Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Hike Through Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Rock formations at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park 10-15-08
(Click on any photo to enlarge for best view)

I’m driving east on I-10 past the jagged edged half bowl of Picacho Peak. On my right its eastern slopes are dark with shadow as the autumn sun sinks ever closer to the horizon. In the car I’m listening to James Taylor croon "...let the sun go down behind the hill, I know how to stand there still, till the moon rise up behind the pine O'Lord...October Road” as I savor the memories of this fine October day.

I got up early and drove to Coolidge where I met up with my son G, his wife, Trish, and my new grandson, Xavier. We all piled in the car and drove North and East on Highway 60 to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. As we near the town of Superior, Picketpost Mountain looms large in our window. The Arboretum is nestled alongside Queen Creek at the base of this mountain. I’ve been wanting to take them here ever since I first visited last year, but it has taken this long to make it happen. This is Xavier's first hike.

Just a little more sunscreen... and we are off!

Down the trail we go...

...past the cactus gardens,

... and one hairy cactus!

I love the colors in the trunk of this eucalyptus tree...

..but I gawk at the height of this Boojum tree. Boojum Tree?

The informational sign beneath says that Boojum Trees are related to our native ocatillo. It is found naturally in central Baja California and on the coast of Sonora, Mexico. Early Jesuits priest called the plant "Cirio," meaning candle, and I can see why.

Farther up the trail we come to man-made Lake Ayers. I saw my first black Phoebe here last year. Today a lone coot is the only bird life I see but what are the rest of the family looking at?

A blue dragonfly...

...and thousands of minnows!

As we continue around the lake the trail rises for a breath-taking view of the water below.

Overhead immense sculptural rock cliffs rise in the afternoon haze.

We see this sign which is a humorous warning to stay on the trail.

Up and up we hike...

...stopping to cool ourselves in one of several informational gazebos.

More sculptured rocks tower overhead against a dazzlingly blue autumn sky.

We hike past the Picketpost House and follow the trail down to the tree-lined creek, now dry after the end of the Monsoon.

Here the rock cliff hugs the creek bank. Trish and I take a shade break in the cleft of the rocks.

Then we follow the trail along this narrow edge. If you look closely you can see the wire bridge just off in the distance...

We enter the wooden ramp and feel the planks sway beneath our feet. Once on the other side we decide to take this upper trail, a trail I have not hiked before...

...and we climb the steps upwards through hot sunshine and cool shadows.

I glance back at the bridge we just crossed, an architectural standout in its soft green setting.

Even more eye catching but also dangerous are these Christmas Cactus berries growing on the thorny cactus alongside the trail. You can eat the berries if you can get past the thorns and the tiny glocids that will pierce your lips and tongue. I give them a wide berth and keep walking.

So, where are all the birds, you ask? I haven't seen many in the bright heat of the day along the trail, but now our path ends at the shady picnic area and here is where I finally start to see some birds.

This mockingbird keeps a lookout from a mesquite tree.

The California Pepper Trees are thick with Red-naped Sapsuckers. I'm suppose to be eating my lunch, but I keep hopping up to photograph birds.

That's okay, because Xavier is enjoying one of his first teething biscuits!

While I enjoy the view of Picketpost Mountain.

Down by the dry creekbed this Sycamore Tree is just starting to show the faintest hint of Autumn's blush.

And deep in the thicket this Inca doves grasps a twig with sun-brightened pink feet. Its repetitive cooing called to me, so I searched until I found her, then I let her be.

"Well I'm going back down maybe one more time, deep down home...October Road..."

Now back at home the sun has set. The desert breeze wafts gently across the slopes of the Santa Rita Mountains. As I rush about opening windows I pause to watch the moon rise golden and glowing beyond the eastern horizon. On days like today I am so glad to live here. I feel the happiness welling up inside me. Why is it that spending a day outside exploring nature can so revive me? I didn’t see very many birds today, but that was okay. Rock formations, various trees and a creek gone dry are enough food for my heart and my soul. Spending time with my family is a sweetness all its own, and I feel my heart rise with the full moon over the desert sky.

Notes: Today's photography is copyrighted by Kathie Adams Brown. I used the Nikon D80 with the 70-300mm lens.

"October Road" words by James Taylor from his 2002 album October Road.

