Friday, November 30, 2012

Playing Tourist

Playing tourist is an alternative to a hike. Yesterday was one of those as the core group of hikers headed southeast to explore a one time gold mining operation called Kentucky Camp. Rather than pick and shovel, this operation used a water cannon to sluice open the hill sides to expose any gold. In the few years of its operation, the income was just over $3000. The initial investment exceeded $100,000 for construction of buildings and water diversion canals to power the water cannon. This photo is of the restored hotel/office and assay building.

After walking the grounds, reading the history, viewing restoration and taking photos, we went to nearby Sonoita for lunch. We ended at Cunningham's Ranch House after finding the first two restaurant choices open on weekends only for lunch. We seated ourselves at the round table in the John Wayne room. In addition to a bust of John Wayne, all the walls were covered with photos of John Wayne. (For the younger readers of this blog see John Wayne at Wikipedia.)

Soon the waitress appeared at our table and elaborated on the specials. When she was done, I commented to her that she "was not from around here." That was the beginning of jokes and good natured kidding from our stand up comedian waitress. Arriving in Sonoita early in her life, she had not lost her New York accent after 35 years living in Sonoita.

After being well fed, it was time to head next door for dessert at Dos Cabezas wine tasting room. Tasting $9 with your own glass or $15 for their souvenir wine glass. Then we proceeded to taste eleven different wines produced by the Arizona winery. Mostly reds, there were some excellent wines. There were two that I savored; the 2010 Toscano and the fortified wine 2010 Boxcar -- akin to a port.

For me, the highlight was reading the owner/winemaker's descriptions of the wines we were tasting. All of the descriptions were written by a prose poet. The description for the 2010 Trimezzo is just an example of the writing talent: "…A bit like red and blue fruits muddled on your tongue with a sandstone pestle. Sensation of baking chocolate is left to lollygag on your tongue. Some pretty elegant tannin here… Deserves some elegant Italian food."

A brief visit to an olive oil and balsamic tasting next door was followed with an even shorter visit to a newly opened Monika's Bakery. Bought nothing at either location -- including the bakery. There was a cinnamon roll in the bakery case, but I already know better to enjoy the look -- not the eating followed by indigestion.

From there it was a drive back to the RV park for a brief social hour and enjoying the sunset glow on the western horizon.

For another point of view of that day's experiences, check out Anne-Marie and Steve's blog entry or RVing Steve's blog entry.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another Great Day

Started the day with a hike in the desert and washes behind the park. Saguaro oddities abound. Is it genetic or disease. No answers. Crested saguaros are much photographed. There are other oddities including this spiral of the upper branches.

The destination for the day's hike was the bee colony in the wall of a desert wash. These two photos of the wash and colony are from January of 2012.

Our hike along the desert washes showed the destructive nature of summer monsoons in the desert. The past summer's heavy rains and resultant water flows collapsed embankments, upended and exposed tree roots, and toppled some saguaros. The water flows didn't entirely destroy the grotto where the bees had their colony, but it did significant damage to the combs. They seem to be rebuilding. However, it appears the space to make a similar structure isn't there.

The spines of this saguaro provided interest for Steve and Bill as they explored the desert.

At the end of the day we gathered at Steve's site. With camera in hand, I caught this rabbit feasting on a seed block set in the wash.

Attracting birds is not difficult with feeders. This hummingbird was perched on a feeder on a window of Steve's trailer.

As we chatted and planned the next hike, the sun dropped below the horizon while the moon appeared in the east. Didn't realize I captured a bird in flight until I was reviewing the photos.

Good hike. Great company. Fantastic weather. Life is great!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pictograph Hike

Steve had been to the Black Sheep Pictograph site on a previous hike some years ago. So Steve led the way for Linda, Bill and me. Kinda. Started out by taking a tour up a dead end in a canyon.

Once back on the trail and a couple of miles later Steve pointed out the cave on the other side of the canyon/wash. From there it was cactus whacking and rock scrambling to the cave.

The cave in not large. Comfortable for one person. Two makes it crowded.

The pictographs are mostly animals -- deer, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope.

Animal representations in a row at this time of year and on Black Friday weekend I had a momentary wonder why Santa's sleigh had not been included.

After we admired the work of the long ago artist, we sat at the cave entrance admiring the view and pleased that we could be here learning and sharing.

From there it was a long hike back to the trail head as we shared stories from last summer's travels and experiences.

My GPS recorded 7.5 miles. The GPS units that Bill and Steve carried reported 8.1 miles. Guess I will go with their numbers. It felt like more miles, but that could just be the old body. Or my imagination.

