FEBRUA RY 20 18 E SC A PE • E X PLOR E • E X PE R I E NCE EXPLORE ARIZONA´S DESERTS Q Q Q Q Chihuahuan Mojave Sonoran Great Basin February 2018 2 3 4 EDITOR’S LETTER CONTRIBUTORS LETTERS 5 THE JOURNAL People, places and things from around the state, including the renaissance of the Grand Canyon Café, one of Flagstaff’s oldest eateries; Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch; and the history of Scottsdale’s ﬁrst general store. 16 IT’S LIKE AN OVEN OUT THERE The desert is a hot and desolate wasteland. That’s the stereotype, anyway. The truth is, the desert is home to some of the most remarkable ecosystems in the world. And it’s not just one desert. Arizona is home to all four of North America’s major deserts. A Portfolio Edited by Jeff Kida Text by Kathy Montgomery Z Visitors to Grand Canyon National Park line the railing below the South Rim’s Desert View Watchtower at sunset. Paul Gill CANON EOS 5D MARK III, 1/10 SEC, F/11, ISO 100, 26 MM LENS A barrel cactus grows amid chollas and saguaros at sunset in the Gates Pass area near Tucson. All three cactuses are hallmarks of the Sonoran Desert. FRONT COVER: Sean Parker CANON EOS 6D, 1/8 SEC, F/22, ISO 100, 15 MM LENS A burrowing owl takes a tentative bite in a rocky section of the Sonoran Desert. Sue Cullumber BACK COVER: CANON EOS 5D MARK III, 1/320 SEC, F/6.3, ISO 1000, 600 MM LENS 30 I AM IN THE CABEZA PRIETA The Cabeza Prieta has no real focal point, no Yosemite Valley, no singular peak towering over everything. One place looks much like another, a slab of light and space and silence. An Essay by Charles Bowden 38 IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT AGAVES The traditional role of agaves in preColumbian cultures has been known for centuries — the desert plants were a critical source of food, medicine and building materials. In recent years, however, botanists have discovered that ancient societies were actually cultivating agaves in Central and Southern Arizona. Some of those prehistoric farms are still out there, and researchers from Desert Botanical Garden are determined to ﬁnd them. By Annette McGivney Photographs by Eirini Pajak 44 LATE FOR THE SKY An Essay by Kelly Vaughn 48 SAGUARO SMILES In January 1969, we dedicated our issue to the saguaro cactus — “the Monarch of the Desert,” we called it. Among the many photographs were two dozen images from two “amusing” brochures by Frank Redding: Silly Saguaros and Some More Silly Saguaros. With saguaros once again playing a leading role in our cover story, the resurrection of this piece was too good to pass up. By Frank Redding Photographs by Ed Mateo Havasu Canyon Grand Canyon National Park Bullhead City Oatman Flagstaff Saguaro Lake PHOENIX Superstition Mountains POINTS OF INTEREST IN THIS ISSUE 52 SCENIC DRIVE Silver Creek Road: From the novelty of wild burros to the majesty of Cathedral Rock, this scenic drive in Northwestern Arizona offers all kinds of photo opportunities. By Noah Austin Photographs by John Burcham 54 HIKE OF THE MONTH GET MORE ONLINE www.arizonahighways.com /azhighways @arizonahighways Peralta Trail: Somewhere in the vicinity of this trail is the legendary Peralta Mine. Even if it exists, you won’t ﬁnd it, but you will discover one of the most scenic routes in the Superstition Mountains. By Robert Stieve Photographs by Laurence Parent 56 WHERE IS THIS? w w w.arizonahighways.com 1 editor’s LETTER WHEN YOU HEAR HIS NAME, you might think he’s a movie star. A cowboy actor. “Now playing in select theaters: The Lone Rider From Madera Canyon, starring Dennis Chandler.” He’s not from Hollywood, though. Dennis Chandler came to Arizona on a Greyhound in 1946, and then served 12 years in the Navy and another 34 years with the U.S. Postal Service. He retired in 2004, but he isn’t sitting around watching old Westerns. He’s too busy gathering history. “You name it — if it’s Arizona and collectable, I collect it,” he says. In all, Mr. Chandler has amassed more than 3,000 books on Arizona history and almost every issue of Arizona Highways. On the day before Thanksgiving, he drove to our world headquarters and shared one of his rare copies: December 1930. You may have heard about that issue. It made the news a few months ago. Its rise to fame, however, began in September, when I walked into the art department. “Hey, Barb,” I said to our creative director, Barbara Glynn Denney. “What would it take to put all of our covers online? Somewhere on the homepage. I think it would be cool for people to look back at the different logos and type treatments and classic cover photos. What do you think?” She didn’t say it out loud, but I think she was thinking: C’mon, man. You know I’d do anything, but that’s more than 1,100 covers, and a lot of them have never been digitized. Plus, I’m on deadline with two books and a magazine, and I have to go to Minnesota for a press check. She could have said no and left for the airport. Instead, she bit her lip and went to work. “We can get it done,” she said a few hours later, “with the exception of December 1930. There’s not a single copy in the building. We’ve searched the archive, the backroom. Nothing. No loose copies. Even the hardbound sets don’t have December 1930.” Huh? I thought. How is it possible that we don’t have at least one copy of every issue we’ve ever published? But it was true, and when word got out, our colleagues at the Department of Transportation offered to put out a press release. We were dubious — nobody reads press releases anymore — but it resonated. It was like the final scene in It’s a Wonderful Life, when everyone in Bedford Falls comes together to help George Bailey. “ ‘Arizona Highways’ Editors Looking for December 1930 Issue,” the headlines read. We couldn’t believe all the attention. The story was picked up by media outlets all over North America, including the Calgary Herald, U.S. News & World Report, The Seattle Times ... even WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, ran the story. 2 FEBRUARY 2018 It was an email from Annika Cline, however, that ultimately connected us with Dennis Chandler. Annika is a producer at KJZZ in Phoenix. “Hi Robert. I’m reaching out about the December 1930 issue. Have you found it yet? Anything interesting happen in the hunt for it? We were thinking this might be a good segment for The Show.” A couple of days later, I did an interview with Mark Brodie, and people were listening. “My next-door neighbor listens to NPR all the time,” Mr. Chandler told us. “We were chatting, and she said, ‘I know you have Arizona Highways, and they’re looking for a December 1930 issue.’ I said, ‘I think I have that one!’ ” Turns out, he did, and now it’s in our hands, but only long enough to have it scanned. Once that happens, we’ll commission a fleet of armored vehicles and have it returned to its rightful owner — that issue is now the most valuable issue in our archive. Ironically, despite its net worth, the magazine itself is pretty dull. Among the monotony inside is an in-depth report about the road to Yuma. “The Arizona Highway Commission has awarded a contract to Skeels and Graham for two bridges and oil processing fifteen miles from Gila Bend west — the PhoenixYuma Highway. This leaves only eight miles of this highway to be oiled.” In another scintillating piece about road safety, our editor reported that approximately one-third of all accidents in Arizona could be attributed to drivers who were “plainly lacking in road courtesy.” And he wasn’t done: “The road hog, the impromptu racer, the inconsiderate truck driver were primary causes of more than 34,000 avoidable accidents.” The magazine read like an owner’s manual for a road grader. Mercifully, all of that changed in 1938, when Raymond Carlson and George Avey transitioned Arizona Highways from a black and white trade journal for civil engineers (thus the name) to a world-renowned travel magazine. Today, we do our best to live up to their legacy. We’re biased, of course, but we think this month’s offering on the Arizona desert is more compelling than a report about road sealing — in our defense, we have bylines by Charles Bowden and Jack Dykinga. The real measure, though, is whether or not Dennis Chandler adds February 2018 to his collection. Here’s hoping. Our fingers are crossed. ROBERT STIEVE, EDITOR Follow me on Instagram: @arizonahighways PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL MARKOW CONTRIBUTORS FEBRUARY 2018 VOL. 94 NO. 2 800-543-5432 www.arizonahighways.com GIFT SHOP: 602-712-2200 PUBLISHER EDITOR ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER, DIRECTOR OF SALES & MARKETING Win Holden Robert Stieve Kelly Mero MANAGING EDITOR Kelly Vaughn ASSOCIATE EDITOR Noah Austin EDITORIAL ADMINISTRATOR PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR CREATIVE DIRECTOR Nikki Kimbel Jeff Kida Barbara Glynn Denney ART DIRECTOR Keith Whitney MAP DESIGNER Kevin Kibsey PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Michael Bianchi WEBMASTER Victoria J. Snow CIRCULATION DIRECTOR Nicole Bowman FINANCE DIRECTOR OPERATIONS/ IT MANAGER CORPORATE OR TRADE SALES Bob Allen Cindy Bormanis 602-712-2018 SPONSORSHIP SALES REPRESENTATION LETTERS TO THE EDITOR GOVERNOR DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION On Media Publications Todd Bresnahan 602-445-7169 firstname.lastname@example.org 2039 W. Lewis Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85009 Douglas A. Ducey John S. Halikowski Arizona Highways® (ISSN 0004-1521) is published monthly by the Arizona Department of Transportation. Subscription price: $24 a year in the U.S., $44 outside the U.S. Single copy: $4.99 U.S. Call 800-543-5432. Subscription correspondence and change of address information: Arizona Highways, P.O. Box 8521, Big Sandy, TX 75755-8521. Periodical postage paid at Phoenix, AZ, and at additional mailing office. CANADA POST INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATIONS MAIL PRODUCT (CANADIAN DISTRIBUTION) SALES AGREEMENT NO. 40732015. SEND RETURNS TO QUAD/GRAPHICS, P.O. BOX 456, NIAGARA FALLS ON L2E 6V2. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Arizona Highways, P.O. Box 8521, Big Sandy, TX 75755-8521. Copyright © 2018 by the Arizona Department of Transpor tation. