Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tohono Chul Park March 2015

                     Penstemon along one of the paths

Directions: Tohono Chul is located near the intersection of Ina and Oracle. If you are coming on Oracle Road turn onto Ina Road. Take the second right onto Paseo Del Norte. Admission: Adults $10 and children $3. Yearly passes are available for various prices.

At 49 acres these gardens are considerably bigger than the Tucson Botanical Gardens off of Grant. They have a variety of gardens including the Hummingbird Garden, Desert Palm Oasis, Riparian Habitat, Sin Agua Garden among many others. Nature trails including the Desert View Trail, South Loop Trail and Saguaro Discovery Trail give visitors a chance to see the Sonoran Desert landscape up close. Besides having gardens and nature trails, Tohono Chul has a gallery with paintings and sculpture which link the people of the Southwest with its landscape. I have visited these gardens twice with my son and the park is fast becoming my favorite place in Tucson because the gardens are well constructed and they have activities for children as well. This spring Tohono Chul is particularly beautiful because the wildflowers are blooming however, this summer and next fall will bring different surprises and beauty. (Some information from tohonochulpark.org).

                        The Spring Garden is especially colorful this year

                    Quintin in front of flowers

                            Bluebells and Poppies

                                Tohono Chul

                       Quintin in the Riparian Haabitat

                             Beautiful scene in the gardens

                          Red spring flower


                Bluebells and Poppies
              South Loop Trail with Pusch Peak in the background

                    Infusion of Penstemon

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tanque Verde Ridge to Juniper Basin Saguaro National Park East February 28, 2015

                       Along Tanque Verde Ridge

Directions: Tanque Verde Ridge is a popular hike in Saguaro National Park East. If you are traveling from the University of Arizona take Speedway BLVD east and then turn onto Freeman Road, Admission to the park is $10 per visit but yearly passes are available,

The Hike: This trail is one of the most popular backpacking routes in Saguaro National Park. It is about 15 miles one way to Manning Camp which is at 8000 feet. Along the way hikers can camp at Juniper Basin. The hike also gives trekkers a chance to see many different ecological environments from cacti along the first part of the trail to Ponderosa pine stands at Manning Camp.

My cousin and I arrived at the trail head early in the morning around 7 am. We did not want to be rushed to reach our destination. The previous weeks trek up Mount Kimball was fun but Nathan and I started too late in the morning to truly enjoy the summit. Today we also wanted to make a tangible destination. Juniper Basin would be the logical choice at 6 miles down the trail. The first part of the hike the trail ascends to the ridge line. Here is the stereotypical Sonoran Desert environment with Saguaro Cacti, Prickly pear, Ocotillos, Palo verde among many more. At 5000 feet the Saguaros and cacti disappear and are replaced by high desert grasses such as Sotol and Bear grass. From here on views from the trail are spectacular to the east and west. This particular day was windy so my cousin and I rested in gullies away from the wind. Cloudy skies also made for a pleasant hike. This trail can be hot during the late spring and summer so bring plenty of water when you hike it. Juniper Basin campground is set in the upper part of a basin among Alligator juniper and Pinyon pine. There is a creek near the campground that has water most of the year. The trail the last mile to the campground can be hard to find because it skirts along rock. Keep an eye out for cairns along the trail which guide the way. The hike back to the car was uneventful. We did see spectacular lighting the last mile of the hike with sun highlighting Saguaros in the foreground and dark clouds in the back, Total mileage was around 12 miles with about 2000 feet of vertical gain. (Some information from Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country by Erik Molvar).

                   Juniper Basin

                         Near the turnoff for the campground

                            Picturesque dead tree

                             Great view along the trail with the grassy environment

                        Splendid lighting

                               Front lit cacti with a dark sky

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Commemorative Air Force B-29 "Fifi" and other warbirds Tucson, Arizona February 20, 2015

                      Bomb bay of the B-29, could carry 20,000 pounds of bombs or one atomic weapon

History: The Commemorative Air Force (CAF), formerly known as the Confederate Air Force, began in Texas in 1958 with the goal of restoring and showing historical aircraft at airshows throughout the United States and Canada, Since then the CAF has restored over 150 aircraft and they have branches in other states. One of the bigger ones is at Mesa, Arizona, where 30 aircraft are based. During the summer the CAF takes some of their more popular restored aircraft on tour.

From the 19th to the 22nd of  February the CAF, displayed four World War II warbirds at the Tucson International Airport. The planes which came included the only flying B-29 "FIFI", B-25 "Maid in the Shade", C-45 "Bucket of Bolts," and a C-47. I was especially interested in seeing the inside of "FIFI" because Pima Air and Space does not open their aircraft up to visitors and I had never seen inside a B-29. Quintin and I  toured the aircraft on Friday. It costs $10 total which helps with maintenance and flying the planes. CAF volunteers told me it costs between $5000 to $8000 to fly the B-29 and $3,000 to $5,000 to fly the C-47. As a result every little bit helps to keep these planes in the air. The CAF also makes money off of plane rides. Prices vary on the B-29 from about $600 at the left and right blister (back of plane) to $1700 at the Bombardier's section at the very front of the aircraft. The C-45 is a little more affordable at $75 for a half hour. People will pay these prices because the B-29 and B-25 were very important in World War II. The B-29 fire-bombed Japanese cities and dropped the atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The B-25 became famous for the Doolittle raid on Japan. In April 1942 sixteen B-25s led by Jimmy Doolittle  took off from the USS Hornet. Their mission was to avenge the attack on Pearl Harbor. Each plane bombed their target but 15 crashed in China and one diverted to Russia. This attack raised the spirits of America.  It is good to know that groups such as the CAF work hard to keep this history alive. Some information from "B-25 Maid in the Shade Commemorative Air Force Airbase Arizona Aviation Museum"

                  Inside the cockpit of the B-29, the Bombardier's seat at the extreme front of the airplane with the location of the Norden Bombsite

                       Flight Engineer's controls; he maintained airspeed and kept the engines running.

                                     Close up of the Bombardier's section; Norden Bombsite provided calculations for the dropping of bombs.

                              Front of "FIFI"

                     C-45 with Qunitin in front

                        Inside the C-47; after World War II it became the Executive Aircraft for Hoover Vacuum Cleaner.

                               Quintin at one of the window

                         The front of the C-47;  this one saw action during World War II in Italy and Eastern Europe.

                         Quintin hugging one of the propellers on "FIFI"

                 Side of the B-29 looking at the left two engines

                 B-25 "Maid in the Shade" flying in

                 Front of B-25

      Inside the B-25; unlike the B-29 this was not pressurized.

                     Looking back inside the plane the right and left gunner's station

                                      Cockpit of the B-25

                              Me in front of the B-29

Mount Kimball Summit Hike Catalina Mountains February 21, 20015

                           GPS rendition of our route up Mount Kimball

Directions: From the University of Arizona take Campbell Road North toward the Catalina Mountains. After River Road Campbell become two-lanes with curves so watch your spped. At Sunrise  Drive turn to the right (east). Follow Sunrise until you see the turn-off for Skyline Drive. The Finger Rock Trail head is on Alvernon Drive left off of Skyline

My friend Nathan and I arrived at the trail head at 10;15 am. our objective was to summit Mount Kimball. With an elevation gain of over 4,200 feet in approximately 5 miles this is a challenging hike. The trail is also extremely rocky and narrow making adding to its difficulty. Last year I made it up to the saddle where there is a junction for the Ventana Canyon and Pima Canyon trails. At this point my hamstring was tightening and cramping so I made the decision to turn around and go back to the car. Ever since that day I had sought to summit the peak. Because of our late start Nathan and I had to keep moving in order to finish the hike before 530 pm. I got into my grinding pace churning out the miles. About three miles in Nathan and I met two girls who were working in Arizona on a temporary basis sadly they hiked faster than I did so I was not able to talk with them. At the saddle we took a break and moved on. The summit of Mt. Kimball is wooded but there are a few rock out crops that give hikers almost a 360 degree view. The view from the top (we hiked to a rock outcrop 400 feet above the presumed top of Mt. Kimball) was extraordinary with the Biosphere to the North-west and Picacho Peak to the west. Sadly because it was late in the day we could only stay on top for ten minutes  On the way back to the car my walking stick became useful to decrease the strain on my knees. I  also ate some salt to relieve my cramping hamstrings. Overall Nathan and I hiked about 11 miles with about 4500 feet of vertical change. The trail is easy to follow and minimal route finding skills are needed.

 Part way up Finger Rock Canyon

              Looking north near the top

                East from the outcrop on top

                      Me on top

                                                 Cool dead tree in the canyon

                            Looking up Finger Rock from near the bottom