Backlog: Unapparent changes for November

Updated “A hiker’s journal:  November 2012” with our annual Thanksgiving Day hike on the 22nd along the Hieroglyphic Trail in the Superstitions, the sounds of a hike in North Mountain Park on the 24th and a long hike in that same park on the 28th.


Call someplace Paradise . . .

For years I’ve enjoyed taking brief holidays in LaJolla, that upscale city on the high rocks north of San Diego.   It is a beautiful place, a once desert land of cactus turned into a piece of heaven by man and imported water.

But I read today in the New York Times all is not well in Paradise.   Even if a local resident and former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, may think otherwise.  The rocky area on LaJolla Cove was sealed off from humans some time ago, and now birds and sea lions have apparently taken it over and left their mark.  Primarily that stain in Paradise is bird poop, and the emanating stench is worrying local business owners, particularly those restauranteurs with outdoor tables.

The Times article tells what the city is trying to do for solutions.

It makes me think of the old Eagles’ song, The Last Resort.

“You call someplace Paradise, kiss it good-bye.”

Red-faced in Arizona

Taking a look at the Electoral College map on election night, I was astonished to see a big red state, Arizona, voting overwhelmingly for  Republican Mitt Romney in the middle of a sea of blue Democrat states with similar demographics who all voted for President Obama.

Since an invigorated turnout of Hispanic and blacks is given substantial credit for Obama’s victory, I began to wonder.  What’s going on here?

I checked the demographics one more time using the U.S. Census website.   New Mexico 46.7% Hispanics, 2.5% blacks.  California 38.1 and 6.5.  Arizona 30.1 and 4.5.  Nevada 27.1 and 8.6.  Colorado 20.9 and 4.3.  Only Arizona went to Romney.

By late last week it became increasing clear to some:  Voter suppression had raised its ugly head here in Arizona in a big way.  Of the 1.8 million votes cast, 631,000 were uncounted.  Of those, most were believed to be votes for Democrats by Hispanics and blacks voting for the first time.  The counting as of today, eight days after the election, is ongoing.  Arizona is the last state to tally a final vote.

Of the uncounted almost 343,000 were reported as provisional ballots.  Those  provisional-ballot voters who did not provide “acceptable” identification, must appear at specific locations with required ID by 5 p.m. tomorrow.  Otherwise their vote will not be counted.

Unless courts or the federal government intervenes.

Bee sting tragedy: A sister’s explanation

Hana Elizabeth Ruzsa offers an explanation to Long Row why her brother, Joshua, fell to his death on Camelback Mountain during a bee attack late last month.

Joshua and two companions encountered a swarm of bees while hiking one of the mountain’s more precipitous trails.  Joshua plummeted approximately 150 feet as he tried to climb up to a ridge.   The other two young men hunkered down and survived despite each sustaining what medics said were about 300 stings.

Hana’s words appear below and also in the Comments section.

“I think it is so amazing the number of people writing about my brother on their blogs and such. One thing I did want to mention from the stories his friends have recounted is that Josh was hiking point, saw the swarm of bees and told his friends to hide out in the alcove in Ice Box Canyon. He was trying to lead the bees away from his friends but slipped in the process. The father of one of his friends came to the viewing we had on Friday, November 2nd and told us that if my brother had not sacrificed himself, his son would also be dead. I’m angry and torn up that my brother is gone, but I’m glad that he died in service to his friends.”

Rope-a-doped Romney

One of the most startling moments of the 2012 presidential campaign was the poor showing of President Obama in the First Debate with Mitt Romney.   What happened?  You had to rub your eyes in total wonder.  The smart and charismatic Obama unable to match his wooden and often clueless GOP challenger, Mitt Romney?

Now, a few days after Obama’s surprisingly easy victory, I began putting the pieces together about the First Debate.

First, the Obama campaign by last spring had defined Romney for what he is.   A rich guy with little understanding or care about minorities and women’s rights.   Remember the Democrats’ mantra:  “class warfare” and “the war on women?” The Romney that Hispanics, blacks, Asian Americans and women saw terrified them.

Even then Obama knew he would never win the white-male vote.  The only way he could win the election was to create a sense of urgency among his base and a sense of complacency among his opponents.  To win, he needed a strong voter turnout for Democrats and a weak one for Republicans.

I believe Obama deliberately tanked the First Debate to put fear into the heart of his base, to assure its huge turnout on Election Day.  And turnout that base did!

