Showing posts with label Arizona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arizona. Show all posts

June 20, 2016

Venomous and Nonvenomous Links

In El Castillo cave, hand stencils join a red disk (not pictured)
that may be Earth's oldest cave art (Science/AAS)
Arizona wants to kill you. I thought the rattlesnakes were bad; now this: "Arizona Hiker Dies After Being Stung by 1,000 Bees."

Americans don't visit national parks anymore — that was the message a couple of years ago. (See the graph for early 2000s.) Now it's "The National Parks Have Never Been More Popular."  Free admission for the 100th anniversary helps, so does cheaper fuel. Or is this just one of those "fat is bad for you / fat is good for you" deals? Will M. and make it to Yellowstone this fall?

In case you missed it — although we are not talking about Chauvet-type art, still the evidence is that the Neanderthal people made art. And of course it's older than the Cro-Magnon stuff.

March 22, 2015

On the Road – The Arizona Jinx

Colorado River floodplain with the uncharacteristically misty Chocolate Mountains in the distance.
Another visit to Arizona is winding down, and again it seems like there is something here that wants to frustrate it.

The family-visit part was good; it is the hiking-and-birding parts that always go off the tracks.

Our 2006 trip took a sudden detour to the E.R. at St. Mary's Hospital, Tucson, as detailed in
"A Misadventure in Crotalia."

In 2010, a ranger-guided hike to the Bétatakin Ruin (you can't go on your own) at Navajo National Monument was aborted when another hiker injured herself, stopping the trip for everyone.

Last Tuesday, we drove our rented car into Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (named for the King of Arizona mine), bumped along some miles of gravel road, and finally found a pullout to park in. All ready to go hiking, I glanced at the left rear tire. It was flat.

The next ugly surprise was in the trunk. Of course there was no full-size spare tire, but Hyundai does not even give you a short-range "donut" spare. Instead, they provide a canister of tire sealant that attaches to a 12-volt electric air pump, complete with warning not to drive the repaired tire more than 10 km. or six miles. Right. There's a tire shop just down the hill, past the big saguaro.

So I pumped up the bad tire and, keeping it to 15–20 mph, drove carefully down to U.S. 95 (more than six miles), then dialed the car rental company's roadside-assistance number. I got through to a human being on the third try, and he was trying to locate us by triangulating my cell phone or something, because "Highway 95 north of Yuma, milepost ••" was too simple for him.

And then to wait, as a military blimp hovered overhead, a drone buzzed in the distance, and artillery thumped. Yes, we were now by the Army's Yuma Proving Ground, where "in a typical year, over 500,000 artillery, mortar and missile rounds are fired, 36,000 parachute drops take place, 200,000 miles (320,000 km) are driven on military vehicles, and over 4000 air sorties are flown."

When the tow truck showed up, about two hours after the original incident, the driver said that he had been given a location ten miles way, but he knew to call us himself.

By the time we had obtained a new car, it was tequila time.

• • • 
Muddy rental car.
Re-equipped with a Ford Focus, M., my sister, and I went to Imperial National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday. This riparian refuge along the Colorado River is mainly about birds, with interior roads, overlooks, and hiking trails.

Did I mention that it was raining? Yes, in the area that get about three inches a year, it was raining. We ducked into the visitor center, where upon hearing M.'s question about a hummingbird seen outside,the staffer on duty immediately had his Sibley guide open to the hummer pages.

Phainopepla (Cornell Ornithology Lab)
It cleared off enough for us to walk a couple of miles, although the skeeters was fierce. And then we relocated to the Rio Loco Bar on the river at nearby Martinez Lake, where we could check out a few birds through the plate glass windows behind the bar.

We decided that that was a pretty nice place, so much so that we drove back out there after supper — because I had left my Sibley bird guide lying on the bar that afternoon.

One other question. The Phainopepla has no common name? Really??

March 17, 2015

On the Road — By the Lower Colorado River (2)

YumaLanding1885.jpg
"Yuma Landing 1885" by George Rothrock (Wikimedia Commons).
The Colorado River today is not big enough for steamboats at Yuma, Arizona.
Today's walk came courtesy of an article in Orion, "Down by the River," written by Rowan Jacobsen.

