Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Location: Bulldog Canyon
Time and temperature: Start - 1710, 91
End - 1900, 72
33 Pictures taken
11 Gnats killed
1 Fly thumped, stomped, and buried
0 bats seen
Ramblings: Remember the pile of rocks that I thought might have bats living in it? Well, I do. I was even able to find it again. I got out there a little before sunset and tried to get comfortable.
I was also conducting research into another puzzling aspect of the desert. Often, when I'm driving through Bulldog Canyon OHV area, I see the side of the road littered with beer cans. It seems that drinking beer in the desert must be lots of fun, because a lot of people seem to do it. I had to find out how much fun it is for myself. So I carried a lawn chair and a small ice chest with beer out to the pile of rocks. I set up the chair on the east side of the rocks, so any bats that came out would be visible against the glow in the western sky (not only does the sun set over there, but Phoenix and its metropolitan glow are in that direction, too). I sat down, popped a top, stretched out my legs, and started swatting at gnats and flies. They've hardly bothered me this whole year. I think they were trying to make up for that tonight.
One fly kept buzzing in my ears, then landed on my leg. I thumped him, and he landed in the wash a few feet away. He wasn't moving, but I knew from experience that he was probably just stunned. I walked over and stepped on him THREE times, grinding my foot each time. There was an inch deep depression in the gravel, with him in the center. I sat down and shooed the gnats away from my beer and watched the rocks. I glanced down and the fly was WALKING AROUND! Super fly! I got a rock and shoved him so far into the gravel that it should take him at least a couple of hours to dig his way out.
It finally got dark and cool enough that the flies and gnats went to bed, or where ever they go at night. I relaxed and watched the rocks and the mosquitoes silhouetted against the western sky. I watched and sipped beer and wished I had brought a long sleeved shirt. I never saw a single bat. Maybe they've migrated already. I'll have to do this again next summer.
It was pretty dark by the time I headed back to the truck. I thought about tossing my beer cans out with all the others to lighten my load; then I thought about growing a mullet, jacking my truck up, and putting a really loud muffler on it. I didn't have a gun with me to kill the cans, though, so I packed them up. The moon wasn't up yet, and it was too dark to walk without a flashlight. I would have been tripping over brittle bush and cholla. Fortunately, I had the headlight that Suzanne gave me for my birthday. It's an LED flashlight on a headband. It looks really geeky, but is is so handy in the desert at night when you have a chair in one hand and an ice chest in the other. The bad thing is, it isn't real bright. I could only see about 15 or 20 feet, and everything was a ghostly gray. Nothing looked familiar, but I always try to go to different places, so things usually don't look familiar. I used Alex's hill as a reference and tried to go south. If I did that and turned right when I got to the road, I would get to my truck. Every time I got to the top of a small ridge, I didn't have enough light to see to the bottom on the other side. It was like looking over the edge of the wall at Grand Cayman. Inky black bottomless depths. Spooky. It was tempting to follow the ridge, but it went the wrong way. I finally got to the road and turned right. I turned the headlight off so I could see outside my little pool of light. I walked and walked and hoped I hadn't missed the truck. As I trudged along, I got pretty close to a palo verde. The 4 or 5 birds in it took off. I hopped all the way to the other side of the road when they did. Heck, they make me jump in the day time when they do that.
The rest of the trip was mostly uneventful. Drinking beer out there didn't seem all that great. Maybe I was drinking the wrong kind. Desert beer drinkers seem to prefer Bud Light. Or maybe it's the ones drinking Bud Light that tend to throw the empties out the window. Who knows.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Location: Bulldog Canyon
Time and temperature: Start - 1405, 91
End - 1720, 83
Elevation change: 700 feet
79 Pictures taken
1 "Happy Birthday" balloon removed from the desert
1 WalMart bag removed from the desert
Ramblings: There's a red stripe on the side of the mountains in Bulldog Canyon. I always assumed that the rocks there had a lot of iron in them or something like that. A couple of weeks ago, I was hiking near the red stripe and found red spots on rocks, gravel, plants, etc. I thought that maybe it had rained a little, then some dust from the red stripe blew over and stuck where the raindrops had hit. I hiked up to the red stripe today to test that theory. Now I know what really happened, and you don't. Neener neener.
