Okay, maybe not *that* wild, but out in the tamed wilderness you’ll find the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, north of Yuma.
As with everything, the journey there was at least as much fun as the destination. And that journey was filled with mystery and adventure…. of course!
First, the mysteries. What was this odd, blimp-like UFO floating above us in the desert?
And is that a tank being carted through the Yuma Proving Grounds?
We missed the entrance to the Imperial NWR and drove around the tiny, smooshed community of Lake Martinez. Houses and cottages were smooshed tightly together so everyone could maximize any possible view of the lake, which was gorgeous…
… and filled with American Coots (yes, that’s really the name of this bird!):
Eventually we found the turn we missed found the Visitors Center:
We hadn’t come prepared for a hike, so we walked the short interpretive trail and learned all about saguaro cacti (no, I didn’t retouch that sky — it really is that blue!)….
…the Baja Fairy Duster plant (unfortunately, there was no sign to tell me what kind of bug this is, enjoying its mid-day snack!)…
…and the creosote bush, an amazingly adaptive plant with a root system that draws so much moisture from the surrounding area that other plants just can’t take hold nearby, which is why the creosote bush is found isolated from other plants. One plant was carbon-dated at 11,700 years old!
We returned a few days later to hike the Painted Desert Trail which wound around hills and into washes (dry this time of the year).
We stopped at the lookout points along the dirt road back to the main park road, amazed and happy to be the only ones in the park on such a gorgeous January day.
The Colorado River sure looks different here than it did when we rafted it through the Grand Canyon, doesn’t it, Bob?!?
We didn’t see any of the burros known to roam the park, but we did see evidence that they travel the same trails over and over:
This Great Blue Heron was kind enough to pose, fulfilling our hopes of seeing some wildlife in this beautiful refuge!
And on the drive back to Yuma, as we passed through the Proving Grounds, we spied this:
We thought that was a tank, and we were right!
But what, pray tell, was this coming toward us?!?
Another mystery for another day!