Saturday, March 18, 2017

Phoenix and Tucson March Trip

Phoenix, Arizona

Overview of our Trip:

We spent four nights in Phoenix and five in Tucson in early March to dry out from Oregon’s almost constant rain.  In Phoenix we stayed with Anne’s sister and her husband, Bev and Noel Stryker, and we were on our own in a ground floor penthouse apartment at the Worldmark Rancho Vistoso in Oro Valley, a suburb of Tucson.  The trip had several themes: family, golf, 
Kokopelli GC, Phoenix


gardens, and t-shirts.  We attended Cat-in-the-Hat Day at our grand-niece and nephew’s school
Great-nephew Stavros

Great-niece Alex

—over a picnic lunch Anne and Bev read Dr. Seuss books to the kids and Stavros was old enough to read one to us (Alex was too busy being Miss Socialite). We played golf once in Phoenix and twice in Tucson, far more often than we’ve been playing in Oregon this winter. 
Silverbell GC, Tucson

Saddleback Mountain View GC, Tucson

Gardens and attractions were high on our list this trip—we visited the Desert Botanical  Garden in Phoenix, 
Desert Botanical Garden

Cactus Wren


Kokopelli, the Humped-back Flute Player (aka Garden Volunteer)

the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, 
Casa Grande Ruins Nat'l Monument

Native Cactus Needle and Thread

Mission San Xavier del Bac, 
Mission San Xavier del Bac

Restoration Work

the Sonoran Desert Museum and  Saguaro National Park just outside Tucson, 
Sonoran Desert Museum

Path to Signal Hill Petroglyphs in Saguaro Nat'l Park

and the Tucson Botanical  Garden in town. 
Tucson Botanical Garden

Curved-bill Thrasher

T-shirts seemed to be the collectible of the trip with both of us getting several (more than we need, of course). The photos of this post will, I hope, give some visual to these activities, plus there will be a couple of more detailed notes.

Kitt Peak National Observatory Astronomy Class

We drove to the base of the road up to the Kitt Peak National Observatory in the Quinlan Mountains on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 55 miles west-southwest of Tucson. We ate sandwiches and chips for our late light lunch before heading the twelve miles of windy narrow road up the mountain to the telescopes.
Kitt Peak

We checked-in for our night class and got parameters for the afternoon—be back to the visitor center by 4:00 PM when the park closes and in the VC by 4:45 or so. 

For a little over an hour we wandered the mountain top looking at and photographing the multitude of telescopes that make up the complex. Actually, we only got to see one telescope (the 3.5 meter Ritchey-Chretien reflector of the WIYN Observatory), 
Adjusting the 3.5 meter Telescope

for the rest we got to view the domes.

Back at the VC at 5:00 staff started taking our fees for the class, a slow process with 59 of us signed up for the class. While I waited in line to pay, Anne and others watched a video on the history of telescopes. At 5:30 with everyone checked-in we got our buffet-style dinner—turkey sandwich, chips, cookie, energy bar, and water.  People either ate outside on the patio or inside with video going. We ate in and wandered the small museum looking for photo opps (got a couple).
The Solar Telescope

The first session was done by Roy and it covered general information about the observatory complex (Kitt Peak) and how the evening sessions would proceed. Special emphasis was given to the procedures for leaving the mountain without letting our car lights interfere with the working telescopes. 
Sunset from Kitt Peak 

We then all went outside with Lucas to observe the beautiful sunset and get an introduction to the different telescopes—more than 25 on the mountain.
The Mayall 4.0 meter Telescope

At this point we broke into 4 groups—3 to go to telescopes and the remaining group (half) to stay at the VC. Anne and I ended up in the largest telescope group and stayed to use the VC’s 20” reflector with Remco (from the Netherlands) leading the group. I ended up sitting right by the handle to the motor for the dome and got to move the dome under Remco’s direction. In our hour and half viewing session we got to look at eight or nine different objects: Venus, Uranus (a first for me), Castor double star system, Crab Nebula, a couple of open clusters, a spiral nebula (galaxy), the Orion nebula, and the moon. You can see what we saw by going to, click on “Remco” and go to March 8.
The Visitor Center's 20" Reflector 

After our telescope observing session, we all gathered back in the VC and divided up again—the three telescope groups staying in the VC and the half that had been there divided into three teescope groups and went to the scopes. In the VC with Roy we first had an inside session on how to use a planisphere (star chart) and then went outside to practice and do naked-eye observing. Next, we had a short explanation of how to use astronomical binoculars. We took the binocs they provided outside and observed six or seven different objects.

At the end all groups met back at the VC for the close. The shop was open for about fifteen minutes, then everyone went to their cars which had headlights covered. We drove slowly down the mountain about a mile and a half with our covered lights.  At that point we were stopped, the lights uncovered, and were bid good-bye by the staff. In about an hour we were home. Great night!

The Butterflies

This winter and spring we've been to three different butterfly gardens--two on this trip. First, was the butterfly garden in Victoria near the Butchart Gardens.  It was the largest and was very impressive. In Phoenix there is a new butterfly enclosure at the Desert Botanical Gardens. 

We got there on its first day to open, and, although there were quite a few butterflies, it didn't have the impact of the gardens in Victoria. The last we visited was the smallest, Butterfly Magic at the Tucson Botanical Museum. To me this was the best of the gardens--a great variety of butterflies, large quantity, and nice flowers. 

This is also where I got the best pictures. I may not know their names (they could be Jill or Bill for all I know), and I don't think I really know the difference between a butterfly and a moth, but I will probably never pass a butterfly garden without stopping.
Leaving from Phoenix

Next Post: the next installment of the travel blog will be from Scotland, our 29th trip to the Land of Burns, Kilts, and Haggis since we started going in the fall of 2000--call us crazy...Nay, call us Mad about Scotland.