29 July 2012

Berry Hunting

Oak Creek near Cave Springs
Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus

22 July 2012

Revised. Retracted. But never redacted

I was wrong. Well, wrong is a strong word.  Let's say I was mistaken.  One could perhaps even accuse me of being lost.  But I don't exactly think I was lost. I knew where I was, generally speaking: in the woods, a few miles from home.  I just didn't know what I was looking at.  So I was mistaken. That's for sure.

Not the first time.

For 15, maybe 20 years, I've held on to the assumption that the old footers and extraneous junk strewn about the area which was the subject of my most-recent post, was, in fact, Chimney Spring.

But it's not.

After I made my post last night, I started playing around with the EXIF Geotag data on the pictures I took. According to the data attached by my phone's GPS to each image, they were all taken right around 35.269404, -111.672182.  Problem is, Chimney Spring is located at 35.26362, -111.67488, which is about a quarter of a mile south of the location where I took the pictures.

So, yeah.  Not the same place.  Not at all.  Don't know what all that junk near the road is.  But it ain't Chimney Spring.

This is Chimney Spring.  Covered in shame, I went back out to 9002 again this morning, on the way out to our Sunday hike, to find it and thereby expunge my now embarrassingly tainted record.

Dry as a bone, it was nevertheless precisely where the coordinates said it would be.  I used my Garmin to navigate right to it.

Needless to say: I'd never been there before.

21 July 2012

Chimney Spring

[NOTE: This post has been revised and retracted. Sorry about that...]

I visited what's left of whatever once occupied the site labeled on the regional topo maps as Chimney Spring on my ride through the woods today.  I've visited this place before, walked around it some, but never to stop and take pictures, which is what I did today.  Chimney Spring is not a place I pass by too often, since it isn't located near any major trails.  But FS Road 9002 goes right past it, and 9002 is an easy, mellow climb on a singlespeed... and that's just what I needed after yesterday's all-too punishing singlespeed ride and four hours of Saturday-morning homework today.

I've looked through all my favorite local history books, Cline's They Came To The Mountain, Ashworth's Biography Of A Small Mountain, and even Barnes' Arizona Place Names, as well as the NAU Cline Library online archives in an effort to shed a little light on what this place might have once been, all to no avail.  Chimney Spring, whatever it was, seems never to have rated much for the retelling. 

My best guess is that it was probably a watering-hole for the sheepherding industry that once dominated the hillsides of the San Francisco Peaks.

Nevertheless, once upon a time, there was obviously some significant activity here, the site includes a few leveled areas that perhaps held small buildings or corrals, the footings of a substantial concrete structure that probably held and/or distributed water, and tons of rusted and crushed wood, tin, steel, and ceramic artifacts, too.  It's a fun place to walk around with your head down, which is something I always enjoy.

I walked all over the site today looking for the source of the spring, something I'd never taken the time to do before.  Just above the footings there is a small rocky depression that strikes me as a place that might once have held water, though, being located in the midst of an otherwise broad plain of open woodland, it would be a strange place to find a seep in this area. 

The small natural drainage about 100 yards to due east showed no signs of any source of water either.

However, after I got back on my bike and began to ride up 9002 again, about 150-200 yards to the north of the footings I caught a glimpse of this shrubby tree, perched on the side of the same small drainage, along with some blooming bergamot (monarda menthafoliawild oregano).  I believe the shrub may be some kind of willow (It's not. My native plant-expert's tree-expert says it's  Sambucus glauca; elderberry), but whatever it is, it's the only one of its kind in the whole area.  

Even if it's not a willow, it's quite unusual to find a deciduous tree of any kind other than aspen or oak in our woods unless you're near water.  Bebb willow, for instance, love the bottomlands of many of our intermittent streams like Schultz Creek and the Rio. but grow nowhere else.  Likewise, any other time I've seen bergamot it has been growing in wet ground near a water source, such as this example, which I found growing near Orion Spring just a few weeks ago.  Is this small wet hillside all that remains of the source of Chimney Spring?   (No. it's not) Perhaps.  Whether it really is or not, nowadays, I think this is the closest you're going to get to it.  Like everything else at the site of Chimney Spring, whatever it once was, it all appears to be long gone now.

16 July 2012

Growler Crate

I always enjoy the work I get to do now and then for Commute By Bike.  But I will admit this to you, right now: this is perhaps the most excited I've been to do a product review in a long, long time.

Presenting, the Growler Crate.  

One review coming up (in a month or so)...

20 Aug. 2012 UPDATE: Here it is.

07 July 2012

The doldrums of summer

Well, I'm not really getting any thinner (or, for that matter, any younger, any smarter, or any better looking either), maybe I've lost 3 pounds. But I am getting a little faster which, you know, provides a kind of consolation of its own, I suppose.

Here, in the doldrums of summer, while we wait for rain, there's at least been more time to ride,  for two reasons: 1) I'm between summer classes, one which concluded last week, and another which begins next. And 2) I've taken a little vacation time off work, which is something I've never really done before, chiefly because I never had it to take before.

I've been using an app called Strava since April to keep track of a lot of my rides. I've got it installed on my phone and it lets me use the phone's GPS function to not only map my rides, but also to easily compare my own personal performance each time I ride a particular route or segment, as well as compare my times to those of other riders.

My old friend Scott once cynically observed about group rides that, "No matter what they tell you, it's always a race."  Strava is proof of Scott's concept. It turns any ride into an individual time trial. And it's really a lot of fun.  For example:

Since April 27, I've ridden up Schultz Creek Trail eight times while using Strava.  Thanks to Strava, I can see that I've been able to shave just about 6 total minutes off my time, most recently finishing the segment in 25:00:05.  It's all a bit narcissistic, I'll admit, though it's also great motivation to ride a little stronger next time.  

There's more to Strava, a component of the application which I find to be quite humbling:

With Strava, I can also see where I fall in the mix of other riders who've ridden the same segment that I have. As you can see, despite my increasing fitness all summer, I'm still not even in the top 20 on Schultz yet.  But I'm close.  I just need four seconds. I'm thinking I'm gonna try to get it next time.

But I'm really chasing after my friends.  Specifically, #19 Nathan Cain, #12 Chris Grove, and #7 Kip M.  Earlier in the summer Kip held the record on Schultz, but since then his time has dropped to seventh place.  Nevertheless, at 21:39, it's still ridiculously fast.  And Chris, well Chris is always fast too, and, despite the fact that we ride together now and then, I've never been able to really keep up with him.    Ever.  His time of 23:06 is also stinking fast.  I'd like to beat both of them at some point.  Can I?  It's not going to be easy.  Lately, I've gained back between 20 and 30 seconds with each attempt.  That's all I need to catch Nate.  He's a racer-boy, too, just like Kip and Chris.  Nevertheless, I'm going after his time later this month.  But the two minutes I need to catch Chris, and three and a half it'll take to catch Kip, well, that's just going to take a bit longer.

Feels a long way off.  Gonna take a little more time. Same with the rains... But they'll come.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey