Monday, March 31, 2008

Wildlife at Craggy Wash BLM campsite at Lake Havasu. (video)

I had seen some of his friends earlier back along the road; more of a flat variety. But this one was doing his best imitation of his friends or a stick, but I stopped the truck on this sandy little road with my front bumper right over him. I backed up to take a look – and some pictures.

He still pretended not to notice me, or to convince me that he was a stick, but his forked tongue gave it all away. I took some pictures of him, but worried that if he stayed on this road he might meet the same fate as his cousins, the flat pavement snakes. After all, the road was averaging one vehicle every six hours, including mine. So I got a stick and attempted to pick him up, but he was having none of that and demonstrated that he was very much alive, and adept at speeding across the sand. This little snake was hanging out in the Sheephole Wilderness area, in south eastern California desert, managed by the BLM. After saving his life, I figured the least he could do was to star in one of my videos and pose for some more pictures. So he did.

The previous day, I had found myself completely surrounded by huge numbers of wild creatures. I think I killed a few of them, but survived unscathed by feeding them some of Harley’s left-over food. I had been lying on the ground soaking up some sun, when I looked up and realized that they were all around me, and their ‘den’ was about a foot from my right hand. I think these ants had just emerged when the sun was low enough and the sand had cooled off for them to forage. After that I kept out of their way, and they kept out of mine, but I watched them hauling vast quantities of dandelion-like seeds back home. They really liked the tiny scraps of cat food and promptly hauled them to the entrance, but alas they were too big and completely blocked access. The resulting traffic jam was worse than Calgary at rush hour, but I did not see any of them using cell phones in the traffic. Finally, I intervened and pushed the chunk of food aside so they could continue. Having seen the things they were collecting, I brought a few of the flower heads back for them and they were cleaned up promptly.

Unlike ants back home, these ones had a den with one central entrance in the middle of a cone of sand that they had excavated from within.

I found this area last year when looking for a good campsite, and once again it filled the bill and then some. Awesome 360* desert views, total silence other than jets overhead, and lots of nice hot sun! It was so warm at night that I could leave all the windows open without getting cold at all.

I had left Lake Havasu earlier in the day after having my fill of hot boats and bikinis. Well, I’d seen enough boats anyway! I visited Parker Dam on the way and found there was a procession of boats approaching the dam from Lake Havasu (above),and up the river from Parker (below).

Once west of there, and through California ‘fruit customs’ again, the desert turned fairly bleak for a while, but an amazing array of flowers were evident in various spots along the way. And the desert spot where I camped is more of a sandy desert as compared to the gravel and rock that predominate some areas.

Friday, March 28, 2008

It’s full-on summer here at Lake Havasu. Day time temps are in the high 80’s or 90’s, and this is reflected on the beach and boat scene.

To say that some of the boats here are impressive would be a great understatement. I think some of these boats must cost about the same as a ‘starter castle’, and have about the same area to polish as well.

Sometimes it is difficult to get the camera to focus on the boats.

Many of them spend the time parading down the channel, under the “London bridge”, showing off their chrome, the sound of their huge engines, and showing off the bikinis on board. Some sound about the same as a locomotive starting up a steep grade. Out on the open lake where they can let loose among the water skiers, wake boarders, pontoon boats, and jet-skis, the sound level really goes up a notch. There are lots of isolated areas high above the shore where you can park for the day, but the sounds of nature more closely compare with a busy interstate at rush hour. On the bright side, their fuel consumption each day would be a bit less than a carrier group on manoeuvres. This includes the plane circling overhead all day, towing the advertising signs. Even some of the rigs used to tow these ships are impressive on their own. There was even a full size semi-tractor at the marina with a boat trailer in tow. A sign on it declared that it was an RV, not a commercial rig.

In secluded places there are a few cactuses trying to make a go of it,

and some of the bays of the lake are part of a National Wildlife refuge to give a few of the creatures a little peace – but not quiet!

I visited a marina and found the usual fat ducks that are accustomed to being fed, but these ones were directly competing with fat fish.

I wondered if some of them get bitten by the fish, but I failed to see any one-legged ducks (Garry).

It took me a while to spot the London Bridge, even though all the business and hotels in the area are using it’s name. I finally realized that I had been driving over it every day, but did not recognize it until I got down below on the water. And it was tough to see down there as there were lots of diversions for the eyes.

I would recommend that Crystal Beach not be part of your plans if you hoped to swim or boat.

See pic.

Through it all Harley continues to show his anxiety and stress levels, but he hides it well.

