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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Coffee, Caves and Arches

We like to take our coffee for walks in the mornings.  This is a move day, but we have some extra time before we leave camp, so we took a relatively long coffee walk.  We decided to walk down to the far end of the campground and explore a service road that leads up to the campground from an I-10 frontage road a mile or two away.

As we passed the lumpy hump we had climbed the other day, we spotted a small stone arch on the far side:

This was entirely too attractive, so we moved closer to get a better look:

As we climbed some flat rocks up to the arch, we looked down to discover a large number of bedrock mortars dug into the volcanic rock:

A bedrock mortar was used by native people for grinding grain, acorns or other food products.  In a case like this, where there are a cluster of holes in proximity, it is an indication that prehistoric communities gathered in groups.  The name "gossip stone" is sometimes used for them, indicating the social context of the food grinding activity. Another term for this type of hole is "bedrock milling station."  Another type of milling site found in stone is a "metate," which, in contrast, is a flat, trough-shaped depression in the rock.

Back to our original agenda, we looked up and caught our favorite view of the stone arch:

However, as we moved close to get that last photo, we looked down to find a series of three or four caves.  Each of them had bedrock mortars in their floors, and the cave ceilings were blackened from campfire soot.  Here is Kathy at the entrance to once of the caves below the arch:

On closer examination, we found that a path had been worn in the rock for native people to climb to the top of our lumpy hump, where sentries undoubtedly climbed to watch for marauders.  This made sense of something we had discovered when we climbed the lumpy hump the other day and found what looked like foot- and hand-holds pecked into the solid rock.  We used those hand and foot holds to make our way to the summit.  Now we feel pretty confident surmising that those were placed in the rock by native inhabitants to reach the top just as we did!

Walking back to our campsite, empty coffee mugs in hand, we marveled that you never know what you'll find when you venture out, even if it's just for a little coffee stroll.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Calloway Trail Hike

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come"

On Wednesday, March 29, 2017, Dave exercised his acting muscles by performing in the park amphitheater. After wowing the audience with his amazing rendition of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, we headed over to the Calloway Trail for a hike to a scenic overlook.

Let's go Dave! The trail is this way:

Along the trail we spotted lots of new growth on a bunch of prickly pear cacti, something we haven't seen before.  We're still looking for saguaro blossoms or buds, but a local we ran into on the trail told us that they haven't budded or blossomed yet this year.

We stopped several times along the way to watch intrepid mountaineers work their way up to the top of Picacho Peak. It still hard to believe we were actually up there on Monday. Doesn't seem possible from down below.

At the trailhead, Dave points the way.

As we climbed higher and higher, we were soon faced with a fork in the road. Do we go right and follow the hiker, or do we turn left and follow the arrow. Who knew hiking could be so hard?

We soon reached the scenic overlook and were rewarded with more expansive views to the east.

We never get tired of the amazing views. Yes, that's our campground way down there to the left of the lumpy hump we hiked yesterday. That lumpy hump looked a lot taller when we were trying to climb up it.

Our scenic overlook was in the saddle between Picacho Peak and this "little" outcrop. While it looked tempting to climb to the top, we have had enough summits this week.

We took some time to explore some of the really cool rock formations. Most of these rocks are volcanic lava that slid down as Picacho Peak tilted up and the valley floor dropped down.

After taking in the views from the top of Calloway Trail, we meandered back to camp. First we took the Nature Trail and read all the information placards. Then we scampered over to the Children's Cave Trail. While the info plaques were geared more for little kids, the hike up to the cave was still cool.  Here, Kathy discovers the cave entrance at the top of the climb:

Kathy sent Dave in first just in case there were creepy crawlies or bats.  All he could find were some suspicious droppings.  Swallows or bats?  We don't know.

After lunching in one of the picnic ramadas, we returned to our rig. We have the rest of the afternoon to bibble and get ready to more tomorrow. We enjoyed our hikes in Picacho Peak State Park and would recommend this park for those who like a challenging hike.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

From Cave to Summit to Arch at Picacho Peak

After visiting The World Famous Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch, and a little pause for lunch, we decided to spend our afternoon today climbing a volcanic outcropping right near our campground.

