Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Wild Horses on the Mogollon Rim

 Okay, so these aren't really "wild horses."  My dad calls them "feral free-ranging domestic livestock."  Most were domestic horses at one time that were dumped by people who couldn't take care of them, escaped on their own, or were set free during forest fires because the owners didn't have time/resources to move them out of danger but didn't want to keep them trapped in case the fire came.  Now many are the descendants of those once-domestic horses.  All they've known is freedom.

There's a lot of controversy over them.  Are they pests causing problems for ranchers and native wildlife?  Should there even BE ranchers on public lands?  Do the horses need to be culled or captured and taken to refuges? If so, how can we do this most humanely?  Or are they now part of the local ecosystem and need to be protected like any other wildlife? 

Mostly what I know is that they're beautiful and a treat to see.  

These three later wandered into our campsite, bold as anything, and we got to watch them for a long time while we ate.  Mogollon Rim Dinner Theatre.


  



Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Escape to the High Country

 A couple of weeks ago I escaped the heat and want to the Mogollon Rim.  It was great (though very muddy after all this fantastic rain we've been having).

Day one:

Under the Rim, by the Horton Creek trailhead:


Rather large mushrooms:


Another fantastic dragonfly (see my post a few days ago with the flame skimmer).  I think this is a twelve-spotted skimmer:


Dramatic clouds at our dispersed camping campsite:

Rain off the Rim at sunset:



Friday, September 9, 2022

Strange Sunset

Though I caught this bizarre effect with my camera, it was even more spectacular in person:

Note:  there is absolutely no photo manipulation involved.  



Monday, September 5, 2022

Beautiful Dragonfly

Here's a beautiful dragonfly that poised for me near Williams, Arizona.  I think it's a flame skimmer (isn't that a fantastic name?)



Saturday, August 27, 2022

River Otters at Bearizona

 Okay, so this isn't wildlife.  I saw these adorable guys at Bearizona, in Williams, Arizona.  But I just had to post:







Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Bridge Home, by Padma Venkatraman

This was a sad but lovely middle-grade novel about sisterhood and friendship and poverty and hope. 

I found a few things unrealistic, and the whole setup with the book being written by a character in the book to a character in the book was a little clunky at times, but overall the writing was good.

The setting and situations were interesting and eye-opening—especially about the trash collecting.  The main characters were lovable. 

I would read more by Padma Venkatraman. 

Warning:  abuse and death.  Parents might want to read along with kids. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Any Sign of Life, by Rae Carson

I LOVED the first part of this book.  Waking up to a world where everyone is dead.  Post-apocalyptic survival.  So many things prompting me to ask, "What would I do?" 

SPOILER ALERT:  Then we found out the reason for the apocalypse and I was a little disappointed that it wasn't just going to be a man-against-nature survival story.  But…I ended up liking the second part too.  END SPOILERS

The writing was good, the stakes high, the pacing fast, the characters interesting.  Things just kept going wrong.  Great storytelling from a great writer.

I've only read one other book by Rae Carson, but I also liked it a lot.  I'll have to read more.

More accurate rating:  4.5.  But a high 4.5 

Monday, August 1, 2022

World of Wonders, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil


I really enjoyed this.  The fascinating animal facts are woven in beautifully with the autobiographical essays.  Some parts get a little too poetic for my personal tastes, but some people will especially love those parts.

Many of the chapters were originally written as standalone essays, so there's a bit of choppiness regarding the differing styles, the timeline of her life, etc., and a bit of repetitiveness here and there, but it worked for me.  A few of the connections between the natural world and the author's life felt like a bit of a stretch, but I enjoyed the book so much I just went with it.      

The drawings are beautiful.

Overall, a delightful surprise that I found on the library shelf, knowing nothing about the book or the author.  I'm glad I picked it up.

