Monday, November 30, 2009

Another stone arch

It's not a spectacular arch, but it is an arch. I got a picture of it on my way to Hackberry Mesa on Friday. Here's a better picture of it.

Looks a little like a witch's nose.

It was cloudy when I left the house, especially to the east. I didn't believe it would rain where I was, though. When I got out of the truck, it seemed like it was getting darker. I thought I heard thunder once or twice along the trail but decided it was wishful thinking. The first mile or so of this trail is in a wash, so I couldn't see much of the sky. Then I rounded a corner and had a view to the east. It sure seemed like those dark clouds were closer.

Ominous clouds

I was at the arch by now, so I started climbing to get a better view of it. I got to the top of a small ridge and had the view below.

I can see rain, now. Hmm.

I was also very close to the arch.

I got a few pictures of the arch. That's Four Peaks in the background with a cloud on top.

Then it got very windy and started to sprinkle.

The wind started blowing pretty hard. I put my chin strap on to keep my hat from blowing away and got my poncho out. It was too windy to try to put it on, though. I held it over the camera and started down. The ridge blocked the wind and I put the poncho on. Hiking while wearing a cheap plastic poncho is almost as bad as hiking without one. You get wet anyway because your sweat can't evaporate, and you will sweat when you are wrapped in plastic.

The weather was exciting, but it didn't rain enough to make even a small puddle anywhere. It did get the gravel in the wash damp, and the gravel seems to be more cohesive when damp. Made walking a little easier. I headed back to the truck because it looked like it was going to rain for a while, but it was clearing to the east by the time I got there.

Sunshine on Four Peaks.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Everytrail map to Hackberry Mesa

I've been meaning to put some of my recent hikes on EveryTrail. I finally got around to doing that today. There have been some improvements to their web site and I really like it now. You can import the pictures for your trip from your Picasa web album, which is really handy. The display on the trip on their web site has some nifty features, also, like graphs of altitude or speed vs. time, etc.

Hackberry Mesa, via "back trails"

Map your trip with EveryTrail

Back to Hackberry Mesa

A lot of times, when I don't reach my intended destination on a hike, I won't try that hike again for a few weeks. That's because going back over the part of the hike I had been on before so soon would be boring. I really wanted to go back to Hackberry Mesa, though. The main reason I wanted to go back was to get pictures of the dead saguaro in the arms of another saguaro. Something like that won't be around for long.

I loaded up my backpack with snacks and lots of water and left the house shortly after 10. I wanted to have plenty of time to look around after going to all the effort to get out there again. On the drive to the trailhead, I thought about the fact that most people that go out there go in the morning. Sure enough, the trailhead lot was full. I think the car that got there just before me was the one that topped it off. I was a little miffed, but it turned out to be a good thing. I drove back to the overflow lot. It was at least a quarter mile walk between the two lots, and there would be traffic stirring up dust along the road. I decided I was not going to walk along that road.

An annoying thing about the trail out to Garden Valley (which is next to Hackberry Mesa) is that it takes a long detour around a ridge along the way. It's only annoying if you are in a hurry, though, because it's scenic and a very pleasant hike. While looking at Google Earth, I could see pieces of trail from the overflow lot out to Garden Valley. They aren't official trails. They aren't on maps. They don't look like they go all the way. Anyway, I decided that I would see where they did go, and maybe I would get lucky and get to Hackberry Mesa after all. At least it would be different.

The first half of the trail is in a wash.

Early on, the trail descended into a wash, and stayed there for a long ways. I assumed I was on a trail because there were a lot of footprints in the wash. There are a couple of things I don't like about being in a wash, though. First, you can't see what's around you. You miss some scenery and you can't see navigation landmarks. I could tell from the sun that I was headed in the general direction I wanted to go. Second, the soft bottom drains your energy as you walk. I try to stay on firm ground, but that isn't always possible.

I was on top of that cliff a few weeks ago.

There's an arch at the base of that cliff on the left. I'll have to go check that out some day.

Just before the wash opened up, I met a young guy going the other way. I asked him if this trail went all the way to Garden Valley. He said he didn't know anything about any gardens but assured me that I was on the trail. Not much help.

After a short distance through solid rock, the wash opened up.

