Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Coefficient of Juju

So it started, a small idea for a little trip. A short pack trip. One night with a modest hike near Phoenix. Here we three are at the start, at the Reavis Ranch trail head. 3.5 miles up and a steep uphill -- to find this view --

and then we descend into Shawn's Garden, proclaimed to be so by me, because of it reminding me of Garden Valley. It was confirmed immediately by the Happy Hiking Guy™, and Dale was there to witness it, so now it is true, and I think the USGS is going to add the place name to the maps. You'll see another picture of it later, because, frankly, I liked it.

These are Beavertail Cactus of some sort or another. They are spiny and I think I still have some spines sticking out from my neck from when I smacked one with my face.

The descent into Reavis Creek was steep and despite a lot of preparation my right knee was threatening to disable me slow me down. Add vitamin I.

We saw this Horny Toad (Phrynosoma platyrhinos calidiarum, technically a Horned Lizard), which was cool. The horned toad has a very high coefficient of juju. One might ask, what is the coefficient of juju? This was actually Dale's terminology. I was talking about juju, as it relates to desert critters, like coyotes or lizards. I always thought juju was sort of like luck plus savvy. A lizard can run across hot desert sand and hide through camouflage, and then just when you've managed to get ahold of his tail, he breaks it off, combining surprise with speed to escape to safety. That's some large coefficient of juju. Man makes water from a desert mud hole and gets a desert survival badge. I was a bit worried the pain in my knee would lower my juju.

This is the Sierra Designs Light Year single and my home for the night. My playmates went off to find Reavis Falls while I looked around for an ice pack for my knee, made water and ate.

My legs were seriously cooked and my feet (dogs in the vernacular of Dale) were throbbing, which proved a bit difficult in the somewhat limited space of the SD Light Year.

The trip out went well.

This is the overview of Shawn's Garden. It is difficult to do this any justice with a camera. It might be the biggest collection of Beavertail cactus in one place in the world, who knows. Enlarge this photo and look at how many thousands of pads there are. Although I wasn't lame at all on the trip out, as you can see in this picture, Dale has my food bag hanging from his backpack, and I am following him like Pavlov's dog. Despite being 4 miles from the car, I am seriously ready for a bowl of screaming hot chili at Tortilla Flat. I stopped for lunch about 45 minutes later.

Me with Apache Lake in the background.

There's the car and two bowls of that chili.


lauren said...

the blooming cactus is pretty.

sounds like it was a neat trip. good weather too. did it get cold at night?

shawnkielty said...

Thanks, The peach color of the flower is a bit puzzling to me. And seriously gorgeous.

It was good trip.

It was not cold really, although I did put on my pullover in the morning, so it might have been below 60.

shawnkielty said...

.............Jonah.............................. said...

Hey Shawn,

I've been following your blog for a few weeks now and I've really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing. I'm even starting one of my own now.

Your garden of cactus looks pretty nice/nasty. As for the world record for cactus density, though, I can think of one spot near Camarillo, CA that might have even more. I'll try to get a photo of it some time.

Also, not to be snooty or anything, but is that not Prickly Pear Cactus?

Glad you had a nice trip. Have a great weekend. Take care.

shawnkielty said...



I believe that it is qualified as a prickly pear, yes. "Prickly pear" is a somewhat imprecise term at worst, and at best I think it refers to the same cactus that produces nopales, the pads that you would find at the grocery store. That cactus has glochids (the short and highly irritating fine "thorns"), but no or very short spines.

To the best of my ability, I would call this an Engelman's Beavertail or a Mohave "Prickly Pear." The Englemann's (O. Engelmanii engelmanii) typically has 1.5-2" spines, while the ones I saw were 1". The pads were 8-12 across, and plants were less than 4-5 feet tall.

This site does a lot to add to the confusion, and calls almost every cactus in the Opuntia genus a Prickly Pear. Others might not be as generous with the term "prickly pear."

If you'd like to have a go at making a positive ID, feel free. Location is 15 miles East of Mesa AZ at about 3500 ft, in the Superstition Mountains, just over the ridge to the East from the junction of the Reavis Ranch and Reavis Falls trails. I thin there's enough in the photos to make an ID -- especially if you also know some of the flowers were solid yellow.

A Midnight Rider said...

I have never hiked in areas like your post. Desert? It looks very, very interesting.

Eclectchick said...

Simply fabulous pictures!!! I LOVE the one below of the birds on/in the cactus.

Thanks for the little visual vacation. The photos are extremely refreshing. Ahhhh.

shawnkielty said...

Eclectchick -- Thank you!

Midnight Rider -- The pix come from the Superstition Wilderness which is mostly a set of mountains East of Phoenix about 35 miles. It is by all accounts desert, hot, dry and harsh. The elevations range from the valley floor (same as Phoenix) at 1500 ft. to about 4200 ft.

Moonrise over Siphon Draw

If you look at this picture, the Superstition mountains are in the back ground on the left.

shawnkielty said...


Michelle said...

Looks like a GREAT hike! I have a Sierra Design Light Year 1 person tent in my lap at this very moment! I purchased it yesterday for Bike Boy's birthday gift.

I love N. Arizona, Flagstaff area. Phoenix was way too hot, I don't think I have ever been in such hot temperatures, around 106 degrees. Way too much for this Alaskan girl.

Your pictures are soo great, I love them!

I just purchased a backpack for myself yesterday also and have a 4th of July trip planned on a hiking-only trail. I sure like biking better than walking, but this trip is worth the walk.

Jeff said...

Great pictures. I love your campsite with the big rock and tree. I have good memories of backpacking with my dad...even the parts when I was crying from exhaustion! My son is almost seven. I think it's time he and I did some backpacking.

shawnkielty said...

Thanks Jeff -- and Welcome.

Poetry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shawnkielty said...

hmmm --- poetry spam ... a first.