More accurate rating:  4.5 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Cool Moth

 I came out of my motel room in Williams, Arizona and saw this beauty hanging on my tire.  At first I thought it was a big leafy stick stuck right into the tire, and hoped the tire wouldn't go flat.  Then I realized what it was:


Look how much well it camouflages itself as a leaf:



After I rescued it, I found a tree to put it in.  Unfortunately the bark wasn't the right color, but imagine if it were:



Nature is amazing.


 


Monday, July 18, 2022

Creamed Brains and Kidney Stew

 This is enough to make a meat hypocrite like me turn vegetarian:


But I admire people who used every part of the animal, who never wasted anything, unlike most of us now.  

From the Household Searchlight Recipe Book in the visitor center in Williams, Arizona


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Sunset at the Grand Canyon

The pictures says it all:


This was the day after my rim to river to rim hike in April (Down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch, up Bright Angel).  DO NOT TRY THIS IN ONE DAY IN SUMMER OR WITHOUT PROPER TRAINING!!!  But you can enjoy the views over the rim at any time of year.  For more details on the hike, see this post:  https://www.melindabrasher.com/2022/04/hiking-grand-canyon-rim-to-river-to-rim.html

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Lightning scar on a Ponderosa Pine

This is one of the best lightning scars I've been able to photograph.  It went round and round the trunk. 


This Ponderosa Pine still seems healthy. What a survivor.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Hate That Cat, by Sharon Creech



This sequel to Love that Dog was full of charm and beauty and accessible poetry, and though I don't think it was quite as great as the first book—mainly because no sequel can be as fresh and original as the first—I still really enjoyed it.  Bravo to the author.

This time I knew that the poems written about were in the back, and I read them along with the book, each at the appropriate time, and it really deepened my appreciation.

Highly recommended for reluctant poetry readers, aspiring writers, cat lovers…and pretty much everyone else.    

More accurate rating:  4.5

Rating of cover:  2

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Front Desk, by Kelly Yang



This was an engaging book, with a fearless, can-do main character, an interesting setting (and time period), and an unusual plot.  I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Some parts struck me as quite unrealistic, especially toward the end, especially with the [SEMI SPOILER ALERT] plan that involved collecting money from various people.  Several aspects of this plan seemed contrary to what would really happen and contrary to what certain characters would do.  But if you can just go with it, you'll enjoy it. 

The stories from Mia's family and from the various immigrants they meet are heart-breaking and eye-opening.  The letters Mia writes and their outcomes are fun to read about.  The relationships are interesting. 

Overall a very enjoyable book. Don't skip the author's note in the back.


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine

 More highlights from my 2021 reading list (very late, I know):


This is a very good book.  It's funny (as you'd expect from Douglas Adams) and terribly saddening (as you'd expect from a book about endangered animals), and somehow those two things work together. 

The biology and ecology are interesting.

I did think it started off a bit on the wrong foot.  It felt less like an animal book and more like a travelogue which mostly consisted of complaining about the host country and pretty much everything else.  This was done in a witty way, of course, but it felt a little uncomfortable.  And when they met the first animal…it was over in about three lines.  I thought, "Come on, Douglas Adams, you're better than this."  And he was.  The book got better and better as it progressed.  I didn't want it to end.  There was a still too much complaining travelogue, but the author/s tied it in better to the complicated web of perils/benefits surrounding ecotourism.  And there was a lot more about the actual animals and the quest to find them.

Overall, sobering and entertaining at the same time—quite a feat of writing.

More accurate rating:  4.5 stars      


Friday, June 17, 2022

The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner

I'm so behind in my book reviews.  Here's another book I enjoyed from 2021:  The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner


I thought this was really good.

It got a lot darker than I expected, regarding the family crisis only alluded to on the book jacket, but it's an important topic and I think it was handled very well.  Not glossed over.  Not over-simplified.  The emotions were real and not always flattering.  The ending wasn't perfect, with everything fixed.  But at the same time it was hopeful and full of love. 

I liked the wishes-gone-wrong premise, though I would have enjoyed it even more if  things could have gone a wee bit more wrong. 

The writing was engaging.

