Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Trip to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

On Easter, I decided to head out in the early afternoon and go explore BANWR.  It is located southwest of Tucson, off of Hwy 286 about 58 miles, and isn't that well-known by Tucsonians, probably because it was only established as a wildlife refuge in 1985.  Since I'm trying to make the most of my remaining time here, it seemed like an interesting location to visit.  To learn more, here is the link to the website homepage .

The weather on Sunday afternoon was idyllic - sunny with highs in the low 70's.  The elevation of BANWR is a bit higher than Tucson, which made for a very comfortable outing.

Normally for this blog, my purpose is to post photos that I feel are the best of those taken at a given location or of a particular subject.  In this case, because of the time of the day, the photos aren't really that great - nothing I'd really consider worthy of printing and framing.  No beautiful clouds to add to the picture, or even a single photo of wildlife, most of which stays hidden during the day.  However, I decided to post some anyway, primarily to bring viewers along on my trip and hopefully give a sense of why I love hiking and exploring the areas of the southwest.

During my time in AZ, I've been driving a Buick Park Avenue, graciously lent by a family friend.  I ended up driving it down a dirt road that I located on my map that appeared to lead to the refuge's visitor center, located a few miles off Hwy 286.  What I didn't know was the condition of the road, which would have been perfect for my Jeep Wrangler, but not something I'd knowingly take a passenger car on.   It was an adventure, helped along by no cell phone coverage and not a single person or vehicle seen on the road.  A combination of luck and backcountry driving experience, and I was able to negotiate the Buick through unscathed.

A quick stop by the informative visitor's center, and then it was back up the highway and to the east to the small town of Arivaca, which is on the northeastern edge of the refuge property.  Along the way, I located the trailhead of one of the trails I'd read about on the website, so after getting gas and something to eat, I headed back to take the hike.

Below are a selection of photos from my trip.  Others I took will also no doubt become the subjects for future paintings.

Looking Back
This view to the northeast shows a curving section of the dirt road I'd just come along.  Looks fine in the photo, but it became gnarly as it crossed the small wash.   Isolated patches of Mexican poppies were found along these gently sloping hills and amongst the mesquite bosques.

Grassland and Baboquivari Peak
Taken just east of Hwy 286, this photo shows the characteristic grasslands of the refuge, and some of the ubiquitous Mexican poppies.  Baboquivari (pronounced "babbo-KEEV-uh-ree") Peak is considered sacred to the Tohono O'Odham people that live in the area; the mountain is actually located on their reservation to the west.

Fremont Cottonwoods in Arivaca Creek
To me, there are few things more visually stunning than a line of brilliant green (or yellow in the fall) cottonwoods lining a creek or river in the middle of the desert.  They, along with aspen, are my favorite trees.  This was taken along the creek (mostly dry) along the Mustang Trail I was hiking.  View is to the west.  AZ sycamore, back walnut, and other species of tree are also found in watershed areas such as this.

Arivaca Creek from El Cerro peak
I started this hike in the late afternoon, and this is 2.5 miles from the trailhead and perhaps 800' elevation gain.  This photo and the next were taken shortly before 6 p.m.  The trail was rough and rocky and a bit steep right at the end, but I'm a fast hiker and got up to the top in about an hour.  What a view - these images sum up why I hike.

Baboquivari from El Cerro
Another shot from the summit, this time looking to the northwest.

Sunset along the Mustang Trail
Taken on the way back down, this shows the warm glow of the late afternoon light has transformed Baboquivari Peak and its range into a simplified silhouette against the cloudless sky.  A variety of desert scrub, cacti and grasses make up the foreground.

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