Volume 1

Epilogue (use deep voice when reading)

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

This is a rough sketch of some of the stories that are forth coming. They have not been completely edited or thoroughly thought-out but they are true. The names are real and only used to persecute the guilty. If your name is included therein, well, that is was you get for enjoying nature with the Wagner’s. For now that’s all. As the late, Former Arizona Governor Williams would say to close out his weekly radio address “It’s another beautiful day! Leave us enjoy it!”…

Black River—Black Bears

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

The Wagner Boy’s annual camping trip has been held for several years on the Black River on the border Fort Apache and San Carlos Indian Reservations. This area is very rocky, high desert. The main camping area had a lot of shade supplied by cedars, mesquite and some cottonwood trees and was well maintained but had no facilities. The road to the camping area is fairly rough but can be negotiated with passenger cars to a point just before the last camping area. A four wheel drive vehicle was required to get over the last embankment unless you didn’t mind taking a higher speed run at it a time or two. This camping spot has a unique location just above the confluence of the Black and White Rivers which then becomes the Salt River that in turn, runs through the Salt River Canyon. Both of these rivers originate high in the White Mountains. Coming from State Route 79, you pick up the turnoff half way between Cedar Creek and Canyon Day.

Jeff, Phil, Robert, Jim, Nichole, and Jason had arrived the night before we did. They had timed their arrival to be at one minute after midnight so they would not be violating their camping permit. I had to work all day Thursday, so Jeremy headed down Thursday night. We had special instructions from Phil on exactly where to find there camp. I mistranslated the part about coming to a big tree by the road and turned off the main road a little too soon. We found an area a little more primitive than their site but we were the only ones there. Jeremy and I pulled in about 10:00 PM. We towed the canoe trailer with Carol’s Explorer. That last embankment was too difficult to negotiate with the trailer, so our spot was the best spot for us. We pulled up to the edge of the river on a sandy beach. On one side we had a small hill that was solid rock. On the other side we had a stretch of sand, some large shade trees and a rock face of a small mountain. This beach area we were in would best be described as a wash. I’m glade we had a clear weather report.

Most of our camping and fishing gear was stored on the trailer along with two mountain bikes. Our clothes, ice chest and sleeping …

Hot Time in Oak Creek

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

In the late fifties, Oak Creek Canyon was the major route to Flagstaff from Phoenix. This was when Oak Creek was a fisherman’s paradise.

One weekend Dad loaded my Brother Rick and me in his 1959, Chevy Station Wagon. This was Dad’s sport utility vehicle and we had taken it everywhere. It did not have air conditioning, four wheel drive, or all terrain tires, but it did have a luggage rack.

Being the major truck route to Flagstaff made this little, winding highway fairly busy all night long. At that time there weren’t many campgrounds in the Canyon. Most fishermen would take their spot on the narrow pullout that were sized to fit two to three cars at a time. There were little trails along the roadway leading down to creek banks some thirty to fifty feet below. Most of the fishermen would spend the day at creek side and then head back to the town of Oak Creek to spend the night in a small, rented cabin. But with Dad’s SUV we could spend the night right there and be up as the sun rises to hit the creek for the best trout fishing of the day.

The sleeping arrangement for the three of us was easy. Dad and I would stretch out in the back of the wagon, while Rick would lie on the front seat. His four foot frame fit there just right.

Cooking was all done on the tail gate and the dining area was the closet larger boulder you could find. Dad would leave the camp gear out during the night and move it in the back of the car during the day. On this Friday night, we finished our bologna sandwich dinner complete with Clover Club Potato Chips, root beer and Coors beer to drink. Rick and I had the root beer.

Dad fired up the Coleman lantern to give us a little light to help get the camp kitchen was squared away and he would use it to throw a little heat in the car, with the window all cracked open, of course. We all stripped down to our skivvies and climbed into the sleeping bags. Dad was shutting down the lantern as it was hanging on the coat hook. We watched the bright mantel do its familiar dance in concert to the distinctive hissing sound of the pressurized gas. The light would …

Hunting or Hunted in Cherry Creek

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

It was a beautiful October afternoon when we arrived at Cherry Creek area which is located about tens miles west of the 260 and nestled between the Verde Valley and the Black Hills. Cherry was another five miles down the road. At an elevation of 6,000 feet, we were in the cedars with a few cacti scattered around and only a few pines could be seen higher on the surrounding hills. We pulled up to a spot in this high desert paradise that would make a perfect campsite for the next three days. With the purple and black mountains surrounding us, it was spectacular. My Dad, Brother Rick and I were anxious to do some serious mule deer hunting. This area was chosen after Dad heard some favorable scouting reports from the boys at the shop.

