January 2019: Looking Back at 2018
The year 2018 did not start out exactly as we had hoped.
But it got better with every passing day.
It was just another sunny and fun filled day in Tucson. Betsy had arrived just two weeks earlier. We were cycling with friend Donna (Ashok was out of town) on the loop and just minutes after this shot was taken we planned to be at the Mercado relaxing with a hot cup of coffee.
But it was not to be.
About an hour later Betsy was being examined and stabilized by EMTs.
What happened? Just minutes from the Mercado we crossed the street on our bikes. It was here Betsy caught her front bike wheel in the streetcar track which brought her to a dead stop and slammed her into the pavement. The result? A fractured tibial plateau and a broken and skewed collar bone. Both breaks were on her right side.
When it was determined Betsy could be safely moved the decision was made to not use an ambulance so Donna peddled back to her car where we had started the ride and then drove back to the scene of the accident. The EMTs helped load Betsy into Donna's vehicle along with our bikes. Donna and I then drove to the ER entrance of St Mary's hospital where I rushed in and quickly explained the situation to two staff members who then came out with a wheel chair and rolled Betsy inside.
Once I was assured Betsy was getting the attention she needed Donna took me and the bikes back to our van and then I drove back to St Mary's to be with Betsy.
By the time I arrived she was stabilized and feeling the effect of the pain killers.
After scans were taken it was determined she was going to have to have surgery on her tibial plateau. Not good. The collar bone fracture would be stabilized and Betsy would have to wear an arm sling until the break was healed.
Betsy was moved to a room and we were waiting to find out when the surgery would be scheduled. Then we got some good news. After another look and a consultation it was determined surgery would not be necessary and Betsy could go home soon. YIPPEE!
"Soon" turned out to be 2 days and $20,000 later.
In the mean time I had to get ready for Betsy once she arrived home. Although it might seem obvious neither of us thought about this: since both of her injuries were on the right side she would be unable to use a wheel chair. Or a walker. Or a cane. Problematic.
So the only option other than carrying her from room to room was a transport chair. Prior to that neither of us had ever heard of a transport chair. Betsy was prescribed a chair and I started calling around so I could have one there by the time she got home.
I knew once we bought the chair and Betsy was recovered it would be useless to us and we would have to find a home for it. Fortunately Tucson Estates has a volunteer based service called HeartLine which loans medical equipment to the residents at no charge. Why buy when you can borrow used equipment which will serve the purpose?
When I needed to pick up the transport chair HeartLine was closed. But all it took was a call to a HeartLine volunteer and I was able to pick it up after hours.
I had never seen a transport chair before. Basically it is a small collapsing wheel chair with 4 wheels. In order to move it must be pushed. Or as Betsy found out she could use her left foot to drag herself forward. Remember - her right arm was immobilized and her entire right leg was encased in a rigid immobilizer to facilitate healing of the fractured tibial plateau.
Home Sweet Home!
As you can imagine it was a bit dicey getting Betsy into the house. Both entrances to our trailer have steps so I had to gingerly lift Betsy up each step while she pushed and tried to stabilize herself with her left leg and hand. Once in the trailer she was sitting on the floor. Now what? Finally in an upright position she plopped herself into the transport chair and I wheeled her back to the bedroom.
Practice time! How to get out of the transport chair and into the bed. And visa versa. And being the thoughtful person Betsy is the next thing she practiced was getting herself from the bed to the chair and then scooting her self to the toilet. Then it was getting on and off the toilet and back into the chair and to the end of the bed and then scooting herself back to the head of the bed. Slow. Tedious. Exhausting.
With this accomplished Betsy had made sure I would not have to empty her porta potty when there were other than liquids in it. For this I was thankful.
Because Betsy could not make her way to the kitchen or fix her coffee when she got there that was one of my daily duties.
Every morning I would wait until I heard my cue to prepare and deliver to Betsy her coffee and morning treat - 2 triple ginger cookies. And what was that audible cue? It was the sound of an antique LL Bean duck call being tooted on by my wife. Since she had no bell to ring for service that was the best we could come up with.
This was only the beginning. For the next 6 weeks Betsy would spend all of her time either in bed or in her chair in the living room. During that period she was visited several times a week by two physical therapists who helped her with staying fit while doing nothing. Not an easy task. But weights bands and stretching helped with this.
Then came the day of her first Drs visit after the accident. By now I had borrowed a wheel chair from HeartLine as well. It was just a matter of getting down the steps into the chair to the car and then sorta lifting/hurling herself into the passenger seat. She did all this with focus determination and usually a smile on her face. That's my Betsy!
The appointment went well. Betsy could finally get rid of the soft cast. Yippee! But when it came off we both stared at her leg in dismay. It was a mere withered version of a previously lovely and well muscled leg. Now it seemed withered and shrunken. Depressing. But there were many assurances with hard work and persistence she would again have her matching set of Wonder Woman legs. And indeed that is what happened over the next several months.
January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December | January 2019 | AZ Bird List |
A new month and a New Year. Here is Betsy and all her HeartLine friends plus the cast.
Once she was finally able to put some weight on her right leg (a scary experience) she then graduated to a walker. But since her shoulder was still out of commission it had to be an arm support walker. Trubba not. Betsy soldiered on and soon she was making regular trips for PT taking short walks and looking forward to getting back to line dancing choir practice and hiking. Biking? Not so much...
Once able to use the wheel chair on a regular basis Betsy was able to join us for our regular Tuesday happy hours out with Donna and Ashok. Struggling with that chair and negotiating curbs and doorways and bathrooms gave us both a whole new appreciation for what others have to go through. Some for a life time.
