Southwest Chicken Soup and the Saguaro Cactus

It’s mid December. The days are short, the air is crisp, and the holiday lights are sparkling. Winter has arrived and we’ve finally had a cold front roll through here in the desert southwest. In Phoenix, Arizona, this past week the thermometer barely hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit … Brrrr! I’m sure my friends to the north are either tilting their head quizzically or scowling at me.

superstition mountains arizona

Hey, when it’s been a consistent 90 plus degrees, anything much less than 70 degrees feels cold and has me putting on a sweatshirt. With that said, I think I’ve officially turned into a reptile. What other explanation could there be as to why 70 degrees would feel so cold to me? Crazy, I know! However, I must say the mornings and evenings do get into the 50’s and even 40’s, which is definitely cold and has me pop’n on the heat in the RV.

Easy Southwest Chicken SoupWith winter in full swing, it was time to make a big pot of soup, but not just any soup, Southwest Chicken Soup. Nothing like warming up from the inside out.

Considering I’m in one of my favorite places; the desert southwest, why not embrace the unique landscape and culinary flavors of the region!

With the soup simmering in the slow cooker, the RV is filled with a wonderful scent. While inhaling the delicious aroma filling the RV, I glance out the window and admire the landscape.

Saguaro Cactus

I find the Saguaro Cactus intriguing.   As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I thought this three armed cactus was a fabrication of cartoonists.  I remember watching cartoons like the Road Runner, Huckleberry Hound, and of course Bugs Bunny.  The background contained scenes of red rock, cactus, and the ever abundant tumbleweed … all foreign to a young gal growing up in northern Illinois among cornfields.

Saguaro Cactus

Each saguaro cactus is unique and appears to have a personality of its own.  It took me weeks of living amongst these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly…. pronounced:  sa-wha-ro.

Saguaro CactusThe saguaro cactus is a large, tree-sized cactus which can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters), and is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, some parts of southern California, and northern Mexico.

Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years.  (Hmm, makes me feel like I’m a tiny spring chicken in comparison 😀) It can take 50 to 70 years just for a saguaro to develop a side arm. Arms are grown to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity … more arms lead to more flowers and fruit.

flowering saguaro cactus

Saguaros are very slow-growing and may only grow an inch or two during its first eight years.  The growth rate is determined by climate, precipitation, and location.

This army of cacti seem to have their own personality; some cute, some not, some look like proud soldiers, some like cartoon characters, and others look tired, twisted, and weathered, but no two are identical. Oh and by the way, the plural is either cacti OR cactuses – either is considered acceptable.

saguaro

AND then there is the rare crested saguaro.  Why are some crested?  Saguaros rarely grow symmetrically and often grow in odd or mis-shapen forms.

crested saguaro cactusBut on rare occasion, the growing tip produces a fan like form which is referred to as a crested or cristate saguaro.

Biologists disagree about why some saguaros grow in this unusual form.  Some thoughts; genetic mutation, lightning strike, freeze damage, but no one knows for sure why the unusual growth occurs.

Fascinating to say the least for whatever reason!

crested saguaro cactus

crested saguaro cactus

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Delightful Desert

This past week I’ve taken full advantage of daughters time off; time before she starts her new job on Monday.  I want her to love the desert as much as I do, or at least embrace the delightful uniqueness of the land.

Ashton admires a Century Plant

Ashton admires a Century Plant

She’s not quite sure how she feels about the cacti.  She thinks some look evil and ready to attack with their thorns.

"I am not standing next to that thing"

“I am not standing next to that thing”

There’s a harsh beauty to this land that I find anything but ordinary.  I never know what I’ll see or discover on my excursions.Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat

There’s something special…. something extra ordinary about the desert that makes me smile.Hot Air Balloon

Daughter hasn’t quite embraced the desert, but she does maintain an open mind.  I’ll keep working on her, and in the process, have fun sharing some of my desert favorites.Pleasant

This post is in response to the WordPress photo challenge – (Extra) Ordinary

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera

A prickly friend

I find the Saguaro Cactus intriguing.   As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I thought this multi-armed cactus was a fabrication of cartoonists.  I remember watching cartoons like the Road Runner, Huckleberry Hound, and of course Bugs Bunny.  The background contained scenes of red rock, cactus, and the ever abundant tumbleweed….. all foreign to a young gal growing up in Illinois among cornfields.intricate patterns

Phoenix ArizonaEach saguaro cactus is unique.  The ribs and needles appear to form an intricate and complex pattern.  It took me weeks of living amongst these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly…. pronounced:  sah – wah – ro.

