Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saguro Nat'l Park - East: Wildhorse trail

Since I was too tired to post about our open house last weekend, I'm going to do a double post today and hope I can hold out. :)

We had a great time last week showing off and warming our my residence. About 20 people came over throughout the weekend and added the echo of laughter and goodness to the house. Several of my current and former running buddies and work friends came in as well as my friend from elementary school, Les. Crazy, crazy Lesley! David and I are so lucky to have friends that, even though they don't know each other, have so much fun together.

Pictures of the new place can be found on Fb. I also took a whole bunch of photos of people at the party, but afterward, DC (that's "Dear Chino") informed me that there was no card in the camera, so if you were there, you'll have to savor those memories in your mind and if you weren't, you'll just have to trust me that it was a great party!

The menu consisted of Vegetarian Planet's chilled mango soup (I left out the yogurt part), PA Dutch pepper cabbage, fried plantains (not plantations!), pigeon peas and rice, pork fricassee, fat-free vegan banana cupcakes, and shoo-fly pie. Every thing, even the banana cupcakes which I thought need help, was devoured with delight. We even needed to make more pigeon peas on Sunday!

So many people had questions about the whats and wherefores of shoo-fly pie (in-between bites, that is), so a reasonable history of shoo-fly pies can be found here. The shoo-fly pie recipe I use is my Uncle George's. He was a baker in the navy during WWII and was, at least among our family, well-known for his shoo-fly pies. Alton Brown comes close with this recipe, but I think Uncle George's would have a better texture since you're not mixing the flour with the liquid which would length the gluten strands in the flour and toughen the pie (I think).  This one has a gooey "wet bottom" as opposed to the more cake-like filling in a "dry bottom" pie.

Uncle George's Shoo-fly pie

Pastry for one 9-inch pie crust (I use frozen - grasp!)
Bottom part:                                                                 
3/4 cup dark molasses

1 egg (optional)                                                  
3/4 cup of boiling water
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Top part:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cold butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar

Mix the molasses and the egg (if using). Dissolve baking soda in boiling water and add to molasses.

Combine sugar and flour and cut in the butter to make crumbs about the size of peas.

Pour 1/3 of the liquid in unbaked crust. Add 1/3 of the crumb mixture on top of it and use a fork to tamp down the crumbs into the liquid. Do NOT mix them!

Add 2 more layers ending with crumbs on top.

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes (approximately)

Makes one 9" pie. Das es gut, ya? 

OK, on to our hike today. This is the hike we should have done two weeks ago! It was easy, well-marked and the time estimate was much closer to the mark. In fact, if we factor in the time we spent getting distracted by pictures and Mother's day greetings, it was about perfectly timed, so I don't feel so badly about how slow we are!

We started out at the end of Speedway near Tanque Verde Ranch at the Wildhorse trail head. Well, here's the basic idea. We made a clockwise loop from north going south for almost exactly 4 miles as shown on the open street map and then the USGS topo map.

Basically, we took Wildhorse trail to Garwood, Carrillo, and then Deer Valley trails. We then followed Deer Valley wash for about a mile to meet up with Schantz trail back to the car. That's the quick and dirty, now's here the pictures which are worth thousands of hours of typing!

Our starting point

Since we started early, we had packed an on-the-go breakfast for the trail. After we had the first mile under our belts, we found some shade and had apples, oranges, power bars, and amaranth graham crackers.

Chino enjoying the shade & breakfast

The Garwood trail

We had some incredible views of the saguaro forest, including some pretty weird looking ones.
I've not seen this many saguaros growing so close together before
This one is shedding it's "skin" revealing the stalks that hold it up and bring it water inside
A close up
The next several are of a cristate or "crested" saugaro...

Scientists are not sure why some saguaros do this
but about 1 in 250,000 do!

Crazy, huh?
Sagauro blooming
Brown-headed cowbird - one of my least favorite birds since they add their eggs to the nests of smaller unsuspecting birds. The young cowbirds then crowd the smaller nestlings out :(

We also traipsed through strands of mesquite along the Deer Valley wash. They're all in bloom right now.

Deer Valley wash
That's me slogging it up the wash
Mesquites in the wash
Mesquite blossoms
As we neared the end of the trail, we found this cholla with funny scars on it.

This little guy was sooo cute!
Oh noooooooo, Mr. Cholla!
One last giant saguaro cactus
Take the picture already!
Here's DC (Dear Chino) still smiling at the end of the hike.

One thing that seemed to help today, besides the well-placed trail marker system, was the geo-caching GPS "toy" (Magellan eXplorist GC) that DC recently found at Target. It's meant to help find geo-caches, but he was able to put route flags on it from home last night that reassured us we were on the right path. That's sure to be helpful on those less obvious trails.

I attempted (without binoculars) to mentally tally the bird species today:

Mourning dove
White-winged dove
Brown-headed cowbird
Cactus wren
Curved-billed thrasher
Gila woodpecker
Lesser goldfinch
Gambel's quail
Greater roadrunner...

and lots I couldn't identify. Boy, my birding skills are feeble-izing! Next time I think I'll bring my bins to see what else I can find! 
In all it took us about 3 hours to hike the 4 miles. Much better than 2 weeks ago. We will need to be starting earlier very soon. It was a very comfy 56 degrees when we started at 7am, but 88 by the time we got back to the car at 10am! I also think we need to start bringing some bug spray. Lots of gnats around us today. I'd love suggestions on where we should hike next. Sabino canyon? Mount Lemmon? Tucson mountains? Some many hikes, so little time!

Wow! This has been a loooonnnngggg post and if you've read to the bottom, thanks! :) 

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