Monument Lizard Hike

Hey! Guess what folks, — with a little help from the Internet and my luck in  stumbling across some icons I needed, I have figured out how to put fotos into the new block-editor blog software that WordPress forced upon me.  So here, finally, is the blog of a hike a group of us took this past Monday.

On September 14, 2020 Gene Adkins led us on a loop hike in the Prescott National Forest.

Gene had an interesting license plate holder

At the trailhead Gene spotted a gentleman just returning from a hike.  Gene stepped over and asked the man a question about the trail.  The gentleman picked up a stick and drew the loop trail, including intersections with unmarked trails. 

I wondered how this hike was going to go.

The path was a multi-use set of “trails.”  We frequently walked on paths that were deeply eroded due to tires and possibly horses’ hooves.

Monument Mountain is the peak on the left.

A couple of bicyclists passed us during out walk.

Typical of some of the beautiful scenery we saw.

We were reminded that we were just inside civilization.

We identified a lovely deciduous tree when Gene found this half of a walnut underneath it.  Animals had squirreled away all other halves and wholes.

I saw some very young puncture vine plants that had fresh flowers but no sign yet of seeds.  The plants seemed to be having a second growing period because of the exceptionally hot weather this summer.  The same for the mullein plant above.  The old, dead flower stalk from earlier this summer was full of seeds that had not yet had time to be blown away by winds.  The number of fresh flower stalks being set up was unusual for this plant .

Arizona Alligator Lizard

The highlight of the hike, for me, was viewing this centipede with four legs that turned out to be a lizard with protective coloration that prevented predators from eating it.

We found lots of these colorful bright pink galls on oak leaves.

The wavy armed tree must have held a boulder for a few years, when the tree was young, before the boulder fell or was blown away.  Or maybe it was the trunk of a dead tree that fell into the arms of the tree when it was young and deformed them.

Water!  We could not believe we had found a large puddle of water because this has been a monsoon of lackluster rain, even lack of.

More damage due to tires.

I could not figure out how to delete the duplicate foto, so Bill gets to show off twice.

Nancy could not resist practicing a yoga pose on this flat rock.  The rest of us followed suit.  Most people balanced with Nancy’s pose but Gene and I exhibited other poses.  Actually, Gene demonstrated a Tai Chi pose; he teaches this martial art.

After a snack break we noticed this set of boulders and detoured to enjoy them.

Then we trekked and trekked thru the same-old, same-old.  This was a welcome sign.  We remembered it was only a few yards from the parking area.

A final view of Monument Mountain as we drove away.

Chapter 4, July 2020

July 14, Tuesday

61 degrees at 4 AM.  Low 57.  Sky partly cloudy, partly starry.  Wash cloths dried completely overnight.

Mary drove away at 5:55 AM.  She had to return to California to complete paperwork on the travel trailer and to buy a newer Kia SUV with a heavier engine.  However, later in the day she texted me that she was at an RV park in Springerville, on the opposite side of Arizona from California.  I would have moved to Springerville if she had suggested it, but Mary described herself as a loner and I guess she needed to be by herself for a while.

For years Mary had been sailing her small boat along the Pacific coast, bicycling with overnight gear, and car camping, but a couple months ago she bought a 17-year-old Casita brand travel trailer that was in excellent condition.  She was so thrilled to be camping with amenities in her bedroom, such as a toilet and a two-burner stove inside out of the wind, and a refrigerator, that she had spent most of her time inside her Casita while we were camping together.

2020 July, Le, Williams, map inside Williams Visitor Center, 14uly2020

Relief map inside Williams Visitor Center

I waited until later to start my local traveling day.  While I was sipping cooled hot cocoa, a wren-sized bird landed on a stalk.  It sat in one place on the plant and picked, chewed (the bird seemed to chew), and swallowed over and over.  After it flew away I walked over to the plant. It had eaten almost all the petals off a stalk of white sweet clover flowers.

2020 July, Lq, Williams, Masonic Temple building, 14uly2020

This bar was originally the Williams Masonic Temple.

I drove to Williams at 9:35 AM.  I went first to the Pine County Restaurant and ordered two breakfast burritos to go.  They would be my breakfasts for the next two mornings.  I walked across the street and into the Williams and Forest Service Visitor Center where  I asked some questions and purchased a few Xmas gifts.

2020 July, Li, Williams, front of Native American gift shop, 14uly2020

The Native American store full of objects made by Native Americans.

But I had more fun when I walked around town and took fotos of interesting buildings and things.  I was able to fotograph another group riding on the 66 Zip Line.

2020 July, Lnb, Williams, riders on the Route 66 Zip Line, Ab, 14uly2020

2020 July, Lnc, Williams, riders on the Route 66 Zip Line at the acme, Ac, 14uly2020

When the Zip car reached its acme not far beyond the end of the parking lot it paused for hardly a minute for gears to shift then brought the riders back to the starting point.  4titude is in the center of the picture.

I took Fourth Street south.  It turned into County Road 73 but I kept on going.  CR 73 was a lovely, old-fashioned, paved, 2-lane highway with trees growing all the way up to the edge of the pavement.

2020 July, Na, Bill Williams Mountain, 14uly2020

Bill Williams Mountain

After 7 or 8 miles signs directed me onto a washboarded, but otherwise very good, gravel road.  After two miles the road went downhill and the deep gravel on the slope was slippery.  4titude had fun sliding around a little.  I drove a total of ten miles on two gravel roads and finally arrived at White Horse Lake and Campground, lake rim elevation 6,560 feet.  A sign stated that the gravel road continued another 18 miles to I-40.

Inside the campground the roads were paved!  I drove through the entire grounds.  As I was leaving I stopped at a board beside a camp host’s RV to pick up a map of the campground.  I did not take any fotos because I expected to move to the campground in a few days and get plenty of pictures.  The host and I chatted a little and he told me sites 82, 84, and 85 had the best afternoon shade of all the non-reservable sites in Loop E.  White Horse Lake CG was as large as, or a little larger than, Kaibab Lake CG.

I stopped at Safeway in Williams where I refilled four one-gallon jugs of drinking water and bought a few items of food.  In Safeway everyone I saw was wearing a face mask.  Arizonans were finally becoming believers in the truth.  My last stop was at the Love’s Truck Stop where I bought and ate two ice cream sandwiches.

 

July 15, Wednesday

I decided to shift my hours so there would be a little of dawn’s light when I got up. I tossed and turned and “slept in” until 4:30 AM. 59 degrees. The sky appeared to be almost completely clouded over. The crescent moon was visible but I found only three stars. Dawn had turned off any other stars. Low temperature was 55.

I set my paraphernalia out on the picnic table. By the time my first cup of hot cocoa was ready dawn was light enuf to read by. I worked crossword and anacrostic (AKA crostic or ancrostic) puzzles and watched dawn wake the world up. During this time the world was already very much awake and noisy on State 64, a half mile or so away. Perhaps commuters to the Grand Canyon just 29 minutes from the edge of Williams, or so said a city billboard.

A pair of the flower eating birds flew up and landed nearby. One went to work feeding on the pavement (seeds?). The other sat on a thin, dead tree limb and watched me. When I did not produce any crumbs it went looking for food elsewhere. The two birds appeared to be all grey with slightly darker heads and two white strips on their tails. Then the male, with russet on his wings, flew down and fed between them. Black-chinned sparrows! Yesterday’s flower-eating visitor was a female black-chinned sparrow.

When I got up to get something from the car the three black chins immediately flew in and landed where I had been sitting. No food for them. One then flew under My Yellow Palace’s vestibule but was not interested or brave enuf to go in the tent.

The night air had chilled the breakfast burrito and it was almost inedible. The restaurant had given me only a small container of salsa but I had bought a bottle of Pace Picante Sauce yesterday at Safeway and I added some of it to the burrito. I vowed to douse tomorrow’s burrito with even a lot more.

A bee flew onto a nearby pink New Mexican Thistle flower. It balanced there less than a second; same with another flower. On the third try the bee found food in a thistle flower. Some insect had already drained the first two flowers.

I decided to try out an idea that had occurred to me. I pulled out the stakes that held the cooking shelter in place and successfully maneuvered the shelter so that it covered most of the picnic table. I put the cloth wall toward the afternoon sun. FOTO I left extra covered space off one end of the table so I could set my comfortable folding chair there in the shade. The other end of the table was in the sun. I could sit there in the mornings, warming myself.

2020 July, Ob, dining canopy, 15uly2020

There were some insects that looked like mosquitoes around in the cool hours of the day.   They had long legs that bent at right angles and long, thin bodies, but the head was different and the insects didn’t bite me.

I drove to Flagstaff to make three purchases for equipment to increase the pleasant times camping out. As I drove east on I-40 I began trying to visualize where the WalMart store was. In town I turned onto Butler Ave. I must have remembered something from the one time I had been taken to the WalMart. This put me in a business section of U-Haul, etc. I thought I was on the wrong street so I stopped and asked 4titude’s Navigator where the WalMart store was. Unfortunately, I do not know how to ask the question so I did not get an answer that was usable. I continued on down Butler, looking for a place to turn around, and found WalMart!

Social distancing was marked at the entrance and a young man stood at the door to direct traffic. When a set number of customers had entered the building he was going to have everybody else wait in line til some customers had come out. These new precautions being set up in Arizona helped me feel safer in my attempts to not contract the COVID-19 virus. Quite a few customers were wearing masks. Social distancing was marked at the check-out counters; something not everyone paid attention to.

WalMart only had one item I wanted; was still sold out of the other two.

I had noticed there was a McDonald’s Restaurant in the village of Hughes, next to Bellemont, just west of Flagstaff. On the way back to camp I stopped there for lunch. A quarter-pounder with bacon and cheese. Face masks were required and social distancing was marked on the floor.

My neighbor told me that while I was gone people thought my pull-through was the main camp road. She pointed out that the entrance to my pull-through was wider than the campground road.

2020 July, Oh, jct campground road and D 54 pull-thru, 15uly2020

Can you tell which is the road and which is the pull-thru?

About midafternoon A scattering of raindrops fell and evaporated the moment they landed. A thunderstorm passed just to the north of us.

I spent the evening chatting with my neighbor. For several years she had worked as a campground host, much of it in Oregon. And she had traveled and spent time in a large number of state campgrounds across the country.

 

 

July 16, Thursday

61 degrees at 4:30 AM.

Whatever made the breakfast burritos delicious when eaten warm made them taste awful when eaten cold. I covered the burrito with a lot of Pace Picante Sauce this morning and could barely stuff the burrito down my throat. There must have been some seasonings added to the scrambled eggs. Maybe it was the oil the breakfast burritos were cooked in that tasted bad when cold. Cans of baked beans were going to taste good for breakfast even tho I was tired of them.

When I turned my fone on today and pressed the button to open the camera, the software immediately flipped to video mode. I punched every icon on the camera video page, and sometimes had difficulty backing out of what I had gotten into, but I could not get the camera out of video mode. In frustration I sent a group text message to my two children stating that a disaster had befallen me. I explained that I could not get the camera out of video mode. To my surprise my son soon replied and texted that the instructions on the Internet were that there would be a little camera icon in some corner and that was the way to toggle between video and non-video mode. No such camera icon on my software. The only camera icon was for a selfie; when I clicked on it I could take a selfie video of myself. I thought about finding the Verizon store in Flagstaff but my experience had been that Verizon only put actual fone technicians in a large store in big cities, and that the sales clerks at the other Verizon stores across the country were not familiar with my fone and could not help me. So I decided I would end this trip Monday, at the end of the period I had paid for here at Kaibab Lake Campground, return to Phoenix, and take the camera to the store which had technicians. I suspected there might be a flaw in the software because I had never before been able to (figure out how to) take a video, and now the camera had flipped itself to video mode and refused to back out.

I spent the morning sitting outside my neighbor’s small RV and chatting with her. I introduced myself and she stated her name, Pat Hall. We traded contact info and enjoyed some birdwatching. We saw a couple of Western Bluebirds, Sialia mexicana, and later a couple of bluebirds with orange bellies.

A male black-chinned sparrow began feeding on seeds in the mass of weed-eater-eaten grass in front of us. A juvenile female and later a male juvenile walked up to daddy and looked at him. He fed them about three seeds each, then left them to forage on their own. However, the male juvenile came up to daddy later and stood there looking at him so daddy fed the kid another three or so seeds before going back to foraging for himself. Pat made some remark about typical behavior of children.

The sky was mostly cloudy all day and the high only seemed to get in the low 80s. A rainstorm again went just north of us. A half dozen sprinkles fell at the campground and evaporated on contact.

2020 July, Oe, Ponderosa pine tree, 15uly2020

Ponderosa Pine tree.  Foto taken July 15.

When I was walking to and from the restroom at 9 PM, bedtime, I saw an open flame at a campsite across from site 51. I knocked on Pat’s door and asked her what we should do. Pat explained that there are propane “campfires” in which a one-plus-foot-tall flame can be generated to use as a pseudo campfire. But she felt that the fire restrictions also said “no open flames” and agreed we should notify the camp hosts. I drove us down and left the car running to recharge the battery (I had spent a little over an hour using the computer on the SUV’s battery this day) while Pat talked to a set of camp hosts. The camp hosts drove up to the site in a “golf” cart but did not stop when they realized it was a propane campfire, a one-to-two-foot-high fire that was legal under fire restrictions.

 

July 17, Friday

Around midnight my brain began to wake me up at the sound of footsteps just outside my tent. Then I heard a woman’s voice speak very softly to one or more comrades. I was still half asleep and did not remember the comment, but I did recall that it contained the word “her.” In my foggy state I thought Mary was still camped with me and she was talking to me so I struggled to wake up completely. One or two persons outside the tent began shining flashlights across the front of my tent, angled slightly towards the side opposite my bedroll. Then they either shut the lights off and on quickly over and over or they ran something like a book back and forth in front of the lights. It was a very pretty display but I was concerned that the people might have yet more mischief in mind. In fact, I became frightened that they would enter my tent (I had left the door wide open) so I pulled my hatchet out of the cloth bag in which I kept it at my shoulder. The hatchet had a cover over the blade to protect it. I left the cover on but figured I could surprise, and hopefully hurt, any intruders by hitting them hard with the covered blade end of the hatchet and with the full-sized flashlight I picked up with the other hand. I did not turn on my flashlight nor speak. Because my arms are not at all strong I did not want to start a confrontation with the people. The flashlight display lasted five or ten minutes, then the intruders left. I was frightened and also wondering what they were going to do tomorrow night, thus it took me almost two hours to get back to sleep.

Later, when discussing the incident with Pat, it occurred to me that the harassers had probably been her neighbors. Yesterday morning when I was sitting with Pat under her awning a little boy from the next-door campsite, about age eight, walked slowly thru Pat’s camp site, alongside the back side of her RV and then around the end, walking between her RV and her picnic table. Pat got up and asked the boy if she could help him, did he need something, etc. The boy indicated he was simply headed for the campground road. Pat told the boy it was not polite to walk thru other people’s campsites. The boy walked away. Later in the afternoon when I was once again sitting with Pat the boy walked thru Pat’s camp site. Pat did not say anything so this time I repeated her sentence, “It’s not polite to walk thru someone else’s campsite.” This time the boy mumbled something that we could not quite hear but seemed to be to the effect of, “To hell with you. I can walk anywhere I want to.”

Pat said the parents seemed to have no idea of campground manners and were rude. They did not put their dog on a leash at all. Also, the little girl had played a game of throwing a knife into a live tree over and over. That is a federal crime, of course, to injure living trees on federal lands. The family left this morning. They stayed only one night.

Pat locked her RV and pulled down shades on all the windows when she went to bed so there was no quiet way they could harass her. The harassers knew enuf to not make noise, so they chose to use lights and harass me. Of course, I think they were Pat’s neighbors, the mother and the little boy and maybe other family members.

58 at 4:30 AM. Low dropped to 56.

2020 July, Og, shining needles, 15uly2020

Shining needles.  Foto taken July 15.

The day before, my neighbor behind me, a tent camper with a Jeep, was walking on the camp road and paused to chat a few minutes. She commented that it was inspiring to see an old woman camping by herself, and she hoped to be able to do so when she was older. She explained that this was her first time to car camp alone; also that she had recently gone on her first backpack, but that was with a group of people. She introduced herself as Sandy Page. Sandy appeared to be in her 50s.

This morning, after unsuccessfully trying to catch fish for breakfast, she walked over to my camp and said that her last son had recently moved out of her house into his own quarters and she was finding it difficult to figure out how to cook for just one person. Would I come help her eat the extra sausage and pancakes? I had already eaten my breakfast a couple hours earlier but I liked the woman so I agreed to eat some extra calories for a snack. She fed me two blueberry pancakes and a link of sausage.

A raven, Corvus corax, stepped out of the grass, waddled across the camp road, climbed on a rock, and sat there for me to get a good look at him. While he looked at me. His fat beak gave him away. I was trying to learn the difference between crows and ravens; we see a lot of both in Arizona. In flight, the end of the crow’s tail is a straight line; the raven has a pointed, or triangular, tail end.

Around noon I drove to Dogtown Lake and Campground, lake rim elevation 7,070 feet. Soon after turning off County 73 onto a gravel road, I saw a mass of recently sheared sheep on one side of the road and a press of sheared sheep on the other side. The roadside layer of sheep was cuddled up to the roadside gully; they were just barely off the road but the road was entirely clear of sheep.

