little bit better than me. Sharon—Don’s better half—shared a link to an article that long-time motor sports journalist Bob Golfen wrote about Don in if you’d like to read more.

Queen Anne and I both offer Sharon our condolences and best wishes. We’re certain that Don’s already organizing an event for us at the great Malibu Grand Prix in the sky.

It was my honor, Don — jw

P.S. If you have a favorite Don story that you would like to share, you’re welcome to post it here.

Hualapai Road Picture of the Week

To reiterate what I said in my first post on exploring the Hualapai Mountains, there isn’t much open space there. The little village consists of a cluster of homes, a general store, and the county park for everyone else. There aren’t the amenities that you expect in Flagstaff or the White Mountain communities, but if you like camping and a challenging day hike, the park at the top of Sawmill Canyon Road is a different destination.

Hualapai Road
Hualapai Road-A dirt trail on top of the Hualapai Mountains that reminded me of the Loan Ranger’s opening scenes.

When I first arrived, I explored every road to see what’s there, but the only trail leading out of town soon became to rough and exceeded my road rules, so I turned around and headed back to the park. Before I did, I liked the rustic feeling of the country road, so I composed this week’s featured photo of the scene. I call this image Hualapai Road, although it’s little more than a trail.

The reason that I selected this photo over some others was how the trail curves over a hill between the rocks and trees. It makes me wonder where it leads, and what will I see when I get there. The countryside also reminds me of the opening scene of the old TV show The Lone Ranger that I used to watch as a kid on Saturday mornings. It’s easy for me to imagine the masked hero galloping on his white stallion over the hill—kind of like me and Archie.

You can see a larger version Hualapai Road on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week when we start another series of image from another location.

Until next time — jw

Potato Patch Picture of the Week

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about my struggle to climb a half-mile to an overlook on Hualapai Mountain Park’s Potato Patch Trail. Remember? Some hikers felt sorry for me and offered water while others were impressed that I was old, but still on my feet. Anyway, I’ll bet you’re wondering if there’s a picture from there. The answer is yes, and here it is.

Potato Patch
What appears to be the mountain top conceals the real summit – Hayden Peak which is another half mile away and three-hundred feet higher than these rocks.

This week’s shot is from the rocky perch looking up at a false peak. It’s one of those illusions that happen on a trail where you say, “I’m almost there.” So, you keep going, but when you get there, you find that Mother Nature has moved the finish line. The image shows rocky outcrops that are an unnamed high point on the mountain, but the real summit is Hayden Peak, which these rocks hide and the actual summit is another three hundred feet higher. Between this false summit and Hayden Peak is something called The Potato Patch, which will remain a mystery until I return or someone enlightens me, so that is the story behind this weeks image title and I’m sticking to it. I’ll bet you thought my imagination had run wild again, or that I suffered from altitude sickness.

The view facing east at the overlook was disappointing. From the ledge, you could look across Sawmill Canyon and see Dean Peak and all of its communication towers. The little village below was obscured by pine and scrub oak trees. There was also a small window between the trees where you could see Snow Peak twenty-eight miles away in the Aquarius Range on the other side of the Big Sandy Valley (U.S. 93). I didn’t even try to get that shot because it was too much of a reach for my camera lens.

You can see a larger version Potato Patch on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week when we’ll show one last photograph from the top of the Hualapai Mountains.

Until next time — jw

Four Ponderosa Picture of the Week

When an Arizonan talks about a pine tree, the red barked ponderosa is most likely what they’re referencing. It’s the common pine tree in Arizona. We have so many of them that our grove grows like a slash across the state’s middle, like a belt, and they continue east into New Mexico. It’s the world’s longest contiguous ponderosa forest in the U.S. Sadly, some of our brightest citizens try to burn them all down each fire season.

It’s a happy tree for me because it means that I’m in the high country when they’re around. Most likely, I’ve traveled to escape the desert heat and spend some time in the shade of the tall pines napping with a bit of fishing line tied around my toe. I have a fond memory of getting up early on a fall morning to drive up to Hawley Lake, and as the sun came up, we were on the Rim Road. The morning sunlight flickered between the tall trees, and I felt like I was driving through the Black Forest in Germany. Although I’ve driven that road hundreds of times since then, I’ve never had the same feeling.

Four Ponderosa
Four Ponderosa – Growing in a grouping that reminded me of a four-poster bed. Maybe I thought that after my long hike and I was tired (and don’t forget, tired).

