Archive for June, 2010


Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I wanted to add a few pictures as soon as I could for your viewing pleasure.

The boys on the trail

That be me, John Heiman


The boys and the girl, the Mayor of Driggs to my right.  Tetons in the background.


What can I say.  Life sucks.  But you probably already know that.

John Heiman


Southwest Trekking


On The Road Again

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I am on the road again trying to find the perfect location to hike, bike and climb, besides Southern Arizona that is.  So, I take the advice of past and repeat  and now friends Rick and Joanne Labelle and visit their home base in Driggs Idaho.  Rick and Joanne have been visiting Tucson for more than ten years.  Most of them going out with Southwest Trekking on mountain biking treks.  Joanne is in real estate in the area and let me tell you there is ‘real’ real estate in the area.  If you come out to visit the area you will want a second home here.  But then  I assume if you are like me, you don’t always get what you want.  Or maybe you do.  On with the story.  Rick is master of many feats, now he is having us call him Ironman Rick because of recently completing an iron-man event.   Like that is going to happen.  I may call him several other names though.  So I show up in Park City Utah to surprise Rick at his new workplace and damn, he s not even at work and no one knows where he is or at least they are not saying.  As it turns out he went home for the long weekend.  A four hour drive away home.  That last minute surprise didn’t work so well.  Now I have to drive four hours to see them.  Alas it turned out good.  I text him I am on the way and he texts back that there is a community ride at 5:30PM and to be there.  I/we connect and eight locals, including the mayor of Driggs go off for a ride.  All I can say is the ride sucked.  Alpine single track, varied from smooth to rocky, steep descents, searing ascents and crappy views of the Tetons, snow covered.  And then to top it off I ‘had’ to stop and have beer with them at the completion.  I can tell you I will never do that again. In case you don’t know me, I tell stories, OK, some call it lying.  What a grand time and what a ride with awesome people.  I will get pictures posted soon.

On to the next location.  And yes, believe it or not, I am serious, I am out exploring on how and where to take our guide service in the future.  More to come.

John Heiman


Southwest Trekking

Wild Fires

Monday, June 28th, 2010

It’s unfortunately that time of year where wild fires start popping up around the southwest.  As some may know, we are in our dry season (I don’t think it has rained in Tucson since early April), and coupled with the intense heat and dryness, wild fires are bound to occur.  Sometimes they start naturally from lightning strikes and other environmental reasons like rock fall creating sparks, but most of the time humans are responsible for igniting the fires.  Three things that are most common which end up starting fires are very easily avoidable. 

The first, and to me most obvious, is an un-supervised campfire, or a campfire that was not fully distinguished.  In these very arid climates, especially when there hasn’t been any rain for a while, the smallest spark can cause a major problem.  An easy fix to this is to simply not have campfires.  But I know what some of you might be thinking, “No campfire, but were camping!”  So if that’s the case, make sure you stay around the fire, and keep an eye out for sparks or embers getting out of the fire ring and into the forest.  Also, when you’re done with the fire, put it out by dousing it with plenty of water.  Just because there isn’t a flame, doesn’t mean the coals are out.  Also, when it’s really windy, it would be advisable to not have a fire, as the wind can carry embers off into the woods. 

Cigarette butts are another major cause of wild fires.  Don’t throw them out your car window, or litter them around the campsites.  Not only is it an eye sore, but it does cause a major fire risk.  If you have been up Mount Lemmon, you can see huge areas that were devestated during the Mt. Lemmon Aspen Fire in 2003 (about 84,750 acers were destroyed).  This fire was cause by a cigarette butt being tossed out of a moving car.  So if you smoke, use your ashtray and don’t toss them out when your walking or camping in the forest.

The third is a little less obvious.  Your car can cause a major fire too.  When your driving, the exhaust pipe can get extremely hot.  If you park your car in a dry grassy area, there is a risk that your tail pipe can ignite a fire.  So be a little careful where you park your car.

Let’s all do what Smokey the Bear wants us to do and help prevent fires.