The saguaro is a large, tree-sized cactus which can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters).   They grace the landscape in all directions in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.

Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years.   It can take 50 to Phoenix Arizona70 years for a saguaro to develop a side arm.

Saguaros are very slow growing and may only grow an inch or two its first eight years.  Whenever it rains, saguaros soak up the rainwater and the cactus’ ribs will visibly expand.  This might explain why the desert feels so alive after a rainfall.

Hubby and I have been hanging around Arizona’s Phoenix valley since the third week in February and have enjoyed watching the desert bloom.

One of the reasons we’ve prolonged our stay in Phoenix was for me to see the saguaro bloom.

The saguaros are late bloomers and most don’t start until sometime in May.  However, they seem to start a little earlier at the Desert Botanical Garden, which of course I found rather exciting.  Guess it doesn’t take much to entertain me these days.

Gila Woodpecker

the saguaro provides a home for a Gila Woodpecker.

With temperatures hovering in the nineties in Phoenix, Arizona, the saguaro are now starting to bloom in the wild.  Most of the other cacti and vegetation are no longer blooming, but I have the fondest memories of the desert in bloom just a few weeks ago.

intricate patterns

Cacti provide intricate and complex patterns

Phoenix Arizona

saguaro skeleton

the skeleton of a saguaro cactus

We’ll hang around Phoenix a few more days, then pack up and start our journey toward Colorado in search of cooler temperatures.

Phoenix Arizona

“bye, my beloved prickly friend”

This post is in participation with the WordPress photo challengeintricate.  The needles on a cactus provide a complex, detailed, elaborate, and intricate maze.  Fascinating plants that are particularly beautiful in the spring.

crested saguaro

the rare crested saguaro

Phoenix Arizona

A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert (Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum)
Joby GP1-A1EN Gorillapod Flexible Tripod (Grey)

Saguaro Cactus

I find the Saguaro Cactus intriguing.   As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I thought this three armed cactus was a fabrication of cartoonists.  I remember watching cartoons like the Road Runner, Huckleberry Hound, and of course Bugs Bunny.  The background contained scenes of Red Rock, Cactus, and the ever abundant tumbleweed…..all foreign to a young gal growing up in Illinois among cornfields.Saguaro Cactus

Each saguaro cactus is unique and appears to have a personality of its own.  It took me weeks of living amongst these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly…. pronounced:  se’warou.

saguaro cactus

note the bicyclist on the trail between the saguaros – sense of scale

The saguaro is a large, tree-sized cactus which can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters).  It is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, some parts of southern California and northern Mexico.  Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years.   It can take 50 to 70 years for a saguaro to develop a side arm.  Arms are grown to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity…..more apices lead to more flowers and fruit.saguaro flower

Saguaros are very slow growing and may only grow an inch or two its first eight years.  The growth rate is determined by climate, precipitation, and location.  Whenever it rains, saguaros soak up the rainwater and the cactus will visibly expand.  This might explain why the desert feels so alive after a rainfall.  The cacti are doing a happy dance!

saguaro

Yeah…let’s party!

saguaroAt Cave Creek Regional Park, we hiked the Quartz Trail.  As we came up over a hill, I stopped in awe.  It was like a forest of saguaros.  I use the term ‘like’ not as a valley girl but because I’m not sure if it’s correct to use the words forest and saguaro together.  All I can say….. I’d watched one too many Scooby Doo cartoons as a kid…..zombie  saguaro apocalypse.  This army of cacti were watching us….making sure we stayed on the trail….each with its own personality; some cute, some not, some look like proud soldiers, some like a cartoon character, and others look tired, twisted, and weathered, but no two identical.saguaro

AND then there is the rare crested saguaro.  Why are some crested?  Saguaros rarely grow symmetrically and often grow in odd or mis-shapen forms.  The growing tip on rare occasion produces a fan like form which is referred to as crested or cristate.  Biologists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form.  Some thoughts; genetic mutation, lightning strike, freeze damage.  Fascinating to say the least for whatever reason!

