Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spring Things

They tell me it's spring.  In fact, two days ago was the FIRST day of spring, meaning we should look for warmer weather.  The weather guessers were correct.  It's been absolutely gorgeous here with temps in the 70's.

That being said, I guess it's time to get to work outside.  But first, I've been climbing Mount Whitney every morning, a feat that has me falling asleep WAY too early every night.  With all the ads on TV about working out 14 minutes a day, I decided to give it a shot.

Truthfully, my treadmill won't go up quite that high, but it sure feels like it when you are gasping for air.  I was hoping to GAIN energy, but it just seems to make me fall asleep.  Probably not a bad thing considering the trains.

Anyway, my first task of the day was to spray the entire outside with Home Defense.  I've no idea if this is comparable to Pest Control services or not, but it sure seems to work in California.  I've killed tons of black widow spiders outside and have never found one inside.

I checked into hiring a service, but they were ridiculously expensive at $100 a month with a 13 month contract required.  Seriously???  As an added incentive, they said German cockroaches were on the rise and if I shopped at any Thrift Stores or grocery outlets, I better be prepared to be overrun when they came home in my purchases.  WOW ... that's a new tactic I hadn't heard before!!  The answer was still NO.
With that done, it was time to mow the lawn.  Thankfully the previous owners left their electric lawnmower.  Electric as in you need an 80 foot extension cord in order to use it.  You and I both know that some day I'll run over that baby and shock myself silly, but it's all I have.
Not a really great lawn .... what can I say, it's in the desert .... but the puppies love it.  Spring is also the time to cut back on water so it doesn't grow too much.  I'd rather not have snakes hiding in the grass upon my return.
Spring also calls for barbecues.  It's almost time to hit the road again so I decided to barbecue a chicken since I won't have room in the freezer.  My first try at this was a BIG hit!!  My second, a BIG FLOP when the gas canister ran out of fuel.  
So here we are with the third try.  It looks nice and the temperature was an acceptable 165, but I think I should have left it a little longer.  It was mighty tasty, tender and juicy, but a few more minutes would have helped make the skin crispier.  I can only thank George from Our Awesome Travels for posting his recipes.  Winner winner ... chicken dinner!!
Sadly it's time to begin packing again.  Lucky for me, this time only requires about twelve trips to and fro.  A few clothes, the puppies and of course Jonathan, along with provisions are all that's required.  No worries though ... there's still time for one more quilt show and one more fabric run.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cactus Critters

Just driving through Saguaro National Park (the one furthest east), you're liable to miss the best part.  There are sweeping landscapes and beautiful vistas, but what captures MY attention are the critters.

By the way, falling asleep for ten minutes, waking up and eating a two inch square piece of peanut brittle right before you go to bed is NOT a good idea.  You know, just in case you weren't aware of that fact.  It keeps you up for hours.  UGH!!
Back to the park, as you drive through, look for odd shaped appendages on the tall cactus.  You will sometimes find them to be birds, usually hanging out near holes (about the size of a baseball) in the cactus.   That is if the guy shuts off his diesel truck engine.  I had to look close, but I think this is a Gila Woodpecker.
Amazingly, the hard brown spiky branches of the ocotillos have leafed out to a wonderful color of green, atop which you'll find red flowers.  It must be spring!!
See what I mean about odd appendages?  They hang up and out instead of being rounded like cactus nubs.  Gila Woodpeckers flourish among the sharp spines, making their nests in the holes.  Cactus spines seem to keep the predators at bay.
Pretty soon he came around towards the hole and I snapped a few more pictures.  Yup ... I'm stopped in the middle of the one lane, one way road, hanging out the door of the Jeep.  Those cars behind me just had to wait.  Since he was in the shade, I had to lighten this image quite a bit so he could be seen.
And yet another.  If you just hang out awhile and look, you'll see lots of critters.  You probably don't want to hear there are 36 reptile species, including of course rattlesnakes, but also tortoises, several variety of lizards and coral snakes.  YIKES!!
Mammals include cougar, bobcats, deer, coatis, cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits, just to name a few.  If you want to see more animals, come to the park really early in the morning or about four in the afternoon and hang out.

