Coastal Fishing

A not-so-flattering picture of an old man pulling in a “black tuna” as we head south down the coastline.

There was a time when fishing had a strong pull on my psyche. Especially salt water fishing in semi tropical water. When Ann and I first arrived, her sister Jan, and her husband Rick, along with Rick’s son, Jared and his wife Jessica, were already there, enjoying themselves. Their trip was winding down. But Jan and Rick still had one last excursion to go: coastal fishing for black tuna, whatever those were. There was no way I wanted to miss out on that. It just sounded exciting. And divide the expense six ways, who could complain? I couldn’t think of a better perspective from which to view Ixtapa and Zihua than from the sea coast on a bright and sunny day.

But, as is the patterns of the energetic and motivated, the start was early. It seemed to me, we were up before the sun, ready to embark onto the misty sea at some ungodly hour. I thought to myself, I could endure one early start. Jan and Rick would soon be gone, and I could quickly return to my own schedule. Little did I realize, then there would be surfing, diving, another tour of the coast, only this time south, another couple of runs into Zihuatanejo, and on and on. You go with more than one lazy travel partner, (I am thinking of my oldest son, Sierran, or my PI travel companion, Gordon) and it is all about rising with the sun and compressing the day in with action packed activities. Nobody wants to miss anything. Myself, I can pick up the activities in the middle of the day.

So at sunrise, we were all in a tienda down on the pier, buying every kind of food and drink we could imagine ever wanting. Then we went outside and got in line for tortas. We had enough food for Thanksgiving. I chuckled to myself as Ann ordered something from the ungloved, unmasked girl packing in the guts of her sandwich. If Covid was alive and well, it would have been here. I cautiously ordered from a girl that wore plastic gloves and a mask, something that could be spooned on and not hand patted onto the bread. I watched Ann out of the corner of my eyes, knowing this was killing her, yet she said nothing. Needless to say, 3 hours later, while cruising the sea at a speed the black tuna found to be perfect for attacking our lures, Ann refused to eat her torta. Who was chosen to clean that loose end up? Leo, oh, here is a left over torta. Why don’t you eat it, nobody else has any room for it. Really?! So sorry, I am stuffed (and I saw how that torta was made).

The forty something young man who owned the boat—a nice big shiny fishing cruiser—was from Madera, a suburb of Fresno. He graduated from Madera High School, one of the traditional rival football powers in the area. He lived there for nine years so it was pleasant chatting with him. We cruised up and down the coast, and Rick and Jarod caught most of the fish, though occasionally I found myself getting pressed to reel in a fish. We all pretty much agreed to let the fish go that we caught, though sometimes the hook did too much damage and we had to keep them. There is never a shortage of people who will take the fish as a donation. I don’t know why it felt better to give them their freedom back after the fight, kind of like bull fighters showing mercy to a bull who put up an unusually spirited fight—we were all meat eaters. I love meat, but don’t like taking life. It’s one of those many contradictions found in human nature.

Coastal Fishing

Masters of Survival

Lens magnifying the hidden
If this guy were a few branches back, and into the foliage a little more, he would have never allowed a telephotoshot.

Anybody who knows me, knows I am always scanning the landscape for signs of wildlife. Most wildlife is good at blending in to the scenery, and does not make itself obvious until it either moves (or goes to cross a road). If it is still, relying on camouflage to conceal itself, and you are still lucky enough to spot it, it will become obvious and then a good photographer can usually move in circuitously without alarming the subject. Don’t look directly at the creature in question, and never make eye contact. Circle casually, keeping your purpose vague.

When taking photos, start the first photos as incidentally as possible from a distance that doesn’t threaten the game. If that works, move in a little closer, snap a few more shots. If it still is not threatened, is too lazy (from maybe the cold), or believes its camouflage has you, the predator, mystified, count your blessings, and steal as many photos as you can, then gratefully back up, turn away, and proceed with what you were doing, leaving the critter undisturbed.

Of course there are a hundred different possibilities. Photographing animals that rely on camouflage is fun because if you are going to be able to get close to your subject, this will be a good opportunity. Venomous creatures are also fairly easy. They instinctively know they have a power to keep the predator at bay. And venomous animals well camouflaged are ideal. Something has to be really stupid to knowingly cross into that zone. A stone fish is a great example. Or a snake. Just know how far they can strike, leap, inject, or shoot their defenses. And know from what direction they have to work their magic. An electric ray needs no direction, only a certain distance. Know at what distance it will unload its shock. And if you aren’t sure, give it the benefit of the doubt—it can probably shock from farther away than you think it can.

