We’ve been here before. Rio Salado Park is an effort by the City of Phoenix to turn a dry riverbed into a park. The city pumps in water between 7th Street and 15th Avenue which turns the area into a wetland. It is quite a good habitat for small wildlife, and I like to go there just to see what animals I can spot. There are four different quadrants, and I have now explored them all. Yesterday’s walk covered the northwest side of the river between 7th Avenue and 19th Avenue.
I parked my car in the area provided on the northeast side of 7th Ave. and made my way down toward the river.
First view of the river–a green and pleasant place, but you can’t walk there because it’s all water below the surface.
Looking southwest toward the 7th Ave. bridge.
My hike begins. My goal is the bridge at 19th Ave. The sign lies. It might be 1.2 miles as the crow flies,but it is farther and harder walking on the cobbles down beside the river.
What can I say? I’m a troll at heart, and I just like to be under bridges. Wilderness and civilization side by side.
Looking southwest at the greenest part of the river.
It looks easy, but this is rough terrain. Every little rock wants to stab your foot or turn and spill you on the ground.
What a jungle!
Almost everything growing here is green, but this tree is purple.
About 1/3 of the way to my goal, I reached a gully entering the river. This iron bridge crosses it, but, of course, I’m down by the river, and can’t reach the bridge without going a long way back which I don’t want to do.
Trying to cross the ravine. The picture doesn’t really show it, but this is vertical distance I must cross.
As I walked I was surrounded by the flutter of wings and the sound of bird calls, some of them very strange calls, but it was hard to take pictures of them. This bird held still long enough for me to capture him after I climbed up out of the gully I had just crossed.
You know how there is this stereotype of wandering through the desert and finding a sun-bleached skull. Well, I found one. I’m guessing this is a dog or cat skull, but it could be a fox or coyote. Your guess is as good as mine. It is bizarre to find a skull. I didn’t touch it–left it for the viewing pleasure of anyone else daring to walk this rough terrain.
Tunnels. I’d like to explore these tunnels below the city and the desert, but there is no access for someone like me.
I have passed most of the greenery now, and am looking toward my goal.
The 19th Ave. bridge is in sight. This kind of rocky streambed is rough walking–you have to be very careful where you put your feet.
I am close to my goal. I have walked a mile and a half, and it is about 9 a.m. with a temperature in the 90s.
Ah, shade! Now I am below the 19th Ave. bridge. It has been a rough walk. My feet are starting to hurt, even though I’m wearing my best new hiking shoes. I am going to see if I can’t climb out of the river, and find an easier way back to my car.
The last pool in this part of the river.
Wild oleander flowers.
I climbed out of the riverbed below the bridge. From the amount of trash on the ground, this is obviously the place where other people had climbed down into it.
Resting under the bridge . . . this is a kind of tunnel, not high enough for me to stand up in. Will I have to crawl through it to head back?
No. I found a better spot where I could walk through. My plan is to follow the road back atop the reinforced riverbank.
I got a good shot of the skyline of central Phoenix. The city core is only about 2 to 3 miles away.
This is an access path through a sand and gravel company’s private property. There is no one around to ask me what I’m doing here on Sunday morning.
Walking eastward now, I am cut off from the river by this chainlink fence. It looks flat, but that is a 60 degree slope down to the riverbed, and not much room to walk on the other side of the fence. No cliff-walking for me on this trip.
A glance back at the 19th Ave. bridge. I was down there just a little while ago.
There is a long hot dry road in front of me, but it’s better than trying to walk along the stony riverbottom.
I made this walk hoping to see some wildlife, and not in a zoo. All I saw were birds, bunnies, and bugs–a couple of rabbits at the very beginning of my walk, but hundreds of these birds along the trail.
Birds on a fence. Mostly the birds flew away before I could photograph them, but this fraction of the flock let me get close enough to catch them on film.
More birds. I believe these are desert doves, related to pigeons, but not as annoying.
I can see the greenery again. This is an island, and on that island lives some really large white bird. I saw it fly on the trip out, but couldn’t tell wht it was–perhaps a swan or an egret. I think that little white spot on the right middle edge of the photo is the bird.
