Adventuring in Rim Country, White Mountains, Sedona, Flagstaff
HIKING F OOLS! 10 great spring hikes
Dancing ghosts RIM COUNTRY
Arizonaâ€™s best lakes WHITE MOUNTAINS
Drive through the clouds Spring 2010 $2.95
Clues to The Great Dying
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207 E. Hwy 260 • Payson, AZ • 468-1008
Hard hike on killer’s trail Tom Brossart
by Peter Aleshire
inally, I let myself sit by a patch of poppies — settling wearily on a sigh. Sticking my right foot straight out in front — I stared without much hope at my boot. Should I unlace and examine the blister? Probably not. Some things a hiker doesn’t need to know. Now, was I a smart fella, I’d have stuck some mole skin in my pocket before setting off to hunt down the most famous killer in American history. In that case, I could in fact take off my cruel shoes and apply the mole skin. But I clearly ain’t no smart fella. No news flash there — seeing as how I’d set out in brand new boots on a hike of uncertain duration. Heck — I wasn’t even bright enough to turn around an hour ago, when my foot started trying to warn me. But I just couldn’t turn around. Not when I was so close. I knew that Geronimo and the most famous band of renegades in our whole history had lived for a time along Turkey Creek on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. I must be close. The ferocious Apache war shaman had fascinated me for years. I even wrote a biography of Geronimo and his nemesis — General George Crook. Geronimo spent nearly 50 years fighting first the Mexicans and then the Americans. He was never a chief, but all his life led war parties. The Apache say no bullet could kill him and he could foresee the movements of his enemies. Must be true — considering that at the end he and 17 warriors eluded a combined total of 10,000 American and Mexican soldiers. His enemies finally had to trick him into surrendering
with false promises. He spent his last years far from these hills as a prisoner, making bows he sold to tourists. He could make children scream by hiding a pebble in a hole left by one of the many bullets that could not kill him. So instead, he died of exposure, lying drunk in a ditch — never allowed to return to this place where I stood. I sighed. I would have to turn around now — hobble back to the Jeep, through the twilight and into the dark. That’s the thing about striking off on a hike in Arizona — you pass through time and lost worlds. Don’t take my word for it — try the treks in our hiking guide. Heck, try any of the adventures offered in this issue — rappel through waterfalls in sacred Cibecue Canyon, chase poppies, solve the riddle of the ruins of Sedona, catch your limit in Bear Canyon Lake. But don’t be like me. Don’t wear new boots, forget your mole skin, hike into the darkness — and limp home scratched and bruised. Although, I guess there’s worse than scratched and bruised, hungry and cold. Because what I remember now about that hike up Turkey Creek came on the hobble home in the last glint of light in the dirt. Stooping, I picked up a shell casing — an old, brass, Sharps .50 caliber. In the most famous photo ever taken of Geronimo, he’s glowering at the camera, holding a Sharps rifle. I can just barely remember the blister, but I’ll never forget the weight of that casing in my hand. All of which leaves us with just one mystery. Why the heck don’t I go hiking more?
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John Naughton, Publisher • Tom Brossart, Managing Editor/Photographer • Peter Aleshire, Senior Editor 708 N. Beeline Highway • PO Box 2520 • Payson, AZ 85547 • (928) 474-5251 • firstname.lastname@example.org No portion of the Arizona Highlands Magazine may be used in any manner without the expressed written consent of the publisher. Arizona Highlands Magazine is published by Roundup Publishing, a division of WorldWest Limited Liability Company. © 2010
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Adventuring in Rim Country, White Mountains, Sedona, Flagstaff
Page 8: Spring feature
Page 40: White Mountains
Life and loss:
Writer offers tips to find that perfect flower patch — and lose the day.
Writer seeks adventure and healing in sacred Cibecue Canyon.
Page 14: Sedona
Page 46: Rim Country
Dancing with ghosts:
Headless gods and dancing maidens etched into the walls of ancient ruins hold clues to one of history’s great missing persons cases.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park beats the odds and continues to amaze visitors to the world’s largest travertine arch.
Page 18: Rim Country
Page 50: White Mountains
Break out your fishing pole!
Drive in the clouds:
A guide to Arizona’s most popular lakes — and 15 rules to live your life by while we’re at it!
White Mountain Apache Reservation drive passes through clouds and history.
Page 22: Flagstaff region
Page 54: Sedona region
Silent as death:
Petrified Forest National Park holds clues to a lost world and The Great Dying.
Savor the surprising charms of Cottonwood.
Page 32: Cover
10 Great spring hikes: A first kiss, a lost brother, a huge blister — what makes the perfect hike?
Bustinâ€™ out all
Rare enough to treasure Story by Peter Aleshire Photographs by Tom Brossart Spring trembles — lush and frail as a flower petal. The flower addicts — Jeep drivers, bees, bats and flickers — wait anxiously for the flush of spring. Will the rains suffice? Will the frost forebear? Will the sun allow? Down in the desert where green is a rumor and purple and orange a hallucination, the answers come early — in March and April. Here in high country, the poppies of the Tonto Basin offer the first clue — followed by the lupines and brown-eyed susans and heavy-headed sunflowers — blooming up the altitude contours, moving with the temperature like cloud shadows. Then after the glory of spring, the monsoons roll through in late summer — producing another chance to get drunk on fragrances designed for bees and moths. This spring it’s anyone’s guess as to what the high country will offer. Perfect wildflower years come if steady rains start in September and November and keep up without big gaps all the way into spring — hopefully right after another good year that left lots of flower seeds hidden in the thirsty soil. But the freakish fits and starts of the past 12 months make it a pollinated crap shoot when it comes to predicting the bloom. Last spring was decently damp, followed by a bone dry summer, a failed monsoon, a dry early winter and a brimming late winter. Each spring, I careen through the state on a color binge, searching for orange slopes, purple dunes and Technicolored canyons aflutter with butterflies. I creep about on my hands and knees clutching my macro lens, search for bony cholla skeletons sprouting poppies,
and seek out color-drenched foregrounds to contrast with harsh granite backdrops. And so I have accumulated a treasure of hoarded memories of hypnotic afternoons sitting on a hillside, immobilized by a wildflower display. So why do I feel this strange, lilting sense of satisfaction not knowing what to expect? Maybe it’s because I know that repetition deadens even a gourmet’s tongue. The glimpse of a cat barely arouses my interest, but the memory of the yellow eyes of the bobcat that watched me will thrill me the rest of my life. Would we even notice wildflowers if they bloomed throughout the year, so many weeds in the cracks of the sidewalks? Fortunately, the high country offers more reliable displays than the capricious low desert — since even in a bone dry year, Payson gets 10 or 12 inches — more than Phoenix can expect in a wild, wet winter. The Tonto Basin usually delivers an early fix — especially on the poppy graced slopes near the ruins of the Tonto National Monument. The Apache Trail and Peralta Road off Highway 60 offers the best, close-by display of both hillsides of poppies and the reliable displays of cacti. The high country offers scattered early treasures and more reliable delights in June, July and August — in years when the monsoons don’t fail us. These summer downpours spawn a straggling of late summer blooms throughout the low deserts, especially in Southeastern Arizona in August. But the variations merely underscore the remarkable ecology of wildflowers. Make no mistake: Flowers have conquered the world. Flowers evolved more than a hundred million years ago as an ingenious way for plants to con insects into mixing their DNA. Scents ranging from perfume to rotted meat advertise nectar often spiked with vitamins essential to preferred pollinators. Color remains the most noticeable come-on, designed not for human eyes but for the specialized vision of certain pollinators, ranging into the ultraviolet. The flowers preferred by the workhorse bees mostly blossom yellow. Flowers that set their lures for hummingbirds prefer a lascivious red to brag on a large reward of nectar. Often the shapes of such hummingbird flowers deny access to bees and other insects, so only hummingbirds will spread the pollen to other red blossoms. Smart move on the plant’s part, since a ravenous hummingbird may visit 10,000 blossoms daily. These innovations worked beautifully. Pollinators helped
A single hummingbird may visit 10,000 flowers in a single day
The picturesque view from atop Bear Mountain Trail is worth all of the grunts and groans.
