New Mexico Great Outdoors, May 22, 2017

New Mexico Great Outdoors, May 22, 2017. As far as the Great Outdoors is concerned, yesterday (5-22-17) started with some of the wild cacti that have begun to bloom around our house. We have been keeping a particular  eye on the pincushion cactus:

Pincushion cactus

Pincushion cactus

Pincushion cactus

BTW, some sources identify this cactus as a beehive cactus. If anyone can help me out in confirming which cactus this is, I’d be very grateful. The pricklypear are also beginning to bloom:

Pricklypear cactus

Then, at the stroke of 5 PM, Kathy and I headed up the Rio Grande to take a quickie hike. We decided to search out a spot off the Petaca Point Trail (in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument) that Kathy had been told about. We drove up the dirt road from Taos Junction Bridge to the rim of the gorge (Hwy 567), where the trailhead is located. Our destination was a pour-off on the rim that can be seen from the parking lot of the Vista Verde Trail, below.

Pinon pines and the opposite side of the gorge, near the beginning of the walk

In a mile or less, we came to the following sign:

BLM trail sign

Here, we’ve descended into a drainage, and are looking southeast, and across the gorge to the Picuris Mountains. In mid-distance is an impoundment on this drainage, marked by the large juniper tree. Just past this check dam the drainage resumes and leads directly to the pour-off.  Kathy had been told that we would find petroglyphs in the mini-gorge that precedes the pour-off:





Claretcup, at the pour-off

Indian paintbrush, at the pour-off

Taken from the pour-off are these two telephoto views: Screaming Right-hand Turn Rapid, in the Taos Box section of the Rio Grande, upstream of Taos Junction Bridge, and Taos Creek.

Screaming Right-hand Turn Rapid

Taos Creek is roaring

In the drainage between the check dam and pour-off are these polished and/or sculpted basalt rocks:

Polished basalt, Kathy

Polished basalt

Polished and sculpted basalt

Other cacti and flowers seen along the trail:


Sego lily


Here’s a Google map of the hike:

Petaca Point pour-off

We drove through a brief shower as we headed home, and we were treated to this evening rainbow set into orange-hued clouds:

Rainbow against orange-hued clouds

It was another day of New Mexico Great Outdoors!


Posted in 2017, Hiking, Nature, Photography, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Donald Chronicles, #47 – May 7, 2017

I’m bringing this series of posts to an end. I no longer wish to watch the news, because I’ve become allergic to you-know-who. I’m not saying that I won’t change my mind later. I could. But, for the time being, I can stomach the crazy fuck no longer. Here’s some natural beauty to get our minds off of politics.

Corals and sponge, 2003, Saba, Netherlands

Posted in 2017, diving, Donald Trump, Environment, Nature | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

National Monuments At Risk

The continuing menace that is Donald Trump has now taken aim at what is most near and dear to my heart – namely, the outdoor heritage that I, and all Americans, cherish. Trump has taken aim at our National Monuments, one of which is the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, in New Mexico.

I live 7 miles from the Monument, am a commercial river outfitter in the Monument and spend very many winter days photographing wildlife there, such as this wintering bald eagle:

Bald eagle

The centerpiece of the Monument is the Rio Grande, in the Rio Grande Gorge:

The Rio Grande Gorge, at Taos Junction Bridge, and the Picuris Mountains

Powerline Falls, in the Taos Box section of the the Rio Grande

There are many more Monuments on DT’s hit list. One is the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, again in New Mexico. I spent a fair amount of time in that area when I worked at New Mexico Tech, in Socorro, taking students on hikes and climbs. And Kathy and I later journeyed there to climb Sugarloaf Peak:

Climbing Sugarloaf Peak, Kathy

Kathy, on the summit of Sugarloaf Peak, with the Organ Needles behind

Then there is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in Utah, and the adjoining Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, in Arizona. The former includes the remote Kaiparowits Plateau. Prior to the designation of the Monument, the few people who live in the area had, for considerable time, been pushing to see the proposed Kaiparowits coal-fired power plant built. Old-time conservation activists remember when a group of these folks burned David Brower (then Director of the Sierra Club) in effigy on the US Capitol steps. The Monument put an end to that.