What are the holes in the saguaro?  Stay tuned…..

This was going to be the end of the post……..BUT……..

I have more to share……….  We left Phoenix Tuesday and headed south to Tucson.  We settled into a nice campsite at Gilbert Ray Campground, just south of Saguaro National Park.  How fitting to do a post about saguaro cactus from Saguaro National Park!  We knew a storm was coming and we were prepared with an RV full of food and fuel.  Wednesday around noon, just as predicted, the snow started falling.  SNOW in TUCSON???Gilbert Ray Campground

Oh, what a sight to behold.  The flakes were large and plentiful.  Al and I sat in our cozy warm RV drinking some nice hot tea and watched the scenery unfold.  This is rare for the area.  The Accenture Golf Tournment was put on hold…..poor Tiger.Gilbert Ray CampgroundThere were times I could not help myself……I’d put on my winter boots and winter coat and run around taking photos.  Sure wish I had packed my snow pants….I could have stayed out longer.  Oh well, this Colorado gal knows how to improvize…..two pairs of knit pants kept me warm and kind of dry.Tucson

The next day, the snowstorm was but a mere memory.  The cacti were swollen and happy from all the moisture.  With clear skies and warm temps returning, we were off to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum…..

Oops!

It’s a new day.  I awake to Bear’s restlessness.  I look at the clock…exactly 6:30.  That dog’s internal clock is spot on…same time every morning, give or take five minutes at the most.  I throw on some clothes and take Bear for his morning walk.  I decide to head up the road toward the Archery Range and throw my camera in my pocket.  Yesterday on this very walk, I noticed a cactus with a pink bloom.  I hope to capture this blooming cactus 😉

It’s a brisk, calm morning.  As we head up the road, I take in the amazing array of cactus and vegetation as a bunny darts across the road.  I’m in my own little world…still waking up….day dreaming a tad.  Suddenly I’m startled by some screaming girls in the distance.  I know it’s spring break, but screaming girls this early in the morning?  Nope, that’d be coyotes!  Sounds like quite a few coyotes!!!  Bear and I swiftly return to our parking lot where his walk consists of a couple of laps around the lot.  Sorry boy, not in mom’s plan to come face to face with a pack of coyotes.  The flowering cactus?  Long forgotten as well.

Bear and I return to a warm Rig.  Al started the coffee…ummm.  We discuss the plan for the day.  We’ve learned the hard way, Phoenix in March is busy with snowbirders and spring breakers.  Thus the campgrounds are full.  Before hooking up and driving off, Al thinks it prudent to call Lost Dutchman State Park and verify they have room for us.  Al talks to the head Ranger and the Ranger informs him no group is booked in the “group campground” prior to our Escapees group.  Thus giving us permission to set up early in the “group area”.

Fifteen minutes after this phone call, we’re on the road.  Wow, we’ve gotten good at this RVing thing.  We arrive at Lost Dutchman less than thirty minutes later.  We check in….oops….the Ranger made a mistake and yes indeed there was a private group who reserved the area prior to the Escapees group.  Humm….what to do?

We head to the “group camp area” and set up in a corner and know we can stay in this spot for the night.  The next day the “Superstition Square Wheelers” start showing up.  If the group requests we move, then obviously move we must.  The Rangers left the decision in the groups hands.

The “Superstition Square Wheelers” are a local group of square dancers.  Not only do they allow us to remain in our camp spot, they graciously embrace us and include us in

our backyard!

their activities.  NO, this did not involve square dancing.  They reserve that activity for the hall.  Al plays cards with the guys, we enjoy campfires, and are invited to the potluck.  They share local information and make numerous recommendations.

