El Tejano Terrified
J U L Y 2 0 0 6
PEAK MOMENTS: Climb 15 County High Points
2 DEAR EDITOR
3 ALL WHO WANDER
dispense pithy pearls.
5 TAKING THE OFF-RAMP
40 ALONG THE WAY
Table tables and baby buttes:
What’s in a name?
42 HIKE OF THE MONTH
Easy Big Tank trail on the Arizona
Strip connects to a 750-mile-long,
44 BACK ROAD ADVENTURE
Whistling elk, gleaming trout
and vivid history enliven a White
Mountain Apache Reservation drive.
contents july 2006
8 The High Life by brendan leonard
Hardy hikers bag the land’s highest
points — one county at a time.
20 Home of the Heart by kathleen walker
Tohono O’odham friends teach a thoroughly modern
writer an ancient truth. illustration by daniel fiedler
22 Hoodoo Hunts by gregory mcnamee
Visit this bestiary of magical rock formations
where the stone goblins fuse geology and
myth. photographs by jack dykinga
34 Buried Twice by leo w. banks
The infamous El Tejano terrified Tucson, which
plugged him, then covered him up.
38 Snaky Love by terry greene sterling
Radio transmitter-equipped rattlers reveal
their maternal instincts and strange mating
habits. photographs by marty cordano
The best way to beat the heat this month is to head for the high country.
Even if you can’t leave the desert, you can still hit the high points with
our trip planner. To get the lowdown on Arizona summertime adventures,
go to arizonahighways.com and click on the "July Trip Planner" for:
• High-pointing highlights
• A hoodoo handbook
• A rattlesnake review
HUMOR Our writer decides to quench his thirst with heat.
ONLINE EXTRA Camp at Eagle Creek.
WEEKEND GETAWAY Visit Grand Canyon West Ranch.
HISTORY Meet unlucky Joe Goldwater.
EXPERIENCE ARIZONA Plan a trip with our calendar of events.
A greater roadrunner puts on the brakes in
Saguaro National Park East. Known for striking
a variety of comical poses, these fast-footed
birds are some of the only animals known to
strike at rattlesnakes. Often working in pairs,
they distract, attack and kill their equally
striking victims. paul & joyce berquist
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191
or visit arizonahighways.com.
FRONT COVER Sculpted by solitude, weather and time,
banded sandstone on the Navajo Indian Reservation
becomes a visual phenomenon known as a hoodoo.
See portfolio, page 22. jack dykinga
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191 or visit
FRONT COVER INSET The higher the toil the
sweeter the view. Hikers explore Arizona’s county
high points. See story, page 8. tom bean
BACK COVER Nearly 11,000 feet tall, Mount Graham
is the highest point in Graham County and so a prime
target for county high-pointers (see story, page 8).
However, the top of the mountain is closed off by a
University of Arizona telescope complex. steve bruno
you got your fools.
You got your darn fools.
Then you got your writers.
Arms akimbo astraddle a Chiricahua rock
outcrop, I squint at the approaching monsoon
Never hike among the lightning bolts, said
my sainted mother. But I be a writer. Surely it
will not rain on me. Besides, I long for the storm.
So off I go, setting myself up. I have but
this one day to play hooky from my life. I
can go down or turn around, so down I go
for an afternoon on Witch Mountain, among
the stone goblins waiting in the thunder
gloom — acolytes of the apocalypse.
But the goblins know deep secrets, so I’m
listening, listening, listening — understanding
nothing, wanting everything. I have read all
the books, studied all the pictures. I am
a-shiver with catastrophe.
Here’s what they would have us believe:
Once upon a time, the Earth went crazy. They say it was 27
million years ago, but this number means nothing to me. They
say that two crustal plates get into a ruckus: The Pacific Plate
goes down under the North American Plate. Maybe it is mad.
Maybe it is weary. Why does a plate descend? Down, down,
down it goes, into the radium and the mantle and the magma.
Rock melts. Mountains rise. Basins drop. You got your
Rocky Mountains. You got your Colorado Plateau. You got your
Way, way, way down, the magma rises up, desperate to
escape. It rises relentlessly along fractures, oozing up, up, up
until it meets the water coming down, until it finds the layers
of ancient seafloor mud pregnant with carbon dioxide.
Then in a demented delirium of steam and chemistry, the
pressurized magma expands 50-fold. Superheated clouds of
ash and pumice explode through the last thin layer of crust,
blasting out a gigantic crater and a 100-mph slurry of ash. The
crater spews 100 cubic miles of debris. An absurd number:
Enough to bury Phoenix and Tucson and everything in
between under a mile of rock. A mushroom cloud of ash rises,
spreads and darkens the whole planet, exterminating untold
species. The bigger bits fall to Earth and blanket 1,200 square
miles. The crater empties and collapses, leaving a 12-mile-wide,
Once the Earth has fallen silent, abashed and jagged, the
endlessly patient wind and rain and ice rise like woodwinds
after the cymbal clash. Weathering and chemical deterioration
sculpt the stone spires of the Chiricahua National Monument
where I now wander.
The trail descends, my amazement grows, the clouds lower.
Miles later, I come to the Heart of Rocks, the magical center
of the carnage.
I am fascinated and foolish in my shirtsleeves, like a
marveling sunbather watching the water
withdraw to join the oncoming tsunami.
The lightning flashes, startling me.
The thunder rumbles, rattling me.
The fat drops fall, spattering me.
I am miles from the Jeep and alone with
the goblins. The lightning flashes in the same instant as the
thunderclap, which deafens me. My heart flashes like a moth
landing on a spotlight. I can smell the ozone.
The storm comes after me. The goblins dance crazily in the
lightning strobe, furious and terrible. I cower and tremble. Be
careful what you wish for, even if you are a writer and foolish.
The rain comes in a deluge. Soaked to the skin, I wait for the
storm to drop the electric heater into my bathtub.
Abruptly, the storm loses interest in me. Maybe it never
noticed me. Maybe it just stretched in its sleep — like the
Pacific Plate bumping against the North American Plate.
To my amazement, the clouds shred and scatter. Sunlight
lances through, a different school of magic.
All around me, waterfalls spring from the rocks, teasing the
goblins. The water glitters and sings. Still the goblins dance,
now in sounding joy.
I see everything, understand nothing.
The war with the Apaches took place here among the
goblins. Sometimes a white man foolish enough to come here
alone could escape by acting crazy, for the Apaches considered
insane people potentially holy.
Maybe storms do, too.
And so take pity on fools and writers.
Perched on the Edge
Your May 2006 cover was terrific, but seeing the hiker
perched on an overlook made me shudder. I know that the
Grand Canyon park rangers wake up every day hoping they
won’t have to rescue or evacuate (or worse) someone foolish
enough to venture to this spot. You don’t have to read Death
in the Canyon to get that point! Please remind your readers
that this person has taken a BIG chance.
Rick Rockwell, Owings Mills, MD
Good point. Risky perch. Very sensible. Better-grounded editors here said the
photograph might frighten otherwise friendly readers. This underscores the
need for sensible editing. So please everyone: Go, look, quiver, but don’t fall off.—Peter Aleshire, Editor
M A Y 2 0 0 6
The Old Man and
Walking the Rim
Seeking a Cure
Top Out in
the Land of the
Trek to Navajo White House Ruins Crosses Cultural Divide
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 3
2 j u l y 2 0 0 6
JULY 2006 VOL. 82, NO. 7
Publisher WIN HOLDEN
Editor PETER ALESHIRE
Senior Editor BETH DEVENY
Managing Editor RANDY SUMMERLIN
Web/Research Editor SALLY BENFORD
Books Editor BOB ALBANO
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
Inquiries or orders Toll-free: (800) 543-5432
Phoenix area or outside the U.S. (602) 712-2000
Or visit arizonahighways.com
For Corporate or Trade Sales Dolores Field (602) 712-2045
Letters to the Editor email@example.com
2039 W. Lewis Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85009
Director, Department of Transportation
VICTOR M. MENDEZ
ARIZONA TRANSPORTATION BOARD
Chairman James W. Martin
Vice Chairman Joe Lane
Members S.L. Schorr, Delbert Householder,
Robert M. Montoya, Felipe Andres Zubia,
William J. Feldmeier
International Regional Magazine Association
2004, 2003, 2001, 2000 Magazine of the Year
Western Publications Association
2004, 2002, 2001 Best Travel & In-transit Magazine
Society of American Travel Writers Foundation
Writing About Heroes
Thank you for writing about the Leukemia
& Lymphoma Society Hike for Discovery
at the Grand Canyon (May ’06). This hike
has special meaning for me since I was
diagnosed with chronic myelogenous
leukemia eight months ago. Since that
time, I have met many true heroes, such
as the Vargases and others mentioned
in the story. Fund raising is especially
important now as government funding for
cancer research has decreased.
Mary Lou Ludicky, Crystal Lake, IL
Where’s the Locator Map?
Love Arizona and the magazine. We use it
to plan our winter and fall trips. However,
I very much miss the little map on the
table of contents page that highlights the
locations of stories.
Arlene and Joseph Stuhl, New York
We did drop the story locator map on the contents
page, because it didn’t look as good on a full-bleed,
two-page picture there, but added locator maps for
many stories — Ed.
Power of Love
Just want to say thanks for “My Goofball
Dog and Me” (“All Who Wander,” May
’06). It’s part of what makes Arizona
Highways a magazine everyone can relate
to! Your one story came across with as
much power and love as could be found in
an entire book. It made my day!
Valerie Lundy, New Jersey
I thank you. Lobo thanks you. At least he will as soon
as he finishes eating my CD collection — Ed.
Keep ’em on a Leash
You might want to find out about the
leash laws in Arizona (“All Who Wander,”
May ’06). On a recent hiking adventure
up the Cochise Trail in the Stronghold
area of the Dragoon Mountains, we were
confronted with three hikers, each with
a dog, one not on a leash. As we all tried
to pass, one dog came between us and I
fell down. This makes for what was a very
nice hike into a painful downhill finish.
I am not against dogs, but it just seems
best that dogs be kept on a leash so that
everyone can be “free” and enjoy.
Lynette Rice, Cochise
With Lobo, I do wait until we get to the usually
unpopulated ridge, but you raise a good point. Heck,
half the time I don’t think they ought to let me off the
The Ink Stinks
I am very disappointed that you changed
the format of the magazine. You also
changed the ink. When I open your
magazine, I can’t breathe. Why do you
guys always have to change things?
Karl Zemann, Las Vegas, NV
We haven’t changed the ink, but please write again
and tell me what element of the redesign bothers
you. — Ed.
Film vs. Digital Revisited
I’ve just stumbled across Peter
Ensenberger’s article on film vs. digital
(July ’05). What a model of unmuddled
thinking. Having invested heavily in
digital imaging equipment, I’d like to
believe that the images are every bit as
good as film—even 35 mm—but the
evidence is there before my eyes. I’m
about to head off to Myanmar, and I’d like
nothing better than to trek with just my
Nikon D200, but my clunky, heavyweight,
medium-format camera will be coming
along for the ride for one simple
reason — the end result.
Michael Gebicki , Annandale NSW, Australia
Pete Ensenberger is indeed the master of unmuddled
thinking, but I love my digital since I can delete the
ugly shots. That’s less of a selling point for Pete; his
stuff always comes out disgustingly good —Ed.
onlineFor more letters, see arizonahighways.com (Click on “Letters to the Editor”).
Fools and Thunder
Stone goblins and reckless writers dance in the lightning flash
DO AS I SAY
Don’t be like Peter.
