AZ traveling along route 77 takes you through awe-inspiring Navajo County

Our recent Arizona travels brought us to towering sandstone peaks, untouched Ponderosa pines,  and vast canyons that indulge your spirit.  Grab some adventure and enjoy these photos of Navajo County in Arizona.

State route 77 is an Arizona highway that stretches north from Holbrook to the south junction of I-10.

We ventured north on SR 77 towards Snowflake, AZ enabling us to enjoy the dazzling sites of Navajo County.

Navajo County in Arizona
our dogs love exploring the area

Navajo County is in northeastern Arizona.  The climate varies due to the diversity of the geographic area.  You will experience normal winter weather and delightful summers in the White Mountains.  On the other hand, the lower desert areas are warm with little or no snow.

Navajo County in Arizona
Salt River Canyon in Navajo County, AZ

Indian reservation land makes up approximately 66 percent of Navajo County, AZ.  The 2 main areas are divided by the Mogollon Rim.  North of the Rim is dry and desert like.   On the south side of the Mogollon Rim you will experience mountains and forests overflowing with pine and pinon juniper trees.   Navajo County has the largest continuous stand of Ponderosa Pines in all of North America.

Cedar Canyon in Navajo County, AZ
Cedar Canyon in Navajo County, AZ

Cedar Canyon Valley is in Long Tom Canyon.  Cedar Canyon is one of our regular stops when heading south on route 77.

White Mountains
The White Mountains in Arizona

It is common for people to think of a vast, open desert when describing AZ.  Surprisingly,  Arizona is a state of extremes when it comes to geography.  In the southeast, one can experience some of the hottest temperatures in the world.  A few hours north in the White Mountains of Navajo County, you will experience a true winter with significant snowfall.

Mogollon Rim
Ponderosa Pines view from the Mogollon Rim

When looking at a map of Arizona you will see a jagged ink line making its way across the state.  This giant escarpment of volcanic and sedimentary rock is called the Mogollon Rim, pronounced,  “muggy own“.

Full of beauty and mystery, the Mogollon Rim is surrounded by history that formed from erosion and movements in the earth.  When visiting Arizona it is worth a trip through Navajo County to experience the spectacular white cliffs of the uppermost sandstone stratum of the Mogollon Rim.  These windblown white vertical cliffs are 280 million years old, the Permian Period,  and 350 feet thick.  The thickest on earth.

Mogollon Rim
The Mogollon Rim in Arizona
Mogollon Rim
Pine Trees along the Mogollon Rim

In Navajo County you will also find the Petrified Forest National Park.  Fossil lovers will be thrilled to study the fallen trees that are dated to the late Triassic period, 225 million years ago.  

Petrified Tree
Petrified Forest National Park tree

Navajo County was formed on March 21, 1895 and includes Navajo, Hopi and Apache Indian reservations.

Native American celebration
Native American celebration in Navajo County Arizona

By the time it became Navajo County, the railroad had crossed the county for more than a decade, and North America’s third largest ranch, the Aztec Land and Cattle Company near Holbrook, had been established.

The Hopi Pueblo of Oraibi Indian Reservation is further south and one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the US.

Show Low Arizona
Show Low in Navajo County, Arizona

Ranching is a major portion of Navajo County’s economy along with coal mining, timber and tourism.  There was an uplifting of the soul as we rode past the curious horses.

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Giant Saguaro desert cactus – facts and photos

Within Arizona’s Tucson Basin is The Saguaro National Park.  This park provides the ideal conditions for sustaining dense stands of the famous saguaro cactus.

saguaro cactus at The Saguaro National Park
saguaro cactus at The Saguaro National Park in Tucson

**The most important factors for growth are water and temperature. If the elevation is too high, the cold weather and frost can kill the saguaro. Although the Sonoran Desert experiences both winter and summer rains, studies show that the Saguaro cactus obtains most of its moisture during the summer monsoon season.

Saguaro National Park
saguaro cactus in Arizona

There are dozens of varieties of cacti;  short, tall, stout, delicate but none quite as magnificent as the Giant Saguaro cactus.

Quick Saguaro Facts:

  1. Saguaros have one deep tap-root but most of this cactus’ roots are 4-6 inches deep and span out as far as the desert plant is tall.
  2. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the US.
  3. After the saguaro dies its woody ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture.
  4. The Giant Saguaro can live to be 200 years old.

In the Sonoran desert the saguaro cactus has a boundless variety of towering armed shapes.

the saguaro cactus in arizona
the saguaro cactus species in AZ

Water makes up 75 to 95 percent of the saguaro cactus’ weight.  During periods of drought the pleats of the saguaro cactus contract.  During Arizona rains the saguaro expands as it soaks up moisture.

saguaro cactus with fruit
saguaro cactus close up

Saguaros, like many desert cacti, grow excruciatingly slow.  Arizona cactus experts estimate that a forty-foot tall saguaro is about 150 years old.  Arm buds begin to appear when the saguaro is 75 years old.

the saguaro arms
the saguaro arm buds

Many saguaros now standing in cactus forests germinated in the mid-1800s !!

saguaro cacti over 100 years old
saguaro cacti over 100 years old

To survive their early years, saguaro seedlings must be sheltered from the elements, whether it be under the canopy of other plants or in the crevices of rocky outcrops. Saguaro seeds can be deposited in droppings of birds roosting on branches of shrubs and trees.

nurse tree
young saguaro cacti under a nurse tree

Lightning, powerful winds, harsh winter freezes and the rotting of dead tissue kill saguaros.  Their woody ribs stay on the desert floor until they are consumed by termites or decay and return to the soil.

dead saguaro cactus wood
woody spine of the dead saguaro cactus

This cactus species is not currently listed as threatened or endangered. Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of the saguaro cactus.

