Page 1





“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” — HELEN KELLER


CANYON It’s a Grand Canyon, Too!


Hunker Down ... Way Down!




5 THE JOURNAL People, places and things from around the state, including a look back at iconic photographer Willis Peterson; Saguaro National Park; and loggerhead shrikes, the mercenaries of the songbird world.

16 ANOTHER GRAND CANYON Some say the view from U.S. Route 60, where the steep road crosses Salt River Canyon, is the most dramatic in the state — keep in mind, Arizona is home to another canyon, one that can be seen from outer space. Whether it’s best or not is debatable, but there’s no doubt the state’s lesser-known gorge is spectacular. That’s why we gave our photographer more than a year to capture its beauty. A PORTFOLIO BY SHANE M CDERMOTT

28 CRUZ CONTROL For more than 11,000 years, people have lived along the watershed of the Santa Cruz River. However, climate change, agriculture, mining, groundwater-pumping and drought have left much of the river dry. That’s where Claire Zugmeyer comes in. The 36-year-old ecologist is working to protect and restore the river’s watershed, with the help of wastewater-treatment plants in and around Tucson. BY KATHY MONTGOMERY

34 DESERT OASIS There are some great places to spend the night in Arizona. One of the best is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Although it takes some work to get down there, a night at Phantom Ranch is anything but a hardship. Thanks to the impressive crew of 17 who run the ranch, hikers, river runners and mule riders get to enjoy a soft bed, a hot shower and a cold beer in one of the world’s most unforgiving environments. BY ANNETTE M CGIVNEY PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BURCHAM

40 NATURAL SELECTIONS After 90 years of publishing, it’s rare to stumble upon something big that hasn’t been featured in our magazine, but the National Natural Landmarks Program is new to us. In fact, until recently, we hadn’t even heard of it. We’re guessing it’s news to you, too. BY ROBERT STIEVE



PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTS AVAILABLE Prints of some photographs in this issue are available for purchase. To view options, visit www.arizona

Grand Canyon National Park Phantom Ranch Oak Creek Canyon Cornville Salome

Salt River Canyon

PHOENIX Saguaro National Park Vail Santa Cruz River



52 SCENIC DRIVE Oak Creek Canyon: Despite a fire that burned the area in 2014, the drive through Oak Creek Canyon — a National Scenic Byway — still ranks as one of the best in America.

54 HIKE OF THE MONTH Jim Thompson Trail: Of the many trails in Red Rock Country, the Jim Thompson is one of the easiest. It’s easy to hike, and it’s easy to get to.

/azhighways @azhighways @arizonahighways

Z An American avocet rests in calm water in Gilbert, a Phoenix suburb. | JOHN SHERMAN CAMERA: NIKON D600; SHUTTER: 1/1000 SEC; APERTURE: F/7.1; ISO: 1000; FOCAL LENGTH: 700 MM

FRONT COVER The water of Cibecue Creek pours over Cibecue Falls as it approaches the Salt River. For more photos of Salt River canyon, see page 16. | SHANE MCDERMOTT CAMERA: NIKON D800E; SHUTTER: 4 SEC; APERTURE: F/14; ISO: 50; FOCAL LENGTH: 24 MM

BACK COVER Sprucetop grama grass (Bouteloua chondrosioides) grows at Canelo Hills Cienega, a National Natural Landmark southeast of Sonoita. | EIRINI PAJAK CAMERA: CANON EOS 5D MARK II; SHUTTER: 1/200 SEC; APERTURE: F/5; ISO: 320; FOCAL LENGTH: 100 MM For more information, call 866-962-1191.

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editor’s letter

The Coolest Squirrel in the World



an option. Too remote. Too rugged. Salt River Canyon is rugged, too. Although it’s not a designated landmark, by any other measure, it’s spectacular. Some even say the view of the canyon from U.S. Route 60 is the most dramatic in the state. For all its majesty, the canyon doesn’t draw a crowd. Most people just drive through on their way to the White Mountains. But not Shane McDermott. He spent almost a year in the canyon shooting this month’s portfolio. “I never realized how big the place is,” he says. “I could have used a couple of years to photograph it.” Before this assignment, Shane had never been to Salt River Canyon. He hadn’t even looked at photos of it. “I wanted to discover it for myself and have it be fresh,” he says. “My goal for the whole project was to be adventurous. I used Google Earth a lot and put my four-wheel-drive to the test.” For one shot, he even hacked through tamarisks with a machete to get the right angle. As you’ll see in Another Grand Canyon, his efforts paid off. Shane bushwhacked to places no other photographers have been, and came back with a collection of images that mesmerized an editorial team that isn’t easily wowed. But wow. Enjoy the photos, because unless you’ve been trained as a Navy SEAL, seeing it like he did isn’t really an option. It’s too rugged. Instead, you might want to follow in the footsteps of John Burcham. John recently hiked into the Grand Canyon for us. He was there to shoot Phantom Ranch, which is arguably the best place in the world to spend a night. Unlike El Tovar, Old Faithful Inn and the other iconic park lodges, Phantom sits in isolation in the middle of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The views are breathtaking, and the ranch itself is on the National Register

of Historic Places. But don’t equate history with hardship. “Compared to the primitive camping required anywhere else below the rim,” Annette McGivney writes in Desert Oasis, “a night at the lodge is hardly roughing it. Here, in a place that is only accessible by foot, mule or raft, you can sleep in a soft bed with clean sheets, take a hot shower, fill your ice bucket and enjoy a cold beer after a steak dinner.” What’s even more impressive is that the entire operation is run by only 17 people. You’ll meet some of them in our story, which offers a glimpse into their secluded world. “It takes a special person to fit in here,” says Joseph Moullet, one of the staff members. “You have to be flexible with your living and working conditions.” The trade-off, of course, is that you get to live and work in the heart of a natural wonder — a World Heritage site that can be seen from outer space. And if that’s not enough, the coolest squirrel in the world lives just a few miles away. Right up there on the North Rim.




ray squirrels, red squirrels, fox squirrels ... the backyard of my boyhood home was ruled by squirrels. There were a lot of blue jays, too, and cardinals, but the backyard was a legion of squirrels. Cartel might be a better word, because of the way the squirrels tyrannized the birds on our bird feeders. No matter what deterrents were put in place, they were always tormenting the chickadees and nuthatches. It was survival of the fittest, I get it, but I never had much affection for squirrels. Not until I saw a Kaibab squirrel on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Its big tufted ears caught my eye. And so did its fluffy white tail. It looked so different from the oppressors I grew up with. It was cool. And I was intrigued. It would be another 25 years before I’d learn that Kaibab squirrels aren’t just cool, they’re also protected as a National Natural Landmark. If you’re scratching your head, you’re not alone. Until recently, no one at the magazine had ever heard of that program, either. Turns out, it’s been around since 1962, and its mission is “to encourage the preservation of sites illustrating the geological and ecological character of the United States.” There are 597 National Natural Landmarks across the country, including 10 in Arizona. Kaibab squirrels were added to the list in 1965 because they represent “a classic example of evolution through geographic isolation.” Here’s the short version of what happened: At one time, Kaibab squirrels and Abert’s squirrels were one species on the South Rim of the Canyon. Then, at some point, some of the squirrels wandered to the North Rim and took on a new identity. Today, they’re recognized as a unique species. In Natural Selections, you’ll learn more about Kaibab squirrels, along with the other nine landmarks, including Comb Ridge, which is home to the only known tritylodont fossils in North America. Of all the places on the list, Comb Ridge is the most remote. On paper, it’s open to the public, with proper permits from the Navajo Nation, but, realistically, it’s not


Our annual “postcard to the world,” featuring the remarkable work of legendary photographer and longtime Arizona Highways contributor David Muench. ROBERT STIEVE, EDITOR Follow me on Twitter: @azhighways


VOL. 91, NO. 11




JOHN BURCHAM Photographer John Burcham has been in Flagstaff for 20 years and hiked “a fair amount” in the Grand Canyon, but he’d never been to Phantom Ranch before going there to photograph the ranch staff (see Desert Oasis, page 34). “A lot of visitors just see them in the background,” Burcham says, “so it was cool to hang out with the people behind the scenes and see how they keep things running.” Burcham’s other assignment for this issue took him down south, where he helped document restoration efforts along the Santa Cruz River (see Cruz Control, page 28). “We went to four different sections of the river, in places like Tucson and Tubac,” Burcham says. “A lot of it is really pretty, and I enjoyed tagging along with these biologists and watching them do their stuff.” Burcham is a regular contributor to Arizona Highways, and when we spoke to him, he was preparing for a shoot on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim for a story in the magazine next year.






Lesley Bennett 602-445-7160 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 2039 W. Lewis Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85009


Deanna Beaver Jack W. Sellers Michael S. Hammond Pliny M. Draper 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: $4.99 U.S. Call 800-543-5432. Subscription correspondence and change of address information: Arizona Highways, P.O. Box 8521, Big Sandy, TX 75755-8521. Periodical postage paid at Phoenix, AZ, and at additional mailing office. CANADA POST INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATIONS MAIL PRODUCT (CANADIAN DISTRIBUTION) SALES AGREEMENT NO. 41220511. SEND RETURNS TO QUAD/ GRAPHICS, P.O. BOX 875, WINDSOR, ON N9A 6P2. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Arizona Highways, P.O. Box 8521, Big Sandy, TX 75755-8521. Copyright © 2015 by the Arizona Department of Transpor tation. Reproduc tion in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. The magazine does not accept and is not responsible for unsolicited materials.



PAUL MARKOW Paul Markow admits he’s not much of a foodie: “My favorite restaurants have drive-up windows,” he jokes. But that didn’t stop him from driving nearly 6,000 miles over a five-month period in 2014 to make all of the photographs in Arizona’s Best Recipes, our new cookbook. You can see some of those photos, along with a few recipes from the book, in this issue (see Local Flavor, page 48). Markow grew up working for his father, Robert, who founded Phoenix’s first custom photo lab and has been called the “Dean of Arizona Photographers.” From there, the younger Markow says, the family business grew into his passion. He first photographed for Arizona Highways in the mid-1970s and is a regular contributor today, in addition to being a successful commercial photographer. Shooting a book, though, is a “bucket list” item that he hopes will stand the test of time. “Ad campaigns come and go,” Markow says, “but a book will always be around.” SHANE McDERMOTT Shane McDermott’s portfolio in this issue (see Another Grand Canyon, page 16) began as a conversation with Photo Editor Jeff Kida in June 2014. “Jeff said he and Robert [Stieve] had been pondering a portfolio of Salt River Canyon for a while, but they couldn’t find a photographer who was the right fit,” McDermott says. “The more Jeff and I talked, the more it became obvious he felt I was the right fit.” McDermott does most of his work in Northern Arizona and had never been to the canyon, but he quickly became acquainted with its sprawling geography and relatively unexplored nature. He visited the canyon seven times between September 2014 and May of this year, photographing a different area each time. “By going there in different seasons, I got to see it in different conditions,” McDermott says. “But I never realized just how big the place is. I could have used a couple of years to photograph it.” Salt River isn’t the only canyon close to McDermott’s heart: He’s in the process of donating photos to the Grand Canyon Trust for use in a campaign against the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade project.