No reason to take this picture. I just love looking at green.
I found another sign. I still have a mile to walk. It’s 10 a.m. and 100 degrees on the ground, and the bottom of my feet are really sore and tender.
This shot of downtown Phoenix makes it look like it’s built on a slag heap. There was this amazing hole in the ground full of rocks.
The end is in sight. The 7th Ave. bridge is about 1/4 of a mile away.
I am finally going to see that iron bridge up close.
This is the gully the bridge crosses–a kind of a hidden wound leading back toward the city.
You get to see the top of a bridge for once. I guess bridges are the fourth B of this trip. Bunnies, Birds, Bugs, and Bridges.
The black car is mine. By this time it is the most welcome sight of the entire trip.
That completed my latest walk through this urban wilderness. I covered about 3 miles in mid morning on May 19. I took water along with me, and ate a grapefruit at the beginning of my hike. I wore the Trollgod’s hat to keep the sun off my head, and kept myself hydrated. I saw 2 rabbits, hundreds of birds, hundreds of bugs, many of them a kind of black desert dragonfly that live in the swampy part of the river. There was no one with me to take my picture on this trip.
I wish you had been there to hike with me, since it’s always great to have some companionship when trudging through the wilderness, but even if you can’t be with me, I’m still going to go out and walk about from time to time.
If you know anything about the birds I photographed, leave a comment. :)
Inside All About Books and Comics was a busy place.
Free Comic Book Day is the first Saturday in May. It has become a major Geek/Nerd holiday in America. We put on our super suits, or our make-up if that’s the way you play, and get out to our favorite comic store, and get something for free, or we entertain, say hi to our friends, party, or . . .
The idea is to share the joy of comics with the mundane world, but that’s just a rationalization. True mundanes are never going to be comic fans or anime fans or any kind of pop culture fans at all. True mundanes are hung up on politics, sports, business and money–the ordinary American dream.
The good news is that there are more of us geeks and nerds all the time, and less of those true mundanes I’m talking about. So, it won’t be much of a surprise to you that what I saw on FCBD was crowds, Crowds, and more CROWDS. Well, actually, there were less crowds at the third place I went to, and that was good, because I was actually able to get a couple of free comic books there without standing in a helluva line. And I hate standing in lines.
Alan Giroux, co-owner and founder of All About Books and Comics, started the first pure comic book shop in Phoenix back in the 70s, I was there at the beginning, though I didn’t take any pictures back then. I’m proud to say Alan is a friend of mine.
I told Alan I wanted a shirt like his, but he just laughed it off. Well, that will be a minor quest for me. To get that shirt . . .
Dimly visible beyond all the shoulders is the rack where AABC put out the free comics this year. I couldn’t spend any time up close to it this year–the crowd was too thick.
One thing you will see in these pictures. Comics aren’t for kids any more–not really. All of us kids grew up, kept our love for comics, but wanted more adult stories, and that’s what the comics world has become. Picture books for grown-ups, who haven’t really grown all the way up and out of such things. And why should we?
Smile, Eddie! There is a cash register at both ends of the store. This one is run by Eddie Armendariz, who as assistant manager has the job I always wanted, but never got.
That wall of stuff in the background is all graphic novels and comics-related STUFF. There is so much comics-related STUFF to be had these days, and it’s all damn cool. So much good stuff, so little money, and worse, no place to put it all in a house that has a lifetime accumulation of great STUFF.
This is the front of the store. It should have been the first picture I put up, but I do everything bass-ackwards, it seems, so I came in the back and went out the front, and went around the store to get back to my car and on to my next stop.
After half an hour at All About I left and went a mile east to Alan’s main competition in town. Samurai Comics is run by Mike and Moriya Banks.
Is this a great sign, or what? If you look carefully, you might see some super-types lurking on the sidewalkl.
It’s a truck full of food–there was one at All About also. It’s an all day party, and people get hungry. Great idea, actually.
Samurai has more room on the inside than All About. Not more comics–just more open space. That makes it a good place for gaming, with collectible cards being a large part of the business, and also a great place for artists to come and show their work. For people just getting into the comics scene this is a great place to come and meet creators–some who have already made names for themselves, and others who are still on the rise.
