Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday after work: Ventana Canyon

We've lived in Tucson since July 2007, and finally, today, I got around to discovering Ventana Canyon for myself. On this beautiful, unseasonably cool spring day, I wanted to go for a hike/jog...

...and so I took only a water bottle and my cellphone--these are from the phone's camera:



I only ran the lower part of the trail, since sunset wasn't far off--this part of the trail switchbacks over a creek that flows for most of the year...a good micro-climate for cottonwoods:

...a few more steep miles past this point leads to a natural 'window'/arch in the rocks at 7000 feet...but you need more than an afternoon after work to make it all the way, so that'll have to wait...
All this, only a fifteen minute drive from our part of the city (incidentally, named one of the best trail-running towns in the country)--a trail that starts at the employees' parking lot of the very posh Loew's Ventana Canyon Resort (!) and quickly leads into no-dogs-allowed wilderness. (It's a bighorn mountain sheep protected area, thus the canine restriction.)
In the middle of all the Tucson budget and unemployment woes, the natural surroundings are a balm for the workweek-soul...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bisbee. Bumper-sticker. Acronym.

So, this past weekend--we went with our friends-from-out-of-town to Tombstone and Bisbee, a nice Sunday-drive fromTucson...

Bisbee is a historic mining town and county-seat--about a mile high in the Mule mountains of Cochise County, a couple of hours SE of Tucson...its mining heydays are gone, but what's left is great architecture that hosts an incongruous mix of hard-drinking Harley-riders, hippie gallery-owners, county bureaucrats, pierced baristas, retirees who've opened up antique shops, tourists from Ohio and Germany, and urbanites away for a b&b weekend...
...the old stone and brick buildings (optimistically grand Italianate) in the narrow valley, with wooden houses and postage-stamp-gardens going up and down red hills covered with oak and pine...Bisbee almost has an old-world feel...
(And the chipotle honey mustard from the Killer-Bee-Honey-hole-in-the-wall is killer-good...)

...speaking of bees...some artsy-graffiti down in the Brewery Gulch area of town:
(fun with stencils...)

...some real-life bugs too, battling for one of the spring blooms:
(Does anyone know what kind of bug this large guy is?)

This street-corner gives you a good feel for the up-and-down-ness of Bisbee. Much of the residential-part of the city is only accessible by pedestrian-stairs...


...back to some of the artsy-graffiti, in an empty lot between a gallery showing avian photos and an off-the-leash dog park:


...one of the doors in town; bottle-capped folk art:
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...on the way down, we stopped in Tombstone for lunch, and for our out-of-state-friends to watch a re-enactment of The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Right after we parked, we noticed this bumpersticker:

...nothing like a bit of in-your-face xenophobia to make you feel welcome as a tourist, eh?

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Spring continues, with breezy days...

The last of the winter fruit are dropping off the taller branches of lemon tree in our yard. This one had been deformed--it grew in the crook of a branch and took a permanent bend:

...more desert globemallow blooming, including this purple variety:
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...and, in the midst of all the school-budget-uncertainties,
I've learned a new acronym: RIF--Reduction In Force...
...as in--you get a pink slip; you've been RIFed.
(English is a flexible language, eh? Any noun or acronym can magically become a verb.
RIF's been verbed.)
I've not yet been verbally notifiedin that way, but who knows...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring...weekends with out-of-town friends...cactus blooms & wildflowers

Last weekend: friends from Florida and Phoenix.
This weekend: friends from Washington.
Next month: family from the Seattle-area...

So, this past Saturday, the wives had a spa-morning...
the guys went for a short hike in the foothills of the Catalinas near Sabino Canyon, where the ocotillo are just beginning to bloom, early:

After which, the out-of-towners were introduced to Sonoran Hot-dogs, a local fast-food specialty, unique to northwestern Mexico and southern Arizona.

(photo courtesy of this article in the Tucson paper: http://www.azstarnet.com/business/171839. There's even a link to a little video clip.)

Sunday afternoon we went to the Arizona-Sonora-Desert-Museum. Desert bluebells are blooming:

...and the first cactus blooms are just beginning to open up, including barrel cacti, which have amazing, anemone-like interiors:
...a few "claret-cup" blooms are opening:
...and I think this was a "pincushion cactus;" super tiny, this photo is about 3 or 4 times larger than life:


...agave are always interesting to me, geometrically:
...and for the way that some varieties catch the sunlight on their jagged edges:

On the way back into the city, we stopped at a parking area just below Gates Pass to enjoy the view...
(I love the way cholla cactus 'glow' when backlit.)

...and a view from near Gates Pass back over to the urban side of the Tucson Mountains; here's a view off to the SE, looking over the SW part of the city:
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On a sobering note...
EVERY school in Tucson, and not just Tucson, but in the state of AZ, and in many other states too, is looking at shrinking their staff due to drastic budget cuts.
So much for "spring education job fairs;" no need. Whatever happened to 'acute teacher shortages'?
Hello larger class-sizes and no new computers...
So, with every school cutting staff, where will all of these teachers go? Who's hiring?
(This possibly includes me, since most teachers in their first- and second-years of teaching in their local district are finding themselves on the chopping block)
Local budget decisions can't really be made until state legislatures communicate their final decisions...
...which they've said they'll do in mid-summer.
Great.
So nobody really knows who/what/when/where will be cut
and how/if people might be 'rehired' to their cut-and-repasted jobs.
Lovely spring in the education world...
"Recession-proof jobs"...not so much.

