Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Great Lizard Hunt

Since our last post we have turned into field scientists. After a day off yesterday exploring the towns and running errands, we took to the sand dunes today to hunt for elusive fringed toed lizard, whose domain we are guarding here in the Coachella Valley. To do so we had to drive several miles west on I10, take a side street, park, and walk to the smaller dunes. We went with our boss, Ginny, the manager of the Center For Natural Lands Management here at the Oases. Our other companions were three guys from the state fish and wildlife. Armed with our desert hiking accroutrements, we walked across the highway and up the dunes to their study area. For three and a half hours we walked along the dunes looking for our lizards. When one was caught with the noose stick, it was measured and numbered on back and belly with permanent marker (which comes off with the next shedding). Its tail tip was snipped and preserved for future DNA testing, and two toenails clipped for futher identification. Of course all this info was recorded along with exactly where in the (scientists') grid area it was found. It was then released. Once caught they became docile and sat quietly for all of the above stated shenanigans. Once released they sped away as fast as they could, which was like a streak of lightning. These lizards and the snake in the pic were about the only wildlife we saw, excepting some grasshoppers and one teeny butterfly. We were pretty pumped about the snake. It was the first sidewinder we had ever seen in the wild. It was curled at the base of a creosote bush. We would have walked right past it but the sharp-eyed herpatologist in our group pointed it out. We saw tracks aplenty--kangaroo rat, coyote, desert fox, some kind of large beetle, various sizes of sidewinder, and of course lots of lizard tracks. Very interesting. About noon we knocked off. The guys went their way, while Ginny led us to her favorite local Mexican restaurant. While we ate, Duane and I soaked up information about the Preserve. That was it for us as scientists. Back home we are doing our things--carving and sewing Christmas presents.

Later. Louise and Duane

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The nature preserve

Looking up through the palms

The pond in the desert
Gambel quail
One of the oases
Looking away from the oasis
Today we took a hike to the Indian Palms Oasis (last two pics). This is typical of all the oases here--hidden within folds of the canyons. We walked across the desert sand and rocks so we got a good workout on our two hour, two mile walk. After our walk we stopped by the visitors' center to listen to Barb talk with visitors. Having earned our keep for the day, we retired to our air conditioning for a cool off and a cold drink. The rest of the day we goofed off. Duane watched football. I worked soduko puzzles and sewed my latest project in the afternoon. Not much happened today. Yesterday we found the Michaels and a pretty good local pizza place. I am pleased to report that we got our furnace fan fixed. Duane was finally able to knock off all the mud wasp nest. Unfortunately, our other critters are still traveling with us, although their numbers are slowly diminishing (I hope). Every once in a while a black jumping spider will quietly rapel from the air conditioner, or a web weaver will slowly drift down looking for all the world like a dust mote. They are dispached immediately. The ant colony is taking longer. I devised a plan to hurry them along to the great ant hill in the sky. I put out a dish of honey. They make their way to it like miners to gold. They line up along the inside edge of the dish, their noses in the honey and their abdomens up in the air. There they stay until they are drunk. It is quite humorous to see them stagger away, so full they can't walk properly. Unfortunately for them, disaster always strikes. Yes another uneventful day here, where wiping out ants is a diversion.
More later. Louise and Duane

Friday, September 19, 2008

At Last!

Our new office
Our new digs

At last we are back on line. We have been having trouble with our net connection--we kept getting dropped. After several hours on the phone and computer with the tech, Duane got us straightened out. Now I can type away with impunity! Here we are at our new home for the next six months. We have enjoyed our travels on the way here, except for a rather sweaty night at the BLM at Quartzsite, but not it is time to get busy again. We arrived Friday and have been aquainting ourselves with the nearby towns that run along the valley along I10. So far we have made cursory explorations of Thousand Palms, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Desert. These towns all run together with town limits marked by the names of the towns on the bottoms of the street signs. So far we have found the closest Wal-Mart, post office, church, Barnes and Nobel bookstore, and all the quilt stores. We have our priorities, you know. Tomorrow we plan to fine the Michaels craft store. Alas, no Hobby Lobbys on the west coast! Tomorrow we also plan to start aquainting ourselves with the many hiking trails here at Coachella Nature Preserve. We visited with our neighbors and fellow docents (sounds classy doesn't it). Barb and Bob have been here 5 years and will be our trainers in the welcome center. They don't hike, so we will be on our own there until the guided hikes start in October. Meantime we are to aquaint ourselves with all aspects of the 20,000 acres of our new home. Our boss Jenny is the head of the Center for Natural Lands Management, the non-profit group that owns and manages this little oasis. There are several other federal and state managers. The preserve is part of the Sonoran Desert. It's hot now, but the evenings are cool and the days will start cooling off soon. For now we go out and about in the am and try to stay cool in the afternoon. By the way, the visitors center is directly behind the coach on the other side of those palms. We scoot through the gap and come out at the back of the center.

