“National parks are the best idea we ever had.” — Wallace Stegner
escape • e xplore • Experience
Plus: diné college turns 45 • SECRET CANYON TRAIL • PEEPLES VALLEY
STELLER’S JAYS • POEMS ABOUT AZ • BANANA YUCCAS • T-BIRD CAFÉ • SAGUAROS
South Rim, circa 1947
Historic Grand Canyon
Waiting for the Raptor page 40 THE ROAD to EMPIRE RANCH page 52
2 JA NUA RY 2 0 1 3 w w w. w . a r i z o n a h i g h w a y s . c o m 1
5 THE JOURNAL
People, places and things from around the state, including the 45th
anniversary of Diné College; Steller’s jays; and Peeples Valley, our
hometown of the month.
16 A LOK BACK
For a place that’s evolved over millions of years, it’s probably an over-statement
to refer to a collection of photos as “historic.” However, in
terms of the Grand Canyon as a national park, these old black-and-whites
offer an interesting glimpse of the good old days.
A portfolio edited by Robert Stieve & Kelly Vaughn Kramer
Photographic Prints Available Prints of some photographs in this issue are available for purchase. To view options, visit www.arizona highwaysprints.com. For more information, call 866-962-1191.
2 Editor’s Letter > 3 Contributors > 4 Letters to the Editor > 56 where is this?
34 SOMETHING TO CALL OUR OWN
California barely has any. New Mexico doesn’t have any.
Neither does any other state in the United States. In fact,
with the exception of a handful of saguaros south of the
border, Arizona is essentially the only place on Earth where
the giant cactuses live.
An essay by Craig Childs
◗ A peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest animal, surveys its sur-roundings
from a tree branch. | john she rman
CAMERA: nikon D7000; SHUTTER: 1/400 sec; APERTURE: F/8;
ISO: 1250; FOCAL LENGTH: 850 MM
FRONT COVER Passengers board a tour bus headed to Hermit’s
Rest, the westernmost viewpoint on the Grand Canyon’s South
Rim, circa 1947. | virgil gipson, Courtesy of grand canyon
nati onal park museum collection
BACK COVER Low clouds and a dusting of snow contrast with the
red rocks of Sedona. | MARK FRANK
CAMERA: canon eos 5d mark ii; SHUTTER: 0.6 sec;
APERTURE: F/20; ISO: 100; FOCAL LENGTH: 35 MM
• Points of interest in this issue
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slideshows and more.
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40 PEREGRINE FALCONS
CAN REALLY FLY
Although cheetahs and pronghorns are lightning quick, they
can’t touch the speed of peregrines, which have been clocked
at more than 200 mph. To give you a little perspective, Tony
Kanaan set an Indy 500 record this year with an average
speed of 187.433 mph. Now you see me, now you don’t.
A portfolio by John Sherman
44 IN SO MANY WORDS
For a long time now, we’ve been showcasing the best of Ari-zona
with words and photographs. It’s something we do in
every issue, but it’s been a while since we featured any poetry.
This month, by popular demand, the metrical writing is back.
And we even managed to dig up a few photos to go with it.
By Sherwin Bitsui, Alberto Ríos & Ofelia Zepeda
50 GETTING HER HANDS DIRTY
When she started school at Arizona State University, Chris-tina
Akins studied nutrition. It would lead to a career, she
figured, but not a dream job. What she really wanted was to
play in the mud. So, she changed majors, and today she’s pro-tecting
frogs as a wildlife specialist for the Arizona Game and
By Kathy Ritchie
Photograph by Rick Giase
52 scenic drive
Empire Ranch Road: You might see pronghorns, mule deer
and bobcats along this scenic drive, but the real payoff is the
54 HIKE OF THE MONTH
Secret Canyon Trail: It’s not easy to get to, but this hike
in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness is worth the
effort, especially in November, when there’s still a hint of
fall in the air.
w w w. 2 N o v e m b e r 2 0 1 3 a r i z o n a h i g h w a y s . c o m 3
Randy Prentice didn’t have to go far for his photography assign-ment
for this issue (see Scenic Drive, page 52), but even though
Empire Ranch Road is fairly close to his home in Tucson, he had
never driven down it before. “It’s a very quiet road,” Prentice
says. “The only other person I encountered was a kid on an ATV,
although I did see several mule deer along the way.” Prentice says
the assignment opened his eyes to the lush riparian greenery
along Cienega Creek and Empire Gulch. “These are hidden places
that cannot be seen from the main highway.” Prentice is a longtime contributor to Arizona
Highways. His work has also been featured in Sunset.
Craig Childs says he
wrote Something to Call
Our Own (see page 34)
“to recognize the unique-ness
of the saguaro, a
plant found almost no-where
else in the U.S. but
Arizona. It’s a point of
pride to live in the com-pany
of a species bizarre,
beautiful and, I suppose,
monolithic.” In Childs’
essay, he reminisces about many of his experiences with saguaros, but one thing he
doesn’t mention is the time he heard one fall. “Down in the Kofa Mountains on a windy
day, I heard a loud thud,” he says. “When I walked over, I found the bulk of a saguaro and
its arms sprawled on the ground. The wind had knocked it over at a rotten point that,
once exposed, smelled like a brewery. It was a moment to remember — hearing the
instant an ancient cactus toppled.” Childs is a frequent contributor to Arizona Highways.
He also writes for The New York Times, Outside and Men’s Journal.
Photographer John Sherman has been
rock-climbing for more than 30 years, and
he’s often found himself sharing a cliff with
the world’s fastest animal. “On a couple of
occasions,” he says, “I’ve been hanging by my
fingertips and heard an air-ripping dive, a pop-ping
thud and an explosion of feathers when
a peregrine falcon has made a kill nearby. It
takes one from being in the moment to being
even more in the moment.” After discovering a
family of peregrines, including three week-old
chicks (see Peregrine Falcons Can Really Fly,
page 40), at one such cliff, Sherman camped
there for two months to document their
fledging. He says he enjoyed finding solutions
to the technical challenges of photographing
the birds, but “what I didn’t expect was the
emotional attachment I felt to the falcons.”
Sherman is a former contributing editor to
Climbing magazine. — noah austin
The soda fountain isn’t around
anymore. Not like it was. There’s
an ice-cream shop, which is called
Bright Angel Fountain, but it’s not the
mid-century chrome-and-Formica sen-sation
that visitors got to experience
in 1955. I wish it were still around. I’d
be sitting there right now, writing this
column and eating a 20-cent sundae.
Instead, I’m in the dining room at Bright
Angel Lodge, contemplating pancakes
and scribbling these words. The soda
fountain, which had a 10-item menu that
ranged from malts (30 cents) to phos-phates
(15 cents), would have been about
75 feet from where I’m sitting. The new
place isn’t bad, but it’s not the same. Still,
I love Bright Angel Lodge. Even more
than El Tovar.
There’s something special about Bright
Angel. It’s not as old as El Tovar, but it
evokes the past on a higher level. You
can feel it in the lobby — it hits you the
instant you walk through the door. You
can feel it at the front desk, too. You
also feel it wandering the halls, stand-ing
in front of the magnificent fireplace,
eating breakfast in the dining room ...
every turn is a step back in time. In fact,
despite a few modern upgrades, the lodge
isn’t much different than it was when it
opened in 1935. Like all of Mary Jane Col-ter’s
architectural masterpieces, Bright
Angel stands the test of time. That’s not
the case with everything in Grand Can-yon
National Park. A lot has changed over
In this month’s
cover story, we take
a look at what used
to be. You’ll see the
original soda fountain,
Lookout Studio under
construction and the
first automobile to ever enter the park.
There’s also a great shot of the old pool
at Phantom Ranch, and about 20 other
black-and-whites that date from 1902 to
1967. One of my favorite images was made
in the 1940s. It’s a photograph from the
North Rim that shows a group of summer
employees performing a “sing-away” for
a busload of tourists who were leaving
the park. Back then, that’s the send-off
everyone received. Imagine that scene in
the 21st century.
Daddy’s Little Girl: “Who are those
people, Daddy, and why are they singing
in front of our Land Rover?”
Daddy: “I don’t know, honey. They
obviously belong to a cult. Just roll up the
windows. NOW. And don’t look at ’em.
We’re getting out of here.”
Today, with 4.5 million annual visi-tors,
not even “Super Dave” Uberuaga,
the omnipresent park superintendent,
can personally say goodbye to every visi-tor
to Grand Canyon National Park. But,
for decades, that was protocol on the
North Rim. It’s part of the history, and
one more reason Grand Canyon is argu-ably
the most iconic park in the world.