Lake Havasu - London Bridge channel.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I think some of the communities in Arizona have big egos, or big plans!

I drove through a full 8 miles of desert after passing the 'Benson City Limits' sign, and never did see the town as I turned the other way when I reached the interstate. I think Tucson has the record, as it's city limits signs were closely followed by a sign saying 'Tucson 21 miles'. And Parker Az signs are 15 miles out of town! Go figure.
I am usually amused by some very small towns on the coast having a 'city hall', but I found a opposite twist on that one in a place called Huachuca City. On a prominent building was a sign reading 'Huachuca City Town Hall'.

I was visiting down in the Sierra Vista area of south eastern Arizona. Sierra Vista is close to the nearby Coronado National Memorial. And it also bills itself as The Hummingbird Capital of the US. It is also home to the Fort Huachuca U.S. Army Intelligence Center

One prominent feature you will see watching over you in the area is a large white blimp.

'The Tethered Aerostat Radar System is a balloon-borne radar. The primary aerostat mission is to provide radar data in support of other federal agencies involved in the nation's drug interdiction program.'

While in this area I was shown an area with some interesting hands-on history. Not too far out in the desert is the site of ancient habitation, and the ground is littered with pottery shards from these ancient cultures. There is also lots of evidence of arrowhead construction in the area.

From here it was back into Tucson, where I got to visit the Pima Air & Space Museum.

They have on display everything from the world's smallest aircraft, right up so some of the largest - that would haul rocket boosters or the space shuttle. I got to wander through Air Force One - the presidential plane that was used by presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

There was a wide variety of helicopters, jet aircraft, and an SR71 blackbird. I got to crawl around in the bomb bay of a B17G Flying Fortress,

and one of the first Lear Jets.

There must be some of the old west left in Arizona! In Wickenburg, two different guys came in to a business I was in - wearing spurs! It even happened at Camping World in Tucson.

Harley was hanging out as usual, checking out a drawer for excitement when there were no wild prey around.

And it was not because the friendly horses were looking in the truck window to say Hi.

After the museum at Tucson, we cruised north through Phoenix and visited some friends from home in that area. Then it was north west again through Wickenburg, Parker, to Havasu City on Lake Havasu. I think this must be the capitol of boats. Float boats, ski boats, and personal watercraft are everywhere, and the weather is perfect for being out on the water.

Well, I'd better get out there and check it out.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Well, we left Potrero County Park near the border at Tecate and had to go over a 4700' pass before getting down into some of the lower and warmer elevations around El Centro, California.
Here, my truck decided it was time for an oil change, and it was treated to same.

The historical downtown, older sections of El Centro appear too narrow for regular streetlights, so in some areas they are suspended from wires across the street.

There are a couple of interesting bits of interstate highway near the California/Arizona state line at the Colorado river. In one section, winding down out of the mountains, the two lanes of the interstate are about 5 km apart (3 miles), so there are no U-turns here.

In another section just east of Yuma, the lanes cross over, so that the lanes going the other direction are on your right, not your left. Brianna, this does not apply to you in Australia!

This highway is also close to the Mexican border and there is a very obvious presence from the Border patrol, and lots of physical barriers to keep vehicles from crossing the border unlawfully.
One of these is in the sand dunes section of highway west of Yuma.
Some areas of this barricade are even lit by flood lights at night.
There are miles of these triangular barricades chained together along the road side. It looks like a big tower cut down and laid in sections on the ground. There are also a lot of Border patrol checks on small roads as well as the Interstate. These are quite a bit more, shall we say, 'high-tech' than the ones in Mexico run by the army. No burning cans of oil here. Signs galore, rumble strips, observation towers, flashing lights, and enough lights at night to make the space shuttle pull their blinds so they can sleep.

They have trucks and vans and SUV's, buses, quads, you name it.They have portable, elevated observation posts.
This one is in the retracted position on the ground.
At every intersection, or gas station, there is at least one obvious BP vehicle or more.

I think this lady just stopped with a flat tire, but it attracted two Border Patrol vehicles to assist.

In the open areas, they have little shade shelters to park their vehicles under.
And every back road and trail has it's share! Here, I am following one of them through a gate, into a BLM camping area.
But it was a nice and peaceful place to spend a couple of days in the sun.

There had been some rain recently in this area of the desert, and even some snow I heard. The snow and rain were long gone, but the flowers were blooming everywhere.

Next: Off to Tucson, Sierra Vista, and Phoenix?