Saturday, February 28, 2015


Yes, after thinking about it for about six years, we finally made the effort yesterday and had a nice trip to the top of Mt Lemmon.  We had a pretty fine day weather wise and with the many stops for photography, the trip stretched out to over eleven hours.  The temperature at the Tucson level was 19C (67F?) when we started up and at 8,000 feet it was 10C (50F).  It was also very windy the whole time so felt cooler.  We found a sheltered spot to have our leisurely lunch, sitting in our lawn chairs behind the car on a side road.  Surprisingly, there was just a dusting of snow in the shady spots at the top.  I expected there would at least be some snow accumulation.
We ended our great day with nice supper at Gourmet Girls, a gluten free bakery/bisto.  Aileen really enjoyed not having to be on guard when ordering as the whole store is completely gluten free.

Shortly after starting up the mountain, we were able to spy down on some of the houses built on the hillside.

Looking out over the greater Tucson area which is far larger than I had expected

Some blooming Brittle Bush adds a little cheer to the Saguaros

I enjoyed the neat cloud patterns contrasting with the stark landscape

The engineers did a fine job building the highway up Mt Lemmon as there are no really steep grades and mostly gentle sweeping corners.  If you look closely, you can see the highway in the bottom left corner as well as the top right.

I went out and stood where the lady in blue is 

And this is the view I got

Here's a closer shot down to the highway

Aileen and Mitzy with an interesting old Juniper tree

This Juniper lead a tortuous life out on what is called Windy Point

The view to the southeast from the 8,000 foot level near the top of Mt Lemmon

Spotted this hole (arch?) above the highway and thought it all a bit artsy

Across from the arch was this Duck Rock and friend

Down near the bottom in the afternoon we saw lots of Santa Catalina Prairie Clover blooming.  Photos were hard to get because of the wind.

Some local grass in a sheltered spot

And lastly, the moon rising over the Saguaro studded hillside

Saturday, February 21, 2015


When the sun shines now, the poppies look great

I had a small group on the Tuesday ride.  The one on the left is 81 and the two on the right are 83.  The chap on the right just bought his first ATV at 83, having never ridden before.

Lots of neat skies on Tuesday

With the small group, we took time to play on the sand hills

We also found a new trail and there were several bee colonies along there

Yeasterday I took our neighbour's group to the Coke Ovens.  This was about as sunny as it got even thought the forecast was for mostly sunny.

Gayle and Bud wiener fishing alongside the muddy Gila River

The Coke Ovens

We had another group of four ATVs catch up to us.  Since they were new to the area and unfamiliar with the trails, they were very happy to follow us until I pointed them toward their destination. These two labs were good riders but a little bored with having to stay aboard while the people visited.  In yet another small world moment, one of those couples from Iowa used to live in the same small Montana town as our neighbour's Gayle and Danette.  They remembered hearing about each other and of course knew lots of the same people.


Parry's Penstemon

The Gila River has quite a bit of water in it as they have opened the dam to irrigate crops out in the valley.  You can see the water level on Gayle and Danette's RZR.

Firecracker Penstemon

A little lizard we saw along the trail.  His body would be 4-5 inches long.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


A recent ride took us to the ghost town of Cochran where lots of wieners were sacrificed

After our recent heavy rains, there is lots of green growth under the mesquite trees

These two photos show some of the hills across the Gila River from Cochran

Our Friday ride last week took us below Mineral Mtn and the green desert.  I think this is perhaps the greenest desert we have experienced since starting to visit the southwest in 2008.

Also last Friday, we stumbled on three young guys playing with this machine.  They had broken one, rolled another so were down to just this one.

Our Thursday ride this week out to the Coke Ovens included driving down this enchanting section

They had released more water from the San Carlos Dam causing higher water at our crossing which made for a bit of excitement.  This is Sandi, one of our many lady riders.

The Mexican Poppies are starting to bloom which is that yellow patch up on the hill

We had so many riders out this Thursday we split into three groups to make things more manageable.  We met for lunch and had 31 ATVs and well over 40 people!

South Butte

This is further north of the Gila River with North Butte on the right

Always intriguing Box Canyon in late afternoon light 

More poppies and no that isn't my shadow, it is a dead Cholla cactus

Mesquite and poppy

North Butte with South Butte in the background.  The Gila River flows between the two buttes

A co-operative Red Tail Hawk shot with my Canon SX50 at 1200 mm equivalent plus 2.5 digital zoom.  This little camera continues to amaze me!

The desert continues to green up after our heavy rains of late.  I think this could turn out to be a super wildflower bloom year.  I hope we are able to stay long enough to participate.  We are down to about six weeks until our last possible departure date.  If the weather turns warmer than normal, we will be heading further north earlier than the end of March.  In any event, we must be across the border by April 10 and we require at least seven days to travel our route back to cross into the Okanagan at Oroville, WA.  
I've been enjoying many trips out in the desert, riding three and four days a week with different groups.  The most fun is a small group I lead consisting of Aileen, two neighbour couples with RZRs and another neighbour on a regular ATV whose wife doesn't ride because of recent back surgery.  We poke around at a slower speed and there is no problem with my stopping for photos.  Some of the other groups I lead are quite forgiving when I made quick stops for a photo that needs to be taken.  I come home from my rides and usually get busy right away editing my best shots of the day which I then send out to the whole ATV group which numbers in excess of 75 households.  Since buying my Canon SX50, I have also been taking quite a few video clips but sharing them isn't so easy.  I have been putting them into a separate folder and plan to share them with the group before we leave in the Spring.  Since I am approaching 10 GBs of file size for the videos already, they're going to have to bring me a flash drive with enough free space for me to download them.