It’s the first thing people think of when
they think of Arizona. The second thing
Although Hollywood would have you
believe that saguaros live in every state
west of the Mississippi, they don’t. The
giant cactuses are, for the most part,
exclusive to Arizona. There are a few in
California and northern Mexico, but oth-erwise,
they’re all ours. They’re a source
of pride, and they’re one of the things
Craig Childs misses most when he’s away
In Something to Call
Our Own, he writes
about his affection
for saguaros, and the
central role they played
on a recent trip to Iron-wood
Monument: “At night,
as my family settled into sleeping bags in
the tent, I stayed outside on quiet watch.
The moonless sky was full of stars. Orion
was cradled in the arms of a couple of
saguaros standing side by side. It looked
as if they were holding up constellations,
their arms raised into the night sky as if
acting out some ancient legend.” Later,
while visiting a friend in Tucson, he saw
more saguaros: “I paused to listen to the
soft hiss of morning breezes through
their needles. Wildly shaped, like some-thing
out of a dream, a succulent given
rein to become a tree, the saguaros
seemed like a blessing.”
Whenever we publish one of Craig’s
essays, it usually ranks as the best piece
of writing in that particular magazine.
And maybe it does this month, too. Or
maybe that distinction goes to Alberto
Ríos. He’s one of three poets we’re fea-turing
inside. We get a lot of requests
for poetry, and In So Many Words is our
response. It’s a collection of three poems
by three of Arizona’s most acclaimed
poets — Mr. Ríos was recently named the
state’s first-ever poet laureate.
Like all poems, these are best read
aloud. Start with Desert Water, the poem
by Alberto Ríos, and then think about
how it relates to the Grand Canyon. In
six words, “Water hums its song into
stone,” he explains the creation of the
Canyon — geologists typically need at
least a thousand pages. That’s the beauty
of poetry. It’s simple, and it’s a simple
pleasure. Like 20-cent sundaes or a stack
robert stieve, editor
Follow me on Twitter: @azhighways
n ovember 2 0 1 3 VOL. 8 9, N O. 1 1
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Publisher Win Holden
Editor Robert Stieve
Managing Editor Kelly Vaughn Kramer
senior associate Editor Kathy Ritchie
associate Editor Noah Austin
Editorial Administ rator Nikki Kimbel
Photography Editor Jeff Kida
Creative Director Barbara Glynn Denney
ART Director Keith Whitney
Design Production Assistant Diana Benzel-Rice
Map Designer Kevin Kibsey
Production Director Michael Bianchi
Webmaste r Victoria J. Snow
Director of Sales & Marketing Kelly Mero
Circulation Director Nicole Bowman
Finance Director Bob Allen
Informati on Technology Cindy Bormanis
Corporate or Trade Sales 602-712-2019
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Letters to the Editor email@example.com
2039 W. Lewis Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85009
Governor Janice K. Brewer
Director, Depa rtment
of Transportation John S. Halikowski
Board Chairman Victor M. Flores
Vice Chairman Stephen W. Christy
Memb e rs Kelly O. Anderson
Joseph E. La Rue
w w w. 4 N o v e m b e r 2 0 1 3 a r i z o n a h i g h w a y s . c o m 5
I live in my beloved home state of New Mexico, but Arizona is
very close to my heart. I have lived in Tucson twice, for a total of
12 years, have visited Arizona my entire life and had relatives in
Yuma and Nogales. My two oldest children were born in Tucson.
Every issue of Arizona Highways makes me smile and lifts my
spirits. The September 2013 issue [Cowboys & Indians] was out-standing.
I wonder if the people photographed have any idea of
how beautiful they are.
Sharon White Miller, San Lorenzo, New Mexico
letters to the editor
contact us If you have thoughts or com-ments
about anything in Arizona Highways, we’d
love to hear from you. We can be reached at editor@
arizonahighways.com, or by mail at 2039 W. Lewis
Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85009. For more information,
As someone who grew up in the Northeast
and is now living in Arizona, I take strong
exception to the totally false claim being
made by Arizona Highways [October 2013]
that fall in Northern Arizona is better
than fall in Vermont. I’ve been to both
Vermont and Northern Arizona in the
fall, and the truth is, there’s no compari-son.
Vermont’s fall is vastly superior to
Northern Arizona’s fall in every respect.
Northern Arizona doesn’t have all of the
trees that Vermont has that produce all of
the spectacular fall colors that Vermont
is world-famous for. The only fall color in
Northern Arizona is orange. I would urge
Arizona Highways to stick to promoting
what Arizona is world-famous for, which
is the Grand Canyon, and to stay away
from such a pathetic ploy for attention.
Nancy E. Kuhn, Scottsdale, Arizona
I have been a recipient of Arizona
Highways for more than 20 years. Almost
every publication brings to mind an
incident that occurred in 1956, but the
colorful August 2013 issue requires shar-ing
this personal event. The associate
professor of medicine at Duke University
was Dr. Jack D. Myers. He grew up in the
Southwest and received his undergradu-ate
and medical education at Stanford.
He was a brilliant and dynamic teacher.
In discussing a medical question or topic,
his most frequent and favorite expression
was “Let me refer you to the literature.”
And from there he would quote answers
to the subject from the most popular to
the most remote of journals. Dr. Myers,
a popular professor, was invited to and
attended a pre-graduation party of the
1956 Duke Medical School graduating
class. During the evening, he and a stu-dent
from New York got into a rather
heated debate about the natural beauty
of New England versus the Southwest.
When the New Yorker said something to
the effect that the Southwest was nothing
but a “hot, dry, barren wasteland, home
to nothing but cacti, snakes and scorpi-ons,”
that did it. Red-faced and shaking
his finger at the student, he said, “Let
me refer you to the literature, Arizona
Highways,” and he quoted one or more
issues (none of which I remember these
50-plus years later) depicting the beauty
and history of the Southwest. The August
2013 issue would get a “high pass” from
Robert Mayo Failing, M.D.,
Santa Barbara, California
SHOCK AND AWE
As a winter resident of Phoenix and a
dedicated amateur photographer, I look
forward to receiving Arizona Highways
every month. I am consistently impressed
with the quality and variety of the images
you publish. So I was shocked to see the
image of Alpine featured on pages 6 and
7 of your July 2013 issue. The prominent,
out-of-focus branches in the foreground
are completely distracting, and the rest
of the image is mediocre, at best. I was
stunned to see a photo of such poor qual-ity
so prominently featured in your publi-cation.
Was this a publishing mistake or
just a rare lapse in judgment?
Jacqueline Byers, Minneapolis, Minnesota
EDITOR’S NOTE: We respectfully disagree.
DRUMMING UP THE PAST
I have to say I really enjoyed seeing the pho-tograph
and article about the Palace Saloon
in the September 2013 issue [Odd Jobs]. In
the mid-1940s, we lived in Prescott, and my
father (Bill Hooper) worked at the Piggly
Wiggly grocery store, and also at one of the
banks. Some nights, he played drums at the
Palace in a small band. I never got to see
him play, because I was 5. I do remember
his drum set after we moved to Phoenix.
He sold it when I was around 7. I wish my
mother would have made some pictures of
Dad when he was playing at the Palace. I
can still remember those smells coming out
of the saloons along Whiskey Row.
Dorothy Curtis, Canby, Oregon
correction: In our September 2013 issue, in
the story titled Seeing It His Way, we mis-spelled
Bill Sandberg’s name. We regret
the error and apologize to Mr. Sandberg.
THE JOURNAL 11.13
hometowns > local favorites > history > photography > odd jobs
dining > nature > lodging > things to do
Fresh powder falls from the branches of a ponderosa pine near Thumb Butte,
just west of downtown Prescott. The 2.1-mile Thumb Butte Trail climbs about 600 feet to a
ridge just below the butte’s crest. Information: 928-443-8000 or www.fs.usda.gov/prescott
CAMERA: TOYO-FIELD 45A; film: KODAK EKTACHROME; SHUTTER: 1 SEC; APErTURE: F/45; ISO: 64; FOCAL LENGTH: 210 MM
6 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 7 T H E J O U R N A L
mark lipczynski (2)
The T-Bird Café is located at 19237 State Route 89
in Peeples Valley. For more information, call
928-427-9494 or visit www.tbirdcafe.com.
The T-Bird Café has been serving mouth-watering
pizzas from its wood-fired oven
since 2007. The restaurant is owned by
Cheryl Tupper and her husband, Gary Wallen.
Here’s what Tupper has to say:
Why the name?
