D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 7
C E L E B R A T I N G T H E S E A S O N
By Linda Ellerbee, Craig Childs & Charles Bowden
FRUITFUL FUN Kids of all ages dash for sweet treats during
the “Fruit Scramble” event at the 4th Annual Natoni Horse Race
on the Navajo Indian Reservation. See story, page 16. tom bean
FRONT COVER Navajo hoop dancer Tyrese Jensen, 7, competes in
the 16th Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held at the
Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix. See story, page 32. jeff kida
BACK COVER A hiker amounts to a Tiny Tim on the window
"sill" of Los Gigantes Buttes Arch near the Lukachukai Mountains
on the Navajo Indian Reservation. See story, page 24. tom till
n To order a print of this photograph, see information on opposite page.
contents december 2007
Photographic Prints Available
n Prints of some photographs are available for purchase, as
designated in captions. To order, call toll-free (866) 962-1191
or visit arizonahighwaysprints.com.
2 DEAR EDITOR
3 EDITOR’S LETTER
Rediscovering visual icons.
5 TAKING THE OFF-RAMP
Arizona oddities, attractions and pleasures.
52 HIKE OF THE MONTH
The Anza trail in Southern Arizona
offers hikers a chance to walk in the
footsteps of a Spanish captain.
54 BACK ROAD ADVENTURE
The restoration of Fossil Creek is the main
event on this scenic drive in Central Arizona.
FOGGY FOOTHILLS Snow-tipped saguaro cacti thrust upward into rare
winter fog settled around the foothills below Finger Rock in the Santa
Catalina Mountains near Tucson. See story, page 10. robert g. mcdonald
n To order a print, see information on this page.
FRONT COVER Stillness reigns over virgin snowfall in ponderosa pine
forestland near Northern Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks. damon g. bullock
BACK COVER Flocked with snow, ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees
in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff wear winter well. tom bean
Chicago is a great city, and life at one of its universities is
safe and relatively sane. So, why would somebody chuck
it all to become a writer in a place where everything
that matters is in peril? Only the writer knows for sure.
by charles bowden
Scenic beauty, thrilling adventure, a sense of
accomplishment . . . rafting the Colorado River has a
lot to offer, but there’s more than the obvious. There’s
also a lesson in life, and whether you’re young or
old, the Grand Canyon forces everyone to learn it.
by linda ellerbee
Special places hold special memories. For one writer,
the place was Canyon Creek, and the memory was of
his father. It was their place, and when it came time
to say goodbye, they went together one last time.
by craig childs
10 Coming to Arizona
22 Canyons Don’t Care
34 Farewell at Canyon Creek
44 After-Christmas Special
48 Christmas Miracle
With the holiday season come the holiday
sales. And while department stores have a lot
to offer, they can’t match what you’ll find on
the Navajo Indian Reservation, where the art
is spectacular and the lines are a lot shorter.
by roseann hanson photographs by jerry jacka
Amiel Whipple isn’t a household name, but his
act of kindness toward an Indian girl in 1849
helped avert a massacre on Christmas Eve 1851.
by leo w. banks illustration by stefano morri
Simply put, the landscapes of Arizona inspire, and there’s no
better time than December to take a moment and enjoy nature’s
gifts. This month we offer our gift to you — a slideshow of
awe-inspiring landscape photographs at arizonahighways.com,
where you’ll also find some of the state’s most unique shopping
venues and a host of holiday happenings in our Online Extras.
WEEKEND GETAWAY Enjoy the spirit of Christmas
in the frosty mountain retreat of Flagstaff.
EXPERIENCE ARIZONA Plan a trip with our calendar of events.
The September 2007 article about Willow
Valley [“Narrow Passage”] was very nice.
However, I must point out that the “water
hemlock” plant pictured on page 11 is
toxic from top to bottom, not just the
roots. I might be wrong, but it seems that
several years ago someone hiking in West
Oak Creek Canyon used a piece of water
hemlock to make a reed whistle and died
from touching it to his lips. The plant is
very toxic, and hikers need to be able to
identify it and all other poisonous plants in
Dave Rudolph, Portola, California
Kind of Ironic
I really enjoyed Jo Baeza’s article [“Soul of
the Mountain,” July 2007] on the White
Mountains. Having moved to Anthem
from Park City, Utah, I’m always ready to
get back up into the high country. However,
I couldn’t help but note that near the end of
the article, one paragraph read, “. . . the top
of Baldy is closed to all but native people,”
and the next paragraph read, “to native
people, no one owns the land.” Perhaps
there should have been some verbiage in
between to help attenuate the irony.
Jim Puckett, Anthem
It’s Cold Here
This is just a quick note to thank you for a
fine magazine. I participated in the [online]
voting for the cover of your August issue,
because as a 62-year-old Cochise County
native (and current resident of cold
Vermont), I wish I were home. Soon, I hope!
Jim Stone, St. Johnsbury, Vermont
It’s Cold Here, Too
I was recently looking at the July issue of
Arizona Highways. As always, I read the
magazine from cover to cover, starting
with the first pages and reading all of the
stories, all the way to the end. This issue is
wonderful, with such incredible color
pictures and such good stories. I’m a
winter visitor and have traveled all over
Arizona during the past 12 years, and I can
always find another place to visit by
reading your magazine. I’ve even found
your gift shop on Lewis Avenue. So,
congratulations to all of you at Arizona
Highways for this superb issue.
Francis W. Warren Jr., Stow, Massachusetts
As Richard Shelton wrote in his excellent
memoir, Going Back to Bisbee, an often-used
local saying (“That’s Bisbee”) is
perhaps best exemplified by Greg Pike and
his loveable dog, cat and mouse that were
featured in your September issue [“Caught
in the Act on Bisbee’s Main Street”]. No
tourist comes to Bisbee that doesn’t go
back home without favorably commenting
about our many unparalleled attractions,
including Greg and his friends. All I can
say is, “That’s Bisbee.”
P.J. (Pete) Herrmann, Bisbee
charles bowden can write.
Exhibit A: “This part cannot be
slighted or the blackness will take over,
and then the reel begins playing in the
mind, that hideous tape that nothing
seems to erase or edit or alter, the tape
that zooms in and out of scenes so
swiftly the body feels vertigo, and the eye
focuses in disbelief on a pin, a small metal grenade pin, and the
entire universe — yes, all of it — wrenches to a halt to consider
one simple question: Is that pin straight, or is that pin bent?”
That’s a sentence from a piece Chuck did for Esquire in
1999. A few years later, when Esquire was digging through its
archives to come up with the “70 greatest sentences” in the
magazine’s illustrious history, that sentence made the cut,
along with lines by guys named Steinbeck, Fitzgerald and
Yes. Charles Bowden can write.
Exhibit B: “And then one night there is a grinding sound,
some loud cracks, and with dawn the river is opening up and
within days and weeks the snow goes out — though there are
always those late storms — and leaves emerge, scent fills the
air and birds missing for long, gray months suddenly appear at
the feeder in the yard.”
That’s a sentence from this month’s cover story. It’s one of
71 remarkable sentences in an essay by Charles Bowden titled
“Coming to Arizona.” By the way, if you’re doing the math and
thinking 71 sentences sounds like a short story, keep in mind
that Chuck’s sentences tend to be pretty long (see Exhibits
A & B).
“Coming to Arizona” is part of a package we’re calling
“Spiritual Journeys.” In addition to Chuck’s essay, we also
have essays by Craig Childs, a wonderful writer and longtime
contributor to Arizona Highways, and Linda Ellerbee, a self-described
“recovering journalist” whose writing will inspire
you to throw out the remote control and start a book club.
When we assigned the essays, we asked the writers to share
their most memorable excursions in Arizona. We were looking
for life-changing experiences — stories that were poignant,
prominent and powerful. Turns out, they got the message.
In Chuck’s essay, he writes about his transition from the
comfortable world of teaching history at the University of
Illinois in Chicago to the harsh realities of being a writer and
wanderer in the Sonoran Desert. Although there’s a literal
element to the essay — his drive from the Midwest to Arizona
— his piece is more about the figurative transition from feeling
trapped to coming alive. Or, as he writes, doing “something
that matters to me rather than something that matters to a
world I want to leave.” Linda Ellerbee’s journey is along the
same lines. It’s an awakening, of sorts.
The literal expedition is a rafting trip with six kids through
the Grand Canyon. The figurative journey is the change in
attitude experienced by the children after 226 miles in a world
as foreign to them as the surface of the moon. Among other
things, they learn there’s more to life than lip gloss; and life,
like the Canyon, is bigger than all of us. As you’ll see, that’s
the main point of “Canyons Don’t Care,” which is one of the
best things you’ll ever read — in this magazine, in Esquire or
anywhere else. It’s that good. Thank you, Linda.
“Farewell to Canyon Creek” by Craig Childs is another essay
that gets very high marks. Like the others, it has both a literal
and a figurative thread. The trip itself is about Craig’s trek into
the Arizona wilderness to sprinkle his father’s ashes in a creek
they’d explored so many times as father and son. The spiritual
journey, of course, goes much deeper than the depths of a
It’s a journey that most of us will make, one way or another,
at some point in our lives. And this time of year — whether
you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or the start
of the NFL playoffs — it’s a good time to reflect on family or
friends or whatever matters most to you.
What matters most to me right now is finishing this column.
If I were Charles Bowden, I’d end with a brilliant string of
words that would be echoed by editors, English professors
and literary junkies for years to come. I’m not Chuck, though
— not even in my wildest dreams — so I’ll simply end with
this: Happy holidays, and thanks for spending another year
with Arizona Highways.
— Robert Stieve
editor’s letter by Robert Stieve
Homesick in Omaha
My husband and I grew up in Arizona, and went to the
University of Arizona. Unfortunately, after college we
moved away, but every year my parents give us a
subscription to this beautiful magazine. I think they’re
subtly trying to lure us home, and your amazing photos
and great articles do make it tough. Someday it would be
wonderful to take just one issue and spend a month going
to all of the beautiful and interesting places in Arizona
Highways. Thank you.
Heike and Adam Langdon, Omaha, Nebraska
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 3
DECEMBER 2007 VOL. 83, NO. 12
Publisher WIN HOLDEN
Editor ROBERT STIEVE
Senior Editor RANDY SUMMERLIN
Managing Editor SALLY BENFORD
Book Division Editor BOB ALBANO
Books Associate Editor EVELYN HOWELL
Editorial Administrator NIKKI KIMBEL
Editorial Assistant PAULY HELLER
Director of Photography PETER ENSENBERGER
Photography Editor JEFF KIDA
Art Director BARBARA GLYNN DENNEY
Deputy Art Director SONDA ANDERSSON PAPPAN
Art Assistant DIANA BENZEL-RICE
Map Designer KEVIN KIBSEY
Production Director MICHAEL BIANCHI
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
Or visit arizonahighways.com
For Corporate or Trade Sales (602) 712-2019
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 Joe Lane
Vice Chairman S.L. Schorr
Members Delbert Householder, Robert M. Montoya,
Felipe Andres Zubia, William J. Feldmeier,
Barbara Ann “Bobbie” Lundstrom
International Regional Magazine Association
2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001 Magazine of the Year
Western Publications Association
2006, 2004, 2002, 2001 Best Travel & In-transit Magazine
Society of American Travel Writers Foundation
2000, 1997 Gold Awards Best Monthly Travel Magazine
2 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7
Arizona Highways magazine has inspired an
independent weekly television series, hosted by
former 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.
