Salvation Elevation

Escaping June in Arizona's White Mountains

June 14-21, 2024

Year 'round residents of the Southwest desert know that the only way to survive June is to get the Hell out of town. Even Silver City, which is 15° cooler than Tucson, yet at +6000', our sun feels much hotter. 95° is a balmy spring day in Tucson; in Silver City, it's a blast furnace. With the forecasters predicting an abnormally hot summer of 2024 throughout the Southwest, it was clear that our traditional retreats — the Gila, the Mogollon Rim — were not going to cut it. We needed to get above 8000'/

And so we packed up the cats and headed for Arizona's White Mountains. This region has been badly damaged by a series of catastrophic wildfires going back to 2009, but there are nevertheless pockets of breathtaking beauty. And, like the Sacramento Mountains, it's not so much a chain of mountains, but a rolling plateau with a base elevation of 8000'.

June 14

rain on the windshield of the RV

A few drops of rain as we headed out of town were just a teaser. The much-anticipated monsoon is nowhere in sight.

monster milkshake at the Adobe Cafe and Bakery

Along the way, we were delighted to learn that the Adobe Café & Bakery is now open on Fridays. We have planned many a trip around their limited hours, so this was a nice surprise.

camped in a Ponderosa pine forest

Landed in one of our favorite camping areas, an island on Ponderosa pines surrounded by a vast sea of bare hills and blackened burn scars. The temperature was only in the 70s! A light sweater felt good!

napping with a cat on my face

RE:LAXING.

blue flag and swallowtail

For Flag Day. A blue flag with a swallowtail butterfly.

June 15

animal skeleton on fence in an alpine meadow

For our first hike, we tried to get to Head of South Fork Spring, the source of the South Fork Little Colorado River. Here there are alpine meadows for miles in any direction.

cows muddying a pond

But the spring turned out to be a slimy cow-plop-infested puddle. "Hey guys, urine the wrong place, you should steer clear."

blue flag irises

But the blue flags seem to like the muck.

white blue flag

We even saw a few white blue flags (exactly two out of thousands).

June 16

Dennis and Susan looking out over the meadows

Matt and Susan, dear friends from Tucson, met us in camp Friday night. And Susan joined us for our second hike, to Wahl Knoll (9768').

Dennis and Susan at the summit

It's a brisk climb, but the views are awe-inspiring.

Greater Short-Horned Lizard

We decided to make our way town along the edge of the tree line, to pick up an old forest road that slabs around the east side of the mountain. Saw a few critters along the way. Greater Short-Horned Lizard.

Lewis Flax

Lewis Flax

having lunch at the Rendezvous Diner in Greer

Celebrating with lunch at The Rendezvous Diner in Greer.

June 17

The days passed easily. Coffee with our camping buddies and a morning hike, followed by lunch, outdoor yoga, and a nap. I could get used to this!

Dennis hiking out an old forest road through a meadow

For our third hike, we decided to explore an area we had never visited before. We had assumed it was just another burned over area, but instead, the old forest road dropped into a very broad and lush alpine meadow.

beautiful pond in the meadow

There were clouds of blue flags, and several pristine ponds.

old road winding through the forest

At the far end of the meadow was a fantastic campsite in a grove of Ponderosa pines.

Deep in the forest, we noticed an old corral protecting a beautiful spring. The water was very clear and ice cold!

fence post busted by a Ponderosa pine

Long ago, a fence post anchored this corner. But the Pondo had a better idea.

Richardson's Geranium

Richardson's Geranium

Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel. Look how he wraps his tail around the branch!

June 18

Once our friends headed back to Tucson, we had planned to continue north to spend Amateur Radio Field Day on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. But even at nearly 7000', temperatures were nudging triple digits. Instead, we decided to see if we could make our way to the campsite we had spotted the day before.

RV in a field of blue flags

Yes, we could!

view out the front door

What a great spot! There was nobody else for MILES, but we had reliable internet for the first time on this trip!

June 19

hiking through a long narrow meadow

In the morning we continued out an old forest road that crossed a long and narrow meadow and dead-ended at the edge of a mesa overlooking the Little Colorado River Valley.

Little Colorado River valley devastated by fire

The view was apocalyptic. The Bear Wallow Fire incinerated every tree as far as the eye can see 13 years ago. Our island forest is surrounded by burn scars, and the fire gets closer every year.

smokey moon rise

We picked up a game trail and eventually made our way back to camp via a wonderfully green dry creek bed. But by then high wind was buffeting our camp, and we had to spend the afternoon inside. Full moon and a smoky sunset from the Foote Fire, burning south of Alpine.

June 20

All night the wind tossed the RV like a cork on the open ocean. In the morning, the temperature was only in the 50s — too cold to do anything outside. Meanwhile, 200 miles away in Ruidoso, 1400 structures burned and 8000 people were evacuated as three massive wildfires threatened to merge. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate the month of June?

sepia style portrait of Dennis at the coffee shop

Time for a town day — too windy for anything else. Off to Springerville for Junk & Java and a visit to the fabulously overstocked (and misnamed) Western Drug & General Store. camping atop a high, open meadow

We were aiming for somewhat lower elevation that was more or less along our route home. We found a great spot on the west side of the Gila at 7000' with a 360° view.

large cottonwood almost felled by beavers

DETERMINATION.

June 21

looking down into the Tularosa River valley

This trail down to the Tularosa River has been on my radar for years. It's definitely well off the beaten path!

ularosa Ranger Station cabin

Tularosa Ranger Station cabin, built in 1905. There is quite a nice selection of glyphs here. I wasn't able to learn much about them except that they "may date to the Mogollon period".

Tularosa River valley

The Tularosa River valley.

Narrow-Leaved Wirelettuce

Narrow-Leaved Wirelettuce.

Toadflax Beardtongue

Toadflax Beardtongue.

Field Bindweed

Field Bindweed. Invasive and very common, but so pretty!

RV in the Prickly Poppies

Miss Bea Haven in the Prickly Poppies. One more lunch at the Adobe Café and Bakery, and then home. And here we'll stay, at least for now, waiting for the monsoon to bring us life-giving moisture, and relief from the heat and the fires.