What an incredibly warm and generous group of folks…..we had a wonderful time.  By Sunday morning, we were exchanging contact information and hugs good-bye.  Two of the couples have plans to be in Colorado Springs this June and we have tentative plans to meet for lunch 🙂  Sunday also brought some rather inclement weather.

I Love My Dog!

I just finished downloading more photos onto my laptop and start to review them and do a tad bit of editing.  I notice a common thread amongst the photos taken this past week….Bear.  My little guy is in at least half my photos.

Bear has been a part of our family for over thirteen years and has provided us with so much joy, love, and entertainment.  Al and I question which of the three of us has enjoyed this past month of traveling the most.  It appears to be a toss-up.  Bear is having the time of his life.  He is a great traveler and can’t wait to explore our next location.  Al and I share in his enthusiasm.

At his age, Bear has his good days and some not so good days.  He has some minor leg problems and therefore we are extremely careful to control the distance and pace of his walks.  We’ve had some scary moments here at Lake Pleasant and thought Bear was declining or suffering from muscle spasms.

Al and I examined his paws and legs several times by running our hands up and down his legs, around his paws, between his toes and pads and found nothing amiss.  We decide perhaps a trip to the Veterinarian should be in order to make sure it isn’t something serious.

you deserve a treat

Bear is starting to look a bit unkept.  Prior to a Vet visit, I decide to trim him and clean him up a bit.  I wear my glasses (I hate getting old) to be sure not to cut anything that shouldn’t be cut or hurt my little guy in any way.  As I trim  his nails and the fur on his paws, I detect a large knotted fur ball in the center of his paw, the paw he keeps shaking.  I gently get the scissors in there to cut it out……..ouch……..it stuck me.  Oh my, the poor little guy had a thistle in there.  The guilt, oh the guilt.  What a bad doggie mommy I am!  This calls for extra treats for good little doggies.Al and I at different times and several times had felt his paws for just this kind of culprit.  This is the desert after all and thistles and thorns are plentiful.  Sneaky little thing.  There was so much fur matted around the thistle, it had felt like Bear’s hair until I started pulling on it.

Bear is all trimmed up, thistle remove, and ready for a walk.  With a new found spring in his step, nose in the air, pulling on the lease Bear is anxious to explore a new route and visit with the dog down the way.

We are so happy to realize nothing is seriously wrong with Bear and he will continue to bless us with his presence and unconditional love.  Bear and I go for a walk and all I can do is smile as I watch this special little creature loving life 🙂

Green with Envy…

Oh, Mother Nature!  Today we awake to four inches of snow cover. Wednesday we had a beautiful, sunny day in the mid sixties here in southern Colorado.  We were able to enjoy a nice hike in Lake Pueblo State Park and get some much-needed fresh air.  We also spent time cleaning and reorganizing the Rig for our trip to AZ next week.  We’ll leave it winterized for now.

cove, Pueblo Reservoir

Yesterday around noon the weather front started rolling in and by late afternoon the ground was white.  Why, oh why aren’t we in AZ already?

It continues to snow lightly and temps are around 25 degrees.  The satellite dish did not work last night due to freezing rain and snow blocking the transmission.   As I check my emails this morning and look for updates from fellow bloggers, I become green with envy at all the lovely photos posted……desert sunsets, desert sunrises, desert hikes, desert cactus, desert mountains, AND desert warmth.  Oh, how I need to remind myself just a few more days and we’ll be on our way.

I’m also very inspired by the personal stories I read on blogs and thankful for the inspiration.  Perhaps today I can muster up some ambition to go through a few boxes in the garage.  The purging must start……again.  I did a great job last year unloading lots of “stuff”, but find myself left with still plenty.  The problem is, I like my “stuff”.  Al and I are thinking, once we return from this road trip, he and I will be more ready to unload more things.  AND next winter, we’ll be enjoying a glass of wine around a campfire in the southwest and I too will be posting desert photos on my blog.  Until then, I remain green with envy!

P.S. South Texas and Florida are on the short list as well.  I continue to take notes from fellow bloggers and already have plans for winter 2012.

Green Desert Sunset

Green Desert Sunset (Photo credit: nebarnix)