Archive for the ‘Desert photography’ Category

Selfies in the Desert   Leave a comment

Here follows an exercise in narcissism, or at least proof that when I say I go out and walk in the desert I really do go out and walk in the desert. I arrived at my favorite hiking place about 1:30 this afternoon. The weather was clear, warm, and perfect for hiking. It’s kind of late in the day, so I don’t expect to see any animals. My goal was to hike at least 3 miles.

Start of the journey in the parking lot. I am wearing the Trollgod's hat, my oldest, most battered fedora. It will protect my head from low hanging  mesquite branches and cactus.

Start of the journey in the parking lot. I am wearing the Trollgod’s hat, my oldest, most battered fedora. It will protect my head from low hanging mesquite branches and cactus.

 

A better shot of me at the beginning. centering my face for these selfies is going to be a problem.

A better shot of me at the beginning. centering my face for these selfies is going to be a problem.

 

Behind me is the road ahead.

Behind me is the road ahead.

Behind me is the road behind

Behind me is the road behind

.26 miles into the hike

.26 miles into the hike

Troll country

Troll country

Mountain side. Missed. I was trying to do a profile shot of myself.

Mountain side. Missed. I was trying to do a profile shot of myself.

Half a mile into the hike.

Half a mile into the hike.

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8 tenths of a mile into hike. All distances measured by pedometer.

8 tenths of a mile into hike. All distances measured by pedometer.

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Turn around point. Quartz cairn. 1.5 miles into the hike.

Turn around point. Quartz cairn. 1.5 miles into the hike.

2 miles into the hike on the way back.

2 miles into the hike on the way back.

The friendly Arizona desert has places for you to sit down and rest.

The friendly Arizona desert has places for you to sit down and rest.

2.5 miles into the hike. The end is in sight.

2.5 miles into the hike. The end is in sight.

Back in the parking lot. Reflection of a desert hiker.

Back in the parking lot. Reflection of a desert hiker.

I am happy to be back at myu car to drive out of here. Total distance 3 miles. Time about 2 hours. Lots of climbing, and I am now officially tired.

I am happy to be back at myu car to drive out of here. Total distance 3 miles. Time about 2 hours. Lots of climbing, and I am now officially tired.

Salt River Morning Walk   3 comments

Greetings, Friends, and welcome to another ramble through the Arizona desert with me. Today, Sunday, April 13, 2014, I have returned to the urban wilderness of the Salt River greenbelt about 2 miles south of downtown Phoenix. This is literally a couple of miles of what the Salt River would have been like before 6 dams got built on it upstream that diverted every bit of water into irrigation canals and city water supplies.  It has water now because the City of Phoenix pumps some waste water back into it, thus creating a number of pools and a little bit of running water.  We have been walking in this park before, and will probably go again. It is one of my favorite places around Phoenix. I had two motives for visiting it today. 1. I need a 2 or 3 mile walk every day for my health, and it sure would be nice to get some of those walks somewhere other than around my slummy neighborhood.  2. Lately, I’ve been questing for striped stones. I’ll tell you more about that in tomorrow’s blog, but riverbeds are a good place to look for them. The river cuts through many different sorts of terrain and has carried many different types of rocks downstream with it, mixing them all up in the process.  A place that is all the same kind of rock is not a very good hunting ground when you want a variety of rocks

This is actually a good deal for you, dear Reader, as you get to see the best of what I saw on what was about 3 miles of meandering without the actual negative effects of getting sore feet along with being hot and sweaty.  Ready? Let’s go!

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I entered the park at the northeast entrance on 7th Avenue. Once beyond the parking lot, I found a sign that gave me my choices. I decided to go east toward Central.

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I am looking sort of southwest from here. The nearer range of hills is part of South Mountain Park, and the farther range is called the Estrellas. (Estrellas is Spanish for stars.) There’s a bridge. I’m a troll. Trolls love bridges, so you’ll see a lot of bridge photos when I go walking. 🙂

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There is an asphalt access road here for the use of park rangers. I decide to make the walking easier for myself by staying on the paved area, at least at the beginning. The hill in the distance marks the western edge of Tempe.