Rush Limbaugh, the GOP propagandist, based his show yesterday on the weak Republican turnout on Tuesday.  Three million Republicans didn’t vote.

“The numbers,” Limbaugh said, “are stunning.”

Were those three million voters disenchanted with Romney or complacent about his victory?   I think it was a little of both.

I liken the Obama strategy to the great boxer Muhammad Ali’s in his 1974 heavyweight championship victory over George Foreman in that famous “Rumble in the Jungle.”  Ali let Foreman pummel him in the early rounds, sagging against the ropes, then later became more aggressive as Foreman weakened.   It was called Rope-A-Dope.

Romney and the GOP never saw it coming.

The great toe-dragger

As Election Day came to a sudden and decisive end last night, I made a mental note to myself.  I must forego the pain and listen to the great  conservative bloviator Rush Limbaugh in the morning on KFYI.  I was interested in how he would explain to his minions in the GOP precisely why his candidate, Mitt Romney, was unexpectedly crushed by President Obama.

So this morning I streamed Limbaugh’s radio show as I sat at the dining room table contemplating a hearty breakfast.  I must say I’ve never heard Mammoth Mouth so sputteringly angry and rambling, even contradictory, trying to think as he talked, trying to reach some sort of logical face-saving conclusion about the defeat that has left many shocked conservatives on the suicide watch.

It was all very confusing to the listener.

What Limbaugh saw we all saw as well.  Angry Hispanics, blacks and Asians and women turned out to vote in great numbers with other “liberals” to defy and rout the party of old racist white men that ignored if not openly castigated them.

“I don’t deny,” Limbaugh said, “that race is a central factor.”

“We’re out-numbered and losing ground,” Limbaugh said of the new demographic that implies Republicans will be hard-pressed to win future national elections without minorities, particularly the Hispanic vote.

Limbaugh and fellow conservatives see their view, “the traditional American view,” as a vital ideology, while half of America sees it as out-dated, Dark Age and irrelevant here in the 21st Century.

“We have not given up on our principles,” he preached.

“None of it makes sense,” he said exasperated.

And of course he veered into the dirty-tricks land of his own party’s voter suppression and rigged ballot machines, suggesting it was the Democrats who may have pulled off “one of the most outrageous thefts in history.”

Whether Republicans will see the light and became more inclusive remains to be seen.  Many predict a civil war within the GOP, split by the new demographics and those of the Reagan era of 32 years ago which they have so keenly followed up to this point.

The Mammoth Mouth directs his party from a radio mike, but he was unable to say definitively on this day whether he will lead a push toward the middle or farther to the right, where lives the Tea Party, a party seen by many as extremist and out of touch.  Surely the GOP can not stand still in this political climate.

Limbaugh seemed to think a more conservative approach would produce better results.  A caller suggested the GOP needs to face a changing electorate.  “No,” he said adamantly.

Of Romney’s presidential bid, he said, “This was not a conservative campaign.”

I had expected more from Limbaugh.  I suppose it will take time for Republicans to digest their defeat, lick their wounds and push on, be it north or south.

“It’s difficult to accept,” Limbaugh said.

For listeners like me it was a startling revelation.  There was apparently no Plan B.

A hiker’s diary: November 2012

Last entry first.

November 30, Friday:  Phoenix Mountains Preserve, Quartz Ridge Trail.  See “A quiet urban trail into a distant past,” December 3, 2012.

November 28, Wednesday:  North Mountain Park, inner basin.  It is easy to size your trail out here to the time you have allotted.  With so many trails that cross, you can do a medium hike of 45 minutes or two hours or more.  Today I traversed one of the longest hikes.  I went out from the Visitors Center to “Southwest Dam” and back via “North Dam.”  I ambled along playing hide-and-peek with coveys of Gambel’s quail, covering an estimated four miles in two hours.  Surprised to see so few out here in that time.  It was a warm afternoon, the sun veiled at times by scattered cirrus.  I counted 16 hikers, seven bikers and three joggers.

