Trollgod in the Desert   3 comments

Ha!  Just to show you how tough the Trollgod is, here’s a picture of him leaning on a saguaro cactus.  There’s an idea for a new Tunnels and Trolls monster–cactus trolls.  Big, green, and covered with thorns . . .

Trollgod leans on a cactus.

Trollgod leans on a cactus.

Sunday was a beautiful day in Arizona.  I got together with my brother Brian (5 years younger than me and in much better shape), and we went out to the White Tanks Mountains about 30 miles west of downtown Phoenix.  They are really just hills, running up to perhaps 2000 feet above sea level and 1000 to 1500 feet above the valley floor, but they are a great place to hike with well-maintained trails and a very scenic desert.  We had about a 2.5 hour hike, did between 4 and 5 miles overland, up and down.  My feet were sore and I was getting a little tired by the time I got back to the car.  You’d be pleasantly tired too, if you went on this hike with me.


Here I am at the beginning of the hike.  Actually we had already done a mile through the desert before we reached this signpost where two trails converged.  It was a steady climb to that point, but it got steeper from here.  Temperature still in the low 50s, so the jacket is still on and zipped up.  I’m wearing a belt with a water bottle in it.  Always take water when you go out into the desert, even in the winter when it’s cool.  It’s good to wear head protection too.  You can see I have my battered old Trollgod’s hat.  I’m studying a rock in this picture.  These White Tanks Mountains seem to be almost all granite

IMG_2033This is Brian at the signpost.  He has better hiking equipment than I do–always wears cutoffs, has a heartbeat monitor, better shoes.  He has been acting as a trainer for me, sets a pace that gives me a good workout without killing me.  He also makes it possible for me to get the occasional picture of me out in the desert.  You know, it is great to have family or friends to do things like this with.

The rest of the pix are just scenery.  We didn’t see much wildlife–some hawks closer to the city while we were driving out to the mountain park, one little lizard sunning itself on a rock, and a couple of birds.  I think it was too late in the morning for them–already around 10 a.m. when we took these photos.

Rough terrain.  White rock (mostly granite which is largely made of feldspar and quartz) that gives these hills their name.

Rough terrain. White rock (mostly granite which is largely made of feldspar and quartz) that gives these hills their name.

The true beginning of the trail . . .The true beginning of the trail, before us and small parking lot behind.  You can see how clear and blue the Arizona sky is out here in the wilderness.  Further down the page I will show you a shot looking back at the city of Phoenix, and you can see what a million cars do to the atmosphere.  There was a sign at the park entrance telling us to watch out for mountain lions.  We would have really liked to see one, but no such luck.


My eyes are always drawn to the skyline when I’m hiking.  This is the highest peak in the neighborhood, and the top of it is covered with microwave and radio transmission towers.  You see these repeater stations all over the southwest.  The fact that there are towers on top of the mountain means there must be a road leading up there, but it doesn’t come from anywhere on this side of the hills.


That white needle of rock near the center of the photo became my goal for the hike.  It’s kind of strange compared to the rest of the landscape.


Here I am looking back toward the city.  See how hazy and dirty the air is over the populated area.  Still, it’s not bad–there would be a lot of dust in the air of a desert like this even if we didn’t have 3 million people living here.

Saguaro country--these desert giants are the most impressive of all cacti, imho!

Saguaro country–these desert giants are the most impressive of all cacti, imho!

Brian and I both brought cameras on the trip.  He is the better photographer and has the better camera, and he took more pix.  You can find his whole set on Facebook.  I don’t usually upload my stuff there.  I’ll be putting a few of his shots in with mine to help chronicle the trip.

natural resting spot

Nature is friendly out here, and offers the hiker a natural place to sit down and rest a bit.  It would be a good climbing rock, also. Next time I come out here, perhaps I will get a picture of me standing on top of it.


Big rock.  There are some truly huge boulders out here, and they are making their way downhill.  It might take them a million years to reach the bottom, but a million years isn’t so long in the lifespan of a mountain or a big rock.

Sky line . . .

Sky line . . .

Heh, a little planning can work wonders.  Here I am, halfway through the blog, and I notice that the picture size is set to medium.  By increasing it to full size I can give you all a better view of the desert.  I’ll do that for the rest of this photo essay.  but I’m not going to go back and change everything–just the important shots.


That gully/trench goes almost straight up the mountain.  If I were looking for wildlife, I’d concentrate on such places.  There is more water and shelter there.


This is as close as we got to my goal.  The climb has become pretty steep, and we’ve been walking for 90 minutes–time to head back.

Black and blue. Brothers in action together.

Black and blue. Brothers in action together.

Brian can set his camera to take a delayed shot, and so he got this one of both of us at our stopping point.

tai chi in the desert

tai chi in the desert

While I was resting at the top of the climb, I took the opportunity to do a little Tai Chi.  This is the Cloud Hands (wave hands like clouds in the sky) posture from the beginning of the Tiger Mountain exercise.  That’s a good one for doing on a mountain as one doesn’t have to move one’s feet when switching from posture to posture.


We are actually up pretty high. Here is another shot looking back towards the city.  Compare it to the earlier one, and you can see how much higher we are.  We’re still only about halfway to the summit, but we don’t have enough time or personal endurance to go all the way today.


This is almost the end of the trail.  There is still a quarter of a mile to walk back to the car, but we have reached the paved road.  The walking stick in my hand is my Longest Night present from Brian, and is one of the best things he has ever given me.  Desert terrain is uncertain at best.  It really helps to have a good walking stick to steady oneself when a rock turns underfoot or you catch your toe or heel on some projection and start to stumble.

Putting the desert behind us, we returned to civilization, had lunch, and watched the San Francisco 49ers defeat the Atlanta Falsons in the NFC championship game.  San Francisco 28, Atlanta 24.  A balanced effort from San Francisco with 2 touchdowns in each half of the game, but a collapse from Atlanta who started strong with all 24 points in the first half, and no score in the second.

All told, it was a very pleasant Sunday for me on January 20, 2013.  I hope you had a good day, too.


3 responses to “Trollgod in the Desert

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  1. Watch out for those prickly cactus Troll hugs. A new form of acupuncture and chiropractic medicine. Ouch.

  2. A lot of nice shots!

    I do most of my hiking in Washington (Olympic Peninsula) and Oregon (west of the Cascades) so this terrain looks starkly alien. But I’d still like to take my dog on a spin through it.

  3. Looks like you had fun. That is a very big cactus.

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