Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sunset in the Desert

Sunset at Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, on the north edge of the city:

It's one of my new favorite sunset spots.  You'll often see hot hair balloons in the distance and the views are good, with the sun setting behind lovely mountains and sahuaro silhouettes.   Plus...the scorpion hunting is good after sunset.  Just take a black (UV) light.  As my Czech friends exclaimed, "This is good sport!  It's better than geo-caching!  Better than mushroom hunting!" 

If you go:

Park at the Apache Vista Trailhead in the north section of the park (1600 E. Sonoran Desert Drive).

The trail is a short loop made of the Ocotillo, Apache Wash, and Sidewinder trails with an uphill section that leads to Apache Vista.  The 360-degree views are worth the modest climb.

Loop length:  2.8 miles
Elevation gain:  Appx 500 ft 

Many other longer trails and combinations await from the same trailhead.

Take a black light after dark, especially in spring, fall, and summer, and you'll find plenty of these:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hummingbird at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden

Another beautiful day at the Desert Botanical Garden with amazing hummingbirds.  This is the only one who sat still long enough for a good photo op. 

If you live in Phoenix and have never been to the Botanical Garden, go to your library, get a culture pass (good for two free admissions) and GO!  It's awesome.  If you're visiting for more than a few days, you can get a library card too and get your own culture pass!

Here's the link:

And the amazing butterfly exhibit starts next week!!!  It usually goes from about the end of February to the beginning of May.   

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Great Chuckwalla Safari

My friend Nikki and I went on a chuckwalla safari a couple of weeks ago at Camelback Mountain.  I'd only seen one in the wild before, and she hadn't seen any, so we were on the lookout:

The common chuckwalla (Sauromalus ater) is a very large lizard.  Some people call them desert iguanas. They're the second-largest lizard in the US (first is the gila monster, also found in Arizona, but much rarer). Chuckwallas are non-venomous and harmless.  They have flabby skin, especially around their necks, and many adult males sport some orange coloring, leading people to occasionally mistake them for Gila monsters. 

Chuckwallas are not always so active in the cooler months, so we weren't sure we'd have success.  It was a beautiful day, however, with bright sun and short-sleeve temperatures.  On the way to the summit, much of the trail was in shade, and we had no success. 

But just below the summit, on the way down the other side of the mountain, an uphill hiker spotted this little beauty:

Then, a little lower down, Nikki spotted this one on the next ridge.  Awesome!

SoonI want to go on a South Mountain chuckwalla safari.  There's a special variation there--and only there--where the chuckwallas have bright orange tails.

We took great pleasure in pointing our our chuckwallas to other hikers, many of whom had never heard of them.  A great day for a new experience!