Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Last day in the Sonoran Desert.....for now

Last night we had happy hour at MonaLiza and Steve's park, sharing laughter, a couple  luscious Lodi wines and the last of her famous Lumpia.    Once again, I forgot to take pictures.    Well....I did remember as we were driving away.

Bye bye for now friend......

Today was our last day in the Sonoran Desert. Tomorrow we'll put an "E" on the compass and start the long drive across the country to Geneseo, New York.

We decided to visit  the eastern section of Saguaro National Park to do a bit of communing with the giants.    These views will stay with us until we're back again next year.

five different cactus friends

part of a roadside wall constructed by the CCC

the Ocotillo blossoms are so bright this year

yes, another crested Saguaro

you can see why these blooms are favorites of the little Hummingbirds

Javalina rock

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tohono Chul

Last night we met Rick and JoAnne for dinner at Vero Amore and we talked, talked, talked.  In between we ate and enjoyed some happy hour wine,  but the thought of taking a picture never occurred to me.     We don't seem to have a lack of things to talk about and last night was no exception.    They leave for Mexico in a few days and we will start our eastern journey soon so who knows when our paths will cross again.

Today Dave and I had a great lunch at the Garden Bistro at Tohono Chul (desert corner), complete with prickly pear lemonade, and then strolled the beautiful grounds.  

It was a warm, windy day with incredible cloud formations.    We sat outside on the Bistro's patio and the temperature was just delightful, as was our meal.   Some staffing problems caused a longer than usual wait,  but the manager was very generous and we left with a good taste in our mouths....

The grounds of Tohono Chul are beautiful.  They invite you to discover the Sonoran Desert's Nature, Art and Culture.  We walked the Saguaro Discovery loop stopping along the way to read placards about how important these giants are to the Tohono O'odham people.  The yearly calendar revolves around the Saguaro cycles, their seeds, fruit and structure are important for food, religious rituals, as teaching examples, for shelter and more.

One huge unusually crested guy standing on the top of a hill caught our eye immediately.   It will be interesting to watch as it continues to grow, new arms appear to be growing out of the crest, I wonder where they'll go?

My only complaint was that the provided map is pure bears little resemblance to the actual layout and we had to ask for directions several times.    The unintended consequence of that, however, is that we wandered around more than we would have, had we known where we were actually going.
That was a good thing, we noticed lots of things we may not have otherwise.

the lacy skeleton of a prickly pear cactus

the top of a small saguaro was sliced off, allowing us to see its structure

nature is always interesting, but not always beautiful.....

always fascinating

Lord Bank sniffs Lady Banks Rose......
spicy he pronounces

We spent quite a bit of time bird watching.    We spied a pair of beautiful hawks in a tree in the riparian garden.   I managed to get a few bad pictures of them. Enough, I hoped, to at least identify them.   Nope!

 Our best guess is that they may have been Grey Hawks....any thoughts?

Hummingbirds zoomed in and out of trees and into brilliantly colored flower beds in the hummingbird garden.    Tiny gnatcatchers with very large voices flitted from branch to branch as we walked along.  They were entirely too busy to hold still for a photograph.

A pair of cactus wrens were busy picking bugs out of a stand of cactus and then working hard to dismantle another bird's nest.     They'd hang upside down on it and pull the nesting material out and toss it on the ground.    We're easily amused.

We enjoyed our visit immensely.    Tohono Chul afforded us a quiet and low key way to spend the day.

We were too full from lunch to eat dinner when we got home but we sat outside and had a bit of happy hour with Lewis.     He so enjoys happy hour.

every night, without fail, the mat tries to hide Lewis' fish

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lunch and a visit to the White Dove of the Desert

Mt. Lemmon shrouded in clouds

The weather closed in on us as we packed up and left Catalina State Park yesterday.   It only rained ll or 12 drops but the wind picked up and it looked threatening and ugly as we pulled out.

our huge KOA site 1670
By the time we arrived the sun was shining brightly.   The site we had been promised was taken but we found an even better one.  It's huge and quite private so I'm a happy camper.

One of Pam's "friends" is just on the other side of the wall behind Beluga.  It watches us quietly when we're outside for second cup and happy hour.

Today we went down to the little artist town of Tubac.  I was on the look out for a few little things and we wanted to have lunch at Elvira's restaurant.   I've heard lots of good things about it and we weren't disappointed.

The decor is hard to describe but fascinating and the food and service were excellent.   Sort of New York City meets Mexico in a funky, table cloth, sort of way....

After a lovely lunch of shrimp (2 ways) and a knock out margarita we strolled the streets and wandered in and out of the shops.   I wandered in and out, Dave stayed outside in the sun and enjoyed people watching.

On our way home we stopped to visit Mission San Xavier del Bac, a National Historic Landmark and a fantastic example of  Mexican Baroque architecture built in 1783.   It is aptly nicknamed "the white dove of the desert".

The blindingly white building rises starkly in the middle of a flat dirt plaza on the Tohono O'odham San Xavier Indian Reservation (formerly known as Papago).   The church still actively fulfills it's original purpose of ministering to the religious needs of it's Native community.

I wasn't expecting to spend more than a few minutes looking around and taking a few pictures but I was blown away by the intricate details inside....paintings, wooden statues, arches, frescoes, tiles, wear worn benches and hundreds of candles.   An extensive restoration effort is allowing us to see these magnificent carvings as they originally were.   The outside is still in the process of being repaired and restored.

the only unpainted statue is of a Native American woman
St. Kateri Tekakwitha
We watched the fascinating PBS movie about the restoration efforts and techniques and then walked the grounds awhile before heading home.   I'm so glad we stopped.

"Man in the Maze" is an emblem of the Tohono O'odham people