Friday, July 10, 2020

2019 Part 4 July thru December

Back in Sierra Vista we could finally devote a lot more time to our docent training at Ramsey Canyon TNC. Studying notes, a newly rewritten history of the canyon and following a few of the regular docents on their walks helped us put our own personal touches on our own interpretative presentation.

Closer to home Tom redesigned the ancient water feature left by the previous owners after the fiberglass "waterfall" began disintegrating. A hole was dug to accommodate a large plastic tub to serve as an underground reservoir. Atop the opening, a couple layers of heavy wire mesh and lighter screen were placed to support the water tray and the ceramic pot from where water flowed out of the top, into the tray, then returning into the reservoir. At least the same water pump was recycled from the old water feature. The result was an instant hit with the birds which, having the pan at ground level, made for easier access.

old carpet removed and new installed
We had talked about replacing the old worn and now disgustingly dirty outdoor carpeting on the back patio. There were options to consider such as simply removing the carpet and painting the concrete surface, removing and then tiling the surface, or, simply replacing the carpeting. All three options had one thing in common: the old carpet had to go. But due to the uneven surface and copious amounts of old glue after the carpet was pulled, the labor to smooth and resurface for painting was prohibitive.

While tiling was our preferred choice, again, resurfacing the cement required a labor intensive cost beyond our budget. In the end we opted for carpeting. Tom removed the old carpet and slowly worked on scraping off layers of old glue. Then it was just a matter of time to pick out carpet color and nap and set a date to have it installed.

birding Parker Canyon Lake SP
Our small birding group continued weekly outings as we bulked up our annual bird list. Trips to the canyons on Fort Huachuca, the Catalinas outside Tucson, the Portal area, and surrounding grasslands simply reenforced our decision to choose Sierra Vista as a place to settle regardless of it being a bit too politically conservative (there are some bright spots thank goodness).

Glenn and Diane
Friends Glenn and Diane Chambliss were once more staying in the area at a seasonal rental home. We got together a few times for meals and birding. It turned out that their rental plans for 2020 were not going to allow them to arrive as early as they had hoped. Knowing of our plan for an extended stay in Mexico, we discussed the possibility of them renting our townhouse while we were away. Eventually we settled upon a rental price for January and part of February of 2020. We were happy to have the house looked after in our absence and delighted we could help out such thoughtful and caring friends who we knew would look after our home as if it were their own.

with Ron and Renell at Camp Rucker
The latter part of August found us on another day-long adventure with friends Ron and Renell Stewart. This time we headed for a place on our bucket list - Rucker Canyon (formerly White River Canyon) and the ruins of old Camp Rucker. Again, for those who believe that Arizona is a vast desert are missing the big picture. There are many different facets to the life zones found throughout the state. One doesn’t have to travel very far in any direction from Sierra vista to experience dramatic changes in habitat and scenery.

Originally named Camp Supply, the camp was established in 1878 to provide supplies and assist patrols pursuing “renegade” Apache Indians. The name was changed to Camp Rucker later that same year when during a flash flood, Lt. John Rucker drowned attempting to rescue fellow officer Lt. Austin Henely who also drowned. In a tribute to Lt. Rucker both the canyon and the camp were named in his honor (no doubt, Rucker’s father, Gen. Rucker played a role in the renaming). 

Our visit to the camp gave us pause to imagine the Chiricahua Apache still clinging to the distant mountains trying to hang on to a threatened lifestyle and the hardships of life in the frontier west. Camp Rucker was formally abandoned in November 1880 but continued to serve as a camp for various troops of the 4th Cavalry during the Geronimo campaign of 1886. Eventually the property became known as Old Camp Rucker Ranch, when it changed hands with a number of people until 1970 when the property was turned over to the USFS which now maintains the historic site.

