Time To Say Hello

A backlit look at my new car, the 2020 Lexus UX 250h, taken in our driveway in Scottsdale, Arizona in January 2020

With the sun getting low on the horizon I took a few pictures of my new car, the 2020 Lexus UX 250h. My wife and I fell in love with its predecessor the CT 200h when we first saw it at the Portland auto show years ago, but while it was high on my list when I was car shopping in 2012 the newly introduced Subaru Crosstrek was an almost perfect fit for my needs at the time. I have an irrational love for small hatchbacks, a love cemented in the 90’s with my first new car, the 1992 Honda Civic Si. So perhaps it’s not surprising that of the three excellent cars that topped my shopping list this go-around it was the UX that won my heart. I have high hopes for the little hybrid, I adored my Crosstrek but think the UX will be a better fit for my life here in Arizona.

Em the Wildlife Watcher

A view from below as our cat Emma sleeps atop the cat tree in May 2012

The other day as I left for work a family of javelina entered the yard to graze below a tree in front of my office window. Days later while driving back from a hike I laughed out loud wondering how Emma would have reacted had she been sitting in the window given how animated she got with squirrels around. She loved to be up high so I often had this view of her as she slept in the cat tree beside my chair, although sometimes I’d look up to find her staring at me with her intense green eyes. She was a character, our Em. Hard to believe it’s been five years since she died.

Sprouting

A cactus wren sings while perched on the branches of a palo verde and its tiny leaves, taken on the Jasper Trail at Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Creek, Arizona in January 2020

This palo verde sprouted its tiny little leaves, I suppose their small size minimizes water loss while allowing more photosynthesis than from just their green bark. It also sprouted a cactus wren, as have seemingly all the tall plants on my hikes lately, as I’ve seen (and heard) these boisterous birds frequently the past few weeks. Perhaps it is time to establish territory and seek out mates, or perhaps they are practicing for an upcoming all-wren revue. Either way, can’t wait!

Time to Say Goodbye

My 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited sits in a downpour in the desert, taken at Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Cree, Arizona in December 2019

In late December as I returned from a joyful hike in the rain on my first visit to Cave Creek Regional Park, I stopped as I pulled out of the empty parking lot and positioned the car for a quick shot in front of the desert in a downpour. I knew our time together was coming to a close and while it would take me another month to finalize my decision, yesterday morning the Crosstrek and I went on our final hike before I traded it in that afternoon. I loved this car so much, not for what it could do but for what it allowed me to do. We went to the Columbia River Gorge, to Mount Rainier, to the rain forests and mountains and beaches of the Olympics, to the Oregon coast, to the redwoods, to endless trips to the auto tour at Ridgefield to sit in silence watching bitterns and listening to the ducks and geese and swans. It ferried all our pets but Templeton to the vet. It brought three worried cats and one worried driver on a three day trip from Oregon to Arizona, with my wife and pup following in her Crosstrek. Here in Arizona it took me to work each day now that I have to drive and to many local hikes, somewhere around 150 in our almost two years here.

The Crosstrek was my little mountain goat, equally at home in our urban neighborhood in Portland as it was on rutted gravel roads leading to my favorite places. My deepest thanks to everyone who played a role in bringing this car to market, back before small crossovers were cool. I measure cars not in specs but in smiles and this one brought a lot of them. The new car has big shoes to fill.

This Too Is Arizona

My rain-soaked Tom Bihn The Guide's Pack sits beside the back wheel of my 2013 Subaru Crosstrek at Cave Creek Regional Park in December 2019

My rain-soaked Tom Bihn Guide’s Pack waits to be loaded into my Subaru Crosstrek after hiking in the rain for a few hours in late December, a scene that seems more apropos to my former home in Oregon than my current home in Arizona. I may seek out a rain cover at some point but for now I still pack it the way I did in Oregon, everything inside that needs to be protected from the wet gets stored in plastic bags, as the pack shucks off lighter rains without issue and I like easy access to water and food and clothes. I have rain gear from my time in the Northwest so funnily enough I was drier after this hike than many others (apart from my hands, my gloves aren’t waterproof) since I wasn’t sweating in the cool weather.

Pleasant Dreams

A gray wolf with black fur watches me from a atop a ridge as dusk falls at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

It had been a fun day in Yellowstone in the fall of 2006, after a long hike during the day in which I saw little wildlife I spent the evening near the road with a crowd watching black bears, later on my own watching a coyote near Mount Washburn. On the long drive back to the hotel, the light fading and night approaching, a dark form moved across the road and disappeared from view. I stopped the car and readied the camera, just in case, and was dumbstruck when the curious creature popped up atop the ridge and watched me for the briefest of seconds. My one and only wolf sighting.

Perhaps because I recently edited that picture to bring an old blog post back online, Friday night I’d finally see them again, if only in a dream, as I hiked in the mountains and saw them at a distance. They came down closer but as they played in the snowy landscape I realized I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me. But I soon forgot about not just cameras but even wolves when I looked to my right and saw Ellie bounding towards me. “How are you walking?” I asked, skipping right past the more obvious question. I didn’t wait for an answer and was thankful for one more romp in the snow with the pup. I wouldn’t have so much trouble sleeping if all my dreams were so sweet!

The Teacher

Our dog Ellie looks up while laying on her homemade dog bed covered in a lizard pattern in October 2014

Been missing her a lot lately. It was not lost on me that an extreme introvert ended up with such an outgoing dog who introduced me to so many neighbors I would have otherwise never met. She’s still doing it in a way, when I was down at the creek in the previous picture, waiting for the sun to clear a hill and shine on a tree, an extended family came down to near where I was standing. They unleashed their chocolate lab to play in the water but instead he came bounding over to meet me. After getting some love he went back to his family. Since I was still waiting for the light I overcame my reticence and went over to say hello. As we made small talk the mother whispered “He’s in heaven”, the joy writ large across the face of the aptly named Cocoa since I knew all the right places to scratch. I had a good teacher.