Living on the Edge

The nature of the magnificent elk is to mill around the forested mountain ridges all day and then meanders down into the open meadow in late afternoon to graze on the tall grasses of summer. At an elevation 7,500 feet above sea level, the coolness of the forest by day and the late afternoon breeze that ushers in the evening chill to make a cozy environment to live life. Then the snow of late fall signals time to move down to the comfort of lower elevations to spend the winter months. But this seasonal change also triggers the courting of the cow elk by the majestic antlered bulls that fight for dominance. In this setting high in the White Mountains, my wife and I find ourselves at the edge of this theater, comfortable in a little cabin that is more like a wooden tent with a glass door, as many efficiently designed and built “A Frame” cabins are. Sitting on the edge of the meadow where the pine and oak trees of the forest meet the grassy carpet, I find myself separated from scattered civilization and the deep forested wilderness by a feeble, loosely strung, barbed wire fence that is routinely crossed by the long legged elk or compromised by short legged cows that share the nutritious grasses other flora and fauna.

My major function of the day is to shore up and improve this little shelter to prepare it to withstand the elements of weather that will soon follow. But in respect for the neighbor’s enjoyment of the quiet of the morning, we dawn our binoculars and digital camera and step over this wire barrier to experience God’s creation. If we want to see something really spectacular, we leave the camera behind.

As we move up the gentle hill and leave civilization behind, we travel in a different directional than the previous adventure. We never travel the same path although we cross familiar land marks like the small water filled pools of Elk Spring Draw with pond life abounding or the large oak tree with it knurled branches and distinctive fluttering leaves. Occasionally we are privilege to see an elk or two observing us and wondering why we are encroaching in on their domain.

One sunny morning, my wife Carol and I ventured over the barbed wire fence and headed due north toward what I call Wagner Bluff overlooking Wagner Draw. They aren’t actually named on our topographical map, so why not Wagner. As we walked along, checking out nature’s curious features, we stumbled, literally, over a barely visible line of rocks that did not match the surrounding terrain. Three feet away we found a parallel line of rocks resembling a manmade trail. Where was it going? Where was it coming from? Who made it and when? All good questions but no readily available answers as we were a good distance from any man made structures or obvious destinations. Were we near the mysterious site of Pat Mullen homestead which is not far from the mountain rising up on the far side of meadow bearing his name? Will this path lead us to his mine or maybe to the remnants of his foundation that once supported his log cabin home. Occasionally we find remnants of Pat Mullen’s tools or parts of equipment covered with years of rust. What was Pat Mullen all about?

Did this tidbit whet your appetite for what follows? Here is an accumulation of several stories that are very meaningful to me and my family. As a friend, you are welcomed to read along and imagine the beauty of Arizona and all the critters that are found here. If you are family, then I apologize in advance for any mention of you and yours in these stories. I hope I don’t offend anyone but I think I can get away with it because of my creative license, whatever that means. Sit back, put your feet up and enjoy a hot beverage while you adventure with us. If Jeff W. is with you, remember he likes his coffee extra black. Enjoy! —LW

High Adventure on the North Fork

Crossing the narrow bridge over the North Fork you make a hard left and scramble up the rutted incline to peak over the ridge but not before the automatic, four wheel drive kicks in as the tires loose a little traction on the rocky road bed. You breathe a sigh of relief when you spy the welcomed smooth trail ahead. Bumpy roads are hard to relax on especially when you would rather be looking for signs of wildlife rather than dodging sharp rocks or pot holes. Washboard ruts are an experience all by itself. With the sun rising straight ahead and right in your line of vision, you wished you had cleaned the windshield the night before. But with the washer pump not working your new wiper blades do not give you much relief. The view out of the side windows was great!

Winding down the road at a snails pace was so therapeutic. Straining to find a bit of nature staring at you from the woods edge is a real challenge. The key for spotting big game is looking for something horizontal in a vertical forest. The key for spotting small game or birds is being lucky. But there we were, willing to accept spotting any critters as success whether it was by skill or luck. Being there to experience God’s creation is reward enough under any circumstances.

“Wait! Wait! Slow down! Quiet! What is that? Do you see it? Back up and let me look at it with my binoculars. It’s an elk! No, it’s a deer! No, no. Look at the brown patch on it’s behind. It’s a cow elk! Look there’s another and another. Oh my goodness. There must be twelve, see the one lying down under the tree. Do you see the bull? It’s that time of year. Look! Look! Ten yards back in the trees! He is standing there sideways. Look at the rack. It must be six feet tall. How does he get through the trees? Ok, there they go. Not much in a hurry. It’s not hunting season yet, not for another week or so.” This is a sampling of our many conversations as we come across the sights and sounds of creatures of the forest.

Down the road we entered the edge of the large meadow, and crossed a small spring stream, or actually more like a smelly bog with the water just seeping through the tall grass with barely a trickle crossing the rocky road way. We pulled up about fifty feet where the air was fresher, quietly opened the car doors and stepped out with our binoculars in hand. As we scanned the perimeter of the meadow looking for any four legged creature, we spotted an osprey gliding to rest on a high branch of a lone pine that wi II no longer bare any leaves. It had been dead quite a few years but too soundly planted to fall. It was rooted near the confluence of the small spring stream and Paradise Creek, which was an accumulation of other springs run off, summer rain showers, and winter snow melt, all originating on the west slope of Mount Baldy. Rising 11,000 feet above sea level, the highest peak of the White Mountains is well above the timber line thus the name Mount Baldly and of course, the highest point is Baldly Peak at 11,403 ft. above sea level. Ord Peak is at 11,357 ft. and Paradise Peak is at 11,154 ft.

We walked quietly toward the osprey now with camera in hand, waiting for the perfect moment when it springs to flight. With the binoculars we watch its head flick about as it studies the intruders and hunts for prey simultaneously, but more concerned with the latter. We were almost close enough for a good shot; five more steps would be perfect …. four, three, four …. SWISH. Without any panic, the large predator leaped into a downward glide, its wings set ridged for flight and then gracefully the feathered hunter was scanning the creek for breakfast. We knew if it was unsuccessful here, just over the next ridge of pines it would be soaring over Horseshoe Cienega, a favorite lake for anglers and fowl alike.

“I missed another good picture again!” I whisper to Carol, even thought the Osprey was long gone. Years ago, when I first became interested in wildlife photography, I planned to make a gun stock into a camera support platform. Another one of those “when I get around to it” projects. But remember, if you want to see something worth while, you need to leave the camera behind. Although that can’t be entirely true when you consider all the nature programs we all love to watch.