It was a good day to be out hiking the Tucson Mountains. Life is great!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

For me, eating meat is ethical when one does three things. First, you accept the biological reality that death begets life on this planet and that all life (including us!) is really just solar energy temporarily stored in an impermanent form. Second, you combine this realization with that cherished human trait of compassion and choose ethically raised food, vegetable, grain and/or meat. And third, you give thanks.
Quoted from Jay Bost's essay Give Thanks for Meat 

In our lives, there is much to be thankful for. Thanks go to family and friends for being there. Also, don't forget to extend your thanks to those nameless people who work hard cultivating produce and crops, milking cows and (yes) butchering turkeys for that bountiful dinner.

Wishing you good times with family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

Kindle PaperWhite

New toy arrived today. Ordered the Kindle PaperWhite about ten days ago, it was on back order for predicted delivery in late December. Some Asian country went into production overdrive and with a very speedy ship, the Kindle PaperWhite has arrived much earlier than expected.

Once unpacked and followed the on screen directions on how to use the PaperWhite. My usual approach would be to bypass all that and get on with reading. However, there was no way to bypass the instructions so I managed to learn about the device more quickly rather than my usual method of learning by error.

Less than a half hour later, I had logged the Kindle PaperWhite onto my Wi-Fi. Then downloaded a book from my Kindle Cloud and started to read. Pretty cool. Better than cool. Went outside to check out readability. Great. Laid down in bed and held the PaperWhite in reading position while I read a page. Fantastic. Even reading without the usual reading glasses.

The touch, the look, the readability, the function. It is an excellent ereading device.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Desert Walk

Planned to do a short walk in the desert. It was over five miles when I finally got back home.

Looking for flora, fauna, scenic or unusual, the first thing I came across was some CocoPuffs right along the trail. Some one had dropped a few as they were dining their way across the desert. Having some faith in the ten second rule, the found food was left untouched.

Near the base of many saguaros are caked with what looks like mud. Found out from Steve on an earlier hike that is evidence of termites. This cannot be good for the life of a saguaro. On my next visit to the Sonora Desert Museum, I will ask the questions to find out what is known.

There were several specimens of the pencil cholla -- or Christmas cholla -- as I walked the desert. Red is an attractive color. That would mean that it might also be a tasty morsel. However, I know better than to check out this fruit. Note those little hair like spines on the fruit.

The fruit of this barrel cactus does not have those little spines. However, getting the fruit out of those barbs is not easy. In previous taste tests, I've found that it tastes kind of like kiwi-apple. To get the best flavor, make sure the fruit is completely yellow. Today I passed on the taste test and let the birds and javelina have these fruits.

Spines from a dead saguaro provide angularity to this desert scene.

It's always a great day when I can enjoy Nature's beauty; South Dakota Bad Lands, the Four Corners rocky world, the rugged Oregon coast, the open prairie of Montana, the deserts of the Southwest and far too many others to mention.

So much for planning a short hike. Life is great!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tucson Snowbird Life

Hiking in the surrounding deserts and mountains. Watching birds at bird feeders. Social hours with fellow RVers relating high points of last summers travels.

Yup. Life is pretty exciting around here. Us old guys can't really handle much more excitement than that. Sure isn't material for a soap opera.

Then I wonder why anyone would bother with soap operas when you can listen to the latest in political news. You say "not true". How else to describe a new story line each day with a new sub plot and all the individuals (actors) with differing observations. (Caveat: I get my news from varying web sites on the internet).

Yesterday's hike was with Steve, Steve and Maria. Poorly marked and infrequently used trail meant the trail was lost many times. So we bush spiny cactus whacked across the terrain. Desert plants do have a way of drawing blood. Good to know I still have some.

Walking the clear desert air and the views made the effort worth while.

Less day time sunlight and little moisture turns the desert flora to a dormant state waiting for the sunny days of February and March to green up once again.

The shorter days may also have some affect on the desert fauna. One of the Steves and I spotted this brown spot on the rock. Looked like a toad. Upon closer inspection it was a grasshopper with a much smaller grasshopper getting a free ride. Maybe. To keep this blog G-rated, I won't relate my first thought.

That concludes another episode of a Tucson Snowbird. Also known as Wandrin Lloyd. Life is great.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gadget Consultant in Town

Daughter Vanita was in town on business so we spent the day (Saturday) chatting over tea and a sushi lunch.

Like her father, Vanita is into computer gadgets. So we talked computers and iGadgets. On our tour around Tucson, we were close to an Apple store so we decided to do a hands on test of the mini iPad. Our unanimous conclusion was that we preferred the large iPad. Maybe Vanita could afford another iGadget, but I couldn't. Actually, I really don't need -- or want -- another.

That was the situation until Vanita pulled out her Kindle Paperwhite. Big improvement over the previous Kindle eReaders. With my impressions and Vanita's pitch comparing it to previous Kindles, I had to have one. Upon returning home that evening, I ordered a Kindle Paperwhite. The popularity of the device means it is on back order. However, it will arrive in time for Christmas. A great gift to myself.

Looking forward to reading in bed without hurting myself. Using the heavy iPad as an eReader is dangerous.

