Sunday, October 27, 2013

Autumn above the desert--just a forty-minute-drive...and TURKEYS!

Even after living here for six years now, it still amazes me that I can leave work in this desert city, drive just forty minutes up into the Santa Catalina mountains, and then step out of my car, at 8000', into a mixed conifer/deciduous forest--the equivalent of going from Mexico to Canada in just 30 miles...

So, this past Friday, after work, I decided to take advantage of this ecological nearness--time for a walk in the autumn woods:
At milepost 22 on the Catalina Highway, turn off on the dirt road.
"Bear Wallow" may be a small valley, but it's just spectacular for fall color;
you truly feel you're 'elsewhere'--New England? North Carolina? Korea? Colorado?
The saguaros and prickly pear seem a world away...

The October issue of Arizona Highways magazine has 
ruffled a few feathers with its cover:
Note the "Why It's Better Here Than It Is In Vermont"
Some provocative fun...

The flaming-foliage here might not be as widespread as in New England, but the terrain is so varied, and while most tourists come here for the Grand Canyon and desert vistas, if you want to be a deciduous leaf-peeper, you can be.

Further up, on the flanks of Mt. Lemmon, the range's highest peak (9157'/2791m), you can take the Mint Springs Trail, which meanders through some of the worst damage from the 2003 forest fire that ravaged this part of the Santa Catalinas...but the forest is recovering--young aspens are re-colonizing the slopes:

And it's on this trail that I saw these guys:

...the first wild turkeys I've seen in the Santa Catalinas!
There must've been around a dozen of them, calmly feeding and rambling through the golden aspens... I've seen them in Madera Canyon in the Santa Ritas south of the city, and a week-and-a-half ago my wife and I saw some in Ramsey Canyon down in the Huachuca Mountains...and now, on Mt. Lemmon.

A bit more subtle, under the young aspens, the fading colors of bracken fern--edible when they first appear in the spring, known as "go-sa-ri" in Korean and 'fiddleheads' in English.


Down at the base of the mountains, the creekbeds are running dry as the summer monsoon leftovers are dwindling to just a few pools in the desert...waiting for the winter rains, just over a month away:

In lower Sabino Canyon, I've been running by the "lake"--a seasonal pool formed by a rock dam built in the 1930's--morning and evening reflections:

And down in that lower canyon, the sacred datura blossoms continue to put on a spectacular show--it's been a good year for them:
...and for some other wildflowers as well:


With my iPhone, I've been playing with some 'painterly' photo-effects recently;
just a couple of scenes--
one from downtown Tucson:
While downtown Tucson's cluster of highrises is definitely 'modest,' 
this blue-mosaic-tiled building has always caught my eye...

...and from a couple of weeks ago,
in the red rock country up in Sedona:

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