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Eric Peffer

The Klondyke Cold Rush


The Klondyke Cold Rush

Off the heavily traveled Interstate 10, Klondyke Road weaves through gently rolling prairie, skirting the towering Mount Graham, at 10,720 feet, the tallest peak in the Pinaleno Mountains and the majestic Santa Teresa Mountains.

It was a lengthy four-hour drive to reach the little hamlet of Klondyke, where the aged sign boasts a population of five.  About 35 miles were dirt, although road conditions were much better than anticipated.  The road ends at the eastern entry of spectacular Aravaipa Canyon, within the supremely rugged Galiuro Mountains, a rough and remote place that was the home of Arizona's last wild wolves before the reintroduction program of the late 1990's. 

Our goal was for Eric, Lori and I to pitch tents at the start of the trek and spend the next two days exploring the spectacular setting that Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness offers.  Little does one realize the crazy circumstances that are involved in this ten mile hike (mainly in the creek).  While the west entrance is only 50 miles from my home, the east entrance is 200 mile drive.  These miles and the 4 hour drive will become more significant, later in the story.

Video of the last section of road to Aravaipa Canyon East.  

Road to Aravaipa Canyon East (last section)

Entertaining a visitor at the old Klondyke School

The sun had slid behind the towering cliffs of the dramatic canyon. We exited from the Peffer family taxi (Eric's folks), grabbed the seriously overweight backpacks (did someone throw rocks in my pack?), clamped on our headlights and began our search for a campsite. None being found, with looming darkness and threatening skies, we strolled back to the parking lot.  Flat, close to a toilet and no time for a crisis, parking lot camping was perfect, for the moment.  

The rain began to fall and buckets of the liquid sunshine were pounding us as we scurried to set up shelter.  I had 'planned' to practice setting up a tent that I had not used in many years. This did not happen. Those years had destroyed the elasticity of the bungee cords in my tent poles.  Lovely.  Any idea how dismal it is putting up a tent in a driving rain, in the dark, with largely worthless poles?  

The tent would eventually, somehow, find shape, as the skies continued to unleash their madness.

The weather forecast, being a serious matter when spending most of your hiking hours within the creek, in a very distant location, and carting a lot of expensive camera gear, was for about .07 inches of rain.

Those .07 inches of rain fell in about the first 12 minutes of bombardment, and would continue through the night with an occasional boom of thunder thrown in for grand measure.  

Santa Teresa Mountains

The morning saw the three adventurers tired, needing coffee and questioning the wisdom of entering the rising creek.  

A single truck would splash its way past our parking lot accommodations.  Odd, to have traffic roll past us, since this was basically the end of the general road system.

An old windmill structure and wind sock behind the Klondyke School. The school now serves as a search and rescue location and helicopter pad.

The truck would ramble back through our disaster zone and Lori, in a heads up move, would emerge from the tent and flag down the vehicle.  It was a rancher checking on a horse on her property.  The news on creek conditions was not stellar.    "Can we get a ride back to Klondyke"?

Redtail Hawk

We scooped up our wet belongings and joined 2 drenched dogs, in a crowded truck, for the journey back to Klondyke.  It would have been a long slog, on foot, back along the road that Billy the Kid had once traveled.  Our home for the day would be the old Klondyke School.  It is now being used as a search and rescue base, for community meetings and a helicopter base.  

Klondyke Road and the Pelocillo Mountains

The call was made and it would be another eight hour drive for our gracious and now overworked drivers to pick us up.  

Adorning the now sparse, marginally used school, were posters advertising the film 'Powers War' and an old poster on a historic gun fight in the Galiuro Mountains called 'Shootout at Dawn'.  I read Shootout maybe 15 years ago and was intrigued by the story and history of Klondyke, the Galiuro's and the Power family.  The story chronicles the Power family and a conflict and eventual gun fight over draft dodging during WWI.  There are a number of books on the subject, with some siding with the Power family and others which back law enforcement.  The actual facts elude those seeking the full story, so the details and guilt will never be fully known.  Four men would die in the most deadly gunfight in Arizona.  The world premiere of the film was shown in Klondyke.

The film is an excellent documentary:

The Power's War film

With a lengthy wait, I explored our surroundings, equipped with a camera and thoughts of a future Aravaipa trek.

