Controversial Camelback Mountain Christmas Tree Returns

"Camelback Santa" hands out candy canes near the Camelback Mountain Christmas tree in Phoenix. | Courtesy of Ray Stern, Phoenix New Times

Some call it a holiday tradition. Others say it befouls a city landmark. Yes, that's right: A Christmas tree is back atop Camelback Mountain in Phoenix.

Last year, we told you about the controversy that erupted after hikers hauled a tree to the 2,704-foot summit of Camelback. Shortly thereafter, someone chopped off the top of the tree, sparking a fight between the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, which said it wouldn't allow Christmas trees to be put there, and a group led by the mysterious "Camelback Santa," who urged the city to reconsider.

Eventually, the city permitted a single, undecorated tree to be placed atop Camelback during the holiday season. But that apparently was a one-time permission, and for Camelback Santa and his supporters, a permanent solution has proved elusive, as Ray Stern of the Phoenix New Times reported last week.

The parks department confirmed to Stern that the city's policy of not allowing a Christmas tree remains in effect. But the tree returned to the mountain this year, as Stern found when he climbed Camelback earlier this month. In a combative Facebook Live video, Stern, Camelback Santa and other Camelback climbers argue about the tree. (The language in the video is not safe for most workplaces. Or for children.)

As we did last year, we're going to reserve judgment on the Camelback Mountain Christmas tree — which, as of this writing, is still atop the peak. But what do you think about this practice? Let us know in the comments.

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Now Appearing in the Arizona Highways Gift Shop: Randy Prentice

Randy Prentice and his wife, Diana May, in front of Prentice's work in the Arizona Highways gift shop. | Keith Whitney

A longtime contributor to Arizona Highways is displaying his photographic work in the magazine's gift shop during the holiday season.

Randy Prentice, a Tucson-based photographer, has been shooting professionally since 1986 and contributing to Arizona Highways since the 1990s. His work also has been used in Conde Nast Traveler, Sunset and Natural History magazines; in projects by the National Park Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Western National Parks Association; and in Fodor's travel guides, among other credits.

The photographer's book projects include Desert Rivers: From Lush Headwaters to Sonoran Sands, a collaboration with former Arizona Highways Editor Peter Aleshire.

Prentice specializes in landscape photography and has used both digital cameras and a large-format 4x5 film camera. He's also an accomplished musician and fronts the Randy Prentice Band alongside his wife, Diana May.

You can see Prentice's work and buy prints at the Arizona Highways gift shop, located at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue (near the Arizona State Fairgrounds) in Phoenix. It's open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. A portion of the sale price benefits the magazine's mission of promoting tourism in Arizona.

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Q&A: Cat Bradley on Her Record-Setting Grand Canyon Run

Cat Bradley tackles her rim-to-rim-to-rim run at the Grand Canyon last month. | Courtesy of Cat Bradley

Cat Bradley didn't spend much time taking in the scenery last month at the Grand Canyon. The 25-year-old Colorado ultrarunner achieved a new women's fastest known time for a rim-to-rim-to-rim run in the Canyon, finishing the trek in 7 hours, 52 minutes on Nov. 14. Bradley's time was 23 minutes faster than the previous record, set by Bethany Lewis in 2011.

It took Bradley a few tries to complete the 42-mile run, from the South Rim to the North Rim and back, in record time, but we caught up with her to find out exactly how she did it.

What got you started down the path of trail running in the first place?
I ran in high school and a little bit in college, but in 2011, I took a break from college and decided to hike the Appalachian Trail on a whim. That’s where I fell in love with the outdoors. I had never really camped or anything before. It was grueling and horrible, but also rewarding and wonderful. 

After 115 days on the trail, I went back to school but had been taking a break from running. After graduation, I met Luis Escobar, who is one of the oldest members of the trail-running community, and he took me under his wing. He convinced me that I could pursue trail running. I fell in love with the sport, the community, being outside — it put all the things that I love into one little package.

When did you realize that you wanted to tackle the rim-to-rim-to-rim run?
I first ran the trail with Luis and a group of people — it took us 16 hours to complete it. During the run, he was telling me about how people would go out and set records for this trail. He couldn't fathom how fast people could run the Canyon. He had even been teasing me, saying, “You can’t do that, kid. You’re slow.” And it was pretty much right then and there when I decided to go for it. I’ve done it three times since then.

