Archives for category: Wildlife

I am a mess right now.  In fact, I’ve been crying, off and on, for about 36 hours.  I can’t help it.  For an hour or so, I’m OK, then I think of her and I break down again.

I lost one of my very best friends this past Thursday.  It was rather unexpected too…but on the other hand, it wasn’t.  I had a strange feeling when I saw her for the last time.  As she got into the car I thought to myself – gee, I hope this isn’t the last time I see her.  So I kissed her on the top of her head and watched as they left.  She had a doctor’s appointment in a couple of days and I hoped it wasn’t serious.

Emmie was a chihuahua mix.  Which was odd, because I usually don’t like small dogs.  Or, at least that was my former perception.  It was also the former perception of many friends that, once they got to know her, KINDA’ changed their minds.  Nobody rushed out to adopt a little dog, but they sure loved Emmie.

She was actually a “revenge” dog.  Here’s how it all started…my sister loves chihuahuas.  Well, one day they adopted a new little buddy…my sister let her daughter name the dog.  Well, she named it “Bruce”!  So, when the opportunity to adopt this little bright light I promptly named her Emelia, the name of my niece.  I’ve since heard that my niece changed the pronunciation of her name to Eme-Lia, as opposed to Emelia…I hope you can sound it out in your head.

Emi and MeEmmie was my best backpacking buddy.  She was able to do 15-18 miles a day, day-over-day.  She’d tuck herself into the foot of my sleeping bag, keeping us both toasty warm.  One time, when she got tired I put her on top of my backpack and carried her.  My nephew, Mason, snapped a photo.  I posted it on Facebook and immediately she earned her second trail name…Yoda.  That was the name most preferred by other hikers, because the name I jokingly gave her was “Backup”, as in “backup food source”.

Emmie made friends wherever she went.  She wasn’t your typical chihuahua…she didn’t shake for no reason, and she wasn’t bitchy.  Usually.  Sometimes she’d go all Napoleon on our other dogs, but most of the time, she was just a good little girl.

There’s this backpacking trip that I do, every year, for the last 12 years.  It’s a Thanksgiving potluck in the middle of nowhere.  We all sit around a huge fire sharing stories, playing music and on the Saturday of the event, we chow down on some amazing food.  Well, Emmie used to work her way from lap to lap.  Once one person was tired of having her on their lap they’d dump her on the ground, she’d eventually find the next person in line and they were happy to have her jump up.  When I mentioned her passing, more than a few of the regulars chimed in about how this trip won’t be the same.

Anyway, I needed to write this because right now there is a huge hole in my heart.  I keep thinking about the times she came up to me, excited, and I would push her away because it just “wasn’t the right time”.  I can’t help but look at my other dogs and think that I need to really start pouring on the love.  I’m writhing with guilt because I know I could have been better with her.

But it doesn’t do a soul good to dwell on what could have been; other than to learn how not to do it again.  I’m going to spend time loving on my dogs, cats, friends, family, and above all…my wife.  I don’t want to wish I’d done more when the day comes that we part lives.  I know it’s so cliche but I’m really trying to learn from this.

I have this saying “you’re the only person that you’re guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with; you need to love your own company, but you also need to give the best to everyone you meet”.  Right now I’m really doubting myself and need to figure out how to rise through the hurt, and become a better person.

It’s going to take a while because right now, I’m bawling.

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Sequioa Log 03302017

Hikers continue to pass through. So do other trail users; mountain bikers, people scouting the trailheads for future endeavors, and even trail stewards doing routine maintenance on the trail. Oh, and Marney, from Chalet Village. Not a day goes by without someone stopping by. The best part is that by now, thru-hikers know I’m here.

But most of the time I’m alone, with Kika and Emmie (backup). The sun has been shining but the temperatures have been sublime. The nights are perfect sleeping temperatures. The wind picks up, usually after noon but they’re not constant. They’re just enough to keep it cool. Every once in a while a ranch truck drives by at about 70.

During the days I’m “at work”. There’s plenty to do but there’s still a lot of “quiet” time. So what I’ve been doing, to break up the day, is to check out the local flora; there is no shortage. In fact, I’m willing to wager that every single hiker that’s hiked this section would agree: this desert is lush!

Not only is the desert wide open out here, it’s a sea of rolling green. Crest a hill and look around, in addition to endless mountain ranges in the distance you’ll see more vegetation than dirt or rock. It’s f’n LUSH I’m tellin’ ya!