There were lots of dispersed campers all along the road til about one mile from the campground. There were few, if any, empty dispersed areas. Dogtown was a disappointment. There were some scrub oak trees intermixed with the ponderosa pine. The short oak trees did not give shade and detracted from the beauty of the pine forest. There did not seem to be any shade for any of the camp sites. A person would have a be an avid fisherman to enjoy camping in that campground.

After chatting with Pat for a couple hour in late afternoon I went to Sandy’s table and chatted with her. I told her about my visit to Dogtown. Her assessment of the campground matched mine. Sandy asked if I had seen the sheep and the sheep dog. She said there had been a fluffy white dog sprawled out on its back when she drove down to Dogtown the day before. That explained why, or how, the sheep were so nicely compacted out of the path of vehicles.

Most of our talk was about the effect of COVID-19 on the hospitals. Sandy was a pediatric nurse in one of the big Banner hospitals in the Phoenix area. She had managed to be allowed to take her five days off in a row together. She had come to Kaibab Lake CG for two nights to relax and she had hobbies at home that helped her de-stress, such as cooking and quilting and reading. Sandy talked at length about how the effect the mishandling of things had pushed the hospitals to their limits and would be pushing things beyond limits if President Trump’s desire that all children be taught at school, no children taught via the Internet (or the schools would lose federal funding). She needed to relived some stress verbally so I listened. It was interesting to hear details of the situation from a practicing hospital bedside nurse and not just the few quips that are given on TV news.

We exchanged fone numbers and email addresses.

 

July 18, Saturday

56 degrees at 4:15 AM. Low 53. The high today was apparently in the low 80s, cooler than the past days and more cloudy.

While taking an exercise walk this morning I watched a Stellar’s Jay hopping from branch to branch in a ponderosa pine tree. He watched me. I also smelled bacon cooking for someone’s late breakfast. It started me wondering if I could keep raw bacon from spoiling without ice.

While Pat and I were sitting under her awning we watched a Hairy Woodpecker, Picoidesd villosus, hop around on the trunk of a nearby ponderosa pine tree. He never pecked at that tree, but soon flew away to listen for bugs in the bark of another tree, and was out of sight.

We could smell rain at times during the afternoon but once again all we got was a half dozen drops of water while a thundering storm rolled westward to the north of us.

 

July 19, Sunday

Around 3:15 coyotes began yipping down by the lake. A couple had a tremolo to their vocalizations, but did not sing any tuneful notes.

Temp 58 degrees at 4:30.

The sky was totally clouded over by 7 AM. My worst fear was that it would rain this day and/or night, and I would be packing up a wet tent on the morrow.

A robin came thru the edge of my camp site. When he ambled away he had something hanging out of his mouth. The bird’s head was very black. I wonder if that was a regional variation. I didn’t remember robins’ heads being so black in Lubbock, Texas when I was a child. This bird’s upper chest was more yellow than orange.

The male juvenile black-chinned sparrow flew and landed right beside my chair. He began slowly hopping away, picking up seeds with his beak. He spat one thing out. To me, it looked like a seed but the bird did not think it was edible.

While I was chatting with Pat this afternoon she gave me one of the tote bags she has been crocheting out of plastic grocery bags. I think I will keep it with my camping gear. The bottom was from brown bags so they will not show dirt easily, and anyway, the plastic bags can be easily washed.

2020 July, Of, Kaibab Lake, 15uly2020

Kaibab Lake.  Foto taken July 15

 

July 20, Monday

65 degrees at 4:15 AM. Sky covered with thick clouds. The sun did not show its face until I was driving the campground entrance road, starting my trek home.

In the meantime I had spent 2 hours 35 minutes packing, brushing teeth, etc., plus 30 minutes eating a can of beans for breakfast.

I drove away at 7:25.

The odometer read 92,945 when I arrived home shortly after 11 AM, after 3 pit stops and one grocery stop. I only drove 702 miles total on this 2½-week trip.

 

PS

The day after returning home I dropped by the Verizon store. The day I drove to Flagstaff Verizon had sent a software adjustment. Ever since I bought the camera July 5, 2016 I had not been able to take videos. Because I rarely wanted to take a video by the time I got home from trips where I’d tried to get a video going, I had forgotten about the problem and never went to the Verizon store. Several knowledgeable people had tried to help me but no videos were forthcoming from the camera. On July 15 Verizon updated my software so that I do not have to toggle between still camera shot page and video page. If I want to take a still foto I press the white button. If I want to take a video I press the red button. These two had not been on the same page before and when I did get to a page with a red button no video had ever occurred. I wonder if this had been a flaw in the software on my camera all along and Verizon just now got around to fixing it.

 

 

Chapter 3, 2020 July

July 10, 2020

Low 53 degrees.

We rode in Mary’s KIA to Williams today. First to the laundromat. Only Mary and I wore face masks.

2020 July, Hc, Williams, Sylvia Lee wearing mask, 10july2020

Me wearing face mask (in Pine Country Restaurant).

Luckily, there were few other people in the building at a time, altho Mary reported that a man came in, walked around part of the laundromat coughing pointedly, then left. He had not had any laundry. My nose was buried in a book and I had not noticed him.

After finishing there we felt clean and energized so

We drove to the Pine County Restaurant that advertised in “Adventure Williams spring and summer 2020” –

“Known for its friendly atmosphere and a favorite for locals. Pine Country Restaurant is open year round serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“Home to world-famous homemade pies, Pine Country offers everything from Lemon Meringue and Key Lime to Cherry Apple Peach and Triple Layer Chocolate Cake. With over 35 other delicious flavors, including a sugar free selection, and made fresh every day, dessert is a must at this restaurant.

“Not only is the food better than average, Pine Country has a terrific gift shop and features the Giddyup ‘n’ Go Coffee Bar.

“Bring your appetite to Pine Country and enjoy a hearty country breakfast, pork chop dinner, grilled chicken Caesar salad a d homemade pies and coffee for dessert.

“Located in downtown, Pine Country opens at 7 a.m.”

2020 July, Hd, Williams, Pine Country Restaurant, 10july2020

Pine Country Restaurant Water Closets

On entering, we were pleased to see the tables well spaced apart (the room almost looked half empty), servers all wearing masks, and a sign that all patrons must wear masks. The staff had some difficulty enforcing the last item.

Mary and I ate our pies right away, at about 8:30 AM. She had Three Berry and I had Double Chocolate. My pie had small chocolate chips within the chocolate pie filling layer and was topped by a thick chocolate cream layer. Delicious. We ordered breakfasts to go for lunch; Mary chose breakfast tamales, I ordered breakfast burrito.

We refilled our drinking containers at the Glacier brand water station outside the Safeway grocery store. Mary bought a few more pieces of food.

2020 July, Hb, Williams, US 66, 10july2020

Motel in Williams with informative directional signboard.  US 66 is one-way east.

We passed the afternoon playing several games of Scrabble as we have almost every afternoon.

I ate the breakfast burrito for 2 PM dinner. The burrito had not been refrigerated, was afternoon air temperature warm and was delicious. The filling was all egg and bacon, no potato. The restaurant had packed small containers of salsa and sour cream to go on top. Recipe: very thin egg omelet with plenty of chips of still-soft fried bacon; this was rolled up then a flour tortilla was wrapped around the egg, burrito style.

 

 

July 11, Saturday

I got up at 4 AM under starry skies. Low temp was 56 degrees. High prognosis for today was 90 degrees. It felt like that’s what it got to.

Thunder had reverberated nearby late yesterday afternoon but no rain fell here yesterday or today.

Mary and I started walking the trail around Kaibab Lake at 5:05 AM. It took us exactly 2 hours to hike around the lake twice.

2020 July, Id, Kaibab Lake, 11july2020

Dawn was still waking and birds were busy breaking their night’s fast. An osprey (Pandion haliaetus), and later a great blue heron (Ardea herodias), flew close to me tilted with back slightly turned away. I got a good look at their coloring patterns. The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) did not fly close to me today. These birds have far, far better long-range vision than humans. I think birds remember faces, and maybe general personality of the human (whether the person seems harmful or not), so the eagle did not need to approach me again.

I watched osprey fishing several times. Each osprey almost made a belly landing, went underwater, and came out pretty much where it had gone in.

2020 July, If, Kaibab Lake, 11july2020

Note the osprey splash.

If the birds were catching fish this day they were small fry because I could never see one hanging from a bird’s mouth.

Today I saw 4 Great Blue Herons, 3 to 4 osprey, one plover, and the nesting pair of bald eagles. The eagles seemed to wait til they thought the osprey had left the lake before foraging for themselves and the hatchlings, as tho perhaps osprey liked the taste of raw baby birds and the parents had to protect the nestlings.

2020 July, Ir, Kaibab Lake, 11july2020

Bird looks white or grey but it is a Great Blue Heron.

Mary kept up her pace except for a couple times when she stopped briefly to look thru her binoculars. Each time that I took a picture or two I was left behind and walked extra fast to catch up with her.

One time a plover stepped into the path, about halfway between me and Mary, and began walking the same direction as I. I carefully worked on getting closer to see the bird well. It got upset, turned right and walked thru the low-growing forbs. I got a good look at it in side view. White started just behind the beak, spread to cover the entire belly and up the sides a short ways, and seemed to go under the tail a little. A beautiful, brilliant white. The back was a dark brown. However, I could not see the bird’s beak well. It was a little too far away. I believe the bird was either a Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) or a Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) and not a Wilson’s Plover.

2020 July, In, Kaibab Lake, 11july2020

The dam at Kaibab Lake.

Back at camp the temperature in the tent in morning shade was 64 degrees at 7:20 AM. I ate a late breakfast. The approximately two tablespoons of coconut oil in the coconut creamer I had put in my hot cocoa at 4 AM had held me during the hike.

I was very tired so I laid down on my bedroll and took a brief nap from 9 to 9:10 AM. The temperature during that ten minutes rose from 94 to 101 degrees in the tent.

The sky sprinkled very lightly in late afternoon.

 

 

July 12, Sunday

Temp 63 at 4 AM. Lots of stars in the sky. Low 58. My wash cloths were wetter than they had been at 4 AM any other day. Humidity had risen.

Mary packed her saddlebags with water, snacks, cell fone, laptop computer, book to read, put on her helmet, and rode off on her bicycle at 5:55 AM.

I saw that a camper with a 4-man tent had rolled up the sides of his rainfly and affixed them somehow, to let air in thru the windows. I unclipped the four corners of my rainfly, rolled them as far as they could go, and clipped the rolls with clothespins. I wondered if the clothespins would hold the roll when the wind got strong.

2020 July, Ka, My Yellow Palace with its windows open, 12july2020

My Yellow Palace with “windows” “open.”

Mary was back at 8:30. She had ridden to Williams and a little ways south of town, then spent time in the library hooked up to Wi-Fi. She had read news and weather reports and brought info back to me. She had downloaded a detailed upcoming national heat wave report from The Washington Post. Huge hot cell would be sitting over US for several weeks.

The black-chinned sparrow took his usual daily meal at the edge of our campsite. He had a white strip on each outer side of his tail.  (more about black-chinned sparrow family later.) At large robin wandered by. He had a beautifully black head to go with his reddish belly. I don’t see robins in Phoenix. Two young chipmunks chased each other round and round.

2020 July, Is, Kaibab Lake, 11july2020

Another view of Great Blue Heron from yesterday’s walk around Kaibab Lake.

After some very light sprinkles, light rain fell from 11:35 to 11:50. Temperature dropped to 82 degrees. A second short burst of raindrops brought the temperature down into low 70s, and it only picked up to high of 79 during the afternoon.

 

 

July 13, Monday

60 degrees at 4 AM. Starry sky. No Dew. Low 57 degrees.

This morning, with wings of rainfly rolled up and clipped, temperature in tent went from 94 to 98 degrees while I took a morning nap from 9 to 9:35 AM. Couldn’t beat the heat.

I saw a white-haired man tossing a see-thru container partly filled with something into a dumpster. I said, “Looks like something was inedible.”

He responded, “Yeah. Worms.”

I asked how fishing had been. He said his young grandson had caught a 12-plus-inches-long bass. The boy was very excited. They had put it back in the lake.

2020 July, Gs4, Kaibab Lake, , 9july2020

Kaibab Lake

During an exercise walk around the campground this morning I saw a small, maybe half-grown chipmunk and two blue jays, Stellar’s Jays.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two 2020 July

July 7, Tuesday

The low today was 41 degrees at the dispersed camp.  I did not get any reading on the high at our new camp site but it  was only about five miles from where we had been camped, so the high temperature was probably the same as the last few days.

I drove away from the dispersed camp site at 7:40 AM.

2020 July, Fa, stone sculpture at dispersed camp, 7july2020

Some camper had left this stone sculpture at one of the dispersed camp sites.

Mary had already packed up, hooked up her Casita to her Kia SUV, and driven to Kaibab Lake.  She had texted me with the news that the one pull-thru that was not reservable was still empty and she had claimed it.

Cinnamon-barked trees at jct. FS road to Kaibab Lake (number 41?) and FS 42(.)

Signs still proclaimed that fire danger was extreme.  The pounding rain a few days ago had no lasting effect on the aridness of the forest.  I arrived at site D 54 before 8 AM and set up camp.

2020 July, Ff, Kaibab Lake CG site D 54, Mary McInerny, 7july2020

The altitude of the edge of the lake when it was full, which it definitely wasn’t, was 6,790 feet.

While staring at the scenery between working crossword puzzles I studied a small bird hopping nearby.  Later, I looked it up in a bird identification book.  It was a juvenile Black-Chinned Sparrow.  The rust on the wings had caught my eye.  At 12:30 noon I had a first squirrel visit.  It was a small youngster.  Next, I studied 4titude’s conformation.  He had picked up mud during his 4WD oiling adventure but he had not picked up any bugs on his windshield since his bath.

After resting up from the morning’s work Mary and I walked a ways back down the campground entrance road.  While walking past a cove of the lake we saw a great blue heron.  At the intersection with FS 42 (?) we sat on rocks in the shade.  The FS road was barricaded, was closed.  Mary was able to get more reception than at the campground and she read me the news she located.

2020 July, Fh, Kaibab Lake entrance road Ponderosa Pine trees, 7july2020

Mary and I sat under some Ponderosa Pine trees.

Mary’s Casita had a refrigerator.  This afternoon she boiled eggs and fixed us curried egg salad for dinner.  Several days ago she made egg-chorizo burritos and we feasted on them for dinners.  Now that she has been retired for five years she enjoys cooking.

 

July 8, Wednesday

Temperature was 58 when I got up at 4 AM.  Dropped to a low of 55.  No breeze.  Sitting outside to watch dawn was pleasant because I did not get chilled all the way thru.

2020 July, Fk, Kaibab Lake campround picnic table, 8july2020

The molded picnic tables at Kaibab Lake campground were pretty.

It was said by the dermatologist that the steri strips on my incision would fall off my lower left leg today but they didn’t.  She was expecting them to get wet in a shower every night.  She said I could take them off today if they had stuck around.  I decided to leave them in place because they were protecting the healing incision from camp dirt.

A grey squirrel with brown back and cream-almost-white edge around his tail gave my picnic table a quick inspection, then decided I was not friendly-looking and scurried away.  He soon came back.  He seemed to have a white tuft on the inner edge of each ear and a tuft on top of each ear.  Was the little fellow one of the famed Abert’s Squirrels?

“Abert’s Squirrels have dark gray backs with a red-brown patch, white bellies, and long fluffy white tails. Their most distinctive features are their large ears topped with tassels of fur.”  From the Internet site https://www.nps.gov/band/learn/nature/upload/abert’s%20squirrel%20fact%20sheet.pdf

I was rarely able to see the brown patch on the squirrel’s back when he came visiting each day.

2020 July, Fl3, Kaibab Lake D 54 cooking shelter, 8july2020

To pass the time in the early morning Mary and I erected my new cooking canopy.  It was also made by Big Agnes.

Mary and I drove to Williams separately because we had separate things to do.  Mary was at the library by 8 AM to use the Wi-Fi to catch up on some important things.  I did not drive in til 10 AM when stores would be open.  I parked and walked back down AZ 64 and took pictures.

2020 July, Ga5, Williams, park honoring Route 66 and RR, 8july2020

On AZ 64 was a little park honoring Route 66 and the Santa Fe Railroad.

Upon returning to the lot where 4titude was parked I decided I should eat a snack.  Mary drove up to the sight of me munching on peanuts.  She had started to head back to camp but she saw my vehicle in the public parking area.  She suggested we walk to the local Coffee Shop.

2020 July, Gg, Williams, the Coffee Shop, 8july2020

The building looks old.  Look at the recently renovated windows.

There we had some deliciously sweet muffins with caramel filling.  They were still warm from the oven.

When we got back to the public parking lot Mary drove off for camp.  I saw that the zip line was in use so I waited and took a couple of pictures.

2020 July, Gc, Williams, Route 66 Zip Line, 8july2020

The zip line was described in the “Adventure Williams, spring-summer 2020” pamphlet:  “Route 66 Zipline:

“It’s no secret.  Route 66 is a long road!  America’s ‘Mother Road’ was built in an era of exploration and adventure.  The road from Chicago to Los Angeles guarantees travelers new experiences and memories to last a lifetime.

“Now there is another new and exciting way you can see one of the best-preserved stretches of treasured Route 66 from a new perspective.  Route 66 Zipline offers visitors to Williams a chance to see Williams and Route 66 from the air.