You can find the majestic giant cactus in southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexica.

Journey inside Colossal Cave – Arizona’s dormant cave

Before entering Colossal Cave it was essential to educate ourselves and obtain some “cave basics”.  The facts and information we learned about limestone caves made our trip profoundly interesting!

Colossal Cave is an archaic KARST CAVE (meaning erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, caverns and underground streams).

Colossal Cave is a Karst cave
Karst region

Karst caves have 3 categories:  limestone, gypsum and quartzite.

Colossal Cave is limestone and considered dormant, “dry”.  A dry cave is without drips of water, streams or pools.  How was the cave formed?  Here is a short, simple answer:

  • Precipitation mixes with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and decaying organic material in the soil.
  • When Carbon dioxide is dissolved in water it forms carbonic acid. The carbonic acid begins to form holes in rocks, seeps into crevices and dissolves the rocks, especially limestone; but very slowly.  (Thousands of years)
    rock crevices and joints.
  • Cavities form and further sculpting can occur from water and chemical weathering.
  • After passing through limestone, the acid water contains a dis-solvable calcium carbonate.  As this solution de-gases through exposure to air by way of splashing, dripping or flowing, it loses carbon dioxide and deposits a solid mineral called calcite.
  • Calcite is the main mineral component in CAVE FORMATIONS, (speleothems).
Calcite, which gets its name from “chalix” the Greek word for lime, is a most amazing and yet, most common mineral. – See more at: http://www.galleries.com/Calcite#sthash.7JQ91AJ6.dpuf

The SPELEOTHEMS in Colossal Cave no longer grow. This cave formed by water depositing limestone that has NOW disappeared.  Close by, in the same mountain park, are Arkenstone and La Tetera Caves with active growing formations.

dormant speleothems in Colossal Cave
crystallized calcium carbonate formations

The most abundant mineral in limestone is calcite (calcium carbonate).  The majority of limestone formed on ANCIENT ocean floors.

Calcite is a main component used by echinoderms, like sea urchins, starfish, and sand dollars to make their spines and skeletons.  Calcium carbonate (calcite),  is found in the shells of marine organisms and truly is one of the MOST abundant minerals on earth!

In the marine environment, if the conditions are right, calcite is stable enough that it can cement together sediments and overtime make limestone.

calcite in the ocean water
limestone towers in the Atlantic ocean

On occasion another element may be present while calcite is being formed (ex: magnesium) and take the place of a calcium atom.

A less stable aragonite is a polymorph of calcite. They are both calcium carbonate but have different crystal shapes and symmetries.  The calcium, oxygen and carbon atoms in aragonite bond together differently creating a unique crystal structure.

Ok this is plenty of background information so now journey with us to Colossal Cave Mountain Park!

what to do in Tucson
The retaining wall and Visitor’s Center at Colossal Cave

The elevation of Colossal Cave Mountain Park is about 3,500 feet.  The temperature of the cave averages 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  No extra clothing is needed but feel free to carry water or a camera.

Colossal Cave in Vail, Arizona
walkway outside of Colossal Cave entrance

Frank Schmidt was monumental in the improvements and preservation of Colossal Cave by handing over his leases to the State of Arizona.  You can find information and historical photographs at La Posta Quemada Ranch Museum.

preserved Colossal Cave
Frank Schmidt statue at the cave

 

good picnics and kids activities at this Tucson park
bring the family and spend the day at this Arizona park

In 1879, Solomon Lick, the owner of the nearby hotel, was searching for stray cattle and discovered the entrance to this cave.

Arizona historical sites to see
professional guides take you through this historical landmark

Thousands of years ago Colossal Cave was used by Hohokam, Sobaipure and Apache Indians.  Travel down the road to the ranch museum for a fascinating display.

must see historical sites in Tucson, AZ
Colossal Cave has 363 steps

Most crystals are found in areas, like caves, because they take thousands of years to grow.  The growth continues until the saturation is stopped or the cave dries out.  Most crystals in a cave are calcite or aragonite.

visotors must see in Tucson, Arizona
calcite in the cave

Your tour guide will tell the story of the bandits who hid out in Colossal Cave.  These outlaws even played cards in the Colossal Cave Living Room. Legend has it that the gold from the train robbers is still inside the cave!

Stay with the tour group.  Our guide really wasn’t kidding when she said the group might go left and you’ll go right and be lost for hours in Colossal Cave.

Tectonic activity is noticeable.  Your guide will point out a fault in the earth’s crust.

Colossal Cave spelunking
Fault lines inside the cave

Cave’s formations, speleothems, are created by the same water that dissolved the calcite in the limestone —- then deposited the calcite in other areas of the cave.

historical caves in Arizona
stalagmites and stalactites in Colossal Cave

Stalactites – “c” for ceiling – hang from the top of caves like icicles

stalagmites and stalactites
cave formations with labels

Stalagmites – “g” for ground – emerge from the ground like a traffic cone

Because Colossal Cave is DRY;  the appearance of these speleothems is different than living caves.

Layers of calcite build up into fluted curtains.
Layers of calcite build up into fluted curtains.
 cave
our wonderful tour guide at Colossal Cave
FDR's Conservation Corp
Civilian Conservation Corps designated by President Roosevelt

In the 1930’s, a Civilian Conservation Corps designated by President Roosevelt worked tirelessly building the retaining wall outside and improving the inside of Colossal Cave.

The CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, constructed the stairs, bridges and handrails.

Colossal Cave repairs and protection
Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC, helping Colossal Cave

While visiting this cave do adventure down the road to La Posta Quemada Ranch.

what to do in Tucson, Arizona
visit the historical Ranch at Colossal Cave Park

Colossal Cave and the historic La Posta Quemada Ranch are listed on the National Historic Register.  When you visit be sure to enjoy a Desert Spoon Burger!

