Found this delicious snack in a coconut palm outside a friends house in Angaur, Palau. We were coming back from catching land crabs for dinner that night so the timing was perfect. We knew just what to do with him. Mmmm, delicious with a little garlic butter. In general, I tend to be a live and let live kind of guy. However this is different. life on the island connects you with your food. When you hunt and gather to sustain yourself it closes the gap that I feel is missing from a lot of American diets. We are led astray from what our food actually is. A Palauan man brought this point up to me. He asked, why do Americans call there food animals by a different name? Cow is beef, pig is pork, chicken is poultry, I have a hard time knowing what I’m ordering when I go out to eat.” What a brilliant insight. My feeling; which I attempted to explain to him as best I could with the language barrier, is that the relabeling is an attempt to disassociate animals and food. Call them by a different name and you take away the features of an animal. Now they have no faces, no family, no feelings, they are just slabs of ”beef” wrapped in plastic and nestled on a little styrofoam trey. It is convenient for bbq but not so much for the biosphere we call home. I like the island, you catch your food, you clean it, you cook it (sometimes). You see the entire process and come to respect it.
Posts Tagged ‘sonoran desert’
We got a call from a swimming coach asking if we could help plan, and guide, a bunch of crazed college kids from a swim team in Canada. They were down here in Tucson for a training camp, and these swimmers (and coach) had a rest day to kill. So after talking to them and getting an idea of what they were looking for, it was decided to take them out to the Finger Rock trail, located in the Santa Catalina Mountains.
We were expecting a little larger group than what actually showed up – we found out later that shopping was an alternate option. So we ended up having 8 guys as . . . em, the girls went shopping. They were good guys, complained a little as we got going, but soon started to enjoy the unbelievable scenery and the physicality of the trail. If you’ve ever hiked Finger Rock than you know, it’s really steep.
We had a good run of it, and after ahour and a half of busting it up hill, we stoped for a picture. Due to time restraints we had to turn it back and head home. Was a good hike though.
Funny side note, being from Canada and having some serious winters to deal with, all these kids wanted to work on their tans. This left a shirt that had to be dealt with, and most of them tucked them into there pocket or held them in their hands. This seems harmless enough, but as they started going downhill, their shirts were flailing around and brushing up against all sorts of desert vegetation. Most notably the prickely pear cactus. After they got back down to the bus, they put their shirts back on and found out how annoying those spines can be.
Hiking – Biking – Tucson, AZ
So I hate to say it, but we’ve gotten some calls recently that some hotel guests have been getting lost on our trails, and in some cases needed to be “rescued”. I won’t name names, because I don’t want individuals or establishments to be called out, but these people broke most of the rules one would follow when heading out into the desert. So trying to not sound condescending, here are some pointers for HIKING in the desert during summer months.
1. It gets hot. Really hot. I mean really really hot. If you’re from Florida or Texas, you still don’t know what hot is until you’re roasting under the afternoon sun in temps over 110 degrees with absolutely no shade. Oh, and “It’s a dry heat” doesn’t help you when you dehydrated. And one more bit of science, the ground gets even hotter as the superheated air gets trapped within the fist few inches from the surface. Almost 20 degrees hotter. I’ve seen peoples soles actually melt off of their shoes. Don’t be that guy and think you can handle the heat. No one can. Ever wonder why desert animals are nocturnal?
2. It is dry. You won’t find water along most of our trails. And during the summer, this is even more exagerated. If you forgot water, you’re pretty much screwed. You won’t find a stream or puddle down here in the desert. And that myth of getting water out of a cactus is exactly just that, a myth. Most cacti are high in alkalines making them rather poisionous to humans. Moral of the story, take WATER with you and take MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU’LL NEED!
3. The sun can kill. This goes back to #1. It gets really hot. Heat stroke can kill, and it happens more than you would think. And in an environment such as a desert, it happens even faster. Not to mention the horrendous sun burns it causes. So keep it off of you by wearing long sleeve shirts and a hat. It can be almost 20 degrees cooler in the shade, and since there aren’t really shade trees on our trails, you’re gonna have to make your own with a wide brimmed hat. It’s also much cooler in the early morning (5am), so plan outdoor activities for the early hours.
4. Don’t get lost. Any fun outing can quickly turn into a disaster if you get lost. Our terrain, while very beautiful, often looks similar wherever you go. So take a map, and probably a compass. If you don’t have a compass, take your phone but don’t relay on a signal. Don’t count on trail signs to get you around during your hike as they often “move” or disappear, and especially so in county run parks. Trail signs are not always a given. Get a map, understand where you’re starting from and where you’re planning on going. If you do get lost, at least you’ll have the right tools to get out.
