Five Acres to Roam

While physically distancing as we are right now during this pandemic, I look for various places to explore. Nearby is a 5 acre riparian-designated “do not build on” area I checked out. No trail is established, yet one pathway has been horse-ridden and walked upon by humans a few times. Today I decided to wander elsewhere.

Walk and avoid various cacti.

I easily walked the wash, in both directions from where I began, and would love to see water in it someday! After a heavy rain I will come back and look.

Walking around the various types of cacti and mesquite trees, over ground squirrel holes, looking for snakes, and seeing lizards move away from me, I did see larger holes. I am unsure what is digging holes of this size, unless a javelina to get at roots. I did see some rabbits hopping around, birds in trees, and surprisingly a golf ball … with all the holes out here I am surprised it was not a hole in one! How did that ball get here!?!

Another surprise was a fire circle. I could only wonder why someone would char an entire chair?

I am always looking for bird nests, but had no luck today. Instead I saw some huge pile of wood on the ground… maybe a … hmmm…. not sure or just a wood pile. I did sneak around to locate a cicada … yes, success … you may have read about it on my July 23 blog post.

No doubt more exploring needs to happen in the back 5 … another day … and maybe after a monsoon rain!

Thimble Peak

Life in AZ Heat; Who’s Out?

Few of us venture outdoors at 2pm in Arizona monsoon heat; humans are whom I am referring to. Humidity in the air with over 100 degree Fahrenheit temperature, yet wildlife are going about their day with varying degrees of activity, otherwise called survival. I am here at a local wetland to see what’s happening.

Birds sing from deep within the tree leaves, bullfrogs croak under the tall grasses, cicadas buzz from a place I never can see them, funny but all stop their sounds when I move to close to them. As a result, I saw no frogs, no cicadas, and few birds. But these were my observations before the monsoon rain started and I needed to leave.

Grasses, cattails, cooper’s hawk, pack rat, duckweed, flycatcher, mallard duck and roadrunner. Not bad for a quick stop at the wetland!

Statue at El Hoyo Barrio

While at the firefighter’s statue last week near downtown Tucson, I also saw a plaza nearby with another statue I needed to check out. The City of Tucson Fire Department dedicated this plaza as a memorial to the Barrio El Hoyo which was displaced during the 1960’s downtown redevelopment.

People living in the barrio enjoyed social solidarity, ethnic pride, bonds of kinship and neighborliness. It was a poor neighborhood where people knew and helped each other. In 1921 on Meyer Street, there was a mixture of Jews, Syrians, naturally many Mexicans, Chinese, Lebanese and everyone spoke Spanish.

Mrs. Solana M. Sosa was born in the Leopoldo Carrillo house where she raised her daughter and died in the house after living 111 years, 1795-1906. The 8 acres of land known as the Carrillo Gardens had trees, flowers, different roses from around the world, huge cottonwood trees, a little zoo, small lake and pavilion for dancing.

The barrio was named El Hoyo, which means “The Hole”. In the 1940/50’s hard rain flooded homes by 2 – 3 feet since this barrio was on land lower than the surrounding area. Drainage pipes and culverts were eventually put in to divert the water, but eventually houses were torn down. The northern 2/3 of the barrio is where we find the Tucson Convention Center and the Central Station Fire Department. It was heartbreaking for many people as they built these homes with their own hands, but downtown was to be redeveloped.

Information for this post is from plaques at the plaza where this statue is, along with my own research. We should feel fortunate the history of this area is saved for others to learn about and understand the sense of community once here.

Bungalow Relocation in Tucson?

Few times do I drive Broadway Boulevard to downtown Tucson; however, recently I did, noticed construction equipment and a “Historic Bungalow Relocation” sign. I stopped to take some photos, talked with a couple of people in the area, and returned home to research the project.

According to the sign, “moving seven Rincon Heights historic district contributing structures ahead of the Broadway widening project”. The homes were moved off their current foundation and onto concrete slabs to be part of a future retail center.

These buildings date back to the 1930’s and other demolished buildings are from WWII till 1975. Much money has gone into buying and demolishing buildings for this project. City planners first discussed Broadway in the 1980’s with a possible 8 lanes, but the project was not approved till the 2006 voters decided four lanes would become 6 lanes. The project’s goal is to take buildings viewed as assets and convert them to community value. Future merchants and planners are in those discussion stages.

I wondered about “The Sunshine Mile”. In 1953 there was a contest to name the strip between Campbell Road and Country Club Road. Of the 5,000 entries, the winner to name the strip was “The Sunshine Mile”. In 2012, added on was Euclid Road to Country Club Road and all on the list of endangered historic places.

