Archives for posts with tag: Sonoran Desert

I know what you’re probably thinking…”isn’t Arizona “hell-oven-Africa” hot in the summer?”  Well, the answer is “yes and not really”.  The yes part applies to the lower elevations, in the middle of the day, while in the sun and not near any water; the “not really” means that there are myriad ways to avoid that oppressive “dry” heat.  I’m a native of Arizona and my family has been in this state since the 1880’s AND I happen to be a heat-wuss, so I know what I’m talking about.

Before I get to my list I want to mention two words that make Arizona even possible: air conditioning.  Seriously.  I love history, particularly frontier history; when I think of the pioneers I’m struck by how hearty they were as a people.  Think about it…they didn’t have AC, their cell reception was probably worse than T-Mobile (maybe), they were being hunted by other people and to top it all off they had to do all of this in wooden underwear.  People today, by comparison, are so soft.

Air conditioning makes being in the desert possible, for us marshmallows.  But there are other ways to enjoy Arizona while being outside.  So, without further ado, here’s my top 5 ways to enjoy our state without spontaneously combusting like a Spinal Tap drummer.

NUMBER 5:  Swimming Pools.  If you come to Arizona and book a room at a hotel or resort without a pool then you deserve to sweat your crotch off!  I’m not sure how hard you’d have to work to find a place without a pool but I’m sure there are some seedy places that don’t.  The Arizona heat only really sucks when the sun is at its peak AND you’re in the direct sunlight.  Yes, 110°F is still hot, but it’s the combination of heat and sun that’s the killer.  Factor in a swimming pool and a cabana boy or girl and you’ve got the makings of a great afternoon.  Too warm, jump in the water.

Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

Mother of Pearl swimming pool at The Phoenician Resort & Spa

NUMBER 4: Animal Activity.  During the summer the animals come out to play at night.  In fact, it’s so prolific that we even have a stargazing & night-vision tour that you might want to consider.  You can’t get the night-vision portion during the winter because the animals are hibernating.  But at summer you’ll see coyote, javelina, Jack-hares, and snakes (don’t freak out, seriously…they want nothing to do with you).  In fact, there’s a statistic about who gets bit the most: males between the ages of 18-35, drunk, bitten on the hand, and a low “TTR”.  TTR stands for “tooth to tattoo ratio”.  Ladies, you’re safe!

NUMBER 3: Less Traffic/People.  Every November the population in The Valley increases by about a billion people.  Most of these people are what we lovingly call “snow birds”.  These are the seasonal visitors that descend upon our city with their motor-homes and basically clog up our roadways, shops & restaurants.  Don’t get me wrong – we make our living serving these guests; and I love people, just not when they’re driving.  But during the summer our population literally drops by thousands of people…and they’re not on the roads.

NUMBER 2: High-elevation activities.  Most people don’t realize that Arizona isn’t all desert.  In fact, we have a mountain that’s over 12,000′ tall.  The south rim of the Grand Canyon sits at 7,000′, and the north rim even higher.  The town of Flagstaff, one of our lesser-known gems, is a hub of adventure and activity and also sits at 7,000.  Their record high temperature was in 1973 and it was only 97°F, and considering it’s a “dry” climate it’s downright beautiful.  There are also other high elevations throughout the state so don’t think that coming to Arizona during the summer is going to cause you to catch fire.

Flagstaff

Flagstaff, Arizona

NUMBER 1:  Resort Discounts.  Because the entire world knows that even Satan has a summer home outside the Sonoran Desert in the summer the local hotels and resorts cut their room rates embarrassingly low.  They used to just close for the summer but lately they figure that some revenue is better than no revenue.  You can book a room at a high-end resort, in the summer, for about the same cost as a Bate’s Motel in the peak season…almost.  Factor in the premium level of service and the manicured pools and grounds and it’s a no-brainer.  Perfect time for a family get-away.

Well, that’s just the top 5 reasons to visit Arizona in the summer.  There are more but I know your attention span is at it’s limit right now.  In fact, if you’re still reading this then I’m amazed and honored.

See you outside.

Advertisements

Well, I’m almost done with this tour of duty.  I arrived on March 20 and tomorrow, April 3rd, I’ll be heading back into Phoenix for a wedding and a re-supply.  This has been an amazing experience!  I am totally a trail geekangel.  The people that have passed through have been some of the most amazing & genuine people you’d ever meet.

