October Warmth

It was difficult to turn our thoughts to typical fall activities since October in Tucson started off with temperatures in the high 90s. While people in other parts of the country were raking leaves and turning up their furnaces we were watching butterflies swarm our flower beds and swimming in our pool. It wasn’t all fun and games—we had a bunch of yard work to do and the hot weather didn’t help with that at all.

The second Friday of the month we had a lovely dinner with Matt (the founder of Automattic, where Lance works) and his sister Charleen. We offered them a choice between two of our favorite local restaurants, Mexican at El Charro or steak at El Corral; they opted for the beef. We enjoyed the dinner and conversation.

Dinner at El Corral

That Sunday Lance boarded the first flight of his multi-leg trip to Montevideo for a work meeting. Good thing he had planned to arrive a day early since his flight out of Miami was canceled. After catching a few winks in a hotel he hopped on the early morning flight and finally arrived only about 12 hours late. No one else had any trouble traveling so they were all able to get right down to work. Lucky Lance had similar difficulties on his return—arriving home after an eight hour delay. Lance was understandably tired when he returned but he declared the meeting a success.

I had less glowing news to report since it was during Lance’s absence that Rookie died. Not exactly a cheery homecoming.

The following weekend we drove east to the Gabe Zimmerman Davidson Canyon Trailhead to explore a section of the Arizona Trail. We had not been out there before so when I read that Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation was leading a hike we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately we had a very, very windy morning—at least the sun was shining.

Union Pacific Crossing Treastle

Our group headed south on the ridgeline trail which afforded us an expansive view over Davidson Canyon along with tantalizing glimpses into the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve. There was no respite from the wind, however. As you can probably guess we saw very few birds which was a disappointment. We did however stumble across a few flowering plants (definitely late bloomers). The best part was being introduced to our first Red Pineapple Cactus (Echinomastus erectocentrus).

This showy cactus is a bit unique in that it is not found at elevations lower than 3,000 feet (most cactuses are not frost tolerant so lower elevation is usually better). It also seems to prefer limestone, a trait it shares with ocotillo. While the cactus only grows about a foot tall its bright red spines attract attention. During our hike the spines were glowing in the sunlight—a visual treat that I tried but failed to capture with my camera. We’d love to have such a beautiful cactus in our yard but they don’t transplant well, we aren’t at the right elevation, and they are considered a species of concern.

The wind blew itself out overnight so the next morning was sunny and warm. As a result birds were much more available as we traipsed around Sweetwater Wetlands. We didn’t see any rarities but it was just nice to be out.

Great Horned Owl

We ended the month with a jaunt down south to the small, artsy town of Tubac. After grabbing a bite to eat we hit a section of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. It was a rather fitting time to be on the trail since it was on October 23, 1775 that Captain Anza’s expedition left Tubac on their way to establish a settlement at San Francisco Bay. Thankfully, we were not burdened with all our belongings nor were we setting out on a 1,200 mile walk.

The trail meandered along the Santa Cruz River, which actually had some water in it courtesy of a water treatment plant in Nogales. We were grateful for the shade of the cottonwood trees since it was a warm afternoon. We shared the trail with large lazy cows whose rhythmic chewing of cud contrasted with the busy flitting of birds.

While titmice and woodpeckers put on quite a show the highlight of our afternoon was a pair of Great Horned Owls. They allowed us a few photos before silently gliding away. They were out awfully early in the day—I wonder if they had special plans for Halloween?

Coot in Green Pond

Photos: View all our photographs from October Warmth.