Thursday, February 27, 2014

2/27 Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ

I have been here twice in my motorhome, and I HATE the road driving in because it is so narrow, curvy, and without any shoulders.  I cannot help but hang over the middle line going around curves, so it is a little scary.  However, it is a beautiful place, especially on a very pleasant day.  Decent RV parking, which is nice. 
 

 
First time I ever came here was in about 1996 with my older son.  He would not tell me the temperature, but I know it was close to 110 degrees!  Today was nicer.
 
The museum is really a combination botanical garden and zoo.  It is much less groomed and is therefore more natural looking than the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, but I really like them both.


This is some sort of yucca, I think.

This is creosote bush.  It is in bloom everywhere in the desert this month.

 
The sign says this is a strawberry hedgehog cactus. It is just beginning to bloom.

This is a rare crested saguaro.  They do not know what causes this, but the museum has two that were transplanted from elsewhere.
 
This tiny hummingbird has made her nest within easy reach of anyone entering the hummingbird house!  She did not seem to be afraid of all the attention she was getting.  They say the eggs are the size of Tic Tacs. I can't imagine how tiny the babies are.  There were a couple of nests, but this was the easiest to photograph.


 
 There is also another bird house.  These mourning doves were eating watermelon.  I think the smaller birds in front are Inca doves.  They blend in very well with the desert soil.

This little Inca dove has made her nest right next to the path through the bird house. She did not seem worried at all. We watched her turn her single egg and then settle down again.

Is this a painted redstart???

Steller's Jay, I think.  These birds are known as camp robbers as they will hang around campground and people and steal whatever they can, edible or not.  I think it is a male due to the topknot on its head.

This female seemed to be nesting on the ground.  She was sitting on a small depression and was being groomed by the male. 

This female big-horn sheep is smart to be staying up high. 

The male and another female were down at the bottom.  He was VERY interested in the female, sniffing her rear and following her around.
 
This is a cactus wren and a brittle bush in full bloom.  Brittle bush is one of the most common desert plants so the desert is now full of yellow flowers.

2/25 Picacho Peak State Park

I am headed south and east now, back to Michigan and Ohio, following I-10 for at least a while.  First stop is this state park, where I had not been before.  It is between Phoenix and Tucson, and not too far off the freeway.  Picacho Peak was apparently a landmark to settlers and Native Americans because of its unusually sharp peak. 

The area is not as pretty as the regional parks around Phoenix, but it is a nice place for a few days, and fairly quiet, except for some freeway noise.   It is a little drier and does not have the variety of desert plants elsewhere, but spots are large and adequately separated.


My excitement for today was falling off my bike just before I took this photo.  I was not hurt, but missed out on another photo opportunity of a gentleman coming by on his bike to help me up!  I have bruises and some scrapes, but luckily nothing serious.  I do wear a helmet because the last thing I need is brain damage.  I had let go with one hand to adjust my glasses, and the bike just fell over.  It is a very heavy bike, so no one-handed riding from now on.

Funny thing, is that this other bike rider said he was really impressed at how fast I was riding uphill while he was huffing and puffing.  I told him my bike was electric, which was why I could ride so fast.  Guess I really should not let my secret out.  Bike is scratched in a couple of places, but I noticed that the accelerator control was sticking, which is not a safe thing, as I was riding home.  I put some WD-40 on it and it helped, but I will need to be more careful and will also need to take it in when I get to Michigan to get it fixed.

You can really see the non-stop line of traffic on I-10 in the distance in this photo.
 
My other excitement for the day was discovering that the mouse I had discovered yesterday, has been into the kitchen drawer where I store cooking utensils and had gnawed on my bowl scraper.  I emptied both it and my silverware drawer and washed everything with dish detergent and bleach.  I have put out four traps, but have not seen any recent evidence of his/her activity.  I am hoping the little guy or girl has jumped ship during the drive from Cottonwood!

2/24 Verde Canyon Railroad

I don't know how I missed this train trip the last time I was in Cottonwood.  I knew some old friends from high school would be in the area, so I suggested we meet and take the train together.  It was a perfect day, weather-wise, as has been almost every day in Arizona.  Here are Jan and Ron, getting ready to board the train.


You are assigned to an enclosed train car, but then can select your own seats.  Each enclosed car also has an outside observation car you have access to.  Very nice.


The route follows the Verde River up into a canyon area.  None of it is accessible except by four-wheeled drive over almost non-existent roads.  It is unusual to see water in a river in Arizona this time of year, especially since there has been almost no rain in several months.





 
Overall, just a very pleasant, relaxing day out!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

2/22 Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ

This is a place I have been before.  Cottonwood is a medium-sized town about 20 miles southeast of Sedona.  I used to like Sedona when it was a nice, small town, but it has been developed to the point where it is one chain store after another and the entire valley is filled with homes.  Just too commercial and too many expensive touristy shops to suit me. 

Dead Horse Ranch State Park is nice because it is along the Verde River and the campsites are on the slopes of hills above the town.  Good views during the day of the desert and even better views at night of the lights of the city.  Paved roads, nice big camping pads, with electric and water hookups makes me even happier! 

I like to stay in state parks because sites are farther apart, and you get scenery and wildlife.  Things are pretty dry in this high chaparral, but it is still pretty.

Did you know you could take your horse camping?  In fact, you can in a lot of state parks, especially in the west.  Here are some corrals where you can park your horse safely overnight.  If you have a self-contained trailer or motorhome, you can park it here and stay close by.  There are many horse trails in the area you can ride on, as well.
 

From the top of the bluff where the campgrounds are, you can see Tuzigoot Monument, which is another ancient Native American village. 

And you can also rent a horse in this state park if you forgot to bring your own!

There are several fishing lagoons along the river.  Nice place to walk, sit, or even fish.

I thought this was an interesting tree.  Some of those lower branches were over 2' in diameter.  I am guessing it is a cottonwood???

And here is the Verde River flowing through the park.  There were two guys standing in waders fly fishing for trout.

 
 
Nice day again today for a bike ride, or whatever, although they had freeze warnings posted for last night and tonight.  It is warmer where I am up on the bluff, so no worries.

2/21 Montezuma's Castle, AZ

Montezuma never stayed here and it is obviously not a castle, but ancient Native American's, the Sinagua people, lived in this valley for hundreds of years.  They had a river that flowed all year, Beaver Creek, and were near the Verde river, so there was water even in this desert.  They could also travel to the Flagstaff area when the game moved north for the summer, and could harvest desert plants to the south.

Now it is a national monument.  I tried to visit here in November 2012, but there were so many cars in the parking lot, I could not park, so I had to drive on.  Glad it was not quite so busy this day!

The weather, by the way, has been perfect--sunny and temps in the mid-70s.  It just feels so nice to be out and about on such a nice day.


This is the main dwelling.  It faced south, so they got warmth in the winter and the coolness of the rock in the summer.


These are some small store rooms nearby.

Unfortunately this area had a lot of heavy tourist use before it became a national monument, and this is all that remains of another large swelling just a few hundred feet away. 

And the river where they planted their crops in the rich bottom land.  Flooding periodically kept the soil fertile.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2/15 Lake Pleasant, AZ

This is one of the pleasantest lakes around!  I was here in November 2012, when it was a little cooler and a lot less crowded.  I think a lot of the crowd is due to the long President's Day weekend, so a lot of folks will leave on Monday, maybe even tomorrow. 

I chose the same place I had stayed in that last time because it is high up on a hill and has a great view of the lake.


I rode my bike down to the other campground area and took this photo.

Unfortunately, they don't even let you walk over the dam.