Vermilion Cliffs includes what must be the most extraordinary piece of rock architecture in the country – the Wave:

The Wave

Near the Wave, which is found in the area known as Coyote Buttes, is Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon:

Buckskin Gulch

New Mexico Tech students, Paria Canyon

Another area of great scenic appeal included in the above are the Escalante Canyons:

Fisher Arch, on the Escalante River

Davis Gulch, in the Escalante Canyons

And another is the Toadstools:


and the Cottonwood Narrows:

Cottonwood Narrows

and the upper steps of the Grand Staircase:

The Grand Staircase, from near Cannonville, Utah

The Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, in Arizona, protects a large swath of the north rim of the Grand Canyon and adjacent wild lands to the north and west, including the north shoreline of the Colorado River/Lake Mead, west of Grand Canyon National Park. Here’s Pearce Ferry Rapid:

Pearce Ferry Rapid, when it was still runnable (2007), with the Cockscomb in the distance

Pearce Ferry Rapid, 2007. Because of rapid erosion, it has since become un-runnable.

The final National Monument on DT’s hit list that I’m personally acquainted with is the recently designated Bears Ears National Monument, in southern Utah, which includes mountains, plateaus, canyons, rivers, a wilderness area, paleo-indian archeological sites and contemporary Native American religious sites. The Monument borders Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park and the Manti-La Sal National Forest, unifying, under federal protection, a significant assemblage of southern Utah’s unique and highly-scenic wild lands. Protection of these spectacular locales was long over-due:

Valley of the Gods State Park is contained within the Monument

The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, from Muley Point


Goosenecks State Park is also contained within the Monument

The Moki Dugway climbs from the Valley of the Gods to Muley Point, on Cedar Mesa

Muley Point

San Juan River, at Mexican Hat launch site

Petroglyphs at the Sand Island launch site, on the San Juan River

Cedar Mesa, from the Clay Hills

Ruin, in Grand Gulch

Pottery and stone tools, Grand Gulch

On the road to Hite, west of Natural Bridges National Monument

Jacobs Chair, on the road to Hite, west of Natural Bridges National Monument

On the road to Hite, west of Natural Bridges National Monument

Yes … I am VERY pissed-off.

All photos by the author.

Posted in Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Donald Trump, Environment, Mountaineering, Nature, Outward Bound and similar, Personal history, Photography, Politics/Economics, Redrock/Sandstone, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, River-running (USA&Mexico) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Password Hell

We (not me) have created a monster. That monster is passwords. Who disagrees? And, yes, of course, I know that passwords are supposed to protect us from various kinds of cyber theft. They’re a necessary evil, right?

But some of us may not feel the need of such protection, being as we have little to lose. So, incredulous as it might sound, I want to be provided an opt out choice for password protection. Let me choose whether I want to be password protected.

In the beginning of all this craziness, I created a 4 character password that I intended to use everywhere, every time. That way, I had only one password to remember. And I’ll bet that many of you did the same. But you know what happened next. Soon, more characters were required. And then your password had to include a capital letter, and a number, and a special character. A new word was invented: alphanumeric. Then your password was gauged as to its “strength”. Most recently (yesterday, in fact), I was required to come up with a 16 character password. How bizarre!

So, to repeat, I want to be offered the option of turning down password protection. Give me the freedom to assume the risk of being unprotected from cyber predators, if I so wish. Give me the opportunity to free myself from password hell, and I might even take it.

And, there is a larger issue here, which seems not to have been so far considered. It is the cost/benefit equation associated with password protection. Is it possible that the aggregate harm done to the public from the imposition of password protection (the time consumed, the money spent and the aggravation inflicted) out weighs the harm that would result from an absence of password protection? Or, more to the point, the harm that would result to those individuals who, having been given the freedom to opt out of the system, have chosen to do so. I am, in other words, suggesting that we allow the question of password protection to be governed by free market principles, where account holders are free to choose it or not. Let the results of such assumption of risk govern individual decision-making.

