Back to Tucson

Back to Tucson

We drove to Calgary and flew to Tucson via San Francisco. We were happy to leave the snow behind. Here’s a view from the airplane of the Steeples and Mt. Fisher with Cranbrook behind them.


The ridge behind our place was as pretty as ever.


And we had some beautiful welcoming sunsets.


The hummingbirds came back almost as soon as the feeders were filled. This is a female Anna’s.


The weather wasn’t too hot to hike, so we ventured out. We hiked to the top of Wasson Peak, the highest one in Saguaro National Park (Tucson Mountain Division). Here’s a view of Wendy near the summit. Our trailer is somewhere on the flats below (above her head in the photo.)


Here’s Doug with a view of the Avra Valley behind him.


Another day we returned to Tubac. We went birding in the morning and we were unable to locate a Rose-throated becard. But we enjoyed the birding and saw lots of interesting birds. We came to listen to a talk, “Return of the Rose-throated becard” that was scheduled for the afternoon. We had time to have lunch in Tubac and see a little of the Mexican-feeling town.


All this wall art was for sale. Some pieces were ceramic, others were made of metal.


It was very windy that night and it was still windy in the morning. By 10:30, it seemed to die down a bit so we headed out for a hike. We drove to the trailhead for Picture Rocks wash in about ten minutes. It was a pleasant hour and a half hiking through the wash, past the “picture rocks” (petroglyphs), and finishing the loop on a desert trail.


Doug visited the Pima Air and Space Museum on two different days. (Wendy did quilting related stuff: once to a Quilt festival/market and another day to a sewing day at a local quilt shop.)

The Pima Air and Space Museum had several hangars displaying WW2 vintage aircraft that Doug really enjoyed. He grew up reading about them and making models. Quite a zing to see the real thing!


The Spitfire was nice to see up close and so much bigger than the model Doug built when he was 12. His current favourite military aircraft is the A10 Warthog which happen to pass over our fifth wheel on a regular basis.


We had a late start one day because we had planned to ride our bikes, but one of the tires on Doug’s bike had a rip in the sidewall. So after taking the wheel to the bike shop, we headed to Reid Park for a little birding.

We chose Reid Park because a rare bird, a Ruddy ground-dove had been seen there over the last week or so. We didn’t see the dove, but we did see another rare bird, a Greater pewee. Doug got a photo of it that is good enough for identification but too small to include here.

Reid Park is in the middle of the city, with a zoo, rose gardens, two ponds, lawns etc. Alongside the ducks that enjoy being fed crusts, there are some interesting birds. This one is a juvenile Black-crowned night heron.


Here’s another Black-crowned night heron (who’s a bit older, but still immature) standing near a yawning Neotropic cormorant. The bird behind is an American wigeon just taking off.


We don’t often see Northern shovelers when they aren’t in breeding plumage. It’s bill gave it away.


And it’s always a pleasure to see a Vermilion flycatcher.


So the next day, with the bikes all ready to go, we rode about 18 km on a paved multi-use trail along the Santa Cruz River in Marana. In the photo below, we’re close to the most northerly end of the trail near the El Rio Open Space Preserve. The flowers are flowing over the fence of the garden of a high-end home.


Another day we hiked up and along Brown Mountain, which is in Tucson Mountain Park. We can drive to the trailhead in about 20 minutes. Here is Wendy at the beginning of the uphill section: a nice trail with switchbacks and not too far to climb.


Here’s a view looking northeast towards Wasson Peak, the highest one on the skyline.


Once we got to the top of Brown Mountain, we walked along it’s ridge and worked our way gradually down. We got a good view of the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum grounds. (Doug turned around for the photo.)


There were some magnificent saguaros along the trail.


We were watching out to try and find the smallest saguaro, and this one was probably the littlest we could find. It was about 20 cm tall and perhaps five to ten years old. Although we didn’t see very many small ones, once the saguaro becomes established, it can grow to be very old. The first branches of the saguaro develop when the cactus is fifty years old.


Here’s our final photo for this blog, a male Black-tailed gnatcatcher. We saw at least a dozen of them along the trail. They especially liked foraging in the Palo verde bushes.


You can look forward to more bird photos in our next blog.

Birding and Exploring around Tucson

Birding and Exploring around Tucson

Tucson is still pretty warm in September, so we didn’t bike or hike much. However there are many birding opportunities. One day we drove south about an hour and a quarter to Tubac. Tubac is a very old settlement on the Santa Cruz River that has found new life as a tourist town with quaint shops and galleries. We started our birding route at Bridge Road, just before the bridge and followed the Juan Bautista de Anza trail for a little ways until it connected with the TGR (Tubac Golf Resort) trail.