During my visit to the Hualapai Range outside of Kingman, I was surprised to see ponderosa growing. In the Desert Southwest, they only grow at higher elevations. On the road, I rely on the trees to estimate my height. First, come the pinion pine at around 5,500’, then the ponderosa starts at 6,500’, and then the aspen show up at over 7,500’. The mountain island on top of the Hualapai’s probably is most likely the western edge of our grove. Only the Black Mountains are west of here, and they’re not high enough to support the big trees.

I walked by the ponderosa’s in this weeks image on my way back to Archie after a hike up the mountain. My legs were already sore, and this four-tree grouping reminded me of a four-poster bed. The spacing between them was ideal for hanging a hammock. It’s a good thing I don’t carry one because I would have spent the night, or even worse, I would have rolled over and fallen out onto the ground. That would be just my luck.

I call this week’s image Four Ponderosa, and you can see a larger version of it on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week when we show another photograph from the Hualapai Mountains.

Until next time — jw

Dean Peak Picture of the Week

Dean Peak
Dean Peak – One of several points in the Hualapais over 7,000′. I captured this as the sun was setting and the rest of the mountain was in shade.

There’s a Prime Video series Queen Anne, and I watched this month called Good Omens. We enjoyed it so much that we watched it a second time, and caught a lot of the subtler jokes that we missed the first time. The main characters—an angel and his demon buddy—aren’t very good at their jobs, and consequently, they screw up Armageddon. This riddle was in an episode, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” It’s a trick question because as God—the voice of Frances McDormand—explains; Angels don’t dance, that’s something the devil conjured, and there’s not a substantial enough number to count them all, because demons can line-dance in the spaces between the pin’s atoms—funny stuff. When I visited this month’s photo location, I thought about the show’s riddle.

For my August pictures, I only had to walk across the street—as such. My new subject is the mountain range on the west side of the Big Sandy River and U.S. Highway 93—the Hualapai Range. They’re part of the parallel mountain ranges making the Basin and Range Domain which runs from Utah to the California Sierras. From space, these formations look like a pack of caterpillars stampeding across a sidewalk.

The Hualapai’s are a twin to last month’s Aquarius Mountains, except they are high enough—7,000 to 8,400—for pinion and ponderosa pine to grow. That means they are often snow-covered in winter. They fill the area between Wikiup and Kingman.

When my folks lived in Kingman, I heard of a park up on the mountain, but never visited, so last week I loaded Archie and drove up Sawmill Canyon Road (alas, if there was a sawmill, it’s gone now). The DW Ranch Road exit on Interstate 40 is a handy shortcut to use if you’re coming from the valley. It’s less than 10 miles from the Interstate to the County Park which is situated in a tiny valley at the top, and where Kingman residents have packed summer cabins into every available space. As I drove along the deeply rutted streets, I wondered, “How many Ford executives can camp on the top of Hualapai Peak?” In the village’s center, there is a concrete catch basin that’s called Pine Lake, but I couldn’t find public access to it, and—from its color—I’m not sure you would want access anyway. I got frustrated at having to back out of each street I tried and decided to check out the Hualapai Mountain Park and campgrounds.

After paying a day fee, I parked in the trailhead parking lot and checked out the maps. It was already after five when I started on the path to Stair Step Overlook, about a half-mile hike. I was never athletic, and I don’t claim to be in great shape today. I grew up uncoordinated, and when I was a kid, I was always the last pick for team sports. But, I regularly walk now, and my average speed is over two miles an hour. I figured a 15-minute walk at the most, so I grabbed my camera and left my water in the truck. I was wrong. It took 10 minutes—coming back down the mountain. The trail climbed four-hundred feet in that half-mile. As I hiked, I followed a group of two men and a woman who were in their early thirties and equipped with day-packs. I followed them inch-worm style; they walked out of my sight and then they’d be resting when I caught up.

When I finally got to the overlook, my new hiking friends were lounging on large granite slabs and taking in the view. As I climbed up the stairs, I looked up to see six of them before my eyes could focus again. The woman looked concerned and asked, “Do you need water?”

“No,” I replied. “I only wanted to get here and take some pictures. I’m going back down right after that.”

Then the guy with the beard drove a stake through my heart, “Man! I hope that I can be hiking up and down some mountainside when I get as old as you are.”

I did get a shot from the overlook, but I took this week’s featured image on the drive home. I call it Dean Peak because that’s what this point’s name is. When I took this shot, the sun was almost down, and the lower part of the mountain was already in the shade. I hope you enjoy viewing it.

You can see a larger version of Dean Peak on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week when we’ll be showing more from the Hualapai Mountains.

Until next time — jw