Archive for the ‘desert photography’ 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.

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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

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

Return to Dreamy Draw   7 comments

Take a walk in the Arizona desert with me.  Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, I left my apartment at 6:30 in the morning and went out to take a hike in the desert by myself–did not connect with my brother this time.  I brought my camera and took pictures along the way.  This walk happened in the Dreamy Draw Park in northern Phoenix.

Lots of people come out to enjoy this park. This is the entry from the parking lot.

Dawn in the desert. It rained the night before. A cloudy sky promised some coolness for a change.

The trail begins easily enough.

The trail divides. I went right this time because I went left last time.

Is this the Dreamy Draw? No, it’s just a gully.

Looking westward toward the city of Phoenix.

My plan is to climb as far into the hills as the trails will easily take me. Climbing is good for the heart.

I am lured by the arroyos. They are the wilder places in the desert.

I kept trying to go off on the narrower, less obvious paths.

One of the wilder, more verdant spots. Do desert elves hide in such places?

You can almost always see mountains in Arizona. I love these long vistas.

It rains in the summer in the desert here, and that is why it is so green.

The trail leads ever upwards. I’m interested in a good climb.

This park is used a lot by mountain bikers. This young lady hit a sharp rock and got a flat tire.

She had a couple of friends with her to help in case of emergency. They fixed the flat, and I saw them again when I was walking out, still rolling and having a good time.

All trails lead back to the main trail. I’ve stepped over this ridge of stones before on my last trip up here. It almost looks like someone built a little wall here to give bikers a hard time. Maybe it’s a desert speed bump.

Once again I’ve gotten off the main trail, taking a narrower, steeper one uphill.

From the shoulder of the mountain I can look northeast to the weirdly named Mazatzls Mountains.  There is a strong cool breeze up here.

Onward!

I had been walking for over an hour. I was happy to find this place to rest.

Entrance to a Dwarven Kingdom, or a Troll’s Cave? The door appears to be closed, and I didn’t climb up and knock on it.

There’s a big quartz outcropping in the center of this picture.  These hills are full of quartz–an igneous rock rising up from below.  I sometimes think that quartz is like the bones of the mountain, and what a weird skeleton it must have.  Although quartz is the commonest stone on earth, it happens to be my favorite rock.  There are pieces of quartz inside my apartment, just because I like the rock.

Looking up at the next high ridge.

This cholla cactus has both leaves and thorns. I call them Cthulhu bushes because they have tentacles.

Looking up a sheer cliff face.

Looking down and out. I have gotten quite high on the mountainside.

The hidden side of the mountains. Usually I walk into this area from the south.

A path fit for mountain goats and guarded by Saguaro cacti.

This was my turnaround point. We are looking south now, and the distant mountains are the South Mountains on the far side of the city.

Starting the trip back to the car. It will be mostly downhill from here. Downhill in the desert can be more dangerous and difficult than uphill, especially if one is tired.

Is that civilization in the distance? No, it’s just northeast Phoenix.

I want to get down to that relatively easy path at the bottom, but I have a long way to go.

I had seen very little wildlife on my walk–a few insects was all. Finally this lizard came out to look at me.

I decided I needed proof that I was really up here. Here’s a picture of my hat, posing on a boulder. Battered as it is, the hat likes to have its picture taken.

Dang! I’ve walked a long way. Heading down, and still a long way to go.

Me and my shadow. More proof I was really up here. I wonder if I could use this shadow as a profile photo.

Mountain bikers go everywhere. Even the narrowest trails show wheel tracks.

I spot a second lizard. Looks like the same species, but not the same one, as I’m half a mile past where I took the first picture.

What a handsome fellow! And he posed very nicely, even when I put my camera down close to get a better picture of him. I would see one more lizard before I finished my walk, but that one was running, and there was no chance to photograph it. Still, I guess Sunday was a three lizard day.

This path is very steep and very slippery. I was taking teeny tiny careful steps to get down it. But, it would be very easy to walk up it.

Back on the main trail at last. From here on I made good speed for a tired old man.

This is the real Dreamy Draw. See how wide and deep it has gotten. These little desert rivers are dry most of the time, and they start out as tiny erosion channels high on the mountainside, but they get wide and deep fast as they reach the bottom of the hill.

Almost down now. I step aside to let some bikers zoom by me.

Here’s a map of the park. If I were a planner, I would have looked at this and planned my route instead of wandering wherever my fancy took me.

The end is in sight.

Climbing into my car and saying goodbye to Dreamy Draw. It was a good walk, about 3.5 miles according to my pedometer, though it felt like more. Even the hat has had enough and wants to head home. Hot shower, here I come!  Left my apartment about 6:30 and got home again at 9:45.  So I spent about 3 hours in the desert.

If you enjoyed my little desert hike, go ahead and leave a comment.  If you think I should get back to reviewing books, comics, and movies, you could say that too.  🙂

–end

Wilderness in the City   8 comments

On Sunday, March 25, 2012 I decided to go for a morning hike.  My destination was South Mounain, but as I headed in that direction (south, of course, I have to go south to reach South Mountain) on 7th Avenue, I noticed a small city park located in the riverbed of the Salt River.  Phoenix, like many large cities is built on a river, but this river has been dammed some 40 miles northeast of town, not once, but several times, creating a series of lakes in the Superstition Mountains, and leaving the river itself dry and empty by the time it reaches Phoenix.  I have been wishing for some time that I could walk in the dry riverbed, but it is fenced off at most crossings.  Well, I had unexpectedly discovered a place where the riverbed was accessible, and I abandoned the trip to South Mountain to take a hike here.  I had brought my camera along to record the trip, and so, on Sunday morning I walked about 5 miles in a difficult, but beautiful, hidden part of the city that most people never see.  Here are some of the pictures to show what I found.  I took 43–yikes!–but that’s too much to foist upon you, dear reader, in this blog.  Your journey will not be quite as long as mine was.

