Friday, January 31, 2014

A Day at the Saguaro West National Park

Saguaro West is just a few miles northwest of Tucson, AZ, nestled against the Catalina Mountains.  It was sunny and set a record high of 80 degrees! I am not complaining since back home in Virginia Beach, VA, 10 inches of snow fell!  Sure glad we are not in that cold!

We had just a fun little drive in the park on a loop on a paved and dirt road. The road winds up and around the base of the mountains through all the different types of desert foliage and, especially, the tall Saguaro Cacti.  It takes 75 years before a Saguaro will grow arms, so I can only imagine how old some of them with many big arms are.  There are lots of pullouts beside the road for picture taking.  Also, most of the pullouts have a trail that goes out into the desert.  There are also several parking lots that have many different trails out into the desert and even up some of the small mountains.  

However, Saguaro West is not nearly as pretty and big as the Saguaro East National Park on the east side of Tucson.  We have driven and hiked through that one a couple of times several years ago.  These pictures are very similar to all the hiking pictures I have been posting.  Just can’t resist the scenery! 

Saguaro West Nat Pk 017  Saguaro West Nat Pk 018

Saguaro West Nat Pk 013 Saguaro West Nat Pk 012

Saguaro West Nat Pk 010

Saguaro West Nat Pk 011

This little guy was the ONLY wildlife we saw!  Maybe I will see more on the upcoming hikes.  Had to miss this weeks hike because Doug and I both were recovering from the “Tucson Grunge” as they call it, meaning the winter cold and flu that hits every winter.  Glad it is behind us!

Saguaro West Nat Pk 035

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Visit to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

It was a beautiful warm sunny day to drive out to the museum.  It was located out near Saguaro National Park West.  The museum, with all the things relative to the desert, was created right in the lush desert landscape with distant views of the mountain ranges in the distance.  You could even see the range that is across the border in Mexico.  The place is so large that it took us almost 5 hours of walking around to see it and we still didn’t see all of it.  There were winding paths that took you to all of the exhibits. It was all nicely laid out as if you were just hiking through the desert.  The museum is a very popular attraction so the place was VERY busy!

AZ Sanora Desert Museum 008  AZ Sanora Desert Museum 037

The museum consists of all types of animals, large and small, that are typical of desert wildlife.  Snakes, tarantulas, river otter, coati mundi,  Javelina, bobcats, bear, deer, mountain lions, Big Horn sheep, quail, etc.  My favorite animal exhibit was the prairie dog town.  I LOVE prairie dogs!  The one below posed at my special request!  There are a few pictures of some of the other animals we saw.  There are too many to show and some were just sleeping in the shade so were hard to capture.  The mountain lion is behind glass so it was hard to get a clear picture.  The mountain lion is such a beautiful animal, that I hate to see them in captivity.

AZ Sanora Desert Museum 030 AZ Sanora Desert Museum 050 AZ Sanora Desert Museum 054 

AZ Sanora Desert Museum 140AZ Sanora Desert Museum 063 img102 img108

A fun exhibit was the Hummingbird cage that you could walk around in.  They were buzzing around everywhere, like giant bees.  Some of them are very colorful and we were fortunate enough to see one nesting.  They are so tiny!! We have a Hummingbird feeder outside our RV window so we get to enjoy them often.  But this was still fun to get closer to them.

AZ Sanora Desert Museum 071AZ Sanora Desert Museum 075 

A fun demonstration to watch was the Raptor Birds of Prey demonstration.  These different beautiful awesome birds of prey have been trained to fly in a certain area as we stood beneath their flight path.  Trainers had treats at different places in the desert and the birds fly in the various directions over us to get the treats.  They flew so close to us that it looked that they were headed right for us and you could fell the air from their wings they were so close!  Just wonderful birds to watch! It was a fun day to be out there in the sunshine and the desert and get a close up look at lots of desert wildlife. 

AZ Sanora Desert Museum 091 AZ Sanora Desert Museum 101 AZ Sanora Desert Museum 122

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Touring An Open Pit Copper Mine

Thursday we drove about 25 miles south of Tucson to visit the Asarco Copper Mine.  We boarded a small little tour bus and headed up the road to the pit.  I do mean up! We were driven up to the rim of the massive pit.  We even saw a few wild mustangs along the way that roam on the mine’s property.  The land is actually leased from the Tohono Odham Indians.  They receive 2.4 million dollars a year and the sate of AZ is paid 4.2 million dollars a year.   The pit is 3 1/2 miles long and 1500’ deep.   Enormous!  It is hard to describe if not actually standing above it. 

