Mount Union Picture of the Week

One day, I’m going to stand on top of Mount Everest—or Chomolungma (Mother Goddess of the World) as the Tibetans call it. I’ll to need some help, so I’m waiting until they finish the escalator, and a Starbucks is open at each of the decompression stations. It’s bound to happen. The mountain is already overcrowded, so we may as well wholly ruin the highest spot on our planet. Everybody should get a chance to experience that majestic view once in their life.

I love standing on mountains, canyon edges, and tall buildings. Standing there and taking in the vista enhances my map of the world. We all carry one deep in our hippocampus. It’s our sense of direction, and we probably developed it long before we fell out of the trees. It’s natural for us to want to know what’s over there and where the lions are. It’s a tool that we have located in the most primitive area of our brain. Like all of our other muscles, our spatial map works better when it’s exercised.

When I travel to the mountains like the Bradshaws, I make it a point to stop at the viewpoints and take a look around. Being the nerd that I am, I love it when the Highway Department has those displays that tell you what you’re seeing. I spend so much time studying them that Anne finally wakes up mad in the car. She thinks that I’ve abandoned her at the curb, which is silly because I would never leave the car behind.

The Bradshaw Mountains—or Wi:kañacha, in the Yavapai language (rough, black range of rocks)—have six peaks over 7000 feet. The two highest peaks, named during the Civil War, are Mount Union (7979) and Mount Davis (7897)—yes, Jefferson Davis. They’re located on the same ridgeline less than a mile apart. On the Senator Highway that Queen Anne and I explored this month, there’s a side road that goes to Mount Union and a lookout tower. On the other hand, to reach Mount Davis, there aren’t any trails—you have to hike cross country from the Mount Union picnic area.

Mount Union - Or rather, the view from Mount Union looking east towards the Mazatzals.
Mount Union – Or rather, the view from Mount Union looking east towards the Mazatzals.

This week’s featured image has a name different than how I usually name my work. It’s called Mount Union, and I called it that because of where I stood rather than the image’s subject. This time, I found a place for the camera where trees weren’t in the way and of the several angles that I captured; I liked this version the best. This photo is of the view looking east, and it not only shows the dense pine forest on the mountain’s top, but it also includes the Black Hills that are east of Cordes Junction and on the horizon is the Mazatzal Range. Somewhere in the valley between the mountains is Interstate 17—Arizona’s primary north-south corridor.

You can see a larger version of Mount Union on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy seeing it. Be sure to come back next week when we begin a new adventure traveling more of Arizona’s back roads.

Until next time — jw

Stamp Mill Picture of the Week

Everyone has heard the axiom, “All roads lead to Rome.” Well, not in Yavapai County, they don’t. Over the past couple of years of traveling Arizona’s back roads, I’ve found that they lead to mines, and with good reason. We all have a vision of a dusty prospector sneaking off with a couple of burros to a secret gold mine in the mountains—this is before he became the Arizona Lottery huckster. A man like Jacob Waltz may discover a vein of gold, but it takes a corporation to extract it effectively.

To make a ton of money, you have to move a thousand tons of ore. A couple of burlap sacks strapped to a burro’s back just won’t do. You have to move unrefined earth by wagon, truck, or railroad car. So part of The Company’s infrastructure is getting things to and from the mine site. That is the Phelps-Dodge and the Senator Mine story—and this month’s back road adventure.

While bouncing along the Senator Highway in R-Chee (according to his license plate that’s the correct spelling), Anne suddenly blurted, “There’s a large building down there.” Since my side wasn’t overlooking the cliff, I couldn’t see it, so I stopped the truck and walked back to see the steel skeleton of an old structure. “Cool,” I told her as I climbed back into the driver’s seat. “It’s too early, so we’ll stop on the way back when the light is better.”

Stamp Mill - The ruins of the Senator mine stamp mill are perched above the headwaters of the Hassayampa River.
Stamp Mill – The ruins of the Senator mine stamp mill perches above the headwaters of the Hassayampa River. The mill is visible on Google Earth if you zoom in to the Senator Highway where it crosses the Hassayampa River.