November 24, Saturday:  North Mountain Park, inner basin.  There are moments out here on the trail that you can almost forget you are in an urban park surrounded by a population of nearly 4.2 million.  Almost forget.  This is no wilderness area.  You are never really alone even when you don’t see a single soul.  You hear the sounds.  A human voice travels a long way here in the basin between the two highest points, Shaw Butte in the northwest and North Mountain on the southeast.  Just for kicks I tried today to see if I could tell whether voices were in front of behind me.  In two tries, I got only one right.  There are also the steady crunch of a bicycle and the staccato steps of the jogger.  Domestic dogs bark from homes on the perimeter and most of all there are the hums or airplanes patterning in for landings at Sky Harbor and the chop-chop of emergency and TV news helicopters.  That said, I find the hour or two I might spend in a day out here in the midst of suburbia well worth the effort.

November 22, Thursday:  Superstition Mountains, Hieroglyphic Trail.  Our annual Thanksgiving Day hike.  Nebra’s sister, Sue, came with us.  It is bright and warm and, after negotiating the maze of roads through rustic Goldfield, we reach the huge paved parking lot, surprised to see only a dozen other vehicles.  I hiked this trail for the first time on March 9.  It is a first for Nebra.  As for Sue, she hasn’t hiked at all for many years.  The trail leads out 1 1/2 miles to some boulders at the start of a long, high canyon where centuries-old petroglyphs appear above a waterfall area.   I was looking for an easy hike for Sue and a destination that might be interesting to her, and where we could spread out our Thanksgiving meal of sandwiches on one of the large, flat boulders.  We went out only a mile before turning back.  The trail has little shade and the air grew hot.  Later, we wended our way back by car to Old Dutchman State Park and had our Thanksgiving under a ramada but didn’t hike.

November 16, Friday:  Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Palm Canyon Trail.  Before leaving for the coast and Carlsbad, CA, we hiked up this trail.  But before we even got onto the trail, a surprise awaited.

Borrego Valley stretches out toward Indianhead Mountain.

November 15, Thursday:  Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Panorama Overlook Trail.  After driving 317 miles yesterday from Phoenix to this, California’s largest state park, Nebra and I finally climb up the half mile to this overlook trail to look at the flat Borrego Valley.  Make no mistake, this is a big park.  About 650,000 acres, equal to 50 miles by 20 miles.   And of course we can not begin to see it all from the Panorama Overlook.   The trail begins in a far corner of the southern part of the Palm Canyon Campground.  This will mark our second night camped out here in a small dome tent.  Last night we were the only campers in the 37 sites that dot the paved oval.  Today we were joined by an RV several sites to the south.  Suppose it didn’t arrive by itself but I’ve seen nary a human yet.   The park surrounds the little town of Borrego Springs, which is about 2 1/2 miles to the southeast.  It is nearly dusk when we start out cross-country for the first 100 yards or so, then begin a series of short switchbacks up and up and up.  At one of the turns we run into an older couple with a dog on a leash, a beautiful female Akita.  Everytime I see an Akita I think of the O.J. Simpson trial.  It was Simpson’s Akita, Kato, whose howling awakened neighbors to the murders of Simpson’s wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman.  Anyway, leashed or not, the owners have committed a no-no.  Dogs are not allowed on the park’s dirt trails.

At the level top of the Outlook, I look out to a wide sea of gray dotted by green.  Sand and the almost white indigo and burro bushes supply the gray, and creosote the green.  Below, the eye follows the concrete sidewalk that crosses in .6 of a mile the desert from the campground to the park’s attractive and informative Visitors Center.  It is almost dark when we get back to our campsite to begin preparing supper under a mostly cloudy and cool sky.  Temps reached 80 F. today and a low of 55 is forecast for later tonight.  Tomorrow we plan to hike up Palm Canyon to look for the endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep.  A park ranger told us the canyon would offer our best chance.

November 13, Tuesday:  North Mountain Park, inner basin.  A beautiful day.  Lots of hikers, bikers and joggers.  And Gambel’s quail.  Don’t think I’ve seen a larger covey than the 18 birds that crossed in front of me near the Visitors Center.  Also saw another covey, this of 11 with at least two more making sounds in the bush, near the Trupiano bench.  Altogether 32 quail moving about.  Did over 2 miles in the eastern part via the north dam.