North Fork Crossing was coming up. We had traveled four miles and climbed from about 6,430 ft. above sea level at McCoy’s Bridge to 8,200 ft. above sea level in a very short distance. We started at creek level and then suddenly found ourselves looking down at the water 500 feet below. What a spectacular sight. The common ponderosa pines give way to the elegant Engelmann Spruce which has the wispy, mysterious shape. As North Fork Crossing came into view we spotted someone standing just below the bridge. As we pulled up closer we could see that it was a Native American (A.K.A. Indian) fishing. He had a fly fishing rod just like mine, a Fenwick. We watched him for a few minutes and then Carol shouted “Hey, he just hooked a fish. Not real big, but a nice frying pan sized trout.” That’s what we fishermen say when we catch a small fish. As he landed the fish I whispered “Let’s roll up onto the bridge and talk “fish’n talk”. “Whatcha us’n?” “Did you catch breakfast”? “Any Lunkers?” I lean over and whispered to Carol “Indians tie a lot of flies. I have bought several of the most common used in this area at the Honda Indian Reservation Store.” He yelled back “worms”. “What did you say, worms?” “Good luck and have a nice day!” We’ll isn’t that something. Worms!” We headed up from the bridge toward SR 260 and headed back to the cabin as we were now getting hungry for breakfast .

The Sound of Music In Lofty Places

In 1985 my family and I where heading to Pine Top for a little end of summer vacation. After Carol packed the last of the supplies in the car, I was loaded Chad, Heidi, Jeremy and our English Springer Spaniel, Sadie.

The trip started off in a rush because we were aware that just above Payson, there would be a road closure lasting all night long due to some highway construction which required blasting through the massive rock mountains.

In Payson we pulled up to a MacDonald’s drive through. We kept looking at the time. The shut off was scheduled for 7:00 PM and it was already 6:30. The car in front of us had a bunch of screaming kids and the parents seamed to be very obnoxious. There was a lot of confusion as to who wanted what. It’s now was 6:35. Chad and Heidi were being perfect angels, so it seemed, with the three ringed circus in front of us, or was it a zoo? 6:40 was now staring me from my watch. Finally we made and received our order it one fell swoop. We hit the road eating on the fly and headed toward the construction zone.

Jeremy wasn’t feeling all that great, but did not complain too much. Chad and Heidi was perfectly content and all was well with them and their happy meal or whatever was in that box. As we pull up to the construction company’s signal person my watch was straight up at 7:00 P.M. We knew we were the last car through as we watched the road blocks go up behind us. After clearing through the construction zone, we were off and running right up to the speed limit of 55 MPH or possibly 60 on occasion. but not necessarily in a hurry. More like anxious to get up to the high country.

We enjoyed the fresh, clean air and the cool night time temperatures all the way to the cabin. We arrived at our destination close to midnight. Heidi grabbed her stuff and skipped into the cabin. After we knocked the chill off of the little• A Frame• cabin with a little fire in the fireplace my Dad built years ago, I energized the utilities and Carol tucked the kids in their sleeping bags. We were now officially on vacation and looking forward to a little R&R, which in military meant rest & recuperation.

The next morning Carol finished cleaning up the cabin and storing all our things. It was always good to come up after my Mother had been there. She would leave everything clean and put wild flowers on the table that she had gathered from the meadow.

On this vacation, Carol and I decided to do a little remodel on the bathroom. Was that what R&R really meant at the cabin, Renovation and Remodel? This bathroom had a 26″ square metal shower that she and I painted with blue enamel paint on a previous, 1973 vacation. We outfitted it with a dark blue shower curtain and matching rubber floor mat and also installed new blue and white spectacled floor tile. The bathroom measured 4 ft. deep by 7 ft. wide. If the walls were vertical, then it would not have been too bad. But the 4 ft outside wall is sloped at 60 degrees and has the toilet backed up to it and right beside it, a wall mounted sink which takes three and a half feet away from the 7 ft. which left you three and a half feet for the shower, storage and standing room. Did I mention the new shower curtain? It was blue.

With a few wood studs, sheetrock, screw, sheetrock mud, taped and a new 32″ door, we set out to make and this major remodel. We did not quite double the existing foot print of this space, but by extending an interior wall set at a 45 degree with and straightening it out after three and one half feet for an additional two feet, we created enough space to even change your clothes without bumping your head on the slanted wall. One more thing was re.quired to make this a •master bath•. As it was neYer equipped with a window we installed a toilet exhaust fan. This was now just like the big city.

While all this remodeling was going on, Chad and Heidi worked on some craft projects up in the loft. They played well together which we were thankful for, especially during the wall building portion of this project. Our biggest problem was with Sadie. Down in the meadow we had several cows show loved to chase. But when she would come back to the cabin, here liver and white fur would be covered in cow dung, or if you please “poop• for you city slickers.

Upon seeing this mess, I would attach her chain and pull her down to the pond a half a block away. I would take her chain off. pick her up and throw her out about six feet from shore. She didn’t mind the water when it was on her terms, but I don’t think she liked it when I threw her in. Every time she comes up on shore. I would check the color of her white fur. If it was still green, out she would go. Two or three more times would do it. Then I would pat her on her back and off we would go. back to the cabin. This water was actually warmer that the water out of the hose bib outside. She found that out when I had to rinse the pond water off of her. She did enjoy the drying off part though.

The next morning after breakfast, we were headed into town for some more construction materials. But to my surprise, there was Sadie covered in green, fresh, cow poop again. Down to the pond we went. She wasn’t quite as eager this trip or the next one. We thought she would never learn.

After we got back from the store, Chad and Heidi had something they had been working on and they wanted to show Carol and myself. They had us sit in the front room facing the kitchen with the loft above. There was a white blanket draped over the loft railing. Heidi and Chad ducked behind the blanket and asked if we were ready. We both said yes at the same time.

Suddenly, there was music playing. It was a song from •The Sound of Music• Something like “High on a hill is a lonely goat• and then some yodeling. Just as “High on the hiU- sounded, up jumped a lonely goat from behind the curtain along with several other characters. Chad and Heidi presented a complete puppet show. I would have given anything for a movie camera to capture all the production. It was great!

We finished out the day doing a little more work on the new master bath. Afterwards we got everybody cleaned up, sat down to another one of Carol’s great dinners and then went The temperature gauge read at the normal position all the way back to Mesa. At home, I flushed the radiator, checked the hoses and refilled the cooling system with the correct mixture of antifreeze and water.

The next morning, bright and early, we were off again. Up through the mining towns, left at the intersection leaving Globe and up the hill we go. Just as if on queue, out comes the water, up goes the gauge and off to the safety pull out, the same one we used last time. What was the problem? I turned around and headed toward the same gas station, filled the radiator with water and headed home.

