Like a walk in the park!
The third day of the trip! The plan was that Tim should spend the day with his friends in Gilbert, Arizona, while I should find something else to do. Then we should all meet for dinner. Before leaving Denmark, I had done some research and found out that there was some kind of nature preserve in Gilbert, that I would like to see.
When we left the hotel, we headed for the home of Tim's friend. When we got there I said “Hello” to “Mama” and the four of her six children that were at home. I spent about 10 minutes in the house, then headed for the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch, as the place I wanted to visit was called. With the help of my GPS, I found the place without any problems, and in fact it was not very far from our hotel. Unfortunately, I initially overlooked the entrance to the parking lot, so I had to go on a slight detour to get back, but I managed and the second time around I got it right. As I got out of the car, the sun shone from a clear sky, as it had done the previous day as well, and already here at 10 am it was quite warm. I therefore put sunscreen on my arms, legs, face and neck, and when I had put on my baseball cap I was almost ready to go.
Back home I had read on the internet that there were a lot of birds in the preserve, so I changed my camera lens to my newly acquired 150-600 mm zoom lens and grabbed my monopod and also a bottle of water from the cool box, and thus armed I was on my way. At the entrance of the so-called Water Ranch, a sign explained about the place. In fact, it was a water reclamation plant. Water that had been used for irrigation of fields was led to the area, and then it was cleansed by being pumped around between seven different ponds. There were typically water in four or five ponds at a time, and then two or three were empty and either drying or dry. These ponds and the area around them attracted a lot of birds, but also other animals.
I had only just passed the entrance when I saw the first birds. Ducks! Not in a lake or pond, but in the middle of the path, and also a single white goose was resting in the grass next to the path. One of the ducks was a so-called muscovy duck, which has a very characteristic appearance, but otherwise the ducks were quite ordinary. In the bushes around the trail there were also lots of birds, small birds that is and they were not very photogenic as they wouldn't sit still long enough for me to adjust the camera. I didn’t see any larger birds, not even birds of prey, even though I had read that there should be a lot of those around, but maybe they were on summer vacation! After approximately one half mile on the trail, I came to a new gate, and a sign that told me that here began the actual Riparian Preserve. Inside the preserve I got closer to the ponds, both empty and water filled and here I also saw the first mammals of the trip in the form of some squirrels jumping around the bushes, and a bit further on some white-tailed jackrabbits who jumped around on the ground. The same did some small doves, which in English are called the common ground dove. But otherwise, I only saw wading birds. Among these a number of different herons and egrets, not least the great blue heron and great white egret. In addition, I saw, a number of smaller waders, which my bird knowledge wasn’t good enough to identify. I did see a couple of hummingbirds in front of flowers, but as mentioned before I never got to take pictures of them. I got a nice picture of a flower though, but the hummingbird had disappeared before I took the picture.
White-tailed jackrabbbit in Riparian Preserve
On my walk around the area I took a lot of pictures and drank most of my water which had become not only lukewarm by the way but actually hot. And although I certainly did not hurry, I got kind of sweaty. When I had done the whole trip around the ponds and came to another gate that led out of the preserve, I chose to go around a larger lake that lay outside the preserve but still within Water Ranch. Here I photographed pair of cormorants, more ducks and other birds that was swimming around the lake. After this I decided to go back to the car and get some cold water. At that point, my clothes were soaked and when I started the engine, I understood why, as the thermometer was fixed on 122 degrees Fahrenheit, which corresponds to 50 ° Celsius. It's actually the highest temperature I've ever experienced in the United States (or anywhere else for that matter). The earlier record was 114 degrees Fahrenheit which I had experienced twice, in Mojave Desert in California back in 2010 and again in Yuma, Arizona in 2014. And I had been walking around in this temperature for almost three hours! But then it was still no more than 2 pm, so I had to find something else to do.
Using my smartphone and the Internet, I found out that there were more parks in the area and for some reason I decided to visit a park called Veterans Oasis Park in another Phoenix suburb, Chandler, about 10 miles south of the Water Ranch as the crow flows and a bit longer by road. It even got longer as I was sent on a detour due to some road work. When I arrived, I could see that there was another lake, but only a single one, with a paved path encircling it. so I decided to take the tour's first "exercise walk", something I usually do each day at home, but as it turned out I only managed to do it once a week on the vacation. This first one proved to be reasonably short, no more than 1.5 miles, but I kept an average speed of over 4 miles per hour, even though the temperature was still above 110. Later we heard from Mama that in the previous three weeks there had been no days when the temperature hadn’t reach 115 during the day. But fortunately, the air in the desert is dry, so it's not as bad as it sounds. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the car's air conditioning when I got back.
After the visit to this park, I headed back towards the hotel. Along the way I
stopped at a shopping mall where I visited a Barnes & Noble bookstore.
I looked around for about an hour and had a cup
of coffee, but in the end I didn’t find anything interesting though. I think
this may very well be the first time ever that I didn’t bring a single book back
from USA. Back in my room I took a shower and relaxed for a while.
I had promised to be at Mama’s place around
six, so when it was time, I left the hotel and it was almost exactly six when I
reached the house.
When I got to the house, we had to wait for
Mama's boyfriend to get home from work, but when he arrived and had changed, we
drove to the very interesting Joe's Farm Grill, a restaurant on a farm.
Almost every produce was grown on the farm, and
what they did not grow themselves, they bought from neighboring farms, and
the same was true for their meat.
They also made their own excellent organic sodas.
A very fun place and the food was good.
When we had eaten, we said goodbye to Mama and
her family and turned our noses towards the hotel with another visit to a
Walmart on the way.
The next day we were continuing east, and we had
to drive all the way to Las Cruces in New Mexico.