a saturday spent banding hummingbirds

Did you know that southern Arizona boasts the most diverse types of hummingbirds in the United States?  A couple weeks ago, Will and I went with our friends to the San Pedro House, just outside of Sierra Vista, to visit this historic ranch house where they tag hummingbirds.  In fact, we went on one of the last weeks that they do it because of migration season.  A lot of hummingbirds pass through southern Arizona on their way to Mexico.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

The area is significant for world bird conservation, and according to Bureau of Land Management, it has been “officially designated a globally important bird area.”  

While I’m not super into bird watching, and the San Pedro House boasts a good amount of walking trails and scenery, this time we went specifically to see the hummingbirds.  It was actually pretty incredible and interesting.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

The scientists and volunteers said that the best times to study the hummingbirds are around sunrise and sunset, because that’s when they are out and looking for food.  It was super interesting to watch!  

They used a simple drop cage to essentially catch the birds and then, ingeniously, got the public in on the studying by allowing them to gently and carefully carry the birds over to the people banding them.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

You could tell the poor things were scared, but everyone was very gentle while handling them and they made sure to feed them before setting them free.  Carrying the little hummingbird was wild!  Its wings were beating so fast that I could feel the air movement.  

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

There was a seating area under the tent where they were tagging the hummingbirds so that you could listen and learn.  One of the volunteers was super great—she spent a lot of time with us to answer our questions and tell us all about what they eat, when they eat, what their mating is like, and how their lives change as they mature.  

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

Will got to carry over the last bird of the day!

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

She was pretty young.  The females usually lose their color and turn brown once they get older.  You can see in the photo how green she is.  This one had been caught three times that day already.  

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

After we learned all about her feathers and how to tell she’s female, we set her free!  Not before a quick photo-op, though.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

I wish we had time to do more exploring around San Pedro house!  It’s right on a riverbed and is home to about 300 species of birds, not to mention the other animal life that are drawn to the water in this desert.

Do you guys like learning about animals?  I think of all birds, hummingbirds are probably one of my favorites.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and don’t forget to join the family by subscribing if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out

summer in the desert | Arizona Part III

As month three in Arizona pulled to a close, Will and I quickly realized that there were only a few weeks left in the desert before we will be moving back to North Carolina.  What a whirlwind we have had out here!  

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

The #SuiteLifeofWillandJamie

In month three we settled into a little bit of a routine.  We went on a few adventures here and there, but also found ourselves staying at home a little more often.  I spent my time watching the last month of Big Brother season twenty (yes, it’s still on the air, and this was a FANTASTIC season), working my butt off in the workout program 80 Day Obsession, and working remotely for a company back in North Carolina.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I discovered the folly of bringing hot coffee on errands when it’s still summer in the desert.  AKA, don’t.  I didn’t drink any of it and was lucky to make it home alive after leaving the house in the afternoon.  

We also found this fantastic Jurassic Park Jeep and decided that whoever owns it needs to be our BFF ASAP.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

There is a fantastic mountain right behind our hotel.  One Saturday we hadn’t planned to do anything, so after lunch we took our books up to the top and sat together to read and enjoy the view.  I’ll be honest, the attacking bees, wasps nests, and plethora of ants were a little off putting but otherwise we had a fantastic afternoon.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

Shopping

I have mentioned before that Will and I love shopping on holidays.  We always need things, and the things we need are often expensive.  So we try to wait for holiday sales to really get our money’s worth.  We drove up to Tucson on Labor Day this year to hit the outlets.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I picked up a couple pairs of jeans from Old Navy for fifty percent off.  We also stopped by Nike, which had great sales compared to last year.  Will got a lot of new workout gear he’s been needing and I picked up a couple things as well.  I also stopped in J. Crew for some shorts and, in a surprise twist, walked out of Kate Spade with my first piece that was seventy-five percent off!

Also, shameless plug—my sister is a Mary Kay consultant if you’re in the market for one!  I’m sure she would love to help you!

