Oil Painting by Frank Dolphin, at Flagstaff Arizona


See Sycamore Trek:

And Coming of Age Memoir:[western%20memoir.%20htm.htm



When several years ago, as I was in the throes of SLE Lupus, my newspaper son, Peter [Mack], asked me,"If you had to choose  between physical health  on the one hand and your thinking and writing ability on the other, which would you take?"  I replied, "My mind always."
And That, I am glad to report, appears to remain quite intact.  So, on that score, I am much more fortunate than many enmeshed in the Systemic Lupus spider-web. And too, given the blunt fact that Lupus is considered "a lethal disease" with no cure yet in sight [and no basically new medicines for the past almost half-century], it's not surprising that the vast majority of Lupus people wind up profoundly depressed.  While conceding that I've had a few jousts in that arena, my basic optimism remains as faithfully with me as my [logical enough under the local social circumstances], loaded revolver.
Unfortunately, for the better part of the last five years, I've been under a kind of house arrest with my physical mobility generally limited to a few rooms here on our upper level.  This is, however, conducive to increasingly depthy thought -- and some often very interesting retrospective analyses of past experiences, and lessons therein.  But I still maintain an essentially futuristic view, [with respect to not only myself but also long-suffering humanity and other life.]
We're still very much in the Save The World Business.  Always will be.
And, I reiterate, though still quite far from being up-to-my-normal-par physically, I remain, as I always do, optimistic.
From a personal  standpoint, I still continue to plan on a several days trek into and through the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area, well to the southwest of Flagstaff, Arizona.  That's my home town, now swollen by incoming population, and a vast far cry from the "small town" of 5,000 in which I grew up.
The Trek depends on my physical health.  And When -- not If -- I do that great journey again, there will be family members with me.
But my most special place on the planet -- the Sycamore Wilderness -- remains very well intact.  Far more than the welcome Federal  wilderness protection it received some decades ago, its security is maintained by its extraordinary geological/geographic ruggedness.  As it cuts down from the high elevations of the Colorado plateau into intermediate and scrub semi-desert, it encompasses almost thirty miles of cliffs and vasty side canyons with their own hidden worlds and a virtually infinite array of Wonders: a wide variety of "animal life," trees of many sorts, ancient Native ruins, enormous and far-reaching white-rock and red-rock vistas, here and there clear springs of mountain-origin water -- and its own Sycamore Creek, cutting ever deeper and deeper with fine artistry as the eons proceed.
I still know of no human being in relatively contemporary times who has traveled the length of the Canyon as did I, myself, as a 21 year old in the spring of 1955.  There has, of course, been some human penetration in several areas but even that has been pretty much on the far lower, more accessible, and less challenging end.  No one else, at least as far as I know, has made the great junket.
One of the Entities much on mind at this point involves Grizzly bears. [A long time ago, a Coconino National Forest service veteran, Bob Legg, originally from the Tennessee mountains, commented to me that, "If there are any dinosaurs left on earth, they're down in Sycamore Canyon."  He, himself, never went all the way In, but his wise words remain with me.]
My own "Coming of Age Bear," shot with my old 30/30 Winchester down in the Canyon when I was an older teen, was an extremely large male black bear.  Its estimated live weight, based on the huge chunks of meat which we packed out and later ate in total, was about 650 pounds.  Its skull, with feathers added I should add, looks down at me from my little office wall at this very moment -- as it always has [with the sole exception of my Army years] wherever I've been.
Like most humans, Grizzlies are fond of beef and mutton.