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letters to the editor


very month, when the mailman delivers Arizona Highways to my home here in Illinois, my first thoughts are: Why do I still subscribe? What is left for your photographers to chase down in Arizona after all these years? And then, as I thumbed through my September 2015 issue, I found out why. Words cannot describe those remaining “wonders” yet to be photographed. I used to live in Southern Arizona, but World War II interrupted my lifestyle and changed my life forever. I am still a “desert rat,” though, and return every year. Bob Howell, Washington, Illinois

BEST PICTURE 2015 And the winner is ... Peter Coskun of Phoenix. It’s not the first time we’ve been impressed with his work. Peter was an honorablemention winner in 2013, and last year, his photo of Lost Dutchman State Park was our Facebook Fan Favorite. Narrowing thousands of entries to a single image isn’t easy, but when the final vote was tallied, he was the winner of our seventh annual photo contest. EDITED BY JEFF KIDA & KEITH WHITNEY GRAND-PRIZE WINNER Mountain Minions, by Peter Coskun Sunrise illuminates teddy bear chollas and ocotillos in the rugged Kofa Mountains of Western Arizona. “This is one of the nicest photos I’ve seen from the Kofas,” says Photo Editor Jeff Kida. “There’s plenty of detail and texture in the foreground and background, and the dead ocotillo in the foreground forms a triangle that leads the viewer up into the payoff: the rising sun behind the mountain. It’s a well-framed and complete photograph that tells a story.” Camera: Canon EOS 6D; Shutter: 1/15 sec; Aperture: f/16; ISO: 100; Focal Length: 19 mm



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September 2015


’ve been thoroughly engrossed in your current Photo Issue [September 2015]. I do have a question: In the magnificent portfolio by Bill Hatcher and Tyler Williams [The Mighty Colorado: It’s Not What You’re Thinking], a mention was made of the proposed development at the confluence of the Little Colorado with the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River. I have not heard anything about it lately, and I’m wondering what the status is. This is an affront and totally outrageous to the special place, solitude, beauty, peace ... well, I could go on and on, but you know what I mean. Is there anything one can do to keep this from happening: petitions, letters to someone, anything at all? Marylee Peterson, Tucson EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you for your kind words,

Marylee. A good place to look for updates on the proposed development is www.savethe

your having to select a winner. Great work on two beautiful issues that will remain in our home for quite a while. Keith Godshall, Souderton, Pennsylvania


wanted to thank you for a poignant piece titled The Blue [July 2015], a place near to our hearts (we ranch on its southern periphery). While I politely reject your political conclusions, I commend you for capturing the aura and mystique of a wild and evocative place. Federal “protection” is certainly one of many possible tools to maintain a landscape in status quo. I’m not at all convinced, however, that it is the only — let alone most effective — option we can muster. I invite you to come visit our distant part of the state and see what coalitions of ranchers, environmentalists, capitalists and conservationists have done to promote the conservation and stewardship of our state’s stunning working landscapes. Paul Schwennesen, Clifton, Arizona


he Photo Issue [September 2015] and photo contest [Best Picture 2015] were fantastic. There’s nothing like a professional photo straight from the camera. It’s a stark contrast to other publications that glorify images modified with Photoshop. Keep up the good work!


like your Hike of the Month department. I lived in Flagstaff in the ’60s and ’70s. In those days, a bus ran up to O’Leary Peak [August 2015] several times a day. We would ride up, and most of us would hike back down.

Jim Murphy, Highlands Ranch, Colorado


our August and September issues delivered a magnificent one-two punch of stunning photography. I was still reveling in the Best of Arizona issue [August 2015] when the Photo Issue [September 2015] arrived to match it in content. While I envy your work of scouring through photos, I don’t envy 4


Al Wheelock, Peoria, Arizona


have lived in Arizona now six years and subscribed as soon as I discovered your magazine. Arizona Highways is more than just an ordinary magazine covering the sights of our state. It’s also breathtaking photos and heartwarming stories honoring those who have made an impact in their community and our state. I imme-

diately thought to write when the beautiful Salt River wild horses’ fate came into question, but you had already started to bring their story to light. The e-book is a beautiful tribute to the horses, and I hope it will make people realize that we cannot just get rid of these amazing animals. Brenda Rentuma, San Tan Valley, Arizona


he article Sky Marshal [July 2015] brought back recollections of my first assignment after weather-observer training at Luke Air Force Base in July 1953. Shortly before my arrival at Luke, the Thunderbirds aerobatic team was formed. They practiced on Saturday mornings to avoid flight conflicts with training flights. Often, Thunderbirds flew overhead repeatedly until their contrails covered the sky, which required me to file weather observations every 15 minutes. That group’s pilots were veterans of combat missions over Korea. As they filed flight plans at the base weather station, they teased duty forecasters about expected weather for the duration of their flights. Our forecasters were frequently called, among other expressions, “weather guessers.” Ninety-nine percent of the time, the weather on their practice days was clear with unlimited visibility. It must have been a sad day when the Thunderbirds were moved to Las Vegas. Skip White, Portland, Oregon

contact us

If you have thoughts or comments about anything in Arizona Highways, we’d love to hear from you. We can be reached at editor@, or by mail at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85009. For more information, visit

THE JOURNAL 11.15 national parks centennial > history > photography iconic photographers > dining > nature > lodging > things to do

Sedona Rocks The placid water of Oak Creek mirrors Sedona’s iconic Cathedral Rock. “I wanted to do something a bit different from the normal take on this iconic location,” photographer Adam Schallau says. “Once I found the boulders, I knew I had my shot.” | ADAM SCHALLAU To learn more about Sedona, call 928-282-7722 or visit www.visit CAMERA: CANON EOS 5D MARK II; SHUTTER: 6 SEC; APERTURE: F/16; ISO: 100; FOCAL LENGTH: 55 MM


Along with leafy ocotillos, the namesake cactuses of Saguaro National Park frame a distant monsoon storm in the park’s western section. | GEORGE STOCKING



˜ national parks centennial ˜


EDITOR’S NOTE: In August 2016, the National Park Service will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Leading up to that milestone, we’ll be spotlighting some of Arizona’s wonderful national parks.

Tourists admire a cluster of mature saguaros at Saguaro National Monument — now a national park — in the 1940s.



n March 1, 1933, in the last days of his presidency, Herbert Hoover signed a proclamation establishing

Saguaro National Monument in the nearly empty desert

15 miles east of the sleepy town of Tucson. Wrenched

by the Great Depression and awaiting a new administration, few in

Washington paid any attention to Hoover’s action. But it was a victory for botanists and boosters in Arizona who’d worked for years to protect the Sonoran Desert’s premier stand of saguaros. Today, Saguaro National Park protects approximately 1.6 million saguaros in its two zones — the park is bisected by the city of Tucson. The best way to see the saguaros is to hike along the park’s

165 miles of trails. While you’re out there, watch your step — underfoot might be young saguaros, which grow a mere inch and a half during their first eight years. Only when saguaros reach 50 years old (or older, depending on precipitation) do they begin to sprout the spindly limbs that make them a worldwide icon of the American West. In general, saguaros can reach 50 feet tall, weigh more than 6 tons and live for 175 years or longer.


1933 (national monument), 1961 (western zone added), 1994 (national park) A R E A : 91,442 acres W I L D E R N E S S AC R E AG E : 70,905 acres A N N UA L V I S I TAT I O N : 673,572 (2014) AV E R AG E E L E VAT I O N : 4,767 feet Y E A R D E S I G N AT E D :

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˜ history ˜

Vail Post Office

Once part of the national Railway Mail Service, the Vail post office sold stamps and served customers from 1901 to 1973. Today, a group of citizens is hoping to restore the old building.



humble adobe building on Colossal Cave Road in Vail stands as a reminder of its community’s pre-statehood days. The former post office served as a general store, stage stop and watering hole at what once was an important crossroads. Originally called Vail’s Siding, the unincorporated community owes its existence to the Southern Pacific Railroad. “Siding” referred to the siding track built alongside the main line to allow east-west trains to pass. Walter and Edward Vail deeded the Southern Pacific a right of way through their land in the 1880s. The original store stood midway on the stage line between Tucson and the mining town of Helvetia in the Santa Rita Mountains. The railroad built a passenger station at Vail in 1900, and in 1901, it became a rail post office, part of the

national Railway Mail Service. A talented postal clerk aboard the train would snag outgoing mail from a crane with a hook and hurl incoming mail from the moving train. The rugged board-and-batten building — by then a store, post office and tavern — burned in a 1908 fire while Vail’s second postmaster, Otto Schley,

Mary Jane Warner, Vail’s longtime postmaster, works at the Vail post office in the 1940s or ’50s. Warner succeeded her mother as postmaster. | VAIL PRESERVATION SOCIETY

this month in history


On November 5, 1915, Arizona receives its first airmail as aviator Katherine Stinson drops letters near the Tucson post office. Q Two Tucson television stations, KVOA and KOPO, receive approval to operate on November 13, 1952. Q On the night of November 15, 1915, Q


attended the Territory’s Democratic convention in Tucson. Schley rebuilt the store using sturdier stuff: adobe bricks, stone rubble, shipping crates and material salvaged from the original. It has stood for more than 100 years. Mary Jane Warner, the longest-serving postmaster, held that position from 1934 until the U.S. Postal Service decommissioned the building in 1973. Warner was the daughter of the previous postmaster, Dovie Woolsey, who came to Vail when her car, loaded with her four children and all the family’s possessions, ran out of gas at the post office. Warner took over after Woolsey’s death. When the post office closed, it was used for a time as a feed store and general store, then for storage. The Vail Preservation Society hopes to buy, restore and return the building to its place as a gathering spot at the heart of the community. — KATHY MONTGOMERY

To learn more, visit

burglars ransack the Modern Store in Nogales. The thieves make off with plenty of clothes, including 72 silk petticoats and 10 union suits (long underwear). Q The Department of the Interior recognizes Tucson’s claim to ownership of Sentinel Peak on November 18,

1928, putting an end to a six-year fight and saving the “A” on the side of the mountain. Q Red Cross volunteers give out 5,000 masks on November 23, 1918, after the Tucson Board of Health, facing an influenza epidemic, orders that no one go out in public without a mask.


50 Years Ago

In November 1965, Arizona Highways featured the Sonoran Desert, taking readers on a journey to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument with photos of its stately blooming cactuses. The issue also introduced readers to the proposed Sonoran Desert National Park.

˜ photography ˜

The Salt River flows between verdant hills and jagged rocks. | SHANE McDERMOTT

Vantage Points Photo Editor Jeff Kida and photographer Shane McDermott discuss this month’s stunning portfolio of Salt River Canyon. JK: You had never visited Salt River

SM: This was about 12 miles in from U.S.

JK: This was shot in March, and the

Canyon before this assignment (see

Route 60, but the last 3 miles were a seri-

green hills juxtapose beautifully with

Another Grand Canyon, page 16). How

ous drop into the canyon. It’s a very rough

the rock in the foreground. Was that

did you get ready for it?

and steep road; you need a high-clearance


SM: When I started preparing, I intention-

vehicle to get in there, and I ended up

SM: Yes. That was a huge slab of rock,

ally didn’t look up photos of the canyon.

having to lock the differential to get out.

probably 40 feet high — it goes up a lot

I wanted to discover it for myself and have

Additionally, I had to climb a steep scree

farther than what I showed here — and

it be fresh and new. My goal for the whole

slope to get to this vantage point.