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Looking down at the river. I’m staring at it to see if I can locate the source of a strange honking noise coming from somewhere down there.  Might be a goose, or a bullfrog, or a river monster. I’m not that great at identifying animal noises.

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Still hearing the honking. Sometime I would like to come out here with a tape recorder and just collect weird noises.

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I stopped here because of the rock field. I collected my first striper here, a hefty fellow that probably weighs about 5 pounds. Then I got distracted by the pretty flowers. This is desert spring–when the cacti flower. The broad-leafed cactus you see is a prickly pear. It has an edible fruit, and some lovely orange and gold flowers.

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A closer look at the flowers from right above them on a different cactus. Yikes! There are bees in some of these flowers. Stay calm. Don’t bother them, and they won’t bother me. You will be happy to know that I did not get stung.

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I really am not very far from downtown Phoenix.  This is a telefoto shot, but the high-rises are probably less than 2 miles away.

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Here’s another shot toward town. The double arches you see are the east and west ends of Chase Field where the Arizona Diamondbacks play baseball. The roof is open The tall peak you see in the distance is Piestawa Peak, renamed about 10 or 15 years ago (time flies when you’re not paying attention) for an Arizona Native American woman who was killed while serving with our armed forces during the Iraq war. Before the Arizona Legislature changed its name, this big hill was called Squaw Peak.

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A better shot of Phoenix without the iron fence in the way. I kind of love to take pictures of my hometown city, so you will probably see a lot of them if  you keep reading this blog.

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Woo hoo! Arizona sky and a jet heading for Skyharbor airport. I don’t have a really great camera, so I’m kind of surprised I was able to get this good a picture of it.

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I came to a fork in the road. The bridge up ahead is on Central Avenue which divides Phoenix into an eastern and a western half. I took the low road . . .

2014-04-12 21.05.09and found a bridge leading to a bridge!
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The small bridge crosses this channel and waterfall bringing water from the city into the river.

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Who knew? Walking under the Central Bridge, I found art.  This art has a message. Recycle and don’t pollute.

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Looking south there’s art in the other direction too.

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The next span over has more art. Looking toward the city we see the city. That dates the art as sometime after 1998 when the D-backs and Chase Field both got their start.

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Another message: Every Drop Counts was a slogan for water conservation in the desert about 20 years ago.

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I like the foreground with all the different kinds of animals you might encounter down here in the river park. Look! There is that prickly pear cactus in bloom that I showed you.

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The state flag of Arizona.

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What the hey? What are these four broken pillars doing out here?

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Here’s another park sign, but with an error. 7th Street might be relatively close, but it’s not four one-hundredths of a mile to the east–more like four tenths of a mile. I had only planned to walk to Central, but with the next bridge only .4 miles away, what the heck? Walk on, Ken!

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This path crosses the river. 100 yards to the west is water and a wetland forest. Here it is dry as a bone. I walked across, found a couple more rocks for my collection.

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It didn’t take long to reach the 7th Street bridge.

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There is an oasis here too, but no art under the bridge.

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Ever wonder what the bottom of a bridge looks like? Now you know. When you are down here, the cars passing above you sound like thunder.

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I am walking back to the car now. I already have at least 10 pounds of striped stones. I have probably seen a million rocks, and found about ten worth picking up. The camera says the batteries are low. I find this little stream and in my imagination it becomes a wild river leading into an unknown wilderness.

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As long as my imagination is running away with me, this iron door becomes the sally port of a castle. This wall looks a bit like the base of a castle tower.

2014-04-12 22.00.07And the last picture my camera would take is of this beautiful trash can. I tell you, art is everywhere in Phoenix.

The distance between 7th Ave. and 7th Street is 1.2 miles according to the signs. I actually wandered off the straight line several times, so I figure I walked at least 1.5 miles each way, thus making a 3 mile hike.

I took pictures a little while ago of the rocks I found on this expedition. I’ll show them to you in a really dull geology blog tomorrow or sometime soon. Or maybe I’ll just post them on Facebook.

If you would go walking thru urban wilderness with me, why not leave a comment?

