Further Criss-crossing of the Southwest

From Bryce we headed down to see a college friend of mine in the Phoenix area. She knew we wanted to focus on staying outdoors as much as possible, so she alerted us that Phoenix was about to have a cold snap, with temperatures twenty degrees below average. We adjusted our plans – if you can call them that; loose is a generous adjective for our road trip plan – and drove south.

We set out towards South Mountain to hike the Holbert trail. Rocks, saguaro cacti, mainly up to a nice lookout then back down, and so many chuckwalla lizards made for a varied and moderately challenging hike that left us feeling great.

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The view down to Phoenix.

Your fun lizard fact for the day: when chuckwallas get frightened, they retreat into a rock crevice and wedge themselves in by inflating their bodies with air.

Until it didn’t, at least for me. Friends, if you’ve never had a kidney stone, don’t. I assume the changes to my diet caused it, because I’ve certainly been hydrating. I won’t go into further detail except to say I’ve never been in such pain and I’m eternally grateful to my friend and her boyfriend for their understanding. Eat your veggies and citrus, because I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.*

I felt about 90% by the next day, so we headed out as planned to see my uncle further north in Arizona. My uncle, my mom’s brother, moved to what at that time was rural Arizona before I was born, accumulating a nice acreage of land over the years. He creates beautiful carpentry, from repurposing salvaged wood into tables and picture frames, to building himself a three-bedroom house and several outbuildings, to constructing a mini-fish pond to help plan a stock pond for game fish on what he calls his back 40.

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Also a good post-walk cooling off spot for dogs.

My uncle happens to live almost inside the Prescott National Forest. After a delicious steak dinner, courtesy of his neighbor’s cow Moe, we looked through many appealing options and chose the hike up to the saddle of Granite Peak.

Wildflowers bloomed everywhere and despite the clouds and threat of rain, we got some great views at trail’s end.

A wildfire had burned large swathes of forest in 2014 before the Granite Mountain Hotshots got it under control; a few days after that fire, all but one of them lost their lives fighting another nearby fire.File_000 Hollywood recently got its hands on their story, though the cast looks admittedly solid. The internet had misled us that there was a memorial to the Hotshots on Granite Mountain so we spent some time hunting for it, stopping once we hit a rock scramble that neither of us wanted to attempt at the top of a ridgeline. Back in the land of internet I found Arizona dedicated a state park to the memory of the firefighters and that’s where we could’ve found the plaque. I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole reading the intense backstory of the Hotshots and the tragic events that led to the dismantling of the unit.

After another night at my uncle’s, we drove back down to Phoenix to visit my mom’s cousin and caught a baseball game, checking the Diamondbacks park off my tally of ballparks I still need to visit.

20170511_184817 Back to New Mexico to visit my cousin! We didn’t explore much; both our bodies were a little run down and in need of some recuperation time in anticipation of hiking in the Grand Canyon. We still camped in two state parks, the highlight of which was this morning stroll along a stream up to a small waterfall

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We did manage a quick tour of the Petrified Forest. I’d visited as a child and remembered being fascinated by the petrified logs. Thousands of years ago, water pulled minerals into trees, which slowly replaced all the organic material in the trees, thus petrifying them. Up close, the logs have a quartz-like sparkle with veins of orange, purple, blue and silver.

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The Petrified Forest includes several stretches of badlands, like these in the Blue Mesa section.

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*OK fine, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone I’ve met. I can think of a few public figures…

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