Sabino Canyon Sunset Walk

It’s been unseasonably cool in Tucson this May; 20 degrees cooler during the day than usual. Hiking at Sabino Canyon, one of the best places in Tucson, is lush and cool, believe it or not; there’s water in the creek. Here’s my mom as we stopped to watch the sunset while walking there last night….

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…and here she is hiking out of the canyon…

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It’s been a rough year for her with my dad dying and then her motor vehicle accident in December when she broke her ankle, and needed surgery. She is looking pretty good. She’s sold her recently acquired house in Tucson, which looks like this…

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…to one in Patagonia, a 75 minute drive south-east of Tucson, which looks like this:

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The move will be in just a few weeks.

Another Cochise Stronghold Hike: An Arizona Gem

When the late autumn sun is low in the south, it makes the western face of Cochise Stronghold seem a bit flat; here is our hiking destination, a ginormous jumble of boulders:

My mom’s youngest sister, Theresa, drove down from Phoenix to Tucson this past weekend: she picked me up, along with her friend Jeanie and her son Zach (who also live here), and drove us all to St. David, where me met up with my uncle Thomas, who lives there. My mom drove over separately from Sonoita. I took a photo of our group midway through our hike:

Theresa’s friend Jeanie was a real champ, here she is making her way through the boulders:

I just love the views from the western side of the Cochise Stronghold; this is a photo looking down on Treaty (or “Knob”) Hill:

Along the way there was one thing blooming, what looks like Chamisa, and the few pollinators left were numerous and busy:

And there was a lovely colored lizard headed down a rock face:

I’m sure there were other birds and animals in the area, but the sounds of our voices made them invisible. Personally, I’m happy if big predators like mountain lions stay invisible.

Here’s my mom, looking very sporty:

I’m already looking forward to my next trip back!

Cochise Stronghold: Turn Back the Clock

I first went to Cochise Stronghold when I was 11….and that was a long time ago.We used to go out there when we visited my grandmother in St. David, Arizona; the (then) public road was right by her home, and from there it was about a half hour drive to the foothills of the Dragoon mountains, where massive piles of boulders make up the stronghold. It’s a very magical place.

I had a chance to revisit the stronghold today. One of my mother’s brothers, Thomas, lives in St. David and is very familiar with the area; the once public road out to the mountains is now private, and has a security code. The layout of the small forest service roads in the mountains is different due to human/drug smuggling that occurs in the area. So having a guide sure helped; also along for the ride was my mom and my brother Eric.

This is a view near Council Rocks:

I immediately remembered “shark rock”:

There are many, many metates in the area. Long before the Apaches lived in the area, ancient Mogollon peoples were a part of the land.

Here’s a great photo of my mom and her brother:

And here’s a shot of me, Eric and my mom:

And here’s another lovely photo of my mom; you can see in the background that the rocks in the background would be a very effective place to hide:

There’s also a ruin of what I believe was once a Butterfield Stagecoach station and inn; there’s even less left now than there was 30 years ago, here’s yet another shot of my sporty mom in front of what’s left of some of the walls:

I got a mug shot in front of the old adobe bricks, too:

It was a great day, not too hot this morning, and a long drive out there and back to Tucson; and when I got home, a huge storm hit, the strongest I think I’ve seen here. I think a microburst hit my neighborhood. Power poles are snapped just a few blocks away but I luckily have power; however, my palo verde tree was uprooted and currently sits at a 45 degree angle in my yard:

This would just be a big tree-removal bill, normally, but the top of the tree is resting against my electric power line. I’m hoping the power company will come out tomorrow and make this situation safer; no doubt I’ll have to pay to remove the tree. While it’s hard to see in the photo, about half of my fence blew down as well; the panels are now propped up so I don’t see the rentals to the north of me.

It’s always amazing to me how the summer skies here can be blue as a bell in the morning…..and then by 5:00PM you can be caught up in a frightening storm.

My friend and neighbor Bruce, who has a reliable rain gauge,  told me we got 2.25 inches of rain in less than an hour today. Wow. Just 2 miles away, 3.65 inches in an hour was reported on the news.

Believe me, 2.25 inches is more than enough.

My Life as a Temporary Tourist

My newphews Damien (7) and Sebastian (13) are visiting from Madison, WI with their mother; they’ll be here a week, and today we went to the world-famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I am generally not keen on zoos and seeing wild creatures locked up, especially when the humans watching them aren’t really doing much to preserve wildlife habitat.

But, when guests come to town you do what you have to do.