Arizona Highways® (ISSN 0004-1521) is published monthly by the
Arizona Department of Transportation. Subscription price: $24 a
year in the U.S., $44 outside the U.S. Single copy: $3.99 U.S. Send
and change of address information
to Arizona Highways,
PO Box 653, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0653.
Periodical postage paid at Phoenix, AZ and at additional mailing
office. CANADA POST INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATIONS MAIL
DISTRIBUTION) SALES AGREEMENT NO.
41220511. SEND RETURNS TO QUEBECOR WORLD, P.O. BOX 875,
WINDSOR, ON N9A 6P2. POSTMASTER:
Send address changes to
PO Box 653, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0653. Copyright
© 2007 by the Arizona
Department of Transportation.
in whole or in part without
permission is prohibited. The
magazine does not accept and is not responsible for unsolicited
Produced in the USA
highways on tv
When we asked Charles
Bowden to write about his
most memorable journey in
Arizona, it led straight to
the Sonoran Desert, not far
from Tucson Mountain Park.
U.S. Postal Service
STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP, MANAGEMENT, AND CIRCULATION
Title of Publication: Arizona Highways Publisher: Win Holden
Publication No.: ISSN 0004-1521 Editor: Robert Stieve
Date of Filing: August 24, 2007 Managing Editor: Sally Benford;
Frequency of issues: Monthly Complete mailing address
Number of issues of known office of publication:
published annually: Twelve 2039 W. Lewis Ave., Phoenix,
Annual subscription price: (Maricopa) AZ 85009-2893
$24.00 U.S. one year
Owner: State of Arizona
206 S. 17th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Known bondholders, mortgagees, and other security holders owning or holding
1 percent or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities: None
The purpose, function, and nonprofit status of this organization and the exempt
status for federal income tax purposes has not changed during preceding 12 months.
ISSUE DATE FOR CIRCULATION DATA BELOW:
July ’06-June ’07 June ’07
Average no. Actual no.
copies each copies of
issue during single issue
preceding published nearest
12 months to filing date
EXTENT AND NATURE OF CIRCULATION
A. Total number copies printed 232,203 223,211
B. Paid circulation
1. Outside-county, mail subscriptions 202,980 196,531
2. In-county subscriptions 706 533
3. Sales through dealers, carriers,
street vendors, counter sales and
USPS paid distribution 11,400 11,714
4. Other classes mailed through the USPS 0 0
C. Total paid circulation 215,086 208,778
D. Free distribution by mail
1. Outside-county 282 332
2. In-county 0 0
3. Other classes mailed through the USPS 34 30
E. Free distribution outside the mail 0 0
F. Total free distribution 316 362
G. Total distribution 215,401 209,140
H. Copies not distributed 16,802 14,071
I. Total 232,203 223,211
J. Percent paid circulation 99.85% 99.82%
I certify that the statements made by me are correct and complete.
Win Holden, Publisher
4 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 5
i’ve resisted going into havasu canyon
since first arriving in Arizona 30 years ago. My
reason was simple: I didn’t want to join the long line
of photographers to re-record the turquoise pools
and iconic waterfalls. I felt there was nothing new to
I was wrong.
In early May, I was tapped to lead a photography
workshop into Havasu Canyon with my longtime
friend Jeff Foott. He urged and cajoled me until I
relented and signed on.
If you choose, you can hike into the Canyon “self-contained,”
schlepping all manner of photographic
equipment for 10 miles on the Havasupai Trail,
descending 3,000 vertical feet below the Canyon Rim. Ours,
however, was a different kind of trip. We were to be instructors
for a group of serious “older” photographers (including me) not
ready for that much adventure. So, we boarded the helicopter
that also transports supplies to the tribal village of Supai in the
heart of Havasu Canyon.
The chopper leaped off the rimrock and dropped into the
chasm. In a mere eight minutes, we landed in Supai, ready to
begin the 2-mile hike to our base camp. With mules carrying
the heavy equipment, we were free to dance down the trail
with cameras, water and light clothing in our daypacks.
Although I was expecting disappointment from the
stereotypical, ubiquitously photographed waterfalls, I was
blown away. Nothing prepared me for the sinuous, erratic,
travertine-terraced formations with otherworldly azure-colored
water falling everywhere.
Our camp reverberated with the flowing water’s sweet music,
and I saw potential photographs everywhere I turned. What
truly amazed me was the incredible diversity in compositions
that appeared like magic.
Okay, I’m a professional photographer, and I’m supposed to
“see” images everywhere, but what about the Average Joe?
Well, I am the Average Joe, and I’ll let you in on my
photography secret. Start small. Simply concentrate on details
when you arrive at a place that overwhelms the senses with
sheer beauty. Start small by finding intricate patterns to
photograph. If I’m really
smitten by those details, I
try incorporating them as
foregrounds for grander
Having settled on a
foreground, I move around
my little detail until I can
line it up with an equally amazing background. Next, I try
photographing with wide-angle lenses and experimenting
with telephoto lenses. My feeling is this: If I really want to
capture a scene, I should work hard at it until the composition
When I select a wide-angle lens, I’m consciously
emphasizing the foreground. When I select a telephoto lens,
I’m compressing the scene, bringing the background and
foreground closer together in the camera’s finder. Before long,
I’m using my equipment to “carve out” compositions within
the grand landscape — and it all begins with simple details that
Based on all the published work I’ve seen over the years,
I typically have a mental inventory of possibilities before
arriving in a place. But discovering different places, combined
with my personal way of seeing compositions, taught me that
there’s always a new way of seeing, even when the subject is a
visual icon like Havasu Canyon.
At the end of the trip, the hike out was easy. Sure, my pack
was jammed with exposed film, but everyone knows that
exposed film and filled flash cards weigh a lot less. Right?
Ansel Adams’ Portrait
although he was best known for his
meticulously composed black-and-white
landscape photographs, Ansel Adams
moved beyond his comfort zone and
made color images of Native Americans
of the Southwest for Arizona Highways
magazine. This photo, which came from
the series titled “Colorful People,” was
made between 1952 and 1954.
by Jack Dykinga, contributing photographer, dykinga.com
Find expert photography advice and information at arizonahighways.com
(click on “Photography”).
TRIPS AND FALLS After some resistance,
photographer Jack Dykinga finally made
his first trip to Havasu Canyon to
photograph its iconic waterfalls. Instead
of disappointment, he found the
travertine-laden creek, terraced
spillways and diverse compositions
inspiring. jack dykinga
arizona oddities, attractions and pleasures
Waterfalls of the Havasupai
6 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 7
“To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land
instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in
the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand
down to them amplified and developed.”
—Theodore Roosevelt, December 3, 1907
since its beginning in 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated
640 acres for conservation, the Tonto National Monument (above) has preserved cliff
dwellings and other remnants of ancient cultures that attract scientists and visitors
from around the world. Situated within the Sonoran Desert’s Tonto Basin in Central
Arizona, the monument celebrates its centennial anniversary on December 19, 2007. The
commemoration will include a fee-free day, reservations-only backcountry tours to two
masonry sites, as well as a centennial exhibit at the visitors center and even a cake in
honor of the 100 years that the monument has prospered.
Information: (928) 467-2241; nps.gov/tont/.
A Country Kitchen
for a country experience in the middle of
Phoenix, stroll under the 60-year-old pecan trees at The
Farm at South Mountain on your way to Quiessence
Restaurant & Wine Bar. One of three restaurants
situated on 10 lush acres, Quiessence shares The Farm
with a naturopathic doctor’s office, a day spa and an
Quiessence serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday
evenings. But if you’re looking for a unique culinary
adventure, reserve the “Brick Oven Table,” which
sits outside on an intimate patio surrounded by a
vine-covered lattice and romantic lighting. The chefs
will create a multicourse dinner for up to four people
based on your preferences. Dedicated to using only the
freshest local and seasonal ingredients, Chef de Cuisine
Greg LaPrad and staff promise a garden-to-table dining
experience. In fact, Maya’s at The Farm, the organic
garden bordering Quiessence, supplies a lot of the
produce for the kitchen. It doesn’t get much fresher
Information: (602) 276-0601; quiessencerestaurant.
com or (602) 276-6360; thefarmatsouthmountain.com.
if you see a cardinal at your birdfeeder, more
than likely it makes its home close by. The cardinal
is a nonmigratory bird that usually lives within a
mile of where it was born. Most often spotted in
the Midwestern and Eastern United States, the
cardinal’s song also can be heard in Arizona.
Associated with Christmas because of its vibrant
red color, the cardinal got its name from the
crimson robes of the Roman Catholic cardinals. But
only the male sports bright-red feathers. The female
is clad in a dull, olive-brown plumage with a spray
of red on the crest, wings and tail only.
When a male cardinal finds a suitable mate and
settles down to nest, he will aggressively defend
his territory, which can be up to 4 acres. The male
cardinal is so protective that he has been known to
attack his own reflection in a mirror or window.
THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: JEFF KIDA (2); DAVID ELMS; JEFF KIDA THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: C.K. LORENZ; GEORGE H.H. HUEY; LINDA LONGMIRE
Saintly Safari at Mission
San Xavier del Bac
children sometimes see them right away,
the animals — critters of Mission San Xavier del
Bac. But adults don’t.
The mission, located 9 miles south of Tucson,
has earned the accolade of being the finest
example of Spanish Colonial art and architecture
in the United States. Amid the interior wall art,
the paintings of religious events, the statues of
saints, the carvings of angels, hide desert creatures
painted by the native people of the land. This art
may be one of two instances, when, unsupervised,
they worked their designs in among the motifs
of the artists brought up from the interior of the
Spanish New World empire. The line drawings of
mice, rabbits, snails and a rattlesnake hold their
own places of honor in the 200-year-old structure.
For a sighting of these tiny church dwellers, visitors should look to the left and right
of the altar area. If you still have trouble, ask a child — they always look up.
Information: (520) 294-2624; sanxaviermission.org/.
Let’s Hear It for Talking Books
hearing an exciting narration of the popular Beatrix Potter stories or
listening to the latest issue of National Geographic magazine are just a few of
the many offerings of the Arizona State Braille and Talking Book Library.
