Sunday, February 16, 2020

Madera Canyon, Arizona - January 2020

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version & highlighted text are links to additional information

Part six of our winter adventure

Are We Snowbirds?

My cousin Keith - aka The Big Guy - and his wife, Kathleen, escape Seattle winters by seasonally relocating to their second home near Green Valley, Arizona. Keith grew up with my older brothers. I got the pleasure of getting to know Keith later in life. A shared bond of love for untrammeled wilderness and fly casting to wild trout brought us together.

We arrived at their place early afternoon on Sunday and dove right into the ritual of getting caught up, and we did a mighty fine job of it. Later that evening Kathleen introduced us to a new word game. The game became a perfect shared event before heading off to bed, and we were wise enough to always stop on a high note after solving a particularly difficult puzzle. It never bodes well to go to bed feeling dumb. Drop off to sleep feeling smart.

The next morning The Big Guy, The Lady, and I drove up to Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains to hike. This is a very popular area, but on this weekday, it was relatively uncrowded.

The massive alluvial fan below Madera Canyon runs down to Green Valley.

The route of Madera Canyon Creek is marked by Sycamores - now gray leafless crowns in winter.

A pleasant hiking trail follows the small creek. A bent tree with its branches turned skyward tempted the Lady to climb.

We learned about soapberries.

And we very much enjoyed Keith's company.

We saw several Coues Deer, a small subspecies of the  whitetail deer.

The open granite along the stream carry much evidence of ancient use.

We stopped at a gift shop up the canyon, a favorite spot for birders because the owners maintain several feeders. Here's a Bridled Titmouse.

Mexican Jays were abundant and loud.

The colorful avian character was the Acorn Woodpecker.

Far too many turkeys survived Thanksgiving. The gobblers moved in and took over.

These two need to be identified.

The same goes for this bunch.

Since there was a stump placed below it, it appeared one hummingbird feeder was set up to be used by a coatimundi. On cue, the curious creature moved out of the shadows and went to work guzzling the sugar water.

We spent the next day, again with Keith, at the magnificent Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum located to the west of Tucson. This was recommended by so many of our friends we had to go. We will now add our voices to refrain. If you are close to Tucson, spend a day at the Desert Museum.

After three wonderful nights with our cousins, we said our goodbyes in the morning and thanked them so much for their wonderful hospitality. It was time to turn toward home. We had been watching the weather. It had not snowed at all at home during our travels.
"Well, if it hasn't snowed at home," I concluded. "We not officially snowbirds."

Stay tuned for the upcoming final chapter of our big winter adventure saga.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Oracle, Arizona - January 2020

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version & highlighted text are links to additional information

Part five of our winter adventure

How Time Flies

My cousin Sherry and her husband Thom from Wisconsin have a winter home in Oracle, Arizona on the eastern flank of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Here, with their horses, they seasonally escape from Wisconsin winters. We pulled into our cousin's winter quarters mid afternoon on the Eighth of January, the 205th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.The significance? The Eighth of January is also the name of a well known fiddle tune - 

- a favorite tune I would play on the five string banjo and Sherry would accompany me on guitar, back in the good old days when I lived for a few years in Wisconsin on my uncle's farm. Moving there after dropping the crazy notion of becoming a Lutheran minister. Instead I turned to the Devil's Frying Pan - the banjo - and never looked back.
Note: I do not know Ms. Klug. I picked the video on YouTube because it is a straightforward rendition of the Eighth of January and she is a cute girl.

We attempted to get all caught up. The stories ebbed and flowed and were wrapped in laughter. Neighbors stopped by to check us out. We passed inspection. Our cousins have settled into a close and friendly community.

It rained a bit overnight. The morning was damp and cold. We explored local washes to search for archeological sites.

Our next adventure took us up to High Jinks, a National Historic Site.

William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody and his foster son, Johnny Baker bought the property in 1912 for a ranch and gold mine. The mine never made a profit and the property was seized by the county for unpaid taxes after Cody's death. A friend of both Cody and Baker, Lewis Way, bought the property in 1922 and built the historic home - La Casa Del High Jinks.

Johnny Baker and his wife Olive often lived with the Ways at High Jinks.

As part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West, Johnny Baker starred as the sharpshooter "The Cowboy Kid."

This photo is posted at High Jinks. It sure looks like Buffalo Bill.

Johnny Baker was always clean shaven.

The estate was owned for thirty years by E. Dean Prichard who added cabins and outbuildings along with improvements to the casa.

This buckboard wagon is on display at High Jinks.

The 1987 movie, Poker Alice, was filmed at the "Old Tucson" movie lot. I put my hand on the seat to check, it was still warm!

Mr. Prichard, during his ownership of High Jinks, worked for and supported the establishment of the Arizona Trail. The Arizona Trail runs alongside the property.

Do you want to own a piece of history? High Jinks Ranch is offered for sale at $650,000.

Since we were so close to the Arizona Trail we had to go for a walk. First we hiked south and climbed up toward the ridgeline. The wind finally turned us around. We returned to High Jinks and continued downhill on the trail to the American Flag Trailhead.

Thom & Sherry met us there with the vehicles. The old American Flag Ranch is pretty special.

We returned to Sherry's place around mid afternoon. The Lady mentioned that she really missed shoveling snow at home, possibly even suffering withdrawal symptoms. Cousin Sherry explained to the Lady that horses offer year round opportunities for working a shovel.
"Can I shovel? Really?"" the Lady anxiously asked.

Rose, the mare said, "Just feed me and I'll keep you working!"

The Lady fell in love with Rose and Etta and Sherry was so polite putting up with Julie's recurring question, "Can I go out and shovel some more?" 

A very special event happened this night. Sherry's two sisters, Angie & Carmon, were arriving for their first visit to the winter place. More cousins to see again after such a long time!

The next morning was cold but with clearing skies. On the agenda was showing off the area to Angie & Carmon, especially saguaros.

Thom had wrangled up an extra utility vehicle to travel the backroads and transport all of us. The Lady took over pilot duties and quickly learned why Joe, back in Cabeza Prieta, was so wrapped up with clothes on his utility vehicle.

We stopped in a riparian area with sycamore and mesquite.

The stories, laughter, and getting reacquainted was truly delightful.

Thom, Julie, Angie, Carmon, and Sherry.

The saguaros were outstanding and aptly upheld their tourist magnet status.

The Fish Hook Barrel Cactus were loaded with fruit.

The Lady was not the wee bit tempted to harvest fruit.

The best was yet to come. Sherry and Thom had something very special to share - one of the rare and mysterious crested saguaro.

Why saguaros mutate in this fashion remains a mystery. But there is a dedicated group of naturalists involved in the study of and finding the rare specimens - The Crested Saguaro Society.

Our visit to Oracle ended with a family style Saturday night dinner - wood fired pizza and spaghetti - at the nearby Peppersauce Kitchen at Arizona Zipline Adventures.

About once a month the kitchen hosts a family style dinner attended mostly by locals. It has the feel of a down home community get together and all seats are filled by reservation. The big ticket dinner is Grill Your Own Steak Night.

It was hard to say goodbye the next morning. It had been 32 years since we had all last seen one another, so this family reunion was so very special. All those years hung as a reminder on how time flies.

The Lady told Rose and Etta, "If it doesn't start snowing at home I'll be back!"

Our next stop was south of Tucson and another family reunion with cousins. Stay tuned for part six of our winter adventure.