The free comics here were piled on tables inside a side room usually reserved for gaming. The line to get at them was so long and so thick that I had a hard time getting this picture. Not being willing to stand in line for an hour, I didn’t even get to see what they were offering.
Remember what I was saying about crowds, crowds and more crowds. The people inside the Samurai store were so thickly packed that it reminded me of the San Diego ComiCon–a vast sea of people milling about in teeny little shuffle steps, because that’s the only way you can move at all. Phoenix ComiCon may be like that at the end of this month, but it won’t be so bad for me. I’ll hang mostly in the gaming area in a different hotel where it will merely be busy–not sardine-like.
The middle of the line waiting to get at the free books. It continues to the left, around the corner, and out the front door. Considering that everybody is likely to buy stuff as well as get a few free comics, this is, I would guess, the biggest sale day of the year for the local comics shops.
Spider-Man is just a mannequin.
Behind the cash register view of life in a comic book store.
They had all the staff there, and some I don’t even know, and I know everybody at this store. The girl in black is Yvette–she’s an artist when she’s not selling comics, and (I wish) she’s my sweetie. I saw Chris and Ray and Shannon and Moriya, and I don’t even know the girl in the super suit. It’s kind of cool that there are kids here, but you see what they’re looking at? Cards, not comics. Heh! Diversify if you want to survive.
Goodbye for now, Samurai. I’ll return when I can take two steps without having to beg pardon to get around someone.
The sign says Collector’s Marketplace, but it’s really a branch office of Pop Culture Classics, whose main store is in Tempe and too far out of my way to visit.
Pop Culture Classics is like the Warehouse 13 of KEWL. Comics is only a sideline here, and you have to be willing to pay collector prices to get them, but there sure is a lot of primo collectibles to be had. Still, they were participating in FCBD, and they were in range, so this became my last stop for the day.
Great gobs of goodies in all directions.
I didn’t know this store was here until today. I must return when I have more time. They buy things. I wonder if I could unload some of the cool stuff I have that I don’t really have room for, or interest in anymore. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Problem is, selling your stuff to stores like this, is like giving it away. You never get as much as you paid for it, unless you’re unloading a gift, and then somebody else lost money. Heh!
By comparison, PCC didn’t have much to offer in the way of free comics. Judging by the empty places on the table, much of the good stuff was gone before I got there. But, at least, I was finally able to get something here. My choice was the Tick–the quintessential Super Heroes are Dumb, but in a good way funny book. A comic that is actually comical.
I spent more time here than in either of my other two favorite places, and that’s because I could walk and breathe at the same time here.
I love wall paintings, and there are a lot of them in Phoenix, but most of them are outside the buildings, not inside. I’m impressed that they gave up all this potential display space to show Spidey flashing his buns at us. You can’t see the Spider-Man wildly swinging from one precarious perch to the next without smiling–at least I can’t.
And on that note, I swung for home. Wasn’t feeling all that good yesterday, but coughing my lungs out wasn’t going to make me miss FCBD. In retrospect, I would say it wasn’t the greatest ever, but it must have been a good day for the shopkeepers, and a fine day for Gerds and Neeks everywhere. Long may FCBD continue. Hey, howza bout a Free Graphic Novels Day? Muwahahahaha!
If you got out for Free Comic Books Day and came home with loot, how about leaving a comment? If you missed it, are you gonna try harder to be there for next year’s celebration?
The next big nerd holiday will be Free RPG Day on June 15, 2013. I’ll be more of a participant in that as there will be a great giveaway for Tunnels and Trolls with new material from me inside it. That’s also right in the middle of the Origins National Gaming Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Guess where I’ll be? Grin! If you can make it, come game with me!
In the middle of April, the volunteers who will staff and put on the Phoenix ComiCon convention coming at the end of May got together at South Mountain for a picnic. It was a potluck affair. About half the attendees each brought enough food to feed 10 people. Talk about diversity and plenty! What a feast! I was there. Here are some shots and brief comments that I took with my little camera.
