People, Plants, Wildlife – The Spirit of Pine Valley
by Richard Sidy, ©1989 Richard Sidy
The hollow rasp of tires across the cattle guard announces your entrance into Pine Valley. Left three miles behind with your clouds of red dust is the bustling suburban Village of Oak Creek. The slightly rough road through a corridor of national forest, and an old, abandoned range-cattle station makes you wonder if anybody actually lives at the end of Jacks Canyon Road. Crossing the cattle guard ends all doubt as you begin to see houses growing amongst the Pinyon and Juniper, the Mesquite and the high desert grasses.
Pine Valley is a unique community made of unique people, unique vegetation, and unique wildlife all living together in a neighborly fashion.
About a thousand years ago Sinagua Indians made Pine Valley their encampment. Nature provided for their needs a virtual supermarket of food and materials for living. Their presence is still strongly felt as you come across pottery shards, flint-tool chipping areas and broken pieces of grinding stones in your backyard, and appreciate the rich sources of foods the native vegetation produces, now the cornucopia of birds and small mammals.
This natural habitat called “Pine Valley” is actually the fragile meeting place of two vegetation zones: High Desert Grasslands and the Pinyon-Juniper Belt. Thus, within this community is an impressive variety of vegetation, and many separate and merging plant zones. To those who have lived here for some time every species is a special friend with its unique virtues and characteristics — the cacti; the tufts of desert grasses; the spiky yuccas; the sprawling mesquite trees; the thickets of shrub oak, barberry, squawbush and manzanita; the stands of pinyon pine, juniper and Arizona cypress; the cottonwoods, willows and soapberry trees along the washes, and the other innumerable species. These plants delight in their ever-changing colors throughout the seasons, in their marvelous texture and harmony, and they surprise with their endurance through the extremes of searing drought and winter snow. No wonder Pine Valley residents strive to preserve as much of this natural environment as possible.
The people of Pine Valley come from many different backgrounds. Retired people and active children make Pine Valley their home. Whatever their background or age, once in the sphere of the Pine Valley spirit, all become naturalists, develop the “eyes” of artists, and become the tellers of animal and plant lore. Mostly, neighbors meet on their walks. Walking is the greatest passion shared by all. At these encounters “Pine Valley Wisdom” is shared, and it is thus that the history, legends, mores and “survival” tips are passed from resident to resident. An “old-timer” in Pine Valley is someone who has lived here more than five years. Some of our most knowledgeable “old-timers” are the children who have grown up here! Pine Valley is their history. They know all the trails, they know the indian camps and the old homestead sites; they are great trackers and know which berries are good to eat; they know who lives where, they know where to find sea fossil deposits, and they know which lotions repel “no-see-ums.” Pine Valley is interesting, unique individuals of all ages united by their love of this precious environment.
Pine Valley refines the people who come to call it home — some fugitives of a mechanized, fast-paced world, some creative artists, all seekers of peace and natural beauty. There is something humbling about living at the feet of towering red palisades, about hearing the scream of a cougar in the night, about knowing that your mark upon the Pine Valley landscape is a wink in the millennia of its past and future, about watching the great clock of the starry cosmos slowly turning through the seasons. . . . Those who cross the cattle guard, returning home to Pine Valley, each time become infused more and more with its spirit. Seeing the great sandstone statue welcoming them, greeting their neighbors, the plants, animals and people, feeling the presence of ancient human residents and wildlife, Pine Valley people become more a part of this special, timeless world at the end of Jacks Canyon Road.