Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Sandhill Crane Day

On Thursday we were all primed to go for a drive to McNeal and the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area to see the sandhill cranes.

It could not have been a better day for a drive... and explore some country we have never seen before.

It took us about 90 minutes to drive from Vail... it was hard to imagine after coming thru the desert we would find an oasis with water for the birds.

With 700 acres of wetlands here these sandhill cranes have a protected winter spot to live and enjoy the great Arizona lifestyle. We call ourselves 'snowbirds,' but these cranes have been doing this snowbird thing for centuries!

It was amazing to see these huge birds come flying in with their landing gear down.

And the noise of these cranes was amazing... a loud trumpeting call. We were there almost three hours, and the calling in the beginning was considerably louder at 11 AM than it was at 1:30 PM when we left.

They seemed very persistent in their calling... like they were looking for their mate or something. But later they were more quiet and content.

These birds are a lot like humans. Wikipedia says that the female birds make two calls for every single call of the male.  Isn't that the way it is with us? Our women do most of the talking... making two calls to every one us guys make... or maybe it's the women have to call twice to get the guys to stop and come to eat!

It is interesting to see how many of these birds like to stand on only one leg. What is with that?

A couple of viewing platforms were extended into the water and they each had telescopes to watch the birds.

We spent some enjoyable time on this platform visiting with friends from our Del Webb community.

Our friends told us when they were here before the sky was dark with so many birds coming in to land at one time...

And the entire marsh was full of sand cranes!  Not so today... but I still really enjoyed coming here.

I was quite content to walk around the path and look at these gorgeous birds in different locations...

And take pictures of several different kinds of ducks.

There were ducks here I don't believe I have ever seen before... like this Northern Shoveler.

Shirley made us a wonderful picnic lunch... and as we ate we watched the birds in the water enjoying the day. What an enjoyable spot to come and spend a few hours.

If only I had a longer lens to get closer... 

Since we still had a few more hours to spend, we decided to go back home thru Bisbee. This open pit mine is right beside the main highway. Bisbee was a happening place at one time.

What a cool historic spot... a really famous mining town. It was voted runner up in May 2000 as the quirkiest town in America... for good reason! We walked thru the old part of town and Shirley did a blog post on this event. Check it out! This town is artsy quirky. 

"I am so blessed to have a sweetheart who talks to me about sandhill cranes and mining towns... I'm madly in love!"

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Romero Pools Hiking Trail

At last the day we hoped for arrived... to hike the beautiful Romero Canyon Trail in the Catalina Mountains to the pools.

It may be rated as moderate difficulty, but for some of us it was a real challenge.

Our goal for today was to hike to the beautiful Romero Pools... which is about 5.5 miles round trip. Some of us went on a little further to see another double waterfall. So it was likely closer to 6 miles total.

There were eleven of us today. Even though it was a couple of weeks since the rains, we had to carefully pick our way across this wash to avoid getting our feet wet.

I was having trouble taking pictures and holding a walking stick, so Anita kindly agreed to help me by taking my walking stick for the first part of the hike, so I could more easily take pictures. I really was glad to have it on the hike, especially when coming back down the mountain.

The surrounding mountains were absolutely spectacular.

The jagged peaks are unusual... like fingers sticking up in places.

From this fork in the trail we were apparently 2.2 miles from our goal.

After the first steep climb to this plateau, we had a wide, easy trail for almost a mile.

I had hoped to see some bighorn sheep... but none today.

With the recent rains the hills were alive with fresh green growth.

I started to lag behind as I stopped to catch a few shots of saguaros.

As we started to gain more elevation we started to see more and more saguaro cactus.

Anita caught this group shot... everyone here except me, who brought up the rear... and Suk, who was somewhere ahead on the trail.

The ocotillos, which a few weeks ago looked dead, were now alive with new leaves.

These rail road tie steps helped to minimize erosion.

The beauty of the Catalina's are always there. 

Our hike today had an elevation gain of about 1500 feet...

