This is the first travel blog that I’ve published (to WordPress). I’ll continue this for a while as I get more proficient with the tools.
25 January 2014
One of the quintessential icons of the southwestern desert is certainly the giant saguaro cactus. In Spanish, the “g” is pronounced much like trying to get some reluctant phlegm out of one’s throat. Not a G, not a K, somewhere in between. It comes out deeply Spanish, “sah gkwah rrroh” with a gently rolled R. But in English, we just say “sah gwar oh” and forget about it.
One of the more interesting features of the saguaro is that it expands and contracts, much like an accordion, with moisture availability. In order to catch every possible drop of rain to store within its spiny folds, its roots are surface-oriented and extensive.
But as a seedling, the saguaro is vulnerable. Before it gets a chance to hoard some water, its survival is chancy at best.
Because of this, any sheltering plant or structure tends to provide much-needed shelter for the juvenile saguaro, and it is there that they tend to propagate the best. Such a plant is the palo verde tree.
The palo verde is a long-lasting shrub/tree, distinguished by a nearly total lack of leaves. Instead, its chlorophyll is contained in its bark, giving it the characteristics from which sprang its common name. If you took an ordinary tree, stripped off all its leaves, and then painted it a gentle olive green – – you’d have yourself a palo verde (Spanish for “green tree”).
The palo verde, in contrast to the saguaro, has very deep roots to supply it with moisture over many seasons. So it happens that, when a palo verde ends up sheltering a saguaro seedling, the seedling grows and matures and co-exists with the palo verde – – for a little while. But eventually, the saguaro surface roots sap all the moisture that might have made its way down to the deeper palo verde roots. The palo verde withers, fades, and dies. The saguaro, now strong and self-sufficient, takes over the ground which they shared.
It’s desert-dark. Orion stares calmly down at me, immeasurably distant, yet familiarly close.
I’ve left Quartzite and relocated about 40 miles northeast, to a little town called Salome. My friend Ted (a fellow pilot) is traveling, and is spending some time at his airpark, Indian Hills. Ted doesn’t have his hangar built yet, so Howie, Ralph, and I are camped out on his vacant lot.
This area is sparsely populated, not even as dense as Quartzite, and the surface lighting is subdued. At the airport, the hangars are dark, and the only lighting is the diminutive LED runway lamps and the glowing-orange wind-sock atop a large hangar.
Later, trying to get a pic of the windsock, I stumble into an invisible fence and almost smash my camera. DARK.
What I DID manage to smash last night was my left rib cage. Badly bruised or even cracked, it hurts like hell to even take a deep breath. Plus, my nagging incipient cough is getting a bit worse, and coughing with my new injury is like getting branded in my left side every few minutes. Dang.
The day is spent hob-nobbing with airpark folks and fixing a control linkage on Ralph’s driveline disconnect.
It’s a clean, spacious, tidy airpark with 83 lots and a whole bunch of room.
A toy-lover’s paradise: an RV, an airplane, a 4WD, various other vehicles, and a personal saguaro or two to decorate the whole affair.
Joshua Tree and the Kreeping Krud
Last night was a rough one. Cough got really bad, chest hurts like hell. Got 12 hours “sleep” and still exhausted. I decide to try to travel all the way over to Joshua Tree NP, but quit at Quartzite if my energy gives out.
At Quartzite, only 40 miles west, I’m still sort of okay, so I blast on down I-10 to the Park. Cottonwood camp is just off the road and I boogie in there to spend another fitful coughing night, this time with a touch of fever and chills as well.
Joshua Tree, Belle camp, siege week
Despite my horrible nights, I still find myself with a tiny bit of energy around mid-day, and I just can’t keep myself from doing a little exploring for a few hours. I learn later that this is a big mistake – – my body desperately needs rest, and even my small forays are extending my sick time. Oh well.
Just east of Joshua Tree NP is the old Desert Training Center, where Patton prepped troops for the Africa campaign. At one point, the US Army was deployed over a huge span of desert encompassing parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona, to the tune of 18,000 square miles. The Patton museum is just down the road, and well worth an hour’s visit.
After the museum I re-locate farther north to Belle camp, a very pleasant, 18-site place surrounding one of the iconic rocky outcroppings that dominate the Park. I spend this week mostly sleeping, sometimes as much as 16-18 hours in a single day – – but still stealing some time to go four-wheeling, exploring, or taking (very short) hikes. In retrospect, not a great decision, but at least I did get to see some of the Park.
Karin is due in Las Vegas Saturday, and I will camp out at Michael’s place while I continue to deal with the Krud.
Lots of 4WD opportunities in the Park. My kind of exploring for sure.
Cholla, the cactus from Hell. Needle-sharp, fine spines are covered with reverse-pointing fibers which totally prevent extracting a spine from clothing, skin, dog, tire, or shoe. The Devil’s spawn of the plant world.
The oddest thing about the Joshua Tree rocks is that they were mostly weathered and rounded off before they were exposed above ground.
Rock piles exposed long ago, no surrounding terrain visible.
Rock piles in the process of being exposed from the surrounding material.
Underground water flow accounts for the blunted stacks of boulders that abound throughout the Park.
The Geology Tour Road threads its way past multiple types and origins of rock substrates.
This is a nice 18-mile self-guided tour into the back country (4WD only in a few spots).
Skull Rock peers through the brush at me. It’s been a LONG week, and neither of us are feeling chipper.
Hopefully my sweetie and a few days in Vegas will put me back on my feet again.