5. Ever see 127 hours? Make sure to tell someone where you are planning on hiking. If you haven’t, at least leave a note on your call with the following information: Date and time of departure, intended route, and number of people in your party. That way, if you don’t come back to your car, instead of a Park Ranger giving you a ticket for violating the parking lot hours, they’ll send someone out looking for your party. If you’re stranded in our desert without water during our summers, you’ll be lucky if you make it through two days. So every minute counts in a rescue situation.
6. Heed advice of others. Take it all with a grain of salt, but if an experienced trail guide tells you heading out at 2pm for a 5 mile hike when it’s over 100 degrees is a bad idea, they’re probably right.
Exercise the common sense and follow these basic rules and you’ll be fine. Be safe and have fun out there.
In an effort to better promote the Sunrise and Sunset Hike offered at the JW Marriott Resort and Spa, Southwest Trekking has been making an effort to take out the resort staff on the hiking trails in the Tucson Mountain Park. With the Lorane Lee Hidden Canyon and Bowen Trail heads literally 200 yards from the front door, the JW Marriott Resort and Spa has some of the best on site hiking found in Tucson.
Southwest Trekking offers a complementary one hour Sunrise (departing at 7:00am) and Sunset (departing at 5:00pm) Hike to all guests staying at the resort. Depending on group size and ability, we will either hike the Bowen or Lorane Lee Hidden Canyon trail. Both hikes offer stunning views of the amazingly rich Sonoran Desert and a knowledgeable guide to explain the unique fauna and flora found in the region. The morning hike allows guests the chance to start their day with some fresh air and exercise, while the Sunset Hike offers a chance to view the setting sun in a truly scenic setting.
This morning, I had the opportunity to take Steve, the concierge from the JW Marriott Resort and Spa, out on the morning hike. Steve was ambitious and I was itching to get in a little walk, so we were able to make it out to the stone house located 1.5 miles in on the Bowen Trail. It was Steve’s first time seeing the stone house, and I’m quite sure he was as impressed as I was the first time I saw it. We had a nice morning exchanging interesting facts about the city of Tucson and the Sonoran Desert while strolling through some of the most amazing stands of Saguaro Cactus found in the area. It was an eye opener for Steve as to how accessible and immense the trail system is out in the Tucson Mountain Park, and how diverse the vegetation is along the entire hike.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any animals this morning, save for a few trail runners and one dog, but it’s not uncommon to spot some Javalina, Mule Deer, and coyote on the trails in the early morning. Steve mentioned that he could now understand why having a guide was important and beneficial to the guests; not only do we know where we are going, but we can also explain some of the interesting characteristics of the Sonoran Desert. This was the whole reason for taking the staff out on the trails, so they could actually know how amazing the hiking is located at the JW Marriott Resort and Spa. I took this as a success.
As more and more hotel staff start joining us on the morning hikes, I’m sure we’ll see the popularity of the hike go up. And the reason is simple, once you get to experience this amazing desert, you can’t stop talking about it. If you are staying at the JW Marriott in Tucson, I encourage you to join us for one of our complementary hikes. It’s also important to remember that there is amazing mountain biking right out the front door of the hotel as well. If you ride, or want to ride, talk to a Southwest Trekking guide when you check in for more information.
It’s finally starting to cool off in the Southwest. 105 degree days are now replaced with 90, and the evenings are drying up and cooling off. Soon, we will be in our fourth season, fall (some might not know this, but the Sonoran desert really has five distinct seasons; spring, summer, monsoon, fall and winter).
As our temps start to fall and the rain stops falling, certain animals will start preparing to hibernate. One such creature is the Rattlesnake. They will be trying desperatly to fill their bellies to capacity, and prepare for their long hibernation. These reptiles will be especially active during the evening and into the night as they hunt rabbits, rodents and small antelope squirles. So watch out!
Rattlesnakes can only strike if coiled up, and can usually strike about 2/3 of their body length, which means an adult snake about 5 ft. long will be able to strike just under 3 ft.. Most of the time the snake will be trying to ‘flee’ from you as they percive us as a threat, but they do sometimes coil and rattle their tails as a warning. If they do this, and you still can’t stay a few feet away from the snake, then I question who is to blame?
A few things you can do to avoid any unpleasent encounters are rather easy: 1. Don’t try and handle any snakes you see, 2. Don’t stick your hands where you can’t see then like in bushes or holes, 3. Look where you feet are going and see whats on the other side of a rock or tree before you blindly place your foot there, and 4. Don’t try and handle any snake you see.
Just be on the lookout and you’ll be fine. Let the snakes be.
Here is some information to a new trail I found out in the Tucson Mountain Park. There is always something new to find out there, and this was a real treat. It hosts some technical riding, and some great views. However, it’s rather steep and technical in sections, with pretty good drops, so be careful not to biff it going through the hard bits. This short new section of trail offers more advance riders the opportunity to change up their rides by allowing you to bypass some of the Bowen Trail.
