Friday, December 31, 2010

Close Call Coues Caper

In late December there is a simultaneous archery and rifle Coues Deer buck hunt in Unit 31 in Arizona. This area is commonly known as Mt Graham, my neighboring mountain range. (Photo above is an example of a Coues buck deer.) Yesterday my husband unit had a close call.

After many days of angling around to get a good clean killing shot with an arrow, my bow hunting spouse finally crept within 50 yards (45 meters) of the small but beautiful buck. He vaguely heard a pick-up truck slow and stop behind him. Suddenly a bullet whizzed by his head, and he saw his buck fall. The shooter, who could clearly see my hunter and his prey, very recklessly, illegally and ungentlemanly had fired from the road. My husband unit was terribly shook up but the unsporting and rude young man basically said: “Tough Luck!” He picked up the deer, tossed it in his truck and sped away without even tagging it. (Attaching the permit to the dead animal to prove a legal taking.) Due to disability (my man often bow hunts with one crutch), he was not able to make his way down the snow covered slope to the road to record the rude offenders vehicle license number.

To add insult to injury, the Sheriff arrived a short time later to inform him that the mountain was being evacuated due to the snow storm. Swift Trail, US 366, is a steep, narrow road of extreme twists and turns. The 6 or 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) of snow at this elevation was becoming dangerous, not to mention what might have been accumulating 2000 to 3000 feet (600 to 900 meters) above.

So his December hunt was over.

The boorish road hunter who could have easily put his bullet into my husband unit was undoubtedly boasting about his great stalking skill to his goon friends. We hope he chokes on the venison

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nostagic Foal Photo

Double Barrel Storm
Purebred Arabian filly born 1991.
(The only foal I have raised.)
She's an elegant girl.
She's my Stormy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rabbit Brush

Rabbit Brush in bloom.
In black soil of the San Francisco volcanic field.
Taken at entrance to Wupatki National Monument,
28 September 2010.
Rabbit Brush is an important food for rabbits, deer, and antelope.
One can extract yellow dye from the flowers and green dye from the inner bark.
Also known as Chamisa. Very common throughout Arizona.

Walnut Canyon National Monument, Arizona

Cliff dwelling.
A south-facing shelter built into a shallow cave, dating between 1125-1250 AD.
Limestone rocks were roughly shaped and mortared with clay to form walls.
This photo shows a doorway and above it a smoke hole.
Reflecting sunlight causes the blue to orange colors.
29 September 2010.

Big Horn Sheep

Here is a well-fed specimen of our local eastern Arizona wild mountain sheep.
I'm uncertain if it is a ram or ewe because both sexes grow horns.
Taken 30 September 2010, near Morenci, Arizona.

Morning at the Grand Canyon

28 September 2010 on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
This is The Canyon by which all other canyons on earth are judged.
UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

My Birthday Camping Trip, 2010

Trip to Northern & Central Arizona, 26 - 30 September 2010

On Sunday afternoon, 26 September 2010, I left in my SUV and headed to the mountains. About an hour from home I realized my cell phone battery was low. I attempted to charge it and the charging cord fell apart. I made a brief call to my husband to tell him I would not be able to call him very often during my trip. He was originally going to go with me but his health forced him to remain at home.

I decided after 5 hours to stop for the night at Clint’s Well and slept under the stars among Ponderosa Pines in a Coconino National Forest campground. All night I heard elk bugle, or call. It is the rut, or mating season for the Wapiti, large relatives of deer. Large male specimens can reach 500 kg or 1100 pounds, and 1.5 m or 6 feet at the shoulder.

I got up before dawn and as I ate breakfast I watched the temperature drop from +1° to -1°C or 33°F to 31°F. Hmmm! Elevation 2133 meters or 7000 feet above sea level.

Soon I was on the road to the Grand Canyon and in 2 hours arrived there and set up my tent in site 226 in Mather Campground. Junipers, oaks and Pinyon pine surrounded me. Noisy ravens flew overhead and a pretty blue jay flitted by. Daytime temperatures during the trip averaged 33° or 91°F.

