Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rainy season

I haven't had many updates lately, for a couple of reasons. There have been regular thunderstorms every afternoon. I don't hike when there is lightening around. I don't like hiking in the rain. I really don't want to be out in the dust. I need to get some pictures of the storms, but I never seem to have my camera with me when I see something worth taking a picture of.

The second reason there haven't been many updates is because our internet connection was very flaky. My suspicion is that Cox started doing something that is incompatible with older modems so they can sell a bunch of new ones.

OK, since I don't have anything interesting to say, here are some pictures of a hummingbird moth and clouds at sunset.\


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dad's influence, part 2

A few days ago I wrote about how some of Dad's magazines influenced me. Reading was a normal activity in our family. I remember that Mom and Dad were always reading something when they went to bed at night. There were always books around, and they weren't for decoration. I thought it was normal to read for entertainment. I always read something when I went to bed, too. When I was less than 10, but old enough to read, we had a few comic books around. I didn't like reading them more than once, though. The only magazine we got back then was National Geographic and I at least looked at the pictures and read the captions. Often, though, on my way to bed I would stop at the bookcase in the hallway outside my room. The World Book Encyclopedia was on the bottom shelf. I would pick a letter I hadn't looked at for a while, or one of the yearly updates we also got. I would read some entries but most seemed pretty dry to me. I did absorb a lot. How many 8 year olds know who Nikita Kruschev is? I did. How many know what a hologram is? I did, even though I didn't have a source of coherent light with which to view the hologram that came in one of the yearbooks. I knew what the letters in LASER stood for. I guess I was one of the original uber geeks. I didn't know it, though. I was always surprised when one of my friends didn't know something that I thought was common knowledge. I didn't say anything about it, though, because I didn't want to embarrass them about their ignorance.

I remember going into my parents closet once and discovering a treasure trove of National Geographics; issues they had gotten before I could read, even before I was born! I spent hours on the floor of the closet, looking through those magazines. At times I felt overwhelmed, thinking I would never be able to look at them all. Then one day, in the back of the closet, I discovered two more huge stacks. They weren't National Geographics, though. Same size and shape. I think they might have even been yellow. No picture on the front, though, just lots of words. I can't remember the title, but it was something like "Geophysical Review". I know now that it was a technical journal, with papers written by researchers. Those magazines contained cutting edge information on geophysics. I didn't know that then, though. I knew they didn't have many pictures, and the pictures they did have were not very interesting, but I doggedly pushed my way through 10 or 20 issues. I didn't read much. Too many big words. I tried to understand the graphs, and was able to make sense of some of them. (In college, I was astonished to encounter people that couldn't understand simple graphs. Didn't they have anything besides comic books to read when they were kids???) I did read enough to realize that a lot of the articles discussed plate tectonics or continental drift. So I knew what those terms meant long before most people had ever heard them. Why am I not a geophysicist? Well, most of those articles were very boring. That and Dad discouraged us kids from having anything to do with the volatile petroleum industry. I got involved in semiconductor electronics instead. Ha ha! Talk about ups and downs.

Anyway, because of the example that Dad set, I've always had a thirst for knowledge. I've accumulated quite a bit of it, and some of it is even useful sometimes. It's very rare that I look at something and wonder how it works or what processes led to its existence. Thanks to Dad, I understand the world in which I live.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Fizzled storms

Date: July 23, 2007
Time and Temperature: Start - 1740, 87
End - 1800, 87
Location: First Water Creek overlook trail
The numbers:
12 Pictures taken
4 Really big storm clouds
1 Haboob observed
0 Raindrops on my windshield or body.

Ramblings: This afternoon there were storms popping up to the north, east, and south. Big storms, growing quickly into huge thunderheads. The wind was blowing, too. I just knew we were going to get some rain. Lindsey and I went out towards Canyon Lake. It was very dark over there and I thought we might be stopped by flooded dips. We weren't, though, and when we got there we could tell it had just rained, but it was very calm and quiet and humid. We walked a short way down the First Water Creek overlook trail and saw some puddles. Didn't hear any thunder. By the time we got back to town, it looked like all the storms were fizzling out. Rats.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Date: July 22, 2007
Time and Temperature: Start - 1640, 98
End - 1824, 91
Location: Just off of NF-80, between Tortilla Flat and Apache Lake
Distance hiked: About a mile
Elevation change: I'm guessing about 250 feet.
The numbers:
71 Pictures taken
1 Movie made
9 Millipedes spotted crossing the road
1 Pregnant woman standing beside the road in the middle of nowhere
1 Pair of scissors found in the desert.