I only saw one example of a crested (or cristate) saguaro, almost at the end of the drive near the picnic area.  Scientists disagree on why this happens.  Could be a big freeze or could be a lightning strike.  No one knows, only that they are a rare sight indeed.
Towards the end as you drive up the mountainside you will come to Javelina Rocks where obviously the javelinas hang out.  I didn't see any.  All I saw were ten or so people climbing all over them and throwing pieces to the desert below.  My HEY, DON'T DO THAT, was met with grumbles, but at least they quit.
I actually tried hard NOT to find any snakes or gila monsters and succeeded in my quest.  I think there is probably too much traffic in this area, especially during the day.  Plus it's still a little cold at night.  Late in the warm afternoon however, watch where you step!!
It was a very pleasant drive around the park trying to find baby saguaro and some critters of the desert.  Next time I'll take that hike to the petroglyphs.  

Since yesterday was the first day of Spring, I did lots of SPRING things and made lots of phone calls.  Details to follow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

RMD ..... TMD

What in the world is that you ask?  You're not alone .... I thought the same thing.  If you are driving down Highway 10 to Tucson Arizona, you'll see Saguaro National Park.  Pretty amazing that a species of cactus has it's own park, and in fact, has TWO parks.

I just threw this image in for the color.  This is sunrise in Tucson.
At any rate, back to the Saguaro parks.  Saguaro's only grow at specific elevations.  The Hohokam Indians found that elevation to be the perfect place to grow food for survival when they lived here up until about 1450.  

In 1692 non-natives moved in when the San Xavier Mission was built.  When Arizona became part of the United States and the Homestead Act was passed in 1862, followed by the railroads in 1880, this area began to see lots of development.  Here's a nice picture of the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson.  
In 1933 local publisher Frank Hitchcock convinced Herbert Hoover to create the Saguaro National Park east of Tucson, calling it the Rincon Mountain District (RMD).  This is the one I drove through.
In 1961 President John Kennedy added another 16,000 acres of the Tucson Mountain District (off Highway 10).   So now you have RMD ... Rincon Mountain District and TMD ... Tucson Mountain District.  Least I think that's how it went.  Pretty confusing if you ask me.
This one East of Tucson is not near as well known, nor as well traveled as the other.  There are lots of hiking trails if you are interested and picnic tables where you can lounge away the afternoon.  This is another GO EARLY place.  It's much more relaxing to drive through this park (with stopping points along the way) when it's quiet.  Don't be the guy who never shut off his old, extremely noisy diesel truck.  It disrupted the whole ambiance.
Saguaros grow at an exceptionally slow rate.  The one above is a baby.  This one just beginning to sprout arms is from 50-70 years old.  They may live as long as 200 years and are considered mature at about 125.  
There's no rhyme or reason why they all grow so differently.  Some have short arms, some have long arms that hang down, apparently all depending on the amount of water available.  It's safe to say no two look alike.
Here's a baby just getting a start and splitting it's ribs.  I was hoping with all the rain we have had they would be blooming, an amazing thing to see.  The flowers open in the morning and close at night, but alas, it's just too early in the year.  
If you want to see petroglyphs, head out the Signal Hill Trail.  Unfortunately, I didn't get the memo.  Maybe next time.  Saguaros absorb water, actually expanding their girth, then using the water as necessary to survive.  Natures canteen.  
Here's a couple of happy campers!!  If you drive by the picnic tables, take a look at the rock work.  There's CCC again, building the infrastructure in 1933-41.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't get a 25 year jail sentence if you cut one down, but it IS considered a class four felony.  Harming one, or accidentally knocking one over will get you a stiff penalty.

Next up ... the critters that live in and around the saguaros.  Once the guy in the truck left, I could actually hear what was going on around me.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Back At The Hideout ......

The REAL story ...... In April of 1887 there really was a holdup of the 20-passenger train near Pantano.  You've probably heard of it.  Wells Fargo Messenger Charles Smith barricaded himself behind the locked doors of the express car.

The bandits were having none of that, so they forced the engineer to carry heavy explosives back to the car and threaten to blow everything up, including Charles.  He opened the door.  The bad guys uncoupled the engine along with a few cars and steamed off towards Tucson, leaving the passengers stranded.

Once they found all the money, they jumped off, put the engine in reverse and sent it steaming back into the desert.  They got away with some cash, but most of it was still sitting in the express car stove where Charles had stashed it.

Caving can be dark and dangerous, especially when it comes to finding your way out.  I truly can't imagine those bandits skinnying through tiny holes trying to escape the underground.  Solomon Lick just used his miners lamp to find the witch and followed her big nose to the cave entrance.
On August 10, 1887 ... same train, same robbers, same Charles Smith, only this time they booby trapped the rails with dynamite and sent the engine flying off the track onto it's side.  Charles refused to open the doors again, so they blew it open and beat him up until he opened the safe.
The Sheriff, Yuma Indian trackers, the calvary and even Wyatt Earp tracked them to the cave, but the bandits were long gone with the loot, having escaped in a gully washer rain storm.
As to all the money that was stolen from the trains, Wells Fargo remained tight lipped, not wanting to really let anyone know, since it might cause their customers to lose faith.  

