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Published: December 15th 2018
On Monday we moved into Tucson. We are staying at a friend's daughter's house until Sunday. Her home is in a quiet neighborhood built about 20 years ago, and is about a 10 minute bike ride from the Loop Trail. The Loop is a 131 mile multi use paved path that circles Tucson, and follows the river beds for much of its route.
We borrowed bikes on Tuesday, and rode 10 miles north to the junction of the East and West paths. On Wednesday morning, we rode another 10 miles south. This route was more rural, but most of the time the trail is bordered by commercial and residential zones. Much of it is new, and beautifully paved...and flat! Wednesday afternoon we went to the east part of the Saguaro National Park, where we drove the loop, and took a few short hikes. By the time we got to the last hike I wanted to do, it was getting late, so I decided to test out my new all purpose shoes, and ran the trail! The shoes were fine, my knees not so much!
On Thursday, I went for a run in a nearby older neighborhood, with lovely homes
and gardens. We returned for walk on Friday, and got to visit one home where they were having a garage sale. (I bought a wooden seagull..almost life size...)
After breakfast, we drove to the Mission San Xavier del Bac, located in the O'odham Nation.
"The mission was founded in 1692 by Padre Eusebio Kino in the center of a centuries-old Indian settlement of the Sobaipuri O'odham who were a branch of the Akimel or River O'odham, located along the banks of the Santa Cruz River. The mission was named for Francis Xavier, a Christian missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order) in Europe. The original church was built to the north of the present Franciscan church. This northern church or churches served the mission until being razed during an Apache raid in 1770. Today's Mission was built between 1783-1797; it is the oldest European structure in Arizona; the labor was provided by the O'odham. An outstanding example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, it hosts some 200,000 visitors each year. The site is also known in the O'odham language as "goes in" or comes in: meaning "where the water goes in", as
Kitt Peak Observatory
Some of the telescopes on the ridge
the water in the Santa Cruz came up to the surface a couple of miles south of Martinez HIll and then submerged again near Los Reales Wash. The Santa Cruz River
that used to run year round in this section, once critical to the community's survival, now runs only part of the year. The Mission is a pilgrimage site, with thousands visiting each year on foot and on horseback, some among ceremonial cavalcades, or cabalgatas in Spanish.
We participated in an hour long, very informative docent tour. We walked up the hill next to the church maintained my several local families. I bought some fry bread from one of the families set up in the plaza before we headed southwest to the Kitt Peak Observatory.
The Observatory is located inside the Tohono O'odham Nation. The Tohono O’odham Nation is a federally-recognized tribe that includes approximately 28,000 members occupying tribal lands in Southwestern Arizona. The Nation is the second largest reservation in Arizona in both population and geographical size, with a land base of 2.8 million acres and 4,460 square miles, approximately the size of the State of Connecticut. Its four non-contiguous segments total more than 2.8
million acres at an elevation of 2,674 feet.The Tohono O'odham have been artificially divided by the Mexican-American border and continue to be harassed by Border Patrol agents. "Our origins are linked to our homeland, the Sonoran Desert. Thousands of years ago, our predecessors, the Hohokam, settled along the Salt, Gila, and Santa Cruz Rivers. The Hohokam were master dwellers of the desert, creating sophisticated canal systems to irrigate their crops of cotton, tobacco, corn, beans, and squash. They built vast ball courts and huge ceremonial mounds and left behind fine red-on-buff pottery and exquisite jewelry of stone, shell, and clay
We had signed up for the evening program at the Observatory. We had to arrive on the Peak well before sunset in order for our headlights to not interfere with the on-going research from the 21 telescopes on the peak. We climbed the 13 mile long road up from the valley to the 6,877 ft peak. Once checked in, we watched the sunset with one of the astronomer guides, saw the International Space Station pass overhead, and then divided up to take turns observing from a telescope and through binoculars. We saw Neptune, some binary stars, a galaxy,
Minature basket with removeable lid woven of horsehair!
This was made , a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation. I bought it at the Kitt Peak gift shop, that showcases native art.
a nebula, and much more! It was very cold up there, but we had dressed warmly and brought a blanket.
The drive down was an adventure. The guides covered our headlights, got into the lead car, and, in a convoy, we started down the windy, steep road carved into the side of the mountain! The only light was from the brake lights of the car in front of us... we crept along like this for a mile! At that point, we stopped, the guides removed the headlight covers, and we continued down the next 12 miles of mountain road, headlights on.
For more information on Kitt Peak: https://www.noao.edu/outreach/kptour/kpno_hist.html
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