Archive for the ‘desert hikes’ Tag

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.

2014-12-09 14.03.27

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

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

2014-12-09 14.21.28

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.

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?

 

2014-03-31 23.35.46

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.

2014-03-31 23.37.28

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.

2014-03-31 23.37.32

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.

2014-03-31 23.37.49

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.

2014-03-31 23.39.02

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

2014-03-31 23.39.07

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.

2014-03-31 23.41.35

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

2014-03-31 23.41.41

Mountain slopes and mesquite trees.

2014-03-31 23.42.58

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

2014-03-31 23.43.13

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

2014-03-31 23.44.51

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.

2014-03-31 23.44.54

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

2014-03-31 23.45.05

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. 🙂

2014-03-31 23.46.26

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

2014-03-31 23.46.34

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.

2014-03-31 23.46.57

A trail on the ground.

2014-03-31 23.48.04

A trail in the sky.

2014-03-31 23.49.58

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.)

2014-03-31 23.50.23

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.

2014-03-31 23.57.52

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.

2014-04-01 00.01.42

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

2014-04-01 00.01.53

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

2014-04-01 00.02.41

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.

2014-04-01 00.03.09

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.

2014-04-01 00.09.59

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.

2014-04-01 00.11.42

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.

2014-04-01 00.25.03

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?

2014-04-01 00.25.35-1

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

2014-04-01 00.25.35-2

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

2014-04-01 00.26.03

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

2014-04-01 00.26.33

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

Sunday Morning Desert Walk   1 comment

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 tough it is early on a Sunday morning, the park's main parking area was already full. I had to park about 1/4 of a mile up the road. The air is cool and fresh with some high clouds.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 left the paved path and made my way down into that arroyo I showed you earlier--either that one or a branch of it.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

And now I think I’ll shut up and just walk through the desert for a while.

2014-02-22 21.39.34 2014-02-22 21.39.42 2014-02-22 21.40.48 2014-02-22 21.43.34

2014-02-22 21.45.23See 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.

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.

The desert is full of holes. Small animals like snakes, rabbits, and other rodents live and take shelter in these cavities.

2014-02-22 21.47.58I 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 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.

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.

a rough spot in the trail.

2014-02-22 21.54.03

Human tracks in the sand here. I am not the only person to go walking in this gully.

2014-02-22 21.55.47

Somebody built this little cairn inside the gully. I added the rock you see on top.

2014-02-22 21.57.26 2014-02-22 21.58.58 2014-02-22 21.59.07 2014-02-22 21.59.12

Still searching for striped rocks. Lots of stones. No stripes. Another self portrait of a hiker's shadow.

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.

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.

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.

Houses! I think I took this picture because I saw more quails here. The desert has suddenly turned into the suburbs.

2014-02-22 22.03.06 2014-02-22 22.03.14

It's my old pal, the Yellow Dwarf!

It’s my old pal, the Yellow Dwarf!

Distant hills I

Distant hills I

Distant hills 2

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.

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.

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!

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!

2014-02-22 22.20.21

Walk!

Walk!

Walk

Walk

Walk!

Walk!

Walk!

Walk!

Walk!

Walk!

Walk!

Walk!

Walk!

That brown-gray thing that looks like a twig in the center of the picture is really a lizard.

Walk!

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.

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.

2014-02-22 22.42.20

People bring their horses up her to go riding.  I like the white one, and wish I could have gone for a ride.

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.

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.

–end

Posted February 23, 2014 by atroll in Arizona, Arizona Desert, Ken St. Andre, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Getting my Wish   1 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Desert.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Coming

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.

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. :)

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. 🙂

A

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.

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.

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.

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.

Just the right angle to see the cactus in front splitting the U of that weird saguaro.

White_Tanks_Hiking 021

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.

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?

–end

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.

IMG_2034

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.

IMG_2029

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.

IMG_2030

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.

IMG_2031

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.

IMG_2035

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.

IMG_2037

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.

IMG_2039

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.

IMG_2041

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.

IMG_2047

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.

–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

Walk About   6 comments

Way Up High

View of Phoenix from the top of South Mountain

A week after my river bottom exploration and a week before my recent trip to New Zealand, I took another Sunday morning walk, and this time it was in my original destination of South Mountain park.  This park is part of the Phoenix City parks system, and I firmly believe, but have no proof, that it may be the largest city park in the world.  It includes a whole range of hills that is about 30 miles long from east end to west end and ten miles deep from north side to south side.  The park includes numerous ramadas for picnic parties, and has good roads and hiking trails throughout.  My brother Brian and I went to my favorite trail on the south side of the park–the one that starts in Hidden Valley.

Here I am at the parking lot where the trail starts.

Because I had my brother with me, I was able to get some  pictures of me (and him) along the trail.  We started the hike at about 8:30 in the morning of Sunday, April 1, 2012.

First stop along the trail. I am trying (in vain) to look rugged and adventurous.

This is the near the beginning of the trail.

Spring in the Arizona desert. Note that some of the plants are still green. 🙂

We call them the South Mountains because they are south of the main city. They range in height from about 2000 to 2500 feet, and we are near the top of them here--hence my title of Way Up HIgh.

Further up the trail. Not much was happening that day. It was already hot, and everything except people had hidden away. I was disappointed not to see any wildlife.

I enjoyed the views where one could see a long way into the distance.

Here I am on the edge of a cliff. I kind of like to stand way up high and look over the edge of things.

Close-up. Do you think I should put these pics up on Facebook?

My brother Brian is 5 years younger than me. And in much better shape . . .

Brian likes to scuba dive. I'm sure he'd rather be underwater than out hiking the desert. We are both practical ecologists and support the conservation of natural resources, whether in the ocean or the desert.

After we finished the Hidden Valley hike we went over to Dobbins Point. You can see the elevation and the best view of the city from here.

Brian takes a look at the stone "ruin" at Dobbins Point. It provides a shady spot where one can rest and look out over the city.

And here I am resting--sans hat. Yeah, I don't have much hair left on top. I kind of like this picture of me in shadow--it's kind of a metaphor for my life--slightly off center and a bit in the dark.

And that concludes my South Mountain hike–nothing special as desert rambles go.  Still, it was a pleasant way to spend Sunday morning.    And it does give a good picture of the real Arizona desert.  When I went hiking next, I would be on the opposite side of the world in New Zealand.

If you like the pics, or have ever been hiking in the Arizona desert mountains, why not leave a comment?

–end