Sunday, May 30, 2010

Unexplored territory

Unexplored by me, anyway, and it looks like not many other people have been there, either. For a few days I had been planning on hiking the full length of the Black Mesa trail and looping back to the trailhead on a different trail. That would be a very long hike, though, and I'm not feeling real energetic these days. I was looking at the Bulldog Canyon area in Google Earth yesterday morning and noticed how some parts of it are devoid of Panoramio pictures and decided that I need to try to do something about that.

A view of the Supes from the road.

So where do I start, and how? Then I remembered a wash that Richard and I had followed for a short distance once. It seems to go straight into the heart of the unexplored area. That would be a good place to start.

I'll be going in that general direction.

I was up there two or three years ago.

I followed a "road" at the beginning of the hike. It's not an official road. The forest service puts signs up saying that no motorized vehicles are permitted back there, but Arizonans know better than the forest service and they run over the signs and shoot them up and then shoot their empty beer cans and bottles and leave fiberglass (the signs), aluminum, glass, lead, brass, tire tracks, smashed plants, and ruts scattered all over the place when they leave. The knuckleheads should be rounded up and sent to Houston, where their bad behavior would make no difference amid the normal chaos.

Let's see, where was I? Oh, hiking in the desert. It was gnatty. They greeted me like a long lost friend. How sweet. They still exhibit a preference for collecting on my right forearm, as if the heavenly treats to be found there are worthy of risking death. And many of them did die. I had to wash the stickiness off of my left hand when I got back to the truck. Gnats are annoying, but at least they belong there, unlike the knuckleheads that ... oh, don't get me started again.

The barrel cacti are blooming.

A short distance into the hike, I saw a stone arch that Richard and I had seen years ago but I had forgotten about. I decided to call it "Richard's Arch". It's up in a saddle. I'm going to go up there some day for a closer look.

Richard's Arch

By the time I got to here I didn't see any more tire tracks, footprints, beer cans, or cigarette butts. Shazam! I've escaped "civilization"!

About the time I got far enough along the hike to have escaped all evidence of the presence of knuckleheads, something in the back of my mind started telling me that I should think about turning around. Turn around!?!? But I just got here! It was warm, but it wasn't hot (about 95 when I left the truck), and there were plenty of saguaros if I needed shade. I had drunk only 20% of my water. I moseyed on.

I went around the left side of the rock wall in the previous picture. I could continue going north or go west. Both were on my list of places to explore, but neither looked very interesting. I think that's another hint that I was getting tired. I couldn't quit thinking about the rock wall. It begged to be climbed. I could not resist. There was a gentle (relative to vertical) slope up the western side of the wall, which was where I happened to be. I proceeded slowly with frequent rest stops. I think that maybe I haven't gotten used to the warm weather yet. I knew there would be a good breeze at the top and was looking forward to that.

The rock wall. Listen closely and you'll hear it whisper, "Climb me! Feel the breeze at my crest! Enjoy the wondrous view!"

A large flat area on top of the wall.

There was a nice breeze on top. It cooled me off and blew my gnats away. I wandered around up there for a while enjoying the view and taking pictures.

A view of the Superstition Mountains.

I got pictures of only one lizard the whole time I was out there. They seem to be more skittish in places that people don't visit very often. Maybe they get used to seeing people along the more popular trails. The one that I did get pictures of finally ran off. It ran about 15 yards and stopped near a small bush. Then it immediately jumped about 2 feet to its right. I think the wind made the bush move and the lizard thought something was about to get it.

The only lizard that would pose for pictures.

Maybe I should go later in the day next time, when the sun isn't so brutal.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

As bad as I thought

Do you remember a few months ago, I was BMWing about the juveniles with 4WD vehicles that had gotten the road to the Massacre Grounds trailhead closed? I was worried that I wouldn't be able to hike that trail any more because it would be a long hike just to get started. Well, yesterday I decided to see how much effort it would take to get to the trail.

It was great weather for a hike. I like the way the Supes look from this angle.

I also wanted to see how gnatty it was. Every time I walk around outside at home or at work, there are no gnats and that makes me think there won't be any on the trails, either. Silly me. There were a lot fewer yesterday that there were Saturday but still more than in town. I wonder if the cool snap had something to do with that.