Here’s who came through most recently…

Wednesday, 3/29

Dead Cow

Mojave

Thursday, 3/30

Top Shelf (left) & Two Liter (right)

Joey

Friday, 3/31

Sarah (l) & Kate (r)

Saturday, 4/1

Justin

Dynamic & ???

Rebo also came through but I forgot to get his photo.

Tom & Alicia

Sunday, 4/2

Purple Pants (l) & Numbers (r)

Dead Cow got her name because on another trail some hikers came by and thought she was a dead cow…way cuter than a dead cow though.  Them Mojave came through, he was bookin’.

On Wednesday night I got the phone call from Two Liter saying he was going to spend a day in Oracle to heal his feet but would I hold Top Shelf there until he was able to get a ride from Marney.  It worked out perfectly – Top Shelf rolled in about 8am and Two Liter arrived at 9:30 or so.  It should be noted that Top Shelf has done the CDT and PCT…and is a dead ringer for my ex-wife; only we get along better. 😉

Joey, the friend of Melanie & Bryan rolled in that evening.  The weather was fixin’ to be windy & rainy so he actually stayed in my van that night.  He’s a GET hiker and left in the morning.  Apparently he’s been thru-hiking and adventuring all over the world for the last few years.  I’m not jealous.

The next day Sarah and Kate came in.  They were pretty tired so I convinced them to lay low for a while.  They did and when Melanie & Bryan arrived for me to shuttle them to Oracle they tagged along and bought my dinner at Casa Riviera…this is a MUST stop in Oracle.  Amazing food, good & spicy salsa, and CHEAP.  And the burritos are the size of a donkey!  The ladies bought dinner and all three of our meals only came to $23.  Did I mention CHEAP!?

20170331_185947 (1)

I ordered too much…

The ladies also stayed the night in the van because the weather was still a bit threatening.  Think about this for a moment…two ladies got into a stranger’s van, in the middle of nowhere.

Only on a thru-hike!

Saturday evening saw the arrival of Tom & Alicia, also hiking the GET.  A lot of GET hikers…THEY also took advantage of the van, but for simplicity’s sake.  Eventually Dyno rolled in, but she was expecting some friends who showed up a few minutes later.  The girl that’s pictured with her joined her for the next segment(s?) and I confess that I forgot her name.

Justin also came in Saturday afternoon.  He was one of the guys that came by earlier in the week and cached some water; another trail angel had dropped off Tom & Alicia’s water.

Oh, I did an informal poll and NOBODY that I’ve asked thinks it’s cool to take other people’s water.  So, that that turd-burglar on Facebook that think’s it’s OK can wrap their lips around my furry marble bag!

Rebo came through, but only briefly.

On Sunday Bryan and Melanie finished their segment just about the time my first bike-packer (Purple Pants) came through.  He had been riding/hiking at about the same pace as Numbers.

Anyway, it’s only 1:30 on Sunday, so there might be more people.  I’ll update in another blog.

I’ll be pulling out of here tomorrow morning and heading into Phoenix for a week.  Then I’ll be heading up north and hopefully be able to find a place that has some cell service but is also close to the trail.  We’ll see…

See you outside.

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

 

Full disclosure, I saw someone else’s article about this topic.  It wasn’t about Arizona, so I figured it was OK to pirate their idea.  Also, I keep posting on Twitter that we’re #stillwearingshorts.  So, I decided to put my blog where my mouth is and let you know how to prepare for the grandeur that is Arizona.

First, you need to know that Arizona isn’t all desert.  In fact, Arizona is home to almost all of the world’s biomes.  The only one not strictly represented is a Tropical Forest.  What does this mean?  It means that we have an amazing diversity of weather and temperatures.  In fact, as I write this (February) I could go skiing in the morning, and by late afternoon I could be enjoying a margarita while soaking up the sun, poolside.  I’m not sure I’d want to jump in the water unless it was a heated pool, but you get the point.buddabeachbeauty1

What this means is that, depending on where you plan on visiting, your attire will need to be as diverse as our topography.  Most likely you’ll be flying into Phoenix-Sky Harbor and staying a day or more.  You might also be planning to visit Sedona or Grand Canyon. The more informed you are the higher the probability you’ve also included Tucson or Flagstaff to your itinerary.  If you’ve consulted with a local professional, such as (ahem, me) 360 Adventures then you’ll come up with ideas such as visiting Tombstone, Bisbee, Page or even the Navajo/Hopi reservations.

