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aravaipa canyon wilderness

'Aravaipa Canyon and a Connection With Edward Abbey'

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'Aravaipa Canyon and a Connection With Edward Abbey'

Aravaipa Canyon runs for 11 miles through the rugged Galiuro Mountains of SE Arizona.  It is one of Arizona's few perennial streams and this gem is only an hour from home (the west entrance).  

Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness is a special place for me, and yes, there will be more Aravaipa visits and blog posts in the future.  This post will mainly be photos/videos, but, a recent article on the Nature Conservancy in Arizona Highways (April 2016) gave me some new information I can toss into the mix of photos/videos.   

Eric Peffer

Having heard author Sean Prentiss (Finding Abbey:  The Search for Edward Abbey and his Hidden Desert Grave) at the Tucson Book Festival, I had added interest in the life and death of Abbey (and, of course, the possible location of his grave) I was surprised to read in Arizona Highways that Abbey was the first manager of the Aravaipa preserve.  He was later joined by Doug Peacock.

Hell's Half Acre Canyon (side canyon of Aravaipa Canyon)

Aravaipa provided the setting for some of Abbey's most memorable essays, including the haunting story of his encounter with a mountain lion and a lighter essay about javelina's he titled

Merry Christmas, Pigs!  

More importantly, he completed his novel

The Monkey Wrench Gang,

while canyon-bound, using Peacock as the inspiration for George Washington Hayduke.  Noted author/writer Peacock's observation that the human history of the canyon is "as colorful as a Western novel."

Defenders of Wildlife fired Abbey at the end of that month.  Abbey wrote of his dismissal, "A shabby, sneaky, cowardly thing to do".

Painted Cave Canyon (side canyon of Aravaipa Canyon)

Thoreau had Walden Pond, Edward Abbey had Aravaipa Canyon.  For a city slicker like Abbey, he needed a place of sanctuary, of refuge and of "redemption."  To him, Aravaipa Canyon was his saving grace in a concrete world.

It is for this reason that he fashioned his essay "Down the River" about Aravaipa Canyon with such love, respect and admiration.  

Eric Peffer

I will extend my love, respect and admiration to a brilliant location, along with a few photos/video links and my first blog to include Edward Abbey.

Who shall I include in my next blog?  

Desert Varnish

Lori Conser

Lori Conser & Eric Peffer

Bibliography

Arizona Highways April 2016.  

Weeds and Roses - "Edward Abbey / Mountain Lion".

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The Klondyke Cold Rush

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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.  

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