spread plants across the continents. All the rest of us followed happily along in their wake. Botanists have lavished lifetimes on understanding the vagaries of wildflowers, which have evolved oversized seeds that can lie in the soil for decades awaiting that perfect combination of rain and sun. But despite all the studies and rain gauges, wildflowers remain irredeemably capricious. A hillside covered with poppies one year may remain barren the next. One slope may sing with brittlebush, while a similarly facing incline nearby remains silently forlorn. That unpredictability plays havoc with the creatures that depend on flowers. Tiny hummingbirds undertake continent-spanning migrations to remain on the edge of spring as it shifts from the tropics to the pine-scented northern forests. Bees depend on their stash of nectar and pollen to make the honey they need to survive winter. Moths and butterflies synchronize their metamorphosis to these seasonal displays. The other plant eaters also respond. Elk, deer and javelina all have preferred floral delicacies, drawing enough extra energy from certain plants during certain years to increase their reproduction. Quail orchestrate the number of eggs they lay each year by the Vitamin A content of the tender green springtime annuals. The effects of the flowers touch everyone from the whirring hummingbirds to the lurking mountain lions whose reproduction and survival remain linked to the populations of the flower eaters. I know that others find powdered truths in these waiving stems as well. During one recent Kodachrome scurry through spring, I encountered a young woman, perched on a
12 Arizona Highlands
boulder in a sea of color at the bottom of the Superstition Mountains, balanced painfully on the turning point of her life. The brittlebush staged a riot in yellow all around her, lapping like waves at her boulder and stretching without a break to the base of the gnarled volcanic mountains. Bees hummed incessantly among the Van Gogh-ish extravagance of cadmium yellow, frantically pollinating bushes each of which can produce 800 flowers and 50,000 seeds. She hadn’t known about the flowers when she set out in confusion from Los Angeles, a young woman seeking some trace of herself amidst the punched time clocks, quarreling parents, a floundering marriage, blunted expectations, and unanswered questions. She fled the city with no real plan, but here on her igneous island the puzzle boxes of her life seemed for the moment of less consequence than the hypnotic humming of the bees. We sat mostly in silence, soaking in some inexpressible truth about wildflowers, as though waiting for the
filming of The Wizard of Oz to resume. The brittlebush glowed as we watched the red-orange globemallow close for the night. I didn’t have much helpful advice to offer about the interlocked dilemmas of her life. Sometimes, I think I know even less about people than I do about flowers. Instead, we just sat and watched the flowers swaying in the breeze while the horizon to the west flamed out in a glow the exact color of globemallow. Then we picked our way through the bushes to the trail, a barely clear path through the mass of yellow. I wished her luck. She said she figured things would work out, one way or another. She looked almost happy. Life’s like that, unpredictable and as full of promise as a slope seeded with wildflowers. That night at home, I looked down to find my jeans smudged with yellow pollen, as though I’d brushed against the palette in a mad painter’s studio. I stood for a while in my bedroom in the glow of artificial light, holding my pollen-stained jeans, recalling the sound of bees.
Rim Country Welcomes You! Just a scenic, 90-minute drive from Phoenix will take you to the majestic, mountain paradise known as Rim Country. The communities of Rim Country feature friendly people and wonderful tourist and recreation opportunities, including: • Zane Grey’s Cabin • Tonto Natural Bridge • Hiking and Mountain Biking Trails • Campgrounds • Lakes and Rivers with year-round fishing • Green Valley Park • And so much more
RIM COUNTRY REGIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PAYSON • PINE • STRAWBERRY STAR VALLEY • CHRISTOPHER CREEK
100 W. Main Street • Payson, AZ (928) 474-4515 • www.rimcountrychamber.com
14 Arizona Highlands
Two children stand in a room within Palatki.
The Grotto at Palatki features a variety of rock art. Palatki, a Hopi word meaning “Red House,” harbored perhaps 50 people between A.D. 1100 and A.D. 1300.
Story by Peter Aleshire Photographs by Tom Brossart
A dance of mystery The headless gods and dancing maidens etched into the walls of Sedona’s ancient ruins hold clues to one of history’s great missing persons cases The ghosts dance here — hiding their secrets in plain sight. A space man. A horseman. Animal people. Headless gods. Young girls all in a row. Grinning mountain lions in a tangle of tails. Bird men, holy men, happy families, dying warriors, leaping sheep, slithering snakes, hungry bears — invaders on horseback. A thousand years of human history, prayer, mysticism and tragedy still dream in the slanted sun in the 1,000-year-old ruins and rock faces of Sedona. The nearby ruins at Montezuma’s Castle get most of the attention, since they’re an easy turn off the paved highway. But a bit of a rattle on dirt roads can yield other treasures here — notably the remarkable rock drawings of Bar V Bar alongside Wet Beaver Creek and the mysterious, tumbled cliff face ruins of Palatki and Honanki. The people who lived among these fabled buttes left their mark, etched with reverence and artistry into the soft face of rusted red rocks. These sandstones are in their turn remnants
of a vanished world, for they’re fossilized sand dunes that once drifted across an ancient sahara, until time, heat and pressure turned them into one of the most fabled landscapes on the planet — rusted red by the iron trapped among those fused sand grains. The rock art in Honanki, Palatki and V Bar V includes marks made by almost every major group to pray and hunt and hope in the region for the past 6,000 years. Palatki, a Hopi word meaning “Red House,” harbored perhaps 50 people between A.D. 1100 and A.D. 1300 in two neighboring pueblos set into the cliff face. The site includes what looks like a ceremonial Kiva and a second-story addition. The larger, nearby Honanki, a Hopi word meaning “Bear House,” has 60 rooms, which people occupied in that same period. Tree ring dating on one log used in a doorway sets a firm date of 1271. The first archaeologist who studied the ruins theorized that people fleeing volcanic eruptions near
Honanki, a Hopi word meaning “Bear House,” has 60 rooms, which people occupied from A.D. 1100 to A.D. 1300.
Flagstaff settled first in the Verde Valley, but then moved to Honanki during a warm, wet period between A.D. 1050 and A.D. 1150. Finally, V Bar B close to Wet Beaver Creek off Interstate 17 offers one of the most striking panels of rock art in the Southwest. Archaeologists have counted 1,032 petroglyphs, most etched very precisely with a pointed stone chisel. Unlike most rock art sites, almost none of the designs overlap and appear to have been almost all created in what archaeologists have dubbed the Beaver Creek Style. The huge wall includes unusual foot and paw prints, created with circular depressions in the rock. Some experts have linked the site to shamanism and believe the intricately decorated rock wall may have played a key role in religious and healing ceremonies. Taken together, the three sites offer an absorbing glimpse into a lost world. Here, archaeologists can trace the rakes, dots and squiggles left by Archaic cultures, who hunted big game with stone-tipped spears and left little trace. Here dance the mysterious geometric symbols and playful animals etched by the Sinagua, who tended their irrigated fields for perhaps a thousand years. They painted on the rock with white kaolin clay, red pulverized hematite, powdered yellow limonite, all turned into paint by mixing them into blood and fruit juice. The Sinagua lived in small family groups in simple pit houses scattered through the area and along Oak Creek for centuries, before they decided to build these great, fortress cliff houses — often near sites where people had been leaving their perhaps sacred marks for thousands of years. No one knows what these symbols really meant — nor why the Sinagua suddenly vanished into the mist. But close along behind them came the Yavapai, speaking a language closely related to the tongue of other groups living along the Colorado River. The Yavapai added their mark — extravagant figures vividly rendered in charcoal. Those figures include Spaniards on horseback, the world killers who signaled the end of all that had gone before. The rock art and the silent ruins all hold perplexing clues to an ancient life way — and the enduring mystery of the collapse of a civilization that had persisted through drought, flood, and change for 1,000 years. The Sinagua occupied a strategic crossroads between much larger civilizations. They lived alongside one of the most productive and reliable streams in the region at the ecologically abundant margin between desert and forest. The mild climate allowed them to produce crops almost year-round. They took advantage of their position alongside trade
16 Arizona Highlands
routes that connected far-flung civilizations. The Pueblo people in the great urban centers of Chaco Canyon and New Mexico contributed turquoise and copper. The Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloeans to the north in Mesa Verde and other great settlements contributed pottery. The Hohokam in the Phoenix area contributed a great array of trade goods. The advanced civilizations like the Mayans to the far south in Mexico contributed parrots and intricate jewelry. The Sinagua, for their part, produced sturdy, functional earthenware pottery for their own use, but fed into the trade networks beautifully woven cloth. Living along such a trade route gave the Sinagua access to new ideas and innovations. Archaeologists studying their ruins, garbage heaps and burials have found an exuberant mixture of cultural traits. The Sinagua pottery styles, burial practices, rock art, religious altars, construction practices, crops, irrigation techniques, astronomical sites and settlement patterns all display an ingenuous mixture of ideas borrowed from other cultures and adapted to their needs. The Verde River nurtured the core population of the Southern Sinagua, who gradually expanded their domain. They built their first stone cliff dwellings in the Sedona area after about A.D. 1125, as they expanded their base. By about A.D. 1300, they had occupied most of the good sites in the Verde Valley and Sedona areas, including Honanki and Palatki. Then it all came tumbling down. After 1,000 years of settlement, every surviving town emptied out in the space of 100 years. This vanishing act coincided with similar collapses throughout the Southwest. Archaeologists have struggled to explain the great vanishing, invoking warfare, a succession of droughts, over population that exhausted the vital supplemental wild resources of the region, religious wars, debilitating wars of attrition between different groups or the appearance of outside groups — like the Yavapai and Apache. Of course, the Hopi living quietly on their great mesas to the north in the oldest continuously occupied settlement in North America see no mystery. As far as the Hopi are concerned, they are the Sinagua. The origin myths of several Hopi clans trace their origins to people who lived in the Sedona area and moved north to join the people already living on the Hopi Mesas in the 1400s. The Hopi have a rich and ancient culture, with intricate ceremonies and a complex theology. Many Hopi elders recognize in the rock art of V Bar V, Honanki and Palatki enduring religious and cultural symbols. Nor do the Hopi invoke some regional war to explain the collapse of the great cities of their ancestors. They believe that after their ancestors escaped the destruction of the Third World by a Creator disgusted with human irreverence, they emerged into this world near the Hopi Mesas. They spread out all over the world, looking for an easier place to live. But when they found such easy places, they invariably neglected their prayers and so fell to quarreling. Finally, they concluded that only in a place as hard as the Hopi Mesas could they remember their blessings and stick to their prayers. So they all came back — leaving easy places like Sedona for those high, windswept mesas. So you pick — drought, war, famine, or neglected prayers. Whatever the theory, you’ll find the clues dancing on the walls of Palatki and Honanki, gleeful and strange and forever mysterious.