–end

Mystery Castle   Leave a comment

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 I went, on a whim (and in my car), to the south end of 7th Street. Some day I need to do an end to end trip on 7th Street and show all the significant things that are located on that one vital thoroughfare in Phoenix, but not today. Today I found something else, and since I had my camera with me, I took pictures, and mainly for those of you who might actually enjoy vicariously strolling through the Arizona desert with me, I have this record of the day’s adventure. With the right attitude, every day is an adventure–do you agree?

 

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South Mountain Park is, I believe, the largest city park in the world. It contains an entire mountain range and is about 20 miles long and  ten miles wide. There are numerous ways into the park, only one goes by the park ranger station. In a lifetime in Phoenix, this is the first time I have ever seen this entrance.  There is a nice trail, and I want to walk a mile or more every day, so I decided to enter. The time is near 11 a.m.

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There is an unnatural depression/valley/crater near the entrance. It might just be the end of a gully that has widened out a lot, but perhaps it is the remains of an open pit mine that is so old that the desert has reclaimed it. You can’t tell from the photo, but the bottom of this depression is a good 50 feet below where I am standing, and is quite flat.

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Do you see the far walls on the other side of the pit. These are typical of gravel pits and other big open mines in Arizona. The houses over there are very nice, upper middle class dwellings, and all this flatness is not typical of the bottom of a mountain range. Everything should be sloping downward toward Phoenix in the north. It’s a mystery, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever know how this place came to exist, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t natural.

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Once I got past the dirt trail I started on I found a paved road. That seemed kind of strange because there is no way for a vehicle to reach that road.  The entrance I used is a foot trail barely wide enough for a car at the beginning and too narrow for one a little further on, and it is blocked off by thousand pound boulders placed across the entrance. Perhaps there is a way in through the fenced-off water tanks at the ends of the trail, but I don’t know how the city made this nicely-maintained stretch of asphalt.

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Broken rock landslide area. Desert scenery. I just like to look at and discover such places.

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Looking back the way I came in. The huge tank is probably storing water for South Phoenix. It’s not like any explanation is posted for it.

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Another view of the depression. Some time I may return and climb down into it.

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Mountain slopes and mesquite trees.

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A view across the pit. The eroded slope in the foreground is more typical of an Arizona gully.

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This is the southern end of the pit. The mountain slopes become very steep here, and a true gully appears.

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My walk has taken me to the end of the big pit where a real desert wash empties into it. The tumbled rocks and the undercut caves on the far side are typical of such watercourses. The caves provide shelter for all manner of desert wildlife.

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This area is well explored (by others). Here is a trail leading across the wash.

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Back on the road. Such scenes always make me think of Tolkien’s song: The Road Goes Ever On. I want to see where this one will take me. And also it’s easier than climbing through gullies. 🙂

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The road climbs to this other big tank nestled between two hills and fenced off from the world.

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Looking uphill. This desert is not real good country for saguaro cactus, but there are a few, and here is one that has found a home.

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A trail on the ground.

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A trail in the sky.

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Looking back down the road. I had to climb a bit to get here. I think the climbing should be worth extra credit in the big scorebook in the sky. (I’m so obsessive. I have to count and score everything I do these days.)

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That desert trail I’ve been talking about apparently has a name. I will wind up on this trail that leads to the summit some 2.5 miles away, but I’m not prepared to climb any mountains today.

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As I was looking at the signpost, this woman came down the trail. I said good morning, and asked her where the trail led. This developed into a short conversation. I told her my name (Ken), found out her name is Barb.  She hikes in the desert two or three times a week and goes many different places including the Superstition Mountains and Prescott. I offered to walk her back to her car, just to continue the conversation. We stayed on the lowest reaches of the Holbert trail for another quarter mile, just chatting about the desert, and hiking and such. I probably should have asked her to get a picture of me, but, oh well, didn’t think of it.

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I have seen petroglyphs at South Mountain before, but wasn’t really expecting any. This is clearly a lizard.

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This is more likely to be a man, or perhaps a horse or coyote.  If that is a tail, then it’s an animal.

