Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dodging a storm

When I woke up Saturday morning, I felt a little cool. I wondered it it had cooled off outside. It was 73. Not as cool as I had hoped. In the afternoon, I was laying around being lazy and felt cold and decided to go for a hike to warm up. It was a little cooler outside than it has been; 98. I headed out to the end of Meridian road. Ever since the last time I'd been out there, I have been wanting to hike all the way up to the pass and get pictures of Bulldog Canyon.

During the drive, I saw two small rain showers to the east. Nothing to worry about. Then I saw a bolt of lightening hit the ground. OK, maybe I'll worry a little.

As I started up the trail, I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. Still, the storms didn't look very big. I would be disappointed if I aborted the hike because of storms and they fizzled out 30 minutes later. Also, there was no wind from the storms, so they couldn't be too close or very big. Here's what they looked like.

From Meridian_2008_09_27

Early in the hike, I came upon a zebra tailed lizard. I finally got a video of one wagging his tail, though it isn't very good. They only wag their tails after they run, and I had to walk towards him to get him to run, so the video is really shaky.

Here's a picture of him posing. Looks like he has recently regrown his tail.

From Meridian_2008_09_27

I was keeping an eye on the storms. The clouds were spreading towards me, and getting darker. The thunder became a continuous rumble, but it still sounded far away. I wanted to get to the pass and get some pictures, so I walked as fast as I could, which isn't very fast when I'm going uphill. I've seen people run up these trails. I must be a wimp. There was no breeze. Sweat ran down my face and dripped off my nose. When I finally reached the pass, a gentle breeze was coming up the other side. Boy, it felt nice. The edges of the clouds were directly overhead and moving west fast. I sat on a rock to drink water and take pictures. A honey bee was bumping me, which makes me nervous ever since I read about killer bees doing that to decide whether or not to attack. Here's part of the view of Bulldog Canyon OHV area. You can see sun rays from the edge of the clouds.

From Meridian_2008_09_27

Here's the edge of the clouds. The storm is bigger than I thought. It extends north for quite a ways.

From Meridian_2008_09_27

This is the view towards town. It looks pretty peaceful in that direction. One tiny puffy cloud.

From Meridian_2008_09_27

I had been at the pass for less than 10 minutes when the wind started blowing. First, I heard it coming down the mountain to the east, whistling through the palo verde branches and saguaro needles. The clouds were beginning to look ominous.

From Meridian_2008_09_27

I wanted to rest for a while and enjoy the view and the breeze, but I didn't want to be a lightening rod or even get rained on. Oh, I forgot my backpack. It has my rain gear in it. I'm halfway up a mountain with nothing to protect two cameras and a phone from rain, and a storm is approaching. About halfway down the trail, the trail parallels a wash for a while. The wash has hollows carved into its sides, far above where water would flow during most storms. I thought that if I could at least get to there before the rain hits, I could put my stuff in one of those hollows until the storm is over. I started hurrying down. I was in the shadow of the mountains to the west and had a strong breeze now, so it felt cool. Shortly after I got back out into the sun, the clouds covered it again.

From Meridian_2008_09_27

It isn't easy to hurry on the upper part of the trail. It's very rocky. You have to be careful so you don't twist an ankle. Every once in a while I could hear a gust of wind coming down the mountains behind me and I worried that it would bring rain with it. It was a relief when I got to the smoother part of the trail, which also is where it runs next to the wash. Still no rain, though, so I hurried on.

I looked towards the storm once and saw a rainbow. Of course, I had to get pictures. Photomatix (or maybe it's just HDR images) isn't very good at bringing out rainbows, so the rainbow pictures have some HDR images and some plain old vanilla pictures.

From Meridian_2008_09_27

From Meridian_2008_09_27

When I was almost back to the truck, I looked out over the valley and could see dust blowing over it. I was so busy hurrying down the trail, I missed the leading edge of the dust as it covered the valley.

From Meridian_2008_09_27

I made it back to the truck before the rain hit. There was lightening flashing back and forth between the clouds to the east. I put the camera on a tripod and set it up for a 25 second exposure, hoping to catch some lightening. The first shot missed it, then it started to sprinkle. I had barely beat the rain to the truck.

Click below to see all of the pictures. Some of the HDR pictures aren't very good. Photomatix can compensate for camera movement and for movement of objects in the pictures, but my heavy breathing, pounding heart, and windblown ocotillos and palo verdes pushed it beyond its capabilities. Still, the pictures do show the clouds and their colors, which is what I wanted to capture.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Morning ride

I rode out to Canyon Lake this morning. It was cool when I left the house but I was sweating by the time I got back. I don't think I've gotten any pictures of the lake in the morning before. The sky was blue and the wind was blowing, so the lake came out very blue.

