Sunday, May 27, 2012

Campaign Trail

I was all set to go take some Photopoint pictures yesterday. The high was forecast to be just 85, and it would probably be much cooler where I was going. I checked fire maps and weather before I left the house, though, and it looked like the area I was headed for could be covered in smoke. It was also possible that some of the roads I would need to use might be closed. I needed to go someplace else. There were some trails near Roosevelt Lake I had been meaning to hike since last summer. I don't know why I didn't go out there over the winter. Anyway, I decided to go check out the Campaign Trail. As I often do, I got a late start. That turned out to be a good thing, though.

I put sunscreen on before I left the house, but I was in shade most of the time on this trail.

I took a lot of pictures of the shady trail, because I'm not used to shady trails and because I couldn't see much else because of the trees.

On the drive out to the trailhead along FR449, I kept seeing what looked like javelina poop. It was in the middle of the trail, too, every hundred feet or so. Seemed like a lot. Then I started coming across stuff that looked just like that except much larger volume (about 1.5 liters). I wonder if that could have been from bears. I was a little jumpy after seeing that.

Progress was slow up the trail. I kept having to stop to take pictures.

I passed the junction with the Reavis Gap trail. It climbs quite a bit. I'll have to take that trail some time and check out the view from the top.

This is a very green place.

Sometimes the trail climbed out of the trees so you could see the view.

There was nobody else on that trail. I had the place to myself. It used to amaze me when I had large areas of the desert to myself, but now it seems normal. With the wind blowing through the trees, this area reminded me of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend. It was very peaceful and relaxing.

This is where I turned back.

This is a video I made walking along the trail, so you can see what it looks like.

The sun seemed to be getting low so I checked the time and how long it had taken me to get where I was. I needed to head back to the truck to get there before sunset. I didn't take as many pictures on the way back, though, so I got there about half an hour before sunset. Still, it was good that I turned back when I did. By the time I got to the truck my feet and ankles were getting pretty achy. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Gnat wars

The main reason I haven't been hiking much lately is the gnats. I'm so fed up with them I actually bought some insect repellent. I've resisted doing that because I don't like putting noxious chemicals all over myself, but I'm desperate. I got some non-deet stuff, thinking it might not be as harmful to me. Then I read the warnings on the package. It says it can cause serious but non-permanent eye damage. That's rather odd. I'm going to try really hard to not find out exactly what that means.

Does this look familiar yet?

To test it out, I went out to that spot in Bulldog Canyon where the gnats have been really bad lately. It was kind of breezy, though, so it wasn't a very good test. Still, the gnats were in my ears almost as soon as I left the truck. I put a little of the repellent on my ears and they mostly stayed away from my ears for over half an hour. I was wearing sunglasses to keep them away from my eyes so I wouldn't have to risk getting any serious eye damage. BTW, if you get it in your eyes, you're supposed to rinse your eyes with water for 15 minutes. I don't think I can carry that much water. The gnats were buzzing around my nose and mouth, too. I snorted about 3 but was unsuccessful at biting them. I wonder if I would be able to tell if I bit one. They might not be flavorful enough to tell.

It was only about 94 out there. It's been up near 110 lately, so it felt cool, especially with the breeze.

On top.

I made it to the top of the cliffs in the middle of that first picture. I wanted to go further but my legs were already wobbly after a week of hiding from gnats.

I'll have to go up there another day.

As I stood up there enjoying the breeze, I thought I could see a shortcut down. It's the kind of thing that gets some hikers in trouble. If I had taken a shortcut because I was tired and wobbly and then found a 10 foot drop in my path, I could have done something stupid like try to make it down that 10 foot drop. The more tired you are, the more you need to stick to a known path to get back. Click below for all of the pictures.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Missed flowers

It's hard to get pictures of saguaro flowers. That's because they are rarely less than 12 feet above the ground. There's a saguaro near the Superstition Mountains that has a couple of droopy arms that curve down to within a couple of feet of the ground. I've always thought that would be a good place to get pictures of the flowers. I was out there a couple of weeks ago, but it was too soon. I went out there again on Saturday and they were completely gone, like something ate them. Maybe that's why saguaros usually put them up so high.

We still had smoke from the Sunflower fire on Saturday.

I'm going to have to come up with a different plan for getting pictures of saguaro flowers. I have a few ideas, and most of them do not run the risk of serious bodily injury.