We were hoping to see Rosy-breasted becards high in the cottonwoods. But no luck. Perhaps we’ll have to return with our scope. Those treetops are a long way up!

While we were wandering near some lower bushes, we heard some close scuffling sounds, but the source was out of sight. A few minutes later we caught sight of three javelinas trotting along. They were too far away to get a good photo, but it was our first sighting of them in the wild.

Javelinas are also know as collared peccaries and are similar to wild boars. Although they are herbivores, they can become aggressive if startled and can inflict damage with their long, sharp canine teeth that protrude from their jaws by about an inch.


We did see a new bird for us: a female Varied bunting. We’re looking forward to seeing a male version, which is blue and red and quite beautiful.


There were quite a few Inca doves right close to the road.


And a Warbling vireo allowed us a viewing. Usually we only hear its distinctive song.


We toured the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park which was nearby. There were a few interesting buildings, including an old school house which was set up to be like it was in the late 1800s. A couple of classes of school kids from Tucson were touring the park with their clipboards and worksheets dressed in period costume and it reminded us of school field trips to Ft. Steele.

We thought that the prettiest place in the park was this collection of cacti surrounding an old wagon.


Seven minutes down the road is Tumacacori National Historic Park. This old church was built in several stages starting in the 1750s by Franciscan monks.


Since we were in “tourist mode,” we stopped at the Titan Missile Museum which is just outside of Green Valley on our way back to Tucson. We were expecting a static display, but instead signed up for the last tour of the day. Doug was thrilled to sit in the command post. Doug was very interested in all the technology and the history from the Cold War era. Wendy figured that since she dragged Doug to plenty of quilt shops and shows she would come along.


Another day we went birding closer to home at the Sweetwater Wetlands. The Sweetwater Wetlands are part of the City of Tucson’s water reclamation system. Treated water is naturally filtered as it moves through the wetlands, and is recharged in basins and reclaimed for use in city parks, golf courses and school grounds.


There are viewing platforms built to view the ponds. The ponds are green with a coating of algae.


There were plenty of American coots enjoying the lushness.


This Nashville warbler paused for a moment to allow Doug to get a photo.


We were surprised to see a Greater Roadrunner because they are often in more open areas. There were probably plenty of lizards round for it to dine on.


Another day, we went out to lunch at a brewpub near the university. We took a short walk through the University of Arizona’s campus. Here’s a view from the steps of the Old Main. It’s hard to tell it’s in the middle of the city.


After lunch, we drove to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to attend the opening of an international exhibition of art quilts: Connecting our Natural Worlds.


About fifteen of the artists were present and we had conversations with some of them about their work. The exhibition continues until January, so we’ll return a number of times when we’re back in November and maybe get some good photos of the works then.


Since we had a bit of time, we viewed the aquarium at the museum. Since the Sonoran desert is on both sides of Baja California, marine life from the bay is included in the exhibits, as well as any native fish that may be in the rivers.

These are Garden eels that are about 40 cm long. They need to live in sand that is at least 60 cm deep. They were fascinating to watch as they twisted and swayed trying to catch particles of food.


Tohono Chul, where we have a membership, hosts Sunday concerts in the garden. We enjoyed listening to this jazz ensemble from the University of Arizona.


This is a view of our dinner on October 6. It was just over 30 degrees C. We headed home the next morning, leaving the fifth wheel behind.


On Monday we drove from Tucson to St. George, Utah. The next day we drove longer than we had planned in order to get over the pass into Montana before the weather changed. We knew a severe winter storm was coming and we’d hoped to miss it. It didn’t quite work out that way and we woke to blowing snow and below freezing temperatures. (-7 C) Here’s the view of the truck in Dillon, Montana.



We had a few hours of full-on winter driving until we reached clear pavement. The weather for the rest of the trip home was beautiful. It was great to see the autumn colours.

We’re now back home for about a month. We’ll return to our Redwood in November.

Madera Canyon Birding

We drove an hour south to the Coronado National Forest and Madera Canyon, a premier birding destination. We walked up beside the canyon from the Proctor Road Parking area. Cacti were interspersed in the forest of sycamore, ash and juniper. Granite boulders were dominant in the canyon.


We had done a bit of research on eBird and knew that there were Sulphur-bellied flycatchers in the area. Their call sounds like a squeaky toy. When we heard that call we took a short diversion from the trail and located three flycatchers. They have a very limited range in the US, so we were very happy to get a “life bird” so early on in our hike.


