Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Among the Wildflowers 4

I didn't get out once last week. No backpacking or camping. No fishing or day hiking. It was a slow week in the world of outdoor adventuring. Its funny but now when I have those slow weeks, I feel guilty, like I'm not doing enough. I tell myself, "Its just a week", but it doesn't work. I cant shake the feeling that I'm cheating myself. So for today's blog a mix of flowers seen on the trail in the last month or so. Enjoy.

White Tackstem
White Tackstem

Engelmanns Hedgehog

Not sure what these are. Any takers?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fishing The Rim: Willow Springs Lake

What a great weekend fishing on the Mogollon Rim! For those who don't know, the Mogollon Rim is the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The rim is one of the most unique geological features I've ever seen. It reminds me of a giant "stair step" because it rises straight-up thousands of feet and extends some 200 miles from Flagstaff to the White Mountains. On top, the rim is covered with pine trees. In fact, the Mogollon Rim has the largest stand of ponderosa pine in the United States. Pretty crazy when you think that just an hour (or less) drive south you're back in the desert. Up on the rim, it feels like you're much further north. And the lakes remind me of some of the lakes back home, surrounded by pine trees and full of animal life. With the beautiful scenery, great camping, lots of hiking trails, and the many lakes, it makes for a really great spot to spend the weekend, though I hear in the summer time its always packed.

Willow Springs Lake
Jimbo fishing on Willow Springs Lake
We got to fishing on Willow Springs Lake almost immediately. A short hike from the road brought us to a more remote section of the lake, away from the crowds of people fishing around the dock. We started off using Powerbait and were instantly rewarded. Jim caught one on his first cast. It took me a little longer, but I managed to get two that first day (to Jim's seven). Nothing huge mind you, just pan sized rainbow trout, but it was still a great time. 

Mogollon Rim camp
Mogollon Rim camp
We decided to brave the wind and camp on the rim, just a few feet from the edge. It was a really pretty spot, but very windy in the late afternoon. Luckily for us the wind died at dusk both days. For dinner that first night I cooked our day's catch in some aluminum foil over the fire. I stuffed the fish with onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon of butter each. I've cooked trout this way a few times, and it always turns out delicious... Nothing beats fresh caught trout.

Cooking the day's catch
 We fished all day the next day and both of us slayed, especially Jim, who's Rainbow Powerbait proved to be what those trout favored. It was a great day of fishing and enjoying the bird life. There are tons of birds on those lakes and they are very active. We saw a great blue heron, ravens, duck, osprey, hawks, and even a bald eagle. At one point an Osprey swooped down right in front of us and snatched a trout up out of the water. It was so awesome! I actually heard its wings slicing through the air about 10 seconds before I saw it. A few minutes later I saw a fish floating belly up in the water. I trained my camera on the spot thinking the Osprey might come back, and he did (he missed the fish though). Unfortunately the pics didn't turn out very good, but it was such a cool thing to witness up close.

Osprey pulling up after a missed dive on that belly-up trout.

Overall it was a great trip. There weren't many people out on account of it being early in the season. I guess it is still too cold for most of the Phoenix crowd. I'm just glad I was able to bring some fish home, especially after getting skunked so much recently. Before I left for the trip Sarah looked at me and said rather seriously, "Bring me home some fish baby"... And I did just that.

My first catch on Sunday
Reference for Mogollon Rim info - http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/regions/southwestern/RimLakes/index.shtml

Friday, April 19, 2013

Trail Life

Today's blog is a short photo collection of life spotted on the Reavis Ranch trail last weekend. 