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. The magazine does not accept and is not responsible for unsolicited materials. PRODUCED IN THE USA PHOTOGRAPHS: TOP EIRINI PAJAK ABOVE, RIGHT MARIE BARONNET EIRINI PAJAK Botanists Wendy Hodgson and Andrew Salywon have made the survival of domesticated agave species (see In Search of Ancient Agaves, page 38) a focus of their careers. But Eirini Pajak, who photographed this month’s story on that subject, found herself focusing on a different kind of survival: her own. “I can’t emphasize the sweltering temperatures enough,” she says. “I reached my physical limit more than once, but even when I was functioning well enough to photograph what was going on, the light was often stark and unforgiving.” Despite the challenges, Pajak accompanied the botanists on several summer trips in search of the rare plants. The assignment was a natural ﬁt, given Pajak’s own background in botany. “I’m generally more interested in wild plants, but I found myself especially drawn to the cultivated agaves,” she says. “Growing up, my parents were always carting me and my sisters off to archaeological ruins around the world. These plants form an organic bridge to those indigenous peoples who lived and tended them in such ruggedly beautiful landscapes.” Pajak is a regular contributor to Arizona Highways. CHARLES BOWDEN Charles Bowden could write. As well as anyone. Consider this: “The world disappears. The heat hangs like a blanket over the land, and at night, the stars dangle from the sky and cause me to duck when moving about. The loudest sound — when the coyotes ﬁnally fall silent — is the beating of my heart.” Those are the ﬁrst three sentences of an essay we’re rerunning this month (see page 30). And there are so many more sentences inside. Of course, Chuck’s mastery of the written word went beyond the pages of Arizona Highways. He wrote more than two dozen books and won a long list of writing awards. He was a ﬁnalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and when the editors of Esquire selected the 70 best sentences in the history of their magazine, Chuck was in the mix, along with Hemingway, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald. As writers, we all have access to the same set of vowels and consonants, but Chuck was the master of composition — he’d string together words the way Mozart paired notes and Monet combined colors. Sadly, Charles Bowden passed away on August 30, 2014. His words, however, never grow old. w w w.arizonahighways.com 3 LETTERS email@example.com WITH EACH TURN OF THE PAGE of your December 2017 issue, the adjectives keep popping into my head: wow, stunning, awesome. There are so many “almost favorites,” but my favorite photograph is Derek von Briesen’s on pages 16-17. It’s so beautiful it brings me to tears. Arizona Highways has outdone itsself with this issue. How can you ever top this? The Big Pictures: MONUMENT VALLEY A PORTFOLIO EDITED BY JEFF KIDA Ellnora Young, Roseburg, Oregon 16 DECEMBER 2017 December 2017 C hris Gall’s fabulous cover scarcely prepared me for the astonishing photos of Monument Valley inside [December 2017] — a superb Christmas present to all of us. I bless the Navajo people as they care for this inspiring, spiritual treasure, and thank you and everyone at Arizona Highways for sharing your obvious love of creation that’s spread out before us. Bill Wheeler, Palm Springs, California Scott Larson, Kingman, Arizona I just finished scanning the December 2017 issue of Arizona Highways. Now to read it cover to cover. All of the 2017 issues make a wonderful collection. These I will file separately from the rest of my Arizona Highways issues. I want to be able to pick them up again and again and again. Jerry Reichman, Mesa, Arizona F irst off, thank you for the excellent state highlights over the past 12 months. I have to say they’ve been some of my favorite issues since I became a subscriber (2010) to your great magazine. What a great mix of history, information, travel ideas and photography they’ve been. I’m sure choosing only 12 locations in a state as beautiful and diverse as ours was a daunting and difficult task for the staff. In spite of the fact that the locations you chose were great, I feel like you missed out by not choosing Route 66 as one of your locations. Route 66 would have 4 allowed you to highlight many communities in Northern Arizona that rely on that historic stretch of Americana to keep their towns alive. On a separate note, I was also disappointed in the December issue to see that the Hike of the Month and Scenic Drive were gone. I hope those two features will return in 2018, as I have utilized them to plan some of the most memorable vacations my family has enjoyed in our great state. FEBRUARY 2018 the house could not have been built in a more dangerous location: the middle of a dry wash, a narrow channel with the headlands a mile or more away and at a significant rise in elevation. This lack of thought reminds me of many locations in Southern California, where lovely homes have been built in the usually dry foothills, just waiting for a heavy rain to wash them out. The difference is, we have FEMA. The Schneblys did not. Gary Stellern, Pasadena, California EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks, Scott, for your apprecia- tion of our hikes and scenic drives. As you can see, their hiatus was limited to the December issue. H aving read and looked at Arizona Highways for close to 80 years, it’s still one of my favorite magazines. However, I do greatly miss the “old time” stories that were in most issues. Concerning the article on Sedona [A Woman by the Name of Sedona, November 2017], it shows, in my opinion, a great lack of thought on the part of the builder. The Schneblys’ house is a design for disaster. Having been a guest at the Orme ranch about 10 miles outside of Mayer, Arizona, for four summers in the mid-1940s, I still remember the occasional monsoon rains and the fascinating wall of water that would suddenly come down the nearby river. Over the years, several cars tried to ford this river, but they often met with an expensive defeat. Looking at this photo, I ’m a lifelong Californian, but I have taken many opportunities to visit your beautiful state, and I have been a subscriber to Arizona Highways for many years. Your October 2017 issue was the one that I have enjoyed above all the others. Last summer my daughter and I visited Canyon de Chelly and stayed at the historic Thunderbird Lodge. We took a fabulous jeep ride with a Navajo guide and viewed many of the ruins and pictographs shown in your photographs. Through your articles and photos, I felt like I was there again. It’s a magical place — thank you for helping me to relive that wonderful experience! Susan Alvarez, Santa Paula, California contact us If you have thoughts or comments about anything in Arizona Highways, we’d love to hear from you. We can be reached at editor@ arizonahighways.com, or by mail at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85009. For more information, visit www.arizonahighways.com. THE Flash Photography A lightning strike illuminates the Colorado River and the walls of the Grand Canyon. Photographer Scott Bracken made this shot during a rafting trip through the Canyon. Because he shot on ﬁlm, he wasn’t sure he’d captured the lightning until three weeks later, when he processed his ﬁlm from the trip. To learn more about Grand Canyon National Park, call 928-638-7888 or visit www.nps.gov/grca. PHOTOGRAPH BY SCOTT BRACKEN JOURNAL J nature Virginia Rails BRIANNA COSSAVELLA As this photo indicates, Virginia rails (Rallus limicola) prefer to run, rather than ﬂy, to escape predators. And they’ve evolved accordingly: Rails have the highest ratio of leg muscle to ﬂight muscle of any bird. Many rails are ﬂightless, but Virginia rails do take to the air for short trips or to migrate. They’ll also use their wings to swim underwater. These secretive birds usually are found in marshes, hidden in dense vegetation. The species’ bill is ideal for probing water and mud in search of insects, ﬁsh, frogs and small snakes. Virginia rails live in Northern Arizona in summer and Southern Arizona in winter. In the western part of the state, they’re year-round residents. 6 FEBRUARY 2018 PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN SHERMAN w w w.arizonahighways.com 7 J dining Grand Canyon Café Although the menu’s been updated — spinach quinoa salads weren’t common on 1950s diner menus — the décor remains essentially the same at this Route 66 landmark, where the new owners have masterfully maintained the history of the place while adding some much-needed life. JACKI LENNERS COU N T LE SS L A N DM A R K S on Historic Route 66 have gone the way of the classic cars that once traveled the Mother Road, with strip malls and chain restaurants replacing neon signs and soda fountains. When the longtime owners of Flagstaff’s Grand Canyon Café decided to retire, a few locals teamed up to ensure this treasured institution wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Paul and Laura Moir, the duo behind several of Flagstaff’s culinary hot spots — including Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar and Criollo Latin Kitchen — joined Michael and Alissa Marquess of Mother Road Brewing Co. to take on the daunting task of breathing new life into a restaurant with a storied past. That past spans more than seven FLAGSTAFF PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BURCHAM decades and features the Wong family, who paired their traditional Chinese cuisine with diner-style favorites to feed generations of hungry travelers and locals. “We couldn’t run their restaurant,” Paul admits, but the new owners endeavored to carry on the Wongs’ legacy while making their own mark. They took their time, working with regular customers to ensure the revamped menu was a hat tip to the past, but with an eye to the future. Burgers are a mainstay, but the fresh ground beef comes from Proper Meats and Provisions, the Moirs’ butcher shop of Arizona-raised meats. For a double dose of goodness, go for the burger topped with Gruyère cheese and Proper pastrami. The owners admit Chinese cuisine isn’t in their wheelhouse, but it was the one non-negotiable element of the menu. “We wanted to maintain the continuity and history of the café for the ‘legacy customer’ group, but we also wanted to broaden the visibility,” Paul says. So you’ll find diner favorites, such as a triple-decker club sandwich and corned beef hash, alongside pork belly fried rice, with house kimchi, and crispy noodle chow mein. While the menu is updated, the décor is virtually untouched from its Route 66 heyday. Guests who dined at Grand Canyon Café half a century ago might find their elbow marks worn into the original tables and countertops. The Multimixer milkshake machine still churns out shakes, malts and even boozy concoctions, such as a dirty bourbon chai. And a walk around the restaurant offers glimpses into the past — from the pie case, repurposed into beer taps, to the bullet hole in the wooden walk-in cooler, courtesy of a man running from the law. Deeply rooted in deep history but ready to greet future generations, the neon sign continues to burn bright at the “new” Grand Canyon Café. Grand Canyon Café, 110 Historic Route 66, 928-774-2252, www.grandcanyon.cafe w w w.arizonahighways.com 9 J from our archives [july 1963] In July 1963, Arizona Highways took readers to the bottom of Havasu Canyon, a Grand Canyon tributary that is home to the Havasupai Tribe. “Unlike the white men who go there, adventure is not a mere visitor to the canyon,” Elizabeth Griffith wrote. “Rather, it has dwelt there with the Indians for hundreds of years.” Among the photos accompanying Griffith’s story was this Ray Manley shot of Havasu Falls, one of the spectacular waterfalls for which Havasu Canyon is best known. “Sunlight hits the falls best during midsummer,” Manley noted. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 PHOTOGRAPH BY RAY MANLEY w w w.arizonahighways.com 11 J photography Q&A: David Muench PHOTO EDITOR JEFF KIDA JK: Tell us about this photograph. JK: What kind of gear did you use to DM: I made this photo atop Mount Gra- make these photos? ham in the Pinaleño Mountains, probably DM: Many of the photos in the book were in the 1960s or ’70s. It’s part of my new made with a 4x5 camera, which meant book, Top Rock, which is out this year. Ever lugging a tripod up the mountain with me. since I barely could walk, I’ve looked at I was notorious for ﬁnding the lightest, peaks and heights and been determined cheapest tripods — a couple of which just to climb them. At ﬁrst it was ego- or fell apart in the cold weather. I later began achievement-driven, but then I had to using 35 mm cameras and went back and have a photograph from there. The book forth between those and 4x5 cameras. contains quite a few of those photos that I’ve made over the years. To learn more about Top Rock and JK: What draws you to the summits? photography.com. David Muench, visit www.davidmuench DM: There’s a connection there — an excitement of being connected to the Earth, yet looking into the sky and feeling PHOTO WORKSHOP a sense of sky and space. I wanted to get the feeling of the rock itself, or of the plant and animal life up there. Many of them had strong stories to tell, and some were memorable for being absolutely quiet. Looking at the photos today brings back a lot of memories. JK: Did your approach to climbing and photographing these summits change over the years? DM: One of the lessons I learned over the years was to not do these trips as day hikes. If you start out early in the morning and reach the summit at noon, that midday light is just terrible. I began camping out on peaks so I could take advantage of evening and morning light. Best of the West April 22-28, multiple locations This weeklong workshop, led by photographer Nathaniel Smalley, features some of Arizona’s most amazing landscapes, including Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly. Information: 888-790-7042 or www.ahps.org To learn more about photography, visit www.arizonahighways.com/photography. 12 FEBRUARY 2018 PHOTOGRAPHS: ABOVE, LEFT NATHANIEL SMALLEY ABOVE, RIGHT DAVID MUENCH Granite boulders rest atop Mount Graham, the high point of the Pinaleño Mountains in Southeastern Arizona. w w w.arizonahighways.com 13 J lodging Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch Built in the 1920s as a mess hall and sleeping quarters for Stewart Mountain Dam’s construction camp, this historic guest ranch is now a comfortable base camp for exploring the Tonto National Forest. BRIANNA COSSAVELLA IM AGIN E WA K ING U P to the gentle caresses of the Salt River, watching rays of sun stream over the cliffs, listening as birds welcome the day and catching a glimpse of wild horses frolicking in the distance. At Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch, that imagined scene becomes reality, and it plays out every day. The property, located just southwest of its namesake reservoir and a short drive from the Phoenix area, dates to the 1920s, when it was a mess hall and sleeping quarters for Stewart Mountain Dam’s construction camp. A Kansas couple then turned the buildings into a fishing lodge. In 1948, the Durand family purchased the property and made it a guest ranch. The Durands still own the ranch, which today is managed by John and Sean A’lee Bevell. A day at the ranch starts around 8 a.m., when guests gather for breakfast in the lodge. There, beneath a grand saguaro skeleton, you can awaken your taste buds with coffee, orange juice or tea. The breakfast menu changes daily, but a recent morning featured fruit, eggs, blueberry pancakes, hash browns, sausage and bacon. While your breakfast settles, take a seat in the common area. The walls are dressed in paintings and photographs of the Sonoran Desert, which complement vintage furniture, Southwestern antiques and a fireplace made of native river rock. Come early afternoon, meander around the grassy meadows, grab your fishing pole or lounge in a hammock to watch birds flutter from tree to cactus. If you’re feeling adventurous, explore the surrounding Tonto National Forest via horseback or hike, or try tubing or kayaking the Salt River. Wind down by watching the sunset and taking an evening swim — the ranch’s pool is heated in winter. Then, drift off to sleep in one of the ranch’s 20 cabins, which are filled with vintage furniture and Native American-inspired décor. Out here, the noise pollution of the city can’t be heard. Over the years, Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch’s noteworthy visitors have included Senators Carl Hayden and Barry Goldwater, along with musician Tanya Tucker. Weddings, workshops, corporate retreats and other events are hosted there, too. And John Bevell says the ranch’s visitors, who come from around the world, give him a regular reminder of the magic of this place. “The longer I work here at the ranch,” he says, “with the fresh eyes of our guests … they help me stop, look up and say, ‘You’re right. This is special.’ ” NEAR MESA Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch, 13020 N. Bush Highway, 480-984-2194, www.saguarolakeranch.com 14 FEBRUARY 2018 PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK LIPCZYNSKI PICK UP THE PIECES! Vintage Holiday Puzzle George Avey Retro Map Puzzle Our December covers have often had a nod to the holidays. This classic from December 1952, now available as a puzzle, is a good example. $14.99 (regular price $19.99) #ACPZ7 In August 1940, Arizona Highways Art Director George Avey created our most famous map. Now, it’s available as a puzzle, too. $14.99 (regular price $19.99) # APUZ6 To order, visit www.shoparizonahighways.com or call 800-543-5432. Pricing does not include shipping and handling charges. Use code P8B5PZ to receive these special prices. Offer expires 2/28/18. –– With sunset light on the jagged Kofa Mountains, teddy bear chollas and ocotillos flourish at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The mountains and refuge, named for the King of Arizona gold mine, are near the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert. JACK DYKINGA IT’S LIKE AN OVEN OUT THERE The desert is a hot and desolate wasteland. That’s the stereotype, anyway. The truth is, the desert is home to some of the most remarkable ecosystems in the world. And it’s not just one desert. Arizona is home to all four of North America’s major deserts. A Portfolio Edited by Jeff Kida Text by Kathy Montgomery 16 FEBRUARY 2018 N A MAP, North America’s four major deserts seem to swirl around Arizona’s center like a dust devil. In the west, the Mojave Desert straddles the Great Basin Desert (which sweeps across the north) and the Sonoran Desert (which blankets much of the south). On the other end, the Chihuahuan Desert stretches a fingertip into the southeastern corner of the state. Arizona is the only state in the nation that embraces all four deserts. Or not. Some argue that Arizona’s portion of the Great Basin is really semi-desert, and that the state’s Chihuahuan Desert is instead intermediate savannah. Meanwhile, others question whether our most iconic saguaro forests even qualify as desert at all. To some degree, deserts confound classification. What the various definitions have in common is that deserts are dry. As Osvaldo Sala, the director of Arizona State University’s Global Drylands Center, explains, a desert is a place where the demand for water exceeds supply. Yet deserts are amorphous. On State Route 89 near Congress, a saguaro and a Joshua tree, signature species of two different deserts, stand side by side, identifying and defying both. What’s beyond debate: These arid lands contain some of the most remarkable ecosystems in the world. MOJAVE DESERT Rainfall in the U.S. moves on a continuum from west to east, Sala says. The West Coast gets winter rain. Farther east, it rains only in the summer. Arizona’s deserts reflect that pattern. As Arizona’s westernmost desert, the Mojave gets most of its rainfall in winter. It’s also the driest and the hottest. Death Valley in California holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. — 134 degrees. And Lake Havasu City, also in the Mojave, owns the Arizona record for heat: 128 degrees, in 1994. Extreme heat and little rain mean sparse, low shrubs — mostly creosote, mixed with Mojave sage and woolly bursage. But in a spring following a “wet” winter, the desert overflows with colorful annuals like Mojave indigobushes, paperflowers and brittlebushes. The desert’s signature species, the Joshua tree, grows along the Mojave’s borders, defining its boundaries. GREAT BASIN DESERT Explorer John C. Fremont gave the country’s largest desert its name, imagining the arid region as one enormous basin. The Great Basin Desert is a high, cold desert. In Arizona, it gets much of its moisture