In 1985, we were packing for our annual end of summer get away. A few days away from the hectic, busy bee syndrome would be so therapeutic and the cabin was the perfect to have this balm administered. That wasn’t all that had to be administered.

We were going to leave right after Jeremy’s “T Ball” game and make a mad dash back to the house for the last minute packing and then hit the ·s Line Highway•, out of the big city after the last swing of the bat. Just as we were packing the last of our supplies, Carol diagnosed Jeremy with Chicken Pox. After considering our alternatives we determined he could have them up in the mountains just as well as in the valley and we would just administer the Calamine Lotion and whatever else was required to keep him comfortable as the Chicken Pox ran its course. I had to carry Jeremy because he had the Chicken Pox on the bottom of his feet.

I went through the same routine of flushing the radiator. In addition I changed the upper and lower radiator hoses, installed a new radiator cap and refilled the cooling system. We threw the kids in the stilled packed van and off we go, finally. There was nothing else to do. This van has been cross country twice including a trip through the Colorado Rockies.

So off we go! You know the route. We hit the intersection and with our fingers and anything else we could cross, we zoomed up the hill with all of the positive thinking we could muster and then ….. out comes the water, up goes the gauge and into the pull out. What ……. ? Turn around time again. This time we were going to have a different program. We unloaded the gear, washed and cleaned the van and drove directly to a Chevy dealership in Scottsdale and traded the van with 200,000 miles on it, for a brand new, green Chevrolet Laguna (up graded Malibu) station wagon with air conditioning. We took the new car back home, loaded all the gear, supplies and baby Chad and headed up to the mountains. This time, we didn’t have to cross anything as we passed that now infamous spot on the side of the road. That doesn’t mean we don’t think about that ordeal. It does come to memory every time we go buy.

Oh, but the way. I received a phone call about three months later. A man called to tell me he purchased our van and had a question. “Did you ever have problems with it overheating?” I told him that it was a great van in the city and never had any problems with it over heating except occasionally, going up hill in the higher elevations, I experience some overheating. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that’s why we got rid of it after four attempts to get it up to the mountains.

Full Moon and Night Sounds

During the late autumn months the Elk are starting to herd together during rutting season and then begin their migration to lower elevations to winter where food is more plentiful. On the hills around the cabin they go through their routine of taking cover in the tall pines by day and moving to the open meadows in late evening to spend the night grazing on the tall grasses. Various families in Sky Hi Retreat have dogs that are notorious for erupting in their soulful howling upon hearing the eerie sounds of elk bugling. After a few minutes all is quiet again. Every twenty to thirty minutes the elk bugles and again another chorus of dog tunes break out. This will go on for a couple of hours. On full moon nights , this goes on all night long. To help mute the night melodies, we liked to listen to late night radio with Art Bell. Sometimes I don’t know which was worse, dogs howling, elk bugling or Art Bell’s side of his conversations with guest i.e., •uh Ha, Really, You don’t say, My Oh My,” etc.

Night time AM radio is limited in this neck of woods. Day time AM radio is a little better. Traveling to and from the White Mountains, we are forced to listen to San Francisco, LA, Denver and Albuquerque and sometimes Salt Lake City. It very difficult to pick up Phoenix stations until we are within fifty miles of their towers.

Back in the seventies , we enjoyed picking up some of the old melodramas hke The Shadow, Dick Tracey, etc. Now it is mostly talk shows or sports.

TV without cable or satellite is completely out of the questions. Some of our neighbors have satellite hooked up to their big screen TV. If they would only turn up the volume a little, we could sit on the deck and watch television with them. I think I will suggest it the next time there is a football game on that we would like to watch. Other than sports, I really don’t miss TV that much. Plenty to do here without it.

Mountain Top Lakes

Heading over McCoy’s Bridge and up toward Hawley Lake is a beautiful drive anytime of the year. This land is part of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. There are drastic changes from season to season in this wilderness land. The fall is our favorite because of the mixture of vivid colors in the autumn leaves of the aspens, oaks and various ground covers. Picture red, yellow, orange and many shades of green with a blue sky backdrop. As you top out at 8,200 ft. above sea level, you are suddenly looking down on the blue waters surrounded by rocky shores and scattered ponderosa pines. Across the lake you see the small country store, bait shop and boat rental. There are only a few log cabins around the perimeter of the lake know that as the leases ran out the Indians did not allow renewal.

The former, non Indian, summer, dwellers had their 50 year land leases run out and were not allowed to renew them. The only choices they had were to give up their cabins, tear them down and sell the building materials or move them off the mountain to non reservation land they owned or purchased in private developments such as Sky High Retreat. We have approximately six such cabins scattered around the neighborhood. They are all quite small which made their move practical. Many of the larger cabins that weren’t torn down were left to the Indians to use as seasonal rentals. There were maybe a hundred cabins there once and now only a couple of dozen left, and most in dilapidated condition. The forest is reclaiming the land once lost.

A short distance form Hawley Lake is Earl Park Lake. It is strictly a catch and release, artificial lure and no barb hook trout water. Not many people know it is there even though it’s over the next ridge. The road is steep and rough but less than a mi le long as it winds up, down and around.

On our first trip to Earl Park Lake we were fortunate to be pulling the canoe on its trailer. It was about 4:00 PM and just in time for the evening trout rise. We could see the ripples across the glass smooth lake surface where the trout just had nosed up to suck in a newly hatched meal. The name of the game is to match the hatch with an artificial fly closely resembling the real thing. The trick is finding samples of the nymph or caddis hatch and to have something close to it in your fly collection. True fly fishermen have their fly tying kit handy and can whip up an artificial or two and be in the water with their waders or on their float tubes with their flippers propelling them to a probable spot for success. Those of use that are less adventuresome use canoes or kayaks and stay a little dryer and warmer.

We loaded the canoe, and made sure we had barb less hooks on our artificial bates and a few snacks stashed away as we push off from shore. It was late and we were loosing our light without a real strike. Must have been our selection of flies. It was time to head back to shore. As we were soft paddling in, my line was straight out the back of the canoe. Carol was doing the rowing. Jeremy had some slack in his line and it was naturally coiling up, when a large trout broke water near Jeremy’s fly line. With a swish his fly was gone and the water ring was spreading out from the spot that large trout sampled the artificial and then spit it back out before Jeremy could react. Even though he didn’t hook it, it was a thrill for us all. Well, it would be “store boughtn food for supper that night. Oh yeah, it was catch and release on this lake. It just didn’t take Jeremy long to catch and then release that t_rout. He just missed out on the fight and landing experience. But there will be more opportunities next time.

