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January 2005
Fast Walking in the Desert

High energy dancing comes at the top of the list of our favorite way to exercise but fast walking is a good second. (Lots of dancing description) In Arizona, Paul and Kitty dance on two nights and typically fit in two outings of fast walking on another two days. The uneven terrain of the desert provides a lot of opportunities to work the feet and legs in ways that are different than walking (or running) on paved or smooth surfaces. Between the workout from our dancing and the fast walking we do both in the desert and the city, our legs - and the rest of our bodies - are in great shape.

Let’s get this walk up to pace

Paul urges Kitty to pick up the pace even before we get out of our driveway.

Paul is off the road and across the wash

Once at the end of our driveway we turned east and to where our road meets the one going north/south. Paul has crossed over the wash on the east side and headed toward a path a short distance away. (Kitty hustled to catch up after this and all other shots she took in this series of photos.)

Once on the "path" - nothing formal, just one used by locals periodically in that part of the nearby desert - we were moving in a southerly direction again.

Ruts are for quickly straddling

This small rut created from years of off-road bike usage presents a straddling opportunity, which was actually done by Paul at a fair pace.

Washes are for bounding across or leaping over

This wash is too wide to take in one leap but Paul definitely bounded across. (And Kitty did the same - for both the rut and the wash.)

Heading east on unmaintained road

The path breaks onto an unmaintained road - according to the state (which owns the property) this is not a road at all. The direction is now to the east again.

Large sand collection in low spots is not uncommon

A great deal of sand has collected in the dry stream beds (referred to as washes in English or arroyos in Spanish) as a result of being washed downstream from the foothills of disintegrating mountains by the rain runoff. It makes for some extra work for the legs. Kitty in years past has seen horse owners purposely riding their mounts down long washes for the exercise it provides. Paul took most of this one at a jog (which is far easier than walking in the loose sand), and the few others on this route, though on our first few times we just fast walked them. (Kitty jogged more often as she had the task of catching up.)

Paul squashes aluminum can

We remembered to take along a few plastic bags for picking up the litter left by irresponsible individuals as it is a visual disturbance in our outings. We occasionally do this same "picking up after people" on night walks in Toronto. Gathering up these eyesores also affords us lots of bending and stretching - a good activity for maintaining flexibility, which we've also increased in our dancing.

Trash into bag on the go

We picked up the pace in between pick-ups; Kitty picked between photos, adding itmes to Paul's bag.

Paul spies some more trash

Paul spied another item off the right...a classic Coke bottle.

It’ a classic Coke bottle!

The distance along the unmaintained road is one mile from the north/south paved road shown above (and again below) to where we turn north into the desert near another developed area. This length was traveled in 19 minutes, which included many detours to pick up various items of trash - several glass bottles, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, pieces of cardboard, and even the paper box and 6 unused catsup envelopes from McDonalds!?

Now we’re headed north and back into the desert itself

Even with foot compression applied to most of the items, the trash bag is getting mighty full.

Paul makes use of a homeowner’s garbage can to dispose of trash we picked up so far

An accessible garbage can became available just when needed, about a 1/4 mile further along.

Paul inspects green plastic bag found at base of creosote overhanging wash Another bag found and picked up

Plastic bags are picked up and inspected to see if they can be used for further collection. If so, then into Paul's pocket. If not they just become more trash.

Paul leaps over wash

After a fair amount of trash pick-up fairly near the houses, it was back to a trail and uninterrupted fast walking, still northerly. Paul leaped this generally east/west flowing wash easily.

Paul passes through pedestrian break in fence into county park land

We decided to take a bit of a detour to the east into the county park that adjoins the state trust land we'd been walking on.

Paul leads the way between various plants towards ramada

The ramada - covered rest area - in the distance is sure to have a garbage can for disposing of a once again full bag.

Garbage can awaits our ‘deposit’

Just as Kitty expected, a garbage can was available for another bag we'd filled since disposing of the last one, less than 15 minutes before.

Kitty leaps over wash

Kitty turned over the camera to Paul so that he could record her leaping a wash and thereby "prove" that she was really along on this fast walk. Unfortunately our camera has a bothersome delay on the "trigger" and Paul's snap was a bit late.

Hmph... What is thisbright green stuff?

Paul was distracted by the bright green parasitic growth in this ironwood tree. Although he looked he couldn't see where it tapped into the tree itself, but reasonably it must have somewhere.

Mistletoe has infested this ironwood

We found out the next day, reading in our main desert plant book that this hanging growth is a mistletoe variant and is considered an infestation, mainly for palo verdes. Later in the walk, we spied some in a palo verde also.

Unidentifed bird atop occotillo

The bird in top of the occotillo had an interesting light sweet call. A different bird earlier had a louder and more varied song, but Kitty wasn't fast enough with her camera.

Earliest greening occotillo we saw on our outing

This occotillo was the first one we spied that had more than just a few green leaves, despite a fair amount of rain in the past few weeks.

Close-up look at new leafing

This one still has a lot more greening to do; and then later in the spring will come lovely flame-like orange-red flowers at the tips of the branches.

Paul approaches boundary of county park

We had been heading towards the west since before the bird photo above. Now, however, Paul is approaching the boundary of the county park beyond which we will again be on state trust land.

Yes, Paul did straddle-jog that crevice

Kitty didn't get the camera shot of Paul as he straddle-jogged this deep rut, but he definitly did do it. She was too busy doing it herself.

Paul jogs through the sand

This was just one of several long stretches of sand through which we jogged. Now doesn't he have nice form?? It helps that the garbage bag was only partially full.

Uneven walking workout Paul exercises his left leg

The uneven walking here gives added workout to the higher knee. In this case Paul's weaker left knee (damaged years ago, but now almost fully recovered) is getting the extra work necessary to strengthen it, but other places his right foot was on the higher surface.

Stranger? It’s Paul! I like that hat - smile too :>}

Now who's that interesting fellow with the garbage bag.... Kitty wanted a close-up of that great smile. And she had to run ahead and get ready in order to get it.

Paved road once again

We're exiting the state trust land and onto the local road; still headed south.

Into the alleyway

Paul is turning east here into the alleyway that runs behind our property.

Trash pick-up needed in the alley itself

The lane had trash accumulated from being blown or washed down with the flowing water. Actually this alley has become more like a wash itself from the failure of the upstream landowners to properly maintain the natural washes that run through their property. Many of them have allowed debris to collect up against their fences that cross a wash. This then redirects much of the water elsewhere. The paving of the roads by the county also detoured some of the washes and has compounded the problem.

Home sweet home

Back on our property and headed for the garage where the last garbage bag will be deposited. With all the detours for trash picking (and extended onto the county park) we fast walked and jogged almost exactly 5 miles, per the topographical map we consulted later. It took us 86 minutes according to the digital camera clock on the photos.

We did this same route (minus the county park portion) the next time in reverse picking up as much trash in the latter half - what didn't get our attention at the beginning of the outing shown here. Plenty of jogging, leaping, straddling and uneven walking got done before we started the heavy trash pick. Good thing too since we wound up carrying back to our house 3 bags and 1 bucket full of things people irresponsibly threw out while walking or riding in the area. This is just one example of the "tragedy of the commons". But we consider it in our best interest to pick up what we see while we do our fast walking. It adds to our exercise and eliminates the eyesore. We hope that some others are doing similarly when they're out walking in their areas. Hopefully with example, verbal explanations and discrimination against those who fail to dispose of their trash properly, the irresponsible will learn that to remain so is not in their long range widest view best interest.


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