as snow when plants lie dormant. Few species thrive. Expanses filled with a dozen varieties of sagebrush give the desert a feeling of vastness and desolation. Remote and undeveloped, it’s the domain of loners, pronghorns, prairie dogs and raptors, although sego lilies and blooming prickly pear cactuses add color in late spring. CHIHUAHUAN DESERT In Arizona’s southeast corner, the Chihuahuan Desert gets most of its rain in the summer, although winter rains produce annual displays of tansymustard, peppergrass and popcorn flowers. Relatively high rainfall, calcium-rich soils and low winter temperatures create ideal conditions for the grasses and yuccas that give this desert its distinctive 18 FEBRUARY 2018 MAP BY KEVIN KIBSEY look. Creosote dominates the lowlands, as do low woollygrass and American tarwort, a defining species. At higher elevations, grasses dotted with soaptree yuccas, their 15-foot stalks crowned with creamy flowers, cover the classic Southeastern Arizona landscape. Grasshoppers clackity-clack through the savannah in abundance. Scaled quail scratch out grassy ground nests, their feathery “hats” as slender and white as Q-tips, while ringtails prowl the boulders. SONORAN DESERT Although two-thirds of the Sonoran Desert lies in Mexico, to much of the world, it’s synonymous with Arizona, complete with coyote and roadrunner. According to Marie Long of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, it was Forrest Shreve, a botanist, who defined the desert in the mid-20th century. Shreve subdivided the desert into sections. Two fall within Arizona: the Lower Colorado River Valley and the Arizona Upland. Dominated by creosote, the Lower Colorado River Valley section includes the region along Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Saguaro National Park contains classic Arizona Upland: iconic landscapes with arm-waving ocotillos, feathery paloverdes, mesquite and ironwood trees, and a wide variety of cactuses, including prickly pear, barrel and many types of cholla. Forests thick with eerily anthropomorphic saguaro cactuses can look as crowded and expressive as Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The enormous cactuses, found only in this desert, house Gila woodpeckers, purple martins and sparrow-sized elf owls, the smallest owls in the world. Spring ignites colorful eruptions of Mexican goldpoppies, globemallows and lupines. One of Shreve’s Mexican subdivisions was reclassified as thornscrub because of its higher rainfall and taller trees and cactuses. Long believes Arizona Upland might be next. Charles Bowden, who wrote poetically about Arizona’s deserts over his long career, cared little for these distinctions. “Arizona’s four deserts will not answer to the names we paste on them,” he wrote in Arizona Highways in 2006. “It is always the same whether swamp or desert — it is life humming a song we cannot quite sing and it always has just what it needs.” The arms of a Joshua tree punctuate a view of a nearby saguaro cactus in the Date Creek Mountains near Wickenburg. Joshua trees are mostly found in the Mojave Desert, but a handful, including this one, grow in northern sections of the Sonoran Desert. PAUL GILL w w w.arizonahighways.com 19 LEFT: Beneath the petrified sand dunes of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, verbenas and primroses blanket a hillside at dawn. By some definitions, the Vermilion Cliffs, located north of the Grand Canyon, are within the southern reach of the Great Basin Desert. JACK DYKINGA ABOVE: Joshua trees grow at sunset in the Virgin River Gorge’s Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness in extreme Northwestern Arizona. The gorge is in Arizona’s section of the Mojave Desert, the bulk of which is in California and Nevada. JACK DYKINGA w w w.arizonahighways.com 21 “I don’t see the desert as barren at all; I see it as full and ripe. It doesn’t need to be ﬂattered with rain. It certainly needs rain, but it does with what it has, and creates amazing beauty.” — JOY HARJO 22 FEBRUARY 2018 LEFT: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which protects 516 square miles along Arizona’s border with Mexico, is home to saguaros and other Sonoran Desert flora. Its best-known residents, though, are its namesake cactuses, and the monument includes most of the species’ U.S. population. PAUL GILL ABOVE: Primroses and verbenas bloom in spring on a Mojave Desert sand dune at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which includes both Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. This spot in the 1.5 million-acre recreation area is near Lake Mohave’s Telephone Cove. CLAIRE CURRAN w w w.arizonahighways.com 23 Arizona’s Other Deserts It’s not hard to explore the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Whether you’re in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, South Mountain Park near Phoenix or anywhere south and east of those two cities, if you see a saguaro, you know you’re there. But Arizona’s three other deserts claim signiﬁcantly less territory in the state. Here are three easy ways to experience them. CHIHUAHUAN DESERT The Chihuahuan Desert, which stretches from northern Mexico into West Texas and Southern New Mexico, also includes parts of the far southeast corner of Arizona. The Chihuahuan has been called the world’s most diverse desert, and that diversity is on display at Chiricahua National Monument, which protects a section of its namesake mountain range. The monument is famous for its thousands of rhyolite hoodoos, but it also features 11 types of cactuses and two agave species. The area around the monument is home to more than 90 grass species. INFORMATION: 520-824-3560, www.nps.gov/chir GREAT BASIN DESERT Most of the Great Basin Desert is in Nevada and Utah, but some scientists deﬁne it as extending into Northern Arizona. By that deﬁnition, the Great Basin includes Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, located north of Grand Canyon National Park on the Arizona Strip. The cliffs are home to a reintroduced population of California condors, but they’re best known for the oddly textured “brain rock” of White Pocket and for the Coyote Buttes, which are divided into northern and southern sections and include the layered, otherworldly sandstone formation known as the Wave. INFORMATION: 435-688-3200, www.blm.gov/visit /vermilion-cliffs MOJAVE DESERT Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the main attraction in Arizona’s section of the Mojave Desert, which also includes parts of California and Nevada. The recreation area’s namesake is the largest man-made lake in the U.S. — when full, it holds more than 26 million acre-feet of water — but the striking landscape around the reservoir is reason enough to visit. A scenic drive from Kingman north to Pearce Ferry, on the recreation area’s western boundary, passes thousands of Joshua trees, one of the Mojave Desert’s signature plant species. INFORMATION: 702-293-8990, www.nps.gov/lake —NOAH AUSTIN The steep, layered walls of Coal Mine Canyon cradle rolling hills at the canyon’s floor at dusk. The canyon is on Navajo tribal land in the Painted Desert of Northeastern Arizona. Some scientists consider this area part of the Great Basin Desert. ALEKSANDRA KOLOSOWSKY 24 FEBRUARY 2018 w w w.arizonahighways.com 25 26 FEBRUARY 2018 LEFT: The hues of sunset color the rocky Peloncillo Mountains Wilderness as an agave grows in the foreground. The Peloncillos are in Southeastern Arizona’s portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. The rest of the desert is in Mexico, New Mexico and Texas. JACK DYKINGA ABOVE: Evening light illuminates saguaro and prickly pear cactuses, two iconic Sonoran Desert plants, and distant Weavers Needle in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix. The Sonoran Desert includes parts of Arizona, California and Mexico. JOEL HAZELTON w w w.arizonahighways.com 27 A dry wash cuts through the landscape of the Great Basin Desert at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The remote monument is known for its hiking opportunities, but also for its extreme heat, flash floods and venomous reptiles. TIM FITZHARRIS 28 FEBRUARY 2018 Evening light illuminates saguaros beneath craggy peaks in the western portion of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Arizona. Nick Berezenko w w w.arizonahighways.com 31 The loudest sound — when the coyotes finally fall silent — is the beating of my heart. I am in the Cabeza Prieta, technically a national wildlife refuge. But this designation is a ruse of land management. On the Mexican border, the Cabeza Prieta refuge lies swaddled by the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range against the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to the southeast. Together, all three spell immensity. I stand in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, and the Sonoran Desert beats as the heart of all the deserts of the world. It is about space, and this space swallows what we call the world and takes us to what is the world. I will explain. A friend of mine insists that what matters is that here, in the Cabeza Prieta, the wand-like ocotillo’s leaves turn blood red. Sometimes I think what matters is that there are populations of coyotes in the Cabeza that thrive without water and get their succor from a diet of blood. But all of these facts are details. This desert is mountains and wide valleys and the rain that does not come. But the soul of the Cabeza Prieta is about space and silence. About leaving walls and roofs and entering a place that refutes all such structures. Thousands of square miles without a house or human resident. Silence so insistent that at times you hear A gnarled granite your own cardiovascular system thrumarch frames a view of Cabeza Prieta ming. Our ancestors saw this place as National Wildlife a wasteland and named their route of Refuge’s sparse travel through it El Camino del Diablo, landscape. David Muench the Devil’s Highway. 