Located in Phoenix, the library operates as a division of the Arizona State
Library, Archives and Public Records agency, and provides a full range of
material to anyone temporarily or permanently visually challenged. The formats
include audio film descriptions, Braille magazines, cassette novels and even a
telephone newsline available each morning.
The cassette magazine catalog also offers Arizona Highways magazine
issues dating back to 1975.
Information: (602) 255-5578; www.lib.az.us/braille.
Woven into the complex motif
of the cornice sets on the left
and right sides of the main altar
(above) are four characters:
a snail, a snake, a rabbit and
a human (top).
put on your best holiday attire and get ready for a turn-of-
the-century Christmas party at the Riordan Mansion (left) in
Flagstaff. Built in 1904 by brothers Timothy and Michael Riordan as
a home for their families, the mansion is a quintessential example
of the era’s Arts and Crafts-style architecture.
Festively decorated for an old-fashioned Christmas all month
long with evergreen bows, pinecones, candles and a towering fir
tree trimmed with ornaments handmade by fourth grade students
at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Flagstaff, mansion tours showcase
original artifacts, Stickley furniture and Riordan family mementos.
On December 15, a free day-long event will include a children’s
party from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. including arts and crafts and a Santa
meet-and-greet. Mrs. Claus will read Christmas stories to the children.
Hot cider and cake will be served as partygoers listen to Christmas
music and enjoy the north-country good cheer of the holiday season.
Information: (928) 779-4395; pr.state.az.us.
8 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 9
S P I R I T U A L J O U R N E Y S
About a year ago, we askedA some of our favorite writers to share their most
memorable excursions in Arizona. We were looking for life-changing experiences — poignant,
prominent and powerful. Well, they didn’t disappoint. What follows are the memories of
Charles Bowden, Linda Ellerbee and Craig Childs, all of whom write with such descriptive
language that you’ll feel as if you were right there with them. Along with their words,
of course, are some of the most amazing photographs you’ll ever see. Beautiful words,
beautiful photos . . . this is our gift to you. Happy holidays.
10 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 11
Chicago is a great city, and life at one of its
universities is safe and relatively sane.
So, why would somebody chuck it all to become
a writer in a place where everything
that matters is in peril?
Only the writer knows for sure.
By Charles Bowden
Coming to Arizona
S P I R I T U A L J O U R N E Y S
T The pines of the plateau gave way at the Mogollon Rim,
and then came the cottonwoods of the Verde River, the climb
up to the grasses and junipers of the bench at Cordes Junction
and, finally, the slide down Black Canyon to the burning desert
floor of saguaros, creosotes and mesquites. Somewhere in that
strand of earth, I decided to toss aside my life as I’d been living
it, come back to the hot ground and be a writer. I remember
staring out the windshield of an International Harvester pickup
into the glare hour after hour, my mind slowly tumbling half-formed
thoughts like rocks in the barrel of a mineral-polishing
I can remember the low roar of the engine — a six-cylinder
with four in the floor — the pitted glass, the brown of the ground
as I slipped down the Rim to the river. The days before are hazy,
something about the ponderosa forest around Flagstaff, a walk
down into the wilderness of Sycamore Canyon, that large elk
antler I spied on the ground with its whiff of lust and freedom.
Here was the deal: I’d had my ticket punched and could not live
with my sentence.
I was teaching American history at the University of Illinois,
Chicago Circle Campus. I’d gone to a national meeting of histo-rians
in Boston and the ratio of applicants to jobs was around
EPHEMERAL GOLD Sunlight sneaking beneath low-lying clouds on
a wintry daybreak in Grand Canyon National Park casts Vishnu Temple’s
sharp shadow against the Walhalla Plateau’s snow-dusted cliff face
(preceding panel, pages 8 and 9). randy prentice
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
PRISMATIC ARCH A rainbow arcs to earth at sunset in the Pusch
Ridge Wilderness north of Tucson (top). jack dykinga
FROZEN MOMENT Wind-whipped snow adds a chilly cover to an
otherwise placid view of the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff (right).
robert g. mcdonald
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
12 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 13
50-to-one. Somehow, I’d lost and gained steady work. There’d
been a spring some years earlier when I was wrapping up my
undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona, an obligation
to my parents who had never had the pleasure of college life. All
those last months, I dreamed of taking my finals and hitting
the road. My plan at that time was to hitchhike with a friend to
Veracruz, ship out on a freighter to Europe and then either find
life or have life find me.
But just before my escape, a letter came offering me a full
ride plus living expenses at any university in the United States.
I lacked the moral fiber to say no. So for six years I’d been either
a serf of graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin, or writing my
dissertation in Massachusetts, or for the past year, living in a
basement in Chicago with a Newfoundland dog and teaching.
The dog had been part of my survival scheme: I figured I
could not live in a bad place with a huge black dog. I was wrong.
My other tactic was a 17-foot fiberglass canoe I’d bought in
Wisconsin on the assumption that it would force me to stay near
wild rivers. This tactic also had failed, though I’d fled from time
to time to free-running streams and cold nights and dawns as
fresh as Eden as I paddled down rivers out of dreams.
So now it is summer, I am scheduled to return to Chicago and
my career, and all I want is flowing past the window of my truck
as I speed from the plateau to the desert. I dream of starting a
magazine to capture it all, or maybe writing a book to capture
it all, to do something that matters to me rather than something
that matters to a world I want to leave. Arizona and the
Southwest tells you one sure thing: Everything that matters is
here and it is in peril. I felt I’d somehow faltered and gotten
shanghaied into a dead zone called
FRESHLY FALLEN Undisturbed snow coats ponderosa pine needles
near the Mogollon Rim (above). jerry sieve
BEHIND THE SCENE Framed by ponderosa pines, the San Francisco
Peaks rise majestically near Flagstaff (right). laurence parent
(Text continued on page 17)
14 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 15
16 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 17
the American university. And the work
was easy — I taught only 10 hours a week on three successive
days and then promptly fled to a cabin in Michigan by the
lake — dunes and endless waves.
In novels and the movies, there is always this moment when
everything becomes crystal clear, a decision is reached and
suddenly the music comes up with heroic resolve. Life, in my
experience, is not like that. It’s more like the ice going out on a
river come spring. Day after day the huge jams seem immobile,
the ground remains frozen and finally anyone standing on the
bank gives up all hope, decides there will never be a thaw or one
more flower and resigns himself to permanent winter. And then
one night there is a grinding sound, some loud cracks and with
dawn the river is opening up and with days and weeks the snow
goes out — though there are always those late storms — and
leaves emerge, scent fills the air and birds missing for long, gray
months suddenly appear at the feeder in the yard.
So I decided to leave a safe and sane job and become a writer
in a kind of staggering way. There is the ride from Flagstaff down
to the lower desert, those hours with things shape-shifting in my
mind, the beckoning of the land and the sense that I was wasting
my life with a job I did not want. I am crossing Dry Beaver Creek,
and off to the south and west rises Mingus Mountain, the Verde
flows, and I realize no one in my family is a writer, that I have no
background in this business, no English beyond the freshman
requirement, no journalism school, nothing but a history of sit-ting
under a tree with a book, spellbound. I’ve never met a writer
or a reporter. Well, at least I’m pure, I decide.
But I hear things in my head and I don’t find these things in
newspapers and magazines. And so I decide I must find a way
to put them down on paper.
That was the first phase of this staggering move toward a new
life. I got to Tucson, picked up a phone, called the chairman of
my department and told him I was walking out on a three-year
contract. Then for some years, I did odd jobs like mowing lawns
and trimming trees and picking up little editing stints here and
there. Somewhere in there I had a book published. Finally, I
talked my way into a job with a daily newspaper (I was down
to less than 50 bucks at the moment) and stayed three years,
although to be accurate I quit three times.
To stay somewhat balanced, I’d disappear at times and walk
the western deserts of the state, a hundred to two hundred
miles at a crack. That was my cure for covering murders and
other mayhems and that was essentially the undoing of me, also.
About 75 miles out of Rocky Point,
A ll in all, the trip took days and
something ended out there, and began.
WINTER WONDER In Tucson Mountain Park, a saguaro cactus with
multiple uplifted arms is surrounded by a surprising blanket of snow in the
Sonoran Desert (preceding panel, pages 14 and 15). randy prentice
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
HOME SWEET PONDEROSA With the ponderosa pine tree its
source of nourishment and habitat, an Abert’s squirrel has no need to store
food for the winter. tom bean
(Continued from page 12)
(Text continued on page 21)
18 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 19
LATE BLOOMER Waxy, white saguaro blossoms (above),
Arizona’s state flower, have a ripe-melon fragrance and appear on
cacti that have reached about 8 feet in height. george raymond
CLEARLY SHARP Late-afternoon sunlight following a
storm over the Santa Catalina Mountains brings crisp clarity to
prickly pear and saguaro cacti amid the grasses and shrubs of
Catalina State Park north of Tucson (right). jack dykinga
20 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 21
FLORAL SEA The Sierra Pinta Mountains rise out
of a sea of white dune primroses and vivid pink sand
verbena in Southwestern Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta
National Wildlife Refuge. robert g. mcdonald
Sonora, I was in the Growler Valley of
the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge when I realized
something had to give. The newspaper was my life, but my life
was not enough. This part was hard for me since — then and
now — I’ve never had a single complaint about the newspaper
business. A part of me was born for such noise. I remember
sprawling under a creosote bush in the heat of a late April after-noon
and reading a memoir of the Mexican Revolution. Pancho
Villa roared through my head and behind me lay at least 20
miles of a greasewood flat, ground I’d walked without seeing a
single human footprint.
I decided I had to roll the dice, give up my day job as it were,
simply write and live with the consequences. Of course, there’d
been nudges. By this time, I’d met Edward Abbey and we’d
become friends, had those long lunches where little seemed to
get said and everything I needed seemed to be communicated.
Ed was a kind of living reprimand to me. He’d simply gone and
done it, lived hand-to-mouth for years, and moved through
all the places I loved. I remember the hot, dry wind blowing
through, the slender lines of shade from the greasewood and
then the long walk out, going up to Charlie Bell Well, and then
heading east until finally, at Ajo, I wandered into the world of
cars and electric lights. All in all, the trip took days and some-thing
ended out there, and began.
One fall day I went into the Huachuca Mountains and spent
a long afternoon with Bil Gilbert. He’d first stumbled into that
border range when he was writing the book on coatimundis,
Chulo. But I’d met him when he was touring Westering Man, his
biography of Joe Walker, possibly the least-known and most sig-nificant
mountain man of the early West. The book had become
living tissue to me and told me what I’d failed to do with my life
and what I must make amends for in the future. Walker was
the ultimate lover of the West, and like all of us who become
bewitched, he’d helped destroy it.
