Because They're There
Tuesday, 18 December 2007 - I've hiked in the desert so much while we've been near Tucson that I wore out a pair of shoes. So yesterday I bought a new pair and today I gave them quite a workout to break them in.
See those hills and the ATV trail in the photo here? I recently learned the ATV trail, which runs along the fence bordering the Tucson Mountain Park east of the RV park and is in itself quite a little hike to reach, goes up into those hills which are southeast of here and laced with more hiking trails and since learning all this I've wanted to hike up there, not just because the hills are there, but to also see the view they provide. So at sunrise this morning I decided to do just that.
And, of course, to shorten the distance, I set off cross country (or cross desert) walking as straight toward the hills as I could, forsaking the trails much of the way since none I encountered starting from the RV went directly to the hills, which I found a bit odd. Going cross country around here is fairly easy because the vegetation isn't that dense, despite how it looks in the photo, and it's relatively easy to simply walk wherever you want, being careful to avoid actually coming in contact with the vegetation, most of which has either spines or thorns. Things do get a bit denser along the washes, where water sometimes flows, but even there it's usually easy to find a way across.
However, no sooner had I reached the base of the hills than an...uh...intestinal emergency began to make itself felt. Not wanting to have walked all that way, probably 2 miles (3 km), for nothing more than the exercise I decided to try for the restrooms at Tucson Mountain Park's Ironwood Picnic Area, which I'd driven through the other day and had found it ran quite a ways along these hills, so I thought (fervently hoped) it would be closer at that point than returning to the RV.
All worked according to plan except the vegetation got almost Impenetrable in some of the washes and it was further than I expected (maybe a half mile/1 km), but I made it to the picnic area, and was quite proud of myself for having found it. Not quite like finding a needle in a haystack, but certainly less than obvious. My old scoutmasters would have been proud.
After taking care of business there, I began climbing the hills at last and hiking around in them, making it to the summit where the view was much as I expected. To see what it looked like, click here, and here, and here (in this shot, a tiny arrow right center points upward to our RV). The views would be exceptional at sunrise and sunset but to be there at those hours means having to either hike to there or from there in the dark and hiking through the desert in the dark doesn't sound all that inviting, or advisable, so I think I'll have to continue enjoying dawn and dusk as I have been, either from near the RV or somewhere out in the truck.
And, if you're wondering, the new shoes performed well and didn't even raise any blisters, as new shoes often will while they're being broken in.
We Get Snow!!!
Friday, 14 December 2007 - Today, we got snow, something we came to the southwest to avoid, but more on that in a minute.
Wednesday, Sandra twisted her ankle falling off the step inside the RV while vacuuming, so we hadn't done much since then.
The highlight of that period was the arrival here in the RV park yesterday of one of Sandra's internet RV chat room buddies, Ellie, and her husband Jim, RVers like ourselves. Ellie dropped by shortly after their arrival in the afternoon (photo on the right of Sandra and Ellie), then both Ellie and Jim visited us just before sunset. We had a very pleasant chat.
Sandra's ankle has been steadily improving and after two days of hobbling around the RV, the swelling in her foot had gone down enough by today to allow her to get her shoes on, so she decided she needed to get out of the RV and go see some sights from the truck. Not sure where to go that we haven't seen before, we headed south on I-19 toward the Mexican border. I had no plan other than to see what was down that way, without actually crossing the border, but after a time I noticed we were heading toward a mountain I had seen way off in the distance during one my walks in the desert two days ago. The mountain, which I had tried but failed to identify, seemed like as good a destination as any, so we continued on toward it.
As we neared the large retirement community of Green Valley, 20 miles (32 km) south of Tucson, I also saw a sign for Madera Canyon and remembered talking with a couple ladies one day during a Raptor Free Flight show at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum who were from Green Valley and had told me what a wonderful place Madera Canyon was, not only beautiful but a birding hotspot, so I decided to head for the canyon rather than continue on to the mountain.
However, at the canyon's exit was a visitor information bureau, so we stopped there first, hoping someone could tell me the name of the mountain we'd been heading for. They could and did and I learned it was Mount Wrightson, the highest peak in the Santa Rita Mountains, which is one of the aptly named sky island ranges.
