Archive for the ‘Monday walk’ Category

It’s cooled down a bit, making an early morning walk in the Preserve much more enjoyable. Of course, “cool” is a relative term in Arizona. Let’s just say it’s been below 80F at 6 am in the morning. But where there are trees and water, even if the latter is reclaimed, there’s more coolness in the air and people and animals are out and about.

“Diversity” is the “in” term now and the Preserve’s got it as this photo of a great blue heron (GBH to Sylvia) and a great egret, both preening away, getting primped for the photographers, shows. The GBH nickname amuses me because in many of the British police procedurals I read, that stands for “Grievous Bodily Harm.” I imagine the fish in the area might go for that meaning.

Look in the background, there at the bottom of the reeds. Sneaking around behind the larger, flashier birds is a juvenile night heron.

Gamboling about looking for food is a Gambel quail. There are lots of these ground dwellers around but you’ll also see them in trees and bushes. The babies are adorable, but even when small, they can all run like crazy.

For many, birds are the main attraction here, although this guy (?) night beg to differ. I did look up how to figure out what sex a turtle is, but it’s not easy even if you can get up close and handle the turtle, which certainly isn’t happening here! Too bad it’s not a snapping turtle or I could use one of my husband’s favorite turtle lines: “Turtle soup, waiter, and make it snappy!”

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Let’s take a closer look at a few of the cacti found in Saguaro National Park. One of the first places to get out and walk that we encountered was a paved loop giving great views of a variety of cacti, a number of which were in flower or had fruit. There’s quite a bit of room between many of the cacti, but be careful where you step and don’t back up without looking!

Here’s a lovely bunch of prickly pear cactus with fruit. Prickly pear jelly can be found in the Southwest and the fruit can be eaten but you have to be very careful to completely removed the outside so no spines of any size are left. I think I’ll stick with jelly!

When I started this post I didn’t realize that cholla, the type of cactus I’m showcasing next, used to be part of the same genus as prickly pear, despite what this information board says, but have now been separated because of some differences we wouldn’t notice, . However, the board does show how important each part of the desert flora and fauna are.

I also didn’t realize that there are boatload of species of opuntia, not a hundred, but a LOT! If you’re interested in identifying the flowers, this is (un)likely to help and made me laugh:

The flowers are typically large, axillary, solitary, bisexual, and epiperigynous, with a perianth consisting of distinct, spirally arranged tepals and a hypanthium.

If you do know what all those mean, do NOT tell us or I will ban you from the blog and flog you with a wet noodle or possibly o-puntia you across the desert for being a showoff!

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Saturday we took another exploratory drive to Tucson, this time to the Sweetwater Wetlands, a 60-acre water treatment facility, urban wildlife habitat, and outdoor classroom. It’s similar to the Riparian Preserve, although smaller and with different flora. One feature that I quickly learned to appreciate in the desert is that it has trees.

There must have been thousands of dragonflies of all colors and sizes.

One of the most prominent features was the overwhelming number of cattails, most of which were 10′ or more in height. Much of the water area was home to these giants which, as you can imagine, provide perfect privacy for ducks and other creatures.

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We’re taking a break from Wyoming this week (but we will definitely be back there again) to start a series about a walk we took to Saguaro National Park on Saturday. My husband’s been working nonstop since the middle of July and this was the first opportunity he’s had to get out of the area around our house. So we took advantage of it.

When you think of cacti, you’re likely to think of the iconic saguaro (sue-waar’-oh), its arms extending upward, and in southern Arizona near Tuscon, these giants have their own national park. Saguaro National Monument was created in 1933 and there have been several additions since that time and the switch to a national park. We’ll focus just the saguaro today, even though there are a plethora of cactus types here.

The saguaro isn’t just another pretty face! It serves as an apartment for a variety of desert creatures, one reason you see one often pockmarked with openings.

It’s difficult to imagine or convey how many saguaros there are in the park. To say there’s a forest of them isn’t to understate! I found myself laughing and shaking my head quite a few times during the day when I saw how many there were.

If you (carefully) touch a saguaro, you’ll feel a hard surface. The accordion-like skin expands when full and shrinks when conditions are drier. As odd as it seems to us, all those spines provide a sort of shade for the cactus. But a cactus can also die, as seen in the photo below. That’s really a cactus skeleton.

Not every saguaro is in lockstep with the traditional, expected arms-up posture. Some have a much more quirky look.

I plan to come back here in spring when there will be millions of beautiful white flowers, Arizona’s state flowers, atop the arms. Bee, birds, and bats love these flowers while providing pollination. The flowers are only open for a short time but flower sequentially and there are also red fruit. Take a quick look here for more information and photos. It’s well worth your time to learn more about this keystone species. Here’s an unusual tidbit to close off our visit for today:

In 1982, a man was killed after damaging a saguaro. David Grundman was shooting and poking at a saguaro cactus in an effort to make it fall. An arm of the cactus, weighing 500 lb (230 kg), fell onto him, crushing him and his car. The trunk of the cactus then also fell on him. The Austin Lounge Lizards wrote the song “Saguaro” about this death. Wikipedia

That makes this Farmer’s Insurance ad entirely possible. (Note: no endorsement here except for a good commercial.)

https://www.ispot.tv/ad/dOx6/farmers-insurance-hall-of-claims-cactus-calamity

for Jo’s Monday Walk

In Wyoming, much of the walking is done by the horses, which means we can go much farther than if we were walking on our own. On this day we took a series of trails, some of which we’d ridden on in other years. But this year we continued on, the trail and then road taking us closer to the mountains of the high country before curling back around toward home.

