Chasing Mohave Wildflowers And finding a ghost town, two historic mining towns and two old railroad towns

My Visit to Mohave County

The heavy rains of winter 2016 to 2017 in the high and low deserts of California and Arizona produced spectacular wildflower displays throughout the region. The wildflowers, in turn, brought wildflower people from far and wide to see the deserts’ spring beauty. Gawkers even came from South America and Europe to the Great American Southwest.

I was no different. Having cut my wildflower photography teeth in the southern deserts of those two states at spectacular locations such as Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and San Diego County’s Anza-Borrego Desert Park, I was anxious to get out and make more flowery photo art this year. Particularly because I had done no spring wildflowers since moving from Coronado to Flagstaff in 2010.

Barb and I did venture into Death Valley’s “super bloom” last year where we amazingly met Nick and Chiyo in a little mom-and-pop restaurant at Shoshone when we were all having breakfast. I instantly recognized Nick as a West Point graduate and, being faithful to my Annapolis alma mater, yelled out, as Nick was exiting the door, “Beat Army!”

Arizona Lupine.

But back to this year. Being quite anxious to catch this year’s blooms in the high deserts of Arizona, I began reading wildflower reports on line. In one account the writer stated that spectacular blooms existed in the Black Mountains of northwestern Arizona.

Never having heard of the Blacks, I instantly popped up a trusty (?) Google map and bingo! There they were! Mr. Google told me to drive about 54 miles northwest from Kingman on US 93 towards Las Vegas and then execute a left turn, essentially turning due south. Mr. G said that if I did so, I would arrive at this flowery hotspot in due time.

My 30-hour stomping grounds. I had a great time here, in case you hadn't noticed.

Of course, I had to drive to Mother Nature’s floral orgy from Flag. Mr. Google told me that such a drive would require three and one-half hours and 200 miles on the road. No problema. I would do it!

Arizona Lupine and ????? Can anybody help me out, here?

I was soon re-reminded, as trips of this nature always do, that the driving distances and times between key points in this state can be lengthy. That’s because the region is so vast. (That’s pronounced “vahhhst,” like the Orthodox priest pronounced it in the Seinfeld episode, “The Conversion.”) The Interstate helps greatly.

I departed from home on Thursday at 1600 hours. (That’s 4:00 p.m. to you civilians.) I arrived at Mr. Google’s Black Mountain location around 1745 with sundown scheduled for 1845. That gave me only limited daylight to locate the right flowers, figure out the right vantage points to shoot them from, and actually make my images. Shooting digitally, I did enjoy the luxury of instant feedback. I can tell right away, unlike my film days, whether my exposures, compositions and sharpness are up to my exacting standards. Perfectionist standards, you might say.

Fortunately, I arrived at my intended destination early. That’s because on this particular day nobody heeded the speed limits. Not on I-40 and especially not on US 93. The posted speed on the latter was 65 mph. But everybody -- and I do mean everybody -- was driving upwards of 90 to 100. Well, not really everybody. I never exceeded the low 80s.

A lot of those drivers couldn't wait to get to Vegas and go to Harrah's or the Luxor or Circus Circus to nearly literally throw their hard-earned dollars down the toilet. Condenados imbéciles!

Roadside brittlebush.

As I made my left-hand turn from US 93, I discovered I was about to enter Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Hmmmm, I thought to myself. Something’s amiss. Shouldn’t the signage say something the Black Mountains? But, I thought, I have come this far, so I might as well explore and hope to find some great photo-making locations.

This portion of the NRA is south of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. I drove to the river with my windows down, enjoying the fresh, dry and pleasant afternoon. When I got to the river the temperature hit 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

I briefly exited my car and discovered the combination of temperature and light breezes were soft as a butterfly’s kiss. Beautiful!

