Saturday, April 27, 2013

Someplace I haven't been before

I've sometimes thought about not writing about an area until I was done exploring it, but I'm never really done. I've been on four hikes in an area near Canyon Lake and now I have a bunch of pictures but I've probably forgotten what I was going to say about them. You may recall (but probably don't) that I have been hiking along Willow Creek several times. It's a short drive from the house and easy to get to and the area is scenic (at least to me). I decided I would hike around a relatively flat area between the road and the creek.

The place I was hiking is near the 20 foot waterfall that I got pictures of a few months ago.

As I was wandering around, I saw what looked like a small side canyon on the other side of Willow Creek. The more I thought about it that night and the next day, the more I thought that I needed to go check it out.

A bad picture of a small side canyon on Willow Creek. I didn't think much of it at the time or I would have tried to get a better picture.

This picture is taken from further downstream. It makes it look like it would be easy to hike up to that side canyon.

The side canyon is along a short stretch of Willow Creek that I hadn't explored before. I had no reason to expect it to look much different than the rest of Willow Creek. On the other hand, the scenery varies considerable along the short length of Willow Creek. Well, it does to me, anyway. I suppose some people would say that it's all rocky desert. I'm glad I don't see it that way. So I headed back to Willow Creek a couple of days later to check out that side canyon.

Prickly pears are blooming. Most of them have yellow flowers so I take pictures of the ones that aren't yellow and end up with lots of pictures like this.

I used to try to get pictures of every kind of flower I came across. Now I look at a flower and think, "I've probably got a picture of that somewhere."

I descended to the creek close to the 20 foot waterfall. I suppose I should give that waterfall a name so I can quit referring to it as "the 20 foot waterfall". Any suggestions?

Somebody recently built some cairns in Willow Creek.

I hadn't gone far upstream before I came to an obstruction. In the past I have referred to these as puddles but in the southwestern U.S. the proper name is tinaja. This one is large, deep, and has steep cliffs on both sides. Well, they weren't extremely steep on one side. I could probably have worked my way around on that side. I really did not want to fall in, though

A tinaja blocks my progress upstream.

Since I couldn't go further upstream, I decided to see what was uphill on the left bank of the creek. It looked like it might be pretty up there and it also looked like an easier climb that the right bank.

The view looking downstream along Willow Creek. The 20 foot waterfall is at those cliffs on the right.

I eventually got to a spot from which I could look down at Willow Creek just a little further upstream of the tinaja that stopped me. I could see another large tinaja that would have stopped me again if I had gone around the first one. There were also tinajas in a couple of streams that empty into Willow Creek near there.

There are at least 5 tinajas visible in this picture.

I made a short video walking to the overlook where I saw the tinajas. Sorry about the shakiness. Also, you have to use the camera's LCD display when shooting videos (long story) and I have a lot of trouble seeing that display out in the desert so the camera is often not pointed where I want it to be pointed.

Video made as I approached a cliff overlooking some tinajas.

I don't think I ever saw the side canyon I was expecting to see. If I did, I didn't recognize it. I saw enough, though, that I decided I needed to explore that area some more. I went back a couple of days later and took a slightly different route to the creek and crossed it a little downstream of the 20 foot waterfall.

There were cairns along the route I chose, and a very faint trail.

I started going up a wash on the other side of Willow Creek and there were cairns there, too. It wasn't easy to follow the trail, though, and I didn't really try. I just kept going in the direction I wanted to go. I kept running across cairns, though.

The predominate color of desert flowers seems to be yellow.

There's a pointy rock along the way. It probably has a name but I don't know what it is so I decided to name it "Dragon's tooth".

It was on this hike that I encountered a problem I don't remember having before. The ground is covered with some kind of grassy plant. It has produced seeds and the seeds are at about ankle height and seem to be designed to be distributed by animals, and they hitch a ride on animals by getting stuck in their fur. I don't have fur, especially on my ankles, but I do wear socks. I got lots of seeds in my socks and shoes, and they burrow through the socks and the linings of the shoes and poke you in the feet and ankles. It's very annoying. I was thinking about that and about how the gnats, though they aren't too bad this year, are also annoying and how the rocks are always trying to twist my ankles and the sweat from the effort of walking drips into my eyes and stings them and how there aren't many saguaros (which provide the only shade) in this area. Then I thought about what it would be like if I could drive on a paved road and walk a short distance on a paved walkway to get here. It would be like the north rim of the Grand Canyon; so thick with tourists you couldn't stir them with a stick. Thank God for grass seeds and gnats and ankle-twisting rocks and heat.