PRACTICALITIES Honanki Directions: From Sedona take 89A south from the “Y” half a mile to mile marker 365. Turn right onto dirt, Forest Road 525. Go 10.2 miles to Honanki Heritage Site and the parking lot. Hours: Open seven days a week 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Palatki Facilities: Visitor center and bookstore, toilets, water. Directions: Take Hwy. 89A through West Sedona. Continue five miles past traffic light past mile marker 365. Turn right onto Forest Road 525, continue five miles. When FR 525 bears left, continue straight ahead onto Forest Road 795. Continue two miles to Palatki parking lot. Reservations recommended: Call Palatki at (928) 282-3854.
V-Bar-V Heritage Site Directions: V-Bar-V Heritage Site is located 2.8 miles east of the junction of I-17 and SR 179 (FR 618). Watch for the entrance on your right less than one-half mile past the Beaver Creek Campground. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
18 Arizona Highlands
Rim lakes yield a perfect day for fishing or just thinking Arizona Highlands
Writer spends a small fortune seeking wisdom, trout and the Zen of unfurling fly line to bring back the 15-point secret of life Story by Peter Aleshire Photos by Tom Brossart
sat in the middle of the wild, upper reaches of the East Verde River, a poorer man, but distinctly wiser. Somewhere overhead in the waving leaves of the willow tree, my delicately hand-crafted, $2.75 Caddis pattern fly clung to the willow branch. Somewhere downstream, the tip of my exquisitely engineered, 7.5-foot-long, graphite composite fly rod bumped along the bottom having separated itself from the rest of my $185 fly rod in the instant before I sat so unceremoniously in the middle of the middling stream. With a gurgle, and a seep, and a slosh, the merrily burbling snowmelt swirled over my waist and filled my ever-socleverly constructed $95 waders. And as I sat and pondered the way of the world, a chilling breeze riffled through my hair, since I had also lost my $18, ever-so-rustic, fisherman’s hat — complete with the four $2.25 flies stuck in the foam fly-holder stitched into the brim of my ever-so-absent hat. The water wobbled.
20 Arizona Highlands
Rim lakes can accommodate small boats for trolling. Previous page: Bank fishing at Willow Springs Lake is a popular activity.
The wind whispered. The willows waved. And I decided that I’d approached fly-fishing with inadequate intellectual preparation. Seized by some formless, irrational, middle-aged yearning, I’d merely dabbled last year — brandishing a rented pole and a touching but naive enthusiasm for running water and grassy, undercut banks. Inspired by a sheer, overwhelming, Zennisity of it all — and egged on by a single, singularly careless trout — I’d invested heavily in the sport: I read books, maxed out two credit cards, pored over diagrams, and bought up whole shelves of topo maps. So I came to this second Rubicon, beautifully outfitted, intensively educated, and boundlessly enthusiastic. And came so soon to sit — mumbling mindlessly in the midst of this middling stream. And I sat. And I sat. And I sat. Until I divined the cause of my failure. Clearly, I had not come up with a clear, concise, infallible set of rules by which one can systematize the fly-fishing experience. In that spirit, I now offer you 15 simple rules to guarantee a successful fly-fishing experience, pearls wrestled from the tightly clamped shell of experience. 1. Don’t read any books on fly-fishing until you so love fishing you can endure the irritation of expert advice.
2. Don’t believe anyone who tells you how trout think. Wait for a book actually written by a trout. 3. Swim a few feet in their fins: Lie on the bottom of a stream behind a big rock and watch for insects drifting toward you overhead. Do they look like your flies? 4. Remember they have brains the size of a walnut. You can do this, dude. 5. Think like a nymph. No, not that kind of nymph. A bug that lives underwater. 6. Tie on your flies by day — then tie one on at night. 7. You will always select the right line weight if you adhere to this simple formula: Measure the length of your pole. Divide by the radius of your reel. Subtract the length of the backing. Add the weight of the fly. Multiply by two if you have a graphite pole and by .345 if you have a fiberglass pole. Then ask the guy in the sporting goods store what he thinks. (If you have a bamboo pole, call Prince Charles and ask what he thinks.) 8. Drain the stream before fishing. Survey the bottom and locate any likely trout hiding places. Mark these spots, then let the water back in. 9. Befriend a fish biologist. Get them to let you borrow the electric shocker thingy they use to stun fish. Tell your friends you used an upstream presentation. 10. Give catfish fishermen the respect they deserve.
After all, they generally sit around under the stars with cheap equipment drinking beer. Fly-fishermen spend hundreds of dollars to wade up and down slippery streambeds brimming with snowmelt. Who’s smarter? 11. Practice good trout stream etiquette. Always go around another fisherman’s spot; don’t scare away his trout by making a lot of noise. Never tell another fisherman who has just caught a fish that yours is bigger than his. 12. When telling trout stories, inflate the length of the fish you caught by 30 percent. When listening to trout stories, reduce the length of the trout he caught by 50 percent. 13. Spend your first hour on the stream observing the water, studying the insects, memorizing the sound of the stream. If you do this properly, you can skip the actual fishing part. Tell your friends you caught a Zen trout. 14. Always, always, clean the fish slime off your hands before embracing your spouse. 15. Reconsider. The ability to change your mind is a sign of intelligence. Get a cheap spin casting rig — go to Bear Canyon Lake (or Willow Springs — any of those perfectly fine Rim lakes, rent a little boat, bring a cooler of beer — dangle cheese balls or worms or something artless and cheap over the side. Catch your limit. Tell your wife you caught them in a wilderness area after a bruising 12-mile hike. (Don’t forget to wash your hands.)
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Rim Fishing Guide For information on current conditions, check the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s fishing guide, updated regularly on the Web or call the Black Mesa Ranger District office at (928) 535-7300 for up to date information about road conditions. CHEVELON LAKE: Accessible only after the snow melts and the roads dry out, this remote lake is protected from fishing pressure by a bumpy drive on a dirt road and a steep hike down to the deep, narrow lake. Lots of big, over-wintering fish, but not as many stocked catchables. In the early spring, look for good fishing at the inflows and also in the creek below the dam. BEAR CANYON LAKE: One of the most popular lakes in Arizona. Get there early after the roads re-open off Forest Road 300 to take advantage of the hungry, over-wintering trout — plus the plentiful weekly stocking. BLACK CANYON LAKE: Another popular lake that gets heavy use all summer, so get there ahead of the crowds as soon as the roads reopen.
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WILLOW SPRINGS LAKE: Probably the second-busiest lake in Arizona — after Woods Canyon. Forest Road 149 reopens after the snow melts off. Game and Fish stocks the lake heavily all spring and summer. WOODS CANYON LAKE: The marina store here sells more fishing licenses than any other outlet in Arizona. The lake freezes in the winter, which means the big, over-wintering trout are hungry in the early spring. Game and Fish stocks the lake heavily with trout all summer.
Directions Take Highway 260 east from Payson 30 miles to where Forest Road 300 crosses the highway. If you go left onto FR 300, you will pass Woods Canyon Lake, Bear Canyon Lake, Knoll Lake and several other small lakes for about 35 miles before rejoining the pavement at Highway 87 by Pine and Strawberry.
