Meadow Cottonwood Picture of the Week

The part of Yavapai County where Queen Anne and I live is littered with the names of pioneers that came to Arizona looking for gold after the gold rush in California panned out. These places include the towns of Wickenburg, Yarnell, and Stanton—the Weaver Mountains—and Peeples Valley. I didn’t misspell the valley name. It’s not a great commune up there in the mountains, but a rather a lovely flat valley named after a prospector named A. H. Peeples.

I’ve mentioned him before in previous posts. With a set of initials like that, I was relieved (although disappointed) to find that his full name was Abraham Harlow Peeples. He was on an Army expedition lead by Captain Joseph Walker and guided by Pauline Weaver—who, despite the name, was a man. While camping along a creek, some horses (or mules, depending on which story you read) wandered off during the night. Walker sent a couple of wranglers to fetch the animals. When they returned to camp, they talked about gold on top of the hill and showed pockets full of nuggets. Peeples and the rest of the party went to see for themselves. Arizona Place Names said that Abraham picked up $7,000 in gold before breakfast—and that’s in 1863 money. Anyway, he used his new wealth to build a ranch in the valley that bears his name.

Before Anne and I settled in Congress, we looked at several homes up there. It has advantages. With a higher altitude, it has milder summers but doesn’t get snowed in during winter. The valley has beautiful mountain views with the Bradshaw’s to the east the Weaver Range on the south. The little town has a bar and convenience store. What more could you want? However, the closest grocery store is the Safeway in Wickenburg, and that’s where we buy groceries now—fifteen miles in the other direction.

The Maughan Ranch owns most of the land in the valley, and they keep adding to their property. Along Az. 89, there are painted white fences, with black cattle grazing behind them. Our real estate agent joked that the painters are full-time staff because they’ll never finish.

Meadow Cottonwood - a single tree grows in a meadow ravine ensuring a good water supply.
Meadow Cottonwood – a single tree grows in a meadow ravine, ensuring a plentiful water supply.

Lucky for me, the fences don’t block the view of the trees featured in this month’s set of photographs. For this week’s featured image—called Meadow Cottonwood—I leaned against the fence to brace myself when I snapped the photo. This dormant cottonwood is a middle-aged tree that found a meadow ravine to grow in. Backlit by the sun, I’m happy how the delicate branches contrast against the white sky.

You can see a larger version of Meadow Cottonwood on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you like it. Be sure to come back next week for another cottonwood portrait from Peeples Valley.

Until next time — jw

Broken Cottonwood Picture of the Week

Well, I might as well tell you right off, because you’re going to find out anyway. I’m cheating on this month’s project. I didn’t search out a new back road for us to explore. Instead, I just drove up the highway to Peeples Valley and photographed old cottonwood trees that I’ve meant to shoot for the last couple of years. I guess you could consider Arizona 89 off the beaten path if you’re used to driving I-17 to Prescott, but it’s the way we go to Costco all of the time, and it’s the official route for every car and motorcycle club tour every weekend.

The reason I shirked my responsibility this month is that I had to put Queen Anne down—wait, that’s not right—oh yeah, she had knee replacement surgery, and I’ve been wearing two extra uniforms since. I’ve been her nurse and maid, and quite frankly, I prefer the white stockings because my toes keep getting caught in the fishnets.

When she first came home from the hospital, her knee looked like a sewed up bag of haggis—that’s the Scottish delicacy of oats and various animal parts boiled in a sheep’s stomach. It was black and blue with stitches that could make Frankenstein jealous. She was all doped up on pain medication and spent most of her time in bed. When she did get up, she’d hobble on her walker to the bathroom or eat a cup of food.

In less than two weeks, she’s moving much better and can make her way through the house without assistance. Now she’s going to rehab three times a week where they ask her, “How far can you bend your knee before it hurts?” After she demonstrates, they grab her leg and bend it further. The whole town of Wickenburg knows when that happens—sort of like the Pit of Despair in The Princess Bride. It seems to work though, because she has more movement each day, and she’ll soon be back to normal. I do think shes enjoying being waited on hand and foot because she milks it for all she can get. She even claims the doctor said that ice cream was medicinal.

