Sunday, February 24, 2019

Back Towards John Krein

The weather was much better today.  We went out the desert route (turning right at the Three Wisemen) to intersect the trail (keep right at the split in the trail after you come out of the wash) with the John Krein headstone at its base.  Why?  Why is there a headstone?

Anyway, walked that trail up to Sarasota, merged with Yetman, and then veered off towards John Krein again.  We walked uphill for awhile, and then turned around.  Going back we stayed on Sarasota, turned right on the short trail that returns to the John Krein trail with the headstone.  After a bit, we then retraced our steps home on the flat desert trail.  It's a longer hike than we though it would be, close to 2.5 hours.  I'm sort of whooped.

I realize this was totally boring for all of you.  However, if I don't write the route down, I won't remember it next year.  So, there you go.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Snow Was Not in the Forecast

This is what we woke up to today.

We are not happy campers.  I'm writing this at 10:22 (mountain) and it's snowing harder.

Note the lack of any mountains in the background.

It will be interesting to see which plants survive. 

5:00 pm (mountain) Update to Post:  It's hailing like hell!  What's next?  A plague of locusts?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

We Made it to the Ridge

Yesterday was a glorious day.  We went back out towards the ridge, taking the trail that the right vertical arrow is pointing at. 

It's a vertical little trail.  Here is Jim slogging up a steep part.  I did not get any pictures of where it gets really difficult, probably due to fear of dropping the camera or falling off the hill side.

We did make it to the top of the ridge (Ringtail Ridge), and this is what we saw.  There's another hill out in the distance.

However, if you walk to the right along the ridge trail for a little bit you can see into Tucson Mountain Park. 

It would be really nice to know where this trail goes, and where it comes down off the ridge.  I've looked at the satellite images on Google Maps and can't really tell where this is and where it might be going.

Coming back down, we saw a trail going off to the right.  It's likely that it goes to that lower out cropping of rock.  That's where we were stopped the other day due to the narrowing of the trail and its total exposure.

If you look at where the arrow is pointing, you can just make out the trail.  That's the section that's about a foot wide.  We thought about walking over to see, but decided not to as we knew that getting down the hill was going to be way worse than going up it.  Those pesky loose rocks are a pain when it's really steep.

It was a good, if strenuous, outing.

So that was yesterday.  This is today.
Cloudy with periods of rain. High 54F. Winds SSW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph.
Most of the rain has gone north of us.  It's cold, so we went to the gym again.  Tomorrow we'll probably be sore and unable to easily dress ourselves.  The gym has battle ropes which are actually fun to use, and incredibly tiring.

Here is a brief sun break during which the palm trees are being battered by the wind. 

Have you seen these? We got a couple at Food City, which caters to the Mexican clientele, I've not seen them at Safeway.  They're limes, but with very low acid and they're actually sweet.  They're available in winter.  If you see them, they're really good.  They're only hardy to 50 degrees, so we will not be attempting to grow a tree.

That's it!  Hiking and complaining about the weather, with an occasional citrus thrown in.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

More Cold Hiking

Welp, we have yet another hard freeze warning for tonight.  There will probably be another one Friday and Saturday nights.  Have I mentioned that this is the WORST WINTER EVER??????  No?  Well it is.  What's made it particularly bad is the almost daily wind and the persistence of the cold temperatures.  We went to the gym yesterday, it was so cold.  That's saying something, we hate the gym.  Today it's all we can do to put our clothes on because our pecs and lats hurt so much.  Anyway we did get a hike in today, wearing ear bras and gloves.  Totally sad.

The two vertical arrows are from our last two hikes.  When it warms up a little we want to repeat the right most arrow and see if we can get on top of that ridge.  Today we got on a new to us trail and headed toward the really big rocks, pointed at by the angled arrow on the right.

On the way we saw a jojoba plant who is developing fruit.  This is a female plant.  The male plant has little yellow flowers.  The female has almost no visible flower.  Wikipedia has a good article with pictures.  If you look dead center you can see the immature fruits of the plant. 

What we thought would be a flat trail turned into an uphill trail as we approached the big rocks.  As we left the sheltered valley, the wind picked up and our discomfort increased.  We turned around and went home.  There were still chores to be done.

Again we're covering the tender plants that are not from here!

