Saturday, January 26, 2013

Arizona's Moon Tree

     Tucson has so many wonderful and interesting "things" to explore and none more than the official Arizona Moon Tree.  We wrote this story for an anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  Hope you like our story and that you take the time to visit Arizona's own Moon Tree!  Here is a link with more information about Moon Trees -

     July 20th marks the forty-first anniversary of the Apollo astronauts landing on the moon.  For Arizonans still fascinated by those Apollo moon flights, Arizona has a unique, living symbol of those glorious days growing on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson - an American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), better known as  Arizona’s “Moon Tree.”
    It was January 31, 1971 when the Saturn V rocket roared to life, sending Apollo 14 and its three-man crew on a journey to the moon.  Astronaut Stuart Roosa was the pilot of the command module and would stay in orbit above the moon while his fellow astronauts, Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell, landed and explored the moon’s surface.
    Prior to becoming an astronaut, Commander Roosa worked as a hotshot for the U.S. Forest Service.  He had always had a great love for trees so it was no surprise that he had worked out a plan with the Forest Service to carry 400 – 500 seeds to the moon and back.
    Roosa chose five species of seeds to make that journey with him to the moon.  They were the loblolly pine, sycamore, sweet gum, redwood and Douglas fir.  While Shepard and Mitchell explored the moon’s surface, Roosa and his tree seeds circled the moon together.
    Upon Apollo 14’s return to earth, Forest Service geneticists began their work to get the many seeds that had flown to and from the moon to germinate.  Their efforts were successful and soon resulted in about 450 saplings.  Now the task of deciding where to plant these special trees began.
    The White House, of course, received one.  So too did Valley Forge, the Kennedy Space Center, the New Orleans River Walk, Washington Square in Philadelphia and several universities – including the University of Arizona.
     The planting of the Moon Trees even became a part of America’s 1976 Bicentennial Celebrations.  President Gerald Ford spoke of these trees that were planted in communities across America in 1976 as living symbols of “our spectacular human and scientific achievements.
    Arizona’s Moon Tree was planted on April 30, 1976.  Today it is still located between the Kuiper Space Sciences Building and the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium just waiting for Arizonans to get out and see for themselves a little part of the Apollo moon flight history. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sky Islands of Arizona

     Tucson is the northern limits of an amazing group of ecological zones known in Arizona as Sky Islands.  They are unique in both their geology and their flora and fauna.  A tremendous organization that supports these wonderful biomes is the Sky Island Alliance.  Here is a link -

The 4 photos that are at the end of this story belong to members of the Sky Island Alliance as follows;

Photo #1 – Map of region by Louise Miszta
Photo #2 – by AJ. Schneller
Photo #3 – by Walt Anderson
Photo #4 – by Sergio Avila

We thank them for allowing us to use their photos.

     Visiting an island archipelago is something most folks associate with an ocean cruise, but in Arizona such an archipelago visit is also possible with a road trip to the Madrean Sky Island Archipelago of southeastern Arizona.   
    Sky Islands are mountain ranges that have become isolated from each other by vast valleys of grasslands or deserts that act as natural barriers, just like seawater, to the movement of plant and animal species. Here over the eons of geological time in southeastern Arizona the valley floors have sunk resulting in sky island mountain peaks rising to over 10,000 feet in elevation above the desert floor.
    The Madrean Sky Island Archipelago is a region of over 70,000 square miles that is the biological meeting point of two great mountain ranges – the Rocky Mountains of the north and the Sierra Madre Mountains of the south.  Here in this rugged southeast corner of Arizona and northern Mexico is found over half the bird species of the North America, 29 bat species, 104 species of mammals and 3,000+ species of plants. Arizona’s Madrean Sky Islands are the most biologically diverse communities found in the United States.
     There are 27 Madrean Sky Islands found in the United States most of which are found in this southeastern corner of Arizona.  Such unique and rugged sky island ranges as the Baboquivari, the Huachuca, the Chiricahua, the Tumacacori, the Dragoon, the Whetstone along with the Santa Rita and Santa Catalina Mountains all offer limitless opportunities for hiking, camping, horseback riding and photography.
     The many hotels of Tucson provide a great base-camp for day outings into over a half dozen of the sky island mountain ranges found around the Tucson area.  Willcox, Arizona becomes the ideal place to stay while enjoying the driving or hiking trails found among the incredible balance rock formations of the Chiricahuas.   Sierra Vista becomes a perfect home away from home while seeking to photograph the many variety hummingbirds that over-winter in the Huachuca’s Ramsey Canyon.  A four-day road trip from Tucson to Willcox to Douglas to Sierra Vista and back to Tucson will allow visitors the opportunity to explore and enjoy the many small towns and natural beauty found in this sky island region.  
     The Madrean Sky Islands are located within the boundaries of the Coronado National Forest.  The regional headquarters of the national forest found in Tucson, Safford, Douglas, Sierra Vista and Nogales all provide updated information for recreational opportunities and events.
Conservation groups, such as the Sky Island Alliance, offer the chance to learn more about sky islands through classroom and field hands-on workshops.  The Sky Island Alliance also seeks and trains volunteers who are interested in assisting in the conservation and preservation of these fragile Arizona biological wonderlands. 
     If you are looking for a great road trip, why not get out and take that drive to a memorable land known as the Madrean Sky Island Archipelago?  You will discover a part of Arizona that is historic, fun and ruggedly beautiful.

