Archive for the ‘trees’ Category

chiricahua   9 comments

Posted at 1:47 pm in Arizona,geology,sabrina,trees

panorama view of the stone columns at Chiricahua National Monument – as seen from Masai Point

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

Where to start when writing about the winter that Sabrina and I have spent in southeast Arizona? We have wandered in many places, beginning with slow walks along the San Pedro River, then eventually moving up to hiking the higher elevation trails in the many mountain ranges of this region. Both of us needed to regain a lot of the strength that had been drained away through many months of stress before leaving on our trip across the continent.

Today, I thought I’d write a bit about Chiricahua National Monument as I’ve been there several times over the past four months. Each time family or friends have visited, this is the one place that I feel they cannot miss seeing. With that in mind, I felt it was something I should bring to all of you. I know that photographs cannot do it justice as the scale of this place is beyond imagining, but this is my attempt.

The Chiricahua Mountains are among several ranges of southeast Arizona, southwest New Mexico, and northwest Mexico, that are referred to as the Sky Islands. They rise up thousands of feet above the surrounding desert and grassland basins. Many are forested, and their canyons filled with a rich diversity of flora and fauna. It’s probably needless to say that, over the winter, I have spent many days walking among the canyons of several ranges.

Chiricahua National Monument is located on the northwest side of the Chiricahua Range. At some point, I will write about some other places in the range. Entering the park, a winding road leads through lower elevation forests of sycamore and live oaks along a canyon creek. Then the road begins to climb past massive “organ pipe” rock formations, eventually coming to a look-off at Masai Point. The panorama shot above (click on it to see a larger view) was taken from the look-off. The view defies description. You are looking out across a huge valley entirely filled with hundreds – well, perhaps more like thousands – of massive, tower-like columns. Many are said to be over 10 stories tall, and I believe the tallest stands almost 150 feet. The scale of what lies before you is perplexing. Tall trees seem diminutive, appearing more like small bushes clinging to the hillsides among the formations.

on the Echo Canyon Trail that leads through a section of the column-filled valley

There are trails leading down into the valley among the formations. I have hiked a section of the Echo Canyon Trail. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted in the trails that enter the valley, so my time was limited as I left Sabrina with my brother during one of my visits. However, an hour spent among the columns was enough to get some feel for the place and make me hopeful to come back to hike more of the trail system some day.

a view off to the side of the trail where the columns stand in deeper sections of the valley

Rather than struggle to write an explanation of how these columns were formed, I’ll cheat a little and point you to these photos taken of interpretive signboards here and here. The huge volcanic crater mentioned on one of the signs is visible in the distance when you are standing at the top of Masai Point.

many of the columns are encrusted with brilliant lichen

There is life all around as you wander along the trail between the columns. Many are encrusted with brilliant lichens. Trees manage to find places to grow – Manzanita, Alligator Juniper, Border pinyon and others – but my favourite among them is the Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica). The scent of these trees fills the air along many sections of the trail. It’s an odd but, to me, pleasant enough smell, although I have read a reference where it is described as “fetid”. You be the judge. These trees produce the oddest cones – rather like small wooden balls with cracks running through. Here is a photo of a branch with a few cones. One of my field guides states that, “the old round, gray, female cones are about 1 inch in diameter and remain attached for several years on the ends of the branchlets.”

columns range in shape from spires to mushroom-shaped hoodoos

I couldn’t resist including a couple of more photos of columns taken at close range. These were taken in an area called “the grotto” – which is almost cavern-like due to the type of formations.

a massive boulder lodged between spires in the grotto area along the Echo Canyon Trail

A large “boulder” hangs suspended, lodged between columns within the grotto (click on all photos for larger views).

Sabrina with “Cochise Head” in the background

After leaving Echo Canyon, my brother then took his turn hiking the trail while Sabrina and I walked the section of roadway that leads between the Echo Canyon and Sugarloaf Mountain parking lots. It’s a great little walk – birds calling from either side of the roadway bordered by a wonderful variety of trees and bushes that grow at higher elevation. We stopped to rest at a spot where I photographed Sabrina sitting in front of a conspicuous rock formation on a distant peak. It’s known as Cochise Head. Here’s a clearer photo of the formation. You must agree that it is interesting, no?