Salvia darcyi, a hardy, heat resistant desert Garden Flower in a container!

RedSalvia darcyi,  survived well through the desert winter months that hit in the mid 30’s and does superb in the high heat as long as it is watered everyday! It is a thirsty plant during these temperatures of 100 degrees or more.  I recommend larger pots than the ones I used.

Salvia Darcii arizona plants
Red Salvia plants in containers
red salvia desert plant
remove the spent flowers from Salvia plants

This is by far the MOST hardy, successful flower in my Arizona Garden! This perennial Salvia will generally grow from between eighteen inches and thirty-six inches, yet there are some that are much smaller. Mine is averaging about 20 -22 inches. The red salvia in the picture is a young plant that actually started from a fallen seed. The photo above is just after I pruned the finished red flowers. From having Salvia (red and blue) for over 2 years now I have learned it is best to trim them quite far down the stem to gain a thicker shrub.  Best of all this flowering plant is critter proof.  Last year the desert rats, squirrels, and rabbits ate most of our flowers except the Salvia. Since then, we are determined to have a rat-proof, squirrel-proof, rabbit-proof thriving Garden.  Quick note: Hummingbirds love the flowers and will visit your garden often!

To keep your Salvia looking vibrant and encourage better flowering, deadhead the plant. You can do this by pinching or cutting off the flower spikes with spent blooms, I like to use small pruning shears.
red salvia heat resistant plant
growing Salvia plants in pots
Red salvia flowers can form a striking border when massed together. It is a good choice for a bedding plant. Some people call this perfect Arizona plant, Scarlet Sage.

How to grow Cactus from cuttings – propagating cactus – roots and planting

Propagating cacti is very easy.  First gather the cactus cuttings from the parent plants.    Make sure your knife is clean and sharp before cutting your cactus.  For paddle cacti a single pad makes a good cutting.

propagating cactus paddles grow cactus
items needed to cut and grow cactus

For branching cacti, be sure the cutting is taken from a joint on the mother plant. Cutting on a diagonal angle is beneficial to the mother cactus so water doesn’t pool on the healed cut.  Never handle a cactus with your hands.

grow your own cactus plants prickly pear
air drying your cactus cuttings

To grow a successful cactus you MUST let the fresh cutting callus over and heal.  Place them in a dry, warm place for up to 2 weeks.  The larger the cut surface is, the longer it needs to dry.  This may sound extreme but remember cactus are drought tolerant.  If you choose to use a rooting hormone make sure it is powder!  Do not let your cactus cuttings get moist or wet.

grow cacti and cactus plants
waiting for cacti cuttings to form a callus

It is easiest for your cactus cuttings to root during warm weather.  According to the University of Arizona, the best time to propagate your cacti is during August & September when the soil temperatures are warm and conducive to rooting.  Some shade is best for rooting and will prevent your cactus cuttings from sunburn.

grow cactus plants from cut
cactus plants form a callus over the cut

Pick a good container with drainage holes for your callused cactus cutting.

pipe cactus plants with roots
organ pipe cacti cuttings have healed and started roots

When planting your cactus use a well drained soil mixture designed specifically for cacti. Plant the cutting about 2 inches deep and pack the soil around the cactus.  I also use small rocks to help keep the cuttings from falling over.  Wait about 2 weeks to water; then soak the cactus well and let it dry out another 2 weeks.   The biggest problem for growing cactus is over-watering.   Too much water causes the roots to rot.

grow cactus plant from cut
Prickly Pear cactus plant from cutting

The photo above is a prickly pear cutting that I planted in well draining soil in southern Arizona.  I’m starting a cacti garden on a rocky hill using different species of cactus cuttings.

Cactus are dormant during winter.  Do not water a cactus during cold weather unless it looks shriveled.

Valley Fever symptoms in our dog

Our Arizona Veterinarian informed us that our dog has Valley Fever, coccidioidomycosis.  This article is to share the information and facts we learned about Valley Fever fungus.  Our dog is on Valley Fever antifungal medicine,  and his prognosis looks good.

the same dog as Wishbone
our dog has valley fever

What symptoms made us visit the veterinarian?

  • Our dog was eating well but losing weight.
  • A few times I caught our pet crying as though he were in pain.
  • Something just seemed off with our dog
Coccidioides is a fungus
Valley Fever is a fungus

Canine valley fever originates in a dog as it inhales the coccidioidomycosis fungal spores. These fungus spores are usually found in dirt and in arid areas of the desert. Once inhaled, valley fever spores grow and multiply very rapidly at the first available point in a dog’s body, the lungs.

Symptoms of coccidioidomycosis, valley fever, usually appear between 1 and 3 weeks after exposure to the fungus.

Common Symptoms of Valley Fever in Dogs and Cats

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Lameness
  • Dry or moist cough
  • Bone swelling/joint enlargement
  • Extreme weight loss with muscle wasting
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Most fungi are harmless, but some types like Valley Fever can make you sick.  The map below shows areas of the United States that have common cases of Valley Fever in humans and animals.

Valley Fever map
locations where Valley Fever fungus is found

The fungus spores of Valley Fever begin in the lungs until they grow large enough to rupture, releasing hundreds of endospores.  These numerous spores begin a parasitic stage in the tissues and disseminate into the animal’s body.  The Valley Fever Fungus can spread to the organs.

The immune system does have the capability to fight off the Valley Fever infection before symptoms can even be realized, but it requires an exceptionally strong immune system to do so.

valley fever in canine lungs
fungus in a dog’s lungs

According to the University of Arizona, about 70% of dogs who inhale Valley Fever spores control the infection and do not become sick.  The Valley Fever infection can range from mild to severe.