M. and I were headed here anyway to visit my sister and brother-in-law, but we did not know that Yuma, Arizona, is a place where the tamarisk (salt cedar) invasion has been driven back significantly.
Few areas were hit harder [by tamarisk[ than Yuma, and the calamity went beyond the tremendous loss of biodiversity. In 1999, community developer Charlie Flynn took the helm of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, which is part of the National Park Service’s program to foster community-driven stewardship of important natural or cultural landscapes. His task was to bring the riverfront back to life, but he found the area so overgrown with invasive tamarisk thickets that no one could get near the water, and in the few places where people could, they didn’t dare because of drug smugglers who used the abandoned waterway as a thoroughfare. “Once all the non-native vegetation grew up, it was the perfect breeding ground for drug traffic, meth labs, hobo camps, trash dumps,” Flynn explained to me. “You name it, it was down there. It was a no man’s land. People just didn’t go to the river. They were afraid to. Even the police hated going down there. You couldn’t see two feet ahead of you.”
Now you have people like us walking around with binoculars, excited to see birds that are probably commonplace here but not in so much southern Colorado — black phoebe, great-tailed grackles — and American coots, which are common enough in, for instance, the San Luis Valley, but I am not used to seeing little flocks of them walking around in city parks.

At least one of those hobos, whose road name was Lucky, gets his own interpretive sign. Found camping in the thickets, he took a job on the restoration crew and is credited with planting 5,000 trees.
Leveled and diked, some areas can be flooded with water pumped from the river.

Instant cottonwood grove, with drip irrigation.
Built in 1915, closed in the 1980s, reopened in 2002, the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge is the near one.
The farther bridge carries the railroad (BNSF and Amtrak).







On the Road: By the Lower Colorado River

(Credit: Cornell University)
Two Eurasian collared doves are having hot dove sex on a roof across the street — feathers float down — while others provide a raucous chorus. And there are mockingbirds. I must be back in southern Arizona.

Next: a trip to a historic battlefield in the War Against Tamarisk.

July 06, 2014

How the South Canyon Fire Changed Firefighting

In a photo taken shortly after the 1994, shirts mark spots where smokejumpers successfully deployed fire shelters on "Lunch Stop Ridge" during the South Canyon Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colo. . (US Forest Service photo)
The same spot, right after the smokejumpers left their shelters.
John Maclean, whose book Fire on the Mountain was the first of a series he has written analyzing wildland fires that killed firefighters, revisits the South Canyon Fire of 1994 and compares it with last summer's even deadlier Yarnell Hill Fire.

There is a good two-part video on YouTube about South Canyon, with interviews of people who were there (one of them is a neighbor of mine). The animations in the video are helpful in visualizing what happened.

Maclean (and others) credits South Canyon with changing firefighting culture a little bit, making crews more concerned about their own safety and less likely to tell the boss that everything is OK.
A key lesson from the video: Firefighters in charge "should listen to everyone on the crew," [smokejumper Eric] Hipke said. "That's not the way it used to be."

And fire crews, Hipke said, should be more aggressive in voicing their concerns about dangerous situations. During the South Canyon Fire, he said, he and other firefighters failed to tell [lead smokejumper Don] Mackey that they were worried about venturing so far into dense brush without a sure way out.

"As workers we want to work, so we shut up," Hipke said.

March 29, 2013

Thinning the Blog Stew

Trees burned in the 2010 Schultz fire. Image: Flickr/Coconino National Forest
• Coloradans: your fishing licenses expire on Sunday. And big-game hunting applications are due Tuesday night. Time to make some choices!

• A piece from the Colorado Springs Gazette's blog on Colorado's official sport of burro-racing with quotes from Hal Walter. You will find his too-occasional blogs in the sidebar: Farm Beet and Hardscrabble Times.

Scientific American describes big forest-thinning projects in the White Mountains of Arizona.
The Forest Service hired Pioneer Forest Products last May to cut and process the trees from the thinned forests. Pioneer will recycle the small-diameter timber into wood products -- for cabinetry, for example -- and wood laminate. Nearly 40 percent will be feedstock for a 30-million-gallon-per-year biodiesel plant run by Western Energy Solutions/Concord Blue USA. The processing plant in Winslow, Ariz., will employ about 500 people. The firm is still waiting to receive financing to begin operations in a budget-strained environment, said Marlin Johnson, a consultant for Pioneer.

January 09, 2013

Blog Stew with the Dutchman

• In Arizona, the Lost Dutchman Mine claims another seeker after riches.

