How To See The Best of the Sonoran Desert All In One Day.

Hmmmmmm…where should we go?

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Is this thing on??? We took this accidental selfie while researching what to do. 

This was the big question while I was visiting my mom recently in Tucson, Az. She was staying at the military campground at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, close enough for me to swing by and hang with her for a few days. (A few days together, in separate RV’s is about all we can handle of each other!)

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My RV in the background. Campgrounds… Definitely not my preferred parking preference.

After a little research and a few accidental selfies, we finally decided on seeing the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum which is located an easy 30-minute drive West of Tucson. This place had stellar ratings on TripAdvisor. We ventured over early (for us) one morning to check it out. We were NOT disappointed in our choice!

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We have arrived!

First of all, the drive to the museum takes you through the Saguaro (Pronounced            Sue-ARE-a. I know. It makes no sense) National park which is absolutely stunning, full of all shapes and sizes of cacti. (This is not the ideal place to walk your dog.)

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Photo does not do the landscape justice!

You will be on your feet all day if you visit this place. I do recommend coming early so you have plenty of time to meander. The museum is quite large with two miles of walking paths full of discovery.

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Wide paved paths provide access for everyone, wheelchairs included.

However, we did not walk together. Upon arrival, it took only about 10 seconds to realize we weren’t going to be happy trying to negotiate which way to go, when to stop and look at something, etc, so we parted ways and almost immediately, all was right with our worlds. Why compromise when you can just split up then come back together later? (We are totally fine with this. Sometimes we even DRIVE separate cars to the same destination. Yes, we know. It’s a little crazy, but it’s how we roll. It works.)

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Yay! Once again, I have full control of where I want to go and where I want to go! We will reunite for lunch.

The walking paths lead me through gardens, exhibits, animal attractions and aquariums. Awesome plant life filled every corner of my vision.

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There aren’t many trees around this part of the desert. The museum displayed different regions of desert. All four of the Southwestern deserts, the Sonoran, Mojave, Great Basin and Chihuahuan deserts all have sections in Arizona.
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Agave in bloom!

 

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Towering Yucca
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Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow

They have snakes, spiders, lizards and more desert creepers. I did not feel inclined to photograph many of them.

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Hey, little dude! I am glad to be here in Arizona when most snakes are chilling underground. The diamond shaped head of snakes like this usually indicates they are poisonous.

We learned a lot about the desert and the history of the area. There were docents all over the place ready to offer up extra information about the exhibits.

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Here’s an interactive exhibit allowing you to test what it would be like to hear as well as a bat. So yes, those are my bat ears.

They also had multiple daily live exhibits scattered around the museum where a docent would have a particular desert animal out of its enclosure, giving a live, interactive talk about the creature. I didn’t attend many but I did get to see a Box Turtle and a Western Screech Owl. The docents were quite informative. This owl spit up a pellet during the demonstration!

(A pellet is a hard rock-like mass of the things the owl cannot digest of what it eats.)

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Docent. (Left)      Western Screech Owl. (Right)
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This little guy was pretty fascinating to watch with those huge eyes and 270-degree rotating neck. It would be funny if we could do our necks like that.

Mom and I most enjoyed the cacti garden and the hummingbird exhibit.

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STUN-ning. And STING-ing. Geez, cacti are so defensive. Every cactus is such a drama queen!

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See? Drama Queen spikes. Ready to lash out at the tiniest little wrong move.

 

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Just like the beginning of a relationship, this cactus is very beautiful and enticing, yet underneath the beauty and wonder, there is much potential for pain and suffering lingering in the background. I’m not a cynic, I just saw it and had to say it.   : )
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The great Organ Pipe Cactus. There were quite a few here, and they are very commanding. Very complimentary with the blue and white Arizona spring sky, don’t you think?

Because it is spring here, there were already 7 new nests in the hummingbird aviary.

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The docent asked us if we could find the nest here. It was not easy, especially when the bird pointed his beak away from us.

Competition for space and food was fierce in the aviary. In the wild, Hummingbirds are naturally aggressive and territorial. In captivity, the aggression seemed to be off the charts due to the close proximity the birds were forced to be in. There were seven active nests in the enclosure and a few more were in the making.

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Wings beating about 70x per SECOND. Can you imagine waving your arms 70x per second? How about even 5x per second? I’d love to see that.

One little  hummingbird wanted desperately to build a nest at waist level right where it could be bumped by unsuspecting passers-by or grabbed by kid’s hands. The volunteers had removed it twice to encourage her to nest elsewhere but she kept re-building. I sat for a while watching her come and go to her little partially made nursery.

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Materials for nest making were provided for the hummers in various locations in the aviary. This is the ill-placed nest in the making.
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AAAAND she’s back and pretty miffed that myself and about 4 others were watching her every move, very close to the nest. I was on a bench about 3′ away from the nest. The nests are SO tiny, they are very hard to find.
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Here, I caught this hummer so his head was at an angle where the iridescent color came to life. His head feather colors are actually black, but light refraction causes the brilliant purple to come to your eyes when looking from a certain angle.

Of course, I am not a fan of keeping animals in captivity. I hope that the animals that they had there were not able to live in the wild for whatever reason. They had a black bear, a mountain lion, Mexican Wolves and a deer, among others. The enclosures were natural looking but the inhabitants certainly would prefer to live free if given the chance.

 

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Spotting the Mexican Wolves here is fairly difficult. There are two or three. I needed my zoom lens but had my wide angle.
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Can you find the deer here? Steer clear of the beer and maybe you will see clear a cheery deer.  Sorry.  I couldn’t stop once I started.

The museum gives the animals things to challenge them mentally on a daily basis and they make it as comfortable and natural looking as possible. There are no cages, the areas in which they live are open.

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I’m not sure what was in here, I just liked the log in front with the yellow in the distance.

The museum offered a huge amount of information and many learning opportunities. We spent a good 6 hours there and could have stayed longer, had our bodies not given out! Mom did great. I can’t believe she was on her feet for that long!

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My new friend, Mark Holland. I saw him earlier watching birds in the aviary and noticed his stillness and his quietness, a rare quality among humans. Later I saw him sitting here, and felt compelled to take this photo of the man. As I got up to walk by, he engaged me and we talked for a good 20 minutes. He and his wife sculpt birds for a living and they are VERY good at it. So, they come here to watch and study birds. See their work at www.lewisandhollandsculptures.com

On the way out, we drove through the Gilbert Ray campground located in the Saguaro National Park as it came highly recommended by my friends of  Tales From The Mutiny. It was stunning, almost looking like it was landscaped with the cacti. (It wasn’t of course, but the density of the cacti was incredible and gorgeous.)

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Beautiful Gilbert Ray Campground. Photo courtesy of fellow RV’ers  and friends Tim and Amanda Watson of www.WatsonsWander.com. Thanks for the photo, guys!

I don’t know that I could stay at this campground, as I would have to keep an eagle eye on the girls, even if they were on a leash. The cacti are beautiful, but they are extremely defensive. They are little backstabbers, ready to fight at the littlest mistake of getting too close to the barbed tentacles that they sport. Trixie has already had one bad encounter with the Cholla cactus, and she’s decided that she’s retired from the Cholla boxing world.

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I mean, OUCH! These things mean business. Even shorthaired Gizmo got quite a few of these dudes in her paws while we were in Quartzsite, Az.

 

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The Incident. This is when I had already unwrapped most of her fur from the Cholla. There was a second ball as well. Before I got to her, she went into a panic, and the more she struggled, the more it dug in. Poor girl! This is Cholla.

 

 

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This is Trix just after the Cholla match. I swear she is thanking me here, wrapping her arms around mine and kept licking me. She’s definitely retired from Cholla boxing! (We hope)

After the long day of exploring, mom and I headed back to our separate little homes and ingested the incredible things we had taken in at the museum. Alone, in our own little RV’s of course. Heaven on Earth!

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A very unusual Saguaro formation. One in 10,000 will show this pattern. A neat treat to find outside of the Desert Museum!

 

 


13 thoughts on “How To See The Best of the Sonoran Desert All In One Day.

  1. Kelly, Once again your blog contains so many beautiful pictures. You manage to take pictures of little details that sometimes go unnoticed by so many. Thank you for your vision.

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  2. I just sent a high LVYA, Rosemary

    From: Kellys Camping Tales To: rose0696@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, March 7, 2016 6:20 PM Subject: [New post] How to see the best of the Sonoran Desert all in one day. #yiv3518406101 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3518406101 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3518406101 a.yiv3518406101primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3518406101 a.yiv3518406101primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3518406101 a.yiv3518406101primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3518406101 a.yiv3518406101primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3518406101 WordPress.com | Kelly’s Camping Tales posted: “Hmmmmmm…where should we go?This was the big question while I was visiting my mom recently in Tucson, Az. She was staying at the military campground at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, close enough for me to swing by and hang with her for a few days. (A” | |

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  3. i just sent a highly complimentary comment to wordpress … hope you have access so you can view it yourself.  GREAT job on the desert – not only was I re-educated as to the beauties of the desert from your great photos, but your narrative was so descriptive, insightful and humorous it didn’t hurt a bit to learn so much about something I had no real prior interest in!  Tks LVYA, Rosemary

    From: Kellys Camping Tales To: rose0696@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, March 7, 2016 6:20 PM Subject: [New post] How to see the best of the Sonoran Desert all in one day. #yiv3518406101 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3518406101 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3518406101 a.yiv3518406101primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3518406101 a.yiv3518406101primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3518406101 a.yiv3518406101primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3518406101 a.yiv3518406101primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3518406101 WordPress.com | Kelly’s Camping Tales posted: “Hmmmmmm…where should we go?This was the big question while I was visiting my mom recently in Tucson, Az. She was staying at the military campground at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, close enough for me to swing by and hang with her for a few days. (A” | |

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  4. Kelly, I enjoyed your tale. Your discription of the museum was right on. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a must see if anyone is in the area. When I was a young teen I was introduced to the museum in 1960. I was so impressed by it then, I took my kids their in the early 80’s . My wife and I were there in 2014. The museum has grown over the year to an amazing place for all.

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      1. Aww…. for some reason I thought you were in an Airstream. Well I loved reading your stories! Maybe for the next book!

        Thank you for replying,

        Best, Karen

        >

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