“Route 66 Zipline also features a mint condition 1957 Bel Air, 2-door hardtop on display at ground level.

“Anyone can ride the zipline.  Riders do not have to climb a tower or harness up.  All it takes is to sit down and buckle a seat belt before soaring through the sky along Historic Route 66 and across Grand Canyon Blvd.

“The zipline provides the perfect mix of laughs, giggles and a few screams for the whole family.

“More information is available at http://www.ziplineroute66.com.”

2020 July, Gc3, Williams, Route 66 Zip Line about to take off, 8july2020

A couple waiting for liftoff, or zipoff.

High was around 85 today.  In tent, about 107.

 

July 9, Thursday

Low 50 degrees. I set everything up beside 4titude, attached computer and cell fone to his battery, and typed diary notes by dawn’s early light. There was no dew.

The news Mary read on her cell fone this morning was not good. COVID-19 was on the increase in 41 states.

Mary was teaching me to walk fast again when hiking. This morning we walked twice around Kaibab Lake. The relatively flat, dirt trail was maybe 2½ miles long; our total miles perhaps five.

2020 July, Gq3, Kaibab Lake, 9july2020

We saw a bald eagle fly towards us from across the lake. He turned and flew over shallow water beside us and we got a good look at his white head. And he got a good look at our white heads. A little later I spotted a large nest across the lake on top of a tall, dead ponderosa pine tree. Mary lent me her binoculars. I could see the eagle’s mate sitting on the nest.

2020 July, Gt2, Kaibab Lake, Bald Eagle nest, 9july2020

 

We found a grocery bag full of trash hanging on a fence post. It showed signs of having been there a while. I carried it maybe a quarter mile til we came to a dumpster. Along the way we had added more trash to the bag.

Near the start of our second time around Mary saw what looked like a huge, dead cicada. It had never been alive. The thing was a fishing lure with multiple barbs. I was worried that a child might injure itself with the interesting looking contraption so I put it in a breast pocket. When we had completed the second round and I had found a dumpster I tried to take the lure out of my pocket but it wouldn’t come. I went in a toilet room, took my shirt off, and worked the thing out of my pocket. Then it flew easily into a dumpster.

2020 July, Gs, Kaibab Lake, , 9july2020

During the hike Mary kept a good pace. She stopped the first couple times I took a picture, but she did not like breaking her pace so from then on she kept on walking. After I took each foto I walked extra fast to catch up with her. She was helping me regain strength in my legs now that my hip (Lt) and knee (Rt) were completely healed. Stamina and balance were following along.

We saw odds and ends of dead and dying ponderosa pine trees. A billboard talked about how pine beetles were killing the forest. But prettier was the sight of yellow flowers along the lake edge of the forest. Later in the afternoon I identified those flowers as Arizona Sneezeweed, Helenium arizonicum.

2020 July, Gr7, Kaibab Lake, Arizona Sneezeweed, 9july2020

 

 

Chapter 1, 2020 July

July 2, Thursday

4titude’s odometer read around 92,243 at approximately 3 AM when I drove away from my condo in central Phoenix.  My first stop was the rest area at Sunset Point.  I carried a bottle of hand sanitizer into the bathroom, put some on toilet paper, cleaned the toilet seat, and toileted.  At the McGuireville Rest Stop an hour later I did the same but while I was sitting I noticed a bee, lying absolutely still, on the floor.  I stared at the insect for a while to see if it was dead. It was alive and it was a moth!  The little insect had horizontal black and yellow stripes on the backs of its wings.  Defensive coloring.  By text foto and conversation Bobbi Lancaster told me she thought it was a Mexican Tiger Moth.

0702200506

While driving up I-17 I smelled dead skunk.  Many miles farther I saw a dead red fox at the edge of the highway.  I looked forward to seeing live wild animals.

The temperature had dropped from 84 degrees at my condo to 64 at the second rest stop.  Approaching Flagstaff, the temperature was only 46 degrees.

Somewhere between Flagstaff and Williams I read a sign that said “Arizona Divide 7335.”  It took me a moment to realize that this was a geographical divide.  According to the Internet it exists only in Coconino Country and it separates the Gila and Colorado River drainages.

As I approached Williams I saw a very pretty pastoral scene with cows and lots of young calves.

Exit 165 said it went to Williams and to the Grand Canyon.  This was the exit to get to the dispersed camping and the Forest Service campground at Kaibab Lake.  I was about 3 hours from home.  A couple miles further, Exit 163 also said “Williams, Grand Canyon.”  Exit 163 took me to a Love’s Truck Stop where 4titude refilled and I de-filled again.

The time was just after 6 AM so I sat in the SUV and ate breakfast.  I saw a family of four get out of their vehicle and head for the stores.  Pretty soon they returned to their car, rummaged around, and walked off wearing face masks.  Carl’s Jr. (fast food chain) was requiring every person entering to wear a mask.  These people had masks with them but had not intended to wear them!

I backtracked 2 miles to the Arizona 64 turnoff at Exit 165.  After wandering up and down a portion of Hwy 64 and a fone call to Mary McInerny I found the dispersed camping and her setup.

0702201259b

A view from our camp site

Altho it was still early in the morning there were strong, gusty winds so Mary helped me set up Big Agnes Two.  I had only used this tent once before.  We had to figure out the structure of the tent and redo things a couple of times as we went along.

2020 July, Ad2, our dispersed camp, 2july2020

Our campsite.  Mary’s KIA SUV is on the other side of her Casita travel trailer.

Mary and I bushwhacked for a couple of hours.  Quite near our camp site we saw a strip of charcoal and a burned tree off to the side.  The result of a lightning strike.  We saw a couple others in the area.  I remarked to Mary that with so many signs of recent lightning strikes in the area I was going to be worried if we had a thunderstorm.

0702201215a

We walked across ground littered with the ejecta of ancient volcanos.

0702201227

This stock tank was near our camp site.  We wondered where the water came from.  There had not been enuf recent rains to keep it full.  Was there a spring at the bottom of the pond?

The walking required a lot of maneuvering of small muscles of thighs and buttocks, and during the night those muscles burned and ached.

2020 July, Af, rock with colorful lichen, 2july2020

Colorful lichen on a rock.

The high temperature was 87 degrees.

We both retired at 8 PM.  The doors to my tent and vestibule doors had shrunk in this very dry air.  I moved the poles closer together and was able to get the doors zipped shut.  I would need to leave at least the tent door zipped up all the time to prevent more shrinkage.

There was an almost full moon and lots of moonlight during the night.  Children in a distant camp howled, but were unable to make coyote sounds.

 

July 3, Friday

A coyote, a real coyote, howled briefly at 2:30 AM and again at 3:30 when I finally crawled out of bed.  There were heavy clouds on the east horizon and lots of clouds in the western half of the sky.  The temperature was 53 and dropped to 50 just at dawn.

I moved everything I would need for the morning out into the vestibule.  Moved chair and one little folding table and early morning items then zipped up the tent door.  Now I could watch dawn and see the scenery.  Mary watched the sun rise from her window.  I had a much broader view.

2020 July, Ah, general scene during hike, 2july2020

At 4:15 Mary brought me hot water for my hot cocoa.  She had a two-burner stove in her little Casita-brand travel trailer and had offered to use it so I didn’t have to deal with wind blowing on my little propane camp stove.

Mary retreated into her Casita.  Soon, I thought I heard her talking on her fone.  A little later I heard the same sounds but they were more drawn out and were definitely “Mooooo.”

There were no morning birds to be seen or heard in spite of a nearby stock tank with water.  Just a few crows scavenging.  Humans on ATVs and similar noisy contraptions must have chased birds and animals away.  Mary stated she had not even seen deer during the week she had already been at this site.

2020 July, Ak2, spider web and hole, 2july2020

There were quite a few of this type spider web and hole in this part of the forest.  The web is constructed with a funnel leading down into the hole.  The spiders were relatively small.

From 7:30 to 9:30 we took a walk to the nearby red gravel pit.

2020 July, Bb2, hiking to the red gravel hill, 3july2020

There was a yellow grader sitting there but Mary had not seen any human activity.

2020 July, Bb7, hiking to the red gravel hill, 3july2020

We made a loop hike by walking across volcanic ejecta straight to the red splotch on the hill and then using the roads to return to camp.

2020 July, Bb6, hiking to the red gravel hill, 3july2020

I loved the layers of colors in this scene.

There were very few flowers in this juniper-Ponderosa pine forest, but we saw over two dozen different species, and this day we saw one lone white Sego Lily.

We saw a white hairy ant walking along the red gravel road.  I looked on the Internet after I got back home.  The creature was a Thistledown Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla gloriosa) and was a wingless wasp, not an ant.  It was said to have a powerful sting.

2020 July, Bc2, Thistledown Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla gloriosa) is a wasp, 3july2020

When we returned to camp the air was calm so I began typing my diary notes.  I pulled 4titude’s front end as close to the tent vestibule as possible and set up the laptop computer there.  I also hooked up my fone to 4titude’s battery.  (Via a transformer pushed into the hole that used to hold a cigarette lighter in former vehicles.)  It was uncomfortable because the white ceiling of the vestibule let in too much brightness and it hurt my eyes.  But I persisted until 10:40 AM when thunder rolled around in nearby clouds and I shut down the computer.  My cell fone had recharged from 75% to 93%.

Rain kept threatening for hours.  I took my Scrabble game into Mary’s Casita.  Mary had not played in many years so she had to relearn the finer points.  We played four rounds.

Just after I stepped back into my tent at 3:40 PM the first raindrops began falling.  At 5:05 a bolt of lightning hit close by. Again at 5:40.  During a brief pause I was able to take pictures of a rainbow.

2020 July, Bd4, rainbow, 3july2020

It was a false promise.  For a while, rain lashed the tent hard.  It was somewhat scary.  It was the rain that lashed, almost straight down, not the wind.  There was very little wind.  Rain stopped around 7:40 PM.  4titude got a good bath.  I looked forward to seeing him shine in the sun on the morrow.

The high for the day had apparently been around 78 degrees.

 

July 4, Saturday

At 3:50 AM I heard what I thought was a wild animal growl somewhere between Mary’s Casita and my tent.  I got up to check on the noise.  It was Mary, inside her Casita, putting her bed up for the day.  I had just finished dressing when Mary brought out the first round of hot water for my cocoa.

The moon was a very round, brilliant yellow ball just above the western horizon.  Low temp 49 this morning.

Mary used her fone to read The New York Times, etc., each day.  I visited her for a cup of tea after breakfast (eating a 50-degree breakfast, a can of baked beans, had chilled me).  The journalists had written derogatory statements about the type of things President Trump had said in his speech at his national fireworks display last night.  It sounded as tho Trump was falling apart, was decompressing.  It was frightening.  We wondered what would he now be doing to egg on the White Supremist-Nationalists and other racist and militant groups to commit further bad acts.

Last evening about 7 PM we had heard a round of celebratory sounds.  They sounded like gun shots but could have been fireworks rockets.  I wondered now if they had been set off at some time during Trump’s fireworks display.

There had been a good rain during the night and we no longer had to worry that any fireworks set off here this evening might start a dry-grass-and-brush fire, precursor to a forest fire.  The thought had been in our minds because this land had been so parched.

Mary gave Big Agnes a new name:  My Yellow Palace.

We took a two-hour morning walk.  I took several fotos of spider webs glistening with dew in the slanting rays of early morning sun.

2020 July, Ca5, spider web with dew, 4july2020

A few times, the spider came out to see what was shaking the earth close to its hole and stayed to have its picture taken.

2020 July, Cb, house and tree, 4july2020

We stopped at an old one-room cabin.  A huge tree branch entered just under the eaves, grew across just under the ceiling, and out another side.  There was a square hole in one wall where a wood stove pipe might have exited, but there were no furnishings of any kind remaining.

2020 July, Cb2, house and tree, 4july2020

We saw a group of a half dozen Western Bluebirds drinking from a rain puddle.  Females.  Each one had a brilliant, light blue patch on the lower back that was covered by wing tips except when the bird was flying.

When we reached camp I set up and typed my diary notes.

After I had put the computer away I took 4titude for a drive to recharge his battery and to do his monthly 4WD oiling.  From our campsite I continued on up FR 71 to replicate our morning hike.  The road had deteriorated before it got to our campsite and it continued to deteriorate.  More large rocks, sharp rocks, and deep ruts to dodge.

I saw a woman climb into the passenger side of a Jeep, then the vehicle started moving.  In a few yards it came to a pullout, and the driver moved out of my way.  Both of us drivers had our windows down.  As I passed the non-moving Jeep I looked at the driver and said, “Thank you.”

I continued on and shortly the road began to climb.  I thought, “I don’t remember this uphill stretch from our walk this morning.”  Pretty soon I was in a narrow valley heading away from familiar territory.  I could see fresh tracks from ATVs so I knew there was no problem with the two-track dirt road.  At the top of the ridge there was a wide spot without trees or large rocks.  I backed off the road for my first move of turning around.  Just as I was getting 4titude’s front fender off the road, three ATVs came up.  They were going the direction I had been going.  I waved the lead one over to me and asked where the road went.  The driver said it could be used to either go to the “gas line” or to I-40.  I thanked him and said I didn’t want to go any farther from camp.

The three ATVs went on.  All three were driven by men with women as front seat passengers and a child or two in the back seat.  I thought, “Here is an example of oppression of women.  The men get all the fun of the driving and the women merely get a very bumpy ride.”  I wondered what those middle-aged and younger men and women thought about this old lady driving on such a road.

I ate a half-lunch, then went to get hot water from Mary.  At her insistence I stayed and we chatted while I drank my tea and she made chorizo-and-egg burritos.  She had a refrigerator in which she could store the extras.  When the food was safely stowed we began playing Scrabble.  At about the third game we also each ate one of her freshly made burritos.

We laughed at ourselves at the end of the fourth game.  I put down the word S – U – blank tile – S and said, “The blank tile is an ‘e’ for the word ‘sues.’ ”  Mary began wondering out loud what the word meant.  She was a lawyer, and her last few years of work she was a federal judge.  She was only ten years younger than I so you can imagine what she, as a female, went thru during her years in law.  I said, “ ‘Sues,’ as in somebody sues someone else.”  Then we both burst out laughing.  She said her mind had slipped a cog.  I said her mind had not wanted to think of her past years as a lawyer.  She agreed.

2020 July, Ab, interior Mary's Casita, 2july2020

The Scrabble playing area in Mary’s casita.

She played a word that ended up next to a triple-word square.  I put down “cyr” on the triple-word space and tied it to Mary’s word.  I said, “cry.”  Mary said, “What does ‘c y r’ spell?”  Then I saw my mistake and we burst out laughing again.  I had been trying so hard to play the letter “c” on a square that counted extra that I’d unconsciously misspelled the word in order to make it fit on the board.  I had to remove my tiles and take a zero for the round.

Even tho we agreed our minds were no longer concentrating well we played one more game.  Mary was beginning to get the hang of many of the intricacies.

High temperature today was around 83 degrees.  Inside my tent it got to at least 112.

 

July 5 Sunday

People in the meadow encampment set off loud firecrackers last night from 8:30 to about 9:30 PM.  No coyotes howled last night or this morning.  They had decamped.

Low 47 degrees.  No dew this morning.  The plants and soil didn’t have any rainwater to spare.  Pre-sunup hot water from Mary for hot cocoa was greatly appreciated.  Mary liked having the extra heat generated by the stove burner to help warm up her travel trailer.

2020 July, Da4, My Yellow Palace and the full moon, 5july2020

Predawn: My Yellow Palace (lit inside by flashlight) and a full moon.

Mary can pick up the news on her cell fone from the time she gets up at 4 AM til the sun rises around 5:45.  Today there was an article in The New York Times that centered on my home town, Lubbock, Texas, about Texans not being willing to take any COVID-19 precautions any more.  How disappointing.

Mary and I took a shorter hike today.  We walked thru the dispersed camping area out to the paved AZ 64.  We had hoped to get better cell fone reception.  Mary wanted to pick up some more news.  She was able to pull in the cooking section of The York Times, but nothing more of interest.  I hoped to send a photo by text messaging that I had tried to send from camp but there had not been enuf power there.  Wasn’t enuf power beside the highway, either.  My fone averaged only 1½ to 2 bars.

2020 July, Db2, camp scenery, 5july2020

The countryside

Happily, we saw a juvenile Stellar’s Jay.  The bird’s head was ebony black but his back was blue.  Blue tail and wings, also.

I sat outside and read in the shade while Mary did some chores in her Casita.  I saw a Guernsey-colored cow walk, mooing, along the dirt road.

2020 July, Ac3, interior Big Agnes Two, 2july2020

Inside My Yellow Palace

We played Scrabble in Mary’s Casita.  At one point while I was muttering about wanting to put a high-counter tile on a square with “triple letter” or “double word” but I could not find such a square to use, Mary said, “Location, location, location.”

The high today was 90 degrees.   In my tent it got to 115.

 

July 6, Monday

2020 July, Eb, mural in Williams second bldg from post office, 6july2020

Mural on building two buildings down from post office in Williams.