25 feet across. It was so beautifully

Google Earth a lot and put my four-

JK: What made you think there was a

countertop. I love the composition.

wheel-drive to the test.

worthwhile shot down there?

JK: How did you use Google Earth?

piece of the river. I knew it had potential, so

SM: It’s a useful tool. It gives me a crude rep-

I just kept working my way down toward

textured, almost like a polished granite

project was to be adventurous. I used

SM: From the highway, I could see a tiny

resentation of what I might see. For example,

it. Also, it’s such a sketchy road. I know I’m

when I found Horseshoe Bend, I had scouted

not the only one who’s gone back there,

that vantage point on Google Earth.

but it’s not well traveled. It just led me to

JK: Tell me about the photo above.

yon that hadn’t been photographed much.

believe there was a unique part of the can-

To learn more about photography, visit

ADDITIONAL READING Look for our book Arizona Highways Photography Guide, available at bookstores and www.shoparizona

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˜ iconic photographers ˜

WILLIS PETERSON never tired of photographing animals in their natural environments. His works have appeared

Colorado in the 1920s and ’30s, went

in exhibits around the U.S. and in London, and in

for the big creatures: rabbits, squir-

magazines such as National Geographic, Audu-

rels, skunks and, once, a badger. He kept them

bon and, of course, Arizona Highways. For 13 years,

all in his backyard. Not surprisingly, Peterson’s

Peterson was a photojournalist for The Arizona

mother tried to nudge him into a new hobby, so

Republic. He also started the photography pro-

she bought him a camera for his 14th birthday. He

gram at Glendale Community College, where he

immediately took to photographing the wildlife

loved working with his students on their photo-

he caught, unwittingly beginning his decades-

graphs as much as he loved making his own art.

long career as a nature photographer. Peterson, who moved to Arizona in 1943, has

Peterson is now in his 90s. He lives in Clarkdale with his wife.

ABOVE: Willis Peterson wrote in 1961 that being a successful wildlife photographer requires

“a three-way mixture of technical skill, desire and an innate zeal to portray life.” RIGHT: Peterson’s photograph of a bighorn sheep in the Kofa Mountains appeared in

the April 1977 issue of Arizona Highways. In an accompanying essay, Peterson called the sheep “one of nature’s great symbols of freedom.”






any kids catch bugs or lizards, but

Willis Peterson, who grew up in

˜ dining ˜

Harry’s Hideaway

A PATCH ON HARRY OLSON’S UNIFORM READS, “Have Chef, Will Travel.” And Olson certainly has. He and his wife, Adele, met as computer programmers in their native Chicago and later c o r nv i l l e opened Burgundy Bistro in a Windy City suburb. They ran the restaurant for 16 years, but after one of their customers relocated to Arizona, “when he came back to visit, it was all he talked about,” Adele says. The Olsons decided to check out the state for themselves. Ultimately, they left behind Chicago’s gray skies and settled in the Village of Oak Creek, and in September 2010, they opened Harry’s



There’s a reason Harry’s Hideaway is a local favorite in Cornville. Actually, there are many reasons, including the pulled-pork sandwiches, the shoestring fries and the chocolate salad. Hideaway in the out-of-the-way community of Cornville, southwest of Sedona. It’s quickly become a local favorite, not just among Cornville residents, but also for those in Sedona, Prescott and even Flagstaff. That’s by design: Harry says the menu, which features few items more than $20, is “priced for locals, and if we get tourists, that’s just icing on the cake.” But the food is the real key to the selftaught chef’s success. Take the pulledpork sandwich: Harry dry-rubs a pork shoulder with his own spice blend, then slowly roasts it for at least six hours. The sandwich is a half-pound of pork covered with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce

and served on a brioche bun. Order it with the shoestring fries; you won’t regret it. Other popular items include ratatouille (“I have to offer something for those vegetarians,” Harry says), the New Orleans-style crab cake and the shrimp Albear appetizer. The latter — sautéed shrimp in olive oil, with garlic, paprika, chile de árbol and a Cuban seasoning Harry buys in Miami — is named after a Cuban exile who was an anesthesiologist in Chicago and a regular customer at the Olsons’ restaurant there. “He was missing Cuban food, so we collaborated with him on this dish,” Harry says. There’s also a stable of rotating specials, one of which, the chocolate salad, has been making a compelling case for the everyday menu. It’s mixed greens, strawberries, mandarin oranges, goat cheese and walnuts, drizzled with chocolate vinaigrette made with olive oil from Queen Creek Olive Mill. And don’t leave without ordering a local beer or glass of wine, or without trying the chocolatemousse cups, ice cream or other desserts, all of which are made from scratch. While Burgundy Bistro was all about fine dining, the Olsons aimed for a more casual feel with Harry’s. The small, homey restaurant is warm and inviting, from the comfortable indoor booths to the shaded patio. And Adele and a server keep drinks flowing and diners satisfied. As Harry talks about his labor of love, he’s interrupted by a regular customer who congratulates him on his recent weight loss. So how does he keep the weight off while cooking up all this mouthwatering food? “A lot of willpower,” he says, laughing. “And sometimes I call Adele over to taste the stuff.” — NOAH AUSTIN

Harry’s Hideaway is located at 10990 E. Cornville Road, Suite C, in Cornville. It’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays for lunch and dinner. For more information, call 928-639-2222 or visit

˜ nature ˜

Loggerhead Shrikes

The “loggerhead” name comes from the unusually large size of the birds’ heads.


Their wings are black, with white at the bases of the primary feathers.


ou might call loggerhead shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) the mercenaries of the songbird world. They scan the ground for prey from elevated perches, and when they spot their prey, they dive in, using the built-in points on their beaks to jab the prey in the nape of its neck, at the spinal cord, and paralyze it. They can carry animals their own size in their feet — they transport smaller prey in their beaks — and will impale larger prey on thorns or barbed wire to immobilize it. They also impale poisonous prey in this way, waiting up to three days before eating it to allow the toxins to break down. During mating season, the males court females by feeding them and performing a flight display. Once nesting starts, both sexes gather materials to construct the nest, but the females build the nests on their own, which often takes about a week. They’ll build their nests in areas with thorny vegetation, ranging from trees and shrubs to piles of brush or tumbleweeds. Thorns are characteristic of loggerhead shrikes’ territory, as the birds often live in open areas that have short, spiny, wellspaced vegetation. Those include agricultural fields, pastures, orchards, savannas, prairies, golf courses and even cemeteries. The birds are common throughout Arizona and the southern half of the United States, and can often be seen on fence posts, power lines and other elevated perches. — MOLLY BILKER

nature factoid SPADEFOOT TOADS Aptly named, spadefoot toads spend the majority of the year in underground burrows they dig with their hind legs and bony, shovel-like feet. Four species live in Arizona: the Couch’s (pictured), Great Basin, southern and plains spadefoots. They are characterized by their stocky, round bodies; their smooth skin; and their uniquely vertical pupils, which set them apart from most other toad species. Spadefoot toads can be found in desert-scrub and grassland environments throughout — MOLLY BILKER Arizona.

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˜ lodging ˜


Historic Route 66. He’s since completed a

the McMullen Valley’s desert views. The

on the road, working for rock bands and

massive renovation of the entire property

Westward isn’t what you’d expect to find

living in hotels. After he

and turned one of the rooms into a common

in a tiny Western Arizona town, and that’s

left that line of work, he

area with a full kitchen for guests to use.

exactly how Wolters likes it: “We don’t do

says, “I wanted something

The four remaining guest rooms feature gas

anything normal. That’s our goal.”

that was totally different.” In the mid-2000s,

fireplaces for chilly Sonoran Desert winters,

Wolters bought Salome’s five-room West-

along with plush beds, antique furniture and

ward Motel, which dates to 1942, because

Wi-Fi. But visitors often spend much of their

it reminded him of the iconic spots along

time relaxing on the veranda and enjoying



The Westward Motel is located at 66915 Avenue C in Salome. For more information, call 208-610-3516 or visit

˜ things to do in arizona ˜ Arts and Crafts Festival

Bluegrass Festival

November 6-8, Tubac

November 13-15, Wickenburg

More than 100 juried artists and crafters from around the country will exhibit their work — just in time for holiday shopping. Information: 520-3982704 or

Beer Festival November 7, Lake Havasu City The 11th annual Chillin ’N Swillin event at Rotary Community Park features more than 40 handcrafted and premium beers. Information: www.golake



This event at the Everett Bowman Rodeo Grounds includes continuous music by noted bluegrass bands and contestants competing in 13 categories for prizes and cash awards. Limited reserved camping is available. Information: 928-684-5479 or www. bluegrass

El Tour de Tucson November 21, Tucson This massive cycling event

features rides of varying length (the longest is 104 miles) and is open to novice, intermediate, advanced and professional cyclists. Routes show off the city’s beautiful views of the Sonoran Desert. Information: 520-745-2033 or www.

Glendale Glitters November 28-January 10, Glendale This multi-weekend event is centered on downtown Glendale, where 1.5 million holiday lights will cover a 16-block area.

Events include ice-skating, live entertainment and carriage rides. Information: www.

Photo Workshop: Balloon Festival January 15-17, Lake Havasu City Join Arizona Highways contributor Kerrick James to photograph a three-day hot-air-balloon festival over picturesque Lake Havasu, along with skydivers, neon lights and the lake’s reflections of historic London Bridge. Information: 888-7907042 or

For more events, visit

Some say the view from U.S. Route 60, where the steep road crosses Salt River Canyon, is the most dramatic in the state — keep in mind, Arizona is home to another canyon, one that can be seen from outer space. Whether it’s best or not is debatable, but there’s no doubt the state’s lesser-known gorge is spectacular. That’s why we gave our photographer more than a year to capture its beauty.



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Preceding panel: Cibecue Creek, a major Salt River tributary, joins the river at the bottom of Salt River Canyon. “I made this photo in early spring,” photographer Shane McDermott says, “but I didn’t know it was Cibecue Creek at the time. I wanted to hike up the creek, but the debris from the spring runoff was too big and the water was too deep and fast. I got about two-thirds of the way to Cibecue Falls before turning back.”

Above: The brown water of the Salt River winds around one of the river’s many bends. “This was my very first trip to the canyon, in the fall of 2014,” McDermott says. “This vantage point isn’t far from U.S. Route 60, but it’s tricky to get to. That whole trip, the skies were just awesome, and I photographed numerous nice rainbows.” Right: Lichen-covered hoodoos rise from a hillside overlooking the river. “I found these using Google Earth,” McDermott says. “To reach them, I had to go past the hoodoos, then back up and around, before following a tiny dirt track to a mesa where I could access them. I camped up there for a couple of nights.”



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The Colorado isn’t the only Arizona river with a Horseshoe Bend, as McDermott discovered. “I consider this one of the ‘gem’ finds from this project,” he says. “This was at sunrise, and the light made it so dynamic. I explored this whole area, including beating my way through tamarisks with a machete to get to the orange cliffs on the left side of the photo.”

