Sycamore Point – and – Calendars     Picture of the Week

Trick or Treat
smell my feet
give us something good to eat

Since this is my first-ever Halloween post, I couldn’t pass that up.

So, where were we? Oh yes—Queen Anne and I spent an afternoon exploring and photographing along the back roads to Sycamore Point. The sun was going down, and we wanted to get back to Williams to have a nice dinner at The Red Raven Restaurant.  Before we leave, let me get in one more shot.

Sycamore Point - From Sycamore Point, looking back over Thumb Flat to Bill Williams Mountain.
Sycamore Point – From Sycamore Point, looking back over Thumb Flat to Bill Williams Mountain.

I call this week’s photo Sycamore Point. If it isn’t apparent, I took it with my drone. Unlike a normal camera, you can’t spontaneously whip it out and start flying about—well, not if you want to keep your license. You have to file a flight plan, conduct a pre-flight check, and there are no fly areas. In this case, I couldn’t fly it past the wilderness boundary (you can get an exception from the BLM—but that takes weeks).

The truth is that I took several drone shots of the canyon, but because the drone’s camera lens is ultra wide, the images from my Sony were better, so I used those. Since the drone had battery time left, I turned it around and pointed the camera toward the road we traveled. From an altitude of two-hundred feet, this is the image that I got.

When I started processing this photo, I realized that it has everything that we’ve been talking about during October. In one image I see Alligator Juniper, patches of yellow wildflowers, Thumb Flat, the edges of Sycamore Canyon, burn scars, the back road, shafts of sunlight, and in the distance, the Northern Arizona Volcanic Field—including Bill Williams Mountain (center left) and The San Francisco Peaks (far right). It’s like you’re back in school, and here’s the chapter review before the test—but from a different perspective.

You can see a larger version of Sycamore Point on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, it’s time for a new project from a different location. You’ll want to come back and see what trouble I got myself into this time.

Calendars

This year is hurtling to an end already, so it’s time for me to make new calendars. In spite of the extra cost last year we got a nice response. Inflation has taken a toll again this year. After reviewing my printer’s price list and post office shipping costs, I need to charge $20.00 for them. I know that cost is prohibitive to most of you, but they’re a limited item. I need to get one for myself and if you’re interested, I’ll print a copy for you.

The pictures for the 2022 edition are from this year’s outings. The size remains the same—6 ½ inches high (each half—about the size of a sheet of paper folded in half) and 8 ½ inches wide, and they have holidays noted on the dates. They’re printed on card stock—which is part of the expense.

In order to get them to you for Christmas (and we’re cutting it close according to the Post Office), I need to know by November 10th. If you’d like one, you can leave a comment in this post, use the contact form on my website (https://www.jimwitkowski.com/junk/index.php), or email me directly. Don’t forget to leave your contact information if I don’t already have it.

Until next time — jw

Sycamore Canyon Picture of the Week

As you would expect, the edge of the Colorado Plateau isn’t smooth and polished. It’s quite the opposite. Over eons, the streams that drain the plateau have eaten away the walls and carved a series of steep canyons. These parallel canyons look like an evil witch with rheumatoid arthritis pressed her fingers into a curb of wet cement.

Capitol Butte and Sedona - a place of natural beauty overrun with loving fans.
Capitol Butte and Sedona – a place of natural beauty overrun with adoring fans.

Oak Creek Canyon—and the village of Sedona—is probably the most famous example that I can name. The creek has cut into the iron-rich sandstone leaving behind beautiful red-rock formations that attract visitors from the four corners of the globe. And why not? There’s a lot to see and do here. Magazines have called Slide Rock one of the ten best swimming holes in the country (Havasupai Falls also made that list, not bad for a desert state, eh). Sedona always makes the top of the list for romantic getaways for Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and on and on and on. If you want to be romantic in Sedona these days, you have to be careful not to bump the couple making out next to you.

When people visit Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona, they understandably fall in love and don’t want to leave. Over the past 50 years, I’ve seen Sedona grow from a gas station intersection to a resort town that’s on a par with Aspen, Telluride, or Santa Fe. The catch is that there’s not enough water to support all of the rich people building second homes there. We all visit to see nature at its best, but now the McMansions are in the way. We love it to death.

But there’s hope for us tree-huggers. Less than 17 miles northwest of downtown Sedona is Oak Creek Canyon’s sister—Sycamore Canyon. Here there are no McMansions, Gucci Stores, or Whole Foods because, in 1972, the Feds set it aside as a Wilderness Area. While standing on the rim at Sycamore Point, you can begin to imagine what Oak Creek Canyon was like before the mobs got there. Imagine a time when a campfire was the only tell of humans in the area.

Sycamore Canyon - Oak Creek Canyon's twin sister was set aside in 1972 as a Wilderness Area so we can remember what nature looks like without people.
Sycamore Canyon – Oak Creek Canyon’s twin sister, was set aside in 1972 as a Wilderness Area to remember what nature looks like without people.

