Monday, December 1, 2014

Arizona - August 2014

In August, we took a quick trip to Tucson that was half business and half pleasure.  We tried to get as much hiking and wildlife watching in as we could since the area is fantastic for both.  We actually did much better than we expected including a few big highlights.

For the first part of the trip we stayed at the base of the Catalina mountains.  This rocky and mountainous terrain is incredibly beautiful:



and the wildlife viewing opportunities are pretty good as well:

Desert Tortoise

 Black-tailed Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

 By far, the highlight of this part of the trip was stumbling upon our first wild Gila Monster.  It didn't seem too bothered by us and just went about its business.  At one point I got a little too close with my camera (my telephoto lens was in the shop and a 55mm reach isn't great for wildlife) and it hissed at me.  That was my queue to leave it alone and I really got no decent pictures anyway.  I did manage to capture some video of this Gila Monster and (spoiler alert) the two others we saw later in the trip:

For the second half of the trip we stayed in Vail, Az which is Southwest of Tucson.  This area is also quite scenic and is a good starting point to see Saguaro National Park and Madera Canyon. 

Local Scenery:


On the drive back to our place one night we spotted another Gila Monster on the side of the road.  At first, we were worried that it was dead, but it turned out to be very much alive and it posed nicely for photos:

We have been to Madera Canyon before and seen lots of incredible wildlife.  But, we had never seen a Ring-tailed Cat or an Elegant Trogon.  Both are seen in the canyon but you have to know where to look and you have to be lucky.  We know where to look for the Trogon but if they aren't calling it is next to impossible to spot one.  Luckily for us, on our way back down from a long hike I saw some color move on the far side of the canyon.  It was a Trogon.  It had flown from one branch to another which is the only reason why we saw it.

We wanted to spend more time in the canyon but it started to rain and got really dark.  We made it out to the safety of our car just as the heavens opened and the monsoon rains began.

We made one last stop at Saguaro National Park. The driving tour is a great way to see the park and we were hoping to see something along the road.  Not one mile in our wishes came true.  Our third and final Gila Monster was crossing the road:

All in all, it was a very successful trip.  Not only did we spend lots of time wandering along beautiful desert trails but we also saw our first Gila Monster and Elegant Trogon.  This part of the country never fails to disappoint which is why we plan to move here someday.