Best of 2020 – Landscape

It almost seems like an oxymoron using the word ‘Best’ with ‘2020’.

We have had more trips cancelled this year than we went on. We tried to go to Grand Canyon-North Rim on three separate occasions, and had every trip cancelled for one reason or another, including closures due to Covid, and forest fires.

I contend that the pandemic was different things for different people – some worse affected than others. For us, we tried to take our isolation on the road in our camper as much as possible to keep our sanity through this year’s events. So, without further ado.. here are my top picks for 2020, in no particular order:

(1) Mogollon Rim

(2) Mogollon Rim

Both these photos come from a trip to Mogollon Rim along Milk Ranch Road, which we found to be very crowded with campers this year.

(3) Carnero Lake

Despite the fact that we fought serious camera and lens issues throughout the year, we were able to enjoy (and capture) some beautiful sunrises at Canero Lake. I wish my osprey photos had come out as well.

(4) Carnero Lake

(5) Aztec Peak

As many times as we have been to Workman Creek outside of Young, we had never been (or even heard of) Aztec Peak. There is a gate that prevents you from driving up the road past the creek every time we have been there. We attempted to go to the area for photos several times, but were always deterred due to road closures. Persistence paid off and the third time was the charm when we found the gate open, and were able to enjoy the overlook from the peak, the highest point in Sierra Anchas Wilderness.

(6) Alstrom Point

We had put off our trip to Alstrom Point, not due to road closures or fire, but lack of clouds. The forecast called for weather though, so we packed up and headed out to this amazing overlook over Lake Powell. Unfortunately, there were no clouds, but still made for a wonderful outing.

(7) Flagstaff, San Francisco Peaks

Back behind Flagstaff, is an area called Government Prairie. Dirt roads wind around through scrubby brush and open fields. If you keep driving, the pine trees become more prevalent, and this wonderful view of San Francisco Peaks reveals itself.

(8) Sheeps Crossing

Sheeps Crossing was originally built in 1926 to allow sheep herder’s to herd their sheep across the Verde River, reducing the numbers lost in the swift currents. On the National Register of Historic Places, it has been re-built due to years of use.

(9) Fossil Creek

Just outside of Camp Verde along the Verde River is a stunning gushing stream, Fossil Creek. While it is harder to get there now that they closed access via Strawberry, and made it a fee area, it remains a gorgeous, if not sadly overgrown area.

(10) Greens Peak

Outside of Show Low is a popular area called Greens Peak that we frequent every year. It tends to get a lot of weather (snow and rain) that make it flourish with greenery and animals.

(11) Hart Prairie / Kendrick Peak

We had gone to check out Lockett Meadow, a stunning place for aspen color, but there was a line waiting to get into it due to overcrowding. So instead we found a new area we hadn’t yet explored, Hart Prairie, just outside of Flagstaff.

(12) Mogollon Rim, FR 95 bridge

We’ve gotten very little snow this year, so when we heard it was supposed to snow on the rim, we immediately headed out. We enjoyed a beautiful winter wonderland for a short period.

That wraps up my 2020 Best Of. Let’s hope 2021 abounds with happiness, laughter, great views and interesting places, storm clouds, and stormy weather.

Check out my Best of Animals, 2020 here… https://kritterspix.com/2021/01/12/best-of-2020-animals/

Blizzard

Snow falls on road along Mogollon Rim.

Ok. That may be pushing it a bit. But we got 2″ in an hour along the Mogollon Rim. It was a virtual blizzard for a short time.

Which was a big surprise to us considering we just got back from 3 nights camping at Alstrom Point waiting for a single cloud! (See post here.. https://kritterspix.com/2020/12/12/alstrom-point/)

It was quite the winter wonderland, and made for a great way to kick off the holiday season. We loved it!

Fall Colors

If I were pressed, I would have to say, Fall is my favorite season. While Spring brings flowers, and winter snow… Fall intrigues us with it’s beguiling colors and flirtatious change in season. Winter is coming she tells us… if only.

Fields of fallen leaves drop from the trees above and crunch below our feet as they blow across the forest floor.

To me, it’s a magical time; one of re-birth, re-newal, and change.

I’m ready for what comes next.

Fawning About

I adore watching the animals, and when I get to see baby animals it’s all the better.

They have this curious sense of newness and wonder that they wear on their faces.

Mom dotes on them and protects them from harm… and the baby listens and hastens at her insistence.

All the while the baby is tugged by this new world it finds itself in, with all the wonders to discover, and adventures to be had.

At this stage of their lives, with all their innocence, they have no fear of danger. If only mom could always protect them. They must be quickly schooled on the harsh reality of their existence.

Carnero Lake

I posted some photos here .. https://kritterspix.com/2020/07/31/carneros-sunrise/, from our last visit to Carnero Lake.

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We enjoyed it so much, we went back for more.

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chip prize

While most folks go to a lake to swim, fish, and canoe, we go to relax and watch the animals and the sunset / sunrise, and take pix.

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I could sit by the waters edge and watch osprey fish or chipmunk play all day.

