The secret to losing weight is to move more, eat less. I’m doing the move more part lately; not doing so well on the eating less part. In fact, all this extra moving is making me hungrier, so I’m eating more.
Sunday morning, 9 a.m., Feb. 23rd, I set off for another desert hike. I put fresh batteries in the camera, and took off for Dreamy Draw city park, a piece of desert entirely enclosed within the city of Phoenix. This blog is dedicated to all the people who have been kind enough to “like” all the walking comments I’ve been making on Facebook for the last month or so. I’m going to put on my tour guide hat, and tell those of you who don’t live in Arizona, some things you might not know, and probably never wanted to know, about the desert around here.
Even though it is early on a Sunday morning, the park’s main parking area is already full. I have to park about 1/4 of a mile up the road. The air is cool and fresh with some high clouds.
Spring in the desert–wildflowers are in bloom. Most of them are small and bright yellow like these.
If you look carefully right in the center of the picture, you will see a desert quail. A whole flock of these ground-running desert birds were feeding in the gulley about 20 yards off to my left. They move quickly, and I was lucky to get this picture.
How many quail can you find in this picture? There is nothing spectacular about these birds. Their dull plumage is good camouflage for living in the desert.
I have taken some of you readers to this park before. There is a broad paved path that leads along the western edge of the park, perfect for the more sedate hikers and for bicycle riders. Here we are looking south toward the hills. That is the direction I have always gone in earlier visits to this park.
And here we are looking north from the same spot on the path. Today I will be walking north into unknown (for me) territory. You know it doesn’t have to be the Amazon jungle or Mount Kilimanjaro. I am happy just to be going off into an area where I have never gone before.
More desert wildflowers. A different plant, but the same bright yellow with larger flowers.
Looking down into a gully. These hills are cut everywhere with dry streambeds where the water only runs during heavy thunderstorms.
I stopped to look at a signpost. It has a “you are here” spot on it, so if you look closely you can tell exactly where I was this morning. Bwa ha ha ha ha!
I am looking at a hobbit path and wondering if I can get down there to follow it.
These washes get more water than the rest of the desert, and so you find the lushest, thickest vegetation either in them or on the banks nearby.
I’m leaving this trail behind.
Big chunk of quartz on the ground. I am continuing yesterday’s quest for striped stones, but I don’t expect to find any on this trip. The rocks in this park are mostly quartz, shale, flint, and andesite–mostly igneous, some metamorphic amalgamations, unlikely to have stripes. My shadow on the ground is as close to a picture of me as you will get in this blog. You can see I’m wearing the Trollgod’s hat.
Here’s a trail leading eastward away from the paved path. I always like to get away from the main thoroughfare.
And now I think I’ll shut up and just walk through the desert for a while.
See the tracks in the sand. I believe these are coyote tracks, and probably not more than a few hours old. No human or horse made these prints, and they are about the right size for a dog or coyote. There are no human prints around them, at least not until my own tracks get added to the mix, so it wasn’t a dog. Earlier I overheard a man say he had seen a coyote right up on the paved trail, and I have seen a coyote in this park before, so we know they are here. You don’t have to be a trained scout to deduce what made these prints.
As you can see, I am walking up a dry streambed. Although there are lots of rocks around, it is mostly sand, and a far cry from the dangerous rocky terrain of the Salt River bed that I showed you yesterday.
The desert is full of holes. Small animals like snakes, rabbits, and other rodents live and take shelter in these cavities.
I took this shot because the rocks are green. Most of the rocks in these hills are not green, but every once in a while, you find a place where they are. I am not sure what this means. Perhaps the rocks are travertine, which is a greenish mineral. Perhaps it indicates the presence of copper ore in these rocks. There is a lot of copper in the Arizona deserts, and it would not surprise me to learn there are low grade deposits right here inside the city park.
This pic shows you layers of rock laid down atop each other, probably shale or slate, but tectonic movement that made these hills has turned the horizontal layers of rock vertical.
This is a side pocket of the wash that caved in, probably in the last year or two, and all the loose soil has washed away. You can see exposed tree roots, and at the top center, looking down like a curious tourist, a fine example of the great saguaro cactus.
a rough spot in the trail.
Human tracks in the sand here. I am not the only person to go walking in this gully.
Somebody built this little cairn inside the gully. I added the rock you see on top.
Still searching for striped rocks. Lots of stones. No stripes. Another self portrait of a hiker’s shadow.
I came to the end of the trail, and climbed out of the gully. This is not a desert oasis. Some multi-millionaire lives over there. I am so jealous. I would love to have such a secluded home on the edge of the desert.
My gully continues, but we are back in civilization. It passes under a road ahead, which means I have walked out of the park.