Easterners Travel West For High & Low Adventure

In 1983, Carol’ sister Bonnie Pavkov and her husband Ken along with their two sons Mark and Richard came from a small town near Hartford, Connecticut to visit us in Mesa, Arizona. It was the year our youngest son, Jeremy was born and one reason for the trip out west. Their boys, then in later years of grade school, were excited about their first trip to Arizona. On a short drive to the near by town of Carefree, Mark ask his Dad • Are we out west yet?” He was thinking that you would enter an area with cowboys, Indians, horses pulling wagons and a general store for staples. The boys did not expect that out west was a mixture of those things but also saguaro’s, prickly pears, ocotillo, rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, tacos and enchiladas. Yes, they were out west.

Jeremy was too young to appreciate the White Mountains and a stay at the cabin, at that time a mere fishing hut, so he stayed at home with Carol, his sister Heidi and Aunt Bonnie. Ken packed up his boys and I packed up Chad and off we went on a man’s adventure.

On the road Ken & I exchanged fishing stories and other adventures while the boys kept talking about and making jokes about Mr. Walter Reynolds, our neighbor that lived cattycorner from the Fox Street House. Ken and I just about left the boys in Payson after a dinner stop because of their insistence to carry on about Mr. Reynolds. I can’t remember the circumstance, but I do remember being irritated most of the way to the cabin. When the boys were given an ultimatum if they mentioned Mr. Reynolds’s name again, they cleverly came up with a hand signal to form a ·w· for Walter. At least we couldn’t hear it.

Finally we get to the cabin late Friday night. The fresh air was great! The stars are magnificent! Ken swore he heard wolverines, but I didn’t hear anything and I didn’t even think we had them in this area. Ken kept insisting he could hear them and did so most of the evening. I wondered it there was a hidden meaning there. Well anyway, it was great to be up in the mountains surrounded by tall pines, an umbrella of stars, plenty of fresh air with a nice weekend ahead of us. That night we planned a fishing trip to Hawley Lake.

Saturday morning was soon upon us and we were all eager to get going. After a quick breakfast, we packed the gear and boys in the car and headed out. We fished around Hawley Lake for a while with little success so it was time to change the scenery. We decided to go on a short road trip down the back side of the 8,200 ft. mountain to try our hand at creek fishing. I knew we would cross Diamond Creek half way down the mountain and then we would hit the North Fork of the White River at the base of the mountain.

So down we went. The road was in fairly good shape as we started down, but due to the summer monsoon rains that hit just about every afternoon, the roads became a little muddier the further we got from Hawley Lake. Then we hit a logging road that had some dirt humps built in to either shed the runoff away or stop passenger vehicle traffic from going through. Now that I think of it, it’s probably the latter. Well there we were. We didn’t want to turn around but did not know what was ahead of us. We decided to plow forward. Boy was that a poor choice of words. We found that the mounds across the road were getting higher and to get over them I would have to speed up to slide the car over the muddy bump. The boys thought it was fun while Ken and I were refreshing our minds on survival skills in case we get high centered or stuck in the mud here in the middle of nowhere. We did stop to enjoy the sight of a Great Horned Owl sitting on a low branch just off the roadway or should I say pathway? We took a picture even though we know it couldn’t be as impressive as it appears in real life? We stopped one other time to inspect a large. red ant hill. It must have been six to eight feet in diameter and 18″ high and consisted of 1/8″ diameter stones and grains of sand.

Just as we expected, about halfway down the mountain we crossed a small concrete bridge that carried us over the cool. clear water of Diamond Creek. The water flow was ample enough to back up small pools that were just right to fish, so we pulled out the gear and went at it. It wasn’t long before Ken had hooked and landed a trout. We all were excited with Ken but knew if we took it back to the cabin it would not feed this hungry tribe of fishermen, so it was released. Besides, if you release it, the story of the catch and the size of the fish will grow to epic proportions over the years. Should be about six feet long by now!

After Diamond Creek, the drive was easy and we were soon traveling on asphalt paving and speeding back to country civilization.

On the way back we hit right in the middle of the afternoon monsoon rain storm. It rained so hard I had to pull over and wait for it to let up. The monsoon shower doesn’t last long. but they do dump a lot of water. When the rain subsided enough to allow the windshield wipers to do their job, we continued back to the cabin. Upon arriving we couldn’t help but notice that it hod rained so heavily there that the recently placed, 6″ thick cinder drive had two massive ruts washed out all the way down to the rocky base. I loved the monsoon storms even though we usually suspect a little cleanup and maintenance chores when it subsides. With the weekend behind us. we packed up the boys and comping gear and headed home to Mesa. Our next •0ut West” experience was to be with all members of our two families including baby Jeremy. But this would be a desert adventure.

Wildlife at Every Turn

Traveling on a primitive road three miles to the north of the cabin, there are four trails we love to drive, bicycle or walk. Each one has it own distinctive terrain, trees and critters. On one trail, Jeremy and I spotted a Great Horned Owl sitting on a short pine stump. We watched it through our trusty binoculars for fifteen minutes or so. Its head did appear to be turning 360 degrees and it did not pop off like I expected. On the same trail and different trip, we kicked up a white tail deer.

The next trail to the north, Carol and I ran across no less than twenty four bull elk. One mile down the road, Chad, Carol and I hit a trail that produced half dozen wild turkeys. As we circled around to try to scare them up again, we came upon a well used hunting camp with a large fire ring and remnants of crude fire side furniture or call them tree stumps. The short ones with square cuts and standing on end were most comfortable. This was more than likely a place of different kinds of •wild life”. You can imagine the stories, folks breaking out in laughter, and maybe someone strumming a guitar accompanied by a harmonica and singing songs that sometimes resembled the bugle of a bull elk. We also found several strange log configurations fashioned out of two foot long logs, four inches in diameter. Chopping out the center of one log half way through and chopping away the end of a second half way through. The two pieces were joined to form a “T” with 16 penny nails. May have been use to tie up the horses, dry soggy boots by the fire or use as a camp table. I know a few cow pokes that are also hunters that may know the answer.

There was another curious thing. We found several rocks that looked as though they popped right out of the ground. They were quite large and by judging the deeps of the craters of earth that once bound them, they had only one third of their mass protruding above the ground. After carefully inspecting the surrounding area I found just what I expected. Bear tracks! One large set and one smaller set. The bears must have been looking for grubs to fill their stomachs before hibernation. Against the bears powerful paws armed with long, sharp claws, the ground could not hold on to its captive boulders. This brut force motivated by shear determination to find its next meal merely popped the rocks right out of the ground. “Well, it’s just about time to get out of here!” I whispered, since I wasn’t packing. Under these circumstances and being in bear territory, Carol was reconsidering the idea of having a little heat strapped to my side. She doesn’t like the thought of having a gun around, but ……. . Bears!