But so far I had not found that spectacular flower display that my on-line reporter told me I would find in the Blacks. True, here at the river there were some really beautiful brittlebush that were at their peak. Plus I found other pretty clumps of color here and there. But where were the spectacular carpets of poppies promised by my writer? Well, there was one for certain. They sure as heck weren’t here.

Apricot mallow, fully deployed and at its peak.

Despite being greatly disappointed, I nevertheless set out to make the best of my circumstances. But upon deploying my camera gear I discovered with great horror that I had left behind the stuff that keeps me making my images: extra battery and charger, and extra compact flash cards.

I realized that the battery currently loaded into my Nikon D800 possessed only a half-charge. Ouch, I thought. I’m screwed! I have a ton of images I needed to make the next day -- Friday -- and I would surely run out of juice and have to go back to Flag early. O woe is me!

But I resolved to do my best. I would husband my battery’s life and not waste any of its precious energy. When I ran out of battery power, I would simply have fun exploring this (for me) brand-new region of my adopted state and check out all the stuff the area had to offer.

More apricot mallow.

I found and photographed several bunches of Arizona lupine. Then, as sunset approached, I resolved to capture one of those really amazing Arizona sunsets. You know the ones. Where the clouds cover the sky from horizon to horizon in a brilliant shade of scarlet. Anybody who has spent enough time in Arizona has seen at least one of these fantastic sunsets. I moved closer to US 93 to higher ground and searched for a likely location where I could get foreground, mid-ground and the sky to come together on my photographic canvas.

But I had a couple of problems. First, I could find no foreground features except creosote bush, a spindly, waist or chest high desert shrub that populated my chosen photographic vista. But worse, the clouds refused to cooperate.

Clouds are a must for a truly fine sunset and they will make or break you. This time I got a nice sunset, not a fantastic one. All in all, I was pretty disappointed.

Pink on blue, Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

As darkness began to envelope me I clambered back into the Hill Adventuremobile, my venerable 2003 4WD 4RNR and headed to my inexpensive motel booking at Kingman.


I easily located my motel, the Arizona Inn. My room was simple, clean and comfortable with no frills except the obligatory large-screen, smart TV and WIFI. After depositing my stuff into my room I followed the nice proprietress’s advice and dined at El Palacio Mexican restaurant at the junction of 4th and Andy Devine St.

For those of you too young to remember, Andy Devine was an early TV star of the ‘50s who appeared in that great western, “Wild Bill Hickok.” Andy played Jingles, Bill’s sidekick.

I loved watching that show as a kid. Jingles’ famous tagline, which he yelled at the end of each episode was, “hey, Wild Bill, wait for me.” Old Wild Bill was usually riding off into the sunset at this point.

Now, the real Wild Bill would never have been caught dead or alive with a goofy, chunky chap named Jingles. But Bill was caught dead with aces and eights, the so-called “dead man’s hand” in poker. That occurred in Deadwood City, South Dakota. But that’s another story that others have written.

Yup, this is Jingles's hometown.

After my meal of chiles relleños y dos Negras Modelas, I settled into my room. There I discovered, to my great chagrin, that I had failed to pack other highly important parts of my kit, to wit, my toiletries and all my medications.

I knew I could survive the next 24 hours without my meds. But I needed some basic toiletries. I immediately drove to a nearby gas station with a mini-mart and bought toothbrush and toothpaste.

I settled back into my room now knowing that my only worry was camera battery life.

As I would discover on St. Patty’s Day, this corner of Arizona – Mohave County to be specific -- contained spectacular geological, botanical, historical and just plain quirky sights to see. Neat.

I awoke on March 17 at 0515. Sunrise was at 0615. I decided to shoot the Santa Fe train station on Andy Devine at first light. Meanwhile, as I awaited an appropriate departure time from my room, I answered and received emails from friends on my trusty, ever-present Mac PowerBook where, by the way, I wrote this piece.

