Sunday, June 9, 2024

My story, "A Learned Man," on the Just Chills podcast

One of my creepier tales, "A Learned Man," appears on a cool podcast today:  Just Chills.

You can listen to "A Learned Man" here or find it on Spotify, Apple podcasts, etc.  

This story was first published in Electric Spec and then Pseudopod.  It's based loosely on an El Salvadorian folktale I found in a book in a small-town library in El Salvador.  When they kicked me out for siesta, I sat in the square writing, and finished almost the entire first draft in one sitting, which is rare for me.  


Saturday, June 8, 2024

Summer Reading Craft

I am not very artistic, but I enjoy simple crafty things. 

Crafty Chica did a video on the Maricopa County Reading Game's website and I followed along (with variations).  Very fun.  And I'm kind of proud of the results.  Check out Crafty Chica's website above for other cool ideas.

If you haven't already joined Maricopa County Reads, you can do it here (for free!):  Watch cool videos (like this one), do challenges, make your avatar, or just simply read and record your time reading.  Then win prizes!  Open to all ages.  

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

If you don't have time or desire to hike down into the Grand Canyon, or if you're there in summer and it's too hot to responsibly do such a thing, here's a great alternative:  the Rim trail.

The views are spectacular.

I recommend taking the Hermit's Rest shuttle, getting off at one of the stops, and hiking to another.  That way you get away from the crowds in Grand Canyon Village.  I walked from Monument Creek Vista past the Abyss and to Mohave Point and saw only about six other people.

It was so quiet that I could hear the whistling of the wings of some little swallow-like birds whizzing around.   Beautiful.    

WARNING:  The trail is level and physically untaxing, and most places it's only about a mile between shuttle stops, but there are a few sections that might be very scary if you have a fear of heights or if you're with little kids or daredevils.  In fact, there were a couple of short sections that were scarier to me than anything on the South Kaibab or Bright Angel trails.  So be careful.  Especially if you're taking selfies.

Enjoy this wonder of the world.    


Saturday, May 25, 2024

My story, "Bones and Blooms," in Sonoran Horror

Check out my weird little story, "Bones and Blooms," in this anthology of horror set in our beautiful part of the desert:  Sonoran Horror.

 Check it out on Amazon here.  


Friday, May 24, 2024

Beware the Ravens

At Mather campground at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, they warn you never to leave food unattended because of the dreaded ravens.  They're big.  They're bold.  And they're smart.

Well...maybe not quite smart enough.

They spend a LOT of effort while we were gone, doing this to our box wrapped in a garbage bag.

All to get at the delicious...firewood...inside. ?!?  Yeah.  There was nothing in there but firewood.  No food.  Nothing smelling much like food.

All we can figure is that they have learned to associate plastic with food.  

So...if ever you go to Mather Campground, don't store anything in plastic and leave it unattended.  

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Arizona: Land of Differences

On April 21, at the forested South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the forecast predicted overnight lows near freezing.  We were camping, and I was worried it would be an unpleasant night.  It didn't feel anywhere near that cold, but yes, it was chilly.

Elk at Mather campground

I got up at 3:45 AM so I could catch sunrise on the South Kaibab trail on my way down into the canyon.  By 6:00 AM, at Cedar Ridge, I'd taken off my jacket.  

South Kaibab Trail at Sunrise, above Cedar Ridge

April 22, midday:  At Bright Angel Campground, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, about 4500 vertical feet down from where I'd camped the night before, it was rather warm--95 degrees Fahrenheit.  Most of us sat around in the shade, periodically wetting our feet or our clothes in the creek.  Others spent the heat at the beach, dipping themselves quickly in the super-cold waters of the Colorado River.  That night my tent was too hot, so I took off the rainfly and lay in shorts and bare feet on my air mattress, nothing covering me.  

Thank goodness for Bright Angel Creek, steps from my tent

April 23:  I did the Devil's Corkscrew (a rather steep and exposed section of switchbacks on the Bright Angel Trail) between 10:30 and 11:00 AM, and I rather wished I'd been there a little earlier, as it was plenty warm.  That night, watching the moon rise from the Tonto Plateau near Havasupai Gardens with new friends, a breeze came up and I eventually pulled on my jacket.

Part of the Devil's Corkscrew

April 24:  I had two choices for a pleasant hike the rest of the way out of the canyon:  early morning or late afternoon when the cliffs shade the trail.  Because the heat, while not extreme, not even "hot" by Canyon standards, was still an issue.  Then, on the way out, I met a ranger who said it might SNOW the next day on the South Rim.  Say what?

The fading light as we approached the rim, still comfortable in short sleeves

April 25:  We decided to storm chase on the way home, so we went to Snowbowl near Flagstaff, and...

Yeah.  That happened.

So, I went from supposedly freezing temps at night to an unpleasantly warm 95 degrees in the bottom of the Grand Canyon during the day to SNOWING.  All within the space of four days.  The first temperature swing was in two locations probably less than 5 miles apart as the crow flies (though part of that flight would be a 4500-foot drop), and the second swing was only 75 miles away (though another 2500 feet of elevation difference).