If a creature is slow and clumsy (looking), know that its strike will be lightening fast, 10 times the speed of a snake’s strike! I am thinking of a frogfish, a mantid shrimp, or a navanax (sea slug). So again, know its comfort zone and the range of its strike. In the sea, if you can catch it while diving, it probably has either fatal or debilitating venom, an agonizing sting, a gift for puncturing deeply and quickly, a vicious bite, a profound ability to hide, or a combination of the aforementioned. Know your subject.

Masters of Survival

Surfing the Tracones Region

Jessica, Jerod, and Juan Suazo

I would love to say, yes, this is about Ann and I, surfing the wild and raging Pacific waters north of Ixtapa, but no, it’s not. Ann and I sat at a table, on a deck, perched on a sandy knoll as we ate a simple but delightful breakfast and watched the devoted and/or professional surfers cruising waves up to 8 feet high, for 100 or 200 yards at a ride. Ahh, to be young, carefree, (and balanced).

I recall taking a crack at surfing many years back. I went out to San Pedro with my cousin, Paul, south of San Francisco, down the foggy coastline. At the time, I thought a wave was a wave was a wave. What was a curl? It never occurred to me that a wave made for surfing had a pleasant curl, and just kept rolling and rolling and the idea was to ride that curl until it finally petered out just before the shore. I don’t even think we had wet suits. The water was icy or at least what I would call icy by the standards of a 69 year old. And the fog was always thick and heavy. You brought your own tires and burned them on the beach. I have to smile at how that would look today—but then if you wore a wetsuit, you probably didn’t need a couple of tires burning away on the beach to keep you warm). You stayed in the water for about 10 minutes, until you were numb, then all was well. When hypothermia set in, after about 30 minutes, you would go back to shore and stand as close to the burning tires as possible, shivering convulsively. Ah, but we were “surfers” (at least for the day), listening to our music, “Born to Be Wild”, standing in the warm black smoke, re-warming, ready to hit the cold, curl free waves once again. It didn’t take more than one long day attempting to surf before realizing, this was not in my blood. I suppose this is one of the main reasons I came up with the philosophy, “never try anything just once”; in other words, give everything at least two chances. It has since proven to be a pretty good approach to travel and adventure over the years. However, having said this, I will confess, I ended up loving to body surf over the years—much less work and a lot more freedom, if you have ever seen anyone toting a surfboard about in an airport.

So we watched. Ann’s nephew, Jerod, and his lovely wife, Jessica, from Austin, had made a commitment that they were going to indulge in the rather famed surfing of the area on this day, and we went along for the sightseeing and to provide whatever moral support that would be welcomed. Our tour guide, the sweet and knowledgeable Olga, who also surfed with them—I suppose one of the benefits of being the guide—hired a professional surfer, Juan Suazo and his assistant, to reacquaint them with surfing. A wise decision I might add. He spent at least 40 minutes just limbering them up on the beach with what I would deem lots of Hatha yoga exercises. Who would have guessed. In my day, no one would have thought to “limber up” before going out.

One hundred or more yards to the south, the big boys developed. These waves were fun for practice.

When they finally hit the breakers, it took ten minutes from where they started to just to paddle out to the first line of waves! I had no idea it was that challenging. And the first line of waves actually looked a lot bigger with someone dabbling in them. I thought, “wow, those waves are big enough to drown you with a little bad luck”. Then I glanced beyond them to see what the surfers were doing on the real waves up the beach a bit! Double wow! Suddenly those waves looked really intimidating. Some of those surfers could ride the big boy waves for 200 yards! Envy is not a good trait to possess. But looking at their lean, suntanned bodies, seemingly uninhibited, reminded me of life when we are at the peak of our physical prowess. I have to remind myself that life is an ongoing adventure, and that with each new phase we enter, there will always be something alluring, appealing even if it is less physical and more transcendental. That is the nature of life.