It’s named for my 1964 Ford Thunderbird,
which is parked out front. I think the name
“T-Bird” embodies an American aesthetic —
an American “cool.” I always felt like Miss
America when I rode in that car.
How did the café get its start?
We came here from California, and Gary
built a large, dome-shaped pizza oven on
the side of the building. The building dates
to the 1920s; it used to be called the Eighty
What makes the pizza so special?
Gary makes the dough from scratch every
day. He grinds the sausage, makes the
sauce and gets the vegetables from a local
market. Everything’s fresh, wholesome and
How do you keep the locals coming
back for seconds?
Peeples Valley is a wonderful, strong com-munity,
and I’ve always wanted the café to
be a community center. We have a locals’
club, and if you live here, you get $2 off
your pizza every time you come in. We also
display works by local artists on the walls of
the café. — noah austin
During the spring of 1863, A.H. Peeple,
a handful of cowboys and guide Paulino
Weaver wandered around what are now
known as the Weaver Mountains in search
of gold. One night, horses broke away from
camp during a windstorm, and Weaver and
Peeple found them at the top of a hill, in a
bowl-shaped depression. They also found
gold nuggets the size of potatoes. Today,
although Rich Hill is now part of a private
claim and off-limits to casual gold hunters,
Peeples Valley draws birders, history buffs
and nature lovers. And although the Yarnell
Hill Fire devastated neighboring Yarnell,
Peeples Valley was not directly affected.
— Kelly Vaughn Kramer
15 square miles
E l e vation
8 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 9 T H E J O U R N A L To learn more about photography, visit www.arizonahighways.com/photography.asp.
Q Mark Frank lives in Sedona, which
is where he made this photograph.
What struck you about it?
A It’s such a different perspective of
Sedona. I think that’s what sets him
apart. He works very hard at finding different
viewpoints of an area that we might think has
already been photographed from every pos-sible
angle. He’s a member of a hiking club,
and he credits those hiking trips with getting
him to locations that the average person
might not see. And when he hikes, he doesn’t
take a camera; he’ll go back later to make his
Q Frank is a relative newcomer to
professional photography. How do
you think his background as a landscape
architect benefits him in this field?
A Photography is a two-dimensional
universe, and landscape architecture
has three dimensions. He blends the two
beautifully. When I see his images, I can see
his background. By the way he composed
this photograph, he was able to put that
third dimension back into a two-dimensional
image. He’s also a very hard worker, which
doesn’t hurt. — Noah Austin
Photo Editor Jeff Kida Discusses
the Work of Mark Frank
Forty-five years ago this month, a small school was founded on the Navajo Nation.
Today, Diné College includes five satellite campuses in Arizona and New Mexico,
and has an enrollment of about 2,000 students.
Not many colleges have octagon-shaped dormi-tories
with fireplaces in the middle. In that and
other ways, Diné College is unique. The school,
the first tribally controlled community college
in the U.S., celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. Diné
serves residents of the Navajo Nation, which spans the
Four Corners areas of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The dormitories are intended to replicate the feel of a
Navajo hogan, or traditional dwelling, says Ed McCombs,
a Diné College administrator.
“The founders of Diné College wanted to incorporate
and instill much of the Navajo culture into the campus,”
McCombs says, adding that the layout of Diné’s campus
mirrors that of a traditional Navajo community.
Originally called Navajo Community College, the
school was founded in 1968 and spent a year in Rough
Rock before moving to its present location, in Tsaile. Since
then, it’s added three satellite locations in Arizona and
two in New Mexico. From a 1969 graduating class of one
student, the school has grown to a current enrollment of about
In 1971, Congress authorized a $5.5 million appropriation
to build permanent facilities for the college. Rogers Morton,
President Richard Nixon’s secretary of the interior, said then
that the school “is not just another academic institution; rather,
it is a rich community resource of knowledge and expertise
which can contribute in many ways to the betterment of the
And contribute it has. More than 4,500 students have gradu-ated
from the college, earning associate degrees in fields
ranging from fine arts and Navajo language to environmental
science and business management. For students transferring
to other colleges, McCombs says, Northern Arizona University
and Arizona State University are popular in-state destinations.
Navajo Community College became Diné College in 1997;
Diné means “the people” in the Navajo language.
To mark its 45th anniversary, Diné is holding a celebration
on November 21, the day the school’s charter was passed and
enacted by the Navajo Nation Council in 1968. — Noah Aust i n
For more information, visit www.dinecollege.edu.
Look for our book
Early morning fog blankets the red rocks of Sedona. This
photograph was made at Munds Mountain after a 5-mile
hike. CAMERA: canon eos 5D Mark ii; SHUTTER: 1/2 sec;
APERTURE: F/22; ISO: 100; FOCAL LENGTH: 30 MM
1963 issue of
features the work
of painter Philip C.
Curtis, who lived
in Scottsdale with
his two Siamese
cats, Gus and
Clarence. The issue
also pays homage
to the Arizona
State Fair, which
was then in its
■ George W.P. Hunt,
the state’s first
governor and president
of the convention
that wrote Arizona’s
Constitution, is born
November 1, 1859.
■ Arizona women are
granted the right to
vote November 5, 1912.
■ Bill Cheesbourg,
an American race-car
driver who partici-pated
6, 1995, in
■ The Arizo-na
Society is founded
November 7, 1864. Its
mission is to collect
and preserve Arizona
■ Painter Maynard
Dixon, whose work
the American West,
dies in Tucson on
November 11, 1946.
can be a quirky
bunch, so it’s no
surprise that many
of them have odd
items buried in
their camera bags.
carries a small
piece of string
with four knots
in it — one knot
to mark the
distance for each
of his four lenses.
“It comes in handy
for anything with-in
18 inches, where
‘make or break’ the
focus,” he says.
COURTESY OF DINÉ COLLEGE
Navajo traditional practitioner Charlie Benally (center), Rep. Wayne Aspinall
(D-Colo., second from right) and Navajo Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald (right)
conduct a ground-blessing at Diné College’s Tsaile campus in April 1971.
50 Years Ago
mark sublette medicine man gallery
10 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 T H E J O U R N A L w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 11
After moving to Arizona from Michig a n in
1972, it wasn’t long before S. Grant Sergot real-ized
he needed a hat to protect himself from
the scorching sun. The problem was finding a
hat that could do the job. “All I could find were
these cardboard things that don’t break in,” he
says. “They were as hard as the box they came
in.” Sergot finally found a Panama hat at an
estate sale for $15. And so began his career as
a “milliner/renovator.” Today, at Óptimo Hat-works,
his shop in Bisbee, Sergot not only crafts
exquisite, hand-woven Panama-straw and
fur-felt hats using tools that date to the Civil
War and the early 20th century (for that “old-world
style”), he also restores antique hats — a
skill he taught himself. “If I’m going to accept
a family heirloom, I need to know what I’m
doing,” he says. “There are no teachers; there’s
no literature on this.” Despite the demands of
his work — the hours, days and even weeks it
can take to complete a hat — Sergot wouldn’t
change a thing. “I love everything about my
job,” he says. “There’s always something to
learn, and I never get bored.”
— kathy ritchie
S. Grant Sergot, Bisbee
Óptimo Hatworks is located at 47 Main Street in Bisbee.
For more information, call 520-432-4544 or visit www.
12 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 T H E J O U R N A L
There are a few things you should know about the Burger House in Miami.
One, it’s also known as La Cocina de Casillas; two, it gets packed at lunchtime;
and three, you’d better show up with an empty stomach. You’re going to need it.
When you’ve been around as long as La
Cocina de Casillas — a.k.a. the Burger
House — you have to wonder: What’s the
secret? After all, 36 years is a
“It’s just a good location on
the 60,” says owner and manager Derek
Casillas with a laugh.
Actually, there’s a lot more to the res-taurant’s
success than its location, and
Casillas, who’s been running his family’s
business since the 1990s, is the first to
“I give all the credit to my mom,” he
says. “She started it and worked the long
hours … she still does the books.”
Before Casillas took over the restau-rant’s
day-to-day operations, his father,
Jesús, and his brother, Bob, manned the
kitchen. These days, it’s Casillas who
comes in around 3:45 a.m. to start cooking
and prepping for the day ahead.
“It’s a lot of work,” he laments. “The
first year I started, I wanted to quit, but I
stuck it out.”
It’s almost noon in the tiny mining
town of Miami, and the line is already out
the door. Inside, the line moves fast.
