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Friday, August 31, 2012

Late Start

Leaving the foothills behind
Because of an early-morning commitment we had to leave a half hour later for our hike.  It's amazing what thirty minutes does in terms of the ambient temperature.  It felt much hotter out on the trail.  Of course, there was almost no breeze.  The last image here looks to be of a Cicada, but I'm not sure it is.  This insect had a very loud buzz, and it appears to have some type of pollen on its wings.  It looks like a beetle, though.  Of course it's a beetle; absent are the Cicada's large wings.
Let's get moving, dude

Beetle it is!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On the Mountain

Lone Ocotillo amid a sea of Creosote
Although it was just five degrees warmer this morning, our hike felt pretty hot.  Nevertheless, we got in a good, long trek.  On our trip we encountered the Chartreuse Goose (guy used to drive a chartreuse-colored VW bug) jogging up the mountain, and Mr. Tacoma (guy drives a white Toyota truck) who was plying the steep western trail that goes straight up Tortugas.  We're supposed to be 91 F. today.  I can't wait until temps fall into the low 80s.
A jogger (slightly right of center) runs up the steep west side of Tortugas

A hiker (center) heads straight up the mountain

In the western foothills

Still green, but leaves getting sparse

Tongue out for a break

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cool Start

Steep climb up the mountain
60 degrees Farenheit might not seem cool to those denizens of northern climes, but for a late-August day in the Chihuahuan Desert it felt quite nice.  Add a constant breeze and one could nearly convince oneself that Autumn had begun.  It certainly seems that way judging from the rapid disappearance of leaves from the wands of the Ocotillo plants.  Soon the Ocotillos will be nothing more than buggy-whip skeletons populating the already-sparse desert.
Ocotillo leaves are dropping big time

Meet Mr. Lizard

Who loves ya baby?

Interesting rock aggregate

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hint of Fall

Still green in the foothills
This morning when we stepped outside, the degree of coolness in the breeze hinted at the arrival of Fall.  We've dried out a bit, and the moonsoon flow seems to have either abated or changed path.  The lower humidity feels good, though we can always use the rain.  Several other outdoor enthusiasts were taking advantage of the weather--a guy jogging to the top of the mountain and a young woman who was jogging with her dog on the same trail Becca and I were hiking.
Becca on the road to Tortugas

Diseased Prickly Pear Cactus

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hiking on Monday

Almost a goose cloud
We had more rain yesterday, and the morning was sufficiently humid; but a nice wind kept the heat index down.  The whole area was deserted today, but we did run into one woman (a regular) hiking with her German Shepherd.  This morning I found myself worrying about the county's plan for extending Sonoma Ranch Boulevard beside Tortugas Mountain.  When they finally get around to doing it they will successfully ruin the outback experience of hiking near the mountain.

The road around Tortugas

Becca in the Ocotillo Forest

Sunday, August 26, 2012

East to West and Back

Monolith on the east side of Tortugas
Dr. K, Becca and I started off at the Monte Vista parking area, hiked around the east, south and west sides of the mountain, then retraced our steps.  It was another humid morning, one that started with a stiff breeze, which we lost midway through the trek.  We only ran into one jogger out there today.  The area was pretty much devoid of humans.  We've seen an abundance of millipedes this season, far more than at any time in the past.  In this area of the country birds are their primary predators.  But why so many millipedes now?
Growing right out of the rock

One of countless millipedes we saw today

One of our favorite vistas west of Tortugas

Not far from the car now

Empty .22-caliber cartridge box and target board

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Silence is Golden?

Ocotillos dropping some leaves
The parking lot at the Sunset area was the most crowded we'd ever seen it; every space was taken  A sign posted on the road leading to the huge ramada read:  "Sierra Vista Community event.  Free Food and Drinks."  Lots of noise emanating from there, but that's to be expected.  Not expected:  some hiker in the outback screaming for his dog, "Ranger," to come back to him; adult hikers on the mountain yelling to one another.  My next book:  "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hiking Etiquette."
Single-track trail beside Tortugas Mountain

Suspicious of noises (check the limp tail)

UFO cloud

Not long before Autumn in the desert

Friday, August 24, 2012


Dense corner of flora
We're in a heavy "monsoon" flow right now, and we've been getting a lot of rain.  We received another pretty heavy downpour last night.  Since the temperature dropped to 67 F., though, and there was a stiff wind this morning, it actually felt pretty cool first thing in the morning.  About midway through our hike, though, the wind desisted, the sun beat down, and the high humidity turned our trek into one of the most uncomfortable of the season. 
Enjoying the cool, wet earth

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday's Humid Trek

Rabbits relaxing at the ranch
As I predicted yesterday, rain was in the offing.  At 7:38 pm last night the skies opened up and poured buckets for a short while.  The result was an incredibly humid morning today.  We didn't get a breath of wind until the very end of our hike.  Nevertheless, we did a long hike around Tortugas Mountain.  The rabbits at the ranch are omnipresent in the mornings and evenings--eating, chasing one another around the grounds, and often relaxing in the shade of a Creosote Bush.
Bunny #2

Bunny #1

Sun through Ocotillos on Tortugas's flank

Pencil Cholla and fruit

Much-needed shade break

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Textures of the Desert

Healthy Barrel Cactus in the mountain foothills
We had the cloud cover this morning, but no breeze to ameliorate the high humidity.  And, boy, was it high humidity.  I'm betting the chances for rain are pretty good this afternoon, especially if the sun breaks through to warm up the moisture-laden air mass.  Becca and I did a fairly long hike in the Tortugas Mountains environs, running into only one woman hiking with her spectacularly-beautiful German Shepherd dog.  Becca, as usual, dropped down into her "I want to herd YOU" crouch as they passed.
Take a bow

Small dead Barrel Cactus (front) and healthy Devil's Head

Spiky Strawberry Pitaya cactus

Thorny Hedgehog Cactus

Hazy mountain vista

Dog on the run

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

An Old Friend

Keeping an eye out at the ranch
We entered the trail system this morning at the lineman facility, following a route we hadn't taken in some time.  I was curious to see what effect the big February freeze had had on an old Barrel Cactus friend.  It's about 3 1/2 feet tall now, and I was pleased to see buds blossoming on its head.  I'm concerned about its prospects for survival, though, because it's leaning over quite prominently, and I believe it will topple soon because of its own weight.
The old observatory atop Tortugas Mountain

Truncated telephone poles at the lineman facility

Numbered days?

Blossoming buds on an old Barrel Cactus

Becca in an Ocotillo forest

Bushwhack or Not to Bushwhack

1st 2:  this morning's moon Another morning doing our regular hike, this time with added distance; we bushwhacked out of the left branch...