Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winterhaven Christmas

When you move to Arizona from a climate with snow, the first Christmas is hard. Outside looks basically like it does in August, but with a few fall leaves here and there. It's sweater weather. Once you've been here for a while, you start to enjoy the traditions that mark Christmas in the desert. Our favorite Arizona Christmas tradition we've acquired is visiting the Winterhaven neighborhood in Tucson. The residents of Winterhaven have been putting putting on an elaborate lights display since 1949. It's called the Winterhaven Festival of Lights. You can read the history of that tradition here. Here's some pictures we took this year.
winterhaven 1
tree net lights
bright house
erin and cait
multicolor tree

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wolves in Trouble

Macho B must be rolling in his grave...er...on his taxidermy mount. Who is Macho B you ask? Macho B was the last known jaguar in the United States. In 2009 scientists from AZFGD intentionally captured Macho B in a cruel leg snare. When it took the jaguar a while to adjust to its new radio collar, the AZ Fish and Genius Department mistook this readjustment for distress. AZFGD recaptured him, shipped him to Phoenix and euthanized him.

The event gained some media attention, but AZFGD just let some low-level workers get crucified for it and resumed making terrible, terrible ecological decisions. Now, AZFGD have like minded people in Washington, including that joke of an Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who, for whatever reason, feels it necessary to try to undo decades of conservation efforts and remove gray wolves from the endangered species list. If you grew up in the 1980's and 1990's, you'll remember how there were no wolves in the lower 48 states when we were young and what an amazing success story their recovery has been. Until now.

The Endangered Species Act requires that decisions to de-list species be made in view of scientific evidence. Now congress wants to de-list gray wolves. Congress is full of idiots, not zoologists, ecologists or biologists, so their qualifications to make such a decision are, well, nonexistent. Only their elevated sense of self-importance could explain why they would meddle with wolf conservation...or their transparent desire to gain votes at all costs. Either way, they are not qualified to decide what happens to wolves. Furthermore, allowing congress to determine the fates of native species sets a dangerous precedent and it must be stopped. You can contact the White House, voice your concern, and talk shit on Salazar here.

This is the wording of the congressional legislation:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law (including regulations), the inclusion of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) (including any gray wolf designated as "non-essential experimental") on any list of endangered species or threatened species under section 4(c) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 ... shall have no force or effect."

See how it goes around the need for scientific evidence? It doesn't say they're off the list, just that the wolves' position on the list "shall have no force or effect." Evidence of both cowardice and duplicity.
Here in Arizona, the situation for wolves is particularly dire. Mexican wolves, a subspecies of the gray wolf, have only recently been reintroduced in the southwest. Fewer than 50 wolves remain in the wild. Yet, the worthless clowns making decisions over at AZGFD support the delisting of the gray wolf! You can read their convoluted, short, contradictory, shitsmear of an official statement here. It's not even well-written. 

So what can we do? The immature, but oh-so-gratifying, thing to do is to go to the AZFGD Facebook page and voice your disgust over their support for delisting wolves. The mature, responsible thing to do is to write your legislators and tell them not to delist wolves or put the power to decide which species deserve protection in the hands of politicians. You can find your congressman or congresswoman here or your senator here.
Lobos of the Southwest (mexicanwolves.org) are the leading champions for the conservation of Mexican wolves and their website has a full toolbox of options to help concerned nature lovers help defend our wild canine neighbors. If you sign up for their e-mail list, they really only send emails when urgent action is needed, not whenever the intern is bored like some other organizations. Or you could make a blog post to raise awareness of the imminent threat to wolves throughout the country. Just sayin'...

Update 12/8/2010: AZFGD released another press release yesterday reaffirming their commitment to wolf conservation. You can read it here. If you read MOCS1986, or scan it, you'll realize that I'm not a Negative Nancy; I'm not a political griper and don't have an axe to grind with AZFGD. I would like nothing more than to believe that AZFGD is both committed to wolf conservation and capable of protecting wolves. However, as this second, equally vague and ill-explained press release indicates, AZFGD is already going about this in the wrong way. There are too many unanswered questions that anybody with an established plan would not leave open. Why is removing ESA protection for wolves a way to better protect them? Frankly, I'm not buying the idea that removing the Feds from this will make AZFGD nimbler or more effective stewards of wolves; I suspect the real reason AZFGD supports delisting wolves is in the press release's subtext - it will save money.  Secondly, AZFGD does not have a great track record with animal conservation. Certainly, neither does the federal government, but, at the risk of invoking the same ghost too many times, the way AZFGD handled the very recent Macho B situation does not suggest that they have the capabilities to manage wildlife effectively, particularly not big carnivores. Finally, federal protection incorporates a group into this scenario that is more disinterested in the AZ economy than AZFGD and, therefore, less likely to be influenced by ranchers, hunters, or others who want to kill wolves.