This is a photo of our quarry - ahem, our outcropping:

As we hiked over to it, Kathy spotted an arch in the rocks at the highest end of the formation:

We also spotted this "shar pei" saguaro, just hanging out and shimmying for us at the base of the volcanic stuff:

Eagle-eyed Kathy then spotted a cave, which was at the lower end of the outcropping and right on the route we planned to climb.  As we got close to the cave, she scampered ahead to get a photo inside:

Again eagle-eyed, inside the cave, Kathy spotted this strange black, hardened "goo" which looked like it had oozed down from higher in the rocks.

We wondered:  "Is it dried bat guano?  Some sort of oil or tar?  A rock like black shale or obsidian? We plan to do some further study, but as of now, we're mystified.

Back to our originally-scheduled program, we picked our way over the volcanic boulders and through the scree and the palo verde toward the top of the rock, having to do some minor free-climbing in order to conquer the final rise to the summit.  From atop the highest point of the rock, we could see Picacho Peak in the background, and our VERY TINY RV in the campground to the right:

Now Kathy wanted to go get a closer look at the arch we spotted as we were crossing the desert floor toward the outcropping; so we picked our way down the wall of the steep end of the formation, to try to find a ledge that stuck out far enough for us to peer back at the arch.

Hold it.  Kathy spotted something else she wanted to see first.  Here she is, caressing some rhyolite - or tuff - that, when it was formed as soft volcanic ash, got squeezed out from under a lava flow that oozed and plopped over the ash at some distant time in the millenial past:

What were we doing?  Oh, yes.  Right.  We were trying to get a better view of the arch.  Okay, back on track, we continued picking our way down the rock until we could get out to a view of the arch:

Here's a closer view of the arch, with a cute little orange-and-green-stripped barrel cactus in the foreground.   We couldn't get quite as close as we would have liked, but nevertheless we got close enough to be on a first-name basis with that rocky wonder:

While we had to strategize carefully to find a route up to the top of the formation, we found it pretty easy to pick our way nearly straight down the near side - probably because we could look down at the surface we would be walking on.  We pretty much dropped straight down from the high point, past the arch, down to the desert floor.  A short quarter-mile hike or so across the desert brought us back to our campsite, some ambrosial Gatorade, and the thought of Happy Hour dancing in our heads.

The WORLD FAMOUS Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch

Hi Blog!

Over the years, the main focus of our RVing has been to visit National and State Parks. That said, we have never been ones to pass up a good roadside attraction. The World Famous Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch is just such a place.

On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, we were looking for something a little less strenuous after our hike to the top of Picacho Peak yesterday. We loaded our stiff muscles into the Jeep and drove over to see the WORLD Famous Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch. After paying a nominal fee, we received two blue cups with various critter chow. Our first stop was the miniature donkeys.  The Ostrich Ranch is located in the shadow of Picacho Peak, which you can see behind Dave in the photo below:

The smallest of them is called Spunk! He loves to ham it up for the camera.

Dave had to police the parakeets to make sure everyone got their share!

Here birdie, birdie, birdie.....

These are Fallow Deer.

They fallowed Dave whereever he went!  (Dave:  "Har, har har!"

The Boer Goats like to climb. Here you place kibble in the yellow cups and send it up to the feeding station.

Boer Goats are also very affectionate!

Ostriches are bigger than any other bird in the world. They can grow up to 9 feet tall and can weigh up to 320 lbs., and an ostrich's eyes are 2 inches in diameter — the largest of any land animal. The ostrich is the only bird that has two toes on each foot. A kick from their powerful legs can be fatal. These birds are not to be trifled with.

Dave had them eating out of the palm of his hand.

Bunnies are not as large as ostriches; Dave said he wasn't aware of that.  Bunnies are a lot like cats. If they like you, they'll come over. Most of the bunnies were happy just sitting in their sun shelters. We were able to coax a couple to come over for some tasty banana chips!

