June in the Desert

Weather map showing temperatures above 110 degrees for the next week for Scottsdale, Arizona on June 12, 2021. Original: IMG_6149.jpg

These are the predicted temperatures for the next week at the house (we’re about 5 degrees cooler here than Scottsdale proper). We have a pool which makes it much easier to stay cool, but the high heat and negligible humidity are not going to help the tinderbox conditions in the desert. I feel for all the young animals born into what looks to be a tough summer, and for the older ones hanging on as best they can. Their world isn’t an easy one even during the best of times.

It’s also the time of year when my legs don’t appreciate that Trixie (aka Lil’ Furnace) loves to sleep sprawled down their length, but my heart sure does.

Dirty Paws

A clean pair of Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 trail running shoes at Cavalliere Park in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 17, 2021. Original: _CAM0814.arw

I’ve been really happy with the Hoka One One Challenger trail running shoes I bought a couple of months back so I recently picked up a pair from their more trail-oriented line, the Speedgoats, to use on longer hikes when my feet get a bit sore in my regular hiking shoes. REI had several colors in my size and I liked them all, two fairly subtle and this pair in Superman’s colors. I debated which pair to order but decided on the playful colors even though I knew from experience the desert would quickly mute them. I have two identical pairs of my regular hiking shoes, one in black and one in tan, and it takes more than a quick glance to distinguish them.

The picture above was from their first hike to the top of the hill at Cavalliere Park, it’s good for testing new shoes since the short loop never takes you too far from the car but it also has a hill with these jagged rocks at the top to test out the footing. Last weekend I took them on a 4 mile hike in the morning on gentle terrain and a 6 mile hike in the afternoon with some elevation changes. The picture below is from the high point of the afternoon hike where the Quartz and Flat Rock trails meet at Cave Creek Regional Park, a thick coat of dust dulling the colors in the evening light.

Love them so far, I think they’ll be a nice addition to my little family of hiking shoes.

A dusty pair of Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 trail running shoes on the Quartz Trail at Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Creek, Arizona on April 25, 2021. Original: _CAM1048.arw

Oranges

A pair of orange Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 trail running shoes sit below our orane tabby cat Sam on February 21, 2021. Original: _RAC3913.arw

I like orange in many guises, whether orange the fruit or orange the tabby or orange the color. In Oregon I had many uses for shoes that don’t apply here in Arizona so I’ve been letting my array of kicks dwindle as the old shoes slowly wear out. I did pick up a pair of trail runners recently to replace two pairs of shoes on their last legs, this style could fill multiple roles but my intent is to use them as a complement to my hiking shoes and to try some occasional light trail and road running. I haven’t run in decades and wasn’t serious about it even then, I found it a joyous way to exercise but quit when I felt it was hurting my knees. I’ve worn the shoes to work a few times to make sure I like them as they’ll be permanently covered in dust once they greet the desert. The Hoka One One brand is new to me but given the closeout pricing and the delightful colors and some positive reviews on Youtube I decided to give them a go.

A pair of orange Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 trail running shoes sit beside our sleeping cat Boo on February 21, 2021. Original: _RAC3824.arw

Surly Bonds

An air tanker appears to be flying into blackness (actually the edge of our house in shadow) while fighting fires in June 2020

On June 20, 2020, to little fanfare, Flight 10 became the first commercial airplane to rise above our blue planet into the inky blackness of space, before easing back down and fighting fires in central Arizona. I believe it was fighting the Bush Fire which ended up burning about 200,000 acres. A helicopter pilot recently died in a crash while fighting a different blaze. Here’s to those who put themselves in harm’s way, and to the animals and plants who couldn’t get out of it.

