Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Desert Loves Rain! And a Fallen Giant.

Take a look at the post for the 18th to see the effect of the rain in the desert and a picture of a fallen saguaro.

Wednesday 1/11

Regular morning walk, then off to do some shopping. While we were out walking yesterday there were some fire trucks coming into the area from the two local stations and they really set off the coyotes out in the desert! Usually we here them howling late at night, but this morning there were at least two packs off in different directions howling in time with the fire sirens.

Speaking of being close to nature, we are hearing owls hoo-hooing in the palms trees behind our trailer almost every evening at and just after sunset. Apparently it is mating season. The shortage of hummingbirds also continues. Last year, and in December, Nancy was filling the feeder at least twice a week. Now it has been a week and a half since she filled it and it has only gone down about a third. Very puzzling, we used to see hummingbirds there all day long, now just one once in a while.

We stopped by Home Depot late in the morning to see if they had restocked the small rack that we bought for our shoes by the door. We picked one up last week and have room for two of them. They did, so now we have a nice arrangement for our shoes instead of having them scattered all over the floor. We went on over to 12th St since we were in the area and stopped at Perfecto’s for lunch. First time there this year and the food was as good as ever.

Stopped at Food City and Target on the way back home.

Thursday 1/12

Tucson Yoga for our “gentle yoga” class in the morning. In the afternoon we went over to Saguaro National Park for a patio talk on the geology of the Tucson Mountains. The volunteer ranger who made the presentation was one of the guides on a moonlight hike we took last season. The talk was outstanding with a lot of really interesting information about the geologic history of the area and the development of the mountain and valley formations typical of the southwest.

Friday 1/13

Skipped our morning walk and headed straight off to the Desert Museum, figured we would get enough walking there, and we were right. We ended up spending the whole morning there, did not leave until 2 PM.

We started out with one of the guided walks, but we were not to impressed with the docent, first one we have run into that we did not like. They were trying, and doing a fair job, but most of the info was about things we already knew.

So we dropped off, went to the hummingbird exhibit and watched the birds for quite a while, no one else in there this early in the morning. One of the birds took an inexplicable liking to Nancy’s powder blue fleece jacket, hovering around her and actually nibbling on the jacket with it’s beak!

We then wandered over to the Coyote Ramada where a docent had a presentation about coyotes, which was very interesting. Turns out that the coyotes travel in pairs or threes, when we hear all the howling in the desert that we take for a “pack”, it is probably only two or three animals. When we got there one of the coyotes was sunning on rock right near the trail, actually looked like it was posing. We sat in the sun and relaxed until the docent arrived to make the presentation.

We decided to have lunch at the museum as there was another talk at the Saguaro National Park that we wanted to go to and it is just a few miles down the road from the Desert Museum. We had eaten at the cafeteria style restaurant a few times, but we decided to try the Ocotillo Cafe, billed as a “fine dining” restaurant since we had plenty of time. Turned out to be a pretty nice place, the food was very good and added to that was the fact that members get 10% off, same as the cafeteria.

After lunch we stumbled across a group being guided by the same docent that did the coyote talk, he was very knowledgeable and articulate, so we tagged along with that group until it was time to head over to Saguaro National Forest.

Most of the talks here are at the Red Hills Visitors Center, some of the walks meet at other trail heads. We always check in at the ranger station at the Visitors Center as their funding is based on numbers and it costs us nothing since we use my America The Beautiful Senior Pass. The pass gets us free admission at all National Parks.

The talk today was on the history of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and specifically the camp that was located here in the Tucson Mountains. Most of the roads and all of trails in the parks here were built by the CCC. Traveling around the country we have seen many, many places where amenities in parks were built by the CCC - Starved Rock State park in Illinois and various places in Smokey Mountain National Park jump to mind.

Seeing all these things consolidated in one presentation really brings your attention to the great recreational opportunities we enjoy today because of the efforts of the CCC and the tremendous help it was to families during the depression. The unemployed young men (18 to 25 and unmarried) who joined the CCC earned $30 per month for six months, and $25 of that was sent back to their families each month! There were camps all over the country, with 250,000 men in 1,300 camps between 1933 and 1941.

The CCC camps were organized and managed by the US Army and one little noted benefit of the operation was the large group of men who learned discipline and working as teams. This provided the US with a competent group of young men when we entered WWII.

