Monday, December 12, 2011

Bits of Life

Little, and not so little, things that occur every day are what make life so endlessly fascinating.  In so many ways, this was just a 'typical' week, and yet, looking back, I couldn't help but marvel at all those interesting little events.

Now, I wouldn't call this event little, so it leads off the parade.  Living in the open spaces of the West, we were treated to a spectacular view of the lunar eclipse.

My only complaint is that the moon reached the horizon before being totally covered with shadow.  Since the sun was rising on the opposite side of the sky, it wouldn't have been long before my view was obscured anyway.

The week began cold and rainy, with a touch of snow on the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains.  And Monday brought a heavy dose of early morning fog, creating a surreal atmosphere around the neighborhood.  And the perfect photo opportunity!

The cold nights persisted, but the days warmed up into the mid-60's.  Perfect hiking weather.  My friend and fellow docent, Marilyn, and I took this opportunity to hike the Ventana Canyon Trail on the front range of the Catalinas.  Our day began with another glorious sunrise, a good omen for the day..

The giant saguaros stood out against the blue, blue sky.

And the geology revealed itself in lovely patterns and colors.

The trail climbed steadily, sometimes steeply, through the typical saguaro-palo verde-mesquite vegetation, up into the agaves and sotols, little bits of color appearing in the blooming verbena and brittlebush, as well as some small shrubs with fall colors.  We heard canyon wrens and black-tailed gnatcatchers, curve-billed thrashers and black-throated sparrows and spotted them flitting from tree to tree.  A red-tailed hawk flew through the canyon and landed on top of a saguaro, the better to survey his surroundings.

At the ridgetop, the view of the canyon and the valley below was breathtaking.

The north side of the ridge revealed ferns and mosses, sotols, agaves, live oaks and massive granite rock formations.  Water has eroded the rock over the centuries, creating small pools that hold water most of the year.  Dubbed Maiden Pools, this is the perfect spot for lunch and a rest before starting back down the trail.

Just when you start to take this amazing plant life for granted, you spot a scene like this one:

Talk about adaptability!  This saguaro (and the prickly pear too) is growing out of solid rock.  And it's no youngster either.  My guess is that it is well over 100 years old.   Some chatter and movement in nearby trees revealed a pair of canyon towhees.  A dead saguaro made for an interesting sculpture.

The afternoon sun behind the canyon walls made for some cool profile views of the cactus.  Before we knew it, we were back in the parking lot, discussing our next hike.

On Friday, I was back at the Desert Museum for my weekly docent gig.  Once our assignments are over for the day, a number of us docents cruise around the museum, talking to visitors, looking for birds or bugs, or just enjoying the antics of the animals.

With the birth this spring of 14 pups, the black-tailed prairie dog exhibit now teems with activity and is a never-ending source of entertainment.

Not to be outdone, the mountain lions vied for "Most Gorgeous" of the day.

Our best bird sighting of the day was a spotted towhee, whose elusiveness proved impossible for photographs.  The rest of the bird list included Abert's towhee, Cooper's hawk, verdin, cactus wren, gila woodpecker, phainopepla, white-crowned sparrow, pyrrhuloxia, northern mockingbird, northern cardinal, Costa's hummingbird and more.

A burst of color had me reminding myself that it really is December.

May your week bring you some wonderful 'little' bits of beauty!


  1. Incredibly beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I think I will have to try the Ventana Canyon trail. It looks beautiful.

  3. Thank you both for writing. Here's a link to the rest of the Ventana Canyon photos:

  4. Dear Carole, I love this place! I had a membership there at the Sonoran Desert Museum when I lived in Tucson. It is truly a remarkable place and I used to love to bring visitors there when they came to visit me.

    I never got to hike Ventana Canyon, though I know where it is. It looks like a wonderful hike! And I know how rare fog is in the desert. When Gus and I first moved back east we had hoped that we would be able to return to Tucson within a year but so far that has not come to pass. Perhaps someday. I love the photo with the blooming cactus. Thank you for the comment on my blog, and Merry Christmas if I don't get back for a visit before then!

  5. This time of year I envy those of you who live in the desert, where winter hiking is readily available. Come summer, though, I'm glad to have the Sierra close at hand.
    We visited the Sonoran Desert Museum a few years ago, you are fortunate to have that, it's wonderful.

  6. Ventana Canyon trail looks like a beautiful place to hike. I enjoyed all of your pictures. So nice of the prairie dogs and mountain lion to pose for you at the Desert Museum.

  7. I am so glad you stumbled upon my blog and left a comment as it allowed me to discover your incredible blog...

    signed your new follower

  8. Thanks, Carole, for sharing you beautiful photos. I've started a blog as well, for our upcoming cruise around the world. Now THAT will be a mite different from the desert world I inhabit now!


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