I toured the Rim at various look-out points. I bought postcards. I attended a talk on the colorful Art of the National Parks. I took over 100 photos. Elevation along the rim averages 2210 to 2280 meters, 7160 to 7460 feet. The Colorado River at Phantom Ranch (the goal of hikers down into the canyon) is at 777 meters 2550 feet which is 1400 meters, 4600 feet below the south rim starting point. Access to Phantom Ranch is by foot or mule or rafting in from up-river. There is a long wait for reservations for the rustic experience. Hiking down and up is for only the very fit and well-prepared. The Park Service is mightily tired of removing human remains from the Canyon of overly optimistic and ignorant hikers. Warnings are everywhere and permits are required for back-country hiking. (So they know who your next-of-kin are.) The Grand Canyon is in a very arid and unforgiving climate. I used up my small 500 mL bottle of water on a 3 hour shuttle tour (that was twice as long as expected) and even though I was only briefly walking around at viewpoints and riding a bus, I got powerfully thirsty.

I cooked a light supper at my campsite and as I reached for a water bottle, a bee stung my thumb. It swelled, but thank goodness I am not allergic. The presence of annoying bees made me decide to spend only a single night at the campground. I was much safer in remote areas!

Campers next to me invited me over to their campfire for the evening. Dimitry and his girlfriend were from Toronto but were Russian (or Ukrainian - I’m unsure) immigrants. We discussed the differences in camping in the US, Canada and the Ukraine. They shared food and a bedtime cup of tea. Nice folks!

Next morning found me at the Rim taking sunrise photos. I left the Park driving east and then south again. I visited the Wupatki Ruins which were inhabited by Pueblo people for a few generations after the year 1100 AD. It is at 2030 m or 5500 feet above sea level in arid grassland but in those olden days it was better watered.

29 km or 18 miles south I drove past the elegant Sunset Crater, a volcano that erupted around 1080 AD. The name comes from the reddish cinders left at the cone. A grotesque lava flow field parallels the road for awhile, looking like it just froze in chaos last week. Pine trees and wildflowers sprout in the fertile volcanic soil. It is at 2450 m or 8240 feet above sea level.

I continued on toward another National Park but got there near closing. So I back-tracked to camp out in the Coconino National Forest again. I chose a level site off a 4 wheel drive “path.” Built a fire, ate supper, read a book and fell asleep under the stars again. A good night’s rest at 2040 m or 6690 ft above sea level.

At 8 AM I was again at the gate of Walnut Canyon National Monument to tour the cliff dwellings there. People lived there about 150 years starting about 1100 AD. Very steep, narrow canyon but safe, dry homes.

From there I headed toward home again. I stopped in Payson and Show Low, AZ shopping for a new wood-burning stove. The basic stove costs twice what we paid in 1988 for our current stove. This did not please me.

My slow progress found me still 4 hours from home near nightfall, so I found a pay phone and called my husband to let him know I would spend another night out camping. I traveled far out Augur Canyon Road, west of Nutrioso in the Apache National Forest. I had driven past 3325 meter, 10912 ft high Escudilla Mountain (means “bowl” in Spanish) which already had fall leaves turned yellow on its slopes. I camped at 2590 m or 8500 feet elevation in a mature spruce-pine forest on a dead end trail/road. After supper I sat to read my murder mystery by my campfire and began to feel a little spooked. After all, the fictional serial killer murdered his victims in rural Arizona! Not the smartest novel to be reading alone in rural Arizona! (Rattlesnake Crossing, by J.A. Jance) Next time I’ll bring lighter reading.

At 7:00 next morning as I drank my coffee I heard a diesel engine growing steadily louder. To my utter surprise, since I was tucked away in such a “remote” spot, a bulldozer arrived! A National Forest employee was building a new road to connect to another minor forest road below us. I guess to allow easier access in case of wildfire. So he passed above me and began to knock down trees while I broke camp. How bizarre! I thought I was so remote.

