Thursday morning the Portal Rodeo Hiking club met just as it has for several decades. The proposed hike was up on the Crest Trail high above our meeting place at the Silver Peak Trailhead. At 8:00 AM Arizona time the prospects looked wet. The recent cold wet weather meant the Crest Trail on the Chiricahuas might be full of snow or wet and cold. The group pondered some lower hikes considering. I was hoping to go high regardless but kept my mouth shut since I was just passing through. I figured the regulars should decide where they wanted to hike. Luckily, Al said let’s go up. It could be great up there. I and a couple others said, “Yes!” and the momentum shifted to taking our chances up high. We piled back into cars and headed up the mountain road.
I was in the lead vehicle with Rolf and Carol and we saw a flock of turkeys cross the road as we neared Rustler Park. I love seeing a big band of turkeys running through the trees. They are the dinosaurs of today. Up top all was well. The sun was shining and the clouds below added drama to the landscape. The warming air brought out all the critters looking for a spot of sun. We saw spiny and bunchgrass lizards, a tarantula, and a twin spotted rattlesnake. It’s breeding season for the spiny lizards so they were showing off their finest push-ups. Also seen were five Border Patrol Agents on foot looking for a rumored someone.
Our group bagged Fly Peak and had lunch as the wind shifted and socked us in. We’d gotten all the blue skies we were going to get that day. You can see the wall of fog behind us in the photo above. Moments later we were in the mists. It was time to head down. On a personal note this was a big day. My new medicine allowed me to hike 7 miles above 9,000′. I struggled a bit going up hill but I made it. Flats and downhill were easy. I was wearing my brand new fit bit and it was very pleased with my efforts.
Sree Padmini showed up at Portal Irish Music Week as the companion to her husband Sree Hasha. She was reserved at check-in and seemed very timid. Little did she know that she would have as much or more fun than her husband. Sree Hasha plays mandolin and takes lessons from Marla Fibish so it was natural for him to come to PIMW for a week of intensive lessons. He brought his new wife along hoping she would have fun, too. Sree Padmini wondered what she would do while her husband played music. She thought she’d be lonely in a desert with nothing to see. At the first night’s orientation meeting we told her about the bird walks and the afternoon hikes. I might have seen a twinkle in her eye.
The second morning Sree Padmini showed up for our bird walk with a camera nearly as long as she is tall. We took her to Dave Jasper’s backyard feeding station. She silently sat and clicked. Once in a while she’d ask the name of a bird. We saw 24 species of birds in 45 minutes.It was a jaw dropping morning even for our experienced Portal visitors.
Both Srees are recent immigrants to the United States from India. Their marriage was arranged by their parents. Sree Hasha had not found a love match on his own and his parents offered to help out. After a few lonely years in the U.S. Sree Hasha agreed. So his parents (back in India) started the search. They found a nice young woman from a similar background and negotiations began between the two families. Sree Padmini asked for a nice man that liked music, nature, and animals. I do not know what Sree Hasha asked for in his wife. He does like all the things Sree Padmini wanted her future husband to like. As an added bonus, Sree Padmini wanted to come to the United States because she loves wildlife but especially hummingbirds. There are no hummingbirds in India. It’s hard to remember that hummingbirds are only found in the Americas. They’ve been married a year and it seems like Portal might have played a special role in their new relationship. It was a place of joint discovery and mutual joy. I loved seeing them alone and together fulfilling their dreams.
I found all this out when Sree Padmini asked me to show her the owl during my afternoon break. I showed her the great horned owl perching over downtown Portal and then we sort of fell into a whole afternoon of birding by ourselves. I felt liberated to leave PIMW behind and do something spontaneous. I took her to a couple more yards where she clicked at the birds. That’s what she calls taking pictures. Clicking. She’d say, “I want to get a click here.” Soon all of her previous reserve fell away and I was under her spell. We sat under the trees and she told me how she wound up at PIMW while she applied henna to my hands. Henna temporarily dies the skin and its use is part of traditional Indian culture. I used to dye my hair red with henna in my thirties. As we sat there I felt the warm and calm feeling you get when someone is tending to you with care and love. It was wonderful.
Another chance to make a friend from across the world brought to me by Portal Irish Music Week. Who would of thought?
The Gypsy Carpenters are in Portal, AZ ahead of schedule. We were planning some more back country explorations but the wonky transmission flared up. Again. Our 2001 Dodge diesel is occasionally difficult to shift. This summer it started balking and we made an appointment at a specialist in Whitefish, Montana. We had a place to park and a car to borrow up there. Then the problem shifting disappeared, the parking place was less welcoming, and the spare car was wrecked by a deer so we cancelled the appointment. We drove a few thousand more miles and no trouble. Heads deeply in the sand. Call us risk-takers.