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Barb had taken a guided walk with a ranger on this trail before. She told me that the ranger said these petroglyphs are relatively modern, and not made by the Amerindians who lived in this part of the country.

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But these petroglyphs are authentic. You can see a solar symbol, a desert tortoise, and a snake. The rangers have erected a small fence to keep people away from these glyphs.

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Near the end of the trail I noticed these glyphs. I think they look like camels because of the humpy back and curving necks. The U.S. Army did import some camels into the Arizona desert after the Civil War, although the experiment was not a great success. Or they might be horses, though I like my camel hypothesis better.  A wonderful thing about such scratches on the rock–they make one think, wonder, and dream, but there is really no way for me to ever know the truth.

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Back at the parking lot, I take one last look back up the hill. I wonder what caused that big scar up on the mountainside. I think I’m about done here, but my adventure isn’t quite over yet.

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Barb gave me a lift in her van back to my car some 7 blocks to the east. Looking around I see some signs I hadn’t noticed before. I have found the location of Mystery Castle. There is quite a story about this place. I visited it once as a teenager 50 years ago. I tell Barb what I remember about it, though I haven’t given the place a thought in decades.  It looks kind of sealed off and forgotten, doesn’t it?

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Raising my sight, I see the castle itself. Someone is living here.

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This sign is so worn out. I wonder if they still give tours of the place.

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By walking off the road I find a better angle to photograph the house.

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This is how I know someone is living here. They have a guard dog. He barked at me once, even though I didn’t approach the fence or make any effort to get inside. Just being friendly, I guess. He didn’t get up and come over to the fence to see me.

And that is my last photo from Tuesday morning. Although I did not find a striped stone, it turned out to be a morning well spent. I got a good walk of a couple of miles, made a friend, rediscovered a fabulous place that I had visited once 50 years ago.

If you’ve ever hiked around the desert, admired petroglyphs, or visited strange architecture, why not leave a comment?

–end

Urban Wilderness Revisited   4 comments

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.

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 southeast toward the 7th Ave. bridge.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

What a jungle!

Almost everything growing here is green, but this tree is purple.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Tunnels.  I'd like to explore these tunnels below the city and the desert, but there is no access for someone like me.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

The last pool in this part of the river.

Wild oleander flowers.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.  🙂

–end

Thunderbird Park   2 comments

I am a lucky guy–always have been.  I have a sister and a brother who both look out for me, and help me improve my health.  A lot of this is done by walking and exercise.

Today my brother and I went out for a walk at Thunderbird Park, north of Glendale in the Phoenix area.  This is a great park for hikers, with at least 4 different hills criss-crossed with trails.  There are some steep climbs, and some gentle climbs, some varied scenery, and a whole lot of igneous rock.  As part of my continuing plan to show off the beauty of desert Arizona, I offer this photo essay of today’s walk.  I think we covered about 3.5 miles, and boy was I tired by the end of it.

When I left my apartment, I started with a coat, a sweater, and a t-shirt.  By the time we started the walk, I as down to the sweater, and the Trollgod's Hat.

When I left my apartment, I started with a coat, a sweater, and a t-shirt. By the time we started the walk, I as down to the sweater, and the Trollgod’s Hat.

Brian was taking the pictures.  I hardly ever feel better than when I'm out walking in the desert.

Brian was taking the pictures. I hardly ever feel better than when I’m out walking in the desert.

Truth in photography.  My hat is really old, and my glasses are really thick.

Truth in photography. My hat is really old, and my glasses are really thick.

This is the kind of natural staircase that I imagine the Dwarves carving in the wilds of Trollworld.

This is the kind of natural staircase that I imagine the Dwarves carving in the wilds of Trollworld.

One of the things I really like about Arizona is the mountains.  The purple range in the distance is called The White Tanks.

One of the things I really like about Arizona is the mountains. The purple range in the distance is called The White Tanks.

Here I am near the top of the  hill.  Notice the walking stick in my hand--it belongs to Brian and it saves me from many a fall and misstep on the very rough and rocky trails.

Here I am near the top of the hill. Notice the walking stick in my hand–it belongs to Brian and it saves me from many a fall and misstep on the very rough and rocky trails.

