14 December 2013

Flicker Down

Flicker down
There was a dead northern flicker lying in the snow the middle of Rocky Ridge this morning.

I don't know what killed it, but probably it hadn't been dead long before I came upon it; it's body was still limp and unfrozen as I moved it off the track, despite the day being quite cold and the snow firm and unthawed.

Finding dead things in the woods is always a bit unsettling.

Flickers are beautiful birds and one of the more common species of woodpecker in our woods.  Before today, I'd never had the chance to really examine one up close.  So, before I rode off, I hunkered down and took a good long look at its piebald plumage and strikingly orange cheek and tail-feathers.

24 November 2013

These woods

I love these woods.

Since the very first time I ventured out into them, on a spur-of-the-moment solo ride which took me from my studio apartment behind the bus station down the service road that runs along the railroad tracks, up the old dirt road past Tunnel Springs, across A1 Mesa, and back down road L10 through the Lowell Observatory's land, I've loved these woods.

I love the breadth of these woods, the depth of them, too.

I love the sight of these woods, the vistas, tall stands of old growth, and dense thickets.

I love the terrain and the geology and the history of these woods.

Most of all, I love the seasons of these woods. I love being out in them when it feels like you're there the very moment that the seasons have changed in these woods.

This weekend these woods turned from fall-woods to winter-woods.

My fat-bike took me there.  It was wonderful.

Did you know: Fat bikes sound super cool in the snow!  Press play and listen.   Mmmm. Yeah...

20 October 2013

Leaf Peeping

It feels as though family-time has come at a premium of late.  My work always conspires to pull time away from us.  But lately, because my wife and daughter are cast in another Flagstaff Youth Theater production (Narnia), our weekends have been somewhat compromised by long rehearsals the past few weeks, too.

So today we ditched church, including our monthly obligation to lead singing, and went for donuts and then for a lovely long walk in the woods together, just the three of us and the dog, to peep some leaves up toward Brookbank's Tank.  

We were rewarded with a near-perfect morning: 47 degrees, bluebird skies, a light breeze, and a million aspens exploding in color!

06 October 2013

Pink Car Hill

My fondness for wandering around in the woods looking at stuff has not diminished as I have aged, in fact it's probably grown more intense as I've found that, as an adult, I can wander farther afield without concern for having the right "permissions" to do so... my wife understands my propensity to sometimes wander a little off track now and again when I'm out riding in the woods... my mother did too, for the record, but I think she worried more actively about her overdue, errant 10-year-old son than my wife does about her overdue, errant 46-year-old husband.

Photo: Kurt Womack
(used without permission)
As a kid, the Prescott National Forest near Walker, Arizona, where we had a summer cabin for about 40 years, was littered with rusty old hulks of broken-down and abandoned early-20th-century to depression-era cars.  As we rode our motorcycles around in the woods, my family and I identified each locale and every major turn in the road by naming the wrecked car or rusting tractor or yellow-tallus mine-tailings or dilapidated cabin found prominently nearby.

The Pink Car was, and remains, one of the most famous of this regions's landmarks, and has, since it was abandoned (and stolen later and returned) here some 70 years ago, become the namesake for the Pink Car Hill road which now runs past it.

As we have many times before, though not with the same frequency as when I was a boy roaming the Prescott NF, we found an old car on our walk in the woods today.  A largely intact sky-blue late-50s vintage Buick-like thing, well-off to the side of the old road we were walking, flipped over on its top and riddled with bullet holes, as all old forest-wrecks must be.

I think I scared my daughter when I said, "I wonder if there's still a body behind the wheel." as we traipsed through the forest toward it.  I apologized for saying this.  And then I asked her if she thought the driver's ghost might still be in the area.

For this my wife's serious, reproachful glare and sternly whispered "John, she's eight," compelled me to apologize again.

