Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Close Encounter of the Frog Kind

Last night was a rainy, cool desert evening. I was relaxing watching the Democratic Convention on TV while Case was playing/working with his computer. I frequently leave the patio door cracked open so Jack, our cat, can go out to the patio. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I noticed movement, but I decided it was just Jack's tail twitching from behind the coffee table. That's when Case walked back into the room, caught sight of something, too, and announced, "There 's a frog in here!"
The poor little guy must have been terrified upon being discovered and dove for cover under the entertainment center with Case dogging his webbed footprints flashlight in hand. Hillary was completely forgotten (don't tell her that!) as the frog stole center stage.
Somehow, Case coxed the little guy out, no doubt informing him that he'd just entered the territory of Jack the Cat and his little life could be in danger.
We carried him out to the patio, and pulled the screen door shut. He could maybe spend the night on the patio out of the rain but out of Jack's reach, or just hop back out into the wet.
We're not sure what he ended up deciding, but he wasn't out there this morning, and Jack still seemed hungry at breakfast...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dripping Springs, Las Cruces, New Mexico

This has to be one of the greenest deserts in the world! As I write this, it is raining again (the locals call summer the "monsoon season"), and even the BLM "Natural Area" behind town is called "Dripping Springs". The last time we tried to visit there, it was too rainy, so this Saturday we made a return trip.Dripping Springs sits at the base of the Organ Mountains, which form a striking backdrop to the town of Las Cruces. Around the turn of the century, a stagecoach service carried visitors the 17 miles from town into this resort area.
It's about a mile and a half stroll up the valley from the visitors' center to the spring and other attractions.Some take the slow & steady approach to the trek...
...while others of us chose to rest along the way.
Cacti along the path were in bloom, as were a variety of wildflowers. On reviewing my photos back at home, I discovered an unnoticed addition -- a bug is posing in the picture above. Can you see it? Click on the photo to see it full size or... is the same photo magnified...
...and magnified again.
We haven't said much about our new camera since mentioning that the old one was dying during our visit to Carlsbad Caverns. But this serves as an apt illustration of its capabilities. Ten megapixels provides about all the detail I can imagine us needing!
Thanks to our recent rains, "Dripping Springs" was more like "Cascading Springs". (This picture is easier to interpret in large format -- just click on it.) Near the springs stand the ruins of the Van Patten Mountain Camp, turn-of-the-century resort to which the stagecoach would carry visitors. It's amazing, when I think about it, that they would travel 17 miles by stage to stay a weekend or a week, while we drove up and hiked in on an afternoon jaunt. Life moves faster now. Approaching the springs, we saw the hotel outbuildings where horses, hens, & cow were stabled and the garden planted. With town being a half day (I suppose) stagecoach trip away, a hotel manager in those days had to provide his own dairy and grocery service, I suppose.
Not far away, we saw the remains of a later structure (1910), Boyd's Sanitarium. Dr. Boyd, a physician turned engineer, built this facility for patients with tuberculosis, one of whom was his wife. It seems, however, that Dr. Boyd didn't take into account the fact that patients whose lungs are full of tuberculosis don't breathe so well at 6500 feet altitude (Las Cruces is 2000' lower), and the facility was eventually closed.
An agreeable afternoon having been spent surrounded by history, mountains, water, and the green desert, we back ambled to the visitor's center and thence home.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Flying Visits in California

This weekend, we made a flying -- and I mean flying -- visit to California. It was almost too rushed to take photos, but we have a few. On Wednesday afternoon after work, Case loaded the plane and flew from Las Cruces to San Bernardino, where Jolene met him. (She had worked at home in Fullerton that weekend.) Then we backtracked to Palm Springs where we checked into a hotel, getting up early the next morning for a job interview.

After a full day of interviews, we hopped into the plane again at about 6:00 p.m., climbed up out of the desert heat, and flew to the Napa Valley. Getting in at about 9:45 p.m., we drove to the Vineyard Country Inn in St. Helena, slept, and then got up for another job interview on Friday morning.

The Vinard Country Inn, by the way, is worth the visit. It's all vine-covered Victorian architecture, slate roofs, English gardens, & comfy suites with king beds and fireplaces.
The Napa Valley was a treat, especially since this time the interviews didn't last all day. We had some time to bum around and have a good meal at the Rutherford Grill -- also recommended.

It's a rather pricey area, though. In the morning, while Case was in interviews, Jolene toured with a realtor. She looked at all the houses in St. Helena that we might be able to afford ... both of them, in fact!

After a second night at the Inn, we took off midday for the short hop over to Sacramento, where we spent the evening with Jolene's family. And then on Sunday, we had to fly the 6 hours back to Las Cruces for work on Monday.

Case decided to take the direct route over the desert and Grand Canyon -- the North & South Rims are faintly visible in the photo below, taken through the plane's window-tinting.Case was surprised to find his planned route across Grand Canyon blocked by a "TFR" (temporary flight restriction). The note linked it to a "search and rescue effort"; we later found out it was the one caused by the Havasu flash floods. A slight diversion took us across at another FAA-approoved Canyon crossing, wedged between the minimum altitude required to protect the Canyon's residents and back-country hikers from the noise of flight-seers and the cloud layer above.
After a fuel stop in Flagstaff, Arizona -- also worth a visit, according to our brief inspection -- we buzzed over the "First Proved, Best-Preserved Meteorite Crater On Earth" (click the photo for an expanded view). A short time later, the controller gave us direct routing to Las Cruces (ordinarily, we'd have had to fly to Albuquerque and then south), so we arrived back as the moon rose over the eastern peaks.

It was a lot of flying, a lot of talking, and not much time to think, but we managed to squeeze in two interviews, a mini-vacation in the Napa Valley, and a visit to family without missing too much work. If at least one of the two interviews bears fruit, it was worth it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sky & Weather, Las Cruces, New Mexico

The Las Cruces skyscape is endlessly fascinating. And the weather isn't always what you'd expect.
Not long ago, the weekend after a hurricane blew into Texas from the Gulf, we tried to take an outing to a park at the foot of the Organ Mountains about 15 miles out of town.
The park is called "Dripping Springs", but this day, with the combination of the desert "monsoon season" and the vestiges of the hurricane, it might have been "Drenching Springs".
A photo through mist & rain worthy of Alaska was about all we managed...
... before we headed back to town.In better weather, the sky is still full of interest.
While our photos might not be up to "Arizona Highways" magazine standards, the sunsets we've tried to capture certainly are. (Try clicking on the photos for the full effect...)