Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spring Starts in February

As the season unravels, our spirits get restless again and we long for the solitude and connection with the desert. Then again, we need to clean out and up and re-energize with a visit to a park.
So after we left Ogilby Road (California) we ended up back in Casa Grande (Arizona) at Rovers Roost - the Escapees Park. I like Casa Grande and I like this park. It is not the newest or the fanciest park but it is warm and inviting.
I like Casa Grande much better than Yuma, too. Did I ever mention the bumper sticker I saw in Yuma that said, “If this is Snowbird season, why can’t we shoot them?” And this is the way Yuma feels to me. So, given a choice, I would choose Casa Grande even as a city, it feels more congenial.
Having said that, we stayed our week and headed off to the desert south of Why, Arizona (about 10 miles south of Ajo and about the same distance north of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Park).
It was then that I realized that spring had started!
The yellow flowers are erupting out of the brittle bush and tiny purple-flowered mats scatter the landscape. We followed the narrow Indian Road 15 from Casa Grande to Why. It runs through the Tohono O’Odham land that is covered with a unique profusion of cacti: Suarago; Prickly Pear; Cholla (No photos – was too narrow to pull over!).
Why, Why?
Why, AZ is a tiny little community at the junction of hwy 85 that leads to Mexico and hwy 86 that goes off to Tucson. It hosts the Why-Not store and service station, two RV parks Coyote West and Coyote East; a very active Senior Center and a large flock of snowbirds. There is a Casino and another RV park further down the road towards Tucson.
The settlement was named Why to qualify for a Post Office. They needed to have three letters in the name so chose ‘Y’ to coincide with the junction in the road.
The third day we were there, we went to a Flea Market/Craft show at the Senior Center and then to a great burger place in Ajo with Chuck & Sheila - our friends from Wetaskiwin.
Gunsight, the BLM where we stay, is two miles south of Why . As with most BLM lands, it is totally undeveloped except for the trails created by the campers. if you don't get back to your site in the daylight, it could take you days to find your place again!
The first site we found turned out to be a bit of a dud - not what we liked. We toured around and found another spot much more to our liking on a different Wash (a wash is a dry riverbed). After just a few hour the hummingbirds were already coming to visit . . . that’s better!
This is why we like Why!
We were parked overlooking the wash. we spotted the occasional rabbit and watch the squirrels and birds play and dart in and out of the bushes. I sit at the table with the feeder just outside on the window. We scattered birdseed and put out water in a spot that I can watch everything right from there.
Sure, it’s a hummingbird feeder and the hummers found it quickly but this year, we had so many unique and extraordinary visitors.
The Verdins and the Orioles found the feeder
But the Finches and the Gila Woodpeckers preferred the oranges that hung in the nearby mesquite tree.
The Thrashers and Towhees are species we have never seen here before and so were pleasantly surprised.
Green Tailed Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Curved Bill Thrasher

I must say that if it weren’t for our birder friends, Judy and Terry, who pulled in a few days after we arrived, we probably would have had no idea what we were looking at.
We have seen the Cardinals before but it was a delight to have them visitor again.

A less welcome visitor was the rattlesnake. He slowly slithered over the sand without even startling the birds or the Squirrel around him.

Coyote Melons
Have you ever heard of Coyote Melons? They are in abundance this year. They initially look like tiny round watermelons and then turn yellow and look like yellow tennis balls.
The Coyote Melon is native to Southwest United States and Northwest Mexico but are relatively uncommon. They grow in hot, arid regions with low rainfall in soil that is loose, gravelly, and well drained. The vines sprawl out and orange-yellow curling trumpet flowers grow out green striped fruit.
We were told they were poisonous to us but it turns out that the pulp is the “bitterest substances known to mankindFor all this, Indians did roast and eat the highly nutritional oily seeds after carefully cleaning them of pulp.  The Indians attribute coyote, “the trickster”, with giving these melons a bitter flavour while providing edible seeds.”