Everyone around here is more than ready for spring– tired of seeing snow and of the cold. It may make you feel a teeny bit better to know that even the places like sunny Arizona get their fair share of real wintery weather. The only difference is that most people there make the conscious decision to go towards that kind of weather- for fun. We don’t particularly have that choice in Chicago.
A few months ago we flew out t to Arizona to visit family. Our plans were to get out of Phoenix and head straight up to the mountains to experience winter in the high altitude. Most people found it quite odd that we would leave winter in Chicago, head out to the west where they were enjoying perectly warm weather, only to go directly up to the mountains for more snow and cold weather. I’m not one to enjoy the heat, so for me it made for a nice getaway.
flowers drying naturally out in the wildnerness
I love the mountains and all its serenity. I’m intrigued by the wildlife and botany, some of which is commonly found in the Midwest and others you just can’t find here at home. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a rather flat area and always wondered what it would be like to be surrounded with such an entirely different atmosphere as the mountains out west. Besides, these log cabins look like something straight out of the Smoky Bear cartoons of my childhood.
Front of our Mogollan Cabin
The drive from Phoenix to the mountain resort area of Heber/Overgaard, Arizona is a couple of hours. It’s a scenic drive through the beautiful, mountainous part of Arizona I’d never been to before, though I don’t recommend going at night. The roads are dark, there are few places to stop for gas or lodging and you run the risk of elk crossing the road. Yes, elk. And yes, they are much larger than deer (see photo at bottom).
Stop in Payson midway to break up the trip and the drive doesn’t feel that long at all. It’s also great way to see the rare, real remnants of the Wild West still very much a part of the local tourism culture.
inside our cabin, view from the top floor
Our cabin could sleep five. It was impeccably clean, had a washer and dryer in the bathroom, hot water, a full kitchen and even a fireplace and television. There just wasn’t any more we could ask for. Except for heat, when I think someone blew a fuse at some point during the first night…
pine cones and juniper berries abound just outside our front door
During our stay in late November there wasn’t a whole lot to do in or around the town, but it was perfect for us. We took walks and drove around to other places where we could take long walks. It was incredibly, incredibly quiet. We were alone, except for several cars of what looked like elk hunters- the day after we arrived was the first day of elk hunting season. No wonder we couldn’t find any– they probably all knew what was coming.
majestic birch trees were a rare sight; large pinecones abound in the forest
This plant below was actually at the edge of a cliff, with no railings, of course. I found it intriguing because it’s shaped a bit like a saguaro cactus, but it’s definitely nothing of the sort. The seeds are perfectly saved within the buds and you can even see some colorful petals on the branch on the left side.
This unique flower was situated at the edge of an icy cliff. I loved it’s shape, which is a bit like a saguaro cactus
It was just incredible how things seemed to be preserved by the cold, dry weather in the quiet forest. I can’t describe the tranquility enough and I’m still surprised that we didn’t see any wildlife at all. Supposedly the area has elk, black bear and wild cats, but we saw none of them. None alive, anyways.
Dried pine needles, which were quite sharp
autumn leaves seem to be frozen in time
the snow seemed heavy but rested on the pine tree so gracefully
I made this boquet of local wild flowers just naturally dried by the mountain air
and look who it is- Smokey the Bear….how fun it was to see this in person!
Elk Processing Truck
We tried really hard to see live elk the whole time we were in the Heber/Overgaard area. We even stopped at a local camping store to ask where we had our best chance of finding them in their natural habitat. The woman at the store told us our best chance at the moment would be to either see the stuffed one in the back office (which we did) or to wait for the hunters to come back shortly, though they wouldn’t be bringing any live ones. It was the first day of elk-hunting season and the hunters were already out since quite early that morning. Good thing we’d finished our hike in the forest the day before…
A local elk hunter who was one of the first of the season to bring in his catch
As far as we know, individuals in the area have to have a license to hunt the elk. The meat is not sold in any grocery stores or restaurants, but it can be consumed by the hunters themselves. I found the size of these animals to be fascinating: larger than deer, smaller than caribou or moose, yet massive and impressive in their own right. I wonder what the meat tastes like–and if anyone around the world hunts and slaughters them in a halal way.I’ve tasted deer before, so my guess is that it may be quite similar.
Turns out we have elk right here in the Midwest, too. Parts of Ohio actually advertise their elk preserves on billboards; in Illinois there’s actually a preservation in a town called Elk Grove Village. Now why didn’t we ever think to ask if there were any elk nearby? Even so, they are protected in a preserve, not hunted for meat.
Have you ever eaten elk or any other wild game? What’s it really like?
Heber-Overgaard, AZ 85933