Pony up!

political signThe original Pony Express never traveled through Arizona.  Founded in 1860, it lasted less than two years, and ended in bankruptcy. The route ran from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, CA. Arizona was not even on their radar, maybe because radar would not be invented for another 70 years. The completion of the Pacific Telegraph Line sounded the death knell for the Express. Continue reading »

Hello Dolly

View of Canyon Lake from Dolly Steamboat

We finally took the plunge and took a tour on the Dolly Steamboat. Dolly is a replica of the classic American sternwheel boat. It is docked on Canyon Lake, the smallest of the four lakes formed by hydroelectric dams that provide electricity to the Valley by the Salt River Project.

Majestic cliff face

Canyon Lake is 130 feet deep at places – so I won’t be swimming to the bottom anytime soon.  It is 950 acres, and surrounded by cliffs and mountains. There are several free camping areas – some accessible only by boat.

The tour is a 6-mile route. We saw bighorn sheep and nesting bald eagles. The mountains and cliffs were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. The cliff faces are painted with yellow, green and black patterns and streaks of lichens and “desert varnish”. Desert varnish is composed of bacterial microorganisms that stain the cliff sides.

The Two Princesses

We saw nesting bald eagles, and a couple bighorn sheep on the cliffs. Unfortunately my telephoto lens wasn’t strong enough to capture and decent shots of the wildlife.

Years of erosion created the Slat River, and man-made dams created the lake system. Canyon Lake is closest to Apache Junction, and a favorite destination of boaters. There is a swimming area and there are boat ramps available to the public.

The Dolly Steamboat offers several cruises.  Ours was a dinner cruise, catered by the Mining Camp restaurant.The captain also acted as docent, providing a constant stream of anecdotes and history of the area, as well as an education on the flora, fauna and geology of the region. The bar offered mixed drinks and cold beer at not affordable prices.

Petrified tree trunks on this cliff face

There were plenty of small fishing boats, and canoes and kayaks and even a cabin cruiser on the lake that night. I was surprised to see Mallard ducks swimming along the edges of the lake, sheltered by the cliff sides. One cliff was comprised of petrified tree trunks – that was one helluva forest before this area became desert.  So what was that you said about global warming? Our climate has been anything but static – and a hundred years is not enough to base any long term predictions of doom and gloom.

Old man in the cliff

If you are into fishing, the lake boasts walleye, rainbow trout (yum), large mouth and yellow bass, and crappie. All of this less than a half hour drive from my house. The river divides the Superstition Wilderness from the base of the range that comprises Four Peaks. Four Peaks is home to the largest amethyst mine in the northern hemisphere. The mine is owned by the same man that is responsible for you being able to track your packages that are shipped via UPS or FedEx. The mine is accessible by helicopter, or by an extremely arduous climb up the side of the mountain.

North of Canyon Lake, you have Apache Lake, and Roosevelt Lake. Roosevelt Lake was created in 1911 (the same year that Arizona became a state) and was named after Teddy Roosevelt. It is 22 miles long, and more than 21,000 acres.

IMG_0929wAs we debarked the boat, we were treated to a wonderful moonrise over the mountains. It was a full moon, or close to it.  One of the Dolly Steamboat tours is an Astronomical Tour. In the pitch black of the wilderness, you have a view of starts you never knew existed. That is on my agenda some time in the future.  The lake is quiet in the daytime, and I imagine it is eerily so at night. To imagine the Pima tribes, and the Apaches that wandered these mountains hundreds of years ago adds to the mystique.

We learned from a Navajo friend who is a pottery artist, descended from a long line of medicine women, that  Superstition Mountain is known as the Healing Mountain. Her mother was a renowned medicine woman who had never been to the mountain, but knew from family history that the mountain is home to herbs and plants that grow nowhere else, plants that have healing properties. Yet one more reason to cherish the wilderness, and to protect it.


Hackberry Spring Hike

IMG_0813wThe Hackberry Spring loop is a quiet and easy hike in the Superstition Mountains.  You will need moderate trail-finding skills, as the trail is one of the unmarked wonders. One wrong turn, and the simple loop doubles in duration. Today we just wanted a short hike, as we have chores and life calling.

IMG_0804wTo access the trail-head, you take Rt. 88 to First Water Road in the Tonto National Forest. This is an unimproved road; it is graded for most of the tourist season, but it sometimes has deep ruts and is not recommended for passenger vehicles.  A Chevy Cavalier will do okay, a Porsche not so much.

