Walter and Sara on the road to who knows where
On Valentine’s Day, Walter had a visit with his cardiologist—how perfect for heart day! It was good news all around. The tests had come back showing that he was in great shape with no chance of a heart attack and no sign of congestive heart failure. They still have no idea what the cause of his high level of PVC’s is but since he doesn’t feel them most of the time they opted not to give him any drugs to try to control them since all of the drugs have problems. Instead, the doctor told him to come back in 6 months and in the meantime to have fun!

After the successful doctor’s appointment we went round the corner to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and did our errands and Walter bought me some flowers to celebrate the day.

Valentine's Day flowers

Rain started that afternoon and continued for several days! We had over 5 inches of rain by the time it was done—which perked up the desert plants like the Ocotillos a lot. That weekend we installed a new larger solar panel to charge Genevieve’s batteries (with the controller inside the trailer so we don’t have to worry about it getting wet) and even with some cloudy weather it had done a great job of keeping them fully charged. Score!

Solar battery charger

Our Silver Torch Cactus continued to put out buds all month. In fact, it has continued to put out new buds for 6 weeks now since I noticed the first ones. I don’t know if I would have bought these guys but we’re having fun watching them do their thing.

Silver Torch Cactus in bud

Our hummingbird feeder has gotten really busy. We have multiple birds who visit it throughout the day. We also have a small bird who comes and sips at the feeder once in a while. Neither of us knew what it was until one day it stayed long enough for me to get the camera.

Verdin at hummingbird feeder

It turns out to be a Verdin. Not only does it have a yellow head but it has a red spot near where his wing meets his white chest, though that didn’t show up in the photo. The hummers who chase each other away with great regularity and avoid the bees don’t mind the Verdin at all.

Verdin and hummingbird

And Verdin didn’t even seem to notice the hummers--one of which is at the back 'flower' in this photo.

Verdin at hummingbird feeder

Along about this point in the month we began to go to a folk music gathering that meets here at Rancho Resort called the Silver Strummers. They were rehearsing for an appearance at the local Assisted Living Center and we went to 4 or 5 of their rehearsals but took a pass on the performance –they already have WAY too many guitars. But we did join them for their photo shoot in front of the Rancho Resort Clubhouse.

And no, Walter's guitar hasn't shrunk. That's his new baritone ukelele.

Ranch Resort Silver Strummers

Walter has been taking his baritone ukulele so he gets an opportunity to practice and when in doubt he can always play his harmonicas. It’s an odd format for us in that everyone plays together like a guitar class (we won’t go so far as an orchestra). Folks have trouble hearing each other and even with an electric bass player (whom almost no one can hear) there are often two or three different tempos going on. Sometimes there are 10 guitars, 2 ukuleles, an electric bass and me on the autoharp. That’s a lot of guitars! It’s certainly not a group where you have to worry about playing the wrong chord or hitting a sour note! But folks have fun and that’s what counts.

On Sunday February 25th, we took I-19 south towards Nogales and then turned west on Ruby Road out towards Pena Blanca Lake where we picked up Forest Road 39, a dirt road out into the hill country. It’s a pretty drive with lots of interesting rock formations and a few ocotillos that were leafing out here and there.

View along road to Sycamore Canyon

The road continues on but we turned off at the Sycamore Canyon trailhead where there’s a bit of a parking lot and a well marked trailhead. The trail leads through grassland to Yanks Canyon where there are TREES along the dry creek. There are springs in the area. In fact we found a cistern with frogs in it. And we saw two deer bound up this hillside.

Trees along dry creek at Sycamore Canyon

We turned right, downhill through a glen of deciduous trees that I couldn’t identify. But there was a lot of water rising along the trail.  

Springs in Sycamore Canyon

One rivulet joined another until we had a real creek on our hands.

Water in Sycamore Canyon

We followed the creek as it joined yet another. We managed to make a couple of crossings without getting our feet wet. And in time we came to this nifty rock formation.  

Rock formation in Sycamore Canyon

The creek had gotten fairly deep here and it made a turn so that we were going to have to cross again.

Creek in Sycamore Canyon

It was deep enough that we were definitely going to get our feet (and our socks) wet and our only other option was to backtrack and scramble up over and around the rocks. We decided instead to turn back. It was nice to be out in nature for a while (forest bathing is a wonderful thing especially with a bit of babbling brook noise). It was quiet and pretty and a lovely day (in the 50’s).

We found this pile of empty water bottles and canned beans (US labels in English) on the beach. We don’t know if some hikers had left them or someone had left them for migrants. This area is really close to the border—in fact the trail ends at the border. So who knows? We did see 11 or 12 Border Patrol cars on the drive back to I-19. So there is plenty of presence.  

Canned beans and water jugs

We had lunch in the truck watching the acorn woodpeckers work their way through the trees and then drove back. The geology is really varied.

FR 39 view

And the dirt road allows you to drive slowly and enjoy the views (with occasional pull out so I could actually take a photo or two).

F% 39 view

The gray mountains off in the distance are in Mexico.