So we watched Jerod, Jessica and Olga ride their waves, paddle back, ride again, and so forth, each time getting a little more adept at it, little by little. In the end, I got to see Juan Suazo paddle out to the big kahunas, catch one, and do what he probably does best, ride and ride that wave like there was nothing as meaningful in life as riding a wave as far as it will take you. He grew up on that beach. I wonder what his parents were like. Even in Mexico there is a whole different generation alive and well these days: unconcerned with money, very long hair and beard, wild looking, no doubt pot smoking, living in the moment. Good at being rather free. (-:

Surfing the Tracones Region

The Waters of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo

The “captain”, Poto, poking about between dives for the calmest water.

Granted, I do not have my underwater camera equipment so it ain’t like the days of yore. And when I moved from Central California to Southern Arizona, my way of dealing with furniture, books, dive equipment, camping gear, and metaphorical tons of miscellany was to give it away! Yes, that is what I said. I am too lazy to put together a sale and too practical to move my old equipment all the way to AZ where it would probably just go into storage until I even remembered I had it. I told myself to just get rid of it all and start over with new equipment (in the event that I even went that route). Well, now I am beginning to think I might go that route. Maybe I will start over.

When I took this trip south, one of the things motivating me was to size up Old Meh-heeco, and see if there was any potential for “adventure”. I always say, never travel for just one reason. A place has to have two good reasons to draw you. Traveling with Ann for a semi sustained vacation (as though life in general isn’t already a vacation) was one good reason, the other was actually to dive. And the third, if I needed a back-up reason, was just to size Mexico up in that part of the country.

The diving took a different turn. The water was cool, the visibility poor (silty from the currents), and my skills were worse even than I imagined they would be. But what I didn’t expect was such good instruction, the personal attention, and lots of positive encouragement. So, it was all a wash.

Rollicking waters at the mouth of the Pacific

After the first day of diving, my dream of returning to the water with renewed conviction that I could get back into it, took a hit. So I did another day of diving. It was the same thing. However, I told myself, let it settle in, give it time to think about. I got all the info I needed to make a return if that was the path I chose.

Although Andre was new to the diving of this region, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, he had skill in discerning the most calm spots and relying on the boat captain to know what places would be minimally driven by currents. We found one spot where there were more sting rays than perhaps I have ever seen, or at the least, remember seeing. They were everywhere, hundreds of them, with only their bulbous eyes protruding from the fine light sand. And as we swam with the current, just a couple of two or three feet over them, they would flutter up into the surge by the dozens like cautious birds to new landing points. It was beautiful. This went on and on. Perhaps it was breeding season.

This was a great cove, lots of surge, but no current, and home base for all the little brown sting rays in the region.

So many species I recognized, but I couldn’t quite pull their names into my consciousness. I groped to remember. If you forget their specific common names or their scientific names, even I can remember their general class names (almost…or…um…sometimes). Having an underwater camera while diving and a good book back on shore is ideal, And of course, with these dives, I had Andre to remind me: puffers, (golden puffers), the stingrays (what kind, um, can’t quite remember), trumpet fish, octopus, lobsters, moray eels, box fish, banner fish, and on and on, but I am just recollecting the more obvious. There were tons of different species: quick, small, colorful, curious, everywhere; Normally it takes years to have their names down, but I have been there, done this, so it should all come back without a great deal of effort.

Andre and the sweet and accommodating Polish manager of the Dive Center, Juelita, I believe.
The Waters of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo

Scuba Diving the Mexican Coast with Andre

Andre, one of the best instructors I’ve had over the years.
Somewhat rough sea, rising and falling.

It’s been a while since I have done any diving. To be exact, the last diving I did was the end of 2019 outside of Dumaguete in the Philippines. I was eating lunch at a little rotisserie chicken stand having a casual conversation with the owner, a 40 year old athletic looking guy, Ferdinand Catao, when the subject of diving came up. I learned that his real passion was diving and that he was actually an instructor, which granted him a lot of liberty in leading his own dives, but like many divers in the PI, he depended on other sources for real income. The more we chatted, the more I believed in his ability to get an old fish like me, back in the water. By the end of the meal, he agreed to take me down to Dauin the next day and lead me on a couple of dives. My main hesitation was not having photo equipment, but he said he would bring his equipment. (See, Diving Dauin, Christmas Day, Dec.2019 for a detailed account and photos of a good dive day).