While Betsy was in recovery she encouraged me to keep my regular schedule of cycling and leading hikes for the Tucson Hiking MeetUp (MU) Group. This I did as well as the cooking cleaning and other household duties one normally takes for granted.
Below are photos and links to some of those hikes.
Kent Springs is named for a colorful Forest Service Ranger named William H. Kent nicknamed "Whiskey Highball" Kent.
Kent set the boundaries of several Southern Arizona Forest Reserves in the 1900s. He was forever in trouble with his superiors for wearing a red bandanna instead of his official ranger hat. He often held staff meetings at a spring in Madera Canyon that now bears his name.
Source: A History of Madera Canyon Published by the Friends of Madera Canyon
What a gorgeous view!
The Bowen House
In the late 1920s Sherry Bowen brought his wife Ruby to Tucson from Rockford Ill. in hopes that the climate would improve her health.
The Bowen's homesteaded in the Tucson Mountains and built first a cabin and then what now remains of the current house which was built out of native stone.
Sherry and Ruby moved to New York City in 1944. By this time the Bowen homestead consisted of 200 acres. Their homestead became part of Tucson Mountain Park in 1983.
Source: Pima County Parks and Recreation
MORE: Tucson Mts: Bowen House via Hidden Canyon/Bowen/Yetman Trails - MU
Here the Mighty Ashok stops the Many Armed Saguaro from its Imminent Collapse.
(MORE: Tucson Mts: Starr Valley Meander - MU)
The beautiful La Milagrosa area of the Catalina Mountains. Shown here are hiking buddies Kathy and Mark who are spending January through March 2019 touring New Zealand.
(MORE: Catalina Mts: La Milagrosa - Agua Caliente Loop - MU)
This is one of my favorite hikes.
(MORE:Santa Rita Mts: Hike to Roger's Rock - MU)
Negotiating this steep and rocky section of the trail is the price of admission for a stunning 360 view from the summit of Krein.
(MORE: Tucson Mts: Cat's Crack Krein Summit - Yetman East Return - MU)
MeetUp hikes are usually fun to lead but it is really nice to go out solo once in a while or with a few close and reliable hiking buddies like John Janet and Patricia.
This shot was taken at the "trail head" for a hike which would take us up to the saddle of Baboquivari Peak.
"Baboquivari Peak is considered the center of the universe to the Tohono O'odham people—but due to reservation boundaries the land no longer belongs to them."
The good water supply encouraged ranching but that is all in the past.
Uh oh. Trouble. Into the brush we go!
Ouch. Unbeknownst to us there had been a fire which burned all the mesquite trees to the ground. They then re sprouted producing many many knee and thigh high branches with LOTs of thorns on them. Patricia had long pants on and Janet zipped on John's pant leg bottoms. John and I were bare legged. As we pushed our way through we were all having the same thoughts. Is this stuff gonna end? Finally we gave up. By then both John and I had bloodied legs and bad dispositions. Time to do an about face and live to hike another day.
My "souvenirs" from the aborted Baboquivari hike.
After 3 months of recovery time Betsy was getting around pretty well. Betsy's sister Char was to arrive on January 24th. Now she would be well cared for in my absence I took that opportunity to plan a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. This was to be my first visit there and I was really looking forword to it. Unfortunately the trip was cast with a pall by some unknown malaise and I was "off my game" for the entire trip. I did have some wonderful hikes and car touring and took lots of pictures. However all those photos are on the laptop which is sitting in Wheeling. The above photo of the magnificent Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) is the only one I had on my Tucson laptop.
Joshua trees are fast growers for the desert; new seedlings may grow at an average rate of 7.6 cm (3.0 in) per year in their first ten years then only about 3.8 cm (1.5 in) per year. The trunk consists of thousands of small fibers and lacks annual growth rings making it difficult to determine the tree's age. This tree has a top-heavy branch system but also what has been described as a "deep and extensive" root system with roots reaching up to 11 m (36 ft).
If it survives the rigors of the desert it can live for hundreds of years; some specimens survive a thousand years. The tallest trees reach about 15 m (49 ft). New plants can grow from seed but in some populations new stems grow from underground rhizomes that spread out around the parent tree.
After Betsy's accident she knew she would never ride a bike again - at least not one with two wheels! Now she is the proud owner of not one but two Trident Trikes. Although not impossible to make an involuntary dismount on one these it is pretty difficult.
Now that Betsy was able to get out and about we starting going places again. Here is a shot of the Mission San José de Tumacácori at Tumacácori National Historical Park. Betsy Donna Ashok and I went on little road trip to visit the area and have dinner out.
Here we are on another MeetUp hike in King Canyon. I first visited here with my brother William in 2005 and I have come back many times since.
More: Tucson Mountains: ***Beginners ONLY*** King Canyon/Gould Mine Trail Loop - MU
These pesky things are known as "followers" or "hitch hikers". They are stem segments from the Chain-fruit Cholla. The segments separate very easily and are often found on the ground by the 100s after strong wind events.
MORE: Tucson Mountains - Golden Gate Mountain Loop - MU
I am a self professed hopeless romantic. I got that from my mom. And Betsy gets to join in when I suggest things like: "Let's watch this every year for Valentines Day!" Another tradition started...
Betsy Donna Ashok and I went off to Las Vegas for some hiking and sight seeing. The hiking in The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area to the west of Vegas was fabulous!
Of course after months of fine weather in the 60s it turned cold cloudy and windy when we arrived. But as you can see Donna was ready for it.
The Kraft Mountain Loop was my favorite hike. I hiked it twice. Solo and then again with Betsy Donna and Ashok. Fab scenery and mind boggling geology.