Clearly, folks here know what they want
before they reach the register. Most of the
booths are filled with people who are dig-ging
into plates that overflow with burri-tos
or burgers, rice and beans, and red
and green chile. The smell of Mexican
food permeates the dining room.
Perhaps harking back to the days when
La Cocina was better known (and still is)
as the Burger House, Casillas still serves
up hamburgers. And if you’re hungry, try
the Burger Olay: a double cheeseburger
smothered in a savory green-chile sauce.
Another favorite: the french fries, which
are covered in a red- or green-chile sauce,
sprinkled with cheese and baked for
maximum ooey-gooey satisfaction. It’s the
perfect fuel before embarking on a long
drive to the White Mountains or any-where
else you might be headed.
If you’re a Mexican-food purist, try one
of Casillas’ tacos or one of his hearty bur-ritos.
The beef used in both offerings is
prepared fresh daily, which is one of the
reasons Casillas hoofs it to his kitchen so
early. He also adds a blend of spices, like
his mother and grandmother did. The
burritos are impressive, but if you’re any-thing
like a former Arizona Highways staffer
who would roll his eyes at the mere men-tion
of a burrito, Casillas also serves his
burritos “enchilada style.”
The perfect compromise.
Casillas takes pride in the food he
dishes out. Almost everything that goes
on a plate is homemade. What gives him
the most satisfaction is knowing that the
business he inherited from his mother,
father and brother continues to provide
for the entire family.
“That’s what keeps me going,” he says.
“That’s what it’s all about.”
— kathy ritchie
La Cocina de Casillas (the Burger House) is located at
812 Live Oak Street in Miami. For more information, call
w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 13
BRUCE D. TAUBERT (2)
It’s the only
crested jay west
of the Rocky
Females lay two to
The Steller’s jay
can mimic the
many other birds.
If you’ve hiked, camped or had a
picnic lunch in one of Arizona’s
forested areas, chances are the
Steller’s jay has made an appear-ance.
A close relative of the blue
jay, the Steller’s jay was discovered
by naturalist Georg Steller on an
Alaskan island in 1741. It has a black
head, a black upper body, a more
slender bill and longer legs to dis-tinguish
it from its Eastern cousin.
It also has an appetite for human
food, making it a frequent visitor to
campgrounds and picnic areas in
the western United States.
When they aren’t pilfering
campers’ rations or begging for
handouts with loud, raspy calls,
Steller’s jays forage in trees. While
two-thirds of their diet is vegetable
matter, they also scavenge other
bird species’ eggs and nestlings,
invertebrates, and small rodents.
In the forest, Steller’s jays gener-ally
stick to the high canopy, but
even when out of sight, the birds
make their presence known with
a diverse array of squawks, rattles
and screams. In flight, they’ve been
described as graceful and almost
lazy, flying with long swoops on
their broad, rounded wings. They
typically form monogamous, long-term
pairs and remain together
year-round, nesting in conifers and
sharing the task of feeding their
— Noah Aust i n
You Can Call Me Jay
The banana yucca (officially Yucca baccata) gets its colloquial
name from its sweet, banana-shaped fruit. The Southern
Paiutes who inhabited the Mojave Desert traditionally dried the
fruit, which tastes somewhat like sweet potato when baked, for
use in winter. The banana yucca flowers in the spring — some-time
between April and July, depending on altitude — and is
common throughout the Southwest. — Noah Austin
14 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 T H E J O U R N A L
When you’re heading for a getaway in the heart of Verde Valley wine country, you
expect to see rolling hills and rows of grapevines. You don’t necessarily expect to see a trio of llamas
standing guard, but that’s exactly what greets you at Desert Rose Bed and Breakfast
in Cottonwood. Just as llamas aren’t a typical B&B mascot, Sebastien Lauzon isn’t a
typical B&B owner. Many people get into this business when they retire from their first
career and they’re ready to escape the rat race and slow down. For the relatively young Lauzon, this busi-ness
is the rat race, and he pours everything into making sure Desert Rose guests have an unforgettable
experience. Plan ahead, and Lauzon will take groups or individuals on a private tour of nearby vineyards.
Or just venture into quaint downtown Cottonwood to peruse the myriad tasting rooms. Desert Rose’s
community breakfast table is ideal for sharing tales from the road and getting insider tips on the best
wineries from fellow guests. And don’t forget to save a few bites for the llamas. — Jacki Mieler
Desert Rose B&B is located at 4190 E. Bridle Path Road in Cottonwood.
For more information, call 928-646-0236 or visit www.desertrosebandb.com.
November 1-3, Page
Hot-air balloons take to the
skies over Page and Lake
Powell. Information: www.
November 2, Tucson
This fundraiser, dubbed
“Tucson’s Largest Crustacean
Celebration,” features food
samples, as well as beer- and
wine-tasting, from some of
the city’s finest restaurants.
November 16, Buenos Aires
National Wildlife Refuge
Exhibits and presentations
showcase the refuge’s wild-life
at this free festival, which
also features musicians, food,
arts and crafts, and children’s
activities. Information: 520-
Gem and Mineral Show
November 16-17, Payson
The Payson Rimstones Rock
Club hosts fossil, jewelry and
gemstone vendors, along
with a silent auction and ac-tivities
for all ages. Informa-tion:
Fantasy of Lights Parade
November 30, Tempe
Kick off the holiday season at
this annual parade down Mill
Avenue. Santa Claus arrives
at the parade’s conclusion to
hear children’s holiday-gift
requests. Information: www.
Winter Photo Workshop
January 17-19, Grand Canyon
Experience the beauty of a
snowy Grand Canyon at this
workshop, hosted by former
Arizona Highways Director of
Photography Peter Ensen-berger
on the Canyon’s South
Rim. Information: 888-790-
7042 or www.ahpw.org
Desert Rose B&B
to do in
cot tonwood Save $3
at the door!
Tickets are available
at the door for $8, but
A members and
subscribers pay only $5.
For more information, visit AZ.A.com/travelshow.
Arizona’s Biggest and
Best Vacation Expo
November 16 – 17, 2013
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Phoenix Convention Center
100 N. 3rd St. | South Building – Hall F
This year’s Travel Show is your one-stop
place to plan your next vacation! It features
hundreds of exhibitors so you can learn about:
• Ocean and river cruising
• Land tours and group travel
• Resorts and hotels
• Destinations and attractions
Enter to Win a Dream
Vacation to Italy!
While at the show, enter for a
chance to sip and savor your way
through Tuscany. You’ll enjoy the
regional wines and foods of Chianti
on this delightful culinary journey.
16 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 17
For a place that’s evolved over millions of
years, it’s probably an overstatement to
refer to a collection of photos as “historic.”
However, in terms of the Grand Canyon as a
national park, these old black-and-whites offer
an interesting glimpse of the good old days.
A portfolio edited
by Robert stieve &
kelly vaughn kramer
Photographs Courtesy of Grand Canyon
National Park Museum Collection
A couple views the Grand Canyon
through a telescope at Lookout Studio.
This photograph was made shortly
after the studio’s 1914 construction.
18 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 19
A LOOK BACK
A large mounted group
poses in front of Cameron’s
Hotel. The Kolb brothers’
photography tent is visible on
the left. Today, the Cameron’s
Hotel site is the location of
Bright Angel Lodge.
The first visitors by automobile
arrive at the South Rim on
January 12, 1902. This steam-powered
driven by Oliver Lippincott.
After fishing from their
collapsible boat, two men show
off their catch of humpback
chubs along the Colorado
River near Phantom Ranch.
20 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 21
A LOOK BACK
The original Grand Canyon
Railway was an Atchison,
Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
branch line. This photograph
shows the original depot
shack and boardwalk. A train
ride from Williams to Grand
Canyon Village cost $3.95
when the line opened in 1901.
Four horses pull a water wagon
through a ponderosa forest at
the Canyon. This photograph
likely was made in the Hance
“It is almost axiomatic that the worst trains
take you through magical places.”
— Paul Theroux
22 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 23
A LOOK BACK
Lookout Studio construction
continues during winter.
Established to compete with
nearby Kolb Studio, the
building houses a gift shop
and an observation area.
This photograph shows
Cameron’s Hotel, which by
then had become the Canyon’s
post office. The log portion of
the structure is now part of
Bright Angel Lodge.
A log frame marks the
road to Hermit’s Rest, the
westernmost viewpoint on
the South Rim. Today, Hermit
Road is closed to private
vehicles most of the year.
24 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 25
A LOOK BACK
Grand Canyon Lodge
employees perform a
musical farewell to guests
on the North Rim. The
previous year, a fire had
destroyed the main lodge
building; the remains of
the lodge are visible in
26 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 27
A LOOK BACK
The remains of Grand Canyon
Lodge smolder after a fire.