Don’t hike in
sensible. dave bly
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Produced in the USA
Arizona Highways magazine has inspired an
independent weekly television series, hosted by
Phoenix TV news anchor Robin Sewell. For
channels and show times, log on to
arizonahighways.com; click on “DISCOVER
ARIZONA”; then click on the “Arizona Highways
goes to television!” link on the right-hand side.
highways on tv
all who wander by Peter Aleshire, editor
“a good photograph is knowing where to stand.”
The statement seems disarmingly simple, especially when
we discover it comes from Ansel Adams, arguably the greatest
landscape photographer of the 20th century. Rudimentary on
its surface but burgeoning with truth, it offers a glimpse into the
mind of a photographic genius.
Photography’s brief history has provided ample time for
extraordinary people to advance the craft and elevate the art
form. Many of these early masters expressed themselves with
equal eloquence, both visually and verbally. Books, essays and
interviews articulating their thoughts on photography aid those
of us seeking deeper interpretation of the medium.
These writings — sometimes earnest, sometimes humorous,
but always perceptive — reveal the muses of photography’s
top practitioners and bring perspective to their larger-than-life
personas. From these writings, philosophical nuggets emerge as
stand-alone quotations that pack a lot of weight in their brevity.
Sage photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose work
embodies the “decisive moment,” died in 2004 just three weeks
shy of his 96th birthday. His photographic observations of the
human landscape reinvented photojournalism in a style with the
gravity of art. And he expressed incisive views on photography
with fluency. Cartier-Bresson, whose photographs often
captured the softened blur of his subjects in motion, penned one
of my favorite quotes: “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.”
Photography quotes abound. Googling the term turns up
dozens of Web sites devoted to the equivalent of the TV sound
bite from photography’s most illustrious personalities. In an
economy of words, these vignettes illuminate photography.
Following are a few discerning quotes, evidence there’s a lot
more going on in photographers’ heads than just f-stops and
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how
to see without a camera.” — Dorothea Lange
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your
worst.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson
“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m
going to take tomorrow.” — Imogen Cunningham
“There is a vast difference between taking a picture and
making a photograph.” — Robert Heinecken
“Now, to consult the rules of composition before making
a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravity
before going for a walk.” — Edward Weston
“Film is cheaper than opportunity.” — Steve Silberman
“I find the single most valuable
tool in the darkroom is my
trash can.” — John Sexton
“I see something special
and show it to the
camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until
someone sees it. Then it is theirs.” — Sam Abell
“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer—
and often the supreme disappointment.” — Ansel Adams
“I think all art is about control — the encounter between
control and the uncontrollable.” — Richard Avedon
“Maybe the judgment of whether something is art or not should
come from the viewer and not the doer.” — Alan Babbitt
“Hardening of the categories causes art disease.” — W. Eugene Smith
“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need
to lug around a camera.” — Lewis Hine
“Light glorifies everything. It transforms and ennobles the
most commonplace and ordinary subjects. The object is
nothing; light is everything.” — Leonard Misonne
“The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial
image often leads to creative disaster.” — Ansel Adams
“If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If
you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it.” — Jay Maisel
And finally, there’s Garry Winogrand, who, when asked how
he felt about missing photographs while he reloaded film in his
camera, replied, “There are no photographs while I’m reloading.”
I wish I’d said that.
Find expert photography advice and information at arizonahighways.com
(Click on “Photography”).
4 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 5
arizona oddities, attractions and pleasures
PLACE DE L’EUROPE, 1932
French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson
pioneered the art of the “decisive moment.”
He also had a gift for expressing his vision
with words. magnum photos
Great photographers distill a lifetime
into concise philosophies
by Peter Ensenberger, director of photography, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phoenix Photographer Kevin Dyer wanted to
impress Yoko, visiting from Japan, so he took
her to Jerome’s House of Joy, a brothel-turned-
restaurant. Built in 1890 and operated
as a house of ill repute from 1912 to 1946, it
morphed into a restaurant. Good food, red-light
décor, a kitschy gift shop and the odd
allure of a bordello gone upscale ensure a
month’s long waiting list in the season.
Reportedly, the owners once turned away
President Richard Nixon. Kevin and Yoko
didn’t get a table, but got a kick out of the
Showing Some Leg
Historic Custer Art
on View in Tucson
two paintings of George Armstrong
Custer, one of the West’s greatest
celebrities, stand in the dusty basement
of the Arizona Historical Society’s Tucson
Cassily Adams painted the oils, part of a
three-section triptych, in about 1885 for St.
Louis beer magnate Adolphus Busch. He
eventually donated the panels to Custer’s
7th Cavalry, which moved to Fort Grant,
Arizona, in 1896.
The two end panels came with it, but
not the centerpiece, which later was
destroyed by fire in 1946. Long before
that, Busch had hired artist Otto Becker to
repaint that centerpiece, and eventually
distributed more than a million copies of
Becker’s bloody print. Custer’s Last Fight
hung in saloons everywhere, becoming a
famous American painting.
After Fort Grant closed, the end panels went to
a ranch near Willcox owned by the fort’s caretaker,
where they stayed until his son donated them to
the Historical Society in 1944.
One shows Custer as a boy carrying a toy sword
and playing soldier. The other shows his body
riddled with arrows at the Little Big Horn, the sun
setting behind him.
The public can view the cracked and darkened
panels by appointment.
Information: (520) 617-1175. —Leo W. Banks
Jewelry for Squirrels?
the sentinels of forest-fire reduction
strategy may come in small, furry, bushy-tailed
packages, according to a group of Arizona
Game and Fish Department researchers.
Researchers fitted about 45 tree squirrels
around the Flagstaff area with transmitter
collars to learn whether forest officials can
protect nearby communities by clearing out
debris, trees and other potential forest fire
fuels without discouraging wildlife from
living in those areas. If the squirrels venture
out of their dense forest nests and into
areas thinned by fire or cutting, it will be
an indication that forest thinning is a viable
strategy — for both humans and wildlife.
The squirrels used for the study are Aberts,
or tassel-eared squirrels. The project is one of
the region’s first electronic squirrel-tracking
projects. The squirrels will be captured,
weighed, fitted with collars, released and
monitored over a two-year period. The
collars will be unobtrusive — like wearing a
necklace. — Kimberly Hosey
travel is good for
broadening one’s horizons, but
it can often broaden parts of us
that we’d rather keep narrow.
Between foreign cities, fast food,
fatigue and limited workout
facilities, hitting the highways
and skyways can sabotage
even the best health and fitness
routines. The Athletic-Minded
Traveler: Where to Work Out and
Stay When Fitness is a Priority by
Jim Kaese and Paul Huddle and
Healthy Highways: The Travelers’
Guide to Healthy Eating are
guidebooks for those who seek to
stay fit without staying home.
The Athletic-Minded Traveler
lists 78 hotels with onsite or
nearby fitness centers, as well as
the types of equipment available,
while Healthy Highways maps out
more than 1,900 health-oriented
food stores and eateries across
the country. Whether you’re on
vacation or on business, these
informative sidekicks can help trim
the fat of travel planning and keep
you on track with your healthy
com and www.healthyhighways.
com. — JoBeth Jamison
Top 10 Rodeo
when it comes
to their game or skill,
most athletes have a
superstition or two.
Some baseball players
never step on a foul
line, while some hockey
players always lace up
the left skate before
they lace up the right.
Some athletes refuse to
wash their jerseys during
a winning streak, and
others eat the same meal
before every game. And
chances are, you’ll never
see a rodeo cowboy
Perhaps some of the strangest competition superstitions come from rodeo cowboys and
their solid traditions, which have kept these 10 superstitions alive in Arizona’s rodeo arenas.
• Never eat peanuts or popcorn in the arena.
• Don’t compete with change in your pocket because that’s all you might win.
• Never kick a paper cup thrown down at a rodeo.
• A saddle bronc rider always puts the right foot in the stirrup first.
• Never set your cowboy hat on a bed.
• Never wear yellow in the arena.
• Barrel racers often wear different colored socks on each foot, for luck.
• Eating a hotdog before the competition brings good luck.
• Never read your horoscope on competition day.
• Always shave before the competition. — Sally Benford
6 J u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 7
Taylor Celebrates the Fourth
by Having a Big Blast
families stand in a circle, passing out
earplugs while men of the Thornhill family place an anvil
in the middle of the street with another anvil on top.
Sandwiched between them is a cylinder filled with black
powder. A man holding a flaming cloth at the end of a
pole ignites the paper fuse. Children cover their ears.
The explosion blows the anvil 10 feet high and
gets the cows running. The blast is loud enough to
wake up the pioneers in the cemetery. It was their
idea to begin with, so they can’t complain. Folks
in the Silver Creek Valley in 1880 devised a way to
imitate a cannon on the Fourth. The Firing of the
Anvil has been a tradition ever since.
The day comes complete with a patriotic program,
barbecue, night rodeo and fireworks display.
Generations of small-town Americans celebrate
Independence Day in their own unique ways, but no
town has a bigger blast than Taylor. —Jo Baeza
TOP TO BOTTOM: TOM & PAT LEESON; ISTOCK/VAIDE DAMBRAUSKAITE; BERNADETTE HEATH CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ARIZONA HISTORICAL SOCIETY/TUCSON; ISTOCKPHOTO/SLAWOMIR FAJER; ARIZONA HISTORICAL SOCIETY/TUCSON
8 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 9
hig h l i f e
A hardy, obsessive subcul tur e of hiker s bags our count ies ’ h ighest point s by Brendan Leonard
MA R I C O PA C O U N T Y
BROWNS PEAK 7,657 feet
LOCATION: About 25 miles east of
MAP: USGS Four Peaks Quad
The Maricopa County-Gila County
line actually runs over the top
of Browns Peak. The 4.8-mile
round-trip hike requires a short
scramble up a scree chute to the
summit. Watch where you put
your hands when scrambling;
the cacti are plentiful.
THREE-SIXTY AT FOUR PEAKS It may be Browns Peak,
Maricopa County’s highest point, but for summit-goer Jeff Snyder,
it’s nothing but blue sky. nick berezenko
l i v in g t h e
10 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 11
now, I am the tallest man in Arizona,” was one memorable line.
“Well, it’s all downhill from here,” was another.
But on the October afternoon my friend Brian and I actually
made it to the 12,633-foot summit, I said instead, “Okay, snap a
quick photo. I’ve got to go back down before I throw up.”
But that’s what happens when you enter into the society of
high-pointers, who spend money, energy and much of their free
time collecting peaks — like the highest point in every one of
Arizona’s 15 counties.
I set out determined to bag the highest point of all, the volca-nic
mountain that dominates Coconino County. The previous
day, we had heard that Humphreys had gotten some snow, but
we expected only a light dusting. The kids sledding at the base of
the Snowbowl ski area should have served as a warning that two
guys in summer hiking gear weren’t very well prepared.
The snow on the lower parts of the trail was already melting
in the midmorning sun, so with every step I took uphill through
the wet snow, I slid a half-step backward. I slogged through the
slush behind Brian, struggling to keep up, while also strug-gling
to act like I wasn’t struggling. As we gained altitude, the
snow became crunchier under our boots and my head began
to throb with altitude sickness. Every tree was flocked with ice
At the saddle between Humphreys and Agassiz Peak, a
vicious wind whipped over the north-south ridge that consti-tuted
our path to the summit. Two-foot icicles shot sideways
off a wooden trail sign at a 90-degree angle. My socks were
soaked with melted snow, as were the bottom 8 inches of my
pant legs. My head pounded. We pressed on. We took on the
last three-quarters of a mile to the summit, a trail of footprints
in the frozen snow cut just below the ridge. Brian plodded up
the ridge, getting farther ahead with every step. I had to count
my steps and stop every 10 paces to draw in three breaths. My
pant legs froze to my boots. The throb in my head felt powerful
enough to implode my skull and the wind burned my face. Just
six hours earlier, I had been breathing comfortably in Phoenix,
elevation 1,117 feet, temperature 72 degrees.