Further along the trail, in a nice shady area, we saw numerous Bridled titmice, some Black-throated grey warblers and a couple of White-breasted nuthatches. All the birds were darting in the among the trees, but Doug was able to get a photo of one Bridled titmouse.

As we climbed steadily upward we came across a family of Mexican jays. We heard their raucous calls long before we saw them.


We turned around at the Whitehouse picnic area. It’s very civilized when your route has a restroom half way along. On the way down, we saw this Ladder-backed woodpecker. To compare it with woodpeckers that we have at home, its a bit bigger than a Downy woodpecker and a bit smaller than a Hairy.


We drove up the Madera Canyon road to Santa Rita lodge and gift shop. They have a viewing area set up with almost a dozen seed and suet feeders and numerous hummingbird feeders. We stayed for about a half an hour and saw over 30 birds of nine species.

Here’s a female Anna’s hummingbird.


On the left is another Anna’s hummingbird. The large hummingbird on the right is a Rivoli’s hummingbird (previously known as Magnificent hummingbird.)


There were also plenty of Yellow-eyed juncos.


And three Acorn woodpeckers.


A new bird for us was this female Arizona woodpecker.


We were back at our trailer by early afternoon after our successful birding adventure to Madera Canyon. It wasn’t that far away to see some amazing birds. We’re sure to return many times in the months to come.

Getting settled in Tucson

Getting settled in Tucson

We’re getting settled here at our spot for the season. We’re about 20 minutes from shopping and US 10 in one direction and 20 minutes from the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum in the other. Here’s a southeast view from our yard, taken one afternoon after a rain shower.


This is the view to the east, that same afternoon.


Another day, these thunderheads passes us to the north. This view is taken a short walk down the road beside the property. The other houses are mostly hidden by the vegetation.


We went for a short hike from the Signal Hill picnic site in the Saguaro National Park to some petroglyphs. The ridge on the left side in the background is the same one we look at from our patio. (That was also in the previous photos.)


This blooming barrel cactus was close to where the last photo was taken. The mountains in the background are east of the flat Avra Valley.


We visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum frequently. We bought an annual pass so we get our exercise walking on the trails in the early morning, before it gets too hot.


Here’s Doug on the Desert Loop, a gravel trail that’s a little under a kilometre long. (The rest of the park is paved.) We’ve worked our way up to briskly walking five “laps” with short pauses to look at coyotes or javelinas that are in enclosures along the trail. (And of course, birds)


One day it was raining hard enough to need an umbrella, but it was still warm enough for shorts.


After our walk, we usually spend some time at one or two of the exhibits. We’ve visited the cactus garden a number of times. These fuzzy cacti are called Woolly Jacket Prickly Pear.


The museum has a large hummingbird aviary. Here’s a photo of a Broad-billed hummingbird. The hummingbirds will nest and raise their family in the aviary. Once the young are independent, the museum will find them another home at a different zoo or botanical garden.


Here’s a male Costa’s hummingbird taken inside the aviary. The hummingbirds are conditioned to having people around and will allow you to get quite close. We also often see “wild” Costa’s hummingbirds in the gardens outside the aviary, but they tend to move quickly from bloom to bloom.


On one visit Doug took his camera with the long lens, and got a good photo of a Cactus wren on an Organ Pipe cactus.


There was a cute sparrow just below the same cactus. When we looked closely at the photo we realized it was a Rufous-winged sparrow. That small patch of red on its shoulder is one of its distinguishing features. The rufous-winged sparrow is only found in the northwest part of Mexico and in a small section of southern Arizona.


We also became members of another botanical garden about a half an hour east of us. Tohono Chul has been reviewed as one of the ten great botanical gardens of the world. Although you can sometimes hear the traffic noise of the busy intersection, it has a peaceful atmosphere.


There are statues throughout the park, as well as an art gallery.


There are large stands of trees and benches everywhere.


Here’s a blooming barrel cactus in one of their gardens.


They also sell plants. Here’s a view of their cactus greenhouse.


Tohono Chul advertises themselves with: Where nature, art and culture connect. We’re looking forward to attending their free Sunday afternoon concerts

This post describes the places that we are going to visit over and over again while we’re here in the Tucson area. Next post will be about our birding trip to Madera Canyon, likely the first of many.


Down to Arizona

Down to Arizona

We took a few days to drive down to our campsite for most of the “cold” season. First to Missoula, MT and then to American Falls, ID and then a couple of days in Ely, NV. From Ely, we took a day trip to Great Basin National Park.