15 September 2013

Thus the woods are filled with this sound

The other day, while we were out riding together on the Arizona Trail, my daughter and I stopped off to the side of one of the trails we ride regularly to inspect a little check-dam she made a springtime or two ago.  She was pleased to find that it was working well, holding back a small pool of bubbly, dark-green water.  Nevertheless, she added a rock or two to the top of the dam to stem the water's egress due to the pool's rising tide.

And then, as she was crossing back to the bank where I was sitting, she slipped and fell in.

"This is such a, special, amazing summer," I told her as she shook herself off.  "I hope you're able to remember it when you get older.  This doesn't happen very often, when all the streams run in the summer."

I've been riding in these woods since I moved here in the summer of 1991 and I've never experienced anything like the rainy, muddy, flowing, gloriously wet-green summer we've had this year.

The record-keepers [July] [Aug.] seem to indicate that it's as wet this summer as it's been since 1986, and beyond that, going back some 50 or 60 years, otherwise without rival.

Broken records or not, it's been a super fun summer, easily the best summer for riding I can recall.  For weather watching, too; a few of this summer's storms have come through with a kind of massive intensity and persistent energy like I've really never seen before.

Even today, when all the weather wonks had forecast that we've begun a drying trend, it rained a little bit on my ride.  And, for what's now been about three weeks, every stream and every low spot is full of water, brimming over, and headed downhill via the path of least resistance.

Thus the woods are filled with this sound:

03 September 2013

Two Hundred

I officially started putting real content on this blog back in 2009, hopeful, at the time, that it would become "a place for me to write, to practice writing," in order to keep my pencil sharp, so to speak.  

Prior to the founding of this website, through no fault of my own, I'd lost every single one of my regular, recurring writing gigs, those that paid and those that didn't.  Thus left otherwise without options, my choices were simple: either I was going to stop writing, or I would need to find a new place to be published.  And thus: I signed up for a blog: rockychrysler.blogspot.com. "A place to practice, a place to just write.  For lack of any other venue, like millions of other writers, by default This Blog will be the place."

And, I'm happy to say, it has been.

This post is the 200th post I've published to rockychrysler.com, which I think, officially, makes me some kind of a Real Blogger. To be sure, I haven't made anywhere near 200 awesome posts, much less 200 ground-breaking or memorable or noteworthy posts.  In fact, many have probably been quite forgettable.   

Nevertheless, I think this blog has achieved the primary goal that I set for it, way back in the beginning.  And, frankly, I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had, via this simple, digital medium, to "just write" and, in doing so, to keep a kind of record of my life and times as a 40-something off-road cyclist, snow skier, happy husband, proud dad.

I've never written anything here to in order achieve any sort of notoriety, or any measure of fame.  Absolutely not.  But still, it pleases me to know that my blog gets read from time to time and somewhat more widely than solely by my mom, my grandmother, and my wife.  

The readership stats at rockychrysler.com aren't at all earth-shattering or even especially notable when put on the scale of the vast majority of the world's other blogs.  But I'm proud of its trend-lines over the past four-and-a-half years; these days it's fair to say (not counting referer spam) the blog is averaging just over 2000+ pageviews a month for the past several months in a row.  I think that's pretty good, for a totally random, entirely free-form, thoroughly personal, non-monetized blog-of-limited-significance.

I'm similarly pleased with the fact that a few of the posts that I've published here have gained what would appear to be some sort of SEO-traction out there on the 'net.  For reasons I can't really explain, a few of the things that I've written here seem to garner regular attention, to the tune of several dozen to several hundred hits each month.  As I said, I know not why.  Nonetheless, here's a short list of the top 10 posts of all-time 
at rockychrysler.com along with their publication dates:

Most popular posts, 2009 to present:

1. Just about a bike [Retrotec #64] -- July 2010
2. Life Cycles -- Feb. 2011
3. Review: Incase Range Backpack -- June 2012
4. Just about a bike [Surly Pugsley] -- June 2013
5. Just about a bike [Specialized Stumpjumper Pro] -- Mar. 2013
6. Chilled Near Zero -- Mar. 2013
7. Just about a bike [Specialized Deja Tu Tandem] -- May 2013
8. Poster Girl -- Sept. 2011
9. The New Age: Post-Conversationalism -- Dec. 2010
10. Maladroit Is Not Manly -- Feb. 2010