From 2008_09_27_am

There was an ant bed next to the road. They were busily getting ready for winter.

From 2008_09_27_am

You know how photo editing tools all seem to have red eye correction? Well, none of them have green eye correction.

From 2008_09_27_am

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Too late for pictures

I was driving by the Superstitions late this afternoon and decided to take a picture, but it was already too late.

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A video

I noticed earlier this week that Picasa 3 can be used to create videos from pictures. I thought I would try it out. Here's my experiment. I didn't figure out how to rearrange the pictures or any other nifty stuff, so it's mostly just a jumble of pictures set to music.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The other hill

A week or so ago, I climbed a small hill near Bush highway. I meant to climb two, but I ran out of daylight. Today I went to climb the other one. It's slightly taller. From the top, during lulls in the traffic, I could hear the "rapids" on the Salt River.

Remember the mines I found on the other hill? Well, I found some copper and gold deposits on this hill. I could see lots of copper, and some of these sets look old enough that their ICs might have gold bond wires.

From BC_2008_09_22

I found some bones on this hill, too.

From BC_2008_09_22

I didn't find any big mines, but I did find this shallow depression that somebody made many years ago.

From BC_2008_09_22

There were other signs that people had been there.

From BC_2008_09_22

I don't think those people drove the vehicle that this (chrome body side molding) came off of up here, though.

From BC_2008_09_22

On the highway side of the hill, there's a memorial to Joyce Ann Devree. When she died, she was two years younger than I am now. Gee, that seems so young.

From BC_2008_09_22

Click below to see all of the pictures, including dead trees, fungus, breathtaking landscapes, and deformed saguaros.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Trail building, part 1

I did something a little different this morning. I worked with a group of volunteers building a trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It's over by Scottsdale. That's about an hour away, so I had to get up at the usual time (4:15). It was kind of warm out there. Mid 90's by the time we quit at 10:00, and no wind. I spent most of the time using a pick axe to get bursage out of the path of the trail. Then I'd have to go toss it somewhere that it wouldn't be seen from the trail. That was the best part. I got to rest as I strolled around looking for a place to dump stuff.

When all of the bursage was out of the way, I used the pick axe to pry large rocks loose from the ground. Other people that were moving large rocks out of the trail were just shoving them to the side of the trail. The feng shui was just all wrong. I carried my rocks to the right spots and arranged them to fit in with their new surroundings. I don't think anybody appreciated all the effort I was putting into that, though.

Next weekend, we're supposed to put the finishing touches on the trail. A boy scout troop is going to be helping. A bunch of young guys. Should be a lot easier for us old folks next weekend. It'll be easy for the boy scouts, too. I think we got most of the work done today.

The purpose of the trail is to connect between a future parking lot and another trail. It's short and not real scenic. There are trails that go up into the McDowell Mountains. I'll have to check those out some time when I'm not worn out from building a trail.

I didn't have a real camera with me. Here are a couple of pictures I snapped with my cell phone when we were wrapping up and heading back to our cars. In the first picture you can see what I mean about poorly placed rocks.


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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Another surprise

I've either been too lazy or too busy to do much hiking lately. Today I had to get back out in the desert, though. I decided to climb some small hills near Bush Highway. As I walked out to the first one, I was thinking it looked kind of boring. I reminded myself that there can always be surprises, though. This is the hill.

From BC_2008_09_18

When I got to the top of the hill, I found that it was covered with river rocks. It wasn't always the top of a hill; it used to be a river bed.

A year or two ago, I was wandering around near the Salt River and noticed that a lot of rocks on the ground had been split. I finally convinced myself they were split because people used to drive cars out there and the cars had broken them. Well, I don't think many cars have been on top of that hill, and there were a lot of split rocks. I took pictures of a few of them. They're awfully boring pictures.

Then I came across this, which seemed out of place up there. It's a fence post, BTW.

From BC_2008_09_18

And then I came to this, which is an old fence around an older mine shaft.

From BC_2008_09_18

Here's a ladder coming out of the mine, which is now filled with dirt.

From BC_2008_09_18

There were a lot of small depressions in that side of the hill, as if the miners made a lot of small exploratory holes. Also, even though the hill is covered in river rocks, the inside of it seems to be volcanic rock. The tailings around the mines had a lot of quartz in them. I think the miners were looking for gold. Then I found a larger mine.