I doubt that it got over 93 out there, but it sure felt hot. I was stopping to rest is saguaro shadows. It's a pretty long walk from the road to the red stripe. With all the washes I had to cross, I climbed a lot more than 700 feet today.
It was unusually quiet out there today. There were some people on dirt bikes and a few trucks; even one of those desert tour hummers. I didn't hear much though. I usually enjoy the quiet. Today, on the way downhill, it was eerily quiet. It's like it was so quiet, the desert was sucking sound out of my ears, and it felt weird. It wasn't so quiet on the way uphill because I had the sound of myself gasping for air. There were hardly any birds chirping and I didn't hear any bugs. Strange.
Anyway, when I got closer to the red stripe, I saw that the rocks had red dots on them. When I got close enough to the red stripe, I could see that it looked like paint had been dump on the area. Of course it wasn't paint. It must have been fire retardant. You can see in the pictures that a lot of saguaros have darkened bases. That's from being burned. I could also see a lot of charred bush stumps. The fire retardant seems to be very persistent. I wish I knew when it had been dumped out there.
I climbed on up to the peak over the red stripe. The view was nice from up there. I kept looking for the truck but couldn't find it. I was getting worried and got the binoculars out. I found the truck, but I also discovered that it isn't a good idea to leave binoculars in your truck over the summer. There's $12 down the tubes.
I was thinking about leaving a golf ball at the peak, but when I got there I found a comb that somebody else had left. I didn't want the place to get cluttered, so I didn't leave anything.
While I was near the peak I saw a trail that I'll need to explore some day. It's going to be tough, though. I can't park anywhere near it.
I was watching a nice sunset as I drove out. I wasn't going to take any pictures, but then I remembered what Peg said. I jumped out of the truck, ran up a nearby hill, and snapped a couple of pictures for Peg.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Location: Bulldog Canyon
Time and temperature: Start - 1615, 81
End - 1715, 70
19 Pictures taken
1 Lizard seen that I never saw before
1 Bat seen in the daytime
1 "Happy Mother's Day" balloon extracted from the desert
Ramblings: Two posts in one day. It sure is a lot of work trying to keep up with Alex.
I saw a long nosed leopard lizard today. I've never seen one of those before. It's pretty. It was in the loose gravel on the side of the road and stayed there while I took several pictures.
There have been several occasions when I've been driving out of Bulldog Canyon at dusk and have seen bats flitting about. I've always wondered where they spent the day. Are there large abandoned mines? Are there caves that no one has discovered? I think I might have solved the mystery today.
After a weekend in LA, I had to get back to the desert, away from all the people. It was an unusually beautiful day, too, so I had to get out of the house. I forgot to take my backpack, though, which has my GPS receiver and flashlight in it. Also, I didn't get much sleep last night. All of this is important because it explains why I might have solved the mystery. I need to go back and make sure. I did have water and pliers, though.
I was just wandering around and was about to head back to the truck when I spotted an intriguing pile of rocks. There are a lot of those out there. Some are more intriguing than others. I don't know why. I always think I'm going to find something in them, and sometimes I do find some beer cans. Anyway, I was climbing to the top of this one when I saw what I thought was a small bird fly out from the base. I looked and watched a bat fly back to the rocks and land on a side that I couldn't see at the time. I looked all over the pile of rocks but I couldn't find the bat. That isn't surprising though; the piles of rocks are full of nooks and crannies and chinks and all sorts of places that small animals could hide. So maybe that's where the bats spend their days. Only one way to find out. I'll have to watch the pile at dusk and see what flies out. I couldn't do it tonight because I didn't want to hike back to the truck without a flashlight. I usually don't use one at night, but I figured it would be a bad idea to be out there without one. Also, I was tired and didn't want to be up real late. It was getting cool, too, and I can't stay warm when I'm so tired. No problem. I'm always looking for excuses to go back out there.