I don’t know who this guy is. I took his pic because he was wearing the Phoenix ComiCon t-shirt from last year, and I figure it makes a cover shot. In fact, I did not know about 95% of the people who showed up for this. I was at the center of Phoenx fandom when it started back in the seventies. I am so on the fringes now.
The Convention organizers provided the basic food–hamburgers, hot dogs, and soft drinks. They prepared enough for at least 200 people. I don’t think that many came. This guy is a great volunteer. It was 90 degrees in the shade that afternoon, and this guy spent more than an hour cooking meat on this very hot grill. I walked close to it, and it was 20 degrees hotter in its vicinity. The hamburgers were a little overdone, but good tho. I had one.
They took a picture of all the volunteers standing in one huge group. I took this picture of them taking their picture. I’ll be in the second row of that picture holding my camera up above the throng if they ever publish it.
The goofy looking guy in the Tunnels & Trolls t-shirt and the battered hat is me, Ken St. Andre, Atroll. The beautiful woman next to me is my niece, Kerina St. Andre Fitzgerald. She and her friend, Gary, crashed the party at my invitation. It was a great party. About half the people brought extra food–salads, desserts, drinks. I ate way too much. My stomach hurt, and there was tons of stuff I didn’t try. I was good, though, and avoided desserts and sugary things.
Coming up for the last weekend of May 2013 will be Phoenix ComiCon. I’ll be there running games on all four days, some Tunnels & Trolls, some Shadowfist, some Settlers of Catan St. Andre style. Come game with me!
If you were at the picnic, or will be attending Phoenix ComiCon, why not leave a comment?
Some people really know how to throw a great party. I’m not one of those people, but when I get a chance to go to such an affair, I take it. My brother-in-law, Jim Marsella, is such a person. Jim is a very high-powered guy, and he married my sister Julie, and once in a while he does something that I can tag along for. So, actually, this isn’t my story today, it’s part of Jim’s story, and I’m just one of the extras in this part of the movie. To follow this party, and see much better pictures of it than I was able to take, find my page on Facebook and scroll down. I’d post some of those pictures here, but Facebook has done something to make stuff posted there not re-usable elsewhere–just another reason I really don’t like Facebook. I use it as a necessary evil, but I don’t like it.
Jim and Julie are really the stars of this party, and they got to enjoy one special dance together with all eyes on them. (Picture taken by Brian St. Andre, & he wasn’t using his best camera.)
The party took place at the Elk’s Hall in Tempe, Arizona between 5 p.m. and midnight on Saturday, April 20, 2013 to celebrate Jim turning 60. Ironically, his actual birthday is about a month earlier, but he picked this date for a public celebration in order to give people time to come from all over the country. It is also the exact birthday of his daughter, Lisa, who came in from Florida to be there.
The external setting was bizarre. I didn’t even know that Tempe had an industrial district, much less any buildings this futuristic and bizarre, but what would one expect of a place located on Industrial Park Road?
I’d be willing to bet that of the dozens of cameras at this event, no one else took a picture of the front door. I don’t remember ever actually going into one of these places before, so I wanted some proof. It’s a flat, southwestern style building with a big parking lot. You wouldn’t guess what’s inside unless you’ve been there before.
My mother, Evelyn St. Andre had a place of honor at the St. Andre table. At 86, she is the oldest living member of the St. Andre clan that I’m aware of. The scary thing is, I’m second oldest.
The man in the black shirt in the center is our host and also Guest of Honor, Jim Marsella. The man in the gray shirt in the foreground is Matt Marsella, one of his sons. The woman in Lavendar is Lisa, Jim’s daughter, and birthday girl for the night. I don’t know the woman in polka dots, though I did get to dance with her briefly later in the party.
These are Jim’s birthday cakes. At least one was chocolate. I’m watching my weight, and didn’t get to eat any of them. Well, I was already full when the cakes were cut, and I passed them by.
Here is Jim showing off one of his presents. Jim works for Volkswagen, and his life sort of revolves around cars. He has some of the most beautiful, hot, sexy cars in the city of Phoenix. The Garage sign is a bit of a joke, but has a basis in fact.
This was a party where dancing was a big attraction. My brother, Brian–he of the desert hikes–and his wife Donna were among the first on the dancefloor, where they always look very good. Unlike me, Brian can really dance–he studies it, and practices every week at local dance halls.