Saturday 1/14

Blackhawks game on TV today - at 10:30 AM! Being an afternoon game in Detroit accounted for the strange starting time. The Blackhawks stunk up the place in the first period, but they got better once Nancy put on her Blackhawks Jersey and they managed to salvage one point for a tie.

After lunch we ran into the Walmart so restock - have to shop fairly often here since we have limited refrigerator space and a REALLY small freezer. Usually don’t buy our pizza for Sunday afternoon until Saturday. We have been thinking about buying a small freezer and putting it in the truck (we have a 120 electric connection in the truck). So far we have not found anything satisfactory.

Back home we watched part of the Denver/New England game and some shows we recorded on the DVR.

Sunday 1/15

A little cloudy this morning, we have seen more partly cloudy days this year than we did in our entire stay the last two years. December and January are actually the secondary rainy season here - although with an annual total just under 12” “rain” is a relative term. The rain we got in December helped break the multi-year drought in Southern Arizona and the experts at places like the Desert Museum and on TV say if we get some rain in January it should be a really good wildflower season in the spring.

We some of the rain did come today, it started to sprinkle off an on late this afternoon and has continued off and on into the evening, good news for people in this part of the country.

Quiet day at home today, Nancy went over to the dog play area this afternoon with her friend Karen and her dog Margo. They go over there quite often in the afternoon.

Monday 1/16

After the Monday morning meeting we went over to Saguaro National Park for a talk on the food and medicinal use of desert plants by Native American women. Another very interesting talk. On the way home we stopped at Coyote Pause for a large enough lunch that we skipped dinner that evening. It was a bit cool and cloudy so I took advantage when we got back home and did some cleaning of the decals on the outside of the trailer. Making progress on the areas where the Red Max Pro sealer is peeling a bit.

Tuesday 1/17

We needed a few things from Walmart and Trader Joe’s so we decided to take advantage of their proximity to the Beyond Bread on East Speedway. As usual the sandwiches were large enough to take half home for dinner.

We have decided to purchase a small freezer and put it in the truck cab for additional frozen storage. The freezer in the trailer is rather small, so we cannot stock up - we have to get out and buy our pizza for Sunday afternoon either that day or Saturday.

I had been looking for a small freezer that would fit in the truck between the passenger seat and the bunk. Last night I found an EdgeStar freezer on sale that will do the trick. It will also function as a refrigerator if needed, although we leave our cooler just outside the door and under the slide for an auxiliary refrigerator. Easy to do since the RV park supplies free ice.

The truck has an outside connection for 120V, but I had taken the female plug off the end of the cable when I had the fairings off a while back, so when we returned home I re-threaded the cable back into the passenger seat and installed the connector. Freezer should be here Saturday.

Wednesday 1/18

The desert loves rain! After Sunday and Monday’s rain the desert has come alive. Tuesday morning we noticed blankets of grasses growing in open areas where there had only been gravel the previous week.

This morning we noticed tiny little flower like growths right along the trails. Hopefully you can see the pictures. All of the Saguaro are expanded to maximum, having pumped themselves up with stored water. The desert is green and alive this week.

Here you can see the size compared to my foot:

On Sunday we took a different trail that we have not been on this year and came a cross a large saguaro that had fallen, obviously when it was still alive. Maybe a windstorm or damage at the root? There was still fresh growth on top of the main trunk and the arm and it was very green. I did not have the camera with me Sunday, but this morning we went back the same way and took some pictures.

This is usually what a dying saguaro looks like:

This beautiful specimen seems to have fallen in the prime of life:

If you look closely you can see the indentation it made on the desert floor when it fell. This is hard ground - those saguaros are heavy! It appears that this saguaro fell quite recently, when we saw it on Sunday it was still very green and this morning it has already lost a noticeable amount of color. Kind of sad to see this magnificent “giant of the desert” laying on the desert floor.

Stuck around home today, dog sitting with Margo. I took a quick trip to the bank and an optometrist, Desert Optical, to have my glasses straightened - I stood up with them on my lap last evening and stepped on them!

A beautiful, sunny day in the 60’s today. Weather has been nice all along, in spite of a couple of days with some clouds and light rain. Last year they were still in a drought here and we only had one day of rain, this year is much more normal as December and January are a secondary rainy season. Of course with 12’ of annual rainfall, a rainy day is a relative thing!

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