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 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.
Boo’s been hanging out with me more than usual the past couple of months, sometimes sleeping on my legs, more often tucked up beside me, and lately often sleeping on the couch behind my head. Last night I fell asleep briefly with Boo up there and Trixie and Sam curled up on top of me. I got up to go to bed but after laying wide awake for an hour or two eventually got up and stayed up until I went out for a hike before sunup. I went to one of the closest trailheads and took an easy 5.5 mile loop as I didn’t know if I would start to crash but I didn’t have any issues. Back home and sated with a homemade breakfast sandwich I finally tired and fell asleep on the couch once more, this time with just Sam and Trixie, and didn’t wake until late in the afternoon. Well-needed rest but it may make for a long night tonight …
It was two years ago today that my team got laid off, setting in motion the events that brought us from Oregon to Arizona. To me it feels like we left Portland much longer ago but that we’ve been here much shorter. I haven’t ventured further afield than my local trails, that will change with time but for now I’m content to enjoy the pictures people post as they travel the state. While Ellie was with us I didn’t want to be away from her more than I had to be, then with the new house and a lot to learn at work it’s left me a bit thin at times. Thankfully I am blessed with an abundance of local trails, to the point that some mornings I have difficulty choosing where I want to go. And there is so much wonder to behold in the Sonoran Desert, such as this Harris’s hawk I met in June with the blossoms fading and the sun rising, one of the adults that helped raise the two young hawks in the saguaro nest further up the trail.
Tomorrow I’m scheduled to meet an oral surgeon to get my last wisdom tooth removed, I wish they had removed them all when I was young but it is what it is. The other lower one was removed years ago while we were in Portland and the dentist struggled to get it out, I was laid up for a couple of days on heavy pain killers. What I remember from those days was waking up every four hours or so to change the gauze in my mouth or to take new meds, and every time I woke up a different cat was sleeping on my chest. It may have been coincidence but at the time it felt as though Templeton and Scout were working in shifts, making sure I was alright, and indeed I was thankful for their devotion. Here the two play in the backyard in 2003 during their supervised outdoor time, Templeton in the foreground and Scout back by the window under my office.
I took this picture a week after we moved to the new house with the intention of it being a light-hearted post about how, like many in Arizona, my laptop bag was living a semi-retired life. I drive to work now and don’t need my laptop there so I no longer sling the bag over my shoulder each day as I used to in Portland when I walked to the train. Instead it keeps my stuff organized beside my couch during the week and on the weekends joined Ellie and I as we went out on the porch after my morning hike. The bag holds my 15″ MacBook Pro, my iPad, my hiking journal, my pens, my headphones, and some field guides as I learn about Arizona’s plants & animals. I held off on posting it, partially because I was so busy and partially because Ellie’s health was declining. Now though it’s a nice reminder of our good times together even as her time was running out.
A peek behind the scenes at my setup as I photographed a mockingbird doing its ritual dance this spring, it would perch on a large rock betwixt me and the hillside. I photographed from two locations on three successive mornings right around sunrise, twice from this spot beside the mushroom and once just a bit to the right on the other side of the palo verde. On this morning a thrasher flew in and the mockingbird left off its dance right as the sun started to clear the mountains and bathe the desert in soft red light, so in the quiet moment before the mocker returned I stepped back and took a picture of my gear with my iPhone. You can see the large crack at the base of the mushroom, some day it will fall over but on these mornings it was a steadfast companion as we listened to the mockingbird sing. This mushroom holds the xenolith I photographed back in December, it’s down in the corner behind my backpack. The sign describing it is just to the left, taken on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
The weather isn’t the only thing breaking 100, sometime in the last couple of weeks I took my 100th hike since moving to Arizona and I’ve taken a handful more since. Most of those have been on one of the many trails of McDowell Sonoran Preserve, at over 30,000 acres the largest urban park in the US. Our new house is near the northern and central trailheads, which not coincidentally are my favorites. The commute to work is a bit longer than the other houses we looked at it but it sure is nice to only have a 10 minute drive when you want to be on the trails at a quarter to five in the morning.
We didn’t bring my love seat from Portland as the affections of one dog and five cats had taken its toll over the years, especially from Emma (sleeping here on the matching ottoman in August of 2013). My wife also needed a sofa for her office in the den so she started looking while I was at work. We found a nice sofa for my office at a secondhand store and then tried a few other stores before visiting the store with a sofa my wife had seen and liked quite a bit, she wanted to see if I liked it as well.
The woman who helped her was named Loretta, we were introduced and she showed us a few options. She was the sort of salesperson you are lucky to find, she listened to what we wanted and guided us to the furniture they had that would work best for us. Not only did she not try to give us a hard sell to get us into an expensive custom set, she didn’t even give us a soft sell, rather after seeing that we both fit best on a reduced price floor model she happily sold that to us despite of how much less of a commission she must have gotten.
We also wanted an ottoman so she setup an appointment with my wife to go over the options and again, after listening to what we wanted, found one I think we’ll like and helped choose the colors. When they had the wrong phone number for us, because she lived kind of in this direction she stopped by the house to get the right number so there wouldn’t be any confusion or delays.
She was thinking of moving to Portland, her fiancé lives there, and I hoped they would be as happy there as we had been. Sadly it is not to be as we found out she died unexpectedly Thursday night. Given how briefly our lives had touched I was surprised how taken aback I was by the news. Given the past few months I’ve been worn out mentally and physically but she was kind and attentive and made everything so pleasant for both of us.
Here’s to Loretta and all those who are kind to strangers, not because of how much they’ll benefit, but because it’s who they are. If only briefly, I’m thankful we met.
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.