First Time in Tucson

We had driven through Tucson a couple of times going between Kartchner and Quartzsite (once at night), but I didn’t see much besides the freeway so I was very excited to spend a few days there.  (Side note: I love the artwork on the infrastructure in Tucson, it’s really beautiful and every place should have it). Cori did the bulk of the planning for the next several weeks for us and her talent for finding awesome campgrounds has served us well.  We are staying at Gilbert Ray Campground in a county park called Tucson Mountain County Park which is right next to the Saguaro National Park.  At $20 a night (electric on site, water and dump station on premises) this park is amazing.  Although some of the sites are a little tight, we did find spots for both of our rigs and once we were tucked in I absolutely loved it.  Each site has lots of landscaped desert plants and we also have a view of the surrounding hills. The only bummer is they have a 7 day limit and we are only spending 4 days here, but we will definitely be coming back.

Campground's nicely paved streets

Campground’s nicely paved streets

View from our door

View from our door

View from our front window

View from our front window

Since we were in and settled by 2pm we decided to run into town and take care of a few errands.  The drive into town was beautiful with spectacular houses on the hills surrounding Tuscon and I really liked what I have seen of the town itself.  First we went to REI and finally chose some hiking boots.  Lee and I have been putting this off since we went on the road, but my recent sprained ankle convinced me I needed to break down and spend the money.  Since REI has a generous return policy and knowledgeable sales staff, we decided to buy them there.  Yes we could have gone in and tried them on then gotten them cheaper online, but I wanted to hike at least once in them and be able to easily return them if needed.  So glad I did because despite spending $110 I am extremely happy with my new pair of Merrill’s and Lee (who coincidentally bought the same kind I did) loves his as well.

Next we stopped by the Container Store (Lee’s Mecca) and did some browsing.  I will say Lee showed extreme self restraint and only bought one small thing for $2, which we actually needed, but we did spend quite a bit of time in there.  He likes to look at everything lol.  Next up was Costco.  Most of our friends have either Sam’s Club or Costco, but I have never been convinced it was both a good deal and in the case of RV living we would have the space.  I was pleasantly surprised and after walking around a bit and shopping with Greg, I was sold.  Many of the prices were excellent (not all you do need to look), but I was more impressed by the quality of the meat and the fact that they carry brands you can’t easily find in other places.  After the store we were all getting pretty hungry so we went back and ate the leftovers from Taco night and planned our next few days.  We usually stay in places much longer, so this is the first time in a while we have had too long of a list of things to see for the time we have.  We ended up prioritizing by all throwing out our favorites and decided that the next day we would visit the Arizona -Sonora Desert Museum which is right down the road. 

We thought we would only spend a couple of hours there, take a lunch break, and then head to the miniatures museum but wow were we wrong.  We spent five hours there, walked 3.2 miles (shoes held up great), and saw every single thing there was to see.  It is not a traditional museum as almost all of the exhibits are outside and more like a combination garden, wildlife area, and museum.  I loved it and if we lived in the area would become a member.  The cost at $20.50 was more than worth it (we got 2 for 1 with our Tuscon attractions coupon book) and by the end it was my second favorite museum of all time.  The DC Smithsonian Natural History Museum is still number one, but it was close.  It has an enclosed bird area, an enclosed hummingbird area, butterfly gardens, desert trails, mountain trails, and some native animal exhibits.  All I can say is wow and if you are in this area, please take the time to do this.

Entrance

Entrance

I loved these Javelina sculptures which were also piggy banks for kids to make donations in

I loved these Javelina sculptures which were also piggy banks for kids to make donations in

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The trails were flat and well maintained with numerous shaded areas to stop and drinking fountains along the way

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Since it does get hot here I absolutely recommend going first thing in the morning

So m,any beautiful flowers to see and all from the Sonoran Desert area

So many beautiful flowers to see and all from the Sonoran Desert region

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Lee’s pic

 

Beautiful butterflies

Beautiful butterflies (Lee’s pic)

This tree was gorgeous

This tree was gorgeous

The flowers had no scent though

The flowers had no scent though

Saw my first ever flowering cactus

Saw my first ever flowering cactus

Lee's closeup. The bees in the area were all the solo bees and non stinging according to the signs we read

Lee’s closeup. The bees in the area were all  solo bees and non stinging according to the signs we read

 

Numerous plants I had never seen before also. This one is a relative of the more common ocotillo

Numerous plants I had never seen before also. This one is a relative of the more common ocotillo