We drove to Williams to run some errands, then I drove us to FS 122(?) to see the dispersed camping sites off the Snow Bowl Road out of Flagstaff.  There used to be 15 sites and they were all arranged along the FS road.  This day there were nine, and numbers 8 & 9 had been relocated down a new, side road.  There were no sites with enuf space for Mary to circle thru with her Casita.  She was not yet experienced in backing it up.  She had bought it less than two months ago and had never towed anything before.

Almost all the sites were full.  Mary suggested we move to the Kaibab Lake Forest Service Campground the next day.  This day was her 14th day at the dispersed site and she had to move on tomorrow.

2020 July, Bb, hiking to the red gravel hill, 3july2020

Last view of scene from dispersed camp site

When I turned off the Snow Bowl road onto US 180 I turned right, northwest.  We drove thru miles of ponderosa pine forest then thru miles of sage lands.  At the junction of state 64 and US 180 there were a couple of motels, a gas station, and a curio store.  A pickup was parked beside a large water station.  A hose from the water tank ran into a large tank in the bed of the pickup.  I commented, “This is how some Navajos obtain water.”

Going south on state 64 we drove into the Kaibab Lake Campground and talked to a camp host.  Then we drove thru the campground a couple of times.  I was the driver and Mary took down the numbers of sites that would be open tomorrow, ones that she might be able to back into.  There was only one non-reservable pull-thru, number D54, and it was unoccupied.  We crossed our fingers.

We returned to Williams to shop at Safeway where Mary bought some meat and perishables and I refilled a couple of gallon jugs with drinking water from a Glacier brand water stand.

 

Tree Felling

A few days ago the HOA president for our condominium, Steve, noticed that a palm tree, which was standing close to Unit 15, had begun leaning towards that building.

Tree Felling Am, rotten palm leaning towards unit 15, 28june2020

This foto was taken during process of removing the tree, but it shows how badly the palm was leaning towards Unit 15.

Presumably it had rotted inside.  He contacted the landscaper who does our work.  Tree specialists came out and agreed that the next big windstorm was going to topple the tree onto the roof of Unit 15.  That could literally occur any day because we are now in the monsoon storm season.

The tree specialist said his next few weeks were booked up but he could remove the tree on Sunday.  The palm tree sits inside our courtyard.  There is no way to get a large piece of equipment into the area.  The tree man notified Steve that he had contracted to rent a cherry picker for the day, one with an arm long enuf to reach across the top of the one-story unit.  Arrangements were made for the men to begin at 6 AM this morning.

On June 28, 2020, somehow I did not hear any noise of footsteps or voices talking, but at 6:15 I glanced out my window and saw a man scrambling up the palm tree.

Tree Felling Ay, climbing palm tree again, 28june2020

I grabbed my camera and rushed outside to get pictures of him in action.  This picture was actually taken later when the climber was working his way down, sawing off chunks of the trunk.

I spoke to the man in charge, the tree man, and asked about the cherry picker.  He said the cherry picker was available today but this was the only day off for the operator and the man was not willing to work today.  One of the tree man’s employees was an experienced tree climber and cutter and agreed to do the work the old-fashioned way.

Tree Felling Aa, just arrived at the top, 28june2020

The climber’s crampons had a large spike on the outer edge of each shoe.  There did not seem to be any spikes underneath the man’s feet.  The climber had fastened a thick belt around the trunk of the tree.  He moved the belt to about the level of his head, pulled hard on the belt, then moved his feet a foot at a time.  Each time he moved one of his feet he shoved its spike into the palm tree trunk.

When the climber’s head was just below the level of the fronds he began chipping away at the short pieces of former fronds that were on the trunk right underneath the current head.

Tree Felling Ac, Flakes of Former Fronds Flying, 28june2020

Dark flakes floated to the ground.

Tree Felling Ad, insepction by geese, 28june2020

Geese inspection

He leaned back into the harness that was attached to the belt around the tree.  As a frond began to come loose he grabbed it, pulled it off, waved it to align it with the current of the breeze and with the ground, and dropped it so that it fell safely on ground and not on a roof or the hedge that hugged the building.

Tree Felling Af, frond falling, 28june2020

First Frond Falling

It took him about an hour to remove all the fronds.  It must have taken a lot of upper body strength.  Each frond made a loud noise when it hit the ground; they were heavy.  The crew chief and two workers stood around admiring the climber’s skill.

Tree Felling Ai, working, 28june2020

So did I.  And I took pictures, hoping to capture some of the action.  The climber’s wife had come along; she and I chatted a little.

Tree Felling Al, only one more, 28june2020

Only one more remaining.

Once all the fronds were on the ground the climber retrieved a chain saw and begun cutting the trunk into pieces two to three feet long.

Tree Felling An, beginning to remove topknot, 28june2020

Using rope to haul saw up

Tree Felling Ar, Look, Ma, No Hands, 28june2020

“Look. ma, no hands”

When a piece was completely sawed loose the climber looked around and shoved the piece so that it fell to a safe place on the ground.  Those pieces made very loud thunks when they landed.

Tree Felling Bg, removal of next piece of trunk, 28june2020

Tree Felling Bh, removal of next piece of trunk, 28june2020

Tree Felling Bi, removal of next piece of trunk, 28june2020

The climber then adjusted the belt lower on the palm trunk and began sawing the next piece.

After he was halfway down, or a little further, sawing went faster.  I think he had come to the rotted portion of the tree. He stood on the ground to saw the last couple of pieces.

Now the men on the ground went to work.  One man carried the fronds to their truck by hand.  The crew chief worried one piece of the trunk into a wheelbarrow and carted it to the truck.  I imagine it took two men to lift each piece into the bed of the pickup.  They swept up all the debris and carted it to the truck.

The next day workers came with a motorized circular saw they used to grind the stump to a couple inches below ground level.

Tree Felling Bs, motorized circular saw destroying stump, 29june2020.jpg

They shoveled the sawdust-like flakes into barrels and put them in the pickup, then raked the area to pull dirt over the shallow depression.

Tree Felling Bv, no palm tree, 29june2020.jpg

No palm tree

 

2017 Tampa Trip, Slowly Heading Home

Betty, who was on this camping trip, sent the fotos she had taken.  They all refer to experiences in the last blog but I am including them in this blog so ya’ll can see some snippets of Big Bend NP.

basin_road03

I will start with this foto from the Big Bend archives, sent to me by a ranger there.  This is the road up to Chisos Basin.  But I remember much more vegetation on the road itself.  This foto must have been taken during a time of year when there was more traffic.

 

April 7, Friday

Low 50 degrees. The air was calm this morning so I had hot cocoa.

I was still sad about Sheila’s having to leave.  I missed her companionship. Yesterday, today…. I missed all my Big Bend camping mates, Sheila, Marian, Betty, Leza, Mother, Father, Joan, Angel, and Mama.  Had I mentioned that Sheila had brought her dog, Mama?

Betty and Sylvia Historic Hot Springs along Rio Grande Big Bend, April 1, 2017 by Chern-Hughes

Sylvia and Betty lolling in the hot springs “bathtubs.”  Note the lovely pink color of my T-shirt.

The great horned owl had found a potential mate.  Part of the time he was calling today he was answered by another great horned owl on the other end of the campground.  Speaking of birds, I had seen at least one roadrunner each day in Big Bend.

I drove to the Boquillas Canyon Trailhead and hiked about 1½ miles total.  I went a short ways past the end of the maintained trail.  Both sides of the Rio Grande were lined with sheer rock walls.  Very pretty.  The walls were composed of limestone laid down in narrow sheets.  I gave $2 to a Mexican named Jesús.  He was standing beside the path and had sung a couple verses of songs in Spanish.  He had a good voice.  He was also trying to sell trinkets but I wasn’t interested.  I thought later I should have given him at least five.  Two dollars almost won’t buy anything.  But I didn’t have much in my pocket.  I did tell him he had a good voice.

At the Rio Grande Village Visitor Center I finally remembered to mention the coyote Sheila and I had seen.  I told the ranger that soon after turning onto The Old Maverick Road we saw a coyote walking on the other side of the road, approaching us at a leisurely pace.  As we passed, I looked out my open side window and stared at him, and he stared back at me, right in the eye.  For several moments.  I wondered if the animal was rabid.  The ranger said that was common behavior of coyotes on the roads in the park.

The ranger also offered the information that the little store at Study Butte carried enough variety that rangers shopped there instead of driving all the way to Alpine.

I ate in the dappled shade on the one picnic table at the Rio Grande Village Visitor Center and opened two cans for lunch.  I ate a can of soup, then reached in the can of boiled peanuts Betty had brought along just to give me.  The peanut I pulled out was fat.  As it passed into my close vision, just before I put it in my mouth, I noticed that it still seemed to have a shell.  I crunched and chewed once or twice, then decided that didn’t work.  I took the strings out of my mouth and read information on the label on the can.  The consumer was supposed to drain the liquid off (I drank some of it; it was very salty and tasted vaguely like okra) and shell each peanut before putting the inner nuts in her mouth.  I drained the can, then set it in the SUV to munch on peanuts when I was sitting somewhere for a while to relax.

On my way north I detoured to the hot springs so I could take fotos.  I had left my smart fone in the car with Leza when Betty and I had soaked in the water.  The road was narrow.  In places, at the same time, there was a vertical cliff wall on the passenger side and a vertical dropoff of a few yards on the driver’s side.

Arrived home to Agnes at 5:30 pm.  Air temperature was 770 but temperature inside enclosed tent was 1070.

Sylvia Lee, Leza Mesiah, Marian Wendel, Chisos CG, 1april2017 by Chern-Hughes

Note the rugged country on the edge of the campground.

 

April 8, Saturday

Two great horned owls called across the campground again this morning.  Low 510.  The air was calm so I fixed hot cocoa.

Besides my usual can of beans I ate the boiled peanuts from the can I had opened yesterday.  So I could reach the peanuts better I poured the can’s contents onto a brown paper bag.  There had still been a little liquid in the bottom of the can and the shells of the peanuts in the liquid were still very soft.  The shells of the rest of the peanuts had begun to dry and harden.  The peanuts inside the liquid-soft shells were very tiny; almost all the liquid had boiled out of them during canning.  The peanuts inside the shells that had begun to dry had resorbed liquid and had swollen to fit the entire insides of the shells, swollen to larger than normal.  The somewhat dry shells were wet enuf that they were difficult to open.  I cracked them with my teeth, then worried the shells and peanuts til I got the nuts into my mouth.  The peanuts tasted like the brine from the can — vaguely like okra.  The project took half an hour and my fingers got tired and sore.  I wondered if boiled peanuts that had not been canned would be easier to shell.

I drove the 8-plus miles of the graveled Grapevine Hills Road to the Balanced Rock trailhead.  I put 4titude in four-wheel-drive and oiled his 4WD transmission for more than ten miles while driving in and back out.

The first part of the trail was flat, sloping gently uphill thru a fairly wide canyon or dry wash, and had very few rocks underfoot.  Then the trail began going up a hillside.  A Texas Parks And Wildlife article had said this last quarter mile was a “scramble.”  The ranger at the Rio Grande Village visitor center had said the trail zigzagged up among the rocks, and indicated there was no scrambling.  About halfway up thru the boulder field I realized I had bitten off more than I should try to chew when hiking alone at age my age.  However, something kept me going up.  Only three short portions of the trail were actual scrambles.

Suddenly, I was facing the Balanced Rock and two young women underneath it.  It was exactly 12 noon.  I took fotos from both sides of the rock, then went back down the trail.  It took me 45 minutes to get up and 40 minutes to find my way back down.  The scenery around was lovely.  Going up, the boulder fields of the Grapevine Hills were fun to study.  Coming down, thru the wide “V” of the canyon there was a beautiful view across cut-up, colored desert and far hills.

Also pretty was a colorful lizard I had seen on the trail.  It had a blue head, wide red neck band, and green torso and legs.

I parked beside Agnes at 2:30 p.m.  Temperature inside enclosed tent was 1180.

In the evening I walked to the nearby amphitheater and heard Ranger Jeannette’s talk of “the top ten things about Big Bend National Park.”  The talk, with slides, was professionally constructed and Jeannette’s deliver was professional.  Very well done.  I had thought she was going to pick out specific places, such as the highest point in the park (Emory Peak) and the hot springs.  Instead, the topics were more general, thus more than ten actual spots were included.  Topics were such things as geology, fossil finds, animals, and history of the origin of the park. One fact she stated that I wrote down was that at Santa Elena Canyon the elevation change from the river to the top of the cliffs was approximately 1,500 feet.

Sylvia Lee, Marian Wendel, Angel Chisos Basin CG, April 2 2017 by Chern-Hughes

This shows some cloud-fog obscuring the ramparts around the campground.  Marian is holding a copy of a CD Leza has produced of her own singing.

 

April 9, Sunday

Low was 600.  Air calm so I had a cup of hot cocoa after typing my trip notes this morning.  It was too hot late afternoon and evening yesterday to boot up the computer.

I drove halfway down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and parked at the Upper Burro Mesa trailhead.  The trail was said to wander 1.8 miles to the top of the Burro Pouroff.  I put on my boots and pack and began striding confidently down the trail on the desert mesa.  Burro Canyon soon narrowed and the trail went down bedstone ledges in the bottom of the little wash.  After about a quarter of a mile my feet stopped at the upper edge of a ledge that was about 3 feet high.  There were little handholds and narrow foot ledges along the upper side of the ledge but I would have had difficulty getting down safely and getting back up the ledge.  I probably could have handled the scramble but I did not want to attempt it alone.  The strength in my legs, which used to be exceptional, has deteriorated in recent years and my balance had been reduced.  I turned around and walked slowly back up the trail, taking time to enjoy the scenery and the few blooming plants.  It took me 15 minutes to walk that far down the trail and 22 minutes to go back up the hill.  I consoled myself with the thought that from the top of the pouroff I would not have been able to see much of the pouroff itself.

I drove south and took the Burro Pouroff turnoff.  The trail was entirely flat, altho it sloped in places, except for one water bar step (log across the path for erosion control).  From the parking lot I walked a half mile to the bottom of the pouroff.  During and after rainstorms, water poured straight down off a tall cliff.  The flows had eroded the cliff upcanyon a few yards from the cul-de-sac of cliffs surrounding it.  The little cove and towering cliffs were pretty.  Because it was still morning the spot was in the shade and was cooler than the mid 80s of the path in the sun.

On the way back to the campground I drove a few miles down the Painted Gap Road because the ranger had said the scenery was pretty.  The scenery was too far away and there was too much flat desert around me for my taste to call it pretty.  I turned around at the third primitive campsite because the road from thereon required high clearance.  Again, I am sure I could have handled the road but I figured I really should not try it alone on a road on which no one came along for days or weeks.  The road went onwards to the top of a low saddle in a low ridge and ended somewhere not much farther on, but I turned back.  The saddle may have been the “Painted Gap.”

When I returned to camp the air temperature was 820 and the tent temperature 1150.

I ate one can of soup then opened the huge bag of already-popped popcorn that Leza and Betty had left with me.  I also opened a small bag of Asian salad dressing that Betty had included.  I poured some popcorn into a bowl and drizzled the dressing over them.  The combination was delicious.  When the dressing was gone I put a couple tablespoonfuls of apricot jelly in the bowl and added more popcorn.  It was also tasty, but the salad dressing had tasted better because of the oil in the dressing.

Just before sundown I drove up to the Chisos Lodge and chose a seat on the patio.  At 8:30 a ranger began a talk on bears.  She was knowledgeable and used a lot of humor and expressive body language.  It was almost like attending a comedy show.

Angel in the tent at Chisos Basin CG Big Bend, 1April2017 by Chern-Hughes

An Angel in the tent.

 

April 10. Monday

Low 590.  Occasional wind bringing in a cool front that carried potential thunderstorms for the next several days.

From my campsite I saw two colorful birds fly by, a Baltimore oriole, then a vermillion flycatcher.

This morning I drove to Lajitas, driving thru charming desert hills and colorful, cut-up plateaus.  Lajitas, however, was a disappointment.  It was merely a rich people’s playground.  The village mostly consisted of the Lajitas Pro Golf And Spa and its associated businesses.  There were a couple other expensive ventures.  Even an “international airport”!  Also a necessity — a gas station.  There were a few private houses, some rich and some poor.  At the eastern edge was a hot, dry tent campground for the poor-in-money outdoorsmen wanting to skim the river or ride the zip line.  For the campers and the locals there was a convenience store and a cemetery.

At the bakery of the Lajitas Pro Golf And Spa I bought two sausage-and-cheese-filled kolaches.  The baker heated them in a microwave and I ate them immediately.  The sausages were shaped like wieners and had a hot pepper tang to them.  Delicious.  They were made from scratch with the filling being surrounded by what looked like a hot dog bun baked with the fillings inside it.

I was told the old Movie Set was perhaps 20 miles further west.  Since I had probably seen none of the movies I was not interested in driving further just to pay to see some faux buildings.

The Barton Warnock Museum of Environmental Education in Big Bend State Park did not interest me.  I had studied or read about a lot of environmental issues and did not feel like paying to go thru a visual lecture.

I stopped at the little Cottonwood grocery store in Study Butte and wandered thru.  A refrigerated package of avocado and mango salsa caught my eye.  I bought it to stir into the remaining pre-popped popcorn.  The resulting mixture tasted reasonably good.

The camp host later told me that the road continuing west from Lajitas to Presidio followed the Rio Grande and was a very scenic drive.  Too bad I had not talked to him before I drove to Lajitas.

When we returned home at 2:22 4titude said the air temperature was 770.  Temperature inside the enclosed tent was 1180.