It was pretty windy. It was also surprisingly dry. I didn't know the relative humidity could get down to single digits so close to the coast. We drove up the PCH to Santa Barbara. On the way there the wind suddenly stopped and the humidity went way up. As we did touristy things in Santa Barbara, I kept looking out at the smoke blowing out over the water. I thought it was all from Malibu.
We were heading northeast from Santa Barbara and got into some smoke. It was very dark. I couldn't believe all the smoke was coming from Malibu so we turned the radio on and discovered that there were about a dozen fires burning around LA. Oh, and we were headed right for one of the fastest growing ones. We got past it without incident, and before the roads were closed. We decided to drive on back to Phoenix. I was trying to avoid LA traffic, so we were trying to skirt around the north side of LA. We had to take interstate 15 south for a few miles, though. We got on it after sunset. The road snaked downhill for miles, and it was solid red with brake lights. Yuck. I don't know if the traffic was bad because of the fires or what. We were flying again by the time we got on 215. For about the next 40 miles we were battling some fierce headwinds. Fortunately they didn't pick up much dust. We did get hit by gravel now and then. We heard on the radio that 18-wheelers were getting blown over. I was really nervous whenever we passed one.
Video of the Agua Dulce, or Buckweed, fire:
This NASA satellite photo shows locations of the fires. We drove past the two topmost. The Malibu fire is directly below those two.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Location: The north end of Meridian Road, Mesa
Time and temperature: Start - 1720, 78
End - 1808, 74
50 Pictures taken
2 Aluminium (thanks Clyde) cans extracted from the desert
1 Coyote heard howling
Ramblings: I haven't been to the end of Meridian road for a while. I went today because I had to get back to the desert and it's close and the sun sets pretty early these days. It was 78 when I started up a hill to get a look around. I went all the way to the top (maybe only a hundred feet or so) without pausing. In a Houston 78, I would have been drenched with sweat. However, not even one drop formed on my temple. Eat your heart out, Houston. Oh, ignore the fact that there aren't any hills to climb in Houston and even if there were, you wouldn't climb them to look around because there wouldn't be anything to see. Well, I suppose all that moisture in the air does make for some nice sunsets now and then.
Speaking of sunsets, I took pictures of one today. I had decided to quit taking sunset pictures because I have so many of them, but it was a pretty one and I was standing there watching it anyway, holding my camera, so what the heck. I only put two of them here, though.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Location: Bulldog Canyon
Time and temperature: Start - 1445, 76
End - 1730, 74
Distance hiked: 2.4 miles
Elevation change: 605 feet
81 Pictures taken
10 Other people seen
1 Liter of water drank
Ramblings: You know, that elevation change is a little misleading. It doesn't take into account all the washes I go through. It's just the difference in elevation between where I parked and the highest point of the hike.
There were high, thin clouds the morning (bad for photography of landscapes) and it was supposed to be windy, so I didn't climb Picket Post mountain. After lunch, all the clouds were gone. Too late for Picket Post, so I headed for Bulldog Canyon. It was a gorgeous, cool day. Lots of people were out enjoying the desert.
There's a hill I've been thinking I should climb the past couple of weeks, so I did that today. There was a nice view from up there. No evidence of people having been up there, either. That's strange. People always head for peaks, and you can usually tell that they've been there.