Early morning at the Santa Fe station. That railroad (which never went to Santa Fe) is now the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe. As a 6-year old kid, in the spring of 1953, I rode the Burlington Northern through the northern Rockies between Seattle and Chicago. Now that was a trip!

As things evolved, I discovered much more of photographic interest than the old train station. First there was the old Beale Hotel. The hotel was named for – get this -- the US Navy officer who led the experimental US Army Camel Corps in the 1850s. Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale was quite a guy who accomplished many, many amazing feats during his time on this planet. His life and his most unusual Camel Corps are definitely worth studying. Beale would have graduated from the US Naval Academy (like, ahem, I did) but for one minor, technical detail. The daggone Academy did not even exist! Instead, Beale graduated the Naval School in Philly as a midshipman in 1842. My alma mater was established in 1845.

Yeah, we got air cooled rooms. Just open a window! Does anybody know what air cooled really means? Do they have a swamp cooler, or some such?

The camels were unpopular with army men who favored horses and mules. Plus, the big, ill-tempered beasts scared the crap out of the other four-legged but smaller beasties. But the camels proved to be successful in the desert in terms of being great pack animals possessing excellent endurance.

The rear end of the Beale Hotel.

The Camel Corps might have caught on but for the intervention of the Civil War. The US Government's attention was diverted from the camels and it focused its attention and funding on other, more weighty matters.

The only camel in town that I could find. For the very curious, the red thingy in the beastie's mouth is a metal mail box.

Also of photographic and touristic interest, I found Historic Route 66 reminders; cool, quirky signage; the old Mohave County Courthouse and gaol (woops, I meant to write “jail”) and a funky diner where I ate brekkie.

Historic Italian cypress trees grace the front of the Mohave County Courthouse. Everything around here is historic. And you want history? Stand by for FUNNER historic treats later in this travelogue.
Where's the DeLorean? Where's Michael J. Fox when you really need him? Did old John D. ever get out of jail?
Wow, there are some amazing old car companies here, including one I never heard of, "Overland." I know a tiny bit about La Salle, from TV sitcom, "All in the Family." The "Dingbat," Edith Bunker, used to sing, "gee our old La Salle ran great." When I was engineer officer on the USS Acme (MSO 508) we had twin 12-cylinder Packard engines that drove our reversible propellors. Take it from me. It was a bitch keeping those Packards going.

Kingman was founded in 1882 and named for Lewis Kingman, who surveyed the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad right-of-way between Needles, California and Albuquerque New Mexico. The town began as a simple railroad siding near Beale’s Springs on Beale's Wagon Road, traces of which may still be found nearby.

Ooh! Ooh! I can't wait to do some HISTORIC shopping!
I could live in one of these. And, believe it or not, there's a mo-tel in Williams, between Flagstaff and Kingman, where you can stay in one for one or more nights. It looks identical.
I ate brekkie here.
I had the huevos. The Route 66 artwork is on the passenger door of a restored Chevy truck. Believe me, I rarely pass up a great dessert. According, I am rarely, if ever, stressed.

After breakfast I departed my nice lodgings. As I turned in my room key I told the same nice proprietress about my very pleasant stay.

Yeah, we got guns. And we know how to use ‘em. At least some of us do. So, why not grab your 9-year-old daughter and bring her over to our shooting range? We’ll give her an Uzi. Then we will all have great family fun watching her blow away her shooting instructor. How about that mom and dad? Your 9-year-old is now a cold-blooded killer. Sadly, everybody, my snarky comments are based on a true, Wild-Wild West story from a year or two ago, not too far from Kingman.

I then hit the road, resuming my quest for flora. (I was prepared to shoot fauna too. I had brought along my bazooka, a huge 500 mm lens, with which I get amazing results.)

Historic Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman

After los chiles y las cervezas on Thursday evening, I retired to my cuarto at the Inn. Following my many disappointments at Lake Mead NRA, I had re-examined my game plan therein. I had re-researched the locations of the wildflower fields and found the correct road to explore.