Camouflage for your house — if you like Mossy Oak brand. Might it work in Gambel oak? 

• I don't watch cable TV outdoor shows — don't have a satellite dish —so I do not know Trent Barta from Adam. But I have to admire his grit.
 "He went from this super-abrasive, 'I-don't-need-anybody, I-just-want- to-kill-something' man's man to somebody who really wants to stop and smell the roses," says Danny Kirsic, the videographer who has directed Versus filming for all seven years of Barta's show. "He lives larger now than he ever did. He asks for help. He's not an island anymore. He knows now that it takes a village. I like the new Tred."

May 18, 2012

Cooks Agree, Cast Iron is Best

I did not know that mountain lions carried rabies, but one in northern Arizona did and attacked a man's dog while he was camping on the Tonto National Forest.

He knocked it out with a cast-iron frying pan, which is an argument for traditional cookware, isn't it. (Via Patrick Burns, who offers other goodies.)

February 29, 2012

"Re-Taking the Landscape"

In Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona, tourists are escorted by armed rangers in to protect them against Mexican smugglers.
"The real problem we have with safety is drug dealing, not the people looking for work," [Interpretive ranger Ken] Hires said from a loudspeaker system at the front of the van. Three different border patrol agents riding ATVs raced by, waving. "What we are trying to do is retake this landscape so we can all be free to be out here," he added.

Twenty minutes later, the vans arrived at Quitobaquito, where two young men toting heavy M14 rifles were already waiting. The rangers arrived at the springs two hours earlier to scour the area and make sure no one was hiding.
The Park Service does not want the area re-made to favor security issues. On other other hand, it has to be kept secure to protect both legitimate visitors and the ecosystem.

December 16, 2011

Blog Stew with Link Dumplings

• Eclipse-chasing in the badlands of New Mexico.
From the Colorado Springs Gazette

• Eleven-year-old boy gains some understanding of the larger world, dresses himself, and rides a bicycle for a mile. His actions gain wide praise in these nanny-state days.

• Some people make fun of mounted deer heads in the living room. Yet they can be useful!

• How to pronounce "Casa Grande," Arizona.

• How to pronounce street names in Colorado Springs. Having also lived in Portland, Oregon, I have to stop and think about "Willamette Street" before I say it.

• Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife seeks photos taken at state parks for a "Best of 2011" contest.

• Pressured by lawsuits, the U.S. Forest Service draws up new rules about dropping fire retardant into waterways.

November 10, 2011

June 10, 2011

June 02, 2011

Summer 2011 Wildfire Potential

Wildfire Today has the forecast maps for potential wildfires in the West and Alaska.

Short version: If you are in Montana, it's not so bad. If you are in Arizona's Mogollon Rim country and the White Mountains or New Mexico or southern Colorado, you already know how it is going to be.

October 10, 2010

House of Rain, House of Pain

National Park Service Ranger Pat Jovesama, a Hopi Indian,  set off down the canyon trail at a deceptively slow amble that still kept him ahead of the group.

It had rained hard all night, one thunderstorm after another shaking our little pop-up trailer at the campground at Navajo National Monument* in northeastern Arizona.

"Administration," he said, in his soft, low-key Hopi way, might order him to abort the ranger hike to Bétatakin Ruin if the weather looked too bad.
Setting off in the sunshine down the Betatakin cliff dwellings trail.
So he did not pause to talk about flora and fauna, except to briefly point out the Ice Age-relict stand of aspen and Douglas fir—seemingly out of place here in northeast Arizona—in one side canyon.

Following him were the couple from Tahoe with their elementary school-aged two kids (getting credit for "independent study" from their charter school—what a deal!), the couple from Middlebury, Vermont, with the rented motor home (you see so many of those in the Southwest, rented at the Phoenix airport), and the middle-aged Navajo woman, herself a former park ranger at Mesa Verde, with her two teen-aged daughters. 
Part of Tsegi Caynon on the Kayenta Plateau in NE Arizona. We were walking from the rim to the bottom.
Down, down we went, hundreds of feet, almost to the bottom of Tsegi Canyon, when the word was passed forward to Ranger Pat: the Navajo woman had sprained (or maybe broken) her ankle on the loose rocks of the trail. We gathered around where she sat with her leg straight out in front of her.

