Wednesday, June 28, 2017

April 10, 2017 - Tucson, AZ

I tried and tried so hard to get out of the bed before the sunrise, but I just could not.  I was very comfortable with the gentle breeze blowing in my face from the window.  Erwin said he kept waking up once in a while during the night.  

We packed our lunches to go for our day’s outing.  We are trying to cut back on dining out.  Last month it was over the budget.

First visit was at Saguaro National Park. It was 9:30 am when we had our picture taken with the sign. At that time the temp was 60˚.  
There are two sections in Tucson, AZ: on the west is Tucson Mountain and the one on the east is Rincon Mountain.  We visited the Tucson Mountain district.  The park is named for the largest cactus called Saguaro that is native to the desert. 
"Go Thataway, No Go Thisaway!  I Don't know, Go straight up!"
The Saguaro has been labeled as the monarch of the American Southwest.  It was 1933 when it was declared that the Saguaros are to be protected and preserved. Its life begins as a shiny black seed that is no bigger than a pinhead!  Just one Saguaro can produce tens of thousands of seed in a year!  It grows very very slow.  When it reaches 75 years it may sprout its first branches or arms.
We stopped at Red Hills Visitor Center, got information on trails, etc.. Anna, the ranger, was very friendly, explained about which trails are better for us.  Behind the visitor center is a a 600’ trail, so we went to check it out. There we saw one rock squirrel and curve-billed thrashers.  Lots of different cactus in the garden.

Rock Squirrel
A mile and half from the visitor center is a scenic Bajada Loop Drive, which is a 5 miles long and unpaved, but graded.  It loops through a dense Saguaro desert.  We stopped at one picnic area that has a shelter and had lunch there.  Two curve-billed thrashers were around, hoping to catch foods thrown to them. 

We took a 1/2 mile roundtrip hike to check out petroglyphs ad pictographs (rock art) at Signal Hill area.  It started to feel hot as we climbed up to get a view.  After we got back to the car the temperature hit 87˚.  
We decided not to take hikes elsewhere, would rather come back early in the morning while it is still cool. 

I was fixed on going back “home” after leaving Saguaro National Park, but then I remembered there was one place I wanted to visit: Mission San Xavier del Bac.  Just one more attraction and we should be done for the day.

Mission San Xavier del Bac is also nicknamed as “The White Dove of the Desert” because its white buildings really stand out in the desert.  It was registered in the U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1960.  It is a historic Spanish Catholic mission, and was built between 1783-1797. It is the oldest European structure in Arizona.
There is no admission fee to visit the mission.  The rules were: Turn off cell phones, no photography during Mass, and no candle lighting during Mass.  There was no Mass in progress when we went inside.  Our jaws literally dropped to the floor. The facades, the paintings, the architectural style, marbling, carvings, etc. were beyond our imaginations.  

We spent about 45 minutes walking around while admiring the works, and I took a lot of pictures. There is a gift shop next door to the mission.  We did not hike to the top of Grotto Hill where there is a white cross.  Our legs were starting to feel like Jell-o.

There is a local food stand outside that sells traditional fry bread.  We did not walk to the shopping mall that is across the road from the mission.

Our energies were drained and it felt like the sun was trying to melt us.  We headed back to Casino del Sol to rest before getting ready to head out for full moon photo shooting.
After resting and napping Erwin was not up to going with me to watch the moon rise, so I went by myself. I decided not to go outside of Casino del Sol to look for a spot, chose to go to the top of the parking garage behind the casino/hotel.  Last night I was there and thought the view will be good.



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