My sister Julie is the blonde. I think she looks like a biker babe in sparkly sleeveless blouse and blue jeans. She was the hostess with the mostest. The other woman is one of her Cruise friends, and I don’t know her, and didn’t meet her. Brian is either watching the back wall, or wondering what I’m taking a picture of.
The first entertainer of the night was none other than Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll. Actually, it was Bret Kaiser, the best Elvis tribute artist in Arizona, and he put on a very fine show.
I think this is the only picture of me you get in this blog. To prove I was really there, I had Brian take this shot of me with “Elvis” in the background. It’s hard to judge exactly how much to smile for a posed shot.
The next few shots are of “Elvis”. He was the big star of the evening–other than Jim. Among the songs he did were “Fools Rush In” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Donna St. Andre got a silk scarf from “Elvis”. So did my mom, Julie, and about half the women in the room. Men got a handshake.
“Elvis” is singing to my Mom.
This is my sister Neloa and her husband Jerome Beeler. They came down for the party from Payson, more than 100 miles, but nothing compared to people on Jim’s side of the family, some of whom came from Detroit, Boston, and Florida.
I’m just taking pictures of the pretty women at the party. These two are Kerina St. Andre Fitzgeral (my niece) on the left, and Jennifer Embody on the right.
Party games. This one is called “Stuff It” and this is winner Jim Marsala with 81 ballons in his shirt.
Tom Garrett, lead singer for the band the Classics IV during the band’s later stages of its existence. He is a very good singer.
At 9 p.m. the final band for the evening came on, a local group called “Come back, Buddy.” They are a tribute band that peform in the style of the late great Buddy Holly, though they also like to do Elvis material.
The Belles of the Ball: from left to right: Donna St. Andre, Kris Eckert, Lisa Marsella, Haley Eckert (child), and Kerina St. Andre Fitzgerld.
Come back Buddy was still belting out the rock and roll with Jim Marsella on the drums when I decided to go home at 10:30 p.m. It was a fine party that I enjoyed very much. Happy birthday to Jim and Lisa and also another guest named Charley Parker whose birthday was also that Saturday. I ate, I sang, I danced, and I talked to family and friends. It was a very successful, very fun party, and I’m glad I went.
If you’ve been to a good party lately, why not leave a comment and tell what made it good?
Who is the tall dark stranger there?
Maverick is the name.
Riding the trail to who knows where,
Luck is his companion;
Gambling is his game.
James Garner as Bret Maverick, my favorite western character ever.
I don’t have a television set–gave it up when I separated from my wife Cathy (now divorced) in 2011, and without a tv set, there’s no reason to get cable tv. When I want to watch some television to relax, I put a dvd into the computer. A couple of weeks ago I was browsing at my local library, and I saw a fat box called Maverick, the first season. With fond memories of my childhood dancing through my head, I checked it out, and took it home. . . .
And I’ve been watching it ever since. . . .
You know what? The show is just as good, or maybe even better than I remember.
Maverick made his first appearance on television in September of 1957. I had forgotten exactly when I was watching that show, but it had to be between 1957 and 1960, because Garner quit after the third season. Back in those days tv was black and white only. I don’t think my family had color until the seventies. Although color shots of Garner as Maverick exist, I’m not putting them in. I want you to get the same feeling I got when watching this series.
Maverick is a good guy. He only cheats the cheaters. He knows all the poker tricks but doesn’t use them against the people he plays with. He likes high stakes games, and usually winds up winning them. He goes out of his way to shut crooks down in various episodes. He’s good with a gun, but he’s not a gunslinger. He’s rugged enough, but he likes to dress up as a dandy. The picture above shows him in his typical working outfit–lace shirt, bow tie, and all. He’s funny and self deprecating. And he hands out good advice from time to time, mostly as quotes from his “pappy”.
As Pappy always said, “Never draw to an inside straight, or hold a kicker.” I remembered the inside straight part, but forgot about not holding a kicker. Who knows how many poker hands that has cost me over the years?