Going to Town

Well, it was time for Carol and me to go to town and pick up few supplies, mostly from the hardware store. We had been very fortunate to have had surplus construction materials on hand left over from the bathroom pop out addition Carol and the boys helped me construct the previous summer. As I purchase materials I made sure I bought a few extra pieces to keep us going without excessive trips to town. When you are doing carpentry, roofing, electrical, plumbing, dry walling, texturing, painting and trim, you best plan ahead and buy a little more. Home Depot in Mesa was a major source for construction materials and has a great return policy. We had some time, so decided to take the Forest Road #182 back to town and see what we could kick up.

It was about 11:00 AM when we left the cabin. We timed it just right to hit Eddies Country Store before we headed back to the cabin. We would pick up some of the BBQ right off the portable pits set up in the parking lot near the front entrance. Eddies plans the cook times perfectly to be ready just before noon and with the smoke rising and the aroma permeating the air was all the advertising they need to draw in the customers. They do chicken, ribs, tri-tip beef and other slabs of meat. They also have a real, county smoke house in back where they use mostly apple wood for that great flavor it produces. I think I will try smoking with apple in the smoker Chad got us for Christmas last year.

As we dropped down from the large ponderosas around the cabin to a shorter variety of pines with a heavy mixture of oak we shared stories of past adventures and talked about how fortunate we were to have a cabin in an area with so much variety of vegetation and animal life. The shorter pines are probably also ponderosa but with the rocky ground and less water soaking their roots, they had more of a stunted growth. As we entered the areas with alligator juniper becoming more dominant brought out the stories of bear sighting. The alligator juniper is known for their trunk bark that looks like ….. you guessed it, alligator. The bears love their berries along with the grubs and other delicacies they scrounge up.

On a straight section of the primitive road the silence is broken with “Look at that! What is it? It looks like a big German shepherd. It is running at even stride in front of us. There it goes into the trees. It just stopped. It is now standing sideways, checking us out. It is a Mexican Gray Wolf!” They have released some in areas where they were once flourished but killed off by the cattle people. I didn’t think they were released in this area, but the wildlife people were being very secretive about where they did reintroduce them. In one area, the ranchers were so upset, the wildlife people had to round them up and move them elsewhere. They do kill the cattle. Well, that was thrill. We then continued on to Eddies, I mean to the hardware store.

Desert Adventures and Discoveries

After replacing all the camping gear with desert travel (survival) gear (mostly water), we packed everybody in the trusty 1977 Chevy Suburban. Being a nine passenger vehicle with dual air conditioning, we could all travel comfortably.

Our destination was to find saguaros and scorpions, which was relatively easy here in the desert, sometime too easy. The best place to find these and other desert displays was to head straight to the towns of Cave Creek and Carefree.

In Cave Creek, we parked on what used to be my Great Uncle Casper’s property near the base of Black Mountain. There was a smaller mountain that he owned we called Casper’s Mountain. He owned several properties in the surrounding cacti covered hills. We climbed Casper’s Mountain using the road the he had spent years bull dozing through rock and cactus. On his death bed, he would tell visitors to look at the rock on his the bed stand. He said that was his life, moving rocks. It wasn’t negative, but more of a glimpse of how much he loved the desert. He loved having family out at Cave Creek for picnics which consisted of bone fires, hot dogs with all the trimmings, roasted marshmallows, hot chocolate, and all the other fixings.

We were successful in finding the saguaros and scorpions, but had to leave them behind. We did manage to stop at a gift store where Mark and Richard found plastic encapsulated scorpions. Mark had picked out a bolo tie with a small scorpion and Richard chose a paper weight with a large scorpion. They are amazing creatures.

Another desert adventure was a trip to Nogales , Arizona and across the border to Nogales, Mexico . It was a routine tourist’s trip until we discovered the boys smuggled switch blade knives that where purchased without their parents knowledge. I gained from that experience because Ken made the boys give their knives to me for safe keeping.

Critters Have To Eat Too!

Chad, Jeremy and I loved to fire up the barbecue on Saturday night after a hard days work. The day was very productive. We were popping out the bathroom to make this little shelter more civilized and upgrading it from a fish’n cabin, Dad’s original plan when he moved it here from Goodyear, Arizona some thirty-five years ago, to a cozy cabin with a modern bathroom and toilet. Carol and I doubled the size of the bathroom some twenty years ago when we extended a sheet rock wall and installed a larger 32″ wide door. We taped the sheet rock hoping that overtime someone else would be inspired to texture and paint it out. But that never happen. It was good enough and not broke, so there it was . The modern bathroom has a glass shower that replaced what the Wagner Boys used to call the ductwork shower as it was metal but very small. The sink that helped throw-out Brother Jeff’s back and created a few bumps on various heads is now a nice large vanity and sink. Boy, did I get side tracked. I was talking about BBQ.

So after a hard days work, we were looking forward to •tiring up the bar-b”, which I understand is not what they say in Australia as per popular belief. This night it was to be filet mignon with baked potato with sour cream, Caesar Salad, and sourdough garlic bread. What a treat! When the charcoals were ready and the grille positioned to take advantage of the bright back porch light to check the progress of the cooking, I sat out all the required cooking utensils, which was only a small dinner fork to turn the meat, plate and steak knife to check its progress as we didn’t have the official BBQ tool set. So while I was cooking away, Chad & Jeremy stepped out of the cabin to check the process and to give me advice. They suddenly yelled •Dad, Watch Out!” As I the flood of the light was a masked intruder. With teeth bared and fierce eyes, a giant raccoon was encroaching in on my outdoor kitchen. Grabbing a near by walking stick, I headed off the initial attack. No creature was going to rob me out of our main course, well any creature this size or smaller (excluding skunks). The local, larger creatures that could cheat us out of our dinner consisted of bear and probably mountain lions. I poked at it while shouting out loud •Hey!” The raccoon grabbed on to my stick and after a brief tug of war it immediately saw my resolve and scurried away. Having saved the day or should I say saved the meat, we continued with the evening dining or shall I say chowing down. rubbed the smoke from my eyes, there in the darkness beyond the flood of the light was a masked intruder. With teeth bared and fierce eyes, a giant raccoon was encroaching in on my outdoor kitchen. Grabbing a near by walking stick, I headed off the initial attack. No creature was going to rob me out of our main course, well any creature this size or smaller (excluding skunks). The local, larger creatures that could cheat us out of our dinner consisted of bear and probably mountain lions. I poked at it while shouting out loud •Hey!” The raccoon grabbed on to my stick and after a brief tug of war it immediately saw my resolve and scurried away. Having saved the day or should I say saved the meat, we continued with the evening dining or shall I say chowing down.