Houses! I think I took this picture because I saw more quails here. The desert has suddenly turned into the suburbs.
It’s my old pal, the Yellow Dwarf!
Distant hills I
Distant hills 2
Turning around and headed back now. See all the white rocks on the ground? These are all little flakes of quartz, the most common rock on the planet.
Another tribute to quartz, which is my favorite rock, though not my favorite gem. I am walking back on a trail that parallels the gorge I followed to get here. I’m on the High Road instead of the Low Road now.
King of the Hill! Quest complete! This is the only rock I found on the whole trip with bonafied stripes in it–veins of quartz in a darker, probably granitic matrix. This is no loose stone that I could pick up, but an out-thrust of the hill’s bedrock. In what was close to 3 miles walking today, this was the only rock with stripes, and it is on a high spot in the hills. Hail to his Majesty!
That brown-gray thing that looks like a twig in the center of the picture is really a lizard.
Another picture of the lizard. I try to photograph any animals I actually see in the desert. I did see a rabbit at the beginning of my hike, but they are usually much too fast for me to actually capture them on film. I need a ring camera where I could just point and shoot. If it did video, that would get some good shots in the desert.
Ranger Station. A few minutes later I met the ranger. She was driving a big pickup truck and hauling trash out to a dumpster for city pickup.
People bring their horses up here to go riding. I like the white one, and wish I could have gone for a ride.
My little black Kia car–end of the trail. I have walked for a little more than an hour, probably traveled between 2 and 3 miles, not walking fast, but a lot of uphill and down. I should not wear tennis shoes on these hikes–my toes are killing me from pressing them into rocks going downhill. I should remember to take my walking stick for the unsteady terrain. It was in the car. I just forgot it. My lower back and hip flexors hurt after all this walking. I am tired and sweaty, and for the moment, relatively happy.
And that concludes another walk in the desert with Ken–nothing special, but it made me feel good for a while. I hope you enjoyed it too.
Today, Saturday Feb. 22, I felt the need to get out of the house and get some exercise. Lately I have become aware, thanks to the teaching of my lady Ellen, that rocks containing stripes in the stone are unusual, and special among rocks. She taught me this several months ago, and now I keep my eyes open for them.
But today I decided to go hunting for them. I figured a riverbed would be a good place to look, a place where there are plenty of stones, and so I headed down 19th Avenue to the Salt River–a dry river that runs through South Phoenix. I have blogged about my adventures down there before. Today I decided to go to a rougher neighborhood, something that is not part of the Phoenix greenbelt park.
I found a place to park the car and access to the river. I am amazed and kind of unhappy about how dirty and rundown this place is. It is really out of the way, and I wonder how so much trash wound up on the ground here. This trail was a small climb to get up to the riverbank.
Here I am looking down into the river from the south bank. To my right is the 19th Avenue bridge–a hangout for trolls if there ever was one. The green area with the trees on the far side of the river is a small oasis created by wastewater that the city dumps into the riverbed here. We have visited that place before in this blog.
The paved trail at the top of the riverbank leads down to this rough terrain at the bottom. The whole riverbed here is filled with millions of tumbled rocks of every variety that ever washed downstream. It should be a good place to search with a wide variety of different stones to examine, but the footing is treacherous. You don’t just go striding through this scree–you have to watch your step.
I started off next to the bridge, and now you can see that I’m about 1/4 of a mile west of it. I have looked at millions of rocks and have found about 7 that I can use.
This is the King of the River. Do you see his royal stripes. He doesn’t seem like much, but compare him to the smaller, drabber courtiers all around him. This rock was too heavy for me to take it with me–between 20 and 30 pounds–yes I lifted it.
Leaving the river behind, I continued going south on 19th Avenue until I reached the end of the trail. There I found a small parking lot, and a few signs announcing the edge of Phoenix’s South Mountain Park. There are hiking trails here that would enable you to climb the big steep desert hills that we naively call mountains. Who knew? I must return and explore some of these trails.
Skyline of Phoenix seen from the slopes of South Mountain at the south end of 19th Avenue.
Looking north from the south end of 19th Avenue. What you are actually seeing is a considerable downslope back into the valley.
Looking at the hills, you can see a trail leading into them. I hiked a short distance here searching for rocks, but I was not equipped for any major exploration.
I did not take a lot of pictures on this trip because my camera batteries were weak, and sometimes the camera just wouldn’t even fire. I really have to remember to check battery status before taking off on these expeditions.
Again, there were literally millions of rocks I could look at, and I walked slowly with my eyes on the ground, searching for those that might have stripes. The variety of rocks here on the slopes is not nearly as great as it is in the riverbottom.