From BC_2008_09_18

There's still a large hole there. I couldn't see the end of it. Dirt piled around the entrance blocks the view. I'm going to have to go out there in the day time with a mirror to shine some light back there. I'm not crawling in there myself, though.

From BC_2008_09_18

Maybe an ogre lives in there now, and here are the bones of his latest victim.

From BC_2008_09_18

Somebody look at all of the bone pictures and tell me what kind of animal that was.

I was wondering if there was enough light to get a picture of this cactus when I noticed the anti crepuscular rays.

From BC_2008_09_18

Click below to see all of the pictures, or just watch the slide show (thought it's too small).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Salt River looney tunes

When we went tubing down the Salt River a couple of months ago, we saw a lot of red winged blackbirds. I've been wanting to get some pictures of them since then. I went down to the river today to get some. It was a funny trip.

I planned my trip with Google Earth. I parked where the road has a wide shoulder. It was a short walk to the river. I thought there would be a bank there, but there was a cliff. I went up river a little ways and found this guy. He was standing there drinking beer and entertaining everybody on the river. Sorry about the shaky camera, but I was zoomed in a lot.

Here's a group of tubers. A couple of them are excited because they spotted somebody (me) on the bank.

From Salt_River_2008_09_13

More about excited tubers later.

I could see a rocky bank downstream, so I went in that direction. There was a place where people used to drive down to the river, so it was easy to get to the bank. Check out the rocky bank in this picture.

From Salt_River_2008_09_13

Those rocks are home to thousands of spiders. I didn't notice them at first because they hid when I approached. I was standing still by the river and noticed a spider on a rock. Then another, and another and ... They were all over the place. I was trying to get a picture of each one but I gave up. Some of them were chasing others around. Sometimes they would skip across the water to get to another rock. Here's the one I like best.

From Salt_River_2008_09_13

If you stand still, the drunks in the river usually won't even know you are there. One guy's tube slowly rotated until he was looking directly at me, though. Suddenly, his hands shot up over his head and he started bouncing up and down and shouting, "Hey, hey, hey man, hey!", as if he hadn't seen another human being in a month. I waved. I'm standing there with two cameras around my neck. He says, "Hey man, are you taking pisshures?" I didn't misspell it. That's what he said. It was the best he could do. I told him I wanted to get some pictures of red winged blackbirds and asked if he'd seen any. He said, "Yeah, man, I got a red winged blackbird for you right here in my pants!", then laughed uproariously at his wit. So did his equally incapacitated buddy. I told him he was very funny. I think he took it as a compliment. He was quiet for a while as he tried to think of something else funny to say. Or maybe he was just busy polluting his patch of the river.

Two more guys were a short distance behind those two. One of them told me that he usually sees red winged blackbirds on the river but hadn't seen any today. Then his buddy seemed to regain consciousness. He must have been drinking for two. He said something like, "What? Blackbirds? Who?" His friend was trying to shut him up but quickly realized the futility. "Hey, yeah, I saw one! It was back there (points upriver) at 30, uh, 30,000 feet! Ha ha ha haaaa!. It was at latitude 75 24 longitude 16 18 1000 feet ..." He carried on like that, shouting "latitude" and "longitude" and random assortments of numbers and units of measure, until his voice slowly faded away down the river. Maybe he was hoping I would compliment his humor, also.

I don't know why there aren't more drownings on that river. I never did see a red winged blackbird. Click below to see all of the pictures.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A familiar trail

On the way home from work today, there were a few interesting clouds around. The past couple of days, I've entertained myself on the way home by trying to get pictures of other drivers talking on their cell phones with my cell phone camera. It's really hard to do, mainly because there is a 2 or 3 second delay between pushing the button and the picture being taken. Keep in mind that we are usually passing those other cars (HOV lane). I don't have a polarizing filter on my phone to cut reflections in the windows, either. Today I was also trying to get pictures of the clouds and rain showers. But I digress. Back to the clouds. I decided I needed to try to get some pictures of them with a real camera.

I changed clothes, looked for my cameras, ate a snack, looked for my cameras, put on my hiking boots, looked for my cameras... I was starting to wonder if they'd been stolen. They hadn't. They were right where I put them. I was going to go to a place that I would have a pretty good view of the east valley, which is where the pretty clouds were. By the time I got to the end of Meridian road, though, the east valley was completely devoid of clouds. Nothing but clear blue sky. I figured they'd be back, though.

There are things that my S3 IS can do that my Rebel can't, and vice versa. I've often wished I had the one with me that I didn't have at the time. So I decided to carry both. I bet I looked strange. I felt like I was going to be strangled by camera straps. I did wind up using them both, though.

