Can we say hot? Every single day in June was over 100 degrees with a few extra special days in the 110s. On top of that the humidity started to rise. Now I know that has to happen before our summer monsoons can start but that knowledge hardly makes it more bearable. Especially since we still rely on an evaporative cooler (aka swamp cooler) to control the temps in our house. Swamps work fantastic in hot and dry conditions but their efficacy declines drastically as the humidity rises.
Escaping from the heat was on our minds as we headed north towards Oracle to tour Biosphere 2 (B2). It was a first visit for both of us which is rather silly when you consider that we’ve lived nearby for all these years. B2 was a privately funded experiment designed to replicate Earth systems with an eye toward space colonization. Completed in 1991 the 3.14-acre enclosed structure contained five artificially created biomes (rainforest, desert, grassland, ocean, and wetland), an agricultural area, and crew living quarters.
In late 1991 eight researchers (Biospherians) were sealed inside the airtight, glass-domed enclosure with their tools and a few animals. The experiment was designed to last for two years with the intent of survival in a self-contained system. In theory, the Biospherians would live off the food they grew and would optimize their atmosphere by altering the amount of foliage grown.
We very much appreciated May’s mild temperatures, Tucson did not officially reach 100 degrees until the first day of June. We even received a few drops of rain early in the month. Our garden really took off. The watermelon and cucumbers set on fruit and their vines draped over the sides of the raised beds.
We kept up the pace of projects around the yard, knowing that summer’s heat would soon be upon us. We finally applied the finish stucco coat to our BBQ area. It took all day and we were bushed afterward but we’re happy with the results. Now we just need to buy a grill…
It can be rather hard to get any work done around here since the Sonoran Desert critters are so active and we enjoy watching them. Especially as they flit, hop, run, slither, dash, and mosey through our yard. Desert Spiny Lizards and Mourning Doves are mating. Cactus Wrens, Curve-billed Thrashers, and Great Horned Owls are frantically feeding nestlings while Gambel’s Quails herd their broods. Young Round-tailed Ground Squirrels, Harris’ Antelope Ground Squirrels, and Desert Cottontails are out exploring and playing.
Charles atop Samaniego Peak
Charles has the full story and photos of our recent hike to Samaniego Peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains: Samaniego Peak – June 2013. Very fun day, the tough final bushwhack to the peak and hot return trip notwithstanding. (And don’t miss his Hummingbird banding photos from earlier in the day, on Mt Lemmon.)
I’ve been thinking about this one particular canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains for 15–20 years. Wondering what mysteries and beauty were held high up in the headwaters of the Cañada del Oro (often shortened to just CDO), a major watershed in the northwest Tucson basin.
About time to go tackle it, eh? Turns out it was also high on the list for good friend and fellow outdoor adventurer Charles.
Starting high in the Ponderosa pines.
Looking southwest to Cathedral Rock, Window Rock, and Mount Kimball.
Looking north-northwest down the west fork of the CDO drainage.
Blue is for … adventure.
Pretty tall, 4-5′, maybe Bracken (Pteridium equilinum).
One of hundreds of stream crossings.
Amazingly wet canyon.
Cattle fence near the junction with FR 736.
We set out very early Saturday morning and hiked about 9 hours: 7am to 4pm, covering almost 21 miles down from atop Mt Lemmon to the end of Lago del Oro near Saddlebrooke. (Huge thanks to our ladies for the dropoff and pickup.)
It was wonderful! Water, water, water. Did I mention water? We were both blown away by how wet the canyon was; it continued to flow on its northward bend even after we joined the Charouleau Gap road.
For all the beautiful evidence see Charles’s great set of 26 photos from our adventure and his full route profile via GPS (elevation, mileage, etc).
Hat tip to Sirena Dufault for her thorough report about this exact route—very helpful in our planning.
