Tag Archives: Tucson

Birds in Southern Arizona

We spent about two weeks in southern Arizona, an area known for bird watching.  In addition to spotting birds at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area, and Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, we also delighted at all the birds around our campsites.  Here are some pictures featuring the birds who were willing to stay still long enough to have their portrait taken.  If you can identify a bird, please do so in the comments.  Thanks!


1. Picture taken in Tucson Mountain Park

bird on yucca

2. Cactus Wren? - Picture taken in open area of Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

bird on cholla

3. picture taken at Tucson Mountain Park


4. Juniper Titmouse, Picture taken at Tucson Mountain Park

bird on cholla

5. Picture taken at Tucson Mountain Park


6. Picture taken at Tucson Mountain Park

cactus wren

7. Cactus wren, picture taken in open area at Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

bird in aviary

8. Black headed grosbeak, Taken in aviary at Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

Harris Hawk on Saguaro

9. Harris Hawk perched on a Saguaro during the raptors in flight program at Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum


10. Photo taken in aviary at Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum


11. Kestrel in captivity at Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

red and black bird

12. Vermillion Flycatcher, Photo taken at Tumacacori Mission

Pinyon Jay

13. Mexican Jay, Photo taken in Coronado National Forest near Sonoita

heron in flight

14. Heron, Photo taken at San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area


15. Photo taken at San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area


16. White crowned sparrow, Photo taken at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area

sandhill cranes in flight

17. Sandhill Cranes, Photo taken at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area


18. Shoveler, Photo taken at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area

ducks in flight

19. Ducks, Photo taken at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area


20. Sandpiper, Photo taken at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area

wading bird

21. Killdeer, Photo taken at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area


22. Ladder backed woodpecker, Photo taken at Cochise Stronghold


23. Hummingbird, Photo taken in aviary at Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

Tuscon Mountain Park -Brown Mountain Trail

While Sharon and I were camped in the Gilbert Ray campground in Tuscon Mountain Park near the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, I had a chance to ride in the area.  All reports of the riding in the area mention Brown Mountain as being a tough trail.  It was described as being steep, lots of tight switchbacks and loose baby head sized rocks.  I took this all in and thought it sounded like a great ride for me.  It totally was.  Excellent views and scenery.  I was not at all afraid of the steep switchbacks with ledges and loose rocks, the chain fruit cholla cactus on the flatter lower section of the loop on the other hand are terrifying.  This loop has a lot of climbing to keep your heart rate up.  I would call this loop classic Sonoran desert riding as the conditions change constantly and quickly without warning, ranging from fast, wide open, gently twisting smooth hard-pack to trail covered with loose rock and big ledges and steep.

Below is a video consisting of two clips spliced together that give a good feel of the Brown Mountain Trail.

49th Week in Review: southern Arizona

This week was our first full week on the road in over a month.  It is interesting to see both how quickly we remember how to work together as well as how quickly the challenges of life on the road present themselves.  Our tent still feels like our own little bit of home, and at the same time we are still strengthened by staying in the homes of family and friends.  The road is still the road, we are just getting more used to it.

Jay and campsite in Ironwood Forest National Monument

Our first sunrise back on the road at our campsite in Ironwood Forest National Monument

Being back on the road we are also following other road trippers we know more closely.  Jay’s long time friend Sheena and her husband Brad just started their around-the-world road trip.  We crossed paths (but never met up!) as they headed from Phoenix into Mexico and now into Baja California in their VW van.

Our new friends, Wendy and Jim, who we stayed with in Colorado are on the road in their own around-the-world adventure.  Unfortunately they are currently in Orange County seeking medical attention before they continue since Jim has been struggling with kidney stones.

We have also been following Ayo and Yair, who we have never met as they enjoy southern California.  Ayo and Yair are modern nomads, and young ones at that.  We hope to meet them as our paths will probably cross when we head to California next week.

 Product of the Week:


Video of the Week:


Hours volunteered:  Sharon attended an online volunteer training for StartingBloc (1.5 hours), Jay assisted Lee Blackwell in surveying a possible re-route of the Arizona Trail in the Coronado National Forest (8 hours), Sharon and Jay volunteered for Trips for Kids in Tucson (5 hours, combined).

States: 1 – Arizona: Tucson, Tubac, Nogales, Patagonia, Sonoita

Budget: Between the Blackwell’s generosity and our Christmas money, we are doing well with staying under budget.

People Visited: Lee & Joan Blackwell

Nights under the stars: 4 – Ironwood Forest National Monument, Tucson Mountain Park, and Coronado National Monument

Best meal: Enchiladas at the Blackwell’s

Best beer: Nimbus Brewing’s blend of Oatmeal Stout and Monkeyshine Ale

volunteer at az sonoran desert museum

We enjoyed visiting the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum and are thankful to their large dedicated staff of volunteers

Tucson’s Beyond Event – Trips for Kids

This weekend we were in Tucson for the first anniversary of the mass shooting, and had the opportunity to be part of a special community event, Beyond Tucson.  Beyond Tucson “commemorates the tragedy of January 8th, celebrates the spirit of togetherness we felt in the days and months afterward, and commits us to working together to build a stronger community through our actions every day.”  Last January 8th, Jared Lee Loughner shot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, members of her staff, and several bystanders in the crowd at a public event.  Six people were killed, thirteen people were injured, and the community of Tucson was shaken by this violent attack.