And, while on the subject, I see a parallel circumstance in the imposition of security screening of air travelers. An immense government security apparatus, staffed by unemployables and morons (yes, you can quote me), has been created to protect us from terrorism, but, in the process, has created another kind of terrorism. Don’t you HATE airport screening? I do. Would you assume the risk of being on that particular plane that a terrorist has targeted, to be free of airport screening? If given the choice, I might. Is it possible (here, again) that the staggering costs – in time, in money, in aggravation – of security screening out weigh the presumed benefits of such screening? If the airlines and federal government provided us with “screening-free” flights, would you consider being on one of those planes? I would definitely think about it, that’s for sure.

Just how safe do we need to be? Are we so sniveling that we require all these elaborate, expensive and exhausting safeguards? I want to be given the choice of using passwords or not, and the choice of being on a screen-free flight, or not.



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Earth Day and Spring Flower Bonanza, April 22, 2017

It’s Earth Day today, and I visited two of my favorite spots. The first was the Orilla Verde Recreation Area, along the Rio Grande upstream of Pilar, NM, and the second was what I call Rinconada Canyon, for lack of another name.

Orilla Verde is the most downstream section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which is centered on the Rio Grande of northern New Mexico, and those familiar with this blog know that it is where I photograph bald eagles, waterfowl, otters and whatever else comes my way in the winter.

First, Orilla Verde.

This flower looks like the Desert Marigold we see in Arizona

Cliff Fendlerbush

Indian paintbrush


Green hedgehog

Green hedgehog, artistic treatment

Teasel, alongside the river

Rinconada Canyon is on the upstream end of a drainage that crosses NM 68 at the east end of Rinconada, NM. A large amphitheater contains slot canyons and vertical formations eroded into soft sediments. This place has also appeared in my blog posts before.


Golden pea

Low cryptantha



The Chimney, along the margin of the amphitheater

White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth, feeding on Low cryptantha

White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth, feeding on Low cryptantha

Posted in 2017, Environment, Hiking, Nature, Photography, Redrock/Sandstone, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Salt River, AZ , Part 3, March 25-26

We started the day with Quartzite Falls Rapid. This rapid used to be called, more simply, Quartzite Falls, because it’s most notable feature was a low but gnarly falls that usually called for either a portage or lining of your boats. Why the name change? Well … to make a  long story short, in the late fall of 1993 some boaters carried dynamite into the Canyon and blew the falls apart. Here’s what it looked like before its demolition:

Quartzite Falls, at lowish water, downstream view

Quartzite Falls, highish water, upstream view

The verticality of the drop created a very severe “backwash” (aka hydraulic), which could and would trap those boaters foolish enough to run the falls and, on a few occasions, drown them.

Raft gets sucked back in, at Quartzite Falls, in low water. The stress on the boat popped a thwart. Note the guy at the ready with a throw-rope, on photo left.

This warning was painted on a slab upstream of the falls:


But you could, and we did, run the falls at VERY low water.

Quartzite Falls, at very low water (David Hiser photo)

Back to Quartzite Falls Rapid in 2017. It was observed the day before that you could run the right-hand channel between a line of rocks (to your left) and the cliff on the right. This would carry you into the perfect position to take the drop straight-on. If, on the other hand, you approached by way of the main channel, the current would direct you into the left wall, requiring that you back away from that wall before setting up for the drop. This was more problematical, so we chose the line that had been observed.

Below: Video of Quartzite Falls Rapid, Mile 31.7. Britt is seen ahead of us.

Two clean runs!

Below: Video of Flo and Ethan in Quartzite Falls Rapid. They bump into the center rock, but no prob.

Quartzite Falls, Salt River

Immediately below Quartzite is Corkscrew Rapid.

Below: Video of Corkscrew Rapid, with Ethan/Flo and then Britt. This video was shot with my Coolpix P900, from the  cobble island that is located at the downstream end of the pool below Quartzite.

Below: Video of Corkscrew Rapid#2, Mile 31.8

The narrowest spot on the river is found just below Corkscrew.

Below: Video of Salt River’s narrowest spot, Mile 31.9.