The Sky Islands of southern Arizona and northern Mexico.

The Chiricahuas Mountains

Looking from the summit of Mt. Graham

Sacred Baboquivari Peak

Monday, January 21, 2013

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

     Arizona has many amazing museums all across our wonderful state.  Close the top of that list must truly be the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson.  If you get a chance, be sure you visit this Arizona wonder!

     The Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum, just west of downtown Tucson, is a world-class zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum and desert research and education center located on 98 acres of lush Sonoran Desert land.   As spring wildflowers are once again exploding all across the Sonoran Desert, March is just the perfect time to visit this one-of-a-kind Arizona treasure.
    Founded in 1952 by friends William H. Carr and Arthur Pack the museum’s mission has always been to “inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert.”  Since its beginning the Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum has been regularly recognized as one of the top 10 zoological parks in the world.
    This outdoor facility is a unique museum but with the coming together of an amazing collection of plant, animal and geological features with the “goal of making the Sonoran Desert accessible, understandable and treasured.”
    Located 12 miles from downtown Tucson by way of beautiful Gates Pass, the museum is home to over 2,700 animals and an estimated 72,000 plants found on the museum’s grounds.  Over 14,400 rocks and minerals specimens are also a part of the museum collection including 2,068 fossils.  In addition, the museum’s botanists and zoologists study and care for 175 species of plants and animals considered endangered.
    There are now 2 miles of paved paths that lead visitors to some of the most environmental sensitive enclosures found in the zoological world.  As one explores the many environments, the lucky visitor often comes face-to-face with ocelots, gila monsters, mountain lions, red-tailed hawks and more.  On a beautiful day in March, visitors can spend hours strolling the pathways while watching and photographing the animals of the Sonoran Desert.
    Yet the Sonoran Desert Museum offers more to the people of Arizona than just botanical and zoological observing.  The museum is also home to The Center for Sonoran Desert Studies that conducts the educational and scientific activities of the museum.  From docent education and training to school outreach programs, the center’s staff is teaching citizens of all ages about the uniqueness and beauty of their desert home.
    The center’s scientific staff is world-renowned botanists and zoologists whose research projects bring understanding, stewardship and conservation to the land and people of the Sonoran Desert.
    Museum tours offered by the center’s knowledgeable staff take guests to the far outreaches of the 55 million acre Sonoran Desert to enjoy such natural adventures as whale watching along the Baja coast, to exploring the deciduous tropics considered the grandmother of the Sonoran Desert near Colonial Alamos in the Sierra Madre of Old Mexico, to the harvesting of cholla buds and so many more.
    In the 1990s the Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum began to produce a television series called “The Desert Speaks.”  It is produced by the Tucson PBS affiliate and is broadcasted weekly on local PBS stations.  If you can’t make it to the Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum, watching this weekly show will bring the museum right into your living room.
    So plan a trip to Tucson and spend a day at the Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum.  It will be a most enjoyable and educational trip for the whole family.

Here is a link -

Lodge on the Desert - Tuscon

    We love Tucson and when we go one of our favorite places to stay is the Lodge on the Desert.  It is a great hotel with great history, not too far from downtown and even has its own ghost.  And, this hotel is also pet friendly (which Gypsy loves)!  What more could we want?  Here is our story...

     A blending of the historic and modern is always an architectural challenge, but when that challenge is overcome, something special is certain to be the result. And special is the best word to describe what has been achieved in the preservation and renovation of the historic mid-town hideaway known as the Lodge on the Desert in Tucson.
    The genesis of this Arizona treasure began with the story of Mr. and Mrs. Quinsler of Watertown, Massachusetts early in 1930.  Mr. Quinsler had just received the medical diagnosis of tuberculosis and was told by his doctor that the best medicine for his recovery was the dry climate of Arizona.
    The Quinslers decided Tucson would be the best place to start their new Arizona life and purchased two acres of land in the desert, 4 miles east of downtown Tucson.  A New York architect was hired to design their new home and even though he had never been to Arizona, he designed a home that took maximum advantage of the Tucson sun.  Tucson builder Zanner Lee, whose daughter would grow up to be singer/environmentalist Katie Lee, built the new, Quinsler home.  
    The adobe home was completed in 1931 and it was something special even then.  It contained 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, dining and a family room with a large fireplace.  A horse corral and bunkhouse completed the Quinsler’s new desert home site.
    Life changed for the Quinslers and in 1936 they sold their desert home to Cornelia and Homer Lininger who saw the beautiful adobe home and surrounding desert as a perfect location to open a lodge.  The first guest arrived to the Lodge on the Desert in November 1936. 
The Quinsler’s dining and living rooms became the main lobby of the new lodge and the large fireplace became a beacon of welcome to lodge guests.  The home’s bedrooms and bunkhouse made into seven guest rooms for rent.  A new swimming pool and more rooms were added in 1937.  These historic 1937 rooms are available for today’s guests as rooms #153 and #154.
    The Lodge on the Desert took on a patriotic mission from 1942 – 1945.  During these years of war the lodge’s guest rooms were used as a dorm for young aviators learning to fly at nearby Davis-Monthan Army Air Field, today’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
    The end of World War II saw a new boom in population growth and tourism come to all of Arizona including the Old Pueblo.  The Lodge on the Desert kept up with this new demand for vacationing retreats by adding more guest rooms in 1952, 1956, 1968 and 1973.
The 35 rooms and suites of the beautiful resort were now connected to the original Quinsler home lobby by broad sidewalks that meandered through lush desert gardens and green patio lawns.  The large living room fireplace still welcomed new and returning guests.  The Lodge of the Desert had become a desert oasis surround by a modern Arizona city.
Lodge lore also tells us that it was during this time that an old guest, one from the other side, began to appear to lodge visitors.  Affectionately called Gus, this friendly spirit is believed to be an old cowboy who once enjoyed the lodge’s accommodations and just doesn’t want to ever check out!
In 1997 the Lodge on the Desert was purchased by entrepreneur Dan Donahoe.  Mr. Donahoe had gained fame in the hospitality world with his purchase and restoration of the L’Auberge de Sedona and the Rosario Resort & Spa in the San Juan Islands of Washington. 
Under Donahoe’s masterful eye all 35 historic rooms were completely restored with the most modern of furniture and conveniences.  The old cactus gardens were also rejuvenated and restore to their 1940s charm. 
But Dan Donahoe’s vision for lodge was not yet complete.  In 2007 a major expansion project began.  Adjacent acres were acquired and sixty-eight modern guest rooms and suites were constructed to blend with the old, historic architecture of the lodge. 
A new charming hacienda style lobby now greets lodge guests while a new banquet and meeting rooms are available for the business traveler.  A roaring fire in the old Quinsler fireplace still greets guests on winter days.
 Weddings once again have become a common Saturday afternoon occurrence on the beautiful lawns and families once again refresh in the modern, heated swimming pool. 
The newly renovated restaurant features the wonderful culinary offerings of Chef Ryan Clark who is well known for his fresh farm-to-fork meals.  And cowboy Gus still makes an appearance, most often hanging around the old lodge bar.
So when you travel south to Tucson and need a place to stay in the Old Pueblo, let us suggest you head straight to the Lodge on the Desert.  You too will find the historic and modern accommodations and the people who will greet you to be very special – even ol’ Gus!

Here is a link to this wonderful hotel -

First 6 photos belong to the Lodge of the Desert; remaining are ours...