Desert Delights…

DSCN6193

Hi Friends!

One might think that having lunch with a Roadrunner would be the highlight of any day,

but our afternoon was even more memorable!

Recently, while exploring the Tonto National Forest, in southern Arizona,

we were drawn to so many beautiful oases in the desert.

I can’t wait to take you to two of my perennial favorites!

We seek out these breathtaking oases each time we visit our family nearby.

♥♥♥

Come join us!

For our afternoon hike, you will need:

sturdy shoes, a hat, water bottle, sunscreen,…

and you might want to bring your camera along, too.  ☺

DSCN6245

Follow me…. but watch your step!

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

Don’t worry. I have been here many times.

We won’t get lost.

Let’s begin our hike at the trail head, and walk down

to a beautiful oasis.

DSCN6195

The lower Salt River winds its way through the Tonto National Forest.

The Salt River provides a lush green oasis

in the midst of the harsh Sonoran desert.

People love to fish, canoe, and hike here.

Turn around, very s-l-o-w-l-y.

You will see the reason that I come

to this breathtaking oasis!

DSCN6198

These mountains bring tears to my eyes

every time I hike here.

I stand here in awe… fully mindful and present.

My worries seem small whenever I stand in this beautiful place.

DSCN6197

The Salt River is low at this time of year.

We can walk out onto the river bed.

I just love to look at the river rocks,

worn smooth over time.

During the summer months, when a nearby dam is opened,

the Salt River grows much wider and deeper.

The river flows over the

rocks where we are standing.

DSCN6201

Saguaro Lake, with 22 miles of shoreline, is actually a reservoir. It was created when the Stewart Mountain Dam was built on the Salt River in 1930.

Just a short drive brings us to our next

beautiful oasis.

Saguaro Lake is a sparkling gem in the desert!

It is very popular with boaters.

Visitors can cruise the lake on the Desert Belle tour boat,

and enjoy a wonderful meal on the patio of the marina,

overlooking Saguaro Lake.

It’s so hard to believe that this beautiful lake

is surrounded by the wild desert!

We love to come to the lake

for a picnic breakfast

at sunrise,

and we are not the only ones…  ☺

DSCN6208

It’s mid-afternoon already, but our hike continues.

The best is yet to come!

We can find the trail head for

my favorite place to hike

at Saguaro Lake,

 just past Butcher Jones Beach.

This trail is very uneven,

as it meanders along the water’s edge.

DSCN6243

Peregrine Point, along the trail at Butcher Jones Recreation Site

Be very careful, as we walk up along this narrow, winding trail.

I am always so amazed to see

these giant Saguaros

growing at the edge of this lovely lake,

named in their honor!

DSCN6239

I always stop to take in all of the unique beauty

of this special place,

where the water and the desert come together

side-by-side.

DSCN6235

We can hike quite a distance, before the trail becomes much too rugged for me.

Then we will just turn around and retrace our steps.

DSCN6232

Oh, how I love this very spot!   ↑

Calm.   Peace.    Solace.

DSCN6264

Looking across the lower Salt River to Red Mountain.  The mountain is on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Native American land.

Driving south along the lower Salt River,

we always stop here to admire Red Mountain.

Seeing this beautiful mountain

always means we are

very close

to

the dearest part

of the Arizona desert…

my parents!

We were here celebrating their birthdays,

 making wonderful family memories,

and counting our blessings.

♥♥♥

Thank you so much for hiking with us today!

I appreciate the time you spend visiting and truly love your comments.

Hoping you will find solace in nature this week…

Sending sunshine!

♡ Dawn

Seeking an Oasis…

Oasis

Hi Friends!

These are such difficult times…

The past week has been filled with so much

sadness and worry,

no matter where in the world we live.

Sometimes it helps

just a little bit

to seek out an oasis…

⚛⚛⚛

We just returned from a wonderful visit with family in southwest Arizona.

Autumn in the desert is truly lovely!

Just a short walk from their suburban neighborhood

takes us into the beautiful, wild desert of the Tonto National Forest.

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

It is one of the most beautiful places I know.

The rugged mountains, prickly cacti, majestic Saguaros,

and dry, red earth seem timeless under the bright, blue desert sky.

The Sajuaro cactus is the state 'tree' of Arizona.

The Saguaro cactus is the state ‘tree’ of Arizona.

Yet hiking in the desert, with my ever-present large-brimmed hat, water bottle, strong sunscreen, and camera (of course!) often feels very harsh. Over the years, I have learned which cacti I shouldn’t touch, the safe way to pick up an interesting rock, and which desert animals are poisonous.  Yet, I always walk through the desert with great care, paying close attention to each step I take. (Oh, how I love the native desert plants, the tiny wildflowers, the birdsong, and the gentle breezes! However, the creatures of the desert ~ scorpions, tarantulas, rattlesnakes, javelinas, and vultures ~ have never been my ‘cup of tea.’)

