Note to readers: I am here on vacation in the White Mountains of northeast Arizona, home to the largest freestanding Ponderosa Pine Trees in the world, thinking that I would be writing my next few posts on a past trip to Australia. Before leaving, I uploaded all my pictures from Australia and prepared some of the posts. Yet, when I arrived here in the small, hilltop town of Show Low, Arizona, I realized that I was missing the “third eye”. There is plenty of incredible awe-inspiring nature, beauty and culture here to write about. I just had to use that “third-eye” approach and get out there and find it. So instead of Australia, I’m going to write my next few posts on this relatively unknown area of the world: The White Mountains. I will write about the firs, the pines and the most beautiful monsoon clouds I’ve ever seen. Here is my first post in this series. Hope you enjoy! thirdeyemom
We rose early to the morning sun lighting up the pine tree tops lining the White Mountains. The morning sky was azure blue with not a single cloud in the sky. That would surely come later. For we are in the tail end of monsoon season in Arizona where the magical clouds slowly appear, form and become bigger, whiter, brighter and then darker before they release their angry water.
Three generations were going on a hike today. My father, myself and my six-and-a-half-year-old son. We were off to see the tallest mountain in this part of the state, the sacred Mount Baldy. At 11,4000 feet, Mount Baldy is home to some of the oldest, most beautiful Douglas Firs in the world. Some of them dated from 300-350 years old! We were going to find them.
We took the White Mountain Scenic Byway for a little over an hour, driving through some of the other small towns along the way. We passed through meadows, fields of wildflowers and lots and lots of Ponderosa Pines (some dating over 700 years old!). It was a beautiful ride that took us through some unbelievable scenery. I had to pinch myself to remember that we were in Arizona as we had left the desert and cactus long ago.
The last stop before entering Mount Baldy is the huge White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. There is the usual casino followed by a stark poverty which is very sad. Even the casinos have not been enough to help them here, in this remote part of the country.
As we drive up to the start of the hike to Mount Baldy, we admire the gorgeous, fragrant pines that dot the landscape. These pines could have all been swallowed up in the most recent and largest wild fire in the state of Arizona. The May 2011 Wallow Fire which was started by some careless campers, engulfed 525,000 acres of ancient pines and took over six weeks to put out. It was stopped before reaching Mount Baldy. It would have been even more of a tragedy if these incredible trees were all destroyed.
Here we are at one of the entrances to the trail. Roundtrip the hike is 16 miles, way too much to do with my young son. So we would just hike an hour to the wall and back. We would be certain to find lots of nature and firs.
I had to take a picture of Dad’s notorious backpack with his Nepal patch that we got sewn in when we were there.
Picture of my son and I on our first hike together.
Grandpa and Max setting off..
Entering one of the trail heads to Mount Baldy.
The once cloudless sky is no longer as the monsoon glistening white clouds begin to form above the pines.
Entering the first part of the forest which is mostly pines. You can hear the distant woodpecker searching for food and the bees buzzing.
There are three meadows to pass through before we hit the deep woods. We don’t see any elk just lots of wildflowers.
More clouds are forming. We have until eleven to get off the mountain before the monsoon starts and lightning flashes.
Finally we are inside the fragrant, deep forest searching for 300-year-old Douglas Firs. We found one!
The size of these trees is unbelievable.
When you look at the bark, you can see years and years of fire damage. Yet, somehow these trees have managed to survive and even thrive.
Looking up to the Gods.
Our destination: The wall. Here is where you start heading up but for us it was the perfect lunch spot.
Grandpa and Max sharing a picnic.
After lunch, it was time to head back. The monsoon clouds were forming and getting darker and darker. Along the way, we saw lots of beautiful, special things in the forest. It was fun teaching Max about how things grow.
Here is how the Douglas Firs start….
And lots and lots of colorful mushrooms!
Me saying goodbye to this lovely tree.
The beautiful things I found in the forest…
Showing Max how to count the rings and age the tree:
As we leave, just on time, the clouds continue to form and develop into magical, white, marshmallows…
We are out just in the nick of time….for the clouds begin to darken and the unavoidable afternoon storm began…