Tucson
April 2006
First stop, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum,
and a close encounter with a Barn Owl.
A Western Screech Owl.
An American Kestrel.
The Kestrel contemplates attacking the photographer.
On a rare cloudy day, I hiked to Wasson Peak, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains, just shy of 5000 feet.
Tombstone, Arizona.
I spent a lot of time hiking in both the eastern (Tucson Mountains) and western (Rincon Mountains) units of Saguaro National Park.
Saguaro National Park.
A Barrel Cactus yielding fruit.
Hiking up the trail into the Rincon Mountains, the city in the valley behind me.
Good camouflage.
My hiking destination, Bridal Wreath Falls. The year had been very dry (less than ½" of rain since New Year's), and was just the latest in about 15 years of drought. The falls were dry as a bone.
An Ocotillo blossom.
The Mayall four-meter telescope on Kitt Peak, with some of its smaller companions. The custodians of the facility, sadly, don't let visitors play with the telescopes.
The McMath-Pierce Telescope, designed for observing the sun. The vertical tower is 100 feet tall, and the diagonal shaft is 500 feet long, 200 feet above ground and 300 feet buried in the mountain.
Looking up the shaft of McMath-Pierce, towards the adjustable mirror that directs the sun's rays down the shaft.
The control room of McMath-Pierce reveals its 1960s origins.
Kitt Peak rises to 7000 feet, and is surrounded by vast stretches of almost empty desert.
San Xavier del Bac Mission, south of Tucson, currently undergoing restoration.
Saint Francis. The faithful fondle the recumbent statue, lifting its head, and speaking to it. Very weird.
A couple of hours east of Tucson are the Chiracahua Mountains, a sky island surrounded by the Sonoran Desert.
Rock formations in the Chiracahua Mountains.
Rock formations in the Chiracahua Mountains. This bizarre balanced rock is about 20 feet in diameter, 25 feet tall, and weighs roughly 1000 tons.
The Chiracahua Mountains. Wonderful hiking.
Rock formations in the Chiracahua Mountains.
The Chiracahua Mountains.
The Chiracahua Mountains, seen from Inspiration Point. The trail to the top is visible on the right side of the valley.
"Are we there, yet?"
San José de Tumacácori Mission, south of Tucson.
The altar of San José de Tumacácori. Little or no restoration has taken place here.
The small cemetery behind San José de Tumacácori.
San José de Tumacácori.
San José de Tumacácori.
The unusual entrance gate to the Pima Air & Space Museum (PASM).
The PASM has a huge collection of post-WWII aircraft.
A MiG, in suitable desert camouflage.
An SR-71 Blackbird.
A Guppy, built on the airframe of a B-29 bomber, and used by NASA to transport rocket sections.
If United Airlines couldn't fly me home, I had "Plan B."
Another visit to Saguaro National Park.
Saguaro National Park.
A dry wash in Saguaro National Park.
Looming above Tucson is Mt. Lemmon, at 8000 feet. A single winding road leads up the mountain, passing through a series of climatic zones. Temperatures at the top are 20 or 30 degrees lower than those in the city, below.
Rock climbers tackle a pillar part of the way up Mt. Lemmon. The first 5000 feet are still Sonoran - dry, with cactus and other desert flora.
The lower reaches of Mt. Lemmon.
From 5000-7000 feet, pines appear. Here, above 7000 feet, firs and balsams appear, along with patches of snow in the shadows.