Desert Globe Mallow
Woolly Bear Caterpillar Moth climbing up a Desert Globe Mallow

Variable Checkerspot  Butterfly
Variable Checkerspot  Butterfly - Not sure of the flower

Short-horned Lizard
Short-horned Lizard

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Reavis Ranch


My trip to Reavis Ranch in the Superstition Wilderness got off to a rough start. Having received the Osprey Xenith pack during the week, I was really looking forward to testing it on the trail, but it wasn't meant to be. After I filled the pack with gear, I found that I could not get a comfortable fit. I paced around the house for an hour making adjustments and feeling it out, but to no avail. I think the torso size may be off, even though it's a medium just like my regular pack. Needless to say, at the last minute I switched packs, not wanting to risk hiking 20 miles in a pack that is causing me pain in the "try on" phase.

My other problem didn't really present itself until I was on the trail. Last Tuesday on a day-hike, one of the insoles in my Merrell Moab's ripped somehow. Procrastinating during the week, I didn't buy a replacement pair of insoles until the last minute. Consequently, within a quarter mile on day one, I got a blister. Considering I have never had a blister in this pair of shoes, I recognized immediately that it was being caused by the new insoles, that may or may not have needed a break-in period. At first, I opted to just cover my heels in mole-skin and keep the insoles, thinking that as I walked the insoles would form to my foot better... Big mistake. By the half-mile mark I was limping from the pain on my heels. I finally took out the insoles, but it was too late, I already had a nickle-sized blister on my right heel. But my feet felt much better without the insoles, so I covered the blister in fresh mole skin and pressed on.

The Hike

Reavis Ranch Trail
Reavis Ranch Trail
Reavis Ranch Trail 109 heads south from a beautiful trail-head overlooking Apache Lake. The hike starts out in typical desert fashion with plenty of sand, rock, and cacti, but quickly changes. This area of the Superstitions is so unlike the Superstitions I'm used too. Its less rocky, less rugged, and filled with plant life I would normally associate with being further north. The gentle grade slowly climbs over grass covered hillsides that offer excellent views of the Superstition mountains and beyond. In fact, I would say the first 3/4 of the 10 mile hike into Reavis Ranch is basically one long ridge walk. There wasn't much shade up there, but the wind did a great job of making the hot day bearable. 

Engelmann's Hedgehog
Engelmann's Hedgehog
Although not as dramatic as my Cave Creek trip, everywhere I looked wildflowers were blooming. I saw poppies, scarlet gilia, cactus flowers and many more. And the insect life was busy too. I saw butterflies, caterpillars, beetles, and a ton of ants. In fact I haven't seen so many ants before. I swear there were at least 20 colonies on that stretch of trail.

The Superstitions
The Superstitions
 We reached a pass about halfway in, and on the other side, the mountains were covered in trees! I almost felt like I was back in Washington, especially when we reached Reavis Ranch, where I actually pitched my tent among some pines. It wasn't just pine trees either. There was an entire apple orchard down there, and the trees were all in bloom. It was very beautiful.

Apple Blossom
Apple Blossom
 We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the breeze and exploring Reavis Ranch. Elisha Reavis was a pioneer who built a ranch down here in the late 1800's, where he grew vegetables and fruit. He apparently lived a solitary life, spending his days gardening and hunting. All that's left now is the ruins of his ranch and his apple orchard that still produces fruit. Researching for this blog I found an old obituary. It just illustrates what I love about Arizona... The history! Here is an excerpt.

Elisha M. Reavis 1827-1896 "Hermit of Superstition Mountains" Found dead

from the Star by the Arizon Sentinal, Yuma, Az. May 16, 1896

"Old Man Reavis, the Hermit of the Superstitions" is dead. His body, Half eaten by coyotes, was found last Thursday near his hut in the superstition Mountains, twelve miles north of the Silver King Mine. Whether death was natural or violent is only a matter of conjecture; also the time when it might have occurred, for the hunger of the wolves had not left enough evidence upon which to base an opinion. Of all men as widely known, there was none in Arizona whom so little was known as "Old Man Reavis". Much has been written about him by the few who have visited in his mountain home but it was generally produced by the imagination of the writers. It is said that the old recluse was driven into exile by a disappointment in love, but he never said so and nobody else has been found who could have known the facts..."

