Part 33: Thanksgiving and Oracle State Park


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Larry, Sandy and Kathleen prepared an excellent Thanksgiving meal including the normal items such as a smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, cranberries, monkey bread, salad and several kinds of pies.

Several days of sitting around eating was making us antsy, so eventually the urge to "do something" took over.  We decided to drive to the Oracle State Park to see what was there.

The photos below are what we saw.

Voila!  A home made cherry pie with tart cherry filling.  Sandy did a great job with both the crust and the filling.

This was a "small" dinner with only 7 bodies present.  Sandy's son Eddie, his wife Julie and child Ellie were the other attendees.

After an hour of dishwashing, the kitchen was sufficiently cleared to be able to see the counters again.  Above, Kathleen packages the leftovers.

A post-turkey food coma enforced by near continuous commercials on the TV.

Several days later, the group decided to head to Oracle State Park north of Tucson to see what is there.  Oracle sits on the north slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains and "back in the day" was the source of significant mineral wealth from the Magma Copper Company.  Magma was closed a number of year back and the smelter in the San Pedro River Valley was sold and moved to another mine in South America.  The mine site is hidden below the crest of the hills in the photo above.  In the distance the Galiuros Mountains are visible.

En-route to the visitor center at the park we saw these two hawks resting on a power pole.

The plants in the park are native species.  Above is a so-called Century Plant (a type of agave) that blooms once and then the plant dies.  The seed pods are on the top of the plant.

The finest in hillbilly technology.

In the brush I spotted a small hummingbird.  Only it's silhouette was visible against the clear western sky.

The visitor's center is this one room administration building that doubles as a gift shop.

The Oracle State Park is a 4000 acre wildlife refuge that has 15 miles of hiking trails.  The property was once the Kannally Ranch back in 1902.  In 1976, the last remaining Kannally donated the land to the State Parks Board with the stipulation that it become a wildlife refuge.  Oracle State Park was the result.  Above, there were plenty of other visitors here to enjoy the trails.

The hills were rather lush due to a combination of altitude and rains.

The rolling hills of the northern flanks of the Santa Catalina Mountains are pretty good grazing land.

Several kinds of cactus put out tall flowering stalks.

In addition to cactus there were scrub oak trees.

This cholla hosted a substantial bird's nest.  The thorns of the cholla prevent the nest from predators.

This long-dead cholla was slowly being taken over by the grasses.

There were many nice seed stalks on the cactus.

The harsh desert climate supports both life and death as vibrant plants live alongside dead ones.

The San Pedro River is in the valley beyond the hills in the foreground of the photo above.

Apache Peak on Oracle Ridge looms large on the distant horizon.  The farthest ridges are in the main Santa Catalina range.

The hillbilly transformation is in progress.  Only 2 front tooth extractions remain to be completed.

This dead mesquite tree still serves the local ecosystem by providing roosting areas for local birds.  And great firewood to grill your steaks.

A spider nest spotted in the low brush near the trail.

Oracle State Park was a bit underwhelming.  But, it did have a nice set of easy trails that provided great views of the surrounding terrain.

Tomorrow we roll back to San Diego to complete our 3-month long expedition.  The photos below are what we saw on that segment of our expedition.

"Back in the day" the Pinal Air Park was a clandestine base used by the CIA.  Now it hosts many aircraft being mothballed.

I-10 goes past Picacho Peak, a huge volcanic plug.

Kathleen spotted a flight of helicopters in formation headed for target practice south of Ajo, AZ.

West of Gila Bend is this large thermal solar plant.

The plant consists of row after row of steerable parabolic mirrors.

I-10 passes many rugged mountain ranges.

Traveling around Thanksgiving always sucks, particularly when folks are not careful when they drive.  Not sure what happened here, but there was tons of stuff strewn on the shoulder of the oncoming lanes.

Near Yuma, AZ there was a huge traffic jam in both directions on I-8 due to construction.  Two lanes were reduced to one resulting traffic for miles in both directions.  Above, we just cleared the one lane section of the westbound side.

The jam-ups lasted for miles.

There were plenty of folks coming from the sand dunes back to San Diego.  The setting sun made visibility difficult and near the crest of the mountain outside Pine Valley, the sun sank onto the middle of the road.  A driver panicked when the glare blocked his vision and hit the brakes.  The car behind, also blinded, hit him.  And the fellow behind him impacted as well.  And so on.

The pile-up happened just 3 vehicles ahead of us.  Luckily, we were in the far right slow lane and the collisions happened in the fast lanes.  We estimated that 6 vehicles were involved, maybe more.

People started getting out of their cars and heading toward the center lane.

The initial collision was violent enough to set off the air bags.  Usually, if the impact of the collision does not injure you, the exploding air bags will finish the job.  We could not see through the side air bag to see who, if anyone, was inside.

This was an arduous journey from Tucson to San Diego.  We estimated that at least 2 extra hours were added to the normal travel time due to construction and accident delays.  We made it home without incident and were saddened to find that one of our very expensive light fixtures self-destructed in our absence.  This group of fixtures has been very unreliable from the get-go.  I call them "trophy wife fixtures" because they "look great but don't work".

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