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Travelogue of Our Roamings

Spring and Summer of 2007


Brownsville | Wichita | San Antonio | Rock Hill | Tulsa - Gordonville | Houston

Tucson, Arizona

Another Warning - We just got here, but I am sure that this Tucson section will be quite long.

A couple of notes before I start describing some of our travels.

One - I recommend that anyone coming to Arizona buy the "Recreational Map of Arizona". It's the only map you will need. We use ours to plan every trip.

Two - If you are coming to Tucson you definitely need to buy the "Tucson Attractions Passport". This "passport" is a discount booklet for most of the attractions in southern Arizona. The booklet cost $15, but it will pay for itself quickly, often with just 1 or 2 uses.

I'll start the Tucson section by describing our first full day in town. First, let's say that neither Anna nor I have ever spent any time in a real desert environment. So it is easy to understand that Tucson, being in the Sonoran Desert, is very different and foreign to us. Our apartments this time are in the StarrPass Country Club (our patio over looks their golf course). They are on the very western edge of the city. We are just minutes from the Saguaro Cactus National Park, and we are living in the beginnings of their saguaro cactus "forest". They are everywhere, along with about every other cactus you can think of, and some that we never knew about before.

Our first day highlights : Since we have been living in the Eastern Standard time, we are two hours ahead of the time here. So, we were up before dawn on our first day. After breakfast it was fairly light. We walked out to take a look at the grounds behind the apartment (between us and the golf course). To the north and west are small mountains covered in saguaro and other cactus . To the east and south we look down on the city of Tucson. We quickly noticed that the wildlife in the area is as different to us as the plant life. The birds were first, with us seeing our first Gambel's Quail (that's the one with the club shaped feather sticking up from it head that you see in a the cartoons) , Gila Woodpecker , Gilded Woodpecker, Cactus Wren, Verdin, Say's Phoebe, and Curved Billed Thrasher all that first morning. Also, road runners are everywhere . I almost had to kick one off the sidewalk while carrying boxes. Coming back from finding Anna's new work place we had to stop on a neighborhood road for a momma javalina and her baby to cross the road. Back at home, we watched the sun set over the cactus covered mountains . While there was still light we watched desert cottontail rabbits (about twice the size as normal cottontails) roam around on the golf course. Our walk together next morning we watched a covey of Gambel's Quails cross the road outside the apartment complex.

Our first outing was to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum , as we had been told that this was the number one must see around Tucson (it's the second most visited attraction in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon). The Desert Museum turned out to be a whole lot more than a museum. It's kind of a combination of a zoo, botanical garden, education center, and museum (heavy on the geology and history of the area). But all the plants and animals are native to the Sonoran Desert. Many are there naturally, instead of being exhibits. Their hummingbird aviary was especially popular . This "museum" ranges over 100 areas of native desert terrain . It was a very unique and wonderful experience for Anna and I, and a great introduction to the world of the Southern Arizona desert. Along most of the paths here you will find mobile educational exhibits on many subjects with docents (volunteers) to explain the exhibits or demonstrate the subjects . We do plan to go back when the cactus are in bloom.

The next day we traveled back to same area (only about 20 minutes). We stopped a Gates Pass, which a pass through the Tucson Mountains west of town, for a little hiking and photography. Then it was on to Old Tucson Studios, which again lies in the middle of a desert valley. Old Tucson Studios is, as it sounds, mainly an outdoor movie and television studio. It was originally built, as a replica of 1860's Tucson, for a movie made in 1939. Since then many very well known movies and TV shows have been made here, and it is still in use today. New buildings were added as they are needed by the movies being made. Besides being a studio they also offer horseback and stage coach rides, stunt shows, tours of the grounds, rodeos, skills exhibits, and other entertainments. I found it to be very enjoyable to wonder the town, looking at a building or structure, and trying to remember what movies I had seen it in. Anna, being less of a fan of westerns, thought it was just okay. But still enjoyed our visit.

