Friday, March 29, 2024

The Street Fair, Friends, and Saguaro NP - West

Corona de Tucson  

March 29, 2024

Last Saturday was the 4th Avenue Spring Street Fair.  This 55 year old bi-annual event has become a Tucson tradition.  Artists from all over the world gather here along with local entertainment.  It's a little over a 2 mile walk...well maybe a see everything.  Meeting Jamie and Andra there makes for a really fun time!      

We all enjoyed lunch at Caruso's.  This quaint little restaurant located in an old adobe home on 4th Avenue began back in 1938 and is still in the same family today.   

The manicotti I had was yummy and smothered in the best ever tomato sauce.  Of course, the best part of the day was sharing it with Jamie and Andra.  

Sunday dawned cloudy, wet and windy. Monday and Tuesday followed with on/off again showers and winds.  No complaints here !  The desert needs the rain and it's nice to have a lazy day or two. 

Jeff and Fran were in town on Wednesday.  They are headed to Ohio for the solar eclipse and are taking their time to explore and see a few sites along the way.  We were thrilled to hear from them and share lunch at El Charro.   

Jeff's favorite is the Carne Seca Poblano...and I am pretty sure I heard him say it was the best he had ever had.  We definitely think that is reason enough for Jeff and Fran to visit more often ! It was so good to see them and spend a couple of hours catching up.  Thank you for the photo Jeff and thank you both for taking the time for a visit !  Safe travels.  Until next time...

With the rain gone, the days warming up, and calm breezes in the forecast, we decided some fresh air was in order for Thursday.  My choice was Saguaro NP - West (Tucson Mountain District).  It's a bit of a drive to get there at about 30 miles one way, but once on Kinney Road I definitely have a big smile on my face!

We haven't hiked at this beautiful park since living in the MH and staying at Lazydays.   But we have driven the Bajada Loop several  times as it is a great place to find Saguaro blooms and other cacti blooms.  The loop is an unpaved 5 mile road suitable for most passenger cars.  

Since the saguaros are not yet blooming and neither are the cholla or stag horn cacti, our plan for the day was a couple of hikes on the loop we have not done...the Valley View Overlook Trail and the Signal Hill Trail.  Both are short, easy trails.   

Valley View Overlook Trail : 

Right from the get go, Joe and I loved this trail.  The trail is lined with huge saguaros... 


with interpretive signs along the way.  We had not heard of a Pencil Cholla. 



The Brittlebush and Globe Mallow add lots of color.

Did you know that the leaves on the brittlebush are covered with soft, white, matted hairs that reflect the sun's heat?  


We crossed several washes before gradually ascending to the ridge.  Along the way, we caught glimpses of the valley. 

There are several benches at the top of the ridge...

with vistas as far as the eye can see.  

We spotted one gorgeous red cholla bloom at the top of the ridge...

and spotted a stunning bloom on a tiny hedgehog cactus hiding behind a saguaro on the way down the trail.

Did you know that the Hedgehog Cactus is the first cactus to bloom in the spring?  

The down trail back to the parking lot was just as showy as the up trail to the ridge.  This easy trail just shy of 1 mile round trip might be short, but it sure packs a lot of bang for the buck.  Definitely a trail we would do again !

Signal Hill Trail : 

The access for Signal Hill Trail is at the Signal Hill Picnic Area.  There is a short road that turns off Bajada Loop Road that goes to the picnic area.  It was almost a bust as the access road was completely blocked and closes to traffic due to repairs and improvements being made at the picnic area.  Vehicles were parked along side the road and after spotting several walkers, we decided to give it a try too.  I'm so glad we did.  

From 1933 to 1941, members of the CCC improved the recreational possibilities of the Tucson Mountains.  They built five picnic sites that consisted of ramadas,  tables, benches, fireplaces, and bathrooms.  The Signal Hill picnic area was constructed in 1934 and the largest picnic area they built. There was fencing around the tables, benches and ramadas, but not around the fireplaces.  

Signage at the trail head stated that for more than 10,000 years the Tucson Basin has been inhabited by many people.  The Hohokam people lived here between 200 AD - 1400 AD.  Rock art found within the NP was created by them more than a thousand years ago and the reason for us choosing this trail.  