Enough about her, let’s talk about photography. As I said, we frequently travel through Peeples Valley, where there is a large cattle ranch—Maughan Ranches—with white fences lining each side of the highway. In the green pastures, there are some very old cottonwood trees that I find appealing, so on a Saturday, when I was able to escape, I drove up and spent a moment behind the camera. After looking at images on my screen, I decided that since it’s winter and there’s no leaves or color, I would process them in black-and-white. In all, I think it shows the subjects off much stronger.

Broken Cottonwood - A pair of cottonwood trees, where one has fallen leaving the survivor leaning precariously in Peeples Valley, Arizona
Broken Cottonwood – A pair of cottonwood trees, where one has fallen leaving the survivor leaning precariously in Peeples Valley, Arizona

This week’s featured image is called Broken Cottonwood. It shows half a pair of old trees. One of them has fallen from decay or rot whose remains litters the ground. The second tree leans to the left to avoid crowding. Now that it stands alone, it leans precariously, like Grandpa McCoy on his cane. There’s a tension in this shot that the little windmill on the right seems to balance.

You can see a larger version of Broken Cottonwood on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you like it. Be sure to come back next week for another cottonwood portrait from Peeples Valley.

Until next time — jw

Mohan Range Picture of the Week

Have you ever looked at an Arizona road map and noticed the large chunks of unpopulated areas? It seems like the western third of the state is deserted. Most of the time there’s a good reason no one lives there and maps that show the land ownership quickly show why. For example, the military uses much of the land between Interstate 8 and the Mexican Border for bombing practice—what better use of a desert is there? Most of the area north of Interstate 40 and Utah is either the Grand Canyon or tribal land. The western third of Arizona is lower Sonoran or Mohave desert, and it gets a lot less rain than the rest of the state.

Then there’s Arizona’s Bermuda Triangle. Three highways define its legs: U.S. 93 on the west, Interstate 40 on the north and its eastern boundary is Arizona 89. The land included here isn’t desert wasteland; it ranges in elevation from 3-6 thousand feet. It’s transitional grassland, about the same as Prescott Valley. As I look out my window, I see thunderheads developing in that direction—as they do on most monsoon afternoons, so it gets seasonal rain. Why are there no settlements up there?

As I wrote in last week’s post, this month’s area of exploration is the Aquarius Mountains, and my first journey into them was via Upper Trout Creek Road. It’s a short loop road that intersects with Bogles Ranch Road which my map incorrectly identifies. It climbs to a pass and down the far side. At the top, there’s a religious retreat with a parking area wide enough to stop, take in the view, and then turn around, just like I did when I took this week’s featured image called Mohan Range.

Mohan Range-Very few know or have visited the Mohan Mountains in Arizona.
Named for one of General Cook’s Indian scouts, the Mohan Range is seldom visited.

I had never seen or heard about the Mohan Mountains before because as you travel US 93, the Aquarius Range hides them. At one foot shy of 7500’, Mohan Peak is substantial—one of the top 100. I’ve learned since that you can see it in the distance on Interstate 40 and from higher Prescott elevations. As is my way of doing things, I wanted to learn more about these mountains, so when I got back to my office, I hit Google pretty hard. This time I found a goldmine.

The first referral that came back was on a Peakbaggers page. These are people who—for no good reason—like to climb the top 100 mountains in each state (I have no idea what the do in Florida). It’s very informative, well written, and has photos of their expedition. It had a link to a second Webpage written by Kathy McCraine, which has even better photography along with her story of the O-RO ranch.

So why aren’t there any settlements here? Because this land—all quarter million acres of it—is the O-RO ranch (no Dr. Carson, it’s not a cookie). The ranch’s east half started with the Baca Land Float #5. That’s right, one of the authentic Spanish land grants honored by the US Government. According to her story, the original owners merged with a second parcel on its west side­—The Mohan Ranch—to create the most significant and oldest cattle ranch in Arizona. It’s run the same as it always was, cowboys on horses rounding up cattle and sleeping in tee-pees. With no town’s or roads, it a hard life and as Kathy tells it (I love this line), “Cowboy wannabe’s need not apply.” The ranch does not welcome visitors and if you’re the area, you best heed of the warning signs.   

You can see a larger version of Mohan Range on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week when we set off for another adventure exploring Arizona’s back roads.

Until next time — jw