Accurately informed, I proceeded west along the Mother Road towards the town of Oatman, a scant 29 miles from Kingman.

They call Historic Route 66 the “Mother Road.” That plainly begs the question, to wit, what's the “Father Road?” I submit to you it is the equally historic – perhaps even more historic -- US 50 that once upon a time stretched all the way from Ocean City, Maryland to San Francisco. Like US 66, US 50 is, in many places, is now covered over by Interstate Highway.

Blooming yucca along Route 66 in Golden Valley.

US 50 covers, among many other trails, the historic Santa Fe Trail that ran west from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Trail and US 50 overlap until near Bent’s Old Fort at La Junta, Colorado. I enjoy exploring this stretch of road, too, when Barb and I visit Ann, my wonderful 90-plus year-old mother-in-law, who is sharp as a tack and twice as fun as a carousel to be with.

Anyway, getting back to my quest for wildflowers, I proceed from the heights just west of Kingman into Golden Valley. The Black Mountains loomed in the distance, running generally north/south, paralleling the Colorado River. Proceeding upslope on the west side of the valley things began to look really promising. I began seeing nice, roadside displays of brittlebush and a few smaller wildflowers. Yards away from the road I spotted many, many tall yuccas, some blooming in white bunches.

Blooming yucca and Mexican gold poppies, just below and to the west of Sitgreaves Pass.

The Adventuremobile bore me steadily into the Blacks, my anticipation ever increasing. I passed Cool Springs, an ancient Mobil gas station, replete with that wonderful red Pegasus sign. It’s now a charming little gift shop. Later, while heading back towards Kingman, I bought a nice, short-sleeved T, one that was far more comfortable than the long-sleeved one I was then wearing.

Cool Springs is really a cool place to visit.

We (the A-mobile and I) summited at Sitgreaves Pass, whose elevation is a bit over 3500 feet. Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves, a contemporary of E. F. Beale, was a West Point graduate and a member of the Army’s Corps of Topographical Engineers. He led an 1851 expedition down the Zuni River of eastern New Mexico and the lower Colorado River between California and Arizona. His expedition discovered the Wupatki pueblo ruins just northeast of Flagstaff, now a national monument. Continuing west from Wupatki the troops, artists and topographers bypassed Bill Williams Mountain and hit the Colorado near modern-day Bullhead City. From there they followed the river to Fort Yuma and thence to San Diego.

My Adventuremobile points downhill just below Sitgreaves Pass, heading towards Oatman.

Descending Route 66 on the west side of the Blacks, I discovered what I had driven so far to find: Nirvana. Well, if not exactly Nirvana, then huge fields of beautiful, bright-yellow Mexican gold poppies. Wow! Real Mexican gold! Remember Treasure of the Sierra Madre with old Bogie? My gold was better than his. My gold did not cause me to die from dehydration. Are you paying attention, here Rich?

Speaking of gold, on my way west from the pass towards the Valley of the Colorado I passed the Goldroad Mine, an active mining operation. I could tell it was active by the bright, shiny concertina wire topping the lengthy chain-link fence. The wire told all the world, “stay the Hell outta here.”

Mexican gold poppies. These flowers are a sub-species of California poppies, those brilliant orange delights that may be found -- where else -- in California..


From the pass it was 4.5 miles into Oatman, the weirdest, funkiest, funnest town between Kingman and Barstow, California. And yes, I know about Calico, California, where, last I heard, Ginger Baker (from Clapton's Band, "Cream") made his abode. Oatman is waaaaaay cooler.

Now, in Flagstaff we love Route 66. In Kingman you can never forget that you are on or near the Mother Road. But Oatman absolutely worships that path or, what I think Oatmanians have turned it into, The Weird Way!

Come on in, we got it all here. From desert tortoises to ugly Ts to whatever. And didn't Marshal Tucker have a band? That guy really gets around.

