This weekend we drove the Wolf Creek 850 truck camper south to take-in the fantastic sights of Tucson, Arizona. I spent half of my childhood in Tucson and one my earliest memories was a school field trip I went on back in 1969 to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I took the family there in 2005, and it was time for another visit to see if any changes were made (there were a few). While we were in Tucson we also visited Saguaro National Park and checked out the Gates Pass area where we did a little hiking. During our time in Tucson we were also treated to a spectacular sunset, the kind that prompts you to run for your camera and start snapping.
Friday, 12 April: We left home about 0800 and took the I-10 south to Tucson. We took the Speedway Ave. exit and took that route to the Tucson Mountain Park. We arrived at the Desert Museum before 1100 and took in a light lunch before entering the museum. When it comes to weather in Arizona, April can be a hit or miss month. Sometimes you can experience temps in the 100s, like last year, or you can see temps in the 70s. We were fortunate on Friday to have not only temps in the 70s, but also overcast skies. Perfect weather to visit what is a mostly an outdoor zoo and botanical garden.
Getting a picture of a hummingbird in flight is not easy.
Karen trying to get a picture of a hummingbird in flight.
The deadly rattlesnake
A Harris Hawk during the Raptor Free Flight.
Black bear relaxing.
The roadrunner enjoying his new digs.
Some of the cacti were just beginning to bloom.
I love the color and textures in this photo.
A puffer fish up close.
We planned on boondocking at the Snyder Hill BLM 10 miles south of the park, but Karen wanted to try out our new toaster so we camped at the nearby Gilbert Ray Campground instead. Owned and operated by the Pima County Parks and Recreation Department, the campground sits on a beautiful location that has a feeling of being in the wilderness–quasi boondocking, if you will, but with 30 amp service. We stayed in Site 39 which overlooked the entire campground and the valley below. We were treated to a spectacular sunset Friday night which provided us with opportunities to snap beautiful sunset pics of Saguaros. While taking these pics I listened to last half of Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues, the perfect soundtrack while taking in a spectacular sunset.
Saturday, 13 April: This day was dedicated to visiting Saguaro National Park and Gates Pass. Unlike Friday, Saturday was sunny with temps in the mid-80s. A nice breeze blew throughout the day which made things very pleasant. Saguaro National Park can be viewed by car or hiking trail, but we elected to keep things simple by viewing it on the main road. If you’ve never been to this park you need to be warned that the main loop inside the park is unpaved. It can be rough in some places, but almost any car with a decent ground clearance can handle the drive in dry weather. In the park you’ll gaze upon classic Sonoran desert landscapes, so if you love to view the mighty Saguaro in a totally natural setting, you’ll love Saguaro National Park.
The Visitor’s Center where you pay admission.
A stop at the Signal Hill Picnic Area for lunch.
If you’ve never been to the Tucson Mountain Park the most scenic entrance is from the east through Gates Pass via Speedway Blvd. If you like breathtaking vistas and stunning landscapes you won’t want to miss Gates Pass. Here you’ll find a few scenic overlooks, hiking trails as well as a few stone buildings built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Truth be told, we discovered that the scenery through Gates Pass is in some cases better than what you’ll find at Saguaro National Park, so don’t miss it.
Old Tucson as seen from Gates Pass.
A great little restaurant a few miles south of the park.
Sunday, 14 April: Kind of a kick-back type of day for us before our drive back home. My father was stationed at nearby Davis-Monthan AFB when I was a kid, so we decided to try and find one of the homes where we lived and check out the base’s facilities. We didn’t have much luck finding that home, but we did stop for lunch at the base’s Agave Gulch RV Park. Consisting of 182 full service and dry camping sites, the RV park offers all of the standard RV services. Full service sites are only $19 a night, while dry camping is a bargain at only $8 a night, not too shabby when you consider the price includes free wireless internet and 24-hour security. The park makes a great place to stop for night if you’re passing through town or a longer stay lasting days, weeks, or even months.
After our time on the base and filling up the tank at $3.26 a gallon (the gas prices in Tucson are 30 cents cheaper than in Phoenix), it was time to go home. Rather than take the I-10 north like we typically do, we decided to try another route altogether, Highway 77 and 79 through Florence. We really enjoyed traveling this route. We saw lots of pull over areas for boondocking along the way, and for those who have never been there, the drive takes you by Catalina State Park. We planned on stopping to check it out, but the state was offering free admission for the day and the crowds there were nuts so we decided to take a rain check.
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator (KK7TCA), he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, holds a BS degree, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top.
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