It was interesting, we saw three adults and one juvenile mule deer when we were hiking.  We later saw them in the back yard of the people hosting happy hour.  They were absolutely brazen, standing in the yard, nibbling at the new growth, and looking at the people in the house.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Angry

Well, I've been good, I've stayed off of politics, but now I have a couple of things that are just setting my hair on fire.  It's good to share.

The Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors has voted to close two coal fired plants that generate electricity; despite significant pressure from the administration to keep them open.  They're old, they've passed their expected lifespan and they are not economically viable.  Closing them will save rate payers $320M.  Among the board members appointed by the current administration, only one voted for keeping it open.  Why, you wonder, is there such a full court press from the administration to keep these plants open?  Maybe it has something to do with this.  
Murray, founder of Murray Energy and a leading donor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has been pressing the president to help prop up coal-fired plants since the beginning of the administration. Murray Energy gave $100,000 to the Trump campaign, $300,000 to the inaugural committee and $1 million to America First Action, a political action committee for the president.

In Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s first month in office, Murray presented a four-page “action plan” to rescue the coal industry. The plan said that commissioners at three independent regulatory agencies “must be replaced,” Environmental Protection Agency staff slashed, and safety and pollution rules “overturn[ed].”
For more, you can read the WAPO article.   There is also an article in a Tennessee paper that does not appear to have a paywall.  The coal guys are not going down without a fight.

Thursday the administration approved the expansion of two coal mines in Utah.  These are strip mines.  From the Salt Lake Tribune we learn that:
A $12 million project to expand a mine run by Alton Coal Development LLC will produce an estimated two tons (1,800 kilograms) of coal each year on land about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Bryce Canyon National Park and about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Zion National Park.
The other project was for lease modifications at a Sufco mine in Utah’s Sevier County in the central part of the state, which the agency says will extend the mine’s life by five years.
"American coal jobs matter," said acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in the news release. "By approving these projects today, we will ensure that these mines are operational for years to come, providing well-paying jobs and affordable energy to the people of Utah."
Tourism creates more jobs and more money than the coal industry.  I found a really well written piece on the Outdoor Adventure blog that makes this point very succinctly.
Economically speaking, coal doesn’t come close to outdoor recreation and tourism—the outdoor recreation industry in Utah dwarfs the energy industry. Coal extracted on public lands in Utah contributes $748 million a year, the Department of Interior says. The Utah Geologic Survey puts the amount at $448 million from federal lands. Outdoor recreation generates $12.3 billion—16 times that of coal extraction. Outdoor recreation supports 110,000 jobs, more than energy (18,000 jobs) and mining (32,000) combined.
Despite 280,000 critical comments about this, the Department of the Interior has decided to go through with the expansions.  It will create more pollution, put coal trucks on US 89 in a high tourist traffic area.  Coal fired plants are closing - they're losing out to natural gas.  Why on earth does the administration want to strip mine some of the most beautiful country there is.  Even if it were ugly country, strip mines are ecological disasters.

So this is one of the many things that's making me crazy.

In other news we had a decent sunset yesterday, so that was good.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

It's Good to Turn Around and Live

Today we took the trail that branched to the left.  Yesterday, we went right.  I think right might be the better of the two forks.  It was windy and cool today.  Both of us were wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts, which is something of a rarity for Tucson.  It was, however, a pretty day with clouds moving through making shadows.

Someone was nice enough to make a cairn to indicate there was a trail split.

The trail continued up.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the trail.  It was a steep little trail, and was side hill for much of the really steep part.  It kept getting more narrow, and was starting to give me the willies.  We reached this point.  I had to turn around and go back down.  Jim is looking at it contemplating his mortality.  What you can't see, because I had to retreat, is that you have to go around that outcropping and make it across a 12 inch wide piece of trail that's TOTALLY exposed.  One would have to not use the poles, face the rock and move the feet sideways.  Not today!  Falling would be fatal.

We went back down.  If you look dead center in the photo you can see the outcropping that we did not walk around.

Cactus are really tenacious.  This is a Cardon, which is a false Saguaro.  They don't grow arms.  Anyway, he's growing out of a rock.

Here is Jim, sitting on another rock.

The left arrow is where we were today, the right arrow is where we were heading yesterday.  I think next time we'll go right and try to make it to the top of the ridge.  Those trails are not side hill and aren't as willie inducing.

It was a good hike.  We're both really pleased at how many trails there are which can be reached from the house.  It the high winds don't die and the temperatures don't increase, we're never getting back on the bikes.