After half an hour spent searching, I took my few finds, and headed back home.
And here are the stars of this show! I call them the Riverbottom Rock Band, and there are 13 of them. Ten have stripes and 3 don’t, but even though I was looking for stripey ones, I thought the other 3 were cool enough to join the group.
Rocks are a lot like people or maybe people are a lot like rocks. They may not look like much on the outside, but they can have hidden qualities (talents) that make them stand out from the herd. All of these rocks have stipes except the little yellow one. Can you find the two stars in the group? Hint: they are neither the biggest nor the smallest.
Egg with a stripe. I’d like a geologist to explain to me how that vein of quartz got into that rock.
These three rocks don’t have stripes. But they are still kind of special. Red, white, and yellow, they came from the same riverbottom as the others ane represent the opposite kind of stone, pure.
The Riverbottom Rock Band has left the bricks behind and are now setting up their own rock garden. These guys are like superstars on this field of gravel. They were lost and alone in the riverbottom, but here they are together and a landmark for all who see them.
I call these guys the three amigos. They are a much rougher sort than the Riverbottom rocks, they are not polished at all, but they have stripes. These came off the lower slopes of South Mountain. They are fractured and broken by impact and by ice, but show none of the smoothing and polish of the river rocks.
This is a real rock star. He’s a crystal, taking the form of an almost perfect rhomboid with 6 flat planar faces. I don’t know what kind of rock it is, but it was the only one among millions that had this squared off appearance.
And now the Three Amigos plus One Square Guy take their place in the rock garden.
Strange beings come from Above to welcome the Riverbottom Rock Band and their Rough Rock brothers to their new home in the rock garden beside the great wall.
And thus ends the Quest of the Stripey Rocks. It has filled my afternoon with a kind of creative/explorative pleasure, and I hope it has amused you as well. If you are also a fan of the Hard Stuff, why not leave a comment?
Last Saturday morning, Feb. 15, I went to a quarterly gathering of gamers called HuntCon. This is actually what my friends and I used to do every Friday night back 40 years ago when I was a young troll, but now once every two or three months is plenty.
So, this is not a very exciting blog, but consider it a slice of life, gamers in their natural habitat.
A nice home in the northern suburbs of Phoenix is the scene of a 2 day gaming party.
So nobody has to answer the door.
Jesse Foster, leader of the Steve Jackson affiliate in Phoenix–the Men in Black–invited me to play Chupacabra with him.
The place was well provisioned. I ate a lot of those nuts.
Video games happen in the den. It is only midmorning. Nothing is happening yet.
Chupacabra comes in a can. Steve Jackson Games is doing very well with its dice games that come in a can.
A tip of the trollish hat to Morgan Hunt. He owns the castle and hosted the event.
Shadow Hunter was my second game of the day. I was one of the winners. The Hunters won and so did I.
My last game of the day was Tikal, a German resource management game with tiles.
By noon the place was getting kind of crowded. In the background Jesse Foster was running his Troll Hunter game. Oddly enough, though I am a Trollish champion of sorts, I have never managed to get into one of his Trollhunter sessions. i guess I don’t want to be hunted.
Although most of the games being played were very current, there were some really old ones availbale also. I took the picture to show the jar of money where attendees could contribute a bit to help cover expenses for the party.
And now farewell to all the games I didn’t get to play at HuntCon. This is a fairly modest gaming closet. You should see mine some time. 🙂
After a little over 3 hours of gaming and hanging with my friends, and with about 40 people in the house, all talking loudly, I wearied of the scene and took my leave. I had a great time while I was there, and I thank Morgan Hunt and Jesse Foster for giving the gamers of Phoenix, another great get-together.
If you know any of the people in these pictures, or have ever attended a HuntCon, or would like to, why not leave a comment?
- On my way home from gym class Wednesday afternoon, I took a different route, and I found something very different. I decided to come back and document it, so Thursday, Feb. 13, I returned with camera and this is what I found.
Self portrait of the artist? Or, is it Seymour?
This guy appears to be in some pain. I am thinking it may be the artist, seeing himself as Seymour, the protagonist. This all came out of a 1960 film by Roger Corman called Little Shop of Horrors that was written by Charles B. Griffith. Here’s a link to explain it all if you haven’t seen the play or the movie. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Shop_of_Horrors). What I love most about the pictures that follow is that these giant carnivorous plants seem to be so happy with themselves.
Moving from left to right, north to south down the side of the building this is what you see.
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. . . and then you go around the corner. I was looking for a way in to see if could talk about the art, but that did not prove possible. Whatever is happening in this building, it is not open to the general public.
Even on the short wall, the picture was too big to get in one shot.
