Aqua Fria Canyon

On Sunday I went on an exploratory trek down Agua Fria Canyon with the Sierra club. Agua Fria was designated a National Monument early in 2000. It is located about 40 miles north of Phoenix and contains two mesas-Perry Mesa and Black Mesa. It is 71,000 acres of semi-desert that includes rich riparian habitat along the Agua Fria River. The Agua Fria headwaters are in Bradshaws, close to Prescott and it flows into Lake Pleasant. This monument contains some of the most prehistoric sites in the Southwest. There are at least 450 prehistoric sites inside the monument. This area suffers from its proximity to the sprawling Phoenix area and has been subject to vandalism. This is one of the monuments that "W" is trying to roll back. This area definitely needs protection. One of our hiking party is taking a Congressman through the area on Wednesday. He has formed, and I have joined "Friends of Agua Fria",an activist group formed to protect the status of the monument. The hiking group was an assortment of people that I have hiked with before with one exception, EARTH CHILD. EARTH CHILD has just moved to Arizona from Michigan seeking spirituality. She attended this hike to make a connection with the spirits.EARTH CHILD did not know about REI or Popular outfitters and showed up dressed in a full length heavy gray robe with leather sandals on her feet. She also was sporting quite a bit of Indian type jewelry. El Lobo wanted to bark at her but suspecting that at some time in her life she may have indulged in smoking marijuana (or peyote) thought she could be dangerous and opted to be friendly and converse with her. Moonbeam, was her name, and she had spent time on Max's farm at Woodstock and also was in San Francisco during the 67 summer of Love. At various times during the hike she would inquire about what would happen and how would she know if she were bitten by a rattlesnake or Gila Monster. Finally after asking for the tenth time I told her that if she was bitten by a Gila monster she would know, because they like the snapping turtles of Michigan don't let go once they bite. She would have to carry the Gila monster with her and have it surgically removed. More on Moonbeam later.Agua Fria is awesome country with spectacular scenery. We boulder hopped down about 4 miles and had lunch at a waterfall. The trip required many river crossings, some almost chest deep due to recent rains. The terrain consisted of box canyons, sandy beaches and jagged cliffs. This would be an excellent hot weather destination as there are many swimming pools along the way. Brilliant displays of wildflowers dotted the country side that included desert phlox, chicory, crownbeard, gilla, larkspur, and buckwheat. The claret cup cactus (also known as strawberry cactus) was in full bloom. We encountered many Monarch butterflies. There were frequent displays of petroglyphs. It was magnificent! I believe that it is every bit as beautiful as the primo Aravaipai Canyon located in the middle of Arizona. Moonbeam was too busy complaining and worried about getting bit to notice the splendid scenery.On the way to lunch Moonbeam fell of the side into the river and required a minor rescue operation. Her coat was thoroughly water logged and now weighed fifty pounds! At lunch, Moonbeam was shivering and we gave her a space blanket to prevent hypothermia. It was quite cool when the sun went behind the clouds.Jim, our leader was very patient with Moonbeam and left early from lunch for a head start and to personally guide her out of peril.When we returned to our cars we found Moonbeam in good condition and eager for her next Arizona outing. When asked how she liked the hike she smiled and slowly said--"Far out"

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