Driven out of our haven in Sierra Vista by the heat, we made our way east and north to Alpine, Arizona which is in the White Mountains. You folks from New England may think that is a typographic error but, no! There are White Mountains in Arizona. That’s one of the cool things about travel, it shakes up many preconceived ideas about what’s so on this planet. The weather was beautiful with cool nights and warm days. We were the lucky guests of distant relatives. The last time we had seen Betsy and Jeff was at their wedding 13 years ago. Larry and Cork played music at their wedding. Small world. We continue to be amazed by people’s generosity. We stayed in relative isolation for five weeks. We took advantage of the many hikes in the area. It is a beautiful part of the country.
The town of Alpine was a no nonsense sort of place with a few gas stations, a country store and a Thrift Store extraordinaire! I replenished my wardrobe, got rid of old stuff and found some very cool craft supplies.
One thing that took a bit to get used to was the elevation. Alpine is at 8,000 feet above sea level. We hiked part way up Escudilla Mountain and, according to our phones, we were at 10,250 feet. That got our hearts pounding. There was a lot of blow down along the trail and so we had to clamber over downed trees. I can only imagine how funny we looked. I told Larry he should go into a limbo competition!
Many of the hillsides were covered with bare, burnt trees and the shimmer of barely emerging aspen growth. In 2011, there was huge forest fire in this area . The Wallow Fire spread over 500,000 acres in Arizona and New Mexico. We watched a great video that chronicled the heroics of the all volunteer fire department of Alpine as they worked, successfully to save their town from being incinerated. Check out these amazing photos of the fire and of the Alpine Fire Department. Hats off to those men and women!
The sign of new growth was heartening. It is speculated that fires help create conditions needed for Aspen growth. The landscape still looked largely decimated yet the emerald green of the Aspen told a story of growth and renewal. In the news, there were stories of protests and destruction which were difficult (but necessary) to hear. I took heart in the lessons from the Aspen and the Pine. Destruction may be inevitable but life force persists and creates anew. Always the old gives way to the new.
A great feature of the place we were staying was the stage. It’s a beautiful, small stage made with locally hewn pine. There is a back entrance to the stage that became by personal phone booth in which I would chat with friends and family out of the wind. Betsy arranged for some local musicians to come and jam with Larry. They had a great Blue grass sound. Larry was happy to be able to play his newly repaired fiddle thanks to the great work of Majestic Music in Show Low.
Betsy took me on some great walks with her horse Harvey and I found many beautiful agates and of course, lovely trees. Larry found me a hummingbird nest made of donkey hair (from our donkey friend whom we named, Shaggy) for my Birthday. What a treat!
Every week or so there was a very windy day that just about wore us out. We made many other discoveries there, like the evening when we were watching the air, thick with a white fluffy duff that looked like cotton. We figured it was coming from the nearby Cottonwood trees. Simultaneously, Larry and I came to the brilliant conclusion that this was how the tree got its name – from the fluffy seeds. It was one of those comical “aha” moments. Our camp host, Katie, could only shake her head and smile at the musings of ‘flat landers’.
One of the high points of our stay was an outing arranged by Betsy. We joined a group of 10 other folks (all properly masked and distanced) led by Don who was retired from the Forest Service in the area. In his career with the service, he was trained to be an ‘archaeology tech’. The Forest Service wanted to survey all of their land so that ancient archaeological sites could be surveyed and identified. Don relayed that in the winter, he would head out for several months at a time with a pack mule and horse to survey the area. In his time, he surveyed much of the Blue River area and found the remains of many settlements. He took us to several sites including a campground complete with a wall of petroglyphs. We learned a lot from this man about ancient cultures in this area.
We saw elk every morning in the field across the way. A pair of Mountain Bluebirds had a nest in a building near us. We spotted a Mexican Wolf as it trotted across a big field. Hawks flow overhead and amazed us with their arial acrobatics. Prong horned antelope grazed in the distance. We had a colony of gophers nearby which were fun to watch. I made a Snapfish photo book for our grandson, Connor about “Gopher and his Friends”. Apparently it was a big hit!
Wild flowers emerged from every nook and cranny and I had fun trying to identify them with the help of this great website.
We were happy to meet up again with friends, Ken and Pat at Lyman State Park. One thing I have learned during this C-19 event, I sure do miss being around folks! It was great to see them and go on a few hikes. We also got to see some petroglyphs there.
The trees were old and had stories to tell. Mostly I learned about growing my roots deep so that strong winds would feel invigorating and not frightening. I learned about growing slowly and having patience for the rhythm of life. I learned again that nothing is permanent and that the Universe is a mighty force and, by the way, I am not the center of it! My new favorite tree the Alligator Juniper. You can see it below. These trees can live up to 500 years. I love their bark and craggy appearance.
We had a great stay in Alpine. It started to dawn on us that we weren’t going to be ‘waiting out’ the pandemic. This was going to be a way of life for the foreseeable future. You’ve got to deal with what life dishes out. So, until next time, have great adventures where ever you are. It’s a state of mind!