Canine Valley Fever will begin to affect the dog’s joints if the condition continues to progress.  It is very sad when the infection of Valley Fever is so severe in the bones that an animal can no longer move its arms or legs.

joint with Valley Fever fungus
dog’s bone below the knee joint with Valley Fever fungus

It is very important to continue medicating your dog as directed until the veterinarian confirms that the blood tests are negative and tells you to stop medication. If you stop treating Valley Fever too soon, symptoms may recur.  Some animals will have to remain on the anti fungal medication for life.

life cycle of valley fever
life cycle of valley fever

Is Valley Fever contagious from animal to animal, human to human, or animal to human?
NO.  Valley Fever is considered a non-contagious disease. Even if multiple animals or humans are affected in the same household, each Valley Fever case was acquired independently.

Recently, I felt swollen glands on our other dog.  This week we took him to the doctor for Valley Fever blood tests and x-rays.  Already our heart is heavy with our little dog being infected and I can’t yet imagine how crushed we will be if our other dog comes up positive.

our dogs at the Veterinarian
Shadow and Trigger for their checkup

A Valley Fever vaccine is under development. Here’s hoping it is developed soon and may be available to prevent Valley Fever or make it very mild.

Labrador Shepherd mix
our black Labrador

The Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona is the only academic research institution in the world focused on the study of Valley Fever.

 

 

 

Red Salvia is # 3 – in the top Ten Heat Resistant plants for the Arizona garden

Multitudes of people love Salvia.  These Salvia plants, better known as Sage or SCARLET sage, are indigenous to nearly all continents.

Most varieties of Salvia are heat resistant and drought tolerant along with providing colorful flowers that bloom lavishly.

Salvia varieties of sage
Red Salvia sage in pots, containers
drought tolerant red salvia
Red Sage, Scarlet Sage plants in containers

This plant is easy to grow and Salvias furnish over 900 species; offering amazing potential for your garden!  The lush green leaves of the Salvia plant are so attractive that this Sage looks handsome even when not in bloom.

heat tolerant plant salvia
growing salvia

Salvia is a member of the Lamiaceae or Labiatae family; the MINT family.  Hot temperatures are a considerable concern for our Arizona gardens and Red Salvia loves the heat!

Salvia splendens, Salvia coccinea, Salvia darcyi, Red Salvia, or commonly referred to as Scarlet Sage are hardy, impressive plants and our favorite choice because of their lovely red blooms.   These Red Salvia are not edible like the sage in your kitchen.

red salvia in container
growing Salvia in a pot

Like most Salvia, the fragrant foliage is deer and small critter-resistant.  One of our Scarlet Sage, RED SALVIA, gardens is growing in the open desert and available to all wildlife.  In the past several years, we can report that our desert sage was devoured 1 time by JAVELINA but has been left alone ever since.  Most likely the Salvia made them ill.

red salvia darci
red salvia is a heat resistant plant

A location with full sun is the best choice for most salvia varieties but some are shade tolerant.  Our Salvia located in part shade did not make it through the winter; on the other hand, the salvia plants in sunny locations come back year after year.

squirrel proof plants salvia
Salvia sage plants are critter proof

When the flowers are spent the Salvia will self-sow its seeds! Take a look at the photo below. No worries about Salvia being intrusive:  you can easily transplant the seedlings or share them with friends.  Simply pull up your unwanted plants.

baby salvia seedlings
salvia seeds itself

Sometimes called Autumn Sage, Red Salvia blooms continually from spring through fall. A garden plant “must have” that is perennial and hardy in Tucson and Phoenix.

Arizona red salvia in a pot
growing salvia in containers

Can you grow Salvia in pots and containers?  Absolutely! We have several different pots with gorgeous Scarlet Sage blooming throughout the yard.  Our favorite color of Salvia for our garden is red but many cultivars offer pastel blooms such as pinks and blues.

The main difference with growing Salvia in containers is:  1)  the plants need to be watered more often      2)  several of the small shrubs needed replaced after winter

red salvia in Arizona
salvia, Scarlet Sage plants in containers

The abundant showy flowers produce a good amount of nectar making them attractive to hummingbirds and some people have named salvia: HUMMINGBIRD SAGE.

red salvia plant seeds for finches
salvia plants attract small birds

Goldfinches and other birds visit the Salvia plant to pick out the tiny brown seeds hidden in the calyces.

garden plants to attract birds
birds eat salvia seeds

Deadheading Salvia encourages more blooms and more birds!  It can be so fun watching the Goldfinches pick out the seeds.  Salvia plants can get pretty tall and unshapely.  Prune the salvia stalks back for fresh growth and new blooms!  We trim often to keep a fuller shrub and nice shape.

red salvia desert garden plant
salvia, Red Hot Sally Sage varieties
colors of salvia heat resistant plants
red and blue salvia plants

Hardy Salvia has been a jewel in our garden and definitely worth a try. 🙂

desert plant with red flowers
Red Salvia, Salvia darcyi

 

Poisonous Black Widow Spiders – facts, webs and identification

What do you do when you find a Black Widow Spider?  Although spiders are important for the ecosystem and very beneficial to a garden, widow spiders are considered the most venomous spiders in North America.

Latrodectus, western widow spider poisonous
large female black widow with the red hourglass marks

Black Widow spiders are the most common species that belong to the Latrodectus genus, in the Theridiidae family. 

The web of a widow spider, Latrodectus,  looks like it was haphazardly thrown together.  The photo below shows silk strands grouped together with bits of leaves and sticks in the web.

black widow spider web photo
web of the black widow spider is tossed together with strands of silk

Black widow spiders tend to make their webs close to the ground in undisturbed areas.  The female widow spider is quite the homebody and likes to stay in her web.