I'll get to the trail near that pointy rock. I put a name tag on it in the web album.

I parked at the Crosscut trailhead and started walking in the direction of a pointy rock that is a handy landmark near the beginning of the Massacre Grounds trail. There was sort of a trail near where I started, so I thought that maybe other people had already blazed a trail out there. That wasn't the case though. The further I went, the less distinct it became, until it was easier to follow ant trails than that trail. Well, the only thing that makes ant trails hard to follow is that they are so darn narrow. It was still easy-going, though, with a slight uphill slope and mostly smooth but rocky ground.

Mountains over here...

... mountains over there.

Boundary of the Superstition Wilderness Area.

It was a beautiful day and every time I looked over at the Superstitions I felt like I had to stop and take a picture. Then when I was picking which pictures to upload, I thought I would only select the best so there wouldn't be a lot of repetition. I selected most of them. Sorry.

I took pictures of some stuff besides mountains.

I wanted a picture of this, from this angle, but the sun was right there. So I took a picture of the sun.

Oh, I started all this to see how much effort it was to get to the Massacre Grounds trail. I didn't quite make it to the trail. Even though I was in a mostly flat area and even though I would probably have to bang my head on a big rock repeatedly in order to get confused about which way it was to the road even in the dark due to huge landmarks and a bright moon, I wanted to get back to the truck before dark. Stumbling around in brittlebush at night during rattlesnake season probably isn't a real good idea. I covered about 2 miles of easy walking, but my legs were tired. Maybe I hadn't recovered from Saturday's hike. It's going to be a while before I make it all the way out to the Massacre Grounds again. Stupid juveniles. Click below for all the pictures.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Black Mesa, first attempt

If you are on Hackberry Mesa and look to the east, it looks like the mesa continues in that direction except that there's a notch cut through the middle. The second water trail follows that notch between the mesas. The mesa to the east is called Black Mesa and I decided to go check out it out.

I took a lot of pictures of the Superstition Mountains on this hike.

As I drove to the trailhead, I imagined it being full like it was the last time I was there. If so, I would park at the overflow lot and take the alternate route to Garden Valley. No problemo. I was surprised to see only 4 vehicles in the lot. I guess it's gotten too warm for most people to hike out there. It was supposed to be a few degrees cooler yesterday, and windy. It was only about 92 when I started out. I thought the wind would make the gnats less annoying, and it did for a while. We seem to have a bumper crop of gnats this year. Now I can't wait for it to get really hot and scorch their squeaky little wings off.

I saw lots of lizards and rabbits on this hike. I got pictures of a few of the lizards.

This is a big one. I saw a couple of these. They are very shy. This is the best picture I could get. They almost look like a giant skink as they slink away, but they don't have skink legs.

I named this one Stubby.

I wonder why they have such long toes.

A couple of rabbits posed, too.

All this grass is going to wreak havoc when there's a fire out here.

The walk out to Black Mesa was pleasant. The exuberance of spring seems to have subsided and the birds were much quieter than they have been. I heard cactus wrens warbling and hawks screeching; I like the sounds they make. The wind kept the gnats from being too annoying. Most of the plants that carpeted Garden Valley after the winter rains are brown now. Of the four cars in the parking lot, I came across the occupants of 3 of them. I walked along the Black Mesa trail for a little way, looking for an easy way up. I didn't see one. I think maybe I didn't go far enough on the trail. That means I have to go back. Shucks.

The Supes from Black Mesa trail.

Black Mesa, up close and steep.

Even if I went up there, there's a wall of black rock along the top edge.

As I started back, I noticed I was walking slow and decided that was because I wasn't in any hurry. That seems strange, but I didn't think I should be tired. Before long, though, it was obvious I should rest and eat a snack. I stopped at a rock that was in a breezy spot on the way out and was now in the shade. The wind had died down, though. The gnats were just too pesky to sit still. I ate as I walked, hoping to ingest a few gnats with the food bar.