We whiled away the afternoon with Bil hearing me out and
giving advice, and me ignoring everything but the whisper
through the oaks of the mountains and the blue sky screaming
over my head. Once Bil had tracked a coyote in the snow of the
mountain and this trail led to a roadrunner with broken wings
and a coyote blinded in both eyes by the bird. He had to destroy
them both, but still that memory of his tracking lingered in my
mind as we talked.
I remember this: a few weeks later putting on an old, green
Pendleton shirt favored by my late father and walking into the
newsroom, throwing down my press credentials and walking out.
I went up into the Santa Catalina Mountains and six months
and hundreds of miles of walking later came out with a book
about the range. Since then, it has been financial insecurity,
words and ground. But at least I finally got started. It was a kind
of three-part dance — plateau, desert and mountain.
Like everyone who comes to this place, I’ve hardly scratched
the surface. This last part is, of course, the blessing.
Charles Bowden lives in Tucson, writes books and magazine stories and
thinks June is the finest month of all in the Sonoran Desert.
(Continued from page 17)
22 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 23
can begin to transform that situation and lighten up about it.
We may, on recognizing the truth of what is, lighten up about
it, but we don’t transform life and death. They transform us. You
don’t need to understand Zen to understand this. Getting cancer
teaches you the same thing. And so does paddling the Colorado
River through the Grand Canyon — only in the Canyon the les-son
is swifter, wetter and a whole lot more thrilling.
This is my third time rafting the 226 river miles from Lee’s
Ferry to Diamond Creek. The first time I was still mentally
recovering from losing both of my breasts to cancer, and then
putting myself through nasty months of chemo in hopes of not
losing the rest of me. The second time I went down the river as
part of a group of women writers who’d contributed essays to
a 1998 book titled Writing Down the River. This time I’m taking
the journey with six children, not my own.
We’re making a television program.
My company, Lucky Duck Productions, has produced Nick
News, a children’s television news and documentary series,
since 1991. We cover the behavior of nations, not how crayons
are made, which means we’ve produced shows for American
children about the hopes and fears of kids from Afghanistan
to Zimbabwe — topics such as AIDS in South Africa and
America, terrorism in the Middle East and in America, caste
discrimination in India, racism in America. But our series airs
on Nickelodeon, home of SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the
Explorer, and so sometimes we make shows that are more about
having adventures — learning while playing — than they are
about fear, loss, disease and death. That, at least, is the theory.
This is supposed to be one of those shows.
A Nick News Adventure: The Great Wave Train!
It’s probably come to your attention that in life, there’s the
change you choose, and the change that chooses you. Each of
the six kids with whom I will be rafting the river has chosen to
come on this trip, ready, they believe, for whatever changes the
river might choose for them.
But they don’t understand. Not really. Neither did I in the
beginning. I remember my own first trip, when, sitting in the
front of the paddle raft, my stick in the water, I tried not to
whimper as I watched a 15-foot high wave heading directly at
me. I remember spending a long rainy night on a rock ledge, 20
of us lined up like sardines in sleeping bags, wondering why on
earth I was there. I remember the paddle raft flipping, vertically,
throwing us into that icy water, instantly robbing me of my
breath and any remaining illusions of control.
I also remember being swallowed up by beauty: crayon-colored
days and star-littered nights, the gift of seeing a tiny soft
blossom grow out of hard rock, the astounding awe I felt every
time I looked up those red- or black- or sand-colored walls, or
tried to climb one of them. If the Grand Canyon is all about
wonder, it’s also a constant, eternal reminder of our relatively
swift-passing human lives. This is nature, magnificent and
uncaring. That’s the scariest truth of all. The river, the Canyon,
they don’t care. They do what they do, and we humans either
adapt or perish.
“Can you breathe?” Julie, our paddle captain, has just finished
cinching Natasha’s life preserver tighter than the girl can do it
“Only a little,” Natasha says.
“Good,” Julie says, giving the final strap one more mighty pull.
“Only a little is all you need.”
Scenic beauty, thrilling adventure, a sense of accomplishment . . . rafting
the Colorado has a lot to offer, but there’s more than the obvious.
There’s also a lesson in life, and whether you’re young or old,
the Grand Canyon forces everyone to learn it.
By Linda Ellerbee
Canyons Don’t Care
S P I R I T U A L J O U R N E Y S
S Somebody said Zen teaches us that once we open up to the possibility, indeed the inevitability of our own death, we
LOOK OUT Toroweap Overlook towers 3,000 vertical feet above the
Colorado River where boaters brace themselves for the drop into Lava Falls
Rapids (left). gary ladd
CANYON VISTA Clouds gather at sunrise (above) over the Grand
Canyon at Lipan Point. george stocking
24 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 25
The kids are about to paddle their first rapid.
“I was your age the first time I went down this river,” Julie tells
Natasha. “My father brought me.”
At 14, Natasha is a California girl, all long hair, long legs and
lip gloss, a girl who’s never paddled, never hiked, never slept out-doors.
Something about Natasha, probably the lip gloss, reminds
me of a young woman I met on my first Canyon trip. She must
have been 25 or so, but I’ll never forget our third night on the
river, watching her sit on a sandy beach, unpacking her gear. She
reached into her dry bag, pulled out the totally useless electric
hair dryer she’d brought with her, stared at it, and then burst into
tears. I’m hoping Natasha won’t be like that young woman.
Indira, also 14, is from Tennessee and has camped before,
though she hasn’t been to the Grand Canyon. None of them
has. “It will be great to live in nature,” Indira says. “It will be
like Woodstock. I just hope I don’t drown.”
Justus is from Ohio. At 15, he’s the oldest kid. No, that’s wrong.
At 61, I’m the oldest kid. The youngest is Nicole, from San Diego.
She will turn 12 during our time on the river. Nicole wasn’t sup-posed
to be here at all. Derek, her 13-year-old brother, was.
But there was a problem.
When we take kids on these adventures — whether it’s down
the Amazon and into the rain forest, on safari in Kenya, herding
cattle in Colorado, living in an elephant sanctuary in Thailand,
or rafting the Colorado — we always take along a parent or
guardian for each kid. We do this, not for the kids’ or even the
parents’ comfort level, but for our own. If we’re going to put
your kid in even the tiniest bit of harm’s way, we feel better if
you’re there, too. However, we always explain to the parents
that they won’t be with their kids, only nearby. We’re making a
television show — and parents aren’t part of it. Most understand,
although, there was one father who turned indignant when told
he couldn’t spend the day in the small boat with his son, fish-ing
for piranha on a tributary of the Amazon. Silly fellow. He
seemed to think we’d paid several hundred thousand dollars to
put together a world-class vacation expressly for him and his
kid. After I explained the facts of television to him, he spent
the day with the other parents in another boat down another
tributary, but he wasn’t happy about it.
Derek’s mother isn’t like that; she was thrilled her son was
going on a Grand Canyon adventure. However, her husband was
in the military, serving in Iraq, and given the circumstances,
she didn’t feel right leaving Nicole, Derek’s little sister, with no
parent to take care of her. We agreed, and invited Nicole along
for the ride.
Mike, the final member of our group, is 13 and from Penn-sylvania.
He says he’s looking forward to seeing stars unpolluted
by light, and making new friends.
Aren’t we all?
THE MIGHTY COLORADO A prickly pear cactus emerges from
rocky granite on the banks of the rushing Colorado River near the
Diamond Creek confluence. The Grand Canyon’s first hostelry, the Farlee
Hotel, operated from 1884 to 1889 about a mile from the river’s edge
along this stretch. randy prentice
26 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 27
We have three big motorized rafts — one for the camera
crew and their gear, one for the parents, one for the
kids and me — and the paddle boat, which we (Julie,
the kids and I) will unpack, inflate, put in, use, take out, deflate
and put away many times before we reach Diamond Creek. After
we paddle our first rapid, the kids are feeling fearless. Sort of.
Indira: “In the big boat, you could hold on. In the paddle boat,
you had to push the boat through the water by hanging onto
nothing but your paddle.”
Natasha: “I was scared. Now I want more.”
Derek: “We got soaked. That was so cool.”
Mike: “It wasn’t that big a rapid.”
In the evenings, on the small beaches that line the river, we
form lines to haul gear, then set up camp, help make meals,
clean up our mess and try to clean up our bodies, learning what
we can live without: running water, indoor toilets, mirrors, elec-tricity,
air-conditioning, automobiles and, of course, television.
We also learn what we can live with.
Indira: “Fire ants? Nobody mentioned anything about fire
The kids put up their tents, but like me, rarely sleep in them.
Instead, they leave tents to parents, choosing to throw their own
sleeping bags onto the sand in a loose group. They are becoming
a gang. This is good. I think about what Mike said about mak-ing
new friends. All the kids are friendly, but as usual, some
are closer than others. For instance, Mike and Derek haven’t
especially gravitated to each other. I think about my own belief
that one of the gifts of travel is the possible discovery of yourself
through other people. I don’t know it then, but Mike and Derek
are about to learn this truth for themselves, the way most of us
learn anything worth knowing: the hard way.
We’re several days into the trip, and we’ve come to Hermit
Rapids, a.k.a. the great wave train. Julie decides we aren’t quali-fied
yet to paddle Hermit. We will run this rapid in one of the
motor rigs. The kids decide this means a wussy ride, and behave
accordingly. But the river doesn’t care what the kids think, and
will take all of three seconds to prove this to them. We set off
through Hermit. More happens after that. At the end of the
rapids, we talk about it.
Mike: “I just sat up front and didn’t hold on.”
You know, like on a roller coaster.
Derek: “I happened to look back and Mike had slipped or
been knocked out of the raft. I didn’t even think. I just grabbed
at him. I got hold of his life jacket and dragged him back in.”
Mike: “Now I understand it’s not a joke.”
Derek and Mike are friends now — no, more than friends.
One believes the other saved his life. So do the other kids.
They are becoming less a gang, more a team.
The river has made them so.
Every day we hike at least once. Of course we hike up to the
ancient Puebloan granaries. It’s one of
HOLD ON Rowers navigate Hermit Rapids (top)
on the Colorado River as their boat lurches in the
SPLISH SPLASH A boatman steers into the
fifth wave at Hermit Rapids (above), which can rise as
high as 20 feet.
FREE FALLING An oarsman rows into Upset
Rapids (right) as a passenger tumbles from the boat.
Col. Claude H. Birdseye named the rapids in 1923
after his expedition experienced its only serious upset
there. photographs by elias butler
(Text continued on page 31)
28 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 29
30 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 31
the high spots of the trip. Literally.
Natasha (puffing): “You told us it would be really steep, but
Sorry, Natasha. Grownups lie.
Nicole: “Short? I’m so short myself I have to work twice as
hard as the rest of you to get up this mountain.”
Justus: “Cliff. It’s a cliff, not a mountain.”
