Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow on Four Peaks

That's what got me distracted from what I was doing. I was headed for Picketpost Mountain. As soon as I got out of the neighborhood, though, I saw that Four Peaks had some snow on it. I decided to go get some pictures of that instead. I went out Bush Highway and stopped at a place I had stopped about 8 years ago.

There are lots of large boulders out here.

The first time I was out there was in late spring. It was hot. It was also a banner year for gnats. I was hoping to get some pictures of Saguaro Lake. I climbed up a hill expecting to be able to see the lake from the top. Silly me. I saw another hill. I clambered down and then up the next hill, expecting to see the lake. Silly me. By then I was very hot, very sweaty, and sick and tired of *!$#&^@ gnats so I left. I hadn't parked there since, until Sunday.

One more hill and I'll be able to see Four Peaks.

I think it was in the 50's this time, and there was a gentle breeze, and no bugs. I planned a route to take me closer to the lake instead of heading for the peak of the nearest hill. I stopped to take lots of pictures, so I didn't get near as tired. It was a much more pleasant experience.

There are lots of interesting rocks and piles of rocks out there.

I came over a hill with a nice view of the lake and the mountain. The breeze had stirred up small ripples on the lake so it did a good job of reflecting the blue sky. By the time I got up there, though, clouds had moved in around Four Peaks.

People are sometimes amazed at how blue the water is in the lakes around here. They ask me if I've edited my pictures. Well, it isn't really that blue, but I don't edit the pictures. Under the right conditions it reflects the blue sky and looks really nice. Otherwise, it looks like brown lake water.

I wandered around for a while up there, taking pictures. I wasn't moving enough to stay warm in the breeze, though. I ambled back towards the truck, trying to get some good pictures of rocks along the way. I always say that being artistic is not my objective, but sometimes I wish I knew how to take a really interesting picture of a rock.

There are a couple of things about this picture that annoy me, but overall I like it.

I found a good spot to get a picture of the Stewart Mountain dam.

Never did get a good picture of Four Peaks.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Sunday, December 09, 2012

Another canyon

There's another canyon to explore near where I was last weekend. It's closer to where I park out there, too. It looks like it would be possible to walk the length of the canyon and come out the other end near Byous Butte. I ran out of time and energy before I got that far, though.

There seems to be a lot of Christmas cholla near the road.

I met a couple of guys on horseback at the beginning of the hike. I thought they might be familiar with the area and asked them if they knew anything about the two canyons. Turns out they had just been wandering around out there for the first time themselves. I told them what direction I was headed and they said I shouldn't go that way because it's very rocky. Well, if you're going to hike up a canyon out there, it's going to be rocky.

I'm going in this direction.

A short time later I came across a couple of guys that looked like Duck Dynasty cast members. I wish I had gotten a picture of them. We talked for a while about what might be out there. Turns out that was there first time out there and they didn't know anything about the area.

This canyon also had cairns every now and then. I have decided that's just somebody's idea of a joke.

I got an earlier start and so I got further than I did last weekend. The rechargable batteries I use in my PN-40 are giving out so I've been trying to use either the EveryTrail app or the Endomondo app lately. I used EveryTrail last weekend. Since I didn't have a signal when I finished the hike, I selected "upload later". I've tried several times to upload the track since then and always get an error message that says the internet connection is down. It isn't. I wrote to their tech support. No response yet. So not only can I not transfer pictures from my web albums to EveryTrail trips, I can't even upload trips now. EveryTrail seems to be going downhill. Endomondo isn't much better. It seems that if you do anything with your phone besides run the Endomondo app (e.g., read a text message), the app does unpredictable things like deciding your hike is complete, or not collecting any data for the next hour. I need to buy some more batteries for the PN-40 because it looks like all the smart phone apps are probably useless. The PN-40 only crashes once a year or so.

I checked my SPOT page when I got home yesterday. The canyon didn't seem to be that narrow, but There was over 1.5 hours between a couple of updates. Should be updates every ten minutes. Nobody that I depend on to watch that and send help if I'm incapacitated seemed to notice, though. Maybe they're just confident that I won't be doing anything stupid.