Eventually the road, suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles and motorcycles, came to Lamburger Rock. If it’s climbing you’re after, this is a spot for you. We, however, just enjoyed the view. I always take my phone with me in a fanny pack so that I can take photos. No phone reception unless you get quite high.

Willow Creek flows rapidly and I imagine it’s quite cold even mid-summer.

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While in Wyoming, my preferred method of transportation is on the back of a horse. But I do a reasonable amount of walking. Today’s walk was broken up by bits of driving as the various parts some at some distance from the cabin. Mind you, on these roads driving speed isn’t always very different from walking, especially when driving a non-four-wheel drive vehicle!

These butterflies were everywhere this summer. I had a bit of fun with editing in this first shot.

Some distance from our cabin is Park Lake reservoir. One summer during a recent drought, the water level was so low that you could ride or walk well into it. Thankfully this year it was filled with water, a haven for fishermen and people who love water sports. Or you just might want to spend some time admiring the view as my daughters and I did.

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This may not be what you imagined when I mentioned “castle” in my title. This is a old new world castle, a cliff dwelling built by the Sinagua (without water) people and inhabited from the early 1100s to around 1425. Although it’s called Montezuma Castle, Montezuma was never here. The park isn’t large, but it is lovely and because of the trees, fairly shady, something always appreciated here.

Montezuma Castle was a cliff dwelling housing about 50 people. Residents of the apartment-style structure used long ladders to reach their high-rise homes. ~National Geographic

Until 1951, visitors to Montezuma Castle National Monument also used ladders to access the cliff dwelling. However, thousands of tourists trekking through the site began to wear down the delicate adobe structure. Ladders were removed and visitors can no longer directly access the castle. ~National Geographic

We’re at a higher elevation here than in the Phoenix area and you can tell that we’re also near water because of the trees and vegetation. The park is small but it’s a lovely walk even in the heat. Because it’s a national park, I was looking forward to using my Senior Pass to get us in for free, but because of COVID, there was no entrance fee. Nice of the park system!

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Today I can’t do a Monday walk. My heart is broken, broken because of the violence: the violence of a death and the violence of burning and looting.

I believe George Floyd’s life mattered and his death was criminal.

I believe all lives matter.

I believe peaceful protest is a right and should be exercised.

I believe looting and burning is stealing and is wrong. It is not protesting.

I believe violence is not the answer and is divisive rather than healing.

I believe not all black men are criminals and not all police are racist.

I believe we need to be outraged at the number of black people killed weekly by other black people in cities such as Chicago as much as we are outraged by this killing and others like it.

I believe racism isn’t confined to one race or country.

I believe we can and must do better than this.

I hope I can believe that light will emerge from all the dark surrounding it.

for Jo’s Monday Walk

As most of you already know, last week I left my canal walks, heading for The Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, Arizona. The City of Gilbert manages the seven recharge basins (lakes) to replicate wet and dry periods.

A riparian habitat or riparian zone is a type of wildlife habitat found along the banks of a river, stream, or other actively moving source of water such as a spring or waterfall. The term generally refers only to freshwater or mildly brackish habitats surrounded by vegetation and may include marshes, swamps, or bogs adjacent to rivers. The Spruce

Birds are the big draw for a large number of people. The many trails are also perfect for walking, jogging, biking, or even in some places, horseback riding. It’s also used for dog walking and fishing and…photography.

Even at 5 am, just before sunrise, everyone is out and about! There are lots of egrets rushing in all directions for juicy insects and perhaps some fish.

The duck family wasn’t too afraid of me and although Mama kept an eye on me, everyone else was busy eating and cleaning themselves.

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I visited Queen Creek Olive Mill for the first time during a visit some years ago, taking home a large container of mixed olives. That made it one of the first destinations I wanted to visit after we moved.

Of course that didn’t take into account the COVID-19 restrictions, but as there’s a store on the premises, it was classified as essential, although until last week, the eating part of the operation and coffee shop were closed. Besides olives in their “plain” form, you can choose from a variety of olive oils and olive products as well as items from other Arizona producers, including eggs, cheese, meat, flour, and much more. We fell in love with the homemade pasta as well as the olives, putting them permanently on my shopping list.

Sitting among the olive trees is a lovely way to enjoy lunch or coffee and when you’re in the desert, shade is always appreciated! Last week there were people enjoying the morning outside, but on this visit, this area was still closed.

You’ll find flowers as well as vegetables and herbs growing in profusion. Bees and butterflies are happy, but the birds are frustrated by the covering on top of the veggie section of the garden.

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