Mike: “No view is worth this.”
But when we get to the granaries, all of us are slam-dunked
by this view. The Grand Canyon is below and around us, the
river a small green thread at the bottom, and above us, all the
sky there is. We are lost in beauty. Of course, the Canyon doesn’t
care about that either.
One day, up the Little Colorado, we reverse our life jackets,
wearing them like diapers, and then, forming our own wave
train, each linking our legs around the person in front of us,
we hoot and holler our way down that smaller, friendlier, more
shallow river. This is followed by a world-class mud fight. Kids
love mud fights. I know. I tend to start them.
“This was my favorite day,” one kids sighs.
Derek tells us later that his favorite spot on the river was Deer
Creek. “It was this beautiful pool of turquoise fed by a waterfall.
We all held hands and walked into it together. We walked into
Natasha: “I wasn’t at the end of the rainbow. I was in it.”
You see why I may be the luckiest journalist in the world. For
16 years I’ve been granted the opportunity to experience the
world through new eyes, younger souls.
We swim in more natural pools, hike more cliffs, play more
games and paddle more rapids. Their confidence builds. Then
we come to Upset Rapids. Good name for it. On the 1-to-10 scale
of difficulty and danger assigned to the rapids of the Grand
Canyon, Upset is a 9. Julie tells us we have a 50 percent chance
This is our big moment. If we don’t flip, if we paddle as a team,
not a gang, if we get it right . . . then we (I don’t count me on this
one) will become the youngest group ever to successfully paddle
Upset. We will be record-breakers. Well, they will.
We hit Upset with all we’ve got.
Julie shouts commands. We follow them. We get slammed
by walls of water. We breathe water. We survive. We triumph.
Intact and in our raft.
HIDING PLACE The ancestral Puebloans built granaries high above
the Colorado River for secure storage of their seeds (preceding panel, pages
28 and 29). randy prentice
STONE WALL Muav limestone (left), formed more than 500 million
years ago, lines the sheer walls of National Canyon in Grand Canyon National
Park. elias butler
WHAT’S UP? A salmon-colored chuckwalla (above), peeks out from a
crack between two rocks. damon g. bullock
(Continued from page 27)
32 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 33
“These kids?” Julie says, “They’ve earned the right to
By the end of the trip, each of the kids is, like
everyone else who comes here, visibly or invisibly changed by
the Canyon, the river, the experience of being part of them.
Derek: “I’ve learned no matter how old you are, you can do
more than you think you can.”
Nicole: “I’ve got a lot of blisters and bug bites, but it was a
wonderful way to turn 12.”
Natasha: “I’ve learned to roll in the mud, get dirty — and not
worry about it.” Her lip gloss is gone.
Justus: “It was a test of strength and will.” His face says he
knows he passed that test.
Mike: “In the end, even the hikes were worth the work.” He
also has a new friend in Derek.
Indira: “I’ll miss everyone here. In the future I’ll appreciate
my friends more.”
The future has a way of arriving unannounced.
One day after we leave the river at Diamond Creek, I’m in
Houston, Texas, talking to an 11-year-old boy named Dewan.
While we were experiencing the power and glory of nature in
the Grand Canyon, that same nature, completely unbeknown
to us, was showing another facet of its power to the Gulf Coast.
We humans called it Katrina.
Dewan and his family lived in New Orleans. They got out at
the last minute. Dewan persuaded his mother they had to leave,
which means he may have saved her life. Their home in New
Orleans is completely under water. Now they’re staying with
relatives in Houston. I ask Dewan what he brought with him. He
says he brought some clean underwear, that’s about it. I ask him
what he left behind that he most wishes he’d brought.
“My friends,” he says in a quiet, sad young voice.
I ask him what he needs most right now.
Life as Dewan knew it is over. He must find new friends,
make a new home. It will take courage to release the familiar
and embrace the new, but I’m betting Dewan will find that cour-age.
I see it in the boy’s eyes.
We do not always grow chronologically. We grow when we
need to, each of us as it comes our time to do so. This was true
in the Grand Canyon. It is true in New Orleans. And in the
end, it’s possible that we are not transformed by life so much as
we are constantly transcending ourselves. It may be the most
authentic thing about us.
At any age.
In any of life’s canyons.
PEACEFUL PANORAMA Grand Canyon high points form bright
islands amid the shadows as day breaks at Lipan Point. A popular spot on the
South Rim to view the Canyon, Lipan Point overlooks the Unkar Delta,
inhabited by ancestral Puebloans from a.d. 850 to 1200. george stocking
Linda Ellerbee is a native Texan who took a wrong turn, ended up in New
York City and now spends much of her time inventing reasons to change
this. Or at least transcend it. Ellerbee, a former correspondent, reporter
and anchor for NBC, ABC and CBS, owns Lucky Duck Productions, which
produces “Nick News,” TV’s longest-running news show for children, airing
34 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 35
over brown stones beside me. My father, in his 20s, tied a
leader to my line, using a straight finger around which to
make a nail knot. Some call it a blood knot, he said. I felt each
of his tugs through the rod. When he finished, he expected
me to tie my own fly onto the end, which took my small fingers
about five minutes. He reached into the creek, lifting a wet stone,
checking its underside to see what aquatic larvae were active. He
gestured with the cobble, pointing downstream.
“It’s called Canyon Creek because there’s a deep canyon down
I looked downstream, between pines and cottonwoods. I
glanced back at my father and he had this faraway look, some-how
seeing the bowels of this creek 20 miles, 70 miles away.
“All the way to the desert,” he said. “Big cliffs and a narrow, dark
bottom. Wild land down there.” He picked out a fly for him-self
— an elk-hair caddis. “We’ll go down some day, get inside
I looked back down the creek and my imagination burst open
like a magician’s box. Shadows shifting against each other in the
winding depths of cliff and creek. Madhouses of boulders and
waterfalls. Somewhere down there.
W e returned and fished the head of Canyon Creek
countless times over the next couple of decades, but
my father and I never wandered farther down into the
deep country below. That is why I went in my 30s, traveling with
two friends, each of us wearing a heavy pack with two weeks’
worth of food and gear. We were there to walk the canyon.
Meadows roamed alongside cold creek water, fringed by thick
stands of ponderosa pine, white pine and Douglas fir. In the
forests surrounding us, massive elk antlers lay discarded and
cluttered with branches and rotted, fallen trees. We dropped
our packs and I walked to the water where it ran clear and swift
across a shield of bedrock. The lullaby sound of the upper creek
has always relaxed my muscles, made me close my eyes to listen
more intently. The sound was not the roar of urgent water, and
not the plucking of a tiny stream. It was the ornamental singing
of an Arizona creek just beginning its way from the mountains
to the desert.
In my right hand I carried a sack as heavy as a bag of gran-ite
— my father’s ashes.
One friend, Keith Knadler, a river guide-turned-stock market
day trader, read aloud from his journal, something about death
and cycles. I listened, then reached out with the bag and poured
the remains of my father into Canyon Creek.
Days after he died of a heart attack, I had sorted through
his belongings where I found heaps of maps rolled, folded and
stacked as if in obsession. Sometimes the same map had been
purchased four or five times, folded and refolded until the
paper turned soft as wool. He had pored over the topography of
Arizona. One map was of the interior of Canyon Creek, a place
he never went.
His ashes briefly clouded the downstream water. Currents
sorted the fragments of bone, feathering my father into safe
places — behind a rock, on the outside edges of a quick current,
across fluted sand in a pool. The creek used his bones to spell
out its intentions and directions. My father, now a subject of
fluid mechanics, became more than ever a student of a creek
he’d fished since before I was born.
“Done,” I said, shaking out the last of the ashes.
My other friend, Irvin Fernandez, a federal wildlife biologist,
said, “Just beginning.”
From there we left, starting a journey from Canyon Creek’s
Special places hold special memories. For one writer,
the place was Canyon Creek, and the memory was of his father.
It was their place, and when it came time to say goodbye,
they went together one last time.
By Craig Childs
Farewell at Canyon Creek
MORNING MIST Early morning fog (above) drifts along the base of
a prominent buttress on the Mogollon Rim in North-central Arizona. A Rim
Country sunrise imitates art as watercolor clouds float above Milk Ranch
Point near Pine (right). both by nick berezenko
S P I R I T U A L J O U R N E Y S
I I was 7 years old when my father took me to Canyon Creek. I held a fly rod in two hands, creek water flowing
36 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 37
origin at a cleft in the Mogollon Rim to its confluence with the
Salt River more than a hundred miles below in the Sonoran
The weather on this February day was warm at 7,000 feet.
Banks of snow dirtied with pine and spruce needles had
been whittled down, left in only the most shaded places.
On the third day down Canyon Creek we crossed fallen bridges
of Douglas fir, sinking between steep walls. Timber rose densely
up the canyon sides, occasionally revealing streaks of cliffs. This
site was below the places my father and I had once fished. New
country. Bigger boulders and sharper drops presented as mead-ows
surrendered and swirled into short waterfalls.
Smells billowed into the air — the musk of animals and the
heavy scent of garden loam. Wrinkled, dried canyon grapes
released a sweet, fermented odor. A storm arrived in the late
afternoon while I fished for dinner. A throaty boom of thunder
struck the forest followed by echoes testing themselves through
the canyon, rounding into smaller side canyons, rattling into the
trees. A sheet of hail immediately followed. The stream bubbled
with impacts, and I held my rod still. No sense in fishing, or
moving. Water braided off my hat brim.
I had stood like this so many times in the past, shrouded in
rain on Canyon Creek, motionless, my rod in my hands. Usually
at these times my father had been a mile or so from me, alone
on a creek boulder doing the same thing — listening to the gra-ciously
violent sounds of a storm, smelling the air, waiting.
When the storm subsided, I cast, sending out arcs of line. I
cast below damming rock piles, into the good places where my
father taught me that trout feed. The thunder became guarded
with distance, grumbling away. Now drenched and darkened by
clouds, the forest was opulent in shades of green.
Night came and brought heavy rain. The three of us set a tarp
and crowded beneath it with our sleeping bags. With hiking
boots stowed, turned upside-down so they wouldn’t collect water,
we sank into our bags. Lightning continued into the night — crisp,
blue flares of electricity burning the air. Strokes of thunder lulled
me to sleep, and I didn’t wake again until dawn, when remnants
of the storm drifted through the forest like ghosts.
We walked for several days into canyon after canyon.
Tones of running water deepened and hissed as the
landscape tightened. Penned by cliff walls, the creek
became more resolute and turbulent.
Morning came cold with beads of ice around the cavernous
entrance to my sleeping bag. Sunrise was hardly warm. Irvin
coaxed a fire out of damp pine needles and rain-wet twigs. A
little flame came of it. Mostly smoke. We stood and crouched
around it, letting the smoke permeate our hair and clothes and
fingernails. We were deep into the White Mountain Apache
Reservation. We had permission to be here, but there was no
one to see our papers. The land felt empty. Yet it was full, rich,
weighted with forest and eroded stone.