We thanked the ladies at the information bureau, found the road to the canyon, started down it, and hadn't gone too many miles before it became evident that Madera Canyon was located on the slopes of Mount Wrightson, so we ended up seeing two destinations in one. The mountain and canyon are both beautiful and the canyon is one of the only places we've seen in Arizona where actual trees grow, the kind one expects to see back east, but although the canyon is a renowned location for watching birds, we didn't see any. Of course, since we didn't get out of the truck, this wasn't unexpected, although it would have been nice to see an eagle soaring above us. We then headed back to Tucson, not having made it even halfway to the border, but having had a very interesting drive.
Anyway, now for the snow - Mount Wrightson is 9,453 feet (2,881 m) high and all the rain we had recently down in the valley was snow up at that elevation, so the mountain now has the start of a snowcap and we drove up as high as where it starts (photo above left), hence we got snow, although rather than it falling on us, we had to go up to it. My kind of snow. See it and then leave it.
For Sandra's account of the last few day, click here.
Lost In The Desert
Tuesday, 11 December 2007 - Yesterday dawned cloudy and with fog obscuring the base of the mountains, as seen in the photo here. So, since these weather conditions offered the potential for some different photo ops than we've been having, I grabbed the camera and headed out.
However, rather than lifting as the morning progressed, as one would expect, the fog actually moved further in and higher up until it covered all the surrounding mountains and in search of photos, I found I had wandered off the trail and into an unfamiliar area of the desert and without the mountains or familiar cacti that I use for landmarks when I'm out there, I lost track of exactly where I was (saguaros are all distinctively different and you learn to recognize individual ones and where they are in relationship to the RV), but this situation wasn't as dire as it might sound. Actually, it wasn't dire at all because you can't walk that far around here without eventually encountering a trail, a fence, a road, or some other thing to follow, which of course is what happened. I shortly came up to the fence that runs along the border of the neighboring Tucson Mountain Park and realized I'd been walking east instead of west, having been totally disoriented. If I'd been more concerned, I'd have simply noticed which way the barrel cacti were leaning (the older ones lean to the south and southwest) which would have shown me which way was west, the direction I wanted to go.
Anyway, I followed the fence until I came upon a trail going west, followed that until it curved north and entered a wash (creek or riverbed that only has water running in it during flash floods) and found the trail ended there, which left me no choice but to take the wash and since they generally run to the west in this area, I knew it would eventually lead me to the road that runs by the RV park.
But as I was nearing the road (by then I could again hear traffic noise and see power lines in the distance) I found another trail that eventually brought me back to the RV, having had an interesting experience and being reminded to pay closer attention to what I'm doing when I'm out there.
Then, around midday, we decided to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum again, something we hadn't done for a few days, and see the rest of what we hadn't yet seen, mostly indoor things like their art gallery and the Reptiles & Invertebrates exhibit, snakes being neither or our favorite creatures and so had left them for last.
The art gallery had quite a few paintings of the region, the art ranging from very good to fairly mediocre, but no matter the quality, it was interesting to see how various artists visually interpreted this area.
The reptile exhibit was interesting, especially seeing live rattlesnakes like the Western Diamondback seen here eye to eye, but safely behind glass. Thankfully, out in the elements they are not active during the winter, but I still keep alert for them when I'm out hiking in the desert.
As always, the desert museum was quite interesting, even seeing areas we've visited before, like the hummingbird aviary. I find these little rascals quite difficult to photograph because I try to get them hovering and just about the time I find one doing that and point the camera at it, it darts off, so I have to settle for shots of them perched, like the one here of a Rufous hummingbird.
While we were at the desert museum, the skies had cleared a bit but by evening some intense storms moved by, which afforded me even more photo ops, like this shot of a partial rainbow, taken from what is essentially our backyard during our stay here.
Then shortly after dark, the power went out. This isn't quite as life-altering in an RV as it is in a house since most of the electrical devices in an RV run off the 12 volt system. However, not wanting to drain the batteries in case the power stayed out all night and we had to run the furnace, we turned everything off and headed for the grocery to take care of that chore while we had time to kill. En route, we saw the power outage was fairly widespread, but happily the power was back on by the time we got back from the grocery.
Today, rather than scattered but intense thunderstorms, the rain has become one of those slow but steady rains with the temperature having dropped to the low 40sF (6°C), so it's a good day to just relax after such an interesting day yesterday.
For Sandra's account of it, click here.
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To read details of our previous stops and camps, visit the News Archives.
Updated Saturday, December 22, 2007
Copyright © 2007 by Gordon L Wolford .
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