A visit from Vanita. A new toy on its way. Life is great.


Arrived in Tucson on Thursday and to honor the occasion, the temperatures dropped and the 30% chance of rain left mud puddles on the windshield. Instead of a clear blue sky, my first hike into the desert provided a sky of clouds.

Three days later, a high of 60 degrees is predicted. Pretty cool -- cold -- for a guy usually attired in shorts. Time to plan ahead for the occasional cold snap in the next three to four months. Turn on the heat and find the long pants.

I found the long pants. Life is great.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cooler With Color

Since arriving over a month ago, my every other day hikes into the hills behind the park have been a pleasure. With the sun lower on the southern horizon each day and cooler nights, I've been noticing the changes in flora and fauna.

On those hikes a month ago, this about two inch long grasshopper and all his species could be found on the trails. Many times they were found in a compromising position. On my most recent hikes, I have not seen one. The lizards I've seen were too small to catch -- and swallow -- these large grasshoppers. Guessing they mated, laid the eggs and then died.

Not sure what this bush was that could be found along the washes, but they were covered with small butterflies. For size comparison, in this photo there is a honey bee on the left and the butterfly is on the right. Both small insects. However, many times these bushes were covered with the butterflies as they harvested some nectar. Those same bushes have now gone to seed and produce a cotton covered seed that covers the edge of the wash.

Changes are everywhere this past month including the cottonwoods changing from green to gold.

Change. Story of my wandering nomadic life. Tomorrow morning, I hitch up to head to Tucson and settle in at Justin's Diamond J. There I will stay until I decide to begin my 2013 travels in April or May.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Book: Birdology by Sy Montgomery

Subtitled: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur

The message of the book is not to ignore birds. The "bird brained" pejorative is not true. Each of the seven chapters of the book address an avian species. Included are the author's experiences from birds in her life and field research including her experiences in bird rehabilitation.

There is book length material available about each of the seven species that could be read. However, the author tells a good story as she includes the studies, essential material and discussions with researchers about the avian species included in the book.

For me, the one negative was the author's frequent mention of her vegetarianism. Once was enough and move on with the story.

Bottom line… The author has written an informative filled book about birds that all birders -- amateur or serious -- will enjoy.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Money Making Opportunity

Been a long four years leading up to the voting for US President in 2012. In just a few days with no hanging chads, no Supreme Court election decision, or a tied electoral college, the US President will have been elected. Wonder how many days will pass before someone announces that they are running for President 2016.

I am considering starting a contest. With an entry fee as yet undefined, the entrant will specify the date of that announcement. Pay out to the winner -- or winners -- 75% of the funds and I will keep the remainder for management fees -- or daily living expenses. Like paying to keep the Silver Slug on the road.

How about that contest for an entrepreneurial idea. Okay. So I didn't invent or design anything. So what's your point.

Seems to me that making bets is what financial corporations are doing to make profit.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

San Pedro House

The photo of the cottonwood and cabin on Mark's journey down memory lane was taken at the San Pedro House east of Sierra Vista. Have visited the San Pedro House many times over past winters to watch bird and hummingbird banding. Sometimes it was a visit just to hike along the San Pedro.

Over the past month, I've hiked several times along the San Pedro. One of those was at the San Pedro House. Mark's photo was taken after the cottonwood leaves had fallen. On my visit in October, the leaves of that cottonwood were still quite green.

Shorter days and colder nights will cause those green leaves to turn yellow and soon they will fall to reveal the branching of the tree seen in Mark's photo.

Seemed to be an infestation of grasshoppers as I walked the dusty trails. Got a closeup of the rainbow grasshopper dining on a cholla "fruit".

It was a peaceful walk along the San Pedro. A few birds were sighted. My enjoyment is the bird -- not so much the identification. No doubt with winter plumage, there were several of this duck species swimming on this brown pond. Blood sucking gnats and mosquitoes caused me to quicken my pace and get away from the water.

Soon I was on my way back to the distant San Pedro House under those cottonwoods.

There are (human) snowbirds and there are birds of the avian species who also head south to take advantage of warmer temperatures. This concentration of bird life makes the Mexico - United States border a great location for birders with binoculars and cameras to add species to their "life list". That is the draw for many visitors at the San Pedro House.

Scattered around the center and under the trees are bird seed and hummingbird feeders. Didn't see any hummers. Not too many seed eaters were visiting the feeders. So I settled for a single photo of a rosy finch.

Great day to be out enjoying a warm day in southern Arizona. Life is great!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sunset and Moonrise

With few clouds in the Arizona skies since arriving at Saguaro SKP, there have been few opportunities for sunset photos. Did manage to catch one a few days ago.

Even better was the full moon rising over the Dragoons.

Too lazy to get the tripod out to take that moon rise photo so it was hand held. Didn't turn out too bad.

Those are some of the notable events in my life over the past few days. Hey. You take what you can get.

Life is great!