One must see this place to believe and appreciate it. There is but one paved street in and through town. Guess what its name is? If you said “Route 66,” you would be right. If you said, "Main Street," you'd be right, too. Apparently, the guys who named the street lacked imagination. It would have been far neater to have named it "Mother Road." Now that name has bit of character.

You bet your sweet ass I did!

I have never seen so many kitschy and cheesy souvenir shops crammed into the equivalent of one-and-a-half city blocks since I was born. The shops are stuffed with mass-produced junk, 99.9% of it manufactured in the People’s Republic of China. I do admit, however, to falling in love with a buxom, sheet metal Vargas girl manipulating a small gentleman puppet on a string dressed in top hat and tails. I was sore tempted to lay out the $9.99 plus tax for this reminder of my Playboy Magazine fueled youth. But Barb would have killed me.

This guy is probably a repro. Still, unless you are a Native American, it's fun to see this stuff.

One aspect of the for-sale crap that horrified me was the open, blatant sale of switchblade knives and brass knuckles. I found this practice immoral and abhorrent. I was absolutely disgusted. Where were the slimjims and the garrotes? But this is Arizona, for better and for worse. This was the worst.

There are a few nice shops in this vahhhst (vast) pot of fondue de queso. I found a couple of art galleries and one, in particular, where I was tempted to purchase a couple of baubles for Barb. Also, the Oatman Hotel sports a fine saloon and ice cream counter. Supposedly, Clark Gable and Betty Lombard spent their honeymoon at this establishment. Gable frequented the place after their marriage and played lots of poker with the locals.

So you see, there is some pretty good stuff in old Oatman. But are you sitting down for this next one? The oddest facet in this little jewel of a burg is the wild burros. These diminutive equines actually roam freely up and down the street.

We have elk and deer signs where I live.

How can this be, you may ask. Well, I will tell you how it be. And it’s a tad complicated. First and foremost, the fine citizenry here permit the burros. Second, many shops sell to the turistas the finest burro food money can buy, thus enticing the animals to come and feed. Third, these burros are descendants of the ones that the miners and prospectors used in these parts from the mid 1800s into the early 1900s. Oatman is their natural home, much as your neighborhood park is home to squirrels and songbirds. Does that seem weird? Well, if you actually think doubt it, it shouldn't.

This stallion is not posing. Rather, he's scratching. And he's only one of many, many burro sheet factories here in Oatman.

The burros seem friendly, may be petted and fed, and may wish to nuzzle you like a horse does. But they do kick and bite, too. After all, they are wild. Being amongst these critters reminded me of a hilarious joke told me many moons ago by long-time friend Ginger. It’s about a meeting of dos hombres on the trail, dos pistolas, and a chap named Juan Pedro who, ultimately, must eat the burro sheet.

Genu-wine, authentic burro sheet. This pile is far too dried out for my upscale tastes. Juan Pedro and I prefer the very dark, freshly pooped nuggets.

Olive Ann Oatman is the town’s posthumous namesake. Olive and her family were Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois who splintered from Brigham Young’s emigrants and, instead, traveled into Arizona towards California. Fourteen-year-old Olive and her younger sister were captured and enslaved when Western Yavapai Indians massacred her family. After enduring a year of slavery the two girls were bartered to Mohave Indians who adopted them into their tribe and treated them as family.

The Mohave gave Olive the clan name, “Oach,” but her nickname was “Spantsa,” meaning "rotten womb." You couldn’t get me to touch that one on a dare. Both girls were tattooed on their chins and arms by the Mohave, a recognition of their being tribal members. Olive stayed with the Mohave for five years. During that time her sister died.

Gold was first discovered in the Blacks in 1863, and one really sizeable strike brought great prosperity to the area. Oatman has never been incorporated despite being a boomtown in the early 1900s.