We pitched the tent in a fairly flat area away from any washes as we were expecting a little weather that weekend. The soil was rocky, making the digging of a drainage trench around the tent a little tougher that usual but it was necessary if you want to keep your gear dry.

After camp was set up, we had just enough time to take a short hike to the west to see if we can kick up any deer. We had a little breeze blowing in our faces which makes a perfect condition for sneaking up on deer or any other big game animal. We decided to follow the continuation of the dirt road that we came in on as it was going in the right direction and the walking was easy. A mile down the road we hit a •T” intersection at what is called the Western Trail. We kick up a cottontail rabbit and a covey of quail, but no deer so far. We hiked north for a half a mile and the back east to the camp. That nice two mile walk will helped to get us limbered up for Saturdays hunt.

Back at the camp, we got everything situated and Dad started cooking dinner using the camp kitchen he designed and fabricated. In two equal sized aluminum chests, he put all of his cooking equipment, food and lantern and the other was a very large ice chest with several compartments to separate the various types of food. Dinty Moore Stew was always a favorite with dinner rolls. After dinner, …

Inaugural Vacation

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

My very first trip to the White Mountains came in the early 1950’s when Wagner Family only numbered five. This is the first family vacation I remember and it was spent in Lakeside, Arizona. I remember the trip there took forever. After leaving Phoenix, it seemed like we drove for a half a day through the desert when Dad said announced •well there’s Mesa”. After Mesa we had another long ride but I don’t remember the detai Is. I must not have been looking out the window. It was hot and we didn’t have air conditioning back then.

I do remember when we went through the tunnel at Queen Creek. It must have been the start of the •blowing of the horn” tradition that carved this experience into my memory. The only part of this inaugural trip to the White Mountains was the construction of the road going through the massive Salt River Canyon. This must have been when they were widening the road from two skinny lanes to two a little larger than skinny lands or maybe just adding guard rails. All I knew is that the traffic was backed up for what seemed like hours. That is when heard our first “Rickyism”. •Dad, why are we going so slowly? I can go faster on my tricyclel” or something like that. But we finally arrive. I wasn’t sure what country we were in, but it was green, cool and a neat place to be with tall trees.

Dad and Mom rented a little cabin which was one of four lined up perpendicular to the main road. It was a common arrangement of motel cabinets. This one had a small creek behind the property with several small pools providing a wet, great recreational playground for us kids. (I don’t think we knew it back then, but this was Billy Creek. Billy Creek is crossed every time you turn off of Buck Springs Road, which is the road heading back to Pine Top Lakes, to get to Sky Hi Road. The water going under the first culverts is Billy Creek). We didn’t spend much time inside this cabin so I don’t recall much detail. It may have only been a two room structure with one room being the bathroom and the other a kitchen/dinning/ living/ bedroom combination.

Everyday all the kids in the area met early at the ponds edge and …

In Search of Bog Tank

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

In the summer of 1968, my buddy, Bob Staich and I had been planning a trip to the White Mountains for a weekend of camping and fishing. We had heard about a back way to get to Show Low through Payson and up on top the Mogollon through the Heber/Overgaard area where State Route 260 transitioned to a graveled for est road. So this promised to be a great back road adventure. We loaded my brand new, 1968 Volkswagen Bug and headed for the hills.

It was a great day for traveling with a few, light clouds in Phoenix just as predicted on the weather forecast along with possible scattered rain showers forecasted for higher elevations. It was about time of year for the annual monsoons to move into the state. The Saturday morning traffic was light all the way to Overgaard. We both had Monday off, so we weren’t in a hurry which allowed us to enjoy the deep forest of Arizona.

Just as the pavement turned to gravel there was a dark cloud hovering overhead that greeted us with a flash of lightning followed directly by a clap of thunder. A few drops of rain sprinkled do that felt refreshing through the open sunroof, but then suddenly the clouds opened up and dumped torrents of rain on us. So much for the open sunroof. We battened down the hatches, so to speak, and plowed forward. Plowed meant more that just pressing forward on a very muddy road. The tires were actually pushing mud aside and leaving our tracks behind as the rain was still falling. One major benefit of the VW Bugs, besides the great gas mileage, was the placement of the engine over the rear wheels. This weight pushing down on the wheels gave it good traction which allowed us to zip through the muddy mush. We did do a lot of slipping and sliding but under some degree of control. It was great fun even though I saw in my rear view mirror the reddish brown mud that was splattered on the sides of my new VW, eclipsing the beautiful British Racing Green color. A good car wash would unearth that Beetle soon enough, so we didn’t hesitate to continue down the muddy forest road through the little towns of Clay Springs, Pinedale Linden, and finally to break out on pavement when we intersected US 60 …