How did the first two times go?
The first time I attempted to beat the record was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life. I wasn’t properly trained, and was also coming off of bronchitis, but I wanted to go for it anyway. In retrospect, there was no way. It was poor conditions — it was a really hot day. I was not ready mentally or physically. I threw up a lot. I didn’t respect the Canyon for what it was.

The second time I went for it, about two years later, I had quit teaching to be a professional runner. I had some success in races, so I had more reasons to think that I could do it. But it just wasn’t my day. It was another hot day, and I was throwing up again. It was a huge blow to my ego — it had been my only goal all year.

After I went back home to Colorado, I had been researching other races to do, but I realized no race inspired me as much as the Canyon did. So I had booked a three-day trip with my boyfriend and dog to do it again, and I finally got it the third time.

Was it always a goal of yours to beat the previous record set by Bethany Lewis? Or did this happen by coincidence?
It was always the record. The only reason I was in the Canyon was to get the FKT [fastest known time].

How did you train for this run?
The mistake I made for the first attempt was not training for the run. But for the two times after, I did some really specific training. I worked on really long, sustained uphills and really long, sustained downhills — the downhills were very technical.

One day a week I did a road run with a long, sustained climb, at a moderate pace — about 3,000 feet in elevation gain. And then coming downhill, I ran hard to strengthen my quads. Then, every other day, I trained on trails. It was by far the most volume and intensity that I’ve ever had in training.

What challenges did you face?
Nutrition in an ultramarathon is definitely my biggest weakness and was my downfall in the first two attempts. I am notorious for throwing up in a race, and if I start getting sick in a race, I’m done — which is what happened the first two times.

I was able to manage my nausea the third time, but only because I only ate 500 calories over the course of 7 hours, 50 minutes, and 42 miles. You should eat about 1,200 to 1,500, so I was at a huge deficit. I felt so weak during the last climb, but I just didn’t want to throw up, so I sacrificed eating.

What was going through your mind while you were running?
I was extremely focused. I wasn’t thinking about anything else but my goal. I was constantly self-evaluating my state, because it was changing after so many miles — you have to be really in tune with yourself. I was asking myself questions like “How am I feeling?” “Am I dizzy?” “Do my legs hurt?” “How can I address that?” “Am I still using proper mechanics?” It’s constant problem-solving. And that’s why I love it.

When you finished, how did you feel?
Oh, my gosh. It was a wave of so many emotions. That last climb was one of the toughest racing moments of my life. When I got to the top and realized I missed my initial time goal, I was bummed. But as soon as I saw my puppy and my boyfriend, I was so happy. I just couldn’t believe it. I don’t remember this, but my boyfriend, Ryan, said I screamed, “I did it! I did it! I did it!” 

What, or who, is your inspiration?
I have quite a few inspirations, but I’m mostly inspired by young women getting into this sport. It’s so daunting, but I think it’s really important for young women to push themselves like this. I think it’s great that this sport is getting more competitive, because it’s more acceptable for women to say, “Yeah, I can run a trail race, too.”

What is your advice for aspiring trail runners, whether it be competitive or just for sport?
Get out the door, no matter what. It’s so hard sometimes. You get home from work and it’s the last thing you want to do, but you have to do it. You’ll never, ever regret getting out the door.

— Brianna Cossavella

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Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, December 1928

From the issue: "The cover page this month shows the entrance to Coolidge Dam, over Coolidge-Bylas highway. This will be a familiar sight to thousands of tourists who travel through Globe via U.S. Route 180 to view this great feat of engineering." Photographer unknown.

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Krazy for Arizona: George Herriman and Monument Valley

Krazy Kat and friends discuss a Monument Valley landscape. | Illustration by George Herriman | Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art

Monument Valley: the setting for epic films, the subject of breathtaking photographs, the cover of our December 2017 issue ... and the inspiration for a laugh?

Yes, for cartoonist George Herriman, the valley's landscape served as both background and comic fodder for his series Krazy Kat. Herriman drew and authored newspaper funnies from roughly 1901 to 1944, but he's best remembered for Krazy Kat, a strip that starred its carefree namesake feline and Ignatz, an angry mouse prone to hurling projectiles at Krazy Kat’s head. Publishing giant William Randolph Hearst was so enamored of the comic, he provided Herriman a handsome lifetime salary to draw the strip for his newspapers.

In 1905, after paying his dues in New York City, Herriman settled in Southern California. From there, he became a frequent visitor to Arizona, especially Northern Arizona and Monument Valley. The trips soon influenced Krazy Kat, and the strip became populated with towering rock spires, Navajo symbols, the word "Coconino" and long, vanishing horizon lines.