On the way back home we also stopped at the International Wildlife Museum. I was not really expecting much here. Looking at the building, I thought it would most likely be a lot of stuffed animals kind of like the York Museum in Rock Hill. Well I was right about the animals being stuffed, but not about the quality of the museum and its displays! The animals were very well mounted, and the displays were quite varied and realistic. All-in-all it was by far the best display of mounted wildlife from all over the world that we had ever seen. They had even re-created some extinct prehistoric animals. I was quite surprised and impress with this museum. One notable oddity in their exhibits here was a large collection of animal droppings. That's right, a collection and exhibit dedicated to animal crap! That was a first for us!

In keeping with our tradition, we visited the city zoo next. In Tucson that is the Reid Park Zoo. This is a nice little zoo. The most interesting thing was the layout. The animals from each region or continent were in their own separate enclosure. The path through each made a circle, bringing you back to the central loop, so that you could go onto the next region. The bird aviaries were even self contained in each region. I was a nice day, and we did enjoy ourselves.

Still sticking around Tucson, our next day out took to the PIMA Air and Space Museum. This museum in located beside the Davis Monthan Air Force Base, and contains one of the largest aircraft collections in the US, along with the famous aircraft "boneyard" that is seen so often on movies and television. Their collection is truly amazing, both inside their display hangers and outside in the field. I especially liked their "MIG Alley". You often see US aircraft in flight museums. But it is rare that you all the models of the Soviet MIG aircraft (up to the MIG-21 at least). I'm afraid that I enjoyed this stop more than Anna, but it was a nice warm sunny day to be outside.

We were trying to decide what to do next when we noticed that a special butterfly exhibit and aviary in the Tucson Botanical Gardens only had one day left before ending. We both grabbed our cameras and headed to the gardens. The gardens themselves were not at their best, being that it is February and all. But the butterfly house was quite amazing. All the specimens were from the Tropics, and were free flying. Unfortunately it was also very crowded with people, and no camera supports were allowed. So the pictures turned out to be less than we had hoped. But the house was also crowned with beautiful butterflies. They were everywhere, including landing on the people. The rest of the gardens were interesting, and I am sure that they will be wonderful in a couple of months.

It was a few days later that we headed south out town a little ways to go see the "White Dove of the Desert". That being the Mission San Xavier del Bac. This is a beautiful old Spanish mission built in the late 1700's, on what is now the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. The mission is truly a magnificent place, and the Grand Chapel Room is like nothing I ever seen before. The beauty was dimming a little during our visit, as half the exterior was covered in scaffolding for some cleaning and painting. For lunch while visiting the mission, there are numerous Indian venders from the reservation selling indian fry-bread and other local specialties. All cooked over open wood fires on the spot. Anna and I both settled for some "Green Corn Tamales", which is a special Southern Arizona dish. They were delicious, and we plan on trying to make our own. Dessert was Indain fry-bread covered in honey. I wanted to try the local Green Chili, but I was too full by then.

The next day we got up and dove Southeast to the Dragoon Mountains and the Cochise's Stronghold area. There is Indian cultural museum (focusing mainly on the Chihuahua Apache) that Anna wanted to visit, and I was interested in the mountains themselves and Cochise's Stronghold. As the name implies the Stronghold is the 5000 foot high natural fortress where the great Indian Chief held off the US army. He was also secretly buried somewhere in the area. The museum was nice and informative, but was less than we hoped for. The Dragoon Mountains are a world away from the desert less than an hour west, and the landscape has to be seen to be believed. I was amazed as we drove though them the first time, on our way west to Tucson. We hope to go back and more fully explore the mountains before leaving Arizona.

The following morning we started out on another day trip. This time we went North, up Hwy 77. We went to the Biosphere 2. This is the one-time completely self-contained biosphere that was somewhat famous back in the early 90's, when 8 people lived inside for 3 years. There have been two groups of researches who lived completely self-contained and self-sustained in this structure. They opened it for tours in 2006. This complex is very interesting, and intriguing. It even has it own little miniature ocean inside, as well as a number of independent environments. Our only complain was the tour group was too large, and we had trouble hearing the guide. This also made the tour seem rushed.

Four days later was the start of 6 days off in a row for Anna. We packed up the car and headed north, planning to base our travels out of Flagstaff.

