N O V E M B E R 2 0 0 6
ART TOURS GUIDE: Tubac Artists Sketch Life Lessons
a Trail of
2 DEAR EDITOR
3 ALL WHO WANDER
Pieces of the past deserve their
place in history and on the land.
Esther Henderson and other top
photographers have stories to tell.
5 TAKING THE OFF-RAMP
Explore Arizona oddities,
attractions and pleasures.
42 ALONG THE WAY
No greater "gym" than the Canyon.
44 HIKE OF THE MONTH
Parker Canyon Lake boasts eagles.
46 BACK ROAD ADVENTURE
Kofa Mountains trip mingles
history, scenery and wildlife.
contents november 2006
From late October to mid-November, Arizona’s higher
elevations dress in the most brilliant reds, oranges and golds.
It’s sweater weather up north, and the southern half of the
state is finally enjoying long-awaited cooler temperatures.
To experience autumn in Arizona, go to arizonahighways.com
and click on the November trip planner for:
• A guide to low country fall color
• Urban art walks
• The lowdown on Petrified Forest dinosaurs
HUMOR Our writer discusses avian financial advantages.
ONLINE EXTRA Follow the tracks of Arizona’s legendary Pegleg.
HISTORY Gen. Nelson A. Miles’ deeds exiled two Arizona heroes.
EXPERIENCE ARIZONA Plan a trip with our calendar of events.
n Prints of some photographs are
available for purchase, as
designated in captions. To order,
call toll-free (866) 962-1191 or visit
8 On the Trail of the Wind by scot t thybony
Trek threads through fossils and fluted fantasy.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY LARRY LINDAHl
14 A Spirited Restoration by andrea lankford
Inn returned to its glory — ghosts and all.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY GEORGE STOCKING
16 Protecting the Past by mark brodie
Looters plunder land flagged for Petrified
Forest National Park expansion.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY GEORGE STOCKING
on our cover
20 Rivers Run Through It
Arizona’s rivers reveal their personalities
and scenic splendors in this portfolio excerpt
from our latest Scenic Collection book.
BY PETER ALESHIRE / PHOTOGRAPHS BY RANDY PRENTICE
30 Feathered Fantasy by jOBeth jamison
Artist Virgil Walker creates gods one plume at a
time. PHOTOGRAPHS BY RICHARD K. WEBB
32 Balloon-powered by sylvia somerville
Page's hot air regatta convinces a first-timer to
forsake the ground. PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFF KIDA
36 Live Art by vera marie badertscher
Tubac tour explores love, life and the creative
mind. PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVID ZICKL
ENDANGERED DESERT The colorful
formations of the Painted Desert harbor
many treasures, from 220 million-year-old
dinosaur bones to 1,000-year-old pots. But
efforts to protect it have faltered. See
stories, pages 8, 14 and 16. george stocking
n To order a print of this photograph,
see information on opposite page.
FRONT COVER Magical Havasu Falls
plunges into a travertine-tinted pool on
its tumble down to the Colorado River,
one of the vital waterways featured in
the newly released book Desert Rivers,
excerpted in this month's Portfolio. See
story, page 20. randy prentice
n To order a print of this photograph,
see information on opposite page.
BACK COVER Arizona artist Virgil Walker
uses thousands of feathers to create
evocative masks with a mystical feeling like
Naranja Armaga, shown here. See story,
page 30. richard k. webb
For more letters, see arizonahighways.com (Click o online n “Letters to the Editor”).
2 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6
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goes to television!” link on the right-hand side.
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i sit perfectly still in a sacred place with a
yearning in my heart, staring fixedly at a palm-sized
piece of painted, 700-year-old pottery. The white
pottery has abstract geometric figures painted onto
the surface and the thumbprints of the maker on the
curving inner side. I want it so badly.
Just behind me, the eyeless sockets of a ruined
fortress watch, waiting for me to make my choice.
I could so easily slip this shard of a vanished
civilization into my pack and carry it through
the thickets that have protected this Sierra Ancha
settlement all this while. Here it is wasted, but
on my desk this shard would connect me to this
place, these people, these mysteries.
Perhaps if I finger it long enough, I will understand
why the Anchan people abandoned their rich fields along
the Salt River and moved up into this cliffside pueblo.
Their laboriously constructed refuge lasted about a century
before they vanished—part of a baffling regional collapse of
civilizations in the 1400s.
Of course, taking the piece of pottery would be akin to
tearing down a church to make wind chimes of the stained
glass window. It would connect me not with the Anchans but
with the looters digging up such pots in a mythic piece of the
Painted Desert that Congress has designated for protection
as part of the Petrified Forest National Park. Unfortunately,
lawmakers didn’t set aside the money to actually buy the land
from the struggling ranchers now protecting it, as Mark Brodie
explains in “Protecting the Past” on page 16.
White Mountain Apache Cultural Resources Director Ramon
Riley says that disturbing such places unbalances the universe.
“These things are very powerful,” he says. “If they are disturbed,
it just destroys our connectedness to the deities. You cannot
explain this to people who think in a scientific way. We are
a different people. It’s sacred. But people put a price on it
because people are greedy. And that hurts the connection.”
Fortunately, a bipartisan congressional group recently vowed
to strengthen the existing, hard-to-enforce laws. U.S. Rep. Raul
Grijalva of Arizona agreed to chair the 15-member caucus after
a study revealed that the federal Bureau of Land Management
has surveyed only 16 percent of its 263 million acres for cultural
resources. The surveys done so far suggest another 68,000 sites
worth protecting haven’t even been listed.
Many Indians decry the impact of such irreverence.
For instance, the Hopi tribe has launched a desperate effort
to recover the Maraw Altar, a set of artifacts stolen from a
Hopi women’s society. Such ceremonial objects have been
consecrated by generations of prayers, but someone in 1979
stole the altar from the cave in which it was hidden, making
it impossible to conduct the
ceremony. The only person
who still knows the full
ceremony is a frail, 80-year-old
holy woman. She cannot even pass on the knowledge and
rituals without the altar.
Thinking of the holy woman and the lost prayer, I put down
the piece of painted pottery, placing it exactly where it has lain
these past seven centuries.
The Hopis believe that the Creator grew so vexed with
irreverent people that He drowned the world. Only a few
people escaped through a hole in the top of that world
to emerge into this world—near the Grand Canyon. They
searched everywhere for a good place to live before coming
back to the desert. They discovered that in the wet, easy places,
they neglected their prayers. Only the caprice of rain and the
view to the horizon enabled them to stick to the prayers that
have so far deterred the exasperated Creator from destroying
this world as well.
Yet now, the prayers connected to the Maraw Altar hang by
the thread of one woman’s memory.
And I wonder, did the Anchans forget their prayers, hiding
here from their troubles? Or perhaps the prayer is this piece of
pottery, decorated with such useless beauty. Perhaps it retains
its power still, buried in the Creator’s Earth.
So I set it down carefully, just as I found it. In that moment,
my lust to own it is replaced by something quiet and still.
The Anchans watch me, through sightless stone.
I think they approve.
Look It Up, Dunderhead!
Aw, come on! The proofreader must have
been out to lunch when page 39 was
approved for printing in August 2006.
I don’t know what the “dapper young
collector” is pouring over his collection of
postcards, but whatever it is, it is bound
to make a mess. Try pore, v.i. 1. to gaze
intently or steadily. 2. to look searchingly;
read carefully; study minutely (with over):
as, he pored over the book.
—Pat Pearson, Skull Valley
GOOF: 1) Mistaking pour for pore. 2) Seeing it 99 times
and not noticing. 3) Hiring a writer as editor. — Ed.
Perpetrating a Myth
While your August 2006 issue names
the Buffalo Soldiers for their courage,
combat abilities, etc., I believe you are
perpetuating a myth on the origin of their
name. No doubt the attributes listed are
correct, but most historians credit the
Buffalo Soldier name to the buffalo having
a patch of black curly hair between their
horns, similar to the soldiers’ hair.
—Walter E. Bull, Prescott
Historians debate how the Buffalo Soldiers got their
name, but the Buffalo Soldier National Museum credits
the Plains Indians with giving the nickname as a sign of
respect for the soldiers’ fierce fighting. — Sally Benford,
Whip the Editor With a Blurry Photo!
Several photos in the July and August
2006 issues are not even close to your
usual standards. The inside cover photo in
the July issue depicts an amazingly fuzzy
roadrunner. If that weren’t bad enough,
the August issue actually has two such
inferior photos in the Colorado River story.
I do hope this lax photo-editing does not
continue and I also hope these photos are
not blamed on digital photography.
—Nancy Fasino, Tucson
I am abashed, and can’t blame digital, since
those were all 35 mm slides. I promise to be more
careful — and suspicious of all 35 mm slides! — Ed.
Was Geronimo an Outlaw?
As a Scot living in Montreal, I am a fan of
your magazine, but take issue with your
description of Geronimo (“Death of the
West,” August ’06) as “the most infamous
outlaw in Arizona.” This would apply to
Johnny Ringo or “Old Man” Clanton or even
Wyatt Earp, but not this member of an
Apache clan. Don’t forget that Wyatt was a
horse thief and gambler as well as a killer.
General Miles lied to Geronimo for political
expediency. He died in 1925 and is buried in
Arlington National Cemetery. Geronimo’s
fate was somewhat different, as he was sent
to an Army prison in Florida and later
transferred to Oklahoma where, in 1909, he
died of pneumonia.
I plan to retrace some of his footsteps.
— Peter R. McNaughton, Montreal, Canada
Poor, Dumb Editor
In “Taking the Off-Ramp” (August ’06), in the piece on
swimming the Colorado River, this line appears: “The
idea came from a mutual friend, John Bursell, in a
discussion of the dangers of such a hairbrained swim.” Of
course, the word is harebrained, based on a rabbit’s crazy
ideas. As an old English teacher, I can’t resist.
—Bob Longley, Salisbury, CT
Good catch. Perhaps the guy had a wild hair up his brain, which resulted
in the hairbrained idea. And since I have you, is it true that English
teachers never retire, they just fail to conjugate? — Peter Aleshire, Editor
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 3
U.S. Postal Service
STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP, MANAGEMENT, AND CIRCULATION
Title of Publication: Arizona Highways Publisher: Win Holden
Publication No.: ISSN 0004-1521 Editor: Peter Aleshire
Date of Filing: July 1, 2006 Managing Editor: Randy Summerlin;
Frequency of issues: Monthly Complete mailing address
Number of issues of known office of publication:
published annually: Twelve 2039 W. Lewis Ave., Phoenix,
Annual subscription price: (Maricopa) AZ 85009-2893
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ISSUE DATE FOR CIRCULATION DATA BELOW:
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EXTENT AND NATURE OF CIRCULATION
A. Total number copies printed 254,473 243,333
B. Paid circulation
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USPS paid distribution 15,160 10,303
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This 600-year-old ruin in the Sierra
Ancha range poses a mystery for
archaeologists. peter aleshire
a Hopi Prayer
all who wander by Peter Aleshire, editor
NOVEMBER 2006 VOL. 82, NO. 11
Publisher WIN HOLDEN
Editor PETER ALESHIRE
Senior Editor BETH DEVENY
Managing Editor RANDY SUMMERLIN
Web/Research Editor SALLY BENFORD
Book Division Editor BOB ALBANO
Books Associate Editor EVELYN HOWELL
Special Projects Editor JoBETH JAMISON
Editorial Administrator NIKKI KIMBEL
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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ARIZONA TRANSPORTATION BOARD
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4 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6
by Peter Ensenberger, director of photography, firstname.lastname@example.org viewfinder
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 5
hoop it up
arizona oddities, attractions and pleasures
we just said goodbye to another treasured
part of Arizona Highways’ storied past. That’s bound
to happen with such a long, rich history. But the
story just isn’t the same when you lose one of the
Ray Manley, a photographer who played an
influential role in developing this magazine’s early
photographic style, recently passed away at the age
of 84. He helped define the world’s view of Arizona
for five decades through his photographs of cowboys,
landscapes and the Western lifestyle published in
the pages of Arizona Highways and other magazines
and books. He also contributed greatly to tourism,
arts and culture in Tucson where he lived. His life’s
pursuits stretched far beyond his skill with a camera,
his legacy much greater than just the beautiful
images he leaves behind. We’ll miss you, Ray.
