M A Y 2 0 0 6
The Old Man and
Walking the Rim
Seeking a Cure
Top Out in
the Land of the
Trek to Navajo White House Ruins Crosses Cultural Divide
2 DEAR EDITOR
3 ALL WHO WANDER
A goofball dog leads the way
to the ridge of the wild.
Coming to a "dream job" the hard way.
5 TAKING THE
Explore Arizona oddities,
attractions and pleasures.
42 ALONG THE WAY
A mother and her daughters find
a chasm that unites them.
44 HIKE OF THE MONTH
CANYON DE CHELLY
White House Ruins trek
crosses a cultural divide.
46 BACK ROAD ADVENTURE
A challenging Rincon Mountain road
yields a wonderful waterfall.
FRONT COVER Finding a peaceful balance
between risk and rest, a hiker cloaks herself
in the scenic glory of Cape Royal on the
North Rim of the Grand Canyon, near one
of our 10 most scenic hikes, Nankoweap
Trail. See story, page 20. gary ladd
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191
or visit arizonahighways.com.
BACK COVER The waters that wear
down the canyon walls of Havasu Creek
are the same waters that sustain its fragile
ecosystems. Verdant clusters of moss and
lichen, leafy boxelders and blooming crimson
monkeyflowers thrive in the constant wake
of the nutrient-rich stream. larry ulrich
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191
or visit arizonahighways.com.
8 The Old Man and
the Canyon by craig childs
George Steck found many hidden routes into
the Grand Canyon before he finally gathered his
friends and measured himself against its vast spaces
one more time. photographs by gary ladd
14 Topping Out in
Ladybug Land by peter aleshire
Our intrepid editor huffs and puffs and runs
out of water on his way up Pine Mountain
seeking one of the best 360-degree views in
the nation. photographs by david h. smith
20 Arizona’s 10 Most
Scenic Trails by christine maxa
Christine Maxa has written hundreds of
articles and hiking guides, so we asked her to
reveal the state’s 10 most spectacular rambles,
then built a portfolio around her list.
34 Hiking the Rim
of Hope by leo w. banks
A fund-raising hike along the Rim of the Grand
Canyon and down into its depths illuminates a boy’s
courage and a family’s love in the fight against
leukemia. photographs by don b. and ryan stevenson
contents may 2006
take a Hike!
38 Pulp Fiction Payoff by amy abrams
The paintings of Western pulp fiction illustrators
like R.G. Harris were once piled up in the
garage, but now they can fetch $70,000 each.
Our Web site this month features favorite hikes in every
corner of the state. From northern Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau
to the San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge in the southeastern
part of the state, we offer hikes for every season. Go to
arizonahighways.com and click on the “Hikes Guide” for:
• A host of healthy hikes
• Hikes for a good cause
• What to see and do in hiking country
HUMOR Our writer explores gender-specific absentmindedness.
ONLINE EXTRA Savor Sierra Anchas solitude.
WEEKEND GETAWAY Mother and daughter camp at the Grand Canyon.
HISTORY Learn about Arizona’s bootlegging legacy.
EXPERIENCE ARIZONA Plan a trip with our calendar of events.
GRIPPING THE CRACKS
Blending in above the
baby-blue waters of Havasu
Creek, a climber makes his
way along a rock wall down
canyon from the Colorado
River. dugald bremner
Arizona Highways magazine has inspired an
independent weekly television series, hosted by
Phoenix TV news anchor Robin Sewell. For
channels and show times, log on to
arizonahighways.com; click on “DISCOVER
ARIZONA”; then click on the “Arizona Highways
goes to television!” link on the right-hand side.
Produced in the USA
MAY 2006 VOL. 82, NO. 5
Publisher WIN HOLDEN
Editor PETER ALESHIRE
Senior Editor BETH DEVENY
Managing Editor RANDY SUMMERLIN
Web/Research Editor SALLY BENFORD
Books Editor BOB ALBANO
Editorial Administrator CONNIE BOCH
Editorial Assistant PAULY HELLER
Director of Photography PETER ENSENBERGER
Photography Editor RICHARD MAACK
Art Director BARBARA GLYNN DENNEY
Deputy Art Director BILLIE JO BISHOP
Art Assistant DIANA BENZEL-RICE
Map Designer KEVIN KIBSEY
Production Director KIM ENSENBERGER
Promotions Art Director RONDA JOHNSON
Webmaster VICKY SNOW
Director of Sales & Marketing KELLY MERO
Circulation Director HOLLY CARNAHAN
Finance Director BOB ALLEN
Information Technology CINDY BORMANIS
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Phoenix area or outside the U.S. (602) 712-2000
Or visit arizonahighways.com
For Corporate or Trade Sales Dolores Field (602) 712-2045
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email@example.com dear editor
by Peter Aleshire, editor
we set off on our daily hike in the predawn dark, my
goofball dog and I.
Lobo nearly yanks me off my feet in his muscular
exuberance, before falling into step alongside me. I look
east and note the lightening of the soon-to-rise sun as Lobo
dances along on his spring-loaded legs, his big wet black nose
scanning the darkness with the joy of a heartbeat.
I know he yearns for the ridgeline where I will let him off the
leash and he can run free, all stretch and leap and nose and tail.
Lobo’s passion for freedom has already upended my once restful
routine. Now I must stumble out of bed, rub my eyes raw and
shamble off into the darkness so I can finish walking the dog in
time to shower, gulp breakfast and make it to work by 8:30.
Mind you, I didn’t want another dog.
I didn’t know he was a wolf.
And I definitely don’t identify with him — no matter what
my wife says.
I just had a weak moment, when he trotted all coyotelike
toward us. We watched him check out every front door on the
street — like he was selling wolf timeshares. Then he got to us,
friendly but dignified. So my son’s girlfriend ran into the house
and got him water and food.
My fate was sealed.
I have no plausible excuse. Hopi, our loving little 15-year-old
pound dog, is on her tottering last legs, after having raised
our three sons. Now I have an empty nest and plans to travel
every weekend. But here is this mangy, hungry, 65-pound
tough guy with “oh-my-what-big-teeth-you-have” mischief in
his brown eyes and a tongue the size of a kid’s sleeping bag.
I way knew better.
But the minute we allowed his cold black nose through the
tent flap of our affections, we were doomed. He eats couches
if left alone, jumps the 6-foot-high back fence, leaps onto
the kitchen counter to clean the plates in the sink and steals
food out of unattended grocery bags. Moreover, after a month
he toppled over in a dead faint. Turns out, he has a thyroid
problem — Addison’s disease. So the vet prescribed steroids (for
the dog) and billed me $800.
Oh, by the way, adds the vet — Lobo’s a wolf hybrid.
A wolf? What the heck was I thinking?
So as I tromp on through the darkness up a ridge of South
Mountain with my joyful, sickly, steroidal wolf dog, I ponder
the pinballness of my life.
Atop the ridge I let Lobo loose. He bounds down the trail,
like a falcon in an updraft.
Down in the canyon, an invisible pack of coyotes vocalizes a
nervous breakdown. A coyote chorus is a primal yip into the
sublime and crazed subconscious of the wild, which invariably
triggers a psychedelic flashback in my reptilian brain. Lobo
moves to my side and stares down the hill with absolute
attention. I can’t tell whether he seeks an ally or intends to
Abruptly, the brilliant orange sliver of the sun breaks
through the Earth at the horizon, immolating the clouds. I
stand, stupefied by the sight until Lobo locates some fresh
coyote scat. He gobbles, I holler, he drops.
We move on, with Lobo running ahead of me like water in
a cataract. A glower of thunderheads rolls towards us, held
together by a stitchery of lightning.
I stop on a highpoint, caught between the sunrise and storm.
The rain overtakes us, with our hilltop still bathed in light
from the rising sun. I look down upon the refracted rain as it
falls past me onto the hidden coyotes below. With a mental
effort, I freeze the raindrops, which makes me fall upward
through a great glitter. I do not think Lobo notices the effect,
for he is getting high off some delicious scent on the tip of a
Distantly, I hear the coyotes again. No. Not coyotes. It
is the siren of an ambulance, the primal yip of the crazed
subconscious of the urban. Lobo pays it no mind and sniffs the
breeze while we stand together on this ridged boundary of
As he leads me back home, my heart prances.
For I know that tomorrow well before dawn my foolish and
troublesome dog will come and stand beside my bed in the
darkness. If I do not stir, he will put his cold black nose in
I can hardly wait.
Awe: 1— Hamburger: 0
The last two paragraphs of your February
2006 “All Who Wander” (“The Wild
Watches With Golden Eyes the Choices
We Make”) summed up succinctly,
pragmatically and emotionally the
beauty and awe of nature vs. the
practicality of today’s life. I’ll take beauty
and awe anytime.
Penny Lester, Camden, SC
Of course, a person can’t live on awe alone — gotta
eat something. On the other hand, I definitely get
more calories than awe in my daily routine. So
thanks for the support.—Ed.
I’m a wretched fisherman, but my friends
still talk about “the bass” I caught at
the bottom of the Grand Canyon. My
buddies all snickered when I pulled out
my reel, figuring a fish dinner was about
as likely as a Big Mac.
Sure enough, I was trudging back to
camp empty-handed when I noticed
a faded can lost on a float trip floating
near shore. In the twilight gloom, I
could just make out the letters:
B-A-S-S A-L-E. That night my backpacker
friends weren’t laughing as I savored
something even better than fresh
fish — a cold beer.
Dorman Groat, Cottonwood
My kind of fish story. As river rats can tell you,
one of life’s perfect moments is pulling a can of
beer out of the bag dangling under a Colorado
River raft, perfectly chilled by the 62-degree
water off the bottom of Lake Powell. But maybe
I’m not supposed to admit that, being the editor
and all. —Ed.
What an Insensitive Editor
What is “old”? I ask that you think about
the woman you met while “dreaming of
purple hillsides and last year’s poppies”
(“All Who Wander,” March ’06).
You wrote, “I go back down the trail
to thank the old woman. . . . I hope she
reads this.” I hope that she does not. She
is NOT old. She has gotten herself to
Arizona, alone, to visit her son, traveled
our crazy roads and hiked into the
mountains, alone. She has reached out to
help the BOY who stumbled. He repays
her kindness and the gentle story she
shared by calling her OLD. Your lovely
acquaintance does not sound old to
me in any manner at all. I’m sure that
you’ve hurt her feelings with your words,
whether she would admit that you have
Nancy Henderson, Surprise
Oh, no — I hope I didn’t offend her. That would
be awful. Of course, “old” seems like much more
of a compliment than it did when I was young
and arrogant and ignorant (I’m still ignorant, but
definitely not young). Seems to me now that
the things I value most are old (except the kids).
