Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sundown in Surprise

Erin drove us out to the fields west of Glendale in Peoria and Surprise, AZ. Rain storms to the north really made a sight out of the sky when the sun was going down. The mountains here are the White Tanks, a relatively small set of mountains west of Phoenix. They're actually in Buckeye and Surprise and they have some easily accessible petroglyphs.
surprise path
fields and sky
white tank sundown

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

R.I.P. Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake News!, originally uploaded by gbrummett.
Tempe Town Lake is a man-made wide spot in the Salt River. It's contained with a huge inflatable dam - one of the world's largest inflatable dams. Why aren't there more large inflatable dams around you ask? Well, unlike solid dams, they pop or collapse. This is what happened to Tempe Town Lake last night. One section of the inflatable dam collapsed, sending thousands of gallons of water down the bed of the Salt River. I feel bad for the folks that use and enjoy the lake, but these sorts of things happen when a natural environment is overmodified. The entire Phoenix area is an environmental nightmare and the Salt River is just one casualty of overuse. The Salt River is dammed, used for water, electricity, and recreation, but most of the river through the city of Phoenix is dry.

The Salt River isn't the only distressed waterway in the Southwest. The Colorado River doesn't really reach the ocean anymore. What does reach the sea is a shadow of the powerful river that carved the Grand Canyon. Sad as that makes me, I can understand the logic behind using a river for power and water for agriculture. What baffles me is why people in Glendale, Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler et al. feel the need to have lawns of green grass in the summer? As far as I can tell, it's a giant act of collective selfishness and an illogical rejection of what could be a wonderful, unique desert environment. There's nowhere else on earth like the Sonoran Desert, yet these people feel the need to turn it into California or Illinois or Florida.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not all that sorry that Tempe Town Lake fell apart. It almost feels like the desert fighting back and when it comes down to the people of Maricopa County vs the Sonoran Desert, you'll always find me rooting for the desert.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Phoenix Bat Colony

I found an article on AZCentral the other day called "50 Must-See Hidden Gems in Greater Phoenix." One of the gems is a colony of 5,000 Mexican free tail bats that live in a diversion tunnel for the Arizona Canal. It's near the corner of 40th St and Camelback Road. There's a similar bat colony in Tucson under the Campbell Street Bridge over the Rillito Wash that we've seen before. Seeing thousands of bats take flight at the same time is pretty awesome.

The Phoenix bats are a bit tougher to get to. It's about a half-mile round trip walk along a path that runs along the canal. That's not a long walk, but walking along a dark path in Phoenix at night makes it feel pretty long, though it seems like a nice enough part of town. Also, the Phoenix area is a heat island, so, unlike Tucson, it doesn't cool down properly at night. It was still a 107 degrees as we walked the canal path at sundown. This is because of all the man-made materials that trap the heat during the day and release it slowly at night. Overused water (wasted water) has contributed to raising the dew point in the valley, making it feel even hotter. The city is quite a bit hotter than the desert at night. Tucson has desert landscaping and city planning that minimize this effect.

Oddly enough, though we went on a Saturday night and the location was just featured on the Arizona Republic website, we had the place to ourselves. As we approached the colony, hundreds of bats and a fair number of nightjars were swooping along the canal eating insects. If you look closely at the photo above, there are some blurry spots on the water and those are the bats.

Here's a couple more photos from the area.
phoenix sundown
Phoenix path

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tucson Time Lapse

Tucson Night Lights Time Lapse from Aaron Avery on Vimeo.

Timelapse from Sean L. on Vimeo.

I found a new Tumblr today. One designed specifically to break my heart. It's called Fuck Yeah, Tucson. I've even seen some of my own pictures on there along with a lot of other photos and these great time lapse videos. Glendale's alright, I suppose; it's closer to the cool stuff in northern AZ. For example, I made it up to the Mogollon Rim and did some backpacking on the Cabin Loop trails and that was pretty terrific. But, it's no Tucson.

Who's gonna start Fuck Yeah, Worcester? Let's see just how homesick I can get.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mt. Lemmon Fire Lookout/ So Long, Tucson

Four days before Erin and I moved out of Tucson, bound for the infernal north (Glendale), we headed up to the summit of Mt. Lemmon and stopped by the fire lookout. I'd been up there before, but the lookout wasn't occupied because it wasn't during fire season. This time around we were lucky enough to be invited in and got to look around. Gary Snyder spent some time in one of these fire lookouts in the Cascade Mountains in 1952-53. I could see myself doing that. The accommodations are more than adequate and the views can't be beat.
lookout dude
work station
tools of the trade
lookout doggy

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 206th, Mr. Hawthorne!

From the reverse of this postcard: The Old Manse was built in 1769. It was the home of Rev. William Emerson and Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "Nature" there. Hawthorne brought his young bride here in 1842 and made this charming residence famous with his "Mosses from Old Manse."

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts on July 4th, 1804. His name at birth was actually "Hathorne" - he added the w later. He rented his most famous residence, "The Old Manse," from Ralph Waldo Emerson. He and his wife, Sofia, raised their family there. They could see the the North Bridge, an important battle site in the first fight of the Revolution, from their back window. In fact, the house's builder and original owner, Rev. William Emerson, watched the fight with his family from the house.

We don't think of gothicism as an American tradition, but a review of American literary history quickly reveals a long line of Gothic writers from Charles Brockden Brown, to Poe, to Hawthorne, to James, to Faulkner, to McCarthy. Hawthorne's Gothic presentations of Puritans and early America have come to define our popular understanding of our founding more than perhaps any other writers. Sort of unfortunate, as the Puritans' better traits - such as egalitarianism and emphasis on literacy and education - have been overshadowed by Hawthorne's pictures of austerity. Still, considering his impact on our national consciousness, it seems appropriate that Hawthorne was born on the 4th of July.