I loved learning about Irish dancing.

Overall, a very good book.  I'll read more by Kate Messner. 

More accurate rating:  4.5 stars

WARNING:  SPOILER ALERT!!!  SPOILER ALERT!!!  Triggers:  drug use / opioid addiction.  I think it's presented very well, but parents may want to be aware and/or open up a discussion on the topic.


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Bright Angel Trail from the South Kaibab Trail

 Here's a bit of perspective (or maybe not...the vastness of the Canyon makes it difficult to see how big/far things really are).  I took this picture from Cedar Ridge on the South Kaibab Trail.  The part I circled is a bit of green that is part of the Bright Angel Trail (above Devil's Corkscrew, I believe).  It was a little daunting at 6:00 in the morning to realize that the green spot I could barely see was where I would be walking back up five hours later.  Daunting...and exciting.  :)


GREAT day on the trail.  

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HIKE TO THE RIVER AND BACK IN ONE DAY unless you've been training specifically for this hike, have plenty of food and water, have a good plan, and are doing it in spring or fall.  Heat kills (and makes it VERY unpleasant if it doesn't kill). See this post for details:  https://www.melindabrasher.com/2022/04/hiking-grand-canyon-rim-to-river-to-rim.html


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Sunrise on the South Kaibab Trail

You can't see me very well, but here's me at sunrise at the beginning of my Grand Canyon trek (down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel).

What fantastic views!

See this post for details (and warnings).  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HIKE TO THE RIVER AND BACK IN ONE DAY unless you're highly prepared and understand what you're getting yourself into.  





Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Grand Canyon warnings

 Here's one of the signs they put near the beginning of trails down into the Grand Canyon:

Nice visual, isn't it?

Take it seriously if you haven't prepared and don't have a good plan.

If you HAVE prepared and have a good plan (and are leaving at dawn, as you can see from the coloring of the pictures), have a fantastic time!

 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Hiking the Grand Canyon--Rim to River to Rim

WARNING:  As the park service and all the books say, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HIKE TO THE RIVER AND BACK IN ONE DAY.

Unless...

You've researched and planned well and trained for months.  See my specific advice below.

For me, it was fantastic.  

April 27, 2022

5:15 AM start at the South Kaibab trailhead  Didn't actually need my headlamp, but had it with me, because...be prepared. 

Enjoying sunrise from Ooh-Ah Point and downward:


360-degree views and ridge trails?  Yes, please.  


The sun begins to burn away the chilly morning at Skeleton Point, where most books are like "Turn around now!!! Turn around now!!!"  


But beyond Skeleton Point, you get glimpses of the river 


And this cool trail:


And the Tip-Off (or as I like to call it, the Point of No Return), where the trail begins the final descent to the river, and where you might as well keep going because returning the way you came with no good water source is a daunting prospect.


  You pass an...unfinished construction zone???


And finally...the river.  Here you can choose to go left and skirt the river to meet up with the Bright Angel Trail or you can go right, cross the river, and explore the Boat Beach, Bright Angel Campground, and Phantom Ranch.  I went right.  



8:49 AM:  First lunch, sitting on a rock in Bright Angel Creek at the bottom of the canyon (yes, this is normally more like breakfast time for me, but I'd earned it):  


Trying to beat the heat, I only spent about an hour at the bottom, then headed up the Bright Angel Trail and met this incredible sight:  a man in a wheelchair and his crew, headed toward Indian Garden.  Okay, this trail is a challenge for a fit hiker, so imagine it in a wheelchair. The man was Geoff Babb of AdvenChair, and I later got to talk to him in Mather Campground--camped in the same loop as we were.  He'd tried this in another upgraded wheelchair a couple of years ago, and it broke 2 miles in.  So he and his team designed the all terrain AdvenChair.  He and his dedicated crew successfully completed the trek in four days, breaking up the 9- or 10-hour days at Indian Garden and Bright Angel campgrounds.  Amazing!  If you want to read more, check out the AdvenChair website and an article about this hike:  https://www.advenchair.com/press-articles/advenchair-grandest-achievement-yet-bright-angel-trail-grand-canyon-national-park
 

Soon I got to River Rest House and verdant Pipe Creek with lots of water to cool off in and shady bits to rest in.  I hadn't imagined the canyon would have so much water and greenery.  Everything about this is amazing me.  