While in Arizona, Herriman often lodged with Louisa and John Wetherill in Kayenta. He joined an impressive list of other well-known guests, such as Zane Grey, Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange, who had stayed there. During one visit, Herriman embellished the Wetherills' guest registry with a drawing of Krazy Kat and a caricature of (presumably) John Wetherill. The text read, in a typical Krazy Kat mash-up of syntax and spelling: "Back again, Hey? Sure, I are, ain't that a hebit among us 'kets.'”

Herriman enjoyed meeting Navajo families and become closely attached to their communities, generously funding the installation of a movie theater for tuberculosis patients in a Kayenta hospital. In return for his companionship and charity, Herriman received a handmade book of photographs by Josef Muench, one of Arizona Highways' earliest contributors, and a rug with “GEO. HERRIMAN” woven in a newspaper's colors of gray, black and white.

Herriman drew Krazy Kat almost to the end of his life. The last strip was published June 25, 1944, only two months after his death. Foreshadowing his passing, the final comic depicts Krazy after being plucked from a lake, either dead or unconscious. With a wink, no doubt, Herriman added a very narrow panel at the bottom with Krazy floating away. Not wanting to be too far from his beloved creation, Herriman requested in his will that his ashes be spread around Monument Valley.

Unlike some strips that outlived their creators, Krazy Kat ceased after Herriman’s death. Hearst felt no one else could continue the series, which was cited as an influence by cartooning legends such as Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Watterson. Fellow mouse cartoonist Walt Disney also acknowledged Herriman’s contribution to the field.

The appeal of Krazy Kat, for those who can decipher the topsy-turvy language, is the cat’s often innocent but astute observations of life. Herriman, when interviewed, said the Arizona landscape was very important to the strip. Sure, he would occasionally go for the sight gag, like Monument Valley’s Mittens clapping, but spend some time savoring the irreverent depictions of mesas and mountains, and you’ll get more than a chuckle out of the strip.

For a quick overview of Herriman’s life, check out the YouTube video on author Michael Tisserand’s website. His book on Herriman, Krazy, was published in 2016.

— Keith Whitney, Art Director

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Q&A: Chris Gall's Year of Arizona Highways Covers

The 2017 Explore Arizona! series began with the Grand Canyon and ended with Monument Valley. | Illustrations by Chris Gall

Tucson-based artist Chris Gall isn’t new to the pages of Arizona Highways. But his work on the magazine's cover? That was new.

Each month this year, subscribers to the magazine were delivered an illustrated cover of one of 12 beloved Arizona locations. Many loved the covers, which now are available as posters and as a postcard set. A few others criticized the lack of photography on the cover, but Gall doesn't seem too concerned. “Arizona Highways will tell you, they have a long history of using artwork, going back to the ’20 and ’30s, so it’s not totally unprecedented,” he says. “It’s a magazine about the beauty of Arizona. Photography is a form of art. So is illustration.”

We asked Gall a few questions about his work for the magazine's 2017 Explore Arizona! series.

What was your inspiration for creating these covers?
I had always been fond of the old travel posters that came out in the 1920s and ’30s. I always thought how great it would be to create a whole series of travel-poster-looking things, that were sort of retro but sort of modern, for the state.

Your illustrations were created from scratch, rather than photo manipulations. What was your process like?
Everybody needs photographs at some point — whether they’re mine or out in the public domain — if you’re trying to draw that something people are going to recognize. I usually drew from many sources. For example, the Grand Canyon. You can’t take a photo of that image that I created, because it doesn’t exist from any one place. I wanted to include the vista, I wanted to include the deep Canyon, I wanted to include a horse trail ... and there is no one place. That’s my job as the illustrator: to take pieces and arrange them compositionally in a way that captures the essence of it.

Once the sketch was decided on, describe your process for creating the illustration.
Using a drawing tablet, I bring the sketches into Photoshop. Getting a sense of my palette first is the most important thing: exactly what color is the sky, that sort of thing. It’s not that different from creating a painting — you’re creating a base layer and adding layers on top. The thing about digital, obviously, is that I can move things around more freely. If I change my mind, I can be wrong with much less consequence, because I can change things color-wise and move objects, something I can’t do in painting, necessarily. For a lot of my fine line work, I create it in Adobe Illustrator and then import and layer into Photoshop.

