Monday, September 18, 2017

Finding Arizona's Fall Colors



    With the autumn equinox occurring once again, beautiful autumn leaves cannot be far behind.  Even though most of us Arizonans live in a desert region, our wonderfully diverse geographical state does have some truly spectacular areas where the beauty of autumn leaves show off their annual magnificent colors.  Below is a list with a few links as to where you too can Find Arizona and its wonderful fall colors!  Enjoy!

White Mountains - www.azwhitemountains.net - The trip to Arizona’s White Mountains can take upwards to four hours but for those who wish to see the colors of fall, the trip is well worth the effort.  From Tonto Bridge State Park near Payson, to Woods Canyon Lake at the top of the Rim to the small community of Greer, this trip guarantees autumn leaves! 


Hopi Mesas - www.experiencehopi.com/tours  and  www.hopi-nsn.gov/ - In our opinion, fall is the best time to visit the Hopi Mesas.  Not only are the fall colors of cottonwoods present along the many high desert washes but many of the villages hold harvest ceremonies that are open to the public.  Remember, a great place to stay when visiting Hopi is the La Posada Hotel in Winslow - http://laposada.org/


Flagstaff Area - www.flagstaffarizona.org and  www.flagstaffchamber.com - Autumn knows Flagstaff.  From the forest of aspens found throughout the Flagstaff area to the forests of colors found on Humphreys Peak - spectacular is the only word.  Be sure to check out the Hart Prairie Preserve - yes, spectacular!  Consider following the Weatherford Trail, Abineau and Bear Jaw Loop, and Lockett Meadow to discover great places to view and explore the changing color among the aspen groves.  Also, riding the chair lifts at the Snow Bowl is a great way to see autumn from above the trees - www.arizonasnowbowl.com

North Rim Grand Canyon - www.nps.gov/grca - long drive but great reward.  The North Rim is beautiful in autumn but be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecasts since snow arrives early in this part of Arizona.


Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona - www.sedona.net - it is always good to visit Sedona and the colors of autumn in Oak Creek is our favorite to view everyone’s favorite Arizona city.  Be sure to walk along the West Fork Trail (the most popular trail in the entire Coconino National Forest).  Briar Patch Inn in Oak Creek is our favorite place to stay while visiting the Sedona area - www.briarpatchinn.com .  Rustic, beautifully decorated cabins with wood burning fireplaces is the perfect way to wake up on a cool autumn morning!

Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior - a day trip from the Valley of the Sun can easily get you to this wonderful arboretum that celebrates all the seasons including autumn.  A visit to Boyce Thompson is a great way to spend an autumn day -
www.ag.arizona.edu/bta


U.S. Forest Service operates a web site that updates where the colors of autumn are found in the national forests.  Here is a link -
https://www.fs.fed.us/fall-colors

Arizona Department of Tourism - always a great place to check out what is going on around Arizona is the website of the Arizona Office of Tourism.  Many good ideas of Finding Arizona found here - www.visitarizona.com.


The first three pictures belong to our friends Teresa and Ken Jackway and taken nearby their Greer home.  The picture of Boyce Thompson belongs to Boyce Thompson.  The rest of the pictures are ours...

Greer Pole Knoll

A Mountain Meadow Near Greer

Aspens on Mt Baldy

Hart Prairie

Backroads Near Flagstaff

Aspen Grove Near Flagstaff

Another Hart Prairie

Road to Snow Bowl

Cottonwoods of the Hopi Mesa

Boyce Thompson

Aspen in Fall

Fall in Prescott

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Collared Lizards



Credit:  NPS

    1.  North American has 155 species of lizards classified into 8 families native to the continent.  A few of these species arrived to the continent during the years of conquest are now considered established introduced reptiles.  The evolutionary origin of all lizard species arose during the Triassic Period of geological time and lizards today make up the largest living group of the class Reptilia.   








Credit:  NPS
2.  Igunaidae is one of those native North American lizard families composed of 14 genera and 44 unique and colorful species.   Iguanids can range in length from only 4 inches (10 cm) to an amazing 72 inches (183 cm).  Most iguanid species are carnivorous, dining on insects, other smaller lizards and small snakes.  Occasionally, they will make a meal composed of plant leaves and flowers.  A sub-family of Iguanaidae are the Crotaphytidae species and are commonly known as Collared and Leopard lizards.  The spectacular Western Collared Lizard, Crotaphytus collaris), is shown here.    