Four Peaks hiding behind smoke, dust, pollution, and saguaros.

There were no gnats on the way out to the saguaro, but that must have been because I was fresh as a daisy and was walking into the wind. They were somewhat bothersome on the way back to the truck. I was hoping high temperatures the previous week had singed their buzzy little wings but that's not the case. Click below for all of the pictures.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sunscreen failure

No, I didn't get sunburned. I wanted to try sunscreen to see if it would keeps gnats off of me. I put some on after work yesterday and headed for the same spot where the gnats drove me away last time. At first I thought it was helping, but it turns out that it was very breezy and the gnats were just getting blown away. When I got to a place where the breeze was blocked, they closed in.

I got a picture of a female gilded flicker before the gnats attacked.

I also saw something I had never noticed before; new growth on a saguaro that's red.

I was talking to a guy at work and he was surprised that there were gnats out in the desert. I guess he's used to gnats that cluster around water, and he hasn't been out in the desert much. He was also surprised they could be so bothersome. Imagine a dozen little bugs trying at all costs to get into your nose, eyes, and ears and a dozen crawling on each arm. It is very annoying. You can't enjoy the scenery because you're constantly blinking and swatting. The gnats are so bad this year I may even resort to insect repellent.

I took a few pictures of this rock hoping that the crystals glinting in the sun would show up. I didn't even notice the circular patterns because the gnats wouldn't let me look at it long enough.

It's a shame it was so gnatty this week. The highs have only been about 90, which is very nice for hiking (if you're in the desert, where evaporation effectively cools you).

There's got to be something I can do about them that doesn't involve coating myself in noxious, irritating chemicals. Maybe if I made a paper mache head with big, watery eyes (saline solution) and waxy ears and a boogery nose (what could I use for artificial boogers?), they would be more attracted to it than to me. Sort of a Zaphod Beeblebrox look. I'll think of something. Actually, my favorite idea is a Tim the Toolman style of camera strobe that would vaporize their wings. I'd probably hurt myself, though. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Gnats and rattle snakes

I was planning to hike up the side of a mountain in Bulldog Canyon on Sunday. I hadn't been up there for a while and I knew it would be pretty and I wanted to try to get to some places I hadn't been before up there. Before I even left the truck, though, the gnats were being very annoying. They were so bad that I wore my sun glasses just to keep them out of my eyes.

I was planning to go up there.

By the time I had gone 200 yards, my arms were tired from swatting at gnats. I had actually caught and killed 3 in my hands (which is unusual) and had smashed another 40 or 50 on my arms, but they weren't discouraged. I was, though. It was difficult to take pictures with gnats crawling up my nose and into my ears. That's very distracting, you know. It looks like it's going to be a bad year for gnats, so I'm going to have to find a solution. I'm hoping that the sunscreen my sister gave me will keep them away. I've used it twice (to prevent sunburn) and wasn't bothered by gnats at all on those hikes. I don't want to use insect repellent because I just don't like that stuff.

So I headed back to the truck and started driving slowly home. Just a little way down the road there was a snake stretched across the road. It rattled and got ready to strike when I got too close for it's comfort while taking pictures. Then it slithered away.

A little bit further and I came across another one. I'm pretty sure they are in the road to warm up (it was only about 89 out there), but this one was in the shade of a palo verde. As you can see in the video I made with my phone camera, it also started rattling before I was very close.

Western diamondback rattlesnake

The same snake on the side of the road, taken from the safety of my truck.

Then not too much further along the road, I came across a third snake. I got out of the truck to take some pictures and to shoo it away because I didn't think I could drive around it without possibly squashing it.

The third snake. This one's dangerous.

The third one never moved as I got as close as I dared to a rattlesnake. Not even the slightest rattle. As I moved around to it's other side to get more pictures the head followed me, but that was the only movement. It wasn't going to move, so I looked around for a nice, long stick. Longs sticks can be hard to find sometimes but there was a half dead palo verde nearby. I nudged the snake with the stick. It did nothing. I moved it a few inches toward the side of the road. I moved just a little. I started to wonder if it had already been run over. I was sliding it to the side when it decided that enough was enough and it gave its rattle a couple of feeble shakes and slowly slowly slithered away. I don't think it was injured after all. If I had stumbled on those first two snakes without seeing them (while hiking), they would have given me plenty of warning to avoid them. That last snake would have done nothing until I stepped on it. Then it probably would have bitten me. That would spoil the whole hike. It would probably be worse than hundreds of gnats.

