Tulip Rock Picture of the Week

Tulip Rock - A formation that I passed on the Grotto Trail that looks like a tulip to me.
Tulip Rock – A formation I passed on the Grotto Trail that looks like a tulip to me.

One of my loyal readers commented that she couldn’t see the rock creatures like me. If you’re like her, that’s ok. Maybe your mind isn’t wound up like mine, or you’re not on the same prescriptions. Whatever the difference is, I’m simply trying to show you the world as I see it.

This week, I have another Rorschach test for you. It’s a picture of a second remarkable formation I found while hiking the Grotto Trail. I call it Tulip Rock because I think it looks like a flower. It could be a rosebud, a daisy, or a dew-covered morning poppy. Don’t see it? As long as you don’t see the Prince of Darkness who’s come to cast humanity into eternal damnation, you’re alright. If that were the case, I’d suggest you consider a change of meds.

When I composed this image, I wanted to show a couple of things. The first is that most of the hoodoos in Chiricahua don’t look like sculptures; they’re ordinary. That uniqueness makes the formations like this and last week even more special. I found two examples (there are more) on my short hike on the Grotto Trail. Imagine the images I’d have if I had visited the Chiricahuas as a younger man.

The other thing that I wanted to show is the background. The higher peaks of this range are along the horizon, including the 9700-foot Chiricahua Peak. As you can see in this image taken in late March, they are still snow-covered. They’re part of the Coronado National Forest—sometimes called the Sky Islands. The forest isn’t contiguous—it includes several southeastern ranges separated by broad basins. I’m not aware of another forest like it in the United States. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

You can see a larger version of Tulip Rock on its Web Page by clicking here. Come back next week when we finally make it to the Grotto—a four-pillar room with a rock roof.

Jeff Goggin

It’s painful to type these words. Jeff Goggin—the other half of the Ballast Brothers Racing Team—died Thursday a week ago (7 April 2022). He was the last surviving family member and lived alone in the family’s Scottsdale home. Jeff’s mother lost a long degenerative battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s still untreatable. Several years ago, he told me that he was starting to show the same symptoms. Being the insanely practical man we knew, he ended his life to spare himself further suffering while he could still make his own decisions. Jeff is survived by his estranged partner, Paula Hoff.

Jeff was a brilliant, caring, funny man who loved good music, sick jokes, fast cars, fine art, a good scotch, and pretty women. Queen Anne and I miss the jerk.

Till Next Time


Organ Pipes Picture of the Week

Organ Pipes - One of the first features you see after entering the park is the Organ Pipe Formation.
Organ Pipes – One of the first features you see after entering the park is the Organ Pipe Formation.

Two days have passed since April Fool’s day on Friday. That morning, Queen Anne stopped by my office door and announced, “I’m pregnant.” She’s a one-trick pony because she’s recycled that joke every year that we’ve been married, so I ignored her. However, Friday was an important milestone for me, and since I’ve waited two days, you know I’m not pulling your leg. Friday marks the 50th year since I moved to Arizona. I think that officially makes me overqualified to be a native.

With the month’s change, we’re starting a new project. April Fool’s—we’re not leaving Willcox. I’m just going to show you why we actually traveled to Cochise County and what we did with our afternoons. You’ll recall that I spent mornings in Willcox searching for a decent cup of coffee and shooting the town’s historic buildings. After an hour or so—when the light became too harsh—when I returned to our motel and opened the door, Queen Anne sat on the bed corner bejeweled and makeup finished. “I’m ready for breakfast,” she’d say—who am I kidding? That would never happen. The truth is that I could hear her lyrical voice waft from the bathroom, “I’ll be ready in a minute.” In husband-speak, that phrase meant that I had time for a nap.

The actual purpose of our Willcox visit was to photograph the Chiricahua National Monument. After fifty years of living in Arizona, this was my first visit. It’s usually a half-hour drive southeast of Willcox. Still, we dawdled with a camera and stretched the trip to over an hour. The scenery along County Road 186 reminded me of California’s central valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills. Long butterscotch colored grass filled the broad Sulphur Springs Valley between the Dos Cabezas Mountains (Two Heads in English) on our east to the Dragoons on our west. Arizona ranges don’t tower over its valleys as the Sierra’s do, but at least the air was clear, and we could see all of the mountains.