Latrodectus genus of spider, in the family Theridiidae
a young spider and female black widow spider

Juveniles and adult male Latrodectus are much smaller than the female spiders and are a light brown or grey color.  Usually the male widow spider has several red, orange marks on his belly along with yellow or white bands on the top of the abdomen.

—  SPIDER FACTS  —

Latrodectus is a genus of spider which has 32 species, with varying markings and colors. The more common name is WIDOW SPIDERS.

Widow spiders belong to the cobweb spider family. They spin unorganized, irregular, messy webs to catch insects.

The black widow spider is shy and rarely leaves the web.  She prefers to make her home in dark, protected areas. Being nocturnal, this spider does its hunting at night.

spider with red marks
female widow spiders are larger than the males

It is wise to be cautious of this poisonous spider! Widow spider bites are dangerous because of the neurotoxin that causes the condition latrodectism – which is seizures and pain in muscle groups. 

brown spider with markings
juvenile and male black widow spiders are brown and smaller than the female

The female Latrodectus spider has extra-large venom glands and her bite is particularly harmful to humans.

In humans and dogs the widow spider bite can produce muscle aches, nausea, and a paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult.  Most people bitten do not suffer serious damage or death.  A black widow spider bite can be fatal to small children, the sick and elderly.

Is the black widow spider bite fatal to dogs?  This is a big concern for me as I have two beloved dogs running about the yard.  This harmful spider bite to a dog is basically the same as it is to us humans.

Young dogs, older and those dogs with weaker immune systems are at higher risk for complications from a black widow spider bite.   ****Anti-venom drugs are available but need to be administered by your veterinarian.

Fortunately,  widow spiders are non-aggressive and bite only in self-defense.

poisonous spiders
spiders with large abdomens

Symptoms of a poisonous widow spider bite –

Once the spider’s poison reaches the blood, the venom is moved by circulation, causing its toxins to be deposited in the ends of the nerves that are inserted into the muscle.

The widow spider’s venom acts at nerve endings to prevent relaxation of muscles, causing seizures  —  constant, and painful muscle contractions.

Cramping in the stomach is often the most severe symptom but leg and back muscles may be affected also.

What to do after being bit by a widow spider?  SEEK medical attention after a poisonous spider bite.  Poison Control Website  or American Association of Poison Control  –  1-800-222-1222

Pictured below is the size difference between a male and female widow, Latrodectus, spider.

female widow spider is larger
size of male, female widow spiders, Latrodectus

Most people will recognize widow spiders by the hourglass markings on the underside of their abdomens. The hourglass mark is NOT present in ALL Latrodectus species.

The young female spider is more of a brown color with yellowish, white stripes across the top abdomen that change into the red hourglass shape as she ages and darkens to her black spider color.

most poisonous spiders
juvenile female black widow spider with white and yellow marks

The male widow spider is much smaller in size with brown coloring, and lacks the red hourglass mark the female is recognized for.

black widow before she turns black
young widow spider with yellow-orange marks on abdomen
spider white yellow marks
Latrodectus, widow spider with yellow marks, red dots on large abdomen

One way to rid yourself of a black widow spider is spray the web!  Wear protective gloves and spray the web well.  Spiders consume their old webs before they spin a new one.  Be careful always!

Latrodectus genus of spider, in the family Theridiidae
hourglass marking is common for poisonous widow spiders
dangerous harmful widow spiders
poisonous spider with white and yellow marks

In arid parts of Arizona, Latrodectus spiders inhabit almost every crevice in the soil and nests can be found in cholla cacti and agave plants.

Black Widow Spiders like undisturbed areas.  Keeping your home clean and vacuumed can help prevent these dangerous spiders from taking up residence in your house.


The best picnics, family time and perfect weddings at Agua Caliente Spring – (part 2 of 3)

We make it a point to take visitors to Agua Caliente Park.  This is an amazing lagoon; a get away from the prickly pear cacti and saguaros. It’s hard to tell that you’re even in Tucson. Agua Caliente presents you with an abundance of mature shade trees and lush backgrounds for picnics, weddings and even Plein-Air paintings.

family and picnics in the park
one of the best locations for picnics

Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park has a natural hot spring that flows through faults between gneissic rock and has been a long-inhabited settlement.

  • What is gneissic rock?   This type of rock has minerals arranged into layers which seem to be bands that alternate darker and lighter colors. The banding is developed under high temperature and pressure conditions.

Ok now, is Agua Caliente a park, a lake, or a wildlife habitat?  Well this natural spring is a bit of everything!  Pack a picnic, hang out and be sure to bring a camera.

park with water in Tucson, AZ
Gallery and Tucson Audubon in the historic ranch house

If you enjoy bird watching then Agua Caliente Park is worth a visit.  The Tucson Audubon Society is housed in the original Ranch home.

historic house in Tucson
the original Ranch House at Agua Caliente Park

Take a look inside this historic building and enjoy the gift shop and gallery.

Hohokam historical sites
Agua Caliente natural spring in Arizona

The eccentricity of the mountains and mature palm trees are reflected with vibrant color in the water.

Here you can picnic at a 101 acre aquatic / riparian habitat surrounded by the Sonoran Desert.

wildlife parks in Tucson, Arizona
ducks at Agua Caliente Park

At Agua Caliente you will see a variety of wildlife including herons, Arizona turtles and a variety of ducks.

The natural spring flow fluctuates at various times during the year due to drought. While visiting Agua Caliente you many see the lower ponds dry.

parks for picnics and rentals
Picnics, walking trails and wildlife are enjoyed at Agua Caliente

Relax on a bench and watch dozens of turtles sunning themselves.  While visiting the park it feels like we arrived in some exotic place hidden in the Sonoran Desert.