IMG_0805wAbout four miles in you will come to a parking area for horse trailers. This is the best place to park for the beginning of the hike. From the parking area, head North from the northeast corner. The trail is clear. Before long you will be walking alongside a cliff covered with green lichen. Lizards will cross the path, and if you are lucky you might see some ground squirrels. Today we saw a red-tail hawk soaring above the cliff.

IMG_0809wA honeybee was hovering around a thistle in full bloom. The washes were all but dry, with only the vestiges of water puddles left from the winter rains. Flowering plants with buds of blue, yellow and lavender speckled the landscape. We hiked to the First Water wash, which was mostly bone dry. At the wash, you can turn right, which will take you to the abandoned corral and back to the road. We crossed the wash and headed left. Cairns mark the way, as the trail gets fuzzy here.  You will know you are on the correct path when you spot the trail heading between a crevasse of two outcroppings of mountain.

IMG_0810wThis is a wonderful area, as there is always a strong breeze and the area is in shadow most of the day. There are numerous caves and indentations in the rocks to explore. The vegetation is lush, and often the wash is full of bubbling, running water. The going is a bit tricky and you need to be sure-footed as the path is rocky.

IMG_0819wPretty soon you will find yourself at Hackberry Spring, a lush oasis in the middle of the harsh desert mountains. You are surrounded by a grove of trees, with a carpet of green grass. Once through the grove, you are back on the mountain trail. You need to use trail-finding skills here. If you follow the main trail, you will find yourself on a treacherous and steep pass that takes you to the Garden Valley and Black Mesa.  This is a very rewarding hike, but will double your hike.  At the small mesa, you will want to to take the trail that heads to the right.

IMG_0821wThe views are nothing short of spectacular. We passed one couple hiking today. This is the perfect trail if you prefer seclusion and a solitary hike without the interference of other hikers. When I hike I want peace and quiet, to hear the sounds of nature and not the chit-chat of others. Just call me anti-social. We said hello tot he couple we passed, and they told us they had just spotted a Gila Monster on the path 500 yards from where we were. Lucky folks, Gila Monsters are very shy, and you are fortunate to see one.

The hedgehog cactus were in full blossom today. The usually monochrome landscape was speckled with blue, yellow, orange and lavender flowers. The sky was vacant of clouds. The washes and creek beds had puddles of standing water – not conducive to drinking unless you have a purification system. The mountains were still green from the heavy winter rainfall – this is not a good thing. As summer comes on, the vegetation dries and dies and becomes tinder for wildfires.

IMG_0830wIMG_0837wWe came to the long forgotten entrance to the ranch. Once upon a time cattle roamed these hills, and cattlemen and ranchers born of sturdy stock walked these same trails. The trail leads to a defunct corral, with the skeletal remains of a windmill and a water tank on the hillside.

Our hike today was short – just over two hours. The final stretch is an uphill hike over a rocky path. Soon you hit the cattle gate, a hundred feet from the road.  From there it is a short walk back to the parking area.

IMG_0842wThis is the perfect hike to experience all of the varied landscapes of the wilderness without wandering too far off of the beaten track.  As the trail is not marked, you do not meet many novices. It is an open secret, and relatively easy. It is one of my favorite hikes. Along the way you can cut it short, or make it longer simply by choice of an alternate path.

a Day Trip to Superior and Apache Leap

Apache Leap, Superior. AZ
Apache Leap, Superior. AZ

Today Liz and I took a day trip to Superior. Liz’s niece in Michigan owns property in Superior and asked that we send her some photos. She is going to have to arrange for somebody to cut down the overgrowth.  One day they plan to build a house on the lot, which has a grand view of Apache Leap.  More on that in a second.

It was a nice excuse to stop for lunch at the Jade Grill, a very intimate little restaurant run by Superior native and master chef Lucy Wing. The cuisine is Asian Fusion – the presentation is nothing short of artistic.  Highly recommended. Lunch for two ran $24.

It was also an excuse to do some shopping at Funky Junk, an eclectic thrift store. We walked out with a coal burning stove and an old pick-axe that Liz purchased for the Superstition Mountain Museum miner’s cabin exhibit. I walked out with about 15 feet of antique barbed wire which I plan on fashioning into a wreath. He refused to charge me, and offered two bundles of wire. I didn’t want to take advantage.