For the purposes of this amazing and omnipotent blog let’s suppose you have those locations in mind.  I’m also going to assume that you are going to be participating in activities OTHER than golf, shopping and a spa visit.  You’ll be hiking, taking a culinary tour, going on a balloon flight, or even trying something adventurous like canyoneering or doing an ATV ride.  Yes – I’m shamelessly suggesting you let us plan your vacation; you won’t be sorry.dsc_2284

OK – so you’ve trusted us with your memories of a lifetime.  Let’s get down to planning your attire.  Because the elevations, average precipitation, terrain and hours of sunlight differ greatly in these locations you’re going to need, at least, one of everything in your wardrobe.  I’m not kidding – you’re going to need stuff for when it’s warm, like skirts/shorts, blouses/t-shirts, hats and sunglasses.  If you’re staying at a resort then you might even need a swimsuit and flip-flops (the higher-end resorts do heat their pools).  For a night on the town in The Valley you’re also going to need a light jacket.

For your trips up north you’re going to need pants, heavier jackets and possibly gloves.  This year we had some pretty good snow storms so you might even want to consider moisture (sorry ladies) barriers, especially if you decide to play in the snow.  A visit to the Grand Canyon will take you to 7000′ and it’s actually darned cold, unless you’re from the Arctic Circle or Siberia then it’s merely chilly.

I think what catches people off guard most is that when they are in Scottsdale or Phoenix, during the “winter” and spring, that it’s actually chilly.  Another thing to remember is sunscreen.  Seriously – we aren’t called The Valley of the Sun because we’re trying to sound cute.

Something that most people forget is close-toe, athletic-type shoes.  If you’re going to be doing any of the adventures I mentioned above then you’ll be participating in nature.  There’s a saying – everything in the Sonoran Desert either sticks, stings, bites or eats meat.  Be prepared.

Most of all  you want to bring a sense of adventure.  Sure, we have hundreds of golf courses, some of the best galleries & shops in the world, and you can’t drive for 10 minutes without seeing a spa of some type.  But you can get that anywhere.  What you can’t get is a world-class mecca of outdoor adventures that include snow and sunshine anywhere else like you can in Arizona.  At least not with Mexican food.

See you outside.

If you’ve been following this blog you already know that one of the topics I talk about is the edible and medicinal plants of the Sonoran Desert.  Well, here we go again.  This particular plant is about to be ubiquitous.  In fact, they’re starting to pop up already thanks to the abundant rainfall we’ve received this “winter”.

dandelionThe common dandelion.  Taraxacum officinale as it’s known by the scientists.  This is truly a “eat the whole plant” kinda’ plant.  The leaves, stems, flower buds, flowers and root are edible.  Most of us have seen these weeds and it’s the plant that RoundUp shows in it’s commercial.  That’s OK because they spray that stuff on other foods too.

The roots are best gathered in the late autumn or winter, and you should collect the leaves before the plant flowers.  There are so many culinary uses for this plant that I had to pick some of the most appealing options lest this blog get too long.  The leaves have a bitter flavor and are perfect for adding to salad mixes or as the herb in a pesto.  The flowers can be added to salads and when you roast the insulin-rich roots the insulin converts to fructose making them sweet.  Num!

Medicinally this herb is still in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia and used to be listed in the US Pharmacopoeia (presumably before modern medicine decided to call herbal medicine witchcraft) and many European ones as well.  The herb was prescribed to treat liver disease and jaundice and to promote the production of bile.  It is mildly diuretic and laxative.  It was also historically used to treat kidney disorders, lower back pain, menstrual cramps, arthritis and allergies.

dandelion2I think that we all have fond memories of plucking the downy, globular masses and blowing the small parachutelike seeds into the wind.  I know I do.

So, the next time you’re looking at the weeds on your property stop and think for a moment – your grandparents and their grandparents used to call some of those things “food”.

See you outside.