November 11, Sunday:  South Mountain Park, National Trail.  Did segments #2 and #3 of this 15.5 mile trail with Nebra on a sunny but cool afternoon.  We started with an 11-mile shuttle, leaving Nebra’s Prius at the Mormon Trail parking lot and taking my Civic west up to Telegraph Pass and parking along the paved Summit Road with three other cars.  At about 5 miles in length, this is the longest part of the National I’ll do at one time.  Leaving Telegraph Pass, the trail snakes above the highway for about a mile before rising gently up toward the park’s highest point, Mount Suppoa at 2,700 feet, with grand views of Phoenix about 1,500 feet below.   If you like solitude this is it.  We met only a biker and two hikers in the first 3 1/4 miles, until the small Buena Vista lookout, the end of what I call Segment #3.  The National climbs to within a 100 feet or so of elevation from Suppoa’s summit.  Beautiful it is not.  The mountain is covered with antennae.  Liu writes in “60 Hikes” that he has heard workers can not stay up here for more than a few hours at a time due to the transmission power.  Shortly after passing the curious Chinese Wall, a line of frozen lava, I stop for lunch, a Subway turkey and ham, just below the Buena Vista parking lot while Nebra walks out to a high point and a bench with even grander views of Phoenix and the Salt River Valley.  My Segment #2 starts here and ends an estimated 1.8 miles later at the west end of Hidden Valley.  I thought this rugged and hilly downward segment would traverse a no man’s land.  I was wrong.  This segment seems to be a mountain biker’s heaven.  In the short distance of rough terrain we passed no fewer than 16 bikers bouncing along, some at high speed.  Near Buena Vista the trail is so rocky and rough, one biker portaged his two-wheeler up for almost a quartermile of steep, boulder-strewn slope.  Not far from Hidden Valley, the trail drops down a rocky 10-12 feet that only some of the most daring and experienced bikers will try to negotiate.  A middle-age biker riding by himself told us this is the most dangerous biking area along this trail.  Not too scary but tantalyzing.   He once fell here and nearly broke his leg, he said, and has seen several bikers lying about , their faces bloodied.  The best technique, he said, is counter-intuitive.  Do it swiftly, not too slow.  Shadows are long by the time we veer off the National and head back to the Prius on the extremely rocky Mormon Trail.  No bikers here.  I’m glad to get this hike over with.  Only one more segment of six to go, #5 from west of Goat Hill down to the San Juan Road.  Overall, we did about 7 miles today, and I’m feeling it.

November 2, Friday:  South Mountain Park, National Trail.  It is evident now that I will not be able to do all of Charles Liu’s “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Phoenix” in a year.  After waiting for summer’s heat to burn out, I have done only 25 with 8 weeks to go.  That is troubling math for all but the most dedicated hikers.   I could do it, I suppose, if I didn’t have so much other stuff I want to do.  Like an upcoming week-long trip to California.  Anyway I got back to knocking off a few more hikes with an afternoon jaunt up a segment of the long National Trail in the mountain chain that runs east and west along Phoenix’s south side.  The National at 15.5 miles covers the length of South Mountain Park, but I have chosen to do it in roughly six or seven segments.  I had already done the last and middle segments, and today I did the “first” segment hiking 2.6 miles coming up from the east at Pima Canyon to the sign post at Hidden Valley.  The trailhead rests amid heavy development.  The Pointe Resort golf course on one side, the massive “village” of Ahwatukee, with a population of almost 80,000, on the other.  After walking a rather flat jeep road for the first mile or so, you escape into a lightly traveled zone of scenic hills and a narrow trail.  Unless you fantasize over large boulders, there is nothing remarkable.  At the junction with the Hidden Valley Trail, I move ahead onto familiar ground.  Months ago I had done Hidden Valley and Fat Man’s Pass, hiking up on the Mormon Trail from the north.  At the top of a rise with a splendid view of  downtown Phoenix in the northwest, I turn off onto the Mormon Loop Trail which takes you back to the National Trail and the jeep road in Pima Canyon.  I stop several times along this loop to shoot photos and to jot down notes.  If there are desert plants that can’t be found along the Loop, I can’t think of many.  I noted bersage, small-leaf palo verde, brittlebush, ocotillo, saguaro, chain and teddy bear and buckhorn cholla, clumps of hedgehog cactus,  red compass barrell, creosote and a few bushes of what I thought were Mormon tea.  It was near dusk when I finished the Loop, and after back-tracking from the deep sand of Pima Wash, I reached the trailhead again shortly after 5:30.  The parking lots were still full and numerous young people, most of them traveling alone, were heading out on the jeep road to get their exercise in.   It was the end of another beautiful desert afternoon, clear sky and temps in the low 80s.  I may not reach the quantitative goal I set for myself but the quality of my hikes has been way up there.