On this hike I encountered something else that probably keeps a few other people from exploring the desert. It was a friendly rattlesnake. I say he was friendly because he started rattling when I was about 4 feet away from him. I really appreciate those early warnings. I often go an entire year without seeing a rattlesnake, so this was a special occasion.

A friendly rattlesnake. His rattle is a blur. Also, notice the heads of grass seed around him. That's the stuff I don't like.

I mentioned the seed problem to some fellow hikers at work and one guy said he carries gaiters to keep that stuff out of his socks. I got some and they work great as long as you keep them snug.

As I continued up the wash, there was a faint trail and cairns there. I wasn't intentionally following the trail but it seemed to be everywhere I went.

One of many cairns.

I saw some mining claim markers out there and wondered if the cairns had been put there by whoever thought they had found their retirement fund. I have stopped stuffing my pockets with gold nuggets since everywhere out there seems to be staked out ;-) That's OK; all that extra weight was just another annoyance anyway.

I went as far as the top of a hill which was only about half a mile from where I had parked. It was not an easy half mile, though. The top of the hill was flat and smooth and had very few ankle-twisting rocks scattered about. I didn't dare take my eyes off the ground, though. I didn't want to find an unfriendly rattlesnake by feeling it bite my leg.

Cholla on the hill.

My next hike in that area was the first time I tried the gaiters. I didn't have a lot of sunlight so I just wandered around near where I had already been. I didn't take near as many pictures because I already had pictures of most of the stuff out there. Strangely, it seemed that no matter which direction I went, I encountered cairns. I started to wonder if some nutcase had spent several years putting them all over the place out there.

Several buzzards kept an eye on me during this hike. Maybe they had worked out some sort of deal with the rattlesnake.

An elegant but flimsy cairn.

I have a couple of specific places in mind that I plan to visit out there. I'll be doing that soon if it doesn't get too hot. Since I organize my pictures by date, there are several album links below.





Sunday, April 21, 2013

Just wandering

There are lots of places along Apache Trail where you can pull over and go wandering around in the desert. A few days ago I stopped at a place where I had last been hiking about 8 years ago. It was close to sunset so I didn't wander very far.

I found Sneaky Pete's final resting place.

The prickly pears have bloomed.

It has amazed me for years that I have never gotten a thorn stuck in my foot. I get cholla balls stuck to my shoes all the time, but a thorn hadn't gotten through to my foot until this hike. I was walking along what used to be an ATV trail when something stabbed me in the arch. I sat on a rock to get the thorn out, but it was a small rock and so I got stickers stuck all over my pants legs. Sitting down in the desert must be done very carefully.


That stuff covering the ground around this hedgehog cactus is full of stickers.

Cholla are also blooming.

I find the desert scenery to be very relaxing.

I was looking for something interesting to photograph and decided to get a closer look at a rock outcropping. The sun had dipped below the Goldfield Mountains by the time I got to it, though.


The sun set on the rocks by the time I got there.

A hike in the desert is never disappointing. There's always something interesting or something pretty. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ant Hill, and the accelerating passage of time

I went for a short hike on March 29 and I'm just now getting around to writing about it. I can't figure out why it takes me so long to get things done. It's getting worse, though. Anyway, way back in March there were brittlebush flowers all over the place. My jeans would be yellow after a hike from brushing against them.

Brittlebush flowers on a hillside.

From the top of the hill.

I drove into Bulldog Canyon at the Cottonwood entrance. It's probably the least scenic entrance but I knew there were a lot of flowers in that area. Also, it was kind of a cloudy, dreary day so I didn't think I was going to get any great pictures anyway. I went to the top of a hill near the road and stood up there for a while enjoying the view and taking some pictures.

I made a 360 panorama while I was up there.

I've heard that time passes quickly for older people, but it's getting ridiculous. By the time I get a batch of clean laundry put away, it's time to start another load. By the time I get the groceries put away, it's time to go to the store again. By the time I get the last fingernail cut, the first one needs trimming again. It's like that old saying; The faster I go the behinder I get.

I saw something from the top of the hill and went to investigate. It turned out to be a mining claim marker. Dangit, I had just filled my pockets with gold nuggets. Oh well, all that weight was making it hard to hike, anyway.

