The long road to recovery – Tucson, AZ

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First off, a big THANK YOU to everyone, family and friends who have reached out to us, left supporting comments, sent texts and private messages extending warm thoughts and virtual hugs for Steve.  We continue to feel the positive vibes from prayers sent our way and we couldn’t ask for more.

Just when my stress level was at an all-time high after Steve’s operation, Jim and Diana of exploRVistas arrived in Tucson to give me a warm hug and much needed emotional boost. It was our first meeting, and they came at the right moment.

Explore vista

With Jim and Diana

Steve had a 4-hour minimally-invasive robotic surgery that went well.  He was so curious about the robotic surgical system da Vinci used for the surgery that he talked the surgical team into showing him the machine before they put him under.  We learned that the da Vinci system is named in part because Leonardo da Vinci’s study of human anatomy eventually led to the design of the first known robot.

Steve is taking it one day at a time.  With the challenge of surgery behind us, we still have a long way to go.  In a few weeks he will begin his radiation therapy to kill the bad stuff that the surgeon could not remove from the base of his tongue.  At this point we’re glad that chemotherapy won’t be needed – he gets to keep his hair!

Lowes Travels

Following surgery we take twice-daily walks around the RV park

What this means is we’ll be in Tucson through the summer.  It may be sizzling hot here, but Betsy is parked under a towering 28′ high “Power Parasol” solar system, keeping her in the shade at all times.

Lazy Days KOA

Betsy is comfortably tucked in under the solar arrays

The good stuff

The reward for being in southern Arizona beyond winter is that we get to experience the progression of the desert wildflowers in bloom.  So while we were in waiting mode for Steve’s doctor appointments and surgery date we hiked daily to enjoy the remaining cool temps and desert landscape.

Staghorn ChollaWe would usually miss seeing these flowers, as we would be somewhere north by now. Unlike other wildflowers, cacti don’t bloom together in great masses of color.  Different species dominate at different times and vary in their showiness, depending on weather conditions.

Beyond this point the post becomes flowery, so if you don’t like flowers or cactus now is the time to end your reading 🙂

In  March the Ocotillos were showing off spikes of crimson red flowers, to the delight of many birds:

Ocotillo

House Finch

House Finch snacking

In early April, the Palo Verde trees turned the Sonoran Desert landscape into a sea of yellow, covering the area with dense blooms:

Palo Verde

Palo Verde

Palo Verde

This tiny bright yellow flower is what covers the Palo Verde trees in a blanket of yellow

The yellow creosote bush blossoms from late February turn into white wooly seedlings ready to be scattered by the wind:

Creosote Bush

The creosote seedlings give an iridescent glow when viewed against the light

Each time we followed a trail we were amazed how plants as spiky and homely as cacti produce such spectacular flowers.  The first one that caught our attention was the Engelmann Hedgehog for its bright beautiful fuchsia flowers:

The Prickly Pear were showing their best as well:

 

We’re seeing many colors in the desert in mid-April.  The Chollas are starting to display their blooms that range in color from bright red to yellow, pink, green, orange and peachy hues.  During our hikes in past years we never saw a single bud, much less a flower, and we just overlooked these Chollas as just another thorny desert plant.  But this spring we stopped, scrutinized and admired their colorful flowers.

The fuzzy Teddy Bear Cholla has a yellow-green flower

Staghorn Cholla

The top section of this Staghorn Cholla had red flowers, while the lower half had green ones

On the trail we came across the various hues of  Staghorn Cholla blooms:

 

Jumping Cholla

The nasty Jumping Cholla or Chain Fruit Cholla spreads a bright pink flower!

And now in May, the Ironwood Tree unfolds its beauty with lilac-colored blossoms which are abundant at Tucson Mountain Park.

Iron wood tree flower

Isn’t it pretty!

The Sonoran desert is alive with splashes of colorful desert flower blooms in the spring.  But admiring this beauty comes with a caution.  As temps warm up, the rattlesnakes that have been dormant are awakening, and one of them was waiting for us on the trail:

Rattlesnake

His appearance reminded us to stay alert!

 

Next up:  The superstar of the Sonoran Desert



 

Sonoran Desert beauties!

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Northern Cardinal

We just realized we’ve been hanging around southern Arizona for two months now – how time flies when you’re having fun with friends in such a beautiful place!  Being here, you can’t help but take notice and admire the abundance of cacti, succulents, birds and other critters that make the this area unique.  The area is generally recognized as the Sonoran Desert, and includes the southwestern third of Arizona, a small area of southeastern California, most of Baja California del Norte and the western half of Sonora, Mexico.

Saguaro

Sonoran Desert is Saguaro central

It is during our many hikes and drives around town that we encounter these desert beauties in their natural habitat or being used as landscaping ornaments.  In particular, the ubiquitous saguaro, (pronounced SUH-WAR-OH) a  large, tree-like columnar cactus that develop branches (or arms) as they age.  The saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States and the most famous plant in the Sonoran Desert.  It is closely identified with the imagery of the American southwest, and all of them are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert.  This cactus is so important that moving, harvesting or collecting is strictly regulated!   Yet despite the saguaro’s popularity, the state plant of Arizona is actually the Palo Verde.

Some fun facts about this famous cactus:

It is slow growing and may take 10 years to reach 1 1/2 inches in height, and 30 years to reach 2 feet.

It begins to grow arms when it is between 50 and 100 years of age, although some never  grow arms.

Given the right conditions it can live for 150 to 200 years.

It  typically grows to heights of 40 – 60 ft.

It is more than 90% water content and when fully hydrated it can weigh between 3200-4800 pounds.

The saguaro’s blossom is the state flower of Arizona, they blossom once a year, and the flowers open at night and stay open only 18 hours total.  Imagine how breathtaking the Sonoran desert would look with all of those blooms!

The woody ribs inside the plant have been used for fences and combined with mud and grasses to build homes.

Here are a few of the many desert cacti and plants:

The chirping and singing are everywhere with all these beautiful birds.  Here are just a few that frequently visited us at Catalina State Park. Click here if  you would like to see more of my bird pictures 🙂

Butterflies!

Lastly, when the sun is low here it gives a hue to the sky and mountains that is nothing short of spectacular.

Catalina Mountains

Orange glow at the Catalina Mountains before snow…

Catalina Mountains

…and a reddish-pink glow with snow

Table Top Mountain

Red-orange glow at Table Top Mountain, viewed from Casa Grande

Stay tuned as we return to Quartzsite to join the RV show madness!