Within an hour we were at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. We were early for our tour, so we were wandering around and happened to sit down beside a young woman who looked familiar. It was Marysa who we had last seen in August when she was visiting her parents in Cranbrook. We had recommended that she try to see the caves since she would be travelling right by them on her way to Colorado. We had both booked the same tour on-line by coincidence. It was such a surprise to see her there that we asked a nearby tourist to take our photo together.Cave_entrance_Marysa

The cave tour was worthwhile. Our tour guide, although a bit quirky, had interesting stories and facts about the caves. The caves are artificially lit, but still quite dim.


The next day we drove to Kingman, AZ, and in one more day we were in the Tucson area. We booked a site at Picacho Peak State Park for two nights, so we had time to reconnoiter the route to our the site we had leased near Saguaro National Park (West). Here’s a photo of our first night at Picacho Peak S.P.


This is a view towards the Santa Catalina Mountains and Highway 10.


This one is looking towards the ridge of Picacho Peak in the morning.


Both mornings we were there, we got up at sunrise (around 6 am) and went for a birding walk. It would get too hot to be comfortable walking by 8. Here’s a photo of a Say’s phoebe in a Palo verde tree.


Here are some views of our spot for the season. We’ve leased the site from the homeowner who also lives on the property. We’ve enjoyed beautiful sunsets most evenings.


This is the view looking east. The sandy area in front of our unit is surrounded by trees.


Parts of the yard are still wild; here’s a view of a Prickly pear cactus with fruit.


There is also Chainfruit cholla on the property.


We’ve had a chance to see a bit of Tucson. After we stopped in at the Visitors Centre, we went to a park close by for a short walk. There were a number of these beautiful bushes in bloom. We found out they are Red Bird-of-Paradise (caesalpinia pulcherrima), in the legume family.


Our site is about ten minutes from the Red Hills Visitor Center for Saguaro National Park (West). One day we viewed the displays, took the short nature walk and listened to very informative talk about the life cycle of the Saguaro.


Another day, we drove across town and up a winding road to the top of Mount Lemmon. Mount Lemmon actually has a ski hill! It has a limited season but it has a chairlift and about a dozen short runs. There are campgrounds and picnic sites all the way up the road as well as many hiking trailheads. We chose to hike from the upper most parking area. There were sections near the top that were reminiscent of a forest in Canada. It was cool enough to hike with a long-sleeved shirt. (Locals were wearing fleece jackets, however.)


Here’s a view looking west over Tucson and the craggy ridge of Mount Lemmon. We didn’t get a photo, but we were able to see several Yellow-eyed juncos, a bird that has a very limited range in the United States.


We’ve seen plenty of birds already, and Doug has several good photos that we’ll include in our next blog.

Kelowna, BC: a visit and some family time

Kelowna, BC: a visit and some family time

A niece’s wedding was a good excuse to spend some time in Kelowna this August. We booked about a year ahead to get a site in a boutique RV park in South Kelowna. Canyon Farms RV has ten fully serviced sites. Our site was closest to the washroom and laundry, but still very private with the landscaping and plantings.


Canyon Farms is also a working farm, with chickens and gardens. They provided us with a container to collect our vegetable scraps for the chickens. The chickens were very keen to see what delectables were coming to them next and would run to the fence if they heard someone approach.


There were plenty of flower gardens. This one was right in the campground. During our stay, a vase with cut flowers appeared on our picnic table.


There were also grape vines full of a tasty eating varietal planted to give privacy between sites.


The RV park was walking distance to Mission Creek Greenway Regional Park. Twice we walked down into the canyon and once we rode our bikes. This is a photo of Doug in front of the canyon walls at Gallagher’s narrows, on a side trail to the “Rock Ovens.”


We also took a trip to Vernon to visit family. We wish we had remembered to take a photo from their deck that overlooks the city, oh well. On our way back to Kelowna, we stopped in at The Batik Corner in Oyama. The cute shop sits on the owner’s rural property.


The shop specialized in batiks that are made especially for her, which meant there were some unique designs and very reasonable prices. The shop is a bit out of the way, but we bought enough fabric to make it worth the trip.


The day before the wedding, we met the mother and father of the bride at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, the wedding venue. Here’s a photo of the rehearsal in progress, so you can see how great the view is.


Another bonus of the wedding was spending time with our daughters and their partners, including the eldest daughter’s in-laws. We hosted them for a lunch before the afternoon wedding.


