Monday, December 28, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Slidin' on Gnus

After we explored the Ogre’s Den and the Miner’s Cave we headed on over to what is called the Marcus Landslide, one of the largest landslides in Arizona when tons of rocks just slid off the hillside above us (oh, my) onto the desert below. Enough material to fill 6 football stadiums. Here’s a picture from the side in the late afternoon sun as Gary and I approached it along the trail. I am looking away from the slide and all the slide material is on the right. Note how many boulders are on the desert floor here to the right but none to the left. Hmmm.
Let’s go through some of the facts about the landslide. Here are some of the massive boulders that came down.
The rock to the left is the ‘Submarine’ rock and the one to the right is the ‘Torpedo.’ Those who found discovered that this was a huge rock slide and studied it got to name the rocks. BTW - I’m in the picture too.
I liked these two rocks.
How did 25.8 billion pounds of massive boulders along with soil, smaller rocks and vegetation all slide down the slope and across the valley below for 1 mile in a minute at approximately 44 mph?
Here’s the previous angle of the slope. Note how steep it is - probably that is one of the main causes: massive boulders, steep slope, lots of rain.
They slid so well on what is called gnus - small ball-bearing-like bits of ground up granite. We hike on these little ‘marbles’ every time we come to this area of Phoenix to hike. These little pea-sized bits of rock are slippery and one reason why the boulders slid so far.
Here’s what it all looks like now.
So, that’s my version of the geology of the landslide. However, the story of its founding is pretty cute. Seems that two young geologists were with a group of older professorial types who got involved in a lengthy, involved discussion of something. The two young guys wandered off, bored to tears probably, and sat down on some boulders for lunch. They noticed some differences in the rocks above them and then looked at all the rocks piled at their feet. Same rocks. Wow, how did so many of these rocks get here and why are they all pointing back up the hill? Hmmm, they mused. And they exchanged ideas and, voila, they realized that an ancient landslide had occurred.

Today, not only is it a great place to hike and learn, a great place for geologists to study ancient land movement BUT a real caution: DO NOT BUILD HOMES NEXT TO STEEP SLOPES WITH LOTS OF MASSIVE BOULDERS ON THEM. Let’s build a hiking trail.

As we hiked the last 2 miles back to our car, we met up with a large family with 4 generations. They asked if we could take their picture and we walked back to our car with them. The young son was quite a talker. We learned the subjects he gets in 2nd grade and how a typical day goes. Then we played ’50 Capitals’ where we would name a state and he would tell us the capital of that state. Boy, did I louse up - I thought the capital of Maryland was Baltimore. Nope, he told me, it is Annapolis.

We got back to the trail head and said good-bye to our new friends and headed on over to the bathrooms. Not only did I learn the capital of Maryland today, I also learned a lesson I have learned many times over but sometimes forget: check the toilet paper BEFORE you sit down. Oh, darn. Luckily, I had some Kleenex in my pocket. Saved.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Ogres & Miners

Whoo-ee, today was a trifecta, a triple, a hat trick. We saw the Ogre’s Den, the Miner’s Cave and the Marcus Landslide. Pretty cool. Last hike in the AZ region for a while and we wanted to go out big. But, we’ve hiked the hikes that are do-able for us (and a 20-mile overnight backpack is not one of these things) - what can we do now? Well, I’ve got an idea. I was doing some reading and found a hike that we’ve done several times never knowing that we were passing within a few hundred yards of an Ogre’s Den. C’mon - ya gotta see that. And, close by is the Miner’s Cave. How can we pass that up? Finally we can circle around to the Marcus Landslide. Love to find those little out of the way places that we have to hunt for and just make the day’s hike just that much more intriguing. I had this description for the Ogre’s Den:

        ‘behind Tom’s Thumb on the northwest corner, under a large rock’ and this cryptic description ‘circle around Tom’s Thumb on the northwest side, take the narrow social trail to a place where 2 boulders come together.’ Not much to go on but, we’re game for the quest. I read that there was a hiker’s log book, trinkets donated to the Ogre for his good will and a scrumptious view out over the west side of the Sonoran Preserve. What more could we want: a hidden den, views, cute story and a quest.