I moseyed up the trail snapping pictures now and then. I stopped when the sun dipped behind the mountains to the west. I think I got some nice pictures.

I think Mom had plates with this design. Maybe she still does. Peggy?

From Meridian_2008_09_09

Here's a picture I couldn't get with the Rebel, at least not until I get a telephoto lens.

From Meridian_2008_09_09

The upper part of this trail is good ankle exercise. It used to wear me out, but I got better.

From Meridian_2008_09_09

This trail really sparkles, especially at night when there is a bright moon. Here's a picture of some of the sparkly stuff.

From Meridian_2008_09_09

You probably can't tell, but it's broken bottles. This trail is very easily accessible, so people stroll out here and toss their trash. The glass endures. It's especially evident at night, but you can see it all of the time.

The parking lot at the trail head is interesting. During the day there are empty vehicles in it. Around sunset, it empties. Then, after sunset, it starts to fill up again. The vehicles aren't empty now, though. I figure they have high school students in them. In Texas City they used to drive out to the levy at night to "watch the submarine races". I don't know what they call it here.

Click below to see all of the pictures.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Mt. Lemmon again

Suzanne and I felt like we had to get out of town for a little while. We also thought it would be nice to get away from the heat, so we drove down to Tucson and up to Summerhaven on Mount Lemmon. I didn't think her bad knee would be a problem, but I felt bad every time I got out of the van to take pictures. I decided not to hang around for sunset pictures or city light pictures at night, which is probably a good thing since I was pretty sleepy by the time we got home.

It was 102 when we started up the mountain. Suzanne actually got cold while I was scrambling around to get pictures of a stream near the top of the mountain. The lowest temperature I noticed on the thermometer was 62. Nice.

Picasa web albums only gives the option of embedding a slide show now, instead of the link I used to use. That's why you've been seeing that lately. I guess if I was not so lazy I could generate the old kind of link myself, but I am. Click on the slideshow below to see the pictures in a larger format.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Deadlier bike

As I was getting in my Taco to go to work this morning, I noticed a spider in a web by the rear wheel of my bike. It was big. It looked light tan in the dim light of the garage door opener. When I got home this afternoon and got out of the truck, it was still there, but it was obviously black. Could it be...? No, black widows hide in the daytime. But this was in the garage. The spider probably had no idea what time of day it was. I carefully made a closer check. Yep, black widow. A really big one.

Normally, spiders don't bother me much. Sometimes when I find them in the house, I catch them and throw them outside. Black widows are an exception, though. I don't like things that could sneak up on me as I sleep and cause me extreme pain. I usually leave the black widows around the outside of the house alone. There are a lot of them. I do get rid of the ones around the back porch for Suzanne (though I'm sure she thinks I don't do it often enough). I get rid of the ones around the front porch before Halloween. I'd feel terrible if some little angel got bit out there. Now, I also get rid of the ones on my bike. I don't want to feel something crawling up my neck at 70 mph and wonder if it's going to bite me or if I'm going to wipe out trying to get it off.

I flipped it into the driveway with my hiking stick and hit it with 175 lbs dropped from 2 feet. It did not suffer. Click below to see pictures of the poor beast when it was healthier.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More pictures

I put some more pictures from yesterday's hike on the web album. I didn't put them there because they are good. I put them there because they are geotagged, so you can tell where I was. I almost got to the top of that ridge. Click below to see all of the pictures.

Monday, September 01, 2008


I tried to get to the top of another ridge in Bulldog Canyon this afternoon. I came to some cliffs that I couldn't get past, though. Still, it was fun and the scenery was spectacular, as usual.

As soon as I got out of the truck I knew why I had to be there. It was silent. No cars, no air conditioners, no planes (though a few flew over later), to TVs, no dogs barking, no dogs barking, no dogs barking. I don't like barking dogs. There were not any out there. None.

There were a lot of birds hanging around the puddles from last weeks storms. I also managed to get some pictures of a lizard, the first with my new camera. I don't have a telephoto lens yet, so the lizards run away before I get close enough. Except for this one.

There were a few puffy little clouds around when I got out there. Of course, I had to include them in the pictures. Here is a picture exposed for the mountains. The clouds look washed out.

Here it is exposed for the clouds. The mountains are dark.

Here's a pseudo HDR image produced from a single RAW image file.

It looks pretty good, though I have noticed something about the HDR images that is annoying (but I'm not going to tell you what).

I also saw a few mushrooms (they're springing up all over town after the rain). I'll have to work on most of the pictures tomorrow. Click below to see a few of them for now.