Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tohono Chul Park - Tucson

     We love Tucson and Tohono Chul Park is one of our favorite destinations.  Hope you like our story!

Note - picture 1 - 4 belong to Tohono Chul Park

    On occasion you can find that special soul-refreshing oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle of an Arizona city and when found, that place beckons you to return over and over again.  Such a place is Tucson’s Tohono Chul Park and spring is the ideal time to explore this urban paradise.
    It was in the early 1980s that Jean and Richard Wilson were being pressured to sell their 36 acres of desert land to local strip-mall developers.  However, the Wilson’s had other dreams for their undisturbed urban oasis and in 1985 donated their desert paradise so it could become a non-profit park for the citizens of Tucson.  They have seen their dream grow into an amazing 49 acres of desert trails, lush plants, flowers, three museum shops, greenhouses and a tearoom with lovely patio dining.
    The stated mission of Tohono Chul Park has always been “to enrich people’s lives by providing them the opportunity to find peace and inspiration in a place of beauty, to experience the wonders of the Sonoran Desert and to gain knowledge of the natural and cultural heritage of the region.”  This is one place that has truly met their mission statement!
    The name “Tohono Chul” means “desert corner” and comes from the language of the Tohono O’odham people, one of seventeen indigenous cultures that live or have lived in this region.  The Tohono O’odham, meaning the Desert People, are famous for many uses of Sonoran Desert plants and their ability to live in and among the harsh desert environment.
    The beautiful park still retains its hacienda-style charm and the original three homes on the site reflect three different Southwestern architectural styles.  The three homes are used today as an exhibit house, a charming tearoom and classrooms for the park’s educational classes.
    Visitors can stroll along nature trails with extensive botanical collections, wildlife migration trails, demonstration gardens and an Ethno botanical Garden with crops still grown by local, indigenous farmers.  There is a garden especially for children and an ever changing art and cultural displays that reinforces Tohono Chul’s mission.
    Unique to this botanical park is its Geology Wall exhibit.  The 55-foot long wall is made up of several hundred-rock specimens that represent the two-dozen geological formations found in the 9000-foot high Santa Catalina Mountains that can be seen to the northeast of Tohono Chul Park. 
As you walk along this one-of-a-kind rock wall you travel through two billion years of the earth’s geological history.  Such a journey through the Catalina Mountains to view the same geological features would require a north to south hike of over 30 miles. 
     A 40-page Visitor’s Guide can be obtained for $1.00 and acts as a personal docent as one journeys along the park’s beautiful trails.  The guide describes petroglyphs, plants, geological formations, reptiles, fish, birds, etc.  This excellent nature guide will teach Tohono Park visitors about the natural wonders of our Sonoran Desert living. 
    Autumn has returned to Arizona so travel to Tucson

and enjoy Tohono Chula Park. Bet you will return over and over again! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tumacacori National Monument

     Tomorrow, August 20, 2013, is the 238th birthday of the "ancient and honorable pueblo" of Tucson.  Established in 1775 by Spanish commander, Lt. Col. Hugo O'Conor, Tucson has grown into the 38th largest city of the U.S.A.  Yet, 84 years before the founding of Tucson, on January 26, 1691, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino established a mission on the "Rim of Christendom" that we know today at Tumacacori National Monument.  If you have never visited Tumacacori, it is a great fall road trip to southern Arizona.  Here is our story...