Arizona, Land of 1000 Lakes?  This northern suburban community has lakes all over the place and a golf course too.

Arizona, Land of 1000 Lakes? This northern suburban community has lakes all over the place and a golf course too.

Brian took a bunch of pictures that I don't like that much--probably because they show me as I really am, a bit haggard at the top of the hill.

Brian took a bunch of pictures that I don’t like that much–probably because they show me as I really am, a bit haggard at the top of the hill.

Starting back down the hill.  Look at that panoramic view!

Starting back down the hill. Look at that panoramic view!

Do you believe in LIttle People?  Brian really makes me look small here.

Do you believe in LIttle People? Brian really makes me look small here.

I'm still standing in the same spot, wondering why Brian is taking so many pix.  I think it was a clever ploy on his part to allow me to catch my breath.

I’m still standing in the same spot, wondering why Brian is taking so many pix. I think it was a clever ploy on his part to allow me to catch my breath.

Looking as regal as a ragged old hiker can.  True shadow of a cloud on the hillside across the highway.

Looking as regal as a ragged old hiker can. True shadow of a cloud on the hillside across the highway.

I thought the shadow of the cloud was worth recording.  It shows the true chaotic cloud shape.

I thought the shadow of the cloud was worth recording. It shows the true chaotic cloud shape.

Last photo on my camera, showing the long road back down the hill.

Last photo on my camera, showing the long road back down the hill.

It was all downhill from here.  Still about a mile back to the car.  Thunderbird Park is a great place to hike, but not one of my favorite places for scenery.  There are some good shots from the top of the hills, but not much to be seen on the way up or down.  The vegetation is not as varied as it was for the Vulture Peak hike, being mostly Palo Verde trees and scrub grass.  Nor was there much in the way of wildlife for a two hour hike.  I got a good workout this morning.  You, dear reader, got these candid shots or the Arizona desert northwest of Phoenix.

If you would go hiking with me in the Arizona desert some time, why not leave a comment?

–end

Vulture Mountain   1 comment

It’s time for another walk in the Arizona desert.  Winter is the perfect time to do that around here.  Friday, December 7, my brother Brian and I left Phoenix to try and visit the Vulture Gold Mine south of Wickenburg, Arizona.  It turned out the mine was closed–and is only open to visitors for 2 hours on Saturday mornings.  Still, it was a nice drive, and then we arrived at the Vulture Mountain trail head.

This sign doesn't exist any more.  This legendary old place is almost completely deserted these days.

This sign doesn’t exist any more. This legendary old place is almost completely deserted these days.

Like most of these desert rambles, this will be mostly a series of photos.  The beautiful Arizona desert speaks for itself.

Here I am at the trail head. Picture taken by Brian St. Andre

Here I am at the trail head. Picture taken by Brian St. Andre

Temperature was in the low 70s when we reached this part of the desert, about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix.  You couldn’t ask for nicer weather.

Vulture Mountain isn't much of a peak, and we didn't see any vultures, but there's gold in them thar hills.

Vulture Mountain isn’t much of a peak, and we didn’t see any vultures, but there’s gold in them thar hills.

This seems to be a state park.  The parking area had a restroom and an information area with maps.

This seems to be a state park. The parking area had a restroom and an information area with maps.

People bring their RVs out here and park in the desert for days or weeks at a time.  There was one in the parking lot here at Vulture Peak.

Brian says to document everything. Here I am before beginning the walk.

Brian says to document everything. Here I am before beginning the walk.

Brian has the camera.  This is the beginning of the trail.

Brian has the camera. This is the beginning of the trail.

Feeling good.

Feeling good.

The trail starts to go seriously uphill here.

The trail starts to go seriously uphill here.

Brian took a lot of pictures.  You are more likely to see his pics on Facebook.

Brian took a lot of pictures. You are more likely to see his pics on Facebook.

This is high desert, between 1000 and 2000 feet above sea level--that's Saguaro country and there is a lot of vegetation.

This is high desert, between 1000 and 2000 feet above sea level–that’s Saguaro country and there is a lot of vegetation.

