Saturday, January 31, 2009

Spring in the desert

It's January, and there are clear signs of spring in the desert. These ocotillo in Saguaro National Park are starting to bloom. Not all ocotillo are blossoming yet. but it's clear that the desert is starting to wake up from its winter slumber.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wasson Peak

Where: Tucson, AZ

Trail: Wasson Peak: King Canyon Trail in Saguaro National Park (West) in the Tucson Mountains. 7.1 miles, 1939-foot elevation change. Peak 4687 feet.

When: January 25, 2009

Weather: Bright and sunny with temperatures in the low 70s.

Birds of note: Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (first sighting)

Trail notes: After climbing for 2 ½ hours, you would hope to reach the summit and find some spectacular views, restful respite, and peaceful solitude. But no. At the peak was a hiking group (yackers). Were the yackers discussing the view? Nope. Here's a one minute sampling that I recorded. (No people appear to protect the guilty!)

Friday, January 23, 2009


It was eerily quiet and deathly still. No birds were chattering in the trees and none were fluttering at the feeders. I knew there was a bird of prey in the yard.

A quick peak out a few windows, and I spotted the predator. (This house must be like a fast food restaurant for a hawk.) He (or she) perched on the tree branch right outside of the dining room for at least a couple of minutes--long enough for me to identify this guy as a Merlin.

Evening rainbow

The past few days have been rainy. On my drive home this evening, the setting sun burst through the clouds as it sank lower in the western sky. I immediately started looking for a rainbow, and found not one but two! One was very bright. The second less so.

The bright one contrasted enough to capture.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The search for Brick cheese

There's no Brick cheese in Tucson. At least I can't find any. Back in the 'burgh you could buy Brick cheese freshly sliced from the deli or not-so-freshly sliced and packaged from Kraft. But there's none to be found here.

I've checked several Safeways, and Albertsons. I even asked a few people who work at the deli.

"Do you have Brick cheese?"
"A brick of cheese?"
"No, Brick cheese."

No one's heard of it.

I've asked around the office. No one there has heard of it either. How odd.

You can buy Havarti cheese which is a close substitute albeit a bit smokier, but you could get that back in the 'burgh I'll check for Brick cheese the next time I'm in Phoenix. Maybe it's just not a "Tucson thing."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Vermilion Flycatcher

I was taking a lunch time stroll 'around the block' last week when I saw my first Vermilion Flycatcher perched on a fence near the high school.

From a distance I thought he was a cardinal, but as I watched him dive bomb for bugs, I knew it wasn't. I got to watch him for a couple of minutes before I finally continued on my way. He was a BRIGHT red. :-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Brown Mountain Trail

Where: Tucson, AZ

Trail: Brown Mountain Trail in Tucson Mountain Park in the Tucson Mountains (where else?) west of Tucson. (Panorama View)

When: January 19, 2009

Weather: Bright and sunny with temperatures in the upper 70s.

Trail notes: I saw more signs of spring. A few lizards skittered across my path so the warmer days and probably more importantly the warmer nights have stirred them from their slumber. Instead of just two or three Sleepy Orange butterflies, I probably saw close to a dozen.

On this trip, I hiked up to the further peak. Kinney Road runs near this trail so unfortunately, there's always plenty of highway noise. The desert has a way of amplifying sound. On the way back down the western side, the late afternoon light colored the rocks in hues of rose and orange.

Random notes: I rode my motorcycle. Lots of other bikers were out riding today too! Gotta love those Arizona winters!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brown Mountain Trail

Where: Tucson, AZ

Trail: Brown Mountain Trail in Tucson Mountain Park in the Tucson Mountains (where else?) west of Tucson. (Panorama View)

When: January 10, 2009

Weather: Bright and sunny with temperatures in the upper 60s.

Birds of note: In the srub, I saw Black-throated Sparrows. (first sighting)

Trail notes: Started from the parking lot across from the Gilbert Ray Campground along McCain Loop Road. I walked to the summit and returned the same way.

The trail on this side meanders through desert scrub with some impressively large cholla cactus. When I stopped to investigate a bird, four pieces of cholla somehow managed to lodge themselves on my shoes and one embedded itself in my ankle. Trying to remove the one on my ankle was like trying to remove super sticky fish hook needles.

I carefully pulled. And then pulled some more until it finally let go of my ankle. Then it stuck to my right hand. Then my left hand. Ouch! It actually wigged me out more than it hurt. These things did not want to let go! Apparently, the nick name of the cholla cactus is the "jumping cactus" because they seem to jump on you. Yep. I've seen it happen!

There are plenty of saguaro, but they're not nearly as tall as the ones along the Wild Burro Trail. You could almost imagine this to a saguaro nursery (but it isn't) because there are hundreds of saguaro less than two feet tall, many still shielded by their nursery trees.

The trail has a rocky ascent to the top. At the summit you can see 80 miles all around.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wild Burro Canyon

Where: Marana, AZ

Trail: Wild Burro Trail combined with the Lower Javelina Trail in the Wild Burro Canyon of the Tortolito Mountains northwest of Tucson.

When: December 26, 2008

Weather: Bright and sunny with temperatures in the low 60s. (cool)

Birds of note: Loggerhead Shrike

Trail notes: Wild Burro Trail is flat and meanders through a wash. Lots of birds were flitting about. Once you clear the Dove Mountain development (Ritz-Carlton coming in 2009!) you can connect with other trails depending on the elevation and distance you want to cover.

Towering Saguaro and lots of big rocks to sit on and take in the view.

Encountered many other hikers. It would be neat to stand on the Upper Javelina Trail and watch the water rush down through the canyon during a monsoon thunderstorm.