  Copper Mine Tour 033   1 pan   

The ‘tailings’ are everywhere and are very tall, as tall as small mountains!  You can see the mountains of tailings along the highway.  Tailings are the material left over after the extraction of ore from its host material.  The excavated rock is hauled either to the crusher or the debris piles in these huge monster trucks.  I am sitting in one of the tires!  These trucks are gigantic and the driver sits in a very small cab to drive these monsters.  Amazing! 

Copper Mine Tour 009 redo  Copper Mine Tour 011

We also got to see how the copper was separated from the rock and the copper extracted by using chemicals, bubbles and water.   Almost like agitating huge vats of Pine Sol cleaner!  It smelled like it, too!  The finished product at this mine is a copper powder.  The powder is sent elsewhere for smelting to become the shinny copper we are used to seeing.  A bit of gold and silver are also found in the excavated rock. 

Copper Mine Tour 020  Copper Mine Tour 018 

We found the process for mining very interesting and it is hard to fathom the huge process and money involved just to get to some copper! The amount of rock moved is mind boggling!!

Since we were that far south, we ate lunch at the Cow Palace, where I had lunch after the New Year’s Day hike.  Across the street was this restaurant with the skull entrance.  I sure would hate to meet the Longhorn bull that wore THOSE horns!!!

Copper Mine Tour 040 congress flowers late afternoon 020


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another Week–Another Hike!

We headed out about 30 miles north to Dove Mountain and the Wild Burro Trailhead.  The weather has gotten even warmer and has been in the mid 70s and 50s at night for about  a week with no rain.  Lots of blue sky and wide open spaces.  As we left the park in our cars, we saw another coyote like last week.  Only this one was right in town down by the on ramp to the interstate.  Strange to see one so close to people and traffic.  The area we went to today was up close to the mountains and there were some beautiful big homes as close to the mountains as they could get and surrounded by a golf course.   There were nice really big and tall Saguaro Cactus just close together and everywhere.  They were some of the biggest I have seen so far.  It was so pretty driving out there that it looked like somebody had landscaped the desert!  Many of the cacti had lots of ‘arms’.

cactrus 1 cactus 2 cactus 3

The trail was mostly up through a canyon so there was no climbing.  But much of the trail was down the wash, where the rain water flows.  Being so dry and so much loose sand and gavel, it was very dirty and dusty.  All the desert foliage was so thick and lush.  I had a new hiking partner today!  His name was Jack.  Jack Rabbit that is!  Neat the way the sun shines through the ears!  Lots of Gambil’s Quail out there as well.

Jan 22 hike 054  rabbit  Cartoon California Quail Stock Photo

This time we walked to the end of the main trail and then hiked out the same way.  It really warmed up fast so we took several water breaks and a longer break at the end of the trail.  At the end there were the ruins of a ‘line shack’ that cowboys used to use.  I guess they used it when rounding up horses or cattle that roamed the open range.  There was also a cement deep big round bowl structure for capturing rain water.  So another beautiful day for a hike and a bit of exercise. 

Jan 22 hike 014  Jan 22 hike 020

Jan 22 hike 044 Jan 22 hike 032

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Old Lady Trying to Learn a New Trick!!

I installed Adobe Photo Elements 12 today.  My, oh my!!  There is so much to understand so I need a 24 hour tutor!!!  My head is spinning after watching many hours of instruction on YouTube.  I joined the digital imaging class here at the park and have been to the lab but my absorption rate is about a 2 to 4!!! Some of the features are really neat and it will just take practice.  I am determined to learn this!  Thank goodness I have used a similar program like Faststone.  Faststone does many of the same things as Photo Elements so I feel sorry for those who have never learned how to use any photo enhancement program and then try to learn Photo Elements.  Maybe the more new tricks I learn, the younger my mind will stay!! 
Here is one effect I got after many, many, many tries!  I opened both Photo Elements and YouTube and just kept going back and forth between the internet and Photo Elements.  I won’t tell you how many times I kept replaying the instruction video!  If I do get good at using this new program, I could spend hours on my photos.  I do enough of that now!  I was even shown how to do scrapbooking through Photo Elements.  Another monster could be in the making!!! (You can tell I really like my barrel racing picture!)
Mesa Apache Junction Rodeo 094 PE 1_edited-2

