Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cactus, the Old West, & Tucson Arizona

      We have really fallen in love with the Southwest.  Much as we loved exploring parts of South Central New Mexico, we also knew Arizona had much to offer.  Again this is our first winter south so we're breaking it up into chunks, exploring when and where we can

      Entering the state from the SE we took advantage of the many boondocking opportunities by staying at the Wilcox-Playa Wildlife Management Area.  This area is the southern terminus of much of the Sandhill Crane population's migration route.  Arizona Game & Fish manages the area and provides several primitive camping areas free for 5 days.  There are no fire pits, electric, water, or bathrooms.  Just pull in, level out, and park, which was perfect for an overnight.  There are other boondocking possibilities in this area full of rich history such as Cochise Stronghold, Chiricahua National Monument, and Indian Bread Rock.  All of these areas are primitive, but free.
      We arrived in Tucson, taking advantage of another boondocking opportunity on the Southwest side of Tucson at Snyder Hill.  This parcel of BLM land is just off the Ajo Highway in the Sonoran Desert about 10 miles out of town.  There were probably a dozen rigs in camp total with room for twice as many.  We watered up at the Pilot Truck Stop on our way into town.  After a quick trip to Food City for some restocking we were set.   I have to say that we very much enjoyed the lower diesel prices here as well.  Refueled in Deming, NM at $3.05 and averaged 15.8 mpg towing on our trip to Tucson.  Arriving here we were further delighted with diesel prices near the $2.70 range.  We camped here for 5 days utilizing solar and only spent $4.95 for generator 'top off' gas. 

      Our first day we awoke to rain which lasted all day.  We decided to just head out around town and do a bit of shopping and browsing.   It was in the low 60s so it wasn't uncomfortable, but just 'yucky'.  After an early wonderful dinner of local Sonoran Fare we headed back to camp to settle in and watch a movie and relax. 
      Day #2 saw us finally head out to the Saguaro National Park and Old Tucson.    We had much better weather, in the low 70s with little breeze and plenty of sun.  Old Tucson is famous as a Hollywood location for many famous westerns.  As we toured the town we saw locations for 3:10 to Yuma, Young Guns, Tombstone, and High Chaparral to name a few. 

      From there we traveled further NW to the Saguaro National Park.  This park encompasses 91,000 acres of remarkable landscape.  The Saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States.  It's range is very limited and this park contains a large variety of not only this rare cactus, but many other types as well.  The average life span of a saguaro cactus is 150 years, but some plants may live more than 200 years. A 20 foot tall saguaro weighs approximately 1 ton (2000 pounds).It only highlights the raw beauty of the desert.  We brought Dharma along for the day.  She did enjoy the occasional romp through the desert, but did not appreciate the Saguaro's sense of humor.  Mommy, however, did have a handy tool when we got back to get out the 'prickers'. 
      We finished off our day with a wonderful steak and rib meal at Pinnacle Peak's Cowboy Steak House in Trail Dust Town in Tucson.  The food was delicious, but the prices were a bit on the VERY HIGH side.  They charged us for every single part of our meal including each glass of tea, Barb's baked potato, my bowl of Ranch Beans in addition to our entrée of a steak and a 1/2 rack of ribs.  $62........lesson learned. 

      Our final day in the Tucson desert found us in Catalina State Park.  This area is NE of Tucson and let's you experience the edge of the desert floor and the rugged ridges and 8000 foot mountain ranges very nearby. 

      This is also the area where Arizona Game and Fish began a noble project several years ago to reintroduce Desert Bighorn Sheep into the Catalina Mountains, once their native range.   The original plan was for 30 rams and ewes to be released each year for 3 years.  Unfortunately the local mountain lion population was more of an impact than anyone knew and the current population stands at a mere 15 sheep.  There have been successful births of lambs each year and we were hoping to catch a glimpse of some of these.  I have been dying to use my new 150-600mm lens to get some wildlife pics.  Our hike was unsuccessful however as we saw nothing, but roadrunners and a cottontail rabbit. 

     We did get to see the Romero Ruins, evidence of a Hohokam Tribe Village from somewhere around the years 1350-1400.  We had also originally planned on visiting Sabino Canyon, another wonderful oasis in the desert, but our time ran short.  We caught a few 'geocaches' on the way back to camp and then set up our evening meal of brats over a campfire.  The entire Tucson Valley has been a wonderful visit, albeit a bit too short for our tastes.  We do have to keep moving as we are due in Mesa, AZ to visit with my cousin before we head off to Quartzsite,  The adventure continues....
WiFi courtesy of our Verizon MiFi Portable Hot Spot 

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