        When we awoke, the temperature was 39 degrees. Are you sure we want to hike today? Well, neither of us was sure either but we knew that it would get warmer and - this was our last time to get Bosa Donuts for a while. So at 6:30 we were up having breakfast and getting ready. We stopped at the donut shop for our last time and said good bye and Happy New Year to the young woman who always waits on us and the table of 6 or 7 regulars we have seen every time we have gone there - over 3 years. And, we were off.

        Ooh, the metal toilet seat at the trail head is mighty cold at 9:00 in the morning. One of the great things about being a woman hiker.

We got to the top of Tom’s Thumb after much huffing and puffing. Ah, but worth every huff and every puff.
Now to our quest. The vague instructions said nothing about scrambling down a narrow crack in the rock between two ‘kissing’ boulders before finding the narrow social trail. We checked out several spots and kept clambering around the boulders and rocks and scratchy greenery until we finally squeezed between several boulders and under a mammoth rock and there it was: the Ogre’s Den with the log book, the sign painted on the wall and the trinkets. Cool.
The trinkets varied from a brightly painted Buddha, to sea shells to candy wrappers to painted rocks to bobble-heads to school pins. Whatever people had with them that they wanted to leave as a gift for the Ogre to gain his favor. And, then there was the hiking log. We see these at many places that are on difficult trails or in special places that only hikers usually access. Sign, read what others have written and enjoy being a member of a community. This log one was brand new since December 27 - obviously someone had just replaced the old one (I wonder where it is). Hey look, the third line says ‘Go Cyclones.’ That’s my school in Ames. A fellow Clone. Amazing. 2 Cyclone fans at the Ogre’s Den in 3 days.
We signed, spent a few minutes enjoying the view out of the Den and then headed back up the trail to our second quest: the Miner’s Cave.
We got back to the trail junction, found the next social trail heading up to the Miner’s Cave and met a young family with 3 eager, excited young girls bounding down the trail who were really taken with the Miner’s Cave which they had just seen. When we mentioned the Ogre’s Den, they told us that was their next goal. I gave them our meager written directions, added our personal descriptions of the trail and they were off. We followed their directions and quickly found the cave.
Tucked away under a large rock is this little gem. Now, I read that this was really not a miner’s cave but made to look like one by? who knows? But, they did a good job. Table, sand bag bed with woolen blanket, sand bags built up to block the wind, a shovel and other hardware. Now, who in their right mind, hauled these items up the Tom’s Thumb Trail to this location? Who would do this? I’m stumped. A small trinket to put in the Ogre’s Den, I can understand but a huge cumbersome picnic table?

The Miner’s Cave is hidden under one of the largest boulders on this rocky slope - right where the white dot is - the shirt of one of the next group of hikers up to the Cave.
A cool sight and great fun for our last hike in Mesa for a while. 2 goals down, one to go: the Marcus Landslide.

We like new trails, ones we haven’t hiked before, that still have some surprises for us. so far on this hike, we’ve been on trails that we’ve been on before but we then took off on several new trails. Uh, not many surprises though - mostly a flatter walk through the Sonoran desert.
We stopped to pay our respects to Lizzy, the Trail Dog who has ‘led the way for 3786 miles’. Must be a dog like Atticus in one of my favorite books: Following Atticus. Nice lunch bench in back of the sign here. Note that there are no massive boulders on the desert floor in back of me nor in the picture above. Remember that observation - for the next blog on the Slidin’ Down the Hill.
Next we headed around the trail to the Marcus Landslide. We’re not done with our day of discovery yet.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Mesa, AZ - How Low Can We Go?