Strangely enough, on the Beyond Tucson day, our morning actually started with us being awoken in our tent around 6:00 am to shouting and threats of violence right outside our tent. A family had parked in the tent site next to us in the middle of the night.  We had heard the car and loud talking about 3:00 am, but had managed to fall back asleep and hope for the best.  The voices turned from disgruntled to threatening and after the woman arguing with the man told him she would call the cops if she had a phone, we snuck out of our tent to call 911 on my cell phone.  We sat on a bench near the campground entrance watching the sunrise and waiting for some sign that it was safe to return to our tent.  An older man, visibly drunk, staggered by us muttering to himself.  I recognized his voice as being the same as our angry threatening neighbor, so after he walked out of the campground we walked back and started breakfast.  Soon, the police showed up and spoke to the woman in the car.  I presume she explained that the man had left on his own and after the police officer drove away she rolled up her sleeping bag and drove off.  We were relieved, but left with a lot of questions as to who these people were, if they were better off for our actions, and what options we had had to handle the situation.

After our stressful morning, we were grateful to head straight to the Fantasy Islands trails and meet up with Trips for Kids, who were hosting a mountain biking event as part of the community-wide Beyond Tucson event.  Through Beyond Tucson there were more than 30 events going on all over the metropolitan area, all designed to bring Tucsonans together in an active healthy way.  We saw firsthand how this sort of community building could reassure us about living in Tucson after having been concerned for our safety just hours before.  We had a wonderful afternoon sitting in the sun and introducing Tucsonans to mountain biking.

With so many events going on for kids all over the city, we did not have very many attendees.  Our first participants were actually two women who had come to check out the trails and realized that their hybrid bikes were not going to do well on the sand and wash crossings along this trail.  I loaned my bike to one of the women, and another volunteer led them on the Bunny Loop so they could try out mountain biking for the first time.  They came back grinnning from ear to ear and couldn’t wait to go out and buy some mountain bikes.  They may not have technically been kids, but they sure felt like kids again and were also looking forward to going biking with their grandchildren.

Right when those two women were finishing their loop we had a Hispanic family with several adults and one child show up at the trails.  I don’t know if they had heard this event was going on or just happened to come at the right time, but we were able to give them some helmets, loan bikes to two of the young adults, and then lead the whole group on a ride around the Bunny Loop.  It was another first time mountain bike experience for three of the riders (one 11 year old girl and two young adults).  I rode behind the young woman, Daniela and offered advice and encouragement.  It was so awesome to see her learning a few basic mountain biking techniques and start riding longer and longer stretches without having to stop or scream.  I was reminded of how far I have come in my own riding.

I didn’t think I was qualified to teach mountain biking, but now I realize that I am actually a valuable asset at this point since I am confident enough to teach the basics, but still new enough to remember what the challenges are for brand new riders.  It was one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences I have had in awhile and I can’t wait to have an opportunity like that again.

Photo Review: Ironwood Forest National Monument & AZ Sonoran Desert Museum

ironwood forest national monument

fishhook barrel cactus

chain fruit cholla

ironwood forest national monument

heart shaped hole on saguaro cactus



raptor show at az sonoran desert museum

Harris Hawk


hummingbird sitting on next

48th Week in Review: A Fresh Start

This week we enjoyed celebrating New Years and my birthday.  We also had the chance to ride at McDowell Mountain Regional Park with Jay’s dad.  Today we leave Phoenix and head back to life in motion.  We will be spending the next two weeks (approximately), exploring southern Arizona.  We look forward to visiting Tucson, Bisbee, Sierra Vista, and Tubac.  If you know someone in southern Arizona we should meet up with, let us know.  We are also interested in recommendations for free camping and for volunteer opportunities.

Product of the Week:

Video of the Week:

Hours volunteered:  5 hours, Sharon is working on a project for Fresh Start Treasures

States: 1 – Arizona: Phoenix, Chandler, Tucson

Budget: Even with some expenses this week we managed to stay under thanks to Christmas money.

People Visited: No new visits

Nights under the stars: 1

tammie coe cake

My birthday cake

Best meal: Birthday dinner at Sushi on Shea and a Tammie Coe cake for dessert

Best beer: Alaskan Winter Ale – Jay and I were both pleasantly surprised by this seasonal beer that features spruce tips.

Barrio Brewing Company

barrio brewery

This is hands down the best brewery in Arizona. They have up to 12 beers on tap at any given time and during our visit, there were 11. This makes for quite the sample flight. The flight started with their Tuscon Blonde  which was very crisp and light. This would be a good staple on a super hot day. Next was the Hefeweizen  which was a real stand out. If came unfiltered and cloudy. It had a great citrus flavor and was surprisingly complex. It had no shortage of flavor and was more like a Belgian triple than a typical Hefeweizen complete with higher than average alcohol content.  The only style I did not like was the Taylor Jayne Raspberry because its just too sweet and fruity.

Flight at Barrio Brewing Company

The sample flight at Barrio (we split it)

Next up was the Copperhead Pale Ale.  It has a nice copper color and was the hoppiest beer of the bunch. Truly a monstrously hopped beer. The Redcat Amber was smooth and well balanced. Honestly it was pretty good but not a stand out given its company. The IPA was another stand out; lots of complex hop flavor without being too bitter.  The Oatmeal Stout was a well done classic style stout. The Porter was another stand out and was like the oatmeal stout in color and character, but with more hop flavor, more alcohol, and more flavor. It would make a fine breakfast beer. There was a classic German style boch in the tasting line up that was also an excellent beer. Then we get to the high alcohol beers in their line up. The NCAA ale, which was 11% alcohol. This one was heavy and had an aroma like whiskey, cloudy dark color and tasted like it was aged in a whiskey barrel that maybe still had some whiskey in it. There was also the Scottish ale with its super tart malt flavor and double digit ABV.

Barrio Brewing Hefeweizen

Our favorite.. the Hefeweizen

The best part was the pictured pint was only 2.75. They also served up some good food but it was over shadowed by all the great beers.

You can find Barrio Brewing Company at the corner of Toole and 16th Street in Tucson, Arizona.