We high tailed it out of Montana and abandoned plans to fish in Yellowstone because of foul weather. We blasted through the park and made it to a glorious fall scene in Grand Teton National Park. That night we camped near Pinedale, Wyoming. As we approached Vernal, UT I made it clear I wanted to stop at Dinosaur National Monument. Burt was ambivalent. I insisted. We had been before but the quarry exhibit was closed for major repairs (4 years of repairs) and Burt had not seen the most awesome dinosaur display in the world. Well, the LaBrea tarpits come close but they aren’t just dinos. Just then the transmission started to balk. I feared Burt would scuttle the side excursion but he didn’t. Rain was headed our way and it was hard to enjoy the tour wondering why we didn’t get the transmission repaired back in Montana but it was worth the effort. Even Burt was amazed at the in-situ display of 149 million year old fossil bones. Take the trip if you are within 100 miles. That night we limped to a rest area south of Price.
I contacted my friend Berna and said, “Hey we’re coming to see you. Tomorrow.” Berna is always sociable and welcoming. We trained for several marathons and ultra-marathons together and once upon a time worked at EPA together. Berna was ready to see us. We spent two nights in Shiprock. We helped Berna attach reflectors to a road sign so her 80 year old Uncle Alex could find the turn into his road more easily. Maybe I shouldn’t freely confess what could be construed as defacement of public property but I admit it. All three of us were in on it. I suggested that 80 years and difficulty seeing at night might be ground to stop night driving. I was voted down. All of us had dinner at a restaurant called Nataani Nez. Nataani Nez was a Bureau of Indian Affairs boss in the 1930s. Alex told us a story about him and how his name means tall boss.
The next day we drove 400 miles looking for piñon pines. Burt is a natural hunter gatherer and Berna’s Navaho family took many expeditions to the mountains to gather piñons. Berna’s mom had died a few years ago and Berna had not been out since her mother’s death. We decided it was time. Too bad we couldn’t find a tree. We covered the entire NW corner of New Mexico. Finally through the use of Facebook and general perseverance we found a productive tree. One tree. After 4 hours in the car we spent 1 1/2 hours on our hands and knees collecting pine nuts. Between the three of us we collected over $200 worth of nuts. Even the dogs got into it. Olive says she prefers acorns to pine nuts. Burt’s driving annoyed Berna and Berna’s driving terrified us so I was voted in to drive us home. Me, the non-driver, was fast enough but safe enough so no one complained. That’s how I earned the name Nataani Nez. Tall boss.
In the midst of this Burt called out trusty Animas mechanic, Darren. Darren has done some major repairs for us and we can’t complain. He was ready to see us as soon as we could get there. With our crosscountry trip coming up we it was time to stop playing like ostriches and get the transmission fixed. We decided to head straight to Portal and get ready for Portal Irish Music Week. Here we are.
There is a caterpillar the size of my thumb dining on the Virginia Creeper here. As part of my duties as one of the editors of the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon Facebook page I thought, “That’s a nice bug. I think I’ll get a picture for our page.” Getting a clear and interesting picture of a small moving object is fraught with trouble. The wind blows, the caterpillar is in sun and shade, there are snakes in the bushes, my low to the ground squat was unstable…I spent quite a bit of time and all my photos were blurry or over exposed. The iPhone and I were at our technical limits. The caterpillar was swinging its head back and forth as if it was a boxer trying to avoid a jab. I thought maybe it was starting to form its chrysalis. I couldn’t see any silk so I wondered about what it was doing. Then it extruded a poop. I was surprised. I presumed caterpillars had dead ends like some larva. Wrong. Caterpillar poop is so important to fertilizing the world that it has a name, frass. This particular caterpillar, a sphinx moth larva, poops star shaped turds with white centers. These are the loveliest feces I have ever seen. A Facebook follower suggested they would make nice earrings. All vegetable.
A couple of days ago the Gypsy Carpenters made an excursion to the Southwest Research Station to try and spot a green kingfisher. The green kingfisher is rare in these parts and quite a flashy bird so we thought we’d give it a go. We did not find this particular bird. We saw some hummingbirds and a few lizards. Then I spotted this young wren flitting about in an old log structure. The juvenile bird was not fully feathered but it could fly. It was also feeding itself on small insects in the cracks in the logs. Every few minutes mom came along and delivered a bigger snack. I caught the passing of a nice plump spider. These birds typically lay five to nine eggs so it makes me wonder what happened to the other fledglings. If you are wondering if this indeed is a house wren, you are right to be puzzled. I conferred with several experts before we agreed it was in fact a house wren. The Bewick’s (pronounced Buick) wren is common here, too, and has a pronounced white eyebrow. This bird’s eyebrow is pretty dramatic for a house wren but it’s yellow lower mandible was the clincher. Only house wrens have a yellow lower mandible. I did not know. I enjoyed watching this scene. The young one was quiet and busy checking out the cracks most of the time. The mother bird was busily hunting nearby. Suddenly mom would sing, “I have something for you!” and the baby would sit up tall and fluff its feathers and sing back, “Me me me me me me.” Hearing the young one’s song gave mom a map to its location.