Turtlehead Peak seemed to always be in view.
This was fun! Negotiating house sized boulders with sometimes just little slots to squeeze through.
Betsy the Triumphant!
No more walker wheel chair arm sling transport chair. YES!
With every turn in the canyon we got another fine look at Turtlehead Peak.
Looking back down the canyon.
One last look at Kraft Canyon and then it was on to the urban canyons of Vegas.
For as long as I can remember I had wanted to see one of the famous Vegas floor shows. They are now a thing of the past and one must settle for a sort of homogenized retrospectus. But it was still fun.
The (in)Famous Strip.
One visit was enough for me. (photo by Donna)
Yep! No undies! (photo by Donna)
See more Red Rock and Vegas pics.
By March Betsy Donna Ashok and I were getting out regularly for bikes rides. This was good therapy for Betsy and she was growing stronger and more confident with each ride.
With the van being left in Wheeling it was challenging to find a way to transport both Betsy's trike and my 2 wheel bike. This method of securing her trike worked fine. To transport mine I removed the back seat cushion in the car pulled the front wheel of the bike and coaxed "the Green Devil" into the back seat.
As has been mentioned we lead hikes for a local MeetUp group. This has had many benefits not the least of which has been meeting many many people. Some we never see again and some have become friends who we see regularly. Two of those folks are Steffi and Robert who hail from Germany. They are avid hikers and we have been on quite a few hikes with them now. The are good company and like us enjoy good food and beer.
Another new tradition along with annual viewings of 'Midnight in Paris" is enjoying the movie "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". This Disney movie was released in 1959 when I was 7 years old. I do not recall what year I first saw it but I was quite young. I loved the movie and remembered it fondly. At that age I was scared sh*tless during the "banshee" scene.
I was delighted when it was finally released to the public and I could get a copy. Now we will be watching it every St. Patty's Day.
On March 21st the Western Way Chorale performed their Spring Concert. Betsy has been singing with them for 4 years and really loves it.
The above photo was taken post concert. The white shirt I am wearing belonged to my dad. He picked it up on a trip to Mexico in the mid 1980s.
April? Already!!?? Time to head back to Wheeling. For me anyway.
I had not been able to clean up all of the yard mess left by the flood of July 2017 and I was anxious to get that done before all the new growth started.
I would drive the van back and Betsy would fly home in early May leaving the Buick in Tucson Estates.
While I was on my way to Wheeling Betsy had a visitor. Petra Wood was attending a conference in Tucson and decided to extend her trip a few days to visit with Betsy. While Petra visited she and Betsy made the pilgrimage to Madera Canyon where they hoped to see the elusive Elegant Trogon. They heard it but never caught a glimpse.
Petra - Bear Hugger! (Madera Canyon)
Petra and Betsy also visited the Sonoran Desert Museum. Betsy pretends she's a vulture at the caracara display.
While Betsy and Petra were enjoying their visit I was already making my first stop on the drive back to Wheeling - White Sands National Monument. It was my first visit to this white wonderland.
My first look at the white sands.
It sure looks like snow doesn't it?
This is the parking area for the board walk interpretive trail.
One of the most unique nature trails I have been on.
Courtesy of one of the dog lovers.
Some of the stems on these soap tree yucca are buried many feet in the constantly blowing sands.
It looks just like granulated sugar doesn't it?
This is the big draw for most visitors.
Thankfully all traces of their visit will be gone courtesy of the prevailing winds.
There are more White Sands photos and info here.
My next stop was Alamogordo NM where I would hike Dog Canyon in the Lincoln National Forest. This hike is about 11 miles out and back with a total elevation gain of 3400' feet.
I hiked as far as the white asterisk then turned back. About 8 miles round trip. It was getting late and as usual I had not taken enough food. Grrr...!
Onward and upward...
This hike had one of the finest stands of Dasylirion I have ever seen.
Lots to see and ponder upon.
There were a number of hedgehog cacti in bloom.
This is the remains of the line shack at the spring. Still evident are an old metal bed frame and bits and pieces of a cast iron stove.
You can see more photos of the Dog Canyon hike here.
I took my much travelled route across Texas and stopped briefly in Throckmorton for a trip down memory lane. This is the Throckmorton County courthouse. There is also a jail there which was built in 1890.
I stopped briefly in Post TX. I was first there in 2005. There is a write up of that visit here.
When I arrived in Texarkana I parked downtown for a walk about. These two gals were visiting from Minnesota.
Somewhere in Mississippi.
This is Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) which I have seldom seen in the wild. We had a beautiful specimen at our place in Morgantown. It has a delightful fragrance!
On April the 8th I arrived back in Wheeling.
After de-winterizing the house I got to work outside.
These are Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus). The previous owner had planted them. They are tasty but we can only eat so many of them. This is just one of two crates which came from a small patch. I dug out every one I could and replaced them with Joe-Pye (Eutrochium purpureum) weed a beautiful native which grows up to 12' tall and attracts lots of bees and butterflies.
On April the 22nd I drove down to Morgantown for an overnight visit with Craig Mains. I first met Craig in the early/mid 1990s (?) at some type of Greenspace/Enviromental show & tell. I believe Martin Christ introduced Craig and me but this is a little foggy.
Both Craig and Martin are water quality specialists and were participating in water monitoring programs at the time.
Craig has more than once been a "background contributor" to my trip reports by relating to me his experiences of places where our trips have overlapped. His emails are always interesting and often humorous reads.
Craig and I had a fun visit talking about the "good old days" and relating to each other anecdotes about our now gone friends Joe Gatski and "Michigan" Bob Heisrodt. I sure wish they were both still around.