The lodge was rebuilt in
The El Capitan arrives at
the South Rim in February
1938, on its first run from
Los Angeles to Chicago. The
train made a special detour
to the Canyon as part of its
Fred Harvey tour buses line
the road in front of Desert
View Watchtower, on the East
Rim of the Canyon.
“There are two kinds of people in the world,
observers and non-observers.”
— John Steinbeck
28 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 29
A LOOK BACK
The Nevills Expedition,
which rode the Colorado
River through the
Grand Canyon, arrives
at the mouth of Bright
Angel Creek. Norman
Nevills, the leader of
the expedition, died in
a plane crash two years
after the journey.
In the 1940s and ’50s,
telephone booths, such
as this one near Bright
Angel Lodge, were the
only links for visitors to
the outside world.
This North Rim building
was a garage for the
Utah Parks Co., which
built Grand Canyon
Lodge and many other
“The glories and the beauties of form, color and
sound unite in the Grand Canyon — forms unrivaled
even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets,
and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to
tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain.”
— John Wesley Powell
30 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 31
A LOOK BACK
Motorists line up to pay
the entrance fee at the
South Rim entrance
station in August 1951.
Sunbathers relax by
the Phantom Ranch
swimming pool. The
pool closed in 1972.
The Bright Angel Lodge
soda fountain, shown
shortly after its June
1955 completion, was a
popular destination for
lodge guests and other
32 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 33
A LOOK BACK
Phantom Ranch kitchen
workers garnish plates of
food before serving them.
Grand Canyon Lodge
employees carry on the
North Rim tradition
of the “sing-away”
w w w. 34 n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 3 a r i z o n a h i g h w a y s . c o m 35
Call Our Own
California barely has any.
New Mexico doesn’t have any.
Neither does any other state in
the United States. In fact, with the
exception of a handful of saguaros
south of the border, Arizona is
essentially the only place on Earth
where the giant cactuses live.
An Essay by Craig Childs
Sonoran Desert National Monument,
east of Gila Bend in Southern
Arizona, is home to an extensive
forest of saguaros. Several hiking
trails pass through the monument,
which is best visited from late
October to mid-April due to extreme
summer temperatures. | PAUL GILL
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II;
Shutter: 0.4 sec; Aperture: f/11; ISO:
100; Focal Length: 24 mm
36 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 37
hey are legendary beings , part plant, part human,
part god. On their coldest nights, sometimes the great
arms of saguaros will sag and sway, and then slowly
grow back into absurd, sometimes lewd positions.
Saguaros actually make a unique sound. As wind passes
through their high needles, you’ll hear it. You’ve got to
stand up close and take off your hat. In 5 mph or 10 mph
wind, a tall, narrow, armless Carnegiea gigantea will sound
like a single, breathy whistle. The many-armed cactuses
sound more symphonic. Those scarred with “cactus boots”
can almost moan at the very edge of human hearing.
I grew up half in Colorado, half in Arizona, and it
was always a mark of return when I saw the first sagua-ros.
Every two or four years we’d move back to the des-into
a gaggle of them.
North of here is a differ-ent
kind of desert: sandstone
and frozen winters. North-ern
Arizona has no saguaros.
They can’t take the cold and
the dry above here.
It’s better to explore this
transition into warmer,
wetter desert by foot, rather
than the four-lane inter-state.
Go into Agua Fria
National Monument and
walk to the edge of the mesa
looking down into many
rough canyons that fall off
the southern margin. You
can sit right on that edge,
among boulders — some of which are decorated with
elaborate, animal-figured petroglyphs — where you look
both north and south into two very different worlds. To
the north is a rolling hard-dirt grassland sprouted with
yucca and basalt. It looks like a sort of Central Arizona
prairie. To the south, the edge of the mesa drops abruptly
into the Sonoran Desert. Gullies open into wide-mouth
canyons and overhanging cap rock where you see among
tumbled boulders the first, northernmost saguaros.
ert, and I remember looking for the very first one, the
real sign of change. It would appear along Interstate 17
southbound in some steep, rocky arroyo watering down
toward Bumble Bee, Arizona. We often came through in
the evening, catching the last light on our way to Phoe-nix.
It felt like good luck spotting the first one: Star light,
star bright, first saguaro I see tonight.
This ecological margin between the northern high-lands
and the Sonoran Desert, where saguaros live, is
where the grassy, bouldery plain of Perry Mesa plunges
into the canyons of Agua Fria National Monument.
Below is the Agua Fria River, flowing down to Black
Canyon City, where you are deep into saguaro country,
hardly able to walk a hundred yards without getting
ABOVE: Flowers bloom on the
arms of saguaros in Ironwood
Forest National Monument,
northwest of Tucson. The
flowers, which bloom in May
and June, are pollinated by
lesser long-nosed bats, as well
as by birds and insects.
| PAUL GILL
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II;
Shutter: 1/500 sec; Aperture: f/8;
ISO: 1250; Focal Length: 85 mm
LEFT: Saguaros guard a hillside
in the Sand Tank Mountains,
west of Phoenix. | JACK DYKINGA
Camera: Arca-Swiss F-Line
4x5; Film: Fuji Velvia 120; Shutter:
2 sec; Aperture: f/45; ISO: 50;
Focal Length: 300 mm
Narrow, dry washes lead down through agaves, cat-claws
and thorny brambles of mesquites. Sycamores and
cottonwoods form winding, winking canopies at the bot-tom.
Their leaves sound like water clapping whenever the
wind blows. The sound I love most, though, is wind hiss-ing
through saguaro needles. It sounds like home.
This corner of the Southwest — Arizona, two
small areas of California, and the Mexican states
of Sonora and Baja — is the only place on Earth where
saguaros live. Other desert areas don’t have them, the
perpetual dryness uninviting to water-heavy succulents.
The Sonoran is a monsoonal desert. Hot summer air
shimmers off the ground, colliding at high altitude with
cooler, Gulf-wet layers, resulting in copious bouts of
rain. In the winter, big weather comes in waves heavy
with maritime moisture, which delivers a second punch
of rain every year. This makes the region an arboreal
desert, a desert of trees.
Other columnar cactuses similar to saguaros are
known down past the equator, and as far south as the
subtropical deserts of South America. Mexico has the
very similar cardón cactus, larger even than the saguaro
with a big, oak-sized trunk and fat, numerous arms. The
cardón, however, does not have the spare, commanding
elegance of a 40-foot-tall saguaro. Some saguaros will
have so many arms they appear to be carrying baskets of T
38 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 39
themselves. Others shoot straight up and are as armless
as candlesticks. Arms, like I said, are known to some-times
droop and twist, aiming every which way like
scarecrows pointing in all directions.
These are old creatures. They won’t even sprout their
first arm buds for 70 years, which makes some well over
200 years old. They grow on mountaintops and along
the steepest ravines. Bajadas and basins wear them like
I went with my wife and kids to Ironwood Forest
National Monument, between Phoenix and Tucson. Two
little boys in the back seat counted arms on saguaros
as we passed, while my wife drove and I sat in the pas-senger
seat thinking we must have gone by 10,000 arms
by now. For years, these boys have been looking for what
they call the “saguaro stereotype,” the ones on the Ari-zona
license plate with exactly two arms, one slightly
taller than the other. Rarely do they find a cactus with
two such perfect arms. Usually four or seven, sometimes
eight, even 10 on the biggest. But two architecturally per-fect
arms are rare, and so they kind of sneer at the license
plate for false advertising. Saguaros are more lively and
complex than most people would have them.
This monument is called Ironwood Forest, but you
come to think of it more as a saguaro forest. The monu-ment
does, indeed, have many ironwood trees, their
long, bony arms weeping across waterless arroyos, but
saguaros are even more numerous, fields of them march-ing
around rocky hills and ragged-topped mountains. We
set our tent at the collective base of three saguaros from
20 feet to 30 feet tall. Around us grew creosote, chollas,
ocotillos and big, fish-hook-spined barrel cactuses.
This place doesn’t feel like a desert, not the kind that
readily comes to mind. There is too much life here. The
ground is parched and the air tastes clean in the heat,
but things are alive everywhere.
At night, as my family settled into sleeping bags in
the tent, I stayed outside on quiet watch. The moonless
sky was full of stars. Orion was cradled in the arms of a
couple of saguaros standing side by side. It looked as if
they were holding up constellations, their arms raised
into the night sky as if acting out some ancient legend:
Saguaro gives the sky its stars.