(Here the inky reaches of space are played by the edge of our house in shadow)

Winter Bright

A male phainopepla perches in a tree early on a winter morning on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2019

Our winter skies are brightened by the dark forms of phainopepla, I love walking down the trails and hearing their quiet voices from the other side of trees. This one is from an early December morning on the Marcus Landslide Trail, I haven’t been hiking in about six weeks (!!!), partially from wanting to minimize exposure to others and partially from being exhausted. I’d like to try some of the wider and less popular trails as it would be beneficial mentally and physically but we’ll see how tomorrow goes. So far the weekend has been a lot of curling up for naps with the cats before yard work in the evenings.

Hello in There

A male Gila woodpecker peeks out of a saguaro at McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 28, 2019. Original: _DSC5286.arw

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”
John Prine “Hello in There”

So sorry to hear of John Prine’s passing, one of too many we’ve lost to Covid-19. I first heard his song “Hello in There” on a VHS tape I bought in my college days from the 10,000 Maniacs and was immediately transfixed by its beauty and its pain. Performed by lead singer Natalie Merchant and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Billy Bragg, I initially assumed the song was one of Bragg’s since I was as yet unfamiliar with his work (the other two were already favorites) only to find it was one of Prine’s. Both the cover and the original are dear to me, resonating as strongly today as they did in my youth. Goodbye to a quiet giant, and thank you.

Rain, Rain, Come & Stay

Rain beads up on one of the headlights of my 2020 Lexus UX 250h in February 2020

The rain is supposed to continue on and off throughout the week, and while in general we always appreciate rain in the desert I in particular love it. So it’s a little sad that it is only supposed to last until Friday, be sunny on the weekend, then rain a bit next week. I don’t want to drive in it, I want to walk in it! Why wasn’t I consulted?

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.

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.

A Peek Behind the Curtain

My Tom Bihn The Guide's Pack backpack sits on a rock on top of the Marcus Landslide at a scenic overlook on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in November 2019

A peek behind the curtain at one of my favorite trails near our new home, giving a flavor of why I wanted to move to this location: while the wildlife drew me here, the views are a nice bonus. Photo is from when I stopped for a snack break at a scenic overlook on the Marcus Landslide Trail, I’m up on top of the landslide looking out over the Sonoran Desert. My backpack is Tom Bihn’s The Guide’s Pack, it’s a bit overkill for a short hike like this, someday I might add a smaller pack and choose one based on the trail, but it’s also nice to be able to load the pack the night before and then choose which trail to hike in the morning. There are two to four water bottles in there plus one in my camera bag, depending on the time of year and the length of the hike. While it’s not hot now it is dry (not today, it’s pouring rain) so you still need to carry water in the winter. I start shedding layers as the sun comes up so I like the big open rucksack of the main compartment, I also keep trekking poles in there for longer hikes when I attach the tripod to the bottom of the bag and bring out the poles. There’s a safety kit, headlight, and multitool in one side pocket with water bottles in the other. Snacks go in the top compartment along with medicine and during the winter a spare hat and gloves in case I forget to bring them.

Where I’m standing used to be up in the mountains to my left before it came crashing down in the landslide long ago. The trailhead is two miles straight ahead, going past the hill on the left where you can see the rock formation I call the Guardian where the hill meets the horizon. Our house is in one of the subdivisions off to the west from the trailhead but you can’t see it from here. To my right is a large county park, a ways to the north is the sprawling northern part of the preserve where I also spend a lot of time. The saguaro on the right is about 10 feet tall and isn’t yet growing the iconic arms, they will probably come with time, it’s young yet for a saguaro though probably similar in age to me. In the distance are the mountains that surround and run through the Valley of the Sun, haven’t visited them yet but will in time, perhaps even soon, we’ll see. The picture I posted recently of the white-crowned sparrow in a jojoba was taken a few feet away from this shot on a different day. The singing and dancing mockingbird from this spring was about half a mile or so further up the trail. The towhee I recently posted was also from this trail.

There’s not much elevation change so it’s an easy hike when I don’t want a challenge, and it’s often birdy as well, so with the trailhead only 10 minutes from the house it’s a favorite early morning hike.