I resumed my leisurely travel through magnificent forest scenery. I stopped to wash in the pristine and icy cold East Fork of the Black River. I went for a short hike (photo above) among the aspens and spruce at the nosebleed elevation of 2773 m or 9100 ft near Hannagan’s Meadow.

After slowly driving 4 hours down the famed twisting Coronado Trail, I arrived home at 3 PM after a 1490 km or 926 mile trip. Spending only about $100 on gasoline and one campsite fee (the other 3 nights under the stars were free.) I did get my husband a Grand Canyon souvenir coffee cup and I did buy a pile of postcards. How could I resist?

I saw elk (3 cows, 2 calves and one magnificent bull with a huge antler rack), 2 deer (one doe and one buck with a great set of polished antlers), and a flock of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (several young rams and ewes and a couple half-grown lambs.)

Overnight lows rose from -1°, to +7°, 8°, and finally 9°C. Or 31°, 45°. 45° to 46° Fahrenheit. I was never cold. In fact record daytime high temperatures were set during my entire trip.

It was a quick but nice little adventure. Happy Birthday to me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

from: Deutschland Ein Wintermärchen

Ich bin kein Schaf, ich bin kein Hund,
Kein Hofrat und kein Schellfisch --
Ich bin ein Wolf geblieben, mein Herz
Und meine Zähne sind wölfisch.

I do love poetry. Even in other languages. This fragment is courtesy of Heinrich Heine, from 1844.

I am 50% German heritage and 50% Polish (Only know bits of each language, unfortunately.)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

My Mother, Child Criminal

Zealous Americans who hoped to see a more sober nation passed the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution. Popularly known as “Prohibition,” it banned the sale or manufacture of alcohol in the United States beginning in 1920. It was repealed in 1933 after it became obvious that it did more harm than good.

Sometimes I ponder events in recent decades relating to the sale, and use of Marijuana. I see many similarities. But that is whole other subject.

The word bootleg refers to the part of the boot above the instep. Presumably this was a handy place to carry illicit alcohol in days gone by. From this we get the colorful American slang term: bootlegger, one who smuggles that booze. (Today the term is also applied to bootleg music recordings, video, etc.)

From my family stories it seems that alcohol was easily obtainable if you knew the right people. And apparently most people who wanted to know, knew the right people. Spirits, wine, and beer were flooding across the border from Canada and Mexico without any customs tariff or duty being paid. Law enforcement had to be vigorous to try to stem this tide of imports.

My (long-deceased) family members lived on a major route coming into the US from Canada. For some reason (!) they were carrying a case of bootleg booze in their car. My dear sweet mother, at that time a small child, was told not to tell about the box she was sitting on in the back of the old Ford Model-T. If interrogated she was to tell the police that “I’m just playing with my doll.” Oh my! Innocence lost! She became a de facto criminal! Those were the days.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mt Graham Red Squirrel

The Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act of 1988 was signed by President Ronald Reagan. Forgive him: he knew not what he did.

Actually the law had many facets but the one that impacted me the most was Title VI that authorized the construction of telescopes on Mt Graham and created the Mt Graham Red Squirrel refuge. You say you have never heard of the Mt Graham Red Squirrel? Well, that seems to be the crux of the problem for many longtime residents who don't believe the rascally resident of the highest reaches of this southeastern Arizona mountain are any different from any other other red squirrel in the Rocky Mountain West of the US.

Regardless, we have acres and acres of the loveliest high elevation terrain totally off-limits to human use, any use, even walking, due to the need to preserve the estimated 200 or so Tamiasciurus. They are listed as an Endangered Species, which is a legal term, not just descriptive.

So now the years pass. The relentless drought takes its toll on the forests of the West, and a trio of bugdom: the Spruce Aphid, Spruce Beetle and Western Balsam Bark Beetle, do their worst. Trees are dying by the acre. The prime foodstuff of the Mt Graham Red Squirrel is in rapid decline.

I am as much an animal lover as the next person. I prefer to see abundant numbers of animals and species in places I visit. If the Mt Graham Red Squirrel goes extinct, it will be a loss. But at what cost has it been to try to delay the inevitable?