You never know what you are going to find at Funky Junk – antique furniture, musical instruments including outsider art electric cigar box banjos and cigar box amplifiers, old mining equipment, a jackhammer, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass Band 33 1/3 RPM albums, coils of barbed wire, fine antique china, a vintage smelter (if I had the cash I would have walked out with it) and an odd assortment of books and CDs and DVDs.

The son of the owner was lamenting the loss of business due to the highway expansion.  The only highway between Phoenix and Miami/Globe is shut down for three days a week for construction.  Superior is in the middle, and they have lost a lot of the tourist traffic they rely on.  Superior is an old silver mining town that was shy of becoming a ghost town before the Chamber of Commerce created a sort of arts district in the downtown.

The highway is closed for blasting, as the mountains have to be chipped away to make room for two more lanes of road. Superior is a town that is at once charming and also creepy. Artists have taken up residence in neighborhood that reek of poverty – of real poverty. Superior is on the outskirts of what used to be Apache territory – a few miles further east past Globe and you are on Apache reservation. If you are a White Eye, you do not want to screw up or do anything stupid. The Apache remember.

Which brings me to the story of Apache Leap.

The Apache had inhabited this territory since before recorded history. The Apache and The Navajo are descended from the same people. The Navajo settled and created an agrarian community. The Apache wandered and roamed, and hunted for sustenance. They also raided and took what they needed to survive, whether from white man or other native tribes. When the White Eyes began encroaching on their land, they did not rest easy.

Superior was once a farming settlement, and was named Florence Settlement. Frequent Apache raids were cause for a military fort to be situated a few miles west at Picket Post Butte in 1870.  Picket Post Butte was originally names Tordilla Peak.

This was the location of the town called Pinal, which boasted the Silver King Mine. A stamp mill was built here, and the silver was stripped from the vein.  A few miles east rose a mountain named the Big Picacho.  It is a huge up-cropping of rock whose face has been eroded by thousands of years of precipitation.

The Apache had established a small community at the top of Big Picacho. The path to the top was obscure, and the Apache felt safe in their secret hideaway. They used this vantage to observe military movement in the valley below, and via smoke signals communicate with other tribes. The military post eventually discovered the hideaway and were able to find the secret path to the peak.

A group of military and civilian posse surprised the Apache.  The Apache quickly surrendered, understanding the futility of fighting a larger force, they had no route of escape. The posse, however, would not accept surrender, figuring that the Apache would one day attack anyway.  They killed man, woman and child.  The Apache, with nowhere to go, ran to the ridge and lept to their deaths.Many Apache warriors rode their horses off the cliff, as some of the stories go.

Apache Leap overlooks Oak Flat, a parcel of land that indolent politicians in cohorts with international corporations have conspired to sell for the promise of a few low paying local jobs. While not tribal land, indeed the land is part of Tonto National Forest, it has a certain meaning to Apache tribes in the area. It is considered sacred because of the Apache Leap incident.

The company buying the land is an Australian/English consortium that has mines with Iranian interests. One of their mines had 15% Iranian interest. Money and greed have no national boundaries, and allowing terrorists to profit comes in second to personal riches.

The copper vein that would be mined lies miles beneath the surface, and the mine would destroy a landscape that is unique not only to Arizona, but to the United States. A gaping hole would be left in the wake of wanton avarice. Some jobs would be created for residents of Superior, and as unemployment is at an all time high, it is enticing to give consideration, however, the high paying administrative jobs wold go to foreign nationals that have no interest other than self-enrichment.



Mata Ortiz, Oaxaca, and the Art of Mexico

The pottery and catrinas of Magdalena Pedro Martinez
The pottery and catrinas of Magdalena Pedro Martinez

Spring is just around the corner, and it is time for the Annual exhibit of Mexican fine craft at the Superstition Mountain Museum. A four day event, artists travel from the small village of Mata Ortiz (population around 200) located in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, and as far as Oaxaca. The artists practice craft handed down for generations.

Magdalena Pedro MartínezThe focal point of the event is the large variety of pottery and clay work.  The black pottery is called Barro Negro, known for the sheen and lustre and intricate design work. Magdalena Pedro Martinez is from Oaxaca. I spent time with them at one of the after parties, and talked with the help of their teenage daughter who acted as translator.  Since the extent of my Spanish is “cervesa”, “Besa mi culo”, and “puto” – we needed help.  one will get you a cold beer, the other two will get you beat up!