Arizona turtles
turtles at Agua Caliente

The ducks, birds and turtles entertain us at our picnic table while we wait for the Tucson sunsets.

Tucson park for wedding rental and portraits
A romantic park and perfect wedding background

It is a wonderful reprieve from the heat and definitely not what you would expect to find in Tucson, Arizona.

family picnics by the lake at Agua Caliente in Tucson
many picnic tables and locations to choose from

Adding to its charm, professional photographers frequent Agua Caliente with clients who want a stunning background.

There is a huge mesquite tree east of the ranch house estimated to be over 250 years old!

mesquite tree at Agua Caliente in Tucson
The Old Mesquite tree of Agua Caliente is supported by brick columns and steel poles

To sustain this elderly mesquite tree, Agua Caliente’s administration use brick columns and steel poles to support the enormous branches.

Agua Caliente Mesquite Tree
famous Mesquite Tree estimated over 250 years old

Agua Caliente Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This extreme east Tucson park is truly an oasis in the desert and is highly recommended for you, your family and friends.

To learn the history of Agua Caliente see my article:  http://tjsgarden.com/2013/08/16/agua-caliente-history-natural-spring-park-tucson-az/

Is Agua Caliente drying up?  : http://tjsgarden.com/2013/09/12/agua-caliente-park-spring-drying-up-tucson/


Agua Caliente History – a natural spring park in Tucson, AZ (part 1 of 3)

Drive northeast of the Tucson city limits and you will discover a natural spring surrounded by wildlife, palm trees and native vegetation.  Agua Caliente Park transports a visitor from the Sonoran Desert to a 101-acre hidden oasis.

Agua Caliente, (hot water) is named for the warm water spring that supports several ponds within the park.

sites in Tucson - must visit
a natural spring in Tucson – Agua Caliente Park

Agua Caliente Park has an open lawn edged by tall Date Palms, and a stream bank lined with mature California Fan Palms close to 100 years old.

Tucson, AZ parks and springs
Palm trees at Agua Caliente

Human habitation at Agua Caliente has been found to date back about 5,500 years.  I’d like to share a simple history and insights into the rich farming and ranching of the unique desert oasis called Agua Caliente.

Arizona natural spring park
natural spring in Tucson Arizona – Agua Caliente

From A.D. 600 to 1450, the prehistoric Hohokam constructed one of the largest and most advanced irrigation networks ever created using pre-industrial technology.

This technology would eventually give form to the unique prehistoric culture of southern Arizona known as the Hohokam.

hohokam found at Agua Caliente, Tucson, AZ
Hohokam village, Whiptail site

Around 1150 AD, a Hohokam village, referred to as the Whiptail Site, was established that extended into a portion of Agua Caliente in the Tucson basin.

hohokam people in Tucson Basin, AZ
Hohokam artifacts found at Agua Caliente

Deserving of our respect, the incredible Hohokam were able to sustain life in the area of Agua Caliente for nearly 1,500 years.

Hohokam lived at Agua Caliente in Tucson, AZ
Hohokam pottery – approximately 800 CE (A.D.)

The hot spring at the Whiptail Site at Agua Caliente Park has attracted native settlers since about 2500 B.C.  These facts are what has helped put the Tucson Basin on the map as one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in North America.

Coronado National Forest in Tucson
Agua Caliente is south of the Coronado National Forest , Mt Lemmon area
Agua Caliente oldest Mesquite Tree
Giant Mesquite Tree by the main Ranch House is over 250 yrs old

About 1853-1870s,  Agua Caliente Spring was used as an army encampment following the Gadsden Purchase.  What is the Gadsden Purchase?

**James Gadsden was the U.S. Minister to Mexico who was sent to renegotiate a border with Mexico that provided a route for a southern railroad in exchange for U.S. financial obligations.

places to visit in Tucson, AZ
Agua Caliente Park – a must see in Tucson, AZ

In 1873, Peter Bain filed the first formal claim to 160 acres surrounding Agua Caliente Spring.  He began a dairy cattle operation by bringing cows north from Sonora. Bain built a house, several outbuildings and corrals at Agua Caliente.

must see parks in Tucson, AZ
Ranch House, now an art gallery, at Agua Caliente spring

In 1875,  James P. Fuller purchased “Agua Caliente Rancho” and established an orchard and cattle ranch on the property.

native Velvet Mesquites for shade
native Mesquite trees at Agua Caliente in Tucson

In 1881, Fuller’s Hot Springs Resort was advertised as a medicinal and recreational destination.  He promoted the curative properties of the natural warm springs.

Agua Caliente Springs and Ranch
Agua Caliente warm springs

1880s-1920s.  Various owners operated Agua Caliente as a cattle ranch and resort.  The ranch bunkhouse, which dates back to the 1920s, was used by the ranch hands.

historic sites in Arizona
Historic Ranch House at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson
best parks in Tucson, Arizona
Agua Caliente Ranch and Hot Springs

The ranch house, caretaker cottage, now known as Rose Cottage, and the bunk house have been restored. The ranch house depicts the home as it may have appeared in the 1920s.

Tucson, AZ historic landmark
Rose Cottage is a historic building at Agua Caliente

In 1935,  Gibson DeKalb Hazard purchased Agua Caliente and operated it as a working ranch while also growing fruit and alfalfa.

In 1951,  the Filiatrault family took over the ownership of Agua Caliente consisting of three large lakes.  They also grew alfalfa for their cattle and horses and maintained the fruit orchard Fuller established in 1875.

place to visit in Arizona
Agua Caliente Spring Tucson, AZ

In 1984,  local businessman Roy P. Drachman donated over $200,000 toward the purchase of Agua Caliente.  The donation provided the incentive for Pima County to acquire the property and establish Agua Caliente Park.

