Monday, September 04, 2017

The Great American Eclipse of 2017


OK, there it is. Done.

Except it wasn't quite that easy. Driving 1000 miles isn't as easy for me as it used to be. I spent a night in Grand Junction, Colorado both directions. There's a lot of nice scenery along the way and there was very little traffic on the way up there. I was in Riverton, Wyoming for the eclipse, at the home of a friend of a friend of a friend. Jana opened her home to a couple of strangers and made us feel very welcome.

Totality ends

I had semi-planned to do some sight-seeing on the way back to Phoenix but I was tired and it was still the height of tourist season at the national parks.

Wilson Arch is right next to the highway just south of Moab, Utah and it's an easy stroll up to the opening.

View of the parking area from Wilson Arch. I was going to include a picture of the view in the other direction but I'll let you climb up there and see what it looks like yourself.

Arches National Park seems to be one of those places that is jammed with people whenever there isn't 4 feet of snow on the ground. Still, I think I'll try to get in there during the "off-season" and after they finish some of their road construction.

Partial eclipse showing sunspots

Thursday, August 03, 2017

A morning hike

Most people in the Houston, Texas area prefer to mow their lawns in the morning because it's cooler then.  The relative humidity is also near 100% at that time.  Just looking at the lawn mower had sweat running down my face, so I usually mowed in late afternoon.

People also like to hike in the morning in Arizona because it's cooler.  I've never liked hiking in the morning because it's still hot then and you know it's only going to get hotter.  Much hotter.  I tried a morning hike recently, though.  I volunteered to help put up a sign in Tonto National Forest that depicted the work done to remove salt cedar, an invasive species.  We started out at 8 a.m. from the Picketpost trailhead.

I didn't take any cameras.  Not even my cell phone.  I only carried a backpack full of water.  It was a cloudless day with the high forecast to be over 105F (41C).  The leader of the group walked faster than I usually do on hikes but I didn't have any trouble keeping up on the way out.  After we were done with the sign we hiked a little further to where the salt cedar had been removed.  It was a beautiful area and I knew I'd be back to get some pictures when  the weather was cooler.  We headed back to the trailhead around 10.  It was brutal.  The sun was too high to find shade under a saguaro.  I had to slow down to keep from overheating.  All I could think about was the fact that the temperature was only going up and the only escape was my air-conditioned truck.  I guess I'm still not a morning hiker.

One afternoon a few weeks later it was a little cooler because there were some monsoon storms around.  I drove up the canyon east of Superior the check out the waterfalls and on the way back decided to hike out to the sign we had put up.

Some waterfalls east of Superior.

It was very cloudy so I still wasn't going to get any good pictures.  I mostly wanted to be sure I remembered how to get out there since we had deviated from the official trail.  When I got close to where the sign was, I heard lots of water flowing fast.

Water flowing over small dam near Picketpost Mountain

The trail to the more interesting scenery crossed this creek so I couldn't go any further.  Maybe I'll be able to get some pictures out there in the fall.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Apache Leap and a New Gadget

Apache Leap as seen from Apache Leap.

As you approach Superior, Arizona, from the west on US 60, you will see some cliffs towering above the east side of the town.
That's Apache Leap. I've hiked out to Apache Leap a few times (from the other direction). It's about 2 miles round-trip and about 500 feet (about 150 meters) in elevation change. It isn't a difficult hike if you stay on the trail. If you lose the trail you will be worn out quickly. The manzanita is thick in places and difficult to push through. The open ground is covered in calf-high grass so you can't see what you are stepping on. Since your feet will usually come down on the sides of round rocks you will be struggling to maintain balance, which is tiring. So stay on the trail if you go.

The trail is marked with cairns but sometimes they are difficult to find. This, of course, is an easy one.

Which kind of brings me to the new gadget. I've always thought that using electronics to keep track of your workouts was silly. Listen to your body. You don't need all that distracting crap. Then we were offered a deal on Fitbits through work. I thought it might be nifty to see what my heart rate does during a hike so I got one.

There was a short blurb about fitness trackers in a recent issue of Scientific American. A doctor wanted to know how accurate they were as heart rate monitors and so he compared their results to medical-grade heart monitors and concluded that they are acceptable. The article didn't get into any details about the conditions under which he tested them, though. My experience is that they can be way off if you are doing something besides sitting in a chair.

Apache Leap is 500 feet above the unofficial trailhead. Five hundred feet of elevation gain in a mile is not real steep. Normally I could walk up something like that at a slow but steady pace. I was struggling on this hike though, and was wondering what was wrong with me until I remembered that I started out about 3000 feet higher than I'm used to hiking. Anyway, I checked what the Fitbit thought my pulse was on a stretch where I was gasping for air. It said 86. No way. I felt my pulse. I didn't have a watch to count my pulse, but it felt like it was well over 120. Fitbit still insisted it was a rock-solid 86.

I have seen it make errors in the other direction, too. It has recorded that my pulse was over 140 when I was on an easy downhill section of trail. If my pulse was really as wacky as my Fitbit says, I don't think I would feel as good as I do while I'm hiking. Also, I wore a medical grade monitor for a couple of weeks not too long ago and it didn't show anything wacky, so I am confident that how I feel is a better indication of what my heart rate is than the Fitbit.

This stock tank is just before you get to the cliff of Apache Leap.

Apache Leap hasn't changed since the last time I was there. It may change soon, though. A land swap has been pushed through congress that puts the Oak Flat area in the hands of a mining company. I think it would be kind of hypocritical of me to say that's a bad thing while I surround myself with high-tech gadgets made possible in part by the copper that comes out of mines. Instead, I go hiking in that area whenever I can and take photos of whatever I come across.

Picketpost Mountain as seen from Apache Leap.

A tarantula hawk visited as I sat on a rock resting. This wasp is about 2 inches long. I hear they have a paralyzingly painful sting. I'm not going to try it myself, though.

The trail goes up the middle of this canyon. This is facing back down the canyon (Apache Leap behind me). I tried hiking up to Apache Leap on one of the ridges between canyons once. The terrain varied from difficult to impossible.

Just before I retired a lot of people asked me what I planned to do in retirement. One thing I said was that I was going to work on taking better pictures. I am working on that, but don't expect to suddenly see NG-quality photos on my blog, OK?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

A new era

I almost titled the post "Day 1". But then I would need to come up with a "Day 2" and "Day 3" and "Days 43 through 56", etc. I didn't want to get stuck doing that.

So what's new? Well, I can go hiking just about any time I want to. I don't have to look longingly out the window at passing storms; I can go play in the lightning any time. In other words, I have retired.

I have the feeling that I will miss working. People that have experienced this tell me the feeling will pass in, like, a day or two. We'll see. I had the good fortune to work at a job in which I could have a positive impact on many people's lives. I can certainly keep busy now, but what good is busy if there's no impact? If that really starts to bother me, there's always volunteer work. Even better would be to work as a consultant at the same company for a few months at a time. Work a little, play a little. Well, time will tell.

The picture above is something I rarely get a photo of. I've photographed a lot of sunsets, but this is a sunrise. Last week a guy at work said it's a tradition to get a photo of the sunrise on your first day of retirement. Sounds like a nice tradition but coming from Iggy made me wonder if it was a prank to get me out of bed an hour earlier than usual on my first day of retirement. Too bad I retired so close to the summer solstice.

The sun makes an appearance.

Now that I can create a blog post without dozing off and drooling all over the keyboard, I plan to start posting again. I've never stopped wandering around the desert. Now I can start working on bringing you up to date.