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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Images From the Osha Trail

We're up in the high country again, taking advantage of the cooler temperatures.  A stiff wind made it  downright chilly this morning.  Late this afternoon we had a substantial rain, though the rain gauge here at the ranch indicated only 0.11 inches.  After the storm the mountain air was deliciously cool.  Right now the wind is picking up considerably--perhaps the harbinger of more percipitation.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Still Smokin'

It was less smoky this morning when Becca and I did a hike on the west side of Tortugas Mountain, but still noticeably hazy.  Very bad news from the Whitewater-Baldy fire, though, as it has claimed over 175,000 acres of Gila National Forest timber.  Reports are that the fire is still 0% contained, and that it may burn through July. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Pall

Heavy smoke enshrouds Tortugas Mountain
The smoke in the Las Cruces area was significantly worse than it was yesterday, completely obscuring any view of the Organ Mountains.  Hiking was slightly difficult, as I could feel the smoke in my lungs.  We were surprised to see several groups of joggers running to the top of Tortugas Mountain.  Trekking was bad enough, but running would have sucked in too much bad air.  We did a moderately-long hike before heading home.  (Too many funerary terms in this post?)
The observatory through a shroud of smoke

The Organ Mountains are totally obscured by smoke (center-right)

Smoke jumper

Road through bad air

Monday, May 28, 2012


A layer of smoke hanging in the Mesilla Valley
The first thing we smelled when we stepped out of the house this morning was smoke from the fires in the Gila National Forest.  Several are raging now.  The Whitewater-Baldy fire has burned over 190 square miles of forest and is still 0% contained.  The drought has taken a heavy toll on western trees, making them especially susceptible to predatory bugs.  Western forests are nothing but kindling ready to burst into flames.
Ocotillo buds

Made in the shade

The Organ Mountains (background) almost obscured by smoke

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sierra Vista Trek

Starting out on the Sierra Vista Trail
Dr. K, Becca and I did an extra-long hike on the Sierra Vista Trail this morning, and we didn't run into one other hiker.  We did kick up a small herd (5) of Mule Deer who, initially spooked by our presence, stopped to take a good gander at us before speeding along on their merry way.  It felt much cooler this morning than on the previous two morns, so we thoroughly enjoyed our trek.
Blackfoot Daisies

Apache Plume flower

Daisy bouquet

Becca and Dr. K

Little-leaf Sumac and the Organ Mountains

Flowers of the Desert Willow

Western Kingbirds on an old Sotol stalk

The wary eyes of two Mule Deer

They watch us closely

On the move

On the run

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hazy Skies

Becca watching coyotes before our morning hike
Because of the Whitewater-Baldy fire burning out of control in the Gila National Forest near Silver City (over 85,000 acres scorched now), the skies in three states are filled with smoky haze.  Nevertheless, the Chihuahuan Desert was as beautiful as ever this morning when Becca and I hiked the foothills west of Tortugas (Tortoise) Mountain.  Countless Yuccas and Ocotillos are still in bloom, and the desert denizens are enjoying the summer-like temperatures.
Late-blooming Ocotillos

Fruit of the Soaptree Yucca

Soaptree Yucca blossoms in front of an Ocotillo

Soaptree Yucca blossoms

White-winged Dove on Ocotillo wand

Desert Sunflowers

Helianthus (Desert Sunflower)

New against old

Smoky haze between Tortugas Mountain and the Organ Mountains

The Franklin Mountains near El Paso obscured by smoky haze

Friday, May 25, 2012

Down in the Desert Otra Vez

Becca and I were back to plying the trails along the western foothills of Tortugas Mountain this morning, in the lower reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert.  We were astonished (or at least I was) by the large number of Strawberry Pitaya Cacti blossoming along the flanks of the mountain--huge masses of strawberry-colored flowers on large mounds of spiky cactus joints.  What a glorious sight.  The images here don't really do them justice.

Grand View--Not

Early morning moon A man and woman were just starting down the Bridal Veil Falls Trail when we rolled into the Grand View Trail parking lot....