Still, thank you for the reminder of the power of
words and the importance of picking each one
Page 42 of your February 2006 issue
refers to something called “scat.” I never
saw this word used in this context, and
while it seems to imply excrement, the
definition of scat in my Oxford American
Dictionary is: scat = to depart quickly.
Have you invented a new word? I can
see the new bumper stickers now: SCAT
Phil Obenauer, Mary Esther, FL
That’s a real honest-to-goodness field biologist
word for animal excrement and one of my favorites
— right up there with crepuscular. But if you see that
bumper sticker, buy me one. —Ed.
2 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 3
highways on tv
Hungry, Grateful Winners
Last summer in your trivia contest, we
won a week at the Kay El Bar Dude
Ranch in Wickenburg. What an
experience. From the moment we
arrived, we were treated like old family
friends. The horses were matched to our
experience and temperament. Each time
the dinner bell rang, the path we beat to
the dining room would put their fastest
horse to shame.
Our thanks to Arizona Highways and the Kay El Bar staff and wranglers and, not
the least, to Pioneer and Nip, our horses.
Walt and Linda Paciorek, Phoenix
Kudos to Pioneer and Nip, and thanks for the kind words. You guys make a handsome foursome!
— Peter Aleshire, Editor
all who wander
Lobo checks out the sunrise
on South Mountain in
Phoenix. peter aleshire
My Goofball Dog and Me
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 5
by Peter Ensenberger, director of photography, firstname.lastname@example.org
arizona oddities, attractions and pleasures
Find expert photography advice and information at arizonahighways.com
(Click on “Photography”).
The common misperception that working as a landscape
photographer amounts to permanent vacation in the world’s
most beautiful locations in perfect weather leads otherwise
sane people to chuck it all to pursue the glamorous life of a
Sort of like becoming a professional golfer, wandering
well-manicured greens in a warm breeze and sinking 50-foot
But every dream job requires a reality check.
Photographers develop a different definition of “perfect
weather.” While golfers scramble for cover
when the weather turns bad, photographers
rush into the teeth of the tempest. They stalk a
storm front for days, planning their approach.
They relish the buildup and break of a storm,
and scoff at the hazards to bring back dramatic
images of pristine beauty.
Photographs in our special hiking section,
beginning on page 8, are all born of long hours
and hard work. Landscape photographers
know a thing or two about long-distance
hiking. Often, only long treks with heavy
packs can take them into a remote wilderness.
Contributing photographer George Stocking
came to his “dream job” the hard way. He
changed careers in his mid-40s to pursue
landscape photography after being laid off
from the best job he ever had, building rocket
systems for Orbital Sciences. He exchanged his
9-to-5 job for freelance freedom and the risks
of working outdoors.
“There’s an old adage that bad weather
equals good photographs,” he says. “I tend to seek out adverse
conditions that put me in proximity of electrical storms. I’m
pretty sure there’s a lightning bolt out there with my name on it.”
Several incidents have already seared his psyche.
“I was in the Sierra Ancha, on the bluffs overlooking Roosevelt
Lake, shooting the approach of a summer monsoon,” he recalls.
“I had just been blessed with a magnificent rainbow before
Stocking sought refuge in the back of his truck as the growling
storm drew closer. He tried reading a book, but found himself
counting the seconds between lightning flash and thunder crash.
Soon the flashes and crashes were occurring simultaneously.
“The barrage was terrifying as I laid in the back of my suddenly
pathetic shelter. “It seemed like it went on forever.”
Finally the lightning storm passed, and he drifted off to
sleep to the soothing sounds of raindrops on his roof.
“The next morning I got up before dawn, and my jaw dropped
in amazement as I looked around the bluffs. I felt like Moses.
There were burning bushes everywhere,” Stocking says. “After
surviving the lightning, it had never occurred to me that I might
die in the resulting forest fire. The previous night’s downpour
had probably saved my life.”
Another run-in with thunderbolts occurred as Stocking
and his wife, Mary, explored the Chiricahua Mountains,
photographing the dramatic skies conjured up by summer
storms. They hiked the mile-and-a-half trail to Fort Bowie.
“Massive cumulus clouds gathered in the blue sky as soon as we
arrived at the fort,” he says. “As sunset approached, the gathering
clouds had developed into a large black storm.”
Mary, the voice of reason, suggested they start hiking back
to the truck. Right at that moment, a rainbow formed against
the dark, brooding sky over the adobe ruins.
“The opportunity was too good to miss, so I began shooting
again. As the storm closed in, the rainbow became more intense,”
Ignoring his own better judgment, he kept working as
lightning bolts pierced the air less than a mile away.
“Finally, Mary grabbed me and insisted it was time to depart.
We had made only 200 yards on the trail when it started
pouring. Barely able to see, we streaked onward,” he says. “Just
then, lightning struck right behind me. A cataclysmic crash
split the sky. I remember seeing my shadow silhouette on
the ground in front of me from the flash, and thinking I was
probably going to die.”
Under a corollary to Murphy’s Law, the lightning ceased just
as they reached the safety of their truck. Soaked to the skin, their
senses on high alert, they laughed away their fright.
Stocking admits that people wonder why he takes such risks.
“I’d say that it’s my job as a photographer, and that
outstanding images are born out of commitment. There is a
direct correlation to the quality of your images and exactly what
you do to get them.”
When risk pays off, it’s as sweet as sinking a 50-foot putt.
4 M a y 2 0 0 6
is No Walk in the Park
A rainbow’s appearance over Fort Bowie ruins almost proved deadly for an
intrepid photographer and his wife. george stocking
on their way to get the mail or pick up
the paper, urban Arizonans stroll past
sagebrush and saguaro, greet neighbors—
and run into mule deer. It might become more
common as the weather heats up and animals
cope with this year’s dry winter.
A mule deer, above, was spotted grabbing
a snack outside a home in Carefree.
“They typically occupy desert ranges at
densities of about three to four per square
mile, but around housing areas with food
and water, that density may be 10 times
greater during drought periods,” said Brian
Wakeling, big game supervisor for the
Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Deer aren’t the only ones taking advantage
of the spoils of human development. “In
outlying areas, animals are attracted by artificial
water within areas like swimming pools, water
for dogs, watered lawns,” Wakeling said.
“Javelina get into flower gardens, cactus gardens
and lawns and wreak havoc.” Suburbs see
rabbits, elk, coyotes, bobcats and even
As summer approaches, animals venture into
populated areas, he said. “It’s not as
pronounced during the cooler months, but it’s
certainly something we expect to see as spring
warms up and especially as we get into summer,
if the drought continues.” The expectation
applies to “pretty much all animals, to varying
extents,” he said.
The animals are just looking for a place to
make a living, and when you have higher
densities of animals, conflict issues arise,”
Wakeling said. He advises people not to feed
wildlife, which can make many species less wary
of humans, putting them into situations they
might deem threatening. “They’re not seeking
to inflict bodily damage, but if they feel cornered,
they’ll try to escape; they may knock someone
down, bite someone.” — Kimberly Hosey
JOHN VAN VELZER
Drought Makes City Slickers of Wildlife
6 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 7
what do arizona, the Queen
of Sheba and the Hanging Gardens
of Babylon have in common? The
answer: pistachios. Legend has it that
the ancient king of Babylon grew
pistachios in his famous hanging
gardens, and the Queen of Sheba
declared that the nuts were an
exclusively royal food, forbidding
commoners to grow them. Although
Arizona isn’t located anywhere near
Babylon or Sheba, it does share a
similarly perfect climate for growing
the popular snack.
In the high desert of Cochise County,
70 miles east of Tucson, Fistiki Farms has
grown and sold organic pistachios since
1978. Fistiki is the Greek word meaning
pistachio. Flavors like Cajun citrus,
lemon-lime, jalapeño and garlic are
available, as well as roasted and salted.
Fistiki Farms sells its pistachio products
online. Information: www.pistachios.
com. — Sally Benford
when the spanish conquistadores
came to Arizona in the 16th century, they
brought with them an ancient Iberian
sheep breed prized for its hardiness,
adaptability and lustrous fleece. Navajo
raiders acquired the breed known as churra
or churro and switched from cotton to
wool for weaving textiles.
In the 1860s, the U.S. Army decimated
the Navajos’ sheep flocks during Kit
Carson’s Navajo Campaign. And when
the Navajos returned to their homelands,
the prized breeding stock had all but
It wasn’t until the 1970s that a few
select ranchers staged a united attempt to
revitalize the rare breed. Even so, fewer than
3,000 of these odd-looking, four-horned
sheep are registered with the Navajo-Churro
Sheep Association. In an attempt to curry
favor with traditional Navajo weavers, the
Navajo Sheep Project monitors churro flocks,
hoping to keep the silky, unique wool from
disappearing forever. — Carrie M. Miner
Museum Takes a
(Moon)shine to Arizona
the scenic santa Rita Mountains south
of Tucson are well known for their
breathless beauty and native wildlife. Less
well known are the secret rendezvous
spots hidden in their rugged canyons that
were popular with moonshiners during
The locations of the stills and the
pickup spots are just a faded memory
today, but you can view one of the
original stills used there, along with other
interesting artifacts, at George Proctor’s
Frontier Museum in Patagonia. The still
was handmade by Proctor’s father, who
pressed his then-6-year-old son into
service delivering mescal to his customers
The museum’s collection runs from
Western tack to pioneer household items,
and includes an engraved silver bit used
by Theodore Roosevelt when he hunted
bear in the Kaibab National Forest. The
family operated frontier museum is
just a few blocks west of State Route
82 in Patagonia, between Nogales and
Tombstone. Proctor’s Frontier Museum
is open by appointment, and there is no
Information: (520) 394-2063. Call for
directions. — Betty Barr
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: GIORGIO SCARLINI/STOCKFOOD/GETTY IMAGES; 2CIMAGERY (DR. ROBERT KRAVETZ); RICHARD MAACK TOP: TANYA CHARTER; BOTTOM: FRONTIER MUSEUM
The Exclusively Royal Pistachio
named one of the Herb Society of
America’s 10 not-to-miss herb gardens,
the Desert Botanical Garden proves
that Arizona’s landscape is full of life
The garden, located in the red
buttes of Phoenix’s Papago Park, was
created in 1939 by a group of Valley
residents interested in creating a place
that would promote an understanding
and appreciation of the Sonoran
Desert. This goal became especially
important as Phoenix began to grow
and the landscape was radically altered.