 View south from FR39

The road twists and turns through the hills.

FR39 twisting through the hills

And then when you least expect it there’s an interesting rock formation—looks kind of volcanic to me. But the real reason I took this photo was to catch the 3/4 moon hanging above it.

Half moon over rocky tor

Just before we re-joined Ruby Road near Pena Blanca Lake we came to this interesting little reservoir complete with a flock of ducks and another formation that looks like a volcanic plug to me.

FR39 view

Later that week it rained in the night and we had hail the next morning. It didn’t last long but it sure was fun to have white stuff bouncing around on the back patio.

Hail on bricks

The other really exciting thing that happened the last week in February was that a Sprouts Market opened in Sahuarita down across the street from the Walmart. This was a major event for the community and the parking lot was FULL for a week—realize that this is a parking lot for a Pets Mart, the Sprouts, a TJ Max and a Beal’s Outlet store so it’s a BIG lot. We went the day after it opened and it was a zoo. It’s so nice to have a nice natural foods market nearby. It may not be a Trader Joe’s but it’s close!

On Monday March 5th, Walter had his one-year follow up appointment for his secondary cataract surgery. All was good, though he did need new glasses. So we ordered his new glasses and then drove west to Sweetwater Preserve, a gorgeous area west of downtown Tucson.

There’s a nice big parking area and a number of trails to pick from. Folks mountain bike here so I expect it can be really busy on the weekend. There were quite a few cars in the lot when we arrived but we certainly didn’t have any trouble getting a place to park. We decided to take the Saguaro Vista Trail which takes you out through a wonderful forest of saguaros.

Saguaraos Sweetwater Preserve

There were LOTS of big old saguaros here some with the woodiest trunks I’ve ever seen.

Big old saguaro

The good news is that there were also lots of young saguaros too. The views to the west were great. If you go straight over the top of these mountains you’ll get to Gilbert Ray Campground where we camped last year at about this time near the western section of Saguaro National Park.

Sweetwater Preserve 
The trail heads north-ish and the views continue.

Sweetwater Preserve

Along the way there is a wonderful cresta saguaro.

Cresta saguaro Sweetwater Preserve

It’s begun to grow arms around the cresta so that they look a bit like antlers.

Cresta saguaro Sweetwater Preserve

The trail arcs around the cresta and on through the saguaro forest.

Sweetwater Preserve Cresta Saguaro

The ocotillos here were all leafed out and some of them had buds but no flowers yet.

Ocotillo buds

The trail comes around the ridge and you get views to the east of the mountains east of Tucson.

Eastward from Sweetwater Preserve

There were places where the saguaros were so thick that they made it challenging to take photos when you were looking east.

Sweetwater Preserve

It was time for Walter to rest so he found a nice rock to sit on and I went on just a ways to see what I could see. The trail comes to the edge of the preserve and looking north you can see houses.

Sweetwater Preserve northward
It turns sharply east and you get another view of Tucson (and more houses).

Tucson from Sweetwater Preserve

The trail continues on northwestward for a ways but it didn’t look that exciting so I turned back to join Walter. Along the way I saw this huge patch of beavertail cactus. I hadn’t seen any others along the trail so I was kind of surprised to find so many together.

Beavertail cactus  

We turned back and along the way I managed to trip over a rock in the trail and go flying (note to self this is why you need to take your hiking pole rather than leaving in the back seat of the truck). I landed hard and skinned my hands and left elbow and landed on a sharp pointed rock on my left knee. I had jeans on so I brushed myself off and we continued back to the car. I washed my elbow and hands off and then realized that my knee was bleeding pretty heavily since it had gotten my jeans bloody in more than one spot. Ick. We drove home and I iced it and within a few days I was doing fine. The knee is still a little tender since it got pretty bruised up but it’s not keeping me from doing much.

The next day we went to Fitness 101, an introduction to the machines in the gym, and then later in the week starting working out again 3 times a week. We’ve taken it slow since it’s been nearly 4 years since we’ve worked out but at this point I’m pretty much back to a regular workout and Walter is getting there.

We are enjoying our new house and have managed to figure out how pretty much everything works and have made a number of small repairs here and there. This past week I’ve started a new project: reupholstering our dining room chairs.

Worn dining room chair

We bought them when we moved to Beaverton, Oregon back in the spring of 1984 and funny thing the fabric has worn out!

Worn out fabric on chair

So I found some fabric on-line and on Sunday went to work taking the first chair apart and removing the hundreds of staples to get the old fabric off.

The chair back only had about 250 staples and the foam is still in okay shape.  

Chair back with fabric removed

But the seat had many more staples and the foam was flat and really icky (34 years of dust!). So I stripped if off and am now waiting for the foam to come.

Chair seat with fabric and foam removed

Tuesday I managed to recover the back okay (we shall see if it holds up. This is a learning process after all).

reupholstered chair back 

I figure if I keep at it, I may have all four chairs done before we leave here in May!

We’ve had weather in the low 80’s this week—cooler than last year at this time when it was 90 just before we hit the road to head east but it’s supposed to cool down again soon.