Day after day the forest changed. Heavy conifers gave way to
oaks, and then to sycamores. We found our first sotol, a stud-ded
ribbon-leafed plant similar to an agave, and a gangly cactus
called Whipple cholla, Cylindropuntia whipplei. The desert was
The walking was hard with no trail to follow but the mean-dering
path of the creek. At times I envied my father, turned
to elemental pieces, flowing easily where I fell and pushed and
clawed. He was free, and I imagined his bones spread over
miles, tumbling through riffles, sinking to the bottom of pools
under the belly-shadows of trout, catching among broken alder
branches and stacks of waterlogged sycamore leaves. I thought
of him as playful and ecstatic with the water. The finest dust of
his ashes flushed into the dizzy bubbles of waterfalls.
Meanwhile, we set up camp in the narrow tumble of the
canyon where Canyon Creek poured and leaked between half-cocked
boulders three and four stories tall. I slept on sand,
atop the tracks of a mountain lion that had walked past that
We saw our first mesquite trees and bushes of cliffrose.
Pine forests on high rims thinned into junipers and
oaks and piñon pines. The canyon cut down into
the salt-and-pepper granite floor of the desert, the rock carved
by water into hooks and curves as elegant as whale flukes.
Waterfalls stacked into each other over olive-green pools of
unknown depth. Keith tested one, dropping his pack and stand-ing
naked on a polished granite promontory 25 feet above the
water. He dove and the white flash of his body sailed underneath,
into the dim, deep water. He emerged with a gasp.
Passage through the granite turned out to be more difficult
than we had planned. The rock was beautiful and sleek, but
relentless. Sheer domes had been smoothed by running water.
Handholds were difficult to find. Along certain passageways, the
entire creek became a deep flume a foot-and-a-half wide. After
a couple of days, I had dislocated a number of ribs in a fall, and
a couple of my fingers were broken from another fall. I wrote in
my journal with big, sloppy letters.
Finally, the first saguaro cactus, green
Lightning continued into the night — crisp,
blue flares of electricity burning the air.
(Text continued on page 43)
THROUGH THE VALE Canyon Creek flows through an idyllic mountain
meadow on the journey to its confluence with the Salt River. jeff snyder
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
38 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 39
40 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 41
SOFTENED EDGE At dawn, the Mazatzal Mountains provide a
tranquil backdrop for a dramatic Coconino sandstone rampart at the edge of
the Mogollon Rim (preceding panel, pages 38 and 39). nick berezenko
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
STILL LIFE IN BLOOM Claret cup cactus blossoms (above)
punctuate an otherwise monochromatic composition of ponderosa pine
cones and lichen-covered stones. jack dykinga
CANYON COUNTRY Flowing over large boulders, Canyon Creek
travels through the upper Salt River Canyon on the White Mountain Apache
Reservation (right). jeff snyder
42 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 43
DESERT REFLECTION Higher elevations give
way to Sonoran Desert flora and fauna in a canyon
studded with carved boulders and giant saguaro cacti at
the confluence of Canyon Creek with the Salt River.
and heavy with arms, appeared like a
gateway. We had reached the desert floor. In the final miles
before the confluence of Canyon Creek and the Salt River, we
found canyon ragweed and desert lavender woven into the gran-ite
cracks. Bristling teddy bear cholla grew on the slopes.
Morning troops of javelinas, wild desert pigs, skirted out from
under mesquite and paloverde trees. The larger gorge walls,
thousands of feet above us, detached into buttes and pinnacles,
releasing Canyon Creek. Still, in the bottom, the granite held on,
white in morning light, the water clear, ethereal. Shallow with
sand, the creek hummed and swirled.
The seasons of life had changed inside my body. Alone, I
rested on a boulder in pure, hot sunlight, far beyond the dark
timber and snow banks of the Mogollon Rim. I was now a desert
As I had walked from high country to desert it was not the
tangible land that I felt change. It was my emotion. Every shift
in color, temperature and plant life caused a transition in my
blood, in every thought. There was, of course, the quantifiable:
physical geology and botany, scientific nomenclature, laws of
hydrology that now governed my father’s bones. But more than
anything, there was emotion. I could feel the change in the land,
having for two weeks walked across one of its more striking
Walking alone — we each found our own routes down — I
arrived at the confluence of Canyon Creek and the Salt River
among great, carved boulders. There was no banner, no fanfare.
The creek flowed unguarded into the deep-voiced Salt River.
Water boomed into rapids. I took off every last piece of clothing
and walked into the creek along its final yards. Where waters
met, a sliver of a boulder stood out. I climbed onto its back and
sat, bringing my knees to my chest. Next to the clean rock,
my skin was pale, bloodied, scraped. I sat and listened to the
changed tone, to the sheer volume of the Salt River.
The movement of a creek, cutting open the earth, is as simple
an act as I could imagine, like a song or a story. I did not think
of my father and his ashes as a traveler, ceaselessly flowing from
one confluence to the next. Instead, I thought of him as a pro-cess.
A story being told. I thought of him as a raw, deep canyon
heaped with boulders and mazes of creek passages — the canyon
he had once promised me. I thought of him as the beginning
and the end at once.
I whispered, “Of course I don’t understand all of this, Father.
I’m still alive. You’re dead.” I brought my head to my knees so I
looked more like a boulder and less like a person. The Salt River
split around me, sailing through the desert.
(Continued from page 37)
Craig Childs is native to Arizona and grew up fishing the creeks of the
Mogollon Rim with his father. He has written several highly acclaimed books,
his most recent, The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild.
44 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 45
With the holiday season come
the holiday sales. And while department
stores have a lot to offer, they can’t match
what you’ll find on the Navajo Reservation,
where the art is spectacular and the
lines are a lot shorter.
BY ROSEANN HANSON
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JERRY JACKA
0000000000000000000000 A F T E R- C H R I S TM A S S P E CI A L 0000
Michelle Begay (top)
displays some of the
jewelry sold at the
Hubbell Trading Post.
Navajo artist Perry
Shorty’s intricate silver
shades of turquoise. Perry
hand-fashions stamps to
imprint the silver.
Traditional Navajo cluster
bracelets (left), made by
Jimmy Yellowhair during
the 1970s, feature brilliant
turquoise set in silver.
Made by Navajo
silversmith Perry Shorty,
necklace set with Lone
for the customary
Early Navajo squash-blossom
originally made mostly
of silver — turquoise
was added in the
46 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 47
Roseann Hanson, a native Tucson writer and jewelry artist, still has her first
jewelry purchase — a tiny sterling silver bracelet made in classic Navajo style
with a simple turquoise cabochon and three silver bars, bought in 1973 at
Jerry Jacka’s first photograph published in Arizona Highways in 1958 led to
a 45-year career photographing Native American people, their land and their
art. He and his wife, Lois, recently retired to their historic ranch near Heber.
Their daughter, Cindy, now manages Jerry’s vast photographic files.
y idea of a winter white sale isn’t the kind where you
stand in line for the opening of Macy’s after-holiday
blowout. In fact, the only line I’ve ever encountered on
my annual trek is a small herd of sheep filing across
the blacktop of a narrow road heading north into the
heart of the Navajo Nation.
It happened inadvertently one year, the trip that began my
semiannual winter pilgrimage. The day before Christmas, my
husband, Jonathan, and I decided to flee the frenzy of the com-mercial
holidays in Tucson.
But where to go? To find an answer, we grabbed an Arizona
atlas and a couple cups of coffee. Our fingers slid over the famil-iar
bumpy terrain of the Mogollon Rim, the White Mountains . . .
no, somewhere different. Drawn even farther north, our fingers
sought out that huge, almost blank northeastern quadrant of
the map — no cities, few roads and beckoning names like Black
Mesa and the Painted Desert.
We exchanged looks and grinned. Snow in sagebrush-and-mesa
country. No tourists. Navajo and Hopi country it was.
Crossing our fingers, we called La Posada Hotel & Gardens,
the Mary Colter-designed 1930s railroad hotel in Winslow.
Someone had just canceled, leaving our favorite room avail-able
— the Roosevelt (as in Franklin D.), which is tucked into a
quiet corner with a door to the patio and garden.
La Posada is a historic landmark, and has been restored and
updated during the last 10 years. When you stay there, it feels as
if you’re the guest of a wealthy eccentric tycoon — precisely the
feeling Mary Colter intended with her design. It’s been called
Our plan was to go forth each day from La Posada, exploring
out-of-the-way trading posts, pawn shops and galleries looking
for classic — as well as contemporary — Navajo, Hopi and Zuni
art, rugs, pottery, kachinas, paintings, sculptures, silverwork
and bead jewelry. We didn’t really know what to expect; we
didn’t even know if they’d be open.
Not only were most of the shops open, nearly all of them were
having 50-percent-off sales — real sales, not just exorbitant pric-ing
cut down to standard retail, like many of the tourist spots
along the freeways. It became a joke between us: We’d enter a
little gallery tucked into a red rock canyon off a potholed side
road and admire some art or jewelry. Sure enough, the friendly
salesperson would eventually chirp, “And everything’s 50 per-cent
off this week!”
We started calling them winter white sales because dur-ing
the time we like to go — after Christmas and before New
Year’s — the sky is a sparkling lapis-blue and the red mesas and
pale green sage deserts are dusted in the most perfect sugarlike
Jewelry is my biggest weakness. In addition to being a writer,
I’m a lapidary and metalsmith, cutting up pretty rocks and
polishing them on grinding wheels, and then setting them in
sterling silver and other metals. And beads . . . well, I can never
resist them. Jonathan says I act like a raven around sparkly
things. My eyes wander and dart, and my fingers twitch toward
beads and rocks and baubles of all kinds.
So, I’m always on the lookout for special jewelry — classic
old Navajo sterling silver and turquoise, beads or any work by
contemporary new artists. During that first trip I bought two of
my favorite winter-white-sale treasures. At the Keam’s Canyon
Trading Post (now McGee’s Indian Art Gallery), 83 miles north
of Winslow, I found a contemporary sterling silver bracelet with
hand-engraved coyote and rabbit tracks.
Later that day at a dusty trading post, we were poking
around the back room when I found an old pawned Navajo
necklace with 10 strands of heishi, and nuggets of turquoise,
spiny oyster and coral. The original joclas — long, beaded hoop
earrings — were still tied to the front of the necklace where the
owner often stored them, and it was well-worn with several
repairs. I knew it was old because it also had a single bead of
turquoise woven into the strap at the back of the neck — usually
a bead blessed by a medicine man, and uncommon today.
