Tucson

Thursday, January 13

We moved to a different site to see if that would fix our electrical problem. We’ll see what happens. Cheryl did some socializing with a couple who pulled in to the spot next to us, but then they had a dog so that was to be expected. Then we did some shopping. So it was a pretty quiet day for us.

Friday, January 14

We had one electrical dropout in the morning, but that was all. We can live with that. I
am suspecting a low voltage condition. When there is a dropout the AC-powered stuff shuts off, then comes back on a minute later. After breakfast, we went to the Kartchner Caverns State Park, which was only about ten miles from our campground. We went on a guided tour of the caverns which lasted about 1.5 hours, then watched a film about how the caverns were discovered and developed. We were not allowed to take any pictures on this tour, but I can say for sure they are extremely serious about preserving the caverns. We essentially went through airlocks entering and leaving, and the caverns maintain a temperature of 71 and a humidity of 98% continually. After the tour and the movie we opted for the Foothills Trail, which was a strenuous 2.4 mile hike up and down the foothills on a trail that was uneven and rocky. We definitely had enough for the day by the time we were done. But it was a good day. My knee did feel a bit of strain, so I think tomorrow will be laundry day and otherwise resting a bit.

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Saturday, January 15

A day for maintenance. Did the laundry, dumped the tanks. But we also went for a short walk. There is a nice little park next door to where we are staying, so we started there. Observed a lot of holes in the ground that are undoubtedly made by wildlife, but what kind exactly we don’t know. We have been told that snakes are not out right now, and won’t be until April, but this is rattlesnake country. So we are always cautious and stay on the paths. We did see some quail while we were out. Otherwise, resting up after that hike yesterday.

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Sunday, January 16

Today was Tombstone. This is totally old western kitsch, but well done. It is worth a trip if you are in the area, but you would probably never go back a second time. The “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” shows are timed, so you want to check the times and get your tickets. We did so and got tickets for the 1pm show, and it included tickets for the Tombstone Historama, which ran on the hour so we went there for the noon showing.. The Historama is a combination of film and models, and is narrated by Vincent Price. It gives the history of Tombstone, which began as a mining town and flourished until the rising water in the mines shut everything down. Then a quick lunch, and on the Gunfight show. Totally cheesy, but fun. We looked at exhibits afterwards, then went to the Bird Cage Theater, which at one time, when Tombstone was flourishing, was bringing in major acts. That ate up most of the day, so we went home, tired but feeling like we had seen all we wanted to see there.

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Monday, January 17

Today we went to the Chiricahua National Monument. This is really beautiful, and in some ways reminded us of what we saw in Utah a few years ago, such as Bryce and Zion, only instead of red sandstone the rocks were gray volcanic Tuff, rock which forms when volcanic ash is compressed over time. Then the wind causes weathering and erosion, and you get beautiful shapes. Chiricahua gets its name from the Chiricahua Apaches, who once lived here, but of course in the usual United States way got moved onto land somewhere else. They called these rock formations “Sky Islands”, which makes sense because you have mountains rising up suddenly in the middle of plains. We drove a winding road to the top at Massai Point, hiked the Massai Nature Trail, then started on the trail to Echo Canyon. But it was very rough and downhill, and when we considered we would have to go back uphill, we decided to turn around. Then we drove back to the bottom and walked a little way along the Lower Rhyolite Canyon Trail. By then it was about 2:30, we were tired, and we had a 90 minute drive back to the RV, so we left. It was a good day, and this is a place well-worth a visit, and spending more than one day.

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Tuesday, January 18

It turned out to be a rainy day, excellent for a day off of rest. We did take an empty propane tank to be refilled, but otherwise it was a day off. When you spend over 3 months on a trip like this, you don’t need to go full speed every day, a day or two rest every week is fine.

Wednesday, January 19

We went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and it was well worth the trip. A docent went into great detail about Saguaro cactuses, and had some samples to show us of seeds, a cross section, some rib pieces, and so on. There were geological exhibits, fossils, animals, and plants. There were examples of all the minerals that come out of the mines, and some wildlife. We saw some of the reptiles and invertebrates that populate the Sonoran desert, a bobcat, and what looked to be 5 Javelinas (a type of peccary, distantly related to pigs). There were walk-through aviary and Hummingbird exhibits, though I had trouble getting a picture of the hummingbirds, since they are very small and move quickly. But I think our favorite of all was the Cactus garden, which was magnificent. The museum is adjacent to part of the Saguaro National Park, which we will visit later. The Park has two sections on opposite sides of Tucson. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is on the west side of Tucson, with part of the Saguaro National Park, and there is another part of the National Park on the east side of Tucson, and where we are staying in Benson is on the east side.

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Thursday, January 20

Today we visited Sabino Canyon, a recreation area within the Coronado National Forest which is operated by the Forest Service. Happily, our National Parks Pass got us free admission. One of the things we were planning to do is a guided tour via Tram, but it turned out that all the tickets for this day were sold out. So we bought two tickets for tomorrow. Then we got on a tram ride to the Seven Falls trail head, and hiked as far as the first river crossing, of which there were several. This involved clambering across on rocks, and we decided that was a good place to turn around. The hike to the falls was 6 miles round trip over very uneven and rocky terrain, so we had already decided not to try the whole thing. We went back to the trailhead and picked up the Bear Canyon Trail, which took us back in the direction of the Visitor Center, and also took us to a short side trip to see the dam. The rivers we saw did have water in them, which we have not seen a lot of in Arizona, but it appears that the water comes out of the mountains, and we did have rain a few days back. Every place we looked, the views were fantastic, and we took many photos. I am in love with this desert landscape, something we don’t have in Michigan and with a distinct kind of beauty. Then we went back to the parking lot. We did a lot of hiking today, but I am feeling like I am slowly getting into shape for it. We had a couple of walking sticks donated to us by a couple who didn’t need them any more, and we left them on the path back when we didn’t need them any more. But we found a Summit Hut store that sold hiking and camping supplies, and bought some proper hiking poles. So many of these desert hiking paths are on rough ground, and the poles can really help.

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Friday, January 21

 Back to Sabino Canyon, where we had tickets for the 1pm Tram tour. The road we took crossed Sabino Creek several times, and in one place the creek flowed over the crossing instead of under. The water is a combination of rainfall and winter snow melt from Mt. Lemmon, and made for a very scenic tour. After that we hiked back to the dam, this time approaching it from the west side (yesterday we were on the east side.) Then on the way back we detoured into a nature walk, and spotted a crested Saguaro with a very interesting shape. By now it was 3:30 and time to get going. Our route took us by the Davis Monthan – Tucson Air Force Base, which houses the world’s largest aircraft storage facility, referred to casually as “The Boneyard” The facility houses aircraft of all kinds, space capsules, old ICBMs, and so on. The facility is ideal since the climate here is very dry, minimizing rust, and ground is hard enpough thatpaving is not required. My cousin Michael, who is in the Air Force, told me that one big use of this is for spare parts. You can learn more about this in a YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcXkz1YfAi4 . We saw a lot of propeller planes that looked to be in long term storage. This base is very near the Pima Air & Space Museum we visited earlier. We finally made our way back home.

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Saturday, January 22

After two days of strenuous hiking at Sabino Canyon, we woke up to a cooler, overcast day with rain in the forecast, and it was about time to do laundry, so today looks like a day of rest. Later on, some shopping.

Sunday, January 23

Another cool, overcast day with rain threatening, so we again stayed in the RV. I had brought a laptop for gaming, so I went back to my game of Alpha Centauri and won it by cornering the energy market, though I could have won it any way I chose since I was so dominant. Then I started another game.

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