Interspersed with the myriad shades of green are reds, oranges, purples, whites . . . and sinews of yellow, weaving through other plants. If you’re up early, you’ll see golden sun-rays illuminating these red-silvery puffs of flowers. It’s truly a kaleidoscope of color!

So, what are these wondrous species? Are they edible or do they have any medicinal benefits? Not that they have to…flowers this beautiful don’t have to do anything more than just BE. Seeing them makes me happy, which in-itself is soul-nourishing enough.  But still, what are these happy plants that make it look like Walt Disney came through with leaky paint cans?

Well, I’m here to tell ya’!  And yes, a couple of them do have edible/medicinal benefit…

Yummy in my tummy

Let’s start with one of my favorites – the banana yucca.  I wrote about this a while ago, but this is one of the sweets of the Sonoran Desert.  The flower buds, fruits and leaf-bases are edible.  The natives would pit roast some parts or they might dry the flowers. For example, they would roast the fruits then remove the skins and seeds.  The resulting pulp was formed into dry cakes.  Then, they might reconstitute them into sweet drinks.  The flowers can be cooked into soups or dried and formed into burgers with acorns.

 Hmmm, that almost sounds good…minus all of the labor involved.

People often ask “how did the natives survive?”  My response is always “they didn’t just survive, they thrived!”.

I once heard a statistic: that of the 3400 species native to the Sonoran Desert, 550 of them are edible.  I admit that I have never verified either of those numbers, but it sounds reasonable enough.  When you start digging into edible plants you’ll discover that there are quite a few…probably 550.

These ain’t one of them…at least not for us.

The Fairy Duster

One of the many species of penstemon

Not sure…Chinese Lantern

Sanddune Wallflower

This is just a small collection of photos from my morning coffee-walks.  There are more, like the Desert Globemallow.  The globemallow is also known as “mal de ojo”, which is Spanish for “bad for the eyes”.  It got this name because it’s one hell of an allergen – it’s pollen strands are long, and when observed in cross-section looks like a star…bad for eyes.
The hedgehogs are starting to flower too.  Pretty soon the palo verdes will explode in yellow, so will the brittle bush.  In just a few weeks you’ll look across the desert and it’ll be aglow in yellow.

I think it’s pretty universal to assume that because it’s a harsh desert that not many plants exist.  Not in the Sonoran Desert though…being the warmest & wettest desert in the world we have quite a few plants.  In fact, this is one of the most bio-diverse locations on the globe.

And if there really ARE 550 edible plants in this desert than it’s not a stretch to think the natives really did thrive.  They sure didn’t know any better.

HOWEVER – I’m willing to bet that none of these edible species tastes as good as a pizza delivered to the trailhead by Old Time Pizza in Kearney, or a burrito the size of a donkey at Casa Rivera’s Taco Express in Oracle.  I can vouch for the pizza…I’ll be chompin’ on the burrito this Friday night.

See you outside…or at Casa Rivera’s

 

There has been quite a bit of activity at this trailhead. As I mentioned last time, I saw my first thru-hiker on Monday night, only 3-hours after I arrived. Then, the next day, Ralph’s wife & sister(?) were my first mule-rider-thru-hikers.

Since then I’ve seen Aaron (no trail name) who is hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail…see below.

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Then “Slow Bro” and Mike made their way through heading north.

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Later that day “Farmer” and “HD Momma” rolled up to cache some personal water. At the same time Marney, the owner of the Chalet Village stopped by to drop off Public water AND some for specific hikers. It was nice to meet her. She’s really invested a lot of time & effort into helping hikers. I mentioned how some bottles with initials and a date, that was in the future, were empty. Her look said it all “what a shitty thing to do”. Since they were already crushed I had to fill some other bottles and mark them again.

When I posted this on Facebook some guy suggested that there might be some confusion because on the PCT all of the water is “public” and on the CDT it’s all personal because there is no culture of magic. I guess that the AZT is somewhere in between – we have people caching their own water and volunteers like me and Marney, who cache water for strangers.

Anyway, later that night “Sage Brush” stopped in. He came too late to take a photo because it was dark, and I wasn’t in the frame of mind to figure out the flash. Anyway, he came in and sat for quite a while. He was also hiking the GET. This is a 770-mile trail that goes east-to-west from Albuquerque to Phoenix. Come to find out there are quite a few “National Scenic Trails”.

