Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

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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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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Some Straight Talk and Sage Advice From an Old, Rural EMT/Firefighter

On a trip to the closest grocery store tonight (30 mile round trip), I beheld a sight that made me change my mind about posting anything more before tomorrow.

There were two guys in camoflauge and good old boy caps standing in the middle of the lane in the parking lot. (It doesn’t have to be hunting season to see this in Williams, Arizona.) They were slow to move out of the way, and continued their loud, and somewhat colorful, conversation as I walked by. Oh, yeah. I’d forgotten. We are already into hunting season. And if I were a bettin’ woman, I’d bet that they’d had a few.

It got me thinking about past Labor Day weekends and the autumn madness that sweeps across northern Arizona’s high country every fall. I remembered the number of people I’ve backboarded, transported, and otherwise assisted out in the woods or along I-40.

Some were hunters, some were simply recreationists up for few days out of the heat of the Valley of the Sun. (Gotta love that euphemism.) They were usually pretty happy to see me and my cohort coming towards them, though some got a little testy about how long it took us to find them out in the woods. Hey, when you’ve got 180 square miles to cover…

Expert Tips For Surviving Your Trip to Northern Arizona

Here are some expert tips for anyone who goes out into the forest this fall in northern Arizona. May these keep you from having to meet some of my old compatriots under distressing, and often embarrassing, circumstances.

1) Just because you are the one with the gun and the elk or deer tag, don’t assume that the elk or deer won’t get you. They’re out there in the dark, along the roadside, and they’re waiting for you. Drive slower than the speed limit at night, so you can see them before they have the chance to jump out in front of you.

Give yourself the advantage of the increased reaction time gained from reducing your speed to around 65 on the highway. (Shall we be honest here? Were you going 75? Eighty? Faster?) Yes, the semis will pass you like you are up on jacks, thinking they are immune because of their size. They’re not. Ever see a caved-in windshield on a truck from a thousand pound elk tossed up into it like a rag doll? Think of what that would do to your vehicle.

2) Don’t drink and drive. Yes, you’ve heard this before. There’s a good reason. I backboarded too many people who had the smell of alcohol on their breath. I wanted to put this one first, but then I knew you might not read it. But this is the most important tip of them all. (Except for Number 6.)

3) Don’t drink and drive your ATV. See above. Too many weekend warriors end up with head and neck injuries and ponderosa bark embedded in their faces. I swear those trees are just as militant as the elk and deer, and the vegetable kingdom is only fooling us about being anchored in the ground. I’ve had patients tell me that the tree jumped right out in front of them…

4) Don’t use cruise control at night. That little chatter strip at the edge of the road saves lives by jolting drowsy motorists awake and causing them to lift their foot off the gas pedal. With cruise control on, you don’t get that split-second advantage that can keep a minor incident from becoming fatal. One of my Fire Science instructor’s favorite slide shows featured the results of someone losing consciousness while using cruise control. Think Braveheart meets the back of a semi. I won’t say more.

5) Remember that you have arrived in what is officially known as the boondocks. This means to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Bring extra water, some extra warm clothes. It’s already getting down into the forties on some nights here, and with the monsoon thunderstorms still frequent, you could get wet and very, very cold. It doesn’t have to be freezing to get hypothermia.

Surprisingly, there’s fairly good cell phone coverage in many of the areas people will be visiting this fall. Bring your cell phone and an extra battery. A map and a compass are a good idea, too. Not that you should leave your vehicle if stranded, but they can help you orient yourself and give 911 some idea of where to send help.

6) Always, always, always wear your seat belt. Yes, another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t, or who unbuckle once they leave the highway for the backroads. Some of the worst head injuries I’ve seen have been from rollovers on side roads. (Maybe because, on a backroad, people often survive things that they would not at highway speeds? It’s caused me to ponder my own mortality and my feelings about survival vs. “quick and clean.”)

Backroads here tend to be rough and winding, and are often covered with fine cinders, which can act much like a layer of marbles between your tires and the roadway. Go slow. Enjoy the scenery.

7) No matter what happens, don’t panic. With a little thought, preparation, and luck, you can deal with almost anything that happens. And it sure doesn’t help matters any to lose your cool. Even out here in the boondocks, there are folks that will help you out if you do get in trouble. EMTs and firefighters know they are not getting called out because you’re having a good day.

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Alright! A kayak trip on the Colorado in October! A small trip with friends, and it’s free…does it get any better than this? Two days of paddling, water, and sun below Hoover Dam, plus hanging out in the hot springs. Aaaaaaahh.

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Have Harp, Will Travel

My latest musical endeavor has nothing to do with playing an instrument, but with transporting the bulky, hard-to-handle pedal harp. I’ve found a new way of putting it into the PT Cruiser. I’d gotten the harp in there before (laid out flat) but then had no room left over for sound equipment. I woke up the other morning with a complete picture in my mind of how to fit it, a guitar or two, the sound system, plus all the necessary gear for several days of gigging away from home, into the back of the PT.

The solution necessitates some creative strapping and padding to hold the harp safely vertical as it rests on its post, and it would be much easier to handle with two people, but I did a solo test load and it worked fine! (The harp is a three-quarter size pedal harp, that weighs approximately 55 pounds and stands about 5’4″ tall. I don’t think my solution would work for a full-size harp, but if any harpists want to know what I came up with, you can email me from the dangerousangel.com website and I’ll reply with the details.)

At 13 mpg and 120,000 miles on the odometer, running the old van to Phoenix and back (300 mile round-trip) was not a good idea, but I’d been holding onto it for lack of a better option. This new development opens up gigging in the Valley with both instruments and sound equipment in a reliable vehicle that gets more than double the miles per gallon. And, I can retire the gig van, which will generate some cash and get the poor, ugly, old beast out of my driveway. Onward! Now, I’ve got to do something about a music website…

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Three Steinbeck Quotes

Reflecting on my recent trip to Monterey, I got to thinking about how much I enjoyed walking around the Peninsula and identifying locales from John Steinbeck’s novels. Steinbeck is one of my literary heroes, so I had intended to take Margie (a longtime friend, fellow writer, and my accomplice adventurer on this latest jaunt) to the Steinbeck Center in Salinas. We didn’t get there. Suffice to say, a certain writer (who shall remain nameless) pulled one of her usual miscalculations and planned way too much to do in far too short a time. Margie was rightly miffed. To console myself, I went trawling the Internet for Steinbeck quotes. I found lots of great ones, but these three jumped out at me:

“We find that after years of struggle we do not take a journey, but rather a journey takes us.” (From “Travels With Charley”)

“Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.”

“So in our pride we ordered for breakfast an omelet, toast and coffee and what has just arrived is a tomato salad with onions, a dish of pickles, a big slice of watermelon and two bottles of cream soda.” (While traveling in Russia)

~ John Steinbeck (1902-1968), American Novelist and Writer, Nobel Prize for Literature for 1962

More synchronicity. I had to laugh when I saw my unconscious sequencing of the quotes. The journey is taking me….somewhere. And it certainly is marked by gradual, even stealthy, change. It has also not been anything like I what I ordered! But then again, who wants plain old eggs and toast for breakfast when you can have onions, pickles and watermelon, anyway? :-)

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