Northern Arizona

Our first and second stops were on our way to Flagstaff. We wanted to visit a couple of old Indian pueblo ruins. The first was Casa Grande National Monument. The buildings here were built by the Hohokam Indians in the earl 1200's. These were the first pueblo style ruins that Anna and I had ever seen. Casa Grande was built on a board desert plain. The largest of the ruins now has a large metal roof covering it to help protect it. However, this roof really distracts from the appeal of the ruins.

Stop number two was to see the Montezuma Castle National Monument, north of Phoenix. These ruins are the kind that most people think when they think of pueblo ruins. They are build high up on the face of a cliff, with ladders and rope to get up to them. These structure were built by the Sinagua Indian Culture over 600 years ago. Of all the ruins that we have seen in Arizona, these stand out as being the most picturesque and inspiring.

Dinner that night was at the Galaxy Dinner, in Flagstaff. Dinners have been making a comeback, and we decided to try this one. Besides, we were promised a discount since we were staying the hotel across the street. The food was good, but nothing special to report.

After spending the night in Flagstaff we headed east on I-40, with a destination of the Petrified Forest National Park as being our last stop for the day. The first stop was an early visit to the Meteor Crater and Museum. This is the much photographed huge meteor crater in the desert. It is over 700 ft deep, and over 3/4 of a mile across! This one big whole in the ground. The meteor was estimated to be over 150 ft in diameter. We ended up getting a personal tour of the place when we started talking to one of the employees. Among other features we were shown the paths and areas that the astronauts use when conducting their training at the crater.

A little bit up the Interstate was the Homolovi Ruins State Park and our next stop, for more pueblo ruins from the 1200's. This place is amazing! The ruins themselves aren't that much to see. But the sites, there are three that you can visit, are absolutely covered with other artifacts. And one trail called the "Path of the Rattlesnake" takes you past many very old petroglyphs. But back to the other artifacts. The ground is literally covered in painted pottery shards, worked flint peices and tools, and other stone artifacts. In areas it is hard to walk without stepping on them (you have to be very careful). I even found a ancient animal tooth. All the artifacts can be touched and picked up, but MUST be left there. No collecting allowed! We spend quite some time here, as I was just amazed at the amount and the fine quality of the pottery here.

Next on the road was a quick stop in Winslow to stand around on the corner in downtown that was made famous by the Ealges' Take it Easy song. After Winslow we made quick stop in Holbrook from a bite of food and a piece of Arizona petrifed wood (at a much much cheaper price than charged by the National Park's shops). We also drove by the Wigwam Motel.

This brought us to our final stop for the day. The Petrified Forest National Park. This is somewhere that I have wanted to visit since I was a child. I must say that I was as much impressed and awed by the beauty of the Painted Desert in the park, as I was by the petrified tree logs. The petrified logs are quite beautiful, in vivid shades of red and yellow. And I do mean logs! Some of them are huge! We spent several hours driving the main road north through the park, with several stops to walk the trails. Unfortunately we had to skip a couple of really great trails because it was starting to get late. Our last stop was at another ruins and petroglyphs site in the park. We got to the northern end of the park, and the vividly red section of the Painted Desert there, just before sunset. It was a spectacular sight! The park was closing as we left. We returned to Flagstaff again for the night.

The next morning found us heading north, with the Lake Powell area as our destination for the night. Before we got very far we made a detour through the Wupatki Ruins National Monument, and the adjourning Sunset Mountain Volcanic Crater NM. We really went for the ruins, but the Sunset Mountain Crater was a surprise and quite fascinating. Stretching for miles around this mountain are areas that are covered with massive lava flows. With eroded black sand and gravel for dirt. In many ways this is much like Hawaii in the middle of Arizona. We were up to about 7000 ft elevation here. Most of the trees were pine and spruce. Seeing whole mountains covered with black sand and thinly populated with pines was a very unexpected sight, and something that Anna and I have never seen before.

Now it was on to the pueblo ruins. Between the main areas of the two parks we were again driving through the beautiful Painted Desert. The Wupatki Ruins National Monument has many accessible ruins sites, and a couple of them are quite extensive. The largest being right behind the visitor center. One of the most amazing to us was a whole structure, almost like a castle, built entirely on top of a massive boulder. Most others are built on top of small hills. All and all this is the most extensive set of ruins in the state. Most of the ruins are from 800 years ago. Sometimes it seemed that no matter where you looked you could find the remains of some kind an adobe structure. We spend several hours here to visit as many of the larger ruins as could.

