Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Training & Christmas

We spent all of last week in training. The training will make us "competent" Interpreters. The class is a lot more intensive than we anticipated and a couple of folks have dropped out. We are preparing for 15 minute patio talks, 45 minute evening programs, 3 hour van tours and guided hikes. The weather wasn't too bad last week but come our day out to go out for van tour training, the temps were in the 40's with wind. Here we are listening to our instructor Ranger Ken.
Saturday, Christmas Eve, we drove up to Phoenix to spend Christmas with my sister Susan. We all went out for dinner and to church on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day we went out for a very nice brunch at The Buttes in Tempe. The buffet line and brunch table.

Sherri and I out front on a beautiful Christmas Day.
Tuesday we had a day off from class, so we went out to pull Buffelgrass with our campground neighbors, Kenn and Mary. Buffelgrass is a non-native invasive grass which the Department of Agriculture planted in the 40's to control erosion and for cattle feed. Kenn and Mary are volunteers with the Natural Resources Department and it was interesting going out with them to find and pull the grass. It is very scientific and all pulled plants are recorded and tracked by GPS. Both of us with our picks and the great Buffelgrass hunter.

Today it was back to class with a nice afternoon field trip. Charles is a herpetologist and the parks weather expert. We are at a weather monitor station on which Charles has placed an Our Lady of Guadalupe sticker to keep the illegal traffic from stealing or vandalizing the station. Some of the migrants think this type of equipment is a sensor and camera.
Sherri and I finish up our classroom training this week and next week starts the busy season with programs and tours five days a week. Happy New Year to ALL!!!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fire, Bike Ride and Bird Counting

This week we said goodbye to a volunteer. Jim had been here at ORPI for two months and it was time to get home for Christmas. Tuesday night we had a fire, Jim is seated at the picnic table.
Wednesday Sherri and I went on a 10 mile bike ride, a lot of up and down through arroyos. We are in front of the visitor center, nice and fresh before our ride.
We also went out for dinner to say goodbye to Jim, Mike and Tina. Fourteen of us had dinner in Lukeville, on the border, at a Mexican Cafe. The border crossing is right out the windows.
Sherri and two other volunteers signed up to count birds on Saturday morning just outside of Ajo. The count is a project of Audubon Society in conjunction with Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, which borders Organ Pipe. Since birds get up early Sherri and friends had to be in Ajo, 35 miles north, at 7:00am. The area Sherri counted in is on Childs' Mountain, which is a restricted area because there is an Air Force radar station on top.
Sherri and fellow birders, plus a sunrise photo.

This week we start our training program. On Saturday we are heading up to Phoenix to celebrate Christmas with my sister, Susan. Happy Holidays to All!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Arch Canyon and Beyond

Another week, another couple of hikes. On Tuesday Sherri and I set out on the Ajo Mountain Drive to hike up Arch Canyon. The prediction was for wind, but when we left the 5er it was calm. Unfortunately by the time we reached the trail head the wind was howling down the canyon. The top of the arch was our goal for today.
After hiking for 1/2 hour into a 40 mph wind in 45deg. temps we decided that we had enough and turned around, drove down the road to another canyon and the winds were much calmer, The Estes Canyon/Bull Pasture trail has a section that goes up to Ajo Mountain which we had hiked a week earlier. We had not hiked in Estes Canyon and with the recent rains it is very green. This is a shot up Estes Canyon:
A barrel cactus soon to bloom.
It was not the hike we had planned, but it turned out to be a great day and Arch Canyon will still be there when the winds aren't blowing.
The Jims and a new volunteer were interested in hiking to the top of Mount Ajo. The Jims are leaving soon and with a little persuasion we set Thursday as our day. The winds were strong on Wednesday, but Thursday morning was calm and cool at the trail head. Jim the campground host who has volunteered here for many years is on the left. Jim is a fee colector from Portland Oregon is in the center, and Brian a ten year full-time RVer is on the right. Brian is a fellow interpreter.
It was a gorgeous day and after an hour we had shed most of our layers. We came across some ice which had formed at the base of some plants over night. The ice looked like cotton and we had to feel it to believe that it was really ice.
Campground Jim is very knowledgeable about Organ Pipe so we took our time talking about park history, the flora and fauna. We made it to the top, remember from last week's post that only 100 or so hikers make it to the top each year and here I was twice in 11 days, we relaxed, ate and enjoyed the views.
The hike down is the tough part and we did have a couple of slips and falls, but no injuries. Fee Jim negotiates the rock on the way down.
The few that hike to the top each year are proud of the accomplishment and are rewarded with fabulous views and memories of a great hike. Sherri covered the Visitor Center while I was off hiking, I owe her one.
Today is an openhouse at the visitor center so we are planning on a busy day. Tomorrow we are heading to Sonoyta, Mexico after work for Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities. There is a pilgimige to the church in the evening with food and music, then a Mass at 11:00pm. We will need to leave before Mass since the border crossing closes from 12:00am - 6:00am. Janet, who runs the visitor center gift shop will be our host, she lives in both Lukeville AZ and Sonoyta. It should be an interesting evening and I will blog about it next week.
I will finish this week with another sunrise photo taken while out walking Ryder.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mount Ajo