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A placid pool along a small Salt River tributary reflects surrounding saguaros and rocks. “I think this creek runs year-round,” McDermott says, “because I photographed it in late spring, when it was very hot. I stayed there for two days, swimming and making photos.”



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“I’m a sucker for big vistas,” McDermott says. “I made this shot about 7 miles from U.S. 60. I liked how the dirt road followed the river around the bend.”

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Left: McDermott made this photo while he was on his way to the canyon from Globe. “I was going down U.S. 60, watching the clouds and hoping for a rainbow,” he says. “When I saw this, I stopped and ran across the highway. The saguaro in the foreground caught my eye, so I backed up a little to adjust the shot and incorporate the saguaro into the composition.” Above: On McDermott’s final trip to the canyon, in May of this year, he finally made it to Cibecue Falls. “I’m so glad I didn’t see photos of this before I visited it,” he says. “I wanted to discover it for myself — not just set up my tripod in everyone else’s holes. The big overhangs close to the waterfall give a sense of being deep in the canyon. I’d love to do it again when the water is clearer, but I still think it’s really cool.”

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Cruz Control For more than 11,000 years, people have lived along the watershed of the Santa Cruz River. However, climate change, agriculture, mining, groundwater-pumping and drought have left much of the river dry. That’s where Claire Zugmeyer comes in. The 36-year-old ecologist is working to protect and restore the river’s watershed, with the help of wastewatertreatment plants in and around Tucson.





N A WARM FALL MORNING, two teams of biologists creep slowly along the ankle-deep water of the Santa Cruz River in Marana, just north of Tucson. Midmorning sun glints off the ripples of the braided stream as an electronic whine pulses through the air like a car alarm. Along the river’s banks, one member of each team probes the water under the overhanging grasses with a long wand attached to an electroshocking unit — a large, square backpack with a slender tail that drags behind in the water. Two “netters” flank each operator, with a fourth person following behind, carrying a bucket. The electronic pulses lure tiny mosquitofish toward the anode, which temporarily paralyzes them so they can be netted, placed into buckets and counted.

Ecologists Scott Bonar and Claire Zugmeyer use a large net to catch fish during a Santa Cruz River fish survey, which provides a snapshot of the river’s ongoing recovery.

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“We’re so linked to water, wherever there was water you’re going to find people. Thinking about that has been the biggest surprise: how much we’re part of the landscape in our history, how we shaped it.” — Claire Zugmeyer



So begins the Sonoran Institute’s annual fish survey of the lower Santa Cruz River. Lean and fresh-faced, wearing hip-high waders and a wide-brimmed hat, 36-year-old ecologist Claire Zugmeyer leads the group, assembled from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Pima County and the University of Arizona. Over the next few months, Zugmeyer will analyze and incorporate data from the survey into the institute’s Living River report series. The annual report documents the river’s health along a 23-mile stretch of the lower Santa Cruz using 16 indicators, the presence and types of fish being among them. For more than 11,000 years, people have lived, farmed, mined and ranched along the watershed of the Santa Cruz, one of the continent’s longest-inhabited regions. They’ve pumped the groundwater that feeds the river and diverted its flow. Stretches that once flowed year-round have long since run dry, except during storms. But in a surprising way, the people who live along the river are beginning to give back some of what’s been lost. Three wastewater-treatment plants discharge as much as 60 million gallons of effluent into the river each day, supporting about 40 miles of precious riparian habitat and its fish, birds and other species. More than 46 organizations have worked to protect and restore the river’s watershed. The Tucson-based Sonoran Institute, which has been working in the OPPOSITE PAGE: Sonoran Institute ecologist Claire Zugmeyer watershed for 25 years, is documenting the says protecting the Santa Cruz river’s comeback and leading some pioneercomes down to how humans ing efforts to help that process along. manage and conserve water.


RIGHT, ABOVE: A member of the

ROM THE AIR, the Santa Cruz resemsurvey team uses an instrument to measure the river’s pH levels. bles a fishhook. From its headwaters RIGHT, BELOW: Recent in Southern Arizona’s San Rafael Valefforts have allowed the longfin ley, the river flows south into Mexico, passdace, a native fish species, to ing the village that gave the river its name, thrive in the river’s upper section. before making a U-turn and flowing north into the United States, past Nogales, Rio Rico, Mission San José de Tumacácori and Tubac Presidio, all of them located where they are because of the river. From Green Valley, the Santa Cruz once flowed through the Great Mesquite Forest, the largest known mesquite bosque in the country, before reaching Mission San Xavier del Bac. The forest is gone — likely the victim of overharvesting, groundwater-pumping, mining, agriculture and the deepening of the river channel, thanks in part to a Welsh immigrant named Sam Hughes. In the 1880s, Hughes cut a ditch perpendicular to the river near what is now St. Mary’s Road in Tucson, intending to tap into the water table to irrigate farmland. But after a series of storms, the ditch eroded 9 miles to San Xavier del Bac, taking with it prime agricultural land and deepening the river channel. That helped lower the water table, decreasing the river’s flow. As a result, the river no longer flows near the mission or downtown Tucson. A dike south of Martinez Hill, built in 1915, channeled the river into its present course. But Hughes wasn’t the first to use this method for irrigation. Archaeologists believe the Hohokam people may have done something similar long before. From Martinez Hill, located on Tohono O’odham land, the river now continues downstream through Tucson, past where ancient Hohokam w w


villages once dotted its banks, and Marana, where the fish survey begins that fall day. In the early 1900s, the Santa Cruz Reservoir Co. hoped to manage the seasonal runoff on the lower Santa Cruz for agriculture. As part of the project, Colonel William C. Greene designed a 13-mile canal southeast of Picacho Peak to connect the Santa Cruz with a reservoir to the west. Floods in 1914 and 1915 destroyed Greene’s diversion dam and reservoir. As a result, rather than flowing past Eloy, Toltec and Casa Grande, the river now takes a more westerly course, eventually emptying into the Gila River near the village of Santa Cruz, a tiny census-designated place on the Gila River Indian Community. In recorded history, water has flowed along the river’s entire 200-mile course only during heavy floods, with year-round flows marking places where underlying bedrock forces water to the surface. Springs and marshes once flowed around Martinez

From left, Scott Bonar, Christina Perez and Brian Powell catch and count fish in the Santa Cruz. Perez uses an electroshocking unit to stun the fish, which then are caught, counted and released unharmed.



Hill and Tucson’s Sentinel Peak (commonly known as “A” Mountain). Tucson’s very name was derived from an O’odham word meaning “springs at the foot of Black Mountain.” But climate change, agriculture, mining, groundwater-pumping and drought have left them dry. When Zugmeyer moved to Tucson, she had no idea the river used to flow there year-round: “I thought, All the rivers here are dry most of the year. That’s just the way it is in the desert.”


N A SENSE, concern about the Santa Cruz inspired the formation of the Sonoran Institute. Troubled by development near a Santa Cruz tributary, founder Luther Propst helped negotiate an agreement with a major housing developer in the 1980s, then organized a broad coalition to protect and care for the area’s natural resources. He founded the Sonoran Institute in 1990 to extend this collaborative approach to conservation efforts all over the West. Today, the institute maintains offices in Bozeman,

Montana; Glenwood Springs, Colorado; and Mexicali, Mexico, in addition to Phoenix and its headquarters in Tucson. One of the institute’s first projects was to help conserve land along the headwaters of the Santa Cruz in the San Rafael Valley. It also worked to establish Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, protecting another of the river’s tributaries. These days, the institute focuses on the effluentdependent stretches of the river and its tributaries, which include the upper Santa Cruz, between Rio Rico and Amado, and the lower Santa Cruz, between northwest Tucson and Marana. It started the Living River series after trees began dying along an 8-mile section of the river in 2005. “It surprised a lot of people,” Zugmeyer says. “Because it seemed to happen overnight. At that point they started thinking, If we keep track of things on a regular basis, we might be more prepared for these kinds of things or avoid them altogether.” So with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sonoran Institute developed the report series to document the health of the effluentdependent stretch of the upper Santa Cruz below the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant. “The first time we did [a fish survey], we literally found one individual fish, a mosquitofish,” Zugmeyer recalls. “They upgraded [the water treatment plant] halfway through 2009, and almost immediately, we were finding fish again,” including the longfin dace, a native species. The Sonoran Institute’s approach considers human culture as well as nature. “They’re really hard to separate, especially in this area,” Zugmeyer says. “We’re so linked to water, wherever there was water you’re going to find people. Thinking about that has been the biggest surprise: how much we’re part of the landscape in our history, how we shaped it.” As human culture contributed to the river’s decline, it must also be a factor in its recovery. So, in addition to tracking natural conditions, the institute is trying to find innovative ways the community can use water differently to ensure that the river flows during dry months. “In arid environments, it comes down to how we manage and conserve water,” Zugmeyer explains. “The Santa Cruz work is trying to look at the system as a whole.” Those strategies include the Conserve to Enhance program, launched in 2011. The program was the first in the nation to link personal water use to environmental benefits. More than 150 Tucson-area participants save water, through methods such as installing water-efficient fixtures or harvesting rainwater for landscaping, and donate their savings to a fund that restores

and enhances the washes that feed the river. Another 800 households donate via their water bills. The improved washes filter pollutants before they end up in the river and create green areas where people can enjoy the visible results of their donations. Participants have saved more than 6 million gallons of water and raised more than $40,000, funding seven projects. Finally, the Sonoran Institute co-sponsors Research Days, an annual event that grew out of research at Tumacácori National Historical Park. The two-day event allows people and organizations doing research along the river to share their findings. It was during one of those events that Pima County learned of the institute’s Living River series, which happened to record conditions along the upper Santa Cruz just before upgrades to the Nogales treatment plant. “The second report was during the upgrades, and the third report was a full year after,” Zugmeyer says. “So we had this really nice ‘before,’ ‘during’ and ‘after.’ ” Pima County planned a $600 million upgrade to its own two facilities and wanted to apply the same model to the lower Santa Cruz.


HE MORE THAN 23 MILES the Santa Cruz River courses through northwest Tucson is Arizona’s longest stretch of river dominated by effluent, according to a 2007 mapping. A million county residents turning on their showers each morning add a daily ebb and flow to fluctuations that occur seasonally. Effluent from the Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility also feeds the Sweetwater Wetlands before percolating through the soil to replenish the local aquifer. Opened in 1998, the wetlands have become important bird and wildlife habitat. Bird sightings there include elegant trogons and other species rarely seen in Arizona. At press time, the citizen-science database eBird (, managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, listed 294 species spotted in the wetlands, one of the highest counts in Arizona. The influx of birders gives a boost to the local economy. Pima County is also constructing trails along the river to enhance recreation. During the fall fish survey, teams net about 200 pollution-tolerant mosquitofish on the lower Santa Cruz, but not the hoped-for longfin daces seen in the river’s upper section. Nor do they find the catfish and carp that have been reported. Zugmeyer suspects they were flushed out during heavy monsoon flooding. And while the survey finds fewer fish than the year before, it finds them at more sites. That may be thanks to significantly reduced ammonia levels after the upgrades, improving conditions for fish. Nitrogen levels also have decreased, accelerating the rate at which river water percolates into the aquifer. The improvements have also nearly eliminated effluent-related odor. “The effluent isn’t exactly a natural system,” Zugmeyer explains. “But it’s maintaining a lot of benefit the wildlife and the community are getting.” And while she wishes the treatment plants were built south of downtown, where the results would be more visible, she adds, “It’s still great to have a flowing river, no matter where it is.” To learn more about the Sonoran Institute’s work on the Santa Cruz River, call 520-290-0828 or visit

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There are some great places to spend the night in Arizona. One of the best is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Although it takes some work to get down there, a night at Phantom Ranch is anything but a hardship. Thanks to the impressive crew of 17 who run the ranch, hikers, river runners and mule riders get to enjoy a soft bed, a hot shower and a cold beer in one of the world’s most unforgiving environments.


