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Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

If you’re in the Phoenix area on the evening of June 7th, come out to the City of Gilbert’s Riparian Institute and enjoy a nature walk through the 110-acre preserve and listen to music by several members of the Mesa Symphony and yours truly. I’ll be playing harp and classical guitar near where the walk ends, but close enough to the parking area that you can simply walk over and sit down on one of the provided seats or settle in on the grass and have a listen if you don’t feel like taking the tour.

The nature walk starts at 7:00 p.m. at the east end of the public library. Check the Riparian Institute’s website for more information. There is a suggested donation of two dollars. I will be playing from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. I hope to see you there!
Ariel Laurel Strong With Pedal Harp

Photo by David Weingarten, Goldeneye Photography.

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Arizona Desert Wildflowers

Yesterday’s trip with D. through the Miami-Globe area and on further east onto the San Carlos Apache Reservation was a delight – great scenery and companionship, lots of humorous moments, good road music, beautiful weather, plus the chance to practice some of the new photography skills that I am learning.

Associating with a professional photographer is improving my eye and compositional sense, though it is also creating a bit of gear envy. F-stop, ISO, and depth of field, are all terms that are rapidly becoming a part of my vocabulary, even though I don’t yet have a camera with which to put that new knowledge to use. (My little “point and shoot” camera’s days are numbered.)

The following photos of poppies and lupines were all taken late Tuesday afternoon, March 25, 2008, on a hillside just north of Highway 70, near San Carlos, Arizona. Other than changing the size and resolution for the web, they’re pretty much straight out of the camera. I hope to have some time soon to do a little retouching in Adobe PhotoShop. If so, I’ll post the results. Enjoy!

Desert Hillside Covered in Mexican Poppies Saguaro Cactus and Poppies Mexican Poppies and Saquaro Cactus, San Carlos, Arizona
Lupines and Poppies on Desert Hillside Lupines and Poppies carpet the desert Photographer among desert wildflowers

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As I drove across Garland Prairie last week, the light of a full moon illumined the snow and the pines, casting deep shadows across the frozen ground. It was a beautiful and a bittersweet sight. The song of a great horned owl greeted me as I got out of my car and crunched through the snow to the door.

My plan was to continue packing my belongings, but most of the time ended up being spent running around Flagstaff dealing with the buyer, title agent, insurance agent…and getting some heat tape to keep my pipes from freezing again. Temperatures have been very cold, dipping below zero several nights in a row.

In a few days I won’t be a property owner in the high country anymore. My focus will be back on building my business, filling in with other work as needed, meeting new people, and making new friends. That is as it should be, but I will miss the high country, the pines, the wildlife, and being close by to family and old friends. I can’t help but feel a little pang.

Still, new horizons beckon and I’ve been having some unexpected fun in my life. I’ve met some very nice guys down here in the Valley and have had a couple of dates recently. As I write this post, it’s raining outside, as it has been all day. I know that soon the desert will be in bloom, alive with colorful wildflowers. And, there are friendships blossoming in my life right now, even the possibility of romance. Who knows what may follow the high country snow melt and the desert rains?

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Fun, friends, hikes up side canyons to hot springs, wildlife–it was soooo good to get out on the river! The weather was absolutely perfect–low eighties air temp, low fifties water temp. The sky was clear and we had a full moon. It was a real stroke of luck for it to be so pleasant so late in the season.

In the past, I’ve rafted the upper Grand Canyon, from Lee’s Ferry to Phantom Ranch (hiked out the South Kaibab), and I’ve done the San Juan, a tributary, but paddling Black Canyon just below Hoover Dam was my first excursion on a lower section of the Colorado River. The magnificent desert canyon scenery compensated for the flat water. We hiked in a slot canyon, played in numerous hot springs and seeps, and saw cormorants, herons, ducks, and even a mama bighorn with her youngster hopping up a canyon wall.

I learned something on the trip, too. For the last few months, I’ve been trying to “push the river,” to make things happen in my life. The first day on the river, I was still doing the same thing. Pushing the boat, seeing what it could do, what I could do with it. I was a little frustrated that we didn’t go further that day.

The second day, I began to flow with the river. I started dancing with the water, the boat, the breeze. Not fighting the current, but finding my way within it, getting the rhythm of each section, shifting as the river moved through wide and narrow stretches, slower and faster water.

We did have to push some for the last couple of hours to make our takeout, but even that was fun. I found the speed and rhythm that I could maintain over time, not unlike grubbing a line around a wildland fire, keeping the pace with a paddle instead of a pulaski. The strong, steady pulling felt good to my back and arms and the tiredness at the end was a welcome reminder of all we had seen and done.

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I haven’t blogged in quite a while and I’m just now posting the aspen pics I promised.

The leaves were already pretty well gone up on the San Francisco Peaks when I came up from Phoenix about three weeks ago. I did find a couple of late-turners, though, and discovered one tree that had been cut down.

I harvested some leaves from the downed tree and made up little packages for friends in Phoenix and points in between. I turned my trip back down to the Valley into a sort of reverse “May Day” excursion. Instead of baskets of spring flowers, I delivered colorful autumnal bits of the high country to folks that I know miss the mountains.

The sprig I saved for myself has held its color better than I thought it would. It’s a nice little reminder of a crisp fall day on Hart Prairie, the smell of wood smoke on the breeze, and the long-standing tradition I have had to always make it up to the Peaks at least once while the leaves are turning. I just made it this year.

Aspen, Hart Prairie Aspen, Hart Prairie
Aspen, Hart Prairie Aspen, Hart Prairie

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It’s getting close to the last hurrah for the wild sunflowers that dot my yard and line Arizona’s roadways in the late summer. They are definitely getting close to “bloomed out.” These two pictures were taken about a week ago in my front yard. The ones I saw today, on my return trip from Phoenix, have lost a lot of the their blossoms.

Wild Sunflower Another Wild Sunflower Picture

It was a good trip down to Phoenix and a joy to visit with my friends, as always. The drive to and from Phoenix is also a time for reflection for me. I’ve clarified some of my options and made some plans for the next few months. I also took a few days off exercising and the nerve problem in my leg has diminished, so the change of pace was healthy in more ways than one.

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0500 MST, Parks, AZ – The Aurigid Meteor Shower was well worth staying up for, but I’m just about ready to call it a night. I saw several dozen meteors between 0330 and 0440 MST, some of them fairly bright. There were about half a dozen that were truly “ooh” and “aah” worthy, despite the brightness of the moon.

As per Ames’ viewing tips, I found a spot shielded from direct moonlight. My internet satellite service dish filled the bill nicely. I pulled the old purple sleeping bag that I used to use during my time as an EMT up on the Navajo reservation out of the shed and bundled up to watch the light show, moving my fold-up chair to stay in the shadow of the dish. The meteor activity peaked about 0420 with three short bursts of several meteors per minute between 0400 and 0430. I packed it in about 0440, due to the chill (52 degrees F) and general tiredness.

It was a good night for wildlife, too. I heard the Great Horned Owl again, as I have for several nights running, and a little before four o’clock there were several coyotes howling in the wash to the northwest. It was hard to tell how many there actually were as their calls echoed off the adjacent cliff and made it sound as if there were quite a few. Usually I hear just two, or sometimes three. There was even a small bat that fluttered by at one point.

To add to the local flavor, there was intermittent lightning to the north the whole time I was outside from thunderstorms up near the Grand Canyon. Lucky for me, the sky was clear here near the Mogollon Rim. A lovely night.

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