I guess I've bored you enough for now. Louise and Duane

Thursday, September 11, 2008

views from road outside Williams
interesting corral fence flower with bug
Road to Jerome
Same road through cut
Back view of road from cut

Clarkson (left) and Cottonwood
Road to Jerome
View from old downtown Sedona
View from outside Sedona Oak Creek Canyon

Road to the top of Oak Creek Canyon
Sycamore Creek

Today was devoted to a driving tour of the national forests south of Williams. We started out looking for Bill Williams mountain. We miss it but continued on south toward Jerome. When Duane was a kid he visited Jerome, Cottonwood, and Sedona on a drive through the Oak Creek Canyon with his traveling grannie. He wanted to revisit them as an adult. The road to Jerome started out paved, then turned into a 4 wheel drive road for the last 20 miles. It twisted itself through Prescott National Forest through upland meadows, canyon pastures, hills of scrub and scree, and red rock mountains. As we neared Jerome we began the really interesting part of the trip, snaking our way around and up the mountains along a narrow dirt road perched precariously along the sides with sheer drop off and no guard rails. Awsome! Per the photo you can see the road passed through a narrow notch blown out of the top. There were several of these. We saw no one until we were on the descent to Jerome. Then we caught up to our fellow photographer/rubberneckers--one old hippie in a VW van/camper, and a couple in a Jeep Wrangler. We all stopped for an aerial view of the defunct King (gold) Mine and ghost town. We drove in for a visit, but opted not to pay to view the ghost town. The road is at the bottom of the hill. The terracing appeared to be a new road in the making.
Jerome is a tourist town perched on the side of the mountain in three terraced roads. We apparently didn't think it worth a photo. Actually, there was no good opportunity for a shot. It was mainly an 'arty' town, with little cafes and lots of little stores full of work by local craftspeople. We breezed through Clarkson and stopped at a little quilt shop in Cottonwood. Lunch was a quick Wendy burger, then on to Sedona. I got fabric in Cottonwood and at a little shop in Sedona. To Duane's shock and dismay the tiny, interesting little towns that lived in his memory were replaced by spawling modern small cities. He did enjoy the snaky drive up Oak Creek Canyon, which was the way he remembered. Our tour continued on I 40 past Flagstaff to exit 163 four miles east of Williams. There we found another dirt road that led 11 miles south through the Kaibab National Forest. We took the road til it ran out then walked 100 yds or so to the edge of Sycamore Creek. This creek meanders through 21 mile deep gorge canyon with a rim trail along the top. We saw no deep gorge, but the drive was productive, as you can see by the last two pix. So ended our loop and tour of three of the many national forests in this area.
Basta pro hoy! Louise and Duane

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Grand Canyon!

At last! I can finally say I've been there! This is Duane's fifth trip, but my first. When I stood on the edge and got my first good look, I wept. It was wonderful. We started our Grand Canyon experience in the little town of Tusayan, just south of Canyon City. Tusayan is home to the airplane and helicopter tours of the canyon. It is also the location of the National Geographic Imax theater. We viewed the 35 min film of the discovery and exploration of the Canyon, replete with some excellent reenactments of the lifestyle of the first people to live in the Canyon, the first Spanish explorers, the first white trapper/hunters, and the first geologic explorers who traveled the Colorado River from the beginning to the end of the Canyon. I must say the film was breathtaking. Literally, I forgot to breath. And I wept from the sheer beauty and grandeaur. Also the excellent music. I have to admit that the actual Canyon almost didn't live up to the film, but it was still awsome. We drove to the parking lot closest to the famous Bright Angel Lodge. We picked up the rim trail from there and walked the whole 5.5 miles to the Pipe Creek Vista, then took the free shuttle back. The trail was actually a wide paved path. The only parts of the South Rim we didn't see were the view from the last vista on the east and the 3 miles west of the Village which was closed for construction. All in all it was an experience worth waiting for. We would have liked to take a mule ride, but they were booked for the two days we planned to be here, so we passed. Tomorrow we plan to make a day of visiting the local vistas and canyons around Williams, and to visit the Oak Creek Canyon cities of Sedona, Cottonwood, and Jerome, all south of Flagstaff. On Friday we set sail for Congress--Arizona that is, and the North Ranch Escapees RV park.
That's all for now! Louise and Duane

Painted Dersert and The Petified Forrest

We left Gallup, New Mexico at about 8:00AM this morning because we had a lot planned for the day. Our first stop was at the Painted Desert welcome center where we chatted with a man that was workcamping there. We then entered the park after buying the annual National Parks pass. This is last year I have to spend the $80.00 for the pass. I turn 62 next year and price comes way down. I don't like wishing my life away but the savings will be great. The Painted Desert and the Petified Forrest National Park are connected. You enter in one park and drive through the other. Our trip through the parks took us about 5 hours with all the stops to view and take pictures. We only took one hike, about 1 mile, because we still had some driving to do. I had a heck of a time keeping Louise from picking up some of the wood lying around. The fines for taking anything from the park is real high. There is an inspection station at the exit of the park to check your vehicle for wood, but we were waved right on through. I guess we looked like honest people.
Next we had to stop at a rock shop outside the park. They had petrified wood by the tons. I ask the guy that ran the place where they get all of it. He said that the park has about 10% of the wood in the area. Whoever has the mineral rights on the land around the park can mine the wood. I ask if there was any tours for finding the wood and he said no, the cost of insurance is way to high. He said you now have to dig for the wood as deep as 20 feet because all the surface stuff is gone. Louise had coupon for a 1/2 pound of wood, so she ended up with some in the end.
After leaving the store we continued on to Williams, AZ where we will stay for a couple of nights. We will visit the Grand Canyon tomorrow. The total miles driven today was about 250, but it took us 8 hours to do it with all the stops. Depending on rather we want to return to the canyon or not will determine if stay here a few more days.
Till next time
Duane and Louise