There aren't supposed to be any Grizzlies left in the Southwest. The "authorities" feel they've been gone from that region -- and even from the Sierra Madre in Mexico -- since shortly before I was born.  In Arizona, the "last Grizzly" was supposed to have been "taken" by the great lion and bear hunter, Benjamin Lilly, in the Blue River/Bear Mountain region [where I was very pleasantly isolated in a 'way up USFS fire lookout in the summer of 1960.] Significantly, Mr Lilly did not claim that his was "the last."  Then the "last" was trapped by a government man on Escudilla Mountain, north of Alpine Arizona and not far from the Bear Mountain region to the south.
Finally, Jack Tooker [with whom my father had some contact when Mr Tooker was living in his older years down in Durango [Mexico], killed the "last Grizzly family" -- male and female and two cubs -- in the upper reaches of Sycamore Canyon.
So the last Southwestern Grizzlies are supposed to be gone, gone forever down the River of No Return, into misty legendry [sort of like Shane riding off into the Tetons -- and probably into Idaho and eventual oblivion -- to the music, "Call of the Far-Away Hills."]
But I know different.
There has recently been widely recognized tangible evidence that Grizzlies are in the rugged mountains -- the San Juans and environs -- in southwestern Colorado in the general Four Corners region.  I have heard reliable reports of Grizzly sign in the Lukachuckai Mountains, just north of Tsaile [Say Lee] in the northeastern portion of Navajo Nation [not all that far from Four Corners.]  For religious reasons, the Navajo themselves do not kill any bears.
And I am quite sure there are Grizzlies in Sycamore.  I have never seen any down in there -- but this is what I have seen, and it is [to any experienced bear hunter ] quite relevant:  During my long, down-in trek in 1955, in one of the most "innard" and remote sections of the pervasively remote Great Canyon Wonder, with deep side canyons aplenty,  I saw extremely large and fairly fresh bear tracks in the mud along Sycamore Creek.  I looked at the Sycamore trees and noted fresh claw marks, at least eight feet up.  None of this fit black bears.  This-all is clear Grizzly sign.
Although I had my trusty 30/30 Winchester in hand, I knew I could never, save in the most critical self-defense situation, kill a Grizzly.
I spent a good while at that Grizzly-sign site.  I checked the mouths of a couple of the vastier side canyons coming down at that point. I think I know the one where the Grizzlies may still be.
And not very far down-canyon from all of that, I heard a crashing in the brush on the other side of Sycamore Creek.  I froze, waited.  It was a huge jet black big-horned Spanish bull -- possibly with a genealogy that went back into the late 1700s and the era of scattered [and now long "lost"] Spanish gold mines.  His right hind leg [as he came toward me] was very badly crippled and there were long claw-mark scars thereon.  He drank from the creek and, when he was finished, I asked "How are you doing, today?"  He looked directly at me for a long moment -- I am sure he'd never seen another human before -- and turned and plunged back into the brush, almost immediately out of sight.
What crippled and scarred this amazing Entity -- huge and tough in its own right? Something with tremendous strength and lusty meat-hunger. Not a black bear, in all likelihood.  Maybe a mountain lion -- but it would have to be a very large one.  The other possibility is obvious -- and, again, I wasn't all that far down the Canyon from the extremely large bear tracks and clawmarks and the large and deep-in-themselves and intriguing side canyons.
So I, at least, know They are down-in-there. Safe. As I've noted, there have been no reports of Grizzlies killed in Arizona since before I hatched. Up here, in Idaho and Montana and Wyoming with Federal protection, Grizzlies are coming back -- and fast.  Ranchers and those who would sacrifice Everything for their personal security, are upset.  But I and many others support the Grizzlies -- and the Timber Wolves as well.
Perhaps, back in the spring of 1955, a Great Grizzly watched the strange sight of a tall and husky kid,  Levi-clad with wide-brimmed hat and logger's boots, and with his pack and bedroll and a rifle, coming down the Canyon.
That was a very long time ago, but that kid -- now grown somewhat older -- just might, sooner or later and joined by some of his own kids and a few grandchildren -- might -- meet some of the comparable descendant family members of those Grizzlies of that spring-time, long ago.