Spread out over 50 acres of beautiful
terrain, the Desert Botanical Garden
ranks as one of only 44 botanical
gardens accredited by the American
Association of Museums. With such
a distinguished reputation, it is no
surprise that the garden houses 139
threatened, endangered and rare species
of plants from Arizona and distant and
exotic locales. The garden maintains
many scenic trails that guide visitors
past blooming wildflowers, distinctive
saguaros and informative exhibits.
Information: (480) 941-1225, www.
dbg.org. — Josh Ivanov
Phoenix’s Not-So-Secret Blooming Garden
in his book Around Western Campfires,
Joseph “Mack” Axford tells of arriving in Bisbee in
1894, as a 14-year-old boy, homeless and looking
for work. He found it — irrigating an alfalfa field.
Later he was a miner, jail warden and cowboy —
working at the same ranch as Butch Cassidy (who
was using another name at the time).
By 1900, the 20-year-old had a job as a hospital
steward at the Cochise County Hospital and Poor
Farm in Tombstone.
During that time Dr. Bacon, who was in charge,
showed Mack how to remove bone fragments
from a patient’s brain using a trepan saw. Later,
when Dr. Bacon was away in New York for a post-grad
course, a miner with a bad head injury was
brought in. However, the surgeons on call were
not available and Dr. Kelly, who was a pharmacist
and licensed physician, was the only one available
to take charge. Because he wasn’t a surgeon, he
wasn’t much help. While Mack was giving the man
chloroform, he saw that the doctor didn’t know
what he was doing with the saw and was about
to kill the patient. He pushed the doctor away, and
they traded places. The doctor gave the anesthesia
and Mack placed the saw properly, removed the
bone fragments from the brain; the patient lived.
When Dr. Bacon returned and heard the story,
he urged Mack to go to medical school and
become a surgeon, but he said he didn’t have the
money. So he worked as a hospital steward a little
longer, until an increasing number of tuberculosis
patients gave him the idea that some of the germs
might come his way. Then he quit the hospital and
became a blacksmith at a mine. — Ruth Burke
Need Brain Surgery?
Call a Cowboy
Odd Sheep Has
Cereus cactus flower
8 a p r i l 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 9
Wrinkle in Time
Dedicated canyoneer George
Steck spent more than 35 years
hiking and mapping routes in
the Grand Canyon. Asked if he
would change anything about
his time there, he answered, “I
would do it just as I did.”
The Old Man a nd the Canyon
by Craig Childs Photographs by Gary Ladd
Pioneering route-finder George Steck and his acolytes
sought the solace of the Grand Canyon one last time
Wrinkle in Time
George Steck, who
died in 2004, spent
more than 45 years
hiking and mapping
routes in the Grand
Canyon. Asked if he
anything about his
time there, he
answered, “I would do
it just as I did.”
10 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 11
The old man sat in the bottom of the Grand
Canyon, relaxed among sheaves of bedrock. He posed like a
lanky Buddha, his body resting on bands of red stone as if he
had been born here. We had a camp down by the river where we
lounged in the afternoon after dipping naked in frigid water.
George Steck was 73 years old at the time, a pioneer route-finder
from the Grand Canyon, a master of long journeys
through an untrailed, cliffbound wilderness. He looked at me
with wry, intent eyes frayed with gray, professorial eyebrows.
He was always looking at me this way, as if a question waited
constantly on his tongue.
With a gravelly, slow and thoughtful voice, he asked if I
would rather lose my eyesight or my hearing. I studied his face,
unshaven and bristled. He was slowly losing sight in his left
eye, his hearing peppered with hums and pops. That must be
what old men think about, I mused. I told him I would rather
not go blind.
I imagined he would agree. With a Ph.D. out of Berkeley, he
was a theoretical mathematician who had spent most of his
career inventing equations at the Sandia National Laboratories
in New Mexico. I thought, of course he would choose to keep
his eyesight. He would need to see the numbers and symbols
of his profession. He also needed his eyes to feast on the slen-der
ledges and boulder choked slopes of the Grand Canyon.
Otherwise, how would he ever find his way through?
He did not answer as quickly as I had. He licked his lips and
looked around the Canyon. “I would rather not go deaf,” he
He told me he likes particularly melodic music: Brahms,
Chopin, piano, wind, water. The rustle of a breeze through
reeds. After that, we were quiet, listening to the hollow gulping
of the Colorado River below us, the whisper of gusts across cliffs
thousands of feet over our heads.
George spoke in mathematic riddles, always
testing me, asking impossible questions, finding the Golden
Mean in the growth patterns of an agave, borrowing my journal
to scribble out geometric calculations. It was our great debate,
what math has to do with route-finding. The two of us argued
to no end, sitting at his coffee table or wandering through
canyons, me saying that it is no coincidence that he was both a
mathematician and a famed route-finder. It is the same process, I
told him, scouting through wells of logic and numbers or picking
your way across a terrain of palisades. His response to me hardly
ever changed: a long, concerned glance, a smack of his lips and
a flat denial. Math is math. Landscape is landscape. He said he
could see my point, but it seemed esoteric, unproven.
I gathered his personal equations — pages upon pages of
theorems, postulations, symbols, numbers and hardly a single
word of English — in an attempt to understand the vast mecha-nism
of his mind. Meanwhile, I traveled into the wilderness of
the Grand Canyon with him, following his steps as year by year
he slowed, staggering around the boulders, his eyes tinkering
intently with small moves.
He had walked hundreds of days in the Grand Canyon. At the
age of 57, he made his first 80-day trek from the beginning to
the end, plumbing the stone for routes, clutching ledges with his
fingertips. Of any land I have ever traveled, this place requires
the most delicate of calculations. The Grand Canyon is an enor-mous
and subtle riddle.
George chose a small number of inheritors.
We were the lucky ones. He shared knowledge of routes, of cer-tain
places and ways inside the Grand Canyon, of stories, recol-lections
of flash floods and massive boulders calving off their
cliffs, exploding into clouds of dust and debris. These stories
Beer or Bust
Steck and writer Craig Childs try to
persuade river runners to give up the goods.
Steck straddles a narrow ledge, below, near the mouth of
Hundred and Fifty Mile Canyon, just past the Grand Canyon’s
midway point between Lee’s Ferry and the Grand Wash Cliffs.
Off the Beaten Path
A towering rock cliff near Havasu
Canyon dwarfs hikers in the
amphitheater below. Many of Steck’s
hikes traversed seldom-visited
chambers such as this.
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 13
and routes were conveyed to us not at a kitchen table with maps
unfolded, but in the field.
George was 75 when we dropped off the edge of Marble Canyon
in the upper reaches of the Grand Canyon. We carried our gear
between pale and enormous pillars of Kaibab limestone,
skittering down rockslide slopes — no trail anywhere in sight.
He wanted us to know about a route deep inside — a cave that
cuts through a cliff.
Half a day down inside the first layers of cliffs and slopes,
George sat down and decided he could go no farther. Too old,
too tired, too far, too steep. He insisted that the rest of us con-tinue
without him. He explained that his presence was no longer
needed. By now we should have known well enough how to
navigate, how to take the clues he had given us and find our way
to the cave. From there we could figure it out.
We left him on a ledge, a solitary figure watching over the
depths of the Grand Canyon. Like weaned children, we moved
with an awkward sense of confidence into the Canyon, move-ments
full of timid boast, hand over hand, passing packs down.
We each glanced up now and then, George long gone miles
I once told George that I had been studying the geologi-cal
framework of the Grand Canyon. I explained to him that
the entire place had been built upon a pre-existing blueprint,
an underpinning of faults and fractures. I had synthesized vol-umes
of data about erosion and flash floods, running statistical
equations through a computer. I determined that the shape we
call Grand Canyon is as formed as the wings of a butterfly. It
is a carefully balanced relationship between weather patterns,
river meanders and geology. These vaults of side canyons that
we traveled through, the deeply shadowed holes down in the
Redwall and the massive platforms of Bright Angel shale could
be defined numerically.
He inspected me with a sideways glance. “You keep trying,” he
said with all seriousness, and then a smile.
The last great trek. George was 77 when several of us
took a week to tumble into the western Grand Canyon, carry-ing
pitches of rope to haul our packs up and down the gray-red
cliffs. His movement between boulders was ticking and slow.
Crossing back and forth over a clear stream on the Canyon
floor, I saw a rhythmic tremor to George’s step, to his speech, to
his hands reaching out and planting on cool bedrock. His lips
stuttered with tiredness, eyes blinking.
Shadows gathered around us in the pearl-blue narrows of this
limestone canyon. When we walked into a band of sunlight, he
ordered that we rest. He laid his body over the rocks like a limp
piece of fabric. Even in exhaustion his eyes tracked methodically
across the terrain.
A side canyon streaked up the wall across from us, its bends
“You ever think about places like that?” I asked him, gesturing
up the side canyon.
“No,” he said. “It doesn’t go anywhere.”
“But aren’t you curious? Even if it’s a dead end? There are springs
and pools up there, different shades of light.”
“That’s your job,” he reminded me. “It’s a dead end.”
George had this trip timed, exactly where we were to fetch
water, where we would set our camps, how many hours it would
take to get from one place to the next. He had turned himself
into a straight line piercing the labyrinth of the Grand Canyon.
This journey was turning him into an old and rickety man. He
could not afford a single step in the wrong direction. With no
paths to follow other than his memory, we had been running
packs down boulder stacks and sheer walls, climbing waterfalls,
descending long smooth chutes of stone. He grew older with
Time to move again. I helped him up, our hands meeting.
His skin felt old, but smooth, like suede, his finger bones loose
and relaxed beneath leopard spots of age. I stayed back as he
walked ahead. As soon as he was out of sight, I shot up the side
canyon, tearing like a monkey between its high walls. Indeed,
it was a dead end.
When I found George at the end of the day, he was again
sprawled across the ground, his body poured into the rocks.
He frowned at me. I was the last to arrive. “Where have you
been?” he asked.
I was sheepish. I said that I had been checking out some routes.
It was a lie; I was merely playing up in the canyons. He knew it.
He excused me anyway.
Days of toil, stumbling through landslide boulders along
the Colorado River, pierced by the sun, then swallowed by sting-ing
shade. A kayaker backpaddled to talk with us, an excuse
for George to wither back into the shade. We sat on a balcony
ledge above the river. The kayaker was curious, saying that our
walking with packs through this terrain looked tedious and
exhausting. We assured him that he was right.
The kayaker finally swept away from us like a bird. I got
George up and we continued, earth-bound, plodding slowly
Days later we were far from the river, climbing up through
tiers of green desert lagoons and lapidary palisades. Moving
slowly, we climbed into a hallway of cliffs, George coming up
below me where his hand swept dust away from a hold where
I had just stepped. Up here, the limestone breaks away in fist
chunks. Debris clattered down, rattling and cracking, plunking
finally into a plunge pool far below.
