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Grab the Camera: There’s Color in the Desert this Season!

Grab the Camera: There’s Color in the Desert this Season!

Now is the time for wildflower magic here in Tucson. Winter rains have nourished the desert and set the stage for our spring wildflower bloom. Through the end of April, Southern Arizona is bursting out in brilliant blooms. So start enjoying the show!

I have a favorite road-trip I take each spring to admire the natural beauty of a greening desert. The road-trip is a bit of local roadside history and wildflower watching. I pack a picnic lunch, grab my camera and head north of Tucson onto Oracle Road, which becomes Arizona Route 77. Continuing past the town of Catalina, at Oracle Junction I connect with Arizona Highway 79 to start my mini road-trip into wildflower country.

The Pinal Pioneer Parkway (also know as Arizona Highway 79) is a two-lane road of wide open spaces and gorgeous scenery of native vegetation connecting Tucson with Phoenix. This was the chief thruway between Tucson and Phoenix prior to construction of Interstate 10. Thankfully, Highway 79 has stayed a two-lane back road, a little-traveled, picturesque stretch of about 42 miles that is a great way to spend an afternoon during wildflower season.

The Parkway is lined with expanses of wonderful wildflowers this time of year. All along it you will see colorful lupine, Mexican poppies, globe mallow, penstemons and other fields of delights. Stop often and get out and walk with your camera. Even in dry years, this stretch of road just outside Tucson always rewards with a beautiful demonstration of native wildflower blooms. In addition to the wildflowers, the Parkway is lined with native desert greenery including saguaro, mesquite and cholla.

Remember that picnic lunch? About 23.5 miles north of Oracle Junction, around milepost 116, is the memorial to the world’s greatest silent film cowboy movie star – Tom Mix – and at his memorial is where I stop to enjoy the view and the local history.

Tom Mix made over 300 films between 1910 and 1935, and was truly a Hollywood Wild West superstar. At age 60, in 1940, when Mix was speeding along Highway 79, he careened through a barricade warning of an overflowing wash, and his car slid into one the gullies.  Nearby where he died an historical marker was erected. The marker is a funky, somewhat rusted metal horse-and-cowboy memorial on a stone column, and with covered picnic tables the area offers glorious viewing of desert expanses. To me, it’s a perfect point to refresh during this mini wildflower-viewing road trip. Please note that there are no road-side services on this scenic road. If you want nearby services, you’ll need to head a few more miles north to the town of Florence.

A drive along Arizona Highway 79 this time of year is a favorite road-trip that refreshes my spirit. In terms of scenery, native blooms and America’s wild west pop culture – it will perfectly fill a weekend afternoon! Take the trip sometime and see for yourself!

Learn more about wildflower viewing, spring plant sales and other spring events from Arizona State Parks website: http://azstateparks.com/index.html

Learn more about Tom Mix from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Mix

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