At sundown there was a layer of clouds in and above the Window, but no other clouds in the sky.  Lovely sunset.

Leza Mesiah, Marian Wendel, Sylvia Lee, A2, Chisos CG Big Bend, 1april2017 by Chern-Hughes

Another side of the Chisos Basin.  Snack time.

April 11, Monday

Low 61.  Not a shred of any cloud in the sky but I could smell the very high humidity in the air.  The doves, chirping birds, and great horned owls greeted the day with their voices, as usual.

This morning I whiled time away.  I typed yesterday’s trip notes, then drank hot cocoa.  Then drank water while eating a can of beans, then had another cup of hot cocoa.  Sitting at the picnic table, I put the rising sun at my back and worked crossword puzzles and studied a wildflower ID book.

At 10:15 a.m. I prepared to go brush teeth and put sunscreen on ear lobes.  When I stood up and turned around I saw feathery grey clouds being propelled over and down the tops of the peaks lining the east side of the Chisos Basin.  At first I thought the clouds were raining but decided that what I thought was rain was yet only fog or low-lying portions of clouds.

I carried my rain poncho when I walked to the toilet building to brush my teeth.  At several camp sites people had left towels and clothes spread out to dry without anything holding them in place, then had driven away.  Today those campers would learn not to trust the wind and weather when they left camp.

I drove about 5½ miles past Panther Junction and turned onto the Glenn Springs Road.  A ranger had said the springs were at the end of the road.  The 1½-lane-wide gravel road headed easterly along the base of the Chisos Mountains, then it turned due south and started across flat desert.  I stopped and took a good look at the map.  The road went all the way across the wide, hot flats to the hot springs.  Glenn Springs were a few miles south of where I had stopped.  According to some rangers I had talked to, most of the springs were dry, especially any on the flat desert.

I turned around, backtraced a ways, and took the Pine Canyon Road.  It was a little narrower and not so well graveled.  I passed one primitive camp site and, just before reaching the second one, I halted below a short rise that had deep, sandy holes dug out by spinning tires.  I put 4titude into 4WD and drove thru and up with no problem.  Went a few more yards then switched back to 2WD.  On the way back I did not have to use 4WD because gravity helped 4titude plow thru and over the sand holes.

After the second primitive camp site the road began deteriorating.  As 4titude tooled easily along I began to think that it was foolish for a weak, old woman (would be 76 in one month) to be driving on bad roads in a place rarely frequented by anybody, should she (I) need help.  Turned around and drove back to camp.

Arrived home at 3:55 p.m.  Air temperature 770.  Temperature inside enclosed tent was 1050.  Clouds had covered the sun part of the day and not as much solar heating thru the nylon had taken place as on the two previous days.

Rain clouds gathered overhead during afternoon and evening.  I could smell rain but none fell in the Basin.  From looking at the clouds it did seem to rain on the south side of the Basin rim, perhaps upon the area where I had driven in and out on dirt ravines earlier.

Big Bend, Chisos Basin, camp site 34, B3, Leza Mesiah, 2april2017 by Chern-Hughes

Leza being filmed by neighboring campers.  Note the fog down low in the canyon top center.

April 12, Wednesday

Wind blew fiercely off and on during the night.  The wind took a long breather at sunup and I was able to heat water for hot cocoa.  Two great horned owls hooted.  They were roosting close to each other.

To get a little exercise I utilized hiking trails and walked a loop up to the Chisos Basin Visitor Station, covering a total of about 1½ miles.  While I was there I hooked up to their wi-fi and checked the weather forecast for Portales, New Mexico.  The area was supposed to have rain and severe weather tonight, some rain tomorrow, then sun the next few days.

 

April 13, Thursday

Wind was fierce off and on during the night, followed by two light rains.  I was concerned that the wind might tear parts of Agnes into shreds.  She was still in excellent shape when I decamped this morning.  The fierce winds had kept me awake altho the raindrops and softer winds lulled me into sleep now and then.  I arose at 4:50 a.m.  The moon was valiantly shining, sometimes between clouds and sometimes thru thin parts of clouds.  Its light helped me pack the SUV.

Just as I finished “folding” the wet tent I turned around and looked at the saddle that the exit (and entrance) road passed up and over.  A huge cloud had dropped down, well below the top of the saddle.  While I finished departing preparations I carried on a debate.  Was the fog on the saddle so thick that the road would not be visible, or was it actually not as thick as it looked?

I opted to begin the day’s trek and see how the fog lay.  Temperature was 550 when I drove away at 6:20 a.m.  There were a couple of spots on the saddle where I literally could not see the road or anything else for a few yards, but only for a couple of yards.  The rest of the time I was able to see at least the white line on the right edge of the road, and much of the time I could see the double yellow line down the center of the highway.

On the south side of Marathon I stopped and watched one peacock and three peahens amble slowly across the highway, US 385.

I again ran into fog when going thru the hills between Marathon and Fort Stockton.

At 12:46 it suddenly became 11:46 noon.  That was good because it took me 10½ hours to drive from the Big Bend campsite to my campsite at Oasis State Park just out of Portales New Mexico, 387 miles.  Arrived at site 12 at 3:50 p.m.

I called Terre and she drove out.  While I waited for her, I spread the tent and associated tarps out to dry.  Together, Terre and I managed to get Agnes back on her feet in spite of very strong wind gusts.  We hugged and parted til Saturday.

NewMex, Oasis State Park, A1, 14april2017

My traveling cabin.

 

April 14, Friday

Strong winds blew much of the night.  Strong winds were not unusual here.

Low 60.  Sky completely overcast.  Sun never came up.

Last night when I went to bed sky was full of stars.  Yesterday, camp host and Terre had checked Portales’ forecast.  Today was to have a morning low of 530 and a sunny high of 81.  Saturday low to be 52 and high 82.  Sunday low 480.  Plus 20% chance of rain some time during these days.

I ran a couple of shopping errands in Portales.  I bought a pair of gym shoes at Bealls and a battery-run clock for camping.  My old clock had become a nuisance soon after I had arrived at Big Bend.  It began sounding its alarm constantly.  Leza disconnected the battery then reconnected it and the clock stopped alarming.  However, that evening it began sounding its alarm again and would not stop even after I disconnected then reconnected the battery, so I threw it in the dumpster.

The little watch that hung from my belt stayed on Arizona time.  It was difficult to read after dark.  A larger clock was easy to read with any kind of light shining on it and I kept it on local time.  When I got back to Agnes I put a battery in the new clock and set it for New Mexico DST, which was an hour ahead of Arizona sun time.

The rest of the afternoon and into the evening the wind continued to be harsh on Agnes.

I picked up the gym shoes to rework the laces and noticed the alarm mechanism had not been removed.  I had tried on the shoes in the store and decided to wear them the rest of the day.  I had carried the box to the counter so the clerk could get the price off the bar code ($70 on sale for $50).  Neither she nor I thought about the fact that I needed to take the one shoe off my foot and hand it to her so she could remove the alarm lock.  I noticed that the door alarm rang when I walked out the door but nobody came after me so the problem went unnoticed.  A few minutes later, when I walked into WalMart with a bunch of people, the door alarm sounded.  No one noticed.  I was the only person going out the door when I left.  The door alarm sounded but no one came running up to accost me and I still did not realize I was the person setting off the alarms.

I caught the camp host, who was quite a handyman, and asked if he would be able to remove the lock.  He said he could but inside the lock was a bunch of India ink under pressure and it would spray all over the shoe if he pried the lock off.  He had found out by experience when he was once in the same situation.  I decided I might have to stick around Portales til 10 am Sunday to get the problem fixed.  If I had realized that was Easter Sunday and stores would probably be closed, I would have panicked.  But I figured I would have things taken care of on Sunday before I headed for home.

NewMex, Oasis State Park, B1, 14april2017

The colors of sunset did not spread very far under the huge cloud covering most of the sky, even tho there was a large unclouded strip between the horizon and the edge of the cloud.  Lightning to the north and NNE created large pink and yellow areas on the clouds as the sun’s rays did their final sinking.

 

April 15, Saturday

Low 62 degrees.  Sky completely covered with mass of low-hanging clouds.  However, today the clouds all went away by midafternoon.

I picked Terre up at her house and we headed for Lubbock.  As we were approaching the city, Terre suddenly realized we had not accounted for the time zone change and we were an hour late.  I called Nancy Meinecke and explained.  We all arrived at the Blue Sky Café across from the University of Texas Tech Museum at 12 noon.  I had met Robert and Nancy Meinecke at the Agua Piedra Campground in Angostura Valley (“Tres Ritos”) the summer before summer and we had kept in touch.  The Meineckes had brought three grandchildren to the café because all five of them were headed for a birthday party after lunch.  The children were very well behaved and were a delight.  Robert wrote out some simple driving directions so I could find the wind power museum.

Tex, Lubbock, Wind Power Ctr, J2, 15april2017

Interior showing chuck wagon and a few of the many, many windmills.

Terre and I had planned the trip to Lubbock specifically to see the American Wind Power Museum.  I went east as Robert had directed, but in a couple of blocks I was faced with a dilemma.  4th Street split.  Neither of the splits claimed to be the continuation of 4th Street.  I made a guess and guessed wrong.  However, after driving a long exit road and frontage street we arrived at University Avenue.  It took me a minute to realize this was the old north-south College Street.  Robert had said the museum was out east on Broadway.  I knew University intersected with Broadway and I felt certain Broadway went straight east at least as far as the museum.  I was correct.  I enjoyed toodling slowly along the remaining bits of Broadway’s brick-lined street between the Texas Tech campus and downtown.

Robert had said we would pass Mackenzie Park and then the museum would be on our left.  We did go past the old, formal, entrance to Mackenzie and an adjacent, newer entrance.  Now I knew an easy way to get to Mackenzie Park.  Directions I had used a few years ago had us taking the Loop, then running into difficulty deciding when to exit.

The American Wind Power Center was on our right, not our left as Robert had written, and we slid past the entrance.  I made a U-turn, because there was almost no traffic, backtracked, and parked 4titude in the parking lot.

Tex, Lubbock, Wind Power Ctr, C1, 15april2017

There were a lot of explanatory signs.

The museum was mostly about windmills and had almost nothing about modern electricity-generating wind towers, altho it did have a couple of the structures.  Luckily, I mentioned to the entrance clerk that I was especially interested in the electricity-generating turbines and she told us quite a bit of information, of the layman type that I was looking for.

The museum was very interesting.  It was fascinating that a very long and detailed model railroad display was being built.  It began on a long table.  One end of the table featured Lubbock in 1941 buildings,

Tex, Lubbock, Wind Power Ctr, E2, 15april2017

all hand-crafted,

Tex, Lubbock, Wind Power Ctr, E4, 15april2017

and the other end had a tunnel thru Yellowhouse Canyon.

Tex, Lubbock, Wind Power Ctr, F2, 15april2017

Tunnel not in this foto.

Except that that was not the end.  From Yellowhouse Canyon the train wound up a spiral til it reached a level set of tracks well above everyone’s heads in the building.  This upper track made a complete circuit of the edifice.

Tex, Lubbock, Wind Power Ctr, G2, 15april2017

Getting back to Portales was not so simple because no highway sign said anything about Clovis.  Highway numbers were given but meant nothing to me.  Eventually we got on 4th Street heading west and kept going.  I always forgot that 4th Street was not the Clovis Highway.  Pretty soon 4th Street dead-ended and I backtracked a short ways to a highway sign pointing to Shallowater 7 miles distant.  We drove on a straight-as-an-arrow, narrow, farm-to-market road past very expensive houses.  When we reached the Clovis Highway, which turned out to be number 84, i.e. US 84, we agreed we had enjoyed seeing new parts of Lubbock and the countryside.

As we were passing the outskirts of Littlefield I noticed a Beall’s store in a strip mall along the highway.  There were cars parked in the parking lot.  At my next chance, I did a U-ie across a break in the median and headed back to the mall.  Beall’s was open.  I took the shoes and receipt inside and the clerk cheerfully removed the alarm lock from the shoes.

Eventually I dropped Terre off at her house and I returned to Agnes.

 

April 16, Easter Sunday

The low this morning was 52 degrees.  I took Agnes down and drove away at 9 am.

After leaving Vaughn I noticed I had made a wrong turn at a highway intersection.  I turned around and went back to US 60.  Had driven eleven miles out of the way.

At 5:05 I arrived at Site 19 in the BLM Datil Well Campground.  It had taken me 8 hours to drive the 338 miles.

Starting Friday I had been promising myself that I would have grass-fed beef steak for dinner at the restaurant in the village of Datil Well.  As I drove along today I began to think about the fact that many restaurants, especially in small towns, were not open on major holidays.  Sure enuf, I did not get my grass-fed beef steak dinner.

B1d, Datil Well, A, view from site 13, 28may2019

At site 19, when I unfolded the blankets that I set out to drape over my chair and me for warmth during cold evenings and mornings, a centipede stared up at me.  Somehow it had gotten into the very center of the folds.  I was lucky it had preferred the warmth of the blanket last night and had not sought out my body.  Both blanketed chair and I had been in the tent all night.  OR, the centipede might have climbed into the blankets while I was packing the SUV this morning.  Perhaps when I set them outside on chair or table til their place was ready in the SUV.  Centipedes did not live at this 7,800-foot elevation campgound because of the cold winters.

I knocked the centipede to the ground, then realized it would seek me out for warmth during the night because I would be sleeping without a tent and would be the only warm thing around.  I began looking for something to kill it with.  There weren’t any large stones around so I grabbed the paperback book I had set out to read.  I slammed the book down on the centipede but did not seriously injure the insect and it ran under the picnic table.  While I was looking for the centipede it found me and I found it hanging onto my left great toe with its two venomous fangs.  I was wearing sandals.  I squeaked loudly but other campers were on the other side of the campground and did not hear me.  Adrenaline surged and I swatted the large insect even harder with the book, pushing it away from my toe in the process.  That stunned the insect and it did not move much.  I was able to keep banging the book against the centipede til it no longer twitched.  For the next couple hours I returned to the body over and over and poked it with a long twig to make sure the thing was actually dead.

I wondered how soon the venom was going to begin burning the inside of blood veins in my toe and foot, how much of my leg would swell up, and if I would have difficulty driving the next few days.  I’d had experience a few years earlier with the terrific pain and swelling of centipede venom.  A scorpion sting would have been preferable.

For exercise, I walked around the campground three times during the evening.  The distance seemed to be a third of a mile.  I met a Mr. and Mrs. Crankshaw.  We sipped from a bottle of red wine, chatted for a long time, and exchanged email addresses.  They were headed for Bottomless Lakes State Park.  I told them they would enjoy the beautiful CCC work there.

The only pain I felt during the evening and night was the burning from the thin holes made by the needle-like fangs.  They felt larger than sewing needle holes, like the fangs might have been as large as size 24 intravenous catheter needles.  I must have swatted the centipede off my toe before it’d had time to squeeze any venom down its teeth into my toe.

Tex, Lubbock, Wind Power Ctr, Q2, 15april2017

Back at the American Wind Power Center.  This type of windmill was brought over by European settlers on the east coast and was the type of windmill built in the US for a number of years.

 

April 17, Monday

I slept under the stars last night.  Each time I woke up to turn over I gazed in wonder at the beautiful collection of stars above me.

It only took a couple minutes to stow my bed in the SUV.  The temperature was 370 when I began driving at 6:15 a.m.  I was glad I’d not had to freeze my fingers by taking down a tent.

In the duskiness of late dawn I saw two female elk standing beside the highway.  They merely moved their heads as they watched me drive by.

Nineteen miles from my night’s camp site my odometer read 50,786 as I drove over the Continental Divide.  Temperature there was 320.  Just a few miles farther on the temperature was 270 at the village of Quemado.  Time was now a quarter hour past sunrise.

Time went backwards as I crossed the NM/AZ state line and now matched the time on 4titude’s clock.

While driving across a flat, relatively uninteresting area east of Springerville, a Lescroat audiobook on CD ended.  To keep me awake I broke out the first CD of the set of Johnny Cash CDs I had bought in Nashville.

In Springerville I purchased a delicious breakfast at Booga Red’s restaurant.

I stopped at the Maverik gas station on the east edge of Show Low.  Inside, the upper halves of the walls, adjacent portions of the ceiling, and the entire hallway walls of the walkway to the bathrooms were painted with murals.  I had seen similar murals in a Maverik station on the edge of Cortez, Colorado in 2016.  After taking pictures I asked the clerk if all Maverik stations had murals.  She answered affirmatively, adding that Maverik was a new company and did not have many stations yet.  Seemed to be headquartered in the Phoenix area.

At 1:11 p.m. I parked at the McDonald’s Restaurant one-half mile from my condo and engaged in my obsession with Bacon McDouble burgers.  Stopped at Safeway three blocks from home and bought a few items to feed me for a couple days til I could make time for a longer shopping trip.  I left Safeway at 2:16.  Parked at my condo at 2:22 pm.  Odometer 51,087.  Today I had driven the 320 miles in 9 hours, including eating and shopping.

Total mileage for the trip was 6,405 miles.

 

2017 Tampa, In the Big Bend

Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted all my fotos of Big Bend National Park, including those that had been sent me by my camping companions.  So there aren’t any fotos in this blog, but will reappear in second half of next blog (which is the last one for this trip).