Craig and I sat around the table for quite a few hours putting away a nice meal of spicy stir fry and making a big dent in a 12 pack of bottled beer.
Craig and Martin and I and others were regular attendees of trash clean ups on the rail-trail corridor before it opened as recreational trail.
L-R: Joe Gatski Martin Christ Mike Breiding Jeff Young Craig Mains (2002)
During that same visit to Morgantown I stayed over with Tom Pue another clean water loving tree hugger. I first met Tom at a litter clean up. This was along the old rail road corridor of what is now the Decker's Creek Rail Trail. That first meeting was back in the 1990s as well.
Besides trash clean up Tom and I spent many many hours volunteering with the Mon River Trails Conservancy. We did such things as dig post holes in rock hard rail road ballast in order to set metal posts for cables and gates. This was to help exclude 4 wheelers and the like from running up and down the trail right-of-way. We also supervised some aspects of construction cleaned culvert heads etc. What fun. My shoulders still ache from the punishment that digging bar gave them.
L-R: Tom Pue then BOPARC employee Jimmy Johnson and Anita Mayer wo was then MRTC President seen here accepting the owners manual for the new tractor with a boom mounted mower deck which was used for vegetation management along the rail-trail corridor. This maintenance equipment was made possible by monies awarded through a Recreational Trails Grant. (2002)
Betsy arrived back in Wheeling in time to enjoy Oglebay's spectacular tulip display. (photo by Betsy)
We had many pleasant walks in both the woods and gardens of Oglebay.
In the fall of 2014 when we bought our house in Wheeling's Woodsdale neighborhood it had not one tree on the entire lot - just two large privet bushes. Privet is a noxious invasive weed and I was tempted to cut them both down - until I saw a cardinal build a nest in one of them.
Seen above is a weeping Japanese maple a house warming gift from John Williamson a long time friend who lives in the Richmond VA area.
Also seen is the cultivar Cornus florida "Cherokee Chief". I picked up this and 3 others at Lowe's for 9 bucks at an end of season sale.
On the left side of the steps is a seedling of Acer palmatum "Sango-Kaku".
At the base of the Sango are various hosta cultivars which I dug and transported to Wheeling from our place in Morgantown.
At the top of the stairs is Betsy - aka "Floral Delight".
And on the far right our Diversity Flag.
On May the 13th Betsy and I drove to Blimp City Bike & Hike in Akron Ohio to take receipt of not one but two Trident Stowaway recumbent trikes. The plan was to stay a couple days with our friend Lenny who lives just north of there and spend some time test riding our bikes on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. However rainy weather during our entire stay kept us off our bikes. We did get some walks in and the extra time we now had gave us plenty of time to catch up with Lenny and friend Phil.
While in the Cleveland area we got in touch with Don Altemus and set up a time to meet him for breakfast. Don and my dad were good friends back in the day. Don recently turned 90!
L-R: Don Betsy Lenny Mike
On our way home we stopped at Dayton Nurseries in Norton OH to pick up some evergreen azaleas and lilacs I had pre ordered. Of course we picked up a few other goodies as well.
May 15th! Our 36th Wedding Anniversary. My how time flies...
The post flood bed renovations and re plantings were successful for the most part.
This is looking back towards the garage and man cave.
Before I went on a planting binge this entire area was nothing but grass.(photo by Betsy)
Beautiful zebra swallowtails (Protographium marcellus) were frequent visitors to the many blooms in our yard. (photo by Betsy)
Betsy and I met Don and Jeanette Campbell in the early 2000s while on a club ride with the Country Roads Cyclists formerly the Harrison County Bicycle Association.
Jeanette is an artist and we had always admired her work. I asked her to embellish our new mailbox for our place in Wheeling and this is the lovely result.
Our "Urban Forest".
Everything you see here we planted. When we bought the place in 2014 there was nothing but grass.
This side of the house faces west and already the trees are providing us with some much needed shade on our front porch Happy Hour station. They also provide a modicum of privacy which we hope will increase exponentially with each growing season.
As you can see there is quite a bit of variety here: Rhodies Azaleas Buddlia Hostas Dwarf Joe-pye weed Iron weed Service berry Clematis Lady Fern and Cone flower. The two largest trees are both oaks. Sawtooth and English.
All of my photos for June what few there are were left behind on the Wheeling laptop. On June the 4th we departed Wheeling and drove down to the mountains of Randolph County WV. Here we stayed overnight with Rod and Debra at the beautiful mountain retreat they call home. I first became acquainted with Rodney Bartgis when he was 16 years old. This was via a letter he sent to Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew who was the curator of the WVU Herbarium. She showed me the letter and was delighted to hear from someone so young who was interested in Botany. Rodney eventually made quite a name for himself as it relates to WV botany. In the common vernacular Rodney is my "go to guy" when I need a plant ID.
After leaving Rod and Debra's place we took a beautiful drive down to Bartow in Pocahontas County where we joined members of the Brooks Bird Club (BBC) for the annual Foray.
The (BBC)Foray is held each June in a different region of West Virginia suitable for bird and natural history studies. The purpose is to offer members and students the chance to be in the field and take part in an ecological study of a selected area.
The program is planned so that everyone can pursue his/her own interests. There are classes and field work in birds ferns mosses flowers grasses trees geology fungi butterflies herptiles and small mammals. The interdependence of all living things is learned anew.
The Foray was being held at Camp Pocahontas at the site of the old lumber town of Thornwood which was also used for a CCC work camp and is now the site of the Camp Pocahontas 4H-Camp.
Thornwood is just 12 miles from Greenbank WV where in 1972 some of the Breiding family tried their hand at getting "back to the land" by home steading on an old farm on Sheets Road. By choice we had no running water or electricity.