I visited a friend on the outskirts of Tucson, his
modest home hemmed against low, rough moun-tains.
We sat on his porch at sunrise, mugs of tea in
our hands. Our morning talk show was five doves
pecking at bugs and seeds, and one bob-headed quail
riding roughshod over the scattering doves. In the back-ground,
cactus wrens and thrashers rattled and sang.
His front yard is a good piece of desert, very little sign
of disturbance, no strange plants like hollyhocks or shady
elms, only desert plants: creosote, datura, cholla, saguaro.
First sunlight struck the tops of the saguaros, cap-ping
them brightly before coming down their arms
and stout trunks and gnarled, exposed roots. Tea fin-ished,
my friend got ready for work while I took a stroll
through his yard. Unfair to call it a yard, really; it is a
patch of desert, a place more nature than not. Even with
the city crawling right up to the edge of his property,
desert stripped away and replaced by marching rows of
houses, this was a little piece of wildness.
One saguaro near the corner of the house had wires
and small instruments attached.
They were gathered around a hole in
which at least 26 bats roost. Down
inside a hollow within the cactus,
inside one of these “saguaro boots,”
the bats shelter from the light and
heat of the day. The equipment is
used by researchers to take humid-ity
and temperature readings at the
mouth of the roost. This is the only
saguaro in the state known to be
used as a bat roost. There are prob-ably
many more; you just don’t see
them. I spent two mornings next to
this cactus, and the 26 bats would
have flown back in from their nightly
insect feasts, yet I saw not one. They
were too small and too swift for me
My friend harvests rainwater off
his roof and stores it in barrels and
culverts he set upright. He keeps
the desert around his house mildly
watered, just enough to give it that
much more life. It is not an obscene
oasis of water features, but simple,
beautiful ground. It is a desert ref-uge.
Thus the birds and the profusion
of wildlife, the javelinas who come
and go, the sleek-whiskered wood
rats, and the rare but occasional
desert tortoise showing up red-faced
from eating cactus fruit.
The bats are here because this is a
healthy place, a good desert.
My friend hopped on his bicycle and headed to work,
managing an art gallery in the city, while I continued
my stroll, sizing up his saguaros. I paused to listen to
the soft hiss of morning breezes through their needles.
Wildly shaped, like something out of a dream, a suc-culent
given rein to become a tree, the saguaros seemed
like a blessing. You’d want them growing where you
live, too. Looking up into their arms, I thought they
looked like people, like plants, like gods.
OPPOSITE PAGE: First light grazes
a trio of young saguaros below
Ragged Top, at the north end
of the Silver Bell Mountains.
Saguaros have been known to live
for 200 years or longer.
| RANDY PRENTICE
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II;
Shutter: 1/4 sec; Aperture: f/22; ISO:
100; Focal Length: 67 mm
BELOW: Saguaro arms frame a
nearly full moon at Ironwood
Forest National Monument.
| RANDY PRENTICE
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II;
Shutter: 1/6 sec; Aperture: f/22; ISO:
100; Focal Length: 97 mm
w w w. 40 n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 3 a r i z o n a h i g h w a y s . c o m 41
Can Really Fly
Although cheetahs and pronghorns are lightning quick, they can’t touch the speed of peregrines,
which have been clocked at more than 200 mph. To give you a little perspective, Tony Kanaan set an Indy 500
record this year with an average speed of 187.433 mph. Now you see me, now you don’t.
A P O R T F O L I O B Y J O H N S H E R M A N
Photographer John Sherman
happened upon a peregrine-falcon
aerie while he was out rock-climbing.
Here, an adult peregrine, clutching
its family’s next meal in its talons,
returns to the aerie to feed its chicks,
which Sherman estimates were a
week old when he found them.
Camera: Nikon D7000; Shutter:
1/1000 sec; Aperture: f/8; ISO: 1000;
Focal Length: 500 mm
42 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 43
“ What was I thinking?” asks photographer John Sherman. “It would have
been so much easier shooting penguins than peregrines. After all, peregrines are
the fastest animal on the planet — they’ve been clocked flying faster than
200 mph. With these peregrines, the parents cleverly picked an aerie in a small
northwest-facing corner that was hidden from view from most angles (and preda-tors),
and I had my share of challenges. I erected a blind on the edge of the cliff —
I stayed tied into a rope and harness when in the blind — but even so, I could only
see the edge of the ledge. So I also constructed a camouflaged boom that I gradu-ally
inched out over the aerie over the course of a few days. Each day, I would slide a
remote-controlled camera to the end of the boom, which enabled me to shoot
40 feet straight down on the nest. The parents are very protective and will attack
you (or any other creature) if you violate their tolerance zone. This happened a cou-ple
of times early on, and I quickly learned when and how closely I could approach.”
For more information about peregrine falcons and other raptors, contact
The Peregrine Fund at 208-362-8687 or visit www.peregrinefund.org.
ABOVE: About a week after
fledging, one of the chicks rests
on a branch. “At one point, a
chick exercising its wings on the
edge of the cliff fell off, only to
get stranded on a sloping bump
of rock,” Sherman says. “It was
heart-wrenching watching the
parents ignore its pleas for help.
Eventually, the stranded bird
took flight during an enormous
Camera: Nikon D7000; Shutter:
1/800 sec; Aperture: f/9; ISO: 1000;
Focal Length: 500 mm
lef t : Having delivered its catch,
the adult peregrine leaves its three
chicks and ventures out for the
Camera: Nikon D90; Shutter:
1/1000 sec; Aperture: f/11; ISO: 1400;
Focal Length: 105 mm
RIGHT: Another of the fledglings
strikes a pose. “I’m happy to report
that when I left the canyon after
two months there,” Sherman says,
“I could hear all three fledglings in
Camera: Nikon D7000; Shutter:
1/1000 sec; Aperture: f/8; ISO: 500;
Focal Length: 500 mm
w w w. 44 n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 3 a r i z o n a h i g h w a y s . c o m 45
In the desert, water is the animal hunters track first.
To visit the river quickly, cut an onion.
Water falls down wet and gets up green.
Water is the blood of the land.
In water, the stars and the animals see themselves side by side.
Water is how we are all related.
Nobody owns water — drink some, and try to keep it.
Water rules kings.
Raindrops on the hard dirt make the ghosts rise.
Water hums its song into stone.
Water is the desert’s medicine.
Water is the solid ground of dreams.
Water speaks, but you must listen with your mouth.
Water is our common language.
— Alberto Ríos
Alberto Ríos, a native of Nogales, Arizona, is the author of 10 books
of poetry, as well as three collections of short stories. He is a regents’
professor of English at Arizona State University, where he holds
the Katharine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English. He was recently
named Arizona’s first poet laureate.
For a long time now, we’ve been showcasing the best of Arizona with words
and photographs. It’s something we do in every issue, but it’s been a while since
we featured any poetry. This month, by popular demand, the metrical writing is
back. And we even managed to dig up a few photos to go with it. In So Many Words
A seasonal stream curls over a
granite rock at sunset in the foothills
of the Santa Catalina Mountains,
46 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 47
Babad Do’ag, Santa Catalina Mountains
Cuk Do’ag, Black Mountains, Tucson Mountains
Cew Do’ag, Rincon Mountains
Giho Do’ag, Kihotoa, Burden Basket Mountain
Waw Giwulig Do’ag, Baboquivari Mountain
It has been said before,
these mountains will not listen
if we simply speak words to them.
They will only hear us
if we come with melody, rhythm,
pitch, and harmony.
To these circling mountains
we must speak with voices
in songs, rhythmic speeches, orations, and prayers.
We must be prepared with repetition,
a singular, undisturbed beat.
That is the way of mountains.
This is what they want to hear.
We must come to them with music
so they are generous with the summer rains
that appear to start their journey from their peaks.
We must come to them with song
so they will be generous
with the winter snow that settles there.
We must come to them with a strong recognizable beat,
a beat that reaches the core of the mountain —
a core still molten and moving to its own sounds —
and simultaneously reaches
a core long frozen into submission
with only a memory of the heat of its birth.
For the mountains of Tucson
the sound of spoken word is not enough.
They will not hear us.
We must be prepared
a strong rhythm,
— Ofelia Zepeda
Ofelia Zepeda, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, is a
regents’ professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona and the
founder of the American Indian Language Development Institute.
She has published three books of poetry.
