Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quail. Cacti. Snow. Jogging in the park.

Finally, after living here almost a year, I've photographed one of the ubiquitous Gambel's quail. They're not hard to spot--they're as plentiful as squirrels--but I'd just never gotten around to taking a picture of one of those head-dressed birds, until yesterday, when I spotted one snacking on saguaro-nectar:
I was driving on the loop-road through the Rincon Mountain district of Saguaro National Park, on the eastern edge of Tucson, getting a preview of a possible summer-Saturday-morning-routine. A couple of friends of mine get together with a group of guys every Saturday morning, at 5:30 a.m., spring through fall, to go for a 20-mile bicycle-ride that takes them from suburbia (a McDonald's parking lot!) to wilderness...I'm planning on working up to that challenge, but I wanted to know ahead of time what I would be getting I drove the route. And then I bought an annual vehicle/bicycle pass for the national park, so now I'm committed...

More about saguaros later on...

Now, about the snow. Last weekend--Memorial Day weekend, the traditional 'beginning of summer'--Tucson had an unusually cool and late flirtation with winter. Mt. Lemmon got three inches of snow, the latest snowfall in memory, and the mountains to the east got a foot! The high-temperature down in the city was only in the upper 60's, after a couple of 103-degree days earlier in the week...But tomorrow we should hit 100-degrees again, with 105 by Sunday and three-digits as far as the forecasters can see...Summer is here to stay.

From the pool next to our place, we could see the snow on the peaks of the Catalinas:


Back to the saguaros, then...still in bloom all over the place...

This one caught my eye, since you can make out some of the 'internal skeleton' of the prickly giant:

...and after a few decades, I guess this one just got tired--all arms down, and all pointing in a clockwise 'dance':


For a few weeks now, I've been getting into another warm-weather habit: early-morning jogging. We live on a relatively quiet street near a park; why not take advantage of it?

So I start out on the street, heading north towards the mountains...and to Fort Lowell Park, which has a small fountain-pond with ducks, turtles and the occasional heron or egret:

...and as the name would imply, the park is the site of a "Fort." Back in the 1870's, a fort was established to protect the settlers (Mexican and Anglo) on the outskirts of Tucson from Apache raids...eventually a hospital was built, along with officers' quarters and parade my 'jogging route' takes me past some of those reconstructed adobes:
...and some not-so-reconstructed adobes; here are the ruins of the hospital:

...and the melting remains of the military kitchen:

The avenue of cottonwoods that the army planted has been restored--shade, always welcome...

...but the post-civil-war troops were not the first to settle here...also on the grounds of the park are some remains of pre-Columbian Hohokam pit-houses--this indigenous village-site (now under a pecan-grove, which dates back to the late 19th-century) dates back about a thousand years, when the nearby Rillito river actually flowed year-round and the people could farm easily...

...there's also a bit of bronze sculpture--a monument to the cavalry:

This past winter, my wife's parents came down for a visit, and while they were here, we took them to the little museum on the park-grounds, housed in one of the adobes that used to be officer-family-housing.

The museum-director was there and gave us a personal tour--my father-in-law, who looks a bit like Wyatt Earp, enjoys "old-west" atmosphere; he fit right in.

The director told us that a future project for the park is to construct another monumental bronze sculpture on the other side of the street, facing the horseman--an Apache warrior, as a counterpoint to the Anglo military presence. That would be a historically-delayed-yet-poetic way to frame the mountain view as the traffic whizzes by the park, no?

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