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Monday, February 23, 2015

Tucson, AZ 2015

I took advantage of President's Day weekend to visit my Folks in Tucson, AZ.  I left on a Thursday morning and came back on Tuesday evening.  Flight out was uneventful, flight back was delayed.  So it goes.

I have not been to Arizona, but this is my Folks fourth (non-consecutive) year snow-birding.  Last year I visited them in Mission, TX, which we all found a bit underwhelming.  Arizona...just the opposite!  A veritable plethora of things to do!

Tohono Chul Park and Botanical Gardens
This was our first stop of the day.  A leisurely stroll through the gardens gave a great overview of desert plants to a non-desert person.  My pictures showed an inclination to the artwork tucked around the grounds, particularly anything made out of wrought iron.  This was also the only place I saw a crested saguaro cactus. 

We had an absolutely fantastic lunch at the restaurant on site - someplace to visit even if you don't walk the grounds.  We were too stuffed to share homemade cannolis, panna cotta, or any of the other fabulous deserts offered.

Sonora Desert Museum (Zoo)
the endangered Mexican Wolf
I get the impression there are two aspects to this feature - the art museum and the zoo.  They are in different locations.  We went to the zoo!  This particular zoo features animals found in the desert:  mountain lions, Mexican wolves, javalinas, coyotes, bobcats, big horned sheep, birds and hummingbirds, to name a few.  We spent two hours wandering around and most critters were out and moving around.   I enjoyed the walk-in aviaries - a great opportunity to see some of the more elusive birds up close.  In the hummingbird aviary the little birds zip and fly around and watching the startled expressions on peoples faces was almost more fun than watching the birds!

Kartchner Caverns State Park
A delightful way to spend the day - an hour and forty-five minute underground tour of a living cave!  This cave is only open part of the year (September through April), from April to September it belongs to a small colony of bats who migrate north-ish to bear their young.  The history of the cave is just as remarkable as the cave itself:  three people kept it a secret for over 14 years until they could get the area turned into a state park, and then the years it took to put infrastructure in place to protect the cave and the bats.   This included established walking paths, railings, special chambers to keep the air regulated, misters to get lint/dander/dust to adhere to the person and not fall off in the cave.  They have a team of Cave Cleaners who come in at the end of the day and literally, clean the cave.   Tourists must leave everything but the clothes on their backs in the car.  If your sunglasses fall off, they become the property of the State Park and have to remain on the floor until the cave cleaners come and pick them up.  Seems restrictive, but this was truly an awesome cave. 
photo from the internet

Tubec, AZ - Artists "colony".
Our initial plan of hiking on Sunday was abandoned when it began to pour, specifically, when it was raining so hard over Sabino Canyon we couldn't see it.  So we decided to drive south to Tubec, where there is a permanent artists shopping opportunity.  We had a leisurely stroll around the plaza, enjoying early morning crowds.  Had a great pulled pork sandwich for lunch, with one last store on the way out.  I picked up a beautiful painted ceramic coyote (salesman called it a wolf, but I think it looks more like a coyote).  It's done up in brown with all that beautiful Mexican colorwork.  It will look splendid next to my large Mexican painted flower pot on the porch.  Assuming it survives the UPS shipping.  I decided to mail it back rather than carry it myself or have my Folks haul it back.

San Xavier del Bac Mission, Tuscon, AZ
We stopped by here on the way back from Tubec.  Being a weekend, there were a handful of vendors selling frybread, and one selling dried produce from the Tohono O'Odanam Indian Co-op.  Built  in the 1690-1700's,  the mission has been painstakingly restored over the last decade.  It is still in use to this day.  Not a long stop by any means, but worthwhile nonetheless to see this bit of history.

Sabino Canyon National Park
Absolutely delightful!  We took the tram to the end of the road, then walked the 3.5 miles downhill to

the visitor's center.  Shear cliff faces, saguaro cactus, a flowing river, and early morning sun made for a colorful and fascinating walk. I will add, this is by no means the only way to enjoy this treasure - you can hike the more rugged paths on the canyon floor and along the upper parts of the canyon.  As we had other destinations in mind, we kept it simple.

Saguaro National Park
Stop number two for Monday!  A walk/hike through the Arizona desert!  This 91,000 acre national park has a driving tour, with numerous trails of just about any length to hike: from a half mile to 20 miles.  The longer hikes require permits for over-nighting on the trail.   We did a small 3 mile hike that offered splendid views of all the mountain ranges while being immersed in the desert environment.  These hikes are best done early morning, or when temps are going to stay below 80* - not much in the way of shade!

That sum's up my four day introduction to Arizona and the Tucson area.  I didn't even come close to getting to everything Tucson has to offer.  I missed:  downtown, the Kitt Observatory, the Pima Air and Space Museum, the University of Arizona observatory, and numerous other sites and museums.   I will be going back next year! 

And like this fellow, now I need to rest...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like you had a very filled trip. Your pictures are beautiful.

For years Steve has gone to Phoenix on business and I never wanted to go. One year I did .....amazed! It is SUCH a beautiful place. Certainly different than the landscape here, but awesome in it's own way.

If you ever get the chance to get to Sedona, it is WELL worth the trip. Montezuma's Castle is an amazing installation.

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