What I see when I’m at Howard Mesa.
The very first image I created for this site’s rotating headers — in fact, the only image that appeared before I even installed and activated the rotating header feature — is this shot taken from our vacation property at Howard Mesa.
Howard Mesa is about 15 miles north of Williams, AZ. It’s literally a mesa — a flat-topped mountain. The mesa rises about 400 feet above the Colorado Plateau and must have volcanic origins (like the other mesas, mountains, and cindercones in the area) since it’s covered with various types of volcanic rock.
The area was once part of a ranch. The rancher sold out his private property sections to a developer, who cut in roads and surveyed 10-, 36-, and 40-acre lots. They sold the lots to suckers like us. Well, I shouldn’t say we were suckers — the property was all I wanted it to be: remote and peaceful with beautiful views. But a huge number of buyers jumped at the low price tag, hoping to turn a tidy profit in five years. Now about half the lots are back on the market and no one is buying. That could be because there’s no electricity and you have to haul your water in — the water table is supposedly 5,000 to 7,000 feet down.
This photo looks out to the east and the snow-covered San Francisco Peaks, the tallest mountains in Arizona. There’s snow on the peaks for eight to nine months of the year; this photo was taken in the spring of 2005. I think the snow was gone by June that year.
The vegetation you see in the foreground is pinon and juniper pine, along with tall grasses. What you don’t see are the bulldozed trees that the ranchers killed in an attempt to grow more grass for cattle. They did this a long time ago and the land is mostly recovered. But there’s lots of downed trees around, making firewood plentiful and fire hazards during the hot summer months very real.
Our property is only partially developed. We’ve fenced it in so the horses can run free while we’re there. We put in a septic system suitable for a 3-family home. We put a storage shed near the prime building site to provide shelter for us and our building materials. We have drawings for a small two-story home, but we haven’t yet submitted them to the county for approval.
The problem is, although the property is “protected” by CC&Rs (rules that all owners have to abide by), the rules are not preventing certain residents from erecting ugly manufactured buildings, including used double-wide trailers, metal sheds, and shipping containers. Other residents use their property to collect all kinds of junk, which they make no attempt to conceal from the road. This is turning Howard Mesa Ranch into a real eyesore, and limiting property values. Mike and I are hesitant to invest more money on a piece of property that might be one of the few “nice” lots in a sea of trashy homesites. So we’re taking a “wait-and-see” approach to the whole thing.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to “camp” up there during the summer months. It’s much cooler there, at 6700 feet elevation, than it is in Wickenburg.
And I really do enjoy the peace and quiet — while it lasts.