Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring 2017 Brittlebush Explosion

     The rains of the Winter of 2016 brought a surge of wildflowers to the Sonoran Desert this spring.  Brittlebush simple turned the mountains of the Valley of the Sun into a sea of yellow.  Here are some of our pictures of the Valley’s 2017 brittlebush explosion.  Hope you like them!

Monday, March 27, 2017

     We continue to write stories for the website Live Science.  Here are the links to three of our latest stories…

- Butterflies of the Desert -

- The Chuckwalla -

- Cactus Wrens -

Hope you enjoy all the stories found on Live Science!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park

    All Arizonans were shocked and saddened when on the late afternoon of June 30, 2013 a raging wildfire swept over the high desert terrain near Yarnell, Arizona tragically killing 19 firefighters from the Prescott area.   
    Now, 3 1/2 years after their heart-rending deaths, the State of Arizona has forever memorialized their sacrifice by dedicating and opening the 320-acre Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park at the  site of this terrible calamity on Yarnell Hill.
    The trailhead for the park is located along the southbound lane of Highway 89A approximately 2-miles south of Yarnell.  Parking is limited as only 15 dedicated parking spaces are found at the trailhead.
    The hike to the solemn Fatality Site involves two trails and an in-and-out total distance of 7-miles.  The first trail, known as the Hotshot Rail, is 2.85-miles in length and rises some 1,200 feet in elevation from the trailhead to the Observation Deck.  Because of the large rise in elevation, this trail is considered difficult.
    Every 600-feet along the Hotshot Trail a granite plaque is found that shares the photo and a story of one of the 19 fallen Hotshots.  Additional interpretive signs are also found along this trail providing information about wildland firefighting. 
    At the Observation Deck visitors can look down into a small valley upon the Fatality Site and to the east the Town of Yarnell.  A Tribute Wall is available here where personal thoughts, patches and mementos can be left in honor of these men.
    From the Observation Deck, the 3/4-mile Journey Trails allows visitors to descend some 400-feet,  following the same path that the 19 Hotshots rushed down while rapidly clearing ground brush in a failed attempt to survive the howling wildfire that was racing down the hill behind them.
    At the Fatality Site 19 wire gabion baskets, encircle and protect 19 crosses that mark the 19 closely bunched fallen positions which now and forever will be some of Arizona’s most hallowed ground.  Each wire gabon is filled with rock from the surrounding hills and each has attached a large metal purplish ribbon.
    The 19 gabions are joined together by a series of chains which forever ties together this eternal team of firefighters.  A path with reflection benches surrounds the gabions and also leads to a memorial flagpole.
    Those choosing to get out and make this memorial hike are reminded to dress appropriately.  During the winter months snow has been known to fall upon Yarnell Hill.  During the summer months, the journey will be hot.  There is no drinking water along the trails nor are there any restrooms. 
    It is recommended that all visitors begin their hike before 12-noon as the roundtrip journey will take the average hiker at least 5 hours.  Sufficient water and food are also advised.  Flashlights are recommended just in case ones journey is not completed until after dark.
    Hikers are asked to pack out any trash.  Leashed dogs are welcome on the trails as long as owners pick up after their four-legged companions.
    During the park’s dedication ceremony on November 30, 2016, Governor Doug Ducey called the Hotshot Memorial State Park “a place to reflect, to mourn, and to learn” for all Arizonans.  He concluded his remarks by promising that this state park will  “always be a sacred place.”

Destination Name:  Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park, Yarnell, Arizona
Address: Two miles south of Yarnell on the southbound lane of Highway 89A.
67 miles from Carefree Highway & I-17..
Price: Free
Hours: Daily - sunrise to sunset

All photos - credit Arizona State Parks

Monday, December 26, 2016

Five Arizona Winter Road Trips

    Arizona’s winters are relatively mild when compared to the harsh winters found in many parts of our United States.  And to avoid any possibility of running into snowy roads on of your escape weekends of winter, simply focus on the many amazing natural and made-made destinations found in southern Arizona.  So get out this winter and enjoy these great southern Arizona weekend road trips…

    1.    Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson - -  This world-renowned botanical garden, zoo and natural history museum is located on the western edge of Tucson.  For anyone who loves living in the Sonoran Desert with all its amazing plants and animals, this museum is a must see.  And by visiting many of the outdoor exhibits during the winter months, Arizona’s heat is never a problem.  Distance - 140 miles for I-17/Carefree Highway.

2.  Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson - - This  museum is the largest privately funded aviation and aerospace museum in the world.  More than 300 of the most significant aircraft in the history of flight are on display here.  In addition, 125,000 artifacts from moon rocks to historic flight gear are displayed in five hangers over an 80 acre site.  A must-see for anyone who loves those flying machines!  Distance - 150 miles for I-17/Carefree Highway.

3.  Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson - - The Grand Canyon is certainly grand but Kartchner Caverns just might be Arizona’s most spectacular natural wonder.  Winter is the perfect time to visit this system of living caves since all the major caverns are open to visitors which is not true during the summer months when the Big Room cavern closes while it serves as a bat nursery for a 1,000 female cave mouse-eared bats.  If you have never seen this Arizona wonder - go!  Distance - 193 miles for I-17/Carefree Highway.

4.  Bisbee - - once known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps” this old Arizona mining camp is now a perfect weekend escape for anyone looking for a small town with fine dining along with a creative art and music scene.  Located in the scenic Mule Mountains, a stay in Bisbee is sure to refresh your spirit.  Get lost in the well-preserved historic architecture, ride the rail deep into the Queen Mine or challenge the paranormal on one the many Ghost Tours.  The Copper Queen Hotel is legendary, historic and haunted; the Shady Dell allows you to spend a night in the era of the retro 50s.  Distance - 235 miles for I-17/Carefree Highway.

5.  Chiricahua National Monument, Willcox - - located 36 miles southeast of Wilcox, this natural Arizona wonders is the preserved remains of an ancient volcanic eruption.  Known as a “Wonderland of Rocks” this national monument has over 17-miles of day-use hiking trails and a beautiful 8-mile paved scenic drive. And, if you happen to visit right after a fast-moving winter storm, you just might get to see the many tall rock spires covered with an incredibly beautiful dusting of freshly fallen snow.  Distance - 257 miles for I-17/Carefree Highway.

6.  Wings Over Willcox Birding and Nature Festival - - Willcox is a mecca for dozens of species of wintering birds.  And, if you are a lover of birds, this annual celebration of all things avian is the ideal weekend road trip for you.  The stars of this weekend are the 1000s of large Sandhill Cranes which annually return to the Sulphur Springs Valley.    This years Wings Over Willcox celebration occurs January 11 - 15, 2017.  Distance - 223 miles for I-17/Carefree Highway.

Here are other great southern Arizona destinations that make for great winter weekend road trips - Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson Zoo, Colassal Cave, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Titan Missile Museum, Tubac State Park, Tumacacori National Historic Park, Patagonia/Sonoita/Elgin Wine Country, Tombstone, Fort Bowie National Historic Park, Amerind Museum  and The Thing!

Pictures 1- 3 belong to the Pima Air Museum

4 - 7 belong to the Chiricahua National Monument

rest belong to us!

Pima Air Museum

Chiricahua National Monument

Downtown Bisbee

Copper Queen, Bisbee, AZ

Sandhill Cranes

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Legos and the Phoenix Zoo

      There is never a bad time to go to the Phoenix Zoo!   And right now the Phoenix Zoo is featuring a special exhibit entitled Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks which features 27 animal and flora sculptures built with nearly a million LEGO bricks.
    These large LEGO® sculptures are the creation of New York-based artist Sean Kenney whose artistic works have been featured in venues around the world.  Of his exhibit, Kenney states, “I am excited to bring Nature Connects to the Phoenix Zoo.  Everyone can get something out of the exhibit; whether it’s an educational message about conservation and ecosystems, an appreciation for the beauty of nature, or the fun of seeing giant larger-than-life sculptures built with millions of LEGO® bricks.”
    Several of the sculptures highlight animals which are endangered, threatened or vulnerable to help zoo guests understand the vital connection between animal conservation and the community.  Visitors will enjoy seeing a hatchling sea turtle, a vanishing rhinoceros, a jeweled chameleon, a crouching snow leopard and more all made from LEGO®.  Perhaps the most stunning sculpture is of a life-size polar bear mother and cubs made with more than 133,000 pieces and weighting over 625 pounds.
    The Nature Connects exhibit is now visible to Zoo guests during daytime visits and with general Zoo admission.  The exhibit will be at the Phoenix Zoo until January 2, 2017.
    So make your plans now to get out and visit again the Phoenix Zoo.  It is the only zoo in the Valley accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a non-profit zoological park that is home to over 1,400 wonderful animals.  Photos belong to the Phoenix Zoo.

Monday, September 5, 2016

OdySea Aquarium

     The largest aquarium in the American Southwest is scheduled to open this September on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community just to the east of Scottsdale.     The OdySea Aquarium will be the newest addition to the 35-acre, multimillion-dollar OdySea in the Desert entertainment park which is already home to the beautiful and amazing Butterfly Wonderland.
    The OdySea Aquarium is a two-level, state-of-the-art facility.  The 200,000 square foot facility will hold  more than 2 million gallons of water and expects to welcome over 15,000 visitors daily.
    Just like the nearby Butterfly Wonderland, visitors to the OdySea Aquarium will be immersed in a interactive, entertaining and educational adventure featuring some of the most fascinating marine life from around the world - from sharks, turtles and jellyfish to penguins, octopi and more. 
    Visitors will be thrilled to walk through a series of giant, submerged acrylic tunnels surrounded by thousands of sea creatures.  Heck, even the restrooms will have viewing windows that gaze right into the shark tank!  Penguins will be the official greeters of the OdySea Aquarium interacting with visitors as they waddle through the halls.
    A beautiful 3D theatre and an interactive Behind The Scene Tour will compliment standing exhibits that feature the Deep Ocean, Rivers of the World, Penguin Encounter, a Shoreline Gallery with touch pools, the Great Barrier Reef and the SeaTrek Underwater walking experience.
    This entertainment park that is home to both the Butterfly Wonderland and the OdySea Aquarium also contains some 30 restaurants and retail stores encircling a one-acre courtyard.  The courtyard has multiple water features and a stage for live entertainment.  The whole courtyard is reminiscent of the popular tourists boardwalks found throughout the world.
    Wow!  What an entertainment paradise OdySea in the Desert has become for those of us who call the Valley of the Sun home!.  So, plan now to get out with your whole family to this new and wonderful Valley entertainment park while enjoying the natural wonders found in both the rainforests and oceans of the world. 

Pictures belong to Bridges Media Group