Archive for November, 2010

Winter Weather

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Hello all, I am told Mount Lemmon got two inches of snow yesterday!  And where I started the day yesterday, in Flagstaff  it snowed six to eight inches before I left at about  noon!  I had a blast playing in the snow, knowing I’d be warm in just a couple hours. Back here in Tucson the high was 62 and felt wonderfully homey! So whether you go up in elevation to play in the snow, or just enjoy the beautiful temps on the valley floor, get outside enjoy the season for soon it shall swelter!

Blog for blogs sake

Monday, November 29th, 2010

So its cold and windy now. It was 28 degrees when I got to work, and it has warmed up a whole 6 degrees since I’ve been here to a balmy 34 degrees with 15 mph winds. Burrr! Didn’t have any takers on the morning hike today – I suppose the frosted windshields scared off any potential hikers. But atleast the timing of the hike is right on now with the actual sunrise time of 7:05am.

The evening hike at the JW has changed to 4pm.

El Tour 2010

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Greetings fellow readers and guides. Has been a while since my last blog and wanted to fill you in on the recent happenings around southern Arizona. November is that time of year when the population swells and the roads become clogged. But this is not simply the case of seasonal Snowbirds coming into town (the retired population). It is also El Tour Season! Thousands of cyclist take to the roads causing accidents and delays abound. Even the local police and law enforcement authorities amass to once again rid the roads of these cyclists and their impeding ways.

So, for El Tour de Tucson, you and 9000 friends can take to the streets and crash together! And it is one of the few cycling events where professionals and amature riders can join for a bike ride. The majority of the participants ride the 109 miles around the perimeter of Tucson. Others will partake in either the 79, 66, or 40 mile events. For me, this was my first time competing in the 109 where I achieved one of two goals. First, I wanted to finish in under 5 hours (no prob). I also wanted to remain in the lead pack to finish in the top 100 finishers. Unfortunately, I cramped up with 15 miles to go ultimately finishing about 15 minutes behind the leaders. Maybe this is because I eat too many Jack in the Box Jumbo Jack Hamburgers. Or I need to train more. Either way, after 109 miles fueled by Jack in the Box, I think to myself, “Meh, could have been worse.”  



Horny Larva

Friday, November 19th, 2010

I had a very interesting experience the other day. I was preparing for work in the morning. We have a couple of new puppies at my house so the mornings are a little hectic. The puppies have all these new toys that they are playing with, dragging them in and out of the house. Well I looked at our new Golden Retriever and he had what appeared to be a toy. But I hadn’t seen that toy before so I reached for it to see what it was. To my surprise it was not a toy at all. When I grabbed it, it moved. I thought “oh my god what is it?” This “toy” was about 6 inches long and light green in color. It felt very rubbery. After I picked it up I realized this toy was alive. My dog had brought in this huge Hawk Moth larva. It was about as thick as my thumb and about 6 inches long. Upon further examination this larva had what appeared to be a horn on what I thought was its head. Turned out the horn accually was on its rump not its head.

This is a photo I found on the internet. I was still too sleepy to think about my camera that morning.

Rick Gray

Big Cats

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

It’s been a busy past few weeks for ol’ Southwest Trekking.  Big guides going out daily, little groups filling the gaps, and all the best weather in the world has made the last couple weeks fly by.  After working all these guides, I started to get the itch for an adventure of my own.  In no way was I expecting to lose my spot in the food chain.

The epic journey started a few weeks prior, with a friend of mine asking me if I wanted to join him and a buddy on Table Mountain (Santa Catalina Mountains) and do some back country climbing.  Unfortunately I had to work some of the days they were planning to go and would have to hike up there (about 4 hours) by myself to meet them.  To give us enough time to climb the route and get back to the cars before dark, I would have to start my hike at 4 am.  Always a sucker for punishment, I agreed to meet them up on Table Mountain on Friday.