So is there gold still buried in Colossal Cave?  Probably not.  Solomon Lick only found bat guano.  In 1905 he built a tunnel 82 feet long and set in rails as he extricated every bit of guano he could find.  They say it made great makeup since it had good sticking qualities.  Seven carloads later, it was gone and the cave abandoned.
In 1935 with the New Deal for unemployment, the Civilian Conservation Corps was established.  I'm not sure what kind of "pull" the owners had, but a headquarters was set up at La Posta Quemada Ranch and they went to work on the cave.  

Living in tents, the First Company 858 worked in the cave and built the Army barracks that the Second Company lived in.  The Second Company built the rock building that surrounds the cave entrance.  It is interesting to note that their diet consisted almost exclusively of beans, as reported in their Newsletter they printed entitled The Cave Man.

Speaking of which, this is the first MAN CAVE.  In the summers when it was so terribly hot, the local ranchers would congregate here on the floor of the cave where they played poker day after day.  Even with 118 degrees outside, the cave remained a pleasant 70 degrees.
Looking for an interesting place to get married?  How about up these stairs to the Altar.  Yes you really can!!
I think while the CCC guys worked, they also played a little.  There are several instances of holes in the rock that don't exactly look like Mother Nature's handiwork, including this face that I truly didn't see until I checked the pictures.  I was just taking images of the holes in the rock.
What they DID do is build all the walkways and steps throughout the cave.  Not highly trained, you will find them to be quite uneven in places.  Grab the handrail whenever possible.  When I asked how they got all this rock and concrete INTO the cave, the answer was shown to us.  This is the bottom of a building located half inside the cave and half out.
All the rock and concrete came down through this elevator shaft to the bottom of the cave.  These guys really worked hard for their beans, because it was all carried in a wheelbarrow and hand set.
The bad news was that when done, it was time for the war to break out.  Anyone who had signed on the dotted line to work with the CCC was instantly conscripted into the Army, where they probably had to eat even MORE beans.

So if you're out and about in the Tucson area, check out Colossal Cave, if only for the bandit and robbery history.  With no other way to make money around here in the old days, there was lots of stealing going on.  Maybe you'll even be the lucky one to spot the hidden gold in the cave.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Train Robbers!!

If you are looking for a caving partner, I am NOT the one.  I've suffered from claustrophobia ever since I was a kid and crawled into our Church's drainage pipe while it was under construction.  It was not a good thing.  Still, I'm fascinated by what lies under ground, and so a trip to Colossal Cave southeast of Tucson was in order.  Little did I know the history I would find.
This is actually a 2400 acre park including the historic La Posta Quemada Ranch where you can ride horses, picnic and maybe even eat a chuck wagon dinner.  Now listed on the National Historic Register, I think it is privately owned, but don't quote me on that.  
Discovered by Soloman Lick in 1879, the inside temperatures, unlike most caves, remain at 70 degrees.  Leave your coat at home.  The source of water that melted the limestone creating this cavern, disappeared eons ago, making it a DRY cave.  Solomon looks like he was a "jaunty" kind of guy.   
The views from atop the hill are amazing.  Definitely go EARLY in the morning and make reservations if there are more than one of you.  Parking is at a premium since this is also surrounded by hiking trails.  Yes, the road is terrible, but it's good driving practice to see if you can miss all the potholes.
Let me just say it's DARK in there.  Yes, there is a lighted pathway, but the lights are only every 30-40 feet.  Bring a flashlight, which I did not.  
I think the tour lasts about an hour and I saw something about 363 steps.  Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair access, and in fact you should be in kinda sorta good shape.  
The local Hohokam and Apache tribes used the cave until around 1450 AD.  You can still see the smoke on the ceiling just beyond the entrance.
In 1884 four bandits held up a mail train near the tiny town of Pantano.  They absconded with $72,000 in gold and currency.  Nice haul, right?  With Sheriff Bob Leatherwood in hot pursuit, they found and took refuge in this cave thinking they were safe for sure.
Unfortunately for them, the Sheriff was a good tracker and followed them right to the door.  He decided, as any good Sheriff worth his salt, to starve them out.  After all, they had no water or food with them, just $72,000 worth of treasure.  
Not willing to die without spending their loot, the bandits were able to find a way out by watching the breeze blow their match flame, or so they say.  Two weeks later, the Sheriff, still sitting outside the cave, got notice the men were living it up in Wilcox, bragging about how they got out the back door.
The Sheriff hightailed it over to Wilcox where he shot three of the four, sending the last guy Phil Carver to prison.  Then he commenced to searching the cave for the money.  They found the campfire, some clothes and even the back entrance, but never did see any of the cash.
Eighteen years later when Carver got out of the Yuma Prison, he headed straight for the cave, sidestepping the Sheriff, and supposedly left several empty mail bags as he rode off into the night.  That's a really good story, right?  But it may not be exactly right.
True, in 1887 there was a train holdup with lots of explosives, but the bandits didn't get away with all the money.  It seems many bandits used the Mountain Springs Ranch (La Posta Quemada) as their headquarters during their stealing years.  There were many more holdups, but I'll tell you about them tomorrow.  Otherwise, you'll be reading this at 10:00 tonight!!

