After the Wallow Fire occurred earlier this year, a lot of the forest is toast but there are areas that had a low burn or were untouched. In many of the burned spots, you can see young aspen and oak coming up through the ashes.

Steeple Mesa Trail #65:   The Wallow fire did some damage on this trail but most of the aspen survived and are at peak color now. You will need to hike over or around some fallen trees. Trailhead is first left just south of Hannagan Meadow.

Greens Peak FR 117:   Now Arizona’s premiere aspen area after the Wallow Fire, the large groves of old growth aspen are now at peak. Take FR 117 north of Sunrise Lake. Also try FR 117A and FR 61 for best color

 

Wild geranium. Canon 5DMII, 100mm macro, ISO 400, f/5.6 @ 1/200 s.

When Paul and I decided to pursue this book idea last spring (more on that story in an upcoming blog post), we knew it was going to take combining our different skills to get the book completed.  Since then, we’ve “divided and conquered.”  Paul is responsible for most of the photography and all of the graphic design for the book, while I’m doing some of the photography and all of the writing.

Over the past week, Paul has been finishing the last round of edits to the maps, photos, and layout, while I’ve spent my time finalizing and “fact-checking” all of the different flowers, directions, and photographic instruction we provide in the book.  I had a handful of little details I wanted to check out in the field before we started our final edits, particularly the impact of the Wallow Fire, Arizona’s largest wildfire in history.

We’ve tracked this massive wildfire closely since it started in late May, as two of our favorite locations featured in the book – Hannagan Meadow and the Thompson Trail – fell within the burn area boundary.  Last Monday, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest started opening large chunks of the forest, giving us the chance to confirm before the book went to print whether or not these areas had burned.

I left at “0-dark-thirty” on Wednesday morning with my “assistant,” my wonderful mother, Jacque, and headed towards the White Mountains.  En route, we made a quick stop at Black Canyon Lake, where we were delighted to see a healthy mix of monsoon blooms such as wild geranium, yellow hairy aster, penstemon, Hooker’s evening primrose, and western dayflower along its shores.

Before traveling on to Hannagan Meadow, I joined a very special group of people who can say they’ve been locked in a porta-potty!   I spent about 10 minutes (felt like two hours) in the smelly confines of the primitive john, banging on the plastic walls and yelling for help until one of the fisherman nearby came to my rescue.  “Jam the handle up hard and all the way to the right,” he suggested calmly – a handy tip just in case you decide to visit the lake and nature calls.

Western sneezeweed sits on the edge of the burn area of the Wallow Fire a few miles north of Hannagan Meadow. Canon 5DMII, 16-35mm @ 19mm, ISO 400, f/20 @1/40 s.

After a quick spin through Overgaard to check on the common sunflowers (not much going on there right now), we finally made it to Hannagan Meadow.  Though the wildfire burned nearly 540,000 acres across the White Mountains, this idyllic place remained completely unscathed!

The Thompson Trail near Big Lake didn’t fare as well but wasn’t in as bad of shape as we had feared.  The creek bed of the West Fork of the Black River near the trailhead was predominantly untouched, save for the ridgelines above the trail.  As the forest regenerates over the next two to three years, disturbance wildflowers like lupine and fireweed will grow abundantly in the nutrient rich soil next to the western sneezeweed and aspen fleabane you see there now.  In other words, an amazing place to photograph flowers is only going to get better!

Rocky Mountain Beeplant near Flagstaff. Canon 5DMII, 24-105mm @ 90mm, ISO 1250 (windy and captured after sundown), f/18 @ 1/15 s.

With the majority of my work done early Thursday morning, my mom and I agreed we would drive as far west as we could to escape the constant downpour and lighting, even hail!  Our aimless wanderings landed us at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon under sunny skies.  Until that evening when we fell asleep to the sounds of crackling thunder and pitter-patter of rain hitting our tent.

The next morning, we toured the areas on the North Rim we recommend in the book, specifically DeMotte Park, Point Imperial, and the road to Cape Royal.  Golden-eye, goldenrod, and Kaibab paintbrush were blooming prolifically along the roads, as patches of skyrockets graced the lush meadows.  Unfortunately, I needed to be home by Friday evening, otherwise I would have stayed another week to capture the spectacle.

On the way home to Chandler, we made a brief stop at Jacob Lake Inn to stock up on their famous homemade cookies (when I go to heaven, I hope I’m surrounded by piles and piles of “Cookie on a Cloud”…YUM!), and then took a quick spin to Bonito Park near Sunset Crater National Park outside of Flagstaff.  The prairie sunflowers that normally blanket the field need about another week to fully develop, but a bunch of Arizona gilia is growing nicely on the hillside across from the meadow.

After all was said and done, we drove 1,119 in just three days!  Here’s our route:   http://tinyurl.com/WIAAugustRoadtrip.  The key for the various destination shown on the map is as follows:

  • A/G = Chandler
  • B = Overgaard
  • C = Hannagan Meadow
  • D = Thompson Trailhead
  • E = North Rim of the Grand Canyon
  • F = Bonito Park
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