I sat in the shade of a large boulder to look at my map and decide which direction to go next. I could go towards Hackberry Spring and then the western side of Hackberry Mesa. It was kind of steep over there, though. Or I could head towards Garden Valley. I knew there were some trails in that direction, but I didn't know how far they would go. I decided to head towards Garden Valley.

While I was sitting by the boulder a couple came along that seemed to be familiar with the area. I asked they guy about getting to Garden Valley or Hackberry Mesa. He said some silly, confusing stuff. I asked where they had parked and he couldn't tell me. Well, if he couldn't tell me where he parked, I didn't want to listen to anything else he had to say. Other than that, they were very nice people. Most people on the trails are.

I sat in the shade of those boulders to look at my map. The boulders are visible on Google Earth.

Hackberry Mesa is on the left, with that black line at the top.

I have a lot of trouble taking decent pictures in the middle of the day.

Before long, I found myself on a very well-worn trail. It didn't seem to be going in the exact direction I wanted to go, but maybe it would head that way, and blazing my own trail would be rough. As I followed the trail, I was thinking that I should be close to where Elephant Trunk Arch (my name for it) is. I looked to my right and there it was.

Elephant Trunk Arch from the other side.

More hikers on the trail. By now I had given up on asking people where the trail went. They looked like they had come from Garden Valley, though.

Now I was sure that the trail would take me where I wanted to go. Along the way I saw side trails that I will have to explore some day. I'm going to have to check out Hackberry Spring. It looks like it's very green in that area. There must be water there year round.

That diagonal white line back there is the trail.

I'm in Garden Valley! Now on to Hackberry Mesa.

Cholla forest in Garden Valley.

Getting on top of Hackberry Mesa from Garden Valley is pretty easy. Well, it's not too steep and you don't have to push your way through trees or bushes. The footing is sort of treacherous. The mesa is covered with angular black boulders (which I suppose is better than round boulders) with lots of grassy stuff coming up between them. Sometimes you don't want to step on the boulders because they look wobbly so you have to step in the grass, but you have no idea what's there. Sometimes it's soft dirt, sometimes it's a pointy rock, sometimes it's a wobbly rock. I lost my balance on that stuff several times and had to do some fancy footwork to keep from falling on a cholla or prickly pear. A walking stick would be handy there.

Treacherous footing.

I found the saguaros I wanted to photograph pretty easily. I wish I was more artistic, so I could have gotten a better picture of them.

They look like they're dancing.

The desert has large patches of what looks like decent soil that are completely devoid of vegetation. I don't know why that is. I wonder if the lack of rocks makes it less hospitable to plants. Maybe it dries out faster. Anyway, I saw a large antler on one of those spots. Well, large in comparison to all antlers I've seen before in the desert.

I sat on the edge of the mesa for a while enjoying the view. I could see places I've been in all directions. Well, maybe just most directions.

I didn't take many pictures of the Superstitions, because that was shooting into the sun.

I didn't take many pictures of Four Peaks, because it was directly opposite the sun. The Canyon Lake marina is visible in this photo.

I took a slightly different route on the way back and followed a wash with a solid rock bottom for a little way. The water has carved some interesting channels in it. I might go back there Sunday if it really does rain this weekend.

This hole is so deep, it still has water in it.

I had a great time on this hike. I wore myself out, though. I plan to spend today resting. Click below for all of the pictures.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

New @trip feature

I use a Mobil Action GPS data logger to log my location as I hike, and I use their software to geotag my pictures. A week or so ago some software updates were downloaded. I didn't pay much attention to them. Tonight I was downloading some family pictures from my camera and noticed a "Sports Analyzer" icon. I checked and it was something that was in the recent Mobil Action update. I started it up and found out I can load my personal info (height, weight, etc.) and a GPS track and it will tell me how many calories I burned. I have no idea how accurate it is, but it's a nifty toy. Below is a screen shot of the display for my recent hike to Hackberry Mesa. I was surprised to see I burned only 682 calories. Felt like a couple of thousand. More proof that I've gotten lazy and fat.

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Calibration hike

After a scorching hot July, followed by being very busy at work, followed by the sun setting too early to hike after work, I've felt like I was getting out of shape. I got home from work early yesterday and decided to go on a calibration hike. I've been to the top of Lone Mountain a few times. Recently I raced the shadow of a mountain to the west to the top (and won).

Pass Mountain, to the south.

