Sunday, June 30, 2013

Willow Creek tinaja and random ramblings

A month or two ago I had tried hiking up a part of Willow Creek that I hadn't seen before and was stopped at a large tinaja with steep cliffs on both sides. I went back there last week to see if it has dried up yet. It seems to be very deep, though, and still has lots of water in it.

The water level has dropped more than 2 feet since the last time I was here. There's still a lot of water in there.

There were lots of birds around when I arrived. I also heard several "plops" as frogs jumped into the water. I sat still on a rock by the tinaja and the birds slowly came back and the frogs crawled out of the water. I could only stand to sit there for about 10 minutes, though. The rock was in the shade but it had been in the sun all day. I was getting really hot, and it was late enough in the day that there was no breeze.

From 2013_06_25
I often see these wasps at desert watering holes. I ignore them and they ignore me.

A toad half buried in the gravel. Tinajas always have lots of honey bees around them, too.

A couple of days before I went out there, I was sitting around thinking random thoughts and I randomly remembered that my camera will allegedly take HDRIs. Willow Creek is a good place to test that. I was disappointed. I guess the camera needs to be on a tripod. Using a tripod every time I wanted an HDRI would be much more trouble than the time I spend crunching pictures at home now. Canon doesn't have a good HDRI solution yet.

Speaking of Canon, they make nice cameras but their clocks are barely better than hour glasses. The clocks in their cameras gain or lose two or three minutes every week. That's significant when you want to geotag your pictures. I have to set my camera clock at least once I week. I've had to do that with every Canon camera I've owned. I've gotten free watches in boxes of cereal that didn't gain or lose that much in the 3 years it took for their battery to go dead. I set them once and never had to mess with them again. Why can't Canon do that?

Click below for all of the pictures.


Spooky Hill

It's been getting kind of hot lately, so one day after work I wanted to go on a hike for which I knew how much effort would be involved. And I didn't want to expend too much effort, so I went to Spooky Hill. You won't find that name on any maps except mine, though. I named it that years ago because the first time I hiked there, the sounds seemed very strange. Well, actually, there were no sounds. That's not too unusual, but when you make a noise, you should hear an echo. On that day there were no echos. The air swallowed up every sound I made, even the really loud ones. I whistled. It was loud enough to hurt my ears. Then it was gone. Nothing came back. Reminded me of The Langoliers. I've been back there several times since then and everything seems normal.

I think it's a pretty area out there, especially late in the day.

I took the tripod along because I was planning to make a 360 degree panorama. I put that panorama on my Panoramio page, if you are interested in seeing it. The camera wasn't level, but that was halfway intentional, because the landscape wasn't even. I got the tops of the mountains on one side without getting too much sky on the other side. It isn't obvious that the camera was tilted in the panorama. Since I had the camera on a tripod, though, I decided to get a picture of me. In that picture you can see that the camera is tilted. What's funny is that when I first looked at it, I thought that I couldn't straighten it because there weren't any saguaros nearby that I could use as a reference for vertical. I guess I don't trust myself to be vertical.

Tilted, and kind of fat, too.

I don't know if the heat affects me more these days or if I've just become more aware of its effects. I think that now I realize that when I'm struggling up a hill in the heat, I'm not struggling because I'm out of shape or because I'm hungry or something else like that. It's because it's hot, my body is having a difficult time staying at a healthy temperature, and therefore my legs feel like lead because climbing generates too much heat. Spooky Hill is small, but I stopped often on the way up, for several minutes at a time.

It looks so serene, and it is very quiet at this time of year.

I carry extra water in hot weather, thinking that if I get too hot I will pour it on myself to cool off. A potential problem with that plan is that, when you get too hot, your brain doesn't work correctly, so you may not be able to do anything about it. I think I'm just going to be extra careful the rest of the summer.

Click below for all of the pictures.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A roudabout route to a familiar trail

Remember me saying that I would go down there some day?

On my way to climb that hill that was vertical on one side last weekend, I saw that a trail went down a draw next to it. That's where I went on Monday. On Google Earth, it looked like a trail might go all the way down to First Water Creek. I didn't see how, though, since parts of the route seemed vertical. Well, I've been there now and I know that you can't use that route to get to First Water Creek without a rope.

A view along the way.