Ramblings: Ninety-eight doesn't sound as hot as 105, but it felt worse to me. It was that low because of the humidity. I got soaked. I sat in the shade for 15 minutes to cool off and was still wet when I got up. The nice thing about the humidity, though, is the pretty clouds. I didn't get any really good pictures of them, though. In fact, after going through all the pictures twice to select which ones to put on the web album, I only had one selected. I went ahead and stuck some more on there, though.

Termites were swarming. I took a few pictures of them. No good ones. I saw a beetle out there I hadn't seen before. It wouldn't be still. All the pictures of it are blurred. I didn't get any pictures of the millipedes because I was driving when I saw them.

I thought I could see the Fish Creek Hill rest stop from where I was, so I drove over there after my hike to see what the place where I hiked looked like from the rest stop. It looked boring, but the view from up there was great. On the way back, about half a mile before I got to the paved part of the road, I saw a pregnant woman standing beside the road. She was looking back towards Fish Creek Hill as if she was waiting for somebody to show up. She didn't seem to be in distress so I didn't bug her. There was a lot of traffic on the road so she could have gotten a ride if she needed it. I saw what was probably her van parked where the pavements ends.

Two of the pictures were taken at Fish Creek Hill. Whoever can tell me which two wins a prize.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dad's influence, part 1

For the past couple of weeks, I've been thinking about how my Dad influenced my life. I think the most obvious thing might be my hobby, photography. When I was about 10, we moved to England and he bought a camera, a Zeiss Icon. He also subscribed to photography magazines. I was always looking for something to read, so I read those magazines. OK, I also looked at the pictures of scantily clad women, but I read about photography techniques and f-stops and shutter speeds and composition and all that stuff. Maybe that's why so few of my pictures consist of a group of people standing together smiling at a camera.

When I was 15, I had one of those cameras that you load a cassette of film into and take a picture and pull the film out and it develops in 60 seconds. One day I put one of my model cars (that had lots of "chrome") on top of a toaster oven and used up an entire package of film (probably $12 worth) trying to get a picture that looked decent. By having the camera close to the subject, the picture was guaranteed to be blurry. I was counting on that to hide the fact that it was just a model car. Unfortunately, I used up almost all of the film before I realized that the view finder didn't have the same view as the lens (unlike Dad's SLR) and so that's why all my pictures were offset. The last one was a lot better than the first, but none were very good. Anyway, Dad walked in to see what I was up to. I knew I was going to get yelled at for wasting all that film. Instead, he looked at the pictures for a few seconds, listened to my explanation of why most of them weren't centered, and walked out my room as if he were on his way to the next exhibit in a museum. Thinking back on it now, I bet that he was on his way to my sister's room and he was probably thinking that he was on his way to the next patient in a nut house.

When I was almost 30, Dad bought another camera (Pentax, I think) and gave me his Zeiss. I was thrilled. A real camera! The built in light meter was broken so I had to use an external, hand held meter. At first I was embarrassed to be using a hand held light meter, but I quickly learned that people thought I was some sort of pro because of that. I used black and white film for a long time and experimented with f-stops and shutter speeds and composition and all that stuff. I had a lot of fun and I still enjoy looking through that first album. I used that camera until we moved to Arizona (about 20 years).

There is so much to take pictures of in Arizona, at least in my opinion. I'm on my second digital camera now and at last count had over 16,000 pictures on my computer. I use the slide show screen saver and sometimes I sit in front of the computer for several minutes watching the pictures before I use the computer. I really enjoy this hobby, and I hope a few other people enjoy my pictures, too. Thank you, Dad.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Canyon Lake sunset

Date: July 16, 2007
Time and Temperature: Start - 1810, 104
End - 2040, much cooler
Location: Apache Trail, near Canyon Lake
Distance hiked: About 300 feet
Elevation change: About 40 feet
The numbers:
56 Pictures taken
8 Vultures seen at one time
1 Totally awesome sunset

Ramblings: The storm clouds surrounded the valley after work today, and were closer than yesterday. Lindsey and I went out to Canyon Lake to see if we could find anything interesting. We found an awesome sunset. The clouds always look so cool around here during the monsoon rains. They also look cool in the "winter", and during spring. There aren't any clouds in June. I'm getting off track here.

I parked at the high point of the road, between the lake and Tortilla Flat, and we scrambled up a hill for a better view. It was indescribable, and my puny pictures don't even come close to capturing it. Since I can't describe it, I'll quit talking about it now.