My friend Deb and I camped here before Queen Anne ever arrived on the scene. When she finally did, this was the first place Deb and I took her camping. As we ate a dinner of grilled stuffed pork chops and watched the sun go down, she was hooked. That’s when we convinced her that everything tastes a little better with dirt on it.

I wanted to come back this year after watching the fire news early this summer. One fire had ripped through here, and I wanted to see how much damage it caused. Queen Anne and I found black scars on the ridge on the canyon’s far side, but only a couple of pinions had burned on the edge where we stood. Overall, the canyon fared well, except years of drought have left Sycamore Creek dry. We didn’t see any remaining pools of water from our vantage point.

The BLM has moved camping back a half mile now. They’ve removed all of the rock fire rings and built a parking area. If you want to come here, your best camp is at one of the small lakes up the road. Since Sycamore Point is less than twenty miles from Williams, it’s an easy drive from town and back in one afternoon.

As the sun got low, it reached a crack in the clouds and lit the cliffs while I had my camera in hand. I snapped a couple of shots, and this is the version I preferred. I named the photo Sycamore Canyon. I like how the setting sun makes the cliff faces glow, but you can still see the dry creek bed below. Along the rim in the center-left, you can make out the black scar left by this summer’s fire. That’s ok though, unlike a McMansion, it’ll heal soon.

You can see a larger version of Sycamore Canyon on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, we return to the bright lights of Williams. Come back then and see what we found.

Until next time — jw

Thumb Flat   Picture of the Week

With a basic knowledge of native Arizona plants and observational skills, it’s easy to tell what elevation you’re at in our state. Maybe only Florida is easier because the entire state is below 350′. I’ve written before about how State 48 has all but two of the world’s climate zones; sub-tropic and tundra permafrost. So all you have to do is look at the bush you’re standing next to you for a clue.

For example, compare last week’s picture to the one that I posted today. The tall ponderosa pines you see in Yellow Field thrive at altitudes over 6,500 feet. While the pinion pine in this week’s image—Thumb Flat—is the dominant plant between 5,000 and the appearance of tall pines. My rule is only a rough generalization because there are microclimate pockets all across the state. I can name two places off the top of my head as examples; Palm Canyon in the KOFA Range south of Quartzite and the east slope of the Poachie Range south of Wikiup. The state’s only native palms grow in a mountainside crevice at the first location, and the latter has saguaro and pinion pine intermingling on its slopes.

When Queen Anne and I visited Williams, it was only natural as we drove down the south slope of the dormant volcano to see ponderosa pine replaced with stands of juniper. As the White Horse Lake Road descended even lower, the juniper became sparser. By the time we reached Thumb Flat—as it’s called on the map—individual trees had stood alone in the wildflower-covered fields.

Thumb Flat - A beautiful alligator juniper stands in a wildflower covered field.
Thumb Flat – A beautiful alligator juniper stands in a wildflower-covered field.

Here I spotted this beautiful alligator juniper, which made me stop Archie and get its portrait. I think this specimen would be a prized possession in anyone’s garden. Probably the only reason this tree isn’t already in somebody’s front yard is that it’s in the middle of the Kaibab National Forest.

In this week’s featured image that I call Thumb Flat, I like how the foreground is darker in color from being in the shade of a cloud. It contrasts nicely against the bright white background cumulus clouds. The wildflowers are the same as in last week’s image, but you can see how much more dull they are when they’re not in direct sunlight. In this case that’s OK because they’re not the subject here—this week, they’re only playing a ‘walk-on’ part.

You can see a larger version of Thumb Flat on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, we turn onto another side road, so come back and see where that road ends.

Until next time — jw

P.S. If the picture is not showing up in your email version of this post, you can click on the article title (Thumb Flat) to open the Web version of this post.

Yellow Field Picture of the Week

The four roads out of Williams, Arizona, point to the four compass directions. To the east and west is Interstate 40—the modern-day version of Route 66 and even older trails that the First Nation People used. To the north is Arizona Route 64—the busiest route to the Grand Canyon. The least traveled road goes south and is Coconino County Route 73, or Perkinsville Road. This is the back road that we’re using for this month’s project.

If you’ve never heard of the town of Perkinsville, it’s understandable. It’s been a ghost town ever since its lime quarry shut down in the 1950s. Several families still live in the Perkinsville area, but its biggest claim to fame is the Verde Canyon Railroad stop, where they turn the train around. Also, if you’ve ever bought Arizona red flagstone, it comes from neighboring quarries between Drake and here.

To get to our road, you take 4th Street south from downtown Williams, to where it changes name at the town’s edge. The paved two-lane road winds through Cataract Canyon past a handsome masonry dam and reservoir. The railroad built it to supply water for the steam trains, and the name, Santa Fe Reservoir, has stuck. Shortly after, the road climbs up and over the east shoulder of Bill Williams Mountain, and you’re quickly in a ponderosa pine forest.