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Silent as a murder s Strewn w The eerily cracked, eroded, wind-swept landscape of the 94,000-acre Petrified Forest National Park at first seems hushed and tragic — the open coffin of a dead earth. But that’s an illusion. In truth, all the world waits on display here — the evolution of a planet, the pulse of life, the slide into extinction. This vivid red, blue and purple landscape is strewn with the fossilized bones of a vanished world. It holds to its aching and angular heart the history of the world — triumphs and tragedy, death and rebirth. It’s silent as a murder scene, with a famous corpse and an absorbing scatter of clues that connect to the death of stars, the jostling of continents, the shifts of global climate, the shock of mass extinctions and the magic of silicon. This other-worldly landscape contains perhaps the largest concentration of petrified wood on the planet — the fossilized remains of 220-million-year-old trees that once towered 200 feet tall. As a result, these eroded, Technicolor hills made of ancient stream and lake-bottom sediments contain a priceless sampling of the strange life forms that flourished in the long, warm space between two of the planet’s most devastating mass extinctions. The remarkable geology of the park has protected that precious trove of earth history. The great tree trunks, dying
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r scene n with clues
Story by Peter Aleshire Photographs by Tom Brossart
dinosaurs, terrifying crocodiles and vanished monsters all in their turn toppled into streams and lakes. Rivers delivered them to the lowlands in great flood events, heaping the great trees into pick-up-stix piles, stripped of bark and branches. Here, slurries of mud and silt covered them, protected them from decay, then buried them deep. Safe from bacteria in their earthen tombs, the transformation began. Silicon dissolved from volcanic ash begun infiltrat-
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ing the once living tissue â€” replacing flesh and wood with glittering stone, preserving spores, skin, cell walls and a thousand other details. Chalk it up to one more miracle of silica, the most common element in the crust of the earth. Silica combines readily with oxygen to form the amazingly useful silicon dioxide, necessary for making glass, computer chips, porcelain and even cement. As it seeped into the hollows and microscopic spaces in
Petrified Forest National Park bears witness to a lost world lost in the shadow of a mass extinction
the buried trees, the silicon crystallized into six-sided quartz crystals, tinged brilliantly with minerals. Iron provided much of the color — sometimes purple, sometimes rusted red. Iron is so dense and indestructible it can be forged only in the inner core of a great star — which must explode in fury to scatter the iron out into the universe. These trace minerals tinted both the crystallized logs and the hills and rocks themselves. Those mineral traces created
the extravagant colored layers of the crumbling Chinle Formation, which covers the park. Layers buried quick and deep — far from the corrosive reach of oxygen – turned blue and purple thanks to that touch of iron and manganese. Layers buried, then uncovered, rusted, then buried again turned red and yellow. As a final master touch, the geological landscape of this vivid tableau threw in layers of clay laced with bentonite, a mineral produced by volcanic ash that can absorb up to seven times its own volume in water. The remarkable property gives bentonite an array of applications — but it also causes soil to ruthlessly expand and contract. In the Petrified Forest, that has cracked the surface of the soil like an elephant’s hide — and prevents plant roots from gaining a hold. As a result, the landscape is textured, eroded and naked — exposing all its hoarded secrets. As extinctions rolled across the globe and Pangea broke
Trace elements like iron and manganese account for the vivid colors of the Chinle Formation. Siltstones and mudstones buried deep turned purple and blue, sediments exposed to oxygen turned red — like the chunk of rock in the foreground.
up starting some 200 million years ago, the forest of the monument sank under a great weight of mud and stone. Soon, North America had shifted to its present position. As the Colorado Plateau began its mind-numbing uplift to create the Rocky Mountains, erosion stripped away nearly 200 million years of accumulated sediment. Eventually, the long-hidden Chinle Formation with its treasure trove of fossils broke the surface, like the breaching of a vanished sea monster. The great heaving fractured the gigantic logs — snapping them so neatly it looked as if some demented lumberjack with a diamond saw had cut them in a frenzy. Most of the trees were an extinct conifer-like relative dubbed Araucarioxylon Arizonicum. However, scientists have identified seven species of trees and 200 other species of plants, all now as strange and fanciful as the trees of Avatar. Those fossils bear witness to the diversity and persistence
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of life, which has been forced to repeatedly start almost fresh in the violent history of the planet. These bizarre and varied survivors whose stories are preserved in siltstone and bentonite represented a wonderful diversity of forms, all creeping through the swamps, dunes and thick forests of the supercontinent Pangea, which straddled the equator. The assembly of that supercontinent accompanied by titanic volcanic outpourings perhaps played a role in the most terrible of the planet’s known mass extinctions, which marked the boundary between the long, quiet Permian and the varied and violent Triassic. In that still-mysterious 250-million-yearold holocaust more than 96 percent of the earth’s marine species vanished, along with 70 percent of the land-dwellers. The cataclysm spared neither plants nor insects, both of which remained relatively untouched by other mass extinctions. No one knows what triggered the “great dying,” which
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came in waves several million years apart. Massive volcanic eruptions perhaps released carbon dioxide and sea bottom methane deposits — causing global warming and changes in the chemistry of the ocean. Creatures with shells and simple circulatory systems fared worse than creatures that didn’t need to glean calcium from the water. Asteroid impacts may have contributed. So perhaps did changes in global climate due to the shift of all the land masses to the equator, which changed global currents in both the ocean and the atmosphere. Some experts point to tantalizing evidence of a strange proliferation of certain types of fungus. Many suspect a piling on of changes until whole interconnected ecosystems collapsed. In any case, that extinction nearly wiped clean life’s slate. So few creatures survived the disaster that it created a 30-million-year-long gap in coal deposits worldwide. However, that great dying also prepared the way for the evolution of the plants and animals whose fossilized remains are laid bare at the Petrified Forest today. Here, ruled 40-foot-long crocodile-like Phytosaurs, gobbling up both fish and creatures as they stopped at the shore for a drink. They preyed sometimes on 15-foot-long, plant-eating reptiles called aetosaurs, with their tiny heads, pig-like snouts and great, armored spikes. Sometimes, they also snapped up 9-foot-long therapsids, reptiles with almost mammalian cheek bones, canines, pelvises and spines. Sometimes, those lurking phytosaurs no doubt nibbled on dragonflies and other insects the size of small dogs — the biggest insects in the history of the planet. Of course, the phytosaurs, which comprise the most common fossilized bones in the park, had to compete with other predators. The 20-foot-long rauisuchians were the top land-based killers, quick, bent-over predators with massive skulls, three-inch-long serrated teeth, long forearms and terrible appetites. But other creatures lurked in the shadows and waited their chance — including the first dinosaurs, small, quick, bipedal predators about 8 feet long weighing a slight 50 pounds. They lived on scraps then, but their descendants would survive the next mass extinction and rule the world for more than 150 million years. Of course, their turn came as well — perhaps heralded by the devastating impact of a giant asteroid some 60 million years ago. And just as the dinosaurs rushed into the gap left by the extinction of the archosaurs, therapsids, rauisuchians and phytosaurs, so we mammals crept out of the shadow of the vanished dinosaurs. Ironically enough, at just about the moment an asteroid splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico to draw a curtain of dust and fire down on the dinosaurs, a shift in the crust of the earth began the long process of exhuming that long, forgotten forest. Now those logs of stone, fossilized tracks of 70-pound lung fish, serrated teeth long as knife blades and crocodile jawbones the length of minivans all lie glittering in the cracked, pastel soil, mute witness to the history of the earth. And we warm-blooded heirs of the dinosaurs wander through the fine-grained drifts of time, frail and amazed.
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PRACTICALITIES About 259 miles from Phoenix or 215 miles from Payson, the road through the Petrified Forest connects Highway 180 and Interstate 40. You’ll pay a $10 per-car entrance fee. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Lodging: Lots of low-cost hotel rooms in nearby Holbrook, with its funky collection of rock, fossil and curio shops. You can also stay at La Posada in nearby Winslow, designed by Mary Colter and now serving gourmet meals in a historic setting. Cool and Close: The privately run Meteor Crater offers a look at the planet’s best-preserved asteroid impact crater.
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Photographers of all skill levels are welcome for workshops with award-winning photographer and Highlands editor and photographer Tom Brossart. March 14 ($69) Wildflowers April 17 ($69) Superstitions May 7-9 ($225 for three days) Sedona Upcoming: Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Aspens, Fall Color and more. Register: email@example.com For information, call (830) 391-4809. Workshops limited to 10.
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30 Arizona Highlands
10 Great Hikes:
Writer sets out on quest to define the perfect hike
Story by Alexis Bechman — Photographs by Tom Brossart
A parched throat. Dizzy exhaustion. A flush of fear. A long kiss. All that came flooding back to me as I gazed down into the Grand Canyon, on this perhaps impossible quest for the perfect hike. I can never walk past the Kolb Studio at the Grand Canyon without stopping at the Bright Angel Trail sign and recalling that day four years ago and thinking about the hike that I thought had cost me my brother. I shift my vantage point from the Yavapai Point and Observation Station, trying to pinpoint the location of the Kaibab suspension bridge hanging over the Colorado River. I remembered the day, vivid and stinging as the salt of my sweat in my eyes. We’d headed down the trail all together. But somehow, my brother got ahead. When we noticed him gone, we hurried to find him — but he was gone. We searched for hours, hoping that he’d merely wandered ahead again — as he sometimes did. But this time, we
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feared the depth of the canyon and the oppression of the heat. We finally reached that suspension bridge, full of fear. There sat the pile of bananas he’d insisted on packing — and relief flooded over us. We eventually found him safe on the other side of the bridge, resting comfortably with other hikers. It was a frightening day — and yet, I’ll recall that hike and the depth of the canyon and the roar of the river and the blessed sight of those yellow bananas the rest of my life. So what then makes the perfect hike? Everyone has a different answer. Some seek solitude, others challenge and still others beauty. Some just want to make it back to their car in one piece. Like so many other wanderlust hikers, I have had my fair share of less-than-perfect situations — from empty canteens to blisters so big I vowed to swear off walking. But then I recall the bubbling stream in Sedona, a waterfall in the White Mountains, a cinder cone near Flagstaff, a sunset viewed from a perch on the Mogollon Rim — and the sweat, blisters and dry throat all fade. In this article, we lay out 10 of the best hikes to take during spring — classic treks you mustn’t miss. While some of the hikes are easy and fun, like the Rim Vista Trail in the Rim Country, others will challenge you to go beyond your natural limits, like the Hermit Trail at the Grand Canyon. Doesn’t it seem that the hard trails are the ones that stick with you — even if you don’t misplace your brother?