Millions of dollars.

For a fraction of that, wouldn't it be reasonable to re-stock the mountain with other red squirrels someday? I guess I am not a biologist who understands these things. I am just a lover of the thin air, the mountain cienegas, the peak of 10,720 foot Mt Graham that I cannot visit ... so that a dubious red squirrel species can survive another year or two.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Faces of the Wild Horse and Burro Issue

On May 14, 2010 I went to see the (formerly wild or feral) animals brought here to be auctioned by the Bureau Of Land Management. This is a group of Jacks, or male burros. This was a group of Jennies, or female burros.

This was a lovely yearling buckskin filly. All the mustangs were very skiddish though. Not to be handled by the harsh hand, nor slow of foot.
The horses were all rounded up from Federal Lands in California and Nevada and all the burros were from northwestern Arizona.
I am a fool about equines but I managed to control my impulses so I did not adopt a wild horse or burro. Not because of a harsh hand, but slow feet.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Ideas About LOST

On May 23, 2010 on US TV, the final episode of LOST airs.

Starting in September 2004, I have been more or less following the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 after they crashed on this mysterious island (it is filmed in Hawai’i: fabulous scenery.) For casual viewers, the show could have been an impossible tangle but to fans it has been a fascinating journey.

Part philosophy and part entertainment, this most expensive prime time drama has followed Jack and Kate, Locke and Sawyer, Hurley and Ben and a host of others through one amazing situation after another. A hydrogen bomb? Disappearing island? A man who never ages? The smoke monster? And all along the fans keep guessing what could that mean? What will happen next?

Many TV show finales have been disappointments. I was not happy with the end of the long-running medical drama “ER”. I hope with the big budget and the talented creators, that LOST will live up to the hype, deliver a great end and a few resolutions.

My guess is that we will see the characters realize that they can change themselves, become better people. The plane crash was a baptism by fire, the last 6 years a period of judgment, and the final episode should end with a water baptism when all things will be new again. After all, once you have survived a polar bear attack on a tropical island, one should see that life is full of possibilities.

Monday, May 03, 2010

8 Most Influential People in the World

Time magazine has published a list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. I would like to tell you about my Top 8 People.

They are divided into 4 categories: Leaders, Thinkers, Artists and Heroes. So here goes my list off the top of my head (this is not rocket science here…)

Sarah Palin. She has come out of nowhere (Alaska is not exactly mainstream America) to remind us of our more traditional values. Yet she is a strong woman who has a family, and works outside the home. This 46 year author and speaker is wildly popular and newsworthy despite having no political office or even a TV show!
Hillary Clinton. As Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton is the face of America to other countries. Although I do not always agree with her, I think her power certainly puts this 62 year old woman at the top.

Mark Zuckerberg. As founder of Facebook where nearly 400 million people bare their lives on often a daily basis, I think he thought up a great idea. This 26 year old has more hate mail when he tweaks his site than any man on the planet.
Jonas Salk and other medical researchers. In 1952 he found a vaccine for Polio. Before Salk parents worried about their child suffering many levels of paralysis or ending up in an Iron Lung. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suffered from this disease and who knows how it affected his judgment in those critical years of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Today many safe vaccines and other life saving methods extend the life of our loved ones, giving us the gift of time.

James Cameron. This 55 year old film producer is the genius behind Avatar. Need I say more?
Steve Jobs. You may love Apple products or find their closed corporate culture distasteful, but you cannot deny the impact this 54 year old man has had around the world. I want an iPad!

Robin Hood. Who could be more of a folk hero than one who robs from the rich and gives to the poor? Unless you are extraordinarily wealthy and never donate to the needy. Besides, my heart throb Russell Crowe is starring in the up-coming movie as Robin Hood. Do any women object?
Annie Oakley. She was an American sharpshooter who lived from 1860 to 1926. Her feats are unmatched even with today’s fine rifles. She helped her family pay their home mortgage while she was still a teen, by shooting game which was then sold. She advocated for women’s rights. Who was going to argue with an accurate rifle-toting lady? Her example has inspired many women to see themselves as equals to men when society was less enlightened. All the wealth she accumulated in her lifetime was given away to the less fortunate. A true hero.

