Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Whitewater Washout!

Even though we had just gone to Whitewater Draw a week ago, our friends Frank and Jenny expressed interest in going, so planned another trip on Sunday. The forecast was for 20% chance of rain, but usually in Arizona that means you might have to take shelter for a few minutes... Co-worker Steve West claims that one should pray for rain to see the snow geese come out. We hadn't seen any our previous visit, so chance of rain or not, we were going!

We left Tucson well before noon, and got to Tombstone in time for a late lunch. Turns out we had stumbled into "Vigilante Days" and the town was as crowded as I've ever seen it. Not only were there scads of old-timey saloon gals and roughnecks waving guns around, but also, a LOT of lawmen and frontier women, all in period costumes. We didn't stick around for any gun fighting, but got in, got lunch and headed on out.

As we approached McNeal, near the turnoff for Whitewater, we could see scattered rainstorms in the area, including a big one to the east. No sooner had we parked at Whitewater than sprinkles started, increasing slowly into steady rain. We walked down the dikes to the viewing area, acting as good hosts to show Jenny and Frank (first-timers) the area. There weren't a lot of birds there, perhaps a couple thousand cranes, and they were eerily silent, compared to their raucous calling in fairer weather. At left is a small group of cranes, seen against the distant outline of "Cochise's Head". Compare this picture to the one a week ago - more cranes, and much better visibility. About the only other picture I took was of a feather in the water below us - it looks to be a sandhill feather, in enough detail to see the individual barbs. Note that on the thumbnail moirĂ© fringes might be available as the barb frequency and smaller pixel display frequency are close together. If you click the image, the fringes will disappear in the larger image. Note also the drops of rain getting the top of the feather wet. It was raining hard enough I didn't want to expose my camera and lens, as they wouldn't quite fit under my Tilly hat!  Oh, and BTW, we did see hundreds of snow geese, but they were hunkered down in the rain on the far western side of the wetlands, at least a quarter mile away, likely closer to a km...

Great Horned Owl by Frank Koch
Fortunately Frank's camera was small enough (plus umbrella to keep dry!) that when we returned to the van, he stopped at the pole shed where we'd seen a pair of great horned owls. He took the image at left and supplied it for the blog. If you click on it for the full-size image, be sure to note the talons on that thing - pretty dangerous looking!

The rain looked like it wasn't going to let up anytime soon, and with it being Jenny and Frank's first time in that area, we decided to continue down the 20 miles to Douglas. Melinda and I are big fans of the Gadsden Hotel, and wanted to show it off to them.

Douglas is a sleepy little border town of a little over 15,000, and for visitors like ourselves, the Gadsden Hotel is certainly one of the highlights! Built as a real frontier hotel in 1907, it burned to the ground and was rebuilt in 1929. Highlights include the two-story lobby with marble columns and staircase. At left is shown a 4-frame mosaic of the lobby around to the staircase. At right is a statue guarding one of the corners of the staircase.

In the background of that picture is an incredible 42 foot-long stained glass mural made by Tiffany of a desert scene.  We couldn't imagine its production and shipment across the country 100 years ago, so figured it was made by artists in residence on site.  It is always shockingly spectacular to see it backlit where it is located on the second floor.  At left is shown a 2-frame mosaic of the majority of it from across the lobby.  It was still too early to eat dinner at the dining room (opened at 5), so we loaded up the van and headed NW, avoiding the dirt roads this time and passed through Bisbee, and stopped for dinner at the Crystal Palace in Tombstone.  We were home in Tucson about 9:30, and even though we didn't get to hang out with the cranes much, it was a nice weekend day trip.  The cranes are headed north soon, so the season is over for them, but there are still plenty of things to see within a day's drive of Tucson!

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