Magdalena and her husband are physicians, but she spends more time creating her art than practicing medicine. She is a renowned artist in Mexico.

I was showing them photos of some of the mosaic installations that Liz and I have done, and was surprised to learn we have friend in common. Magdalena was an artist at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia, and were guests of Isaiah Zagar during their stay. It truly is a small small world.

One of the features of the four-day event are the daily firings of the Mata Otiz pottery by Lila Silveira and her husband Carlos Carrillo. Lila and Carlos are from Mata Ortiz, hence the name of the pottery. The pottery is made from local clay, which they refine.  All of the pottery is hand turned, no pottery wheel. They are made with coils of clay and smoothed as the design of the vase takes shape. All of the colors are natural colors.  The paintbrushes are hand made – sometimes using an empty ballpoint pen with a single strand of human hair. The designs are all traditional, with the artist’s own interpretation. One vase will take two weeks to create. These are forty hour weeks. They are fired in the time-honored tradition of a pit kiln.

The firing of the clay is the final step, and one fraught with peril. In forty-five minutes, two weeks of tedious work can self destruct. Carlos heats the ground under the pit, to bring it up to temperature, and to remove any moisture in the ground.  Then two buckets are placed over the heated pottery.Wood is piled around the buckets, and the fire is allowed to burn until the wood is nothing but ash. One strong breeze can infiltrate the cover of the buckets and cause the pottery to split.  Typically, one out of four or five pieces is lost in the firing. Each destroyed piece is a loss of income. That means one less trip tot he supermarket, which is an hour drive from town.

Porfirio Guitierrez
Porfirio Guitierrez on the loom

First one bucket is removed to allow the pottery to cool, then the other – the moment of anticipation. As the pottery cools, you can watch the clay change color, and the pigments will change, too. This year, all of the pottery survived the firing.

Porfirio Guitierrez at the after party
Porfirio Guitierrez at the after party

Porfirio Guitierrez is a fabric artist, creating rugs and weaving in the traditional Zapotec method dating to pre-Colombian times.  Porfirio is also from Oaxaca.

The yarns are all dyed with natural dyes from plants, except for the red which is made from the cochineal, an insect. These colors will never fade, as is attested by remnants discovered in ancient archaeological ruins. Porfirio makes his own dyes, the yarn is locally spun from wool. A weaving can take from several days to weeks.

Porfirio works on a handmade loom of very basic construction. He was taught the art by his father, and says the most difficult part of the process is converting his design into the finished product. He says there is a lot of mathematics involved, knowing the thread count, the thickness of the yarn, the intricacy of the design.

Julia Fuentes hand painting a carving
Julia Fuentes hand painting a carving

Julia Fuentes is from the village of San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca. The daughter of master carver Epifanio Fuentes, she carries on the family tradition with her husband. Here she is painting the intricate designs on a carving created by her husband, Jose Juan Melchor. She was standing in the sun because she was chilly. The climate is just a little bit warmer in Oaxaca.

Wood carvings
Wood carvings

The table of carvings contains her art, as well as examples of many other artists that could not attend the exhibit. Many were not able to obtain travel visas because they do not have birth certificates.

All of the artists that attend this annual event are masters of their own craft. I would stand in awe watching them work. Their attention to detail coupled with the use of tools that often are improvised, using supplies and materials that are also handmade and an art in themselves just reinforces the idea that Art Will Find a Way.

I guess I have to end this with a photo of some of the other people that make this event possible.  The Apache Junction Mounted Rangers provide security during the event. The AJ Mounted Rangers are volunteers, working long hours, as volunteers.  Did I mention they work for no pay?

AJ Mounted Rangers
AJ Mounted Rangers

They are an ubiquitous presence, patrolling the parking lots of supermarkets during the holiday season, mingling with the crowds during these events, and exemplifying the Arizona spirit of helping your neighbor.

Of course, this event would be possible without the dedication of the more than 200 volunteers of the Museum, putting in long hours, proving room and board for the artists, and especially hosting the after parties. It is one thing to see the artists practicing their craft and quite another to talk to them, and despite the language barrier, finding many things in common.

I cannot wait for next year, to connect again with new friends, to be amazed at the artistry and to acquire more amazing art for our collection.

Arizona Renaissance Festival

Arizona Renaissance Festival We are fortunate to live fifteen minutes from the grounds of the Arizona Renaissance Faire. The festival is located on 30 acres of permanent grounds just east of Apache Junction. Thirteen sound stages, hundreds of vendors, live acts and entertainment, artisans and crafts-persons all in one event. And of course food and beverages – adult beverages!