Digging through archives while researching
Manley’s life story led me to other fascinating and
funny accounts of Arizona Highways photographers
during those magical years when the magazine was first
charting its course in the publishing world. One story is
In the early 1940s, Tucson’s Chamber of Commerce worked
hard to spur economic development and change the city’s image
from health mecca to tourist destination. The chamber
consolidated with the Tucson Sunshine Climate Club, a group of
local businessmen whose mission was to promote tourism
through aggressive advertising to folks Back East.
As part of their campaign, they wanted photos snapped of
important Easterners visiting Tucson resorts and dude ranches
and then would send the photos to hometown newspapers in
hopes of bringing publicity to Tucson. To accomplish this, the
Sunshine Climate Club hired a photographer from Palm Springs,
California, named Chuck Abbott. He was known as the “Cowboy
Photographer.” A handsome guy, he was pure cowboy from his
Stetson all the way down to his Tony Lamas.
Local photographers were incensed. They formed a
committee to protest the hiring of an outsider, and Esther
Henderson, who operated one of Tucson’s prominent photo
studios, led the charge. She raised hell with the club’s leaders
and wrote letters to the editors of Tucson’s newspapers to keep
the pressure on.
In an attempt to placate the locals and ease the tension,
Abbott was sent to meet with Henderson. But she refused to
see him, and her secretary sent him away. Henderson later
relented, however, and invited Abbott to her house for a drink.
Before their drinks were dry
he had coaxed Henderson into
joining him for a weekend picnic.
They both brought their cameras
and spent the day photographing
together in the desert.
On that day the controversy ended. Three months later
Abbott and Henderson married. Henderson still laughs
about the irony of having complained to the Sunshine
Climate Club about the man she eventually married.
Chuck Abbott and Esther Henderson Abbott went on
to become the most prolific husband-wife photographer
team in Arizona Highways’ illustrious history. They
traveled together throughout the West, renowned for
their excellent photography. Eventually they settled in
Santa Cruz, California, and raised two sons.
Chuck has long since passed away, but Esther, at age 95, still
lives in the couple’s modest home in Santa Cruz. Her son, Carl,
and his family live next door. She’s lived an incredible life, a life
that goes on.
Life goes on, too, for her favorite cameras. She recently
donated her two beloved Deardorff view cameras and the
rest of her vintage photography equipment to Brigham
Young University, where students use them in a class called
“Alternative Photography Practices.” The same cameras that
Esther Henderson Abbott used to become one of the top
photographers of her era are still making images for a new
generation of storytellers.
But for me, stories are so much better when people like Ray
Manley and Esther Henderson Abbott tell them.
ON THE ROAD
A petite Esther Henderson held
her own when it came to heavy
lifting. She met Chuck Abbott
in Tucson in 1940 and they
married three months later.
Find expert photography advice and information at arizonahighways.com
(Click on “Photography”).
A Wild Case of Goose Bumps
if you ever encounter a porcupine at a horror flick, definitely don’t sit next to
him. Turns out, the reflex that causes as many as 30,000 quills on a porcupine’s
back and tail to bristle also causes goose bumps to form on your average terrified
teenager or fur to rise on a freaked-out cat.
The constriction of the muscles connected to the base of each hair is called
horripilation or piloerection. Porcupines, rodents who climb trees but also wander
about in desert creosote flats, use the quills for defense, although they can’t
actually throw them, as urban myth insists. On the other hand, they do eat tool
handles — apparently for the salt in the sweat. And one other weird porcupine
fact, while we’re at it: Lovesick males protect themselves from the female’s quills
by softening them with urine. Yet another reason to find another seat.
Tell It Best GARY LADD
located along the
Southern Pacific Railroad, Willcox
Commercial store operated in
1880 and counted even
Geronimo among its customers.
The Indian warrior loved his
sweets and would stop by to
purchase sugar only in 1-pound
sacks, since he knew what a
pound felt like and so knew
whether the white clerks were
Listed on the National
Register of Historic Places, it’s
the oldest store in its original
location in Arizona. Today, you
can buy anything from copier
paper to Western boots, pay
your utility bill and pick up some
sheet music. The store, at 180
N. Railroad Ave. in Willcox, has a
collection of kachina dolls along
with an old X-ray machine that
checked if the cowboys’ boots
fit just right. The original glass
display cases are still in use, but
a computer sits next to the
old cash register. Stop by and
browse and don’t worry, the
sign on the outside of the build-ing
brags, “The Safest Place to
Trade Since 1880.”
Information: (520) 384-2448.
— Janet Webb Farnsworth
Tired Old Town?
though built on the tire industry, Litchfield Park isn’t tired.
Started as a citrus grove in 1908 by California farmer William Kriegbaum, the area
west of Phoenix in 1916 was planted with cotton by Paul Litchfield of Goodyear
Tire and Rubber Company to provide fiber for making tires.
Goodyear reduced cotton use in tire manufacturing in the 1920s, but
Litchfield was not deflated. Instead, he rotated the company crops to develop
a high-demand scientific cattle feed for Goodyear Farms. Later, Litchfield Park
gained even more traction when its harsh summer climate and rough soil
conditions became the ideal testing ground for farm equipment and Goodyear
tires. The company town later expanded to meet the aviation needs of Luke
Air Force Base with the Goodyear Aerospace Co.
Goodyear sold Litchfield Park in 1986, but the wing-footed spirit of its
namesake rolls on. Enjoy Litchfield Park’s roadworthy history as it celebrates its
90th anniversary, November 17 through 19, with a Friday evening reception at
the renowned Wigwam Resort. On Saturday, celebrate with a history fair,
carriage rides, square dancing, entertainment and a barbecue. On Sunday, a
special anniversary cake will be served at LaLoma, Paul Litchfield’s historic estate.
Information: (623) 935-2011; www.litchfield-park.org. —JoBeth Jamison
Jack and Jennies Come Down the Hill
if you’re planning a picnic lunch in Oatman, be sure to
bring enough for the burros. A herd of 10 or 12 wild burros drops in
just about every day to roam the unpaved roads of Oatman, looking
for a bite to eat and maybe a friendly scratch behind the ears.
This group of burros has adapted to life among humans, and
although they still live and feed in the wild, they also enjoy an
occasional snack. Oatman businesses sell carrots and feed pellets for
the burros so tourists will refrain from feeding them junk food.
All of the Oatman burros are female except one, and they have
names like Strawberry, Jessie, Stormy and Summertime. The first
Oatman resident to see a new baby burro gets the honor of naming it.
Any male babies are given up to good homes for adoption at around
1 or 2 years of age. This is because the male burros, called jacks, will
fight to the death if necessary for dominance in a territory with female
burros, called jennies. —Robin N. Clayton
O Sole Mio at London Bridge
where can you jet ski, fish for bass, sunbathe —
and get a strange little taste of both England and Italy? Lake
Havasu, of course. First, promoters in 1971 imported the
London Bridge stone by stone from England. Now, a
multilingual Air Force veteran has added a touch of Venice,
with romantic jaunts in a Renaissance-replica gondola.
Dave Jensen, in authentic gondola garb — striped shirt
and all — sings to his passengers in four languages: English,
Spanish, Italian and Japanese (the 40-year-old Air Force
medical technician, father of four, was stationed in Japan).
Gondola cruises cost $15 to $35. Special wedding sails are
Information: (928) 486-1891 or londonbridgegondola.com.
6 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 7
THESE TWO PAGES, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: RICHARD MAACK; CINDY JENSEN; DON B. STEVENSON; THE WIGWAM GOLF RESORT & SPA
Geronimo’s favorite store, Willcox
Commercial, still operates on historic
Railroad Avenue. The shop, at the far
end of this view, is listed on the
National Register of Historic Places.
8 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 9
Could They Be . . . Ducks? Moenave Formation siltstone rises animal-like in the Painted Desert.
along the trail of the
Painted Desert trek threads through
fossils & fluted fantasy
by Scott Thybony / photographs by Larry Lindahl
hen I reach Tohachi Wash, I
step out of the truck into a
Drifts of sand fill the empty canyon floor,
enclosed by rock walls as wind-carved as
any landscape in North America. Fluted,
scoured and sand-blasted, every cliff face
shows traces of the wind. But on this
October morning, nothing stirs.
Stretching more than 150 miles across
northeast Arizona, the Painted Desert con-nects
Petrified Forest National Park with
the Grand Canyon to the north. Much of it
lies within the Navajo Indian Reservation,
including a corner of the desert we have
come to explore. Early scientists knew it
as the Painted Cliffs.
Leaving my truck where we will end
our trek, I climb into Chuck LaRue’s truck.
He’ll shuttle Tony Williams, photographer
Larry Lindahl and me to our starting
point 30 miles north. We’ll spend several
days hiking through an incredible land-scape
best known to a few Navajo sheep-herders
and a handful of geologists.
An hour out we stop on the edge of an
active dune field. Chuck, a wildlife biolo-gist,
scans the sky with the worn pair of
binoculars always dangling from his neck.
Sage sparrows flitter from bush to bush in
the distance. Climbing the graceful curve
of a barchan dune, he follows a badger’s
tracks across the sand where it stalked a
kangaroo rat. In a few places pale-green
bush mint has managed to gain a root-hold.
As you come to know the desert, the
empty spaces fill in.
Back in the truck, we follow old tracks
drifted with sand. A pronghorn antelope,
standing in the hollow of a dune, tenses
at our approach. We spot another, then
another, and without warning they break
into a run. A herd of seven cuts in front of
us, sprinting as fast as the wind, literally.
No animal in North America can match
the pronghorn’s peak speed of 60 mph.
“They were almost completely wiped off
the Navajo reservation by 1900,” Chuck
says, watching the pronghorn disappear
in the distance. “Seeing them has been
worth the trip.”
We continue following a worn track
10 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 11
across a terrace bordered by cliffs, and at
strategic points along the way we place
water caches. A Navajo man who lives on
the plateau above warned me about the
two springs I had planned on using. The
locals avoid them, he said, believing old
uranium tailings have leached into the
groundwater. Every age has its hazards, I
We make camp below a spine of stone,
knurled and knobby. The red cliffs face
winds that churn down from atop the
San Francisco Peaks 45 miles to the
south. After dragging across the sands
of the Little Colorado River, the abrasive
wind grinds away at exposed siltstones
and mudstones. Outcropping rocks
become worn into streamlined hills and
isolated spires weather into strangely
shaped monoliths called hoodoos.
In the morning, Chuck drops us off
in an area geologists refer to as Dinosaur
Canyon, a wide amphitheater cut into
the escarpment. As soon as the three of
us strap on our packs, a breeze picks up,
and we head south following an unbro-ken
line of cliffs. Making good time, we
reach the first water cache before noon
and top off. I left it near a dinosaur-track
site named for Jack Goldtooth, a Navajo
sheepherder who guided me here a couple
of years ago. The site contains a concen-tration
of at least 550 fossil tracks, many
displaying long, lethal claws. Overhead
a few wispy clouds have moved in, and
dust begins to trail along the ground.
The strongest winds in Arizona have
been recorded in this section of the desert,
and massive dust clouds often roll across
it. Daniel Nez lives above the escarpment
where he collects dust samples for the U.S.
Geological Survey from a Geomet wind
station. “There’s dust storms all the time,”
he says. “It gets dusty, it gets dusty, and
then it becomes a red-out. Sometimes it
lasts two or three hours.”