These high cliffs were busy with shouts back and forth, rocks
snapping free, ropes anchored, and tested with strong tugs. We
climbed for hours. George spilled the last of his energy again
and again until there was nothing left, his movements creak-ing
like wood. He finally cleared his way to the top, where he
collapsed onto the ground. One of the inheritors, a young man,
poured water into his own hand, and pulled off George’s hat to
run his wet fingers through the remnants of fine white hair.
“That should cool you down,” he said.
George conjured a deep smile, his eyes becoming sharp again.
“Yes, yes. That helps.”
The last time I saw George, I stopped at his house to
pick up some climbing rope. He was on his way to the Grand
Canyon, a short trip, just to give a talk. I was heading into a
wilderness in southern Arizona. Half joking, I reminded him of
a promise I had made. When he felt he was ready, we would go
into the Grand Canyon where I would pick up a rock and clock
him in the back of the head. He laughed. Not just yet. But his
laugh was only half-joking.
He died in his bed after returning from that Grand Canyon
trip. When I heard, when someone quietly took me aside and
told me the news, the world collapsed around me. The byzan-tine
framework of lines and webs that holds the Grand Canyon
together for me dissolved.
When a few days later I stood at his funeral, I heard stories pour-ing
out of all who knew him, the sweet, rippling sounds of voices,
vowels swinging open like soft winds. It was not in the numbers,
I realized. It was in the rivers of senses pouring into me as I stood
in the back of the funeral.
I walked out to the watermelon light of late afternoon and shook
the hands of mourners. I could feel the sweat of their palms, the
bones of their fingers. Traffic nearby sounded like a swarm. My
senses were suddenly sharpened. I could not help remember-ing
the sound of the river mumbling its way through the Grand
Canyon. I heard the far away rattle of reeds in a canyon breeze.
George got his wish. Never will these senses cease.
Steck leads the way ascending a rocky slope
above South Canyon. Beginning in 1957, Steck blazed
hundreds of trails in the Canyon’s remote wilderness,
making his last trek at age 77.
Silhouetted against the South Rim near Zoroaster Canyon, above,
hikers pause in June’s early morning light to survey the “cake
layers” of rock. The Grand Canyon’s geologic strata ranges in age
from 250 million to 1.7 billion years old.
12 m a y 2 0 0 6
Craig Childs is an Arizona native. More of his writing about George Steck
can be found in his recent book, Soul of Nowhere.
Photographer Gary Ladd of Page thought he knew the Grand Canyon very
well until he met George Steck; it was then that his real Canyon education
began. Both Steck, in 1999, and Ladd, in 2004, received the Grand
Canyon Historical Society’s Pioneer Award for their contributions to the
understanding of and knowledge about the Canyon.
14 a p r i l 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 15
Lightning, blisters and empty
canteens complicate the long toil
on Pine Mountain’s long view
by Peter Aleshire Photographs by David H. Smith
Out in the Land of the Ladybugs
Frost sheathes branches
and rocks at sunrise
atop 5,998-foot Pine
Mountain in the
16 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 17
oiling up the interminable trail, I quietly con-gratulated
myself between grunts.
Granted I was struggling to keep pace with Bruce Bilbrey,
the veteran elk hunter and enthusiastic outdoorsman
who’d offered to take me to the top of Pine Mountain in
central Arizona. Further granted, I felt like I’d mistak-enly
stuffed a set of barbells into my 30‑year‑old pack for my
return to the backpack adventures of my youth. But I had
marched right along on the 5‑mile incline from the trailhead.
I’d stayed ahead of Ellen Bilbrey, Bruce’s wife, who shares my
love of out‑of‑the‑way places. I’d even managed to outwalk
photographer David Smith, a taller, stronger, younger man.
True, he was carrying camera equipment, recovering from a
broken rib and popping pain pills. But I have learned that it’s
best in life to seize what advantages you can muster.
So I felt good.
Besides, it was gorgeous, albeit dangerously overcast. We
had almost postponed the trip, but then decided the predicted
high clouds were more likely to cut the heat than to spoil the
light. We’d take our chances on getting caught in a storm. So we
rose at dawn and drove an hour north of Phoenix on Interstate
17 to the Dugas Road turnoff and headed southeast down the
19‑mile dirt road back to the trailhead guarding the entrance
to the Pine Mountain Wilderness Area.
Throughout our three‑hour plod toward the 5,998‑foot peak,
we passed from one ecosystem to another — desert scrub to
piñon juniper, to cottonwood‑sycamore, to chaparral, to oak,
to ponderosa pine. Rising from the surrounding high‑desert
plateau, Pine Mountain is a biologic “sky island,” offering a
glimpse of varied habitats for the price of a hard day’s hike.
The clouds had begun to pile up over the peak by the time
we reached the top, a rounded, grassy flat space about 40 yards
across and dominated by a single, lightning‑scarred alligator
juniper. We dropped our packs and staggered toward the edge.
We could see the whole world — or at least the whole of central
Arizona. We turned in a circle, gazing 100 miles in every direc-tion,
from the Superstition Mountains to Flagstaff, from the
White Mountains out beyond Prescott. The Verde River Valley
wound around the base of the plateau.
What is it in us that loves the view to the horizon? I only
know that the vista fascinated and soothed me, like the flicker-ing
of a campfire or the sound of a stream.
Suddenly a great dark form swept into my field of view as a
golden eagle flew past so close I could hear the wind rushing
through her outspread feathered fingertips. A moment later,
her mate glided past.
David came to the edge and peered out across the rugged
terrain. “This doesn’t look good,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
He gestured toward the gathering clouds just as a deep rum-ble
of thunder broke against the peak, roiling on and on.
“It’s just thunder,” I said. “Way up in the clouds.”
Lightning flashed an instant later, followed immediately by
a terrifying crack.
“We’d better get off the peak,” said Ellen calmly.
We scrambled down the mountain, taking only a moment
to cover our packs with tarps. Raindrops spattered in the dry
dust. We had anticipated different water problems, since we
knew of no springs within miles of the summit. We’d lugged
about a gallon each and planned to refill 5 miles down the hill
at Bishop Springs.
We slipped, stumbled and slid a few hundred yards off the
peak into the oak and pine forest and hid under a bent‑over
pine. We started a small fire to drive off the unexpected chill,
and watched the benediction of rain on the dry forest.
Remarkably, the rain passed within a half-hour and we trudged
back to the peak.
We found the mountaintop alive with ladybugs, an orange
coating on bushes, sticks and rocks. Millions of ladybugs win-ter
beneath the snow on certain peaks, emerging in spring to
mate before taking flight for the valleys below, where they dine
on aphids to the delight of farmers and plant‑lovers. They’re
“Holy uphill Batman, we’ve got to get in shape.” Bob 3/27/97 “Great view.
Very peaceful. I love life.” Mark “We peaked out and pooped out at the
same time.” Mike “In the middle of nowhere without a phone, without a
toilet, without TV, without my boyfriend, just a teenager having fun
and being miserable at the same time.” Val 6/17/97 “I hiked up with a
beautiful woman. We both enjoyed the top.” Joe 7/2/96
Lichen mottles the boulders in the foreground of this view north into the
Cedar Bench Wilderness in the Prescott National Forest. Strange, composite
organisms worthy of a sci-fi novel, lichens combine the efforts of a fungus,
an algae and sometimes a cyanobacteria. This remarkable alliance enables
them to survive in harsh conditions and yields clues to the evolution of
complex creatures from simple beginnings.
Comfort in Numbers
Ladybugs congregate atop Pine Mountain every year, perhaps to facilitate
mating and deter predators with a mass of orange that warns birds they
taste terrible. The orange and black insects often play dead when
threatened, which can deter predators like dragonflies.
COMMENTS IN AMMO CAN AT TOP OF PINE MOUNTAIN:
18 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 19
programmed to seek high points, perhaps so their mass will
generate enough extra heat to get them through the winter. The
mass of orange-red and black also discourages predators, warned
by the coloration that ladybugs taste terrible. After the ladybugs
disperse to the valleys below, their offspring begin an epic jour-ney
back up the mountain. The grandchildren or great‑grand-children
of the ladybugs that flew from the peak return one or
two years later to complete the great cycle.
The gathering of ladybugs makes Pine Mountain a magical
place, as though you could pick the lock of some great secret
by shifting your gaze from the harlequin‑headed bugs to the
soul-stirring sweep of the horizon and back again.
Hikers’ comments left in an ammo can bolted to a rock out-crop
at the top testified to the wonder of the place.
“Sitting on a warm boulder with this vastness and this breeze.
I am still. How rich the journey,” wrote Timberley.
“Great to be alive,” wrote Kendra. “Good grief, all those lady-bugs.”
“I hope heaven is this good, because I could do this for all
eternity,” wrote Bruce.
We wandered, marveling, across the tiny mountaintop for
hours. As darkness gathered, lights came on far out across
the great sweep of mountains. Prescott blazed, Payson glit-tered,
Cordes Junction glimmered and far to the south, Phoenix
glowed. As the storm cleared, the dusty river of the Milky Way
took shape overhead.
We woke at dawn as David scrambled to snatch the only good
light of the trip for photography. Bruce, Ellen and I huddled
with the map, planning the day’s hike. We had nearly exhausted
our water supply, but knew we could refill at Bishop Springs.
We could camp at the springs and hike out the next day.
I repacked to add some camera gear, although the previous
day’s hike had produced a couple of protoblisters and a whole
constellation of muscles I’d long taken for granted. No matter,
you’re as young as you think, I told myself.
The first 5 miles slipped past, despite the downhill strain on
my blisters and an ankle I’d sprained two months earlier. Twice,
the treacherous ankle turned to dump me on my knees.
The scenery offered solace as we hiked along a ridge through
already recovering burns. The burned snags house a wide variety
of birds, which in turn help keep forest‑munching insects under
control. The fires also open up clearings, which inspire a flourish
of grass that sustains bears, elk and deer. We also found tracks
and other signs of mountain lions and bears, also plentiful in
this rich wilderness.
We gulped our way down to our last canteen by lunch, just
shy of Bishop Springs. We snacked atop a rocky outcrop over-looking
Bishop Creek, dubiously eyeing the steep, trailless,
800‑foot scramble down to where the stream lay concealed
at the canyon bottom. So we pulled the straws off our juice
cartons and lay on our stomachs to sip rainwater out of the
hollows of the rock.
But I didn’t actually start to worry until we got to Bishop
Springs and found it dry.