Breakfast on the trail

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

I have been skipping eating breakfast at home lately. Don’t fret. I have been eating the most important meal. Just not at home. I’ve been waiting until I got to work. No I’m not hitting the employee dining room. I have been having breakfast on the trail. This breakfast doesn’t need to be cooked, whipped or beaten. It doesn’t come on a plate or in a bowl. A serving of this breakfast has about 167 calories, four 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and is high in soluble fiber and vitamin C. This breakfast doesn’t even put extra weight in your pack. This breakfast is sweet and nutty too. You don’t need milk or orange juice. The only thing you may need is a long pole.

Well I guess it’s time to reveal this taste treat. The breakfast I’ve been eating is the Saguaro fruit. This fruit is what remains of those brilliant white flowers we saw topping our desert icon in the past month or so. They are a bit tough to reach but well worth the effort. Generally all you need is a rib from a dead Saguaro to reach up and knock the fruit from its perch. Gathering of a few Saguaro fruits on public land is generally permitted. But gathering any large quantity is strictly prohibited. It’s best to collect en mass on private land with full consent of the land owner. That being said here are a few Saguaro fruit recipes I pulled from

Saguaro Salsa

  • 1/2 cup Saguaro fruit, diced
  • 3/4 cup watermelon, diced
  • 1/2 cup cantaloupe, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp dried crushed red chili pepper

Combine all ingredients and toss until well mixed. Chill. Can be served with fish, chicken or chips.

Spring Saguaro Cream
Serves 6-8

  • 1 envelope plain unflavored gelatin (1 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup mashed Saguaro fruit
  • 1 cup mashed strawberries
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Soak gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes. Add, with lemon juice, sugar and salt to the boiling water; stir until gelatin is dissolved. Chill until it begins to thicken, then stir in fruit. Fold in whipped cream and chill until set. To serve, garnish with additional fruit if desired.

Saguaro Seed Scones
Makes 12

  • 1/4 cup Saguaro seeds, ground in blender
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon each baking soda and salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon Saguaro seeds

To prepare the seeds, add equal water to fruit breaking up pulp with hands and soak for at least 10 hours. Strain the liquid into a pot for other use. Dry the remaining seeds on a tray in the oven or in the sun. Shake pans to remove remaining pulp.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir together in a chilled bowl the ground Saguaro seeds, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Cut cold butter into pieces and rub into dry ingredients, using fingers until butter is broken up and coarse crumbs form.

Stir in beaten egg and buttermilk to make a soft dough. Place dough on lightly floured board and knead 5 to 7 times. Separate dough in half and make circles about 6 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Cut each circle into 6 wedges.

Place scones on greased baking sheet leaving space between. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar and whole Saguaro seeds. Bake about 15-20 minutes, until tops are golden brown and puffy. Sprinkle with more sugar if desired. Cool on rack.

Serve with jam, honey or lemon curd.

Rick Gray, Guide Southwest Trekking


Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Ignite is not only the name of one of the restaurants at The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain, but it is also what I attempted to do yesterday. No I didn’t try to start the desert on fire. But I did attempt to create fire. It’s something I have always wanted to try. To start a campfire with two sticks and some grass is something man has been doing for tens of thousands of years. Yet it is also something man has for the most part forgotten. In this age of instant fire, matches, lighters, and even magnesium fire starters there has been no need to hold on to this once essential aspect of life. In fact fire its self has become virtually unnecessary. We cook our food in gas or electric stoves and ovens. We heat our homes and water the same way. Fire has in fact almost become a negative word, bringing with it images of homes being destroyed or forests fires ravaging our ecosystems.

Fire has not always been a bad thing. Fire was a major leap in the evolution of man. It made the dark forbidding night something to behold and celebrate. It has allowed man to move from eating raw meat (that can be deadly) to cooking our food to eliminate some of the bacteria and germs (also it made things taste better). It allowed man to remain in areas longer, that previously they would have to migrate away from. Thus exposing man to different food sources. In short, fire has allowed us, for better or for worse, to become the species we are today.