Friday, January 17, 2014

Photo Contest-First Time Entering A Photo

Each year here at Rincon West, the digital imaging club sponsors a park wide photo contest.  I decided to enter 4 pictures and see what happens!  The  categories are: people, animals, scenery, flowers.  There is also a category for any type of picture.  The contest doesn’t end until mid Feb.  When we submit a picture, it has to be 8 X 10 and the lab helps us mount it on a picture board to show off each photo.  I have never done anything like this before so I thought I would give it a shot.  Just because I think my photos are pretty good, doesn’t mean any judge would think so!  On Monday, the opening of the contest,  I am going to submit my 4 photos, one in each category.  Gosh, it was hard trying to remember my favorites and then try to find them in my files out of the few thousand pictures I have!  Below are the ones I am going to use unless I change my mind, AGAIN!

Mesa Apache Junction Rodeo 094 pan 12  Lake Marie 1

Denver Mt Evans Drive Buffalo Bill Museum 112 Albuquerque, NM 095

it will be interesting to see other photos taken by others to see if I even hold a small chance of winning anything!  The club is also going to make a DVD of all the entries so that should be fun to watch.  So I will keep my fingers crossed and see how I do! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Another Hike-Another Beautiful Arizona Day

Yesterday the Desert Explorers Wed. hiking group set out to hike a loop trail at Saguaro West National Park.  We have had nice warm mid 70s days for the past several days but it is still around 40 in the mornings but the sun heats things up pretty quickly after it comes up. We start out in coats but can work up a good sweat by the time we end the hike.  We car pooled and headed out.  About 1/2 way down the road between the highway and the road through the park, we saw a big beautiful  coyote cross right in front of our car.  What a treat!  I was in the back seat, so I couldn’t get a picture.  Shucks!  We turned off the paved road in the park onto a dirt road and headed to the Signal Hill loop trail.  Signal Hill is a small hill where you can take a trail and stairs up in order to see great views of the valley and mountains in the distance plus watch sunsets.  We took one of the loop trails behind Signal Hill for a round trip of 3.9 miles.  Note my shadow! I wasn’t going without my camera!

Hike 3 Saguaro West 007  Hike 3 Saguaro West 001

This hike was just as pretty as the one last week.  I learned something very interesting about the Saguaro Cactus.  You would think that the big cacti just need the sun and a little rain out in the desert but the most important element is shade.  I found that unusual but each new cactus grows up close to the bottom part of a desert tree.  As the Saguaro Cactus gets bigger the tree may die off or remain small but you will see some kind of shade tree or bush really close to every Saguaro Cactus.  Sure enough, we could look at the bottom of a small bush and see a tiny Saguaro Cactus beginning to grow.  They call these shade trees the ‘Nursery Tree’. The first mile of the hike was down the wash (the area where the water flows during a heavy rain) before picking up the main trail which was mostly flat.  We just had fun taking in the scenery, talking, and sharing  other adventures.  The cactus below looked just like a pitchfork!  Even the birds were enjoying the morning sun.

Hike 3 Saguaro West 014  Hike 3 Saguaro West 012

  Hike 3 Saguaro West 023

Hike 3 Saguaro West 013  Hike 3 Saguaro West 025

Hike 3 Saguaro West 040  Hike 3 Saguaro West 039 crop for blog

At the end of the trail we climbed to the overlook on Signal Hill to see some pretty views.  Plus there are some petroglyphs clearly visible among the rocks. 

Hike 3 Saguaro West 059  Hike 3 Saguaro West 063 croped

I was with a fun group in the car I rode in.  We came out to the end of the dirt road, but we turned the wrong way and wound up taking a drive down a long dirt road to other trails.  We turned around when we realized the mistake and dragged out the old GPS to get us out of the park!  So now I can truly say I have been lost in the desert!  Another great day with fun people and the great outdoors.

Hike 3 Saguaro West 061  Cartoon Cactus Character Stock Image