Magazine article Sunset

Near fFagstaff, an Uncivilized Retreat

Magazine article Sunset

Near fFagstaff, an Uncivilized Retreat

Article excerpt

Take a walk on the wild side at Arizona's Hart Prairie Preserve

On a summer morning, we wander a narrow trail through the vast meadow of the Nature Conservancy's Hart Prairie Preserve, near the base of the San Francisco Peaks outside Flagstaff, Arizona. Our volunteer guide stops beside a tree and asks us to guess what animal left tooth marks on the bark high above our heads. City slickers all, we're stumped.

The guide reveals the answer (a porcupine), then asks us to speculate about the grove of aspen trees that ring the boundary of the preserve-the trees' lower limbs look as if they've been pruned. We learn that elk stand on their hind legs to neatly trim the tasty aspen leaves. We're learning to see the forest through new eyes.

A former homestead, the Hart Prairie Preserve was, at various times, a horse ranch, stage stop, and summer retreat. During the 1880s, biologist C. Hart Merriam conducted his pioneering life-- zone studies in the area. …

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