Below: Video of Britt and the quartzite monolith seen to his downstream side. Britt is proud of the fact that he ran Corkscrew without knocking his beer over. There is a small campsite amongst the fabulous quartzite rocks at this spot, Mile 31.9

Immediately downstream of this camp is Sleeper Rapid, Mile 32.

Below: Video of Sleeper Rapid

One of the last whitewater challenges on the river is making sure that you don’t broach against the cliff, at Cliffhanger Rapid, at Mile 34.3. Of course, we’ve done that for fun, in low water.

Below: Video of Cliffhanger Rapid, Mile 34.3

Broached at Cliffhanger Rapid … (photo taken on prior trip)

and flipped (photo taken on prior trip)

Our name for this little mesa is Bunny Butte, which stands above the mouth of Cherry Creek, at Mile 35.9.  It is made of volcanic ash, and has some steps cut into that soft rock, which steps can be found on the east side of the formation.

Seen from atop Bunny Butte, Cherry Creek enters on river-right, Mile 35.9. Cherry Creek Camp is seen on river-left. In this photo from 1995, note that the river channel at the red “X” is completely unobstructed.

Downstream view of the river channel at the point marked with a red “X” in the above photo. Formerly unobstructed, the river is now filled with islands, small channels and lots of vegetation.

Cherry Creek has forever been a favorite short hike, with cathedral groves of cottonwoods and sycamores, and lots of birds. But, we were cautioned that a flood had trashed the creek, making the hike a difficult prospect. So we took a pass on it.

Ruin Granite pinnacle, Mile 37, river-right

Mile 37.9 Camp and a White Ledges peak on the left. Horseshoe Bend starts here.

Horseshoe Bend, at Mile 39.4. The Ruin Granite again appears here.

Two male mergansers follow a female

Desert marigold

In the distance, the Sierra Ancha, which feeds Cherry Creek

The river again cuts through the White Ledges, Mile 40

Saguaro and teddybear cholla cactus

Female merganser


Gooddings willows

Just downstream of Coon Creek, the Dry Creek Camp is actually located at the mouth of Chalk Creek, Mile 45.2.

We did 19.5 miles on this day, to position our last camp close to the take-out. This would provide us with an early start for home the next day.

Sun-lit cliff face, from our last camp, at Mile 50.5

Evening clouds

Hooded oriole, at our last camp

Our last morning, with 2 miles to the take-out.

Narrow channel and reeds, Shute Springs, Mile 51

same as above

Mile 51.5

Mile 51.8

The last narrows, Mile 52

Bighorn sheep, nearing Pinal Creek, Mile 52.1

The Hwy 288 bridge, seen through the encroaching reeds, Mile 52.4

We got away from the take-out in mid-morning, and back home (Embudo, New Mexico) before dark, while Flo and Ethan returned to Phoenix and then California. It was another great trip on the Salt – certainly the second most amazing river in Arizona!


It can be assumed that, in the absence of preventative measures, tamarisk, reeds and cat tails will continue to take-over the riparian zone of the Salt River. Tamarisk can be controlled by the Tamarisk beetle, which has been introduced with good results on the Colorado River. I asked the USFS why they hadn’t introduced the beetle on the Salt. Their reply was that they were lobbied by AZ birding groups who saw the tamarisk as desirable habitat for birds. But the beetle will likely arrive on its own, one of these days. Otherwise, I’m guessing that only a massive flood is capable of tearing out the established tamarisk and reed, with the former the tougher of the two.

Posted in 2017, Birding, Environment, Nature, Photography, River-running (USA&Mexico), Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Salt River, AZ , Part 2, March 23-24

We had arrived at one of our favorite lay-over camps – Blackjack Wash. It, too, was over-grown, but still made a great camp. Blackjack Wash, at Mile 31.0,  is located .7 of a mile upstream from Quartzite Falls Rapid – the “power spot” of the Salt River – and one can hike downstream from the camp to, first, obtain a view of the rapid from above and then continue down a wash to the rapid’s edge. Additionally, one often gets the opportunity to watch boats run the rapid from these vantage points.