After what seemed like an hour of stumbling up the ridge, I
finally ran out of mountain. There was no more up, just Brian
squatting in a snow-filled rock shelter. The wind ripped at our
clothes, and the sun provided blinding light but no heat. I had
made it to the top, and it was terrible.
Humphreys Peak is the highest place to stand in Arizona, and
also the worst.
I stood now on the trail of people like the software engineer
with 3,142 mountains and molehills on his list, or the 69-year-old
Flagstaff math professor who has notched 1,400 peaks — and
still counting. The 15 county high points of Arizona vary widely
in terrain, foliage and scenery, taking even hard core high-point-ers
a year or two to conquer and enabling one to say strange
things like, “I have stood atop La Paz County” at a cocktail party.
here were many things I thought I
might say when I finally pushed my passion
for high-pointing to the top of Humphreys
Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona, “Right
I CAN SEE FOR MILES Hiker
Susan Lamb (left) looks out from
Coconino County’s high point atop
Humphreys Peak, the remains of a
volcano. tom bean
Humphreys and her slightly shorter
sisters are more commonly referred
to as the San Francisco Peaks (right).
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191
or visit arizonahighways.com.
C O C O N I N O C O U N T Y
HUMPHREYS PEAK 12,633 feet
LOCATION: About 10 miles north of Flagstaff
MAP: USGS Humphreys Peak Quad
This hike starts out at the Snowbowl ski area
parking lot and goes over three false summits
before getting to the highest point in Arizona.
On a clear day, hikers can see the Grand
Canyon from the summit.
12 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 13
Finding and climbing them all will take anyone from one end
of Arizona’s geographic spectrum to the other.
Of the 15 county high points, four are actual mountain sum-mits
that require a good day’s hike. Mount Baldy, Humphreys
Peak, Chiricahua Peak and Mount Wrightson sport great trails to
their summits, although the trails up Mount Wrightson are closed
due to the Florida Fire in the Santa Rita Mountains last year.
With a sturdy vehicle, it’s possible to drive almost to the top
of Mount Lemmon in Pima County, Mount Union in Yavapai
County and the unnamed 9,441-foot high point of Greenlee
County, a short walk off U.S. Route 191. You’ll need a four-wheel-
drive vehicle for Harquahala Mountain in La Paz County.
Technically, the high point in Graham County is Mount Graham
at 10,720 feet, but the summit of Mount Graham is closed to
the public because it serves as a refuge for the endangered red
squirrel. The next highest point in Graham County is Hawk
Peak at 10,627 feet.
Another four hikes leave the trail and require some orienteer-ing
or off-trail knowledge. Browns Peak, the southernmost of
the famed Four Peaks, will take a short off-trail scramble up a
talus chute to reach the top. Opinions differ on the best route up
Navajo County’s Black Mesa to reach the unnamed high point
at 8,168 feet, but all agree that any approach and hike will be
complicated by lots of dirt-road driving, locked gates and cliffs.
Mohave County’s Hualapai Peak requires some careful scram-bling
to safely reach the summit. Signal Peak, the Yuma County
high point, is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” route, inside the
trail-less and nearly roadless Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.
Two of the counties are what seasoned county high-pointers
know as “liners”: a high point that sits on a county line, but not
a summit. A liner is usually a point on a ridgeline that rises on its
way out of a county, such as on the side of Rice Peak. The highest
point in Pinal County falls on the north side of Rice Peak, the
summit of which actually resides in Pima County. The high point
of Gila County is also a “liner” — actually two points that are so
close in elevation, you have to visit both of them to be sure you’ve
bagged the high point — Myrtle Point on the Mogollon Rim on
the Gila-Coconino County line, just off Rim Road, or Promontory
Butte, a few miles east on Rim Road and a short hike.
So why would anyone bother finding a place like the Pima/
Pinal County line, on the side of a mountain?
Ask Andy Martin, a software engineer and mountain climber
from Tucson who has so far collected the high points of 49 of
the 50 states, leaving only Alaska’s 20,320-foot Mount McKinley,
the highest peak in North America. When he ran nearly out of
states, he decided to compile a list of the high points of all the
interesting counties in the United States.
“I was looking for another list to go chasing,” Martin said.
He decided to find the county high points of the 12 Western
states and 13 Northeastern states. A few states such as California,
Utah and Washington already had county high point lists, but for
many states Martin had use of USGS topographic maps from the
University of Arizona library, checking out as many as 50 at a
time. After completing the list of 742 county high points in 25
states in 1994, he published the first 32-page version of his book.
He was ready to quit then, but fellow fanatics helped him tackle
the punishment of poring over maps for hours at a time to pro-duce
County High Points, which now lists all 3,142 county high
points in the United States.
That book was just what Arizonan Bob Packard needed. The
former Northern Arizona University math professor operates
from his home base in Flagstaff and has so far bagged nearly
MO H AV E CO U NT Y
HUALAPAI PEAK 8,417 feet
LOCATION: About 10 miles southeast
MAP: USGS Hualapai Peak Quad
This 8-mile round-trip hike, starting at
Hualapai Mountains County Park, will
require a tricky and sometimes exposed scramble
to the summit. Many will choose to just touch the summit
with an outstretched hand, instead of trying to stand on it.
RISE UP Hiker Lori Shewey (left) adds a few more feet to Gila
County’s high point along the Mogollon Rim, a massive escarpment
that, millions of years ago, broke off from the surrounding
lowlands and surged upward to its present height. nick berezenko
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
The remote and rugged cap of Hualapai Peak (right) is named
for the “people of the tall pines” who inhabited the granite-, gneiss-and
schist-laden mountain range. The top rewards the end of a
tough 60-mile hike. robert g. mcdonald
G I L A CO U NT Y
MYRTLE POINT, PROMONTORY
BUTTE 7,470 feet
LOCATION: About 15 miles northeast of Payson
MAP: USGS Diamond Point Quad
Just off Rim Road north of Payson, both Myrtle
Point and Promontory Butte are less than a 10-
minute walk from the car, and 10 miles of driving
from each other. A visit to both is necessary to
claim the high point.
14 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 15
1,400 county high points. Packard calls Martin’s book “the
Bible,” and has been faithful to it since 1988.
Packard’s son, Erik, had suggested he summit the high point
of every county in Arizona. Packard discovered that he’d already
unknowingly done most of them while climbing Arizona’s
mountains, so he took Erik’s advice and decided to finish the
rest of the list.
Using a state map, Packard headed up each high point. But
after he thought he’d finished, a friend pointed out that he’d
misjudged the high point of Pinal County, so he returned to
the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson to correct his
error. He walked along the Oracle Ridge towards the Pinal-Pima
county line and stopped where he figured the high point to be.
“I looked down, and by golly, right there was a little cairn,”
S A N T A C R U Z CO U N T Y
MOUNT WRIGHTSON 9,453 feet
LOCATION: About 15 miles southeast
of Green Valley
MAP: USGS Mount Wrightson Quad
When the Wrightson summit is reopened,
a variety of trails will offer routes to the
summit of this “sky island.” The altitude
can keep the summit snowy and icy until late March.
SEA OF TRANQUILITY What looks like a rocky
shoreline is actually the summit of Santa Cruz
County’s Mount Wrightson, south of Tucson, a
renowned “sky island,” where waves of clouds
roll gently over the Sonoran Desert and an ocean
of scenic beauty. jack dykinga
Packard said. “In the cairn was an aspirin bottle, and in the
aspirin bottle was a long, thin piece of paper. And the long, thin
piece of paper said, ‘This is the high point of Pinal County.’ ”
The 69-year-old Packard has since gone on to summit 1,375
county high points across the country. He’s been to the summit
of every county in 21 different states, including the 11 western-most
He’s the most accomplished county high-pointer in the world,
or at least the world that knows about county high-pointing.
The County Highpointers Association Web site, www.cohp.org,
16 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 17
boasts only 82 nationwide “Century Club” members who have
summited 100 or more counties.
Still, Andy Martin acknowledges that county high-pointing
isn’t exactly for everyone. “It’s a fringe activity,” Martin said,
“especially to the 99 percent of the population that likes to golf
on the weekends.”
A few months after my climb of Humphreys Peak, I headed
west out of Phoenix to Harquahala Mountain, Humphreys’ low-desert,
warm, snowless opposite. I couldn’t convince anyone to
go with me; even my co-workers at a Phoenix outdoor equip-ment
store had never heard of the mountain.
Harquahala is the highest peak in La Paz County, rising just
south of U.S. Route 60, a few miles east of the tiny town of
Wenden, where the sign outside the Brooks Outback promises
“Hot Beer, Lousy Food, Bad Service.”
The mountain grows nothing but desert shrubs and saguaro
YUMA CO U N T Y
SIGNAL PEAK 4,877 feet
LOCATION: About 25 miles southeast
MAP: USGS Palm Canyon Quad
Route-finding skills are a must on this steep,
cacti-laden, barely blazed climb in the Kofa
National Wildlife Refuge.
YAVA PA I CO U N T Y
MOUNT UNION 7,979 feet
LOCATION: About 5 miles southeast of Prescott
MAP: USGS Groom Creek Quad
The only hike to the summit of Mount Union is on a road. For the most
unique driving experience, take the old Senator Highway north from
the town of Crown King to Forest Service Road 261,
which leads to the lookout tower atop Mount Union.
P IMA CO U N T Y
MOUNT LEMMON 9,081 feet
LOCATION: About 20 miles northeast of Tucson
MAP: USGS Mount Lemmon Quad
The Marshall Gulch Trail offers a popular 6-mile round-trip for those
who choose not to drive almost all the way to the summit.
KINGS OF THE HILLS Strong arms of ocotillos and blooms of
bladderpods carpet the vast empire of Signal Peak (left) and the Kofa
Mountains (coined from the King of Arizona gold mine). paul gill
Boulders create a united front (below left), while a protective army of
ponderosa pines surrounds the noble Mount Union, near upper Wolf
Creek. paul gill
The granite rock formation known as the Fortress (below) is just one
of the unique stone subjects that make Mount Lemmon stand out as
the crowning glory of the Santa Catalinas. peter noebels
18 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 19
cacti. The summit is only 5,681 feet high, and one can climb
3,300 feet up the north side of the mountain on the trail or drive
the four-wheel-drive road on the south side.
The road and the trail meet at the Harquahala Mountain
Observatory, where scientists lived and researched the sun’s
effect on the Earth’s climate from 1920 to 1925. Now, it’s where
the people who hike up and the people who drive up stare at
each other, astonished someone would drive when they could
hike, or alternately, waste all that energy walking somewhere
they could drive.
The first person to identify and climb all the county high
points of Arizona, Bob Walko, stood atop Harquahala Mountain
when it was the high point of Yuma County. When La Paz
County split from Yuma County in 1983, it took the highest
point, Harquahala Mountain, with it. After the split, Yuma
County’s new high point became Signal Peak. Walko never
returned to Yuma County to hike it, but still gets credit as the
first person to “complete” the high points of Arizona.
Surveying the checkerboard of farm fields in the valley below
from the summit, I understood why Walko never felt drawn
to this nondescript desert mountain. I would have skipped it
myself if someone hadn’t drawn new county lines in 1983.
But on my hike down, the warm breeze whistling through a
forest of saguaros in the canyon reminded me that Harquahala
wouldn’t freezer-burn my face a la Humphreys Peak. If I want that
treatment again, I can head down to Cochise County in February
and try to get up to the top of Chiricahua Peak.
After that, there are only 12 more to be had.
G R A H AM CO U N T Y
The summit is closed to the public,
and the next highest point is
Hawk Peak at 10,627 feet.
LOCATION: About 10 miles
southwest of Safford
MAP: USGS Webb Peak Quad
With the summit of Mount
Graham closed, Hawk Peak, less
than a mile down the road, is
the second-highest point in the
county and a short hike.
G R E EN L E E CO U N T Y
LOCATION: About 20 miles
southwest of Alpine
MAP: USGS Strayhorse Quad
This point is a knoll less than a
quarter-mile off U.S. Route 191,
just north of mile marker 227.
Look for the small rock cairn and
register that mark the high point.
L A PA Z CO U N T Y
MOUNTAIN 5,681 feet
LOCATION: About 10 miles
east of Wenden
MAP: USGS Harquahala
This trailhead is located opposite
the only palm tree growing on the
north side of U.S. Route 60, east
of Wenden. A 5.5-mile round-trip
hike will take high-pointers to the
P I N A L CO U N T Y
NORTH SLOPE OF
RICE PEAK 7,575 feet
LOCATION: About 7 miles
south of Oracle
MAP: USGS Campo Bonito Quad
Hike up Peppersauce Canyon
just south of Oracle to the north
ridge of Rice Peak. The high point
of Pinal County, and a cairn and
register, are about 300 vertical
feet below the summit of the
N AVA J O CO U N T Y
UNNAMED POINT ON BLACK MESA 8,168 feet
LOCATION: About 5 miles south of Kayenta
MAP: USGS Kayenta West Quad
Orienteering knowledge and a map and compass are necessary
to find a good route to this high point on the north rim of Black
Mesa, visible from the town of Kayenta. Approach from the
southwest and stay as close to the north rim as possible,
and the round-trip hike will be about 13 miles.
C O C H I S E C O U N T Y
CHIRICAHUA PEAK 9,759 feet
LOCATION: About 10 miles south of Chiricahua National Monument
MAP: USGS Chiricahua Peak Quad
Don’t expect any great views as a reward for your 5.5-mile hike to the
summit—the top of the peak is thick with trees.
A PAC H E CO U NT Y
LOCATION: About 20 miles
southwest of Springerville
MAP: USGS Mount Baldy Quad
The summit of Mount Baldy
is closed to all non-Apaches,
but the 16-mile round-trip on
the West Baldy Trail follows
the scenic West Fork of the
Colorado River, and the
altitude makes this a cool
Brendan Leonard studied high-pointers as part of his master’s thesis at the
University of Montana. He spent a year living in Arizona, where among his
other outdoor adventures, he climbed the “Seven Summits of Phoenix” in
one day. He now lives in Colorado.
HALLOWED HEIGHTS Because of their “elevated” status,
several county high point areas are held in high spiritual
esteem. Navajo County’s Black Mesa (above left) is honored by
both the Navajo and neighboring Hopi Indian tribes. Protected
by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Mount Baldy (above) is
a sacred burial ground. both by robert g. mcdonald
Chiricahua Peak (left) once sheltered Apaches but now
nurtures mostly wildlife. jerry sieve
additional reading: County High Points by Andy Martin.
To order, visit www.cohp.org.
additional information: County Highpointers Association,
Mountain Unnamed Point
20 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 21
“Where is your home?” my friend asked as we drove west
with the morning. We were heading across the Sonoran Desert
to the capital of the Tohono O’odham reservation in Sells. The
Tohono O’odham, the Desert People, number about 24,000. Their
reservation, their traditional homeland, is the size of the state of
When we crossed the invisible line between the rural outskirts of
Tucson and the reservation, my friend, an O’odham, sighed deeply.
“We are on the People’s land,” she said. “I always feel better.”
“No matter where we go, we come home to be buried,” she told
me, her eyes on the straight-as-a-ruler road. “We always come
home.” Then she asked me that question.
“Where is your home?”
I had to think about that one. “Going way back, I suppose
Ireland, Scotland, France,” I said with a shrug, but with the
words came the reality. I didn’t have her kind of homeland. Still,
I wasn’t short of a burial plan. I told her I wanted to be cremated,
my ashes flung into the wind. She looked at me in shock and, I
think, sadness. I had no home, not even in death.
The land of the O’odham people runs west from Tucson to the
Gulf of California and south to the border with Mexico. “There are
some places out there where you think you can see the curvature
of the Earth,” as one friend said of his experience on this great
patch of desert. And yes, it can seem desolate, achingly empty,
“We are quiet people,” my O’odham friend tells me. She and
her people told me about themselves during the communications
seminars I led on the reservation. The seminars were based on
courses I’ve taught at Pima Community College in Tucson. With
the money now flowing in from the casinos, with new investments
being made, the O’odham must deal more and more with the
world of corporations, small businesses and the media. Seminar
participants were interested in how communication works in the
business world outside the reservation.
They asked me questions about the Anglos, the not-so-quiet
people. Sitting with their arms folded across their chests, their eyes
often averted, they asked about our right-in-their faces ways. They
wondered about how we use our eyes and our mouths, about our
demanding answers to questions that they feel should require long,
silent contemplation. They asked me to explain these ways of the
people they call Mi:lgan.
Well, we do use our eyes differently. We tend to stare, widen
our eyes and forever try to catch theirs. They look away, down, off,
guarding their privacy and ours. We invade with our eyes; they
retreat with theirs.
We assault with our questions. “Why do you ask how do you
feel?” one seminar participant demanded. “Why do you do that?”
I had no answer. Such a question seemed normal to me.
“We want to think,” the woman went on. “Why do you want an
answer right away?” She was angry. Such a demand for an immedi-ate
response was too personal, delving again into a private realm.
For weeks, I thought about that reality, the way my culture snaps
out the “What do you think? How does that sound? What are you
going to do?” questioning that peppers our every interaction.
“We really don’t want an answer,” I explain at the next seminar.
“We just want some kind of assurance that we’ve been heard. So,
just say anything, like, ‘Yeah, that’s interesting. I’ll get back to
you.’ Just let us know we’ve been heard.”
My culture apparently looks for constant assurance that we
exist. O’odham need no such assurance. They exist, have always
existed, will exist as part of this land forever while one out of
three new settlers in Arizona will move on to some other tempo-rary
home. Like me, many won’t even stay put at death, happy to
let their ashes blow higgledy-piggledy across the earth and sea.
“You taught us things, brought us things,” my friend said of her
people’s seemingly benign acceptance of the Anglo intrusion into
their desert world.
We brought them a dependable source of food, cattle, fruit and
grains. But we certainly didn’t have to teach them farming. They
had that one down since ancient times and could have taught us
a few things about irrigating a desert. What we added to their
diet and their movement away from the natural foods of the
Sonoran Desert led them down the path of diabetes. They have
one of the highest rates for any group in the world. We provide
insulin; they have their own ways.
One O’odham acquaintance heard I had been troubled and
ailing since the death of my aunt. He came to me unannounced
while I was signing books at the gift shop at Mission San Xavier
del Bac on the reservation southwest of Tucson. He placed his
hand on mine, hard. He looked at me and then away and began
a healing. The crowd of tourists, pilgrims, artists, historians,
parted around my little desk, moving away, back, as he moved
his hands in the air over my head, shoulder, arms.
“Don’t think about it so much,” he whispered as he continued
“Am I better?” I asked.
Oh, will I never learn? I had asked that direct I-want-an-answer,
a change, a response-right-now question.
He smiled at my foolishness. “I don’t know, I haven’t looked at
you,” he said, looking right at me. We needed more time, I and
my question and my healing and my culture, O’odham time.
As my friend and I drove across the People’s land, I believed I
knew why some native people of this continent just watched as
we Anglos came tromping into their territory. I believed I knew
why they let us come on with little resistance. They must have
thought we would go back to our homeland someday, in the
O’odham way. Do they still wait?
Kathleen Walker of Tucson has spent much of her writing career driving the
highways and telling the stories of people of southern Arizona. Her book,
San Xavier—The Spirit Endures, was published by Arizona Highways.
Joseph Daniel Fiedler, nom de guerre “Scaryjoey,” was born and raised in
western Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in numerous national and
A Tohono O’odham Woman Teaches
a Thoroughly Modern Writer
an Ancient Truth
by Kathleen Walker
illustration by Joseph Daniel Fiedler
22 j u l y 2 0 0 6
by Gregory McNamee photographs by Jack Dykinga
H O O D O O V O O D O O
In the manner of rock, it enfolds other things — in
this case another story, one that is very old, so old
that its origins may lie far in the Hohokam past.
One day, years and years ago, it began to rain,
and rain, and rain, so hard that the world began
to flood and the People climbed high into the
Superstition Mountains, hoping to outrun the ris-ing
waters. They did not; they might have known
they were doomed when a dog spoke to them and
said, “The water has come.” If you are ever on
the southeast side of the Superstitions, the story
concludes, you can look up and see those people,
turned to stone.
Here is another story, one from our own time.
In this story, those “people” are the outcome of
an inexorable, unending process of changes: lava
spews up from below the world’s surface, cools,
and solidifies in the form of igneous (that is, fire-born)
rock. With the passage of much time, this
rock can be bent and warped like so much clay.
Water, too, can break it down into tiny flecks of
sand, which will someday be compressed and
turn into stone, ready to be melted down into
lava — and so the process begins anew, an endless
cycle of transformations.
Rock begins with rock, the second story tells
us. Rock has been there always, since the creation,
both stories agree. The first story is literature, the
second — no less dramatic — science. Both have
the same purpose, though: to explain why things
is a story
And the Thunder Rolls
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument: With hoodoos formed over
millions of years by nature, and bearing names like Bowling
Giants, Red Rolling Hoodoos and Gnome Hoodoo, the
formations evoke science and superstition, legend and lore.
Petrified sand dunes forming stark white contours are dotted by
isolated piñon pines and a small glassy pool under a stormy
n To order a print, call (866) 962-1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
(Text continued on page 26)
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 23
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 25
Vermilion Cliffs: Hoodoo rock is
reflected in the potholes filled with
rainwater at dawn. Experts are
particular about what may be
called a hoodoo — only tall,
totemlike spires technically qualify.
Formations such as those shown
here earn the name hoodoo rock,
while the columnar shapes found
elsewhere in the monument and
around the state, formed through
differential erosion, are “true”
n To order a print, call (866) 962-
1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
26 j u l y 2 0 0 6
In the Spotlight
Vermilion Cliffs: The setting
sun lays a final ray of gold
light on eroded sandstone.
The area evokes biology as
well as fable — neighboring
hoodoos (not shown)
include Elephant Rock,
bearing a prominent trunk;
Snail (or Brain) Rock, a red-orange
globular dome on a
thick “pool” of base rock;
Toadstool Rock, which
seems almost ripe for
picking, and Thin Hoodoo,
a slender spire topped with
an “eye” of rock.
n To order a print, call
(866) 962-1191 or visit
are as they are, to puzzle out why the world looks
as it does.
From every vantage point, Arizona looks
to be a rocky place. It is a land of cacti and forests
and rivers, to be sure, but Arizona is pre-eminently
a land of stone, with mountains on every horizon
and pebbles beneath every footstep.
The stone can take peculiar shapes that require
peculiar names. Hoodoos, for instance — which
old-timers also called “goblins” — are, in formal
geological terms, columns of stone protected by
a hard caprock that keeps the softer material
beneath it from eroding away. The different layers
are marked by different degrees of hardness, but
none is hard enough to withstand the forces of
geological change. Water, ice, wind, tree roots,
blades of grass, all conspire to bring stone down,
and the softer layers are the first to go, so that
the stone comes, over time, to take odd wavering
forms. Thus hoodoos, a strange word of uncertain
origin, and one that seems just right for the job.
One hoodoo of which I’m particularly fond, a
weathered sandstone column — well, more like
a blob, really — in the Santa Catalina Mountains
north of Tucson, bears a remarkable resemblance
to the late Richard Nixon. Another, nearby, looks
quite a bit like Donald Duck, sailor cap and all, at
least from a certain viewpoint. Whole fields of hoo-doos
greet visitors to the Colorado Plateau, where
soft sandstone formations are quite amenable to
the work of the elements in carving forms that
look like — well, goblins, or the stone heads of the
Polynesian divinities of Easter Island, or dozens of
other fanciful, fantastic resemblances.
Hoodoos and goblins: The suggestion of ghosts
is a very old one, and many Native American
stories find human forms in the rocks. One vari-ant
on the theme, told by an Apache storyteller,
has it that the hoodoos lining many ridges in the
Superstition Mountains mark the places where
strong people who refused to help their weaker
fellows escape the flood were transformed into
stone and forever condemned to watch silently
over the land, as if to say, this is the price of dis-courtesy.
Hoodoos can take many forms, though some
geologists insist that only a tall column of rock
properly qualifies for the term. “Tall” is a loose
term, of course, and somewhere within it lies a
dividing line between hoodoo, column and spire.
(Continued from page 23)
(Text continued on page 30)
BABY ROCKS MESA 15 miles
east of Kayenta on U.S. Route 160
Near Kayenta, the silty, twisted
sandstone of Baby Rocks Mesa gives
way to a small clique of hoodoos.
A Navajo legend tells of a girl who
refused to share bread with her sister,
upon which she was changed to one
of Baby Rocks’ standing sentinels.
Information: (928) 697-8451; www.
RED MOUNTAIN Coconino
National Forest, 25 miles
northwest of Flagstaff The
Red Mountain hoodoos protrude
like the fingers of a giant hand
poking up through the ground. Red
Mountain, a volcanic cinder cone
that rises 1,000 feet above the
surrounding landscape, has a large
“amphitheater” on its northeast flank.
Tapering hoodoos 10 to 20 feet tall
stud the region.
Information: (928) 527-3600;
Outside of Apache Junction, 20
miles east of Phoenix If you’re
driving east along U.S. Route 60,
they might just appear as stubble
along the ridges and peaks of the
Superstition Mountains. But the
region’s famous hoodoos loom larger
in person. Try the craggy Siphon
Draw Trail 53 climbing the front
range of Superstition Mountain for
some good hoodoo sights. As you
climb the increasingly steep, rocky
trail to the summit, passing through
mesquite, jojoba, prickly pear,
saguaro and other upper-Sonoran
treasures, hoodoos roll into view.
Information: (480) 610-3300; www.
BOYNTON CANYON Red Rock-
Secret Mountain Wilderness,
adjacent to Sedona and Oak
Creek Canyon With lush riparian
vegetation, towering red sandstone
formations, hoodoo rock spires
and ancient Sinagua cliff dwellings
dating back to A.D. 1200, Boynton
Canyon’s most popular hoodoos are
the “wedding couple,” embracing
red pillars near Cathedral Rock.
Information: (928) 282-7722; www.
SUPERIOR Viewable from the
car on a drive through Superior,
hundreds of hoodoos and saguaros
stand together in a maze in Devil’s
Canyon in the Pinal Mountains.
Wildlife, from golden eagles and
rattlesnakes to javelina and Gila
monsters, frequents area.
Information: (480) 610-3300; www.
of Tucson It’s a little like cloud-watching.
You may or may not see
faces in the weathered sandstone
columns — Donald Duck and Richard
Nixon keep company here, according
to some; petrified ne’er-do-wells of
the past, according to others — but
either way it should make for some
Information: (520) 388-8300; www.
NORTHERN SIGHTS Page,
Lee’s Ferry, Vermilion Cliffs
National Monument Monoliths
just south of Page greet viewers with
undulating waves and mounds of
peach-tinted sandstone, culminating
in protruding pinnacles. East of Page,
near Marble Canyon and Lee’s Ferry
along U.S. Route 89, “mushroom
hoodoos” resemble towering fungi
and “balanced rocks,” formed by the
wind eroding the soft rock below,
look deceptively fragile. A few more
hoodoos hide in the House Rock
area of the Vermilion Cliffs National
Monument, reached by House Rock
Valley Road off U.S. 89, south of the
Information: (928) 660-3405; www.
MONUMENT Southeast of
Willcox via State Route 186
Nature’s hand drew the intricate
outline of Arizona’s premier hoodoo
haven. About 27 million years ago,
the Turkey Creek Caldera erupted
in a spectacle 1,000 times greater
than the 1980 eruption of Mount
St. Helens, spewing volcanic ash and
pumice in a layer nearly 2,000 feet
thick. The viscous ash blanket cooled,
contracted and welded together,
forming rhyolite tuff. When the
ground beneath the caldera began to
rise again, the rising pressure cracked
the ground like dry pizza dough
pressed from beneath, forming ring-shaped
cracks and radial fractures.
When water, salt crystals, ice, dust
and temperature changes wore along
the cracks over millions of years, the
result was a forest of hoodoos in a
circle-and-spoke pattern. Called The
Land of the Standing-up Rocks by
the Chiricahua Apaches, the area’s
oldest hoodoos are hundreds of
feet tall and 2.4 million years old.
The visitors center features displays
and literature about the hoodoos
along the area’s Heart of Rocks and
Rhyolite Canyon trails.
Information: (520) 824-3560; www.
28 j u l y 2 0 0 6
Monument is popular for
birding and hiking as
well as its diverse plants
and animals, but is
known chiefly for
throngs of hoodoos,
rising in pillars or
whimsical twisting and
formed when ash laid
down in an explosive
eruption welded and
eroded over time.
n To order a print, call
(866) 962-1191 or visit
Vermilion Cliffs: Light
filters through holes
eroded over time in
In Arizona during the
Pleistocene period, cold
lakes covered much of
the state, which was
lusher than it is today.
With more water in the
Ice Age lakes to move
and deposit sediment,
as well as more rainfall
crevices and cracks,
conditions were ripe
for the weathering and
creation of all kinds of
Hoodoos, pillars of eroded
rock, stand in silence throughout
Arizona, sharing rocky slopes with
Indians, pioneers, animals and tourists.
Here are a few places to spot the spires.
H O O D O O H U N T I N G
30 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 31
Vermilion Cliffs: The
monument, created in
the year 2000, protects
myriad treasures, from
early rock art to a
geologic palette in the
region, where crossbeds
of Navajo sandstone
display banding in
yellows, oranges, pinks
and reds, caused by the
manganese, iron and
other oxides. Above,
sandstone climbs in
ranks of polygonal joints
to rolling pale mounds,
while red rock cliffs on
the horizon gleam in the
Lukachukai Mountains: A
sandstone pinnacle keeps
company with an eroded boulder
in far northeastern Arizona on the
Navajo Indian Reservation. The
Lukachukai range, Navajo for
contains exposed rocks from the
Triassic, Jurassic and Tertiary
n To order a print, call (866) 962-
1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
Another story from the Earth’s ancient past:
A volcano spews out a field of lava, which cools
atop layers of sedimentary rock that lie below it.
In time, the surrounding sandstone without that
protective cap wears away, leaving a plateau called
a mesa — a landscape feature that, like hoodoos, is
near and dear to the hearts of Roadrunner cartoon
fans, and characteristic of just about every part of
Arizona. In time, mesas, like everything else, wear
away, leaving behind fingers of rock that stand
tall in the sky.
Those fingers are spires, a fittingly grand term,
for, like cathedrals and skyscrapers, they are
wonders to behold. Visitors to Monument Valley,
in the far northeastern part of the state, can see
plenty of examples of mesas and their eroded off-spring
and kin, such as the 7,096-foot-tall rise
called Agathla Peak, the root of an ancient volcano.
One classically grand, imposing spire, 4,553-foot
(Continued from page 26)
32 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 33
Weaver’s Needle in the Superstition Mountains,
alternates layers of volcanic basalt and ash, mate-rials
of different hardness — so that, perhaps, in
millions of years rain and ice will wear it, too, into
a hoodoo, bearing resemblance to some icon of
the future — if not Donald Duck, then perhaps
To the south of Monument Valley, in Canyon de
Chelly, stands one of the greatest spires of them
all: 800-foot-tall Spider Rock. The sandstone
pillar, which forks into two above the canyon
floor as if split by a mighty thunderclap, seems
to be a magnet for wondrous weather, marked by
lightning flashes and threatening clouds. Indeed,
a Navajo origin story tells that a huge storm once
passed through a gentle valley, tearing off the
soil and grass and aspen trees; in the wake of the
storm, tall single pillars of rock stood on the valley
floor, flanked by steep canyon walls of red rock,
the Canyon de Chelly we know today.
Such tempestuous weather, and such a dra-matic
story, is just as it should be for a divine
abode—for, in Navajo belief, the great rock is the
home of Spider Woman, a protector who, among
other things, taught the People how to spin. The
ancient Greeks told much the same story about
the unfortunate Arachne, who taught humans
her craft but then spun her life away in a cave,
despised by everyone. Spider Woman, a beloved
if sometimes scary presence, had the better lot on
her windswept, lightning-lashed rock, one of the
most beautiful places on Earth.
When spires, canyons, finger rocks and
mountains grow tired and old, they fall. Where
they do, they leave behind pieces of their former
selves. These can be grains of sand, cobbles in
streambeds. Or they can take the form of great
boulders, stones that attest to the power of water
to reshape everything it touches.
The Granite Dells of Prescott, for instance, are
unfathomably old; the Grand Canyon is a baby by
comparison. Here, millions of years ago, an out-crop
of Precambrian granite was exposed to the
elements when the younger rocks atop it eroded
away. And over those millions of years, the action
of water and ice pocked that hard rock, bit by bit,
until it split into great angular blocks and slender
fingers of stone. With the passage of still more
time, water and wind and sun weathered them
away, rounding off their sharp corners and giving
them the pleasant appearance of old elephants
resting at a water hole.
Another fine boulder field lies in Arizona’s
southeast, above the San Pedro River valley between
Tucson and Willcox. Texas Canyon is very much
younger than the Granite Dells, and, though it
looks somewhat the same, its rocks are not granite
but quartz monzonite, another product of ancient
volcanic action. Tough and laced with hard miner-als,
the rocks of Texas Canyon have nonetheless
spent their time in the elements, too; water has
broken them up along their joints, so that one
rock balances improbably atop another, looking
very much as if it could come crashing down at
Geologists call this process of boulder forma-tion
“exfoliation,” as if the Earth’s skin were being
peeled. In a sense that is so, and the process is
ongoing. In a few million years, we can guess,
the boulders of Texas Canyon will be rounder,
a little lower, softer to the eye. But they will still
In few places on Earth are the forces of geology
on such extravagant display as in the Chiricahua
Mountains, in the southeastern corner of the state.
There old walls of granite are overlain by younger
layers of tilted sandstone and shot through with
weird dikes, intrusions and lava flows, signs of
what geologist Halka Chronic calls “a wild orgy
of volcanic eruptions 30 to 25 million years ago.”
Here, deep within the mountains, whose name
means “standing rock” in the Apache spoken
there, visitors can see just about every kind of
curious formation that Arizona has to offer, from
spooky hoodoos to finger rocks, from boulder
fields to rank after rank of spectacular spires and
impossibly balanced rocks — and, as a bonus, the
rare finds called volcanic hailstones, bits of mud
and rock thrown up by ancient eruptions and
cooled into strange lichen-covered forms, the
mess left over after that orgy of fire. It must have
been quite a party. But that’s another story.
Gregory McNamee of Tucson is the author of several books
about Arizona’s human and natural history. He dabbled in
rock-climbing as a young man, before deciding that it was
safer to study geology from below.
Jack Dykinga of Tucson finds that hoodoos provide a
beautiful way to photograph change in the seemingly
unchangeable face of the Earth. Eroded spires or balanced
caprocks always stop him in his tracks.
In few places on Earth are
the forces of geology on such
extravagant display as in the
Vermilion Cliffs: A lavender sky
and setting moon illuminate
gnarled red formations at dawn.
Surprisingly, geologists say the
more-whimsical shapes are
stronger when it comes to
hoodoos. Straight, blocky,
columnar hoodoos bear forces of
nature throughout the structures,
while more eccentric, spindly
shapes or hourglass figures
refocus stresses into the
narrower regions, where it is
n To order a print, call (866) 962-
1191 or visit arizonahighways.com.
34 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 35
illy Brazelton deserves every bit of his leg-end.
Even if Tucson tried to eliminate the
man known as El Tejano (“the Texan”)
from its historical ledger, the facts would
keep his story alive.
In the Southwest of the late 1870s, Brazelton
became infamous for robbing stagecoaches while
wearing a hideous mask — until lawmen left him
face down on the ground, his back perforated by
buckshot fired from ambush.
Dramatic dying words? Yes, we have them, too.
Brazelton, gasping, exclaimed: “I die brave! My
God, I’ll pray till I die!”
Even that dramatic declaration can’t match the
words Tucson still hears Brazelton speak from
They echo at night across the darkness of
Cat Mountain on the city’s west side, faint mur-murings
through the rocky redoubt that sound
a chilling warning to anyone hunting the gold
from Brazelton’s heists.
As the legend goes, these are among the last
words the searcher hears.
What are those words? Their power derives
from the facts, which must come first.
William Whitney Brazelton, 26, drifted into
Tucson in 1877 and first landed a job at Leatherwood
corrals downtown, then at Lee’s Mill, 3 miles
south of town, Roy O’Dell wrote in the summer
1982 edition of Westerners Tally Sheet.
But Brazelton’s outlaw career started near
Wickenburg before he even reached Tucson, and
the newspaper account suggests the first stir-rings
“The coolness with which the orders were given
and the jokes issued by the robber,” reported the
Prescott Enterprise, “shows him to be possessed
of a most enviable nerve and unprecedented
quantity of unadulterated cheek.”
Brazelton’s profile rose dramatically in the
summer of 1878, when he pulled two jobs in
eight days. The passengers in the first heist, on
July 31, included John Clum, editor of the Arizona
Citizen, then based in Florence, who wrote of his
good fortune at witnessing “the modus operandi
by which these members of the shotgun gentry
Buried Twice, Infamous El Tejano
Terrified Tucson, Which Plugged Him,
Then Covered Him Up by Leo W. Banks
STAGED COACH ROBBER
Linked to at least nine stagecoach robberies in New Mexico and Arizona, Billy Brazelton made a name for himself as the
elusive and arrogant ace bandit, El Tejano. After his life and reign of robbery ended in an ambush, El Tejano’s corpse (right)
was propped up outside the Pima County Courthouse and photographed with the hope of bringing his victims forward to
identify him. arizona historical society/tucson
36 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 37
extract the valuables from the stagecoach
and passengers by the simple but magical
persuasive power of cold lead.”
Brazelton stepped from the shadows
at Point of Mountain, 18 miles northwest
of Tucson, and ordered the coach to stop.
“The first one that moves I’ll kill deader
than hell!” the bandit bellowed.
Both Clum and a co-passenger, iden-tified
only as Wheatley, carried guns—
Clum’s kept on the coach floor, Wheatley’s
under a blanket on the seat.
But neither drew down on Brazelton.
The attack was “so unexpected that we
were wholly unprepared,” Clum wrote,
“and once under the cover of his arms were
quite willing to obey his commands.”
The bandit’s work drew more notice on
August 8 when he hit the same Tucson-to-
Florence stage, in the same spot.
Under the headline, “Here We Are
Again,” Clum’s newspaper described
driver Arthur Hill and passenger John
Miller, who sat beside Hill atop the coach,
nearing Point of Mountain as Miller
inquired as to the place of the earlier
“There,” Hill replied, “the robber was
behind that bush.” Then Hill shouted,
“And there he is again!”
“Yes, here I am again!” Brazelton snarled.
“Throw up your hands!”
The robber’s description traveled widely:
6 feet tall, broad-shouldered, and with
shoulder-length wavy hair. He wore his
pants tucked into his boots, equipped
with brass spurs, and cartridge belts over
He also carried a Spencer rifle and two
But his mask drew the most notice.
The Arizona Weekly Star for August 22,
1878, described it as a white sack with
holes cut in the eyes, a raise or puff in
the cloth for his nose, and a piece of red
flannel over the mouth.
“This mask extended down over his
shoulders,” the paper wrote, “a most
frightening thing to look at, when placed
over the head of a man.”
Facts unearthed later by O’Dell indi-cate
that despite his nickname, El Tejano
likely was born in Missouri, not Texas.
Brazelton also had a well-traveled past
that included a stint as a strongman in a
San Francisco beer garden.
So great was his physical strength that
Brazelton delighted in inviting men to
climb his back before throwing them
collectively to the floor, O’Dell reported.
The Arizona Miner newspaper wrote
that it was probably the devilish Brazelton
who showed up outside the courthouse
in Prescott, claiming he could swallow an
entire wagon wheel, among other feats.
After taking bets, Brazelton left, saying
he had to gather other members of his
traveling troupe to begin the show.
“He never returned,” wrote the Arizona
Miner, “neither did his troupe, and now
comes a dispatch to the Governor say-ing
Wm. Brazelton is killed. . . . He is in
all probability the same man who didn’t
swallow the wagon wheel.”
Lawmen found Brazelton with the
help of tracker Juan Elias, who followed
the hoofprints of the bandit’s horse to
Tucson, and the home of David Nemitz,
This young German admitted to
providing supplies to the bandit, but
insisted he did so out of fear. The
agreed to cooperate with lawmen in lur-ing
Brazelton to a meeting, as long as it
resulted in the outlaw’s death.
With the population in an uproar over
the holdups, Sheriff Charles Shibell entered
into the conspiracy to kill Brazelton after
learning the bandit intended to pull one
more job before returning to assassi-nate
Shibell and Town Marshal Adolph
On August 19, 1878, in a remote area
just south of Tucson, Shibell and eight
deputies hid in the brush surrounding the
meeting place. When the bandit arrived,
they lit up the night with muzzle flashes.
The sky had returned to black by the
time Brazelton uttered his unforgettable
The coroner found 10 holes in the
outlaw’s body, including a charge of
buckshot to the back. His report also
linked the “bloody-mouth bandit” to at
least nine stagecoach robberies, in New
Mexico and Arizona.
In Tucson lawmen roped Brazelton’s
corpse to a chair and put him on display
outside the jail.
There, reported the Star, “Mr. [Henry]
Buehman, the artist, took a photograph of
the remains as he appeared in his dress
when robbing stages . . . for the purpose
of having his victims identify the robber,
With that odd, macabre photograph,
Brazelton seemed likely to earn history’s
notice. But that probability became a cer-tainty,
when, four days after his death,
the Star noted that his stolen loot hadn’t
been recovered and wondered about its
A week later, Prescott’s Enterprise noted
that Brazelton had told Nemitz that he’d
buried $1,300 near Camp Grant, in south-eastern
Arizona. “We expect to see the
whole country dug up around the post,”
the paper reported.
Evidence of such a frenzy exists, according
to the unpublished memoirs of
Thomas Cruse, a soldier during the
Apache Wars. In 1927 he wrote that when
he was stationed at Tucson’s Fort Lowell
in 1883, search parties were still hunting
for Brazelton’s loot.
“He evidently never traveled very far
from the scene of his exploits,” Cruse
wrote, “and there are many people who
think his treasure is buried in the Santa
Catalina Mountains nearby.”
Time hasn’t dimmed Brazelton’s legend,
but it has undergone several mutations,
each a reflection of the age, and ultimately
of ourselves, because legends say more
about those who hold them than they do
about the truth.
In his own time, Brazelton went from
being a rogue of “unadulterated cheek,”
to a dangerous potential cop killer.
Then, in the early 1900s, authors such
as Dan Rose, in Arizona Magazine, pre-sented
him as a Robin Hood, a handsome,
brave and chivalrous “prince of nerve and
daring” who never “took a cent from any
poor devil on the road.”
Bunk, of course. But readers of that age
liked their prose purple and their heroes
Now, Brazelton has changed faces again
to become a ghost in the night who whis-pers
three Spanish words that precede
death for anyone hunting for his gold.
Todo o nada — in English, “all or nothing.”
Take all the gold or die trying. Can you
feel the cold creeping along your spine?
Author Jane Eppinga captured the
enduring power of El Tejano in her book,
Arizona Twilight Tales: Good Ghosts, Evil
Spirits & Blue Ladies. The stories she
tells include that of young Antonio, who
announces to his father that he knows the
location of the cave in which Brazelton
hid his gold.
Weary of being poor, Antonio says,
“Tonight I am going to get it,” and rides
off on his horse. After filling a gunnysack
with nuggets, Antonio feels a strange
presence and hears those three bone-rat-tling
words, todo o nada.
Now filled with terror, he looks up and
sees a masked horseman. In Eppinga’s
telling, the figure removes the mask, and
Antonio sees that he is headless.
Sometime later, Antonio’s father finds
his son unconscious in the cave and
brings him home. When the boy awakens,
he asks, “Where is our gold?”
When the father tells him there is no
gold, Antonio raves wildly, and three days
later he dies.
Like most contemporary tales of Billy
this story centers on Cat
Mountain, which consists of two jagged
black-rock masses separated by a pass in
the Tucson Mountains. Locals call them
Big Cat and Little Cat.
In daylight, they stand against the sky
like massive ships on a desert sea, their
boulder-strewn slopes studded with
saguaros that appear to grow from the
But as the day wanes, Big and Little Cat
become a haunting mix of sun and shad-ows,
light and menace.
Then the coyotes begin their mourn-ful
cries, the desert wind moans through
splits in the rocks, and the night air fills
with the sound of pounding hooves and
the jingle of spurs, as the ghost of El
This is where we need Billy Brazelton
now, on Cat Mountain.
In late August of 1878, we needed him
roped to that chair in downtown Tucson,
a hulking, powerful, bearded ruffian in
a slouch hat, a man the law killed and
handed to us to make over as we chose.
We chose to make him a legend. Todo
Tucson-based Leo W. Banks has extensively
explored Arizona’s Old West past in his articles
and books, but he still stays far away from Cat
Mountain at night.
STREET OF TROUBLES
It would be a year before Tucson’s Congress Street (shown above in 1877) would be awash with the
troubling word of El Tejano. His “all or nothing” notoriety came in 1878 with a string of back-to-back
robberies, after which he was located by tracker Juan Elias (left), and killed by a group of Arizona lawmen,
including Peace Officer Charles Shibell (below). arizona historical society/tucson
The sky had returned to black by the time Brazelton
uttered his unforgettable final words . . . todo o nada.
38 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 39
complicated behaviors,” Hardy says.
“Humans have been on this Earth only
about 150,000 years, and that’s a pittance
compared to rattlesnakes, which have
been around several million years.”
In 1984, Hardy met Harry Greene, a
world-famous herpetologist and a pro-fessor
in the Department of Ecology and
Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University.
The two friends began in 1988 to design
and embark on studies to learn about
black-tailed rattlesnake behaviors. The
studies would last about 18 years and
involve more than 4,600 observations of
black-tailed rattlers in the wild.
Because Greene was based on the East
Coast, Hardy conducted most of the field-work
in Arizona. In all, he caught about 45
snakes, which he anesthetized in order to
surgically implant radio transmitters.
Hardy never knew if the surgery troubled
the snakes, but was heartened by the fact
that when the newly telemetered rattle-snakes
were released back into the wild,
they would resume normal behaviors.
Hardy and Greene created a study area
in the Chiricahua foothills. It was a 6-
square-mile swath of rolling hills cut by
a creek bed lined by trees. For nearly two
decades, Hardy, who is now 73, would
hike the area with an H-shaped antenna
attached to a receiver in a canvas bag. He
carried with him his pencils, notebook
and, in recent years, a Global Positioning
System receiver. A gentle man with thick
gray hair and lively blue eyes set beneath
square glasses, Hardy would bound
across the creek bed and up the rocky
bank past wild grape and hackberry
bushes. A hawk might scream from the
sky, a white-tail doe might dart out of a
mesquite thicket, but Hardy’s ears would
be tuned to his radio receiver. Each
snake had a different radio frequency,
and when the radio made a strong blip,
blip, blip, blip sound, Hardy would know
exactly which snake was near. He would
find the creature, observe it, take notes.
It was through this careful observation
that Hardy and Greene learned that black-tailed
rattlesnakes have sophisticated
behaviors. For instance, male snakes try
to court females with ritualized move-ments
that entail a great deal of body-jerk-ing.
Females do not respond to the
overtures unless they have gained suffi-cient
weight to carry a litter. Although
mother black-tailed rattlesnakes lose
about 40 percent of their body weight and
are emaciated and hungry after giving
birth to live babies, they stay with their
litters until the young snakes shed their
skins and are better able to protect them-selves
— usually about 10 days.
“I think our most dramatic discovery,
made by Dave, was the parental care, and
I have absolutely no doubt that such a
discovery helps people care more about
snakes,” Greene says.
Hardy and Greene learned that the
black-tailed rattlesnakes are intimately
familiar with their home ranges; that they
return again and again to the places where
they have met their mates or given birth or
found ample supplies of
food — woodrats and other
rodents. They learned that
a rattlesnake will become
disoriented and starve to
death when it is out of its home range.
Because of this, they believe it is wrong for
humans to relocate snakes to a different
landscape. It is, they believe, kinder to
humanely euthanize a snake that humans
consider a threat.
The two herpetologists are now writing
a book about their findings, hoping that
what they have learned about the behav-iors
of the black-tailed rattlesnakes of the
Chiricahuas will help people know and
respect these misunderstood creatures of
the Arizona desert.
Terry Greene Sterling of Paradise Valley grew up
on an Arizona cattle ranch, where she learned to
avoid rattlesnakes. She became fascinated with
the reptiles when she hiked the slopes of the
Chiricahua Mountains with Dave Hardy.
Bisbee-based Marty Cordano specializes in
nature and environmental issues. Previous
experience as a wildlife biologist for the Bureau
of Land Management helped prepare him for his
new hobby — snake charmer.
A (GENTLE) SNAKE IN THE GRASS
Dave Hardy releases a black-tailed rattler after
implanting a radio transmitter to track its behavior
and movement. The snakes, often unseen and timid
unless provoked, are active in warm months,
especially following rainstorms. Females typically
give birth to three to 16 live young between July and
August and defend the litter for several days.
T h e y l e a r n e d t h a t a r a t t l e s n a k e w i l l b e c ome d i s o r i e n t e d a n d
starve to death w h e n i t i s o u t o f i t s h ome r a n g e .
online Discover rattlesnake realities at arizonahighways.com (Click on “July Trip Planner”)
S n a k y L O V E
As a child, Dave Hardy was fascinated
by snakes. He yearned to become a her-petologist,
but he came from a family
of doctors and eventually ended up as
a Tucson anesthesiologist. His medical
practice, however, did not diminish his
interest in snakes. Whenever the busy
doctor had a chance, he would hike into
the desert to observe the reptiles.
About 30 years ago, Hardy found an
area particularly suited to his obses-sion
— a stretch of high desert beneath
the lichen-tinged limestone cliffs of the
Chiricahua Mountains near Portal in
southeastern Arizona. On these rugged
slopes, amid the ocotillos with blood-red
blooms, the sea-green agaves and the white-thorned
acacias, Hardy became intrigued
by the native black-tailed rattlesnake.
The doctor marveled at the snake’s
highly evolved physiology: flat heads
with built-in heat sensors to monitor
prey; creamy white underbellies; ochre-and-
umber geometry spilling off deli-cate
spines; black tails that give way to
rattles resembling ears of brown corn.
All species of rattlesnakes have long
been viewed as ferocious icons of the
American West, animals that are better
dead than alive. Hardy knew rattlesnakes
are timid animals that rarely bite humans
unless they are provoked.
He always admired rattlesnakes, and
the black-tailed rattlers were a stunning,
remarkable species he wanted to study
in the wild.
“Rattlesnakes might have small brains,
but they are complicated organisms with
R a d i o T r a n s m i t t e r s
I m p l a n t e d i n
R a t t l e r s R e v e a l
M a t e r n a l I n s t i n c t s
a n d S t r a n g e
M a t i n g H a b i t s
b y T e r r y G r e e n e S t e r l i n g p h o t o g r a p h s b y M a r t y C o r d a n o
The black-tailed rattlesnake (left), Crotalus
molussus, grows to about 30 to 40 inches long
and lives 15 to 20 years. It can climb, swim and
detect infrared radiation with pits in front of its
eyes, and it can change between sidewinding or
40 j u l y 2 0 0 6
words are my hobby as well as the tools of my vocation,
and there are so many of them to know about that it’s a
daunting enterprise. During my childhood, when the Western
movie was in its ascendancy, I saw hundreds and hundreds of
mesas and buttes on movie screens, but it wasn’t until earlier
today that it finally occurred to me to wonder what precisely
the difference is between the two.
Having done a little research, I’ve got something of a fix on
it, although I can’t help thinking that the difference between a
mesa and a butte is something I’ll be eternally fated to forget,
like the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite and a
schlemiel and a schlimazel. Two weeks on a troop ship helped
me to remember the difference between port and starboard,
although at the moment I’m not sure I recall the difference.
My American Heritage dictionary says that a mesa is a broad,
flat‑topped elevation with one or more clifflike sides, common
in the Southwest United States, and that the word is Spanish,
meaning “table.” A butte is defined as a hill with sloping sides
and a flat top that rises abruptly from the surrounding area,
taken from a French word meaning “mound behind targets.”
I can’t help wondering — what targets? But I don’t want to get
lost in digression.
Fortunately, the dictionary offers a photograph for each
word, which suggests buttes are abbreviated mesas. Some
mesas in Monument Valley are beauts, but I don’t know if any
buttes are as pretty.
Also, I’ve never been to Mesa, Arizona, but I have been
through Butte, Montana, both of which presumably have at
least a couple of members of MENSA. It is interesting to note
that in Mexico the organization MENSA is known instead as
MESA, because the word mensa is a slang term that loosely
translates as “stupid woman.” I’m not a member of MENSA,
but I have been called a mensch by a Jewish friend who may or
may not be a schlemiel or a schlimazel. The Latin word mensa,
also means “table,” and ain’t that another beaut?
I may end up wishing I’d never delved into this. After all
the Roadrunner cartoons I’ve seen, it never occurred to me to
wonder whether my heroically persistent role model, Wile E.
Coyote, was falling off a mesa or a butte. And when Richard
Dreyfuss made his pilgrimage to Devil’s Tower in Close
Encounters of the Third Kind, I never wondered if it’s a butte or
a mesa, and I doubt that the extraterrestrials did, either. My
dictionary photos lead me to conclude that Devil’s Tower is a
butte, but then, I’m not a member of MENSA, so don’t quote me.
Now consider the synchronicity attending the fact that there’s
a word, mesa, in Malayaham, the language spoken in Kerala, the
southern tip of India, that also means “table.” And ponder the fact
that there’s an area in Arizona, called Table Mesa. Table Table?
Well, there’s Walla Walla, Baden Baden and Pago Pago — places
so nice apparently they named them twice. Then there are Black
Mesa Butte in Utah and Middle Butte Mesa in Idaho, whose
names smack of linguistic miscegenation, with blurred nuances
thrown into the bargain, not to mention a soupçon of
redundancy. This may be a case for someone from MENSA.
Moreover, there’s a joker in this deck, namely the word
plateau — that elevated area representing the next highest level
on a game show. The word plateau comes from the French
word “platter.” So flatness remains the dominant characteristic
in all mesas, buttes and plateaus. My dictionary describes a
plateau as a “tableland,” presumably a land that would be the
natural habitat of platters. Curiouser and curiouser, in the
words of Lewis Carroll.
And, incidentally, while they may not have mesas or buttes
in England, they do have Stonehenge, which is more like an
itty bitty pinnacle, which is surely some sort of geological
Emilee Riley, a teacher in Salt Lake City, may have the best
overview of the whole thing. She has written about her students:
“The largest plateau is called a plateau. To help them remember
it I called it ‘Papa Plateau!’ The next size is a mesa, therefore
‘Mommy Mesa.’ Next, ‘Baby Butte,’ and finally ‘Pee Wee Pinnacle.’ ”
Its long, flat surface and sheer sides of layered Navajo Sandstone and white
limestone are what define Red Mesa, both figuratively and literally. leroy dejolie
a short hike throughArroyo Lingo
by Larry Tritten along the way
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hike of the month
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 slice of the trail’s Arizona
Strip segment. This hike
gives a one-and-a-half-mile
glimpse of the state-long
trail that starts at an easy
access off U.S. Route
89A. This brief portion
travels on a relatively level
grade through ponderosa
“parks” — ponderosa pines
scattered across grassy
fields — crossed by forest
roads to Big Ridge Tank.
The old stock tank, a relic
from the cowboy days, gets
its name from a rise in the
plateau called Big Ridge, just
east of the trail.
Wildflowers make a big
show along this segment of
trail after the summer
monsoons have kicked in.
Clusters of common
snakeweed give hillsides a
golden glow colored by
several dozen different species
The hike starts on an easy
climb up a sun-drenched
hillside then relaxes atop the
rise. At about mile 0.5, the
trail makes a rocky drop
onto a logging road and
follows the road as it jogs east
and continues southward.
Along this back-road stretch,
silverstem lupines cover
the forest floor. The indigo
clusters of flowers grow so
thick, they exude a sweet
Arizona Trail signposts
direct the way off the road,
through more meadows,
across another road, and
into a final meadow next
to Big Ridge Tank, which
draws a gathering of
wildflowers. Wild roses
lean along a rugged old
wooden fence, currant
bushes drip jeweled fruit
and vervain line up along
Big Ridge Tank makes
an excellent spot for a
picnic. The surrounding
forest and a field of waist-high
grass and winged
buckwheat have an
inviting feel. Many visitors
feel compelled to linger at the
Hikers don’t have to end
their hike at Big Ridge Tank.
