Thursday, December 31, 2009


As the sun sets on the month and the year, I am posting this photo of one of the sunsets we have enjoyed through the windshield of our coach here in our site at Buckskin Mountain State Park. It has been a good month for us here in Arizona, and we wish for everyone a successful finish of 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Birds of the Neighborhood

This is a Phainopepla, one of the birds we see daily in our corner of the park here at Buckskin Mountain State Park. Actually there are a number of birds we see on a daily basis, the most numerous and most vocal are the Great-tailed Grackles as they search the campsites for tidbits. The busiest and brightest bird would be a Vermilion Flycatcher that flitters out after insects all day long. Keeping a lower profile is another flycatcher a Black Phoebe. Possibly the prettiest are a pair of Gila Woodpeckers. And by evening a number of Eurasian Collared Doves roost in our Ficus trees.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Greening of the Desert

In the month that we have been here in Arizona there have only been a couple of days with rain, but evidently it has been enough to encourage new life. Shown here are the new green leaves unfurling on a Brittlebush. Everyday I notice a little more greening as more leaves appear and give a green appearance to the dead looking Brittlebush. Soon it will appear as a green mound in the desert instead of a pale dead looking pile of sticks.

Monday, December 28, 2009


When I head up the trail each morning, I usually take a shovel with me. I use it to make improvements along the trail to water bars and culverts, but I get asked the darndest questions. Here are a few: “What are you digging for?” “Are you actually mining?” and “What are you mining for?” This one on my return trip ---“Did you bury a body up there?” And my favorite - - -“What is so special about that shovel that you carry it everywhere?”

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gila Woodpecker

This male Gila Woodpecker, with his red Christmas cap, just snatched a fig from the Ficus tree in our site. Jeanette suggested that perhaps he has some figgy pudding in mind. ---- Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


We have had a couple of cold days with some rain and wind and daytime tempatures down in the fifties. Buster likes it a little warmer and enjoys being wrapped up in his blanky.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wild Burros

Last night as we were sitting down to dinner Jeanette noticed what she thought might be burros across the river. We grabbed our binoculars and sure enough there across the river on top of a ridge silhouetted against the sky were at least three wild burros. We knew they existed over there because a couple of weeks ago when we were exploring that side of the river, at Quail Hollow a BLM day-use park, we saw lots of hoof prints, trails, and manure. The burros are left over from earlier mining days, they now hide out and roam wild in the canyons and washes here along the Colorado River. Unfortunately, because of the distance and the fading light, I was not able to get a good enough photo last night to post.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Black-throated Sparrow

I took this photo of a shy Black-throated Sparrow this morning, appearing to try and hide behind a rock. Every morning I take my camera with me to work on the trails. I justify taking some time to take some photos in that come next month I will be leading nature hikes and will need to know what I’m talking about. Since leaving Elkton last month, I have now added 10 more birds to Cascade Ramblings, 6 of which have been here in Buckskin Mountain State Park.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Step Replacemnt

Yesterday I replaced a rotting step in the Lightning Bolt Trail. It developed into an all morning project by the time I found a replacement timber, rounded up a chain saw to cut it to the right length, got the chain saw running, found a drill and then a half inch bit to drill the timber to take the haft inch rebar, find some rebar. Then I had to lug everything up the trail, remove the rotting step, dig out the replacement area, and use a sledge to pound the rebar into place. I know it sounds boring, but I find it very rewarding. Shown here are the before (above), and after (below) pictures. Find out more about the Lightning Bolt Trail by clicking on the highlighted name.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day off to Explore

Today was a day-off for us, and Jeanette and I went exploring on the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, which is only five or so miles north of us here at Buckskin Mountain State Park. Look for more photos and information in the Trip Journal of Cascade Ramblings soon.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Interpretive Signs Complete

With the installation yesterday of the #7 Brittlebush sign I now have all 10 interpretive signs in their proper place along the Buckskin Trail. This was the last sign to be put in place and it has an interesting story. A couple of the other signs had to be moved to correct locations, but the Brittlebush sign was completely missing. Digging around in one of the maintenance shops day before yesterday looking for a drill, I spied this sign sitting back in a corner. It read “Brittlebrush”, notice the “r”. Now we do have a plant called Bitterbrush on the eastside of the Cascades in Oregon, but this plant in the desert is Brittlebush. My best guess is that someone misspelled in when it was made. Now, imagine ME correcting someone else’s spelling!! Possibly a first.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Warm Temperatures

Most nights the temperatures here at Buckskin Mountain State Park drop to the forties or fifties, but this morning when we woke up it was sixty-one degrees outside! We continue to feel that we made the right decision to come south to Arizona earlier than usual this winter, particularly in light of the extremely cold weather that is happening back in Oregon. Here in the mornings we run the heaters a little to take off the chill, but once the sun comes out, the warmth streams through the windows, and by the middle of the day we have to open all the windows to keep the temperatures down in the coach.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Buckskin Trail