To learn more about Boyce Thompson Arboretum and for hours of operation click on one of the following links:


Beth said...

Oh Kathie, what a wonderful hike. I feel like I was there, love the rock formations and the desert scenes. And by the way,your grandson is ADORABLE.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Thank-you so much for allowing me to join you and your family on this beauiful hike,and I don't even feel hot or tired after the hike.That is my way of doing a hot hike,although it must have been great to see it in person.

Shelley said...

I enjoyed this hike - the bridge, the rock formations, the birds and your adorable grandson!

Anonymous said...

Such a nice set of photos.

Texas Travelers said...

Great series of photos. I am tired after that long walk. I need to get the camera out. I am inspired.

I really enjoyed the work that you put into this and thanks for sharing.

Come visit anytime,
Troy and Martha

PS: Alaska Sunday Hope, AK photos are up today.

Kathie Brown said...

Beth, glad you enjoyed the hike. I hope you can do it in person someday! Next time you go to visit Pappy, just drive on over. I don't think it's that far! BTW, forgive me if I agree with your opinion of my grandson! He is really a happy boy, though he looks so serious in these pics!

Ruth, you are welcome to take a virtual hike with me anytime you like! I'll do the hiking (and the sweating) for you!

shellmo, thank you so much. It was very hard to whittle the pictures down to these 29!

Hey Abe! Nice to see you! Thanks!

Well Troy, I hope you post whatever inspires you as you get out to walk!

kjpweb said...

Wonderful posts in the last days!
The songbirds and Humming Birds are just stunning!
And a great family outing, too! :)
Cheers, Klaus

Celeste said...

What a great hike, thanks for sharing it. I love your picture of the Inca Dove, especially the way the light catches the tip of its tail. Xavier is adorable :)

Naturegirl said...

Kathie I sure enjoyed these reminders of how wonderful hinking in AZ can be! I look forward to coming bacj this winter and perhaps you can introduce me to this spot! Sweet baby good looking family! Thanks for sharing!

I loved the Anna hummingbird a few posts back! I wonder why..aNNa xo

Kathie Brown said...

Klaus, thank you, thank you! as ever!

celeste, I like the Inca dove's pink feet. It is a sweet bird. Thank you for the compliment about my grandson. I can't resist those cheeks!

Nature Girl, nice to see you! I would love to show you Boyce Thompson Aroboretum! Wouldn't it be fun to meet there? You can get to it from the Phoenix area by going through Apache junction on Highway 60. I do hope you get to go. With your love of birds and gardens it would be the perfect place to visit!

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Kathie,
Sounds like a great walk. Nice photographs as usual. Xavier is cute. That's a nice name for him.

Anonymous said...

That was a very interesting hike Kathies with lots of great photos, especially the one with the two beautiful Ladies shading from the sun. {:)
It looks a hazardous place for birds though with all those spikes on various branches.

Mary C said...

Kathie, I'm so glad you posted about Boyce Thompson Arboretum and your day hike with your family. It's been a few years since we visited there, but it's a place I would enjoy visiting again. Those red berries and thorns from the Christmas Cactus really look inviting - well, the berries do - I'm not so sure about those thorns. I wonder if any birds try to eat them?

Jackie said...

That trail/bridge thing along the cliff is an interesting bit of workmanship. That park looks like a fascinating place to visit.

DeniseinVA said...

You have a lovely family Kathie, and Xavier is an adorable little guy. Thank you for taking us on this wonderful hike. I have enjoyed your photos immensely, along with your wonderful commentary. Felt like I was right there with you. Have a great week.

Deborah Godin said...

Thanks for sharing that wonderful trip! What could be better, time with your family, a gorgeous spot, birds and bridges. Let's hope the reverse of that sign says to the snakes, "People only beyond this point"!

Mary said...

This looks much to see! I wish someone would have posted one of those rattlesnake signs in Sabino Canyon where I almost stepped on two! Great sign!

Unknown said...

Wish I could have been there with you guys. X is such a beautiful little boy, cant wait to see him again and be able to get a sense of his personality.

Next time I visit, we are going to this place. Its snowing here today for the first time this fall... It feels like I'm saying goodbye to the sunshine for another 6-8 months. Thats okay though because I have that Arizona sunshine in my heart.

You are an amazing woman.

Love your son,


Mike said...

Xavier is cute!