13 Feb 2014--Arrived here in Tuscon, AZ on Monday the 10th. Our RV park backs up to the Saguaro National Park, so this is a beautiful area. There are a lot of people who spend their winters here from northern states, so there are lots of people out walking around pretty much all day. From the park there are several trails mapped out of varying lengths, heading into the mountains, as you can see in pic #3.
On Tuesday we went into downtown Tucson to find the Visitor's Center, and saw this Catholic Cathedral called St Augustine's...very pretty on the outside, but nothing to write home about inside.
You would think this pic was taken from a hiking trail, but it was actually taken at the edge of the church's parking lot.
Not yet having a plan of action, we went back to the RV park and decided to check out some of the trails from there. There is a 1-mile loop, sort of a beginner's loop, that has been laid out with signs telling you what kind of cactus you are looking at. Too numerous to list here, I just put a few of the more interesting ones. This 1st pic is of a barrel cactus, and it said that they always grow towards the south, so if lost I guess you could get your bearings from one of them--haha.
The 2nd pic is a "chain fruit cholla", pronounced choy yah. That is one of my favorites.
And the 3rd pic is called a "pincushion". It looks all soft, all warm and fuzzy, but nothing could be further from the truth. Just putting your hand near it practically hurts...haha.
These are the most famous cacti in this region, the "saguaro", pronounced saw-war-roe. The 1st pic shows a baby one, the 2nd is obviously mature and incredibly tall, and the 3rd pic shows a couple with several arms. These can live up to 200 years, weigh 12,000 to 16,000 pounds, and are 90% water, even though we are in the desert.
This is a dead saguaro...we didn't see either the rats or the snakes, thank God!
Another dead saguaro shows the ribs underneath the coating, that eventually peel into individual sticks.
Just a few shots as we closed out the evening.
When we were at the Visitor's Center on Tuesday a worker told us that there was a really nice place in town called Tohono Chul Park, where the main draw was the hummingbirds they had there. As luck would have it the hummingbirds were having their babies this time of year, so we shouldn't miss it. So, of course, that is where we headed 1st thing on Wednesday.
This Harris Hawk was the 1st wildlife we saw. The lady holding it was speaking about it as we approached, saying that the female is larger than the male, that this female weighed just over 2 lbs but was capable of killing an animal up to 6 lbs (think small dogs! yikes!), and I don't know if it is the same with all hawks, but this particular kind hunts in packs, like wolves. Lastly, we all know that a hawk can see it's prey from quite a distance, but did you know that a hawk can see near and far at the same time? That helps them not fly into tree limbs, etc., as they close in on dinner from afar!!!
As it turned out, the lady who worked at the Visitor's Center is also the wife of someone who works here, so we think she was trying to drum up business for this enterprise...haha. This park is really a botanical garden, which would be fine if there was lots of pretty flowers, but we are in the desert, so we pretty much had acres and acres, again, of cacti. haha
Here is a little more info on the saguaro...how it swells during rain, its waxy coating and its root system if you want to read it. I thought the cactus humor was pretty good!
There was also quite a bit about the Tohono O'odham people, who lived in these deserts going way back. Interestingly, they not only revered the saguaro, they considered it "people".
We have been surprised by how many birds we see sitting atop these cacti...What looks like fuzz is really very sharp spikes...they hurt.
This 1st pic is an example of how the saguaro use what are called "nurse plants". They increase their chances of survival when they sprout beneath the canopy of an already existing tree. The 2nd pic talks about the number of branches they can have, but you can also see all the wholes they may have in them. This is from woodpeckers and the like making their nests in them. And the 3rd pic shows how the native peoples used to gather the fruit that blooms once a year on the top of the cactus. They ate it and made wine from it.
This 1st pic is another, different kind of cactus..the Polaski Chichipe, and then again one of my favorites, the Chain Fruit Cholla. Blow them up...cool looking!
And remember those hummingbirds we actually came to see? Well, just as we were about to leave, Cathy spotted this one and was able to capture it on her camera by putting it on continuous click in sport mode. They almost look like professional pics! Just wish we could have seen some babies, though.
Next we headed out to Catalina State Park. Hallie, you would have loved this. We took 2 hiking trails, for a total of about 3 miles, but it was practically all flat, so it was really easy, and therefore pleasurable! haha Not much but scenery here, so here are some pics with no commentary. (You all will probably thank me for that! haha)
So that has been our past few days. Just enjoying the RV park scenery, the surrounding areas, and most of all the weather. Last 2 days have been in the 80s and gorgeous. Pretty glad we headed this way. TTYL