This was on the heels of spending 4 years in San Francisco - March of 1969 to March of 1972. After a year I left this experiment behind and moved to Morgantown where I found an abundance of electricity hot water and young ladies. At the time Pocahontas County had more sheep than women so I thought I had better leave to find greener pastures.
We stayed at the Foray site for 3 days and then headed east toward the Richmond area to visit with Betsy's cousin Mike Beal and his lovely wife Pat.
They showed us a really good time - hiking cycling and of course a visit to a local brewery. Mike makes his own beer which we found delicious. Mike and Pat's son Ryan works at Bozeman Brewing Company. We visited Ryan October of 2016 and were able to taste some interesting brews as well as hike to the summit of Sacagawea Peak and take a day tour of Yellowstone NP.
Next stop: visiting with John Williamson who I first met at an American Rhododendron Society meeting. When was this? Hmmm... not sure. Again probably back in the late 1990s.
John has been in the landscaping business for at least 40 years and it is always fun to talk plants with him.
John's place is along the South Anna river and provides Betsy with an idyllic woodland spot for some quiet clothes free swimming.
After leaving John's we started the drive back home and arrived back in Wheeling on June 11th.
The following day Betsy hit the road to Magnolia OH to visit friends Jan and Carol her college room mates who she hadn't seen for many years. They had fun catching up and also touring the area Amish country.
On June 15th the day after Betsy returned I drove to Jamestown NY to spend a few days with Dave Leitch. Dave had recently suffered the loss of his wife Chris - Betsy's cousin. Dave and Chris were married for nearly 50 years and they worked together daily at the landscaping company they owned and operated. To say the sudden loss was a shock is an understatement.
I think it is fair to say my visit with Dave was painful for both of us and it made real what such a loss would be like for me.
June ended bitter sweet with Betsy and I attending two memorial services in Jamestown NY one for her cousin Chris and another for cousin Rosemary's husband Dan. So hard to realize these two friends are no longer with us.
May they rest in peace.
Back in January I had reserved a cabin at Blackwater Falls SP in Tucker County WV. John and Petra would be joining us and we were looking forward to being back in the mountains.
Petra John and Betsy went out to Lindy Point on the first evening. For some reason I did not join them. Petra got some nice pics!
John and I went on two hikes: 8 miles on the Blackwater Canyon Trail and 11 miles on the so called "Walk Between the Parks" which starts at the south end of Canaan Valley and ends at Blackwater Falls SP. We had beautiful weather for these hikes especially the Park2Park hike. This trail goes through some of the prettiest scenery I can remember seeing.
At the beginning of our hike down the Blackwater Canyon trail we passed Douglas Falls on the North Fork of the Blackwater River. The water is polluted with Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) from unreclaimed strip mines up stream.
This is the pristine Falls of Big Run. Upstream is where the proposed "Big Run Pump Storage Hydro Project" would be built.
A huge industrial “pumped storage” proposal has raised its head again in Tucker County – this time not in Canaan Valley but impacting the iconic Blackwater Canyon.
A Washington DC-based operation named “FreedomWorks” has proposed to build a major complex of massive reservoirs tunnels pumps turbines and power lines in Tucker County. The upper reservoir would be on the upper slope of the Blackwater Canyon and power lines would cut across the Canyon itself.
While John and I hiked down the Blackwater Canyon Petra and Betsy went boating on the Blackwater River. Of course my mermaid wife had to give the water a try. Delightful!
On the way back to Wheeling and about 10 miles north of Thomas WV we used a small pull-off on US 219 to park and then hike to Maryland's high point: "Hoye-Crest".
Again no photos as they are in Wheeling.
Hoye-Crest is a summit along Backbone Mountain just inside of Garrett County Maryland USA. It is the highest natural point in Maryland at an elevation of 3 360 feet (1 020 m).
The location named for Captain Charles E. Hoye (1876-1951) founder of the Garrett County Historical Society offers a view of the North Branch Potomac River valley to the east. The Maryland Historical Society placed a historical marker at the summit during a dedication ceremony in September 1952.
We hated to leave the cool mountains for the hot and steamy Ohio Valley. Fortunately we have our "HillBilly Cool Tub" to chill out in.
Where did we get such a thing? A neighbor around the corner from us has a Koi pond and used this 70 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank as a filtration system for the pond. When he changed the system he offered the tank to me. Initially I said "no" until I had this brainstorm. "Necessity is...
During the last week of July Betsy headed north to Fort Wayne to visit her sister and brother-in-law and I headed south to Morgantown to visit with Joe Super ride the rail-tail visit Donna Ford-Werntz at the WVU herbarium have dinner with Tom Pue and hike at Tygart Lake SP. I stayed for two nights at a very reasonably priced AirBnB for a grand total of $66.00. It was clean and quiet and just a couple of blocks from the now demolished 616 8th Street where we moved to as a family in 1963 from Wheeling.
July wrapped up with a nice porch party get together with Jeff Natasha Lenny Glynis Jon and Willa. JNCers all!!
We spent what was left of July getting ready for the main event
a trip to The Yooper!
Our first stop on our drive to the Yooper was the small town of Gaylord. What we are doing here we did a lot of on this trip.
The location of Gaylord in Otsego County MI.
I first heard about Gaylord from my dad who had stayed both there and in Mio when he was hunting the elusive Kirtland's warbler in the late 1980s. This was our first stay here.
This was one of the better meals we had on this trip which we partook of at the Alpine Tavern & Eatery. The fish is panko encrusted baked whitefish.