My goal for the day was to work on replacing a culvert on the Buckskin Trail. The original culvert was only two feet in length and too short for the trail. Some one had tried to “make do” by covering over with boards, a metal sign, and 2x4s. I pried it all apart, cleaned out the trench and installed a three-foot replacement. All materials and tools have to be packed in on foot. I think its fun! Jeanette and Buster hiked up before lunch, so Jeanette was able to take the photo.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Trail Work

After two days off to get caught up on laundry, groceries, and some sightseeing, it was back to work this morning. I was anxious to check out the trails to see how they had done after our rainstorm on Monday night. So far this year they have only had three inches of rain, and one inch of that fell in Monday night’s storm. I hiked all four trails this morning and found everything intact. I had spent the previous days before the storm fixing all the water bars and the whole system seems to have done its job. I also took along my GPS this morning to check some elevations and found out when I do all four trails I have almost 1,100 feet of climb

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Escaping the Cold

Our method for escaping the cold of winter by traveling south to Arizona has been definitely validated the last few days with the reports of the extreme cold back in Oregon. With all the sub-freezing weather up there our sympathy goes out to our family and friends.

Our method for further escaping the cold of the early morning 40s here in the park is to stay in the coach until the sun warms up the outside to 50 – 60 degrees. This is the view through the front windshield of our coach of the morning sun hitting the cliffs across the Colorado River from our campsite.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Week

Today marks the end of our first week of work in our volunteer positions at Buckskin Mountain State Park. I’ve hiked the trails for six straight mornings, and to tell the truth, my butt is starting to drag a little, which is a dangerous position in this land of sharp rocks and cacti! I’m not actually complaining. I’ve loved it. In fact each morning it has been hard to wait for daylight to get out on the trail. I only have to walk about two hundred yards from our doorstep to the trailhead. With shovel in hand I head out to clear water bars and look for erosion trouble spots. I’ve also kept an eye out for plant interpretive signs. Some are placed with the wrong plant (trail gremlins), some are placed where there is no plant, and some are just plain missing. We have a total of four trails in our system here and it’s been an enjoyable experience to hike their routes and come to understand the area better.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


This weekend a large group is camping here at Buckskin Mountain State Park with retro vehicles and trailers. Shown checking in at the Registration Station is a beautiful custom 1951 Ford pickup and teardrop trailer.

Here is Jeanette working her shift at the window of the Registration Station. Her hours are either 9:00 to 1:00 if she works in the morning, or 12:30 to 4:30 if she works in the afternoon. She likes these hours because if she works in the morning, hubby will have lunch ready for her, or if she works in the afternoon, hubby will be fixing dinner for her. Hubby works from 8:00 to 12:00.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Day

Yesterday was our first day at “work” here in our role as Volunteers at Buckskin Mountain State Park. Jeanette trained for her job in the registration office. I went with the head Ranger to hike the trails to assess what needs to be done in my job of trail maintenance. At the end of the morning (we work four hours a day five days a week), Jeanette and I met back at the motor home for lunch. We were both excited to share how happy we were with our first day. She has lots to learn about reservations, passes, and fees. I will have lots of work to do with trail and plant identification signs and erosion control with water bars. It seems like such a good match for both of us, and we’re feeling very fortunate to have this opportunity at this park.

This is a photo of our digs. You can click on the photo for a larger size.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Satallite at Last!

This morning, Jeanette got to watch the morning news in her pajamas, drinking her coffee, with Buster on her lap. --- Eight o’clock last night we paid a satellite specialist to help us find the correct satellite. That was not the end however; Jeanette then had to spend the next hour on the phone pleading with DirectTV to flip the switch to give us Arizona TV. Thumbs up to Frank from Satellite Specialties for fitting us into his busy schedule. (I’ll be buying a signal meter like Frank’s soon). Thumbs down to DirectTV for customer service that became a four day marathon nightmare.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Trail Scouting

Yesterday morning we spent a couple of hours scouting out two of the four hiking trails I will be working on in my volunteering position here at Buckskin Mountain State Park. I don’t officially start work until Friday, but I was anxious to get a preliminary look at the trails. Looks like some of the interpretive signs need to be, repaired, replaced or moved. Also some work on water bars. No brush to trim here mostly concerns with erosion, hence the importance of water bars. They have an outstanding trail system already in place. My job, as I see it right now will just to keep it maintained. I’ll be hiking it with the head Ranger soon and will have a more detailed idea what he has in mind.

On the domestic front ----- yesterday was the third day without DirectTV Satellite Service----aaaa---stay tuned.