Another species we searched for while visiting the Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson last December, was the javelina. Certainly this elusive little pig-like critter was nearly everywhere we went, as attested to by the thousands of hoof prints echoing their presence. And many of those hoof prints were fresh! Certainly there must’ve been squadrons of javelina hiding behind every mesquite tree around the next countless bend in the trail?
But alas …. we never saw, heard or even sniffed out a single javelina. All we could do was record (and sketch) the herd of hoof prints, and then research this animal in the following months. Oh boy, did we really miss such a fascinating encounter.
Back at home, several months later, our friend Jim Silva was happy to share one of his javelina skull mounts for study and sketching. I’m thinking we may have been lucky not to have met up with a herd of their clacking canines during our travels!
Maybe another time?
Meanwhile …. If you’ve got a thirst for javelina knowledge, or just want to see my journal sketches, read on!
Even though we didn’t see any mammals while visiting the Tucson region last December, we knew they must’ve seen us! But little (pun intended) did we know, a diminutive elfin deer, the Coues Whitetail, was probably among the mix of critters observing us as we explored the area.
This tiny deer, with its oversized ears and flashing tail, is a native species found in the mountainous desert regions of the extreme Southwest and south into Mexico.
A good friend, Jim Silva, who has hunted this species in southwest New Mexico, shared one of his skull mounts with me. Since sketching the skull and an antler, I’ve learned a bit about the Coues deer, including the highlights included on my journal pages.
“Coues” is most properly pronounced “cows” (but more commonly pronounced “cooz”), is also known as the Arizona Whitetail or Fantail. Having lived in eastern North Carolina for a number of years, we are well familiar with the Eastern Whitetail, a small enough deer when compared to our local Mule Deer. But it’s hard to imagine a deer smaller than the Eastern Whitetail. Now we’re ready to return to the mountains of the Southwest and search for the Coues deer! Maybe late spring when there’s a chance of seeing a few fawns too!
What’s on your nature agenda for this spring? Ours is filling up fast!
The much anticipated finale, Snowbirds, and wrap-up to a grand anniversary week celebration in and around Tucson, AZ, follows!
Despite an unexpected snow the evening of our arrival, we never seemed to slow down, taking in as many sights and good eats as humanly possible. …… Open the full post for a recap of our week, and a bit about some of the birds we found while traveling around.
We totally get it! Why Mt. Lemmon is nicknamed “Tucson’s Great Escape.” Why the scenic highway is ”Cool!” From the Lower Sonoran Desert and the Tucson Valley (2,200 feet) to the upper reaches of a Spruce-Fir Forest (topping out at about 9,200 feet), the popular Scenic Highway up Mt. Lemmon offers breathtaking views, plants to discover, geology to learn, recreation opportunities, and temperatures often 30 degrees F lower than the desert below. That means a lot, especially when Tucson’s summer temps are in the triple digits!
But on the day of our driving adventure we found snow ….. on the highway, at scenic overlooks, and on walking trails. The storm hit 4 days earlier forcing closure of much of the highway. But on this day, most of the roads were clear and so was the sky.
So come along and learn what there’s to see along the Mt. Lemmon Scenic Highway.
We certainly enjoyed visiting Saguaro NP – East. Most of the Rincon Mountains Unit is wilderness and only accessible on foot; no dogs allowed. But the cactus Forest Loop Drive was scenic, with views of the Rincon Mountains to the East, and saguaro everywhere!
Really couldn’t seem to get enough saguaro! The highlights of this day were finding another crested saguaro while hiking an area Luna could enjoy, standing next to some shoulder high fishhook barrel cactus, and enjoying the Phainopeplas with their shimmery black feathers.
If you’re up for more saguaro botany, read on. This post will be dedicated to this largest of all North American cactus, Carnegieagigantea. (Beware. This post is long, so settle in!)
This day we explored areas as far as 50 miles north of la Casita. Following the old highway between Tucson and Phoenix, we first came upon a roadside rest area and memorial to the legendary cowboy, Tom Mix, who died at this spot 83 years ago. Tom who? Of course we had to stop and learn more about this interesting bit of history.
Then on to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument where history dates back more than 1700 years, well before the first Spanish explorers showed up, exploring. Even Luna was permitted to wander around this cultural monument, but we may have appreciated the stories surrounding the Hohokam more than she did.
Then to complete our tour for the day, we came upon a lonely ranch road on the way back to la Casita, where the saguaro stood tall over countless cholla, barrel cactus, iron trees and palo verde. It was here, in the middle of “where-are-we-now?” that I peered under a creosote bush and found the weirdest puffball fungus ever.
Before getting too far ahead of myself, I thought it would be a dandy idea to build a map of the circles we traveled in and around Tucson. This will not only aide those of you who are following along on our travels to see just where all these places are, but it helped me relive the week and will refresh my memory in years to come when browsing my journals.
Read on to view our trip highlights, and see just where all those parks, monuments, and mountains are found, and where to go to soak up the flora and fauna unique to the Sonoran Desert. Also, this map gives you a sneak peak of journal posts to come.
We woke early and excited, ready to explore. But wait! We woke to snow! What? Snow in Tucson?!!! Not unheard of, but a surprise-for-us coating of fluffy white covering everything. No matter ….. we changed out of our shorts, donned long pants and heavy coats and set off from la Casita south, towards Tucson and Saguaro NP West, the Tucson Mountain District.
Come along and see what we discovered this day in the Sonoran Desert!
Wow! 50! Can’t believe we’ve been together for so many years. Can’t believe it seems like yesterday. Countless adventures, miles, laughs, memories. How the good times fly! 50 years on December 12th, and I wasn’t about to let the winter doldrums keep us hunkered down at home. Surely a road trip was in store to properly round out our year of desert discoveries! I booked us a week at a little one room home about 25 miles north of Tucson, AZ ….. in the land of the mighty saguaro cactus ….. where Roy and I, and of course Luna, could soak in some southwest winter sun and take our time exploring this new-to-us area of the Sonoran Desert.
Come along with us for 7 days of discoveries in the Sonoran Desert!
A little holiday red and green from the desert southwest. Flambé and I send you warm season’s greetings from our home base in beautiful New Mexico to wherever you may live on planet Earth. May all your 2023 New Year’s Resolutions come true.
Thanks to all for following my first full year of posts. Flambé Kat and I are excited to share our (mis)adventures with you during 2023!