We pondered our options, as I shifted back and forth from
one blistered foot to the other.
We could hike down to Bishop Creek, in hopes of finding
water. I faintly favored this option, but Bruce regarded me dubi-ously.
He’d been the soul of discretion all day, overlooking my
falls, stumbles and slackening pace.
“We might get down there,” he said, turning to study the drop‑off
into the canyon. “But then we’ve got to get back out.”
“And suppose there isn’t any water?” said David, who also
had developed blisters and exhausted the power of ibuprofen
against broken ribs.
“Maybe we should just head out today,” I said, with a show
“That sounds prudent,” observed Bruce. “Besides, I left a
cooler of drinks in the car.”
The drinks proved decisive. So we turned and limped back
toward the 5-miledistant
car, lurching finally through a spat-tering
of raindrops. We dropped our malignant packs, unlaced
our overheated boots and guzzled the blissful brew.
I vowed to burn my pack as soon as I got home. Yet, two
days later, my bruises had faded and I couldn’t stop picturing
the ladybugs, the view from the top and the splayed fingertips
of a golden eagle.
Location: 60 miles north of Phoenix.
Getting There: From Phoenix, drive north on
Interstate 17 and exit at Exit 268 for Dugas/
Orme Road. Drive southeast on unpaved Forest
Service Road 68 for 18 miles to the trailhead for
Nelson Trail 159. Take trail 159 approximately
3.25 miles to the trailhead for Pine Mountain
Travel Advisory: Six maintained trails, including the Pine
Mountain Summit Trail, cross the 20,100-acre Pine
Mountain Wilderness Area. Spring, summer and fall are
the best seasons to hike in the area.
Warning: Carry plenty of water.
Additional Information: Prescott National Forest, Verde
Ranger District, (928) 567-4121; www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott.
Peter Aleshire, editor of Arizona Highways, insists that Pine Mountain offers
the best view in Arizona.
Despite almost being blown off the mountain by a lightning storm,
photographer David H. Smith of Phoenix was amazed at the thousands of
ladybugs on the summit of Pine Mountain.
Dead trees frame the 100-mile view south across the Verde River
Valley all the way to Horseshoe Reservoir. Lightning strikes on the
exposed summit take a toll on the gnarled pines, oaks and junipers,
but the dead snags are actually crucial habitat for insects and birds.
Ignorance is Bliss
Editor Peter Aleshire, left, ponders the campfire
alongside Bruce and Ellen Bilbrey, in happy ignorance
of the oozing blisters and dried up springs that await
on the hike down.
when you go
20 a p r i l 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 21 10most scenic hikes
1west fork trail
> 3 miles one-way with
several creek crossings
> 5,400-5,500 feet elevation
> Red Rock Ranger District,
> Trailhead is between
Mileposts 384 and 385, on
State Route 89A, 10 miles
north of Sedona
Like some people born with
good looks, personality and
a pedigree, this trail has an
overload of assets — exquisite
beauty, unique atmosphere,
colorful history and special
wildlife. The Sedona area’s
most popular hike, the trail
along the West Fork of Oak
Creek, threads through orange-and
cliffs, earning it a reputation
as one of the most beautiful
walks in the Southwest. Go
during the week to miss the
mass of weekend admirers.
West Fork of Oak Creek, Coconino National Forest. randy prentice
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
Oak C reek Canyon
Our hiking expert reveals the
state’s most spectacular jaunts
by Christine Maxa
22 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 23
Two words explain why Arizona is one of the world’s best places to hike: open space.
Public lands account for 80 percent of the state, with mountains steeped in legends, rock formations memorialized in movies and a
mélange of canyons jigsawed with physical challenges. But one of the best lures for hardy hikers remains the chance of spending the
day amid the sort of scenery Arizona Highways photographers have made famous. After writing four Arizona hiking guides, hiking
thousands of miles on hundreds of trails in the past dozen years, I still discover hidden jewels. But some trails linger in my mind’s
eye and keep me coming back. So here’s a selection of the 10 most scenic trails I’ve ever hiked. — Christine Maxa
3echo canyon loop
> 3.3-mile loop
> 6,780-6,330 feet elevation
> Chiricahua National Monument,
> Trailhead is in the Chiricahua
National Monument on Bonita
The balanced rocks, totems and
hoodoos along Heart of Rocks Trail may
be the heart of Chiricahua National
Monument, but the Echo Canyon Loop
is surely its soul. Located in one of the
state’s most intriguing landscapes, the
trail offers the monument’s trademark
scenery of light-colored lava ash
welded into fantastic shapes, but
then adds a spirit so contemplative
and peaceful that it’s no wonder the
Apaches considered it sacred.
> Easy, but adventurous
> 11 miles one-way
> 2,700-3,000 feet elevation
> Bureau of Land Management Safford Field Office, (928) 348-4400
> Trailhead is on Aravaipa Road, 12 miles east of State Route 77
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, the darling of desert hikes, combines the sear of the Sonoran
Desert and the verdure of a lush oasis thanks to the perennial flow of Aravaipa Creek
between claret-colored cliffs. One of the most biologically diverse environments in the state
cocoons visitors with a mingling of wildlife and wilderness. Beaten paths thread in and out
of the creek to comprise the trail in this natural gem, so water-friendly footgear is de rigueur.
Aravaipa Canyon at its confluence with Virgus Canyon,
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. jack dykinga
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191
or visit arizonahighways.com.
Aravaipa Canyon Wi lde rnes s
Chi r i cahua Nat ional Monument
Sunset, Echo Canyon, Chiricahua National Monument. jack dykinga
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
24 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 25
> 8 miles one-way
> 5,200-2,600 feet
> Havasupai Tribe,
> Trailhead is at the north
end of Indian Route 18 off
U.S. Route 66
The Supai Nation’s world-renowned
trail in western
Grand Canyon leads to
Arizona’s Shangri-la, where
Havasu Creek’s blue-green
waters cascade in free-verse
poetry down red-walled
cliffs at Havasu, Navajo and
Mooney falls. But things only
get better below the falls.
Follow the creek’s gemstone
flow 2 more miles to Beaver
Falls to experience the true
character of this wild and
Navajo Falls, Havasu Canyon, Havasupai Indian Reservation. chuck lawsen
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
26 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 27
> 5 miles one-way
> 9,800-8,900 feet elevation
> Peaks Ranger District,
> Trailhead is on Snow Bowl Road,
off U.S. Route 180
Hiking up Humphreys Peak isn’t the only way to
experience Arizona’s highest mountain. Hikers
not ready for the challenging climb to the
top can stick to Humphreys’ midsection. The
Kachina Trail, especially popular in autumn for
aspen golds, shows off the many facets of the
mountain—shadowed fir forests, wildflowered
meadows and quivering aspen groves. This all
comes, for most hikers, without the threat of
altitude sickness imposed by climbing up the
> 6.6 miles one-way
> 2,800-6,000 feet elevation
> Santa Catalina Ranger District,
> Trailhead is located in Catalina State
Park, 18 miles north of Tucson on
State Route 77
Situated in the sky island Santa Catalina
Mountains, this trail climbs from the desert floor
at the edge of Tucson up to isolated Romero
Pass in the pine-covered high country. The hike
presents an incredible diversity of nature from its
start among saguaro cacti to its ending among
ponderosa pines. The sights include a flourish
of more than a hundred different wildflower
species after a wet winter, and a string of pools
3 miles in.
Kachina Peaks Wilderness, Coconino
National Forest. tom danielsen
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191
or visit arizonahighways.com
n To order a print,
call (866) 962-1191
Coconino National Forest
Santa C a tal i na Mountai n s
28 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 29
> 4 miles one-way
> 6,500-8,800 feet elevation
> North Kaibab Ranger District,
> Trailhead is at the end of Forest
Service Road 610
The views on this North Rim trail, off
Forest Service Road 610 in the Saddle
Mountain Wilderness, begin as soon as it
starts its dicey tumble down the Kaibab
Plateau. The path also reveals panoramas
of some of the local geological wonders:
Marble Canyon, Kaiparowits Plateau
and dome-shaped Navajo Mountain.
The grand finale comes at a sweeping
overlook of the Grand Canyon at mile 2.
From there, the trail loses its big-visuals
impact but charms its way through an
ancient ponderosa forest as it continues
down a side canyon to its end at Forest
Service Road 445.
Saddle Mountain, Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs. robert mcdonald
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
Grand Canyon Nat ional Park
30 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 31
west baldy trail
> 7 miles one way
> 9,000-11,200 feet elevation
> Springerville Ranger District,
> Trailhead is 9 miles south of State Route
260 on State Route 273
This trail starts in a picture-perfect meadow
along the West Fork of the Little Colorado River
near the serene base of the state’s second-highest
peak. After a couple miles’ climb up
Mount Baldy’s steep slopes, the trail enters a
fresh evergreen forest with wistful views of
distant meadows. At the rocky top where the
harsh elements shape the landscape, austerity
mixes with sanctity. The very top of this peak
remains off limits since it is a sacred spot to the
White Mountain Apache Indians.
boulder canyon trail
> 7.3 miles one-way
> 1,680-2,300 feet elevation
> Mesa Ranger District, (480) 610-3300
> Trailhead begins at the parking lot of Canyon
Lake Marina on State Route 88, 15 miles north of
U.S. Route 60
The trail does not have the folkloric allure of the Peralta Trail,
but what it lacks in legend it makes up for with an abundance
of the Superstition Mountains’ breathtaking geology, history
and solitude. The path showcases striking scenes of Weavers
Needle and other curious volcanic formations. Better yet,
the trail drops into a gorgeous canyon containing old mines
and, after a wet winter, the best diversity of wildflowers the
Superstition Wilderness has to offer.
Weavers Needle viewed from Labarge Creek Canyon along the Boulder Canyon
Trail, in the Superstition Wilderness, Tonto National Forest. larry ulrich
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
West Fork of the Little
Colorado River, Mount
n To order a print, call
(866) 962-1191 or visit
Supe r s t i t ion Wi lde rnes s
Whi te Mountain Apache Indian Res e r vat ion
32 m a y 2 0 0 6
kofa queen road
> 3.75 miles one-way
> 2,270 feet elevation
> Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, (928) 783-7861
> Trailhead is located on Kofa Queen Canyon Road,
approximately 65 miles north of Yuma off U.S. Route 95
The Kofa Mountains, with their quirky ridgeline reeling with jagged peaks, provide a continuous show of scenery
during this canyon hike named for the gold mine near the canyon’s head. The multiuse road passes under
imposing cliffs filled with needle-sharp spires, arches and small clefts. Deep in the canyon, quiescence settles
around a curious monolith. As one of the dwindling number of places to hike cross-country, a trip inside the
rough-hewn mountains doesn’t necessarily have to end when the road does; just bring a map and a GPS.
online Christine Maxa, who has written four Arizona hiking guides and revised the Arizona State Trails Guide,
may be biased, but she thinks these 10 trails are the best ones in the world. She lives in Peeples Valley.
Before you go on these hikes, find more places to see and things to do in our online archive at arizonahighways.com (Click on “Hikes Guide”).
Volcanic peaks, teddy bear cholla cacti and ocotillos,
in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. george stocking
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191 or visit
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 33
10 Kofa Mount a ins
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 35
counts and red blood cell counts, and I knew,”
says Glorimary, whose father had died of cancer
in 1990, at the age of 45. “I just collapsed on the
kitchen floor and started crying.”
The news hit Alex Sr. hard, too. “It’s like you’re
standing in the middle of the railroad tracks, and
you see this train coming, and you can’t move,”
says the 36-year-old father of three, a regional
accounts manager for the Qwest phone company.
After briefly wondering why it had to happen
to their son, the Vargases, of Chandler, got down
to business. They began working the phones,
doing research and educating themselves about
chronic myelogenous leukemia, a form of the
disease so rare in children that it occurs in only 2
to 4 percent of all childhood leukemia cases.
They even organized large bone marrow drives
in Florida and Puerto Rico, where Glorimary
Those efforts, in turn, led them to The Leukemia
& Lymphoma Society’s innovative new fund-raising
program called Hike for Discovery, and
that led Alex to the Rim of the Grand Canyon on
a brilliant morning in May.
“Glorimary and I decided that the guy upstairs
gave us this bump in the road for a reason, and
it was to show us that we should help others, not
just our son,” says Alex, gazing into the great
gorge from Mather Point. “That’s why I’m here,
and it feels really good to me. It feels like a mis-sion
The Hike for Discovery got its start in the win-ter
of 2003. The idea’s creators, Gene Taylor and
his wife, Jo Ann, were walking out of the Canyon
along Hermit Trail late one afternoon when they
began talking about finding a way to use their
knowledge, and the Canyon, to raise money for
The Taylors operate a company called The
Walking Connection, which organizes hiking
adventures around the world.
The couple reached Hermit’s Rest and looked
back at where they’d been, admiring the sunset,
the color and the majesty, and the idea quickly
took shape in their minds.
“We decided to utilize our walking program
and the magnificence of Arizona to raise money
in a way that had never been done before,” says
Taylor. “The Canyon provided the inspiration,
and we basically put together the whole program
while sitting there.”
Within six months, they were in partnership
with the society, which began organizing last
year’s inaugural hike. The event drew 237 par-
34 m a y 2 0 0 6
THE WORST DAY OF HIS LIFE led Alex Vargas
Sr. to the most beautiful place on Earth. How he
got to the Grand Canyon is a story of love and
hope that has helped bring the entire Vargas fam-ily
back to the eternal value of doing for others.
On that terrible day, October 30, 2004, doctors
informed Alex and wife, Glorimary, that their
then 13-year-old son, Alex Jr., had leukemia. For
four months, he’d suffered pain in his hips that a
string of doctors couldn’t explain. At the end of
her patience, Glorimary took Alex to the hospi-tal
where a doctor admitted the boy, and said he
wouldn’t release him until the problem had been
So Glorimary drove home to pack a suitcase,
and while there, the doctor called with the results
of Alex’s blood tests.
“He started talking about white blood cell
Alex Vargas, second in line, hits the trail at the South Rim of the
Grand Canyon along with other Hike for Discovery participants, who
each raised a minimum of $2,500. Proceeds from the hike support
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s cancer research.
A terrible day leads to
a beautiful place
to fight leukemia
by LEO W. BANKS
photographs by DON B. and RYAN STEVENSON
36 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 37
ticipants from five of the society’s chapters
Each person raised at least $2,500 — or
$3,500 for those from chapters outside
Arizona — by whatever means they chose.
Their methods included fund-raising let-ters,
phone-call appeals or putting on var-ied
events such as charity softball games.
Those who raised the requisite amount,
and engaged in a society-sponsored 15-
week physical fitness training in prepara-tion,
were rewarded with the adventure of
a lifetime, a hike into the Canyon or along
its Rim, organized and guided by The
Last year’s hike grossed $975,000. This
year, the society expects to raise $1.5 mil-lion
with 700 to 800 hikers taking to the
Canyon trail during four weekends in April
“The ‘Discovery’ part of the title means
that we’re donating all the money to help
discover cures for leukemia, lymphoma and
other blood-related cancers,” says Kate
Giblin, the society’s national campaign
director. A grant from the society helped
fund the research for a new leukemia drug
called Gleevec. Alex Vargas Jr. takes Gleevec.
But the hike’s benefits go beyond money
raised. It brings together people who’ve lived
with struggle, heartbreak and in some cases,
painful loss. Yet each still finds the time and
the will to press on toward a cure.
Javier Zuluaga got involved in the Hike
for Discovery in the name of Michael Drake,
his former football coach at the U.S. Naval
Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
Zuluaga and his wife, Gina, raised
$10,200 in Drake’s name, the highest
amount for the society’s Desert Mountain
Chapter, based in Phoenix.
“He was there so much for me at the acad-emy,
and I wanted to be there for him when
he was going through a tough time,” says
Zuluaga, 34, who works at Security Title
in Phoenix. “I was proud to have him as a
coach then, and I’m proud to have him as
a friend now.”
Even though battling non-Hodgkins
lymphoma, Drake, still in his 40s, planned
to attend last year’s hike with his wife and
daughters. But the cancer attacked his brain
and he couldn’t travel, leaving his doctors
no option but to treat symptoms.
Anticipating his good friend’s death pained
Zuluaga. But coming to the Grand Canyon
helped fill his heart with gladness, too.
“I’m going to contemplate some of the
good things Coach Drake did in people’s
lives,” says Zuluaga. “Coach would want
that. He was such a positive person, so low-key
and humble. It really touched him that
so many people came together for him.”
Virtually all the hikers tell similar stories
— how the terror of cancer, either theirs
or a loved one’s, brought clarity to their lives,
helping them understand what’s most
Eileen Bobrow, a 63-year-old teacher and
family therapist from the society’s Palo Alto,
California, chapter, stood at the Canyon
Rim as a Hike Hero, so called by organizers
because she has cancer and decided to hike
in spite of it.
In fact, she underwent chemotherapy a
few days before suiting up with her walking
sticks, sun hat and sunscreen. Cat Hicks, 29,
also from Silicon Valley, called Bobrow an
inspiration to everyone.
“Can you imagine coming out here to
hike after chemotherapy?” asks Hicks, who
joined the Grand Canyon adventure for her
goddaughter, suffering from acute lympho-cytic
leukemia. “It makes you realize that
what you’re going through in your own life
isn’t as drastic as you think.”
For Alex Vargas Jr., a handsome, shaggy-haired
teen, there have been many lessons.
He learned, for example, that his little brother,
Sal, loves him a whole bunch.
When the diagnosis came, Sal, then 9,
thought he might lose his brother, and
didn’t want to leave him behind in the hos-pital.
And when Alex Jr. came home, Sal
slept in the same bed with his big brother to
keep him close.
Throughout his month-long stay at Phoenix
Children’s Hospital, during which he cele-brated
his 14th birthday, Alex Jr.’s Bible
study group moved their meetings to his
room. And his friends, frequent visitors,
said that if he lost his hair, they’d all shave
their heads, too.
These displays of love and support affected
Alex Jr. deeply, sparking a change in his life-long
plans. He said he always wanted to
design cars for Ford or General Motors
when he grew up. But his battle with leuke-mia
changed his mind.
Now Alex wants to become an oncologist.
As the brave youngster told his mom, “Who
better to care for these patients than me.”
that actually trains
participants to hike the
famed chasm raised
$975,000 last year for The
Leukemia & Lymphoma
Society. This year’s
spring hike is scheduled
for May 5-7, and The
Leukemia & Lymphoma
Society has opened the
program to 23 chapters
nationwide in addition
to the Phoenix chapter.
Preparations for a fall
hike gear up this August.
Hikers or sponsors should contact hike coordinator Lisa
Bisciglia, (602) 788-8622, extension 13, or email@example.com
for details. To support Hike For Discovery online, go to www.
hikefordiscovery.org/dm. You can select a hiker to sponsor
from the Desert Mountain States Chapter and make an
Alex Vargas Jr., 14,
front, hugged by his
brother Sal, who never
leaves his side, takes
a new leukemia drug,
which was tested
thanks to a grant from
& Lymphoma Society.
…the hike’s benefits go beyond money raised.
It brings together people who’ve lived with
struggle, heartbreak and in some cases, painful loss. Footsteps for Dollars
Trekkers walk along the Grand
Canyon’s South Rim.
Tucson-based Leo W. Banks used his time hiking
at the Canyon with Alex Vargas Sr. to rediscover
life’s eternal verities.
Father-and-son team Don B. and Ryan Stevenson
of Tempe worked together on this intensely
moving project. Both came away with a profound
sense of love and deep respect for the patients
and the hiker-supporters.
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 39
When Robert G. Harris was 12, he
had one of those moments of wildly
impractical ambition and passion
that would make most parents despair.
He was staring enraptured at the steely-eyed
gunfighter and the busty endangered
damsel in the pulp fiction magazine Ace High,
when he said out loud, “Somebody has to do
these illustrations, why not me?”
Little did he know that his adolescent
moment of clarity would lead him to an impro-vised
career as a starving artist, pulp icon,
commercial illustrator, portrait painter and
finally an abstract painter living in the altered
West of his dreams.
And he owes it all to the pulp magazine art
that once caused parental eyerolls, but now
fuels a booming business among collectors
and people seeking to understand the deep
connection between art and our view of our-selves.
“Pulps,” as they were often called, reigned
in the 1930s and ’40s as the most popular
form of entertainment in the country. Long
before television, these adventurous stories
on cheap pulp paper captured the hearts of
millions of Americans during the Great
Depression. The Western pulps ruled the col-orful
Sold on newsstands, the pulps’ cover art
had to halt potential buyers in their tracks.
“Competition was fierce among publications,
so the cover needed to feature a stop-action
image at a moment of crisis in the story, like
a movie-still,” explains Harris, still sharp and
fit at 94 seated in his sunny home in Carefree.
Success required 20-by-30-inch canvases,
brilliant colors squeezed straight from the
tube, expert realist technique and a dramatic
imagination. “You had to be a dreamer and a
ham to paint these pictures,” says Harris.