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

Food

Our food experiences in Arizona have absolutely never disappointed.  From some classic Taco Bell hot sauces (secretly probably Will’s favorite fast food restaurant) to some breakfast bowls in which you can see all the ingredients from a local cafe, we are basically eating our way through our time in the desert.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I was SUPER excited to finally find the holiday section tucked away in my grocery store and brought home our supply of pumpkin spice.  It was a blessed day!  We also went on a date night to our favorite Mexican food joint—La Casitas.  It is deliciously dangerous and we almost missed our movie (A Simple Favor) because we were enjoying ourselves so much.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

The Grand Canyon

Among our many adventures recently, the Grand Canyon was a huge one.  I’ve already blogged about it, so if you would like to you can read about the sunrise here, or our hike along the rim trail here.  

summer in the desert | Arizona part III summer in the desert | Arizona part III

We woke up at 3am, got ready, ate breakfast, and then drove about an hour to get to the park before sunrise.  It was incredible.  We stood there for an hour, easily, to witness the canyon see the first light of day.  I never regret early mornings while on vacation if the purpose is to experience a sunrise like this.  It’s probably one of my favorite things to do, and something I very rarely do in my everyday life.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

We spent the rest of our day at the canyon hiking the rim trail—12.2 miles.  It was an amazing seven hours in the presence of one of the most incredible natural wonders in the world.  

Once we had completed the hike, part of which was in the pouring rain, we hopped on a shuttle back to the visitor center to stamp our National Parks Passports and then learn a little more about the park before heading back to our hotel in Williams.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

This diagram of the Grand Canyon at the visitor center was really cool.  It was awesome to see where we had been all day.  

Once back at our hotel room, we crashed for several hours and then ordered pizza to eat in bed while we watched Harry Potter.  Now if that isn’t a perfect day, then I don’t know what is.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

Camping

Our first time camping together (ever) was a bit of a disaster, and you can read that blog post here.  To be fair, mostly we were just ill-prepared and already a little grumpy before we even left the house.  But sleeping in a tent in the fresh air and under the stars is always worth it.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I have been dying to test out my tent since I bought it, and these views were certainly impressive.  My absolute favorite thing about being in Arizona has been the outdoor exploring we have been able to do.  Exploring like this was not something we were able to do back on the east coast, but we’re resolving to change that.  

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

As our time here in Arizona is pulling to a close, we’re busy building lasting memories, cherishing the time we have left, and watching all of the Harry Potter movies in existence.  #NoShame

If you have any suggestions for things to explore in southern Arizona or adventures we should go on back in North Carolina, leave them in the comments below!  We would love to hear them!

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like, don’t forget to join the family and subscribe if you haven’t already, and we’ll see you guys next time!


Jamie out

More posts:
Moving to Arizona | Arizona Part I | Arizona Part II

our disastrous first camping trip together

Our first time camping together was slightly spontaneous and outrageously under-planned.  We did little to no research, left much later than we intended to, brought no smaller bills to pay for our camping spot, and ending up setting our tent up with the use of flashlights and the very last bits of orange on the skyline as the sunset had already passed.

our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together

Parker Canyon Lake

The camping spot was actually super cute and had a great view.  It’s five or ten dollars a night, all the spots have easy access to the bathrooms, and the break in monsoons had left the place nice and green for us.

As far as we could tell, the camping sites were first come first serve.  We packed up some odds and ends for breakfast, brought some extra water, and then stopped at Subway to grab dinner on our drive out.  Unfortunately, our navigation took us the long way to get there so it took twice as long as anticipated.  We watched the sunset during our drive instead of from our campsite.

Despite a somewhat frustrating start to our spontaneous camping trip, we made the most of it.  We resolved to be a little more prepared next time, because a camping trip without firewood (and s’mores) may not even be a camping trip at all.  

our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together

Despite having purchased my tent almost two years ago, I had never actually used it.  It was super nice to break it out and realize that the six-person tent is huge for just the two of us.

Will is a very experienced and avid camper and backpacker.  He has all the gear.  Despite having brought all of it to Arizona with us, we unfortunately didn’t plan well enough in advance to use most of it.  The consequence of spontaneity, I suppose.  Hopefully in a few years we’ll have this down to a science.

our first time camping together

We woke up a little after six, as you do while you’re camping, got dressed and ate breakfast.  We didn’t bring any kind of camping stove or firewood, so I made do with a few creative food items from our hotel room back home.  One item on my wish list is definitely a french press, or at minimum instant coffee and a means to heat up water.  Your girl had the worst migraine of her entire life later that afternoon and starting off the day with zero coffee didn’t help.

our first time camping together our first time camping together

After we ate breakfast, we packed up the tent in the already eighty degree weather and then drove down to the lake to take in its views and enjoy its peace for a bit.

our first time camping together our first time camping together

Items I added to my camping wish list:

  • Table cloth
  • Bug spray
  • Tiny broom
  • Mallet
  • Better stakes 
  • COFFEE

Let’s be real.  It was NOT the best camping trip in the world.  Hopefully we’ll do better in the future, but hey, not every adventure and spontaneous trip is going to be golden.  Despite some loud neighbors (who arrived after we did and left before us as well—what a whirlwind!) the camp site was great.  You can rent boats at the lake, go fishing, or even swimming.  It seems like a great way to spend the weekend, honestly!  Next time we’ll arrive earlier, bring fire wood and coffee, and it will be ten times better.

Any suggestions for whirlwind camping trips?  I’d love to hear some easy ideas!  I’m used to tent trailers and campers, so tent camping as an adult is new to me!  I need all your advice in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and don’t forget to join the family by hitting that subscribe button below.

Much love,
Jamie out.

Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim Trail

Ron Swanson said it’s okay to cry at the Grand Canyon.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

September 1, 2018 | Labor Day Part III

Will and I woke up at three o’clock in the morning—probably the earliest I have ever woken up in my life—to get ready, eat breakfast, and drive from our hotel to the south rim of The Grand Canyon.  We arrived right around five in the morning, parked in a super close parking spot, took a trip to the bathrooms (which was literally the most disgusting bathroom I have ever been in in my entire life—I’ll spare you the details), and then booked it to Mather Point, where we arrived just as golden hour began.

If you don’t know, golden hour is right around sunrise or sunset and the lighting, colors, and atmosphere are spectacular.  

God bless.  It was an incredible experience.  Click here to see the photos we snapped of the sun rising over the canyon walls.

We hung out for essentially all of golden hour, just drinking in the beauty, and then quickly ran back to the car to drop off a couple things before beginning our hike.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

The Rim Trail

Perhaps the most ambitious decision of my hiking life so far was to decide to hike the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon.  A thirteen mile trail that follows the rim for almost its entire length, the trial is “easy,” with very few elevation changes and a great deal of it is paved.  

I have never hiked or walked or ran anything close to thirteen miles straight.  I had minimal faith in us completing the entire trail, and in actuality we started at Mather Point, which is not the trail head but about 0.8 miles from it.  Will, on the other hand (remember the guy who can run a six minute mile and crush me with his pinky finger?) is very accustomed to twelve+ mile treks.  He was exceedingly optimistic.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We set out around 6:30 in the morning with packs on our backs.  I brought all of the camera gear because when are you ever going to hike the rim trail at the Grand Canyon again?  Probably never.  Will brought all of the snacks and water.  

Literally every turn and bend in the trail had us stopping in awe.  For photos, for staring, for moments of sheer joy and amazement.  God spent a little more time on you, Grand Canyon.  

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

There are a few great things about the Rim Trail.  Like I said above, the trail has very few elevation changes, so it is a fairly flat hike.  You aren’t climbing down into the canyon.  If you want to do that and you are very fit, the Bright Angel Trail might be for you.  Click here for some other day hikes at the south rim. 

The Rim Trail follows the same route as many of the shuttles, so you get some fantastic (and occasionally crowded) view points along the way.  However, because you’re hiking and not shuttle hopping, you also get the in-between view points that the shuttles don’t stop at.  Granted, there won’t be stairs and railings and information plaques at these view points, but who needs that when you have… the Grand Canyon literally in front of you for thirteen miles?

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Tip:  get up early to get a parking spot inside of the park, set out exploring before it gets super hot, and even if you’re there during peak season (or Labor Day Weekend, like us), the crowds will be significantly more manageable at ungodly morning hours.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

An interesting aspect of hiking at a place as widely known as The Grand Canyon is that you will encounter an incredible amount of ethnicities in just one day.  In our experience, this was mostly wonderful and exciting.  Occasionally you will encounter cultural differences that may be frustrating, such as a family camped out at a view point taking literally a hundred photos while you are obviously waiting (politely) for them to finish.  But all-in-all, we had great experiences with everyone on the trail.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We came across four deer at one point who were not even ten feet from the trail.  They were extremely comfortable with humans. 

We stopped after three miles to eat some granola bars, drink some water, and apply sunscreen.  The sun, having fully risen, was beginning to bathe the trail in its late summer light and my plaid shirt went in my backpack soon after we set off hiking again.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Some view points just get you.  Right in the feels.  Let me tell you, even when you are very tired and your legs and feet are killing you, this view never gets old.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We didn’t go to the Visitor Center prior to our hike—mostly because it wasn’t open yet—so it was nice to have certain pieces of information available along the trail.  We wondered about who the first human to even see the canyon was.  Well this guy, Major John Wesley Powell, was the first explorer of the Grand Canyon.  He and his crew explored the Colorado River that cuts through the canyon in their row boats in 1869.  

We later learned that the Grand Canyon was awarded federal protection in 1893, but was not made a National Park until 1919, which was three years after the National Park Service was established.  The canyon was already receiving over forty thousand visitors a year, compared to today’s five million.  If you want to read more about the park’s history, click here to visit the National Parks website.  

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

I pulled out my zoom lens at this point as we took a small hiking break.  We stood and stared at details like these for a long time.  The shadows of passing clouds darkening the landscape below.  The jagged white rocks with tufts of vegetation on their sides.  The red rock, crumbling and sharp in stark contrast to the younger layers of white rock above them.  You can see the erosion and passing of time in front of you.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Game time: can you spot Will?

(Disclaimer to Will’s mother.  I’m sorry—it was his idea. And yes, he was terrified.)

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Second game: can you spot the rain storm coming for us?

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

After stopping for lunch around eleven and then deciding to keep hiking after the comfort of a full stomach, the clouds began to roll in.  At first this was pretty gracious of them, seeing as the sun was high above us and the desert summer was getting hot on our necks.  

We began seeing rain storms in the distance, and even lightning farther away.  It was gorgeous.  It also made me a little nervous.

My legs had slowly begun to fall apart by this point of the hike.  It started with my calves and ankles and traveled slowly from my knees, to my quads, and finally to my glutes.  I was just about out of juice, but we only had a little over a mile left.  We would be done in no time!  Will’s encouragement was all I needed. 

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

Well friends, with only a mile to go, the heavens opened and it began to absolutely pour on us.  We quickly covered my backpack with my rain cover, pulled our hats snuggly to our heads, and clutched our freezing cold hands as we powered through the last mile of our day hike in a deluge of monsoon season rain.  Our hike that had been in the mostly comfortable eighty degree range quickly plunged into the low sixties. 

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We did it!  What ended up being 12.2 miles for us took about seven hours.  My legs were falling off, I was limping the last mile, and our shoes were sodden.  But we did it.  We snapped a few pictures, climbed aboard a (very crowded) shuttle, and shivered the entire ride back to the Visitor Center.  We quickly got our National Parks Passports stamped, watched a short film about the formation of the canyon, perused the gift shop, and then basically flat out ran back to our car through the wind and rain to finally turn on the heater and warm up our soaked, frozen little selves.  

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

I could not walk like a proper human being for several days afterward.  But we did it.  When again in my life will I have the opportunity to walk almost the entire Grand Canyon South Rim Trail?  I’m so proud of us, but I am especially proud of myself.  I have been working out five days a week so that I could do THAT.  And I DID IT.  

Backpacking through Zion here I come.

What is the longest distance you have ever hiked?!  Leave it in the comments below!  If you enjoyed this post, let me know by giving it a “like,” and if you haven’t joined our family yet, hit that subscribe button!

Until next time,
Jamie out.

Read More:
Labor Day Part I Labor Day Part II