Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sammy

Sammy is at least 12 years old. We don't know his exact age. We adopted him on April 1st 2005 from the Bisbee shelter, three months after Sara, and those two were soulmates until Sara died two years ago. He grieved for many months. Whenever I see Sammy sleeping on the spot where she died, I wonder if he can still smell her. I worry about him now as he's getting slower and his arthritis is now giving him a permanent limp. Even the glucosamine-chondroitin-turmeric tablets he get twice a day don't seem to help him much anymore. Whenever I go to the kitchen to give the dogs their treats, I pass out a treat to four dogs and then walk over to Sammy in the hallway where he waits for his treat. Sara did the same thing those last few years of her life, burdened by arthritis. She was Queen of the pack and we obliged. She had earned that status. Now it's Sammy's turn to be King.
I fear he won't be around much longer.

I try to walk the dogs every day, alternating between a fast 3-4 mile walk and a slow .7mile -1.5-mile walk with Sammy included. Today was supposed to be a faster, longer walk for me but the pack had other plans. Today all four dogs ran to the van for their drive to The Oaks, a "gated community" south of town, across from Hunter Canyon, where the home building company Castle and Cooke have a 34-unit area. Only one house is standing after ten years, and two more 4-acre lots are sold. The streets have been paved and the utility boxes installed, but this planned neighborhood is slow at developing. Why? I don't think it's because of the 2008 recession. I think because people know the area is prone to flood. There are two ditches that run through "The Oaks" that I can see being potential hazards in hurricane rains.
The gate is not yet closed to the public, so I've been going here to walk the dogs on a 1.4-mile loop. We did this loop yesterday, with Sadie, Minnie and Zeke up front chasing each other, and Sammy behind me lumbering along. I go at his pace when he's around and let the younger dogs romp on ahead. They like it like that. It took us 34 minutes yesterday to walk the 1.4 miles. Today, while the original plan was to just take the three hiking dogs and to leave Sammy at home to rest and to speed up Hunter Canyon, he insisted on coming along. I had no choice but to change my plans.
But when I got the The Oaks to start our hike, Sammy didn't want to get out. He fought me. At first I was annoyed because I could have done a power walk with the hiking dogs, but with him with me I can't do that. Yet he persisted. He did not want to get out of the van. Sara would do the same thing in her last year: she'd want to come along for the ride, but once at the trail head, wanted to stay in the van. Sammy is telling me something here. I need to respect his wishes.
The area is still not very busy. It's therefore a nice area to walk the dogs off-leash for the loop. The dogs can shit on the side of the road and no one is going to care. A few cars drive down the adjacent road to homes in the Three Canyons area a mile away, but this loop is still forlorn. A few homes are closer in the Oaks area, but only one completed house is in the planned gated community and occupied. I took the three dogs and power walked the 1.58-mile (this includes a short addition on Three Canyons Road, the main street through) loop while Sammy rested in the van with the windows open. Dark storm clouds were still lingering to the south. Lightning flashed across the mountains but the rain from earlier had subsided.
The views of the Huachucas from the area is quite intimidating. The ground here is almost at 5000 feet elevation, so 200 feet higher than our house. The walk is on pavement, with weeds growing over the asphalt. I'm going to hate seeing this pristine view disappear as new homes take over. Castle and Cooke have had this property for ten years and only one home has been built. I find that so odd. Yet, as I have now walked the dogs on this loop three times, and I love the view, I also sense that this area is not very well suited for the 34 4-acre lots because of the flood zone. Half of the area still shows the dead and charred trees from the 2011 fire, a stark reminder that Mother Nature is in control here. While there is beauty in the wilderness, some things should best be left alone.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Roger's Rock (Santa Rita Mountains)

The original plan for me today was to lead a hike up Mount Wrightson, making it a difficult 14-miler loop. First I was late as I overslept, and then Rod gave us bogus information about Box Canyon Road off SR83 being closed. I hadn't heard that but I believed him, and so we drove 20+ miles out of our way. We didn't get to the trailhead until 9:15am and started the hike at 9:26am.

I made the mistake of starting it with the Old Baldy trail, a steep but shorter trail than the more stable Super Trail. It wore me out! I was slow from the start, stopping to take photos but then getting behind so far that I gave up. I stopped a lot for a few minutes at a time. All the drainages were dry, which I wasn't expecting. I made it to Josephine Saddle in 1:13minutes for a trail that's 2.5 miles long! Why was I so slow? Lack of sleep? Dehydration? Out of shape? Most likely a combination of all three, but with thunder overhead I was in no mood to continue on with the fear of getting caught in a storm.