To snare the dime of a potential reader, illus-trators
depicted sultry distressed damsels,
38 m a y 2 0 0 6
R.G. Harris’ Illustrations Have Gone
From Wildly Popular to Trash
to Fine Art Find by Amy Abrams
Realizing a Boyhood Dream
Westerns became the most popular form of “pulp” literature. In 1934, Robert G. Harris created his
first cover, opposite page, for Thrilling Ranch Stories. It fulfilled a childhood fantasy. Though not a
cowboy, Harris, above in his studio, modeled for several paintings. The Kansas City native, now 94,
has been listed in Who’s Who in the West, and moved to Arizona to paint portraits and later retire.
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 41
courageous cowboy heroes, hissing rattlesnakes,
growling mountain lions and gruff gunslingers. Each
canvas needed space for titles like Outlaws of the West
and intriguing headlines like “Trigger Man from
Harris and his fellow pulp illustrators and writers
helped define the Wild West by romanticizing rugged
cowboy individualism and the inevitable triumph
of good over evil. The pulps of the 1930s and 1940s
followed in the hoof marks of railroad promoters
and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows and prepared the
ground for radio serials, television shows, Hollywood
Westerns, country-and-western crooners and glamor-ous
“We all love the idea of the cowboy,” says Kent
Whipple, director of Meyer-Munson Gallery in Santa
Fe, and an expert in the field. “But most of our images
of the West are actually myth. The life of the cowboy
was hard and dirty, often not at all glamorous.”
Ironically, only about 1,000 of the estimated 50,000
paintings commissioned for the pulps have survived.
The rest were burned, lost or stashed in
garages decades before they were
rediscovered and treasured as cultural
icons. Prices of pulp cover paintings
have soared in recent years. Going
for as much as $70,000, pulp art
has made its way from newsstands
“Pulp paintings were spicy and
saucy and often filled with sex and
violence,” explains Robert Lesser,
of New York, who owns the largest
private collection of pulp paintings. “Not
the sort of images you wanted hanging in your
living room like paintings of flowers or bowls of fruit.
So, collectors veered away.”
The paintings Harris discarded or sold for a trifle
would be worth a small fortune today. “Very few art-ists
kept their paintings. I sure wish I had kept more
of mine,” says Harris. “We’d give the completed can-vases
to the magazine’s art director. They’d pile up at
the publishing house and you’d get a call: ‘If you don’t
come for ’em, we’ll burn ’em.’ Most of the artists just
didn’t have room for them. A lot of stuff burned.”
When Condé Nast bought pulp publisher Street
& Smith in 1959, every artist was asked to retrieve
his paintings from the largest collection of pulps
ever saved. No takers. A small auction was held. No
bidders. Condé Nast finally offered the paintings to
their employees, for free; no, thanks. So, the publishing
house put the canvases in the garbage.
Over the past 15 years, collectors have clamored for
these campy canvases as well as vintage pulp maga-zines
by scouring flea markets, bargaining with book,
art and antique dealers and attending pulp magazine
and comic book conventions. The market for pulp
magazines is strongest for famous authors, like Ray
Bradbury, Raymond Chandler, Zane Grey, Dashiell
Hammett, Louis L’Amour and Tennessee Williams.
After some success in the pulps, Harris shifted his
efforts to the “slicks,” the larger circulation, slicker
paper, higher paying publications.
“I landed my first ‘slicks’ commission from the Saturday
Evening Post,” recalls Harris. “With the Post exposure,
the door was instantly thrown wide open. Commissions
came in from Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Ladies’
Home Journal and McCall’s. Advertising accounts fol-lowed.
“It’s hard to believe,” continues Harris with
sentimental tears in his eyes. “I was just a kid out of
Born in 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri, to a modest
and loving family, Harris never wanted to be a cowboy,
but he always wanted to paint them. He graduated from
high school and headed for New York where he was
mentored by Kansas City Art Institute illustration
teacher Monte Crews, who taught the techniques of
Norman Rockwell and Walter Biggs.
When he graduated from art school, the young Harris
played the part of “cowboy” to get commissions.
“My first time interviewing with a Western pulp art
director, at Thrilling Ranch, was not a meeting I left to
chance. I needed all the ammunition that was available.
I thought if I looked like a cowboy it might carry some
weight. I had a Western hat, a Tommy Grimes rodeo
model, all black, and a 10-gallon size. The art direc-tor
accepted my Western attire as authentic and the
sketches pleased him to the point of buying two.”
Harris soon gave up the cowboy costume for sales
calls, but often dressed up to serve as his own model.
“The mirror is the most wonderful gadget an artist
ever had,” muses Harris. When he married his wife,
Marjorie, in 1935, yup — you guessed it: She posed as
the notorious damsel in distress. At nearby stables, he
snapped photographs of horses and riding equipment
for his paintings.
The couple moved to the outskirts of New York City
to raise their two children. As Harris’ career acceler-ated,
the constant deadlines took their toll even as
photography and television drove the pulps into the
Harris already loved the West, thanks to a couple
of motorcycle trips and jaunts in his own airplane to
northern Arizona. So when a friend helped him land
portrait commissions in Arizona, the dreams of a 12-
year-old came full circle. Harris went West.
In 1953, the Harris family settled into a home on
the slope of Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale. “If
I showed you a picture of that view, you’d cry,” says
Harris. As the population boomed, they moved north
After a second successful career as a portrait painter,
the ever-innovative Harris took another bold leap and
turned his talent to abstract painting. “After so many
years of painting pictures that were very disciplined
and directed, I enjoyed the freer style,” he says.
Although Harris hung up his brush in 1989, his
work is still sought out by collectors, art dealers and
Not bad for a 12-year-old with an unrealistic dream
and a taste for pulps.
Amy Abrams of Tempe can be found rummaging through the
dusty shelves of used magazine shops for Western pulp magazines.
40 m a y 2 0 0 6
The Art of an Era
Pulps are enjoying a resurgence in
museums and private collections,
including a new paperback line,
Hard Case Crime. But Harris was a
player in the true heyday of the
pulps. He created more than 50
covers for Wild West Weekly, a
publication by Street & Smith, which
also put out Doc Savage.
After their marriage in 1935, Harris used his wife,
Marjorie, right, as a model for the stories’
damsels — swooning in distress or toting her own
shotgun. Harris became known for his depictions of
beautiful women and romantic scenes.
Harris painted from photographs,
including ones of himself in highly
dramatic poses, right.
42 m a y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 43
i’d wanted to hike to the floor of the Grand Canyon
since my first walk into the chasm several years ago. Once I’d
dropped below the Rim, the Canyon had me hooked. Wrapped
in its colorful striped walls, I felt compelled to explore more
of that wonderland and see the Colorado River up close. And I
wanted to hike with my two daughters.
They’d grown apart, and I was partly to blame. When they
argued, I intervened. When they moved hundreds of miles
apart — Karen to Phoenix and Becky to Delaware — I became
their phone line: “Tell Karen . . .” or “Tell Becky. . . .” I’d
stood between them for years, and they became unwilling to
communicate. I hoped the hike would give us a fresh start.
Becky and I met Karen in Phoenix on April 1 a couple of
years ago. “It’s snowing in Flagstaff and raining in the Canyon,”
“April Fools,” I said.
Becky and I were unprepared for rain, and Karen’s car was
unprepared for snow. We bought rain gear, but searching for
tire chains was like looking for the Dutchman’s gold. So we
rented a four‑wheel‑drive SUV.
Even so, Flagstaff’s snow nearly stopped us. Karen balked,
afraid to continue, but she was outvoted. On we went.
The next morning, at the South Kaibab Trailhead, weighted
with packs and garbed against the cold, we grouped for
a photo. I stood beside, not between, my daughters, an
unintentional arrangement, but symbolic of what I had to do.
Wispy clouds drifted over the expanse and cast shadows
on temples and terraces. As we descended off the Rim, a sharp
wind blasted us and a juniper whose armlike branches clung
to a boulder. Though comical, the tree nevertheless survived its
uncompromising world, where I wished for compromise.
Each switchback of the red‑dust trail unveiled new delights,
like ship‑shaped O’Neill Butte, the river appearing as a snippet of
green ribbon far below, a spray of yellow prince’s plume, and the
toilet building at the Tipoff, the inner Canyon’s Rim. There,
we lunched and rested before the last and hardest section.
During our bone‑jarring descent into the Canyon, a
sinewy man in tank top and shorts ran by us toward the river.
Resentment trampled our astonishment. He nimbly descended
the Canyon wall, while our shaky legs screamed “Quit!”
We hobbled across the bridge to the river’s north side. As
we stood there relishing level ground, too sore and tired to
celebrate, the returning runner approached us again. “I think
we should trip him,” said Karen. Consensus at last!
After a damp night in our tent and waking to a drizzly dawn,
we decided to inquire about Phantom Ranch availability. We
wanted to be well-rested for the 10-mile Bright Angel Trail the
next day. We were in luck. Ice at the Rim forced last-minute
cancellations. Becky booked us a cabin, and Karen came within a
mule’s whisker of hugging her. They agreed to share the expense.
They also cooperated when they gave some Phantom Ranch
kids the pound of candy we didn’t want in our packs and when
they kept me from dumping — a park no‑no — our excess gorp.
Opposition never felt so good.
And they showed they cared. Becky climbed to her cabin bunk
via the windowsill, lost her grip, and fell against the window. It
shattered, and Becky landed barefoot in a pool of shards. Karen
insisted on checking her for cuts. Hiking out, Becky carried the
heaviest pack to spare Karen’s painful knees, but I became testy.
A squirrel crawled onto my hat, while I reclined by the trail.
Karen shouted a warning. “Don’t let him on me,” I sputtered. “I
didn’t see him coming,” she said. The tension vanished as quickly
as the squirrel, as we laughed my hat “ornament.”
Now my daughters share their lives. They stay in touch and
get together. And I stand proudly beside them, for they outdid
the Colorado River. They closed a chasm.
by Pamela Crowe illustration by Joseph Daniel Fiedler along the way
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A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 45
hike of the month
my path back up to the rim.
The silent solitude brought
me closer to my own nature
as I began the ascent. I walked
with my head down, caught
in the reflection of the trip
and nearly stumbled over a
scruffy sheep dog sidestepping
my path. I knew dogs weren’t
allowed on the trail and so
looked up to warn the owner.
An elderly Navajo woman
met my gaze. Her solemn dark
brown eyes watched me from
her wizened face as she picked
her way past me. Red skirts
swirled around bent limbs
and a blue scarf covered her
head from the afternoon sun.
