Sunday, January 24, 2016

New Camera - First Check

Trip Date: January 2016

In late January Rome and I hiked out to my new trail camera to change the batteries and check to see what had been captured.  You'll remember that I set up this new camera in a different location after my previous camera was stolen (read the full story right here).  It was a chilly morning when we started, but we were quite comfortable once we were moving.  The hike to the camera was uneventful and I couldn't help but notice how much snow had melted since I was previously there.  

After approximately one month I had some pretty decent results, but not the wide variety of species I had been hoping for.  Coyotes, Cougars, and Snowshoe Hares were the only wild critters to stroll past my camera.  Unfortunately I had a lot of human traffic, which was quite discouraging considering what happened the last time.  

A large Cougar strolling past the camera
It's difficult to tell if this is the same Cougar as the above photo or a different cat all together
A curious Coyote sniffing around
Snowshoe Hare
Another Coyote making his midnight rounds!
I also noticed that most of the daytime photos were quite dark and underexposed (i.e. the top Cougar photo above).  Between the underexposed photos and the immense human presence I decided to pack up my camera and relocate it.  

I contacted Moultrie's customer service regarding the underexposed photos and they recommended I send my camera to them for analysis and testing, which I did.  I haven't received my camera back just yet, but am hoping to get it shortly.  I've got another location in mind, which will hopefully have a lot less human traffic and a lot more wild animals.

Stay tuned for the next phase in my trail camera project!

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Trip Date: January 2016

In early January, just after New Year's Eve, Christine and I were back on a plane and headed for Phoenix, Arizona.  This was the first time either of us had been to the Phoenix area.  We both had wanted to see an NFL game for a long time, so we bought tickets and booked our flights!  

We arrived in Phoenix on Saturday in the afternoon.  We had pre-booked a rental car, so we picked that up first and then headed for our hotel, the 3 Palms, which was located in Scottsdale.  After we were checked-in and settled we headed to Old Town Scottsdale for a few drinks and a bite to eat.  Old Town is located on the original town-site of Scottsdale and has a distinct old-meets-new western feel.  There are original buildings from the late 1800's that feature modern tenants and the whole area is filled with restaurants, bars, pubs, shops, art galleries, and more.

Old Town Scottsdale
Sitting on the patio of Salty Seniorita
Sitting by the fire at the Brat Haus
The next day was Sunday, which only meant one!  We headed back to Old Town for breakfast and to watch the starts of the early games before making our way to Glendale, which is approximately an hour's drive from Scottsdale.  The Arizona Cardinals play their home games out of University of Phoenix Stadium, which has both a retractable roof and field, making it unlike any other stadium in North America.  The stadium seats 63,400 fans and was completed in 2006.  The game was sold out because it was the last regular season game and the Seattle Seahawks were in town.  

We got to the stadium pretty early as we wanted to do some tailgating before heading inside.  We were not disappointed with our first tailgating experience!  Unless you've experienced it firsthand it's really hard to describe the whole thing, but if you haven't yet done it and you're a sports fan I suggest adding it to your bucket list!

University of Phoenix Stadium; home of the Cardinals
Outside the stadium
Tailgating before the game
The game itself was pretty incredible.  They certainly know how to build stadiums in the United States.  We barely had to wait in line for anything, including the bathroom, which was something we definitely weren't used to.  The Seahawks easily handled the Cardinals on the day, winning 36-6, but it didn't matter too much as both teams were already guaranteed a playoff spot.

Inside the stadium
Christine and I wandering through the stadium
The Arizona Cardinals being introduced to start the game

