Saturday, February 27, 2016

2/21 White Tank Mountain Regional Park, AZ

I have gotten behind on posting because I have been struggling with a bad sore throat and cough.  Here is some catch-up.

This is another one of the very nice regional parks around Phoenix owned and operated by Maricopa County.  I have been to Lake Pleasant, which is north of here, and I recently posted about Usery Mountain, but I had never been here before, so decided to try it out.

This campground is smaller than Usery or Lake Pleasant and electricity was only added a few years ago, so it is not as busy as those two.  This means it is a bit more quiet.  A very nice drive in. The campground is almost four miles from the entrance, which helps make this quiet.

Nice campsite, well away from neighbors. 

Well, it is quiet except when the "friends" of the park have a craft sale just past the campground!  It was only for two afternoons, but that meant a LOT of traffic on a road without adequate shoulders or bike paths.  And of course, those were the days I wanted to do some bike riding.  I did ride up to the nature center at the entrance, but it was not the safest things with cars passing me with double yellow lines on the roadway.

 Note the narrow shoulders and ignored yellow lines down the middle.

I don't think there is any part of the Sonoran Desert that is not pretty, and I love looking at long vistas with mountains in the distance.

In the distance in this photo, you can see the Phoenix area valley and the smog.  Luckily, the campgrounds are all up a little on the edges of the mountains so air is clear. 

This is a distance view of the park entrance and the nature center/local library combination.  

 Close-up of the library/nature center.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

2/19 Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

I have made it a point to come here whenever I visit Phoenix.  Actually I discovered this place at least 20 years ago while I was in this area on a business trip.  This botanical garden is larger and more landscaped than Boyce Thompson, and it has more services in terms of guided tours, restaurants, gift shops, and events.  I visited here two years ago when they had a Chihuly glass exhibit.  Here is a link to my blog two years ago showing the exhibit:

Anyway, if you come to Phoenix and you like plants, this is the place to come to.  Lots of parking for big rigs like mine, also!  I had a whole bus parking lot to myself once again. 

These glass sculptures at the entrance must have been purchased or gifted as part of that exhibit. 

I took a picture of this cactus because if you look very carefully you can see tiny new leaves or flowers growing.  Very few of the cactus were in flower this visit, but with the rains this winter, they ought to be in full bloom in a couple of months.

Some of the cactus here are very large and apparently have been here for many decades as the gardens have grown.

This is a cactus acting as a host for a younger cactus.

I thought these were an interesting shape.

And a succulent beginning to bloom.  These are blue elf aloe plants.

This is a southern snakewood acacia tree in bloom.

This is a very rare crested saguaro. It is thought that a genetic mutation causes this weird growth, but they are very rare and valuable.

Don't know what this is, but it is certainly not growing normally.

I had been looking for the Gambel's quail that I knew lived in the gardens.  When I went to the outdoor café for a snack, I found a large group of them begging for crumbs.  What is strange is that normally these are very shy birds and very difficult to photograph, but these guys practically ran up to you.  This one is a male.

This one was practically posing for photos!  Front view....

And a nice side view??  This one is obviously a female because she does not have the bright face markings.

Another male.

Enough of the birds, and back to cactus.  I saw several cactus wrens and a round-tailed ground squirrel also scrounging around the café.

The day was the coolest in a week or so, but I got tired of walking after almost four hours, so left.  You really cannot see this entire place even in one day, but it is a pleasant place to spend some time.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2/16 Boyce Thompson Arboretum

It is HOT here, so I tried to get an early start this morning. Unfortunately, I am not an early start person and it is over an hour's drive to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  Really, I had driven past here in December on my way west.  Should have stopped then, when it was actually chilly. 

Anyway, got here at around 10:30 a.m. and found lots of parking available, even for my big vehicle.  They were having a plant sale.  (I do miss gardening!) 

It was not very busy, which made for a pleasant walk.

This was the only blooming cactus I saw.  However, with the rain they had in December and January, there will most like be a lot of cactus and desert plants in bloom later this spring and summer.

Nice to have a bench and some shade! 

When this arboretum was developed 100 years ago, it was mostly desert and a few  trees along a wash and low place.  You would not believe that now because of so many trees providing shade and the grounds thickly planted with cactus and shrubs.

There are several greenhouses on the property, but this is one of the oldest.

This is a wash or dry creek bed.  Once in a while there is actually water in it, but that water results in a lot of natural growth.

A large tour group guided by a lady who lives on the property.

This is an Argentine Saguaro cactus.  You can tell the difference between these and American Saguaros because their branches start much closer to the base of the cactus.

 This is a very unusual crested barrel cactus. There is a mutation at the growing top which causes it to grow in a fan pattern.

Boyce Thompson is not as carefully landscaped at the Desert Botanical Gardens, but it is full of interesting plants and a very nice place to spend a few hours with many fewer people.