We decided to get back on the road before it got too late in the afternoon. Most of the drive was through the Navajo Indian Reservation. Again, the desert mountains and landscape were beautiful. Especially the views of the Vermilion Cliff Monument. These cliffs range up to 2000 feet high, and run for 30 miles. By the time we got to Page, Arizona, it was getting late in day. After getting a room for the night we went to check out the Glenn Canyon Dam, and for a little hiking in the area below the dam. This is another unique and beautiful area of Arizona. It is, however, decidedly different from the desert areas and Indian reservation to the south. After sunset we grabbed some rather ordinary chinese food, and turned in for the night.

There were many things that we wanted to do around the Lake Powell area. There just wasn't time to do them all. We decided to go to Antelope Canyon first. Then see where we felt like going next. This is a marvelous and magical place that attracts people, especially photographers, from all over the world. Antelope Canyon is a very narrow wind-carved slot canyon on the Navajo reservation. There is an upper and a lower section. The upper section is wider, but shorted. In early morning and late afternoon the sun slants into the canyon and bounces off the colored stone walls, making some amazingly colorful displays. We chose the lower section of the canyon. In many places the floor of the canyon is on 5 or 6 inches wide! In the low light some photos were taking as long as 15 to 20 seconds for each picture. A tripod is a must, and with all the photographers it can get quite crowded. But everyone was very polite, and tried to stay out of other people's photos. This, however, caused the tour of the Lower Canyon to take much longer than we planned. By the time we finished, we decided that we had better start heading back toward Flagstaff. (At the time we were still debating making a quick stop by the Grand Caynon.)

On the way back to Flagstaff we made a few detours for more photographs of the Painted Desert. And a last stop before leaving the Navajo Reservation. This stop was at what we called the Moenkopi Dinosaur Trackway. The tracks being from the Triassic period. It is a very large and very flat plain east of the town of Moenkopi, and just a couple of miles off Hwy 75. Areas of this wind scoured plain are simply and completely covered in tracks, track on top of other tracks even. Some the size of a plate, and some as big as a garbage can lid. This was really a surprise. The only way we knew about this place was a little red dot on the Recreational Map of Arizona, and a small crude hand-painted sign on the highway. There are local Indian guides here that will give you a tour for a small donation. The plain is also literally covered in red jasper. From small pebbles to fist sized chunks. But as this is protected Indian land it needs to stay where it is (unless the Navajo want it). If you're lucky, like us, there will also be people there selling jewelry (some with the local red jasper), fry bread, and Indian tacos. Anna bought a really nice necklace for her mother here.

Next was a visit to the canyons of the Little Colorado River Gorge. This is just outside of the Grand Canyon NP. We had decided not to visit the Grand Canyon during this trip, because we planned to make a multi day trip for the Canyon alone. So today it was the, still quite vast, canyons of the Little Colorado River Gorge area. There are two good viewing locations for these canyons, and both have flea market style areas near them to get more native american food and hand crafts. Anna found a couple of nice little pots here. By now it was getting late, and Anna was tired. So we didn't stay long.

Our last stop before the hotel was at more ruins. The Elden Pueblo Ruins, a new National Monument. Here they are in the process of actually restoring the ruins to their original design. The original ruins here were only found during archeological excavation. When this research was done, they decided to rebuild them. Again this ruin site was covered in pottery shards. This time, the pottery pieces were much cruder and less decorated (probably older) than the Homolovi pottery. While there I met a lady walking her dog who told of some adjacent public lands that also contained pottery pieces. It was only a short walk, and well worth the effort. The land was old growth pine forest, with little underbrush. Everywhere in this area that you could see the bare earth was loaded with the same pottery as the national monument. I limited myself to only a couple of handfuls of the nicer pieces I could find. By now it was getting dark, and Anna was already in the car waiting. Dinner was take-out eaten in the hotel room.