Arizona Renaissance Festival2016 was the 27th year of the event. It is easy to spot the geeks in the crowd, they arrive in costume. Yes, that includes Liz and myself! Many people strive for authenticity in their costumes.  Others opt for the fantastical. Many, this year, paid homage to Game of Thrones. And of course there are the scantily clad girls; not Elizabethan by any stretch of  the imagination, but who am I to complain?

TartanicOur first stop – after the beer stand, of course, is Tartanic.  Otherwise known as “Men without pants”, Tartanic is a band from Houston, TX playing their own version of bagpipe rock and roll. The performance is bawdy, lively and a great way to begin the day. Tartanic obviously believes they are a good way to start the day – one of their bits is having a member of the audience dial a friend that will likley be still in bed, so that they can play bagpipes into the phone and help them begin their day.

TartanicThe arena is soon filled with people dancing to traditional Scottish instruments and no-so-traditional Scottish music. After Tartanic, we hit the various stages to see the Wash Wenches, the Ded Bob Sho, and the Tortuga Twins.  All of the shows contain adult humor, but are basically child friendly as the humor, for the most part, will fly over the heads of young’uns.  Most involve luring innocent audience members on stage to participate in embarrassing acts to the amusement of those of us smart enough not to sit near the front row. Of course there is plenty to keep children amused, G-rated shows and rides.

JpustingUsually around noonish, we hit the food courts.  I had the turkey leg – this sucker had to weight three pounds! They have bread bowls that are almost too big to eat. There is pizza for the non-adventurous. There is even a stand that sells dolmas. All of the food prices are reasonable – and domestic beers are $4.  I opted for the Smithwick’s – a little more but worth it to drink a decent beer on draught.

The high point of the day is the joust. There are three tournaments each day, and the contests are not staged as far as who the winner is going to be. The jousters are paired off based on who win contests of skill. Points are awarded by whether or not the jouster hits the opponent’s shield, of knocks the shield off (more points) or breaks the opponent’s lance (even more points).

After the joust, we hit the belly dancers. Not literally, we would be banned from the grounds for that. Then we stroll the grounds one last time checking out the vendors. By four o’clock we are drained. Six hours is not nearly enough time to see everything we would like, but 4PM is the perfect time to make an exit, beating the mad rush at 5.  At $21, the tickets are a bargain. All of the entertainment is free – but it is a nice idea to tip the acts. They actually do this for a living!

With tourist/snow bird season winding down, my entertainment will be more of a back-to-nature sort. Hiking, camping, target shooting.  And I am running out of excuses to prevent me from working on the camper, or in the studio. At least until the summer weather hits.

Lost Dutchman Days Parade and Rodeo

IMG_0102wThis weekend was the annual Lost Dutchman Days. Saturday’s festivities kicked off with the parade. Just to give an idea of how big a deal this is in Apache Junction, the parade route starts at the intersection of Old West Highway, Idaho Road and Apache Trail – winds west down the Trail (a divided highway) for about a mile, makes a U-turn and doubles back in the eastbound lane. The parade is more than an hour and a half long. The entire parade route is packed with spectators four and five deep. By contrast, the Christmas parade barely lasts twenty minutes.

IMG_0121wIn keeping with the Old West theme, and with AJ being an equestrian town, there are a lot of horses in the parade. The AJ Mounted Rangers are deputized citizens that provide security at events. They patrol the shopping centers during the holidays, and are regulars at the Superstition Mountain Museum events.

IMG_0156wThe Shriners arrive en-force. They are usually soused by the time the parade begins (9AM).  When I grow up I want to be a Shriner because they get to drive those cool little cars in the parade.

Our plan was for me to get photos of the parade, especially photos of Liz n the 1956 Thunderbird, representing the Museum. Then I would save a seat at Captain’s and wait for her, grab a bite to eat then head out to the rodeo.  As fate would have it, Liz was the last vehicle in the parade, not counting the semi-truck for the local food bank.

IMG_0230wIt is a good thing I was thinking ahead. Before the parade I slipped Casey, the bartender, some cash to reserve a couple stools at the bar. She said it wasn’t going to be packed after the parade, and I told her I suspected it would be. When I arrived after the parade, there were two empty seats. On the bar were two glasses – one of Coke and one of Sprite!  By the time I sat down, she had replaced the soda with an Alaskan Amber.