In order to cut our calories and costs we have been splitting meals when we eat out. In spite of this we both walked away quite full and tab was 35 bucks half of which was probably for brews.
To say Gaylord is a strange hodge podge of architectural styles is to be kind. Perhaps having Pontresina Graubünden Switzerland as Gaylord's sister city is to blame for this mess.
What were they thinking?
After a few days of driving we arrived in the city of Munising
which is on the south shore of Lake Superior.
This would be our home for the next two weeks. Lucky us.
What a nice place to enjoy one's early morning coffee. And if it were not for our friends David and Stacy our stay here in Munising during peak season would not have been possible.
This was just one of many delightful dips in the clear cool waters of Lake Superior.
Every time we hike in The Great North Woods I take a picture similar to this. The Ostrich Fern is sooooo beautiful.
Directly across from where we stayed was a hiking/biking trail which had an amazing number of ferns. This one is considered on the rare side - Braun's Holly Fern (Polystichum braunii). Gorgeous!!
In 2010 we kicked off Betsy's retirement with our memorable "Three Weeks in Michigan" trip. On that trip we hiked a beautiful trail along the Sturgeon River. In addition to some pretty nice ferns there were many nice trees along the river like this clump of Paper Birch. We saw White Pine and Eastern Hemlock which were 2-3' in diameter at about waist heighth.
Betsy the Water Sprite
never misses a chance for a relaxing dip.
For decades we have been thinking about taking one of the cruises along the shore of Lake Superior. Lucky for us David and Stacy both work for Pictured Rocks Cruises and they are given a certain number of complimentary tickets by the company two of which they gave to us. BONUS!
The views were quite stunning and as you can see we were not the only ones on the water enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.
The party continues. Just minutes up the road is the Hillside Party Store. Betsy was so excited when Dave told her about it she rushed right up there in her bath robe!
Well... not really. By the door of the beer cave was a hook with these bath robes for the customers to wear. A sure way to get them to stay longer inside the cave. As you can imagine Betsy had lots of fun selecting her favorites and picking out new ones to try.
This sign was hanging near the front door
of the Hillside Party Store.
Another thing we have been meaning to do for decades while visiting Munising is explore Grand Island. We finally did and hope to get out there again someday. We took a guided tour and our guide was very knowledgeable and really made the tour interesting.
When the tour was over he told us about a ship wreck fragment that had washed to shore the previous winter so Betsy and I decided to check it out.
Gag me with a spoon!!!
This was in the local paper. Nothing turns my stomach like dog worshipping.
We took several neighborhood walks during our stay in Munising and we both liked the look of this place. Something to aspire to!
A favorite hike along the cliffs of Pictured Rocks occasionally dipped to beach level allowing us to explore wade or take a dip.
While shopping in the small town of L'Anse which is at the base of Keweenaw Bay We found this pleasant little park/beach area part way up the Abbaye Peninsula. Unfortunately it was not warm enough to swim.
The (Abbaye) peninsula remained undisturbed in the hands of the Chippewa until 1877 when the Hebard and Thurberg Lumber Company leased the peninsula from a local clan leader and his band. Timbering operations rapidly commenced with the old growth forests of the peninsula axed down and carried to the sawmills at Pequaming.
Efforts starting in 1914 to turn the cut-over real estate into arable farmland were not successful. The post office at Aura Michigan which opened in 1921 was downgraded to a CPO in 1974 and closed entirely in 1982.
We found a road on the outskirts of L'Anse and followed it to the end of the road to Point Abbaye where there was this beautiful pavement "beach" all along the shoreline.
On our way back to Wheeling we decided to stay over in Alpena at the 40 Winks Motel. Directly across the street there was a city park with a nice beach and walking path.
Arrival back in Wheeling
We had a very rainy summer and the back yard was looking jungle like when we returned from Michigan.
This is a vining annual called vining hyacinth. I had never heard of it until Joe Fogle Betsy's sister's husband gave me some seeds. It made a great screen for our fence and has interesting foliage and flowers.
Loads of flowers which will produce loads of seeds with nearly 100% germination rate. Thanks Joe!
OK on to the next trip!
For many years now I have been wanting to ride the Virginia Creeper Rail-Trail.
The Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail is a 34.3-mile rail-to-recreation trail traversing through two counties from Abingdon Virginia through Damascus and ending just past Whitetop Station in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area at the Virginia-North Carolina border.
Fortunately there is now an AirBnB place within walking distance of the trail at Whitetop Station. We decided to rent the place for 3 nights and invited our friends Tom and Becky Berlin to join us. The drive from Wheeling to Whitetop took us through Beckley so we decided to stop on the way through and visit my brother Wayne.
Meet my brother Wayne. Not the way any of us would like to see a family member. Wayne's chronic alcoholism finally caught up with him and this is where he ended up - Harper Mills which is a long term care facility. My sister Susan looked after Wayne for years but when he was found by a visiting nurse with a leg wound full of maggots my sister knew it was time for him to have round the clock care. What a shame.
Our visit was brief. He was fairly lucid since his system was not full of alcohol and we chatted about the "old days" for a bit and then Betsy and I were on our way to White Top.
Meet Tom and Becky. I first met them at a Brooks Bird Club Foray waaaay back in the 1980s. I lost touch with them and then we became reacquainted when they showed up at a Country Roads Cyclists picnic. Neither of of knew the other were members! After that we kept in touch and now we see them regularly. Lucky us.
We hiked the "Four Trails" and it was fabulous! Any photos? Nope. We saw several water falls and many fine trees on this hike. Hopefully we will get back there at some point.
My one and only shot of our ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail. Grrr!!! I find it very difficult to take snaps when I am with anyone but Betsy or riding/hiking solo. So I guess we will have to go back. Darn!
