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Tucson Day Trips

I had the opportunity to visit Tucson for two meetings while I was working. Both meetings were in March when most of the country was experiencing colder weather. Tucson was always warmer and provided a great escape from the winter blues. The mountain ranges surrounding the city were majestic and were an awesome sight for someone to see, especially someone who had grownup in New York City.

Jean, Frances, and I visited Tucson for the month of January 2000 to decide if that would be a place to retire. We took several day trips to become familiar with the greater Tucson area. Click on the menu items below for information and to see pictures of those trips.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a 98-acre zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, natural history museum, publisher, and art gallery founded in 1952. Located just west of Tucson, Arizona, it features two miles of walking paths traversing 21 acres of desert landscape. It is one of the most visited attractions in Southern Arizona. The nonprofit organization focuses on the interpretation of the natural history, plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert. The museum is home to more than 230 animal species and 1,200 varieties of plants. It is open every day through the year, and hosts nearly 400,000 visitors annually, including visitors from abroad.

Founded in 1952, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum interprets the complete natural history of a single region—the Sonoran Desert and adjacent ecosystems—with plants and animals from the region featured together in its exhibits.

William H. Carr inspired and founded the Desert Museum with the support of his friend, Arthur Pack, a conservationist and editor of Nature Magazine. Carr had earlier founded the Bear Mountain Trailside Museum in New York, which was affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History. There he had developed a similar approach to displays, working with native plants and animals to create a regionally-focused collection.

Pack, through his foundation, had provided $200,000 to open the museum and pay its operating cost, so the museum initially charged no admission. Although an admission charge was instituted in 1953, the museum is still supported only be admission fees and donations, and receives no direct support from public taxes.

From 1953 to 1985, a local television series, Desert Trails, featured the museum. “It was an informal show, almost always having live animals and human guests, and focusing on the natural history of the desert as well as happenings at the museum.” In 1991 the museum partnered to develop a national television series known as “Desert Speaks.” It was produced in cooperation with the local PBS affiliate (KUAT), and with The Nature Conservancy of Arizona. This television series was broadcast in 200 markets and ran for 19 seasons.

TripAdvisor rated the Museum as Tucson’s #1 attraction for 2012 and 2013. It was ranked number five on their “Traveler’s Choice” of top museums and top five public gardens to visit in the United States for 2013, and ranked number nine in the world on their “Traveler’s Choice” of top museums for 2013. Condé Nast Traveler’s “The Daily Traveler” included in their list of five museums in the United States for children interested in dinosaurs. Click here for more information.

 Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

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Biosphere 2 Center

The University of Arizona (UA) assumed ownership of Biosphere 2 in July 2011. A generous gift from the Philecology Foundation helps fund Biosphere 2 operations and some research projects. Other grants and awards, primarily from the National Science Foundation, also support research activities.

In the 1800s, the Biosphere 2 property was part of the Samaniego CDO Ranch. After several changes of ownership, it became a conference center in the 1960s and 1970s, first for Motorola, then for The University of Arizona. Space Biospheres Ventures bought the property in 1984 and began construction of the current facility in 1986 to research and develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology.

Two missions, between 1991 and 1994, sealed Biospherians inside the glass enclosure to measure survivability. Behind this highly public exercise was useful research that helped further ecological understanding. Several first-person accounts have been published by former crew members that provide different perspectives on the experiment.

In 1994, Decisions Investments Corporation assumed control of the property and Columbia University managed it from 1996-2003 and reconfigured the structure for a different mode of scientific research, including a study on the effects of carbon dioxide on plants. Columbia also built classrooms and housing for college students of earth systems science.

The property was sold June 4, 2007, to CDO Ranching and its development partners who then leased the property to UA from 2007-2011. The enclosure now serves as a tool to support research already underway by UA scientists. As a laboratory for large-scale projects, such as the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO), the university’s stewardship of Biosphere 2 will allow the UA to perform key experiments aimed at quantifying some of the consequences of global climate change. Click here for more information.

 Biosphere 2 Center

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Downtown Tucson

Tucson is a city in and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States,and home to the University of Arizona. The 2010 United States Census puts the city’s population at 520,116,while the 2012 estimated population of the entire Tucson metropolitan area was 992,394. The Tucson MSA forms part of the larger Tucson-Nogales combined statistical area, with a total population of 980,263 as of the 2010 Census. Tucson is the second-largest populated city in Arizona behind Phoenix, which both anchor the Arizona Sun Corridor. The city is located 108 miles southeast of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Tucson is the 33rd largest city and the 52nd largest metropolitan area in the United States. Roughly 150 Tucson companies are involved in the design and manufacture of optics and optoelectronics systems, earning Tucson the nickname Optics Valley.

Major incorporated suburbs of Tucson include Oro Valley and Marana northwest of the city, Sahuarita south of the city, and South Tucson in an enclave south of downtown. Communities in the vicinity of Tucson (some within or overlapping the city limits) include Casas Adobes, Catalina Foothills, Flowing Wells, Tanque Verde, Tortolita, and Vail. Towns outside the Tucson metro area include Benson to the southeast, Catalina and Oracle to the north, and Green Valley to the south.

The English name Tucson derives from the Spanish name of the city, Tucsón, which was borrowed from the O’odham name Cuk Ṣon, meaning “(at the) base of the black [hill]”, a reference to an adjacent volcanic mountain. Tucson is sometimes referred to as “The Old Pueblo.” Click here for more information.

 Downtown Tucson

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Hoot Gibson’s Home

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 Hoot Gibson’s Home

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Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac is a historic Spanish Catholic mission located about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona, on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. The mission was named in 1692 by Padre Eusebio Kino for a pioneering Christian missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order), Francis Xavier. The mission is also known as the “place where the water appears”, as there were once natural springs in the area. The Santa Cruz River, which now runs only part of the year, is also nearby. The mission is situated in the center of a centuries-old Indian settlement of the Tohono O’odham (formerly known as Papago), located along the banks of the Santa Cruz River.

The mission is a pilgrimage site with thousands of pilgrims who visit the church each year, many of them walking or riding on horseback cabalgatas.

The mission was founded in 1692 by the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino, founder of the Spanish missions in the Sonoran Desert chain, who often visited and preached in the area. The original mission church, located about two miles (3 km) away, was vulnerable to Apache attacks which finally destroyed it in about 1770. Charles III of Spain banned all Jesuits from Spanish lands in the Americas in 1767 because of his distrust of the Jesuits. From this time on, San Xavier mission was led by the more pliable and “reliable” Franciscans. The present building was constructed under the direction of Franciscan fathers Juan Bautista Velderrain and Juan Bautista Llorenz mainly with native labor working from 1783–1797 with a loan of 7,000 pesos and serves the Catholics of the San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Unlike the other Spanish missions in Arizona, San Xavier is still actively served by Franciscans, and still serves the Native community by which it was built. The San Xavier church and its Indian converts were protected somewhat from Apache raids by the Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, established in 1775 roughly 7 miles downstream. Click here for more information.

 Mission San Xavier del Bac

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Mount Lemon

Mount Lemmon (O’odham: Babad Doʼag), with a summit elevation of 9,159 feet (2,792 m), is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It is located in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson, Arizona, United States. Mount Lemmon was named for botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon, who trekked to the top of the mountain with Native American guides by mule and foot in 1881. It is reported that Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, on the mountain’s northeastern side, receives 200 inches of snow annually.

Summerhaven is a small town near the top of the mountain. It is a summer residence for many but there are some year round residents. There are many small cabins most of which were rebuilt after the Aspen Fire of July 2003

At the peak is the Mount Lemmon Observatory, which was formerly the site of a USAF radar base of the Air Defense Command, and the building that formerly housed a military emergency radar tracking station for landing the Space Shuttle at White Sands Missile Range. Although the United States military had a presence on the mountain for several decades all their facilities have been abandoned and were given to the United States Forest Service. The area and buildings that makes up the Mount Lemmon Station Observatory are leased from the Forest Service by the University of Arizona. The telescopes on the mountain are still used for astronomical research today by organizations such as the Catalina Sky Survey, and The Mount Lemmon Sky Center, The University of Arizona Astronomy Camp program,[7] the University of Arizona, and the University of Minnesota. The educational resources at the top of the mountain make it a unique research and teaching destination. Click here for more information.

