making owls cool since 1986

We moved to Arizona to see burrow owls. Where the hell are all the burrow owls?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Weaver's Needle

I can't get enough of the Superstition Mountains. Maybe it's the name, or maybe it's how utterly quiet it is there, or maybe it's the unbelievable landscapes, but I'm completely hooked and I'm not even looking for the Lost Dutchman Mine! Friday afternoon I headed out to the Superstitions for the night with my friend Chris, who is also an ASU grad. student. Chris is a much more experienced hiker/camper than myself. I bought new backpack for the occasion and a Camelbak hydration system. I finally got to try out my bivy tent for the first time. Chris knew a good spot where he had camped before and where you could get a great view of Weaver's Needle. I was not disappointed.
Weaver's Needle is a volcanic plug. It's the imposing rock formation in the far background of the is picture. I had seen pictures of it before, but it's much bigger in real life. This picture was taken probably between 2 and 3 miles away.
I took these two pictures at night. They're long exposures. They look dark at this small size, but if you click on them you'll see that they're detailed pictures. Those lines aren't shooting stars, they're regular stars moving across the sky. I left the camera shutter open so long that it tracked their movement. There are some planes that sneaked in there too, probably on their way to Sky Harbor.
Though shooting stars are too quick to be picked up by my camera at 200 ISO, we did see some. I never saw so many shooting stars in my life until I moved to Arizona.
It's rained a lot here recently. The desert was green and intersected with many streams. Usually those washes are dry, but they were all flowing when we were out. It was really cool. You can see how the canyons and rock formations are made when you watch the water flowing through it's ancient paths through the desert mountains. There was evidence that a few days earlier water levels had been much higher.

This is how Weaver's needle looked from our campsite.
Here is an example of the kind of rock formations you find in the Superstition Mountains. I'm assuming they're natural. These rocks were right next to our campsite. They look like children's blocks stacked up.

This path, which I think was the Black Mesa Trail, lead from our camp toward Weaver's Needle. Chris and I went to bed really early Friday night because it was cold and what little wood there was around was too wet to start a campfire. It got cold. Real cold. Water condensed on the inside and the outside of my tent and when I woke up around sunrise, it had frozen into sheets of ice. My sleeping bag is insulated to be warm down to 15 degrees, so I just closed up the top and I was alright, but I was astounded by how cold it got. I left the tent intending to get some pictures of Weaver's Needle during the sunrise, but it was so cold that I just rushed back into my sleeping bag! When we finally got up, around 8:00 AM, we scrambled up this path, chasing the sunlight that was shining on the rocks higher up in the canyon. We climbed up on the rocks and sunned ourselves like cold blooded desert denizens. So much for being homeothermic!
Here's our camp. Chris's tent was behind the acacia tree. I walked into the prickly pear in the foreground a couple times.
Above, another picture of Weaver's needle while the sun is waning. Below are some photos I took of desert textures, particularly of different cacti.
This is dead prickly pear.
This is an up-close shot of our desert nemesis, the jumping, or teddy bear, cholla. They drop nasty cholla pears that are covered in the sharpest, barbed spines. I've avoided them so far...
I have not, however, avoided prickly pear. This is a close up shot of a prickly pear.
Here is an abandoned dove's nest in an ocotillo.
A dead tree seems at home in the desert landscape. It's interesting how the cacti huddle beneath it's corpse an gather a little bit of shade.

As usual, my feet were the bane of my hike - I walked pretty much all the skin of the small toe of my right foot, but it was totally worth it. Next time I'll know to protect that area with moleskin or something. That Saturday afternoon we hiked out, gave some folks some directions, hung out on overlooks, marched up switchbacks, and checked the view. Chris is a good guy and encouraged my tyro's distracted fascination. I've always loved New England's ghosts - not literal specters, but the feelings and presences of the place. I think I've found Sonoran ghosts in the Superstitions...and I'm hooked.

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Anonymous Sean said...

It looks beautiful! I love the picture that shows how the stars move across the sky.

2:05 PM  

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