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