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.

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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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.

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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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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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Mystery Castle

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Having lived in the Valley for years, we certainly had ample opportunity to visit any number of the many ‘attractions’ that Phoenix offered. Working and traveling for a living, many came to wait until after we retired, such as the Mystery Castle.

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The Mystery Castle is known for being this eclectic ‘castle’ on the top of the hill, just below the popular hiking trails at South Mountain Park in south Phoenix. We only knew that it was made up of common items and a bit ramshackle, but never knew its story. For our $10 admission we were given the Tour of the 8000 sq ft ‘mansion’, with 18 separate rooms, 13 fireplaces, and a myriad of interesting details.

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It was built by a man by the name of Boyce Luther Gulley, who left his wife and child and escaped Seattle, WA to a life of isolation with the very contagious and deadly disease of tuberculosis. He moved to AZ to find a warmer climate to live out his final days in 1930. He lived much longer than anyone expected, and over the 15 years between 1930 and 1945, when he died, he built this monstrosity of a house.

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He staked claim to presumably dig for gold at the base of South Mountain. He had amassed 40 acres of land through his claim and the little gold he did find. He likely built the house to establish living quarters, and perhaps a place for his family to live after he had gone. Not having much money, all the materials were found and procured, such as the many slump bricks that with ‘mistakes’ in the firing process (now expensive oddities and rare treasures).

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As he continued to survive, he continued to build in a run-on and ramshackle manner with inventive flourishes throughout. He added on a large great room, fireplaces, and flagstone floor. His big expenses were concrete and food. Most of the stones came from the surrounding land, and decorative pebbles throughout the flooring from the nearby Salt River.

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Archways and circular windows with old thrown away pressed glass containers (early versions of Tupperware) as glass blocks and sky lights. Having no electricity or running water, he added holes in the ceiling for ventilation and light. Later he added a guest room, a little girls room for his young daughter, and later a bar and chapel. Eighteen rooms in all, most with fireplaces to warm the cool winter evenings. He built paved pathways, breeze ways and roof top patios, all with little to no education, power tools (or power), water, or assistance.

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Feature shelves jut out randomly and selectively from its breezeway walls for knickknacks and special decorative treasures. Benches built into the walls were convenient for sitting, reflecting, and rests through the day. Arches and pillars lead one from the main house area to the auxiliary bedrooms for his daughter. Pebble snakes embed the floors as a sign of good luck and virility.   I couldn’t help think that he was like an unknown Frank Lloyd Wright with great design ideas, architectural details, and well thought out features, but without the entourage, money, and fame of the arrogant FLW.

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His family finally came to see him just in the months before he died in 1945. His wife Nell and now 20-year-old daughter Mary Lou lived out their lives there. They found that people would pay to see the house and in 1948 began giving tours, which have continued since. The daughter Mary Lou died in 2010. She set up a Foundation to take care of the house and her father’s legacy and continue the tours into the future.

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It was a fascinating look into the tenacity of a man, desperate to leave something for his family. In the end he left much more. The innovativeness of what the human soul can create with limited resources and shear will is on display at the Mystery Castle. While the finish work is rough and amenities slim, the workmanship and work effort are awe-inspiring.   It was fascinating a tour and an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.

Monarchs

MorroRockFog_IR.jpgLife is short – see and do those things that are important to you.

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I have always wanted to see the Monarch butterfly migration, ever since my friend Gary told us about it when he was down in Mexico years ago.  I don’t want to go to Mexico to see it, so we did the next best thing and headed to the coast of California.

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Of course, we headed to Paso Robles first to pick up some wine for the trip.  Just 2-1/2 hours south of San Jose, and a half hour from Morro Bay, we spent a couple days tasting great wines and buying some to enjoy on our trip down the coast.

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While we were amazed to see the eucalyptus trees dripping with butterflies, we were disgusted to realize that they are indeed a dying breed.  What used to be millions of butterflies, has dwindled to only 4,000 to visit Pismo Beach alone, and it lessens each year.

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The milkweed the butterflies like to eat and lay eggs in are dying off, as are the eucalyptus trees they shelter in.  Trees have blown down, washed away, or burned up and the monarchs don’t come anymore.  Areas from Morro Bay to Santa Barbara are now devoid of the annual migrations.

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Such a pity, as the monarch is such an amazing story of triumph and resilience.  The monarch butterfly only lives 2 months… a month of which it becomes a caterpillar, then morphs to a butterfly when it is focused on eating and laying eggs for a new generation.

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It takes 5 generations for the butterflies to fly from southern CA to British Columbia… and then 1 generation to coast back, and start all over again.

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I’m glad we were able to see the monarch migration.  It enriched our life for witnessing natures beauty.  Take time out to do those things that are important to you.

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Sunshine & Gorgeous Scenery

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As I watch the news of CA on fire, my heart goes out to those in harm’s way.  Having been through our own fire, stamping it out in our neighbors yard, watching the flames from our back deck, and still in the midst of the aftermath and burn area around us – I feel their pain more than ever.

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We wandered around Oak Creek and West Fork Trail enjoying the gorgeous environment of Sedona, and I couldn’t help but think of all the gorgeous countryside around the wineries of Sonoma that we have been to many times.

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I hope and pray that the fire fighters are safe, homes are saved, and these terrible fires can be controlled, put out, and CA can move on to the repair, restore, and heal from this awful time.

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Check out more of my Oak Creek / West Fork pix on kritterspix.com…. https://kritterspix.com/2019/10/31/oak-creek-fall/

 

 

Potato Lake

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My friend, Maureen, asked me the other day if I had ever been to Potato Lake.  I promised her I would take some pix to share so she could see it.

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It’s been quite some time since I was last there.  Last time the small circular lake was surrounded by yellow quacking aspens making the lake aglow.  It reminded me of Lockett Meadow with the burst of color on a smaller scale.

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Unfortunately, on this visit, I think I could count the aspens, as there were very few left.  Most had burned up or fallen down.  Such a pity.

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In the absence of aspens, a ton of new crawdads have taken up residence.  Always fascinating how where one thing falls another rises up.

 

East Clear Creek

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If you’ve been to Mogollon Rim by way of Forest Road 95, you’ve passed over the bridge at East Clear Creek.

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The road itself is dusty, windy, and beautiful.  It’s kind of like a suspense thriller – and I don’t mean spooky guy at the end.  In fact, for me it’s a plot that thickens.  It starts with boring tall forest to pull you in.  It’s nice enough, but sorta drab.

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Then it sprinkles in some cool craggy oaks, and the occasional fir.  Then.. just as you turn the corner, it grabs you with more breathtaking views.

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It’s a suspense thriller with a happy ending.

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… and sometimes unexpected twists and turns.

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