Agua Caliente Park, a Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Facility,  opened on January 19th, 1985.

March 1, 1997.  Agua Caliente’s expansion areas were opened for public use. The park improvements included a paved entry drive and parking lot, accessible trails, interpretive signs explaining the waterfowl and history of this unique park, and a new maintenance building.

Drachman donated to Agua Caliente
signs throughout Agua Caliente

April 17, 2004.  The grand opening of the newly restored Ranch House and Rose Cottage.

The ranch house was built around 1873 and is currently a visitor center and an art gallery.  Call 520-749-3718 for more information.

Agua Caliente Oasis in Tucson
Historic places in Arizona

July 9, 2009.  Agua Caliente Ranch Historic Landscape was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.

For more interesting info click , part 2 of 3 – http://tjsgarden.com/2013/09/07/best-picnics-family-time-perfect-weddings-tucson-spring-park/

part 3 of 3 – http://tjsgarden.com/2013/09/12/agua-caliente-park-spring-drying-up-tucson/

Pima County Agua Caliente Park, 12325 East Roger Road, Tucson  85749         Phone: 520-877-6120

Snowflake is Arizona’s — Little House on the Prairie

The quaint, little town of Snowflake is located in northern Arizona.  Snowflake was founded in 1878 by two families.  The Snows and the Flakes; hence the town name.

1800 architecture in arizona
historic buildings in Snowflake, AZ
Snowflake, Arizona country store
COUNTRY STORE in Snowflake, AZ  has all your necessities
Snowflake, AZ sign
Snowflake Arizona founded 1878

While we explored up and down most streets, we noticed many areas that reminded us of a charming New England neighborhood.

The town of Snowflake was first settled by Mormon pioneers, Mr. William Flake and Erastus Snow.

Horses in Arizona
Snowflake is in Navajo County, AZ

Gently nestled between Arizona’s Painted Desert to the north and the breathtaking White Mountains to the south is where you will find this charming town.

The elevation ranges from 5,580 to 5,790.  Free-range cattle and horses are seen roaming on open land.

town of Mr. Snow and Mr. Flake
Mr. Snow and Mr. Flake established this town in 1878

The town is a quiet getaway with only 5,000 residents.  Travelers can visit over 100 historic buildings and learn much of Snowflake’s history at the Pioneer Museum.

A note: if you plan traveling to this area:  the local police are very strict with the speed limit We learned the hard way.

museums in Arizona
with historical museum in Snowflake, AZ
northern arizona towns to visit
Snowflake, Arizona
live off grid in Arizona
pioneer spirit in Snowflake, Arizona

I asked a long time resident, “What do you like about Snowflake?”  Without hesitation he said, “Snowflake, Arizona is a Community of Communities.”   “Christians, Farmers,  Environmentalists, Mormons, Homesteaders, etc… all have a place in Snowflake.”

small town with farms in arizona
Snowflake in Northern Arizona

Winter temperatures can get as low as -5 at night but always warm up during the day. There is no shortage of sunshine and many homes are powered by solar energy.

snowflake, az pictures
country homes in Snowflake, AZ

Several of our relatives live in the Snowflake area.  Their reasons for homesteading here are simple:

  • the air has very little pollution
  • living Green and off the Grid
  • warmth during the day and cooler temperatures at night
  • love of friends and nature
  • Valley fever fungus & mold are no problem
  • peaceful lifestyle
  • affordable acreage

Off the Grid living is very familiar to Snowflake and Taylor, Arizona.  Solar and wind powered homes are commonplace.

solar power in Snowflake Arizona
less pollution in Snowflake, AZ

Spring can get windy with gusts over 60mph and that can be a challenge.  Being prepared can help.  The average rainfall is approximately 12 inches a year, received mainly during the summer monsoon.

Snowflake has a sister town, Taylor, bordering it on the south, and these two communities have grown together.

land in snowflake arizona
Snowflake, AZ has dry climate

Other than a mild rise along the edges of the valley and a few sudden pointy hills, the surrounding terrain is pretty flat.  The dry climate makes it difficult for large-scale farming but it is not uncommon to see fields of corn and alfalfa.

towns close to show low arizona
small country town of Snowflake, AZ

Heritage Inn Bed and Breakfast offers a taste of Snowflake’s small-town charm. The inn, a renovated Victorian home from 1890, offers 10 room choices.

Snowflake Arizona Bed and Breakfast
Heritage Inn Bed and Breakfast in Snowflake

We stayed at the Heritage Inn and were overwhelmed with the superb customer service.  Not to mention the delicious home cooked breakfasts!

EHS - electrical hypersensitivity
Snowflake rental homes for people with Environment Sensitivities

For people coping with Chemical and Electrical Hypersensitivity there is a MCS / EHS homesteading community in Snowflake, Arizona.  I’ve listed brief information and a link to their website below.

This website’s primary purpose is to give practical information for people with severe multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS/ES).  http://www.eiwellspring.org/arizonalocal.html

electrical hypersensitivity community
MCS / EHS community in Snowflake, Arizona

MCS and EHS are closely related illnesses, which together are referred to as Environmental Illness (EI).

Happy Arizona travels and we hope to hear about your visits to Snowflake!

Curve-billed Thrasher – AZ desert birds with personality!

With their long tails, melodious songs and zesty personalities, the Curve-billed Thrasher is one of my favorite Arizona birds.

bird that bounces around and pounds the ground
Curve Billed Thrasher is a confident desert bird

Each bird possesses its own charisma.  And sing…?  Oh yes this bird can sing!

The Curve-billed Thrasher, Toxostoma curvirostre,  is a common bird species of the Sonoran Desert.

