A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Speckled Rattlesnake in Skyline Park, Arizona

The other day I was hiking at Skyline Regional Park, a desert area on the edge of Phoenix, Arizona.  I was on a little summit trail when I got to a really rocky section and thought, "This would be a good place for rattlesnakes." I looked down and...voila!

The end of its tail was hidden in the coils and it looked a LOT lighter than most rattlesnakes I've seen, without the common diamond pattern, but its head appeared to be the right shape.  It was coiled and calm, so I went ahead and hung close enough to get some nice pictures (though not TOO close--I have a good zoom).

The most common rattlesnake people see around here is the western diamondback, but I didn't think that's what it was.  When I got home, I did some internet research.  I found a description of a speckled rattlesnake that claims that they come in different colors, depending on the predominant color of the rock in the area. Isn't that amazing? It said that the speckled rattlesnakes on both South Mountain and in the White Tanks (and probably the contiguous Skyline Park, where I was) tend to have white-gray coloring to match the rock there.  Nature is amazing.

Here's a fascinating article about the different colors in different communities:
And one about the common types of snakes in Phoenix:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rim Lakes Vista Trail #622, Mogollon Rim, Arizona

Just a few views from the easy and beautiful Rim Lakes Vista Trail along the Mogollon Rim. 

Caveat:  if you're particularly afraid of heights, you might want to upgrade "easy" to "moderate" or just stay away from the edge. 

Trail #622

Stone bird?

Nice place to sit?  
The trail goes for over 4 miles, but not all of it is right along the Rim.  If you're just looking for a nice stroll, park at one of the viewpoints along Forest Road 300 on the way to Woods Canyon Lake.  Get out and walk to the next viewpoint or however far you want.  Parts of the trail are paved near the Military Sinkhole Vista and the Woods Canyon Lake Vista, so it's quite accessible.  You'll also find benches with nice views. 

Be careful with kids.  The drop-offs can be dangerous. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

See Canyon Trail #184, Up the Mogollon Rim, Arizona

This great trail leads from a trailhead a couple of miles out of the village of Christopher Creek.  The trailhead is popular with campers, but once I got a few minutes down the trail, I hardly saw anyone.  And this was one of the first cool weekends of the season, a beautiful mid-October day of blue skies.

The trail's relatively flat at first, and goes through what looks like former fire damage.  Take the fork to See Spring.  The trail follows the creek, making it relatively lush, and very relaxing for a nice creek-side picnic.  Though not as impressive of Horton Spring, the source of the creek is still very cool, just flowing out of the hill.  You can walk around on the rocks above the spring and hear the water beneath you, but you can't see it anywhere.  Very cool.

On the fork to See Spring
Return to the fork and continue straight at the cliffy hills above you.  It soon gets steep as it climbs up the to the top of the Rim, but the trail is good and it's never very steep.  There aren't great views off the Rim, like the views you get from the Rim Trail or such, but it's still very nice.

Look for rock cairns like these if you lose the trail.
I had it easy.  My Dad did the shuttle run, dropping me off at the bottom and then driving the longer-than-expected drive up to the top, so I only did the trip one way (about 4 miles).  If you do it round trip, and want to dawdle like I did, plan plenty of time.

A new friend on the trail
I personally wouldn't recommend it in full summer, but if you love sun and don't mind heat and have plenty of water, you might like it.  I fully recommend going in autumn when the leaves are turning.

Mid October


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Horton Creek Trail, Arizona

I was surprised to find so much water and greenery here, on the Horton Creek Trail near Kohl's Ranch (near Payson) Arizona.  

The trail's a popular and mostly easy 4 miles one way to the "spring" where the water gushes out of the rock, having filtered down from the Mogollon Rim, as I understand it.  It's pretty cool.  

Much of the trail is away from this beautiful creek, but there are plenty of unofficial trails down near the water and cool places to duck down and play in the tiny falls or explore the banks on your own.  You can also find cool stone campsites and other treats. 

To get to the trailhead, drive on Highway 260 between Payson and Heber, Arizona.  When you get to Kohl's Ranch, take the turnoff to the north.  The sign says something about Tonto Creek.  Drive about a mile or so to the Derrick Trailhead, where you can park.  There's also an outhouse and picnic tables there, if you just want to stop for lunch.  The trail leaves from just up the road at the Upper Tonto Creek Campground (walk through the campground to find the trailhead).    

This trail can probably be fairly hot in the summer, but in mid October when I went, it was perfect. There were also a few trees turning colors.   

Monday, October 16, 2017

Zion National Park

Zion National Park in southern Utah:  big crowds, beautiful scenery

Plan more time than you think you'll need, be prepared to park far away and shuttle in to the visitor center, and be sure to do some hiking.      

Thursday, October 12, 2017

This is a middle-grade novel, but plenty entertaining for adults.  

I’m not sure the premise and drastic transformation here are strictly realistic, but I loved them. The characters are interesting and likable but not perfect. (though I kept thinking they were a couple of years older than they were). The writing is effortless. The pacing is very good. Overall, a very enjoyable book about changing one’s life for the better. 

More accurate rating: 4.5

I've never read anything else by Gordon Korman, but it looks like he has a great many books to choose from.  I think I'll dip into another sometime soon.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

New Cover for Leaving Home

Check out my new cover for Leaving Home, a collection of short stories, travel essays, and flash fiction:

A train breaks down in the snowy Polish countryside. 

The jungle awakes. 

A blackmailer makes a mistake. 

On a cruise ship, paranoia strikes. 

Fairy godmother magic comes from an unexpected source. 

A neighbor's death reveals a dark surprise. 

Dance overcomes the barriers of language.

A young father leaves town.

All this and more...