A couple of visitors came into the visitor center last Sunday. Clint and Julie were talking about hiking up to Bull Pasture, but they did want to take their motor-home up the Ajo Mountain Drive. I told them that Sherri and I were going hiking in that area on Monday and they were welcome to go with us. We talked and decided to make the top of Mount Ajo our destination and to meet at 7a the next morning. We met at 7a and drove up to the parking area for the Bull Pasture/Estes Canyon loop hike, the trail to Mount Ajo starts at Bull Pasture. Pictured are Clint, Julie and Sherri at the start of the hike with Mount Ajo in the background.
The temps were cool in the valley, but as we started out it warmed up quickly. We came across some interesting rock formations and had great views from Bull Pasture toward the mountains in Mexico.

The trail to Mount Ajo winds around the southern end of Bull Pasture and in an area known as the Cones it heads straight up.
Notice the window in the rock on the right, this is the biggest one of the four that we saw. It was at this point that Julie decided the downhill was going to be too hard on her knees, so she left us.This area was the toughest part of the hike, not only is it straight up but the rock is loose and there are cactus waiting to bite.
We made it to the top of what appeared to be the crest.
This area is described in the hiking guide as a false crest and the summit with the solar panel and radio tower are still a ways off.
We made it to the top of Mount Ajo and were rewarded with spectacular views. The solar panel and antenna were installed by helicopter a few years ago.
There is an ammo can with a registry for names of hikers who made it to the top, by some counts only 100 hikers make it to the peak each year. Sherri is signing us in and we are posing on Mount Ajo.

It was a beautiful 70deg day, not bad for Nov. 27 and we felt great for our accomplishment. Clint was an excellent hiking partner and it was nice to have pictures of Sherri and I together. The hike down was harder than up in places, what with the steepness and loose rock. I did wind up on my butt a couple of times. Julie was waiting for us when we got down and as a thanks for driving Clint and Julie took us to dinner on Tuesday night in Lukeville, right on the border. It was great meeting Julie and Clint and safe travels back to Washington.
Later on Tuesday night we had a campfire in the VIP campground to say goodbye to three volunteers, we will miss Sherry, Joyce and Judy. As a few leave many more are coming in for the busy season which starts after Jan. 1.
On Thursday morning I went out in search of a large Cristate, which is an abnormal growth that occurs on Saguaros and Organ Pipes. I was led by the two Jims, who are both volunteers.
The lead Jim found this Cristate one year ago from a photo that a visitor brought in to the visitors center. Jim thought he knew exactly where to find the cactus but we went up and down washes with no luck. I finally came across a large dying Cristate and called Jim over. Sure enough the Cristate had dyed within the past year although the rest of the organ pipe cactus was fine. Jim wants to see if the Natural Resource office will allow us to remove the Cristate and use it as a learning tool on the patio at the visitors center.
It was a nice morning hike but by the time I started my shift at 1p it stated raining. We received just over a tenth which is always welcome in the desert. The massive storm which has blown away LA and much of the southwest has cooled things off in Organ Pipe.We are having highs in the 50's and lows in the 30's. Cool for here, but in comparison to the rest of the country not too bad. It is expected to warm back up soon and we will be out hiking on our days off next week.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Organ Pipe Thanksgiving

Although it felt odd to be out of Albuquerque for Thanksgiving we did have a nice day with our neighbors and fellow volunteers. Ten of us had dinner together in the community building. We had turkey with a lot of trimmings since everyone brought a dish. Dinner and conversation lasted for 2 1/2 hours, so we learned many things about each others lives and RV experiences. Here are a few of the happy diners.
This past week we were off Sunday - Thursday and we have been busy. On Sunday we went on a hike with a fellow volunteer to Victoria Mine. Sherry has been here for a couple of months and is a wealth of knowledge. Victoria Mine was one of  the few mines that actually made money for its owners, silver and gold were mined. The mine was active from the1880's through the 1930's. The pictures are Sherri and Sherry in an old residence and Sherri in front of an Ocotillo.