I was appalled at how much I had forgotten about diving and had a helluva time remembering the details of getting suited up. But he was patient with me and the dives were good. On our second day of diving, somehow he finagled a passing boat pilot he evidently knew into taking us out to a local reef and the dive brought back a lot of good memories with constant sightings of innumerable fish species. But, it wasn’t enough to push me across the line and get me back into diving. I opted to forego more diving and instead get on with my travels.

Zihua in the background

Shortly upon returning to the U.S. in January, Covid began taking over, and the rest was history. I don’t know how the dive industry even survived. But here we are, 15 months with Covid still sailing along unabated with the only plus being vaccines. My attitude has been to live life as I normally do, while taking basic precautions. It’s worked for me, but die-hard Covidites are still pissed that there are people out there not buying into the mainstream take on Covid, thus keeping it alive. Personally, I think it is here to stay, so use common sense. Maybe it is like the flu but potentially more virulent (because we haven’t developed herd immunity yet?) It seems to mutate and new strains are widespread, much like the flu which seems to produce new or at least different strains every new flu season.

So while down in Zihua, I swore to myself, I would do what I could to get into the water. I kept coming across this card giving information on diving, but I was a little alarmed at the expense. I talked to a couple of different people and got the same response, yeah, it was 90 bucks for two dives! That’s nearly twice the cost of what I pay in Asia. And maybe I forget what the cost is in the U.S, it’s been so long since I’ve done 8 mm dives in cold water. I told myself to keep my eye open for dive shops when I went into Zihua and see if $90 was a resort price or if it was the going, Pacific coast Mexican standard price, in which case I would just have to accept it and get on with diving.

I came onto a nice looking shop down near the pier in Zihua that looked much like the same print out that I had been getting back at the resort in Ixtapa—but alas, it was not. Upon inquiry it was a very different place, though I must say, a place I really liked: Zihuatanejo Dive Center. The lead diver, Andre Fricke, fresh out of Brazil, was a cool, kindly, very patient, and positive guy that could even make a fat old cork like myself feel like there was the hope I could muster the will to face cool water, and a strong current under murky conditions. I did two days and four dives with Andre vigilantly leading the way. I was whipped after two days of fighting the conditions, and a little discouraged by the early rise effort and bus ride into Zihua, but I must say, some crazy and obstinate side of me makes me want to grab a few of my things and hop in my VW Jetta, and head back to Zihua, knowing the water will clear and warm up, and continue trying. Amazing what a little time off will do for the soul—helps me to forget the painful end of things. I am convinced that if anybody can trick me into believing I am capable of diving with skill again, it would be Andre, because Andre is sincere in his faith that we are capable of reaching our potential.

The vigilant fish, Andre

Scuba Diving the Mexican Coast with Andre

Making My Way in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo

More like a Hawaiian Lua

Ann has been trying for years to get me to head south to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, but I have had it in my head that the experience was not my cup of tea—too much comfort, not enough manly pain. For some reason, I have always thought a “real” trip involved hardship, deprivation, cheap, dark hotels if not tents, hunger, regret, and possibly some kind of tropical ailment. Then I could call it an adventure. Of course as I have gotten older, the edge on these trips has gotten softer, and as I have somehow, almost miraculously, become more financially secure by living the life of a miser—my friend Gordon Olson always called me a Kuripot, the Tagalog term for a tight wad—I have slowly given in to comfort. Nowadays, I can scarcely imagine enduring the trials of sleeping anywhere but on a clean bed with a firm mattress under the secure roof of a safe hotel. In recent years, I have promoted myself to three star hotels in safe neighborhoods with hot water showers.

Sunset from from the balcony

So Ann’s proposition finally began appealing to me. I just would not tell anyone about it. I mean, what if my friends found out that I was staying in somewhat luxurious time shares with multiple bathrooms, steaming, hot water shower, refrigerators, microwaves, shiny new stoves, multiple flat screen tv’s, enough rooms and beds for six people, jacuzzis out on the deck overlooking miles of beach and mountains surrounding the bay opening into the pristine, wild Pacific Ocean, four 5-star restaurants where you can eat all you want for $300 a week, and drink yourself blind with all the beer, wine, and cocktails you can consume for $50 a week. I mean, if I wasn’t gaining a pound a day, I would say I have died and gone to heaven. Yes, heaven, of all places! How could I keep this a secret?

