Posts Tagged ‘Sonoran desert’





As a Pre-Thanksgiving offer Travels With Chalize will be available on Kindle for free downloads starting Sat. Nov. 21 and ending Tues. Nov. 24. It is available now and will continue to be available for KDP Select downloads. Don’t miss this opportunity.TWC-front cover

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Writer’s Digest Judge’s Commentary*:

So much personality shown in Charlize–we get real emotion and expression in the way the author has painted every scene with the dog. We also get deep emotion (and tears) in the early conversation with his wife, where she says that he can get a dog now that her demise is near. What a selfless statement, a deep realization, and a wish for her husband to be okay after she is gone. This is truly moving, and we long for the author to find the perfect dog to connect with.

“Hope is the mantra of anyone sitting on a boat” on page 75 is a true gem of this book. Author peppers the story with these resonant thoughts. Well done. They stay with the reader.
The ending just drops off when he’s home again and happy to have arrived safely. We could use a description of his home that has been colored by his travels along the coast, the same excellent skill in capturing scenery and feeling. That would round out the story beautifully. A very good read.

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The Phoenix I knew, before leaving in 1970, is no more. The northern suburbs now stretch all the way to Cave Creek. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Cave Creek eleven years ago. When I practiced veterinary medicine, never certain I practiced well enough or long enough to really be good at it, there was nothing between my clinic on 32nd St. and Bell Road and the town of Cave Creek, seven or so miles north. I had a few clients in Cave Creek so I drove those miles on a two-lane road full of drops down into washes then up again. Today the road is divided, two lanes to a side, no dips and the previously empty desert is full of subdivisions and strip malls. Compared to the eclectic neighborhoods of Seattle and Edmonds, the subdivisions are monotonic, ersatz adobe style, flat or tile roofs, varying shades of tan. It is early spring in the Sonoran desert and the cacti are getting ready to bloom, some already have. If I lived in one of those subdivisions, even though I still have positive feelings about the desert, I think I would need a trail of bread crumbs to find my house after a couple of glasses of Malbec.


The biggest change though is the shear number of people and the resulting traffic. I took Alexis to see where my clinic was and the building I built is still there. Here is a photo of the Paradise Animal Hospital in 1962:

My beautiful picture

Now the place is a Mexican furniture, knickknack and pottery store. We went in and most of the rooms of the clinic had been reconfigured and obviously repurposed. The indoor kennels have been removed and the openings to the outside runs closed. The outside runs have been removed. My old reception area is now a private office, my old office full of knickknacks for sale. Just for fun I peeked in the restroom. The fixtures have been replaced but the door to my old darkroom was still there, closed. I opened it and the room was empty but still painted black! Here is what the place looks like now:

clinic & charlize

Charlize couldn’t have been less interested.

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For two days Charlize and I drove through the Mohave Desert. It’s different, different than the Sonoran Desert of my youth. I grew up in that desert, hiking and camping and loving the harsh environment that required skill and knowledge to survive.

From Indio to Lake Havasu and from there to the Zion National Park we drove through the Mohave. In my book, Man Hunt, I wrote about a trip taken by Tom Tobin from the Taos area to Los Angeles in the 1850’s. As was always the case in those days the trip through the Mohave, from one watering place to the next, was brutal, the way marked by the skeletons of man and beast.

Our trip was a piece of cake. Old Blue, with Frog closely following, clicked off the miles of pavement at a steady pace. The uninitiated might consider the Mohave dull, repetitious, mile after mile of sand, rocks, sagebrush and monotony. It isn’t. The flora is constantly changing as you travel through a wide variety of eco-zones. Late February is too early for the desert to burst into bloom but there are no fewer than two hundred different wild flowers and cacti that bloom in that so called wasteland. I did spot early Mojave gold poppy along the roadside, it’s bright yellow flowers waved to us on narrow leafless stems oscillating in the slipstream as we blew past at sixty miles per hour.

The most common plant I saw was the creosote bush, I know it as greasewood, an evergreen that can grow to more than four feet tall. We stopped to stretch our legs and for Charlize to water the desert and I spotted green ephedra, also known as Mormon Tea. In the southern part of our trip the land was full of sagebrush, salt brush and greasewood. As we travelled north we passed through various, fairly well defined eco-zones dominated by several varieties of yucca, including tall yucca that were almost tree-like, and just beginning to form blossoms. I saw chaparral and, in the washes, paloverde and mesquite.

From Temecula, CA we followed highway CA74 diagonally across the desert to Indio, passing through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountain ranges. Above 3,500 feet I saw some California juniper. In lower areas, where there was water, there were tamarisk trees and palms. The tamarisk I remember from when I was growing up. We had several on one corner of our lot. They were at least forty feet tall, with dark purplish bark. The leaves aren’t leaves, more like scales, and salt encrusted, dirty. We used to climb those trees, but always needed a bath afterwards. You don’t see those dirty, trashy trees much anymore they have been replaced by modern landscaping.

The Mojave Desert is, somehow, more forbidding, more stark, more desolate, than my familiar Sonoran Desert that is full of many varieties of cacti. It must have been a fairly wet fall and winter though, I saw a lot of grass.



The plaque Charlize is sitting next to says:

“In this place of Solitude and Beauty, please take time to show respect for both the natural surroundings and those who share this highway.”

“Maintain a grateful awareness of the Time given you To share with your Loved Ones and remember those who innocently lost what you may take for granted.”

“Please Drive Safely.”

I had to wipe the tears from my eyes. 



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On the way over from San Diego to Phoenix I remembered my first time trip to San Diego. I was ten years old, the summer of 1946. The Second World War was over and my Uncle Sol, my Dad’s younger brother, was being mustered out of the Navy. The trip was made in our 1940 Chevy, before the multi-fabric, multi-color upholstery. The Chevy had new tires, but no air conditioning in fact I don’t remember a heater in that car, at least not one that functioned. To beat the summer heat we started after dark and Dad drove all night, no freeways or interstate highways to travel at seventy-five miles an hour. I don’t think Dad ever put that car over fifty. No radio either, not that there would have been a radio station to connect to anywhere in that desert, well, maybe in Yuma.

My brother and sister and I slept in the back seat, but I can remember waking up and listening in on the soft conversation taking place between Mom and Dad. Talking to keep awake, about mundane, every day subjects and their hopes and dreams, mostly concerning us kids. The road frequently dipped down then up through many gullies and washes, no bridges. I was concerned because there were stories about whole families being washed away in their car by a flash flood that originated in the mountains sending a wall of water gushing through those desert washes.

Old Blue, Charlize and I will make that trip to San Diego again soon, during daylight, on the interstate, at seventy-five, the radio tuned to a station playing Jazz, air conditioning if we need it. It will be different, better? Maybe. What’s the rush?

Here is Charlize in my brother’s back yard, and practicing her sit-stay, unhappily, in front of some cholla cactus, both near Cave Creek, AZ.


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