Ghost Songs on the Gila

I was early on the day I visited, a mid-winter weekday after the holidays. It was in the low 40s with a brisk wind. Apart from a ranger and a docent trying really hard to stay warm, I was alone. I walked the site slowly, almost tiptoeing, to sustain the quiet.

The wind freshened as it shifted a few degrees, and I heard a low keening come from the ruin. I froze in place, listening intently, turning my head. I was in the center of the site, and it was one of those moments when you feel like you, like Billy Pilgrim, have become unstuck in time.

The interaction of the wind, the ruin, and the rafters of the shelter were interacting to play tricks on me, I rationalized. It’s nothing.

As I looked back toward the ruin, I saw a jackrabbit close by. He was on his haunches, regarding me. I regarded him back. We continued this for about a minute. Then I lost the contest, turning to look again at the ruin, but when I turned back toward the jackrabbit, he had vanished, and the keening stopped.

I heard a car door slam, and a family, bundled against the cold, began walking my way. The spell broken, I headed into the gift shop to warm my ears and buy the postcard in the photo.

One for Hiking Stick #2. Did not do the peak but did hike the memorial trail, after which I ran back to the car to warm up. The park is phenomenal, so I want to go back in the spring or fall (to avoid the heat) sometime in the middle of the week (to avoid the crowds) to camp and hike the peak.

Watch Over the Butterfield

Located in a remote and picturesque vale in the Chiricahua Mountains in Southern Arizona, Fort Bowie is an overlooked treasure among the National Park system. It’s all about the history here, but there is so much natural beauty you could turn your back on the fort and just enjoy the site for the feeling of being in a protected mountain stronghold.

Casa Grande

I lived in Arizona for nearly two years, and though I consider myself more attuned to local history than your average bloke, I never understood what “Hohokam” meant.

In a few hours at Casa Grande, mercifully unburdened by children or other distractions, I walked through a door into a culture that had for centuries irrigated and cultivated the Gila and Salt River basins. The day was clear but icy cold, keeping the numbers of visitors down.

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