It was pretty in the canyon. There were lots of interesting formations. I took a lot of pictures but pictures taken from the bottom of a canyon just don't look very good.

The further upstream I went, the bigger the boulders in the creek bed got.

It was very quiet in the canyon. Every once in a while a cool breeze would blow through it, and it felt wonderful.

The GPS track from my PN-40 tells a story. On the way up the canyon, you can see that I stopped a lot to take pictures. You can also see that I kept going slower. That's because the boulders were getting bigger and progress was more difficult. My speed slowly picked up on the way back. I wasn't stopping to take as many pictures on the way back, but I realized that I needed to stop and rest now and then or I would stumble around because my legs were tired. I only climbed 500 or 600 feet but I did it by going up 2.1 feet, down 2 feet, up 5 feet, down 4.8 feet, etc. My top speed on the road back to the truck was lower that when I started out. I was tired.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Exploring a canyon

I couldn't find a name for it. It's kind of small, so it may not have one. I first noticed it in November of 2008. I've been meaning to take a closer look since then, but every time I drove by there it was over 100. Too hot to go that far without knowing what was out there.

If you look at this location on Google Earth and turn on the Panoramio layer, you will see that I have a picture placed at this position.

There were at least 2 other places I wanted to go hiking on Sunday but I piddled around until it was too late to go to those places. I do that a lot and I think the reason might be that I just don't like being out in the bright mid-day sun. Makes for not-so-good pictures, too. For example, look at the next 2 pictures.

Looking back at Roblas Butte at the beginning of the hike.

Roblas Butte near the end of the hike. I think this just looks better.

I went to the top of a couple of hills at the beginning of the hike, to see if I could pick a path to the canyon. That didn't help at all. I just went in the direction I wanted to go. Before I had gone very far, though, I came across a cairn and a very faint trail. Cool. The nice thing about following other people's trails is that people are lazy (like me) and so they have probably marked the easiest path.

On a trail. A faint trail.

The trail was very faint and difficult to follow, so I just kept going the direction I wanted and noticed a cairn now and then. I took several pictures of the trail and you can see when you look at all of them that there isn't much there. After a little further, a large hill blocked the direction I was headed. The trail went into a creek bed there. I don't like walking in creek beds, but it looked like it might be less work than climbing over the hill. I didn't see many cairns in the creek bed. In fact, I had decided that it was late enough and I had better turn back. I was standing there taking in the scenery, drinking some water and cooling off when I spotted another cairn upstream. Well, OK, just a little further.

Another cairn beckons be onward.

I went a little further, but the creek bed seemed to be getting harder to walk in and it looked like there would be nowhere to go but up, soon. I stopped again to look around before starting back and I saw a large hole in the rock up above.

Zoomed in on the hole. It must be 4 or 5 feet in diameter.

Well, I thought it was cool. Well worth the hike to get out there. Since I had seen something new and interesting, I could head back now.

The trail was easier to follow on the way back. Maybe it showed up better with the sun at a lower angle. I hadn't noticed these borders before.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fish Creek, maybe

It's either Lewis and Pranty Creek or Fish Creek. It's hard to tell from all the maps I've checked. Anyway, it's a canyon I've been meaning to explore for a few years. The weather was perfect yesterday so I headed for Fish Creek Hill, planning to explore some canyon or other out there. My first choice was to go upstream from the bridge at the bottom of Fish Creek Hill. There was a crowd of people there, though, and no place to park.

It looked a little intimidating at first. All those rocks would make walking difficult. It wasn't bad at all, though.

There are some impressive cliffs along the way.

Fall color.

I think the pictures might have been better if I had been there either earlier or later in the day. As it was, I was in a fairly dark canyon with very bright cliff faces up above. The HDRIs just don't look very good.

It's almost like a jungle.

