We started our first morning of vacation on our own in Tucson bright and early, thanks to my talent for waking up exactly when my east-coast alarm clock would be going off. This is not entirely a bad thing, since we’ve been able to see some amazing early morning light, and this morning was no exception.
Our drive took us through Gates Pass and up to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, just west of Tucson. It was still fairly early, and the light was behind us, making the mountains breath-taking. The photos we took were on the way back, so the light isn’t as impressive, but it was still worth looking at.
One of the most impressive things about the drive to the museum and the museum grounds are the saguaro cacti. I’ve seen pictures, of course, but I hadn’t really understood how impressive a 10 foot cactus that is hundreds of years old could be. I also hadn’t really pictured the density. Out in this part of the Tucson mountains, the saguaro grow fairly thickly all the way up the summits. They don’t begin to grow arms until after they are seventy years old, so some of these must have been impressively old.
The museum itself was all it had been promised to be. Everyone who heard we were going to Tucson suggested the desert museum and everyone was right. We started out by buying hats (a necessity for the sun on such an amazing day) and watching a falcon show. We saw some amazing displays of gardening with native plants and some really well planned animal habitats. The almost free-range javelina were really interesting, although the tips on keeping them out of your garden may not come in handy any time too soon. The hummingbird aviary was also impressive – the hummingbirds here are so different from the insect-looking ones on the east cost.
After spending most of the day at the museum, we made a quick trip out to the Colossal Cave, on the southeast side of Tucson. The drive was pretty, but the cave was a little disappointing. It is a dry limestone cave, which means it’s no longer ‘growing’ (a man on our tour group was never quite convinced that the naturalist wasn’t referring to some kind of mold when she talked about growing caves and was quite pleased that this one had stopped). I’ve never been in a wet cave, but Nathan tells me the colors are far more spectacular. Nevertheless, is was impressive to be six stories below the surface in entirely natural caverns. We also stopped quickly at the park’s tortoise enclosure, but sadly, like those at the desert museum, the tortoises were still hibernating.
We had dinner back in Tucson, at the La Parilla Suiza. Dinner was delicious, but most notable for me were the oranges growing in the parking lot. That’s how I know I’m far from home. Tonight, we head on the Phoenix, and by tomorrow night we’ll be in Flagstaff. I’m excited to see the Grand Canyon but sorry to be leaving the saguaro behind.
You can see all of our pictures from today here.