Archive for the ‘desert wildflowers’ Tag

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

The Roadrunner Cafe   1 comment

Sunday, March 30, 2014, I jumped in the car, and drove up the freeway to the desert town of New River. The plan was to hike the desert and look for striped stones, and take some pictures. Didn’t find any striped stones, but I did take some pix, and the plan sort of changed into getting breakfast about halfway through . . . (grin).

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I found a way off the main roads and a little trail leading into the Arizona brush. The desert north of Phoenix and at a higher elevation is a great place to find the saguaro cactus.

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At this point I parked the car and continued on foot. All I really want to find are a few good sedimentary or metamorphic rocks with stripes built in.

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Typical rock field. No luck. Proof I’m there. My shadow with Trollgod’s hat.

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Desert wildflowers in the spring, predominantly yellow. I saw a rabbit hop into this thicket but the camera is way too slow to catch the rabbit.

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Suddenly I heard a strange whirring noise not far from my feet. Hello, Mr. Rattlesnake! This picture is actually taken after I took about 3 large steps backwards. 
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And back a little more. He did not seem inclined to relax while I was anywhere near. This is a brown diamondback rattlesnake. If you look closely you can see the distinctive diamond patterns on its body.

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I headed back toward the car and into a wash, thinking there might be some better stones there.

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I really like walking in desert washes. The scenery is so variable.

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I left the undergrowth and headed into New River. There were some bikers enjoying the early morning sun and breeze.

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I decided to stop for breakfast at the Roadrunner Cafe.

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This is THAT desert bar for bikers you see in all the road movies.

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Beer, especially cold beer, is very important in the desert.

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Little rodeos still thrive out here away from the big city.

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Here’s the corral where the bucking broncos show their stuff.

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No seating discrimination at the New River rodeo. They all cost the same, and they all feel the same and everyone is close to the action.

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What good entertainment facility doesn’t have a space for musicians? Here’s a western stage.

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The main business is the restaurant. In nice weather the good seats are outside on the patio.

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Here’s a look at the bar. Look at that assortment of beers! Some time when I’m not driving, I’d like to come up here and try some of those flavors in the second and third columns.

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Bartender, boss, manager is slicing lemons for the day. I don’t know for sure that she’s the boss, but she was telling the other waitresses what to do.

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I ordered black coffee. It came in a styrofoam cup. Things are basic in the desert. Why waste time, water, and money washing coffee cups when styrofoam is cheap.

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I wondered about the picture and the crosses, so I asked. Not Willy Nelson–just a regular long-time customer who died a few years back. The crosses have no real connection to the picture. They are made by a local who leaves them at the bar and sometimes sells a few to tourists who see them.  (Amazing what you can find out if you just talk to people and ask questions, isn’t it?)

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I kinda like the neon bullhead used as a Bud Light sign. This bar has all the modern conveniences, too.  Big screen tv for those who want to watch sports. Just inside is a pool hall with 3 tables. Dang! Made me want to play pool and drink beer.

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Breakfast finally came. Two fried eggs, hamburger patty, hash browns, and the largest fluffiest biscuit I’ve ever had.  So good!  Worth driving 20 miles and paying $10 just to have it.

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Country bathrooms remain politically incorrect.  These babes are on the door of the Men’s Room–I had to visit it before hitting the road again.  The Ladies Room door was decorated with hunks–at least the outside was–I didn’t see the inside.

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The mirror is a little chipped up, or someone went to a lot of trouble to give it that ragged outline.

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This lovely lady makes and sells rhinestone jewelry. I didn’t buy any. What’s the point? I have no one to give it to, though if a lady admired it in my presence I might get her one. It’s cheap and flashy, but I like it.

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Rhinestone rattlesnakes and crosses.

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I stopped to admire this motorcycle. Beautiful black–what a great ride. The guy is named Soto, rode up from Buckeye with some friends.

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I was ready to return to Phoenix, but with that heavy breakfast inside me, decided to go for one more walk. I decided to walk up to that green sign you can see about 1/4 of a mile up the road. I was searching the roadside for stripy rocks. 🙂

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I found some big beautiful yellow flowers.

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I saw desert dune buggies out for a ride. Looked like fun. Got a thumbs up from the passenger in the second vehicle.

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I think it might be safer being a flower photographer than a desert wildlife hunter.

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The closest thing I found to a striped rock. I decided not to bring it home with me. Also some tiny yellow desert wildflowers.

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Not all desert wildflowers are bright yellow. These little desert buttercups are golden orange.

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A piece of twine, a flat rock, and a chewing tobacco tin. These were my roadside finds for the day, and the photo is taken on the trunk of my Kia. I kept the twine and the rock, washed the tin, and then decided to throw it away. I have no use for chewing tobacco, and it had a strong odor, not unpleasant, minty actually. The tin says: Warning: this product can cause mouth cancer. Even though I don’t like tobacco, I thought the package was rather elegant.

And that was my big adventure for Saturday. It may not seem like much, but I just really like to get out of the house and see places that I’ve never seen before.  It’s not so much seeing–it’s being there that satisfies me emotionally and makes me feel good about life in general.

If you like to wander out into the countryside and see how other people live and have breakfast, or if you’ve ever been up close and personal with a rattlesnake, why not leave a comment?

–end

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