The St. Croix Sheep is a breed of domestic sheep native to the U.S. Virgin Islands and named for the island of St. Croix. They are often also called Virgin Island White because those that were imported into North America were selected for white coloration. They are also adorable.

Nigerian Dwarf Goats are gentle and easily trainable. They can be very friendly and can easily be trained to walk on a leash; some enjoy coming into the house with their owners. Adult goats should not live in the house. As ruminants, they need to spend a large part of the day eating hay, pasture, or browse - or, in the case of a home, furniture, rags and drapes. I think Baxter may have found a new friend.

Here's Kathy feeding a second-story goat:

Ducks also nibble.  Watch your fingers!

Our last stop was the lorikeet house. Lorikeets have specialized brush-tipped tongues for feeding on nectar and soft fruits. They can feed from the flowers of about 5,000 species of plants and use their specialized tongues to take the nectar. The tip of their tongues have tufts of papillae, which collect nectar and pollen. We each had a small cup of nectar. As soon as we walked in, we were assaulted.

As Dave was trying to photograph the two on his hand, one landed on his arm and proceeded to mug for the camera.

Kathy couldn't help Dave, because she was covered in birds as well. Luckily, when the one on her shoulder took a dump, it shot out far enough to miss the back of her shirt!

We had a great time interacting with all the animals. It is definitely worth the stop. We later learned that the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch was actually one of the largest ostrich ranches in the US. At one time it had over 1,600 birds. Tragedy struck when two hot air balloon flew too close to the ranch, causing the birds to panic. Over 800 birds had to be put down because of their injuries. It took years before the birds would breed again. To save the ranch, the family opened up the petting zoo. Thanks to tourist like us, the ranch has been saved!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Summiting Picacho Peak!

On our first day camping at Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona, what else should we do but - climb Picacho Peak!  Sounded like a good idea to us.  We decided to hike the Sunset View Trail - the longer of two routes to the top of Picacho Peak, 7 miles round trip.

We got up with the sun and hit the trailhead by 7:15 am:

The first two miles or so led us out across the desert behind Picacho Peak to approach it from the south side.  Here is a view to the west as we gained some elevation on the early part of the hike:

The desert is alive with bloom right now - sharing in the great superbloom this year from all the rains that spread across Arizona after they crossed California.  This beautiful cholla is one of many beautiful blossoms we saw:

Slowly climbing, we gained views to the south.  Here, Kathy appreciates them:

Finally, a view of our quarry:  the south side of Picacho Peak!

Once we started climbing, it wasn't long before we had to scale rock faces that would have been difficult or impossible to climb without the help of cables that have been drilled into the mountainside.  Here, David navigates the first steep climb --

== and Kathy shows her climbing skill as she follows on the same rockface:

A little over 3 miles into our hike, we reached the junction with the Hunter Trail, which is shorter and steeper and climbs over the saddle between Picacho Peak and the peak to its west.  By this time, David was starting to feel the strain of the climb:

Things kept getting more vertical.  Here, Kathy is sharing the vertiginous view with a Saguaro buddy:

More rockfaces and more cables.  David is really starting to feel the burn now:

Kathy seems to be conquering the climbs with more aplomb and ease:

Okay, now David has the hang of it, scampering up this steep face:

Before it was over, we had to cross this board bridge on the cliff face:

But it was well worth it.  Here, Kathy gives the "thumbs up" of victory, posing on the summit:

What summit doesn't deserve a selfie?

The following video is a 360-degree view from the summit of Picacho Peak:

Now, if you think this was an easy hike, look at this Wikipedia photo of Picacho Peak from the ground, and note that we reached that highest point:

As excited as we were about our achievement, many others had come before us and greeted us when we arrived:

From our lofty perch, we could see our campground, far below, next to a volcanic outcropping:

We rested awhile and snacked.  As we were readying to return down the mountain, we were buzzed by two small planes.  One flew above us, but this video of the one below us is more striking when you realize that we are above it, looking at the valley below:

The hike back was just as exciting and strenuous as our climb to the top.  By the time we got back to the trailhead, we concluded that we'll be sore enough in the morning.  Perhaps tomorrow will see a less ambitious outing.  Who knows?