Archive for July, 2012

Time to take up the organ

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Organ Pipe National Monument is a westward drive out of Tucson on State Route 86. As you pass Kitt Peak and the town of Why you turn South to meet up with the Monuments visitors center. It is about 5 miles north of Lukeville, which is a small boarder town just before Mexico. If you head that direction make sure to stop at the visitors center for hiking information and map. The park is 330,000 acres of volcanic rock containing over two dozen species of cactus. The one worthy of note is the magnificent Organ Pipe.

Once you encounter these cacti it will be apparent why they are so appropriately named “organ pipe”. The columnar cactus is collection of pipes resembling the instrument. It rivals the saguaro in height. Like the saguaro, organ pipes cannot be found growing naturally in any other part of the world.

This area gets rather warm in the summer months. I recommend traveling the trails in the spring through fall. The Bull Pasture trail is a somewhat strenuous 4.1 mile loop that moves into the Ajo Mountains. The trailhead is just across from the visitors center.

Happy Trekking,


Second Annual “Jogging for Jessyka” Fundraiser

Friday, July 27th, 2012

A dear friend of the family is in need of support from the trekking community. I would like to invite everybody out to a 5k run, walk, skate along the Rillito path on Oct. 14th to help raise money for treatment benifiting Jessyka Murry. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and is making great strides with aggressive treatment. The Arizona Daily Star featured a story on Jessyka yesterday highlighting some of the difficulties her hand her family have endured regarding her treatment. The article notes how aggresive herapies have contributed to her healing. Please take the time to follow the link and get to know Jessyka’s story.

For more information about the fun run fundraiser visit the Jessyka T. Murry Hope Fund on Facebook.!/pages/Jessyka-T-Murray-Hope-Fund/144983492235363

On a personal note, your support means a great deal to me. I have been fortunate enough to have grown up closely with the Murry family. Griffin Murry (Jessyka’s brother) and I grew up closely playing sports and attending school together. Mr. Murry was a coach of mine; he taught me how to catch a pop fly. When I was 9 my Aunt Pam pulled me and my cousin out of school to be present for Jessyka’s birth. The Murry family is truly a special unit. They deserve our help and support. 

Please please forward this post to others you know who have a heart for helping others. Like the Jessyka’s hope fund page on FB. A little support would mean a lot to this very deserving young woman.

Thank you.

Matthew Drexel

It’s a process

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

A few weeks ago I posted the nutritional benefits of the prickly pear fruit. I hope you had a chance to read it because the time to harvest is NOW! The fruits are a deep magenta color all the way to the base. I have been seeing birds start to feast on them as well. My motto is to take a lesson from nature. If other wildlife is feasting then this Beast will also. Harvesting and preparing the fruit is easily done with some basic materials. Tongs, bucket, blender, and cheese cloth is the most efficient route.

As you hit the trail with your equipment look for those deeply colored fruits. I like to space out what cacti I am taking fruits from so the wildlife doesn’t go without. In general I’ll leave the low lying fruit for them. Once I have a significant amount of fruit I head back home for washing and processing. Make sure and rinse the fruit well. Toss them into a blender and liquify everything. I don’t bother trying to take the small spines out before blending. The cheese cloth will do the work for you. Once the contents are liquefied you can line a colander with the fine cloth and slowly strain all of the seeds and spines out. Repeat if necessary.

Another method is to freeze the fruit and thaw it. Just like the physical weathering that breaks down mountains the expand and contract will soften fruit and make the juice run out easily.

Add the juice to beverages or use as a sweetener for jellies and syrups.



