Arizona Trip

February and March, 2006

Our friends Gary and Jeanne own a theme park in north Idaho called Silverwood for which I redesigned and reimplemented the Website in the fall of 2005. Gary wrote all the software that runs the park, hires and schedules the many hundreds of employees, does the point-of-sale stuff, the G/L, back-office, etc. As is usually the case with such a large, multi-faceted project, there are always bugs to fix, improvements to make, and new projects to tackle.

Gary decided spending a couple winter months in Arizona might be nice, particularly if I trailered our BMW R1200GS motorcycles down there for us to play on part of the time. So we embarked on a working vacation in Gold Canyon, near Apache Junction, at the foot of the Supersition mountains where Gary and Jeanne rented a nice house.

It was a long 3-day drive from Spokane. I kept seeing great vistas from the truck that I wanted to get a photograph of, but the hassle of actually doing it meant I missed them all. All but this one. I found an off/on ramp in the middle of nowhere in Idaho that offered the view above. The photograph doesn't do it justice. The lighting was just amazing.

These are the Superstition Mountains, looking north-northwest, just east of Phoenix, AZ. Our house was just where the lower slopes begin (left-center of photo).

Here's what it looked like when we arrived. It didn't rain here for 141 days and was super dry, but also sunny and warm (70's mid-day). This shot of the late afternoon alpenglow looks NE from the driveway.

And here's what it looked like a month later when it finally rained. This shot is a bit more telephoto than the previous shot, but otherwise is the same view.

Gary and Jeanne's friends, Wayne and Velora, live in this gorgeous house in a gated community on the golf course nearby. Wayne is a golfer, Gary and I aren't. My opinion is that golf courses are a waste of a perfectly good motocross track. I don't think Gary agrees with me, and I know Wayne doesn't...

There are lots of hiking trails nearby, and we use them almost every day. Here I am near a trail called "the ieroglyph Trail" (I think the 'H' is missing, as the trail leads to some native rock art -- see photo below) which Gary and I discovered while exploring on our motorcycles.

Here's a shot of Gary and Jeanne and their BMW R1200GS at the trailhead for the Lost Gold Mine trail. Dutchman Jacob Waltz brought almost pure gold out of the Superstitions in the late 1800's, and after his death in 1891, the search was on for his "lost Dutchman mine" — it's never been found.

We aren't getting in as much motorcycle riding and we hoped and planned to, but we are getting a whole lot of software designed, written and debugged!

In a canyon which is visible just above the motorcycle's windshield in the previous photo are some petroglyphs. I don't know the woman but left her in the shot to lend scale to the composition. Amazingly to me, this rock art is completely unprotected from vandalism, unlike similar images I'm familiar with in eastern Washington. I have another page of petroglyph photos here if you're interested.

Here's a view from my favorite daily hike. There are a lot of houses surrounding this small set of hills, in fact I heard there were 10,000 new houses being built in Phoenix every month. But the trails here are hardly used. The upside is no trash, and lots of untrammeled nature just a few feet from the path.

The mighty Saguaro cactus, featured in 80% of the shots of Arizona. Most of them have holes in them made by birds, I would assume. I've seen a fair number of Gila woodpeckers (kinda like the Northern Flickers back home in Spokane) and Cactus wrens (which are much larger than the wrens in the Pacific northwest).

The quail here are Gambel's quail, which the untrained eye would mistake for the California quail native to the PNW. There are almost as many Mourning Doves here as Quail, which is good for the Saguaro because the doves serve to cross-pollinate the Saguaro flowers, which are at the very tops of the cactus and open only at night.

I've seen Roadrunners (the New Mexico State bird) 5 times, but they are way too quick to get a shot of. Too bad, as they are gorgeous and their range doesn't extend north of central Nevada and California.

Saw a Javalina once too, which made me think of the Frank Zappa song "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" (one of the few songs I know with my wife's name in it). Damn, but I miss Frank Zappa! And Wanda too, come to think of it.

I love cactus. This kind, Purple Prickly Pear cactus, is popular in people's "yards". I use quotes because nobody has lawn here, just raked gravel with the odd cactus or ornamental plant.

This one I'm pretty sure is a Barrel cactus. I suppose those fruit might be good to eat, but I had a bad experience with cactus pears once in San Luis Obispo when I lived there. Ended up with a tongue full of almost invisibly fine cactus spines that took forever to pull with tweezers. IIRC it was days before I got them all.

This is Teddy Bear Cholla, which seems to be ubiquitous in these parts. I had a bad experience with this kind of cactus too once, during a desert race in the Mojave in the mid-1970's. I grazed one of these with my arm while passing someone, and stuck an 8" chuck to my forearm for the rest of the race. The guys in the EMT truck had a good laugh when I showed up for them to pull out the spines.

I am happy to say I never impaled myself on one of these..

Or one of these either. I'm getting better at avoiding sharp pointy things as I age, though I do love to take photographs of them.

A typical cliff formation on the north bank of the lower Salt River just north of Mesa, AZ, taken one morning as I headed out on an exploratory motorcycle ride. I finally got around to putting the polarizing filter on my Canon digital SLR and now I get blue skies instead of blown-out white skies with no detail.

Another shot from that same ride, late afternoon, looking back at the stormy weather that thwarted my attempts to make it to Sedona. The Weather Channel said it was snowing there, but I didn't believe them. They were right. But I still had a nice ride...

Copyright © 2006, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.