After some research, I found out that the building was a 10-unit stamp mill for the Senator mines. As rock came from one of the three parallel shafts, the miners hauled it to the mill, where the hammers pounded big boulders into small ones. As far as ghost towns go, we struck gold (I couldn’t resist the pun, sorry). Concrete foundations usually are all we find in these places, but since this frame was a steel and not timber, the skeleton survives and gives scale to its size. From the road, I could easily walk down the stairs and wander the four floors. Vandals have decorated the remaining vertical walls for Christmas with colorful graffiti everywhere, so I guessed that we weren’t the first people to find this place.

Kennecott Mine - The Kennecott mining town is preserved in the Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska. This should give you an idea of how a mill looked with the clapboard still intact.
Kennecott Mine – The National Park Service has preserved the Kennecott mining in the Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska. This photo should give you an idea of how a mill looked with the clapboard still intact.

In Alaska, I visited a similar mill at the Kennecott Mine in the Wrangell Saint Elias National Park. At this location, the Park Service keeps that building in an arrested state of decay, and it still has the red clapboard siding. I wanted to show you how the Senator stamp mill might have looked while it was running, so I’m including my Alaska photo.

For this week’s featured image—that I call Stamp Mill—I wanted to show the building and its environment, which is hard to do while standing inside of it. So, I took this shot from the far side of the Hassayampa River Canyon as the sun hung low in the western sky. I was lucky in that the remaining silver paint glowed in the afternoon sun, which makes the frame pop from the background.

You can see a larger version of Stamp Mill on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you like it. Be sure to come back next week when we present the final image from our drive on the Senator Highway.

Until next time — jw

Road Bend Picture of the Week

Although I’ve tried my best to hold back time, the season has changed,  and it’s summer again in the desert. Summer’s dog days are the worst time to be photographing our arid home. Except for the brief respite at either end of the day, the bright sun and ozone combine to wash the colors away. It’s like seeing the world through a 2% milk bottle—the glass ones, not the cartons. You need polarizing sunglasses to force the blue to show in the sky again.

We desert-rats are nothing if not adaptive. Like all of the other Sonoran critters, we hide in our holes during the day. For example, the Round-tailed Ground Squirrel escapes the day heat in his den by sleeping splayed-out on his back. I do the same thing, and I’d show you photographic evidence except I’d be banned forever from the Internet. The other thing we do is migrate. Even during this pandemic, Highway U.S. 93 was a parade of boats heading north towards the rivers and lakes on this holiday weekend.

When we were deciding on a project for July, Queen Anne and I followed a similar logic. We looked for someplace cooler—trust me, 90º is cooler than 110º. We scoured our maps for a place nearby in the mountains, a location that wouldn’t have crowds yet be accessible. We settled on the Senator Highway that runs from Prescott south into the Bradshaw Mountains.

Road Bend - Bright yellow-leaved deciduous trees obscure what's beyond the road on the Senator Highway south of Prescott, Arizona.
Road Bend – Bright yellow-leaved deciduous trees obscure what’s beyond the road on the Senator Highway south of Prescott, Arizona.

Until this month, I didn’t know why there was a dirt road called the Senator Highway. I imagined that it was a route that our state assemblymen traveled when Arizona’s capital swapped several times between Prescott and Phoenix—foolish me. Instead, it’s just another mine road that the miners built it to transport ore and supplies between the Senator Mine and Prescott. If you’re skilled at navigating the Bradshaws, you can technically get to Congress via the Senator Highway.

I find the pine-covered mountains, like the Bradshaw’s, hard to shoot. The trees get in the way. I mean, how many different ways can you get an image of ponderosa pine tree bark? I hunt for edges—splashes of color, an opening to the horizon, or building ruins. That’s what I’m showing in this week’s featured image. At a bend on the highway, I saw some trees (I believe Arizona Ash) with bright yellow-green leaves shinning in the sun against the duller blue-green evergreens. I liked how they obscured the path. My mind wants to find out what’s beyond. It’s a classic leading-line perspective trick, and I find the dappled shade on the road a bonus. I named the first image for our July project Road Bend because it’s a simple title for a simple photo.

You can see a larger version of Road Bend on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you like it. Be sure to come back next week when we present another image from the Senator Highway outside of Prescott.

Until next time — jw