It really blows my mind when Terry Johnson states, "Continuous litigation on wildlife conservation efforts, including wolves, has left wildlife management decisions to the judiciary instead of with the experts – the natural resources agencies." He is supporting de-listing wolves by an act of congress, an unprecedented act that further removes the influence of experts. This is not about returning decision making to experts. Quite the opposite.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Terry Eiler's Documerica - Arizona, 1972

Early in the summer of 1972, photographer Terry Eiler traveled to Arizona to photograph on the Hopi and Navajo reservations as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's "Documerica" program. If you're not familiar with Documerica, it was a government funded photography program that ran from 1972 until 1977. The goal was to "capture images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life in the 1970s." The program was eventually discontinued because the government thought it was a flimsy way to spend EPA money. Still, the photographs are wonderful, in the public domain, and available on Flickr. Here are a few samples from Eiler's Arizona set, but I suggest looking at more of his photos and photos from other Documerica photographers and locations here.
Havasu Falls, Near Supai in Grand Canyon National Park
A Navajo Community
Navaho Father and Children
Old Cars Serve as Water-Break on Navajo Reservation
Arizona - Near Page
Herd of Sheep
Northeastern Arizona

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rhyolite Canyon

I found this guided walking tour pamphlet at a bookstore in Tucson. Published by the Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, it is designed to accompany wanderers through Rhyolite Canyon. Rhyolite Canyon is part of Chiricahua National Monument, more famous for the spectacular hoodoos clustered in the Heart of Rocks
I picked up the pamphlet for the illustrations. They're beautiful depictions of birds and plants by Lawrence Ormsby, a talented illustrator from Marana, AZ (just outside Tucson) who's illustrated many books on animals. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Objectsphere - (Rad Shit, Recently Obtained)

I've been one busy dude. End of the semester blues. The harried life of a grad student/instructor. So I haven't had time to post much lately. No time for adventures. Instead, I offer some things I've obtained more or less recently for your appreciation. Pictured above we have a cabin incense burner and accompanying balsam fir incense sticks, both by Paine's Products. These were a gift from my in-laws for our anniversary. It's awesome. You light the incense on the inside and the smoke comes out the chimney. It smells like a campfire. Leaning on the cabin is a porcupine quill. I found it on the floor in Gem World in Quartzite, Arizona. I thought it was garbage, but they charged me $1.50 for it at the counter. That was an unusual place. Finally, we have my glasses. I bought these a year ago at Catalina Optical in Tucson. I told them I'd post about it because they gave me a deal, then I forgot. I'm making good on it now. It's a great place that doesn't charge too much (very helpful when you don't have vision insurance) and they have a huge collection of vintage frames. The vintage frames are awesome and wicked cheap. I bought two pairs, but I put the other pair down while taking a photo at the Oak Creek Overlook near Sedona and somebody picked them up. I miss those glasses. They were great. These are cool too. They're pretty old, probably 1960's.
sabbath vol 4
I got Black Sabbath Vol. 4 on vinyl at Bookman's in Marana. It's the out-of-the-way Bookman's, so the records aren't all picked over. Usually all that's left at Bookman's (and most other used record stores for that matter) are lots of Englebert Humperdink, Barry Manilow, Men at Work, and Pure Prairie League.Don't even get me started on the mammoth loads of Bing Crosby Christmas records at Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Not only do I not want them, they also remind me that I'm buying clothes that belonged to old men who have passed away. I try not to think about that.
I got lots of books! From left to right: Law and Authority in Early Massachusetts by George Lee Haskins, The Democratization of American Christianity By Nathan O. Hatch, The Transformation of American Law 1780-1860 by Morton J. Horwitz, Hanging Between Heaven and Earth by Scott D. Seay, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman by Carol F. Carlsen, Underwriting: The Poetics of Insurance in America 1722-1872 by Eric Wertheimer, a Forest Service Map of Tonto National Forest, and The Puritan Family by Edmund S. Morgan. I've read Carlsen, Morgan, and Seay's books so far. Interesting stuff. Eric Wertheimer is the chair of my Ph.D. committee. He puts up with listening to me talk about all the stuff I read in these sorts of books and helps me make something out of it. He's a talented poet, too.
clothes copy
I got these moccasins at Payless of all places. Not exactly the pinnacle of fine footwear, but vegans take note - many of their shoes are all man-made material and not leather. The flannel is an old one from L.L. Bean I found at Buffalo Exchange in Phoenix. I got the vest at Sunset Clothing Exchange in Tempe, AZ.

ll bean

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ghost Town Mine, AZ

On Halloween weekend, me and Erin and our friend Katie had the opportunity to visit one of Arizona's best preserved mine sites/ghost town. I found the site in a book and did some research online to find out more information. Through the ghosttowns.com forums I learned that this particular mine was on private property and that trespassers were particularly unwelcome. A little more searching and I contacted the owners and set up a time to visit the mine.