I was in the shade for a significant part of the hike, which was really nice. It was pretty warm that day. Several times on uphill stretches I had to stop and stand there for a while just to cool off. Not to catch my breath, which is my usual reason for stopping, or to rest my legs. I was getting uncomfortably hot. I carry enough water that I can soak myself if I have to. That is extremely effective when the dew point is about 80 degrees below the current temperature. I didn't have to, though, because I was able to cool off by standing still.

I took this for something to do while at one of my cooling-off stops. I was standing in the shade of a saguaro.

I was following cairns and a rough trail. I suddenly found myself on a well-worn trail and as soon as I stepped on it, I realized that I was almost at the exact spot where Lauren's friend Eric had stood too close to an ant mount while taking a picture of the big ants. That's how I know they hurt when they sting. Eric yelped.

Eric's ants. If he still reads my blog, I'm sure this brings back fond memories. Or maybe painful memories.

The well-worn trail is the First Water Creek overlook trail. It's a relatively flat trail that has some nice views of Canyon Lake and Four Peaks, and you don't feel like you have to hold onto the rock with your toes while you take pictures. I haven't been on that trail for a while because I've already been there several times. I'm glad I found myself on it again, though. There is some very nice scenery along there.

I took a bunch of pictures of Canyon Lake and Four Peaks again.

Click below for all of the pictures.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Just for pictures

I wanted to try to get some nice pictures of Canyon Lake with Four Peaks in the background. There are lots of places just off Apache trail where there is a view of both. I decided to hike to the top of a hill next to First Water Creek that I've been thinking I should climb for a couple of weeks. It seemed like there would be a good view from there and the slope leading up to the top didn't look very steep in some of my pictures of it.

I'm going to that dark-colored ridge on the left. It looks easy from here.

I've seen cairns out there before but they never seemed to go where I was going. On this day though, they led all the way to my destination. The trail split at the base of the hill. One went up and it looks like the other might go all the way down to First water Creek. I'll have to follow that some other day. Anyway, I went up and it turned out to be much steeper than I thought it would be. I had to stop frequently to catch my breath.

There were fence-building materials at the base of the hill.

In the recent past I've made videos as I approached a cliff or someplace with a potentially interesting view. I kind of wish I had done that as I topped this ridge. On the other hand, it would have been embarrassing if you heard me scream like a little girl. The top of the ridge is 5 or 6 feet wide and the other side appears to be almost vertical for at least 400 feet. Maybe the trails were made by base jumpers.

The view of the lake and Four Peaks was pretty good from the top.

I stayed up there for about 15 minutes taking pictures. I wanted to take a 360 panorama but there was no way I was going to balance on that ridge and turn a full circle while looking through a viewfinder. I managed to get a 180 without moving my feet. My toes kept going to sleep because I was afraid to move my feet, even while I was sitting down. My toes were also achy from trying to hold on to the rock through my shoes. I was not comfortable up there.

I took a bunch of regular pictures and a bunch of HDRIs. When I got home, I processed the HDRIs several different ways, trying to find what looked best. I couldn't decide. Rather than trying to decide which pictures to upload to a web album, I just uploaded all versions of all of them and asked the world which ones look best. So far, I've heard back from one person who said she likes a couple of the pictures that I probably wouldn't have even uploaded if I was being choosy (some random rocks and a stick). *Sigh.*

Lately, I have also been uploading a screenshot of my hiking tracks shown in Google Earth, showing an elevation profile. Google Earth is strangely confused about this elevation profile, though. It shows the peak of the hill as being much lower than the saddle I went through to get to it. I was looking down on the saddle from the ridge. Endomondo seems to show the elevations correctly. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Looking for something new on a familiar trail

It was kinda warm on Monday. I think that's the day my truck thermometer said it was 113 on the freeway on the way home. It's usually 3 to 5 degrees hotter than the official temperature on the freeway. It's also a few degrees cooler out in the desert than it is at the airport. I think it was only about 104 when I started my hike. I decided that I would avoid a steep trail that day, and there was something near the Superstition Mountains that I wanted to get a look at. It's something I noticed in my pictures but hadn't known to look at when I was out there.

One nice thing about blistering hot days is that the trails aren't very crowded. I did hear some people nearby as the sun set, though.