Ranger Pat was doing something with his first aid kit. The woman from Vermont offered some Motrin, which were accepted.

Dilemma. He had to stay with the injured woman until help came. Unaccompanied visitors are not allowed at Bétatakin, lest they walk off with it or something, so we could not go farther. He had radioed for help, which was coming. The rest of us should just walk back out of the canyon to our vehicles.

Rain was coming too, we could feel it. (The forecast was "80 percent chance of heavy rain.") On the descent, I had noticed that one section was just steps cut lightly into the slick rock, and I had wondered what it would be like to try to climb them in pouring rain.

I hiked out with the Vermonters, who were the fastest. The two teenagers were not far behind us. ("See you later, Mom.") At the parking area we met two park rangers unloading a folding stretcher. Three men still seemed like too few to carry a rather chunky woman up the steep canyon trail.

We offered again to help, but one ranger explained that "liability issues" prevented it. The message: We are park professionals. You are park consumers. Stay on the trail.

One more ranger was coming, so maybe with four they could break into two teams.

Bétatakin cliff dwellings, from the easy trail near the visitor center.
And then later the storms did come again, lashing and rocking the trailer, only to end in a sunny late afternoon.  For the second time, M. and I walked out to the overlook where you can see the ruin from across the canyon, which is enough for many visitors.

The woman's injury might have been a blessing, she suggested, because otherwise the storm (which spawned tornadoes elsewhere in Arizona) would have caught us hiking out of the canyon. Her pain, our gain.

I have been to many other Anasazi/Ancestral Puebloan ruins. To be frank, I was mainly curious to hear how a Hopi ranger would discuss the ruin, which the Hopi call Talastima, meaning "Place of the Corn Tassel." (The Navajo name, Bétatakin, means "House on a Ledge.")

Park Service interpreters always give a bland, non-controversial spiel, and Hopis keep secrets, but still, I wanted to hear his spin on the history.

Lacking that, however, here is a quotation from Craig Childs' excellent history House of Rain, which I reviewed earlier.
[The dwellings were occupied for less than a century. Tree-ring data reveals that] Mesa Verde ... produced no tree-cutting dates after 1280. Finally the large Kayenta sites of Kiet Siel and Betatakin saw their last construction in 1285....The Anasazi made their last attempts to hunker down, and finally no one was left. Ten years after Mesa Verde fell, Kayenta went down right behind it, like the successive toppling of dominoes, a wave of immigrants and abandonments heading south, pushing down walls as they went, uprooting everyone.
*Yes, the monument protects ruins built by the ancestors of the Hopi tribe, but the Navajos lived there later and their reservation surrounds it, hence the name, I guess.

September 28, 2010

14,882 Human Skeletal Fragments

A discussion on the Archaeology magazine blog by Heather Pringle about how archaeological interpretation follows cultural concerns--war, environmental destruction, climate, whatever--using the long-hushed-up evidence of group violence among the Ancestral Puebloans (a.k.a. Anasazi) of the American Southwest.

My response is in the comments.

March 28, 2010

Weather, Wildfire Forecast for Northern Rockies

Preliminary Fire Season 2010 Outlook for the Northern Rockies currently forecasts a dry summer.

Although the narrated slide show is focused on the Rockies from Grand Teton NP north to the Canadian border, you can also pick up some Southern Rockies information from the slides as well.

El Niño
has been good to the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico, and pretty good to us in southern Colorado. At my house in the foothills, March brought at least three feet of snow, interrupted by melts, with April still to go.

Via the Wildfire Today blog, which also points out that the massive stands of beetle-killed pine in the Rockies are less likely to support catastrophic crown fires than are living trees.

While it may seem intuitive that dead trees will lead to more fires, there is little scientific evidence to support the contention that beetle-killed trees substantially increase risk of large blazes. In fact, there is evidence to suggest otherwise.
That was the "Katrina of the West," prediction, you may recall.

January 09, 2010

Watching Biosphere 2 Decay.

The debate over whether it was scientifically useful or just a gimmick has died down, and meanwhile Biosphere 2 decays in the desert. (Via Boing Boing)

August 02, 2008

The Rattlesnake Initiation

When I was bitten by a rattlesnake just outside Tucson, where writer Erec Toso lives, I spent two nights in the hospital, got rid of my crutches after a week, and was completely healed after a month.