I had my usual not-so-good night in the hotel. I just don’t sleep well in strange beds. Ah, well. I’ll get it back tonight. I awoke at 6:00 and could head a whishing from the other side of the room. Maybe it’s the wind. Sure enough, the wind was up to about 20 mph outside when we got up.
We got dressed and joined the rest at the hot buffet breakfast. Ummm: scrambled eggs, country fries, biscuits along with all the other typical foods at hotel breakfasts: bagels, juice, fruit, yogurt, cereal and the ever popular waffles. Pretty good and - why oh why - do we eat so much more on the road? At home a glass of fruit smoothie and a bowl of oatmeal suffices - today, well, I’m not going to list all I had breakfast. I’ll leave it at: I’ll just have a salad for dinner.
There were several TV’s in the room and here’s the program on the one I was facing - Monster Trucks. Oh, boy. I can’t think of any other program I’d rather watch at 8:00 in the morning. This will make the scrambled eggs go down much more easily.
Out on Interstate 8, boy, was the wind whipping up the desert sand. The air had a dusty yellow tint, sand fingers were blowing across the highway like snow blows across roadways in Iowa during the winter.
At one point, we were on Interstate 8 when we were caught in sand-out conditions that lasted only a few seconds but it was scary. Oh, shucks - not going to be an easy trip back to Mesa.
But then, but then, when we got through the pass in the mountains on the east side of Yuma, it cleared considerably and the trip was much easier. We were just cruisin’ along heading towards the Petroglyph site. When we got there, we noticed this huge solar panel field. Maybe I don’t get out much but I’ve never seen parabolic-shaped solar panels. Now I have, rows and rows of them. There was a tower right off the road - a real temptation. No guards, no locks on gates, no fences, no signs saying ‘No Trespassing’ and we were up that tower for the view across the field. Great views but my pictures don’t do the scope of the project justice. (Note the brown sand on the horizon in the first picture. Still blowing in Yuma. But note that there is no brown sand blowing on the left side of the second picture - towards Phoenix.)

And, across the street was a cattle confinement area. Lots of hay, lots of cows and, well, I’ll let you guess about the other prevalent item.
Our road to the Petroglyphs went right between the solar field and the cattle yard up into the hills beyond. The rocks on which the petroglyphs were pecked were pretty obvious although they are a much smaller pile of rocks that I first imagined from pictures I had seen. I thought a pile about the length of a city block but, in truth the rock pile is 20’ tall and about 400’ long. But, my, every one of the rocks was covered - as if they didn’t want to waste a spot. This is the largest known petroglyph site in the area with over 800 images pecked onto weathered basalt boulders and about 40 smaller sites in the general area.
OK, I’m sure you’re expecting a bit of history here. These petroglyphs didn’t just appear - someone had to do them. First the dates: some of the petroglyphs date from 7500 BC while others date from 1400AD. The artists came from the Hohokum civilization which migrated to this area in 300 AD from Mexico. Though they relied on hunting and gathering, they also were farmers and were known for their canals which sometimes were 10 miles long and were built in extensive networks which relied on gravity to move the water around. Pretty clever these ancient farmers were and some of their canals exist today. Luckily, someone had time to leave some exquisite art for the future to marvel at and ponder over.
There were a few panels of explanation - although no one knows why the artists drew these figures - but there were some common designs.
Now, look at the rocks and see if you can tell which group created the art. I like the lizard in the upper left here.

Notice how the artists covered almost every inch of every rock. And, hey, look at the dates on this one. Is this graffiti or is it history?
Very cool petroglyph site. Glad we stopped.
Then we took a big chance that could have turned into a big mistake. Not something that we do often. Remember, yesterday we noticed gas for $1.73 in a small town on our way down to Yuma. Yep, today that was our goal for gas today. We left the Petroglyph site, drove through Gila Bend with its many gas stations and drove on towards our goal: the $1.73 gas. We thought we could make it. We thought we had enough gas in our tank. Your question must be a variation of the following:
        Will they make it?
        How far will they get before they run out of gas?
        How far will they have to walk?
        How dumb are these two anyway?
Whew. We made it to the gas station.
Our car can take 19 gallons of gas. Gary pumped 18.97 gallons. WOW.
We won’t do that again. It took 5 years off of both of us. I now have grey hair. Ha, ha.
Saw this car on the highway. Note how small the little green bike is.
Marvelous Christmas trip. Great conversation, delicious food, a fun historical site and - monster trucks.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Christmas in Yuma

Hello everybody. We want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and we hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did. (Obvioulsy I’m really late with this blog.) We had planned to spend Christmas as we had spent Thanksgiving: in our RV with a special meal, but, before I could even plan some special meal, some friends of ours invited us to spend Christmas with them, in their RV. There was just one catch: their RV was in Yuma, a 3-hr drive away. Now, 3 hours really isn’t much but - then we would have to drive back. Hmm. 6 hours. But, our friends were definitely worth it and we accepted.