After one last winter storm the second weekend of the month, March was warm and dry. Plants frozen back began to bud out, even some I thought for sure were goners put out new leaves. Resilient little buggers. Our Spring wildflower show wasn’t spectacular but it wasn’t half bad. Our yard had a lot less diversity but Scorpionweeds bloomed in large numbers dotted with a few California poppies. The gold discs glowing amongst a bed of purple was quite stunning. A small native bunch grass carpeted our yard; it looked lush and inviting. We enlisted a cadre of desert cottontails to help with the “mowing.”
Lance’s parents were the first to try out our new al fresco dining area created by the back porch extension. The weather cooperated nicely and our luncheon was a success. After the construction work ended Lance and I were finally able to tackle completing our backyard landscaping plan. Out here it makes sense to get as much done as possible before the searing summer heat.
We were excited to finally plant seeds in our raised beds. We have been pleasantly surprised by the success of our smaller garden this winter; lettuce, cilantro, carrots, garlic, and onions sailed through undaunted by the cold temperatures. The morning after every freezing night I would peek out the kitchen window at the frost covered ground and say, “Well, there goes our garden.” Thankfully, I was wrong every single time. We haven’t purchased lettuce in months!
After settling back into our normal routine we made a trip to our local Humane Society. We had finally decided to adopt another cat. It took us a while to make that decision after losing Rookie. The three of us—Lance, Bailey, and myself—had settled into a calm, mellow routine in the past three months. Lance and I were on the fence about adopting another cat and until February, we’d been too busy to do much about it. (For the record, Bailey was adamantly against it.)
Ironically, the impetus for the adoption came from Bailey. In the past few months he’d gained three pounds. Quite a difference for a cat that has weighed 12 pounds his entire adult life. Clearly Bailey needed someone to play with; someone to chase around (or to chase him). Our parameters: young male, not a kitten, but not much over a year old.
A scrawny but healthy orange and white tabby fit the bill. Bailey was the opposite of thrilled when we returned with the kitty that night. To his credit the new guy wasn’t much phased by Bailey’s attitude. Kitty is bowlegged in the front and tends to slouch which makes his legs look really short. We thought of calling him our Cowboy Corgi Kitty but that was too much of a mouthful so we named him Keaton.
When the weather allows we like to start the New Year off by hitting the trail. The weather in Tucson usually obliges and this year was no different. It was a bit on the cool side but sunny as the five of us set out (Lance’s parents: Tom and Libby, and sister Cammy). Our chosen route through Catalina Regional Park was not the most adventurous but it proved very interesting as we were soon surrounded by wildlife. Desert Cottontails darted through the underbrush, flocks of birds chirped from all sides, and Coyotes shared our trail.
We picnicked next to an old pond that a group of volunteers help keep clear and clean. The location proved to be quite popular with our avian friends: a Black Phoebe hunted from the ledge of the bird blind, a Cooper’s Hawk glided in, a Curve-billed Thrasher churned through the leaf litter, a House Wren noisily scolded us, Lesser Goldfinches trilled, Red-tailed Hawks rode thermals, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitted in the branches above.
Our return trip was full of flocks of Lawrence’s Goldfinches and Chipping and Red-winged Sparrows. We also glimpsed a Northern Harrier as it coursed low over the open field. To cap it all off we spotted a Great Horned Owl high up in a tall pine tree. Our outing ended back at Lance’s parent’s house where we relaxed and capped the day off with a yummy dessert, homemade by Lance’s mom. What a lovely way to start the New Year!
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.
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.
One week away until my first long road race, the 60-mile version of the El Tour de Tucson. I think I’m ready! Lots of miles of training, riding 2–3 times a week. For keeping track I’ve been using the Strava iOS app.
Here are my training stats since in September 2012, when I purchased my first road bike and started using Strava.
Bike: Trek 311
Distance: 299.3 mi
Time: 19 hr 24 m
Biggest Ride: 25.1 mi
Biggest Climb: 552 ft
Elev Gain: 6,257 ft
View my full profile and follow me on Strava: http://www.strava.com/athletes/lancewillett.