Lake Mountain Lookout or “Look Outl”

One summer morning while the air was still cool, Carol and I decided to take another little hike behind the cabin. We grabbed our binoculars and headed out. I am notorious for finding wild animal droppings and kicking them around with my foot or smashing it with a stick or stone. In hunting, we call this “looking for sign”. In other words “poop”.

The summer flowers are in their splendor. Red, purple, white, orange, yellow and shades in between. Butterflies, grass hoppers, blue birds, squirrels, chipmunks and other creatures not as easily seen are all darting around the forest.

My quest for fresh sign (poop) was not going well. I explained to Carol that many times we find the big game we are looking for in an area where there are no fresh poops, I mean sign around and sometimes when there is fresh sign around we do not find the game. She said that was a line of sign (poop). Anyway, we are enjoying our hike and all of God’s creation around us.

•stop, don’t move! Look over there! Wow!” There stood a large bull elk standing sideways to us. The sun was still low in the sky to the east of us and shinning directly on this magnificent beast. “Who is full of poop now, huh?” The rays were glistening off of it enormous rack and with its tuff around its neck looked like a classic pose in Field & Stream Magazine. What a sight and thrill. We watched as it trotted over the ridge after it caught our sent. They don’t smell that great either. We looped around in a direction that might give us another glimpse but without success. But that was great! See what you can kick up if you don’t take your camera.That afternoon we went on another adventure. This trip was to Lake Mountain Lookout. This is a mountain about thirteen miles to the east of the cabin on yet another primitive road. The scenery was great and also changes as you wind around, up and down this mountain road.

As we pulled up to the access road to the top of the mountain we discover that the gate is locked. There is a lookout tower at the very top and we suspect that you can see all the lakes that dot the White Mountains from that tower thus the name Lake Mountain.

The trip up the mountain by foot is an adventure all in itself. The elevation at the gate is about 8,000 feet and climbs to 8,501 feet above sea level. The road curves around the mountain at a very steep climb. There I am looking for •sign” again. You already know what that is. The road is very gravelly. If you had a mountain bike, the downhill trip would be very treacherous. You would have to be careful not to pick up too much downhill speed. The slightest touch of the breaks could be disastrous. I knew first hand, but that is a story for another time.

Look at these skid marks.” They were going perpendicular to the road and continue from one side of the gutter to the other. The skids were parallel and 18″ apart and there were matching marks coming down the steep mountain side and then continuing on the down hill side. What could have left this scar on this straight, downhill, pine needle ski run? Elk are not usually found on steep, heavily forested slopes. Deer and Elk normally travel in a zigzag path thus creating game trails with hair pin curves. When they are startled, they may run straight up and over a ridge and then are known to stop to check out the advancing enemy. We must have kicked up a bear! We walked another ten yards and found another set of skid marks. Two bears!

Upon reaching the top, we had another one of those spectacular panoramic views from the bottom of the look out tower. There were two problems though. One, the monsoon clouds moved across the mountains below and we could not see any lakes. Two, the lookout tower was locked and unoccupied. The sign on the gate stated the locked gate policy because some vandals did some damage and ruined the experience for the all the legitimate nature lovers.

Then big disappointment came. After returning to the cabin and checking out the topographical map of Lake Mountain Lookout, I discovered that it wasn’t named for the view of the surrounding lakes. It has a lake on top of the mountain just over the ridge from where we stood. We missed seeing the lake. Poop!

Hiking to the Grail Tanks (Uphill both ways.)

It was another cold and wintry day. After a good mornings work, sons, Chad, Jeremy, and I decided to take a break and go for a little hike. The daytime temperature was rapidly climbing into the forties. That’s good when you compare it to the temperatures the night before. Inside the cabin the back room where the boys slept was probably in the 65 degree range. Where I was sleeping near the front glass wall was in the low thirties with the outside temperature in the low twenties. It was cold but can get a lot colder up hear in the “White Mountains.”

We decided to head over to the old railroad track bed and explore the forest to the west. It has been almost twenty years since the Indians decided they did not want the sight seeing train traveling on the Indian reservation anymore, so they demanded the removal of the train track and all the trestle bridges on the route. Originally the train was used to haul timber to the lumber mill at McNary and then lumber to distribution centers throughout the eastern and northern Arizona. It also was used by the cattle industry to move the cattle to lower elevations after the fall round up. That is another story for another time. It is about Cowboys and Indians except rather than fighting each other as depicted in the Westerns, they are working together and actually the Indians are Cowboys too. Its final use was the old sightseeing train powered by a steam fired locomotive. It that would pickup passengers in McNary and make a round trip through the pines, aspens, oaks, junipers, meadows and around the mountains. There were also adventure stories for the passengers and of course, a hold up pulled off by bandits dressed in the western garb and handkerchief mask. Boy, did I get sidetracked {pun intended). My train of thought is having trouble getting out of the station. I better get back on track before I run out of steam. So to get back on track, let me see, oh yes, we were heading west to the RR bed. This bed of cinders is now us used by hikers, dogs, horseback riders, bikers, ATV enthusiasts and wild game. We prefer seeing the later. When you hit the RR bed, you can head south toward Pine Top Lakes which is about three miles or north toward Sponseller Siding where they would load the cattle. We headed north until we hit the drop in the RR bed where the old trestle bridge would carry the trains thirty feet above Elk Springs Draw at its deepest point and spanned approximately fifty feet. At this point we would drop down into the draw and head west to the grai I tanks which were actually pools of pond water supplies by seeping springs, rains and snow melts. There is water there year round although this time of year is it real hard or as Thumper says in the movie “Bambi” “The water is stiff”. This stiff water was at a point in the draw that is surrounded by jagged rock cliff on one side and a steep, pined covered mountain side on the other. In the summer it is alive with pond critters and in the winter, everything is dormant. On this trip we did see a lot of turkey tracks in the frozen mud . No telling when they were here last.

After the boys checked the condition and thickness of the ice by using the gravitation pull of large boulders dropped from the highest point of the cliff, it was deemed safe to do a little ice skating. Little is actually accurate, as the ice sheet was only about thirty feet long and twelve feet wide at its greatest dimensions. Sneakers, our most commonly used hiking shoes, glide gracefully over the ice, but steering sucks. Anyhow, a good time was had by all.

