Moving On

My white 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited is parked in front of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

After the movers packed up our belongings, I took a quick picture with my phone before leaving the rental house for the last time. Or almost the last time, I was back yesterday to let the carpet cleaner in. As excited as I am about our new house, I was a little sad pulling away from the rental house as it was a great home for us during our first year in Arizona. That’s my Crosstrek out front, its utility proved itself multiple times both on the move a year ago and in this last move, even if I replace it with something a little better suited to my current commute I will always love this little Subaru.

At the back of the large backyard was this old bird feeder, it provided endless entertainment for both me and the cats during our year there. I saw 30 bird species over the year, many of which fed at or below the feeder. The most surprising visitors were the boisterous rosy-faced lovebirds, they aren’t native but a population has established itself in Scottsdale.

An old metal bird feeder in the backyard of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

Moving Day

Our dog Ellie relaxes on the back porch next to a bottle of Dr. Pepper on the day the movers brought our stuff to our new house

After meeting the movers at the rental house in the morning, I drove to the new house when they were finished and sat with Ellie on the back porch to keep her from “helping” them. My wife had picked up this old school Dr. Pepper, nectar of the gods. It was a beautiful morning, best St. Patrick’s Day ever. I’m worn out from not getting lots of sleep the past couple of days, between looking after Ellie and Boo mewing during the night, but I’m glad we’re home.

Second

My Tom Bihn Guide's Pack backpack with my tripod underneath sits on quartz rocks on the Quartz Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A week ago I went to a trail near what I expected was going to be my second choice in houses to help cement my opinion. I went further than I’ve gone before, continuing on to the Quartz Trail and wandering up to this outcropping of quartz that looks out over Scottsdale. I had a fun morning and confirmed the other house was my first choice but also that I’d be happy living in the second if we didn’t get the first.

Tom and Nik and I

My Tom Bihn Nik's Minimalist Wallet sits on top of my dusty Tom Bihn Guide's Pack

I had been looking to get a smaller wallet so when I saw the colorful designs of the new Tom Bihn wallets, Nik’s Minimalist Wallet, I ordered one in the color of Island in 210 ballistic. I chose design number 4 with the outside pocket and the little webbing loop at the top. I love it, it carries my essentials and is much less obtrusive in my back pocket than the old leather wallet I’ve had for many years. I usually carry it in my back pocket but sometimes I like to clip it into a bag using the loop. During the week I keep a credit card and my cafeteria rewards card in the outside pocket for easy access during lunch at work, and on days I have to stop for gas I’ll put the gas rewards card in that pocket too.

A photo of some of my Tom Bihn gear on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

During a water break on a recent hike I photographed the wallet along with a couple of new buckle straps for securing my tripod to the bottom of my backpack (the Tom Bihn Guide’s Pack). I have been using some simpler lash straps without the buckle and thought I’d try the buckle straps to see if it makes it a little quicker to attach and detach the tripod. I’ll let my summer self decide, it’s his heat-addled brain at the end of a hike that I’m thinking of, so far my winter self has been happy with both designs.

A closer photo of some of my Tom Bihn gear on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

This spot is on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve, I discovered the trail last month and immediately fell in love and have hiked it a number of times since. The sign marks the boundary to an adjacent county park and has been a good spot for bird-watching, I’ve gotten close photos of phainopepla, white-crowned sparrows, mockingbirds, and curve-billed thrashers in the past few weeks. When I decide to head back to the car, the camera goes into my camera bag and I swap the tripod for my trekking poles that otherwise are folded up inside the main bag compartment.

The Tom Bihn Nik's Minimalist Wallet compared to a saguaro

The specs of the little wallet are available on the Tom Bihn website but sometimes I feel photos give a better sense of size than numbers. Here, taken in the area of the landslide itself, you can see the wallet is about as tall as a saguaro cactus. I’d guess this specimen was about 30 feet tall but I’m not good at estimating distances, so take that with a grain of salt.

The Tom Bihn Nik's Minimalist Wallet compared to a massive rock formation know as Tom's Thumb

As another example, you can see the wallet is about the same size as Tom’s Thumb, a massive rock formation on the nearby Tom’s Thumb Trail. And yet somehow the wallet still fits in my pocket with minimal thickness and weight. Not sure how that works, but I love the wallet and highly recommend it.

1842

A petroglyph at Inpsiration Viewpoint in McDowell Sonoran Preserve is dated 1842

As I hiked up to Inspiration Viewpoint I was surprised to find this petroglyph carved into a rock. I don’t know if it is genuinely from 1842 but it’s certainly carved with a lot more attention than the ham-fisted scratches around it by more modern visitors. There are petroglyphs in Arizona far older, by comparison this one is rather recent, but 1842 was still 70 years before Arizona would become a state, the last of the contiguous 48 states. The territory was still six years from being ceded to the US from Mexico after the Mexican-American War, with the southern part following in 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase.

It was 106 years before the native people here would be allowed to vote, despite a federal law giving them the right in 1924, and even then it took a decision of the Supreme Court. Today all three branches of our government, including that Supreme Court, gleefully strip away voting rights from those who don’t look like themselves, don’t think like themselves.

I wish 1842 seemed like a long time ago.

Yellowstone was still 30 years away from being America’s first national park, the recognition as a country that some sacred places needed to be saved. We carved the faces of our Presidents into others. Today we know the consequences of climate change but have buried our heads in the sand. There is profit to be made, by a select few.

In the past few days we’ve had an attempted mass assassination of the leaders of a political party. We’ve had an an attempted mass shooting at a black church in Kentucky, with locked doors turning away an angry man who shot black pedestrians instead. And this morning we had a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. All angry men emboldened by the hateful rhetoric of the radical right, a hatred winked at and encouraged by the mainstream.

The history of this country is written in blood more than stone. We build monuments to those who conquer more than those who love but I hope it will not always be so. May we love the world we live in. May we love the animals we share it with. May we love the people we share it with too.

Heroes

A saguaro has broken apart and fallen over along the Watershed Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.
Zechariah 7:9-11

Let us not delight in the suffering of others, nor celebrate lies and cruelty. We know why assault victims don’t come forward, it is because we are monsters. Enough. We need not be. To those who suffer in silence. To those who suffer in public. To Anita Hill. To Christine Blasey Ford. To those who stood tall, to those knocked down, to those who suffered for us, you are heroes, still.

He’s Making a List …

A look at the three notebooks I've used as hiking journals

A quick look at the notebooks I’ve used to keep track of my hikes (sorry about the mixed lighting), the flip notebook at the bottom I started with in 2000 before switching to the composition notebook on the right in 2003. After filling it up in 2011, I moved to the red Moleskine on the left which is what I’m using currently. I wish I had started doing this earlier! I’ve long debated about switching to keeping my notes on the computer, both so they’d be easy to backup and easy to search, but so far I’ve resisted as this is the last area of my personal life where I still write by hand and there is a romance to the feel of pen and paper.

Early on I mostly just listed what animals I saw but I got better over the years about describing the hike as I enjoy looking back and reading through past adventures. Then I started adding if it was my first sighting of an animal, the times I started and ended, the weather conditions, and lately the distance. Perhaps most importantly was switching to gel ink pens a while back as I used to use cheap pens and some of those old notes are fading, although most are still fine as I keep them out of the light. I prefer the 0.38mm pens (uni-ball Signo RT or Pilot G2), the ink is dark so the notes are easily legible but not so heavy that they show through too much to the other side of the paper. They write smoothly, they’re comfortable, the ink lasts, and they aren’t expensive. Their only downside if that if you have a Boo he greatly enjoys knocking them to the floor.

If I have any young readers who like hiking (or parents of such), start now! The composition notebook cost about $2, the Moleskine $12, the pens about $1 each. The real investment is the time it takes to write, but I think it’s worth it.

A close-up view of two of the three notebooks I've used as hiking journals