       “We will build it here” are the reported words of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino on January 26, 1691 as he stood on the east bank of the Santa Cruz River near a Tohono O’odham village named Tumacacori.  The following day some 20 miles up river, Kino established a second mission along the river and called this mission Guevavi.  Both these historic sites can be enjoyed today by visiting Tumacacori National Monument in southern Arizona. 
       When Kino arrived at Tumacacori on that January day, the native people had built three brush shelters for him to rest and to care for the native people.  Kino did not build an actual church here.  That would come many years after his death when the mission San Jose de Tumacacori was moved to the west side of the Santa Cruz River to be closer to the newly constructed Presidio of Tubac. 
       The Jesuit priest of Tumacacori completed a small adobe church in 1757 but when all Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish Empire in 1767, Tumacacori came under the control of the Franciscans. 
The church we see today at Tumacacori National Monument was built by Franciscan priests and local native people between 1800 and 1822.  The 310-acre national monument site is covered with historic ruins, hiking trails and educational opportunities.
San Gabriel de Guevavi was established by Father Kino one day after Tumacacori and was to be the local headquarters for the several Jesuit missions of the area. The first adobe church at Guevavi was completed in 1701.  The ruins that can be seen today are from a church completed in 1751.  These ruins of Guevavi are the oldest Jesuit ruins found in Arizona. 
Father Kino knew this land of Tumacacori and Guevavi as the Pimeria Alta, the upper lands of the Pima Indians. Today when standing at the ruins of Guevavi and looking to the southwest, one is within 10 miles of that desert canyon once covered with oak trees and known as Artizona during that famous 1736 silver strike. 
Tumacacori National Monument can be visited every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Special arrangements must by made at Tumacacori National Monument to visit the ruins of Guevavi.  In fact, with a little planning, Ranger Don Grate himself can be your personal guide to Guevavi.  And when you are at the ruins, ask Ranger Grate just how Arizona got its name and prepare yourself for a great lesson in Arizona’s history.
One final suggestion for this southern Arizona trip is to plan to stay at a bed & breakfast known as Hacienda Corona de Guevavi.  The Guevavi ruins are found on this ranch and the host and accommodations are wonderful.  So get out and enjoy Arizona’s beautiful spring weather with a trip to Tumacacori and Guevavi!  You’ll be glad you did! 
Tumacacori National Monument

Ruins of Guevavi

Tumacacori Ranger Garate'

Hacienda Corona de Guevavi


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Red Rock State Park

     Arizona's State Parks are always a great destination.  Please support our State Parks whenever possible as you travel Arizona.  It is always good to go to Sedona, and Red Rock State Park is just another good reason to travel up the I-17.  Here is our story…

     When Mother Nature decided to drop a big deposit of iron oxide into the ancient seas of north central Arizona some 320 million years ago, the result became the amazing rusty, red rock sandstone beauty of Sedona, Arizona. Fortunately in 1991 Red Rock State Park opened to preserve for all the citizens of the world one of Arizona’s most enjoyable hiking and photogenic parks.
     The land of Red Rock State Park was once a part of the Smoke Trail Ranch that covered this transitional lifezone land a few miles south of the downtown Sedona.  Ranch owners, Helen and Jack  Frye, loved their spectacular yet rugged 700 acre ranch. 
     In 1947 they began to build their dream home modeled after a Hopi pueblo and overlooking Oak Creek.  Their two story pueblo was built using the flat red rocks from the nearby canyons and the views from each room were beyond spectacular.  They named their pueblo home the House of Apache Fire.  
    Jack Frye was killed in an automobile accident in 1959.  Helen would continue to live at the ranch, sub-dividing the ranch several times, until her death in 1979.  After her passing the State of Arizona secured title in the 1980s to 286 acres of the ranch including the House of Apache Fires.  This acreage would soon become Red Rock State Park. 
    Picturesque Oak Creek meanders through the land of Red Rock State Park creating an ideal riparian habitat for plants and animals alike.  Because this part of Arizona does have four distinct seasons, the beauty of Oak Creek changes and becomes a photographer’s paradise all year long.
     With the great ecological diversity found here, Red Rock State Park is a center for environmental education and offers visitors a variety of classes and programs appropriate for adults and children alike.  This is truly a state park for anyone who loves the natural environment of Arizona’s Red Rock Country.
    Upon arriving at Red Rock State Park the visitor is immediately greeted by one of the most unique visitor centers of the state park system.  The pueblo looking structure is also built of the red rocks from the land.  The design gives the visitor the sense of walking into an underground chamber that leads to an instructional museum, a classroom and a modern theatre.
    The roof of the center has been designed to act as a viewing platform from which all the amazing beauty of this special part of Red Rock County can be seen and photographed in a 360° landscape. 
    For those who like to hike, Red Rock State Park is the perfect family hiking center. The 5-miles of interconnecting loop trails are family-oriented for fun and safety. 
    There are three major loop trails creatively named the Eagle’s Nest Loop, the Apache Fire Loop and the Coyote Ridge Trail.  Eagle’s Nest leads the hiker to the highest point of the park, some 300 feet above the visitor center.
    The Kisva Trail is connected to each of the three loop trails and entices the hiker to enter the riparian corridor of Oak Creek.  The shorter Yavapai Ridge Trail, Javelina Trail and the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail complete the hiking pathways through this most beautiful of Arizona environments.  Bikes and horses are allowed on some designated routes and this information can be gained from the always friendly rangers and docents at the visitor center.
    School groups are always welcomed at this state park that specializes in environmental education.  But this place is very popular with people of all ages for its beauty and educational seminars and programs including moonlight hikes from April – October.