Red-outs. Judge Wells Spicer encoun-tered
such a storm when he entered the
Painted Desert in 1876. Fierce winds
caught his party out in the open. “We
could not face them,” he reported. “The
drifting sands would cover up in a few
minutes our entire camp equipage. . . . Our
eyes, hair, mouth, and ears were full of it.”
We continue south, passing a hoodoo-crested
ridge to the ruins of a stone hogan,
the home of Frank Goldtooth, Jack’s father.
As a young man, Frank worked as an
express rider, carrying the mail across
the desert on horseback. The abandoned
hogan has been stripped of its roof beams,
valuable material in a land without trees,
scant grass and even less water. Simply to
survive in this barren country was a feat.
A cloud cover hides the sun as we
descend into a shallow canyon. Climbing
the next ridge, we reach a crazily weath-ered
hoodoo standing at a tilt, 45 feet high.
Near the top, the winds have drilled a
hole in it large enough to let the sky pour
through. Carved into such an improbable
form, it appears to follow some sort of
gravity-defying, cartoon physics.
Beyond it opens a wide basin holding
several massive formations, red icebergs
floating in a sand sea. We head toward
them and, before dark closes in, make
camp on a slickrock bench nearby.
At dawn the growing light paints the
underbelly of the clouds red, floating above
Land of the Ancients Ward Terrace holds
paleontology treasures (clockwise from top left)
like fossil dinosaur bones found by author Thybony,
the Cameron Dinosaur Track Site and more than
500 dinosaur tracks at the Goldtooth Track Site,
inspected by wildlife biologist Chuck LaRue.
Thread the Needle
Author Scott Thybony
and Tony Williams hike
across the wind-scoured
Ward Terrace, a section
of the Painted Desert,
passing the formation
called Tse Diigis (Crazy
Rock). The odd-looking
dates from 185 to 195
million years ago.
12 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 13
eases, a double rainbow arches over the
point, curving below our line of sight.
Dark fingers of cloud slowly meld into a
single mass overhead, and for a moment,
red grains of light hang suspended in
midair, catching the last solar pulse
from the west.
Near dawn, a pair of owls alternate
calls until the growing light gives us a rea-son
to get up. The air smells of wet sand,
and in the clear sky, I can see the Rim of
Grand Canyon far to the north. Getting
an early start we pass a horse skull with
hollow sockets staring blankly across the
wide expanse. At the tip of the point, the
route funnels through a notch in the cliff
rock and down a climbing dune.
To reach Tohachi Wash, we follow
bald-rock benches to avoid the sand,
walking through a windless morning.
Our luck has held. For several days
we have traversed an eolian landscape,
scarred by the wind, but this time it has
let us slip through unscathed, unharmed.
In the next draw, we find a waterhole
with an ancient ladle lying on the sur-face
nearby. A long handle connects to
a broken bowl painted in the Sosi black-on-
white style. Around a.d. 1125 some-one
crossed these sands to reach water
and dropped a ladle on the slickrock. In
the still air you can almost hear the hol-low
crunch as the pottery shattered.
Deeper sands force us to swing lower
into the Chinle Formation, the rock most
characteristic of the Painted Desert. The
mudstone hues shift across the spectrum
from blues to reds. “It’s always one of my
favorite formations,” Tony says, “because
of the subtle gradations of color.”
Reaching Tohachi, we trudge up the
dry wash to the truck. As we’re driving
out, I pull into Jerry Huskon’s hogan to
say hello. I left a message for the Navajo
rancher before we started. Even with a
tribal permit, it’s customary to let the
local families know your plans. He tells
me they found the note when they
returned from picking piñons, but there’s
a question in his eyes. He’s puzzled by
our trek across the sands for no apparent
“Find any treasure?” he asks.
For a moment I think he’s joking, but
“The beauty of this desert,” I tell him,
“is why we came.” He simply nods. That’s
a rockscape much the same color. Rock
islands rise in gothic masses, while the
walls behind us have a scaly, reptilian tex-ture.
The light builds the way an ember
does the moment before bursting into
flame, and in an instant the reds ignite.
“You could pass this off,” says Tony, “for the
cover of a science fiction book.”
Our first obstacle this morning is a
high sand ridge, but the combination of
damp ground and cool weather gives us
solid footing. We soon top out and find
a sandy basin on the other side studded
with more hoodoos. I’ve explored the
desert for years, but each rise opens new
Plunging down the steep sand, I reach
the bed of a wash where mud shards curl
up like old shoe leather. I stop to empty
the sand from my boots, and Tony checks
the bearing to our next water cache. When
the three of us push on, we intersect the
tracks of wild horses. Soon they converge
on a beaten path, and I know we’re close
to water. We pass through a gap and
reach the stock tank where our water is
Traversing the dunes, we head to Paiute
Trail Point, a long headland half-buried
by the sands. A horse standing sentinel
watches our approach, ears pricked. As
the herd beyond it catches our scent, all
heads lift toward us. Alert to danger, they
study our movements, suspecting a trap.
The fuse is lit, and without warning they
spin and flee in an explosive burst.
A wash draws us toward a sand slide
covering the north side of the point. The
Moqui Trail passed through here, once
linking the Hopi mesas with the Grand
Canyon country. Even the local Navajo
rarely use the old trail anymore. We
climb 200 feet up the slope and dump our
packs on the first landing. Dunes cover
most of the surface, and another band of
cliffs separates us from the higher pla-teau.
We make camp at the foot of a long
sand ridge aligned with the direction of
As a storm gathers, Tony and I scramble
through a badlands ripped by deep ravines.
We reach the outer rim and look back. The
ground falls away at our feet, and the sky
opens on a country of drift sand and cliffs
uncut by fence or road. Clouds approach-ing
from the west filter the light, muting
the lavender, orange, and white terrain we
crossed. For me, the spare lines of the des-ert
have a stark beauty found nowhere else.
Reduced to the elements of rock and sky,
the vast spaces draw you outside yourself
into a wider light.
Back at camp, the rain begins. Without
a fire we stand around talking as it pours
down. We’re tired from a long slog
through the sands but want to avoid
turning in early. Nights are too long this
time of year to spend all the dark hours
wrapped inside a bivy sack. As the storm
Where Sands Erode Evening sunrays highlight
the Adeii Eechii Cliffs (left) of the Painted Desert.
The abandoned hogan (below), built by Frank
Goldtooth, gives eerie testimony to the harsh,
abraded stonescape of Ward Terrace. The author’s
expedition found the ancestral Puebloan ladle
(right), an artifact from the Pueblo II Period.
Scott Thybony of Flagstaff finds himself
continually drawn back to the Painted Desert.
He recounts more adventures and desert lore
in his new book, The Painted Desert, Land of
Wind and Stone, University of Arizona Press
Walking on the same surface of the Earth as
dinosaurs did millions of years ago made the
Painted Desert seem otherworldly to Larry
Lindahl of Sedona. He is author-photographer
of the Arizona Highways book Secret Sedona:
Sacred Moments in the Landscape.
14 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 15
inn, with its handcrafted natural mate-rials
and the way it blends into the
landscape. She doesn’t even care that
it is haunted.
Herbert Lore, the inn’s original owner,
was more interested in making money
than harboring ghosts. In 1924, Lore
constructed what he called the Stone
Tree House to serve Route 66 travelers
on their way to the Petrified Forest. The
National Park Service bought the inn in
1935, and in 1937, architect Lyle E. Bennett
supervised a Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) renovation of 28 rooms, including
a trading post room, a taproom and a
lunch counter. The enormous skylight
and the decorative elements inspired by
prehistoric pottery and Indian blankets
display Bennett’s mastery of light and
color. Another renovation 10 years later
added the aesthetic touch of architect
Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, who was
hired by Fred Harvey, the concession-aire
for the inn. Known for designing
striking buildings all along the Santa Fe
Railway line, including Hopi House at
the Grand Canyon, Colter contracted
Hopi artist Fred Kabotie to paint murals
on the inside walls.
Unfortunately, the historic building
has structural flaws. Walls have cracked,
water seepage threatens the Kabotie
murals, and a layer of bentonite clay has
caused the foundation to shift. The Park
Service actually scheduled the inn’s
demolition in 1975, but a public outcry
stopped the bulldozers, and renovations
have turned it into a museum. Even so,
things still go bump in the night.
“Old buildings talk,” said Garcia. “They
shift. They creak. They moan. You hear
One night in the 1980s after locking
up for the evening, a park ranger looked
back through the windows and saw
someone inside walking from room to
room. Irritated by what she thought was
a wayward tourist, the ranger unlocked
the door. Immediately, she smelled ciga-rette
smoke. Now the ranger was royally
peeved. Not only was this tourist in a
closed government building; he had the
gall to smoke in a museum! The angry
ranger rushed from room to room, until
she realized she was the only one in the
Another afternoon, Garcia heard some-one
coming up the flagstone steps from
the old taproom. “It was footsteps on
stone,” she says, “but when I looked up to
wave at the person coming up the stairs,
no one was there.”
Other employees have reported hear-ing
whispered conversations from unoc-cupied
All of which prompts some to wonder
if a certain cigarette smoker is lingering
after closing time.
Marion Mace managed the inn for
only a few months before she died. Oddly,
information about her death and the fire
is absent from local newspapers. Garcia
suspects that park managers in charge at
that time wanted to keep the death quiet.
If so, they failed. It seems that the
tragic end of Mrs. Mace and the heroism
of Ranger Harkins is a story the Painted
Desert Inn doesn’t want us to forget. Restoration
espite the fire that filled the
Painted Desert Inn with smoke,
Clinton Harkins broke down
the locked front door and crawled into the
building on his hands and knees to avoid
the intense heat. Inside, the park ranger
found Mrs. Marion Mace lying uncon-scious
in her bedroom. Harkins dragged
the manager outside and laid her on the
ground. Then he charged back into the
historic inn, created by some of the most
famous and imaginative architects in the
Southwest, and smothered the flames
with a fire extinguisher. Tragically, while
Harkins was battling the fire, the inn’s
manager died from smoke inhalation.
No one knows for sure what caused the
fire inside the Painted Desert Inn on the
night of April 9, 1953, but Mrs. Mace was
reportedly a smoker and the fire started
in her bedroom. Maybe that’s why she
still haunts the place, some say.
In any case, thanks to Harkins’ quick
action, Painted Desert Inn survived to be
one of about 2,500 buildings nationwide
listed in the National Historic Landmarks
Program. In October 2004, the building
was closed for major renovations, which
included converting the historic inn into
a museum. The preservation project cost
$3.1 million and required 18 months
to complete. When the National Park
Service reopened the inn on Memorial
Day weekend during the park’s 100th
anniversary celebration, Rita Garcia was
among the many thrilled to see the inn
returned to its former glory. In her 10
years at Petrified Forest National Park,
Ranger Garcia has come to love the old
Painted Desert Inn returned to its glory—ghosts and all
by Andrea Lankford / photographs by George Stocking
Many of the original
pine logs, or vigas,
extending from the
inn’s walls were
replaced during the
because of damage
from severe weathering.
The new ponderosa
pine vigas were
stripped and cut to
Mural Revival A conservator restores a mural
by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie to its original
vibrancy. After repairing water stains, flaking
paint, plaster cracks and removing surface
grime, conservators coated the mural with a
matte varnish layer for protection.
Cozy History The colorful
Painted Desert Inn once
offered weary desert
travelers a place to stop
for a cool drink, enjoy a
meal and purchase Indian
arts and crafts. Now that
the inn is a museum and
bookstore, tourists can no
longer spend the night,
but in 1924, an overnight
stay cost $2 to $4.
Location: Petrified Forest National Park,
about 25 miles east of Holbrook.
Getting There: From Flagstaff, take Interstate
40 east 115 miles to Exit 311; then go north on
the park road. The Painted Desert Inn is 2 miles
north of the entrance.
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Christmas
Day. Park gates closed at night.
Fees: $10 per vehicle.
Additional Information: Petrified Forest National
Park, (928) 524-6228; www.nps.gov/pefo.
Andrea Lankford, a former Grand Canyon ranger, is
the author of Haunted Hikes: Spine-tingling Tales and
Trails from North America’s National Parks. She lives
in Oxnard, California.
Photographer George Stocking of Phoenix had driven
right by the Painted Desert Inn numerous times
without realizing what a treasure it was. He was
honored to have the chance to document some of
16 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 17
Looters Plunder Lands Flagged
for Petrified Forest Expansion
In Need of Protection
Pottery and petroglyph
panels, like this one on Twin
Buttes Ranch, attract looters
to land adjacent to Petrified
Forest National Park.
The badlands and the
Painted Desert (above right)
can be seen from Bill Jeffers’
ranch on the northwest
boundary. The land is
earmarked for expansion by
the Petrified Forest National
by Mark Brodie photographs by George Stocking
ithin about five minutes of
walking around the Milky
Ranch near Holbrook, a place
that Congress has already decided should
be added to the Petrified Forest National
Park, a few things become very clear. The
horizon doesn’t end. The cows have the
run of the place. And if you’re looking for
American Indian artifacts or petrified
wood, you’ve come to the right place.
Among the green scrub brush, arrow-heads
and pottery shards litter the dry,
Unfortunately, although Congress ear-marked
the area for protection as a part of
the national park, it never actually set
aside the money. As a result, looters
ensure that the trove of artifacts and petri-fied
wood dwindles every day.
“We’re dealing with people who are
armed; they’re antagonistic; they believe
they have a right to dig wherever they
want to,” says Larry Baldwin, who owns
Baldwin Investigations in Holbrook.
Baldwin patrols the Milky Ranch and
finds looters’ dig sites, cigarette butts and
trash. “It seems like the bad guys are just
getting more blatant,” he says. “It’s gone
from people using shovels to illegally dig
the ruins to people using heavy equip-ment.
It used to be that the looters would
go in at night, on foot, so they wouldn’t be
spotted. Now, they’re using heavy equip-ment
in broad daylight, with no fear of
getting caught, or should I say prosecuted.”
Looters have done well over $3 million
in damage to the Milky Ranch in the past
four years, he says. Baldwin says he’s seen
bags of pottery shards selling on eBay for
$20, but he knows that’s pocket change.
“They want to get full pots out of the buri-als,”
Baldwin says. “The burial pots are
the most lucrative, or expensive. Some of
those will go for up to $50,000.”
Concerns about the looters and the
uncertainty about the proposed expansion
of the Petrified Forest have compounded
other problems facing the ranchers, many
eager to see their land protected or to be
rid of it. The long drought has hit several
of them hard. “Mother Nature, that factor,
combined with the relatively low prices
for our product, has made ranching a
very marginal business,” says rancher Bill
Jeffers. “Ranching the way it’s been the
last 40, 50, maybe even 100 years in the
West is just about finished,” he says, not-ing
that he’s had to sell off 70 percent of
Mike Fitzgerald, owner of the approxi-mately
38,000-acre Twin Buttes Ranch,
has also sold off most of his cattle. “The
drought wears you down. You’re always
thinking it’s gonna get better, but it doesn’t.
It gets worse.”
Unfortunately, the ranchers and the
preservationists are all caught in politi-cal
limbo. In December 2004, Congress
authorized the nearby Petrified Forest
National Park to more than double in size,
Protecting W the Past
18 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6
10 to 40 acres. The group would hold the in the neighborhood
land in trust, until the park can take over,
but so far, he says, no landowners have
donated their property. Other groups are
exploring similar arrangements and lob-bying
Despite those efforts, looters continue
to operate. Jeffers says he’s seen vandals
hit pristine areas that are supposed to go
to the park. He notes some other pieces
of expansion land have also recently
changed hands. “There are areas now that
have already been sold that were proposed
for the expansion, and they were sold spe-cifically
for people to get petrified wood,
or even artifacts,” he says.
Jeffers and others know that making
the expansion happen will take a lot of
work and money, but they also know
those resources pale in comparison to
the assets the park is losing every day the
expansion doesn’t go through.
Information: Sometimes referred to as the gateway to
the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert, the
town traces its history to 1881 when cattle ranches and
railroads were the economic mainstay. The historic Navajo
County courthouse here was built in 1898. Visitors pack-ets
include directions for a historical walking tour. (800)
Navajo County Historic Courthouse: The old court-house
houses a museum of Apache, Navajo, Hopi, and
pioneer artifacts. Indians perform at the courthouse every
weeknight in June and July. Free. 100 E. Arizona. (928)
Petrified Forest National Park: Colorfully mineralized
stumps and logs dot the park. The Painted Desert lies
within the park, as do the Painted Desert Inn Museum and
the petroglyph-covered Newspaper Rock, archaeologi-cal
sites and a visitors center, tours and a movie. Fee: $10,
private vehicle for seven days. Park open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Closed Christmas. South entrance off U.S. Route 180, 19
miles southeast of Holbrook. North entrance at Exit 311 of
Interstate 40 east of Holbrook. (928) 524-6228; www.nps.
Museum of the Americas and Dinosaur Park: Life-sized
dinosaur replicas and a collection of pre-Columbian
artifacts can be found at this privately owned museum.
$10 per car. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Located 3 miles east
at Interstate 40 Exit 292. (928) 524-9178; (888) 830-6682.
Information: For information call (928) 289-2434; www.
Old Trails Museum: Exhibits focus on Route 66, the
Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) culture, the Santa Fe Railway,
vintage clothing, ranch life and antique bottles. Open
Monday - Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Donations. 212 N. Kinsley Ave., Winslow. (928) 289-5861.
Homolovi Ruins State Park: Considered sacred by the
Hopi Indians, this site holds three 14th-century pueblo
ruins. Visitors center, bookstore, exhibits, campgrounds
with rest rooms and showers, grills and day-use ramadas.
Open daily, except Christmas, 6 a.m. to sunset. $5 per
vehicle, camping fees vary. Off Interstate 40, north of Exit
257. (928) 289-4106; www.pr.state.az.us/Parks/parkhtml/
La Posada Hotel: One of the great railroad hotels, this
elegant hacienda-style building was once the favorite stop
of travelers on the Santa Fe Railway. Designed by Mary
Elizabeth Jane Colter, it opened in 1930. Now, much of La
Posada Hotel has been restored to its original charm. 303
E. Second St. (Route 66). Reservations, (928) 289-4366;
Meteor Crater: Around 50,000 years ago, a meteorite
left a crater nearly 600 feet deep and 4,000 feet wide.
View the crater from the visitors center or a guided half-mile
tour skirting the rim. Take Exit 233 from Interstate
40; go south for 6 miles. $15, adults; $6, ages 6 to 17; $13,
seniors; and free, 5 and under. (800) 289-5898; (928)
Little Painted Desert County Park: Located northeast
of Winslow, with hiking trails and views of the desert’s
colorful clay formations of red, violet, green and gray.
Scenic overlook, picnic ramadas and a rest room. The
Little Painted Desert is 13 miles northeast of Winslow and
Interstate 40. Take Exit 257. For information call
(928) 524-4757. — Evelyn Howell
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 19
Before writing this story, Mark Brodie, a reporter with
KJZZ Radio, Phoenix’s NPR station, had never been
on a cattle ranch. He’s also never seen anything as
colorful as petrified wood. He lives in Scottsdale.
George Stocking was astounded by the natural and
cultural wonders on the lands adjacent to the park.
He was also impressed with the ranchers’ knowledge
and concern about the future of this heritage.
to 219,000 acres. The idea had been per-colating
in the Congressional coffee pot
for about a decade, but the victory proved
hollow since Congress didn’t allocate
funds for the expansion.
U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona says
the federal government isn’t likely to come
up with the necessary $20 to $30 mil-lion
anytime soon. “Most likely the land
we’re able to pull into the park is probably
going to have to be done more through
land exchanges than through outright
purchases,” he says.
Ranchers don’t normally cheer the gov-ernment,
but in this case, some hope the
feds will buy their land before the looters
strip it bare. “I just don’t understand the
purpose of passing a bill without money
to provide either security or the transfer
of that property right away,” says Larry
The transferred land would go to the
Petrified Forest National Park, which wel-comes
around 600,000 people each year.
Those people are seeing what many call
“Triassic Park,” known for its petrified
wood, fossils and dinosaur bones from
more than 200 million years ago.
“The park preserves one of the best
accessible exposures of late Triassic rocks
in the world,” says Bill Parker, the paleon-tologist
at the Petrified Forest National
Park. “So it’s a window where we can
actually go back in time.
Parker says the windows into places
with similar formations are closed, if they
are on private land.
As Parker talks about what he might
find, he looks out onto the private land
he hopes to one day explore, including
the fossil-rich Chinle Escarpment and the
Puerco River, which teems with wildlife.
The area is beautiful; the Painted Desert’s
magnificent colors in one direction, rock
formations stretching into the distance in
another, badlands in yet another. However,
many of those stunning vistas aren’t cur-rently
in the park.
Park Superintendent Lee Baiza believes
bringing these “borrowed views” into the
park will benefit visitors and protect vital
resources. “With this expansion, it should
simplify the management of the areas
around us. It’s going to provide us better
access into areas that are really more sen-sitive
and difficult to protect.”
Baiza says much of the ranchland has
roads and fences which will make it easier
to patrol and control looting.
That’s welcome news to rancher Mike
Fitzgerald. Sitting in the front seat of his
truck, he takes out an intact clay pot he
found on his land. The black lines zig and
zag, forming an intricate pattern. He’s glad
he picked it up before looters did. “It’s
obvious when you hold something like
that pot in your hand, you see the value,”
Those security issues are major ones
for the landowners. Protecting the Milky
Ranch costs about $1,000 a month plus
the cost of gates and fences.
Baiza says that will change once the
expansion goes through. “We have a law
enforcement staff in the park that is
trained to do just that,” he says. “We also
Many of the ranchers just wish it would
happen more quickly. And they’re not
alone. Groups like the non-profit Petrified
Forest Museum Association have started
looking into accepting donated land. Paul
DoBell, the association’s executive direc-tor,
says most of these parcels are small,
Taking It All In When funding is approved, these “borrowed views” of nearby petroglyphs, badlands
and Painted Desert vistas will add to the Petrified Forest National Park experience.
20 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 21
Arizona’s Rivers Reveal Their Personalities
And Scenic Splendors In This Portfolio Excerpt
From Our Latest Scenic Collection Book
photographer randy prentice and Arizona Highways Editor Peter
Aleshire join forces to capture the essence of the enigmatic and vital desert
rivers that run through the state. They bring nearly 30 years of combined
experience along those rivers to create the intimate portraits in the just-released
Desert Rivers book from Arizona Highways. Each chapter portrays a
different river and its tributaries, set against Aleshire’s mingling of riparian
personality profiles and personal experiences in 20 years of wandering.
Prentice, also a blues guitarist, drove his battered pickup through storms and
floods to create thousands of 4 x 5-inch images, including this view of
Havasu Falls. The creek runs through the Havasupai Indian Reservation and
merges with the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. This photograph
comes from the book, but other images in this portfolio are outtakes.
b y P e t e r A l e s h i re , E d i t o r p h o t o g r a p h s b y R a n d y P re n t i c e
22 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 23
the gila river survives like an old man who
fought in the Great War, invented the tango, lost a mil-lion
dollars on a bad bet, climbed a sacred peak bare-handed
and loved a beautiful woman whose eyes he can
now but dimly recall. But he has forgotten more than
most people ever learn, so that even the seamed residual
of the dreams he has dared can make poets weep and
women with raven hair sigh.
The Gila River arises first in the jagged, volcanic wil-derness
along the Arizona-New Mexico border, where
Geronimo was born, the last wild wolf died and the first
reintroduced wolves were set loose. The major tributaries
of the San Francisco and Blue rivers run out of the White
Mountains and augment the parched drift of the Gila.