The next day, four of us rode the Myra Canyon Trestles trail, a highly scenic section of the Kettle Valley Railway, that was originally completed in 1914. We started fairly early on a cool morning, so it wasn’t very crowded on our way out. Here’s a view of one of the 18 trestle bridges. Decks had been added to the trestle bridges back in the 1990s, but major restoration has occurred more recently since twelve of them were burnt in the 2003 forest fires.


There are two tunnels on the route. They are dark, but there is enough light from the entrances to be able to see without lights.


We rode 12 kilometres to another parking area for the trail, then headed back. Here’s a view of one of the longer, curved trestle on our way back. As we got closer to our truck, it became crowded on the trail, with families of hikers, dogs and more cyclists.


As we got closer to our truck, the trail became more crowded with families of hikers, dogs and more cyclists. We all enjoyed the leisurely three hour trip.

This was our last trip of the summer; now our focus will be to get ready for our fall adventures: Arizona, here we come!

Sisters, OR: biking, hiking, birds and quilts

Sisters, OR: biking, hiking, birds and quilts

Our trip to Sisters in July was not very different from other years. We returned to favourite places. We had the same shady campsite at Bend/Sisters Garden RV Resort as last year.


Wendy signed up for classes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so on Monday she could join Doug on his favourite mountain bike route in Bend at Phil’s trailhead. The trail gradually climbed for about 12 kilometres to the start of the fun downhill section, called “Lower Whoops.” There are no photos of that part, because we didn’t want to stop. This is Doug riding in front of a basalt outcropping farther down the trail.


Here is Wendy on a more gentle downhill section. The whole route was about 24 kilometres and took us just over 2 hours. We filled out the day with lunch at 10 Barrels Brewing, and a trip to a quilt store and Costco.


On Tuesday we hiked the Tam McArthur Rim trail. There was more snow than previous years, so we only went a little farther than the overlook. The weather was beautiful though and so were the views.


Here’s a photo of Wendy on the trail near the end of the hike, descending to Three Creeks Lake. You can see a butterfly just to her left. There were hundreds of them along the trail. Apparently they return to this area every year.

Wendy_hike2.gifOn Wednesday and Thursday, while Wendy was in class, Doug fished at Three Creeks Lake. Here’s a view from his “belly boat” looking towards the overlook on Tam McArthur Rim. It’s the cliff in the centre of the photo.


We had fish for dinner both nights!

On Friday Doug rode over 30 kilometres on the Peterson Ridge trail system that he accessed directly from our campsite.

Saturday, the second Saturday in July, was the Outdoor Quilt Show. We got to town early enough to get a good parking spot and were able to see the firemen hanging the quilts on the quilt store wall. The show didn’t officially begin until 9:00, but many people arrived over an hour early.


There are quilts hung all over town. Here’s a view of some bright ones on a side of a house.

Wendy took over 150 photos, which although less than previous years is hard to distill down to reasonable number for a blog post. Doug took fewer pictures and these are his highlights. This quilt is by Rob Appell, of “Man Sewing” YouTube fame, titled “All Geared Up.”


Another one from the teachers’ tent was “Rabbit Brush” by Jean Wells. Wendy has taken three classes by Jean Wells, (including this year) so it’s nice that Doug likes her work.


This one is by June Jaeger, who is Jean Wells’ sister, titled “Going home.”


Before we packed up our campsite on Sunday, we rode the nearby trails through open pine forest.


We drove about 45 minutes to Camp Sherman, where we had a site at Cold Springs Resort. Here’s a view of the bridge over the Metolius River that links the resort and “downtown” Camp Sherman which is really just the general store.


One day we rode our bikes to Suttle Lake, on old roads and single track trails. Then we rode around the lake and enjoyed the gradual downhill back to Camp Sherman.


Doug enjoyed fishing a few days on the Metolius, but no photos. We did get out birding however. Doug took his camera with the long lens and captured some good bird photos. Here’s a young American Dipper, who didn’t seem to want to get his feet wet.


A Cedar Waxwing


We heard plenty of Common Yellowthroats, but they were pretty elusive. Doug was quick enough to catch a photo of this one.


This Rufous Hummingbird was a regular visitor to the feeder that one of the year-long residents had set up.


Song sparrows are common along the riverbank.


This Western Tanager seems to be wondering what we’re doing in his backyard.


White-headed woodpeckers have a very limited range, but you can usually see them at Camp Sherman, especially when suet it set out for them.


This fluffy juvenile Yellow Warbler was getting fed by its mother, so it wasn’t flitting around as much as the adult.


Another trip to Sisters, Oregon and Camp Sherman is over. We did the same activities as previous years, yet we still enjoyed every minute.