Hiking Arizona’s Saguaro National Park East

When hiking in Arizona, one cannot help but notice how varied the landscapes are in this state. On this day we chose to hike in the Rincon Mountain area, one of the 5 mountain ranges surrounding Tucson Arizona. An easy ten mile drive brings us to Saguaro National Park East off Speedway Road. Our plan was to combine some trails and loop around for a 4 – 5 mile hike. 

A good portion of the hike was in washes and on horse trails. Wildflowers were starting to bloom, Saguaro cacti were numerous and birds were seen every so often. It was sunny day with a constant breeze and blue sky. We followed our plan with a map and were happy to see good signage at the various trail intersections. Our only challenge came toward the end of the hike when the exit was to walk through a wash. This wash actually had a few inches of water in it! We made no plan for water crossings or wading through water so we made a slight change in our plan, and walked another trail out. Great hiking day …. 5.5 miles in just under 3 hours. 

Here are some photos from the day:

Wild Horse Trail did have some people riding horses on it!

Saguaro cacti are throughout the park; however, to see a “crested” or “cristate” saguaro is rare since there are only about 2,000 crested saguaros in the Sonoran Desert region … growing in this national park in an isolated and rugged area.

Crested Saguaro cactus

We could not help but notice remaining effects of the power of water. This cliffside has been swept aside after many seasons of water flow and we can see tree roots hanging on. Some trails were also like trenches due to water erosion and the horses and people who have traveled the trail for hundreds of years.

Very worn trail!

The landscape is beautiful:

Fairy duster plant
Ocotillo plant … don’t plan to grab this plant if you are falling!
Many Saguaro cacti in this area

Anyone Missing a Mailbox?

This was the craziest thing, to find a mailbox in the middle of a wash! You always hear to not mess around with mailboxes, especially the mail within them. So how does a mailbox end up in the middle of a wash more than a third of a mile from any road? Heavy rain, strong water flow, and nothing to stop its movement!

Is this your mailbox?

We checked the direction of water flow through the wash and think we know which way it floated in. There was no mail in the mailbox. We were happy about that! We understood when a mailbox is installed and ready for use, it is considered federal property and the homeowner doesn’t legally own his or her mailbox. In this wash, it belongs to no one at the moment. The mailbox seemed to come from the opposite direction we were walking, so we left the mailbox where it was in the wash.

Is anyone looking for a missing mailbox? As we walked away from it, we even wondered if anyone else has ventured down this wash and had an idea where it may have come from? To actually know the owner? How cool would that be to figure out where the mailbox owner lives and report their missing mailbox to them? It would be interesting to see the look on their face! Or maybe it would only be interesting to me. (If mail had been in the box though, we would know the owner … was not meant to be.)

We walked away and left the empty mailbox in the wash.

My Walking Meditation

Meditation, awake mindfulness, occurs different ways for each of us. My attentiveness to the present moment is while quietly walking through a landscape and time. It can be a wetland, a grassland, a forest; I simply want to be in the now with minutes to use my senses and be present. Nature provides me with the place to move my body, lift my mood, and connect with the land.

Often I walk on paths thousands have also walked upon, but then I look across a valley and see land I wonder if anyone, person or animal, has ever walked upon it! I have great respect for the air, water, land and cultural traditions joined with my stewardship of the place where I walk.

My stress melts away while I am attentive to moments in nature with no judgment. While the flower, bird, butterfly, squirrel and rabbit are part of the local land, they offer me connectedness to the present place and moment. These mindful pauses with nature are powerful for me. As a result, I love my walking meditations!