Leaving the ice rink behind, we headed further west toward the next big meadow the draw winds through. What a perfect place for elk. We crossed the upper end of the grassy meadow as we kept our eyes peeled for elk or deer antlers. You usually find discarded antlers in the lower elevations after they are shed for the winter. But occasionally there may been early fighting amongst the great bull elk or the deer bucks, and a rack is lost prematurely in the higher elevations. As we climbed out of the meadow near the southern edge of the ponderosas, I spotted something in the mud that looked out of place. It was a point form a bull elk’s rack and measured three inches long. In today’s market, a full rack is worth about $200.00 or more depending on it sized, shape and condition. What I had in my hand is worth about thirty-seven cents, but you know me, I put it in my pocket and for future use as a knife handle or maybe a replacement handle on the old Weber, or maybe ….. Well was sure the perfect use would come to me in time. It was time to head back to the cabin. Unfortunately, the route we took is uphill all the way back. At this elevation it is great exercise and at times, even downhill feels like uphill.

The Wind Beneath My Wings

There is a Bible verse that many love to quote, especially my wife Carol. It is found in Palms 40:41 “They would soar on the wind like eagles” and then you have the song “You are the wind beneath my wings.” I have always been fascinated by the sight of eagles and amazed by the fact that because of their enormous size they would not be able to survive without the wind currents. Fortunately we have natural wind currents throughout Arizona and that eagles, along with other species of the raptor family, take advantage of this great habitat. We find them wintering over the desert and summering in the highest mountains, following the breezes that provides the lift to carry them to hunt rivers, lakes and streams for their prey that will satisfy the ferocious appetite. The king of our states raptor family is the Bald Eagle. With its white head and tail feathers contrasting with the black fuselage and powerful yellow beak and legs armed with sharp and powerful talons. It is in magnificent display whether gliding the currents or perched on a naked branch in the highest tree or jagged rock outcropping. Words cannot capture this vision; one must see for thy self.

Cross Country Fishing?

Many years ago my brother Phil heard about a place to fish that was deep in forest and without any trails to lead the way. He picked a parking spot along the dirt road heading to Big Lake. We were in the middle of a grass covered meadow where in the past we could spot a heard of elk moving out of the nearby ponderosas or antelope in the safety of the open meadow. Armed our fishing gear, we headed due west through the tall grass. It was late in the afternoon on a warm summer day. At an elevation of 9,000 ft. above sea level, warm was in the low 70’s. We could see what appeared to be short pines ahead with taller pines that appeared to be marching up the mountain slope behind. Short pines were very uncharacteristic for this higher elevation. As we reached them we realized that we were seeing only the tops of giant ponderosas, firmly planted on the rocky slope dropping down 300 ft. to the blue ribbon of water below. “We’re going down there?” was the big question on everybody’s mind but not lips. We were real macho fisherman with no fear! Gulp! As we slid or I should say traversed down to the bottom of this gorge cutting through the earths crust, we discovered a large pool of cool, clear water.

The sun was sinking fast now and we were down in the depths of this canyon. Without wasting any time we rigged our fishing poles and started the casting and retrieval of our individual lures and baits. Mine was a Size Ought (zero) Gold Mepps spinner secured to the two pound test line on my wife’s Garcia Ultra Light rod and Mitchell 408 open faced spinning reel. Sounds like a lot of detai I, but this was my favorite rod & reel for fifteen years. I gave this rig to my wife shortly after we were married and it is know on loan to me for this trip. That is also about the same time I quit catching fish using the next heavier duty rod & reel. But for now I have my wife’s ultra light rig using very lightest test line on ultra light fishing poles, making the landing of a trophy fish an effort of skill and some degree of luck. It has been years that I was doing what was called “garbage fishing” where I would use heavy weight line, stiff rods, large weights and a chuck of processed cheese, worms or salmon eggs. You could catch a lot of fish without the finesse, but I do remember eating better back then.

So there we were. Sun going down, the surrounding vivid colors fading and yes, there were trout starting to rise to the natural May flies landing on the water after a short flight following their hatch. There I stood without my fly rod, but I did have Carol’s ultra light. So not to waste this moment, I cast my lure across the pool and of course, I hit the shore on the other side. This is a no – no. I started retrieving it in hopes that my shinny gold lure with those very sharp barbs would find water without snagging something permanently on the shore line. Luckily it took a little jump, and plopped right into the waters edge, perfect! I could see that it was spinning correctly with help of the few remaining rays of sun. Then without warning a nice sized trout came to the lure in a flash and sucked the tremble hook into its mount and just as suddenly, I set the line gently but as luck would have it, my two pound line snapped. I missed my chance for a trophy. You do realize that when you lose a fish like that, it is naturally a trophy no matter the size. It is some kind of fisherman’s law.

Well, we caught a few fish that we released to grow for another time. Satisfied with the experience, we headed up the rocky slope that is now 600 ft. high and back to the car.

Years later I discovered that his gorge was the beginning of the North Fork of the White River and the eastern start of the Mogollon Rim.

Snow Flying High

My son Jeremy and I planned a trip to the cabin on a weekend that started out normal with the winter months not far ahead. It would be a great time to do a little trout fishing now that the water temperatures are cooler which brings the trout up closer to the surface. They are also a little friskier and aggressive in taking baits. On this trip we pulled the canoe trailer with our 1987 Nissan Maxima. I loved that car and appreciated all the service it gave our family over the years. Carol drove it for several years and then passed it along to Chad. He liked it so much he bought it and took it to San Diego and then up to San Francisco in a job change. In San Francisco he learned how unnecessary a car was, so he sold it back to me. But this trip has Jeremy behind the wheel with a fresh, learners driving permit in his pocket. We decided to head up through Globe/Miami area and through the Salt River Canyon. This is a little shorter and quicker route than going up through Payson.

Jeremy was probably a little comprehensive on his first road trip and having the trailer in tow was a little unique for first time cross country traveler. But there we went, heading east to Apache Junction then south to Florence Junction and then east again on the winding mountain road to the mining towns of Superior, Miami, Claypool and Globe. Jeremy was doing great and did not need much instruction. Passing semi tractor trailer rigs were a little tense for me, but J J handled it well. The sun had set by the time we traveled over the Queen Creek Steel Trestle Bridge and through the tunnel. He had to continue the traditional “blowing the horn” ritual in chorus with other motorists. Why do we do that? Well anyway, we popped out of the tunnel into spectacular Devils Canyon. It was dark but you could see the bottom of the rock spires in the headlights as we swept around the curves running parallel to the creek bed below.

