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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Early Monsoon Season

Back behind the Tortoise
We had a tremendous hail storm late yesterday afternoon, followed by an incredible cloudburst, and then another hail storm with even bigger stones.  (See video below, ignore nasally voice.)  This morning the air was thick with humidity, and it felt like mid-July Monsoon season in the northern Chihuahuan Desert.  Nevertheless, there were plenty people out and about.  We ran into a guy with a black year-old Berger Picard dog (aka Picardy Shepherd) a beautiful French breed that nearly went extinct after both world wars, and is now quite rare.  I think I've only seen one other years ago.  We also bumped into a gentleman and his three dogs who we've encountered before.  Becca and all the canines got on swimmingly.  Then when we were nearly finished with our hike we ran into a couple of guys and a dog from the large Search and Rescue training operation underway on the Monte Vista side of the mountain.  We only said hello to one man because the other was busy putting his dog through training exercises.  Quite an eventful, long hike for us today.
Becca on the trail around the mountain

Becca in the shade, Packrat with his new Armachillo shirt

Becca spots something we don't see

Far point of today's hike

Dr. K and Becca

Search and Rescue training exercise with search dogs and handlers

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Top Gun

This morning something happened that never had happened to me before:  a hummingbird flew full speed directly at my eyes before pulling up at the last millisecond, barely avoiding plunging into my face like a dart into a dartboard.  It just cleared the top of my head, and the whole thing transpired so quickly all I could do was say "Wow!" which caused Becca to look at me like I was crazy.  I've had hummingbirds fly close before; sometimes they'll zoom in at you, stop in a hovering position to check you out, and then zip off again.  But nothing like the crazy maneuver this morning.  Perhaps it was out drinking late last night, and what I was dealing with was a hungover hummer.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Frisky Friday

Early on the trail
Now that school is out I find there are a lot of young people on the mountain early, usually walking in groups of two to five, making a bit of noise--as young people often do--and just enjoying themselves under the warm desert sun.  It's nice to see kids having a good time exercising in the world of nature.
Getting closer to sunlight

There's the sun

Climbing higher into the Tortoise's shadow

Bishop Cap on the horizon

Looking out toward the Organs

Acacia is blooming everywhere

The French make awesome perfume from Acacia flowers

View across the desert

Torrey Yucca with fruit

Becca loves her hikes in the desert

Heading back to the mountain

Getting pretty far ahead . . .

. . . on this trail

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Siestas and Shade Breaks

A mid-afternoon nap at our place
Becca and I took a long hike west of the Tortoise this morning, a trek of several hours.  We saw, perhaps, four or five other outdoor enthusiasts on and about the mountain, though we had no direct encounters with any of them.  Becca and I like it that way.  Hope that doesn't make us sound like misanthropes.  (Dr. K is sure to pop up and confirm my misanthropy.)  :)
Looking back toward the Sunset Parking lot

A large mass of Prickly Pear Cactus

The "pears" are still green

Happy on the trail

Heading down the single-track

Long expanse of desert between here and the Organ Mountains

To the southwest

A shady break while heading back in

Becca's favorite Ocotillo has yet to leaf out

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hump Bump

Just west of the Tortoise
I was surprised by the number of outdoor enthusiasts around the mountain this morning; perhaps some people are taking an extra long Memorial Day weekend holiday.  We ran into one woman mountain biker who said of Becca--because she had obediently stayed at the side of the trail--"Smart dog."  Another woman (who we'd talked to a few times before) approached with a brown-and-white Border Collie.  Becca got along just fine with the other dog, who had a very calm demeanor.  That's it:  a good long hike two-thirds of the way around Tortugas and back.
On the road around the mountain

Ear veins

Something of a Crab Nebula cloud

Behind Tortugas Mountain

Where the trail behind the mountain zigs and zags

Becca on break next to a large Little-leaf Sumac

Look carefully and you'll see a baby bunny's eye

Love birds

Ripe fruit on a Prickly "Pear" Cactus

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dangerous Sights and Sounds

Cactus Wren
This is the worst time of the year (rattlesnake season) to daydream while hiking.  A suspicious shape will catch your attention, and for a moment your adrenaline will flow until you realize you're looking at a stick.  Later, while not attending to the here-and-now you may be frozen in your tracks by a rattling sound that makes your think "Rattler!" when, in fact, it's nothing but a cicada in a bush.  These innocent sights and sounds will convince you to pay more attention while trekking in the spring, summer and early fall.
Becca in "kill a fly" mode

Loggerhead Shrike

Spotting an insect?


Mesquite Tree just west of Tortugas

Not much of a shade break

Getting going again

The distant Organs

Soaptree Yucca flower stalks

Sometimes a shape will catch your eye and bring you up short

Ocotillos and Yuccas

Catclaw Acacia in bloom

Strawberry Pitaya are blossoming again

A cicada can sound very much like a rattlesnake

About a quarter mile from the trailhead

Desert Life

1st 2:  Willow in yucca shadow It was so windy and the air was so bad this morning that Dr. K, Willow and I did only our regular hike. Not s...