On the way home, while we were still on the twisty mountain roads, the wind and dust hit. The mountains looked foreboding and ominous shrouded in dust. Too bad for you it was too dark for pictures. It looked like there was lightening near the house and we got rained on (just enough to make the dust stick) on the way home. Another spectacular evening in the desert.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

A grainy day

That's right; grainy. Explanation below.

Voting has begun on the new format, and so far 100% are for it. Even Ronald Reagan didn't do that good.

Date: July 14, 2007
Time and temperature: Start - 18:36, 102
End - ~20:00, 98
Location: Bulldog Canyon. Here's a link to an old map (with old pictures) of the area.
Distance hiked: About a mile, round trip.
Elevation change: About 200 feet.
The numbers:
0 Can collected (but I saw two)
1 Plastic WalMart bag collected
0 Cactus thorns collected with the bag
0 Deer seen

Ramblings: Remember the picture of the owl from a couple of days ago? I set the "film speed" (I don't know why digital cameras have a film speed setting) to 800 to get that picture. I forgot to set it back to 80, so all the pictures I took on this hike are very grainy. Strangely, the files are larger than usual. I guess it takes a lot of bits to store that graininess info.

I spent most of yesterday playing Halo. I looked outside around 5:30 and thought the clouds looked good for a pretty sunset. Also, my legs felt strange from sitting at the computer so long, so I headed for Bulldog Canyon. I hiked to the top of Spooky Hill (next to Spooky Canyon, a previous post), which turns out to be a good spot from which to photograph sunsets. I also wanted to watch for deer passing by on their way to or from the Salt River, but I didn't see any. In fact, I only saw a few birds. I did hear coyotes in the distance. I also thought I heard a guy talking. I heard that last time I was up there and decided it was just flies buzzing. The voice always comes from the same direction. It could be people riding horses on the trail around Lone/One Mountain. There were people on horses out there somewhere. In fact, some peabrained moronic knucklehead parked his truck and horse trailer right in front of the Blue Point gate. I managed to squeeze by, but a Hummer wouldn't have fit. I bet some desert tour drivers were highly pissed.

Another reason I wanted to be on Spooky Hill at sunset was to watch for deer. There is a heavily traveled deer trail on one side and a not so heavily traveled one on the other side. I didn't see any deer, though.

About those two cans I didn't collect: They are at the top of Spooky Hill, on a gravely slope over a cliff. If I slipped trying to get the cans I could go over the cliff, and then who would update my blog?


Friday, July 13, 2007

New format

I thought I would try a standardized (my standard) format for my hiking blogs so that it will be easy for people to find the information they are looking for when they check my blogs. I'll try it for a while and you can vote on whether you like it or not. OK, the voting rules: only votes posted as non-anonymous comments to this blog will count. Anonymous comments, or emails sent directly to me, will be read with disdain and pity, then ignored forever after.

Date: July 12, 2007
Time and Temperature: Start - ~5:40, 110
End - ~7:54, 98
Location: Bulldog Canyon. Click here for map
Distance hiked: About 2.7 miles
Elevation change: About 375 feet
The numbers:
15 Cans collected
2 Plastic bags collected
1 Golf ball and brake shoe collected
5 Cactus (cholla) thorns in hands
0 Cactus thorns in buttocks. Woohoo!
1 Liter of water consumed

Ramblings: I don't usually go for hikes when it is over 105, but it had been a long time since I'd been out in the desert, and I missed it. I almost overdid it, though. The problem is that it's hard to drink water that's over 100 degrees. I felt fine during the hike and afterwards, but it was the middle of the next morning before my bladder filled up. I'm going to start packing a frozen bottle of water and maybe something like Gatorade on really hot days.

The heat is really stressful. I tried to stay on level ground most of the way. I was going up the (steep) side of a wash once, with the sun shining on my back, and going slowly, but my heart was pounding and I was gasping for air as my body tried to get rid of the heat. As long as I wasn't climbing, there was a nice breeze that kept me comfortable. I also stopped in the shade of a saguaro now and then.

I noticed something interesting. If you find a bunch of beer cans laying around, that means you are near a road. People who drink beer don't like to carry it. Apparently, they don't even like to carry the empties in their vehicle.

I came across a U.S. General Land Office survey marker. Rocks had been piled around it. Then some critter piled cholla balls on the rocks. Then spiders wove webs around all of that.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Robert Louis Brown

Robert Louis Brown
Born April 28, 1924 in Champaign, Illinois
Died June 30, 2007 in Richmond, Texas
Dedicated husband and father
He will be missed

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