Happy 2020 New Year and Tucson Part Two

Yikes! It’s the start of a new year and a new decade. It seemed weird to me when the year 2000 crept into my consciousness. It’s even harder for me to imagine we are heading into twenty years of this century. Yet, here we are racking up the birthdays and still having fun. Before we get into our travel plans for 2020, we need to finish our 2019 Fall Tour. So, on to Tucson, Arizona, Part Two.

An hour drive south on Interstate 19 from Tucson led us to Tubac Presidio Historic State Park. The park preserves the oldest Spanish Presidio site in Arizona where visitors can roam through the gardens, walk around the foundation ruins, peek inside historic buildings, and step down into the Tubac Presidio Archaeological Excavation Exhibit.

Tubac Presidio State Park Visitor Center

The Pima Indians (or Akimel O’odham) occupied the territory for thousands of years relying on farming, hunting, gathering, and trading to provide food and shelter to sustain their way of life. In 1752, New Spain established San Ignacio de Tubac to protect settlers from Apaches and Seris, control the Pimas, and expand west.

Display along the walkway

Then Mexico gained control in 1821 at the end of the Spanish War for Independence. The land transferred to the US under the Gadsen Purchase in 1853 and became part of the New Mexico Territory. The Confederate States of America claimed control in 1862.

Fruit Orchard on site

Finally, on February 24, 1863, President Lincoln signed legislation officially recognizing the US Arizona Territory, and in 1912, Arizona earned statehood.

Herb and vegetable raised beds

Tubac Historical Events

 Juan Bautista de Anza III traveled through the region in 1776 while on an expedition to found the City of San Francisco in California. Sixty-three people from Tubac joined the party on their trek increasing the number of colonists to 240 and taking with them 1,000 head of livestock, horses, and mules.

Barrel cactus at the end of its blooming season

Attacks by the Apache forced many of the remaining Tubac settlers north to Tucson, leaving the presidio deserted and in ruins.

Blooming creosote bush

In 1856, Charles DeBrille Poston arrived from Texas with 300 miners and set up his Sonora Mining & Exploring Company headquarters at the presidio. The company abandoned the site during the Civil War and the Union Army moved in.

Agave Victoria Regina

The park exists today due to the generous donation of the first parcels by Frank and Olga Griffin on December 21, 1957. The donated land included the foundation of the Spanish Presidio. William Morrow also donated property and encouraged other residents to donate adjacent properties to the Park’s Board. Additional property donations allowed for a new visitor center and museum. Three of the properties are of historic significance: the 1885 Old School, the 1914 Otero School, and the 1890 Rojas House.

1880s Schoolhouse

Billed as Arizona’s first state park on the park’s website, the Tubac Presidio Historic State Park was dedicated and opened on September 28, 1958. Since the “great recession” of 2007 to 2009, the Friends of the Tubac Presidio and Museum has operated the park and visitor center with volunteers.

Schoolhouse along the walking path

A walking path took us through cactus, fruit trees, vegetables, and one of the oldest schools in Arizona. Inside the school are period classroom desks and educational displays.

The rocks outline the west wall of the presidio. Redish colored structure in the background is the archaeological excavation site.

Don’t miss the archaeology excavation exhibit where the layers of time are shown along with a small display of artifacts found during the excavation.

Below ground in the archaeological excavation site

Unfortunately, none of the original building remains above ground, however, there are a few other adobe ruins, which date after presidio’s establishment.

Adobe ruins at Tubac
This adobe building is protected by stucco

We missed out on seeing the museum because it was closed due to repairs, so maybe we’ll make it back to the presidio in the future.

This arrastra replica shows how silver and gold ore were ground and pulverized.

The state park is not the only attraction in Tubac. There are plenty of galleries, arts and crafts, and gift shops to browse through along with restaurants for food and beverages. We stopped in at Soto’s Outpost to curb our craving for Mexican food and were not disappointed.

Soto’s Outpost

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Museum is somewhat of a misnomer since 85% of the displays are outdoors and cover ninety-eight acres. With a botanical garden, zoo exhibits, art gallery and institute, natural history museum, and aquarium, visitors will find plenty to pique their interest.

