Monday, March 11, 2013

SPRING TREK 2013: Exploring Tucson Area

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FRIDAY, March 8:
Rest and Relaxation
     This blog will be devoted to our non-CHRPA days here in Tucson!  And I wish it could be filled with fascinating places we went to today, but this was a day for relaxing!!! After a lazy morning, we drove up to the Weight Watchers office so I could weigh in.  They were going to charge me $13 just to stand on a scale and record a weight.  Wouldn't accept my out of state pass this time.  I said forget it!  Was not happy.
     So...we drove down Speedway to the Wal-Mart where we had other shopping to do.  (Starting with a new pair of jeans for me since I pretty well destroyed my 'good' ones yesterday with the tar adhesive up on the roof.)  I went to the scales, took a couple out of the package, weighed on both, and wrote down my weight as the higher of the two.  It still said I had lost 2.4 pounds over the week!  I'll take it!  (Must have been the good dinner of French Vanilla Icee and Ice Cream cone the night before!)  Thought about buying a cheap digital scale, but they were all out of the cheap ones.  I'll just go find another Wal-Mart in a week and check again!
     Back to Resort CHRPA for an afternoon of scattered rain showers, holding the trailer down in the winds, and laundry.  I finished a jigsaw puzzle in the CHRPA lounge while doing the laundry.  Worked on a couple of scribbles.
Sunrise sky and storm clouds
     Dinner of leftover rice, vegetable stir fry and salmon from the freezer.  Pretty good!  Walter came over around 6:30p to comment on the finished puzzle (I had left 11 pieces for him to say he finished it!) and we visited for about an hour.  Spent time on the computer trying to find a good seafood restaurant in town for my birthday dinner.  The reviews of the local Red Lobsters were NOT good.
     I only took one picture today - of the sky during the sunrise this morning!

SATURDAY, March 9:
Rillito Bike Path & Tucson Book Fair
Click HERE for today's pictures
     Today we were going to drive up to Kitt Peak National Observatory, but the weather forecast snow up there and a high of 39 degrees with winds.  We decided it didn't sound like a great day to ascend to 7000' and be outside much of the time!  So....we took a bike ride instead up on a section of the bike path north of town along River Road and the Rillito River (which is a wide dry bed except during the monsoon season).
Rick tastes honey at the Farmer's Market
     This path can be found on both sides of the 'river' and is used by walkers, bikers, and horseback riders!  It is in excellent condition and paved on most of it.  The full path is 12 miles long, but we only rode about 5 miles down to a plaza on Campbell St. and then back to Craycroft where we started for a total of 10 miles.  That was enough.  My first time out on the bike since last fall, and my tires were low so it was a bit more work!  My legs were beat by the time we got back!  Many dog walkers descend down to the wash and let their dogs run off leash.  We also saw horses down in the wash.
     A Farmer's Market takes place at a beautiful plaza near River Road and Campbell.  We parked the bikes and wandered around for abit.  Tasted honey, nuts, coffee, and some jams.  Made a purchase for some gifts and for ourselves which Rick had to figure out how to carry back on the bike since we didn't bring any fanny pack!
     We were rained on a few times during the ride, but mostly sprinkles.  Nothing that really got us wet!
Snow on the Catalina Mts.!!!
     After the bike ride, we drove downtown to the University of Arizona campus to explore the Tucson Book Fair taking place this weekend.  There was a special section called Science City filled with booths and projects of all sorts, most of them led by university students.  It was fun seeing the number of young kids excited about science!  This book fair is an annual Tucson event, but the weather was NOT was they hoped for!  Too cold!  We did get rain again upon leaving, and this time it was a bit more serious!  Hundreds of small booths, all with books to sell, author signings, etc. Also enjoyed the National Park booth with some craftsmen at work weaving, etc.
Funky Bisbee automobile! 
     Stopped to get a warm coffee enroute back and I saw a funky car at the station.  Reminded me alot of a doll covered car we saw in Bisbee, Arizona years ago.  As we left, we noted the car was from.... Bisbee!  It wasn't the same one, but they must have alot of strangely decorated cars down there!
     Rest of afternoon spent relaxing, talking to Liz on phone, visiting with Lorene and Walter (they wanted to know more about my scribble books), drawing, etc.
     Tomorrow?  Sabino Canyon hikes!!!

Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area
Click HERE to view many more pictures!!
     Happy Birthday to me!  For my present, I get to pick where I want to go and dine today!  As the weather is perfect for low elevation hiking (cool yet clear skies), I have picked Sabino Canyon, Tucson's local 'playground' in the hills.
Shuttle bus
We leave around 8:30 to make the short 10 mile drive up to the Visitor Center which opens at 9am.  I expected to arrive early before the crowds.  Wow!  The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived!  Hurray, however, they accept the Annual Federal Pass.  No fee to enter!  Many people arrive early to hike and bike in the early morning hours.  We were opting to take the little shuttle trolleys to our trailhead to shave about 4 miles off the length of the hike.  That trolley left at 10am, so we purchased tickets (only $3 each - quite reasonable!) and wandered around the exhibits at the center and the gift shop.
Cactus around Visitor
Trailhead for Seven Falls
Saguaro 'sticks'
Desert poppies
     The trolley ride was cool with the breeze as we were both dressed in shorts and light tops.  But the sunshine itself was warm!  The trolley takes you 1.9 miles up and around a few hills to the start of the Seven Falls Trail into Bear Canyon, a sister canyon to Sabino just east of the namesake.  Our destination was 2.7 more miles up along Bear Creek, which is currently flowing strongly due to recent rains and winter snows.  The terrain is desert - cactus of all types, mesquite, palo verde, etc.  Wildflowers are starting to bloom, especially the desert poppies.  Those were gorgeous with deep orange centers and golden yellow outer edges.
Upper two falls in the distance
     We crossed the creek about 6 times in each direction.  Most crossing were rock hopping adventures, but I was glad to have a hiking stick for a little support on some of them.  Sometimes it felt like you just crossed over, only to find the trail heading back to the other side within 100 yards!  After the final crossing, we switch-backed up a little around a rock-outcropping and could finally see our destination: a series of waterfalls, each about 15 to 20 feet tall dropping into a series of pools.  It was really pretty, and Grand Central Station of people!!!  People wading, climbing on the rocks, sunning themselves, etc.  We dropped down to the main pool, crossed the creek (first time my foot got a little wet) and ate a snack in the shade of a trees.  A mallard duck couple make their home in the main pool and are obviously well attuned to both the people and the people's food!  But it seemed weird to see ducks out in the desert!
Mallard couple
      But at times, we weren't in the desert.  Because of the water, there are niches of lush green along the trail, pockets of wildflowers and even a fern in one rocky crevice.  The trail continues past the waterfalls, eventually to the top of Mt. Lemmon at 9157 feet.  Lemmon was snowcovered still, and reports are people were skiing!
Teddy Bear Cholla with sun behind it. 
Trail and canyon views
     By the time we got back to the Shuttle Stop 3, we were warm and ready to be done.  But....not knowing just when the shuttle would arrive next, we walked down the road to Stop #2, and shortly after we caught the shuttle on the UP route and rode it all the way back to the Visitor Center.
     A GOOD HIKE!!!
Ginger Birthday picture by the main pool on Bear Creek
     Back into town to the Red Lobster just north of Resort CHRPA.  This was a celebration meal, so we both ordered one of the 2-Seafood entrees.  I had garlic grilled shrimp and salmon, Rick the stuffed flounder and salmon.  Both were excellent.  Especially enjoyed the cheesy biscuits hot from the oven!  Probably way too much enjoyed!
     Grocery shopping, talks with the boys and Mom, and SOOPS Social time (we brought some mini eclairs as my birthday cake to share).  Good day, good evening, good birthday!
More desert vistas from Sabino Canyon area