The trail is well maintained with switchbacks that make a sort climb to the top of a ridge much easier.   

The views were impressive...

At the top of the ridge is a "garden" of boulders covered in desert varnish which is the largest petroglyph site in the Tucson Mountain District.  Although small in size, it consists of over 200 Native American images...some can be viewed from the visitor trail.  It is believed these writings were left during hunting expeditions and there is no definitive meaning to them.  Were they made for religious purposes,  do they tell a story, do they mark a trail, or possibly commemorate a special event?  Today, when we examine these images carved centuries ago, we can only speculate what their significance was. And, stand in awe at the people who made them.  

It was hard to get photos...I didn't have the big zoom lens and the railing prevents visitors from getting too close.  A big thank you to the folks who think it is fun to inscribe modern day writings on ancient and special sites like this...I say facetiously!  It only takes a few of them to spoil it for the rest of us who really care.  

After our hikes we made a stop at the Visitor Center.  It's one of our favorite VCs we have ever visited.  I love how it blends in with its desert landscape...

has benches for "sitting a spell" just because...

has beautiful views...

and we always learn something new...

After it rains, the fragrance from the creosote bush is often called "the smell of rain" in the desert.  Did you know that the creosote fruit is a small wooly ball which separates into five segments when mature?   

We always enjoy our visits there.

We made one last stop on Kinney Road heading home...I love lupines !

Back at the oasis, things were pretty quiet.  The clouds were heavy and dark.

Mrs. C made morning visits...rain or shine.  We were happy to finally see her too.

Mr C watches her from the bush.  One morning, I saw him at the feeder and when she perched on the fence, he shelled a seed at the feeder and took it to her.  

Sally had her spring makeover.  It's a little too short, but she has to take anti anxiety meds to go to the groomers and we don't like giving it to her too often.  The shorter the better...her hair grows really fast !

Sally and I love the early morning glow.

 Until next time..


Sunday, March 24, 2024

It's Spring !

Corona de Tucson

March 24, 2024

Sunny, warm and happy are words that come to mind this time of year.  It is the perfect time to be outside and enjoying the desert that surrounds us.  Finding wildflowers and water in the desert is fun and Sabino Canyon is one of our go to spots every spring to enjoy both. 


The wide open vistas, birds, beautiful sky and trails are a big draw too.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Canyon Towhee

Phainopepla...enjoying a mosquito hawk for breakfast


We also ventured over to Saguaro NP-East to walk the Cactus Forest Trail this week.  I have not counted the many times we have enjoyed this trail with its ups and downs, twists and turns, the cacti forest, and the always present Rincon Mountains in the background.  I just know we never tire of the beauty.  It's close to home AND stopping at the DQ afterwards is pretty darn close to perfection !   

The wildflowers were few and far between on this trail.  The Ocotillo are blooming... 

 in a few sections we enjoyed the brittlebush...

Lots of buds...and it should be very pretty in a week or so.

patches of desert zinnias nestled under the prickly pear...

creosote bushes...

 and lots of larger patches of these tiny little yellow flowers I can't name.

The cacti here are plentiful and showy...

Back at the oasis, the Yellow-rumped Warbler has stopped by for several quick visits.   

These tiny little featherd friends mostly eat insects in the summer, but winters will often find them eating wild berries and seeds and visiting feeders for sunflower seeds, peanut butter, raisins and suet...all of which we have.  He does not sit still long and is hard to photograph.  

For the past couple of weeks, we have enjoyed the Gamble's Quail meandering under the shrubs and thru the tall grasses on the other side of our fence.  

This week, they decided to visit...I counted at least 12 at one time Friday morning. 

The torch cactus is blooming...with lots more buds popping out.

Sally is usually half in and half out...

or keeping a watchful eye for anyone headed to the kitchen.

The skies are incredible...

And far away in South Carolina, Felix and Edith took their mom and dad to the farm.  One of many fun days they enjoyed during spring break.

And I love this picture of Edith.  Jena sends pictures just about everyday...thank you Jena !

In case I don't get a post in before next Sunday...Happy Easter. 

And as always, until next time...