A winter storm
leaves a dusting of
snow and wisps of
fog on Pusch Ridge,
in the Santa Catalina
48 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 49
He was there —
before the rising action rose to meet this acre cornered by thirst,
before birds swallowed bathwater and exploded in midsentence,
before the nameless
began sipping the blood of ravens from the sun’s knotted atlas.
He was there,
sleeping with one eye clamped tighter than the other,
he looked, when he shouldn’t have.
He said, “You are worth the wait,”
in the waiting room of the resurrection of another Reservation
and continued to dig for water, her hands, a road map,
in a bucket of white shells outside the North gate.
He threw a blanket over the denouement slithering onto shore
and saw Indians,
leaning into the beginning,
slip out of turtle shells,
and slide down bottle necks,
aiming for the first pocket of air in the final paragraph.
He saw anthropologists hook a land bridge with their curved spines,
and raised the hunters a full minute above its tollbooth,
saying, “Fire ahead, fire.”
When they pointed,
he leapt into the blue dark
on that side of the fence;
it was that simple:
sap drying in the tear ducts of the cut worm,
his ignition switched on —
blue horses grazing northward in the pre-dawn.
— Sherwin Bitsui
Sherwin Bitsui is a Navajo poet from White Cone, Arizona, and he’s the recipient of the
2000-2001 Individual Poet Grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, as
well as the Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship. His work has appeared in two
Sand dunes dominate the landscape
of Little Capitan Valley, north of
Kayenta on the Navajo Nation.
50 novemb e r 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 51
Getting Her Hands Dirty
hristina Akins isn’t your typical 29-year-old. I learn
this even before I shake her hand. Actually, I don’t
shake her hand, because she’s holding a gopher snake
that looks agitated. Instead, Akins, who is covered
from head to toe in mud, greets me with a huge smile.
With her long blond hair tied up in a ponytail, athletic physique,
glittery nail polish and mud-caked leather and turquoise bracelets,
she doesn’t exactly look like a wildlife specialist for the Arizona
Game and Fish Department. Then again, I probably don’t look like
someone who has been momentarily paralyzed with fear.
Akins later tells me that she was excited to show me the snake,
which was why she brought it down.
“People make fun of me,” she says. “I see something, and I have
this childlike excitement.”
The medium-sized snake, which from my vantage point looks
more like a rattlesnake, is writhing, struggling to free itself from her
muddy grip. I take a few more steps back. Finally, Akins hands the
snake to Chip Young, a Game and Fish wildlife biologist, who hikes
to a nearby garden and lets the snake go. If first impressions count
for anything, Akins certainly takes the cake. This girl has cojones.
Born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, along
with her twin sister, Akins has always been somewhat of a tomboy.
As a child, she spent time at her grandparents’ cabin north of Pay-son,
where she would hunt for fossils, quartz crystals and tadpoles.
“I was the one who, if there was something to look for and find,
I would go out and find it,” she says.
An uncle who owned a collection of lizards, geckos and snakes
helped pique his niece’s interest in reptiles and amphibians, and
eventually, Akins adopted her own pets: frogs, gecko varieties and
even a bearded dragon. These days, Akins owns a kingsnake.
Akins says she never considered that working with reptiles and
amphibians could be a real possibility when she entered college,
so she initially studied nutrition. It wasn’t until she began looking
at programs at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic Campus, in
Mesa, that she found a degree more in line with what she loved
doing outside of school.
“At the time, it was called wildlife habitat management,” she
says. “I read the description, and it was basically everything I did
for fun. That’s when I started going to school to get a wildlife and
restoration ecology degree.”
Because Akins was the only student in her class who expressed
an interest in herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians, a
professor encouraged her to apply for an internship with Game and
Fish. Akins loved the program, and she reapplied to be an intern
every chance she could.
In 2010, a matriculated Akins landed her dream job: a full-time
position as a wildlife technician in the non-game branch at Game
and Fish, specializing in ranid frogs (she was recently promoted
to specialist). Today, instead of assisting in the recovery efforts
of endangered or threatened animal species, she’s leading them.
And that’s how she arrived at Beatty’s Guest Ranch in Hereford.
When a species is listed as endangered or threatened under the
Endangered Species Act, a recovery plan is implemented. Within
the plan, there are action steps designed to prevent extinction.
Akins’ job is to execute those actions.
“Some of the things we do include surveying and monitoring
populations that are existing now,” she says. “We also do conserva-tion
work, captive rearing and habitat renovation, like this project.”
In 2011, the Monument Fire charred the hillsides surrounding
the Beatty property. When the rains finally came, they unleashed
ash and sediment, flooding the family’s homesite, as well as sev-eral
ponds that contained threatened Chiricahua leopard frogs,
ruining their habitat.
Last year, Akins organized the “first-annual work day” to re-move
the debris that had poured into the ponds and rehabilitate
the habitat. The effort was a success, and when she asked the fam-ily
whether they could use more help, they said yes.
It’s midmorning in early May, and Akins and
her team of volunteers have almost finished digging out a pond
that sits on a hill several hundred feet from any structures on the
Beatty property. Everyone is covered in mud. Akins walks around
the pond barefoot and uses her hands to scoop out the thick, black
muck and pull any remaining root masses. Though the pond looks
small, Akins has been working since the night before.
“At night, you can shine the light and see eye-shine in the frogs,
similar to mammals on the road,” she explains. “It’s not as dis-tinct,
but when you put the light in the pond, you can reach in
and grab them.”
Over a three-hour period, Akins, Young and a volunteer named
Daniel pulled out nine adult frogs and some 200 tadpoles by hand.
Akins says some tadpoles were only a centimeter long, while others
had nearly completed their metamorphoses, meaning their front
and back legs were formed and they were in the process of absorb-ing
“It was pretty cool to see the age classes within that one pond,”
With the pond finally emptied, Akins is now playing a wait-ing
game. There’s a spring up the mountain that fills a water stor-age
tank, and it has to fill up completely — gravity pulls the water
to the pond.
“Once we put the frogs back, the vegetation back and the tad-poles
back, I’ll be on my way,” she says.
Akins’ enthusiasm for her work is contagious, and her attitude is
inspiring. But this passion, not always seen in 29-year-olds, stems
from the fact that she’s doing what so many people her age only
dream about — something she genuinely loves.
“I like hard work,” she says. “I don’t care about getting dirty; it
just makes it more fun. I would rather be doing something outside
than sitting in an office.”
Like catching snakes.
When she started school at Arizona State University, Christina
Akins studied nutrition. It would lead to a career, she figured, but
not a dream job. What she really wanted was to play in the mud.
So, she changed majors, and today she’s protecting frogs as a
wildlife specialist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
By Kathy Ritchi e | Photograph by Rick Giase
w w w. 52 n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 3 a r i z o n a h i g h w a y s . c o m 53
Thus, it’s important to leave gates as you
find them. Pronghorns, mule deer and
bobcats are also prevalent in the area,
as are black-tailed prairie dogs, which
the Arizona Game and Fish Department
recently reintroduced to the area.
Near Mile 11, you’ll begin a serious
climb, but the payoff is a spectacular
view of the Whetstone Mountains on
your left. As soon as you reach the top,
the road drops, and for the next mile
or so, it becomes increasingly difficult
to navigate. Take your time. If you can
safely transition into four-wheel-drive,
do so, because the narrow road twists
and turns sharply.
As the road begins to level out, you’ll
face another potential obstacle: The road
forks, and there are no clear markers to
indicate which road is BLM 6914. Con-tinue
in the direction you were already
headed — southwest. At Mile 13.9, you’ll
cross another sandy wash, and in less
than 1.5 miles, the road connects with
Bureau of Land Management Road 6900.
This marks the final stages of the drive,
and by Mile 24, you should be back
where you started.
It’s hard to believe that Las Cienegas
National Conservation Area was,
at one time, at risk of becoming a
master-planned community and golf
course. Instead, the locals rallied, and
in 1986, the area came under the protec-tion
of the Bureau of Land Management.
In 1988, it became part of the National
Landscape Conservation System. Today,
it’s accessed by a 24-mile drive that’s
best described as spectacular.
But before you head out, be warned:
Although the landscape, with its rolling
grasslands and verdant riparian area,
is magnificent, the road itself isn’t. It’s
challenging at times and might require
four-wheel-drive in places.
To begin, turn left off of State Route
83 onto the gravel road marked “Historic
Empire Ranch” and continue for 3 miles
to a “T” junction. There, turn left onto
Bureau of Land Management Road 6901
and follow the sign to Oak Tree Canyon.
