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.

Sonoran Desert Wildflowers 2012

It’s another great year for wildflowers in the Tucson area; we had 3 inches of rain in November/December last year, followed by one of the warmest Januaries ever: the flowers are at least 4 weeks early and they are all over the place.

Today I took the day off from work, and my mom and I hiked along a trail west of Tucson, the King Trail, which starts directly across from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and goes to the top of Wasson Peak; we didn’t go all the way to the top, just did a 5 mile loop. Here’s a great shot of my mom:

There are giant pockets of poppies and lupines all along the trail:

I couldn’t believe how bright red-orange this Globemallow plant was; usually, the Globemallow I see in the city is a dull orange: this is crazy bright, with purple lupines in the background:

More poppies, looking down from the trail as we head back towards the car; you can see the trail we hiked in on here if you look to the top of the photo:

Here I am taking a short break and simply enjoying all the flowers:

This is either a wild onion or wild garlic; I’ve never seen this in the desert before, just cultivated:

This is another flower from the mallow family; it was the first one we saw on the trall–a small planet with a single flower– but a few hundred feet up we saw small bushes with the same flowers:

I’m sorry to say I forget the name of this flower. I think I’ve photographed this before and possibly it’s in a prior blog entry, my mom’s hand is there for scale:

All in all, just a fantastic trip; one thing great about Tucson is how easy it is to get out and in nature super fast. The trail is just half an hour from my house.

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!

Sabino Canyon Hike With the Parents

It’s sadly been a few years since I tied on my trusty Danner boots and went for a long hike with some elevation gain. A few bouts of hip bursitis in the past few years had me very demoralized when it came to hiking. But, belly dance seems to have really helped my hip and back pain; so with all this fantastic weather we’ve been having and a weekday off from work, it was time to hit the trail, and I got my hiking-legs back with a simple 9 mile loop at Sabino Canyon.

Here’s my mom, with a Perry Penstemon in the foreground. My dad sprinted ahead and we didn’t see him for 4 miles; but then he’s a former marathon runner who moves at quite a clip so little surprise there.

For those of you who don’t live in the desert, you may think it odd to be excited over the sight of a few wildflowers. For us Sonoran desert dwelling outdoorsy types, though, it’s really exciting; usually the landscape is very stark and austere, and when after a heavy rainy season a few flowers manage to sprout up out of…..nothing….it’s quite remarkable.

Here are some Desert poppies, a Star Flower,  something that might be verbena and the leafy beginnings of some lupine growing along the trail:

This is the view looking back towards Tucson; the trail we’re on is behind us, on the left, and below you can see the canyon bottom, full of running water from snowmelt and the direction in which we were headed:

Across the canyon there are very alarming scars along the steep sides of the mountains: this is the terrible damage done by floods and rock slides  that destroyed much of Sabino Canyon after the catastrophic Aspen Fire of 2003.

Here’s my folks; my dad looks like he’s puckering, but, it’s the only photo I have of them from today, which I took when we stopped for lunch:

Isn’t that green cottonwood amazing? It really is that green with the first new leafy growth of spring. And the sky is really that blue.

Here’s all the water along the canyon bottom:

With all the snow in the mountains, there will probably be water around when it’s warm enough to swim; but those days will be few, and when it’s really hot enough to hop in the water, it will be long gone, leaving behind just rock and sand.

Photography by Norma Jean Gargasz

When Bearbear and I discovered the wildcat dog park in my neighborhood late last year, I met Norma Jean Gargasz and her demure but sporty dog Jazz. Norma Jean is a very talented photographer and her work is visible–and for sale–here. Norma Jean remembered me from my parent’s bakery in Tucson in the late 70s and early 80s, Monika’s Bakery.

I just bought an 8×10 print of Norma Jean’s, and she said I could post the image; it’s the Mustang Mountains, as seen from the Arizona Trail in the western foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains:

This reduced-pixel version doesn’t do justice to the full-size image; this is what Sonoita, Arizona, looks like. I just love the wide open space.

Thanks Norma Jean for such beautiful work.

OMG It Finally Rained!!!!

I’ve had no real measurable rainfall at my house since last July; 2009 saw Tucson get about 6 inches of rain. It was a disaster; even the saguaro in my yard looked parched.

But all that changed this week: in the past 5 days I got 2.5 inches of rain at my home. And when it rains that much here in the winter, there’s snow in the mountains.

I’ve posted photos on this blog of the (usually dry) bike/pedestrian path where Bearbear and I go for walks. Here’s a shot near sunset today of the semi-urban path, with water:

The condos kind of ruin things. Oh well. Bearbear was very good and sat–per my instruction–as I took my photo:

Once the sun goes down, the Catalina Mountains usually turn pink in the fall, winter, and spring when the angle of the sun is just right. The pointy bit, which you can barely see,  is Finger Rock. Again, too bad about the condos.

I remember going on a forced march up that trail to Finger Rock when I was in 6th grade. I don’t think I’ve been back since; that trail is like going up stairs, and I think it’s about a mile of elevation gain per mile of trail.

Writing this, I’m reminded of  a story in the Arizona Star about 15 years ago, when I think Forest Service employees found a fort someone had illegally built up near the base of Finger Rock; someone had hauled up concrete (!) and water up the murderous trail and actually mixed and poured concrete and built a small, barely perceptible fort; there was evidence that people had spent some time living in it, too.  Insane. I mean, that is really nuts.  I admire whoever had the nerve to do that; though  he or she may very well be eligible for admission into a psychiatric hospital.

I just searched for a link to the story, but, I can’t find one. Too bad. It’s a unique bit of local history. Here’s a final shot of it getting dark as Bearbear and I headed home, to the unusual sound of running water:

More soon on updated quilt art, fiddle tune transcriptions, and the closing of the Grasslands.

Catalina State Park

BearBear (a corgi mix) and I went to Catalina State Park Sunday afternoon; the weather was stunning and hardly anyone was there.  It’s exactly 30 minutes from my house to the trailhead during non-peak traffic. I remember going up to Catalina State Park when it first opened, when I was in high school; then it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, and it was such an adventure to get to that part of town: there was nothing there! Now when you leave the state park, the first thing you see is a giant walmart.

Oh well.

These are some views from the nearly 3 mile Canyon Loop Trail:

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Below is a lovely view of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness:

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Then when the trail turns a bit east there’s this great view deep into the Catalina Mountains:

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BearBear looks a bit pooped at this point:


It’s at this point I realize I’ve left my car keys 1/2 a mile back; but after a run back up the trail, they were exactly where I’d left them, on an observation bench. Shows you how many folks are out on a Sunday afternoon! I was very thankful to find them.


OK. So then we went back down the trail again, which takes a little dive into a small wash….great when there’s water after rain/snow in the mountains….

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…where some of the last very hardy fall flowers are blooming….

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Getting outdoors, even if for a small hike, is just so restorative!