32 FEBRUARY 2018 w w w.arizonahighways.com 33 34 FEBRUARY 2018 I see it as home. True, we have all been warned that we can’t go home again. But we can drop by for a visit. I always come from the east because I feel better when I am heading west. For the last 60 miles I notice the mesquite trees slowly give way to ironwood trees, watch as the desert of random grasses and paloverde trees and cholla cactuses dwindles until a sea of creosote brush covers the ground. Always, I pause at Ajo to look west and think that, for a hundred miles, there is probably not a person or cow or paved road or fence. Or a radio crooning in the night. Just a series of mountains — the Growlers, Granites, Sierra Pintas, Cabeza Prietas and, finally, like a wall standing guard just outside the refuge’s far western boundary, the Tinajas Altas, the fabled high tanks where water almost never fails if you know where to look. You could walk across the Cabeza from water hole to water hole, spending days with your boots crunching the soil, doves flashing by in the early morning and at dusk. Perhaps, if you are lucky, you will catch a glimpse of pronghorn, and almost certainly at some point you will be watched by desert bighorn, and in that time see no one. Here pools the last reservoir of privacy in the lower 48 states. I have been coming here for many years, and now the place holds a grab bag of memories. I sprawl on the Pinta Sands. Tongues of lava from Mexico’s Pinacate flow lick the earth near my bedroll. It is night, the moon hunts, the dunes turn milk-white and the sensuous curve of sidewinder tracks etches the soft folds of moving sands. Some think the Gila monster population peters out here at the Pinta Sands. It is true that in the Tule Desert, just to the west and north, a reckoning occurs. The rainfall drops off, the mesquite and ironwood trees huddle under a relentless sun and become dwarfish, the deer and javelinas become scant. The endangered Sonoran pronghorns sometimes push farther west, but then for years, scientists were not even sure if they ever drank water (they do). I look north toward the Sierra Pintas and see a black horizon line — about 50 miles on foot to pavement and our four-lane fantasies. To be honest, when I am sprawled here on the sand, I never think of heat or water or highways. The Devil’s Highway courses by a hundred yards to the north, but this small jeep track hardly matters to me now. I am not in the wilderness, I am in this universe of sensation with milk-white sand, the moon hunting, the soft silence of the night, the stars brighter than a city streetlight. In the city, the minutes slip by. Here, the minutes, ripe and full, spell endless delights. The world here swallows the world, and I am left with myself and the planet we call Earth. They gather in the early summer, dozens of desert bighorns lounging about on the rock pile of the Sierra Pintas. Heart Tank, a hole in the rock, stores the rare rains. The Cabeza has no streams and but one tiny spring. Water is found, if at all, in these isolated holes Volcanic rocks in the rock, charcos or tinajas in Spanish, populate a lava ﬁeld at Cabeza Prieta. Some life in any language. My bedroll faces of the refuge’s lava the Tule Desert baking at the canyon’s ﬂows are as old as mouth. Some think Father Eusebio 2 million years. Francisco Kino once visited this tank. David Muench w w w.arizonahighways.com 35 No one knows for certain. Hawks and eagles come each day at separate times. The turkey vultures arrive as a group. They form a line and then drink one by one. After a day or so, no one pays attention to me. Big rams walk past maybe 20 feet away as I make notes in the June heat. A coyote pads past my bedroll twice each day with hardly a sidelong glance. At sunrise, the sky goes blood red, and then the heat comes on. Slowly, the heat waves leach all color from the land until, by noon, I face the white light of high summer, a blaze that flattens mountains into footstools and chases birds from the sky to their roosts to wait out the heat. Except for the vultures, who carelessly ride the thermals roaring off the desert floor and watch for death. I have been living with a family of vultures for days now. They bed down 50 yards from my bedroll. I am here to tell you that they no longer look ugly. And they are very friendly. I look up in the sky and see one brush the wing of another and then wheel away in sport. Each night at a specific time I am supposed to concentrate and try to communicate telepathically with a woman in Texas. Each night I fail to do this. I do not want to reach anyone out there. The small stove flares up, and then I put on water for hot chocolate and coffee. I am now camped in the Growler Valley, a swatch of creosote about 30 miles long, and I have not seen a footprint other than my own all day. The Granites rise up to the west; the cliffs of the Growlers, where prairie falcons nest, frame the east. I will never return to this rest stop, and I will never find it again. The Cabeza Prieta has no real focal point, no Yosemite Valley, no singular peak towering over everything. One place looks much like another, a slab of light and space and silence. For photographers, this leads to frustration. For the rest of us, it is a balm. I have slowed down this time. I have been walking for days and seem to live largely on sunflower seeds, raisins, salami, coffee and hot chocolate. I carry a book, but seldom open it. In the heat of midday, I crawl under a creosote bush and simply exist ... hour after hour. I turn off the stove; its hissing has become deafening. You will be in the Cabeza when you can no longer tolerate the hissing of a stove. That is the thing to make into a picture: silence, space and the shadow of a creosote bush on the ground. You will look back and see your own footprints and think they are an insufferable invasion. The best part of the day: sitting in the scant shade of the creosote and waiting out the heat. Put down the cup of hot chocolate, lean back. Now the world swallows you whole. What is an event? Once a desert bighorn with a broken leg walked past me on the same thin mountain trail. A badger shuffled by another time and hardly gave me a glance. I once stared for six or eight hours at the same rock 50 feet away. At dusk one evening, a rosy boa slithered across the ground. But 36 FEBRUARY 2018 the best times I cannot remember at all. The Cabeza is not about events. It flows in a deeper part of life. It is barely about time, since minutes and hours and days slowly become meaningless. Along El Camino del Diablo, stones laid on the ground sketch crosses to mark the graves of forty-niners who did not make it to the gold fields of California. Even their faintly scribbled intrusion seems to annoy me. In the Cabeza, you find that person who has been hiding from you for your entire life. That person is yourself. When I leave, I learn where I have been. At first, there is too much of everything — too much sound, too much motion, too many people, too many objects. When I leave, I always have a deep craving for some meal or slice of pie, and I have never once gone into a café and ordered this fantasy. The craving remains behind in the Cabeza, along with the silence and space. I cannot explain this fact, but it always happens. After a day or two, I drive my truck like everyone else, I answer the phone An ocotillo blooms beneath wispy clouds like everyone else. I listen to the hum at Cabeza Prieta of my refrigerator in the kitchen and National Wildlife watch images dance across the televiRefuge. David Muench sion screen. But a part of me stays in the Cabeza, perhaps that part that actually is myself. The huge desert holds precisely nothing, nothing at all. When people ask you about your visit, you will say that nothing happened, that there is nothing special to see. But you will never really leave the place, no matter how far you drive or how fast. This place will own you, even though in no sense can you ever own this place. Space, silence, a world swallowing a world. Frankly, you will give up trying to explain it to people. It is enough to know it. More than enough. w w w.arizonahighways.com 37 I N S EA RCH O F The traditional role of agaves in pre-Columbian cultures has been known for centuries — the desert plants were a critical source of food, medicine and building materials. In recent years, however, botanists have discovered that ancient societies were actually cultivating agaves in Central and Southern Arizona. Some of those prehistoric farms are still out there, and researchers from Desert Botanical Garden are determined to ﬁnd them. BY ANNETTE MCGIVNEY 38 FEBRUARY 2018 PHOTOGRAPHS BY EIRINI PAJAK A NCI E NT AGAVE S Desert Botanical Garden botanists Wendy Hodgson and Andrew Salywon examine a blooming agave in the Sedona area. When the botanists are out searching for domesticated agave species, they often encounter new, scientiﬁcally undescribed native agaves such as this one. T HE JOB DESCRIPTION FOR an agave researcher should read something like this: Must be willing to shed blood and expose oneself to blisterinducing juices while obtaining specimens. Most field days are spent hiking off-trail, up steep rocky slopes, in triple-digit temperatures. Encountering Africanized bees, rattlesnakes or crazy humans is a constant possibility. Being able to identify and follow obscure clues across large swaths of desert is a plus. Although scientists have always roamed rugged landscapes in search of new information, few can match the challenging working conditions faced by Arizona botanists Wendy Hodgson and Andrew Salywon. Their groundbreaking agave research takes “suffering for science” to a whole new level, but the payoff is big: In recent years, they’ve discovered five Arizona agave species that previously were unknown to science, and in the process, they’re rewriting history on how the plant was used by pre-Columbian cultures in the Southwest. “There is no one else doing this research,” Salywon says, laughing, as he slathers his face and neck with sunscreen before we set out on a scramble up a steep hill west of Sedona. “Who would be this crazy?” It’s late June, and an excessive-heat warning is in effect. But it’s also when the agaves bloom in Central Arizona, so Hodgson and Salywon aren’t about to pass up the possibility of a new discovery just because the forecast calls for a record-breaking 110 degrees. Salywon stuffs a plant press into his daypack and grabs a 10-foot aluminum “snatch pole,” and he, Hodgson, photographer Eirini Pajak and I head toward the place Hodgson has named Angel Hill. The saguaro may be Arizona’s most iconic plant, and its blossom is the official state flower, but the agave most embodies Arizona’s rich cultural history. There are more species of agave — at least 21, including varieties and subspecies — in Arizona than in any other U.S. state. The agave was a staple food for Arizona’s pre-Columbian cultures, as well as a critical source of medicine, cordage, textiles and building materials. And it’s long been utilized by the indigenous cultures of northern and central Mexico. People living in the Yucatán still have 40 different uses for it, and anthropologists estimate that number was far higher in pre-Columbian times. Archaeobotanist Phil Dering calls the agave the “buffalo of the region” to convey how indigenous cultures in Mexico and the Southwest depended on the plant for countless purposes, much as the Plains Indian tribes depended on bison. 