FRIDAY,  March 15
Kitt Peak National Observatory/YAVs
Click HERE to view pictures
     Whew! It is now 9:20pm and the end of a very busy day that has included Kitt Peak, bicycle repair, and dinner with the YAV house!
First views of the telescopes as we near the turnoff. 
     We left this morning just before 8am, picked up gas and Subway sandwiches at the corner Valero station, and headed south for the Ajo Highway and Kitt Peak, about 60 miles away.  The road goes past Three Points, the community both Rick and I had visited over the past week for CHRPA jobs.  You can see several white patches against the blue sky at the top of the mountain, but the road actually passes the Coyote Mountain foothills and then turns off the main highway and approaches the summit from the west side.  The 12 mile access road climbs nearly 4000' in elevation.
From the top of the 4m Mann Telescope, a view of
the Kitt Peak complex. 
     Kitt Peak was started in 1958 to establish a national accessible research facility available to all qualified research - no university strings attached.  The initial plan was for a solar telescope and two reflective telescopes, first a 2.1m mirror and then a 4.0m scope.  Now the top of the mountain looks like a surreal futuristic community with little round domes, over 16 of them, scattered in every little pocket and promentory.  A total of 26 varying forms of telescopes can be found, operated by universities, countries, and consortiums, in addition to those run by the national observatory itself.
Solar Telescope
     We perused the gift shop and visitor center and caught the first tour of the solar telescope at 10am.  Solar telescopes look like giant V's upside down on the hillside.  But you don't see the remaining 3/5 of the length buried underground!  A docent was operating a smaller solar viewing station, but I had trouble seeing the distinct sun spots, etc. through that lens.
     Back to the VC just in time to start the second tour - of the 2.1 scope.  Our tour guide was a former pilot and very knowledgeable of the area and facilities.  He also explained various universal concepts including dark matter and dark energy, two fields that the 4.0 telescope has been instrumental in making new discoveries.
Lunch companions
     We took a lunch break under the shade of some live oak trees near the parking lot.  Were joined by a couple also traveling (there were only so many picnic tables!).  Then into the gift shop to make our purchases.
4m Mann Telescope
     The last tour of the 4m telescope was so crowded (later learned it was the MOST in one group the docent had ever led) that we decided to take off before the rest of the group and walk up to the telescope and take the self-guiding tour!  A good move - that size (and age) group would have taken forever to hike up the hill, many trips up the elevator to get everyone up to the viewing platform!  We enjoyed reading the displays, the panoramic views of the surrounding area, and the massive size of the telescope.
Area students have created mosaics
for parts of the visitor center. 
     All in all - Kitt Peak proved to be a good choice on this day that broke March records in Tucson for high temperatures:  94 degrees!!  Kitt Peak broke their record too - of 73 degrees!  While the sun up on top was warm, a cool breeze kept things very pleasant!
Entrance hallway to YAV House
     We drove back into town, talked with YAV Karl on the phone and made arrangements for the pizza  and got directions to the YAV house.  In the meantime, we had heard that my bike was ready for pickup.  So we drive out to Pima St. Bike Repair, pick up my beautiful looking bike ($65 tuneup), and then back into town to the YAV house.  We find it easily due to Karl's clear directions.
     The house is a former boarding house, so when you walk in you are met by a HUGE broad hallway with doors off to either side!  Eleven people are living in the house, including Jacob and Meredith, former YAVs from Luke's year.  They each have their own rooms.  Ellison works out near Benson during the week, so as the only other single male, he also has a room.  Kendra and Karl are married and share a room, and that leaves six more gals to pair up for the three remaining rooms.  It is full!  We saw the 16 chickens out back, Karl's plans for more garden plantings, new bike racks installed, etc.  Pizzas were ordered, Rick, Karl, and Ellison went down to pick up some beer.  Jacob left this morning, so we didn't get a chance to see him, but Meredith did come in and join us for dinner.  A fun and entertaining group!!!  And they definitely enjoyed their pizza!!  Rick and I left around 8pm to find our way home in the dark!
2012-13 YAVS: Tavi, Austin, Ellison, Maddie, Kendra & Karl, Sarah, and Stephanie.  Missing: Enid (sleeping)
Unfortunately Meredith from Luke's year had just left for the evening and Jacob was out of town. 
Saturday, March 16
Breakfast with Kyle/Mt. Lemmon - Catalina Highway
Click HERE to see today's pictures
With Kyle Anderson
     Goodness!  It felt like we had a leisurely morning for the first time in a week!  We didn't have to meet Kyle until 9am!  Kyle, having lived in east Tucson for years, recommended Beyond Bread as a good place to meet for breakfast.  We had passed it several times.  Good thing we didn't stop earlier, because we would have been here often!  It was good and the prices reasonable!   We all had a type of omelet at 6.95 each, which included four slices of bread (we all selected multi-grain), potato pancakes or a chunky hash brown, as well as the omelet.  The multi-grain bread was the best I have tasted in ages.  It was stout to say the least, but excellent!!  Rick and I decided we might need to stop again on the way home!!
     A good visit with Kyle, now teaching math at the junior high level in Phoenix - in a school that is 88% free and reduced lunches.  Tough job.  Kyle was a tennis teammate of Luke's at Linfield.  A super young man.
Catalina Highway
Rock formations along hwy
     After breakfast, we picked up a coffee for the road, and headed up the Catalina Highway (aka General Hitchcock Highway or Mt. Lemmon Highway) to the top of Mt. Lemmon at 9157'.  The road is only 29 miles long, but it gains over 6000' from Tucson itself.  A beautiful piece of road engineering - lots of pull-outs and viewpoints, campgrounds and picnic areas.  You realize how much ROCK is on the mountain - little hoodoos and spires everywhere.  We gradually left the saguaros behind, began to see pinon pines, and then ponderosas.  Bicyclists were pedaling up the mountain.  This is SERIOUS biking country and today was one of the first really nice days with limited snow up on Lemmon.  I had counted on getting some trail information at the Palisades Visitor Center, but when we pulled in we were greeted by a sign: Closed on March 15-16-17.  However, we did catch of wonderful waft of ponderosa pine upon getting out of the truck and it smelled like HOME!!
Hard to believe this is only
thirty miles from Tucson!
     About 3 miles from the summit we came to the village of SummerHaven - an oasis of cool air for the Tucson residents.  The  area burned in 2003 and over 250 of the homes were destroyed.  Much has been rebuilt, but the evidence of the fire is still very apparent.  We drove past the town and the Mt. Lemmon ski area (the southern most ski area in the continental US) and drove to the end of the road.  The top of Mt. Lemmon houses several military areas, a number of telecommunication towers, and 5-6 small observatories operated by the University of Arizona.  All of the above was 'off limits' to visitors.  Rick and I checked out what we could of the trail map, and then took off for an intended 1.5 mile loop around the top of the mountain.  There was quite abit of snow, but it was possible to follow the trail.  The Aspen fire burned parts of the summit area and a wind storm in 2010 knocked many of the burned trees down.  We got down into an area of Douglas Fir trees (yes!) and snow on the trail when we turned back.
Top of Mt. Lemmon
    Views out over the Tucson valley from the top are incredible.  The basin was relatively hazy today with winds blowing the light clouds everywhere.  In the distance we could see the sacred mountain of the Tohono Od'ham people near Kitt Peak, Mt. Wrightson (which Luke climbed) to the south, and the Rincon Mts. and Mica Mt. to the west.  Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon, separated by Thimble Mt. are identifiable!
     I drove back down the mountain and we stopped at several viewpoints along the way, including the San Pedro River viewpoint to the north of the mountain.  As we descended we felt the heat of the valley return.  The top was a good 25 degrees color, especially with a brisk breeze blowing over the snow.
     We found a Goodwill store out near the Bear Canyon Road and picked up new work pants for Rick, a shirt for me, and a couple of books.  Then a stop to Beyond Bread for rolls and a pretzel (they had sold out of multi-grain bread) and back to Resort CHRPA.  While cooking up some stir fry veggies for dinner, we ran out of propane!!!   I was shocked, thinking we hadn't cooked that much.  Rick reminded me of hot water for showers, and we took all our showers in Cruces last fall in the trailer, but all on this trip, and we hadn't put in propane since Pagosa Springs!  We were absolutely empty!!  We removed the tank and Rick made a run to fill the tank!
     Marg called in the meantime and we had a good visit while I finished cooking dinner.  Quiet evening, after we got the trailer cooled off from the 94 degrees it was when we returned.