Above — The view toward Red Mountain at sundown. Below — The aspens surround the Lockett Meadow Trail in the fall.
Maybe that is why the Grand Canyon always ends up at the top of my list. Dropping several thousand feet in just half a mile, the canyon puts any hiker to the test. In Arizona, however, the canyon is not the only place pushing adventurers past their limit. As a reporter, I have written more stories about lost or dehydrated hikers on the Hell’s Gate Trail (located 11 miles east of Payson) in the last year than any other trail. From its steep decent, lack of shade and overall toughness, this trail has taken down single hikers and whole Boy Scout troops. The highlands of Arizona have so many other hikes worthy of a stroll. From Sedona’s view of the red rocks to the White Mountains’ soaring trees, to Flagstaff’s mountains and the Rim Country’s pristine forests — the area offers something for everyone. But what all those place have in common is their ability to provoke memories. Need to remember the tale? Travel back to the place, stop for a minute and let the tales unfold in your memory. Like visiting an old friend, the story unveils itself in surprising ways, from a scraggly tree that offered you support when you thought you couldn’t make it around one more switchback to a curve in the trail where you saw a deer — the trail be-
comes a scrapbook holding things you thought you had forgotten. So here I stand, once again, on the edge of a gash in the earth 2 billion years deep, already full of my memories. I’m standing under the bell at Hermit Rest, I remember posing my mother under the same bell several years earlier. But my mind slides past my mother as I look down that trail. Several miles down, waits a scraggly tree in a small clearing. Beneath that spindly tree on a foreverremembered hike, I once shared what I can only describe as an electrifying kiss. Now, that was a perfect hike — but then, that’s another story. Suffice to say that our memories make the perfect hiking companions — and all that it requires to make a perfect hike is to make another memory that will hike with the throng in my mind on all the trails that await. So while you can offer suggestions of what makes up the perfect hike; views, difficulty, flowers, wildlife, etc., it’s really any hike that creates a memory. So, take a hike, and create your own scrapbook. But I’ve got to be off now. The memory of that kiss awaits me, down in the layered heart of the earth.
Bell Rock to Courthouse Butte Trail
Great Hikes GRAND CANYON The South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park lies about 218 miles north of Phoenix, 200 miles northwest of Payson and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff. Most visitors prefer to drive to the park. From Phoenix, travel north on Interstate 17 to Flagstaff, then take Interstate 40 west toward Williams/Grand Canyon. It should take around four hours to get to the park and another half an hour to find parking near the canyon and start hiking.
1) Rim Trail
The Rim Trail extends from Pipe Creek Vista west to Hermits Rest, a distance of approximately 12 miles, most of which is paved. The trail is conveniently reached from any viewpoint and a free shuttle bus will even return you to your car if you decide to stop along the way.
expect to spend two to four hours in the canyon and descend 1,240 feet.
2) Hermit Trail
3) Margs Draw Trail
To reach the Hermit Trailhead, hop on a Hermits Rest Route shuttle bus and take it to the end of the line. Exit the bus and head toward the Hermits Rest store and snack bar. The trailhead is located west 500 feet behind the store. The trail makes its way to three locations â€” Waldron Basin, Santa Maria Spring and Dripping Springs. You can also take the trail to the Colorado River. The trail is steep and the National Park Service recommends only experienced desert hikers use it. To reach Waldron Basin,
The easiest thing about this 2-mile hike is the trek itself. The hardest
part is deciding where you want to start. You can pick the in-town trail up from three locations â€” the Broken Arrow trailhead, the Sombart Lane trailhead and the Schnebly Hill trailhead. Accessible year-round, this two-hour hike is best enjoyed in the spring. To access the trail at the south end, head down Morgan Road, which is 1.4 miles south of the State Routes 179 and 89A roundabout. Go 0.6 miles down Morgan Road until you reach the end of the pavement
Margs Draw Trailhead
Bell Rock Trailhead A hiker stops and admires the surroundings off the Bell Rock Pathway trail in Sedona. where the trailhead is 80 yards ahead. For the north end of the trail, head south at the State Routes 179 and 89A roundabout for 0.3 miles and turn left on Schnebly Hill Road. Go 0.8 miles until you reach the turnoff for the Margs and Huckaby trails. The middle trailhead is at the end of Sombart Lane on the left. Again, head south at the State Routes 179 and 89A roundabout for 0.7 miles until you reach Sombart Lane. Follow Sombart Lane 0.1 miles to the trailhead.
4) Bell Rock Pathway This 3.5-mile mostly smooth and flat trail links the Village of Oak Creek with Sedona. The trail is a great place to walk or mountain bike with a group of people because in most places it is wide. Around Bell Rock, the trail gets rocky and slightly steeper. Allow a few hours to hike this trail, which offers awesome views of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. To access the pathway, head south at the State Routes 179 and 89A roundabout, taking 179 3.6 miles to a paved turnout on the east side of the roadway.
5) Courthouse Butte Loop Accessing the Courthouse Butte Loop is easy if you are already on the Bell Rock Pathway since the loop picks up where the pathway ends. If you are not already on the pathway, accessing the trail is equally easy. From the State Routes 179 and 89A roundabout, head south 6.5 miles to a roadway on the east side of the roadway for the Bell Rock Vista. At the kiosk, head toward Bell Rock until you reach a signed intersection for the Courthouse Butte Loop where you can continue on the trail clockwise or counterclockwise depending on your preference. Either way, the trail gently circles Bell Rock dipping and curving 4.2 miles around until the trail reconnects with the pathway. Large cairns mark the unshaded trail for most of the way. Allow 2.5 hours to make the loop around Bell Rock. If you are in good shape, you can even amble up Bell Rock to get a better view of the surrounding valley.
A couple hike Margs Draw Trail. This almost forgotten trail has excellent red rock views and is a fairly easy 2-mile hike into the backcountry.
Horton Creek Trailhead Rim Vista Trailhead
RIM COUNTRY 6) Rim Vista Trail With large sections paved, the Rim Vista Trail may not be the hardest trail, but could be one of the most scenic. This 4-mile roundtrip trail hugs the side of the Mogollon Rim offering breathtaking vista views of the valley below, which holds the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest. The hike is great at sunset as there are plenty of places to stop and rest on rocky outcrops, just be careful not to get too close to the edge. To access the trail, from Payson head east on Highway 260 until you reach the top of the Rim, where you turn left on Forest Road 300 (Woods Canyon Lake Road). Park in a parking area just off to the right and the trail is an easy amble to the Rim. You can also access the trail from the second parking area a little over a mile down the road, which splits the trail.
7) Horton Creek Trail This easy 7-mile roundtrip hike meanders through some of the Rim Country’s most beautiful scenery below the Mogollon Rim. For this reason, the trail is heavily used and most popular during the spring and fall months. The trail starts at the upper Tonto Creek Campground and heads alongside Horton Creek. When you reach the end of the trail, look north for a waterfall flanked by foliage. To access the trail, from Payson head east on Highway 260 for roughly 16 miles. Turn left at the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, which is just past the Kohl’s Ranch turnoff on the right. Head a mile up the road toward the hatchery until you reach trailhead parking. The trail begins across the road from the parking lot in the campground.
WHITE MOUNTAINS 8) Mogollon Interpretive Trail 8) (Rim Vista Trail)
Red Mountain Trail
38 Arizona Highlands
This popular self-guided interpretive trail is a favorite among visitors. While only a one-mile loop, the trail takes you through a forest of pinyon pine, juniper, oak, willow and manzanita to the edge of the Mogollon Rim, offering stunning vistas. The trail is located off Highway 260 midway between Show Low and Lakeside. Follow Highway 260 to the Lakeside
Ranger Station and continue heading northwest 3 miles. Look for the Mogollon Rim Trail sign and trailhead parking just past Lions Camp Tatiyee.
FLAGSTAFF 9) Red Mountain If you are looking for stunning scenery and an easy hike, head north out of Flagstaff 25 miles to Red Mountain. Red Mountain was formed 740,000 years ago by an eruption. What remains is a 1,000-foot-high volcanic cinder cone and hoodoos all around. To access the trail from Flagstaff, head northwest on Highway 180, go 25 miles to milepost 247, where a sign for the Red Mountain Geologic Area is posted. Drive 0.3 miles on a dirt road to the trailhead. Red Mountain lies 1.25 miles or 30 minutes on an easy trail with a 300-foot elevation gain.
10) Inner Basin Trail Wildflowers abound in the Inner Basin Trail. The trail starts in Lockett Meadow and makes its way to the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks, where mountains surround you on all sides. The 6.9-mile roundtrip trail follows a primitive road and should take 3.5 hours to complete. To access the trail, drive northeast from Flagstaff on Highway 89 for about 12 miles. Turn left (west) onto Forest Road 552, which is just past the Sunset Crater turnoff. Drive 1.5 miles, turn right at the Lockett Meadow sign and continue to the trailhead. This is considered a strenuous trail.