The next day we decided to start south, back toward Tucson, with planned destinations on the way. We avoided the Interstate, and took a winding little highway down to Sedona. We stopped at a couple of visitor centers on the way to information on the area. Sedona itself is a very upscale "artsy" kind of town, with a lot a California transplants. The area around the city can be breath-taking in its landscape and scenery. The region to the north, between Flagstaff and Sedona, is mostly alpine in atmosphere with many evergreen trees and mountain streams. South of town you begin move back into a high elevation desert region, while to the west of town reminds me more of Colorado. We skipped most of the town, with its pricey shopping, and when sightseeing instead. We visited and photographed most of the more famous stops around and inside town. We finall left Sedona, heading west to go visit one last pueblo ruin.

After a fast food lunch we visited the Tuzigoot Pueblo Ruins National Monument. This is a pueblo ruins where they used the plentiful local stone instead of adobe bricks for their buildings. Maybe becauce of this the structures aren't very tall, but they do spead out to cover the whole upper half of the hill. These ruins overlook the whole valley, including the samll river below them. This was also turning out to be a very hot day for only being April. We cut our visit a little short, and went to find a cool drink in a nearby town. We had planned to drive through a ranch a little ways further west where there were reported to be hundreds of prong-horned antelope roaming the hills. But after our drinks we changed our minds, and headed back to the Interstate.

With a three hour drive to get home, Tuzigoot turned out to be our last stop for this trip.



We were so tired after our trek across northern Arizona, we took a week and a half off from travel (work didn't really allow it either). But next open weekend we made a short trip to spend the day in the Rincon Moutain section of the Saguaro National Park (East). We stopped at the visitors center to check out their exhibits and take a quick look at the cactus garden there. Then we began driving out into the desert on their "Cactus Forest Drove" auto tour. This road takes you through a desert plain and uplandds, and up into the Rincon Mountains. We stopped at most of the pull-offs for pictures and short walks into the desert. Our one side trip was a short drive to the Mica View Picinic Area, where I took a short hike for better pictures. Back on the auto tour we headed up into the low mountains. Our stop for the rest of the drive started becomes shorter as we got more tired and the day got hotter. There are a great many walking and hiking trails along this drive and we hope to come back and spend more time outside the car. Bicycling is also very popular along this drive.

Our next trip started the following Friday. We were going down to the south west corner of Arizona this time. Our destination was the Organ Pipe (Cactus) National Monument. We spent two days exploring the park lands, staying over night in the small town of Ajo. This park really only has one paved road, and that is the highway leading through the park and into Mexico. The rest of the roads are dirt or gravel. Sometimes little more than rutted dirt tracks. Be very sure to have plenty of gas and water before going into this park. This is a very remote area, with no cell phone coverage and very few people. The south side of the park ends at the Mexican border. Some areas were close due to fawning season for a endangered species of antelope. But we toured a large part of the eastern side of the park. The organ pipe cactus can be quite huge, and grow naturally no where else in the US. Of course the park is also covered in saguaro and cholla cactus. Walking off road and off-trail can also be dangerous. By this time of year the rattlesnakes and gila monster were out. Then of course there is the hazard of getting all those cactus spines in the soles of your shoes, where they will work upward into the bottom of your feet. Everything included this is a spectacular park, and well worth the experience. Our only regret is not having more time. I would recommend at least to take a tour of the Ajo Mountain Drive. This drive makes a large 22 mile circle up through a mountainous area, and will really give you the flavor of these lands. Just make sure to have a high clearance vehicle (we saw a couple of cars, but they weren't the low riding type). This road start directly across from the visitor center.

On the way home we decided to take the scenic route. West of Tucson we turned north, following the Tucson Mountains Scenic Drive. This is truly beautiful country! We continued on the drive and eventually stopped at the Tucson Mountain section of the Saguaro National Park (West). Our visit to the park was short, as it was getting late in the day. This trip we just stopped at the visitors center, and drove their main auto tour loop. We left making plans for our next visit. The final leg of our return trip took us up through Gates Pass and back into Tucson. I spent that night digging cactus thorns out of my shoes with needle-nosed pliers after one big one started coming through into my foot while unloading the truck.

