A Laid-Back December

As the New Year approaches, I am still in Tucson. It has been nice to have a less hectic travel schedule. I’ve attended fiestas in the area, done some sightseeing, hiking and reading.

La Fiesta de Tumacacori

Tumacacori National Historic Park is just south of Tucson in the Santa Cruz Valley. It is the site of an historic mission founded in 1691 by the Jesuit priest Father Kino who led expeditions in present day northern Mexico, Arizona and California.


Old Mission at Tumacacori

An annual festival is held the first weekend of December.


La Fiesta de Tumacacori

There are a variety of food vendors, crafts and others.


Fiesta grounds

There are musical groups and dancers representing the different cultures that reside in the valley.


Dancers from Fort Apache


Fort Apache dancers

A Tohono O’odham waila band.


Gertie and the TO Boyz from San Xavier


Lourdes Folklorico dancers from Nogales


These kids were so cute!


Mariachi Luz de Luna from Tucson

Kitt Peak Observatory

The Observatory is located about 50 miles west of Tucson on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. The observatory has over 20 optical and radio telescopes which are operated by various universities.


Participating universities

I love the colorful murals that are popular in Arizona.


Love the murals!

Photo from the road up to the observatory, looking south to Baboquivari Peak on the right. This is the most sacred peak to the Tohono O’odham people.

I attended the Night Observation Program, which begins just before sunset and lasts about three and half hours. The program starts with a docent-led sunset walk up to an overlook to the west. The docent talks about the history of the observatory and some of the telescopes. Once it was dark, the next session was viewing different space objects through one of telescopes. That was a lot of fun. For the final session, we learned how to use a planisphere to locate stars, constellations and other objects in the sky. We were out on the patio and using binoculars as the presenter helped us to locate objects. It was very dark up there and with the new moon, the Milky Way was brilliant! I enjoyed the program very much and recommend it to anyone with an interest in star gazing and astronomy.


Sunset from Kitt Peak

Pima Air and Space Museum

Another day I visited the Air and Space Museum on the east side of Tucson adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The museum is on 75+ acres with around 300 aircraft on display. There are several hangars holding aircraft and other displays. There are old and new aircraft.


One of the hangers

One building is devoted to NASA and space exploration.


Phoenix Mars Lander

Another houses the Museum for the 390th Bomb Group which flew the B17 bomber.


B17 bomber


First US flag on UTAH Beach on D-Day

There are several presidential aircraft as well as civilian planes.


One of the presidential aircraft on display


Super Guppy!


F18 Hornet

Two of my favorite planes – a P51 Mustang and a Stearman biplane.


P-51 Mustang and Stearman biplane


P-51 Mustang

After enlisting in the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1942, George H.W. Bush received his first flight training in a Stearman. After WWII, thousands of the Stearmans were sold to civilians, so they were quite common.  I’ve always wanted to go up in one but never have.


Stearman biplane


An Arizona plane


One of the large hangers

Saguaro National Park and Gilbert Ray Campground

I spent several days at Gilbert Ray Campground. This is a Pima County campground in Tucson Mountain Park that is adjacent to the national park. I would say the setting is one of the prettiest campgrounds I have stayed in. I was in loop C and only a few sites were occupied. The sites have electric hookup only, and generators are not permitted.


Site C25


Site C25 at Gilbert Ray Campground

One of the nicest hikes I did in the park was on the Hugh Norris Trail.


Hugh Norris Trail in Saguaro National Park West


I think the yellow flowers are Desert Sunflowers

This looks like someone planted a garden, it was so lovely.


Someone planted a garden!

At the top of Signal Hill are Hohokam petroglyphs.


Signal Hill in Saguaro National Park West


Signal Hill Petroglyphs


Signal HIll Petroglyphs

Catalina State Park

A few days ago I went to Catalina State Park on the northeast side of Tucson. It is on the edge of the Santa Catalina Mountains. It had snowed the night before so there was a dusting on the highest peaks. I hiked a couple of the trails.


Catalina State Park


A little dusting of snow


A nice path


The park has tons of saguaros


Hiking up Romero Canyon


Arizona Pencil Cholla


With all the rain the stream was flowing


Romero Canyon


Rocky trail

The park was pretty, but very busy!

I have always loved to read since I was a child. A cold or rainy day is great to curl up with a good book. When I was in Sierra Vista (which is in Cochise County, AZ) Robin at Robin’s Books Blog recommended the Joanna Brady suspense series written by J.A. Jance. The main character is the sheriff of Cochise County and based in Bisbee, which is the county seat. The events take place all around the county and up into Tucson. I always keep my Arizona Benchmark Atlas handy for reference! The books are enjoyable reads but it is even more fun to read about places you have been or are familiar with. Check out Robin’s blog if you are looking for book recommendations.

I’m currently about halfway through Destiny And Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. It’s a good biography, but very sympathetic to Bush since it was the authorized biography. The author, Jon Meacham, spoke at President Bush’s funeral.

In a few days, I’ll be leaving Tucson for the Quartzsite area. I read that alot of the BLM camping areas over there are closed due to the government shut down. It may be interesting to find camping. Thousands of snowbird RVers come to that area in January!

Wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year!!!


2 Comments on “A Laid-Back December

  1. Thanks for the shout out about my blog! Glad you are enjoying the Jance series. What I like is that she doesn’t “fictionalize” the locations so it’s easy to visualie the area she is describing.

    And the Super Guppy at the Pima museum fascinated me when we visited. I couldn’t believe how they could get that thing in the air!


    • Your welcome Robin! I agree – I keep making mental notes of places I want to check out the next time I’m back there. Skeleton Canyon is one, haha!


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