My After Life - I found out that I can become a rural mail carrier in Cochise County even after I'm dead. That gives me something to do after I'm gone.
My After Life – I learned that I could become a rural mail carrier in Cochise County even after I’m dead. That gives me something to do after I’m gone.

On one of the many photo stops that we made, I was able to chat with the local postal carrier and got some great news. He told me that I don’t have to be useless after my death because I can always get a job delivering mail for eternity. You saw my after-life job delivering mail if you watched Funny Farmthe movie. All I have to do to qualify is pass the Civil Service Exam.

The route coming out of Willcox ends at the Junction of county roads 186 and 181, and you turn east on the latter. You pass from open range into a canyon as you head into the Chiricahuas. Within four miles, there’s a pay station. It’s closed due to the pandemic, so the Rangers collect any fees at the visitor’s center. Immediately on the right is a small family cemetery where the Erickson’s rest under shady oak trees. The Erickson’s are the family that homesteaded here after he retired from the Army at Fort Bowie. They established a ranch along Bonita Creek called Faraway Ranch because it’s far away from anything. Their daughter, Lillian, and her husband, Ed Riggs, welcomed guests to the homestead to promote tourism. They built many of the trails still in use, allowing visitors to wander among the unusual columns of eroded stone.

There’s only a single road in the monument that runs from the entrance, past the visitor’s center, climbs through Bonita Creek Canyon, and winds along the ridge of the park’s eastern boundary. Along its length, there are numerous stops, pull-outs, and parking areas where you can stop and take in the view, like this week’s picture that I call Organ Pipes. However, if you want to immerse yourself in the complete gestalt, you should plan on hiking one of the trails. They range from a half-mile to a couple of miles long. You can also link several trails and make your feet suffer to your heat’s delight.

Chiricahua National Monument only has one small campground, which fills quickly—especially during the season. There are only two towns with hotels, Willcox along Interstate 10 and Douglas at the Mexican border if you’re willing to drive further.

The Organ Pipe Formation captured in this week’s image is one of the first displays after the visitor’s center. The columns rise several hundred feet above Bonita Creek and are mirrored on the other side of the road by similar rocks. There wasn’t a way for me to hike above the trees to get a better shot. This picture does not do justice to their scale.

You can see a larger version of Organ Pipes on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week we will hike one of the short trails to look at the park’s natural sculptures. Come back to see what we found.

Until next time — jw


Past and Future Picture of the Week

Past and Future - Along Willcox's historic Railroad Avenue, there are business that pay homage to the town's past and its future.
Past and Future – Along Willcox’s historic Railroad Avenue, some businesses pay homage to the town’s past and others to its future.

My dad bought our first television the week they hit the stores from stories that my mom told. I don’t remember because I was an infant at the time. The screen was small; you could cover it with your hand. She said that news of our new set spread fast, and the entire neighborhood crowded into our two-room apartment to watch shows on it. The crowd size amazes me because my great-grandmother’s apartment building didn’t have indoor plumbing, but it must have had electricity.

We didn’t need a TV Guide. We memorized the program schedule and could rattle off the shows for any given evening. The best night was Sunday. That was the night that Walt Disney’s Disneyland came on. They called it that between 1954 and 1958, it had various names after that. The gist of the show was always the same. Us kids loved that we could stay up an extra hour to see it—and maybe some of the Ed Sullivan Show if Topo Gigio was a guest.

The Disney show had four rotating themes. My siblings and I liked the cartoon week the best, but my dad enjoyed the westerns. They were either cowboy stories or a smooth-talking narrator explaining the west. He spoke differently from us. He didn’t have an accent as such—he had a drawl. He hung on to words so long they curled at the end—like the top of a Dairy Queen cone. His calm voice was soothing, and even at our young age, we knew that he wasn’t from Pittsburgh.

