Spring Break in Arizona

Adventure Awaits

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Tucson is considered to be a food lover's haven. The city's food culture is so rich, in fact, that UNESCO named Tucson a City of Gastronomy — one of only two American cities to earn the distinction.

Tucson beckons travelers with its unique blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and outdoor adventure. The "Old Pueblo" boasts a captivating desert landscape, encompassing the saguaro cacti-studded Saguaro National Park, and the breathtaking Catalina Mountains. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike, bike, or horseback ride through picturesque trails, or explore the rugged beauty of the nearby Sonoran Desert.

Beyond its scenic charm, Tucson boasts a vibrant cultural scene. The city's rich history is on display in its historic districts, and its dynamic arts community thrives in museums, galleries, and lively festivals, such as the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. Tucson's culinary scene is equally diverse, offering delectable Southwestern cuisine and a thriving farm-to-table movement.

However, our decision to make this trip was motivated by several other types of considerations, ie;

  • My sister's oldest daughter & family live in Tucson and we wanted to visit them.
  • I had lived in Tucson after my family moved back to the USA from Guam, however I had not gone back since we moved in 1959.
  • We wanted to visit the Sedona & the Grand Canyons, both of which are not only beautiful but are interesting places to explore.
  • We wanted to take Jeremy to a dude ranch to horseback ride, and hike Sabino Canyon.
  • We wanted to end the trip in Phoenix, hike Piestewa Peak, and visit Celeste's niece.
  • To learn more about Tucson and the surrounding area, click here to go to the Tucson Wikipedia Page.
  • You have never had Mexican food unless you've had it somewhere in the Southwest, and Tucson has a number of high quality restaurants. Take a look at this list of Mexican food restaurants and you will learn why we had some great dinners while there!
Exploring the Pima County Air Museum       Map
Click Image to view a larger map

One of our first adventures, was a trip to the Pima County Air Museum. Most of this area used to belong to the Air Force, where all of the Air Force retired aircraft were stored in a huge area. My parents were stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, and our house (within base housing) backed up to the aircraft storage area. So a lot of us kids would sneak through the fence to go out into the storage yard and play inside the WW2 aircraft stored there. A ton of fun for 12 & 13 year old boys!

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
 Convair B-36

This was the largest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft ever built, it's wing span of 230 feet was the largest of any combat aircraft ever built. 384 aircraft were built. Initially powered by six 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-4360 'Wasp Major' radial engines, later enhanced by the addition of four jet engines.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
 Lockheed SR-71

The Lockheed SR-71 was (and still may be) the fastest airplane ever built & flown. Powered by the Pratt & Whitney J-58 jet engine, an after-burning turbojet engine with a unique compressor bleed to the afterburner that gave increased thrust at high speeds.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
 Numerous Helicopters

Helicopters of all shapes, nationalities, sizes & types can be found here. Click here to see a more complete list of what helicopters are there.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
 Boeing B-17

This was the predominant bomber used in Europe in WW2, only 9 are left out of 12,731 that were constructed. Powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet radial engines. 42.6% of all bombs dropped on Nazi Germany were delivered by the B-17.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
 Consolidated B-24

This aircraft and the B-17 were the primary long range bombers in WW2. There were 19,256 (includes all variants) of these aircraft built in WW2 with only 18 remaining in the entire world. This aircraft was powered by the 14-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-1830 "Twin Wasp" radial.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
 Boeing B-29

This aircraft used one of the most complex piston engines in WW2; the Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone (initially the model R-3350-13 and in 1943 the model R-3350-21); a twin-row, supercharged, air-cooled, radial aircraft engine with 18 cylinders. 3,970 aircraft were built and only 22 remain.

The Air Force Materiel Command's 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) operates the largest aircraft repair shop and storage facility on Earth. Covering 2,600 acres, it has sufficient space for 4,200 aircraft and 40 aerospace vehicles at one time, while still leaving room for 350,000 production tools. This facility is two miles from the Pima County Air Museum, and the museum is able to acquire some of the aircraft that the Air Force would have disposed of. The use of the word "regeneration" tells you that some aircraft are rebuilt and put back into service, others serve as "parts donors" for aircraft still in service. This method is utilized because some aircraft are still in service, but the factory has long since been retired and there are no "new parts" available.

The museum has at least one of every thing the Military has ever flown, and even though they refurbish and sell some aircraft & aircraft parts, and destroy others, they maintain a set of aircraft for the museum so that the general public can see where their tax dollars have gone!

  

All of the above images (with the exception of the B-36 picture) are the property of Pima Air & Space Museum via their website. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

 
Exploring Sabino Canyon, AZ       Map
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

Celeste, Jeremy and I hiked up to the top of Sabino Canyon, nice day, got an early start before the heat went up and we had a lot of fun. Sort of "earning" our dinner as they say! Seven Falls is 4.2 miles up the canyon from the parking area, so we felt that we had done a respectful amount of hiking once we got back to the car.

I would be the first to tell you that hiking Sabino Canyon is not something that you would ever contemplate during the warmer months of the year. We started our hike very early in the morning, took plenty of water with us and we were still drenched in sweat by the time we got back!

