grizzled and gnarled,
you lichened, weathered, old man;
desert strong sagebrush
gnarled by Angie Quantrell
Cowiche Canyon, Yakima Valley, Washington State
It’s official. This writer/editor/crafter/Nana is a bit out of shape. At least for what my phone termed as 55 flights of stairs.
Our afternoon hike yesterday on the Cowiche Canyon hike was gorgeous. Pretty nice on the way across the uplands and down the steep hill to the canyon floor. Pretty sweaty and filled with loud gasps and burning muscles on the way back up and over.
But a good time was had by all two of us.
We started on Summitview Extension, parking in the last available spot. It is a small lot, really a parking pad. Then up, over, and through the sagebrush and blooming spring flowers we went.
Yes! There were so many desert flowers blooming-purple, yellow, white, chartreuse. Because we had lovely, sunny weather, the lighting was quite overpowering for taking photos, but try I did.
We followed the Summitview Trail. Since the trail loops and swirls all over, it’s possible to wander for hours. We decided to hook left on the Radio Flyer Trail. This really does wind through the sagebrush but leads all the way down to the Cowiche Canyon floor by way of the Lone Pine Trail. Do note, the trailhead at the bottom headed up the hill looks deceptively simple. That’s where we managed to rack up flights of stairs. I wore regular tennis shoes, but hiking boots would have given me more traction in the slippery dirt and ankle-twisting rocks. (I avoided the rocks, but did slip a few times.)
Our hike was over 3 miles and took us about an hour and 20 minutes to complete. I’ll say it’s because I stopped often to take pictures. But I also stopped often on the way up the hill to breathe.
We even had an “attempted” Sasquatch sighting! Oh, the silly things one does to have fun.
The Cowiche Canyon is a great location for exploring close to home (Yakima Valley). Once we were up over the hill of Summitview Extension, traffic noise disappeared and we could hear only ourselves and the occasional fellow hiker. NOW is a great time to visit. Mud was not an issue at all, wildflowers are blooming, rattlesnakes are sleeping, and heat and ticks are not yet an issue.
Go. Now. Just please. If you are a dog owner, clean up the poop.
Hello, friends. Allow me to introduce you to Royal Blaze, my scrappy and rotten Appaloosa filly. Blaze for short.
Mom and Dad surprised me, the lover of all things horses, with a four-month-old filly when we lived in southern Arizona between Huachuca City and Tombstone. Talk about hard to wait! I couldn’t ride her for quite some time. We had friends nearby with horse breaking experience, so they had Blaze for about a month. And poof, she came back and we started riding together. Not to say that we didn’t have moments of extreme excitement when we miscommunicated or she decided to make her own choices, but for the most part, we enjoyed our time together.
In this picture, probably taken between 1976-1977, I am in 8th or 9th grade. We lived, literally, in the middle of nowhere. The closest “town” was Vernon. I think that was a six mile drive, but I’m not positive. Vernon had a gas station/mini mart, post office, and maybe one church. Dad worked in Show Low to the west and we took the a little bus over a pass to the east to Springerville/Eager. Our bus driver lived right in Vernon. The bus stayed at her house. I have no idea what she did during the day while we were at school. But we all lived for snow storms and school announcements calling all Vernon kids to leave early to get over the pass.
You can see the mountain lion tree. That huge scrubby tree to the right. Our collie, Jody (Princess Josephine-hey, we had royal animals in our family), went ballistic one night. The next day, we found the huge paw prints. Mind you, this tree is in our front yard. I am sitting on Blaze IN the front yard. Mom is probably on the steps of the trailer taking this picture, due to the angle. That cat was very close to us, probably scoping out little kid or cat snacks.
You can also see the old car in the background, hood open, dad leaning over the engine. Good thing he was a great mechanic, since we owned cars needing regular attention. I wish I could ask my parents about this picture. I think the car belongs to my grandparents on my dad’s side. They made one trip to visit us out in the sticks. Actually, my grandmother or grandfather probably took the photo.