Some of the rooms at the end of the beach, where a gondola keeps everyone lazy

Those readers who are a little more astute than others have surely noticed I have not written anything for at least two, if not three weeks. I was ready to just disappear. I no longer felt I had even the faintest of a legacy to live up to. But then I had an epiphany: It was a memory taking me back to a moment in the Philippines. I suddenly realized I was “dating” a lady boy. I had no f***ing idea my gorgeous date was a guy. I was so mortified when I found out. And all this time I called myself a liberal and was so proud of my attitude and views. But when it came right down to the truth, I was ashamed to confess I had been kissing the neck of a giggling young man. The last thing I needed for the bolstering of my ego was for my friends to find out what I was actually doing while traveling abroad. After sitting on the truth for 24 hours, I decided to let the cat out of the bag and blog the whole episode, after all, it did make for an amusing story. I decided to tell the story in unabashed detail. Well, that is how I feel tonight; this is me, the truth: Lazy, rather fat, very pale, a koripot of the first degree. I confess. An “Adventurer”? I have pushed that line as far as I can take it. I do quite well, at least for the time being, sitting around doing nothing but listening to ocean waves, waiting for the next meal, priming myself with a few before-dinner drinks. Two weeks of this life is pretty nice.

Me, in all my innocence, ready for my next meal.

Daytime view from our room. How can you not like Mexico?
Making My Way in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo

Ann’s in Southern Colorado

Ann’s place at the edge of the vega.

One of my great pleasures in coming to San Luis besides hanging with Ann, is taking walks while she attends to her work. She runs a Senior Day Care and is very good at the business. The seniors love her. And she seems to love them. So while she spends her time with them, I occupy myself with little side excursions, going out to old sites that have always given me a certain pleasure. But part of the challenge is the size of the San Luis Valley. It’s immense in its size. Normally, I take the size for granted until I start driving to get somewhere. Then I remember. It takes hours to drive the length or even the width of the Valley. And what it takes to get somewhere takes equal time to get back. There is scarcely a place in the Valley that is not going to take at least 2 hours to drive there and back. So if I am restricted in time, I concentrate on the area right around San Luis.

Looking north on a walk, Little Bear, a tough climb across the razorback from Mt. Blanca (4th highest peak in Colorado).

Weather providing, one of my great pastimes is walking the Rio Culebra. It flows along an old road that has been closed down and It goes for miles through the vega. The Culebra is a small, crystalline clear, swift stream that flows out of the Sangre de Cristos. The highest mountain in the area is Culebra Peak and just breaks 14,000 feet. Culebra stream, which means watersnake, comes off the mountain. I love the region. At a certain point, if you hook up with the stream from the other side of the vega, the stream can be followed for miles. In the summer, there is scarcely a region more bucolic in the U.S., with a few Hispanic villages dotted along the way. The stream flows through aspen groves and pinyon country, down across meadows and pastures, where it is lined with narrow leaf cottonwoods. There are very old Hispanic homesteads in this region. Spanish is the first language. Many of the people are the great ancestors of the Spanish explorers all the way back, to what I believe were the 1600’s, perhaps around 1700. I suspect the road runs to about 10,000 feet above sea level, then comes to an abrupt halt with a locked gate. Culebra Peak is the lowest of 52 peaks in Colorado that is over 14,000 feet high, but it IS one of the 52, so anyone wanting to join the 52 club, must climb the mountain. Unfortunately, it is the only peak of the 52 that is on private land, so to get permission to climb the mountain, to get the gate “unlocked” a climber has to pay somebody the likes of $50. I’ve never climbed the peak because I am not trying to achieve membership into the sacrosanct 52 Club, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna pay the $50 just for the sake of saying I have climbed it. But from where I lived in San Acacio, I had a superb view of Culebra, and always admired the mountain. From Ann’s place, the mountain looms 6,000 feet over her house which really makes for a special backyard view.

As I take my walk, Culebra Peak is a domineering sight.