I was certainly a snob in high school. Quarterback on the football team, dating the best-looking cheerleader, cool man on campus, admitted to the US Naval Academy. The whole bit. My family and current friends tell me that these days that I am no such thing. How can that be?

After wandering the street and slurping up the sights and sounds, including a high-noon gunfight in front of the hotel, I decided it was lunchtime. Lunch was a root beer float at the hotel. Yum!

The Elephant's Tooth, framed by the brilliant yellow blossoms of a creosote bush.

After lunch I hung around Oatman a bit longer until I was confident the sun would properly illuminate the west-facing slopes below Sitgreaves Pass. I needed to assure myself that my poppy field images would be to my liking. Then I hit the slopes and nailed what I believe are some really nice shots. I have posted a few here. Let’s see if you like them, too.

The landscape between Oatman and Sitgreaves Pass.
A slope covered in Mexican gold poppies between Oatman and Sitgreaves Pass.


Once I competed my photography I decided I had time to go explore the “ghost town” of Chloride and still get back to Flagstaff that night. Chloride lies about 27 Phantom-jet miles to the northeast of Sitgreaves Pass. I would have to backtrack through Kingman, but that was OK. I’d be able to use the free WIFI at the train station to send some emails.

I reached the ghost town in late afternoon. I use the term, “ghost town,” advisedly because a whole lotta folks actually live here. If you want to see a real ghost town, go to Rhyolite, Nevada, which Bro Brian and I explored years ago.

I had only a few daylight hours left for any productive photography. I did not waste it.

Yes, it was.

My first Chloride stop was the “Tourist Center.” This place was more “Mineshaft Market” than “Tourist Center.” And I desperately had to pee. So I used my age-old ploy. I went into the market and I purchased a bottle of “Route 66 Root Beer,” and asked to use their head. Then, feeling much relieved, I got my much-needed tourist info.

They make this stuff in Chicago, which, if you think about it, is quite fitting. The Mother Road starts in Chicago. I think I paid about two bucks a bottle for this tasty stuff. The helpful lady told me they get at least twice that much up at the Hualapai Tribe's Skywalk. That Skywalk is really a disaster for the tribe, and even if it were not, I would not be caught dead visiting that tourist trap.

I enjoyed the Route 66 Root Beer so much that I went and bought four more: two more for me and two for Barb. Shortly thereafter, I learn that Barb dislikes root beer. Say what? Ann, did you know that? Is it genetic? Maggie, Bob and Sandy, do you hate the stuff too? I have known the Beautiful, Brilliant Barbara since 1965 and this is this first time I heard as a certainty that she won't drink the stuff. Well, it's her loss. Twice as much for me. I might just order a case of this stuff, it's so good.

The helpful lady behind the counter whipped out and marked up in bright pink, a sketchy map of Chloride. She pointed out the locations of the rock art in the hills just above town, the main drag, the gaol (daggone it, I went and did it again!), the train station, the cemetery and the old First Baptist Church. I went to each in that order.

The nice lady also told me that to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a whole bunch of party animals had come down from Las Vegas for the big (?) Chloride St. Pat’s Parade the next day. These animals (who were mostly my age and older) drove down in about a dozen beautifully restored Ford model Ts.

The owner of this car, obviously Irish, knows how to memorialize all thing Irish, especially Patty's Day. I'd love to own this antique, but probably couldn't even afford the spare. The front plate bearing the name, "Roosevelt," is a nice touch. I am guessing it refers to TR, not FDR, given the vintage of the car.

In the 1840s prospectors found silver, gold, lead, zinc and turquoise in the Cerbat Mountains above town. Chloride was founded about 1863, but mining was not widespread until a treaty could be signed with the Hualapai Indians. An ore-carrying line, the Arizona and Utah Railway, ran between Chloride and Kingman.

Now, I am a huge fan of Paleo-Indian sites and their rock art. So it was with great anticipation that I headed to the hills to see the local rock art. What I discovered bore no resemblance to any rock art that I had ever seen. The only other thing I will say about it is this: look at my photos and then make your own judgments about the nature and quality of this rock art.