Certainly, the thrill of getting good deals is hard to beat, but
the real treasure remains the experiences we’ve had just by
turning off the freeway and heading down dirt roads, lured by
hand-painted “trading post” or “pawn shop, 3 miles” signs.
We discovered shops whose front room was part deli, part
video store and part minimart, and whose back room was a
dusty treasure trove of old pawn and new art, where owners
weren’t as harried as they are during the summer tourist season,
and where we listened to early trading tales. How so-and-so’s
grandfather brought in German yarn for the weavers, silver
for the smiths, buying and trading turquoise from veins long
gone. I was in heaven. That’s the part of art that you can’t buy
off the Plaza in Santa Fe or in a sparkling halogen-lit gallery in
Scottsdale. Sure, I had to blow the dust off my necklace and jocla
set, but the stories it tells me, the memories it stores . . . that’s
the real bargain.
A hand-woven rug at the Hubbell Trading Post features the whirling-log symbol of Roman Hubbell Navajo Tours, operated by trader John Lorenzo
Hubbell’s son during the Depression. On the wall hang paintings of motifs sent to J.L. Hubbell by traveling artists to inspire local Navajo weavers.
Navajo artisans used a combination of turquoise and shells to create these
necklaces made in the 1920s and 1930s (above, right).
Bruce Burnham looks at jewelry in his pawn vault at the R.B. Burnham Trading
Post & Co. in Sanders (right).
48 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 49
TThe stage was set for a Christmas massacre. It seemed inevitable
as the party of American boundary surveyors, escorted by 25
soldiers from the Third Cavalry, came face to face with 1,500
Yuma Indians at the Colorado River. The year was 1851.
When the Yumas refused to allow the travelers to cross the
river, breastworks were formed and weapons were readied for
what the troops expected to be a pitched assault on their camp.
No doubt, with such lopsided numbers, the battle would have
been a disaster for the Americans. But bloodshed was averted,
thanks to something rarely experienced among Indians and
whites in the early West — an act of kindness.
The man responsible was Lt. Amiel Weeks Whipple, a quiet,
aloof, industrious topographical engineer who possessed little
of the brash and daring that made celebrities of other frontier
A fellow soldier once described him as “a Washington City
dandy with white kid gloves” who disliked roughing it.
“Take him away from his books,” said Lt. Cave Johnson Couts,
“and he’s not worth a tinker’s damn for anything under God’s
Whipple was born in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1817. After
graduating from West Point in 1841, he worked as a topographi-cal
engineer in the East and the South, and in 1849 was assigned
to survey the boundary between the United States and Mexico.
The war between the two countries had just ended, and much
of what is now the Southwestern United States was ceded to the
U.S. under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Whipple’s involvement began with his departure from San
Diego on September 11, 1849. His assignment was to locate and
survey the mouth of the Gila River, near its junction with the
Colorado. After three months of work, the lieutenant and his
escort of dragoons — led by the opinionated Couts — returned
That surveying trip set the stage for the near-massacre two
years later. It also produced two excellent journals — one by
Whipple, the other by Couts — that historians have consulted
for decades. The journals show a hard split between the two
men in their view of the Yumas, who are identified in some
accounts as Quechans.
Couts, a man of action, worried the Indians would violate
their vow of wanting peace with American visitors. Turns out,
they had good reason to annul their promises.
In those days, the trail through the desert was bustling with
gold rushers, forty-niners bound for California. Many arrived
at the river famished, weak and lacking clothing and supplies.
They replenished their stocks by stealing from the Yumas and
leaving the Indians in the same desperate straits.
Whipple and his party camped near the Colorado River for
more than a month in the fall of 1849 — a time of heavy traffic
and great tension between the two groups.
“I have been on thorns since my arrival at the Colorado,” wrote
Couts, who described the Yumas as impudent and insolent.
In his diary, The Journal and Maps of Cave J. Couts, Couts
claimed the Yumas’ frequent declarations of friendship were
sprinkled with “rascality on the one side, and common Indian
treachery on the other.”
If trouble broke out, Couts wrote, “God only knows what
Whipple would do!” Couts couldn’t understand the trust and
confidence Whipple had in the Yumas.
In his journal, The Whipple Report, the lieutenant wrote
extensively and admiringly of the Yumas. In early November,
he made this entry:
“One month has now elapsed since my arrival at this place,
and I have spent all my leisure moments in studying the char-acter
of the Indians.
“I have visited their ranchos; I have daily admitted them freely
in my tent; upon the table are always many little things curi-ous
and valuable to them; and men and women and children
are permitted to examine and pass them from hand to hand
without being watched, and never to my knowledge, have I lost
the value of a penny.”
Whipple’s faith in the Yumas was a dangerous gambit, but it
paid off two years later when he returned to the same spot with
a group from the John Russell Bartlett Border Survey Commission.
The party of nearly 40 men, including an escort led by Col.
Louis Craig, arrived shortly before Christmas 1851. They had
marked the Gila River for some 350 miles, from San Carlos
west to within 60 miles of the junction of the Gila and the
The work was halted, however, on Christmas Eve, when chief
Amiel Whipple isn’t a household name, but his act
of kindness toward an Indian girl in 1849 helped
avert a massacre on Christmas Eve in 1851.
by Leo W. Banks
illustration by Stefano Morri
50 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7
surveyor A.B. Gray ran out of money to pay his men, and was
dangerously low on supplies.
That night, after the work was stopped, the party pushed
west to the junction of the two rivers, expecting to find a mili-tary
outpost. However, Fort Yuma had been abandoned a short
time before. And instead of finding U.S. soldiers, the exhausted
party was met by 1,500 hostile Yumas, who announced that the
Americans wouldn’t be allowed to cross.
Earlier, in April 1850, the Yumas had risen up and killed
a gang of 12 men at the crossing. The gang, which included
Thomas Glanton, had attacked Indian men and raped the women.
Accounts say they did this to secure the exclusive right to ferry
travelers across the river. After the killings, the Indians took
possession of Glanton’s two flatboats, and with them, control
of the crossing.
Although Whipple left no extensive written record of the
encounter that followed, the story was recounted in 1895 by Frank
Wheaton, who, at the time, was an Army general. In 1851, however,
he was an 18-year-old chain-bearer for the Bartlett Commission.
At around 4 p.m. on the afternoon of their arrival, the survey
party heard what sounded like chiefs addressing their people.
The whites could tell the news wasn’t good by the looks on their
interpreters’ faces. “The enemy had decided we were not to be
permitted to leave the spot, and be massacred before morning,”
The Americans prepared for a desperate resistance, drawing
all their wagons, equipment and property into a circle. Every
man had a good rifle, two pistols and ample ammunition.
At nightfall, Juan Antonio, the Yuma chief, and Colonel Azul,
his leading warrior, approached the camp asking to see the com-manding
officer — they wanted to know how much money the
Americans had, and where they kept it.
The physical appearance of the warriors surely added to the
tension. Although Wheaton didn’t describe their attire in his
recollection of the encounter, which was published in the Rocky
Mountain News on June 30, 1895, Whipple did write about their
appearance in his 1849 report. Presumably, their fighting attire
in 1851 was similar to what it was in 1849.
According to Whipple’s earlier account, the large, well-muscled
warriors wore white breechcloths, and their faces were dyed
jet black with a red stripe from the forehead to the nose, and
then across the chin. Their hair hung to the middle of their
backs — the length of it adorned with eagle feathers and the rattle
of a rattlesnake. In addition, many had rings in their noses and
wore strings of seashell necklaces.
On the night of Christmas Eve, Whipple received Chief
Antonio and Colonel Azul with courtesy, giving no indication
that he was aware of their plan.
Whipple offered $2 apiece for every man the Indians would
ferry across the river, and $1 for every horse and mule.
“The proposition was in accordance with plans previously
decided upon, as it was thought best to put on a broad front,”
As the meeting progressed, the families of the two Yuma lead-ers
entered the camp. The women peered into the tents of the
Americans, then drew back behind the warriors and sat on the
Shortly thereafter, an Indian girl, about 15 years old, left a
group of Indian women and children and moved forward to
She was his daughter, and according to Wheaton, she was the
beauty of the tribe — she was dressed in a short red skirt reach-ing
to the knees, a handsome beaded waist and leggings, and
exquisitely ornamented moccasins.
After whispering in her father’s ear, the meeting with the
Americans ended abruptly. Juan Antonio called his attendants
aside and sat down under a tree. Soon, a large group of Yumas
assembled, with each Indian fixing his gaze on Whipple.
Then the interpreter addressed the lieutenant, informing him
the warriors found him familiar, and wanted to know if he’d
come to the river two years earlier and camped on a hill opposite
the present camp.
Whipple said he had, explaining that he’d done several weeks
of survey work. As soon as the lieutenant spoke, the chief’s
daughter stood up, took her father by the hand, and led him to
Whipple’s side. She touched him on the arm and said something
to her father.
“I saw by the expression of delight on the face of the interpret-ers
that the danger was past,” Wheaton recalled. The reason for
the change in the demeanor of the Yumas was soon explained.
Two years before, the Indian maiden was extended a kindness
by Lieutenant Whipple. She was hungry and suffering at the
time, and the lieutenant had called her to his tent and given her
a watermelon and a small round looking glass.
“The chief’s daughter recognized her former benefactor, and the
sequel proves that an Indian never forgets a kindness,” Wheaton
wrote. “Within an hour the two boats were carrying our party
across the river, and we found ourselves surrounded by friends
who spared no effort for our comfort and safety.”
Whipple’s party reached San Diego on January 8, 1852.
The teenage Wheaton went on to a distinguished military
career, retiring as a major general in 1897. He saw action against
the Cheyenne, the Modoc Indians of Oregon and Confederate
troops in the Civil War’s Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864.
Despite those battles, Wheaton said the “John Smith-
Pocahontas-like” standoff with the Yumas was one of the closest
calls he’d ever had.
As for Whipple, he went on to lead another dangerous
expedition — the location of a transcontinental railroad line
from Arkansas to the Pacific. He also became the namesake of
Prescott’s Whipple Barracks — later known as Fort Whipple — a
key outpost during the Apache Wars.
Whipple rose to become a major general by the time of the
Civil War. He was wounded at Chancellorsville while command-ing
a division of the Army of Potomac, and died May 7, 1863. He
Although his life was short — even by 19th century stan-dards
— the legacy of Amiel Weeks Whipple includes a Christmas
miracle and a story worth remembering.
Whenever he visits Yuma, Tucson-based Leo W. Banks thinks of Whipple’s
experience in those early days of Southwest settlement — especially his
Italian artist Stefano Morri studied engraving at the Institute of Art in
Urbino, and his illustrations appear in magazines around the world.
He lives in Rimini, Italy.
` Soon, a large group of Yumas
assembled, with each Indian fixing
his gaze on Whipple.
