I wasn't going to let the same thing happen on Sunday. I left the house about 1. So where do you go in the desert at 1 on a sunny July afternoon? Up. I drove to Superior, then kept going, and didn't stop until I got to 4000 feet. I went out past Oak Flat Campground, which is where I was last weekend but it was too late in the day to do much then. I was able to negotiate the bumpy parts of the road more smoothly this time. I had also studied the area on Google Earth, and I knew where I wanted to go. Remarkably, the road I wanted to follow was on my Magellan GPS receiver. Also remarkable, the receiver was working. It hadn't been for a couple of weeks, but Skid turned it on and it started working again. Oops, I'm wandering off the trail here. With my Magellan, a tow strap, and a come-along I felt secure. I had been down the road once before, years ago, on a gloomy spring day. Some parts looked familiar but most didn't. I didn't stop until I got to a gate that I had to open. I remember knowing that it was OK to go through the gate, but I couldn't remember why. Oh well, who cares as long as it's OK. When I got out of the truck to open the gate, I stood there and marveled at the fact that I didn't feel like I was being scorched all over. Wow, I'm out in the sun and I'm not on fire!
After I went through the gate, there were no tire tracks. It had rained Saturday night and erased the tracks, and nobody had gone out there before me today. Still, as I drove along the road, I couldn't help looking for other vehicles. As I glanced in my mirror one time, I spotted something that I was hoping to find again. There are a lot of balanced rocks out there, but there is one that looks just like the Grinch. I didn't get very good pictures last time, and I wanted to try again. The lighting was a little better this time.
There are power lines running through this area, and for some reason, it's hard to take a picture without getting them in it. There are plenty of directions to point a camera besides at the power lines, but they always seem to be next to what I want to take a picture of at the moment.
So I decided I should quit struggling against the power lines. I need to accept them as part of the landscape. I need to incorporate them creatively into my pictures. I thought that maybe I could somehow compare and contrast the power in the wires to the power of the thunderheads growing behind them, or that the elegant beauty of an agave flower stalk and the efficient geometrical shapes of a transmission tower could complement each other. So I took a bunch of pictures with power lines on purpose. They suck. Pardon my French, but they do. I guess I'm just not very good at photographing power lines yet. I'll work on it some more. Yep. Sure I will.
I got out of the truck at the end of the road and decided that since it was so cool, I had to go for at least a short hike. I also had to hike for another reason. You see, for several months there was an impending RIF where I work. We knew it was going to happen; we just didn't know when or who would be affected. I was a nervous wreck. I was having about 4 migraines a week. All the stress made it difficult to concentrate on work. I managed to get some good stuff done, but man, what could I have done without that axe hanging over my head? Anyway, I decided that if I didn't get RIF'd, I would get a new backpack. The one I've used for the past couple of years was pretty simple, and if I carried a lot of water the weight made my shoulders hurt. Also, when I was tired it tended to slip off my shoulders. I survived the RIF and bought a Kelty Redwing 2650. Then it got really hot and I couldn't use my new backpack. Crackers. Well, I was going to use it now come Hell or high ... Hah, not much chance of high water. So I set off for the summit of a small hill nearby.
Unfortunately, I was climbing the leeward side of the hill. It was also the shady side, but you could only say that because all the other sides were sunnier. There were only 1 or 2 rocks where I could actually get out of the sun. I was at 4000 feet, too, so I was a lot closer to the sun than I'm used to. Yes, I wore my hat. I don't like burns on my bald spot. I left one bottle of water on the seat of the truck, so I couldn't do what I had planned, which was to get the thighs of my pants wet to cool me off. I always hear that you shouldn't hike in denim, but I have never worn any other material that I would rather wear while pushing my way through catclaw acacia. There was a lot of catclaw on this hill, too. It grabbed my hands and forearms a few times, and the drops of blood gleemed bright red in the high sun. I would have taken a picture, but have you ever tried to photograph your own arm when you can't get the camera closer than 1.4 feet from your subject? I enjoyed the breeze at the top for a while and then headed back to the truck. By the time I got back to the truck, the blood was gone. You know you are sweating a lot when you can't find the trails of blood from cuts you got half an hour ago.
I turned all the vents to blow on me and drove slowly out, stopping now and then to get some pictures. I had cooled off pretty good when I stopped to follow what looked like a well-worn trail. I took my sunglasses off as I got out (you can't take pictures with sunglasses on, especially if you are using a polarizing filter) and squinted in the bright sunlight. You know you have been sweating a lot when you can feel the salt crystals in the creases around your eyes when you squint (or laugh, but I rarely laugh when hiking by myself).
It's getting late and I'm tired. It was an eventful afternoon, but I'll tell you about just one more thing I saw. As I was driving back, and was almost back to the campground, I saw some ants crossing the road. These weren't the usual large red ants you see around here, though. They were a lighter shade of red, but about the same size. The thing that got my attention was how fast they were moving. I got out to get some pictures but they were moving too fast to get good ones. I also noticed that I had gotten there just as they started to cross the road. The lead ants had just gotten to a culvert and were exploring for a path around it. Watching them reminded me of videos of army ants in South America. I'm going to have to do some research on Arizona ants. Maybe tomorrow. Click below to see all of the pictures.