Arizona: A Land of Extremes

Updated on September 24, 2018
cam8510 profile image

Science, nature and the environment, with regard to human impact, are subjects to which Chris applies his passions for research and writing.

Sanfrancisco Peaks Near Flagstaff, Arizona

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My recent move to Arizona for a contract job has revealed to me a state made up of many varieties. Elevation changes, cultures, and climate differences are just a few.

Elevation changes are extreme in this state. Standing on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, You are at about 8,300 feet. The floor of the canyon is 2,400 feet. Drive a few miles south to Flagstaff, and you are sitting at 6,900 feet. HIke to the top of Mount Humphreys and experience life at 12,633 feet, the highest natural elevation in the state. Farther south is Sedona, 4,350 feet and Phoenix at 1,100 feet.

The Grand Canyon From the North Rim

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I experienced a subtle difference in lifestyle while I was exploring some of the lakes south of Flagstaff. I grabbed my fishing and camping gear and headed to the Mormon Lake area. I had chosen to visit Marshall Lake. After driving several miles on a gravel road, I began to wonder where the lake was. Well, I was driving alongside the dried up lake bed. I kept going and came upon a stretch where dozens of campsites lined the dry lake bed. Every one of those campsites was filled with people out for a weekend at the lake.

I proceeded on to my second choice which was Ashurst Lake. I found a big, beautiful blue lake surrounded by volcanic boulders. I drove the perimeter and came to a paid campground where a native American man waved from his campsite as I drove by. I returned the wave and continued along the gravel road. When I looped back around, the same man waved again, but this time it was a wave that invited me to come to his campsite.

Panoramic View of Marshall Lake, Arizona

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I parked the Jeep and let my dog, Darby, out of the back. The man whose face and arms showed years of exposure to the sun walked up and extended his hand. His name was Francis. He had a large, cabin tent pitched beside a picnic table and a fire ring. Flames leaped from the iron enclosure, but I stayed away. It was already plenty hot for me.

Francis liked to tell stories and laugh at his own jokes. He told me of his ranching days, of riding broncs and mustangs. He pointed to the back of his neck where he apparently had a bit of chronic pain. Those mustangs like to jump, he told me. I suppose that was the origin of the pain in his neck.

Stand of Aspens on Mount Humphreys, Arizona

The old gentleman rose from the bench we were both seated on and opened a cooler. He pulled out the biggest steak I think I have ever seen. He pointed to a two-pronged fork on the table and instructed me to put the steak on the metal grill over the fire. I had been invited to dinner. I turned the steak several times, added some slices of hot peppers and tortillas. Soon we were tearing the steak apart with our fingers, tossing the bones to Darby, and talking about the life of the Navajo.

According to Francis’s story, the Navajo don’t have a lot of material possessions or comforts in their homes, not even running water. The Hopi, he claimed, had everything, but not the Navajo. His wife works with beads to create items to sell. Francis draws sketches of rock art. I had a hard time understanding how those weather-beaten hands could create delicate art.

Grand Canyon From the North Rim (Video)

Francis’s hands, arms, and face were discolored and swollen. His eyesight was poor. He said it was a result of the mine he worked in all his life. Surface mining, he called it. All the water around the mine was contaminated. He said they drank it and bathed in it anyway. His own diagnosis was that the mine had caused his ailments. I couldn’t argue the point.

Francis asked me if I had a family. He had a wife, six daughters and one son. I told him about my two sons and that my wife had passed away ten years ago from cancer. He shared how his own mother also died of cancer. He talked about how difficult it is to move on after losing a loved one. Then he stood up from the picnic table, leaned over the top and placed both hands on my head. I was wearing a hat at the time. Francis closed his eyes and spoke in his Navajo language. When he was finished, he told me not to take my hat off until I got home. It was a surreal experience. I don’t know what he said or prayed.

I said goodbye to Francis, put Darby back in the Jeep and drove away. Francis waved, and I waved back. I’m glad the Navajo man flagged me down. I’m happy I accepted the invitation.

This is Arizona, so different from anywhere I’ve ever been. The land and the native people are products of little water and much sun. I will enjoy exploring the heights, depths, and breadth of this land which offers so many opportunities for adventure.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Chris Mills

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      • btrbell profile image

        Randi Benlulu 

        3 weeks ago from Mesa, AZ

        What a great experience you had! I came here 10 years ago and I've never looked back!

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        3 weeks ago from Flagstaff, AZ

        Linda, Sean, Dora, Liz, Eric, Shauna, Thank you for reading my article and for all your kind comments. I value your friendship more than you know and more than I show. I will be adding more to the Arizona series. I am off on an adventure for the weekend. If things turn out well I will broadcast live on Saturday on Facebook. After that I will post a new hub about the adventure. This will be high adventure. Nearly 13,000 feet high.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        3 weeks ago from Central Florida

        Beautiful scenery, Chris. And how fortunate to have been invited to commune with a true Navajo. I'm sure it was a fascinating experience.