For some reason, the gnats were very attracted to my right forearm. I'd look down and see from 4 to a dozen on there. I'd sweep my left hand up my arm and squash most of them. Before long, my left hand was sticky with gnat guts. It seems they have an earlier bed time than I do; I didn't get back to the parking lot until around sunset and the gnats were mostly gone by then. My legs were really tired towards the end. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Near White Canyon

I planned a little better this time. I had food and lots of water in my backpack. I left the house early enough that I would have plenty of time to explore. Some unexpected things spoiled my plans, though. The first little problem was a boulder. Well, first some background. The last part of the road to White canyon is actually a stream bed. It seems to flow constantly with water from springs. That flowing water continually re-shapes the "road". OK, so I'm driving down this road along a stretch that hasn't been a problem before and come to a rocky spot. I must not have been paying attention because I didn't see the boulder to the right side of the road until I got out to see why the truck wouldn't move, and what had made that scrunching sound. I couldn't move forward or back. I had to slide the boulder out and roll it out of the way.

The boulder on the left got stuck under the truck.

There are fences in the area and at one point there's a gate across the road. I vaguely remember having a little trouble on the other side of that gate the last time I left White Canyon. This time it looked like it would be very difficult to make it back so I decided to not go any further. I parked the truck near where I had gotten stuck earlier. Now I'm going to have to walk quite a bit further than I had planned just to get to White Canyon.

The (now broken) gate is in the background. This rocky spot doesn't look bad in the picture, but the placements and angles make it a good truck trap.

After I had been walking and enjoying the scenery for a little while, I realized I had left my hat in the truck. It was early afternoon. Without a hat, I'd get fried. I didn't want to go back to the truck to get it, which clued me in to the fact that I'd worn my legs out moving the boulder. Since I was standing in front of another attractive canyon, I decided to explore up there a little.

Second choice canyon.

Progress up the canyon was very slow, partly because I was tired and partly because there was no escaping the sun. I kept trying to go on, though, because it looked interesting up ahead. I was eventually stopped by a thick clump of plants. There was no way around them in the narrow canyon and my forearms were itchy from pushing past similar plants. Time to turn around before I get into a regrettable situation.

There were lots of lizards in the canyon. Most scrambled out of sight before I could get a picture. A couple of them posed for me, though. They had both lost and regrown their tails. Somebody did a study of lizards that lose their tails and determined that the only factor that affects how easily they shed their tails is the presence of poisonous snakes in their habitat. If there are no poisonous snakes, the tails do not detach easily.

Note the regrown tail.

I think this tail is still regrowing.

When I got back to the spot I didn't want to drive over, I noticed something I hadn't seen before. There was a broken lug nut cover there. Somebody had had trouble getting out. They were frustrated because they couldn't go forward and backed up quickly to take another shot at it. I know this because of the pieces of broken tail light on the steep embankment. I bet there was a lot of cussing.

Since I was done hiking earlier than planned, I decided to go south on 177 and get some pictures of the Ray mine, which is a large open pit copper mine. I was taking pictures from the highway and finally noticed that there is a visitor viewing area (open daily from 7 am to 2 pm). The visitor area offers an excellent view, if you like looking at huge holes in the ground.

A view of the mine.

It's difficult to grasp the scale of the mine. There are dump trucks moving all over the place and the tendency is to use them for scale, but these are not normal dump trucks. Their tires are about 10 feet in diameter.

There are dump trucks and a train in this picture. At first I wondered why the train was so small, but that's a normal sized train.

The rig on top is drilling holes for dynamite to loosen the rock.

A normal size pickup near one of the dump trucks. You'll probably have to go to the web album and zoom in to see the pickup, though.

The only sound I heard at the mine was the machinery. It wasn't very loud, though, because everything is so far away. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lauren conquers Lone Mountain

Two or 3 years ago, Lauren went with me to climb Spooky Hill. She had to stop halfway up and lay down for a while. She was ghostly pale and trying not to barf. Since then, she has had a baby. The weight she gained inspired her to start exercising. Yesterday, she, Jake and I climbed Lone Mountain. We were going faster than I usually do and she didn't have any trouble keeping up. The only problem she had was with bugs flying in her ear, hair, and down her throat. I inhaled one, too, and it was disappointingly flavorless.

A view from the top of Lone Mountain. Four Peaks is in the distance and the Goldfield Mountains are in the fading sunlight. Spooky Hill is that tiny bump in the middle on the far left.