Larry Fitzgerald
Fan reaction after Fitzgerald scores the first toughdown of the game.  Sadly those were the only points the Cardinals scored.
Outside the stadium after the game
Statue of Pat Tillman just outside the stadium.  Tillman was a safety for the Cardinals before quitting football and enlisting in the United States Army after the September 11th terror attacks.  Tillman was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire in 2004.
The next day the weather was chilly and rainy so we headed down to the Phoenix Premium Outlets to do some shopping.  That evening we were back in Old Town for dinner and we wanted to try a few more of the different pubs.
Just a few of the pubs and bars we visited including Majerle's Sports Grill, Bevvy, Rockbar Inc, and Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row
Why fly down to the desert if you're not going to experience it, right?  Even with the threat of rain the next morning we drove out to Gold Canyon to go for a hike.  We settled on Hieroglyphic Trail, a relatively easy 4.7km round trip hike that gained approximately 175m in elevation throughout.  The trail is located in Tonto National Forest within the Superstition Mountains, which are full of history. The informative sign at the trailhead reads...
The rocky washes and saguaro-studded hills at the base of the Superstition Mountains have lured adventurers for nine thousand years.  Salado, Hohokamam, and Apache Indians gathered here years before the white man arrived.  Spanish explorers sought gold and souls.  Mexican miners, like the Peralta brothers, were said to have taken tons of precious metal from mines in these mountains.  Trappers and adventurers migrated to the area.  Ranchers drove their cattle up the dusty trails.  Farmers tried to scratch a living from the rocky soil.  Eventually the U.S. cavalry was sent in to patrol the area and protect the expanding population. 
A miner named Jacob Waltz ventured into these hills and brought back gold so pure that when he died in 1981 without revealing its source a legend was born.  For more than a century prospectors have returned to the Superstition looking for the "Dutchman's" lost mine, but to this day no one has found it.  In recent years the pristine desert, abundant wildlife, and star-studded nights have lured adventurers of a new sort -- horsemen, mountain bikers, and hikers anxious to share in the wilderness experience.  Enjoy your journey in the footsteps of the past.
Superstition Wilderness in Tonto National Forest
Superstition Mountains
Christine and a Saguaro Cactus
The Saguaro is a species of cactus that can grow to be over 21m (70ft) tall.  They won't start growing arms until they're between 75 and 100 years old!  Some Saguaros will never grow arms and those are then referred to as spears.
Desert Selfie
Besides the beautiful desert scenery, one of the highlights of this trail are the ancient First Nation petroglyphs.  Early European settlers mistook the artwork as Egyptian hieroglyphics and the erroneous name has lived on.  The Hohokam people are responsible for the panels of petroglyphs in the canyon at the end of the trail.  The Hohokam people thrived in central and southern Arizona between 500 and 1,400 AD.  These petroglyphs were likely etched into the rock during that time period.

The canyon section where the petroglyphs are located
Depictions of animals
There are several panels of well-preserved petroglyphs in this one location
It was pretty cool to see everything up close and in detail
Standing under a Saguaro
Hiking back to the car
After our hike we headed into Apache Junction for lunch and then planned on driving the Apache Trail; Arizona's oldest highway.  Apache Trail (State Route 88) is approximately 65km (40mi) of narrow, winding, desert road through the Superstition Mountains.  It is an incredibly scenic drive along a paved road, but it is not for the faint of heart...or those who easily get carsick!  There are hair-pin turns and steep cliff drops, with little in the way of safety barriers.  Shortly after Tortilla Flat, the paved road turns to gravel and continues as such until you reach Roosevelt Dam.  The road used to be a stagecoach trail for those travelling through the desert wilderness and is now a popular drive for tourists and locals alike.  We drove to the junction of the pavement and gravel with the intent to continue further, but the gravel section of the road was very rough and rutted, so we decided to turn around and head back.
Canyon Lake Viewpoint in Tonto National Forest along the Apache Trail
Shoreline of Canyon Lake
Desert Scenery
Tortilla Flat
An informative sign along the Tortilla Flat boardwalk read...
Prior to 1906, this location was a welcome stop for travelers on the Yavapai Trail which connected Tonto Basin with the Salt River Valley.  In 1906 the trail, now known as the Apache Trail, was completed as a freight road for the construction of Roosevelt Dam.  Tortilla Flat became an important water and supply stop on the road.  The Apache Trail is now Arizona State Route 88, but Tortilla Flat remains a welcome stop.
The Dutchman's Inn is also located in Tortilla Flat and the sign outside had this to say about the inn's famous proprietor...
Here, Jacob Waltz (The Old Dutchman) Arizona's most celebrated scoundrel, laid the cornerstones for this here eatery.  Waltz was a notorious liar, drunkard, and general miscreant who avoided gainful employment with singular dedication.  It took a lot of looking, walking, and digging to find that rich Peralta Gold Mine among 125,000 acres of Superstition Mountains and even more killing of hombres who attempted to follow him back to his rich mine.  Now all that walking, digging, and killing gave Waltz a real appetite.  Let it be known that ol' Jacob had a reputation for appreciating the culinary niceties of life.  His love of life, a young Phoenix widow who ran a small confection shop and restaurant, testified that the only thing the old Dutchman like more than sin was a good meal!  Unhappy with local dining rooms, be built his own.  Pardners, you're lookin' at the result -- ol' Jacob even more sure spirits were included since he could not resist a nip or two ocasionally.  Although he covered up the mine entrance before he died, he left us a legacy -- his legend and this here eatery for all of us to enjoy.  So Enjoy!!!
We found this cowboy hanging around in Tortilla Flat!
Even though Tortilla Flat has become somewhat of a tourist trap, it was still pretty neat to see this remnant of the old west and to read about the legends and lore that surround it.

Needles to say we had a great time in the Phoenix area and hope to be back at some point.  There's still lots to see and even more desert wilderness to explore.  It was well worth the trip, but five days just wasn't long enough.  Maybe next time we'll find the Old Dutchman's Gold Mine!!