And as we climbed, the view of the valley below kept getting more expansive.

I was continually amazed by the rich green hillsides.

Larry Doyle told us about the Buffelgrass, an invasive desert grass that grows up to three feet high and just takes over, crowding out the native desert plants.

A Red-tailed Hawk came soaring around us for several minutes.

It was hard to follow him and capture anything in focus while zooming in with high telephoto... but he was such a beautiful bird... and he gave us all quite a thrill.

We saw several Fairy Duster wildflowers.

I think that this was a Little Blue Wildflower... about ready to open.

There were not many of these smiling yellow Brittlebush flowers out... but soon there will be thousands of them.

I recognized this Desert Broom bush... it is very similar to the broom bush that grows along the coast from Oregon into British Columbia and has such a strong yellow flower. This is a nasty weed that we struggle to get rid of on our property at home in Canada.  The shape and colour of the blossoms are identical.

Looks a lot like the famous Poppy... the California state flower.

This beautiful south facing rock face was a glorious sight... it was so tall the huge saguaro cactus seemed small next to it.

The vertical grain of the rock tells us that the layers that once laid horizontal went thru a terrific upheaval to get turned up like this.

The trail went right by so close to it, we all got a great appreciation of this massive beauty.

It was fun to look back on this gigantic rock when were got higher on the trail.

Once we saw that vertical rock face, I started to see that quite a lot of the Catalina range has vertical rock grain... and those distant fingers we saw earlier likely have vertical grain too.

As we got closer to the summit of our hike the saguaro cactus were much more prevalent.

We also found a lot more large boulders along the trail.

The large rocks with the Common Sotol look great together... but as they start to crowd the path, the parks people have pruned them back a little.

When the ocotillo blooms this will be an amazing place! Once the flowers come out this is one of the most popular hikes.

Once we reached the summit it was a good time to take a rest break and drink some water... we are still about 30 minutes from the pools.

 We were all looking forward to reaching our goal... the Romero Pools.

In places the trail has walls on both sides... almost like walking in a trench.

In other places the path was a jumble of different sized rocks.

Doesn't this rock look like a bird sculpture?

Soon we were hearing the sounds of water... we were getting close to the pools.

At last we could see the pools... and other people were already there.

Some of us hiked a little down stream... but we turned back when we saw a couple hugging and kissing. We gave them a little privacy.

This rock looked like it was a pretty good spot for a picnic... but we kept exploring around.

Olivia was testing the water temperature... thinking about taking a little dip?

Apparently there is water here year around... but the streams slow up to a mere trickle.

This rock looks perfect! "A table for eleven."

Toy grabbed my camera to get me in a picture so I could prove to Shirley I made it to the pools.

Great shot, Toy! Thank you. It was a perfect setting for our lunch... and we were all quite ready for a break with some food and some rest. Now the problem will be to get back on our feet again.

A little up stream a couple were also having a picnic by the pools.

Chuck was taking a panorama shot.

After lunch some of us went a little further upstream... there are lots of "pools" in this Romero Canyon. And some started on the hike back down.

Soon we came upon this double waterfall... and Toy was the first to check it out. With him standing on the rock it helps to give us some scale for the size of the waterfall.

It didm't take a lot of encouragement to get Olivia to take off her shoes and socks and cool off her feet in the ice cold water.

But she didn't linger there very long.  Now where are those dry shoes and socks?

Someone thought this looked like Mt. Rushmore... but with only one president.

As we were hikinging back down we were all running out of energy.

 It was an amazing hike... but all of our tail feathers were dragging. Laurie scared us when she slipped on the wet path just after leaving the highest pools... but she got up and was OK... and able to carry on without any problem.

Anita said she was going to kiss the ground when we got back down... but when I pushed her to do it she said if she got down to do it, she would never be able to get back up again...

So Chuck symbolically did it for her... as Toy faked giving him a kick in the behind!

When we reached the parking lot our watches told us we were gone about five hours.

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."