Hunting the Kaibab

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

Hunting the Kaibab North of the Grand Canon lays the Kaibab Plateau. To get there from Phoenix you head due north to Flagstaff, make a little jog to the east and then due north almost to Page, Arizona. The stretch from Phoenix to Flagstaff is very scenic and the view changes every fifteen minutes. You’re running flat through the desert with cacti and desert scrub brush as far as the eye can see, then suddenly you’re surrounded by mountains formed from extinct volcanoes. Then you are winding though steep mountain roods with sharp curves, and canyons to the left and then to the right, until you drop down to Camp Verde, crossing the Verde River see the giant cottonwood trees and the salt cedars. The air was permeated with fishy or musty smell of desert rivers. Not far from the river banks little farms of the Verde Valley hod flourish by growing all kinds of vegetables including great sweet corn. Cortez Junction was next, where you could turn and head West to Prescott and the little farming and ranching towns like Mayor or Dewy. But we continued heading north and found level, open grass lands where the deer and the antelope play. The buffalo are not roaming here, but they are up around Page, about three hours away. As the roadway starts climbing again, we are seeing and smelling cedars and juniper trees and can catch a little fragrance from their berries. All of scenery gives way white powder rock formations near the ancient Indian ruins of Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. There are cliff dwellings and a National Park that are very interesting to see and learn about how the Indians learned to cope and flourish in a hostile wilderness as this.

Two miles down the road we find ourselves in ponderosa pines and can see the Red Rock Country of Sedona and Oak Creek beyond. There are many fishing stories I could tell about Oak Creek Canyon, but they are for another time. Right now we are climbing up to Flagstaff that sits 6 ,906 feet about sea level. We can see Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at an elevation of 12,643 feet. We then take I 40 four miles to the northeast and the head due north again toward Page.

Just outside of Flagstaff as you leave the cool pine forest, you hit rolling sandy …

Fishing Big Lake

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

One summer weekend, many years ago, I went fishing with my Dad and brother Rick to the largest lake in the White Mountains, Big Lake. It was early Saturday morning when we left the cabin with the boat and trailer in tow. We went through the reservation fishing and boating permit routine at the Honda convenience store. The Indians have a permit for everything. And yes, we picked up a few snacks to add to our food supply for the day. Dad always planed menus that fit these occasions which usually consisted of all the components required to construct salami sandwiches with accessories like Fritos Corn Chips, pop for the boys, Oreo Cookies and Coors beer. Apples and Oreos were a great combination for anytime snacks. Those tailgate or boat seat lunches and snacks were great.

The thirty mile drive from the store to the turnoff was as spectacular as usual, with the green shades of summer at every turn. The only breaks in the green were the blue waters of• A-1″ and Horseshoe Cienega Lakes and the lily white, vertical trunks of the Aspens just before you top out and enter the grass meadows at the base of the actual •white Mountains”. Many people call the pine country from Heber / Overgaard to Show Low area part of the White Mountains, but it isn’t. Show Low is known as the gateway to the White Mountains and rightly so, you can see them from there and in the winter months, they usually are white with snow. There are several mountains in the White Mountain Range and the highest being Mount Baldy.

The road from the turnoff to Big Lake is a typical forest road with a good gravel base with the traditional washboard ruts and pot holes that keep the driver alert and the passengers awake. Rick & I used to dose off from time to time, but that wasn’t due to the boredom of the drive. We stayed up too late the night before.

After the forty-five minute ride to Big Lake, we backed the boat trailer to the waters edge . We were now eager to get the boat in the water and start fishing. We untied the hold down springs attached to the stern, attached a rope to the bow of the boat, hooked up the motor and set the ores in ore locks. Dad backed the …

Snow Flying High

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

Cross Country Fishing?

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

The Wind Beneath My Wings

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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.…

Hiking to the Grail Tanks (Uphill both ways.)

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

Lake Mountain Lookout or “Look Outl”

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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.…

Critters Have To Eat Too!

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

Desert Adventures and Discoveries

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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.…

Going to Town

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

Wildlife at Every Turn

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

Easterners Travel West For High & Low Adventure

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

Mountain Top Lakes

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

Full Moon and Night Sounds

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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.…

The Sound of Music In Lofty Places

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

High Adventure on the North Fork

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …

Living on the Edge

By Arizona Adventures, Volume 1

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 …