Using our free campsite at Snyder Hill as a base, we venture out to Tucson.

Jan 24 – A visit to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum keeps us busy for the day!  This museum is largely outdoors with desert gardens, animals of the desert, and raptor demonstrations.  We love the Saguaro cacti everywhere.  As well there are teddy bear cholla, prickly pears, yucca, agave, and barrel cacti to wander through.

As we walk, we encounter the animals of the desert – wolves, coyotes, javelina, mountain sheep, and prairie dogs.  Best of all is a mountain lion mere feet from us, flirting with us through the window.

There are also exhibits of snakes, spiders, insects, and fish, as well as bird and hummingbird aviaries to walk through.  The raptor show was awesome – native birds of prey flying so close overhead that people found themselves ducking.

Jan 25 – We spend the day driving and hiking through Saguaro National Park (the Rincon Mountain park).  The desert is beautiful in its own unique way.  Facts about Saguaro cacti:
-It takes 70 years before they sprout branches.
-Full height is 50 feet (although some grow to 75 feet).
-They can live 150 years.
-Woody ribs support the structure with pleats in their leathery bodies expanding and contracting with water storage.

Jan 26 – A visit to Pima Air and Space Museum shows us 325 aircraft stored in 6 hangars with 175 aircraft outdoors.

Jan 27 – A drive north takes us to Biosphere 2.  This consists of beautiful glass pyramids and domes build in 1986 to study self-sustaining colonies with a view to space colonization.  Two missions took place from 1991 to 1994.  The second had 8 biospherians “locked in” for 2 years in an airtight environment growing their own food and living together.  The biosphere cost $20 million, but the electrical/water/oxygen systems cost $150 million (so much for self-sustaining).

Today the biosphere contains a rainforest, ocean (1 million gallon tank), desert, swamp, and grasslands.  The University of Arizona owns the complex and researches how natural environments affect life.  They are able to control factors such as oxygen, temperature, precipitation, CO2 levels, ocean acidity, pH, and salinity to research how plants are affected.  Their next ocean project is to test coral hoping to find corals that can live in today’s ocean conditions.  As well, they are researching how volcanic basalt breaks down into soil – something that may be useful for Mars colonization.

 Jan 28-29 We head south towards the Mexican desert to relax on Gunsight BLM land near Why, Arizona.

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