I went out what used to be a jeep trail. It's very straight for a long way and climbs gently. It was also quiet. The desert is very quiet this time of year. The birds are done claiming mates and territory. Most of the flowers are gone so there aren't as many bees around. The gnats are bothering somebody else. Sometimes there are small birds that fly around noiselessly close to the ground and call very softly, as if they are whispering. Mostly it's just the crunch of my footsteps and when I stop to take a picture, if I'm not breathing too hard, I can hear the chuff, chuff, chuff of my heartbeat when I open my mouth.

What I'm looking for is somewhere near there, or just west of there.

Hanging fruit cholla has flowers but its primary method of propagation is dropping pieces of stems that take root and grow.

The face of the mountains changes slowly as you walk by. Reminds me of a project I need to work on just as soon as I get a round toit.

The rock I was looking for was easy to find. I would like to hike all the way out to it some day but it doesn't look like it will be easy to get to. I only went 3 miles on mostly smooth ground on this hike and my ankle hurt the next day. Anything over a couple of miles seems to bother it these days.

This is the rock I was looking for. It looks kind of like an upside down L.

It was close to sunset as I made my way back to the truck. Usually the big red and black ants are back in their mounds before sunset. I kept seeing them all over the place, though, and they were scattered all over the place instead of following trails like they usually do. That should have told me that they weren't ants but I didn't realize it until I saw a couple that were connected end-to-end. That's when I finally took a closer look. They might be some kind of beetle and they were all over the place.

Are these beetles?

Click below for all of the pictures.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Near a familiar place

I haven't been going to Bulldog Canyon much lately because there aren't many places there that I can get to that I haven't already been to. I was looking at Google Earth and decided there might be an interesting spot that I hadn't seen before near the Willow entrance to the area.

This rock is near the Willow entrance to Bulldog Canyon OHV area. It is very noticeable as you drive to Canyon Lake.

I was going to check out a spot that looked like a wash had cut a mountain in half. Surely there would be something worth seeing there. It didn't look like there would be much climbing involved, either, which was good because it was about 102. I started out following what looks like a road but really isn't. When I left the road I found that I was following a very well-defined trail.

This trail is narrow with sharp edges. That means it was made by people on horses.

Before I had followed it very far, the trail split. I followed the side that went towards the notch. It climbed slightly and after going past a large column of rock, it dropped steeply down to the wash. Very steeply. I can't imagine people riding horses down that part, and I didn't see horse shoe marks on the rock. I was going slowly and carefully and thinking about the article I had read that morning in AARP magazine about old people falling down and decided not to add to the statistics that day. It was too hot to go back to the fork and follow the other route so I was just moseying back to the truck and looking around.

The trail descends steeply on the other side of that rock.

I looked to my left at one point and thought that area needed its picture taken. I did that and of course, I needed to go in that direction a little to see what else needed a picture taken. It's funny how you can wander from one interesting spot to the next and then the next and before you know it you're on top of a mountain.

This led me away from the path.

Then I had to get a better view of that.

Then I needed to get pictures of these scattered rocks from different angles.

Which resulted in my finding this (suspected) rattler hiding in a rock hole.

Which was right next to THIS.

Obviously, somebody hid something here. Recall that not 10 feet away from here I found a napping rattler in a hole just like this. Anyway, I figured that it was either the Lost Dutchman's gold or a geocache. One would be worth wrestling rattlers, one would be *meh*. I carefully removed one rock and could see the corner of a Tupperware container. Geocache. I put the rock back and looked for the next picture to be taken. That's when I found myself on top of the mountain. I took a 360 panorama which is on my Panoramio page and my Photosynth page if you're interested in seeing it.

I couldn't go any further, so it was time to head back. I passed by a grassy area along the way and heard a rattler start up. I really like it when they tell me I'm getting too close. I would hate to step on one. I didn't get any good pictures of this one. It was moving away quickly.

Notice the pinkish underside and reddish tail. I think that's real (and not because it was getting late).

Click below for all of the pictures.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Where I meant to go last time

I made it to the place I intended to go that day that I got distracted by a balanced rock. It was prettier and more interesting than I thought it would be. It wasn't as hot as I was afraid it would be, either. 97 when I got in the truck after sunset. I forgot to look at the thermometer earlier. It was dead calm most of the time. The most amazing thing was that I did not see or hear a single gnat the whole time. Hallelujah.