Bishop's torch

Bishop’s torch

Really liked the organ cactus

Really liked the organ cacti

This funky plant is a relative of the ocotilla

This funky plant is a relative of the ocotilla

Lots of cool little knooks along the trails

Lots of cool little knooks along the trails

A few had these neat metal sculptures in them

A few had these neat metal sculptures in them

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Snowball cactus

Snowball cactus

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Even the trees were nice and green

The views of the surrounding mountains were beautiful

The views of the surrounding mountains were beautiful

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The bird area was really neat

Saw a Western Tanager

Saw a Western Tanager

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

And a very cool road runner

And a very cool road runner

The hummingbird area was even better

The hummingbird area was even better

First hummingbird in a nest

First hummingbird in a nest

Anna's hummingbird

Anna’s hummingbird (Lee’s pic)

And this beauty the Costa Hummingbird

And this beauty the Costa Hummingbird

Black chinned hummingbird (Lee's pic)

Black chinned hummingbird (Lee’s pic)

My favorite was sitting and watching this hummingbird build a nest

My favorite was sitting and watching this hummingbird build a nest

We took a break and had lunch there at the grill.  The food was on the pricey side but good, but if we had planned better we would have taken a lunch.  Afterwards we walked the Desert and Mountain path loops.  These are out in the sun more and much hotter, so probably should have done these first.  These loops hold most of the mammals.  Each animal display kept the animal in it’s natural environment and it felt less like a zoo and more of a natural extension of the plant life.  Very well done.

Greg taking a little siesta after lunch

Greg taking a little siesta after lunch

The Desert Loop

The Desert Loop

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Little shade stands for some sun break which was nice

This grey fox was very active

This grey fox was very active

Desert Bighorn

Desert Bighorn

I didn't even see this guy but Lee got the most beautiful pic

I didn’t even see this guy but Lee got the most beautiful pic

Couldn't get over how much the coyote looked like a dog

Couldn’t get over how much the coyote looked like a dog (Lee)

(Lee's pic)

(Lee’s pic)

Vultures perform a very important role in the desert (Lee's pic)

Vultures perform a very important role in the desert (Lee’s pic)

The mountain lion was huge and extremely restless

The mountain lion was huge and extremely restless

Look at the paws on this guy (Lee's pic)

HUGE paws on this guy (Lee’s pic)

Our favorite though was the prairie dogs

Our favorite though was the prairie dogs

Lee's pic

Eating some grass (Lee’s pic)

Check out the claws on this guy (Lee's pic)

Check out the claws on this female (Lee’s pic)

I had to leave the reptile house early. There are numerous types of venomous snakes in the desert and this one would blend right in ::shudder

I had to leave the reptile house early. There are numerous types of venomous snakes in the desert and this one would blend right in ::shudder

 

After the walk on the outer paths we were all pretty pooped so we went back to the rigs and took a little break. Then at 5pm we drove the loop in the National Saguaro Park which is right next door and took some nice afternoon/sunset pics.  Really amazing day.  Love the area, love the museum (would buy a membership if I lived here) and it was great hanging out with Cori and Greg. Really a perfect day.

The loop road

The loop road

Lots of walking trails although we stayed close to the main road

Lots of walking trails although we stayed close to the main road

Hard to capture the intricacy in a pic

Hard to capture the detail in a pic

Gila Woodpeckers make nests in the cacti for their eggs. Pretty safe place for them

Gila Woodpeckers make nests in the cacti for their eggs. Pretty safe place for them

The views were spectacular

The views were spectacular

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Took these all by myself!! See I have been listening to you Lee 🙂

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Lots of walking trails although we stayed close to the main road

Lots of walking trails although we stayed close to the main road

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10 thoughts on “First Time in Tucson

  1. Barb and I spent some time in that area last winter and really enjoyed it. Although we had to carry Daisy most of the time, we loved walking through the National Park and just exploring.

  2. We were just at all those places last week. Besides all of the natural beauty we were shocked that gas,at Costco was only $1.14! If you’re still in the area Dragoon Brewery is a nice place to check out.

  3. We’ve been members of Costco for years and like it. Now if we could only get them to sell diesel…. (By the way, I still touch the word ‘diesel’)

    We will have to check out the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I was hoping it was on the American Horticultural Society’s reciprocity program, but I see it isn’t. Still, that is a great tip on the two for one, Tracy!

  4. Great post & supper photos & video I see a day trip for me one day soon to the Desert Museum.
    Was to the National Park a couple years ago it is sure cool 🙂 Thanks Rick

  5. I’m so glad you enjoyed the “museum”. I agree with you, if I lived in the area, I’d be a member…really an awesome place.

  6. Pingback: First Time at Boyd Thompson Arboretum – Camper Chronicles

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