 

March 30, Thursday

I drove away from Marian’s house at 4:15 a.m.  Marian would be getting up and leaving a little later in the day and would spend the night in a motel in Fort Stockton.  The motel would have a desk clerk around the clock, so she did not have to try to arrive before 5 p.m.

The electricity was still off this morning.  At one of my pit stops I happened to take a good look in the mirror.  The round neck of my T-shirt (undershirt) was showing in the open vee of the top of my shirt.  My undershirts don’t have high, round necks.  They all have V-necks that don’t show.  In the dim light of a dying flashlight I had put the T-shirt on backwards this morning.

At another pit stop I called Marian and told her the flashlight she had lent me needed new batteries.  I did not want her to be relying on it during this trip and have it die when she needed it.  She told me the power company now said electricity would not be back on til early this evening.  Marian would be in a motel in Fort Stockton by then.

I arrived at my cabin at Van Horn RV Park at 3:20 p.m.  I had now come full circle on the Tampa portion of my trip.  Today I had driven 510 miles in 11 hours.  This was the closest place to Big Bend National Park with a little KOA-like cabin.  The owners had recently dropped their KOA franchise and the place was now a private RV park but it still had the KOA cabins.  The insides of the cabins were varnished, not painted, and the cabins usually got a lot of airing out, thus there was not any outgassing or stale air to cause me distress.  Most motel and hotel rooms make me ill.  The air flow system cannot get rid of much of the stale stuff in the air.

 

March 31, Friday

I left Van Horn in the dark at 6am.  I began scolding myself for not waiting another hour so I could see the scenery.

I had decided that after I left I-10 with its fast, sometimes heavy, traffic, I would stop at a grocery store and buy canned beans and canned soup, for breakfasts and dinners respectively, and gallon jugs of water.  A grocery store, if there was any, would not have been open in Van Horn when I left.  In Alpine I shopped at a nice, small store.  Then I looked for a restaurant that was open for serving breakfast.  Did not find one but found a McDonald’s and ate two Bacon McDoubles.

The sun had been directly in my eyes for the last several miles approaching Alpine, its rays sometimes almost totally obscuring the highway.  It rose to a good position behind 4titude’s sun visor while I was inside McDonald’s eating breakfast.

Marian told me later that she had looked for a McDonald’s in Fort Stockton but there wasn’t one on the route she used to get thru town.  However, she found a restaurant that was open and ate breakfast there.

At Marathon I stopped and called Betty.  I asked her if she had a map that would tell if there were gas stations in Big Bend NP.  She only located gas stations outside the Park, so I bought gas in Marathon, altho I only needed about a quarter tank.

After leaving Marathon I began seeing a long, fascinating, white rock “dragon’s back” and some shorter ones.  I parked in front of an explanatory signboard which, luckily, talked about that rocky feature and told its name — Oachita Fold Belt.

After a long, flat drive I arrived at the Persimmon Gap entrance to Big Bend National Park.  The little visitor center was closed but the ranger at the entrance booth handed me a nice brochure with map and the current Big Bend National Park newsletter.

During my family’s first trip to Big Bend cerca 1950 we had stayed in the motel-lodge in the Chisos Basin.  At that time the road up into the basin was not paved.  The dirt tracks had been mostly covered with dryland grasses and small plants because it did not get much traffic.  But the road was paved not many years after our trip.

I followed road signs to the Chisos Basin Campground and turned in.  There were no signs indicating on which camp road my site might be.  I stopped and spoke to the camp host.  He explained where I would find my site, then said “Ms. Wendel” was already at her site.  I told him Chern-Hughes was right behind me.

I backed into site 32 at 3:10 pm.  It had taken me 8¼ hours to drive the 141 miles.  My three companions for the weekend had all stayed at lodgings in Fort Stockton and had a shorter drive today.

When I pulled the tent out of the SUV I noticed that I had not packed the bag in which I have always carried my hammer.  I borrowed Marian’s.  The ground was hard and Marian’s hammer was lightweight and had a small head.  I could not get some tent stakes into the ground at all.  Leza and Betty arrived about the time I was fussing with the stakes.  Leza had a heavier hammer.  All three tent of us tent erectors made use of Leza’s hammer that afternoon.

After they had set up their camp, Betty and Leza prepared, for all of us, our evening meal.  They had warned us a week or so ago that they both liked cooking when camping out and that they were prepared to feed all of us.  Marian was able to respond a few days ago and to make arrangements to bring several cans of food for Betty’s Texas Caviar plus a small slew of fresh vegetables.  My mind had been too busy with driving each day.  I had not been able to take the brain time to think of anything vegan I could prepare, so I had purchased 3 bags of cookies in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Betty put together Texas Caviar and a vegetable salad.  Leza cooked codfish she had bought frozen and had kept on ice.  I offered cookies but few were accepted.  They contained eggs.  Marian ate 3, Leza ate 1 (to be polite) and I ate 4.  That finished off less than half of one bag of cookies.

After clean-up, Leza brought out her guitar.  She sang at normal loudness for a while, but as evening got dark she reduced the volume to softly and sang til 9:45 p.m.  Surrounding campers later stated they had enjoyed the music.

 

April 1, Saturday

A huge breakfast was served.  Betty cooked eggs, which she did not eat because she is a vegan.  The eggs were cooked to perfection.  Leza cooked bacon.  Betty reheated pancakes that one of them had made and frozen.  A jar of maple syrup was placed on the table.  I asked Betty how she had learned to cook eggs so well since she does not eat eggs.  She said she cooked eggs regularly for their pet dog, a full-sized, large black poodle named Angel.

Leza rearranged her minivan so she could ferry all of us on today’s drive.  She thought life would be simpler if we were all in the same vehicle.  Marian and I did not protest.  First stop was the hot springs, which was the primary item on Betty’s I-want-to-see list.  Dogs were not allowed on any of the trails in Big Bend NP.  Leza was not interested in a dip in the water so she and Angel sat in the minivan with air conditioning plus music via Serius.  I shucked my sun-protecting slacks and long-sleeved shirt, and left them with Leza.  I still had a layer of clothes over my underwear.

The three of us walked the quarter mile to the hot springs.  Marian had not been interested in getting in the water, either, but she had wanted to see the spot.  Dressed in shorts and T-shirts, Betty and I stepped in and lay back.  This was my first time to show off a brightly-colored Hot Springs Arkansas National Park T-shirt I had bought a few days earlier.

The bathing area around the hot springs was bounded by a low brick and mortar wall which created a perhaps fifteen-foot square.  The wall on river side was a little lower allowing the warm spring water to drain out into the Rio Grande.  One brick side wall was a little taller and was broken irregularly.  Probably damage done by floods of the Rio Grande.  On three inner sides, concrete had been used to make rectangles with one sloping end each for comfortable lying in.  These were possibly what I remembered in my mind as “bathtubs.”  After all, it was 41 years ago when I saw them.  The mortared rocks, concrete “walls,” and bottom (concrete?) were slippery with moss and algae.

I followed Betty into the water and mimicked her method of lying down.  Each time I set another body part into the water I expected to encounter cold water and was surprised by the warmth.

When we stood up to leave I slipped and fell backwards.  I think I put my hands behind me to break my fall, but the water took most of the force.  I commented that I had not had a soft fall in a long time.  A couple of men rushed over to help me get on my feet.  That embarrassed me, whereas falling down had not.

I sat on the higher wall where it extended onto land and dipped my feet in the water to wash off the sand before putting on socks and sandals.  A Chicano man sitting beside me told me that the store near the parking area had been open into the early 1950s.  Then I realized that was the empty store I remembered from our second family trip in 1956.  I had wondered if I would see it on this trip.

The road to the hot springs parking lot was graveled.  Most of it was a one-way loop of a one-lane road built up on rock retaining walls.  When we got back on pavement Leza said she had never before driven on such a narrow road.  It had been an interesting experience for her.

My memories from 1956 were of many long miles on desert surface, sometimes having deep sections of sand.  Dad negotiated all the sand successfully in our 1953 Chevrolet sedan.  Now some of those roads were paved.

Leza drove us to the Rio Grande Village.  A man pointed out to us that the rangers posted the weather report on a board every day at each ranger station and campground.  We studied the board at this station.  The high temperature yesterday at the Rio Grande Village had been 101.6 degrees and only 86 in Chisos Basin.

We ate lunch at one of the three picnic tables in the picnic area.  Very pretty setting.  Betty set out the rest of the Texas Caviar and a fresh vegetable salad.  Earlier, Leza had pulled out fully cooked chicken wings, some being still frozen, and set them on the windshield in the sun while we were at the hot springs.  By lunch time they were nicely warmed.  There were four or five types of wings.  Leza had prepared some and Betty had prepared some.  It amazed me how much Betty enjoyed cooking food for others, food that she would not eat.

The sky had been perfectly blue in the morning.  By late afternoon it was totally clouded over.

Altho the afternoon was getting late we dropped by the new one-and-a-half-million-dollar fossil exhibit on the road out to Persimmon Gap.  I was surprised to learn that Big Bend fossils had contributed significantly to paleontological knowledge.

During the drive I said, “I have an announcement!”  All ears pointed towards me.  I said I had found my hammer.  This morning when I was about three-quarters awake I remembered that when I was packing for this trip I had taken the hammer and other equipment out of the large bag I’d been keeping it in for years and had put it in a much smaller carrying bag.  One of the first things I did this morning, after getting out of my bedroll, was to check the small bag, and there was the hammer.

Back at camp, supper was served.  Leza cooked fresh hamburger patties.  Betty set out fresh vegetable salad and cooked one ear of fresh corn for each of us.  I’m afraid I gained several pounds during the days they fed us.

I walked with Betty and Angel to put the trash in a dumpster.  On the way back we kept taking wrong turns and walked almost the entire campground before we found our campsites.  I told Leza and Marian that we had (purposefully) taken one long goodbye hike.

By the time cleanup was finished it was bedtime, 9:30 pm.

 

April 2, Sunday

Rain, extra-strong winds, thunder, and lightning took perhaps an hour to pass thru during the night.  By daybreak the wind had dried everything except tent bottoms.  At 5:30 am the sky had lots of stars in it.  But at 7:30 the sky was totally covered with clouds.  The temperature had been 510 at 5:30 and had risen to 530 by dawn (7:30).  High temperature today was to be only in the 60s with wind and strong gusts all day.

Breakfast was re-heated kielbasa sausage and eggs which both Leza and Betty took turns reheating.  Leza ate breakfast with us while Betty heated water for instant grits for herself.

Leza and Betty finished breaking camp, then Leza brought out her guitar to give us a farewell serenade.  After a couple of songs, three young people who were camped at an adjacent camp site walked up and asked if they could video and record Leza.  They said they were making a low-budget serial show at Alpine but were taking a couple days to relax from their work by camping in the park.  The man making the request said the film would be a wonderful souvenir for him of their time in the area.  Leza was thrilled and she agreed.  While the three set up camera and sound equipment Leza continued her serenading.  At one point a man said, “Are you at 60 yet?”  Leza kicked up her heels and exclaimed, “I’m 64 and ½ years old!”  The man sort of apologized and said he had been asking one of his friends about the setting on a piece of equipment.

At 12 noon, checking out time, Leza and Betty finally set off on their eleven-hour drive back home.  They left a day earlier than first planned because Leza needed to attend a practice session Monday with a group with whom she would be singing at a Renaissance (Faire) which was beginning in a week.  They left some food behind that they had brought to feed all of us for today.  Leza was not interested in taking it home.

Marian and I consulted, and by 1 PM we were heading down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Road.  There were wonderful views of the large and small volcanic remains.  One upright outcropping, a long lava dike, the Park had named Fins Of Flame because the dike (and other such dikes in the Park) had been created by hot lava which has been depicted as being licked by fiery flames.

At Castolon Visitor Center, posted on the inside walls were bits of history about the American Army camp in the area during the Mexican War Of Independence.  We sat at a picnic table outside where we ate the rest of the chicken wings, and appreciated having real meat to eat.  As filler we snacked on a huge bag of tortilla chips Leza had left with us.

We arrived at the Santa Elena Canyon parking area too late to walk to the Rio Grande River for a close-up view.  When we backtracked towards Castolon we stopped at the Santa Elena Canyon Viewpoint and took pictures.

I checked the mileage when we got to camp.  We had driven 103 miles, which was perhaps a third of the paved roads inside the Park.  We arrived back at camp in time to complete toilette and re-shifting of gear before the sun went down.  Then Marian brought her chair into my tent and we played Scrabble til her bedtime.

Wind had been cold all day. Sun and clouds had kept chasing each other across the sky most of the day, yet the clouds had all disappeared an hour or two before sundown.

 

April 3, Monday

Low 550 this morning.  Not as bad as predicted.  A great horned owl had been hooting each morning.

It was 12 noon before Marian set off for her home in Arlington.  I walked up to the Chisos Lodge and Visitor Center area to scout the place.  Maybe one-and-a-half-mile walk round-trip on the paved road.  Then I drove back up and used a table with electric outlet in the bar in the lodge to catch up on typing my trip notes.

Just past midafternoon I walked the entire campground.  I jotted down the numbers of the camp sites that had ramadas or that had afternoon shade on the picnic tables.  Only 27 out of 60 sites had ramadas.  The campground maps did not indicate which camp sites had shelters.  When I had made my reservation I had been unlucky enuf to choose a site in an area without any ramadas.

A great horned owl hooted late this afternoon.

When Leza had bought her 6-man tent two years ago she bought a tarp to put under it to protect the tent floor.  She bought a TARP.  The tarp was more than 4 times larger than the bottom area of the tent.  Even tho it was much too large and had to be folded various times to go under the tent, she brought it along again on this trip and put it under the tent.  After folding and smashing it into a large plastic bag while decamping the day before she offered the tarp to me.  Otherwise, she was going to throw it away.  This morning I dried it out, thinking I would take it home and donate it to Goodwill.  But I had another idea and I offered it to the camp host.  After some thought he accepted, saying, “There’s always a camper with a leaky tent” [to string the tarp on top of].

 

April 4, Tuesday

Low temperature 570.  Last night there were clouds in the west and a beautiful sunset.

I took an exercise walk on the paved road to the Chisos Visitor Center and back,  then relaxed and read murder mysteries.  A mockingbird sometimes serenaded from a juniper near my tent.

Sheila arrived around midafternoon.  After she was set up we played Scrabble, then she began to teach me Rummy 500.

 

April 5, Wednesday

Low temperature was 450 F.  The wind was blowing hard and froze Sheila and me all the way thru.  I got out my camping stove, matches, pot, and cup but could not find the bag with the can of cocoa.  Could not find my bag with cans of peanuts, either.  I dug thru 4titude several times during the morning.

Around 9:15 I drove us to the Chisos Basin Visitor Center where Sheila signed in and got the paper receipt to put on her windshield.

From near there we drove down The Old Maverick Road.  The first part of the gravel road was very well washboarded.  About halfway along, the road became only dirt and was sometimes rutted.  The Park had just begun grading the road for the season, had only worked on the southern two miles, and was not yet finished with even that short section.  I drove very slowly on the rutted portions to prevent loosening any of 4titude’s bolts.

We stopped at marked scenic spots and took pictures.  We did not take any of the short walks, partly because Sheila’s dog Mama was not allowed on any trails.  Luna’s Jacal was still in good shape.  Perhaps it had been kept in repair by the Park. Branches had been laid horizontally on top of each other and mortared together.  Then the jacal had been faced with native rock.  The roof was peaked.  It was a very low building.  Even the builder, a Mexican goatherder, probably could not have stood upright in it.

The grader was working on the road to Terlingua Abajo so we did not drive over to see what remained there.  I believe this would have been the “Terlingua” to which dad drove us in 1956.

At a parking area (we were now back on a paved road) we took turns watching Mama dog in the parking lot and walking down to the Rio Grande to see the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon.

At Castolon I ate a late lunch and bought a book on identifying flowers of the northern Chihuahuan Desert.  Sheila and Mama rested in the shade at the picnic table.

When I began backing out of my parking spot I looked out my rearview mirror and my two back side windows, then looked only at my back-up camera while doing the actual backing up.  Sheila began looking frantically from side to side.  I said, “I guess you had not noticed that I have a back-up camera.”  She agreed.  She had been wondering why I was backing up without looking behind me.

We continued making stops at interesting spots all the way back to camp.  Places such as Tuff Canyon, Mules Ears, and Sotol Vista.  The sky had no clouds at all and the formations and hills stood out in strong relief.

We returned around 5 pm having driven 89 miles today.  4titude said the air temperature was 610 F.  Inside my solar-heated tent my digital thermometer registered 950 F.

I opened the bear-proof contraption at my tent site to store some trash in it.  There were the two lost bags, one with cans of cocoa, the other with cans of peanuts.  Because the cans for both were cardboard I had figured animals would smell the foods and tear up the cardboard, thus I had placed them in the bear-proof cabinet.

Sheila and I passed the evening til 10 pm playing cribbage, then Sheila went straight to bed in her tent.  She was tired from the heat of the sun bearing on us when we did not have any shade during the stops on our drive today, and from the altitude in the Chisos Basin Campground, approximately 5,400 feet.  Her heart beat fast at campground altitude and lowered to normal rate when we were at lower elevations during the day’s drive.  She lived at sea level.  She was on medication for episodes of A-fib she’d had a number of years before.  Today she had a few, brief episodes of dizziness.

