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Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Perennial Question

I've always taken great solace in Nature, believing that it is evidence of the ongoing cycle of life.  And I feel fairly certain--given the awesome vastness of the universe--that other life forms exist outside of our solar system, outside our galaxy.  But every so often a question pops into my head, one I find mildly disturbing:  what if there are no other organisms, and Earth is simply the first seed from which future life must grow?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cold After the Storm

How's this for camouflage?  Can you see him?
It was plenty cold this morning, but it didn't stop Becca and I from trekking around Tortugas Mountain.  She spotted two Coyotes who were hunting in tandem, but it was pretty difficult to see them in the distance.  No surprise that many Native American people called them "Trickster."  They trick you into looking for them in one place while they've magically secreted themselves into another.  If it weren't for Becca I wouldn't have seen the male a second time in order to photograph him.
Better contrast reveals a male Coyote

Clear, but cold

Road over the ridge

Bushwhacking with Becca

The magnificent Chihuahuan Desert

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wind Event (Day Two)

Heavy clouds nearly obscure the Organ Mountains
In the early-morning hours the wind wasn't as bad as predicted, but at 10:15 a.m. it was as if somebody turned the blower on "high."  It's been whipping ever since.  Toward the end of our trek this morning we were fortunate enough to run into J.C. and his dog, Shaque, as well as our friend Jimmy.  The five of us hiked together from the base of the road that leads to the mountaintop back to the Sunset parking area together.  We were among the few lunatics braving the elements.  We were lucky not to get the snow that blew through the El Paso region.
The Franklin Mountains outside of El Paso

Southern section of the Organ Mountains

Chihuahuan Desert wind storm

Not spooked by the wind

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wind Event (Day One)

How to track a Jackrabbit
Becca and I were fortunate to get in a long hike before the wind came.  We're under an advisory for a two-day wind event that's going to kick up the dust.  When the wind is really bad the desert isn't a pleasant place to be.  Tomorrow's trek may prove to be a difficult one depending on how accurate the meteorologists are.  No doubt, Becca and I will be out there anyway.
What's this I'm looking at?

What's over there?

Tortugas and the Organs

Clouds snagged by the higher peaks

First set of Barrel twins (clones, really)

Closer to the mountains

Second set of twin Barrels

Fourth view of the mountains

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Entering Aguirre Springs National Recreation Area
If the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act eventually passes through Congress and is signed by President Obama this area will become a national monument.  For environmentalists, conservationists and nature lovers it more than meets all the requirements.  In my opinion it should qualify on beauty alone.  You can learn more about it here:

The rugged eastern side of the Organ Mountains

Thinking like a Bighorn Sheep

Scene from a Zen painting

Volcano-like mountain

Looking toward the San Andres Mountains

Along the higher reaches of the Baylor Pass Trail

Finding a place out of the wind for lunch

Pine trees cling to the rugged eastern escarpment of the Organ Mountains

Heading back from Baylor Pass

Sun and clouds work together to produce good desert light

The formation called the Rabbit Ears

Sugarloaf Peak (left)

Heading home

Where the lawman Pat Garrett had his goat ranch

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rain Day

A trail up the west face of Tortugas Mountain
It had already rained a little by the time Becca and I got on the trail, but we were fortunate not to get wet during a long weekend hike.  There were a few other outdoor enthusiasts around and about, but things really got hopping when we reached the parking area after our trek.  It may have been an organized group activity that drew so many people to Tortugas; the parking lot was packed.  In Becca's way of thinking we were getting out of there just in time.
Heavy overcast above the foothills trail

Looking back at the mountain

The threat of rain is imminent

Picacho in sunlight

Across the rugged desert floor

Huge Pencil Cholla

Beyond Tortugas, the Organ Mountains

Heading back into the foothills

Clearing skies

Full house at the Sunset parking lot

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cloudy Start

Overcast skies
Although the skies were completely cloudy when we headed out this morning, the temperature was not very cold.  The dew point was elevated, though, and we're expecting rain later this afternoon.  We did a long hike into the outback, and on the return leg we were fortunate enough to run into J.C. and his dog, Shaque.  Shaque is an old-timer--fourteen--but a real trooper.  Despite some recent health problems he still gets out to do a hike every day with J.C.
A long way to Bishop's Cap (near center)

Always attentive Becca

Nearer to Bishop's Cap

Southern section of the Organ Mountains

Little desert garden

Who's that I see?

It's Shaque

Shaque takes a stick from J.C.

Shaque is 14, but still playing with sticks

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...