Sunday, March 18, 2018

3/9 Back at Sonoran Desert Museum

I've been really busy with end-of-semester responsibilities, so not much time for posting, but I wanted to post a few more photos of the Sonoran Desert Museum.  I was here back in February, but it was a chilly, grey day.  I was back at Gilbert Ray Campground for a few days and it was a little warmer and less rainy, so I rode my bike the two miles down the road to the museum for another visit.  

Part of this mostly outdoors museum is heavily landscaped, and parts of it are more natural looking, but both parts get plants added and subtracted.  This is looking out southeast across the valley in the distance.  

This guy caught my eye as I was walking on one of the paths.  

 It might be a desert spiny lizard. 
 Way in the back there is a mountain lion under a small tree.

And a Mexican grey wolf snoozing in another area.  

Actually, there were two of them. They were a lot larger than I thought they would be, although you cannot tell from this photo. 

And some prairie dogs.  This museum only has wildlife that is local to Arizona. 

There are enough paths in this place that you could easily find a place without other people. 

 This is the entrance to the cactus garden.  The next few photos are of this garden within a garden.

 I found a remada in the cactus garden and sat here for quite a while.

This is an extremely rare crested saguaro.  They occur when a virus attacks a sajuaro and causes this strange growth.  They are worth tens of thousands of dollars, but like all saguaros are protected.  Here is an article explaining them in more detail and showing more examples:

So, after about four hours of wandering around, I headed back to my campground on my bike.  Nice scenery, but the road has absolutely no shoulder, so I was at the mercy of of traffic.  Made it back OK, however. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

3/6 Picacho Peak Again

I was originally going to spent a whole week at Gilbert Ray Campground, west of Tucson in Tucson Mountain Park.  In this area, you have three major attractions within a couple miles bike riding:  The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, and Old Tucson, which is a kind of Old West amusement park and ghost town. 

However, I realized that to get into Gilbert Ray, you need to get here by no later than 10 am, and that would mean getting up before dawn to drive here from Phoenix.  I do not like getting up and driving before dawn.  In addition, the very poor cell/Internet signal at White Tank meant I had to drive out to listen to student presentations, and I don't like doing that either.  The solution was staying at Picacho Peak State Park for a couple of days and getting my motorhome mechanical stuff done at a nearby service center.

When I bought this beast, the salesman assured me if I bought a motorhome on a Ford chassis, I could take it to any Ford dealer for repairs.  Ha!  At least 95% of Ford dealers will not work on my vehicle because they don't have service shop doors tall enough to get it in, or they don't have a lift big enough to lift it up, or they don't even have a jack big enough to lift it up, and they basically just don't want to work on it.  Truck service places usually have the right equipment but they are harder to find and sometimes even they work on medium-duty trucks, which this is, in the parking lot because their doors are too short. 

Anyway, I found an RV service place near Tucson that has big doors, big lifts, and are familiar with working on even the biggest RVs, so I made an appointment to get an oil change, have a new serpentine belt put on, and get my emergency brake fixed.  It is not safe to park on a slope on a mountain pull-over when your emergency brake will not even hold you on level ground.  So, it took one 6-hour day and one 5-hour day of sitting on an uncomfortable chair, but I spent three nights at Picacho and used the time to get the repairs done.  I am now $900 poorer, however.

Anyway, since I was last at Picacho, there has been a little rain, and the desert floor that was bare is now covered with green.  Here is one view from the back of my campsite.  Notice the green tinge on the dirt? 

At first, I thought it was grass sprouting, but in the desert some plants are very small, so you have to look closely.  Here is what the plants look like up close.  There is some grass, but most of this green stuff consists of tiny leafed plants.  

Anyway, this is a very handy state park, about 70 miles south of Phoenix and 30 miles northwest of Tucson.  Very large, double-wide asphalt camping spots that are nicely spread out.  

I almost have enough room in my campsite for another motorhome. 

The shrub in the center of this photo is a creosote bush.  When they get wet or are crushed, the leaves have a pungent smell of burning rubber.  But right now, they are one of the very few desert plants that are in bloom. 

The yellow flowers cover this creosote bush.  

 Oh, and the best part of this campground is that I am getting five bars of 4G lte data from Verizon here!!  I need to remember to come here when I have student presentations! 

3/3 White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Yes, I am way behind in my posting because I have been up to my eyeballs in grading papers.  It is the end of the semester, so lots to do.  And my teaching online does enable me to live this life on the road, so have to give it priority!

Anyway, it was cold and windy, and we even had rain one day, so good time to stay inside.  However, this is a very nice campground, with great views.  It is located northwest of Phoenix, just west of Glendale, Arizona, and close to Sun City, although it has been a chilly winter this year.  Campsites are well-spread out, so you still feel you are far from anything.

 This is a nice view of downtown Phoenix, way in the distance.

What I really want to know is why I am getting only one very skimpy 3G bar on my cell phone and mobile hot spot I use for data and internet, when all of this is on top of the mountain behind the campground?  Where are you, Verizon???  

And that is the sum total of the photos I took of this campground.  However, I have been here before and will come again in a year or so.  It is a very quiet and pleasant place to stay, other than the lack of decent Internet coverage.

Friday, March 2, 2018

3/1 McDowell Regional Park, Waterfall Trail

OK, so I never really walked all the way to the waterfall.  Two reasons:  I was running out of time and it was hard to take photos against the sun.  Also, there was no water in the waterfall, I was told, so I walked in about .6 miles and then turned around and headed back to my campsite. 

I liked that the trail was paved half-way down, and also that it was fairly busy. I do not like to walk alone on a deserted trail, especially later in the afternoon, in case I were to get injured and not be able to get back before dark. 

This may look strange to be taking photos of grass, but you don't get green grass often in the desert.  However, it rained about half an inch a couple of days ago, and they had some rain a couple of weeks ago, so grass is growing. 

Nice handicapped-accessible trail. 

The reason for the sign is evident in the next couple of slides. 

 All of these rocks with petroglyphs were immediately behind a bench I was sitting on.  They had the path fenced off to discourage people from touching these.
At this point, the pavement ends and the trail becomes dirt. 

This is the view looking back over Surprise, AZ.  Surprise is a far northwest suburb of Phoenix. 

Partway down the unpaved part of the trail was this wash.  A wash is a creek bed that stays dry almost all year, but fills rapidly during rains.  You can really imagine how this must look in a heavy rain.

I've been very busy with grading end-of-semester stuff for my online class, so won't have much time for sightseeing or posting for the next couple of weeks.  I do try to get out for a walk once a day, however.