It was pretty right from the beginning.

See that truck that is so plain it stands out? I saw another one exactly like it as I was driving home. Play Twilight Zone music here. I guess it could have been the same one if the guy was just driving back and forth and back and forth on Apache Trail.

This area has a LOT of these round rocks. The don't get that way from weathering. They form that way.

I found a bunch of junk like batteries, a flashlight, a convex mirror, a bottle of salad dressing, etc. around this bag from the "International Conference on Design and Construction of Deep Foundations". Odd.

I just kind of wandered around out there. I would see someplace that might be interesting and head over there but get distracted by something else and take a side trip, and so on and so forth.

A picture of my wanderings.

There was a ridge to the south that I wasn't even looking at because it seemed much higher than I wanted to climb. As I got closer to it, though, I kept seeing signs of a faint trail. No cairns, just places without grass that should have had grass. Also narrow paths where the thin veneer of desert soil had been damaged by careless footsteps and then washed away in a rainstorm to expose the solid rock beneath it. I had seen so much strange stuff already, I had to follow it to see what else there was. As I approached the top of the ridge I realized that the path I was currently following was actually an ant trail. Yes, those big red ants actually clear vegetation from their heavily used paths. Fortunately it was getting to be late in the day and most of the ants had returned to the mound, so I didn't have to try too hard to not step on them. Well, they've never bitten me, so I don't want to step on them.

I had a nice view of Canyon Lake and Four Peaks.

I took a lot of pictures of this view. You can tell that the sun is getting low.

As I approached the top of the ridge, I got excited like I always do about what the view might be like from up there. I topped the ridge and, lo and behold, there was ... Apache Trail. Oh well. I was catching my breath and looking around when I spotted a structure of some sort.

My first thought was "swing set" but I quickly ruled that out. Then I wondered if it was some sort of mining contraption.

I took a picture of it and started to move to my left to get it from a different angle. A person that has been hiking in the desert for a few years does not move his feet without looking first. Good thing. I was standing next to a very deep hole.

I guess I should have taken an HDRI. There's a ladder down there. I couldn't seem the bottom. Well, I just couldn't get very close to the edge. This is about 7 feet long by 2 feet wide.

I hung around for a few minutes up there enjoying the view, then had to hurry back to the truck before it got dark. Yes, I'm sure there's a faint trail now. Maybe made by the same person making repeated trips, and he doesn't want to be followed (no cairns). He needs to learn how to walk more carefully, though. Click below for all of the pictures.


Saturday, June 01, 2013

A balanced rock

The mulch fire is still burning. I've been choking on smoke the past 2 days. I think criminal charges should be brought against the yahoo that let that get out of hand. The air seem to be a little better out by Canyon Lake and I've got to keep moving or I'll top 200 pounds soon. That just astonishes me. I used to lie about my weight. I told people I weighed 135 so I wouldn't seem so skinny. I wore two pairs of socks so my ankles wouldn't look like toothpicks (but they still did). Yes, I could even tread water in a garden hose. I'm getting off-topic here, though. Canyon Lake. Again. I planned to hike a little bit south of where I had been the last time I was out there.

A few years ago, Sweetums and I were on our way out to Canyon Lake and she spotted a balanced rock on a ridge. You can only see it for a short distance along the road and that stretch of road is curvy so I'm usually watching the road. I wanted to hike out to the rock but I couldn't find it again. Well, yesterday I happened to glance to the left at just the right time and saw it again. I changed plans and figured out where to park. It turns out that I've parked there a few times before and have been to the top of the hill (actually a double-peaked hill) a couple of times, but that was always after having had a cold or having spent too much time playing video games and I didn't have the energy to go further.

A nice view just beyond the saddle of the hills.

The balanced rock is over there. It looks much more impressive from the road but I couldn't stop there to get a picture.

It was easy to get out to the rock, except for the last few feet. I didn't think it was worth the effort of dropping down a 5 foot cliff to get just a little closer.

This is as close as I got.

Willow Basin.

There were lots of cool rock formations around. Some looked like lightning rods that had been blasted quite a few times. I'm going to have to do some more exploring in that area.

I've been on top of that but it was a long hike to get there. I'll have to go from this direction next time. It will be much easier.

Click below to see all of the pictures.