The Explorer Trail

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

This weekend I experienced a great ride with fellow MTB enthusiast Dan Maloney. We set out early Friday on an adventure that lead us from the Starr Pass trail head to the Explorer trail and out to the Robles Pass under the Ajo freeway. The Explorer trail proved to be quite the ride as is switchbacks up Cat Mountain. The ride encounters many different points of interest. On the top of Cat Mountain we came across what appeared to be (and smelled like) two separate javelina dens. The rubbish left behind by the “stink pigs” was apparent. It was nestled underneath a low lying rock outcrop that was at a particularly difficult switchback on the trail. Having to stop and hike a bike past the den the flies immediately started to swarm us as they sought after the moisture seeping from our pores. Both Dan and I moved quickly along with our ride.  The views from the pinnacle were fantastic. Looking down on the Starr Pass trail from so high puts perspective to the ride I so often take people for tours on. From that high up you get a realization of your efforts. The Tucson Mountain park can be quite a challenge, and the payoff being grand. There is truly a trail for all levels; most often one trail can offer multiple challenges for all levels. That to me is the beauty of the park. The trails force you to step outside of your comfort zone at certain while allowing you to gain access to the sweet spots in the route. This would sometimes mean walking parts of technical trail. Like my friend Dan would holler out “If you are not hiking, you are not mountain biking.”

I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone this week and go for it on a trail you have been hesitating to do. I did, and when it was all said and done I felt like a million bucks. It is the simple joys of the excursion that can be so gratifying. If you are seeking advice on what challenges abound the Tucson area contact Southwest Trekking for the inside scoop.

Happy trekking,


Super Foods for Super Trekkers

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Food is important to life. It is the fuel to our internal machine. If you want your machine to run properly on the trail you must feed it the proper fuel. Nutrient rich plant based foods are key to healthy living. That, and just a little bit of movement is the key to fighting off so many of the leading causes of death in America. Chronic diseases are preventable and even reversible! The path to better health is even delicious! Read the poster below about kale and then go buy some and mix it with other veggies. I like mine with avocado. My mother dehydrates it and adds sea salt for a crunchy guilt free snack. The affects of a plant based diet are amazing. You will have more energy, better mood, and less need for medications. I challenge all readers to a week of a plant based diet. I’m sure you will feel better about life once the week is up.

Thank you TEP

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

I was out for a jog yesterday when I got curious about the downed power lines in my neighborhood. Tucson Electric Power Co. had been working day and night on the street since Sunday. I approached to find a good friend of mine up high in a bucket truck rigging up the new pole. Shane Ward, the jobs foreman took the time to explain to me the process of repair and maintenance that goes into the job of a lineman. It is an incredibly technical job that requires a lot of concentration, discipline, and teamwork. When you are dealing with voltage that high there is little margin for error. I can appreciate their efforts. Mr. Ward told me that him and his crew would be up all night working on the lines.  As we talked I was concerned that I was holding him up from his work, he explained to me that “the pressure to do a job correctly and in a timely does not come from management but from the crew itself”. I thought that was a comforting statement. They were the reason that everything in my fridge didn’t spoil, I had air conditioning, and lights in my house. All the comforts we take for granted stems from their hard work. A big thank you to them.

More storms are predicted throughout the week. As much as I love to have the moisture in the desert I also hope that they are not to taxing on the already busy crews at TEP. Below is a shot of some workers tending to a pole close to the Tucson Mall. I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing this pole crush a Mc D’s sign. I mean, if it’s going to fall, it might as well crush a fast food joint.

Luckily Shane Ward has some planned stay-cation time planned at the JW Marriott this weekend. I promised him an enjoyable outing in the Tucson Mountains. If anybody out there is interested in some of there own adventures give me a call at (520) 419-0439. We can hike, bike, or trail run. I know some epic trails if you are feeling ambitious.

How many saguaros are there?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Obviously you cannot count them all, so we must resort to an estimated guess of the population. Remember that saguaros grow only in the Sonoran Desert and there growth is limited to areas below 5,ooo feet and places that are not susceptible to freezing. Where growth does occur, there are usually between 500-5,000 plants per square mile. The size of the Sonoran desert is 120,000 square miles. It is estimated that 55% of this area is uninhabited by the giant cactus. Some 10% of the area is devoted to cities and irrigated agriculture. With those factors taken into account that puts the number of saguaros between 20 million and 2 billion. Again it is vertually impossible to count them all so this large range is the best guess from experts at the Western National Parks Association. The human population in this region is about 6 million.