I sat up and read for about 45 minutes.

 

April 6, Thursday

The low was 46 degrees this morning.  I managed to stay in bed for 8¼ hours but got up at 7:30.  As I headed for the toilet house I noticed Sheila’s mini van was not at her camp site.  I walked over for a closer look.  Her tent was still standing.  I said her name softly but got no response.  I unzipped the tent door to see if she had been beaten up and her vehicle stolen, but the tent was empty of Sheila and Mama.  I picked up the two blankets of mine that she had borrowed for the night and took them back to use as padding on the cold metal picnic table bench and to wrap around my legs.

Doves were the big beggars in this campground.

When the sun began to hit my camp site I set chair and folding patio table in the sun and read murder mystery books.  I was reading two at a time, alternating each book after reading one chapter.  Both books had a major character named “Al” and sometimes it took me a few paragraphs to figure out which plot I was reading.  The sky soon became mostly cloudy.

Sheila drove up and parked at her camp site.  I went over and sat at her picnic table while she packed gear into her minivan.  Her altitude-and-cardiac-related symptoms had become bad enuf at 1 a.m. that she had driven down to Marathon hoping to find a motel room.  No such luck but she and Mama spent the night in the van.  At 10:40 Sheila left for sea level.  She had intended to stay til April 12.

I walked the paved road to the Chisos Basin Visitor Center.  Used the wi-fi to text Hou with an “I’m alive” message.  I asked the ranger why the flag was flying at half mast.  He said it was because John Glenn’s funeral was today.  I hadn’t known Glenn had died.

I Walked the Window View Trail.  It was about 4/10-mile in length.  Along the path I sat on a bench in the shade and read murder mystery books for a while.  Altho I put on a sweatshirt I became quite chilled so I began moving again.

Near the beginning of the Window View Trail was a signpost map showing all trails in Chisos Basin.  One called the Window Trail went from the visitor center area first to the campground, then on to the Window.  I began walking down the trail.  After a mile I came to a sign that said to continue 7/10 mile on down the Window Trail to get to the campground.  A couple yards above me was the Group Campground.  I continued on down the trail altho I could see that it was dropping quite a ways below the campground.  It went down and down and down til I saw what may have been a sewage treatment plant.  I knew I was below the campground.  I decided I did not want to drop any lower and I walked a half mile back up to the group campground, then walked the paved road back to camp.  Arrived at 2:30 pm, frustrated, but glad I’d gotten all the exercise.

While writing this blog and thinking about the “campground” sign on the Window Trail I began to wonder if the “campground” had been the spot where the CCC camp existed in the 1930s.  I believe the men had camped only in tents even during the winter.  Some of the tents were still being used in December cerca 1950 when my family visited the park.  Perhaps by the Young Adult Conservation Corps or something similar.

Temperature inside the closed tent was 102 degrees.  The tent had only gotten to 101 yesterday.  In this warm bowl, the tent did not cool off til almost sunset, so I poured water into my spit bath bowls and set them to warm up inside the tent.

The weather was too hot in the tent, too chilly in the windy shade, and the sun burned my skin in the sun.

After the sun had set I was able to sit in my tent.  Sheila had left me with the suggestion that I practice cribbage each day.  I got out the notes I had typed from her lessons at Cripple Creek KOA last year.  Practicing something new helped me stay awake til bedtime. I tried to practice Rummy 500 but I had not written down any notes last night and tonight I kept confusing it with several other card games.  I decided Rummy 500 would wait til I got home and took the rules off the Internet.  I alternated solitaire, a murder mystery chapter (alternating between two books), cribbage, and a wildflower identification book.

 

 

2017 Tampa, Traveling Again

March 19, Sunday

4titude said the temperature was 610 when I drove away from my son’s house at 6:25 a.m.  Odometer 47,001.  The extra one mile had been used up when I took Hou to run an errand the afternoon I arrived at his house.

This morning I had raided the refrigerator for leftovers from meals we had eaten out and I had packed in my SUV the last of Smoky Bones’ huge nacho appetizer. I ate it at the first rest stop north of Gainesville, milepost 413.  That was my breakfast.  Delicious.

Navigating and driving at the same time was difficult.  I tried to memorize important junctions and exit numbers, but I exited one mile to soon at Forsyth, Georgia.  I stopped just off the exit I had exited on, bought gas, did etc., and looked at my notes.  I had made a note to take an exit in this area but had not written the exit number.  I called the KOA and a pleasant female voice with a southern accent directed me to come on up a frontage road.

I arrived in front of my assigned KOA cabin at 3:25 p.m.  Odometer 47,404.  It had taken me nine hours to drive 403 miles.

I ate my one other meal of the day, which was two cans of soup and a piece of Judd’s chocolate cake.

AG Florida, chocolate cake

 

March 20, Monday

The temperature was 59 in the cabin when I arose at 5:30 a.m.  I decided not to leave the KOA cabin til later so I would miss morning rush hour traffic in Atlanta.    I turned on the space heater and the area around it warmed a few degrees while the temperature outdoors fell.  The temperature on 4titude’s gauge read 410 when I drove away at 7:37 a.m.

I should have waited another hour.  I was in rush hour traffic from a mile before the Atlanta southern city limits til a ways past the center of town.  At 9:15, driving on a freeway al the way thru town, I was still in stop-and-go traffic.  It looked as tho rush hour would last almost til 10 a.m.

A few miles east of Dalton, Tennessee, and about 40 miles east of Chattannoga, there had been an accident at a highway construction area and we were funneled from three lanes down to one lane.  A wide, deep trench had been dug right beside the westbound edge of I-75.  It looked as tho without the accident we would have been funneled into two lanes due to construction.  A tanker had slipped off into the trench and landed on its side.  Fire trucks, etc., and a towing crane were at the scene.  There were a couple of the same type tanker parked on the highway near the trench.  They had not slipped in.  They may have been carrying water for the construction site.  It took an hour for me to go six miles and finally be free of that congestion.  I was glad I had an audiobook on CD keeping me company.

I crossed in and out of Tennessee getting from Chattanooga to the KOA.  I was told the KOA was “four miles from the next time zone line.”  I arrived at cabin I (the letter “i”, not the number one) in the Lookout Mtn/Chattanooga West KOA campground at 2:50.  Odometer 47,598.  It had taken me 7¼ hours to drive 194 miles.

Georgia, LM-CW KOA, A1, 22march2017

Cabin I (“i”).  Note my white folding table on the porch.

I got settled in the KOA cabin, ate second (and last) meal of the day, washed up, and suddenly I felt very lonely.  I missed my son and Erin.

 

March 21, Tuesday

Temperature 65 degrees in the cabin when I arose at 5:30 a.m.  I turned on the little space heater.  At sunrise the temperature was 590 according to 4titude.

Tenn, Rock City, A1, 21march2017

I drove to Rock City on top of Lookout Mountain.  Stopped and checked directions a couple of times but had no real problem finding my way there.  I arrived at the parking lot at about 9:00 a.m. and drove away at 1 p.m.  I spent over an hour walking the three-quarter-mile loop thru the rock gardens and fairy displays,

Tenn, Rock City, E2, 21march2017

(and gnomes)

stopping to enjoy the scenery and to take some pictures.  The price for an adult was $19.99.  I got a 20% military discount and paid $17.08, including tax.  It was a lot of money for such a small garden but it was fun.  A lot of it was set up for children to enjoy more than for adults.

Tenn, Rock City, C1, 21march2017

But I was disgusted that it did not take very long to walk the twenty-dollar loop so I got a book from the SUV, re-entered the garden, and found a bench in a pretty spot upon which I sat and read for almost an hour.  I was determined to get my money’s worth of the scenery.

Tenn, Rock City, G1, 21march2017

(Fat Man’s Squeeze)

The deciduous trees did not have any leaves.  It would be interesting to come back when trees are leafed out in green and take the same fotos again.

I arrived back at the KOA at 2:40 p.m.  To eat my other meal of the day I sat on the swing on the cabin porch.  Raindrops started at 4:30 p.m.  Between rain storms I took a shower.  Occasional light hail.  Wind, with rain, became very strong about 6:45 p.m.  I heard things hitting the sides of the cabin — small branches torn off trees.  Electricity spouted off and on a few times, then went completely off at 10 pm.  Nothing to do but go to bed even tho it was only 7 p.m. back home.  I had not thought to bring my headlamp into the cabin to use for reading.

At 10:30 p.m. I woke up with a need.  There was no sound of rain falling.  Altho the batteries in my flashlight were low I decided to take a chance that they would last for five or so minutes and I headed for the toilet house in the dark.  Clouds overhead reflected a little light back onto the KOA, light from the city of Chattanooga.  Even so, it was difficult to see my points of reference in the dark.  A few steps into my way back to my cabin, at about 10:45, the lights came back on.  The KOA’s “street” lights lit my way well and I turned off my flashlight.

Back at the cabin I checked the weather channel on my smart fone.  Severe thunderstorms were still predicted for later in the night.  I put fresh batteries in the flashlight, did a few small chores I had not accomplished earlier because the lights went off, then sat and read a book for a while so that, when I went back to bed, I could sleep til a reasonable morning hour back at home.

 

March 22, Wednesday

The KOA cabin had a TV so I decided to watch two hours of local news and weather this morning.  A meterologist reported, “Trees down on Georgia side of Lookout Mountain.”  I did some checking.  The KOA was in Georgia, not Tennessee where I had thought it was.

A tall, live tree with some green leaves had fallen across the end of the roof of cabin G, the second cabin over, and caused damage.

Georgia, LM-CW KOA, A2, 22march2017

The KOA owner’s mother was planting spring bulbs near the KOA entrance.  I chatted with her and she told me the roof of the office and of another building had lost small pieces.  She said two trees had already been removed from where they had fallen across the road into the KOA and others trees were being removed from nearby Slygo Road.

She also explained that the top of the tree that fell on Cabin G had shoved cabin F slightly off its foundation and the huge root ball that had come out of the ground seemed to have shoved the back end of cabin H slightly off its foundation.  Cabin F had been occupied.  The occupants had spent the night in the cabin.  I saw them pack up and leave after the day had become well lit.

The owner reported that our half-hour terrific windstorm, during the several hours of rain, had rushed thru at 80+ miles per hour.  The meterologist on TV stated that the storm had brought a cold front that had dropped the temperature from an unusual-for-this-time-of-year high of 85 yesterday down to a predicted high 63 to 65 degrees today.

A man showed me the stump of a tree that had fallen on the roof of the porch of my cabin in November of 2016.   That explained why my cabin had a new door with fresh paint on both sides.  The door was not of varnished plank as KOA cabin doors usually were.  When I had arrived Monday I had opened the door and both windows and aired out much of the outgassing and odor.  I had not felt like taking walks around the grounds, not even walking the KOA trail thru the woods surrounding part of the grounds.  I think my lassitude was due to internal problems from breathing the outgassing from the fresh paint on the door.

Georgia, LM-CW KOA, B1, 21march2017

Wall mural and bathroom doors in administration and gift shop bldg at the KOA.

The owner’s mother told me it had cost $10,000 to replace the porch on my cabin.  It had been difficult to find wood that matched the cabins, and the wood had been expensive.  It had been difficult to find someone who knew how to build with the wood and apparently the man had charged plenty for his labor and expertise.

I talked to Tony Newman on the fone and got directions to The Feed restaurant where I met him for lunch.  We had a very pleasant visit.  He took me for a drive and showed me the 60-foot-high retaining wall the construction of which he was responsible for along a stretch of US 27 freeway that was being widened on the west side of downtown Chattanooga.  Tony and I had met when we camped near each other one evening on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2006.

When I returned to my intact cabin I admired how 4titude shone from last night’s bath.

 

March 23, Thursday

Yesterday the temperature never got very warm so I had run the space heater in the cabin all day.  The room temperature had eventually reached 730 but was only 71 when I turned the heater off and went to bed at 9 PM.  The temperature in the cabin was 530 when I arose this morning at 6:30 AM.  At sunrise 4titude said the air temperature was 500.  This surprised me because Chattanooga TV news show meteorologists said the temperature had dropped to a low of 410 in town.

I sat in the cabin watching morning news on the TV and reading books.  The situation felt very, very wrong.  My befuddled mind kept telling me I should have packed up and begun driving several hours before sunrise.

I drove away from the KOA at 9:40 AM, leaving late so I would not get into rush hour traffic in Nashville.  I arrived at my cabin at the Nashville KOA at 12:45 noon, after passing over a time zone.  I had driven 138 miles in 4 hours.

The Nashville KOA was not difficult to find.  It was perhaps four miles north of the current Grand Ole Opry building and could not be too far from downtown.  Temperature in the cabin was 590.  I had to ask someone to show me how to operate the space heater.  I was not familiar with the “on” and “off” icons used on the stove.  And a couple other symbols were not entirely self-explanatory.  The temperature desired could be set, but the monitor on the heater’s face read the actual temperature of the room.  It took a couple hours to get the temperature up to 73 degrees.

 

March 24, Friday

Last night I set the space heater to 600 instead of turning it off.  But the low for the night was only 580, very briefly in the morning!

I sat in the KOA cabin watching morning news then reading books.  Just after 9 AM I called the Nashville Shuttle Service.  The shuttle van made its first visit to the KOA at 10 AM.  I caught it and rode to downtown Natchez.

As we rode along I took a good look at the current Grand Old Opry building and decided I did not care to tour it.  In downtown Nashville the van driver let us riders off in front of the Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum.  Yesterday, a PR woman in the KOA office had given me a map of downtown.  I had noticed the CMFOF Museum, The Johnny Cash Museum, the Ryman Auditorium, Honky Tonk Row, and a park with a pedestrian bridge across the Cumberland River.

Yes, I’m sure you know where I headed first — The Johnny Cash Museum.

Tenn, Nashville, A1, 24march2017

This is probably the first selfie I ever took after buying a camera that takes selfies.

I paid $18.75, accepted a map of the little museum, and began studying the signs and collected items.  About halfway thru the museum I entered a room where a video was showing parts of some of Cash’s performances.  The few seats were taken so I joined people standing along the wall.  A man in his early 30’s stood up from the front row and, politely, told me to take his seat.  I was surprised and nonplussed until I remembered I was in the Deep South, not the deep Southwest.  I sat down and stayed there for perhaps one-and-a-half hours.

The clip that was playing when I entered was from 1994.  Cash looked and acted like an old man, altho he was only in his 60s.  He was emotionless in face and in physical mannerisms, but in spite of a slight grating in his vocal cords his voice still sounded very good.  Halfway thru the performance he became tired.  He pulled up a stool and sat on it while he sang and played his guitar.

After about an hour, film credits were shown, the screen went blank for a couple of minutes, then Johnny Cash came back on stage, this time 10+ years younger.  There was no bit of raspiness in his voice and he showed plenty of emotion in his movements and face.  There was no stool on stage for him to sit on.

By the time I came out of the little video theater I had lost my sense of direction.  I tried to find the last bit of museum I had not seen, which was the “aisle” that would lead me to the exit door (a door that entered back into the gift shop).  I went round and round in circles, and finally spoke to one of two men who were taking pictures of visitors “with Johnny Cash.”  I was not interested in having my picture taken with a dead man, so the employee led me to the final bit of the museum.  He went back to work and I began working my way along the last two wall of exhibits.

I soon found myself in another small video studio.  This one was showing very short clips from the movies and TV shows Johnny Cash had acted in.  Before I went thru this museum I had not known Cash acted in any shows at all.  His own two-year TV show started while we were in Japan and when we returned stateside no one mentioned the show to us.  In fact, we did not own a television set at that time.  When I came out of that second little theater it was easy to find my way along the last line of exhibits and out the museum exit door.

In the gift shop I bought a large collection of CDs of Johnny Cash’s songs.  Besides the fact that I liked his voice and songs, his particular singing style would help me stay awake while driving cross-country.

Tenn, Nashville, A2, Cover of collection of Johnny Cash songs, 24march2017

Cover of collection of Johnny Cash songs.

The shuttle driver had recommended eating at Robert’s Western World.  He clinched it for me by stating that the music there was the older country-western of the 50s and 60s, not the rock-country mixture of recent times.  I had to ask directions in stores and on the street downtown.  Some people did not know where it was.  Probably because it was not on the block called Honky Tonk Row but was a block on down Broadway street.

At the door I noticed each person handed something to a young man seated just inside.  The young man handed the something back to each person.  About the time I realized what the thing-handing was all about I was next in line in front of the young man.  I was wondering how I could manage my new Sea World tote bag and wrestle my wallet out of my pocket.  The wallet was inside a cloth carrier that was pinned in my pocket with a large safety pin.  Maneuvering the pin and then the wallet was difficult because the holster holding my smart fone hung down in the way.  I started to say, “I guess you are carding us” but the young man looked at my face, waved towards the interior, smiled and said, “Go on in.” Having an old-looking face came in handy twice today.

There was one little table without an occupant, so I sat there.  The shuttle driver had mentioned a special that Robert’s offered.  I studied the menu and finally found two specials described at the bottom on the back of the menu.  One was called “Recession Special” and consisted of “fried bologna sandwich, chips and PBR.”  The other was titled “Stimulus Special” and offered “All Beef Hot Dog, Lay’s chips and MHL.”  The waitress said PBR was Pabst Blue Ribbon and MHL was Miller High Life.  I don’t care much for non-pork wieners so I chose the Recession Special.  The sandwich was fried, but not the bologna.  In fact, the two pieces of bread were fried individually on one side, then the sandwich was put together.  That suited me because I like fresh tomato, not warmed and wilted tomato slices.