It was cool and damp at the bottom of the canyon. Every now and then a warm, dry breeze would blow through. There were lots of footprints in the sand. Dozens of people must have walked up and down that canyon since the last rain. I didn't see anybody the whole time I was there, though. I don't think I saw what makes it so popular, though. I stopped to check the time once and calculated that I couldn't get back to the truck before sunset. It was still too warm to be tromping through tall grass and brush after sunset, so I started hurrying back then. I saw some nice stuff, but I don't think I've found the big attraction yet.

There are lots of shallow caves in the sides of the canyon.

My PN-40 didn't go belly-up due to lack of GPS signals, though it did seem to have a little trouble navigating in the narrow canyon. My SPOT seemed to be very confused. I'm going to have to go back earlier in the day and explore further. As it was, I think I went far enough since I'm not in very good shape right now. It was getting hard to walk by the time I got back to the truck, but I was trying to hurry and it was too dark for pictures so I wasn't stopping to rest at all. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Return to NFr 213

Well, I just spent about an hour searching for pictures I had taken the first time I was on NFr 213. Couldn't find them. I think it must have been some time around 2005. Maybe 2006. I didn't try to drive on the road at all then; too rough. I had watched some other people drive up the rough part of the road and most of them seemed to be having a lot of trouble. I hung around for a while watching one guy because I was sure he was going to set his tires on fire (he didn't). I don't remember much else from that hike, except that I was very tired by the time I got back to the truck and that I had to make a walking stick along the way so I could make it back.

I've driven up part of that road 3 or 4 times since then. I've always had to stop at the part where the guy tried to set his tires on fire. It's very steep and very rough there. You wouldn't think it was a road if it weren't for the tire marks. I haven't hiked on that road since the first time I was on it, though. Any time I think about it, I remember how tired I was and go someplace else.

The reason I'm yakking about this is, of course, because I finally drove down that road. There were a couple of times when it seemed like the truck was vertical, but the tires never slipped and the truck just kept going. I did manage to get a small ding in the skid plate. I wish I had a movie or some pictures going over the rough part, but I wasn't about to put on the parking brake and get out. There were lots of pictures I wanted to take along the road, too, but I didn't want to spend a lot of time on that road because most of it is only one vehicle wide. The spots where you could get around somebody are barely wide enough to do that.

I got out to look around less than half a mile along the road. I didn't recognize anything.

Then I came to these cliffs, which I do remember.

Most of the road is pretty rough, but not scary. Just bumpy. It seemed to be much longer than I remembered. I always used to wonder why I had gotten so tired on such a short hike, but I had walked about 6 miles. That's a long way in rough terrain.

I had turned back shortly beyond the clearing for the ranch down there the first time I was out here. It seemed very far away as I drove toward it this time.

At the ranch house location.

As you get close to the ranch house area, the road is close to an intermittent creek and is lined on both sides with mesquite and cat claw acacia. On my first trip out there I had heard something thundering down the road and wisely stepped off the road into the brush. A suburban roared past in a cloud of dust. I still remember the startled look on the driver's face when he glanced to his right and saw me.

I had to stretch my legs by the time I drove down there, so I headed up a small hill to get a view of the area.

View to the east from the small hill.

Looking back at the ranch from the other side.

I encountered oncoming traffic once in each direction. Fortunately, it was in places where it was easy for us to get around each other. Going back down the rough parts was no less traumatic than going up. Well, maybe a little less, since I wasn't looking at nothing but blue sky on the way down. Click below for all of the pictures.


Monday, October 15, 2012

203A, and something shiny

Sweetums says that the new truck is much more comfortable than the other one. I was very comfortable in the other one, but this one isn't bad. Anyway, she has actually been going with me when I go wandering off without really knowing where I'll end up. We headed east on Sunday. We wound up going to 203A, which climbs to about 5000 feet and ends at the southern border of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. I've been up there before and there are beautiful views along 203A. I took pictures of the views the last time I was up there so I didn't take very many this time.

Another saguaro with tires thrown on it.

203A is one lane wide most of the way. It's also a rock wall on one side and an almost vertical drop for about 100 feet on the other side. It's not the kind of road on which you want to encounter any traffic. I encountered another truck for the first time out there while we were on the way down. Fortunately, I was on the rock wall side. I was getting ready to back up to a wide spot about 100 feet back when the kid decided there was plenty of room. I don't know how he stayed on the road, but he did. Nobody in the truck was worried enough to bother with seat belts. Ah, to be young and blissfully ignorant...

