Thursday, January 27, 2022

Lake Pleasant Regional Park Kayaking, Hiking, etc.

The north boat launch. I suppose the distant mountains are part of the Bradshaws.

I arranged a three day weekend, and one of the days I went down to the Valley of the Sun to enjoy a kayak trip on Lake Pleasant, a reservoir just beyond the outskirts of Phoenix and Peoria. The water level is down a little, like most of the reservoirs in the Desert Southwest, but not as much as Lake Powell or Lake Mead.

Entrance to a side drainage. Many of these have slot canyons in them, but I couldn't get back into more than a couple due to so many people fishing. At least, I couldn't get back into them without being discourteous and disrupting their fishing.

The lake's level was around 1680 feet above sea level, pretty far down into the Sonoran Desert ecoregion, and features typical scenery and the statuesque saguaro cacti so thoroughly associated with Arizona. As it was a Sunday, there were too many people, but most Arizonans are intimidated by air temperatures less than about 85 degrees, so it could have been worse. Most of the boats there were fishing, but there were a few other paddlers.

The end of a slot canyon. Sorry about the bad lighting! Unfortunately I got distracted by the brackish water and forgot to take the money shot that showed the sinuous path I had to paddle to get back in there.

I avoided the more crowded main part of the Lake Pleasant Regional Park and launched at the boat launch on the northern end of the lake. From there it is possible to paddle up into some side drainages with mini slot canyons. Unfortunately there were people fishing in almost all of them. I continue to be astonished at the popularity of fishing in the desert. Even though I grew up fishing, I say it's a ridiculous hobby if you live a dry desert. (I grew up in Indiana, where water is everywhere).

Obviously the water level is down. The water levels in most lakes in the Southwest are down. There was a gate open to allow people to drive in and setup camp.

The weather was beautiful. I wore my Sweet Strutter kayaking helmet, not because I thought I would hit my head, but because it has a very deep bill that provides sun protection. Nonetheless, sun reflected off the water and burned me. Unfortunately I'm out of sunscreen.

These were the only cliffs in sight, a point of interest for boaters but not as good as the sea cliffs I saw in La Jolla Cove, California last year. The saguaro almost looks like a telephone pole to me.

It was a good paddle, but there were too many people. I enjoyed the workout, the cliffs and distant mountains, and the beautiful Sonoran desert surroundings, but eventually got tired and headed back to the boat ramp.

A view from the Pipeline Canyon Trail.

After this I ate some leftover pinto beans from El Pollo Loco wrapped in a flour tortilla and looked for a trailhead to get in a hike. I found the Pipeline Canyon Trail, which intersects with some other trails, and headed out. Unfortunately Strava inexplicably crashed and chopped off a few tenths of my track, but I think it ended up being about a 3 mile hike out and back to where the trail ends in a side branch of the lake. Along the way it travels uphill through a saddle and back down. I'm unsure which side of the saddle is Pipeline Canyon, because I never saw a pipeline, but it was all beautiful Sonoran desert hiking. I saw a lizard and few birds, but much fewer than I've experienced in other parts of the desert. This is especially surprising considering the abundance of water in the area. I did see a lot of deer droppings though.

A view towards the lake, somewhere around the crest of the trail on a saddle.

The day wore me out and I had trouble getting motivated to go skiing the following day. I visited downtown Flagstaff, which I rarely do these days since I started working from home, and ate lunch at the Lumberyard microbrewery. I don't think I've been there since before the pandemic! I walked around and photographed a church I've thinking about painting, then finally I got motivated to go up to the ski resort to finish off the day. I effectively used up my three day weekend. I love a short work week!

The natural stone church on Beaver Street, in downtown flagstaff. Built in 1939 from local volcanic rock.

Strava Track (truncated by software issue)

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Cruelty of Lost Memory


My Grandma and Grandpa Pogue's farm in Indiana. I can tell from the silo that this photo was likely taken in the early 1980s. I think the farm was sold out of the family sometime after 1984. It was a playground for me, albeit a somewhat dangerous one. I remember sliding down one of the roofs of the buildings, lol.