When it’s my turn to choose our hiking destinations, I always seek out the oases in the desert.

Surprisingly, there are many

green, fertile spots where water can be found

in the Tonto National Forest!

⚛⚛⚛

It was so relaxing to spend the day

following the lower Salt River,

as it wound its way through the rough, desert terrain.

The area near the river felt like a calm, peaceful oasis!

LowerSaltRiver5

The lower Salt River winds its way through the Tonto National forest, in Arizona.

This riparian area, along the banks of the Salt River,

is so different from the harsh, dry desert that surrounds it.

This greenbelt of land is filled with trees and bushes that could never survive

in the dry, rugged conditions nearby.

LowerSaltRiverAZ

I always feel at ease hiking along the rocky banks of the Salt River.

It feels more familiar to a Midwestern girl!

Fish can be seen jumping and splashing in the slow moving water.

Reflections of green, deciduous trees catch my attention.

Water Birds

Water birds stand quietly on the riverbank before flying off to other nearby spots.

Squirrels frolic between the tree roots.

Hoof prints in the mud reveal places

where wild horses stop for fresh water.

LowerSaltRiver4

The lower Salt River is a natural boundary between the Tonto National Forest (foreground) and the Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on the other side of the river.

As we walked through this riparian zone,

we noticed that other people were also attracted to this oasis in the desert.

There were people tent camping under the trees,

fishing from the riverbank,

and kayaking along the meandering waterway.

Such a comfortable refuge, in the midst of the Sonoran desert!

LowerSaltRiver6

Tall reeds, growing along the riverbank, provide an important habitat for animals that can only survive in this riparian zone.

After several warm days,

we delighted in a lovely, cool, November day for our hike.

The temperature was only 60 degrees as we walked along the river.

Puffy clouds above us cast beautiful shadows on the mountains.

Welcome rains would fall over night.

(Rain is a real celebration in the Sonoran desert!)

A roadrunner walked along the road on its way to the area along the river

A Greater roadrunner walked along the road, then walked toward the riverbank.

We had a fascinating guest at our picnic lunch at Blue Point!

A Greater roadrunner strolled back and forth through the picnic area,

graciously stopping to pose for our camera.

Its beautiful tail feathers

sparkled in the noonday sun,

as it wandered about looking for its lunch.

(I was very happy to learn that it eats black widow spiders, tarantulas, scorpions, and rattlesnakes!) ☺

Although it can only fly a short distance,

the Greater roadrunner can run at speeds of 20 miles per hour.

This proud roadrunner seemed very content just posing for videos for other hikers!

 The lower Salt River flows south, with Red Mountain in the distance.

The lower Salt River flows south, with Red Mountain in the distance.

A healthy riparian zone, along the Salt River, benefits everyone. The bushes, grasses, and trees that thrive along the riverbank provide homes for a wide variety of wildlife, prevent soil erosion, and provide flood control by slowing down the water when the Salt River overflows its banks. The shoreline trees shade the water for fish, while the insects, leaves, and twigs that fall into the river become part of the aquatic food chain.

During our lifetime, much of the riparian greenbelt has seen a loss of vegetation from clearing farmland nearby, heavy livestock grazing, and the construction of dams that raise and lower the river levels. The trees that grow along the river can only survive the dry periods if their roots are always submerged in water.

As the population of Arizona continues to grow, the riparian ecosystem faces even more risks. There is such a fragile balance necessary between the growing demands for our natural resources and the health of this important ecosystem in the Sonoran desert.

We must take care to protect this wonderful oasis!

It is a vital, fertile spot of refuge

in harsh, difficult times.

⚛⚛⚛

It feels so good

to spend time in peaceful oases.

Whether in the Sonoran desert

or closer to home…

Treat yourself  to some quiet moments of peace.

Peaceful blessings!

♡ Dawn

                                                                 P.S.  What places feel like peaceful oases to you?

Finding an Oasis…

.

Desert plants and WATER…  What a wonderful surprise!

Hi Friends!

Our visit to the American Southwest filled our hearts with wonderful family memories, breathtaking views, and long, quiet hikes in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Walking through the harsh, dry, prickly desert terrain under the blazing sun often calls for a brief retreat… an ‘oasis’ in the desert.

Oasis  [o-a-sis]     

1.  a fertile spot in the desert where water is found

2.  something serving as a refuge, relief, or pleasant change from what is usual

3.  a place of calm, happiness, or peace

Fortunately, having visited this beautiful part of America many times, we know just where to find our oasis! Those who live nearby have also made this wonderful discovery. We see them trailering boats and  jet skis, walking with fishing gear, and even carrying huge inner tubes. There is nothing more refreshing than finding an oasis in the desert!