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very afternoon at about 2:30 p.m., Joni Badley walks to the Phantom Ranch corral carrying a sweating pitcher of ice water in each hand. And the afternoon of March 7, 2015, is no different. “Hello, Phantom Ranch mule riders!” Badley says as she sets the pitchers down on a covered picnic table and turns with a big smile toward the dust-covered group. “Welcome to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!” She pours water into cups and hands them to 10 guests who gingerly dismount from their steeds and duck into the shade. After more than five hours in the saddle while descending from the South Rim, they are tired, thirsty and ready to relax. As the general manager for Phantom Ranch, Badley is in charge of everything from supervising employees to keeping the kitchen stocked, but she says greeting the guests who arrive by mule every day is her favorite part of the job. Badley, two female wranglers and the guests go over cabin assignments, when to eat dinner and where the bathhouse is located. Between now and when they ride back up to the rim tomorrow morning, the group will experience the rustic beauty of Phantom Ranch in much the same way guests did in 1922, when the resort first opened. “We don’t have TV or access to Wi-Fi down here,” Badley warns. “But you can do old-fashioned things for fun, like skip stones in the creek and write postcards.” Compared to the primitive camping required anywhere else below the rim, a stay at Phantom Ranch is hardly roughing it. Here, in a place that is only accessible by foot, mule or raft, you can sleep in a soft bed with clean sheets, take a hot shower, fill your ice bucket and enjoy a cold beer after a steak dinner. This rare oasis of creature comforts is made possible by a crew of 17 dedicated Phantom Ranch employees who run a finely tuned operation, one that’s been perfected over the decades for maximum efficiency in one of the world’s most unforgiving environments. Largely invisible to guests, the Phantom Ranch machine operates almost 24 hours a day, and often without a hitch, powered not by technology but by people. “It takes a special person to fit in here,” says Joseph Moullet, one of the staff members. “You 36


have to be flexible with your living Preceding panel: The Phantom Ranch canteen and working conditions. And you welcomes more than have to love hiking in the Canyon.” 80 diners a day for The employees live in a small breakfast and dinner. bunkhouse located in the middle of Above, left: Tom Hagan, one of 17 Phantom Ranch Phantom’s cluster of cabins. They employees, prepares to work shifts of 10 days on and four open the canteen for dinner. days off. Although hiking to and Above: Mule packer Steve from work is a job requirement, the Trent arrives with supplies from the South Rim. connection to the Grand Canyon, for Below: Dan Trenchard rings Phantom employees, goes beyond the historic Phantom Ranch the bimonthly commute. “This is a dinner bell. minimum-wage job, so it’s not about the money,” Moullet says. “I do it for the scenery.” After graduating from high school in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Moullet, 23, took a job at Maswik Lodge in Grand Canyon Village. He planned to attend the University of Arizona as soon as he gained in-state residency. But then he hiked to Phantom his first week at the South Rim. “This place was like a sanctuary,” he says. “I started hiking down here

every time I could.” After nine months, Moullet applied for a job at Phantom and was hired. That was two years ago. Moullet still intends to get his college degree, but he’s no longer in such a hurry. “Working here has made me slow down,” Moullet says as he sits at a picnic table in front of Phantom’s dining hall. He’s taking a break from running the cash register at the canteen, where he’s been selling candy and postcards all morning. In addition, a steady stream of hikers have been limping in, asking for ice to nurse their swollen knees and ankles. “This job has made me think about what I want to do with my life and how I want to enjoy my time between high school and college,” Moullet adds. ven though a relaxed atmosphere prevails at Phantom, the work isn’t easy. The staff rotates between various job duties, working morning, midday or evening shifts that focus on running the kitchen and dining hall and maintaining 11 guest cabins. The well-oiled Phantom Ranch machine usually serves breakfast and dinner to more than 80 people, while the resort, with room for 92 guests, is booked solid years in advance. The off-the-grid location, combined with the demands of constantly operating at capacity, leaves little room for error among the staff. The breakfast cook arrives at the kitchen at 1:30 a.m. to make bacon, eggs and pancakes, as well as bake cakes and cornbread for dinner. The dining-room wait staff reports by 4:15 a.m. to serve two breakfasts, at 5 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. After the cabin guests check out at 7:30 a.m., the rooms are cleaned and beds are made in time for the next round of guests that afternoon. Mule packers arrive from the rim by about 9 a.m. with supplies — including approximately 2.5 tons of food per week — and carry out trash and duffels. On this morning in March, one of the packers is Steve Trent, who goes by the trail name of “Captain Howdy.” He looks straight out of central casting for a Hollywood Western. Trent, 46, grew up in Montana, where he honed his skills as a rancher, but he’s also worked as a banker in the mortgage industry. “I still do financial consulting on the side,” he says as he pulls crates of food and duffels out of saddlebags. He’s

Bright Angel Creek runs through Phantom Ranch.

been working as a packer for three years. “I love doing this,” he says. “Every day on the trail is a new adventure because the mules all have different personalities.” Badley is standing by with a clipboard, checking off the incoming inventory and feeding carrots to the mules, while another employee, Robert Nance, 40, carries the cargo to the kitchen in a wheelbarrow. Badley, 51, has been working at Phantom off and on since the mid-1980s and was appointed general manager four years ago. “We can’t run out of steak or toilet paper,” she says, noting that Phantom keeps a constant 10-day stock of food and supplies. “From the moment people check in, everything has to run very smoothly. We are prepared for anything and operate with maximum efficiency. We recycle and compost. We fold our sheets a certain way and our towels a certain way.” The sheet technique is called the “Phantom fold” and enables two employees assigned to make 92 beds in a few hours to function

at lightning speed by yanking the sheet from either end and tucking it around the mattress in one fluid motion. Just about everyone working at Phantom is what the staff calls a “maid,” as employees cycle into and out of various jobs on a weekly basis. On this March morning, Brandy Upton is the maid. She has stripped all the beds and is now in the laundry room, loading sheets into the washing machine and putting towels into the dryer. Due to limited storage space in the historic facility, Phantom does not have room for extra linens. Everything must be laundered each morning in time for the next round of guests. The towels are washed first because they take the longest to dry. Upton, 42, is from Louisville, Kentucky, and first came to work at Phantom in 2008 to join friends who were employees at the ranch. She stayed until 2010, when she thought it was time to move on and take a better-paying office job in Louisville. “I really missed the Canyon when I was away,” she says as she rapidly folds towels coming out of the dryer. She moved back to Phantom in 2013 when a position opened up. “Hiking in and out to get to work has given me a sense of independence,” she says. “Last week, I was hiking down the South Kaibab Trail during a snowstorm and I heard a rockslide. I was a little freaked out, but I had the confidence to keep going. I wanted to get home to Phantom.” However, a home at the bottom of the Grand Canyon has its drawbacks, even if they are negligible. Moullet finds the triple-digit summer temperatures difficult, especially in the laundry room, which isn’t air-conditioned. Upton misses being able

Phantom Ranch employees, including (from left) Robert Nance, Brandy Upton and Tom Hagan, come from a variety of backgrounds. What they have in common is a love for the Canyon and the people who visit.



Above, left: Two suspension to go to restaurants on a whim. bridges cross the Colorado Willie Nelson craves gummy bears River near Phantom Ranch. and his king-size mattress in storage This is Silver Bridge, also known as Bright Angel back home in Tampa, Florida. “I miss Bridge. that bed,” he says after his mornAbove: Mary Jane Colter ing waiter shift is done. Nelson, 32, designed Phantom Ranch applied to work at Phantom three in what became known years ago, when he was living in Floras “National Park Service ida. Badley insisted that she interview Rustic” style. him in person before offering him the job, but he didn’t have the funds to visit Arizona before making the move. “The first time I hiked in Grand Canyon was for the job interview,” he says. “I sublet my apartment, put all my stuff in storage and bought a one-way ticket to Arizona. Fortunately, things worked out.”

lthough Phantom employees seem to rarely stop moving, there’s a brief period in the afternoon when many kick back before the dinner shift begins. As hikers, trail runners and river runners mill around in front of the closed dining hall beneath towering cottonwoods, laughter, singing and guitar-strumming can be heard coming from the fenced yard of the bunkhouse. But by 4 p.m., the staff is

setting up for the 5 p.m. steak dinner. This afternoon, Nelson, along with Tom Hagan and Dan Trenchard, is sweeping the floors of the dining hall and laying down 44 place settings. Hagan will also serve as the evening waiter, and Trenchard as the dishwasher. One of numerous traditions among Phantom staff is that the dishwasher gets to choose the music played during setup and cleanup. R.E.M. is pulsing in the dining hall as the three move in lockstep with plates, silverware and glasses. They complete dinner preparations in a record 12 minutes. “I’m the new guy,” Trenchard says. He took the job at Phantom six months ago after graduating from Northern Arizona University’s Parks and Recreation Management Program. Trenchard, 24, plans to pursue a career in outdoor-leadership education when the right job opportunity opens up. “For now, being here keeps me close to nature,” he says. “And it is also great for networking.” Other Phantom employees have been at the job for decades, coming and going in what the staff jokingly calls the “recycledrancher program.” Like the Grand Canyon itself, Phantom Ranch seems immune to the passage of time and is run in much the same way today as it was 20 years ago. This allows employees who know the system to leave and then return months — or years — later to seamlessly slip back into the workflow. Hagan, 46, is one of those who can’t stay away for long. He started working at Phantom in 2001 after completing his first Grand Canyon hike, a 52-day traverse from Havasupai Tribe

land all the way to the Little Colorado Tom Hagan (foreground) and Dan Trenchard set the River. “On that trip, my thought procanteen’s tables for dinner cesses slowed down and everything service. began to make sense for the first time in my life,” he says. “The answers would just show up.” One of those answers was Phantom Ranch, which he visited on Day 27. He was offered a job on the spot and began working after his trek. Hagan’s routine is to work at Phantom for a few years and save money. Then he travels all over the world and eventually returns to Phantom to plug back in. “I don’t own a house or a car. I’m just having fun,” he says. At 8 p.m., the dining room is converted into a beer hall. It’s filled with dozens of hikers telling stories and drinking beer while donning their headlamps for the dark stumble back to the campground. Boy Scout Troop 280 from Chandler, Arizona, is huddled around a large table and playing checkers and card games. Hagan cheerfully rings up a long line of customers buying one more drink. At 10 p.m., the hall is supposed to close, but people are having such a good time, no one’s getting up to leave. “My priority is to make people smile and laugh,” Hagan says. “That is why I work here.” By 10:15 p.m., the crowd finally filters out. Hagan and others quickly clean up the dining room and lay down place settings for tomorrow’s breakfast. The lights turn off at 10:45 p.m. In less than three hours, it will start all over again. w w