As I got older, I learned that the narrator’s name was Rex Allen. In addition to the Disney shows, he was an actor, songwriter, and singing cowboy. You may remember seeing his movies on Saturday morning cowboy shows if you’re as old as I am. (I don’t see a lot of hands out there in the peanut gallery, so you’ll have to take my word for it.)

After seeing this week’s picture, many of you have already guessed that he was born and raised in Willcox. I suspect that he’s their most famous native, and that’s why there is a museum for him along Railroad Avenue, across the street from a park with his statue. I can’t imagine anyone loitering in that park because the busy railroad tracks bisect it. It’s no place for a drunken hobo.

The tan building in the photo wasn’t built to house the Rex Allen Museum—it was initially the Schley Saloon. Sound familiar? It was the bar where Joseph Schwertner made his money—go back a read last week’s story. Two doors down, the building with the blue awnings is the Marty Robbins Gift Shop. You’re asking, “What’s he got to do with Willcox?” If you’re a boomer like me, you’ll remember the hit song Streets of Laredo that Robbins sang. Rex Allen wrote it. I think another Allen song that Arthur Godfrey recorded in 1948 is pretty catchy. It’s titled Slap Her Down Again Paw. It’s true; I couldn’t make this one up.

The grand white building between the museum and gift shop was a bank. It’s currently the Keeling Schaefer wine tasting room. One of at least three that Queen Anne and I saw on the avenue, and they may be the future of Willcox tourism. While the memory of Rex Allen and Marty Robbins appeals to my generation, there is no context for those that follow. So, the old cowboys’ draw may be on the wane.

However, wine is another story. A couple of decades ago, some adventurous vintners settled into the high grasslands of southeast Arizona. They saw that the conditions here would be an excellent place to plant vines—especially the well-drained soils of the foothills. The climate and geography are similar to parts of California’s central valley. New wineries are blooming from the little town of Elgin east to New Mexico.

Anne and I spent a couple of hours in Keeling Schaefer sampling and talking with the hostess. We found their offerings to be young and a little rough, but we did like a couple of whites and reds enough to purchase. There is an essence of the local soil in the wine—like the peat in a highland scotch. It’s a characteristic that you like or not. A word of advice if you go; sample at the tasting rooms and note your likes. Then stop at Safeway and buy the bottles at a more reasonable price.

You can see a larger version of Past and Future on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week we move on to a new project. Come back and see our next project.

Until next time — jw

Bitter Creek Saguaros Picture of the Week

Queen Anne and I spent yesterday changing the house calendars, and with a new month, it’s time for a new photo project. I’ve been struggling to come up with an ongoing long-term theme—something similar to last years where we took you from town to town within Yavapai County. I considered several options—all of which I crossed off because they involved exercise and the possibility of having my mug broadcast on a Silver Alert.

To find inspiration, as I frequently do, I grabbed my Arizona Gazetteer Map, went into the library, and scoured through it until my legs fell asleep. In the maps, I saw something that would be interesting as a basis for a long term project. I noticed that there are roads—secondary unpaved roads—all over the state. They’re like the ones around my neighborhood that are well graded and can be traveled in ordinary sedans (in dry weather). For Archie—my four-wheel SUV—they’re freeways. These back-roads go to places I’ve never seen, and because they’re not meant for speed, almost all of you haven’t been on them either. Some of them are dead ends, some lead up into the mountains, and some head off across the desert. Haven’t you ever drive past some side road and think, “I wonder where that goes?”

So, that’s what I plan to take on for a while. I’ll pick a back road and see if it leads to something pretty or novel. Maybe I’ll eventually collect enough material and produce a catalog or magazine of sorts, but I’ll worry about that later. I can always suspend this project when I come across something fresh or different. You might say that this blog, newsletter, or whatever you want to call it, is going from On the Road to Off the Beaten Path.