 Onward and upward (1000 feet up on the exposed switchbacks of the Devil's Corkscrew, to be precise).  Resting near the top, I met my second mule train.


So...this is the Grand Canyon?  Way less deserty than I'd imagined.  


The oasis of Indian Garden, where I talked to people at the watering hole, played in the creek again, had second lunch, and discovered the Indian Garden lending library!  This is the beautiful campground where I'd love to stay one day:


The section of trail from Indian Garden to 3-Mile Rest House (and partway to 1 1/2-mile Rest House) was actually the sunniest and hottest for me, so next time I think I'll wait at Indian Garden until the cliffs shade the trail.  But the full sun provided some nice, unshadowed views:


In the last 4.6 miles from Indian Garden, you gain more than 3000 feet.  When you do this after you've already been hiking for 12 miles, it is indeed a bit of a task.  I slowed down a lot.  But I was still enjoying it:


Only 1.5 miles from the top, I started feeling a bit nauseated, so I slowed down even more and took breaks literally every 10-15 minutes, sipping Pedialyte and nibbling Fritos, until I felt better.  I then met some Aussie friends from lower on the trail and we walked together, chatting about our travel and our favorite mountain climbing documentaries, and before I knew it, we were at the top!


It took me about 11.5 hours from start to finish.  It's no record, but then again, I wasn't going for a record.  I was going for the experience and the enjoyment.  And on those two counts, my victory was complete.  Fantastic experience.    

If you're thinking about doing it yourself, here's my advice.  

Go DOWN the South Kaibab and UP the Bright Angel.  

But don't try this in one day unless...

1) You're in good hiking shape.

2) You go in spring or fall while it's not too hot.  Remember that it's about 20 degrees hotter at the river than it is at the South Rim.    

3) You've trained over the previous few months for this specific hike by taking:

     -a few long hikes (12-16 miles) while wearing the fully loaded pack you plan to use

     -several hikes that exceed 3000 feet of elevation gain, preferably a couple that exceed 4000 feet

     -at least one high-elevation hike (at least 6000 feet)

     -one or two hot hikes ("feels like" temp of 90+) to see how your body reacts

     -at least one canyoning hike (where you go downhill first and uphill second)

4)  Wear well-broken-in hiking boots/shoes.

5)  Research the trail, how to keep your energy up, and what to pack.

6)  Know where the water is and whether it's turned on at the moment (ask the day before at the backcountry office.)

7)  Carry plenty of food (twice what you'd eat in a normal 12-hour period, including salty snacks and carbs)

8)  Carry plenty of water (I advise 3-4 liters, which you refill every chance you get.  If for some reason there's no water at Indian Garden or the River, or if temperatures are flirting with 100 in the Inner Canyon, you'll have to take more or not attempt the hike.  If there's water at 3-Mile Rest House and 1 1/2-Mile Rest House, you might be fine with 2 liters, but that's not giving you a lot of leeway if anything goes wrong).  

9)  Take and use electrolyte drink mix (I like Pedialyte.  Other friends suggest Liquid IV or Vitalyte).  When it's hottest and hardest, alternate plain water and electrolytes in a 1:1 ratio.

10)  Start EARLY.  We're talking dawn...or earlier (though it will depend somewhat on the season)  

11)  Have someone up top or at home who knows your plan and will get help if you don't show up or make contact.  As always, it's safer to hike with a partner, but if you're prepared and want to solo it, there are enough other people on the trail that you won't really be alone.        

12)  Have fun!

     

         

Friday, April 15, 2022

Cholla Flowers

The staghorn cholla were putting on a show last week at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.