Some area maps list the route as Bureau
of Land Management Road 901, but the
agency updated its signage to include
a numerical prefix that indicates road
condition. In this case, the “6” means
“off road.” Moving along, you’ll quickly
come to the riparian area around Empire
Gulch. At about Mile 4, the cottonwood
trees and mesquite bosque lining the
road give way to vast open grasslands.
Just beyond the rolling hills, you’ll enter
another riparian area, where you’ll
cross Cienega Creek. As you pass over a
bridge, a small sea of cattails hides any
sign of water, but the reeds are beauti-ful
and unexpected. Around Mile 8, the
road turns left, then abruptly right. At
that point, you’ll be on Bureau of Land
Management Road 6914.
This is where you can expect a few
challenging conditions. That’s because
the road is maintained on an as-needed
basis. Besides a few bumps in the road,
you’ll also cross several sandy washes
(don’t even think about attempting them
in inclement weather). In addition, the
conservation area hosts a working ranch,
so you might encounter a few cows.
You might see pronghorns, mule deer and bobcats along this
scenic drive, but the real payoff is the surrounding grassland.
by kathy ritchie | photographs by randy prentice
For more scenic drives, pick up a
copy of our book The Back Roads.
Now in its fifth edition, the book
features 40 of the state’s most
scenic drives. To order a copy, visit
Note: Mileages are approximate.
LENGTH: 24 miles round-trip (from State Route 83)
DIRECTIONS: From Tucson, go east on Interstate 10
for 23 miles to State Route 83. Turn right onto SR 83
and continue 19 miles to Historic Empire Ranch Road
(Bureau of Land Management Road 6900). Turn left
onto Historic Empire Ranch Road and continue 3 miles
to Bureau of Land Management Road 6901. Turn left
onto BLM 6901 and continue 8.4 miles to Bureau of
Land Management Road 6914. Turn right onto BLM
6914 and continue 7 miles to BLM 6900. Turn right onto
BLM 6900 and continue 5.6 miles until you arrive at the
starting point of the drive.
VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS: A high-clearance, four-wheel-
drive vehicle is required.
WARNING: Back-road travel can be hazardous, so be
aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of
water. Don’t travel alone, and let someone know where
you are going and when you plan to return.
INFORMATION: Las Cienegas National Conservation
Area, 520-439-6400 or www.blm.gov/az
Travelers in Arizona can visit www.az511.gov or dial
511 to get information
on road closures, construction,
delays, weather and more.
right: Willows thrive
in the lush riparian
area near Cienega
Creek, along Empire
A Bureau of Land
rolling grasslands and
L A S C I E N E G A S
N A T I O N A L
C O N S E R V A T I O N A R E A
C O R O N A D O
N A T I O N A L F O R E S T
To I-10 (Tucson)
S A N T A R I T A M O U N T A I N S
start her e
54 J ul y 2 0 1 3 w w w. a r i z o n a h i g hwa y s . c om 55
• Plan ahead and be
• Travel and camp on
• Dispose of waste
properly and pack
out all of your trash.
• Leave what you find.
• Respect wildlife and
• Be considerate of
hike of the month
It’s not easy to get to, but this hike in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain
Wilderness is worth the effort, especially in November, when there’s
still a hint of fall in the air. by ROBERT STIEVE | photographs by mark frank
Despite its name, this trail isn’t
much of a secret. None of the
hikes in and around Sedona are.
Nonetheless, you’ll want to put Secret
Canyon on your list. You probably won’t
have it to yourself, but you might. That’s
because of the 3.4 miles of dirt, sand and
rocks between Dry Creek Road and the
trailhead. There’s only one way to drive
through it, and that’s with a high-clear-ance
vehicle — four-wheel-drive is even
better. The other option is to park at the
front end of Forest Road 152 and ride a
mountain bike to the trailhead. Either
way, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
From the trailhead, the hike imme-diately
crosses Dry Creek and arrives
at the boundary of the Red Rock-Secret
Mountain Wilderness, a 43,950-acre
wonderland that’ll make you think: Holy
moly. I can see why this place was given the
world’s ultimate protection. Piñons, junipers,
manzanitas and Arizona cypress are the
dominant tree species in the early stages
of the hike, but they’re overshadowed
by the surrounding red rocks that epit-omize
the area. You’ll see a lot of iconic
scenery in front of you on this hike, but
every once in a while, it’s a good idea to
do a three-sixty. The views are impres-sive,
and that’s an understatement.
After 15 minutes, you’ll arrive at an
intersection with the HS Canyon Trail,
which veers left. From there, the foot-path
turns to a soft-packed red sand. It’s
an ideal surface for hiking, but it doesn’t
last long. Most of the route is a mix of
rocks and dirt, with a lot of ground
cover along the trail. In the summer, it
gets pretty thick, but this time of year, it
should look like fall.
Continuing northwest, the trail
climbs gradually and arrives at a nice
cluster of alligator junipers. In addition
to the gators, you’ll get a glimpse of
some tall trees growing from the side
of a cliff to the left. It’s a hint of what’s
to come when the trail transitions from
piñons and junipers to pines and firs.
But first, you’ll come to an intersection
with the David Miller Trail, which splits
to the right. Stay left for Secret Canyon.
From there, the trail drops about
100 yards and then climbs back up to a
ridge before heading toward the canyon.
Within 10 minutes, the route turns to
pine needles and pine cones and arrives
at a spot as beautiful as any. On this
stretch, the trail skirts a sheer wall sur-rounded
by Arizona sycamores, ponder-osa
pines and Douglas firs. This is the
gateway to the canyon.
Continuing on, about an hour into the
hike, the canyon narrows and the trail
gets a little tricky to follow, especially in
the summer, when a little bushwhack-ing
is necessary. It’s less of a problem in
November, but regardless of when you
hike, common sense will guide the way.
The rest of the route stays about
the same, with several creek crossings
(don’t expect water) and a few scram-bles
up and down the various banks.
Then, about 90 minutes in, you’ll start
seeing some massive old-growth pon-derosas,
which shelter some equally
impressive primitive campsites (if you
backpack, mark the coordinates). At this
point, you’ll be deep into Secret Canyon.
Although there’s no obvious landmark
to signal the end of the trail, you’ll know
you’re there when you arrive at a deep
ravine that cradles a series of pools.
Another indicator is a massive flat rock,
about the size of a boxing ring. It makes
a great place to sit and enjoy the views.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have it to yourself.
If not, there’s room to spare.
For more hikes, pick up a copy
of Arizona Highways Hiking
Guide, which features 52 of the
state’s best trails — one for each
weekend of the year, sorted
by seasons. To order a copy,
Length: 11 miles round-trip
Elevation: 4,684 to 5,097 feet
Trailhead GPS: N 34˚55.803’, W 111˚48.399’
Direct i ons: From the roundabout intersection of
State Route 179 and State Route 89A in Sedona, go
southwest on SR 89A for approximately 3.1 miles to
Dry Creek Road. Turn right onto Dry Creek Road and
continue 1.9 miles to Forest Road 152 (Vultee Arch
Road). Turn right onto FR 152 and continue 3.4 miles to
the trailhead on the left.
Vehicle Requirements: A high-clearance vehicle is
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
USGS Map: Wilson Mountain
Information: Red Rock Ranger District, 928-203-7500
OPPOSITE PAGE: A deep ravine and a series of
pools mark the end of the Secret Canyon Trail.
BELOW: Sedona’s iconic red rocks are predominant
along the trail.
Se cret Canyon
R E D R O C K -
S E C R E T M O U N T A I N
W I L D E R N E S S
Dry Creek Road
Vultee Arch Road
To Cottonwood To Phoenix
O A K C R E E K C A N Y O N
C O C O N I N O
N A T I O N A L F O R E S T
W I L S O N
M O U N T A I N
56 novemb e r 2 0 1 3
where is this?
These steps are located in an Arizona town that’s famous for all kinds of things,
including this staircase. The town hosts an annual race that sends participants climbing
several flights of stairs in its historic district. — noah austin
Win a collection of
our most popular
books! To enter,
correctly identify the
location pictured at
left and email your
answer to editor@
com — type “Where
Is This?” in the sub-ject
line. Entries can
also be sent to 2039
W. Lewis Avenue,
Phoenix, AZ 85009
(write “Where Is
This?” on the enve-lope).
your name, address
and phone number.
One winner will be
chosen in a random
drawing of qualified
entries. Entries must
be postmarked by
November 15, 2013.
Only the winner
will be notified. The
correct answer will
be posted in our
January 2014 issue
and online at www.
Answer & Winner
Snow fences near
Sunrise Park Resort.
our winner, Bill &
Rene Lloyd of New-port,
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