Arizona, Tucson and Kitt peak
We pulled into Desert Trails RV Park after the road from Ajo. It had been a sad drive but it felt like it was time to move on. The sides of the road were blooming with poppies and penstemons and driving along the US 86 through the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation past Kitt Peak with the thunderstorms looming was spectacular.
This RV Park used to be an amusement center and it’s quirky layout is beautiful. Lot’s of plantings, cacti and birds around old pools and slides from another era. The owner let us drive around and pick whatever site we wanted as we explained we wanted to get the telescope out so needed a view to the South if possible. It looked like the snowbirds were packing up and leaving so we had our choice of some nice spots with lot’s of room on either side. The park buzzes with birds.The best being a Great Horned Owl nest in a huge Cottonwood behind the office. Spectacular to see the chicks peeking over the edge.
We had a nest of Gila Woodpeckers in the saguaro next to us as well as Gambel’s Quails, Pyrrhuloxias, Cardinals, Cactus Wrens, Curve Billed Thrashers and throngs of LBB’s ( Little Brown Birds;) that I am slowly learning what they are! A whole new batch of birds here in Arizona.
The RV park in West Tucson is close to the Desert Sonora Museum which has been on my have to do list for quite some time. The wonderful woman at the front desk at the RV Park gave me two free passes and we spent an afternoon there exploring..had to see the butterfly garden and the hummingbird house..why of course! I was fascinated. There were at least 6 nests in various stages of being built and all right before your eyes! Mostly beautiful little Anna’s but I caught my first glimpse of a Broad Billed as well. Mike had to basically drag me out..It was time for lunch.
It was not limited to birds and bugs, there were wonderful displays of Big Horned Sheep, cats and fox, reptiles, insects and everything you could imagine in the desert.
The gardens were stunning, wildflowers, cacti and shrubs shared different areas from riperean to desert grasslands to mountain woodland. I could spend days wandering about here. Mike did finally drag me out;) Sadly I missed the Raptor free flight by a day so will HAVE to come back;)
The Kitt Peak National Observatory is a National astronomical observatory site located on 2,096 m Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains 88 kilometers west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona. We drove up later one morning slowly winding our way up. The road doesn’t have too many drop off’s and provides a beautiful view of the surrounding Arizona-Sonora desert. Visiting hours are limited as the whole road closes down after 4pm to keep the light pollution from cars in check.
We did a self guided tour of all the telescopes available for viewing including the Largest Solar Telescope in the world- The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. Inspiring shapes and patterns for the non-astronomer here;)..Mike was in aperture heaven.
Great temperature after the desert heat! Beautiful spot but couldn’t help feel that everything needed a coat of paint, word has it funding has been cut, if you want to take over the solar telescope..give them a call they are looking for sponsors;) They have some public outreach programs and even guided time on some of the smaller telescopes. We drove down the road to the VLBA, Very Long Baseline Array Radio Telescope, and the picnic area to eat lunch and watched as the technicians moved the large dish upright to flat, very cool. You get an idea of the size when you see the tiny technician on the ladder:)
The trip back was just as beautiful. Mike made the obligatory “let me shoot those wildflowers” stop along the way:)
We had a few things to catch up on and a week turned into 8 days. We made a quick side trip one morning to the Sweetwater Wetlands North on the I-10. A water reclamation facility with quite a few ponds and a wonderful trail system throughout. I must have been craving humidity and water birds after the last few weeks of desert:)..my kingdom for a duck..it was granted, and a magnificent blue billed duck at that:) Dr. Suess designed I presume..It was an enjoyable walk, buzzed by some Cooper Hawk parents and watching the turtles as they watched me.
The last few days were scorching and everything was looking for water. I sat and watched the Great Horned Owls early one evening and right beside the bench where I sat was a slowly dripping faucet. It was fascinating the variety of birds, and rabbits that came by for a drink…like a Norman Rockwell Painting of the small things in life, often the most memorable as well:)
Back at the trailer I saw a young rabbit trying to drink out of a bird bath but couldn’t quite reach..I put down a bowl for it:)
We sat and planned our next jump on that 8th day. The seeing had not been great but Mike met a fellow astronomy buff from the San Diego area in the RV across from us and they spent some time looking through the solar scopes. He traveled with his as well. But time to get out of the big city, and away from the lights…Our goal eventually…Rodeo, New Mexico…but that my friends, is another story..stay tuned..Saludos y abrazzos amigos!