Rod and John agreed, so the group of six broke off into two, with Don, Barry and Joe continuing up to the summit, which they peaked at 1:15pm.

A lot of hikers from the Southern Arizona Hiking Club were coming up the Super Trail to rest at this saddle as we got ready to leave. No one else dared to go further. Mount Wrightson was shrouded in fog. Rod, John and I continued on the Super Trail downhill, a much more pleasant surprise as there was also water here for Sadie.

More later

Friday, August 21, 2015

Brown Canyon Loop

I know I have to get out of this rutt. I can't grieve forever. So when Nina told me about this hike earlier this week, I opted to come along. Start time was at 5:30pm and I told her that I'd wait and see what the weather would be like, as we are in the monsoon season.

It turned out to be a good decision to hike today. I took Zeke and Minnie and met seven other hikers at the Ramsey Canyon Road trail head: Nina, Claire, Eric S and Eric T, Susan and newbies Pat and Tiffany. Tiffany brought her two dogs Bella and Tara, a Blue Heeler and an Aussie shepherd. Weather overhead had one thunder cloud and radar showed one last mass coming, but that afterward it would stay clear. We all knew the risks and went into the canyon anyway.

Twenty minutes into our hike, we hit a downpour. It only lasted 20 minutes but that was enough to drench my cotton shirt and jeans. The dogs didn't seem to mind. My orange wind breaker was no help at all. I was just worried about my camera.

More later

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Murray Springs

It was another hot and humid day. By 10am it was already 90F. Not a day to be out exploring. But then the clouds came overhead and by 1:30pm we had another downpour. Rolling thunder lingered as our mountains were shrouded in fog. The downpour lasted an hour and I had no intentions of staying at home.
I took Zeke and Minnie with me to the recycling center in Sierra Vista at 2:30pm and from there we drove north on Moson Road to the Murray Springs parking area, a two-mile drive. The turn-off to the parking area is just past Mile Marker 9. Most people who come here come to see the Mammouth Kill site just .4-mile from the parking area. Clouds were dark overhead but at least it was not raining. The rain stayed over the mountains. My goal was to get at least one mile in before turning around, making a quick two-mile romp for the dogs and making this our daily walk. We ended up going twice as far.

This is a flat, straight trail best done on an overcast, cool day. The exposure would make this walk otherwise unbearable. Both dogs ran ahead of me as I fought off tall weeds in some sections and kept my eyes open for snakes. Years ago I could walk with Sara and Sammy in the wash/drainage to the San Pedro Creek. The creekbed has gotten overgrown since then and too treacherous to follow.
The Clayton Ranch is 2.6 miles o/w from the parking lot and is visible once one reaches the drainage. The mesquite-covered terrain offer no shelter, so I continued on the trail cautiously, walking northbound. Rusty barbed wire protect wandering cows from getting too close to the drainage, which drops off perilously in some parts.

I spotted lightning to the west and it began to drizzle. I was less than a half mile from the ranch house, and I could even see it over a ridge. It was just past 3pm. I wore no rain jacket and just had on my cotton shirt and jeans. I didn't even have any pack on me, since this walk was meant to be a quick leg stretcher for the dogs. I had no other option but to turn around here for safety's sake and get back to the van before more rain came.
It never did rain on the hike. We managed a 4-mile power walk that did both dogs and me some good.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Walking around Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon Ranch was once a 120,000 acre cattle ranch in the southeastern Huachuca foothills. Black Angus cattle grazed here. The rancher sold much of the land now to a home developer. The land was cleared of nuisance trees, roads were graded and utility lines put in. Then the 2008 recession hit and the housing industry flopped. It's slowly coming back as there are now isolated homes popping up in the far southern edge of the development closest to SR92.