May 26, 2020, the Sunshine Mile District is officially on the National Register of Historic Places. I look forward to seeing what happens in this area in the upcoming years.

Monday Memories: Morocco

In my last “Monday Memories” post I mentioned Morocco, so I caught myself thinking about my 2019 trip. I am so glad I did not put that trip off to now, 2020. I would not have been able to travel to Morocco at the rate this pandemic is affecting our planet.

After three weeks of travel in the Kingdom of Morocco, I realized what a learning experience it was for me. In Casablanca, the Hassan II Mosque, second largest mosque in Africa, was simply incredible to see. I could not imagine 25,000 people inside it and 80,000 on its outdoor grounds. The mosque is huge, beautifully situated by the oceanside, ornate, and with a 210 meter minaret. Specific rules were followed to allow non-Muslim visitors inside the mosque.

I loved Moroccan food. Each day I had freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh bread and olives of all kinds, and hot, sweet, mint tea. Meats, vegetables and couscous were cooked in tajines and a Berber omelet were my most delicious meals.

We visited many cities around the country. The tannery in Fez was fascinating as we saw early stages of the product that would become a leather jacket. Every visitor to Morocco speaks of the blue city, Chefchaouen, so we visited there too. Four years earlier I visited Tangier’s old medina and thought the winding pathways and various markets chaotic. Its new town did not seem to be so crazy, but I am sure you can still buy just about everything there. Whenever we were in the countryside or the mountain villages, it was more relaxing and enjoyable to me. 

Most relaxing was our time in the Sahara Desert. To be honest, it was not very relaxing riding the camel to our campsite. But once there, climbing and then sitting on the ridge of a sand dune with a glass of wine, it was relaxing! Even better, the night came with shining stars and silence. I loved it!

I will remember many things about Morocco: our fantastic guide, people who allowed me to photograph them as I asked permission to do so, the women cooperatives we visited, the cats seen everywhere in so many cities and the goats in the trees!

When I return to Morocco some day, I wish to spend more time in the desert and to photograph it day and night. That would be an amazing accomplishment for me to be able to do such photography, and to enjoy the desert! 

Happy Birthday to…

His Holiness the Dalai Lama … happy birthday to you today as you turn 85 years old!

Thirty to forty years ago I lined up to enter New York City’s Central Park to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan spiritual leader, speak. What first struck me was how quietly thousands of people could stand and wait to enter the grassy area of the park and for him to arrive. And then we listened to his insights.

In 2001 while trekking in Nepal, I became most interested in Mount Everest and learning more about Buddhism. For years since, I continue to read and watch programs about the Himalayan Mountains and mountaineers, along with some Buddhist readings.

Through the years, I have read and listened to the Tibetan spiritual leader. Not for any chosen religion, but to learn what he is saying about moral values, love and compassion, global issues and Buddhism. I had always loved the fact he believed in science. He has had no political responsibilities the last 10 years, yet the Chinese government still cannot tolerate or welcome any ideas he has offered, such as the Five Point Peace Plan presented in 1987. Unfortunately too, he may never be able to return to his homeland which he had hoped could be a demilitarized zone.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile for almost 70 years in a beautiful area near Dharamshala, India. In 2017, I did visit there and the Tibetan Refuge Village. The Dalai Lama was not in town, but the Tibetan Buddhist spirit surely was evident.

There are many Dalai Lama quotes. Today I have chosen one of the “overcoming difficulties” quotes:

Tolerance is very important. If you have tolerance, you can easily overcome difficulties. If you have little tolerance or are without it, then the smallest thing immediately irritates you.

– His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Happy birthday to you. I wish you good health for years to come. Namaste.

Monday Memories: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

January 2019, international travel started for me and a friend with a supported bicycling tour in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. It was my first time to this region of the world and an area I will definitely return, one country at a time. The weather was good for cycling, visiting places, and the people especially in Vietnam were friendly.

Here are a few photos as I remember this trip. Many people were also on bicycles, cycling on walkways between rice paddies, small trails, or roads which were crazy with hectic interchanges. It seemed however there were more riders on scooters and motorcycles. Unfortunately the last day of our cycling, a motorcyclist was killed in Thailand. When I first heard a thud, I worried it was a fellow bicyclist. Once I rounded the corner I saw the man on the road … instantly killed. As sorry as I was about the accident, I was also relieved to be going home in a few days and not be on a bicycle as I grieved his death.

Our guide made arrangements for us to visit many temples and historic places. Prior to meeting our guide, we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, where we saw a very small section of the 70 mile wartime tunnels used by the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War. Near Siem Reap, Cambodia, we visited Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious monuments in the world. Little time was spent in Thailand, thus my need to return there someday, along with more time in Vietnam and Cambodia.