Willcox Playa |


SELECTIONS After 90 years of publishing, it’s rare to stumble upon something big that hasn’t been featured in our magazine, but the National Natural Landmarks Program is new to us. In fact, until recently, we hadn’t even heard of it. We’re guessing it’s news to you, too. BY ROBERT STIEVE

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1. Willcox Playa

EXT YEAR, on August 25, the National Park Service will celebrate its centennial. Although Ken Burns is usually credited with the quote, it was Wallace Stegner who first proclaimed that “national parks are the best idea we ever had.” If you’ve ever watched a sunset from Point Sublime on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, or hiked the Panorama Trail in Yosemite, or made the drive to Mount McKinley along Denali Park Road, you get it. Some of the world’s most impressive landscapes are within our national parks. But the natural wonder goes beyond the marquee places. The National Park Service manages and protects more than 84 million acres in parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, preserves, seashores, lakeshores and more. It also administers the National Natural Landmarks Program. Established in 1962, the little-known program is intended “to encourage the preservation of sites illustrating the geological and ecological character of the United States, to enhance the scientific and educational value of sites thus preserved, to strengthen public appreciation of natural history, and to foster a greater concern for the conservation of the nation’s natural heritage.” In other words, it does some of what the other park units do, but it focuses on biology and geology. Another distinction is that the Park Service doesn’t manage the sites, and the landmarks aren’t limited to federal land. The program incorporates almost every form of ownership, including federal, state, local, municipal, tribal and private. Currently, there are 597 National Natural Landmarks, ranging in size from less than 4 acres to more than 900,000. The first site was designated in 1964. There are 10 landmarks in Arizona. As you’ll see, some are familiar. Others are not. Most were added to the list in the ’60s and ’70s. The exception is Barfoot Park, which was designated in June 2011. Eight of the 10 sites are accessible to visitors, but the protocol varies from place to place, so call ahead for specifics. And when you get there, please adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace. After all, these are Natural Landmarks.











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If you guessed “sandhill cranes,” guess again. Although thousands of the long-legged birds migrate to Willcox Playa every year, the area was designated a National Natural Landmark primarily for the rare fossil pollens that exist in the black mud of the playa. Technically known as an endorheic lake, Willcox Playa is a remnant of Lake Cochise, which, about 15,000 years ago, was 40 feet deep and covered 140 square miles. Like every other ice-age lake in the Great Basin — except the Great Salt Lake — Lake Cochise eventually dried up. Today, the “lake” is a wetland approximately 8 miles wide by 10 miles long. It’s not very big, comparatively, but it’s enough to support a few shallow, ephemeral ponds that form after heavy rains or snows. That water, of course, is what attracts the cranes, as well as red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, Harris’ hawks, prairie falcons, bald eagles, golden eagles, caracaras and great horned owls. In addition to the wide array of birds and the exceedingly rare fossil pollens, Willcox Playa is home to the greatest diversity of tiger beetles in the United States. It’s the sandhill cranes, however, that draw most of the attention. They migrate to Willcox Playa as early as September and stay as late as March. In the winter, it’s not unusual to see as many as 8,000 cranes huddled together for the night. DIRECTIONS: The Apache Station Wildlife Area is a great place to experience Willcox Playa. From Willcox, go west on Interstate 10 for 9 miles to U.S. Route 191 (Exit 331). Turn left (south) onto U.S. 191 and continue 9 miles to the viewing area, on the left. It’s open November 1 through March 15 from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. YEAR DESIGNATED: 1966 ACRES: 2,369 OWNERSHIP: Federal INFORMATION: Bureau of Land Management, Safford Field Office, 928-348-4400 or

2. Kaibab Squirrel Area They’re not an endangered species, but Kaibab squirrels have something neither California condors nor Mexican wolves have: Natural Landmark status. Although the site is identified as the Kaibab Squirrel Area, the landmark in this case is the squirrel itself, which represents a classic example of evolution through geographic isolation. Here’s the short version of what happened: At one time, Kaibab squirrels (Sciurus aberti kaibabensis) and Abert’s squirrels (Sciurus aberti) were one species on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and beyond. And then, somewhere along the line, some of the squirrels wandered to the North Rim and took Kaibab squirrel on their own identity. Today, Kaibab | ALLYSON MATHIS squirrels are recognized as a unique species. The most notable difference between the two species is their coloring — Abert’s squirrels are gray with white underbellies, while Kaibab squirrels have black bellies and white tails. It’s the Canyon, however, that separates them the most. Because of geography, Kaibab squirrels live in isolation on the Kaibab Plateau and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Thus the landmark status. Although they’re isolated, the “silver

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve |


ghosts of the North Rim” are not an endangered species. That said, they are timid, so don’t expect to see them running all over the place, like their not-so-distant relatives on the South Rim. DIRECTIONS: From Jacob Lake, go south on State Route 67 toward Grand Canyon National Park. Along the way, there are several forest roads that branch off from the scenic highway. Any of them will lead to possible viewing areas. YEAR DESIGNATED: 1965 ACRES: 304,594 OWNERSHIP: Federal INFORMATION: Kaibab National Forest, North Kaibab Ranger District, 928-643-7395 or; Grand Canyon National Park, 928-638-7888 or; Friends of the Kaibab Squirrel, www.

3. Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve “No other area in Arizona is more deserving of preservation.” That’s what Joseph Wood Krutch, the distinguished American naturalist, said about Sonoita Creek. The Arizona chapter of The Nature Conservancy felt the same way and made Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve its first purchase in 1966. A few years later, the site was designated a National Natural Landmark. There are several reasons it draws so much attention. The main reason is the streamside habitat, which is one of the

state’s best examples of a Fremont cottonwood-Goodding willow riparian forest. Some of the cottonwoods down there are more than 100 feet tall and 130 years old, ranking them among the largest and oldest in the country. The trees, as the name of the sanctuary suggests, are nourished by Sonoita Creek. There are very few permanent streams left in Arizona. This is one of the few, and its first 2 miles are within the preserve. In addition to the cottonwoods and willows, the area supports Arizona black walnut, velvet ash and netleaf hackberry trees, as well as rare and sensitive plant species such as Huachuca water-umbels and Santa Cruz striped agaves. Rare fish find refuge in the sanctuary, too, including the endangered Gila topminnow. And then there are the birds. Sonoita Creek, along with Ramsey Canyon (see page 45), is considered one of the best birding areas in North America. It’s the only known nesting site in the country for the rare rose-throated becard, but that’s just one of the many extraordinary species in the preserve. DIRECTIONS: From Patagonia, go southwest on Pennsylvania Avenue, which turns into Blue Heaven Road, for 1.5 miles to the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve visitors center, on the left. The best months for birding are March through September. YEAR DESIGNATED: 1970 ACRES: 314 OWNERSHIP: Private INFORMATION: Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, 520-394-2400 or w w


Grapevine Mesa Joshua Trees |


4. Grapevine Mesa Joshua Trees This next sentence will surprise you. The Grapevine Mesa Joshua Trees forest is the largest and densest forest of its kind in the world. Although it doesn’t have the sex appeal of Joshua Tree National Park — the Eagles shot their first album cover there, and rock climbers converge from all over the world — Arizona’s forest of Seuss-like trees is the superlative. At least, in some respects. It’s for the trees, and the overall diversity of flora in the area, that the site was named a National Natural Landmark. Like saguaros, Joshua trees have a limited range. They’re native to Arizona, California, Utah and Nevada, and they’re typically found in the Mohave Desert at elevations between 1,300 and 5,900 feet. Contrary to popular belief, Joshua trees are not members of the lily family. Instead, the unusual trees (Yucca brevifolia) are members of the agave family. The confusion stems from the fact that until recently, they were considered giant members of the lily family. However, DNA studies led to the division of that once-huge family into 40 distinct plant families. Nomenclature notwithstanding, Joshua trees are impressive. They can live for hundreds of years and reach heights of 70 feet or taller. DIRECTIONS: From Kingman, go north on Stockton Hill Road for 42 miles to Pierce Ferry Road. Turn right onto Pierce Ferry Road and continue 7 miles to Diamond Bar Road. Turn right onto Diamond Bar Road, which passes through Grapevine Mesa’s Joshua trees before entering Hualapai Tribe land. YEAR DESIGNATED: 1967



ACRES: 3,206 OWNERSHIP: Federal INFORMATION: Bureau of Land Management, Kingman Field Office,

928-718-3700 or; Friends of the Joshua Tree Forest,

5. Onyx Cave When Onyx Cave was designated in 1974, it was “considered to be the finest cave in Arizona.” Although the National Park Service still uses that language, the subsequent discovery of Kartchner Caverns may have outdated the description — Kartchner is home to some of the most impressive cave formations in the world. Nevertheless, Onyx Cave is notable, too. Located in the Santa Rita Mountains, it features a series of passageways and rooms filled with beautifully developed helictites and speleothems, and several outstanding shield formations. No one knows for sure when the first European settlers discovered the limestone cave, but it’s mentioned in the accounts of pioneer ranchers and miners who came to the area in the 1870s and ’80s. Later, in the 1940s and ’50s, the cave became a favorite spot for adventurers. Sadly, the vandals showed up, too, and the cave was gated in 1963. The gate worked for a while, until more ambitious vandals used dynamite to blast it away. After that, the natural wonder was left exposed until 1974, when Escabrosa Grotto Inc. leased the property. Today, the cave is once again gated, and public access is regulated by the leaseholder.

DIRECTIONS: From Sonoita, go north on State Route 83 for 4 miles to

to the awe-inspiring beauty of Mother Nature.

Gardner Canyon Road (Forest Road 92). Turn left onto Gardner Canyon Road and continue 6.4 miles to a dirt road, on the right, that leads to the Onyx Cave parking area. From there, a trail leads to the cave. Before making the trip, contact Escabrosa Grotto to obtain a permit to enter the cave. YEAR DESIGNATED: 1974 ACRES: 50 OWNERSHIP: Federal INFORMATION: Coronado National Forest, Nogales Ranger District, 520-281-2296 or; Escabrosa Grotto, www.

DIRECTIONS: From Sierra Vista, go south on State Route 92 for 6 miles

to Ramsey Canyon Road. Turn right onto Ramsey Canyon Road and continue 3.5 miles to the parking area. YEAR DESIGNATED: 1965 ACRES: 279 OWNERSHIP: Private INFORMATION: Ramsey Canyon Preserve, 520-378-2785 or www.