.

Saguaro Lake is a sparkling jewel in the Tonto National Forest! It is a man-made reservoir, built in the Salt River. This beautiful lake was formed when the Stewart Mountain Dam was built in 1930.  Named for the Saguaro Cacti growing nearby, Saguaro Lake has 22 miles of shoreline, a busy marina, and beautiful picnic areas.

We often enjoy a picnic breakfast or lunch along the shores of Saguaro Lake on a day of hiking in the Tonto National Forest.

.

Saguaro Lake was built in the midst of the wild, untamed desert of the Tonto National Forest.

Hiking along the trails surrounding Saguaro Lake is always a delight!  It’s a rare treat to find Saguaro cacti, desert wildflowers, Palos Verde trees, and Mesquite trees growing near water. Water birds, desert creatures, boaters, hikers, and fishermen all enjoy a visit to this unique oasis.

.

The Butcher Jones Trail, in the Tonto National Forest, is a spectacular place to hike.

Hiking along the Butcher Jones Trail, on the shores of Saguaro Lake, is a lovely retreat from the harsh desert. At an elevation of 1, 500 feet, the trail begins with a slow incline and with time, becomes steeper and very rocky. We enjoy hiking the easier parts of the trail, stopping often to admire the view.

.

The Salt River provides drinking water and water for irrigation for the metropolitan Phoenix area. Throughout much of the year, parts of the lower Salt River bed are dry and used as roads.

The Salt River winds through the Tonto National Forest creating a quiet, serene oasis for desert wildlife and visitors to the area. The lower Salt River forms a natural boundary between the Tonto National Forest and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. During long periods without rain, the river flows slowly, meandering through the desert. However, from April through October each year, a nearby dam is opened releasing rushing water into the Salt River for tubing. This popular activity draws large crowds for a wet, wild, desert adventure!

.

The Sonoran Desert is home to spectacular sunsets, with silhouettes of the Saguaros and the mountains. What a perfect ending for a wonderful vacation!

⚛⚛⚛⚛⚛

Now we are back home again in the Midwest, enjoying a busy holiday season. The weeks between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day are always filled with so many fun holiday preparations. During these busy days, it’s so nice to find a little ‘oasis’ of quiet and calm.

.

The conservatory is a true ‘oasis’ all year long. My favorite time to visit is during the winter months.

I just love to visit the Conservatory in a nearby park. Just a few peaceful moments enjoying the flowers and lush greenery fills me with the same happy feelings that I find in my cottage perennial and herb gardens all summer long.

.

In the Conservatory, red and white Poinsettias, bright red Cyclamen, and Norfolk Pines offer such a cheery contrast to the drab, late Autumn landscape outside.

Visiting this little ‘oasis’ always fills my soul with happiness in a most glorious, peaceful way! It’s so important to find or create a little ‘oasis’ of our own during these busy days ~ a pretty place for a brisk walk, a candlelit place with my favorite music, a quiet place to journal about the ‘small moments’ of each day, reading in a rocking chair near the Christmas tree, or creative time in my paper crafting studio always fills my heart with calmness.

Just a few minutes in an ‘oasis’ really makes a difference during this busy, most wonderful time of year. I’m going to try extra hard to spend a little time in an ‘oasis’ every day! Hoping you will find your own ‘oases’ this season, sweet friends!

 

Warmest wishes & Christmas cheer!

♡Dawn

P.S.  What place or activity feels like an ‘oasis’ in your day?  Hope you will share…

Autumn Days in the Desert

Red Mountain towers over the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.

Red Mountain towers majestically over the Tonto National Forest in sunny Arizona.

Hi Friends!

Such breathtaking views in every direction! Autumn is a wonderful time to visit the desert Southwest. We just returned from a two week Autumn adventure in Arizona. Visiting family was truly the highlight of our vacation ~ making lots of happy memories together, sharing our favorite stories, and smiling over old family photos together. Each moment was a precious one! A true gem!

Oh, there was hiking, too!! Each day we made time to hike a few miles into the desert to admire its unique beauty, so different from our Midwestern landscape. The Sonoran Desert is exceptionally green this Autumn, following the recent Monsoon rains that brought severe flooding to many parts of the Arizona desert. In my twenty years of visits to this special place, I have never seen it so lush and green! It’s so nice to have interesting new places to walk…

The quiet beauty of the Tonto National Forest always calls us to visit.

The quiet beauty of the Tonto National Forest makes it one of our favorite places to hike.

We thought you might like to hike with us. It’s important to be prepared for walk in the desert. We always remember to wear sturdy hiking boots, hats, and sunscreen. Carrying a bottle of water is really important!  I always bring my camera on our hikes and my husband brings his compass (just in case!).