I never used to have an aversion to trespassing. If I visited a place that was privately owned, I'd only take pictures and I would never, never, never sue anyone for a risk I willing took upon myself. Still, as I get older I find worrying about getting caught really stressful and it's disrespectful to go onto someone's private property (though I don't feel the same about trespassing on public property - public means public). This time around, I'm really happy that I contacted the owner, as he not only gave us permission to visit the mine, he personally escorted us there and gave us a tour full of great stories and historical facts. Though the mine site is in several ghost town books and online, I've decided not to reveal the site name or owner's name here. This site is his childhood home, his family is buried there, and he's made some very nice improvements to one of the buildings so he can spend his time out there in his own personal, quiet, solitary spot in the desert hills. He did us a big favor and he seemed happy to do it, but I didn't get the impression that he was ready to share it with many people. So, here I'll refer to him as "T" and I'll retell some of the stories T shared with us.
Today this shack wears it's struggle against the elements proudly, but time's been hard on it. The desert is a really harsh place. Between the sun, the torrential rain and hail storms, pack rats and other industrious animals, and, at the mine's elevation, snow, desert structures require considerable maintenance. Older photos of the mine that I've seen online and that T showed us featured several more buildings.

T grew up in this house and he told us about how his mother had a piano brought way out there. It must have been amazing to hear the piano echoing in the desert hills. The mine opened in the late 19th century. T's family acquired it in the early 1900's and it remained open until the 1970's. It's a shaft mine that produced a lot of copper and silver. You can see machinery from the mine at the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum.  T donates the cool stuff he finds to museums so everyone can appreciate it.

Here's a few pictures from the house:

Across from the house is the cook's building, the building where the miners ate. At one point, the mine had 250 workers. It's so quiet out there now it's hard to imagine hundreds of people and tons of industrial machinery grinding away under and above ground, but it was a considerable operation. The bunk houses burnt down and the main factory was dismantled, but the remnants of the structures make it clear that they were pretty big. T has adapted and modernized one of the structures into a great cabin with running water and a flush toilet. There are some feral cats that live out there, too, and they got all excited when T showed up. He feeds them and looks after them. The picture at the outset of this post is of cook's building. It was full of a lot of old stuff, so we didn't photograph inside. Here's a couple other shots of it.

Mining, as the Chilean mine incident recently reminded us, is very dangerous. The mine shaft was quite deep. There was a machine shop 600 feet down. T told us a rather terrifying story about how 13 men died working there. The men took an elevator down the shaft and into the mine. One morning, 13 men stepped in the elevator and started down. The elevator was controlled by an operator on the surface and the men in the elevator communicated with the operator by pulling a chord that sounded a bell. As the men were descending, they suddenly found that the mine had flooded overnight and they elevator was plunging them under water. The operator had stepped away from his post to use the bathroom and failed to here the bell. They all drowned. Here a some photos of the a workshop and some mining remnants.

 This is just a little side project mine around the area. The real mine shafts were covered up for safety and didn't look like much more than big sheets of wood resting on some cement.
 This is part of the foundation of the main factory. It's surrounded by a mountain of tailings. It's where they separated the copper or silver from the other rocks.
 Here I'm holding a rock core, a rock sampling that was used to test the rocks down the mine shaft.
T told us lots of other fascinating stories about growing up around the mine and the history of the mine itself. Exploring the mine area and the buildings was terrific, but meeting T was just as cool. I suppose if I owned amazing piece of American history, I'd probably enjoy sharing it with other people who appreciated it, too, but T (and his sister who I initially contacted) had no obligation to spend the better part of a Saturday morning showing some strangers around. I hope he understands just how much we appreciated it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Monarchs of the Superstitions

As the weather gets colder, millions of monarch butterflies begin a southward migration. You may have heard of it; it's one of North America's most famous animal migrations. Throughout October, monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains head south into Mexico, eventually gathering in huge numbers in the high elevation pine forests in Michoacán. Monarchs west of the Rockies head south and overwinter in various warm locations. I was happy, though not surprised, to see many monarchs hanging out in the turpentine bushes along the trails of the Superstition Mountains. They weren't alone, either. Many bushes and wildflowers were in bloom and alive with bees, butterflies, beetles and moths. I spent most of time photographing the transient monarchs, but of course I had to take a couple shots of Weaver's Needle and a curious hawk.
downward wingstroke
double monarchs
monarch butterflies
Trail Signs
I think I attracted this hawk when I scared up a dozen or so Gambel's Quail along the trail. It watched me from atop a saguaro for a bit, then hovered around me for a while, possibly hoping I'd scare up a quick meal.
Black Mesa view
Weaver's Needle is in the upper right.

I ran across a few petroglyphs too. Always a neat find.
yellow butterfly