The Arizona Trail proceeds
southward across the Arizona
Strip for another 34 miles,
through more ponderosa
parks, large meadows and
aspen forests, to Grand
Canyon National Park. If that’s
not far enough, they can follow
the rest of the trail some 750
miles to points beyond. No
need to hike it in one big bite,
either. Hikers can experience
the rest of Arizona just like
Shewalter did — bit by bit.
42 j u l y 2 0 0 6
by Christine Maxa photographs by Steve Bruno
when dale shewalter
hiked around the state of
Arizona in the early 1980s,
he wondered about the
possibility of connecting all
the diverse landscapes and
one-of-a-kind historic areas
in the state into a one-trail
experience. That thought led
to the creation of the Arizona
Trail, which starts at the top
of the state on the Arizona
Strip and runs to its southern
border at Coronado National
“When it’s completed,” says
Arizona Trail Association
board member Jan Hancock,
“the Arizona Trail will link the
Old West with the New West
across nearly 800 miles and
six life zones from Sonoran
Desert to alpine.”
Hikers can see a bit of
Old West in the New West
in a Canadian life zone on
Arizona Strip’s easy Big Tank trail connects to
750-mile-long state-spanning adventure
PONDEROSA PARK Early morning
sunlight dapples a forest floor
thickly covered with ponderosa pine
needles near Big Ridge Tank along
the Arizona Trail on the Kaibab
Plateau in northern Arizona.
Amble Through the Pines
K AIBA B P LAT E AU
Length: 1.5 miles.
Elevation Gain: 100 feet.
Payoff: Wildflower-filled meadow.
Location: 160 miles north of
Getting There: From Flagstaff,
take U.S. Route 89 north 102 miles
to U.S. Route 89A at Bitter Springs.
Follow U.S. 89A for 52 miles to the
trailhead, which is on the south
side of the highway, 3 miles east
of Jacob Lake.
Travel Advisory: Always carry
plenty of water, at least 1 gallon
per day per person. Hike this trail
in the late spring, summer and
early fall months. Winterlike
snowstorms may occur as early
as September and as late as May
with a corresponding drop in
Additional Information: Kaibab
National Forest, (928) 643-7395;
trails/index.shtml; Arizona Trail
Association, (602) 252-4794;
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 43
ACHILLES HEAL Western yarrow,
properly named Achillea millefolium
for the Greek warrior Achilles, was
used by Spanish settlers and Indians
for medicinal purposes.
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 45
good thing we rounded
the corner slowly because
about 40 elk stood blocking
the road. After a curious stare,
the animals slowly drifted
apart allowing us to drive into
the herd and watch them graze.
An elk calf, so young he
was still spotted, stood close
by my car door emitting soft
bleats. From the right, came
an answering high-pitched
whistle. We had inadvertently
separated a mother and baby.
It took a few minutes for its
mother to hone in on her
calf’s cries, then she serenely
ambled to the little one and
the pair wandered on. My
94-year-old dad, Leo Webb,
smiled and said, “I’ve never
seen a spotted elk calf before.”
I haven’t either. What a
The moment happened on
the White Mountain Apache
Reservation, northeast of
Whiteriver, where we took
back roads to reach beautiful
Hawley Lake at 8,175 feet
elevation. At Hon-Dah, 4 miles
south of Pinetop on State
Route 260, we purchased the
permit required to travel
unpaved reservation roads.
With a full tank of gas, picnic
supplies and all day to explore,
we headed south on State
Dad was 14 years old when by Janet Webb Farnsworth photographs by Paul Gill back road adventure
Whistling elk, gleaming trout
and vivid history enliven
White Mountain Apache
WHAT LIES BENEATH
Just under the mirrored surface of
Hawley Lake (left), a variety of fish,
including Apache trout (above),
cruise the cool waters, making it a
popular spot for anglers year-round.
46 j u l y 2 0 0 6 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 47
back road adventure
he worked on this road using
a team of horses. Each stream,
meadow and curve brought
back his memories and
within the first mile he
pointed out a large meadow
on the right. “That’s the old
Cooley place,” he said. “Used
to be a big house up at the
edge of the trees. There’s a
spring over there where
travelers and the soldiers from
Fort Apache camped. The
house was a showcase. Too
bad it burned a long time ago.”
Corydon Cooley served as
a scout for the Army during
the Apache Wars, and is
famous for “showing the
low” during a card game
that earned the town of
Show Low its unique name.
Originally from Virginia,
Cooley married two Apache
sisters and built a plantation-style
home. In its heyday, the
house was the social spot of
the White Mountains.
Before Salt River Canyon
was bridged in the 1930s, State
73 served as the main road
from northeastern Arizona to
Phoenix. The long route
wound from Show Low to
Whiteriver, on to San Carlos,
then back to Globe before
finally reaching Phoenix.
Another meadow on the left
drew Dad’s attention. “That’s
the old Milk Ranch. See that
tree?” he asked. “My brother,
Ed, and I camped right there
while working on the road.”
I saw the trees and a grassy
clearing along a small wash.
Dad saw a work camp, horses
and cooking fires.
Four miles from Hon-Dah,
we turned left to Williams
Creek National Fish Hatchery.
Ponderosa pines intermingled
with scrub live oak and red
penstemon flowers bordered
the road. The hatchery, built
in 1939, uses the 51-degree
Williams Creek Spring water
to raise Apache, brook, brown,
cutthroat and rainbow trout.
When the fingerlings reach
about 8 inches long, they are
stocked into lakes and
streams. Visitors are welcome
to tour the facility, but don’t
even think about pulling out
that fishing pole.
Backtracking 3 miles, we
took Upper Log Road and set
the odometer. After 1.5 miles
of downhill winding road, we
crossed a wooden bridge over
the north fork of the White
River and turned into Upper
Log Camping Area. Trout
Creek joins White River not
far below the bridge, and both
streams, icy clear, with small
whitewater ripples, rank as
favorites for trout fishermen.
You’ll need additional permits
to camp overnight or fish.
Wild grapevines and thorny
roses covered with tiny pink
blooms grow frantically under
the pines lining the riverbanks.
At 6,484 feet, the breeze
blew cool, and Dad and I got
ready for lunch. I brought a
deli sandwich and yogurt for
our picnic. Dad eyed it and
said, “I remember when we
always made Dutch oven,
biscuits and gravy on an
That was good food, but I’m
old enough to remember
cleaning those Dutch ovens,
and that memory made the
An Abert’s squirrel
watched warily from the base
of a tree as we ate. When I
tried to get closer, he scurried
up the tree, quickly darting
behind the trunk. Between
the pines, masses of white
fleabane and Parrish’s
yampah were separated by
clumps of yellow-headed
mountain parsley, decorating
the serene summer day.
Back on the road, the route
climbed steadily, past fat
Hereford cattle and a few
horses. The Apache people are
well known for extensive
cattle ranching. The tribe
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 are going
and when you plan to return.
Travel Advisory: Best times to
visit are May through November.
Check road conditions. Permit
required, available at Hon-Dah
Ski and Outdoor Sports shop.
One-day permits for travel
off paved road are $3/person.
Additional permits required for
camping and fishing.
Additional Information: www.
Summer fields of Viguiera
multiflora (left), also known as
showy goldeneye, soak up the
warmth of a sunlit clearing in the
TO DUST, FROM DUST
The grand cycle of life continues as
wildflowers claim the moldering
remnant of a giant pine tree
(above) along the North Fork of the
White River on the White
Mountain Apache Reservation.
continues thinning the forest,
clearing out smaller trees and
undergrowth, to prevent forest
fires. We climbed high
enough to see bracken ferns
growing under the pines like a
shaggy, emerald-green carpet.
The forest sporadically
opens into grassy cienegas,
where the brown stalks of
cattails ring shallow ponds.
Aspen trees, their silvery
green leaves fluttering at the
slightest breeze, will turn a
brilliant gold after the first
frost. Douglas firs, the tallest
trees in Arizona, dominate the
pines on this part of the road.
Dad was first to spot a
movement among the trees,
and we slowed to watch a
flock of wild turkeys working
their way uphill. “Back in
the ’30s I shot a turkey like
that. We took it on down
to the Aravaipa to your
grandparents and ate that
turkey for Thanksgiving.”
The road became steeper
and much rougher, and it took
the hanging pink clusters of
the New Mexico locust
blossoms to soften the wild
look of the forest. Suddenly,
we spotted the red gate that
leads to McKays lookout
tower. During fire season, the
gate remains open and you
can drive to the ranger-manned
tower. The rest of the
year visitors must hike from
the gate to the tower. At the
top, Dad chose to wait while I
huffed and puffed up the
steep tower stairs, feeling all
of the 9,175 feet altitude. From
the top, I could see above the
treetops and watch rounded
hills chasing each other into
the purple-hazed distance.
Returning to the gate,
we headed on to Hawley
Lake. The route drops down
through more cienegas, these
filled with lavender-hued
wild iris. With plenty of water
the aspen trees grow larger,
their cracked white bark
vivid among the green foliage.
It wasn’t long before we
saw an arm of Hawley Lake.
A blue heron stiffly walked
the shoreline while hopeful
fishermen trolled the lake.
Summer visitors enjoyed
the nice campground and
cool temperatures, but they
usually arrive via the paved
route through McNary. Dad
said, “Mom and I used to
bring the trailer and camp
in this campground.” Mom’s
been gone for five years. Dad
was quiet, reliving memories
most of the 9 miles back to
On the pavement again,
Dad looked at the mileage sign
and dryly commented, “You
mean we’re only 11 miles from
where we started at Hon-Dah?”
He was right. We had spent
three hours covering 52 miles,
some steep and rough. But
you can’t beat a scenic drive
with a picnic, a baby elk and
an afternoon with your father
and his memories.
Note: Mileages and GPS coordinates are approximate.
> Begin in Hon-Dah at the intersection of state routes
260 and 73. (34°04.49‘N; 109°54.16‘W)
> Drive south on State 73 for 4.2 miles and turn east
(left) on Indian Route 69 to the Williams Creek National Fish
Hatchery. At .9 of a mile, follow the road to the right and after
driving 3 miles, bear left at the fork to the hatchery.
> Backtrack on Indian 69 for 3 miles to Upper Log Road and
turn left, driving 1.6 miles to the bridge crossing the North Fork
of the White River; follow the road to Upper Log Campground.
> From the campground, take the road to the right, driving 2.5 miles;
turn left at the fork. Follow for 9.6 miles to the red gate at McKays Peak.
Here, you can drive through the gate and take the road up to McKays Peak
and turn around at the top, or stay on the road and continue for 3 miles to
the next fork and bear left to Hawley Lake. (33°58.16‘N; 109°46.08‘W)
> After bearing left, drive for a mile and you’ll see Hawley Lake on the left.
Follow the road left around the lake where it connects with paved State Route
473. Continue on 473 for approximately 10 miles to the junction with 260.
> Turn left onto 260 and drive 11 miles to Hon-Dah.
A source of great pride to the
White Mountain Apaches, the
North Fork of the White River is
also a source of sustenance for its
surrounding pristine forests of blue
spruce, Douglas firs, lush green
grass and seasonal wildflowers.
REMAINS OF THE DAY
Stoic ponderosas appear
unaffected by a light breeze that
pushes across the water as
daylight dwindles on the rocky
shores of Hawley Lake.
Natl. Fish Hatchery
N. Fork White River
MO G O LLO N R IM
48 j u l y 2 0 0 6
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