A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 5: Saguaro National Park – East, Rincon Mountains Unit; All saguaro, all the time!

(December 11-17, 2022)

December 14, 2022

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, Carnegiea gigantea. (Beware. This post is long, so settle in!)

Continue reading “A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 5: Saguaro National Park – East, Rincon Mountains Unit; All saguaro, all the time!”

A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 4: King of Cowboys, Casa Grande Ruins, the Hohokam, and One Very Weird Fungus

(December 11-17, 2022)

December 13, 2022

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.

Read on for a snapshot of our day.

Continue reading “A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 4: King of Cowboys, Casa Grande Ruins, the Hohokam, and One Very Weird Fungus”

Intermission: Winter Wind Rattlers

2023 journal page with a few of the actual seed pods scattered about

January 18, 2023

Not wild, but wildly rattling in the wind? Not snakes, but the showy seed pods from a row of Chinese Lantern trees, hanging on for dear life throughout our numerous winter wind events.

We frequently park near 8 of these non-native trees used as sidewalk landscaping, just before the Copper trailhead. After wondering for several years what these medium sized trees are, in September 2020, discovering the answer, I drew them out …… seed pods, leaves and all.

Searching for something wintery to add to my journal this year, these hardy seed pods called loudly. It was hard to resist!

Browsing my 2020 journals, I came across my first drawing. Always fun to see if and how my technique has changed. Can you detect the differences?

2020 journal page

What’s nature displaying in your world right now?


A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 3: The Map of Adventure

(December 11-17, 2022)

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.

Continue reading “A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 3: The Map of Adventure”

A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 2: Saguaro National Park West – Tucson Mountain District

(December 11-17, 2022)

December 12th! Happy Anniversary!

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!

Continue reading “A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 2: Saguaro National Park West – Tucson Mountain District”

Intermission: Searching for Spring

January 14-15, 2023

Right now I’m watching it snow …… again. Logic tells me this moisture is so necessary for our drought-stressed juniper and piñon pine that provides year-round food and cover for a host of birds and mammals that call the East Mountains home. Our annual and perennial wildflowers, oaks and native shrubs depend on winter rains and snows to flourish in the growing season. So I say, “bring it on, Mother Nature!”

But by January and February I do tire of brown. My animal brain needs of a shot of “Spring Green” this time of year. Just a little bit to carry me through the winter; a tiny bit in anticipation of full-blown Spring is just the ticket!

This is why we take regular trips down our mountain to enjoy the Albuquerque foothills. It’s amazing the difference a 2,000 foot change in elevation can make in nearly everything.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love living at 7,300 feet, in the shadow of majestic Sandia Mountain, and in the winter we sometimes experience days of cloud cover and fog. So down the mountain we go, in search of sun, warmth, and Spring Green.

And to my delight, here’s what I found! “Nature’s first green is gold.” And indeed it is!

What’s nature displaying in your world right now?


A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 1: la Casita

December 11-17, 2022

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!

Continue reading “A Festive Anniversary Week in the Sonoran Desert. Part 1: la Casita”

Keeping it Hot-n-Spicy! Happy Holiday Season

December 25, 2022

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.

A little sampling from the Sonoran Desert, SE Arizona

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!

Summer Bugs and Botany: Cochineal Dye Making

It was a rainy day in most of NM, but what a welcome relief to be getting moisture! As we hastily hiked the lower Copper Trails, we noticed the prickly pear seemed to be draped in a more-than-usual white fuzz, and it wasn’t cotton ball shaped but dripping and running down hundreds of cactus pads. Every direction we turned we found nearly every prickly pear to be covered………………….
And then we spotted hundreds of thousands of brilliant scarlet red bodies of the cochineal insect ….. exposed, naked and frantically trying to hold onto their food source, the vertical surfaces of prickly pear pads.  The rain had “melted” their protective coats of fine white wax and the green pads of the cactus looked white washed. 

Opportunity!

Continue reading “Summer Bugs and Botany: Cochineal Dye Making”

Summer Botany: Wild About Wild Potatoes

One of the weediest places we camped during our recent Reservoir tour, Santa Cruz Recreation Area, became a floral hot spot of discovery, at least for me. I shared a photo sampling of some of the flora in my last post……

Two new-to-me members of the Potato family really stood out. A plant called Greenleaf Five-eyes and another simply called Wild Potato.

Continue reading “Summer Botany: Wild About Wild Potatoes”