In a survival situation fire can be the difference between life and death. Or at a minimum make an unbearable situation much more bearable. In a survival situation you may need a fire, but without a match or a lighter you may think it is hopeless. With the right training and conditions you may not need any of those things. In the desert there lives the perfect plant to assist you. The desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) grows a large stalk from the center of the plant. This stalk dries out and becomes the perfect wood for starting a fire. Desert spoon wood is very hard yet very light. The hardness of the wood rubbing against itself can create enough friction to spark some fire in light fuels (such as dried grass). It is not as simple as just rubbing the sticks together. The first thing you need to do is cut or saw off the narrowest part of the wood, this will be the stick in your hands. Then in the other part of the wood bore out(using a knife or rock) a small hole about the size of one of the ends of the piece you broke off. Bore the hole only about half of the way through the stick. Once a hole has been bored out, make a small triangular notch along side of the hole. This notch is very important. For without it you will not get fire. This notch allows for air to access the heat being generated by the friction. Once the hole is prepared the hard part begins. Place the end of the stick you cut off, into the notch you carved. While holding the small piece of wood in between your hands(almost as though your hands are in the praying position) begin moving your hands back and forth against each other,while also applying downward force, making the stick rotate back and forth in the notch. With persistence you can create enough friction to cause the wood to heat. Also by spinning the stick in the hole, you create hot saw dust that will fall out of the notch and down onto the dried grasses you place beneath your friction device. I will tell you right now it isn’t easy. You may have to spin the stick for some time before enough friction is created. From start, (witch includes finding the proper wood, cutting and boring out the hole), to the the finish, (witch in this case means creating enough friction to create smoke) the process took less than 30 minutes. With practice I think you could cut your time in half. So the next time your camping in the desert (even if you have a lighter) give this method a try. You may get a few blisters but you will also get a real sense of satisfaction knowing that YOU created something as basic and necessary as fire.

Rick Gray, lead guide The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain

Our Edible Desert, Saguaro Fruit

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

The moment has arrived, Isaw it, the first ripe saguaro fruit of the season. Driving away from The Ritz Carlton, there on top of a saguaro, was a brilliant red sight.  A solitary fruit that had peeled open to reveal its crimson flesh.  Most of the saguaro fruits have yet to ripen, but this one has begun my salivating.  Here is a bit of nutritional information I found on Dr.Weils Garden. My friend Jarred R. Mckinley wrote: a serving, roughly five fruits, has about 167 calories,  4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and is high in soluble fiber and vitamin C.

So now I need to wait til I can harvest about 75 to 100 fruits to get a batch of mead going. I will also fill you in on eating dried fruits dipped or drizzled with saguaro syrup.  These and many other recipes stil to come.

Randy Young, Southwest Trekking Guide

Birds O.K.

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

I did some research and found out that baby curved billed thrashers can be fledged in 11 to 18 days. So I think they were just out and about or flying away when I approached. Thrasher family O.K.

I had another experience with a different bird just a couple days ago. While waiting for a guest to arrive for a hike I was approached by a hotel staff member. She asked if I could check out a bird that was outside. When my guest arrived we went to asses the situation. It seems a beautiful purple martin had flown into the window. The bird was sitting upright but not moving. I stood there looking because it seemed strange to see a bird so close upright and not moving at all. I reached down to see if it was dead or alive. My hands were nearly around the bird. In fact I even gently touched it. But when I did touch it it seemed to suddenly snap out of it. The bird flew up to a near by bush where it sat. Again it was totally still. So still in fact I was able to slip my phone in next to him to snap a picture.

Where are my birds?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

A couple of blogs ago I wrote of some baby curved billed thrashers. I reported seeing them being hatched. I kind of felt a slight connection with these birds. I”d watched the eggs being cared for by the mother and her doting when they were hatched.
On Tuesday when I returned to work I looked into the nest to check the progress. The babies were gone! They surely weren’t big enough to fly away yet. I didn’t see them at the bottom of the cactus and the mother was nowhere to be found.
I don’t know what happened to them but if I find out I will report back.

Rick Gray, guide Southwest Trekking, The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain

Rattlesnakes, creatures to love…from a distance

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Almost everyone is fascinated by rattlesnakes. The fascination is most often caused by fear of these animals, which are legendarily perceived to be aggressive and deadly. Although their threat to humans is grossly exaggerated, these snakes are fascinating for another compelling reason: rattlesnakes are among the most highly specialized organisms on the planet.