Within minutes you reach the road’s crest, and open pastures appear. Here you’ll see hiking trail signs that direct you to a trail that climbs to the mountain’s 9253-foot summit—should that be something on your bucket list. Further along, there’s another side road that goes to the Williams Ski Area. I didn’t even know that Williams had a ski area.

As Anne and I drove along the downhill slope, juniper replaced the tall pines, and large fields of yellow wildflowers were all around us. The good rains that we’ve had this summer have been beneficial for the flowers. We continued south on CR 73 until we turned east onto White Horse Lake Road. We were out after a weekend of rain, and although its surface is packed gravel, it’s navigable even for a 2wd sedan.

Yellow Field - The abundant monsoon rains that we've had have been especially good for the wildflowers.
Yellow Field – The abundant monsoon rains that we’ve had have been perfect for the wildflowers.

Since the flowers were so profuse, I wanted to take their picture with the sunlight beaming down on them, but a cumulus cloud got in the way every time I stopped Archie. I played this cat-and-mouse game several times before I captured this week’s featured image. I call it Yellow Field. I don’t know the flower’s actual name, but it’s the same weed we’ve been spraying for the past month in our yard. Wildflowers is weeds—who’d have thunk?

You can see a larger version of Yellow Field on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, we’ll show more of the scenery we found on White Horse Lake Road. Come back then.

Until next time — jw

Grand Canyon Hotel Picture of the Week

Almost two centuries ago, a peculiar group of men earned a living by hunting and trapping wild game in the mountain west. That’s right; they were the Mountain Men. Although they were legendary, there were only about a thousand of them, and their heyday only lasted 20 years. They preferred pack mules to people, so they traveled alone. One of these men was exceptional and was admired even among his peers. They called him Ol’ Bill Williams.

The Arizona historian—Marshall Tremble—describes Bill as a 6 foot, skinny redhead with a high-pitched voice and a peculiar walk—more of a stagger. His Osage wife must have had olfactory problems because even his cronies complained that he should take a bath once in a while. I didn’t find any references about Bill’s Arizona travels, but he must have impressed many Arizonans because our state has a trail, an annual gathering, a river, a mountain, and a town named in his honor. That town is the anchor for our October project—Williams, Arizona.

Williams is another railroad town along Arizona’s northern east/west corridor. First Nation people, trappers, railroads, and dust bowl migrants stopped here because there’s water. It’s located on the Colorado Plateau about an hour west of the Flagstaff volcanoes. A few miles west of Williams, you quickly descend into the transition zone and the grasslands around Ash Fork.

Sultana Bar - Williams has a couple of proper dive-bars right out of a Micky Spillane novel.
Sultana Bar – Williams has a couple of proper dive bars right out of a Micky Spillane novel.

The current attraction of Williams today is Route 66 memorabilia. Shops line the historic downtown area selling posters, t-shirts, car signs, and other useless trinkets of that ilk. But that’s not what we’ll be concentrating on this month. I’ve already covered that in our Seligman series. Besides, I’ve already said that Route 66 may have already jumped the shark. Car stuff was important for my generation, and maybe the one following us. Millennials don’t seem interested in cars or property. Owning a car was our independence. To them, it’s a ball and chain.

Williams began as a railroad town on one of the busiest routes in the country. It also has a couple of exciting spurs. One that goes past my house into Phoenix and another that runs to the Grand Canyon. Santa Fe built that line to lure eastern tourists into seeing the park. That ride is still famous today, and passengers get dumped at the El Tovar Hotel. If you had deep pockets, you could hop a train at Grand Central Station and stay in two of Arizona’s historic hotels—the Railroad Hotel in Williams and El Tovar at the canyon.

Grand Canyon Hotel - The historic Grand Canyon Hotel's neon sign lights up a couple of blocks in downtown Williams.
Grand Canyon Hotel – The historic Grand Canyon Hotel’s neon sign lights up a couple of blocks in downtown Williams.

As I said already, I’m not going to focus (get it?) on the Route 66 stuff this month, but I couldn’t help myself when I saw the historic and bright neon lights—ooh, shiny. I love them, especially when they’re not working completely. So that explains this week’s featured image that I call Grand Canyon Hotel (or should it be H tel). I’m not sure that I’d stay there. It would be like staying at Miss Kitty’s Long Branch Saloon—dancing girls, cards, drunks, and gunfights all night long. The sign is the brightest on the street, and it casts its red glow for blocks.

Also, in the lower-left corner of the photo, you can see the Red Raven’s awning. Trip Advisor rates it the top restaurant in Williams. Queen Anne and I had a wonderful meal there. It’s a bit pricy but better than the rest of the burger-and-fries joints in town. I’ll write a complete review if you’re interested—that means begging me in the comments.

You can see a larger version of Grand Canyon Hotel on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, we’ll start our tour of the Williams area, and you can see what we found. Come back then.

Until next time — jw

%d bloggers like this: