Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gambel's Quail

quail sentry
Gambel's Quail are ubiquitous desert neighbors in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. With their characteristic bobbing headdress, they scurry across roads and peck around in the chaparral. They're certainly some of the most amusing birds to watch. They resemble the California Quail but Gambels are a unique species and the two quails' habitats don't overlap. The female and young are more modestly dressed than the males. They spend a lot of their time on the ground foraging and even nest on the ground, but they can and do fly. When a hawk soars overhead, quail tribes explode in a whir of wings and scatter into the bushes. If you're hiking and you startle a group of quail, prepare to be startled yourself!

Erin took these photos of a particular group of quail that hang out on the wall in our yard. A few months ago, many quail in this group were just little chicks chasing their parents in  their signature single-file line across our driveway. 
mrs and mr quail
gambels quail
bird party
The mourning doves and quail seem to enjoy a sort of truce. The doves' range vastly exceeds the quails' - it stretches across most of sub-arctic North America.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

50 Year Trail to Baby Jesus Ridgeline

straight up

Who could resist walking trails with such fascinating names - 50 Year Trail...Baby Jesus Trail? I based this hike on this description on Hike Arizona. I modified it by beginning at the Equestrian Center trailhead at Catalina State Park. I didn't follow the 50 Year Trail to the end, but I did go somewhat beyond the intersection with the Baby Jesus Trail. Not sure how far. So, I ended up walking the 50 Year Trail to Baby Jesus Trail, then a very rocky walk down the Sutherland Trail. A right down the Link Trail brought me through acacia stands that resembled orchards. I met back up with the 50 Year Trail and retraced a couple miles back to my truck. I calculated the trip around 19 miles or so. Not bad for one day.

I bought a new pair of shoes at The Hike House in Sedona. They're Roclite 315's by Inov-8. My long-suffering hiking partners have heard me bemoan the long-suffering in my feet. A uniquely bad combination of foot ailments - mostly terrible blisters - has plagued me through many, many hikes. I quit wearing hiking boots about a year ago, but running shoes lack badly needed grip. The Inov-8's have really helped out. A nearly twenty mile hike in one day, over  rocky terrain, without a foot injury was unthinkable for me, but I made it all the way unscathed. Inov-8 claims these shoes are engineered for long-distance trail travel and, though I haven't logged too many miles on them yet, I think they live up to that. They're actually really comfortable and I like to wear them around.


flowing wash
cotton sky
trail link and catalinas
trail link
goldfish trough
ghost fish
This trough full of goldfish is the second one I've encountered, the other being in Saguaro National Park.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy 100 Years, Arizona!

Arizona--Near Page
On the morning of Feb. 14, 1912, the headline of The Arizona Republican read "The 48th State Steps into the Union." George P. Hunt became the state's first governor shortly after Joe Melzer and Hazel Goldberg became the first couple to get married in the new state. Phoenix only had 11,300 people back then, slightly smaller than Tucson's 13,900. 100 years later, Phoenix has grown to 1,445,632 people; 520,100 folks call the Old Pueblo home, including us.

It's a cloudy morning in Tucson, 53 degrees, quail sing in the chaparral. Clouds cover Tanque Verde and Rincon Peak and a train creeps parallel to Interstate 10 in the distance. The Catalina Mountains rest in fog. A Gila woodpecker is raiding our hummingbird feeder. A wet winter called the flowers and leaves back early, a pair of cactus wren are building a nest in an abandoned woodpecker hole high up on a saguaro. They're lining it with mourning dove feathers. Just like they did in 1912. And 1812. And 1712.

The Arizona Republic, still the state's flagship newspaper despite the slight name change in 1930, celebrates the state's birthday again after 100 years. Read all about it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Grand Canyon to Ban the Sale of Plastic Water Bottles

The Grand Canyon is set to discontinue sales of plastic water bottles within the park. Shaun McKinnon of the Arizona Republic explains the whole decision and history here. Plastic water bottles account for 20% of the overall waste at the Grand Canyon and 30% of the recyclable material. It's good that people are getting the message that they need to drink when they visit the Canyon, but the Grand Canyon is a fragile environment that undergoes heavy traffic. Limiting the number of plastic water bottles in the park helps keep trails clean, animals safe, and the views unmarred. All national parks are set to eliminate sales of water bottles within park boundaries, but each park is free to establish its own time and method for getting the bottles out. The Park Service plans to sell refillable bottles and provide water stations so visitors can still stay hydrated.

Friday, February 3, 2012


A geologist friend of mine was kind enough to invite me a long on a mineral collecting trip. We were looking for vanadanite, a really neat, hexagon shaped, red mineral. We ended up finding some; the geologists said it's fairly easy to get.

The process of extracting the vanadanite was a bit more exciting than I expected. These folks pulled huge boulders off a rock wall to expose new material. The boulders crashed down a hill and broke up on a pile of previously dislodged rocks.

The spot was in or near Patagonia, Arizona. It's a beautiful, open place.