Update to post 3/21/19:

We went back up the left trail yesterday.  I really wanted to see the ledge and if it was passable.  It's certainly not by us.

It was hard to get decent pictures because the wind was coming around the corner so hard Jim was afraid I'd get knocked off the trail.

Falling off the ledge has the potential for a long trip down the hillside.

If you go across, this is the trail leaving.  It goes over to the other trail (right fork) which is much less fraught.

So, we've been up there twice.  We're never going across that section.  Getting up to it and then going back down is a pain in the butt due to all of the loose rocks that roll under your feet.  Pretty sure we're two and through.

Friday, February 15, 2019

New Trails with No Names

We hiked a new to us trail today.  As is the case with much of Tucson Mountain Park, it's not on the maps and doesn't appear to be named.

As we headed out we could see Little Cat (farthest right, but closer to us) and Cat Mountain (farther back).

We were headed in this direction.  Gates Pass is on the other side of the ridge.  We think that's Ringtail Ridge.

On the way up we discovered a nasty batch of Buffel Grass.  It's estimated that in 100 years the Sonoran Desert will have been taken over by this grass.  It's very disheartening.  The root system is so large it requires a caliche bar to dislodge it.

We kept going up.  It's surprising that anyone took the time and effort to construct trails here.  Part of it is a water course, but part is actually constructed.

Look on the far right and you can see Little Cat and Cat Mountains.

We gained some elevation.  The trail entered a stretch that was really steep and full of loose rocks, so we turned around.  Coming down is way harder than going up.

See the dip in the center of the picture?  We were just about to crest the ridge there when we bailed.

Coming back we saw more deer.  It's interesting how often we see deer on hikes.  The cross bow hunters are always complaining that they don't see any.  I guess they are not traveling far enough to intersect with them.  There is another fork in the trail that we want to take next time to see where it goes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The End of Opportunity

NASA has ended the Mars Opportunity mission.  The rover's last transmission was that his battery was low and it was getting dark.  For a rover whose lifespan was supposed to be ninety days, the fourteen plus years spent on Mars was a major accomplishment.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Taxes, Death and the Great Outdoors

Apparently people are beginning to file their income taxes for 2018.  MSNBC reports that 30 million Americans will owe the IRS money this year — 3 million more than before the republicans' new tax law.  Huffpost has an interesting article about the whole issue.  It was also on Yahoo news where at last check it had 13,400 comments.  There is an imbedded video in the article that's worth watching if you have the bandwidth available. 

The high points are as follows:
  • The IRS changed the withholding tables in 2018, people received slightly more money than they would have otherwise.  Many people failed to notice this (myself included) and didn't change the amounts being withheld.  Therefore, they're not receiving their usual tax refunds and in some cases will end up paying taxes for the first time.  Some people will cross the line and end up being fined for not having enough withheld.
  • There were changes to what you can deduct.  People who live in areas with high property taxes and local and state taxes are being capped at what they can deduct.  Gone is the mileage deduction for people who drive for their jobs and aren't reimbursed.  Police used to have a deduction for the cost of uniforms, guns, nightsticks and uniform cleaning costs.  Gone.  The medical deduction is gone. 
It's difficult to understand how the president and his talking heads can refer to the new tax bill as done for the middle class.  It wasn't. If you haven't done your taxes yet, gird your loins - it may be ugly.

Do you ever find yourself going through life, confident in your knowledge of how things work?  Then you find out you're wrong?  I always believed (erroneously) that if one of us died, the other would inherit the credit cards.  After all, most states are community property, right?  This started when I called the Costco Citicard to request a higher credit limit.  We had been right up against the credit limit which was impacting our FICO score.  The woman on the phone wouldn't talk to me, she had to have the permission of the primary on the card - Jim.  I put Jim on and then she would speak to me.  Out of curiosity I asked what would happen if Jim died, would they then talk to me?  Nope.  They would cancel the card in that event.  So far, for all of our cards, there is only one primary, and then there is an authorized user.  I'm prime on two, Jim is prime on two.  So, the surviving spouse will still have credit, but this just seems archaic to me.  Make sure you and your spouse have cards for this eventuality.  The other mistake I think we've made is not getting both our names of the cell phone contract, the cable contract and DISH network, as well as all of the utilities for the house.  These will be tasks for our next rainy day.

We got out for a hike this afternoon.  The day started out with gloom, but improved in the afternoon.  There were a lot of people coming up the trail from Gates Pass.  Not so much on our side of the hill.

