One of our favorite places out west is Prescott, Arizona. (Please note that the name is pronounced “PRESS-ket”.) Once the capital of the Arizona Territory (twice), it is now the county seat of Yavapai County. It’s 5,368 ft elevation gives it a much milder climate than down in Phoenix or Scottsdale. We have stayed here several times before, and are taken with the Granite Dells just north of town. These granite boulders have been sculpted into dramatic forms by wind and rain, and partially surround Watson Lake.
The trail that loops around the lake has several interesting sections, as this sign reflects. It is a moderately difficult (in places) hiking trail, and a suicidal mountain biking trail. Indeed, we have never seen bikes on the toughest sections.
Watson Lake is a neat place to kayak, and the sunlit Dells make a great backdrop. “Kayak-Girl” was having a great time on the water!
There are a dozen or so submerged slot canyons where you can paddle up to a rock face or a sandy beach…
The waterlines shown in this photo are due to the rise and fall of lake water levels over the past few years, unrelated to climate change.
Up one slot, we found a large Amur carp (Cyprinus rubrofruscus; also Nishikigoi in Japanese) swimming alongside our kayaks. It wasn’t as big as the manatees we paddled with back in Florida, but it was well-received by us humble humans. Of note, carp are long-lived; one Japanese fish named Hanako lived for 226 years (1751-1977). This fish probably won’t live that long because this is a lake favored by great blue herons (Ardea herodias), and the carp’s color makes him an obvious target, although he is a big boy…
We took a somber day trip to a state park near Yarnell, about 30 miles south of Prescott. The main reason for hiking that area was because of the Granite Mountain Hotshots; 19 of 20 men assigned to that unit had perished in a manzanita and chaparral-fueled wildfire near Yarnell, about 30 miles south of Prescott. The only survivor had been rescued from a nearby hilltop where he was serving as a lookout.
This elite firefighting unit (all local young men aged 20-42) was sponsored by the city of Prescott, and after their deaths, the state of Arizona created the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park, where we had hiked a few days previously. This bronze statue was at the trailhead where
we began our hike.
Along the 3 mile trail to the observation point, granite plaques commemorating each man are attached to trailside rocks. When I saw the photos of the 19 men who had died, I said to Suzanne, “They look like a platoon of Marines.” In fact, three of these heroes had indeed been Marines serving in combat in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.
This bleak landscape frames the site at which the Hotshot team was overtaken by a wall of flames fed by 60 mph winds that had changed direction 180 degrees. The 19 rectangles in the photo mark where the men deployed their fire shelters, designed to protect firefighters from less severe grass fire conditions, not the inferno that they faced on June 30, 2013. We finished that hike just a bit tired, but mentally exhausted after reading every memorial plaque to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
On a happier note, Suzanne had two events here in Prescott; the first was a Sanaya channeling session, and the second was an Understanding the Shift workshop. Both were held at Unity of Prescott, a wonderful venue with an extremely friendly congregation.
One of the highlights of our time in Prescott was dinner at the home of Billy and Laura Fields, along with our dear friend Diane Calderon. The Fields have lived and raised a family in their beautifully updated 1877 cabin for 43 years, on one of the prettiest pieces of land/mountain/river anyone could ever imagine (oh, and did I mention a couple of gold mines?). The culinary highlight was elk enchiladas, but the homemade guacamole and salsa was a close second. (Diane, thanks for the photo!)
This was the view from the hilltop woodpile above their house; urban sprawl is such a terrible problem out here… along with bears, cougars, wild pigs and javelina.
A short drive from Prescott took us to the Granite Mountain Wilderness for a hike up (what else?) Granite Mountain. The scenery is spectacular – pinon and Ponderosa pines, as well as the ubiquitous manzanita and chaparral, dominate here, along with lots of boulders and rocks!
Rock climbing is a popular sport here – these near vertical cliffs on the west side of Granite Mountain look forbidding. (Darn, I left my ropes, pitons and hard hat at home…)
… so, rather than attack those cliffs directly, we hiked around them. Okay, it’s easier, but it’s not cheating… who said we had to do everything the hard way?
These red and yellow cactus flowers blooming on the south slope of Granite Mountain were a pleasant reminder of the beauty that one can find in apparently stark mountain desert terrain.
On the way down! There were a few other hikers around and we asked one to take our photo – better than a selfie, plus we always forget to carry that silly stick! The hose running across my shoulder is connected to a 2 liter water bladder; I also had a soda bottle with water in my pack. (I was acting as MLB’s camel on this trip… that’s true love!) Our time in Prescott is coming to an end in two days…
Oh, and when we finished this short hike, this was the time shown on my stopwatch… what’s with all the 2’s???