Carnero Pontoon

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Buck Springs

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Buck Springs is one of a number of old cabins littered around Mogollon Rim’s back dirt roads.  Tree Shadows

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There are two standing cabins on this site.  The smaller of the two was built in 1923, while the larger was built in 1946.

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The cabins found in this area were built by early Forest Service, ranchers and settlers while they worked the land.  The area is also home to animals looking for food, water, and shelter.

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Reflection Pond

The natural springs throughout the area provide vital water and pools for the wildlife that inhabit the area.

Morning Reflection

If you visit, remember leave it cleaner than you found it.  These are precious places that hold their own history and beauty.  Leave a lasting positive impression for future visitors…. not one of trash that one brings in and leaves as a poor testament to today’s mankind.

Chavez Pass

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Arizona is filled with many vast expanses and amazing viewpoints.  The landscape is diverse and varied, with cactus in the south and pine trees in the north.  The land has seen equally disparate travelers, from the Indians that roamed the land hundreds of years ago, to the early European / American settlers who risk life and limb to trek across her rugged peaks and valleys.

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Back 1000 years ago, tribes roamed this land having left abandoned ruins that leave only to our imagination life in another time.  From A.D. 1050 – 1425 the Sinagua lived, foraged, and hunted this land from this ancestral Hopi pueblo, now known as Chavez Pass.

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A large oval depression north of the pueblo is the remains of a prehistoric ball court.  It also served as a trade center for a network that reached from the Hopi Mesas and Zuni Pueblo to the Pacific and Northern Mexico.

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There is very little left of what once was.  The overgrown thistle and foxtails outnumber the petroglyphs and stacked rock walls, or what’s left of them.  Yet, the opportunity to wander through something so ancient and decaying into the land over time, allows us a glimpse of simpler times, when life really was rough.

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Live Every Day to the Fullest

Shadow Dancing

Finally… instead of going out taking photos when our schedules allowed it… we decided to go out because there was weather in the forecast.  Sometimes you have to make time for the things that are important to you.

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Never was that more clear than this week!  I have two friends in the hospital, and one recently out, all awaiting or have just undergone serious surgery.  It’s very scary to see people you love facing such a difficult time.  While in your heart, you know they will be ok, you can’t help but ache for their situation.

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It’s made worse by their having to go through it alone (due to covid restrictions), without their significant other by their side to hold their hand and keep their mind off of the upcoming surgery.

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While I know my friends will be better as a result of the surgeries, it really gives you pause.  Enjoy life, every day!  Do the things one enjoys. And don’t take life for granted.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  One never knows what the future brings for any of us.

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To Doug, Pat, and Meg:  Be safe, be well, and know that you are loved.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

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As I look out across the ridge, I am awe stuck by the beauty around me.  The skies opened up and cast this amazing glow as if to say, it’ll all be alright, life is beautiful and there is a lot more to see.

 

Mogollon Rim toward Payson

We have been to the Mogollon Rim many times.  The ‘Rim’ we frequent is off of SR-87 long Forest Road – 300.  The Mogollon Rim escarpment actually continues for several hundred miles.

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It passes through some gorgeous country and spectacular views, not to mention a number of lakes.  Bear Lake and Knoll Lake along FR-300 are popular, and if one continues on they can visit Woods Canyon Lake and Willow Springs.  Though the latter two lakes are more easily accessible from Payson along SR-260.

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Continuing East on SR-260, the Rim Road (FR-300) crosses the highway and continues all the way to Show Low.  We had never taken this section toward Show Low before, so we took the occasion to check it out.

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We found the early part to have some nice views (and a LOT of campers, as it is very close to the SR-260 highway).  Continuing on, the East side is completely fenced off and entry to the Indian Reservation land prohibited.  Through this stretch the views are obscured through thick trees.  You literally can’t see the forest through the trees.

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It was a beautiful drive and yielded some photographic opportunities, although the weather struggled to cooperate.  We set out under the forecast of rain, and rain we got… and fog, and barely a sunset or sunrise obscured by dense cloud cover, and then clearing to blue sky after the storm had passed.

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I’m not complaining, any day spent in the woods with some gorgeous views, is always a good day.

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All Torn Up

What have you done during Quarantine?

It’s a popular question these days.  For us, we did what we do… and pursued our already scheduled project of adding water hydrants closer to the house.

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I know.. boring, right?!

Well we didn’t think so.  We were more upset by the rationing of ibuprofen for our aching backs, than lack of TP (let’s not even go there!).

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After taking 8 hours to jack hammer the first 10′ of ditch 3′ deep, we were already tired…. and had another 140′ to go!

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So we solicited help.  We hired a back hoe… and more importantly, a hammer hoe, to get through our all rock terrain.

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In 4 hours a Case 580 made short work of our ‘little job’.  But in doing so, it completely obliterated our previously well manicured road.

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Even with big machinery, it took nearly a month of hard physical labor – jack hammering, shoveling, digging and moving rock and dirt, to ready our 150′ of ditch to drop our water line (between snow falls and freezing temps).

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Once the line was all in, we covered it with sand, and backfilled the ditch.  We cleared rock, graded the road, and spread 22 ton of gravel.

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In the end, you would never even know what we did… except we don’t have to walk all the way out to the road to get water any more.

Whew!

What will we do next?!

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