40 FEBRUARY 2018 The traditional role of agaves in pre-Columbian cultures has been known for centuries. But what’s been realized in just the past three decades, thanks to the work of Hodgson and Salywon, is how these ancient societies domesticated and farmed agaves throughout Central and Southern Arizona — and even in the Grand Canyon. As senior research botanist and curator of the herbarium at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Hodgson has been on the hunt for domesticated agave species in Arizona since the mid-1980s. Her colleague Salywon, a research botanist and assistant herbarium curator, joined the search a decade ago. “People have underestimated how important the agave was to ancient cultures,” Salywon says as we pick our way up Angel Hill. “Arizona was possibly the center for domestication of the plant.” LEFT: Parry’s agaves (Agave parryi) thrive near an archaeological site. While not a domesticated species, Parry’s agaves were among the native agaves cultivated by Arizona’s early inhabitants. ABOVE: An unusual dwarf form of an agave — possibly Sacred Mountain agave (Agave verdensis) — grows near an archaeological site in the Sedona area. Hodgson, who’s leading us on the scree-filled route, adds that the discoveries of domesticated “heirloom” species across the state help document “the bio-cultural landscape” of Arizona. “We’re learning how people adapted to their environment,” she says as I grab a juniper branch to keep from tumbling downhill. “There’s not enough time in the day to discover all the new domesticated species — they’re right under our noses.” WHEREVER THEY GO IN ARIZONA, Hodgson and Salywon are pulling out binoculars and glassing distant ridges for the telltale agave stalk. Sometimes, they find an unusual species next to the interstate. More often, though, they stumble upon a discovery far off the beaten path. When Hodgson wandered to the top of Angel Hill on a hunch nearly 20 years ago, she hit the mother lode. The area contains an agave farm dating back at least 700 years, with three different domesticated species growing on a rocky perch high above Oak Creek. Of all the scenic places Hodgson has visited for her research, Angel Hill is her favorite. “Hello, baby!” Hodgson says, as if she’s greeting an old friend, to an Agave phillipsiana on top of the hill. Commonly called Grand Canyon agave for the place the species was discovered, Agave phillipsiana was later found by Hodgson in the Sedona area, then around Prescott and the Tonto Basin. Presumably, it was traded by ancient cultures in the region and maybe from as far away as central Mexico. The cluster of the species on exposed Angel Hill has the good sense to grow in the shade of a large juniper. Hodgson talks about her research the way a detective discusses an investigation. In 1990, a fellow botanist told Hodgson about an unusual-looking agave spotted in the Grand Canyon. “The Canyon flora list included [the wild native species] Agave parryi, which I knew would not be found there,” Hodgson recalls. She and some friends found the strange agave near archaeological sites in the Canyon’s Deer Creek drainage, but it wasn’t flowering at the time. Another friend, the Canyon botanist, later sent Hodgson a sample of flowers from it. By then, Hodgson was convinced there was an unknown agave domesticate in the Grand Canyon. “It was a remnant of being farmed,” she says. But she couldn’t prove it until she got a fresh flower, which she and a friend finally did by hiking into the Canyon’s waterless Surprise Valley in tripledigit August heat. Hodgson named the species after the late botanist Arthur Phillips III, who gave her the original tip. Agaves are sometimes mistaken for cactuses because of their spiny leaves, but they’re in a different plant family. Calling them “century plants” is another common misnomer. In reality, most agave species mature and develop a tall stalk from their rosette of leaves after about 20 years. In the same year the stalk shoots up, flowers bloom on the top half, and then the plant dies. Instead of reproducing from seeds, domesticated agaves perpetuate through vegetative reproduction, where rhizomes from the mother plant produce “pups” that continue to grow after the mother plant dies. The portable little pups were ideal for trading and transplanting in Arizona’s pre-Columbian agrarian communities. Salywon pulls out a knife and carefully cuts a spiny Agave phillipsiana leaf to take back to Desert Botanical Garden’s extensive herbarium. Hodgson estimates the herbarium has archived more than 3,000 agave specimens, representing more than 180 different species. Almost all of them were collected by Hodgson, and more recently by Hodgson and Salywon, over the past 30 years. While Salywon presses the leaf between newsprint, Hodgson makes notes in a journal wrapped in a bloodstained suede cover. In addition to having gnarly spines, the agave leaves contain a caustic juice that can be as irritating to human skin as poison ivy. After visiting Agave phillipsiana, we walk across the hilltop to check on Agave delamateri, another domesticated species first discovered in the Tonto Basin and later found by Hodgson in the Verde Valley. She suspects this plant, like Agave phillipsiana, originated in northern Mexico but was widely traded in Central Arizona. We’ve arrived a year too late for this cluster: Dry, skeleton-like stalks rise from fading rosettes. The dying plants are surrounded by a few parched pups shriveling in the heat. Salywon pulls out what’s left of his dwindling water supply w w w.arizonahighways.com 41 and sprinkles it on the baby agave. “These plants are living archaeological artifacts,” Hodgson says. She explains that because of the agave’s vegetative reproduction process, the plants we see on Angel Hill today are genetically similar, if not identical, to what pre-Columbian people were cultivating here hundreds of years ago. But the clock is ticking for these living legacies. Due to drought over the past two decades and lack of human tending, the rare domesticated agaves are quickly disappearing from Arizona’s wild landscapes. An untold number probably died off before Hodgson and Salywon could even get to them. Nearby, we inspect a cluster of Agave verdensis, called Sacred Mountain agave in honor of where Hodgson first found it near Sedona’s Sacred Mountain archaeological site. “This is the cutest agave I know,” Hodgson says. The stalk of one plant is curved from the wind, and she cups the flowers in her hand as she takes a whiff of the sweet, musky scent. “When I first came up here,” she adds, “there were probably 100 stalks. The hillside was covered.” Today, we walk across an agave graveyard. Some 20 to 30 dead stalks are strewn across the ground, and a handful of pups are trying to beat the odds. Salywon digs up one pup to take back and grow in the garden’s greenhouse, in case this Sacred Mountain clone’s descendants don’t make it. Hodgson is wistful about Angel Hill as we hike back to the car in 107-degree heat. She knows the next time she comes here, there will be even fewer agaves. “I literally cried recently when I left a clone in Sycamore Canyon,” she says. “I knew I would never see it again.” THE NEXT DAY, we scramble up to a remote ruins site off Red Canyon Road west of Sedona. Recent research into agave domesticates is not only expanding the scientific understanding of the plant, but also providing valuable information to archaeologists — because domesticated species are almost always found near archaeological sites. “Sometimes I stumble upon the agave first. Sometimes it’s the ruins,” says Sedona resident Scott Newth, a regional coordinator for the Arizona Site Stewards Program. Newth is part of a group of citizen scientists whom Hodgson and Salywon have enlisted to help hunt for domesticated agave species. “It’s easy to tell a domesticate from a wild species once you learn how,” Newth says. “The leaves on the domesticates are not as stout.” Newth and his wife have discovered more than 20 clusters of domesticated agaves while hunting for archaeological sites over the past five years. Near ruins and rock-art sites, Newth also frequently finds roasting pits where ancient dwellers cut the leaves off the agaves to harvest the plant’s “heart.” Over a period of days, the plant’s coveted insides were slow-roasted in a pit until the sweet meat was ready for eating or storage. Arizona’s Apache tribes still conduct traditional agave roasts. “We’re exchanging information with archaeologists all the time,” Hodgson says as our crew tops out on a slick-rockcovered mesa. Ruins of a multi-room dwelling sit at the edge of an escarpment. The mesa rises like an island amid a red-rock 42 FEBRUARY 2018 sea. The inhabitants of this community — likely the Sinaguans, who lived in the area between A.D. 1150 and A.D. 1300 — surely chose this location for the view, whether for defensive reasons or aesthetic ones. Just beyond the jumble of collapsed walls are the agaves we have come to see. The current theory is that these are not domesticated species, but what Hodgson calls a “cultivated” variety of native Agave parryi. The community of farmers who grew beans and squash along the creek below also tended clusters of agaves around their homes. It was what scientists call symbiosis: The humans helped the agaves, and the agaves sustained the humans. Before the days of grocery stores, symbiosis was key to survival. Hodgson’s and Salywon’s research is documenting not only which agaves were farmed and how pre-Columbian cultures farmed them, but also how they cultivated various plants over centuries to create new “designer” species. Domesticates were developed by favoring