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Happy St. Patrick's Day!!  I hope you get your green on so you don't get pinched today.  Where in the world did all that come from?  It has a lot to do with politics and leprechauns.

The history of wearing green is connected to a series of revolutions that took place in Ireland in opposition to the English Crown.  We understand that, right?  Interestingly enough, BEFORE the revolution, light blue was the color of Ireland and St. Patrick.

Chicago would have to spend less money dying it's river BLUE instead of GREEN if that was still the case.  To make it even more confusing, if you were Catholic, you wore green.  If you were protestant, you wore orange.  It seems they couldn't decide on the color of revolution, but in general, green meant independence.
Going back even further, the REAL reason you wear green is because it makes you invisible to leprechauns.  You weren't aware of that??  If you do NOT wear green, they will be able to see you and thereafter, PINCH you just as a reminder they are there.  In my younger days, I didn't mind getting pinched at ALL!!
When I was working for a living, our County offices had a St. Patrick's Day luncheon.  No green beer, but they did have green punch.  I thought how funny it would be to have a huge bowl of green potato salad.  I worked all night and made my best version, throwing in a few drops of green food coloring into the mayonnaise dressing.  It was gorgeous if I do say so myself.  I thought THIS is going to be fun!  

Not so much fun after all.  Even though I KNEW it was regular potato salad, my brain couldn't get past the green color.  It kept expecting a different flavor.  I wasn't the only one either.  It seems no one could get past the vibrant green color so no one ate it.  I was stuck with green salad for about seven days that I had to eat with my eyes closed.  I'm pretty sure the last of it was buried in the cemetery.
So wear green of some kind or other so you are invisible and have a little green beer along with some corned beef and cabbage.  Let's help the Irish celebrate their independence!!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Take A Hike and Company

This is my big beautiful back yard.  I don't often hike through it since there are no trails other than game trails, which are pretty much on the small side for me.  Trying to clear a trail from here to there can be rather prickly.  It's just not going to happen without WAY too many cactus needle sticks.
It did allow me to get a little closer to the trains.  When I heard this one coming, I tried to get up close and personal, but the spikes on these small scrub trees are over an inch long.  OUCH!!
I found lots of animal tracks, including coyote and javelinas ... and I found many very healthy fishhook cactus.  Perfect for Indian sewing needles, these babies are stiff as a board and SHARP!
With all the rain lately, many have begun to bloom.
The ocotillo are leafing out magnificently, all of which are causing me sneezing fits every morning.  Didn't they used to send people to the dry desert to get RID of allergies?
Not the best of images, but this beautiful hummer sat in this tree for several minutes posing for me.  He was VERY far away, but even so, his plumage totally stood out.  They all look black until you see them in the sunshine.
An hour or so later, it looked like this with more rain clouds coming in.  
That's when the Westerfields came to see my new place.  Full timers for many years now, Barbara and Tom are the ones who took me under their wing as we drove to Maine and back.  As usual, I was too busy talking to take pictures, so here's one of Barbara and I in Albuquerque.  Unfortunately, all my other pictures are on the other computer at home.  :-(
They brought some great smoked salmon snacks and I picked up a pizza, which we took to the Chance house.  Time flies when you're having fun and in no time I had to leave.  The puppies haven't been quite up to par, meaning I really didn't want to clean my couch AGAIN!!  Yeah, that was a mess!!

Our beautiful weather has chilled down again, with clouds and rain in the forecast.  I think I'll spend the day watching movies Barbara brought for me and snuggle with the puppies.