Living among the Saguaro

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December 7th 2018
Published: December 9th 2018
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We decided to take a quick sun break and do some hiking in the Tucson area. We flew from Bellingham to Tucson on a cheap Allegiant flight, rented an SUV and drove in the dark (with a stop for groceries) up into the mountains to our rental. This place is beautiful, with saguaros all around. The owners live on the property, and recently moved back here from a three year stay in Japan.

We took a short hike this morning, and got back just before the thunderstorms hit. The sun was predicted to return later in the day, so we decided to wait til the afternoon to visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. I had been there with Luke and a friend's family about 27years ago, but Bill had never seen it.

We drove south and then west from our casita, over Gates Pass and into the next, very wide valley.

We spent two hours at the museum, viewing animals as varied as hummingbirds and javelinas. Many of the animals have been rehabilitated and can't be set free for various reasons.

"Founded in 1952, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is widely recognized throughout the world as a model institution for innovative presentation and interpretation of native plants and animals featured together in ecological exhibits. The Museum is regularly listed as one of the top ten zoological parks in the world due to its unique approach in interpreting the complete natural history of a single region (in our case this is the Sonoran Desert and adjacent ecosystems).

Not a “museum” in the usual sense, it is an unparalleled composite of plant, animal, and geologic collections with the goal of making the Sonoran Desert accessible, understandable, and valued. The Museum’s living animal collection contains 4,892 specimens of 242 species. Plants number 56,445 specimens of 1,100 taxa; mineral and fossil collections include 16,853 specimens. Represented in the living collections are 110 to 120 species considered to be of conservation concern."

After the museum we entered the Saguaro National Park, checked in at the visitor center, and drove the loop to Signal Hill to view the petroglyphs.
"On March 1, 1933, in the last days of his presidency, Herbert Hoover signed a Proclamation establishing Saguaro National Monument in the nearly empty desert, 15 miles east of the sleepy town of Tucson. Wrenched by the Great Depression and awaiting a new
Zuni Carving:  This is a piece by Rick Quam, made of black marble.  I bought it at the Desert Museum.Zuni Carving:  This is a piece by Rick Quam, made of black marble.  I bought it at the Desert Museum.Zuni Carving: This is a piece by Rick Quam, made of black marble. I bought it at the Desert Museum.

The Zuni are a Native American tribe, one of the Pueblo peoples, most of whom live in the Pueblo of Zuni on the Zuni River, a tributary of the Little Colorado River, in western New Mexico, United States. Zuni traditionally speak the Zuni language, a unique language (also called an "isolate") which is unrelated to any other Native American language. The Zuni continue to practice their traditional religion with its regular ceremonies and dances and an independent and unique belief system which consist of six sects: the Sun, the Rainmakers, the Kokko (spirit beings), Priests of the Kokko, War Gods, and Animal Beings. Their use of fetishes is extensive and complex. The most common zuni fetish is the mille, a personal fetish which is given to a individual when they join a religious group, which the individual will keep for life. Each fetish has a specific purpose, like protection against witchcraft, luck in gambling, use in war ceremonials, and curing illnesses. The Zuni are known for there amazing fetishes, which makes this tribe the number one leader in Fetish sales.
administration, few in Washington paid any attention to Hoover’s action. But it was a victory for both botanists and boosters in Arizona who’d worked for years to protect this grandest stand of saguaros. And it was a far-sighted accomplishment that would have incredible benefits for future generations of both Tucsonans and tourists.
Early rangers had to haul water from the center of town; “cactus rustling” was rampant; cattle continued to trample young cactuses for decades. Aging of the cactus forest and lack of regeneration led to a widespread belief that the saguaro was a dying breed, like the frontier life it symbolized. In 1961, at the urging of the people of Tucson and Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, President Kennedy added 25 square miles of splendid cactus lands in the Tucson Mountains to the Monument. Finally, after setting aside vast areas as wilderness, Congress elevated Saguaro to National Park status in 1994."

Saguaro National Park is home to 25 species of cactus ranging from the towering saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) to the tiniest type of cactus in the park, the mammillaria (Mammillaria spp).
"The Signal Hill Petroglyph Site occupies a small but very distinct rocky that is about 200 feet in diameter at its base and is 40feet high. The site consists of over 200 prehistoric Native American petroglyphs. The petroglyphs at Signal Hill were made by the Hohokam, a people who lived in southern and south central Arizona from about 450 to 1450 A.D. Direct dating of petroglyphs is difficult. Dating such a site as Signal Hill is usually done by dating artifacts associated with the petroglyphs and in this instance there are no well dated artifacts associated with Signal Hill."

On Saturday, my friend Mary (who had driven down from Phoenix) and her youngest daughter came over for a hike in the Sweetwater Preserve and lunch at our casita. Her daughter's husband joined us for lunch. Bill and I are staying at their house for 6 days, as they are off on a trip.

The afternoon was spend at the 4th Street Fair, which was surprisingly full of the hippie vibe! Dinner at an excellent vegetarian restaurant finished off the day....

Additional photos below
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Our home for four daysOur home for four days
Our home for four days

The siding is corten steel.
At the Desert MuseumAt the Desert Museum
At the Desert Museum

The Mohave rattlesnake may be the most dangerous venomous snake in the Sonoran Desert. Quick to go on the defensive, the Mohave has very toxic venom that has caused human fatalities. Venom toxicity varies among different populations.Mohave rattlesnake: The Mohave is active primarily at night from February to November. Unlike most rattlesnakes, which usually hibernate in larger groups, the Mohave hibernates singly or in pairs or trios in rodent burrows.
At the Desert MuseumAt the Desert Museum
At the Desert Museum

Very friendly toad
At the Desert MuseumAt the Desert Museum
At the Desert Museum

Calliope Hummingbird...they were so accustomed to people that you could get inches away....

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