A much more difficult distinction to make are those posts which I would identify as my own personal favorites.  But, at the moment, having recently reviewed all 199 of the posts written here to-date
(present post excluded, natch), these are the ones I like best, numbering more than 10 in all, ordered only by publication date, and otherwise submitted to you, Dear Reader, without ranking; as always, of course, your mileage may vary:

My favorite posts, 2009-present:

Thanks for reading my blog, friend.  It's nice to know someone's out there, willing to spend a moment or two reading my words.  

I hope you'll stop by again soon.

01 September 2013

Archival Footage: C. H. Ellis

C. H. Ellis
In 1983, when I was 16, I wrote a term paper about my great-great grandfather for my sophomore Arizona Government class. Some thirty years later, I think it's still a worthy bio which recalls the life of an uncommon and compassionate individual, Dr. Clarence Harmon [C. H.] Ellis, who was my father's father's father's father-in-law (and the origin of my daughter's middle-name: Ellise).  

I am pleased to be one of his many descendants.

I scanned (.pdf) the fragile 30-year-old onion-skin papers that this report was typed on earlier today and have included the complete text below, with but a few necessary revisions and a number of freshly-added photos and links. 

Dr. C. H. (Clarence Harmon) Ellis was born in Illinois in 1860, going to Kansas in a prairie schooner as a child. There he saw his first Indians. He grew up on a farm and attended Ottawa University. He received his medical education at the University of Kansas, the University of Michigan and at Cleveland, Ohio, completing his courses in 1887 and beginning practice in Kansas and Toledo, Ohio, shortly thereafter. He began his career as a medical missionary in February of 1891, in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma among the Choctaws. He came to Arizona in July 1899, and affiliated with the Phoenix Presbyterian Church. It was that same year that he married his wife, the former May Collins. They had a daughter, Dorajean. She grew up to be one of the first teachers at Scottsdale's Little Red Schoolhouse (Dorajean Ellis married Percy Taylor Coe).

May and Dorajean Ellis
On January 1, 1903, C.H. went to Gila Crossing and was ordained as a minister in May of the same year. Later he moved to the Salt River Valley and established the first churches among the Mohave and Apache (Yavapai) Indians.

During his succeeding years he worked as a medical missionary. It was as a minister rather than a doctor, however, that he first went to the Indians, although he played the role of family physician and friend in many an Indian home and always looked well to the health of his people as he went to spread the Gospel.

During these years he worked with the Pima, Maricopa, Papago, Apache and Mohave Apache Indians. In 1913, at the time of the influenza epidemic, he was under the United States Health Service, among the Apache, Maricopa and Pima.

The Pima Indians, among whom Dr. Ellis spent 25 years, were a peaceful tribe and most of them were farmers. They were scattered over a wide territory reaching down into Mexico. The only fighting in which they had ever engaged was with the Apaches, who at one time attempted to take their land away from them.

The Pimas, as all Indians, were wards of the government and lived for the most part on a reservation. Each man had his farm, but ownership was not absolute and it could be taken away from him. A wise friend is what these Indians needed, especially when they dealt with the government, and such Dr. Ellis proved to be through all his years of service.

Dorajean Ellis Coe, Percy Taylor Coe,
Dorajean Coe (Adams), C.H. Ellis (l-r)
The greatest problem faced by all farmers in the territory, Indian and white alike, was that of securing sufficient water for irrigation purposes. The great Roosevelt Dam, high up in the mountains about eighty miles from Phoenix, was solving the question for many of the white people, but very little of the water reached the Indian reservation. The Apaches, who lived in a well-watered section, had more water than they needed, but in the eyes of the government it ceased to belong to the Indians as soon as it left the reservation and could not be diverted for the use of the Pimas, much as they needed it. Dr. Ellis championed the Indians in their long struggle for water, but complete justice was not obtained.