Near the beginning of the hike I decided that I would take pictures of Pass Mountain as I ascended. Then I thought about putting dozens of pictures of Pass Mountain (not because it's pretty, but because it's easy to photograph from lots of angles) on Panoramio so people looking at Google Earth would think that either I'm very creative or some sort of nut case. Anyway, the point is that I was stopping frequently to take pictures.

Pass Mountain from further up.

By the time I got to the top, I was tired. Much more tired than I expected to be. Maybe I had too much water in my backpack, or maybe I really am out of shape. My legs got pretty tired on the way down, too, so I think I have been spending too much time in the recliner (or office chair, or whatever).

Pass Mountain from the top of Lone Mountain. You can tell that it's gotten later, too.

The hot, dry summer has resulted in very little grassy stuff in the desert. That's the way it was when I started hiking here so that's what looks normal to me. I've taken the picture below after a wet winter and the benches can barely be seen because of the grass.

No grass to obstruct the view of these benches.

Now that I know that I'm out of shape, I'm not sure what I'll do about it. I'm sure I have more important things to worry about right now.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

At the end of Meridian

My legs are still tired and my feet hurt from yesterday's hike, so I didn't really want to go for a hike today. I did want to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful weather, though. I drove the the end of Meridian Road, planning to wander around for a little while.

The view at the end of Meridian Road.

I slowly wandered up the side of the mountains. I thought it would be cool to get to one of the peaks, but I was just going to take it easy today. I got pretty close, though.

Lindsey, Shawna, and I were on the other side of that mountain on the left last weekend.

I went a little further than I meant to. I was really dragging by the time I got back to mostly level ground. It was a nice outing, though.

I've been on that peak.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hackberry Mesa

I've been mentioning Hackberry Mesa a lot lately. I've been wanting to get to the top of it ever since I hiked out to Elephant Trunk Arch (that's what I decided to name it). First, a little background.

Earlier this week, I took about 70 pictures of Emily. I wondered if I had drained the battery. I checked the battery level indicator and it said that the battery was fully charged.

Now back to today. I spent a little longer on lunch than I had planned, so when I got out to the Superstition Wilderness I walked quickly to Garden Valley. I only stopped to get out a fresh water bottle and to turn on tracking mode with my SPOT. I didn't take any pictures. I have lots of pictures along that trail already, and it was the middle of the day, too.

I got out to Garden Valley pretty quickly. There's a stock tank on the far side of Garden Valley, and that's where I left the trail. There was a wonderful breeze at the top of the dirt hill on the side of the tank and I stood there for a minute to cool off. The view of Geronimo Head and Battleship Mountain looked nice so I decided to take my first picture, but I couldn't. The battery was dead. Now I know that the battery charge indicator is totally and completely useless. I guess if you can see it, the battery isn't dead and if you can't, it is dead.

Emily has the perfect expression for lots of occasions.

Since I was already all the way out there, I went ahead and went up on top of Hackberry Mesa. The view was very nice. I tried taking a few pictures with my cell phone camera but it's such a lousy camera, I haven't even looked at them. There was one thing that I really wish I could have gotten a picture of. There was a saguaro with arms that had sagged down, and being held in those arms were the crumbling pieces of a saguaro that had been dead for a few weeks. I'd go back tomorrow for a picture of that if my legs weren't so tired (and if I could find it again).

Other than the dead battery, it was a very enjoyable hike. The weather was wonderful and except for the occasional quail (which is always nice to hear), it was very quiet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wind Cave trail

One of the most popular hiking trails in the Phoenix area is the Wind Cave trail. It starts from Usery Mountain park and goes up to a hollowed out area in the side of Pass Mountain (sometimes called "Scarface" by the locals). There's a nice view from the top. I was up there in 2003 and haven't gone back because I'm not too crazy about popular trails. Lindsey and her friend Shawna decided that they wanted to climb it, though, and they wanted me to come along. I wonder if they just wanted my SPOT along in case something happened. There's probably a good cell phone signal all along the trail, though. Anyway, I had a really lousy camera the last time I was up there, so I wanted to go up there with a better one.

The trail is very well maintained and easy to follow.

We started out at about 3:30. The girls complained a little but had almost no trouble with the hike. The weather was beautiful; cool with a light breeze.

The cave is in that shady spot up there.

The Fountain Hills fountain is visible from the trail. Heck, I can't think of a place it can't be seen from.

Lindsey and Shawna relaxing in the cave.