I had been here before with the dogs, late in the winter. Sammy was with me so we went slowly, and didn't go very far due to his arthritis. Today he stayed home to recover from his limp and I took the three hiking dogs, Zeke, Sadie and Minnie. I wanted to see where the main dirt road ended up. Clouds were overhead but the radar showed no rain clouds. We left at 4:20 for the ride.
My dogs are used to riding in the car only for so long. Hunter canyon is only a five-minute drive away, but Kings Canyon is closer to ten minutes. Sadie could barely hold her bladder in and whined for most of the drive.
The Lovegrass is growing well in our recent rains and there is much green around. Heavy rains from the last two afternoons left several mud puddles for the dogs to romp in. I started at the same spot I started last time, at the locked gate at the north end of Kinjockity Drive, where pavement ends and dirt begins. A locked gate tells people that this road will someday be expanded, but there are no other NO TRESPASSING signs.
The dogs enjoyed this walk. The undeveloped road weaves and curves along the alluvial plain. It's pretty country, and the Huachuca peaks look so regal from this vantage point. It's a shame this land is getting developed, as the pristine view will be smothered by adobe homes marked up to three times their real value. The dogs chased each other, sniffed the grass and frolicked in the weeds. I could get a whiff of cow, and the further northwest we walked on the road, the more cow paddies we came across. Some weren't that old.
Several dry drainages run west-east from the mountains, and one has a deep rutted wash in it, whose banks hug steep, eroded sill sides. This looks like land that could easily collapse in hurricane rains, or at best flood over its banks. Is this land even suitable for development? Wildlife would be attracted to the water; I'm sure at night the coyotes howl and come in hunting javelina, grouse and quail. The vast openness of the grasses would make this very vulnerable to grass fires, just like it was scorched during the 2011 Monument Fire.
It's quiet here, but for how much longer? On the west are the Huachuca mountains, to the east is the San Pedro Valley, and to the south is the contentious border with Mexico. New homes are now slowly sprouting up, erasing the pristine view of the mountains. I don't blame people for wanting to live here as the views in any direction are serene. But more houses will kill off that serenity and instead of views, homeowners will have to put up with annoying neighbors.
We walked along the main road, which at the mile mark splits into a Y near what will soon be a roundabout. We went northwest but I turned around when after cresting a hill, saw several Black Angus cattle. I didn't want my dogs chasing cows, so I did an aboutface and turned on a smaller trail leading southwest. Again, after clearing a small hill, I saw more cows! I was now in the northern area of what one day will be the complete Kings Canyon Ranch development. Here cattle can still graze in peace.
I didn't want to cut my walk short, so I opted to take another trail leading east. The San Pedro Valley was before me and I could see homes in the distance. A drainage was near the trail down a slope. I went on this one but it didn't take long for the dogs (most likely Zeke) to spot a herd of cattle near the drainage. He took off running and then so did the other two dogs. Lovely. Yelling at them didn't do a thing. Minnie stopped and came back, Sadie quietly herded some cows (how did she learn that?) but it was Zeke who chased the cattle up another road before coming back. That's when I decided I had better turn around before facing the wrath of a pissed-off cattle rancher. Nor did I want any of my dogs to be shot for harassing livestock.
I turned around and went back the way we came to the starting point, making this a 3.4 mile exploratory hike. I could see several rain clouds in the distance, but we were spared any rain. I don't know when I'll be back in this area as I don't want to intrude on others' peace. Many homes have sprung up since I was here last, and many more will surely come up by the time I come back here again, if coming back in the future will be worth it, with all the development planned.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Carol Wallace has died

I learned the news from Denise via Facebook. She died this morning.

I knew the end was near when Liz said on Friday that Carol is now blind from the brain cancer and the Hospice caregivers told her husband Chip that the end was near. I thought about her all weekend, hoping she could hang on until I came by to see her again. I even thought about her this morning while walking the dogs along a wash to the San Pedro River to check out the water level. (It's still below last year's level) The monsoons haven't been as strong this year and even were gone all last week until Friday. I had to cancel any plans of hiking up Carr Canyon Road to watch the moon rise.

I lost a dear friend with Carol's passing. She was the one who encouraged me to volunteer at the animal shelter and because of her I stayed on even when things there got rough with the killings. Having her there always cheered me up. I wish I could have been there in her last days, but she seemed upset to always see me when I came by to drop off cat food.

I am numb with the loss, but it will kick in. I knew her end was near, saying to myself that this August I would lose both her and Eric as he joins the US Air Force. She didn't deserve to leave this Earth so alone. The medical establishment wrote her off as just another old woman who was going to die anyway so it milked her for all she had.

She didn't want to die. But once she lost her mobility with that spinal surgery in April, and then going blind these last few weeks because the brain cancer was eating away at her sight, I know she' had no option but resign to her fate and accept that death was coming.

I just wish she had made peace with her own daughter before leaving this Earth, even though it was her daughter who disowned her.