Tucson Area Adventures

March 17-24, 2019

Gilbert Ray Campground

This is a beautiful county campground west of Tucson. They don’t take reservations and fill quickly so people start lining up at 8:30 waiting for the office to open at 9:00. We enjoyed nice walkabouts, great conversations with other campers (we found another Phoenix Cruiser!) and it was a great base to explore the area.

Our campsite (hood up to discourage packrats)

There are desert hiking trails leaving right from the campground and we had beautiful sunsets, a gorgeous full moon on the mountains and just generally great views.

Sunset at Gilbert Ray campground

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Ajo and the Desert Rain Cafe

March 9 – 17, 2019

Visitor Center

We spent a week dry camping at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it. We hadn’t either until we pulled up the National Park properties in Arizona and there it was. Arizona has a LOT of National Park properties and we plan to hit as many as we can while we wait for the snow to stop slamming everything north of us. Actually, let me correct that. We plan to hit the ones in the southern regions because the ones up north are buried in snow.

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Phoenix, Organ Stop Pizza and Casa Grande Ruins

February 25 – March 8, 2019

We had several friends hanging out in Phoenix for part of the winter so we wandered over that way. We didn’t have reservations and February/March make up a good chunk of extreme snowbird season for the Phoenix area. There are tens of thousands of people hanging out down here to escape the cold. Everywhere we looked was packed in with seasonal communities. Most have at least a few sites for “transients” like us and we managed to book a few nights in Apache Junction, spent a few nights in a casino parking lot in Chandler and shifted south for another week in Casa Grande. It all worked out just fine. We enjoyed good times hanging out and hiking with good friends.

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McDonald Observatory

February 23, 2019

Space – The Final Frontier

Amphitheater (left), Small Domed Telescopes (center), Frank N. Bash Visitors Center (right)

The visitor center had a small but interesting museum. You’ll learn a little bit about spectroscopy and why it’s so important in astronomy. You’ll also be introduced to some astronomers and learn how they use spectroscopy in their research.

One display contained several “old” astronomy tools, such as a sextant (used for celestial navigation at sea), a celestial globe (designed for classroom instruction and solving spherical geometry problems), and a micrometer (for precise measurement of star positions)

Tools of astronomy

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Fort Davis NHS & Davis Mountains State Park

February 22, 2019

Davis Mountains State Park

We shifted up to the Davis Mountains so we could tour that area. The State Park was very nice with full hook ups, partial hook ups and no hook ups. We scored a site in the partial hook up area. The park has a scenic drive up to the top of the mountain with stunning views of the surrounding area. The wind was ripping when we were up there so we had to hunker down to avoid being blown off the mountaintop. There is a hiking trail and a biking trail that run from the campground to the peak. We saw people doing the shuttle thing and dropping the biker off at the top for what must have been a wild ride down. Davis Mountains is known for its birding and the park has several bird blind areas to assist birders in finding them. They were IMPRESSIVE. One blind was like a little cantina bar with bar, stools and huge windows looking out to a little bird paradise with water features, assorted feeders and different natural perching areas. The second one is in their Interpretive Center where you can watch through peekholes outside or lounge on seats inside and view through the windows. The birdsong here in the mornings was amazing.

It was a nice, well-kept campground that served as our base of operations for our visit to Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory.

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Big Bend West Side, Cottonwood Campground, Study Butte/Terlinqua and Beyond

February 18, 2019

Cottonwood Campground – No Generators Allowed.

You don’t know how nice that is until you spend a week with this roaring noise for twelve hours each day. Luckily we were out hiking most of the time but we had a few “camp” days and every minute we were in camp at the Rio Grande Village, smelly generators played a raucous symphony that pounded our eardrums. Even on days we would have liked quiet time in camp, we tried to find somewhere else to be where we couldn’t hear the noise.

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Dinosaur National Park – BUT NOT!

February 16, 2019

Quetzalcoatlus – so very, very cool – and BIG!

Fossil Discovery Exhibit

An excellent ranger-led tour really got us excited about this fascinating exhibit. It was an excellent program at an excellent interpretive center. We learned that Big Bend encompasses a longer geologic timescale than any other National Park, about 130 million years. MILLION!!! Watch the timeframes – MYA is Million Years Ago.

Mosasaur (just the head, which is scary enough by itself but with the body it was up to 40 feet long)

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