I think I've come across 4 rattlesnakes while hiking (that I know of). Two rattled like crazy. Two sat there like rocks. I prefer the ones that rattle. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Sunday, May 06, 2012

A super moon and a coyote

Ever since last year's "super moon", I've been meaning to get some pictures of the moon rising over the Superstition Mountains. It looked really cool last year but both sides of Packsaddle road were jammed with parked vehicles last year. I figured I could get pictures a month later. I didn't need a super moon. Nobody would be able to tell whether it was or wasn't. Well, every time the full moon came around again, it was either too cloudy or I forgot to take pictures or something came up that prevented me from getting out to get some pictures. I finally did it yesterday, which coincidentally was another super moon. BTW, I have no idea who coined that term. It's when the moon is at perigee and also full. Supposedly it looks 14% larger than when it's at apogee but I can't tell any difference.

The moon should rise close to where my shadow points.

Right about sunset (the mountains are in the shadow of mountains to the east (the Goldfield Mountains) for a few minutes before sunset).

It was a perfect evening to be in the desert.

As I stood there (I didn't think to bring a chair) watching darkness gather, I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a coyote wandering by about 30 feet away. That's the first time I've seen one when I wasn't in the truck or Ranger. It saw and / or heard me as I swiveled the camera around to get pictures. I expected it to run away but it continued walking around sniffing the ground. It glanced over at me now and then as if it was making sure that I was behaving myself. It eventually wandered away to the south.


Right after the coyote left, I could see where the moon was about to rise.

I'm disappointed in how the moon pictures turned out. The moon is so bright that if you have it properly exposed, everything else will be black. If you try to get anything else in the picture, the moon is a white blob. I tried making HDRIs but the camera won't do automatic exposure bracketing over a wide enough range for the HDRIs to come out right. The rising moon moves so fast I didn't have time to mess with the exposure manually, but that's what I'm going to try next time. There's got to be a way to make this work.

Not what I had hoped for.

There weren't any other people out there this year. I guess the media didn't hype it as much. Must have been some real news to report. I did see a few people stopped along Baseline road between Ironwood and Idaho. They were along there last year, too. You see the moon rise over flat desert there, which is kind of boring. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

A short hike

I need to do more hiking. I've gotten flabby lately. It's just too much fun to play with Emily after work instead of hiking. I need to get out there now, though, before I start complaining about it being too hot. So yesterday I went looking for a particular flower that I wanted to photograph. It's near the Superstition Mountains.

There was something going on when I got there.

There were a lot of vehicles and a channel 3 news truck at the Crosscut trailhead when I got out there. Turns out a woman had fallen off a cliff at the end of the Massacre Grounds trail. I haven't been on that trail since the road to the trailhead was closed. It's a long walk just to get to the start of the trail.

Saguaro flowers are blooming. I'm going to try to get a picture of one this year. It's difficult to do because I'm not 15 feet tall.

I took a bunch of pictures of the Supes.

Somebody went to a lot of effort to put cairns along this "trail".

The flower that I wanted to get a picture of on this hike hasn't bloomed yet. I'll have to check back in a few days. I hope I don't miss it. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A hill near the Gila river

When looking at the end of Cochran Road on Google Earth, it looks like there ought to be a way to get across the river. I went looking for it on Saturday. I haven't found it yet.

It looks like the water might be shallow all the way across right here. Might be able to wade across, but there's no place to drive.

After taking a couple of pictures of the river, I decided to climb a nearby hill. It looks like people used to drive up it but haven't for a few years. I took a few pictures from up there and started driving towards home. Along the way there were some nice looking red cholla flowers. I had to stop and get a few pictures of them.

That's a pretty color.

Ocotillo flowers.

I was working on the pictures Saturday evening when the unthinkable happened. My NAS quit working. It had turned itself off. I turned it back on and it flashed an error code. I eventually figured out that one of the drives had an error. Fortunately I have it configured as a RAID array. The next day I bought another drive, installed it, rebuilt the array and 20 hours later everything was back to normal (it takes a long time to rebuild a 2 terabyte RAID array). I think I'll see if the drive with the error is salvageable. Maybe it just has a bad sector or something and I can use it to store off-site backups or something (after repairs). Click below to see all of the pictures.