Your Tucson 5 Day forcast

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Today Jul 17

Partly CloudyHigh 93°F 

Partly Cloudy Chance of rain: 20% Wind: SW at 11 mph

 Wed Jul 18
Partly CloudyHigh 98°

Partly Cloudy Chance of rain:20% Wind: N at 13 mph

 Thu Jul 19
Partly Cloudy
High 99°F  Partly Cloudy Chance of rain: 20% Wind: WNW at 11 mph
Fri Jul 20
Isolated T-StormsHigh 98°F 

Isolated T-Storms Chance of rain:30% Wind: NE at 10 mph

Sat Jul 21
Isolated T-StormsHigh 96°F  Isolated T-Storms Chance of rain: 30% Wind: E at 8 mph

Battle with Buffel (Pt. 2)

Monday, July 16th, 2012

This is an excerpt taken from the Arizona Daily Star. To read more please follow the link listed at the bottom of the page.

Public lands endangered

The spread of buffelgrass has alarmed people who work in Arizona’s national parks and monuments because it grows thick, burns hot and crowds out native plants. Some say the Sonoran Desert could be transformed into a habitat more like an African grassland. Others point out that species unique to this region, like the desert tortoise, will suffer.

Buffelgrass was introduced to southern Arizona in the late 1930s for erosion control and livestock forage. Public-land managers didn’t see any problems with it, partly because they weren’t looking for any. So it spread. By the 1980s, buffelgrass began to show up in Organ Pipe Cactus and Saguaro national monuments.

In the past decade, however, researchers have learned more about the damage buffelgrass can cause.

More grass means more fuel, from two times to 4,000 times more. Some fear that buffelgrass fires will threaten such plants as saguaro, barrel and cholla cactus and paloverde trees. These native plants, which have not evolved with fire, struggle in the aftermath of such blazes.

“It has the capability of basically sterilizing the desert soil,” said Mark Lambert of Ironwood Forest National Monument. By this, he means the soil will no longer support native plants. Buffelgrass, however, can still grow in such an environment.

By the time researchers learned of these dangers, they realized that buffelgrass was already growing thick in southern Arizona.

Various agencies started programs to combat the invasive plant and have since combined their efforts. In April, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., held a hearing on buffelgrass. Richard Brusca of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson said in written testimony that the plant could transform the native landscape into a land without saguaro cactus.

“We have already driven dozens of Sonoran Desert plants and animals to extinction,” Brusca wrote, “and hundreds more are now on the verge. The invasion of African buffelgrass is pushing us to a tipping point, where the entire Sonoran Desert ecosystem could collapse.”

Unless action is taken immediately, Brusca wrote, the desert museum will be a museum of what used to be.

Read more:

The Battle with Buffel

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Buffelgrass is a non native grass from the African savanna. It is altering the Sonoran Desert by growing in dense clusters that drown out native plant species. The competition for water can weaken and kill desert plants, trees, and cacti. Dense roots and ground shading can prevent native seeds from germinating. Then there is the fire hazards of buffel: it  is the perfect tinder for a superfire.

Luckily there is a dedicated group of government workers and volunteers who are committed to the management of buffelgrass. I had the opportunity to speak with a Mr. Doug Siegel with the Pima Parks Department. He and some volunteers were doing some management in the Tucson Mountains. He explained the process of pulling the grass using your hands and a bar designed to get the root ball. The volunteers work early in the morning and usually have a pot luck in the afternoon. There is even a homemade ice creme social after the pull this coming Saturday. Doug explained that he is always grateful to those that volunteer. If you are interested please contact him at or call his office at (520) 877-6063