in Rim Country, White Mountains of Arizona & Beyond...
By Anne Groebner
Now that summer is here and the desert is heating up, the mountains are alive and the towns are bustling with visitors. I started noticing more movement earlier in May but now there are cars in every driveway and many neighbors strolling down my street. I’m not surprised. It happens every year. There is something healing about cool mountain air and peaceful summer mornings. Well, maybe not totally peaceful… I have to mention that the birds are singing much louder this year. It’s a mini-paradise and one I have been lucky enough to have lived in, full-time, for over 20+ years.
It’s not very far from the desert cities but far enough away from the congested highways and flickering lights. So, the nights are darker and the stars are brighter because the air is cleaner. Don’t visit if you are claustrophobic, though… our pine trees take up the majority of the space, unlike the miles and miles of open space in the desert. In fact, we are centered in part of the largest stand of Ponderosa in the country (2.4 million-acre Ponderosa pine stands on four national forests in Arizona — the Coconino, Tonto, Kaibab and Apache-Sitgreaves). I believe my house stays 20 degrees cooler in the summer because of the 38 Ponderosa Pines that stand in my yard so we have never owned an air conditioner.
My favorite part of living in such a remote area of Arizona is the thousands of miles of trails that are carved throughout the region. They travel through some of the most pristine forests and up some of the tallest mountain peaks in the state and provide some of the most incredible and majestic views that I have ever seen. It is so vast that you could hike, bike or horseback ride every day for years and never see all of it. I’ve hiked thousands of miles and have traversed some of the most remote areas and it makes me feel bad for the folks who will never see the things I’ve seen or experience the adventures I have had, like climbing to the top of a peak and witnessing, in person, the birds-eye view with feet planted and knowing what the tops of trees look like or seeing the mountain ranges in the next state over and, on a clear day, maybe farther than that!
And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. — Black Elk
There are bears in the woods. Lots of them. Within the many years that I have been hiking, which is over 20 years, I have never seen one in the woods. They have been in my neighborhood and I have had one run right up to me in the field across the street, stand up, turn and run away. It almost gave me a heart attack but he was just as afraid of me as I was of him. So, I never worry about wild animals in the woods. I’ve been told that you run a higher risk of getting mugged in the city than a wild animal attacking you in the woods of Arizona and we don’t have grizzlies anymore. I did however hear a growl once but never saw where it was coming from. You just have to be smart. Hike with a friend and keep your dog on a leash. Dogs can irritate a bear and run the risk of getting kicked if they come across elk or deer. I recently heard about a guy who was camping and tied his dog up outside with the leash and the next morning the dog was gone and the collar was lying on the ground. If you’re camping with dogs, remember to take them inside the tent with you. There are coyotes and wolves too. They don’t attack humans but they can have territorial disputes with dogs. Check with the Arizona Game and Fish Department if you need to know what to do if you run across a wild animal in the forest. They have tons of information. They might tell you where you can catch the most fish, too. They are located at 2878 E White Mountain Blvd in Pinetop.
The Search for Adams Diggings Lost Gold - Part II
By Anne Groebner
The search of Adams’ Diggings Lost Gold continues with new clues as to where the gold is. In the last issue, I had just started my search and now I have taken several more trips in search of the twin peaks and the zig-zag trail. I’m not really searching for the gold…there have been hundreds of prospectors, outlaws and foxy Grandpas, much more knowledgeable than I…who have searched for it. I am just picking up the pieces of the stories behind the gold…and there are so many stories. Many prospectors died searching for this gold. Many hardened mountain men left the comfort and safety of their homes, leading horses and burros packed with supplies and rations, in search of the gold and, not only never returned, but their bodies have never been found. They believe that Billy the Kid, after his so-called faked death, wandered the area in search of the gold using the alias “Walk-About Smith.” This has been a legend for over a century and the inspiration for the 1960’s movie “McKenna’s Gold.” Some believe the gold was already found and removed; others believe that the placer gold may not be out there anymore but that the motherlode has never been found.
When they first traveled to Sno-Ta-Hay Canyon in search of the gold, one of the landmarks that Adams repeatedly talks about on his route to find the gold is the twin peaks that their guide, Gotch-ear, pointed to from the top of a mountain. It is not known exactly which mountain they were standing on to see these landmarks. Many of the
Searching for Gold
The Adams Diggings Lost Gold
By Anne Groebner
A few weeks ago, I found a book. It was an atlas of Arizona. It was full of information about our state, including land formations and county boundaries, past and present, but the one thing that popped out at me was the page with a map of all the lost gold mines — particularly the Lost Adams Diggings Gold. I read so many stories about the lost gold and found out that there are a lot of different stories about what happened but the one book that I felt held the real truth was by a writer who recently died here in Pinetop. His book, “Die Rich Here,” was written in 2012 and based on 60 years of research. Ralph Reynolds grew up in Luna, New Mexico right around where this tale takes place. He wasn’t a historian but had a Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and he knew about this area because he grew up here and that’s just what journalists do…they investigate. And not only did he search for answers about this mystery, he physically explored the area and knew it like the back of his hand. It is a mystery --- a very horrific and interesting mystery. Strangely, while sleeping the other night, I dreamed about it. I was talking to someone about this story. I can’t remember everything that was said but I woke up with the first line of this article in my head ---”I found a book.” READ MORE...