Despite being a little rushed, I’m going to try to put up another post or two this week. After that, posts may be asporadic for while. Believe it or not, after taking all of this time to write about my journey to southeast Arizona, and then the months spent here, the time has come to pack up and leave to return to my farm. I have mixed feelings about the next part of my journey. I am trying to find the “positive” in traveling through the western states and then back across Canada as the land awakens to springtime. However, I am not feeling any of the “drive” that it took to get to my winter refuge. In large part, it’s because I don’t look forward to my return home. For me, life has taken an irreversible change in direction. The farm that once meant so much to Don and I, no longer holds any attraction. In fact, it is now a reminder of a great deal of pain and sadness. My winter away has confirmed one thing, and that is that I will not overly miss the place that has been my home for the past 32 years. There are sure to be some major changes in the works over the next couple of months, but more about that later. For now, please enjoy the Arizona posts as I have time to put them up.

Written by bev on March 11th, 2009

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return to the redwoods – part 3   11 comments

Posted at 4:33 pm in california,history,loss,sabrina,trees

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

In the last post, I wrote about my thoughts on traveling alone. Of course, I was never truly alone, as Sabrina has been with me on every step of a journey that began long before we left our home in Ontario. I haven’t said much about all that took place during the previous year of Don’s illness, but it was a very difficult time for all of us, including Sabrina. Being a smart and sensitive dog, she quickly intuited changes in Don’s health status, particularly during the final weeks of his life. As his health deteriorated, Sabrina spent an increasing part of her day lying next to him. Eventually, she became so worried that it was difficult to get her to eat, so her health gradually began to fail too. Two days after Don’s death, she was so weak and unsteady that I had to help her get up onto her feet. Over the next six weeks, I tried to get her eating and up moving around to rebuild her strength. However, it was clear that she was grieving in her own way and resisted most of my efforts.

When I first contemplated leaving for the west, I was concerned about Sabrina’s condition. Would she be able to cope with long days of traveling in the van? Could I provide the kind of food she was accustomed to at home? I was a little worried about the logistics of preparing the fresh food she was used to receiving. As the day for our departure drew near, I was still feeling uncertain about how we would manage once on the road. What would I do if Sabrina grew weaker after we were a few thousand kilometers from home? The morning of our departure, as I finished packing, she lay on the ground in front of the sliding side door of the van, refusing to move. Clearly, she was worried about being left behind. I took that as a sign that she too was anxious to be “on the road”. For both of us, I believe that our journey to the west turned out to be the right thing to do as it forced us to move, at least marginally, beyond the sad events of the previous year.

Once on the road, it was interesting to see how Sabrina reacted to each new place or situation. I felt a little bad for her each time we checked into a motel along our route. In the past, Sabrina and I would wait in the van while Don picked up our key at the front desk, then opened the room for us. As I assumed that part of the process, I noticed how Sabrina would rush into each new motel room, quickly searching every corner including looking up on top of the bed. After discovering that it was “just us”, she would flop down, stretch out her neck with her head on the carpet as she gave me the longest of long faces as only a collie can do. I would comment, “Yes, I know.” Those motel room check-ins were among the most difficult moments of our journey and one of the reasons that, whenever possible, I preferred to stay at campsites.

When we reached the redwoods, I was very curious to see how Sabrina would react to what must have seemed a very odd landscape. Along our entire trip, I noticed how carefully she inspected earth and plants. No doubt, her olfactory senses were sending her odd messages about these strange new places. After spending the night at the Burlington campsite in the Humboldt Redwoods, we visited the California Federation of Women’s Club grove before continuing on with our journey. Some of you may remember me writing about The Hearthstone designed by the architect, Julia Morgan, during my autumn 2007 trip through the west. I decided to return to the site in the hope of shooting better photos than on my previous visit. As we walked along the trails of that grove, Sabrina seemed eager to explore and, in her own canine way, expressed awe at the surroundings. Several times, I caught her inspecting a gargantuan mushroom, or gazing up and then back at me as if to see whether I’d taken note of the trees towering above. For both of us, this “new territory” was a good place to explore, far distant from home trails now strewn with countless memory land mines.

After leaving the redwood groves, we stopped at the historic lumber mill town of Scotia. During last year’s trip, I had taken only a few pathetic photos due to rain and a camera malfunction. This time, weather and cameras cooperated well enough to capture a few photos of the unique architecture along the main street. The Scotia museum (above), with its redwood interpretation of the columns and portico of a Greek temple, and the all-redwood Winema Theatre (below) are reminders of those bygone days when it seemed that logging of the redwoods could go on forever. Of course, that notion proved to be false, as evidenced by the many decommissioned mills and abandoned wigwam burners throughout the Pacific northwest.