I found a mining claim marker. It had paperwork in a bottle taped to the pole. The paperwork was wet and see-through but I tried taking pictures of it. Then I wandered around a little. I kept looking at a larger hill to the north and arguing with myself about climbing it. Then I spotted a hole in the rock near the top. That settled the argument. Off I went.

I seem to be obsessed with finding rocks with holes in them.

I took a lot of pictures of the "arch", trying to get a good one. Those things are frequently not well-positioned for pictures, though. Getting pictures was complicated by something else, too. Arizona has large red ants. Texas used to have them but I think they were run off by fire ants. Anyway, they are all over Arizona and I hear that their stings hurt but they are not aggressive and I've never been stung by one. I'm careful not to stand still where there are a lot of them. There were a lot on this hill, though. Their nests were more closely spaced that is usual. It was warm so they were out hunting for food. Every time I stopped to rest on the way up the hill, I had to look around for a spot that wasn't in one of their trails so I could stand still. It was hard to get the angles I wanted for pictures of the arch because so much of that area was crawling with ants. I decided to name that hill "Ant Hill" because of all the ants.

The arch from the other side.

The sun made a feeble attempt at coming out.

I got back to the truck about the time the sun set.

I'm wondering if by the time I click the publish button, will I be complaining about the summer heat or will I already be back to complaining about the winter cold (which didn't seem as cold last winter, probably due to the extra insulation I've packed on). Click below to see all of the pictures.


Monday, April 08, 2013

White Canyon Wilderness

I've been making Gary climb to the top of this or the top of that for years now. He suggested that we go someplace that wasn't vertical or miles and miles of hiking. I thought the hike up the canyon in White Canyon Wilderness might be perfect. It isn't vertical (well, the sides are, but you don't climb those) and you can't go very far before it gets too difficult (at least for me) to go any further. With a 4wd truck, I could park at the start of the trail, too, instead of a mile or so back. On top of all that, it's very scenic.

I signed in at the register and there were notes there about cairns and purple dots. When I had been there before, cairns were next to nonexistent and there were no purple dots. Anyway, we followed the purple dots and it turned out to be my easiest hike up that canyon. I don't think we saw quite as much in the way of pools of water or small waterfalls, but somebody from Houston probably isn't as obsessive about pools of water as somebody that has lived in the desert during a drought for 10 years.

The trail went through places like this, to the side of the main channel, where walking is easy and doesn't involve climbing over boulders or hoping over water.

We were there early in the day, which is good if you don't want half of a picture in darkness and half extremely bright.

Gary by a small waterfall and extremely white rock. I didn't know he was also taking a picture at the time.

There were flowers all over the place. The water was flowing but was underground at least half of the time. The pools were wonderfully cool.

One of many pools of cool, cool water. There were waterbugs and I hear that they bite, so I didn't want to go wading.

Here's a large stone "paddle" that looks like it's smiling. I don't think it would be easy to get into a position where you could photograph it with a blue background.

I like the way this picture turned out.

It was pretty easy following the purple dots up the canyon. I had more trouble on the way back and wandered from the trail several times. I think that if I had been going where I thought I should go instead of looking for purple dots, I might not have overshot the truck by several hundred feet. If you look closely at the pictures, I think I got the purple dots in a couple of them.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The trail off FR80

It isn't an official trail, but it's well-worn now. It was hard to follow when I first found it 7 or 8 years ago. Gary is in town for his annual visit and I wanted to show him some nice scenery that a lot of people don't get to see. We started the hike at about 10 a.m., which seemed really strange to me. I'm not used to seeing that area with the sun at that angle.

I don't think I've ever seen this scene in this light before.

Gary found a cross-shaped cholla. Well, it was Easter Sunday.

You can see the shadow of that arch at this time of day.

We took a break when we got to the plateau near the end of the trail. The trail splits there. After enjoying the view for a while and wandering around a little, we decided it was time to head back.

I don't know if the light made it easier to recognize stuff or if I've just become more familiar with the area. For example, I know that Tortilla Flat is on the other side of that mesa in the middle of this picture. I don't think I had realized that before.

We saw a Desert Mariposa. This is only the second one I've ever seen. (The other one was on the Boulder Canyon trail.) They are beautiful flowers.

Click below to see all of the pictures.