Tuesday morning we stopped off at the Visitor Center before heading out to Ajo for grocery shopping and a haircut. At the visitor center we met volunteers from the past. Two couples who volunteered in ORPI starting 11 years ago. After a few years of volunteering they liked the area so much that both couples have purchased homes in Ajo and now live in Ajo six months out of the year. They were heading up to Alamo Canyon which is 10 miles north of the visitor center so we tagged along for a short hike and they too like Sherry are a wealth of knowledge. Alamo Canyon was used by ranchers to graze and coral their cattle well into the 1950's. It is a beautiful canyon with a wide arroyo running through the canyon. As we were hiking a border patrol helicopter came by to check us out. I guess we were okay and after flying overhead the agents headed to the hills. It was an interesting experience.

I'm sure we will be seeing these folks often this winter and spring.
We had a nice lunch in Ajo and got our chores done. Yesterday, Friday, it was back to work. It is still slow in the park but that is giving us time to explore and get ready for the busy season starting in January. We do have two weeks of classroom training staring December 19th.
I'll finish with three pictures from near the VIP housing. Ryder and I are usually out walking as the sun is coming up.
The housing area for VIPS and NPS from the hills above.
And last is a nice shot of Organ Pipe Cactus and Ocotillo.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Arrived at ORPI

We have arrived and are set up at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (ORPI). We stayed in Albuquerque for 16 days and did many necessary and fun things. The 5er needed some maintenance which is always fun when it is your home and you have to take it in for repairs, but we now have new tires and a straight frame.
Amy visited for a few days over our first weekend in town and on our second weekend we had a Thanksgiving Dinner with Sherri's family. We also celebrated Erin's 11th birthday.


After not playing golf for 5 1/2 months I was able to enjoy three rounds at three of my favorite Albuquerque courses. After not playing for so long I was pretty rusty, but it was great to get out with my friends.
From Albuquerque we stopped for a night in Las Cruces to visit Amy and Jake. We had a nice dinner with Amy, unfortunately Jake had school that night. Mom (Sherri) feels much better now that she knows where Amy lives and goes to school. It was on to Phoenix for three days to see my sister. It had been several years since we had seen each other and it was great to see her new home and catch up on life. We went out to eat, took in a Sunday service at her church and had Susan over for dinner in the RV. I'm not sure she sees why we have chosen to be full-time RVers.
We arrived at Organ Pipe on Monday 11/14 and are settling in, starting our new "jobs" and adjusting to our new surroundings. The pictures below are: The city of Sonoyta five miles south, in Mexico, from the ridge above our RV park. Our site in the VIP RV park which includes a community building and 12 sites that are very spacious. The bottom picture is our first sunset.

On Tuesday, our first day, we took a NPS pickup out on the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Drive with another newbie couple. I will finish this blog with a couple photos from the drive. I'm sure that we will post many more photos from this spectacular loop.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Albuquerque for Awhile

We left North Rim on Sunday 10/23 and after a night in Holbrook AZ we arrived in Albuquerque on Monday. We have been busy working on the 5er and getting ready to head to Organ Pipe. We are supposed to be in ORPI by 11/13. Amy has a break in her cosmetology classes so she came up from Las Cruces to spend a few days with us. It's great to see her and interesting having three in the RV.
It's good to see friends and family and be in Albuquerque. A not so good thing is I went to a Lobo football game today and the worst team in D1 lost to Air Force 42-0. At least the Frontier cinnamon rolls and Lota Burger breakfast burritos were as good as ever. I had a good time tailgating this morning with some old friends.
A very sad note is Mark Taylor passed away this week. Mark, his brother Clay and I went on our first golf trip to Myrtle Beach in 1986. Mark was a golf buddy and good friend. Sherri and I will be going to the Memorial Service on Monday morning. Our condolences go out to his wife Kay and the family.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

End of Season

This week has been filled with lot's of goodbyes and closing down the Gift Shop. Most of the services at the North Rim closed on October 16 for the winter. We will be heading to Albuquerque tomorrow and arriving on Monday. Out of the 230 employees there are 25 of us still here. Living and working so closely with people for five months makes it hard to say goodbye. Most of the people we became friends with we will probably never see again...I guess that is seasonal work.
On the flip side it is very cool being up here with almost nobody else in the park. I took a couple of parting shots in the "grassy knoll" and from the veranda.

It's so quiet around the RV park that the deer are foraging in areas that have been too populated up until this week. They are wary of us but let us get pretty close.
We will miss the North Rim and we are looking forward to coming back next year. We are also looking forward to spending a couple of weeks in Albuquerque with friends and family, before we head off to a new adventure in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.