So right on time, at 4:00am, I place my headlamp over my hat, adjust the trekking poles and take off from the Pima Canyon parking lot.  It being totally dark, with no moon, navigating was tricky.  To make matters worse, the GPS unit I was planning on using wouldn’t work, so I had to rely on memory and luck to get started on the right ridge.  After about a good half hour, I head off the trail and start working my way up a ridge (bushwhacking) trying to avoid cholla and loose rocks.  About 20 minutes later something unusual caught my eye.

As I had picked my head up to plan my next 5 feet of hiking, my headlamp illuminated what looked like two big reflectors.  I stopped for a moment, trying to figure out who would be crazy enough to scramble up this crappy hill to put up some reflectors, when suddenly they “blinked”.  Once that happened a chill ran down my spine, the hair on my neck stood straight up, and I froze.  I don’t think I was even breathing.  I knew exactly what was looking at me – a Mountain Lion.

In that moment, after leaving the security of town and my car and all of those creature comforts, I had jumped down the food chain a few steps, and was now in danger of actually being eaten.  It was a stand off of epic proportions.

I stood my ground, fearing that if I turned my head for an instant, the puma would jump on me.  The cat was about 150 to 200 feet away from me up the same ridge I was walking, and it was staring at me staring at it.  The hiking had been difficult to that point, and the only way I would be able to retreat would be to turn around, and start scrambling down the steep rocky hill.  Fearing that would trigger the chase instinct in the Mountain Lion, I felt my best chance of not getting attacked would be to stand my ground.

As I’m anxiously waiting for the sun to rise, the puma is walking around.  For a moment, and they would be terrifying moments, I would loose the ‘reflectors’ in my head lamp, only to have them suddenly appear to my left.  Sometimes I would be able to follow those reflectors walking back and forth as it would traverse the ridge.  During all of this movement, the puma has closed the gap between us by about 50 feet.  And to make matters more interesting than they already were, my headlamps low battery indicator start to blink.  I was running out of light.

Luckily the sun had started to creep up the Rincon Mountains, and that pre sunrise twilight started to illuminate the ground.  It was then that I got a good view of the cat in front of me.  It was definitely a Mountain Lion, and it was big (the same size as the one at the Sonoran Desert Museum).  With the new found courage that the sunlight was giving me, I started yelling at the cat, whacking my hiking polls together and throwing rocks.  Still never taking my eyes off the puma, I would crouch down and pick up a few rocks, slowly stand up, and throw them.  That was the best I could do, and thankfully it was enough to get the Mountain Lion to go off the ridge and leave me alone.

The best part of this story, besides me not getting eaten, is that I had gotten on the wrong ridge in the dark and ended up hiking for 4.5 hours to find that I was on the wrong summit.  Table Mountain was a whole canyon to the east!  Another 4.5 hours of heading back to my car left me a little jaded.

Tis’ the season

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

for being outdoors that is! So if you are glued to your seat daily hoping for a new blog, you may be waiting a bit as we are out daily. Actually hiking and biking, back to back etc.! Well don’t just sit there, get off that chair and go outside! Send me some comments on what you saw, felt or fell from  first hand! Well I’m off for yet another wonderful bike ride!

Randy Young, Southwest Trekking Guide

I am not a Lyre, it’s a snake!

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
The hotel is a little slow right now but still an exciting place to be. This morning I had a guest bring this little guy in to see me. He found it right outside of the hotel doors.
This is a snake I have been seeing around here quite often but whenever I saw it, it had been smashed by a car or something else so I was unable to identify it. But with today’s living specimen brought to me I was able to snap a few photos and do a little research. My research tells me that this snake can reach nearly 4 feet long. I also found out that it is mildly venomous but its venom is not harmful to humans. This little guy did show some aggression though, he did try to bite me a few times but his mouth is way too small. It was nice to find a living snake and see how it acted. These little guys tend to live in rocky crevices and are rarely seen by humans. Its rarity has made it a species that has not been studied much.
Rick Gray

Lyre Snake