The music was from my teenage and early adult years.  It was very loud and I hoped it did not add any more to my hearing loss.  I ate the food before slowly sipping the can of beer.  When I finished I wasn’t in the mood for any more ear-wrenching noise, so I did not backtrack and taste the music in the bar-cafes on Honky Tonk Row.  I was tired, so I caught the shuttle back to the KOA.  Fare was $10 round-trip plus tips.

 

March 25, Saturday

Time to begin putting items back into 4titude.

 

March 26, Saturday

I woke up, checked the clock, closed my eyes to get some more sleep.  But I was wide awake and something told me to get up and pack the last of my gear into 4titude NOW.

I drove away from the Nashville KOA at 2:50 a.m.  Immediately, the clouds began to drip.  I was glad I wasn’t ferrying gear from cabin to SUV in the rain.  I hoped I would never again have to drive in the dark for three to four hours before sunrise, or after sundown, either.

I noticed I was going to reach Memphis city limits around 7:30.  I thought about pausing somewhere til the morning rush hour traffic could thin out but I didn’t get around to stopping.  At the edge of Memphis traffic was very thin.  As I wondered about that, I realized this was Sunday morning!

I arrived at the Hot Springs KOA at 12 noon Arkansas time.  I had driven 414 miles in 9¼ hours.  My head and stomach were spinning from the long hours of driving without much respite.  After I got checked in, I sat in the wooden swing on the porch, swinging lightly and reading, til I felt normal again.  Then I walked the grounds.

Ark, Hot Springs, KOA, A1, 26march2017

Statue at the KOA.

 

March 27, Monday

Last night for several hours the Hot Springs KOA had noisy clouds overhead that dripped moderate rain which both soaked the ground and ran away.

Ark, Hot Springs, A1, 27march2017

In the very early afternoon today the clouds finally breaking up and I drove into town where I walked around the “Historical District” of Hot Springs.  The outsides of some of the buildings were gorgeous but, without a friend to chat with, I did not feel like sitting idly in hot spring water.

Ark, Hot Springs, G1, 27march2017

The building with the hot springs.  National Park building.

Back at the KOA I again enjoyed the porch swing while reading, and eyeing the scenery from time to time.

 

March 28, Tuesday

I drove thru the north part of Hot Springs National Park today.  I stopped a couple of times and walked some paths.  First, the Hot Springs Mountain Trail loop (1.7 miles), then the Goat Rock Trail to Goat Rock and back (1 mile round-trip).

The rock did not look like a goat.  A staircase led up the hill to a path going to the top of the rocky outcropping called Goat Rock.  I suppose the outcropping at one time had been used by goats as a lookout spot.

Ark, Hot Springs, I3, 28march2017

The trails were wide, flat, and graveled, except for one rocky portion of the Goat Rock Trail.  I walked the paths in my river sandals.  A few flowers bloomed here and there, adding bright color to the trailside.  I saw three genera of shrubs, one vine, and around a dozen small flowering plants in bloom.  I was able to name genus or family for about half of the flowers.  One shrub was white dogwood.  The one vine was possibly blackberry.  It’s blooms were large strawberry-like flowers.

Ark, Hot Springs, H2, 28march2017

Back at the KOA, between doing laundry and loading some gear into 4titude, I was able to spend time reading in the porch swing.  It was a familiar feeling  Dad’s parents had had a wooden porch swing and I’d spent a lot of time in it.

 

March 29, Wednesday

I drove away from the KOA at 4:12 a.m.  There were a few stars here and there, but most of the sky was covered with clouds.  Looking out from inside the SUV the countryside was pitch black.  The KOA manager had given me inadequate driving directions for the quickest way to get to I-30 going west.  She directed me to take the brand-new 270 west, which I did.  After a short while I recognized the upcoming exit, “to Malvern Street,” as indicating a major street in Hot Springs.  I did not think I was supposed to be so close to the town so I drove down the exit and went in a gas station at its foot.  I asked for help with directions.  The clerk told me US 270 was merely a bypass around Hot Springs and did not hook up with I-30.  She started to tell me how to get to I-30 west, but faltered.  A young man I had seen washing the windshield of his delivery truck at a gas pump told me to turn left on Malvern and I would be at I-30 in about 15 minutes.

I figured a deliveryman knew the country well and I did as he said.  I was now going east but I continued driving.  I arrived at I-30 in twelve minutes.  I was perhaps a half mile from the exit I had taken the day I drove to the Hot Springs KOA.  The advantage to the round-about route I had taken this morning was that I did not have to go thru the many miles of construction on US 70 between I-30 and the KOA.  Driving time of the two routes had been about the same.

Last evening the Little Rock weatherman had said rain could be expected between 1 and 5 a.m.  There had been no rain, and there still wasn’t.  Thank goodness.  He had also talked about and outlined on a map two sturdy squalls that were in the Dallas area and would be heading for Hot Springs and Little Rock with arrival expected late afternoon.  Both squalls had tornado-spawning cells.  I had to drive thru, or under, them and I was worried.

The sky was finally beginning to lighten as I approached the Texas border.  About ten miles east of Texarkana I entered a rainstorm with very strong winds.  Above me I saw a low-lying, dark cloud, a cloud that was much lower than the thick, white canopy high above it, a cloud that was probably one of the tornado spawners.  However, it had pulled up its claws and I did not see lightning nor tornadoes, nor hear any thunder during the time I was driving under it.

I arrived at Marian’s house at 12:15 noon.  It had taken me 8 hours to drive 315 miles.

I unloaded my pajamas and toilette kit into the guest bedroom.  We were both ready for a meal.  Marian used her remote, opened her garage door, backed her car out, and used her remote to close the garage door.  This was a new experience for me.  She drove us to a strip mall where we had a late lunch at a Thai restaurant.

As Marian approached her garage door when we returned to her house she punched the remote but the garage door would not open.  She thought its batteries had died, so we went in thru the front door.  Marian flipped a switch so she could see in a closet to get fresh batteries but no light came on.  She called the power company.  The storm that had come thru Dallas during the night had caused damage.  Power to the area had been turned off so repairs could be made.  The power company expected to have electricity turned back on around 6:30 p.m.

Marian and I pulled chairs and a card table to a spot in front of a living room window and played Scrabble by waning sunlight.  We played til 7:30 when it was time for me to do evening toilette and go to bed.  Electricity was not yet back on.

 

 

2017 Tampa, Orlando Vacation

March 12, Sunday

The nation, minus Arizona, lost an hour last night to Daylight Savings Time.

Sue and Judd parked at Hou’s house and we five drove in Erin’s Yukon to the Circle Bar wildlife refuge near Plant City.

AC Florida, Circle B Bar Refuge, A1, 12march2017

The sky was completely covered by threatening clouds.  We walked (a loop) thru the refuge til closing time.

But first, the Circle Bar company allowed Hou and me to ride in the truck with the driver and thus take the “tram” ride on a 45-minute loop.  All the seats on the “tram” portion had already been reserved.  Sue explained to the people in charge and the driver that I had driven all the way over from Arizona and this would be my only chance to take the “tram” tour thru the refuge.

The driver, a retired female, was not from Florida but during her winters here she had learned to identify many birds and some plants.  She shared her knowledge with us.  She seemed to enjoy having someone in the cab to talk to.  We saw Pawpaw plants in flower, a plant I had heard of in story books but had never seen before.  In tall trees we spied huge nests with birds partly visible — eagles, osprey, and great blue herons.

AC Florida, Circle B Bar Refuge, E3a, 12march2017

After the ride the five of us began walking some of the trails.  Birds and armadillos were foraging for food.  A few alligators were visible, including one eating a large shell with snail inside.  But most of the big reptiles were holed up somewhere because of the foul weather.  We saw more huge birds’ nests in trees.

AC Florida, Circle B Bar Refuge, E1a, 12march2017

Can you find the animal in the picture?

Sue, Judd, and Erin had gotten a ways ahead of us.  I think Hou had stopped to take some pictures and I had paused with him.  When the clouds began to sprinkle we walked along, unconcerned, except that we protected our cameras and cell fones from the drips.  But the precipitation became a lot thicker.  Hou and I hunkered under a short palm tree which gave us a little protection.  Sue called to check on us and we decided to go ahead and join them.

AC Florida, Circle B Bar Refuge, C2, 12march2017

There is an animal in this foto, too.

About the time we arrived in sight of Sue and Erin, the rain slacked off, then went away til another day.  When it had begun to rain Judd had dashed back to the entry area to stay dry.  We four continued our slow, sightseeing plod, and took more pictures.  The temperature was just warm enuf that I did not become chilled.  It was the first time since I was a toddler in Houston, Texas, that I had been able to play in the rain and stay warm.  It was fun.

AC Florida, Circle B Bar Refuge, D6, 12march2017

One of the signs in the refuge identified a flowering bush we had been seeing throughout our walk.  It was a Peruvian Primrose Willow.  Had large, yellow, four-petaled flowers.  The anthers bent in a circle around the ovary like peach slices on top of an upside-down cake.

Are you getting hungry?

 

March 13, Monday

After about seven hours sleep, Hou, Erin, and I packed the Yukon and drove to Orlando, straight to Disney’s Epcot.

AD Florida, Disney's Epcot, A2b, 13march2017

The architecture was fascinating and plots of colorful flowers made beautiful designs in small gardens.

AD Florida, Disney's Epcot, B4, 13march2017

But I mostly took fotos of the topiaries.

AD Florida, Disney's Epcot, A7c, 13march2017

They were of Walt Disney characters such as Minnie and Mickey Mouse.  We ate lunch and supper in nice restaurants and stayed to see the evening fireworks display.

AD Florida, Disney's Epcot, B3, 13march2017

Then we checked in at the Hawthorne Hotel, which was a short ways inside Orlando.  The Disney lands were just south of Orlando.

 

March 14, Tuesday

After 6½ or 7 hours sleep we had “free” breakfast at the hotel then drove to Disney Animal Kingdom, getting there just as it was opening.  It was a zoo!  I mean, an actual zoo of animals.  But it was a huge and fascinating zoo to walk thru.

AE Florida, Disney's Animal Kingdom, A1b, 14march2017

When we got to the Safari, or research area, we took the guided walk instead of taking the Safari Ride.  For the Ride, a gondola tram in the water went slowly thru the research area and a disembodied voice talked about what the riders were seeing, but did not stop for pictures or questions.  On the other hand, during the walking tour the guide stopped to tell us interesting details about the plants and to answer questions.

Vines of gourds and vegetables were trained to grow up trellises and the fruit hung from the trellises.  That way the fruit did not get misshapen or chewed on by bugs or mold as they might have when lying on the ground.  In a home setting the area under the trellises could be filled with rows of food or flower plants that enjoy shade, making a garden about double the size of the plot of land.

AD Florida, Disney's Epcot, E2b, 13march2017

Melons hanging from trellised plants.  Notice the Safari Ride without a live guide in the background.  It was pulled along a canal.

There were signs throughout the zoo talking about the conservation of species that Epcot was doing with certain animals.  Good news.

We spent quite a few minutes observing five otters playing together.  They were playing on land so we did not see any swimming action, but they were cute to watch.  In their play they looked like a bunch of elongated kittens.

AE Florida, Disney's Animal Kingdom, C2, 14march2017

Near the entrance to this zoo was a huge, artificial oak tree called the Tree Of Life.

AE Florida, Disney's Animal Kingdom, C5, 14march2017

The trunk and exposed sections of roots were “carved” (“etched” might be a better word) with animals and insects.

AE Florida, Disney's Animal Kingdom, C6, 14march2017

The more we stood and looked at various sides of the tree, the more species we saw.

AE Florida, Disney's Animal Kingdom, D2b, 14march2017

The artists and engineers must have had fun creating the designs.

 

March 15, Wednesday

After 6½ hours sleep we ate the hotel’s “free” breakfast, then, at my request, drove to Sea World, arriving just as it was opening.  Hou had never been to Sea World.

AE Florida, Sea World, A1, 15march2017

He and Erin had spent their weekends at the Disney lands.  Erin thought she had probably been taken to Sea World once when she was a child.  The two seemed to be surprised at how much fun Sea World was.

We saw several of the shows.  My favorite had always been the Sea Lion and Otter show.  The otter carried small items for the large animals, then unexpectedly stole an item and ran away.  A walrus made a brief appearance.  The sea lions carried out most of the action of the story.

AE Florida, Sea World, C1a, 15march2017

These are real, live flamingos at Sea World.  Not statues.  Interesting colors.

We saw the Shamu Show.  A bevy of “Shamus” swam at the same time in the show pool.  They performed quite a few numbers.  I did not try to take pictures during the animal shows because I felt sure my smart fone camera could not successfully enlarge things fotographed at such a long distance away, and without enlargement the animals would only be unintelligible dots and lines.

AE Florida, Sea World, C2b, 15march2017

Me surrounded by sea life.

The animals in the Sea World shows were asked to do only actions they would normally do when on their own.  However, unlike in the wild, the animals were trained to do the actions at the time the trainer told them to and they were trained to do some actions together, in concert.

AE Florida, Sea World, C2c, 15march2017

The aquarium was gorgeous.

When we walked past the outdoor dolphin exhibit area a trainer was leading a few dolphins thru some acts.  That was an extra “show” we were privileged to see.  Later, we saw the formal Dolphin Show.  It, too, was fascinating to watch.

We went to Antarctica.  The temperature was a balmy 320 degrees in the building.  I shivered the entire time.  The penguins did not seem bothered by the heat.

One of the things that was fun to watch was the newest rollercoaster.  As we walked around parts of the grounds we saw the cars being twisted around the rail at intervals so that sometimes people were right-side-up, then sideways, and then upside-down within a few minutes.  The best part was listening to the people scream.

 

March 16, Thursday

After another 6½ hours of sleep we ate and arrived early at Sea World.  Today we visited the parts we had not had time to see yesterday.

AE Florida, Sea World, D2, 16march2017

Guess what this store sold. . . .

We saw my second favorite show, Pets Ahoy.  A trainer came on stage and explained that all the animals in the show were rescue animals.  There was sort of a Rube Goldberg apparatus of house fronts and poles, up and down which dogs and cats would scamper during the show.  A large mouse started the show by running straight across the stage in front of the house fronts. Immediately after came the second animal, a cat supposedly chasing the mouse.  Many times, just before disappearing behind a door, an animal tripped something that opened a door for the next animal to run out of.

One cat climbed up a pole which did not connect with a landing.  The only way down was to jump.  The cat was about 15 feet in the air.  A trainer positioned herself near the bottom of the pole, arched backwards, and patted her torso which was padded with a very thick vest.  The cat pranced around for a couple of minutes while the trainer kept straightening herself, then arching backwards and patting her torso.  Finally, the cat had assured itself that there was no other way down and jumped onto the trainer’s torso.  The woman quickly grabbed the cat so it would not fall and they exited the stage.  It appeared to me that the cat had been afraid to make the jump.

We saw the Arctic exhibit.  The temperature in the building was only down to 500 because the animals in the pools could tolerate temperature that high, and the cost to cool the flowing water to a lower temperature would be exorbitant.  (Disney did have to pay the extra cost for cooling the Antarctica exhibit, however, because the penguins could not tolerate temperatures above freezing.)

AE Florida, Sea World, D1, 15march2017

Sea World had some topiaries, also.

Then we drove home to Tampa.

 

March 17, Friday

Thursday I’d had a half dozen very watery stools and I felt tired all day.  Last night I had a nightmare and woke up with a fever of perhaps 1020.  I felt very ill during the night.  Towards dawn the fever broke and I got some more sleep.  I did not get up til 9 a.m.

Luckily, we did not have anything definitely planned for today so we all rested up.  We did take a brief trip to buy me new hearing aid batteries.  Now I could hear well for the first time since I arrived in the Tampa area.

During the day the symptoms gradually went away and by nighttime I felt completely recuperated.  I think I had been ill from chemical sensitivities.  Four days of spending time in buildings with stale air and harsh outgassing chemicals finally caused internal inflammation because my biological detox system could not handle the gasses as fast as I breathed them in.

 

March 18, Saturday

I caught up on typing my diary and other trip notes while my laundry was washing and drying and Hou & Erin were sleeping in.  I felt fine today.

AF Florida, Myakka River SP, A1, 18march2017

We picked up Sue (Erin’s mother) at her house and drove to Myakka State Park where we took a walk on a fisherman’s path that started at the bridge and went along the Myakka River.  Then we walked the short boardwalk in another area.

AF Florida, Myakka River SP, A1b, 18march2017

These are the logs that were along the far shore of the foto above.

We saw alligators, birds, a large snake coiled around a stump a few feet out in the river, and a duck on a nest on a palm tree that had fallen in the river. The nest was a couple yards from shore and the duck apparently felt safe from humans and most other predators.

AF Florida, Myakka River SP, A4, 18march2017

‘Gator tracks.

Meanwhile, Judd went shopping.  When we returned, Judd was deep into preparing us a supper of hamburgers, corn on the cob, and fresh asparagus. Sue quickly put together a fresh salad that included green olives and Craisins (Ocean Spray trademarked name for their dried cranberries).  Sue also chopped and sugared fresh strawberries to go with the chocolate cake and chocolate ripple ice cream Judd had bought.