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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Waiting For Rain

The northern Chihuahuan Desert is parched.  We're now into the second longest dry spell in recorded history.  Parts of southeastern New Mexico have not seen measurable rain in 200 days.  The last measurable rain for Carlsbad was October 21, 2010.  You can see it when you look at the flora.  There's a noticeable absence of blooming flowers, and many plants--like the Creosote--have not unfurled their leaves.  Many leaves are just brown.  We'll be resorting to rain dances in the not-too-distant future.
Becca, east of Tortugas Mountain

Bone-dry Creosote leaves

A look at the parched desert east of Tortugas

A lost bumper--looks like a Jeep

Four dry sisters

What's red, white, blue and black?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Another Day in the Desert

Tops of the Franklin Mountains near El Paso
We got our morning hike in before the onset of the bad winds.  Right now they're gusting to 50 mph.  We're under a wind advisory for today and tomorrow; and the worst part is that the winds will wreak havoc with firefighting efforts in the nearby Organ Mountains.  9,000 acres have burned so far, and the fire is up into the tall pines on the east side of the mountains.  A very unfortunate situation.
On break

Chihuahuan Vegetation

Becca on the Crosscut Trail

Middle of the desert

Fire in the Organ Mountains

About 9,000 acres on fire

Shade where you can find it

Organ Mountains (left), Franklin Mountains (right)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fire on the Mountain

The Organ Mountains on fire
The Abrams fire has been burning in the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces, New Mexico for over a week.  Heavy winds have impeded fire-fighting efforts.  Also, there's no precipitation in sight.  We now have gone 84 days without rain.  From our vantage point--about eight miles from the mountains--the fire was clearly visible, and the smell of smoke was heavy in the air.
Smoke and haze from the Abrams Fire

Slurry helicopter over the mountains

The fire has crested from east to west

Rugged mountains, wind and fire:  bad combination

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fast Hike

On the trail again
We did a quick provision-day hike this morning, battling a chilly wind.  We ran into a guy who we talked to for a little while; well, the man and I talked.  Becca had her hackles up for a bit, but then got over it.

Yucca and Ocotillo

Beccaleo Beccalei

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wind Day!

West of Tortugas
The wind was strong early this morning while Becca and I were hiking around Tortugas Mountain, but it's really awful right now:  35-45 mph sustained winds with gusts to 60 mph.  There's a lot of blowing dust in the air because the desert here is bone dry.  It's been 82 days now with no rain--the 3rd longest dry spell in recorded history.  No precipitation in sight.
Becca stopping in Ocotillo shade

Red-Tailed Hawk (center)

Red-Tailed Hawk

Mesquite Tree flower

Monday, April 25, 2011

Don't Like That Day

Fallen Yucca trunk (left)
Had to shorten the hike significantly this morning because Becca had a vet appointment.  She had a red bump on her tongue that compelled her to keep flicking her tongue out like a lizard.  At the vet's, while I held Becca's mouth open, Dr. Thompson squeezed the bump between her two thumb nails and, voila, out came a cactus spike, about a quarter-inch long.  Yikes!  Becca hasn't done her lizard impression since.

Dog on lead

Dog off lead

The steep western flank of Tortugas Mountain

Continental drift

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Hike

Eastern flank of Tortugas Mountain from the Monte Vista trail head
We only encountered two mountain bikers on our Easter hike around Tortugas (Tortoise) Mountain.  Usually there are a lot of holday picnickers at the huge ramada in the Monte Vista parking area, but nobody was there today.  We had the entire outback to ourselves.  Dr. K, Becca and I enjoyed it immensely.
Foothill boulders

The distant Franklin Mountains near El Paso

Number One hiker dog

The Organ Mountains

Shredded clouds over the Organ Mountains

Saturday, April 23, 2011

La Camminata di Sabato

Not as many people were out on the mountain this morning, though we did run into three mountain bikers right off the bat.  Becca was very well behaved with them.  Later we saw a group of hikers in the outback, but our paths never crossed.  Becca tainted the hike with a bit of bad behavior at the end, chasing a cottontail rabbit for a few feet before I called her off.  Bad girl.
Large arroyo in the western foothills
Break time!

Ahead on the trail

Way ahead on the trail

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Tortugas's western flank
The mountain was really jam-packed with people this morning, mostly Good Friday pilgrims heading for the shrine atop Tortugas Mountain.  Luckily, we had only one close encounter with anybody--a mountain biker named Monique, who stopped to talk to Becca and me.  At first Becca was perturbed by Monique's bike, but then quckly grew comfortable around it.  That was a sign of real progress with Becca because she's scared poopless by bikers.
You will do what I say

Firefighting helicopter

Old observatory atop Tortugas Mountain

Becca in the outback

Rolling desert and mountains

Ocotillo blossoms

Fire wands

Prom flowers

Good Friday pilgrims climbing Tortugas Mountain

Hump Day Hawk

Tortugas and the Organs We got a fairly early start this morning so it wasn't hot at all:  62F.  The cloud cover helped the temperature ...