Dr. Ellis was always ready, in season or out of season, to fight for the rights of these Pimas who were so powerless to help themselves and to get their just dues from the Indian Bureau. His persistent efforts to gain justice from the government was intelligent and well directed and was the means of bringing about many improvements.

As a minister, Dr. Ellis went on a preaching tour to the Apaches, which took him often away from home, 1eaving heavy responsibilities on Mrs. Ellis which were almost more than she could carry.

No call of the Indians which ever came to Dr. Ellis went unheeded. For several years, in addition to his other duties, he was president of the Charles H. Cook Bible School at Sacaton, near Phoenix, which was a school for the training of Christian leaders among the Pimas.

 C.H. Ellis' church/clinic in Guadalupe, AZ
The Presbyterian board retired him in 1930, after 40 years of continuous service, but he kept up his work independently from that time on among the Yaqui Indians of Guadalupe.

When he went among the Yaquis, Dr. Ellis found them to be bound by a black superstition that forbade most of them from appealing to him for help when in the throes of serious illness. He was an unwelcome intruder.

Dr. Ellis once told a newspaper reporter, "I want to help the Yaquis, their need is so great." He was explaining why he was continuing to work at an age when most are taking things easy -- 79 years old.

The situation among the Yaquis was not a new one for him, he had faced and conquered similar superstitious bans during the previous 30 years as a circuit riding minister-preacher who had traveled through Arizona, healing afflicted bodies and ministering to men's souls.

So Dr. Ellis established a little clinic and began the tedious job of convincing the tribesmen he was a friend eager to help them.

One by one the Yaquis came to him. Perhaps it was out of curiosity that they first ventured into his clinic, which smelled strongly of strange medicines. But they came, and Dr. Ellis treated them. The word passed around that he was a true friend of the Indians, and his clinic was a major institution in the desert community.

As an example of the superstitions which he had to tear down, Dr. Ellis found upon his arrival in the village that the Yaquis would never allow water to touch a sick person. Water was the harbinger of death. But, later, thanks to his efforts, there was no objection if an ill tribesman was given a badly needed bath.

One of his biggest problems in establishing his work, was to convince the Indians he was willing to help them without any charge. "They just couldn't believe a white man didn't want to be paid," he laughingly explained.

Working patiently, he gradually won the friendship of the Yaquis, excepting only a few hard old tribesmen who seemingly would not yield to the white doctor's ways. His efforts wrought a remarkable transformation in the lives and habits of the Yaquis.

Dr. Carlos Montezuma
But conditions still were far from satisfactory because of the poverty of the people. Unlike other Arizona Indians, the Yaquis, who are Mexican Indians were not wards on the U. S. government and therefore not eligible for federal relief.

He worked in his free clinic for ten years. While there, he worked with a women named, Lesetta Wallace. She worked as his assistant at the medical clinic and she also was a missionary for many years there, conducting religious programs in the village.  Dr. Ellis and Lesetta Wallace treated many cases of trachoma, a disease whose prevalence in the Yaqui village decreased greatly during the clinic's operation.

Dr. Ellis touched the lives of Indians who were not so poverty stricken. He was the "kindly" old gentleman who was called to the bedside of the famous Apache, Dr. Carlos Montezuma. When he went to Dr. Montezuma's wickiup, the dying man refused his help. After a while Dr. Ellis gained his confidence and friendship, but the Indian doctor still refused his help.

C. H. Ellis at his home in Phoenix
On August 7, 1938, the idea of giving admittance to Dr. and Mrs. Ellis, old time missionaries at Salt River, to be put to rest in the Salt River Indian Cemetery when they die was put before the congregation of the church there. Their faithful service and lives were well explained. It was stated that they were true servants for righteousness to the people, the church, and the reservation at large. When the votes were taken and showed all in favor and none opposing, a committee of three were appointed to make the goodwill trip and report the news to Dr. and Mrs. C.H. Ellis.

On Oct. 13, 1941, Dr. C. H. Ellis died after 50 continuous years of service as a minister of the Lord and physician to the Indians (and was interred at Greenwood Memory Lawn cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona).


Arnold, Oren. Savage Son. Albuquerque, NM, University Of New Mexico Press, pp. 251-259.

Coe, Dorajean Ellis. Log Of Lives, unpublished, pp. 1, 2, 7, 8, 14-20

Matthews, David S. The Story Of Scottsdale. Scottsdale, AZ, D.S. Matthews. 1965, pp. 21-25.

The Phoenix Gazette, p. 7, Friday, January 22, 1940.

25 August 2013

Rainy day. Fat bike. Not another soul.

Rainy day. Fat bike. Not another soul.

Forked trail. Fat bike. Not another soul.

Mushroom patch. Fat bike. Not another soul.

Brown bracken. Fat bike. Not another soul.

Long puddle. Fat bike. Not another soul.

Wild flowers. Fat bike. Not another soul.

Tall grass. Fat bike. Not another soul.

15 August 2013

Archival Footage: June was getting old

When I was young I wrote bad poems.  I did not intend for them to be bad.  I had hoped for them to be good. 

They were not.  

But they are not too-terribly-bad either, I suppose, considering the shallow depth of the well from which they were drawn at the time.

I stumbled on a few of them recently, in an tattered manila file tucked away in the back of a closet.

These are some of the sad, angsty lines I wrote between 1986 and 1991 or so.  When I was in my 20s...

Payson, Springtime, 1976

Heaven's not filled
with Earth's departed souls
now is it.
The faucet's trough-plink
old hand's country signal's bad
flipping static.
Stockyard's smell
all rotten bales.
It's not in pictures
horse's self-defecation drying
cracked open like this.

There's a horsepath near a Payson ranch
rutted rental-inches into the planet
showing papersack gravel laid open
beneath grass-woven soil.

None talk much
less run until they have sight of it
tail-to-nose waiting
sniffing clover and wild flowers
or walking in sleep toward it
transfixed on this appointed path
the yearling's new faces
the ancients' breathing sensing
again able to move limbs quickly
smoothly to the gate.

The yellow line of teeth
the bridled lips pulled back

Fly Lady Bug

Sitting watching clouds fly past the moon

It must be hoards
just swarms of bugs
that are disappointed by this moon
and all moons.

To spend your days
flying gyres upward toward
the sky
only to have the light taken away each night
by a paleness only the clouds can see
sharply enough to fly past.

That's why you seek out
the light below where I am perched
ape-like on my balcony wall
to loop and dive and crash
around this sodium-vapor sun.

If I open the door
you'll follow me inside
to the bedroom
and loop and dive and crash
around my lamplight.
I'll find you there when I retire
lying dead on my sheets.
Empty shells with little wings.

I'll come inside and join you soon
someday later tonight
and we'll lie together
and you'll hold me
and I'll think: this is what I came here for.

For now I'm just going to sit
and watch the moon in the clouds
bugs crashing against the sun
and think of some old friends
I haven't thought of in years.

Reasons. And other functions.

I've been listening to my own voice
echo down stairwells
for so long

now let me rock
with my feet up on the bed
and crack nuts in my hand
while I listen to your voice

as you sit
knelt at the foot of the bed
late at night near me

I watch your eyes
in this blue darkness and see them
as grey areas with fire behind them
like eclipsing moons

Your lashes make shadows on the floor.
They reach down beneath the floorboards
and under the window's sill
and pick dandelions outside

You talk about me how
I'm the kind of man who
gets paid
for doing what he loves most:

taking things apart.
And about Jack Nicholson
and how you know why he went to the Cuckoo's Nest

And about Sartre
and Python. Laura Petrie
Hitchcock's body
How growie things reproduce themselves
almost without gratification
and without
and almost always without

'Til it makes you look
like those are nearly tears
between your lashes
reflecting the night's brightness

When I know it's just sleep
or the lack of it there

But you make me wonder
as I listen to your exposition;

Will you understand me
when I lay down beside you
and whisper my love?

June was getting old
he said
looking softly down his arm to the floor
speaking slowly purposefully
that there is this thing, yes
reading the same books
looking out through twinned eyes
at this too-obvious-letters-written-man
who rode to forget
then forgot to ride
slept no further or sooner than
whenever you're ready to leave
spake ice-cream talk to you
before you ever heard it
sent love letters within himself
and imagined your tears dried by them
and you never knew
who talks mainly for joy
the who-you-are of it all
then for intimacy
finally for solace
who still waits 'til hope subsides
paces and yearns to prove indispensable
like drinking water for kisses
iodine tablets to remove
the browns and greys
who hunts for words
and becomes galvanized into this being
who never quite gets every dream to fall in place
in the great-green-dream-hopper
but instead yields bitterness
bile in the throat
kinked like a hose
spitting out the small hole's path
of least resistance

04 August 2013

Weatherford Road

Yesterday, I rode my fat bike up the old Weatherford Road.
The Weatherford Road, which begins just above and a little to the west of the Schultz Creek trailhead, and the Weatherford Trail, which begins up higher on the Pass near Schultz Tank, aren't really the same thing, although eventually they do rejoin one another, at the Wilderness boundary above Schultz Pass.
The old Weatherford Road used to be our primary bike-access from town to the trails above Schultz Pass.  But we hardly ever ride it anymore, probably because most of those trails don't really exist anymore.  Trails like Secret and East Orion were obliterated by the Forest Service years ago in an effort to protect spotted owl habitat.

Today, a couple newer trails, such as Newham (not to be confused with Oldham), Upper Dogfood (a wildcat trail), and The Spotted Owl (which is sometimes mistakenly called Secret or Orion Spring) cross the Weatherford Road above the Pass.  But only one classic trail, The Overlook, still remains accessible from the Weatherford Road, up high in the aspens, somewhat hidden beneath a few rotten logs, right where it always has been.

Much All of the road is now closed to motorized vehicles, so it feels forgotten and remote and, year after year, the trees encroach on it more and more.
When it was proposed as a tourist attraction back in about 1915 by local hotel owner, John Weatherford, he assured the Forest Service that the grade would not exceed seven percent, but here and in several other places it approaches ten percent.
It's pretty obvious that the Forest Service has not put any resources into maintaining the road for some time, even sections like this one near Newham, which technically remains open to motorized vehicles.  Every summer the rains dig the channels a little bit deeper.
The road, called The San Francisco Mountain Boulevard, was originally planned to be operated as a toll road aimed as an attraction at the burgeoning Grand Canyon tourist trade at the turn of the last century.  It cost over $100,000 in 1900s-dollars to construct and it was finally completed to the saddle between Agassiz and Humphreys Peaks in the mid-1920s.
The old toll-house is still standing and appears to have been carefully restored.

Weatherford and his fellow speculators never recouped their investment.  But the road, such as it is, remains to this day, but, since 1980, only horses and hikers have been permitted above the Wilderness boundary.
It must have been quite a  thrill to drive to over 11,000 feet on the San Franciso Peaks, and not altogether without risk, either.  Last time I hiked it above the Wilderness boundary, several years ago, there were still a few old abandoned vehicles wedged into the trees off the downhill side of the road.

In the late 30s, due to a lack of maintenance, the Forest Service canceled Weatherford's special-use permit, closing the Scenic Mountain Boulevard to motorized vehicles forever.

26 July 2013

Nope. No berries. Not yet.

For the past few years, about this time of the season, we've gone down to a nice, kinda secret, quiet spot on Oak Creek to harvest blackberries.  This year we went too early and harvested maybe 12 ripe berries in all.  The rest were all still small and green, weeks away from being ready.  

Fortunately, we did arrive right after a rain, so the air was misty and cool and the creek clear and cold. We waded around for a bit and then drove down to Sedona for lunch.

We'll go again in a few weeks, sometime mid-August, I think.  The berries in our secret spot should be ripe by then.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey