Saturday, February 11, 2017

Amado, AZ (1/30/2017)

Amado is a small town, a blip on the map along Interstate 19, occupying just five square miles and with a population under 300.  For some reason, the town has chosen the longhorn steer as its symbol, although I saw no evidence of longhorns or ranches in the town.  A longhorn appears on the town's water tank and forms the entrance to the only restaurant in town, the Longhorn Grill.  The opening scene from the movie "Oklahoma", where Gordon McRae sings "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning", was filmed in Amado.  I don't know how they found corn growing here in the desert.  The Longhorn Grill was used in filming the movie "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore".

I stayed in Amado for three days because it has an RV park (actually two of them) and is close to several places I wanted to visit.  For example, I wanted to see Green Valley, a rapidly growing retirement community that I barely noticed in my 2003 trip through the area.  Its population has grown by more than 50% since then, now topping 25,000.  Some may be snowbirds, but many are permanent residents that moved from California or points north.  It is a beautifully landscaped, planned residential development with all the amenities that appeal to most retirees.  For me, it is an endless sea of brown stucco and brown tile, cookie cutter houses that seem to go on forever.  I'll concede that the winter weather is mild there, noticeably warmer than the other side of the mountains where I had just been.  Even the mesquite trees showed signs of life, with fresh green leaves visible.  However, the average summer high temp is right around 100 F.

The town's appearance is degraded by several surrounding copper mines, huge pits that result in unbelievably large piles of tailings.  These mines also use vast amounts of water from the only source, an underground aquifer that also supplies water for the people and all their golf courses.  The strain on the aquifer is a major issue for the entire region as the water table is constantly dropping.

There was little reason to take photos in Green Valley, although I was favorably impressed by the Presbyterian church, and had to capture at least a small part of the mine tailings.  Also, there are numerous fields of pecan trees, obviously a major business , and these require irrigation from the aquifer.

 East of town, the Santa Rita Mountains offer several canyons for recreation, and I drove three of them.  Madera Canyon is the largest and most popular, having been part of the National Forest for many years.  There are hiking and biking trails, campgrounds and picnic areas, as well as a few homes and B&Bs.  The wildlife I saw included a doe and her two fawns, hiding in the bushes.

Although it was possible to see birds in the wild, those I saw were generally very skittish, unwilling to pose for me.  Exceptions were the cute little kestrel that perched on a power line until I got my shots, and a red-tailed hawk that cooperated.

 Luckily, one of the lodges has bird feeders set up all over their hillside, attracting a variety of birds.  There were Mexican jays, Anna's hummingbirds and acorn woodpeckers, all of which were new for me.

 The gold finches occupied one set of feeders by themselves, making it seem strange when a single house finch joined the group.

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