Category Archives: US South West

Adventures in Tucson, Arizona

hunter bmx park 3We stayed in Tucson for 10 days and it was full of fun and adventure. Yet another stop where we experienced so much more than what you can find on paper…

The first part of our adventure was choosing to stay at the Voyager RV Park. It is a massive (4000 people) adult only community that is geared towards active retirees. We were wooed by the amazing number of facilities and activities and they swore that Hunter was welcomed. Having stayed with Tim’s parents in Florida at an “RV Park”, we were in for quite the surprise here – everyone was incredibly friendly and very very active, physically and socially. I did water aerobics in the pool in the morning (a good level for my side that is still in rehab), the boys spent some time with the wood carving club, Hunter and I played water volleyball most afternoons and we played tennis in the afternoon or evening each night.

We explored the local National Park – Saguaro National Park and learned a great deal about desert plants and animals.

We stopped on the way back home at Ben’s Bikes, learned about the local trails and got invited to check out the BMX track that night – another first for Hunter and so much fun!

We explored the Pima Air and Space Museum and the boneyard – airplanes as far as the eye can see…

All around – a great stop. Tucson seems like a little big city – lots of amenities but still easy to get around in and a very human feel to everything. It also helps that the weather was fabulous!!! Sunny and warm each day.

Pima Air Museum & boneyard

hunter pima airThe PIMA Air Museum is one of the largest Air & Space Museum’s in the world, and the largest non-government funded aviation museum. There are over 300 airplanes PLUS the entire AMARG boneyard…

We spent the morning walking through the 5 hangars plus taking a trolley tour of the outside display space. It is amazing just how many airplanes they have and how much information they are able to convey. Most of the guides are retired airforce personnel and you get lots of in-person, behind the stories along with the “facts” about each plane!

The AMARG boneyard is on an active airforce base so the tour came with a fair amount of security – lots of showing of passports to prove who you are and then you are loaded onto a big tour bus with no exiting anywhere along the way. It’s hard to convey the size and scope of the boneyard with photos through the bus window… BUT everywhere you look there are rows and rows and rows of airplanes. Some are old and have been put out to pasture, some are half apart being salvaged for parts, some are just not needed right now but might be needed again at some point and some are brand new and just being stored here as there is no space elsewhere.

Saguaro National Park – Tucson, Arizona

tim hunter saguara NP signI’m not a big fan of the desert landscape…it just doesn’t do much for me. Having gone through a ranger naturalist walk at Saguaro National Park, I am now much more appreciative of the subtle complexities of the desert neighbourhood and the different plants and animals that make it home.

hunter & ranger

Saguaro National Park is actually split into 2 parks, with the city of Tucson in between them. They are large tracts of land that protect this landscape from urban sprawl and the devastation that was happening due to ranching and cattle grazing.

The saguaro cactus is the quintessential symbol of the south west and it plays a critical role in the desert eco-system, often housing an handful of other animals in their stalks. A saguaro can get enough water for the year from a single summer rain storm. They have these funky accordion pleats that allow them to swell or expand to hold all of that water and then slowly shrink as they use the water up.

Thanks to the Ranger tour, we learned all about the main types of cactus in the Sonoran Desert – saguaro, fish hook barrel cactus, cholla, ocotillo, and prickly pear as well as the palo verde, creosote bush and mesquite tree. Mother nature is pretty amazing with how these plants have been created or have evolved to adapt to their incredibly harsh/challenging circumstances!

The learning that we did for the Junior Ranger program has come in handy for the rest of our desert stay…

Fantasy Island – Mtn biking in Tucson

lee hunter life is goodTucson has a really active outdoor culture and are building a solid mountain bike reputation. We stopped in at Ben’s Bikes and got some great trail information and recommendations. We only ended up riding one day and chose to do Fantasy Island, which is a very tight network of trails right in town on 3 miles of state land. It has a system of loops so you can ride from 6 miles upwards, which was just right for us on a hot desert day!

The trail flows really well with a number of small ups and downs. The best part is the trail personality, with the many unofficial trail markers along the way – you just never know what you are going to see!

Tuscon Rodeo

calf roping 6Another item off the trip bucket list – seeing the rodeo! The Tucson Rodeo has a great school kids program that we were able to slide into on President’s day. The kids are taught about life behind the scenes at the rodeo, how some of the events work and then they slide in some good social messaging related to the Cowboy Lifestyle (be strong, cowboy up, think for yourself, don’t do drugs etc.).

Hunter has never been to the rodeo so he enjoyed watching the calf roping and team roping. Someday I’m sure we’ll get back to Calgary for the Stampede…