That night we saw lots of mule deer in the grass near our camp. I took some photos, but they were just too far away to come out any good. We did spot a short-horned lizard on the way out Sunday. It's actually the second one I've seen since moving to Arizona, and like the first one, it didn't move a muscle, thinking it was camouflaged. They are the neatest little lizards, covered in spines along its back like a dinosaur, but totally calm and relaxed and seemingly pretty docile.

Short-horned lizard

It was a great trip. Other than my feet (which actually took quite a pounding on the rocky trail without insoles), I felt like I could go another 20 miles when we reached the car on Sunday. I'm just chomping at the bit to do a longer trip. I've been looking into The Highline Trail below the Mogollon Rim, and I think its something I'm going to try to accomplish sometime this year... possibly June? The trail is about 53 miles long end-to-end and I would like to thru-hike it in one shot. Anyway, I'll let you know once I'm in the planning stages. Thanks for reading.

The Superstitions
The Superstitions

* Reference for the Elisha Reavis obit: http://www.angelfire.com/fl3/reavisrevis/ElishaMarcusReavis.html

Monday, April 8, 2013


We lounged around a campfire one night gazing longingly at the stars, sharing fishing stories with happy endings, and trying to ignore the clamor of a party in the camp next to us. My Uncle Steve looked at me from across the fire and said, "You should come backpacking with me sometime." He told stories of mosquito infested creek-side camps, and spotting bears from afar in the mountains. He painted a wonderful picture of the mystery and majesty of "the backcountry". A place of stunning vistas and quiet solitude. A place to camp alone on a pristine mountain lake with freedom from the throng of urbanites that crowd local lakes and campsites. I was enthralled.

Me and Uncle Steve
The next weekend we hiked into a shadowy canyon full of towering cedars. We reached the river after a long descent. It was low so late in the summer, but still plenty cold. We crossed the ankle deep water barefoot, with our boots tied together hanging from our necks. Our camp near the Canadian border was remote and wild and beautiful. Above all, it was peaceful. We sat around the fire that night under a drizzle of rain, listening to the trees swaying in the wind. We were so deep in that canyon, and the trees so thick, that with the rain clouds above, the forest was pitch-black dark. For the first time in my life, I felt content.

I was experiencing the wilderness in a new way. A way that I knew had changed my life forever. It was a revelation.

I watched my Uncle Steve as he talked about backpacking trips past. His face an orange glow by the firelight. I loved him so much right then, and I felt so grateful to him for opening my eyes to this new world. This sacred world, hidden beyond reach of both the idle and the occupied. I felt like he had entrusted a great secret to me, and I wanted to tell him what this all meant to me... But I'm a man after-all, and my voice normally betrays the true substance of my heart... "Uncle Steve" I said, "Thanks for bringing me out here. This is awesome.”

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Among The Wilfdfowers 3

The amount and variety of wildflowers in the desert right now is incredible. I've shot so many flowers in the last couple weeks, and I wanted to share some with you. The top 3 shots were taken at Bartlett Lake. The last shot was near Cave Creek.

Hollowleaf Annual Lupine
Hollowleaf Annual Lupine

Cant ID this one. Any takers?

Desert Marigold
Desert Marigold

Richardson' Geranium (among California Poppies)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Camp on Bartlett Lake

Okay, I will admit the title of today's blog post is misleading, as our "Easter camp-out" ended up an "Easter day trip".  I couldn't have imagined that so many people would have the exact same idea. By the time we reached Bartlett Lake early Saturday afternoon it was much too late. The multitudes had already arrived. Their tents and RV's packed so tight that even if we found a spot (which we didn't) it would have been right on top of someone else. So we set up a nice little spot on the beach at Rattlesnake Cove (no camping allowed) instead. The water was surprisingly warm, and with a little help from my friends, I quickly got over the disappointment of not finding a camp. So our Easter camp turned into a pleasant day playing at the beach.

Bartlett Lake
Fishing - Didn't go so well.

My beautiful Sarah with her little sister.

Wildflowers were out in force.