Jan 1, 08 Why, Az

Greetings, Gentle Readers,

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are ready for the New Year.

I haven’t written to you in a while and I suppose you are wondering just what we have been up to these past couple of weeks.  Mostly we just sit.  Sometimes I sit in the sun reading, sometimes I sit in the sun crocheting, and sometimes I sit in the sun sleeping.

My brother Steve and his wife, Cheryl arrived a week before Christmas.  It’s nice to have someone around that you know; we spend so much time wandering amongst strangers.

I’ve posted a bazillion pictures for you at http://picasaweb.google.com/campory57104
FYI, you can post comments on the pictures and Google will send them to me.

The weather here is really nice — down near freezing overnight, then sunny and in the 50s or 60s during the day.  The camper gets downright chilly at night.  We set the thermostat at 55 so as not to burn up all our propane.  And we have an electric blanket so we stay cozy in bed.  Once the sun is up it gets nice and toasty inside.  Have to open the windows during the day to keep it cool enough for Richard.

Christmas day was very windy.  It blew all day, kicking up so much dust we couldn’t make out the nearby mountains.  But we went to the Community Center and enjoyed a pot luck Christmas dinner without getting blown away.  Santa stuffed my stocking with chocolate candies, Cheryl gave us fudge and Jenni sent sugar plums . . .  I’ve been on a chocolate high for a week!  🙂

I’ve gone hiking in the desert with Steve and Cheryl several times.  I have to say, I’m more of an ambler than a hiker.   Under the guise of taking pictures I managed to pause and catch my breath every now and then.  And they graciously waited for me to catch up with them every time.  They have been coming to Why for several years and know their way around the desert.  They showed me several interesting cacti that I would never have found on my own.  Every now and then a saguaro develops a strange, mutant formation; usually a crest or knobs.  These are called “cristate saguaros.” You can learn more about them at http://www.nps.gov/archive/sagu/saguaro_q_a/saguaroqa/whycrested.htm .
They even showed me a cristate organ pipe cactus, which is much rarer than the cristate saguaros.

On our hikes we have seen lots of burro prints, but only one burro; a few lizards; a coyote skull and a burro skull; lots of ravens; and some interesting little crystals.  One day we hiked in Alamo Canyon in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  The trail there goes back to an old ranch that was inhabited until the 1930s when the park was developed.  There is one building still standing (without a roof) and a little further on, there is a corral.  The stream was running in the canyon.  It isn’t always there, but the recent rains had got it flowing for a ways.  It trickled out and disappeared about halfway down the canyon.  Near the corral there are grinding holes in the bedrock in the streambed.  These are hollows in the rock used by the natives to grind their grains.

Yesterday, we went up to Kitt Peak to see the observatories.  Kitt Peak has more telescopes than any other place in the world!  http://www.noao.edu/kpno/  We saw the world’s largest solar telescope and the 4-meter telescope.  Unfortunately, the visitor areas inside the telescope buildings are enclosed in glass and the glass was in great need of cleaning, so I don’t have pictures of the telescope innards for you.  I did get a picture of a model of the 4-meter.  The machinery is just immense!  The views from the mountaintop are spectacular.  The walk from the visitor center to the 4-meter ‘scope was a real uphill climb for 1/2 mile, and the mountaintop is at 7000 feet, so Richard didn’t make that hike.  He watched the jays while we trudged up the road.   On the way home we stopped and I got pictures of three more cristate saguaros growing along the highway.  One of them has a very unusual saucer shape on top.

Next week we head for civilization in Apache Junction.  It will be nice to shop without having to drive two hours one way!

Happy New Year,
mj & Richard