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NGCHS — Preserving Our Western Heritage
Death and fear on a long rope Kerrick James rappels through a waterfall in Cibecue Canyon on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
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Grief and adventure mingle on a trek through beauty and loss under the care of an Apache guide in sacred Cibecue Canyon
regg Henry — bull rider, firefighter, cowboy, canyoneer, guide, and full-blooded Cibecue Apache of the clan of Chief Diablo himself — stood nonchalantly on the edge of the sheer 80-foot drop alongside the thundering waterfall and looked at me expectantly. I — middle-aged, stout, scratched, bruised and dressed in the turquoise sun shirt my father often wore before he died — licked my suddenly dry lips and decided to beg Gregg to simply lower me down the cliff face like a quivering sack of mashed potatoes. I tried — my life stuttering in my throat. But I couldn’t do it. Not in front of Gregg — a stocky, White Mountain Apache guide, fashioned from slabs of granite — his eyes twinkling with mischief, adrenaline and the stunStory and photographs ning beauty of Cibecue Canyon — the sacred, seldom-visited, waterfall-punctuated canyon through which we’d been wanderby Peter Aleshire ing for three days. Gregg exuded an effortless, cheerful macho — running lightly along sloping cliff edges, boulder-hopping with a 50-pound pack, diving off cliff-tops into deep pools — with a shy smile always lurking just behind his eyes. Confronted with Gregg’s shrug of daring, how could I flinch? Besides — I was wearing my father’s water shirt. But then, I’m getting ahead of myself. Best to start at the beginning. I have yearned to cast myself into the mysterious depths of Cibecue Canyon for years, for it is rich in history and sacred to the Apache. Then I heard that the White Mountain Apache had decided to open up Cibecue Canyon to outsiders accompanied by an Apache guide. The canyon is so important culturally and spiritually, that it has been closed to outsiders for years. But now the tribe has decided to share the canyon, provided visitors hire a guide who can ensure their safety and respect for the canyon. The certified, professional guides generally charge $100 to $150 per person per day to take clients on back-country adventures. A seat on a Salt River rafting adventure costs about $90. Cultural tours of Fort Apache cost $8 per person. For $10 a day, you can get a permit to fish
Weary adventurers take a lunch break in an alcove of rock cut by Cibecue Creek.
Dad died after a shockingly short descent down the slick slope of colon cancer
and explore open areas of the reservation, which are indicated on a map where you buy the permits — either at the store at the Salt River Bridge, Fort Apache, or in Whiteriver. So I got hold of Gregg through the tribe’s Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Division to set up the trip. He seemed unconcerned I had never done any technical rock climbing, so I decided I wouldn’t worry either. He explained we would leave one jeep at the mouth of the canyon on the banks of the Salt River and then drive up onto the reservation and down a dirt road before hiking into the canyon. That would leave us most of three days to cover 10 or 12 miles — all downhill. How hard could it be? Packing in a predawn flurry, I was rooting through a basket of towels when I came across my Dad’s blue-green sun shirt. Dad had died a short time before, after a shockingly quick descent into helplessness down the slick slope of colon cancer. When I was young, he taught me to camp and watch birds and love the wide, wild world. At the end, I nursed him when he couldn’t roll over in the hospital bed the soft-spoken hospice people installed in the same bedroom where my mom had died of colon cancer the year before. Years earlier, Dad had developed a mild form of skin cancer and so had bought a light, quick drying sun shirt for outdoor outings. After he died, I had claimed the shirt, as I’ve had two malignant melanomas of my own. But somehow the shirt had disappeared — until the moment of my hasty departure. So I swallowed hard, blinked back tears and stuffed the sun shirt in my pack.
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Cibecue Creek sculpts rocks near its junction with the Salt River.
I met Gregg and Mowley, a low-key, soft-spoken Apache guide in training, at the little store near the Salt River Bridge on Highway 60. We bought the $10-per-person daily permits, paid the guide fee, dropped my jeep, then headed north on Highway 60. We took a thread-like dirt road to the brink of the canyon, shouldered our packs and hiked on down an eroded road into the canyon bottom. We hiked through intermittent rain spatters for about two hours to a campsite alongside a rocky narrowing of limestone that created a 10-foot-high waterfall brimming over a broken slab of rock. That night, we sat around a cheerful fire on the bank of the stream to joke, anticipate and trade bits and pieces of our life stories. Gregg eventually began singing an Apache song he had learned from his grandfather as I stared up at the Milky Way and listened to his strong, hypnotic, ancient voice. The next day offered a long slog through the I neither stream, which had created whimpered a convoluted, brushy, smooth-rocked landscape nor pleaded of intricate and unexpected beauty. We hit our openly for first real waterfall — a modest affair involving a my life, so I 20-foot drop. Gregg broke counted it out the ropes. “Just remember,” he as a success said amiably, “you’ve got to lean way back, so that you’re upright against the rock. Let the rope out with your right hand — which you keep behind you.” I started out all right, but couldn’t resist the temptation to lean forward to step down onto a likely ledge. I ended up lowering myself instead of crab walking. But I neither whimpered nor pleaded openly for my life, so I counted it as a success. We spent the rest of the day stumbling downstream — burdened by our packs and the need to inflate a raft to get the expensive camera gear safely past the frequent pools we couldn’t hike around. At one point, Gregg pointed out a perfect black bear track in the sometimes-deep mud along the bank. I felt an unaccountable chill. Black bears
Dry bags in packs kept gear dry during frequent stretches where swimming was the only way forward.
virtually never attack people, but the Apache rarely hunt them because traditional beliefs suggest bears may represent the spirits of the dead. I ran my hand across the silky smoothness of my turquoise water shirt and felt suddenly a great pang of loss, knowing how Dad would have loved such a track in such a place. We camped that night in a narrowing of the canyon. As the light faded, Gregg led us a little ways downstream to look at the waterfall that awaited us in the morning. The water ran across a terrace of limestone, creating a medley of light and sound. The stream then plunged over a 15-foot-waterfall into a pool before gathering itself for a lunatic lunge down a 60-foot drop into a furious corkscrew flume of limestone, like a roller coaster designed by a sadist for crazy people. I stood stupefied on the cliff, wondering whether I could find the nerve to spiderwalk down that cliff. The memory of the sound of the water hurling itself against the rock woke me in the middle of the night. I crawled out of my sleeping bag and sat watching the moonlight move across the cliff-face. The stream wove me into its spell as the moon set and the Milky Way emerged. One Apache myth suggests that the spirits of the dead make their way to the next world along the path of the Milky Way. I don’t know anything about that, but I did not feel alone in the darkness. Then I heard the inexplicable sound of drums braided into the noise of the stream. As soon as I focused on it, the sound vanished. But it returned later — for a few notes — a movement at the corner of the eye.
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The next morning I wandered down to the stream and found the fresh bear tracks in the mud 30 yards from where I’d sat in the night. Water seeping out of the sodden mud had pooled in the deep bottoms of the tracks. So we headed to the waterfall, in fear and eagerness. Mercifully, Mowley went first, rappelling down the cliff and into the waterfall then gripping the rope tightly for a careen through the corkscrew to arrive safely on a broad ledge at the bottom. He attached ropes to eye-hooks set in the stone so Gregg could simply clip the ropes to my climbing harness and lower me down the cliff and into the water. I might drown, but I couldn’t fall. Good thing, because I lost my footing as soon as the water hit me. I tumbled, slipped and shouted “Hooah, hooah,” a habit I’d picked up from Gregg. So we continued on down the canyon to the final waterfall — a sheer, 80-foot drop off the cliff-edge. I half expected Gregg to clip me to the rope and lower me down the cliff. Instead, he merely attached my clip to the rope. “Remember,” he said — “lean back. Trust the rope.” “And don’t let go with my right hand,” I said. “Yep,” he said, with a sly grin. So I walked to the edge and looked down. This was a mistake. A serious mistake. I waited a moment for the thudding in my ears to subside, turned my back to the cliff and walked backward. Leaning back against the screaming of my better judgment, I waddled down the cliff — perfectly perpendicular and scared to death. Once fully committed to the rope, I risked another look down — and was disconcerted by the
If You Go The White Mountain Apache Reservation lies between Globe and Show Low along Highway 60. Many areas east of Highway 60 are open, but you need a $10 daily tribal permit to travel on dirt roads, fish or camp. Buy permits at the little store beside the Salt River Bridge, at the Fort Apache Cultural Center, in Whiteriver or at stores and outlets scattered throughout the reservation. To hire a certified Apache guide, or contact Gregg Henry, call Hon-Dah Ski and Outdoor Sports at (877) 226-4868.
dancing of the tip of the rope far below, which ended 15 feet above the water. My heart hammered, my legs trembled, my right hand contracted into a death grip. What had I been thinking? I dangled and clenched and focused on the tumultuous rush of water down the cliff face. Somewhere in there, the fear left me — shredding like the mist of the waterfall. For the great ache of a moment, I wished my father could have hung at the end of this rope, beneath the heartpiercing blue of the cloud-scudded sky. Then that great bubble of loss burst, leaving me dizzy with joy — the life force gleaming all around me, in the water and the rocks and the rush of the waterfall. The sun flared through the
clouds and I bounced on down the cliff. At the end of the rope, I swayed in space before finally letting go of my grip and dropping into the deep, wet benediction of Cibecue Creek. Gregg came down last, turning upside down above the water before he forsook the rope with a great “hoooahing” and “haahahhing” — arms and legs flailing with the sheer, splayed rush of life. So we shouldered our packs and hiked on down the canyon, splashing through the creek that swirled around our legs like a prayer. And here and there in the soft red mud, I saw the tracks of an unseen bear who had gone on ahead, as though to show us the way.