During the next weekend we visited Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in northeast Tucson. This rec area is a large public park that extends up Sabino Canyon and into the foothills of Santa Catalina Mountains. And one places around Tucson that you can always find naturally running water in the Sabino River. You can hike the whole canyon, ride your bikes, or take a tram as far as 3/4 of the way up the main road. This is a beautiful place and very convenient to anyone in Tucson. Wading the cool river water on a hot day was very refreshing and wonderful. Again, remember to take drinking water! Unfortunately, some of the trails are closed after a very large flood a couple a years back. We're talking about 22 foot high walls of water rushing down the canyon. Luckily no one was in the canyon at the time. But some of the road was washed away, and there were several large rock slides. At one of these rock slides we, ironically, spotted a cliff's chipmunk. It was here that saw our first blooming saguaro cactus. The saguaro blooms at night, and each bloom last little more than a day (usually closing in the daylight). The other vividly blooming plant here (and all over Tucson) was the yellow palo verde trees. These trees have little or no leave, but green chlorophyll filled limbs. In the spring these trees become covered in very tiny bright yellow blossoms. For a last treat we spotted some desert whitetail deer while riding out on the tram. We definitely plan to return! Preferably for a picnic beside the river.

Next week was the annual 4th Avenue Street Fair. We met some friend here around mid morning. Tucson blocks of about a mile of 4th Ave for this fair, and many of the surronding side streets. The streets and parkig lots are full of arts and crafts vendor, as well as many people selling very tasty treats . You can find many very special and unique items here. There are vendors from around the country and world. It was a very fun day. We shopped the vendors, listened to the live music, and ate until we were stuffed. The girls enduled in a little wine tasting. We stayed until we exhasted and and too hot from the Tucson sun.

A multi-day trip to south central Arizona was next on our schedule. We took off on back roads for some sight seeing, with Bisbee, Arizona, as our destination for the night. We tried to get a B&B, but they all seem to be booked up months in advance. Instead found a nice hotel south of town in San Jose, and made reservations (a rarity for us). After our sight seeing we arrived in Bisbee in early afternoon. Bisbee's claim to fame is that it was a copper mining boom town in late 1800's. At one time it was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco. Going downtown we quickly found out that there was huge classic car show going on all over downtown. There were some nice looking cars and trucks, and tons of people. On the way to the hotel we stopped at the Lavender Pit Mine and Bisbee visitor center, near downtown. After this Anna fell and jarred her back, so we called it an early day so that she could lay down (after dinner and a few drinks at the hotel's restuarant).

The next morning we took the Copper Queen Mine Tour. The Copper Queen Mine was a real underground "hard rock" mine. The tour travels 1500 feet down into the tunnels of this mine, riding on the old miners tram. This is a rickety narrow rail transport, where you straddle a bench on the "car" that you are riding. Most of time on the tram you could touch both sides of the tunnel if you wished. The tour makes a number of informative stops, where you get off the tram and follow the guide to other areas of the mine. Our guide was underground miner himself for many years, and was very knowledgable. This tour was enjoyable and very interesting, if a somewhat cramped and bumpy ride.

After the mine tour we drove north to Tombstone and the OK Coral . I am not sure what we were expecting from Tombstone, but we were not overly impressed by the place. We still had fun, but I guess we expected more. They have one section of town blocked off to auto traffic, and preserved in a more or less Old West style. There's the old main street and a number side streets to explore. The shops are all rather touristy. The restaurant didn't seem to be anything special. There were some public re-enactments, stagecoach rides, a children's rodeo, and other entertainments. Then of course there are some other shows that charge an entrance fee. We didn't attend any of these (mainly due to Anna's back bothering her). We did take a bus tour of the town, when a very nice man said it was okay to take the dog with us. The old history buildings and homes were interesting. But some didn't look too historic any longer. It's odd to see a famous so-and-so's old home with a modern satellite dish of the roof. Of course there is also the famous Boot Hill Cemetary to visit here. It is mostly a novelty display if humorous headstones. The only real historic sight was the grave of the Billy Clanton. We headed back to Bisbee in the late afternoon. Dinner was at a fairly good taqueria.

The next morning saw us packed and on the road east toward the Chiricahua Mountains . On the way we stopped at the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. This is a nice oasis of water (several large ponds) in the area. It is especially attractive to birds. It was here that Anna and I saw the largest number of Vermilion Flycatchers that we have ever seen. There were many other birds here. Some very surprising to see near the desert, including American Avocets. There was also a large gopher snake that gave Anna a big surprise. After this stop we had a very nice lunch in a nearby small town, where the cafe/bakery served very fresh hamburgers and buns.