Now. Back to Blaze. In the White Mountains (named for the snow in winter, since they are obviously NOT white in this picture), we roamed far and wide. I shudder to think of the dangerous situations we avoided. I know God was protecting me at all times.
Our property bordered forest land. That meant plenty of wide open spaces for us to roam. Sometimes Jody went with us, sometimes not. She loved to find dead stuff to roll in, and was happiest when she came trotting home stinking to high heaven. The times she wasn’t allowed to go, I had to sneak into my boots and out the door. This did not always work. She was crushed when I left without her.
Timber Knoll was south of our trailer and Blaze and I explored the land on all sides. Once, a HUGE something was causing a ruckus in the underbrush. Loud. Scary. Both of us were skittish and beat a retreat off the knoll. I’m guessing it was a bear, judging by Blaze’s reaction and size of movement. Other times we avoided rattlesnakes and scary shadows. That horse. What a nut. She loved to spook and if I wasn’t paying attention, off I went. And off she ran to home. Or to the neighbor’s barn, which she deemed nicer than our place. I did spend quite a bit of time walking home and looking for that horse. I eventually learned to reflexively hold the reins if she spooked. That frustrated her but kept me in possession of a ride.
We had grand adventures, just me and the horse. Blaze was willing to tackle pretty much anything except water and steep hills. I’m sure my mother had a heart attack every time I left. The area was pretty much wilderness with neighbors far and wide. And I’m sure she prayed for me and uttered words of thanks when we (or the horse, followed later by me) trotted up the driveway.
How about you? Did you have any special pets or adventures when you were growing up?
I was probably in first or second grade in this picture. And I can tell you, we had no nature deficit disorder in my family. We were always outside. Either the kids were out, by choice or by mom’s choice, or the entire family was off and exploring.
It seemed like our family spent most weekends in the station wagon or camper, heading off to explore and find what we could find. Though I know we also went to church on a regular basis, so maybe we spent Saturdays traveling and skipped a random Sunday now and then to camp. Life as a kid was always an adventure.
I’m pretty sure this picture was taken at Turkey Creek in Arizona. Turkey Creek was a great spot. I can remember camping there at least 3 different times. Judging by the grin on my face, I loved getting outside. And in Arizona, being outside around water was a treat. Being a desert and all. We four of kids (maybe not James, who was a baby) had a ball splashing in the creek. We did the usual-get muddy, catch critters, drench ourselves, throw rocks, find favorite rocks, go fishing with plain sticks. I remember one trip in particular when I found a snapping turtle. I was, of course, sticking my finger towards its mouth, seeing if it would snap. It did. Pinched my finger hard enough that I wet my pants! I remember crying. Hello. If you poke a wild animal in its mouth, it will bite.
Besides random attacks from snapping turtles, I remember all of us being together. That was important. The mom and dad, the 4 kids, the dog, the cat, the bird. We all crowded into the camper and dad drove us along bumpy dirt roads to get to our camp or picnic destinations. That was back in the good old days when kids rode in the camper while the vehicle was in motion. We played cards, colored pictures, ate snacks, climbed up and down from the over-the-cab bed, and I’m sure, fought like crazy. But somehow, we all made it to adulthood.
Looking back at this picture of myself standing on rocks and my sister collecting nature items, I can remember the beauty of the water, the rocks, the plants, the dirt. I can feel the sun on my back. Just look at those boulders behind me. I mean, they are gorgeous. Plenty of lichen and hiding spots for poisonous desert dwellers. But we didn’t worry too much about those. Stay away from the obvious dangers like tarantulas and rattlesnakes. Leave them alone, they’ll (most likely) leave you alone. Dappled light gives great luster to this photo. I love how the sunlight highlights my braids. And I see I am, even at that young age, wearing one of my lifelong favorite colors. Orange. And stripes. I’m still into stripes. Funny.