 
Dude Ranch Horseback Riding       Map
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

The next day's adventure was to introduce Celeste & Jeremy to horse back riding. This is at a dude ranch near the Tanque Verde Ranch. I used to work at one of these riding stables when I was a teenager, but I could not begin to identify which ranch it was after all these years!

Everyone is saddled up and ready to ride. Because my back was not in good shape, I helped them get ready and I let them take the ride, while I waited for them. I would have preferred to go, but my back was never going to deal with that kind of movement & bouncing!

The ranch owners do a great job at getting everyone ready, saddled up and on a horse that is appropriate for the guest's size. The geography in & around the ranch is mostly flat, so the ride is comfortable and good for the horse riding novices!

Click here to do a Google search for horseback riding stables on the east side of Tucson.

Exploring the Biosphere Oracle, AZ       Map
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

We drove out to the Biosphere which is north of Tucson near Oracle, AZ. This was an interesting tour, as there was a well known study made of the effects on humans who are working & living in an enclosed space without the ability to exit.

The Biosphere interior is comprised of areas where they grew their own crops to sustain themselves. We took the guided tour, so that we could hear the narration about each area and what took place there.

 Biosphere History Lesson 

The biosphere was originally constructed between 1987 and 1991 by Space Biosphere Ventures. In total the project cost about 200 million dollars and its key builders were John P. Allen and Margret Augustine. It got its name, Biosphere 2, due to the fact it was meant to be the second fully self-sufficient Biosphere after the Earth.

Its 5 biomes are all 1,900 square metered rainforests with oceans, coral reefs, mangrove wetlands, fog deserts and multiple agricultural systems. Biosphere 2 was only used twice for its original purpose as a closed system experiment that went on from 1991-1993, and the second time from March to September 1994. Furthermore, both attempts ran into problems that included; low amounts of food and oxygen, die-offs of many animal and plant species, squabbling among the resident scientists and management issues.

Wikipedia Logo The above information was extracted from Wikipedia, click here to view the Wiki Page. Or click here to go to the Biosphere Website.
 
Sedona Canyon, AZ       Map

Panoramic view of Sedona, Coffee Pot Rock and Capital Butte Rock "Thunder Mountain" on the north side of the city. View is from the airport overlook. This area is east (and a little south) of the Palatki Heritage Area. These rocks, as well as the two Heritage sites, are part of the huge Cocochino National Forest.

  

Image is the property of Geoff Livingston via Wikimedia Commons using the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

We rented a jeep because the native Indian Cliff Dwellings (Palatki Heritage Site) are way, way back in the area to the north west of Sedona. Without a jeep, there is no way to get there, unless you go with a tour group. We thought it would be much more fun to drive ourselves there and back! Keep in mind that you will be traversing a very rough road that is heavily rutted and it frequently crosses small rocky hills that require you to remain in four wheel drive mode.

NOTE: Even with an off-road vehicle, you cannot drive all the way to the Cliff Dwellings. You have to park about 75 yards away and walk in.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

The Palatki Heritage Site and its sister site, the Honanki Heritage Site, were the largest cliff dwellings of the Red Rock Country between AD 1150 - 1350. The Palatki Heritage Site cliff dwelling and rock art site is located near the town of Sedona in north-central Arizona. Currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service under the Red Rock Pass Program, the site is open to the general public for visits seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas).

It is amazing to realize that these cliffs were where this Indian Tribe lived a very long time ago. We could not imagine how long it must have taken to construct these dwellings!

 
Grand Canyon, AZ       Map

Distance from Sedona to the Grand Canyon is 122 miles (via 89A to I-40 to route 64). We were all eager to get there, as there cannot be a more incredible canyon in the United States! However, this is a long stretch of wide open desert with very few opportunities to stop, so you want to be careful about food, drink and gasoline.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

One of the observation points on the rim of the Grand Canyon, magnificent view of the valley below.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

Jeremy is pondering the valley of the Grand Canyon, 6,000 feet below where we are standing.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

The canyon is immense! That is the North Rim in the distance, it is approximately 18 miles from where we were standing.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

It is a testament to the hardiness of those trees that they can grow out of the solid rock! Most of the vegetation on the rocks, is pinyon pine and various species of juniper.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

Looking west from the lookout point we were standing on, the Canyon continues for a number of miles before it ends near Hoover Dam.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

I had just noticed that a "mule train" of Canyon visitors were coming back up the trail, I am pointing them out to Celeste and Jeremy.

Site Helpful Tip ImageDid you know the Grand Canyon is bigger than the state of Rhode Island? It is over a mile deep, 277 miles long and 18 miles wide - a total of 1,904 square miles. Rhode Island is 1,214 square miles. The Grand Canyon attracts millions of visitors to northern Arizona each year, all hoping to snap an amazing photo of the canyon’s vast landscape. The mile-deep gorge is the centerpiece of such an expansive view that it can’t all be seen at once; at 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon is so large, it creates its own weather. In fact, getting a view from its two most popular rims (aka tops) requires nearly five hours of travel time.

 Grand Canyon Quick Facts 

The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in Arizona, United States. It is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters).