Once, the Gila ran in its muscular pride all the way to
the Colorado River near Yuma, sustaining ancient civi-lizations,
cottonwoods, willows, beavers, otters, native
fish, wolves, elk, deer, lions and bears. Ice Age mammoth
hunters gave way to other groups, including the 1,000-
year run of the Hohokam. History lurched, rumbled
and bled along its banks in the form of missionaries, fur
trappers, the Mormon Battalion, the Butterfield Stage
and the gold-fevered prospectors rushing to California.
But modern times have been hard on the Gila. The
headwaters still gush in a good year, offering wilderness
rafting in the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation
Area. But dams and diversions have starved it so that it
only rarely flows through Phoenix, merges with the Salt
and Verde rivers or reaches Painted Rock Reservoir near
Gila Bend. Only in flood years does it find its way once
again to the Colorado.
And so the old man, who has straddled mountain
chains and cut canyons and raised up civilizations,
dreams now in the long light, in its long limbo, on its
long journey of blind and brave persistence, having
learned the hard lesson that not all rivers run to the sea.
Find fall color along southern Arizona trails at
arizonahighways.com (click on “November Trip Planner”).
cottonwood and willow trees
line the Santa Cruz River south
of Tumacacori, a touch of life
on a tributary of the Gila River
that now dries up
intermittently. Once, the river’s
reliable flow made it vital to
native cultures and Spanish
24 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6
San Pedro River
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 25
connecting the Mexican tropics to North America. As
a result, The Nature Conservancy has designated it
one of the “last great places.”
Biologists working the San Pedro have accumu-lated
an astonishing species count: 80 species of
mammals, 40 reptile and amphibian species, 100 vari-eties
of butterflies, 20 species of bats and 350 species
of birds. Once, it also boasted 14 species of native
fish, but only the longfin dace and the desert sucker
have survived a century of cattle grazing, elimination
of grasslands and prolonged draught. The San Pedro
River also suffers from groundwater pumping.
Still, the little guy keeps getting up. Conservationists
labor to reduce groundwater pumping and the federal
government has established a protected conservation area.
In the meantime, the gaudy tropical migrants still
flit through the glimmering cottonwoods past the bone
piles of ancient hunters, the vanished relics of civiliza-tions,
the Spanish fort and the abandoned homesteads
of rustlers and gunslingers.
All of which proves that when it comes to rivers and
bar fights, keep your eye on the little guy.
The spring-fed, year-round
eventually makes its way
to the San Pedro River,
the state’s last free-flowing
perhaps its most
the san pedro river appears like a little guy who
won’t stay down. He’s a bird-watching, flower-picking
poet who drives a backhoe and gets in too many bar
fights, in which he triumphs by his sheer, gutsy insis-tence
on getting up no matter how many times the big,
dumb mugs knock him over.
This humble, vital wisp of a river is one of the few
free-flowing, undammed rivers in the Southwest as it
flows out of Mexico toward its fitful confluence with the
Gila River near Hayden. Usually it soaks into the sand
soon after crossing into the United States, although it
often makes a showing in the Charleston Narrows near
The 176-mile-long San Pedro cuts no canyons and
barely manages riffles. Only in the arid Southwest
would anyone call it a river with a straight face.
But it’s no less vital for its pint-sized stature.
The San Pedro runs north in the broad depression
of the down-dropped valley that runs between the
Huachuca Mountains and the Dragoon Mountains.
Cottonwood and willow trees line its banks, which
makes the San Pedro a biological superhighway
26 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 27
the verde river is like an absent-minded profes-sor,
tromping about in his many-pocketed birding vest
and brandishing his bug lens and rock pick—vague
and windblown, but bound to amaze anyone who fol-lows
his free-association conversation. Understated
and modest, the Verde has nonetheless shaped the his-tory
of the region for millennia. Mostly, it muddles and
puddles and daydreams along, running past ancient
ruins, mining-towns-turned-artist-colonies, stock
ponds and linear forests of cottonwoods and willows.
Often, it slows to a trickle, but sometimes it gushes
in flood. If it were a painter, it would work mostly in
watercolor washes of greens and blues.
The 283-mile-long Verde officially starts up in
Yavapai County where the Big Chino and Williams
Valley washes meet at the fitfully full Sullivan Lake.
It runs 125 miles from there down past Perkinsville,
through the Verde Valley, then on down to captivity
in Horseshoe and Bartlett reservoirs near Cave Creek
on the outskirts of Phoenix.
Usually, the Verde behaves with the eccentric and
witty decorum of a classics professor. In the spring,
the Verde gets ever so slightly tipsy, with spring runoff
sufficient to please middle-aged kayakers and bird-loving
canoeists. During the summer, it slows to a green
trickle beloved of dragonflies and kids hunting craw-fish.
The river’s flow rarely exceeds 1,000 cubic feet
per second (cfs). However, its flows can swing wildly:
In the flood year of 1993, it roared along at 145,000 cfs,
but in recent drought years, it has dwindled to as little
as 48 cfs.
Its scattering of tributaries are also fitful, including
West Clear Creek, Wet Beaver Creek, Webber Creek, Granite
Creek and Oak Creek, which rushes down through the
layered, Technicolor red rocks of Sedona.
The Verde nourishes rich galleries of cottonwoods
and willows along much of its length, thereby provid-ing
a sanctuary for wildlife, including some 200 to
300 wintering bald eagles and a vital percentage of
the migrating songbirds that gladden much of North
Although the river flows past settlements like Jerome,
Cottonwood and Camp Verde, it also includes remote
stretches designated as wild and scenic, where eight
struggling native fish species, plus beavers, otters and
muskrats that have been mostly exterminated hang
onto their ancient ways.
So the Verde has made a comeback. Granted, the
mammoths that drew Ice Age hunters to its banks have
long vanished. But many of the same species that
watched the Sinagua Indians build their handcrafted
stone cities at places like Tuzigoot on the banks of the
Verde now ponder the import of passing kayakers.
But that’s the thing about spending the day with the
Verde: You never know what treasure of knowledge
you’ll stumble over listening to birdcalls, watching
water bugs and unearthing the odd mammoth bone.
CURVES AHEAD Sculpted in arcing flares, walls of Coconino sandstone face their
reflections in a placid curve of Oak Creek’s West Fork. Verde River
Webber Creek flows off the
great uplift of the Mogollon
Rim into the Verde River, a
riparian meander whose
tributaries include some of
the most scenic creeks in the
state — including Sedona’s
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 29
THE SACRED SALT
Created by the merger of the
Black and White rivers, the
Salt runs down through
mythic areas of the White
Mountain Apache Indian
Reservation and on into a
chain of reservoirs that sustain
the salt river rides a motorcycle, has tattoos,
takes peyote and attends sweat lodges, but now finds
itself with a middle-management job that requires a lot
of overtime at an Internet startup company. It is like an
old soul with deep secrets and a mixed heritage, which
runs through a raw and jagged land and has sustained
a heady and contradictory sequence of civilizations. It
originates in wild places fit for wolves and old stories of
deep things in dark places, but runs down finally into
the chain of cliff-sided reservoirs that nourish modern
The headwaters lie up in the wet wilderness of the
White Mountains, where the Black and White rivers
provide some of the best trout fishing in the state. These
headwater tributaries run down through a sacred, closed
area on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation.
The merger of the White and Black rivers creates the Salt,
which has cut the great gash of the Salt River Canyon,
with its great stretches of raftable rapids. Along this wild
and sacred stretch, the Salt River runs past ruins and
myths — as the tattoos dance and the motorcycle roars.
But when the Salt leaves the protection of Salt River
Canyon, it must report to work. Theodore Roosevelt
Lake marks the beginning of a half-century of dam-building
and water development that transformed the
American West, including the chain of lakes and 1,300
miles of canals and ditches that water Phoenix.
By the time the Salt River leaves Saguaro Lake, it is
but a housebroken mutter of itself, fit for inner tubers
and irrigation ditches. Only in flood years does the Salt
shake off its restraints and rampage through Phoenix,
making freeway bridges shudder, like a middle-aged
biker on a binge.
But mostly, the lower Salt now labors for the startup
firms and the venture capitalists, with the tattoos just
peeking out below his shirtsleeve and the motorcycle
waiting in the parking lot.
DESERT RIVERS — FROM LUSH
HEADWATERS TO SONORAN SANDS offers
an intimate, humorous, luminous portrait of
Arizona’s major rivers and tributaries. Save
10 percent now by mentioning promo code
8299-MKT6 when calling toll-free (800) 543-
5432 or, in the Phoenix area, (602) 712-2000.
28 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6
30 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 31
as hobbies while he climbed a narrowing
ladder of jobs to support his family. He
went from cop to youth counselor to busi-nessman
and finally Realtor before arriving
at a disturbing reality.
“I couldn’t be around people without siz-ing
them up financially,” says Walker. “It
didn’t matter who they were.”
At 42, Walker fled to a small trailer
tucked into the acreage of a friend’s farm
in an effort to recover his soul and sen-sibilities.
On solitary strolls around the
property, he caught his reflection in nature.
Observing birds of prey and a feral cat on
the hunt for sustenance, he realized he had
concealed his true identity with the mask
of a predator.
“I realized that a mask is an icon of
boundary; it provides information but it
hides it, too. It started there,” he says. “The
presence of the feather imports life and
death. It came from a living thing.”
In light of his predator/prey experience,
Walker admits that his early mask cre-ations
were “hawkish,” though they quickly
began to channel less obvious associations
and interests of the artist.
“People tend to think because he’s an
Arizona artist that he bases his work on
Native Americans, but really you see a vari-ety
of influences, from African to Asian to
South American,” says Padesky.
The word “transcultural” fits Walker
and his work because both give the distinct
impression that he has traveled, around
the world and through people and time.
Despite his reclusive lifestyle, the avid
reader of everything from Carl Sagan to
Socrates and a self-proclaimed Google and
news channel junkie, he strives to let “the
wash and slosh of ideas, the swirl of loves
and hates” drift through his mind.
Wherever his mind takes him, Walker
now goes dressed as himself, a student of
life whose inspiration never stays in one
place for too long — something that whis-pers
through his work, which Padesky says
never stays in his gallery for too long, either.
Me, I think I’ll stay awhile.
I’m being watched. It’s Thanksgiving
weekend, and I’ve opted to pop into Roberts
Gallery at Scottsdale’s el Pedregal Festival
Marketplace. The person closest to me is at
least 5 feet away, but somehow I feel com-pletely
surrounded. As I scan the gallery
walls, my eyes meet the mugs of a mythical
goddess, an African warrior, a gothic pro-tector
and an ancient tribal chief.
Paranoia aside, it seems like the sound-less
voyeurs aren’t hanging on the walls as
much as they’re poking their heads through
some sort of rip in the fabric of time. Eyes
black with infinity, they stun with the
power of a cathedral pipe organ and yet they
whisper, soft and delicate — like the brush
of a feather. They envelop and enchant
me. I want to feel them, let them pull me
through the rip. But I won’t because I’ve
just noticed that I really am being watched.
Gallery owner Robert Padesky has spotted
me and is coming to welcome me to the
world of Virgil Walker, the Arizona artist
who has been crafting his unique brand of
masks and statues exclusively for his gal-lery
for 20 years.
Even after two decades, Padesky
beams like a proud papa when he tells
the story. He first became enchanted by
Walker’s work during the mid-1980s after a
girlfriend showed him a special mask.
“I wasn’t concerned with whether or not
they sold,” he recalls. “I just felt they were
something that needed to be shared.”
When Padesky moved his business from
Old Town Scottsdale to el Pedregal in 1988,
Walker’s masks moved with him and have
since become the gallery’s signature seller.
A seasoned art dealer, Padesky still says the
pieces are “by far the most amazing thing
I’ve seen in the world.”