So that is my quick list. Nothing earth shattering. Just doodling here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Three Spring Garden Flowers

These three flowering plants are all hardy, desert dwellers. It would be nice to have roses and tulips and begonias, but these are more practical on the Double Barrel Ranch.

There are many varieties and shades of color in the Verbena family, wild and domesticated. Last fall I bought this plant on a close-out special and it has delighted me with these vibrant deep purple blossoms.

African Aloe have interesting coral colored trumpet flowers that hummingbirds enjoy. But the plants spread fast and their rosettes of leaves intertwine to form mats that are rather unattractive.

Goldeneye is a wildflower I planted in my garden a few years ago. It has formed into a small bush. Every Spring it delights me with it's sunny disposition.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mail Art

I have been decorating envelopes on my personal out-going mail for awhile now. So imagine my surprise to find out that this activity has a name: mail art. I'm not very gifted but it is fun. So I will subscribe to the statement that if I say it is art, then it is art. Above is an envelope I did for my brother who is returning from vacation. There is a group on the Web for aficionados. I believe it is called IUOMA, International Union Of Mail Artists. They are all MUCH better artists than me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wishes Do Come True

I heard that the actor Peter Graves died today. Although he was famous for his role in the comedy movie “Airplane!” and for the TV show “Mission: Impossible,” I remember him first from a Saturday morning kids TV show called “Fury.”

Fury was a black stallion owned by a widower (played by Graves). But the horse’s main companion was a boy named Joey. As I sat in my Eastern US city, how I wished I was living on a ranch with a black stallion like Joey!

Other Saturday shows I enjoyed, from which you may be able to guess my age, were: Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Sky King, Roy Rogers, Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, and My Friend Flicka. All had something to do with life in the Western US, dogs or horses or all three.

Is it so remarkable that I live in the Western US, have a Rin Tin Tin dog and 2 horses?

Sunday, March 07, 2010


As a late winter storm approaches, I sit safely indoors and reminisce about horses who've gone before me.

Above is my first horse, Hobie, a buckskin Quarter Horse gelding. (1974 - 1989.)

Here in the snow of northern Pensylvania is Echo, a grey 3/4 Arabian mare. (1972 - 1987)

And finally is Padron's Sasha. An Arabian mare of the finest pure blood. Sasha left me too soon. (1987 - 2008.)

To all these, and Mike (Maika) of whom I have written before, I salute you, my big-hearted friends. Your loyalty will never be forgotten.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ephemeral Lake

Yesterday was just another trip to Tucson, a city about 2 hours distant from the Double Barrel Ranch. Nearly an hour into my drive I pass a roadside attraction called The Thing? Several billboards entice you to stop for gas or gifts. And to find out about the “Mystery of the Desert.” I’ve often stopped there to stretch my legs and enjoy the view of several mountain ranges from this prominent point.

Just beyond is Texas Canyon, not really a canyon but a mountain pass. In the Old West days the Butterfield Overland Stage Coach route passed through here among giant granite boulders. A State of Arizona run Rest Area is located here and many tourists stop to photograph the unusual, large rocks laced with evergreen oaks. At least the Rest Area is still open, unlike many others that have closed due to budget cuts in these days of fiscal amputation.

After my day in the city I headed home at dusk and as I drove across the Sonoran Desert I saw the full moon emerge from clouds to make my path much brighter. Over the Texas Canyon pass, passed the Thing? and then downhill. After a few turns in the road I could look out at the normally bone-dry 60 square mile Willcox Playa. Instead it was shining like quicksilver in the moonlight. Recent heavy rains had filled it! People who live near the sea or lakes are probably shrugging their shoulders and thinking, so what? But I live in a desert. The chance combination of the rain, the full moon and me actually being there at the right time of night was serendipitous. Even after living here for nearly 22 years, Arizona still surprises me.