Conveniently, I had a head start, because a couple of weeks ago, I took my camera and headed up Castle Hot Springs Road. It’s the long way between Lake Pleasant and Morristown, and the only way you can get to the newly reopened Castle Hot Springs Resort where Clark Gable stayed (we’ll talk more about that in another post). The road winds its way through the Wickenburg Range, Buckhorn Range, around the Hell’s Gate Wilderness, and past several working ranches, so there’s lots of eye-candy along the way.

Large saguaros march up the side of an unnamed mountain.
Bitter Creek Saguaros–Large saguaros march up the side of an unnamed mountain.

This week’s featured image comes from the area where the road runs through Bitter Creek. The 3700’ mountain is unnamed, and I was struck at how the saguaros grew thick along its flank to the top. At the base of the mountain’s north side, there is a ranch labeled 11 L on my topo map and a water hole named Layton Tank. I like how the vertical cacti resemble the crowds climbing Mt. Everest we’ve seen in the news lately. I’m also pleased that the clouds parted enough to add texture to the sky. I called this image Bitter Creek Saguaros.

You can see a larger version of Bitter Creek Saguaros on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week when we’ll see another beautiful scene I shot on my Castle Hot Spring Road outing.

Until next time — jw

The Big Clean Living With Royalty

When we returned from our Utah vacation, we unpacked and found a guest living in our house—a stealthy guest. We never saw him and only concluded that he was there because of his rude eating habits. Whenever he decided to have a snack, he chewed holes in food bags. He chewed through a bag of raisins, our pancake mix, and the last straw was a lemon Larabar that Queen Anne had brought home from the store the day before. We guessed that we had a rodent in our house and he had to go.

Monday morning we took action. Our first step was to tear apart the pantry to find and seal off all the exits. Anne emptied the shelves and I moved the freezer away from the wall. We got a flashlight and examined the back of the cabinets but never found the black half-circle hole cartoons lead you to expect. Instead, we found droppings—especially behind and in the freezer’s mechanics.

I made a bucket of detergent and bleach in hot water and began cleaning. The area behind the freezer came first and when that was done, I shoved the heavy white box back in its cubby, so I could start on the rest of the pantry floor. Before I started, I had to move all the crap that was in my way. That included the recycle bin, the can bin, the paper bin, a step stool, and two gallon-sized paint cans in plastic bags. Her Majesty had just finished painting the kitchen and hall and stored the leftover paint in the pantry for when she needed it for touch-ups. I grabbed the two bags of paint cans and moved them into the kitchen.

“Be careful carrying those cans like that,” she admonished.

As if it was the period to her sentence, one of the bags broke and the half-full can of paint slammed to the floor. It didn’t fall over, but—in a way that only a thick liquid can do when it rapidly accelerates then immediately stops—the can’s contents popped the lid and with a big gaaalooop the sand colored paint recoiled out of the can reaching the top of the white upper cabinet door. I saw the wave go past my nose and immediately remembered that I was wearing a brand new tee-shirt. I looked down, but it wasn’t covered with paint splatter, but the white cabinet, the black granite counter top, the stainless steel range, and the oak flooring were. I’m still amazed that so much of it got everywhere, but not one drop of paint landed on the wall of that color.

You know those moments when you know you’re going to die or be seriously injured? I didn’t have anything to say for myself because I already knew that I had just cocked a loaded gun and it was pointed at my head, so I did what any sensible man would do. I turned to her and with the most sincere voice that I could muster, just asked, “Why?”

It took another hour to clean up. It was lucky that I had a bucket of wash-water at hand. By keeping everything wet, we were able to keep the paint from setting. After getting it all up, I made a rinse bucket of vinegar and warm water and that cleared the remaining haze. The moral of this lesson is that you should listen to your wife … before she tells you what to do.

What about Mickey? Well … let’s just say that he’s moved on to that great magic kingdom in the sky. It serves him right—the little bastard started this.

Until next time—jw

Dells Scrub Oak Picture of the Week

Dells Scrub Oak
Dells Scrub Oak – The green of a mature scrub oak stands out against the Granite Dells boulders.