This is always a nice view.

Sweetums spotted something else interesting on the way back down. Off in the distance, there was a flashing light. We both wondered if it was somebody in distress and signalling for help. It stopped flashing after a minute or so. I got my mirror out of my backpack (I carry it for those times I need to freshen up along the trail) and was barely able to reflect some light in that direction. We were almost directly between the sun and the location of the flashing light. Anyway, shortly after I did that, the flashing started again. I got out a map and started trying to figure out the location of the light. We had a good cell signal further up the road and I was thinking about going back up there and calling the Pinal County sheriff. I also took pictures an zoomed in on them, but didn't have enough magnification to tell what it was. As I got my bearings and studied the map, though, we also watched the flashing light. Sometimes it seemed to flash too fast to be a person holding a mirror. It was also very regular. It would speed up and slow down and sometimes stop for several seconds. It reminding me a lot of windmills I've watched blowing in the breeze. We eventually decided that was what it had to be.

There's a flashing light out there.

This is the best picture, cropped. On a computer screen, it does look like a windmill.

In the cropped picture, you can see what might be a storage tank to the left. Using roads that were visible in the area and looking for the storage tank, I think I found the location of the windmill. It's at 33 degrees, 43 mintues, 11.67 seconds North and 110 degrees, 46 minutes, 45.60 seconds West if you are interested in looking it up on Google Earth (or any map, I suppose). The coordinates I estimated from the road were a half mile beyond the actual location. That's a high percentage of the 4 miles distance from us, but I think it's pretty good considering that there are no landmarks in the area to help judge how far away it was.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Monday, October 08, 2012

To the Miles trailhead

When you leave the Miami / Globe area going east on US 60, you pass some large open-pit mines. There's a road that meanders between the pits to get to some trailheads and a ranch house. The road looks as if it might be there exclusively for the mines. In fact, there are several signs along the first quarter mile or so of the road that say, "Road not maintained for public use". It sounds to me like the mine owners / operators are trying to discourage the public from using the road. They can't just say "Keep Out", though, because it is a public road. As you go a little further along the road, there are signs that direct hikers to the trailheads. When you are leaving, there are signs that direct hikers back to US 60. You wouldn't want to wander off the public road as you go through the mining area. There are monstrously large vehicles in that area with very limited visibility for the drivers. They could flatten your vehicle (and you) without even knowing it. So if you go out there, stay on the road.

Anyway, I went out there to see what I could see. You don't have a good view of the mines from the road. I followed the road north until I got kind of close to the ranch house, then got bored with that direction and turned around. I stopped at a high point in the road to take some pictures.

A 360 panorama taken from a small hilltop.

The ranch house. I actually got a guy walking across the yard. You may not be able to see him in this version of the photo, though.

I then headed west on the road that goes out to the Miles trailhead. It's dirt, of course, but it was in very good condition. It was also a very nice drive through pine and juniper forest. It looked so unlike the desert that I expected to be cold every time I opened the truck door. It was 82 out there, though.

Along the road to the Miles trailhead.

There's plenty of space to park at the Miles trailhead. There are also some other trails along the road, but one of them barely had enough space to get one vehicle of the road and another had room for 2 or 3 vehicles a short hike from the trailhead. I've come across several trailheads in Arizona that don't have anyplace to park a vehicle. I guess the forest service expects those trails to be used only by one-way hikers (they will be dropped off or picked up at the trailhead, but won't need to park there). That seems kind of restrictive. Doesn't accommodate hikers like me at all.

I'm going to have to try out some of those trails sometime, though. It's so relaxing to listen to wind blowing through pine needles. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hewitt Canyon Road, and a couple of changes

The last time I drove my truck up to the Roger's Trough trailhead, I barely made it. There were parts of the road where I just didn't have enough traction. I was moving at a snail's pace and in the places that I had to lock the axle, the rear end kept sliding towards the cliff at the edge of the road. It was frustrating. I've had several similar experiences lately, in which I was concerned that I might be stranded in the middle of the desert for hours. Because of that and a couple of other reasons I decided it was time to get a 4 wheel drive truck.