specific desirable traits, such as leaves that were easy to cut, hearts that were large and sweet, or strong fibers for cordage. The most notorious modern example is the blue agave, which is grown in a specific region in central Mexico and produces the liquid that, when fermented and distilled, becomes tequila. About 100 feet from the ruins site, agaves perched near the edge of the mesa are in bloom. Bulbous clumps of bright-yellow Andrew Salywon and Wendy Hodgson collect specimens from the stalk of a mystery hybrid agave species near an archaeological site south of Sedona. Five years ago, Desert Botanical Garden created a molecular lab to conduct a variety of research, including analysis of agave domesticates. Although Hodgson’s and Salywon’s blood-spilling fieldwork still constitutes most of the research, the work in the lab has become a key component. A small amount of agave leaf tissue is used to extract the plant’s DNA. The DNA is then sequenced, allowing an evolutionary tree to be constructed. This data offers additional evidence of whether a species is new to science. “When we analyze the evolutionary tree of a specimen, it helps us answer anthropological questions about where the plant originated and how and where it was domesticated,” Salywon explains. “Plants are central to understanding human culture and the societies that utilized agriculture.” Unfortunately for the domesticated agaves growing in the wilds of Arizona, there’s no formal way to preserve them, even as they increasingly vanish from the landscape. The federal Endangered Species Act protects only plants that are native to an area and have not been manipulated by humans. And the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act does not extend to plants. Hodgson and Salywon hope protections for the species will come through some form of human tending, perhaps by bringing the domesticated agaves back into agriculture. “These agaves were grown here for a reason,” Salywon says. “Maybe they could become a new crop for this arid region.” The intrepid botanists are also in a race to document as much as they can. “We don’t know where this research will lead,” Hodgson says. “We are collecting for the future. What scientist would have thought, 100 years ago, that the specimens they were preserving at the herbarium would one day be used for DNA analysis?” But right now, as we huddle in the shade of a juniper and look out onto the sprawling greens and reds of the Verde Valley, time stands still. We’re just the latest in a long line of people who have enjoyed this view. Far below, the stream that once nourished ancient farmers’ crops still snakes through a ribbon of trees. Tiny clouds sneak across the blue sky, signaling the approach of the monsoon. And the stalwart agaves rise like totem poles from the slick-rock — just as they have for 700 years. It was what scientists call symbiosis: The humans helped the agaves, and the agaves sustained the humans. Before the days of grocery stores, symbiosis was key to survival. flowers balance on tiny branches at the top of 20-foot stalks that resemble something from a Dr. Seuss book. These agaves look different from what Hodgson and Salywon have seen here before. It might be Sacred Mountain agave, or it might be something new. “Could this have been an experimental agave garden? Maybe they knew how to hybridize,” Hodgson muses. “Part of the beauty of science is that you think things are known, but then you find out they’re not.” Hodsgon and Salywon are determined to solve the mystery. They use the snatch pole to get a sample of a flower to take back to the herbarium. They also take measurements of various plant parts and place the specimens between newspaper pages in the plant press. It’s the same methodical collection process botanists have used for at least a century. But what has revolutionized Hodgson’s and Salywon’s research — along with other aspects of botany — is the ability to examine plant DNA. w w w.arizonahighways.com 43 LATE for the SKY A N E S S AY B Y K E L LY VA U G H N Saguaro cactuses in Peralta Canyon reach skyward during a thunderstorm in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix. Laurence Parent w w w.arizonahighways.com 45 T W E N T Y- S E V E N Y E A R S A G O T H I S M O N T H , Bruce Itule wrote about the Superstition Mountains for Arizona Highways. He rode on horseback through the wilderness for a few days and later mused, “It is a peaceful place, a haven for deer hunters, Boy Scouts, treasure seekers, and others searching for adventure in the Superstition Wilderness, a 250-square-mile slice of Sonoran Desert and mountains (in the Tonto National Forest) that begins about 35 miles east of Phoenix at Apache Junction and stretches east and north beyond Canyon Lake.” The description is accurate. I know for two reasons. First, because I’ve spent so many days in the Superstitions, I feel sometimes that I could map their trails as I could my daughter’s face when she is about to laugh or cry or explode with some line she knows already to be funny. Or vicious. Or somewhere on the cusp of the two. Second, because years after Itule’s story was published in the magazine, he was my reporting professor at Arizona State University. And if Itule reported it, it is so. For me, though, the Superstitions are a place of firsts and lasts and things in between. I will leave the hunting, scouting and treasure seeking to others. I saw my first rattlesnake in those mountains. Heard it. Jumped backward and ran toward my parents, who were hiking behind me. There may have been a squeal-scream. The snake was coiled and ready, but I was not. I was sweating, and I cursed and wondered how I’d gone so long without seeing one. As we passed it again, I had a chill. I knew it was watching us, feeling us. Waiting. Once, there were coatis in the reeds and brush along the Second Water Trail. I saw them as I neared Boulder Canyon, their tails like those of monkeys. I’ve looked for them every time I’ve visited the trail since, but they’ve disappeared somewhere. Into imagination or deeper into the reeds, I’m not so sure. Another time, I backpacked far into the wilderness, turned left at the rock that looks like a giant gorilla. The mosquitoes were so thick, they attacked my forehead — the only place I’d left uncovered. That night, as the sun went down, I sat on a boulder and watched the sky unfold. I remember the moment now through a photograph. In it, I am small and the world is big, and we are both wrapped up in that many-colored blanket of near-night. Most other times in the Supes, though, I was late for the sky. Dozed through too many sunrises — how long have I been sleeping — or darted off the trail before sunset dyed the atmosphere the colors of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. Red Canna, 1924. Too many times, my eyelids grew heavy before the stars shot the ink. Missed moments can turn a person inside out sometimes. But others make up for it. In a very cold December more than two years ago now, I led a group of hikers into the Superstition Wilderness. Fog rolled through its canyons as clouds loaded their bellies with rain, unleashing finally in a deluge so cold, it took me hours after to make my bones warm again. Even after so many years here, a cold desert seems a foreign desert. Then, the world was so many shades of gray, I wondered if it would ever go blue again. But the mountains were the color of Northwest moss, drinking the sky. They were the most beautiful things I’d seen in a while, and I think maybe they moved into me that day. But not the same way bronchitis did a week later. That sick lasted too long. Still, as I write this, I’m waiting for the seasons’ change to run a little deeper. Waiting for the rain to come again, and more so for the gilded heads of Mexican goldpoppies to break the earth and unfurl, for the lupines and penstemons to paint another wild O’Keeffe. Because somehow, when the desert wakes to spring, it becomes even more of that peaceful place Itule wrote about. Where scouts and hunters and snakes and coatis roam. And where I try to make it in time for the sky. The Superstition Mountains’ Three Sisters formation, dusted by rare winter snowfall, catches the last light of the day. Peter Coskun 46 FEBRUARY 2018 w w w.a FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Originally published in January 1969 SAGUARO SMILES In January 1969, we dedicated our issue to the saguaro cactus — “the Monarch of the Desert,” we called it. Inside were beautiful photographs by Ray Manley, David Muench, Josef Muench and Darwin Van Campen, along with stories about the cultural and scientific significance of the desert plant. In addition, the issue featured two dozen images from two “amusing” brochures by Frank Redding: Silly Saguaros and Some More Silly Saguaros. With saguaros once again playing a leading role in our cover story, the resurrection of this piece was too good to pass up. By Frank Redding Photographs by Ed Mateo 48 FEBRUARY 2018 50 FEBRUARY 2018 scenic DRIVE SILVER CREEK ROAD From the novelty of wild burros to the majesty of Cathedral Rock, this scenic drive in Northwestern Arizona offers all kinds of photo opportunities. BY NOAH AUSTIN / PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BURCHAM W hen you’re standing amid chollas and yuccas in the Arizona mining town of Oatman, it’s hard to fathom that you’re just a 14-mile drive from the cool water of the Colorado River. (It’s hard to fathom anything, really, other than: What are all these burros doing here?) But it’s true: Silver Creek Road, which leads from Oatman to Bullhead City, takes you from arid Mojave Desert to the banks of the Colorado, with plenty to see along the way. Before you leave Oatman — named for Olive Oatman, whose face was tattooed after she was captured and enslaved by Mohaves in the mid-1800s — a word about those burros. These days, they’re 52 FEBRUARY 2018 the town’s biggest tourist attraction, but their ancestors lived less glamorous lives as beasts of burden in the area’s mines. When the mines went bust, the prospectors turned the burros loose, and now they graze on desert fauna and handouts from visitors. Once you and the burros have had your fill of each other, head north on the Oatman-Topock Highway, a section of Historic Route 66. After a mile, you’ll turn left onto Silver Creek Road, a rolling dirt road that’s rough in