Sculpting talents alone could keep this
artist fed for life, but Virgil Walker’s works
are not complete until he painstakingly
creates each one, not with acrylics or oils,
but feathers — thousands of feathers. The
result conjures thoughts of rare and exotic
birds, with shimmering emeralds and
turquoises and copper hues, but Walker
uses what he calls “feathers from birds that
people eat,” including chickens, pheasants
When birds are plucked to fulfill their
dinner-table destiny, distributors wash,
disinfect and bag up their feathers for sale.
Walker sifts through the sacks, examining
the color, cup and curve of each feather in
pursuit of the perfect ones. This process
that he calls “managing pixels” ensures the
geography of a feather matches the topog-raphy
of his anatomical landscapes. About
60 percent don’t make the cut. The chosen
ones are clipped to reveal only their masts,
which he then works and splays with his
fingertips before layering them like shin-gles
on the form in front of him. Padesky
estimates that each mask requires an aver-age
of 350 hours of painstaking work.
Based on Walker’s observation that
social patterns enable humans to waste
much of their lives, the artist splits his cre-ative
day into two 12-hour periods, during
which he strictly schedules work, research
and rest. Once a year, he emerges from his
Tempe home/studio/hermit’s lair with his
recent work and makes his way to north
Scottsdale for his traditional Thanksgiving
weekend show. Gallery-goers watch as
Walker puts the finishing touches on pieces
that he casts and shapes.
Born on the day the Japanese bombed
Pearl Harbor, the third-generation Arizonan
is a career-artist-come-lately. If you ask one
of his seven children what it was like being
raised with his art, they’ll say they don’t
know. Most of them were grown by the
time it occurred to him. Despite major-ing
in art at Northern Arizona University,
Walker classified his artistic endeavors
Location: Roberts Gallery in north Scottsdale,
inside el Pedregal Festival Marketplace at 34505
N. Scottsdale Road, on the southeast corner
of Carefree Highway and Scottsdale Road.
Events: Walker’s work is on display year-round
at Roberts Gallery, and for three days over
Thanksgiving weekend Walker himself is on
display, crafting new pieces and conversing with
the public. Call the gallery for dates and times.
Additional Information: (480) 488-1088;
INFINITY AND BEYOND After completing each mask, Virgil
Walker cloaks the insides with a layer of black fabric, giving
the eyes a sense of infinite vision. The ideas evolve from
varied sources of inspiration, like ancient wars, the intelligence
of ravens, the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell, even a
jar of orange marmalade.
By JoB e t h J ami s on Phot o g r aph s b y R i c h a r d K . We b b
JoBeth Jamison is Special Projects Editor
of Arizona Highways.
Richard K. Webb lives in Mesa.
Ar t i st c re ate s gods and godde s se s one plume at a t ime
F E ATHER ED
32 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 33
UP, UP AND AWAY
Set against Southwestern
skies with the Vermilion Cliffs
as a backdrop, hot air
balloons rise each November
during the Page/Lake Powell
Hot Air Balloon Regatta. The
science of ballooning took off
in 1783 when brothers
Etienne and Joseph
Mongolfier launched the first
unmanned hot air balloon
outside of Paris. Their “crew”
consisted of a duck, a sheep
and a rooster.
Page’s Hot Air Regatta Convinces a First-timer to Forsake the Ground
by Sylvia Somerville
photographs by Jeff Kida
34 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 35
Uuntil the sky over winter-quiet Page
brightened with brilliantly hued balloons
on that first weekend in November, I had
never even considered dangling hundreds
of feet above the ground in a wicker basket.
Too daunting. But reassurances from pilots
who fly every chance they get for a bird’s-eye
perspective on life gave me a flush of
courage and curiosity.
Balloonists gather to launch their hot-air
chariots at balloon rallies across the coun-try,
where they can catch up with friends
and mingle with the community. The three-day
Page-Lake Powell Hot Air Balloon
Regatta now draws more people than any
other local festival. Pilots credit sensational
scenery that includes the Vermilion Cliffs
and Lake Powell, plus Page’s hospitality,
enthusiasm and organization.
Weather permitting on Friday, Saturday
and Sunday, balloonists lift off from Page’s
Old Nine-Hole Golf Course at daybreak,
when the winds are calm and predictable.
By midday, thermal drafts can cause poten-tially
On the morning of my flight, the air
was crisp and calm, and the sky a wash of
dusty rose, powder blue and pale grey. As
the Vermilion Cliffs glowed, a parade of
vehicles headed for the green, since bal-looning
is a complex group activity requir-ing
a dedicated ground crew to assist with
both the liftoff and the descent.
Each balloon is equipped with a fabric
envelope to hold the hot air, a burner, a
wicker basket for passenger transport, 40
gallons of propane, a radio, gauges,
droplines, maps, a fire extinguisher and
other navigational necessities. An hour-long
flight burns about 20 gallons of fuel.
After balloonmeister Bryan Hill gives
the green light, pilots and their ground
crews begin the labor-intensive process of
inflating their balloons. Crews lay out the
275 to 375 pounds of fabric downwind,
then use a fan and hot air to coax the
envelope into unfurling. They grip the
baskets until the balloons are upright. As
the balloons fill, fliers see their pinwheel
and spider-web patterns, plus bright Chiclet-style,
Once aboard, I was happy to discover
that passengers ride elbow to elbow, so
there is no chance of rolling out. We
launched facing the cliffs, then turned
back over the neatly laid-out town.
Flying a balloon requires considerable
technical precision. With the wind as the
choreographer, pilots can dance across
the sky with a two-step of venting to
descend and burning to ascend. Changing
altitude enables the pilot to find wind
currents that sustain flights ranging from
treetop-heights to 2,500 feet.
My pilot used a silent whisper burner
for gentle rises and a main burner to steer
clear of a thermal or dodge a power line.
Sometimes, he resorted to the whisper
burner to avoid spooking animals on the
ground as we flew over corrals of horses.
Meanwhile, the ground crew gave chase
so they could meet us when we landed.
They arrived in time to reassure the per-plexed
Navajo landowner who rushed out
to see us. When the balloon’s sponsor
passed out dining certificates to his res-taurant,
we were forgiven.
Then we all helped deflate, roll and
bag the envelope before hoisting it and
the basket onto the chase van. Back at
the tailgate party in Page, I was officially
initiated when my pilot ceremoniously
regaled me with the history of ballooning
and baptized me with champagne while
he recited the balloonist’s prayer. This
tradition is in honor of the Montgolfier
brothers, who launched the first manned
balloon flight over Paris in 1783.
The best day for spectators is Saturday,
with lots of activities and a mesmerizing
mass ascension that looks like a giant
bouquet of birthday balloons set free at
one time. As the multi-colored giants
float across the sky, traffic comes to a
halt and the whole town spills onto the
sidewalks. A friendly competition that
involves dropping beanbags on a target
at the Lake Powell National Golf Course
demonstrates the amazing control pilots
The festivities continued in the afternoon.
In Page, the attractions included a street
fair, bands, a raffle and vendors with arts,
crafts and food. Shortly before dusk,
nearly half of the balloons returned to
Page’s main street for a light show on the
ground. Organizers cordoned off several
blocks so everyone could promenade on
foot, bicycles and scooters past the tower-ing,
glowing balloons. Periodically, the
burners erupted to keep the envelopes
inflated, sometimes sequenced like a
string of Christmas lights. A few balloon-ists
allowed children to climb into their
baskets, getting another generation
excited about their sport.
Balloonists will tell you they feel most
truly at home in the air, away from the
demands of everyday living. From above,
space, time and silence provide an avenue
to contemplate the boundless mystery of
creation. Even as a first-timer, I could
appreciate the serenity and sense of inter-connectedness.
It’s a powerful force,
stronger than any fear.
Getting There: From Flagstaff, take U.S.
Route 89 north 130 miles to Page.
Dates: November 3-5, 2006.
Additional Information: Page-Lake
Powell Chamber of Commerce, toll-free
(888) 553-7243, (928) 645-2741 or www.
FULL OF HOT AIR
From the first rays of dawn until stars
flicker in the night sky, Page and its
surroundings glow with a rainbow of
color during the balloon festival.
The winds have welcomed you with softness.
The sun has blessed you with his warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well
that God joined you in laughter and set you gently back
into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
The Balloonist’s Prayer
Sylvia Somerville of Sedona is grateful to pilots
Doug Lenberg and Gary Woods for coaxing her
into the air.
Jeff Kida of Phoenix has photographed many
hot air balloon races over the past 20 years, but
he cautions that others should not infer that it
means he’s full of hot air.
by vera marie badertscher : photographs by david zickl
: photostyling by raechel running
Here holding a cotton
mop she transformed
into a paintbrush, Hall
often makes her own
brushes from natural
fibers, straw, grasses,
mops and sponges. She
also uses conventional
tubac tour explores love, life and the creative mind
Virginia hal l
38 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 39
“the first time I came to Tubac it was like
falling in love,” says Carol St. John. “I felt drunk on the air.”
In Tubac, crowded with art galleries, artist-and-writer Carol
St. John plays matchmaker, bringing together artists and viewers
on her “A Tubac Experience” art tours. She aims to help people
discover the essence of one of Arizona’s oldest towns and meet
artists who work there. The historic town hides off Interstate 19
south of Tucson, so far south that it seems part of Mexico.
A recent tour drew 10 people to St. John’s studio-gallery in
the El Presidito complex of small studios wrapped around a
courtyard mimicking a Spanish fort. She quickly recounts the
oft-destroyed-and-rebuilt village’s history, then turns to the
subject of art. During the tour, three other artists also open
their studios to help St. John’s clients to understand more clearly
the language of art. In her studio, her guests loosen their own
artistic muscles and play with line, form and color.
Uncertain, they poke and prod small balls of clay and give the
resulting sculptures names ranging from fanciful, The Embrace,
to pragmatic, The Rock, to ironic, George. St. John rejects only
A guest says, “This is called Lack of Artistic Ability.”
But St. John retorts, “Nope. Can’t go there.” She says every-one
is an artist and underscores the point in a group painting
exercise. Her seven newly minted artists mix with three others
with actual experience. They move around a single table, dip-ping,
dribbling, spraying and dripping until St. John declares
the butcher paper “canvas” fully covered.
Now they’re ready to take to the streets of Tubac to meet their
St. John pauses on a bridge over the Santa Cruz River to talk
about history. Tubac’s past includes swords and crosses, the
picks and shovels of miners and more recently, paintbrushes
and carving tools. Spanish soldiers built a presidio to protect
the chapel of Santa Gertrudis and expand their northern empire.
The explorer and soldier Juan Bautista de Anza directed the
Presidio San Ignacia de Tubac in the 1760s and led an expedition
to found San Francisco. Nearly a century later, Charles Poston
attracted one thousand people to Tubac to work in his nearby
silver mines. Nearly another century went by until Marjorie and
Dale Nichols started the flood of paint when they established
an art school in 1948.
Near the eastern edge of Tubac, where horses pose in pas-tures
studded with cottonwood trees, St. John’s group straggles
into the quiet courtyard of Virginia Hall’s gallery. Mysterious
arrangements of rock and sparse plantings lead to the home
and gallery. Inside, a black grand piano on the gray stone floor
dominates the nearly monochrome room. Huge abstract paint-ings
similarly drained of color line the walls.
St. John, whose oil
watercolors are held
in private collections
writes poetry and has
recently published a
as “a teacher first,” St.
John helps students
access their creativity
in workshops and
ART AROUND ARIZONA
From Flagstaff to Tubac, galleries and studios
in Arizona’s thriving artist communities display
works of art ranging from beaded jewelry to
landscape oil paintings. Here are eight places
where you can browse at your leisure, meet
artists and shop.
Tubac: An Art Experience
On November 11 and 12, the artists of Tubac
gather for “Tubac: An Art Experience.” This two-day
festival gives visitors a chance to meet the
artists and observe the creative process. With
close to 90 shops and galleries, you might need
two days to get a good look. Information: (520)
In a smaller show, Tubac Center of the
Arts will showcase the artwork of four Tubac
artists: Virginia Hall, David Simons, Carol St.