But, then we began to noodle out how to do this.

        Of course, we could just drive 6 hours. Hmmm, not our cup of tea.

        Should we leave our current campground early and drive the RV down and then just hang out on the desert? Nah - why do that when we have a perfectly good place here in Mesa with full hook-ups, lots of places to hike and - well there are lots of reasons why this idea didn’t end up as a winner

        Well, how about driving to Gila Bend in the RV, parking it and then driving to Yuma? Huh? How does that make sense?

        Ah - I’ve got it: let’s take a VACATION, drive to Yuma, stay overnight in a motel and drive back on Saturday, stopping at the Petroglyph site outside Gila Bend on the way back? Hmmm, let’s work on this idea.

How often do we take a vacation? You know, time away from home (which, in our case, happens to be our RV.) People who live in RV’s don’t take ‘vacations’, they just drive to the next location. But - they’re still in their home. What kind of vacation is that?

We have a winner!!! And I set about getting a hotel room. My way is to use Priceline. I’ll have to admit that we usually don’t take vacations in hotel rooms so my knowledge of how to go about it might be really obsolete these days but I like Priceline over the other sites I’ve used because there is the element of suspense. After you’ve chosen the area and the star quantity you want in a hotel, you make your bid, give them your credit card info and they the little ball spins and maybe some hotel will accept your bid and - maybe not. Not only do I get a room for half-price but I’ve got the cute little element of suspense all added in. A fun little game. But, that’s just me.

So, I went onto Priceline, saw what the prices were for hotels in Yuma, the star quantity, some details and the customer ratings. OK, looks like $69 is what we might spend on a Best Western with 4 star-reviews. Then I looked off to the side and saw this little box off to the side that said:


Sounds like my kind of deal. No bidding and no suspense but, what the heck. So, I clicked, gave our credit card info and voila, the hotel that accepted us for $49 was - Best Western. Same hotel, $20 savings.

Great deal.

So, today we got up at 7:00, scurried around to get the last of our packing down, had a quick, very small breakfast (we know how well Shirley and Jerry cook) and we were off. Beautiful day for a drive: sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and - LOOK - no traffic. Well, of course, it’s Christmas Day. Look at this picture of route 60 through the heart of the valley here - hardly anyone.


Usually it’s bumper to bumper at 65 - 75 mph. Usually there are lights at the ramp to allow one at a time to enter the highway. Usually, there are 2 lanes of cars on the entrance ramp waiting for their light to change. Usually. Not today. We’ve almost got the highway to ourselves.

We drove through the small town of Maricopa, south of Phoenix and noticed that the price of gas was $1.73. Note to selves: let’s stop here on the way back. We noticed massive solar fields and several massive cow lots on our way. Note to selves: let’s stop for pictures on the way back.

We arrived in Yuma about 11:00 and hugs all around. We see Shirley and Jerry one month a year when we are all in Iowa. Shirley and I worked together for 8 years, we bought RV’s the same year, we retired the same year and went full-time almost the same year. We all return to Altoona, IA in September after our last years journeys and before our next years journeys. Family, annual medical appointments and a return to the familiar are what draw us back. And, that’s it. We talk all the time but never see each other.


What fun to see each other after 3 months. And, Gary and I know how good the meal will be. Pork roast from the grill, potato casserole with buttered corn flakes on top, hot rolls with home-made apple butter and corn. I think I’ve listed it all. Afterwards, they gave us a tour of the foothills section of Yuma, we returned and - OMG - they asked if we wanted dessert: Oreo cookie crust, strawberry fluffy filling on top, and crushed candy canes with a peppermint mint on top. If you think that Big Gar and I will turn those down - you aint’ been readin’ the blog.