And Then there Were Blooms or…
Notes from an Allergy Sufferer
By Rob Bettaso
It is midday, late in March and from my perch atop a largish boulder, I’m looking down upon a smallish pond. Two Mallards have paired up and are foraging in the shallow, turbid water. The drake’s metallic green head catches the light and then, plop, goes under water to tug at pond weeds. His rump end is pointed straight up, the black and white tail feathers suddenly eclipsed by his comically orange, clown-like webbed feet which he slowly paddles to maintain his head’s position below the water’s surface. He’s treading water, upside-down. The hen floats placidly nearby, more dignified, less hungry.
I’ve strolled a mile or two to get here, somewhere in a northern section of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I’m letting a Spring sun warm me like a lizard. I should goop on sun-screen now that the sun has become an adversary of sorts. When did that happen? Sometime, in ...READ MORE...
Chasing Phantoms - Part 2
By Rob Betas
“Don’t you find it a beautiful clean thought, a world empty of people, just uninterrupted grass and a hare sitting up? -- D.H. Lawrence
After the big snows in late January, there was a period of about a week where I was able to continue my winter quest -- finding a pair of Great Horned Owls so that I might monitor their nesting progress from late winter into spring. It was slow going, slogging through the
BY ROB BETTASO
DRAWING BY BENJAMIN POWELL, AGE 5
In mid-winter, I embarked on a quest. I knew that a few owl species began their annual nesting activities about this time so, this year, I wanted to find a love-struck pair. If I was indeed able to locate a pair, my second goal was to discretely monitor their progress from courtship to egg-brooding to feeding nestlings and, come Spring, to the fledging of the owlets.
In the Arizona White Mountains, ten species of owls have been documented as occurring during at least parts of the year. Of those, seven species are permanent residents and therefore potential nesters. In my little portion of the High Country (southern Navajo County), I had at least some chance of finding one or more of the four owl species that are thought to nest here -- the Great Horned, the Spotted, the Western Screech and the Northern Pygmy Owl --although only the Great Horned and the Western Screech were known to begin courtship as early as the winter months.
Realistically, given the relative abundance of the different owl species found in our area, my best shot was to locate a Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, the so-called “Tiger of the Sky” or, alternately, the “Cat-eyed Owl.” Fortunately (and perhaps not coincidentally), the Great Horned is also the largest owl species found in our area, therefore, I would at
The Zen of Winter
By Rob Bettaso
Robert Fulford once said: “I have seen the future, and it doesn’t work.” In my more cynical moments, that sounds about right. Recently I was having such a moment, no doubt from listening to too much news. Lucky for me, relief from media overload is had simply by walking out my front door and taking a stroll in the woods nearby.
We had had some significant rain in December and, as a result, I had been forced to take my daily walks along the local two-lane blacktop and gravel roads as the forest trails were too soggy. Five minutes on a trail resulted in giant mud pies becoming part of my boots’ Vibram soles. Christmas might have been dubbed “high tide at the Yuletide” except that on its eve we providentially received about four inches of powdery snow -- just in time to give us a White Christmas in the White Mountains.
Precipitation in the arid Southwestern United States is nearly always welcome but in the wintertime, I for one would rather have snow than rain here in the High Country. The way I see it, if I’m going to be cold, I would just as soon have snow to play in. Besides, in several regards, snow makes wildlife viewing easier than rain ever could.
For example, in snowy conditions you can often see tracks regardless of what kind of terrain you are traversing. Additionally, you can detect tracks made in the snow from a much greater distance than you can see tracks made in wet dirt. Animals also stand out much more against a white background than they do against almost any other (unless, of course, it’s a white animal but, obviously, in Arizona we don’t have arctic hare or arctic fox, nor polar bears, ptarmigan or snowy owls).
In winter, non-hibernating animals are also forced to feed more as they are burning a greater READ MORE...
The Bark Patrol of the Winter Woods
BY Rob Bettaso
Bird lovers come in all stripes. For hundreds of years, poets, artists and musicians have found birds to be a well-spring of inspiration. A few classic examples (and personal favorites) include The Windhover (by Gerard Manley Hopkins), Right and Left (by Winslow Homer) and The Lark Ascending (by Rafe Vaughn Williams).
Scientists too have pulled back the feathers, so to speak, of the mysteries of bird flight; avian anatomy and physiology and bird natural history and ecology, to name just a few avenues of study. Citizen science (a phenomena of growing importance) is the use of average Joes like us to play an active role in the collection of field observations which are then used by biologists to expand the power of their own data.
One of the earliest examples of citizen science is the Audubon Societies’ Christmas Bird Count. Over the many decades that this annual bird tally has been in use, a tremendous volume of data points have been
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