How do birds prevent hurting themselves on the cactus spines?

William H. Carr, with support from his friend and the museum’s initial benefactor, Arthur Pack, founded the museum in 1952. Docents contribute more than 75,000 hours annually to the museum.

Does anyone know the name of this specimen?

Two miles of walking paths provide opportunities to view the types of animals and plants that inhabit the Sonoran Desert, a mineral collection, conservation and research programs, and an art institute. As if that amount of diversity is not enough to track, the ASDM Press has also produced over 40 books and guides on the natural and cultural history of the Sonoran desert region.

Both paved and gravel pathways wind their way through the museum

From the desert grasslands to the mountain woodlands, the museum highlights the ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert region with 1,200 different types of plants and 56,000 individual specimens. Visitors can walk through Cat Canyon and observe bobcats, a porcupine, grey fox, and an ocelot in their natural settings. Or, head to the Riparian Corridor for a glimpse at a river otter, beavers, bighorn sheep, and coatis. The Reptile, Amphibian & Invertebrate Hall is a great place to escape the outdoor heat.

View of the valley from the museum

Our favorites were the Raptor Free Flight and the Hummingbird Aviary. Although the weather was warm, we stood corralled between metal barriers among other spectators and waited for the raptors to appear.

Barn owl flying in for the show
Aren’t I pretty?

An announcer explained about the birds while they flew over the crowd between their handlers who crouched close to the ground or stood with outstretched arm gloved hands. Cameras and phones worked double-time to capture the birds in flights.

Harris’s hawk looking for prey
Where’s the meat?
Ready or not, here I come.
King of the tree.
Gray hawk on take off
Hmmm. What should I do now?

The Hummingbird Aviary was a similar experience. At first we didn’t see the small birds, then little by little they appeared, flitting from tree to bush and back to tree. Standing in place gave us the best advantage to capture the little buggers in a photo.

Sweet little hummingbird
What you lookin’ at?

Two restaurants—Ocotillo Café for fine dining and Ironwood Terrace for a casual food-court setting—are on site. Additional snack shops and refillable water stations are also available.

Wall decoration in the Ocotillo Café

As we wrap up this Tucson visit, we see why visitors call Tucson their home during the winter months. I’m sure we’ll find an occasion to stop there again when wandering around the Southwest.

Next stop: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Wishing everyone safe travels in 2020 and beyond.

Jon & Linda Todd

Tucson AZ – Part I

Continuing westward, we selected Tucson AZ for one of our longer stays to allow time for truck maintenance. We settled in at Rincon Country East RV Park on February 22, 2017. Rincon East was the sixth park we called before procuring a reservation. Although many of the parks advertise numerous sites, park models or long-term visitors fill the majority of the spots leaving only a small percentage available for travelers. Rincon East has 460 sites but only 55 available for short-term stays. We learned later that our trouble getting reservations was also complicated by Rodeo week. Rodeo week is such a big deal that the schools are closed Thursday and Friday to allow the students to participate in the non-motorized parade and other rodeo-related activities.

There is so much to see in and around Tucson we had trouble deciding where to go and what to see. We chose Saguaro National Park East, or Rincon Mountain District, to explore first since it was close to our home base. This old guy looks like he has had a long hard life.

IMG_1333
I Need a Hug.

On March 1, 1933, President Hoover established Saguaro National Monument, but congress did not designate the property as a national park until 1994. During the sixty years as a monument the cactus dwindled in numbers due to poachers who stole the stately giants, cattle that trampled the young saguaros, and unusual freezing temperatures caused the plants to die. In the meantime, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the Cactus Forest Scenic Loop Drive, a visitor center opened in 1950, and scientific research of the saguaro life cycle began.