Walking a Trail in Flagstaff, Arizona

Seven thousand feet elevation is slightly different than where we live, so we hoped to see different birds while on our hike. The ponderosa pine trees were majestic and wildflowers were beginning to bloom. We walked the Sandy Seep Trail uphill, about 1.3 miles, till it met other trails heading off in other directions. It is an out-and-back trail but we decided to hike a social trail back to the parking lot. At first, we did miss which social trail to take to return to our car. Thanks to the AllTrails app we knew exactly where we were and walked through a beautiful area observing birds, hearing an over-ambitious woodpecker hammering on a tree, and just before leaving the trail we saw a man on his horse. He seemed to be training his horse to not be startled by the lasso whirling by its head.

Birds seen: mountain chickadees, green-tailed towhee, Steller’s jay, ravens, Virginia’s warbler.

Never Know What You Will Discover…

I was searching for a particular grebe. While I did not find the bird I was looking for, I did get to visit Sahuarita Lake Park in Sahuarita, Arizona, so I guess that was a plus. This manmade 10 acre lake opened in 2001 is enjoyed by many people. You’ll see people walking, fishing ….need a license… boating (no motor, and only sunrise to sunset) and enjoying the outdoor space. There are restrooms, ramadas and an outdoor amphitheater most likely used frequently when we are not in a pandemic. The lake is slightly more than a mile in length and 12 feet deep at the max, yet the fisherman are catching catfish, trout, bass and sunfish. Be sure to check what the fishing regulations are so you are not reported.

I did observe pied-billed grebe, ruddy duck, American coot and rock pigeon. In researching rock pigeon, I added a new word to my vocabulary: cere. Rock pigeons have this off-white deposit of calcified keratin protein above their nostrils where the cere meets the feathers of their face. I did not find the bird I wanted, but I learned something new today and know I will return to this area another time.

Often, I never know what I will discover when I go on some of my wanderings. I do ask myself if there is anything in particular I am searching for. And it is not always about birds, but life in general. Have you recently asked yourself what you are searching for? The start of a new year is a good time to do so, but not a necessity. Ask yourself, what are you searching for, and then go for it! Even if you do not find it, you may discover something else … and that is not really so bad, most the time! A new year can have some new looks! Take joy in the newness. Keep your life fresh!

I only took one photo of the park since I had a zoom lens on my camera for bird photography. But here’s a nice look while I stood along the walking trail about halfway down the side of the lake. If you are in the area of Sahuarita, Arizona, stop in. I wish you a safe and healthy new year

Cyclists & Pedestrians Counted!

It’s an interesting piece of equipment on the bicycle loop in Tucson. It records the number of cyclists and pedestrians, which would include roller-bladers, joggers, runners, along with walkers all passing the counter each day and provides totals for the year. This is definitely one of the busier spots where people are on the loop. Kudos to all using this multi-use path! (You may even see some wildlife while out there. I bet the roadrunner wished to be counted!)

Gopher Snake Sighting!

If I am going to be awake at 6:25am for a morning walk in this Arizona heat, then I want to see wildlife since I am past 5:25am sunrise photo opportunities! A hawk was seen at a telephone pole, but the gopher snake was of particular interest to me. They were a distance apart, but I did think … imagine the hawk swooping in to capture this snake! Darn, not today.

Gopher snake!

Anyway, this snake was on a mission crossing the road and slithering up the hillside of prickly pear cacti, ground squirrel holes and lizards running through the area.

I took a few photos, then returned a few minutes later to allow the snake to move along comfortably. The snake was still a distance from the lizard so I suspect it may remain in the area and have luck capturing another one.

I did not stay to watch them much longer as I had miles to walk before the temperature hit 85 degrees, knowing this was still cooler than the 106 degrees to occur later in the day. After a swig of water from my water bottle, I was on my way again. That was a good sighting; glad I was awake and here for it!

Time to Think …

No matter how busy we are or not, it is time to pause and think: will we learn something, or anything, from our current state of affairs?

When we have notice of impending doom, will we prepare for it or will we nonchalantly envision no harm coming our way?

Will we observe, record, analyze and problem solve next steps to be taken to ensure our safety or scoff at and ignore scientists?

Walking helps me think.

