Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Pleasant Jaunt

Yesterday morning we left right after breakfast, about 8:15 on a little trip to Tucson, 2 1/2 hours south of here.  We took expressway (Interstate) right through Phoenix, but it wasn't bad because it was early on a Saturday.

This photo was taken south of Phoenix, north of Tucson and shows how we traveled on very level roads in an area surrounded by mountains.

One thing we learned today was that these mountains are called "sky islands."  They are the result of continental compression that have already been broken down considerably by erosion.  The cliffs on these mountains continue reaching down below the flat land to the bedrock deep, deep below.

The reason the land between the "islands of mountains" is flat is because all the rock that has eroded down from the mountains has filled the chasms between them to produce the level land.

The first place we went was the Arizona/Sonoma Desert Museum west of Tucson.  It was a great place, well organized, expansive and very informative.  We spent about three hours there, walking through the exhibits and the extensive grounds.

One very interesting presentation we saw was a demonstration of raptors.  We missed the first part and saw only the third set of birds, a family of Harris hawks.  These hawks live in families, directed by the Alpha female, who is supported by the Alpha male.  With the offspring helping, they hunt together.  They were beautiful birds, a living family who flew about right above the heads of the crowd.  Awesome!

Then we spent some time at the International Wildlife Museum, a large and well organized collection of mounted specimens from all over the world: butterflies, moths, insects (including some ginormous beetles), birds and mammals.

One interesting, though suspect, display showed a well preserved skeleton of a centaur (half horse, half man).  That was in a small area devoted to "Myth or Reality?"

Leaving there at 5 p.m. we went to our reserved room in a Comfort Inn.  Nice, spacious, clean.  Just a little down the road was an International House of Pancakes where we enjoyed a delicious dinner.

Today we went first to the Tucson Botanical Gardens.  They were begun in the 1930's by a couple who bought a house and 5 1/2 acre parcel there and built a nursery business.  Over the years Mrs. Porter developed a complex of trails and gardens on that spot, and eventually willed it all to the city of Tucson.

The gardens were very well organized with labels on almost all the plants, shrubs and trees.  Beautiful and enjoyable.  Here we are taking a short break in the shade.

Today it came home to me why in Biblical times the first duty of a host was to offer water to wash one's feet.  Most of the paths are covered with very small gravel and sand, and as I was wearing open sandals, I soon found my feet grew hot, dirty and irritated.  How I longed to plunge them into one of the many fountains or pools on the grounds!  That was forbidden by signs placed near any water source.

Our last stop was at the Tohoni Shul gardens just north of Tucson, also fairly extensive and quite well organized with paths and special areas, but just not quite on a level with the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

By 2 p.m. we were on our way, but pretty flaked out from the heat.  We found a mall with a food court and ordered a malt for each of us, strawberry for Jim and vanilla for me.  Did that ever hit the spot!

Revived and replenished we drove home, having had a very enjoyable weekend of doing the tourist thing!

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