6. Ramsey Canyon Long before the National Park Service took note of Ramsey Canyon, its namesake, Gardner Ramsey, showed up and staked a claim. That was in the 1880s. Like most early settlers, he was there to strike it rich. He built a 2.5-mile-long road to what became the Hamburg Mine. He never hit the mother lode, but the old road was later converted into a hiking trail, and today it’s one of the highlights of Ramsey Canyon Preserve, which is owned by The Nature Conservancy. When the area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1965, it was just 279 acres, and that’s the number used by the Park Service. However, subsequent acquisitions have expanded Ramsey Canyon Preserve to 380 acres. In addition to being one of the most beautiful places in Southern Arizona, it’s one of the coolest. Literally. That’s because the canyon’s northeast orientation, high walls and spring-fed stream create a microclimate that’s best described as an oasis in the desert. Naturally, that oasis attracts plants and animals. Most notable are the 15 species of hummingbirds — more than any other place in the United States. They’re joined by lesser longnosed bats, ridge-nosed rattlesnakes, elegant trogons, Chiricahua leopard frogs, coatimundis, black bears and more. As for the flora, Apache and Chihuahua pines, sycamores, maples and columbines line the banks of the creek. Although it ranks ninth alphabetically among our Natural Landmarks, it’s at the top of so many other lists when it comes

Ramsey Canyon |


Barringer Meteor Crater |


7. Barringer Meteor Crater Northern Arizona is famous for its big holes. The Grand Canyon is the biggest — and the most famous — but there’s another big hole up there that gets some attention. Tourists know it as Meteor Crater. The National Park Service refers to it as Barringer Meteor Crater. Scientists call it the best-preserved meteorite impact crater in the world. It’s named for Daniel Moreau Barringer, a Philadelphia mining engineer who was one of the first people to suggest that the crater was created by a meteorite, contradicting the most eminent scientists of his time. Today, it’s generally understood that the crater was formed about 50,000 years ago by an asteroid weighing several hundred thousand tons. Based on the size of the hole, scientists believe the meteorite hit the Earth at a speed of 26,000 miles per hour — that’s a force equivalent to 2.5 million tons of TNT. What’s left is a depression nearly 1 mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep. Unlike Barfoot Park (see page 46), Barringer Meteor Crater is a well-developed tourist mecca, with outdoor observation trails, air-conditioned indoor viewing platforms, a widescreen movie theater, a gift and rock shop, and a memorial park dedicated to astronauts. It’s the big hole, however, that makes it a National Natural Landmark. DIRECTIONS: From Flagstaff, go east on Interstate 40 for 35 miles to Meteor Crater Road (Exit 233). Turn right (south) onto Meteor Crater Road and continue 6 miles to the visitors center. YEAR DESIGNATED: 1967 ACRES: 1,432 OWNERSHIP: Private INFORMATION: Meteor Crater, 800-289-5898 or w w


8. Canelo Hills Cienega Three of the 10 National Natural Landmarks in Arizona are protected by The Nature Conservancy. This one is home to the least disturbed cienega (wetland) in Southern Arizona — cienegas are the most endangered natural community in the state. Among the many plants growing in the wetlands are Canelo Hills ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes delitescens). The extremely rare orchid grows in just five known locations on Earth, in an area that’s less than 200 acres. The Tucsonbased Center for Biological Diversity has Canelo Hills ladies’-tresses been working to protect the plant since | RONALD A. COLEMAN 1993. That’s when it first petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the species under the Endangered Species Act. Because the agency failed to do so, the center filed suit in 1996, and the species was listed as endangered the following year. Unlike many of the other properties protected by The Nature Conservancy, Canelo Hills Cienega is not open to the public. But rest assured, it’s being well protected. DIRECTIONS: Not open to the public. YEAR DESIGNATED: 1974 ACRES: 98 OWNERSHIP: Private INFORMATION: The Nature Conservancy, 520-622-3861 or www.nature. org/arizona; Center for Biological Diversity,

9. Barfoot Park

Barfoot Park | 46



The first thing you should know about Barfoot Park is that it’s not a park. Not in the traditional sense. It’s a meadow surrounded by trees. Another thing you should know is that it’s not the kind of place you can Google and get inundated with information. Compared with most of the other Natural Landmarks in Arizona, Barfoot Park is off the grid — it’s located near the small town of Portal in the extreme southeastern corner of the state. There’s a lot of beauty down there, but the reason the area was added to the list is because it’s home to one of the best examples of a Madrean-influenced ponderosa-pine forest in the United States. If you’re not familiar with the type, most of the continent’s Madrean woodlands are located in Mexico. However, several isolated forests can be found in the Southwest. They’re located within the region’s “sky islands,” a term that was coined in 1967 by longtime Arizona Highways contributor Weldon Heald. In Arizona, the sky islands range from the Mogollon Rim to the Chiricahua Mountains, which is where Barfoot Park is located. In addition to the pines, the site supports an unusually large amount of plant diversity and includes one of the largest concentrations of well-developed talus slopes in the region. In 2011, the area was severely threatened by the Horseshoe 2 Fire, which ultimately burned more than 200,000 acres in the Coronado National Forest and Chiricahua National Monument. Although the fire burned much of this

Comb Ridge | MARK FRANK landmark, the meadow and the surrounding trees made it through mostly unscathed. DIRECTIONS: From Tucson, go east on Interstate 10 for 139 miles (you’ll cross the New Mexico border) to New Mexico State Road 80. Turn right (south) onto New Mexico SR 80 and continue 28 miles to Portal Road. Turn right onto Portal Road and continue 7 miles to Portal. At the fork, bear left as Portal Road becomes Forest Road 42, then continue 12 miles to Forest Road 42D. Turn left onto FR 42D and continue 2 miles to a fork. The right fork leads 1 mile to Barfoot Park. YEAR DESIGNATED: 2011 ACRES: 680 OWNERSHIP: Federal INFORMATION: Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District, 520-364-3468 or

10. Comb Ridge Arizona is one of the newest states in the country, but it’s home to some of the oldest things in the world. Petrified Forest National Park is a good example. It’s also home to the only known tritylodont fossils in North America. The fossils, which date to between 208 million and 200 million years ago, are embedded in the rocks of Comb Ridge. They’re also found in South Africa, Argentina and eastern China, and the close relationship

between those fossils and the fossils in Arizona supports the theory of continental drift. All of which explains why Comb Ridge was named one our country’s National Natural Landmarks. If you’re wondering about tritylodonts, their skulls and overall skeletal construction resembled those of modern rodents, but they weren’t mammals. As for Comb Ridge, it’s a monocline that runs for approximately 120 miles from just east of Kayenta to just west of Blanding, Utah. It’s rugged country, even for intrepid explorers like David Roberts, who summarized the area in a story for National Geographic Adventure: “To hike the Comb is to run a gauntlet of up-and-down severities, always at an ankle-wrenching, sideways pitch. There is not a single mile of established trail in the Comb’s reach, which is one reason why no humans, to our knowledge, have ever traversed its length.” The point is, this site is not an option for most people. DIRECTIONS: Not accessible to the public. YEAR DESIGNATED: 1976 ACRES: 11 OWNERSHIP: Indian trust (Navajo Nation) INFORMATION: Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources, 928-8716953 or For more information about the National Natural Landmarks Program, visit www.

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Bistro salad, Maynards Market and Kitchen, Tucson


ince 2008, Arizona Highways has published an annual Best Restaurants issue, so when it came time to create Arizona’s Best Recipes, our editor had an idea. It was natural to cull from the cream of the crop — the restaurants featured in the magazine over the years. Build the book from there, he said. So we did. After a little bit of planning, we reached out to our best restaurants and their chefs and owners. We told them about our hopes for a cookbook, and we asked for their favorite recipes. But we added a few criteria: The recipes need to be delicious, of course, but they also have to be simple enough for our readers to prepare in their home kitchens. And we hoped the chefs would be willing to let us send our 6-foot-4-inch-tall photographer into their kitchens to photograph each dish. They agreed, we gathered recipes, and then we sent “Tall Paul” Markow across Arizona. After more than 6,000 miles, 35 restaurant visits and too many road meals to count, Paul came back with the images that appear on the book’s pages.


He calls it his legacy project, and we’re so happy he agreed to be a part of it. Paul, thank you. Arizona’s Best Recipes is wide-ranging, from Cliff Dwellers’ New Zealand rack of lamb and the home fries at Matt’s Big Breakfast to Garland’s famous apple tart and Blue Buddha’s yum-yum bombs. As you’ll see, we’ve covered every corner of the state, as well as flavors for every palate. Our thanks also go to the generous chefs who opened their kitchens and culinary brains to us. In the pages that follow, you’ll find three of the recipes we included in the book. We hope you’ll enjoy creating these meals for family and friends as much as you enjoy being served them in their respective restaurants. Here’s to happy eating. To order a copy of Arizona’s Best Recipes, visit


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Braised beef short ribs, Stables Ranch Grille, Tubac

BISTRO SAL AD Maynards Market and Kitchen, Tucson [m ake s o n e s al a d]

¼ cup high-quality applewood bacon slab, uncooked ¼ cup bacon fat 10 bread croutons (use brioche or any loaf bread) 1 soft-boiled egg (method follows) Whole milk for dredging Pulverized panko breadcrumbs for dredging ¼ cup baby kale, washed and dried ¼ cup frisée lettuce, washed and dried ½ ounce red onion, julienned 1 tablespoon fine herbs (chopped tarragon, flat-leaf parsley, chives, chervil) 2 tablespoons herb vinaigrette (recipe follows) Salt and pepper to taste Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Slice the bacon into ½-inch strips. Invert the strips and cut ½-inch pieces. Place the bacon fat into a heavy-duty saucepan and warm until melted. Add the bacon, bring to a simmer and turn down the heat right before it is fully sizzling. The bacon fat helps keep the lardons from sticking. Continue cooking until the bacon is dark in appearance and slightly chewy, but very tender. Reserve the bacon fat to fry the croutons in. Cut the bread into 1-inch squares, toss in bacon fat and bake until lightly golden but dry throughout. Reserve for later; reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees. 50


For the soft egg, add enough cold water in a small saucepan to cover the egg by ½ inch. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook the egg for 3 minutes. Immediately place the egg in an ice bath and cool. Carefully peel the egg and reserve. Warm the bacon in a small pan in the oven. Dredge the egg in milk and panko, fully coating it. Fry the egg until golden brown and drain on a paper towel. Combine the kale, frisée, onion, herbs, croutons and dressing in a salad bowl and toss well. Add salt and pepper as desired. Neatly arrange the salad on a plate or bowl, and top with the croutons and warm lardons. Carefully cut the egg in half with a bread knife, sprinkle with sea salt, add to salad and serve.

M AY N A R D S H E R B V I N A I G R E T T E 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard ¼ cup red wine vinegar ¾ cup canola oil 2 tablespoons fine herbs (chopped tarragon, flat-leaf parsley, chives, chervil) Fresh cracked pepper to taste Whisk together the mustard and vinegar in a bowl. While whisking, slowly pour the oil in a light stream to emulsify. Whisk in the herbs. Refrigerate for up to 4 days. For best results, allow 1 to 2 hours for the herbs to develop.

BR AISED BEEF SHORT RIBS Stables Ranch Grille, Tubac [s e r v e s si x]

6 boneless short ribs (about 5 + ¾ pounds) Kosher salt Extra-virgin olive oil 1 large Spanish onion, cut into ½-inch pieces 2 ribs celery, cut into ½-inch pieces 2 carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into ½-inch pieces 2 cloves garlic, smashed 1 + ½ cups tomato paste 2 to 3 cups hearty red wine 2 cups water 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string 2 bay leaves Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While the short ribs are browning, purée all the vegetables and garlic in a food processor until they form a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, then coat the bottom of the same pan with fresh oil and add the puréed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crust has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crust and let it reform. Scrape the crust again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half. Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water (or just enough to almost cover the meat). Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let the ribs brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done, the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid, roasted yams, poblano chiles and caramelized onions.