Order: Passeriformes
Family: Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

tucson bird digs the ground
curve billed thrasher bird arizona, red eyes

These desert birds are grayish, brown with a long tail and faint spots on the chest.  An adult Curve-billed Thrasher has vivid orange or red-orange eyes.  Juvenile birds have lighter yellow eyes.

gray brown bird with long beak orange eyes
Curve billed Thrasher’s long tail, birds with red eyes

Have you seen a Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre)?  Then you’ve already witnessed their daring personality and fondness for charging into groups of birds provoking chaos.

Desert birds of the Southwest
Curve-Billed Thrasher orange red eyes bird

This Southwest bird is a ground lover.  Curve-billed Thrashers fly in abrupt jerky fashion from bush to bush.  They especially like areas with thorny mesquite trees or cholla cacti.

a bird that pounds the dirt with its beak
Thrasher birds flick the rocks looking for insects

This bird probes the dirt and leaf litter with its long, black, down curved beak.  While digging holes in the soil, the Curve-billed Thrasher flicks aside debris in search of seeds and insects.

Arizona birds
A thrasher bird foraging on the ground for food

In worker fashion, Curve-billed Thrashers use their robust legs and feet to shuffle through the plant litter beneath a cactus or shrub.

arizona desert birds
Curve-billed Thrasher’s long tail

In the U.S., this bird occurs most commonly in the southern parts of Arizona, New Mexico and western TexasMost of the country of Mexico is blessed to enjoy the sights and songs of the Curve-billed Thrasher.

Bird with yellow eyes
red eyes of the curve billed thrasher bird
Curve billed Thrasher
two adult Curve billed Thrasher birds in the AZ desert

This male and female thrasher look very much alike.  Immature birds are similar to the adults but with shorter, straighter bills and yellow instead of orange-red eyes.

It is the custom of this long-lasting pair of birds to mate in the winter after a charming courtship filled with song.

Arizona Sonoran Desert birds
adult Curve-billed Thrasher with its young

Beginning early spring the two birds cooperate in building a nest;  creating a deep bowl-shaped structure lined with long, thorny twigs.

Curve-billed Thrashers prefer the lower shaded branches of the cholla cacti;  while the Cactus Wren bird will build a ball-shaped nest on a higher cholla cactus branch.

Breeding usually takes place from May to mid-July.  The female Curve-bill Thrasher lays her spotted bluish-green eggs early in the morning on successive days, usually producing a total of 3-5.

blue green eggs with spots by cactus
bluish-green eggs in the nest of the Curve-billed Thrasher

The eggs hatch in about fourteen days.  The young birds will leave the nest, approximately, six weeks after the female produces her first clutch.

Arizona state bird - cactus wren
this Cactus Wren may nest in a Cholla Cactus near a Curve-billed Thrasher’s nest

For the next several weeks, Curve-billed Thrasher parents nurture the fledglings, still answering their cries for food but teaching them foraging to encourage their independence.

a bird that bounces around the yard
Curved billed Thrasher is a bird with personality

Unfortunately, this bird has lost a considerable part of its south Texas brushland habitat. And the expanding cities of Tucson and Phoenix are causing a rapid loss of habitat in Arizona.

Curve Billed Thrasher, Toxostoma curvirostre
Birds of Arizona, TX and Mexico

Although there has been little conservation work directly focused on the Curve-billed Thrasher; much work has been directed at protecting habitats in some areas where the species occurs.

Information on where Curve-billed Thrashers occur and in what numbers is vital to conserving the species. A project of Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird is the world’s first comprehensive online bird monitoring program: http://www.audubon.org/bird/ebird/index.html

What kind of spider makes a tunnel web – funnel web spiders in Arizona

This medium sized light brown spider with dark stripes built his tunnel web in our aloe and cactus plants.  Funnel web Spiders are known for their tunnel looking, funnel shaped webs.

webs that look like tunnels
Funnel Web Spider has a tunnel

These spiders are found all over the world.  There are over 600 species of funnel-web spiders, belonging to the Agelenidae family.

web with a hole in it like a tunnel
spider web looks like a tunnel

We have several species of aloe desert plants on our property which the funnel web spiders seem to keep occupied.  It is a fact that funnel-web spiders prefer moist environments.

brown grey spider in a tunnel web
funnel web gray brown spider

Funnel web spiders are shy and come out at night.  It was a cloudy day around the Tucson area and I was able to spot this arachnid repairing their web.

web with a hole entrance
spider tunnel web with an egg sac, funnel web
Funnel Web Spider
Funnel Web Spider carrying a large egg sac

The broad funnel shaped web, looks like a tunnel ( see photo below )  and is made by the spider to connect to their burrow.  When an insect enters the web the spider feels the vibrations and rushes out from the narrow end to bite its prey and inject it with venom.

fennel web
the web that looks like a tunnel

The Arizona funnel-web spiders are NOT the same as the deadly Australian Funnel-web spiders, Atrax robustus, and are NOT dangerous to humans.

  • The Australian Funnel-web spider is in the family Hexathelidae.
  • The Arizona Funnel-web spider is in the family Agelenidae.

If you were bitten by SEVERAL funnel web spiders the venom could make you very ill and you should see a doctor.

fennelweb spider
funnel web spider

Identifying a funnel-web spider:  These spiders have distinctive grey and brown stripes and patterns.

webs that look like tunnels
funnel web spiders make tunnel webs

Funnel web spiders have long legs with little bristles and small eyes in 2 rows of four.

Funnel web spiders have been mistaken Wolf spiders.  When identifying a wolf spider remember wolf spiders DO NOT spin webs.

spider with long legs
Wolf Spiders do not make webs
skinny spider with long legs
Wolf Spiders have smaller abdomens

I am not crazy about spiders but they are very important to the ecosystem and health of our planet.