Four wheel drive Tacoma.

The new truck easily climbed the road to the trailhead. I drove up in 4H. I put it in 4L and downshifted to 3, 2, or L for much of the descent. The truck has lots of buttons and switches that I haven't tried out yet. One that I did try yesterday is the downhill assist control (DAC). It's great for steep, rocky downhill sections where you might have a very jerky ride otherwise because the bumps make your foot press the brakes too hard. It makes a lot of noise but the owner's manual says it supposed to do that.

Video of the DAC in action.

I made 3 versions of that video. You're seeing the least annoying. The others demonstrate a feature of my new camera but I'll just have to talk about it. I got a Canon T4i. I got it for a couple of reasons. I've taken over 40,000 pictures with the T1i, so it might be close to wearing out, and it's always bugged me that the camera wouldn't re-focus while shooting a video. Well, it will, but it takes a long time and looks really bad. The T4i stays in focus while shooting a video. I got the kit that comes with the 18-135mm zoom lens. That's less zoom range that the lens I used with the T1i, but so far I like the pictures with the 18-135 better. That may have something to do with the much higher quality polarizing filter I put on it, too. It's easier to shoot bracketed photos for HDRIs with the T4i (and at least 2 seconds faster). It has some other cool features that I haven't experimented with yet.

My 2004 Tacoma had one small annoyance. The view of the clock was blocked by the windshield wiper switch. The new Tacoma has what might be a slightly more annoying drawback. The front mudflaps are too long. They dragged on the road / rocks several times yesterday, and Hewitt Canyon Road is not what I would call rough. I'm afraid I'll rip the mudflaps off the first time I have to back up on a rough road.

Click below for all of the pictures. There aren't many. I put a panorama I shot on my Panoramio page (link to the right).


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Weaver's Needle Vista Viewpoint

It seems repetitive, but that's what the sign says. Several years ago, I had gone to the end of the paved trail there and continued on the dirt trail for a while. It's been long ago enough that I had no recollection of what I saw out there, so it was time to go again.

The paved trail takes you to this spot. The view of Weaver's Needle is mostly obstructed from here, though.

The further you go along the unpaved portion of the trail, the better the view of the Superstition Mountains.

It was a little warm out there, especially with the sun on my very dark blue jeans. There were some gnats, too. Most of them just flew around the brim of my hat. I also seem to have gotten a couple of mosquito bites while out there. They would be my seventh and eighth mosquito bites since moving to Arizona over 9 years ago. I can't figure out how people manage to get West Nile in this state.

I like the way this turned out. Can you tell what's different between it and the last 40,000 or so pictures I've taken?

I finally got to an unobstructed view of Weaver's Needle, about a mile from the trailhead. Shortly after that I came to the overflow parking lot for the First Water trailhead. Since I've seen that area recently, it was time to turn back.

View of Weaver's Needle.

I wasn't on an official trail. There are random trails wandering all over the place out there. I decided to take a different one on the way back, thinking it would re-connect with the trail I had been on before. It quickly became obvious it wasn't going to work like that, though. I was headed well south of where I had been before. I had plenty of water and was in an area where it would be darn difficult to get lost and I could always get to Apache Trail to escape.

I was almost to Apache Trail when I decided to cut across some hills to get back to the truck. I was doing a lot of pointless ups and downs but there was some interesting scenery along the way.

One of many mining claim markers in the area. These guys aren't Hispanic, or can't spell, or both.

I spotted the truck and was about to descend to a wash when something on the side of the hill up ahead caught my eye. I was tired and it was getting late, but I couldn't resist going to see what it was.

What are those white and black squares all about?

It didn't take much more clambering around to get to it. Turns out it was an old mine shaft, going straight down for 20 or 30 feet.

I hear that there are thousands of these all over Arizona. More numerous than mosquitoes, apparently.

Click below to see all of the pictures.