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52 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 53
hike of the month
we’ve enjoyed the Santa
Cruz River all afternoon,
crawling down embankments
to get to it, hanging off
bridges to touch it, and
listening to its melodic rush
through land once called
The explorer Juan Bautista
de Anza II opened this part
of Southern Arizona for us
latecomers. In December
1759, he became captain
of the Tubac Presidio, a
southern Spanish outpost
in the New World, and later
he headed a momentous
expedition west that led to
the founding of San Francisco.
The trail we’re following
this day bears his name. It
begins at Tubac Presidio
State Historic Park and
proceeds 4.5 miles along the
river, ending at the ruins of
the 200-year-old Tumacacori
The trail’s first leg is wide,
dusty and hardly remote. It
parallels the back walls of
luxury homes in the Barrio
de Tubac development, and,
at times, depending on tree
cover, we can hear the hum
of traffic along Interstate 19
But civilization eventually
recedes, and we find good
shade walking beneath
the branches of willow
and cottonwood trees, and
through thick mesquite
We find adventure, too.
Behind a tangle of brush, we
explore an abandoned
building, probably a long-ago
cowboy bunkhouse. It has
about 15 attached rooms set
in a row with a collapsing
roof, cracked adobe walls
and the permanent whisper
of wind through its gaping
windows and doors.
My 11-year-old son,
Patrick, steps inside and says,
“Hey, Dad, it’s pretty spooky
in here.” He pokes around
with saucer eyes. I see those
wonder-filled eyes again a
short distance down the trail
as he stands over the sun-bleached
bones of a cow. The
remains lie at a sharp bend
in a sandy wash, making it
likely the poor critter got
caught up in a monsoon
flood last summer.
But the Santa Cruz River
is the real star of this hike. It
flows year-round along this
stretch of the Juan Bautista
de Anza National Historic
Trail — strong enough in
a couple of places to form
minirapids. We encounter
three river-crossings, the
first coming after about 1.5
miles, and consisting of logs
and wood slats over marshy
Here, we also play sneak-up
on a flush of ducks that
gather on the blue water just
ahead of us, then wing off in
mad escape as they hear us
approach, only to land again
downstream to begin the
The first real bridge comes
immediately after this
crossing, and there’s a second
one about 2 miles beyond,
just after passing through the
gate into Tumacacori National
Historic Park. The bridges
are made of ropes and planks
that shake and rattle as we
walk over them, but they’re
well-built and good fun.
We turn the crossings into
play areas. Patrick lies on his
stomach on the bridges and
dangles his hand in the cool
water. Then he crawls out onto
an overhanging tree stump,
tempting a good soaking if
the brittle branch snaps.
We may be many lifetimes
away from New Spain, but
with water rushing under
the towering trees and birds
lighting on sandbars in the
sunshine, the beauty of the
Anza trail helps us imagine
what it must have been like.
by Leo W. Banks photographs by Edward McCain
Length: 4.5 miles one way.
Elevation Gain: None.
Payoff: Running water, shade trees and history.
Location: Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is 43 miles south of Tucson;
Tumacacori National Historical Park is approximately 46 miles south of
Getting There: To Tubac trailhead, drive south of Tucson on Interstate 19 and
take Exit 34 to Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. The trailhead lies south of
the museum. To reach Tumacacori trailhead, drive 46 miles south of Tucson
on I-19 and take Exit 29. The trail begins at the northwest corner of the
national park property.
Additional Information: Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, (520) 398-2252;
pr.state.az.us/Parks/parkhtml/tubac.html. Tumacacori National Historical
Park, (520) 398-2341; nps.gov/tuma.
Where Explorers Roamed
ANZA HIGHWAY The Santa Cruz
River riffles alongside the Juan
Bautista de Anza National Historic
Trail between Tubac and Tumacacori.
The full trail stretches 1,210 miles
from Nogales to San Francisco,
tracing the route Anza traveled to
found the city in 1776.
ANYTHING BUT DRY Author
Leo W. Banks and his son Patrick,
11, trek through a dry branch
of the river between Tubac and
Tumacacori, the most popular
section of the Anza trail in Arizona.
The Anza trail in Southern
Arizona offers hikers a chance
to walk in the footsteps
of a Spanish captain.
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.
Garrett Wiese ambles over
one of the footbridges that
crisscross the Santa Cruz
River, a riparian playground
for several rare bird species.
State Historic Park
SANTA RITA MOUNTAINS
Santa Cruz River
54 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 55
the first time i drove
to Fossil Creek, I counted
the cars that had tumbled
down the steep drop-off
into Hackberry Canyon.
I imagined the unseen
scenarios that sent them
swirling into the depths
of rock, juniper and
manzanita — maybe they
took a corner too fast or met
an unfriendly patch of ice. I’ll
never know for sure.
Today, as I travel the same
road and look into the same
canyon, I can’t help but do
the same thing. Axles, hoods
and wheels are scattered on
the downward slope. The
count reaches four, but I
know there are others out
of my sight, where trees and
shrubs hide the mangled,
But the broken cars aren’t
the reason we venture into
these rugged hills. We
have come to see Fossil
Creek, which now flows
freely after recently being
restored. Lifted from its
bonds in the summer of
2005, the warm-water creek
that spurts from springs at
an inviting 70 degrees no
longer feeds the pumps of
the Irving Hydroelectric
Facility. Although Fossil
Creek is only a sliver of the
Southwestern riparian areas
that have vanished in the last
century, its return to nature
can definitely be seen as a
For 14 miles, the creek
now drains its section of
the northwestern Mazatzal
Mountains, uninterrupted, all
the way to the Verde River.
The restoration has
changed not only the outlook
of Fossil Creek, but the entire
area. Man-made remnants,
such as the flumes and pipes
that crisscross the hills, will
be removed by the year 2009.
One spot that’s already
undergone a drastic change is
Stehr Lake, a century-old
retention pond built as an
impoundment for water
feeding the plant. The lake has
been drained, and as I stand
on the breached dam looking
out at the cracked lake bed, I
remember having camped in
this same spot.
Although once a beautiful
little lake lined with majestic
cottonwoods, the scar that
remains may also
be seen as a benefit.
Along with the
restored water, Fossil
Creek is welcoming
back its native fish.
With the help of Northern
Arizona University and a
conglomerate of government
agencies, native Arizona fish,
some endangered, will swim
once again in the travertine
pools of Fossil Creek.
A leading facilitator of
the restoration project, Dr.
Jane Marks of NAU’s biology
department, says changes can
already be seen. “Overall, the
project is going very well,” she
says. “Native fish appear to be
recovering, and so far, exotic
fish have stayed away.” But
projects like Fossil Creek take
time, according to Marks,
who says, “We don’t know
how long it will take for the
river to fully recover, but we
expect that within a decade, it
will be well on its way.”
A large part will be left to the
public, who must help maintain
the health of the creek. “Our
biggest concerns are how to
make sure that as visitation
increases, there’s a management
plan in place so that we don’t
love this ecosystem to death,”
After leaving my memories
behind at Stehr Lake, my
companions and I head
toward the Verde River. As we
drop into the Verde Canyon,
the river appears as a green
ribbon. From this height,
one can see why the Spanish
named it as they did. At the
bottom of the canyon, a ford
crosses the river to the Verde
Hot Springs, where, if so
inclined, visitors can bathe
with the ghosts of Native
Americans who traveled to
the springs for medicinal
From the river, we
backtrack up and over toward
Fossil Creek, past Stehr
Lake in the direction of our
eventual destination, the
by Brian Minnick photographs by George Stocking
PIPE DOWN Flumes that
once carried water from
Fossil Creek now stand idle
against the scenic landscape.
The restoration of Fossil Creek is the main
event on this scenic drive in Central Arizona.
HAIRPIN HIGHWAY Forest Service
Road 502 provides visitors with far-reaching
views as it winds from the
Verde River toward the Rim town of
WILD FUTURE Storm clouds gather
over the Verde River near Childs. The
Verde River, Arizona’s only federally
designated Wild and Scenic River,
offers thrill seekers Class II and Class
III white-water rafting.
back road adventure
56 d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 7
small town of Strawberry.
On the way to Strawberry,
we stop at a stone bridge
that crosses Fossil Creek.
The water here maintains a
turquoise hue similar to the
Caribbean Sea, and a dunk of
the head reveals a lukewarm
temperature — even in mid-
February. Small fish dash and
dart through a deep pool, and
a canyon wren sings from a
From the creek, we climb
the winding road toward
Strawberry. The chaparral
forest changes to a mix of
juniper and pine, and snow
starts to appear. The road
then becomes muddy with
snowmelt, and as we reach
the pavement in Strawberry,
we look back with an
appreciation for the beautiful
drive. We’re also grateful that
we didn’t end up in the depths
of the canyon as another
distorted chunk of steel.
We end our journey with
meatball subs at Giuseppe’s
Restaurant, and keep our
fingers crossed that the
restoration of Fossil Creek
will be a success. Although
it’s only a small waterway in
Central Arizona, Fossil Creek
can serve as a shining
example for future projects,
and a great escape for future
back road adventure
Vehicle Requirements: Two-wheel-
Warning: Back-road travel can
be hazardous. Be aware of
weather and road conditions.
Carry plenty of water. Don’t
travel alone, and let someone
know where you’re going and
when you plan to return.
Travel Advisory: Allow three
hours minimum for this 44-
mile drive. The primitive dirt
route is bumpy and contains
hairpin turns with steep drop-offs.
Check road conditions
before starting out; these
roads are slippery when wet,
and may become icy and
snow-covered in winter.
Prescott National Forest,
Verde Ranger District, (928)
SHADES OF BLUE The aquamarine
waters of Fossil Creek rush over
boulders at a rate of 410 gallons
GENTLE FLOW Cottonwood trees
line a calm section of Fossil Creek
where a travertine shelf sits just
below the water’s surface.
MAZ AT ZAL M OUN TA INS
Note: Mileages are approximate. Camp Verde
> Begin at the Prescott National Forest Verde Ranger Station,
300 E. Highway 260 (State Route 260) in Camp Verde, which is 3
miles east of Interstate 17 Exit 287, about 87 miles north of Phoenix.
> Drive east on State 260 6.5 miles to Forest Service Road 708 (Fossil
Creek Road), .4 of a mile beyond Milepost 228 at Fossil Creek/Verde
> Turn right (south) onto FR 708 and drive 13.7 miles to Forest Service
> To go to the former Stehr Lake and the Verde River, turn right
onto FR 502 and drive 3.2 miles to the dry lake site and another 3
miles to the Verde River.
> From the Verde River, backtrack to 708 and turn right (east)
toward Strawberry. Another 2.5 miles will bring you to the Irving
Hydroelectric Plant, and 9 miles beyond is Strawberry and the
junction with State Route 87.
> Turn left (north) on State 87 to return to 260, or right (south) toward
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