Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heat, humidity, bugs, and things

I didn't reach my weight goal by June 25th, so I've kept up the hiking. Still not losing any weight. Fortunately, it's been a mild summer so far. Very few days over 105. I've been going up Lone Mountain a lot. It's 2.3 miles round trip and about 850 feet of ups and downs. Sometimes there are some nice things to get pictures of along the way.

I've gotten lots of pictures of the sun setting behind Red Mountain.

It's been interesting watching the bugs change with the seasons this year. Bug season starts off with gnats. I have a strong dislike for gnats. I'm always looking for ways to keep them off of me that doesn't involve smearing smelly chemicals all over me or hiding under a blanket. I thought I might have discovered something amazing this spring. I have a medication that I take occasionally and one day I took some before a hike thinking that it might make it easier for my body to cool itself. What I noticed, though, was that gnats hardly bothered me on that hike. Wouldn't it be amazing to take a small pill that doesn't even taste bad, and it would keep gnats away from you? I was shaking with excitement at the thought. However, the gnats didn't bother me on my next hike, and I hadn't taken any of the medicine. Then I took some and they did bother me. I eventually concluded that if the medicine did keep me cool or drive gnats away, the effect was too small to be easily recognized. Rats.

The gnats seem to go away when the highs are over 100. The honey bees and flowers that attract them are still abundant, though, and you are accompanied by the constant background buzz of hundreds of bees everywhere you go. Bees don't bother me. I'm not allergic to them. I like to see them busily doing their bee-thing all day. They are the thing that causes me the most concern out in the desert, though. Coyote, mountain lion, and bear attacks are so rare they aren't worth worrying about. Rattlesnakes and Gila Monsters move slowly and won't do anything to you unless you step on them or pick them up. You have to run a minimum of 300 yards to get away from killer bees, though, and they will be doing their best to stop you from running. I try not to do anything that would anger or even attract the attention of bees.

When the monsoon rains hit, the termites send forth queens to start new colonies. Hundreds or maybe even thousands emerge from a termite nest. They were doing that on top of Lone Mountain recently. I went up there to try some (new to me) HDR techniques which involved standing in one spot for several minutes at a time. After taking 2 pictures, I got tired of the flying termites getting stuck to my sweat or tangled up in my hair and left.

This is where colonizing termites were emerging from a nest. They were all over the top of Lone Mountain. When I went back up there a few days later, the bodies of dozens that never got off the mountain were still there.

I wanted some different scenery on a recent hike so I went down Black Canyon to First Water Creek, and then on to Canyon Lake. I forgot that I shouldn't do that in such warm weather. There never seems to be a breeze in Black Canyon. As I stood motionless near Canyon Lake, sweat ran down my temples. It was really humid down there without a breeze.

This is where First Water Creek enters Canyon Lake.

Black Canyon is where I first encountered a bug I don't remember from previous summers. Maybe that's because they aren't obnoxious enough. They are extremely small gnats. They have a very high-pitched whine. They like my hat and my cell phone more than me, so we get along just fine.

Mid to late summer is also millipede season. I guess their season is drawing to a close soon. I saw several in Black Canyon that had curled up (literally) and died, their procreation duties having been fulfilled.

From 2014_07_19
A live millipede in First Water Creek.

I saw something very unusual in Black Canyon that day; a dead kangaroo rat. I've seen a few live ones at night. The only dead animals I've come across out in the desert are just bones. The kangaroo rat looked like it had died that day, in the middle of the trail, which seemed strange. The strangest thing was that nothing was eating it. There weren't even any flies on it. What would make a dead kangaroo rat so unappetizing to all the other critters? I saw it on the way down the canyon and it was still there half an hour later on the way back up. The vultures aren't doing their job.

A dead but unmolested kangaroo rat in the middle of the trail.

Here's a nicer picture that I took when I was being lazy and driving around instead of hiking.

We had a little rain for a few days and then it dried up again. I climbed up the Boulder Canyon trail and Lone Mountain on those humid days. Sweat poured off my face like rain and I drank twice as much water as I usually do. Humidity is a killer if you have to do anything more strenuous than scratching your butt.

A picture of Pass Mountain on a humid day.

I climbed Lone Mountain day before yesterday (I'm not climbing anything today; it's over 110 out there). I could tell the air was much drier because my throat was too dry to talk. Also, even though it was blazing hot, the sweat never got all the way down my face before in vanished in a puff of steam. That's the way the desert should be.

I've been talking about Lone Mountain a lot, so here's a picture of the top of it. I'll try to remember to take a picture of the whole mountain some day.

Still to come is tarantula season, when the males go wandering around in search of love (or something). That will pretty much wrap up this year's bug season.

I like this view. The only way to see it is to go all the way to the top of Lone Mountain.

There's probably more pictures out there. Find them if you can.