Monday, November 1, 2021

Get Out and Play

Once again, it's time for P.J.'s monthly photo blog challenge, and once again, I've been remiss in not writing more here since this is literally the first post in over a month. I missed all of October, but then again, I could argue that I was following the theme of the month, which is Get Out and Play. Yeah, that's my story and I'm sticking with it. Needless to say, I went out and played this month, taking my first out of state road trip since before the pandemic hit. I hiked, I camped, I took lots of photos, so it was difficult to whittle down all the photos I took into just five shots, but I tried my best. Here are my five shots for this month.

1. A unique icon

Those of you who have been following along on this wandering that I do, know I love to geocache. One of the things that has kept me interested in the game are challenge caches - a cache that gives you a challenge to fulfill. 

My first stop in Arizona was the Tucson area for two reasons: 1. Saguaro National Park, a place I'd never visited before and 2. The only webcam in the entire state of Arizona. Now, I know what you're probably thinking. "There's only one webcam in the entire state?" Well, there's only one webcam that's also a geocache in the entire state and it's located on the campus of the University of Arizona. So I ended up walking around campus that first day, looking for the webcam. Now usually, you'd just go to the coordinates and find the cache, but this one was a little bit trickier than that. You were told what building you needed to find, but the coordinates weren't at that particular building, but rather near a campus directory. Eventually I made my way over to where the webcam was and took a screenshot on my phone of me looking like I'm having a conversation with a fire hydrant on the university's campus.

On a side note, before smart phones, these were event tougher, because you literally had to phone a friend and have them get a screenshot on their computer. I did that here as a back up in case I wasn't able to get my own shot, but for this blog entry, I'm using my own photo. And this also gave me my 9th different icon, or type of geocache, in the state of Arizona, second only to California.

2 & 3. Saguaros

As noted above, the national park was one of my "must see" stops on my road trip to Arizona. I'm a national park enthusiast and this particular park has been on my bucket list forever. When we used to travel to Arizona to visit my uncle who lived in Scottsdale we never got as far as Tucson, but we could see saguaro cactus pretty much everywhere on the drive over to my uncle's house. They are fascinating and so the park which was a national monument at the time went on my bucket list. 

I never got to take the kids to see the park when they were growing up mainly because there's no car camping in the park, only backcountry camping. And so it sat there on my list until this past month when I decided that it was time.

I had plans to hike to a virtual geocache in the park, but the road leading up to that particular trailhead was closed while I was there, so I spent part of the morning walking a short nature trail in the park and the rest of the morning hiking on a trail in Tucson Mountain Park which is located to the east of the western portion of Saguaro National Park. The National Park is broken into two different sections, one located to the east of Tucson and one located to the west. The black and white photo, which I've entitled "The Clouds Laugh" was taken in Tucson Mountain Park while I was hiking and finding a couple of geocaches.

4 & 5. Chiricahua National Monument

My second stop on this trip was in Chiricahua National Monument in southeastern Arizona. The backstory for this park comes from a student I had probably 18 years ago. When I was teaching, my school room was always plastered with posters from various parks that I had visited or wanted to visit in the future. One day in class, this student came up to me and asked if I'd ever been to Chiricahua National Monument before. When I answered in the negative, he proceeded to tell me how beautiful the park was and what a neat place it was and he spent the better part of several class periods extolling the virtues of this park. When a 13 year old kid is that excited about something in nature, you pay attention and so this park went on my bucket list as well.

My plan was to camp here for two nights and enjoy a full day of hiking and sightseeing in the park, before heading back to Phoenix where I'd spent one more night before coming home. As I was setting up my tent at my campsite, I was interrupted by a couple of coatimundis wandering through the campground. I'd seen photos of them, but have never seen them in the wild, so this was really a thrill for me. 

These two were very skittish and took off as soon as I walked a little bit closer, so I didn't get a photos of them, but my luck definitely changed the next day as I had an entire troop of around 15 coatis wander through the river bed behind my campsite.

The troop, composed of females and youngsters wandered in the river bed and fortunately, I had my camera ready, just in case. They'd send the younger coatis up the juniper trees to pick berries and while feeding themselves up in the tree, they'd also drop berries down to the others waiting below.

Once they left, I packed up my gear and headed up to the top of the park where I'd take my hike in the Heart of the Rocks loop. My goal was to see some of the geological features of the park up close and to also get the Heart of the Rocks virtual cache there. The last photo posted here is the Pinnacle Balanced Rock and is pretty typical of the types of formations you can see in this park. 

Most of the formations are created by freeze and thaw cycles, so eventually, this particular formation will fail, but others will eventually also be created through this cycle as well. I did a second hike into an area called the grottos where the rock pillars are very close to the trail and several of the pillars have collapsed against each other. There is one point in the grotto where you can sit directly underneath a very large (garage sized) boulder being held in place by two neighboring pillars. Yeah, I sat there for a little bit.

And there you have my five photos of when I got out and played last month. Please stop by P.J.'s site and see how others got out and played last month. Please feel free to comment here. I will respond back and I don't bite. As always, thanks for dropping by.


  1. I remember leaving my wife back at a hotel with a laptop once upon a time to snag a webcam cache. Good times. The coatimundi is an interesting looking animal!

    1. The photo of the coatimundi doesn't really show how it carries itself. Tail is usually upright, giving it the appearance of a cross between possum and monkey, although it's most closely related to the raccoon.

      Webcams are a lot easier to get now with the smart phone, but they are so few and far between that even getting 25 for a challenge I've signed is going to be tough. I've found 9 webcam caches and I need 16 more.

  2. I've never been to Saguaro National Park, and I've never heard of coatimundis. Thanks for broadening my horizon!
    These rocks look super cool!
    PS: you should have posted the fire hydrant self-talk picture as a bonus ;-)))

    1. Both places were new to me, as I'd never visited them either. I'd go back to both.

  3. The old-school way is how I got the one webcam in Dublin. I walked down to the spot and my brother captured it on my laptop. Else I wouldn't have had the chance to do it!

    Great set of photos as always this month. That balanced rock is wild.And it seems like in retirement you are definitely making sure you geocache! Keep it up!

    1. Thank you.

      The first webcam cache I got was way back in 2003, so I know I had to do it old school. I was with my boys and called my wife and walked her through the process.

      And yes, I'm enjoying retirement immensely.

  4. I'm not very familiar with the parks in the southwest so thank you for the info! Looks like you had a great month!