When we finally arrived at the Chiricahua Mountains we headed straight for the Chiricahua National Monument. We stopped at the visitors center, and toured their displays. And then headed up into the park along their 8 mile paved road. We first stop at the old Faraway Ranch, an old farmstead not too far from the entrance. It was here that we saw several large flocks of Mexican Blue Jays . After the farmstead we toured the camping area, with the idea of a return camping trip before we leave Arizona. Then it was put into the mountains as we continued on. These mountains are truly amazing ! We have never seen anything like them before in all our travels. They were formed by an erupting volcano about 27 million years ago. Since then they have been eroding into some amazing shapes . There are whole fields of tall granite pinnacles, huge boulders balancing on other thin spires, and wind carved mazes through the boulders . The Chiricahua Indians called these mountains "The Land of Standing-Up Rocks". The view from the mountain-top parking area is truly breath taking. Unfortunately, Anna's back was really bothering her after her earlier fall and it was get late in the day. So we did very little exploring this trip. I did a couple of brief walks around some of the shorter trails to take a few pouters. Then we started back down the mountain. We stopped half way down because there was a picture that I just had to have. Come back to the car, my feet slid out from under me coming down an embankment, and I landed on a sharp rock right beside my backbone. After landing on the rock, and sliding down it, Anna wasn't the only one with sore back (I still have the scar 8 months later). After that we decided it was time to go home.

Back in Tucson, we soon got together with our friend again to check out Tohono Chul Park on a beautiful spring day. This is a small, 37 acre, award winning park in north Tucson. It is dedicated to preserving the natural Sonoran Desert environment of the area. As such, it is a marvelously scenic and serene place in the middle of a busy city. We all enjoyed our walks around the winding paths, and our friends were particularly interested in the names and facts about the many plants and small animals in the park. There were many birds and butterflies, along with a multitude of brightly jewel-colored lizards. There is also a very nice tea room and gift shop here. They often hold many educational class here. After enjoying this little park we all stopped for a very good meal at one of the town's best reviewed Italian restaurants.

Our last travel outing in Arizona was south to the town and area of Tubac. This little town is becoming very well known as an artist community, and a hub for higher end Mexican imports. The are dozens of custom art shops and galleries, scattered among some surprisingly upscale restaurants. But is wasn't the shops or the food that drew us to Tubac. We came to see the old San Jose de Tumacacori Mission and the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. Unlike the mission in San Antonio the Tumacacori Mission is not active, and has not been restored. It is still structurally sound and a beautiful place. It is just not an active church any longer. In many places you can still see the original adobe bricks used in the construction. Some even contain bits of broken pottery and other artifacts that were mixed in with the mud for added strength. There are several add-ons to the original structure, and the ruins of an adjacent dormitory. The Tubac Presidio was less impressive, as there is very little left of it, and this mostly underground. There are some other old historic buildings on the site and a nice little museum. If you are in Tubac, the Presidio is worth the stop.

We were almost out of time, and we had promised ourselves that we would get back to the Saguaro National Park (West) before leaving Tucson. This turn out to be our last Arizona adventure. We explored more of the park, around the Bajada Loop Drive, this time by both foot and vehicle. We were in the truck this time due to the roads. Our one planned stop was at the Signal Hill picnic area. It is here that you can find easily accessible petroglyphs and rock carvings. Hundreds of them! We didn't want to miss the chance to see these, and get a few pictures. The light wasn't great for pictures, but we made the best of it and then walked some of the trails and creek beds in the area. We finished up with some more driving in the park, so that we could enjoy the truck's air conditioner.

A few days after our lat Saguaro National Park visit it was, sadly, time to start packing up the apartment and loading the truck. With everything packed we were again hitting the road on I10. East this time, back to our new home on Lake Texoma. We stopped over night in Midland (leaving Scooter's favorite toy in the room the next morning). The funny thing about out trip back was, that after spending several months in the desert, Anna and I kept marveling at how green the country was and at all the trees. And this was west central Texas!

We plan to spend 2 or 3 weeks together at our lake house before the next assignment starts again.

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