Saturday, February 17, 2018

Trip to Tucson

Karen and David's home
Tom's office is closed on Martin Luther King day which gave us a three day weekend. We jumped on the chance to visit somewhere new. My sister and her husband relocated to Tucson a few years back to get away from winter and enjoy year-round sunshine. This was our first chance to visit them in what to me still seems like their new home. 
We did plenty of chatting and catching up, but also sight-seeing in the area. Our first stop was to the Titan Missile Museum. Tom's uncle has his own missile story from his days in the service - this was a must see for us.

"This preserved Titan II missile site, officially known as complex 571-7, is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987. This one-of-a kind museum gives visitors a rare look at the technology used by the United States to deter nuclear war. What was once one of America's most top secret places is now a National Historic Landmark, fulfilling its new mission of bringing Cold War history to life for millions of visitors from around the world."

if you're over 6 feet tall, you get to wear a very cool hard hat!

going down

volunteer docent knew what all those controls were for!
It's amazing the technology that was available in the 1960's. Also there were plenty of precautions in place to make sure no one person alone could launch the missile. The silo was built to withstand a nuclear attack complete with a month's worth of food. The air supply would only last about two weeks, however. Quite creepy to imagine what it must have been like down there wondering whether there would ever be a launch. 

taken from outside

security police are no longer needed on site

Similar to California, Arizona has its share of missions - where Spanish missionaries came and tried to convert the local people to Christianity. 

Mission San Xavierr del Bac dates from the late 1700s

facade detail
Our guide pointed out that the painting of the Last Supper is unique in that it includes a representation of the devil on the right side.

The interior is much more ornate than the two missions we've seen so far in California.

altar area
 side chapels:

We were interested in seeing the different plants and animals of the area. Karen knows a lot about the various kinds of cacti and actually admitted she's considered being a docent (after I mentioned she knew enough to be one). 

We arrived in time to see some of the raptors that have been trained up close and personal. They flew right over our heads several times. I was glad I was wearing a hat!


raven in flight - will come back

great horned owl

take off

name unknown - toupeed hawk?
grey fox

We were very lucky with other animal sightings - nearly all came out of hiding for us. Only the prairie dogs (which are usually so playful) stayed out of sight. 



javelina or collared peccary (definitely part of the wild boar family)


Mexican gray wolf

black bear - duh!

mountain lion

otter posing for his close up

having fun!

Hummingbirds are tiny, but in the aviary we were able to spot many varieties.

here I am with our personal guides, David and Karen

top looks like asparagus to me

We also saw plenty of interesting local plants. 

We took a hike in Saguaro National Park. I knew the saguaro cactus is a protected species, but what I didn't expect was to see so many of them and not only in the park. 

Park's namesake, Saguaro Cactus

We followed one of the trails in search of petroglyphs near its end.

inside of dead saguaro


I guess we didn't look in the right place because we never found the petroglyphs. We were once again glad to have our sticks along for support on the uneven terrain. 

Before we left Karen and David, we had time for one more outing. We visited Sabino Canyon which is very close to them and their favorite hiking spot. 

Where else should the trails start? 


Karen explains about the plants

plenty of saguaro here!

Our luck with wildlife continued with a sighting of the elusive coati.

Besides hiking trails, there is also an educational tram ride in the canyon - a leisurely way to learn about the area.

many arms on that saguaro! very unusual
It was a very enjoyable short getaway and we got a great taste of Tucson (even went to some nice restaurants). I'm sure we'll be back for "seconds"!