Western diamondback
Their venom—in fact a toxic saliva—is among the most complex substances known: a mixture of enzymes unique to pit vipers that destroys blood or paralyzes nerves. And the delivery system is equally amazing—the snakes’ fangs are movable hypodermic syringes. Rattlesnakes are also among the few animal groups with dual visual systems. In addition to their eyes, they have sensory organs in their upper jaws which can actually “see”infrared images. They can detect the heat from a candle flame 30 feet (9 m) away. These animals merit admiration more than fear.

While other areas have larger rattlesnakes, the Sonoran Desert region is blessed (no, that isn’t a misprint) with more species of rattlesnakes than is any other region in the world—and many of them will bite large beasts like us if we are perceived to be a threat. Rather than seeking to eradicate these animals, we have more to gain by finding ways for all of us to coexist. Why? Because these animals are the natural predators of a suite of other animals (e.g., mice and rats) that can cause plant damage, carry diseases, and so on. Besides, trying to kill rattlesnakes actually puts us at greater risk than does leaving them alone.

Mohave rattlesnake
Knowledge of “who” these creatures are—that is, what they do for a living, where they live and when they are active—will help us coexist without harm to either snakes or humans.

Most rattlesnakes avoid contact with humans. They tend to avoid wide open spaces that offer little protection from predators, so they usually spend their time in and under low-growing shrubs, natural and artificial debris, rocks and the like.

They are most active in the warmer times of the year—spring through early fall—and many of them are nocturnal during the summer months. When favorable temperatures occur, many rattlesnakes are marginally active even during the winter. You are most likely to see them when the air temperature is between 70° and 90°F (21° to 32°C), regardless of the time of day—be it June or January.

Source; Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Rick Gray guide The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain

Our Edible Desert, Cicadas?

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Ok so this one may seem odd. I was changing a flat on one of our mountain bikes out at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, when there on the tire I saw my first cicada of the year. So I quickly went on line to do some res earch on them for this entry. I was intrigued by what I found. The cicadas in our area are called 17 year cicadas, because as larva they attach to tree roots and only after 17 tree cycle years will they emerge  only to breed once then die. The female lays her eggs in a twig. once mature the larva drop to the ground burrow in and attach themselves to the trees roots. Then the cycle starts over again.  Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia.

A cicada (pronounced /sɪˈkɑːdə/ or pronounced /sɪˈkeɪdə/) is an insect of the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha, in the superfamily Cicadoidea, with large eyes wide apart on the head and usually transparent, well-veined wings.

Cicadas are benign to humans in normal circumstances and do not bite or sting in a true sense, but may in fact “sting” after mistaking a person’s arm or other part of their body as a tree or plant limb and attempt to feed.

Many people around the world regularly eat cicadas; the female is prized, as it is meatier. Cicadas have been (or are still) eaten in Ancient Greece, China, Malaysia, Burma, Latin America, and the Congo.

What I said edible? But only in remote places right? No I found many great recipes and some articles from Cincinnati. Here is a link to a site with lots of info and recipes.

This is one of their recipes I will be trying very soon and I will give you a review.






2 tablespoons butter or peanut oil


1/2 pound newly-emerged cicadas


3 serrano chilies, raw, finely chopped


1 tomato, finely chopped


1 onion, finely chopped


1/2 tsp ground pepper or to taste

1/2 tsp cumin

3 tsp taco seasoning mix

1 handful cilantro, chopped

Taco shells, to serve

Sour cream

Shredded cheddar cheese

Shredded lettuce

1. Heat the butter or oil in a frying pan and fry the cicadas for 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
2. Remove from pan and roughly chop into 1/4 inch cubes. Place back in pan.
3. Add the chopped onions, chilies, and tomato, and season with salt, and fry for another 5 minutes on medium-low heat.
4. Sprinkle with ground pepper, cumin, and oregano, to taste.
5. Serve in taco shells and garnish with cilantro, sour cream, lettuce, and cheddar cheese .


2 main course servings


Mature cicada climbing out of its shell
Randy Young,  Southwest Trekking Guide