Toso had a much rougher time, but he got a book out of it, one that uses the encounter with Crotalus scutulatus to talk about a number of larger issues, including the whole New West issue of how we should live among sharp-toothed and/or venomous wildlife.

That book, Zero at the Bone: Rewriting Life after a Snakebite, was published last year by the University of Arizona Press.

We meet Toso first off as trail runner, painter, U. of Arizona writing teacher, husband and dad, still cherishing romantic dreams:

Why, I wondered, had I caved into this life? . . . . It had not been my vision to be a householding teacher, a worker bee. . . . I thought I should set up my life to be more free, maybe move to Montana and get a big dog, a sheepskin coat, and write muscular action movels about climbing mountains or running rivers, or outrunning and foiling the greedy corporate evildoers.

But walking across his own front yard one evening, bringing his sons home from the community swimming pool, he is bitten:

As sophisticated as a syringe, the delivery system did its work. Then the snake rattled a dry leaves whir.

And all his life evaporated . . .

I became little more than a piece of meat that was being digested by highly toxic enzymes, a body that soon could not work or walk and that was in the first round of a fight for its life. The fibers I wove together as a kind of shield to protect myself against the pains and threats of the world, both inside and out, unraveled, leaving me holding only threads, a searing vulnerability.

And then the medical part begins, with Toso taking the first initiatory journey on the wings of venom and morphine. I know that one: at one point, as my gurney was wheeled down corridors from the emergency room to the ICU, the Tucson PD K-9 officer walking ahead of us turned into a fullblown Guardian of the Underworld.

Toso had the additional misfortune of contracting a secondary infection—all snakebites leave bacteria behind, bacteria deposited by the last defecation of their prey on its way down the snake's gullet. Sent home in a wheelchair after four days in the hospital, Toso has barely started to catch up on the new semester when an infected abscess sends him back to the emergency room.

As the medical story progresses, however, what interests Toso the writer is the snake story--how one culture treats them as holy while another wants to kill them on sight. As Southwesterners keep moving to the desert's edge, snake encounters increase, and as a biologist whom he interviews remarks, "We need to reconfigure the stories we tell about snakes. The ones we have just don't work when it comes time to share the desert."

Meanwhile, Toso sees himself changing, becoming more mindful, less driven—changed. If you came for the scary rattlesnake story, you get it, including biochemistry and a little herpetology from the biologists, but Zero to the Bone is really the story of a man "in the middle of the road of my life," to quote Dante, who awakes in an emergency room where the true way was wholly lost and has to re-evaluate everything.

January 06, 2007

Goatheads are good for something?

Every gardening writer likes to write about reading seed catalogs as the midwinter snow falls.

So I won't do that. I will just mention that I was perusing the new Richter's catalog as ten inches of fresh powder--well, OK, it is more than a cliche. It happens.

"What the hell," I said. "They're selling goatheads!" Also called puncturevine. Tribulus terrestis. Nasty, invasive, spreading Eurasian weeds whose multi-pointed seed capsules can bring a dog to a whimpering standstill, not to mention being hard on bicycle inner tubes.

M.'s response was to pass me a copy of Tucson herbalist Charles W. Kane's Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest, which she had just brought home from the Pueblo library. (We may have to buy it.) She held it open to the section on puncturevine.

It turns out to be helpful for moderate hypertension, to increase male libido (herbal Viagra?), and to contain some natural steroids.

Many men using the plant often notice a related sense of increased physical strength and will -- a good tonic for older men and the metrosexual alike.

I consider Michael Moore (not the filmmaker) to be one of the best Southwestern herbalists.

He contributed the foreword, noting, "Charles has written an impeccable book."

Here is Kane's border-country spin on the usual herbalists' advice on wildcrafting--gathering plants in the wild:

Collect away from roadsides, inner city areas, industrial sites, agricultural areas, and heavily traveled foot trails -- explaining yourself to every busy-body hiker gets to be tiresome, although visibly packin' heat usually limits conversation to furtive glances.

Although a short drive takes us to eastern Fremont County, Colorado, which is sort of the last outlier of the Chihuahuan Desert, a lot of Kane's plants are hundreds of miles away. But about half of them are here.

Methods of preparation are clearly described, and the plants are illustrated with color photos and Frank Rose's meticulous botanical paintings.

If you live in the Southwest and you like to take care of some minor ills yourself or learn some herbal first aid, you should have it.