The desert is essentially a forest.  Saguaro cactus and Palo Verde trees are the big vegetation.  Cholla cactus and small bushes are the undergrowth.

Watch your footing.  This is rattlesnake country, but they go underground and hibernate in the winter. We saw snake holes, but no snakes.

Watch your footing. This is rattlesnake country, but they go underground and hibernate in the winter. We saw snake holes, but no snakes.

This is as far as we went on this hike.  We have been walking for an hour.  This is what I really look like on a good day. I stopped here because if you look carefully you can see lichen growing on the shaded north face of the rock behind me.

This is as far as we went on this hike. We have been walking for an hour. This is what I really look like on a good day. I stopped here because if you look carefully you can see lichen growing on the shaded north face of the rock behind me.

Walking back to the car, I'm looking down into a classic desert wash.  The cactus in the picture is prickly pear, and it produces edible fruits in spring and early summer.  Free range cattle actually eat this stuff..

Walking back to the car, I’m looking down into a classic desert wash. The cactus in the picture is prickly pear, and it produces edible fruits in spring and early summer. Free range cattle actually eat this stuff..

Looking down that wash.  These dry desert streams are the highways of the desert--when they look like this they're great for cutting cross country.

Looking down that wash. These dry desert streams are the highways of the desert–when they look like this they’re great for cutting cross country.

Here's a close-up of the Cholla cactus.  I believe this is the nastiest form of cactus on Earth, and the only one that has ever really hurt me.

Here’s a close-up of the Cholla cactus. I believe this is the nastiest form of cactus on Earth, and the only one that has ever really hurt me.

When you see this kind of cactus in the desert, stay well away from it.  Each little bulb full of spines is precariously attached to the parent plant, and the lightest touch will dislodge them.  Cholla is also known as Jumping Cactus. Each spine has a hook on the end and is extremely sharp.  When they stick into your flesh, they are really hard to get out–I speak from experience.  Don’t touch them or you will be sorry.

That was the end of the walk.  We walked about 3 miles–almost all up and down.  Very rocky, hard on the feet–mine were pretty sore by the time I got back into my car and back to Phoenix.  I didn’t quite get my 10,000 steps for the day, but my feet were sore enough that I’m still resting them 2 days later.

If you’ve ever visited a desert gold mine, or climbed a mountain named after an animal, why not leave a comment?

–end

The Other Side of the River   1 comment

On Sunday, September 21, 2012, I decided to get out of my apartment for another early morning hike.  I really wanted to see some kind of wildlife, so I went to the one place where I’ve seen a lot of animal life before, the bed of the Salt River that has been turned into a park stretching from 24th Street to 19th Avenue.  The City of Phoenix has been adding water back into the riverbed–don’t know if it is waste water or irrigation water or where it comes from, but the City is making about 5 miles of river in the center of the valley.  It was a beautiful day for hiking, too bad I was by myself.  I brought along my camera, and what follows is my record of my walk.  I especially tried to get pictures of animals, so look closely and see if you can spot the beasties my human eye spotted and tried to get on camera.  I probably need a better camera for this sort of picture taking.  I’m sure Brian’s latest toy would have done a much better job, but I work with what I have.

Although this looks like a view of the parking area where I left my car, and started the walk, it is really included to show the skyline of Phoenix to the north. Maybe I should have climbed up on the wall to get a better angle on it.

Telescopic view of the 7th Avenue bridge with the city beyond it. I have learned to use the telephoto ability of my camera, and sometimes I even remember to do so.

View from beneath the 7th Avenue Bridge.

Daffy Duck? From the south side of the river, one can get much closer to the water.

One of seven pools along this stretch of “river”. It looks natural, but the City’s Parks Department built it. This water is way up above the natural bottom of the river. Pumps must be involved.

For a desert rat like me, this is kind of a strange sight. Peaceful. Kind of makes me wish I could be that duck for a short while.

Access road on the south side of the river. Easy walking.

Side trail leading down to the river.

The heart of the forest. Early in the walk I reached the greenest part of the park.

Looking back toward the 7th Ave. bridge. You can see my trademark shadow in the picture thus proving it was really me taking these pictures.

a hidden pool.