I’m so glad my parents instilled in us a love of the outdoors and exploring our surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you live, there are interesting and beautiful nature hot spots just waiting to be discovered. You can go as far as your backyard (welcome, gallon jars of tadpoles) or escape to a different state or country.
Hello, Arizona desert. I miss you.
How about you? Where did you go exploring when you were a child?
The opposite of sun-bleached, we were sun-drenched.
Long shadows, blinded eyes, rich dense colors.
Yes, this was us in the early 1970’s. I was most likely in 2nd grade, dressed for Arizona heat. My brother was in kindergarten, already pursuing his unique personality and sense of humor. Little sister must have been preschool-age, but back then going to preschool was not a thing families did.
Yes. That was how our yard was landscaped. Gravel, dust, scrappy weeds. The interesting parts were the critters and wildlife we discovered as we played and explored the desert environments. In this location alone, I remember collecting gallons of tadpoles after desert storms, and hunting horned toads, tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, spiders, jack rabbits, and those scary spider wasps. We also rescued a tortoise from the middle of the road and let him burrow around in the back yard. Thaddeus Humperdinck. That was his name. No idea why.
Yes. Windows open. The weather must not have been too drastically hot, and judging from the distant clouds, we might have recently enjoyed rain. We had a swamp cooler on top of the trailer and I remember lying on the floor beneath it during the hottest part of summer days with my coloring book and crayons, cooling off in the damp wind it created. But in this photo, the time of day was when the desert sun was kissing the horizon, ready to give us well-deserved shade and respite.
Yes. This was a very cool station wagon. Not only a wagon, but a magic vehicle capable of transporting us on weekend family treks to historical, dusty, engaging, scary, crowded, isolated, or deserted Arizona hot spots. Haha, “hot” spots. Soda pop bottles, white bread, bologna, and we were ready to roll. Up hill, down hill, across stretching southwest landscapes, stopping for rare shade trees and dusty gullies, drips of streams and gorges filled with flash floods. Life was an adventure. Include: dogs, kids, play pen, stroller, and avid interest.
Yes. A home on wheels. And we used those wheels to move the trailer several times over our life within the metal, possibly uninsulated, walls. We survived desert thunderstorms, lighting shows, freezing temperatures, snow storms, and heat hot enough to cook (insert your favorite food). Home it was. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining room-kitchen, and utility room. Kids lived on the right end, parents on the left. We six (plus critters) crammed a magnificent amount of life into that gorgeous tenement on wheels.
I loved living in the desert, back when heat didn’t bother me and I spent all my days outside, digging in the dirt, catching insects and reptiles, chasing kids in the ‘neighborhood,’ and making up daring adventure stories while riding horseback with my similarly minded friends. The nostalgia of childhood paints beautiful masterpieces in my mind, blotting the difficult times (were there any?) and adding exquisite details to enhance my thankfulness to God for a good, excellent, childhood.
What about you? Which photo takes you back to your childhood?
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
By Dusti Bowling
(Sterling Children’s Books, 2017)
I won a copy of Dusti Bowling’s chapter book Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus from Literary Rambles.
What first attracted me to this book was the title. I could just imagine what type of events a cactus would stoically attend, though I knew the book was not about those fascinating plants.
What attracted me next were the characters and the setting. Having grown up in Arizona, I looked forward to reading a book set in the starkly dry and hot desert. The book has a captivating cast of diverse characters. I loved reading of friends Aven (born without arms) and Conner (spits at people when he eats) and how they manage their disabilities. The strength and courage of Aven compelled me to cheer for her and will inspire others who struggle with any type of disability. Family issues, a mystery discovered in an old out building, and facing ones’ own fears come together in a nicely written page-turner.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is a great read for any young (or old) person. Compassion, understanding, and acceptance of diversity will develop as readers live alongside Aven and Conner. I found that Bowlings’ book gave me the viewpoint of someone living with challenges and how they faced daily life and difficult situations. Readers will see that they can do anything if they put their mind to it!
Well done and great read!