It’s not easy to write this sitting in the inferno of a Phoenix summer, but Arizona is beautiful.  Having grown up here, I’ve always known that, but I think I appreciate its beauty more now as a regular visitor.  This time around I’ve been back in Arizona for a months-long visit, getting reacquainted with everything the Copper State has to offer.  If this latest visit had only included Phoenix, I would not be writing this.  There are exciting changes happening in Phoenix, especially in terms of neighborhoods and restaurants, but July just isn’t the time to be exploring the city, at least not for me.  Luckily, I was able to escape the heat the past week and spend time with family and friends up in Pinetop, which is located about 4 hours northeast of Phoenix.

I think most people associate Pinetop with second homes, golf courses, and hardy Mormon settlers.  If you live in Phoenix, a vacation rental in Pinetop, Flagstaff, or San Diego is never far from your summer dreams and playlists.  Relaxing among the cool pines after a day on the course is not a bad way to go about a day, but Pinetop offers a lot more than tee-times, and there is something for just about everyone.  If you are in Pinetop for a long weekend, you can hike, run some trails, bike, fish, catch some live music, eat good food, and brush up on some fascinating American and Native American history.

I was able to do a few of those things this past week.  I grabbed some photos, and I thought it might be nice to share some of those on the blog.  In doing so, I hope to get some feedback on the photography.  If someone reads this and adds Pinetop to the adventure list, that would be great, too.

Near Greer; ISO 400, f5.6, SS 1/640

Pinetop is located near Show Low, in Mogollon Rim country.  I’m not really sure the best way to describe its location.  I think you could say that it is located above the rim, in the foothills of the White Mountains.  I will have to check Arizona Highways later for their description.  (One of my aims with this blog is to improve my writing.  I think we can label that attempt at a descriptive paragraph as a “fail”.)  Pinetop can get warm during the day, but for anyone visiting from below the rim, the cooler temperatures offer welcome relief.

I spent most of my time in Pinetop catching up with family, but I did venture out for some exploring, hiking, and photography.

On the 4th of July I opted for the Panorama Trail #635 hike.  It was a great walk, nothing too strenuous in terms of elevation changes.  It is 9.5 miles, though.  I’ve gotten a little out of shape.  That combined with the area’s elevation caused me to underestimate the time it would take me.  I recommend the hike, but be prepared for changing weather.  You don’t want to get caught unprepared at the half-way point.  If the sound of guns bothers you, there is a shooting range near the trailhead.  I’m not sure if it’s always set up, but on that day, people were sending rounds down range for the duration of my hike.  There are several good hiking books and websites for Arizona.  I used Arizona Wildlife Trails to plan this hike.

Panorama Trail #635; ISO 32, f2.2, SS 1/1866, Program (auto) mode

I think I was looking north/northwest when I took this photo.  Winslow should be out there on the horizon.  I really need to get better about jotting down notes.

A day or so later I headed over to Greer, which is a small town about about 45 minutes east of Pinetop, closer to Sunrise Ski Resort.  It is really small.  More rustic and remote.  I suspect there are some amazing cabins tucked away in the woods around Greer.  I wanted to grab lunch at the Rendezvous Diner, but my late start ruined that plan.  All was not lost, though.  I headed back toward US 260 and spontaneously took a turn onto a dirt road heading into the woods.  Got some photos that I was happy with, including the black and white photo above.

Near Greer; ISO 400, f/8, SS 1/680

I love these high desert meadows.  The rich greens contrast sharply with the surrounding terrain.  I realized while taking this photo that I have no idea what causes these meadows.  Sources of water, tree patterns?  If any of you know, I’d love to hear the answer.  If not, this is something I’ll definitely ask on the next guided Ranger walk.  I shot this photo using the Fujifilm X100T’s Program mode.  I have another photo of the scene that uses a faster shutter speed, but it looks identical to me.  Some of the old photography lessons are starting to come back to me.  On a clear, bright day like this, I think depth of field and possibly ISO would have the most influence.

Near Greer; ISO 200, f/6.4, SS 1/900

I think the black and white photo above is simply the opposite direction of the previous meadow shot.  It was right about then that I started getting bombarded by what I think were large black flies or horseflies.  Hard to say.  I jumped back in the car without getting a good look at them.  I swear they followed my car out of there.

I went back to US 260 and headed west for the Hawley Lake turn off.  It’s a pretty mountain lake with some seriously blue water.  There were a few people fishing from the shore, and I saw one boat out on the water.  I think they all chose a great way to spend their day.

Hawley Lake; ISO 200, f/11, SS 1/300


Hawley Lake; ISO 200, f/8, SS 1/500

I closed out the adventuring with a trip to historic Fort Apache, which is close to Whiteriver.  It isn’t hard to figure out why the White Mountain Apaches settled in this area, it’s beautiful.  The Fort Apache site and its museum are a great way to get reacquainted with a complicated, interesting,  and often tragic chapter in U.S. History.

The museum focuses on the White Mountain Apaches and their interactions with their Apache neighbors and the soldiers who established Fort Apache.  The museum did its job; I want to do some further reading.  The men and women who lived, worked, and fought in this region were made of strong stuff.  I kept thinking about the movie The Revenant as I read about the Apaches and the soldiers.  It could not have been an easy life.

There is not much left of the fort, but what remains is worth seeing.  The parade ground, which is now a large field for the Theodore Roosevelt School, forms the center.  On the north side of the parade ground there are several residences that made up Officers’ Row.  The two most prominent ones are General Crook’s residence and a later Commanding Officer’s residence.

General Crook had to be one tough son of a gun.  He served in the Pacific Northwest, the Arizona Territory, and in the Civil War.  The museum painted an interesting picture of a man who often fought the Native Americans but who also, on several occasions, worked with and learned from them.  I read that later in life he spoke out against the harsh treatment of the Native Americans.  That’s from wikipedia, so don’t quote me.

General Crook’s quarters; ISO 400, f/6.4, SS 1/900
General Crook’s view; ISO 200, f/6.4, SS 1/850

Not a bad view.  I wish I had also tried a shot with an aperture setting of f/11.

General Crook’s yard, view of TR School; ISO 200, f/7.1, SS 1/800
Commanding Officer’s quarters; ISO 200, f/6.4, SS 1/850
Edge of Parade Ground, looking toward Officers’ Row; ISO 400, f/5.6, SS 1/550

After the hiking and photography, it was high time for a cold beer at the Lion’s Den.  There are several places in Pinetop to grab a beer with friends, but I think the Lion’s Den is something of an icon.  I went there for happy hour twice, and it was busy both times with a cast of colorful characters.  I like bars like this, ones that draw people who normally might rarely run into one another.  Cowboys, tourists, grandparents from Phoenix escaping the heat, and locals.  Everyone seemed like they were there to enjoy some music, food, and good company.  I grabbed a beer both times, and I tried the fries.  They were good.

The Lion’s Den; ISO 400, f/5.6, SS 1/340