The gray rock foreground is interesting.  I need a geology for dummies book.

That's it!  That's all I've got.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Snowmaggedon February 2019

Washington did get hit with snow.  They're really cold in Spokane with low temperatures and high winds.  This is like the bad old days.  When I moved to Seattle in 1984, winters were cold and it did snow.  Gradually it warmed up and quit snowing for years.  Our heavy winter coats gave way to a light weight fleece jacket and a wind breaker (which I wish I had kept during the purge).  Apparently winter is back!  Tucson is on a wet storm track for the next week, but it's better here than there.

Clallum County, WA.

Seattle area roads.

I guess we'll go out and brave the cloudy conditions for a restorative walk in the desert.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Murals, Cacti and Snow

Ahhhh, what a difference two days make!  We unwrapped the tender non-natives this morning and put the sheets and flannels away.  They're forecasting a low of 33 Monday night, so it all may be coming back out, but for the time being, it's out of sight.  Today it hit 70 and was quite delightful.

Yesterday we went to the Rincon Market for lunch.  For YEARS they have had a great salad bar, a steam table with cooked food ready to go, and on weekends they did made to order omelets.  You stood there and watched them cook and told them what you wanted in the omelet.  No more.  The place has been sold, and now all food comes from the menu.  You have to sit, order, wait and eat.  This will probably kill it for the large groups of cyclists who used to come in on a weekend.  I will never understand why someone buys a store with a good business plan, that is always full, and then they change it to something stupid.  So, they're dead to us now. 

Update to post:  Rincon Market was bought by the guy that owns Time Market in March, 2018.  Peter Wilke plans to bring Time Market’s attention to detail and quality of curated goods.  They're not getting good reviews.  Bad service, music is too loud to hear each other, incomplete food orders, higher prices.  Hopefully they read the reviews and react accordingly.

After that disappointing discovery we went to a high zoot plumbing store looking for a new shower head.  Nope, nothing but fancy sets costing stupid amounts of money.  We did see two new murals in the area.

This is one mural, split in two.  On the right are people wearing rabbit skins, cactus skins, hummingbirds and etc.  It's pretty cool.

On the left, more people wearing desert dweller skins.  It's very well executed, if not just a little weird.

This is our favorite.

Today we went to Home Depot and got a replacement shower head, new pruning shears and a new 16 foot extendible pole pruner.  Everything you need, and nothing you don't!  We also looked at the cactus.

I can't remember what this is called.  It looks like a grass, but has these interesting blossoms on it.  Update to post:  They're Kangaroo Paws.  They're from Australia, and would have to be overwintered inside to survive the freezing temps we sometimes get.  So, no, not going there!

A euphorbia that looks like things I have seen in sci-fi horror movies.

A member of the opuntia family.  It's a cheerful looking cactus.

And this looks like a microfiber duster.  It's also a euphorbia.  They're not cactus, but are very similar.

Seattle is expecting 7 to 8 inches of snow today, which will probably hit during the evening commute.  I got these off the local TV website this morning.  There is nothing much left at Trader Joe's.

From Google Maps, we see that traffic is indeed terrible as of about an hour ago.

I feel bad for the Seattle drivers.  It snowed when the new tunnel on 99 opened, so there wasn't much traffic.  On Wednesday the roads had cleared and they were having four mile backups.  The ventilation fans are not yet calibrated correctly, so people were smelling fumes as they sat in their cars.  It's been a tough week for moving around the area.

Representative John Dingell died yesterday.  He was the longest serving member of the House.  His seat is currently occupied by his wife.  It was previously occupied by his Dad.  He's the last of the old time FDR democrats.  Before dying, he wrote out his last words to the country.  They really bring home how rotten our political systems have become.  The op-ed can be found here on WAPO.  Here is an exerpt if you can't get past the paywall.

Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses was a common and often accepted occurrence. Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today.
Not five decades ago, much of the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — our own Great Lakes — were closed to swimming and fishing and other recreational pursuits because of chemical and bacteriological contamination from untreated industrial and wastewater disposal. Today the Great Lakes are so hospitable to marine life that one of our biggest challenges is controlling the invasive species that have made them their new home.
We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this.
And there was a great stain on America, in the form of our legacy of racial discrimination. There were good people of all colors who banded together, risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down. In their time they were often demonized and targeted, much like other vulnerable men and women today.
Please note: All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we’ve made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.
As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.