Between rest stops and picture stops, it took us about an hour to get to the top. There were people up there that got there in half an hour, then turned around and went right back down. I guess if you have got to exercise, that's a great place to do it.

We're up even with the stripe.

It isn't much of a cave, so there's a sign to let you know when you've arrived.

Click below for all of the pictures.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cholla at night

There's something I've been wanting to try ever since I got the remote trigger hardware for my flash. I've wanted to get some pictures of various cacti at night, back-lit by the flash. I was reading a newspaper this afternoon and it said it was going to be a lot colder tonight. Turns out I was reading a two week old newspaper, but it got me to thinking. I don't take many pictures at night in the summertime because when the sun sets, it's time for me to go to bed. I get cranky if I don't get my sleep. I don't take many pictures at night in the winter (when the sun sets long before my bedtime) because I get cold standing around taking pictures. Well, the sun sets pretty early now and it isn't cold at all, so now's the time to get some night pictures.

I went to Bulldog Canyon so I could enjoy the quiet and so I wouldn't stir up the Ufologists (I thought I made that word up, but it's in my spellchecker) with flashes of light. I got everything set up and discovered something I hadn't though of beforehand. I've encountered this before, but I forgot. It's next to impossible to get a camera focused in the dark. The small LED flashlights I had with me didn't provide enough light. The flash was on the other side of the cholla, so it wasn't any help. I did the best I could to manually focus with a tiny flashlight. I'm surprised the pictures came out as good as they did, considering. I didn't know until I got home if any of them were any good, so I only took a few pictures of one cholla on this trip. Next time I'll take along my 2 million candlepower flashlight.

Something funny happened while I was out there. First a little background. I work for a big company that does all sorts of bio-medical stuff. They test their notification system every year or so by calling employee's home numbers to be sure they know how to get in touch with people in case the offices are closed down by inclement weather or something. This years test was today. Being the scatterbrain that I am, I neglected to tell anybody at home. Turns out that Lindsey was the only person at home. She called me around 6:30 or 7:00. I couldn't answer because the phone was in my backpack and I was on my way down a steep rocky slope in the dark. Her message said something like, "Dad, your company keeps calling about some emergency notification, and you're not here and you're not answering your phone. I just hope there isn't some Resident Evil s**t going on." The fact that she was watching The Mist didn't help any, either. So I called back and said, "*gasp* The nanobots ... escaped ... they're taking over! Aaauuugh!" She didn't laugh.

OK, just one more thing. Wow, lots of yakking and just one picture. Anyway, remember that I was taking pictures of a cholla. Of course, I had to walk back and forth between the camera and flash to adjust things a few times. That means I was walking around the cholla a lot. Anyway, I got home and sat down and relaxed a few minutes. Then I unlaced my boots and tried to pull one off and wow those cholla spines hurt. One of them went for at least a quarter of an inch just under the surface of the skin. I could tell by the welt it left after I pulled it out. I had at least 5 spines in my fingers but now I can only tell where one was.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Back to La Barge Canyon

Yes, I had to go back. I had to figure out how I should have gotten out of there. This time I started out by going to La Barge Canyon first. That probably wouldn't have worked last weekend, though, because I probably couldn't have found the Boulder Canyon Trail to get out. Who knows.

Anyway, the spot where the side trail split off to go to La Barge Canyon was where I thought it was. Since it isn't a real trail, it's a little steep in spots, and difficult to follow (hard to see) in some spots. It enters the canyon about where I thought it would, just a few yards upstream of the lake.

Just around the corner to the right is where I got on Randy's "boat" to get out of the canyon.

Looking upstream from the same spot.

Last weekend, I had thought about backtracking a little ways and seeing if I could find the trail out. It was close to being dark, though. I'm not sure I would have been able to find the trail.

This is where the trail leaves the canyon. Can you see a trail? I can't.

The trail goes up there. I can't see it, though I think I can see a side trail to the side trail.

There was a nice breeze blowing through the canyon, and it was shady, so I hung around in there for a while eating snacks and taking pictures. It's a prettier place when you know the shortcut out.

For most of the time that I was there, there were some quail making quail noises. They make a lot of different kinds of noises but I don't speak quail so I don't know what they were saying. Anyway, I was wishing I had something with me to record them. I'll have to add another gadget to all the junk I carry on hikes.

Nice view of the lake on the way out.