Here is Damien by the Bighorn sheep enclosure, just before he put his hand out to cover my camera lens in protest; I should mention that he doesn’t like baseball and doesn’t know anything about the cap he’s wearing:

Here’s Damien and Sebastian taking turns being a tortoise:

One popular event at the Desert Museum is their daily Raptor Free Flight demos, where raptors are allowed out with their trainers to demonstrate their flight and behaviors in their native habitat. It’s very cool, and in the afternoon the Harris hawk family comes out to wow the hundreds of people who gather to watch; here’s one of the hawks as it perched directly over my head, they come quite close to the crowd and are very beautiful:

Tomorrow we’re off to a train trip to the Grand Canyon; you’ll see those photos real soon!

Wildflower Update

There’s a bad drought in southern Arizona now; I don’t think I’ve had more than half and inch of rain in my yard in over 6 months. So there’s no spring wildflowers in the desert; though here in my yard, since I water, it’s a different story.

The angel above was originally purchased when I thought I was going to bury Baxter’s ashes. However, I can’t quite bring myself to bury them. So, the ashes stay inside and the angel remains outside.

Here’s another view:

I lost a lot of time last week due to a crazy amount of migraines; so that cut into my art-making. Then my sewing machine was in the shop for the week. Then I popped something in my mid-back, making breathing a problem. BLAH. Then I started this short 2 day minor remodeling project in my home, involving, largely, replacing THIS hideous thing….

with a window, and my glum looking front door…..

with something more appropriately feng-shui.

Right now the father-son duo who are doing the work left a pile of tools in my livingroom and more stuff out on my patio. Tomorrow when I get home from work I’ll post updated photos! And then maybe I can get back to art. And get my sewing machine back!


Backyard Global Warming? Or Overachieving Agave?

The other morning while sipping coffee and looking out the kitchen window, I noticed this agave looking a bit odd:

To those of you unfamiliar with agaves, you might not notice the inflorescence starting in the middle of the plant. Inflorescence is the fancy word for the spectacular blooming stalk the agave sends up a few dozen feet before dying, and this bloom generally happens in the spring after the first frost.

I haven’t done anything special to this plant like fertilize it or over-water it. I’m going to call the plant clinic at the cooperative extension tomorrow and ask about this. I’ve never seen an agave start to bloom in mid-winter. We’ve had such ridiculously hot weather–80 degrees F.–which is 15 degrees above average for this time of year.

Tomorrow: a quilt update!

New Fig Tree

I should be working on my quilt; but I couldn’t pass up another plant sale at the University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension this past weekend. There were mission fig trees at great prices; $12 for a 4 ft tall plant.

I dug up a part of my yard….

..and in went the fig tree and a few hardy desert perennials: moss verbena, and a guara-family plant which I believe is native to Texas.

I also planted a couple of blackberry canes I got at the plant sale. You can see them in the photo below. Blackberries are often a huge, pain-in-the-ass bramble in much of the world; without the right gloves, the plant makes for a painful encounter. One doesn’t think “blackberries” in the desert, but there are a couple varieties that supposedly do well in this climate…so I’ll see how those go.

One last photo here: a view of the dogs. Baxter looks like his usual happy self; but Bearbear appears to be on the look-out, for cats most likely. Because Bearbear exists primarily to protect me from one of the greatest dangers out there: the domestic cat.

Sonoran Desert Leafcutter Ants

I noticed reddish ants in my yard that weren’t fire ants; I noticed them because recently I came home from work and saw that in my garden the green tops of my scallions had been chopped off. Nearby I saw a trail of ants carrying bits of plant matter.

I don’t have any proof that the ants ate my onions; from what I’ve read, it seems more likely that they’d be interested in my creosote and palo verde blossoms. Nothing else in my garden has been eaten; so, I’ve left the ants alone. These ants build fungus gardens underground. I’d like for them to be able to build away, just not using my vegetables.

Taking a photo of any ant isn’t very easy; here’s my best shot this morning:

I know. I can hardly see it myself.

A much better photo of this species of ant, by a more talented photographer, can be found here. The link is the courtesy of my brother Frank, who is doing research on tropical leafcutter ants and their fungus gardens for his PhD.

Tucson Wildflower Bloom 2010: A Hike Among the Flowers

I hiked up to Romero Pools this morning with my folks; it’s a bit of an uphill slog through a stunning canyon to where there’s water after rain or snow melt. Since it’s a weekend, we got an early start and initially saw just a few people; but on the way back, we must’ve passed 150 people on the trail, out to see the water and amazing wildflower display.

Here’s the view going up into the canyon; you can see a bit of melting snow on the mountain tops:

Here’s some wildflowers….

…and more flowers along the trail….

….and, looking to the northwest to all the over-development northwest of Tucson, towards Ironwood National Monument…..more flowers….

Here’s mom on the trail, at this point there’s some elevation gain and the cactus gives way to shrubby oak trees:

And here’s my dad; I guess he’s feeling pretty good about being able to easily hike up and down steep mountains at age 73. I should be so lucky when I’m that age!

Soon it will be way too hot to do any daytime hiking. And all the flowers and water will be gone. Get out to hike and see the flowers while you can!