Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bats, maybe, and some other stuff

I visited Carlsbad Caverns many years ago and watched thousands of bats streaming out of the cave at sunset. I've wanted to find a cave full of bats out here so I could see that again. I see bats at sunset all the time. I just don't know where they all spend the day. I thought I had found one such place on a recent hike.

A possible bat cave.

The picture shows an abandoned mine that has been covered with a grating to keep people from falling in. That box on top is about 15 feet from the (visible) bottom and the sides are vertical, so a fall would most likely be fatal. I saw a couple of rattlers down there the first time I was out there, too. A narrow opening at the visible bottom goes deeper, but I have no idea how much deeper. The box is designed to allow flying animals to get in and out. I hiked out there just before sunset recently and took along my bat detector. At first, I thought I was picking up some interesting stuff with the bat detector.

It was like something in there was turning on and off.

A little later, I noticed there was something suspicious about the way the detector was going on and off. I had noticed before that the detector is very sensitive to EMI. For example, it goes nuts if you hold it close to a CFL.

Demonstration of interference.

Anyway, with all the electronics I was carrying, I'm not sure how much of the things the detector detected were other stuff or just me and all my gadgets. I finally saw two bats fly out of the hole. That was disappointing. But, I also saw three owls come out. That was really cool. It was much too dark to get photos by then. One of the owls kept circling over me and screeching. It sounded kind of like a zone tailed hawk. I guess it didn't like me, so I left. It didn't stop screeching until I was about 200 yards away from the mine.

The reason I was hiking in that general area in the first place is because of something I noticed on Google Earth. There are saw-tooth like lines in the desert along Bush Highway there. I went out there to see what they were. They are channels cut into the ground to direct water so that it only crosses the road in a few places.

Channel cut into the desert.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Horseshoe Mountain, bees, snakes, wasps, hawks, lizards, etc.

This is what I call Horseshoe Mountain. I don't know if it has a real name.

In my continuing effort to lose some weight, I've been re-visiting a lot of places I've hiked before. I was on Horseshoe Mountain a couple of days ago. I hadn't been up there for a few years. There was a saguaro next to a rock wall on the way up, and you had to go between the two. The saguaro had no spines on the side facing the rock, up to about shoulder height. I thought that meant that a lot of people had been through there and a lot of those got saguaro spines embedded in their sides. I guess it's more likely that some kid with a stick knocked the spines off, though. Anyway, that saguaro has fallen over.

A saguaro that had guarded the path up for many years has fallen.

A beehive a little further up the trail. I don't know if they are killer bees or plain old wild honeybees.

I was standing near the fallen saguaro enjoying the breeze and cooling off a little after the steep part of the climb when I became aware of a humming sound that was not traffic. Snakes, scorpions, centipedes, wasps, and heat are some of the things you have to be careful of when hiking in the desert. The thing I fear most, though, is killer bees. You read about people being attacked by them in the Phoenix area every now and then, sometimes on hiking trails. Once they decide to attack, they don't stop until you are gone. You have to run a minimum of 300 yards to get away from them. They attack the eyes, nose, and mouth of their victims in order to blind and asphyxiate them with swelling from their poison or with their dead and dying bodies. Imagine trying to run down a mountain with angry bees stinging your eyes and flying into your mouth.

Killer bees are most likely to attack in the spring, when the swarm is searching for a new place to nest. Swarming season is over. They also don't like loud noise. I'm normally pretty quiet, but I decided to walk very softly. They don't like strong fragrances. That's one of the reasons I use unscented soap, shampoo, shaving cream, deodorant, laundry detergent, and no fabric softeners. I decided that it would be safe to walk around them if I didn't get too close. I restrained myself from swatting at anything buzzing around me. Bees frequently check me out while I'm hiking. They buzz around at belt level about 2 inches away for a minute or so. Swatting at it could cause it to release pheromones that would bring the whole hive to attack you.

I think I've photographed this view from just about every possible angle.

There's a mine shaft up there that goes about 12 feet into the side of the mountain. I had hiked to it once before and decided to see if I could find it again. It wasn't hard to find.

An old mine shaft. I had hiked to it from below before. Now I don't see how I was able to do that. Nothing around there looks climbable from up here.

Looking into the mine shaft. There was a rattlesnake in it last time I was here. Didn't see one this time but I didn't look under that rock.

