At this time of year the Sonoran desert is filled with flowering cacti. These samples of prickly pear flowers are all from the Desert Botanical Garden, but you can encounter them throughout the Arizona desert. These hardy plants adapt to suit their location and are found throughout the state, from lowland deserts to high elevations.
Arizona’s monsoon rains in the mountains produce a summer crop of mushrooms, toadstools, slime molds and other delights. Here are a few that have appeared already this 2014 season. I don’t know enough about fungi to attempt to identify them for you. Experts can determine if any are safe to eat, but many are deadly poison. Squirrels seem to eat some of them but I don’t know that is an indicator of human tolerance.I think they are fascinating to find.
You never know what you might find once you start taking macro photos. Sometimes tiny insects pop out in flower photos that surprise you, or the detail on a beetle might be so much more elegant than imagined. Sometimes the play of light inside a delicate flower is amazing, yet unappreciated in the normal view. Here is a selection of recent macro photos from around northern Arizona.
Lots of animals make an appearance in our little corner of the woods. We routinely have elk, deer, jackrabbits, Abert squirrels, chipmunks, ground squirrels and even had a porcupine or two. We have been visited by black bears, coyotes and a mountain lion.
Lately we have been keeping up with our newest neighbors, the fox family. Now that the kits are out and about, we see them daytime and evening. I’m sure they are out at night, as well. The babies have been learning how to climb trees. There are only two kinds of foxes that climb trees, and these Gray Foxes are one of the two.
Many times a day the crows alert us to the movements of the foxes. Whether crossing our neighbor’s yard, or moving around in ours, the crows chase the foxes and make quite a racket. We live on two and a half acres and the farthest corner of our land is almost inaccessible because it is so rocky. This is where the den is located. For many years, ground squirrels, skunks, and other tunnel-making animals have lived in this old rock quarry. At some point last year, these foxes took up residence.
We didn’t notice them until the kits were old enough to be outside of the den, and the whole family began sitting out in the sun for extended periods of time. Now that we are alerted regularly by the crow alarm, we have been taking time out to sit and watch quietly as they go about their day.
An easy and enjoyable hike near Flagstaff, Arizona, Rocky Ridge trail is actually a section of the Arizona Trail. It is 2.8 miles in length and climbs from 7,191 feet to 7,587 in elevation. The trail begins at Schultz Creek parking just off Schultz Pass road and passes through warm south-facing juniper and pine forest with an interesting mix of cacti. Along the upper reaches of the trail you find Gambel Oak and more Ponderosa pine. Besides hikers, this trail is a frequent single track route, connecting to Oldham trail, Brookbank trail, Mount Elden Lookout road, and can be used to access Flagstaff through Buffalo Park.
For a quick hike today, I entered the trail at the 2.3 mile marker, partway up Mount Elden Lookout road, and headed south toward the Schultz Pass trailhead. The trail lives up to its name, and although having some very smooth stretches, passes through many rocky areas as it follows the base of the Dry Tanks Hills near Mount Elden.