Be sure to check
the other roaming travelogues from
our time moving around the country.
of Our Roamings
and Summer of 2007
| Wichita | San
Antonio | Rock Hill | Tulsa
- Gordonville | Houston
Warning - We just got here, but I am sure that this Tucson section
will be quite long.
couple of notes before I start describing some of our travels.
- 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.
- If you are coming to Tucson you definitely need to buy
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
We plan to spend 2 or 3 weeks together at our lake house before
the next assignment starts again.
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