I’m struggling to keep up these days as a carpenter’s assistant. I’m not strong enough, quick enough, or smart enough. I feel like I might be retiring soon.
After three weeks of convoluted emails and phone calls I was hooked up to a 30 day cardiac event monitor on Saturday. I am to wear this beeper sized device with two electrodes for a month. We hope to see what is making me collapse on the tennis court. It can record irregular rhythms that it detects or that I detect and tell it to record.
The thing recorded an event in the wee hours of Sunday morning and woke me from a very vivid dream. I was in the process of doing the bird-of-paradise yoga pose in front of an audience. This was at the behest of a medical technician trying to make my heart do the funny thing it does. The heart monitor alarm went off just as my arms were bound behind my back and I was shifting my weight to my left foot and preparing to stand up. BEEP BEEP BEEP. But here’s the weird thing. I’m not sure if I was having a cardiac event or only dreaming I was having a cardiac event. It took several rounds of beeping for me to rouse myself from sleep. Eventually I discovered one of the wires had become disconnected. Did this trigger the alarm? Better go download the data.
Burt and I trudged to the house and I called the hotline. It was 1:30 AM. We downloaded the data. There was data so that means there might have been an event. The woman with the slight German accent reminded me if the monitor goes off from a monitor detected event the alarm will sound until I call them and download the data. If I trigger a recording manually no alarm will sound. So much for sleep.
Then Sunday came. I recorded an event manually. As evening drew I saw that the machine indicated two events for the day but I had only intentionally recorded one. I decided to download the data since the machine can only hold three recordings. Long story short, it was malfunctioning. The recorder would not download the data. A new machine is on it’s way. Yesterday I had another massive event (while playing tennis). Alas, it went unrecorded. I should have my new machine today.
All of this to say wearing a heart monitor is enough to make a person meltdown or have a cardiac event. All activities and clothing must take the device into account. My mind is filled with recurring thoughts. Thoughts that do not make for an easy demeanor. Is it working? was that a blip? Am I still attached? Is it going to jam? No wonder I want to retire.
On the positive side I am practicing fiddle and mandolin regularly.
I completed my first day solo at the Cave Creek Visitor Information center today. We had ten visitors and a rain storm. I successfully answered all questions. One visitor signed the guest book and mentioned that I was a ‘very pleasant hostess’. I surmise the day was a success. In between the 10 visitors I practiced mandolin, read a novel, researched gila monsters and quail, and cleaned the bathrooms.
Hundreds of millipedes were crossing Foothills Road last week and, of course, one wondered, “Why did the millipede cross the road?” I’m still seeking an answer. All I’ve learned is there are things called millipede migrations which seem more like millipede explosions. Our lovely monsoon weather has made for a lot of happy millipedes. They are out on the town looking for each other. The males have modified feet that serve as their reproductive organs. Convenient.
Millipedes are among the oldest land mammals. Don’t confuse them with the centipede. They are far gentler and usually vegetarians. Millipedes mostly eat decayed vegetable matter. They do clean up. Sometimes they get out of hand in gardens and eat new growth but mostly they are harmless and fun to look at. Gently poke one and it will roll into a spiral and play dead.
Burt was on the job at 6:00. At 7:00 he was feeding me oatmeal (punishment). By 8:00 we were both on the job for a major push. High winds in this canyon make us loathe to partially frame something. Better to get it all done in a day so it has some stability if the winds pick up.
I despaired of my ability to work after a few hours of dragging ten foot 2x4s to the saw and then over to Burt for nailing. It was a hot. I teetered a few times. Those earmuff hearing protectors hold in the heat. I never appreciated the cooling role of our external ear flaps until I started wearing the muffs. After lunch I felt better and finished out the day feeling like I did my job. There were some miscuts and a poorly placed sill plate but Burt had to rip out some framing he misplaced. These things happen.
Tomorrow we’ll apply the sheeting and this part of the remodel will be fully safe from the wind.
I’m totally ripping off my friend BAlvarius. He suggested I promote the Chiricahua Peloncillo Heritage Days of 2015 and it was a great idea. I went to his blog and stole this pictures. I have them somewhere in my email but it was easier to steal from him. BAlvarius would not call it stealing. He would say I am making the pie bigger. And I am.
Check out this agenda. If you love this area then this event has something for you. History, geology, nature, archeology. All that and THE GYPSY CARPENTERS providing music. I’m aiming for a historic theme. We’re talking old time fiddle music and cowboy songs. We’ll see how practice goes this month. It will be fun.
The Heritage Days event starts Friday night with a lecture on the Elegant Trogon. Saturday, September 12th the lecture series continues and on Sunday the 13th there are three field trips to chose from. Many of the presenters come from our knowledgeable field of locals. Burt and I are planning to split up on Sunday. I hope to see you there.