In the mountains of Eastern Idaho
Hunter Bear

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'


Peter Gray Salter [Mack]:

After reading your grizzlies post, it's clear you haven't lost the ability to reason and write. And if we get charged by a griz in Sycamore Canyon, I hope you haven't lost your ability to aim.
(That reminds me of the joke: Two guys were in the wood when a grizzly charged. The first guy started lacing up his sneakers. The second guy said: What are you doing? You know you can't outrun a grizzly bear. The first guy answered: I know. I just have to outrun you.)
A week ago, Hunter and I were biking on some dirt trails in Wilderness Park, an edge-of-town park about a mile wide and seven miles long. About the only real woods near Lincoln. We stumbled across a dead deer tangled in a fallen tree along the trail. It looked like it had broken its rear leg and had languished and died where it fell.
It was a medium-sized buck, four points on each antler. It was pretty fresh; still had most of its fur. And it was clear it was feeding the park -- its stomach cavity was hollowed out and its ribs picked clean.
We decided yesterday to go back and get the antlers. We figured if the deer had been proud of its antlers in life, it wouldn't mind if we gathered them and treasured them after its death. Hunter wanted to make an antler necklace like the one you gave me (the one I used to wear when my elementary school class on Navajo Nation would perform songs in the community).
So we filled a backpack with saws and set out for the park. On the way, we saw a handful of deer paralleling us as we made our way. They'd run alongside and ahead of us in a field, and then wait until we caught up. Then they'd do it again.
We reached the dead deer just as the sun was going down. Jack had joined me and Hunter, and the three of us stood around the deer for several minutes, none of us eager to start cutting antlers off its fur-covered head. Jack suggested we toss tobacco to the four directions. I did, but ultimately all of us reached the conclusion that this just wasn't the right thing to do.
We used the saws - to cut down thick pine boughs to blanket the deer.
I know this is kind of corny, but on the way home, an owl flew to a perch just above us. It looked down and hooted several times. And Hunter and I had the same immediate thought -- that it was talking to us about what we'd done, thanking us.
Later  [Peter]




This is mainly apropos of my just sent Grizzlies post.  Since that began with the 2003 question by my youngest son, Peter, City Editor of Lincoln Journal Star and a key editor generally  for its parent Lee Enterprises, I believe his assessment is well worth noting. [One of his sons is also named Hunter.]  I'm sure he won't mind my passing this just-sent along.
I much value his opinions -- as I do those of our other family members.
I remain a very good rifle shot.
Owls, which we are inclined to like, have good and intelligent minds and large vocabularies.  I believe the perception by Mack and Hunter to be accurate.



Alice Azure:
Thanks for the emails this morning from master story tellers. 

Alice M. Azure
Maryville, IL 62062
David McReynolds:
a wonderful story.

David McReynolds
Sam Friedman:
I found them terrific--although the joke wherein the son implicitly threatened the
father with leaving him behind to be grizzly food may have been a little grizzly...
Martha Elizabeth Ture:
Hey, Hunter,

Just got back from Phoenix, Prescott, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, and surrounds.

Ghastly sprawl everywhere.  Unbelievable.  Even Prescott.  Expensive houses up in the mountains behind Prescott.  But still possible to find some history. See attached photo. . .






Hello Folks,

 A nice piece of writing from my friend Hunter Gray.
Enjoy !
All the best.  Scott



"Thanks for being born, Hunter, and being a good example for us all."  Edward





Well, thanks very much indeed, Edward -- that's about the most personally affirmative word I've gotten today. And I appreciate your reflection on family roots. We hold almost all of ours close to our hearts -- some, of course, just a bit deeper than others.

You may recall from various posts of mine, Joe Janes -- the Easterner. who came to work for the US Forest Service back when I was still growing up, able to work for the outfit simply because officials grinned and looked the other way when any discussion of my real age arose. Joe and I were fellow lookouts, fellow firefighters, and fellow hell-raisers [within the generally accepted Northern Arizona limits.] And we have always remained good friends for sure over the ensuing decades. He and his wife now live in extreme western Washington state after decades of dry-out in the Southwest. Awhile back, aware that he's ten years older than I, and not in good shape heart-wise, I called him and took the opportunity to thank him for helping me "come of age" so to speak.

There was a long pause.

Then he said, thoughtfully -- no doubt recalling some colorful drinking and related episodes : "Well, I hope I was a good influence."