spots but passable in any car with a careful driver. Teddy bear chollas and yuccas dominate the scenery along the road, which quickly curves to the north. On the right side, to the east, are the multicolored volcanic buttes of the Mount Nutt Wilderness, which protects 28,000 acres of the Black Mountains. If you have a pair of binoculars, you might be able to see the desert bighorn sheep that live in the wilderness area. Silver Creek Road then turns to the west, and at Mile 2.8, you’ll get a view of Hardy Mountain, a 3,143-foot summit, dead ahead. The peak likely is named for William Harrison Hardy, an early settler of the area that later became Bullhead City. A mile and a half later, northeast of ABOVE: Hardy Mountain rises from the landscape of chollas and yuccas along Silver Creek Road. OPPOSITE PAGE: One of the Oatman area’s many burros ambles along the dirt road. the mountain, you’ll pass the entrance to one of several mining claims in the area — some of which are still active. As you continue, you’ll get glimpses of the mountains across the Colorado River, including Spirit Mountain in Nevada. But don’t let that distract you from the sights along the road, including Cathedral Rock, which is on the left at Mile 5.5. Arizona is home to several Cathedral Rocks — the most famous is in Sedona — but this one is as eye-catching as any of them, its volcanic spire pointing sharply skyward from the desert landscape. Be sure to stop at the pullout at Mile 7.3 for a panoramic view of the Lower Colorado River Valley to the west. From there, the road rolls for a few more miles down to an intersection with Bullhead Parkway and a return to pavement in Bullhead City. Keep going past the stoplight for 2.5 miles to State Route 95, the stopping point for this drive. If you’d like to dip your toes in the river, head north on SR 95 for a mile and a half to Bullhead City Community Park, which has a public beach and a boat launch area. If you’re looking to strike it rich, you can cross the river into Laughlin, Nevada. Or you could try your hand at a mining claim along Silver Creek Road. SCENIC DRIVES 40 of Arizona’s Best Back Roads Edited by Robert Stieve and Kelly Vaughn Kramer ADDITIONAL READING: For more adventure, pick up a copy of our book Arizona Highways Scenic Drives, which features 40 of the state’s most beautiful back roads. To order, visit www.shoparizonahighways .com/books. TOUR GUIDE Note: Mileages are approximate. LENGTH: 14 miles one way DIRECTIONS: From Oatman, go north on the OatmanTopock Highway (Historic Route 66) for 1 mile to Silver Creek Road. Turn left onto Silver Creek Road and continue 13 miles to State Route 95 in Bullhead City. VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS: A high-clearance vehicle is recommended, but the road is passable in a standard sedan in good weather. WARNING: Back-road travel can be hazardous, so be aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of water. Don’t travel alone, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. INFORMATION: Oatman Chamber of Commerce, www.oatmangoldroad.org; Kingman Field Office, 928-718-3700 or www.blm.gov/arizona Travelers in Arizona can visit www.az511.gov or dial 511 to get information on road closures, construction, delays, weather and more. MAP BY KEVIN KIBSEY w w w.arizonahighways.com 53 HIKE of the month PERALTA TRAIL Somewhere in the vicinity of this trail is the legendary Peralta Mine. Even if it exists, you won’t ﬁnd it, but you will discover one of the most scenic routes in the Superstition Mountains. BY ROBERT STIEVE / PHOTOGRAPHS BY LAURENCE PARENT I n the 1930s, you might have seen Arthur Weber wandering around Peralta Canyon. He’d go out there looking for the mother lode. He never found it, but he did establish something that came to be known as the Dons of Phoenix — a name that honored the Spanish dons who explored the area in the 1600s. The group initially was made up of young men from the Phoenix YMCA, where Mr. Weber was the physical education director. Its purpose was to keep alive the folklore of the Southwest, and over the years, the Dons became famous for their Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Gold Mine Trek. In fact, it was such a big deal the U.S. Forest Service erected an official sign in Peralta Canyon marking the “Dons Club Base Camp,” which is still located about a quarter-mile southwest of the Peralta Trailhead. The sign read: “This is the starting point each year for the Dons Club Trek into the spectacular Superstition Wilderness Area in search of the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine.” Although the Dons are still around, their annual trek hasn’t happened since 2004. That doesn’t mean the canyon is quiet, though. The Peralta Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Superstition Mountains, especially in the springtime, when goldpoppies add a splash of color to the rugged landscape of boulders, saguaros and paloverdes. From the trailhead, the hike drops into a riparian area and enters the Superstition Wilderness, which was designated a forest reserve in 1908 and then the Superstition Primitive Area in 1939. It got its wilderness protection in 1964 and now cradles 160,236 acres, including all of those along this trail. After about five minutes of easy trekking, you’ll come to a small pool that’s fed by an even smaller waterfall, but only when the conditions are right. Pray for rain. Five minutes later, you’ll come to another small pool and a thicket of trees. This is where the trail begins a gradual climb. The only real challenge at the outset is an overhanging rock that will dent your forehead if you’re not paying attention. As you climb out of the riparian area, the trail steepens and winds uphill through a canyon of boulders, some as big as small houses. To the left is a gathering of hoodoos, and all around are BELOW: Weavers Needle, a volcanic monolith, is the payoff on the Superstition Mountains’ Peralta Trail. RIGHT: Hikers pass saguaros and brittlebushes on a rocky section of the route. giant saguaros, the dominant plant species in the area. After an hour of overall hiking, the well-worn footpath turns to flat rock. From there, the trail quickly leads to Fremont Saddle, which is the turnaround point for this hike. However, if you’re feeling ambitious, the Peralta Trail continues into Boulder Canyon for another 4 miles and connects with the Dutchman’s Trail. The extra distance turns this otherwise moderate hike into a 12.4-mile round-tripper that’ll make you sweat. But the payoff on Peralta is the view of Weavers Needle from up on the saddle. Named for Paulino Weaver, a famed mountain man, scout, trapper and miner, Weavers Needle is a volcanic monolith that rises almost 1,300 feet from its base to an elevation of 4,553 feet. It’s the most recognizable landmark in the wilderness, and it’s also considered a marker for the legendary Peralta Mine. As the story goes, Don Miguel de Peralta and his family, who had come to the Superstition Mountains from Mexico, discovered gold, lots of gold, in the shadow of Weavers Needle. However, before cashing in, according to the story, they were killed by Apaches, who allegedly sealed off the mine. A few decades later, Jacob Waltz, better known as the “Lost Dutchman,” claimed to have found the old Peralta Mine, but he died before proving his claim. Since then, thousands of treasure hunters have gone looking, including Arthur Weber and the Dons of Phoenix, but no one has ever found the gold. And it’s unlikely anyone ever will — the volcanic rock out there isn’t conducive to producing precious metals. They’ll keep looking, though. Meantime, the real treasure is the trail. Especially in the springtime, when the ground is covered with gold. ADDITIONAL READING: For more hikes, pick up a copy of Arizona Highways Hiking Guide, which features 52 of the state’s best trails — one for each weekend of the year, sorted by seasons. To order a copy, visit www.shoparizonahighways .com/books. TRAIL GUIDE LENGTH: 4.4 miles round-trip (to Fremont Saddle) DIFFICULTY: Moderate ELEVATION: 2,401 to 3,751 feet TRAILHEAD GPS: N 33˚23.859', W 111˚20.874' DIRECTIONS: From Idaho Road in Apache Junction, go east on U.S. Route 60 for 7.7 miles to Peralta Road. Turn left onto Peralta Road and continue 7.3 miles to the trailhead. VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS: None; however, the pavement ends on Peralta Road after 0.9 miles. DOGS ALLOWED: Yes HORSES ALLOWED: Not suitable for horses. USGS MAP: Weavers Needle INFORMATION: Mesa Ranger District, 480-610-3300 or www.fs.usda.gov/tonto LEAVE-NO-TRACE PRINCIPLES: • Plan ahead and be prepared. • Travel and camp on durable surfaces. • Dispose of waste properly and pack MAP BY KEVIN KIBSEY • • • • out all of your trash. Leave what you ﬁnd. Respect wildlife. Minimize campﬁre impact. Be considerate of others. w w w.arizonahighways.com 55 WHERE IS THIS? Who Nose? No, this large-nosed sculpture isn’t on Easter Island — it’s in a small town along the Arizona stretch of a famous highway. The town shares its name with a bright star and a Eurodance band from the 1990s. And if you’ve got a nose for details, the mountain range in the distance might help you identify it. Win a collection of our most popular books! To enter, correctly identify the location pictured at right and email your answer to editor@arizonahighways .com — type “Where Is This?” in the subject line. Entries can also be sent to 2039 W. Lewis Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85009 (write “Where Is This?” on the envelope). Please include your name, address and phone number. One winner will be chosen in a random drawing of qualiﬁed entries. Entries must be postmarked by February 15, 2018. Only the winner will be notiﬁed. The correct answer will be posted in our April issue and online at www.arizonahighways.com beginning March 15. 56 FEBRUARY 2018 PHOTOGRAPH BY KERRICK JAMES NOW OPEN IN SOUT H T E M P E A CASUAL NEIGHBORHOOD HANGOUT SERVING BREAKFAST, LUNCH, AND DINNER. Find Tempe Public Market Café 8749 S. RURAL RD. TEMPEPUBLICMARKET.COM We offer fresh market cuisine crafted with seasonal ingredients that we source from local and organic farms whenever possible. We aim to nourish the Tempe community in every way — whether with a wholesome meal in our comfortable dining room, a hot cup of coffee on our spacious patio or a pint of local beer at our bar.