In episode number 8, Bret Maverick gets a brother named Bart. Bart is also a gambler, and is a lot like Bret, not quite as amiable, but as played by Jack Kelly, a guy with more “cool” than Bret. And Bret has a lot of cool so that’s hard to do. Bret Maverick is a joker and kind of a funny guy. I may have subconsciously modeled my own character after his when I was younger. Bart’s humor is dryer and wryer. Bart is more sophisticated and comes across as smarter than Bret, though neither of them is at all stupid.
Do Bret and Bart really look like brothers?
There are 28 episodes in the first season of Maverick. I’ve watched 10 or 12 of them, and am enjoying them greatly. I’m not giving the dvd set back to the library until I finish with it.
The original Maverick show lasted for 5 years. It made various comebacks with the last tv series filmed in 1981-82 which shows Bret settling down in an Arizona town with his own saloon. I remember watching that. The show really hadn’t lost any of its charm even 25 years after its first appearance.
In 1994 Mel Gibson starred as Bret Maverick in a very funny movie. I’ve watched it twice, and would watch it again any time it crossed my path. That was kind of a hoot because it had a cameo appearance in it for James Garner as Maverick’s pappy Beau. By that time Garner was much too old to play Bret, but Mel Gibson did a good job with it.
High stakes poker in the old west–the Maverick movie got everything right including an encore performance for James Garner as the Maverick pappy.
There were some other Mavericks in the family. When Garner left the role in 1960, Warner Brothers brought in Roger Moore to play cousin Beau Maverick. Robert Colbert, who looks a great deal like James Garner, also made a few episodes as cousin Brent Maverick in 1961. He wasn’t popular and didn’t last long. I don’t think that’s a knock on Colbert’s talent–just that the whole Maverick schtick was getting old by then.
When I was a kid, I never wondered about the Maverick series. I just took it episode by episode and enjoyed it, looking forward to the next week’s show. Looking back at it as an adult, a few things nag at me. The adventures that the Mavericks get into vary widely, and are set all over the map. How could one man move around so much, get shot so often (Yes, Bret gets shot more than once in the series, but it never kills him.), get knocked out so often without suffering permanent brain damage, and get stuck in jail so often without being on the lookout-for-this-guy list of every lawman west of the Mississippi? I just watched one called “The Wreckers” that is an adaptation of a sea story by Robert Louis Stevenson. If there was ever an unlikely setup for riverboat gamblers like the Maverick brothers Bret and Bart, it’s the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a story about personal redemption.
Now that I’m old and jaded, I wonder about one other thing. All the Mavericks have the initials B.M. Did the script writers back in the fifties know what BM stands for? Were they having some kind of joke with us?
I credit a big part of my interest in knowing how to play poker to the Maverick tv series when I was a kid. I’m gonna remember that “never hold a kicker” rule from now on.
If you remember the Mavericks or enjoy playing poker that isn’t Texas Hold ‘Em, why not leave a comment?
I called my brother last night and suggested Sunday morning would be a good day for a desert hike. Being as persuasive as I am, I talked hiim into it, and I reached his home in Avondale by 7:30 in the morning. By 8 a.m. we had reached the desert park, and were planning our trip. Brian commented that we should be careful–this was perfect snake weather. I said I hoped we saw one. For all the times I’ve gone walking in the desert, I’ve never actually encountered a rattlesnake.
This rock tower was our target. Didn’t know if we could walk that far, but it gave us a landmark to aim at.
We had already walked about a mile before I took my first picture. That granite tower in the distance is not as near as it looks–my camera isn’t very fancy, but it does have a built-in telescopic lens that makes things look about 3 times as large as they are to the naked eye.
I am a fool to dress this way for a desert walk. Black is not the color one should wear for an Arizona desert walk, but it isn’t too hot yet–mid 80s, and I like black, so I wear it even though I know better.
This is living. I’m about as happy as I ever get when I’m out in the desert or any wilderness, just enjoying nature and exploring. I am vain so I try to get my pictures taken without my glasses on, but Brian took a second shot I wasn’t expecting. I had put my eyes back on and was pulling the water bottle out of my pocket for the first drink on the walk.