So far, today (Friday) I’ve already had some visitors…Jamie & Rebecca are two of three people that will be unicycling the AZT. Apparently someone already became the first, but Rebecca is the first female to attempt it on a unicycle. Then, two hikers bagging sections parked their truck at the TH and are hiking north to Florence-Kelvin TH…where I’m picking up two friends this evening and shuttling them back to my pad so they can also complete section 15.

Jamie & Rebecca givin’ it the thumbs up..

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Pirate two-sticks and CC heading north; they’ll be back Sunday to get their truck.

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In all this whole experiment has been fun, so far. I wonder when it’s going to start to suck…I hope never. I think my biggest challenge will be finding spots with good mobile service. Right now I have 4-bars of 4G…I have better service out here than in my own living room or office. I wonder how much money Verizon spends to make sure your mobile device doesn’t work in the places you go most. It’s like they’re trying to chase you outside so they can help collect big data…where’s my foil hat?

So, it’s “Sequoia Log 032517” now… Last night I went to the Florence-Kelvin trailhead to pick up Brian and Melanie; they’re hiking section 15.

Here’s Brian & Melanie…she doesn’t like her trail name so I won’t repeat it.  He doesn’t have one…yet.

20170325_073644.jpgAnyway, there’s this pizza place in Kearney called Old Time Pizza. Apparently they are willing to deliver pizza to the FK trailhead. So I stopped in and patronized them, to show support. I had the teriyaki pizza…it was decent. If you were hiking along the trail then it would be a royal feast.

So far, things are going smoothly. I’m having a great time.  I am enjoying the solitude broken by bouts of trail camaraderie.  I could get used to this.

Well, I pulled up at 5:30-ish to find Ralph. He was waiting for his wife who was tramping mules from Oracle to Freeman.  He was originally  expecting them in tonight, but they didn’t make it.  So I shared a beer with him and we chatted about how wonderful Arizona sunsets were.  We talked about how people think that the paintings of Arizona sunsets are fake, but they are real.  Seriously.

Interesting guy.  He’s a retired dentist that teaches at a community college… giving back.   I guess he was also in the Air Force because he mentioned “moving armies across time zones”.  Apparently the logistics are b**** when you flight from Hawaii to Guam.  You’re either losing or gaining a day and that throws  a monkey wrench in the plans.

Anyway, at about 7:30 or so my first thru hiker showed up. His name was Bear Tripper. Well, that was his Trail name. I think it’s real name was Aaron but I’m not positive.  Anyway, the whole reason I came out here was to support the thru-hikers. And I’m a first night I got one.  Oranges, hot sauce packets, some water and a Snickers bar… this is easy.

So fun!

Here’s my camp.  It’s cozy. I can’t put out my shade because it’s a tad windy.  The last thing I need is a dust-devil to come by and rip it out. 

There are apparently quite a few hikers south of me that are delayed due to a bushfire.  They’re supposedly stuck in Patagonia.   Still no word on how they’re doing.  Oh, and the ladies on the mules finally showed up today.

I’ll try to keep you updated as to how many hikers I get, and try to take pictures of the next ones. I forgot to get pictures of Bear Tripper. 😕

My plan is to be out here until about April 4th or 5th. Unless it gets too hot, then I’ll have to move up north somewhere.   I know I’ll be here at least for the next five or ten days. It should go back to normal temperatures and I’m at 3900 feet so I got that Goin for me which is nice.

If you get bored and want to come out here and play, let me know and I’ll send you some directions. Otherwise stay tuned.

So, poo is about to get real.

I’m actually shoving off on Monday.  It’s finally too hot in Phoenix to enjoy life in a van down by no river.  So, I’m heading out.  Thanks to global warming, or whatever, I am “forced” to depart prior to my estimated April fools day departure.  It’s gonna be hell-oven-Africa hot this weekend.  Ninety f’n six!  In March.

Fuck you O’Trump.  And everyone else that believes in global warming but doesn’t take a bus…like me.  Fuck me too.

Anyway, enough with the anger.  I am heading down to the Freeman road intersection with the Arizona Trail.  I’m going to pee on AZT hikers and tell them to hydrate.  Yes, I’m bring a dog and guns.

I’ll also be bringing supplies and water, but don’t tell the hikers.