Generally, how long did each cover take to create?
Every one was different for the research part, and of course, there were a lot of sketches. I’d generate half a dozen different sketches of what I’d primarily focus on, which could take a couple of days. The actual drawing itself, on average, took five days per piece.

What was one of the biggest challenges you encountered while illustrating the covers?
One of the challenges was trying to keep a variety of color palettes and a variety of perspectives: looking down, looking up, looking from far away. It was especially challenging because there are a lot of locations in Arizona that have red rocks, and I think I had three in a row: Sedona, Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly — all of which have reddish rocks in them. That was a big challenge, trying to keep them separate, where I wasn’t using the same reds or the same color palette.

What was it like to see your first cover published?
Great! Especially in the grocery store where it’s sitting out. I worked extra hard on the first one, because I knew the better the first one, the better all of the other ones would have to be, because I’d have to keep that same level of quality the rest of the year.

Your work is on display at ArtsEye Gallery in Tucson through December. What can visitors expect to see?
This time, we thought we would do a retrospective of not just the 12 covers, but other artwork I did for the magazine, as well as artwork that is Western-themed that I had done on my own.

— Kirsten Kraklio

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In Memoriam: Jerry Jacka

Walpi, First Mesa | Jerry Jacka

Jerry Jacka made this photograph of Walpi, on First Mesa, for the September 1980 issue of Arizona Highways. The image was — purely — the result of Jerry’s extraordinary relationship with the Hopi people.

“I contacted the village chief, and he allowed me to take the photograph,” Jerry told us when the image appeared in 100 Greatest Photographs. “I was not allowed to use a tripod. As I was in my vehicle, I rested the camera on the open door and snapped the picture.”

It was — as were all of Jerry’s photographs that both preceded and succeeded Walpi — magic.

“My parents always had the magazine lying around, and I saw one photograph by Ray Manley that just struck me,” he said. “He had shot some Indian artifacts, and there were some artifacts around when I was in high school that I had tried to photograph. I had a dream that one day my images would appear in Arizona Highways.”

It happened in 1958, when a “gosh awful” shot of the Painted Desert Jerry made during his honeymoon with his beloved wife, Lois, appeared in the July issue. In the years since, hundreds of his images have run on the pages of the magazine.

There were photographs of Indian pottery and jewelry, sweeping landscapes of Canyon de Chelly, even more intimate portraits of now-inaccessible destinations on the Navajo Nation, autumn leaves. So much more.

But Jerry Jacka was more than a contributor.  He was a mentor. A storyteller. An artist. A historian. An accordion player. Husband. Father. Grandfather. He was a friend. So many times, he remembered details of Highways’ history that we’d forgotten or never known.

He was a tall man with big hands, a bigger laugh and a giant heart.

Jerry died at his ranch on the Mogollon Rim on Sunday morning.

Lois was there. The people who loved him most were there, too. And, undoubtedly, they will, as will Arizona Highways, preserve his remarkable legacy. 

— Kelly Vaughn, Managing Editor

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Park Service Seeks Public Input on Non-Native Aquatic Species Plan

Humpback chubs, an endangered species, are translocated to Shinumo Creek in Grand Canyon National Park in 2010. | Courtesy of National Park Service

Non-native fish continue to threaten native species in the Grand Canyon area, and the National Park Service is looking for public comment on a plan to manage the situation.

The Park Service hopes to expand its management plan for non-native aquatic species in Grand Canyon National Park, along with the section of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area that's below Glen Canyon Dam. Its expanded management plan and environmental assessment are open for public input through January 5.

An expanded plan is needed, the Park Service says, because of an increase in green sunfish and brown trout, two non-native species, in these areas. Additionally, the agency says, other non-native aquatic species have become an increasing threat to native species since other management plans were completed in 2013 and 2016.

The plan is in the scoping period, meaning this is an opportunity for the public to weigh in early in the planning process. The Park Service will host a webinar November 28 — plus open houses December 6 at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, December 7 in Flagstaff and December 12 in Phoenix — to provide more information on the proposal and solicit feedback.

For more information on the proposal and the public meetings, or to comment electronically, visit this link.

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Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, November 1986

From the issue: "In Arizona, winter vacationers often find it possible — all on the same day — to ski in the magnificent north country, drop down to the desert for a back-country horseback ride, and conclude with a pleasant sail on the calm waters of a sun-bright reservoir." Photos by (top to bottom) Don B. Stevenson, James Tallon and Willard Clay.

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