We visited a few more sites we’d not been to before or had not thoroughly explored like Patagonia-Sonoita Creek TNC Preserve where we almost had a seasonal volunteer job when we were still full-time RVing.

our first tour group
September found us officially leading our first docent walk at Ramsey Canyon. One of the more experienced docents, Tom Clancy (a Wisconsin native) was kind enough to pass on his materials (photos, charts, and notes) used on his walks. We lead a small contingency of people up the main trail regaling them with facts and stories of early canyon life. All of it true, of course, or, as Tom Clancy said, “If you can’t think of something just make it up” (he was joking but clearly we shared the same sense of humor).

college students group with their instructor
By the end of the walk the group couldn’t believe this was our first guided tour - we must have sounded knowledgeable enough. From that point on we were on the docent tour schedule - tours are run March through November, every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.  We usually did one a week. And we did them in tandem as we had when we volunteered at Boyce Thompson. Occasionally docents are asked to guide a tour not on the regular schedule. One such tour was a group of college students from the local Cochise College. A great group of young people - so important to impart knowledge at an early age. 

Carol and Wyatt
We also meet interesting folks like Wyatt Earp. Yes, Wyatt Earp. A relative of THE Wyatt Earp, his parents named him after his great uncle. Wyatt portrays Wyatt and other notable western characters at Tombstone, AZ as well as traveling to parts of the country taking part in historical reenactments.

Carol signed up for a day-long sketching class held at Ramsey lead by a local art instructor. She met several people (some were already volunteers at Ramsey) and spent the day discovering some new drawing skills she thought she never had.

By late October and early November, fall colors began to appear in Ramsey. Unlike colors in Wisconsin which peak quickly and don't last long, foliage in the canyon turns gradually and because it's protected somewhat from the elements, lasts much longer - up to several weeks.

This was also a time when Pete, the RCTNC property manager, put together a schedule to shuttle volunteers over to tour the Patagonia-Soniota Creek TNC property, the Canelo Hills Cienaga Reserve. This TNC property is closed to the general public but is available to visit by reservation. Or as in our case, since we volunteer for TNC, we can access the property by just letting Pete know in advance.

The preserve is a 260 acre parcel of wetland, grassland, and dotted with black oak was acquired by the Nature Conservancy in 1969, in parts to protect the rare Canelo ladies tresses orchids. Canelo was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974.

Tom on his bicycle - finally, again. It had been a few years but a local charity ride to raise funds supporting mental illness awareness caught his attention. 30 miles later he finished his first longer ride in quite some time. Glad he had not opted to do the 50-mile route.

Back at Casa de Sykes more attention was given to a few new plantings and rearranging/construction of planters. The carpeting we had ordered was finally installed which brightened up the back considerably.

always a long line - get there early
Having missed it for a few years, we made it to Tucson for the annual Sabaku Artware sale. Just in time as Tom’s wearable T-shirt supply had grown thin. T-shirts normally selling for $28 or more were on sale for ten dollars each.

A rug weaving demonstration of indigenous Zapotec weaving at Cochise College by Alex Martinez, a master weaver, caught our attention. Knowing we would be in Oaxaca in 2020 and wanting to buy a wall hanging, this turned out to be a great opportunity. In the end we we purchased a wall hanging and purse (woven by Alex's sister). They also invited us to visit their studio when we were in Oaxaca and mentioned that Alex's uncle, also Master Weaver, has a shop in Oaxaca City and that we should look him up as well.

trading low elevation desert for high elevation snow
December and what to do about Christmas? We traded desert sun for mountain snow when we made a long weekend trip up to Dillon for an early Xmas with Chris and his family and to drop off early birthday gifts for the kids. Naturally it was winter and living at over 9,000 feet, snow was inevitable. And the cold.

We kept us close to home but did manage a few trips out into the wild. Some photos at nearby Dillon Dam, a night out attending a local theater group sharing songs and personal stories about the holidays, a few meals out and a drive up into the mountains. We certainly had our winter fix.Oh, and we even managed a little birding.

Larry is not only into beer but rocks, too.
December was also busy month with visitors. Larry Darling and his traveling companion Harvey the cat made good on his threat to visit while he was touring in his RV. We managed to take Larry to a few of our favorite places but of course there was always time for a beer.

Don and Anne
Don and Anne Aitchison, another Canadian couple who we first met RVing, stopped by and, naturally, we had to meet them for dinner and drinks. And host a walk at Ramsey.

As December was winding down, John and Jane Creech paid a return visit hoping to miss snow and cold - and for the second time in a row, they didn’t. But at least they were better dressed for it. They really do have to make a return visit when it's a bit less snowy. But of course they are always welcome.

The year was quietly put to rest on new Year’s Eve as we looked forward to our Oaxaca adventure, not realizing of course, what 2020 would bring in the form on a pandemic.