We had a great time with them. But, it was getting late, the temps were turning cooler and the sun was falling behind the mountains. Time to head over to the hotel. We arrived, checked in, toted all to our room and then walked back over to the office for a small bowl of tomato soup which they had in a crock pot by the front desk. Now, I’m sure it had been there for a while but, it was so nice and hot. We were very full when we arrived but a small bowl of hot soup just hit the spot.

Oh, yeah, so did the cookie.

Time for showers. I was sitting in bed reading after my shower when the phone rang. Huh? Who knows we’re here? Who would call us on the hotel phone? I almost didn’t answer but was too polite and intrigued not to. It was the front desk asking if everything was ok and if we needed anything. Nope - but thanks for asking. A nice touch.

But, of course, it was Christmas and lots of families were at the hotel - I think they were sitting right outside our room talking and laughing loudly - until 11:00. Well, they were actually around the pool which was one flight down below us but they sounded like they were pretty close. Every now and then they would quiet down and we’d think they had gone to bed but - no - they were soon back at it.

We don’t go to sleep until 11:30 so it didn’t bother us much but others? I guess no one complained.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Lawn Chair Drill Team

I haven’t mentioned the Christmas parade we had through the resort yesterday. Can’t omit this. Especially the lawn chair drill team. Several days ago we heard some male voices chanting some marching song. We looked out and there were 6 guys with lawn chairs going through their paces - and we knew what they were practicing for: the resort parade.

Here they are going through their routine. I wish I could have some sound with this, the military marching chant they shouted as they marched through the resort. They stopped at several places to go through their routine. Here they are in a wave-like motion swinging their chairs over their heads.


Then they pushed them out in front of them


And, finally, they placed the chairs on the ground and sat down. End of the act.


Cute routine and a real crown pleaser.

By the way you can see that we had quite a rain storm yesterday evening and night. They had to work hard to execute their routine in a dry place.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Hikin' in the Rain

Hey, who hikes ‘sissy’ hikes? We’ve held off hiking for a bit since Gary twisted his hip wrong and has a bit of a hitch in his step. It hurts to twist but he can walk straight so we can get our daily walk in. It’s been getting better and finally hasn’t hurt for a day or so - and he thinks he can hike. I planned a short hike which Mr. Macho called a ‘sissy’ hike but that was what I planned for us. Believe you me, there are no ‘sissy’ hikes in this world.

Unfortunately the day we chose was supposed to be cooler and rainy - just later in the day - we’ve got enough time to get our hike in.

        gloves                check

        hat                       check

        warm jacket        check

        donuts                double check - with a coupon we found in the local newspaper: 2 for 1. One of the other coupons is buy a dozen and get 6 more. Tempting - but who can eat 18 donuts? Don’t answer that. I don’t want to hear your comments.

We got to the trail head, started up and got to our junction. Decision time: left up to a short pass and then down the other side and back to the trail head. OR - straight ahead to a much higher pass, down to a valley and up to another pass then down to the trail head: 10 miles and 2000’ . Guess which one we took.? Yep, we took the long hike.

On our way up we met an ‘older’ couple coming down - on mountain bikes. Late 60’s just like us. WOW, good for them. I’ve never seen a woman over 24 on a mountain bike and she was going like mad down the rocky, ledgy trail. Over the rocks, around the boulders, through the curves and - luckily she stopped when she saw us.

We saw this massive hole in the trail and can’t imagine what animal made this burrow in the ground. I’m not putting my hand anywhere near this hole.
As we were heading down from the pass, we noticed that there were dark spots on the rocks, our glasses and on our jackets and the trail was wet dirt. Hey, it’s only noon. What gives? Ah. well, 5 miles ahead to the trail head, 5 miles the way we came back to the trail head. 6 of one, half dozen of the other - why not keep going?