I have never been in that mine shaft. There was a rattlesnake in it last time, and that huge boulder on the floor makes me think that more might fall at any time. I think the bolts in the sides of the shaft are a recent addition, but I have no idea why they are there.

Another trail I hiked recently is Jacob's Crosscut up to the aluminum bench. I haven't been all the way up there for a while because it always makes me tired. It's the trail where I saw my first snake in Arizona. It was a red racer and it was wrapped around a bunny. I got too close trying to get pictures and it let the bunny go and zipped away. People say it was nice of me to save the bunny but I feel bad about making the snake lose it's meal. Anyway, just past the place where I had seen the red racer, I thought I heard a squealing rabbit. I got the camera ready and walked carefully along the trail. I eventually saw a zone tailed hawk fly away with what looks like might be a piece of rabbit. It's hard to tell.

Zone tailed hawk with what appears to be a piece of rabbit.

That was pretty cool. There was another hawk on a saguaro making screeching noises. That might be what I thought was a rabbit at first.

There are three benches along this trail. I adjusted my shoe laces on this one.

The trail gets a little steep towards the end. I trudged very slowly to the top, then stopped to take some pictures (i.e. catch my breath) and a guy ran past me. Show off.

Runner on the trail. It must take a lot of time to be able to do something like that.

Horned lizard. I also saw a deer but it was too dark to get a picture.

I like the way this turned out.

Zebra tailed lizard.

I saw a zebra tailed lizard that did the usual zebra tailed lizard thing. It sprints ahead of you for 10 or 20 feet and then stops and slowly wags its tail back and forth. I wonder if they are trying to make potential predators confuse them with the fellow pictured below.


I saw that snake recently behind Phoenix Mountain, which is the mountain with "PHOENIX" written on it in large white letters. It was stretched out in the sand of a wash warming itself up. Just before I saw the snake, I had seen a tree covered with tarantula hawks. At least I think that's what they were. There were dozens of them. I don't know why they were all in one place. Must have been a mating party or something.

Tarantula hawk.

Let me know if you have any trouble finding the rest of the pictures.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Invisible lizards, talking flies, and other less wondrous things

No, I don't think the heat has gotten to me. Actually, I would probably be the last to realize if that were true. But I don't think it is. I thought of these blog topics in cooler weather. First, though, a brief discussion of more mundane matters.

We must start off with a picture.

Since about 2002, I've been saying that I need to loose a few pounds. Of course, my weight has slowly crept up in the years since then. A few weeks ago I decided it was time to get serious and do it. I've been out hiking (to burn calories) every chance I get. I have cut back severely on cookies, cake, and beer. (I know what you are thinking now. These actions have NOT caused me to start hallucinating.) My weight loss has not been as rapid as I had hoped, considering the sacrifices I am making (you would understand if you had ever tasted my Sweetum's chocolate cake). I like to think that I'm not losing much weight because I'm putting muscle on my legs. Yep, that's it.

Cactus wren feeding its chicks. I could hear them.

So I've been hiking a lot to burn calories. That hasn't left much time to work on pictures or write this blog. I haven't put much effort into exploring new areas, either. I've been hiking in a lot of places that I've been several times before.

Julia and Willie went with me on one hike. Julia manages a smile despite being near exhaustion.

I took pictures of the same old things on that hike. Well, it's just so pretty.

I made a half-hearted attempt to hike to the mushroom rock one day. That wore me out for some reason.

Lately I've decided that since I'm just trying to burn calories, it's ok to keep hiking in the same places. I've been up and down Lone Mountain 3 times in the past week or so. On one of those hikes a guy in better shape than me zoomed past on the way up. He was still at the top when I got there. When he started down, he went fast, kind of between a walk and a run. I decided to try that and was amazed and how quickly I got down the mountain. It continually surprised me how much distance I could cover in a single step. My next hike was on the Boulder Canyon trail, which is also a big climb. It took me an hour to get to the top. When I realize the sun would be setting in half an hour, I hurried down. It reminded me of those dreams where you are running and you jump and can glide a long way in the air and you keep holding your feet up longer and longer and going further and further between putting your feet down. Then when you slow to a walk, it feels really humdrum. I think there were actually very few times when both my feet were off the ground at the same time and that only happened when I caught my toe on a rock or something like that. I tried going fast again on my last hike, on Lone Mountain. It's quite a workout for the quadriceps and I don't think mine had recovered since the last time so it didn't feel so much like flying that time. I looked at the GPS track for one of those hikes and saw that I was only going a little over 3 mph when I felt like I was flying. Well, I guess it seemed fast because I was going 2 or 3 times faster than I usually do.