Desert view, looking uphill. Brian is leading the way up the trail. Most of the time, you hike single file. This is a good trail for hiking, but there isn’t room to walk side by side.
The granite tower is a lot closer now. It looks like it might almost be reachable.
I stop and look back the way we’ve come. We have been climbing steadily. That haziness in the far distance is the city of Phoenix.
It’s a good ridge line off to the left. One almost expects to see a group of Apache warriors sitting up there on their ponies.
Suddenly, I hear Brian say, “Snake, watch out!” It wasn’t exactly a yell, but his voice did get louder. He was in the lead, and walked right past the snake and heard it rattle. He stopped me from walking into its path. Probably the fact that he walks pretty fast got him past the reptile before it could strike. He heard it rattle–the noise isn’t exactly the clicking of a castanet, more like a whirring noise, turned and saw it. He’s very good at spotting desert wildlife. I had a hard time seeing the snake. I was very cautious, walked way around the snake on the left side of the trail, even climbing on top of some boulders to keep me well beyond its strike range.
The rattlesnake is coiled in the shade of a little bush by the side of the trail. It’s a diamondback–the same animal that is the motto of our Phoenix big league baseball team. The diamondback rattler is one of the deadliest animals in the desert. Its poison can kill a grown man in an hour or two and is extremely painful.
We carefully worked our way around the snake, and made a note of where it was for our journey back. We met another hiker coming down from the other direction, and warned him. We probably spent about ten minutes with the snake. He wasn’t very happy to see us, but he never struck. I got my wish. I saw a snake in the desert. I would see it again on the way back down the trail.
We ran out of time. The plan was to walk in for an hour and then out for an hour. At our turnaround point I saw this exuberant patch of desert daisies–the camera doesn’t really capture the brilliance of the hundreds of yellow wildflowers growing at this point on the hillside.
The Arizona desert is famous for its Saguaro cacti. This is a fine healthy specimen.
In the center of all the green and yellow is one passionate splash of pink. That is probably a cactus bloom, but I couldn’t get close enough to tell for sure. I liked that contrast.
This picture is an accident. Camera in hand, I accidentally clicked while it was pointing down.
By this time we’ve been hiking for about 90 minutes. I’m getting tired and the bottoms of my feet are getting sore. I wear tennis shoes, but they’re not really perfect for desert walking. Brian is getting pretty far ahead of me. The trail is at its roughest here, and one wants to step very carefully.
As we get back to the lower elevations, Brian pointed out two vultures circling above the hills to our left. No chance of getting them on film with my little camera. They move too fast and are too easily lost in the immensity of the sky. I took this shot of the biggest saguaro in this corner of the desert instead. Saguaros stand still.
We are back at the snake’s bush. The shadow is Brian’s, and he’s watching the snake and talking me past it. I’m aiming my camera at the bush and hoping to get another shot of the diamondback. I think you can spot it just past the black rock in the center of the picture. Its camouflage is excellent.
Looking back, I’m past the snake now, but would like to get one more picture of it. You can see the shadow of my hat, better than you can see the snake, but it is in the top right part of the picture.
The snake is far behind us now. The most interesting things in the desert are the saguaros. This is a very tall one.
This is a veritable forest of saguaro cacti. The one on the right has grown strangely to form the letter U.
Just the right angle to see the cactus in front splitting the U of that weird saguaro.
Back at the parking lot, the hike is over. My black Kia is covered with dust spots from the shower we had about 3 days earlier. When it rains in Phoenix, it brings dust out of the atmosphere. Rain doesn’t make you clean in Phoenix, it makes things dirty.
And so we say goodbye to the great saguaro forest of the White Tanks mountains.
My hike is over. We walked somewhere between 3 and 4 miles. Looking back at town, you can see Camelback Mountain in the far distance–it is the highest peak in this part of the state. The white triangle you see is the domed roof of the football stadium for the Arizona Cardinals, located west of the small city of Glendale, which is northwest of the city of Phoenix. It’s a massive structure–more than ten miles away in this picture and still easily visible.
I’m tired and satisfied. You’ve just done another desert hike with me, Ken St. Andre.
If you’ve ever been face to face with a rattlesnake, or any other scary reptile, why not leave a comment?