No fishing! It would take a very determined fisherman to get down to the water around here. I wonder what kind of fish, the city has put into the river.

Tangled. I think I was trying to photograph a dragonfly here, but I don’t see it.

Two-headed duck.

First glimpse of Bugs. There’s a rabbit in this picture. Can you find it?

One step closer with the telephoto on.

The road twists and turns. This feels about right for me–the proper mixture between nature and civilization.

This looks like a birch tree to me. You don’t see many birch trees in the Phoenix area. It is too hot and dry for them.

I saw another rabbit, but it blends into the scenery very well. This seems to be the main area for rabbits along this trail. There are probably hundreds of them.

Big scummy pool–i wonder what lurks below the surface.

The ground here is full of holes. Snakes and small rodents live in these, and there is a maze of small tunnels beneath all this vegetation.

There’s a bird in here somewhere.

I met some park rangers. They told me about the seven pools on the river, and about some of the wildlife I didn’t see. They saw a coyote that morning, and there are rumors of beavers living on the river. Back before Arizona was a state, there were plenty of beavers living on Arizona rivers, but they were trapped and hunted to extinction by the mountain men before 1850. I enjoyed my chat with these guys.

Waterfall. I have walked almost all the way to Central Avenue. Water is entering the river here from the south.

West side of the Central Avenue bridge. Central Avenue splits the Phoenix area into eastern and western halves.

The eastern side of the Central Avenue bridge. Note the massive buttresses supporting the bridge. In the past during floods, the bridges supported only by pillars like those at 7th Avenue would often be undermined and crumble, but the Central Avenue bridge never failed.

Anthill. When I was a boy in Phoenix, there were anthills everywhere, and a favorite game was collecting ants in a large bottle and having one’s own ant colony. Now, I go years without seeing anthills sometimes, and if you do find them, they are the tiny black ants. These are red ants, but not the big red fire ants i remember playing with as a child.

These white flowers look almost like lillies, and were growing along the river wherever the ground was open enough.

Riverbed showing finely sorted pebbles, all about the same size and composition. I saw some kind of desert squirrel here, but it didn’t hold still long enough for me to catch a picture of it.

There were a fair number of butterflies in the air, and there is a yellow butterfly in the center of this picture on the bush. With wings folded it was almost invisible, and you could see right through the filmy yellow wings.

I have reached the 7th Street bridge, about 14 blocks east of where I started. You can tell I am a troll–I have a fondness for being beneath bridges.

View of the river east of 7th Street. There are parking areas here too, and I may come and start my walk from this part of the river some time in the future.

I found this plastic Chevy hubcap at my easternmost part of the walk, off the main road. I’m sorry to say there was plenty of litter in the park. I picked up the hubcap and brought it home with me as a symbol of my walk, and a bit of clean up.

At this point I turned back, and walked as quickly as I could back to my car.  I meant to take a few other pictures, but the batteries were low, and the camera refused to work.  I had one more encounter, came across a big gray rabbit with a white tail, on my way back.  At one point it passed beside me no more than six feet from me, but he was really moving.  I saw it clearly, but there was no chance to photo it.

So, there you have it.  My animal encounters started with a black duck and ended with a gray rabbit with a white tail.  If they aren’t Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, two of my cartoon heroes sent to brighten up my day by a benevolent universe, then there is no greater power that caters to the whims of men.  Ducks and rabbits are common animals, but being superstitious, I consider their appearance to be a kind of gift.  Thank you, World!

The hubcap and the Trollgod’s hat are home now. The hubcap is really too dirty to bring into the house, but it has a position of honor on the concrete wall just outside my front door. The circle is complete, and once again I have returned to the place from which I started.

I hope you have enjoyed my little walk along the Salt River bed.  The pictures are nothing special–just a record of a couple of hours in one morning of my life.  In this age of computers and high tech, this kind of interaction with the world gets less and less common.  Who knows what will be of value, and to whom?  I leave this record in hopes that someone, somewhere, somewhen will get something of value from it.

If you know anything about Arizona’s urban wilderness, or even if you don’t, please feel free to leave a comment.

–end