To all of my real friends – please check in on my wife.  She’ll be happy I’m gone but she’ll probably appreciate the connection.  Make sure she’s safe.  Please.

To all of my other friends…please check in on me.  I’ll be happy I’m gone but I’ll appreciate the connection.  Make sure I’m…alive.  Thank you.

Thank you.

 

The last time I wrote I told you that I’ve decided to be a rich and famous travel writer.  I remember listening to a motivational speaker (that didn’t live in a van, down by the river) and he said that speak in the present tense when you speak about dreams.  For example, don’t say “some day I’m going to be a millionaire”; instead say “I’m a millionaire, the money just hasn’t made it into my bank account yet.”

So, I’m a rich and famous travel writer, it’s just that the money isn’t here yet and nobody knows who I am (except for my friends but they’re certainly not going to pay me to write shit; maybe to shut up, but that’s a different blog). I just need to travel and write.  My plan for the summer is to take my travel trailer around the state, to higher elevation cities, and write about what there is to do and places to eat.  Done deal, right?

Well, the “travel” part is proving to be a challenge.  You see, I discovered that a skylight in my travel trailer was cracked, and as a result it leaked…into my shower (yay) and vanity (boo).  So, I bought a replacement skylight and removed the old one.  Only to discover that there was some pretty significant water damage to the substrate.  I learned that word, “substrate”, after watching about 20 YouTube videos about how to repair RV roofs.  I discovered that this is an easy project as long as you’re handy and have tools.

I have a backpack and a bong.  I have a few tools but I’m better at watching professionals use them than I am at using them myself.

But I’m going to learn.

It’s part of the new “me”, and shit.  Yep, I’m trying to grow up and learn how to actually do things other than run a business.  I’m almost 50 so there’s time.

Anyway, my plan for the next few works is to learn how to replace rotten wood and resurfacing my travel trailer roof.

So I got that going for me, which is nice.

“Living the Dream!”

That’s how I answer people when they ask “How are you doing today?”  It happens multiple times a day, to all of us.  When we go shopping and the checkout person greets us.  It happens when that annoying telemarketing call gets through.

I respond like that because, in some ways – I am already doing it.  I also believe that “if you can’t say it, you can’t do it.”  I actually learned that line from the movie Risky Business; Miles was talking to Joel and he suggested that in order to truly live, you have to say “What the fuck” once in a while.  At the end of his speech he said “if you can’t say it, you can’t do it.

So I say “Living the Dream” because responding “What the Fuck” isn’t as refined.  Plus it might set an inappropriate first tone with strangers.

Anyway, beginning in March I really will be “living the dream” because I said “what the fuck!”

How am I already living the dream?

I am the co-owner of an adventure tour company.  We started as a guide company but we’ve morphed into some kind of Adventure Concierge service – we guide and arrange adventures and experiences throughout Arizona.  In some respects – that’s kind of a dream career – to work in the outdoor adventure industry.

I also have been in the kitchen, metaphorically & literally, my whole life.  I cooked with my mom & grandmother growing up; I’ve worked in professional kitchens, from McDonald’s to an elite, fine-dining restaurant out of a 4-star resort.  I LOVE food.  I love to eat food, but I love preparing it even more.

Adventure and food are the things I love most in life.  You can share them with anyone, friends, guests & clients, and loved ones.  Those to are my favorite life experiences other than being in love.  I mean, let’s face it – true love is the most amazing thing ever.  But adventure and food are close seconds.

My point?  I exist in a world full of love, adventure and food.

So, how can it get even better?  Well, because I said “WTF”.  I bought a trailer.  Here are the photos of the inside.

thebedroomThis is a photo of the bedroom. and my office chair.

theofficekitchenandbathroomThis is the office, kitchen and restroom.

Pretty modest, but it has everything I need.

I will be leaving this March to do a boondocking practice run.  I’m going to post up along the Arizona Trail between Superior and Oracle (because there is mobile reception there) and do “trail magic”.  Then in April, after I’ve got my wheels under me, I’m going to start moving north trying to stay in cooler weather.  I’ll travel all over Arizona and maybe even into Utah and Colorado.

But here’s the best part – I will be scouting out new adventures, restaurants, watering holes and camping spots, then writing about them.  That’s right, I just said “what the fuck” I’m going to be a travel writer.

Livin’ the Dream,

AG