Under gray skies, we left Scotia, retracing our trail northwards a little before turning east, now bound for Arizona. There will be more about that leg of our journey coming up very soon.

Written by bev on January 18th, 2009

return to the redwoods – part 2   14 comments

Posted at 4:01 pm in birds,california,memory,trees

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

It’s a fact. Traveling alone can be quite stressful. When driving in unfamiliar territory, you struggle to read maps and navigate through traffic. In the past, Don did much of the driving while I read maps and charted our course. Luckily, I’m a good navigator. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d be sitting here in Arizona writing about my travels of the past few months.

There are other stresses as well. What if I get lost? What if the van breaks down? What if I get sick — who will take care of Sabrina? What if I lose my car keys, wallet, money, or passport? Luckily, none of those things happened, although I did, in fact, lose one of my car keys (we’ll get to that story sometime soon). When there are two of you on the road together, none of these things seems quite so problematic. You’re both carrying keys, wallets, and money. You never feel truly “lost” — instead, you’re just taking the scenic route and can laugh about the “very long detour” at a later date. If you get sick, there’s someone to look after everything until you’re feeling better. Also, there are two of you to discuss and decide on a route, or one to take over as the “relief driver” when the other begins to feel fatigued. Together, you can figure out how late you should travel before getting a campsite or looking for a motel. Alone, such considerations become more critical. All of the above niggling fears were never far from my mind as I made my way from Oregon to Arizona. Add the constant stress to that which I’d experienced over the past year, and sometimes it was hard to avoid feeling too overwhelmed to push on, but at this point in the journey, I didn’t have a choice. To cope with these feelings, I pretended that each morning was the beginning of a fresh, new adventure, while days that ended badly due to difficulties or mistakes were regarded as “interesting experiments” that didn’t turn out quite as planned. Most times, that form of mental trickery seemed to work — more or less.

On my second day in California, I found myself struggling to make some decisions. I’d been hoping for decent weather so that I could spend a few hours along two rivers which Don and I had visited in 2006. However, a large and very unfriendly weather system moved in during the night after my arrival at the Smith River. Sabrina and I awoke to the sound of a steady rain beating down on the van roof. I soon made an executive decision to move on and look elsewhere for the coming evening’s campsite. Regrettably, that entailed abandoning my plan to linger along those rivers that meant so much to me. However, I decided to at least drive to the coast to revisit a few of our favourite spots around Crescent City. It was stormy and cold at the look-off for the Battery Point lighthouse (see above – click on all photos for larger view). Sabrina and I found ourselves alone gazing down at the swelling seas breaking on the rocks far below.

I drove over to the breakwater pier, hoping to see Brown Pelicans — I’d harbored a wish to see flocks of them as Don and I had so enjoyed watching them fly overhead at so many points along the California coast in 2006. At first, it seemed that there were none around. Sabrina and I stood searching the sky while getting well and truly soaked by the frigid rain. At last, I called it quits and walked back to the van. As I stood by the van’s sliding door, drying Sabrina with a towel, I caught sight of a long line of Pelicans struggling southwards into the wind. They were having a difficult time making headway, but on they went. I shot a couple of photos, shut the van doors, and drove southward, in the wake of the wind-battered Pelicans.

As I’ve written elsewhere, many points of this journey intersect with those of my past travels in the west – some with Don, and others with a close friend. My “trip map” resides in my thoughts — a palimpsest of routes interwoven through time and space. One of the intersections is the redwoods of Prairie Creek – and more specifically, the Corkscrew Tree. In my personal mythology, it figures like some form of energy vortex, binding several pathways into one. With a light rain falling, Sabrina and I made our way to the tree where I put my hands onto its thick, twisting bark, roughly where I remembered Don having placed his hands just two years before. Perhaps, subconsciously, I hoped to connect to that time, and in some ways that was true. It felt as though very little time had passed — much like when you run into an old friend and ten years feels more like ten minutes. However, in the end, it was just Sabrina and I standing in the rain, with her looking soggy, bewildered and even a little sad.

We returned to the van. I took a photo of Sabrina walking ahead of me. Oddly, the camera seemed to capture just how that scene looked through my eyes as my tears mixed with the now rapidly falling rain.

