November 14-26: Tucson, Patagonia Lake and The Elegant Trogon


Campsite in Tucson, AZ

We had a much-needed “housekeeping stop” at Desert Trails RV Park in Tucson.  This was our very first stop in Arizona when we started our winter wanderings twelve years ago. 




Front Garden at Desert Trails, Tucson

Some changes, but Pericles was still running it, and, of course, remembered me … or rather, my hat!

 Now we were in the Sonoran Desert, and the trails led through a magnificent array of cacti, including the large saguaros.

Towering Saguaro, Desert Trails, Tucson








Cautious Tree Hugger

One of these monsters had clearly grown two feet or so in the last decade, but this is only a blink of an eye for a hundred-year-old cactus.







On one of the Desert Trails in Tucson

Cacti are more interesting than you would think, and a walk through the desert is quiite varied.







Teddy Bear Cholla, Tucson

There are ones you want to avoid … or rather … some that are worse than others.





Some are quite beautiful, like the Arizona Rainbow Cactus 





Two small Saguaros with Elaine

Fortunately there are some new saguaros coming along, but it will be many decades before they reach maturity. 







Mission St. Xavier del Bac, Tucson

While in Tucson we re-visited the “Dove of the Desert” –the beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac, build in the early seventeen hundreds, and still dominating the landscape on the edge of Tucson.




 Since we were going in the right direction, we headed down  Mission Boulevard, hoping it would take us to Sahuarita, where we could cut across to the mountain road south.  One wonders whether the GPS guys are any smarter than the map makers.  Certainly the map was wrong, and we ended up among the tailings of the enormous copper mines nearby.  Interesting though, as was Green Valley when we eventually reached it. 

 Amazing housing development in that area, though one enormous pecan orchard has survived so far.

Pecan Grove near Green Valley, AZ


 We did eventually find Sahuarita, and headed through the mountains to Sonoita and Patagonia.  




Elaine by Patagonia Lake, AZ

Our destination was Patagonia Lake, where we spent many happy days in the past.

  We even had the same site, right by the lake, and with dramatic views of the surrounding mountains.






Patagonia Lake in the Late Afternoon

This area is a little higher than Tucson, and mainly grassland.  The air is fresh and clear, and nice and warm in the powerful sunshine.




Elaine the Intrepid Birder

Patagonia Lake is one of the top “birding destinations” in America, akin to Point Pelee in Ontario.  Elaine liked to head down to the pasture area near the headwaters, and just sit and watch the birds come to her. 





Elaine the Matador

Since this is part of the “open range”, there were also several curious cows, but, to the best of our knowledge, no bull.



   As everyone knows, b.s. is limited to old geezers chatting on RV parks!


Super-sized Barrel Cactus

It is not all grass in this southern tip of Arizona … in fact we found a magnificent barrel cactus.


Although the weather decided to have a cool and breezy spell. and dropped down to the “sixties”, we had wonderful walks in the valley by the lake, as did the usual crowd of birds and birders.

This was the place that, twelve years ago, we had seen an Elegant Trogon … the “holy grail” of birders, both for its rarity and beauty.   However I had noticed that these bird people sometimes had a far away look when we related this sighting.  Not quite outright disbelief, but the look the expert often gives to an obvious amateur.

 Aha!   This year we went on the Monday morning “bird walk”, and half of the twenty or so were real bird watchers:  you know, the ones who glimpse a little bird flashing past and know that it is an Orange Crowned Warbler, or something!

 The morning was bright and sunny (it nearly always is in Arizona!), and we were enlightened about various rare and unusual avian species.   Then, one of the specialists spotted a male Elegant Trogon.    It sat on a nearby branch and looked at us superciliously.   We could not believe our luck, and as several of us observed that it was the most beautiful bird in North America.    One of the extreme experts said it was undoubtedly the same bird that had visited five years ago.  Likely it was the son of the one we spotted seven years before that!!

 OK … so there may be another Elegant Trogon in Arizona, but this is the only one that has been found this year, and the cynics can go hide:  we have many witnesses who will vouch for our veracity this time!

Sorry my camera was not capable of taking the picture, but you can link to this web-site that shows an Elegant Trogon … though perhaps not that exact one.


Frosty and Friends - Patagonia Lake, Arizona

This visit coincided with American Thanksgiving, and several groups decided to have their family bash in Patagonia Park.  One lot produced an honest-to-God “smoker” and cooked the turkey the right way!  Others … er … “chickened out” … and had turkey breasts, hams, etc.

 They decorated their sites with lights, inflatable snowmen and Santa Claus.  They set up satellite dishes and sat around the mesquite fires watching football.  We did not feel too left out, since, after all, we had Thanksgiving in October, and a memorable family event near to the Canadian date.


November - Fergus Condo

For those who think we will be on the road for ever, this is a reassuring picture, kindly sent by our friend Bill in Elora.  There are clear indications that there really will be a condo by Spring! 





Patagonia Lake Sunset

One last sunset, and we are out of here tomorrow, since I can smell the Bisbee coffee.

 John … with the more extravagant comments toned down by Elaine!  


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