Arizona Rains

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago, I posted about the extreme dryness this area of Southeast Arizona has experienced. We had unseasonably warm weather without any significant rain/snowfall in months. One hiker told me that the creeks in Madera Canyon have not had any water running since October.

Well, that has changed! Wednesday morning, the rain began, and it continued until Friday evening. We went from a wide-open view of the Canyon to this one.

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But, the most amazing part of this transformation is one that I can’t share with you. It’s the incredible aroma of Madera Canyon opening up to the rain. It’s as though every tree, grass, and shrub has opened every cell in order to absorb the maximum moisture. In doing so, the most incredible scents have been released – heavy doses of juniper and pine mixed with mesquite and a trace of woodsmoke from our neighbor’s stove. Not just your average “walk in the woods in a rainstorm” scent. (Hey Google! I need an app to capture this – an aromaphoto that I can share. Apple, of course, will call their app iSmell). After the first day of rain, the scent faded away. But it was a fantastic experience while it lasted. In the meantime, green has exploded everywhere. Hillsides full of tough brown grasses are now a pale, hazy green, and the invasive mesquite trees that plague the Arizona landscape have gone from bare skeletons to leafy trees. Does this rapid transformation only happen in extremely dry climates? I don’t know.

When the sun poked out Saturday, we booted up and headed into the Canyon for a hike. It was delightfully cool and fresh. The rushing creek, which we crossed several times was a delight to hear.

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We trekked up the Carrie Nation Mine Trail, where rusted equipment from the copper-mining days of the Canyon, about a hundred years ago, still remains.

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Madera Canyon is full of old mines – we often hike past the Vault Mine, and our rental cabin is on the site of the old Suzi Lode Mine.

Full of energy after being cooped up for three days of rain, we traversed over to the Agua Caliente Trail

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I’m not sure how legal this campfire spot would be, but it had a magnificent view of Green Valley.

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It was just a great day to be out on the Trail.

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That’s Mt. Wrightson in the distance – the highest peak in the area, at about 9700′.

Our half-way point of the hike was Josephine Saddle, where the Boy Scout Monument always makes me pause. Three Boy Scouts lost their lives there in a freak snowstorm in 1958 while on a weekend camping trip.

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The last four miles of our hike were down the Supertrail, where more great Canyon views unfolded. There was much more foot traffic on this portion of our hike – we had the trails all to ourselves on the first part.

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What a great day for a hike!

I’m writing this very late Sunday night (about 3am), and the rain is once again pounding the cabin. We’ve got high wind warnings for Monday, so it’s going to be an interesting day. Desert? Here?

Canyon Life

A girl could get used to the Canyon life. To find ourselves up in this beautiful cabin in Madera Canyon for a month is life waking up and finding that you’ve won the lottery. img_0456After less than three weeks here, we are thoroughly integrated into life here – our spices are intermingled into the assortment left here, some of our favorite kitchen utensils have found their way into the suicide drawer (you know, the kitchen drawer where you keep sharp and pointy objects, and risk your life to just open it up and blindly reach in), our books are stacked on the coffee tables, and power cords for our electronic devices seem to be plugged in everywhere. Yep, the Crankshaws have moved in. We found that Dr. Neff, the builder of this cabin was a Spartan (yay!), Veterinary College ’44. A rattlesnake skin decorates our living room wall, and a mobile made of random feathers stuck into a section of desiccated cholla cactus drifts lazily overhead.20170216_062700.jpgWe’ve hiked, biked, and thoroughly enjoyed having Happy Hour on the deck with old and new friends and relatives (my sisters from Grand Rapids and Las Vegas are both here, as well) Now, we’re down to our last ten days before we have to move on, and the pressure is on! There’s no way we can squeeze all we want to do in the remaining days.

The sprawling wrap-around deck here has been a big source of pleasure.wp-1486302085679.jpg We’ve stocked three feeders – thistle, suet, and sunflower seed – and the birds flock in as soon as the sun warms the area in the morning, around 10am. We hung a hummingbird feeder as well (our cabin is named Hummingbird Hill), but we were swarmed with about 200 bees, so we gave that endeavor up. During the season though, it must be something here – I’ll bet there are at least six hummingbird feeders in the basement. New to me at the feeders are the Arizona woodpecker (the only woodpecker with brown back feathers), the yellow-eyed junco, and the bridled titmouse. Of course, I have no photos – my cell phone camera is no birding tool.

We also had a very unusual visitor in our sunflower feeder – a coatimundi. He was actually trying to empty the feeder into his face, when we saw him. These are lousy photos, but the best I could do. The first one is blurry, because I had to shoot through a window/screen. 20170216_064014.jpgwp-1487252265191.jpgHe was pretty good-sized – when he scampered off, he hit the deck with a pretty good thump. Haven’t seen him around since Jezzy found him behind our outdoor kitchen one day, and chased him up the hill. We’ve taken to bringing that feeder in after dusk so as not to encourage him. He does visit us though – about every other day we find a pile of coatimundi poop on the deck, so I think he’s getting the last laugh.

Madera Canyon was home to many mines in the early 1900s, and there are lots of artifacts from those mines still in the canyon. Last week, we hiked the steep Vault Mine Trail, and this week Carrie Nation Mine Trail, where lots of old equipment remains.wp-1487251845100.jpg

It’s always interesting to speculate on what life might have been like during those hard days. Our cabin is the final resting place of an old ore cart,wp-1486302273080.jpg spikes, blocks and pullys, and even an old funicular, which was probably repurposed to haul equipment up here when this cabin was under construction. Unfortunately, it’s in a spot where I just can’t figure out how to get a decent photo.

Until today, we’ve had pretty good weather. Last night, the wind whipped up, and we’ve been listening to rain hammer the roof and skylights all day. wp-1487452570118.jpgSadly, it’s quite cold outside (40s), so we’re not eager to sit on the deck and enjoy the storm. It’s supposed to get near freezing tonight, and we’re very near the snowline, so we might actually get some white stuff. Our driveway has about a 15% pitch with curves, so we know that we are not going anywhere until this all passes through, sometime tomorrow.

So, life is good. We’re getting an amazing amount of reading done. There’s a radio here, but no television. We’re used to that, but I sure would like to watch Planet Earth 2 when it starts tonight. Guess we’ll have to concentrate on our own nature show.wp-1487252068511.jpgFor entertainment, I can watch this video over and over of John, my sister Lynn, and brother-in-law Jerry sharing a picnic lunch with a big friend a few years ago while hiking in the Canyon. Makes me laugh every time.