When we left White Top Tom and Becky headed home and Betsy and I drove over to Grayson Highlands State Park to look for a hike. We found a good one.
The Twin Pinnacles trail took us to the highest point in Grayson Highlands State Park. The views from each of the Pinnacles are nothing short of spectacular.
In a sheltered spot below the Pinnacles we found this amazing Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis).
When we left Grayson Highlands SP we headed north towards Wheeling. By now Tom and Becky were back at their off the grid homestead and we would soon be there also drinking their beer and eating some nice venison. Tough life...
Over the summer we made several trips down to Morgantown to visit friends get hair cuts (not me!) and go to Drs appointments.
On this trip we stayed with John and Petra Wood who have a nice pond which Betsy (and sometimes me) enjoy.
While in Morgantown we drove down to Tygart Lake SP to enjoy one of our favorite places to hike.
When we visit Morgantown we sometimes stay at a AirBnB in the South Park neighborhood which is close to the first place Betsy and I set up housekeeping as Newlyweds. On one of those mornings we went on a 4 mile walkabout through the old neighborhood.
Although much maligned as a weedy invasive the so called Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) does develop into a nice specimen if given enough time.
Here it is: 540 Elmina Street where Betsy and I lived for several years as newlyweds back in the early 1980s. The multi-stemmed Japanese maple was planted by yours truly. At that time it was only a small single stemmed tree - a seedling which I had purchased mail order.
While staying at the AirBnB we decided to host a Happy Hour on the second story porch. We had a good turn out: Sandra Martin Kathy Tom and Craig. There were lots of tasty Happy Hour treats and of course a good selection of adult beverages.
This was our last dinner out in Wheeling before we flew to Tucson and a special one it was. This was Dot Broemson's belated 90th birthday dinner we had promised her months ago. I have known Dot all of my life so as a special treat we took her to the Ihlenfeld Dining Room at Wilson Lodge.
Dot was my dad's office manager at the A.B. Brooks Nature Center in Oglebay Park.
My dad George H. Breiding was park Naturalist at Oglebay Park from 1950 to 1963 and Dot kept things running smoothly in the busy Nature Education Department. Without Dot my dad would have had a hard time accomplishing all he did during his tenure as Naturalist at Oglebay Park.
Two days after our dinner with Dot in Wheeling we were having lunch with Esther in Tucson. Esther kindly picked us up at the airport and got us and our luggage to Tucson Estates for the start of our 8th winter in the Tucson area.
Somewhere down there is our trailer. Others refer to them as Can-dominiums and above ground coffins.
Except for a few full timers there are not many people in Tucson Estates in October and it was blissfully quiet. All be it a bit hot.
It's a dry heat!
We have many fine sunsets out here on the west side of Tucson and a few nice sunrises as well.
Sunrise at Tucson Estates.
To get away from the heat we drove about 35 miles south to Madera Canyon for some hiking. We found the canyon awash in color. All the late summer rains had kept everything lush and beautiful.
There are more photos of our Madera Canyon hike here.
These critters are regular visitors in our neighborhood. They are not pigs or boars but Collared Peccaries aka Javelinas.
Javelina (Tayassu tajacu) also known as collared peccary are medium-sized animals that look similar to a wild boar. They have mainly short coarse salt and pepper colored hair short legs and a pig-like nose. The hair around the neck/shoulder area is lighter in color giving it the look of a collar. Javelina have long sharp canine teeth which protrude from the jaws about an inch.
They can be found in the deserts of southwest Texas New Mexico Arizona southward through Mexico and Central America and into northern Argentina.
On October the 4th I started a California road trip. Destination: San Francisco.
Route planning. I took quite a few back roads which required me to make some of my own maps to navigate by.
The Golden Gate
My reason for being here. The last of my mom's ashes cast to the winds high above The City.
A final farewell.
You can read more about my time in San Francisco here.
When I departed San Francisco I drove north to spend a few quiet days in the Redwoods along with some solitude along the rocky coastline.
I left the coast and headed inland to the Forks of Salmon to visit Chris and Meui and kids.
Here Chris preps some of his herb crop for packaging. Chris also has a vineyard.
Meui grows produce that is out of this world and lots of herbs and spices. The latter are marketed through her company Pepper Forrest Spice Company. These Salmon and Red Kuri squash are some of the squash she sent home with me.
Betsy put them to good use.
Mm Mm - good!
I left the mountains and drove east to the Owens Valley passing through Lone Pine which is the portal to the Alabama Hills and Mount Whitney.
Bye bye 'Bama Hills...
While I was away Betsy was on her own Road Trip with her sister Charlotte to Cottonwood AZ and while staying there did some sightseeing wine tasting shopping etc. in the surrounding area. This photo shows a visit to the Caduceus Cellars in Jerome AZ.
Here "the girls" enjoy a visit to Desert Meadows Park in Green Valley south of Tucson.
They also explored Tuzigoot National Monument which preserves the excavated ruins of a 110 room Sinagua peublo.
When Betsy saw this photo at a shop in Cottonwood she thought "Mike would sure like that!!" So she bought me a copy and it now hangs in my office with the rest of my Naked Ladies collection. The original photo in the shop said it was taken in 1919 at Yaddo an artists' retreat in Saratoga Springs NY.
While I was still on my Califonia road trip Joe and Linda Super visited our place in Tucson. I hated to miss them. They had their new rig in tow. Pretty spiffy!
This was the Happy Hour sunset for Joe Linda Char and Betsy. I hated to miss that as well.
Joe Super is a professor emeritus of history from WVU so while they were in Tucson they went to the Arizona State Museum and left with complimentary tickets for Betsy and me.