I now had to make a decision about which route to take and where to stay for the night. I had briefly considered turning inland at Arcata to take Hwy 299 through the Trinity Alps Wilderness region, but the sight of an upside down pick-up truck that had spun out during a few minutes of freezing sleet about an hour back along the road made me reconsider. That turned out to be a wiser choice than I had imagined as the 299 route takes longer than I had calculated (more on this in “part 3”). Instead, I chose to continue southwards, wondering if the weather would improve by the time I got to Patrick’s Point (it didn’t). The only plan I could come up with was to either look for a motel around Eureka, or find a campsite at an inland park. I quickly discounted the motel idea as I was feeling the need to be in the redwoods — as alone in the forest as is possible at a campground. I decided on trying to make it down to Burlington Grove in the Humboldt Redwoods, so drove on through the rain, hoping that I might leave it behind as I moved inland. Taking a rest from driving, I stopped at the rock shop along the highway near Rio Dell, and ended up buying a slice of green rock that the owner of the shop said was Mariposite, from Mariposa, California. That got us talking about places and travels. When he heard I was from Canada, he said he’d never been “up there” and that I’d come an awfully long way from home. He was quite right, in more ways that one.

It was still raining when I got to Burlington Grove, but lightly enough that I was able to cook us a hot meal over the little propane stove. I chose a campsite in the shelter of a burned out redwood stump – the same one in which I camped in 2007 while traveling with a friend. Thankfully, the campgrounds were almost empty as it was inclement and so late in the season. It felt peaceful and safe. With raindrops pattering onto the van roof, Sabrina and I soon fell asleep and restored a little of the precious energy we’d been expending all too quickly for the past few weeks.

Written by bev on January 6th, 2009

return to the redwoods – part 1   14 comments

Posted at 11:43 am in california,memory,rivers,trees

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

After quite some absence, I’m back – writing, that is. It seems that I want to mull over things for awhile before putting together words to describe what I’ve seen or felt. Meanwhile, life goes on here in southeast Arizona, where I’ve chosen to spend this winter. I may jump ahead and write about some of that soon — there’s no real need to be concerned about chronology as this isn’t so much an account of a trip that runs from point A to point B, but of a different kind of journey that exists outside of time and place.

In the last post I wrote about spending two or so weeks along some favourite rivers in Oregon. From there, I had hoped to move on down to the northern California coast for a few days before continuing on to Arizona. However, the weather turned bad, resulting in some changes to my plans. Still, I did return to some of the places where Don and I had camped, hiked, or visited while in Oregon and California in autumn 2006. One of my first stops was at a wayside trail where California Pitcher Plants (Darlingtonia californica) grow, and which I had taken Don to see on our way down to California. I’ve been to this site several times over the years, so there are many memories attached to this place. The plants, also commonly known as Cobra Lilies grow in a swarm that always makes me think of a densely-packed flock of geese.

In one of those quirky moments that you gradually must become accustomed to, I could almost see, or at least imagine, Don leaning on the railing of one of the viewing platforms as he surveyed the flock of plants. The light and air temperature were similar, so it was easy to imagine this moment not far removed from another two years before. This was to happen countless times as I traveled through Oregon, Calfornia and Arizona. But then, that was part of the purpose for this journey – to reconnect with the “better memories” from before illness invaded our lives. Sabrina hadn’t been along with us on that trip, so I took time to explain the significance of these places in our personal mythologies.

From the Pitcher Plants, we continued down along the Smith River to camp at Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. On our last trip together, Don had chosen a campsite next to a redwood tree as he had never seen one until that day. This time, I chose a site just below the previous one, along the shore where I could hear the river. Occasionally, a drift boat would pass by, but otherwise, all was quiet and peaceful.

We arrived fairly late in the afternoon, so I ended up cooking our dinner in the dark. One thing I soon discovered was that it takes a bit longer to get things together when you’re traveling alone with your dog. In the past, one of us would have taken Sabrina for a walk, then helped to get things unpacked and set up. Alone, everything took that much longer, but eventually, dinner was made and Sabrina was settled down on a piece of carpet next to my camp chair. We sat next to our fire, listening to the crackling flames and the flow of the nearby river until late into the night. I’ve spent enough time next to rivers to know that each place has its own sound, and that of the Smith is etched into my mind, alongside those of so many others…

Written by bev on December 20th, 2008