Don’t worry, we won’t get lost! Today we will take you to some of our favorite places in the Tonto National Forest, in sunny Arizona. This is the fifth largest forest in the United States, so there is a lot to see!

Four Peaks, in the distance, has the highest elevation in the area. In the winter, snow can be seen on the top of Four Peaks.

Silence. It’s the first thing that I always notice in the desert. Only the crunch of our boots on the sand and pebbles breaks the peace and quiet. Blue skies, gentle breezes, warm Autumn sunshine, and beautiful mountains in every direction always energize us as we hike.

Named after the Tonto Apache Indians, the Tonto National Forest stretches from Phoenix in the south, to the Mogollon Rim in the north. Our hikes were in the desert habitat in the south part of the forest. The higher elevations in the north are home to tall Pine trees and cooler temperatures.

Nine Native American tribes currently live on Tonto National Forest land.  Archeological sites are carefully protected here. The Native Americans are ensured the rights to continue to practice their religious and economic activities on what has become public land, since 1905.

The tall Saguaro cactus is my favorite desert plant.

The tall Saguaro cactus is my favorite desert plant.

The mountains add to the peaceful, easy feeling of the Tonto National Forest. The Usery Mountains create a lovely background for the desert plants. The lighter stripe along the top of the mountain is the Wind Cave Trail. Over the years, I have only hiked part way up to the Wind Cave, but my husband has climbed the steep, rocky path all the way up to the top of Wind Cave Trail.  Beware of the Cholla cactus, with its sharp needles, in the foreground. Little bits of the ‘Jumping Cholla’ are often in our path and we try not to step on them!

The giant Saguaro cacti are truly the most amazing plants that I know! The Saguaros will be featured in some posts of their own in a few days. There is so much to share about these fascinating giants of the Sonoran desert. They are so unique and important to the desert habitat!

;

The Superstition Mountains add special beauty to the Sonoran Desert.

The mountains seem to change color from moment to moment all day long. Clouds, although rare over the desert, cast beautiful dramatic shadows on the mountainsides. It’s such a treat to behold!

The Salt River

The Salt River looks more like a stream as it flows through the Tonto National Forest this Autumn.

The Salt River meanders through the Tonto National Forest most of the year. Several dams control its water levels for irrigation and drinking water supplies to the area. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy fishing when the water is low and tubing in the deeper, fast moving waters of the Salt River. Often when we visit, we are able to hike on the dry river bed of the Salt River, seeing the desert vistas from a unique perspective.

The Salt River

The Salt River is also a natural boundary separating the Tonto National Forest from the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

While hiking, if we stop and stand very still, we can see wildlife of all kinds. Lizards scuttle across the desert floor. Roadrunners and quail scurry across the ground, while hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and doves dart about. Overhead, hawks and vultures soar over the desert. I love hearing the unfamiliar birdsong in the desert as we walk. Jackrabbits, javelinas, desert chipmunks, coyotes, and an occasional bobcat have been spotted moving across the desert in our recent visits. We have watched so many butterflies collecting pollen from the late Autumn flowers in the desert. Holes in the dry, desert soil remind us that rattlesnakes might be waiting out of sight, while rocks provide shelter for scorpions, beetles, and other creatures.

Watching the Full Frost Moon rise over the Usery Mountains was a special memory!

Watching the Full Frost Moon rise over the Usery Mountains was a special memory this visit!

We really looked forward to our moonlight hike in the Sonoran Desert under the Full Frost Moon. With rangers to guide us, and flashlights and water bottles in hand, we met at the trailhead at dusk. To our surprise, two hundred other hikers had the same plan! So, all the hikers ~ boy scouts, families, and other visitors ~ walked two miles under the Frost Moon together, through the desert washes and amidst the cacti, with flashlights to guide us through the desert terrain.  Informative rangers taught us about the history, wildlife, and plants of the desert during our hike. For days, I had been wondering worrying what creatures might approach us during our nighttime hike. No need to worry!! I’m sure that the sound of four hundred feet pounding the desert floor frightened away every creature within miles ~ except for one very large, black, ground beetle in our path! We felt so sorry for frightening him that night!!

There is so much beauty everywhere!

There is so much beauty everywhere!

There is so much more to see in the Sonoran Desert! Let’s meet back here again to explore the flora and fauna of the desert. I think you will be fascinated by the life cycle of the giant Saguaro cactus.  We will hike together through Saguaro National Park very soon. There are some important ‘words of wisdom’ to share…  and an unexpected surprise is awaiting, too!

I’m already looking forward to our next hike! It’s the perfect way to chase away the Winter chill!

It's nice to visit Arizona in Autumn!

It’s great to visit Arizona in Autumn!

Warm sunny wishes!

♡Dawn