We were quite the sight, with wet gear spread out over a lengthy section of stone fence in front of the school.  Checking on the status of the new members of Klondyke community was 'the Grader Man'.  He had grown up in the region and his role was to keep the roads in working order during adverse conditions.  I missed his visit but heard of some of his exploits and of his nearly famous dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, who travels on the roof of the truck and of his courting the females of the isolated area, with special escape visits to a girlfriend eight miles from his home.  

Storm clouds over Willcox, AZ

Plans for another Aravaipa journey are in the works.  The area is too amazing to not come back. The wet gear and clothes should be dry by then.  



Photo of the Week - March 9-15, 2015

This week's photo is from a journey on the nearby Willow Springs / Freeman Road loop near Oracle Junction, Arizona.  Eric Peffer and I captured many photos during the day but it was at night that photography became much more interesting. 

The scene was typical for an evening in the saguaro-studded landscape, along a remote dirt road, in the evening.  Quiet, no traffic and the sky lit in a beautiful glow of stars, full moon and faint city lights.

It was a beautiful background that included 3 stately saguaro cactus, the glow of the very distant lights of Phoenix, stars and a passing plane, on it's track to Tucson International Airport.


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Photo of the Week - February 2-8, 2015- Arizona BASE Boogie

Peralta Cliffs Base Jump

My photo of the week draws a pretty good portrayal of life in the desert southwest.  An outstanding sunset, stately saguaro's, serious lack of clouds, jumbled array of rock & mountain topography and yes, a base jumper.  

I can fairly easily include all of that list on almost any day of the year taking photos, except for that elusive jumper.  This jumper is tied to the popular Arizona BASE Boogie, and my boogie connection is through a good, base jumping friend of mine, Gauge Score.

I get a small bundle of credit for ushering Gauge into adventure sports.  I introduced him to bungee jumping, and he has taken adventure to new heights (and cliffs, antenna's, bridges, etc.).  Sporting only a couple of sky dives and a single base jump (tandem), I am a long leap from real base jumping and livin' the life, but I am still jazzed to have been at the event.   My friend, Eric Peffer and I did our best to capture the amazing jumps, the stunning scenery, and the fun moments that a crowd of crazy people will bestow.

After taking over 800 photos (whew!), I chose the photo up top as my favorite. We had shot at Saguaro Lake early in the day and ended up at the Peralta Cliffs.  This is the only photo that I snapped that had a base jumper and the sunset.  There were only a few that came down that late in the day and it took one to go a little off course to sneak in the disappearing orb in the sky.  I was lucky to get a few saguaro's  into the frame and to get the reflection of the sun on the canopy.

Oh, and one last note.  This jumper happened to be the only naked jumper of the day.  You get to witness the 'G' version of of his clothes-less flight. 

The real photo of the day award goes to Eric for taking the shot of me, below.  The landing area had around 70 people and he did a great job of framing it, sans people, with a glorious backdrop.

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Photo of the Week - Lion lookout over San Xavier del bac Mission, Grotto Hill, January 19-25

Photo of the Week -  Lion lookout over San Xavier del bac Mission, Grotto Hill,  January 19-25

This week I was on a requested photo shoot at the San Xavier del bac Mission (completed in 1797) in Tucson, Arizona.  The request was unique as I was asked to use a 35mm camera and take slide photos.  An artist in Kansas will use the slides to transpose onto a pot, so he can work on the intricate details of the mission's front facade, onto the pot.  

After I shot the mission with both the 35mm and digital camera (for myself), Eric Peffer and I strolled over to Grotto Hill, next to the mission, to get a few photos from a different location.  It was an interesting find to come across 2 lion statues, situated 1/2 way up the hill.  These two cast iron lions, patented in 1875 and installed in 1908, sit atop pillars at an entrance path to a religious grotto.  

Our timing on Grotto Hill was more luck than planned, but it was perfect.  We had arrived at the mission to catch sunrise for best lighting, and the best situation to improve our possibility of photos of the mission, sans people.  We had, somewhat, succeeded.  
We watched the sunrise teasingly wrap around Grotto Hill and inch toward the iron cast lions.  Once the rays reached one of the lions, our cameras fired away.  The magic moment came and quickly dissipated and we were off to capture Tubac, Arizona and San Jose de Tumacocari.  

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