John and Jim Toner. The show will also include
photographer David Zickl’s portraits of the
four artists and runs through November 12.
Information: (520) 398-2371; www.tubacarts.org.
9th Annual Hidden in
the Hills Studio Tour
The last two weekends of November, artists in
the Cave Creek, Carefree and north Scottsdale
area open their studios to the public. The
tour, sponsored by the Sonoran Arts League,
features 157 artists at 46 studio locations.
Attendees meet the artists and watch them
at work. Information: (480) 575-6624; www.
The galleries of historic downtown Flagstaff
open the first Friday of every month from 6
to 9 p.m. Shops and restaurants stay open,
contributing to the street party atmosphere.
Walkers are also treated to artist demonstrations
and live music. Information: (928) 699-6824;
Jerome Art Walk
If you’re in Jerome on the second Saturday
of the month, stop by the Jerome Art Walk.
Twenty-four galleries and artists’ studios open
their doors from 5 to 8 p.m. A free shuttle
helps visitors tackle “America’s Most Vertical
City.” Some galleries spice up the evening with
refreshments and live music. Information: www.
Phoenix First Fridays
Pick up a brochure at the Phoenix Public Library,
then hop on one of five shuttles to take a
self-guided tour of more than 90 downtown
Phoenix galleries, studios and art spaces on
the first Friday of the month, from 6 to 11 p.m.
You can also visit shops, restaurants and music
venues that round out the event. Information:
(602) 256-7539; www.artlinkphoenix.com.
Prescott 4th Friday
Prescott’s Friday night art walk showcases artists
in 15 participating galleries located on or around
historic Whiskey Row within a four-block radius.
Many galleries offer wine and light snacks, and
some have entertainment. The art walk takes
place on the fourth Friday of the month, from
5 to 8 p.m. Information: (928) 308-0583; www.
This art walk, a 30-year tradition in downtown
Scottsdale, takes place every Thursday from
7 to 9 p.m. Cruise the Scottsdale arts district
and duck in and out of galleries to learn
about the featured artists and enjoy some
refreshments. With more than 100 galleries
participating, art enthusiasts will find an array
of styles. Information: (480) 990-3939; www.
Sedona 1st Friday Evening
in the Galleries
Jump on and off the free trolley to tour 16 of
Sedona’s eclectic art galleries on the first Friday
of each month, from 5 to 8 p.m. Some galleries
feature on-site artist demonstrations, as well as
food and drink. Information: (928) 282-6865;
Discover Arizona’s urban art scenes at arizonahighways.com
(Click on “November trip planner”)
40 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 41
With her childlike face and round glasses, Hall looks like a
little girl playing at being a grownup, although her graying hair
says otherwise. She arrived in town in 1979, and is now known
as the Grande Dame of Tubac artists. She seems as mysterious
and challenging as her paintings. In her studio, unfinished
paintings in the palest mist of black and gray hang on the wall.
Although she says that she does not talk about her art because
it needs to speak for itself, one of the guests asks about courting
the creative spirit.
“Time has no meaning.” She hesitates and says she has no words
for it, and then she tries again. “Time just totally disappears.”
The visitor persists. “How do you find that place?”
“For me, I just get out of my own way.”
Hall realizes that some people just do not “get” her enigmatic
paintings and she delights in the moment of realization that art
“One of my favorite things is when a couple comes in—and
they’ve been married about 50 years—and he’ll say, ‘I love that,’
and she’ll say, ‘You do?’ Suddenly they turn and see each other
for the first time.”
Next, St. John leads the caravan to David
Simon’s hilltop home. Participants unwrap their deli
lunches on a porch with expansive views and chat about artists
and their intentions. Simons invites the group into his living
room gallery. Light fills the high-ceilinged room and sharpens
the azures, purples, lively greens and sunshiny yellows of his
oil landscapes of mountains and deserts.
Unlike Hall, who turned away from color when she felt her work
getting stale, Simons strives to get the exact value of the colors of
nature. He calls the process “chasing beauty.” The color is more
important than the subject, he explains. One painting focuses on
a rusting car slowly merging with its background of nature.
In his one-car-garage-sized studio, the group gets a glimpse of
his dual life. His tiny studio doubles as a construction office. The
left half is left-brained—flow charts and calendars crammed with
deadlines. The right half is right-brained—paintings leaning on
easels or stacked every which way. A working artist for 22 years,
Simons is also an architect and builder.
The caravan leaves Simons’ hilltop and heads south to the stu-dio
of Jim Toner, whose furniture pieces blur the line between util-ity
and art. Starting on the West Coast, carving custom-designed
furniture pieces like the swan table he sold to Prince Charles
and Princess Diana, his work evolved to include sculptures, both
realistic and abstract.
He now lives and works in Carmen, Arizona, a speck on the
map beside Tubac. His warehouselike studio boasts industrial-sized
equipment because Toner works in several mediums, all
three-dimensional and most very large.
He carves stone and wood, creates fanciful furniture, and
shapes life-sized birds from plasteline (a non-hardening model-ing
clay), and larger animals in clays. Both the small bird and
larger animal sculptures ultimately will be cast in 3-D bronze.
Everything in the studio gets grimy from the rock and wood
dust. A boom box and a stack of classical and jazz CDs sit on a side
table. “Episode in the Life of an Artist” from Berlioz’ Symphonie
Fantastique fills the air.
Toner shows the visitors an abstract mesquite woodcarving,
a complex symphony of curves. A carver since childhood, he is
fascinated by the shapes naturally present in the wood — whorls
that mimic what one can see in seashells, waves and plants.
In contrast to the abstract wood piece, two high-backed wooden
chairs look like refugees from a Renaissance manse. The patterned
damask covering the seats appears antique, but the intricate carv-ings
on the back are just a tad too modern to be relics from the
past. Behind them, a thoroughly modern floor lamp testifies to
the endless variety of this artist’s creation.
The tour group has interrupted him as he works on some small
bird that he is forming from plasteline. Since the material never
hardens, he builds the birds an armature of wire. Toner looks at
books propped open on his workbench to check the exact look of
real birds, but his objective is to create something different. “I am
trying to leave the real and reach for the fantastic world,” he says.
St. John asks about his relationship to his tools, and he picks up
a handful of chisels. “I have 200 chisels,” he says. The demands of
wood require very exact sizes and angles of tools. However, Toner
explores other materials as well.
“I just brought in 1,000 pounds of rock,” he says, excited about
the possibilities. “I am collecting great stones,” he says. “I spent
hours and hours and hours at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.
I am trying to learn the language of more precious stones.” Even
his furniture designs are changing, with woodcarving or metal
that includes art glass or bronze.
Back finally where they started, the travelers cut up the now
dry group painting and frame each piece as a souvenir. Reluctant
to leave, they ponder what they have seen and experienced.
While thousands of visitors stroll through Tubac in a year, park-ing
your car and walking around is different than participation,
says one guest.
“You are cheating yourself if you only go to the gallery, without
meeting the artist,” says another of the group.
And so off they go to meet more artists and drink the air of
dav id simons Toner works on his
Nightbirds, which will
later be cast in bronze.
Even though they
resemble real birds,
Toner says his
interpretation of them
comes from a language
of his own voice.
Getting There: To find Carol St. John’s gallery, exit Interstate 19 south of
Tucson at Exit 34 and follow the frontage road on the east side of the
highway to the entrance to Tubac. Bear right on Tubac Road, continuing to
Burruel Street. Turn left. El Presidito stands at the northeast corner of Calle
Iglesia and Burruel Street.
Additional Information: (520) 398-2704 or www.tubacaz.com.
A self-taught artist,
Simons captures the
brilliance of the
Arizona landscape in
watercolors and oil
paintings. He enjoys
painting en plein air (in
the open air) at
Historical Park, which
houses three early
Vera Marie Badertscher of Tucson still does not know how artists do it, but
she is glad they do.
David Zickl of Fountain Hills was fascinated by artist Virginia Hall’s stories of
luncheons in the home of Ansel Adams with Elliot Porter and Edwin Land.
we are two hours into the grand canyon
on the well-trod North Kaibab Trail, taking a break, when seven
remarkably fit-looking middle-aged guys lurch into view below.
There’s water here, so they shed their packs and join us, briefly.
Since it’s late morning, I venture they’ve hiked 10 miles from
Bright Angel campground.
“South Rim,” says one. “We started at 4 this morning.”
That’s 19 miles, and even though a lot of it was downhill, I’m
“Going back tomorrow?”
“This afternoon. We do Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in one day every
October. This is our 11th year.”
I run the numbers: 48 miles, 10,300 vertical feet. I pose the
only possible question: “Why?”
“We don’t know,” answers one.
“Because 11 comes after 10,” laughs another.
Finally, one of the über-hikers offers a serious answer: “If you
have to do this every year, it’s a big incentive to stay in shape.
You can’t get up for this in two weeks.”
If there’s a deeper psychological vein, I don’t get the time to
mine it — they gobble gorp, glug water and they’re gone, heaving
themselves at the Rim.
I congratulate myself on my comparative sanity. Then, even
before that thought drains away, I’m daydreaming myself into a
24-hour Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. What an achievement!
What a ludicrous, delusional, ego-bloated fantasy!
But the Grand Canyon is always doing this to people, filling
heads with outlandish ideas. Build a railway in it. Throw a dam
across it. Jump over it on a rocket-powered motorcycle. Stage
Wagner’s Ring in it. Swim the length of it. Fly a paraglider across
it. (The first four were all seriously proposed; the latter two
actually happened, in 1955 and 2004 respectively.)
Hiking (or running) the r2r2r is almost routine. The
National Park Service says it doesn’t know how many people
try or succeed, since they require permits only for overnight
backpackers. Officially, the NPS frowns on the practice, posting
warnings both online and onsite to not attempt hiking “to the
river and back” (not even once) in one day. But if you’re strolling
the North Kaibab or Bright Angel trails in October — the best
month, weatherwise — you’ll encounter several every day,
easily identified by their minimalist packs, ferocious pace and
steel-eyed gaze. An “extreme dayhiking” Web site even lists an
unofficial record: in 1981, Allyn Cureton of Williams, Arizona,
knocked off the r2r2r in 7:51:23.
There’s no environmental sin being committed here that I can
discern. A speedy transect of the Canyon causes no more wear
and tear on the Coconino sandstone than a plodding backpack
expedition. The Canyon is vast enough to accommodate a
wide range of motivations and egos. There is a cost to the hiker,
though, and it’s deeper than aching quads.
When I lived in Tucson, I liked to ride my bike to the east
unit of Saguaro National Monument (now Saguaro National
Park) every Saturday, and cruise the 8-mile loop through the
Rincon Mountain foothills. It was a terrific ride, blooming with
hills and curves and stunning scenery. But when I installed
an electronic speedometer on my bike, which would calculate
average speed and elapsed time, everything changed. Every
excursion became a time trial, a test of character. Each Saturday
I had to better the previous week’s time, or the ride was a failure.
There came one Saturday after a week of unusual rain, and
when I rode the loop I heard the rustle and crash of water in
the desert near the road. There were ephemeral creeks, maybe
waterfalls, things that hadn’t existed before and would never be
there again in exactly the same configurations. I didn’t stop to
investigate; I was on pace to break 25 minutes.
And I did it — a personal best. The triumph then gnawed at
me all week, and the next Saturday I ripped the speedometer off
and never used it again.
I had lost something precious in transforming a natural
wonder into my personal gym. I had missed a chance to enrich
my sanctum of memories and understanding of the Sonoran
Desert, instead distilling the day into a statistic.
I’m no psychologist, but I’ve spent time enough in the Grand
Canyon watching people and pondering my own emotions
to realize that we all have difficulty relating to it on nature’s
terms. Its physical scale and its 5 million years of evolution are
almost too grand, literally, to comprehend. We seem to need
to do something in it, or to it, that shrinks it to human scale or
human experience. A quantifying line — “I ran the r2r2r in 12
hours” — defines the Grand Canyon in terms of human ability.