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One big natural bridge Driving into Tonto Natural Bridge State Park the terrain gives little hint of the cavernous arch or steep canyon that waits below Story by Alexis Bechman Photographs by Tom Brossart
utting my hand to my eyes, I looked up through the glaring sun to a figure standing high atop a hillside covered in loose rock near the Tonto Natural Bridge. Around me, other visitors peered up and pointed, quite an odd sight since visitors are usually pointing down and marveling at the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. This was the fourth time I had visited the bridge and the first time I had witnessed such a strange sight. A young boy had climbed up the hills, several hundred feet high for what appeared to be no good reason. Family and friends of the boy yelled at him to hurry up and come down, but the boy stood atop that mound staring at us for what felt like forever. He eventually made his haphazard
A steep trail takes you down to the creek where you can get a close up of Tonto Natural Bridge.
way down to where a group of children greeted the boy with Opposite page: Water high fives and hugs. The constantly flows off the children were obviously top of the bridge into stunned and awed by Pine Creek. their friendâ€™s courage and stamina. I can only imagine what it felt like to stand high atop that hill. I wonâ€™t venture to attempt the trek any time soon because of the slippery rocks and boulders that dot the formidable hillside, but it must have been thrilling. How or why the boy went up there I will never know, but it got me thinking what it must have felt like to be one of the first explorers or Native Americans to come across the massive arch, which has been forming in the Pine Canyon for thousands of years.
Maybe prospector David Gowan stood and marveled at the worldâ€™s largest natural travertine arch from atop the same hillside when he came upon the bridge in 1877. The Park Service says on its Web site that Gowan first saw the bridge while prospecting. Gowan made camp in the area, but Apaches soon came around and chased him (or so the story goes). Seeking shelter, Gowan hid inside the great cavern Pine Creek has dissolved through a solid wall of limestone. By the third day, Gowan felt safe enough to leave the protection of the cave and decided to claim the area. More than two decades later, Gowanâ€™s nephew, David Gowan Goodfellow, brought his family over from Scotland and settled in the lush valley that surrounds the bridge. The Goodfellows reportedly had to use ropes to precariously lower their belongings down the 500-foot slopes into Pine Canyon. Today, driving into the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, the landscape gives little hint of the breathtaking bridge or steep canyon that waits below. A smooth, open road flanked
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by juniper quickly dips into a canyon, giving you your first hint that you are traveling deep into the earth below. I am always so excited to visit the bridge that I often forget to slow down when I hit this curve, forcing me to brake fervently. But who can blame me for being so excited? The Goodfellows must have felt the same excitement and trepidation when they realized they would have to lower into the canyon using ropes and mules. At the bottom of the steep drive, awaits a beautiful valley tucked in among the hills. From the top above Pine Creek, I always pause to listen to the faint sound of water. It drips off hanging blackberries in a small cove off Waterfall Trail, flings itself off moss hanging above the bridge and patters into shallow pools below. From my vantage point above the arch, it is evident that water is the creator and ruler of this place. Geologists believe underground springs carrying calcium carbonate deposited minerals over time creating a dam of sorts in the canyon. Eventually, the Pine Creek slowly chewed
Water raining down from atop the Tonto Natural Bridge creates its own rainbow of color as it hits the rocks below.
through the travertine, hollowing out the bridge, which is more than 400 feet long and at some points 150 feet wide. Ambling through the tunnel, it is impossible not to stop every few steps to stare up and marvel at the arch — it is also a good time to get your balance. Since water flows over the bridge nearly year-round. It is always slippery under the roof with water spray coating the rocks, creating quite an obstacle course for visitors. Remember to wear a good pair of shoes. I made the mistake of wearing sandals my first trip down and nearly twisted my ankle. Although park rangers and volunteers are posted below, they won’t guide you through the arch, unless you ask. While the bridge is quite a sight, don’t forget to look out over the valley, which houses trees, shrubs and cactus from pinyon to prickly pear and birds from woodpecker to wren. If you are lucky enough, you might even have a javelina cross your path. Either way, the bridge is an awesome place to reconnect with the power of Mother Nature.
Getting there This park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Monday. From Payson, head north on Highway 87 for 11 miles until you reach the turnoff for the park on the left (west) side of the highway. Head down Forest Service Road 583 until you reach the gate. The entrance fee for adults (ages 14-plus) is $5. For children (7-13) it is $2. For more information, contact the park at (928) 476-4202.
Beauty to die for Trek past sacred places on the White Mountain Apache Reservation and learn why they fought so hard to hang on
Strolling across the Fort Apache parade grounds, I anticipate my adventure and wonder why the Apache fought so desperately to hang onto what remains a remote, lightly populated wilderness. The 228acre collection of Army barracks, school buildings and the new Apache Cultural Center remain shadowed by ironies and so offers the perfect preparation for my 90-mile drive through the heart of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, the ecological equivalent of a quick drive from Mexico to Canada. The resourceful White Mountain Apache have now laid claim to the fort once built to subjugate them, just as visionary leaders like Chief Alchesay learned to compromise and adapt to hold tenaciously onto this spectacular, 1.6-million-acre reservation. The sprawling reservation includes the Salt River at 3,000 feet and Mt. Baldy at 11,000, which remains the wettest place in Arizona. In order to hold onto their homes, the White Mountain leaders even proved willing to serve as scouts for the Army in the terrible war with Geronimoâ€™s Chiricahua Apache. In part, thatâ€™s because they believed that their culture and moral-
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Story and photos by Peter Aleshire
Reservation Drive climbs from 3,000 feet to 8,000 feet, passing streams and ridges covered with spruce along the way.
ity depended on an intimate connection with the land where every bend of the stream had a sacred name and a story that helped parents teach children right behavior, as so beautifully described in Keith Basso’s “Wisdom Sits in Places.” The Apache believe the land’s spirit can impart wisdom if you pay attention. Now the White Mountain Apache Reservation harbors just 11,000 people and some of the most remote, pristine and diverse wilderness in Arizona, including a splashing tumult of streams that nurture the Apache trout — brought back from the brink of extinction by the tribe and Arizona Game and Fish Department. My journey of discovery started with the purchase of a fishing permit at the Tribal Game and Fish Office at the intersection of Fatco Road and Highway 73, next to the White Mountain Apache Motel and Restaurant — the only motel in 2,500-resident Whiteriver. You need a permit anytime you leave the paved road on the reservation. Then I headed south on Highway 73 to Y-55, the turnoff to Fort Apache. After leaving the fort, the road rises steadily from the juniper grasslands around Whiteriver. The pavement continues for 12 miles, past scattered homes along the East Fork of the White River. Soon after the pavement ends, the road forks. I initially explored R30, the northern fork that runs for a mile along Deep Creek, a soul-soothing stream too shallow to harbor hope of trout. I savor the stream, but turn back once the road climbs up from the creek toward Christmas Tree Lake, where you can catch 20-inch Apache trout for a $25-a-day fishing permit. Back on Y-55, I climb steadily up the mountain, marveling at the riotous mix of vegetation. The forest crowds the road with oaks, ash, walnut and cottonwoods, augmented by golden, old-growth ponderosa pines. Soon, seductively white-
trunked quaking aspen make their appearance, hedged by brooding Douglas firs. The road climbs easily up to a ridge with stirring panoramic views and on past a succession of cheerful streams. At nearly 8,000 feet, I encounter a vibrant forest of blue spruce and corkbark firs, more like a Tolkien fantasy than an Arizona landscape. And all that before I discover Big Bonita Creek, some 40 miles after leaving the highway in Whiteriver. Big Bonita emerges from the closed area of the reservation north of the road, a sprawling wilderness centered on sacred Mt. Baldy. Apache game wardens have stocked the golden, speckled Apache trout in Big Bonita, which remains open to fishermen south of the road. An Apache road crew laughs, jokes and splashes as they build a fish barrier to protect the Apache trout from the downstream rainbows. I’m instantly smitten: Grabbing my fly rod, I head downstream to float my hopeful fly through the tiny pools and musical riffles. I catch nothing, since my natural aura repels fish and crashes computers. No matter: I fish so I’ll have an excuse to stand in a stream as the afternoon swirls past. Finally, I tear myself away and scud on along, as leaves before the storm. Five miles later, I reach the junction between Y-55 and Y-70. So I detour briefly to catch-and-release Pachita Lake then backtrack to the junction and this time head north on Y-20. After about 10 miles, I reach Reservation Lake, which boasts a store, campgrounds, boat rentals and some of the best lake fishing on the reservation. But I can’t linger long. I left Whiteriver at 11 and now it’s past 5, which leaves two hours of daylight. So I return to Y-55 and continue on Y-70 south, after puzzling out the mismatched bewilderment of the reservation’s seemingly random road designations. Y-70 drops down the mountain, as firs yield to ponderosa pines, then to oaks, then to junipers. I encounter Big Bonita Creek again, this time a lower-elevation version of Oak Creek in Sedona, with sycamores, cottonwoods, deep pools, brown trout and lurking bass. After that, the road descends to a grassy plain graced by antelope, which briefly race the car — completing a stirring sample of every sort of Arizona terrain save low, saguaro desert. Nearing the end of the journey, I pass the inconspicuous tracery of Turkey Creek, hidden in the bottom of a 15-foot-deep gash in the volcanic rock. Here, the U.S. Army confined Geronimo and his Chiricahua band, as detailed in Lt. Britton Davis’ “The Truth about Geronimo.” Harried into surrender by General George Crook and the White Mountain Apache scouts, Geronimo’s people settled here for a time. But fear, pride, rumors and bungling finally prompted Geronimo to bolt, triggering the final, bloody, two-year phase of the Apache Wars that horrified the nation and sucked in one-quarter of the U.S. Army. I flit past the site as the darkness gathers, drunk on the day. As the shadows lengthen, I think of the gleam of the trout, the sound of the stream, the trunks of the aspen, the sway of the spruce, the luminous green of the grass, the reflections of the clouds, the call of the turkeys, the golden glow of the elk, and the track of the bear. And in this one day’s wander, I understand utterly why the Apache fought so hard. Even if I do not know the proper names of the places that can make me wise.