So nearly everyday that Ann is working the Day Center, I take my walks along the west side of the vega and of course admire the beauty of the Culebra. Normally, it is the best snake catching road in the US that I know of. I average about 4 snakes a walk, sometimes bull snakes, sometimes prairie rattlers if I am lucky, but most often the docile, yellow-striped wandering garter. They hunt along the Culebra for small trout in the shallows, along with frogs and tadpoles by mid summer. The prairie rattlers come from the opposite direction, off Wild Horse Mesa, a plateau adjacent to the stream, separated only by the road. Needless to say, I love this walk

Culebra Creek cutting along the side of the vega with the Sangre de Cristos providing the background.

I was feeling pretty good about coming to Colorado to do my “snake walks”. But it never occurred to me that the weather would be a problem. I could still do my walks, despite the cold, but snakes and lizards were out of the plan. If I am lucky maybe they will once again be early summer residences by the time I return from Mexico.

Culebra Peak from Ann’s living room window.

Ann’s in Southern Colorado

New Mexico to Colorado

The Rio Grande just south of Taos

It’s been weeks since I finally left southern Arizona. It’s always a superlative feeling, slicing north through New Mexico, enroute for Colorado. New Mexico is culturally and geographically a very special place and the farther north one travels in New Mexico, the more isolated and remote it feels. Hundreds of years ago the Spanish settled the region and that has slowly changed, though there is most definitely an old Spanish flavor that pervades the countryside, all through New Mexico, if not much of the Southwest. Nowadays you get ski resorts and tourist towns throughout these southern Rockies, that attract the well to do. And there is definitely a distinct New Age population born in the days of the “hippies” for lack of a better word, that has evolved in my opinion, to a progressive, independent lot of great diversity that thinks way outside the box in every fashion—some who live well on little efficient homesteads, and others on five acre plots of land with plush and eccentric homes such as the wild and crazy earth ships, or the vast straw bale homes, all reflections of the rich and creative thinking of the people this region seems to attract. But all are very independent.

The Rio Grande canyon just west of Taos (maybe 7,000 ft. above sea level)

New Mexico is a great, and seemingly harmonious mix of people. I always think of Taos as the hub of this New Mexico magic: a wide variety of “New Age” thinkers, the Texas well-to-do in the surrounding ski towns, the omnipresent and very long term Hispanic residents throughout the region, the traditional Puebloan people with there mystical thinking, and everybody in between gluing it all together. And by the time New Mexico Hwy 522 reaches Hwy 17 in sparsely populated southern Colorado, it is a lonely and quiet two lane road surrounded by endless miles of blue-green chamiso stretching west across the Rio Grande from the base of the pinion covered Sangre de Cristos. It is a prehistoric sight as unmitigated and wholesome as any sight I know of in the U.S, and if in 30 or 40 minutes I don’t at least catch a glimpse of one meandering herd of wild mustangs, I am a little disappointed. And pronghorns are always a possibility though they are a more cautious prairie wanderer.

Mustangs enduring my presence

Whenever I make this trip, I think of San Luis as my first stop, my jumping off point. It doesn’t matter if I am driving north into Alberta and British Columbia, back East to Maryland, west to California, or in this case, flying south to Mexico—San Luis, Colorado at Ann’s is where I brace for more to come. It is here I like to re-group, catch my breath, and take little excursions with Ann when she is free, or go exploring alone when she is working, always enthralled by the sights, the wilderness and the wildlife.

New Mexico to Colorado

Arivaca Stream Bed and Mustang Trail

Down Below, Cottonwood trees in the dry stream bed of Arivaca Creek

I am beginning to feel a certain restlessness, a yearning for something different. I woke up this morning, thinking I needed to put in a decent little hike, but by the time I was up and about, I decided I would return to Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge, a place I stumbled upon months ago when exploring southern Arizona near the border town of Sesabe.

It was an interesting looking place in some fairly remote area. When I saw it, I thought what the hell, I’ll take a closer look. It appeared there was a lot of unique desert wild life highlighted along a very parched cottonwood-populated stream bed running between a wide span of a couple of fairly high, remote ridges. There were a number of compelling, colorful bird species highlighted by the Wildlife Refuge completely outside my wheelhouse of familiarity so that in itself lured me. If I were a birder, this area would have baited me for sure.

Two months ago, I meandered the stream bed, and eventually found myself on a trail known as the Mustang Trail headed into the surrounding desert hills of mostly mesquite and octotillo. It wandered into the southern hills, and at the time, I felt it was too close to sunset to make an honest stab at reaching the highest hill in the distance, so I made a note to return in the not-too-distant future.

Miles of hiking country—just have water and good boots.

Today was that day. It was really beautiful country though it had been a long time since any real rainfall had managed to hit the ground. I just wanted to see what path the trail took and what kind of flora thrived or fauna I might be lucky enough to spot. Ever since running into Robert Grimes at Bog’s Spring, and listening to his stories about illegal aliens making their way into southern Arizona, my perspective on their chances for success has changed. I used to think aliens did not have much of a chance, but now I am of the belief, they know what they are doing and how to succeed, even though the trials they go through are tremendous, there are plenty of aliens who do succeed. It is a constant cat and mouse game (of life and death) and there is never a shortage of Central American aliens who are willing to take their chances. I semi-regularly see empty liter or even gallon plastic water containers, especially in the summer, and always wondered why someone would leave their jugs or certain clothes items on the trail. Well, now I know. For some reason, it never occurred to me that these are not casual hikers such as myself, or trail maintenance workers, but rather aliens hiking for their lives who have simply run out of water and tossed their bottles or removed expendable clothes to lighten their loads. They are the remnants of people not wasting any energy with the dead weight of empty bottles or burdensome clothes. I conclude it is just a question of time before I have an encounter with aliens.

Pointed Baboquavari Peak in the distance

So today I just enjoyed the hike and grunted my way up a lean and overgrown trail through the thickets and up a wild and steep hillside, miles from the dry stream bed, counting whiptail lizards, and admiring the stunning beauty of spring in the Sonora Desert, albeit a very dry spring, and appreciating the silence and solitude of being good and alone out there.

Ocotillo growing on the south slope in some places as dense as a forest.

Arivaca Stream Bed and Mustang Trail

Looping Around Josephine

I had a day’s rest so thought I could handle a moderate hike. And with my computer(s) down, I had no excuse for not putting my dues in on a respectable hike. I got it in my head that I would put in the uphill mileage to Josephine then meander the long way down the Super Trail, probing for lizards. Maybe I would get lucky and bumble across a snake or who knows, maybe even spot a pair of mating Trogans being that this is the time of year the unusual tropical forest birds come up from Mexico into Madera Canyon. In driving to the end of the road, I noticed a cluster of bird watchers gathered in large numbers around a spot that suggested they had spied something very unusual—I was thinking a trogan. They are the bird icon of Madera Canyon and this is the time of year they migrate up the stream beds and along the forests’ edge, just north of the border. I have seen them in the past, but they are shy and cautious.

Elegant Trogon (courtesy Amazon)

A little rain would be nice. But we are suffering a drought. As expected, the Super Trail was basically empty of hikers, but because it is a long trail, I can almost be guaranteed of sceloporus encounters. I just have to find some lazy enough to let me poke my cell phone camera into their faces and see what I can get. But, to get exceptional shots, (of anything) it takes luck and patience.

I am restless and ready to head for Colorado. Ann and I decided a few weeks ago that a flight down the coast to the central coast of Mexico would be a good interim experience, though I am sure in our separate thinking, we have very different objectives in mind. She likes the beach, massages, getting her nails done, fine dining, sight seeing, shopping for family, travel by taxis, leisurely lodging. She does not scrimp and always tips generously. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, so I have learned. It’s just not the way I am accustomed to traveling. I can be a bit of a miser and spend and tip more like a native (unless I know it is somebody who really needs the money). My habit is longer term travel, taking a local bus into the backwoods, trekking, beating a path along a jungle river always hoping to encounter wildlife, indulging in a beer with a stranger when I get back, eating on the street, and then documenting the daily ongoings. I am money conscious, she gears her budget to enjoying. Somehow, we always find a happy medium in our little adventures. And who knows, somehow, maybe I end up spending as much as she does. It always seems weird. I swear generous people—those who find a certain pleasure in sharing, have as much money and a greater satisfaction doing things for people who work hard for what little they have than those who are always pinching pennies and never sharing with others what boon they do have. (So I have learned over the years to just relax when it comes to spending and it strangely it all comes back to you).

So, the time to take my first trip in months is upon me. Feels good.

Looping Around Josephine