Sunday, November 18, 2007

Southern Arizona Sights

It's been great weather here in Southern Arizona; daytime temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s, with cool nights in the high 40s. In over a month, there's been one cloudy day, and we actually had rain one night! We've enjoyed visiting friends, and of course took our good friends Dusty and Mary Lou, who we first met when we were stationed here in the early 70s, to our favorite steak restaurant, Pinnacle Peak. No visit to Tucson for us is complete without sitting down to one of their 31-oz mesquite broiled porterhouse steaks. We've finally figured out how to share - I remove the tenderloin for Brenda and I get the rest, which leaves me with a paltry pound or so of meat. At least we only visit once a year.
Up the road from us is the small town of St. David, where we visited the Benedictine Monastery's arts and crafts festival. It was a huge affair, with over a hundred vendors, and the weather was perfect for strolling through the booths and admiring the crafts. The grounds are dominated by a huge wooden cross, and Brenda kept reminding me of her favorite psalm, "blessed be the shoppers, for they shall inherit nifty crafted stuff". Or something like that. Interestingly, while most people think St. David was named because of a link to the monastery, it was actually named for David Patten, an important figure in the LDS church.
Those who have followed our travels know that one of our favorite places to explore is the Chiricahua Mountain range, and we spent Veteran's day traveling through the area and enjoying the sights. This is the first time in years that we've visited during the fall season, and our visit to Cave Creek Canyon proved that southern Arizona has colored foliage also. The Arizona sycamores and cottonwoods in the canyon fed by year-around streams had changed to beautiful oranges and yellows; not New England, but then New England doesn't have the red cliffs and mountains in the background. We had lunch at Portal, where the owner picked up the tab for all the veterans that day - an unexpected and generous surprise. After lunch, we drove over the mountains on a good dirt road to the Chiricahua Monument visitor center where, mounted on the wall is slice of Juniper Pinion that was cut in 1997. The rings of growth are labeled with the dates, with the earliest being 1812. Incredibly, when cutting the slice for the exhibit, the saw hit a bullet that was fired into the tree sometime in the late 1800s - imagine the odds of finding the right tree and sawing into it in exactly the right spot! Of course it would be no problem for me - all I'd have to do is buy a very expensive saw, trek into the woods, and cut into any tree.....I'd find a bullet, or arrowhead, or maybe an unexploded hand grenade. From the visitor center it was a long trip home; we traveled a total of 300 miles for the day, most of it dirt road. No wonder our 16-month old SUV has over 30,000 miles on it!
Whenever we're asked the one place to see if visiting Tucson, we recommend the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a combination zoo-museum-botanical garden west of the city. Paths take you through cactus groves and outdoor animal exhibits, into hummingbird and bird aviaries, and into bat caverns. There's no better place to experience and understand the plants and animals of the desert southwest; it's a beautiful place that gets better each time we visit.
Tomorrow we're off to Texas; the wet summer has created a pollen tidal wave that has made us both miserable, and we always enjoy the holiday season in the San Antonio area. Being able to pick up and move when you want is one of the great things about our lifestyle. We'll take our time & visit some of our favorite stopovers on our way - come back and see how we're doing! Happy Thanksgiving!