IMG_0190wThis was the second day of the rodeo. The first day had record crowds, and the bleachers were packed Saturday as well. This year there were no injuries to either animal or rider.

The nice thing about the rodeo is that all proceeds go to charity.  Beer is $3 a can – so they are not out to rip you off. The Johnsonville Brats are one of my fave’s.  On the rodeo grounds is a carnival for those not interested in the rodeo itself. Two sound stages with live music all day, Ferris Wheel and other kid’s rides, food vendors galore and tents hawking saddles and riding gear, leather jackets, flags, belt buckles, boots and cowboy hats, all against the backdrop of the Superstition Mountains.  You can’t get anymore west than this, before you hit a bunch of bleach-blonde surfers.

IMG_0609wWe sat and listened to Outside the Line for an hour or so.  They were excellent, and are a regular act at Lost Dutchman Days. The dance floor quickly filled, and it was a pleasant way to wind down the day.

IMG_0602wThe day was a perfect chance to play with my new camera. I brought only the camera with the 18-55mm lens, and a spare battery. At a little over 300 photos the battery died, so that was a smart move on my part. Since smart moves are rare these days, I felt I had to mention that!

I didn’t lug along the camera bag, since I didn’t want to be saddled with the bag – get it, saddle bad? – for eight hours. But I sure wish I had brought the telephoto lens along for the rodeo. The bronco’s would get out in the middle of the arena allowing for some good action shots, but the bulls bucked out of the chute and threw the riders right out of the gate – bulls 10 – cowboys 0. No decent shots. I know better for next year!

New Camera and the Lost Dutchman Trail

Lone SaguaroI saved and scrimped. For fifteen or so years I have been relying on cheap digital cameras and more recently, my cellphone to take photos. Point and shoots have come a long way, cellphones even more so. For casual photos, they suffice 99% of the time.  Hell, I used an Olympus and later a Canon digital point and shoot for all of the photography I used in my newspaper, Inferno. Nine years, tens of thousand of images. Macro shots of coins and jewelry I sold on eBay. I really can’t complain.

Canon EOS Rebel T5But there comes a point you want more control, need more features, and with some shot you just cannot do it without a telephoto lens. I spent two months reading reviews, and researching websites and retailers.  I didn’t want to spend a fortune – I could have drained my savings and bought twice the camera. This is the first time in my life I actually have a reserve of ready cash in the bank – money that I don’t touch except for emergency. I have a credit card that I use for small purchases and pay the balance off monthly.  I am going to need a good credit rating eventually when I am ready to replace my truck.

IMG_0009wSo after all my research, I opted for the Canon EOS Rebel T5. I used to have three different 35mm Pentax SLR’s. I played with the idea of getting a Pentax.  I worked for Canon USA for fourteen years, and so I have an affinity for the product line. Canon treated me well. I opted for Canon.

I had a full working darkroom. Some people wax nostalgic about those days – not me. Fuck chemicals, and processing fees and film and delayed gratification!  I delayed my gratification long enough! I wanted full digital and the ability to experiment creatively without spending a ton of money on processing.

IMG_0046wI bought a kit from Focus Photography through Amazon. The kit included the camera body, two lenses (18-55mm autofocus with image stabilization, and 75-300mm with autofocus) two batteries with charger, a Vivitar tripod, 32G memory card, three filters, slave flash, lens attachments (wide angle, telephoto and macro) lens and camera cleaning accessories, a camera bag, and a half dozen other accoutrements. And I didn’t have to take a second mortgage to afford it.

IMG_0031wThe next morning after my shipment arrived, Liz and I were on the Lost Dutchman Trail.  I couldn’t wait to try out my new toy.  It has full-automatic abilities – put your brain on hold and let the camera do all the work. All you have to do is worry about composition and shoot. That morning I used the automatic features and shot away.

I wasn’t worried about making creative shots. I recreated shots I have taken many times with my point and shoot. I chose a trail that was familiar – and was surprised to find petroglyphs I had missed on previous excursions. I am guessing these are trail marks lefts by the Spanish, and not by native tribes.  This trail was used by the Spanish and Mexican miners over a hundred years ago.

This weekend I will get to play some more at the local rodeo, during the Lost Dutchman festival.  I hope to get some good action shots.  So far I am extremely satisfied with my purchase.  The camera is user friendly, and anyone can pick it up and take acceptable photographs.  And, it has all the features for the more experienced photographer. Just like riding a bicycle, I expect my experience with the all manual and mostly manual Pentax SLR cameras I owned in the past, I hope to be up to speed shortly.

