RV tip: How to start a conversation

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March 27, 2010

It’s simple. Carry a butterfly net!

Pima Cyn hike viewWe were hiking Pima Canyon in the Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona. We had gone on a weekday as reviews had advised. Trail head parking was minimal with no street parking allowed and the parking lot at 10 a.m. was close to full. We started up the trail- like a cattle chute- a narrow strip fenced on either side to take you through private property that borders the beginning of the trail. Shortly, though, we got into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness in the Coronado Forest. If you don’t look behind you, civilization drops away.

We had gone less than a mile when we spotted two men, one with a butterfly net. He was chatting with other hikers. As we went by, George asked, “Lepidoptera?” I heard Doug answer, “How did you know that?” and the conversation began. (Lepidoptera is the large order of insects that includes moths and butterflies. George knows that from fly fishing.) Tom, the other man, was also interested in caves and bats and used nets for catching bats as well as butterflies. Handy device! And a good conversation starter.

Pima Cyn hike Doug & Tom

Pima Cyn hike Sara butterfly

We hiked with them for about a mile, spotting a few butterflies and learning names of various flowers and plants along the way.

It clouded up so wasn’t a good day for seeing butterflies, but we did see a couple of other species and enjoyed Pima Canyon. The hike follows and crosses the stream flowing out of the mountains. We made it to our goal – a small man-made dam. Tom told us it was put in to provide a year-round source of water for bighorn sheep, which frequent the area. With a number of pools and shaded areas, we could see why it would be a popular family hike.

Pima Cyn hike yucca Pima Cyn hike riparian
Pima Cyn hike chicory

It is interesting seeing the upland Sonoran desert next to a riparian or stream-side environment. Tall cottonwoods cluster in the mid section of the hike where water is plentiful. Above you can see the spring runoff right up against prickly pear cacti.

Pima Cyn hike G&J Pima Cyn hike dam

There are nice rocks for lunch at the destination. Stop at the Sprouts and Whole Foods right off Oracle a short ways south of where McGee turns off Oracle – if you want to grab trail mix or a wrap for lunch for your hike.

Pima Cyn hike Keenes George’s Keenes or hybrid shoes turned out to be a good choice since we had to cross the stream about a dozen times. Don’t let the Sierra Club description of “easy” fool you. Ask “easy” compared to what. It was about 3.2 miles to the dam with an 850 foot elevation gain. A hiking stick is good for working your way over the many rocks along the path.

Tom had told us to look for a crested saguaro on our way out. We spotted it as we approached the edge of the wilderness- a rather elaborate one. I also found a fallen saguaro. As you can see from the roots- or lack of them – they don’t have an extensive root system. Most of their roots are small and near the surface to grab surface runoff as it comes by.

Pima Cyn hike crested saguaro Pima Cyn hike fallen saguaro

A very interesting hike- so close to Tucson as the photo near the start of the hike shows – yet round the bend you could be a million miles away. I like those kind of hikes.

And, there are two morals to this hike:

1.  Carry a butterfly net and you’ll find all sorts of people to talk to.

2.  Talk to a person carrying a butterfly net and you’ll be surprised at what you can learn. We got suggestions for other places to visit plus learned about butterflies and flowers.

Of course you can substitute other items for a butterfly net – anything out of the ordinary. Whether you carry the item or strike up the conversation, you connect with local people and learn more about the area – part of the benefits of RVing and experiencing different areas as we travel. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

Leave a Reply


  1. Jeannie

    We’ve been to Catalina State Park a couple of times, and both times it was extremely busy and very hard to find a place. This was about 6 years ago, and with all the increase in camping since then, I’m wondering how it is now. We had to keep circling around and around (there wasn’t any place to get in line to wait for a site) and hope someone left as we got there. I don’t believe they took reservations (which we are against, anyway!) Just curious.

  2. A dog is a good conversation starter. This went into the wilderness so dogs were not allowed (though, of course, two young women thought that rule did not apply to them or their two dogs).

    It is Pima Canyon, south of Catalina State Park- Oracle to McGee, just north of Ina., Beautiful hike. Catalina State Park has nice hikes too. We did one there a few days later. (see http://blog.rvlifestyleexperts.com/2010/03/rv-socializing-on-the-trail.html)

    Yes, he releases the bats unharmed, catchesthewind.

    RELBugman- very creative uses of a butterfly net!


  3. RELBugman

    Hey. I carry one all the time (nearly). Good for more than just talk. I’m off to the desert this week, not camping, but leading a trip. Good for catching and talking about tadpole and fairy shrimp in the Mojave. Got dozzzzens of dragonfly nymphs one year, watched one eclose. Netted a lizard or two, but didn’t need it for the desert tortoise. Caught my son once — kept him from falling off a boulder. Kept from getting stung (wearing it) when I investigated a bee hive in Organ Pipe. Carried my hat and jacket when it got warmer. And water bottle. Flies, bees, tarantula hawks, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and yes, even butterflies! Great stuff to keep the conversation going, sometimes too long! “Oops, we’re late!”

  4. Bennie

    I’m with Bil, I rather walk my dog if no one will talk to me I have been known to carry on a conversation with it, Now as to where you were, I think you were in Sabino Canyon, need to update the GPS.

  5. David Rohlader

    Catalina State Park, below the Catalina Mountains, is a wonderful place from which to hike, and will remain open (AZ is closing many parks for budgetary reasons) since it pays for itself. Hookups do not include dump, but there is a dump station easily approached with any size rig. For a short hike, visit the Hohokam Indian ruin, or take any of the several other trails. Nice place, quiet, close to shopping and short drive to Tucson, Pima Air Museum, RV stores, etc.

  6. Dolly

    Was it Pima Canyon or Sabino Canyon? I’m familiar with Sabino and the description sounded the same. Great pictures!

  7. catchesthewind

    I hope those bats were released unharmed.

  8. Bil

    The butterfly net is a nice idea but I’m afraid someone would actually expect me to know something about butterflies.

    Personally I’d rather walk with a dog. Lots of people want to stop and talk to a dog.

    I do like those hiking shoes. Minimal yet protected.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing! We are aleays looking for reasons to go and places to see. We esp. like ones that have to do with nature and exercising with out realizing we are exercising.

  10. Carl C

    The irony of no comments (after 24hrs of this story being live) was killing me so I had to fill in the blank.