I remember many things from childhood, some good, some bad, but some of my fondest memories come from visiting my grandparents' houses. Grandparents usually spoil their grandchildren. Grandma and Grandpa's house was a place of good food, candy, and gifts, and relatively free of responsibilities and chores. I have plenty of happy memories from my childhood homes, but I also remember being disciplined and having to do homework and wash dishes. Grandma and Grandpa's house was more fun. I have particularly fond memories from my Grandma and Grandpa Pogue's farm.

I spent quite a bit of time on the farm over a couple of years after my parents divorced. It had open fields, cows, pigs, dogs, and woods. There was a perennial creek along one side. The property around the house exemplified American self-reliance. There were enormous stacks of firewood, apple trees, pear trees, a gigantic vegetable garden with a strawberry patch on one end, rhubarb, a gooseberry bush, a grape arbor, and probably other food plants I've forgotten about. My grandmother's shelves were stocked with rows of canned foods for winter and they had a deep freeze in the mud room full of butchered beef and pork that my grandpa had raised himself. I remember many good things about my days on the farm.

Me on my Uncle Dick's combine harvester around 1982, not certain of the year. He was harvesting on Grandpa's farm because Grandpa's harvester had broken down. This is one of my good memories that continues to fade.

The problem is that the human brain can't store all of the details of memory. It is designed by nature/God/evolution to only store relevant, practical info. We retain important things long term, including some happy memories, but mostly lessons, skills, and recent things. The brain is specifically designed to forget things that are not useful, because they would take up too much room. In order to remember them, we would have to walk around with heads the size of a house. Unfortunately those memories sacrificed include happy days spent playing, or a particular morning baking cinnamon rolls in my grandma's kitchen.

From a biological standpoint, I understand the necessity of purging details from memory. It keeps us moving forward and adapted to react in the moment. I assure you, there are many things I would like to forget, but we also possess the ability to reminisce about the good times, and it's frustrating to not remember everything. Nature deprives us of our memories.

It's cruel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Two Planks of Death and Deep Winter


Back to the bottom of the ski resort on skis. (I usually snowboard)

I've had a lot of trouble getting motivated to go to the ski resort this year, despite the fact that I invested in a season pass. Yesterday, second week of the new year was my second time this season, and first on skis (i.e. two planks of death). I rightly decided to go back to the kiddie slope and ride the conveyer belt rather than the ski lift, even though I rode the lift last year on skis. My first run down I was stiff, awkward, and could barely control myself. My legs were shaking from effort by the end of the short hill. I have this problem that I tend to fight myself when I'm learning something new and I was way too tense. Fortunately I worked this out within a couple of rides and was making tight s-turns by the end of the day.

Then I was short of breath and shaky after walking back to my car. I'm not able to exert myself at altitude this year without struggling to breath. I've got to get back into shape!

The main barrier to fitness is seasonal depression. I hate this time of year, despite the winter sports. The days are short and cold. At least we are past the solstice and the days grow longer.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Airline Follies

Frozen Northern Arizona from a United regional jet.

Delays, a canceled flight, a diverted flight, and an unplanned hotel stay characterized my recent trip to visit family in Tennessee. The cancelation was the result of a lack of a pilot. I assume this is a consequence of coronavirus, or at least a consequence of employee testing at United Airlines. The diversion seems less excusable. Granted, there was a winter storm upon Flagstaff at the time, but it was above freezing and other flights were operating from the airport. We ended up in Prescott, which I didn't even realize had commercial service. It does, but the airport is even smaller than Flagstaff. I rented a car and drove back to Flagstaff. The surface never froze. That's the second time I've ended up driving from one airport to another. The previous time I'd missed the connection at Phoenix.

I'd also experienced a delay on my outbound flight when the airline was already running a few minutes behind, and they wasted time until an approaching storm arrived, and by rules had to de-ice the plane, even though it was only a few flurries and any idiot could see the wings were not iced. I got to my connection in Denver in plenty of time, but of course that is the flight that was canceled. What followed was an unplanned night in a hotel near the Denver airport. And I lost a day that was meant to be spent with family. You think of an airline for flying but it kind of seems like United has an affinity for not flying.