Campsite at Blackjack Wash, April 2017, upstream view. Compare the amount of foliage in this photo to the one below. Also, in this photo, note the new island just off the river-right shoreline (photo left)

Some of the new foliage now being seen along the river includes the native Gooddings willow. This medium-sized tree is very handsome and (IMHO) a welcome addition to the riparian zone. So … why did the Salt River riparian zone get so over-grown? Some years ago, two very large wildfires burned through a number of Salt River tributary creeks and drainages, laying many thousands of acres bare. From these burned and bare areas, subsequent monsoon rains carried off large amounts of soil, some of which got deposited along the banks of the Salt River. And this new soil (we were told) is given credit for stimulating the growth of vegetation in the riparian zone of the Salt River.

Blackjack Wash, in 2005, with low water and considerably less vegetative cover

Some Blackjack Wash flora.

Desert rosemallow


Arizona fishhook cactus

Feather dahlia

Saguaro and ocotillo.

Brittlebush, saguaro and a blooming purple hedgehog cactus, left of center

Barrel cactus

Some camp and other scenes.

Our camp was generously supplied with liquor

Flo and Ethan, upstream view. Beyond them is seen the first and lowest flatiron in the White Ledges flatiron group of four (which is more fully explained below).

Waves in the flames and the river. Pitchy wood throws black smoke from our campfire, which is contained in a fire pan

All the rock formations here are steeply tilted. These rocks are part of the Yankee Joe Formation, evening downstream view

Titled Yankee Joe slabs across the river, with a peak of the White Ledges to the left, downstream view

Across the river, tilted Yankee Joe slabs below and White Ledges flatirons above

The river has cut through the steeply tilted White Ledges at Blackjack Wash. Continuing downstream, this layer then runs parallel to the river and has been carved into a number of flatiron formations, four of which are positioned across the river from camp. All of #2 and parts of #1 and #3 are seen in the above photo. Below is  flatiron #4, the highest of the group, downstream view. BTW, where have you seen flatirons before? Perhaps The Flatirons at Boulder, CO? – which are formed in sandstone layers. Here is the Wikipedia definition of a flatiron: “Traditionally in geomorphology, a flatiron is a steeply sloping triangular landform created by the differential erosion of a steeply dipping, erosion-resistant layer of rock overlying softer strata. Flatirons have wide bases that form the base of a steep, triangular facet that narrows upward into a point at its summit. The dissection of a hogback by regularly spaced streams often resulted in the formation of a series of flatirons along the strike of the rock layer that formed the hogback. As noted in some, but not all definitions, a number of flatirons are perched upon the slope of a larger mountain with the rock layer forming the flatiron inclined in the same direction as, but often at a steeper angle than the associated mountain slope. The name flatiron refers to their resemblance to an upended, household flatiron.”

Flatiron #4 – the highest of the group seen from camp

Below, ripple-marks on different layers of the Yankee Joe Formation, seen across from camp. Each individual layer, deposited at a different time, and under different conditions from the other layers, shows a different size and orientation of the ripple-marks. BTW, these ripple-marks could be casts of ripple-marks of over-lying layers. I’m not enough of a geologist to be able to say, one way or the other.

Tall saguaro and slabs

Blackjack Creek, in the Yankee Joe Formation

White Ledges peak, upstream of camp.

Looking down at Quartzite Falls Rapid from an overlook on the hike downstream. The White Ledges are again cut through here. The layer then continues to the high point of the ridge opposite and to and through the distant mountain on the left (photo taken on prior trip).

Looking upstream from the same overlook as in the above photo. From right to left,  we first see the White Ledges in the far distance, as the uppermost layer on a mountain ridge, then as a series of flatirons paralleling the river and finally the large flatiron on photo left. We call the slabby face of this flatiron “Waldo Wall”. This is the same face seen on river-right at Quartzite Falls Rapid in the above photo. (photo taken on prior trip).

The end point of the hike are these red-blue-grey quartzite layers that overlook the rapid, with White Ledges boulders opposite ( (photo taken on prior trip)

Some of us watched a group of commercial rafts take an unexpected approach to the rapid, which we imitated the next day when it was our turn, with very satisfactory results. The next post will cover the remainder of the trip.

Here’s the link to the post of Part 1:

Posted in 2017, Nature, Photography, River-running (USA&Mexico), Science, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment