November 5, 2009

Mingus Mountain Prescribed Fire, Prescott National Forest, AZ

Sitting about 4000 feet above the Verde Valley is a long ridge called the Verde Rim that separates the Colorado Plateau from the Sonoran Desert. The deep Verde Valley and the high Verde Rim were created by major tectonic faulting associated with the Basin and Range province eating into the edge of the Colorado Plateau. While the rocks at the bottom of the valley are typical sedimentary rocks, the Verde Rim is made up of metamorphic and igneous rocks high in heavy metals.

This resulted in the area having many mines and mining towns, such as Jerome and Clarkdale, where copper, silver, gold, vanadium, molybdenum, and other ores were harvested. Today, the region still has issues with arsenic in the water supply and the soils of the desert floor are magnetic (I am assuming hematite) as we found out from Hilina's Thomas the Tank Engine when its little magnets got covered in dirt.

The view of the Verde Valley, Sedona Red Rocks, Mogollon Rim, and the San Francisco Peaks Volcanoes from Mingus Mountain on the Verde Rim

Yesterday, we decided to climb to the top of Mingus Mountain, which is over 7700 feet in elevation. It was amazing to think we were at an elevation where glaciers would be in Washington in November and it was nearly 70 degrees up there! It was nice to hike in the Ponderosa pine and Alligator juniper forest, with the beautiful agaves on the forest floor.

Not far away, the U.S. Forest Service was conducting a large prescribed burn, which made for interesting smoke patterns. We had the chance to have a nice conversation with a fire spotter at the fire lookout tower about their activities, how they control it and decide when to end it, and the effects it has on the ecosystems.

Well, one advantage of the smoke in the air is beautiful sunsets!

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