My starting point--looking back at the 7th Avenure bridge over the Salt River. Whenever you see a line of green plants like this, continuous, in the desert, it means there is water there.

A 1-lane road leads down into the riverbed. It doesn't stay paved for very long. I found a city park ranger and a work crew at the bottom and found I had permission to explore this part of the river as much as I wanted.

I headed west. The road quickly ended and left me with this kind of terrain to walk on. Note the incredible variety of rocks present. They have washed and tumbled down to their current locations over millions of years and represent rock from every part of east central Arizona. The line of trees is the actual edge of the flowing river.

I wondered if I could actually get down and walk by the water. All the interesting stuff would be down there. By this time I could hear a lot of strange bird calls. There were occasional quacking noises, and various hoots and tweets, but something sounded like a cow in labor. For all I know there might have been A cow in labor down there, but my guess was for swans or geese. I headed that way. I thought that once I broke through the barrier of dead cattails, I'd be at the riverside.

I reached the edge of the reeds and started to break through them. They were all dry and dead, and broke very easily. Luckily, I looked down, chooosing my footing carefully, before stepping into them. This photo is looking straight down, and the dark stuff you see is river water. One more step and I would have fallen right into the swamp, and that wouldn't have been any fun at all. Oh, yeah, cattails and other reeds actually grow right in the water. You don't break through them to reach the river, not unless you have hip waders and a machete.

I found a place where I could climb out of the riverbed. Off to the side was a huge open pit gravel mine. This pit isn't natural. Men dug it. I guess they dug all the way down to the water level, because the deepest part of the pit is a large pond. Those are the South Mountains in the background.

This isn't river. It's a big open pit full of water.

I reached the greenest part of the river. The trees were largest and thickest here. Bird calls were most numerous. This is whete I actually saw some wildlife. Two large white birds, not ducks or geese, lifted out of the vegetation and flew around, circled, and then headed off upriver. I could not photograph them--they moved too quickly for my little camera. I'm not sure what they were, but they had a kink in their necks and wingspans of six to eight feet--I'm guessing herons or egrets--not birds one expects to see in Arizona. I also saw a large black hawk, skimming near the ground, gliding in the way that raptors do. It passed within 20 feet of me, bigger than a crow, with very dark feathers, and definitely a hooked beak.

My path was blocked by fences. To continue, I would either have to retrace my steps and climb back down into the river bottom, or take this narrow cliff trail. I have fantasized about narrow cliff trails all my life, and here I finally found one in the heart of Phoenix.

I took the cliff trail, of course. Explorer Ken isn't going to let a little thing like a narrow trail keep him from completing his journey. It got narrower as I went along. The cliff is about a 60 to 70 degree slope, all caliche. Falling down it would be painful or fatal. But why would anyone fall?

Secret tunnels leading into the river. Halfway along the cliff trail, I found a road leading back into the riverbed, and a jog in the fence. City of Phoenix owns the fenced-in land. I got back down into the rough terrain. It would have been nice if there were a real road down there, but it was all rocks--only a high-bottomed 4-wheel drive vehicle would want to drive on such terrain.

I set that distant bridge, the one that carries 19th Avenue over the river, as my goal.

Along the way I found this stunted palm tree growing wild in the riverbed.

Walking very carefully over treacherous footing, I reached my goal. Did you ever wonder what the bottom of a bridge looks like? Having gotten this far, I wondered if I could actually cross the river and go back on the other side. I headed across.

On the other side, in a shady grassy area, I found a sleeping bag, and a good deal of trash. Is some homeless person living down here? Could be. I did not take his sleeping bag.

Where does the water in the riverbed come from? There hasn't been enough rain to account for it. It doesn't flow down continuously from upstream. The answer is that the City of Phoenix or the Salt River Project is dumping water into the river. Here is a huge drainage tunnel with lots of water pouring out of it every second.

Then came the hard part--getting back to my car 12 blocks to the east. I thought perhaps I could climb out of the river and walk back on the banks 30 feet above. I tried it here, but about 30 feet up the slope crumbled beneath me so badly that I couldn't go on, slipping and sliding back down to the base.

I found another possible spot to climb out a block or so to the east. It was a hard scramble, but the slope was rockier there, and with difficulty I made it to the top. Here you see me dangling my feet over the edge and looking down at the cliff I had just climbed. Not bad for a 64 year old man.

The cliff trail going this way was even narrower than it had been in the other direction. There were spots where I had to actually hang onto the fence in order to keep from falling off the trail, which crumbled underfoot in places.

Once the cliff trail was behind me, it was an easy walk back the rest of the way. I stayed on top. I was tired of twisting my ankles on the stones below.

It is Spring in Arizona. Desert wildflowers, mostly yellow, are in bloom.

Going out where I first came in. Goodbye to Rio Salado. I look forward to hiking a different part of the river some time in the future.

I showed you 17 of the 43 pictures I took on Sunday.  This is a part of the city that not one person in a thousand ever sees, or even thinks about.  If you’ve ever found the wilderness still lurking in the heart of  your own city or town, or if you’d go hike the river with me some day, why not leave a comment?

–end