Credit: Linda and Dr. Dick Buscher
3. The various species of collared lizards are found from western Missouri westward through the American deserts to the Pacific Ocean and into northern and the Baja regions of Mexico.  They thrive in dry rocky environments especially along washes and in canyons.  These diurnal lizards prefer to sun while sitting atop boulders which also act as ideal lookout sites for both prey and potential competitors and predators. The rocky environment also act as a place for the lizards to nest and hide.  A Western Collared lizard is seen here perched on a large boulder at Arches National Park in Utah.   






Credit:  NPS
4.  Collard lizards are so named for the two large black bands that circle their necks.  Adults range in size from 9 inches (23 cm) to 15 inches (38 cm).  Males are colorful shades of blue, green, yellow and browns.  Females tend to be duller shades of grayish blue-green or even beige.  Collared lizards have back legs some three times longer than their front legs.  These powerful back legs allow the collared lizards to “stand up” and run very fast for short distances.  Some individuals having been clocked running upward of 16 mph (26 kph).




Credit:  NPS
5.  Collared lizards are extremely territorial and are thought to be the most visually oriented of all lizard species.  The flashing of color and behavioral gestures are extensive and common.  Body push-ups , head bobbing and open mouthed displays are a daily behavioral ritual especially during mating season.  Collard lizards, like this reticulated collared lizard, Crotaphytus reticulatus, shown here will show a variety of displays using their colorful bodies to warn off potential mating rivals and territorial competitors.



Credit:  NPS
6.  The skin of the collared lizard is not only colorful but smooth and granular.  This texture makes for a body appearance that looks more like skin than scales.
Their fine scales are almost circular in shape. 



7.  The tail of an adult collared lizard is usually twice the length of the body.  Their tails tend to be thicker than wider. The tail of a male collared lizard is some-what flattened.   The tail is not easily broken off and if it is removed, does not grow back.  Collared lizards are known for their robust bodies with a large head and powerful teeth-filled jaws. 



Credit:  NPS
8.  Collared lizards are commonly found at elevations ranging from sea level to 7,500 feet (2290 m).  They thrive across the desert scrub biomes of the Sonoran, Mohave and Great Basin Deserts.  Like all the plants and animals found in desert scrub biomes, the collared lizard has adapted well to the limited annual rainfall (between 10-20 inches (25 - 51 cm) per year) and the extreme hot and cold temperatures found across the vast landscape dominated by a sea of scrubs. 






Credit:  NPS
9.  The powerful jaws of the collared lizard allow them to be most aggressive and deadly hunters.  With their quick burst of speed the lizard’s jaws will quickly catch and clamp down on available arthropod, small snake or other lizard including their own young.  Some have suggested that they have become the modern day Tyrannosaurus Rex of the desert shrub community.  But these hunters often become the hunted by local hawks, roadrunners, coyotes and large venomous snakes. This collard lizard oversees his territory while  sitting on a large trunk of petrified wood in the Petrified Forest National Park. 


Credit:  NPS

10.  Mating of collared lizards begin each spring with the dominate males bobbing their heads rapidly in hopes that a female will accept their advances.  Once mating has successfully occurred, the female will develop red/orange spots near her neck indicating that she is gravid.  A clutch of 7 - 12 eggs are laid in damp, dark holes dug under a nearby boulder some 21 - 28 days after mating.  About six weeks later, the eggs will hatch and the young, vulnerable lizards are totally on their own to try and survive.  Female collared lizards are capable of retaining sperm and several clutches of eggs can be laid each summer without mating again.   


Credit:  NPS
11. When the warmth of the summer begins to wane the cold blooded collared lizards begin to prepare for a long winter of hibernation.  They stop eating so that their gut is void of food since any intestinal food would rot over the long winter months and poison the hibernating reptile.  When the days of spring begin the lengthen once again, their still dormant bodies will begin to release the chemicals hormones to prepare both male and female lizards for another cycle of reproduction when they awake from their annual sleep. 


Credit:  NPS
12.  The great North American deserts are often portrayed as barren and bleak landscapes void of color and beauty.  But the many species of collared lizards who live in this land of little rain and extreme temperature add an almost tropical splash of vivid colors to the dominate shades of brown so commonly found here.  Famed environmentalist  Edward Abby wrote in his book Desert Soltaire that it is the unexpected found in nature that “startle the senses and surprise the mind out of their ruts of habit, to compel us into a reawakened awareness of the wonderful - that which is full of wonder.”  Possibly the beautiful collared lizards of the North American deserts were on Mr. Abby’s mind.    


This is a copy of our story written for the Live Science website.  Hope you enjoyed meeting the amazing collared lizard as they add great beauty to our desert landscape! 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Where Did All The Saguaro Fruit Go in 2017?


      We have been watching and photographing saguaro flowers and fruit for upwards of four decades.  The beautiful flowers of April and May bring life sustaining fruits in June for a multitude of desert animals - birds, deer, javelin, ground squirrels and more.  The saguaro fruit becomes a vital food source during the driest part of the Sonoran Desert year and a vital supply of nourishment before the monsoon rains return each summer. 
    But something happened this year, the summer of 2017 - there were many saguaro flowers but almost none of the flowers we always watch produced fruit.  We have never seen such a fruitless year in all our years of saguaro watching. The following three pictures are of the same saguaro during the month of June in 2012, 2016 and 2017.  This cactus that for many years was an abundance of food and moisture, was totally fruitless this year.  None, none at all!  The flowers were present but no fruit develop - why?  Were there no pollinators this year like bats and bees?  We certainly had an abundance of winter rains, but no saguaro fruit.  We have never seen such a fruitless year and we have no idea why.  Do you?  Where did all the saguaro fruit go in 2017?


Our Saguaro full of fruits on June 29, 2012 while looking east.  Double-slick to enlarge.

Our Saguaro full of fruits on June 26, 2016 while looking east

Our same cactus, this time looking west, on June 30, 2017 with not one fruit!  What happened this year?

What a saguaro fruit looks like when totally open - so much food for so many animals.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Summer Solstice 2017


    For a region known as the Valley of the Sun, the annual Summer Solstice has been and continues to be a time that local residents stop and recognize this significant astronomical event.  The 2017 Summer Solstice occurs at in the Northern Hemisphere at 9:24 PM MST on June 20th.  Below is a listing of places that ancient Arizonans and modern day Valley of the Sun residents have and continue to gather to acknowledge and celebrate the first day of summer.


1.  Burton Barr Library, Phoenix -  annual celebration occur here in the 5th floor Great Reading Room - check out this utube video -        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CCMFLroz0A

2. Tree of Life, Papago Park, Phoenix -     https://www.phoenix.gov/arts/public-art-program/explore-the-collection/papago-park-city-boundary-project and http://thephoenixenigma.com/the-tree-of-life/



3.  Hole In The Rock, Papago Park, Phoenix - http://www.arizona-leisure.com/papago-park-hiking.html

4.  Soleri Bridge, Scottsdale - http://thephoenixenigma.com/soleri-bridge/

      Summer Solstice Celebrations around Arizona -

5.  Petrified Forest National Park, Holbrook - https://www.nps.gov/pefo/planyourvisit/summer-solstice-celebration.htm

6.  Sears Point, Tonopah - https://www.archaeologysouthwest.org/2013/06/27/summer-solstice-sites-in-southwestern-arizona/

7.  V-Bar-V Historic Site, Verde Valley - http://azdailysun.com/news/local/ancient-solar-calendars-mark-the-summer-solstice/article_07e9e20d-ec86-5d75-a761-d8770d3f7434.html

8.  Casa Grande National Monument, Coolidge - https://www.nps.gov/archeology/sites/antiquities/profileCasaGrande.htm



    We hope you can find the time to check out one or more of these interesting locations and enjoy your own Summer Solstice Celebration!  Happy 2017 Summer to all!




Sunday, May 28, 2017

North Phoenix News/Cave Creek Regional Park


     We recently wrote the following five stories for a new web site specifically designed for the far north Valley.  The stories highlight five great outdoor recreational sites found nearby the I-17 corridor.  Summer may not be the best time to experience the hiking opportunities found at these sites but being aware of these recreational areas can help you plan an outing when the cool days of fall and winter return.  
    The site is called North Phoenix News, http://nophonews.com/ , and is a great site for local news in that part of the Valley of the Sun.  We hope you check it out!  We hope too that you enjoy our stories and our small contribution to this great new site. 


#1 Cave Creek Regional Park...

Summary:  The 2,922-acre park offers over 11-miles of joint use trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders to enjoy the refreshing solitude of the desert.  An additional 44 campsites with excellent facilities along with 51 individual picnic sites allow this Sonoran Desert park to become an outdoor discovery adventure for the whole family.    


Why You Should Go:  The lush, unspoiled Sonoran Desert vegetation of the park and the many well maintained park facilities allows all park visitors to quickly escape the local urban environment and become submerged in this tranquil, undisturbed natural terrain.
    Four-legged family members are also allowed but must remain on a leash at all times.  Any doggie waste must be immediately cleaned up and properly disposed.

When To Go:  The cooler months of October - May are the best months to enjoy the seven hiking trails, picnicking and camping facilities of the park. The visitor-friendly Nature Center allows park guests to enjoy the many ranger led hikes and environmentally oriented programs even during the hottest of summer months.

Be Safe:  The joy of experiencing the beauty of the Sonoran Desert must be tempered with the knowledge that visiting the desert can also be dangerous.  Heavy sole shoes are a must as well as sunscreen, and a large-brimmed hat.  Sufficient water must be carried along while on the trail for any hike or ride.  Always let someone know where you have gone in case of an emergency.  Carry a mirror or whistle in case you need to signal for help.
   

History:  The name Cave Creek comes from a high, overhanging bluff along the western bank of the local stream that forms a large, open cavern some five miles northeast of the park.  Native people often used the large cave for shelter.
    During a time in Arizona history known as the Apache Wars (1865 - 1885), the land in and around the park was the scene of many skirmishes and deadly confrontations between the US Cavalry and the local Yavapai Apache and Tonto Apache people. 
    Just north of the park in an area known as Bloody Basin, a March 1873 early morning battle atop Turret Peak resulted in the death of 26 Yavapai warriors and is considered the turning point in the conflict in central Arizona between settlers and the local, Apache people.
    Another skirmish occurred along the west bank of Cave Creek just east of the park on Christmas morning of 1873 resulting in the death of Apache leader Nanotz and eight of his Tonto Apache warriors.  By 1877 the remaining Apache people of this area of Arizona had been moved to the San Carlos Reservation.  The land was now free of the Apache people and open to miners, ranchers and settlers to occupy. 

Cost:  $6.00/vehicle

Hours:

Tuesday         6AM–8PM
Wednesday  6AM–8PM
Thursday     6AM–8PM
Friday          6AM–10PM
Saturday      6AM–10PM
Sunday        6AM–8PM
Monday       6AM–8PM

Trail Map:  http://www.maricopacountyparks.net/assets/1/6/cave-creek-8x112.pdf

Website:  http://www.maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/cave-creek-regional-park/

Phone:  (623) 465-0431

Location:  37019 N Lava Ln, Cave Creek, AZ


Pictures 3, 7 & 8 belong to Cave Creek Regional Park...











#2 Deem Hills Recreational Area


Summary:   Deem Hills Recreational Area is one of the newer parks in the City of Phoenix (2010) that offers a variety of recreational activities in the Northwest Phoenix area.  The two hills that actually make up a recreational area of nearly 1000 acres are crisscrossed by five well maintained trails totaling some 14.5 miles in length.  An east and west trailhead allow access this recreational area. A large community park, open 5:30 am - 11:00 pm, is located at the West Trailhead and offers a children’s playground, a soccer field and a dog park.

Trail Map:  https://www.phoenix.gov/parkssite/Documents/056885.pdf

Why You Should Go:  Deem Hills Recreational Area is a close-by recreational site suitable for the entire family.  The mountain hillsides are covered with a large stand of saguaro cacti and typical Sonoran Desert vegetation with an extensive trail system that is ideal for hikers, mountain bikers, birders and photographers. The large, two section dog park will surely put a smile of the face of your favorite four-legged friend.



When: October - late May are the best months to visit.  Extreme heat of the summer months can make anytime but early morning hiking/biking outings potentially dangerous.

Insights:  Good shoes, sun screen, a wide-brimmed hat and a signaling device are always always recommended when visiting any desert area.  Be sure to take an adequate supply of water and tell someone where you are going before beginning any outing into the Sonoran Desert.

History: The mountains that make up the Deem Hills Recreational Area are composed of Precambrian Era granite and Tertiary Period basalt.  The black boulders of basalt are actually the remains of 1.6 million year old lava flows from volcanos in the Flagstaff area that broke through the earth’s surface here.  Many other mountains of black basalt are found along the I-17 corridor today, all created by the many ancient volcanos of northern Arizona.
    The name for the recreational area comes from Dennis and Carl Deem who in 1922 began homesteading 160 acres of desert land just to the southwest of the hills that now carry their family name.    

Web:  https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/deem-hills

Phone: 602-495-6939

Address: West Trailhead - 5050 W. Andrea Lane near 51st Avenue and Deem Hills Parkway;  East Trailhead - 27500 N. 39th Ave.

Cost:  free












#3 Lake Pleasant Regional Park


Summary:  The park is one of eleven regional parks in the Maricopa County Park system.  But unlike the other ten desert parks, this park is unique because it has within its 23,662-acre boundary the second largest lake found Arizona – Lake Pleasant.  For resident in the North Phoenix area this nearby regional park has become a Sonoran Desert water recreational paradise.

Why You Should Go:  Thousands of Phoenix residents flock to the lake to enjoy the many water sporting adventures that a large body of water provides.  It has long been a fisherman’s paradise and now boaters, kayakers, water-boarders, jet-skiers and swimmers relish in the clear water and many secluded coves.  For those who just like being near the water, the many picnic table, camping sites and restaurants offer a relaxing day near the water while enjoying Arizona’s sunshine and spectacular, star filled nighttime sky.

When To Go:  Because of the cooling waters of the lake, this desert regional park is a great destination any month of the year.  The surrounding desert areas away from the lake must be respected for their potential of danger from critters and summer heat typical of any Sonoran Desert region.  Dogs are welcomed in the park but must always remain on a leash and all waste must be cleaned up and properly disposed.  

Be Safe: Arizona boating laws and regulations apply to the waters of Lake Pleasant -  http://www.azgfd.gov/pdfs/outdoor_recreation/boating_laws.pdf .  


 The lake is surround by the Sonoran Desert so all desert safety precautions are recommended and stressed, i.e., good shoes, wide-brimmed hat, sun-screen and adequate water.  Think safety - stay alive! 

History: The vision to build a lake in the mid-1920s in the middle of the Sonoran Desert goes to three men with familiar names – William H. Beardsley, Carl Pleasant and Donald Waddell.  They dreamed of and then watched the construction as the largest, multiple arched concrete dam in the world was built across the Agua Fria River and became a part of their own, private irrigation project.
When completed in 1927 the 76 feet high, 2,160 feet long Waddell Dam backed up water to create a new 3,000 acre Lake Pleasant.  This 1920’s lake provided a constant supply of water for irrigation and soon became a fisherman’s paradise.
In 1992 a new Waddell Dam was completed allowing Lake Pleasant to more than triple in size.  Only Roosevelt Lake located on the Salt River remains larger in size then Lake Pleasant.
Water from both the Agua Fria and the Colorado Rivers is now collected behind the new Waddell Dam and stored as a key part of the Central Arizona Project.  Over 50 miles of shoreline have been created with 10,000 acres of clear water.  The old, 1927 Waddell Dam was breached and remains today north of the new dam and beneath 100 feet of water. 


Cost: $6.00/vehicle; $400/motorized water craft

Hours:
Day-Use Entry (non-camping): 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily / Camping: available 24 hours, 365 days a year (camping pass and/or reservation required)

Trail Map:
http://www.maricopacountyparks.net/assets/1/6/trails-map-north-south1.pdf

Website: http://www.maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/lake-pleasant-regional-park/

Phone:  (928) 501-1710

Location: 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd.
Morristown, AZ

Lake Pleasant Trails…
    1.     Wild Burro Trail - 2 miles
    2.    Frog Tank - 0.3 miles
    3.    Cottonwood Trail - 1.2 miles
    4.    Pipeline Canyon Trail - 2 miles
    5.    Roadrunner Trail - 0.8 miles
    6.    Yavapai Point Trail - 1.5 miles
    7.    Beardsley Trail - 4.4 miles