December 30, 2017 Tucson, Arizona

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

A Short Stay in Tucson

Slowly heading east to the Texas coast and then on to Grand Isle, Louisiana, I had originally planned to stay and explore the Tucson area for a week or so while waiting for the strange Texas winter weather to moderate before heading that way. I have never been a big fan of city life, I just have no idea how people put up with the congestion. There seems to be road construction everywhere I went and traffic was just too much for me, so I ended up staying only two days.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

I managed to find the Snyder Hill BLM area just off Highway 86 that I had read about on some blogs.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

Not a terribly attractive place, located next to the highway, there are decent gravel interior roads, though getting off the highway into the site proved pretty touchy because of the road construction. There are no facilities here, no dumpster, water, or dump station and the folks camped here proved to be a mixed bag. There are some tenters here ( loud music ), but mostly used by self contained RV’s. Common courtesy, at least during my stay, was a little lacking here. The 5th wheel pictured above ran a light show on the side of his rig and found it necessary to run his generator ALL night.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

These folks across the way from me were nice enough to shut their generator down around 11 PM.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

There are many level spots with a little vegetation around them, but all of the nicer ones were occupied so I ended up setting up along the wide main gravel road within the site, as did most others that arrived after me. The price is right ( free ) but I doubt I would stay here again.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

I drove north to the west section of Saguaro National Park my first day here and did the East section the next day.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

I had visited this area several years ago, but still enjoyed the seeing the dense saguaro forests here.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

I managed to handle all the dusty gravel roads in the West section of the park with no problems, the East section has a very nice paved eight mile one way loop road. I was there around noon and though the drive is very interesting, the harsh noontime light made me forget about doing any shooting. Definitely would recommend doing the East section in the early AM or very late afternoon.

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

Not much in the way of birds in either section of the park.

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

I saw several Phainopeplas, but shooting a black bird under brilliant blue skies does not produce great results.

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

Still, I had to take the opportunity since I really haven’t had that many chances at this particular bird.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

The only other bird that showed itself was the Northern Mockingbird.

Pinal Air Park

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Driving east on I-10 just northwest of Tucson, you catch a glimpse of some brightly colored tails of some large aircraft, so I went online and found that what I saw was the Pinal Air Park.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Since it wasn’t that far from Saguaro N.P. ( west ), I drove up to investigate.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Unfortunately, you really can’t see all that much once you are there since the area is fenced and to really appreciate the scale of the place and the size of some of the aircraft there, you would need to be able to get inside. The part of the Air Park nearest the road seems to be a boneyard of older commercial aircraft.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Farther away, you can see some of the newer aircraft stored here.

Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

I drove up I-10 to visit the Sweetwater Wetlands, within the city of Tucson, to check out the birds there. This is a very nice city park where they treat waste water and have created several vegetation filled holding ponds that attract a great variety of birds. Apparently not that many in December it would seem.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

But after walking all the two plus miles of level gravel paths throughout the park and not taking a single bird shot, just saw a few sparrows and coots, with a couple ducks in the distance, I did come across the most cooperative wild bobcat I have ever encountered. This animal was obviously very habituated to humans.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

I almost walked right past it, no more than 15 feet away in the shadows on the side of the path. When I realized what it was, I figured as soon as I stopped and put the camera to my face, it would obviously bolt and disappear in the brush.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

Well, to my great surprise, that certainly didn’t happen … and I got to take as many shots as I wanted as it went about it’s business watching something on the edge of the water ( though it never did make any attempt to catch whatever it was watching ), then surprising  me by stretching out and relaxing, even doing some grooming, while I stood just 20 feet away.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

Finally it tired of playing wildlife model for me and slowly walked off …

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

… disappearing into the brush along the gravel path.

Sky Island Highway

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

I drove the 29 mile Mount Lemmon Scenic Highway ( Sky Island Highway ) on a warm early afternoon where the temperature at the base of the mountain, on the outskirts of the city, was a balmy 78 degrees.

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

Arriving at the end of the road, at the appropriately named summit town of Summerhaven, located at an elevation of 8,000 feet, the temperature was a refreshing 55 degrees. As everywhere else I went around Tucson, this place was crammed with traffic, no place to park …. I can’t imagine what it must be like in the summer up here, when getting away from the scorching desert floor heat must bring a lot of the Tucson population up here.

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

The highway is an interesting drive, with an elevation change of around 6,000 feet over it’s 29 mile distance. Lots of turnoffs with some spectacular vistas over the desert and the city of Tucson.

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

I particularly enjoyed the hoodoos that tower over the road about two thirds of the way up the mountain. On this day, the distant vistas were a bit obscured by haze.

To return to my campsite from the base of the mountain, I had to travel through about ten miles of congested road through the city to get to I-10. At 2:30 in the afternoon, this ten miles took over an hour to do, untold number of traffic lights, a little road construction, and bumper to bumper traffic made me lose my desire to further explore the Tucson area. Can’t begin to imagine what that traffic would be like in another hour or so when there would be commuter rush hour traffic joining the parade. I simply do not understand how people can handle this sort of stuff on a continual daily basis.

So I will depart Tucson and continue on my way to Texas tomorrow. Watching the unseasonable cold weather in Texas, I will be stopping in Deming, NM for a few days to wait for the cold weather to break, and to arrange a FedEx delivery of my Revlimid to the Deming Walgreens. It looks like the weather will warm up enough to continue east by Thursday, but if not, I will stay put until the danger of ice or snow has passed.

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