As of this writing I believe there will be a future. Yet let us understand we have other impending issues needing our attention, such as ending racial and economic inequalities and addressing climate change. These issues are important for an overall healthy people and planet. Today, many of us are staying healthy from Covid-19 thanks to following the science. And in time scientists will have, once again, a vaccine to help us save ourselves from another virus. We will be saddened for the lives lost most recently these past months. Life will go on requiring us to look ahead and act responsibly. I say this with hope in my heart.

The question is, will we have learned to act now on impending doom or will we wait and again be mired in the next issue with no leadership, losing lives, and only slowly wake up to the chaos beyond our control? There is no vaccine to cure racial and economic inequalities or the devastating effects of climate change. If we want to survive, we need to take action now on all these fronts. A magic wand does not exist.

Time to do more than think about it all. Time to register to vote and to vote in November. Time to write state and federal legislators, representing you, to always respect science, respect nature and respect each other. Simply put it would get us further in solving issues we have now and which are only getting worse with the passage of time. We need to be concerned about the mental and physical health of our people and planet. Or, there will be no future for generations to come to enjoy.

You may not be concerned about any of this happening to us today or in the future, but I am. If you are concerned, take action. I thank you and so will all those yet to walk this planet. It is time for action!

Hawks on a Pole!

Most mornings I see hawks sheltering to one side of a telephone pole, no doubt out of the sun and hiding to watch for movement below. Rabbits have been scurrying!

Red-tailed hawk at rest.

One morning I noticed a hawk nestled in the pole’s shade while another hawk came flying in and was noisy. It was squawking up a storm and it would not stop! The hawk looked above at the squawking hawk and again when it was right next to it. I wondered if there was a territorial dispute happening between the two.

First above me, now next to me, and noisy!

The hawk originally on the pole took off while the other looked surprised to see such action being taken!

Took flight and left the other one with an interesting look on its face!

The hawk flew to another telephone pole only to get into a squabble with a raven as it flew in to perch on the pole this hawk selected. Before I knew it, the two were in the air with the raven pestering the hawk. In a minute or so, the hawk flew to another pole, now alone from raven and the squawking hawk. What this hawk had to do for a telephone pole and quiet!

Raven wins this pole.

All birds now seemed content on their own pole. Nature, I just love it!

Juan Bautista de Anza Trail

In 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza was helped by American Indian guides to discover a land route from Mexico to California. Various times in my travel I noticed Juan Bautista trail signs, and now I know it is an auto tour marking the more than 1200 mile historic trail from Nogales, AZ to Monterey, CA which includes many historic sites. In 1775, Juan brought about 240 people across the new frontier of New Spain from Mexico to California. With military escort and 1000 head of livestock, the journey took 5.5 months for the settlers to complete.

The settlers camped at some historic places I have visited, such as Historic Canoa Ranch – campsite #15, Mission San Xavier del Bac – campsite #17, and Picacho Peak State Park – campsite #21. Someday I will visit other historic sites on this national historic trail. I walked a couple of miles of the trail in the Rio Rico area beginning at the Guy Tobin Trailhead.

A short distance from the trailhead there is a chained gate. It was a local man, Guy Tobin, who had the foresight and public support to contribute land and establish a 13 mile segment of trail from Rio Rico to Tubac. He worked with the Anza Trail Coalition and National Park Service. Guy Tobin died in 2008 and a few months later the trailhead was dedicated to him. In 2011, Friends of the Santa Cruz River and Tucson’s Watershed Management started a year-long project constructing rainwater harvesting features at the trailhead.

Once upon a time, there were Mexican wolves and jaguars here, but now one may see bobcat, coyote, javelina and mule deer. I was happy to photograph this mule deer!

It is a very sandy trail with plenty of birds singing in the trees. The only flower I saw was the southwestern prickly poppy.

It was a wonderful place to escape everyone and have a trail almost to myself. I saw 2 people the entire time!