 Mount Lemon

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Old Tucson Studios

Old Tucson Studios is a movie studio and theme park just west of Tucson, Arizona, adjacent to the Tucson Mountains and close to the western portion of Saguaro National Park. Built in 1939 for the movie Arizona, it has been used for the filming of several movies and television westerns since then, such as Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Little House on the Prairie. It was opened to the public in 1960, and historical tours are offered about the movies filmed there, along with live cast entertainment featuring stunt shows and shootouts.

Old Tucson Studios was originally built in 1938 by Columbia Pictures on a Pima County-owned site as a replica of 1860s Tucson for the movie Arizona, starring William Holden and Jean Arthur. Workers built more than 50 buildings in 40 days. Many of those structures are still standing.

After Arizona completed filming, the location lay dormant for several years, until the filming of The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. Other early movies filmed on this set included The Last Round-Up (1947) with Gene Autry and Winchester ’73 (1950) with James Stewart and The Last Outpost with Ronald Reagan. The 1950s saw the filming of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958), and Cimarron (1959) among others.  Click here for more information.

 Old Tucson Studios

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Thunder in the Desert

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to witness the first Thunder in the Desert. The event is now held every four years.

Over 150 tribal nations from North America and additional first people from around the world come together for this event to share with the public their cultural experiences through song, dance, crafts, food and cultural displays. 

The beauty, endurance and spirit of the Native American and other worldwide first people’s culture is showcased in this extraordinary event. The First Peoples’ World Fair and Pow Wow, “Thunder in the Desert”, has been a forum to show the world that Native Americans have survived and maintained their unique cultural values. The traditional ways of life have survived, are honored, and will continue to flourish in the 21st century for their children.

It was a privilege to be a part of this unprecedented event and to have the opportunity to witness people of all races experience this extraordinary event.

 Thunder in the Desert

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Tombstone

Tombstone is a historic western city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. The town prospered from about 1877 to 1890, during which the town’s mines produced US$40 to $85 million in silver bullion, the largest productive silver district in Arizona. Its population grew from 100 to around 14,000 in less than seven years. It is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and draws most of its revenue from tourism.

Within two years of its founding, although far distant from any other metropolitan city, Tombstone boasted a bowling alley, four churches, an ice house, a school, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor, alongside 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls, and numerous dancing halls and brothels. All of these were situated among and on top of a large number of dirty, hardscrabble mines. The gentlemen and ladies of Tombstone attended operas presented by visiting acting troupes at the Schieffelin Hall opera house, while the miners and cowboys saw shows at the Bird Cage Theatre, “the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast”.

Under the surface were tensions that grew into deadly conflict. The mining capitalists and townspeople were largely Republicans from the Northern states. Many of the ranchers in the area were Confederate sympathizers and Democrats. The booming city was only 30 miles (48 km) from the U.S.–Mexico border and was an open market for beef stolen from ranches in Sonora, Mexico by a loosely organized band of outlaws known as The Cowboys. The Earp brothers—Virgil, Wyatt, Morgan and Warren Earp—arrived in December 1879 and the summer of 1880. They had ongoing conflicts with Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, and other Cowboys members. The Cowboys repeatedly threatened the Earps over many months until the conflict escalated into a confrontation that turned into a shootout, the now-famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

In the mid-1880s, the silver mines penetrated the water table and the mining companies made significant investments in specialized pumps. A fire in 1886 destroyed the Grand Central hoist and pumping plant, and it was unprofitable to rebuild the costly pumps. The city nearly became a ghost town, only saved from that end because it was the Cochise County seat until 1929. The city’s population dwindled to a low of 646 in 1910 but in 2010 the population was 1,380. Click here for additional information.

 Tombstone

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