The 8-mile paved Loop Drive leads visitors to several trailheads, scenic vistas, pullouts, and picnic areas. At the pullouts, kiosks provide information about the park, the cactus, and the non-human creatures that live or visit each year. One sign said Tucson was known as the lightning capital of the world. A quick fact check revealed that Texas took the prize for the number of flashes (2.8 million) during 2014 and Florida ranked number one for the average number of flashes per square mile (21.0) from 2005 through 2014 according to Vaisala Inc. on the NOAA.Gov website. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum attributes Tucson’s unique combination of elevation and dry atmosphere as the reason lightning in Tucson is more visible. To experience Tucson’s lightning requires a visit during monsoon season between July and September.

Rooftops sparsely placed among the saguaros, Palo Verde, and mesquite, are barely visible looking west from Loop Drive.

IMG_1326
View from Loop Drive Looking West

The saguaros are returning, protected by mesquite and Palo Verde nurse trees. Consider that the saguaros do not generate arms until they are 95 – 100 years old.

IMG_1337
A Family of Saguaros Nursed by Mesquite and Palo Verde Trees

Other sightings along the loop drive.

IMG_1339
Barrell Cactus
IMG_1338
Phainopepla Sitting in A Tree. How Nice of Him to Pose for Me.
IMG_1321
Chain Fruit Cholla
IMG_1316
Staghorn Cholla
IMG_1350
Javelina Rocks
IMG_1349
Javelina Rocks

We headed downtown one afternoon to tour the Tucson Museum of Art and J. Knox Corbett House. Unfortunately, the museum closed early for an event so we only had about ten minutes to walk through the Corbett house, so no time to take photos or enjoy the art in the museum.

IMG_1351
J. Knox Corbett House
IMG_1353
Historic Neoclassic/Classical Revival Architecture

Old Town Artisans, housed on the site of El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, a fort built by the Spanish in 1775, was only a few blocks from the museum. There we wandered through the galleries and shops gawking at the unique gifts, jewelry, paintings, pottery, and other items for sale.

We had received a recommendation to try El Charro for a meal. Four o’clock was a little early to eat dinner, but when the hostess said, “Now would be a good time to grab a seat,” we heeded her advice. Good thing we did. By the time we finished our meal, diners stood outside wrapped in their jackets waiting for a table. We both enjoyed the salmon taquitos with guacamole and the chicken mole enchiladas were some of the best I had ever eaten.

IMG_1354
Mural in El Charro Restaurant

The Titan Missile Museum was next on our list. As a kid growing up in the 1960s, I crouched under my desk at school along with my classmates just as the teacher instructed us. At the time, I thought the exercise would keep me safe. Little did I know we all would have been burnt to a crisp had there really been a nuclear war. The song, “Russians” by Sting gave me hope that the Russians would not engage their nuclear weapons because they really did love their children.

The museum includes historical photos and tells the story of the 54 Titan II missile complexes across the United States, each operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The missiles could deliver a nine megaton thermonuclear warhead to its target more than 6300 miles away in less than thirty minutes. The one-hour guided tour includes the underground missile complex, the launch control center, and the missile silo. I’m so glad the little girl hiding under the desk never had to endure the tragedies of a nuclear war and pray no one will ever experience the destructive power of these types of missiles.

IMG_1358
Titan Missile Visitor Center
IMG_1359
Fencing and Gate for Titan Missile Complex
IMG_1371
The Elevator to the Underground Facility is on the Left. The Stair Hatch is on the Right.
IMG_1360
Looking Up through Stairs That Lead Underground
IMG_1361
Giant Shock Absorber for Underground Facility
IMG_1362
Launch Control Center
IMG_1367
Missile and Silo From Underground
IMG_1380
Missile and Silo from Above Ground
IMG_1373
View of Silo and Surrounding Area
IMG_1376
Listening Devices for Alerting Launch Control of Intruders
IMG_1397
Various Antennas
IMG_1392
Liquid Fuel Tank Used Prior to Solid Rocket Fuel

 

IMG_1386
Rocket Engine Used During Launch

 

IMG_1395
Military Police Jeep Used on Site

Next up is Tucson Part Two, which will include Biosphere 2, Mission San Xavier del Bac and Old Tucson Studio.

Safe Travels.