Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tucson Desert Museum

The highlight of my annual fall drive out to Texas was a stop in Tucson at the Desert Museum.  RV friend Beth was staying nearby so we hatched a plan to meet for a day.


The Museum is build around the Sonora Desert NOT on it.  Pathways leading from exhibit to exhibit often feel like wilderness.  The variety of plants is amazing.  One day I hope to visit when wild flowers, trees, and cactus are blooming.




It was a hot day so most of the animals were either sleeping or preparing to be shortly.



We had a yummy taco salad in the onsite restaurant;  checked out the gift shop; and stopped for a photo op. (Wish I could blame someone else for the  saguaro growing out of my head, but no, I did it!)


Morning and afternoon were punctuated by the Raptor Free Flight Show.  We attended BOTH and would have gone for a third if it had been offered.   All the pics are on My Bird List.

I got to see my first 'Walking Stick' in the Hummingbird House.  Quite amazing!


My camp at the Gilbert Ray Pima County Park just minutes from the Museum felt like the middle of the desert.  (Maybe not for summer, but totally comfortable that night!).


Gorgeous sunset for the best day!










Monday, October 22, 2012

A Walk in the Woods

Calaveras Big Trees is usually my last hike in the fall before blast off to Texas.  This Sunday there was another reason to head to the Big Trees:  an early winter storm was forecast to hit Monday with snow down to 5000 feet.  Not that extra reasons to visit this fantastic area are ever necessary,  but Sunday had a feeling of now or never!

Color in the trees is odd this year;  many leaves are just brown from lack of measurable precip since last April;  a good portion are still green.  Happy serendipity found us with enough gorgeous color on the dogwoods, maples, and black oak under scattered clouds to make this near a perfect day for beautiful pictures.

There are several dogwoods near the picnic area that always have deep color.


Hiking with my adventure Pal P,  we decided to do the Upper Grove Overlook Trail first.  There was enough dew Saturday night to settle the dust and the temperature was in low 60s.  So nice for walking.


The filtered sun highlighted the big trees down on the North Grove trail, especially the Three Sisters.


There are two trails through the North Grove.....the North Grove Trail (duh); a level walk that passes ALL the really big trees with many interpretive signs and benches for stopping to glory in the forest.  The Grove Overlook trail branches off to make a bigger loop up the hill.  Combining the two is usually about  50 minute walk.  



A good portion of the main loop is board walk to protect the forest floor and the roots of the big trees. Several of the big trees have fallen over the years.  The exposed root systems are endlessly fascinating.


The South Grove is a 5-6 mile drive down into the Stanislaus River canyon.  The campgrounds are closed for the season.  Along the way is another opportunity for a hike, the Bluff Trail; I've not done that one (yet).

We were surprised to see a dozen or so cars in the parking area.  Of the two loops in the South Grove we choose the Bradley Grove; clearly the least traveled as we didn't meet another hiker on the trail!

A bridge crosses Beaver Creek and then the trail branches for the two separate loops.


I was a bit surprised to find the trail climbs a BIG mountain to the Railroad Tree (a beautiful giant) before winding back down (rather quickly) to the creek.  This was close to 90 minutes and we moved along at a good pace all the way.



I love this style walking bridge that can be found in parks all over the country now;  I'm also curious who designed it;  I bet she is very proud indeed!


Elephant ears that grow along the edges of creeks (and sometimes out in the middle!) turn many shades of brown, yellow and orange.  (They so remind me of Cherry Valley and Jawbone Creek!).


Back to the car we had a couple more quick stops in mind for the ride back out of the canyon.  One was at the bridge over the North Fork of the Stanislaus River.


There aren't many places to pull off along this narrow road;  we got out to snap a few pics and hurried back into the car just as a big truck came zooming into view!


The new Visitor's Center is very close to complete.  The grand opening will be a great reason to visit next spring,  not to mention the dogwoods will be blooming.


(Note to RV friends:  an overnite stay here can't be beat as it allows one access to the trail through the North Grove late in the evening or early, early in the morning.  No hook ups though. Umm, now that I'm thinking about it,  a full moon hike would be amazing too!)