I just had a brilliant idea. I was thinking that people might look at that picture above and wonder, "Is Spooky Hill that small bump, or that really small bump next to it?" I can show you exactly where it is. I used Google's people naming feature to name the mountains and other stuff. When you look at the picture in the web album, move your cursor over the picture and a box will be drawn over various features, with the name at the bottom. This is nifty. You can also move your cursor over the "people" names to the right and the items will be highlighted. Why did it take me so long to think of this? There are a couple of bugs (a kewpie doll to the first person to list them) with using this feature this way, but it's still pretty handy.

Jake and Lauren at the top. She doesn't even look tired. He wasn't tired. He had to go running later for some exercise.

Wow, I'm excited about my discovery, but it's late and I'm sleepy. Good night. Oh, click below to see all of the pictures. Two or 3 of them have names placed on geological features.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Salt River tubing

No, not me. I can think of no reason I would ever want to do that again. I did want to get some videos of the drunks on the river, but they wouldn't behave badly when I had the camera pointed at them.

This area is normally a large expanse of bare dirt.

But first, the hike to the river. And first, a little background about that. For several years, when going through Bulldog Canyon OHV area, I had noticed large numbers of hoof prints crossing the area. It was in the spring that I saw them, and they seemed to be going north (towards the Salt River). I had always thought that it was deer going to the river for water. Then a year or two ago I read in the paper about some ranchers that would drive herds of sheep through there on their way to summer feeding grounds. Mystery solved. I've wanted to see the sheep making the trip, but it isn't announced beforehand. They crossed through Bulldog Canyon a week or two ago this year.

The winter rains had this area covered with plants, which had dried out and were then trampled by the sheep.

On to the hike. As I walked toward the Salt River, I could see where the sheep had been. I thought I might follow their path and see where they crossed the river. The river is a little higher than I'm used to seeing it, though, and a side channel that is normally dry blocked my path.

Side channel of the Salt River. The white stuff on the water is from some trees along the river. It coated everything.

The side channel at another spot.

I didn't have to walk down river very far to get to the main channel. I got three kinds of reactions when I pointed my camera at the people in the river. By far the most common was waves and smiles. I ruined most of my videos of those people by shaking the camera when I waved back. Next was complete indifference. Last was belligerence. I thought those people were just mean drunks looking for a fight, but when I got home and was looking at the videos, Lindsey looked over my shoulder and said, "Dad, you were taking pictures of people on the river? That's creepy!" So it seems that there is some sort of social taboo about taking pictures of people in a river. Or maybe it's about taking pictures of people I don't know. Or maybe it's about taking pictures of people in swim suits. Maybe it's because I was on the bank and not in the river. Or maybe it's all of those things and something else. Anyway, it's too complicated for me, so I think I'll stick to landscapes in the future.

Here's a short video illustrating the noise on the river. Bad music and helicopters. Sheriff Joe's boys fly up and down the river all day.

I looked at a few other videos of peoples Salt River tubing experiences. They often add a music sound track so you can't tell what it sounds like on the river. There were not many people on the river yesterday, though (it's early in the season), so I didn't capture the ruckus that I wanted. I wanted to do that so people planning a family tubing trip would have a better idea of what they are getting into. If I had captured what I wanted, though, the videos would probably have been flagged as inappropriate.

A typical reaction to the camera; smiles and waves.

More happy tubers.

This is a video of some minnows in the river. I included it for the background noises. Screams and a red-winged blackbird.

A "fast" part of the river.

The last video is of a guy that was yelling, "Take a picture of me!" He asked if it was going to be on the web and I told him what I tell everybody that asks that: Google Art's desert exploration blog. He looked at his companions and said something like, "Gog. Google ... desert. What? Exorcism? Oh, I'll never remember that." He was plastered. I don't know if he'll even remember being on the river. Maybe one of his fellow tubers will remember and help him find this.

"Take a picture of me!"

I took some pictures of other stuff, too. There were some nice prickly pear flowers.

It was only about 97 while I was out there, and I wasn't moving around a lot, but I got there at 3 to get the tubers. After more than an hour in the sun, I was getting uncomfortable. I had the AC blowing full blast for the 30 minute drive home, but the cameras were still hot to the touch by the time I got around to downloading pictures. Click below to see all of the pictures.