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My natural aura repels fish. No matter. I fish so I’ll have an excuse to stand in a stream as the afternoon swirls past.
WHEN YOU GO: You can reach Whiteriver either on Highway 60/77 that passes through the Salt River Canyon north of Globe or by going first to Show Low, then heading south on Highway 60/77. In Whiteriver, get a fishing permit from the Apache Game and Fish office at the Fatco Road and the highway. Get a booklet with regulations, which also shows a map of the closed areas. In addition, get a detailed map showing the reservation roads, since many of the numbers used in non-reservation mapbooks use different and confusing numbers. A fishing permit allows you to use dirt roads in any non-closed areas. Camping requires a permit. For information, call the Apache Game and Fish Department (928-338-4385). For lodging, you can stay at the modest White Mountain Apache Motel in Whiteriver or at the Hon-Dah Casino and Resort (1-800-929-8744) to the north at the junction of Highway 60 and Highway 260. Nearby Pinetop, Lakeside and Show Low also have accommodations. Read tribal fishing regulations carefully. Areas like Christmas Tree Lake require special permits, Pacheta Lake is catch-and-release and many streams are fly and lure fishing only. Reservation Lake offers boat rentals and excellent fishing opportunities.
The whole deal
Old Town is still a cool little town where you can see people riding through on horseback — Barry Supalla
by Suzanne Jacobson A gray, quiet Saturday afternoon unfolds in Old Town Cottonwood as a spattering of tourists browse through Tico, a consignment shop on the street’s far end. Owner Pame Lynn opened the store last summer soon after she relocated from Prescott. Lynn says she was called to Cottonwood. She’d wake in the middle of the night, feeling pulled to the oddball old town with the Verde River running through it. Cottonwood is a quirky collection of old-timers and newcomers, people who love the place’s isolation and outdoor opportunities. Old Town itself features a bakery, coffee houses, antique shops, a motel, restaurants and a rock place among other stops on Main Street. The few blocks that comprise Old Town enjoy a low vacancy rate — architecturally historic with a modern twist. “There’s no reason this strip is not on the map,” said Lynn. “If we all get together consciously and see that this street is already happening, it could explode.” Few visitors strolled the streets on this Saturday afternoon. Ellen Van Wert, who owns Jim and Ellen’s Rock-n-Shop with her husband, said that visitors tend not to wander when the sky threatens rain. Van Wert loves Cottonwood. “This little valley — it’s the whole deal,” she said. She ambles to the nearby river and watches for the deer, beaver and otter that frolic there. “We’re not crowded with people who are looking to be entertained,” Van Wert said. “We have people who like our ambience.” Old Town Cottonwood’s ambience is mellow and funky, with dashes of both modern and old school. Beyond the obligatory art and antique shops, one can eat, get tattooed, be healed or take a yoga class on Main Street. During the day, Orion Bread Company offers freshly baked bread and baguettes in addition to cinnamon rolls, fresh every morning at 7 a.m., and chocolate brioche. Crema Coffee and Creamery, a modern shop with sand-
Mexican terra cotta pots hang from ropes at Jim and Ellen’s Rock-n-Shop in Old Town Cottonwood.
wiches and homemade gelato, rises up near the start of Main Street. Featured meals change constantly, but this day’s included smoked turkey and pesto on provolone and a breakfast burrito. Crema also of-
Bing’s Burger Station dominates part of Main Street with its old gas pump and car outside the burger place.
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fers gelato in original flavors like blood orange, which can be complemented with beer, wine or coffee. Nic’s Italian Steak and Crab House, an upscale restaurant, is often too crowded for immediate seating on the weekends. It opens after
5 p.m. For sports fans, the Tavern Grille offers 14 high definition televisions that play basketball and football, as well as monster truck jams and bull riding. The menu features delicacies like seared ahi tuna for $18 and a $20 prime rib. A variety of burgers each cost $9. For the dive bar set, Kactus Kates offers beer, billiards, darts, karaoke and live music. Hungry travelers can also find Thai, Mexican or barbecue. After filling your belly, try one of Old Town’s affordable hotels. The bed and breakfast, The Annabel Inn, features organic food and an environment cleaned without toxic chemicals. The Historic Cottonwood Hotel is the town’s oldest hotel. Visitors can view an ornate tin ceiling in the office and hardwood floors throughout most of the building. Many visitors to Cottonwood have drifted here off the Historic 89A from proximate Sedona. Nearby Jerome, an old mining town turned ghost town now has roughly 450 inhabitants and a quirky creative scene. Dead Horse Ranch State Park is also close by for those wanting to camp, hike or bike. The Verde River offers canoeing, fishing and wading opportunities. Back in Old Town Cottonwood, the Poirier’s, from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, ventured to Old Town from the more populated Red Rock capital of the world. Jim Poirier said Cottonwood’s “old town charm” attracted his wife and he to the downtown destination. Many of Cottonwood’s visitors hail from faraway places. Another lady shopping at Tico consignments down the street visited from Florida. Lynn, Tico’s owner, said she sees a lot of Europeans. Lynn estimated that one-third of those who shop downtown Cottonwood actually live in the area, and the remainder filter in from elsewhere. Barry Supalla, a barista at Crema, said the street has cycled in and out of prosperity throughout the years. Supalla lives in Jerome and loves the outdoor amenities the area boasts. The Verde Valley offers a vibrant artists community, with music and theater and poetry jams. “Old Town is still a cool little town where you can see people riding through on horseback,” Supalla said. The Old Town Association organizes events like Chocolate Walks, Film and Art Fests and a fall event with music, food and wine. Saturdays, a Cottonwood Community
The aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries at the Orion Bread Company are hard to resist. Tom Brossart
Contra Dance follows a potluck dinner at the town’s Civic Center on Main Street. Dance lessons precede an evening dance that starts at 7 p.m. Starting at 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Bing’s Burger Station hosts an Old Town Cruise night with cars, trucks and motorcycles at least as old as 1972 crowding around the oldstyled gas station. Places like Bing’s honor Old Town’s modern twist on history. The restaurant looks exactly how an old-school burger joint would look brand new. Bing’s even features old-fashioned soda jerks with innovative flavors like peach, mulberry and lime. Today’s retail economy is far flung from Cottonwood’s start as an agricultural and commercial center for the nearby mining town of Jerome. The town’s first permanent settlers can be traced back to the 1870s. Before then, the area was mostly a campground for travelers crossing the Verde River. In 1908, two residents used a mule team to drag through brush, and create Main Street, according to the Verde Independent newspaper. Old Town had a reputation for bootlegging and one local business owner, Manuel Sanchez, says tunnels under the streets were used to hide illegal booze. In 1925, a fire devastated downtown. But in rebuilding, concrete sidewalks replaced wooden board-
Where: Located in the heart of the Verde Valley, Old Town Cottonwood is home to over 60 businesses that attract visitors and support local area residents. It is close to Sedona on Highway 260 on the way to Jerome.
walks and most businesses rebuilt with concrete. Sanchez, who once operated a bright yellow antique shop on the main drag, now cuts hair and sells Egyptian art. “It’s peaceful,” he says about the town, and again cites the nearby river as one of the area’s main attractions. Sanchez, 60, was born in Jerome, and living through the town’s up and downs has made him cynical. “Everybody thinks that it’s going to get better,” he said. “It’s like a dead heartbeat.” “But,” he quickly adds, “You’ve got to create your own magic.” And with Old Town Cottonwood’s eclectic and quirky offerings, this off-the-beaten path gem will hopefully continue to thrive.
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58 Arizona Highlands
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