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Mother and child?
View looking north from across a street.
This “Little Shop of Horrors” is in one of the older and poorer neighborhoods in Phoenix. Within a few blocks there are some other interesting examples of street art. I drove and walked around to show what else can be found in this seedy part of Phoenix.
Firestation number 3 is just south of the Green House. This is the nicest place in the area, but if it was the third station established in Phoenix, it shows how old the neighborhood is. There are now 59 fire stations in the Phoenix city limits.
Just down the street one lot lies this home, built in the style of an earlier century and different world. I am thinking that the Addams Family or perhaps some of their relatives live here.
Two blocks further down the road, I found this memorial to diversity and freedom. Was it done by the same artist?
Who knew there was a Statue of Liberty in Phoenix, Arizona?
The young woman or girl is clearly meant to be Hispanic. She and her people have come north on the “yellow brick road” from a land in chains to the land of freedom. Even so, this land is fenced in. We are not all that “free”.
There are some quotes from American Presidents painted onto the building. I am wondering who needs to see these quotes, and realize they are probably aimed at people like me.
Do you recognize this quote from the Statue of Liberty?
Does it come as a surprise to you that this is part of a “historic” district? It surprised me. I have lived my entire life in Phoenix and never seen one of these signs before. Phoenix, and especially its suburbs, is not known for its historic districts.
The skyline of downtown Phoenix is only half a mile away.
Three blocks to the north, I found a different fantasy landscape, this one clearly aimed and painted for children, on the 15th Avenue sidewall of an ancient family grocery store.
Some people might claim these are weeds, but I see them as the native flowers of this part of the country. They grow on the streets and don’t need a garden to survive.
Two blocks to the northwest on Grand Avenue I found this friendly fellow. Clearly, the same artist has struck again.
And on a side street I found this plaintive message. Is it from the unknown artist?
Who did all this? I don’t know–did not see any signatures on this art. Phoenix is decorated with such murals, however, and many of them are in areas that are chiefly Spanish in population. I love the street art of Phoenix, and wish there was even more of it.
If your city also bedecks itself in painted walls and street art, why not leave a comment?
After spending all morning on the computer, I needed to get out of the apartment, get some fresh air and exercise. I decided it might be a good time to walk down to the nearest theater and catch a movie. It’s slim pickings right now, but I saw that I, Frankenstein was playing. Critics gave it a 33% rating; audiences gave it a 70% rating. I tend to side with the audience when it comes to movie reviews, watched the trailer, which you can see above, and decided that would be my afternoon entertainment.
The plot, in a nutshell, is that if a demonic prince can rediscover Victor Frankenstein’s secret formula for re-animating corpses, he can possess all their corpses with demons from Hell and conquer the world. Contrary to popular belief, demons can only rarely take over a human body. Opposing this plan is a legion of angels disguised as gargoyles. They lurk on cathedrals and such, and transform into hunky warriors when demons need their butts kicked.
The angels think the Creature should be destroyed. The demons think he should be captured and studied. The Creature thinks he should be left alone. He hides out for a couple of centuries, but finally gets bored and goes demon hunting. Then begins about 80 minutes of almost non-stop martial arts action, transformations, explosions, and other special effects. Demons appear in fire and die in flames and descend to Hell. Angels appear in light, and die in light, and ascend to Heaven.
The movie has no big names. The few women in it appear to be Europeans and are very beautiful. The antihero is ruggedly ugly–it’s the scars. Acting is minimal but competent. No one ever has to portray any emotion other than menace, fear, or caution. This is not a movie about character development, but Adam Frankenstein does develop a little bit, say about as much as Conan does in a Schwarzenegger movie. The martial arts action is fast and furious, and frequently ends with the defeated exploding–did you know that demons explode when slain by a sacramental weapon? Bwa ha ha ha!
Exploding demons, lots of violence, no blood, no bad language, no sex–it was a kind of live-action Saturday morning cartoon. As such, I enjoyed it–just what I wanted, a popcorn-munching movie.
It’s going to be a terrible flop, of course. I was the only person in the theater for the mid-afternoon showing. They also made it in 3D–perfect for that. I’m sure it has lots of stuff jumping off the screen at the audience in 3D. I wouldn’t pay extra for that.
The bad guy demons all wore these perfect business suits, black coat and tie, every one of them. Could that be the hidden moral of the story? Never trust a man in a suit, especially a black suit? Bwa ha ha ha ha!
But, if you like fantasy combat and cool special effects, then you should see it if you get the chance. The ending was a bit pretentious, but the gargoyles were great. 3 stars out of 5.
Better weapons than brass knuckles.
If you’ve ever seen a Frankenstein movie, why not leave a comment?