I hid from this copter on a recent hike on the Lost Goldmine trail in case they were planning to tell me to go home.

Let's see, I need to tell you about that invisible lizard. I saw it near the Salt River. Well, I didn't see it, of course, but I saw where it was. I was walking across an area of flat, clean sand when something kicked up a bunch of sand, went a foot or so, and then stopped. It looked just like a startled lizard, except there was no lizard. Just sand being kicked around by tiny invisible feet. It must have thought I was about to step on it (I was) or it wouldn't have moved. An invisible lizard would know that it's better not to move unless necessary. "So", you say, "How come I never heard of invisible lizards before?" Well, ain't that obvious? "So", you say, "I heard about the Higgs boson long before anybody 'saw' one. How come I never heard about your invisible lizard before?" Obvious, again. The existence of an invisible lizard is not necessary to complete anybody's theory of the universe. However, believe it or not, I did find evidence that somebody else was looking for them.

Somebody marked off a grid with rebar in this area.

Each rebar post is labeled.

The rebar grid shown in the photos shows that somebody was conducting a detailed flora and fauna survey in this area, which happens to be very close to where I didn't see the invisible lizard. What does the survey have to do with invisible lizards? Well, somebody noticed that things weren't exactly balanced in this area, as if more bugs were being eaten than could be accounted for by the lizards and birds in the area, and so they set up and conducted this detailed survey to try and figure out what was throwing things out of balance. I imagine this was part or all of some students doctoral research. Of course, they never figured it out because they never thought to look for invisible lizards. (Who would?) Because they couldn't account for the missing bugs, they were derided by their professors for doing sloppy work, took up drinking, dropped out of school unpublished, and now run a meth lab in the back of a '68 VW bus somewhere in Gila county. But I extrapolate. All the evidence points to invisible lizards.

After reading that, you probably can't wait to hear about the talking flies. Well, I'm sorry, but they're much more mundane.

Salt River. I promise.

On many occasions when I've been out hiking, I've heard indistinct voices in the distance. You know what I'm talking about. You can't understand them, but you know they're voices, and they stop and start. Many times, I've been able to spot the people that the voices belong to. This frequently happens around the Superstition Mountains because there are lots of people out there and there are parallel trails far apart. Recently when I was out there I heard voices and finally spotted a couple of people on a trail about half a mile away. They stopped walking. Since I was standing on top of a ridge I figured they could see me against the sky, so I waved as I zoomed in and took a picture. It wasn't until I got home and looked at the picture 1:1 that I saw that one of the women had stopped to pull out a wedgie. I guess they hadn't seen me after all. But I digress. Back to the flies. There have been several occasions when I was sure I heard voices and stopped to find their source and discovered that it was a fly that was buzzing around nearby. They fly around near the ground, their wings are loud (for fly wings), and they maneuver around in such a way that their buzzing sounds like indistinct voices. It isn't just me, either. Other people have heard them. Either that or they were just humoring me. "Okaaaay. Sure, I hear them. Shouldn't we be getting back to town?"

The last time I was on Lone Mountain (June 7), I looked across Usery Pass road to the mountains on the other side (which look kind of boring, so I may not have uploaded any pictures of them) and saw a trail going up the middle. I went up that trail yesterday. As I walked along it, I remembered seeing a rusted out jeep up there somewhere many years ago. Wow, I had been there before and had completely forgotten it. As I got near the end of the trail, something reminded me of a picture I had taken from up there all those years ago. It was a picture of Red Mountain. It stirred up a lot of conversation. It was the first picture I had ever taken that more than one person said they liked, and I decided that maybe I was capable of taking a decent picture now and then. I guess that's where all this hiking and picture taking really got started. BTW, I'm not ready to upload the pictures from yesterday yet. I'm still working on pictures from 5/31.

Here's a picture I took in my front yard. I used a ladder. (To stand on; I used a camera to take the picture.)

There are pictures from several albums in this post and I'm not going to try to link to all the albums. Those of you that can figure out how to get to the albums can see all of the pictures.