No matter how many times we take a trail, we notice new things on it. Today we both noticed this silhouette in the rocks. I thought it looked a bit like Abraham Lincoln while Gary was sure it was an Indian chief.
No one else on the trail. I wonder why. We got to the second pass and took the obligatory picture by the sign.
Note how misty it is as we look each direction over the pass.
As we headed on down towards the trail head, we met 3 individual hikers, all guys, all, bundled up from the drizzle. the further we descended, we noticed that the rocks had no spots, our glasses were drying up and the trail was dry dirt. The lower we got the clearer and lighter it got. Welcome to the mountains, Nancy.

But, we turned to look back up to the pass - still in the mist, looks like a cloud is over it.
Quicker hike than usual: that rain pushed us fast (who wants to enjoy a soggy bite to eat on a wet rock in the rain?) and we enjoyed the challenge of going faster than the last time we took this hike. Looking for challenges. At one point I looked at the top of the pass and decided that I wanted to make it without stopping - even once. Luckily there were some well placed flatter spots where I could catch my breath. Whew.

Fun hike and not too much rain, just a mild drizzle. But we won’t have out usual apres’ hike treat: cold soda. Maybe a hot cup of coffee.

Mesa, AZ - Am I Behind or What?

Maybe you’re wondering why I haven’t put any blogs out recently. Well, we’ve just got a new piece of software and both of us are trying desperately to learn it. We had a marvelous piece of software for our photo collection, an Apple product that went perfectly with our Apple laptops. Well, you know how software companies design a piece of software, support it for a while and then decided that they want to go in a different direction - and they stop supporting that software. You now have a choice: continue to use that software knowing that if anything wrong happens - you’re out of luck. Or, you can buy some new software, convert all your work to that software and cross your fingers that this company supports it for ever. Well, we’ve now converted to new software, have imported all 47,000+ photos into that and are now learning how to use it. 

Meanwhile, I really couldn’t do much with my blog since I didn't have access to any pictures as Gary was transferring our collection - which took a bit more time than we could ever imagine. Then, when we got the photos in the new program, I had forgotten where I was: blog, pictures - where am I? Well, that’s not unusual. But, now, I’ve got blogs written, pictures chosen and just have to put them together. But - it’s time to get the RV ready to move on down the road so I’ll publish this blog and hope I can get the others out soon. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mesa, AZ - Hole in the Rock

One of our favorite festivals is the Native American Art Festival at the Pueblo Grande in December. We’ve been every time we’ve been down here. Beautiful art work from jewelry to statues, to rugs, to paintings and pottery and clothing - you name it, they had it here. And, then there was the entertainment. We were always mesmerized by Derrick Suwaima Davis who is a champion hoop dancer and his every move showed why.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to count his hoops they are moving so fast - how did he ever emerge from this bunch of hoops? The last time we went I succumbed and bought a small Navajo rug. Pretty cool and a great addition to our RV decor.
Today, we didn’t find as many artists as usual - probably since Tempe, Mesa, Fountain Hills and Scottsdale all have had art festivals recently. And these are just the ones I know about. Plus, it was cool and not so sunny. Too bad. The artists wait all year for this and the weather turns bad. But still there were lots of artists and we enjoyed walking among all this beautiful art.
They always have entertainment and this time they had a violinist. Very avant garde.
Afterwards - well, we’ve got to walk somewhere. Why not Papago Park about 4 miles to the east? There is the famous Hole in the Rock which we’ve never seen. Cool hike and, since it was a Saturday, there were oodles of others scrambling all over the rock but everyone was great about getting in line for a family picture in the hole.
Great views over the city of Phoenix.
Here’s Gary looking for the nearest ice cream shop.
After we scrambled, we began our walk around the park. Nice desert park with red rocks, nice trails fit for families and picnic areas scattered around. We did see this sign and wondered where the bees were. None were swarming around us and we couldn’t hear any at all.
Then we looked up into the rocks above us and saw this.
Now I have never seen a bee hive quite like this. I thought they looked like this. Ha, ha. No, I didn’t think this was how they looked but I haven’t seen those pancake shaped things.
And, now that we have, we’re scurrying away from this area and heading back to the car.
Fun day filled with varied activities.