I spent the
earlier part of this week watching low clouds flow over the valley while
listening to rain drumming on the roof. We got 3.5 inches and finally the
creeks are flowing and Sherilton Valley Pond is full. That makes 11.5 inches
for this season and hopefully we'll get some more before things dry up in
February is gold panning season in our mountain back
country and today I got a jump on the crowds by starting a little early.
Living in the area gives me an advantage over the flatlanders who come
up on the weekends. Of course I've already scouted the best spots and I
should have my gold pouch full before the first tourists hit the creeks this
I'm sure you already know how to pan for gold but just
in case, here's a quick summary.
Fill the pan almost to the top with sand from the edge
of the creek.
Dip the pan's edge into the stream and fill it with
Hold the pan with one hand and swirl it to mix the
sand. Any gold will start settling toward the bottom of the pan.
Continue until much of the pan is empty leaving only
huge chunks of gold.
admit to finding anything and always be watchful for claim jumpers.
January 24, 2008 - Thursday
of weather related activities going on in the valley. It's still relatively
early in the rainy season but so far we've surpassed the amount of rain we
received for the whole season last year. Cold days with nights below
freezing and occasional snow flurries. King Creek has been running
intermittently and two weeks ago, because of flooding, they had to
temporarily close the road out of our area. For me, these are fun times
especially after a monotonous summer with weeks/months passing without a
Rob Krier, the weather reporter for the Union-Tribune
came out yesterday to interview me for an article he's doing about weather
station hobbyists like myself. I had to make it clear though, that I in no
way try to pass myself off as a meteorologist. My main interest is in the
technology and getting it to function reliably. No small feat when trying
to get computers, network links, cameras and satellite connections to mesh
and upload consistently.
and I have also been lending a hand in trying to get water flowing back into
the Sherilton Valley pond. Like most ponds in the back country, it was man
made back in the cattle ranching days. When all the channels and canals are
open, it fills and provides a source for water during summer brush fires.
But last year it didn't fill at all and this year, the culvert that diverts
water from the nearest creek is plugged. Rich Bottari who has been here
since the valley was subdivided, has been trying to clear sand from the
culvert. So far he has it partially running but before it runs clear, we'll
need to see a few more inches of rain to provide enough water volume to
completely flush the pipes.
I've received several responses about my downbeat
ecological critique in the last entry and one reader suggested that I read
The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed
by John Vaillant. It's a historical account of logging in the Pacific
Northwest and the irreparable damage caused by the multinational lumber
industry. These days it's no secret that "clear cutting" causes irreversible
damage to the environment but the book describes how that knowledge became
known. Vaillant tells the story of one "disturbed" individual who lost his
way when he tried to draw attention to the problem.
A subject I mull over when considering the "end justify
the means" policies of groups like Earth First, Greenpeace and PETA. And as
someone who fits in the sympathizer column, I gotta admit that sometimes I
do think that "the result justifies the deed".
January 14, 2008 - Monday
All quiet except for the Santa Ana
wind blowing from the north.
The World Without Us
by Alan Weisman so excuse me while I go slit my wrists. He uses an
interesting tactic (what would the world be like without us) to basically
say "man bad, nature victim". I get it, I've gotten it for years. I'm a
cranky misanthrope so when I'm told that the world's problems can best be
summed up as corporate greed and over population, I don't disagree.
Jeez, I guess I'm just tired of
feeling guilty (for my contribution to the problem) and discouraged because
I don't see any realistic solution. Corporations aren't going to become
enlightened unless there's profit in it and people are going to keep
reproducing. To further rub my nose in it, Weisman goes on to make a case
that even if the human race were instantly raptured off the planet, it's
probably too late for nature to recover. We've so thoroughly screwed things
up that many of the effects will last till the sun goes nova and the earth
is burned to a cinder.
Ok, Ok, that's pretty harsh. All
things considered, I'm glad they did it. It was a noble experiment and many
things were learned. It was something that had to be done and now we can
move on, building on what we learned in Biosphere 2.
today's photo is a snapshot taken during this morning's walk in Biosphere
almost a dozen waypoints programmed into my mapping software but in the end,
we only hit three. Five days isn't enough to see Southern Arizona and rather
than trying to cover it all, I probably should have just focused on one
Our first stop was the Kofa Wilderness Reserve which is a
large area midway between Yuma and Quartzite on highway 95. It's a
beautiful desert area and we drove 16 miles down a bumpy wash board road to
get to our campsite. Even the littlest bumps are enough to shake the RV to
the core and though I kept the speed down to 8 miles an hour, I was still
concerned about jiggling something loose. The end result was good though as
we ended up in an isolated section of the park with no other visitors and no
lights in the night sky.
spent two nights in the reserve and explored the area during the day hoping
to see some bighorn sheep. No sheep though we did find a half dozen
abandoned mines. For the most part mining ended at the end of the 1800's
though we did notice some recent digging going on in a few spots.
By the third day I realized we were short on time so I
headed for Oracle which is the home of
II. Most people will remember the experimental project that took place
between 1991 and 93 when 8 people lived in the self sustaining dome for two
years. A huge project with noble intensions but eroded by intellectual
infighting and bickering.
More pyramid than dome, the structure is huge (3.15
acres). In spite of the setbacks, it seems to me that a lot was accomplished
by the venture. Even though the cliché "you learn by your mistakes" comes to
mind, I think the project was by no means a failure. Unfortunately I had a
sense that the Biosphere's days of important research are over. The
University of Arizona took over maintenance this year but their research
plan seems forced and more about public relations than substance.
The tour of this facility was excellent. Maybe it's my
background in University maintenance but the behind the scenes
infrastructure on this structure is fascinating. Luckily we were the first
visitors that morning and our tour guide gave us an exclusive visit to some
of the out of the way areas. We were able to duck low and travel down an
underground tunnel to one of the huge domes that houses the diaphragm used
to compensate for air pressure changes. This was also the site where one of
the original inhabitants returned to sabotage the second phase of the study.
Did I mention that there was some infighting?
A basketball court sized room
with floating roof that adjusts the biosphere to ambient air pressure.