Speaking of strange, I came across an area where everything was covered with red dots. I've seen that once before, and that time it was also in Bulldog Canyon, but several miles from where I was today. My theory is that it sprinkles and then some really red dust blows in and sticks to the wet spots. They are so red, though, it doesn't seem like it could be dust.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Location: Massacre grounds trail, Superstition Wilderness
Time and temperature: Start - 1440, 82
End - 1727, 82
Distance hiked: 3 miles
Elevation change: 900 feet
30 Pictures taken
6 Other hikers seen
0 Beer cans seen
Ramblings: I hadn't hiked to the end of the Massacre Grounds trail for a while. When I started out, it seemed kind of boring because I had been on it so many times before. By the time I got to the end and the spectacular view, I decided it was well worth it. The weather was perfect today. Clear blue skies (no brown cloud!) and a nice breeze; not so cold that my ears hurt. I didn't see as many people as I had expected to see on that trail on such a pretty day. Maybe most people went for their hike in the morning. I prefer the afternoon.
The lizards usually sit on rocks and watch me go by on this trail. They skittered away before I saw them today. Didn't get any good pictures of them.
It looks like somebody got tired of getting "lost" on that trail. Near the end, it splits and rejoins itself a lot, except that it doesn't always rejoin. If you take a wrong fork on your way down, you can wind up at an impassable cliff and have to retrace your steps a long way. I've done that twice. Today the trail had a lot of rock cairns marking it. It's easier to stay on the right path now.
I didn't take a lot of pictures on this hike. That's because I've already taken pictures of just about everything along this trail.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Location: Off Apache Trail, just before the pavement ends
Time and temperature: Start - 1513, 74
End - 1644, 70
Items removed from desert: One small ice chest, 3 bottles, one can, pieces of a motorcycle (maybe), one balloon, miscellaneous pieces of plastic
36 Pictures taken
Ramblings: It was really nice outside today. I went out Apache Trail almost to where it turns to dirt. I was thinking that I would try to get down to some mines I had seen at the bottom of a canyon several months ago. I didn't get very close, though. The sides of the canyons in that area are very steep. I started in a side canyon, thinking I could follow it down, but I kept encountering pour offs that dropped 10 or more feet. I was able to get around a couple of them, but I finally decided it was getting too dangerous. There was the danger of falling, the danger of getting lost (as you descend, side canyons join; don't take the wrong one back up or you're hosed), and the danger of rattle snakes. I didn't see or hear any, but I was walking around so many perfect snake hiding places that I was a nervous wreck. Gee, sometimes I make these hikes sound so unpleasant. It wasn't. It was beautiful out there, and peaceful, and cool.
You'll see some puddles of water in the pictures. You know what comes with puddles of water, right? This was the second time I've gotten mosquito bites in Arizona. For some reason they went after my left elbow.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Lindsey thought it was perfect kite flying weather, so we went to wally world to get a kite. They only had two, but we only needed one. It's small; 26 inch wing span. By the time we got out to fly it, the sun was setting.
We could barely see the Superstition Mountains through the dust.
The kite's motion makes it look like it's against a gray wall in this picture.
The flash makes it look like it's glowing.
Here are the videos.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Location: Bulldog Canyon
Time and temperature: I forgot to look. Sure was humid, though.
23 Pictures taken
1 Weird saguaro found
1 Spectacular sunset witnessed
Ramblings: Lauren went to Bulldog Canyon with me this afternoon. I was thinking about climbing Alex's hill, but then I remembered that she didn't have her hiking shoes on, so we just wandered around near there. She spotted a really deformed saguaro. It isn't a crested saguaro. I don't know what you would call it. I got the coordinates so I will be able to find it again.
I walked right past the saguaro without seeing it. I also got back to the road over half a mile from the truck. I was wearing my glasses today, and that's like wearing blinders. Can't see anything or tell where I'm going. I sure hope my eye feels better soon.
Monday, October 01, 2007
So, the contest will be extended for another week or until somebody guesses. No more clues. Just kidding. I've already given you one. I'm about to give another, but it makes the answer so obvious, I've got to change the rules. New rule is that you must post your guess as a comment on this blog. You may post anonymously, but you must provide sufficient clues as to who you are, or I won't be able to send your prize to you. Guesses that are not posted on this blog will be ignored like a homeless window washer with a snotty rag at a green light.
OK, the second clue. You've seen that TV show, "Dead Like Me", right?