Saturday, October 06, 2012

Round Robin: My Madera Canyon Story

For Round Robin Challenge: Tell Me a Story, I asked people to post a picture of something, anything, and tell the story behind it. My story will be told in more than one picture, because, well, I can!

As you may know, I walk every morning with my two dogs as part of my self-designed weight loss program. (I've lost over 120 pounds.) In recent months I've averaged over six miles a day. Most of the time I walk to destinations within a few miles of home, but that gets boring. Sometimes I need to strike out, go someplace else, and try for a new challenge!

So last Saturday, I made the 48 mile drive south to Madera Canyon. It's one of the prime birding hot spots in the country, and I visited it with some frequency in 1986 and 1987 - and maybe once since then, if ever. The idea was to walk the dogs up the road there, and get in at least six miles roundtrip. It didn't work out that way.

The new map app on my iPhone said I had to ditch my car outside the park and walk the last 9 miles. It was wrong, and I didn't. Instead I drove all the way to the Madera picnic area. There I spent a few minutes at a picnic table, my foot on the dogs' leashes, and did some birdwatching. There were Mexican Jays all around, and a number of less visible species.

Then a rock squirrel turned up, and worked his way closer and closer to the picnic table. I got out my camera and managed to get this shot:

Suddenly the dogs caught the squirrel's scent. One strong tug, and they were off! The squirrel was treed within about ten seconds!

After that it was time, really past time, to start my walk. A nature trail wound past the creek over a bridge or two and through grassy meadows before dead ending, oh, any number of places. I doubled back and set off in the other direction, meeting up with a couple or older men on the way. That was lucky for me, because I lost the main trail at least twice! They got me back in track, literally.

Soon we came to a 2.75 mile nature trail, but the other way led back to the road, and I took it. I wanted to go to the gift shop. I'd left my hat, my sweatband and my hand towel at home, and I suspected that my liter of water would prove inadequate. So I hit the gift shop. The employee there gave the dogs water. I bought a really cool sweatband, a cap and more water, and got a trail map and a birding checklist.

Immediately outside the gift shop was a bird feeding area, frequented mostly by hummingbirds. Neither I nor anyone else there was in good enough practice with our bird identifications to be sure whether we were looking at Allen's Hummingbirds or Rufous Hummingbirds or both. After all, 15 species of hummers are seen there, and the females especially are extremely difficult to tell apart.

By then my camera battery was low, and my iPhone battery was lower, probably because of the spotty network coverage in the canyon. I walked back down to where I was parked, and wasted time charging my phone in the car. I managed to get about half a charge, during which time I reparked twice, trying to get a connection to answer a request to call my boss back in Tucson.

I finally managed to get through to my boss at the top of the road, where a group of kids and their adult chaperons were all looking through binoculars at where I was parked. I thought perhaps they'd spotted something wonderful, like an Elegant Trogon. But no: they told me they were looking at "pictures of birds."

And they were!

After that I drove back down to the gift shop, bought AA batteries for the camera for $2 each, and hit the trail at last. I made a few wrong turns along the way, and found the going about as steep and rugged as I can candle. But it had its rewards. We saw two deer!

And the view was frequently wonderful.

I made it to the top, and we walked, sometimes ran, down the road, back toward the car. My iPhone battery ran out about a quarter mile before we got there. I didn't quite manage my six miles, but it was a good day. And my legs were sore for a few days from all the climbing.


Now let's see who else is participating this week. So far, it's...

Linking List
as of Saturday, October 6th, 1:13 AM

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Carly - Posted!

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