Arizona IS a land of extremes.

P.S. claims that it indeed got to 32 degrees in the early morning hours of April 22 at Grand Canyon Village (though I don't believe it) and NOAA's observations at Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Campground say the high was 96 that same day (which I do believe).  So...a possible 64 degrees of difference.  :)  

But before I accidentally add to the myth that the desert is "boiling hot" in the day and "freezing cold" at night, at Phantom Ranch (Bright Angel Campground), where it was hot but not scorching during the day, it was a only a pleasantly cool 59 at night.  And at Grand Canyon Village, where it was coldish at night, it was very pleasant during the day.   

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Day 3: Backpacking in the Grand Canyon

Day three (April  24, 2024) was my last in the Canyon, but I didn't want it to be.  I was having so much fun that I decided to spend the day and hike out in the late afternoon.

So I got up earlyish and went to talk to my across-the-way neighbors, a big group that had dragged in the night before, exhausted but happy, with a man in a one-wheeled rickshaw.  The guys I first talked to were from Luke 5 Adventures, and the man of the hour was an older man, an adventurer and philanthropist with cerebral palsy, whose wish was to go down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  All these people were working together to make it possible. They'd come down the South Kaibab to the Tip-off and across the Tonto yesterday.  Today they planned to go down to the river and back up.  The next day they'd climb back up to the rim.  They had a wilderness caterer with them, cooking up bacon with biscuits and gravy.  They had a photographer, documenting the journey.  What an amazing group of people and an amazing adventure.  Two years ago, when I made my first hike down to the river, I met a man in an wheelchair and another group of people supporting him in his dream.  Both experiences affirmed my faith in the human race.     

After wishing them good luck, I headed off on a little morning hike on the Tonto trail West.  At first, the path was marred by piles of giant pipes and various construction equipment for the new pipeline project.  Though it wasn't pretty, it was interesting.  Plateau Point is closed, so I headed off toward Horn Creek campground. 

It was a different view than the other trails I've been on here, striking out across that scrubby green plateau that drops riverward into side canyons and rises rimward into sheer red cliffs.  The walking was easy, so I kept going.    

I got all the way to Horn Creek Campground, empty at the moment, but pleasantly shaded:

Maybe I'll camp here someday.  Then I headed back, enjoying dramatic views down Horn Creek Canyon.  The walk was 5 miles roundtrip, and I saw not one single person!  A bit different from the South Kaibab and the Bright Angel.

Then I hung around in camp, reading a book I'd found in the library, playing cards with the family I'd met down at Bright Angel Campground, eating lunch, soaking my feet for the trip up, talking with people at the water spigot.  A very pleasant, relaxing interlude.

Here's me in my tent:

I started up the trail at about 3:10.  I thought that would be timing it right to get shade about the time I started the ascent to 3-Mile Resthouse, but I'd timed it wrong, and it was still sunny.  I should have left a little later (or walked a little slower).  But it wasn't too hot, and I'd wet myself down at Havasupai Gardens, so it was okay.

At 3-Mile Resthouse I made myself take a long rest to stave off the nausea I felt the last two years on the final ascent.  I hoped today would be different, since I wasn't doing the whole 16-mile trek in one day, but I didn't want to take any chances, so I sat and ate salty snacks and drank electrolytes and talked with other hikers and an enthusiastic and talkative ranger.  Two of the hikers were a couple from the Netherlands, who I'd met briefly a stone's throw down the trail.  And there began a trail friendship that lasted the entire rest of the hike.  We walked together, chatted, rested again at 1 1/2-Mile Resthouse, shared snacks, and exchanged info.  They were very cool people, on a much more ambitious backpacking trip than I was.  They'd gone all the way to the North Rim and back in three days, camping at Cottonwood Campground.  Their companionship made the last three miles (always the hardest for me on that trail) fly by.

The sun was setting, turning the canyon beautiful colors.  But before it got dark, we made it to the top:

It was an AWESOME Trip.  I'm already planning to do it again.

I loved my first two trips, going to the river and back in one day.  But I loved this even more.  Much more time to explore.  Time to take side hikes.  Time to make friends.  The beauty of being there at night.  I highly recommend it.

Handy tip for if this sounds fun to you:  There's a lottery for campground spots, but I didn't win.  I was sad.  But I didn't give up.  As the "I'm sorry" e-mail instructed me, I stalked the website every day (sometimes twice a day) starting about the middle of February.  One night, at like 1:00 AM, I found ONE slot open for ONE night at Bright Angel Campground.  I booked it immediately, even though I would have liked two nights.  About three weeks later, I found another slot open the next night at Havasupai Gardens.  I added it to my itinerary (easy to do).  And voila!  A great itinerary.   I've since been looking, out of curiosity, and it appears that if you're flexible with dates, it's not impossible to find something this way.    

May you one day have as great an experience as I did.