I accessed this trail by leaving from the JW Marroitt at Starr Pass and getting on the Bowen Trail. I rode the Bowen/Yetman Trail past the stone house, through the wash, and up to the saddle. At this point you can go straight (takes you down [riding towards the water storage tank that you can see] to the Starr Pass trail which is marked with a wooden sign), go right which eventually pitters out into nothing, or go left. Take the left (almost a U turn) and follow the trail until you merge up with the Bowen Trail.
I have included a link to where you can find a map and more details about the ride. Copy and paste it into your web browser, and you are a-for-away. If you have an account with Trimble Outdoors, you can download this file to your Garmin or simular GPS unit. Good luck and happy trails.
Is it hot here these days or what? And to a year round local, it’s also muggy by our standards. Time to sweat, and sweat, and sweat, then shower and sweat some more. It makes perfect sense to sweat when it’s 100+ degrees and our humidity is creeping up, so don’t worry, I’m not embarrassed in the slightest. I bring up sweating because of two reasons: One, it makes you stink, and if any of you hang around me in the next few months, I apologize in advance. Two, it cools you down. Most mammals sweat, either through skin or paws, and it also cools them down and makes them stink.
Where am I going with this you may ask? Well, on my morning hike at the JW Marriott I was sweating profusely and enjoying the relatively cooler temperatures (82 F at 6am), guiding a mom and her son in the wonderful sonoran desert. They were eager to go, and I was already sweating, so we went a little furthur up the trail than we usually go. When they decided to split off and finish a certain trail, I had to turn around a get back to the resort. Since we had gone out a little further than usual, I decided I’d just run back to the hotel. . . you know, really get the sweat going.
So off I go, running down the trail, and actually enjoying it when all of a sudden a deer runs RIGHT in front of me. I mean this guy missed me by a few inches, I was even privileged enough to smell his sweat. It scared the living daylights out of me for a second, but once the adrenaline calmed down I was able to appreciate his beauty a little more. The Mule Deer found here are, for the most part, much like white tail deer you find in the east. However, they do have rather large ears, and are a little smaller than white tale deer. It was a real treat to be so close to this large mammals as he was gracefully strolling around while eating grasses and leaves. What boggles my mind about these large animals is that they have to go months without any real source of water. Although we have entered our Monsoon season, most of the city has yet to feel any rain drops. And seeing as the last spring rain we had was in early April, these poor creatures have been surviving solely off water found in the vegetation. Quite an amazing feat seeing as most of our vegetation is extremely drought resistant, and usually doesn’t have any ample amount of moisture in it.
Anyway, that’s what my morning was like – dodging deer.
Our desert green beans are now available, hanging from the branches of our green stick tree, the Palo Verde. These beans can be eaten raw or dried and rehydrated and cooked later. Small pods about 1/8″ wide and 2″ long can be chewed hole for a little sweet nutrition. Larger more ripe beans with noticably round seeds should be shucked and only the seeds eaten as the pods get bitter when the seeds mature. For cooking harvest seeds that are green but just starting to yellow. To stop the ripening blanch the seeds by boiling for a couple minutes then shuck and use imediatly or dry for future use. I have been enjoying the green beans straight from the tree, and have had some in a salad. I’ll tell you how they are cooked soon and pass along some recipes.
Randy Young, Southwest Trekking Guide
Every year the snows hit the Rockies and the skiers rejoice.
For decades you’d see a similar scene in the desert but the flakes are not snow but the seeds of the desert broom blowing in the wind.
About 8 years ago the autumn winds didn’t come and seeds didn’t fly. Strong winds did not kick up till nearly February, long after the seeds had fallen. At that time the current drought had begun. Desert broom has been a dominant weed here since man disturbed the desert soils. They are no longer the landscaper’s enemy #1, the most common weed in the landscape.
But this winter’s heavy rains have sprouted the desert broom anew . Perhaps it will reclaim it’s throne in the desert, a title the nasty buffel grass has stolen.
Well, it is unfortunately true, spring is pretty much over down here in the basin. It’s that
time of year when higher elevations are the only escape from the day time heat. But what a spring it was. I have been flipping through some of my pictures in my camera, and decided that I’d share some of the wildflower displays I saw this year.
Of all the great places I went this spring, none was more vibrant than Picacho Peak State
Park. Unfortunately, as some may already know, Picacho Peak could possibly be closed to the public, along with a handful of other State Parks in an effort to save money, on June 3.
It seemed like a bit of a coincidence that it was such a brilliant and lush spring this year for Picacho Peaks last few months. It really was quite amazing to see so many flowers, most of which simply emerge from barren dirt, in such a rugged landscape.
Another awesome spot to see all the action was in the the canyons of the Santa Catalina Mountains. We went to one in particular called La Mila Grossa Canyon. There were so many different varieties of flowers that it was a little unbelievable. I’ll do my best to Identify as many as I can, but I’ll tell you up front that I’m no expert. So forgive me if I
get a few of them wrong.