I assured him quite honestly that he was -- and still is. Glad to report he's still much around. Heard from him again, just the other day.

So, Edward, with appreciation I do echo Joe.

All the best - H

[Joe,  who came from Up-State New York and who had fought in the historic Battle of the Bulge, worked for the Coconino and Apache National Forests for many years -- then shifted to the U.S. Park Service, from which he formally retired.  He was a good friend of the Hermits, Dick and Jerry, who lived at the Old Packard Ranch which was not far from the southern entrance to Sycamore Canyon.  H.]




Greetings, Hunter Bear.
There is something I love to see exhibited, it's the clear and unambiguous display of positivism, no dwelling on the negatives of life and living.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts, a pleasure to read and consider.   
Gary C. Matteson


Dear Grandpa,
    I got a couple questions on the Sycamore trek if we go. Would we take the tourist trails or find our own way through? Is there any laws banning firearms there because I wanted to bring my .22 with? About how many days will we be down there? About how far would we go? I'll send a longer email soon.
        QUICK BEAR
Dear Quick Bear:
Very good questions.  Recognizing, of course, that the timing of the Sycamore Trek depends on the condition of my [so-called] health, I do hold to my conviction that It will surely take place -- sooner or later.  And, of course, we all want it sooner! 
We won't be fiddling around with trails -- other than some pure game-trails.
Despite the US Forest Service trail map re Sycamore Wilderness, the very few trails there are indeed very few and could never be tagged conventional "tourist trails."  They are rough, sometimes not more than slightly "glorified" game trails.  And of the few trails there are, almost all involve the upper reaches of the Canyon or the somewhat more accessible far lower end, Sycamore Basin and southward down into the Verde Valley.  Even the vehicle roads that go close to the Canyon at a few spots are rough.
And, of the very  few  trails, they are not at all well traveled, believe me.  Even the somewhat more accessible "lower end" -- the southern end of the Canyon -- sees very few people.  And this certainly holds quite true even for Sycamore Basin.  The vast and extremely rough section of the Canyon that lies north of the Basin [and that's the biggest and longest part of the Real Canyon] sees, I am sure, virtually no one.  Sycamore is really enormous and very, very rugged.  I suspect only a rare person even touches into the Inner Gorge. And, if someone does get 'way down in there, they don't go far.
[As I've said, I know of no contemporary person -- other than myself -- who has gone all the way through Sycamore Canyon.]
There is no reason you couldn't take your rifle.  I plan on packing my 45/70 Marlin lever action and probably my .22 Magnum revolver.
I am giving much thought to our own non-trail routes.
And I will certainly keep you all posted on everything.
Our very best, Quick Bear!
Grandpa [Hunter Bear]




Terrible cold snap, very hard to suffer after several days in the 20s and 30s.
BUT spring weather is only 8 weeks away or so.
QB talks about this Sycamore trip all the time.  Packed and ready to go.
Watched a new version of The Omen.  I enjoy Satan, doing his thing.  I would enjoy having a cup of coffee with him.
Enjoying your new posts.  Those are good topics to address.



Hello Hunter.

It has always been good to be in touch with you.
I learn from your writings, your experiences and your commentary.

BTW. My book was recently sent out for reviews.  One reviewer picked 
up on a reference to your work.  He said I should pay respects to you.
I do.

I am always glad that you are out there.

In solidarity,

Duane Campbell




Hi Mr. Salter,

Your report on the Grizzlies was quite exciting and interesting . Of course , you're the first person to ever tell me about Flagstaff , Az. Before that, I only had heard of Phoenix and Tuscon (smile). I still remember your talking about Flagstaff and some of your adventures
during some of your History classes @ Tougaloo.
Your mind is still tops . Keep on writing .
Love & regards to the rest of the clan.
Mary Ann




Just be sure to have your 45-70 with you in case push comes to dire shove, Hunterbadbear.


Yours, Issodhos




Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'
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See Sycamore Trek:

And Coming of Age Memoir::[western%20memoir.%20htm.htm