This contemporary Hopi katsina figure was just one of many fabulous works of art which included pottery and basketry as well. The displays were beautifully designed for maximum enjoyment and communicating information. An amazing place. THANKS! Joe and Linda.
When we left the Arizona State Museum we spotted this sign. It's all just a bad memory now...
With company gone and both of us back in town it was time to get down to some much neglected business.
When your refrigerator looks like this...
... and your Happy Hours include this...
... and you do a lot this...
... you end up here with a trainer trying to get rid of it all!
And the effort is paying off!! Betsy: -10 lbs Mike: -5 lbs.
In November I had not yet started leading hikes again and Betsy I had some really nice hikes together. Just the two us. And every Friday we hiked with Steffi and Robert until they departed for Mexico. This was taken in Madera Canyon. The creek was flowing nicely.
The ferns were responding nicely to the cool temps and plentiful rain in Madera. This one is Fairy Sword (Cheilanthes lindheimer).
We hiked up to Seven Falls with Steffi and Robert where we came upon a scantily clad water sprite!
The trail to Krein Summit is slow going. But fun.
Betsy at the summit of Krein.
This is the Vertical Cliffs area of Saguaro National Park West.
On several mornings I went to Tumamoc Hill for a good work out and some great scenery.
For this hike we went to the northern end of the Catalina Mountains to enjoy the Sutherland Trail. There was still good fall color.
There had been so much rain in October all of the Ocotillo were leafed out. This is at the "Big Rock" on the Sutherland trail. There is a nice water pool there and it made a pleasant spot to have lunch.
On November the 9th Betsy Steffi Robert and I hiked the Kent Springs trail in the Santa Rita mountains. This was on Friday and my legs were so sore from the previous day at the gym I started wondering about the sanity of attempting this hike. But all went well.
On Nov 11th we had an authentic German dinner! Schnitzel spaetzle and an interesting sauce along with a hearty bread. All homemade of course.
The cooks - Robert and Steffi. Note the sauce pan on the left. This contained a spicy tomato based sauce which Steffi said made the meal "Gypsy style". It was delicious and much fun.
On December 1st we kicked off the month with a hike to Krein Summit with Steffi and Robert. It is one of our favorite hikes for obvious reasons. This was our last hike with them before they left for a two month stay on the shores of the Sea of Cortez.
That same day Chuck Coole a long time friend from Morgantown arrived for a couple of weeks of golfing hiking and sightseeing.
Mid December I went up to visit our friends Mark and Kathy in Apache Junction. They were staying there for the month of December until they left for 3 months of exploring in New Zealand. They invited us up to hike in the Superstition Mts while they were in the area.
Betsy could not go because she had to sing in two of the Christmas concerts put on by the Western Way Chorale.
Claire who I originally met on a Tucson Hiking MeetUP hike came over from Phoenix and joined us on one of the hikes.
The scenery in the Superstition Mts is gorgeous and very different from the Tucson area. This photo and the two below were on the "Praying Hands" loop.
Steffi and Robert inspired us to try our hand at cooking our own German meal.
I beat the meat and Betsy battered and dredged.
Then I fried them up.
Pretty good results from our joint efforts. We sent this photo to Steffi and Robert and Robert emailed back: "Very nice! You should apply for German citizenship!" High praise considering the source.
Yet another hike up to Krein this time with a MeetUp group. Pretty nice weather for December 25th!
You can't read it but this hiker's t-shirt reads "I am no cactus expert but I know a prick when I see one." Nice...
Betsy's Sonoran Christmas tree. The birds are perched on Ocotillo stems. Betsy collected the hand painted birds over many years and for years they adorned out Fraser fir Christmas trees when we lived in Morgantown.
Fraser fir no more... But still festive.
In December I had scheduled a New Years Day MeetUp hike to the summit of Wasson Peak in the Tucson Mountains. This hike is 8 miles with an elevation gain of 2200'. A storm moved through on December 31st and dropped snow down to 4000'. This meant the Tucson Mountains got some which is rare. This happened in 2015 as well. Also on New Years Day.
When I saw the snow and the saw the temp - 31 degrees - I rescheduled the start time from 9:00 to 11:00.
When Betsy and I arrived at the King Canyon Trail head around 10:30 the lot was nearly full. And to my surprise everyone who had signed up for the hike showed up along with several guests we had invited. That made a total of 14. With all those folks arriving it filled up the lot - about 50 cars!
Not much snow but enough to make it interesting.
There are a series of small ledges in the wash which always make it fun.
Brittle bush and snow. What a sight.
Betsy is at the end. She usually runs "sweep" so no one falls behind.
By the time we were close to the saddle it was starting to clear although it was still a bit breezy and cool.
Here we all are at the saddle. The age spread was from the 20s to the 70s and it made a fun group. Every one was eager to get to the summit.
The north side of the mountains musta had some blowing snow don't cha think?
An ice and snow encrusted cholla.
Shin-daggers (Agave lechuguilla) peeking out of the snow
Betsy on the summit. The snowy range in the background is the Santa Catalinas.
I love this view of Panther Peak and Safford Peak aka Sombrero. I have now been to the summit of both of these peaks.
On the way back down the Gould Mine trail we saw many more Brittle bush in bloom.
The last shot of the day - looking west to the Quinlan Mountains and Kitt Peak. It was about 4:30 and soon we were back at the parking lot.
This hike turned out to be one of the best group hikes I have ever led. Everyone was so congenial and excited about getting to the summit. A perfect way to start the New Year for Betsy and me.
And that as they say - is that!!
At Our Residence
In the Field