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Back to some more spring wildflowers...
one of my favorites here is desert globemallow.
(Other names for it are "apricot globemallow" and also "sore-eye poppy,"
since the 'hairs' on the leaves and stems can be an eye-irritant.)
You'll find it blooming here and there from now through the summer,
but it's most plentiful now...


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

a few spring photos around Tucson...

Some out-of-town-friends are coming to visit us this weekend;
for them, (and for any others who are thinking of visiting Tucson), a 'sneak preview'...

Although this spring's wildflowers aren't as plentiful as last year's, there's still color to be found.

...some penstemon blooming along the Rillito trail
(perfect place to jog or bike; stretches 12 traffic-free miles through the city):

...a close-up of the penstemon blooms:

...bees impatient to get inside a still-closed orange blossom-bud (in our yard):
...a mockingbird, mid-note:
...a Harris' Hawk, (kind of an unusual pose, no?), balancing on top of a saguaro:
(this photo was featured on the online version of the Tucson paper yesterday)
...just south of downtown Tucson, in the historic Sonoran-style-adobe-filled barrio:

...the simplest of elements in Sonoran adobe architecure: shape and color:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bees.

The citrus trees in our little yard are alive right now--
a constant buzzing in their fragrant branches.
Standing underneath them, heads and lungs full of scent...

maybe that's how the bees feel as they go about their pollination...
( I just hope these guys are 'regular' honeybees,
not the more feisty 'africanized' bees that are becoming more and more common...)
Fortunately, the bees seem so 'into' the blossoms that they totally ignored me and my camera...

So, a few macro shots from yesterday afternoon, after work...


...and another closeup of weird lemon buds--this is how they look when they first open up, just one petal at a time:


...after the b&w, a bit of random color; I came across this photo from a few years ago and finally scanned it--it's from central Mexico, a mariachi singer's tomb-memorial (I wish I could remember the name) near Guanajuato:

...gotta love the festive sense of color, even in the midst of death, eh?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Macro-fun. Spring blooms...

...on my lunch-break...
Yesterday hit a record-high for Tucson: 91 degrees--about 20 degrees warmer than 'normal.'
And so things are in bloom earlier than normal.
Yesterday afternoon, I spent a few minutes with the camera in our little yard, experimenting with macro shots...


...freaky up close, eh? Reminds me of the head on one of those Chinese lunar new-year dragons...or some undersea creature...it's a lemon bud just before blossoming...

...another shot of the lemon bud, along with more tightly-closed newer buds...

...orange blossoms, just opening...too bad no one has come up with a way to transmit smells on-line; the fragrance is heady, and our trees are full of bees...

...the common hibiscus...intense in the afternoon light; the stamens are otherwordly up close, no?

...and as intense as the color is, I like hibiscus in b&w; the texture really takes center-stage...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bull. Ruins. Trees, etc...

The other day--went for a hike with a friend...stopped in our tracks by a bull. Yeah--not a bear, not a mountain lion, but a bull. We were in the Rincon mountains, east of Tucson--open cattle-range country...also an area popular with 4-wheelers on weekends...Our destination: Chiva Falls, supposedly flowing strong due to snowmelt...And then we saw him--he was staring us down, and the scrawny mesquites around us weren't tall enough to provide climbable safety...We thought he might trot off, but instead he paced back and forth, never losing eye-contact with us. And BIG horns...So we didn't test him, figuring he's probably antagonized on weekends by beer-drinking four-wheelers, and therefore is not too fond of bipedal hikers...

So, no waterfall that day...

The next day, my wife and I did a day-trip out of Tucson:
up to see the Hohokam ruins at Casa Grande National Monument,
lunch in the Victorian-era town of Florence,
and then the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park--
a collection of desert plants from all over the world
at the base of a red-rock mountain east of Phoenix...
dinner in Globe, a mining town on the edge of the Apache reservation...
before driving back down to Tucson
under a crescent-moon with Venus like a beauty mark next to a smile...

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A few photos:

I visited Casa Grande Nat'l Monument a couple of years ago, but it was Sara's first visit--fun to see it for the first time through her eyes...
This area was settled by the Hohokam for probably a thousand years before being abandoned in the 1400's...intensive agriculture, sophisticated pottery, trade routes stretching all the way to Central America, miles and miles of canals...(cautionary tale?)

...in front of the visitor's center, some desert cassia (senna) was blooming...

...fa├žade of a Sonoran-style house built in 1880 in Florence, Arizona...

Florence is also the county-seat of Pinal county and its Victorian-style courthouse dates to the 1890's...

This year is not turning out to be as spectacular as last spring for wildflowers in Arizona, but still, there are some Mexican goldpoppies here and there...


...and this is a view of Queen creek, which runs through the middle of the
Boyce Thompson Arboretum--totally worth the two-hour drive from Tucson. (less than an hour from Phoenix)
Almost looks Australian, eh?

...a few roses in bloom in the rose-garden...
...some poppies...

...and this Japanese quince was blooming...

of course, there are cacti--this is a maroon-flowered euphorbia...

...and this Mexican crested blue cactus...(remind you of anything?)