I like Vietnamese food and love Thai food, but the best food during our travels was the fresh seafood. We saw many markets and local people shopping for all kinds of items. I was introduced to dragon fruit which grows on cacti-like trees. When the reddish, scaly exterior is cut open, one sees the white flesh and black, crunchy seeds within the fruit.

Travel is also done by boat and many people live on the river. One day we spent 6 hours on a boat to travel to another location and continue our bicycle ride. It was fascinating to see fishing rigs, school children being brought to school by boat, local people doing their work, but depressing to see garbage dumped into the river.

We had opportunities to cook some food and make rice wrappers, all of which I did not meet with success. People work hard and I was really impressed with an older woman who collected dead wood, balanced them on the rear of her bicycle and brought the load to her family as they cooked at their oven. She never stopped smiling so I had to capture a photo of her. The other woman was working hard at the river’s edge from her boat.

What I love most about travel is seeing people in action and interacting with them when possible. One young lady was waiting for a ferry ride across the river and a child’s attention was absorbed while playing with straws. We met many wonderful people and had a safe tour. Someday I will return to this region of the world; so much more to see!

Monday Memories: Death Valley National Park

I have visited Death Valley National Park in California a couple of times. Hiked the various trails and Badwater Basin salt flat, and another trip bicycled on the few roads within the park boundary. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes along with other points of interest in the park were worth seeing in this unique ecosystem. There are climate and geography extremes so plan your visit carefully.

There were flowers during my past visits, but my wish is to visit again and see a “super bloom”. I heard about the one in 2016 and saw many colorful wildflower photographs. Now in 2020, along with our pandemic time and no travel, there also was no super bloom. Maybe I can get there next year and witness a “super bloom” too!

It would be fun to see the Artist’s Palette again. With my new photography skills I know the importance of being there as the sun shines on the colors.

Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point in North America, and photographing the salt flat and salt crystals would be fun too. If the heat is to much I know I can go to the surrounding mountains.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes had a dust devil moving across it while I was there. After my Sahara Desert visit in Morocco last year, I wish to spend some time back on this park’s dunes.

My future goal: visit Death Valley National Park again, and if there is a “super bloom” that will be wonderful!

Urban Wildlife Habitat

Sweetwater Wetlands is a water treatment facility originally constructed in 1996. The wetlands now use reclaimed water and has become a wildlife viewing area in Tucson, AZ. There is about 2.5 miles of pathway for visitors to walk and it does connect with the “Loop”, yet no bicycles are allowed on the property. You can lock you bike at the fence and take a walk on a pathway from there.

On any given day, I never know if water birds will on the settling ponds, other birds in various trees, insects on the marsh grasses or hawks overhead. There have been days I viewed javelina and bobcats! Many people visit this urban wildlife habitat.

Here are some photos from my recent visit:

The red-winged blackbirds were definitely the noisiest of all the bunch, the duck was nonchalantly walking down a path … no doubt due to few people out in the late morning hot hours … and the turtles, well they may be finishing their mating act. Other visitors to the wetland may be more interested and focused on capturing insects as I guessed this man was with the specific net he was using. I could not capture any moth or butterfly in a photo, but he may have been also interested in damselflies.

For early morning time in nature, this urban wildlife habitat is an easy place to get to and visit, relax and observe nature. As the heat of the day rises, most wildlife settle in away from the hot air. This adds to my challenge, but I also like being out with fewer people on the trail and to see what else may be nonchalantly walking down the trail! (Reminds me too of the coyote I saw lying on a person’s driveway while I rode past on my bicycle.)

Always keep your eyes open; one can never predict what you’ll see in nature. That’s what makes being outdoors so exciting! Where and when are you headed outdoors? Enjoy.

Hummingbirds and Camera Work!

It requires patience to photograph hummingbirds; much easier to simply observe them and place the image in your brain!

During these pandemic days though, I have had time to watch the hummingbirds at our backyard desert willow tree. Its colorful flowers often welcome hummingbirds to flit from flower to flower and so some hummingbirds do. I decided one day to photograph them in our backyard at the desert willow tree. Although the hummingbird’s speed was enough to drive this photographer crazy, I held on.

Once I was all set to photograph a bird it was all about patience. The hummingbird flew in and around and under and beyond and was hard to capture in focus. I waited again … The bird would flit from flower to flower and hide behind leaves when taking its breather. I cannot say the bird was accommodating me.

But, I managed to capture some photos, see below, and am happy to share them with you. I know what I need to do with my camera work to capture better photos, but that is for another day. Enjoy!

Hummingbird coming in for the flower’s nectar.
Hummingbird enjoying this desert willow’s flower.
Hummingbird landing at a desert willow's flower to get nectar.
Hummingbird about to land.