Radiogurl a la Carte

Monday, Aug. 23, 2004
Imagine That

Well well - it's midnight again. How did that happen? And I'd gotten to be fairly good about going to bed on time again, too.

I'm not too terribly upset this time though. I accomplished a lot this weekend, including taking some time off for myself. I drove into the mountains this afternoon (well, technically yesterday afternoon since it's now the wee hours of Monday morning) and took some photos. I'm very pleased with the way that they turned out overall. And am posting here. As with most of the photos I post, you can click on the thumbnail to see a larger image.

This was what sent me off driving so far. I spied smoke, and despite having the glorious day to my own devices, and the use of a good vehicle, I figured smoke equals fire equals news story. Fortunately for me it turned out to be a prescribed burn - still a valid story but not as earth-shattering as a wildfire, thank God, so I felt absolutely no guilt about continuing to drive. Thanks to several recent downpours and fairly slow and extended rain days (at least for Arizona), the fire danger has been declared moderate, which is about as low as it gets around here. I've seen a few days it said low on the National Forest signs, but I can't be certain, because I was peering through blinding sheets of rain.

Oh yes, we most assuredly get rain here in Arizona. We get something on the order of 20" of rain annually. We just get it all at once, over the course of a few weeks out of the year. Then we go for months of gorgeous blue cloudless skies that put us right back into tinderbox territory, all the more so because of the rapid growth from the rains a short while earlier.

This is out of sequential order - somewhat. While I passed this site en route to the top of the mountain, I didn't snap the photo until I was returning. But it allows you to see that as you rise in elevation, the landscape is much greener. This is still considered desert, but it is high desert. There are low, gnarled juniper interspersed with tough buffalo grass, and still prickly pear and other cactus. The green hillsides don't normally grow quite as brown as the lower elevations because the higher you move, the more moisture you encounter. I don't know the chemical composition of the cliffs in the background, but even where I was standing, they looked black. Looking at them from the opposite side of the lake, if you can see them at all, they look sandy beige, the colors in the previous photo.

And yes, there is a lake beyond the cliffs - Roosevelt Lake, to be precise. It's held back by Theodore Roosevelt Dam, built in the first half of the twentieth century. You only get a glimpse of the lake here, though truthfully any more, there's not much more than a glimpse left. I believe it is at approximately 12% capacity now that our monsoons are drawing to a close. Roosevelt Lake, when somewhere near capacity, is about 24 miles long. Now, I'm guessing it's nearer seven, if that. That's still a lot of water, but after having seen it much, much higher, it seems insignificant and pitiful now.

As you continue travelling from the lake, you run out of pavement. Twice. Highway 288 to Young, Arizona, has to be the weirdest road imaginable. You pass the bridge over the upper Salt River (at this location it's pretty much perennial - I don't think I've ever seen it completely dry, though I've certainly seen it lower than this, barely qualified as creek.) It's paved through a small settlement known as Rockhouse, go a bit further, and it turns into dirt road. It's not a great dirt road but not too awful.

Wind up the mountainside a little further and you return to pavement. There are no houses around, no businesses, but it's paved road. I didn't remember it being there before (it's been a while) so I figured it was paved all the way from there into the community of Young.

Wrong again!

You run right back into dirt road. Again. Only by now you're gaining in altitude and start seeing first more junipers, then the junipers and scrubby pines are a bit taller. You might spot an occasional cottonwood or sycamore. Then somehow you are in a pine forest that's so thick you can't see through it in places on either side of the road. You're by now approaching the nearest summit of the Mogollon Rim, which stretches across central Arizona diagonally. In some areas you can see it like an undulating ribbon on the horizon, striped in shades of beige and pink and topped with the deeper blue-green-gray of tall pine forests. Or, in winter, its uppermost lines are frosted with snow.

I didn't go all the way to Young, though I did go over the summit, nearly as I could tell. It was getting late and while Young is interesting and a world unto itself, it's not exactly a happening place on a Sunday afternoon. I imagine the Antlers Bar was open. Maybe the tiny general store was open. Though come to think of it, that's about all there is, besides the few homes built generations ago and still occupied by the same families.

But as I said, I didn't go there. I chose to turn around a little past the ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) turnoff, which is ironically away from everything and situated on the second segment of dirt road. Go figure. I decided that while the scenery was lovely and the temperatures there were probably a good 10F cooler there than what awaited me at home, I really should head back before it got any later. After all, I had a lot of reading to catch up on, and I did something even more radical tonight.

I watched television for an hour. Imagine that.

Before - After

In the grander scheme of things, no soul can truly be replaced. Each one of us has a place in the universal tapestry. We each contribute our own color and texture. When one thread is snipped too soon, it distorts all the threads around it. Other lives can unravel and tear. If the wrong thread is ripped away, the whole fabric of life becomes dangerously fragile.
- LeiLani, aka Radiogurl aka Bright Opal (1957 - )