I struggled to say hello in
Navajo, but the end result
sounded like I was choking
on ice chips.
She chuckled, nodded
and continued on. She’d
already been up. Now
it was my turn.
they say women have
a way of knowing. However,
they don’t say what it is we’re
supposed to know. My search
for knowing took me across
the Navajo Nation, where I
decided to take the steep 2.5-
mile round-trip trail that
descends 600 feet into
Canyon de Chelly to the
ancient White House Ruins.
But it wasn’t the cliff dwelling
that had captured my
imagination. I wanted to walk
in the footsteps of the women
who had once used this trail
to move sheep in and out of
the canyon along this pathway,
the name of which in Navajo
means “Woman’s Trail Up.”
I started the descent along
the slippery sandstone. The
rock rippled out like the ancient
sea that laid down these
layered sandstone beds more
than 200 million years ago.
After a few feet of this
slick, shallow descent, I
came to the steeper trail
into the canyon. Here and
there, benches perched along
the narrow curves offered a
moment’s respite from the
moderately strenuous walk.
Stunted junipers twisted
out of the rock. Prickly
pear, snakeweed, sumac,
sagebrush and narrow-leaf
yucca thickened as I
approached the canyon
bottom. Soaring high on
all sides, wide expanses of
rippled red reached up to
touch the cerulean sky.
Off to the left, a
fence protected a hogan
surrounded with signs
warning against unwanted
photographs. The sandy
path curved forward,
hemmed in with thick
brush, where pieces of white
fleece from passing sheep
dangled in the branches.
I walked across a narrow
wooden bridge spanning the
water that helped to carve
out the canyon and rounded
one last curve to find myself
faced with the majesty of a
long-lost culture. With 60
rooms in the lower section
and another 20 tucked away
in the cliff, this ancestral
Puebloan structure housed as
many as 100 people between
a.d. 1060 and 1275. I watched
the sun cut deep shadows
along the walls and mused at
the pictograph fish swimming
high overhead in a sandstone
sea, before turning to retrace
44 m a y 2 0 0 6
the White House (Ruins)
With double-sided, flat-stone
rubble filling, White House
Ruins mimic a style first
seen in New Mexico’s Chaco
Canyon Great Pueblos.
Before you go on this hike, visit arizonahighways.com for other things
to do and places to see in this area. You’ll also find more hikes in our archive.
Location: 220 miles northeast of Flagstaff.
Getting There: From Flagstaff, take Interstate 40 east to U.S. Route 191.
Turn left (north) onto U.S. 191 and drive approximately 80 miles to Chinle.
Turn right onto Indian Route 7 and drive 2 miles to the Canyon de Chelly
Monument visitors center. Turn right and follow the South Rim Drive 5.9
miles to the White House Overlook.
Travel Advisory: Spring and fall are the best seasons to hike the trail.
Carry plenty of water.
Additional Information: Canyon de Chelly National Monument,
when you go
by Carrie M. Miner photographs by Peter Ensenberger
Dwarfed by the patina-streaked
walls of Canyon de Chelly, the
fortresslike ruins nestle in the
security of its defensive position.
woman’s trail up Kevin Kibsey
CANYON DE CHELLY
DEFI ANC E PLATEAU
Canyon del Muerto
Canyon de Chelly
back road adventure
as i watched the long, silver ribbons of rain splatter against
the wind shield, I remembered my wife’s words of wisdom, “Be
careful what you ask for.” Now, sitting in my truck, listening
to the soft rumble of Chivo Falls and knowing we had to cross
an ever-deepening stream to make it back to Tucson, I realized
what she meant.
For weeks prior to my planned trip to Chivo Falls in spring
2004, I had been hoping for rain and snow. Snow-capped and
rain-saturated winter mountains followed by a dramatic
spring heat wave causes streams to swell, their usual languid
water turning into rushing torrents. This is how I wanted to
capture the essence of hard-to-get-to Chivo Falls.
While exploring the Sonoran Desert for almost 20 years, I
have found nothing that kindles my inner spirit like a desert
waterfall. They are so infrequent, so seemingly out of place, so
This time, I got what I asked for, and more.
Nestled in the shadows of Mica Mountain in the Rincon
Mountains east of Tucson, Chivo Falls received a few wonderful
storms early in the year. The week prior to the trip, the
temperatures rose towards 90 degrees. Perfect. I didn’t foresee
(neither did the weather forecasters) the storms that rolled in
In Season, the Jarring Drive to Chivo Falls Pays Off
the morning of our trip.
The sun had yet to rise on
an overcast morning when
I met photographer Randy
Prentice and friends Scott
Duecker and Luis Rodriguez
at the intersection of Catalina
Highway and Tanque Verde
Road. We set off toward the
thickly shrouded mountains
with Luis in Scott’s rugged
four-wheel-drive vehicle and
Randy with me in my new
We drove east on Tanque
Verde Road for 8 miles. The
smooth pavement becomes
a well-graded dirt road as it
turns into Redington Road,
which meanders through
the pass of the same name between the Catalina and Rincon
mountains. The morning light filtered through the ripening
clouds as we started our ascent up the winding dirt route. After
1.4 miles, we passed the parking area for Lower Tanque Verde
Falls, one of the best hikes for Tucson water-seekers.
We continued up the pass, spellbound at times by the early
morning view of Tucson, the predawn lights twinkling like
jewels on the desert floor. At 8 miles, we turned onto Forest
Service Road 4417. I put my truck into four-wheel drive and
started down the trail.
Immediately, the trail threw
its worst at us as we climbed
over boulders and dropped
over cliffs. Clearly, only a
well-equipped four-wheel drive with high clearance and an
experienced offroad driver should attempt this road.
We bumped and gnawed along for 2.75 miles until we
reached the junction of FR 4417 and FR 4426. A right turn to
stay on FR 4417 leads back to Redington Road — an even more
treacherous trail than the one we came in on. We continued
straight onto Forest Service Road 4426 toward Chivo Falls.
After a half-mile, we stopped for a break at the weathered
remains of an old structure
and corral, allegedly once part
of a stagecoach line.
Immediately after the ruin,
we turned right onto Forest
Service Road 4405 at the fork
and came face to face with our
first water crossing.
Directly in our path,
Tanque Verde Creek and
a tributary converged and
rushed past, deeper than I
had ever seen it.
We dubiously surveyed
our intended path, then made
the crossing with only inches
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 47
Saguaro cacti, bathed in
light from the rising sun,
claim a hillside south of
Enhanced by unusually
heavy rainfall, Tanque Verde
Creek rushes over and
around granite boulders
near Chivo Falls.
46 m a y 2 0 0 6
by Matthew Marine photographs by Randy Prentice
Vehicle Requirements: Accessible
only by high-clearance, four-wheel-
Warning: Back-road travel can
be hazardous. Be aware of
weather and road conditions.
Carry plenty of water. Don’t
travel alone, and let someone
know where you’re going and
when you plan to return.
Coronado National Forest,
Santa Catalina Ranger
District, (520) 749-8700; www.
between the dry truck interior and the icy snowmelt.
The last three-quarters of a mile through Joaquin Canyon
to Chivo Falls was brutal, with the boulder-strewn road
punishing my kidneys. Then the sky finally let loose its wet
contents in buckets. We stopped, less than half a mile from the
falls and waited for the rain to end, although the roar of the
Be careful what you ask for.
The words were coming back to haunt me.
After an hour of waiting, we decided to ignore the sheets of
rain and hike the remaining distance to the falls — it was what
we had come to see.
Chivo Falls was entrancing. Water, rock and spray mingling
in the pool below created the continuous rumble of distant
thunder. It was more than I had asked for.
After too short a visit, the thunder overhead encouraged
us to race back to the trucks and
set off for a series of small falls and
pools a mile northeast on Tanque
Verde Creek from the ruin. Our
concern about making it back
across the creek before the rain made the crossing impassable
overpowered our desire to stay.
The rain stopped before we reached the pools, and we
ate lunch in the back of my truck under a clearing sky. We
retraced our steps back to FR 4417 and were all relieved when
we made the last water crossing. We each took a deep breath
before we battled the trail again back to Redington Road.
Once back to the relatively smooth surface of Redington
Road, we headed west, back toward Tucson and our final stop.
Between the upper and lower Tanque Verde Falls parking
areas, a short hiking trail leads to a breathtaking overlook of
the falls. I could feel my body tense as we came upon the cliff’s
ledge. Even from a few hundred feet above and a third of a mile
away, I could hear the powerful roar of the falls. I could almost
feel the spray on my face. Amazingly, atop the rock precipice
leaning into the canyon, the view was a more commanding
sight than Chivo Falls.
We rode in silence for the remaining few miles back to our
starting point, each reflecting on the day’s events.
Maybe I should be more specific about what I wish for. But,
as we parted ways with friendly handshakes and a little relief
at making it back safely, I
decided not to take my wife’s
advice. That would take all
the fun out of it.
editor’s note: Many readers in
the Tucson area know this location
as “Chiva” Falls, not Chivo Falls.
The U.S. Geological Survey lists
the name Chivo Falls, which is,
interestingly enough, next to Chiva
Tank (with the “a”), a spelling also
listed by the USGS.
advantage of rain-boosted
water levels and slosh
through Tanque Verde
back road adventure
Note: Mileages and GPS coordinates are approximate.
> Begin in Tucson at Tanque Verde Road and Catalina Highway intersection.
> Drive east on Tanque Verde Road for 8 miles; Tanque Verde
becomes Redington Road as it heads into the Rincon Mountains.
> After another 4 miles, drive past the first turnoff to Forest Service Road
4417 (the western terminus) and continue approximately another 4 miles
to the northern terminus of FR 4417, which is a rough jeep trail requiring
high clearance and four-wheel drive. (32°18.13 N; 110°35.84 W)
> Turn right on FR 4417 and drive 2.75 miles to the
intersection with Forest Service Road 4426.
> Continue on FR 4426 for about a half-mile to an old ruin;
after passing the ruin, turn right onto Forest Service Road
4405. Drive across Tanque Verde Creek (in rainy season, can
be dangerously flowing); continue about three-quarter
miles to Chivo Falls. (32°15.52 N; 110°35.75 W)
> To return to Tucson, retrace this route to
Redington Road and then to Tanque Verde Road.
Disregarding the danger of shaky
footholds and unpredictable water
depth, more than 30 people have
lost their lives at triple-tiered
Tanque Verde Falls, right, a site to
enjoy with caution.
48 m a y 2 0 0 6
chivo falls Kevin Kibsey
CORONADO NATIONAL FOREST
SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK
Tanque Verde Rd.
Tanque Verde Creek
R I N C O N M O U N T AI N S
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