Goin’ Up Turkey Creek To Have A Little Fun

The other day my friend Maggie and I were talking about a video someone had posted on Facebook. The clip showed rushing waters cascading down the rocky bed of Turkey Creek, which drains into the Sulphur Springs Valley from the lofty heights of the Chiricuahua Mountains.

Maggie said “Man, we should go up there before the monsoon rains have drained away! Finner would just love it!” Finner is Maggie’s five-year-old son; she’s a single mom.

Well, I knew that I would just love it too, but the Chiricuahuas are over an hour’s drive away, and such an excursion would cost money, mainly for gas for my truck. But then I’d been wanting to get over there all summer. Those mountain canyons harbor ecosystems quite different from those in the the desert canyons around Bisbee and the lowland Chihuahuan desert scrub habitats with which I am most familiar. It would be cooler in the higher altitudes, and there are Ponderosa Pine and Arizona Cypress groves.

What tipped the balance for me was when Maggie offered to pay part of the gasoline expenses. She also owed me a restaurant meal.

We planned to leave Bisbee at 8:30 Friday morning. I showed up at Maggie’s place a bit early, as it was a sunny morning and I was anxious to get started. Finner was already up and running, but Maggie was still sleeping. I ate some raisin bran with Finner and we went outside, where Finner showed me some gymnastic maneuvers involving a stair railing.

It had been a while since I had driven up into the northern reaches of the Sulphur Springs Valley. We passed many irrigated fields, some circular, and some sort of forage sorghum seemed popular — probably grown for silage. We turned east on another blacktop, and as we neared the foothills of the Chiricuahua Mountains the road turned to dirt. Turkey Creek Road!

We drove to the very end of the road, which has a turnaround loop. Along the way we noticed several small campgrounds and picnic areas along the rocky creek. We drove back, parked, and started walking up the creek. Finner ranged on ahead and before long he was wet all over. Each reach of the creek revealed yet another waterfall with scoured-out pools at the base. We caught up with Finner and due to the noise of the waterfalls and riffles he didn’t know we were watching. A charming sight; Finner was absorbed in play and talked softly to himself.

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The water wasn’t running torrentially, but it made its way downstream briskly.

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A peculiar vegetative mound caught my attention. It was growing from a recently flooded gravel bar, and it looked like some sort of fractal-network dome of lacy leaves.

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The leaves were curiously forked, and close up had an intriguing interlocking pattern:

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A bit later Maggie exclaimed “Look, there’s one with a flower stalk!” The flowers stemming from the low dome of leaves were in white clusters:

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I have not been able to identify this plant yet. Farther upstream clumps of a very ornamental grass began to appear. The oat-like dangling floral structures shimmered and danced in the slightest breeze:

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A waterfall formed by a fallen pine trunk holding back the flow. I’ve seen similar impromptu waterfalls on Nova Scotia streams:

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A species of Columbine with large yellow flowers was hard to resist! Note the insect damage on the petals:

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We came to a large boulder washed by pure water. Maggie said “Finner — get up on that rock so I can take your picture!” He clambered up onto the rock, Maggie shot some photos, and I said “Maggie, why don’t you get up there too, and I’ll take a couple of pix.”

“Oh, no, Larry…”

“Go ahead! It’ll just take a minute!”

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This orange flower looked like an explosion in space, like when an alien spacecraft is hit with a particle beam:

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Sometime Finner would sit on the rocks for a while, seemingly in a contemplative mood. Rather unusual for a five-year-old!

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Finner found a charming little frog and began to carry it with him. He would repeatedly lose the creature and recapture it.

“Mom, can I take this frog home?”

“No, Finner, I think he’d be happier here than at our house.”

Climbing up the rocks, frog in hand:

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I said “Finner, come over here and let me photograph that frog!” He held the frog out and I managed to get only one well-focused shot:

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After another hour of waterfalls and cool new plants, Finner was starting to get tired and a bit fussy. He was doing great for a little guy! He began to rub one of his eyes. “Mom, my eye hurts!”

Maggie squatted down and examined his eye. “I don’t see anything in it!”

Maggie glanced at me, and in an undertone said “Larry, do you think this frog has venom?”

“Naw, I really doubt it! He’s just tired out.”

A few minutes later Finner said “Mom, I think it’s the frog venom which is hurting my eye! It’s getting worse!”

He had overheard Maggie’s comment to me! We tried to allay his fears, and after a while we were back in the truck. Finner’s pain seemed to have subsided.

The long needles of an Apache Pine silhouetted against the sky:

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Earlier in the day, as we drove up Turkey Creek Road, a female wild turkey had crossed the road in front of the truck. Finner was excited to see it. As we drove back down the road on our way back to the highway, Finner said to himself:

“We went to Turkey Creek, and we saw a turkey!”

To a five-year-old many aspects of the world just don’t make sense, but here was a clear logical connection for the boy. That’s why they named it Turkey Creek!

Driving back down through the valley we were surrounded by splendid skyscapes as the sun began to set. I should have shot some photos, but we were hungry and tired. Quite a pleasant adventure, all in all!

Larry

7 comments on “Goin’ Up Turkey Creek To Have A Little Fun

  1. bev says:

    Did you get any other photos of the frog – maybe a dorsal view? I would ID that one as a Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor). Has toe pads, typical colour and mottling, etc.. At first I was thinking it would be too large, but then I realized it was actually probably fairly small as it was being held by a 6 y.o.
    Link to a page about that species:
    http://www.reptilesofaz.org/Turtle-Amphibs-Subpages/h-h-arenicolor.html
    and this photo particularly similar:
    http://www.reptilesofaz.org/Graphics/Turtles-Amphibians/HYLARE-06RDB.jpg

    I’ve spent time around Turkey Creek in the past. Love it in there. Looks like you were there on a nice day when the water was flowing well. I was there in cooler weather in early spring when the snow melt was coming down through there. It was beautiful.

  2. Larry Ayers says:

    Thanks for the links, Bev. Make sure you bring that Arizona reptile and amphibian book down when you come! No, the one shot was the only clear one. The frog was moving, Finner was moving… I was lucky to get one at all!

  3. Larry Ayers says:

    Here’s a quote from one of the the sites Bev linked to:

    “Skin secretions of this frog can irritate eyes and nose.”

    So there really was frog venom! Finner was right!

  4. bev says:

    So, Finner felt some sensation after handling the treefrog? I’m fairly wary of handling amphibians in the southwest and west as they tend to have possess more defense mechanisms – newts, frogs, toads, etc… often have quite toxic secretions.

    I’m not sure if that book is here. I thought it was in one of the boxes out at the cabin, but I will take a look around before I leave here.

  5. Larry Ayers says:

    I edited the post, adding a bit about Finner’s burning eye. I imagine that he rubbed his eye and got some mildly toxic secretion in it.

  6. bev says:

    Interesting. Probably a good thing he had been messing around in the water before touching his eye as the venom was probably greatly diluted by that point. Good to know for the next encounter with an amphibian though. Some of the toads are much more toxic, so it is good to know your species or just avoid handling any. I don’t know my western species well enough to take chances. One time Paul and I moved some newts to safety off a logging road in California. We knew some were toxic, so we moved them using cardboard. Lucky we did as they were one of the pretty toxic species – can’t remember which, but maybe Taricha torosa.

  7. Leslie Fitzgerald says:

    Nice article, Larry! i enjoy the travelogue style with photos as you go, too.

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