Dear Governor Ducey,
The city called. After my last letter about getting lost in Picture Canyon, my editor at Flag Live said someone from the city was trying to reach me. I knew I was in trouble. I imagined they were going to say, “Nicole. Please stop saying bad things about city property. We need good support for our city, not your complaining ways.” But that isn’t what they said! They were worried! “We are getting new signs in just a couple weeks. We know it can be confusing.”
What’s this? They didn’t blame me for not checking my compass better? They didn’t tease me for my lack of bad-sign reading ways? Thank you, City of Flagstaff, for worrying about me.
I was so grateful that I took my kids out to the canyon. I was going to try this again. We parked in the shade, got out of the car. I told them to look around. It was 9:00 a.m.
“Which was is east?” They each pointed to the sun.
“Which way is west?”
Zoe, ten, sang her “Never Eat Soggy Waffles song. I sang my Never Eat Slimy Worms song. Max, six, said, “What waffles? Are we having waffles? I don’t like worms.”
Zoe and I looked at each other. We’d keep an eye on Max and his directional ways.
I showed them my iPhone compass and said, “This is a good tool but batteries run out. It’s probably better to have a real phone but today, we aren’t going to leave the river, so it will be hard to get lost.”
We walked to the sign that said, “You are here” which pointed out the water treatment plant was to the right and the outdoor classroom was just a few feet ahead. This is the exact same sign on the other side of the trail that reads “you are here” in the same spot. This news, combined with the kind call from the city, made me think really that maybe I wasn’t an idiot. All the more confidence to march on! The kids complained a little about the smell from the water treatment plant but I told them how hard the city worked to make the water as clean as possible, raking the solids, aerating the fluids, mixing good microbes in with the bad to do what rocks and silt and clouds do. By the time we made it to the first bridge, the smell had abated and the water looked as clear as a bell.
We looked at another sign that read, 1.0 mile to Arizona Trail. “Oh, that’s where I went wrong too. I thought the whole loop was one mile.”
“We were just on the Arizona Trail,” Zoe reminded me. Her museum of Northern Arizona camp this year was called Climate Games. They measured bugs and carbon output and miles of AZ trail.
“It goes all the way from Mexico to Utah,” I told Max who may not know.
“We just got back from Mexico. And we’re going to Utah. But I don’t want to walk there,” he said.
“No. I don’t so much either.”
“How long would that take?” Zoe asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe fifteen days? If you walked ten miles a day. Almost as long as I got lost last time.”
“Well, and last time it rained.”
It was too early for monsoon and the storms seemed to have abandon us this week. We hiked along the trail, looked at the waterfall, and then, instead of following the Arizona Trail/Loop signs, we turned down a small path the followed along the river. I told the kids to note how Mount Elden was now to our right, the river to our left. They got it. We saw a huge hawk washing himself in the river. The hide of a deer that might have gotten caught on a fence. We hiked up toward the rocks where we found the thing I had been looking for the week before: spiral petroglyphs. Max and Zoe climbed through yucca and sticky thorns to see them. Scratched but satisfied, we climbed up the rest of the hill and followed a path above the river back to the car.
The happy news is that you can re-do most everything. If you make a mistake, like taking 100 million dollars from the Higher Ed budget, you can undo that. Flagstaff has continaully worked to improve Picture Canyon that they recently won the Governor's 2016 Archaeology Commission Award. The award recognizes the work done to protect, preserve and interpret resources within the Picture Canyon National and Cultural Preserve. Even you reward revision and revamping. There is nothing stopping anyone from rethinking past thoughts and revising past ideas. Thanks to the city, and my intrepid kids, I now think Picture Canyon is pretty awesome.