Hiking Arizona

Before venturing off into new territory, I  wanted to share an experience I had a couple of weeks ago, while walking Jezzy in the morning.  In the road were a couple of Greater Roadrunners, one of the Arizona birds I love to see.  (not my photo).Greater Roadrunner PhotoThese birds were near a backyard wall, which was probably four feet high.  Suddenly, one of the birds just leaped up onto the wall.  It didn’t fly up – just jumped – straight up!  I was astounded.  When I related this story to an Arizona friend, he told me that if I was lucky, I would see some roadrunners running at full-tilt boogie and coming up on a ditch.  Instead of running down into the ditch to cross, they will lower their heads, spread their wings out, and simply jump the expanse, hit the ground running, and continue on.  Oh man, I WANT to see this!

This has been a good hiking week.  Last month, when we camped at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, we learned of a Ranger-led hike that goes into Brown Canyon, an area unknown to us. map here  Brown Canyon became part of the Refuge in 1998, and part of the purchase agreement was that access to the Canyon would be limited, and every effort would be made to preserve its pristine nature.  We were pleased to be able to hike in such a special place.  The western edge of the Canyon bumps up to the edge of the Tohono O’doham Reservation, where Baboquivari Peak dominates the landscape.20150214_110958We met our hike leaders, NWR volunteers Craig and Evelyn at the entrance to the Canyon Trail.  The dozen hikers arrived in separate vehicles (the six of us from Michian all car-pooling from Green Valley), and we headed down a very dusty, bumpy road to the hike start.  After twenty endless minutes, we arrived at the Environmental Education Center of Brown Canyon.  This rustic camp-style facility can sleep up to a dozen people, who might be staying there for trail work, training, or other educational programs.20150214_094414 We all agreed that it would be a delight to stay there and chop mesquite or do trail work.  The Center was loaded with National Park-style charm. There’s even a stuffed Jaguar in the living room, which had been confiscated by Customs when it was illegally imported.wpid-20150214_095856.jpgThe hike was an easy 4-mile round trip walk, with just a bit of elevation.  It was fun to actually have someone point out some of the features that we were seeing – particular varieties of cactus that we might not have noticed, rock formations, or other plant/animal peculiarities.  Although I didn’t get a photo, we did find some perfectly round wasp galls, each about the size of a golf ball.  My favorite plant specimen was the shindagger, an appropriately-named desert plant.20150214_103323 Our guides had a photo of a friend who stumbled into one – it wasn’t pretty.  Craig mentioned that during their hike leader training, they were told NEVER to back up when talking.  Everything in the desert is ‘armed’, and removing thorns can be a painful process.

We passed by this enormous sycamore.wpid-20150214_114146.jpgAnd this appropriately-shaped Prickly Pear cactus (it was Valentine’s Day).20150214_124622Along the trail were many feet of rock walls, built by the ranch hands of the former property owner.  They were beautiful, but seemed to have little purpose – starting and stopping without any discernible reason.20150214_103606What I loved though was how they echoed the natural rhyolite rock formations in the area.  20150214_12061420150214_104128Baboquivari Peak is on the left in this photo.

Lunch was beneath of small arch, which is in the lower center of the above photo.  20150214_12353120150214_11134920150214_101028It was a gorgeous, informative hike.  If you’re in the area, I’d recommend it – reservations are required.  Call 520-823-4251 for info.  There is a $5/person charge.

On Monday, we decided to revisit a favorite hike near Nogales, on the Border.  This five mile hike is one of my favorites.  The Atascosa Lookout was a fire lookout post in the last century, but was destroyed by fire in 2011.  Writer Edward Albee had been a Ranger there, and the building had historic notes, furniture, and lots of character.  This was our first trip to the Lookout since the fire, and we were curious to see what had been rebuilt (or not).  Although the old building was lovely, with its wraparound (terrific for eating a well-deserved lunch), it’s amazing now with the structure gone.  The 360 degree views of Southern Arizona and Mexico are unparalleled.  New footings have been poured for a replacement, but work appears to be halted.  Here’s a bit of what we viewed.  All the solar, towers, etc., appear to be communications equipment – probably Border Patrol gear.  It’s everywhere down here.  ;-(20150216_12502220150216_11421420150216_11283820150216_10140620150216_115658(still trying to get the knack of using the panorama feature of my camera)

20150216_11401320150216_10301020150216_11423120150216_112337We are indeed lucky to be able to experience such a gorgeous place.