The canyon and adjacent rim are contained within Grand Canyon National Park, the Kaibab National Forest, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, the Hualapai Indian Reservation, the Havasupai Indian Reservation and the Navajo Nation. President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of preservation of the Grand Canyon area, and visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery.

Nearly two billion years of Earth's geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While some aspects about the history of incision of the canyon are debated by geologists, several recent studies support the hypothesis that the Colorado River established its course through the area about 5 to 6 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River has driven the down-cutting of the tributaries and retreat of the cliffs, simultaneously deepening and widening the canyon.

 
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, AZ       Map

Since the weather conditions in the Grand Canyon blocked our goal of a flight down into the Canyon, we decided to drive back to Sedona via an alternate route. We took a look at the Arizona map and decided that it would be interesting to drive to the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

As you can see in these images, the area is a mixture of volcanic ash, dried out trees and unusual geography everywhere you look. There is a 1.6 kilometer loop trail that takes you through the park, but they do not allow hikers to climb to the top of the crater itself - this has been closed since 1973 due to damage caused by hikers.

 
Verde Valley, AZ       Map

The Verde Valley's beauty is undeniable. Towering red rock formations stand guard over lush green meadows, creating a dramatic contrast. Crystal-clear waters of the Verde River snake through the valley, ideal for kayaking, fishing, or simply soaking up the tranquility. During spring, wildflowers paint the landscape in vibrant hues, while autumn brings a kaleidoscope of golden foliage. This hidden gem in Arizona's Prescott National Forest is a fascinating location.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

Verde Railroad locomotive after dropping us off at the mid-point of the train ride.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

Waiting to reboard the train for the return trip through Verde Canyon.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

The train had to be driven down to where they could put the locomotive back on the front cars to enable us to return back to the starting point.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

The locomotive has arrived, and it is headed to the front of the train to start our ride to Perkinsville.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

Everyone is queued up waiting to board the train, it is a beautiful day with clear skies, so our visibility should be very good.

A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

The train route parallels the Verde River as it heads out to Perkinsville, AZ where the turn-around point is located.

 Verde Valley Quick Facts 

The Verde Valley is a valley in central Arizona in the United States and the Verde River runs through it. The Verde River is one of Arizona's last free-flowing river systems. It provides crucial habitat for fish and wildlife, fresh water for local agricultural production, recreational opportunities for locals and tourists alike, and brings clean drinking water to over 2 million people in the greater Phoenix area. The valley is overlooked by Mingus Mountain and the Mogollon Rim.

 
Trip Summary
A description and images from an Arizona Adventure

You may have noticed that there aren't many pics of the Grand Canyon? We were to go on a "discovery drive" around the Canyon rim and were planning on taking a flight the next day to tour the Canyon, however, the next day a raging snow storm precluded us from taking that flight. So we did all the other things you see in this post. And eventually, as it always does, we had to return back home to Florida.

As I said, we did everything else we described which included us hiking Piestewa Peak in Phoenix - but we did not bring cameras on the hike, because it is very rough terrain and it was very hot. In fact, the first time we attempted the hike, we aborted the trek half-way up cause it was just too hot! We went back to the Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak which has a great water park around a large pool and we had a great time. This hotel is an "all suites" setup and it is very comfortable. We got up very early the next morning and made the hike to the top where the views of the entire Phoenix Valley are amazing.

There are some really good & informative links below for Piestewa Peak and it's interesting trail.

NOTE: Most of our planning for this trip was based upon Expedia, Hilton, Wikipedia, etc. Planning & research for the Verde Valley Rairoad, the Grand Canyon, Sabino Canyon, the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Sedona Canyon, the Palatki Heritage Site, Horseback riding, the Biosphere Oracle and the Pima County Air Museum were all done through extensive use of Google.

  

The above image is the property of Hilton Hotels via their website. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Hilton LogoClick above image to visit the Hilton Website
 
 Links for Tucson 
  • Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
  • Tucson on the 'Wikipedia' Site
  • Things to do on the 'Visit Tucson' Site
  • Top 25 Things to do/see on the 'Crazy Tourist' Site
  • Best Things to do on the 'Tucson Foodie' Site
  • Places to go Horseback Riding in Tucson on the 'Google' Site
  • Google Search Results list for "restaurants in Tucson"
  • Google Search Results list for "accommodations in Tucson"
  • Guided Food Walking Tour of Tucson from the "Get Your Guide" site
  • Visit our Youtube Channel
  • Our Image Gallery for Tucson
  • Google Images Set for Tucscon
 Arizona Links 
  • Things to do in Phoenix on the 'Arizona Science' Site
  • Cools Things to do in Arizona on the 'Atlas Obscura' Site
  • Grand Canyon things to do on the 'US News Travel' Site
  • 20 Ultimate Things to do/see in Arizona on the 'Fodors' Site
  • 25 Best Things to Do in Arizona on the 'Crazy Tourist' Site
  • Google Search Results list for "restaurants in Arizona"
  • Mexican Restaurants in Phoenix on the 'Yelp' Site
  • Google Search Results list for "Mexican Restaurants in Sedona
 
 

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