SUNDAY, March 17
ST PADDY'S DAY!  Rest and Relaxation!
     Not too much exciting to say about today.  Other than it is again warm, but each day cools just a bit!  We attend church at Shalom Fellowship and the 'SOOPS' are in charge of the 2nd Hour Education time - to talk about our experiences.  We were each given a max of 5 minutes to talk!  I worked hard before church and got another CHRPA scribble finished which I then colored with the pencils to share.
     I enjoy the Mennonite service here: casual and relaxed - comfortable.  Today we got to hear the pastor Bryce preach.  He does a great job.  I did notice that he preaches in his stocking feet!  I asked the other SOOPS later about it.  Because of his cerebral palsy, it helps Bryce to keep his balance, etc. if he can grip the floor better.  At times his diction is hard to understand, but he preaches so passionately that you forget about the disability.
     After 2nd Hour, we decided to go out to lunch with Lorene, Walter, Bruce, and Marj.  Altho Walter said we could ride with them, we opted to drive so we could go grocery shopping and gas up at the same time.  Well, Walter gave us the wrong directions to the restaurant.  Rick and I spent over a half hour trying to find the right Chinese restaurant, finally gave up and ate at Wendy's, did our shopping and returned back to CHRPA.  Walter felt horrible - Marj said later he kept leaving the table to look for us.  We tried to reassure him later!
    Afternoon of catching up on laundry - we even washed our sheets!  Visits with moms on phone, and then social hour in the SOOP lounge.  Titus and his wife Joy came over to join us.  A quick game of dominos with our treats and then good conversation for another hour!

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