Rock Art # 1. I wonder if the old mining town really looked like that. Probably. I bet the artist drew inspiration from an old photo.
Rock Art # 2. Interesting. But what the hell's going on?
Rock Art # 3. I think I get what the artist is saying here.

I made the obligatory shot of the main drag and moments later discovered that the gaol was an utter disappointment; it was nowhere near photo worthy. The train station was better, but it was rather hard to fathom a one-time, bustling train station here. I made one snap. Then I scoped out the cemetery, which I found to be too modern to be of any interest to me, photographically speaking.

Chloride's main drag, with post office on the left.
The old Arizona and Utah Railway Station. Ore from this spot was carried to Kingman and then to wherever for processing. The Santa Fe Station at Kingman is much more photogenic.

By this time I was thinking I needed to eat a bite. I popped into a local saloon called “Yesterdays.” When I placed an order for a chef’s salad, little did I know the party was just getting started.

While eating my salad a tall, stately man dressed all in black (leather hat, leather boots, leather jacket, leather jeans) except for a bright, Kelly-green T-shirt under his jacket, got up on stage and began to sing. He wore his silver hair and elegant silver mustachio neatly groomed. His first number was that great 50s tune “Kansas City,” written by the fabulous songwriting duo, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Given my age (early 70s) the version I remember is the one from the movie, American Graffiti, sung by Wilbert Harrison. Mr. Black-and-Green followed up with a George Strait number that I recognized but whose name I still cannot not recall. Then he did the Righteous Brothers’ version of “Unchained Melody.” And I was in big trouble.

I do believe this is the only church in town.

Back at USNA when Barb and I were dating, there was one night when we played that song over and over while dancing the night away. Immediately I wrote an email to Barb, told her where I was, that the singer was dong “Unchained Melody,” and did she want to dance. And then I started crying tears of great joy and happiness and also great sadness that, nearly 50 years later, she and I could not be together to do a re-run. Whew! Intense!

I could talk in some detail about the two more sets of live entertainment from Mr. Black-and-Green and his musical sidekick, Mr. Fantastic Silver Muttonchops, both of whom sang tunes from the 50s and 60s. But I won’t. It’s time to wind down this diminutive novella and put it to bed.

Ya gotta love these old, well-preserved gas stations. If you ever saw "Easy Rider," you might have noticed that one of the scenes along Historic Route 66 is a gas station of the same vintage. It's in Bellemont, about five miles west of my house in Flagstaff.


My two-plus hour trip home to Flag was uneventful as far as telling the A-mobile where to go. In other words, it was a piece of cake to drive south on 93, then east on I-40. But my head was someplace else. The old noggin was crammed with visions, sounds and smells from my 30-hour whirlwind high deserts tour of The Arid Zone’s northwest corner.

We all have limited time on this blue orb as it moves about the sun. And the crazy press of our daily lives can be intense. But if you ever have an open day or two in your busy schedule and happen to travel between Flagstaff and Barstow in this part of the Zone, you owe it to yourself to explore this 600-square-mile rectangle of rugged mountains and deserts cloaked in exotic, sometimes colorful vegetation. I guarantee you will have a blast.

Post Epilogue

Eight days later I was visiting a friend at Pauma Valley, California, where I found myself photographing these California poppies. I think you will be able to see the marked difference between the California species and the Mexican sub-species.

California poppies, Pauma Valley.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find wonderful poppy displays in PV like those near Oatman. But I did enjoy some spectacular shots that my friend, Bruce, sent me from the high desert in the Lancaster/Palmdale area. Sure wish I had gotten there.

I am not an entomologist, but I do believe that little critter atop the poppy is some species of stinkbug.

Sayeth Juan Pedro, "el fin!"

Should we name him "Juan Pedro," after you-know-who?

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