        Your job takes you to such interesting places! I'm glad you share them with us.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Hey a big thanks to Sean for mentioning your photos on FB, fantastic although I am out of breath.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        3 weeks ago from UK

        Great introduction to Arizona. I look forward to reading more.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        I enjoyed seeing Arizona through your eyes. Thanks for sharing your experience with the Navajo man. People are an integral part of any place.

      • Sean Dragon profile image

        Ioannis Arvanitis 

        3 weeks ago from Greece, Almyros

        My brother, Chris, I had the blessing to watch your journey through the pics and videos you uploaded to fb, and I am amazed by the beauty of this land. Thank you for this opportunity, because there were not only the pictures but your Heart too who made it special. Now it became even better with your Hub and the exciting story you have with the Navajo brother. Thank you for sharing it.

        Mother Nature bless your days!

        Sean

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        3 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        What an interesting article, Chris. I enjoyed reading it very much. Thank you for sharing the lovely photos and your experience of meeting Francis. Arizona sounds like a great place to explore.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        3 weeks ago from Flagstaff, AZ

        Mr. Happy, How did I know he was native? I suppose it was an assumption based on skin color, but in the end, I was right. You are right, I am sure. Francis said a prayer for my family in his own words or possibly something he learned in his own culture. I hope I have the privilege of meeting more native people while I am here. Thank you for your visit to my hub.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        3 weeks ago from Flagstaff, AZ

        Eric, you add mystery to the mystery. Jerome is next? Another mystery. Thanks for visiting.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Shik’is dóó Shilaké, Diyin God nik’ijódlíido dooleeł I had to look up the blessing. Something close I think. Our Navajo language was not written until about 1940's to '70's a slow process incorporating the fonts. I say "ours" because as you point out they are in any real Arizonan's blood. Phoenix we call Kleenex. I rant on, sorry.

        Jerome is next.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        3 weeks ago from Flagstaff, AZ

        Eric, I look forward to your return visit. I need some advice about how I use my time here.

      • Mr. Happy profile image

        Mr. Happy 

        3 weeks ago from Toronto, Canada

        I love hiking so, your photos are Heaven to me. : )

        "a native American man waved from his campsite" - Just curious: how did You know he was Native when You saw him waving? Was he wearing his regalia sitting around his campsite? lol

        "All the water around the mine was contaminated." - This is not good at all: people without access to clean water. If we can't have clean water, clean air and clean earth to grow our food in then, what use is all the progress we made as a specie?

        "Francis closed his eyes and spoke in his Navajo language." - He said a prayer for You and your family.

        May Wakan Tanka guide You and Mr. Francis.

        Da-na'-ho-we-yo.

        P.S. Thank You for your article.

      • Venkatachari M profile image

        Venkatachari M 

        3 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

        A beautiful narration picturizing the greatness of Arizona as seen through your eyes. It tells how much glad you have been during this visit to that wonderful place.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        My heart is a flutter. I will be back when it calms. Thanks for the letter from home.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        3 weeks ago from Flagstaff, AZ

        HI John, It's good to see you. The context of my conversation with Francis is moving on after you lose a loved one. So I can only speculate. I'm looking forward to seeing other places in Arizona.

      • nikkikhan10 profile image

        Nikki Khan 

        3 weeks ago from London

        This seems to be a wonderful adventure for you, Chris.I loved the landscapes pictures too, and your meeting with Francis who looks like an interesting guy.

        I was wondering too, why he said not to take your hat off until you get home?

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        3 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        What an interesting article, Chris. It sounds like you sure have some wonderful adventuring ahead of you. The meeting with Francis was obviously meant to be. Did you work out why you were not to remove your hat until you arrived home?

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        3 weeks ago from Flagstaff, AZ

        Becky, I'll be driving to Phoenix to see another HP friend. We will definitely have to work something out. It sounds like you live in a beautiful spot. I hope to see some of that part of the state as things cool down.

      • Becky Katz profile image

        Becky Katz 

        3 weeks ago from Hereford, AZ

        Welcome to AZ. I live SE of Tucson. I live on a plateau at about 4600 ft. I am surrounded by the Mule, Dragoon, Whetstone, and the Huachuca Mtns on the other side of me. some of the peaks overlooking the valley I live in are over 9000 ft. Fort Huachuca is in the town near me. That is the one formed for the Buffalo Soldiers to help with the Indians that were running around down here. Cochise and Geronimo hung around down here. They would duck over into Mexico when the soldiers got too close to catching them.

        The Fort is now an Intelligence fort. Gathering intelligence and flying the drones around all the time. We are right on the Mexican and New Mexico borders. Bisbee and Tombstone are within a 1/2 hour drive.

        Patagonia Lake is about the closest lake, but the hiking trails in the Coronado National Park are supposed to be great. My oldest son loves to go up there and hike around. He doesn't get to much anymore, because he is the single parent of a 2 year old. Can't carry a 2 year old for long. He is too active and yet he gets tired quickly. If you get down this way, let me know and we can meet up for a bit. Warmer here than up where you are now, not as hot as Phoenix and Tucson.

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