This week’s featured image is one that I took while exploring the Flume trail that parallels Granite Creek below the Watson Lake dam. State Route  89 divides Granite Dells Park as it heads north out-of-town, with the Willow Lake complex on the west side and the Watson Lake facilities on the east. Each division has trails that meander through the maze of boulders. The main series of trails around Willow Lake is called the Constellation Trails. I’ve only had a taste of that trail system, but I want to hike there some more. I have hiked a couple of the trails around Watson Lake and I’ve completed the Flume Trail twice.

The trailhead is located along the north park boundary. Access to the parking area is via East Granite Dells Road. The trail is almost a mile long in each direction and has a couple of moderate climbs over a couple of ridges, but a lot of it is flat. At its start, it runs between private properties so you’ll see signs warning you to stay on the path. After the first hill, the trail drops into a wide grassy area where you walk creekside under a growth of Cottonwoods. There is a second ridge you must traverse before the trail returns to Granite Creek and stays there up to the dam. When water is high, excess water rushes out of a flume—sort of an artificial waterfall. The water has been low for several years, so the flume is rarely used.

We visited the Dells on our June Costco run, but I wasn’t ready and made a stupid mistake. We left home early so I could go shooting before the warehouse opened. I wanted to photograph with a low sun for the color and it was around half past eight when we got to the parking area, but the day was going to be hot—even in Prescott. While Anne waited in the shade, I grabbed my camera and a second lens and then headed up the trail without water. It was going to be a hit-and-run shoot lasting an hour, tops. I hiked this trail five years ago without problem when we spent the 4th in Prescott. This time I underestimated the strenuousness of the climb, the morning’s heat, and the extra two-thousand feet of altitude. By the time I stumbled back to the car, I was in such bad shape that I made Anne drive us to breakfast while I downed a quart of water. When we got to Costco, we bought a small backpack that I can carry camera equipment and a couple of bottles of water in. Live and learn, eh?

I came upon this scene at the trail’s beginning. After leaving the parking area and making my way over the first hill, I saw this scrub oak—a rather large and nicely shaped one at that—growing in the rock cracks. The green of its leaves stood out against the tan of the granite boulders towering over it. The wispy clouds made the blue sky interesting, so I included them in my composition.

You can see a larger version of Dells Scrub Oak on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing my newest entry and come back next week when we present another photo of the Granite Dells.

Until next time — jw

False Cave Picture of the Week

This week’s featured photo concludes our May adventure to Alamo Lake’s mud cliffs. I have another couple of detail shots that would fit nicely into this grouping, but I’ve run out of weeks this month and we have other places to go. I suppose I could put together a set of six and make up a folio like Santa Lucia Fog, or maybe I’ll go back and shoot enough images to complete a portfolio. I’ll have to think about that—what do you think?

False Cave
False Cave – This appears to be the opening of a shallow cave, but it’s not that simple.

May’s final image looks like I shot the mouth of a shallow cave with—if you squint and let your imagination go wild—a pair of cherub heads as keystones, and that’s exactly what it looks like when you approach this structure in the field. But there’s something in the photo that gives a clue that this isn’t a cave. It’s the light shining on the floor past the opening. If you crawled into the cave where that light area is, you could stand up—or you could just walk around the pile of mud to the left, and come back down the stream bed. This is actually a low arch that is torso high. If I had a model, her legs would show in the lower opening while her head and shoulders would be visible on top. It would make a unique open shower design—like you would have poolside.

In all honesty, I wasn’t creative enough to come up with that idea. The woman in spring’s photo class, whose images inspired me to visit this place, came here with a group, and one of her friends posed behind the arch. Except he was a guy and he wasn’t naked. When I walked up to this spot, I wasn’t sure it was the same because it’s so well camouflaged. If I do go back for a reshoot, I’ll need to have a model join me. What are the odds of that happening: me—a toothless old geezer—convincing an attractive woman to go with me to this barren wasteland so that we could shoot that picture? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

You can see a larger version of False Cave on its Web page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing my newest entry and join Queen Anne and I as we present new photos from a different location—this time in Yavapai County.

Until next time — jw

%d bloggers like this: