Search This Blog

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Turkey Creek Deep

Where are we? Where are we going?
El.: c. 5000’ 
From 1880 to 1884 a man named Morse had a sawmill on turkey Creek where he prepared lumber for use in the Copper Queen Mine at Bisbee. The timbers measured one foot in diameter, and Turkey Creek was the only place where timbers of such size could be found. Morse is said to have named Turkey Creek for the wild turkeys found along it.  
- Will C. Barnes, Arizona Place Names, revised and enlarged by Byrd H. Granger

When I look at a map of the state of Arizona, the more so a map of the entire United States — all of North America, a map of the entire world — I realize how small is the majestic expanse of Cochise County that I call my winter home. Though two valleys, the Sulphur Springs Valley and the San Pedro, stretch through it from north to south, and along the easternmost side of the former lie the Dos Cabezas, Chiricahua, and Peloncillo mountain ranges, most Americans have never heard of the Chiricahua Mountains and never visited the Chiricahua National Monument. Those who make the visit usually drive down from I-10, venture up Massai Point, and then leave. It’s understandable. Ours is a big country, and even a vacation of several months is insufficient to cover the West.

Just as there are two schools of thought about life experience in general, so there are two schools of travel thought. Basically, the question is whether to go deep or wide. Whether to sample as many experiences as possible, though it means each sample will be, of necessity, strictly limited — or to stay with one mate, in one line of work, through thick and thin, to settle down in one place (or a few chosen places), to sink roots, to go ever deeper. I propound no single, universal decision here for all human beings. The decision can only be made by each individual.

Long before I made my first trip to France, though, I knew what I wanted from being there. I wanted to live, in Paris, for the four weeks I had. That meant I would not see the chateaux along the Loire (I still have not and perhaps never will) or the Normandy coast or the glitz of the French Riviera. When it came right down to it, I did not even see Chartres Cathedral that year, reasoning on rainy days that it would be a shame to visit Chartres without sun coming through the famous stained glass windows — and, on sunny days, feeling it would be a shame to give up a single sunlit day in Paris! When the sun was shining, I could make a cup of espresso on the sidewalk last two hours, and when the weather was cold and wet I could milk a single museum entrance fee for an entire day. Shopping? On my income? Please! Being there was all I asked. 

Just so, now, I find a great deal of contentment in my quiet Arizona ghost town, building a personal Southwest home library and making small increases to the comforts of seasonal retirement housekeeping with additions to our simple kitchen — one day a beautiful used stock pot from a thrift shop, another, a fresh jar of mesquite flower honey for the table. Expeditions from the cabin to the greater world outside are not always grand adventures, either. Sometimes only mundane errands. And that’s all right, because we are not on a cruise — we are living here. 

But oh, those glorious adventures! 

A year ago we turned one day onto Turkey Creek Road, but the jarring washboard surface quickly convinced the Artist, who was driving, to turn around. This year our first venture took us as far as the first creek crossing, and that was a thrill. So when the Artist proposed on Wednesday that we should explore farther up the road, he got no argument from me. 

The dry wash behind and alongside our rental cabin only runs with floodwater during summer monsoons, when we are back in Michigan, so the very sight of a small stream of flowing water within the largely dry banks of the San Pedro River is a rare treat. Imagine, then, our delight over a roaring, rushing, tumbling, foaming creek! We could not stop grabbing for our cameras — and yet, I realize that no photograph will convey a fraction of our excitement, just as photographs of Paris from the Seine did nothing to prepare me for standing on a bridge, being thereWe had been exclaiming with wonder at the beauty of our surroundings long before we came to a sign alerting us to prepare for a “scenic road” along the next five miles. The sign struck us as very funny, as if the road commission thought we might have been unaware of beauty ahead without the sign. And what of the beauty we had already enjoyed that had not been noted with signage? 

Our wonder did increase as we penetrated farther into the forest, however, I must admit. It didn’t feel as if we were climbing, and yet we must have been gaining elevation, because there were more and taller and different species of trees as we went along, with mountain rocks much closer to our ever-narrowing road. 

Only many miles in did we reach public land of the Coronado National Forest, which, like the Marquette National Forest in Michigan, consists of discontinuous pieces of land in the Pinaleño, Chiricahua, and Dragoon mountain ranges. Beware of bear, and watch out for water and fire debris and rock slides, signs warned. 

What ruins lurk behind this alligator juniper?
Ruins of stone cabin lost in forest fire

There were other cabins in the forest land, obviously still rentable, and yet we saw no signs that anyone was staying in any of them. There were deer here and there, but no other human beings. Well, fine! When the rocky road reached a campground, it seemed incredible that there was not a single tent in sight and no picnickers at the tables, either. We left our car and settled down long enough to eat a simple late lunch and enjoy the creek (at our very feet!) before deciding that the air was already very cold and would quickly grow colder as dappled sunlight retreated up the mountainside. Short winter days are even shorter in the mountains, nothing at all like prairie evenings or the late afternoon light on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

Reluctantly leaving Turkey Creek, we sped east to the Mustang Mall and returned to the ghost town by way of the Kansas Settlement Road, looking across the valley to what looked like a big, dark storm over the very mountains where we had spent our afternoon. We arrived home before sunset (as splendid in the east as it was in the west) and were delighted to have visitors before darkness fell. It was another deeply satisfying day in our little corner of the world. We did not drive all that many miles, but most of them were deliciously slow.

Looking west

Looking east

Enjoying evening visitors


Dawn said...

Oh my goodness. Amazing. When I was ladt down in AL I stayed for several weeks, first time I ever did that. It was marvelous. Once I cat sat for Karen in Northport for 3 weeks, and that was wonderful too. We are flying to AZ in a couple of weeks, will spend time with friends and then explore a little. We won't be anywhere long enough, I know.

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, I know you love your stretches of time on Lake Michigan. To me, not having to count the hours and days is just delicious. Even though an entire lifetime is not long enough to explore the earth's wonders!

P. J. Grath said...

Re-reading this entry two years later, I see a glaring error: We did not go east but west from Turkey Creek to the Mustang Mall! What was I thinking?