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

The Dead Skin

A close-up of the dead skin of a saguaro that was burned in a fire on the Overton Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Cree, Arizona. Taken on January 31, 2021. Original: _RAC3778.arw

In January I headed up to Cave Creek to a trail that was new to me, the Overton Trail. I didn’t know it went through an area that had burned so I wasn’t prepared for the emotional punch of seeing such magnificent creatures that grew so slowly in God’s hands and died so quickly in ours. At first I hiked straight through the burned area but then I forced myself back up the hill to sit with the devastation for a while. Eventually I brought the camera out when patterns started to emerge, such as the cracked skin drained of life-giving chlorophyll that now looked almost human, replete with veins and pores.

A close-up of the dying skin of a saguaro that was burned in a fire on the Overton Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Cree, Arizona. Taken on January 31, 2021. Original: _RAC3782.arw

I spent the most time with the three saguaros below, they reminded me of a father and mother and child, each damaged to varying degrees by the fire and the heat. From what I’ve read the damage of the fires is double, both in destroying so much native life and making way for faster growing invasives that provide more fuel for the fire when the next disaster strikes.

The saguaros, two old and one younger, show extensive damage from a fire on the Overton Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Cree, Arizona. Taken on January 31, 2021. Original: _CAM9898.arw

Big Needles

A view of strawberry hedgehog cactus in the rain growing in slate on the Quartz Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Creek, Arizona in December 2019. Original: _DSC6456.arw

My award for the cutest member of the desert that will still stab you six ways from Sunday goes to the diminutive hedgehog cactus with its almost comically long needles. I found this little clump in the slate at Cave Creek on a rainy winter’s day. Rain, I remember rain. It was wet I think.

An overhead view of strawberry hedgehog cactus in the rain growing in slate on the Quartz Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Creek, Arizona in December 2019. Original: _DSC6441.arw

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.