Nature relentlessly dares us to test ourselves against her, and
there aren’t many earthly dares bigger than the Grand Canyon.
There also aren’t many rewards bigger than in tamping down
the ego, plodding slowly and respectfully across the Canyon,
making its deeper acquaintance.
42 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 by Lawrence W. Cheek illustration by Joseph Daniel Fiedler along the way
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44 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 45
text and photographs by Marty Cordano hike of the month
when spanish explorer
Francisco Vasquez de
Coronado wandered through
southeast Arizona in search
of the Seven Cities of Gold,
he missed Parker Canyon
Lake in the San Rafael Valley.
He never heard the early
morning cacophony of songs
from birds hidden in the
shoreline vegetation, never
fished its waters and never
hiked the encircling
Lakeshore Trail. That’s
because the lake would not
exist for another 450 years,
when in 1966 the Arizona
Game and Fish Department
built an earthen dam in the
southern reaches of the
Canelo Hills to capture runoff
from the western slopes of
the Huachuca Mountains.
The 5-mile Lakeshore Trail
begins at the general store
and boat-launch area. For the
Birds enliven the Parker Canyon Lake Stroll Coronado Missed
first 300 yards, the trail is
paved and barrier free. From
the nearby Lakeview
campground, several trails
radiate out toward the lake
and the Lakeshore Trail.
The flat yet winding trail,
never more than a stone’s
throw from the lake’s shore,
draws you on into patches
of willow thickets, oak
savannahs and rolling
grasslands littered with
rounded juniper trees. The
unique blend of plant life,
edged by the lake, pulses
with bird life. Exotic sounds
fascinate the inquisitive
hiker, including a crescendo
of shrieks from scolding
grackles, grunts from
squabbling coots and squawks
from grumpy great blue
herons. The sounds blend to
create an atmosphere of
tropical intrigue. Meanwhile,
overdressed drill sergeants
doubling as peevish red-winged
blackbirds flash their
epaulets and scream orders at
At about the halfway point,
near the north end of the lake,
the trail passes a wildlife-viewing
bench, one of several
that overlook the lake placed
by the Forest Service along
the trail. The interpretive sign
describes a pair of “semi-permanent”
eagles, which spend most of
each winter there. One hiker,
who stopped to enjoy the
view from the bench,
watched an immature eagle
swoop down to nab a fish.
The eagle missed and flew
away “empty-taloned.” With
bald eagles soaring overhead,
many of the lake’s visiting
mergansers, buffleheads and
herons must remain vigilant
or risk becoming the eagles’
Mostly, though, the eagles
have their eyes on the fish. So
do the fishermen who use the
trail to access their favorite
fishing hole. Parker Canyon
Lake was created solely for
recreation, mainly fishing
and boating. The general
store manager boasts that
three state-record fish have
been pulled from the lake: a
big sunfish; a huge, black
bullhead catfish; and a
monster of a 32-pound,
4-ounce channel catfish, large
enough, so the story goes, to
swallow a Humvee. So, with
binoculars in one hand,
fishing pole in the other, and
a day pack full of trail mix,
any intrepid hiker can have a
full day of adventure on the
Lakeshore Trail — and
discover the treasure that
Francisco Vasquez de
Coronado missed out on.
Hike for the eagle-eyed
Lakeshore Trail (left) wanders for
5 miles near the shore of Parker
Canyon Lake and takes hikers
into one of southeast Arizona’s
choice habitats for birds, like the
red-winged blackbird (right), a
songbird commonly seen in riparian
areas. The lake (below) is a popular
destination for fishermen after
rainbow trout, largemouth bass,
sunfish and channel catfish.
Length: 5 miles.
Elevation Gain: None.
Payoff: Bird-watching and fishing.
Getting There: From Tucson, drive east on Interstate 10 for 21 miles to
the State Route 83 exit. Drive south on State 83 for 27 miles to Sonoita.
Continue south on 83 for approximately 25 miles to Parker Canyon Lake.
Additional Information: Sierra Vista Ranger District, (520) 378-0311;
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.
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 47
by Peter Aleshire photographs by George Stocking
accidental falls, according to a
recent study. That proves their
uncanny agility relies in part
on memorizing every ledge
and boulder in their vast, arid
range. They don’t need to
drink at all in the winter, and
even during the 118-degree
summers they need water only
every two to four days. In the
summer, they rest in the shade
all day, rousing only at dawn
and dusk to munch ocotillo,
jojoba and fairyduster. They
can even break open a barrel
cactus and get moisture from
the bitter, mushy pulp.
So I probably won’t spot one
of these tough survivors, but
I’ll settle for treasure —
specifically a stop at the Castle
Dome Mine, 7 miles into the
trip. Col. Jaccob Snivley and
Herman Ehrenberg started
working earlier mining scars
here in the middle of the Civil
War, which makes it one of the
oldest mining districts in
Arizona. Mining extended
fitfully from 1858 to 1978. A
reconstructed mining museum
stuffed with fascinating
artifacts and powered by solar
panels is open every day but
Monday. It features about 25
buildings, a halfway-to-hellfire
church, a one-cell jail and a
reconstructed mill. Owner
Allen Armstrong has
assembled a vintage stamp
with which he’ll soon be
making silver coins from the
mine, to help show off the
world’s largest brick of
silver — a whopping 250
pounds. In 1878, the mine
produced the world’s biggest
wagons — big enough to haul
20 tons when hitched to a 40-
horse team. Reportedly the
shafts for the silver mine
descend 750 feet, and the piles
of vintage equipment and
knickknacks of daily life make
a fascinating pause along a
Beyond the Castle Dome
Mine, the road quickly turns
into a rocky, high-clearance-only
road winding through
forests of saguaro, thickets of
cholla and scatters of ocotillo
along the base of a nervous
breakdown of rock. The road
lurches with haphazard
ambition into a wonderfully
raw pass through the Castle
Dome Mountains. I nearly
throw my neck out of gear,
whipping back and forth
between the rock-toothed road
and the potentially bighorn-harboring
confusion of cliffs.
The road doesn’t absolutely
insist on four-wheel drive until
I reach a steep, loose detour
around a washout 7 miles
beyond the Castle Dome Mine.
Only low gear in my four-desert
END OF THE DAY
Sunset settles over
southwest Arizona’s Castle
Dome Peak, within the Kofa
National Wildlife Refuge.
MINING NO MORE
In the 1870s and ’80s, miners
kept the stamp mill (above)
busy at the now-defunct
Castle Dome Mine. A lone
quail (below) perches on the
church steeple at the Castle
Dome Mining Museum.
46 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6
i seek treasure, adventure
and a glimpse of a survivor.
All await beyond the map’s
safely solid red line and
beyond the scary dotted red
line of a back-road journey
through the volcanic
contortions of the Kofa
Wildlife Refuge. Here, the
earth erupted, silver
precipitated, palm trees
lingered, bighorns persisted
and prospectors perished.
And along the way, I can
indulge a foolishly addictive
affection for deep desert and
seldom-traveled dirt roads.
So I gas up on the eastern
edge of Yuma, drive north 23
miles on U.S. Route 95 and
turn onto paved Castle Dome
Mine Road, which passes
through the Yuma Proving
Grounds where Gen. George
Patton trained for the North
Africa campaign. A stern sign
insists I cast aside any drugs,
money, gasoline in glass
containers and seditious
material. Is Mark Twain
seditious? I resolve to risk it.
The road turns to dirt in 2
miles and enters the Kofa
Wildlife Refuge in 5 as it
rollicks toward the Castle
Dome Mountains. The jagged
peaks run along the edge of
the 665,000-acre refuge,
established in 1939 to protect
the desert bighorn sheep and
the state’s largest groves of
California fan palms.
The Kofas’ 1,000-sheep herd
has essentially saved bighorns
in Arizona. Hungry miners and
disease-bearing domestic sheep
and goats reduced the tens of
thousands of desert bighorns in
the Southwest to an early 20th-century
handful. In Arizona,
most of the survivors lived in
the Kofas. In the past 50 years,
the Arizona Game and Fish
Department has relocated the
Kofa sheep all over the state,
boosting the statewide
population to about 6,000.
Of course, the transplanted
sheep face hazards. Although
they can scramble up a cliff
face and cover 10 feet in a
single bound, about 10 percent
of the transplants die from
Rugged Kofa Mountains route offers a dash of history and hope of a survivor
back road adventure
48 n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 6
wheel-drive Jeep gets me past
The road emerges from the
mountain, rattles through
ocotillos and finally fetches up
against the unlabeled King Road.
U.S. 95 lies 6 miles west,
and 8 miles farther north, the
highway connects to Palm
Canyon Road, which leads to
the trailhead for the hike to
Palm Canyon. There stands a
grove of California fan palms,
stranded in the desert 10,000
years ago as the Ice Age waned.
But I turn east onto the
perfectly graded King Road.
After 6 miles, the road
forks. The Welton-Kofa Road
continues southeast toward
Interstate 8 east of Yuma. But I
head north on the unmarked
road leading on to the King of
Arizona Mine, from which the
Kofas scrounged their name.
The narrowing but still
two-wheel-drivable road leads
on another 8 miles to the
scattered tailings of the King of
Arizona Mine, speckled with
inholdings. The silver-, lead-and
launched in 1897 extracted
$3.5 million worth of gold
and silver from shafts up to
750 feet deep before playing
out in 1910. The reddish
rhyolite Kofa Mountains jab
at the deep-desert sky — stone
giants caught in furious
struggle — and the slopes
bristle with an alien landscape
I sit beside the Jeep,
listening to the crackle of the
cooling engine block,
systematically searching the
jagged slopes with my
I see not one bighorn, but I
figure he’s up there, watching
me as he watched the Stone-
Age hunters, wandering
Apaches and gold-crazed
No matter, the hope of him has
led me to this treasure of a day.
So I crack the ice chest and
drink a toast to survivors.
FULL MOON RISING
The moon casts an eerie glow over
teddy bear chollas and a saguaro
cactus near the ghostly remains of
the Castle Dome mining camp.
> Begin at junction of U.S. Route 95 and Castle Dome Road. (32°57.697’
N; 114°17.602’ W)
> On Castle Dome Road drive 7 miles to Castle Dome Mine. Paved road
first 2 miles, good gravel road after. (32°02.424’ N; 114°10.529’ W)
> From mine continue driving north on rough four-wheel-drive jeep
trail for 15.6 miles to King Road. Hardest spot comes 9.5 miles in at
McPherson Pass. (33°14.071’ N; 14°08.799’ W)
> After the pass follow the left fork and drive approximately 4 miles
where the road forks again. Take the right fork to King Road.
> Turn right (east) onto King Road; drive about 6 miles to unmarked
King of Arizona Mine Road (or you can return to U.S. 95 by turning
left (west) and driving 6 miles).
> Turn left (north) onto unmarked King of Arizona Mine Road; drive
8 miles to mine. (113°16.957’ N; 113°58.503’ W)
> A four-wheel-drive road leads north to North Star Mine; King of
Arizona Mine Road turns sharply south to numerous mines then dwindles
into tough jeep trail. Jeep trails run through the Kofas for 40 miles
north to Interstate 10.
> To return to U.S. 95, backtrack down King of Arizona Mine
Road to King Road and turn right to drive west to 95.
Note: Mileages and GPS locations are approximate.
DRILLING AND FILLING
Miners and their families could get
their cavities and prescriptions filled,
evidenced by the antique dentist’s
chair and the stack of prescription
receipts, many written for alcohol,
which during Prohibition was used
for “medicinal” purposes.
Vehicle Requirements: Parts
of this route require high-clearance
and four-wheel drive.
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.
Additional Information: Kofa
National Wildlife Refuge,
(928) 783-7861; www.fws.gov/
html; Castle Dome Mining
Museum, (928) 920-3062.
King of Arizona
Castle Dome Mts.
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