PUMPKIN FL AN Elote Café, Sedona [s e r v e s f o u r]

2 cups sugar (for flan mold) 6 eggs 6 egg yolks 2 cups half-and-half 1 teaspoon vanilla

Pumpkin flan, Elote Café, Sedona

1 teaspoon ground canela (cinnamon) ½ can sweetened condensed milk ½ can pumpkin-pie mix Pinch of salt Candied pumpkin seeds and fresh whipped cream for garnish Melt the sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat until liquefied. Continue cooking and stir with a metal spoon until lightly browned and nutty-smelling. Use extreme caution and pour enough into individual ramekins to coat the bottom of the dish; then, quickly, while the caramel is still hot, swirl it to get the ramekin coated on the sides as well. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, vanilla, canela, condensed milk, salt and pumpkin-pie mix to make flan mixture. Once cooled, place the ramekins into a baking pan, then fill the pan with water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Fill the dishes with the flan mixture and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the custard is set. Refrigerate for 4 hours or up to 3 days. Unmold by taking a knife around the edge of the custard and inverting it onto a plate. Serve with candied pumpkin seeds and fresh whipped cream. w w


scenic drive

Oak Creek Canyon


Despite a fire that burned the area in 2014, the drive through Oak Creek Canyon — a National Scenic Byway — still ranks as one of the best in America. BY NOAH AUSTIN

here’s a lot to do in Oak Creek Canyon, but beyond the resorts, hikes, campgrounds and other recreation spots, don’t forget that a simple road trip on State Route 89A, from Sedona to Oak Creek Vista, is one of America’s most scenic drives, even after a fire that burned the area in 2014. And on most days, you can go round-trip in 90 minutes or less. The drive — a National Scenic Byway — begins amid the iconic red-rock buttes of Sedona, a city that belongs on the to-do list of every Arizona visitor (and resident, for that matter). After you’ve visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross or had your aura photographed, head north on SR 89A, which parallels the cool, clear water of Oak Creek. About 2 miles



in, you’ll cross 200-foot Midgley Bridge, dedicated in 1939 and named for area rancher and businessman W.W. Midgley. Just across the bridge is a parking area that offers good views of the bridge and the canyon. But the most spectacular views are yet to come. The canyon’s namesake oaks form a shaded canopy over much of the road, and this time of year, you’ll get a good dose of fall color — autumn usually waits until November in the canyon. There are several picnic areas along the way, but if you’d rather have a hot lunch, stop at Indian Gardens Oak Creek Market at Mile 4. Across the road is a historical marker noting that Indian Gardens was the homesite of Jim Thompson (see page 54), who in the 1870s was the first

European settler in the canyon. At Mile 7 is Slide Rock State Park, where the Slide Fire began in May 2014. Up ahead, you’ll see a canyon wall with a patchwork of burned evergreens — one of the few obvious signs of the blaze, which burned 21,227 acres in and around the canyon. There are other signs of the fire along the way, but they’re not overwhelming. As you gain altitude, the oaks and junipers are joined by ponderosa pines — a particularly tall one, at Mile 10.5, towers over the surrounding trees. There’s desert vegetation here, too — BELOW: State Route 89A meanders through Sedona’s iconic red rocks. | JEFF KIDA RIGHT: Oak Creek cascades over the slick rock of Slide Rock State Park. | LARRY LINDAHL


it’s a good illustration of Arizona’s ecological diversity. A few miles later, the ponderosas take over and dominate the beautiful scene. The drive’s famous switchbacks begin 14 miles in, just after you cross Pumphouse Wash. Here’s where views of the canyon’s jagged cliffs and thick ponderosas really open up, but keep your eyes on the road: Traffic can slow to a crawl here. You’ll have plenty of time to gawk when you reach the scenic overlook above the switchbacks. The popular vista features restrooms, a visitorinformation stand and Native American vendors. Get out, stretch your legs and see how many different languages you can identify among the tourists. And, of course, admire the unrivaled view of one of Arizona’s most picturesque canyons.

tour guide SCENIC ADDITIONAL READING: For more adventure, pick up a copy of our book Scenic Drives, which features 40 of the state’s most beautiful back roads. To order, visit www.shoparizona


of Arizona’s Best Back Roads

Note: Mileages are approximate.

LENGTH: 16 miles one way DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of state routes 179 and 89A in Sedona, go north on SR 89A for 16 miles to Oak Creek Vista. VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS: None in good weather, but the road can become slippery after a winter storm.

Edited by Robert Stieve and Kelly Vaughn Kramer

SPECIAL CONSIDERATION: A Red Rock Pass is required

if you leave your vehicle unattended along the route. A daily pass is $5 and can be purchased online or at various locations in Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. The pass is not required to park at the vista. INFORMATION: Red Rock Ranger District, 928-203-2900 or

Travelers in Arizona can visit or dial 511 to get information on road closures, construction, delays, weather and more. w w


hike of the month

Jim Thompson Trail


ad he gotten there a little sooner, Jim Thompson might have spent his days nibblin’ on sponge cake and watchin’ the sun bake. That’s because 70 million years ago, Sedona was a coastal landscape beside a tropical sea. However, by the time Mr. Thompson took

Of the many trails in Red Rock Country, the Jim Thompson is one of the easiest. It’s easy to hike, and it’s easy to get to. BY ROBERT STIEVE | PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK FRANK

his squatter’s rights in what we know today as Oak Creek Canyon, erosion had worked its magic and made the Sedona area one of the most recognizable landscapes in the world. It’s also one of the best places to take a hike. Of the many trails in Red Rock Coun-

try, the Jim Thompson Trail is one of the easiest. It’s easy to hike, and it’s easy to get to. But before you get started, you should know there are two established trailheads. The best option is the Jim Thompson Trailhead. It’s just a few blocks from the pink jeeps and turquoise jewelers, and there’s a lot of parking. The alternative, which is usually congested, is at Midgley Bridge, right before State Route 89A enters Oak Creek Canyon. From the Thompson end, the trail begins on the north side of the dirt parking lot and immediately drops into a wash. Junipers, piñons and manzanitas line the rocky, sandy path. After about 10 minutes, you’ll intersect the Jordan Trail. Veer left and begin the gradual ascent through Mormon Canyon. If you look up, you’ll see The Fin to your left. (On the way back, The Fin will be to your right.) Rising a mile above sea level, The Fin is one of many prominent rock formations that can be seen from the trail. Ship Rock (5,667 feet) and Steamboat Rock (5,228 feet) are two of the others. While you’re looking around, you’ll notice two different colors of rock. The red layer is known as the Schnebly Hill formation. It was formed when ancient rivers deposited iron oxide from distant mountains. The white layer, the Coconino formation, comes from windblown sand that created dunes similar to those found in the Sahara Desert. The rocks, of course, are what put Sedona on the map. And they’re the highlight of this trail, which, after 15 minutes, passes through a small gate. Although there are a lot of trees along the way, they’re not very tall. Therefore, there’s very little shade. That won’t be an issue this time of year — November is a great time to hike Sedona — but the sun will LEFT: The Jim Thompson Trail offers easy-to-access views of many of Sedona’s iconic rock formations. OPPOSITE PAGE: Munds Mountain and Mitten Ridge form a backdrop for Midgley Bridge, one of the route’s two trailheads.



be out, so don’t forget to wear sunscreen. Ten minutes beyond the gate, you’ll arrive at the western base of Steamboat Rock. If you’ve ever driven north through Oak Creek Canyon, you’ve seen this massive rock formation out the driver’s-side window. From the trail, you get a closer look. You’ll also see uptown Sedona to the south. And beyond that, Jerome and Mingus Mountain. As the trail winds around to the eastern side of Steamboat Rock, it reaches the high point (4,770 feet) of the hike, which follows an old road built by Jim Thompson to link his home in Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona. The trail stays the same for about 15 minutes and then drops into Wilson Canyon. The trees become more prominent along this stretch, and the trail itself skirts the edge on its way down. Eventually, after an hour of hiking, you’ll arrive at an intersection with the Wilson Canyon Trail and the eastern boundary of the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness. If you have time, the short trail into the canyon is a good one that follows a

small creek shaded by oaks and Arizona cypress trees. Allow an hour or less for the detour. Otherwise, continue another 10 minutes to the trailhead at Midgley Bridge. It’s a busy place that’s used as a launch pad for a few other trails. It also serves as a rest stop for the masses making the scenic drive through Oak Creek Canyon (see page 52). Despite the congestion, it’s easy to see why Jim Thompson staked a claim

just up the road. Even without a tropical sea, the views from both ends of this trail are pretty spectacular.

ADDITIONAL READING: For more hikes, pick up a copy of Arizona Highways Hiking Guide, which features 52 of the state’s best trails — one for each weekend of the year, sorted by seasons. To order a copy, visit www.shoparizonahighways. com/books.

trail guide LENGTH: 6 miles round-trip DIFFICULTY: Easy ELEVATION: 4,503 to 4770 feet TRAILHEAD GPS: N 34˚53.286’, W 111˚46.097’ DIRECTIONS: From the roundabout intersection of state routes 179 and 89A in Sedona, go north on SR 89A for 0.2 miles to Jordan Road. Turn left onto Jordan Road and continue 0.7 miles to Park Ridge Drive. Turn left onto Park Ridge Drive and continue 0.1 miles to where the pavement ends. From there, continue 0.5 miles on the dirt road that leads to the Jim Thompson Trailhead. SPECIAL CONSIDERATION: A $5 day pass is required. VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS: None DOGS ALLOWED: Yes (on a leash) HORSES ALLOWED: Yes USGS MAPS: Munds Mountain, Wilson Mountain INFORMATION: Red Rock Ranger District, 928-203-2900 or



• Plan ahead and be prepared. • Travel and camp on durable surfaces. • Dispose of waste properly and pack

out all of your trash. • Leave what you find. • Respect wildlife. • Minimize campfire impact. • Be considerate of others.

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where is this?

September 2015 Answer & Winner



Roosevelt Lake Bridge. Congratulations to our winner, Adam Hutoron of Vienna, Virginia.

Old School The Arizona town where this schoolhouse is located used to be a major Arizona railroad hub, but today, it’s a ghost town and part of a national conservation area. The school fell into disrepair after it closed in the 1940s, but it was restored in 2007 and is now a museum and visitors center.



Win a collection of our most popular books! To enter, correctly identify the location pictured at left and email your answer to editor@ — type “Where Is This?” in the subject line. Entries can also be sent to 2039 W. Lewis Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85009 (write “Where Is This?” on the envelope). Please include your name, address and phone number. One winner will be chosen in a random drawing of qualified entries. Entries must be postmarked by November 15, 2015. Only the winner will be notified. The correct answer will be posted in our January issue and online at www.arizonahigh beginning December 15.


For more information, or to arrange a tour, visit or call: 602-689-6140 DavidWrightHouse


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