After a short stop in Globe, we headed east toward the Salt River Canyon. In the night time, the Canyon looses its vastness and the sheer cliffs that drop as much as 1,000 ft. to the river are not as intimidating to a young driver as would be experienced in daylight hours. This was a good thing for Jeremy and me. Out of the canyon we climbed into the cedars then the ponderosas, signaling we are getting close to Show Low, the gate way to the White Mountains. Once we hit Show Low, we had a slow drive to Lakeside, Pinetop, and then finally, the turn off toward Pinetop Lakes . Five hundred yards to the east, we picked up our little forest road heading to Sky Hi Retreat and to the co-z.y cabin waiting there for us to bring life to it. Well I should say bringing more life to it, as we can always count on having at least one giant wolf spider in the kitchen sink, at least a half dozen large moths flying about and a few wasp that came in through a crack in the floor to escape the cold autumn temperatures outside.

Well there it was, pretty much like we left it. We unlocked the arcadia door, turned on the water and electricity. The wolf spider made is showing and did not disappoint. Fortunately the rest of the welcoming party did not show. We built a little fire in the corner fireplace that my Dad built years ago. I helped him work on it, but didn’t have any idea what I was doing other than lending assistance to lift this, hold that and help supporting the large pieces during the bending process. He did a great job and it worked terrifically. Now the cabin was warming up a little, it was time to hit the sack.

It was Halloween weekend. I remembered it well. Not for the Tricks or Treats, but for an annoying advertisement on the local White Mountain radio station we had tuned in. I don’t remember what they were trying to sell. I think it might have been Taco Bell and a give away that sounded like it was an eye ball on a straw. One thing I knew for sure, that was a terrible commercial. The acting was horrible and background screaming for a scary effect that was more irritating than ghoulish. That was the good part. The bad part was that they played this spot every fifteen minutes. So our only relief was to turn down the volume and grin and bear it, and bear it, and bear it, and bear it a I I I I I weekend long. Morning came early like it does everyday, but this time we were up to see it. We were excited to get up, get dressed, grab a bite to eat and get on with another great Arizona adventure.

With the morning sun shinning on the meadow in front of the cabin, we could see scatterings of the remaining snow from an early storm the week before. In the shade of the pines, the snow was a little more prominent and will last several more days.

We decided to head to an area just below Honda (originally called Indian Pine) on the road heading toward the North Fork of the White River. But as usual, when we fish the Indian Reservation, we always had to stop at the gas station and connivance store to get our one day fishing permits. This was money well spent when considering the upkeep on these great recreation areas require. Jeremy likes to also contribute to the cause by picking out some good snacks to enjoy. With permits, a little junk food and a full tank of gas, we were off for a little stream fishing.

We pulled of the main highway and heading down the winding dirt road to the concrete crossing. This is the junction of North Fork and Williams Creek. There were culverts under the roadway for times when the river was low. When the river would fill from the summer storms or during the snow melts the water flowed over the concrete but sti II allowed cars to cross safely. Summer campers were all gone now, garbage cans and camp fire rings were empty, and the camp sites were clean. This was a great ti me to be here.

We drove along the tree covered jeep trail that made its way to a few fishing holes I wanted to try. Even with low water flows, these pools could produce some nice size trout. As we neared a likely spot to fish we spotted a small pick up truck parked in a little pull out. He flashed his headlights and I stopped the car. At that very moment there was movement in the trees toward this truck. “Turkeys” I whispered to Jeremy. A small flock of turkeys, maybe four or five, moved in and out of the trees and then crossed the road. We watched them meander toward the river, moving away from the truck. We decided to park where we were and get rigged up for a little fishing. As we walked by the little truck, the driver got out. He was an Indian or should I say, a Native American. I told him it was too bad he didn’t have a gun; he could have picked up a great turkey dinner. Just then, he reached in behind the seat of his truck and pulled on a Winchester 30/30. He carefully took aim at the turkeys and squeezed off a round and then another. He hit a least one turkey or maybe two. Well, wasn’t that something. You don’t see that everyday. Indians can hunt and fish anytime on the reservations without license or permit. They can and actually do live off the land when the opportunity presents itself. After that excitement, we did a little fishing, but without any success. But the experience was memorable.

We prepared a little lunch out of the ice chest, finished off Jeremy’s snacks and then decided headed back to the cabin to putt around, do a little clean up & repair, have a little supper and plan the next day’s outing. The next morning we headed out a little later in the day than the morning before. We slept in longer that we wanted to, but I don’t use an alarm clock or wear a watch when we are up in the pines. Our daily agenda was pretty loose. We had been dragging the canoe around on the trailer for two days and the bottom was sti II dusty and longing for water. We decided to head up toward the small lakes near Highway 260. Off we go.

The snow was even more prevalent as we drove east past Honda and McNary. As a matter of fact there was a SUV down an embankment that a tow truck was heading toward to recover it. It must have been there several days and they were now just able to retrieve it. It did not look too badly damaged, but just in a difficult spot. As we pulled up to A 1 Lake we noticed that the road was snow packed but we decided to try to get to the waters edge and put the canoe in for a little fishing. The Maxima has front wheel drive with the motor weight up front and has traveled nicely through snow before. There were two vehicles with four wheel drive parked near the perfect spot to launch . I figured if I would happen to get stuck on the way down, then they would have to help get me out before they could leave. We went for it. As we started down the slope, the car was not responding to my steering commands as hoped for, so I decided to back the trailer up into a cleaning near a camp site, just far enough to get this rig headed back to the highway. It almost worked except for the fact that pushing the trailer and the weight of the car up hill backwards was asking a little too much. We were kind of stuck, half jack knifed in the road and tires spinning in the snow. My theory of having help downhill worked. The fishermen were evidently too cold and were packing up to head out. One obstacle was in there way. So there they came with the help we were looking for and counting on. It turned out to be an easy rescue. They saw my plan and agreed to lean on the right fender while I spun the tires backwards. The combination of these two actions allowed them to push the cars front end sideways over the snow with the help of the spinning tires. In a matter of a few minutes, Jeremy and I were leading the way out to the 260. We waved and thanked the men for their help and headed further east to see if we could find another adventure. Or should I say another adventure would find us?

As we headed toward the Big Lake turnoff, we noticed that all the side roads were snow packed. So we continued east toward Greer and maybe have a chance to fish there but the conditions were the same so we headed toward Springerville. There were a few lakes on the Little Colorado I wanted to check out. By the time we hit Springerville, it started to snow. One the way to the lake it became a “white out”. I could not see to continue. I turned around and headed back to Springerville at a very slow rate of speed. Then as we headed toward Show Low, we fortunately got behind a sixteen wheeler and stayed on his tail all the way in. We knew we were getting close to Show Low when the radio signal came back in and there was that terrible commercial blaring again. The snow had stopped falling and the streets were clear. It was time for celebration. We decided to treat ourselves to a good dinner at a real restaurant, Burger King. For some reason Taco Bell came to mind but the thought was dreadful.