First Hike of 2016

Superstition Mountains This morning Liz and I decided to hike for a couple of hours. The temperatures are warming, and the week was dry. We didn’t hike much last year because, circumstances.

12647303_10153892123902838_8449151718095617023_nI am just getting over a bout with bronchitis, with possibly a touch of valley fever. This past fall, many of the projects at work consisted of reconstructing bays that had not been touched in years. I breathed in a lot of dust and fungus and mold spores. Developed an upper respiratory infection.  It got so bad that I finally went to Urgent Care last week.

I had a horse-needle full of steroids shoved into my ass cheeks. I got to suck in fumes from a new-fangled bong (Nebulizer) and was sent home with a stack of prescriptions. Prednisone, Albuturol, Codeine, Amoxicillin…

I am finally sleeping, and not feeling like I am drowning in fluid when I try to breathe. When I laid down, I would gurgle all night. Robitussin was not doing the trick. The first thing I noticed after my lungs cleared is that I am actually getting oxygen when I breathe.  I have to slow down because I am getting light headed when I breath too heavy – getting real air in my lungs now…

Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he? Baby Cholla are cute, but not cuddly.

So it felt good to be getting fresh air and some exercise. There is a lot of new growth on the flora, the wet winter promises to bring out the wildflowers this spring. The desert floor is green and lush, more so than normal for this time of year.

Last night we hit Captain’s after work.  I was able to sneak in early enough to snag too bar stools next to the owner’s seat.  Even the people that count on the business from the Snowbirds are counting down the days. Two more months or so before we get our streets back.  I try not to complain too much, it is their sales taxes that ensure that Apache Junction has no city property tax.  As it should be. Property taxes are regressive, sales taxes hot the people that spend, and the more they can afford to spend the more they can afford to be taxed.

Captain's LoungeBut I will be happy to see fewer Minnesota tags on the road – as a whole, these people do not know how to drive!  I sometimes wonder how in the hell they make it here alive hauling their RV’s.  And then we have the Canadians – they drive slow – maybe because they have a difficult time converting their kilometers to MPH? But at least they are polite.

That is about all that is news for now.  I am patiently awaiting my federal income tax refund to arrive.  Half will go to savings, but the other half is reserved for a Canon DSLR. I will probably opt for an older, refurbished body rather than a new, cheaper body.

I was looking at Pentax to save a few dollars, but the bodies are plastic.  Better to invest in a semi-professional Canon; then I will have incentive to take more intensive hikes this year. I am planning an overnight hike this spring or early summer, before the temps get crazy hot.


Year in Review

red ryder2015 has been an eventful year. This spring I saw my personal finances make the turn from disastrous to “I can now afford to live paycheck to paycheck”! I was finally able to afford to put for new tires on the truck. I had four different tires, and I use that term rather loosely – they were tires in that they were round and had once had a tread. Each tire was a different size.

I friend gave us a 14-foot 1953 Field and Stream trailer on the condition that we remove it from her property. To say this is a fixer-upper is putting it mildly. Packrats had decimated the interior. I gutted most of the interior and removed the wiring. My project for 2016 is to begin restoration.

We finally made the investment in the building materials for a much-needed shed. Mike and I put it together one weekend, in between many beers. The completed shed provided the needed storage space, and I cleared out the studio of extraneous junk. This removed my last excuse for not spending more time in the studio, and come 2016 I hope to become productive once again.

turquoise ring by Henry T Morris

Liz fought her own personal battle this summer.  She will talk about it when she is ready. Needless to say, we both were rather preoccupied this summer as our daily routines were disrupted, and virtually every aspect of our lives were affected.

In October my divorce was finalized; that was a long time coming, and one chapter in my life is officially closed. Christmas was quiet, and New Year’s Eve is expected to be a lite affair. Liz really surprised me with a truly unexpected gift – a turquoise and sterling silver ring by local Navajo silversmith Henry Morris. Henry passed earlier this year and already his work is no longer affordable, at least not to those of us with modest means.

She also picked up a vintage Red Ryder. We usually don’t spend a lot at Christmas, opting for smaller and more meaningful gifts.

I expect that 2016 will see two of us spending more time in the studio, and hopefully more time hiking the desert and mountains.

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